HC Deb 11 February 1963 vol 671 cc940-2
The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement on Iraq.

Her Majesty's Ambassador in Iraq has had an interview with the new Foreign Minister, Talib Hussein Al-Shabib, in which the latter asked for recognition by Her Majesty's Government. All the evidence we have indicates that the new régime in Iraq has the support of the armed forces and the bulk of the population, and is in effective control of the country.

The new Government officially stated on 8th February that they will comply with Iraq's international commitments and treaties. Her Majesty's Government have noted this assurance with satisfaction.

In these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government consider that it would be proper to accord recognition to the new Iraqi Government. Her Majesty's Ambassador in Baghdad has accordingly been instructed to inform the Iraqi Foreign Minister today of Her Majesty's Government's recognition. Her Majesty's Government look forward to the development of friendly relations between the United Kingdom and Iraq.

The House will regret to learn that two British subjects, Mr. R. Braithwaite, of the Embassy staff, and Mr. K. Deves, the Reuter correspondent, were slightly wounded by stray gunshots during the fighting in Baghdad. Her Majesty's Ambassador has been making extensive inquiries but, apart from these two, who have now left hospital, there are no other reports of harm to British subjects or damage to British property.

The Iraq Petroleum Company heard on 10th February that its staff at Kirkuk and Basra were all safe and well.

Mr. Mayhew

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that the Government's decision to recognise the new régime is a realistic one, and provides a welcome contrast to their attitude over the Yemen? Can he say whether there is yet any indication of the attitude of the new régime to the oil company, and whether there are any proposals for discussions on this subject?

Mr. Heath

The situation in the Yemen is not comparable with that which exists in Iraq. The new Government have already stated officially—on 8th February—that they will act to secure the flow of oil abroad.

Mr. Skeet

In view of the very delicate arrangements between the Iraqi Government and the British Government, and the very significant British investments in Iraq, is it not ludicrous to contemplate the importation of Soviet oil?

Mr. Bowles

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman this question: was there not something rather ominous in the statement of the new Foreign Secretary of Iraq that he proposed to do some damage to the new State of Israel?

Mr. Heath

The undertaking which I have given in my statement was that they would respect all their international obligations, and as they are a member of the United Nations they will, therefore, respect the United Nations Charter.

Mr. W. Yates

Has it been made clear to the Lord Privy Seal that the revolution is an Iraqi revolution and not an Egyptian one? Will he also say whether he considers that there is any chance that the new Iraqi Government will contemplate a union with the U.A.R.?

Mr. Heath

I cannot comment on these matters of internal Iraqi politics.

Mrs. Castle

Does not this decision make absolutely astonishing the right hon. Gentleman's earlier announcement about his attitude to the Yemen? Is it not a fact that we are the only major Western country except France which has not recognised the Yemen? Why should our criteria be so different from those of our allies in this respect?

Mr. Heath

I have already said that the circumstances in the two countries are not comparable. I was able to state this afternoon that the new régime has the support of the armed forces and the bulk of the population, and is in effective control of the whole country. It therefore reaches the criteria which we normally hold for recognition.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

When the Lord Privy Seal said that the Iraqi Government are in control of the entire country, does he mean that their authority has been accepted by the Kurdish rebels?

Mr. Heath

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that is a long-standing difficulty in Iraq; but the information that we have is that the Government have control of the country.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must get on.