HC Deb 22 June 1964 vol 697 cc31-4

Mr. Healey (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the resumption of large-scale infiltration by Indonesian forces into the territory of Malaysia.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)

Despite attempts in recent months to reach a political settlement, there has been no relaxation in the Indonesian campaign of hostilities against Malaysia. The latest incident occurred last night. Full details have yet to come in, but, according to my present information, an Indonesian party, about 100 strong, attacked a security force position at Kampong Rasau about two miles inside the Sarawak border. After several hours the Indonesian party withdrew. Their casualties are unknown, but are believed to have been evacuated under cover of darkness.

I regret to say that it has been reported that five gurkhas were killed and another five wounded.

I should like to take this opportunity to express my deep sympathy to the families of these gallant men.

Mr. Healey

May I associate Her Majesty's Opposition with the sympathy that the Secretary of State for Defence has just expressed? Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, although we all regret the failure of the talks in Tokyo, it is totally inexcusable that the Indonesian Government should have responded to the failure of these talks by resuming armed aggression against a friendly State in public violation of the United Nations Charter?

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that, in view of the increased scale of aggression which seems to be indicated by yesterday's incidents, he will look again at the supply of helicopters to Malaysian and British forces in Sabah and Sarawak? Is he aware that there is increasing strain on the Malaysian and British troops, through their being asked to exercise unilateral restraint in refraining from attacking the bases of aggression across the frontier?

In view of the real dangers to peace which are involved in the current Indonesian policy, will Her Majesty's Government consult the Government of Malaysia with a view to raising the whole question in the United Nations?

Mr. Thorneycroft

These matters raise very grave issues indeed, and I think that we all want to speak with great restraint and caution about them. I would make it plain that the aggression has been one way—that is to say, the Indonesians have been attacking Malaysia across the frontier. There have been no attacks from our side across the frontier into Indonesia. It is deeply regrettable not only that the talks should have broken down, but that their breakdown should have been marked by a further incursion on a substantial scale.

With regard to the activities of our own troops and their equipment, we shall, naturally, take, and are taking, all steps to ensure that necessary equipment is made available. Measures have been in hand for some time which are stepping up the number of helicopters available.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that the British and Malaysian forces have shown great restraint in this matter for a very long time? In considering this whole question, will he say whether, as an interim plan, the Australian and American Governments are prepared to give further assistance in this area?

Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that no military equipment, or any equipment which might be useful to the Indonesian forces, will be exported to Indonesia from this country?

Mr. Thorneycroft

There is no question of exporting military equipment to Indonesia. The question of Australian support raises a slightly different aspect of the matter, but the Australians are already in that area. I will certainly bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Are Her Majesty's Government keeping in touch with the United States of America on this matter? America might be able to help. Does the right hon. Gentleman know that some of my Parliamentary colleagues and myself, who were in this area last autumn, conveyed to some of the officials in his Department the fact that there was need for helicopters? Indeed, some of my colleagues expressed the view that a plane produced in Canada, the name of which I forget, might be of very great assistance to our troops in the area?

May I, as one who saw our troops, pay a very sincere tribute to them for the very difficult task that they are carrying out in this area?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's tribute to our forces, which, I am sure, will be welcomed on both sides of the House. I myself am familiar with this area. I have only recently come back, as has his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). We are familiar with the problems and requirements there.

Mr. Healey

I do not want to press the right hon. Gentleman unfairly on the United Nations point. However, since, on his own account, there has been a flagrant violation of the Charter and the United Nations itself carried out an inquiry into the wishes of the inhabitants of Sabah and Sarawak before the Federation of Malaysia was formed, would he consult the Foreign Secretary with a view to a possible approach to the United Nations, in conjunction with the Malaysian Government, on this issue, because there is a serious threat to peace?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I do not think that that is at all an unfair point. It is a perfectly proper point. However, it is more for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, perhaps, than for me, and technically it is for the Malaysian Government. But the hon. Gentleman's point will certainty be borne in mind.

Mr. Rankin

Has the right hon. Gentleman any observations to make on the reported claim by the Indonesian Government that this invasion has been carried out by what they call irregular troops?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The technique of the Indonesians has been to organise aggression against a peaceful and neighbouring State by a combination of regular and irregular forces. It is never easy to say what precisely is the degree of irregular element in any particular aggression, nor do I think that it perhaps matters so much. What matters is that these attacks are continuing. The sooner they are brought to an end, the sooner it may be possible to reach a peaceful conclusion to these issues.