HC Deb 06 June 1995 vol 261 cc10-1
10. Mr. Win Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service personnel are stationed in (a) Wales, (b) Scotland and (c) England. [25103]

Mr. Soames

The latest available figures for United Kingdom Regular forces show just over 4,800 service personnel stationed in Wales, some 18,400 in Scotland and 156,500 in England.

Mr. Griffiths

Does the Minister agree that Wales is very hard done by in the deployment of defence resources? When examining the future configuration of defence forces in the United Kingdom, will the Minister move out of the Napoleonic age and bring about a fairer adjustment of resources and ensure, in particular, that Wales does not suffer any more from this Government's depredation of our defence forces?

Mr. Soames

That is a typically optimistic Welsh view. It is important that we deploy our forces in such a way as to meet our requirements in the most operationally effective manner. The Welsh have very proud traditions and links with our armed forces, for example, through the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the Royal Regiment of Wales, the Welsh Guards and the Queen's Dragoon Guards. Three ships are affiliated with Welsh towns and major defence industries and airforce bases are located in Wales. Wales is not badly done by. However, I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. Of course, we are always mindful of helping where we can and we always have regard to operational requirements and the effectiveness of what we do.

Mr. Devlin

Is it true, as I have been told by the defence trade unions, that the Trident refit programme contract has not been let to Devonport because of technical difficulties, and that therefore the contract may yet go to Rosyth? If that is so, will my hon. Friend reconsider the future of the Navy base at Eaglescliffe in my constituency?

Mr. Soames

My hon. Friend has always been extremely skilful in linking Eaglescliffe to Wales, as he has today. No decisions have yet been taken; I understand that they will be shortly.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

On the matter of RAF Valley, the Minister was good enough to see a deputation from my constituency on 23 May. Is he aware that today we met the Secretary of State for Wales, who made clear his support for our bid to ensure the maximum number of local job opportunities under the market testing exercise currently taking place at the camp? Does the Minister accept that we have an extremely strong case to maximise those job opportunities and that the Ministry should be flexible about the introduction of the scheme?

Mr. Soames

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing such a formidable delegation to see me. We listened carefully to what was said and I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales was fully aware of that conversation. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have extended the consultation period, at his request and that of the Welsh Office, to examine carefully the points that he raised. I give him a public assurance that all the assurances he sought and all the points he made will be carefully considered as we reach a conclusion on an extremely important matter.