Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

MoD admits RAF ‘made mistakes’ during diversity recruitment drive

The RAF is ‘investigating some processes and decisions taken in the past’

Lamiat Sabin
Monday 26 September 2022 23:21 BST
The RAF has been accused of prioritising diversity within its ranks over national security
The RAF has been accused of prioritising diversity within its ranks over national security (Danny Lawson/PA)

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted that “some mistakes were made” in response to reports that the RAF had a recruitment drive that favoured women and ethnic minorities applicants.

Claims emerged last month that the RAF’s head of recruitment had refused to follow an order to prioritise such candidates over white men because she believed it was “unlawful”.

She allegedly told her boss that she was not willing to allocate places on training courses based purely on candidates not being male or white, according to a leaked message seen by Sky News.

Also in August, reports citing defence sources claimed that the head of recruitment resigned over the “pause” in the enlisting of white men taken in a bid to hit, what they called, “impossible” diversity targets.

The sources, speaking to Sky News, accused RAF head Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston of prioritising the reaching of diversity goals over the defence agenda – at a time of growing security threats to the west posed by China and Russia amid the latter’s invasion of Ukraine.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, head of the RAF (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Asked about the allegations, Sir Mike told the broadcaster earlier this month: “There was absolutely no drop in operational standards, no drop in any standards.

“There was no discrimination against any group, no standards were dropped, there was no discrimination against any group.”

But, on Monday, an MoD spokesperson acknowledged that “despite the best of intentions, some mistakes were made” in its approach to hiring new recruits.

They insisted that the MoD remained determined to recruit fairly while maintaining its standards.

In a statement, the spokesperson said: “The RAF is constantly reviewing its recruiting practices, including the introduction earlier this year of a new recruiting IT system, to improve the diversity of its workforce.

“While overall standards did not drop, in hindsight we accept that despite the best of intentions, some mistakes were made.

“The RAF is now confident that our approach is correct, however, we are investigating some processes and decisions taken in the past, so it would be inappropriate to comment further while this is ongoing.”

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, chief of defence staff (PA Wire)

In December, the chief of defence staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, used his first public speech after taking the role to stress the importance of increased diversity, saying that it was not about appearing “woke”.

To the Royal United Services Institute, he said: “We are striving to do better in every aspect of our leadership. That includes reflecting the diverse nation we serve.

“Because if we don’t, then quite simply, we risk looking ridiculous. This is not about wokefulness. It is about woefulness.

“The woefulness of too few women. The woefulness of not reflecting the ethnic, religious and cognitive diversity of our nation.”

The MoD has announced it aims to increase the proportion of female recruits in the armed forces in general from about 12 per cent to 30 per cent by 2030.

The RAF wants to increase the proportion of female recruits to 40 per cent by the end of the decade while doubling the number of recruits from ethnic minority backgrounds to about 20 per cent.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in