HC Deb 08 November 1967 vol 753 cc1019-20
26. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the efficiency of the naval blockade as part of Her Majesty's Government's policy of sanctions against the illegal Smith regime in Rhodesia.

44. Mr. Goodhew

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he proposes to withdraw the naval patrol from the Beira area.

Mr. Healey

The naval patrol off Beira has been wholly effective in that it has cut off the most direct means of oil supply to Rhodesia. Its success is amply demonstrated by the enforced closure of the refinery at Umtali. The additional expense of importing refined products over great distances is constituting a significant drain on Rhodesia's resources of foreign exchange. The patrol will be needed as long as the Security Council Resolution of 9th April, 1966, under which it was instituted, remains in force. On the costs of the patrol, including the R.A.F. detachment, I refer to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on Wednesday, 25th October.

Mr. Judd

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the policy of sanctions is little more than an expensive gesture, unless there are adequate means of complete enforcement? When shall we extend the blockade to ports not yet covered?

Mr. Healey

That is not a question for me. My hon. Friend knows that it raises a very large number of very difficult economic and political questions.

Mr. Goodhew

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is a complete charade, since oil is gushing into Rhodesia through other ports, as is known to the right hon. Gentleman and his Government? Is he completely unaware that this patrol ties down and commits more than one-third of our total frigate and destroyer force east of Suez? Is not this a thoroughly irresponsible and unnecessary burden on the Royal Navy at a time when it is so overstretched in that area?

Mr. Healey

I do not believe that the officers and men of the Royal Navy concerned regard this as a charade, and I do not think they will take very kindly to the hon. Member's reference to it as such. I can only tell him again, in case he did not listen to my Answer, that by blockading Beira we have forced the Umtali refinery to close down and imposed a major burden in foreign exchange on the illegal regime in Rhodesia.

Mr. Bellenger

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the so-called efficiency of the British Navy outside Beira is by no means absolute in relation to sanctions against Mr. Smith's Government? Has he observed that not only in the public Press but in the House, in a film, it is alleged that there is still considerable connivance by British-owned companies in trying to breach the blockade?

Mr. Healey

That is quite another matter. The purpose of the naval blockade, as defined by the United Nations resolution, was to stop crude oil arriving at Beira, and in that it has been 100 per cent effective.

Sir Knox Cunningham

How many of Her Majesty's ships have been employed in this blockade and how many are employed in that capacity at present?

Mr. Healey

A patrol of two frigates has been employed continuously since the blockade began.

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