HC Deb 30 November 1972 vol 847 cc610-1
15. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister of State for Defence if, in view of the recent decisions of the Australian Government, he will seek to re-negotiate the Five-Power Defence Agreement in South-East Asia.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

No, Sir.

Mr. Dalyell

As the incoming New Zealand Government, the Government of Malaysia and possibly a new Government in Australia want renegotiation, is it not time that we realised we should not commit ourselves, without considerable thought, to Lee Kuan Yew and the Government of Singapore?

Mr. Gilmour

I do not accept the premise on which the hon. Gentleman's question is based. In fact, the arrangements are voluntary. If there is a new Government in Australia—we do not know whether there will be—this will be one of the many subjects that we shall discuss with them.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Does my hon. Friend agree that, whatever the result of the Australian general election in two days, we may expect a wise and far-sighted policy on South-East Asia from the Australian Government in the future, as in the past?

Mr. Gilmour

Yes, I accept that.

Mr. John Morris

What consideration has been given, from the defence point of view, to the change of Government in New Zealand, in that they have but one battalion in Singapore, and what contingency plans are there for a change of Government in Australia on Saturday, after 23 years? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Australian Labour Party is pledged to end conscription and to withdraw permanent ground forces from South-East Asia? Does not this call for an early renegotiation of the Five-Power Defence Agreement? Does he not find it odd that there are three outside Powers in South-East Asia—Australia, New Zealand and ourselves—while Singapore and Malaysia will have little to do with one another in the defence sphere?

Mr. Gilmour

As I said before, I do not accept the premise on which the question is based. The New Zealand Government came into power only a few days ago. The right hon. Gentleman will not, therefore, expect me to reveal our contingency plans. However, we obviously shall discuss these and other matters with the new Government in New Zealand and the new Government in Australia, if there is one.