HC Deb 06 May 1970 vol 801 cc384-5
7. Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the request by Brunei to retain and pay for a battalion of Gurkhas.

21. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is, and will be, the British contribution to the defence of Brunei.

Mr. Healey

Twenty-four officers and twenty other ranks from all three Services are currently on loan to the Brunei armed forces. At present there is one Gurkha battalion in Brunei as part of the forces now stationed in South-East Asia. As regards the future the Government decided in 1968, as the House knows, progressively to withdraw British forces from South-East Asia over the period up to the end of 1971. This, of course, includes the Gurkha battalion in Brunei. We have been holding confidential discussions with the Sultan, not yet concluded, about the consequences of this decision for Brunei. While the full costs of the Gurkha battalion are at present met by the Brunei Government, in the future the problem will be a question no longer of finance alone but of the total resources available in terms especially of backing and support.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Is it not a fact that the Government policy east of Suez was to continue what they called the residual colonial responsibilities? Is not Brunei a protectorate, and if they are to rat and ask Brunei to pay for the cost of the Gurkha battalion, what security will there be for other protectorates for which we are still responsible?

Mr. Healey

If the hon. Gentleman reads the treaty with Brunei, he will know that the Brunei constitutional position in relation to Her Majesty's Government is different from that of other protectorates.

Mr. Orme

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that, while the Gurkha Regiment has served this country in the past, it is now an anachronism in terms of our imperial days, and that the economic circumstances in Brunei and elsewhere should be improved so as not to place reliance on the Gurkha Regiment?

Mr. Healey

I do not accept that view. Recruiting to the Gurkha Regiment plays a part in sustaining the economy of Nepal, but I am certain that particular factor is not a major one in determining the attitude of the Nepal Government on this matter.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Will the right hon. Gentleman look at this matter again? In particular, there are a great many volunteers in Nepal who are prepared to serve in Gurkha battalions. If they are being paid, as is the case at the moment, by the Brunei Government, would he not use them as an extra battalion after 1971 for exchange with the troops who will be stationed in Hong Kong?

Mr. Healey

I cannot undertake to do that. The question of the withdrawal of the Brunei battalion is already settled, and this is well understood. The House will recall that there was no Gurkha battalion—or any British troops—in Brunei until 1962.