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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, asylum is wide of the Question on the Order Paper, which asks whether we are participating fully in discussions about external frontier controls. We are doing that. As regards asylum seekers, proper procedures are laid down. Parliament is well aware of them. Recently, one or two changes have been made; again, Parliament was informed.
Lord Gisborough: My Lords, in view of the fact that there is an open border between Norway and Sweden and that one of those countries is within, and the other outside, the EC, can the Minister say what controls the EC employs in that case?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, if one is talking about the European convention, as opposed to Article 7a, the convention covers not only member states but also the European Economic Area, which includes Iceland and Norway. Sweden is a member of the European Union. The convention covers the countries within the Union with the addition of Iceland and Norway.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, will the noble Baroness agree that the main problem is this? The remainder of the member states to whom the provisions are applicable should bring their standards of control up to those that we have.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, with astuteness, the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, puts his finger on the problem. As the noble Lords knows, there is debate. However, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has pledged to the House of Commons, and it is also on record in this House, that he will do whatever is necessary to maintain our frontier controls.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, is not the effectiveness of the external frontiers of the European Union dependent not so much on physical bars at the point of entry but on intelligence gathering? It is only through intelligence gathering that we shall find, for example, criminals and drug dealers. Will the noble Baroness confirm that the Government are pursuing those matters with equal vigour?
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that we welcome the Prime Minister's assurance that he will not undo the internal border controls at ports and airports in this country? Does that assurance include ignoring any decision and any order by the European Court which is considering the position?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Lord asks a hypothetical question. I can only repeat what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said. I invite the House to take him on trust. He will do whatever is necessary to maintain our frontier controls in the United Kingdom.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, breaking the law may not be the option. At the end of the day, an alteration to the treaty may be an option. My right honourable friend has pledged to Parliament that he will do whatever is necessary to protect the external frontiers of the United Kingdom.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): My Lords, the drawdown of forces from Germany and the introduction of new weapons systems are placing significant demands on existing training areas. Some must be used more intensively and others developed to provide new infrastructure. While we have no plans at present to extend significantly the size of our military training
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply. While it is essential to have adequate ranges and training areas, especially for our latest artillery weapons, which I understand are of high quality, does my noble friend agree that only the minimum of land should be retained or designated and that the process for deciding that should be explained fully to the public?
Lord Henley: My Lords, my noble friend is right to stress that we should keep only the minimum amount of land. I can give my noble friend an assurance that the department is committed to keeping the minimal requirement necessary to train our forces to the appropriate standard. It would be a false economy to dispose of land which we still need for training our forces to the required standards so that they can perform their duties. As regards whether we have adequately explained those processes to the public, I suspect that in the past we have not got the message over as well as we might. However, I give an assurance to my noble friend that we shall continue to seek to get over as well as we can the message explaining the absolutely vital necessity for military training in the United Kingdom.
Lord Ironside: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that with the acquisition in future of the attack helicopter by the air regiments there will be a demand for air space to conduct three dimensional air warfare training? That will be in addition to ground training facilities. Can he say whether air space will be available for that purpose in the United Kingdom?
Lord Henley: My Lords, we shall always find the appropriate necessary air space or for that matter land to train our forces to the appropriate standard, whether the equipment be attack helicopters or whatever. I assure my noble friend that where possible we shall look abroad, to Canada and eastern Europe, to see whether some of the pressure on our own systems of intensive training in this country can be alleviated. There would be little point in acquiring the new attack helicopters if we could not train with them to the appropriate standard.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, given the Government's intention to reduce the Armed Forces by a large numberover one-thirdis there any correlation between that and the reduction in training in this country, including low flying, making use where necessary of overseas training facilities, for example, in Canada or in eastern Europe, to make good any shortfall?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I regret to say to the noble and gallant Lord that that factor is unlikely to lead to a reduction in the amount of training in this country for the reasons that I gave in my first Answer. There is considerable drawdown in forces from Germany and fewer available lands in Germany to train our forces there. It appears that we shall have to intensify training, in particular with armoured vehicles and artillery, in this
Lord Glenamara: My Lords, if the Government wish for further training areas in the north of England, will the noble Lord bear in mind that an extension of the Otterburn training area would command almost universal local support but that an extension of the training area on the north Pennines to the east, which was recently designated an area of outstanding natural beauty, would be widely opposed?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am aware of virtual universal support within the Otterburn area of Northumberland for our proposals for developing the Otterburn training area. I can confirm that at present there are no other plans for further increases in the size of training areas in that part of the world. The noble Lord is probably referring to the Warcop training area. Developments are under way to enhance facilities there. However, as I understand it, there are no plans to increase its size. It will still be necessary to provide infantry training for forces at Catterick.
Lord Elton: My Lords, the increase in training in tracked vehiclesmy noble friend says that that is made necessary by changes abroadwill greatly increase the pressures on the environment and the archaeological heritage of Salisbury Plain where much of the training will take place. Can the noble Lord assure us that the concordat reached between the Department of the Environment and the Ministry of Defence for the management of those heritages will be strictly adhered to and monitored?
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