The Army should “seriously consider” lifting its ban on women serving in combat roles in line with other countries, the chief of the general staff has said.
General Sir Peter Wall told The Sunday Times the British Army was in a minority of other forces because of the rule and offering all roles to women would make it “look more normal to society”.
The Ministry of Defence, which under European Law must review the policy every eight years, said there would another review “before 2018”.
The last statutory review in 2010 raised concerns that putting women and men together in small units for months at a time could undermine “team cohesion”, but said women would be able to meet physical and psychological demands.
Women currently are allowed to serve on the front line with the artillery and as medics, engineers, intelligence officers and fighters pilots but not in close combat roles.
Last year the US lifted its own ban on women fighting on the front line, joining other countries including Germany, Canada, France and Israel.
Sir Peter told the newspaper: “We’ve got to take a view on that fairly soon. We’re in a minority of armies now in that respect. It’s definitely something that we need to be considering seriously but we need to go about this with great care, especially with all the other changes going on.”
He said: “We have always said that we will look at the evidence and base our decision on what impact it will have on operational capability.
“This isn’t just about getting more females into the 30 per cent of roles that are combat trades but getting more of them into the Army per se. Women need to see they have equal opportunities right throughout the organisation.”
An MoD spokesman said: “The vast majority of roles in the Armed Forces are open to women and hundreds are currently serving their country with distinction in Afghanistan. They are fundamental to the operational effectiveness of the UK’s Armed Forces, bringing talent and skills across the board.”