Sir Michael Fallon rules out creating Sikh Army regiment

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has ruled out creating a Sikh regiment despite British Army chiefs having considered the proposal.

The Cabinet minister added he is "a little wary" of any military units segregated by religion after challenging the services to ensure they recruit at least 10% of recruits from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background by 2020.

In February 2015, then defence minister Mark Francois confirmed the head of the British Army was examining plans for the return of a Sikh regiment and also a reserve company.

Mr Francois added the idea "may well have merit" as MPs backed it, with Tory former defence minister Sir Nicholas Soames urging ministers to "do away with political correctness" and press ahead with it.

Thousands of Sikhs fought and died alongside the British during the two world wars, with a regiment once in existence.

But Sir Michael said he may explore other ways to encourage Sikhs to join the armed forces, noting they "make great soldiers".

Replying to the Press Association at a Conservative Party conference fringe event in Birmingham, Sir Michael said: "The armed forces have to better reflect the society that they're charged with protecting.

"I meant every word of what I said today - I want more women, more from black and Asian communities.

"We have to get to about 10% and today we're just under 6% at the moment and I want to see that driven up in each of the services and they've all now got individual programmes as to how they're going to meet that particular target.

"What I'm wary of is any kind of segregation that would set up particular units that are for one religion and another religion. I'm a little wary of that.

"Sikhs, of course, as you know, make great soldiers and were a great part of our army in the past.

"There may be other ways in which we can encourage Sikhs into our armed forces, but I'm not going down the route of an entirely separate Sikh regiment."