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Training (Foreign Forces)

Volume 26: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will review the policy on which invitations to foreign Governments to send members of their armed forces for training in the United Kingdom is based.

It has long been our practice to provide military training for other countries. Each case is examined taking into account defence, foreign policy and economic considerations, together with the availability of places and the qualification of the individual student. I see no need to review that practice.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that over the years members of the armed forces of countries with appalling human rights records have been trained in the United Kingdom? Does he recognise that many believe that it was disgraceful that Argentine soldiers were trained in this country practically until the conflict broke out, especially in view of Argentina's shameful human rights record? Does not this demonstrate the need to change the basis of the Government policy, which is totally unsatisfactory and discridited?

This is a difficult policy to apply. We apply the criteria that I have described. Argentine military personnel received military training in the United Kingdom in every year from 1975 to 1978.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that while we train some foreigners we exclude from our Armed Forces a good number of British subjects because of their ethnic origins, especially the Poles, of whom many live in my constituency? Their parents left Poland 40 years ago. Surely it is about time that my right hon. Friend reviewed this policy.

With respect to my hon. Friend, I think that his supplementary question falls slightly outside the original question. However, I shall gladly consider the effect of it.