§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach)
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Geoffrey Hoon) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:
On 16 December 2004 I announced changes to the future structure of the Infantry, including a decision on how we would achieve a reduction by one in the number of battalions in the Prince of Wales's Division. The antecedent components of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment (RGBW) were to merge with, in the case of the Gloucestershire element, the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment (which would also transfer to the Light Infantry) and, in the case of the Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment element, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.
However, following my announcement, there was a widespread perception that the plan to split the RGBW along the lines of its antecedent parts amounted to the disbandment of the RGBW and the abandonment of its own heritage. In view of this, I asked the Executive Committee of the Army Board (ECAB) to review its original recommendation in relation to the future of the RGBW. In the process of this review, ECAB noted that in formulating its original recommendation on the RGBW it had given insufficient weight to the sense of identity that has evolved during the 10 years since the RGBW was created.
ECAB concluded that although the substance of the original recommendation—that the RGBW will form the basis of the reduction by one battalion of the Prince of Wales's Division—should not change, more could be done to preserve the identity and heritage of the RGBW itself, and not just of its antecedents. ECAB now recommends that this should be achieved instead through an amalgamation of the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment with the RGBW. The resulting new regiment will become 1st Battalion the Light Infantry (reflecting the original decision for the D and D to join the Light Infantry).
I have accepted the need for this adjustment to the original recommendation. The details of how the amalgamation will be taken forward will be a matter for the Army to manage and will be worked out by those concerned over the coming months.