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Armed Forces Day

Volume 512: debated on Wednesday 23 June 2010

4. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on marking Armed Forces day in Wales in 2010. (3035)

Let me begin by paying tribute to the brave Welsh men and women serving in our armed forces throughout the world, particularly in Afghanistan. They are doing a very difficult job, and I am sure that all Members present will join me in thanking them for their bravery and dedication.

I am delighted to be attending the national Armed Forces day event in Cardiff this Saturday, along with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. My hon. Friend the Minister will also be attending the north Wales event in Caernarfon in July.

The Secretary of State will know that the whole country is looking forward to Armed Forces day. Last week we were delighted when the Prime Minister and the President of France met veterans at Royal hospital Chelsea, in my constituency. Can the Secretary of State tell us what specific proposals there are to involve veterans in the ceremonies in Cardiff on Saturday?

We should be very proud that Cardiff was chosen for this year’s Armed Forces day celebration. On Monday, when I attended the ceremonial Armed Forces day flag-raising event at Cardiff castle, I was privileged to have several conversations with some of our veterans who were present, representing veterans from all over the United Kingdom. I understand that they will play a prominent part in the ceremonies on Saturday.

May I ask the Secretary of State to reflect on the impact of yesterday’s Budget on us in Wales, and in particular on public sector workers? Already 250 jobs have left my constituency. How many public sector jobs does the Secretary of State expect us to lose during the current Parliament?

Well, I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question, but I find it hard to make a linkage to—

I am sure it will not be beyond the ingenuity of the Secretary of State somehow to respond in order, although I accept that this is a testing one.

I am not sure how I will make that linkage to Armed Forces day, but I would say that for those who are low paid in the public sector I was delighted to see that the Chancellor had chosen not to freeze their pay for two years and to give them an increase of £250 in each year, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman would welcome. I also welcome that our Prime Minister went to Afghanistan and announced the doubling of the pay for our brave soldiers when they are serving on our behalf overseas.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the best tributes we could pay to the armed forces would be to offer them the best training—world-class training—and that the proposed defence technical college for St Athan could well offer that training? What discussions has she had with the Secretary of State for Defence about this project, and about the delays caused by the last Administration?

May I welcome my hon. Friend to his rightful place in the House, representing the Vale of Glamorgan? He knows what a strong supporter I am of the case for the training college at St Athan, and all I can say is that this is yet another example of how the Labour party did not stand up for Welsh interests. Labour did not get on with this project when it had the opportunity to do so when it was in government. May I also remind my hon. Friend that planning permission for this project was granted by a Conservative-led local authority back in 2009?