HC Deb 21 June 1965 vol 714 cc1180-1
13. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on his recent visit to the Persian Gulf.

Mr. George Thomson

It was I, and not my right hon. Friend, who visited the Gulf recently, between 8th and 16th May. My main purpose was to make acquaintance at first hand with personalities and local conditions in this area where Britain has special treaty relationships and important economic interests.

I visited five of the nine protected sheikhdoms on the southern coast of the Gulf. On my way back I was also able to spend a day in Kuwait where I had useful talks with the Prime Minister, and with other Ministers.

During my visit to the States of the Southern Gulf I had detailed discussions with the Rulers and others about the ways in which Her Majesty's Government might give further assistance to promote economic and political advance. The current level of our aid to the Trucial States this year is just under £250,000. Since my return, Her Majesty's Government have offered to contribute to a newly-established Trucial States Development Office and Fund an additional £1 million. We are also anxious to modernise our own relationship with the Gulf States; I discussed various steps we have in mind whereby we might transfer to them as soon as they are equipped to take them over certain functions involving foreigners which over the years we have come to exercise on their behalf. Finally. I discussed with the local Governments the possibilities for greater cooperation between the States themselves. I have since been glad to note that at the end of May the Deputy Rulers of Bahrain, Qatar and Abu Dhabi, and the Ruler of Dubai—that is to say the four major sheikhdoms in the area—met for the first time together in Dubai to discuss their common problems; among other things they reached agreement on a new unified currency.

May I apologise for the length of my Answer?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

May I congratulate the Minister personally on the success of his visit to that part of the world? I tabled the Question to him, but some fairy transferred it to his right hon. Friend. In view of the increase in subversion from outside into the area, is the Minister of State satisfied that internal security is all ready to take care of any future difficulties which are likely to arise?

Mr. Thomson

It is always dangerous to prophesy about developments in that part of the world, but we have the problem of security in the area very much in mind. As the hon. Gentleman knows, internal security as such is the responsibility of the Rulers and not of Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Wall

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his reply. Will he do all he can to improve the already improving good relations between Britain and Saudi Arabia and between Saudi Arabia and the States he mentioned in his Answer?

Mr. Thomson

Yes. The hon. Gentleman is quite right. Saudi Arabia's interests in this area are very considerable, and we hope to be associated with them in a constructive approach to the problems I have mentioned.