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Attack and defence: Welsh Labour MPs on manoeuvres

It was more about attack than defence when Swansea East MP Sian James led a debate in the House of Commons today focussing on the future of defence training in St. Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Since the £14bn scheme to set up a training academy for all three forces at the former RAF base was scrapped in October it’s become one of the pieces of evidence that Labour and Plaid Cymru politicians point to as proof of the “contempt” they claim the UK government shows towards Wales.

Supporters of the Westminster coalition, however,  have repeatedly said St Athan is still in the running even though the scheme as planned has been scrapped.

Which is why today’s debate was a chance to try to get some clarity on exactly how St Athan is still in the running.

Answering for the government, Defence Minister Andrew Robathan said the previous government’s plan was simply unaffordable.

But he said the MoD still thinks bringing training together is a good idea and that St Athan is one of the sites being considered as part of a review.

He couldn’t say when that review would end other than to say it would be within the next few months.

I don’t like using military metaphors if I can help it but it seems unavoidable given the way the debate turned out.

Mr Robathan, who has an army background, battled through a barrage of mockery from Labour MPs when he denied the government was anti-Welsh because his great-grandfather was from Risca and his grandfather from Llandaff.

He said he was surprised by “how extraordinarily narrow and partisan” his first Welsh debate was.

And the non-Welsh MPs  who were members of the defence select committee drafted in to bump up the numbers on the government side were also taken aback by the heckling, barracking and repeated calls for interventions coming from the Labour benches.

“Government ringers” was Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith’s repeated accusation to the English MPs.

This approach will be no surprise to aficionados of recent Welsh Grand Committee meetings.

But one of the Labour MPs I spoke to afterwards quietly wondered if it’s the right approach and whether or not the “oppositional” attack technique took up too much time and, in so doing, let the minister off the hook.



About Adrian Masters

By day, Political Editor at ITV Wales. By night, obsessed with music and books.


One thought on “Attack and defence: Welsh Labour MPs on manoeuvres

  1. What are Welsh MPs doing in Westminster, they have their own government.
    Like their Scottish counterparts they only come alive when they smell English money.
    Idependence would solve all problems and they can take the whole of Westminster with them. They are welcome to Labour and the Libs and who gives a damn what happens to McCameron and his lot so long as it is not pleasant.

    Posted by Fred Forsythe (not the) | December 31, 2010, 10:52 am

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