HC Deb 18 December 1973 vol 866 cc1117-9
1. Mr. Edward Taylor

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a further statement about the Beira Patrol.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Antony Buck)

We are continuing to fulfil our obligation under the Security Council resolution to prevent the arrival at Beira of vessels reasonably believed to be carrying oil destined for Southern Rhodesia.

Mr. Taylor

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that the Beira Patrol will be included in the defence cuts announced yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Does he not agree that it is a piece of nonsense, and an insult to British industry which is now working a three-day week, that we should continue this pointless exercise—an exercise that achieves nothing since the Arab countries have said that they are sending no oil to Southern Africa?

Mr. Buck

My hon. Friend will appreciate that we are still bound by the United Nations resolution of 9th April 1966; but those on patrol will do all they can to conserve fuel.

Mr. Peart

Will the Minister reject the blandishments of his hon. Friends, because a moral obligation is involved and we are committed to the United Nations? [Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen want anarchy they will get it, but we have made an arrangement and entered into an agreement.

Mr. Buck

What I have said covers the point. The resolution continues in force and we shall do all we can to conserve fuel.

Mr. Goodhew

While the Navy is undertaking this work, can it not at the same time do something useful—that is to say, keep observation on the potential threat to this country of the activities of the Russian fleet in that area?

Mr. Buck

Observations of that character are indeed carried out by our ships in the area.

15. Mr. Rost

asked the Minister of State for Defence what is the annual cost and fuel consumption of the Beira Patrol.

Mr. Buck

I refer my hon. Friend to my answer on 14th December. It is not possible to quantify the costs of this operation compared with the costs of the duties on which the ships might otherwise have been engaged.—[Vol. 866, c. 206–7.]

Mr. Rost

As the Beira Patrol must now be desperately in need of a change of scenery, would it not be appropriate to end this farce and, in view of the national emergency, move the patrol to British home waters where it could blockade the tankers which are diverting oil which is desperately needed in England to more profitable markets overseas?

Mr. Buck

That is a rather large issue. As to a change of venue, this patrol is one of the many tasks carried out on a rotational basis by Royal Navy ships, east of the Cape, and the ships would not be idle if the Beira Patrol were discontinued.

Mr. Peart

Is the Minister aware that some hon. Members resent the practice of sniping at Service men who are engaged on this important task?

Mr. Buck

I had not appreciated that there was any sniping at the Service men involved in this task.

Mr. Marten

As our so-called partners in the Common Market are some of the biggest sanction-busters regarding Rhodesia, will my hon. Friend ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to ask the Council of Ministers to make a contribution to the cost of oil used on the Beira Patrol?

Mr. Buck

I shall confine myself to saying that I shall see that the words of my hon. Friend are recorded and reported to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Conservative Members who consistently attack the Beira Patrol swore an oath of allegiance to the Crown? Does he agree that the patrol is doing its best to bring down a rebellion against the Crown? Are not some hon. Members engaged in a measure of treachery?

Mr. Buck

Nobody doubts the loyalty of my hon. Friends to the Crown. I am sure that the same can be said of Labour Members.

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