HC Deb 16 November 1966 vol 736 cc418-20
15. Mr. Homer

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he is taking to ensure that defence expenditure for 1970 in the revised National Plan does not exceed that proportion of the gross national product provided for in the original plan.

Mr. Healey

I would refer to my reply of 9th November to my hon. Friend, the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett).—[Vol. 735, col. 288.]

Mr. Horner

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that when he produced the Defence Review, he defined it as a "continuing process", and that many of us believe that that process ought to be dramatically accelerated? Unless it is so accelerated, we doubt very much whether the 1970 level of defence expenditure can be anything but totally unacceptable to this side of the House.

Mr. Healey

I can assure my hon. Friend that all these questions are continuously under review both in my Department and in the Government as a whole. I can perhaps reassure him to some extent—in spite of the fact that we inherited a programme which allowed for an increase of £400 million over the following three or four years, we have succeeded in keeping the level of expenditure every year that we have been in office at below the level of expenditure in the year before we came to power. By so doing, we have already reduced defence expenditure by £300 million over the Conservative programme.

Mr. Heffer

Would my right hon. Friend take into consideration the resolution passed at the Labour Party Conference, calling for the ending of bases and the cutting of expenditure east of Suez?

Mr. Healey

I can assure my hon. Friend that I shall always keep all relevant considerations in mind.

Mr. Powell

As the national income for the year 1969–70 will not now be that estimated nine months ago, will the right hon. Gentleman sacrifice his 6 per cent. target for that year or his £2,000 million target for that year? One or the other must go.

Mr. Healey

The right hon. Gentleman has made a number of statements based on a hypothesis which I cannot accept.