§ 1. Dr. Gilbert
asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will give the strength of Her Majesty's Forces in British Honduras at 1st January, 1972, and at the latest available date; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Minister of State for Defence (Lord Balniel)
On 1st January, 1972, the garrison in British Honduras amounted to some 250 personnel. It has now been increased to about 600 personnel.
§ Dr. Gilbert
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm the report in today's Guardian that Britain agreed today to reduce its military forces in British Honduras and to allow the operation to be supervised by an observer of the Organisation of American States? If this is so, by what amount are the forces to be reduced and will the Minister give an assurance that there will be no more of the posturings of a couple of months ago which brought the British Government to the humiliating position of having to withdraw troops from one of their own dependencies under international supervision?
§ Lord Balniel
I am not sure that I accept all the premises of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. Basically the broad issue is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. I confirm that the Government have offered to arrange for a representative of the OAS to visit British Honduras and see for himself that the suggestion which has been made that we have deployed large offensive forces in British Honduras is unfounded. We are hopeful, if this offer is accepted, that it will in due course be possible to return to diplomatic means of solving the issue.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that British Honduras is one of the best training areas and that there are training exercises going on and troops out there, my son amongst them?
§ Lord Balniel
This is an area where infantry training is done, but the prime responsibility of the troops is of course the protection of the territorial integrity of British Honduras.