HC Deb 10 June 1976 vol 912 cc1665-6
Q2. Mr. Banks

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet the Secretary-General of NATO.

The Prime Minister

I have no plans to meet the Secretary-General in the near future. But my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary met him at the North Atlantic Council meeting in Oslo on 20th and 21st May; and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is seeing him today at the meeting of the NATO Defence Planning Committee in Brussels.

Mr. Banks

What assurance will the Prime Minister give the Secretary-General that he will not cheat the country out of its proper and vital defence rôle by implementing any part of the Labour Party programme on defence to appease the Marxist members in his party, an action for which he has no mandate and which the great majority of people will deplore?

The Prime Minister

When I have the pleasure of meeting Dr. Luns we do not conduct our conversations on that basis. I think that the general NATO attitude towards Britain is that she is making a full and proper contribution to a unified defence system. I have had no complaint on any other score; and I doubt that we shall be discussing those matters.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Prime Minister have a word with Dr. Luns about the SNP commitment to a separate Scottish air force? He might even pass on some of the well informed speeches which my hon. Friends hope to make this afternoon on the operational efficiency and costs of a tartan air force.

The Prime Minister

When Dr. Luns and I meet we discuss matters of more immediate practical importance than that, but if the Scottish nationalists would like some assistance, I shall ask the Secretary of State for Defence to give them some idea of what the cost for a separate air force would be. It might frighten them a little.

Mr. Tebbit

When the Prime Minister meets the Secretary-General will he discuss with him the fact that in recent weeks it has emerged from his own Government's estimates that Russian spending on defence is very much higher than we believed it to be when we conducted our own defence reviews? In view of this, should we not conduct another review to see whether it is necessary for us to spend something faintly approaching the 11 per cent. or 12 per cent. of GNP that the Russians spend on defence?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that the Soviet defence capacity has been underestimated. What has been underestimated is the proportion of the Soviet GDP that it involves. According to the latest figures, it looks as though the Russians have had to absorb about 11 per cent. or 12 per cent. of their GDP per annum, but this does not make any difference to the assumption which has been made by the chiefs of staff and others of the actual size of the Soviet capability. It has been increasing in recent years, and this has not been disguised.

Mr. Watt

When the Prime Minister meets the Secretary-General, will he let him know that the proposed air force of the Scottish Parliament will be one that is relevant to the needs of Scotland and suitable for patrolling the fishing limits around our shores? Can he tell us when he will place some orders for Jetstream aircraft with Scottish Aviation Ltd. for aircraft suitable for such a purpose now?

The Prime Minister

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman has assumed the rôle of Shadow Minister of Defence, but if he has I salute him and congratulate him on his maiden speech. I would say to him that I hope that the people of Scotland will believe that their defence needs are adequately covered by the defence arrangements for the United Kingdom. I hope that they will not listen to the rather silly nonsense which is talked about setting up a separate defence service, presumably with another army, navy and air force, to protect the Scottish people.