§ 16. Mr. Scott-Hopkins
asked the Minister of State for Defence whether he will assign battalions of the Gurkha Brigade to duty with the British Army of the Rhine.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Will my hon. Friend clarify the position of the Gurkha battalion which is over here? If those troops are excluded from serving in BAOR because of treaty obligations, will my hon. Friend do his best to renegotiate them? Is he aware that a great deal of extra recruiting could be done from Nepal and that it would be a good idea if we could increase the Gurkha Brigade 736 by having an extra battalion since that could release our troops to serve in Northern Ireland, for instance?
§ Mr. Johnson Smith
The Gurkhas are deployed in the United Kingdom to help relieve the strain on British-based units. They are most helpful in that respect. As for their serving in Germany, the ideal tour is four years. So long a tour by a Gurkha unit would entail a considerable number of problems, including serious logistic ones. As regards our commitments elsewhere, the number of Gurkha battalions is five. I do not think that our commitments outside Europe, certainly in the Far East, call for more.
§ Mr. Hattersley
Will the hon. Gentleman arrange for us to have an early statement about the status of the agreement between ourselves and Nepal, about which it is readily implied there remains a good deal of ambiguity? Will he confirm that the Gurkha battalion here is doing more than ceremonial duties and that while we know the Gurkhas perform them with spectacular distinction, many people think they are best at something other than that?
§ Mr. Johnson Smith
They have been doing something more besides. A good example is the School of Infantry, where they have been very valuable in providing an "enemy", which helps the training of other infantry units. As for the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary.