HC Deb 23 February 1966 vol 725 cc418-9
Mr. Sandys

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a personal statement.

I wish to remove a misunderstanding which appears to have arisen out of a supplementary question which I put to the Secretary of State for Defence yesterday. I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would give an assurance that the Government intended to honour a promise which I had given, on behalf of the then Government, that Britain would conclude a defence agreement for the protection of the South Arabian Federation after independence.

The Secretary of State replied: A large number of promises were made by the right hon. Gentleman when he was Commonwealth and Colonial Secretary with a Government of South Arabia which has now disappeared. There is a completely different Government there now."—[Official Report, 22nd February, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 251.] From this answer it would seem that I gave the impression that I was referring to some informal assurance given to a Government which no longer exists and that this need not therefore be regarded as binding.

I wish to make it clear that the promise to which I referred was given by me on behalf of the British Government at the conclusion of the South Arabian Constitutional Conference in July, 1964. It was embodied in a report signed by all the delegates and myself, which was presented to Parliament in Command Paper No. 2414. The Government to which the promise was made was the Government of the Federation of South Arabia, whose Constitution is unchanged and whose membership is almost identical today with what it was in July, 1964.

Since any misunderstanding on this point might call in question the good faith of Britain, I felt it right to take the first opportunity of making this explanation.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal statement on the same matter.

I regret that owing to a misunderstanding I misled the House in my reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). I wish to correct what I said. It was the Constitution of the Government of Aden, not of South Arabia, which was suspended last September and the right hon. Gentleman's promise was given to the same Government as exists today.

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