HC Deb 15 February 1956 vol 548 cc2332-6
4. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Minister of Defence his estimate of the additional cost in hard currency of maintaining the present strength of British forces in Germany after the German contribution ceases.

11. Mr. Jay

asked the Minister of Defence what he estimates will be the additional expenditure falling on the United Kingdom Exchequer on account of our forces in Western Germany in the financial year beginning in April, 1956.

Sir W. Monckton

If no further support were provided by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, the total additional cost in hard currency would be about £77 million. Of this, about £70 million would be an additional burden on the Exchequer. The difference is accounted for by that proportion of their pay which our troops in Germany convert into Deutschsmarks.

The position next year will depend upon the outcome of the negotiations with the Federal Government.

Mr. Bellenger

Will Her Majesty's Government impress on the Federal German authorities that there is some moral obligation on the Federal Government, if no exact legal obligation, to contribute to the cost of the occupation troops, at least until they can provide the troops themselves under the contract into which they have entered under the Paris Agreements?

Sir W. Monckton

The point which the right hon. Gentleman has made is very much in the mind of Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Jay

Have not the Government been extremely weak in these negotiations? At a time when direct taxation in Germany is much lower than in this country and when Germany is not yet able to defend herself, will the Government, in the interests of the United Kingdom taxpayer, really press this matter a good deal harder?

Sir W. Monckton

We certainly intend to press this matter with all appropriate promptitude and speed.

Mr. Peyton

In the course of these discussions with the German Government, will my right hon. and learned Friend make it perfectly clear that the sort of unilateral announcement made the other day is most unwelcome and does a great deal of harm to allies? The German Government are a party to the agreement and must at least go through the process of discussion.

Sir W. Monckton

I do not want to make a pronouncement now which will make negotiations which are about to begin any more difficult.

Mr. Wigg

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that this is the first chicken, at a cost of £77 million, which has come home to roost as a result of the disastrous policy of German rearmament?

Mr. Stokes

In order to clarify our minds on this subject, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us the difference in cost between keeping four divisions in Germany and keeping four in England? That is very important.

Sir W. Monckton

I should not like to try to answer that question without notice.

7. Mr. Peyton

asked the Minister of Defence what discussions he has had or proposes to have with the West German Government on the question of a German contribution to the cost of maintaining British troops in Germany.

10. Mr. Healey

asked the Minister of Defence what financial contribution the Federal German Government will make to the cost of British Forces in Germany after 5th May this year.

Sir W. Monckton

Preliminary discussions on the arrangements for the maintenance of N.A.T.O. forces in Germany after 5th May, 1956, took place between the Ministers concerned during the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in December, and are being pursued through the diplomatic channel. We expect the formal negotiations provided for in the Finance Convention to begin shortly in Bonn.

Mr. Peyton

Did my right hon. and learned Friend have any advance warning from the German Government of the statement made the other day by Herr Schaeffer, the German Finance Minister?

Sir W. Monckton

I had no notice that such a statement was to be made at that time, and in that form.

Mr. Healey

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is typical of the dithering incompetence of this Government that though his predecessor, now Chancellor of the Exchequer, agreed fifteen months ago to settle this matter in negotiation with our Allies, according to his own statement the negotiations did not begin until over a year later in December, 1955, and, in fact, not until the German Government had made it clear that they were not going to pay a penny?

Sir W. Monckton

First, the hon. Gentleman will not expect me to draw the same conclusions from the history of the matter as himself. What I am anxious to impress upon him and the House is that these negotiations are likely to take place at once and that, as far as I can ensure, they will be pursued promptly.

Mr. Stokes

Will Her Majesty's Government not fail to impress upon the German Government that they have been let off pretty lightly for having lost the war and for having caused it, and that they must realise they will have to make a substantial contribution for maintaining (he defence of the West?

Sir W. Monckton

It will certainly be our purpose to make it plain to all people who are now members of N.A.T.O. that we hope they will make an equitable contribution to the common defence.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

The German Government having adopted a bargaining position from the start, is it not up to Her Majesty's Government to do the same and to say that we expect that the German Government will provide a full contribution, as in the past, which contribution could quite properly be reduced to the extent of the cost of her increasing forces?

Sir W. Monckton

It would be undesirable if I were to say what position we intend to take up in the negotiations that are just about to begin, but we will bear in mind all the points that have been raised.

12. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Minister of Defence to what extent he estimates that there will be a reduction in our defence expenditure as a result of the re-armament of Western Germany.

Sir W. Monckton

There will be no reduction of U.K. defence expenditure on this account.

Mr. Hughes

But we were promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the last Budget that there was to be a reduction. Is this another broken pledge?

Sir W. Monckton

All I would say is that the advent of German re-armament is a supplement to and not a substitute for the services we render.

Mr. Shinwell

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say, on the converse side of the picture, whether there will be an increase in our defence expenditure as a result of German rearmament?