HC Deb 25 June 1969 vol 785 cc1485-7
16. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what conversations he has had with our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies with a view to making good reductions by Canada in the conventional forces she contributes to the Alliance.

38. Mr. Moyle

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what reductions the Canadian Government has proposed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Canadian forces in Europe; and what discussions Her Majesty's Government has had with the Canadian Government on the matter.

46. Captain W. Elliot

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what action he is taking in connection with the proposed withdrawal of Canadian forces from Europe.

Mr. John Morris

The Canadian Government have put forward proposals for the conversion of their present brigade group in Germany to an air-transportable combat group as well as a separate air element. Consultations on these proposals are in progress within N.A.T.O. but it is not yet possible to say what the outcome will be. In company with the Defence Ministers of other N.A.T.O. countries, my right hon. Friend has expressed his concern at the proposals to the Canadian Government.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Does not this decision leave a serious gap in Germany, in particular in the British-Canadian quarter of the Allied Forces Central Command? Is it not essential that other troops should be found to replace the Canadians?

Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. If the Canadian proposal went through—and it has so far only been tabled for discussion—it would leave a gap, and, obviously, the N.A.T.O. countries would have to consider the position.

Mr. Moyle

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the British decision to concentrate all our defence forces on Europe was inherently likely to produce some sort of reaction like this from North America? Will he join me in expressing the hope that the Americans will not get the same idea?

Mr. Morris

Because we are showing a lead in concentrating on Europe, I hope that this will be an example which other N.A.T.O. countries will follow. It is important to stress that, within our economic resources, we should ensure that we make the most effective military contribution possible in Europe.

Captain Elliot

Did the Secretary of State explain to the Canadians that one cannot defend one's country in these days from within one's own frontiers? Did he emphasise to them the important rôle filled by British forces east of Suez in the defence of the West as a whole?

Mr. Morris

I cannot express in detail what was discussed in the course of the deliberations on this proposal. All I can say now is that we did express our concern.

Mr. Ramsden

As indicated by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle), would not the Government be in a stronger position to protest against the Canadian action if they had not done the same thing themselves? Will the hon. Gentleman reaffirm that it is not the Government's intention to contemplate any further reduction in B.A.O.R.?

Mr. Morris

The right hon. Gentleman knows that what we have sought to do is increase the forces available to Europe. So his supplementary question does not arise.