Skip to main content

Defence Estate (Wales)

Volume 575: debated on Monday 3 February 2014

Wales is at the very heart of our defence effort and will continue to be so. HQ Wales infantry brigade in Brecon will convert to an adaptable force brigade HQ in situ, and redevelopment work will take place at St Athan. In addition, military training will continue at Sennybridge.

I thank the Minister for that reply and I agree that facilities in Wales are essential for the training of our armed forces. The regimental museum based in Brecon, which is so important to veterans, has been assisted thanks to fundraising by a charity led by Mrs Dorcas Cresswell and Mrs Elaine Stephens. Will the Minister meet that charity to see whether ownership of the museum could be transferred to it so that it can better attract funds?

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman is supporting that because museums large and small are extraordinarily important. As he will know, the Ministry of Defence supports the National Army Museum at one end of the scale, but he is right to say that regimental museums at the other end are also vital. I hope that the good work he has described will continue. Out of interest, I would—of course—be more than happy to meet that charity, but as he will understand, I must be cautious about providing monetary support, which is probably better sourced elsewhere.

Some 9% of those in our armed forces come from Wales, yet the population of Wales is only 5% of the UK population. We therefore take a strong interest in the future of our armed forces. The Minister said there will be redevelopment at St Athan. I presume that does not mean that there will be a defence training academy, but what exactly is he going to redevelop there?

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that Wales has provided a disproportionate part of our Army, and I pay tribute to it for that. As he will know, St Athan is of great interest to the Welsh Government, who want to develop an aerospace business park there. The MOD is working closely to reconcile our continuing MOD defence needs for that site with the need to advance the prosperity agenda and the Welsh Government’s requirement to ensure that jobs are sustained and supported there in the long term.

In my view, possibly the best infantry training area in the United Kingdom is Sennybridge. Is there any possibility of infantry battalions being positioned around Sennybridge, where they would have ease of access for training, perhaps in Crickhowell?

I agree with my hon. Friend that Sennybridge is a first-rate training area—I have had casual experience of it myself. I am more than happy to consider and discuss his precise proposition, but we have no plans to do that at the moment.