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PM ponders military ombudsman post

David Cameron said he was taking a personal interest in whether a new ombudsman should be created to help tackle problems of sexual harassment in the military.

The Prime Minister said although progress had been made there was "more work to be done" on addressing the issue.

The Defence Select Committee has called for the Government to axe the service complaints commissioner role, which cannot actively investigate allegations, and replace it with an armed forces ombudsman that could hold the services to account.

The committee's Tory chairman James Arbuthnot raised the issue of sexual harassment in the forces with Mr Cameron during the Prime Minister's appearance before the Liaison Committee.

Mr Cameron told him: "One of the things we are doing is to look at the evidence. We collect those figures, the most recent figures have seen a drop in the number of complaints.

"We have got now more female two-star officers in the UK armed forces for the first time. We had a review that was commissioned by the last government in 2009 that looked at this.

"I think there is more work to be done. But I think we are making progress."

He added that the Royal British Legion had taken up the issue and he would also listen to military figures who had voiced concerns about how such a role could affect the chain of command.

Mr Cameron said: "There were quite ingrained problems that needed to be addressed and so a lot of work is being done.

"I think there is a big question for us for the future about this issue of an ombudsman, which I am taking some personal interest in.

"I think it's interesting that the British Legion have taken up this issue because you can't claim that the British Legion is a charitable organisation divorced from our forces that don't understand how they work, quite the opposite.

"So I'm going to be listening to the arguments that the military make about the importance of the chain of command, about how it's difficult to put any other structures into this.

"But I will also be listening to the Legion and the arguments that they make around an ombudsman and that could be one way of taking forward some of these issues.

"But we don't have to wait for that discussion to be had. Sexual harassment, bullying, is wrong, it should be driven out of every area of our national life. That should include the armed forces.

"Progress has been made, information is being collected but there's more work to be done."

Mr Arbuthnot told the Prime Minister he was "pleased that you are sounding open-minded on the issue of the ombudsman".


From Belfast Telegraph