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Defence

Volume 645: debated on Tuesday 25 July 1961

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It is right that we should carry heavy burdens for the sake of maintaining our commitments to our friends and allies around the world. But the defence programme must be carefully examined, particularly in relation to the overseas payments which it involves. The Minister of Defence has put in hand another review of the whole of this programme to see what can be done to lighten the burden.

In fulfilment of commitments to N.A.T.O., we are spending some £80 million a year across the exchanges in Western Europe. Of this sum, over £65 million goes on the maintenance of our forces in Germany, in accordance with our obligations under the revised Brussels Treaty. I have come to the conclusion that the strain upon the balance of payments caused by this expenditure cannot be allowed to continue next financial year. We have, therefore, invited the North Atlantic Council to review the financial conditions under which our forces are maintained. Such a request is provided for under the terms of the Treaty. It does not affect our determination to stand by our N.A.T.O. obligation in the defence of West Berlin and the review will relate to the next financial year.