HC Deb 12 June 1967 vol 748 cc76-8
10. Mr. Dewar

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the purpose of a continuing British presence in the Persian Gulf.

47. Mr. Dickens

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why a continued British military presence is required in the Persian Gulf.

Mr. George Brown

Our continued presence in the Persian Gulf is required to enable us to fulfil our remaining commitments in the area and to contribute to its stability.

Mr. Dewar

Does not my right hon. Friend agree, after consideration, that the present standing of France in the Middle East illustrates again that a physical military presence in that area does not necessarily lead to good relations with Middle East countries?

Mr. Brown

My hon. Friend will recognise that there are different interests and different situations, and I would urge him not to assume too easily that France or any other country has a greater interest than we have, but to keep very much in mind that we have considerable interests in the area.

Mr. Dickens

Will my right hon. Friend brace himself to receive a compliment from me, namely, is he aware of the widespread and sincere admiration felt in the House and in the country for the way in which he has handled the Middle East situation in the past week? Secondly, does not the Middle East war show, finally and conclusively, the utter futility and ineffectiveness of a British military presence east of Suez?

Mr. Brown

I found the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question most attractive. What he has hung on it in the second part I am not sure about. I will think about it.

Mr. James Davidson

Can the Foreign Secretary tell us what these commitments in the Persian Gulf are, especially in view of the fact that although we have British forces there, three of our main sources of oil in the area—Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq—have been closed to us as a result of the recent crisis, leaving us with only two? The other commitments, so far as I know, date back to the treaty of 1856, to prevent slave running in the Gulf. What are our other commitments in the Gulf?

Mr. Brown

We have commitments to protect and co-operate with States in the area. On the question of oil supplies, this is a particularly delicate moment. It would be wiser if I did not comment on what has happened.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Has the right hon. Gentleman studied the apparent success of the French in backing one side and selling aircraft to the other?

Mr. Ogden

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the States of the Persian Gulf have commitments to this country, as well as our having commitments to them? What efforts are being made by Her Majesty's Government to encourage those States to fulfil their commitments to us?

Mr. Brown

My hon. Friend has made a wise and important point. He may be assured that I am drawing this to the attention of everybody concerned.

Mr. Sandys

Does not the Foreign Secretary realise that once we have broken our commitments and withdrawn our protection from South Arabia it will be politically and militarily almost impossible to hang on in the Persian Gulf?

Mr. Brown

Having made the mess he did in the past, I think the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to await the statement that I intend to make next week.