HC Deb 19 June 1961 vol 642 cc918-24
1. Mr. Brockway

asked the Lord Privy Sea what action the delegation of the United Kingdom took in the Security Council on the recent request of forty member States for an urgent meeting of the Council to consider the serious situation prevailing in Angola.

11. Mr. Healey

asked the Lord Privy Seal how the British delegates voted in the Security Council discussions on Angola.

23. Mr. F. Noel-Baker

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will now assure the Secretary General of the United Nations that Her Majesty's Government will support the recent resolution of the Security Council on Angola, and the immediate implementation of the Council's mandate to the Sub-Committee of Inquiry; and if he will make appropriate representations to the Portuguese Government, in view of the unsettling effect in nearby British territories of recent disturbances in Angola.

29. Mr. Iremonger

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will take steps at the United Nations to expedite an early report by the United Nations Sub-Committee on Angola.

34. Mr. Prentice

asked the Lord Privy Seal why the British delegate abstained on the recent resolution on Angola in the Security Council.

37. Mr. Hale

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will take steps at the United Nations to expedite the report of the Sub-Committee on Angola.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)

I would refer the hon. Gentlemen to the reply I gave to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) on 12th June.

Mr. Brockway

Is it not the case that when this matter was discussed by the Security Council this resolution was carried unanimously with only the United Kingdom and France abstaining? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of haw shocked moral opinion is that Britain should have abstained in this way? Is he further aware that Britain's attitude means the loss of the confidence of a great part of Asia, of a great part of Africa, and of a great part of the liberal world?

Mr. Heath

I cannot accept the statement made in the last part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. The difference between our own colonial policy and that of Portugal has been explained on many occasions and is well recognised both in Africa and in Asia. The particular reasons why we abstained on this resolution have also been made plain before.

Mr. Healey

Is it not the case that the difference between Her Majesty's Government in Africa and the Portuguese Government is bound to be obscure unless the British Government join such of her allies as the United States Government in condemning the policy of the Portuguese Government in Angola, which is already beginning to resemble that for which Eichmann is being tried in Jerusalem, namely, for the indiscriminate slaughter of tens of thousands of Africans? In view of this, will not Her Majesty's Government take every possible opportunity of expressing in public their repugnance at the present policy of the Salazar Government and the hope, as expressed in the Security Council resolution, that this policy of repression will be ceased forthwith?

Mr. Heath

Her Majesty's Government deeply regret the loss of life in Angola, but it is no answer for the hon Gentleman to use such extravagant metaphors.

Mr. Iremonger

With regard to my Question, might I put this to my right hon. Friend, while dissociating myself from the most intemperate observations made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey): might it be not entirely necessary to await the report of this Sub-Committee of the United Nations? I suggest that we have evidence from men who are Englishmen and Christians who have been there recently and who, frankly, I believe, are telling the truth as to what is going on. Would it not be possible for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth to take the initiative in this matter? Might my right hon. Friend not make an approach to the Portuguese Government with, say, the Foreign Minister of Nigeria and put it to them that if they behave like this they are making it impossible for the Western countries, who will be tarred with their brush?

Mr. Heath

Our representative at the United Nations expressed the hope that the Portuguese Government would cooperate with this Committee. It has been set up by the United Nations and we hope that the Portuguese Government will co-operate. Therefore, we hope to see a report as soon as possible. Of course, I recognise that many organisations and individuals have got information to give us about Angola and that they are making it fully public as well as sending it to us at the Foreign Office.

Mr. Prentice

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the act of abstention at the United Nations produced an impression in Africa and elsewhere that we are acquiescing in the policy of the Portuguese Government? The careful arguments that the right hon. Gentleman deploys at the Box do nothing to lessen that impression throughout the world. Is he aware that the report of the Baptist Misssionary Society confirms our worst fears about Angola, that what is happening there is nothing less than genocide?

Mr. Heath

The hon. Gentleman under-estimates the understanding of these matters which is shown by other delegations at the United Nations. This resolution contained a reference to the General Assembly resolution which called for immediate steps to make non-self-governing territories independent. That is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and it was not the policy of the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends opposite when they were in power. Therefore, we did not vote for this resolution.

Mr. Hale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have never been in power but that I did put down Question No. 37, which asked him to say whether he would try to expedite the report of the Sub-Committee? Would the right hon. Gentleman also remember that in seeking to answer together several Questions of this diversity on an important moral issue which is affecting the minds of people throughout the world, which involves the lives of British subjects and British missionaries, in respect of which the Observer reported yesterday that an additional 25,000 troops had been landed and that there may be a bloody holocaust in Angola if steps are not taken—is it not becoming a grave abuse of the process of this House for him to seek to answer Questions like this collectively, having disclaimed Ministerial responsibilty for many other questions which were sought to be put down? Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the opinion the views and the rights of the House a little more on this extremely important and distressing question?

Mr. Heath

I am always endeavouring to meet the wishes of the House. Very often at Question Time the House is anxious that more Questions should be taken. It was therefore convenient to answer these together. I have already answered the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question in saying that we hope that the Portuguese Government will cooperate with the Committee. We have expressed that hope publicly and we hope that the Committee will report as soon as possible, but it is for the Committee to decide how it will carry out its business and when it reports.

Mr. G. R. Howard

Would my right hon. Friend not say that the Portuguese delegate did outline the essential improvements which he and his Government propose to carry out in that territory?

Mr. Heath

Yes, that is so, and we hope that social and economic reforms will be valuable, but we also believe that political reforms should accompany them.

Mr. Dugdale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Her Majesty's Government's concurrence in the Portuguese policy of repression and extermination in Angola has been further emphasised by the sale of two frigates by Her Majesty's Government to the Portuguese authorities? Will he do something to see that even at this late hour the Government will prevent such a sale taking place?

Mr. Heath

I completely reject the right hon. Gentleman's accusation that British policy is in concurrence with that of Portugal in this matter.

Mr. Healey

Further to the supplementary question of the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger), may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware that the Baptist missionaries in Angola have reported that 34,000 men, women and children have already been killed by Portuguese troops in Angola, and that it is planned by the Portuguese Government to undertake operations which may lead to the deaths of another 50,000 men, women and children? In those circumstances, does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that he is expressing the views of this country by selling two frigates to the Government responsible for these atrocities?

Mr. Heath

I have, of course, seen the figures put forward, and which the hon. Gentleman is putting forward, on which reliance can be put according to what one judges to be right. The question of the sale of frigates to Portugal as a N.A.T.O. ally is a different question from this.


Mr. F. Noel-Baker

On a point of order. I take it, Mr. Speaker, that either the Lord Privy Seal or the Joint Under-Secretary of State must have answered Question No. 23 with an earlier Question—

Mr. Speaker

That is so

Mr. Noel-Baker

This does raise a dilemma for hon. Members.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

With respect, if hon. Members are not here then they have to bear the consequences. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] This is a difficulty we have had before.

Mr. Noel-Baker

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of matters covered by Question No. 23 which are not referred to in earlier Questions which were answered, and we really are put into difficulty if Ministers are going to answer groups of Questions together, some of which cover different and wider grounds than others, without notifying hon. Members.

Mr. Speaker

I recognise the difficulty. I cannot add to what I said before. It will increase our difficulties if we do not get on.

15. Mr. Rankin

asked the Lord Privy Seal what information he has about the safety of British missionaries in Angola; and if he will make a statement.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. J. B. Godber)

Although some British and Canadian missionaries and their wives and families have already left Angola, I have had no reports to indicate that those who remain are in danger.

Mr. Rankin

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, according to the Baptist Missionary Society, those whom he suggests have left have been removed because they might possibly have been the eye-witnesses of an impending massacre which is being organised by the Portuguese Government and not because they are in any danger from the Africans? Would not the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend do something at this point to try to save these helpless people in Northern Angola?

Mr. Godber

I have no evidence in support of what the hon. Gentleman has just said. In regard to these missionaries, all the information we have is that they have, in fact, left for their own security, which would seem to be reasonable in view of some of the circumstances in the case.

Mr. Healey

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that several of these missionaries have been reported as saying that they left Angola against their will? Can he say whether he is in touch with the Portuguese Government on this situation? Is it not the case that these missionaries are at present the only British sources of information available even to the Government about what is happening in Northern Angola?

Mr. Godber

I have had evidence of only one case of a missionary who has been instructed to leave, and Her Majesty's Consul-General has taken up that case. I understand that the instruction has not yet been cancelled, but as far as I am aware he has not left Angola. I am not saying that there are not others, but this is the only one on which I have any information.

Mr. Hale

Does the hon. Gentleman's recently announced support of the principle of self-determination in West Berlin apply also to Angola?

Mr. Godber

I am not quite sure what the hon. Member is referring to in this case. Our own position in regard to Angola has been consistently stated time and again. Our policy in regard to colonial matters has been put forward again and again at the United Nations, and there is no question about that. Our views in regard to Portuguese policy in this case have been very clearly stated, and I have nothing to add at the moment.

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