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German Troops (Training, Pembrokeshire)

Volume 641: debated on Sunday 7 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Defence whether he will make a statement on the agreement reached by the British and German Governments regarding the training of German troops in Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire.

I have been asked to reply.

I have nothing to add at present to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on 30th May.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as my constituency is involved, so far as I can tell there is no local feeling about this? Nevertheless, may I ask him for some explanation? Will he explain why it is essential for these Germans to come here instead of having training facilities in Germany? Secondly, will he say what is actually involved, the numbers, and so on? Thirdly, will he say whether these German troops will be under the general command of the tank range commander?

As regards the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I think that the answer is because the present demand for training areas is so great that it would otherwise be impossible for the Germans to fulfil their N.A.T.O. commitments. The second part of the supplementary question was, I think, about the extent to which this proposal runs. It is still, of course, only a proposal, but the proposal is for one battalion in the first instance. The hon. Gentleman is right in the assumption in the last part of his supplementary question. It will, of course, be under the range authorities.

As there seems to have been some misunderstanding about this, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether there is anything new about German soldiers serving and training in England? For how many years has it been going on?

There is something new in this proposition, to the extent that we are considering according German armoured units some facilities for training at Castlemartin, but I do not think that there is any difference in principle. The principle is the same as allowing our American allies to have facilities in the Hebrides.