The head of the Royal Air Force has requested a rapid review of its recruiting “policies, practices and direction”.
It follows Sky News revelations that the head of RAF recruitment had resigned over what she believed to be an “unlawful” order to select women and ethnic minority candidates over white men.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said he has requested the support of the Ministry of Defence to carry out the review – taking it outside the force’s chain of command.
This is a sign of how serious the concerns about recruitment are being taken.
He said the review “will seek assurances on current and proposed recruiting practices, with recent reporting in mind”, according to a statement released on Friday.
The embattled air force chief said an initial analysis would be ready by 7 September, when the air force’s board of senior leaders is due to meet.
He has also invited the defence secretary and other defence ministers to attend the meeting to discuss policy regarding personnel.
The highly unusual move comes after Air Chief Marshal Wigston wrote to all the air force on Thursday to say he will address “as a priority” a series of “legitimate questions” raised in the media over diversity targets in the air force, allegations of sexual harassment and bullying within the Red Arrows and criticism of the military’s flying training.
“As I wrote to RAF colleagues, our values and standards, our culture and behaviours, and our determination to meet the MOD’s level of ambition for diversity will all be the focus of the next Air Force Board meeting,” he said in the latest statement.
“Our primary role is to defend the UK and our allies, that responsibility will never be compromised.
“But having the ministerial team join will enable us to set out the work we have been doing to address concerns in this area and also to discuss how we progress toward an organisation that can draw from the widest possible pool of talent.”
Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, head of the Defence Select Committee, called for the defence secretary to update MPs in the House of Commons following the Air Force Board meeting.
Writing on Twitter, he said: “I encourage the defence secretary to update the House of Commons, in person, after this meeting.”
His committee has already launched into its own investigation into the RAF and is set to ask the head of the service to face questions.
The Air Force Board meeting will take place after a new prime minister is announced, so it is not certain Ben Wallace – current defence secretary – will remain in post.
However, he is well regarded and most defence insiders expect him to remain in the job.