HC Deb 10 May 1954 vol 527 cc838-40
23. Mr. E. Wakefield

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the present composition of the Governor-General's Commission in the Sudan; and what changes in personnel are impending.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The Governor-General's Commission consists of a Pakistani chairman, one British and one Egyptian member, and two Sudanese members. The two Sudanese members were originally appointed by agreement between the British and Egyptian Governments and, under the provisions of Article 4 of the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement, their appointment was subject to the subsequent approval of the Sudanese Parliament, which was entitled to nominate alternative candidates in case of disapproval. Of the two original Sudanese nominees, one was a supporter of the pro-independence party, and the other a supporter of the National Unionist Party.

When their appointment to the Commission came before the Sudanese Parliament on 22nd and 23rd April, the latter's appointment was approved, and that of the pro-independence member disapproved, a Southerner belonging to the National Unionst Party being nominated in his place. This is no doubt the change to which my hon. Friend is referring.

Mr. Wakefield

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether Her Majesty's Government are prepared to recognise the validity of the new Commission?

Mr. Lloyd

We consider that it was a matter of great regret that the Sudanese Parliament should have disturbed the balance on the Governor-General's Commission, which was not only a political balance but also a balance between the two sects, the Khatmia and the Ansar. We regretted, and indicated that we regretted, very much any alteration of the balance in the composition of the Commission. So far as the future is concerned, we must wait and see how the new Commission conducts itself.

Mr. Stokes

Is it not a fact that, as a result of this change, there is considerable feeling in Southern Sudan that the whole balance has been upset in favour of Egypt and against the Governor-General's Commission acting in the neutral way in which it was intended to act? What steps does the right hon. and learned Gentleman propose actively to take about it?

Mr. Lloyd

The course which we must take is to wait and see whether the new Commission behaves in such a way that it does not carry out the spirit of the Agreement, and when that fact has been established, if it is established, we shall have to take action.

Captain Waterhouse

Is it not too late to make these protests? Is not this action perfectly in accord with the Agreement signed 18 months ago, which hon. Members opposite and hon. Members in other parts of the House endorsed?

Mr. Lloyd

Without doubt, under the letter of the Agreement, it was a matter for the Sudanese Parliament.

Mr. Stokes

Might I press the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the point? Was not an undertaking given at the time the Governor-General's Commission was set up that the Sudanese influence on the Governor-General's Commission would not be upset, and is it not a fact that, as a result of the recent changes, it has been upset? Surely it is up to Her Majesty's Government to do something about it.

Mr. Lloyd

I entirely agree that the disturbing of the balance on the Commission is a matter very much to be regretted. When I was in Khartoum I pointed out to the Council of Ministers and to Sudanese leaders the unfortunate effects that this would have. We must wait and see whether the Commission behaves in a manner which indicates that it is simply the servant of one party. If that happens, as I have said, we shall have to take action.