HC Deb 16 January 1979 vol 960 cc1476-7
6. Mr. Litterick

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he has any plans to meet the Romanian Defence Minister in the near future. Mr. Mulley: I have no such plans.

Mr. Litterick

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Romanian arms expenditure is $ 43 per head of population, while ours is $239 per head? In view of this and of the fact that the Romanian President has recently successfully resisted pressure from the Warsaw Pact to increase his country's defence expenditure, on the ground that his country cannot afford it, does not my right hon. Friend think that it would be helpful to the British people if he consulted his opposite number in Romania to discover how they worked this remarkable and beneficial trick?

Mr. Mulley

My hon. Friend should be a little cautious about comparing defence expenditure of Warsaw Pact countries on the published figures. One of the difficulties that we have tried to resolve in the United Nations is to get some common basis on which defence expenditures can be compared. However, of course I agree with my hon. Friend, as was agreed when the Prime Minister and the President of Romania met in the summer, that we have a common interest in lessening military confrontation and promoting disarmament. But it would not be helpful for me to get involved in internal discussions within the Warsaw Pact.

Mr. Grocott

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the relatively independent line being taken by the Romanian Government is one of the most encouraging things which has happened since the armed camps were established in Europe at the end of the war? Is it asking too much that there might one day be some reciprocal gesture by one of the NATO countries—preferably Britain?

Mr. Mulley

I agree that decisions by the Warsaw Pact not to increase defence expenditure are to be welcomed. But before coming to a comparative judgment my hon. Friend should consider the disparity between the Warsaw Pact capabilities and those of the NATO Alliance.