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Libya (Bilateral Support)

Volume 566: debated on Tuesday 9 July 2013

On 19 June, my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, informed the House that at the G8 summit in Lough Erne, the United Kingdom, with other G8 nations, offered to train more than 7,000 troops to help the Libyan Government disarm and integrate militias and improve security and stability of the country. I wish to inform the House that as part of this, the UK has offered to train up to 2,000 Libyan armed forces personnel in basic infantry skills.

The Government firmly believe that a stable, open and democratic Libya contributing to wider regional stability and security is in the UK’s interest. That is why we are working closely with the US and other European countries, to lead the broader international effort, co-ordinated by the UN support mission in Libya (UNSMIL), to support Libya’s democratic transition and the Libyan authorities’ efforts to make visible improvements in public security in Libya.

The training of 2,000 Libyan armed forces personnel is part of a broader package of defence and security assistance that we have developed with the US, France and Italy to support the Libyan Government’s efforts to increase the effectiveness and capacity of its security and justice sector institutions; and to ensure the state’s monopoly on security. Other aspects include increased training for the Libyan police and further support to improve Libya’s border security through the EU border mission. The Libyan Government specifically requested the UK to provide this training for the armed forces because of the UK’s vast expertise and reputation in this field. The Libyan Government have agreed to pay for this training.

This further assistance builds on the UK’s existing and planned support to Libya on such areas as security; building accountable and human rights compliant security and justice structures; creating transparent and effective financial management, strengthening private sector development and economic governance systems in Libya.

Under current plans prepared by the Ministry of Defence, up to 2,000 Libyan armed forces personnel will be brought to the UK. They will visit in a series of smaller groups and will be trained by British Army personnel in basic infantry skills and junior leadership training at the Bassingbourn barracks in Cambridgeshire. We estimate that each course will be for a minimum of 10 weeks. The vetting of trainees will be a key component of this plan. We have requested the Libyan authorities to screen fully all trainees for medical, physical and behavioural suitability. We have sought guarantees from the Libyan authorities that all those successfully trained will return to Libya to be reintegrated into the Libyan armed forces.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is working with the Home Office and Ministry of Defence to ensure that security and immigration controls will be maintained on those who arrive to undertake the training. Trainees who do not pass the vetting or immigration assurance processes will not be allowed to travel to the UK.

Detailed planning is under way and we continue to work on the specific terms of our assistance with the Libyan Government. We will also be engaging closely with the local authorities and community. I will update Parliament further as these plans develop.