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Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 5 July 1961

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the present situation on the borders of Iraq and Kuwait.


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the situation in Kuwait.

Nothing has occurred to remove our anxiety concerning the Iraqi threat to the independence of Kuwait, and our defensive build-up has proceeded according to plan. The Security Council is today resuming its consideration of the Kuwaiti complaint, and a Kuwaiti delegation is on its way to New York.

Is the Iraq-Kuwait border clearly defined? In any event, would it not be a good thing if the British-Kuwaiti Forces were kept several miles away from the border so as to minimise the risk of border incidents?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will realise that in desert country such as that of the Kuwait-Iraq border it is very difficult to find precisely on the ground where the border is, although it is defined on the map. From that point of view, I agree that there is a great deal in what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says.

I recognise that Her Majesty's Government had no option but to accede to the Ruler's request for assistance last week, but will he agree that the scale of the operation now being mounted imposes serious military strains upon this country's defensive forces and, if continued indefinitely, will impose serious political and economic dangers on the country as a whole? For that reason, have Her Majesty's Government any plan in mind for trying to transfer their share of the burden for the defence of Kuwait, and, in particular, will they make some proposal that the United Nations should join in this work?

We are anxious that we should have in Kuwait only the forces necessary to be able to meet the threat from Iraq, and we shall have no more forces there than are necessary for that purpose. Until we are satisfied that the threat has disappeared, and the Ruler of Kuwait, as an independent country, is satisfied, we must see that there is effective defence against any attack.

It may be much too early to talk about the establishment of permanent security forces in Kuwait, but will my right hon. Friend take note of the grave danger of allowing what might be called normal United Nations Forces to take up a position there as they are so liable to infiltration by Iraq and other Arab countries? Will he make absolutely certain that, if any foreign force is ultimately established there, the British will have a very important component part to play in it?

That was why, in answer to the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), I used the expression that any defence must seem to be effective to both the Ruler of Kuwait and ourselves.

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my earlier question? Have Her Majesty's Government any plan in mind for requiring the introduction of some form of United Nations force into Kuwait?

This matter is under consideration at the United Nations and discussions will take place there very shortly. We are, of course, considering what steps we should take there. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that our minds are not closed to it, but the immediate need is to be able to deal with the threat which still remains.

In order to avoid the risk, in the interval before a United Nations force could go there, that British troops might be engaged against the Iraq Army which they have so recently been training, will the Government propose to the United Nations that they should establish a neutralised zone under United Nations observance, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has proposed?

This is another proposition which can be considered, no doubt, in due course. At the moment, the main thing is to be able to deal with the threat which remains.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what recent consultations there have been with the Ruler of Kuwait concerning the defence of the state of Kuwait in view of the latest developments there.

Her Majesty's Government have been in constant consultation with the Ruler concerning the defence of Kuwait, and have taken the necessary action there.


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will publish a White Paper on the situation in Kuwait.

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that the sooner he comes to a decision about this the better? If this is a major military operation, could not the people of this country be told what it is all about and the background? Is he aware that this operation looks suspiciously like the old Suez operation which cut off this country's oil supplies? Could he explain why this occurs a week after the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that it is necessary to cut overseas military expenditure?

The text of the Exchange of Notes on 19th June, which I announced to the House, has been published as a White Paper and is now available in the Vote Office. The Prime Minister made a very full statement to the House about this on Monday. The purpose of the operation is to meet the request of the Ruler of Kuwait for defence against a threat from Iraq. It is carrying out our obligations under paragraph (d) of the Exchange of Notes.

In making up his mind, will the Lord Privy Seal bear in mind the rather extravagant historical justification contained in the speech made by General Kassim when he laid claim to this territory?

I will, indeed. I said we would bear the suggestion in mind in order to choose the right moment when there is sufficient information to publish in the White Paper.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what representations he has received from members of the Arab League following the decision of Her Majesty's Government to land troops in Kuwait.

Would it not be very helpful in this venture if we could be assured of the good will of the Arab League? Is it not the case that it has met very recently and come to a decision? Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether or not he has any inkling of what the attitude of the members of the Arab League, apart from Saudi-Arabia, is in this matter? How does the balance of opinion lie?

I think that all the Arab countries, with the exception of Iraq, sent messages of support and congratulation on the occasion of the Exchange of Notes about the independence of Kuwait. I have no knowledge of the Arab League's having reached a decision in the last few days since the events in Kuwait.

Has the verbal support been manifested in any other way, say by the support of troops?

No, sir, Saudi-Arabia is the only country which has offered the support of troops and has, in fact, sent a token force.

Does not the Lord Privy Seal agree that it is a very peculiar thing that our soldiers should be shoulder to shoulder with Saudi-Arabian troops in Kuwait although our two Government at the moment have no diplomatic relations? Have the Government any intention—in view of the fact that we may soon be co-belligerents with Saudi-Arabia—of resuming negotiations for the restoration of diplomatic relations?

As it is always said that British troops are the best ambassadors in the world, it may be that this will lead to a better relationship.

Could the right hon. Gentleman make it clear to the House that 40 per cent. of the oil on which this country's industry depends comes from Kuwait and that our troops are there in order to defend it because the Government think they cannot defend it in any other way? If those facts are made clear, does he not think that our reputation in the world would be just a trifle higher than by this constant humbug and pretence about the protection of the Ruler of Kuwait? If we are there for protection of our own interests, why not say so frankly?

—as indeed have other countries and nationals, in the oil which is either in Kuwait or adjacent to Kuwait. Kuwait achieved independence. Only a fortnight ago we offered protection for Kuwait's independence. I notice that the hon. Member is very careful in his choice of countries which ought to have their independence protected for them. This is a case where we undertook obligations and we are carrying them out.