I was proud to take part in a debate at Westminster arguing against the Government’s decision to axe the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. I know that the Regiment means a great deal to people in Salford, with a proud history dating back to the Lancashire Fusiliers.
The Fusiliers trace their history back to 1685 and they have fought in every major engagement since. In 2009, the 2nd Battalion had their homecoming parade in Salford following a tour of Afghanistan in which seven Fusiliers were killed in action and many others wounded. Among the seven men killed in Afghanistan was Fusilier Simon Annis from Cadishead. Simon died while trying to save his section commander and he was described as a shining example of what selfless commitment really means.
Now Simon’s family is faced with the heartless decision to axe the Battalion in which he served. This decision was made by Government Ministers despite the fact that the regiment has a strong current record of recruitment and is the only army regiment set to grow in the next six months.
Before the debate in the Commons hundreds of former Fusiliers, including men from Salford, made a historic march on Parliament. When I and other MPs were speaking in the debate the Fusilier veterans packed into the Commons gallery. So it was deeply disturbing to hear reports that the Government Minister in the debate had tried to get the veterans cleared from the gallery for making too much noise.
The behaviour of Ministers and decisions like the one to axe the 2nd Battalion show that this Government is out of touch with most people. David Cameron and George Osborne have been described as two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk. It is worse still that they don’t seem to understand or respect the sacrifice made by fallen soldiers like those in the 2nd Battalion. I hope they listen to the strong arguments made in Parliament to save the Battalion, with its proud campaign history and strong links to Salford.