Last week in the Commons I again raised the question of the Dale Barracks. The current government has a daft idea to close the barracks, and move all the soldiers based there to Weeton Barracks, north of Preston.
In fact they want to move all the army in the North West to Weeton. Like putting all our eggs in the one basket.
It’s a bad idea for a number of reasons. Obviously I like having the army in Chester, we are historically a garrison town. But there are more than emotional reasons.
Operationally it means the army has contact with fewer areas, which damages recruitment. It also means soldiers have further to travel on operations in the North West. For example, can you imagine a bomb disposal team trying to get down the M6 from Preston on a Friday afternoon?
The local schools in Upton are skilled in caring for children from service families, who have to move about a lot so have less stability.
And the soldiers and their families like living in Chester, which means they are more likely to stay in the army because they are happy.
Sadly that might not be an advantage anymore, because last week the government announced another cut to the size of the armed forces.
We will now have the smallest army in 300 years, a Royal Navy with insufficient ships, and in real terms the defence budget has fallen by £8 billion.
This at a time when the world is becoming more dangerous with threats from Russia and China increasing and the terrorist threat still present.
The government argues that it is now increasing spending on defence, and that it wants to have more specialisms such as a capability in cyber warfare and more dedicated Special Forces soldiers.
Both of which are fine, but we only get those capabilities by having enough soldiers in the first place, and cutting the size of the army again won’t help our ability to fight a war.
Let alone all the other tasks our armed services do such as aid work, training and support to civilian operations in a crisis.
But there is another problem.
Boris Johnson made a clear promise at the last General Election not to cut the size of the army, and eighteen months later he is breaking that promise. And every time sadly our Prime Minister doesn’t seem to care.
The Dale Barracks won’t close before 2027 but here’s a promise now, which I will keep: I am proud of Chester’s association with our armed services, I cherish those links and so I won’t stop fighting to keep the British Army presence in Chester.