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Volume 645: debated on Tuesday 25 July 1961

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asked the Prime Minister if he will invite the Ruler of Kuwait to London to discuss with him plans for the withdrawal of British forces from Kuwait.

No, Sir. Any discussions with the Ruler can take place through Her Majesty's representative in Kuwait.

Is there not an urgent need to reduce military expenditure overseas? Could not something be done to speed up the withdrawal from Kuwait? Is the Prime Minister aware that the Ruler of Kuwait would be very welcome in the City of London, because he has £300 million invested there and he would be the right man in the right place at the right time?

In regard to the removal of our troops, as the hon. Member knows the forces there have been considerably reduced and, of course, we are urgently seeking ways by which we will be able to make a withdrawal without the threat to Kuwait being increased.

Can the Prime Minister state by how much our forces have been reduced and how many troops remain, in order to clear up the confusion which appears to exist in this matter? Can he also say whether any approach has been received from the Ruler of Kuwait since Kuwait joined the Arab League?

With regard to the first part of that supplementary question, I would rather not state the number of troops which remain. An announcement has, however, been made about some which have been withdrawn. With regard to the second part of the question, we are, of course, in the closest touch with events. For instance, we welcome very much the admission of Kuwait to the Arab League. That may enable us to find a way out.

Is the right hon. Gentleman learning the lesson, which might be of value to some of his supporters, that it is a great deal easier to put troops in than to take them out?

Yes, Sir. We had that experience in Jordan, but we were able to accomplish our task and successfully to make a withdrawal. I hope that it will be the same thing again.

As it is now clear from the statements made by the Minister of Defence and by the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State for Air that the number of our forces is very limited indeed, what is the purpose of retaining them in that area when it is quite impossible for them to deal with any act of aggression?

The right hon. Gentleman rather over-simplifies that question. I would rather leave it where it is.