HC Deb 09 March 1959 vol 601 cc868-70
23. Mr. Healey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what response was made by Her Majesty's Government to the recent request of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman for military assistance.

Mr. R. Allan

No recent request has been received but, as my right hon. and learned Friend informed the House on 31st July last year, Her Majesty's Government agreed to provide assistance towards the strengthening of the Sultan's armed forces. The arrangements included the secondment of personnel and the supply of stores. Steps are also in hand to set up a small air force as an integral part of the Sultan's armed forces.

Apart from this aid a small number of British troops have been made available at various times to the Sultan of Muscat and Oman to train and assist his forces.

Mr. Healey

Has the attention of the Under-Secretary of State been drawn to a recent detailed report in the Sunday Times of the action taken in Oman by British troops? Does he not agree it is high time that the British Government revised treaties that committed us to the support of a slave-owning chieftain in the suppression of domestic opposition?

Mr. Allan

One does not need to look at the Sunday Times. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War made a statement about Oman in the debate on the Army Estimates. There is no question of any opposition. These were three rebel leaders who escaped to a mountain fastness.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Are not the British Government to be congratulated on providing assistance to this friendly ruler?

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Is it not the fact that there have been almost continuous operations in Oman over a long period and that very recently there have been some British casualties, fortunately only a few? Ought not the British Government now to lay a White Paper, for which we have so frequently asked, about the whole of these operations?

Mr. Allan

We have already given a very full account. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that he has been in touch with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and that my right hon. Friend said that these actions had really terminated in 1957, except for the capture of three leaders who had fled to a high mountain.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that the Prime Minister wrote to me in August last saying that he could not lay a White Paper because the operations were not completed? Is it not time that we had the White Paper?

Mr. Beswick

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There are some hon. Members in this House who are old-fashioned enough to believe that the control of the Chamber should be by the Chair and not by hon. Members opposite. Every time my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) rises to his feet hon. Members opposite try to exercise unofficial control. Do you think something can be done about it, Sir?

Mr. Speaker

I have frequently reproved hon. Members on both sides of the House for interrupting each other, but these things happen, despite anything that one can do. I try to save as much time as possible.