HL Deb 19 March 2001 vol 623 cc129-30WA
Lord Harrison

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What has been the result of the 1997 initiative by the Ministry of Defence to abolish racism in the Army and to attract more men and women from the ethnic minorities; and whether their target of 5 per cent ethnic minority representation in the Armed Forces by 2002 can be achieved. [HL1168]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

We place the highest priority on tackling racism within the Armed Forces. It is right that services should reflect more closely the ethnic balance of our society and should set a positive example to others in the promotion of racial equality. The Army's equal opportunities policy sets out to provide equal opportunities for all personnel within an environment free from all forms of discrimination, harassment and intimidation. The result of the considerable equal opportunities initiatives undertaken by the Army over the last four years has shown an increase in its ethnic minority strength from 1,066 (1.0 per cent of total strength) on 1 April 1997 to 2,057 (1.9 per cent) on 1 February 2001.

The Armed Forces are making a particular effort to recruit men and women from the UK's ethnic minority communities. This significant, long-term investment is bearing fruit. All three services have established ethnic minority recruiting teams located in areas of high ethnic population and all undertake numerous and varied initiatives aimed at encouraging ethnic minority personnel into joining the Armed Forces. This has resulted in a slow but steady year on year increase in both the number and percentage of ethnic minority recruits since 1997–98.

Although progress with recruitment of ethnic minority personnel is slower than we would wish, we remain fully committed to pursuing our 2002 goal of 5 per cent. The figures are moving in the right direction—a tribute to the dedication of the staff involved. The recruiting goals, and indeed their time frame, were and are deliberately aimed at stretching the Armed Forces, so that we could drive hard to reach recruiting levels that match more closely the population which the Armed Forces serve. There is nothing short term about this approach.

As a result of both the equal opportunities initiatives and the recruiting effort, the ethnic minority proportion of the Armed Forces has risen from 1.0 per cent (2,184 personnel) on 1 April 1997 to 1.5 per cent (3,086 personnel) on 1 February 2001.