HC Deb 13 March 1967 vol 743 cc31-4
31. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will initiate exploratory discussions with member States of the United Nations who have in the past provided forces for United Nations peace-keeping to find out if they would take part in a United Nations force in Aden or South Arabia.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Thomson)

As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary said in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) on 6th March, it would be more appropriate in the first place for the recently appointed United Nations Mission to South Arabia to consider the possibility of a United Nations peacekeeping force in the area.—[Vol. 742, c. 1049.]

Mr. Hooley

Will my right hon. Friend accept that hon. Gentlemen on this side fully support Her Majesty's Government's intention to withdraw from Aden in 1968? But will he also accept that we believe that it is very important that a United Nations force or presence should be established after the period of withdrawal, and that it is urgent that discussions to this end should begin at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Thomson

Yes, Sir. But the first step is for the United Nations Mission to reach South Arabia. If the United Nations Mission, following its visit there, were to recommend that there should be a United Nations presence in South Arabia, either civil or military, Her Majesty's Government would certainly give the recommendation most serious consideration.

Mr. Doughty

Is the Minister of State aware that we have a treaty obligation with this State when we withdraw to enter into a defence agreement to see that law and order is maintained there, which is something that no United Nations force could ever do?

Mr. Thomson

The allegation that we have broken a pledge to South Arabia because of our refusal to conclude a defence agreement after independence has been made very frequently in this House, but it does not gain conviction by repetition.

Mr. Whitaker

Would it not be an admirable idea to get the United Nations to be responsible for the defence of the Persian Gulf as a whole?

Mr. Thomson

As I think I told my hon. Friend in regard to an earlier Question, that is a different question from that on the Order Paper.

Sir A. V. Harvey

What will happen if the United Nations are unable to put a force into Aden for safety?

Mr. Thomson

As I have just explained to the House, the first step is for the United Nations Mission to go there, study the situation, and see what recommendations it feels disposed to make.

32. Sir F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what request he has received for British participation in a United Nations force to maintain law, order and the territorial integrity of the South Arabian Federation after the departure of British national forces in 1968; and what reply he has sent.

Mr. George Thomson

None, Sir.

Sir F. Bennett

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's remark just now that if such a request were made Her Majesty's Government would give it serious consideration, since our main reasons for not leaving a small force behind are said to be economic, why is it cheaper to keep a British soldier in Aden wearing a blue hat rather than a khaki one?

Mr. Thomson

I think that the House should await the arrival of the United Nations Mission and see what it reports. If the Mission were to make a recommendation as to the usefulness of some United Nations presence, Her Majesty's Government, in the light of their well-known policy of supporting the peacekeeping activities of the United Nations, would obviously give it serious consideration, but that would be a different matter from the kind of defence commitment and defence expenditure involved in our present military installations in South Arabia.

Mr. Frank Allaun

I warmly welcome what my right hon. Friend has said this afternoon, but is it not obvious that a United Nations force would be regarded as impartial and would avoid the suspicions which an ex-colonial Power such as ours naturally excites in this region?

Mr. Thomson

One of the reasons for our decision about the defence installations in South Arabia, apart from the question of expenditure raised by the hon. Member opposite, is that we have always taken the view that we should not seek to go on maintaining installations in an area where we did not enjoy popular consent for them.

Mr. Royle

In view of the mounting chaos and the letter from Mr. Bayoomi-in The Times last week, will the Minister of State make arrangements for the Federal Government to be given adequate arms and equipment to defend themselves from both external and internal aggression when they receive independence after the end of this year?

Mr. Thomson

The details of the help we are giving the South Arabian Government to build up their own forces have been given on a number of occasions. I think that these arrangements are generous and consistent with the ability of the South Arabian Government to make the fullest use of the help being given.

Lord Balniel

If the right hon. Gentleman has not initiated discussions with the United Nations, has he initiated discussions with Aden's neighbouring States to try to get them to play a part in guaranteeing territorial integrity there after independence?

Mr. Thomson

The first thing here is for the United Nations Mission to go. A very important factor in the political viability of an independent South Arabian State will be its earliest possible recognition by the United Nations organisation, as well as recognition by other countries both in the region and outside it. But the first step is to make a success of the United Nations Mission.