Today, the Defence Select Committee held the first evidence session on the Sub-Committee inquiry 'Women in the Armed Forces: From Recruitment to Civilian Life', of which I am the Chair.
Women make a vital and valued contribution to our Armed Forces and, despite the hard work of this Government to ensure life for female military personnel and veterans is as great as it can be, serious challenges do remain. I have personally heard many accounts of women who have been subject to bullying, harassment, discrimination, sexual abuse, and rape. The fact remains that female personnel are overrepresented in the service complaints system, and convictions rates in military courts are significantly lower than in civilian courts. The weight of evidence presented by women is compelling, and that is why this Sub-Committee exists. The Defence Select Committee inquiry seeks to examine these challenges and seek to recommend improvements so that we champion the military as a great career for women.
The beginning of this inquiry is a milestone. For me personally, I have been preparing for this since just after I was elected in December 2019. When I entered Parliament, I promised that I would support our veterans and continue the work of making their lives better. Throughout my first year, I have spoken up about the issues women in the military face, such as in The Times back in June 2020 and also in the chamber during the Overseas Operations Bill debates. Then, in October, I openly denounced the 'culture of silence' in the military, which has contributed to some of the experiences I have been hearing about. In December, we were then able to initiate the evidence gathering with a survey and written evidence. Thankfully, the MOD allowed us to hear the stories of serving women by lifting an order which normally bans these women from speaking out.
Now, with the start of the oral evidence sessions, my hope is that this inquiry will give those that have struggled to have a voice a platform to discuss their experiences frankly and freely. Having had around 4,200 submissions already - probably the most any Defence Select Committee inquiry has ever had - I think we are on a good track already and with the oral evidence sessions now under way, I hope we can continue this dialogue in order to better understand the experiences of this group of people. Shockingly, and thanks to the Secretary of State for Defence for lifting the DIN, we have heard from 9% of the women who serve in the regular military right now.
To view the full proceedings from the first session, go to:
And to keep up-to-date on the inquiry, visit the portal on the Defence Select Committee website: