HC Deb 19 February 1963 vol 672 cc240-2

Mr. Healey (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the invasion of Aden Federal Territory by troops of the Yemen Republic and what action Her Majesty's Government are taking.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Nigel Fisher)

Her Majesty's Government have received reports from the High Commissioner indicating that an incursion into Federal territory by a small Yemeni force has been made, apparently during the course of operations against the Royalists in the Harib area. Our latest information does not indicate any activity on the part of this force.

We are in touch with the High Commissioner, and I hope to be able to make a more detailed statement very soon.

Mr. Healey

Can the hon. Member confirm, first, that the scale of this incursion has not been just that of the normal tribal skirmishing which has been going on on this rather ill-defined frontier for many years now? Secondly, can he tell us whether he is satisfied that none of the sheikhs in the Aden Federation has been giving assistance to the enemies of the Federal Republic—especially the Sheikh of Beihan? Thirdly, does not this incident underline the need for giving diplomatic recognition to the Government in Sana, as nearly all the allies of Her Majesty's Government have already done?

Mr. Fisher

So far as we know, the incursion is not on a large scale. About 120 men have been seen on our side of the frontier. So far as I know, the Emir of Beihan has not been rendering assistance to the Royalists. If he has done so it has been without our knowledge or authority. As the hon. Member knows, the United Kingdom practice is to recognise a Government when we are satisfied that it is in effective control, and the position in the Yemen, as he also knows, is still very unsettled.

Mr. Healey

Is the hon. Member really telling the House that the Government in Sana has less control over the Yemen territory than the control exercised by the recently recognised Government of Iraq over Kurdistan?

Mr. Fisher

Iraq does not come within my sphere of responsibility. The Republican authorities in the Yemen apparently have control of most of the principal towns, but not of the large tribal areas all round, and in the mountainous regions, which probably comprise a greater number of the population than do the town areas.

Mr. P. Williams

Is the Minister aware that this incident and the background of internal dissension in the Yemen show how sound the Government's decision has been in this case not to recognise the Republican forces? Will he understand that many hon. Members on this side of the House appreciate the air of oriental calm on the Government Front Bench?

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Can the Minister say what request for help Her Majesty's Government have received from the rulers of the South Arabian Federation, and what reply the Government have made to any such request for help?

Mr. Fisher

I am not clear what the hon. Member has in mind. We have received requests to deal with the incursion, if that is what he means. I would prefer not to go into further details at present. As the hon. Member knows, we are not represented in Sana. I hope to make another statement on this matter very shortly.

Mr. Dugdale

Can the Minister say how he knows that no arms, ammunition or assistance are being sent to the Royalists from the Sheikh of Beihan? How has he obtained this knowledge? Does he really know, or is he just guessing?

Mr. Fisher

I was rather careful in what I said in answer to the previous supplementary question. I said that as far as I knew this was not so, and that, if it was being done, it was not with our authority. But this is very wide of the original Question which was put to me.