HC Deb 04 February 1970 vol 795 c425
46. Mr. Goodhew

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the provision of desert training for the armed forces after the withdrawal from Libya.

Mr. Healey

There is no long-term requirement for desert training as such for our armed forces.

Mr. Goodhew

How can the right hon. Gentleman make such a statement? Is he suggesting that there is no possibility ever again of British armed forces having to operate in desert conditions? Why was he so ready to dismiss the suggestion, put by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), about the use of Sharjah in the Persian Gulf? Does not he, recognise that withdrawal from that area has become stupid and that it would he wiser to ensure a continuing presence there to maintain training?

Mr. Healey

I did not dismiss the suggestion of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane). I said that it was under consideration. The British forces in Libya are there primarily because it has very large under-populated and unpopulated areas where it is possible to carry out large-scale training, both land and air, in conditions which it is difficult to find in any other part of the world near Europe. Desert training is a secondary factor, even in Libya.