HC Deb 03 August 1966 vol 733 cc440-1
7. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many British Service men he proposes to bring back from the Far East, following the ending of confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia; what will be the approximate annual financial saving; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Healey

The maximum number that will permit those who remain to discharge our continuing obligations in the area. The annual financial saving will depend upon the size and composition of our final force deployment in the Far East and upon the way in which the units withdrawn are fitted within the overall force structure which emerges from the Defence Review.

Mr. Allaun

To what extent, if any, is the saving above that already accounted for in the February Defence Review? Will my right hon. Friend undertake that the saving will be a massive reduction—as the Prime Minister called it on 23rd June—and that we will not send the troops elsewhere in the Far East but will bring them home?

Mr. Healey

I have made it clear many times that the first call on the forces that it will be possible to withdraw from Eastern Malaysia will be to relieve overstretch among our forces in other parts of the Far East theatre but that we plan to reduce our overall force strength in the Far East as soon as possible in line with my main Answer.

Sir A. V. Harvey

The Prime Minister told the House that the withdrawals would be "massive". Was that said to please the Left wing? What was President Johnson told?

Mr. Healey

My right hon. Friend said "massive". I would have said "substantial". Substance and mass are much the same thing.

Mr. Mayhew

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, while our existing commitments are maintained, there is no intention of reducing the manpower levels agreed for 1969–70 in the Defence Review?

Mr. Healey

Yes, Sir. I have made it clear that a reduction to lower force levels in the Far East is strictly contingent upon the ending of confrontation and my hon. Friend will be as happy as I am that the ending of confrontation seems to be coming earlier than sometimes imagined.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

If the right hon. Gentleman contemplates the removal of forces from the Far East and perhaps from Germany as well, can he say where he will put them?

Mr. Healey

Yes, Sir. Elsewhere.