HC Deb 11 December 1963 vol 686 cc376-8
9. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a statement on the military situation in Sarawak and Sabah.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I have little to add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on 25th November in reply to the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson). Armed incursions, and intrusions by military aircraft, continue to be made from bases in Indonesian territory, and our forces continue to co-operate with those of the Malaysian Government in the protection of Eastern Malaysia.

Mr. Cronin

Bearing in mind the large concentrations of Indonesian troops on the frontiers of these territories and the frequent violation of Malaysian air space, is the Minister satisfied that the Malaysian and British troops available are adequate for any emergency which might arise? Furthermore, can he reassure the House that every effort will be made to enable the Malaysian forces to participate more in the defence of their territories and, therefore, release British soldiers from this rather disagreeable and arduous task?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The ineffectiveness of the attacks so far and the competence with which they have been handled would seem to indicate that the forces are adequate. As to the Malaysians, theirs is the full responsibility for this area. Malaysia is a free and independent country and I entirely accept the view that the Malaysians should play an ever-increasing part in these events.

Mr. J. Griffiths

As one who recently had the opportunity of visiting Sabah and Sarawak, may I ask whether the Minister is satisfied with the provision of the means of communication between the various sections of the Army, and particularly the supply of helicopters and other aircraft, especially the Canadian one? Is he satisfied that this has been attended to?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I think so. I never say lightly that I am completely satisfied with equipment I intend to pay a visit to this theatre immediately after Christmas, in the first part of January. If the right hon. Gentleman will ask me when I return, I will give him a more informative answer.

Mr. Healey

I strongly support my right hon. Friend's reference to the need for helicopters in this theatre of operation. It was impressed upon all members of a recent Parliamentary delegation by those in the forces whom they met. Is there any indication of readiness by the Australian and New Zealand Governments to permit the participation in the campaign in Borneo of troops of the Commonwealth brigade now serving in Malaya?

Mr. Rankin

On a point of order. As I put down a Question on this topic to the Minister of Defence for today and it was transferred to the Commonwealth Secretary, how can the Minister of Defence answer it now?

Mr. Speaker

That does not raise a point of order for me.

Mr. Thorneycroft

The second part of the hon. Gentleman's Question raises a wider issue which, I agree, would be dealt with more appropriately by my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary. At least, it is separate from the Question which appears on the Paper today. I am not saying the final word about helicopters, but the requirement recently assessed by the commander-in-chief has been met in full.