HC Deb 10 July 1979 vol 970 cc237-9
2. Mr. Temple-Morris

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he intends to meet his colleagues in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Mr. Pym

I expect to meet my NATO colleagues at the ministerial meetings of the nuclear planning group and defence planning committee later this year.

Mr. Temple-Morris

Is not my right hon. Friend only too well aware of the danger to NATO and to Europe caused by the Russian SS20 missile? Will he undertake to discuss with his NATO colleagues, and more particularly with Defence Secretary Brown during his coming visit to the United States, the whole question of the modernisation of the theatre nuclear force?

Mr. Pym

There is no doubt that the weapon developed by Soviet Russia, mentioned by my hon. Friend, and the general build-up of military strength by the Warsaw Pact countries present the NATO Alliance with a formidable threat. The most urgent aspect for us is the modernisation of theatre nuclear forces, to which my hon. Friend refers. It is the intention of the Alliance to try to take decisions on this important subject by the end of the year. I shall have this matter very much in mind during my visit to the United States next week.

Mr. Rodgers

In advance of his next meeting with his NATO colleagues, the right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the deep concern felt about the security implications of the explosions that took place earlier today at British Army establishments in Germany. Will he make a statement to the House now, or will he give further details at a later stage?

Mr. Pym

I am sure that everyone in the House will join me in condemning the two bomb explosions that took place at BAOR messes in the early hours of this morning. Although there has been extensive superficial damage, I am glad to say that no one was injured in either incident. Service units have since been put on a higher level of security alert, and investigations into the bombings are being carried out with the utmost urgency. Obviously, we want to know, as soon as possible, everything that we can about the incidents, who caused them, who is responsible, why they happened and whether our own internal security is adequate.

Mr. Amery

Has the attention of my right hon. Friend been drawn to the proposals now under discussion in Washington for the formation of a unilateral force to intervene in defence of Western interests outside NATO? Has his attention further been drawn to similar proposals which appear to be under discussion in Paris? Will he consider, both within his Ministry and when he meets his NATO colleagues, whether we might usefully make a contribution in the same direction?

Mr. Pym

I am aware of the plans being prepared in the United States, and, as my right hon. Friend knows, in an earlier office which I held when sitting on the Opposition benches I took particular interest in events in the Middle East and other areas outside NATO. It is very much in my mind to pursue this matter and make assessments, with our American allies, when I go to the United States next week.

Mr. Newens

Does the right hon. Gentleman intend, at any time, to raise with his colleagues in NATO the question of the heavy cost to the British economy of the British Army of the Rhine? Does he accept that, in the interests of this country, steps must be taken at some stage to reduce the very heavy burden we are carrying?

Mr. Pym

This issue has been raised on a number of occasions with the Federal Republic of Germany. The last agreement was reached by the previous Administration, which the hon. Gentleman supported when he was on the Government Benches. It has, I think, another year or two to run. I am aware of the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. I have to make further progress in saving money, if it is possible, in the light of the agreement reached by the previous Government.

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