HC Deb 20 March 1961 vol 637 cc26-8
65. Mr. Healey

asked the Lord Privy Seal how the United Kingdom representative voted on 15th March in the Security Council debate on Angola.

56. Mr. P. Noel-Baker

asked the Lord Privy Seal how the British delegate voted in the Security Council on the question of inscribing the situation in Angola on the Council's agenda; and whether he will make a statement.

60. Viscount Hinchingbrooke

asked the Lord Privy Seal why Her Majesty's representative on the Security Council was not instructed to veto the discussion of Portuguese colonial affairs on 10th March.

Mr. Heath

At the meeting of the Security Council on 10th March the agenda was automatically adopted without a vote. As this was a procedural matter there was no question of a veto being cast. The United Kingdom's representative outlined Her Majesty's Government's attitude to this debate in his speech following the adoption of the agenda. This is contained in United Nations Document No. S/PV.944, a copy of which is in the Library of the House.

The substance of the matter was debated in the Security Council on 15th March on the basis of a resolution put forward by Ceylon, Liberia and the United Arab Republic. The United Kingdom representative abstained in common with the representatives of Chile, China, Ecuador, France and Turkey.

Mr. Healey

Is it not a shocking thing that Her Majesty's Government should have abstained on this Resolution when the United States, the Soviet Union and other members of the Security Council voted for it? Is this not on all fours with previous abstentions, like the discussion on apartheid in the Security Council, where Her Majesty's Government have been forced since to change their policy under the wind of change?

Mr. Heath

In our view there is no evidence that recent events in Angola could properly be represented as a situation likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security. The Security Council has no power to act unless such a situation is seen to exist.

Mr. Healey

Has the right hon. Gentleman not seen reports that units have crossed the frontier into Angola, and does not this indicate that the present position in Angola represents a situation which might lead to fighting and a threat to peace?

Mr. Heath

There is some disagreement whether this disturbance is caused internally or by raiding bands. That is a different matter from something likely to lead to a breach of international peace and order.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not very regrettable that the Government should have taken the same line on this occasion as they have so often about apartheid, and is it not most regrettable that our delegate should have spoken of domestic jurisdiction when it has been for many years recognised by the United Nations that such questions are not a matter for domestic jurisdiction under Article II (7).

Mr. Heath

Our delegate spoke after the first procedural point, on which no vote was taken, pointing out the importance which we attached to Article II (7). Concerning the substantive discussion, there is nothing shameful in seeing that the rules of the Security Council are adhered to.

Mr. S. Silverman

Would the Lord Privy Seal explain to the House why, in view of the explanation he has given for abstaining from this vote, Her Majesty's Government's representative at this meeting was not instructed to vote against it? Surely the right hon. Gentleman would agree that when dealing with fundamental questions of this kind abstention is abdication? It is the business of this country to make up its mind whether it was in favour of this or against it and, having made up its mind, to vote accordingly. What was the good of abstaining?

Mr. Heath

We recognise the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for voting against, even when he is in a minority of several hundreds. Our position was made quite plain as to the abstention.

Mr. Silverman

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I asked the right hon. Gentleman a question, which I am sure must have been regarded, since no objection was taken to it, as a relevant question on the exchanges which are taking place. Is it competent for the right hon. Gentleman to reply merely with a sneer about something which does not concern him?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman knows all these things. I cannot even make a Minister answer, let alone dictate his answer.

Mr. Nabarro

The hon. Gentleman would not have been in so much trouble if he had abstained.

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