HC Deb 20 March 1973 vol 853 cc215-6
9. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will initiate discussions with the West German Government about the level of British forces in West Germany, with a view to reducing the £3,365 million defence programme, as set out in Command Paper No. 5231.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

Our forces are deployed in Germany under the Brussels Treaty commitment and they are a vital part of our contribution to the military capability of the North Atlantic Alliance. It is alliance policy to maintain and improve this capability until reciprocal East/West agreement allows us to reduce it in safety.

Mr. Hughes

According to Annex A of the Defence White Paper, the initial incidence of costs to our balance of payments is £209 million for keeping troops in Germany. Does not the hon. Gentleman feel that the Federal Government of Germany should now accept full financial responsibility for the upkeep of these troops and that, if they are not prepared to do so, serious consideration should be given to their withdrawal bearing in mind especially that it is now 28 years since the end of the Second World War?

Mr. Gilmour

The hon. Gentleman ignores the fundamental fact that our troops are in Germany not merely to help Germany but to protect the whole of Europe, including ourselves. The hon. Gentleman is right about the foreign exchange costs, and he knows that this is a problem which also exercised the Labour Government. But it is not possible to strike a balance between budgetary payments made under the offset agreement and the foreign exchange costs that we incur. We made an agreement in 1971 which is probably the best one that we have yet made.

Mr. Goodhart

As the recent revaluation of the German mark has clearly increased the direct cost of BAOR by £20 million since the beginning of this year, can my hon. Friend say whether there will be a renegotiation of the offset agreement?

Mr. Gilmour

As my hon. Friend knows, there are a great many calculations necessary throughout the defence budget concerning the revaluation. We have not yet completed those calculations, so it is too early to make an announcement.

Mr. Paget

As British troops in Germany, in the stations provided for them by the West German Government, are not in a position to make any contribution to the defence of Europe since their northern flank is totally exposed and indefensible, would not they be more useful at home?

Mr. Gilmour

The hon. and learned Gentleman's strategic doctrines are deeply eccentric and, if I may say so, utterly obsolete.

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman referred to the negotiations and discussions. When will the Government be in a position to make an announcement about them?

Mr. Gilmour

I do not know. It will not be for some time.

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