HC Deb 18 December 1973 vol 866 cc1119-20
2. Mr. Judd

asked the Minister of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's present policy towards naval co-operation with the South African Navy.

Mr. Buck

We continue to co-operate with the South African Navy in the context of the Simonstown Agreement.

Mr. Judd

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that there is no intention of increasing the degree of cooperation with the South African Navy? Will he agree that, if there were any tendency in that direction, it would be unfortunate at a time when there is growing confrontation in the African continent since it might appear that we were aligning ourselves militarily with the forces of oppression in Southern Africa?

Mr. Buck

Our co-operation with the South African navy is broadly as it has been in past years. We have recently carried out a successful joint exercise with the South Africans, which I welcome.

Mr. Wall

Does not the present restriction in oil supplies underline the vital importance of the Cape route? Can my hon. Friend say when my right hon. hon. Friend the Prime Minister will carry out the promise he made when in Opposition to supply adequate arms for the maritime defence of the Cape route?

Mr. Buck

The second part of my hon. Friend's question is hardly a matter for me. In fact, he is absolutely right, since recent events show the importance of our oil routes and our vulnerability when our oil supplies are disrupted.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise the undesirable features of the supply of helicopters to South Africa? Will not this antagonise the whole African continent, including Nigeria?

Mr. Buck

The helicopters are being provided under legal obligations into which this country had entered. We have had no strong representations about this matter from other quarters. Matters of this character are for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.