HC Deb 02 June 1992 vol 208 cc691-2
3. Mr. Ancram

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what reconsideration, if any, he has given to the pace of the restructuring of the Army in the light of developments in the former federation of Yugoslavia and other international areas of unrest.

Mr. Rifkind

Changes in the international security environment and the need to provide forces relevant to the challenges of the mid-1990s and beyond were taken into account in the Government's decisions on the restructuring of the armed forces.

Mr. Ancram

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, in the light of the horrific events in Bosnia and Croatia and of the increasing tensions in former parts of the Soviet Union, the security considerations and the potential peacekeeping responsibilities facing this country have changed dramatically since the restructuring was first proposed? Will he now reconsider the pace and extent of that restructuring in the light of the uncertainty in the international scenario? Does he agree that the lesson of history is that it is always easier to disarm than to rearm?

Mr. Rifkind

We are already committed to a peacekeeping presence in Croatia. An advance party is already in that country and the remainder of the field medical unit is due to go out shortly. With regard to any future commitments on peacekeeping, we should always take into account whether there is a genuine peacekeeping contribution to be made. I always make a distinction between peacekeeping and peace enforcing; that is a very important distinction which should always be borne in mind when such issues are raised.

Mr. Rogers

I am sure that the Secretary of State is aware that the Opposition have been asking for some years for the Department to carry out a full-scale defence review. In view of the substantial changes taking place in Europe and the world, there is obviously a need for such a review. Will the Secretary of State give an undertaking to the House today that he will instigate such a review so that we can match our resources to our present and potential commitments and not simply respond, as we do at present, to Treasury demands for cuts?

Mr. Rifkind

I do not accept the premise of the hon. Gentleman's question. My predecessor and his colleagues gave deep consideration to the likely demands on our armed forces in the years to come. Of course we continue to monitor the international situation. It is always appropriate in this country and in any other country continually to assess the demands likely to be made on our armed forces over the years and to ensure that our armed forces are of a scale and quality able to respond to those challenges.

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