HC Deb 17 April 1967 vol 745 cc74-8
16. Mr. Luard

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when he hopes to be able to announce new constitutional proposals for South Arabia and Aden.

50. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when he expects to present the White Paper on Aden.

Mr. George Brown

I very much regret that I am unable at the moment to add anything to what I told the House on 20th March.—[Vol. 743, c. 1082.]

Mr. Luard

Is my right hon. Friend aware that recent Press reports that the Government are now taking a completely new look at the constitutional position in South Arabia will be widely welcomed in this House and elsewhere? Does not he agree that there is an urgent need for a constitutional structure in South Arabia that takes careful account of the very different background and aspirations and objectives of the people in Aden itself and those of the Federation as a whole?

Mr. Brown

I note what my hon. Friend says but, with his distinguished past in the Diplomatic Service, he will know just how much faith to place in reports he reads in the newspapers.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Can we expect the White Paper the right hon. Gentleman has promised before the Whitsun Recess?

Mr. Brown

I do not recall that I promised a White Paper that early. A number of consultations have still to be completed, and I doubt whether I would be in a position to publish a White Paper before the Whitsun Recess.

Lord Balniel

The right hon. Gentleman said in his reply that he could add nothing to his speech, but does not he agree that his speech told us very little? Does he adhere to the previous time limits for independence and British military withdrawal, or are these in the melting pot at the moment?

Mr. Speaker

Order. This Question is about constitutional proposals.

Lord Balniel

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With great respect, I submit that the independence of the Federation of South Arabia is surely a constitutional point.

Mr. Brown

What I said in my reply was that I could add nothing to what I told the House on 20th March. If the hon. Gentleman consults his memory, he will recall that I made a detailed statement and answered questions fully for more than half an hour. He will find everything he needs to know in those exchanges. I cannot add anything today to what I said then.

26. Mr. Winnick

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the latest position in Aden.

42. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement about the situation in Aden.

45. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has a statement to make arising from the visit of the United Nations Mission to Aden.

47. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement on the situation in Aden.

68. Mr. A. Royle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Aden.

Mr. George Brown

There is great interest and much concern over South Arabia and perhaps the House will, therefore, forgive a longer reply than usual.

I told the House on 10th April that I wanted to talk over the whole situation with the United Nations Mission. I had this opportunity yesterday. We had a very full discussion, and I shall be seeing them again today. I remain convinced that the United Nations can play a very useful rôle in the solution of the problems in South Arabia, and I hope that it will do so.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it not be preferable to get on with Questions and take this—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The point of order is useful, but it is taking time.

Mr. Brown

I shall certainly consult the convenience of the House. I thought it better to take this matter now, but if the House would rather not perhaps it could come later.

Much of the time yesterday was spent going over with the Mission what might be possible in future, and considering what help the present Mission as a team could give. In the end, we reached broad agreement on a number of important points; for example, the need accepted by all for a central caretaker Government. We also discussed my suggestion that some kind of round table talks involving all concerned will be necessary at some point as a preliminary to any progress, and I repeated to the Mission the importance I attached to people abandoning violence and coming to the conference table. I said that I looked to the United Nations to play an important rôle in this. Meanwhile the Mission, in their own words, "remain on the job". They plan to leave for New York tomorrow. All concerned will, of course, have to do more hard thinking, and I prefer to leave it at that today.

I am glad to say that the situation in Aden has continued to be much quieter in the last week.

Mr. Winnick

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. Though recognising the delicate position of the talks, may I ask him this question? Are the Government determined to undo the blunders of the last Administration and allow Aden to leave the Federation? Second, can he say whether the United Nations Mission will be going back to Aden itself?

Mr. Brown

On the first point, I have a strong feeling that the way in which the Federation was put together and the reasons for which it was put together were probably a mistake at the time. On the other hand, it would be unrealistic to talk in terms of Aden town living on its own in present circumstances. On the second point, the question of the timing of any return by the Mission to Aden has not yet been decided.

Mr. Marten

But does not the right hon. Gentleman recall saying in the debate last week that none of the Adenis in the Federal Government wished to opt out of the Federation? Is not the real trouble in Aden that Colonel Nasser objects to the United Nations because it would frustrate his take-over bid?

Mr. Brown

There is no reason that I could adumbrate for my taking that latter position. The hon. Gentleman, of course, is entitled to his opinion. On the first point, what I said just now fits in with what I said the other day.

Mr. Fisher

In view of the predictable and predicted failure of the United Nations Mission and its self-stated prejudice against Britain—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—what is now the Government's policy for salvaging a situation made immeasurably more serious by their own policy errors during the past year?

Mr. Brown

That comes very ill from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. In this situation I think they do the interests of Britain and the interests of South Arabia no good at all by these continuous attacks, which come out of their prejudice against the United Nations.

Mr. Wall

Whatever may be the future rôle of the United Nations in this problem, is not the present Mission so discredited that its return to Aden would do great harm, and will not the Foreign Secretary now give full backing to those who have to bear responsibility in the High Commission and the Federal Government?

Mr. Brown

I do not understand how the hon. Gentleman can imagine, with the Mission here and the present state of our discussions, that such a remark as that could be regarded as other than pretty disgraceful.

Mr. Francis Noel-Baker

my right hon. Friend confirm, particularly in view of the two last mischievous supplementary questions, that it is Her Majesty's Government's hope that the Mission will continue and complete its work and, in due course, return to Aden?

Mr. Brown

I repeat what I said, if I need to do so, that I believe that the United Nations has a very useful rôle to play in this situation. I hope that it will do so. It is our business and that of everyone else who is concerned for a solution to the problems of South Arabia to co-operate with it in doing so.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Leaving aside the present Mission, if I may—I think it doubtful that they can be useful—has the Foreign Secretary taken up the suggestion, as the danger to Aden largely comes from the Yemen, that the United Nations might define the frontier between South Arabia and the Yemen and place observers there? This seems to me to be useful.

Mr. Brown

Obviously, this is one of the matters which may well come up in the work of the Mission. Clearly, if that is the right hon. Gentleman's view, he ought to discourage his hon. Friends from making the remarks which they have just been making.

Mr. Lee

Do I take it that my right hon. Friend at least keeps an open mind about the possibility of dissolving the Federation, which is really the cause of all the trouble?

Mr. Brown

As I said just now, whatever the merits of what was done, the way it was done and the reasons for which it was done at the time when it was done, I do not see how Aden can live by itself without the hinterland in the world of today. What we have to address ourselves to is how to get a new broadly based representative Government, representative geographically as well as in other ways, and constitutional arrangements acceptable to all, so that it can become genuinely independent and become a member of the United Nations.

Mr. A. Royle

In view of the extraordinary behaviour of this particular United Nations Mission when it was in Aden—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] would it not be wiser to press for a fresh mission made up of different people to visit Aden rather than this Mission, which has so significantly failed?

Mr. Brown

Clearly, it would be wise if the hon. Gentleman were to have a word with his right hon. Friend.