HC Deb 09 November 1977 vol 938 cc654-6
6. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will state the estimated cost in 1977–78 and 1978–79 of the British Army of the Rhine and also its cost to Great Britain in deutschemarks; and if he will make a statement on his agreement with Bonn to phase out entirely West Germany's partial compensation for this expenditure.

Dr. Owen

Excluding equipment, the estimated budgetary cost of British Forces in Germany in 1977–78 is about £700 million. The estimated foreign exchange cost of British Forces in Germany in 1977–78 is about £540 million. Estimates of costs for 1978–79 are not yet available.

The agreement provides for the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany to pay DM475 million towards expenditure on barrack and other facilities for the use of British Forces in Germany over the next three years, and details are set out in Cmnd. 6970.

Mr. Allaun

Will the Foreign Secretary reconsider this astonishing agreement? Does he not agree that it is grossly unfair that the wealthier country, after two years, should cease to make any contribution at all to this enormous burden of joint military preparation?

Dr. Owen

I think that it is a very satisfactory outcome to an extremely difficult problem. DM475 million is a large sum by any reckoning. Averaged over the three years covered by the agreement, it works out at nearly 50 per cent. more than the cash payments in each of the years covered by the previous agreement.

Mr. Newens

Does not my right hon. Friend recognise that, in effect, this agreement provides for Great Britain permanently to subsidise the West German economy, and that this is the reality of what we are doing? Does he regard this as satisfactory; and, if so, how long does he expect that it will continue? Does he regard it as reasonable that it should go on for ever?

Dr. Owen

It is not a permanent subsidy. The forces that we maintain on the mainland of Europe are in accordance with treaty obligations, and they have a vital role to play in the forward defence strategy of the Alliance. They are a major element in Britain's contribution to the collective defence of the Alliance, and they make an important contribution to the security of the United Kingdom itself. They are there for our own national interests.