Burden Sharing

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th May 1989.

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Photo of Mr Robert Clay Mr Robert Clay , Sunderland North 12:00 am, 9th May 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how the latest United States plans for burden sharing will affect United Kingdom defence costs and commitments.

Mr. Hamilton:

The defence planning committee report published in December 1988, on the sharing of roles, risks and responsibilities within the Alliance acknowledges the United Kingdom's substantial and comprehensive commitment to the Alliance. However, it calls on us to continue efforts to achieve greater efficiency and value for money from the existing resources we commit to defence and to improve the real value of our defence budget. We fully accept this NATO challenge.

Photo of Mr Robert Clay Mr Robert Clay , Sunderland North

Will the Minister give an undertaking that one form of burden sharing that the Government will not go in for will be to accept in this country the American short-range modernised nuclear weapons which the west Germans had the good sense to refuse in their country?

Mr. Hamilton:

The question of the follow-on to Lance being based in this country does not arise. We will, of course, review whether tactical air-to-surface missiles and dual-capable aircraft are based in this country.

Photo of Mr Neil Thorne Mr Neil Thorne , Ilford South

While I accept the need to ensure that everyone carries a fair burden in NATO, will my hon. Friend remind our American allies that it is also important that burden sharing in the far east is encouraged? The Japanese, by their actions, have been forced severely to reduce their contribution in the years since the war. That has been a major contribution to the fact that the Japanese are able to take us on in the industrial world. Would it not be better to ensure that the Japanese also make a fair contribution?

Mr. Hamilton:

I know that our friends in the United States are concerned about the contribution made by the Japanese to the defence effort in the far east, and that is certainly something which we are discussing with them.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

Would it not be fairer if we reduced the level of our defence expenditure as a percentage of GDP to the average of our NATO allies? That would release some facilities that we could put into manufacturing industry, and so move towards the level of GDP percentage spending achieved by the Japanese Government, which is less than 1 per cent. We might then be able to emulate the success in manufacturing industry achieved worldwide by the Japanese.

Mr. Hamilton:

I believe that the Japanese contribution to defence spending is in excess of 1 per cent. and, because its economy is so large, it is one of the biggest defence budgets in the world. We have a defence budget that meets our commitments and we should not reduce it below that level. We have made an enormous contribution to British industry and our defence exports are one of the finest parts of our overall export performance.