Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:
- What steps they are taking to increase the number of soldiers from ethnic minorities in the Household Division.
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the families and friends of Rifleman Edward Vakabua, Corporal Christopher Read and Lance Corporal Ryan Francis, who were killed on operations in Iraq this past weekend.
The Army’s Diversity Thread programme seeks to increase the number of ethnic minority soldiers recruited into all parts of the Army by engaging with key influencers and the target audience. This involves raising awareness of the Army and its place in society and building interest in the Army, its careers, values and standards, all with the intention of potentially securing a commitment to join or simply to support the ideals of the service.
Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s response. I chair the Conservative Muslim Forum and the Ethnic Diversity Council. I speak at meetings and seminars encouraging the ethnic minorities to join the police and Armed Forces. My Question was prompted by the fact that, when I attended the Trooping the Colour ceremony, out of some 1,400 officers and soldiers I saw no more than 10 persons from the ethnic minorities. There is something not quite right here. Will the Minister assure your Lordships’ House that everything is done to combat racism in any form—I emphasise “any”—in the Household Division, and that if there is a perception of racism, adequate awareness of the Army and its values are raised through enhanced public relations?
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I very much agree with the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh. It is very important that we continue all the efforts in the tri-services, not only in the Army, to increase the number of ethnic minority young men and women who want to be part of our armed services.
Recruitment to our armed services from our ethnic minority communities has increased year on year for each of the past seven years. However, we start, as the noble Lord indicated, from a very low base. For instance, in 1998-99 only 1.7 per cent of enlisted service people were from an ethnic minority. In 2006-07 that has gone up to 3.9 per cent. Our target for 2013 is 8 per cent, the percentage of the population from ethnic minorities as measured in the 2001 census. We will continue all the recruitment initiatives and training going on in the Army and other services to get to that target.