HL Deb 27 November 1990 vol 523 cc899-900

2.57 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the present daily cost of the United Kingdom's military activity in the Middle East due to the illegal occupation of Kuwait.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (The Earl of Arran)

My Lords, the current estimate of the full daily operating cost of our forces in the Gulf, including the latest enhancements, is £3.5 million per day.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. However, is he aware that in annual terms that sum of money would amount roughly to £1.2 billion? Bearing in mind that our country is now in a rather serious recession by any standards, where do the Government envisage finding the money to continue to fund such an exercise? Would they find it at the cost of other social services, or would they find it from fresh sources?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, any future funding that may be required is a matter between the Treasury and the Ministry of Defence. To counter blatant and naked aggression by Iraq against Kuwait through the deployment of over 30,000 of our service men and women in that area is an extremely expensive and costly operation. However, at the same time I am sure noble Lords will agree that that money is well and responsibly spent.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the obliteration without excuse of one member of the United Nations by another contrary to the United Nations charter is something which must be prevented at all costs irrespective of purely financial considerations?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, of course I agree with my noble and learned friend.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there was a general impression that Saudi Arabia and the Kuwait Government in exile would make contributions to the cost of the deployment of British and American troops? Can the Minister say whether negotiations have taken place and how near to completion they are?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, as regards contributions to the cost of the operation in the Gulf, host nations are already making available a range of valuable assistance such as food, fuel and water. The West German Government have provided and are continuing to provide assistance with training. We in the United Kingdom are doing all that we can to persuade other countries to make a contribution towards the overall cost.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that thanks to the Gulf crisis and the rise in the price of oil increased revenue is available to the Treasury?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, that may be so. However, we must consider the direct costs involved in the operation.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, can the noble Earl indicate whether the figures that he has quoted represent additional costs, bearing in mind that British troops incur costs all the time wherever they are in the world? Is the cost to which he referred over and above what would be required if the troops were in Germany?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, it is an additional cost of £3½ million a day.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, will the noble Earl be more forthcoming in response to the question of my noble friend Lord Stoddart of Swindon? Have we not read in the press that the United States Government have made certain agreements with the Saudis and the Kuwaitis in exile and that the Japanese have contributed substantial sums in cash as well as in kind? How much of that money is coming to the British Government to pay for our costs in the Gulf operation?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, contributions to our costs in the operation in the Gulf are under discussion. The details have not yet been finalised.