HC Deb 25 January 1973 vol 849 cc617-8
1. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with the Governments of Australia and New Zealand on the renegotiation of the five-Power defence agreement in South-East Asia.

The Minister of State for Defence (Mr. Ian Gilmour)

The five-Power defence arrangements will be among the subjects for discussion during my right hon. and noble Friend's current tour of the Far East and Australasia.

Mr. Dalyell

Do the Malaysian Government want us to retain troops in the Far East?

Mr. Gilmour

Yes. We have no reason to doubt the Malaysian Government's continued support for the five-Power defence arrangements.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

As peace in Vietnam may prove to be illusory, will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government attach great importance to the maintenance of a peace-keeping force in that region? Will they encourage the Australian and New Zealand Governments to continue their contribution by guaranteeing that the British contribution will not be diminished in any way?

Mr. Gilmour

As my hon. and gallant Friend knows, the Government attach importance to these arrangements. We think that they are valuable and we hope that they will continue.

Mr. John Morris

Have the Government any contingency plans in the event of Australia and New Zealand not replacing existing ground forces in Malaysia and Singapore? Would it not be ludicrous if in that event we continued with what are called the five-Power arrangements? Would not the whole thing be reduced to a farce if that happened?

Mr. Gilmour

As the right hon. Members knows, the Ministry of Defence always has contingency arrangements for virtually everything. As the right hon. Gentleman is also aware, however, there is no immediate likelihood of what he described happening. All these matters will be discussed by my right hon. and noble Friend.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my hon. Friend consider augmenting the British naval presence in the area since naval forces do not require the same degree of base facilities and infrastructure support as land forces?

Mr. Gilmour

As my hon. Friend will know, we always keep the level of our dispositions under the five-Power arrangements under review.

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