On 5 July 2012 the Welsh Affairs Committee took evidence on the future of the Welsh Regiments. Following that session, the Committee wrote to the Ministry of Defence raising concerns about the decision to lose the Second Battalion of the Royal Welsh as part of the Army 2020 reforms. The Committee has now published the letter of response from the Secretary of State for Defence.
Commenting on the letter, Chair of the Committee David T.C. Davies MP, said:
"I would like to assure you that I am aware of the significant contribution made to all of our Armed Services by the people of Wales, both now and in the past. Wales has a long and glorious military tradition which I am confident will be preserved and maintained.
Army 2020 is a plan which the Army has designed and on which I have taken the advice of the Chief of the General staff and his team. As I said on 5 July, in selecting infantry battalions for withdrawal, the Army focused on the major recruiting challenges it faces in the infantry. It looked carefully at recruiting performance; at recruiting catchment areas; and at demographic projections for the age cohort from which infantry recruits are drawn. It also considered regional and national affiliations, the merger and disbandment history of individual battalions, and existing commitments of battalions to future operations. Furthermore, the Army decided not to withdraw more than one battalion in any one Regiment and to preserve cap-badges. The overriding objective has been to arrive at a solution that those currently serving in the Army will see as fair and equitable.
While I understand that the decisions which have been taken are difficult and challenging to those affected, I am afraid that taking the above factors into account, including manning performance over the last 10 years, the Royal Regiment of Wales was identified as one of the regiments from which a battalion ought to be withdrawn.
As I also said to you during the debate following my announcement on 5 July, the reason we have not taken out one of the battalions of the Royal Gurkha Rifles is that we have a partnership arrangement with the Sultanate of Brunei, under which one of those battalions is stationed on rotation in Brunei. That arrangement works extremely well for the British Army, and it can be sustained only with two separate Gurkha battalions. However, it should be noted that the Brigade of Gurkhas are not immune from the ongoing changes within the British Army since following a change to their terms of service, the Brigade has become overmanned. As a result of this, a substantial number of Gurkhas have been selected for redundancy in the first two tranches of the Army Redundancy Programme.
Turning to your point about the absorption of personnel into the 1st Battalion, I would like to reassure you that an individual in a unit which is being withdrawn or merged is no more or less likely than any other individual with similar skills and service record to be selected for future redundancy. When units are withdrawn from the Army’s order of battle their personnel will be reassigned to other units, where possible within the same regiment, and I expect this to be the case for those personnel serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Welsh.
As you rightly point out in your letter, Wales provides some of the Army’s best training areas which are used extensively by all three of our Armed Services. The Defence Infrastructure Organisation are leading work on the Department’s footprint strategy in order to deliver a Defence estate of the right size and shape that is sustainable and delivers the most cost effective approach to future force basing. Initial decisions are expected to be made later this year and until then it is too early to say where specific formations and units will be based across the UK by 2020. However, I can assure you that the Army intends maintaining a significant presence across the UK."