HC Deb 18 July 1966 vol 732 cc27-8
29. Mr. Luard

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to bring about the establishment of a representative local defence organisation in South-East Asia which might progressively take over responsibility for the defence of the area.

Mr. M. Stewart

We welcome any measures of increased co-operation among the countries of the area which increase their ability to defend themselves. But it is for the countries concerned to decide for themselves in the first instance what form of defence organisation will suit them best.

Mr. Luard

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the representative character of an organisation of this kind is of great importance and that, therefore, something based, for example, on the present association in South-East Asia might be a much more effective organisation in the long run than either S.E.A.T.O. is at present or the kind of anti-Communist coalition, including South Korea and Formosa, which has been meeting recently in the Far East?

Mr. Stewart

That might be in the long run, but I think my hon. Friend will agree that this is a matter on which the countries concerned must take the initiative. When I was visiting some of these countries recently, I discussed the matter with them and indicated that we would welcome any development of this kind that was agreeable to them.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that these countries in South-East Asia will have much confidence in any initiative taken by Her Majesty's present advisers when they are running out of existing obligations in South-West Asia?

Mr. Stewart

Hon. Members opposite have tried to say that several times, and the hon. Gentleman has now tried again but with no more success.

Mr. Hooley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the United Nations presence in this area might be valuable?

Mr. Stewart

There are a number of areas in the world where there is a United Nations presence, but, as my hon. Friend knows, it is difficult to extend the authority and powers of the United Nations. We for our part have been extremely anxious to do so and have made clear our general support for the concept of United Nations authority.