§ 8. Mr. Nicholas Winterton
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the availability of equipment to those regiments serving in the British Army of the Rhine.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army (Mr. Robert C. Brown)
I am satisfied that the British Army of the Rhine has the equipment it needs to perform its role. Our aim is to ensure that BAOR can continue to meet the threat as it develops, and there is a major re-equipment programme under way to achieve this aim.
§ Mr. Winterton
I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Does he agree that the first priority of any Government is to be able to guarantee the security of the State against external aggression? Is he aware that certain units in BAOR cannot undertake exercises because of shortage of material and equipment and also because it takes a tremendous time to get the necessary spares for the obsolete equipment which they have?
§ Mr. Brown
I agree with the hon. Gentleman's first premise. There has been no significant shortage of spares in BAOR during the last year. In an organisation as large as the British Army, it is inevitable that temporary shortages will occur from time to time, but these are overcome as a matter of normal equipment management.
§ Mr. Ronald Atkins
Bearing in mind that the State with which we are concerned is Germany, and that in percentage terms of the gross national product Germany's contribution is less than ours although her exchange position is very strong, would not it be in the interests of NATO for Germany to make a bigger contribution to the equipment of BAOR?
§ Mr. Winterton
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Because of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman has made it impossible for me to call the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill).