HC Deb 20 May 1968 vol 765 cc19-20
22. Mr. Peter Archer

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the outcome of the meeting of the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation at Wellington.

Mr. William Rodgers

My right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary attended the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation Council meeting in Wellington on 2nd and 3rd April. The Council noted that, in spite of difficulties, encouraging economic and social progress had been made in the area which had been facilitated by the steady growth of regional co-operation. They also noted our decision to withdraw from Singapore and Malaysia by the end of 1971 and welcomed our assurance that we would continue to contribute to the progress, stability and security of South-East Asia.

Mr. Archer

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but is he aware that information about these matters in the British Press or available in London was minimal? If there is any advantage in our continued membership of the Organisation, will my hon. Friend endeavour to persuade the Organisation to issue fuller documentation?

Mr. Rodgers

I shall certainly take up that point.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

As this was the first meeting of the S.E.A.T.O. Council since the Government's decision to pull out east of Suez, can the hon. Gentleman say whether the S.E.A.T.O. Ministers were pleased by the British Government's action, and will he explain why his right hon. Friend came back and did not feel it right to tell the House of Commons what had transpired at this important meeting?

Mr. Rodgers

Our allies in S.E.A.T.O. fully understood the circumstances which had determined us upon our withdrawal by the end of 1971, and, as I explained, they were reassured when they were told that we intended to play our part in a number of other ways in the Far East in the period after that.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend meant no discourtesy to the House. This has been the first occasion on which an hon. Member has asked for information.