HC Deb 11 April 1968 vol 762 cc1557-9
5. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Overseas Development if he will make a statement on British aid for South Yemen.

Mr. Prentice

It was agreed at Geneva that, pending further discussions, aid would be continued for six months, that is, until the end of May. As already announced, we expect to resume negotiations with the Southern Yemen Government on aid and other outstanding matters in the latter half of April.

Mr. Wall

When discussing what aid, if any, is to be given to the South Yemen Government, would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that British officials on contract have been summarily dismissed and that Federal Ministers and civil servants are in prison, their only crime being loyalty to the then legal Government and its British allies?

Mr. Prentice

We will bear in mind all relevant considerations, including those which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. But we are, of course, committed to holding these talks, although we are not committed in any other way, and I would not like to prejudge what may be said at them.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Will the right hon. Gentleman not only bear in mind but take very seriously the fact that the present régime has sentenced to death its own citizens for no other offence than service to the British rule in Aden? In these circumstances, would it not be indecent to provide any aid at all to the Yemen?

Mr. Prentice

I have said that all these things will be carefully borne in mind at the time.

Mr. Dempsey

Would my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that Scots boys belonging to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were killed and cruelly wounded by this very régime not so long ago? Will that be borne in mind before he gives them a single penny?

Mr. Prentice

The whole of the background of recent years and the present situation will have to be taken into account in considering our policy at these talks.

Mr. Fisher

That is a very cynical answer which the right hon. Gentleman has given. Does he really feel that it is more justifiable to give aid to these people in South Arabia, under all the circumstances described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), than to give it to Zambia, whose position has been completely prejudiced by our Rhodesian policy?

Mr. Prentice

I have already said that we are committed to holding these talks towards the end of April, and I have also said that I would not want to prejudice their outcome. I do not want to go beyond that, and I have not made any remarks which would suggest any comparison between the need for aid in Southern Yemen and that for any other country.