HL Deb 22 June 1964 vol 259 cc30-3

3.53 p.m.


My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement which has just been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence, in reply to a Private Notice Question. This was my right honourable friend's reply:

"Despite attempts in recent months to reach a political settlement, there has been no relaxation in the Indonesian campaign of hostilities against Malaysia. The latest incident occurred last night. Full details have yet to come in, but according to my present information an Indonesian party about 100 strong attacked it security force position at Kampong Rasau, some two miles inside the Sarawak border. After several hours the Indonesian party withdrew. Their casualties are unknown but are believed to have been evacuated under cover of darkness. I regret to say it has been reported that five Gurkhas were killed and five wounded. I should like to take this opportunity to express my deep sympathy to the families of these gallant men."


My Lords, the House will be obliged to the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy (to give him his new designation) for the statement he has made; though we shall have received it with sorrow. It is a pity that Communist influences in this part of the world have disturbed the peace and resulted in a sort of mix-up of possible negotiations with continued fighting which leads to needless loss of life on both sides. It reminds me of Korea, of which I had some experience. I should like to ask the noble Earl whether the Government regard this situation as an interruption of the negotiations for peace and, one would hope, an early cease fire; or whether they regard it as the recommencement or accentuation of large-scale and continued fighting? They may not be able to answer that, but I thought it was a point worth raising. I join with the noble Earl in expressing our sympathy with the bereaved of the troops and our admiration of the troops fighting for the restoration of peace and resisting aggression with great bravery in difficult conditions. These troops include those of Malaysia, of our own country and of the Gurkhas, and we all feel the same sympathy that the noble Earl has expressed.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, for the words he has just used, and the sentiments he has expressed with which I find myself in general agreement. I do not think it would be right for me to draw a hard and fast conclusion from this particular and most regrettable incident, but I would just remind noble Lords that, as indicated in the original Statement by my right honourable friend, which I repeated, there has, in fact, been no interruption of the campaign of military incursions and hostile propaganda which Indonesia has been conducting against Malaysia in recent months. But I should prefer to leave it at that.


My Lords, may I ask whether the fact that there has been no cessation of attacks is the reason why the negotiations have failed?


My Lords, I think that may have been a contributory cause, but I should like merely to reaffirm what is, of course, the known intention of Her Majesty's Government: that there will be no relaxation of our determination to help Malaysia defend its rightful independence, come what may.


My Lords, while wishing to associate ourselves in every way with the expression of sympathy which has just been made by the noble Earl, may I ask what strong representations Her Majesty's Government are making to Indonesia, since we are responsible for the Gurkhas, whose troops are under our command? Is it not possible to make very strong representations indeed to Indonesia, which is supposed to be at peace with us?


My Lords, as the noble Lord knows, I am replying for Her Majesty's Government, and at this point I should much prefer—if the noble Lord will agree—to leave matters of this sort to be dealt with by my noble friend the Leader of the House with his special responsibilities. I am certain that if the noble Lord were to put down a Question my noble friend would be glad to answer it in this respect.


My Lords, might I ask whether I can draw the deduction that this is the largest attack, with the largest party involved, yet made from Indonesian territory; that some of the soldiers were in Indonesian uniform; and that this attack was, in fact, delivered while negotiations were still proceeding in Tokyo?


My Lords, I think it will be safe to draw the conclusion that this was a very considerable attack; but, as my noble friend well knows, with operations of this sort it is difficult to keep precise scores. But I do not think it is necessarily correct to draw the conclusion, from the Statement I have just made, that this party was actually in uniform. This is a point that I should be glad to check on; but I do not think that deduction could be drawn from the Statement.


My Lords, was the attack made while the negotiations were proceeding?


That is a matter of chronology on which I should like to check. The attack was made last night, and I do not know the precise chronology. It might turn out that it was actually delivered after the regrettable termination of these negotiations.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he is satisfied in these circumstances that it is proper to allow the export to Indonesia of nearly one thousand Vauxhall trucks and chassis? Can he assure the House that in no circumstances will these vehicles be used for the transport of men and materials to be employed against British troops?


My Lords, as I mentioned in reply to the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches, I should not like to be drawn too far into political and commercial matters in amplifying this Statement. I should prefer at this stage, if my noble friend permits, to rest on the Statement made by my noble friend the Leader of the House on this matter last week. But, clearly, this is something which Her Majesty's Government will wish to keep under very close consideration.