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Volume 644: debated on Wednesday 12 July 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for War what troops are now committed in Kuwait.

There are at this moment in Kuwait two Royal Marine Commandos and three battalions of infantry with tanks, armoured cars and guns in support. There are also, of course, detachments from all the administrative services.

Can the Secretary of State say how the fulfilment of this commitment has affected the deployment of our troops in Aden, Kenya, Cyprus and at home?

That is a much wider question which I hope, particularly as the hon. Gentleman is talking about troops in general, he will put down to the Minister of Defence.

My right hon. Friend says that there are guns in Kuwait. Would he say if there are any anti-tank guns there?

I would not like to be drawn into the individual details of all the weapons. As I am sure my hon. Friend will understand, there is a point beyond which one cannot go in giving individual information. This is a balanced force which has with it the arms and equipment which are necessary for the operations it was thought it might have to undertake.

Was any part of the 19th Brigade Group, which was intended to undertake the exercises in Portugal, sent to Kuwait? If none of them are there, where are they?

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman did not fully understand an Answer that I gave earlier. If he will look at it he will see that part of the 19th Brigade Group is now in Kenya and has taken the place of troops who were moved from Kenya to Kuwait. Part of the 19th Brigade Group is still in this country.

Will the Secretary of State amplify statements which have been made today that certain of these units are now being withdrawn?

I cannot amplify them, except to say that some units are being withdrawn and some will continue to be withdrawn as the commander-in-chief feels that the situation warrants. As these units are withdrawn we propose to make announcements of the names of the units.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that many of us believe that the essential thing in the deployment of our forces is that we should have balanced formations wherever they happen to be. His news that only part of the 19th Brigade Group is now in Kenya is somewhat disturbing, if it is to be taken to mean that that formation has been split up with some component parts being employed independently.

I did not say that it was being employed independently. When we moved certain troops from Kenya to Kuwait it was felt right that we should increase the number of troops which were held as a local theatre reserve in Kenya. This operation started to the extent that I have reported to the House, but, in view of the fact that things are more stable in Kuwait and it is even intended to withdraw some of the troops there, the rest of the movement operation of the 19th Brigade Group has for the time being stopped and, in due course, the one bit will join the other.


asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements have been made to relieve troops in Kuwait.

Is the Secretary of State aware that I am not asking about the withdrawal of troops, but the relief of them on a rotational basis, as mentioned by the Minister of Defence yesterday? In view of the extremely difficult conditions under which our troops are operating in Kuwait, what is the maximum amount of time it is proposed to leave any individual there in an exposed position before relief?

It is too early yet for the position to be precise, because during a period when there may still have to be some active operation the removal or rotation of troops must be on an ad hoc basis. As and when things settle down, we will be able to evolve plans, which are now being thought out, to do things on a proper basis. When things settle down it will be our intention not to leave these soldiers in Kuwait for more than a few months at a time.

While welcoming that statement, will my right hon. Friend also assure us that British forces will not be relieved or ousted by the United Nations?

That is a much wider question with which the Minister of Defence dealt yesterday.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what he means when he says "when we settle down in Kuwait"? Is it not true that we are there because of a specific request by the Ruler of Kuwait, one man, and that whether we leave or not depends upon the veto of this gentleman?

I do not think that I said "when we settle down". If I did, I meant to say "when things settle down". My right hon. Friend made it plain yesterday that we are there at the request of the Ruler, and when the Ruler asks us to leave and says that he is happy, we shall be only too glad to leave, as my right hon. Friend said. There may be a period in between, which I think is the period that the hon. Gentleman had in mind, and during that period, if it exists, we shall try to rotate the troops.