HC Deb 01 November 1983 vol 47 c733
16. Mr. Neil Thorne

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will assess the cost-effectiveness of maintaining United Kingdom forces in Cyprus.

Mr. Heseltine

The tasks and commitments of British forces stationed abroad are reviewed regularly. I am Satisfied that those in Cyprus perform a valuable function in a cost-effective manner.

Mr. Thorne

In view of the important role that Cyprus has enabled our forces to play in the Middle East in the recent past, will my right hon. Friend confirm that we should ask our NATO allies to acknowledge the enormous debt owed to the British forces in Cyprus and that we should continue to maintain our present position?

Mr. Heseltine

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this matter. We are aware of the value of such sovereign bases and we have no plans to withdraw from them.

Mr. James Lamond

When the Secretary of State was assessing the cost of the base, did he take into account in compiling the balance sheet the fact that we have refused to pay more than £200 million in rent to the Cyprus Government?

Mr. Heseltine

That matter would have to be discussed between my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and the appropriate authorities.

Mr. Jim Spicer

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that that rent of £200 million amounts to blackmail by the Cyprus Government? We have no commitment to pay that money.

Mr. Heseltine

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sure that his remarks contribute to the answer that I would have given the hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond).