HC Deb 24 July 1972 vol 841 cc1306-8
22. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take the initiative at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting this autumn to prepare for the East-West security conference, for multilateral force reduction, with a view to securing a 25 per cent. saving in military expenditure by all countries involved.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The conference on security and co-operation in Europe and mutual and balanced force reductions are separate though related issues. We in NATO are still awaiting a response from the Warsaw Pact countries to our invitation to discuss force reductions. I see no cause for a fresh initiative now.

Mr. Allaun

Will the Foreign Secretary show a little more enthusiasm? Would it not be a real prize if we could achieve this saving in our country's resources without loss of security and with a gain to security from the further development of detente?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes, Sir. I think that a mutual and balanced force reduction conference will take place parallel with a wider security conference, and there we shall seek to achieve a reduction in armaments. At the moment I do not think there is any fresh initiative that can be taken to prepare for mutual and balanced force reductions. The former Secretary-General of NATO offered to go and talk this matter over with the Russians, but they have not responded. If the Russians wish to make another suggestion we are wide open to it.

Mr. Sproat

Will my right hon. Friend continue to reject the naïve and simplistic arguments that do not include recognition of the important piece of arithmetic that the Warsaw Pact forces heavily outnumber the NATO forces, often by as much as three to one?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes, and of course the comparative proximity of Russia to the area and its distance from the United States will make it extremely difficult at best to get an agreement, but it is worth while to search for one.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

Does the Foreign Secretary reject the suggestion that the percentage argument is not naïve and simplistic? As he well knows, it appeals to the Soviet Union and her allies as a basic method of approaching questions of disarmament. He will not, I am sure, close his mind to a proposal of this nature if and when it is made.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

No, Sir, but it is for the Russians now to show how they wish to approach the mutual balanced force reduction talks. They have rejected NATOs suggestion, which was a sensible one, and I hope they will come forward with a fresh suggestion.