Diolch, Sir Christopher. I thank Fay Jones for having secured this important debate. As a former air cadet with strong family connections to the military, I share her passion for Wales’s proud military history. Only a few weeks ago, we in Parliament were lucky enough to be joined by the three principal Welsh regiments, the 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, the Welsh Guards and the Royal Welsh, and I thank my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty for having sponsored that event.
All three of those Welsh regiments have a long and distinguished history and retain a significant footprint back home, in my constituency of Pontypridd and across Rhondda Cynon Taf. That local authority was one of the first in Wales to sign an armed forces community covenant, setting out the support it offers to serving and retired armed forces personnel. I put on the record my thanks to our deputy leader, Maureen Webber, for the massive amount of work she has done in this area. She has been a really strong champion for our armed forces.
Colleagues will be aware that the 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, formed in 1959, has roots in Cardiff, which is just down the road from my patch. These regiments work across the world: later this year, the Queen’s Dragoon Guards will be conducting pre-deployment training for operations in west Africa, where it will provide expertise in an effort to keep peace. However, colleagues will also know that following the 2010 defence review, the regiment faced the threat of cuts and was reduced to one regular battalion.
In 2015, the 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards returned to the UK from Germany, and is now based in Norfolk. I know Norfolk is a lovely part of the country, but it seems strange that our regiments are not located closer to home. The journey from Wales to Norfolk is not a swift one, so I urge all Members present to support the case for moving the Queen’s Dragoon Guards closer to Wales. Otherwise, the long distance will impact on recruitment and retention: the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that the number of personnel in Wales has already decreased by 900 since 2012.