Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9 March 1993.

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Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor , Esher 12:00, 9 March 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on his most recent meeting with the United States Defence Secretary about out-of-area commitments by NATO.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind The Secretary of State for Defence

As I said a few moments ago, I hope to meet Mr. Aspin shortly.

Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor , Esher

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that there are still considerable uncertainties, on the fringe and out of area of NATO, especially in the Balkans, the Gulf and the southern areas of the Commonwealth of Independent States? In those circumstances is not it vital that NATO and the Western European Union should work closely together, in case they need to be used to resolve or calm down those problems and should not we work closely with the French on such matters, through an integrated command structure, whoever might be the commanding officer?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind The Secretary of State for Defence

I agree that it is desirable that NATO and the WEU should work closely together. However, we should work towards a situation in which one or other of those organisations makes a contribution in respect of the international community. I hope that we shall not have a repetition of the situation that occurred in the Adriatric, where both organisations were making provision simultaneously. That was an inadequate and unfortunate use of scarce resources of all the countries concerned.

Photo of Nick Brown Nick Brown Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

In an earlier answer to a Labour Member on out-of-area commitments, the Secretary of State seemed to disagree with an answer given previously by the Minister of State for Defence Procurement to a Conservative Member, in respect of landing platform helicopter procurement. The Minister of State confirmed that the vessel has been reinstated in his Department's long-term costings. Will the Secretary of State confirm that it will be ordered on time this autumn?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind The Secretary of State for Defence

The proposal for a landing platform helicopter was never taken out of the programe. My hon. Friend and I have both said to the House, as we have done on previous occasions, that that project, with a whole range of others, has to be considered in the context of the long-term costings that we normally carry out at this time of the year.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Dickens Mr Geoffrey Dickens , Littleborough and Saddleworth

With the British armed forces dispersed throughout the world to meet our obligations under NATO and the United Nations, is not it clear to the House and the country that it is sheer common sense to have the Trident submarine cruising beneath the oceans of the world, ready to strike any aggressor towards the United Kingdom? Why do the Opposition, time and again, run down our defences? The Conservatives are the only party which would defend the realm.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind The Secretary of State for Defence

It is indeed the case that the stalwart defence policy that Conservative Governments have pursued over the years, despite the bitter opposition of the Labour party, has made an important contribution to the collapse of the Warsaw pact, the end of the cold war and the resulting enhanced security for the people of this island.