HC Deb 12 June 1968 vol 766 cc230-1
35. Mr. Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether the defence discussions in the Far East are intended to lead to arrangements for British forces to be based in, or operated from, Australia.

45. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for a British defence force stationed in Australia.

Mr. Reynolds

A full statement on the Conference in Kuala Lumpur will be made after my right hon. Friends have returned. We shall not base forces in Australia after our withdrawal from the Far East, though this will not, of course, preclude our deploying forces based in Europe to Australia if we consider this necessary in particular circumstances and if the Australian Government agree.

Mr. Powell

What has happened to the negotiations with Australia for base facilities of which the Secretary of State told the House over two years ago?

Mr. Reynolds

That was over two years ago, and, as the right hon. Gentleman himself has complained from time to time, policy has changed slightly in that respect since then. Discussions have been going on at the Five-Power Conference, and the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs are returning to this country, and no doubt there will be a statement—early next week.

Mr. Goodhart

Are these discussions still continuing? What has been holding them up over the last two years?

Mr. Reynolds

There have been changes in view of our withdrawal from the Far East, as the hon. Gentleman opposite is aware.

Mr. Orme

How does the withdrawal from the Far East fit into the Press statement this morning that large reinforcements and exercises will be held in the Far East in 1970 and possibly periodically after that? How does this affect British defence commitments and the cost of those commitments in the Far East?

Mr. Reynolds

It was recently explained in the defence White Paper that we shall be withdrawing from bases in the Far East by 1971 but we have always maintained that we shall have a capability in Europe to carry out operations in other parts of the world if necessary.

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