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Applicants trying to join RAF described as 'useless white male pilots' in push to meet diversity targets
31 May 2023, 21:11 | Updated: 1 June 2023, 02:19
White men applying to join the Royal Air Force have been described as "useless white male pilots" in leaked emails exposing pressure placed on recruitment officers to improve diversity.
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Several selection boards to place new recruits on courses were also cancelled due to a lack of women or ethnic minorities, according to the messages.
The air force is understood to be paying £5,000 each to 31 white men - a total of £155,000 - who were found to have been unfairly disadvantaged by a recruitment policy intended to boost female and ethnic minority ratios in the air force, a defence source told Sky.
A further review found hundreds more had been disadvantaged, the source said.
The RAF confirmed that 31 individuals had received payments but did not say how much each person was given.
The revelation comes despite Air Chief Marshal Wigston previously saying efforts to improve diversity did not discriminate against white men, two defence sources told the outlet.
The RAF said there was no contradiction. A spokesperson said: "Selection standards were not and have not been altered and there was no compromise of entry standards and no impact on the frontline or operational effectiveness."
The leaked emails are dated back to that period in 2020 to early 2021 when recruitment and selection was led by Group Captain William Dole.
It is understood that they have been submitted as evidence to an internal inquiry launched by the Ministry of Defence into the circumstances which led to the resignation of Group Captain Nicholl, who quit over claims the service had stopped recruiting white men to hit diversity targets.
Under a subject line entitled: "BOARDING PROFILE", one squadron leader wrote: "I would be grateful if you could provide me with a breakdown of the candidates awaiting boarding, by Br [branch - the type of profession, such as pilot, engineer or chef] and BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic]/Female."
He went on to say: "I noted that the boards have recently been predominantly white male heavy, if we don't have enough BAME and female to board then we need to make the decision to pause boarding and seek more BAME and female from the RF [recruitment force].
"I don't really need to see loads of useless white male pilots, lets [sic] get a [sic] focussed as possible, I am more than happy to reduce boarding if needed to have a balanced BAME/female/Male board."
The Ministry of Defence has stressed that the "useless" comment wasn't made in reference to individuals' talent, but rather the fact that them being recruited would not help boost diversity targets.
Another email entitled "BOARDING PROFILE UPDATE" sent the next day by the same squadron leader to a more senior member in the recruitment team, suggested a struggle to meet diversity targets.
It also discussed efforts being made to get more ethnic minority and female candidates on selection boards
Selection boards are used to select new recruits for different branches at RAF Halton, the training college for enlisted recruits, or RAF Cranwell, which trains officers.
The efforts included the cancellation of boards that were made up only of white male recruits.
"You will note however that the pot for BAME and female is drained," it read.
"From 336 Cs [candidates] we have c10% female, 5% BAME which we will burn through quickly using the boarding profile proposed.
"As you know we select approx. 45-50% of BAME and female that we board therefore we expect to select c15 female and 7 BAME from the current cohort.
"The demand signal needs to go back to RF [the recruitment force] to focus now on sending all the BAME and female they have.
"We have cancelled 2 x boards next week due to them having no female/BAME or priority Br [priority branch] on them".
Mr Dole replaced Group Captain Elizabeth Nicholl, who resigned in protest at what she deemed, defence sources said, to be an "unlawful order" to effectively pause the selection of white male recruits in a bid to hit "impossible" diversity targets.
The order was never brought into effect due to her resignation.
An RAF spokesperson said: "The Royal Air Force will not shy away from the challenges we face building a Service that attracts and recruits talent from every part of the UK workforce.
"We will continue doing everything we can to increase our recruiting intake from under-represented groups within the provisions of the law.
"All individuals joining the Royal Air Force were and are selected on merit and any individuals that were advanced to their training courses had already passed the selection process.
"There was no compromise of entry standards and no impact on the frontline or operational effectiveness."