HC Deb 04 May 1970 vol 801 cc10-1
3. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on the formation of the Union of Arab Emirates in relation to British military dispositions in the Gulf.

Mr. M. Stewart

Since the foundation of the Union in February, 1968, the Rulers themselves have held a number of meetings and various specialised committees have been set up. As regards British military dispositions in the Gulf, it remains Her Majesty's Government's policy to complete the withdrawal from the Gulf by the end of 1971.

Mr. Marten

Bearing in mind that stability in that area is of absolutely prime importance, particularly at this time, should not the Government give an assurance that if the Union of Emirates is not satisfactorily set up by the end of 1971 they would have to reconsider the decision to withdraw?

Mr. Stewart

No. I think any announcement of a decision of that kind would not promote the setting up of the Union, and it is the setting up of the Union on which the hopes for the future stability of this area must be based.

Mr. Mayhew

Would the Foreign Secretary agree that nothing could upset stability more than to know that there would be a postponement of the commitment that British troops are to be withdrawn, and what is the Foreign Secretary doing to persuade all those concerned that there is no prospect whatever of hon. and right hon. Members opposite forming a Government, and that even if they did they would not carry out the policy they are now committed to?

Mr. Stewart

I think that the last part of my hon. Friend's question is probably self-evident to the people in the region already. I agree with him that for us to announce a change of policy now would be the last thing that would be helpful.

Mr. Lambton

Would the Foreign Secretary not agree that there appears now a danger that the Union may not be formed by 1971?

Mr. Stewart

Well, of course, there is that possibility. There are a great many difficulties about it, but I think that the progress which has been made in solving the problem of Bahrain is a good augury for the future.

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