HC Deb 11 March 1971 vol 813 cc562-3
14. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Minister of State for Defence what was the average mileage covered in 1970 by Chieftain tanks stationed in the British Army of the Rhine; and what training in desert conditions is being carried out by regiments armed with Chieftains.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

It is not in the public interest to state the precise mileage covered but a satisfactory level of training has been attained. No desert training is being carried out by regiments armed with Chieftains.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that a difficulty has arisen over the supply of spares and that out in B.A.O.R. the amount of time that these tanks are on the road is minimal because of that difficulty? In view of the fact that there is no desert training at the moment, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that we have a reasonably good place in Sharjah where this kind of training could and should take place?

Mr. Gilmour

Any shortage of mileage was not due to a lack of spares but because the autumn exercises were cancelled in B.A.O.R. due to the risk of excessive damage to the ground following heavy rain. Desert training in itself has no value. The main requirement for tank training is to carry out large-scale operational training without serious damage or risk to life.

Mr. Kaufman

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of my silly mistake, may I ask the Minister now to reply to my previous supplementary question?

Mr. Speaker

Very well.

Mr. Gilmour

Since the Question relates to the British Army, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is any less silly this time.