British Army betrayed by swingeing cuts
In a Commons statement to MPs, Mr Hoon sparked uproar and anger when he announced plans to slash back on the number of infantry battalions from 40 to 36 - down to just over 21,000 men, the smallest number for at least 150 years. Most individual regiments, including the Black Watch, will be merged into so-called "super regiments", leaving only the Guards, the Paras and the Gurkhas untouched.
The Army trained establishment will be cut from its current target of 108,500 to a target of 102,000 by 2008. Meanwhile the strength of the Army's armoured and artillery formations will also be reduced.
Responding to the changes, Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram said: "This is a dark day for our armed forces. And an even darker day for the proud regiments it seeks to scrap. It is also a day of shame for this discredited and ineffective Defence Secretary."
As veterans organisations mounted a major protest, Mr Ancram blamed the cuts on Gordon Brown. "The Secretary of State says that this is all about reorganisation. But this statement is not driven by a need to reorganise. It is driven by the Chancellor's demand for financial cuts," he said.
The Shadow minister told conservatives.com: "These swingeing cuts to the army must be seen alongside equally dangerous reductions in the number of surface warships and compulsory redundancies in the RAF. Our armed forces deserve better than to be betrayed in this appalling manner by their Government."
Warning that the changes were "dangerous for our country", Mr Ancram declared: "Today we face considerable threats from terrorism at home and abroad. We have a grossly overstretched Army undertaking major military deployments overseas.
"Since the strategic defence review our Armed Forces have effectively been conducting continual concurrent operations, deploying further afield, to more places, more frequently and with a greater variety of missions than was assumed. We still have our obligations in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, and Cyprus. And the Government's own White Paper anticipates that around the world these obligations will increase. Even as we speak our soldiers are fighting in Iraq, where we expect to remain until 2008 at least. I am sure the whole House welcomes the Black Watch back with pride. We are under pressure to increase our commitment to Afghanistan. And to meet some of these burdens since 1999 approximately 30% of the TA have been mobilised to support the regular Army on operations overseas. So today's decision flies in face of reality. There is a serious military case for more infantry, not less."
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