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'Take view' on Army women in combat
5:39am Sunday 6th April 2014 in © Press Association 2014
The Army should "seriously consider" lifting its ban on women serving in combat roles in line with other countries, the chief of the general staff has said.
General Sir Peter Wall told The Sunday Times the British Army is in a minority of other armies because of the rule and offering all roles to women would make it "look more normal to society".
The Ministry of Defence, which under European Law must review the policy every eight years, said there would another review "before 2018".
The last statutory review in 2010 raised concerns that putting women and men together in small units for months at a time could undermine "team cohesion", but said women would be able to meet physical and psychological demands.
Women currently are allowed to serve on the front line with the artillery and as medics, engineers, intelligence officers and fighters pilots but not in close combat roles.
Last year the US lifted its own ban on women fighting on the front line, joining other countries including Germany, Canada, France and Israel.
Sir Peter told the newspaper: "We've got to take a view on that fairly soon. We're in a minority of armies now in that respect. It's definitely something that we need to be considering seriously but we need to go about this with great care, especially with all the other changes going on."
He said: " We have always said that we will look at the evidence and base our decision on what impact it will have on operational capability.
"This isn't just about getting more females into the 30% of roles that are combat trades but getting more of them into the Army per se.
"Women need to see they have equal opportunities right throughout the organisation.
"Allowing them to be combat troops would make us look more normal to society but there will always be people who say the close battle is no place for female soldiers."
In 2011 the Government announced that women would be allowed to go to sea with their male counterparts on the Royal Navy's Submarine Service for the first time in its 110-year history.
An MoD spokesman said: "The vast majority of roles in the Armed Forces are open to women and hundreds are currently serving their country with distinction in Afghanistan.
"They are fundamental to the operational effectiveness of the UK's Armed Forces, bringing talent and skills across the board.
"A 2010 review into women serving in combat roles concluded there should be no change to the existing policy and another review will take place before 2018."