MP: Plan for Truro army reservists is 'flawed'
An MP has warned ministers the Army will struggle to recruit part-time soldiers in Cornwall after removing an historic platoon.
In July, the Government announced 6 Rifles would abandon its base in Truro from 2016. The 6 Rifles D company will retain its presence in Plymouth while extending its footprint to Barnstaple, North Devon, it announced.
The move is part of cost-cutting root-and-branch Army reform that will see 20,000 regular full-time soldiers axed, and replaced by 30,000 part-time reservists.
In the Commons, Sarah Newton, Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth, yesterday spoke out about the "localised flaw" in a reservist plan she broadly supports.
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She said making Plymouth the company's closest base for serving riflemen living in Cornwall would cause them "real problems".
The MP, also deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, was speaking in a Commons backbench debate questioning the so-called Army 2020 plans.
Mrs Newton warned the huge reduction in Truro's status as a Territorial Army base would "frustrate" attempts in "maximising the local potential of the Army Reserve". She told MPs: "This move from Truro will cause real problems for serving riflemen living in west and central Cornwall, and will impact on future recruitment from these areas.
"Cornwall is a large and rural county and it can take a very considerable time to travel to Plymouth. A rifleman looking to take the train from Falmouth in my constituency to an evening's training in Plymouth would face a four-hour round trip – those travelling from further West will face yet longer journey times."
She went on that the proposal "inflicts a blow to local military identity" as Cornwall has links to the Rifles – a successor to the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry – stretching back to the 18th century. "The end of 231 years of Rifles' boots on Cornish soil will weaken the link between county and regiment," she said.
The MP questioned whether the move would actually save costs since the Truro facility would remain open, providing a base for the medical and logistic corps, while creating a "platoon-sized facility" in Barnstaple.
"The loss of all Rifles units came as an unpleasant shock," she said. "Given Cornwall's population of 530,000 it seems likely that a Truro-based platoon would be readily able to recruit sufficient reservists to man it."
The MP called on ministers to reverse the decision. The other major change for the Westcountry under the plan is moving the Royal Wessex Yeomanry's D Company from its Barnstaple base to Exeter, while retaining its presence in Paignton, South Devon.
A leaked document, reported by The Daily Telegraph yesterday, suggests the Army restructure is "failing" because cuts to the defence budget are putting off potential new soldiers and making Britain a "hostile recruiting environment".