CONSERVATIVE party leader, Mr William Hague, and his wife Ffion, were among the first customers at the opening of a new Tesco store in Catterick Garrison.

The Hagues performed the opening ceremony at the store on Monday, complete with a military fanfare from the Normandy band of the Queen's Division, which is based at the garrison.

Tesco has created 300 new jobs at the £15m store as part of a ground-breaking partnership with the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Hague said: "This is a major boost for employment in the area and is extremely welcome. The work done here is making Catterick Garrison into a town centre and that's a tremendous improvement for the area."

Col Nick Gaskell, commander of the garrison, said the opening of the store marked the beginning of a new era.

"The store is the first tangible development in our pursuit of creating a vibrant town centre to serve the British Army in the 21st century," he said. "Tesco has been eagerly awaited not only by the servicemen, women and their families but by the local community as a whole. I am sure the store will prosper and act as the catalyst for further enhancement to the quality of life in the garrison."

Store manager Mr Gary Simpson said he and his staff were looking forward to the new challenge and to building strong links with the community.

He added: "The recruitment centre has been working flat out with a staggering 800 people attending the open days, hoping to secure a job with Tesco.

"Three hundred new staff have now been recruited. They have been busy training in the run up to the store opening to ensure that our new customers are treated with the best in customer service."