Hammond under fire from MPs over cuts policies
DEFENCE Secretary Philip Hammond has defended his decision to save the Scottish battalions by telling English Tory MPs that it was not based on a “snap shot” of recent recruitment records.
Mr Hammond was confronted on the issue by Tory MP Bob Stewart, a former army colonel most famous for his command in Bosnia, who told him there “is considerable anger” among English and Welsh battalions over the criteria for deciding which ones would be disbanded.
Col Stewart claimed that the minister had himself promised that recruitability would be “paramount” in deciding which ones were axed.
Col Stewart has been one of a vocal group of MPs who believe at least one Scottish infantry battalion and possibly two should have been sacrificed because of their poor recruitment record.
Instead, the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders is to be reduced in size, but battalions like the Highlanders, 25 per cent short of their full compliment with the worst recruitment record in the army, has survived.
He said that he was “suspicious” of the minister’s motives behind the decisions announced last week.
But Mr Hammond insisted that the “key criteria was recruitment over the last 10 years, not a snap shot.”
He admitted that some units, particularly the Scottish ones, have relied on foreign and Commonwealth citizens for recruitment.
But he said that the decisions were also based on future demographics with the “cohort from where the infantry recruits set to decline by 12 per cent over the next 10 years”.
But he added: “That is not an even decline over the country; there are different pressures in different areas.”
He added that another important part of the decision was the history of previous amalgamations and disbandments.
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