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North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

Volume 892: debated on Tuesday 13 May 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence what communications he has had with NATO about the maintenance of the British commitment in the light of the cuts in defence expenditure announced in the recent Budget Statement.

I have nothing to add to the reply which my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence gave to the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) on 28th April.—[Vol. 891, c. 15.]

Does the right hon. Gentleman expect that our allies will greet the latest cuts with a song in their heart, if I may coin a phrase?

I have had no response from my NATO colleagues since we transmitted to them the statement resulting from the Budget Statement. When I met the NATO Defence Ministers last week the question was not raised, but it may be discussed at the Defence Planning Council meeting next week.

As the Secretary of State said in his White Paper that NATO is the linchpin of our national security, and as NATO has made it very clear that it strongly disapproves of the cuts the right hon. Gentleman has already made in our defence budget, can he give an undertaking that the extra £110 million cut will in no sense fall on our commitment to NATO?

I tried to indicate in reply to an earlier question that the cut will not impinge upon our present defence posture and that NATO remains the linchpin of our security. By deferment of equipment procurement and by works and buildings programmes being deferred in the year in question, we may be able to save the money without interfering with our NATO commitment.

Have any of my right hon. Friend's NATO colleagues indicated to him their desire to bring their defence expenditure up to our level?

It is interesting that both the Italians and the French have decided to take a more prominent part in naval activities in the Mediterranean, where we had planned to withdraw.