HC Deb 16 January 1979 vol 960 cc1475-6
5. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the NATO Defence Ministers' meeting in December.

Mr. Mulley

At that meeting on 5th and 6th December 1978 NATO Defence Ministers reiterated their concern at the growing military capabilities of the Warsaw Pact. They recognised that in the absence of equitable arms control and disarmament agreements, a satisfactory military balance could be assured only by greater efforts to modernise and strengthen the military capacity of the Alliance, and they undertook to take all possible steps to bring about the necessary improvements in their contributions to its deterrent and defence capabilities.

A full text of the final communique of this meeting has been placed in the Library.

Mr. Allaun

In the informal session, did not US Defence Secretary Brown warn against the likelihood of the sale of Harriers to China, as imperilling both SALT and detente? Secondly, if the Americans and the Germans can secure industrial contracts with China while refusing military contracts, why cannot we do the same?

Mr. Mulley

It is not usual to discuss what may or may not have taken place within the NATO ministerial meetings, but to avoid any misunderstanding and to make it clear I can say that the question of the supply of arms, or, indeed, any other trade with China, was not discussed at all.

Mr. Churchill

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that last summer he gave the House an undertaking that by the time of the next NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels, forecast for December, there would no longer be any of the more than 10 per cent. of British Army of the Rhine's Chieftain tank force in mothballs? Has he been able to honour that undertaking? Can he say that they are now all fully operational?

Mr. Mulley

I cannot without notice give an answer about a specific number of tanks. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question.