§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what are the Government's plans for reviewing future levels of defence expenditure.
§ Mr. Mason
In the Queen's Speech the Government undertook to pursue in consultation with their alliesa policy directed to maintaining a modern and effective defence system while reducing its cost as a proportion of our national resources".154W To this end I have initiated a review of current defence commitments and capabilities against the resources that, given the economic prospects of the country, we can afford to devote to defence. NATO is the linchpin of our security and will remain the first charge on the resources made available for defence; but we consider that the burden which we bear in support of the common NATO interest should be brought into line with that of our major European allies.
Outside Europe we shall examine the contribution made in each case by our military presence to the maintenance of peace and stability, recalling the decision taken by Her Majesty's Government in 1968 that our forces should be withdrawn from South-East Asia. There will be full consultation with our allies wherever their interests are involved. Our intention is to complete the review later in the year.