HC Deb 15 July 1963 vol 681 cc22-6
24. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is aware that Egypt, despite international engagements to the contrary, has used poison gas against Yemeni non-combatants; what action is being taken through the United Nations or other channels; and whether Her Majesty's Government will take the initiative in arranging for medical and other aid to be provided to the victims.

27. Sir J. Lucas

asked the Lord Privy Seal what information he has through the United Nations of the use of mustard or poison gas in the recent operations in the Yemen; by whom it was used; and what steps are being taken by the United Nations to bring medicinal relief to the victims and to put an end to such activities.

28 and 30. Mr. W. Yates

asked the Lord Privy Seal (1) what reports he has received from Her Majesty's Government's representative at the United Nations concerning the use by United Arab Republic forces in North Yemen of weapons proscribed by the United Nations and the International Geneva Convention in an area now under United Nations supervision; and if he will make a statement

(2) what investigations the United Nations have now made into the use of weapons proscribed by the United Nations and the International Geneva Convention in North Yemen, an area at present under United Nations supervision.

31. Mr. Awbery

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will cause to be raised in the General Assembly of the United Nations Organisation the need for a committee to be set up to inquire into the use of toxic gas on villages of the Yemen and for the necessary steps to be taken to prevent a repetition of these attacks.

32. Mr. Ronald Bell

asked the Lord Privy Seal what information he has now received from the United Nations about the use of any type of gas in the Yemen by Egyptian forces; and whether he will make a statement.

36. Mr. Thorpe

asked the Lord Privy Seal what information he now has had from the United Nations about the use of poison gas in an attack on a village in the Yemen.

40. Mrs. Castle

asked the Lord Privy Seal what steps he has taken in the United Nations to secure an investigation by the United Nations into allegations that United Arab Republic forces in the Yemen have used poison gases and napalm bombs against the people of the Yemen.

Mr. Heath

On 9th July we drew the attention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to a circumstantial account in the Daily Telegraph on 8th July of the use of some type of gas bomb by United Arab Republic forces in the Yemen. U Thant had already instructed the United Nations Yemen Observation Mission to investigate such accounts, but so far as I am aware their report has not yet been received.

There is also a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the area with instructions to report on the needs of the wounded. Our Ambassador in Cairo has told the Egyptian Government of the extreme seriousness with which Her Majesty's Government would regard such reports if found to be true.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

May I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and ask him whether it is not important that the Foreign Office, as well as an English newspaper, should have prompt information about these terrible events? Is not this one more reason why there should still be a British Chargé ďAffaires with the Iman's Government? May we be assured that there will be the most vigorous international action on the part of Her Majesty's Government so that people do not get the idea that what the League of Nations condemned in Mussolini is condoned in Nasser?

Mr. Heath

As I explained to the House, we think it better to use the channel of communication with the Iman's representative in London for our information. The best thing surely in the circumstances is that the United Nations, which has observers on the spot, should report as soon as possible and as fully as possible on this incident. I think that the House would agree that we have taken all possible action in these circumstances.

Sir J. Lucas

If the people concerned get away with it and they cheat, does it not mean that in any future war the whole thing will spread and be just as bad as a nuclear war?

Mr. Heath

We ourselves have signed the Geneva Convention on this, which explains our point of view.

Mr. W. Yates

Will my right hon. Friend say whether the Department of the United States Secretary of State has also sent observers there and they have confirmed that these weapons have not been used at all? Is he aware that the report in the Daily Telegraph does not mention gas; it mentions poison gas? Why is it that only the Daily Telegraph has this report?

Hon. Members

A scoop.

Mr. Heath

Neither of these questions affects the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government and I certainly cannot answer them.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Has my right hon. Friend any information direct to the Foreign Office apart from the report in the Daily Telegraph? Independently of that, will he press the United Nations for a very early report on this matter and not allow the thing to get gradually lost in the mist of time?

Mr. Heath

I understand that the United Nations Secretary-General wishes to have an early report about it because of his concern about the matter. We have received certain information and we shall make it available to the United Nations if required.

Mr. Thorpe

While agreeing that we must reserve judgment until we have received the United Nations report and that we must not bandy charges, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can say when we are likely to receive that report?

Mr. Heath

We have been unable to find that out. I made inquiries before coming to the House as to when the report would be received, but we have no knowledge of it yet.

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Egyptian Government have denied the allegations but that it is clearly in their interests as well as those of the people of the Yemen that the facts should be clearly established by an impartial authority? Will the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, in addition to pressing for an early report by the United Nations, also inform the House fully of information he receives as soon as he gets it?

Mr. Heath

I understand that the U.A.R. has stated that these were napalm bombs and not gas bombs. I will see that the House has the earliest opportunity of hearing of the report we receive.

Sir T. Beamish

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the United Nations has all the transport required for the investigation, including aircraft and possibly helicopters, and has the advice of experts, including a medical team?

Mr. Heath

I understand that the Secretary-General is satisfied that the observer team can carry out this investigation. If they required any further facilities we would certainly urge that they should receive them.

Mr. Burden

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that every effort will be made to ensure that this report will be received as soon as possible and that if it is confirmed—as we hope it will not—that these diabolical weapons have been used by Egypt every effort will be made to ensure that the United Nations takes the strongest possible action?

Mr. Speaker

The latter part would appear to be on a hypothetical basis.