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Singapore (Prime Minister)

Volume 892: debated on Wednesday 21 May 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about his discussions with Lee Kuan Yew at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.

Both the Prime Minister and I had wide-ranging discussions with the Singapore Prime Minister covering the political and economic situation in the world generally and in South-East Asia in particular. Such discussions between Heads of Government are confidential.

Was my right hon. Friend present in the House last Tuesday when the Prime Minister agreed with me that Lee Kuan Yew would enormously raise his prestige if he were to let out of gaol those people whom Her Majesty's Government put in there 13 years ago and who have been in gaol without trial ever since? Does he agree with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and, if so, will he, in the politest possible way, make representations about this matter to Lee Kuan Yew?

I read my right hon. Friend's reply. As is well known, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I are always in complete agreement—as are all members of this Government, on all occasions. [Interruption.] There is a problem here, as my hon. Friend knows. He has followed this question for some time and knows that Singapore is a sovereign independent State. It became so in 1965. The subject of our representations has to be handled with delicacy. I shall certainly bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.

Leaving aside the internal affairs of Singapore, may I ask the Foreign Secretary, in the light of the changed strategic situation in South-East Asia following the end of the Vietnam war and the British defence review, what residual obligations lie upon this country in respect of helping to sustain the security of Singapore? Will the right hon. Gentleman say in what way we are now able to carry those out?

The hon. Gentleman would help me if he tabled a Question to the Secretary of State for Defence. To the best of my knowledge, our forces intend to continue to visit the area and to exercise there. We shall honour the consultative commitment of the five-power defence arrangements under which we leave a small residual commitment of men to an integrated defence system.