HL Deb 25 October 1966 vol 277 cc199-200

2.42 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows;

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps have been taken to protect freedom of passage through the Straits of Perim for the shipping of all nations after the redeployment of the British Forces from Aden.]


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government regard these Straits as an international waterway, through which, under International Law, ships of all nations have a right of innocent passage. In these circumstances, there is no need for Her Majesty's Government to take steps to protect freedom of passage after the withdrawal of British forces from Aden.


My Lords, is it to be inferred from the noble Lord's reply that there is no likelihood of a situation developing in this area, as in the case of Egypt refusing the passage of Israeli ships, contrary to international commitments?


My Lords, it is our expectation that there will be no such interference.


My Lords, is passage through the Suez Canal not protected by International Law in exactly the same way, and has it not proved entirely ineffectual for the purpose in the case of Israeli ships?


My Lords, from the technical, legal point of view, the noble Lord is perfectly correct, but from the geographical point of view, in view of the ownership of the land on either side of these Straits, the situation is completely different.


My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government fully alive to the fact that any interference with the free passage of shipping in the southern end of the Red Sea could have enormous international repercussions and gravely damage British interests? Could not even now a patrol of ships of the peace-loving Powers, such as France, Italy, the United States and ourselves, be organised under the ægis of the United Nations, and be sent over to that area immediately after our withdrawal from Aden?


My Lords, as my noble friend has suggested, this is a matter for the United Nations, and I am quite sure that they would be prepared to act in the event of any threat to the free passage of ships through the Straits.