HC Deb 14 January 1975 vol 884 cc174-5
13. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how he intends to help those members of Her Majesty's Forces whom he will make redundant to find another job.

Mr. William Rodgers

There already exists an extensive and well proven resettlement service to assist all personnel leaving the forces to find new employment, and those made redundant as a result of the defence review would naturally be able to make use of it. We are considering whether its resources need to be supplemented in any way.

Mr. Morrison

Is the Minister aware that at a time of growing unemployment the cuts announced in the defence review can have only an adverse effect? Does he agree that, whatever might be the ideological reasons for cutting down on the Services, throwing men out of work is not compatible with the present employment situation?

Mr. Rodgers

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has introduced the false note of ideology into a discussion of a genuine human problem. It is true that there will be situations which may be difficult. We shall do our best. I should say that the numbers becoming redundant are a relatively modest proportion of the total number of personnel who leave the Armed Services every year for whom resettlement services exist.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Is my hon. Friend aware of the view of economists and economic historians that since 1945 the chief reason for recurring economic recession has been a deficit in our balance of payments due to the money expended on military forces abroad? Would it not be sensible to cure economic recession by withdrawing such troops or reducing their numbers?

Mr. Rodgers

I should like to hear chapter and verse from my hon. Friend before being persuaded that in the opinion of economists and economic historians our balance of payments deficit since 1945 has been due mainly to the presence of British forces abroad. We believe that the savings we are making in defence expenditure are justified, and we intend to proceed with them. I hope very much that they will win the support of my hon. Friend.

Mr. Cormack

Will the Minister send his hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) details of the defence expenditure of the Warsaw Pact countries? Will he take this opportunity of reiterating that the prime duty of every Government is to defend the homes of this land and not to waste money on extravagant and unnecessary domestic expenditure? The position of defence expenditure must always be first and foremost.

Mr. Rodgers

This is a matter of balance and common sense. We have to maintain an adequate defence programme for our national interest, but unless we spend sufficiently on all the important social programmes at home we shall not be fulfilling our obligations.