Hampshire and Isle of Wight Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Luke Stubbs, has apologised for suggesting the number of women in a Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service department should be reduced.

He made a controversial comment at a meeting last week, when a report on equality objectives for a more inclusive fire service were discussed.

He has now insisted he never mean to cause offence.

A proposal to hire more women and people from minority ethnic groups prompted the Deputy PCC to say: "Government and I think this is wrong.

"[It] is bringing in quota programmes across the public sector, but only where it benefits women and minorities.

"In areas where it’s mostly men it has to be 50/50, but in areas where it’s mostly women there’s no change.

"Things like the control room have 84 per cent women and I would like assurance that steps are being taken to reduce that."

He reports to a female PCC and oversees a police force run by Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney. The Isle of Wight's outgoing top officer is Superintendent Sarah Jackson.

Luke Stubbs said: "Over the last week I have reflected on the comments I made at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Authority meeting.

"I sincerely wish to apologise for any harm or offence caused by the comments I made.

"I understand my comments have caused offence to members of the Fire Authority, firefighters, women’s networks and others.

"This was never my intention. I deplore all types of discrimination.”

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Mr Stubb's boss, Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones, said: "As the first woman to be elected as Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and also the first women to be the Executive Leader of a city unitary council in Hampshire, I am committed to inspiring women and girls across all of our communities.

"Equality for everyone is something that is within our reach. I support the equality and diversity work being undertaken by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service.

"I will do all I can to ensure that Hampshire Constabulary is a fair and equitable employer and equal opportunities are provided to women as well as men."

Members of last week's meeting were were critical of Mr Stubbs’ comment and women’s charities said it could deter people from under represented areas of society from applying to work for the fire service.

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service said equality quotas did not exist and anyone can apply to work for the emergency service.

Mr Stubbs justified his comment at the time by saying: "I can express whichever views I wish – these are my personal views and I think they are shared by the majority of the public.

"I’ve not seen any surveys, but that’s what I believe."

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Last year, the Conservative councillor on Portsmouth City Council told colleagues that gender pay gaps are a ‘fake narrative’ and that he believes ‘men are the victims.’

The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, condemned Mr Stubbs’ comments, calling them 'unhelpful and uninformed'.

Chief executive, Jemima Olchawski said: "More than 90 per cent of firefighters in England are male and white, and it’s clear that the profession must recruit and retain both women and people from minority communities."

The fire service’s head of people and organisational development, Molly Rowland, said: "We are committed to reflecting the many diverse communities that we serve, and this means reaching out to attract those who have been historically under-represented in our organisation.

"Some people may never consider the fire service as a career or think that the role of a firefighter is for them. We want to make sure that members of all our different communities know what we do, who we are, and consider us as a potential employer.

"Our recruitment will always be open to everyone and all of those who apply will have to go through the same selection processes and reach the same standards."