HC Deb 12 June 1979 vol 968 cc225-6
18. Mr. Viggers

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is satisfied with the United Kingdom contribution to the southern flank of NATO.

Mr. Pym

I do not believe that there is any room for complacency in any area of our contribution to the Alliance. In consultation with our allies we shall aim to make our contribution as effective as possible.

Mr. Viggers

Does the Secretary of State accept that our present contribution to the southern flank of NATO is nothing more than negligible? In view of the improvement in morale and commitment that we could encourage by making some further presence on the southern flank, does he accept that we should now reappraise the area in which we make our contribution to NATO?

Mr. Pym

I have a great deal of sympathy with what my hon. Friend has said. I have already had the opportunity of having discussions with the defence Ministers of, for example, Portugal and Turkey. Our commitment and presence there is of a limited kind. None the less, we have been able to be helpful to Portugal in the matter of equipment. We are giving aid to Turkey. We want to develop this relationship because we share the view that the southern flank of NATO is obviously an important part of the Alliance.

Mr. Flannery

Will the Minister assure us that members of the Conservative Party do not live in a state of permanent terror, expecting somebody from Eastern Europe constantly to bombard us with nuclear weapons? We have a general impression that the Tories are all ready to get into uniform.

Mr. Pym

I think that a uniform would do the hon. Gentleman quite a lot of good. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw".] The hon. Gentleman is enjoying it. We shall not live in anything that may be described as a reign of terror, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, provided that our defences and security are adequate to ensure that we are able to continue in peace.

Mr. Flannery

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We take points of order at the end of questions.

Mr. James Callaghan

Is the Secretary of State for Defence aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) served in the Armed Forces as gallantly as anybody in this House? Will he therefore withdraw any aspersion that he made.

Mr. Pym

I am aware of that. I was not implying anything about the hon. Gentleman—although he made accusations about Government supporters. If he feels offended, I shall certainly withdraw. At the time I made the remark it seemed to me that he thought it was quite humorous.

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