HC Deb 25 November 1975 vol 901 cc655-6
16. Mr. Sproat

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the extent to which the obligation on all signatories of the documents signed following the CSCE to report all manœuvres involving over 25,000 men within 155 miles of another country has been implemented in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Mason

The United Kingdom has not carried out a major military manœuvre, involving over 25,000 troops which is notifiable under the terms of the CSCE Final Act. As I made clear to the House on 31st October, the United Kingdom gave prior notification of the participation of 6,000–7,000 British troops in Exercise "Deep Express", in accordance with that part of the CSCE Final Act which allows States discretion to notify military manœuvres involving fewer than 25,000 men.

Mr. Sproat

The House will welcome the fact that the United Kingdom and NATO as a whole are fulfilling their obligations, including their voluntary obligations, under the Helsinki agreements. Has any notification of manœuvres—voluntary or obligatory notification—been received from the Warsaw Pact forces? Does the right hon. Gentleman have any evidence that Warsaw Pact forces have carried out notifiable manœuvres without notifying them? What consideration is NATO giving to what it will do if the Soviet Union continues flagrantly and consistently to breach the obligations about notification of manœuvres?

Mr. Mason

NATO has given prior notification of seven military manœuvres, three of them involving more than 25,000 men. West Germany also invited observers to one of its exercises. The Warsaw Pact has not notified us of any manœuvres to date, but we are not aware that it has carried out any military manœuvres involving more than 25,000 men.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the obligation concerning manœuvres was one of the most valuable outcomes of Helsinki? Is it not helping to prevent a false and even a fatal conclusion being made by a military commander on either side about the intentions of military manœuvres by the other?

Mr. Mason

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I must inform him that it is all voluntary and not mandatory. He will therefore appreciate, from my first supplementary reply, that we have been affording the Warsaw Pact Powers a great deal of information about our military manœuvres. They have not yet informed us of any of theirs. Certainly it will be to the advantage of NATO and the Warsaw Pact if both sides honour the CSCE agreement. I am hopeful that the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union will do so.