Vote a. Number of Land Forces

Part of Defence (Army) Estimates, 1965–66 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th March 1965.

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Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton 12:00 am, 8th March 1965

I appreciate your Ruling, Lady Megan. It is regrettable that I cannot pursue the point which the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) has put. Perhaps, in some other debate or on some other occasion, I shall be able to explain my view more fully.

I have never at any time suggested that we should immediately withdraw our forces from Gan. The point which I have consistently made is that, with our military bases overseas, we cannot expect to meet our balance of payments crisis or to get on with the job of modernising this country and giving the people the sort of housing and social services which they require.

I hope that as a result of the discussions now taking place in Germany, we shall be able to get agreement concerning our troops there. In paragraph 17, the White Paper states that Our forces in Germany impose a heavy burden on our balance of payments. Everyone accepts the truth of that. We have reached the stage where, in addition to our difficulties with our overseas bases east of Suez, we have this added burden of our troops in West Germany.

One of two things must be done. Either we must reach a situation in which we can begin to bring back some of those troops and cut our costs, or we must be given financial assistance, a much larger proportion than at present, by our West German allies to meet our financial difficulties with our troops there.

I have no wish to make a lengthy speech about this. My point basically is that our expenditure has gone up. All the way through the Estimates are increases in every section one refers to. We cannot carry this burden much longer. We have got to look at this situation rather differently from the way it is regarded in the White Paper. We must reach a political settlement in South-East Asia. We must get a settlement in Europe so that we can cut back on our military expenditure and our Army Estimates. This must be done at the earliest possible moment, so that next year we can come before the House of Commons with Estimates that are much more realistic from the viewpoint of the economy of the country, at the same time protecting our interests by new organisation through the United Nations.