Our government* is engaged in the prosecution of soldiers over alleged crimes said to have occurred decades ago as those men served in the tense, long war in Northern Ireland. This state of affairs is exemplified by the denial of trial by jury to Dennis Hutchings.
Against this background, and all of the talk of a Military Covenant, what is the Ministry of Defence doing to protect veterans, support them, and show them that the debt this country owes them matters and will be honoured?
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, the highest civil servant in the department, Sir Stephen Augustus Lovegrove, KCB, had this to say to all MoD staff on 5th June:
We briefly touched on the topic of discrimination in our all-staff dial in, and we want to take a moment to continue this vital conversation around race and inequality, and what it means for us as individuals, for Defence, and for the world around us.
The tragic death of George Floyd in the USA last week has had a profound impact on many of us. Systemic racial inequality is not unique to America, but also it has deep roots within UK society, including Defence. At the same time, ongoing research on Covid-19 increasingly shows that its deadly impact is felt harder in BAME communities.
Let us be clear, any form of racism or discrimination is absolutely unacceptable. Our overriding objective under the 2018-2030 Diversity and Inclusion strategy is to eliminate discrimination throughout Defence. But we recognise that we are some way from this, and discrimination is still experienced by some of our people.
Defence is an international, outward looking department, and diversity must be one of our top priorities. In ExCo and in our meetings with the Chiefs and TLB holders, we have been, and will continue to reflect on and discuss our own behaviours and attitudes. We have created a group to analyse Covid-19 impacts on staff, including BAME colleagues who are among those most vulnerable to the Covid-19 crisis. We are creating strategies on how we mitigate the risks to these groups. Although we’ve seen a small increase of BAME representation in our staff from 2019, our workforce doesn’t yet represent the society we serve, within the Armed Forces or the Civil Service. This is something we are determined to change.
On our part, we will be bringing the discussion of race and inequality to our Executive Committee meeting in the next month. Our next all-staff dial in will also be centred around this topic, where we can discuss what we hope will be many responses to this note.
It takes more than just the efforts of the leadership, it takes every single one of us in Defence to reflect inwards to consider how we can use our voice to support the dismantling of discrimination. We all need to challenge inequality where it persists or thrives.
For BAME members of our staff, we recognise that this is a difficult time. Please do utilise the networks and resources listed below, as it’s vital to us that everyone can access support.
This message will be followed by more articles and blogs in the coming weeks including support for BAME colleagues, educational tools, and opportunities to amplify the BAME voice within our organisation. Many of you will know that Sherin Aminossehe is our new Race Champion in MOD, and we’re confident that her priorities, along with other champions, will bring strength and action to this crucial dialogue. She will work closely alongside our Race Networks, who have been doing some incredible work in this area.
The ability and space to communicate about diversity and inclusion has never been more important. If you want to join this conversation, and particularly if you don’t feel heard, safe, or supported, please email [email protected].
Stephen Lovegrove, Permanent Secretary