HC Deb 22 January 1968 vol 757 cc22-5
24. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on Great Britain's relations with the new People's Republic of South Yemen.

Mr. George Brown

Her Majesty's Ambassador, Mr. R. W. J. Hooper, arrived in Aden at the beginning of this month and has presented his credentials to the President of the People's Republic of Southern Yemen. Our relations with Southern Yemen are normal and friendly and we naturally hope that they will continue so.

Mr. Campbell

I should like to wish Mr. Hooper all good fortune in his mission, but have negotiations yet started concerning possible economic aid from Britain after the present six months, and will Parliament be kept closely informed?

Mr. Brown

Yes, of course Parliament will. The answer to the first part of the supplementary question is "No".

Mr. Colin Jackson

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House what is the security of British subjects in this territory, and can he further tell the House whether the refinery is continuing to operate satisfactorily?

Mr. Brown

The answer to the first part of that question is "Yes" and the answer to the second part is also "Yes, quite satisfactorily".

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I could not quite hear what the right hon. Gentleman said. Did he say that the answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question was "No"? If so, does he recognise that a great deal of the first six months under which the promised £12 million in aid to the South Yemen has gone and that it is therefore necessary to get on with the question of deciding how much aid to give in the future? Will he recognise—as he has said—that while we are hard put to it to find any money to protect our own interests £12 million is a very high figure?

Mr. Brown

I know the right hon. Gentleman's preoccupation with this question. The answer that I gave is factually correct; we have not been asked nor have we ourselves started to think about anything beyond that period.

Mr. Mayhew

Are there any signs that South Yemen is being swallowed up by President Nasser, in accordance with the predictions of the right hon. Gentleman opposite?

Mr. Brown

I think that the contrary is the case.

36. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what consultations he is now holding with the People's Republic of South Yemen about the payment of aid to that country in the second half of 1968.

41. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what financial agreement has been reached with the Government of South Arabia.

Mr. George Brown

None, Sir.

Mr. Goodhart

As we have had to abandon Commitments to our friends because of poverty, would it not be folly to hand over further large sums of money to a Government which climbed to power over British bodies and which threatens subversion in the Persian Gulf?

Mr. Brown

I certainly do not accept the latter part of that question. If the hon. Member gets rid of his prejudices and looks at what is happening in the area he will see how wise we were to reverse his right hon. Friend's policy. The answer to the Question, as I told the right hon. Gentleman earlier, is that we are not for the moment engaged on such negotiation.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Are the local authorities of the South Yemen likely to co-operate with British interests once this aid is withdrawn?

Mr. Brown

I am not quite sure what is meant by the question of aid being withdrawn. We have agreed to carry over for a period, and we are doing that. What is very clear is that we have commercial interests there. They are operating. I very strongly urge right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who purport to be very concerned about our commercial interests that they should encourage this newly independent Government to co-operate with us and should not make these snide remarks about them.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The right hon. Gentleman will realise that the South Yemen Government have made an offer to the Russians that they should have a base in Aden. That is public property. He will recognise that, as I said just now, we are very short of money for our own purposes in the Persian Gulf. Ought he not in the interests of this country to open negotiations, I do not say to cut the £12 million to nothing but at least to reduce it, so that the South Yemen in future can rely more on the help of neighbours than on the help of Great Britain?

Mr. Brown

I could not disagree with the right hon. Gentleman more and I shall be very happy to debate that with him later this week. When he says that it is public property, he simply means that it has appeared in some newspaper. We have, as he well knows, and as friends of his and mine have recently told him, considerable commercial interests in that area. I simply do not think that he is doing them any good by the kind of remarks which he is making.

Mr. Michael Foot

Does not my right hon. Friend think that the most contemptible basis for a foreign policy is spite and that that is all that we have had from hon. Members opposite in their attitude to this new country?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that he told Parliament that he would review this £12 million in six months? All that I am asking is that he should do so and come before Parliament with a recommendation. I suspect that he would come to Parliament with a recommendation for a reduction.

Mr. Brown

Let us leave this for debate. All I ask the right hon. Gentleman to do is to recognise that this is a new independent Government in an area where it is in our interests to encourage them. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman is doing that from the Opposition Front Bench, but I know that he would be doing it if he were sitting on this Bench.