The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted that “some mistakes were made”, after reports of a recruitment drive which favoured women and ethnic minorities.
In August, claims emerged that the head of recruitment in the Royal Air Force (RAF) refused to follow an order to prioritise such candidates over white men because she believed it was “unlawful”.
The group captain told her boss she was not willing to allocate slots on training courses based purely on a specific gender or ethnicity, according to a leaked message seen by Sky News at the time.
Asked about the allegations, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, head of the RAF, 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.”
Now, an MoD spokesperson has acknowledged that “despite the best of intentions, some mistakes were made” in its approach.
In a statement on Monday, they 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.”
The MoD has said recruitment generally is always a top priority for the RAF, not just female or minority ethnic recruitment, and insisted it remains determined to recruit in fair and non-discriminatory ways, while maintaining high standards.
The service has also been under scrutiny after allegations made against the Red Arrows.
The Times reported in August that members of the Red Arrows were being investigated over allegations of misogyny, bullying and sexual harassment.
The newspaper later reported that the aerobatic display team received “unacceptable behaviours and active bystander training” after more than 40 personnel, including young female recruits, gave evidence against the team to an inquiry.