Speculation has again arisen about the future of Britain's military bases in Malta, Cyprus and Singapore, following a statement that the British Labour Government's Defence Secretary, Mr.
GV PAN Malta harbour
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CU Sign Akrotiri
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Initials SC/2002 SC/2037
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Background: Speculation has again arisen about the future of Britain's military bases in Malta, Cyprus and Singapore, following a statement that the British Labour Government's Defence Secretary, Mr. Roy Mason, was undertaking a review of the country's defence commitments abroad.
He described the review as the most severe ever carried out in peacetime, and it is believed the residual British presence in the three islands is being questioned.
Malta, Gnca a major support base for the Royal Navy's global power, has long since ceased to be of real importance to Britain, although it keeps some three thousand troops there as part of its NATO contribution.
The change of emphasis in Malta came about three years ago, when the Maltese Prime Minister, Mr. Dom Mintoff, re-negotiated the terms under which the bases on the island were rented. NATO now pays the biggest percentage of the rent, Britain maintains a minimal force there. The real problem, should Britain decide to withdraw altogether, is Malta's. British troops and their families contribute a considerable sum towards the island's economy. If they went, they would be sorely missed.
Cyprus is probably the most important of Britain's island bases. The large Royal Air Force establishment at Akrotiri is a vital staging post for all British military flights to the far East.
Its other role provides the RAF with a convenient base in the Eastern Mediterranean form which its reconnaissance aircraft are able to shadow Soviet naval forces in the area.
In the Far Eat, Singapore -- like Malta -- was once an outpost of the British Empire in which Britain now has few remaining interests. Its naval dockyard was handed over to the Singapore government in 1968 and the army and air force bases evacuated in 1971
It remains of marginal importance only as an emergency repair base -- Britain's Far East forces now being based on Hong Kong.
The point of the British Government's review is, of course, a financial one. In the past decade, British defence expenditure overseas has been severely cut back, and the Labour Government is committed to reducing it even further.
Total withdrawal form all the island bases could save Britain well over 660 million sterling. Of the three, only Cyprus is likely to survive if the economies in defence spending are pushed through/