HC Deb 20 February 1973 vol 851 cc202-4
4. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of State for Defence what proportion of the gross national product will be directed to military expenditure after including the 5 per cent. increase in real terms recently announced; what is the average proportion of other European NATO Governments; and how much money would be saved annually if Great Britain reduced to their average level.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to a similar question from the hon. Member on 1st February.—[Vol. 849, c. 448–49.]

Mr. Allaun

Will the Minister confirm the reply given by his predecessor that if we reduced the share of the GNP we devote to armaments from 5.7 to 4.2 per cent.—the average for our European NATO allies—£600 million a year would be saved? Why should we spend more than any other European country? Would it not be wiser to cut back our expenditure rather than to incur the huge increase which we shall incur tomorrow?

Mr. Gilmour

The exact figures will appear tomorrow. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we do not spend more on defence than do the Germans. If we were to reduce expenditure, whereas there would be considerable savings in money there would also be considerable unemployment, particularly in the hon. Gentleman's area.

Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker

Does not my hon. Friend agree that if the figure of £600 million is correct, it is a small price to pay for a continuing contribution to the freedom of this country?

Mr. Gilmour

Of course, and it is obviously much more sensible to determine our defence expenditure not by what our allies do but by what our potential opponents do.

Mr. Crawshaw

Does the Minister agree that the NATO Powers generally are spending less money than are the Warsaw Pact countries, and that the Warsaw Pact countries continue to have a considerable preponderance in manpower and in all conventional weapons?

Mr. Gilmour

The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. There is a preponderance of force on behalf of the Warsaw Pact in Europe.