HC Deb 13 November 1968 vol 773 cc397-8
30. Mr. Gordon Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on preparations for the defence of the Persian Gulf area after 1971.

46. Mr. Colin Jackson

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement concerning local defence prospects for the Persian Gulf area after 1971.

53. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what contribution will be made by the United Kingdom to defence in the Persian Gulf after 1971.

Mr. Healey

After 1971, arrangements for defence in the Persian Gulf will be primarily the responsibility of the States in the area.

Mr. Campbell

Since the States concerned are prepared to pay for the limited number of British troops required in the Persian Gulf, and since the Government continually press the German Government to pay for British troops in Germany, will not the Government reconsider this position and ensure that no vacuum is created in the Persian Gulf in 1971 which would be a temptation for another Power to occupy?

Mr. Healey

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that since we announced our decision to withdraw there has been very heartening progress in the Gulf towards the creation of arrangements among the local peoples for their own defence, and I do not think that we should do anything to disturb the progress which is being made in this respect.

Mr. Jackson

Can my right hon. Friend say what rôle he thinks the Trucial Oman Scouts may play in the independent union in that territory after 1971?

Mr. Healey

That will be a question for the local Governments, and particularly for the Government of the Arab Emirates, to decide, but I hope that they will recognise the great quality of these men and find a proper use for them.

Mr. Maudling

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the protection of the routes over which British oil will travel in the 'seventies can be safely left to the Powers in the area?

Mr. Healey

I cannot, of course, give such an assurance, but I would again remind the House that when members of the party opposite tried to protect routes in 1956 by the use of force they delivered a blow to oil supplies and to our influence in the Arab world from which this country has not yet recovered.

Mr. Robert Howarth

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will reject the Opposition's suggestion that British troops should act as mercenaries paid by the nations of the Persian Gulf?

Mr. Healey

I have made my views on this matter clear.