HC Deb 01 May 1968 vol 763 cc1104-5
45. Mr. Moyle

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what troops the United Kingdom will have trained, equipped or acclimatised for operations in South-East Asia in support of Australia and New Zealand after 1971.

Mr. Healey

Troops drawn from our forces in Europe, including the United Kingdom, will be available for operations in the area as, in our judgment, circumstances demand.

Mr. Moyle

But is my right hon. Friend aware that, in his visit to Australia recently, his right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary was quoted as saying that after 1971 we shall have no troops trained, equipped or acclimatised for operations in that part of the world? Would he care to deny that that is so?

Mr. Healey

I would require notice of that precise quotation. What I will say is that, as I have said before, we propose to train our Forces regularly outside Europe and in the sort of conditions in which they might then be used. Acclimatisation is, of course, necessary for troops to operate at maximum efficiency in certain conditions, hut, since the rôle of our Forces would be essentially that of reinforcement in such a conflict, I must say that troops, even coming from Australia, New Zealand or the United States, would require some period of acclimatisation before being ready for intensive battle.

Mr. Doughty

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that South-East Asia is approximately 10,000 miles from this country, and that it would be impossible to get either troops or equipment, which is much heavier, to these bases in a reasonable time?

Mr. Healey

No, Sir, that is not so. It would be possible to fly troops out to any where in the area within two or three clays.

Mr. Alan Lee Williams

Would my right hon. Friend agree to raise this matter of training at the conference in Malaysia in June, to which he referred, to see whether facilities for training could be made available in Australia, New Zealand, or Malaysia?

Mr. Healey

If it is a question of training for acclimatisation, then surely it should take place in a tropical area. I do not think that New Zealand, for example, would be suitable from that point of view. However, we shall, of course, be discussing this type of problem with our Commonwealth partners at the conference in June.