Portsmouth MP says cutting size of army is a 'huge gamble' over national security

AN MP has said cutting the size of the armed forces represent a ‘huge gamble’ with national security.

By Steve Deeks and Tom Cotterill
Thursday, 25th November 2021, 10:45 pm
Updated Friday, 26th November 2021, 1:06 am

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, the shadow armed forces minister, was responding to defence secretary Ben Wallace’s announcement on Thursday.

Parliament heard the army will be cut by 9,000 to 73,000 by 2025 amid a reorganisation into four divisions, with some existing brigades merged or deleted.

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Stephen Morgan MP. Photos by Alex Shute

There will also be 33 site closures, including Alanbrooke Barracks at Topcliffe in North Yorkshire, severing ties the army has with communities across the UK.

A new elite unit of ‘Rangers’ will be created to operate in complex, high threat environments as part of an army special operations brigade.

Among the soldiers who will form part of the new Rangers unit would include troops from Hampshire’s local infantry unit, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.

Likewise, changes are also proposed for the region’s local reservist Royal Artillery units.

Plans suggested by defence secretary Ben Wallace, would see the 106th Regiment, Royal Artillery – which has air defence batteries based in Hilsea and Southampton – being ‘restructured’ from January 2023.

There is no clear message as to what this restructure would involve.

A serving soldier told The News: ‘I think there are a lot of people in my unit that have high hopes for this review.

‘Conditions for serving soldiers have improved over the past decade. But there is still do much more to be done.’

Mr Wallace claimed the changes would ‘transform the army into a more agile, integrated, lethal, expeditionary force’.

However, concerns have been raised by Labour.

Mr Morgan said: ‘The government's decision to cut the size of the army to its smallest since the Napoleonic era is a huge gamble with our national security.

‘At a time when the threats faced by the UK and its allies are growing it is vital that we maintain the ability to reinforce Europe against Russia and be an effective warfighting partner to NATO allies. This demands high-end warfighting capabilities, not just light forces and cyber operations.

‘Labour has committed to pausing, reviewing and reversing the cuts if necessary.’

Shadow defence secretary John Healey raised fears the government's plan to reorganise the army leaves it too small and thinly stretched and too poorly equipped to deal with threats to the UK and its allies.

Jack Watling, of the influential defence and security think tank RUSI, said: ‘The British Army has essentially admitted that it cannot field a force for high-intensity combat for the best part of a decade.’

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