HC Deb 24 January 1978 vol 942 cc1171-2
Q1. Mr. Roderick

asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to meet the Heads of Government of NATO member countries.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I will meet NATO Heads of Government collectively at the North Atlantic Council meeting to be held in Washington in May, although I expect to meet some of them on other occasions before then.

Mr. Roderick

Will my right hon. Friend contact them before that meeting to ask them to justify asking us to pay more for defence, bearing in mind that there is only one European member of NATO which contributes more as a proportion of its gross national product than the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

I constantly point that out, and I have to remind the Opposition that that is true too—namely, that we are the only country in NATO which contributes on all the major fronts. We have the largest European navy in the Eastern Atlantic, we contribute to the strategic weapon through the Polaris submarines, and we maintain an army on the mainland of Europe. That is a creditable performance.

Mr. Blaker

Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to yesterday's statement by the Tribune Group which calls for a policy of non-alignment and appears to be calling for closer talks between parties such as the Labour Party and the Communist Party? Will he tell his NATO colleagues that he totally repudiates that statement?

The Prime Minister

There is no ministerial responsibility for the Tribune Group.

Mr. MacFarquhar

Will my right hon. Friend say whether the NATO Heads of Government or their staffs have ongoing consultations about problems in the Horn of Africa? If so, to what conclusions are they coming?

The Prime Minister

The Horn of Africa is outside the area that the NATO group of countries takes into formal consideration, but there have been a number of discussions between certain members of NATO which have interests outside the normal boundaries of NATO. That will continue and, I hope, intensify in view of the adventurism that is now being shown in that area.

Mr. Alan Clark

When the Prime Minister meets the heads of the NATO countries, will he think it appropriate to raise with them the way in which British jobs and technology have been casually discarded in the political wheeling and dealing that governs weapon procurement within the Alliance, of which the rejection of the British tank gun is the most recent example? Is the Prime Minister aware that at the time the Boeing AWAC was rejected the quid pro quo was the purchase by the United States of an inferior German gun? Were the two programmes properly evaluated in terms of jobs and expenditure?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Seretary of State for Defence has just concluded 45 minutes of answering Questions on these matters. Surely these detailed questions would be more appropriately put to my right hon. Friend. The arrangements for the purchase of a British or other tank gun are still being pursued by the British team. I believe that on merits we have a very good case.