HC Deb 18 July 1967 vol 750 cc1711-5
Q3. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the present effects on Great Britain, including the petroleum position, of recent events in the Middle East.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave on the 13th July to a Question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) and to the information already given to the House by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power.—[Vol. 750, c. 137.]

Mr. Campbell

Can the Prime Minister give an estimate of the effect of the Middle East war on our balance of payments position, since it is better that the House should be informed from official sources than to have to depend upon conjecture in the Press and elsewhere?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I think that the hon. Gentleman is right about that. It is not possible at this stage to say what is the net cost to our balance of payments of the Middle East fighting. Obviously, there will be some effect, but not as great as has been forecast in some quarters.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Has my right hon. Friend anything to say about the 270 Arab personnel who are at present receiving training in Army, Navy and Air Force establishments in this country? Does he not think, as the war is not over, that it is about time that we stopped training Arabs to kill Israelis?

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to say about that position. If my hon. Friend would care to put down a Question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, who is responsible for the training of overseas personnel in this country, no doubt he would get a reply.

Mr. Heath

Can the Prime Minister be more explicit about the actual cost per month on the balance of payments, at least with regard to imports? I understand the difficulty about exports, but figures have been given as high as £180 million a year for imports alone. Can he correct this more explicitly?

The Prime Minister

I think that it is too early to make an estimate. Any figure of that kind would be an extraordinary estimate on anything that we know at the present time. It is too early to say even what was the effect on our June import position of the non-arrival of cargoes, for example because of the closure of the Suez Canal, but anything like the rate mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman is far beyond any estimate that I have seen.

Q8. Mr. Molloy

asked the Prime Minister what proposals Her Majesty's Government will be advancing to achieve a lasting settlement in the Middle East.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the Answers to Questions given yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.—[Vol. 750, c. 1510.]

Mr. Molloy

Would my right hon. Friend agree that any proposal which might be put forward to achieve a lasting peace in this area must include the fact that the ordinary Arabs should share in the revenues from oil and that this, allied to the interchange of ideas and information between the Israelis and Arabs, could lead both of them together to launch a real attack on the problems of that area, which are ignorance, disease and poverty?

The Prime Minister

I think that that objective would be supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House. A more equitable share of the oil revenues was a point often made by Aneurin Bevan when we debated Middle Eastern issues in this House and certainly Israel has shown that she has a great deal to contribute to world development once the political bars to co-operation between Jew and Arab are removed.

Mr. Tapsell

How does the Prime Minister explain the contrast between Ns rush forward to make his ill-advised statement about the Straits of Tiran and his present passive attitude to the far greater importance of the international right of way through the Suez Canal?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman did not approve of the statement that I made about the Straits of Tiran, which was fully supported by his Front Bench in the debate that immediately followed, and by Opposition Front Bench spokesmen. The question of the Suez Canal was dealt with yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It is necessary to create the political conditions—we have to be realistic about this, including the question of possible military activity on both sides of the Canal—before we are likely to see a rapid movement towards clearing the Canal. As my right hon. Friend said, the agreement to have United Nations observers on the Canal is a useful step towards this.

Mr. Grimond

Can the Prime Minister give us an assurance that Her Majesty's Government's representatives at the United Nations will press that in any lasting settlement in the Middle East the situation in the Yemen will be dealt with, where reports of the use of poison gas are horrifying, and do not seem to receive the attention they deserve?

The Prime Minister

I think that they have received the attention they deserve. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, they have frequently been condemned by my right hon. Friend and other members of the Government, and also at the United Nations where this matter was the subject of some debate recently. This is a deplorable development. Any final settlement for the Middle East must take up the question of the Yemen, but the question of atrocities in warfare is a matter which should be dealt with separately, and should be dealt with by universal condemnation by the whole of mankind.

Mr. Winnick

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is still a great deal of concern about the position of Arab refugees arising from the last armed clash? Can my right hon. Friend say what kind of international action can be taken and should be taken quickly to alleviate the hardship and misery of so many Arab refugees in the Middle Eastern area?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is right, and indeed from the earliest debates that we have had on the present crisis, even before the fighting began, I think hon. Members on both sides stressed this as a matter of urgency, which has been made much more urgent by the increase in the number of refugees. This was one of the subjects dealt with in a Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations. We are giving what help we can to the refugees on the West Bank, and there is, I think, a sense of urgency among those concerned to try to get this problem dealt with as a humane operation first, and then settled as a political operation afterwards.