HC Deb 18 May 1972 vol 837 cc680-1
27. Captain W. Elliot

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he is satisfied with the adequacy of the information conveyed to the House in the White Paper on Defence; and if he will make a statement.

Lord Balniel

Yes, Sir; I regard the Statement on the Defence Estimates as a most informative document.

Captain Elliot

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when we raise various matters in defence and other debates we are always told that we shall not fight a war alone and that our allies will assist us. I am particularly worried about the state of our maritime defences. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would consider attaching to the next Defence White Paper an assessment of the forces that would be available from other countries to help this country in the event of another war.

Lord Balniel

I shall consider the point made by my hon. and gallant Friend, because the purpose of the Defence White Paper is to provide as full information for the House as is possible. Clearly one does not want to have a document which is vast and unreadable, and so we have tried to compress it into a crisp and easily readable style. But I shall consider suggestions from my hon. and gallant Friend and, indeed, from any other hon. Member.

Mr. Evelyn King

In the light of the White Paper, and in the light of the huge number of troops in Northern Ireland, would not my right hon. Friend agree that either we have over-recruited in the past or that other commitments are hideously under-manned? Which statement is true, and what remedial measures has my right hon. Friend in mind?

Lord Balniel

I should have thought that neither statement was true. We have not over-recruited in the past. Indeed, on coming into office one of the major problems which we had to face was that of serious under-recruitment by the previous Administration. The position is that recruiting is reasonably satisfactory and improving, but undoubtedly the strain on the Army as a result of the problems in Northern Ireland is very real.

Mr. John Morris

Will the right hon. Gentleman face the fact that the continued deployment of troops in Northern Ireland for such a long time undoubtedly must have its effect on our defences in Germany? Will he face that problem when the next Defence White Paper is set out so that we can understand the implications of this long-drawn-out involvement which perhaps had not been anticipated some months ago?

Lord Balniel

I shall bear in mind the powerful argument which the right hon. Gentleman is developing for increasing our defence forces.

Forward to