HC Deb 12 February 1980 vol 978 cc1259-60
13. Mr. Newens

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the criteria laid down for the acceptance for courses of military or other training in Great Britain of members of the armed forces of a foreign country.

Mr. Pym

Our policy on the provision of military training for other countries is primarily governed by defence, foreign policy and economic considerations. There are also, of course, such practical considerations as the availability of places and the qualifications of the individual students.

Mr. Newens

Remembering that the son of the former president of Nicaragua. President Sumoza, was trained in this country, and that currently Argentinian and Indonesian forces are training here, can the Minister assure the House that human rights considerations in the home countries are taken fully into account before trainees are accepted here? Can he also assure the House that none of the trainees will be given courses in interrogation techniques, which many of us would regard as a euphemism for torture?

Mr. Pym

I am not aware of any courses being given in interrogation techniques. We try to take all these factors into account. In my original answer I indicated all the principal considerations. There are no Chilean students under training in Service establishments.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that staff courses, and particularly senior staff courses, are often more effective when they are confined to British nationals, since discussion and criticism can be more uninhibited?

Mr. Pym

While I am sure that that is true, it does also seem to be the case that our defence is strengthened by widening our training capabilities for military personnel of other countries. That does not mean to say that all courses, or all staff college courses, apply to countries other than our own. I take the right hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. Duffy

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the Armed Forces do not seek such candidates for their training courses and that they are sometimes embarrassed by the numbers who apply? Will he also confirm that there has been no relaxation in the criteria governing such entrants?

Mr. Pym

There has been no such relaxation. The applications for courses continue at a high level because our training capability is regarded very highly around the world. Very often we have a choice of students, and we make that choice on the basis that I gave in my original answer.