HC Deb 09 February 1993 vol 218 c812
5. Mr. Pawsey

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the total annual cost of maintaining British forces in Germany; and what will be the likely number stationed there in 1994.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

The defence budget provision for 1992–93 for the British Army of the Rhine and RAF Germany was £1,740 million. There will be around 36,000 troops stationed in Germany in 1994.

Mr. Pawsey

I thank my right hon. Friend for that typically full and complete reply. Does he agree, however, that there would be less strain on the Exchequer if British troops were stationed in the United Kingdom rather than in Germany, particularly as there is no longer any threat from the Warsaw pact? Would my right hon. Friend care to say why it might be thought that 23,000 troops in Germany is the right figure to maintain an American presence in NATO in Germany?

Mr. Hamilton

My hon. Friend says that there will be less strain on the Exchequer. In fact, there would be a greater strain on the Exchequer because if we brought those troops back we should have to spend a lot of money on barracks and so forth to relocate them in this country. It would help the balance of payments, but that would be very much outweighed by other costs.

I do not share my hon. Friend's view that there is now no threat from the east. We have to be very careful about Russia's capacity to regenerate its military power. I do not think that we should be complacent about that. Russia remains a major power in the world and we have to be very careful, because the political uncertainties in Russia are very great indeed.

As regards our contribution to NATO, it is extremely important that if we expect the Americans to continue to play a role in European defence through NATO we should make our contribution with forces overseas as well.

Mr. Madden

Will the Minister give a clear assurance that there is no prospect of the local overseas allowance paid to British forces in Germany being cut or removed altogether?

Mr. Hamilton

No, we continue to review the local overseas allowance which is paid to forces all around the world and therefore has to take into account the different costs of living in different parts of the world. We intend to continue that. The local overseas allowance is regularly updated as well.