Defence Ministers have refused to appear before Welsh MPs looking into the MOD's plans for the future of the Army. As we reported a couple of weeks ago, Welsh Affairs committee chair David Davies had said he wanted ministers to explain their thinking about plans for the Welsh Cavalry:
Given our concerns, we have decided to do a short inquiry into this. We’ve asked the Ministry of Defence to come and give evidence and explain how these decisions will be taken. I understand they don’t wish to attend, which I find very disappointing.
However it nows seems the announcement itself will be made on Thursday, which might explain the ministers' reluctance to appear. It's also thought that the Welsh Cavalry will survive the cuts but it's strongly rumoured that a battalion of the Royal Welsh regiment could be lost instead.
The leaders of the Welsh Conservatives and Welsh Liberal Democrats have put aside political differences to express their support for the campaign to save the Welsh Cavalry, also known as 1st the Queen's Dragoon Guards.
The two leaders met regimental representatives and pledged to lobby UK Government colleagues. Andrew RT Davies, who heads the Welsh Conservative group in the Assembly, said:
It is vital that we maintain the momentum that has been established in this battle to save Wales’ only tank regiment. We will continue to passionately lobby our Westminster counterparts on behalf of the 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards.
And Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said:
Any disbandment or amalgamation of this fine regiment would be severely damaging to the Armed Forces in Wales. Of course we understand that cuts to the defence budget have to be made, but the cuts need to be balanced regionally rather than being focused on Wales as a whole.
Fears about the future of another part of the Welsh army have been raised by MPs. There's been a cross-party campaign by MPs and AMs to keep the Welsh Cavalry, also known as 1st the Queen's Dragoons Guards, in the UK Government's forthcoming plans to reduce the size of the Army.
But rumours that the Welsh Cavalry could be saved at the expense of a battalion of the Royal Welsh were raised in the commons by Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith. Secretary of State, Cheryl Gillan, criticised him for spreading uncertainty when no decision had been made. This is what he told me:
His comments were backed by Liberal Democrat MP Roger Williams who told me he's had worrying talks with serving and former officers in the Royal Welsh who've expressed their concerns. And he says if a Royal Welsh battalion were to be axed, it could mean the loss of 700 soldiers.
The Welsh Affairs Select committee is to hold a special evidence session into the UK Government's intentions for the future of the Queen's Dragoon Guards. There has been cross-party concern about reports that Ministry of Defence cutbacks will be abolished or merged with another regiment.
Committee chair, Monmouth MP David Davies said,
Disbanding the QDG would reduce opportunities for young people across Wales to serve in a named Welsh regiment. I have served in the Territorial Army myself in 104 Defence Regiment in Newport and I fully appreciate the opportunities which the Army can offer to young people.
We need to make sure Wales is not unfairly treated by these defence cuts and the committee will be asking for submissions from veterans and soldiers currently serving in the QDG.
We will also be asking the Ministry of Defence to explain its thinking on this.
The Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan MP, says she has already spoken to the Prime Minister about how she believes 1st the Queen's Dragoon Guards - known as the Welsh Cavalry - should not be cut in army reorganisation plans.
Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith has today written to the Prime Minister urging him to step in to ensure the Queen's Dragoon Guards (known as the Welsh Cavalry) is not abolished as part of a defence review.
The UK Government says no decision's yet been made. But Owen Smith has asked David Cameron to make sure the regiment is safeguarded. Here's an extract:
Dear Prime Minister,
I understand your Government is intending to abolish 1st the Queen's Dragoon Guards (The Welsh Cavalry) as part of cuts to the British defence budget and an announcement could be made as early as this week.
It was reported in the Sunday Times that you intervened personally to safeguard the future of three Scottish regiments. I hope you will offer 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards that same protection.
There are now just three named regiments in Wales, compared with six in Scotland and sixty in England. Abolishing the Welsh Cavalry would be seen by many as another example of Wales being hit disproportionately hard by Government cuts...
... The Welsh Cavalry is the most senior frontline British force, it has a proud history and culture. Welsh soldiers join because they want to fight for their country as part of the British Army. It would be a tragedy to lose this. I urge you to intervene.