§ 2.41 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD SHACKLETON)
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Aden, Perim and Kuria Muria Islands Bill, has consented 5 to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Your Lordships will recall that on June 19 I made a Statement in your Lordships' House, and that I then set out certain steps which the Government had decided upon with a view to the implementation of our policy in South Arabia. Let me deal first, briefly, with that Statement. There has been some misunderstanding about the objects of this policy and of the package announced on June 19. Our objectives in South Arabia, as I said then, quoting from the Foreign Secretary in another place, can be described in a sentence:We intend to withdraw our military forces in an orderly way and to establish an independent South Arabia in January, 1968" (col. 1201).These two objectives are to a large extent interdependent. We have thus announced our intention of granting independence on January 9 and of withdrawing completely from South Arabia by then. This is our first objective and is a firm decision. We shall not leave any British troops behind after independence, nor will ground troops be sent to South Arabia after independence to resist external aggression or internal subversion.
The purpose of the naval task force and of the V-bomber force at Masirah is related to our second objective: the establishment of a stable Government to take South Arabia into independence. The aircraft from the carrier force and the V-bombers will be used only in the event of external aggression and they are formidable enough to represent a powerful deterrent to such aggression. Noble Lords may, like others, believe that external aggression is not likely. If this is true, so much the better. I must say that I am inclined to rate the risk not very high, but, as I found when I was in South Arabia, there is a general and deeply felt fear in South Arabia of the Egyptians in the Yemen; and this is understandable in view of the violent propaganda on Cairo, Sanaa and Tais radios and Egyptian military methods, including the use of poison gas. It is therefore not to be wondered at that there is anxiety. It is to provide reassurance against this fear 6 that we are providing a deterrent force, so that the South Arabians can concentrate on their problems, which are difficult enough, reassured from the paralysing fear of Egyptian attack.
South Arabia needs not only assurance against external aggression but also the means to deal with its own internal security problems. Any independent country has to be able to do this, and a stable or effective Government cannot be expected in South Arabia unless both the people and the Government have confidence that the Government and the forces at its disposal will be able to protect them. This is the purpose of the defence aid we are giving them, including the considerable additional aid which I described to your Lordships previously. As the country responsible for South Arabia's security up to now, it is our responsibility to equip them with security forces for their independence. The scale of assistance may be more than should normally he needed for security purposes, but it is necessary in present South Arabian conditions, in which most of the difficulties arise from a campaign of subversion, violence and dissidence, inspired, financed and increasingly organised from outside.
We believe that the military aid we have promised South Arabia will take care of the military aspects of the situation. I will not go into the events of 20th June, the day after these announcements were made, and the events in Crater after that. They were certainly nothing to do with the announcement of that particular policy. They have been described in the Press and in Statements in another place and here. I should only like to say that the difficulties in the South Arabian army and police had nothing to do with our policy, but arose partly from tribal and personal difficulties resulting from the necessarily rather rapid build-up of the South Arabian forces and partly from the tensions and distrust caused by the Arab defeat in the Arab—Israel War and the great lie about British involvement. There is no reason to think the South Arabian forces will not settle down to work harmoniously together in the months before independence. Due to the highly successful policy of the High Commissioner and the military authorities, who worked very closely together at all times, and to the 7 skill, restraint and courage of the British troops involved, the Crater situation has once more been brought under full British control with an absolute minimum of bloodshed. Far from undermining our policy the events of the last three weeks illustrate, I think, the dangers (I apologise for saying it again, but it cannot be said too often) of a Congo situation, which is precisely what we are trying to prevent.
I have left to last our policy on the political front, not because it is not important—on the contrary it is most important—but because it is where our continuing efforts are and must be concentrated. We must give military aid to the South Arabian Government in order to give to it and the people of South Arabia sufficient confidence to work together to build up their country, but at the same time we are very conscious that that Government must be as representative as possible. Noble Lords know of the many efforts we have made to bring into being a broader-based Government, both through the United Nations and by trying to get into direct touch with the more extremist nationalist Parties. I have myself made a number of attempts in this direction, and we have said that we are ready at any time to talk to them without pre-conditions. The fault hitherto for any lack of progress has lain with the leaders of those Parties, and not with us. But Mr. Hussein Bayoomi is now, as noble Lords know, trying at the request of the Supreme Council to create a new provisional Government which will include as many elements of South Arabian opinion as possible. It is worth noting that Mr. Bayoomi, whom I know well, is an Adeni Minister and not a State Ruler.
It is too early to say what will ultimately emerge, but I am not unhopeful of an eventual settlement. When I say that I am not unhopeful, I mean that I personally am not unhopeful. I think that the extremist organisations will see where both their interests and that of South Arabia lie: that is, in peaceful settlement and not in continuing terrorism from which they and South Arabia suffer most of all, and particularly not in the murders that have taken place of members of the different Parties. It seems to me that the rivalry for influence between the National Liberation Front and FLOSY 8 may be one of the obstacles to progress and negotiations. Neither organisation can publicly be seen to be more flexible than the other. In these circumstances, the work of the United Nations in bringing about a situation in which all the parties can come together may be all the more important.
I believe that the United Nations still potentially has an essential part to play, and I hope that the meetings which have taken place in New York between members of the United Nations Mission and the FLOSY delegation, led by Mr. Makawee, will achieve progress towards finding a way to bring FLOSY into the Government. The noble Lord, Lord Caradon, is in touch with the United Nations Mission, but noble Lords, will, I am sure, understand if I prefer to say no more at present, although if I am pressed I will try to say a little more in my winding-up.
Whatever Government rules South Arabia on independence day—and I have described the efforts we are making to ensure that it is an effective, broad based and stable Government—South Arabia will become independent on January 9. The Bill, to which I now turn, the Second Reading of which we are taking to-day, is an enabling Bill to give the necessary legislative basis for this.
My Lords, as I have said, it is Her Majesty's Government's policy to bring Aden and the rest of South Arabia to independence on January 9, 1968. There are three territories in South Arabia which have colonial status and it is these we are concerned with in the Bill. These territories are Aden, Perim and the Kuria Muria Islands. The three territories form part of Her Majesty's Dominions and Her Majesty has sovereignty over them. The other territories in South Arabia, the Protectorate of South Arabia and the island of Kamaran, do not form part of Her Majesty's Dominions, and the Bill does not relate to them, since statutory provision is not necessary in order to bring those territories to independence.
The Bill before your Lordships does not lay down the lines of future development in South Arabia. We do not have power to do so. The Federation of South Arabia already exists as a legal entity and our powers in relation to the internal affairs of the Protectorate at large are virtually non-existent. It is important to 9 emphasise this because so many people, including our critics in the nationalist organisations, believe that we actually rule throughout the Federation. This is not so for the greater part of it. Thus it is the South Arabians, and not we, who are primarily responsible for creating their own institutions and form of government though, of course, we can and do seek to influence them in the discharge of our special responsibilities for the three territories which have for so long been part of Her Majesty's Dominions. Aden first became our responsibility in 1839; and Perim in 1857. The then Sultan of Muscat ceded the Kuria Muria Islands to Queen Victoria in 1854.
My Lords, the question of South Arabia is as involved as it is important. Nevertheless, I am happy to say that the Bill itself is straightforward. Its essential intention is to make the necessary provision in our law so that the three territories will cease to be colonial territories. The date for the relinquishment of sovereignty is not specified in the Bill itself because the general circumstances of South Arabia, and in particular the desirability of allowing scope for further constitutional progress before independence, make it wise to leave ourselves some flexibility over the actual date for the surrender of sovereignty. But this does not affect our intention on the date. I will deal with this a little later.
It may help your Lordships if I now deal with the Bill briefly clause by clause. Clause 1 contains the central provisions of the Bill. It provides for the relinquishment of Her Majesty's sovereignty over Aden, Perim and the Kuria Muria Islands. This will be done by providing that on the appointed day these three territories will cease to form part of Her Majesty's Dominions, and that Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom shall thereafter have no responsibility for the government of those territories. This day will be appointed by Order in Council.
When the Bill was considered in another place, it was proposed that there should be provision for separate appointed days in relation to each of the three territories. It was suggested, and it is an argument which commands respect, that the future of at least one of the territories, namely, Perim, may 10 not best lie with South Arabia; that it may be possible to achieve its internationalisation; and that Her Majesty's Government should retain some flexibility so that if internationalisation could be effected within a reasonably short time of the independence of South Arabia as a whole, there would be power to retain Perim as part of Her Majesty's Dominions until that could be achieved. Her Majesty's Government accept this proposition and we will do all that we can to achieve the internationalisation of Perim. We have no intention of retaining responsibility for Perim after the date of relinquishment of sovereignty over Aden, but we are prepared not to be bound by having only one appointed day. I therefore propose to put forward Amendments, the effect of which will be to enable us to have separate appointed days in relation to each of the three territories, and these days could then be appointed by separate Orders should this be necessary.
Clause 2 and the Schedule make modifications to the British Nationality Acts. These modifications follow those usually made when colonial territories cease to be such. Subsection (1) of Clause 2 gives effect to the Schedule. Paragraph 1 of the Schedule provides for the loss of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by persons who, by virtue of their connection with one of the three territories, or with a territory of which one of the three territories forms part on independence, possesses on a day to be designated a nationality or citizenship to be specified. Your Lordships may like to know that the Federal Government have just enacted a law which will ensure that South Arabia, including Aden, will have its own citizenship by independence. The law is of a liberal kind and fairly comparable to the citizenship provisions of other emergent Commonwealth countries. I will try to arrange for a copy of this law to be made available in due course in your Lordships' Library.
The Bill also provides power to specify formally a date for the change of citizenship in United Kingdom law to match the change at local law. A citizen of the United Kingdom who on the designated day possesses citizenship of the United 11 Kingdom and Colonies through his connection with the newly independent State will thus lose his United Kingdom citizenship. This is normal practice. There are, of course, certain exceptions which I will deal with in a moment.
Paragraph 2 of the Schedule provides that a woman will not be able to acquire citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by virtue of her marriage to a person who ceases to be a United Kingdom citizen, or would have ceased to be one had he lived, by virtue of paragraph 1. This paragraph does not deprive anyone of United Kingdom citizenship; it merely curtails the right to acquire citizenship in the future. In paragraph 3, sub-paragraphs (1) and (2), which we have to read with sub-paragraph (6) of paragraph 3 of the Schedule, provide that persons who possess citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies because of a close connection with this country or a remaining British dependent territory shall not lose their citizenship under paragraph 1. Sub-paragraph (3) contains a further exception. A person who is ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom or a remaining British dependency would retain his British status. Subparagraph (4) provides that a married woman who would otherwise lose her citizenship under the Schedule shall not do so if her husband does not do so.
My Lords, to return to the main part of the Bill, subsection (2) of Clause 2 amends the definition of "Governor" in the British Nationality Act. When, in 1963, the title of "Governor of Aden" was changed to that of "High Commissioner for Aden and the Protectorate of South Arabia" some doubt arose as to whether the High Commissioner was covered by that Act in relation to the Protectorate of South Arabia. The purpose of this provision is therefore to put beyond doubt the validity of certain registrations and naturalisations made by the High Commissioner since 1963.
Subsection (3) extends the nationality provisions as part of the law of the associated States in the West Indies. When I first read this, I thought it was rather a mysterious association, but the United Kingdom and the West Indies associated States share a common citizenship law. It is necessary to keep the laws of both 12 places in line, and this is what subsection (3) does. It would, after all, be anomalous for a person to lose his United Kingdom citizenship under the law of the United Kingdom, but to remain a United Kingdom citizen under the law of the associated States of the West Indies.
Clause 3 gives power to make modifications by Order in Council of other statutory provisions in consequence of the relinquishment of sovereignty over the three territories. A provision of this kind is usual where colonial territories cease to be such, and any Orders made under this clause will, by virtue of Clause 6(2), be subject to annulment by Resolution of either House of Parliament.
Clause 4 gives power to make regulations for the purpose of giving effect to arrangements made in connection with the winding up of the Aden Widows' and Orphans' Pension Fund. When it became clear that Aden was moving towards independence representations were made by the Board of Management about the future of the Fund, which was established in 1949 on the basis of contributions paid by subscribers and by the Aden Government. As a result of discussions between all concerned, the Fund is going to be converted into a scheme by legislation. Existing subscribers may like to transfer to the scheme, or to withdraw their interest in the Fund by accepting a lump sum. Overseas officers (who are defined in relation to the Overseas Service Aid Scheme) are being given the further option of transferring their interest in the Fund to the United Kingdom Exchequer, instead of remaining in the scheme. I will, if your Lordships wish, go into further detail in Committee on this point, but I think the arrangements are satisfactory and take care of the due interests of all concerned.
Subsection (1) gives the Minister of Overseas Development the power to make regulations for the payment of pensions, and if necessary to make payments by way of a lump sum or return of contributions, and to pay interest on contributions. Subsection (2) deals with the payment of contributions, and it defines those who will be eligible to make those contributions. Subsection (3) provides that any pension, lump sum, or refund of contributions shall be paid out of monies voted by Parliament. Subsection (4) provides that the power to make regulations under this 13 clause shall be exercisable by Statutory Instrument, subject to annulment by either House of Parliament. Subsection (5), again, is a technical one defining certain of the words, "The Aden Widows' and Orphans' Pension Fund".
Clause 5 is, again, technical, because it deals with pending appeals to Her Majesty in Council. At the present time, appeals lie from the Supreme Court of Aden to the Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa, and thence to the Privy Council. In certain cases, appeals may also lie from the Federal High Court to the Privy Council. This clause gives power to make Orders in Council providing for the continuance and disposal of pending appeals after independence by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
My Lords, there are a number of other supplementary provisions, which I do not think I need go into. Behind this technical little Bill still lie tremendous problems which must be solved, and I certainly do not underestimate the difficulties facing South Arabia in the months before independence. But we are determined to do all we can to help her to overcome them, and I would again as I do not think we can too often do this—like to mention the British expatriates in South Arabia, who are doing a particularly valuable job in extremely difficult conditions in maintaining the administrative and economic life of the country. It is vital to the success of independence that there should be enough stability for these ex-patriates to remain. And then again, the British troops, whose courage and restraint and good sense, in circumstances which at times may have seemed to us, as well as to them, to be intolerable—these have greatly contributed to make political progress possible, when it has been only too easy (and we have had an example of this recently) to destroy any hope of such progress by hasty or ill-considered actions. I will, if your Lordships wish, deal with the present situation, and I hope to answer any questions about certain of the security issues that have arisen recently.
The British Government are completely sincere in their desire for a political settlement in South Arabia, and we will pursue this objective until we leave. I believe that the present Federal Government are also sincere in wishing for a 14 settlement. If only we could look for some meeting of minds from the leaders of the more extreme national elements, I am convinced it would not be difficult to reach a settlement which would be acceptable to all parties; which would give them the influential role in the development of their country which I know, from my knowledge of some of the members, they are well fitted to undertake. There are public-spirited men among them. But we are in this terrible situation—a situation which has happened all too often—in which the sides have lined up and it is almost impossible to bring them together. It will not be a sign of weakness—rather, in my view, it will be a sign of strength—if we are able to talk to them and get a solution which will lead to a stable and peaceful South Arabia.
Time is short for fixing a firm date for independence. We have demonstrated that we are going, and that our only interest in South Arabia is to leave behind a peaceful and stable country. It is up to those whose country it is to realise that they have more to gain for the sake of their country, not from fighting each other, or us, because soon we shall not be there for them to fight, but in working together. I am convinced, from my knowledge of Sir Humphrey Trevelyan and the splendid and courageous work he is doing out there, that he, for one, will do his utmost to bring this about; and I am sure that your Lordships would wish him, and all those faced with this, at times, agonising problem the good luck that they need and which so many of them have so well deserved. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Shackleton.)
§ 3.8 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has rightly put this Bill, with its quite limited objectives, in the more general context of our policies towards the Middle East and towards South Arabia. I wish for a moment, at least, to return the compliment and cast just a glance at our general policies in the area, before returning to the specifics of this particular Bill. I hope that the noble Lord will take it as a compliment that, had it not been for his two visits to Aden; had it not been 15 for the changes in policy which flowed from these visits; had it not been, above all, for the package deal announced by the Foreign Secretary in another place on June 19, the criticisms which I am about to make of the Government's handling of these extremely intractable—and I am the first to admit that they are very intractable—problems in South Arabia would have been a great deal more severe.
But I believe, my Lords, that the Government in fact perpetrated two cardinal errors. The first was an error of commission, which was to couple the inherited policy of independence for South Arabia with their then new decision to abandon the Aden base and to back down on the proposed defence treaty with the independent Government of South Arabia. From that initial mistake much avoidable mischief has flowed. We may perhaps never know—or at least not for a long time—whether, but for that decision, President Nasser would have gone back on his agreement on the Yemen with King Feisal of Saudi Arabia. All we do know, and I am quite certain of this, is that this wilful decision made it inevitable that Nasser would seek to maintain an Egyptian military presence in the Yemen.
The second result (and I hold this to be equally attributable to our decision to withdraw) has been a marked increase in terrorism in Aden itself. But, of course, this decision, in making naked the infirmity of purpose and the lack of resolution of the British Government of that time, has done a great deal to weaken and to undermine our general policies and position in the Middle East as a whole.
The second mistake was an error of omission, and that omission was to leave the Middle East and South Arabia as it were suspended while we failed to decide—or at least to announce—our future policies towards South Arabia. This drift served only to exacerbate the mounting chaos in Aden and the Protectorate. It seemed, indeed, until recently that this last major act of de-colonialisation on our part would take place in shameful and humiliating circumstances. That being so, it would be churlish of me, speaking from these Benches, not to welcome the radical changes in policy underlying the 16 "package deal" announced by the Foreign Secretary on June 19. Given the mistakes of the past and the long period of drift, it will not be easy to retrieve the position; but at least the new policies represent a comprehensible and comprehensive approach to the problems of South Arabia. They hang together and, if followed through, may well point the way forward; and in so far as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has played a major part in making these new policies possible we are greatly in his debt.
Given the noble Lord's knowledge of these issues, I should like to take the opportunity of putting a number of questions to him touching on the so-called "package deal". I believe most of us would agree that if at all possible the basis of the Federal Government must be broadened in the period between now and independence. I noted the noble Lord's relative optimism about this and I hope sincerely that it is justified. We have also noted the remarks made by the Minister of State, Mr. Thomson, about the contacts in New York between Mr. Makawee and the United Nations Commission and between Mr. Makawee and Her Majesty's Government through the noble Lord, Lord Caradon.
When the Minister of State spoke in another place some ten days ago we were led to expect that these contacts were imminent. I gather from what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said in moving the Second Reading that they have in fact been established. Can the noble Lord confirm that this is so, and has Mr. El Asnag been brought into them in some way? And how do Her Majesty's Government relate these possible negotiations or conversations in New York with the negotiations which the Federal Premier, Mr. Bayoomi, and I presume also Sir Humphrey Trevelyan, are carrying out on the spot in an attempt to establish a new provisional Government?
My second series of questions relates to the proposed new Constitution. We have accepted it on behalf of the Colony of Aden. Can the noble Lord tell us how acceptable he judges it is likely to prove to the States of the Protectorate; and, if it proves acceptable, where do we go from there? In the context I am particularly concerned about the three unfederated States in the Eastern Protectorate. I suspect that their failure 17 hitherto to join the Federation is yet another by-product of Her Majesty's Government's original decision to withdraw, and to withdraw without a defence agreement; but I welcome the Government's new proposals for financing the Hadhrami-Beduin Legion. But is this the extent of the protection which we shall afford these three as yet unfederated States in the period after independence when their merger with the Federation may be under negotiation?
I now turn to the internal security position within the Colony of Aden itself. I should like, first of all, to join with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in expressing our admiration for the skill and efficiency which has enabled our re-occupation of Crater to be carried out with an absolute minimum of casualties. It was a very remarkable and skilfully executed operation. Can the noble Lord tell us whether in that operation and in the building-up to it the Commanders on the spot had discretion, or were limitations placed on them in regard to the choice of weapons which they were permitted to use, as has been reported in the Press? Of course, it would be idle to pretend that after this success the internal security position in Aden remains anything but extremely precarious, and in this context I would ask the noble Lord whether he can tell us anything more about Her Majesty's Government's proposals for "phasing in" Federal control rather than British control over internal security. I recognise that as long as sovereignty is not transferred and as long as British troops remain in Aden itself, ultimate control for internal security purposes must vest in us. Nevertheless, the sooner responsibility for day-to-day internal security can be handed over to the Federal authorities and the Federal forces, the better.
Finally, my Lords, there is the question of external protection. I am sure most of your Lordships welcome the change of Government heart announced on June 19, and I am certain the majority of the Members of your Lordships' House welcome the firm, if very belated, decision of Her Majesty's Government that the newly independent South Arabian State should not be left without any external protection. I hope these decisions may lead to the recognition that there is still need for a continuing British military presence in the area. We have 18 our commitments to the South Arabian Government, as has at last been recognised, and we have our existing obligations in the Gulf, where a premature withdrawal and the creation of a quite unnecessary vacuum could set the whole area alight. Therefore I hope the noble Lord can confirm that, apart from the V-bomber force, our continued military presence near South Arabia will not be limited to a precise and rigorously fixed six-months' period, but will be maintained at least until South Arabia becomes a member of the United Nations.
So much for the general point. There is the specific point about the strong naval force which the Government propose to base in South Arabian waters. Of course I appreciate the difficulties in keeping an attack-carrier on station for a long and protracted period. But, my Lords, what if the seventh month turns out to be the critical month, and not one of the first six months? What if the ninth month turns out to be the critical month? Will there be any strong naval force in the area? Are we then to assume that the support of sea-based air power will not be available to the South Arabian States? I hope that the noble Lord can confirm that our planning here will remain more flexible than the Government Statement last month would seem to indicate. Above all, I trust that in all this, in this whole package deal, there will be no wobble. Having now, at long last, decided on their policy, I hope that, just for once, this Government can really stick to it, whatever the difficuties in South Arabia, and they will be considerable, and whatever the pressures, and they also will be considerable, from their own Left Wing.
Turning from the general to the particular, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the clear way in which he has taken us through this Bill, and I should like to make it clear that we welcome it in principle. For a long time now we have favoured the attainment of independence by Aden within the South Arabian Federation. I do not think that anyone who knows the area could ever have entertained any illusion about the ease with which this independence could be achieved. However, I believe, and I have already made this clear, that had we remained in power independence would have been achieved in less dire 19 circumstances than we have witnessed. There are, however a number of questions which I should like to put to the noble Lord and which, depending on his answers, I may wish to explore further in Committee.
In the first place, as he explained, the Bill deals not only with Aden itself but also with a number of offshore islands. It paves the way for the relinquishment of British sovereignty over the island of Perim and the Kuria Muria islands. It does not, as he said, deal with another British possession in the area, Kamaran, because that is a protectorate; but it is caught up, nevertheless, in these complex problems. We are really concerned, therefore, with three island territories here; Kamaran, administered, I think, from Aden, some 200 to 300 miles north off the Yemen coast, very close to the Yemen coast; Perim, in the very jaws of the Gulf of Bab-el-Mandeb between Arabia and Africa; and the Kuria Muria group many hundreds of miles to the east, offshore Muscat and administered, I believe, from Bahrein.
I do not know what is proposed for these three territories by the Government. I shall in a moment be reverting to the proposal for the internationalisation of Perim which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has just ventilated. But your Lordships will see that these three island territories are quite distinct, in population and administration, and, of course, in geography. I therefore welcome the decision of the Government to make separate Orders in Council—and to introduce amendments to that effect—for Perim and the Kuria Muria islands as well as for Aden. I am sure this is a wise decision. But time between now and January is advancing very rapidly, and I hope that the Government can tell us more about their intentions and the ultimate destiny of these islands.
In another place on June 19 the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs made it clear that the Government would arrange for formal consultations to take place with the hundred or so inhabitants of the Kuria Muria group, with the 2,500 or so inhabitants of Kamaran, and with the inhabitants, presumably, of Perim as Nell. Can the noble Lord tell us what their plans for these consultations are? What form will they take? Will the United 20 Nations be involved in them, and when will they be held? And what will happen in the event, possibly unlikely, that the inhabitants of these islands decide that they are best off in their present prosition under British protection or sovereignty? Can he in any event give us an absolute assurance that there will be no question of the transfer of the island of Kamaran to the Yemen against the express wishes of the inhabitants?
My second question relates to Perim itself, and it has in part been answered by the noble Lord. This island is of course by far the most important of these various offshore territories. It commands what in normal times is one of the most important sea lanes in the world to-day. It takes no imagination, therefore, to visualise the danger which could result from Perim falling into ill-disposed hands. There would be obvious danger for Israel, for example. Perim is far more strategically placed than Sharm-el-Sheikh, and command of it would enable Israel to be stifled and without the possibility of retaliation far more effectively than command of Sharm-el-Sheikh. It is in truth, as was said in another place, the stopper in the Red Sea bottle. In such hands control of Perim could be more than a threat to just Israel. It could be a threat to free navigation of any and all the maritime countries. I understand that the South Arabian Government are expecting that Perim will become part of the South Arabian State. The island is also claimed by the Yemen, and that claim was only recently reiterated. Unless some other arrangements can be made, therefore, it is only too possible that the newly independent State will be plunged straight away into a territorial dispute with its northern neighbour.
I should therefore hope that the Government will do everything in their power to see that Perim is placed under United Nations trusteeship. This imaginative solution was urged by my colleagues in another place, both from the Back Benches and from the Front Bench; it has a great deal to commend it, and I am very glad that it has been accepted, at least in principle, by the Government. The Foreign Secretary, in replying to the debate in another place, went out of his way to say that he was going to try extremely hard to see whether some such arrangement could be worked out in the 21 United Nations, and he has indicated since that he is discussing it in the United Nations and with the Federal authorities. Can the noble Lord tell us more about the results of those discussions? I hope that in any event he can confirm that the Foreign Secretary is continuing to bend his very considerable energies to this attractive and imaginative solution for what could otherwise become a dangerous international trouble spot.
My third and final point concerns the degree to which Parliament will be able to supervise and scrutinise in this run-up period to independence the dispositions to be made for our present possessions in South Arabia. I am worried because our discussions on the various stages of this Bill may be our last chance of debating the destiny of these territories before their future is irrevocably decided under an Order in Council. Only Clauses 3 and 5 of the Bill, which deal with relatively minor matters, are subject to the annulment procedure. But not so the all-important Clause 1. I know that the precedents are against me. I believe that there is no case of an Order in Council under an independence Act being subject to parliamentary control. But the Colony of Aden and these offshore territories are being taken to independence in really quite exceptional circumstances. Normally independence comes after full consultation with the peoples concerned, after a Constitution has been agreed, and on the principle of majority rule. But in Aden there have been no free elections, for very understandable reasons. There is no assurance that the Hone-Bell Constitution will commend itself to the people of Aden, although I hope it will. And we certainly cannot say that there is at present in Aden majority rule. If this applies to mainland Aden, it applies with equal force to the offshore islands whose future I have touched upon. The Government themselves have made it clear that they have no precise idea as yet as to their final destiny.
Surely in these quite exceptional circumstances there is a case for departing from the usual procedure. The Foreign Secretary himself has said, in a debate in another place on June 19:It is impossible at this moment to foresee how events may work out, and therefore how the proposals on South Arabia which I am about to make may have to be recon- 22 sidered."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, col. 1126.)Surely in these circumstances it would be right for Parliament to have an opportunity of a further look at, and a further say about, if necessary, the dispositions to be made for Aden, for the offshore colonies, and indeed for Kamaran. Surely this could be fitted in, even if the Government are intent on adhering rigidly to their January 9 dateline, in the period between October and January. I ask the Government seriously to consider this possibility.
One final word. South Arabia is moving to independence in conditions of unparalleled difficulty. Never before—save possibly, I suppose, in the last days of the Palestine mandate; and that in many ways is an unhappy precedent to adduce—have our people on the spot been exposed to such difficulty, such "agonising decision I think was the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. This is imposing a great strain on our troops in Aden and in the Protectorate; it has imposed a great strain and great responsibilities on the British civilians on the spot, upon the businessmen and the administrators. I should like to associate myself with the words of appreciation which the noble Lord has used about the present High Commissioner, Sir Humphrey Trevelyan. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, concluded his speech by paying so well deserved a tribute to our people on the spot in Aden and in the Protectorate. They have our admiration, and it is quite right that they should know it.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, once again we are debating a subject which involves both the interests and the conscience of our ex-Imperial country. I am quite sure that, more especially in this House, our main object should be not to score mere debating points or to criticise the Government for the sake of criticising, but rather to try to arrive at some kind of consensus as regards the best way, or at any rate the least had way, of extricating ourselves with honour from an extremely difficult and, indeed, almost dangerous situation. Having said that, I think I might for one moment legitimately refer to the advice on this problem generally which has been consistently 23 offered from these Benches, advice which I believe has had a certain effect on the outcome of events.
We were the first Party to advocate an early withdrawal by Britain from her various bases in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf; but we always contemplated, as we still do, withdrawal in accordance with a carefully prepared and co-ordinated scheme. So far as Singapore is concerned, we suggested that this should be related to any project which we might agree with the Americans and others for the general defence of Australia and for South East Asia generally. That was in April, 1965, over two years ago. A few months later Mr. Enoch Powell, Shadow Minister of Defence in the Tory Party, made a speech which appeared on the face of it to be rather in harmony with the ideas which I had had the honour to advance, on behalf of the Liberal Party, a few months earlier. That was in October, 1965. Then, finally, Mr. Mayhew, in March, 1966, came down substantially in favour of this thesis, and as a result had to resign and was repudiated by the Government at that time.
But, as we saw it, there was no point in simply evacuating a base in one part of Arabia, namely Aden, and hanging on indefinitely to bases in another part of Arabia, namely Bahrein and other points in the Persian Gulf; for the same forces which had rendered or were rendering our military presence in Aden impossible were likely in the near future to operate elsewhere in the Arab world. In other words, bases are just not consonant with the rising tide of Arab nationalism, which has been much intensified by the recent Arab-Israeli war. If we want to protect our oil interests within the limits of the possible it will shortly have to be by means other than the ultimate threat of military sanctions. The French have no bases East of Suez, but for one reason or another their present oil supplies from the Middle East are assured, whereas ours, unfortunately, are not. I do not say that we should pursue the same sort of "have it both ways" policy as they are pursuing, or have lately been pursuing; because, frankly, in our case we should not be prepared to score victories over our allies and friends. But the fact re- 24 mains that if we were altogether out of Arabia, we should be more able to defend our interests by diplomatic means and actions than appears to be possible at present. That is our thesis.
Having said that by way of justification for our general attitude on these Benches, perhaps I may turn to the consideration of the problem presented by the early grant of independence to Perim, Kamaran and the Kuria Muria islands. Here I find myself in general agreement with what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said, and I should like to associate myself with the questions that he put to the Government on this subject. I think that Perim obviously raises strategic questions of a high order. It commands the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb. If it was occupied by the Egyptians, it would be possible for them, in control of Perim, to exercise the same sort of control over the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb as they exercised until fairly recently over the Straits of Tiran at Sharm el Sheikh. It is all part of a larger problem. If they were to re-exercise their control over the Straits of Tiran, it would not make any difference whether they exercised control over the Island of Perim or not. It is only in the event of their not being able to exercise control at Sharm el Sheikh that, in theory, it would be possible to close the access of Israel to the Eastern World by blocking the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb to Israeli shipping. But there is a danger that some improper use might be made of the island of Perim. Therefore, if it is humanly possible to internationalise it, under the United Nations or by other means, we should all surely be in favour of it.
The only question that arises is how could this be done under the United Nations. If it is going to be the Constitution of a new United Nations mandate (and here the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, will no doubt confirm what I am going to say) it will have to be by agreement in the Security Council, in the first instance, between the five Permanent Members. As things are at present, it does not seem very probable that the Russians, the Americans and the French, for instance, will all agree on the nature of an international régime to be set up on the island of Perim. However, I think we should make great efforts, 25 and no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, with his great influence and eloquence, may be able to do something. I am quite certain that we ought to push vigorously in this direction if we possibly can. That is all I have to say on the subject of the offshore islands, and I now approach the specific case of Aden.
Whatever one's views about the reason why the present situation has arisen, I think that few, in this House, at least, would dispute that in the crisis in which we now find ourselves the Government were right in deciding to grant independence to the South Arabian Federation on a definite date—namely, on January 9 next—and to withdraw British Armed Forces from the Federation by that date. I am sure we all think that that decision was right. Nor do I suggest that there is really much opposition—here, anyhow—to the proposal that British forces should be available for a limited period after the granting of independence, for the purpose of repelling in the newly established Federation aggression from without, if, indeed, that should take place—which is not certain—and be capable of being dealt with by air power, which again is probably a little doubtful.
I know that there is great apprehension in the South Arabian departments, and among other Arabs, that the Egyptians might attack in force from South Yemen and perhaps use such indefensible and scandalous means as poison gas. It is not certain that they will, and if they did it is conceivable that we might be able to check them by action from the air. However, it is doubtful whether they would attack, and it is also doubtful whether we could check them in those circumstances. Still less is there any opposition to the general plan now advanced by the Government—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? There is only one way of checking air attack, and that is to attack the airfields from which the attack comes. We may as well face what the purpose is. This is a deterrent against aggression, which is the basic role of air power, whether it is land-based or sea-based.
§ LORD GLADWYN
Yes, my Lords. I have no doubt that is so, and if we could eliminate the aeroplanes and their bases from the Yemen that might put an end 26 to the poison gas theory. But they might send a number of irregular troops across the frontier, who might be indistinguishable from the locals, and it might be difficult to bomb one side without bombing the other. There are also difficulties in ensuring peace by bombing action, as I think the Americans have found in Vietnam.
However, as I say, I do not think there is any opposition here to the general plan to install if possible a broad-based caretaker Government over the whole area of the Federation when we leave, and for this purpose, if possible, to enter into prior negotiations both with FLOSY and the N.L.F. who seem to have come together—
§ LORD GLADWYN
I understood from the Press and other reports that they may have come to some agreement between themselves. If not, so much the worse; if so, so much the better. However, it should be possible to enter into prior negotiations with these characters, so that such a broad-based caretaker Government should be representative of all existing tendencies, whether reactionary or revolutionary.
Naturally, of course, that would be the ideal, but we must also be prepared for the possibility, and some might even say the likelihood, that all this just will not work, and that what is much more probable is some struggle for power which will end in Aden's being dominated either by FLOSY or by the N.L.F., or by both, and in the other component parts of the Federation continuing to exist as a kind of loose association of Emirates, no doubt with some kind of special relationship with Saudi Arabia. As early as August 31, 1962, my noble friend Lord Ogmore said:This is not the time to federate the Colony of Aden with the surrounding Emirates. Aden should become self-governing first, so that it can determine its own future.In the light of hindsight, these were obviously words of great wisdom.
So it seems to us on these Benches that we should be well advised, while continuing to strive for the installation of some broad-based Coalition Government when we leave—and I suppose that this might just be achievable if the 27 Arabs, whether reactionary or revolutionary, are still bound together in some common hatred of Israel—to have an alternative or "fall-back" policy which might consist of recognising a separate Aden with only a tenuous relationship, or perhaps even no relationship, to the Federation as such—a sort of "Singapore" solution, which though unsatisfactory, of course, might at least prove tolerable and in any case prevent a blood bath when the last British soldier leaves. During the last debate on this subject in another place the Liberal Party tabled an Amendment, which was not called, to the effect that there might be a referendum in Aden on this point before we left. I imagine that this is still a possibility which might be considered by the Government; and, anyhow, perhaps they could let us know what they think.
Some may say, and do say, that if we ever went for an independent Aden which would undoubtedly come under some kind of "revolutionary" control, we should be playing into the hands of President Nasser, who would then proceed virtually to annex the port and perhaps the district of Aden. I am not so sure. However revolutionary they may be, local régimes seem to have a marked aversion to being annexed. It might even be that an independent Aden, as a member of the United Nations, would be as little inclined towards union with Egypt as Singapore is towards union with China. However, that is just a thought which I should like to drop into the common pool. But even though it may not be possible or indeed desirable, to pronounce in favour of an independent Aden before we leave, it would no doubt be desirable to do nothing which could stand in the way of such a solution after our departure.
The Leader of the Liberal Party in another place has already drawn attention to the fate of many Federations which we established before withdrawing from ex-colonial territories, and it is certain that the prospects of a Federation between such dissimilar entities as the various Emirates or Sultanates in South Arabia and the town and district of Aden are, on the face of it, much less rosy than those in, say. East Africa, where there were, after all, many common interests and ways of life and, in any case, 28 no external threat against a potential Federation which might be used for disruptive purposes. In summing up, Mr. Thorpe said specifically that we should be well advised not to regard the present federal system as a durable political entity—I think I am in order in quoting what he said—
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: No.
§ LORD GLADWYN
The substance of what he said was that we should face that fact now, rather than prop up a situation, and then in two or three years' time have Questions put down about the safety of British subjects, the right of intervention on the part of the United Nations, and so on. I hope that this advice, generally speaking, might prove acceptable.
On May 31 last the Minister of Defence said that he failedto see how what is happening in May … 1,000 miles to the north of Aden need affect our plans about what we do in Aden next year".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, col. 67.]I am afraid that what happened shortly after, in early June, may have had almost as unfavourable an effect on the Aden situation as it has had on Mr. Healey's prescience. The sad fact is that we are probably more unpopular generally with the Arabs now than we have ever been. No doubt we shall one day recover some of our popularity, though so long as we are overtly against the Israelis being slaughtered and being pushed into the sea we can hardly expect to rival the present popularity of, say, General de Gaulle. But the one sure way to get back to normal in our relations with the Arab world is to proceed resolutely with the planned evacuation of all our bases on their territory.
My Lords, if Mr. Chapman Pincher still speaks with any authority—and I am not quite sure, in the light of recent events, whether he does or does not—then we may shortly expect a pronouncement from the Government that they have now seen the light and are prepared to adopt the original Liberal policy which they repudiated with such emphasis when I first had the honour to propound it, your Lordships will recall, well over two years ago. Let us hope so. If the Liberal Party fulfils no other function, it can at least produce fruitful ideas which are taken up, usually too late, by the two major Parties.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ LADY KINLOSS
My Lords, this is my maiden speech, and I beg to ask the usual kind indulgence that your Lordships so generously give to maiden speakers. In fact, it is my maiden speech in more senses than one, for it is the first speech I have ever made. It is also my duty, my Lords, to declare a personal interest in this Bill. Clause 4 refers to the Aden Widows' and Orphans' Pension Fund, to which my husband, as former Educational Adviser to the Aden Protectorate, has been a contributor. I have seen the papers that have been sent to the contributors; and the proposals for potential widows, including myself, and for the orphans of contributors seem to me wholly satisfactory. I can only say, my Lords, that, grateful as I am for the generous arrangements, I hope that it will be a long time before I need to take advantage of them.
My Lords, I lived in Aden from 1961 to 1963 as a very ordinary housewife. I was also able to travel both in the Federation and in the Eastern Protectorate; and I have very many happy memories of people of every sort, both in Aden Colony and in many parts of the Protectorates. Having perhaps somewhat sharply attacked the Government in a letter to The Times on March 11 last year, no one is more delighted than I that some sort of defence arrangement of a temporary kind is being made for the Federation; and that we have promised to support the expenses of Government and its social services for a period following independence. In fact the Federation has no resources of its own and it would collapse without aid.
I am glad, too, that we are to support the Hadhrami Beduin Legion; but I trust this will not be done in such a manner as to force the three Eastern States—Qaiti, Kathiri and Mahra (which includes the island of Socotra)—into the Federation. The towns of the Wadi Hadhramaut, especially Tarim, Saiun and Shibam, the latter with its seven-storey white-washed skyscrapers, have a more sophisticated character, as do the seaport towns of Mukalla and Shihr, by comparison with the more tribal society of the Federation outside Aden Colony. Both the easternmost State, the Mahra State and the Kuria Muria Islands—which form part of the subject of this 30 Bill—do not use Arabic in daily speech: they have their own language, Mahri, a Semitic language of very different character, and, except for some contiguity, have nothing in common with the other areas. Although it is true that there is much disenchantment throughout the Middle East with the United Nations at the present time, I hope that the quite short intervals that have been agreed can be used to negotiate some kind of United Nations' guarantee of their frontiers. Perhaps this could be done in conjunction with Muslim Powers that have not been too deeply involved in recent conflicts, such as perhaps Turkey and Pakistan.
My Lords, in The Times Women's Page recently the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, was reported as having said that the speeches of women Peers were shorter than others. I have tried to take this to heart and wish to mention only one other topic. If there is one common characteristic in the whole of this area, in Aden and the Islands, in the rest of the Federation and in the eastern States, it is poverty. Every now and then I shudder in this House when I hear reference to rich sheikhs. In Aden itself there is terrible poverty; and outside Aden, except in very rare instances, I never saw anyone who could truly be described as rich. There is an Arab author who described a certain sheikh as "rich only in pride and ancestry", and this goes for the great majority.
The basic reason for this is appallingly simple: the land is so barren, so rocky and so lacking in natural resources that only 2 per cent. of the whole land surface can be cultivated. In Aden itself, before the recent troubles that have brought so much to a standstill, we could be proud that we had achieved universal primary education, almost universal secondary education, and an efficient medical service. Outside great progress has been made in agriculture, especially in Lahej, the Abyan plain and in the Hadhramaut. In these areas, too, there has been great progress both in medical and educational services; but it has been inhibited to some extent by a lack not only of funds but of trained men. To mention but one group of expatriates, although unhappily at this moment we do not have diplomatic relations with the Republic of the Sudan, I venture to think, my Lords, that it would be lacking in 31 generosity to omit to pay tribute in this debate to the work of Sudanese teachers who have played such an important part in educational progress in so much of this area and to the unselfishness of the Sudan Government in sending them when they were short of teachers themselves.
It will be a very long while before this whole area can dispense with outside support in funds and in expatriates, especially in medicine and education. In supporting this Bill, I am venturing to hope that our promises to sustain the work of Government in South Arabia as a whole, even if at the moment they are limited in time, will be thought of again in the future within the whole context of world poverty; and that we shall be generous enough to continue to support those who are in genuine need after the period of help expires, if they should then ask for it.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ LORD SEGAL
My Lords, it falls to me to congratulate the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, on her excellent maiden speech. I am sure that is a sentiment in which the whole House will readily join. As we have heard, she speaks about the territory of Aden not only with very deep knowledge but with warm human sympathy; and although it may be somewhat trite to express the hope that we may be privileged to hear her on many future occasions, may I say that in her case, with her especially deep knowledge not only of Aden but of so many parts of Africa, this House will extend rather more than the usual warm welcome to her whenever she chooses to participate in our debates.
My Lords, first of all, I should like to say one or two words about what I regard as the wholly inadequate tribute that has been paid so far to the gallantry of our troops in this Aden fighting. As one of those who have been to Aden—and, although I cannot claim as many years of residence in Aden as the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, I did have twelve months in Aden during the early period of the war—perhaps I may say that our troops have shown the most extraordinary restraint under almost inhuman provocation. Very few of us realise the conditions under which they are fighting to-day in Aden. They are fighting almost 32 literally with their hands tied behind their backs; and when my noble friend comes to reply to this debate I should like to ask him whether he will confirm some of these facts: whether our troops in Aden have been fired on from the tops of minarets and from the roofs of mosques, and have not been allowed to fire back; whether it is a fact that stores of arms are known to have been accumulated in mosques and our troops have not been allowed to enter; and whether it is also true that many instances have occurred of Moslem women coming through the check points at Sheikh Othman being known to have large numbers of hand grenades in their flowing black robes and yet our troops have not been allowed to search them.
In what I saw of Aden on a visit paid just recently, a matter of eight months ago, I was impressed more than anything by the extraordinary restraint that our troops were showing in conditions under which I think troops of no other nation would have conducted their campaign. I believe these facts ought to be known not only to this House but to the country at large, and that they highlight our weaknesses in the Middle East whenever we find ourselves dealing with a Moslem population which is engaged in open combat with Britain as a Middle East Power. Having said that, I feel that we ought to extend our good wishes to the new caretaker Government, and hope that it will succeed in bringing peace and stability to the whole of this area. But, despite the extraordinary efforts that have been made by the leader, Mr. Bayoomi, in attempting to form a caretaker Government, I must confess to having very serious misgivings as to what may be the future of the South Arabian Federation, if, after withdrawal, despite all the precautions we may take to maintain order, this caretaker Government becomes an "under-taker" Government, and has to bury the whole idea of federation in that area. I would ask the Government whether they have already devised an alternative policy which they are able to carry out in case the South Arabian Federation proves not to be viable.
I have no misgivings about the sheikhdoms of the Protectorate; but I am not at all happy about the relationship between these sheikhdoms and the population of Aden itself. We all know to 33 our cost that in many parts of the world federation has proved an unnatural policy, a policy which has failed. It failed in East Africa; it failed in Central, Africa; it failed in the Caribbean, and it failed in Malaysia. We can only hope that it will succeed in South Arabia. May I ask my noble friend who is to reply this question? Has he sufficient confidence in the future State to feel assured that it really is viable? I have sometimes thought that it may have been merely the brain-child of some British official in Whitehall. Has there been any spontaneous demand for federation in South Arabia? From what quarters did that demand arise?
Also, as I have said, I have misgivings about our influence in the whole area. What right have we to ask the fiercely feudal sheikhdoms of the South Arabian Protectorate to federate when we ourselves—with all our traditions and our experience of government, with all our record as an Imperial Power—have failed to federate in Europe? We have reached some form of federation within these Islands; but only after a struggle of hundreds of years—and, even after achieving union in these Islands, the Irish Free State fought against it and finally decided to opt out. I am not too happy that the idea of federation can be successfully brought to this area of South Arabia.
We have, quite rightly I think, decided to fall back upon the United Nations to exercise some control, perhaps at least over the island of Perim. But I know of no territory—and I have travelled over at least 12 different countries in the last year—where the United Nations has suffered so severe a loss of prestige as in South Arabia. When I was there in October, 1966, the mere suggestion of a United Nations force was regarded by the then chiefs of the South Arabian Government as an abandonment of their future right to independence. Never, I think, has the prestige of the United Nations sunk so low as I found it to be in the South Arabian Federation. I am sorry to have to dwell on these facts, but in my opinion these are facts, and we do no good either to ourselves or to the United Nations to impose on the United Nations tasks which, unfortunately, they will find themselves unable to carry out. An example of this was 34 given when the United Nations Mission arrived in Aden. Almost immediately a general strike was declared; and it persisted until the United Nations Mission decided to withdraw.
My Lords, after many years of living in the Middle East and of close contact with the peoples of the Middle East, I long ago came to the conclusion that it is only Moslems who are able to understand Moslems. That is why I gladly support the suggestion made by the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, that it is the Moslem States to-day who should come to the help of Aden—States such as Turkey and Pakistan which she mentioned; and to which I would add Tunis and Iran which are peace-loving States and loyal members of the United Nations. If the great nations of the world will not share their responsibility for the future peace of this territory, I feel the United Nations itself ought to appeal to these Moslem States to do what they can to ensure it.
I am glad that the Government have undertaken to leave Aden peaceful and well ordered. I feel myself it was quite wrong of us to undertake single-handed the burden of ensuring the future of Aden. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, spoke of the French having no say in the future of the territories of Aden or of the Persian Gulf. Of course, it is far easier for any country to stay out of that area than to leave it once having been in. As noble Lords know, we have been in Aden since 1839; for more than 120 years. I think there is a great deal to be said for the control of the island of Perim by the United Nations—except that my sympathies go out to any United Nations official who may have to live on the island.
May I say that, after what has happened in the Middle East, I think any Arab State (certainly any State that may find itself in control of the island of Perim) would think twice to-day before it started interference with Israeli shipping. After the recent events, I now believe that that danger may be greatly overestimated. Furthermore, I have grave doubts now, after five years of war, about what Nasser hopes to gain by continuing his presence in the Yemen—except perhaps to march into the South Arabian Federation once we have withdrawn. Nasser, I think, can only hope to 35 gain any advantage by occupying Aden; for the Protectorate will yield him no dividends whatsoever, but merely liabilities; and even Aden itself, once we have withdrawn, may become a rapidly dwindling asset because the trade of the port is bound to decline. In fact, it is only by our influence there that it has not greatly declined already. Having made these somewhat casual passing remarks, may I say, finally, that I extend a wholehearted welcome to the Bill; and I should like to express the hope that all our good wishes for the future prosperity of this new State may be realised to the full.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I should like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Segal, in congratulating the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss. I must say that it is only with the utmost difficulty that I find it possible to believe that this is the first speech that she has ever delivered because not only was it very acceptable to your Lordships' House but I thought it a pretty professional job for a maiden speech. The noble Lady added a very real sense of feeling to this debate. She has certainly stirred me to say something which I had thought of saying before, but have not said, and that is how deep is the fascination of South Arabia.
So many people think of South Arabia in terms of just Aden until they have been outside Aden, and particularly to the Eastern Aden States, especially that most attractive area, the Wadi Hadhramaut. When I was first told I was being posted to Aden I thought that at least I should be able to see whether the Wadi Hadhramaut is as wonnderful as people said it was. And it is a marvellous country, with an ancient civilisation going back in parts longer that our civilisation in Britain. I remember talking to the Governor in Shibam, that wonderful walled city, and he reminded me that they had been civilised since before Christ. I said to him, "You mean that you have been civilised longer than the British?", and he said, "Well, I was trying to find a more tactful way to express that."
Of course, although there is enormous poverty in South Arabia, and so much of the land is barren, burning rock and sand, there are areas, of which the Wadi Hadh- 36 is one—and there are other areas I have seen, in a State like Upper Aulaqi, which is on the edge of one of the great deserts—where, if there were resources to get the water, which is already present, out of the ground, it could blossom. As I flew down the Wadi Hadramaut to Sai'un there was actually water in the Wadi at the time. There is an abundant supply of water in certain areas if only resources could be applied to its use. It is, however, an area of great variety of civilisation. There is Mahra, in the East, where the tribal council has only just been formed; and the first and, to their mind, the most important law they passed was that there should be no political parties. This, they told me, when I met the tribal council, I should count for gain, and, to a certain extent in certain parts of South Arabia, one can say that; but when it comes to matching it with the different levels of sophistication we have a very great problem.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, put his finger on the point in relation to Aden. The fact that his noble friend Lord Ogmore may have been right in 1962 does not mean that he is right in 1967. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is one of the extremists in this House, but I regard the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, as a moderate, and I was astonished that he had—I would almost say the effrontery to criticise the short-comings of the present Government's policy when one remembers the almost ineffable folly of the policy which the Party opposite followed in South Arabia in the past.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, would the noble Lord please say in what respect he regards me as "extremist"?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I was rather concentrating on the Conservative Party at that moment. I would not identify the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, with FLOSY, although there are equally civilised men there.
My Lords, reference has been made to the way in which the Federation has been formed. I want to say very little about this, because we are faced with a certain situation. Of one thing I am certain—and I went out to South Arabia with a very open mind: that, in the long run in South Arabia, irrespective of other areas of the world about which I shall not comment, the idea of a continuing 37 base and a continuing defence treaty creates a degree of provocation; and the only policy left to the British Government was to announce, not only that we should leave by the due date but that there would be no British presence afterwards. We have taken a number of steps. It is difficult for me to criticise the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, because of the kind things he said about me and about such contribution as I have been able to make. But, my Lords, this is a matter that has been under continuous study by the Government. My noble friend Lord Beswick spent a long time there something over a year ago, and he was very conscious of the dangers and difficulties. As I said before, it is no good our pretending that there are easy solutions.
May I say, with the greatest respect, to my noble friend Lord Segal, whose knowledge of these countries is very great, as I know from the many conversations I have had with him, it is no good thinking now that we ought to have an alternative policy up our sleeve. We have to pursue the policy we have adopted and make it a success; and the proposals contained in the speech of my right honourable friend in another place were designed to make that policy more effective. But let me emphasise that it is clear that there is no continuing British presence. May I say to your Lordships that I think it is sometimes not appreciated that, however admirable, however gallant and however restrained may be the behaviour of our troops, in fact they are inevitably, in a situation such as exists in Aden, something of a provocation. At least they are a target. As a very distinguished General said to me, we have no place in the long run in this area, and that is why the Government have decided to withdraw.
My Lords, I do not want there to be any misunderstanding regarding the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. It is unfortunate that there has been some misunderstanding, even at the United Nations, because the Bill relates only to Aden, Perim and the Kuria Muria Islands; and there is fear (which I should not have expected) that we are going to give independence only to those. As is made absolutely clear, and as I know your Lordships understand very 38 well, it is the firm intention of the Government that all parts of South Arabia for which they are at present internationally responsible shall become independent. In that connection, the noble Earl asked me about the future of the Eastern Aden Protectorate States and the extent to which they would enjoy protection in the interim. One of the major parts of this package deal to which I referred was that we should continue to give support for a reasonable time, until such time as it was possible to judge whether they should come into the Federation or, conceivably, form some other Federation.
§ LORD SEGAL
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt my noble friend, but he has more than once referred to this package deal. May I ask: if the package has a leakage, will the package be withdrawn?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Lord is getting almost too esoteric for me. Obviously there is a great danger of there being a hole in the package, but that package was intended to stop up certain holes which already exist. I must say to the noble Lord that not even this Government can guarantee the invariable success of every policy that they follow, although we are making a much better job of it than our predecessors with regard to South Arabia. We are doing the best we can in very difficult circumstances. The Government have a certain degree of optimism, but that may just be because, like the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, I am fascinated and, indeed, deeply concerned about the future of South Arabia. But, from my judgment of the people there and of the circumstances, with energy and good will (there are still six months to go; and there is something to be said for fixing a timetable in which to arrive at solutions rather than letting things drag on) we may turn this into success. But there cannot be any guarantee.
My noble friend referred to the fact that Federations do not always work. If your Lordships' House in the days of Gladstone had not refused a limited measure of Home Rule to Ireland, they would still be in the Federation of the United Kingdom. It was the obstruction of the Liberal Party of the day that was responsible. So it is conceivable that 39 we might have had a successful Federation of the British Isles which was not possible to achieve under Union. Despite the pressures imposed on Federations and the forces that tend to divide them—and nowhere are they greater than in South Arabia—I do not think we should stress that federation must necessarily fail.
I wish I could give a guarantee of the stability and prosperity of every country in the world. There are other areas where dangers exist, both in unitary and federal States. The fact that Mr. Bayoomi has been charged by the Federal Government with the formation of a new Government does not denote a perpetuation of the Federal Government. His task is to form a provisional Government in anticipation of the introduction of the Constitution for the independent Republic of South Arabia. I do not want this to be misunderstood. I am inclined to try to get away from the words "Federal Government", and to talk about it as the South Arabian Government. But that means that there is a change from the existing Federal Supreme Council. If Mr. Bayoomi is successful in forming a Government which will be more broadly based than the Federal Government, his Government might carry South Arabia 'forward into independence. But it is our hope that it will be possible to reach agreement on the formation of a central caretaker Government in accordance with United Nations resolutions, and one which would be all-embracing, politically and geographically. In this event, Mr. Bavoomi will have carried out a useful task in making possible the formation of a more broadly based Government. But the difficulties are great. I can only say that I admire his courage.
In this context the noble Earl asked me more about meetings with FLOSY and the N.L.F. Let me say that FLOSY and the N.L.F. have not buried their conflict; they are still very much opposed to each other. Except to say that Lord Caradon has not met Mr. Makawee, as we had hoped he would. I cannot say anything about such meetings. With negotiations for the formation of a new Government under way, and with meetings taking place in New York between the U.N. Mission and Mr. Makawee, it would be better for me not to tell the noble Earl, who I am sure will accept it from 40 me, that the subject is sensitive, and I think publicity could only do harm. It is clear that this is a moment when we hope that people are taking stock and approaches may be possible. But it is not possible to do this always in the most public fashion. I mentioned in my opening speech the difficulty of either of the extremist organisations (and, again, I do not refer to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn) appearing to be more flexible than the other. In these circumstances, I would ask your Lordships to allow me to give no further information on the subject.
My Lords, I do not wish to press the noble Lord on that specific point, but I should like to job back to an earlier question which I posed to him as to the precise degree of protection which is to be afforded to the three unfederated States of the Eastern Protectorate. I think the noble Lord was in the process of saying something about that when he became involved with a long and interesting disquisition on Irish politics. I wonder whether he can tell me what precise protection those three unfederated States will enjoy, apart from benefiting from the financial assistance which we are going to give.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
In the short term, the Eastern Aden Protectorate States will be in a position to provide their own protection. They are not likely to be directly invaded. The crucial element in their security, which is primarily internal, will be the Hadhrami Beduin Legion, the Mukalla Regular Army and various State forces. But certainly military conversations are likely to go on between the Federation and the Eastern Aden Protectorate States. I will only say that I take the noble Earl's point. I cannot say anything about it today beyond the fact that we hope that, in the long run, there will be a degree of agreement and understanding between the areas which ultimately will lead to federation. But clearly the big factor in giving support to these States was to ensure that they were not subject to destruction in one way or another. Obviously this is important in protecting the eastern flank of the Federation. I hope that I have said enough to give the noble Earl an indication that there is an awareness and a thinking about this problem.
41 The purpose of the naval force is to deter external aggression, obvious open aggression, against the independent South Arabia, and not to perpetuate—and this, again, seems to have been misunderstood; it has been misunderstood both in the Labour Party and at the United Nations—any notion of British military dominance in the area. The air support from the naval force and the V-bombers stationed at Masirah will be given only at the request of the independent South Arabian Government. The decision whether or not to accede to the request must be one for Her Majesty's Government alone. I am well aware, and so are Her Majesty's Government, of the sort of grey area that is involved, and the fact that the risk might be in the form of a national liberation army of some kind infiltrating across the border. Quite clearly the V-bombers, and, for that matter, the aircraft carrier, would be no effective deterrent against that. But this is where the other forces, including the greatly increased air support which the Federal Army will receive from its own air force and from the Hunters that have been given to it, will be of use.
The noble Earl asked me whether there would be any possibility of the carrier force remaining after six months. On present plans, there is none. The limitation is in the size of the carrier force which his Government bequeathed to the present Government. There is, in fact, only a limited capability to remain on station. But I do not wish to press this matter any harder. It is essentially the fact that this will make very heavy demands on the Royal Navy.
My Lords, I do not wish to press the specific point much further myself, but may I take it that the Government do not consider six months absolutely sacrosanct? Will there be a degree of flexibility, if necessary, in the Government's planning on this matter?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, let me say that they do consider it so, but I will take careful note of what the noble Earl has said. I cannot go any further than that. In certain circumstances it is always possible to make changes, but I certainly would not give an undertaking or hold out any hope of a change. Of course, the important point is the deterrent against aggression, which on the whole we think is not very likely.
42 Now I should like to press on to further points, and let me first deal with the military position. I should like to make it very clear—and I am grateful to the noble Earl for raising this point—that there has been no political or other dictation as to what weapons are to be used by our Forces. I think the noble Lord, Lord Segal, referred to this point, too. This is a matter, as always, for military judgment and military command. One of the first things I did when I went out to Aden was to ask not only the G.O.C. but other military commanders, whether they in fact had any impediment of a political kind in the use of force or weapons in fulfilling what they considered to be their duty, and in every case the answer was "No". It was a matter for judgment as to what particular weapon should be used in any particular case. It is certainly true that troops have been fired on from minarets and mosques; and troops have fired back when they have been fired on from those places. That has happened on only one or two occasions and I know of no other such incidents. Certainly the British troops have not entered mosques when arms have been suspected of being hidden in them. In those circumstances the Federal troops have carried out the searches; and the British military authorities are satisfied that this is the best arrangement.
The problem of searching Arab women is not one that I can give an easy solution to. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Segal, was not really suggesting that this was such a problem. I personally know of no complaints or dissatisfaction on the part of the British military authorities in relation to this matter. There are women members of the military police stationed in Aden to assist in such searches. But I suspect that one of the difficulties is that weapons and arms enter Aden through a variety of channels, and I would rather not be drawn on what those particular channels are; but they come in in a quantity much greater than could be concealed about the persons of Arab women.
§ LORD SEGAL
My Lords, I had at first intended to ask a supplementary question for further information, but, on second thought, I think the subject is rather too delicate to press at this juncture.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am much obliged to my noble friend. May I say a few words about the present internal security situation? I think I have made clear—and I hope the noble Lord will accept it—that there is absolute discretion with the military with regard to the use of heavy weapons, and it is for their commanders to judge in the particular circumstances. As noble Lords in the Army will know, you do not give a definite right in all circumstances to use heavy weapons; and it may be there is a delay, anyway, in deploying them. There were times when perhaps it might have been useful. But there was certainly no restraint; and I deny, with a good deal of irritation, stories that have been published in the Press, some of which have got back to the troops out there, that there was any political interference of that kind.
My Lords, may I make my own position clear? Certainly I was not pressing that troops should have an automatic right to use heavy weapons, but merely—and the noble Lord has answered this—that commanders on the spot should have discretion.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I confirm that commanders on the spot have complete discretion, and they do not have to go to the High Commissioner to ask for permission. This is a proper exercise of command. I have been struck by the degree of anxiety on the part of the military commanders to stick to the doctrine of minimum force; and I must say that I think it is likely to pay off in a big way in preserving, and ultimately guaranteeing, peace in South Arabia and minimising loss of lives, both Arab and British.
In Crater recently there has been a slight lull in incidents, though a tendency for casualties among the security forces to increase. In Crater they have consolidated their control of the main commercial area and access roads into the town, although not all of Crater has been entered, and British infantry control the high ground dominating Crater. There is a need to re-establish the self-confidence of both the Aden State police and the Armed Police. They are vital in maintaining security duties, both now and after independence; and for these reasons, regardless of the inquiry into the 44 alleged mutiny—and I say "alleged" because it is properly a subject of inquiry—every effort must be made to ensure their co-operation. That is why the G.O.C. took the salute at the Armed Police parade on July 13. Here again the military, like the political leaders out there, are having to exercise the most delicate judgment. As to the tragedy that took place in Crater a few weeks ago, this is at present a matter of a most rigorous inquiry. The preliminary results of it are leading to further investigation.
Perhaps I ought to say that one of the anxieties at the moment has been the difficulty in operating Aden Port owing to a boycott of military supplies. There is a threat here, and the Services may have to provide additional Service personnel. I hope I have dealt with most of the military questions, but if there are any that I have missed I shall be glad to try to answer them. I might mention that the evacuation of Service dependants is now complete, and the further evacuation of the families of officials, which was announced rather later, is going on very rapidly and should be complete by the end of July. And perhaps I might mention that the banks in the commercial centre of Crater, which suffered some damage but no casualties, have now reopened for business.
Let me deal with the two remaining points. First of all, there is the question of a separate date for Parliamentary control over the Order in Council fixing the date of independence for South Arabia and for the relinquishment of sovereignty. I can only say to your Lordships that if we were to make it a requirement that it should be determined by Affirmative Resolution, or even the Negative Resolution procedure, it would introduce a certain amount of loss of flexibility. It would be something we had never done before. This is not an argument for not doing it in special circumstances, but here the circumstances are such that I think it would be a mistake to do so, even if it had been the practice to do it in the past. It is not because I should myself wish to deny Parliament an opportunity of scrutiny; and if Parliament is sitting it will of course be perfectly open to Parliament to take such measures as it wishes to discuss the matter and to criticise the Executive. But I cannot hold out 45 any hope of a variation in the Government's attitude in regard to this.
Now may I turn, very briefly, to the islands? First of all, Perim. The noble Lord, Lord Segal, did not attach as much importance to this aspect as I had expected, because I know that he has been very interested in this. I am inclined to agree with him that, if I understood him correctly, Perim is not so important as a general settlement. In any case, I should have thought the straits were capable of being blocked from the Yemeni mainland, which is only two miles away from Perim. This is not to suggest that if the United Nations took over Perim, that might not play a valuable and stabilising part. Therefore my right honourable friend, in deference to the pressure which came particularly from the Opposition in another place—and I support their initiative in this—has undertaken to make the strongest efforts to try to bring this about. I ought not to underestimate the difficulties. The Federal Government have declared their very firm opposition to this proposal and said that Perim is an inseparable part of South Arabia; and the Yemeni republican authorities have similarly objected. This is not, in fact, the present constitutional position. Perim is a separate Colony, and is not constitutionally part of South Arabia, but the whole matter is to be discussed at the United Nations.
I can say very little, I fear, about the intentions with regard to the other islands. Consultations will take place, but I am afraid I cannot tell the noble Lord in what way they will take place. I will see whether I can find out a little more about that before the Third Reading. My own view is that it is probably better to postpone these consultations a little and watch the progress of Constitution-making in South Arabia. I am hopeful that things are beginning to move rather more encouragingly. This may be false optimism on my part, but I still cannot conceive that, with the elements there for establishing a successful, independent South Arabia, men of good will, and showing enough energy, will not be able to bring South Arabia to independence peacefully. At any rate, Her Majesty's Government have made it clear that they are determined, at very heavy cost to the British taxpayer—and let us not minimise 46 this cost—to make the greatest contribution they can to that end.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, would the noble Lord by any chance like to comment on the major suggestions that I made; namely, that we might conceivably have a fall-back position involving an independent Aden and a separate Federation?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord. I did not really want to give him another dusty answer. I do not know whether he has studied the constitutional position. Although, as I said to him, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, might have been right before Federation, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is not necessarily right now. We should be involved in a breach of treaty if we attempted to take Aden out. We have no power to do this under the treaty arrangements entered into by the previous Government. Aden cannot withdraw before 1969: and we are bound by the legal requirement. Nor, I think, would anyone wish it to-day. No one—none of the Nationalist leaders—is advocating it; and I do not believe that at this stage it would be possible. It was one of the things at which I looked most carefully, and I am sure my noble friend Lord Beswick did, too; but we came to the conclusion that it was not realistic to do this. There are also one or two points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, which I fear I have not answered.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.