HL Deb 16 March 1992 vol 536 cc1606-17

2.1 p.m.

Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution of 12th March):

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (The Earl of Arran)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this short Army Bill is a simple one. Its provisions are solely designed to enable the merger of the Royal Irish Rangers and the Ulster Defence Regiment to take place on 1st July.

We believe that the merger is very much in the interests of both the regiments concerned. In particular, it should greatly assist the efforts of the security forces to protect all the law-abiding citizens of Northern Ireland against terrorism from either side of the community.

Planning is now going ahead for the merger to take place on 1st July, which is of course the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Both regiments will welcome the enactment of this Bill in good time for the merger to proceed, and for new terms of service and other important matters to be settled.

For more than 20 years now members of the Ulster Defence Regiment have made a most courageous and distinguished contribution to the work of the security forces in Northern Ireland. All of them join the UDR at considerable personal risk, and the risks are ever-present—continuing, indeed, after they leave the regiment. Over 240 of them have been killed, and many more have sustained terrible injuries. We pay tribute to the dedication and bravery that the UDR displays day in and day out and often in ways which do not receive public attention.

Since its creation in 1970, the UDR has developed to become a much better trained and professional force than it was in the early days. It is currently about 6,000 strong, with about equal numbers of full-time and part-time members. The main aim in merging the UDR with a regular regiment—the Royal Irish Rangers—is to achieve an even more effective, professional and flexible security force, operating in support of the RUC and serving the whole of the community in Northern Ireland.

The new regiment, with the recommended title of the Royal Irish Regiment, will comprise two main elements. The so-called general service battalions—two initially, but reducing to one next year—will have the same worldwide role as other infantry battalions. The home service element, initially the seven existing UDR battalions, will undertake the same duties as the UDR performs in support of the RUC at present, their role limited to Northern Ireland.

We believe that the UDR in particular will benefit from the mutual exchange of experience and personnel which the new regiment will be able to offer. There will be opportunities for full-time home service personnel to volunteer for general service tours and training. This will help to enhance career prospects and general professionalism. At the same time, we intend to maintain a substantial part-time service cadre, very much as in the UDR at present.

It is because the UDR is based in statute law, currently the Reserve Forces Act 1980, that we need primary legislation to effect the merger. The Bill before your Lordships provides in Clause I that membership of the UDR will cease at the end of June. All current members of the UDR will remain members of the armed forces and, in the same way as members of the regular forces, may be transferred to another corps or regiment.

I should explain to your Lordships that a Royal Warrant and administrative action will then be required actually to transfer all ex-members of the UDR, and of course the Royal Irish Rangers, to the new Royal Irish Regiment. Such action is required for any regimental merger.

Clause 1 also provides that all members of the UDR may continue to serve in the new regiment on their existing terms and conditions until the expiry of their current terms of engagement, with one exception. We are removing the existing legal restriction whereby members of the UDR may not be required to train outside Northern Ireland, other than voluntarily. This in effect removes an anomaly since members of the UDR are happy to volunteer when such training is arranged.

We are planning that new terms of service for members of the home service battalions will be introduced progressively from 1st July of this year. Some changes to existing regular army terms of service are required. Clause 2 provides for the Defence Council to draw up such terms for soldiers. Under the new terms, their service obligation may be limited to Northern Ireland and may be further limited to service on a part-time basis, subject to call-out, as in the UDR at present. We are now working on the details of those new terms of service and they will be laid before Parliament in due course. Similar changes will also be made in respect of officers, by a Royal Warrant.

The new terms of service for the full-time element of the home service battalions—what is now the permanent Cadre of the UDR—will thus be more closely aligned with those of the rest of the Army. They will offer 22-year engagements, as elsewhere in the Army. Previous service will count towards the 22 years. I should perhaps explain that home service on those terms will not attract the compensatory allowances that are appropriate to worldwide service. However, those volunteers who are selected for periods of duty or training with the general service battalion or other units from time to time will of course be entitled to the normal "general service" allowances for the duration of such tours.

Terms of service for part-timers will be substantially unchanged, but we believe that they will also benefit from full integration with a regular regiment, with better access to training and professional skills. Part-time service, subject to call out, makes a vital, cost-effective and flexible contribution to our security effort. It will continue to do so.

Clause 3 is largely concerned with consequential amendments to existing legislation. I think I need not detain your Lordships over the remaining clauses, which are self-explanatory.

In summary, this Bill provides the statutory framework to enable us to proceed with the regimental merger on the planned date of 1st July, thus bringing the UDR more fully into the regular Army. The Royal Irish Rangers will bring to the new regiment the proud record of service over 300 years of several predecessor Irish regiments. Although much younger, the UDR has developed its own distinctive tradition of local service to the community. This will also be retained, and enhanced, in the new regiment.

We believe that the Royal Irish Regiment, with its dual home and general service responsibilities will command the respect of people of both traditions throughout Northern Ireland. I am inviting your Lordships' House to agree the legal framework to establish that new regiment. I beg to move.

Moved that, the Bill be now read a second time. —(The Earl of Arran.)

2.7 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Earl for introducing the Bill. It is a Bill that we on this side welcome without reservation. We endorse the view of the noble Earl that defeat of terrorism is of fundamental importance to the future of the United Kingdom and that it is a necessary solution—not a sufficient solution—if the Northern Ireland problem is to be solved.

We join the noble Earl in paying tribute to the Ulster Defence Regiment. Its members have acted with great bravery, and at considerable personal risk, in extremely difficult operating conditions. We on these Benches wish to be party to the tribute which the noble Earl paid. Equally the Royal Irish Rangers has a distinguished record in the British Army. It was an amalgamation of the Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Ulster Rifles and the Irish Fusiliers. All those regiments had their proud battle honours which they thoroughly deserved. Therefore, we hope that when the Royal Irish Regiment comes into being in the mainstream of the British Army it will preserve the fine traditions of the Royal Irish Rangers and the bravery and distinction of the individual in the Ulster Defence Regiment.

In addition we welcome the move because we hope that it will begin to solve the problem of recruitment across the religious divide in Northern Ireland. I understand that only 3 per cent. of members of the UDR are from the Catholic community in Northern Ireland. Indeed, those Catholic members have been persecuted savagely by the IRA. It is greatly to the benefit of us all that at least 3 per cent. have stayed on.

I understand that the Royal Irish Rangers have a recruitment of some 30 per cent. from the Catholic community. We hope that the amalgamation of the two regiments will allow a more balanced recruitment for the Royal Irish Regiment. That would be a political event of the utmost importance and we hope that it can be achieved.

Perhaps the noble Earl will confirm that there may be a number of redundancies, particularly among support personnel. A figure of 750 has been mentioned and I should be grateful if the noble Earl would comment on that. If there are to be redundancies on any scale the severe unemployment in Northern Ireland must be taken into account. We hope that the Government will be sympathetic towards those who are made redundant as a result of the amalgamation and will treat them in the way they deserve.

We welcome the Bill. The noble Earl rightly pointed out that the merger will take place on the anniversary of the first day of Battle of the Somme during the First World War. The predecessor regiments of the Royal Irish Rangers distinguished themselves in that battle with great and heavy losses. We wish the Royal Irish Regiment every success, and we join with the noble Earl in commending the Bill to the House.

2.11 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, my noble friends and I also warmly support the Bill. Some years ago I had the privilege of visiting the UDR. I spoke to many of its members about the priceless contribution that they were making to the security of both communities in Northern Ireland. I also spoke of the unique dangers that they were running. Perhaps if I were a military historian I might find some precedent for soldiers who face death not only in operations but equally in their homes and who are at risk not only when they are serving but also after they have retired. The most vulnerable are the gallant 3 per cent. of Catholic members of the UDR. They are especially targeted by the murderers in the IRA.

The Minister said that the strength of the regiment is 6,000 men and women and that more than 100 members have been killed. I imagine that hundreds have been wounded since the regiment was founded in 1970. That is a heavy rate of casualties in what is supposed to be peacetime. We are all deeply indebted to the regiment and greatly respect the courage it has shown during those years.

Due substantially to the effort of the IRA murderers in targeting Catholic members, the regiment is now unbalanced in terms of tradition and religion. That is a political weakness. We hope that the merger will go a long way towards reducing that weakness. However, for obvious reasons that I shall not spell out, it will be difficult to achieve and maintain a better religious balance. We entirely support the Government in their efforts to try to achieve that.

The Government's proposals for the merger come at a time when they are merging other regiments. That may or may not be a coincidence. I do not expect the noble Earl to tell us. However, there is certainly military as well as political justification for bringing together the UDR and the Royal Irish Rangers. The merger can provide new professional opportunities for the officers and men of the UDR. It will provide better training and exchange of experience, as the noble Lord said, and the possibility, if it is so wished, of service outside Northern Ireland. Those new opportunities will be welcome to many members of the UDR.

On these Benches we see both political and military advantages in the merger and we have no hesitation in supporting the Bill.

2.14 p.m.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his explanation of the Bill and I thank him and the Government for bringing it forward before the dissolution of Parliament. It is important because of the date; namely, 1st July.

I very much welcome the Bill in itself as it converts the Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers into Regular Army soldiers. It is about time too, after 21 years of fighting terrorism, the longest continuous service by any regiment in the British Army for at least 100 years, and after 197 of its soldiers have been killed. That does not take into account the number of ex-soldiers who have been killed. It is important that the soldiers should be recognised for being what they are.

The regiment started 21 years ago with a sort of "Dad's Army" image. From that it has become a very professional body. Therefore, I welcome this Bill as it makes those soldiers into Regular Army soldiers.

It consists of two parts. On the permanent cadre side at present, the regiment is considered to be as professional as the Regular Army and has the added advantage of much local knowledge. There is no doubt that the Regular Army could not continue to do as well as it does within Northern Ireland without the help of the UDR soldiers. When part-timers are mentioned on this side of the water one suspects that they are considered to be in the mould of "Dad's Army". That is not so. They are very highly trained. There was a recent incident in County Fermanagh in which a council dog warden was taken on by four IRA gunmen. He managed to stay cool, to reload his weapon after he had been wounded six times and to save his own life. That is an example of what those people have to go through. Therefore, it is right that we should recognise them for being what they are—soldiers.

There is one other point to emphasise the danger in which they live. When we send soldiers from this side to serve in Northern Ireland, the most dangerous and vulnerable time is spent in uniform on patrol. For the Ulster Defence Regiment that is, statistically, the safest time. Therefore, it is significant that they are in much greater danger when they are out of uniform.

This Bill, quite rightly, makes the UDR soldiers into regular soldiers. However, that then makes it possible for the regiment to be amalgamated with the Royal Irish Rangers to form the Royal Irish Regiment. Nobody is very keen on Options for Change. I was a 17/21st lancer and I am not very keen on my regiment amalgamating with the 16/5th. That is not because I dislike the people involved. It is purely that no regiment likes to amalgamate with another. Within Northern Ireland there is strong feeling that the UDR does not wish to amalgamate with the Royal Irish Rangers or anybody else, and that is understandable.

There is extremely strong feeling in certain quarters about the name. I know that the way in which the matter has been portrayed in the press has meant that people in this country feel that that is a provincial attitude and is the wrong attitude. However, if I stood here and suggested that on amalgamation the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards should be called the Royal British Dragoon Guards and the Royal Welch Fusiliers should be called the Royal British Fusiliers, there would be a justifiable outcry. Therefore, the feeling about the change of name is not just because it affects Northern Ireland but a genuine feeling that people would like to have seen "Ulster" included in the name. I go along with that. However, the name is to be the Royal Irish Regiment and I am sure it will be a success.

I should like to ask my noble friend for clarification and reassurance on several points. First, the Ulster Defence Regiment is unique for many reasons but one reason is that it has ladies as regular soldiers in the regiment—the Greenfinches. It is interesting that it led the way to women becoming operational in the British forces. They have been operational for a number of years and there are cases in the Regular Army where women are now being permitted to be in the so-called front line. Those Greenfinches are Northern Ireland based. There is a strong feeling that they should not be included in the new Adjutant-General's Corps when the other ladies of the British Army are put into that corps after Options for Change. I should like to be reassured that that will not happen.

The Ulster Defence Regiment Benevolent Fund was set up to look after those people in the Ulster Defence Regiment who became injured or, as a result of the circumstances in Northern Ireland, needed help. It is not only for injuries. There are cases where people may need to move house because of threats, and various other situations that arise in Northern Ireland which do not arise elsewhere. It is therefore an important fund.

Around two weeks ago I saw an article in the Today newspaper. Unless I read it incorrectly it spoke of the Gulf Fund and various RAF widows who had been unable to obtain money from it. The point was made that the Gulf Fund had been swallowed up by another service's fund. That is how I read it. If I am wrong, so be it. However, I, and I am sure other people in Northern Ireland, would like reassurance that there is no chance of the Ulster Defence Regiment Benevolent Fund being swallowed up by any other service fund. The money is raised, largely by people in Northern Ireland although some people in this country have been generous, for the specific purpose of helping those suffering through terrorist action. Terrorism has not stopped; people continue to be injured and it is important that the fund remains as it is, where it is, for the use of the people for whom it was meant. I fully understand that one day it will become the Royal Irish Regiment Fund, whether or not it retains its old name. Obviously it should be used for any member of that regiment who may be injured as a result of terrorism.

The GOC had an advisory committee in regard to the Ulster Defence Regiment. That will cease to be so after amalgamation. I should like to pay tribute to the Ulster Defence Regiment Advisory Committee which was formed from all parts of the community in Northern Ireland. It has done a tremendous job. As yet I have not heard much credit given to it by anybody. It advised the GOC on a number of occasions regarding what to do, but will be disbanded after amalgamation.

A regimental council will be formed, as with any other regiment in the British Army. However, we are talking of the largest regiment in the British Army —after Options for Change it will be the largest by a long way. It will need a regimental council, which I know is to be formed, but that council may need to be slightly larger than one appropriate to a two or three battalion regiment. In addition, because of the part-time role played by people in Northern Ireland within that regiment, it should perhaps include a few civilians. Perhaps my noble friend can clarify that matter or at least indicate that he will mention it to the powers that be.

I want to say a word with regard to battalion titles. We have the regimental title, the Royal Irish Regiment. There are seven battalions on home service within Northern Ireland. They could be numbered one to seven—excepting the General Service Battalion. However, it would be a pity, when those battalions are statically based in the areas from which they recruit and from where they carry out operations, if they were not called, for instance, the Fifth County Londonderry Battalion. That is important. It does not cost anybody anything to allow those battalions to be named with their county titles. To leave them as numbers is an anonymous way, especially when there is no intention to post them anywhere else. I hope that they will have the counties mentioned in their titles.

For a moment I should like to look at the permanent cadre and the people who have been involved in it. The Ulster Defence Regiment has not been in being for that long and people are reaching pensionable age when they have not quite served for the full pensionable time. Because the Regular Army conditions will be brought into force, and people will have to retire at a certain age within certain ranks, there will be examples of people who could not join any other regiment—the Ulster Defence Regiment did not exist prior to 1971—but who joined in good faith and will now be told at short notice that their service may be terminated. That will leave them short of pension. Perhaps my noble friend can reassure us that where there are two or three years left those people will be allowed to serve on, or that something can be done such as giving them a portion of their pensions.

The part-timers, shortly to be Regular Army soldiers, do what they can when they can. They carry out an invaluable amount of service. Although we have heard a certain amount verbally that they will not be persuaded to leave or reduced in numbers, there needs to be reassurance that the conditions attached to them, once they become Regular Army part-time soldiers, will not be such that it makes it impossible or very inconvenient for them to continue to serve by adding what might at present be Regular Army requirements; namely, fitness, the amount of training and training outside Northern Ireland and so forth. It will be very important that the part-timers are not reduced in number at all. However, I accept that the number of part-timers has gradually declined in the past few years. That is partly because they have transferred to full-time service and partly because it has been difficult to recruit them in certain areas.

For one moment perhaps I may look at the practical side of converting the Ulster Defence Regiment into the Regular Army. The Government, including the Northern Ireland Office and the military, have all said that there are better career opportunities and that the benefits will equal those in the Regular Army units and so forth. However, a few anomalies are appearing. For instance, we have 4 and 6 UDR amalgamating. Within the Regular Army it is generally accepted that a battalion is about 600 strong because that is the size that a headquarters can deal with, that the commanding officer can get to know, and so forth. However, in 4 and 6 UDR they have amalgamated so that we now have over 1,200 people. Therefore, the commanding officer has a tremendous problem in getting to know the people involved. Half of that battalion (600 of them) is being put under the command of six-month tour battalions, which means that commanders most certainly cannot get to know them. Those working conditions are not exactly conducive to people really wanting to join something which it is fun and easy to work with.

As regards the home service and general service terms of service, I am a little worried about what happens when someone transfers from one to the other. I accept that some of the privileges or benefits which at present are enjoyed by Regular Army soldiers will not necessarily be available to the home service. However, what happens when someone transfers to the general service for a time and gets, for example, a boarding school allowance for his children and then returns to the home service? Is that allowance to be taken away from him with the words "I am sorry, the children have had two years of boarding school and they can now go back to perhaps a grammar school or a comprehensive school"?

I believe that many of those who join this new regiment, as my noble friend has suggested, will be better trained and there will be a better regiment with people of higher quality. They will be career people. They will be looking for the opportunity to serve abroad. They will not be looking simply to stay in Northern Ireland. Therefore, it is important that they are looked after properly.

There is an anomaly as regards the pay of part-time officers whereby, on the one hand, within the Ulster Defence Regiment —and it will remain so with the Royal Irish Regiment—full-time officers get annual increments in pay and the soldiers get banded and scaled pay. On the other hand, part-time soldiers get banded and scaled pay but the officers remain on the pay that they received when they first achieved that rank. Perhaps now is a chance to get that anomaly out of the way.

There was recently (again in the newspapers) a scheme put forward, or mentioned, which was designed to help Regular Army officers should they be made redundant. It was a scheme whereby they could buy their own houses. For every £200 that they saved the Army, the MoD or the Government would add perhaps 30 per cent. to their savings. I hope that that scheme will be available to the Royal Irish Regiment permanent cadre home serve soldiers because when they leave they have even more reason to buy a house in a safe or a different place because of the dangers under which they have lived for the past 20 or 30 years. I should like to see that provision introduced.

As regards the number of persons serving in the regiment, the Government have given an assurance that that number will not decrease. Here I foresee a small problem. During the past 10 years the number has stayed roughly static. It is now 50–50 full/part-time. Although the number of part-time soldiers has gradually declined, some have transferred to the full-time service. Because of the recession and various other factors the full-time service has been able to recruit a great many people. Therefore, the numbers within the regiment have stayed steady.

However, I believe that the present situation is now coming up against a full-time establishment figure. We are talking about people who cost less to be soldiers than the Regular Army soldiers. If that establishment figure is not permitted to rise so that people who wish to fight against terrorism in Northern Ireland can do so we shall see an inevitable slight reduction in the total number within the Royal Irish Regiment. That will be very sad, especially when the Government have reiterated on numerous occasions that there is no hidden agenda and that they wish the number within the Ulster Defence Regiment, when it becomes the Royal Irish Regiment, to remain static. I believe that this establishment will have to be increased.

I know that there is a lot of argument going on regarding the location of regimental HQ, whether it should be in Ballykinler or Ballymena. If it is to be Ballymena where there are no ranges and shooting cannot take place, there will have to be travel—a long way. I ask my noble friend to consider for one moment that the decision on the location of the HQ should not be made on purely financial grounds. The transport and travelling of soldiers in Northern Ireland —as we saw at the time of the Ballygawley bomb—is critical. If it means a few pennies more, that base should be in the right place to carry out the most efficient and the safest training.

The points that I have raised do not affect only a few people. Without the right job description at the time—pay, perks, benefits and whatever else—there will be discrimination and it will be seen as such and the quality and quantity of recruits will not be as it should be. People may not join up but will go and do something else. The Government, the Northern Ireland Office and the Army have said that they will be Regular Army soldiers; that they will be no different and considered as such. In your Lordships' House and in another place we must ensure that these brave soldiers get what they have every right to have; that is, fair treatment. I hope that my noble friend will agree to ensure that the MoD clears up the anomalies before soldiers are asked to sign a blank sheet on 1st July.

2.31 p.m.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, we welcome the general support that has been expressed this morning for the Bill by the noble Lords, Lord Williams and Lord Mayhew, and by my noble friend Lord Brookeborough, and the positive nature of the contributions that have been made. The date of the merger is still a little way off and there is a good deal of administrative work to be done and details to be sorted out in preparation for the merger. I am happy, therefore, to take careful note of the points that have been made in the debate and confirm that we shall bear them in mind.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams, brought up the subject of redundancies. The Royal Irish Rangers, at present, and the general service element of the Royal Irish Regiment from the 1st July, are covered by the redundancy scheme for the Army as a whole. Selection for redundancy, which will be achieved voluntarily so far as possible, will be based on the Army's need to maintain a proper structure based on age, skill and qualifications. Because of under-manning and natural wastage the numbers to be affected by redundancy are likely to be far less than the establishment of a battalion. So far as the UDR and home service battalions are concerned, total numbers will be retained at about their present level. There are no current plans for redundancies or to include the home service battalions in the Army-wide redundancy scheme.

I now turn to some of the points raised by my noble friend Lord Brookeborough. He speaks with huge experience in these matters and with the interests of the UDR very much at heart. First, my noble friend asked about the Greenfinches. Since they were first recruited in 1973 the Greenfinches have been full members of the UDR and there are now over 700 of them. They will perform the same operational roles as at present within the home service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment, as full members of that regiment. My noble friend then brought up the subject of the Benevolent Fund. The UDR Benevolent Fund is a registered charity providing valuable support in the form of loans and grants to current and former members of the UDR and their families. The deed of trust is a matter for the trustees of the fund, not for the Ministry of Defence. I understand that the intention is that those trustees who would normally authorise most payments to beneficiaries will continue to be locally based. However, it is entirely a matter for the trustees.

Concerning the format of the new Regimental Council, its format and composition is a regimental matter. Again, I understand that decisions have not yet been made on the membership, but it is intended to include some members drawn from the local community as well as representatives of both existing regiments. As regards battalion titles, I understand that titles for the home service battalions of the new regiment still have to be decided, including the question whether the titles should retain county affiliations. I take the point that that would certainly be desirable.

Members of the UDR are covered by the Armed Forces pension scheme and they enjoy the same pension benefits as members of the regular Army. Individual cases for extended service in order to accrue full pension rights have always been considered on their merits by UDR headquarters. This will continue under the new regimental headquarters. I can assure my noble friend that there are no plans to change the current policy on fitness testing for either the permanent cadre or part-time soldiers. They will continue to take the same tests as at present.

As regards allowances to home service officers—and soldiers—who transfer temporarily to the general service battalion for tours of duty or training, they will enjoy appropriate general service allowances for the duration of their attachments. In the case of some allowances, particularly, for example, school fees, to which my noble friend referred, it may be appropriate to continue payment after the period of attachment. Individual cases will be considered on their merits.

Decisions have not yet been made on the permanent location of the regimental headquarters or training depot. A study is in hand at the moment to consider the locations from which the home service battalions will operate most efficiently in the future. In considering the options, careful thought will be given to the advantages of co-location.

As I said in my opening speech, the present strength of the UDR is about 6,000. About half of them serve on a part-time basis. Since the UDR's creation the trend has been for a steady reduction in the proportion of part-timers. That trend may continue, but there is certainly no intention to phase out the part-time element. The Bill makes specific provision for service on this basis to continue. We do not normally discuss detailed establishment figures for Army units, but I can say that we expect to maintain the overall strength of the home service battalions at about the same level as the UDR, with the same kind of ratio between full-timers and part-timers.

Regarding rates of pay, we are not in fact proposing any immediate changes in the rates of pay or eligibility for allowances of members of the home service battalions, who will be carrying out the same tasks as the UDR performs at present. In the longer term we shall consider the desirability of closer alignment with the rest of the Army.

As regards the pay of part-time members of the UDR, the arrangements for incremental pay increases at present take account of the relative level of service commitment between the full and part-time members of the regiment, as well as the fact that part-time members receive an annual bounty. Here again, no immediate change is planned, although the matter will be reviewed in due course.

I can well understand that there may be a feeling of sadness among many members of the UDR that the new regiment will not retain "Ulster" in its title. There are bound to be feelings of this kind about any regimental merger. As for other mergers, the colonels of the two regiments considered the new title. It needs to reflect the history, traditions and composition of both regiments. Clearly, in matters of this kind, there needs to be a certain amount of give and take, but the agreed recommendation was the "Royal Irish Regiment".

The Royal Irish Regiment will be the largest infantry regiment of the Army. It will have a number of unique features. Its establishment offers, we suggest, a unique and exciting opportunity for all members of both the Royal Irish Rangers and the Ulster Defence Regiment. We have every confidence that they will prove equal to the challenge. I am sure that I speak for all noble Lords in wishing them every success in the efforts that they will be making to keep the peace, both at home and abroad, in the interests of all. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time; Committee negatived; read a third time, and passed.