HC Deb 25 July 1973 vol 860 cc1614-6

Mr. Dalyell (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the safety of British subjects in Cambodia.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)

My present information is that there is no immediate danger to British subjects in Cambodia, but the situation around the capital, Phnom Penh, is becoming more uncertain. It is possible that the airport may become insecure.

The British Ambassador is therefore arranging the departure of Embassy wives and dependants and certain non-essential staff on the next commercial flight to Bangkok. He is also telling British subjects that they should similarly think carefully about their own position and should consider leaving now while civil flights are operating normally.

Mr. Dalyell

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is as appalled as anyone at the misery being inflicted on people in Phnom Penh. Those of us who have been there in happier times will have sympathy with the Khmer people. What is the British position in relation to our obligations to Cambodia under the previous agreements? Furthermore, can we be certain that representations have been made to the United States Government asking why they are continuing the deluge of bombing when they know that it will be counterproductive because of what has happened in the United States Senate?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I share the 7 ton. Gentleman's anxieties about the situation there and about the situation of people who find themselves in Phom Penh, although I hope that they will get out safely. As regards our position, we are members still of the Control Corn-mission, and I am joint chairman with Mr. Gromyko. But the Russians have refused to operate this piece of machinery. All foreign troops were supposed to withdraw from Cambodia according to the Paris agreements. This has not been done. As for the American bombing, it looked as though Phnom Penh would be cut off without the Mekong River route, and it was directed to keeping that open.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

May we take it that the area of uncertainty and possible danger in the immediate future is round the capital and that generally in the country there is no serious anxiety about the fate of British subjects? About how many British subjects are involved in this situation and how many are non-Embassy staff?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

This is a comparatively small problem. There are 50 British subjects including dependants and the staff of our Embassy in Phnom Penh. There are very few outside Phnom Penh. It is a problem, in other words, which can be handled quite well. But we do not want the situation to deteriorate to a point where they may not be able to get out.