HC Deb 07 May 1996 vol 277 cc11-2
11. Mr. Quentin Davies

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what joint and combined exercises are planned in the near future. [26929]

Mr. Soames

Exercise Purple Star, the largest joint and combined operation for a number of years, involving about 12,000 UK forces, began at the end of last month and continues until 19 May. The House will be pleased to know that that combined UK-US exercise includes key elements of the planned joint rapid deployment force.

Mr. Davies

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the Government's support for that very important exercise. May I express the hope that the Government will continue to attach a very high priority to the value of exercises in general, and to combined and joint exercises in particular since, as I am sure he would agree, they are essential to the maintenance of our military preparedness and therefore our capability?

Mr. Soames

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for highlighting one of the great difficulties facing modern defence management—the ability to provide the kind of high level, high intensity warfare training, which is so essential to keeping our troops prepared for the extraordinary range of operations that may be required of them. The key elements of the JRDF—the Third Commando Brigade and the Fifth Airborne Brigade—are taking part. It is a major exercise and I assure my hon. Friend that we shall do everything in our power, whether in America, in this country or in the new training areas that are opening up in Hungary and Poland where we hope to have a brigade exercise in September, to ensure that as many of our troops as possible receive the benefit of those very important exercises. We seriously acknowledge the point he makes; it is crucial.

Mr. Cohen

Is it a joint exercise between the hon. Gentleman's Department and the Foreign Office to run spies in Russia? Are they carrying on at cold war levels and expense? Is it not time to stop such James Bond silliness and apologise to President Yeltsin?

Mr. Soames

Certainly not.