HC Deb 05 July 1967 vol 749 cc1817-8
41. Mr. Russell Johnston

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if it is intended that the installations on the island staging posts in the Indian Ocean should be of a permanent nature or only temporary pending the withdrawal of British forces from Singapore and elsewhere in the Far Eastern theatre.

Mr. Healey

The installations at Gan and Masirah are of a permanent nature. No decisions have been taken to develop staging posts on other islands in the Indian Ocean.

Mr. Johnston

May we be assured that the fact that the staging posts at Gan and Masirah are permanent does not mean that the Government have a very long-term policy decision for commitment to east of Suez defence?

Mr. Healey

If I can track the direction of the hon. Gentleman's thought, certainly our possession of permanent facilities in Gan and Masirah does not restrict our ability to determine our commitments at any time as we think best.

Mr. Driberg

Does my right hon. Friend's Answer refer also to H.M.S. "Mauritius", which he coupled with these staging posts in his reply to Question 30?

Mr. Healey

Our facilities on Mauritius are of a different nature.

Mr. Thorpe

Reverting to Aldabra, which I believe the right hon. Gentleman coupled with an earlier Question, can he confirm or deny that we have had to spend £200,000 on membranes to try to solidify the surface so that aircraft can land? It has been suggested that they can land only at low tide. Does this indicate some temporary or permanent intention to stay there at great public expense?

Mr. Healey

The rumour to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred is totally untrue. The idea that Aldabra is covered at low tide was put about during a previous Administration by a party which felt that its interests might be affected if it were decided to develop a staging post on the island.

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