Defence Sec 'furious' over 'woke' report urging British Army to prioritise diversity over security vetting for recruits

11 February 2024, 08:56 | Updated: 11 February 2024, 09:00

The British Army want to loosen security checks for overseas recruits in order to boost diversity and inclusion, according to reports.
The British Army want to loosen security checks for overseas recruits in order to boost diversity and inclusion, according to reports. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Emma Soteriou

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has shut down recommendations for the British Army to prioritise "diversity and inclusion" over security vetting for overseas recruits.

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The British Army wants to loosen security checks for overseas recruits in order to boost diversity and inclusion, a leaked report revealed.

But Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has shut down the move, insisting there will not be "any lowering of security clearance requirements" for those hoping to join.

Britain's armed forces are currently going through a recruitment crisis and are seeking to boost their numbers through recruiting from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Documents seen by the Telegraph, which are part of internal policy suggestions and recommendations drafted up by the Army, suggest loosening vetting requirements as they are "the primary barrier to non-UK personnel gaining a commission in the Army".

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Responding to the report, Mr Shapps said: “I am ordering a review of diversity and inclusivity policy at the MoD.

“We want people from all backgrounds to serve in our military but some policies appear to be more about a political agenda than practically improving the lives of our dedicated soldiers and military personnel.

“There will certainly not be any 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.”

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Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6 from 1999 to 2004, said: "The evidence published today in the Telegraph, which apparently prioritises the diversity, equality, and inclusion in matters of national security, is very worrying indeed. Picture: Getty

A source close to the Defence Secretary said he was "furious" over the leaked report and would "go to battle" to stop the "woke nonsense".

"We want an Armed Forces that everyone who is willing to serve their country is welcome to join and that supports them personally," they said.

“But the Defence Secretary is genuinely furious about this woke nonsense and he’s determined it is routed out on his watch. He’s ready to go to battle on it.

“He has talked repeatedly about how it is a more dangerous world so there is no way security levels will be lowered while he is Secretary of State.

“There are personnel issues that need addressing in the Armed Services but some of these policies are about a woke agenda and extreme critical race theories.

“These are leftist ideas that have leaked into the civil service and they are at best a distraction and at worst poisoning the wider discussion.

“The Secretary of State is happy for people to have a voice but having 93 diversity groups is a sign that the issue is out of control and he will act.

“There is already a review of equality, diversity and inclusivity policies for the civil service and already unconscious bias training has rightly been scrapped. The same standards will apply to Defence.”

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Freedom Parade For Soldiers Returning From Afghanistan. Picture: Getty

The row comes after the government was urged earlier this year to "get a grip" on the British army, with troop numbers falling fast, amid NATO warnings that Western countries could be at war with Russia within two decades.

The British army could number just 52,000 troops in ten years, based on current trends, an analysis has shown.

It currently stands at around 76,000 regular full-time troops, down from nearly 103,000 in 2012.

The government plans to cut the number of soldiers to 72,500 by next year, which has caused concern among US generals.

But with recruitment proving difficult despite contracts worth more than a billion pounds awarded to a private company to oversee the process, army numbers could drop faster.