In selecting infantry battalions for withdrawal, the Army has focused on the major long-term recruiting challenges that it faces in this area. It has looked carefully at historic recruiting performance over a decade, and at demographic projections for the age cohort from which infantry recruits are drawn in the recruiting catchment areas of different regiments. It has also considered regional and national affiliations, the merger and disbandment history of individual battalions, and existing commitments of battalions to future operations. The overriding objective has been to arrive at a solution that delivers a balanced and effective military force and is seen as fair and equitable by those currently serving in the Army.
Although the MOD has not been able to supply the five and 10-year recruitment figures, despite a named-day written parliamentary question tabled the week before last, the three-year figures clearly show that better recruited English battalions, including the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, are being axed in order to save the more poorly recruited Scottish ones. Will the Secretary of State deny that petty politics in relation to the Scottish referendum has influenced decisions?
My hon. Friend is repeating an assertion that he made when I made the statement. I sat down afterwards with the Chief of the General Staff and went through his process again to reassure myself that I could say with confidence to my hon. Friend that the assertion he is making is simply not correct. Looked at over a decade, the recruitment figures for the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers speak for themselves. I am happy to have a meeting with him and go through the numbers, if he would like to do so.
Three former senior figures from all three services wrote in The Daily Telegraph this morning of “cynical” cuts to our armed forces and described the plans for Army 2020 as “unbelievable”. Does the Secretary of State not think that with a collapse in confidence at such a high level and morale among the ranks in free-fall, along with his risky strategy on the use of reservists, his decision on 2020 should be another candidate for a possible Government U-turn?
As usual, plenty of criticism and no constructive suggestions from the Opposition. In relation to the letter this morning, the key word is “former” senior officers. I take my advice from senior serving officers in the military. This is a plan designed by the Army to secure the future of the Army. They are confident that they can deliver it and I have confidence in their ability to do so.