§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
I beg to move, That this House do now adjourn.
Some hon. Members might have thought that it would be better to have a full day's debate on Aden later. The Opposition thought that the facts in Aden speak for themselves, that on any account they are dangerous, and that as the noble Lord Lord Shackleton was due to go to Aden immediately, it was essential that the House should be given a clearer picture of his directive and his political objectives than any which the Foreign Secretary has been able to give up to now.
The immediate occasion for this Motion was the abrupt withdrawal of the United Nations three-man Mission to Aden. I doubt whether the House would wish to waste much more time on what, on any account, was a deplorable and totally depressing episode. To say that—and I hope that hon. Members opposite, in particular, will recognise this—is not to suggest, as some of them suggested at Question Time today, that the Conservatives are hostile to any rôle for the United Nations in Aden. I will explain why I say this.
As Prime Minister, and again as Leader of the Opposition, I made a proposal, which was that the United Nations should be invited to define the frontiers between the Yemen and the Aden Federation and that United Nations observers should be placed on that defined frontier to prevent infiltration from the Yemen into South Arabia. Therefore, we are not against a suitable United Nations presence. After all, the Federation is anxious for United Nations membership.
But we are most emphatically against the kind of prejudices revealed by the Committee of 24 and the kind of biased statements made by the three members of the present Mission who have just returned from Aden. If the Foreign Secretary is still thinking in terms of some kind of United Nations activity or presence in Aden, let it be by way of a considered resolution through the Security Council, which is the proper place where such matters should be decided, and do not let him accept again some delegates from the Committee of 24.
823 There can be no doubt that the events of the last week have left a situation in Aden of uncertainty and danger which can be ended only by a much clearer statement of Government policy, with the British Government making it clear that from now on they will take responsible charge of the situation. The first part of any such statement must be this. It must concern the Government's intention about the maintenance of law and order and the protection of Adeni and British lives. Disorder is always greatest when there is uncertainty about the resolution of the responsible Power. In Aden Colony at present there is complete uncertainty about the objectives and aims of the British Government.
I take it that the House can be assured that there are enough troops in Aden today to maintain order. But the House has another duty. The Government have a programme of withdrawal, and we are told that it will continue exactly as planned until the end of the year, when South Arabia gets its independence. May we have from the Foreign Secretary a description of the timetable of the withdrawal of troops, and will he tell us how it is proposed that terrorism should be held in check in the last months before independence, because that date is now getting very near?
This must involve—I am sorry; I have lost my place—
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Brown)
Not for the first time.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The right hon. Gentleman will get very little satisfaction now that I have found my place.
This must involve—and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will confirm that this is so—detailed consultation on a programme of withdrawal with Federal Ministers and a date by which the Federal Government will resume responsibility for internal security. If there is to be a transfer, the House wishes to know the timetable by which British troops will be withdrawn and when the Federal troops will take over. There cannot be a gap, a hiatus, left. If the British troops are to go, somebody must take over. We take it, therefore, that the Federal troops and police will be responsible for internal security.
824 This leads me to another question. When my noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) asked the Foreign Secretary about the independence date and whether that date held for early 1968, the right hon. Gentleman did not give a firm answer, nor on another occasion did the Minister of State, and nor did the Secretary of State for Defence during the defence debate. We should like to know this evening whether the date of 1968 for independence is flexible. Could it be brought forward? Could it be put back?
My next range of questions to the Foreign Secretary concerns Lord Shackle-ton's instructions and the political objectives for the future of South Arabia. Is he to co-operate fully with the Federal Ministers against the day when they take over political responsibility? Whenever he has been faced with this question, the Foreign Secretary has taken refuge in an attack on my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). But I cannot allow the right hon. Gentleman to get away with those tactics any longer. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman can answer for himself. He needs no protection. All that he has to do is to issue a statement whenever he makes a speech.
The reason why the Foreign Secretary cannot be allowed to get away with these tactics any longer is this. Socialist Ministers have been dealing with the Federal Ministers for 2½ years. Presumably, then, they accept the right hon. Gentleman's conception of a Federal solution to the South Arabian and Aden problem. I hope that the Government will confirm that this is so. Surely they must recognise that it is inconceivable that Aden and the mainland States should go by separate paths. That makes, for example, geographical nonsense. Anyhow, if the Foreign Secretary has an alternative to offer to the Federal solution, this debate is a spendid opportunity for him to tell us about it. We want to know whether he has an alternative.
It is not good enough for the Government constantly to attack the proposals of the Conservative Government—and, incidentally, to misrepresent them—but never come forward with an alternative of their own. If they have no plan, and if the Foreign Secretary is unable to announce a firm plan tonight, then we must 825 assume that Lord Shackleton will deal with the Federal Ministers. Anything which he can do to bring the various elements in Aden Colony and in the Federation closer together will be to the good. But I hope that the Foreign Secretary this evening will make it plain that the present Federal Government is the foundation on which he as Foreign Secretary and his Government are building the future of South Arabia.
Finally, it is as well to repeat the Conservative solution, because it has been misrepresented so often by hon. Members opposite. It was independence by 1968; it was to entrust the internal security of the Federation and of Aden to the Federal Government; it was to accompany those measures by a defence treaty, not limitless in time, but to be effective—and this is the essential point—until the Federation itself could make itself secure. That was a coherent policy.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I am coming to that, if the right hon. Gentleman will have a little patience.
Lest the right hon. Gentleman should say once again that we had no commitment to a defence treaty, I must repeat that this pledge was given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham with the full authority of the Cabinet of the day. Lest he might repeat that we were committed only to a conference—which is the line which the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends take—let him pause and consider before he takes that line again that, if he takes it again, he must let us off our commitment to independence by 1968, because that was an essential part of the same document. He cannot have one half and not the other. Independence in 1968 and a defence treaty to accompany independence were an essential part of our policy. Because the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have been dealing with Federal Ministers all this time, I want to know whether that is still their policy.
Therefore, once again, as I did a fortnight ago, I ask the Foreign Secretary to look at the prospect of a weak—
§ Mr. George Brown
I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman when he said that the Conservatives had given this promise 826 which he now says—and this is the first time that I have heard it said—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—was a Cabinet decision to give a defence treaty agreement to the Federal Ministers. He now says that it was not limitless in time. Therefore, it clearly had a limit in time. I asked what was the limit in time. The right hon. Gentleman said that he was coming to this. For how long did he give that undertaking?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The right hon. Gentleman says that he has never before heard that this was a Cabinet decision by the Conservative Government. Let him look up the speech which I made in the House a fortnight ago—I think the right hon. Gentleman was here—and perhaps he will refresh his memory, which should not be as short as that. It is common knowledge that this was a Cabinet decision, and my right hon. Friend was, of course, authorised to do that.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at the prospect of a weak and independent Federation in the context of the Middle East and its effect on Saudi Arabia, on Iran and on Israel, because all those countries, singly and collectively, are gravely anxious about the British Government leaving a vacuum of power in Aden into which Egypt can walk. Cannot the Foreign Secretary see that this is a recipe for disorder and possibly war over a very large area?
I said just now that if independence were accompanied by a defence commitment this commitment need not be limitless. No one would propose that it should be. In that speech, which the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten, I made two suggestions, which I will repeat for his benefit. I suggested that the duration of the defence treaty could be linked to Egypt's withdrawal of her forces in the Yemen. That would be one way. I suggested, too, that there might be a period of three years at the end of which time the defence agreement could be terminated at the option of either party. Those are two suggestions which the right hon. Gentleman himself might do well to consider.
§ Mr. George Brown
This is very important. Of course I remember the right hon. Gentleman's speech of a fortnight ago when he made these suggestions. 827 However, he said that his right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) was authorised to give the Federal Ministers a commitment which was not limitless in time. I am asking the right hon. Gentleman what limit in time his right hon. Friend put on it.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The commitment was to accompany independence with a defence treaty, and the commitment was on the parallel of the arrangement which we had made with Malaysia. This was a perfectly sensible arrangement. Incidentally, in that case, it paid a high political dividend, and I suggest an arrangement of this kind with the South Arabian Federation would also pay a high political reward. When at that time we were to negotiate a defence agreement, we did not have time to get down into details and conclude the agreement. Unfortunately, right hon. Gentlemen opposite took over. But if we had been able to complete the defence agreement, we should either have linked it—[Interruption.]—I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will listen for a moment and curb his exuberance for a second—to withdrawal of Egyptian troops from the Yemen, or made it terminable at the option of either party at the end of three years or five years, at any rate a term sufficient to allow—and this is the point which I have emphasised over and over again—the South Arabian Federation to equip itself in order to defend itself and maintain its independence.
§ Mr. George Brown
Have we got it quite clear? [HON. MEMBERS: "We have."] I should like to get it clear. I accept the right hon. Gentleman's word when he says that this is the agreement which the Conservatives would have made. It is not, in fact, the agreement which they did make.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I wonder whether I can get it into the right hon. Gentleman's head that this was a commitment to a defence treaty, that we were committed to it and would have signed a defence treaty at the same time as we gave independence to the South Arabian Federation. Is that quite clear? There are plenty of respectable Commonwealth precedents for such a defence treaty, and I have particularly in mind that of Malaysia.
828 Let us for a moment leave out the fact that the previous Conservative Government made a commitment. Surely it is true that it is impossible to leave the South Arabian Federation in a weak position, unable to defend itself, without any responsibility accepted by the British Government for helping it to do so. That would be an impossible proposition. The right hon. Gentleman himself, when talking to the Labour Party conference about foreign policy east of Suez, made that very point not long ago—that premature withdrawal would be something which the British ought not to contemplate.
Therefore, I hope that the House will now hear from the right hon. Gentleman what are the instructions to Lord Shackleton. What are the political objectives at which he is to aim? Is he authorised to vary the date for independence? Is he authorised to tell the Federal Ministers that the United Kingdom will help them in their defence against external aggression until they are in a position to guarantee their own security? It is the answers to those questions for which we ask tonight, and that is why we have moved this Motion in these terms.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) started his speech by stressing his loyalty to the United Nations and the importance which he attaches to the United Nations. He said that earlier today some of my hon. Friends had expressed doubts about the attitude of the Opposition to the United Nations. When we express doubt, the right hon. Gentleman must forgive us—I could well feel for him when he started off with his defensive point—when we recall how he himself used to talk about the United Nations when he occupied high office in the British Government, particularly as Foreign Secretary, when he was directly responsible for our foreign affairs. I merely say that to put the record straight, because I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the main purpose of this debate must be to look forward and to give the best possible advice to the Government about how to deal with the immediate situation.
829 The right hon. Gentleman should not expect that we are taking as unconnected his previous attitude to the United Nations and the kind of manner in which he dismissed the United Nations Mission a few moments ago. It is all of one piece. It is not good enough, now that the right hon. Gentleman has forced the debate, completely to ignore the efforts of the Government to remain in contact with the United Nations and the express desire of the Secretary-General, U Thant, that there should be reconsideration of contact between Her Majesty's Government and the United Nations Mission.
By the way in which he dismissed the United Nations Mission and made some vague references to the Security-Council, the right hon. Gentleman proved conclusively, to me at least, that he was in favour of a policy of undermining the status of the United Nations Mission, which has been characteristic of the attitude of the Opposition ever since that Mission was first invited by the Government to take a hand in the situation. The Opposition bear a grave responsibility for some of the events which have since taken place. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] I will explain why.
It has always been held, and the Opposition have many prominent members who have advanced this doctrine, that in matters of international affairs the attitude of the Opposition, particularly of their leading spokesmen, is important and second only in importance to the attitude of the Government. It does not go unnoticed when senior spokesmen of the Opposition attack a United Nations Mission immediately it has been appointed and before it can start its work. That is why I repeat that the Opposition bear a great responsibility for some of the events which have occurred.
I invite the House to look at some of the details of what has happened in the last few days, which will hear out, as I ventured to suggest this afternoon, that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has given a fair and balanced account of the activities of the Mission and what has occurred. The way in which members of the Opposition tore into him when, for the first time, he had an opportunity as spokesman of the Government to give his account of what had happened was proof conclusive that 830 hon. Members opposite did not want to listen to the facts or be confused by them. They had decided their line of attack and the facts were not allowed to interfere with it.
As to the work of the mission, it would not do any harm to listen to the words of an accredited correspondent who represents a highly respected American paper, the Christian Science Monitor, in his dispatch from Aden two days ago. This is what Mr. John Cooley has to say in his report:The Mission's position is difficult. It has not met F.L.O.S.Y.S.'s demands for recognition as the 'sole representative' of South Arabia's people.That was the pressure that was put upon the Mission in Cairo and it quite properly and rightly refused that demand. I am certain that that expected demand had been discussed with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant.
I come now to the statement which the leader of the Mission wished to make on television in Aden and which was countermanded by the federal authorities. This was the statement which was described this afternoon as being particularly outrageous. I do not know whether every hon. Member who took part in that exercise had read the text before making his attack. I want to link the brief quotation which I have just read about the refusal of the Mission, quite properly, to yield to pressure in Cairo to what the leader of the Mission wanted to say on television had he been allowed to do so.
In the crucial part of his statement, this is what he wanted to say:In the territory, we have been in touch with the High Commissioner and his staff as representatives of the United Kingdom, which is responsible to the United Nations as Administering Power. It is with them that we will deal officially in the territory and not with the Federal Government.Obviously, those words were carefully chosen.
A decision had been taken in the United Nations committee, the committee which the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire has dismissed as if we could simply pick and choose and did not have to consider the attitude of other Powers, as if this was not a highly delicate operation and as if we, as one member of the United Nations, could dismiss the procedure which had been agreed upon and could call for another procedure overnight. 831 It was an irresponsible statement to be made by a former Foreign Secretary who had to face these practical problems, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has to face them now in suggesting that we could change overnight to another method from the method which had been decided after difficult negotiations.
As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon, the statement which the leader of the Mission wanted to make on television clearly implies that there still might have been an opportunity, because it was only official negotiations that were ruled out in that statement by the leader of the Mission. I repeat that it is a matter of great regret that the Federal authorities did not allow that statement to be made on television. They must bear part of the blame and of the responsibility for the failure and the breakdown.
Why did the Federal authorities intervene? Surely, if a United Nations Mission, which is not simply an odd body or an odd committee of a private organisation, visits an area and its task is a difficult one, it is understandable that it must maintain a proper balance. Having refused the demands made in Cairo, the Mission clearly wanted to be in line with the United Nations resolution and it wanted to point out to all and sundry that it was not yielding to any other pressure either. To conclude on this point, it would have been to everybody's advantage if the leader of the Mission had been allowed to go on television and make his statement. There is something to be said for free speech even in a delicate situation.
It follows from this that there had been other attitudes which made the work of the Mission difficult. I should have preferred if, in spite of all these difficulties, the Mission had in the end further delayed its departure. There were, however, curious incidents which happened all along the line and which need some explaining.
I come now to what is the direct responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and that is the officials and officers of the British High Commission. In an account in Le Monde, for instance, a highly respected paper published in France, I read an account of the incident of the searching of suit- 832 cases. I cannot for the life of me see why a United Nations Mission, which is there on the instructions of the Secretary-General, should be challenged that its members must have their suitcases searched.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Thomson) rose—
§ Mr. Mendelson
If my right hon. Friend is intervening, may I first give the quotation from Mr. Leo Keita, who is reported as saying after this incident occurred:After all, why search us? We are not terrorists.
§ Mr. Thomson
I myself had my baggage searched when I was in Aden, for the simple reason that one wants to make sure that no one has put a bomb in it. My only anxiety was that my baggage should be searched efficiently.
§ Mr. Mendelson
My right hon. Friend might wish to undergo the same treatment as anyone else when going through customs, but he does not have to be sensitive on this point. It is a friendly gesture, in his case, which puts him on a par with everyone else. However, in the case of the United Nations Mission, it should have been possible, as was done in the end, to find a sensible method which would not have created bad feeling.
There were other occasions. It is customary for correspondents to ask questions at a Press conference. On this occasion, however, there was not just a period of question and answer. Quite a number of people among the Press corps asked all sorts of things in the form of declarations, and that is how some of the provocative exchanges came about. From the beginning, there was an attitude among many people of hostility and inconsiderateness towards the members of the Mission, and none of the incidents should be dismissed as completely unimportant.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) has misunderstood the point about the baggage examination. The great fear is that baggage going on to a passenger aircraft might have had a bomb slipped into it by a servant. It is not a new practice which was applied to members of the United Nations Mission. It is 833 always the case, and if the hon. Gentleman had been to Aden he would know that it is done to everyone.
§ Mr. Mendelson
In the end, an alternative solution was reached in accordance with the diplomatic status of the Mission.
The political significance of the attitude which this created is quite clear, and it emerges from the position that we face today. It was essential that this mission should be in a position to provide an alternative solution, and I come now to the central point which ought to be the theme of this debate.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire has asked the Government for alternatives and has always pressed for them. A long campaign has been carried on at the same time demanding that the whole course of the Government's policy should be changed. In fact, that is the whole point of having the United Nations Mission.
We see at present the Federal Government, who assume that they must be the successive power after independence, with their present unreformed constitution and set-up. However, there are many people in the territory, particularly in Aden, who are not prepared to accept them. I realise that there is an external element of great importance and that President Nasser has people in the territory whom he supplies with arms and whom he instructs. I have never had any emotional illusions about the revolutionary movement there, and I have never had the feeling that Her Majesty's Government must hand over and walk out, leaving matters to Nasser to decide.
At the same time, it is an irresponsible policy to demand of Her Majesty's Government that they must give an open-ended commitment to stay there for as long as anyone in the Federal Government wishes them to, and supply our troops to go on doing the job. That is what the Opposition are asking. It is no longer simply the policy of the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) who leads from below the Gangway. It is now the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. It is a policy which is highly dangerous and which could lead to a situation where the leaders of the Federal Government would 834 lose all incentive to reach a compromise with popular feeling in their territory.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
There is no question of an unending commitment, as I have made plain time and time again. I made two suggestions which would limit the commitment, and there are plenty of others.
§ Mr. Mendelson
The right hon. Gentleman may have answered that question to his own satisfaction. He certainly has not answered it to the satisfaction of hon. Members on this side of the House.
That is the kernel of the whole disagreement. What we hoped for from the United Nations Mission was a third solution, and the help of the United Nations and the Secretary-General is essential if that is to be found. The only hope of avoiding the wider bloodshed which everyone wants to avoid and at the same time putting limits on President Nasser's ambitions is to engage the United Nations, including all the members of the Security Council, to find an alternative solution.
The Opposition have treated this matter as if it were merely a question of giving an open-ended commitment to the Federal Government and then staying there, thereby guaranteeing the continuation of the Government in power. However, that is no solution to the problem, and the wild accusations which we have heard about disloyalty, about walking out and leaving people in the lurch, and the highly charged emotional atmosphere in which this campaign has been conducted by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite over many months, would, if continued, undermine confidence in Her Majesty's Government in the Middle East and make it more difficult to enlist the help of members of the United Nations in finding a sensible policy.
I appeal to my right hon. Friend to do all that he can to get in touch and keep in contact with the United Nations Mission, to enlist the good offices of the Secretary-General and to do everything in his power to see to it that, in some form, the work of the Mission is turned to good account. In spite of the fact that some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite felt that there was not so much importance in some of these points, I repeat that it is also important to give instructions to our officers in the High 835 Commission to be very careful in the way in which they deal with members of the Mission. I can see no reason why, when the television broadcast was recorded, there should have been officers of the High Commission present in the room. That introduced an element of political censorship immediately—[Interruption.] I would say the same if the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition went to Aden and recorded a television broadcast. I should not expect officials from the High Commission to be there listening, saying afterwards that they did not like what he said and that it would not be broadcast.
§ Mr. George Thomson
I can assure my hon. Friend that officers of the High Commission were not present at the broadcast recording. The difficulty arose because we did not know the text of the broadcast, since we had deliberately stayed away unless we should be accused of the very thing that my right hon. Friend fears.
§ Mr. Mendelson
In that case, they were officers of the Federal Government. My right hon. Friend must be precise about this. If he now says, contrary to the account which has appeared in many reputable newspapers, that no officers of the High Commission were present when the broadcast was recorded, clearly the persons present were officials of the Federal Government, and they must have got in touch with representatives of the High Commission, because there is a high official on the staff of the High Commissioner who advises the Federal Minister of Information about such matters, as my right hon. Friend knows.
§ Mr. Thomson
This is an important point. As far as I know, there were no officials of the Federal Government present, because the United Nations Mission did not recognise the Federal Government. On the other hand, the television technicians present were Federal technicians, because the Government own the broadcasting system.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I do not want to delay the House on this point, but it is quite clear that some officials who were there gave a full account afterwards of what had been said in the recorded broadcast. I am sure that my right hon. Friend wants the House to know the 836 facts. It is clear that, afterwards, someone gave an account of the broadcast to the Federal authorities—
§ Mr. Thomson indicated assent.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I see that my right hon. Friend agrees. If that is not censorship, I do not know what it is. If someone was there who reported what the Chairman of the United Nations Mission said, how can that be anything but censorship or spying? Clearly, as a result of that report, the broadcast was banned.
Extreme care should be exercised in the way in which any United Nations representative is treated. There is suspicion abroad, and we have to be reassured, as do members of the United Nations, that everyone in the office of the High Commissioner is as keen to see the United Nations Mission succeed as my right hon. Friend is. This must be said frankly if the debate is to be of any value.
If the United Nations receives a report from the Mission which stops here, then it will not advance anybody's interests, apart from the interests of those who wish to prevent agreement being reached. If the Government were to proceed on the irresponsible advice of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire the work of the Mission would be sidetracked. If the Mission does not want to continue, we may have to accept that in the end. In the meantime, if we take the initiative and dismiss the further work of the Mission, we will be indicted before the U.N. and find ourselves in a very poor position indeed. We would be accused of taking part in a move to make the work of the Mission impossible.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has the right answer. We must do all we can to get the Mission first perhaps to come to London and then to return to Aden under improved conditions in the hope that, with the cooperation of the Mission and the Secretary-General, a better alternative solution might be proposed and a peaceful settlement arrived at. Until that is achieved there can be no question of one merely saying that one supports the Federal Government and guarantees the continued existence of British troops in the area for many years. That way lies disaster. Attempts must be continued 837 to reach a peaceful solution so that the people there may know that our guarantee is limited in time, so that this may act as a spur to a solution being reached.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
I hope that the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) will not accuse me of discourtesy if I do not go into the same detail as he went in examining the circumstances of the United Nations Mission. There are three matters I wish to canvass; first, to assess the job which the Mission was asked to do; secondly, to try to diagnose why there are problems at the moment in the Federation and, thirdly, to discover what Lord Shackleton should be asked to do in an effort to overcome these difficulties.
On the Mission I merely say that for those who are keen to uphold the Charter and authority of the United Nations, none of us can take particular pleasure from what has happened in the last few days. As for the broadcast, if the purpose of the television broadcast was to ask for cooperation, I cannot see that a controversial reference to the Federal Government was either necessary or wise. I wonder whether that appeal was as sincere as it might have been, in view of the suggestions that have been made by the Foreign Secretary today that there were certain people who were prepared to overcome the intimidation and who had offered to give evidence but who were not welcomed so to do.
Was there agreement in the mind of the Government and of the Mission about the Mission's terms of reference? The General Assembly requested the Mission… to consider recommending practical steps for the establishment of a central caretaker Government in the territory, to carry out the administration of the whole territory and to assist in the organisation of elections.On 4th April last I asked the Minister of State in a supplementary, following my Private Notice Question, whether he could say… if the terms of reference of the United Nations Mission, announced on 23rd February, are sufficient to advocate some change in the federal structure? If not, will the Government consider appointing something along the lines of the Monckton Commission …The Minister replied:We are satisfied that the terms of reference of the United Nations Mission give it full 838 freedom to make recommendations about the securing of peaceful independence.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th April, 1967; Vol. 744, c. 33–4.]I would describe that as a monument of Ministerial ambiguity.
Did the resolution of the General Assembly mean that the Mission had power to recommend, for example, that there be a coalition caretaker Government comprising Federal and national Ministers? Did it mean that the Mission did not have the power to recommend, if it thought fit, the dissolution of federation? It is important to know the extent of the power it had when it went into the territory.
I disagree with the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) in his suggestion—at least, I gathered him to be suggesting this—that the U.N. should be allowed to police the frontiers and prevent infiltration. I believe that the only justification for the U.N. entering Aden is if it is being given the widest possible powers to make any political recommendation it might think fit. Either we must give the U.N. complete power or no power at all. There is no good to be gained from compromising between the two.
If the prestige of the U.N. is to be restored, it would need somebody of the calibre of U Thant or Ralph Bunche to go back to Aden, but he would need the widest possible powers, not merely to talk about the personnel of a caretaker Government but to go into the whole question of the political structure of the Federation.
I do not want to dwell on the past, save in so far as it is relevant to our action for the future. There is no doubt in my mind that problems have arisen owing to the frogmarch of Aden Colony in 1962 into the Aden Protectorate to form a Federation. It is ironic that the fiercest critics of the Government today are the architects of four Federations which, in several parts of the world, have failed. The word is strewn with the federal ruins which are a lasting monument to the policies of the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). One knows as a basic political fact that what that right hon. Gentleman hath joined together in political matrimony is bound to fall asunder.
839 The Foreign Secretary was right, therefore, to say that this was far beyond being a simple colonial issue. We already have the situation in which the Hadramut is being drawn closer and closer to Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni loyalists, the nationalists are being drawn closer to the Yemeni Republicans and Egypt and the Federals are becoming more and more isolated and therefore more and more dependent on the good offices and protection of Britain. We therefore have a situation in which, whatever happens when Britain withdraws, there will be a major clash of interests between neighbouring countries. We furthermore have the position in which neither the nationalists nor the sheikhdoms can claim to speak for the majority of the population.
I believe that there is no alternative to a complete re-examination of the political structure in the Federation. I speak as one who cried as a voice in the wilderness that the Central African Federation was doomed on the basis that, apart from the economic arguments, the Federation was the effect of a political shot-gun marriage and was therefore bound to end if not in bloodshed then in bitter divorce. I believe that this Federation is as bound to fail as the Central African Federation and that just as Singapore seceded from Malaysia, so will Aden Colony secede from the Protectorate as a whole.
I therefore plead with the Foreign Secretary to recognise the political facts of life of this area. I plead that if there clearly is a move to bring about dissolution—to have an Aden State Government—we do it now while we can still have some control over the situation and prevent bloodshed and that we do not clear out and have it happen at the end of six months of independence, when probably a military and sheikhly government will take over and lead to another military dictatorship.
This is the moment to look and see whether this Federation will survive and bring about the political examination which is needed. I therefore urge on the Government that when the noble Lord goes out, he does not go out there merely to patch up the existing situation—merely to try to see that the decisions which are taken are perhaps likely to keep the temperature down by a few degrees or to ensure that security is made more efficient 840 and effective—but that he has the power of a Monckton Commission when it went to Central Africa to make any recommendations to the Foreign Secretary which he thinks fit the political future of the area.
I want to mention one other matter, namely, the position about our defence commitments. As I see it, the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire said that there was an offer to treat. There was an agreement that if and when independence came there would be discussions with a view to giving some form of defence alliance to the Federation. I accept that that was the intention of the previous Government and I accept that they would have felt bound to honour it. Whether or not it is a final agreement, a binding agreement upon any future Government, I do not know. I think it probably might be, but it is an arguable point.
I bow to no one in my enthusiasm to liquidate our overseas commitments, whether it is east of Suez, whether it is in the Trucial States, in Bahrein or in Aden. But I think that because of the political position initiated by a Conservative Government under the aegis of the right hon. Member for Streatham, and, like so many bad Conservative policies, automatically carried on by a Labour successor, there is such a muddle, such an appalling political situation in that part of the world that, whether we want to pull out or not, I do not in all honesty think that we can until we get the right political settlement. If we get the right political settlement, if we have an Aden State Government, if there is a loose federation or confederation between the 20 sheikhdoms and possibly the Hadramut, with the Aden Protectorate having some form of treaty obligation such as we have in Kuwait, then in a short time we shall be able to phase out all our defensive obligations in the same way as we did in Kuwait.
We were told, "You must have a defence treaty with Kuwait. Otherwise you will never get your oil. You will have the Iraqis moving in." It is true that we had the British troops going in once and the House will remember how it was necessary to melt down ice cream so that they could get enough liquid to drink. But in a very short time the Kuwaitis came to terms with the rest of the world. 841 That is what the sheikhdoms have got to do. They have got to learn to stand on their own feet, as have the Trucial sheikhdoms and the Ruler of Bahrein. If we do not break up the Federation, it does not matter how many troops we keep there and it does not matter how long we keep them there. We shall have more bloodshed, more bitterness, and the most appalling political mess that there has ever been in that part of the world.
Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that what is more important than the question of defence is to get the political structure right. If he does that, I shall be surprised if it does not include dissolution of the Federation.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
I am in almost entire agreement with a large part of the speech of the Leader of the Liberal Party. There is a great political problem here and it has to be solved. It is wrong to treat the military aspects of the situation in isolation.
It seems to me rather regrettable that this debate is taking place at all. This is clearly a moment of the utmost delicacy as far as the diplomatic manoeuvres involved in the situation are concerned, and the sort of thrashing around that we are having from the Opposition in this affair, both during Question Time this afternoon and in some parts of the speech of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), seems to me to be unhelpful in obtaining a settlement.
I do not accept, as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to accept, the idea that the United Nations Mission to Aden started off its deliberations in a wholly anti-British mood. I do not accept that it is representative of a strain of United Nations opinion which unhappily exists and which is anti-colonialist in its aspirations and its attitude. I do not think the Mission went out there merely in order to make itself a convenient platform for the extreme nationalist sentiments which exist in that area. I believe it went out there trying to help the situation and genuinely seeking to solution.
Deep misunderstandings have occurred in the last week to ten days, but it seems to me that, having accepted that fact, the way in which one should try to deal 842 with the situation is to look at the causes of these misunderstandings, bring them into the open, analyse them and see whether or not the United Nations Mission still does not have a very important and, perhaps, a crucial rôle to play in the situation.
I would not accept that the right attitude for the British Government to take in this situation is merely to say, "The United Nations has failed; a plague on the United Nations. We will now revert to a situation in which we give what appears to be an open-ended military commitment to the maintenance of a political régime," of whose stability I have very great doubts.
There are only two points in the situation, as I see it. First, is this situation in Aden one in which the United Nations ought to be involved? If it is, what should the Government now do, faced with the apparent failure of the mission so far?
The tone of part of the speech made by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire was—I regret to say it—in line with some of the speeches he made as Foreign Secretary. There is a strain of anti-United Nations feeling in what is so often said by the right hon. Gentleman and the Opposition Front Bench on matters of this sort.
The right hon. Gentleman implicitly posed the question whether the United Nations has any status in this sort of situation. Had the United Nations been involved earlier in Cyprus, had it been possible for the United Nations to be involved at any stage in the Algerian situation, had it been able to advise the British Government at the time of Indian independence, it seems to me that that type of situation would probably have been far better resolved than the way in which it was dealt with under various Governments, wholly on a national basis, with no recourse to any international assistance. In Cyprus there were two races at each other's throats, when the British Government were involved in an unprecedented situation in which they were not prepared to involve the United Nations and were not prepared to take the matter to an international forum. The result was considerable bloodshed over the years and eventually a situation in which Britain was forced to withdraw.
843 Therefore, I suggest that the greater the degree of involvement by the United Nations in the whole Aden situation, the greater the chances of eventual stability in the area. I do not believe that the correct attitude for Britain should be merely to bolster up the present South Arabian Federation with defence commitments, open-ended so far as I can see, which are to carry on after independence, when and this is particularly so, it is becoming clearer and clearer that the political situation in the Federation is itself extremely unstable.
I do not want to repeat what the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) said about the Federation which was constituted by the last Administration, but it is surely clear that where there is a forced marriage between one State which is comparatively sophisticated and modern, which has at least some rudiments of modern political thoughts on the one hand, and, on the other, a large number of almost mediæval sheikhdoms, then there will be an enormous strain within that forced entity. We may back up the South Arabian Federation with all the military might of which we are capable of putting into that area, but, unless we are prepared to remain there for a period of time which I would find unacceptable, then the strains inherent in the South Arabian Federation will gradually come to the surface, and they cannot be resolved save by Britain retaking the administration of the whole territory into her control. This is a policy I would wholeheartedly be against.
I conclude the first of my two points then, that this is an area of the world in which there is great potential danger and an area in which the greater the United Nations involvement the greater the chances of eventual stability. It therefore seems to me that the United Nations Mission was certainly worth sending to the area and certainly worth our support.
My second point, which follows from the first, is simply that if the Government are right in their view that it was desirable to involve the United Nations in the area, what do the Government do now, faced with the situation that the mission has apparently failed?
844 I think that we should try to do two things. First, it is absolutely essential that we should try to re-establish contact with the Mission as soon as possible. I know that the Foreign Secretary is trying to do this, and I hope that his efforts will be successful. But, having re-established contact with it, the Government should now be prepared to consider fresh political solutions to the South Arabian situation if they be recommended by the United Nations. It is not good enough to shut one's eyes to the political implications of the problem. It is not good enough merely to say that this is a military problem which can be solved if Britain is prepared to exert sufficient military pressure in the area. I do not believe this to be true. I believe it to be a political problem which at some stage the Government must face politically, and I also believe that in that situation the greater the degree of United Nations involvement the greater the chances of eventual stability in the future.
I thoroughly regret that this debate has taken place tonight. This is the wrong time for it and, with all due repect to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, it was opened in the wrong way and with the wrong tone. I only hope, however, that out of this debate may yet come some slight semblance of good.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys (Streatham)
I am sure that the House is glad that Mr. Speaker felt able to allow it to debate this important question without delay. If Parliament is to play its full part in the nation's affairs, it must be able to react at once to important events, even if this involves some interference with its scheduled business.
Over the past week, there has been a complete change in the situation in South Arabia. The Government's policy is now in tatters. Having failed hopelessly to find workable solutions to the problems of the area, they tried in the most shameless way to pass the buck to the United Nations. Despite all our warnings, they persisted in believing that the United Nations Mission would be able to conjure away all their difficulties. Now all that wishful thinking is at an end.
The Foreign Secretary, like Humpty Dumpty, has fallen off the wall, and 845 nothing will put the broken pieces of his policy together again. He is wasting his time in asking the United Nations Mission to come to London or go back to Aden. He is debasing himself and Britain by whining to Nasser and by appealing, as he did again today, to Al Asnag and other terrorists to come to Aden to tell him what to do. He will never get a solution if he makes it dependent upon the agreement of those who have no wish to see the orderly progress of South Arabia or the creation of a truly independent federation, of which he has so often spoken.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am afraid not. Others wish to speak in this short debate.
The people to whom I was referring have the deliberate aim of creating chaos, and their utimate objective is to hand over South Arabia to Egyptian domination.
Let the right hon. Gentleman now start working with those who are trying to help instead of those who are trying to hinder. Let him work with the Federal Government, who have been loyal to Britain and who have co-operated fully with the British Government although they thought that its policies were totally mistaken.
The Liberal leader crticised the late Government's decision to unite Aden with the Federation. All I would say tonight is that no one in South Arabia, including the nationalist organisations, is asking for the separation of Aden from the Federation. They all recognise that it makes no sense to separate the Port of Aden from its hinterland. The argument is not about union between Aden and the Federation. It is about who shall control the whole.
I may be asked precisely what I think the Government should do in the present situation. That is a fair question, and I certainly shall not hesitate to tell the House.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the hinterland. Did he note the suggestion in an editorial in the Sunday Times yesterday that the true hinterland of Aden is the Yemen?
§ Mr. Sandys
And so what? Does the right hon. Gentleman want to extend the 846 Federation to include the Yemen also? But I will not pursue that point. The right hon. Gentleman is always very well documented, especially in his speeches, as we all know. He always quotes one newspaper article after another.
As to what I would do in this situation, I believe, first, that the Government should make it clear that they intend to restore law and order and that they are prepared to use whatever force is needed to achieve this. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Of course; no more and no less. F.L.O.S.Y. should at once be banned. I cannot understand how it is that the National Liberation Front, the smaller of the two terrorist organisations, has been proscribed for some time while F.L.O.S.Y. supporters are allowed to parade the streets of Aden with banners and walk in procession carrying Sten guns, as we saw in newspaper photographs last week. I ask the Minister who is to reply to explain the different treatment that has been accorded to these two terrorist organisations.
The Federal Army should be allowed to play its full part in curbing terrorism. If the right hon. Gentleman fears that it may be rough with the terrorists, all I can say is that it will not be nearly as rough as the troops of his friend, Nasser, have been in trying to suppress the supporters of the lawful Government in the Yemen, the Government which is recognised by Her Majesty's Government. In any case, it is the Federal Government who will have to deal with internal security after independence. Surely it makes sense to begin to give them some experience of the difficult job of maintaining internal security in Aden as soon as possible, and, in particular, while British help and advice are still available.
The next thing is to fix a date for independence in agreement with the Federal Government. The right hon. Gentleman must accept without question that the Federal Government are the Government who will take over from Britain on independence. That is a fact. If the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to delay that independence—which I am not advocating—for a year or two, then it might be possible to hold fresh elections under some new constitution, but in view of the Government's hurry to get out the most that can be hoped for is the adoption by the Federation of an amended 847 constitution on the lines recommended by the Home Bell Report.
§ Mr. Richard
I have been listening to the right hon. Gentleman and trying to follow what he has said with great interest. May I ask him two questions? Is he wholly satisfied that the present political structure of South Arabia is the one which must endure after independence? Secondly, would he still maintain that view of the United Nations were to recommend otherwise?
§ Mr. Sandys
As for the structure, what I am saying is that if the Government are going to hurry out at the first possible moment then they must accept the consequence, which is that there is no other Government to which they can possibly hand over in a matter of months. As I said, the most they can hope for is some amendment of the present constitution on the basis of the Home Bell Report, which is a very valuable Report. But even so, there will certainly be no time to register voters and hold new elections before the sort of dates for independence which are being suggested by the Government. Incidentally, the right hon. Gentleman should remember that the British representative in New York has repeatedly told the United Nations that the constitution of the Federation cannot be changed except in agreement with the Federal Government. I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman, in winding up, would confirm that fact. There can therefore be no question of imposing some new constitution upon South Arabia from Whitehall.
According to my information, the Minister of State, during his fleeting visit to Aden the other day, pressed the Federal Government to accept a package deal—independence on 1st November this year, coupled with the carrot of a unilateral promise by the British Government to keeping a naval task force off the coast of South Arabia. This force was to be available to come to the rescue of South Arabia, in the event of external attack, for a period of three months or, at most, six months after independence. It was made clear by the Minister of State, I understand, that if they did not accept the date of 1st November the offer of protection would be withdrawn. I consider this to be a very unfair form of pressure. But, despite this, the Federal Government rightly rejected this pro- 848 posal on two grounds. The first was that some British military presence on land was essential to convince Nasser that Britain meant business. The second was that a promise of protection limited to three months is totally useless; it would only mean a short postponement of the Egyptian attack.
I have no wish to see independence delayed. I believe that a date in the early part of next year could be mutually agreed, but the agreement of the Federal Government will depend upon some assurance of protection for a reasonable time thereafter. Surely the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary must by now realise that it just is not practical politics for Britain to pull out next year and to hand South Arabia totally defenceless on a plate to Nasser. Some defence arrangements will have to be made for the protection of the Federation so long as Egypt continues to maintain large forces over the Yemen border. This would not preclude a major reduction in the present size of the British garrison in Aden, but the retention of a small British military presence is essential, and this would, of course, have to include an element of the Royal Air Force.
In addition to his consultations with the Federal Government, the right hon. Gentleman should consult much more closely with the Government of Saudi Arabia. Instead of writing to President Nasser he should be writing to King Feisal. Saudi Arabia, unlike Egypt, genuinely wants to see stability in the Arabian Peninsula. The closer we work with the Saudi Arabian Government the better it will be.
I have explained what I think the Government should do. One must now wait to see what new decision they will take in the light of the recommendations they will receive from Lord Shackleton. I am quite sure his advice will be that a complete change of policy is now needed. I only hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have the courage to take it.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)
There are four brief points I should like to make in this debate which has arisen tonight. The first is that there is no doubt at all in my mind about the position of Aden's link with the Federation. 849 Before Aden was linked to the Federation there was the minimum amount of trouble, and the whole difficulty and the violence and the bloodshed have arisen since and have come about because of the link between Aden itself and the South Arabian Federation.
It may be said by some people that it is all very well looking back now with hindsight to say that it was a mistake, and that we did not know at the time, but in the debates which took place beforehand the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) was warned time and again that the link between Aden and the Federation would lead to chaos. There were many Members of the Labour Party, in Opposition in those days, and on the Liberal bench as well, who opposed the Federal link, but the right hon. Gentleman, with his usual stubborn, obstinate attitude, refused to listen, and today we have the right hon. Gentleman, who is very much the architect of the bloodshed and chaos in Aden, giving us lectures and advice on what should be done about it, and I believe it would be very foolish indeed of the Government to take any heed of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham.
§ Mr. Marten
The hon. Member says that my right hon. Friend was the architect of the bloodshed. My right hon. Friend did help to create the Federation. He did that after the July, 1964, agreement, but in 1964 the number of terrorist incidents with violence was 36 only, and then in February, 1966, the present Government announced the date of withdrawal and in 1966 the number of incidents was not 36 but 480. Surely that is what caused the bloodshed?
§ Mr. Winnick
If the implication of what the hon. Gentleman says is that if in fact we said we were not going to pull out there would be peace, I certainly do not agree with that analysis at all.
Al Asnag and other Nationalist leaders warned at the time about this link with the Federation, and I myself previously in the House have quoted from their speeches. They said that if the link was to take place and Aden enslaved in the Federation violence was bound to come. They warned about it at the time.
§ Mr. Winnick
I do not know. I am sorry, but I do not direct the activities of the nationalist groups. But it was inevitable that sooner or later violence would come.
By 1964 we should have learned the lessons of other federations. We should have learned that we cannot just sit here at Westminster and decide policies for other countries.
It may be that from an academic point of view—or, to use the words of the right hon. Gentleman, it may be in our interest—the federal set-up at the time was most appropriate, but the majority of the people of Aden—the politicians, trade union leaders and the nationalist leaders—wanted nothing to do with that set-up. The right hon. Gentleman was not willing to listen, any more than he and his colleagues were willing to listen to our warnings about the Central African Federation—and look what happened: it failed, just as this one is bound to fail.
I hope that the Government will not take seriously some of the warnings given by the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that we should ban the various nationalist organisations and lock up their leaders. It is all very well to say that that is the solution, and to argue that those who advocate violence or are involved in it should be locked up. Have not they learned the lesson from previous situations in Ireland, Palestine and Cyprus? Have they not learned that locking up or detaining nationalist leaders does not help? The more the British authorities acted against the nationalist leaders in previous cases the more the status of those leaders grew.
Instead of thinking of banning these organisations and locking up the nationalist leaders we should be negotiating with those leaders in Aden. We should express our willingness to negotiate with the leadership of F.L.O.S.Y. and the other nationalist organisations. Sooner or later we shall have to do so. That policy has been forced upon us in every similar colonial situation in the past, and I doubt whether it will be any different in Aden. It would be foolish to lock up the nationalist leaders in the belief that the situation would thereafter improve and the problem would be solved. It would not solve the problem; it would only 851 worsen the situation. I hope that the Government have learned the lessons of the past, even if the Conservatives have not.
I am sorry that the United Nations Mission failed. I am a great enthusiast of the United Nations. The events which have occurred in the last few days give me no delight. It is clear that some people in Aden were determined to make the Mission look foolish. Some people who were anti-United Nations felt, as the right hon. Member for Streatham feels, that the United Nations should not intervene in Aden in any circumstances. In my opinion, some responsibility for what has occurred must rest with the British authorities in Aden. Press reports to the effect that the members of the Mission wanted razor blades and wanted to watch a cowboy film were put out in an endeavour to make the Mission look foolish.
The purpose of some people, to get the Mission to accept the Federal authority, was quite wrong. The Mission did not go to Aden simply to O.K. the federal set-up. I understand that its terms of reference were of another kind, namely, to look at the whole situation in Aden and to make a report to its committee and to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Some people felt that the only purpose of the Mission was to accept the existing set-up. But if the members of the Mission had the same sort of attitude towards that set-up as many people like myself have, I do not see why they should have had to O.K. the set-up. In their view it was inappropriate for the Aden Colony.
I hope that the Mission will accept the invitation extended to it by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and will be willing to come to London for further talks. I hope that sooner or later, as in the case of Cyprus, we shall be willing to allow a United Nations force into Aden itself. Considering the whole situation in that part of the world, that may be the most appropriate solution. Some Members—certainly many hon. Members opposite—are so blinded by their dislike of the United Nations that they would never accept such a solution. In December, 1961, the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), when Foreign Secretary, made a speech that was a disgrace. It 852 was full of venom and prejudice against the United Nations, and it was shameful that a British Foreign Secretary should have made such a speech.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I will send the hon. Member a copy of my speech. It is clear that he has not read it. I made a proposal that there should be a United Nations force in the South Arabian Federation, on the border. I made this proposal years ago.
§ Mr. Winnick
I shall be willing to read the right hon. Gentleman's speech, although I read it at the time. In my opinion a United Nations force should go into Aden itself. I am sorry that the visit of the Mission ended as it did. I hope that it is not the end of the Mission itself. If it is to go back to Aden the British authorities must adopt a completely different attitude. They must show a willingness to allow the Mission to carry out its task. Any question of banning broadcasts by the Mission would be quite wrong. In this case it was done by the Federal authorities, but the High Commissioner should have overruled those authorities so that the broadcast could be made. It was a farcical situation. The Mission went to Aden, and then, when it wanted to make a broadcast, the Federal authorities—and they represent only one of the parties which are engaged in jockeying for power—banned the broadcast. That was quite wrong. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will be able to give us further information on that aspect of the matter.
When I asked a Question earlier in the day I expressed the view that the British Government should be willing to break up the Federation and to allow Aden to leave. To some extent I respect the view of people who say that Aden will not survive on its own. In my opinion, the leaders of the nationalist organisations are looking for a wider set-up. We are not arguing that Aden should be on its own, but the essential point at the moment is that we should be willing to agree that the federal set-up is not final, and that if the majority of the people of Aden wish to do so they should be allowed to leave the Federation.
In the future the nationalist organisations and the rest may decide what sort of set-up they want. We should be cautious about giving them advice as to how they should carry out their business. 853 We would not like it if Arab nationalists in various parts of the world, including Cairo, lectured us on the question whether we should go into the Common Market. We would consider that to be most inappropriate, and a piece of insolence on their part. Why, then, should we consider that we have a divine mission to tell the Arab nations or anyone else how they should go about their business? We should confine our activities to Europe. Many people will argue that we have enough on our plates in our own part of the world without worrying about what happens in various Arab countries.
I hope that there will be a break from the previous policy pursued by the right hon. Member for Streatham and the right hon. Member for Kinross and East Perthshire. I know that anything I said to them in this respect would be in vain, because their minds are quite made up. I hope, however, that my Government, recognising—as they did when they formed the Opposition—that the federal set-up is wrong for Aden, will be willing to adopt a completely different approach to the situation and will be willing to say, in certain circumstances, "Yes. If that is the wish of the majority of the people in Aden the federal set-up shall be disbanded". I hope that this will be the case.
I must give this warning to the House. [Laughter.] Some hon. Members opposite laugh. Some of them were responsible for and approved the federal set-up. Look at what has happened? I see nothing funny or amusing in the chaos and bloodshed in Aden. I see nothing funny about the victims of terrorist attacks. I see nothing funny about the way in which British soldiers are forced to defend themselves in very unfortunate circumstances. In fact, I do not see anything funny about the Aden situation at all. I am sorry, but perhaps it is something lacking in my sense of humour.
I give this warning to the House. If we go on in the present way, if we do not negotiate with the nationalist leaders, if we heed some of the very foolish advice being given by the right hon. Member for Streatham, we may well end up getting involved in a Yemen civil war which will rival the bloodshed and suffering which is at present taking place in Vietnam. This is why I believe that we should be willing to negotiate with the 854 nationalist leaders and should be willing to say that Aden can leave the federal set-up. We should emphasise clearly tonight that in no circumstances will we continue in the Federation beyond 1968, but will carry out the commitment which this Government have made that Britain will leave Aden by 1968. I believe it is essential that this point is clearly made tonight.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Tapsell (Horncastle)
Our troops in Aden and the Arabs who hope to live for the rest of their lives in Aden town and the Federation will not be much interested in the party political inquest here as to who is responsible for the present unhappy situation in their country. They know who is responsible. It is Colonel Nasser. What they want to know, and what they are entitled to know, is what Britain intends to do to restore law and order in an area in which we have been responsible for over 130 years and are still responsible.
The situation in Aden is an all too familar one in our post-war history. We have seen it in varying degrees in Palestine, in the Indian sub-continent, and in Cyprus. I hope that we are not once again going to betray our trust to the peoples under our care by throwing in our hand and leaving chaos and bloodshed behind us.
This country has every reason to be proud of its record of bringing millions of men and women in all parts of the world forward to self-government under the rule of law. It is our duty to do this in Aden, however painful and costly that duty may temporarily be.
The shocking thing about this Government's policy is that they seem to be seeking to evade responsibilities and commitments, admittedly heavy, admittedly unwelcome, which they have inherited and are bound in honour to discharge, and to do so at what must prove to be the cost of the innocent lives of men, women and children for whom we are responsible and who will be massacred if we withdraw our troops before order is restored.
I find it very difficult to understand how those hon. Members opposite who have spoken so far and who feel very strongly, and understandably so, about the suffering of women and children in Vietnam, 855 can be so ready to wash their hands of the situation in Aden and the Federation where, as the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) pointed out, comparable suffering may rapidly overtake equally innocent people if we pull out.
§ Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)
The hon. Gentleman spoke about 120 years of our preserving law and order. I wonder who asked us in 120 years ago to preserve law and order.
§ Mr. Tapsell
We went in 130 years ago to protect the area from piracy and to stop the slave trade.
At times such as these, it is no bad thing to have some principles to guide one, both in the immediate situation and for the future. What ought to be the basic principles of British foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere? The two most successful peace-time exponents of British foreign policy since the Industrial Revolution have been Canning and Palmerston. Their policies shared certain characteristics. They allied Britain with the forces of emergent nationalism which seemed likely to win. They presented them to the public at home in dramatic and idealistic terms.
They gave top priority, in practice, to the commercial interests of this country. They avoided, where possible with honour, involvements requiring the expenditure of large sums of money or the stationing of British troops abroad. They appreciated that the rôle of "honest broker" is the most unrewarding of all diplomatic activities and were not afraid to be on one side rather than the other. Consequently, their policies were popular at home and advantageous abroad.
Even since the war, British foreign policy, it seems to me, has reversed these five principles. Hardly any cause has been too clearly doomed for Britain to back it or, at least, to express sympathy for it. Diplomacy and dullness have become synonymous. Embassy staffs have, until very recently, regarded the commercial side of their duties as of least importance. It is difficult to find an inhospitable part of the world unlittered with the remains of British barracks hastily built, at great expense, on the eve of evacuation. No dispute, however bitter, has been complete until the British have antagonised both sides to it 856 —Jews and Arabs, Indians and Pakistanis, Greeks and Turks, African nationalists and European settlers, Malays and Singaporeans, French and Americans. At this rate, I suspect that it can be only a matter of time before we are volunteering to act as "honest broker" between the Chinese and the Russians. Consequently, our policies have been unpopular at home and disadvantageous abroad.
Our Middle East policy and our policy towards Aden have been no exception. But, fortunately for us, a new situation has now arisen in the Middle East, which could, it seems to me, get us off the hook, where our friends are the born losers and our enemies the inevitable winners. Our friends, such as Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, have become the real revolutionaries, pressing ahead with social reforms and governing in the obvious interests of their people. Our enemies, although still calling themselves radical nationalists, have become the real reactionaries, increasingly tyrannical, incompetent, jingoistic and murderous. What is more, our friends have most of the oil. So let us tell the world whose side we are on and why, and let us not tell the world at the same time that we are equally anxious to be friends with our enemies. Leave it to them to tell us.
Put into the context of Southern Arabia, this means that we should support Saudi Arabia, offer a defence treaty to the Federation, crush Nasserite terrorism in Aden, and make clear that we intend to withdraw our forces as soon as we have discharged our pledged word to bring Aden forward to a meaningful independence among the free nations of the world.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Colin Jackson (Brighouse and Spenborough)
I was fascinated to hear the version given by the hon. Member for Horncastle (Mr. Tapsell) of Britain's arrival in Aden, in some Fabian pursuit to suppress piracy and eliminate slavery. To my knowledge of history, we went there to protect the flank of the Indian Empire. It may be that the hon. Gentleman has his geography mixed and is thinking of the Trucial and Oman States.
I was interested, also, in his version of those progressive territories, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and Jordan, little 857 centres of advance compared with reactionary places such as Iraq and Cairo. I was fascinated, too, by his general obsession, which is common on the benches opposite, with President Nasser, although it is noteworthy that the word "President" is never used.
Although President Nasser makes mistakes and pursues policies which I would not follow, the House should understand that in Aden, where his pictures can be seen in the bazaars, President Nasser is admired not as an Egyptian but as a person who stands for Arab nationalism. He stands for Arab nationalism from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean. If there were no President Nasser, another figure would arise to represent this kind of feeling, particularly among the younger generation. But I do not wish to be led away into irrelevancies by a speech from the Opposition benches.
I turn to the question of Aden and the South Arabian Federation and its future, first making some remarks about the United Nations Mission that went to Aden. I regret its departure after such a short stay. Those hon. Members who have not known Aden and the mood that that territory creates will not understand this, but I think that the Mission left because it was obsessed with the feeling of despondency and difficulty. I do not underestimate the fact that F.L.O.S.Y. refused to co-operate with the Mission, making its case more difficult in a way.
It seems extraordinary that the Federal Government should have banned the broadcast because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendel-son) said, it spoke of "officially" dealing only with the British Government. There was no suggestion that unofficially there would not be contacts between the Mission and individual members of the Federal Government.
The Mission had a very difficult task because, having already rebuked F.L.O.S.Y. by saying, "We shall not take you as sole representative of the nationalists", it would at once have compromised its position if it had said that it would deal with the Federal Government. I feel that the Mission left too soon, against the orders of the U.N. Secretary-General, because it allowed itself to be caught up with the mood of 858 that very difficult territory. I am not optimistic that it will return, although I hope that it will. I hope that it will come to London and that its conversation with Her Majesty's Government will persuade it to return. But the kind of experience it had in Aden may make its members personally reluctant to return.
We understand that the Government are at present engaged in an entirely new survey of the situation in South Arabia following the breakdown of the Mission. I appeal to the Government to think again about the whole question of the Federation, including the former Western and Eastern Protectorates being joined together with Aden Colony. It is impossible to conceive a more unnatural unit. Of all the Federations that the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) thought up, that is the most grotesque creation that could be imagined in political science.
I do not make this an argument against the rulers in the Federal areas. Many are honourable, forthright people who have served their communities. It is no good trying to describe them, as some people try to do, as wicked, reactionary mercenaries. Their life is entirely different from that which the bulk of the world understands.
At the same time we, as a nation, must understand the feelings of the people of Aden—not the political leaders, such as Mr. Asnag or Mr. Makkawi alone, but the feelings of the Yemeni who have come in, of the Somalis, and even of the Indians and Pakistanis, who are genuinely concerned that should a Federation as at present planned come into being great numbers of them will lose their lives.
I hope that the Government are not considering handing over in November of this year the South Arabian Federation, including Aden, to the control of Federal Ministers, because that is the last way we shall avoid bloodshed. When I was in Cairo, President Nasser admitted that he backed the Aden terrorists, as he said he had backed up the F.L.N. groups in Algeria when they were seeking independence. But he said, "If I did not back up the Aden Nationalists, another nation, such as Syria, would."
One cannot expect the people of Aden to tolerate a Government imposed by the Federal rulers of the hinterland.
859 Certain references have been made in The Times to fear of the consequences of the Federal security forces moving in. In conversation with Federal leaders, although not impugning their honesty and integrity, I got the impression that they would have a very simple form of securing peace, so-called, in Aden Colony. The responsibility of Britain leaving this territory to the mercy of the Federal rulers would be shocking, and I cannot conceive that the Government would so plan a solution.
Lord Shackleton is going to assist the High Commissioner and I hope that he is being given a broad brief to look at the situation again. The people of Aden have been denied any representation whatever since the suspension of the Constitution in September, 1965. Before that, they had no right of control over their own internal security. They have been totally without power since that moment, although I readily recognise that the terrorist incidents at that time did go towards the dislocation of the administration as a whole.
But it is now time that we thought of giving to the people of Aden Colony their own administration. It is time that the Government made that possibility clear, for otherwise there will not be the slightest prospect that terrorism will end. Why should persons in Aden cease to demonstrate if they feel that, if they go quiet, the only result will be the Federal Army moving in?
I hold no brief for the terrorists. They are monstrous killers. All of us must feel disgusted at this traffic in arms and death, which is unworthy of those who organise it across the frontier and is a gross reflection on the Government led by President Nasser. But I believe that what F.L.O.S.Y. is trying to do is to show that, without its participation in the Government of Aden, there will be no peace and no settlement.
Even at this very late hour, I hope that the Government will not tie themselves to the Federation as it is. New ideas could be mooted. I myself have thought that perhaps Aden could be an international port with a U.N. guarantee. Everyone is forgetting, in the welter of political discussion, just what Aden is. It is a port to serve ships and the oil refinery. If we do not get a political solution satisfactory to the people of 860 Aden, then, with all the bloodshed, Aden will go bankrupt and the argument will be resolved because there will be no Aden. The unemployed population will go back to the Yemen or Somalia. We shall have solved the problem by extinguishing the territory.
No reference has been made yet to the problem of redundancy coming after the departure of British troops. Much has been made of our friends in Malta and our need to care for them. There is, of course, no natural bond between South Arabia and Britain as there is between Malta and Britain but we do have an overall obligation to leave behind a viable territory. Therefore, the answer may lie in Aden being an international port under U.N. guarantee.
Perhaps we shall have to consider a wider confederation which, in time, might even bring in the Yemen as a whole. That is perfectly possible and I hope that it will happen that closer relations will exist between the Federal territories and Saudi Arabia. I hope that there will be relations between the Royalists and the protected areas. That makes common sense. Aden can thrive only if it is a peaceful port and a point of exit for the territories internally, and a point of contact with the ships passing by.
I trust that we will bear two things in mind. The first is that although the United Nations at this moment has failed, Her Majesty's Government should not be discouraged and should bring this question up, perhaps in the Security Council. Russia, supporting Egypt, is involved on the one side and the United States, supporting Saudi Arabia, is involved on the other. I would not be at all surprised if Mr. Gromyko, when he went to Cairo, did not advise caution on the part of the Egyptian Government. The British Government, who have genuinely tried, have a record of support for the United Nations, and might consider this bringing matter up there. We cannot allow it to drift.
It is of the utmost importance that we do not appear to be driving the people of Aden into a Federation that will be cut loose from us in a short time, which would be a betrayal of the people of that port, and I am sure that Her Majesty's Government would never intend that.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
In the very short time available, I cannot answer the many interesting points which the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Colin Jackson) has raised. I know that he has a knowledge of the Middle East, which is more than I can say for some of the other speakers from his side. I would like to take this opportunity of drawing attention to the attempt of the Labour Government, associated with the Liberal Party, to try to pin the present trouble in Aden upon my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). A clear policy has developed over the last few days; over the weekend, the Leader of the Liberal Party said that the bloodshed now taking place there is a result of his policy. This is just not so.
I gave figures in an earlier intervention in which I said that the formation of the Federation was in 1962 and that there was plenty of opportunity then to object. My right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham concluded the agreement in July 1964, but there was no outburst of terrorism then. In 1964 there were only 36 incidents. It is when this Government came to power and it was sensed what was to happen that the rate of incidents went up. When in February, 1966, the Government announced their intention to withdraw from Aden in 1968, the really big stuff came in and, instead of 36 incidents, there were in that year 480. In 1967, incidents are running at the rate of almost 1,500 a year. This is a terrible thing, and to say that it is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham is sheer nonsense. The sooner the House and the country knows that the Government, purely from a guilt complex, are trying to throw the blame on my right hon. Friend the better.
I would like to refresh the memory of the Minister who is to reply about what the Foreign Secretary has said at column 1093 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 20th March. He said:The Government of an independent South Arabia must be given a fair chance to settle in. … This means that not only have we to work out a way to achieve early independence, but, at the same time, to see how the new State can have a real chance to establish itself as an independent State, secure against external aggression."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1967; Vol. 743. c. 1093.]862 That is the task facing the Government now. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will honour the pledge that he made in that quotation. Aden has been our responsibility for over 100 years. We cannot leave it to be devoured by the local jackals. I believe that this noise and terrorism and so on does not represent the larger body of the many communities who live in Aden. They want to live in peace.
§ Mr. Marten
They are prepared to make a go of it. I feel that British policy must think of the people who are there and not just think of cutting our defence expenditure—this is what Government policy in Aden is about; it is about getting out of east of Suez and cutting defence expenditure. Many Arab lives and other national lives will suffer. Many families will suffer, because the Government want to cut defence expenditure, because they have the selfish idea that they want to save money and to spend it on this country. This debate is about human beings—Arab families and Somali families and so on. The Government have the power to put this matter right, so let them use their power for human purposes and the preservation of life and good order in that part of the world.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Lord Balniel (Hertford)
The House will regret that this debate, on one of the most crucial and urgent issues of foreign affairs, is not a full day's debate. But the present urgency of the situation in Aden and the fact that the Minister without Portfolio is leaving for Aden tomorrow necessitated the debate, although it is of limited time.
It is rather regrettable that the debate has taken place without the Foreign Secretary responding to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), because we have no knowledge of the Government's policy in the light of the present circumstances and we have not been able to criticise their views.
The immediate cause for the debate is the withdrawal of the United Nations Mission from Aden. But equally important has been the absolute bankruptcy in the Foreign Secretary's statement today of positive Government policy in pointing to a clear political objective. 863 The debate is necessary also because of the confusion which surrounds the Government's policy in Aden. The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) called attention to the last words of the leading article in yesterday's Sunday Times. I call attention to the first words of that article:The Aden situation is now a total mess.It is for that reason that we have requested this short debate.
I do not wish to spend too much time on the activities of the United Nations Mission. Its activities belong to the past, although the crisis which it precipitated has, so far as I can see, done nothing except to push South Arabia one step closer to disaster. Even the most optimistic right hon. Gentleman opposite had only the most slender hope that the United Nations Mission would contribute constructively to the solution of the problem, because even before the Mission left, its sponsor body, the Committee of 24 of the United Nations, had already decided that it would not circulate any petitions which contained allegations against the United Arab Republic.
Although I do not wish to refer at length to the activities of this Mission, I must refer to them in passing. It is absolutely impossible to justify its behaviour or the remarks of some of its members, if they have been correctly reported in the Press. The Foreign Secretary says that he is at the moment in consultation with the Mission. I hope that he will make it absolutely clear to the Secretary General of the United Nations that this particular Mission, with this membership, will not be invited back, because, looking back on the past week and following on what has happened, I cannot see that it will be able to contribute constructively to a solution of the problem. The remarks of some of its members seem to me to be the embodiment of prejudice and do not reflect the impartial, judicial attitude which one would have required of a United Nations Mission.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
If the hon. Gentleman wants to impose some kind of veto over the membership or composition of a United Nations Mission, how on 864 earth does he expect to get the co-operation of the United Nations in a situation like this?
§ Lord Balniel
I am not proposing any details. I am merely saying that were the present Mission to return to Aden after what has happened, it would not find a constructive solution to the problem.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker
The hon. Gentleman has said that the Mission ought not to be invited to return because of statements which it has made. Has he not seen that those rumours have been categorically denied?
§ Lord Balniel
If so, that is one more argument to the case which I have already advanced for the Foreign Secretary opening the debate, when we would have been in a position to know the facts. Apparently, when in London the Mission informed the Foreign Secretary that it was prepared to receive the Federal Ministers as individuals. Yet I understand that when it was in Aden and the Federal Ministers asked to be received as individuals and the High Commissioner invited them to a reception where the Mission would have had the opportunity to meet the Federal Ministers as individuals and not as members of a Government, this opportunity was refused.
So far as I can see, the only people who have benefited from the visit of the Mission to Aden have been the extremists in Aden. I cannot see any purpose in this particular Mission returning, but that is not to say—and here I reiterate what my right hon. Friend has said—that we think that the United Nations should not have a rôle to play in contributing towards a solution in future.
As has been said, any rôle which might be played should come under the auspices of the Security Council. When we were in office, in 1964, we proposed, for instance, that United Nations observers should be stationed in a demilitarised zone between the Yemen and the Federation. I find it quite possible to conceive of a situation when a United Nations presence in South Arabia might contribute towards deterring aggression from outside. I do not see how it can do the job which rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Foreign Secretary. I do not see how it can do the job of developing a Constitution which will lead to independence.
865 The departure of the United Nations Mission and the absolute bankruptcy of any positive policy in the Foreign Secretary's statement today have created a situation of confusion which can be cleared up now only if we have a clear statement of Government policy from the Foreign Secretary. The longer the confusion exists, the greater the premium on terrorism, and we hope that a clear statement will be forthcoming even though it comes at the end of the debate. We want a clear statement of Government policy on two things: first, on the preservation of law and order during the period before independence and, secondly, on the broad political objectives—how the Government intend to achieve independence and at the same time give security to the independent Federation against external aggression.
I want first to refer to law and order. The Federal Government have asked to take over responsibility for the internal security of Aden. I understand that one battalion of Federal troops is already undertaking internal security tasks. I cannot believe that over any prolonged period a shared responsibility of British and Federal troops for internal security is likely to be satisfactory.
What are the Government's plans? In particular, as I expect an increase in terrorism as the date of independence draws nearer, what in particular are their plans for internal security in the latter months before independence? Is it the responsibility of Lord Shackleton to advise on this? We are entitled to a clearer explanation about his responsibility. Is he being sent out to Aden merely in an advisory capacity or does he, like other Ministers, have an executive rôle? Does he have authority over the High Commissioner? This is something which we are entiled to know.
On the broad political objective, it has always been assumed that the Federation would receive independence in 1968, but the Foreign Secretary today—I speak from memory—said "independence at the earliest possible date". Does the date 1968 still remain operative?
It has always been assumed that independence would be granted to the Federal Government—I emphasise "Federal Government"—to a Federation including Aden Colony. The setting-up of a Federal Constitution was undertaken by 866 my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and it has been accepted by successive Labour Ministers for 2½ years.
Speaker after speaker on the benches opposite below the Gangway have said that they do not accept the Federal constitution. The Foreign Secretary has no right to criticise my right hon. Friend for establishing a Federal system of Government unless he has an alternative constitution to propose. As so many of his hon. Friends behind him have criticised the federal concept, we are entitled to a clear statement whether the right hon. Gentleman still stands by the concept of independence for the Federal Government.
I recognise, as many hon. Members have said, that Aden Colony consists of more sophisticated people than those living in the hinterland. Of course, I accept that the constitution should be as broadly based as possible, but it is almost inconceivable that the territory should go forward to independence with the hinterland separated politically from the port of Aden. I repeat, I would like a clear answer from the Foreign Secretary about whether he still accepts the concept of a Federal Government on independence.
My last point concerns the security of an independent Federation against external aggression. Surely we are entitled, and the people living out there are entitled, to a clear statement as to how the Federation will defend itself when it becomes independent. The Government should examine the situation in the context of the whole Middle Eastern situation. They must think out, even at this late date, what would be the consequences of a premature withdrawal of British troops before the Federation is able to defend itself. After all, there are 60,000 Egyptian troops in the Yemen, which are a clear threat to the integrity of Aden. The Yemeni Republic Government actually claim sovereignty over Aden. The war has already spilled over into Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions. There are 80,000 Yemenis in Aden. If my information is correct, there is a substantial build-up of Soviet armaments in Somalia. I am told that there is a Soviet base in the Yemen.
The people of the Federation are entitled to a clear statement of how they are to be defended. It seems to us that 867 the Government are making the classic error of creating a power vacuum with a potential aggressor waiting on the doorstep.
I want to quote the words of the defence correspondent of The Times, who wrote on 10th March:An agreement is to be prepared between Britain and the South Arabian Federation to provide for British troops to stay in Aden for a limited period after independence is granted in 1968.On 14th March, I asked the Prime Minister whether that was correct, and he replied:… there is no correctness in it.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1967; Vol. 743, c. 230.]I repeat the question. Is it really proposed by the Foreign Secretary that independence shall be granted to the South Arabian Federation and that there should be no provision to defend it after independence?
A number of clear questions have been put to the right hon. Gentleman during the debate. He did not open the debate, and we did not have an opportunity of criticising Government policy, but in a debate of this importance I hope that he will find it possible to answer the points which have been put to him.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Brown)
In the 17 minutes which I have left, I will do the best I can—[Interruption.] Mr. Speaker, I understand the Leader of the Opposition to be saying something. I cannot hear him.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk) rose—
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Brown
The right hon. Gentleman should keep quiet.
In fact, I opened the debate this afternoon—[Interruption.] Yes, I did. At 3.30 I made a statement and answered questions for half an hour. I urged upon the House that, of all occasions, this was the wrong one on which to hold a debate.
We are not having a debate about the internal security or the problems of Aden 868 and South Arabia. We are having a debate about the internal problems of the party opposite. The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) was going to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9. Because of their problems—
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home indicated dissent.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home rose—
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Is it not true that we heard from the usual sources that the Budget debate could not be interrupted? Is it not also a fact that the right hon. Gentleman is going to be in Washington for the whole of next week? Would not it have been a fortnight before we could have had this debate?
§ Mr. Brown
I am very willing to listen and courteously give way to the Leader of the Opposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which one?"] The Leader of the Opposition either keeps quiet or gets up and speaks.
I told the House this afternoon that we were discussing with the Federal Government of South Arabia the constitutional proposals—the package deal, as it has been called—which I put to them. I told 869 the House this afternoon, as I said in March, that they required—[HON. MEMBERS: "Get on."]
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
The right hon. Gentleman has been offering to give way and I am glad that his courtesy has been accepted. I wonder if he will now speak up for this country and for our future policy in the Middle East?
§ Mr. Brown
I will try to do that, if I am allowed to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on."] I am not putting up with this. It is time that the Opposition was told that if they adopt this attitude every time one winds up a debate they will have to face the responsibility of the country knowing what they are doing.
I told the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire this afternoon that we had something like 10 days to run to the point when the Federal Government would give us their considered views. I told him that I knew a great deal about it at the moment but that it would be a very inconvenient—indeed, impossible—time for me to comment on the subject today. I suggested that I would report to the House as soon as I could tell the House what the situation was; so that, thereafter, we could have a debate timed in consultation with the Opposition—at a point when both would know what the situation was, so that an informed debate could take place.
For reasons of their own—and I repeat this clearly—the Opposition would not take that line at all, and so we have had this debate today. I cannot tell, and I have not the slightest intention of telling, the House what the present position is. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If I did I would obviously mess up and complicate the consultations that are now going on. Clearly, the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire knows as well as I do that when one is in consultations with another Government one does not, in the middle of them, announce one's 870 position. He would not do it, and when we sat on the benches opposite we never expected him to do it.
§ Mr. Brown
May I say another thing. This debate having been challenged to-day by the Opposition Front Bench—not from those below the Gangway—the attendance on the other side of the House has never been as many as 50 and has mostly been as few as 15. This is again a good commentary on the seriousness with which hon. Members opposite went into it. The Federal Government are at this moment—
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If there had not been more than 50 Members on this side of the House, would you have allowed us to be debating this subject now on the Adjournment?
§ Mr. Brown
That is not a bad commentary on this, debate. Hon. Members opposite do not even know what territory we are talking about. I repeat that whereas this afternoon's exchange was a real one, this evening's exchange is just a silly exercise. I cannot discuss future policy for the reasons I gave this afternoon, because it would be very wrong, unfair and improper to the Federal Government if I were to do so. The situation generally is fluid because the United Nations Mission is coming here. It is considering coming here. I ask the House to be careful in what they say. Several times it was on the tape, before the exchanges started this afternoon, that the United Nations Mission had said that it was considering coming here. It is in both the evening papers that the Mission is considering coming here. I cannot think of anything more damaging that the Opposition could have done than to insist upon having a debate and making the speeches which they have made.
I repeat what I said this afternoon. The twin aims of our policy are, first, that we should secure an orderly withdrawal of our troops; and, secondly, that we should arrange for or help to arrange for an independent South Arabia by the earliest possible date. Hon Members opposite—those who have come—have, unlike us, a guilt complex about Suez, and this more than anything else is at the heart of what they are saying today. There were the silly words that the right hon. Member for Streatham used about President Nasser.
§ Mr. Brown
I should be very proud to call the President of any State my friend. Otherwise how do Governments do business? Perhaps I may quote some words of somebody before me, a great Foreign Secretary: one cannot make foreign policy on the basis of picking the Heads of State that one likes and the Heads of State that one does not like. [Interruption.] Does the right hon. Member for Bexley want to speak again? [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Brown
The Leader of the Opposition does this all the time.
I said that the twin aims of our policy are these, and these they remain. Lord Shackleton's task, which I have been asked about, is, as I said again at 3.30 today, to go out to give political advice on the spot, to give political guidance on the spot, to relieve our people on the spot of as much as he can of the problems that they have and to keep Her Majesty's Government at home in political touch with the situation there. It is not, as I told the right hon. Gentleman long before he spoke, to run a new exercise. It is not to issue a new policy. As the right hon. Gentleman knows—this is well known—there are moments when it is better to have a Minister on the spot in close touch than not to have one, and this seems to us to be such a moment in the case of Aden, and I believe that in the months ahead this will pay a dividend. I repeat that for those there and those here. I do not believe that the Opposition have the problems that they pretend they have in understanding why.
One last thing: I have been attacked today in words by the right hon. Member for Streatham and by others for trying to get those who exiled themselves from Aden to go back and take a peaceful part in the development of South Arabia. I do not apologise for that. I believe it to be the right thing to do. All the words about whining to this man and whining to the other are silly. The right hon. Gentleman opposite got us into a terrible mess in the Middle East. I believe that the policy that I am pursuing is much better fitted to our needs and to theirs.
I end by appealing to those like Asnag and Mackawee who went away from Aden to go back and play their full and proper part in the development of that territory, and I will do everything I can to help them.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Sir D. Glover rose—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. George Brown
On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understood from the Opposition Chief Whip that if I sat down one minute early he would like the chance to withdraw the Motion, and that is why I sat down.
§ Sir D. Glover rose—[Interruption.]
§ It being half-past Nine o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.