HC Deb 20 March 1968 vol 761 cc407-8
29. Dr. David Kerr

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals he now has for reducing the manpower of the British Army of the Rhine.

36. Mr. Ronald Atkins

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what further plans he now has for withdrawing units of the British Army of the Rhine.

Mr. Healey

I have nothing to add to my reply to my hon. Friend, the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) and the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) on 14th February, 1968.—[Vol. 758, c. 1340.]

Dr. Kerr

At the risk of appearing to nag, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend will accept that to many of us the continued existence of the B.A.O.R. is assuming a much greater political than defence significance, and that many of us feel that it is tied to a policy of entry into Europe which some of us still find quite unacceptable? Will my right hon. Friend reconsider this?

Mr. Healey

I have always found my hon. Friends united on one thing, and that is that defence should be the servant of foreign policy, and not its master.

Mr. Shinwell

Can my right hon. Friend give any valid reason why the United Kingdom should make a larger contribution in manpower and in modern equipment than any other country associated with N.A.T.O., apart from the United States? Has my right hon. Friend observed the recent speech by Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, who is an expert in these matters, in which he suggested that at most we should retain only a division in N.A.T.O.?

Mr. Healey

With respect to my right hon. Friend, who knows a great deal about these matters, it is not the case that we are making a bigger contribution in manpower than any other member of N.A.T.O. The German contribution is a good deal larger than our own. I have read with interest the speech of the noble Lord, to which my right hon. Friend referred. One of the things which has comforted me since I have been Defence Secretary is to find that military experts tend to disagree with one another just as much as economic experts or any other experts do.

Mr. Ramsden

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the assurance which we should like to have is that there will be no further withdrawals, and that this question will not be subject to conditions as regards the achieving of a future offset agreement?

Mr. Healey

I am well aware that that is the right hon. Gentleman's view.