HL Deb 20 May 1986 vol 475 cc130-1

2.54 p.m.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the number of British jobs attributable to the presence in this country of American NATO bases.

The Minister of State for Defence Support (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the presence of US forces in this country is currently estimated to provide, directly and indirectly, about 30,000 jobs for British citizens. The United States forces in Britain buy from us goods and services currently estimated at more than £600 million annually. This includes such items as payments to central and local authorities; wages of Britons employed on the bases; and personal consumption by US servicemen and their families.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for those encouraging figures. Has he any information about any possible increase in the employment of British citizens connected with the US forces?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, so far as I know there are no plans for any significant change in the figures that I have given. Of course, from time to time construction work is carried out at American facilities in this country and that obviously requires the employment of a number of British personnel.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, while I of course welcome the presence of NATO forces and Americans in this country, surely there is a set-off in the money that our forces spend doing a similar job in Germany.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, United Kingdom forces of course spend money in Germany and elsewhere, but that was not the Question that I was asked.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, if it is a question of jobs, is there not something to be said for the view that if the Americans were sent home and British servicemen were recruited to replace them, a large number of jobs would be gained? How many jobs would be gained if that were done?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the proposition that there should be a significant expansion of United Kingdom armed forces is not one that I have heard before from the noble Lord, if he will allow me to say so. If United States forces were not present in Europe, that would be a serious matter indeed. They make a crucial contribution to the NATO Alliance in Europe. The total number of United States forces in Europe is in excess of 300,000. I am not sure that the noble Lord had in mind an expansion on that scale of United Kingdom armed forces.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, as a member of Her Majesty's Government does the noble Lord the Minister find any satisfaction in revealing such job increases when, as a result of the same Government's policies, more than 2 million people have been made unemployed since 1979?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am not sure that that wholly arises from the Question on the Order Paper. I shall nonetheless say that the United States presence in this country is very welcome.