Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence



  The Commission for Racial Equality ("CRE") welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Defence Committee's inquiry into personnel issues in the Armed Forces. In this submission we will attempt to summarise the CRE's involvement with the Armed Forces and the issues that have been the focus of this work, the progress toward racial equality that appears to have been made and the continuing problems of racial discrimination and inequality that remain. We will comment on the impact of section 23 of the Armed Forces Act 1996 (amending section 75 of the Race Relations Act 1976) that established a new procedures for complaints of racial discrimination by service personnel. We will also indicate how the new obligations contained in the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill may affect the Armed Forces in relation to personnel issues. A summary of our main recommendations appears at pages 97-98.


  The CRE was established under the Race Relations Act 1976 ("the Act") with duties to work for the elimination of racial discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and good race relations. A third duty is to keep the Act under review and, when appropriate, to recommend amendment.

  Under the Act the CRE has powers to advise and assist individuals who wish to pursue complaints of unlawful racial discrimination. The CRE also has powers to conduct formal investigations, and, when such investigations satisfy the CRE that acts of unlawful discrimination have occurred, the CRE can serve a non-discrimination notice requiring the respondent to end this discrimination and to inform the CRE of measures taken to ensure that discrimination will not reoccur.

  Part II of the Act makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate on racial grounds against an employee or would-be employee. This includes direct discrimination, indirect discrimination and victimisation in recruitment, selection, terms and conditions of employment, opportunities for training or promotion, dismissal or subjection to any other detriment. Section 32 of the Act makes the employer liable for acts of discrimination by their employees, unless the employer can show that they took all reasonable steps to prevent such discrimination.

  Racial discrimination by the Armed Forces has been a concern of the CRE over a considerable period. Historically this discrimination operated both to exclude ethnic minority men and women from many parts of the Army, Navy and RAF and to subject those who had joined to physical and verbal racist abuse and harassment. Inevitably the occurrence of racial harassment within the Services has affected the ability of the Services to recruit and retain ethnic minority personnel.

  The Act, as originally approved, treated racial discrimination in the employment of servicemen and women differently from other employment-related discrimination, since there was no right to apply to an employment tribunal and all complaints were meant to be dealt with under the internal redress procedures established under the separate legislation regulating each of the Services—the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957 (" the Services Discipline Acts").

  In 1991 the CRE succeeded in an application for judicial review of the redress of grievance procedures of the Army Board of the Defence Council (R—v-Army Board of the Defence Council ex p. Anderson). The Divisional Court rules that the Army Board must achieve a high standard of fairness, including a proper hearing of the complaint, which may involve an oral hearing. The complainant should be shown all material to be seen by the Board (unless covered by public interest immunity) and given an opportunity to respond, and the Board must consider all of the material and the complainant's response.

  Notwithstanding the decision in Anderson, the CRE did not receive many applications for assistance from service personnel who wished to bring complaints under the Services Discipline Acts, and the CRE has little information about the number of internal redress of grievance cases involving racial discrimination during the period from 1991 to 1996.


  In April 1994 the CRE embarked on a formal investigation into the employment practices of the Household Cavalry. The nearly all-white composition of the Household Cavalry has been brought to the CRE's attention on more than one occasion, and had been the subject of comment by HRH Prince Charles. The provisions of the Act allow the CRE to embark on a formal investigation of a named organisation if there are grounds to believe that unlawful discrimination may be occurring or have occurred. Such grounds presented themselves when the Army Board of the Defence Council found the Household Cavalry had discriminated on racial grounds when it refused to accept the posting in of Corporal Malcolm, a black soldier then serving in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

  Following the formal investigation, the CRE concluded that the Household Cavalry had committed acts of unlawful discrimination in five key areas:

    —  indirect discrimination in officer recruitment and selection;

    —  direct discrimination in soldier recruitment and selection;

    —  direct discrimination in postings of soldiers from other corps and regiments;

    —  abuse and harassment of ethnic minority soldiers;

    —  instructions or inducements to discriminate.

  As required under the Act, the CRE notified the MoD that it was minded to serve a non-discrimination notice and gave the MoD an opportunity to make representations. The CRE then offered to defer the decision to serve the non-discrimination notice on condition that the MoD agreed to implement a five-year action plan that applied not only to the Household Cavalry but to all parts of the Army as well as the Navy and the RAF.


  Under the Action Plan each of the Services was expected to take a number of major initiatives, including issuing a new equal opportunities statement and directives; introducing ethnic monitoring of all stages of recruitment and in relation to serving personnel; collecting and analysing monitoring data on a quarterly basis; providing equal opportunities training; establishing procedures for dealing with complaints of racial harassment and discrimination; and developing outreach activities to increase levels of ethnic minority recruits. A copy of the agreement and the Action Plan are attached as Annex 1.[2]


  By March 1998 the CRE was satisfied that the MoD had sufficiently complied with the obligations under the Action Plan to justify removing the threat of a non-discrimination notice. At this time, in recognition that it was in the interest of both the CRE and the MoD for the Armed Forces to make greater progress toward eliminating racism and achieving racial equality, the two bodies signed a Partnership Agreement. This further five year agreement identified measures to be taken by the Services beyond those in the Action Plan relating to recruitment, the treatment of serving personnel and ultimately to changing the culture of the Armed Forces:

    —  achievement of ethnic minority recruitment targets;

    —  removal of barriers to ethnic minority recruitment;

    —  retention of Service personnel at all levels;

    —  continued examination of reasons for premature voluntary release;

    —  increased numbers of ethnic minority officers at higher ranks;

    —  removal of barriers to ethnic minority promotion;

    —  establishment and maintenance of non-racist environment at every level;

    —  effective action to prevent racist abuse;

    —  clear lines of accountability for discrimination and racism;

    —  robust monitoring;

    —  assessment of equal opportunity performances as part of annual appraisal.

  A copy of the Partnership Agreement is attached as Annex 2.[3]

  As required under the Action Plan, the CRE has received quarterly reports from each of the Services which include detailed monitoring returns, summarise the data and any changes, and offer some analysis of these returns. Since 1996 there have been regular meetings at different levels between the CRE and the Services and MoD officials. CRE Commissioners and officers have visited a range of military establishments to speak at conferences and meetings and to observe training and skill displays.


  At the Armed Forces Bill Select Committee in 1996 the representatives of all three Services expressed reservations about their capacity to monitor service personnel by ethnicity. However the MoD committed all three Services to establishing ethnic monitoring systems and quarterly collection and analysis of data under the Action Plan, and they have now achieved this. The success of the Services in recording ethnicity of a very high percentage of personnel, and their continuing efforts to achieve 100%, are to be commended.

  The requirement that each Service must use the outcomes of ethnic monitoring to identify trends and barriers to equality has, to different degrees for different Services, prompted research and changes to procedures and practice. The fact that each Service must submit written quarterly reports to the CRE and is expected to meet with the CRE to discuss progress as evidenced by the monitoring data, has made it more difficult to be complacent or to ignore evidence of inequality.


  The CRE recognises the considerable effort and expenditure the Services have dedicated to attracting greater numbers of ethnic minorities into the Armed Forces. Indeed, to some extent, all three Services have been successful in raising their profile, and over the last four years have won awards for their efforts to promote diversity. The Services have begun to establish a regular presence at popular ethnic minority festivals and other events, and have also organised a range of high profile conferences and outreach events which have attracted greater numbers of ethnic minority participants than before. Despite this, the overall result of the substantial efforts made by the Services' both on an individual and collective basis has been to achieve only a marginal increase in the percentage of ethnic minority recruits entering the Armed Forces.

  In the view of the CRE the Services have yet to identify and tackle some of the hidden barriers to attracting ethnic minority recruits which still exist. While the CRE may offer advice and guidance to the Services, this is a challenge that ultimately only the Services can resolve for themselves.

Armed Forces Ethnic Minority Recruiting 1996-2000

  The first ethic monitoring data (September 1996) showed the following as percentages of total personnel who are "non-white":
ArmyNavy RAF

  These figures include "non-white personnel" who have been recruited from Commonwealth countries.

  In 1997 during the first year of monitoring progress against the Action Plan, the Services set individual recruiting targets of 1.8%. The rates of entry actually achieved by the Services were 1.7%, 1.6%, and 1.3% for the Army, Navy and RAF respectively.

  Subsequently, in January 1998 the then Secretary of State announced ethnic minority recruitment targets for each of the Services. The achievement of these targets was built into the Partnership Agreement. For 1998-99 the target was 2%, for 1999-2000 the target was 3%, 4% for 2000-01and 5% for 2001-02.

Progress against Ethnic Minority Recruiting Targets

  The results of recruiting initiatives by each of the Services against their ethnic minority recruiting targets are set out below.
Target set 2%
Target set 3%

  While the CRE acknowledges the progress made by the Services to increase the numbers of people from ethnic minorities both enquiring and even applying to join the Armed Forces, the fact remains that since 1996 there has not been significant increase in the overall percentage of women and men from ethnic minorities entering the Services. Last year all three services failed to meet the 3% target for ethnic minority recruits, and during the preceding year only the Army managed to meet the target of 2% ethnic minority entrants. In the four years since comprehensive ethnic monitoring began, the percentage of ethnic minority recruits entering the armed forces has increased from just 1.7% in 1997 to 1.9% in 2000. If progress were to continue at the same rate it would take approximately 30 years to reach the intake target of 5%.

  The CRE is particularly concerned, therefore, that the Services have yet to demonstrate that they have a coherent and effective strategy for achieving these targets.

Recruiting Stategy

  The CRE has acknowledged the scale of the task for the Services to increase their ethnic minority intake. It remains the view of the CRE, however, that the Secretary of State's targets are achievable. This has been demonstrated by the Household Cavalry, which has increased ethnic minority representation from eight to 66 in four years (to March 2000). The key feature that has distinguished the Household Cavalry is the personal commitment and drive from the most senior officer on a consistent basis. Unique to the Household Cavalry has also been the willingness of its senior officers to acknowledge past failures and the need to change the culture of the organisation.

  The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Charles Guthrie has expressed the view that to achieve these targets should not be impossible. The total intake in 1999-2000 was 25,533; to achieve the 3% target for the Armed Forces as a whole, fewer than 300 additional ethnic minority recruits were needed.

Evaluation of Recruiting Strategies and Outreach Activities

  Since the first meetings to discuss implementation of the Action Plan, the CRE has consistently urged the Services to put in place measures to evaluate the effectiveness of their recruiting strategies. One continuing obstacle is the element of competition between the three Services, rather than co-operation. The CRE welcomes the fact that Tri-Service meetings to share experiences and good practices are now taking place. Nevertheless, four years into the Action Plan and two years after signing the Partnership Agreement, what is still lacking is evidence that systematic and comparative evaluation of the effectiveness of the various recruiting activities carried out by all three Services is taking place.

  The CRE has made some suggestions regarding possible ways in which the Services might more effectively target ethnic minority communities, including learning from some of the ways in which the Armed Forces in the United States succeeded in marketing themselves to potential ethnic minority recruits, and promotion of the opportunities for education and training available to service men and women. While the British Armed Forces may now be starting from a different baseline, it may nevertheless be possible to gain from the experience of the US Forces over the last 50 years or more. British Forces can and should, of course, learn from their own successes.

  The monitoring returns and reports to the CRE give rise to concerns that, to some extent, those charged with the responsibility of attracting recruits, other than dedicated Service ethnic minority recruiting teams, may not yet have accepted their leaders' commitment to increased ethnic minority entry. This suggests that, as in many organisations, the directives and policies issued at the top of the Services have not been understood and adopted by all staff at every level, including staff in Armed Forces Careers Offices, who perform critical promotional and gatekeeping functions.

  In the view of the CRE, therefore, if the Services are to meet ethnic minority recruitment targets within a reasonable time-frame, it is essential that, individually and jointly, they establish why their efforts to date have resulted in relatively modest success and subsequently determine what types of actions and initiatives will be more effective in attracting the rich pool of potential ethnic minority recruits.

Converting Enquiries into Applications

  For some time monitoring data has shown that all three Services have lower rates of success in converting ethnic minority enquirers to applicants compared to white enquirers. This has been true to differing extents for both potential officers and other ranks. Prompted by the CRE, the Army and the RAF have carried out research into the reasons why ethnic minority enquirers do not apply. The Army has introduced best practice guidelines for staff working in AFCOs. Improved practice should benefit recruitment generally, and it is encouraging to note that recent data show improvements in conversion rates for both white and non-white enquirers.

Recruitment Process

  Another factor that may be operating against increased ethnic minority recruitment is the amount of time that is normally involved from the date of application to the date of entry. The CRE is aware that pre-entry period for new members of the Civil Service, especially where security clearance is required can also be lengthy. We are concerned, however, that for the Armed Forces, when there are no exceptional delays, this period is normally six months, but in some instances this may be as long as 18 months. Delay results in part from the choice by ethnic minority applicants of popular trades. Officer entry can take even longer. Currently, for ethnic minority graduates and school leavers, who are also being encouraged to join the civilian uniformed services, such as the police, this lengthy process may influence them to make a different career choice. At the suggestion of the CRE the Navy, followed by the other Services, have put in place arrangements to keep in contact with applicants and potential recruits during the period between application, selection and entry.

Selection Tests

  Poor performance on selection tests has remained one of the main reasons that ethnic minority applicants do not enter the Armed Forces. The tests are used to determine suitability for particular trades. During the period for which monitoring data has been available, ethnic minority potential recruits have disproportionately obtained lower test scores in the selection tests for all three Services. Work has continued to be done by each of the Services to try to identify the factors that produce such outcomes, but the differential outcomes have remained. This issue is significant for many potential ethnic minority recruits who may not follow up an application to join one of the Services when they fail to receive a test score which would enable them to join the trade of their choice.

  For some time there has been reference to the development of a new tri-Service selection test. Merely developing a new test would not necessarily produce different outcomes, but a tri-Service approach could draw from the findings of each of the Services and offer scope for fresh thinking in order to produce a fairer and more accurate measure of the aptitudes and abilities that are needed in today's Armed Forces.


  The Services have all identified retention as an issue of some concern. While this is a problem in relation to serving personnel of all racial groups, the Services are aware that issues relating to discrimination, harassment and career progression may influence decisions made by ethnic minority serving personnel to leave prematurely. As the survey conducted by the RAF (Racial Discrimination/Harassment in the RAF, May 1998) exposed a high proportion of ethnic minority personnel had experienced discrimination or harassment, but most did not use either informal or formal complaints procedures.

Armed Forces—Ethnic Minority Serving Personnel
Total Services (%)
April 1997April 1998 April 1999April 2000
Army1.01.0 1.11.5
Navy0.80.8 0.80.9
RAF1.21.1 1.11.1

Premature Voluntary Release

  Reports to the CRE produced by the Services have indicated some reluctance to look behind the ostensible reasons given by serving personnel for opting for Premature Voluntary Release (PVR). As this issue applies to all Services, it is the view of the CRE that there is a need for a tri-Service approach. The need to do so is reinforced by the evidence in a number of current CRE cases (see Annex 3)[4] that some service personnel, unable to tolerate racism and abuse, have put themselves at risk of formal punishment by going AWOL.

Career Progression

  Two requirements of the Partnership Agreement are to remove barriers to promotion and to secure increased numbers of ethnic minority officers at higher ranks. While, generally, a pre-condition to be considered for promotion is a minimum period of service at the previous rank, it is the view of the CRE that, with the changing nature of the demands made on the Armed Forces in the 21st Century, there is scope for the Services to re-examine what skills are essential for progression to higher rank, in order to maximise the full potential of their personnel resources.

Barriers to Promotion and Positive Action

  Particular attention should be given to Warrant/Petty Officer levels; the Services need to develop specific strategies and targets for promotion to NCO ranks, utilising to the maximum the positive action measures permitted under the Race Relations Act.

  Positive action under sections 37 and 38 of the Act is intended to assist persons from racial groups that are under-represented in particular jobs to be better able to complete for such jobs. The Act permits an employer to target both encouragement (for example through information events, shadowing or mentoring) and training at under-represented racial groups. The Act outlaws "positive" discrimination in selection or promotion, which for all posts should be on merit.

Eradicating Racism and Racist Attitudes

  While the Army, and the other Services to differing extent, as part of their recruitment initiatives now have a higher profile and an improved image, the Army's own research had shown that the Services are still widely perceived as racist institutions. The media is never hesitant to publicise cases involving racial discrimination in the Services and then inevitably to show the Armed Forces in a poor light. This is in contrast to the positive image in terms of race and equal opportunity that the American media gives to the US Forces.

  Recent cases brought to the CRE make clear that racial harassment and abuse of ethnic minority personnel is a continuing problem. It is imperative that the Services give full effect to and enforce, up and down the chain of command, their commitment to eradicate harassment, abuse and violence against ethnic minority personnel. If this is not done, the Services will never be able to meet their recruitment targets and to retain those they recruit and train.

Equal Opportunities Training

  Equal Opportunities training for both serving personnel and trainees has been in place for some time. The arrangements provide for different forms and levels of training, with an emphasis in the Tri-Service training on senior officers and officers with responsibility for equal opportunities. For personnel who were recruited before new arrangements for equal opportunities training were put in place and have not been promoted since that time, the training is delivered locally and as a consequence the quality and impact is reported to vary widely. The CRE has previously identified the need for all Services to evaluate the extent to which this training has been successful in changing attitudes to race at all levels, and creating a culture where individuals feel confident that their concerns about or experiences of unfair treatment will be taken seriously. This remains a priority.


Armed Forces Act 1996—amendment of the Race Relations Act

  The CRE was invited to give evidence to the Armed Forces Bill Select Committee in 1996. The CRE's interest in the Armed Forces Bill was primarily the proposal to amend the Race Relations Act 1976 to enable service personnel to bring cases of racial discrimination in the employment tribunal. The proposal, which was approved in the Armed Forces Act 1996, requires serving personnel to initiate redress proceedings under the relevant Services legislation before they can lodge a complaint in the employment tribunal. Thus while the CRE welcomed the proposal to allow access to the employment tribunal, we did not agree that every case without exception must go through the internal Service procedure first. Our concern was that so long as complaints must be considered up the chain of command, the factors that had inhibited use of the redress procedure under Services Discipline Acts (including fear of victimisation or damage to career prospects) would continue to operate. While acknowledging that, generally, effort should be made to resolve employment grievances internally, employees who, for whatever reason, lacked confidence in the internal procedure should not be prevented from seeking independent adjudication of their complaints.

  The new procedures did not come into force until October 1997. The Race Relations (Complaints to Industrial Tribunals) (Armed Forces) Regulations 1997 provide that a serving member of the Armed Forces can present a complaint of racial discrimination to an industrial tribunal where "(a) he has made a complaint in respect of the same matter to an officer under the service redress procedures; and (b) that complaint has not been withdrawn." After some three years, the CRE remains concerned about the service redress procedures and their inability in some cases to be sufficiently responsive to the needs of service personnel whose careers have been severely damaged as a result of racism, racial harassment and discrimination.

Complaints of racial discrimination by service personnel

  Since March 1996 the CRE has received more than 40 applications for assistance in cases alleging racial discrimination by the MoD or Army/Navy/RAF. Currently we are providing legal representation in 11 cases and are assisting external solicitors in two further cases.

  The issues that these cases raise include:

    —  verbal and physical racist abuse, often allowed to go unchecked;

    —  failure by immediate line manager to take action to stop racist abuse;

    —  direct involvement in racist abuse by line manager;

    —  victimisation and attempted inducements to persuade victim to withdraw complaint.

  The CRE would ask this Committee to note the nature and seriousness of some of these complaints, especially as the allegations are made against organisations that in formal agreements with the CRE have undertaken to eradicate discrimination and harassment. The CRE would also expect the employment tribunal, in considering remedies in any successful case against the MoD or one of the Services, to have regard to the learning that should have resulted from the CRE's formal investigation of the Household Cavalry and the undertakings that followed.

Armed Forces internal procedure

  As many of the cases in Annex 35 illustrate, there is a lack of congruence between internal redress procedures and the approach and remedies when discrimination complaints are heard in the employment tribunal.[5] The internal procedure is concerned primarily to identify the individuals involved in the alleged discriminatory treatment, and, depending on the strength and quality of the evidence, to bring court martial proceedings for offences under the Services Discipline Acts. Such cases, like any other criminal cases, must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Anticipating the possibility of criminal proceedings, the investigation, which is normally carried out by the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police, is comparable to a civilian police investigation. Where a complaint involves more than one incident, as most are likely to do, the SIB interview of the victim is likely to be difficult and lengthy, often without regard to the victim's physical or mental condition.

  Under the redress procedure a "successful" complaint is one that results in a conviction of the perpetrator. There is very limited scope to award any form of compensation to the victim. There is nothing which is formally part of the internal procedure that requires the employer, the MoD or the Army or the Navy or the RAF, to accept responsibility, to institute changes or to take steps to protect the victim from further discrimination or victimisation.

  In the employment tribunal the complaint of discrimination would most likely be against the MoD or the particular branch of the Armed Forces (relying on the vicarious liability provision in the Race Relations Act). In cases of racial harassment, the individual perpetrators might be named as additional respondents. The object of the proceedings would be for the wholly independent tribunal (lawyer chairman and two lay wing members) to decide whether, on the civil standard of proof—the balance of probabilities—the employer, that is the MoD or the Army or Navy or RAF, has committed unlawful acts of discrimination. If the complaint is upheld the tribunal has powers to order the employer to compensate the victim in respect of past and future financial loss and for injury to feelings. The impact of the discrimination on the employee is a significant factor in determining the total award, for which there is no upper limit. Where a serviceman or woman's career has come to an end as a result of racial discrimination then awards can be substantial. Where the complainant is still employed, the tribunal can also recommend that the employer takes steps to protect the complainant from future discrimination.

  Under the Race Relations Act in its present form a member of the Armed Forces who is a victim of racial discrimination and wishes to challenge this treatment must go through the ordeal of the internal procedure which, in cases currently supported by the CRE, has taken between 12 months and three years. Generally the employment tribunal has acceded to the MoD's request that tribunal proceedings be stayed (or, in Scotland, sisted) until the internal procedure has been concluded. This can mean a period of four years or more to resolve all of the issues in a relatively straight-forward case of racial harassment.

  It may be that the Human Rights Act obligation on public authorities to act consistently with the European Convention on Human Rights—Article 6 of the Convention guarantees to every person the right to a fair and public hearing without delay for the determination of civil rights and obligations—will be used to challenge the excessive delay which in many cases is obstructing the right of access to the employment tribunal.

  The CRE would urge the Defence Committee to consider whether there is need to amend section 75 of the Race Relations Act to enable a victim of discrimination to complain directly to an employment tribunal.

  It is the CRE's experience that what most victims of discrimination or harassment are looking for, firstly, is to be believed and their complaint to be taken seriously without fear of victimisation; they want their employer to take responsibility for racism and discrimination by other employees, to recognise the harm caused by their actions or their failure to act to prevent discrimination; they want their employer to take effective action to ensure that such behaviour is not allowed to be repeated. They also want to be compensated on the same basis as civilian employees.


  The above summary of the CRE's work with the MoD and Armed Forces over recent years together with examples of issues arising from recent cases illustrates the enormity of the task that lies ahead for the Services in terms of meeting their race equality goals and objectives.

  As outlined above, the fact that the Services overall have failed to meet their recruiting targets would indicate that, despite their considerable marketing and recruiting efforts and expenditure, the Services have largely failed to attract the existing pools of skilled and talented ethnic minority women and men who should be entering their ranks. The CRE has sought to use its meetings with the individual Services as opportunities to try to get them to examine critically why their efforts have, or have not been successful; on some occasions the response of the Services to challenge has appeared defensive. On occasions when CRE representatives have been invited to speak about racial equality matters at conferences and conventions, they have often have come away with an impression that their comments about the performance of the particular Service have not been welcomed.

  Such responses indicate that all three Services, while building on their successes, have not yet fully acknowledged their failures; in the experience of the CRE this is a prerequisite to any meaningful or lasting change. It is also essential to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of past efforts and activities to inform current and future initiatives.

  The continuing incidence of racial discrimination and harassment within the Armed Forces cannot be ignored. While the Services point to a relatively small number of complaints that have come to the fore in recent years, it is the view of the CRE that these formal complaints are likely to be only a token measure of the scale of the problem. Research undertaken by individual Services in recent years, notably the RAF survey in 1998 revealed that, overwhelmingly, armed forces personnel who experience racism and discrimination are reluctant to make formal complaints.

  Some of the reasons for this reluctance relate to the fact that complaints must first be made through the internal procedure. The cases referred to in Annex 3 illustrate some of the disadvantages for the complainant of the existing arrangements.[6]

  Despite the fact that the Chief of the Defence Staff made clear that racism was to be stamped out, to date this has not happened. With important exceptions, there is not consistent evidence of change in the attitudes of officers at every level, and in particular of NCOs, who are in a position on a daily basis to influence behaviour. As the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry recommended to the Metropolitan Police Service, there is a need to "review . . . internal inspection and accountability processes to ensure that policy directives are observed". The CRE remains convinced that this is achievable throughout the Armed Forces, which by its nature as a disciplined and hierarchical institution, enables those at the top to direct how its employees behave. To do so is fundamental to any other measures the Services may take to meet their equality and diversity objectives, or to make the Armed Forces an institution in which men and women of all backgrounds may work in a climate free from disadvantage, discrimination and harassment.


  The Race Relations (Amendment) Bill, now awaiting its final stages in Parliament, will impose a duty on public authorities including the MoD and the Armed Forces, in the carrying out their various functions, to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and good race relations. The Home Secretary will be able to impose specific duties and the CRE will be able to issue Codes of Practice. Failure to comply with the specific duties imposed by the Home Secretary will be enforceable by the CRE and, ultimately, by the county/sheriff court.

  The CRE anticipates that among the specific duties relevant to Armed Forces personnel functions, could be obligations to assess the impact on racial equality of proposed policies, including consultation wherever this is practicable, to monitor current practice, again involving consultation, and to report on measures taken to promote racial equality and their effectiveness. The duties under an amended Race Relations Act will also impact on the MoD and agencies within the MoD whose functions relate to the conditions or treatment of service personnel, including overall staffing policies and arrangements for accommodation, welfare or other vital services.

  The new statutory obligations will overlap and strengthen the obligations under the Partnership Agreement, but are likely to require even greater transparency and accountability. The expected requirement on public authorities to monitor by ethnicity their various employment decisions and practices should not be a particular burden to the Armed Forces since they are already doing this; their experience may well be of considerable benefit to the rest of the MoD and to public authorities whose monitoring systems are less well advanced or non-existent.


  The Partnership Agreement between the CRE and the MoD is now half way through. Unless there is a radical improvement in the equal opportunity work by the Services, the commitments undertaken in this agreement will not be achieved. The impact of the Human Rights Act and the Race Relations (Amendment) Act may help to stimulate further and improved action. Ultimately, however, the success or failure of the Services in this area will be determined by the leadership exercised in the Services themselves. There are no short cuts to race equality. The CRE urges this Committee to join in pressing upon the MoD and the Service chiefs the urgency of this message.

2  p 98. Back
3  p 102. Back
4  Not printed. Back
5  Not printed. Back
6  Not printed. Back

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