RAF 'broke the law' over job requests from minorities and women

RAF ‘broke the law’ with policy to prioritise job requests from minorities and women, report is predicted to say

  • Group Captain Lizzie Nicholl has resigned from her post as a result 
  • She is now also said to be considering legal action against the Royal Air Force
  • Policies which favour candidates based on their sex and race is unlawful

The Royal Air Force broke employment law when it attempted to favour female and ethnic minority candidates over white men, an official report is expected to conclude.

The order to prioritise their job applications led to the resignation of the officer expected to implement the policy, Group Captain Lizzie Nicholl.

She refused to comply with the directive as she believed it was unlawful, a view shared by the RAF’s legal department. It emerged yesterday that Gp Capt Nicholl is said to be considering legal action against the RAF.

Questioned by MPs yesterday, the head of the RAF fudged his response when asked if he was behind the controversial policy.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said: ‘I set the aspirational goal for the service and the direction for the RAF. We did identify mistakes and I want the RAF to learn from this. I very much regret [Gp Capt Nicholl] found herself in that position and that she felt she had no alternative but to resign.’

Group Captain Lizzie Nicholl is said to be considering legal action against the RAF

Defence chiefs have ordered a non-statutory inquiry (NSI) into last year’s ‘positive discrimination’ policy which saw women and BAME candidates prioritised for highly sought after places on RAF training courses.

Under employment law, the military is granted dispensation to disqualify people based on their age and physical abilities when these characteristics are considered essential to their roles.

But any policies which favour candidates based on their sex and race would be unlawful.

Defence select committee chairman Tobias Ellwood told Sir Mike: ‘There has clearly been a lack of integrity at the top of the RAF.

‘Your legal team said it would break the law if you pursued this policy. This was a formal directive from the top. She [Gp Capt Nicholl] saw the legal advice. It is going to go to a tribunal.’

Last night the RAF said the policy was never implemented and there was no impact on operational capabilities. All the ‘white males’ were found places on training courses.

Sir Mike is facing huge pressure over the recruitment policy, delays in RAF fast jet training and the sexual misconduct scandal in the Red Arrows, as revealed by the Daily Mail.

The committee heard it was taking pilots ten years to qualify to fly the F-35 Lightning, when it should take three years.

Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston (left) and Station Commander for RAF Coningsby Billy Cooper (right) with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during his visit to RAF Coningsby in Linconshire

The delays have been caused by aircraft maintenance issues and the RAF’s commitment to train pilots from Saudi Arabia and Qatar – as part of a deal to convince Gulf states to buy UK-manufactured Typhoon jets.

The committee also heard that the decision to retire the RAF’s Hercules transport aircraft this year could jeopardise Special Forces missions.

The replacement for the Hercules, the A400M, cannot meet the requirements for certain ‘SF’ operations – because it does not allow paratroopers to jump from both sides of the aircraft and boats cannot be deployed from its rear ramp.

RAF officers said they hoped to address the issues by 2025.

Sir Mike said: ‘This wasn’t a decision taken in isolation by the RAF. Decisions are taken in a resource constrained environment. The issues were apparent when the decision was taken in 2021.’

Mr Ellwood said: ‘The one thing we [the UK] bring to the table is our Special Forces. By taking these niche capabilities away you are denying the SF these capabilities.’

The retired Hercules aircraft could be sent to Ukraine.

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