It was a pleasure to be able to contribute to the Westminster Hall debate on Wales' contribution to the Armed Forces, during which I welcomed the recent announcement from the Ministry of Defence that Hightown Barracks would be receiving a new Reserve company and the contribution that the defence sector makes to the economy of Wales.
Read my full speech here:
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McVey, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Fay Jones) for securing today’s debate. With the Defence Secretary’s recent future soldier Army restructuring announcement last week, this is a fitting time to discuss the benefit of Wales to the UK armed forces. As a Welsh MP with an interest in veterans and our armed forces, and who sits on the Select Committee on Defence, this is comfortable ground for me. I want to touch on two points: first, the Welsh military footprint, and secondly, the contribution made to the defence sector in Wales more widely.
Wales has a proud military history, as indeed does my constituency. Wrexham is home to Hightown barracks, once the home of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, whose roots date back to 1689. Last week’s announcement by the Defence Secretary is hugely welcomed: Hightown barracks will now house a reserve company, the 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh. The barracks, once destined to become a housing estate, now has a new lease of life and will regenerate the military stamp in Wrexham. Although there will be a scaling down of the Army mass nationally, I am pleased that Wales is the only nation not to see a reduction in its capacity or capability, and the announcement of a £320 million investment in Wales to enforce this is most welcome. If there were to be one example of Wales’s contribution to the armed forces and the UK Government’s commitment to the military in Wales, this is it.
I will not reiterate the comments that my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire made about the armed forces’ extensive contribution to the Welsh Government’s covid recovery plan, nor will I reiterate the need for the Welsh Government to get on board with a veterans’ commissioner. I know that another Member wants to speak, so I will just make one other point, which is about the significant contribution that the defence sector makes in Wales in jobs, opportunities, equipment, the supply chain and the defence pound. We have a large military footprint in Wales, with over 4,000 jobs in the military chain alone. North-east Wales is a hub for defence businesses, including Qioptiq in St Asaph; Airbus in Broughton; MOD Sealand, which is home to the Defence Electronics and Components Agency and sits on the border with Chester; and Raytheon at Hawarden airport. Earlier this month, Raytheon was awarded a £110 million contract to upgrade the RAF’s Shadow surveillance aircraft, creating hundreds of new jobs in the area, including in my constituency of Wrexham. All those companies have invested in the covenant, making the gap between the serving and civilian sectors smaller, and in the workforce not only of the present but of the future. With this Conservative Government’s vote of confidence in Wales—the cancellation of the closure of Brecon barracks, subjecting future generations of soldiers to the wild delights of the Beacons, and the boost to Hightown barracks in Wrexham—the symbiotic relationship between the military and Wales is clearly defined for the future.
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