Main concern is longer-term future of unit
THIS week the Ministry of Defence has confirmed further redundancies to be made across the armed forces, which affect the Army and, as a result, the Gurkhas.
Any loss of posts in our armed forces is to be regretted. They do great service defending our country and protecting the rights and freedoms of people around the world. These redundancies are a result of the need for savings right across Government, and the particular problems at the Ministry of Defence where there was more than £38 billion of unpaid bills and unfinanced spending commitments that had to be reconciled. I'm glad that his work has been completed, which means that in future years we can plan for new investment, rather than finding new money to pay for old debts.
My main concern over the proposed redundancies in the Gurkhas has been to make sure that any reductions in posts do not compromise their long-term future in the British army. I pressed the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, in the House of Commons a few months ago on this point. He confirmed that: "The Gurkhas remain a very important part of the British armed forces."
As a result of the Gurkha Justice campaign, servicemen won the right to serve individually up to 22 years, instead of the previous limit of 15 years, like other members of the army. Many Gurkhas, who are renowned for their dedication to service, have decided to do this, but recruitment into the regiment continued at the normal rate.
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This has meant that Gurkhas have been more vulnerable to potential redundancies, as they had more servicemen in post than had been expected. However, as we did during the Defence Review in 2010, I will continue to support the vital and unique contribution the Gurkhas make to our armed forces.
Last Friday, along with other Kent MPs, I joined the Chief Constable of Kent, Ian Learmouth, and the Lord Lieutenant, Viscount De L'Isle, for the presentation of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal, at the Kent Police academy in Maidstone.
The medals are being awarded to members of the armed forces and emergency services who have completed more than five years of continuous service. It was an honour to be invited to witness this ceremony, and to see so many members of the service receiving their medals, including full-time serving officers, PCSOs and Special Constables, some of whom have given more than 40 years' service as volunteers.
I would also like to tell you about the "Start-up Hub" business action competition, which I have set up with the Conservative Party to give new businesses the chance to exhibit for free at our annual party conference, in Birmingham this October.
The businesses which took part last year got a lot from the competition, with one saying that it "proved to be a catalyst to our development". We are now launching a national competition to find the businesses which will be asked to take part. To apply visit www.conservatives.com/startuphub – the closing date for applications is June 30, 2012.