HC Deb 14 December 1961 vol 651 cc623-6
Q3. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Prime Minister what communication he has received from the Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland concerning the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the United Nations and Katanga.

The Prime Minister

It is the normal practice for the Government of the Federation and the British Government to exchange views on matters of common concern. But, as the House will know, it is not our practice to publish the contents of such communications.

Mr. Stonehouse

But is not the Prime Minister aware that the Monckton Corn-mission, which he appointed, confirmed that Sir Roy Welensky had no constitutional authority in regard to foreign affairs? In view of that, may I ask the Prime Minister whether Sir Roy Welensky asked him before a statement was issued last Sunday, which was strongly critical of the United Nations, and also whether the Prime Minister was asked before Sir Roy Welensky gave direct political assistance to Tshombe in direct violation of the Security Council resolution of 24th November?

The Prime Minister

The opposite is the case. On the contrary, Sir Roy Welensky has played a considerable part in trying to persuade Mr. Tshombe to make his peace with the Central Government. He has at no time taken the view that there should be an independent Katanga. He has helped us considerably in the pressure that we have tried to bring to bear on Mr. Tshombe.

Mr. Healey

Could the Prime Minister clear up two points? Is it in fact constitutionally proper for the Federal Prime Minister to issue publicly a long attack on the policy of Her Majesty's Government in the Congo and on the policy and personnel of the United Nations in the Congo? Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that there is adequate control over the possible passage of arms from the Federal Territory into Katanga, as reported by United Nations Personnel in the Congo?

The Prime Minister

It is, of course, very regrettable that anyone should attack the policy of Her Majesty's Government. I think it is really pedantic for the hon. Gentleman to say that the Prime Minister of the Federation, which is so closely a neighbour of what is going on in the Congo, should not be allowed freely to express his views as much as anyone else. That seems to be perfectly reasonable, and no objection should be raised to it.

Mr. Healey

But will the Prime Minister answer the second part of my supplementary question? Will he, in particular, say whether Sir Roy Welensky has any right to threaten to prevent the transport of United Nations' bombs through the Federal Territory into Katanga for what he publicly states are reasons of foreign policy?

The Prime Minister

Whether he is right or not he would have no power to do so. With regard to the other part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, the Federal Government have actually been most helpful in trying to prevent the flow of arms through their territory. This is a very long frontier, some 2,000 miles in all, and it is a fairly difficult task to be absolutely secure.

Mr. Gaitskell

Does not that simply confirm that the foreign policy of the Central African Federation is a matter for Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and that when Sir Roy Welensky refers to international matters he is not speaking for the Federation but is giving his personal views?

The Prime Minister

That is an interpretation which, I suppose, is strictly constitutional because, certainly, it is a reserved matter, but there is no reason why anyone in a free world cannot express his views.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Does the Prime Minister recall that Sir Roy Welensky said that the record of the United Nations in Katanga is one long succession of deliberate distortions and untruths uttered to suit their own purposes, and that this was particularly directed towards Mr. George Ivan Smith to whose patriotism and reliability as a witness the diplomatic correspondent of The Times paid a high tribute on Monday?

The Prime Minister

I am asked whether I will prevent or stop Sir Roy Welensky from saying what he wishes. That does not mean that I agree with what he says all the time. In fact, he has often said things with which I wholly disagree.

Q5. Mr. Dugdale

asked the Prime Minister what answer he has made to the communication he has received from Mr. Nehru regarding British obstruction of the United Nations operations in the Congo.

The Prime Minister

Since the events of last August and September I have exchanged a number of messages with Mr. Nehru about the Congo. It is not our custom to divulge the contents of confidential exchanges.

Mr. Dugdale

If the right hon. Gentleman will not comment on that letter, would he care to comment on the public statement made by the Ministry of External Affairs official in Delhi saying that they were not at all surprised at the reasons given by Dr. O'Brien for his resignation, because they have had—[Interruption.]

Hon. Members


Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

Sit down.

Mr. Speaker

I do not understand how there could be Ministerial responsibility here for the observations of the man referred to.

Mr. Morris

On a point of order. Is it in order for an hon. Gentleman opposite to bark "Sit down"?

Mr. Speaker

It is not in order for him to bark either sitting down or standing up.