HC Deb 16 October 1973 vol 861 cc5-6
5. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the progress of the Eurogroup of Defence Ministers in strengthening and co-ordinating the defence of Western Europe and the extent to which the French Government are taking part in the group.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

We are much encouraged by the success of the European defence improvement programme in improving European force capabilities and by efforts in the group to develop practical collaboration between the European countries particularly in the equipment field. There is still much to be done, and Her Majesty's Government will continue to take part in and encourage these efforts.

France does not at present take part in the work of the group.

Mr. Cronin

What steps is the Minister taking through the Eurogroup of Defence Ministers to resolve the present unsatisfactory situation whereby Britain spends a much higher proportion of her gross national product on defence for Western Europe than any other country in Western Europe except Portugal?

Mr. Gilmour

We discussed these matters in the defence debate. The pro- portion of GNP devoted to defence is not the only criterion by which to judge these matters. Germany spends far more on the defence of Europe than we do, and France spends about the same. This is not a matter suitable for the Eurogroup.

Mr. Hooson

Does the Minister agree that there is a deep underlying fear in this country of excessive integration with the Europeans on a defence level, and that there is a fear that that might lead to a Europe that might embark on military adventures of her own? Is it the aim of the Government to have an integrated European defence community?

Mr. Gilmour

I do not accept that there is any such fear, either widespread or otherwise. It is the belief of most hon. Members that as European integration proceeds there will be increasing unification of the European defence effort.