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Exercise Purple Warrior

Volume 124: debated on Tuesday 8 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the cost of Exercise Purple Warrior.

The estimated costs of Exercise Purple Warrior, additional to those which would have been incurred had the exercise not been taking place, are £7·5 million.

Leaving aside the dubious nature of an exercise that had nothing to do with defence and everything to do with plans for an invasion, presumably of a Third world country, and the fact that the Government had to hire merchant shipping vessels from Denmark and West Germany because of a savage reduction in the British merchant fleet, did the Minister consult his colleagues at the Department of Health and Social Security to discover whether that £7·5 million, properly spent on London and midlands hospitals, such as the Birmingham Children's hospital, might have resulted in fewer deaths in recent weeks because of the non-cancellation of heart operations?

By prudent financial management the Government have been able to increase public expenditure on both the Health Service and defence.

As for the hon. Gentleman's point that bore some relation to the original question—about the vessels hired for the exercise—I am glad in one way that British operators and their vessels were so busy that they had things to do other than take part in the exercise. As far as vessels being hired for the exercise are concerned, we pursue our policy of obtaining them on the best terms of availability, suitability and cost, and if British vessels were competitive, we should be glad to have them.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that most of us take the view that the exercise represented money well spent? It was particularly good to have observers from behind the Iron Curtain there who could observe how effective our ability to respond to a potential attack would be, and could therefore subscribe to our deterrent posture.

My hon. and learned Friend is right. The exercise was extremely successful in the rehearsal of amphibious landings and evacuation for an out-of-area operation, and in co-operation between the three services, which all took part. The arrangements for Warsaw pact observers were successfully and competently handled, and the inspection and observation of exercises of that sort play an important part in increasing confidence and reducing tension.