§ 30. Mr. Wilkinson
asked the Minister of State for Defence whether he will make a statement about the rôle of British forces in the Gulf.
§ 9. Mr. Biggs-Davison
asked the Minister of State for Defence whether he will make a statement about defence commitments in Southern Arabia and the Gulf.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour
We no longer have any formal defence commitments in the Gulf. We continue to maintain close and friendly links through treaties of friendship with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar. We also provide assistance by helping to train the forces of a number of countries in the area—for example Kuwait—and by loaning personnel for service with them. In Southern Arabia, British Service men are on loan to the Government of Oman and assist in training the Sultan's forces.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
I welcome that reply. Can my hon. Friend assure us that, as defence co-operation is increasing between interested countries in the area such as Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, with which we have friendly relations, he will in no way diminish the British presence? In particular, at a time of economic stringency and when patrols are having to be mounted off Iceland, will he assure us that the British naval presence in those areas will not be diminished?
§ Mr. Gilmour
I can assure my hon. Friend that we certainly have no plans to diminish our presence there.