Menston and Burley MP fails in bid to force Government to rethink plans

Ilkley Gazette: Menston and Burley-in-Wharfedale MP Philip Davies Menston and Burley-in-Wharfedale MP Philip Davies

Menston and Burley-in-Wharfedale MP Philip Davies last week failed in a last-gasp attempt to slam the brakes on Army cuts in a Commons revolt.

Mr Davies was among 11 rebel Conservative MPs who tried to halt controversial plans to axe 20,000 Army regulars and recruit 30,000 reservists instead.

He joined forces with Labour MPs in an 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. There has also been controversy over the axing of 38 TA centres by 2016 because they have “seriously under-recruited”.

They include the bases in Manningham Lane, Bradford, and Lawkholme Lane, Keighley, the MoD announced in the summer. The sites will probably be sold off, although the MoD will also examine whether they should be retained for “other military purposes”.

But the Government won the vote, with a majority of 54, after a pledge to update MPs every year on the strength of the military reserves. The revolt fizzled out after 20 Conservative MPs had originally vowed to defy their party’s whip.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the law would be changed to require an annual review to be made to Parliament, on recruitment and retention.

Mr Hammond had written to all Tory MPs urging them not to back an amendment tabled by former soldier John Baron, a Conservative.

And he argued the cuts to the regular forces could not be reversed, which meant any delays to the Army Reserve recruitment process could lead to chaos.

Mr Hammond said: “The Army has set out a course. It is executing its plan. To halt that, or to seek to reverse it, at this stage would simply cause confusion in the ranks.”

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