HC Deb 04 July 1966 vol 731 cc36-41

The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:

85. Mr. A. ROYLE: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on his recent visit to Jakarta, Indonesia.

15. Mr. DALYELL: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on his visit to Jakarta.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I will now answer Question No. 85 and Written Question No. 15 together.

Although my visit was short, thanks to the excellent arrangements made, it provided an opportunity to make personal contact with Mr. Malik and have a wide-ranging discussion. This covered three aspects of our relations: bilateral issues; future developments in South-East Asia; and, of course, progress towards the end of confrontation.

On bilateral questions, I discussed progress over the use of £1 million emergency aid. I also expressed appreciation for the payment by the Indonesian Government of £120,000 as an advance against compensation due to British interests arising out of the incidents of September, 1963. When the Umarjadi mission visits London in a week's time there will be further discussions about arrangements for a comprehensive settlement of these claims, and also of the more difficult questions raised by the sequestration of British and other estates and interests in December, 1964. Mr. Malik seemed fully aware of the importance of making progress on these issues.

I asked him about the restoration of the shipping link between our two countries. His approach to this question was encouraging and he assured me that it was already under consideration by his Government.

I also had an interesting discussion with him about how his Government saw the future development of relations between the countries of South-East Asia. While I do not want to go into details, I can say that I was pleased to find a wide measure of understanding between us.

I, of course, also spoke to him about the end of confrontation. As hon. Members know, this is being dealt with bilaterally between the Indonesian Government, and the Malaysian Government in consultation with its allies. But in view of the recent incidents in Sarawak, I did stress to Mr. Malik that all the progress we hoped to make in improving our relations must depend on the complete cessation of this sort of thing. He fully understood this, and I was glad to note that both he and Dr. Razak, whom I saw in Kuala Lumpur, seemed confident that the situation on the border would soon settle down.

I have one further item to report on this visit. As hon. Members will know, we have hitherto refused to give permits for the export of British engines that would allow a contract to be fulfilled by Fokker for the delivery of 20 Friendship aircraft for the use of the Indonesian national airline, Garuda. In view of the happier turn events have taken, I informed Mr. Malik that we were now prepared to give the necessary licences. This will allow delivery to commence in about a year to 18 months' time. However, I asked for a firm assurance that these aircraft would not be used for military purposes against ourselves or our allies, and this was given. I also made clear that if hostilities broke out again the export licences would be cancelled.

I do not wish to give the impression that this visit, which took place in a very cordial atmosphere, has solved all the problems between Indonesia and the United Kingdom. What it has done is to make a start, and we must follow up by maintaining regular contact, as well as by disposing of the various claims and difficulties which confrontation has left behind.

In conclusion, I would like to say this. Indonesia is a country with which we have no conflict of interest and indeed many interests in common. I am sure it is the hope of this House that our relations will not be disturbed again.

Mr. Royle

Was the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with the comments Mr. Malik made to him about recent incidents in Sarawak? Was he absolutely satisfied that these incidents would finish, particularly in view of the fact that incursions by members of the regular Indonesian army have taken place during the past four weeks?

Mr. Stewart

I drew Mr. Malik's attention to that matter. I was satisfied with the answer which he gave to me, and this impression was further confirmed by my discussions with Mr. Razak in Kuala Lumpur. But I made it clear that if hostilities on the ground break out again, do not cease, this will impair good relations between us.

Mr. Dalyell

While welcoming the spirit of my right hon. Friend's statement, may we have an assurance that if there is further trouble in either Sarawak or Sabah, very close scrutiny will be made of who is causing the trouble before any action is taken?

Mr. Stewart

I think it important to make sure what the facts are. What I said to Mr. Malik was based on solid evidence of what the facts had recently been.

Lord Balniel

May I first welcome the Secretary of State's visit to Jakarta, which indicates an improved relationship with Indonesia. In view of his statement the other day that we are not yet out of the wood on confrontation, is it his impression that the Indonesian authorities are seriously anxious to bring a complete halt to military activities? Can he give an assurance that as long as military activities continue in Sarawak and Sabah we shall continue to maintain troops in those areas?

Mr. Stewart

The noble Lord will have noticed the statement of the Malaysian Government that when confrontation was ended they would not want our troops to be there, and nor should we. But, of course, the process of disengagement depends on what happens on the ground.

In reply to the earlier part of the noble Lord's supplementary question, I believe that the Indonesian Government want these incidents to stop and the whole business of confrontation brought to an end. I think that my phrase about our not yet being out of the wood was proper in view of the fact that the Bangkok agreement has not yet been ratified, although I hope and believe that it will be ratified shortly.

Mr. Colin Jackson

Would my right hon. Friend agree that one of the encouraging developments in South-East Asia with which Indonesia is connected is the possibility of a new partnership of the nations in that area, including Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, which might take the whole area out of the cold war?

Mr. Stewart

Yes. Some kind of association between these countries would certainly be in their interest and the general interest. It is, of course, a matter for them to decide, but we as a non-Asian but friendly nation would welcome developments of this sort.

Mr. Thorpe

Is the Secretary of State aware that the outcome of his visit and the prospects of ending the confrontation will be widely welcomed? May I ask him three questions? First, may we take it that the Indonesian Government have now no outstanding territorial claims against the Malaysian Government? Secondly, would he say a word about the next political initiative to be taken between those two countries? Thirdly, did he get any indication as to the efficacy of transmission by the Indonesians of political decisions to their own troops in the field? Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that there has been some delay in transmitting political decisions to Indonesian troops in the field?

Mr. Stewart

I think that there has been delay, but I hope that it will not continue. With regard to territorial claims, the hon. Gentleman will know that there has been agreement between the Malaysian and Indonesian Governments about determining the wishes of the inhabitants of these territories. That is a matter for them under the Bangkok agreement. I do not recall the hon. Gentleman's other point.

Mr. Thorpe

Would the right hon. Gentleman say what further talks are envisaged by the Malaysian and Indonesian Governments?

Mr. Stewart

I think that they will want to have further discussions about certain details arising from the Bangkok agreement, but that is a matter for them. I should make it clear that it is not for us to negotiate the end of confrontation between these two countries. But we have an important interest, owing to the presence of our troops, in making sure that it really is ended.

Mr. Goodhew

In view of the continuing activity by regular Indonesian troops in Sarawak and Sabah, would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what arrangements have been made to ensure that any aid given by this country is not used for the purchase of arms which might be used against British or Commonwealth troops?

Mr. Stewart

I think that we can be quite sure of that. We are still discussing with the Indonesians on what the £1 million in aid will be spent. It certainly would not be spent in that manner.

Mr. Frank Allaun

When confrontation ends, how many of our troops is it proposed to bring home, and how soon? Will the Foreign Secretary give an undertaking that they will not be sent to Thailand for use in Vietnam?

Mr. Stewart

There has been no request of any kind for us to send troops to Thailand. My hon. Friend should draw the other part of his supplementary question to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.