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 Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 2:30 pm, 7th February 2005

How much was spent on army recruitment in each of the past seven years. (214099)

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

Headquarters Recruiting Group, a part of the Army Training and Recruiting Agency, is responsible for the Army's recruitment budget. In financial year 1998–99, the Army spent £50.1 million on recruiting. In the following four financial years, spending was as follows: in 1999–2000, £56.4 million; in 2000–01, £55.5 million; in 2002–03, £68.4 million and in 2003–04, £71.4 million. I regret that the figures for financial year 1997–98 are not currently available.

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

I am grateful to the Minister for those figures, which record an increase, but anyone with a morsel of practical understanding of the military will realise the importance of local regiments for local recruitment. What does he say, therefore, about the wilful emasculation of the county regimental system and the effects that that will have on recruitment to the armed forces?

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

The hon. Gentleman suffers a bit from not having heard previous answers to questions today. Nevertheless, he is entitled to come here to ask his question. There is no emasculation of regiments. As I said earlier to Mr. Keetch, the purpose of the changes that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced on 16 December and of the ending of the arms plot is to ensure that the Army is more able and more nimble in responding to the threats of today and tomorrow. The Conservative party, which the hon. Member for East Devon supports, is interested only in the battles of yesterday.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Labour, Chorley

It is important to recognise that more money will have to be spent following the announcement in terms of what came out of the merging of regiments. In Lancashire, it is not necessary to spend that money because people wish to join their own county regiment, so I wonder whether my hon. Friend would reconsider the new name that the regiment has been given. It is now called the King's Lancashire Border regiment but the three regiments recommended that it be called the Royal Lancashire regiment; it is a true county regiment and covers the old county palatine. I wonder whether I can save him money by getting him to reconsider that change and to give the regiment the name that the three regiments want. I emphasise that the Royal Lancashire regiment is what we want.

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

My hon. Friend is an assiduous campaigner for all matters Lancashire, and has been so many times over the years. The changes have been the subject of lengthy consultation and my hon. Friend, other hon. Friends and hon. Members have been able to lobby the Secretary of State directly. The Army Board itself made those recommendations.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Conservative, South Staffordshire

That is all very well, but can the Minister name a single former serving officer, or does he know of a single present serving officer, who welcomes the cut in the infantry?

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

Many current serving officers welcome the changes that were announced on 16 December. I do not think that there is much doubt about that. Indeed, many people may wish that they had made the changes in the past. For example, ending the arms plot was first raised at the Army Board in 1962. It has taken over 40 years but this Army Board, together with this Government, have finally ended it.