HC Deb 15 December 1960 vol 632 cc601-2
Mr. G. Brown

(by Private Notice) asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement on the safety of British citizens and British-protected persons in Ethiopia.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)

Yes Sir. I have received information from Her Majesty's Ambassador at Addis Ababa within the past two hours that fighting has broken out in Addis Ababa. As an immediate measure the Ambassador is admitting to the Embassy compound any British subjects who wish to take refuge there.

It is too soon to say whether it will be necessary to provide facilities for the evacuation of British subjects and protected persons. In the meantime we are taking urgent steps to make the necessary transport facilities available, including aircraft if this should be required. We are, of course, in constant touch with the Embassy.

There are about 900 British subjects in Ethiopia as a whole, of whom about 440 are of United Kingdom origin and about 300 from other Commonwealth countries. Of those of United Kingdom origin, nearly all, about 90 per cent. are in Addis Ababa itself.

Communications outside Addis Ababa have been interrupted, but we have no reason at present to believe that there is any danger to the comparatively small number of British subjects and protected persons living outside Addis Ababa.

Mr. Brown

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he can give us any idea of the scale of the fighting? Will he keep the House in touch with the developments?

Mr. Heath

In his message the Ambassador described it as moderate small arms and mortar firing. That is all the information that we have at the moment. I will keep the House informed.

Mr. B. Harrison

Has my right hon. Friend any information whether this is an internal revolt or whether other countries outside Ethiopia are concerned in it?

Mr. Heath

We have no evidence of outside interference.