HC Deb 16 January 1979 vol 960 cc1484-6
14. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether the forces of the NATO Alliance have been increasing or decreasing in strength relative to those of the Warsaw Pact.

Mr. Mulley

In recent years trends in the balance of conventional military forces between NATO and the Warsaw Pact have been moving to NATO's disadvantage. Until realistic measures of arms control and disarmament can be achieved, NATO is determined to meet the challenge of the Warsaw Pact military build-up by such means as the long-term defence programme. This is a major cooperative undertaking designed to adapt the alliance's defence posture to meet the needs of the 1980s.

Mr. Tebbit

Does that mean that it is Her Majesty's Government's policy to give their full weight to all measures designed to ensure that the NATO forces again reach the same level of strength as those of the Warsaw Pact?

Mr. Mulley

As has been stated on many occasions, to sustain the NATO policy of deterrence it is not necessary to match the Warsaw Pact's capability weapon by weapon. Clearly it is necessary, in the view of our allies and ourselves, that the long-term defence progamme is operated and supported to the full. It is a matter not only of introducing extra resources but of assigning such resources as are available to the best use. We are fully operating and fully supporting the long-term defence programme.

Mr. James Lamond

What does my right hon. Friend think of the statement issued by the Warsaw Pact countries after their recent meeting in which they suggested that they were keen to negotiate a reduction in the level of arms, especially the number of tanks and the personnel that they have on the frontier facing West Germany?

Mr. Mulley

I naturally welcome such intentions and I hope that they will bear fruit. As my hon. Friend knows, the Warsaw Pact and NATO countries concerned have been trying for a long time in Vienna to reach exactly that sort of agreement.

Mr. Hooson

In view of the recent disclosure in the United States that a quarter of the Soviet ground military strength is now stationed along the Chinese border or the eastern border, and as it is known that many American forces are not assigned to NATO, how are these relative factors taken into account in assessing the comparable strength of NATO as opposed to the strength of the Warsaw Pact countries?

Mr. Mulley

For the purpose of assessment we depend on intelligence sources. However, there is no doubt that the Warsaw Pact commands in Europe a considerable military capability.

Mr. Heffer

As my right hon. Friend is aware, some countries in the Warsaw Pact—for example, Romania—are not as enthusiastic about the Warsaw Pact as others. Is it not time that we entered into discussions with such countries so as to achieve a reduction and to test the Warsaw Pact countries and their arms build-up? Is he aware that many Labour Members are not enamoured of either the Warsaw Pact or NATO? Is it not time that we had a distinctive Labour Party Socialist policy to deal with these matters?

Mr. Mulley

I think that my hon. Friend will realise, on reflection, that these matters cannot be dealt with bilaterally and that it is essential that the multilateral character of disarmament negotiations is preserved. In Vienna, for about five years we have been trying to achieve mutual force reductions.

Mr. Marten

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed that the enthusiasts for the Common Market have suddenly started introducing the defence element into the Common Market debate? Will he confirm that the Treaty of Rome has nothing to do with defence?

Mr. Mulley

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has read the Treaty of Rome on many occasions. It is rather surprising that he should wish me to confirm that it has nothing to do with defence. As I recall from my last reading of the treaty, which was a long time ago, it contains no reference to defence.

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