HC Deb 15 January 1964 vol 687 cc198-200
16. Mr. Paget

asked the Secretary of State for War when it is now proposed to bring the British Army of the Rhine up to the level necessary to fulfil Treaty obligations.

Mr. Ramsden

As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) on 18th December last year, as soon as possible. Our ability to reach 55,000 depends on a satisfactory rate of recruitment and on the military demands of other overseas theatres. I am not therefore in a position to give a precise date.

Mr. Paget

Can the right hon. Gentleman, however, reassure our N.A.T.O. allies that there is no weakening of our resolution to fulfil this duty to them?

Mr. Ramsden

Yes, Sir, and I feel that they, too, accept that, certainly as regards the Cyprus aspect of this situation, what we are doing is a service to N.A.T.O. as a whole, in a dispute in which two member countries of N.A.T.O., indirectly at any rate, are involved.

Captain Litchfield

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that troops employed on the flanks of N.A.T.O. are fulfilling just as important a in the interests of N.A.T.O. as those employed in the British Army of the Rhine?

Mr. Lipton

Is it not a fact, as confirmed by The Timesnewspaper today, that the Government have in hand the return of three battalions from the Rhine Army and that most of the 17 battalions now in Germany are of less than 600 infantryman? In these circumstances, has not the time come to give very serious consideration to withdrawing the Rhine Army altogether and basing it in this country or somewhere else where it would be of much greater use?

Mr. Ramsden

No, Sir. I understand that the article in The Times refers to the reorganisation of the British Army of the Rhine which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence announced on 26th June last year. This reorganisation, which does not involve reduction in manpower in the British Army of the Rhine, and which isaimed at achieving more balance and a more effective fighting force, is in no way connected with the present situation in which British troops in reserve have had to be sent overseas.

Sir J. Eden

Given adequate air transport, is it not very possible that our duty towards our N.A.T.O. allies could equally well be discharged without having to have a full complement of troops on the ground in Germany?

Mr. Ramsden

That is another question, and opens up wider issues which, I think, are not appropriate to this particular Question.

Mr. Bellenger

Will the Secretary of State really come clean, as one of his predecessors said he would some years ago? Is it not the case that this pretence of keeping the Rhine Army up to guarantee is impossible in circumstances like those we are now having? Why not say so, so that our allies and everybody else know it to be the fact?

Mr. Ramsden

No, Sir. In the long term, the planned build-up to the Treaty figure will proceed in the way I have indicated previously to the House.

Back to
Forward to