THE HEAD of the British Army has vowed to crack down on bullying and sexual harassment - but has insisted it is not an attempt to turn the forces into the “politically correct brigade”.
General Sir Nick Carter said the military must not put up with unacceptable behaviour that has previously resulted in claims of discrimination and prejudice.
Gen Carter, who has been the Chief of General Staff for a year, said a new code of conduct is being introduced to ensure all staff are accepted “in an inclusive way”.
It will aim to tackle bullying and sexual harassment, among other behavioural issues, and will promote tolerance.
He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “No, I’m not arguing for political correctness. What I’m arguing for is to live by our values and standards and to accept everyone in an inclusive way.
“I think there is a risk we will lose sight of our ultimate goal, which is to close with and kill the Queen’s enemies, and we have to have that at the forefront of our mind, but equally we cannot accept unacceptable behaviour.”
Referring to the low numbers of black, Asian and minority ethnic soldiers, Gen Carter said he is committed to recruiting more.
“We are on a journey here and I’m making a commitment personally as the head of this institution to try and change that,” he said.
“Give me time - the effort is there and we are going to do something about it.”
Gen Carter has previously pledged to make the Army a more inclusive employer, specifically increasing the numbers of Muslim soldiers.
The code of conduct comes after concerns were raised from the military watchdog last year that the complaints system is failing.
Service Complaints Commissioner Susan Atkins cited a rise in reported cases of bullying, harassment and discrimination in the Army in 2013, reversing a downward trend in recent years, which she said posed a “serious challenge” for military top brass.
None of the goals set by the SCC for the armed forces to achieve by the end of 2013 were met, said Dr Atkins, who raised particular concern about delays in resolving complaints from personnel.
The report found that the Army saw a 12% increase in complaints during that 12-month period, but only 25% were resolved within the 24-week target and overall only 26% of complaints made in 2013 were closed during the year.
The armed forces have seen a series of allegations surrounding bullying in recent years, including claims centred on Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire, the country’s biggest training base.
In 2007 an investigation was launched after a Parachute Regiment recruit was allegedly filmed being sexually assaulted at Catterick.
The programme was commissioned by the BBC after the Deepcut report on the deaths of four teenage soldiers in Surrey between 1995 and 2002, amid accusations of bullying - following which the Ministry of Defence announced a series of reforms.
Lynn Farr, the mother of Daniel Farr, 18, who died in 1997 amid concerns he had been assaulted at Catterick, set up Daniel’s Trust to highlight problems of bullying in the armed forces.
Last night military charities welcomed the new code of conduct as a positive move for the armed forces.
Wendy Searle, head of communications for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, said: “The Army is moving with the times, and to encourage tolerance and diversity is to reflect society as a whole.”