HC Deb 01 May 1968 vol 763 cc1080-1
3. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the activities of the Beira patrol.

Mr. Healey

As I said in the House on 8th November last, the patrol has cut off the most direct means of oil supply to Rhodesia, and, as a consequence, the refinery at Umtali remains closed. The activities of the patrol have thus ensured that the Security Council's Resolution of 9th April, 1966, has been successfully carried out.—[Vol. 753, c. 1019–20.]

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Surely the sanctions, of which this is a part, are entirely ineffective? How many ships have been intercepted and what is the cost to public funds of this futile folly?

Mr. Healey

The hon. Member will be aware that his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) has a Question down for Written Answer about the cost of the operation. On the subject of a number of ships so far intercepted, I would like notice of that. I would assure the hon. Gentleman, whose enthusiasm for carrying out this United Nations' resolution is well known, that since the patrol was set up the interception of ships has been very rarely required.

Mr. Hooley

Since it is now declared and welcome policy to strengthen sanctions against the Rhodesian régime, would my right hon. Friend consider internationalising the forces maintaining this patrol?

Mr. Healey

This question is continuously under review, but it is not a decision which Her Majesty's Government can take on their own.

Mr. Maudling

I hope that I shall be forgiven if this point has been made, but is it the direction to the patrol to fire on any ship which refuses to acknowledge this warning?

Mr. Healey

The United Nations' resolution, as the right hon. Gentleman will know well, authorises the use of force to stop ships, if that is required. I am not at liberty to give the House a detailed account of the precise operational instructions given to commanders of Her Majesty's ships, but it includes the use of force in certain contingencies.