The Conservative Government has been criticised for the decision to close two military bases in Wales and for the huge impact it will have on local communities, according to a report published by The Welsh Affairs Committee today.
The report calls on a future UK Government to work alongside the Welsh Labour Government to ensure that base closures do not result in a reduction of the defence footprint in Wales. It suggests that at least one of the three Welsh combat units is located from England to Wales, the decision to move the RAF Training School should be reversed and that a future government should provide clarity on the relocation of regiments and plans for MOD St Athan.
Additionally, the Committee reports concern about the decline in recruitment. They were told that although Wales represents 5% of the UK’s population, only 2% of the Armed Forces are stationed in Wales. This could decrease to 1% if base closures go ahead as planned. The Committee asks that a future UK Government should make explicit commitment to maintaining the numbers of forces in Wales, similar to the agreement made with Scotland.
Geraint Davies, Swansea West MP and member of the Committee, said:
“The Welsh contribution to the UK defence industry is indispensable, but recent decisions taken by the Conservative Government jeopardise Wales’ vital role in the Armed Forces. Over the years Swansea has proven a significant contributor to the Armed Forces in Wales which as a whole provides a space for bases and training grounds, and has become a centre of innovation within our defence and aerospace industries.
“It’s clear that the three army reserves in Swansea have a significant impact on the community and have contributed both financially and culturally to the local area. Likewise, the communities close to where the two closures are planned are likely to be severely changed by the decision. It is therefore unbelievable that this decision is being made when there are Welsh combat units outside of Wales, which poses a very real challenge to the preservation of Welsh connections and identity.
“The next UK Government must do more to nurture the crucial contribution that Wales, and the Welsh people, have made, and will continue to make, to both the Armed Forces and the defence industry, which we are remembering this week especially.
“I will be at Church this Remembrance Sunday to remember the sacrifice that soldiers have made and also give thanks to their legacy of peace in Europe. We must also think of younger veterans who have served for this country. We must ensure that the next government gives them a fair deal so they have access to the support that they need to live happy lives.”
Report’s key recommendations include:
- The UK Government must ensure that base closures do not result in a reduction of the defence footprint in Wales.
- Decisions about the relocation of regiments currently based in Wales must be confirmed very soon, and the possibility of relocating at least one of the Welsh combat units from England to Wales should be explored.
- The UK and Welsh Governments must urgently provide clarity about future plans for MOD St Athan, and reverse the decision to relocate the RAF Training School.
- The UK Government should set specific recruitment targets for Wales and track performance against these targets.
- Steps should be taken to reduce the distance that applicants to the Army have to travel, including the use of hubs and temporary centres in all areas of Wales.
- The UK Government should make the bidding processes for contracts less complex and provide more support, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.
- The UK Government must ensure that any decisions about the wider defence footprint in Wales do not impact negatively on any projects that have been awarded to businesses and supply chains in Wales.