Aldershot MP Gerald Howarth has warned that the values of the armed forces are under threat.

He said the fighting forces were not supposed to be a reflection of society. "It is their job to protect society and in doing so they may need to be treated differently from other organisations."

He added that in close quarters combat, the bonding between a group of men "is something very special," but said that the effectiveness of our armed forces was being threatened by repeated attacks on their culture.

Mr Howarth, shadow front bench spokesman on defence, said: "Results in Afghanistan were no accident; they were brought about by the adherence of Her Majesty's armed forces to a set of standards and values that are enduring but, I fear, under threat."

Speaking in a debate in the House of Commons on equal opportunities in the armed forces, Mr Howarth sounded a warning against interfering too much with the services' unique ethos.

"The ethnic minorities' recruiting unit for the Army is based in Aldershot, and I pay tribute to its work.

"It has an important role to play, but I hope, equally, that we are careful to ensure that we are not completely obsessed by targets to the detriment of the combat effectiveness of our armed forces." Mr Howarth also warned that we should not be obsessed with sex equality either.