HC Deb 17 February 1972 vol 831 cc602-3
13. Miss Joan Hall

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he is satisfied that freedom for shipping in the entrance to the Baltic Sea can be maintained by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces; and if he will make a statement.

Lord Balniel

N.A.T.O. places high priority on the protection of shipping in the Baltic as in other N.A.T.O. sea areas. The plans for this form an integral part of N.A.T.O.'s strategy and the present level of N.A.T.O.'s forces is reasonable in this context.

Miss Hall

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I reiterate that this is an important pressure point governing the free movement of ships in the Baltic which could be closed by the Russians? Is he aware of General Walker's statement when he retired as head of N.A.T.O. Forces that at sea N.A.T.O. was out-flanked by Russia by six men to one?

Lord Balniel

A discussion of General Walker's views does not arise out of the Question. My hon. Friend raises an important matter. N.A.T.O. and national plans for the protection of merchant shipping exist and are kept under constant review.