HC Deb 10 December 1952 vol 509 cc463-4
The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Foster)

With the permission of the House and your permission, Sir, I will make a brief statement in explanation of a White Paper (Cmd. 8707) issued today.

The White Paper contains the records of past discussions between Her Majesty's Governments in the United Kingdom and the Union of South Africa about the future of the three territories of Basutoland, the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Swaziland during the period 1909 to 1939.

A publication covering broadly similar ground is being issued simultaneously by the Union Government. The Union Government's publication follows an undertaking given by the Prime Minister of the Union, Dr. Malan, in the South African Parliament in February this year, that he would publish the records of past discussions between the two Governments on this subject.

Subsequently, the Union Government sought the concurrence of the United Kingdom Government in the publication of certain of the documents. The United Kingdom Government saw no objection to the proposal and decided to take the opportunity of making available to Parliament here their own records of those discussions.

Mr. Gordon Walker

May I say that the publication of this White Paper is very welcome, that I am, naturally, familiar with these documents and that I have no doubt that they will show that all British Governments, regardless of party, are committed to pledges which make it unthinkable that any British Government could concur, as things are, in the transfer of the territories. May I ask why this story is only brought down to 1939 by the White Paper, and would the hon. and learned Gentleman seek an opportunity of making public any developments between 1939 and the present day?

Mr. Foster

The reason why it stopped at 1939 was that the inter-Governmental discussions stopped in that year. Since then there have been no developments except that the matter has been referred to, I understand, in speeches by Dr. Malan. As far as Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are concerned, this matter rests on the basis of the pledges given on many occasions in the last 40 years by various Governments of the United Kingdom, the last of which was the answer in the House by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 22nd November, 1951. In regard to making public, for instance, the account of the conversations which the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) had, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will put down a Question.

Mr. C. Davies

May I ask for a definite statement from Her Majesty's Government, because the Government and the people of this country are under a definite obligation as trustees for the peoples of these territories? Is it the intention of the Government to carry out the obligations of that trust?

Mr. Foster

The answer was given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 22nd November and also, for instance, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) when he was Secretary of State. I have nothing to add to that.