HC Deb 13 December 1961 vol 651 cc419-20
1. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Minister of Defence what plans he has for the future of the Singapore base on the establishment of the Malaysian Federation; and whether he will give an assurance that there will be no reduction in either the extent of the base, nor in the number of locally entered employees.

The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Julian Amery)

The recent joint statement provided for the United Kingdom to continue to maintain bases at Singapore for the purpose of assisting in the defence of Malaysia, and for Commonwealth defence and for the preservation of peace in South-East Asia.

Mr. Rankin

On a point of order. On whose behalf is the Secretary of State for Air speaking?

Mr. Amery

I have been asked to reply.

The future extent of the bases themselves, and the number of locally entered staff, will of course depend on our detailed military requirement from time to time.

Mr. Digby

Will my right hon. Friend ask the Minister of Defence to give very careful thought to this problem before he decides on reductions, because of the difficulty of providing these facilities elsewhere and also because of the aspect of local employment?

Mr. Amery

I assure my hon. Friend that there is no immediate proposal for reduction, but obviously I cannot guarantee what will happen in the future. From time to time there may be changes up or down.

Mr. Mayhew

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this Agreement, in so far as it dealt with the use of Singapore for S.E.A.T.O. purposes, was entirely vague and extremely unsatisfactory? Is he aware that no one knows whether it will be possible to use this base for S.E.A.T.O. purposes without the permission of the Government of the Malaysian Federation? Is it wise in these circumstances to tie up troops for that purpose in Singapore?

Mr. Amery

I do not think there is anything vague about the Agreement. I refer the hon. Gentleman to it.

Mr. Paget

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure his hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) that there will be continued employment of the estimated 5,000 dedicated Chinese Communists whose services are so essential to this most invaluable cold war base?

Mr. Amery

I cannot help thinking that the hon. and learned Gentleman's supplementary question was asked more with a view to making a point than eliciting information.