HC Deb 28 June 1967 vol 749 cc689-706
Mr. Dodds-Parker

I beg to move Amendment No. 8, in page 4, line 24, to leave out 'section 3 of'.

After the Foreign Secretary's intervention earlier tonight, it is more than ever important to have an adequate explanation of the Government's intentions regarding Orders in Council. Why are only Orders in Council under Clause 3 to be made subject to annulment by Resolution of either House? This question was put on Second Reading by several hon. Members, including the Leader of the Liberal Party, who has now left the Chamber again, and it is more important than ever now to have an answer, after the Foreign Secretary's intervention, in which he described himself as lighthearted, though others less charitably disposed might have used other epithets.

Apparently, Orders in Council under Clause 1(1), which in some ways is the most important provision of all, are not to be laid before the House and be subject to annulment. It is not clear whether the Government here, as in so much they have recently done in Aden, have gone back on what they had hitherto decided, because the appointed day has already been settled, we understand, as 9th January, 1968, although there is as yet, presumably, no Order in Council. Clause 6(1) is very wide and sweeping. All sorts of Orders in Council may be made under it. Under Clause 5, too, Orders in Council will be laid after being made.

As several hon. Members have said, the situation surrounding this Bill is unique. In the considerable number of constitutional advances which the Minister of State and I have seen by now, I have never known one which appeared to be in such a muddle, with changes of Government policy only a few months before the date of independence. There is no proper Constitution yet. As the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) reminded us, there is no majority rule. The proposals for consultation which the Under-Secretary of State outlined last week are extremely vague. Many hon. Members feel that individual decisions will be needed on Kuria Muria, on Perim, and, for that matter, though it is not in the Bill, on Kamaran. Orders in Council will, I assume, be needed.

It is essential that Parliament be allowed to know what is happening and if necessary to vote against each of these important steps. Will the Minister explain why the Government will not bring all these important Orders before the House? I do not like to accuse him of muzzling the House because, knowing him, I do not think that it is the sort of thing he would do, but the House will be three months or more in Recess between now and the date of independence. On past experience I believe that there is great need to carry the House with the Government on these important issues, and above all to give us an opportunity to comment on each step.

All hon. Members will agree that the Minister of State will try to get sensible action taken on these many outstanding points. All of us have great confidence in him and in his handling of this situation and of the Bill today, until the Foreign Secretary's intervention took us off at a tangent again. Many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have taken the matter seriously, because we have taken an interest over a great number of years not only in the affairs of Aden but in all that is based on it.

It was important before the Foreign Secretary's intervention, and it is now essential, that the Minister should make it quite clear that on all important steps the House will have the right to discuss the Orders in Council.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I want briefly to ask the Minister to clear my mind on the situation we now confront. As I understood the Foreign Secretary, he undertook that he would now seek to achieve for the Island of Perim and international status. He also agreed that this process might well be difficult and time-consuming, and that perhaps at the end of the year negotiations to achieve this important purpose would still be under way. I also understood him to say that if he felt at that stage that the negotiations were likely to become fruitful he would not allow the arbitrary deadline of 9th January to preclude the negotiations being made a success.

I think that I have stated fairly what the Foreign Secretary undertook, and if that is the case it must follow that, at least in the case of Perim, there is a possibility that the same Order in Council could not suffice to give independence to Aden on that date, while allowing the Government to continue negotiations for a separate destination for the future of Perim.

The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) asked what was likely to be the ultimate destination of the Kuria Muria Islands. I believe that they will almost certainly be attached to the Aden Federation. But if, as a result of the consultations that may take place or of some slight change of circumstances, the destination were to be different from the likely destination of Aden, the House is entitled to expect a separate Order in Council to deal with that somewhat different matter.

There can be no good reason in fact or in constitutional practice why we should have a single Order in Council, though I admit its convenience to the Government. I accept that it helps to concentrate minds on both sides, but it could well be untidy and difficult for the Government if they had to tie together three "unlikes" in a single Order in Council.

12 m.

Lord Balniel

I appreciate that the Committee is anxious to make progress, but this Amendment is one of substantial constitutional importance.

Its purpose is to ensure that the Order in Council providing for the relinquishment of sovereignty is subject to Parliamentary debate. The Minister of State will remember that during the Second Reading debate he was asked whether all the Orders in Council would be subject to Parliamentary debate. He said that he was anxious not to mislead the House and that all the Orders would be subject to the scrutiny of the House. I appreciate that this answer was given in good faith, but there is no doubt that it was a mistaken answer. All the Orders are subject to annulment except the most important Order, which is that which gives independence to Aden, Perim and the Kuria Muria Islands.

There are special reasons why the Orders under this Bill should be subject to annulment and further Parliamentary debate. The first reason is this. It is within the recollection of the Committee that we had to take the Second Reading of the Bill immediately after the statement of policy. It was generally recognised that this was not in the best interests of serious discussion of the principles of the Bill. Indeed, this point was made by almost every speaker. The Minister of State, in moving the Second Reading, was not able to refer to the general principles and he confined himself to a detailed explanation of the nationality issues involved.

But there is a more significant reason. We are moving the Colony of Aden to independence in almost unique circumstances. The structure of law in the Colony has broken down and the jury system is not for the moment in operation. There has been a breakdown of public security and the Federal Army has mutinied only in the past week.

Most important of all, this Colony is being taken forward to independence without what has been the invariable practice in the past, except in the case of Palestine, without there being a democratic constitution. Although one hopes that there will be consultation and a prior measure of agreement, it means that the constitution is being imposed on a Colony which does not have a democratic constitution. We cannot be sure that there will be consultation with the people living in Aden. We do not, at this stage, have any knowledge of the reaction of the people of Aden to the constitution recommended, namely the Hone-Bell constitution. As the Foreign Secretary has said, it is impossible to foresee at this stage the constitution which will exist at the time of independence.

In the Amendment we are asking that the House should be given an opportunity of debating the Order in Council. Since the Foreign Secretary's contribution to the debate, the point which I made earlier about the desirability of separate Orders in Council for the three territories has become overwhelming. It is possible that, as a result of the steps which the Foreign Secretary will be taking at the United Nations, the destiny of Perim will not be association with the Federation, but that it will become the centre of an international peace-keeping force. It is also probable, as a result of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that the date of independence will be different from the date of independence for Aden.

Mr. George Brown

No. I trust that the hon. Gentleman was not engaged on the trick earlier and that he will not engage on a trick now. The undertaking I gave to the Committee earlier, sincerely, and which the Opposition said they accepted in sincerity, was that I would do everything I could between now and the date of independence. But nothing I said suggested that the date of independence would be changed.

Lord Balniel

I must confess that I find that the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's contributions to these debates has been rather sad. I see no reason why I should be accused, having contributed as constructively as I could, of tricking the right hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I do not expect a withdrawal from the right hon. Gentleman. It is merely that the tone he used is quite in contradistinction to the contributions made by every other right hon. and hon. Member who has spoken.

The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to put his interpretation on his own statement. We will see what is recorded in HANSARD tomorrow. But it was my understanding that, if the right hon. Gentleman was engaged in consultation with the United Nations and arrangements were being made whereby the United Nations would accept responsibility for the Island of Perim after the date of independence, he would be prepared to postpone the date of independence—

Mr. George Brown

No. I never said that.

Lord Balniel

—so as to enable the United Nations to implement inter- nationalisation of the island. As has been pointed out, the period of time at our disposal is only seven months and it is extremely unlikely, however willing the United Nations might be to undertake the responsibility, that it could do so in seven months, and once British sovereignty has been ceded the opportunities of internationalising the island are past.

Mr. George Brown

We have been over all this. I simply want to place it on record—and whether the hon. Gentleman likes my tone or not does not matter—that I never said that we would postpone the date of independence. That is on record and I want to make it plain. I stand by what I said earlier tonight. I will do what I can between now and the date of independence, but I have never suggested that the date of independence would be postponed.

Lord Balniel

Of course I accept the right hon. Gentleman's assurance. We will be able to read the record tomorrow in HANSARD. But it does not detract one iota from my argument that it is desirable that there should be three separate Orders in Council because each of these territories will possibly have a separate destiny.

The right hon. Gentleman has said that he will do his best to secure that the destiny of Perim should be that of an international community run by the United Nations. He said that the destiny of the Colony of Aden is to be a member of the Federation and that the destiny of the Kuria Muria Islands is to depend on consultation with the local population. As these islands lie off the coast of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman and not off the coast of the Federation, and as their people belong to a totally different ethnic group from those in the Federation, it is at least conceivable, especially as they are not now Members of the Federation, that they will not opt to become members of the Federation.

All we ask in what is surely a very limited and reasonable request, is that, in this unique situation—the last such situation I can think is Palestine—the House of Commons should have the opportunity of debating the Orders in Council and the three separate Orders in Council should be made for the three separate territories, since the Foreign Secretary's deliberate purpose is to secure a different destiny for Perim from Aden Colony itself.

Mr. George Thomson

I am glad of the opportunity to tell the Committee why there are different procedures attached to the Orders in Council in different parts of the Bill. As the hon. Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) said, I was asked about this by the leader of the Liberal Party on Second Reading. I undertook to check and I wrote to him personally telling him the result of my check. I had been under a misapprehension about the actual nature of the different Orders in Council, but I can now tell the Committee why they are different.

The Orders in Council under Clause 5 deal with pending appeals to the Court of Appeal. This is legalised and very specialised. There the Orders in Council, as is the normal procedure, are laid before Parliament after making; that is, they are not subject to Parliamentary control, but they are subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

The Orders in Council under Clause 3, are subject to the normal annulment procedure with which we are familiar. The reason is that the Orders in Council which would come under Clause 3 give power to make modifications on legislation of this House. I should have thought that it was not only entirely appropriate but obligatory that the House should have the opportunity to pray if it wishes against Orders in Council that are modifying our own domestic legislation.

This brings me to the Order in Council under Clause 1, which is the Order relinquishing sovereignty on the appointed day and why this is not subject to the same procedures. Let me first remind the hon. Member that I did undertake that I would look again at the question of whether one should have separate Orders in Council for the three separate territories to give them more flexibility and I will do that before the Bill goes to another place.

The reason for not allowing any annulment or affirmative procedure in respect of the Order in Council under Clause 1 is, first and foremost, that this has been the normal procedure with Independence Bills on previous occasions. There has not, according to my researches, been any case of any Order in Council under any Independence Act being subject to any Parliamentary control.

In this case, there are some special reasons which reinforce this practice. As the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) said, one is that the House is about to go into the long Summer Recess. If one were to impose the normal procedure for annulment in this case it requires 40 days, and it excludes periods when the House is not sitting for more than four days. We would have very considerable practical difficulties with the Parliamentary timetable in the short period between the resumption of Parliament in October and the Christmas Recess if we were to seek to do this.

We are doing what has been done in other Independence Bills before the House. The House is being told by Her Majesty's Government that we are determined in principle that there shall be independence in South Arabia and that the independence date that we are proposing is the 9th January, 1968. Though there is no date in the Bill, this leaves room for flexibility. The House is being asked to take this decision in principle now.

This is the normal procedure and I think that it would create very great difficulties if one were to attempt to insert a degree of Parliamentary control during the limited period of Parliamentary sittings which will be available to us before the independence date arrives.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

In view of what the Minister of State has said, and his undertaking to my noble Friend that he would look at the matter before it goes to another place, where it can be examined again, I beg to ask to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 7 to 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

12.15 a.m.

Rear Admiral Morgan Giles

A few minutes ago the Minister of State explained to the House the steps which the Government were taking to contact the nationalist groups in Aden and by hook or by crook to bring them to the conference table. At this late hour, I do not wish to discuss the merits or demerits of that, but I should like an assurance that one of the steps which will not be taken in this direction is to limit the action which British forces may take when under fire, and that no sort of restriction will be placed on the weapons which our troops can use when in action.

This evening I have been speaking to a Northumberland Fusilier who has arrived home in the last few hours. He told me, "I had always hoped that if I got myself into a spot of bother, my regiment would come to try to find me I am now beginning to wonder whether, if such a thing occurred, it would be allowed to do so". That is a terrible frame of mind for a magnificent fighting regiment, to which the House should be very grateful for what it has done in Aden, and it is an attitude resulting from the actions of the Government.

May we have a definite reassurance that no such restriction will be imposed, and that if such a restriction exists, it will be withdrawn forthwith?

12.17 a.m.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

I apologise to the House for intervening at this late hour. I would have much preferred to have made these remarks when the new Clause was discussed, but, as so often happens with hon. Members, I had a previous engagement and was not able to be present when it was discussed. However, I understand that the Government will sympathetically approach the question of putting the Island of Perim into a special United Nations category and under the sovereignty of the United Nations.

As the Chairman of the Anti-Slavery Society, I am, naturally, very interested in this part of Arabia. [Laughter.] Before hon. Members laugh about that, I should tell them that during the last three years the United Nations has had a report from Dr. Awad, a very distinguished Egyptian, to say that chattel slavery alone accounts for between 1 million and 2 million slaves in the world today. This is, therefore, not a problem with which the House should deal lightly.

The Island of Perim is in an area susceptible to this problem and if it became a centre of United Nations activity, it would be an ideal centre for a United Nations observer force able to do the job which we all want to be done—to eradicate slavery throughout the world. Because it does happen to be in an area where even today, much as we may deplore it, this system does go on. Slave trading—perhaps it is a surprise to some hon. Members—is still a very evil and active operation.

During the past year, when figures were produced, the Port of Suakim, on the Red Sea, had 8,000 people who were turned back on their visit to Arabia because it was thought that if they did get through the port the probability would be that a great many of them would become slaves if they got to Arabia.

This is a very serious problem of which this House ought to be seized. If Perim could become a United Nations outpost for peacekeeping purposes, and have an observation post there to see and find out and research into these activities, it would be a tremenodus step forward in eradicating this very great evil.

I hope that the Minister of State—and I know that he is very much sympathetically with me in my approach to this problem—will use all his endeavours to try to get the United Nations to take over this island, and I hope that I can ask the Foreign Secretary to use all his best endeavours to do this, too.

May I say a final word to the Foreign Secretary. I believe that this is so important that I hope he will not take the attitude he took with my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) tonight.

Perim is really no part of the Federation whose independence we are talking about tonight and, therefore, when there is a prize the world has been seeking for a very long time—to get a United Nations piece of territory which would be of such enormous value in the development of peacekeeping and the development of social progress by putting down slavery—I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not be so dogmatic as to say that this has got to happen before 9th January or it is finished forever.

There is a prize here which, 50 years from now, might be the one thing for which the right hon. Gentleman is remembered—that he did ensure the first piece of territory in this world which came directly under U.N. supervision and was a centre where peacekeeping forces could be stationed, and where observation people could be. If this were carried to fruition I believe it would be something in which the right hon. Gentleman could take pride. I hope that he will not be too dogmatic about this and that he will be flexible, because he has an opportunity of doing something here which would be of tremendous value to mankind in removing a lot of evils which we all want to see removed.

12.24 a.m.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I should like, at the beginning of the very few words I want to say now, to congratulate the Minister of State for the way in which, against an extremely difficult background in Aden, he has over the months piloted this very difficult Bill through the House of Commons.

I have disagreed on many points with the Government's policy; I still disagree with many of those points. But I do recognise and pay tribute to his patience and his generosity as he has managed the Bill in the House.

I could comment on the Foreign Secretary's interventions, but I think that since we have achieved more of the substance of what we expected this evening, perhaps it would be advisable for me to forgo that temptation.

The two things I do wish to say are that I personally—and I think that many Members in the House and people in the country—feel a sense of tragedy and even shame that a Colony for which we have been and still are responsibile should be passing into independence in bloodshed and chaos. This is not a party matter; this is something which the citizens of this country, with its proud record, will all regret.

I can only say to the Government that, while recognising the need for a final date to be set, if it should be—as I fear—that on 8th January, during the first weeks of the new year, the streets of Aden are streets of war and there is murder and chaos in the Colony, I hope that no arbitrary date set by the Government will preclude this country from doing its duty to the people of the area and of the world instead of washing our hands and saying, "We go regardless".

I accept the arguments for a date—I understand that arrangements need to be made, whether to remove troops or to confer responsibilities; all that is understood—but if it should be that slaughter is under way in Aden at that time, and no man can say that it is impossible, it would be a moral stain on the history of this country if we were simply to walk past like the Pharisee on the other side of the road. I am sure that the Government are aware of this. I do not press the Minister to say anything about it, because he has a policy to carry out and it would be, perhaps, unwise, but I place that thought before him.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) spoke of the position of our troops in Aden. The Minister rightly said earlier that some of my questions to him could, perhaps, more properly be directed to the Minister of Defence. I would be happy if he were to say that he will pass to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence the points that were raised.

Certainly, however, at a time when some of our men are being killed and perhaps many more of them are being intensely frustrated, we are entitled as the House of Commons tonight to say that we appreciate the problem that many of them face and we admire the restraint with which they are carrying out their duty.

12.27 a.m.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

I shall be very brief. It should not, however, have been necessary that hon. Member after hon. Member addressing the House should have to apologise for taking the time of the House on an important Measure like this. It is not our fault that the Bill is being debated at this late hour. It is a Bill of the greatest importance and it should have been within the bounds of possibility for the usual channels to have found a better time of day for the Bill to be passed through its remaining stages.

I echo the tribute paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) to the manner in which the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs has conducted the proceedings on the Bill. It is right that the House should give it an unopposed Third Reading. We are all in this House committed to the independence of the South Arabian Federation and we wish its rulers, its leaders and its people well. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds, I salute, as we all salute, our soldiers in Aden and wish fervently that what in, perhaps, not dissimilar circumstances a French leader called the "peace of the parade" could be achieved.

It has been brought out from different points of view, from hon. Members in different parties, that Aden faces a precarious future. My noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) pointed out, when speaking in Committee, that the remarkable Israeli victory in the third Arab-Israel war may well increase rather than diminish the Egyptian threat from republican Yemen. The Government have been compelled to undertake a very heavy, even open-ended, military commitment to the security of the Federation. This is necessary, but in my view it is cumbersome and costly. Much money could have been saved, perhaps many lives saved, if the Government had followed the policy set out by their predecessors, and agreed to a defence agreement under which Britain would retain a military foothold, able to be reinforced in discharge of that agreement.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are on Third Reading of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman cannot discuss alternatives to what is in the Bill.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

My last word would be that if the purposes of the Bill are to succeed, and to redound to the credit of the Government and the House, very much will depend upon the strengthening of the Armed Forces of South Arabia. I urge the Government to pay the greatest attention to the military aid mission, announced by the Foreign Secretary, and ensure that it is able to carry out its work with efficiency, so that the security of the Federation may be achieved.

12.32 a.m.

Lord Balniel

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), I will be brief because the hour is late. Like him, also, I make no apology for discussing the final stages of the Bill, because this Bill is a vehicle which will bring Aden Colony to independence, and so end a British association with this Colony of over 100 years' standing. It is also a Bill which will be the last major act of decolonisation in the history of the British Empire.

Like my hon. Friend, I find it rather regrettable that it has been found necessary by the Government to take the Bill at this late hour. It is right that, from the Opposition benches, I should reiterate what we said on Second Reading, namely, that we welcome the principle of the Bill and that, although there are many question marks which hang over the future of the Federation, we wish it well in whatever the years may unfold.

It is also right that we should make it clear that, while we welcome the principle of the Bill, we only do so in conjunction with the assurance that provision will be made to ensure the security of the Federation against external aggression. To use the phraseology of the Foreign Secretary, this Bill is part of a package deal. The Bill is the constitutional vehicle which will lead Aden towards independence. It has to be read in conjunction with the other parts of the package deal which were referred to by the Foreign Secretary in his speech of 19th June—those parts of that speech in which he outlined the steps which he was taking in the areas of defence, constitutional issues, and internal security.

I would like to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). There must be no reinterpretation of the speech of the Foreign Secretary of 19th June, for this reason: the assurances which he gave in that speech were not only assurances given to the House of Commons, or to his own political supporters, or to the Opposition. These were assurances which he has given to the Federal Government. It is absolutely essential that it should be made quite clear that this speech of 19th June is the policy of the Government. The reason why it should be made so clear is that the Federal Government are not relying on the written word of the Government. We will not enter into any treaty with the independent Federation. They are relying on the word of honour of the British Government.

I want to quote a few words from the speech of the Foreign Secretary on 19th June. He said: Her Majesty's Government will have no treaty relationship with the new State, but there will be available to it the extensive assistance which we have offered to give in the first few years of independence, including the powerful military and economic support which I have outlined."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1967; Vol. 748, c. 1142.] It is on that basis that we accept the Bill for independence in Aden Colony, and it is on that basis that the Federal Government themselves have been prepared to move forward to independence. Ministers must be very careful before they put new glosses or reinterpretations on the speech which has been the basis of the agreement with the Federal Government.

My other comment is that, although the Bill has not been amended, as a result of the debate which took place in Committee, it gives a lead for what could be a novel and exciting step forward for the United Nations. This is the first opportunity in the history of the United Nations of acquiring the trusteeship of a territory situated at one of the most strategically important areas in the entire world, and we hope that this suggestion, which we put forward in all seriousness, will be treated with reciprocal seriousness by the Government and at the United Nations itself.

Finally, I want to echo the congratulations which others of my hon. Friends have extended to the Minister of State. This has not been an easy Bill to handle. He has handled the discussions with a dignity and courtesy which the whole House has appreciated.

12.37 a.m.

Mr. George Thomson

I am grateful for what has just been said and for the patience with which hon. Members have put up with what has been a very long sitting.

At the final stage of the Bill, I want to say simply that the events of the last week, tragic though they were, have not changed the Government's determination to proceed as announced. Indeed, they have reinforced our belief that the proposals put forward by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last Monday are wise and right proposals in all the circumstances.

As I have told the House, these events themselves did not have their origin in the proposals which we put forward, but were more the product of the general tensions in the Middle East resulting from the Arab-Israel war and from some of the local circumstances of South Arabia. What the disturbances underline is the need for the Government to have a legislative basis approved by the House of Commons for the introduction of independence.

The other lesson which can be learned from the events of last week and which reinforces the correctness of what we are seeking to do and the timetable which we are seeking to follow is that they have shown how a British presence in Aden is of itself liable to spark off violence in present circumstances in the Middle East. Our policy, therefore, remains one of seeking a peaceful withdrawal of our own forces from South Arabia and of leaving, behind a decent and viable independence.

The House knows that reinforcements have been sent to hold the position in Aden, and perhaps I ought to tell hon. Members that the aircraft which are being used to take these troops out to Aden will be used to bring back Service and civilian families more quickly than otherwise would have been the case.

The hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) expressed anxieties which we heard from a number of quarters in the House earlier in the debate about the conditions under which our Servicemen are having to operate in Aden. I gave a careful reply earlier, and perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will forgive me if I do not elaborate on that "off the cuff", in which I might say something which could cause difficulty to our people out there. I would merely like to tell him that the High Commissioner and the Commander-in-Chief are conscious of these difficulties, and are in complete agreement with each other that they are doing everything they can to restore normal life in Aden, consistent with the prevention of bloodshed. I know that the House would wish me to join those hon. Members who have already spoken in paying the strongest possible tribute to the courage and restraint of our forces in Aden in what are unusually difficult circumstances, for the very reasons given by the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

I would merely say to the hon. Member for Orrnskirk (Sir D. Glover) that if he had had the good fortune to hear my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary speaking earlier in the debate he would have known that my right hon. Friend said that we are actively to explore the possibilities of the internationalisation of Perim. I do not think that anyone can be sure what the result of this exploration wi 11 be, but I think that there is a general desire that we should do everything we can to realise this. The possibilities of a United Nations post there, not only in terms of peacekeeping and maintaining a maritime passage through international waters, but also in terms of the Anti-slavery campaign with which the hon. Gentleman is so closely associated, would be very important if they proved realisable.

I think that the choice which has faced the Government in putting forward this Bill and the policies associated with it has not been an easy one. It is not a choice—I wish it were—between some ideal United Nations solution on the one hand, and some old-fashioned feudalist solution—which is what we are sometimes accused of—on the other. As usual, in real life, and particularly in international affairs, the choice is between incompatible alternatives, and the real choice is between the package proposals which my right hon. Friend put before the House last week, after tremendous consideration, and based on the strongest possible recommendations from men who had been on the spot in Aden and South Arabia, and the kind of chaos and bloodshed which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) described in one of his more apocalyptic phrases.

I believe that despite all the difficulties and dangers in the months ahead—and I would he the last to underestimate these—and the uncertainties which we face, the Bill, with the timetable which we have proposed, and with the proposals asso- ciated with it, gives us the best chance of achieving an honourable withdrawal of our forces from South Arabia, and leaving behind an independent Arab State which can take its proper place in the Middle East.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.