Armed Forces: Germany

– in the House of Lords at 11:05 am on 16th February 2006.

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Photo of Lord Selsdon Lord Selsdon Conservative 11:05 am, 16th February 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

For how long it is planned that British troops should remain at military bases in Germany.

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, with the continued agreement of the German Government, we envisage that sizeable British forces will remain in Germany for many years to come.

Photo of Lord Selsdon Lord Selsdon Conservative

My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that rather nice platonic reply, I remind her and the House that this is the 60th anniversary of the creation of Nordrhein-Westfalen, where most of our troops are based and where we, the British, played an important role in that creation. British troops have also played an important part in the communities throughout Nordrhein-Westfalen. In which parts of Nordrhein-Westfalen are troops based, and how many are there, with their families? Will she give an assurance that, in any attempts to remove troops, full consultation will take place with the mayors of the regions concerned?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the bilateral relationship between our country and Germany with regard to our troops based in Germany has been a very good, strong and warm relationship at all levels, from schools upwards. Plans have been announced by the Secretary of State, as the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, will know, for relocation of 4th Armoured Brigade to become the Mechanised Brigade, and that will take place over the next two or three years. Of course those plans have been discussed with the German authorities at all levels—Lander, federal and Stadt. We are talking about the stations in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, the Rhine garrisons, Osnabrück, Münster, Hohne and Paderborn.

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Shadow Minister, Defence, Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs, Shadow Minister, International Development

My Lords, the MoD's estate is shrinking fast in this country, and a number of troops will be returning home. Can the noble Baroness assure the House that those troops will have sufficient barracks accommodation in this country and, as important, ready access to sufficient quality training areas?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

Yes, my Lords, I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Astor, that that will be the case. The relocation of 4th Armoured Brigade will be to Catterick when it becomes the Mechanised Brigade. The noble Lord will know, because he follows these things very closely, that this is all about future army structures—rebalancing from heavy and light forces to heavy, medium and light forces.

Photo of Lord Garden Lord Garden Spokesperson in the Lords, Defence

My Lords, in a Written Statement on 30 January on troop levels in Germany, the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, said that he would envisage sizeable forces remaining there for the long term. That is slightly curious, given that Germany is in a rather different state from when we first put forces there. Training opportunities have reduced, and extra costs are associated with overseas deployment as well as the extra personnel movements that are required. Has there been an investment appraisal since resource account budgeting was introduced into the Ministry of Defence to show whether there would be some long-term savings to be had by moving the Army—progressively over time—back from Germany?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the noble Lord is right to ask what appraisals have been done. I hope I can reassure him that comprehensive investment appraisals were completed for the relocation of 4th Armoured Brigade and all costs involved are contained in the Government's approved spending plans. As for the suitability of Germany for our training, we see Germany as continuing to give the British Army access to real quality training provision and, once we are in Germany, access to training provision in eastern Europe.

Photo of Lord Kilclooney Lord Kilclooney Crossbench

My Lords, as the Americans are thinking of reducing their presence in Germany and moving their troops further east because the reason for being in Germany is now somewhat outdated—60 years ago there was the Soviet Union and so on—is thought being given by the United Kingdom Government to moving our troops out of Germany and further east?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, as I made clear in my original Answer, we have made a commitment to stay in Germany with sizeable numbers of troops for the foreseeable future. We see Germany as a terrific training asset. We always see our need for a capability for heavy armoured divisions, and the training for those takes place in Germany, eastern Europe and Canada.

Photo of Lord Tomlinson Lord Tomlinson Labour

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one of the important lessons that came from the Saif Sareea exercise was that tanks, for example, that operated extremely well on the plains of Germany where troops were training were less than useful when they got into sandy, desert conditions? We have to have much more appropriate climatic and ground conditions for some of our training than that which is available in Germany and dates from a time when we saw the enemy as somewhat different from what we see today.

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I very much agree with my noble friend's analysis. As I have said, Germany is not the only country and area for our training, but the training in Germany is still very relevant to the needs of the modern British Army.

Photo of Lord Lyell Lord Lyell Conservative

My Lords, can the Minister put my mind at rest? She mentioned Lower Saxony, but am I right in thinking that some 20,000 of our soldiers are in North Rhine-Westphalia? She mentioned Paderborn and Hohne. Are they concentrated in that area, and is she including 4th Mechanised Brigade in Münster? If she could write to me, it would put my mind at rest.

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the brigades are: 7th Armoured Brigade in Hohne and Celle, 20th Armoured Brigade in Paderborn, and 4th Armoured Brigade, based in Osnabrück and Münster, which we are talking about relocating to Catterick.