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Yorkshire Regiment

Volume 449: debated on Monday 24 July 2006

The Yorkshire Regiment is an infantry regiment consisting of three regular battalions and one Territorial Army battalion. The 1st and 2nd Battalions fulfil the light infantry role, and the 3rd Battalion fulfils the armoured infantry role. The role of the Territorial Army battalion is to provide a contingent component to support the three regular battalions and to act as a civilian contingency reaction force for 15 Brigade. The battalion was formed on 6 June 2006 with formation parades in York, Catterick, Warminster and the Balkans.

Will my right hon. Friend pass on the congratulations and best wishes of the Government and the House to the newly formed Yorkshire Regiment, and especially to the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion currently serving in Kosovo and the 1st Battalion soldiers, who will soon be deployed to Iraq? The Yorkshire Regiment is the only county regiment in the British Army. Does he agree that it is important to build links between the regiment and the people of Yorkshire, and for local government to do its bit by transferring the freedom of the city, which was awarded to predecessor regiments, to the new Yorkshire Regiment?

I am only too happy to pass on those warm thoughts from my hon. Friend. He raises an important point about links between the local community and the newly formed regiment, and the need to ensure that those links have the same strength and depth as links with the former regiments. He asked whether I would support that, and I would. He asked whether I would support the granting of the freedom of the city to the new regiment. The answer is yes. I am conscious of the fact that HMS York, which has done such wonderful work recently in Lebanon, has the freedom of the city. I am sure that those two complementary parts of the armed forces would work well together.

The Minister has already mentioned the Territorial Army battalion. A number of soldiers from the Scarborough TA centre have served with distinction in a number of theatres. Sadly, the staffing has already been cut from six to three, with an NCO in charge. We are told that further cuts will mean that there will be no full-time staff. Can the Minister reassure me that the writing is not on the wall for the Scarborough TA centre?

I cannot off the top of my head. I will write to the hon. Gentleman. TA rebalancing involves a complex picture. It would be wrong for me to try to remember every town and every element of it. I can tell him that we have put additional full-time resources into serving the Territorial Army for the prime purpose of making sure that there is depth to what it seeks to do in individual communities. I will write to him about Scarborough. I am sorry that I do not have a detailed answer today.

Of course we all wish the men and women of the Yorkshire Regiment well, but does the Minister understand that many people in Yorkshire mourn the loss of the regiments that the Yorkshire Regiment replaced? Will he assure the House that the Government will not dismantle any more regimental history and tradition?

The hon. Gentleman may wish to look at the history of regimental change over the decades and perhaps even the centuries. The one thing that the British Army has always been able to do is try to predict its future needs and what its shape should be, and organise things accordingly. He should also be aware that the recommendations for the new infantry structure and the whole Army structure were promulgated by the chiefs of staff. They did not come from any other drive. They were based on a number of factors, not least of which was the important change in Northern Ireland. The future Army structure and infantry structure will mean that we have more of the Regular Army available for operational requirements and duty than has applied hitherto. That must be to the benefit of our serving soldiers. There are other positive aspects. If the hon. Gentleman looks back at the statements made in the House, he may get a better understanding of the matter.