British Troops (Germany)

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th November 1989.

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Photo of John McFall John McFall , Dumbarton 12:00 am, 28th November 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether contingency plans are being considered for the redeployment of British troops in Germany in the event of reunification of that country.

Photo of Sir Archie Hamilton Sir Archie Hamilton The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

No, Sir. The reform process in the German Democratic Republic is only in its initial stages, and it is not clear where it will lead.

Photo of John McFall John McFall , Dumbarton

The Government tell us that they must do nothing to destabilise Europe. In effect, that means that they must do nothing because they have no vision other than the status quo, which renders the Prime Minister a pygmy on the world stage in comparison with Mr. Gorbachev. Are the Government considering renegotiating the 1948 Brussels treaty which commits us to four divisions in Europe? If not, what is the use of increasing the number of tanks and short-range nuclear weapons? Are they intended to deal with the 15-mile queue of East German motorists heading for the West in their Trabants? Is that the present state of Government thinking?

Photo of Sir Archie Hamilton Sir Archie Hamilton The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The Government have taken the view all along that the NATO Alliance has treated us very well and has maintained peace in Europe for a long time. We are currently engaged in negotiations in Vienna to reduce Soviet troop levels on the other side of the border. That is the best way to deal with the problems.

Photo of Mr Antony Buck Mr Antony Buck , Colchester North

Does my hon. Friend agree that if, as we hope very much, there were to be a reunification of Germany there would still be a need for the deployment of our troops for the foreseeable future? The original question appears to be misguided.

Photo of Sir Archie Hamilton Sir Archie Hamilton The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I take the point, but one must be guarded about this. At present it is extremely difficult to judge public opinion in East Germany. Indeed, from what one can see on the media, public opinion may be divided on the issue anyway.

Photo of Mr James Lamond Mr James Lamond , Oldham Central and Royton

Despite what the Prime Minister said on "Panorama" last night, it is obvious that the reunification of Germany is very much on the agenda so far as Dr. Kohl is concerned and he is already outlining steps towards it. Does not that development have some effect on our thinking about the future of our troops in that part of the world?

Photo of Sir Archie Hamilton Sir Archie Hamilton The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

We are considering the long-term implications of what is due to happen in eastern Europe, but it is extremely premature to start planning on the assumption that Germany will indeed reunify when there is nothing to support that assumption.

Photo of Mr John Browne Mr John Browne , Winchester

Does my hon. Friend accept that in essence Mr. Gorbachev's challenge to the West is to replace the peace of deterrence with a peace of detente even though detente does not fully exist? Talk of redeployment could thus be read as reduced commitment. Should we not be very careful in considering this so that we do not destroy the morale of our allies?

Photo of Sir Archie Hamilton Sir Archie Hamilton The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Yes, indeed. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We must bear in mind the capability of the Soviet Union rather than its intentions today, because those intentions could change tomorrow.