HC Deb 12 April 1961 vol 638 cc217-8
3. Mr. Burden

asked the Minister of Defence whether he will now make a further statement on the integration of Fighter Command into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation air defence system.

Mr. Watkinson

As a next step I am arranging for General Norstad to be given formal notice of the assignment of Fighter Command to N.A.T.O., in accordance with the decision on unified air defence taken last year by the North Atlantic Council. The assignment will take effect from 1st May, 1961. It will improve the air defence capability of the whole area including the United Kingdom.

The Fighter Command forces assigned to SACEUR will be the air defence fighter squadrons and the operational units of the Bloodhound Mark 1 S.A.G.W. system and of the control and reporting system. The size, composition, rôle and deployment of these forces will remain matters for our own decision.

Air Marshal Sir Hector McGregor, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Fighter Command, is being nominated for appointment by SACEUR as Commander, United Kingdom Air Defence Region. SACEUR's responsibilities for air defence in the United Kingdom Region will be exercised through the Commander.

Mr. Burden

Can my right hon. Friend say whether, under this arrangement, N.A.T.O. could deploy Fighter Command aircraft overseas?

Mr. Watkinson

No. I should like to make that plain. N.A.T.O. cannot deploy Fighter Command aircraft overseas except with the strict permission of Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Rankin

What contribution will N.A.T.O. make under this arrangement for the upkeep of Fighter Command?

Mr. Watkinson

The hon. Member expressed this very well in a supplementary question which he asked me on 8th February, when he said that he presumed that this is an attempt to provide defence in depth."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1961; Vol. 633, c. 379.] This is entirely correct. We now get the great advantage of the forward radar coverage and the forward fighter screen far further forward in Europe, as part of our N.A.T.O. air defences.