Wales politics

Liam Fox announces plans for St Athan military base

The UK government has said more servicemen and women will be stationed at a south Wales military base that is home to an elite special forces unit.

Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said he intends to increase capacity at St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan.

A planned £14bn defence academy there was axed last year.

In a statement to MPs on the defence review Mr Fox also said plans to scrap the Army's headquarters in Wales at Brecon had been dropped.

He said St Athan would remain at its current size "for now" but would expand in the future.

Vale of Glamorgan Conservative MP Alun Cairns said it meant a bright future for the base.

In his statement, Dr Fox said: "We will retain St Athan at its current size for now but intend to increase its usage to take full advantage of the excellent facilities there."

Mr Cairns said: "There is exciting news for St Athan - it relates to some of the special operations that go on there but by its very nature that means we are restricted about what can be said.

"I'm delighted that Liam Fox has agreed to come down and meet community leaders and to share with them what he can share with them but all I would say is it's very good news for St Athan."

Defence chiefs had been considering merger plans that could have led to the end of the Army's administrative headquarters in Wales.

Dr Fox also told MPs 160 Wales Brigade would remain at Brecon.

The £14bn defence training academy, which would have created 2,000 jobs at St Athan, was scrapped in October.

The project was axed as the UK government announced cuts of up to 8% in the defence budget.

'Partial U-turn'

Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy described the St Athan announcement as "good news", adding: "We will look at the small print with renewed care."

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said the announcement was a "clear example of our commitment to defence in Wales".

"With its headquarters in Brecon, the 160 Brigade has a proud history in Wales and I was delighted to be able to visit their stand at the Royal Welsh to share the good news.

"We will continue to have a presence at St Athan and will take the opportunity to move further Armed Forces' units there, to make the most effective use of the site."

Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said he welcomed the government's "partial U turn" on jobs at St Athan.

"However, it's deeply disappointing that the government is still refusing to go ahead with Labour's plans for a Defence Training Academy which would bring thousands more highly skilled jobs to south Wales which are badly needed," he added.

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