HC Deb 23 March 1967 vol 743 cc1912-4
Q3. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek talks with the Heads of Governments of those countries east of Suez where the United Kingdom has responsibilities, with a view to ascertaining to what extent British economic, technical, and military help could be required in those countries in the 1970s.

The Prime Minister

Her Majesty's Government are in close touch with the Governments of developing countries over aid requirements through normal diplomatic channels and also through various international and intergovernmental bodies and no new initiative by me is called for.

Mr. Dalyell

Is the Prime Minister aware that some of us were very sad that his proposed visit to the East had to be postponed, and that, since the world looks very different as seen from Delhi or Singapore, let alone Djakarta or Rangoon, particularly in relation to the defence needs of Australia, we hope that he will go very soon to the Far East and so on?

The Prime Minister

I very much regretted having to postpone, because of the sittings of the House last autumn, the projected visit to India and Pakistan. It was not intended to involve visits to countries further east. However, as my hon. Friend will be aware, the former Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence and the Commonwealth Secretary have extensively visited all the countries that he has in mind.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The Prime Minister said that no fresh initiative from here was called for. Does not the end of the Malaysian war provide an opportunity to ask the Malaysian Government to take an initiative in resurrecting Maphilindo and also of consulting Australia and New Zealand about the reformation of S.E.A.T.O.?

The Prime Minister

They are very relevant points, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware. Following the end of confrontation, I had the opportunity of very full discussions with the Prime Minister of Malaysia and the Prime Minister of Singapore on the new issues and opportunities created by the ending of confrontation.

With regard to S.E.A.T.O. and other questions in that area, my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary has just visited Australia and New Zealand, and the right hon. Gentleman will be aware that there will he a Ministerial meeting of the S.E.A.T.O. Council in Washington next month when all these questions could and, I agree with him, should be considered.

Mr. Rose

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it will become increasingly difficult to justify and sustain our military commitments east of Suez into the 'seventies? Will he consider discussing with the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore the possibility of setting up joint economic development corporations in order to avoid the kind of difficulty that occurred in the Malta situation when troops inevitably had to be withdrawn?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend can be assured that one of the things that we have been doing, or could do, to help is promoting better relations between Singapore and Malaysia not only in the economic and industrial sense but also in terms of greater military co-operation.

With regard to the wider question of east of Suez, this has been very fully debated in the House in the past month and my hon. Friend will recall what I said in answer to supplementary questions recently about its being a continuing project of the Government to save resources not only in the total budget but in our overseas expenditure by making the maximum economies and by the review of commitments.

On the last part of the supplementary question, Malta is a lesson that if there are to be withdrawals involving local employment, planning to deal with that must be put in hand at the earliest opportunity.

Back to