The head of the British Army is examining proposals to create a Sikh regiment, the Armed Forces minister has said.

Mark Francois said the idea "may well have merit" as he told the Commons a reserve company is also under consideration.

The Tory front-bencher added the reserve company would inherit many of the "proud traditions of Sikh regiments" from the Army's past.

Speaking during defence questions, Conservative former defence minister Sir Nicholas Soames urged ministers to "do away with political correctness" and raise a Sikh regiment.

The Mid Sussex MP told Mr Francois: "You will be aware of the extraordinary gallant and distinguished service by Sikhs to this country down the generations.

"Would you not agree with me that it's high time to do away with the political correctness which infects some of this thinking and actually raise a Sikh regiment to serve in the country and make up a very serious gap in our Armed Forces?"

Mr Francois replied: "With regard to your specific suggestion, can I say that you are one of a number of Members of Parliament who have raised this suggestion with me recently.

"We have passed this possibility on to the chief of the general staff (CGS), who is now looking at this issue and we are awaiting CGS's comments back.

"But the idea may well have merit."

Conservative Rory Stewart, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, also asked Mr Francois to look at a Sikh company within the reserves "as a starting point".

He added: "There seems to be much more possibility within the reserves to begin what seems like an excellent idea."

Mr Francois replied: "I said earlier the idea may have merit but we've looked at one specific option, or are looking, at the possibility of a reserve company - not least one which would inherit many of the proud traditions of Sikh regiments going back through many years in the British Army.

"(Defence Minister Julian Brazier) is leading on that particular aspect and he too remains in contact with CGS on this matter."