HC Deb 19 October 1966 vol 734 cc208-10
44. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many Service men he intends to bring home from the Far East and Germany, respectively, and by what dates; what reduction he proposes in the total services strength of 445,000; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Healey

I have immediate plans for the withdrawal of at least 10,000 Service men from the Far East, most of whom will be home by April, 1967. I am considering the possibility of making further withdrawals after that. As for Germany, I cannot anticipate the outcome of the Tripartite talks with the United States and Federal Governments which begin tomorrow. I am not at present prepared to give a forecast of the total future strength of the Services.

Mr. Allaun

But in view of the foreign exchange drain, the flat refusal of Bonn to pay its share and the coming withdrawals of American troops and the promise of the Prime Minister of massive reductions in the numbers of troops abroad, why could we not cut by half the 51,000 men and their dependants whom we have in B.A.O.R.?

Mr. Healey

I think that my hon. Friend has made a number of assumptions which have yet to be verified.

Mr. John Hynd

Will my right hon. Friend, however, bear in mind that if the extent of the N.A.T.O. dispositions in Europe were altered in the fashion suggested in the Question, we might run the very serious danger of driving Germany into having no alternative but the creation of a new national army?

Mr. Healey

One consideration which we have to keep in mind on these matters is that N.A.T.O. is the core to the security and perhaps the survival of this country.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Could the right hon. Gentleman give any indication of where these 10,000 will come from?

Mr. Healey

Yes, Sir. They are coming largely from Borneo.

Mr. Barnett

In view of the changes forecast in the National Plan, what is my right hon. Friend's forecast of the percentage of the G.N.P. which he expects will be spent on defence by 1970?

Mr. Healey

My hon. Friend should put down a separate Question on that matter.

Sir C. Osborne

In view of the great change in the Russian policy with regard to Europe, what is the main purpose of keeping men in Germany and against whom are they supposed to be prepared to fight?

Mr. Healey

One question which we must ask ourselves is how far the very welcome change in Soviet policy is due to the existence of N.A.T.O. and the forces in Germany.

Mr. Michael Foot

What is the financial figure of saving involved in these reductions to which my right hon. Friend has referred? How much enters into the £100 million which was specified by the Prime Minister as being a saving on our overseas commitments when he mentioned it in July and how much is represented by earlier proposals?

Mr. Healey

The financial savings from the immediate plans for the withdrawal of at least 10,000 Service men will be about £10 million in foreign exchange.

Mr. Rankin

Do the troops to be brought back from the Far East include the four battalions now stationed in Hong Kong? Alternatively, is the Hong Kong Government prepared to pay for retaining them?

Mr. Healey

That is a separate question. I have already made clear that the 10,000 troops which we shall have back in this country by 1st April next year will be largely from Eastern Malaysia or the Borneo territories.