HC Deb 04 February 1970 vol 795 cc405-6
13. Captain W. Elliot

asked the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent South African airfields are available for use by Royal Air Force aircraft in order to provide air cover for the Royal Navy operating in South African waters.

Mr. Healey

The use of South African airfields by Royal Air Force aircraft for this purpose would be a matter for agreement between the two Governments if the need arose.

Captain Elliot

Is the Secretary of State aware that that Answer seems to imply that he is not certain whether the airfields will be available to us? Would he agree that if they are not available and there are no carriers after 1971, the Royal Navy may not be able to operate in this important strategic area?

Mr. Healey

I would certainly agree that it is possible in any situation to invent hypotheses to provide difficulties, but I see no reason to accept that offered by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. As to carriers, whether keeping a single carrier stationed outside Europe would be possible would depend on other tasks which it had to perform at any particular time.

Mr. Wall

Is it not a fact that under the Simonstown Agreement these airfields would be available to the Royal Navy?

Mr. Healey

No, they are not covered by the Simonstown Agreement.