MoD admits ‘mistakes were made’ in RAF diversity recruitment drive

The Ministry of Defence has said “some mistakes were made” following a recruitment drive that prioritised women and minority ethnic groups in an attempt to meet “impossible” diversity targets.

It was claimed in August that the head of recruitment for the Royal Air Force deemed it “unlawful” to prioritise women and minority ethnic groups, and had refused to follow recruitment practices that would to prioritise such candidates over white men.

In a leaked message seen by Sky News, an unnamed group captain said she would not offer slots on training courses based solely on gender or ethnicity. She resigned over concerns that the fighting strength of the RAF would be weakened by meeting “impossible” diversity targets.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said 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.”

However, an MoD spokesperson has since 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 IT recruitment system allegedly ranks candidates on merit and could be “problematic” for the way the RAF recruits women and ethnic minorities, a leaked email dated 9 April 2021 revealed.

The MoD claims that recruitment remains a top priority for the RAF, not just women and minority ethnic recruitment, and said it remained determined to maintain high standards while recruiting in fair and non-discriminatory ways.

“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 spokesperson added.