HC Deb 18 December 1961 vol 651 cc936-7
37. Sir J. Pitman

asked the Lord Privy Seal if, in view of the guarantees under the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty of 1904 under which passage through the Panama Canal was guaranteed to vessels of all countries, and in view of the negotiations now proceeding between the Governments of Panama and the United States of America on the future of the Canal, he will propose in the United Nations the creation of a new authority, answerable to the Security Council, in which those Governments shall be asked to vest their present interests in the Panama Canal, and which would be responsible for the efficient operation of the Canal under a Charter, to be drafted by the United Nations, guaranteeing uninterrupted passage through the Canal to all ships requesting it and prepared to conform with the requirements of the authority.

Mr. P. Thomas

No, Sir. The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty of 1903 was a treaty between the United States and Panama and Her Majesty's Government consider that the future status of the Panama Canal Zone is primarily a matter for the Governments of those two States. We have no reason to suppose that principles and guarantees similar to those now governing the use and operation of the Canal would not be embodied in any future arrangements that might emerge as a result of the recent exchange of letters on the subject between the Presidents of the two States.

Sir J. Pitman

In view of the very unsatisfactory experience with small nations when they are activated by high nationalism, as in the case of Egypt over the other great international canal, and in view of the fact that it is perfectly clear that the world will not accept a second Power guaranteeing the openness to world traffic of such a canal, may I ask what other proposal the Government have, in view of the apparently obvious fact that the Panama Canal is about to go the way of the Suez Canal unless some such step as is suggested is taken?

Mr. Thomas

I am not in a position to forecast what Her Majesty's Government would do in a hypothetical situation.