HC Deb 08 February 1989 vol 146 cc978-9
18. Mr. Madel

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has assessed the extent to which the recent announcement of arms reduction in its forces by the East German Government represents a further lowering of tension in Europe; and if he will make a statement.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We welcome the announcement by the GDR Government on 23 January that they intend to reduce the size of their armed forces. But the effect which these cuts will have on the overall East-West balance of forces will be small, and a number of questions remain about how the cuts will be taken and whether obsolete or modern equipment will be involved.

Mr. Madel

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that proposed or actual reductions in forces by East Germany do not reduce tension in Europe so long as the Berlin wall remains in place? Will he also confirm that it remains the Government's policy to work for a peaceful reunification of West and East Germany?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the way in which the continued presence of the Berlin wall makes a mockery of all our efforts to remove barriers in Europe. We all look forward to the day when it comes down. On the wider question, successive British Governments have taken it as axiomatic that real and permanent stability in Europe will be difficult to achieve so long as the German nation is divided against its will.