§ 6. Mr. Hugh Jenkins
asked the Minister of State for Defence what detailed preparations he is making for balanced force reductions leading to disarmament; and whether cuts will be imposed on all three Services.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour
Exploratory talks about mutual and balanced force reductions in Central Europe are currently under way in Vienna. If, as we hope, these talks have a satisfactory outcome, negotiations proper could start in the autumn. It is far too early to seek to predict what might be the conclusions of such negotiations.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Is it not proper that, in considering that this country is going into these negotiations, the hon. Gentleman should contemplate the possibility of their having a successful outcome? If so, would it not be a good idea to prepare in advance for that possibility by planning what sort of reductions and what prospects there are? Would it not be possible in the negotiations to put forward suggestions about the nature of the reductions contemplated by Her Majesty's Government?
§ Mr. Gilmour
The hon. Gentleman knows that we hope that these negotiations will be successful. If the security of Western Europe can be preserved with a lower level of armed forces on each side, we shall be delighted. At this stage any assessment of such an agreement is speculative and based on all sorts of assumptions which are extremely variable.
§ Mr. Gilmour
Of course we shall. It is the essence of these talks that the reductions should be mutual.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that the talks have now run into difficulties concerning Hungary. Is he aware, further, of the persistence of the Nixon doctrine and, therefore, that the position of Her 214 Majesty's Government should be made clear about what our reaction would be in the event of the Nixon doctrine being applied fully, concerning the effect of the reduction of American interests in Europe and the effect of reductions arising out of the talks in terms of our contribution? In other words, will the Government make it quite clear that for the defence of Europe we shall pay, with our allies, amounts not dissimilar from those of our allies and that we shall have an arrangement which does not burden the nation?
§ Mr. Gilmour
I am not sure that the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question follows from the first part. As regards the Nixon doctrine, President Nixon has said quite clearly that so long as Europe maintains and improves its forces America will maintain and improve hers.
§ Mr. Critchley
Does my hon. Friend agree that the real object of the MBFR talks in Vienna is the advancement of Western security?