HC Deb 06 April 1976 vol 909 cc204-5
2. Mr. Banks

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what uncommitted forces are available for unforeseen circumstances outside the NATO area.

Mr. Mason

The general purpose forces of all three Services are available for world-wide deployment if necessary.

Mr. Banks

Does not the Secretary of State have to agree that areas outside NATO in which we have important interests are vulnerable to Communist intrusion because of the paucity of forces at our disposal?

Mr. Mason

We are not suffering from a paucity of forces. If necessary, we could deploy most of our three Services world-wide. We retain that capability.

Mr. Cronin

Is it not the case that the mobility conferred by air, including helicopters on ships, is such that the need for specially committed forces outside NATO is much less now than previously?

Mr. Mason

We have cut back considerably on our international commitments and, in consequence, cut our transport force by about 50 per cent. If we had to deploy world-wide we could do so, but it would take longer and the routes might be more difficult. However, as we have cut back on our international commitments I do not see us having to deploy world-wide as often as in the past.

Mr. Goodhew

What co-operation has the Secretary of State sought from other NATO Powers to help in the defence of British and NATO interests in Southern Africa?

Mr. Mason

It would be best to leave the nations of Southern Africa to determine their future without any outside interference, irrespective of what nations may be concerned.