Afghanistan Force Protection

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Does not this terrible tragedy reveal a central fault line in the Government’s strategy, the same one that was apparent in the Government whom I served—namely, the inability to engage beyond President Karzai’s Government to the wider fiefdoms at local and regional level, and to the Taliban themselves? Until that is done—until a political strategy is successfully pursued—our forces will continue to be attacked, killed and maimed in this fashion, and that cannot be right.

Mr Hammond: I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the long-term solution to the problem in Afghanistan must involve a political solution, and the pressure is very much on Afghan political leaders, and those in neighbouring countries, to bring that progress about. In the meantime, our task is to ensure that Afghan national security forces provide the security envelope within which any such political settlement can be deployed.

Royal Welsh Battalion

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): What sort of reward for bravery is it that 600 members of the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh could be faced with the sack? Is it not disingenuous for the Secretary of State to say that 19,000 soldiers will be sacked, but that those from a particular battalion, such as the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh, might somehow be miraculously redeployed? Those two statements do not add up.

Mr Hammond: Well, I am afraid that they do. I remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman was a member of the Cabinet that was responsible for the underlying fiscal shambles that is the cause of many of the things that we are having to do. Whether or not someone is serving in a unit that is to be withdrawn will make them no more or less likely to be selected for redundancy under future tranches of the Army redundancy programme, which will deliver the manpower reductions announced in July 2011.