Page last updated at 18:18 GMT, Thursday, 10 November 2011

Armed forces debate part one

There is a risk that public awareness of the armed forces could diminish when British troops withdraw from Afghanistan, Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey has said.

Opening a general debate on the armed forces on 10 November 2011, the eve of Armistice Day, Mr Harvey said the media attention "quite rightly" devoted to the conflict had a "consequent impact upon the public recognition of and awareness of the work that the armed forces are doing".

However, with the UK's fighting role in Afghanistan due to end in 2015 Mr Harvey conceded this "might constitute some risk that the public awareness of the daily and regular actions of the armed forces may diminish".

But he added that UK troops could find themselves in action elsewhere, telling MPs: "In an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world, I fear it is unlikely to be the case that our armed forces will disappear into a period of invisibility or inactivity."

He was responding to a brief intervention in his speech by Conservative MP Julian Brazier.

Mr Harvey said the way the people of Royal Wootton Bassett marked the return of the fallen was "testament" to the nation's "respect and esteem" for the armed forces.

And stressing the importance of upholding the military covenant he said it was vital to "raise the understanding people have about the impact of service life".

For Labour, Kevan Jones attacked the government's announcement earlier that day on the withdrawal of British military personnel stationed in Germany.

The shadow defence minister questioned why it had not been included in that morning's written ministerial statement on troop reorganisation within the UK.

He said both the statement and plans to pull out of Germany "raise more questions than they answer" and questioned the £250m the government expects the move to save, telling MPs that when he was a defence minister the cost of bringing troops back from Germany was estimated at about £3bn.

Mr Harvey told him the plans involved 570 people and that "these sorts of things take place all the time".

But Mr Jones reject his comments telling the minister he was "completely wrong".

"These are major reorganisations which will affect many thousands of armed service personnel, civil servants and their families," he added.


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