HL Deb 09 February 1972 vol 327 cc1134-6

2.42 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name of the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will state the percentage expenditure of each country associated with NATO in the context of the G.N.P. of each of those countries.]


My Lords, as a number of figures arc involved I will, with your Lordships' permission, circulate the details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following are the details:

Percentage of G.N.P. spent on defence—all NATO countries, 1971:

1972 percentage of G.N.P.
Belgium 3.0
Canada 2.6
Denmark 2.8
France 4.5
West Germany 3.9
Greece 6.0
Italy 2.9
Luxembourg 1.0
Netherlands 3.9
Norway 3.8
Portugal 6.7
Turkey 6.0
United Kingdom 5.7
United States 8.0


My Lords, in the absence of detailed information, may I ask the noble Lord whether, taking into account the fact that we are responsible for the whole of our share of nuclear defence, we are paying more for conventional defence associated with NATO than any other country, with the exception of the United States? Are we not therefore subsidising all other countries asociated with NATO, with the exception of the United States?


My Lords, we in this country have nothing to be ashamed of in the contribution which we make to NATO defence.


But, my Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I am far from expressing any shame? What I am trying to express in the form of my question is that we have always ben paying far more than our share, and when there is a demand for increased defence expenditure associated with NATO, ought not the other countries, with the exception of the U.S.A., to pay their full share?


My Lords, what I was trying to suggest, perhaps too delicately, was that since we had nothing to be ashamed of, and our proportion was very high, it would be nice if others did more.


My Lords, would it not be more appropriate to say that we have nothing to be ashamed of but that the other NATO countries have?


My Lords, that is not what I meant, either. The noble Baroness should not read such tortuous intentions into my answers. I was merely trying to tell the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that we in this country have spent what we believed to be a proper sum of money on defence. Some other countries spend more of their G.N.P. on defence than we do, and some do not spend as much. Taking it all in all, I think that NATO has done a great deal recently to spend more money on defence. The noble Lord asked a question about the increased sums of money which NATO propose to spend on defence next year, and I think that all countries of NATO should please themselves what they intend to do.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that his message has got through very clearly? And is he aware that we appreciate that, while it is correct for him to say we have no reason to be ashamed, he is perhaps wisely not expressing shame on behalf of other people at the size of their contribution?


My Lords, is the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, not aware from the purport of my questions that I am raising no objection to increased defence expenditure for NATO, if that is essential? What I am trying to put to the noble Lord (if he will stop evading the question) is why we are expected to pay more than our fair share, and how long is this state of affairs going on.


My Lords, the noble Lord has now put the same question three times, and as I read Alice in Wonderland I now know it to be true.


My Lords, does the noble Lord appreciate that most people of this country would entirely support him in the attitude he took in the discussions with Mr. Mintoff over the weekend, and the announcement he made following the meeting in Rome; and that the people of this country would consider it entirely outrageous if we were blackmailed by Mr. Mintoff into paying any more money than we have already offered? This is one of the examples of the contention which the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, has just put to him.


My Lords, in the normal course of events I should have said that that was another question and out of order, but since it is complimentary both to the Government and to myself, I will merely say that I am much obliged.