HC Deb 10 June 1964 vol 696 cc425-6
26. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what actions are being taken by the military forces in Southern Arabia affecting the civilian population's food supplies.

39. Mr. Warbey

asked the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons he authorised the burning of food stocks in Radfan villages and the expulsion of the tribesmen and their families from their lands just prior to the sowing season.

Mr. Thorneycroft

We are dealing with rebels, armed, equipped and incited from the Yemen. We can and do use military action in certain areas, but in others it is better to deny the area to them. It is inevitable that crops should suffer and food stocks be destroyed in the process of excluding the rebels from their settled areas. We shall, of course, ensure that when these people submit to authority, they will not go short of food.

Mr. Allaun

But is not that an admission that the food and livestock of very poor people are being deliberately destroyed, and that they are being prevented from sowing the next crop? Did the Minister himself approve this instruction, and is he proud of it?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I think that the hon. Gentleman should recognise where the blame for all this fairly and squarely lies. It is upon the enemies of the South Arabian Federation who are putting these rebels into this area armed, equipped, and with instructions to bring about its destruction.

Mr. Clive Bossom

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that this is the most humane method of dealing with the situation, because villagers are not killed? Is it not a fact that they are warned by leaflet beforehand?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Yes, they are warned by leaflet.

Mr. Brockway

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the defence of Southern Arabia. Is he aware that the Radfan tribe was in rebellion against the sheikhdoms which were oppressing them long before the question of the South Arabian Federation ever arose?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I am sure that we should not interpret the hon. Gentleman's question as support of the Radfan tribe in this matter.