HC Deb 17 June 1971 vol 819 cc626-7
22. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Minister of State for Defence whether he will make an official visit to Her Majesty's forces in the Gulf, and in the Mozambique Channel.

Lord Balniel

I have no plans to do so at present.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Would not such a visit provide for my hon. Friend an interesting contrast between British troops doing a very good job and British troops who are unfortunately detained on a futile farce? Will my hon. Friend assure me that the withdrawal of British forces from the Gulf will not depend upon a timetable but will depend upon the maintenance of peace, security and British interests in the Gulf?

Lord Balniel

I can assure my hon. Friend that the maintenance of services in that area will be maintained at a level commensurate with our commitments. We are engaged upon the long-term objective of ensuring peace and stability in the area. It is that question which is being discussed at this very moment.

Mr. George Thomson

Can the noble Lord do something to dissuade the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) and hon. Members opposite who feel like him from continually undermining the morale of the Royal Navy on an operation which it performs with great efficiency and effectiveness?

Lord Balniel

That question coming from an hon. Member opposite about maintaining the morale of the Navy almost beggars description. I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) has lowered the morale of the Navy one iota. My hon. Friend has pointed to the fact that it is undertaking a responsibility which it has been called on to perform by the United Nations. It will continue to do so until such time as an acceptable negotiated conclusion has been reached to this problem.

Captain W. Elliot

Can my noble Friend confirm that the Beira Patrol was designed in order to stop oil and petrol from reaching Rhodesia? What is the supply position of petrol in Rhodesia at present? Is my noble Friend aware that petrol is cheaper there than it is in Britain?

Lord Balniel

I am aware of that fact and that petrol rationing has been abolished in Rhodesia. This is surely a very small issue compared with the far greater and more important issue of achieving a negotiated settlement between Rhodesia and Britain. All must be subordinated to that wider objective.