1. Mr. William O'Brien
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of 8th Battalion the Light Infantry.
§ The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Nicholas Soames)
The 8th Battalion the Light Infantry will begin to re-role as a national defence reconnaissance regiment in the Royal Armoured Corps from 1 April 1995. The battalion looks forward to its new role with enthusiasm.
Does the Minister accept that the 8th Battalion the Light Infantry is a direct descendant of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, which has a 200-year history in Yorkshire and which is one of the fundamental regiments ever formed in Yorkshire? Does he accept that the proposed change is not in the best interests of that Yorkshire regiment? Will he assure me that the cap badge will not change, and that the role of an infantry division will be maintained?
Twenty-four thousand men were recruited to, and fought in, the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the first world war, in which 10,000 lost their lives, and eight Victoria Crosses were awarded to its men. Will the Minister assure me that that battalion will not be lost to Yorkshire?
§ Mr. Soames
I join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the heirs and inheritors of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, one of the proudest regiments in the British Army. Indeed, many streets in Yorkshire are named after its Victoria Cross winners.
I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the assurances that he wants. The regiment is re-roling and it is looking forward to its new role with enthusiasm. I have a letter from its colonel, informing me how much members of the regiment look forward to their new role.
There is, naturally, anxiety about the new cap badge. Discussions are taking place between the regiment, the director of infantry and the director of the Royal Armoured Corps. It is likely that the new cap badge will incorporate elements of the old 8th Light Infantry badge, reflecting the regiment's heritage, and a Royal Armoured Corps symbol.
824 All the proposals will be put to the executive committee of the Army board and will ultimately require the final approval of the sovereign.
§ Mrs. Peacock
My hon. Friend will be aware that we have had one or two discussions on this matter in recent months. The regiment accepts the re-roling, but many of us would like its great tradition, together with the cap badge, to continue.
§ Mr. Soames
I pay warm tribute to my hon. Friend for her vigorous lobbying of Ministers on behalf of the regiment. I assure her that the regiment will have every opportunity to ensure that it retains its battle honours and its important regimental distinctions, which, rightly, are the source of great pride and pleasure to all the people of Yorkshire.