Army and police veterans 'discriminated against' in border force recruitment

A Westminster committee has heard that military and police veterans in Northern Ireland are being discriminated against in a recruitment drive for a post-Brexit border force.

In England, Scotland and Wales, a requirement for the new border force is military or police experience, but this is not the case for Northern Ireland recruits.

Lady Sylvia Hermon pressed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley on the "appalling" issue, reminding the minister she raised it in the House of Commons on May 9.

Ms Bradley said her office had since raised the case with the Home Office and she had spoken to the immigration minister.

Lady Sylvia Hermon
Lady Sylvia Hermon

Andrew Murrison, chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, interjected to say the panel had asked the immigration minister if any representation had been made by the Northern Ireland Office, and they had said no.

He added: "Their response was, 'To date, there has been no representations from the Northern Ireland Office', which directly contradicts what you have just said."

Ms Bradley replied: "An official letter to the immigration minister would constitute a representation, I have not written officially to the minister but I have raised the point with her, we discussed it.

"I think that is a technical definition of what a representation constitutes."

The committee said the recruitment policy does not uphold the military covenant, which is part of the Confidence and Supply agreement between the DUP and the Conservative Party.

The covenant sets out a moral obligation to those who have served or currently serve in armed forces, to ensure they are treated equally and fairly with regards to employment.

A Border Force officer checks passports
A Border Force officer checks passports

Lady Hermon said her constituents have been turned down by the border force in Northern Ireland because of military or police experience.

Ms Bradley asked Lady Hermon to send her a letter with more details, but Lady Hermon replied that she had already done so, and waited over a month for a reply, which she called "extraordinarily disrespectful".

"I wait and wait for letters, so I ask you to please announce to constituents across Northern Ireland that their military service will be respected," Lady Hermon added.

Ms Bradley said: "I am acutely aware of the issue, and acting on advice.

"Please let me write to the committee as I do not want to speak on behalf of another department, as the border force is responsibility of the Home Office."