HC Deb 26 March 1969 vol 780 cc1600-1
8. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will seek to arrange jointly with the Governments of Eire and Yugoslavia simulated peacekeeping exercises by the forces of the three countries as a prototype for United Nations operations.

Mr. Healey

The United Nations Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations is in the process of finalising a factual survey of U.N. observer missions authorised by the Security Council. The Committee intends to draw up recommendations based on this survey for the conduct of future operations of this kind. It will then go on to consider other aspects of peacekeeping. It would be premature to arrange exercises of the kind proposed by my hon. Friend in advance of the Committee's recommendations.

Mr. Hooley

I welcome the interest of my right hon. Friend in the activities of the U.N. in this respect. However, does he not think that we might get rather further forward rather faster if some initiative were taken by a country like ours in conjunction with friendly Powers in a practical exercise to demonstrate what could be achieved?

Mr. Healey

We have taken initiatives. Indeed, the progress already made by the Special Committee owes a good deal to British initiative. But my hon. Friend must recognise that neutral countries, in particular those like Eire and Yugoslavia, are very reluctant to engage in exercises of the type he suggests with non-neutral countries outside the ambit of the United Nations.

Mr. Rippon

Remembering the declarations which the Government made when they took office, what British forces are now available for United Nations operations?

Mr. Healey

In case of need, very large British forces. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will know that we have specially earmarked certain logistic units to be ready permanently for immediate support for United Nations operations of this kind, but this by no means comprehends the total forces which would be available, or those which we are making available at this moment in Cyprus.

Captain W. Elliot

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the effectiveness of joint peace-keeping operations is well illustrated by our forces and Commonwealth forces in Malaysia?

Mr. Healey

I certainly agree that the confrontation exercise in which we and other Commonwealth countries took part was an immensely successful operation for stabilising South-East Asia. The operations in Cyprus under United Nations auspices in which we are co-operating with other countries are equally successful.