HC Deb 12 November 1956 vol 560 cc9-11W
Mr. Warbey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Bahrein and of the actions taken there during the past fortnight on the advice or with the approval of the British Political Adviser,

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Her Majesty's Government are not responsible for the internal affairs of Bahrein, But they favoured the various changes that the Ruler of Bahrein has introduced during; the past year, designed to permit a gradual evolution in the direction of more representative institutions in his country.

A self-constituted body known as the Committee of National Union has assumed to itself the right to act as the mouthpiece of the people of Bahrein. Over the past year the Bahrein Government have shown great patience in dealing with this Committee, hoping that it might contribute to constitutional progress and provide a means of maintaining regular contacts between the Government and the public. The Committee has however refused to co-operate in working the new constitutional machinery and latterly turned to more extreme courses. In consequence it lost much moderate support and it then began a campaign of intimidation to prevent others from co-operating. It has also fostered dissension between different sections of the community. This activity culminated on 2nd and 3rd November in violent demonstrations which caused damage to property (notably Bahrein Government property and a Roman Catholic Church) and danger to the lives of peaceful citizens. The Bahrein Government thereupon decided to detain five of the leaders of the Committee. This they did on 6th November. One of these leaders had already been apprehended in the act of fomenting disorders. The Bahrein Government informed the British Political Resident of their decision to take this action but my right hon. and learned Friend saw no reason to instruct him to advise them in any contrary sense. Since these arrests and the simultaneous dissolution of the Committee, there have been no further disorders.

The dissolution of the Committee improves the prospect of political evolution in Bahrein, by opening the way for greater participation in the administration of moderate reformists, who have in the past been intimidated by the Committee. The Ruler has affirmed that constitutional progress will continue.