Defiant major is told to quit

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MAJOR ERIC JOYCE, who publicly condemned the Army leadership as a clique of white, out-of-touch elitists, has been ordered to resign his commission or be sacked.

The outspoken Black Watch major hopes to stand as a Labour candidate in elections for the Scottish Parliament and critics privately regard his attack on the "officer class" as an exercise in self-promotion.

Major Joyce was told at a meeting with his commanding officer in Aldershot that he would automatically be discharged if he did not resign his commission within two months. Unbowed, he reiterated afterwards he intends to take his case for freedom of speech within the Army to the European Court of Human Rights.

Major Joyce breached Queen's Regulations by writing a pamphlet for the Labour- affiliated Fabian Society and has appeared before the Army Board, accused of speaking about the Army without its permission. In the pamphlet he alleged the Army was racist, snobbish and outdated.

Major Joyce rose through the ranks in the Black Watch and is on the staff of the Adjutant General's Corps, the Army's administrative branch. He said yesterday it was "terribly important" soldiers should be allowed to speak freely and he condemned the "obsession" of the Army top brass with an "officer class". He said Queen's Regulations were "a convention" and not legally enforceable.

Major Joyce is being dealt with under a procedure allowing unsuitable personnel to leave the Army.

The Ministry of Defence said attitudes in the Army were evolving. "We are a meritocracy. If you are not good enough, you don't get on. We're not interested in a person's background, class or school."