HC Deb 26 November 1970 vol 807 cc586-7
2. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of State for Defence what air cover will be available for the British naval forces allocated to the defence of Malaysia and Singapore.

35. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Minister of State for Defence what air defence elements under British control will be available for the protection of British military units stationed in Singapore and Malaysia and for British naval vessels operating in their waters after 1971.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Antony Lambton)

Within the theatre of Malaysia and Singapore, air defence cover will be provided by the air defence system planned for those countries. No air defence aircraft will be provided by the United Kingdom in peacetime, but up to four long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft of the Royal Air Force will be based there; and other United Kingdom aircraft will be visiting the theatre for exercises and training detachments from time to time.

Mr. Cronin

Does this mean that our naval forces in Far Eastern waters will be deprived of protection against hostile aircraft or hostile surface-to-surface missiles unless protection is provided by aircraft of foreign countries?

Mr. Lambton

No, this is not the case.

Mr. Wilkinson

Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the best functions that the United Kingdom can fulfil in such areas is air defence, which is a sophisticated function? Will he assure the House that the rotation of squadrons from this country in peacetime will be on a frequent basis?

Mr. Lambton

Aircraft will visit the area from time to time.

Mr. John Morris

Is the Minister telling the House that the four aircraft which will be available in the Far East for maritime reconnaissance—presumably Nimrod—are part of the air cover that he has proposed for our forces there? Is not their prime function totally different?

Mr. Lambton

I think the right hon. Gentleman is confusing wartime and peacetime conditions. Naturally in wartime there will be different arrangements.