§ 2.35 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in pursuance of the implementation of Commonwealth responsibilities for the air defence of South-East Asia they would enter into negotiations with the New Zealand Government with a view to the maintenance of the balance of our air power in that area as under present ANZAM arrangements: alternatively, whether Her Majesty's Government would consider waiving or reducing the cost to the New Zealand Government of the hire arrangement for Canberra aircraft in Singapore or assist with training and maintenance with a view to the reconsideration of the decision to withdraw the Canberra Squadron, so that it may remain in that area as a part of our collective air defence.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (LORD CARRINGTON)
My Lords, The New Zealand Government consulted Her Majesty's Ministers in the United Kingdom before making the changes announced in the New Zealand Government's Review of Defence Policy, 1961. But the decision to end the hire arrangements, under which the R.N.Z.A.F. operated a squadron of United Kingdom owned Canberra aircraft in Malaya, was one which rested entirely with the New Zealand Government. They have pointed out in their Defence Review that although the withdrawal of No. 75 Canberra squadron will mean a nominal reduction in the New Zealand contribution to the strategic reserve, the remaining squadron of New Zealand-owned 656 Canberra aircraft may be moved forward from New Zealand in an emergency.
As regards the other points raised by my noble friend's Question, Her Majesty's Government are always in consultation with their ANZAM partners on the defence interests which they share in South East Asia.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for his reply, may I be permitted to ask three supplementary questions? First, is he aware that his reply will cause concern to the Royal Air Force in Singapore, as it will mean a reduction in their air strength in that area? Secondly, would he not agree that our joint Canberras should be on the spot, in view of the possible task of interdiction in that area? Finally, would he not agree that it is important to maintain the excellent team-work and the efficient spirit of co-operation which exists between our three Air Forces in that area?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I think the only thing I can do is to remind my noble friend that this was a decision of the New Zealand Government, not of the United Kingdom Government, and a decision which was taken because they have balance of payments difficulties, which Her Majesty's Government understand. I hope very much with my noble friend that the cooperation, which has been such a signal success in Singapore, will continue.