§ 14. Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
asked the Minister of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the results of his recent discussions with the Governments of Australia and New Zealand concerning the five-Power ANZUK force.
§ 17. Mr. John Morris
asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the recent visit to Australia of the Secretary of State for Defence.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour
My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence had useful discussions with the Governments of Australia and New Zealand on a number of topics, including political and defence problems in South-East Asia. These Governments confirmed their intention of honouring the terms of the five-Power defence arrangements so long as Malaysia and Singapore wish them to continue. The Australian Government intend to withdraw their battalion and battery from the ANZUK Brigade at about the end of this year; but the New Zealand Government intend to maintain their present contribution, and my right hon. and noble Friend confirmed that Britain will also continue to do so. The detailed implications of the Australian decision for the ANZUK Brigade will now be worked out in consultation, as necessary, between all the partners in the five-Power arrangements.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
Will my hon. Friend assure the House on two points: first that the Government really intend to continue the firmest possible defence links with Australia and New Zealand, and secondly that the Government continue to realise the importance of peacekeeping forces in the area east of Suez?
§ Mr. Gilmour
I agree entirely with my hon. and gallant Friend. I think that 212 both of those points were implicit in my original answer.
§ Mr. Morris
Is not a rather odd situation created when the Australians withdraw a major battalion, which is a major factor of the ground forces in Singapore and Malaysia? What really is left then of the command structure headed by an Australian admiral? Will that continue? Is not the Minister aware that the Secretary of State for Defence seemed to be surprised when he was told that the Australians were keeping only 600 supply troops in Singapore after the end of this year, and will not this so-called five-Power agreement be as dead as the dodo within 18 months?
§ Mr. Gilmour
I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman has always had this strong prejudice against the five-Power agreement. I should have thought that so long as Malaysia and Singapore want the agreement to continue, it is in their interests and in the interests of this country that it should continue.
There is no hurry in working out the future logistic forces because the Australians are only withdrawing their battalion at the end of the year and they will leave some logistic troops at that time. There is plenty of time to make arrangements.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Is not a very major part of the Australian contribution the air defence element at Butterworth? So lona as they maintain their Mirage squadrons there, will not that continue?
§ Mr. Gilmour
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and they have every intention of keeping their squadrons there.