§ Mr. Murphy
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will set out the principal achievements of Her Majesty's Government within his Department's responsibilities since May 1979.
§ Mr. Heseltine
A full description of the Government's achievements in the field of defence is provided in the Annual Statements on the Defence Estimates. The principal individual achievements are as follows:
- a. Her Majesty's forces recaptured the Falkland Islands following their occupation by Argentina for 11 weeks during 1982.
- b. we have increased defence spending in every year in real terms since taking office. We are committed to meet in full the NATO target of real increases in defence spending of 3 per cent. per year up to 1985–86, with Falklands costs in addition.
- c. In our election manifesto of 1979 we promised to restore the pay of servicemen to full comparability with their civilian counterparts. We acted at once and we have maintained the comparability since. The total annual outflow of manpower has been reduced to the lowest post-war level.
- d. We also promised to maintain the efficiency of our reserve forces. Since July 1979 six Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment squadrons have been formed. In 1980 we announced the introduction of the individual reinforcement plan to speed the mobilisation of the Regular Army and the Royal Marines Reserves. On 3 March 1982 we announced the decision to form a home service force and the first stage of plans for the expansion of the Territorial Army to 86,000. The strengths of all the volunteer reserves have improved markedly under this Government.
- e. We have authorised the full development and production of many major equipment programmes, including the Challenger main battle tank and the Harrier GR5 aircraft. We have placed orders for 27 warships.
- f. We are providing two extra squadrons of Phantom aircraft for the air defence of the United Kingdom and we are also arming Hawk aircraft with air-to-air missiles.
- g. We announced our decision in July 1980 to replace our existing Polaris strategic nuclear deterrent force in the 1990s with the Trident missile system. In December 1979, in consultation with our NATO allies, we agreed to a programme for the modernisation of the alliances intermediate range nuclear forces, including deployment of cruise missiles in the United Kingdom, unless the Soviet Union could be persuaded through arms control negotiations to remove this class of weapon.
- h. Since we took office the United Kingdom-based staff of the MOD—including the royal ordnance factories—have been reduced by nearly 39,000 from a strength in 1979 of 247,000. We are well placed to achieve the target of 200,000 United Kingdom based staff set for 1 April 1984. In addition, savings of 4,200 locally engaged civilian staff have also been achieved.