HC Deb 23 November 1960 vol 630 cc1103-5
5. Mr. Brockway

asked the Lord Privy Seal how the British delegates on the Trusteeship Council and General Assembly of the United Nations voted on the resolution that Portugal should supply information on her overseas territories without delay; and which delegates voted for the resolution on each occasion, which against, and which abstained.

25. Mr. Dugdale

asked the Lord Privy Seal why the British delegate abstained from voting on the motion before the Trusteeship Committee on 13th November calling on the Portuguese Government to comply with the terms of Article 73 of the United Nations Charter.

Mr. Heath

The United Kingdom Representative abstained on this resolution, which was adopted by 45 votes to 6, with 24 abstentions. Twenty-three delegations were absent. Full details of the voting are contained in United Nations document No. A/C.4SR 1048 of 16th November, a copy of which is in the Library of the House.

Mr. Brockway

Did I hear the right hon. Gentleman correctly—that the Government abstained upon this issue? Is not Portugal the only Power which has territory in Africa now and which declines to make these reports—territory where there is forced labour and scandalous conditions which are arousing the opposition of fellow-members of the Commonwealth in Africa?

Mr. Heath

As the House knows, we ourselves provide the information which is required. But Governments of both parties have taken the view that it is for the administering Power to decide what are its obligations under Article 73 (e) of the Charter, and that is the reason we abstained on this resolution.

Mr. Dugdale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the obligations include the obligation to accept as a sacred trust…to develop self-government…and to assist…in the progressive development of their free political institutions"? How can he tell whether Portugal is doing that unless she sends in a report, and does the right hon. Gentleman think that Portugal is doing any of these things?

Mr. Heath

It is not for me to discuss the policy of other countries in their own colonial territories. I am explaining the reason why we did not support this resolution.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Does not Article 73 (e), which the Minister has quoted, say, in terms, that it is the obligation of every member of the United Nations to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General for information purposes statistical and other information about the territory? Why did not we vote in favour of Portugal carrying out the Charter obligations?

Mr. Heath

For the same reason that the Government in 1950, of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member, took the view that we take now, that it is up to the administering Power to decide the extent of its obligation.