David Cameron promises 'rigorous analysis' of Staffords' future
PRIME Minister David Cameron has vowed to listen to campaigners fighting to save the name of the Staffords.
The Tory Premier has agreed to consider all options before a final decision is made.
He has made the promise after it emerged more than 13,000 people across Staffordshire and further afield have now signed a petition in protest at plans to scrap the Staffords.
It was launched after the Government unveiled plans to reduce the number of soldiers in the Army by 20,000.
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MPs representing Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire have addressed Mr Cameron in a letter urging him to reconsider.
In his reply, he said: "I understand those serving with the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment (Staffords), veterans and associated families will be bitterly disappointed by the announcement that the battalion is being withdrawn from the Order of Battle.
"I also know how important it is to both serving personnel and to local communities to retain and honour the history and traditions of the Staffords.
"I am hugely aware of the debt we owe our soldiers, sailors and airmen and would like to assure you that I have the highest admiration for the work which all our Armed Forces are doing to protect and support our nation.
"No decisions have yet been made by the Army on the remaining battalions or regiments affected, but I know they will be taken carefully after a rigorous analysis of options."
He added: "Please be assured that we are making every effort to introduce the changes as smoothly as possible for our Armed Forced personnel and their families.
"The regimental family will play a key role in ensuring that this is preserved and that the bravery of those of the battalion who have made the ultimate sacrifice is never forgotten."
Staffordshire Moorlands MP Karen Bradley welcomed Mr Cameron's support.
She said: "The Prime Minister has confirmed what we have already learned and it seems he is keen to see the history and the traditions of the Staffords retained and he has recognised how important the regiment is.
"It is now down to the Army to make the decision and we are now waiting for that.
"I only hope the Prime Minister's support can be used to encourage them to save the regiment."
MP Joan Walley, who represents Stoke-on-Trent North, said: "This is a fight that has to be won and at the very least the name has to be retained.
"This is an issue the Government needs to respond to with complete openness and transparency, and must not exclude anyone from its discussions.
"The sooner the Prime Minister recognises that the Government must reconsider the better.
"Our serving Armed Forces personnel have a strong sense of affinity with the battalion and I completely stand by the Staffords."
Tristram Hunt, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, added: "For the soldiers, the families and the veterans we need some clarity about the future of the Staffords.
"It would be great if we could keep the name and the heritage whether or not that means a merger with the Cheshire regiment or something else."