HL Deb 07 July 1964 vol 259 cc950-6

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, I think that it might be for your Lordships' convenience if I repeated a Statement being made by my right honourable friend in another place on Aden. I will make the statement in his own words:

"At the Conference which ended on July 4, the representatives of the Federation of South Arabia decided radically to reshape the Constitution on democratic lines. A White Paper, setting out the conclusions reached, is being printed and will, I hope, be available to-morrow.

"The new Constitution will provide for a Legislature, consisting of a Council of States, composed of one representative from each State, and a National Assembly, whose members will be chosen, wherever possible, by direct popular elections. In those parts where tribal conditions make this impracticable, there will, at first, be indirect elections through electoral colleges. An independent commission will advise where and when the system of direct elections can be introduced.

"There will be a constitutional President, elected by the Legislature; and the present rotating chairman will be replaced by a Prime Minister, who will be dependent upon the support of a Parliamentary majority.

"Certain other changes were also agreed, the effect of which will be to give the States a greater say in matters relating to internal security and in the control of the Security Forces.

"The delegates unanimously requested that the Federation should have independence not later than 1968 and that Britain should continue thereafter to retain her military base in Aden for the defence of the Federation and the fulfilment of her world-wide responsibilities. On behalf of the British Government, I agreed to this request and I undertook that we would, at the appropriate time, convene a conference to fix a date for independence and to conclude the necessary defence agreement.

"The British Government agreed that the constitutional status of Aden, which is at present a Crown Colony, should be raised to that of the other members of the Federation, which are Protected States. Sovereignty in respect of Aden will be transferred in part to the Federation and in part to Aden, in accordance with the distribution of functions between the Federal and State authorities. As soon as practicable after the Aden elections this autumn, a meeting will be convened to agree upon the arrangements for the transfer and upon any further constitutional changes which may be necessary.

"What was in any case bound to be a difficult negotiation was made more difficult by the activities of one of the delegates, the Sultan of Fadhli, who, by the offer of bribes, tried to induce other delegates to break up the Conference. When he saw that his efforts were unsuccessful, he flew to Cairo, where he made a number of completely false statements to which I feel obliged to refer.

"He said that at the Conference he had demanded that the United Nations Resolutions on Aden should be implemented. He never said a word about this. He said that he had called for the removal of the British base in Aden. On the contrary, he presented a paper to the Conference proposing the retention of the British base after Independence. He said he had asked for the grant of immediate Independence. In fact, he proposed that there should be Independence not later than 1969, though he subsequently accepted the earlier date of 1968. He accused my right honourable friend the Prime Minister of having deceived Parliament about the supply of arms and money to the Royalists. That is, of course, totally untrue.

"I hope the House will forgive me for having dealt in such detail with these allegations. But, in view of the world-wide publicity which they have received, I thought it necessary to refute them unequivocally.

"During the course of the Conference three more States in South Arabia applied to join the Federation and were admitted to membership.

"As I have already explained to the House, we recognise the importance of economic as well as political advance. Therefore, at the end of the Conference I invited the Federal Minister of Finance, and one or two other members of the Federal Government, to remain on in London to discuss with us proposals for increased aid.

"The constitutional changes which were agreed at this Conference represent a decisive step in the political evolution of the Federation and will undoubtedly make a significant contribution to the unity and progress of the inhabitants of South Arabia."

3.53 p.m.


My Lords, we are much obliged to the noble Marquess for giving us this important Statement with regard to the Conference concerning the South Arabian Federation. It is good to learn that there was such a measure of agreement in the proceedings so far as they have been carried on up to the present. There appears to be hope for the future in this matter, and we hope that the subsequent negotiations will be successful. There still remains the question of clearing up what will be the actual position of the Aden territory within the Federation at Independence, but, from the Statement, it seems to be all right. I must say, on behalf of the Opposition, that we welcome the apparent willingness of the South Arabian Federation to see the retention by the British of the base at Aden, which we regard as most important.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Marquess for repeating the statement made in another place. May I ask him, now that this decision has been arrived at, whether the British Government will do everything in their power to bring the level of economic and constitutional advance in the South Arabian States up to that of Aden's? As he knows, at the moment there is a considerable lack of balance between the two, and this is worrying the people of Aden. Secondly, may I ask him whether the States of the East Aden Protectorate are also coming into the Federation. There is an indication in the Statement that three other States have joined. Are these in fact the States of the East Aden Protectorate; and, if so, are they now all in, or will they all be in? Thirdly, may I ask him something about that colourful character the Sultan of Fadhli? What is the present constitutional position of the Sultan? I understand he is now at the court of Nasser. Is he going to remain there; or what will his position be if he tries to resume his post as Sultan of Fadhli?


My Lords, may I ask a supplementary question, following the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, with regard to the defection of the Sultan of Fadhli? Is it not the case that the State of Fadhli pretty well straddles all the communications from the base of Aden outwards to the Federation? Is that not of immense strategic importance? Is it also true that members of the Sultan's Legislative Council, and or tribal leaders, are about to join him in Cairo? If he should succeed in turning them to his ideas, might not the situation assume disquieting proportions? And what action are Her Majesty's Government taking to deal with the situation?


My Lords, may I supplement the questions that have just been asked by the two noble Lords by asking the noble Marquess whether, in view of the fact that the Sultan has said he wants to take his State out of the Federation, he has the power to do so; whether, in the present Constitution of the Federation, there is any power for any State to secede? I should like to ask one further question. Have the Federal Ministers expressed a view as to whether the Federation will stay in the Commonwealth after it becomes independent, or is that a matter that will be decided at a later stage?


My Lords, could the noble Marquess tell us—


My Lords, perhaps I might answer the questions that have so far been put to me.


My point is on Lord Ogmore's question.


Order, order!


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl who leads the Opposition for his remarks about the agreement so far reached. As regards the question put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, on raising the level of the economic position of the other States outside Aden, I hope that in the statement of my right honourable friend it was made clear that this was a matter which would be given early and earnest attention by the Government.

As to the second question put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, about the other States the position is that at the moment there are altogether fourteen States in the Federation. Three more have asked to come in, to which I have referred, and one more has been invited to come in. That brings it up to the total number of eighteen States which are in the West Aden Protectorate. So far as the East Aden Protectorate is concerned, it comprises three States—Qu'iti, Kathiri and Mahra—and they have now all been invited to join. So it is our hope that all the States will before long be members of this Federation.

The noble Lords, Lord Ogmore, Lord Sandwich and Lord Listowel, all put questions to me about the position of the Sultan of Fadhli. I want to be absolutely precise about this matter. The Sultan of Fadhli is a constitutional Ruler. He is elected by his people in a traditional manner—that is to say, through the tribal leaders—and he can also be deposed by them; and their representatives are no doubt at present considering the situation. The Sultan has said that he intends to withdraw his State from the Federation. But there is, in fact, no provision (and I imagine that the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, was thinking of this) in the Federal Constitution for the secession of any State. This applies to Fadhli, as well.

As for what the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said about the position of the State of Fadhli, it is true that Fadhli is in a very important position, and one cannot deny the facts of geography. As to whether the Sultan of Fadhli is being joined by others in Cairo, I personally have no knowledge of this, and I am unable to reply to that question. I think those are all the points so far raised.


There was the question of the Federation and the Commonwealth.


I beg the noble Earl's pardon; I omitted that. This is a matter which will still have to be discussed.


My Lords, the noble Marquess has said that the Constitution of the Federation contains no provision entitling any State to secede. Then what is the position of a State which says it is going to secede? If none of the other parties to the Federation who are already in it, and those who wish to join, desire to keep that State in, is there then no step which can be taken to make sure that this unconstitutional act by the Ruler of Fadhli does not disrupt the Constitution?


My Lords, of course the State of Fadhli has not asked to secede. This was simply a statement made by the Sultan of Fadhli, declaring that he proposed to take the State out of the Federation. The State of Fadhli has done no such thing.


My Lords, is it not the fact that the reason why the Sultan of Fadhli took this extraordinary action was the decision to have a Prime Minister elected by the Legislature, and not a rotating chairman, so that in future it was highly unlikely that the Sultan of Fadhli would be in the important position he has been in? Is that not in fact the very personal and, I would say, improper reason for the Sultan's action?


My Lords, I should not like to guess at the reason for any of the statements or actions of the Sultan of Fadhli, but I dare say the guess of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, is as good as anybody's.


My Lords, would it not be best on the whole not to go into too much detail in this matter at the moment? I welcome very much the care with which the Secretary of State has exposed the duplicity of this particular Sultan, and I was rather relying upon the words the noble Marquess used just now, that no doubt other people in the State of Fadhli will be considering the position.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Earl.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Marquess could tell us about what proportion of the population will choose its representatives by a system of electoral colleges, and what proportion by direct election.


My Lords, I am not in a position to give a reply to that question. I think it is possible that in some of the States both systems may have to apply. In the urban areas it will be possible to have direct selections, whereas in the rather sparsely populated, wild, mountainous areas, it may be necessary to have these electoral colleges. But I am afraid I am not in a position to give the noble Lord a breakdown of how this would work out.


My Lords, before the Minister sits down, may I refer to something said by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, about future development in the States? I think this is immensely important. The noble Marquess said that this was going to have the attention of Her Majesty's Government. I should like to put it to the noble Marquess that it needs more than attention: it needs urgent action and a great deal of money, not only for communications, but for education and everything else. I hope it will not get what is known as "attention". I hope something will be done quickly.


My Lords, I have certainly taken the point of my noble friend, and I will see that my right honourable friend has full knowledge of what has been said.