James at The Springfields Academy
James Gray MP with representatives from Google and The Countryside Alliance Foundation
James Gray MP welcoming representatives of 20th Armoured Brigade to Parliament
James with representatives of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards during a Welcome Home Event for 20th Armoured Brigade
Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): Our concern is that the decision to disband the 2nd Battalion the Royal Fusiliers derives from a rushed defence review and an inadequate Army reform plan, known as Army 2020. The basis of any review should be sustainability and value for money.
Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Conservative): I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the way in which these matters should be decided. Will he cast his mind back to 2004, when he was a Defence Minister? A total of 19 battalions were closed or amalgamated at that time, and there was no defence review then.
Mr Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): This brings us to the issue of national sentiment. I shall now do the strategic equivalent of invading Russia and China, and take aim at Joanna Lumley and the Ghurkha lobby. I think it is a particular pity that we are talking about the disbandment of a British line infantry battalion when there are battalions of, frankly, foreign mercenaries still in our Army. The national sentiment attached to the Ghurkhas is, of course, entirely proper. Their century-plus service to our country is beyond compare, but it is many senses now an historic anachronism. There is 100 years-plus of sentiment associated with them, which led to the then Government being defeated on a measure dealing with the Ghurkhas in the last days of the last Administration.
James Gray MP: I strongly support the campaign and the debate, but I think it will be extremely unfortunate if we allow the failure of the Government to do their first duty to defend the realm by preserving our armed forces to descend into a battle between whether we prefer the Ghurkhas, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, the Loamshires or whatever. We should be saying that the Army will be too small at 82,000 and that these cuts are unacceptable, as we cannot defend the realm as a result of them. We must not allow ourselves to set one regiment against another.
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