EXTREME right-wing groups are targeting military personnel as potential recruits but leaders of the armed forces provide no clear direction over whether they can become members, a report has found.

The Intelligence and Security Committee said current policies that do not limit which organisations personnel can join are “somewhat risky” given the sensitive nature of the jobs carried out by service members.

In a report on extreme right-wing terrorism published on Wednesday, the committee said: “Extreme right-wing terrorists often display an interest in military culture, weaponry and the armed forces or law enforcement organisations – the director-general for MI5 noted that ‘many of these people are absolutely fixated with weaponry’.

“This leads both to individuals seeking to join the military, and groups seeking to recruit within the military.”

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It went on: “The fact that the armed forces do not provide clear direction to service personnel regarding membership of any organisation – let alone an extremist one – would appear to be something of an anomaly.

“It could be argued that this is a somewhat risky approach, given the sensitive roles of many service personnel.”

Members of the now-dismantled and banned extremist group National Action included British soldier and Afghanistan veteran, Finnish-born Mikko Vehvilainen.

And in April last year figures uncovered by the Guardian showed that at least 16 service personnel had been referred to the Government terrorism prevention programme in a two-and-a-half-year period, the majority of which were over far-right beliefs.

Members of defence intelligence told the committee: “Ministry of Defence policies do not explicitly state which organisations a service person may be a member of, nor do they place limits on the nature of organisations that a service person may join.

“However, any extremist ideology is completely at odds with the values of our armed forces and MoD works closely with police and security partners to ensure that any activity or membership of concern is thoroughly investigated.”

The committee also raised concerns about the efficacy of police vetting for new recruits.

In April last year, Metropolitan Police officer Ben Hannam was jailed for more than four years for membership of National Action.

He had been working as a probationary officer for nearly two years before he was found on a leaked database of users of extreme right-wing forum Iron March and arrested.

The committee found: “There appears to be an issue around the current vetting processes for candidates applying to join the police – the lack of thorough background checks is a matter of concern.

“As the internet and the wider online sphere is the key driver of the extreme right-wing terrorism threat, it follows that online activity must be closely scrutinised when the police are assessing whether an individual is suitable to join its ranks.”

The Intelligence and Security Committee has nine members, eight of which are MPs. the Final member is Alan West, a former admiral who sits in the House of Lords.