HC Deb 03 August 1966 vol 733 cc461-2
34. Sir T. Beamish

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the British contribution to the British Army of the Rhine.

Mr. Healey

I have nothing to add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 20th July.

Sir T. Beamish

Since, on 25th July, when speaking in Paris, the Minister described allied forces in Europe as barely adequate to carry out the tasks which they have been entrusted with, how does he square that with the threat to make substantial cuts in B.A.O.R. in certain circumstances?

Mr. Healey

I did not describe the forces as barely adequate to carry out the tasks which they have been entrusted with. What I said, in a private meeting of the N.A.T.O. Council, is that the forces required by the military commanders in N.A.T.O. over recent years bear no relation to what any of the member Governments are prepared to provide, and therefore it is essential to revise the contingency plans for the forces so that they are compatible with the forces available. I hope very much that the German Government will not make it necessary for Her Majesty's Government to reduce our forces in B.A.O.R., but I had to make it clear to all our allies that it is quite intolerable that Britain alone among the European members of the alliance should not only be making a very substantial military contribution to the common defence but also crippling her balance of payments to swell the reserves of another ally.

Mr. Frank Allaun

After bringing these men home, as I hope the Minister will, why is it necessary to build barracks for them in Britain, since every factory and town in the country is crying out for labour? Why not demobilise them and enable them to go into productive industry, thus killing two birds with one stone?

Mr. Healey

We also believe that it is important to ensure the defence of this country and that our foreign policy is supported by relevant military forces. Those are considerations which must also be borne in mind.

Mr. Powell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his hon. Friend's anxiety is unnecessary, since the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated that, if necessary, these men could be accommodated here under canvas?

Mr. Healey

I would make it clear to the right hon. Gentleman, as he well knows, that there is no question of that being necessary.