Grant Shapps orders MoD diversity policy review as he's 'furious with woke nonsense'

The defence secretary is responding to reports that the Army wants to relax its security checks for overseas recruits. Credit: PA

Grant Shapps is ordering a review of the Ministry of Defence's diversity and inclusion policy following reports that the Army wants to relax security checks for overseas recruits to boost ethnic minority representation. The defence secretary said there will be no “lowering of security clearance requirements on my watch” after the Sunday Telegraph reported it had seen a British Army document vowing to “challenge” security checks to increase diversity. The newspaper said the armed forces are looking overseas to attract ethnic minority talent because they have long failed to hit recruitment targets. Mr Shapps is said to be “genuinely furious about this woke nonsense” and does not believe such policies are the way to address the military’s recruitment crisis. The 2023 British Army’s Race Action Plan, outlining measures to boost representation, describes security clearance vetting as being “the primary barrier to non-UK personnel gaining a commission in the Army”.

It vows to “challenge SC (security clearance) requirements,” according to the Sunday Telegraph. In response, Mr Shapps said: “I am ordering a review of diversity and inclusivity policy at the MoD.

“We want people from all backgrounds to serve in our military but some policies appear to be more about a political agenda than practically improving the lives of our dedicated soldiers and military personnel. “There will certainly not be any lowering of security clearance requirements on my watch. And no-one should be offended by having religion as part of remembrance services.

"You don’t have to be Christian to appreciate and respect the history and traditions of the United Kingdom.”

A source close to the Defence Secretary said: “He’s determined it is rooted out on his watch. He’s ready to go to battle on it…

“There are personnel issues that need addressing in the armed services but some of these policies are about a woke agenda.” Meanwhile, fellow Cabinet minister Michael Gove said political correctness should not “impair our ability to defend our borders”.

The housing secretary told Sky’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips that it is important to strike the "right balance" to ensure the UK has a "strong and diverse" military without letting "political correctness" and "out there" approaches impairing the country's ability to "defend our borders".

“Some of the policies that might apply appropriately in other workplaces would not be appropriate in the military," he added. An MoD spokesman said: “Our priority is protecting the national security of the United Kingdom and ensuring the operational effectiveness of our armed forces. “We take security extremely seriously and ensure that all personnel have the appropriate security clearance, which is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...