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.
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?
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
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.
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.
Many current serving officers welcome the changes that were announced on