Alun Davies, Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services
Last month I made a statement setting out our continued support for the Armed Forces community. In that statement I also sought to pay tribute to the valuable contribution that serving members of the Armed Forces and veterans, have played and continue to play in the defence of the UK.
Wales has always played its part in the history of the Armed Forces, not only by providing many recruits to the Services, but by providing a home for various military bases and establishments. Communities across the country have welcomed the Armed Forces and continue to do so.
When the outcome of Defence Estates Review was announced in November 2016, I was concerned to note the potential impact on the Armed Forces footprint in Wales. Whilst there would be a continued presence at the Infantry Training School in Brecon and at RAF Valley, the potential closure of 160 Brigade Headquarters, the movement of the 1st Battalion the Rifles from Beechley in Chepstow, and the movement of the 14th Signals Regiment from Brawdy, all have the potential to impact local communities as well as those serving personnel who are required to move.
But the impact of such decisions goes further than this. The Welsh Identity within the Armed Forces is an essential part of our national identity. It is of central importance to the future of our Union that our Armed Forces are based in all constitute parts of the UK and that all our nations are able to play their part in defending the UK and all our nations are represented in the decisions over bases and the MoD’s wider estates strategy.
The MoD has also announced their intention to create a new base at St Athan which would provide the home for a significant Army presence. Whilst this development has the potential to create a significant new Army presence in South Wales, overall the net effect of the changes could result in a decrease in the overall numbers of Armed Forces personnel based in Wales. I do not want to see such a reduction. I want to see the military presence in Wales not simply preserved at current levels but expanded and grown.
I recently met Stuart Andrews MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the MoD to discuss these matters. I stressed the importance of the Armed Forces maintaining a strong presence in Wales, alongside the further development of industries and supply chains that support MoD procurement. I believe that it is vital that the Welsh and UK Governments continue to work closely together on all these matters.
In order to ensure that Wales will continue to provide a firm base for future location of serving personnel I have asked my officials to develop a specific policy to ensure that Wales is in a position to provide this firm base and home for UK Armed Forces. I have also asked my officials to work with the MoD to develop a plan for the future which will ensure that Wales hosts a significantly increased number of serving personnel and will also continue to press the MoD to maintain the Headquarters base in Brecon.
I hope that we can work together to ensure that the interests of Wales, our serving Armed Forces communities, and the communities that support their presence in Wales, are at the forefront of MoD planning for the future.