Armed Forces’ £8m diversity drive has failed to put minorities in top positions

Officer cadets pass out at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
Officer cadets pass out at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst - JULIAN SIMMONDS FOR THE TELEGRAPH

The Armed Forces’ controversial diversity schemes have been labelled a failure after no black and ethnic minority (BAME) officers were promoted to the most senior levels of the military.

A freedom of information request has shown BAME officers are under-represented at every level in the armed forces from colonel in the Army up to general, and the equivalent ranks in the Royal Navy and RAF.

No black or Asian women have been promoted above the rank of major general since 2016, and there are believed to be fewer than five BAME officers in total at that level. A total of around 95 white officers are currently serving at that rank.

The figures obtained by The Telegraph also show that while 180 women are serving at the rank of colonel or above,  fewer than 10 come from an ethnic minority.

The disclosure will be a significant embarrassment for the Ministry of Defence, which this month admitted to MPs that more than £8 million had spent employing staff working on “inclusion and diversity” between 2019 and 2023.

Defence review may scrap ‘woke’ policy

Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, has ordered a review on the cost and necessity of having a diversity policy because of a growing belief that the Armed Forces are being undermined by a woke culture.

There are currently 1,570 male officers ranked colonel or above – or the equivalent in the Royal Navy and RAF – serving in the Armed Forces.

Ethnic minority personnel make up around 14 per cent of the Armed Forces and a similar proportion in the senior ranks would mean at least 220 black or Asian people serving at colonel and above. There are estimated to be around 30.

The figures also show that since 2016, fewer than 10 officers out of 570 officers who attended the advanced staff and command course and the higher command and staff course – both of which are vital for promotion – came from a BAME background.

The Telegraph revealed in February that the Army wants to relax security checks for recruits from overseas to boost diversity and inclusion.

Britain’s Armed Forces have consistently failed to hit recruitment targets and are looking overseas to boost ethnic minority representation.

Retired officers’ ‘sadness. incredulity and anger’

The disclosure of the MoD’s diversity and inclusiveness spending led to 12 retired senior Armed Forces officers writing a letter to the Defence Secretary, which was also published in The Telegraph.

The former officers wrote of their “sadness, incredulity and anger” at “the depth and pervasiveness of the racist and intolerant diversity, equality and inclusivity ideology being pushed within HM Armed Forces”.

One of the signatories of the letter was Col Ewan Southby-Tailyour, who served in the Falklands as a Royal Marine officer.

When told of the figures revealed by the FOI, he said he was not surprised and added: “What have these so-called diversity people been doing? How can they spend £8 million and achieve nothing?

‘Join the Army, be mediocre’

“If the Armed Forces stands for anything, it stands for being promoted on merit irrespective of sex, colour or religion. No wonder they have a recruitment crisis.

“There used to be an advertising campaign in the 1980s which said, ‘Join the Army be the Best.’ Now it may as well say, ‘Join the Army, be mediocre.’

“I think people who want to serve their country want a challenge. They want it to be tough so they feel they have achieved something. No one wants to be promoted on the basis of  a diversity quota.”

An MoD spokesman said: “Recruitment and retention are top priorities to ensure the operational effectiveness of our Armed Forces.

“Whilst we have put in place a range of measures to improve our processes, it takes time to grow talent through the organisation to the most senior ranks. We will continue doing everything we can to increase our recruiting intake from under-represented groups within the provisions of the law.

“The root and branch review of diversity and inclusivity policies within the Armed Forces is ongoing, and an update will be published in due course.”