Defence Expenditure (NATO)

Oral Answers to Questions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1982.

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Photo of Mr William Van Straubenzee Mr William Van Straubenzee , Wokingham 12:00 am, 14th December 1982

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate the proportion of defence expenditure in the last full year that was attributable to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation commitments.

Photo of Mr John Nott Mr John Nott , St Ives

More that 90 per cent. of our defence expenditure in 1981–82 was related to NATO commitments.

Photo of Mr William Van Straubenzee Mr William Van Straubenzee , Wokingham

I appreciate that those are very substantial figures, but is it not clear that expenditure on NATO is a vital part of our defence and that those who advocate withdrawal are gambling on the fact that their freedoms, including those of protest, will be guaranteed by others than ourselves?

Photo of Mr John Nott Mr John Nott , St Ives

My hon. Friend is entirely correct. More than 90 per cent. of total expenditure by NATO is made by our allies. Therefore, without NATO our defence would be very small.

Photo of Hon. John Silkin Hon. John Silkin , Lewisham, Deptford

While I agree that membership of NATO remains vital for Britain and, indeed, for the free world generally, will the Secretary of State agree that there is or ought to be a change in the whole attitude towards strategy and policy in NATO? Will he further agree that this change is visible and was visible in the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, and can be seen in Germany, Greenland and throughout Europe? It is that we must all work for a nuclear free NATO in Europe and ensure that cruise and Pershing are not deployed inside Europe?

Photo of Mr John Nott Mr John Nott , St Ives

No, I will not agree. Whatever political views their Governments may hold, all the countries in NATO agree that its present policies are the best that can be devised for our common defence and the maintenance of freedom. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the nuclear strategy, but it was NATO, not the Soviet Union, that proposed the zero option.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Keighley

Is NATO prepared to accept the "No first use of nuclear weapons" concept put forward by the Soviet Union? Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that NATO's headquarters will not be moved to the United Kingdom, because such a move would imply the express acceptance of a nuclear war in Europe, which is unacceptable to our people?

Photo of Mr John Nott Mr John Nott , St Ives

No one has ever suggested moving NATO's headquarters to the United Kingdom. I think that the hon. Gentleman must have misread or misunderstood piece in The Guardian. The article in The Guardian to which he referred suggested that the United States European command headquarters might move to the United Kingdom, but that is not contemplated.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Honiton

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Opposition's strong advocacy of the renunciation of certain nuclear weapons means that the West's ability to obtain multilateral nuclear disarmament will be considerably hindered?

Photo of Mr John Nott Mr John Nott , St Ives

My hon. Friend is clearly correct. If the Soviet Union feels that it can achieve all its objectives through peace movements in the West it will see no reason to come forward with proposals to reduce its nuclear weapons. The other day I saw with great interest the Labour Party's political broadcast. It was one of the most disgraceful broadcasts that I have ever seen. It hardly mentioned that the Soviet Union has deployed nearly 1,000 warheads, which threaten us. The whole broadcast was devoted to the West's defences.

Later

Photo of Hon. John Silkin Hon. John Silkin , Lewisham, Deptford

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I inadvertently talked about a nuclear free NATO in Europe. Of course, that does not make sense. I meant a nuclear free Europe, and of course that applies both to NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

It is nice for me to hear that other people, too, make mistakes.