§ 10. Mr. David Price
asked the Secretary of State for Defence, in view of the growing Soviet threat to the stability of South-West Asia, what additional strengthening he intends to make of Her Majesty's Forces' mobile capability.
§ Mr. Pym
Her Majesty's Forces already have the capability to deploy world-wide to meet various contingencies. A Royal Navy task group deploys every year outside the NATO area. The current operation in Rhodesia has demonstrated the ability of the Army and RAF to respond to a non-NATO task. All three Services have a regular programme of training and exercises with friendly countries. However, in the light of recent events in Afghanistan, we shall continue, in consultation with our Allies, to keep under review our Forces' capability for operations outside the NATO area.
§ Mr. Pym
In certain circumstances one could wish that that capability was larger. On the other hand, we must keep our capabilities in proportion. In order to carry troops to Rhodesia, for instance, in a short space of time, we required the use of substantially larger aircraft from the United States, which seemed to be a sensible use of Alliance resources. The 1256 Alliance exists as a partnership, and the resources of each partner should be used as required in each situation. It does not mean, however, that we are satisfied with the present level of our transport. We are looking into the matter, and it may be possible modestly to extend our capability.
§ Mr. Stephen Ross
Does the Minister agree that the large-scale type hovercraft would provide an additional mobility capability for our Forces in the South-West Asia area? What does the Minister intend to do about procuring some?