1. ITV Report

Units cut as Hammond announces major defence review

The Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has announced major defence restructuring plans that will see the Army lose 17 units in cuts.

Five infantry battalions will be axed as part of the changes:

  • 2nd Battalion, The Royal Welsh
  • 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
  • 2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment
  • 3rd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment

5th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders), will also be cut to one company carrying out ceremonial duties. See a full list of the 17 units that are to be cut here.

ITV News' Correspondent Paul Davies reports from Howe Barracks in Canterbury, the home of 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland:

There were cries of "shame" as Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told the House of Commons:

These withdrawals and mergers, unwelcome as I know they will be in the units affected, are fair and balanced and have been carefully structured to minimise the impact of the regular manpower reduction and maximise the military effectiveness of the Army.

– Philip Hammond, Defence Secretary
The 3rd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment march through Lichfield on return from their tour in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in November 2011 Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

In a Commons statement, Mr Hammond said the cuts were "difficult and challenging" but claimed the Ministry of Defence had respected Britain's regimental system while earmarking the units to be abolished.

He claimed the reorganisation represented "a vision for the future - a vision of a balanced capable and adaptable British Army that will remain best in class".

Speaking during a visit to a sport facility in Loughbourough, the Prime Minister said that it was "vital" that those who lose their jobs in the cuts are "looked after".

But Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said the announcement was "totally short on strategic context", adding: "New threats are emerging and weak and failing states outnumber strong by two to one."

Mr Murphy continued, saying that the cuts will leave the Army the smallest it has been for more than a century at a time of instability in the world:

There is an arc of instability from West African states to Central and Southeast Asia. Non-state actors are on the rise, climate and population change are new sources of tension. The United States is pivoting towards the Pacific while the European end of NATO will take greater strain. In that context, Mr Speaker, a statement which outlines plans to deliver the smallest Army since the Boer war is an entirely inadequate response.

– Jim Murphy, Shadow Defence Secretary

Mr Hammond said he understood the attachment of regions and nations of the UK to specific units "and their justifiable pride in those units". He said the Army that emerges from the cuts "must be a forward-looking, modern, fighting machine."

Soldiers of 35 Battery, 39 Regiment Royal Artillery, fire a 21-gun Royal Salute for the Diamond Jubilee in February Credit: John Giles/PA Wire

There will be mergers between the Army Air Corps' 1 Regiment and 9 Regiment, between the 1st and 2nd Royal Tank Regiments, and between the Queen's Royal Lancers and 9th/12th Royal Lancers.

The Labour leader Ed Miliband has said; "it will be a blow to morale. I think our priority has to be to help those in the forces that will be made redundant."