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Defence secretary 'furious' as he orders review of MoD diversity and inclusivity policy

The defence secretary is said to be "furious" after it was reported that the Army wants to relax security clearance vetting for overseas recruits to boost diversity and inclusion.

The UK's Armed Forces are looking overseas to boost ethnic minority representation because they have consistently failed to hit recruitment targets, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

The newspaper said it had seen a document, titled The British Army's Race Action Plan, which outlines a series of "actions" to boost representation and describes security checks as "the primary barrier to non-UK personnel gaining a commission in the Army".

The guidance reportedly vows to "challenge SC [security clearance] requirements" to increase representation in the intelligence and officer corps, roles which have "uncontrolled access to secret assets".

Grant Shapps was "furious" about the findings and was "ready to go to battle", the Telegraph said.

He told the newspaper: "There will certainly not be any lowering of security clearance requirements on my watch."

In a statement issued later on Sunday afternoon, the defence secretary confirmed he had ordered a "root-and-branch review of ethnicity, diversity and inclusivity policies in defence".

He added: "Time and resources are being squandered to promote a political agenda which is pitting individuals against each other, when what we need is a common set of values which delivers the military we need to defend us and our allies.

"This extremist culture has crept in over years and it is time for a proper shake-up, designed to refocus the military on its core mission - being a lethal fighting force... It is time for common sense instead of divisiveness."

It came after an MoD source also told The Sunday Telegraph: "There are personnel issues that need addressing in the armed services but some of these policies are about a woke agenda and extreme critical race theories.

"These are leftist ideas that have leaked into the civil service and they are at best a distraction and at worst poisoning the wider discussion."

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'Lunacy of pushing woke ideas'

Twelve former senior military officers also lambasted the relaxed vetting policy as "dangerous madness" in an open letter to the defence secretary.

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"Among the lunacy of pushing woke ideas around the use of 'gender neutral' pronouns, or allowing male soldiers to wear make-up or flowing locks on parades to accentuate their feminine side, we pick out the wickedness of a policy to dilute security vetting in order to boost representation of ethnic minorities," they wrote.

"With Islamism and other extremism rampant, this is nothing short of dangerous madness."

An MoD spokesperson 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."