On 24 July 2006, Official Report, columns 71-72WS, my predecessor announced the establishment of a project team to examine in detail opportunities for further rationalisation of our basing arrangements in Germany, through the exploitation of UK defence estate opportunities, including the possible relocation 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. This followed on from the earlier announcement by the then Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for Airdrie and Shotts (John Reid), of the move of 4 Mechanised Brigade (4 Mech Bde) to the UK from Germany and our intention to take the opportunity to make further adjustments to our forces in Germany, where it made sense to do so. My predecessor also announced a series of minor moves which, in addition to the move of 4 Mech Bde, will enable the closure of Osnabrück Station (one of two stations that comprise Osnabrück Garrison). He explained that the project team would examine the feasibility of further moves which would enable the closure of Münster Station—the other element of Osnabrück Garrison—and thereby Osnabrück Garrison as a whole. The relocation of HQ ARRC, 102 Log Bde and 1 Sig Bde would also enable us to close Rhine Garrison in the period 2010-2014, concentrating our Germany-based forces in Bergen-Hohne, Paderborn and Gütersloh Garrisons.
Today, I am announcing that, having examined the findings of the project team’s initial review, I have decided that Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (HQ ARRC), 102 Logistic Brigade (102 Log Bde) and 1 Signal Brigade (1 Sig Bde) should move to the UK over the period 2009-2014. This initial decision will need to be confirmed following scrutiny of the detailed plans for the moves. The site currently occupied by the RAF at Innsworth in Gloucestershire has been selected as the most suitable for HQ ARRC and its supporting elements, and RAF Cosford in Shropshire is the project team’s recommended site for 1 Sig Bde and 102 Log Bde. We will continue to assess other sites for the two brigades until such a time as Cosford’s future defence use has been decided. Securing the final approval for this work will also mean that a series of other moves will take place within Germany, which would lead to the closure of Rhine Garrison and Münster Station, the latter completing the closure of Osnabrück Garrison, by 2014.
The project team’s work will now focus on drawing up detailed plans for all the moves, including additional infrastructure requirements at the selected UK sites and a clear timetable. This work will start with the proposed move of HQ ARRC. The team will consult with all interested parties, including local county councils, health and education providers and trades unions. In Germany, we will continue to engage with the relevant authorities and employee representatives at national and local levels.
Our NATO allies have been notified of this decision, including the German Government as host nation.
Although we may make further modest adjustments to our force levels in Germany, our plan remains to base UK forces there in the form of HQ 1 (UK) Armoured Division and the majority of its formations and supporting units, some 15,000 service personnel, 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 defence relationship between the UK and Germany.