§ Mr. Tam Dalyell
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the decision of the British Government, announced in a Written Parliamentary Answer yesterday, agreeing to the construction by the United States Government of naval communications facilities at Diego Garcia in the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean which Britain will assist in manning.That this is a specific matter can hardly be questioned.
As to its importance, I would put four crisp reasons to the House.
First, the decision represents a new turn in British defence policy by facilitating and introducing a static United States military presence in the Indian Ocean for the first time.
Secondly, the decision is likely to provoke a major Commonwealth controversy since it is directly opposed to the stated wishes of the Government of Ceylon, the nearest country to Diego Garcia, and to the express public views of the Indian Government and not least of Mrs. Indira Gandhi with whom, I understand on impeccable authority, no consultation has taken place. As such, it is a dangerous, and I believe counter-productive, game for Western white men to start playing.
Thirdly, the decision, judging from my personal knowledge of Mauritius last year, is likely to create great difficulty in relations with Mauritius. It is no use the Parliamentary Under-Secretary smiling. He will recollect that the Partie Mauritienne left the Coalition precisely on the issue of Western bases in the British Indian Ocean territorities.
Fourthly, on the decision itself the House deserves, and needs, some clarification. I would suggest that a "limited naval facility" involving the building, as I understand it, of at least harbours walls out of coral limestone for ships and creating aircraft facilities—possibly, though this is not clear, for Nimrod aircraft—in an area notorious for its cyclones and storms is not " limited ", and certainly not limited in any financial sense. As to the urgency of the decision—
§ Mr. Dalyell
As to the urgency of the matter, Mr. Speaker, construction is said to be starting in March and plans will be in motion before the House returns on 12th January.
Finally, if the British and Americans have resources available for major construction works in Asia, I suggest that those resources ought to be concentrated on building dams and harbour walls in the islands in the mouth of the Ganges and not for messing around with very doubtful projects, tilting at windmills in the Indian Ocean.
§ Mr. Speaker
This morning the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), with his characteristic courtesy, informed me that he would seek to move the adjournment of the House, as he has done.
The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namelythe decision of the British Government, announced in a Written Parliamentary Answer yesterday, agreeing to the construction by the United States Government of naval communications facilities at Diego Garcia in the Chagos Archipelego in the Indian Ocean which Britain will assist in manning.As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take into account the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reasons for my decision. I have listened very carefully to the hon. Gentleman, I have given careful consideration to the representations he has made, but I have to rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provision of the Standing Order. Therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.