The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) will review its criteria for employing people on work placement schemes, after the MP for Esher and Walton Dominic Raab complained it discriminated against white, middle class men.

Mr Raab, who became Conservative MP in May, wrote to Foreign Secretary William Hague after being contacted by a constituent who was turned down for a work placement at the FCO because he did not match the “social criteria”.

Currently, the FCO runs placements, which pay £367-a-week, to students from a black or ethnic minority background, students with a registered disability, female students or students from households with an income of less than £25,000.

These positive discrimination schemes, believed to have been implemented under Robin Cook when he was Foreign Secretary in the Labour government, all exclude white men from middle or higher income households.

Mr Raab, who worked at the FCO for six year, said he was pleased the new Government had decided to review the schemes following his letter.

Mr Raab said: “It is good news. This sort of positive discrimination is wrong and it is a hangover from the culture of the last government, but we have seen a quick reaction from the ministers.

“Positive discrimination is wrong in the same way as negative discrimination. It means people are thinking in terms of social criteria and it is anti-meritocratic. ”

Although the schemes are now under review, the FCO said it was legal, and a multiracial workforce in the department would enable British interests to be better represented around the world.

However, a retired senior diplomat from Elmbridge said this should not mean the exclusion of white, middle class men from the work placement schemes.

He said: “Like some other British institutions, the FCO has to counter the erroneous supposition by minority citizens of this country that it is not for them, but for a traditional elite.

“A measure of positive help is to be encouraged - but not to the point where others are in effect excluded because they are not members of a favoured minority.”

A spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said it was not commenting on this particular story.

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