HC Deb 03 August 1966 vol 733 cc437-9
3. Mr. Goodhew

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many troops it is proposed to withdraw from Borneo; and when they will be withdrawn.

Mr. Healey

About 10,000; as soon after the ratification of the Bangkok Agreement as Malaysian forces are able to assume full responsibility for the defence of Eastern Malaysia.

Mr. Goodhew

If that is so, why did the right hon. Gentleman tell the Press in Kuching only a week or so back that the number was to be 16,000? Does he think that it is wise to bandy about figures of any sort when all the evidence at the moment suggests that the confrontation is far from ended?

Mr. Healey

I did not tell the Press that the number was 16,000.

Mr. Dalyell

Will my right hon. Friend recognise that any undue delay after ratification would make things very awkward for the Government of Indonesia at present?

Mr. Healey

We are well aware of the need to redeploy our forces as soon as the situation which will permit us to do so arises, and we have reached agreement with the Malaysian Government on a programme for an orderly withdrawal of this nature.

Mr. Powell

In what context, then, did the right hon. Gentleman use the figure 16,000?

Mr. Healey

I used the figures 10,000, 16,000 and 20,000 to illustrate some of the difficulties which would arise if and when the opportunity arose to withdraw the forces. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should take the trouble to read what I said and not accept his hon. Friend's account of it.

4. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what consultations he has had with the Malaysian Government about withdrawal from Borneo.

Mr. Healey

I cannot go into details of what were confidential discussions, but of course I did discuss this important question with Malaysian Ministers during my recent visit, and I can say that there is no difference between us on the need to withdraw British troops from Eastern Malaysia, at best practicable speed, once we are satisfied that confrontation has come to an end.

Mr. Marten

Did the right hon. Gentleman discuss with the Governments in that area the question of regional cooperation so that ultimately there will be a balance of Asian forces? If so, what was their reaction?

Mr. Healey

We had some discussion on the matter, as did my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who reported as much to the House recently. Nothing would please Her Majesty's Government more than for the countries of the area to reach agreement among themselves for their mutual protection.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House was told as recently as 28th February that we would have a continuing defence commitment for Brunei? Will he reassure us that we are going to look after and stand by that defence agreement?

Mr. Healey

Yes. Of course, we recognise our commitment to Brunei.