HC Deb 08 November 1967 vol 753 cc1017-8
23. Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with the defence authorities of Malaysia and of Singapore following the British White Paper of July,1967.

Mr. Healey

There has been the normal continuing exchange of views on matters of common interest.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

In view of the uncertainty which the recent Parliamentary delegation found on this subject, both in Kuala Lumpur and in Singapore, on the British military rôle, will the right hon. Gentleman say categorically what steps he is taking to make quite clear to the people out there what can be done to honour the obligations of the British in the Anglo-Malaysian defence agreement?

Mr. Healey

My impression is that there is no uncertainty whatever about the military side of our policy. I talked to the Prime Minister of Singapore only the other day about it and about the Malaysia position. There is great concern in both countries about the economic consequences of the rundown, and we are in the closest touch with them on that. As soon as we are in a position to make a further announcement, we shall do so.

Mr. Tapsell

Have the Government learned the bitter lesson of Aden? Will they reconsider the wisdom of announcing distant dates for British withdrawal in totally unpredictable circumstances?

Mr. Healey

I recommend the hon. Gentleman to read the recent pamphlet by the Conservative Central Office recording the conclusions of Lord Selkirk and other leading experts on the area. He will see that the objective set by those Conservative experts was the same as our own, but they left great uncertainty about the way and time in which they would carry it out. If hon. Members opposite are worried about uncertainty, they should applaud us for introducing some firm elements into the problem.

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