The men and women of the British Armed Forces should follow their U.S. counterparts and be encouraged to wear their uniform while engaging with local communities, a Parliamentary debate has heard.
Tory MP Stephen Kerr said British troops should be free to emulate the American services in a manner that would raise the profile and recognition of the armed forces.
“One of the points that I wonder if we ought not to encourage is the more widespread wearing of uniform by service personnel when they are going about their business in our communities,” said Mr Kerr, the MP for Stirling. “The standard practice currently, I think, is for them to wear civilian clothing.”
Liberal Democrat Jamie Stone said the possible boost to recruitment should not be ruled out by such a measure. He said:
We have heard so many times in this Chamber about the difficulty our armed forces have recruiting. If we build up the good will and the knowledge of what the armed forces do and stand for, as the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) said, that will surely improve recruitment. That is the prize because, at the end of the day, the defence of the realm, with the enthusiastic support of the people, is paramount.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) advised British Armed Forces members not to wear uniforms in public following the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby, 25, in May 2013. The heightened state of alert was seen a throwback to the 1970s and 1980s, when military personnel were ordered to wear civilian clothes on the streets because of the threat from the IRA.
The 2013 order was rescinded by then Prime Minister David Cameron but not before heated public debate.
More recently cadets were warned not to wear their uniforms in public because they could be targeted by terrorists.
Heightened terror attack fears in 2017 saw parents of youngsters in the army, air and sea cadet forces reportedly issued with letters warning of a “serious risk of them being mistaken for regular airmen or soldiers.” That advice stemmed from a tightening of security procedures following the terrorist attack in Westminster.
In December 2014, police officers in Birmingham were told not to wear their uniforms while travelling to and from work after terrorists threatened to kidnap and murder a police officer.
As Breitbart London reported, in 2015 a hospital apologised after an injured Royal Air Force sergeant was moved out of a waiting room because staff thought his uniform would “upset” other patients. His family was allegedly told it was because they “have lots of different cultures coming in.”
Reports suggested that Mark Prendeville, 38, was asked to sit behind a wall. His father, Jim, told BBC News 24 that he was “dumfounded” by the claim that the uniform could cause offence. He said: “I’ve spoken to his wife, he was absolutely disgusted.”
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