HC Deb 07 December 1953 vol 521 cc1589-93
7. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will state the policy of Her Majesty's Government following the Sudanese elections.

The Minister of State (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)

I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to await the statement which I propose to make at the end of Questions.

At the end of Questions

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

With the permission of the House, I should like to make a statement in reply to Question No. 7.

On 15th November, 1951, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary told this House that Her Majesty's Government would give the fullest support to the steps being taken to bring the Sudanese rapidly to the stage of self-government as a prelude to self-determination, and said he hoped that a new Constitution providing for self-government might be in operation by the end of 1952.

As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) pointed out at the time, this was a reaffirmation of Her Majesty's Government's support for a policy which had already been pursued for some time and, indeed, was implicit in the whole history of the condominium administration in the Sudan.

Our hopes that the new Constitution would be in operation by the end of 1952 were not fulfilled because, in accordance with the wishes of the Sudanese political parties, Her Majesty's Government negotiated with the Egyptian Government an agreement which secured the abandonment of Egyptian claims to sovereignty over the Sudan, and an undertaking that Egypt would accept the decision of the Sudanese on their future status. This caused a postponement of the elections and hence a delay in the time at which the new constitutional arrangements could take effect.

Elections to the new Sudanese Parliament are incomplete and the report of the International Electoral Commission has not yet been submitted; but when the new Parliament has met, and a Sudanese Government has taken office, the first—I repeat the first—stage of the policy reaffirmed in 1951 will have been reached.

Her Majesty's Government's policy now is, therefore, to see that the new constitutional arrangements come into operation in as expeditious and orderly a manner as possible and to assist the Sudanese Government in their progress towards the next stage—that of self-determination.

I think, therefore, that this is an appropriate occasion for us to send our good wishes to the Sudanese people. From now on, it will be their Parliament and their Government which will have the chief responsibility for safeguarding the good government and institutions of their country; at the same time, they will have the task of preparing for self-determination.

These would be heavy responsibilities even without external pressure. Experience has shown that there may well be strong and unremitting pressure from Egypt where each successive régime has manifested a constant determination to control directly or indirectly the destinies of the Sudan. Britain, for her part, has no aim other than to see in the Sudan a sound Parliamentary system and arrangements under which the Sudanese will be able to choose for themselves their relations with other countries.

I know that the people of this country will watch developments with friendly interest and attention; and I should like to assure Sudanese patriots of every party and creed that Britain will play her part in helping them to secure for themselves the benefits of the self-government which they now have, and of the free self-determination which is to follow.

Mr. Henderson

I should like to express, on behalf of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, our agreement with the terms of the statement made by the Minister, especially his expression of good wishes to the Sudanese people and his statement that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to do what they can to help to ensure the full benefits of self-government for the people of the Sudan. May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman this question: Would he not agree that the task involved in the transfer of political power to the people of the Sudan will be greatly facilitated as a result of the highly efficient civil administration which has been built up in the past, and most of which has, in a sense, been bequeathed to the people of the Sudan?

Mr. Lloyd

I entirely agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I think that a great debt of gratitude is owed by the people of the Sudan to those who have worked so well to found their institutions, upon which freedom must depend.

Mr. E. Wakefield

Would my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the result of the Sudan elections, disappointing as it may be for some, constitutes in itself the most striking possible evidence of the scrupulous impartiality and integrity of the Sudan civil service? Could he perhaps convey to members of that service the confidence of this House that in the testing and trying days ahead they will continue to do their duty in that same exemplary manner?

Mr. Lloyd

I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend has said and I will certainly act upon his suggestion.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Could the Minister assure us that the precedent of British Guiana will not be followed, and that no attempt will be made to suppress this new Constitution?

Mr. Amery

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there is a widespread feeling in the country that the result of the elections marks not only the abandonment of British interests, but the betrayal of our trust for the people of the Southern Sudan, and could he say what steps are being taken to give effect to the declaration of the Foreign Secretary that he would not condone the Egyptian breaches of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty over the Sudan?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that the best way to act under present circumstances is to keep our word to the people of the Sudan in order to see that they have the opportunity for free self-determination. As I have said, this is only the first stage which has been reached so far. There are other stages to be gone through before self-determination arrives and we must do everything we can to see that the Sudanese people have a free choice as to their future.

Captain Waterhouse

In view of the fact that there are these important subsequent stages, may we take it that Her Majesty's Government will use all the influence they have to see that undue pressure is not brought on the Sudan by Egypt?

Mr. Lloyd

Certainly, Sir.

Mr. Patrick Maitland

Will my right hon. and learned Friend say what steps Her Majesty's Government will take to counter Egyptian pressure, which is admitted and deplored?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that the best way to counter that pressure is to call the attention of the people of the Sudan to it as and when it is proved.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Would the Government consider, also, sending a word of gratitude to the international commission which assisted in the elections and in the process of building up self-government for the Sudan?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that the International Electoral Commission, under the chairmanship of Mr. Sen, has done a very good job of work.