HC Deb 25 January 1973 vol 849 cc618-9
3. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a further statement about the proposed increase in the current year's arms spending of £2,854 million a year by more than £400 million next year in cash terms.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

No, Sir. Details of defence expenditure in 1973–74 will be contained in the Defence White Paper, to be published next month.

Mr. Allaun

The Minister has already announced an increase in real terms. Since Britain is spending a higher proportion of its gross national product on arms than any other Western European NATO country except Portugal, should not we be reducing the level to their average, thereby saving £500 million a year? Why are we taking on this extra burden and the additional burdens in the next three years as shown by the recent Government survey?

Mr. Gilmour

The hon. Member knows the answers very well. For one thing we spend a far smaller proportion of our GNP on defence than the Russians and we spend less on defence than some other European countries.

Mr. Peart

I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Salford. East (Mr. Frank Allaun) was asking whether we were paying a reasonable contribution relative to other NATO members. I assume that we are, but what is the percentage increase?

Mr. Gilmour

The exact figure will come out in the defence expenditure White Paper, but I believe it is about 5 per cent.

Mr. Crawshaw

Will the Minister indicate whether the other countries in Eastern Europe are now spending less on arms than they were last year or the year before?

Mr. Gilmour

I have no reason to believe that that is so.