Recruitment

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 7th February 2005.

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Photo of Ms Jane Griffiths Ms Jane Griffiths Labour, Reading East 2:30 pm, 7th February 2005

What steps he is taking to increase recruitment in areas of low unemployment.

Photo of Mr Ivor Caplin Mr Ivor Caplin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence

The armed forces recruiting organisations do not specifically target areas of low unemployment. Recruiting activities are kept under constant review to respond to changing recruiting priorities and to reflect national and regional issues.

Photo of Ms Jane Griffiths Ms Jane Griffiths Labour, Reading East

With reference to the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire regiment, Anthony West, high sheriff of the royal county of Berkshire, has described as cruel the dismemberment of the Berkshire regiment. In his statement of 16 December, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to specific issues around recruitment. Will my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State bear in mind that unemployment is very low in Berkshire and that therefore recruitment has historically been difficult? Will he give a commitment that recruitment to regiments will be maintained in Reading and Berkshire?

Photo of Mr Ivor Caplin Mr Ivor Caplin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence

I think that I can give my hon. Friend the assurance she seeks. We employ many techniques to attract people to our armed forces and I am pleased to tell the House that we are on course to meet our recruiting target. At the same time, however, it is important that we have no no-go areas for recruitment into the Army and our armed forces generally.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire

By allowing the Scottish regiments to keep their names, the Minister has acknowledged that name and reputation are a major tool for recruiting areas where there are unemployment difficulties. Will the Minister please consider the case of the Welsh regiments? The Royal Welch Fusiliers have an outstanding recruitment record, which could be damaged if their name is amalgamated.

Photo of Mr Ivor Caplin Mr Ivor Caplin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already dealt with these matters in his statement on 16 December. It was a matter for the Army, which considered it carefully, working with the regiments and the various colonels commandant.

Photo of Martin Salter Martin Salter Labour, Reading West

The Minister will undoubtedly be aware of the meeting on 19 January between the Secretary of State for Defence, local MPs and representatives of the Royal Gloucester, Berkshire and Wiltshire regiment. Can he confirm that at the meeting the issue of recruitment was discussed? If the infantry is already reviewing recruitment, would it not make sense to put on hold the decision to disband the RGBW?

Photo of Mr Ivor Caplin Mr Ivor Caplin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence

No, no is the answer, for the clear reasons that I gave Mr. Keetch just a few moments ago about the efficiency gains from ending the arms plot, including more infantry being available for deployment.