HC Deb 01 May 1968 vol 763 cc1087-8
9. Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals Her Majesty's Government have for assisting Australia and New Zealand, in view of the fact that the F111K has been cancelled.

Mr. Healey

After our withdrawal from Malaysia and Singapore, we should draw upon our general capability based in Europe, including the United Kingdom.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

The right hon. Gentleman has said that our support for New Zealand and Australia must utterly depend on this aircraft. As we are now not to have it, is he not initiating some talks so that we can discuss how we can come to the mutual defence of the Commonwealth countries and fulfil our S.E.A.T.O. obligations without this aircraft?

Mr. Healey

As so often happens, the hon. Gentleman is quite incorrect in stating what I said. I said that we needed a capability for tactical strike and reconnaissance. We shall have that capability through the Phantom, Canberra and Buccaneer, but lack the exceptional range which would have been offered by the F111 aircraft in this rôle. On the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I think that he is aware that I shall be going with the Commonwealth Secretary to a conference in Kuala Lumpur in June to discuss these matters.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is it the strategic thinking of the right hon. Gentleman that in future the safety or defence of Australia and New Zealand will depend on nuclear weapons?

Mr. Healey

Of course not.