HC Deb 08 November 1966 vol 735 cc1119-20
1. Mr. A. Royle

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs how many staff are employed in the Deputy High Commissioner's Office in Kuching; and if the Deputy High Commissioner and his Assistant were present in Kuching during the month of September, 1966.

The Minister of State, Commonwealth Affairs (Mrs. Judith Hart)

The staff of the Deputy High Commissioner's Office in Kuching comprises a Deputy High Commissioner and five other diplomatic officers. Both the Deputy High Commissioner and the senior First Secretary who normally takes charge in his absence, were present in Kuching during September, 1966.

Mr. Royle

In view of the allegations made in Kuala Lumpur accusing our High Commission staff and expatriates of involving themselves in the internal affairs of Sarawak, will he hon. Lady give an assurance that this slander on our diplomatic representatives is untrue?

Mrs. Hart

The assurance has been given already. The High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur made a statement on 21st October to that effect. There is no evidence whatever of Mr. Spendlove having interfered in the domestic affairs of Sarawak. However, a situation has clearly arisen in which it would be difficult for him to do an effective job and, with no question of any kind of reflection upon him, he is being moved to another place and will leave Kuching at the end of this month.

11. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the position in Sarawak.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Herbert Bowden)

I am not clear what information my hon. Friend is seeking. The general position is that the State of Sarawak attained independence as part of Malaysia in 1963 and the affairs of the State thereby became entirely the concern of the Federal and State Governments and ceased to be in any way a matter for the British Government. As a result of Indonesia's policy of confrontation, British Armed Forces have been operating in Sarawak, at the request of the Malaysian Government and in accordance with our Defence Agreement, in order to assist the Malaysian forces to defend Malaysian territory. Following the end of confrontation in August of this year, which was a most welcome development British combat forces have now nearly all been withdrawn from Sarawak in accordance with arrangements concerted with the Malaysian Government.

Mr. Dalyell

In that they impinge on our own obligations, can my right hon. Friend comment on the success or otherwise of the joint Malaysia-Indonesia patrol?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir, not without further information. I should need to study this before replying.

Sir J. Eden

Will the right hon. Gentleman have very much in mind the danger of removing our military presence from that area too rapidly? Is not there sufficient evidence that there is still political subversion taking place there? Will he, in particular, have a very clear understanding of the importance of the rôle, in defending freedom in that part of the world, now carried out by the Brigade of Gurkhas, and do nothing to endorse its curtailment overnight?

Mr. Bowden

The withdrawal of British forces from that area is being done by agreement with the Malaysian and local Governments.