HC Deb 17 November 1958 vol 595 cc843-5
53. Mrs Castle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why Her Majesty's Government have not signed and ratified the Convention on the Political Rights of Women adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1952.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ian Harvey)

The main reason why Her Majesty's Government cannot became a party to this Convention is that it does not contain a Territorial Application Clause. If the Convention were signed and ratified by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom its provisions would then become applicable to all territories for whose international relations Her Majesty's Government are responsible; this is not possible at present, given their different social systems and varying stages of development. Nevertheless, as my right hon. Friend said in the House on 27th November, 1957, Her Majesty's Government support the principles embodied in this Convention.

Mrs. Castle

Is the hon. Member aware that the General Council of the United Nations Association voted unanimously in favour of a resolution calling upon Her Majesty's Government to sign and ratify this Convention, and that the Association is well aware of the Territorial Application Clause to which the hon. Member refers? In view of this great body of opinion in favour of women's political rights, will not the Government look at the whole matter again?

Mr. Harvey

I am well aware of the Resolution that was passed, but I think that the reasons given by Her Majesty's Government stand firm, and I do not see any purpose in reviewing the matter.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Would it not be possible for Her Majesty's Government to adhere to this Convention for the great majority of territories under our rule or protection, adding a rider that we hope to apply it to the remainder as and when social conditions permit?

Mr. Harvey

That proposition is well worth consideration, but as matters stand it would not be possible under arrangements to date.

Mr. Noel-Baker

With great respect, is it not always possible to adhere to a convention in respect of certain territories and make reservations about the rest?

Mr. Harvey

Not on this occasion, but we will examine the point made by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Dudley Williams

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the Council of the United Nations Association very often passes resolutions which have very little support among the general members of the Association? Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the effect of the mischievous resolution passed at the time of Suez?