Federation of South Arabia (Air Attack)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st August 1966.

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Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham 12:00 am, 1st August 1966

Mr. Sandys (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement about the air attack which has been made upon the territory of the Federation of South Arabia and the action taken by Her Majesty's Government to fulfil their treaty obligations to defend the Federation.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

The High Commissioner has informed me that at 08.30 hours local time on 30th July two aircraft, believed to have been MiGs, appeared over Nuqub, in the Amirate of Baihan, from the direction of the Yemen. After making one high-level run the aircraft carried out two low-level strafing attacks on the town from a height of approximately 500 feet, one from the south-east and one from the north-west.

During the course of these attacks they fired 20 mm. cannon and ·5 machine gun, using a mixture of high explosive and incendiary rounds. Three Arab children were wounded and a total of 75 hits have so far been counted on houses in the town.

I am sure that the House will wish to express its sympathy with the victims of this savage and unprovoked attack and with their families.

Hunter aircraft are patrolling the area and our forces in South Arabia will continue to provide all necessary assistance in the defence of the Federation in accordance with our obligations under the 1959 Treaty.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that Her Majesty's Government's reaction is totally inadequate? If Nasser does not hesitate to attack South Arabia now, when British troops are still in Aden, is it not perfectly obvious that he will invade the country as soon as they are withdrawn? Does this not once again underline the utter irresponsibility and perfidy of the British Government in their decision to leave the Federation totally defenceless after independence?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

The right hon. Gentleman has made that accusation of perfidy before and has never been able to make it good, and has not done so now.

As to the reaction of Her Majesty's Government, there are, of course, courses of action we can take which we are now urgently considering.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

Will the Government make quite clear to the Government responsible for this violation that any further violation of South Arabian air space by military aircraft will result in those aircraft being shot down by British aircraft? As this equipment was provided by the Russian Government, does not this give added emphasis to the importance of providing adequate air defence to the South Arabian Federation on its achieving independence?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

The House knows the assistance we are giving to the Federation on its achievement of independence. I am asking the Canadian and United States Governments, as the protecting Powers, to make protests to the United Arab Republic and the Republican authorities in the Yemen, and I am urgently considering what other action it may be proper to take.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

The Foreign Secretary did not tell the House to what country these aeroplanes belong and whether or not there were any national markings on them. Can he assist the House? Was it the United Arab Republic and, if so, does he intend to make a diplomatic formal protest?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

As I said, the aircraft are believed to have been MiGs. Shell cases recovered have been provisionally identified as Russian. One may draw an obvious conclusion from that as to the nationality of the aircraft.

Photo of Mr James Allason Mr James Allason , Hemel Hempstead

Would not the right hon. Gentleman confirm that had this attack taken place after the British withdrawal there would have been no protection whatever for these people who, at present, rely, and, in the past, have relied, on British protection?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I cannot answer a question as hypothetical as that beyond saying that the House is aware of the assistance we propose to give to the Federation on its attainment of independence.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

Is not this the essential point: do the Government consider that the help they intend to give to South Arabia will be enough to enable it to defend itself against this sort of attack in future?

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Woolwich East

Does my right hon. Friend recall similar attacks being made on Baihan under the Conservative Government without effective action being taken?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

Yes, Sir. I think that that is in all our recollections.

Photo of Mr Anthony Royle Mr Anthony Royle , Richmond (Surrey)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give immediate consideration to retaliatory attack on all the airfields where the MiGs came from?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I have said that I am giving careful consideration to what action we should take.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that we are not prepared to undertake for all time the rôle of international military policeman?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I think that is clear to all of us.