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Service Personnel (Germany)

Volume 518: debated on Monday 8 November 2010

6. What timetable he has set for the return of service personnel garrisoned in Germany; and if he will make a statement. (22166)

As the Prime Minister announced on 19 October in the House, as part of the strategic defence and security review, the Government have decided to accelerate the rebasing of the 20,000 military personnel in Germany with a view to returning half those personnel to the UK by 2015, and the remainder by 2020.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that whatever decisions are made, we continue to consult our German allies closely while also showing our thanks to the many communities throughout northern Germany that, for 65 years, have welcomed our troops as neighbours, friends and, principally, as defenders?

I am happy to give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks. I echo his comments about the outstanding support and friendship that the German people have given our forces over many decades. We recognise that the decision has significant implications for them. We will consult closely the German authorities at all levels as our plans develop.

In his statement to the House on 19 October, the Prime Minister said that changes in the Ministry of Defence would save £4.7 billion and that that would be

“made easier by the return of the Army from Germany.”—[Official Report, 19 October 2010; Vol. 516, c. 798.]

However, the Minister stated in a written answer on 27 October that it is

“too early to say what the financial impact will be”.—[Official Report, 27 October 2010; Vol. 517, c. 369W.]

Given that confusion, will he tell us whether there will be early cash savings or, in fact, significant early costs associated with the move?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Dispatch Box in his new role and congratulate him on his appointment. Work is in hand to start on a detailed rebasing plan. He is right to assume that moving troops back from Germany will involve an initial up-front cost, but it is important to stress that big savings will be made in the long term, because there are implicitly high costs involved in maintaining troops in Germany, and the operational rationale for their being there ceased long ago.