HC Deb 15 February 1968 vol 758 cc1571-3
Q1. Mr. Blaker

asked the Prime Minister whether he will take steps to convene a conference of the Heads of Government of the United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia to discuss security arrangements in South-East Asia.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

If, as I assume, the hon. Member is referring to the conference originally proposed by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, I would refer him to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) on 31st January.—[Vol. 757, c. 343–5.]

Mr. Blaker

Is the Prime Minister aware that on 22nd January the Secretary of State for Defence referred to the need for an alternative basis for stability in South-East Asia? Will he tell the House something of the Government's ideas on how that alternative basis will be achieved?

The Prime Minister

This was discussed with the Prime Minister of Singapore when he was here, and, after the announcement about defence arrangements, we made clear—indeed, I did so in my statement on 16th January—what we intend to do in order to help Singapore develop her own defences. The same applies to Malaysia.

Sir Dingle Foot

Is it not the declared view of Her Majesty's Government that, even after the end of 1971, we shall still be under a continuing obligation to go to the aid of these countries if they are attacked? Ought there not, therefore, to be early and full consultation on the way in which that responsibility is to be carried out?

The Prime Minister

That question also was dealt with in my statement. I referred to the general capability and the circumstances in which forces from that general capability could in certain circumstances be deployed in that or in other areas. This matter also has been discussed with the Governments of Singapore and Malaysia.

Mr. Heath

Is the Prime Minister aware that, only yesterday, the Prime Minister of Australia said that the question of swift availability of any British forces after 1971 was, to use his words, "clouded with doubt"? Is it not essential that this doubt be removed at the earliest possible moment? Until it is removed, will not Australia and New Zealand, as well as Malaysia and Singapore, believe that the sentence in the Prime Minister's statement means no more than his previous pledges?

The Prime Minister

What it means is, as the Prime Minister of Australia well knows, that we would in any situation consider whether it was right for us to intervene. There is no blank cheque on intervention. As the right hon. Gentleman will well understand, the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand have expressed their own doubts about being able to do more in that area themselves.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Chichester-Clark—Question No. Q2.

Mr. Tapsell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Am I not right in thinking that you half-called my name on Question No. QI, and is it not the convention—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is quite right. Mr. Chichester-Clark.