Chris Davies MP speech on Brecon Barracks - A Better Defence Estate Strategy debate (Westminster Hall)

On 21st February 2017 a debate was held in Westminster hall. The debate was titled 'A Better Defence Estate Strategy'.

Chris Davies MP and a number of other MPs spoke at the debate. 

Chris Davies MP said:

"It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. I thank my hon. Friend Mrs Grant for securing this debate.

I am here to speak about Brecon barracks—I am the only Welsh Member here apart from Wayne David—which is an important part of Brecon and Wales. There has been a barracks in Brecon for 200 years. In fact, the buildings that are currently used have been in existence for 200 years. Not only has it been home to the British Army in Wales, but many detachments from it have gone across the world—the South Wales Borderers’ visit to the Anglo-Zulu war was immortalised in the film “Zulu”. The adjacent museum contains 11 Victoria Crosses—one of the largest collection of Victoria Crosses outside Lord Ashcroft’s hold. The Secretary of State, in his announcement about the better defence estate strategy, said that the museum will be unaffected, as will Dering Lines and Sennybridge, the infantry battle school. The barracks has been an integral part of the garrison town of Brecon.

It was interesting to hear my hon. Friend Sir Julian Brazier talk about house prices. House prices would plummet in Brecon, because more than 100 civilian jobs are involved in the barracks, and many retirees from the military come back to live in the Brecon area. It is vital in economic terms that the barracks remain.

The infantry battle school trains over a vast swathe of the Breconshire national park, but the defence estate does not own all that land—a lot of it is owned by local farmers. The relationship between those farmers and their families, many of whom have civilian jobs in the barracks, will be tarnished and damaged immeasurably if the barracks closes. I ask the Minister to look again not just at the economic issues but the emotional ties and the relationship between the military and civilians. That is vital, and we cannot put a price on it.

Brecon is home to the 160th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Wales. I would like the Minister to solve a conundrum that I cannot get to the bottom of. I have spoken to the Army—in fact, I was at Brecon barracks for the 138th commemoration of the battle in the Zulu war. When I speak to the officers and the commanding officer, they tell me that they have had and no conversations with politicians at a senior level, but when I speak to politicians at a senior level, they tell me that the Army is pushing for the closure of the estate. Both seem to say that the Defence Infrastructure Organisation is the middle organisation, but I wonder how much it listens to politicians and the Army. Perhaps the Minister will clarify that in his response.

Finally—there is much more I would like to say, but time is against me—Brecon barracks is not Chelsea barracks, as much as I would like to say it is. In economic terms, I am afraid that the sum that would be raised from Brecon barracks is minuscule compared with building a new HQ somewhere else in Wales. I ask the Ministry of Defence and the Minister to think again".