HL Deb 08 July 2003 vol 651 cc33-4WA
Lord Morgan

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made on the recruitment of ethnic minority personnel to the Armed Forces. [HL3880]

Lord Bach

In 1998 we instituted a series of recruitment goals to ensure that appropriate levels of recruitment from Britain's ethnic minority communities took place. Running for four years, the goals aimed at increasing the recruitment of ethnic minority young people incrementally by 1 per cent each year until the forces reached 5 per cent. In the event the outcome for 2001–02 was a very creditable 4.4 per cent, although this figure contains a large number of Commonwealth nationals recruited in this country. Given the nearness to publication of the national census, and therefore access to new and up-to-date research data, an interim goal of a further 1 per cent from the previous year's outcome was agreed.

We have found that quite significant numbers of young people travel to the United Kingdom and join the Armed Forces, particularly the Army, which has the greatest number of trades open requiring relatively low security clearances. An internal provisional estimate of the recruiting outcome for 2002–03 makes this clear:

  • Royal Navy—2.01 per cent UK national and 1.06 per cent Commonwealth recruited in UK;
  • WA 34
  • Army—2.8 per cent officers and 2.4 per cent other ranks UK nationals and 5.3 per cent Commonwealth recruited in UK;
  • Royal Air Force—2.47 per cent overwhelmingly UK nationals.

All figures exclude Commonwealth personnel joining as the result of RN and Army in-country selection team visits. All figures have yet to be statistically validated.

The numbers of Commonwealth nationals of all ethnic backgrounds seeking to join the Armed Forces is a clear indication of the success of our race equality policies in recent years. Although we welcome the resulting increase in the diversity of the forces, we should not forget that the original intention of the recruitment goals was to increase the proportion of UK ethnic minority recruits; this remains the objective today. Accordingly, the aim for the next three years is for each service to increase incrementally each year the proportion of UK ethnic minority recruits by at least 0.5 per cent with the tri-service aim of reaching 5 per cent as soon as possible. We will in addition seek to report the numbers joining from the Commonwealth in order to maintain the transparency of the recruiting process.

These proposals have been discussed and agreed with the Commission for Racial Equality.