HC Deb 12 May 1958 vol 588 cc21-3
39 Mr. Benn

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) if he will publish the exchange of notes between his late Majesty's Ambassador in Lisbon and Dr. Salazar, dated 16th and 23rd June, 14th September and 4th October, 1943, relating to the use of facilities in the Azores by the Allies, and including the full text of the assurances given at that time by His Majesty's Government regarding the maintenance of Portuguese sovereignty over all Portuguese Colonies after the war;

(2) how far the assurances given to the Portuguese Government by His Majesty's Government on 16th June and 14th September, 1943, regarding the maintenance of Portuguese sovereignty over all Portuguese Colonies after the war, are still valid or in force; and

(3) what discussions there have been between Her Majesty's Government and the Portuguese Government since the war regarding the notes of 16th June and 14th September, 1943; if both Governments agree upon their interpretation of the assurances contained in them; and to what extent, arising from these notes, Her Majesty's Government are now in any way committed to the maintenance of Portuguese sovereignty over any Portuguese Colonies.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I will arrange for copies of the Notes to be available in the Library. As a result of this Exchange of Notes, the Portuguese Government granted to Her Majesty's Government, in the spirit of the ancient Alliance at a critical period of the war, facilities which were of great value to the Allied war effort. The assurances to which the honourable Member refers, which were in keeping with the tradition of the Alliance, were by their terms concerned with a particular period and particular circumstances and have not been the subject of discussions between our two Governments since the war.

The second and third parts of the third Question do not, therefore, arise.

Mr. Benn

While, of course, everybody will recognise the value of the Azores base during the war, is it not highly undesirable that hon. Members should receive the news that Her Majesty's Government had entered into a guarantee over Portuguese Colonies after the war from the Portuguese authorities, that information not having been published in this country? Would he also clear up the ambiguity that still remains since Dr. Salazar still asserts that these guarantees to Portuguese Colonies, including Goa, are still in force? May I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for himself now repudiating what appears to be the remaining validity of these guarantees?

Mr. Lloyd

In answering the hon. Gentleman, I have dealt simply with the exchanges during the war which, by their terms, related to particular circumstances. I have not entered into the wider aspects of the matter at all.

Mr. G. R. Howard

Would not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that among a large section of the people of this country there is a feeling that the Portuguese came to our rescue at a very critical time, that they are one of our oldest allies and that we should honour our treaty obligations?

Mr. Lloyd

We were certainly grateful to the Portuguese at that time, and we are grateful to them still. We have every intention of honouring the terms of our ancient Alliance.

Mr. Younger

Can the Foreign Secretary say what were the implications of his supplementary answer? He did not mean, I trust, that there have been other negotiations since the war in which we did give guarantees of this kind. Would he clarify that? He seemed to suggest that there were discussions on this wider problem not referred to in his previous Answer.

Mr. Lloyd

I was referring to the terms of our treaties.

Mr. Dugdale

May I press the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because he has introduced a greater note of ambiguity? May we know whether there are guarantees now, or whether the guarantees made during the war have ceased to be operative?

Mr. Lloyd

What I made quite clear was that the notes exchanged during the war related, by their terms, to that particular period. We are still bound by our treaties with Portugal.

Mr. Benn

In view of the fact that the Foreign Office in a letter to me on this subject last week said that the Exchange of Notes had no relevance or validity today, would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman have the courage to repeat that in the House?

Mr. Lloyd

If the hon. Gentleman will do me the courtesy to study my answer, he will see that I said that the Notes, by their terms, related to a particular period.

Mr. Benn

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.