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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Ben Quinn Political correspondent

Review of MoD’s diversity policies ordered by ‘furious’ Grant Shapps

Grant Shapps
Defence secretary Grant Shapps’s review was prompted by the British Army’s Race Action Plan, an attempt to increase representation in the armed forces. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

A review of diversity and inclusion policies at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been ordered to ensure that Britain’s ability to defend its borders isn’t impaired by what a cabinet minister described as “political correctness”.

The move follows reports that the army wants to relax security checks for overseas recruits to increase black, Asian and minority ethnic representation.

The 2023 British Army’s Race Action Plan, outlining measures to boost representation, describes security clearance vetting as being “the primary barrier to non-UK personnel gaining a commission in the army” and vows to “challenge SC (security clearance) requirements”, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

But it added the defence secretary, Grant Shapps, was “furious” about what was described as “woke nonsense” and had ordered the review, quoting him as saying that there would be no “lowering of security clearance requirements on my watch”.

“And no one should be offended by having religion as part of remembrance services. You don’t have to be Christian to appreciate and respect the history and traditions of the United Kingdom,” he added.

His fellow cabinet minister Michael Gove appeared to confirm the move on Sunday, telling Sky’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips that Shapps had been looking at specific policies to ensure a balance was struck.

He said this was between protecting individuals in the armed forces, having a diverse military “to make sure that these policies operate in such a way as to ensure that political correctness, or some of the more – what’s the word? – ‘out there’ approaches that people take towards diversity, equity and inclusion don’t impair our ability to defend our borders and to make sure that this country is secure”.

An MoD spokesperson said: “Our priority is protecting the national security of the United Kingdom and ensuring the operational effectiveness of our armed forces.

“We take security extremely seriously and ensure that all personnel have the appropriate security clearance, which is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”

The shadow defence secretary, John Healey, said: “National security must always be the first priority for any government and our armed forces must never relax security checks for recruits.

“But from missing their own hiring targets every year to overseeing the terrible state of military housing, the forces’ recruitment crisis has been caused by 14 years of Conservative failure.”

Healey also criticised Shapps after the defence secretary was accused of inflating the MoD’s budget by claiming he had £288bn to spend on armed forces equipment over the next decade.

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