HC Deb 01 March 1967 vol 742 cc496-7
31. Mr. Luard

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what will be the total number of British forces, and their cost in sterling and foreign exchange in Malaysia and Singapore at the end of 1967 and the end of 1968, respectively.

Mr. Healey

I would refer my hon. Friend to the information in the Statement on the Defence Estimates.

Mr. Luard

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is great disappointment that the withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Malaysia over the past year has resulted in such a small saving in foreign exchange? Can he say whether the withdrawal which he contemplates during the next year, together with the examination of the question of locally-engaged staff at the base, will result in a greater saving in foreign exchange?

Mr. Healey

As my hon. Friend will know, in the later stages of the Defence Review and since its end I have twice discussed our further plans concerning that part of the world with the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore. I will soon be consulting them about reductions in our base facilities following the cuts which we have already announced in our combat forces. As I said on Monday, I hope that over the next financial year further cuts in the Far East as a whole will amount to between 5,000 and 10,000 men. This will bring a substantial saving both in the defence budget and even more in foreign exchange costs, although all these reductions will not, of course, be made simply in base facilities in Malaysia and Singapore.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins

Reverting to the Minister's statement in Monday's debate, can he say when he will be in a position to give the House more information about reductions in base facilities in Singapore?

Mr. Healey

As soon as possible.

Mr. Dickens

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the only significant cut which he can make in defence spending east of Suez is to leave the base in Singapore altogether over the next four years and to start now to renegotiate the Anglo-Malaysian treaty of 1963? Cuts in the base facilities of themselves make no significant impact.

Mr. Healey

My hon. Friend will find out that he is wrong about that.

Mr. Lubbock

Can the Minister explain how, in a year when we are making these reductions in the number of our troops overseas and in Singapore in particular, the cost of air mobility of the Forces is stated in the Defence White Paper as being increased from £135 million to £140 million?

Mr. Healey

The hon. Member should realise that if we are moving a lot of people whom we were not moving last year, the cost of moving them will go up.