A blow has been dealt to Government plans to disband a Northumberland army battalion, following a defeat in a House of Commons vote.
More than 450 ex-servicemen marched on Parliament on Thursday to protest at the proposed axing of the Second Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, despite it being one of the UK’s best recruiters.
And inside the Commons, Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith launched a blistering attack on the rationale behind the cut.
Speaking to a motion made by former Fusilier John Baron MP, for the House to oppose disbandment, Sir Alan referred to a letter he had received from Armed Forces Minister Andrew Robothan, explaining how the decision was reached.
But he said: “The letter went on to demonstrate quite clearly that the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers should not be one of the five battalions that go, saying ‘After the removal of four battalions, the method for predicting future sustainability became less statistically discerning.’
“I think it should win a ‘Yes Minister’ prize for obfuscatory circumlocution – or, to put it another way, dodging the issue with fancy words.
“A little further, the letter says ‘Therefore to determine the fifth battalion to be removed from the order of battle required the application of criteria that went wider than demographics’ – in other words, ‘We told the officials to find some other reason which would enable us to disband the 2nd Battalion’.” This is the wrong decision, for the wrong reasons and with the wrong results for the efficiency of the Army and the defence and security of this country.”
During the debate, Mr Robothan asked that the gallery be cleared because some of the ex-servicemen were gently applauding MPs supporting their cause. However, the deputy speaker declined his request.
Put to the vote, 57 MPs opposed the disabandment of 2RRF, while also noting that it had fallen foul of the Government’s ‘additional’ criteria. Three MPs – Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire), Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) and Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) voted against the motion.