§ 23. Mr. Rankin
asked the Lord Privy Seal what consideration is being given to using Malta as a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation base.
§ Mr. Rankin
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I recently had the oppor- 22 tunity of confirming that both the major parties in Malta are just as vigorously opposed to the present fortress economy established by the British as they would be to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation creating another economy of that type? In view of the fact that if N.A.T.O. wants a base for military or nuclear purposes there is a N.A.T.O. country to the north of Malta with a good many totally uninhabited islands, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that any one of these would be a better place than Malta?
§ Mr. Heath
The plain fact is that there is a N.A.T.O. base in Malta at this moment, and what is also, I would have thought, quire clear is that the Maltese Administration welcomes the use of Malta by British forces because of the revenue that this brings to the island. Indeed, whenever there has been a proposal, because of reductions in defence expenditure, to reduce the base in Malta, it has always been received with great opposition by those in question.
§ Mr. Rankin
While Malta may have welcomed the British while the troops were there, now that the troops are being withdrawn and nothing apparently is taking their place from Britain, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the welcome is not so strong?