HC Deb 24 November 1965 vol 721 cc490-2
11. Mr. A. Royle

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when the Defence Review will be published.

51. Mr. Ioan L. Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a progress report on the Defence Review.

58. Mr. Goodhew

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to make a statement on the Defence Review.

Mr. Healey

I gave a progress report on the Defence Review on 5th August. Further progress will be reported as soon as possible.

Mr. Royle

Will the Defence Review turn out to be our old friend the Defence White Paper, which is normally published in the spring, and involve no change in the practice of previous Governments of continuous analysis of our defence commitments?

Mr. Healey

No, Sir. It may well be that a major report on progress in the Defence Review will be contained in next year's Defence White Paper, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the work now being carried out by the Government goes far beyond anything attempted, and certainly anything achieved, by any of the previous Administrations.

Mr. Evans

Is my right hon. Friend aware that hon. Members on this side of the House are eagerly awaiting this report and that while we support the action which he has taken in certain savings in defence, there is now a growing realisation in the country that if we are to meet our economic problems there must be a drastic reappraisal of our defence commitments?

Mr. Healey

Yes, Sir. That is certainly understood and that is why we are carrying out the review.

Mr. Powell

Are we to understand from what the right hon. Gentleman has just said that there will be no statement on the Defence Review before the forthcoming normal Defence White Paper? Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether there is any truth in reports that that Defence White Paper will itself be delayed? How can he account for the fact that last week, in reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) as to when the Defence Review was likely to be published, the Leader of the House said: … it will be published as soon as possible." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 1346.]

Mr. Healey

I must say that the right hon. Gentleman sometimes baffles me with his questions. He has accused us on many occasions recently [Hors. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—I am answering the question. We have been fiercely attacked by him in recent weeks for publishing any results of the Defence Review before publishing the whole lot. That is his main complaint about our publishing our decision about the Territorial Army. The point which I have made quite clearly, as I did on 5th August, is that we will publish the results of the Defence Review as and when decisions are taken. Some decisions may well be taken in the next few weeks. Others, as I have just pointed out—and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman understands the meaning of English words —will be included in the Defence White Paper. Some may come even later still. I hope that that satisfies the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The supplementary question and answer from the two Front Benches were too long.