HC Deb 21 December 1960 vol 632 cc1336-65

1.29 p.m.

Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)

There is not sufficient time to go into all the sordid details of the background of the Congo situation. All the facts show that the Belgians were guilty of criminal negligence in the way in which they handled the Congo situation before independence. There was inadequate preparation for independence. There was discrimination against the setting up of national organisations, and a complete lack of any programme of training for the Congolese to take over positions of authority. When independence came, there were only seventeen graduates in the whole of the Congo and no senior executives. The Belgians held on to all the positions of authority until the last possible moment, and as soon as there was any feeling of uncertainty after independence came the Belgians rushed out of the Congo in great panic. The Belgians, indeed, have a terrible record in their handling of the Congo situation—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)


Mr. Stonehouse

I appreciate the point that you are about to make, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was about to say that this is the background to the situation and I do not want to dwell on it any longer because the situation now is that the United Nations, having been asked into the Congo, are now being undermined in their authority by the very Belgians who were guilty of inadequate preparation for Congolese independence.

I was in Leopoldville at the end of September, a few days after Colonel Mobutu's coup d'etat. It was quite obvious at that time that Colonel Mobutu was acting with Belgian advice and, indeed, Belgian support. It has been suggested that President Kasavubu is the legitimate Head of State. I do not want to enter into that controversy, but I want to make the point—and I think the House will agree with me on this—that President Kasavubu's authority depends on an alliance with Colonel Mobutu; and when Colonel Mobutu, who ihas the army's support, decides to withdraw his support from President Kasavubu, the Kasavubu régime in fact will have no authority whatsoever.

While I was in Leopoldville the Mobutu troops stopped meetings of the Congolese Parliament. On four occasions while I was there Congolese Deputies attempted to meet and on each occasion they were stopped by the Army forces. What is so worrying about the Congo position now is that Colonel Mobutu, acting without constitutional authority, using a rabble of an army with Belgian support, is in fact preventing the legitimate constitutional authority from operating, namely—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member can only speak on matters for which there is Ministerial responsibility. So far the hon. Member does not seem to have mentioned any matter with Ministerial responsibility.

Mr. Stonehouse

I have taken only a few minutes to explain the background as I see it. Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

The position now is that the Belgians are using their influence and intrigue in the Congo in an attempt by the back door to reassert their authority, and I believe that Britain now has the responsibility to take a new initiative to ensure that the Congo situation can be solved without the great Powers becoming involved in a sruggle within that territory. That, as I see it, is the position.

We have just had news this morning of the failure in the United Nations General Assembly to reach a majority solution. Great Britain has supported an American resolution which, in my opinion, did not go far enough. Indeed, we understand—and I would be grateful if the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would clarify this point, because it is not clear from the Press reports—that Britain voted against the Indian and Yugoslav resolution which was supported by a number of newly-independent States. Is that the case? I should like the Under-Secretary to reply to that.

The Yugoslav-Indian Resolution made a number of suggestions which seem to me wholly acceptable: first, that there should be the release of political prisoners; secondly, that the Congolese Parliament should be allowed to meet under United Nations protection; and further that the United Nations forces should prevent the Congolese Army units from interfering in the country's internal political affairs. It also demanded the recall of the Belgian military and quasi-military personnel. All those points seem to me to be the sort of points which Her Majesty's Government should be supporting, and I cannot understand—I hope the Under-Secretary will tell us—why we have voted against this proposal.

The Minister will be aware that the Belgians have been infiltrating into positions of authority in the last few months. The Ministry of Public Health is now manned with Belgian personnel, and it has been stated publicly that there is no need for a United Nations team in the Congo. Belgians have been advising Congolese officials and, in fact, withholding United Nations documents and reports from the Congolese officials responsible for these Ministries. The Information Ministry has four Belgian advisers who are gradually taking the Information Ministry back to its old techniques. There is a Belgian colonel who is acting as adviser to the Ministry of National Defence in Leopoldville, and Colonel Mobutu himself has a Belgian former warrant officer who is serving as his aide-de-camp. In Katanga there are 114 Belgian officers and 117 Belgian N.C.O.s in key positions and all the key civilian and security posts are held by Belgians. In South Kasai there are Belgian officers and Belgian police organising the régime established there.

I should have thought that the report which Ambassador Dayal provided was absolutely clear on this question of Belgian intervention. I quote from paragraphs 54 and 55 of his report. He says that the influence of Belgian nationals has … all too often … coincided with anti-United Nations policies or feelings at the various points of impact. Belgian activities in recent weeks have increased the intransigence of the A.N.C. command as well as of the Katangese authorities, inhibited peaceful political activity and therefore the possibility of an eventual return to constitutional government and the re-establishment of the unity and integrity of the country. These activities have also had their repercussions, direct or indirect, on the technical assistance programme as has been indicated in this and other chapters. Those words are surely strong enough to have influenced the British representative at U.N.O. to vote for the Indian-Yugoslav proposal.

I want to ask the Under-Secretary this question. What protest have Her Majesty's Government made to the Belgian authorities about their continual intrigue in the Congo? Has Her Majesty's Government been inhibited by the N.A.T.O. connection and Belgium's threat to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation? Is this the reason why they are hesitant in pressing a point of view? Are they too frightened, too vacillating, too inhibited by military alliances to say what they really think; or are we to understand that they actually approve of Colonel Mobutu's suppression of the elected Parliament, his rule of terror and his undermining of the work of the United Nations in the Congo? We want a clear explanation of these points.

The United Nations have reached a deadlock. Do Her Majesty's Government want this deadlock to continue? If not, will they now take a new initiative to resolve it? I believe if they do, and if they get the support of India, Ghana and other Commonwealth countries, as well as of the newly-independent States, they can strike a new blow for the United Nations. If they refuse to act, they will be guilty of helping to undermine U.N.O. and its work.

I therefore propose to the Joint Under-Secretary that he should ask his right hon. Friend to consider Motion No. 34 which has been put on the Order Paper by his hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman):—

[That this House, recalling the United Nations General Assembly's resolution of 19th September requesting the Secretary-General to continue to take vigorous action and to assist the central government of the Congo in the restoration and maintenance of law and order, throughout the territory, and noting the impossibility of fulfilling that resolution in the continued absence of a central government of the Congo which the Secretary-General might thus hope to assist, requests Her Majesty's Government to propose that the General Assembly of the United Nations should appoint a commission to act as the administering authority for the territory and to assist that commission with the powers necessary to enforce law and order until such time as the General Assembly becomes satisfied that an authoritative Central Government of the Congo has been brought into existence.]

It is supported by hon. Members from both sides of the House and it asks that United Nations should be given greater authority in the Congo until an authoritative central Government has been established.

I should like to follow that with a proposal that Parliament should be recalled with United Nations protection and that, if necessary, within six or nine months' time a new general election should be held. In the meantime the Congolese political leaders should be called together, preferably in New York, to discuss the problem of the Congo and to try to resolve their differences. Unless this initiative is taken there will be a further relapse into chaos and disorder in the Congo. We shall have a situation in which the Belgians will build up their military support of the Leopoldville régime and the Russians will begin to be interested in supporting the Gizenga régime in Stanleyville. This would result in the danger of civil war in the Congo between these rival forces and of the Congo being thrown right into the cockpit of the cold war. There would be the danger of another Korean situation with military forces being brought in on both sides. The country would be torn in bloody conflict and the world itself would be endangered by the big Powers being involved in the conflict in the Congo.

1.41 p.m.

Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse), not because there is not a certain amount with which I agree in what he said but because time is limited and possibly we may develop a fresh approach. My approach starts with the conception that not all questions have a solution. There are certain problems which are insoluble and there are a lot of problems in which the answer is a choice between two thoroughly bad alternatives. We recently had an example in the problem of Covent Garden, where it was so easy to see the disadvantages of what might be thought the least bad proposition. Covent Garden was not a matter of very great importance, but I submit that the Congo is a matter of very great importance indeed, with the lives of millions and the future of ordered government in Africa at stake.

I think that ordered government is the keynote, because in my view order is heaven's first law and at the present moment we have the chaos of hell in the Congo. If the choice is to be between two bad alternatives, and I think it may be—because the other choice is that there is no solution to this problem which cannot be solved even with bloodshed over a long time—and if the choice is thus to be between two alternatives both of which are bad, it will need to be a choice between ordered autocracy or chaotic democracy.

If we contemplate Nkrumah in Ghana, we might say that there we have what is clearly becoming, if it has not become so already, an ordered autocracy rather than an ordered democracy. Everybody in the Congo—with the exception possibly of those people sparring for personal power for their own ends would agree that such a period of ordered autocracy would be far the more acceptable of the alternatives; and moreover, that it might indeed be a good alternative if only the order and peace were introduced and the autocratic element were limited in time and by the intention that full democracy was to be evolved during that time.

It is in those terms that a number of hon. Members in this House have put forward that early day Motion. That Motion sets out as the ideal, the establishment of an authority to be legally responsible for order; in other words, an authority, a government. I think also it implies—it certainly does in my mind—that that Commission, which shall be the Government, shall be responsible to the Congolese and not United Nations. In point of fact, it is a denial of democracy far greater than is any ordinary autocracy if the wishes of the Congolese can be voiced and reach the responsible authority only indirectly through Her Majesty's Government representatives at the United Nations and through the representatives of the other 99 Governments or however many they are. The Commission which is to be the Congolese Government should, like any sovereign Power, be responsible for Government and order and the sole such authority within its territory and it should be responsible to its own population and not to an international organisation of the Governments of other nations.

Secondly, the Motion implies, and I think it should, that in its appointment of the members of any Commission to govern, the United Nations General Assembly should impose limitations in time and intention, and by all means limitation in terms of colour. I do not think any hon. Member would dissent from the view that such a Commission should have on it nobody of a white European race at all. The important point is that there are throughout the world, people of other colours capable of objective, disinterested and competent government who could do so acceptably if only they were given the authority and the legal position so to govern. I think we ought also to call on Her Majesty's Government to recognise such a Commission de jure as well as de facto as the Government of the Congo, and we should urge Her Majesty's Government to invite all other national Governments to accord similar recognition to that ad hoc Government when it is set up.

In the Motion we suggest that it should be the United Nations General Assembly which should appoint such a Commission. In all forms of Government it is essential that there should be somebody who "fingers" and thus determines who shall set himself up as the personification of legal government. In some cases it is a 'president and in some cases a monarch who so designates the man. Taking our own analogy, it is up to the Prime Minister designate who is given the opportunity to form a Government to govern and win acceptability and support. Appointment comes first and acceptability remains to be won and sustained. I think we who have sired democracy tend to overlook the importance of the machinery for rejecting the old government and we over-emphasise the electoral machinery for ensuring the acceptability of the new Government. The real essence of democracy is the acceptance of existing government if it is doing a good job, and of the ability to sack it either after due lapse of time or by the clear fact that it will be overthrown if it does not remove itself from office and allow a fresh "fingering" to take place. We thus suggest that in the absence of any Government in the Congo the General Assembly should act as President or Monarch and finger a new one.

I should say that with the chaos now ruling, the United Nations Assembly is the ideal and only body for fingering and giving authority to somebody who has to elevate himself, that is to say to a commission to set itself up as the body with authority.

I have read, in connection with organisation and methods work, all the standard works on organisation. I think it is absolutely clear, and that everybody is agreed on this one thing, that in government whether of a nation, a business or a home we get only confusion and disorganisation if the lines of responsibility are not crystal clear, if they are divided over a great number of people and not reposited in one person.

There has been in the Congo not only chaos but a fantastic world-wide confusion as to where responsibility lies. Last August the American Ambassador in Leopoldville, Mr. Timberlake, was reported as "sharply protesting that U.S. aircraft would not land any more at the Congo airports until … the United Nations could guarantee adequate military protection for the aircraft and their crews". Who is responsible for the safety of aircraft landing? Is it really the United Nations and not the Government of the country concerned? Can we imagine that if some American planes had difficulty in landing at London Airport the American Ambassador would hold the United Nations responsible? Is it not absolutely clear that the British Government are responsible for everything that happens in the sphere of things under its control? We need above all a clear definition of a single, solitary authority and power who is to be regarded as responsible for the Congo and all Governmental activities in that territory.

Let us recognise that the United Nations was formed, and still remains, as a club of sovereign nations dedicated to the purpose of guarding their sovereignty and not allowing one tittle of it to slip away. In the Korean situation and the Egyptian situation the forces of the U.N. were there not by any right of govern ment but by invitation of the local Government, which still remained the effective national Government and without any diminution of their authority by the admission of the troops of a number of nations purporting to be also the troops of the United Nations. In this Congo case, however, there is a new situation which we seem to fail to realise is a usurpation by the United Nations of the authority of the local national Government. This is a tremendous danger because this new development could involve the very survival of the United Nations. I was very pleased to see that our Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the United Nations drew attention only this week to the fact that no small nation in future would ever dare to call in the United Nations if when the United Nations came in it were coming in on this precedent of usurping the right to govern within that nation's territory.

For every reason, then, I urge Her Majesty's Government to pay attention to that early day Motion and solve this problem of ensuring that there be set up a commission who may be an effective Government of the Congo. If order is heaven's first law, the first step in such a first law is to organise clear responsibility, clear authority, and to see that it is matched with power to carry out the responsibility laid upon it.

1.53 p.m.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)

I wish to support the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) and also by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) that attention should be paid by the Government to the early day Motion, No. 34. I do not think any of us has any doubt that the situation in the Congo has shown a remarkably serious position from the point of view of the future of the United Nations and from other points of view as well.

The whole authority, the whole prestige and the idea of the United Nations as a peace-keeping authority has come very much under suspicion in large parts of the world as a result of what has been happening in the Congo. Mr. Hammarskjöld warned us that unless the United Nations has more authority it will be very serious indeed and the whole United Nations enterprise in the Congo may well collapse. In this morning's newspapers we have the news that the United Nations has failed to do just that which Mr. Hammarskjlöld has been asking for and failed because of its inherent disunity as to what course should be followed. The whole situation is extremely serious from the point of view of the United Nations.

Having regard to the Charter and the possibilities of the United Nations under that Charter, it does not seem that the situation which has arisen is one which might not have been expected. The United Nations as an organisation and institution has many admirable qualities. I should be the very last person to attempt to undermine its authority or to suggest that it is not an excellent institution, in fact the very best that could be produced, the very best that could have been produced when it was produced and indeed may still be the very best that could be produced. Yet we have the situation in which the organisation itself is disunited about what its servants should do. Therefore, its servants have to do the best they can in quite impossible circumstances without proper authority.

In this situation, contingents of troops contributed by members of the United Nations are gradually evaporating and there is very great danger that that tendency may be increased. We have the appalling difficulty of a force having to try to operate when it has not had previous training, or indeed previous existence in which to train. I saw in a newspaper circulating in my constituency a report that the various forces in the Congo are acting on different frequencies of communication. As the Motion urges, we have to try by every possible means to strengthen the United Nations as it exists. I am certainly not going to be one on this occasion who criticises the Government for having notably fallen down in striving towards their objective. I think they have done something quite considerable towards trying to give the United Nations more authority rather than less. That is precisely What I hope they will go on doing with increased vigour.

Until we have a world security authority we shall never be able to cope with this situation, or indeed with many other situations Which are only too likely to arise as a threat to world peace. The United Nations has most admirable qualities, not least among which is that it provides a forum for the formation and expression of world opinion. Having regard to the limitations of the Charter, that it can deal with real threats to peace and become a peace-keeping authority I beg leave to doubt very much indeed. I do not think it was ever intended for that because, when it was set up, those who set it up did not believe that was a practical proposition. tion.

Now the situation is utterly different. I ask the Government to give very serious consideration to furthering views which individual members of the Government, from the Prime Minister through a whole chain of distinguished Ministers, have frequently expressed. I do not know if the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is one, but I hope he may be one after this debate. I hope the Government will give effect to the opinions expressed by those Ministers that at the earliest possible opportunity a world authority should be set up. Pure disarmament might prove very difficult to achieve if looked at by itself, but it may be achieved by means of such a world authority.

The suggestion I make is that an authority should be set up through the United Nations and by it, leaving all the present duties and powers—if it has any—and functions of the United Nations intact to be carried on as before. It should set up a security authority consisting of twelve or twenty—I do not know how many—individuals elected by the veto. That is to say, they would be subject to the veto in the Security Council so that an individual elected to that security authority would have the confidence of the world because otherwise he would have been vetoed. I am asking the Government to carry out the opinions of their own Ministers, expressed by the Prime Minister downwards, and to urge the United Nations to pass a statute—if such be the right word—or an agreement, whereby it would be shown in what circumstances a world security authority which it would proceed to set up should act. In other words, a law should be passed according to which the authority should act.

The authority should then be set up. It would then be outside the bounds of political interference by the Security Council or the Assembly and it would act as our own police at home would act. It would "do its stuff", and anyone who did not like the "stuff" which it was doing would take the matter to court. This brings me to the third branch of the suggestion, namely, that the Government should urge that a world court be set up in order to administer or apply this statute which I urge that the United Nations should pass. The individuals on the court would be elected subject to the veto, and each would therefore have the confidence of the world.

If these three things were done—the statute passed, the security authority set up and the court set up—there would be a least a prospect of security. It might not be complete security but it would be a better prospect of security than ever there has been before. Only when we have such a prospect will sovereign nations, having regard to their duties to their own people, be prepared to consider disarmament. If these suggestions were followed, we should achieve a significant break-through in disarmament in a very short time.

This suggestion is not concerned only with the Congo but is concerned with the possibility of disturbances of peace anywhere in the world. It concerns other circumstances than those of the Congo. But if such a system had been in existence when the Congo problem flared up, and if the world security authority had intervened in accordance with the statute which I have suggested that the United Nations should pass, to keep the peace of the world, how much better off all concerned would have been today. In the meantime, we have not this authority, and the Motion which we are considering is, I submit, the immediate stop which the Government might take to resolve an extremely serious and dangerous situation in the Congo.

2.3 p.m.

Mr. Humphry Berkeley (Lancaster)

I agree with a great deal of the speech of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse), although not with all of it, and I wish to reinforce his plea that the Government should take a new initiative in the United Nations over the Congo. I believe that our Government are particularly qualified to do this. Indeed, we are probably the only country in the world which at the present time can do this, both because of our links with the Commonwealth countries and also because of our record in Africa.

In considering what this initiative should be, we should bear in mind two basic facts which affect the interests of Africa and of ourselves. In the first place, I am sure that we should remember that fragmentation is the great danger in the newly independent African countries. We saw signs of this in Ghana after Ghana had achieved independence. There are dangers, fortunately not very great, I think, of fragmentation in Nigeria. We saw the immediate and obvious example in the Congo, with the secession of the breakaway province of Katanga. I am certain that it must be the Government's policy in the United Nations to do all they can to retain the unity of the Congo.

Secondly, we ought to be guided in our policy by a recognition of the fact that it is in the interests not only of the peoples of Africa but also basically of the peoples of the West that Africa should remain an uncommitted Continent and that, in particular, we should do all that we possibly can to see that any aid given in the Congo is given through United Nations auspices.

At times I have been severely critical of the rôle played by Dr. Nkrumah of Ghana in the Congo crisis. I think that he has betrayed a certain degree of naïveté at times, and I also believe that it is not satisfactory, on the one hand, to commit one's troops to United Nations command and then, on the other, continually to threaten to withdraw them if the United Nations is not prepared to do at that precise moment exactly what one wants them to do. Nevertheless, it must be recognised that the prime aim in Dr. Nkrumah's mind is that the Congo should be isolated from world power politics, and at the back of everything which he has suggested, however impracticable and foolish it may seem to be, there is a very genuine desire to avoid any possibility of Russian intervention in the Congo.

This is something which, I believe, we are able to understand because of our record in Africa but which the Americans have found very difficult to understand. For example, the observation by Mr. Herter that Ghana had clearly gone over to the Communist camp was not only profoundly inaccurate and betraying complete ignorance of the current politics of Africa, but it was also extremely damaging in trying to secure a solution to a highly explosive problem. When we add to that the efforts which the American Government made in the United Nations to secure recognition of President Kasavubu's mission, it is not altogether surprising that the African States, or many of them, feel that the Congo is being used by certain Western Powers as a pawn in a game which will secure them some political domination and political control.

The basic fact which we must face in the Congo is that if the West and the neutralist Powers can come together, a solution can be reached. This is why, in the early stages, a degree of success was possible in United Nations intervention. Equally, we must recognise that if the United Nations fails the only person who can gain from that failure is Mr. Khrushchev. I do not want to go into the question of Mr. Lumumba's position, except to say that it is at least arguable that he is the legitimate Prime Minister of the Congo. I think that the arguments are extremely complicated and extremely dubious, but one thing is clear beyond any doubt, and that is that the régime of Colonel Mobutu has no legal validity whatever. Even if we regard Mr. Lumumba, as I think it would be fair to regard him, only as one of a number of tribal leaders, we must recognise that, however unsatisfactory he may appear to be to us—and I, for one, find him profoundly unsatisfactory—it will almost certainly be impossible to secure any agreement in the Congo without his participation in any discussions which take place.

It would be quite wrong for us to fall for the blackmailing activities of Dr. Nkrumah when he suggests that the United Nations should restore Mr. Lumumba to the Premiership, but equally it must be recognised that if we are to take the initiative and to try to bring the Congolese leaders together, Mr. Lumumba must be released from gaol. Even the Nigerians, our closest and most conservative African friends, have been outraged by his treatment. He must be released, and he must be included in any discussions which take place.

I believe that our Government are specially qualified to bring a new initiative to bear on this appalling chaos in the Congo. I would further suggest that our Prime Minister might personally bring his unique reputation, prestige and experience to bear to try to solve this problem. The Prime Minister is known to be on excellent terms with Dr. Nkrumah, with Mr. Nehru and with Sir Abubakar Balewa. These three personalities could, I believe, play a key rôle in any initiative that might take place.

In the first place, we have to try to convene a round-table conference, preferably outside the Congo and ideally in New York, of the various contending factions inside the Congo. Ultimately, after that has been done, we have to see to it that proper provisions are made under United Nations protection for the Congolese Parliament to meet. I am absolutely clear in my own mind, from my own experience and travels in Africa, that Africans throughout the continent attach a great importance to legitimacy so far as Governments are concerned. If it is recognised that an Army officer, however distinguished, can seize power without any constitutional backing at all, and can do this with the tacit support of the United Nations, I believe that the faith which the African people may have in the United Nations as an organisation will be destroyed.

I leave the House with three basic thoughts. First of all, our task is to get the West and the uncommitted nations together. If we can do this we can isolate the Soviet bloc. Secondly, we must recognise that if the United Nations fails, the attempt to keep Africa out of world power politics will have collapsed. Thirdly, if the United Nations is to succeed it must have a constitutional and effective Government to work with. That has been half the reason, I believe, for the chaos in the last few months. If our Government, and, preferably, our Prime Minister, can bring their efforts to bear to solve this problem, not only shall we have completed a great task for the Congolese people but we shall also have created a new chapter in the history of the United Nations and the part it can play in dealing with the problems of these newly developing and highly volatile countries.

2.13 p.m.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)

I find myself in very warm agreement with almost everything that has fallen from the lips of the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley). In his remarkable speech he urged that our Government were better placed than any other to take a new initiative. I cordially agree. I believe over the last few months we have, perhaps, compromised our ability to carry Africans and others with us, but we can recover. The hon. Gentleman said that the unity of the Congo must be an overriding aim. I agree. He said that Africa must not be brought into the power of conflict, or into the cold war. Nothing can be more important for Britain, for our interests abroad, and for the world. I agree with the hon. Member that it was a disastrous mistake—a cold war mistake—to seat the Kasavubu delegation in the General Assembly, as the United States insisted should be done.

I will make a few observations on the unity of the Congo based on personal conversations with people who have come back from the Congo since the trouble began. I was in Geneva in July and someone who had just returned said that he had heard a leading figure in the Union Miniére say that, of course, they had supported Tsombe's movement for the independence of Katanga. I thought that was very sinister, and I think it is a matter of grave regret that the Belgians, for whom I have a high regard, have pursued a policy of sending back people to the Congo to work against the United Nations.

I believe that our Government have not done enough to assist the Secretary-General in his demand that the resolution of the Security Council should be observed, that all aid and technical experts should be channelled through the United Nations, and that the Belgians should cease what they have been doing. I hope very much indeed that our Government will now tell our delegate at the United Nations, and tell our Ambassador in the Congo and the Belgian Government in Brussels, that we expect it to comply with the Security Council resolution; I hope that we shall say that in no uncertain terms. It is not good enough to go on drifting because the Belgians are our N.A.T.O. allies.

I am afraid that we have failed in not giving adequate support to the United Nations in other ways. I believe that, again on the basis of personal conversations with people who have been there, but I quote from Mr. Colin Legum who wrote in the Observer on 11th December: Right from its inception Congolese politicians have attacked the U.N.O. in the Congo when they thought they could not get united support for themselves. Lumumba did it when he was Prime Minister and Mobutu is doing it now. Their attitude is at least more understandable than that of several Western Diplomats who spend their time criticising the United Nations and sneering at the people who are running it. Mr. Legum says of Mr. Dayal: The idea that he is following 'an Indian line', put about especially by American observers, is about as absurd as the Russian view of Mr. Dayal's predecessor, Mr. Ralph Bunche, as an 'American imperialist'. I believe that we must again take a strong line on that, and I hope that the Government will give urgent instructions to their representatives in the Congo to cease whatever they may have been doing in that way and to urge upon all others that they should give the fullest support to Mr. Dayal and his colleagues. It is no use talking about the United Nations, as people so often do, as though we were not part of it ourselves. We have a major responsibility and a major interest in its success.

I agree with the hon. Member for Lancaster that Colonel Mobutu's régime is not the kind of régime to which the United Nations can give its support. Mr. Dayal spoke a little while ago in a report to New York of Mobutu's illegal and arbitrary acts and said that they were one of the greatest menaces to the objectives of the United Nations operations in the Congo. Mr. Hammarskjöld backed him up. The Belgians refused to take any notice and the Americans immediately rallied to their support. We should back Mr. Dayal and Mr. Hammarskjöld, whatever the Americans may do.

I agree with the hon. Member's view of what is the right solution. I believe that we should now resummon the so-called Congolese Parliament. It was elected and we should resummon it. We opposed that for a long time. I understand now from the latest news from the General Assembly that we have come round to that view. I believe that we should call together a constitutional conference with all the leaders of the different movements in the Congo; everybody from Lumumba to Tsombe.

I believe that this could be done. Above all—this is where a vital change is necessary in our Government's policy—we should stop approaching this in the spirit of the cold war. We ought immediately to co-ordinate our action with that of India and Ghana, with Mr. Nehru and Mr. Nkrumah. If necessary, it would be worth a journey by the Prime Minister to New York to take part in a special meeting of the Security Council, to which Mr. Nehru and Mr. Nkrumah could come, in order that a new start may be made.

Mr. Pitman

The right hon. Member said in effect that a great deal of action should be taken in the Congo. My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) said that Mr. Lumumba should be released. Which is the exact authority, which is in effect the Government, which would take those actions in the Congo about which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken? I do not understand that.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I would summon Parliament and ask it to take the action.

Mr. Pitman

Who is Parliament and is it ever a Government?

Mr. Noel-Baker

The President, of course. Nobody denies that Kasavubu is the President of the Congo and has the power to summon Parliament. We should urge him to do it.

2.21 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. J. B. Godber)

I think that last question exemplifies the difficulties with which we are faced. However, I am very glad that we have this opportunity on the last day before the Christmas Recess of debating this very important topic. I am grateful to those hon. Members who have spoken.

All of us in the House are very anxious about the position in the Congo. There is no difference whatever between us on that. The Congo is still in the state of protracted crisis which has endured ever since it became independent last July. The difficulties under which the United Nations has been working there have been formidable indeed.

The task of the United Nations has not been made easier by destructive and ill-intentioned efforts to impugn the Secretary-General's motives and undermine his authority. The General Assembly has now ended its debate, as hon. Members will have seen from this morning's Press, without agreeing on any resolution. However, I emphasise that the debate at least showed that the majority of the members of the United Nations is firmly behind the Secretary-General in his efforts.

An effective civil administration over the whole of the Congo has yet to be established, though some progress towards this has been made under the authority of Mr. Kasavubu. In Katanga and Kasai the provincial authorities are still functioning independently of the centre. Some hon. Members have referred to the very pressing difficulty of fragmentation.

More recently, a dangerous and disquieting situation has developed in the Orientale Province where followers of Mr. Lumumba have purported to set up a rival centre of Government from that in Leopoldville and have been making brutal and irresponsible gestures of menace against the European population.

The United Nations authorities themselves have found it very difficult to work in proper harmony and co-operation with the Congolese authorities. Finally, certain States have threated to loosen the whole basis of the United Nations effort by withdrawing their contingents from the United Nations force.

This is a most serious matter which needs clearing up. The countries concerned have stated that they will remove their troops from the United Nations force, but so far they have made no move actually to withdraw them from the Congo and there seem to be no arrangements for providing for that to be effected. We very much hope that they will reconsider their attitude and will leave their troops under United Nations command. But the status and functions of these troops in the Congo should, and indeed must, be left beyond doubt.

The scale on which the United Nations has been engaged in the Congo and the problems which it is meeting there are perhaps greater in scope than anything it has done before. The need to ensure that it does not fail in this enterprise is correspondingly great. Failure could be not only of dire consequence to the people of the Congo, and consequently to the whole future development of this important area of Africa, but a grievous blow to the standing and future efficacy of the United Nations Organisation itself.

In confronting these problems in the Congo our general objectives have from the beginning been constant. I will re-emphasise them to the House. They are those which I hope that the majority of the members of the United Nations are also following. First, we want to see conditions achieved in which the Congolese Republic can develop properly in peace and security as a united and independent State within its present frontiers. For this, the first requirement must clearly be to restore law and order and to fill the economic, technical and administrative vacuum which resulted from the disorder and breakdown of Government following the mutiny in the Force Publique last July. It is the very difficult problem of restoring law and order in which we all become involved when we start talking, as we naturally wish to talk, about the need for a proper constitutional authority and a recall of Parliament.

Secondly, we want to keep the Congo free from unwelcome interference from outside powers and prevent it becoming an arena in the cold war. What has been said today re-emphasises that.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

While Mr. Khrushchev and Russia were undoubtedly responsible in the first stages for bringing the cold war to the Congo, since Mr. Dayal's report, which Britain and America have totally failed to endorse, and since the British and American support of Mr. Kasavubu as a representative in the General Assembly, has not the tendency been for the West to bring the cold war to the Congo?

Mr. Godber

I refute that. It is not so, for reasons which I shall hope to show in the course of my remarks. Our whole position has been that we do not wish to back any particular organisation. All we want to see is some authoritative régime arise in the Congo. Mr. Kasavubu is the only one left now who one can say has any shred of authority.

As I was saying, we want to keep the Congo free from unwelcome interference. The danger of this was fully shown during the time when Mr. Lumumba was in power, when Soviet aircraft and other equipment were sent to the Congo outside the framework of the United Nations effort and were used to further plans for invading Katanga. There seems also little reason to doubt that Mr. Lumumba's henchmen in Stanleyville would look in the same direction for help if they had the chance.

The third objective, in a more limited field but of more direct and immediate importance to us, is that of ensuring the safety of British lives and property in the Congo.

In pursuing these objectives we have been guided by the principle that we must primarily rely upon and give support to the United Nations presence and effort in the Congo. Though we have a direct interest in the stability of the area because of the British Territories bordering it, we do not believe that any kind of intervention or unilateral effort to guide its affairs would be justified. This is the nub of the problem.

I must mention, although it has not been mentioned in the House today, that there have been some wild and fantastic allegations in various quarters that we have been seeking to bring the Congo under our control or to return it to some kind of colonial status, and in particular that we have been giving money and arms to Colonel Mobutu for this purpose.

I say with all the emphasis at my command that these accusations are wholly unfounded. I am glad that they have not been supported in any way in the House. But because they have been made I have thought it right to refute them from the Dispatch Box. Throughout, we have given, and continue to give, full support to the United Nations effort. We have contributed substantially to Mr. Hammarskjöld's emergency fund and have provided aircraft for moving and supplying the Ghanaian contingent of the United Nations force.

The real rôle of the United Nations authorities has been, since the beginning, to assist the Congolese people in solving their problems. The resolution on which the presence of the United Nations force is founded speaks of giving military assistance to the Congolese Government in restoring law and order. The rôle of the United Nations civil operation is to supplement with technical assistance the efforts of the Congolese authorities to administer the country and order its economy.

The independence of the Congo is an accomplished and recognised fact. The Congo's relation with the United Nations is that of a sovereign member of the organisation. There can be no going back on Congolese independence; and the United Nations cannot, in terms of its mandate, exercise anything in the nature of tutelage or trusteeship. It could help the Congolese people towards a solution of their internal political problems and, indeed, we hope it willô but it cannot impose a solution of these problems. That, again, is the difficulty one comes up against in trying to make suggestions, as the right hon. Gentleman did, quite genuinely, to meet their difficulties.

This principle is made clear in the Security Council resolution of 9th August which Reaffirms that the United Nations Force in the Congo will not be a party to or in any way intervene in or be used to influence the outcome of any internal conflict, constitutional or otherwise. The right hon. Gentleman asked us to live up to that resolution; I ask him to remember those words. We believe that it is a correct principle, and it is that which the Secretary-General has faithfully been trying to carry out. These internal political issues are essentially for the Congolese people themselves to work out. They must be given both time and all the help they need to do this.

I think that it is in this light that we must view the suggestions that are now being made by some members of the United Nations—indeed, there have been echoes of them in the House—that the United Nations should pursue certain courses of action which would amount to invading directly the internal sovereignty of the Congolese Republic and virtually trying to run the political life of the country.

Some of these suggestions were included in the resolution of Ghana and Yugoslavia and other countries, to which the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) referred when he asked me specifically about action in that respect. I have to tell him that we voted against that resolution and, because it is important, I shall seek in some detail to tell him why. I do not know whether the hon. Member has seen the actual terms of the resolution, but I will deal with the relevant points.

It included, for example, a suggestion that the United Nations should take action to secure the release of Mr. Lumumba. This is clearly a matter of internal jurisdiction for the Congolese authorities themselves. If what I have said up to now has any validity, that point must be accepted, and that is the danger in people talking in such a way, as it is so easy to do—

Mr. Stonehouse

But does the hon. Gentleman accept the authority of any one other than Colonel Mobutu?

Mr. Godber

I will come to that—I am trying to deal with these things one at a time.

It seems that charges including rebellion against the Head of State, corruption, incitement to terrorism, the illegal distribution of arms and planning to set up an insurrectionary Government in Stanleyville have been made against Mr. Lumumba, and that in the view of the Congolese authorities—

Mr. Stonehouse

And of Colonel Mobutu.

Mr. Godber

I am merely recording what has been done and said—Parliamentary immunity would not apply to an indictment of that kind. This is a matter which we must leave to them.

On the other hand, we recognise, and share, the concern that has been shown that all political leaders held under arrest in the Congo should be treated humanely, and in accordance with the rule of law. We have tried to see that this principle is recommended, both in the Resolution that we supported in the recent debate in the Security Council and in that which we sponsored in the General Assembly—which, amongst other things, suggested that the International Red Cross should examine the conditions under which detained persons were held.

This would apply, not only to Mr. Lumumba, about whose treatment the Congolese authorities have already given some assurances—and, incidentally, he has been allowed to see his doctor—but also to the Congolese Members of Parliament who should equally be considered, who are held in Stanleyville by Mr. Lumumba's followers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear hon. Members say "Hear, hear"; I have not heard that before. There have been disquieting reports about these being maltreated, and one of them, Mr. Songolo, may lose the sight of both eyes as the result of what has been done to him. I ask hon. Members to remember that.

It has been further suggested that Belgian advisers and technicians should be withdrawn from the Congo. I think that there has been a good deal of misunderstanding about this, and it is a point of which hon. Members have made a great deal. The original Security Council resolution called upon the Government of Belgium to withdraw its troops from the Congo, and this was regarded as necessary because of the situation at the time and because the Congolese Government were insisting upon it. The Belgian Government acquiesced in that.

Following the disorders of July, large numbers of Belgians, both in business in the Congo and in the service of the Congolese administration, fled the country, leaving its economy and administration in a desperate state of hiatus. Belgian civilians have now returned, both in a private capacity to resume their business and in the employ of the Congolese authorities at their request.

It has never been our impression that the United Nations effort was intended to prevent the Congolese authorities from making arrangements with Belgian civilians to work in the Congo, any more than that there is anything wrong in British civilians working in the ex- Colonial Territories. This is particularly the case where these people are Congo civil servants or indispensable technicians returning to their posts. Nor was it our impression that it meant that the Congo should forego the particular contribution that those technicians and officials can make because of their experience in the country. The main necessity seems to be a practical one of co-ordinating this contribution with what is being done by the United Nations and of ensuring that all concerned work together in harmony.

Another proposal, which would, in fact, amount to the United Nations virtually taking over governmental responsibility in the Congo, is that the Congolese Army should be disarmed—

Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but before leaving the question of the Belgian personnel, may I ask how many are with Colonel Mobutu's commissioners? We have raised this matter several times in the House. As the hon. Gentleman is already aware, Mr. Dayal, in his report in, I think, November, listed a large number of occasions on which the activities of the United Nations in the Congo had been flagrantly interfered with and prejudiced by Belgians attached to those whom the hon. Gentleman calls the "Congolese authorities". Can the hon. Gentleman say whether Her Majesty's Government have taken any action whatever on this very large number of charges that have been made against Belgian personnel by the United Nations High Commissioner?

Mr. Godber

We have, of course, discussed matters arising from this in the United Nations with many of the other representatives there. We have discussed it, of course. We are anxious to see that such Belgians as go back shall play an effective and full part, and shall certainly not inconvenience or incommode the United Nations in any way—that would be wholly contrary to our view, and we have made that clear. But it is not for us to say what the Congolese authorities should do in regard to people within their territory. Otherwise, we would be infringing on the principles that I have so far tried to set out in relation to the attitude of the United Nations in the Congo—

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

But have the British Government made a strong protest in Brussels in support of Mr. Dayal?

Mr. Godber

I do not think that Brussels is the apropriate place for any comment at all. The United Nations in New York, which is where Mr. Dayal's report was made, is obviously the place to discuss these matters.

Mr. Noel-Baker

With great respect, we ought, of course, to support Mr. Dayal in the Security Council and in the Assembly, and I ask the Minister to explain how much we have done there. However, if we want the policy of the United Nations to succeed, we have obviously also to speak very bluntly in Brussels.

Mr. Pitman

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not really out of order to suggest that a request should be made to the Belgian Government about something that is clearly the responsibility of the Congo Government—[Interruption.] It is the responsibility of the Congo Government if anybody resident in that area is doing anything that is illegal or improper. The frustration of this debate comes from this wretched impersonal passive, where everyone says that Mr. Lumumba should be released, but refuses to say which is to be the Government that will release him, and also should deal with the protest from the United Nations, which should be lodged by the United Nations with that Government, and not with any other Government.

Mr. Stonehouse

Further to that point of order, this point arises directly out of Ambassador Dayal's report to the United Nations General Secretary, which made allegations against Belgium that Belgian civilians and military personnel were undermining the authority of the United Nations in the Congo. Surely, it is legitimate for us to ask the Minister what steps Her Majesty's Government have taken to protest against this Belgian interference in United Nations operations, and not merely to discuss it?

Mr. Speaker

I have not heard anything out of order, but I have heard two speeches which seem to me to be rather wandering away from the subject of order.

Mr. Godber

I, too, was wondering where the point of order arose. I have made the position entirely clear. In fact, so far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, we feel that such discussions of the Dayal report as take place should take place in New York, and we have been involved in those discussions. I have made the position quite clear as to what we have done.

I was going on to talk about the position of the Congolese Army. I have said that the suggestion was made that it should be disarmed. Whatever its shortcomings, the army seems Ito be a potential factor of stability in the State, and the only instrument in the hands of the Congolese authorities for maintaining law and order. The United Nations authorities themselves have been engaged in training it for this purpose. Any attempt to disarm it would be liable to throw the Congo back into total confusion, and to produce an armed cnflict between the United Nations force and the Congolese, which could destroy the whole basis of the United Nations effort. People have to face up to this fact. They tend to talk round them, but these are the facts.

Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)

But who pays for this army? We agree with the hon. Gentleman in acquitting this Government, but somebody is paying for it. Could he tell us who is paying?

Mr. Godber

No, I am afraid I could not. I assume that it is paid for out of Congolese revenues, but I do not know. I have assured the House that the British Government have no part in that at all, and certainly no responsibility for it. This is a position which has to be faced, and I do not believe that we could possibly countenance and certainly not support the disarming of this army.

Another suggestion, and this again was contained in the particular resolution to which I have referred, was that the United Nations should secure an immediate meeting of the Congolese Parliament. That has been a proposition of the kind that we would naturally support—the principle of parliamentary Government—and it would be difficult for me to do otherwise, but I should like to think that all the countries which are now so energetically proposing its application to the Congo were themselves as closely linked to parliamentary government as we are. Be that as it may, a properly established government in the Congo must eventually rest upon parliament, where the constitutional decisions will be taken and ratified. There is no disagreement between us on that. But to be effective, the parliament would have to be fully representative, and members from all parts of the Congo would have to feel free to attend and to express their views. This would require a better climate than now obtains. It seems to us, therefore, that there must first be some practical steps to ensure these more favourable conditions.

The prime need is for a working Congolese authority which can carry on the day-to-day administration of the country, co-operate with the United Nations and bring the secessionist elements into contact with the centre, thus making some progress towards securing the unity of the Congo by peaceful means

Mr. Kasavubu, whose position as President is generally accepted as the only constitutional authority there is in the Congo—he has been accepted by the United Nations in that capacity—seems to be the obvious starting point for this. The authorities at present acting under his aegis are already exercising some administrative responsibility. He also proposes to call a round table conference, which seems to offer an opportunity both to make a start on a constitutional settlement and to lay the foundations of a properly established government. He has already met the secessionist leaders of Katanga and Kasai in Brazzaville, and it is planned to hold further meetings in the New Year. It would seem better to build on this foundation rather than to throw everything back into confusion once more. But the decision on these constitutional matters must, as I have said, rest with the Congolese themselves, though I would emphasise the need for positive action without delay. We hope that the present visit of members of the Conciliation Commission appointed by the United Nations Advisory Committee will help this process along.

It is along these lines of progress towards a properly established civilian authority which can preserve the independence and unity of the Congo, of application of the rule of law, of continued support for the United Nations effort in its task of keeping the peace and helping the Congolese towards these objectives that our policy in the United Nations is based. This is reflected in the resolution which we sponsored in the General Assembly, which was voted on yesterday. I do not for one moment deny or ignore the difficulties, but I am sure that the path we are following is the only feasible one. The consequences of allowing the United Nations effort to fail are only too easy to imagine.

I think that the best way in which I can conclude my speech is by quoting from what my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said in the United Nations as recently as last Saturday during the course of his speech on the Congo, in which he said: At no stage in the Congo tragedy have we sought any national advantage. We have not criticised individual political leaders in the Congo. We have not intervened in Congolese internal affairs. What we have done is to give tangible and whole-hearted support to the United Naitons effort. We will continue to do so with the sole objective of bringing stability and prosperity to the suffering people of the Congo and of ensuring that the United Nations itself performs its task in a manner worthy of it. That is the spirit in which, on both sides of the House, we should go forward and that is the way in which it should be applied, because of the obscurities in the situation. I ask the House to recognise the very real difficulties and also to realise that the Government have done their best.

Mr. Healey

May I ask one question, which was put several times in the course of debate from both sides of the House? It has been remarked by many Members that the United Nations has failed to give any new directives to its representatives in the Congo, primarily because there is an estrangement between the Western Powers and some of the Afro-Asian countries on the one hand and some other Afro-Asian countries on the other. Are Her Majesty's Government planning to take any steps in order that this estrangement may be brought to an end in order to get some new decision by the United Nations which will permit United Nations representatives in the Congo to act more effectively than they are now permitted to do?

Mr. Godber

I am sorry; I thought I had dealt with that in reference to the resolution, to which I referred several times, and which we sponsored and was voted on yesterday in the United Nations. [An HON. MEMBER: "It was defeated."] It was not defeated. It did not succeed in getting the necessary two-thirds majority, but it failed by only one vote. That is the way in which we hope we can bridge this difficulty. It was a very moderate resolution and we are naturally disappointed that it did not achieve a two-thirds majority. We felt that this was a means of making progress, and I assure the House that we are as anxious as hon. Members opposite in our objective. As we have failed once in our efforts, we must try again.