HC Deb 21 October 1971 vol 823 cc870-2
4. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a statement about negotiations on the Anglo-Maltese Defence Agreement.

5. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a further statement on defence agreements with Malta.

6. Mr. Lane

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a further statement on the availability of defence facilities in Malta during the 1970s.

Lord Balniel

As the House will be aware, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met the Prime Minister of Malta on 17th and 18th September to discuss the principles of a new defence arrangement governing the future British military presence on the island. As a result of the understanding reached at that meeting talks between the two Governments have now started at official level with the aim of negotiating the details of a new defence agreement within the next six months, and Britain paid £4¾ million to the Maltese Government on behalf of the N.A.T.O. Alliance on 30th September. A Supplementary Estimate will be presented to cover an advance from the Contingencies Fund and the recepit of contributions from other N.A.T.O. countries.

Mr. Wall

In view of the improved atmosphere in Malta, what improvements have taken place since the Chequers meeting to ensure that when the new defence agreement is worked out it will not allow for unilateral denunciation?

Lord Balniel

Since the Chequers meeting there have been two visits by officials to Malta and a further visit is planned for next month. My hon. Friend asks what progress has been made. As he will know, the restrictions on fuel supplies have been lifted, together with the restrictions that were imposed on the movements of No. 41 Commando. The last point raised by my hon. Friend is the subject of negotiations at the moment.

Mr. Hamilton

When does the Minister expect the agreement to be finalised? Can he give some indication of the period of the agreement which the Government have in mind?

Lord Balniel

The aim is to negotiate the details of a new defence agreement within six months. The time scale of the agreement itself is also a matter for negotiation.

Mr. Lane

Can my hon. Friend confirm that the normal friendly relations between the British Services and the people of Malta have been, or soon will be, restored?

Lord Balniel

The normal very friendly relations between our Servicemen and the people of Malta remain at a good standard. I am satisfied that they are as good as possible.

Mr. Russell Kerr

The Maltese people, including the Prime Minister—whom I had the pleasure of seeing last week—are finding it difficult to reconcile the lavish praise heaped on their heads during the course of the last world war and the penurious attitude adopted by the Government in their present policy.

Lord Balniel

The offer by the United Kingdom Government was £9½ million, subject to satisfactory defence agreements being made. I should have thought that that would have been widely regarded as a very generous offer.

Mr. Kerr

Not by the Maltese people.