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Australian Naval Policy

Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 28 April 1954

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16.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what consultations he had with the Australian Government before their announcement of a radical change in naval policy.

The composition of the Royal Australian Navy is a matter for Her Majesty's Government in Australia to determine. There is, of course, the closest consultation between the Admiralty and the Australian Commonwealth Navy Board regarding the employment of the two Navies.

Does not the change in the naval policy of Australia affect Commonwealth defence policy, and has not the First Lord made representations to the Australian Government? Has he had no contact with them on this matter?

As I said in my original reply to the hon. Gentleman, we are in constant consultation with the Royal Australian Navy on the question of the employment of the Navy. I repeat that, so far as this decision is concerned, it is not really a radical change in naval policy but one of adjustment in their general defence policy. It is the constitutional right of Her Majesty's Government in Australia to take such a decision.

Whilst recognising that it is the right of the Australian Government, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has considered what additional impact this will have upon British defence policy if, indeed, the Australian Government are changing the shape of their own defence policy, and what conclusions has he come to?

If the hon. Gentleman will look at the full statement he will see that it is a general statement on defence from the Australian point of view. It is not really a radical change. I do not think it will make a very great difference to the Commonwealth policy in general and, as I have said, the Australian Government have a constitutional right to make this change.

Can we take it, then, that if a proposal is made to abolish the Fleet Air Ann in that country, the First Lord will not regard it as a radical change?

It is not abolition; it is the building up of their Air Force and the cutting down of their Naval Air Arm. That does not justify the statement of the hon. Gentleman that this is a radical change.