Oral Answers to Questions — Diego Garcia

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th March 1975.

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Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook , Edinburgh Central 12:00 am, 11th March 1975

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what expansion has already been made to the base facilities at Diego Garcia.

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

I understand that as United States legislative procedures have yet to be completed the United States Government are not in a position to start work on the expansion to which our agreement was announced on 3rd December.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook , Edinburgh Central

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the United States Congress has been informed that $65 million was spent on this project during 1973–74 and that a further $95,000 is budgeted for expenditure in 1974–75? Is that massive expenditure compatible with the modest expansion which my right hon. Friend indicated to the House? Has he seen recent Press reports that after this extension the base will have nuclear capability for nuclear bombers? Does he appreciate that that would be contrary to United Nations resolutions and the expressed wish of most States around the Indian Ocean?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

First, I must inform my hon. Friend that what we agreed to in the statement of 3rd December was work additional to that which was agreed in 1972. Secondly, the cost of that additional work, at the most, is $35 million. Thirdly, there are no plans to base ships or aircraft on Diego Garcia, and there will be no facilities of any kind for nuclear weaponry.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Mather Lieut-Colonel David Mather , Esher

Will the right hon. Gentleman give recent figures concerning the number of Soviet ships visiting the Indian Ocean area?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

I cannot, off the cuff, give the figures. The hon. Gentleman must know, and the House is fully aware, that in recent years there has been increasing Soviet naval activity east of Suez, particularly in the Indian Ocean.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

In the discussions that took place in the Foreign Office last week, between Mr. Wilford and representatives of the Indian Government, were the objections of the Indian Government noted? What is the attitude of the Ministry of Defence?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

Although I was not involved in the discussion to which my hon. Friend refers, I can say that we took notice of what the Indians and the littoral States said about Diego Garcia and the possibility of a nuclear-free zone in the Indian Ocean. As my hon. Friend realises, the United States and the United Kingdom are prepared to consider an Australian proposal on how best to ensure a nuclear-free zone in that area.