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Force Levels in Germany

Volume 449: debated on Monday 24 July 2006

The then Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for Airdrie and Shotts (John Reid), announced on 30 January 2006, Official Report, column 3WS the move of 4 Mechanised Brigade (4 Armoured Brigade) to the UK from Germany. At the same time, we made clear that we would take the opportunity to make further adjustments to our forces in Germany, where it made sense to do so. I want today to announce that an initial review of the opportunities for further rationalisation of our basing arrangements in Germany has developed proposals for the possible return to the UK of Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (HQ ARRC), 102 Logistic Brigade (102 Log Bde) and 1 Signal Brigade (1 Sig Bde), over the period 2008-2012, including identifying exactly where these units will be based in the UK. A project team is being established to assess these proposals in greater detail, and to determine whether they are practicable and offer value for money. An important part of the team's remit will be to consider in more depth where in the UK we could re-locate HQ ARRC and the two brigades. The team will produce an initial report around the end of the year; it is unlikely that we will be in a position to announce final decisions until well into 2007.

I have notified our NATO allies, including the German Government as host nation, of our plans, and the Chief of the Defence Staff has written to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe in view of the HQ ARRC's assignment as Headquarters NATO Rapid Deployment Corps (UK).

Separately, we also plan a series of minor moves within Germany which will lead to the closure of Osnabrück Station from early 2009. This will entail moving 1 Close Support Medical Regiment (1 CSMR) from its current base in Münster Station to alternative British army estate in Germany, and replacing them with another unit, the identity of which will be determined by further analysis. These moves will enable Osnabrück Station to close. Subject to the conclusions of the project team, further moves are envisaged in due course that would enable us to close Münster Station and therefore Osnabrück Garrison as a whole. The current planning assumption is that this would not take place before 2010. The relocation of HQ ARRC, 102 Log Bde and 1 Sig Bde would also enable us to close Rhine Garrison in the period 2010-2012. This will concentrate our Germany-based forces in Hohne, Paderborn and Gutersloh garrisons.

We also plan to return 12 Regiment Royal Artillery from Paderborn to the UK as early as summer 2007, as we re-organise our air defence regiments and capitalise on UK based facilities for High Velocity Missile Stormer vehicles. As a result, 12 Regiment will collocate with 47 Regiment Royal Artillery at Thorney Island. Consequently, 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, which we had previously envisaged moving from Woolwich to Thorney Island, will now be based in North Luffenham in summer 2007. In order to enable the necessary re-balancing in Germany, 12 Regiment's barracks in Paderborn will be occupied by another unit, the identity of which will be determined by further analysis.

We will continue to make further modest adjustments to our force levels in Germany, but our plan remains to base UK forces in the country, in the form of 1 Armoured Division and its supporting units, for many years to come. These moves and the work of the project team in no way signal a change in either our commitment to the NATO Alliance or in our overall defence policy, nor do they in any way devalue the continued close bilateral relationship between the UK and Germany.