§ Mr. H. Wilson (by Private Notice) asked the Lord Privy Seal what information he has received from Her Majesty's Consul in Elizabethville about the fighting in Katanga and whether he has received any information about the safety of United Kingdom citizens in Katanga.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)
Her Majesty's Consul at Elisabethville has described the events which led up to the fighting which broke out yesterday. In the light of the Katangan undertaking, which was repeated to Her Majesty's Consul by Mr. Kimba, to withdraw road blocks between the United Nations headquarters and the airfield, the United Nations commenced withdrawal of its troops from the neighbourhood of these road blocks. The road blocks had not, however, been removed by the morning of 5th December.
1383 When Her Majesty's Consul and his United States colleague saw Mr. Kimba at 9.30 a.m. yesterday, Mr. Kimba said that they had not been able to withdraw their troops because he alleged that United Nations troops had opened fire on them and had established road blocks of their own. An immediate attempt was made to establish personal contact between Mr. Kimba and the United Nations, but this was unsuccessful. Mr. Urquhart did, however, speak to Mr. Kimba by telephone, but about midday the United Nations decided that it could no longer delay taking military action to restore its communications.
United Nations troops then infiltrated round the road blocks, after which small arms and mortar fire broke out. This appears to have been the first substantial action which took place. A suggestion by the United States Consul that the area of the main road in the neighbourhood of the road blocks should be demilitarised was overtaken by United Nations action to secure control. Subsequently, Her Majesty's Consul reported that the Katangans opened fire on United Nations headquarters. It is reported that three bombs were dropped last night on Elisabethville Airport, which is in United Nations hands.
This morning Her Majesty's Consul has reported that all was quiet until about 1130 hours when fighting again broke out in the area of United Nations headquarters. Since then, I have received no further details from our representatives in the Congo.
I have had no reports of injury to British subjects. Her Majesty's Consul has been given discretion to arrange for their departure from Elisabethville if he thinks this necessary.
I greatly hope that it may be possible for the United Nations to re-establish direct contact with the Provincial Government of the Katanga in order that the fighting may be brought to an end, and that the Acting Secretary-General of the United Nations will use all his efforts to achieve a solution by conciliation.
Do the concluding words of the right hon. Gentleman's statement mean that the Government are not giving their clear and unequivocal support to 1384 the United Nations in this operation? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the United States Government have in very clear terms publicly announced their support of that operation, and, further, have stated where, in their view, the responsibility lies for this outbreak of hostilities? Will the right hon. Gentleman be equally unequivocal about it?
§ Mr. Heath
I shall be equally clear. The view of Her Majesty's Government is, as I said in the last sentence of my statement, that the United Nations should try continually to achieve conciliation between the two sides in the Congo. The United Nations forces are, of course, fully entitled to protect themselves when they are attacked, but they have not got a remit from the resolutions to try to impose a political solution by force.
§ Sir R. Grimston
Now that it is quite obvious that, whatever the specious excuses, the United Nations policy is bringing chaos and bloodshed to a part of the Congo where previously there was law and order, what is to happen next? Could my right hon. Friend tell me how long Her Majesty's Government are to continue to finance this disastrous and, indeed, wicked policy?
§ Mr. Heath
I have tried to give the House as fair a statement as I can of the incidents as they have occurred over the past two days, and hon. Members draw their own conclusions about those incidents. I am not prepared to accept that specious excuses have been made. I have tried to make a fair statement of the incidents which have occurred, but, due to the very high state of tension which exists in the Katanga, there is very often a conflict of evidence about these facts. The situation is, I think, clear, that the United Nations forces have got to defend themselves. Her Majesty's Government will support the main purpose of the United Nations in the Congo as they have seen it in the past and as I have described it to the House.
In view of the suspicions which exist in many parts of the world that Her Majesty's Government seem to be attaching more importance to the pressure of the Katanga lobby behind 1385 them than to intelligent people elsewhere, in view of the colour which has been lent to these suspicions by the activity of Her Majesty's representatives when tins matter was last raised at the Security Council, and in view of the right hon. Gentleman's failure this afternoon to associate himself with the statement made, for example, by the United States Government—
—and even to go as far as M. Spaak has done in these matters, would the right hon. Gentleman not recognise that there is now a very urgent case for this matter to be brought on to the Floor of the House of Commons for a proper debate, so that we can hear the Government's defence of these actions and even allow the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) and other hon. Members who support him to try to justify in the open the pressures which they are applying privately?
§ Mr. Heath
These suspicions, which are apparently echoed by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson), are completely unjustified. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends, who have seen the attitude of some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House to my own speeches on the Congo, would realise that. I have stated time and again plainly what the Government's attitude is. If the right hon. Gentleman believes that the United Nations is entitled to impose a political solution by the use of its forces in the Congo, he should say so quite clearly. That is not the view of Her Majesty's Government. When working for conciliation we are entitled not to have these suspicions thrown at us.
Does the right hon. Gentleman then suggest that the United Nations is going beyond the mandate given to it by the Security Council resolution? If he does think that, why does not he have the "guts" to say so? If he does not, will he withdraw the insinuation?
§ Mr. Wade
In his statement yesterday, the Lord Privy Seal referred to a battle plan which had given rise to the latest action in the Congo. Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House any further information about the battle plan which had been discovered by the United Nations representatives, since it would seem to have some bearing on what has occurred?
§ Mr. John Hall
Will my right hon. Friend tell the House why it was not possible to arrange this contact between Mr. Kimba and the United Nations authorities? Was it due to lack of enthusiasm for such a meeting on one side or the other?
§ Mr. A. Henderson
Is it not time that the United Nations made an attempt to organise a political conference, say, on neutral territory such as Geneva, for instance, between the various political leaders, having regard to the failure of its attempt to bring Mr. Adoula and Mr. Tshombe together because of Mr. Tshombe's refusal to go to Leopoldville?
§ Mr. Heath
We would gladly support any such attempt by the United Nations. We have, of course, put forward many suggestions ourselves both to Mr. Tshombe and to Mr. Adoula that such a meeting should be arranged. We have suggested many ways in which this might be brought about, but, unfortunately, we have not been able to suggest a way acceptable to both sides.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
Is it not tragic that these events should become the shuttlecock of party politics in this country and merely a party game here while in the Congo people are dying in earnest? Is my right hon. Friend aware that people in this country are not only much disquieted, but much confused about the situation, and will he try to clarify it so that people of all types of thought in this country may know where Her Majesty's Government stand?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Did not Her Majesty's Government agree that the United Nations force should be sent to the Congo? If the right hon. Gentleman's contention is that the force is not there to impose a political settlement, what is the purpose of the force? Is this not a test of the efficacy of the United Nations?
If it should fail, what is to happen to the United Nations? Is it to be destroyed? Will that suit the policy of Her Majesty's Government, though it might suit the purposes of some of the right hon. Gentlemen's hon. Friends?
What is the proposal of the Government to effect a political settlement? What are they doing to bring that about? If the purpose should fail, what does the right hon. Gentleman expect the United Nations to do?
§ Mr. Heath
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right; this is not only a very serious situation in the Katanga, but in the Congo as a whole and also for the future of the United Nations. That is why I say, in response to what my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) has said, that I think that the whole House does treat this as a matter of the greatest gravity and does not want it to develop into an inter-party matter.
The purpose of sending the United Nations force to the Congo was to maintain law and order and prevent outside interference in the affairs of the Congo. That it is perfectly entiled to do, and, as I say, the United Nations force has every right to defend itself when there are incidents in which it is attacked—and these have undoubtedly occurred in the last 48 hours, due to the very high tension which exists in the Congo. I have made that perfectly plain. But the United Nations force is not there to impose any solution by force, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned at the beginning of his question as being its purpose.
Her Majesty's Government have, in the past few weeks, been using all the influence they could with Mr. Tshombe, as has Sir Roy Welensky, to produce a meeting—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Right hon. and hon. Members opposite should not allow their prejudices to govern their judgment in these matters. We have both used our influence to try to 1388 persuade Mr. Tshombe and Mr. Adoula to come together and sort out the internal constitutional differences in the Congo. So far, we have not been successful, but we shall persist in this effort.
§ Mr. Fell
May I ask my right hon. Friend, first, whether he knows whether any of the central Government Ministers, or even, possibly, Mr. Adoula or one of his representatives, was due to appear at the Moral Rearmament Conference in Brazil? If this is so, could this have been a reason why President Tshombe was at least considering going to the Moral Rearmament Conference in Brazil to meet them there? Secondly, is it not—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. There cannot be any Ministerial responsibility for the visits of those gentleman to a Moral Rearmament Conference in Brazil.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman's question suffers from another version of the same vice. Mr. Wilson.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman will understand that we must have regard to the interests of all of us collectively. We are taking rather a long time about this.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman has fully occupied the time of the House, for the moment. Mr. Wilson.
Mr. H. Wilson
Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that this matter would be less likely to become one thrown across the Floor of the House and more likely to become one in which the whole House could agree if the House could be satisfied about the extent to which the Government are backing up their obligations to the United Nations? In view of the statement that he has made three times now, when he accuses, or seems to accuse, the United Nations of attempting to impose a political settlement, does he suggest that anyone connected with the United Nations operation has suggested going beyond the terms of the instructions under the Security Council resolution? Does he still stand by the acceptance by the United Nations authorities of their obligations under that resolution? Will Her Majesty's Government give all possible help to see that that resolution is carried out?
§ Mr. Heath
Her Majesty's Government stand fully by their obligations and will support the United Nations in carrying out the resolutions in the way which we have described in the United Nations, with the reservations which we have expressly made when the resolutions have been debated. That is a perfectly sound position for us to adopt.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—