HC Deb 20 July 1970 vol 804 cc13-6
9. Mr. Maclennan

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will seek to visit the Persian Gulf.

26. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has held with the representatives of States in the Persian Gulf.

28. Mr. Mayhew

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultation he has now had with Governments concerned relating to the British military presence in the Gulf.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I have no early plans for a visit to the Persian Gulf. I took the opportunity of having discussions with the Shah of Iran in Brussels on 10th July, and I am in close touch with King Faisal of Saudi Arabia and other leaders in the area through diplomatic channels. Our future policy will not be determined finally until all concerned have been consulted.

Mr. Maclennan

Is it the purpose of the right hon. Gentleman to promote the union of the Arab Emirates in the Gulf, and, if it is, does he think this will be assisted by maintaining a British military presence there in the light of the expressed hostility to it of leading Powers in the area, including the Shah of Iran and Kuwait?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

If we are successful in forming the union of the Arab Emirates—and I hope we may be successful—it is for them to say, in consultation with Britain, what support they want.

Mr. Allaun

But if Britain persists in opposing the wishes of the major States, will there not be some danger of provoking another Aden type situation? Secondly, when the world is bursting with oil, and countries like Germany and Japan can get all the oil they want without having a single soldier in the area, why should not we?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

It is a matter of consultation with the countries in the area, particularly Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the Rulers. I think I should like to answer the hon. Gentleman's question at a later date when, as I hope, we are successful in finding a solution.

Mr. Mayhew

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the difficulties in forming the federation to which he referred is uncertainty as to what, if anything, the British Government are going to do about the presence of British troops in the Gulf, and that this uncertainty leads to important decisions being dodged? May I ask him, therefore, when some Minister is going to visit the Gulf, or, alternatively, whom we have in the Gulf at the moment, at a high level, to cope with this important situation?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes. Quite shortly, I hope, the right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the plans I have made in this direction.

Captain W. Elliot

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that stability induced by a British presence in this area benefits not only this country but all other countries as well?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes, all the countries in the area of the Gulf are interested in political stability. The question is what kind of security arrangements they want to make, and, in particular, after, as we hope, a federation is formed.

59. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received in the past month from the rulers of Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Bahrein, respectively, regarding the retention of a British military presence in the Gulf after 1971.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I am in continual and close contact with all the Rulers in the Persian Gulf through Her Majesty's Political Resident and Political Agents. It would not be right for me to divulge the content of confidential exchanges with any of the Gulf Rulers.

Mr. Wilkinson

What rôle does my right hon. Friend envisage British forces playing in that area in the immediate future?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We have to discuss with the Rulers of the Gulf, the Shah of Iran and King Feisal of Saudi Arabia what will be the political structure in the Gulf. We hope that it will be a Federal structure and a union of Arab Emirates. Then we shall have to discuss what security system they feel is necessary to support that union.

Mr. Healey

As the Saudi Arabian Government have recently reasserted certain claims as regards the frontiers between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, what steps is the right hon. Gentleman taking to achieve a peaceful solution of this dispute, and what military obligations have Her Majesty's Government if they fail?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

As regards the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, we are taking such steps as we can through diplomatic channels to help settle these disputes. As to exact obligations in respect of that dispute, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to table another Question.

60. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what approaches have been made by the Trucial States to Her Majesty's Government in the past month regarding the provision of arms, military equipment or training.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

It is not the practice to disclose details of approaches of this kind from other Governments.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does my right hon. Friend believe that the best contribution that Her Majesty's Government could make in this area, as they have in the past, would be to build up the indigenous capacity in air defence and the Trucial Scouts which would be effective against Saudi Arabia?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The Trucial Scouts have played a very useful rôle up to now. What their rôle will be in any future political settlement remains to be seen and is a matter for discussion.