HL Deb 11 May 1964 vol 258 cc26-7

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, I will, with your permission, now answer the Question which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked earlier to-day: To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a further statement on the operations in the Federation of Southern Arabia.

My right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Defence, in answer to a Question in another place, said:

"No military engagements of any consequence have occurred during the last few days. Traffic is moving freely on the Aden/Dhala road. The initial objective of the operation has therefore been achieved. The present phase of the operation is one of consolidation and reconnaissance in the area to the East of the road, where positions are still held by hostile tribesmen. As the House knows, my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary is in Aden now discussing the situation with the High Commissioner and the Commander-in-Chief. I do not think there is anything that I can usefully add until he has reported on his visit."


My Lords, we are grateful for that statement. I suppose one can regard the present position as one of unstable equilibrium. At any rate, we all hope there will be equilibrium in time to come. I would ask the noble Lord whether he could say what is the purpose of Mr. Sandys' visit. I see that he is discussing the situation with the High Commissioner and with the Commander in Chief. Will he also have discussions with the Government of Aden and the Government of Southern Arabia? And is it anticipated that he will be returning before the Recess? If so, would the noble Lord undertake to make a statement to this House whatever time he may return —even if it be late on Wednesday—so long as the House is in session?


My Lords, with regard to the noble Lord's first question, I may say that my right honourable friend decided to go to Aden because he had had this visit in mind for some time; but he thought that in view of recent happenings this was a convenient moment to go. As the noble Lord said, he will be discussing the situation not only with the Commander-in-Chief and the High Commissioner but also with the Federation Government and Aden Ministers. I do not know exactly on which day he will return; but I am sure that if Parliament is in lesion when he returns he will most certainly make a statement.


My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend could answer a slightly wider question. Bearing in mind the alarming, tendentious and dangerous nature of the speeches now being made in Cairo by Mr. Khrushchev and President Nasser, may I ask whether British propaganda is answering those speeches over the international radio networks? Can the Government say what active steps are being taken to show, for example, that the standard of living in the Arab lands in association with Britain—Southern Arabia, the Persian Gulf and elsewhere—is far higher than that in the Soviet Union and in Egypt, and is some beneficent result of our presence in that part of the world to the people inhabiting it?


My Lords, I take my noble friend's point. Of course, the British point of view is put over by the B.B.C. in their Arabic services; but I will certainly consider what he has said and look into the content of those broadcasts.