HC Deb 25 July 1960 vol 627 cc1056-62
12. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what requests he has received from the Katanga Province of the Congo Republic; and what replies he has sent.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

On 10th July, Mr. Tshombe, Prime Minister of the Provincial Government of Katanga, asked for military assistance, and on 11th July he asked for police assistance. In answering a question by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition on 11th July, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained to the House what replies had been made to these two requests from Mr. Tshombe.

Subsequently, Mr. Tshombe addressed a message to me containing a general appeal to the countries of the free world to recognise the independence of Katanga. The hon. Member has already been told that no answer has been returned to this message.

Mr. Stonehouse

As Katanga is not an independent State, is not it the position that any reply to its request would be conveyed through Mr. Lumumba? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether, during his friendly discussions with Mr. Lumumba on Saturday, the Minister of State discussed this question? Does the Foreign Secretary fully support the United Nations in the request that Belgian troops should be withdrawn from Katanga?

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Member will recall the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister about dealing with the Central Government of the Congo. With regard to his question about the conversations between the Minister of State and Mr. Lumumba, I have had no report that this matter was raised at all. I would rather deal with his last point during the later Questions abort this aspect.

20. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the situation following the arrival of the United Nations' Forces in the Congo Republic.

22. Mr. Healey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement on the Security Council's decision concerning the situation in the Congo.

31. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest developments in the Congo and the position of the United Nations forces there.

35. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether effect has now been given to the decision of the Security Council that all Belgian troops should be withdrawn from the Congo Republic.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The latest reports from the Congo show that United Nations forces are now deployed there in considerable numbers and are still arriving. This U.N. operation seems to be proceeding smoothly and satisfactorily and has already had a calming effect. The withdrawal of Belgian troops from places where the U.N. troops have been able to provide security is going on; it has already been completed in Leopoldville itself.

Monsieur Lumumba has now gone to the United States where he has seen Mr. Hammarskjoeld, who will, in turn, be visiting Leopoldville within the next few days. I hope these consultations will further carry forward the United Nations task of restoring the situation in the Congo.

In the meantime, as the House knows, the Security Council has met again, on 21st July, to discuss the Congo. It adopted unanimously a resolution which I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT. This had the effect of endorsing what has so far been done by the U.N., and I am sure that the House would agree that we should continue to support and encourage their effort.

Mr. Henderson

Can the Foreign Secretary say whether it is the policy of the Security Council that all Belgian troops shall leave the Congo Republic? If so, can he say whether, in arriving at this decision, the Security Council considered the validity of the alleged agreement made between that Republic and the Belgian Government?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that there are three issues involved here, and I really would hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would exercise some restraint. The first task is to try to get law and order secured. There are vast territories of the Congo where there is no law and order at the present time, so that it is very important that the first task of the United Nations should be to get that law and order restored. It is going on very fast. More troops are coming in quickly, and they are able to take over in difficult places. We hope that in this vast territory—the size of Western Europe—we shall get some system of law and order.

There are two other matters. One is the internal constitutional position—that is, the position of the Katanga. We take the view that the Congo should remain a unified State, because of the wealth of the Katanga and the importance it has to the rest of the Congo. But this is an internal matter, and it would be a very grave mistake if we allowed United Nations troops to be used to solve internal problems.

Then there is the other matter—the question of Belgian troops. What is in process is that the troops are being withdrawn to their bases, as is happening in Leopoldville, but the future of those troops is a matter for the Congo and Belgian Governments. There are the defence agreements, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred, and I think that it is much better for us to concentrate our attention at present on the first task of securing law and order, let these other problems evolve, and meantime give full support to the United Nations in its rôle.

Mr. Healey

We all have great sympathy with the Foreign Secretary's general attitude on this matter, and I think he will agree that the Opposition has shown restraint in not pressing the matter too hard in the last week. But would he not agree that the fact that the Belgian troops still seem to be remaining in the Congo in areas where the United Nations have already established law and order is in itself likely to endanger the chances of establishing law and order in the rest of the area? While I think all of us on this side of the House appreciate the desire of the Belgian Government to protect its own nationals, I do not think we could support Belgian troops remaining in the Congo when the United Nations troops have taken over, and we would even more strongly oppose the use of Belgian troops in influencing the constitutional future of the Congo. This latter danger, particularly in Katanga, is a matter of even greater importance than the use of United Nations troops.

Mr. Lloyd

I think that the Belgian troops are withdrawing where the United Nations troops are able to take over, but I would remind the hon. Gentleman that this is a territory the size of Western Europe. Katanga itself is the size of Spain. There are only 6,000 United Nations troops there at the moment. This is a tremendous task; there is literally chaos. Therefore, it is right that the Belgian troops should withdraw where the United Nations have established law and order. I do not think the Belgian troops should withdraw on the offchance that the United Nations will be able to do it all over the country. I think they must wait for the gradual restoration.

Mr. Rankin

In view of the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made it clear that Katanga is part of the Congo and will remain part of the Congo,—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—do I misunderstand the right hon. and learned Gentleman's promise that there is no attempt to dissociate Katanga from the Congo Republic? If it is a part of the Congo Republic, does he not agree that as the Belgian troops are a source of discontent, they ought to be removed as quickly as possible from Katanga and to be replaced by United Nations forces?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not think it is for Her Majesty's Government to try to settle this matter. I have said before that we hope for the unity of the Congo, but there is such a thing as self-determination and there are many different tribes, and although one hopes to keep a unitary State, whether it is a federal State or a Confederation, it is not a matter for us to deal with. I hope the United Nations Secretary General will act in a mediatory rôle and will succeed in solving the constitutional problem, but it is not for me to express an opinion.

Mr. Fell

Has my right hon. and learned Friend seen a report in the Press of a statement made to a correspondent by General Van Horn, in which he said: You can take it as definite that we shall be taking over the whole of the southern provinces including Katanga. I have my instructions and they will be carried out"? In view of this, will my right hon. and learned Friend make the strongest representations through his representative to the United Nations that the United Nations troops shall not be used to cross the border into the State of Katanga unless there is a need to quell trouble in that State?

Mr. Lloyd

I have been in touch with the Secretary-General of the United Nations about this matter and he said—indeed, he has stated publicly—that he does not think United Nations troops should be used to settle internal constitutional problems. I have no reason to believe that anything to the contrary has been said by anybody else. In the meantime, I think the Secretary-General is going to the Congo himself and I have great confidence in his judgment of the situation. What we have to do is to try to mediate in this matter so that there is a satisfactory assurance by both sides, and we should try to ensure a unitary State. The consequences of Katanga contracting out of the Congo would be very serious indeed.

Following is the Resolution: