Gulf Shipping

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st July 1987.

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Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Epping Forest 12:00 am, 1st July 1987

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's commitment to the protection of its national shipping in the Gulf; and what information he has about the equivalent commitment of other nations in the Gulf.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

As reiterated most recently at Venice, we are firmly committed to the principle of freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

The Royal Navy has maintained a continuous presence in the Gulf since 1980. Since January about 120 merchant ships in transit through the Straits of Hormuz have been covered by ships of the Armilla patrol. Also since January three warships have been deployed in the region. The United States and the USSR are in the process of increasing their naval presence in the Gulf in the light of their commitment to protect Kuwaiti tankers. The French also patrol in the Gulf from time to time.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Epping Forest

Has not the President of the United States drawn attention to the fact that the contribution of the Royal Navy is proportionally greater than that of any other power? Does not the Royal Navy deserve the thanks of the House for the job that it is doing, entirely without fuss?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

I associate myself entirely with every particular of what my hon. Friend has said, and I hope that the whole House will do so.

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Opposition Whip (Commons)

While recognising the role played by the Royal Navy, may I ask whether the Minister agrees that the American attempt to exclude the Soviet Union from the Gulf—that is certainly how matters appear—is very dangerous? Will he urge the United States to work in co-operation with the Soviet Navy in that area? This is not merely a matter of American self-interest; it is in the interest of the whole world.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

There is no doubt that major extensions of superpower rivalry would be troubling. The Government are very well aware of that.