HC Deb 20 April 1950 vol 474 cc290-2
3. Mr. A. R. W. Low

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what requests His Majesty's Government has made to the Australian Government for military or other help in Malaya; and what offers have been received from the Australian Government.

6. Mr. Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if, in view of the offer of the Prime Minister of Australia to consider seriously any request made by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom for help in Malaya, he proposes to take any action in the matter.

Mr. Gordon-Walker

His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have noted with the greatest interest the Press reports of the statement made by the Prime Minister of Australia. Hon. Members will, I hope, appreciate that I cannot at this time properly divulge information about communications which may be passing between the United Kingdom Government and the Government of Australia on this subject.

Mr. Low

Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer mean that His Majesty's Government have not previously made any requests to the Australian Government for their help in Malaya? Is this not rather extraordinary in view of the importance of real Commonwealth unity, particularly in this most important area of the world?

Mr. Gordon-Walker

I think the hon. Gentleman will realise that official requests of this sort are not made by one country to another in the Commonwealth There is always elaborate consultation beforehand on these matters. I do not think I should add anything more to what I have said.

Mr. Gammans

In view of the very forthright and welcome statement made by Australia—in which, incidentally, they appear to be mildly critical of His Majesty's Government—would the Government consider asking their help, not only in Malaya but in the whole defence of the Far East, including Hong Kong?

Mr. Gordon-Walker

I think that is just the sort of question I should not be asked to answer until there is agreement between us and Australia.

Mr. Blackburn

While not in any way pressing the Minister for an immediate answer, may I ask if he is aware that the Prime Minister of New Zealand has also. since the statement of the Prime Minister of Australia, made a similar statement? Will my right hon. Friend impress upon the Prime Minister the tremendous value of his making a statement as soon as may be in reply to these very generous statements?

Air-Commodore Harvey

Does it not appear that the right hon. Gentleman is allowing the Australian Government to take the initiative in this matter? Why not call a conference of all Commonwealth countries to discuss the matter:r great detail and take some action?

Mr. Gordon-Walker

I do not think there is need for a conference on this matter. There is to be 3 conference in Sydney quite soon on economic matters in South-East Asia, arising out of the Colombo Conference. This matter can certainly be settled by the ordinary means between the two Governments. A conference would result in great delay.