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Expenditure Reductions

Volume 892: debated on Tuesday 13 May 1975

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1.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will give details of the extra defence cuts announced in the Budget.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether the cuts in the Services' equipment and works programmes which are to form the bulk of the £110 million defence cuts announced by the Chancellor on 15th April will be made good by additional expenditure in the future.

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the implications for defence of the reduction in expenditure by £100 million as a result of the Budget.

I have nothing to add to what I told the House on 6th May.—[Vol. 891, c. 1230.]

Do not these cuts make nonsense of the Secretary of State's grandiose claim that the Government's defence review was based on a fundamental and rational assessment of Britain's needs? Will he now give the House an assurance that there will be no further cuts of this kind?

The Secretary of State for Defence can never give that assurance in reply to the final question which the hon. Gentleman posed, and I should be foolish to do so. The main strategic decisions that we took on the defence review still stand. The cut for 1976–77 will not impinge upon that posture.

Does the Secretary of State know what he proposes to cut? If he knows, why will he not tell us?

I told the hon. Gentleman and the rest of the House last week that, because of the cut of £110 million planned for 1976–77, it is likely that equipment purchases will have to be adjusted, that works and building programmes will have to be deferred and that some job prospects will have to be lost.

Before the right hon. Gentleman presented his White Paper there were consultations with our allies. Were there any consultations with our allies before the further cuts were made?

Of course, there could not be consultation on this because it was a budgetary matter. However, our NATO allies were informed immediately after my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his statement, and there will be opportunity for full discussions at the Defence Planning Council meeting next week.