Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Monday, 22 October 2012 16:34 UK

Minister denies complaining about soldiers at Commons debate

Armed Forces Minister Andrew Robathan has said reports that he complained about the behaviour of former soldiers attending a recent Commons debate on defence cuts are "entirely untrue".

Mr Robathan reportedly asked deputy Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle to clear the public gallery during last Thursday's debate on the government's decision to axe the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (2RRF), because they were making too much noise.

At defence questions on 22 October 2012, Labour MP Angela Smith urged ministers to explain what had really happened.

"There's a degree of confusion now over what happened in the debate last Thursday," she said.

"So can I ask the secretary of state to confirm that the minister for the armed forces approached the Speaker's chair about the conduct of the fusiliers in the public gallery?"

Mr Robathan said he was "grateful to the honourable lady for letting me set the record straight".

"I have the greatest respect for ex-armed services personnel, including the fusiliers who were in the gallery last Thursday," he continued.

"I believe that anybody should be allowed to watch our proceedings from the public gallery because it's a very important part of the democratic process."

But he finished: "What she alleges is entirely untrue."

Later in the question session, Mr Robathan suggested the Commons vote that concluded last Thursday's debate, when MPs voted by 57 to three to urge the government "to reverse its decision" on scrapping the battalion would have little impact.

"We listened very carefully to that which was said," he told MPs.

"But at the moment I do not think that it is the intention of the House that a vote in such a debate should be binding on the government."

The motion agreed by MPs said "this House opposes the disbandment of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (2RRF)".

Other questions encompassed support given to service leavers when re-entering civilian life, the proposed merger of BAE Systems and EADS, and the Iranian nuclear programme.

Defence: Government and opposition

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