HC Deb 10 June 1980 vol 986 cc152-3W
Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the results of his Department, after 13 months of the present Government, in achieving the policy programme which he set it on assuming office.

Mr. Pym

: In accordance with the policy outlined in the Gracious Speech the Government have given a high priority to improving national security and our contribution to the North Atlantic Alliance. We have underlined our commitment to NATO by publishing planned expenditure figures for the years up to 1983–84 which meet the Alliance's aim for a real increase in defence expenditure in the region of 3 per cent. per annum. We have supported NATO's long-term defence programme and played a full part in the Alliance decision to modernise its long-range theatre nuclear forces. In order to improve the manpower situation in our Armed Forces we immediately restored and have maintained pay comparability for Service personnel and we have increased the bounties of the Reserve Forces : recruiting and retention rates in the Forces generally have improved significantly. In addition, we have announced a number of improvements in the equipment programme.

We are maintaining the effectiveness of the strategic deterrent into the 1990s and continuing our examination of the options for an eventual replacement for the Polaris force.

In the light of the changed strategic situation arising from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan we have made improvements to and are considering further measures to enhance the flexibility of our forces to operate on a world wide basis. While events in Afghanistan have overshadowed the arms limitation process, the Government nevertheless remain committed to seeking arms control agreements and the United Kingdom is playing a full part in international negotiations.

In line with other Government Departments, the Ministry of Defence has contributed its share in securing economies in Civil Service manpower and has set in hand studies aimed at improving efficiency and identifying the scope for the curtailment or elimination of functions. Some measures have already been announced.

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