HC Deb 22 May 1974 vol 874 cc369-70
13. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with Foreign Ministers of the NATO countries about the implications for foreign policy of the Government's current defence review; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hattersley

There have been no such discussions. The Defence Review —which is the most comprehensive to be undertaken in recent years—is still in its early stages. There will of course be full consultation with our allies wherever their interests are involved and before final decisions are taken.

Mr. Blaker

Are the Government bearing in mind that what might be put at risk by any large defence cuts is not simply the ability of the alliance to deter aggression or defend itself if attacked, but the political will of the member countries and their political solidarity? Will he urge the Foreign Secretary, who supports the alliance, to press this point on his colleagues?

Mr. Hattersley

I am glad that the hon. Member acknowledges the robust support given to the alliance by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. His views on the Atlantic alliance are an essential part of his foreign policy, but as well as that obligation he understands the Government's obligations to the British economy. We must come to a solution which is consistent with our enthusiastic membership of NATO and the necessities of the present economic situation.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear to NATO countries that one of the obvious implications of the British defence review is that NATO countries should pay their fair share and that in particular Germany should pay the £400 million it costs us to keep troops on the Continent at a cost of £300 million to our balance of payments?

Mr. Hattersley

Successive Governments have said a great deal about offset costs. My hon. Friend will understand that at the beginning of the review it is wisest for all Ministers not to deal with specific matters of that sort but simply to give assurances that the review is comprehensive and genuine and that as it gets towards its end there will be consultations with all our allies.