HC Deb 19 May 1981 vol 5 cc140-1
2. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a further statement about a British contribution to the rapid deployment of Western forces.

11. Mr. Temple-Morris

asked the Secretary cf State for Defence what progress is being made towards the establishment of a rapid deployment force.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force (Mr. Geoffrey Pattie)

I refer my hon. Friends to the answers given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 17 March this year.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

May we be sure that the review of future expenditure will take account of the Prime Minister's and the Government's support of the RDF? In noting the preparations that are being made in the United States under a marine corps general, are not the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment well suited to make a British contribution?

Mr. Pattie

All these factors will be taken into account.

Mr. Temple-Morris

Does my hon. Friend consider that the best contribution that we can make to the rapid deployment force, both historically and generally, is the Royal Marines?

Mr. Pattie

My hon. Friend speaks correctly of the excellent contribution made by the Royal Marines in the past, and naturally we would not deny that.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Is not the idea of a separate British rapid deployment force becoming more and more of a delusion? Any forces earmarked for such a role are already seriously overstretched. If the reports underlying this week's events become true, they are likely to be even more so. Other European countries are, to say the least, unenthusiastic about the idea, let alone any countries to which such a force might be sent. Should not the hon. Gentleman drop the whole daft idea?

Mr. Pattie

The only delusion is in the mind of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He seems to have forgotten that the units that have the capability rapidly to deploy outside Britain currently exist within the United Kingdom. The proposal turns on how these units may be pulled together and used at the appropriate moment.

Mr. Jim Spicer

Does my hon. Friend agree that we should be thinking very much of a European contribution? Will he give an assurance that that will be discussed and that it will be complementary to the American rapid deployment force?

Mr. Pattie

All developments and potential developments are considered and discussed with our NATO allies, both European and the United States.

Mr. Frank Allaun

How can the Prime Minister talk of a British contribution to the RDF, which could land us in a war, and at the same time talk about drastic reductions in the Royal Navy? It does not make sense.

Mr. Pattie

I was not aware that my right hon. Friend had been talking in those terms especially as regards the Royal Navy. However, if the hon. Gentleman wishes to indulge in press speculation of that sort, I would point out that my right hon. Friend offered the United Kingdom's support in any development that the United States might wish to undertake where the interests of the NATO allies are at stake. There seems to be nothing remarkable in that.

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