HC Deb 14 February 1968 vol 758 cc1319-20
5. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent British forces on the continent of Europe will be increased consequent on the proposed withdrawal from east of Suez.

Mr. Healey

The hon. Member will not expect me to prejudge the outcome of the work now being undertaken to establish the detailed implications of the recent decisions.

Mr. Blaker

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that in the current negotiations with the Germans on offset costs the Government will not this time threaten to withdraw from the Continent those forces whose costs are not offset?

Mr. Healey

There is no question of a threat in this particular case.

Mr. Dickens

Can my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that, as a consequence of withdrawal from east of Suez, there will be no consequential in-crease in the size of the British Army of the Rhine?

Mr. Healey

I am not prepared to give any assurances on the shape and deployment of our forces after withdrawal from the Far East is complete. I hope to make a statement on this matter in some detail later in the year.

Mr. Ramsden

Is not the Government's policy in danger of becoming rather ambivalent? On the one hand they are on record as saying that they will only keep the same levels in Germany if the costs are met, and, on the other, as saying that Europe is to be the main future stance of our forces. Is it not time that the Government made the position clear?

Mr. Healey

No. Any inconsistency such as the hon. Gentleman appears to find would depend on a failure to resolve the offset agreement satisfactorily. I do not anticipate such a failure.

Mr. Shinwell

Would my right hon. Friend regard an increase in our forces on the Rhine as related to the possibility of aggression by the Soviet Union or rather because it is related to the proposed British entry into the Common Market?

Mr. Healey

I can assure my right hon. Friend that if any such decision were taken—I do not for a moment suggest that it would be taken—it would not be related to the second possibility that he has mentioned.