Army

Watch: Defence Secretary to meet Army leaders over culture concerns

Ben Wallace told Forces News ahead of the meeting: "We've got to get the culture right."

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is set to meet British Army leaders to address concerns around bullying, sexual harassment, and discrimination.

The meeting follows a report into the bullying and sexual harassment of women in the Armed Forces led by Tory MP and former soldier Sarah Atherton.

Ms Atherton's report found that almost two thirds of women had experienced bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination while serving in the UK Armed Forces.

The report, made up of the findings of interviews with more than 4,000 servicewomen and female veterans, also included accounts of rape.

Nearly 40% of 993 women asked reported that their experience of the complaints system was "extremely poor".

Six out of 10 women said they had not reported bullying, harassment or discrimination due to a lack of faith in the system.

There are more than 20,000 women currently serving in the Armed Forces.

Speaking on board aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth last week, Mr Wallace told Forces News "we've got to get the culture right".

"There's been a number of cases that I’ve been concerned about," he said.

"The Army is doing fantastic things in modernising and in reforming what it is and what it is going to do in the world… but we've also got to get the culture right.

"We've got to make sure we address issues around that and make sure that some of these stories that we've seen both in the media but also that I know of that haven’t been seen in the media are dealt with properly.

"We are underscoring in women in the Army, I listened and I read intently to the report by the House of Commons Defence [Select] Committee - there's a whole load of recommendations but it’s not just about reports and recommendations, we’ve got to get the culture right.

"I am determined that when I talk to the Army, we're there to say 'what are we going to do next?' because you're going to get a new-looking Army, we've got to make sure that that Army is populated by people from the 21st Century who live in a way, tolerate each other and make sure we aren't making some of the disciplinary mistakes we are at the moment."

In a statement, the Army said it was working with the Defence Secretary to "drive out unacceptable behaviour at all levels".

"The Secretary of State is determined to work with the Army's leadership to drive out unacceptable behaviour at all levels, particularly with respect to the treatment of women," an Army spokesperson said.

"The Army's core value of respect for others must underpin everything it delivers on behalf of the nation, whether in the United Kingdom or operating around the world."