HC Deb 21 October 1975 vol 898 cc218-9
2. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he next expects to meet the other NATO Defence Ministers.

Mr. Mason

I expect to meet my Eurogroup colleagues on 5th November and 8th December. The next meeting of the NATO Defence Planning Committee in Ministerial session will be on 9th and 10th December.

Mr. Blaker

What consultations has the Secretary of State had with other NATO Defence Ministers about ensuring that Gan is not used by the Soviet Union if we withdraw?

Mr. Mason

I have had no consultations with my NATO colleagues about the future of the island yet, because initially consultations must take place between the Foreign Office and the Maldivian Government. We may be able to extract an agreement to maintain the island with the Maldivians until the present agreement expires, but this will be entirely up to the Foreign Office when it negotiates with the Maldivian Government.

Mr. Molloy

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what discussions he has had or is likely to have with his NATO colleagues regarding the rationalisation of costs, equipment, repairs and spare parts among NATO members? Can he allay in any way the fears that many of us have that there is a massive waste of public money because of non-rationalisation among NATO members?

Mr. Mason

I am sure that my hon. Friend will recognise that, as chairman of the Eurogroup Ministers within NATO, I have been urging upon my NATO colleagues the need for standardisation of equipment within NATO. The meeting that we are to have on 5th November will devote all its sessions to that purpose.

Mr. Younger

Will the Secretary of State bear in mind that all his NATO colleagues have stated that they regard our cuts as gravely damaging to the alliance? As the Chief of Defence Staff said recently on television that our defence efforts were down to bedrock, will he assure our NATO allies that he has made all the cuts he intends to make and that we shall be good allies from now on and keep up our contributions to NATO?

Mr. Mason

It is correct that my NATO colleagues were concerned about the outcome of the Defence Review. I am sorry to say that I am unable to give them a categorical assurance that that is the final limit of our defence expenditure levels. I am sure all hon. Members know that public expenditure is under survey and that means all Departments, including the Ministry of Defence.