HC Deb 02 July 1974 vol 876 cc203-4
21. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will now make a statement on the future of the British military commitment to the ANZUK Force in Singapore and Malaysia.

Mr. Mason

I refer the hon. Member to my announcement on 21st March that I had set in hand a defence review. All our commitments and capabilities are being carefully examined. I have nothing to add at this stage.

Mr. Latham

Has the Secretary of State received any request from Lee Kuan Yew that the existing five-Power agreement should be abrogated?

Mr. Mason

As the hon. Gentleman might know, my hon. Friend the Minister of State has already been on the first round of talks to the five-Power defence agreement countries with a view to ascertaining their views, and nothing more than that. I have already met the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, and he has let me know what he feels about our presence there. I shall take all these matters into consideration when we consider our review.

22. Mr. Aitken

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will now make a statement on the withdrawal of the RAF units from Singapore.

Mr. John

No decision about withdrawing the RAF units in Singapore has been made, pending the outcome of the defence review. Two helicopters, which are surplus to present requirements there, are being redeployed to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Aitken

Is the Under-Secretary aware that the withdrawal of these RAF helicopters from Singapore is resulting in a shabby deal for the existing civilian coastguard helicopter service operating from RAF Manston? Is he satisfied that it is right that the taxpayer should have to pay twice as much money for the search and rescue service simply because the Government have withdrawn helicopters from Singapore and have nowhere else to put them?

Mr. John

The hon. Gentleman's figures are widely exaggerated in regard to the cost to the taxpayer. I am satisfied that there is no significant difference to the taxpayer in the present redeployment. The use of Wessex helicopters in search and rescue operations will lead to a significant improvement in the service in this regard.