HC Deb 20 April 1950 vol 474 cc293-4
5. Mr. De Chair

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will make a statement on the question of the negotiations with His Majesty's Government proposed by the Premier of South Africa on the subject of the Union's desire to incorporate the British Protectorates of Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland.

Mr. Gordon-Walker

I have seen the report of Dr. Malan's statement that he was prepared, with the consent of his Cabinet, to communicate with the British Government and indicate that the Union Government was prepared to take up the matter of transfer of the High Commission territories to the Union where it was left by General Hertzog. I cannot at present make any further statement.

Mr. De Chair

May the House understand from that that His Majesty's Government would be prepared to enter into negotiations with the Union of South Africa on the basis of General Hertzog's pronouncement in 1925, which was that the Union would not seek incorporation of any territory into it unless that territory was prepared to join it?

Mr. Gordon-Walker

We are, of course, prepared to discuss any programme with any Commonwealth Government at any time. In the course of the various negotiations that have gone on in the past in this matter that statement by General Hertzog is a very important one.

Earl Winterton

In view of the fact that there have been many discussions on this matter in the last 30 years, and a very important pronouncement in 1909, and the fact that there has been discussion in the Union Parliament, would it not be appropriate for His Majesty's Government to publish a White Paper with the relevant documents, past and present?

Mr. Gordon-Walker

I will certainly consider that.

Mr. Sorensen

Are we to take it that the assurance that has been given previously, that there should be no transference of these territories without the agreement of the local inhabitants, still holds good?

Mr. Gordon-Walker

I do not know how often one has to repeat an assurance, but I certainly repeat it.

Mr. Leslie Hale

Are we to take it that the Government holds the view that any transfer of any territory without the will of its inhabitants is a breach of the Atlantic Charter?

Mr. Gordon-Walker

I do not think I should be asked to add to the statement which has been made for many years on this matter, and which I repeated only the other day in the House.

Mr. John Hay

Will the Minister give an assurance that no irrevocable step will be taken by the Government in this matter until this House has had an opportunity to consider it?

Mr. Gordon-Walker

That is part of the statement made by this and previous Governments on numerous occasions.