The cadet organisations are primarily responsible for their own recruitment, but the Ministry of Defence provides practical support and funding. Between April 1999 and April 2000, the total number of cadets rose by more than 3,600, to 131,954. We hope to see a continuation of that very encouraging trend over the coming years, so that more young people can benefit from the personal development opportunities offered by cadet organisations. If the hon. Gentleman is not already aware of the fact, I am happy to inform him that the Army cadet force in his constituency is the largest in Sussex.
I am grateful for that answer. People in Eastbourne and elsewhere take real pride in the obvious enthusiasm and commitment of the young people in the cadet forces, who go on to provide 35 per cent. Of serving officers in our armed forces. That being the case, why are the Government putting some cadet forces at risk by cutting back Territorial Army facilities?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, far from putting facilities at risk, we have guaranteed that whenever a TA hall is closed, funding will be provided to give cadets proper accommodation.
The cadet forces are warmly welcomed in Rotherham. I reached the highest rank of my life as company sergeant-major in my school's combined cadet force. That taught me quick thinking under pressure, the value of partnership and the need to accept discipline—which are all attributes of the parliamentary Labour party. Would my hon. Friend consider creating a special combined cadet force for the rabble on the Opposition Benches so that they can learn to march in step, speak in unison and stop accepting orders from extraneous people such as the editors of the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph?
I am not sure how to answer that, other than to point out that if my hon. Friend's record is as good as he seemed to suggest, we may well need him in future.
I should be very happy to follow up what sounds like a very good idea.