HC Deb 15 July 1964 vol 698 c1183
17. Commander Courtney

asked the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent the Royal Navy and Coastal Command, Royal Air Force, are able to fulfil present North Atlantic Treaty Organisation commitments in case of emergency without the withdrawal of ships and aircraft now operating east of Suez.

Mr. Thorneycroft

We can fulfil our commitments world-wide, and have, I think, demonstrated this in recent months. I prefer not to enlarge on our dispositions for doing so.

Commander Courtney

Does my right hon. Friend recollect that seven years ago two British retiring commanders-in-chief in the East Atlantic declared that they had insufficient forces to carry out their N. A. T. O. duties? Is it not time that we had a readjustment of our commitments to N. A. T. O. with slightly more emphasis on the maritime side?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Whatever they may have declared seven years ago, the Commander-in-Chief Far East is not declaring that today. I think that we have demonstrated to the world our ability to fulfil our commitments.

Mr. Willis

Will the right hon. Gentleman say how many aircraft carriers are in commission this side of Suez?

Mr. Thorneycroft

No. I would not declare where our carriers are.