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Armed Forces

Volume 468: debated on Monday 3 December 2007

The Ministry of Defence records the number of UK nationals in the armed forces. Specifying national identity within the UK is not mandated, so it is not possible to provide accurate figures for the total number who are Welsh.

May I suggest that, notwithstanding the Ministry’s not knowing the figures, we are pretty sure in Wales that we produce a higher proportion of members of the armed forces than any other of the constituent parts of the UK? Is it not clear that Wales has a strong and proud military tradition? If we are to continue it, do we not need to ensure that when Welsh regiments return from operations tours—as have members of the 1st and 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh—a proper welcome is given to them in Wales? Should we not pay tribute to their work and, in this particular case, pay tribute to those who died in Iraq, including Private Craig Barber, Lance Corporal Ryan Francis and Corporal Paul Joszko?

Let me say to my hon. Friend that we are very proud of the work that the UK armed forces do and that the Welsh play a very important part in that. I pay tribute to their contribution to the armed forces and to their magnificent and outstanding achievements in Iraq and Afghanistan. My hon. Friend specifically mentioned the 1st and 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh, and there are also the Welsh Guards, who returned from Bosnia. It is very important to recognise what our armed forces do throughout the UK and that they are given a proper welcome home. We have seen examples of that recently and I am delighted to support them.

I associate myself with the comments of the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant). When my father served in the British Army, he often acted as an unofficial interpreter for those of his compatriots who did not have fluency in English. Given the number of Welsh speakers who join the armed forces every year, will the Minister consider allowing those who wish it the facility to receive at least some of their basic training through the medium of Welsh?

I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that that is not the way we do the training. Of course, I will look further into issues surrounding the Welsh language and decide whether there is anything more we can do to help.