MEMORANDUM FROM THE COMMISSION FOR RACIAL
EQUALITY (2 OCTOBER 2000)
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 Servicesthe Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 and
the Naval Discipline Act 1957 (" the Services Discipline
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 (Rv-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.
CRE FORMAL INVESTIGATION
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
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
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.
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
removal of barriers to ethnic minority
retention of Service personnel at
continued examination of reasons
for premature voluntary release;
increased numbers of ethnic minority
officers at higher ranks;
removal of barriers to ethnic minority
establishment and maintenance of
non-racist environment at every level;
effective action to prevent racist
clear lines of accountability for
discrimination and racism;
assessment of equal opportunity performances
as part of annual appraisal.
A copy of the Partnership Agreement is attached
as Annex 2.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 ForcesEthnic Minority Serving Personnel
|Total Services (%)
|April 1997||April 1998
||April 1999||April 2000
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) that some
service personnel, unable to tolerate racism and abuse, have put
themselves at risk of formal punishment by going AWOL.
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 1996amendment of the Race Relations
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
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
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. 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
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 proofthe balance of probabilitiesthe
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 RightsArticle 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 obligationswill 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
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.
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
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
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.
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