HC Deb 17 June 1971 vol 819 c621
13. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Minister of State for Defence what action officers commanding Her Majesty's ships on the Beira Patrol are instructed by him to take in the event of their instructions being ignored by merchant ships under foreign flags; and in what circumstances these officers have authority to open fire.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Peter Kirk)

As my right hon. Friend will understand, it is not the practice to give details of the instructions issued to officers commanding Her Majesty's ships.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In the light of my hon. Friend's statement three weeks ago that we were required by the United Nations resolution to maintain this patrol, can he at least tell the House whether his interpretation of that requirement also involves the use of force if the blockade is run?

Mr. Kirk

I made it quite plain to my right hon. Friend on that occasion that interpretation rests with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has already stated to the House that Her Majesty's Government consider that they are pledged to conform to the resolution.

Mr. Greville Janner

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the only firing which has taken place against merchant shipping in recent times has been the piratical attack on the tanker "Coral Sea" last week? Will he state the Government's unqualified condemnation of that attack and others like it?

Mr. Kirk

That is another question.