HC Deb 14 January 1971 vol 809 cc237-8
11. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Minister of State for Defence what approach has been made to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to assume some responsibility for the defence of the Cape route and Indian Ocean; and what reply has been received.

Lord Balniel

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) on 16th November 1970.—[Vol. 806, c. 297–8.]

Mr. Digby

As there is a possibility that Soviet warships will be able to pass through the Suez Canal before long, has not the time come to take a fresh look at N.A.T.O. defence boundaries, which are very confined at present?

Lord Balniel

As I have already said, I have considerable sympathy with the views expressed by my hon. Friend. Consideration is being given to the issue inside N.A.T.O. There is no reason why any of our allies should not take independent action to improve its arrangements should it consider that desirable.

Mr. George Thomson

Can the Minister confirm that the Government declared its original intention to sell maritime arms to South Africa without consulting our N.A.T.O. allies? Since that intention has been declared, has any N.A.T.O. member supported the policy of the British Government to resume sales?

Lord Balniel

It would be wrong for me to disclose private conversations taking place between Her Majesty's Government and other Governments.

Mr. Fernyhough

Has not the Prime Minister found the utmost difficulty in getting any N.A.T.O. partner to subscribe to the fears that the right hon. Gentleman says he has about Soviet influence in the Indian Ocean?

Lord Balniel

Far from that being the case, there is a gradually increasing awareness throughout the Western world of the threat posed by the extension of Soviet naval forces.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Have not several of our allies in N.A.T.O., particularly the French, been selling arms to South Africa? Have not they a great interest in the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, and would they not be more than willing to share the burden with us?

Lord Balniel

Both points made by my hon. Friend are completely valid.