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19Th Brigade Group (Exercise)

Volume 644: debated on Wednesday 12 July 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for War why the exercise planned for the 19th Brigade Group in Portugal was cancelled; and what alternative exercise is planned.


asked the Secretary of State for War what plans he now has for training exercises for the United Kingdom-based strategic reserve.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained in answer to a Question by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) on 6th July, the commitments for our forces and aircraft elsewhere made it necessary to postpone the exercise planned for the 19th Brigade Group in Portugal. The battalion exercise in Canada to which I referred in my Estimates speech is going ahead as planned. The re-arrangement of other overseas exercises must be postponed until we know how long our commitments in the Persian Gulf will continue; but of course the present moves of part of the strategic reserve are in themselves excellent and realistic training.

But is not that the wrong reason for having done the right thing? Would it not be very much better if we agreed now that this whole proposal to have an exercise in Portugal was politically most undesirable?

If it was not politically undesirable when we last discussed it, I do not see what has made it so now.

Will the Secretary of State give a plain assurance that, while the present shocking situation continues in Angola, we shall have no military exercise of any kind in Portugal?

I cannot give any such undertaking. Let us be realistic about this. I think that we must postpone this exercise for practical reasons for the time being, but I shall wish, if it is possible, to carry out an exercise of this sort at a future time because I believe that it will help our troops. That is the criterion by which we judge the matter.