HC Deb 17 July 1968 vol 768 cc1397-8
3. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will state approximately the total cost of the military reinforcement exercise planned for the Far East in 1970 and for such exercises planned for subsequent years.

33. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the details of the exercise to be held in South-East Asia before the evacuation of British forces, with the object of demonstrating the United Kingdom's capability for reinforcement.

The Secretary of State for Defence(Mr. Denis Healey)

I am not yet in a position to add to my statement on the Five-Power Conference. The precise details of the exercise, including costs, will have to be worked out between the Governments of the five participating countries and this will naturally take some time.

Mr. Allaun

Is the Minister saying that he has accepted this very big reinforcement without counting the cost? Secondly, does he accept the view of The Times defence correspondent that this is a considerable modification of the position taken by the Government on I6th January, which most of us warmly welcomed?

Mr. Healey

On the second part of that supplementary question, I made it absolutely clear in January and in the defence debate that followed that we planned to train our defence forces regularly overseas after our withdrawal from east of Suez was complete. On the first part of the question, I am satisfied that since all forces participating in this exercise will be forces which would be training that year overseas in any case the incremental cost of their training in the Far East will be small, but the advantages in carrying out a large-scale exercise of this nature will not only be substantial, operationally, but also of political importance, as I explained in the White Paper.

Mr. Ramsden

Will not the great problem in connection with these new ideas about reinforcement be the problem of acclimatisation? Exercises or no exercises, how do the Government propose to cope with that?

Mr. Healey

That is another matter. One of the great advantages in carrying out this type of exercise is that it enables us to learn more about dealing with the problems of acclimatisation and to some extent to acclimatise troops and to familiarise them with the circumstances in which they may have to operate.