HC Deb 08 November 1967 vol 753 cc1009-10
12. Mr. Stratton Mills

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the arrangements for withdrawal of British troops from Aden.

Mr. Healey

As the House knows, our forces in Aden will be withdrawn by the end of November. Aircraft of Air Support Command, augmented in the initial stages by civil aircraft, will make the main lift of personnel and a Royal Naval task force off Aden will cover the withdrawal.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Before our withdrawal is it intended to pass further areas of Aden over to the Federal Army? Will the right hon. Gentleman answer an important question, namely, whether there is any information as to who is at present controlling the Federal Army?

Mr. Healey

Yes, Sir. The latest information is that the Federal Army is fully under the control of the officers appointed to command it. On the first question, the withdrawal will be phased and, as it proceeds, certain areas will be handed over to the Federal Army. The House will recognise that I cannot be expected to give details of the phasing of the withdrawal plan.

Mr. Lubbock

Leaving aside the political implications of withdrawal at a time when anarchy appears to prevail in the Federation, can the right hon. Gentleman say what difference the advancement of the date of our withdrawal would make to the cost of air transport, stated to be £140 million in last year's Defence Estimates?

Mr. Healey

I am afraid that I cannot answer that question without notice.

Mr. Frederic Harris

Will the Minister give advice to the civilians in the Aden area as to what action they should take when our troops are withdrawn?

Mr. Healey

Yes, Sir. I would like to explain the situation in relation to this very important problem. At the moment there are about 500 British and friendly nationals in Aden, 200 of whom will be leaving before the last troops leave. That will leave about 300. We have contingency plans at any moment before independence to withdraw the remaining British civilians if they wish to be withdrawn. After independence, if some or all the remaining British civilians wish to leave we would seek a safe conduct from the authorities, but we shall have a very powerful Navy task force for a short time in local waters, and if it is necessary to use the task force—which will include a commando carrier—we shall do so.