N.A.T.O. discussions on future tank requirements are in progress, but it is too early to forecast whether any other N.A.T.O. country will decide to equip its forces with British tanks. The United States has, however, decided to adopt the British 105 mm. tank gun. At the request of the Minister of Defence of the Federal German Republic, production capacity is also being reserved to meet a German requirement for this gun.
First, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I did not ask him about guns? I asked him about tanks. Secondly, is he aware that in fact every single one of our N.A.T.O. allies regards the tank which we insist on as being something like 10 tons too heavy? Why do we insist on going against the opinion of every one of our allies?
I mentioned the gun because at least it is the business end of the tank, but apart from that, the general tank philosophy in N.A.T.O. at the moment says that what is required are two types of tanks, a very light, fast tank and a heavier cruiser tank. Discussions are still going on between the other N.A.T.O. nations and ourselves to see whether we can agree our philosophy and if we can decide that there are two clear types which are needed.
Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how long these discussions have been going on? Is it not the case that our N.A.T.O. allies in Europe have been trying to get the British Government to adopt a particular 40-ton tank for many years but that Britain has consistently refused and is not prepared to do so?
I do not think that is so at all. The facts are that prototype tanks are being produced by several countries, including our own. Till we can have comparative trials of these we shall not come to a final conclusion.