HC Deb 12 April 1967 vol 744 cc1183-4
15. Mr. Kershaw

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects a conclusion to the consideration within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation of force levels.

Mr. Healey

Alliance force planning is a continuing process but I assume that the hon. Member has in mind its current consideration within N.A.T.O. My expectation is that, by the middle of this year, broad agreement will have been reached on N.A.T.O.'s strategy and force posture. Detailed force plans derived therefrom will be presented for endorsement at the December Ministerial meeting.

Mr. Kershaw

Can the Secretary of State say what progress he is making to convince his N.A.T.O. colleagues of the validity of the trip-wire strategy in which, so far as I know, he is the sole remaining believer?

Mr. Healey

I do not know what the hon. Member means by a trip-wire strategy, but I am pleased to be able to tell the House that I am making very good progress. Some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite may be rather chagrined to find later in the year that their extraordinary views about the need for N.A.T.O. being prepared to fight a long conventional war are not shared by any of our allies.

Mr. Powell

Can the Minister tell the House whether the estimate of £82 million for the cost of British forces in Germany given by the Chancellor in his Budget speech yesterday is based upon present force levels or some other force levels and, if so, which?

Mr. Healey

The cost of £82 million, announced by the Chancellor yesterday, allows for present levels of combat forces, but also allows for savings that we are making in administrative, support and consumer spending of the forces, which I have already announced to the House.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whatever need there was for N.A.T.O., it expired some years ago?

Mr. Healey

Certainly not.