Royal Air Force discriminated against white men during recruitment drive, inquiry finds

Former Group Captain Lizzy Nicholl quit her role as head of the drive because she received legal advice which said it was in breach of the Equality Act

Ted Hennessey
Friday 30 June 2023 00:05 BST
Comments
(MoD)

A Royal Air Force recruitment drive to boost diversity discriminated against white men, an inquiry has found.

In 2020 and 2021, 161 candidates, who were either women or from ethnic minority backgrounds, were accelerated into training places ahead of other candidates.

The RAF said it accepts the drive amounted to positive discrimination as set out by a Ministry of Defence report, adding it will not “make the same mistakes again”.

Former Group Captain Lizzy Nicholl quit her role as head of the drive because she received legal advice which said it was in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

The report said: “We found that concerns were raised at the time by R&S [recruitment and selection] staff but that those who led the initiatives believed that they were ‘pushing the boundaries’ of positive action rather than acting unlawfully.”

It added: “We found that the chain of command’s reaction to the former Group Capt R&S was overly defensive and not properly considered whether she might have been justified in what she said regarding previous acts of positive discrimination or the legality of what she was asked to do; and that insufficient effort had been made to determine the facts.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Rich Knighton said in response: “The belief at that time, based on the understanding of the recruiting process and interpretation of the legal advice, was that this practice demonstrated acceptable, positive action. We now know that it did not, and I apologise unreservedly to all those affected.

“We accept that some men were discriminated against. This included a group of 31 individuals, who likely missed the opportunity to qualify for a £5,000 joining bonus. We have identified those people and are retrospectively offering to award them any financial payment they missed out on.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said the RAF had made “a significant error”
Defence secretary Ben Wallace said the RAF had made “a significant error” (PA Wire)

“Those involved in Recruiting and Selection throughout this period acted with the best of intentions; but it is clear that people responsible for implementing these policies did raise concerns at the time, and the way in which long-term aspirational goals set by senior leadership to improve diversity in the RAF were translated into personal performance targets was wrong.”

Defence secretary Ben Wallace, speaking at a press briefing at Canada House in central London on Thursday, said: “The other point to note is that while the whole thing has been, I think, a significant error and indeed a cause for regret for the RAF, they didn’t lower the standard.

“They discriminated against those people that were applying [with people] who were above the standard, so our military level wasn’t put at risk. However, the treatment of the people applying, it was wrong, unsatisfactory.”

Join our commenting forum

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

Comments

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