§ 1. Mr. Nicholas Winterton
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the operational readiness of United Kingdom forces stationed on the German Rhine.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army (Mr. Philip Goodhart)
I am confident that British Forces in Germany are fully capable of making their major contribution to the implementation of NATO strategy.
§ Mr. Winterton
Although I do not wish to anticipate the statement to be made later this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, whom we congratulate on taking an important position in the Government, may I point out to my hon. Friend that many Conservative Members believe that the readiness of our troops in BAOR is totally inadequate, both in respect of personnel and equipment? Is he aware that some of us have received complaints that our troops in BAOR are inadequately provided with ammunition and spares for the equipment there?
§ Mr. Goodhart
I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise that during the past year the strength of BAOR has increased markedly and that, due to improved manning levels in the Royal Armoured Corps, 560 tanks are manned at present in BAOR, compared with 475 in January 1980.
§ Mr. Buck
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on his appointment. We hope that he will have a happy tenure of office. In spite of what my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) said, is he aware that many of us were reassured by the visit we paid recently during the BAOR exercise? Does he agree that that exercise indicated that a high degree of preparedness and morale exists there, as well as a high degree of efficiency in the back-up from the Territorial Army in the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Goodhart
I thank my hon. and learned Friend. He will remember that it takes a long time fully to evaluate the result of any exercise. Certainly, the initial reaction of 134 foreign observers and of the Ministry of Defence to "Operation Crusader" showed that it was an outstanding success.
§ Mr. Newens
Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that there are limits to the amount of money which, in our present economic circumstances, we can afford to devote to British forces on the Continent? Is it not high time that we made clear to our allies that they must make a much larger contribution if those forces are to stay there?
§ Mr. Goodhart
I realise that it is important for all the allies in NATO to make an adequate contribution to the central front. There is no doubt that Britain's commitment to the central front is essential to our strategy.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend
Does my hon. Friend consider that Germany is making a sufficient financial contribution to the maintenance of BAOR, bearing in mind that Germany benefits directly? If that is his view what new initiative will the Government take?