HL Deb 22 April 1969 vol 301 cc367-9

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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether agreement has been reached with the Government of South Yemen regarding compensation and aid.]


No, my Lords.


My Lords, in view of the fact that our Government promised £60 million to the pre-independence Government and have contributed only £15 million, including the cost of technical aid, may I ask my noble friend whether it would not be reasonable, after the confusion in which we left Aden and the interior territories, to increase this amount?


No, my Lords; I cannot accept the implications of all that my noble friend says. The original £60 million that we offered in the course of talks with the Federal Government was specifically subject to review if the political circumstances in the Yemen and South Yemen changed—and of course they did. Some of the offers were expressly related to the threat from the Yemen in 1967, and when the U.A.R. withdrew from the Yemen, and the N.L.F. came to power in South Yemen, this offer collapsed. The representatives of the National Liberation Front in Geneva were quite specifically told this, so the offer has lapsed. Since then we have made another offer to the South Yemenis. They rejected this offer and talks with them have now been broken off. If any specific proposal were made to us, of course we would consider it.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that answer, may I ask whether it is not the fact that South Yemen is now having difficulties with the Yemen Republic as well as with Saudi Arabia? And in view of the distress in Aden as a result of the closing of the Suez Canal and the withdrawal of the services for the British Forces, would it not be reasonable for our Government to agree to a continuation of negotiations on these matters?


My Lords, our offer to South Yemen was to make available to them the sum of £1,800,000 for a further 10 months. For a country of a population of just over 1 million I think this is an extremely reasonable offer. This was rejected, as I say, by the South Yemen Government, and so we are not contemplating at the moment any further aid to South Yemen. But I repeat that if they made a specific proposal to us—which they have not done—we would consider it.


My Lords, within the context of the aid referred to in this Question, could the noble Lord tell us whether any arrangement has been made for the continuation of the anti-locust service which we always maintained in this area and which is so important to the whole of East Africa?


My Lords, I am afraid that I have not that information by me at the moment, but I will get it and let the noble Lord have it.


My Lords, can my noble friend say to what extent economic conditions in Aden have been affected by the closure of the Suez Canal, and also whether consistently friendly relations have been maintained with the South Yemen Government since our withdrawal?


My Lords, I cannot say specifically what has been the effect on the economy of the area of the closure of the Suez Canal. I would expect that it has had some effect. So far as our relations with the South Yemen Government are concerned, we have had good and friendly relations with them, and I personally see no reason why differences over aid should affect those diplomatic relations.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware there are many of us who do not understand why the British taxpayer should subsidise the South Yemen Government as a result of the closure of the Suez Canal?


My Lords, would not the Minister further agree that any money which this Government lend is not in fact our money but money that has been borrowed from other people, and is not likely to be paid back? Would not the Minister agree that the Government are right to be circumspect about what they lend?


My Lords, I think it would be quite wrong to draw any conclusions of a general kind about trade, aid and loans from the specific answers I have given to this very narrow Question.

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