Posted on November 5, 2019
They urged UK ministers to reverse a decision to re-locate an RAF training school from St Athan.
The Ministry of Defence said it was committed to a presence in Wales. In its report, the Welsh Affairs Select Committee urged the UK government to “provide clarity about the future defence footprint” in Wales.
The MPs said the UK government should work alongside the Welsh Government to ensure that base closures do not result in a reduction of the defence footprint in Wales. They also said the Ministry of Defence should consider relocating at least one of the three Welsh combat units from England to Wales. Cawdor Barracks, in Pembrokeshire, closes in 2024 and Brecon in 2027.
David Davies, the committee chair and Conservative MP for Monmouth, said: “The decision to close the two main army bases in Wales – Brecon and Cawdor Barracks – and the clustering of units in the south of England will have a profound impact on the surrounding communities, who have fostered close ties to the armed forces over generations, and the families who have contributed both financially and culturally to the local area.” He added: “The location of all Welsh combat units outside of Wales poses a very real challenge to the preservation of Welsh connections and identity”.
The committee is concerned about the decline in recruitment. MPs were told that although Wales represents 5% of the UK’s population, only 2% of the armed forces are stationed in Wales. This could decrease to 1% if base closures go ahead as planned.
The committee asks the UK government to make an explicit commitment to maintaining the numbers of forces in Wales, similar to the agreement made with Scotland.
On defence procurement, MPs said the UK government should make the bidding processes for contracts less complex and provide more support, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. The MPs also said more could be done to “encourage and assist” Welsh-speakers who want to apply to join the armed forces.
‘Essential programmes’. An MOD spokeswoman said: “We remain committed to maintaining a long-term defence presence in Wales. We invest nearly £1 billion in local industries and military bases in Wales are home to essential RAF training programmes and exercise areas. We thank the Welsh Affairs Committee for their report and will now consider their assessment and recommendations carefully.”