HC Deb 09 November 1976 vol 919 cc194-6
4. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what savings would be made in his Vote if British forces in Europe were withdrawn and disbanded.

Mr. Mulley

No such assessment has been made.

Mr. Jenkins

Will my right hon. Friend proceed to make such an assessment? Is it not desirable to know the facts so that we could recognise, for example, what the consequence would be if BAOR were withdrawn and maintained or withdrawn and disbanded? Such information would be valuable. The knowledge that my right hon. Friend was looking into these matters would be salutary in Germany.

Mr. Mulley

As I have said, it is not the intention or desire to withdraw our forces from Germany. Secondly, at a time when, rightly, I am urged to make substantial reductions in defence expenditure, I am reluctant to indulge in an exercise of accountancy which would entail a lot of man hours when I do not see the need for it. In any event, we should need to keep some of the forces, not least because of our commitment in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Goodhart

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that two can play at the Prime Minister's game, and that the United States and Germany are unlikely to give support to sterling if we threaten to tear down the Alliance by withdrawing BAOR?

Mr. Mulley

The hon. Gentleman tempts me to trespass into areas which I think my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would prefer to keep for himself.

Mr. Robin F. Cook

Does my right hon. Friend believe that the British balance of payments problem is less severe than that of France? Will he make it plain to the West German Government that we shall have to follow France's example and withdraw a portion of our troops unless there is an adequate offset agreement to help us bear the foreign exchange burden?

Mr. Mulley

Our substantial contribution in foreign exchange, not only through BAOR but through our other NATO commitments, is well known, and I hope and believe that a solution will be found.

Mr. Onslow

Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman be more robust in his answers to such questions and tell his friends from the Tribune Group that he has not made such an assessment, because only the professional disarmers would want to see British forces withdrawn and the Alliance collapse? Why cannot he tell them to get lost?

Mr. Mulley

If the unhappy day ever came when the hon. Gentleman had responsibility at this Dispatch Box, I would expect him to make the answers that he wished to make. While I have the responsibility, I shall answer Questions in my own way.

Mr. Freud

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he could effect an instant saving by releasing from the RAF a constituent of mine who has written to him seven times in the last year, during which he has done nothing except be promoted?

Mr. Mulley

I must confess that I am not familiar with that particular problem, but I shall make it my business to acquaint myself with it during the afternoon.

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