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Base closures and uncertainty pose threat to Welsh economy and society

4 November 2019

The report calls on the UK Government to provide clarity about the future defence footprint in Wales and raises concerns around the closure of military bases and the impact that this may have on the local community.

The Committee is calling on the UK Government to work alongside the Welsh Government to ensure that base closures do not result in a reduction of the defence footprint in Wales.

The UK Government should consider the potential to relocate at least one of the three Welsh combat units from England to Wales, reverse the decision to move the RAF Training School and provide clarity on the relocation of regiments and plans for MOD St Athan.

Additionally, the Committee reports concern about the decline in recruitment. They were told that although Wales represents 5% of the UK's population, only 2% of the Armed Forces are stationed in Wales. This could decrease to 1% if base closures go ahead as planned. The Committee asks the UK Government to make an explicit commitment to maintaining the numbers of forces in Wales, similar to the agreement made with Scotland.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, David T. C. Davies MP, said:

“The Welsh contribution to the UK defence industry is indispensable, but recent decisions taken by the UK Government jeopardise Wales' vital role in the Armed Forces. Over the years Wales has proven a significant contributor to the Armed Forces, provided space for bases and training grounds, and has become a centre of innovation within our defence and aerospace industries.

“The decision to close the two main army bases in Wales- Brecon and Cawdor Barracks- and the clustering of units in the south of England will have a profound impact on the surrounding communities, who have fostered close ties to the Armed Forces over generations, and the families who have contributed both financially and culturally to the local area. The location of all Welsh combat units outside of Wales poses a very real challenge to the preservation of Welsh connections and identity.

“The UK Government must do more to nurture the crucial contribution that Wales, and the Welsh people, have made, and will continue to make, to both the Armed Forces and the defence industry.”

Key recommendations

The UK Government must ensure that base closures do not result in a reduction of the defence footprint in Wales.

Decisions about the relocation of regiments currently based in Wales must be confirmed very soon, and the possibility of relocating at least one of the Welsh combat units from England to Wales should be explored.

The UK and Welsh Governments must urgently provide clarity about future plans for MOD St Athan, and reverse the decision to relocate the RAF Training School.

The UK Government should set specific recruitment targets for Wales and track performance against these targets.

Steps should be taken to reduce the distance that applicants to the Army have to travel, including the use of hubs and temporary centres in all areas of Wales.

The UK Government should make the bidding processes for contracts less complex and provide more support, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.

The UK Government must ensure that any decisions about the wider defence footprint in Wales do not impact negatively on any projects that have been awarded to businesses and supply chains in Wales.

Further information

Image: PA