HC Deb 26 April 1961 vol 639 cc418-20
28. Mr. Longden

asked the Lord Privy Seal why, in view of Article 2 (7) of the Charter of the United Nations, the United Kingdom delegate to the United Nations voted on 10th April in favour of a resolution condemning the Government of the Union of South Africa for its racial policies.

Mr. Heath

As the United Kingdom delegate has explained, the importance we attach to the proper observance of Article 2 (7) of the Charter remains un-diminished. The policy of apartheid is, however, the deliberate adoption, retention and development of a policy specifically based on total racial discrimination.

It is no longer possible to argue that the practice of apartheid does not have grave international repercussion. This is particularly true within Africa but the Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference demonstrated that the effects have spread far beyond the boundaries of that continent. It is, therefore, in a category of its own. These circumstances have convinced us that apartheid can no longer be regarded as a matter to which Article 2 (7) of the Charter applies.

The House will have noted that the United Kingdom delegate was instructed to abstain on two paragraphs which might have implied that collective action should be taken by the United Nations or that the situation in South Africa is one which is a threat to the peace.

The United Kingdom voted against a second resolution proposing collective action against South Africa.

Mr. Longden

Will not my right hon. Friend agree that there is nothing in Article 2 (7) which deals with international repercussions? Does this mean that Her Majesty's Government are placing their own gloss upon this Article so as to make it mean that matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State shall be considered to have international repercussions thereby making intervention justified, so long as they are debated often enough at the United Nations? Would not my right hon. Friend agree, upon reflection, that this is a most unwise departure from the letter and spirit of Article 2 (7), without whose inclusion in the Charter many nations would not have signed it?

Mr. Heath

No, Sir. What I am saying is that in the view of the Government the ramifications and international repercussions of apartheid are of such a character and of such a nature that we now believe that they go beyond what can be said to be essentially a domestic interest of a country, under Article 2 (7). I recognise that this is a controversial matter, but it has come before the United Nations in a similar form on other subjects. This is a decision on which judgments have to be made to the best of one's ability.

Mr. Marquand

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this United Nations resolution was entirely in line with the statement made by the Prime Minister in the House on 22nd March? Would it not, therefore, have been entirely wrong for the United Kingdom to abstain or to vote against the resolution? Does it not represent the views of the vast majority of Her Majesty's subjects in the United Kingdom? Is not this a major question in international affairs at this time, and would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would have been absolutely wrong for Her Majesty's Government to have taken any attitude other than that which they adopted?

Mr. Heath

I hope that I have explained to the House the reasons why we took this decision, which was in line with the statement given to the House by the Prime Minister on the occasion mentioned.