New Forest East


Southern Daily Echo – 21 November 2013

A Hampshire MP failed in a last-gasp attempt to slam the brakes on Army cuts in a Commons revolt last night. Julian Lewis was among around 20 [actually 11] rebel Conservative MPs who tried to halt controversial plans to axe 20,000 Army regulars and recruit 30,000 reservists.

The New Forest East MP joined forces with Labour MPs to attempt to impose a "pause" until a further study of the impact is carried out. The vote came after an embarrassed Ministry of Defence was forced to admit the numbers joining the Army Reserve was falling – not rising. That cast fresh doubt on hugely-ambitious plans to boost the size of the Army Reserve – formerly known as the Territorial Army – to 30,000, from just 19,000 now.

In the Commons, Dr Lewis made fierce criticism of his own Government's failure to spend enough money on the Armed Forces. He said

 "These are the things that worry me. Defence has fallen too far down the list of priorities. The nation gets the defence forces it is prepared to pay for. There are cuts in the Army and the Royal Air Force that could be avoided.

"We were told that the reduction of 20,000 regulars would be compensated for by an increase of 30,000 reserves, but now we are told that this is no longer linked."

Meanwhile, £1.4bn had been wasted after delaying the replacement of Trident nuclear submarines and further huge sums in the botched building of new aircraft carriers.

But the Government comfortably won the vote by 54 votes, after a pledge to update MPs every year on the strength of the military reserves.