HC Deb 17 July 1968 vol 768 cc1427-8
43. Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what arrangements are being made to stockpile spare aircraft engines, missiles and armaments so that the United Kingdom can honour the assurances given at the Kuala Lumpur Defence Conference.

Mr. Healey

I would refer the hon. Member to the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1968 which makes it clear that in general we do not intend to maintain stocks of operational equipment and supplies in the Far East after our withdrawal, although we may wish to hold small amounts of equipment there for training and exercise purposes.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Since we are to remain a member of S.E.A.T.O. even though we may not have any forces committed there, would it not be wise to retain some of the very expensive air-conditioned workshop and storage facilities in Singapore? It may be very desirable to all three Services if we have expensive exercises and we need heavy support which cannot be carried by air in an emergency.

Mr. Healey

To do such a thing would be totally inconsistent with the purposes of the change in our defence policy on which the Government have decided in the last 12 months. The maintenance of the sort of facilities to which the hon. Member refers has a multiplier effect in money spent and the number of men required. This is totally inconsistent with the Government's policies. If any of our allies wishes to maintain such facilities, to that extent our own capability to reinforce—if we judge it in our interests to do so—will be increased.

Sir T. Beamish

Are the Australian, New Zealand, Malaysian and Singapore Governments now all satisfied that we have the general capability to intervene in the Far East in the way in which the right hon. Gentleman claims we have?

Mr. Healey

Yes. This was one of the great successes of the Conference in Kuala Lumpur which I attended only the other day. I was disappointed to find that the success of that Conference was greeted with chagrin on the benches opposite.