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Policy Assessments

Volume 894: debated on Tuesday 24 June 1975

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1.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is Her Majesty's Government's assessment of the threat on which current defence policy is based.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is his latest assessment of the military balance between NATO forces and those of the Warsaw Pact.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Gentleman and my hon. Friend to the assessment of the threat in Chapter I and the assessment of the military balance given in Chapter II of the Statement on the Defence Estimates.

While not seeking to embarrass the Secretary of State about the secrecy of his sources, may I ask him to confirm to the House that his intelligence organisation remains sufficient to enable him to make a good and proper assessment? Secondly, will he say whether his assessment at the moment is that the potential threat to NATO is increasing or decreasing?

Concerning the first question, I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that our security and intelligence are adequate for the purpose that we require. As to the threat, the Warsaw Pact conventional threat is still very strong and has not decreased since I published my Defence White Paper.

Will my right hon. Friend, while realising that détente must be the basis of our policy vis-a-vis the Eastern Powers, take into account the great build-up as against our forces in Europe, and also take into account that recent disclosures clearly show that Russia not only supplied weapons to the Middle East but was fully cognisant of the attack that was to take place on Israel two years ago?

I would not detract particularly from the latter point that my hon. Friend makes, but it has nothing to do with the original Question on the Order Paper concerning the military balance between the NATO forces and those of the Warsaw Pact.

In view of the Secretary of State's remark that the strength of the Warsaw Pact forces is not decreasing, will he continue to do his best within the Cabinet to see that our forces do not decrease to danger point?

I valiantly struggle, on behalf of the House and the security of the State, to ensure that our forces are not reduced and that the security of the State is not endangered. So far I think I have managed, within the public expenditure reductions, to be able to make sure that the military involvement is not impaired.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that both NATO and the Warsaw Pact Powers have enough weapons already to blow up the world a hundred times over? Since it will need only to be blown up once, what is the purpose of adding further to our defence programme?

As my right hon. Friend already knows, because of the recent visit of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the Soviet Union we are earnestly seeking détente between East and West. There are two major conferences in being, one the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the other the Conference on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions between East and West. If we can succeed in both those endeavours, tension between East and West can be lessened and forces reduced.

Will the right hon. Gentleman please answer the question asked by my hon. and gallant Friend? Is it the Minister's information that the threat is at present increasing? If the answer is "Yes", does not it seem a very odd time at which to be reducing our contribution to NATO?

I repeat the reply that I gave to the hon. and gallant Member. The defence posture of the Warsaw Pact remains as it was prior to my defence review, and the threat is exactly the same.