HC Deb 12 October 1976 vol 917 cc228-9
8. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is satisfied with British defences.

Mr. Mulley

I have no doubt that the Government's policy of concentrating our defence resources on the North Atlantic Alliance provides the best guarantee of our continued security. I am satisfied that we are continuing to make an effective military contribution to the collective security of the Alliance in accordance with the priorities established by the defence review.

Mr. Jessel

Is the Secretary of State aware that his satisfaction is not shared? Has he seen the literature put out by his Department saying that the vast military resources of the Warsaw Pact countries continue to pose a substantial threat to our security? When will he show himself to be alive to that threat?

Mr. Mulley

The fact that my Department is making this fact known shows that we are alive to the threat. However, we do not consider, and have not considered for the past 20-odd years, that this is a threat which we can contain by ourselves.

Mr. George Rodgers

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in present economic circumstances the retention by the United Kingdom of an independent nuclear deterrent is an expensive absurdity and that it would be possible to make cuts in public expenditure in this area without dramatically affecting employment?

Mr. Mulley

I do not think that the nuclear deterrent and its contribution to the total forces of the Alliance is valueless. Also, if we disposed of it I do not think that the result would be entirely painless in terms of employment, despite what my hon. Friend suggests.

Mr. Luce

Will the Secretary of State make quite plain whether he endorses the views of his predecessor, given to me in a reply in July, when he said that to accept the proposals of the Tribune Group to cut defence expenditure still further would be at best neutrality and at worst surrender?

Mr. Mulley

I hope that I shall not be expected to confirm every answer given by my predecessor over two and a half years. But certainly, if the hon. Member has in mind the very large sums sometimes bandied about, I agree that to reach that target would greatly reduce our defence capability.

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