HC Deb 18 April 1962 vol 658 cc480-4
2. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will instruct the United Kingdom delegates on the Trusteeship Committee of the United Nations to cooperate with the United Nations in its request for information about the situation in Southern Rhodesia.

25. Mr. Healey

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on his talks with members of the United Nations Committee on the Liquidation of Colonialism.

26. Mr. Wall

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement about Her Majesty's Government's discussions in London with the United Nations Sub-Committee on colonial matters.

27. Sir Richard Pilkington

asked the Lord Privy Seal the result of his recent official talks with the United Nations' Committee investigating the problems of colonialism.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Peter Thomas)

I will, with permission, answer this Question and Nos. 25, 26 and 27 together, since I take it that in each case the hon. Gentlemen intend reference to the United Nations Committee of Seventeen and its Sub-Committee which recently visited us in London.

Since my right hon. Friend's Written Reply of 11th April, the visiting Sub-Committee held a meeting with officials and one more with Ministers of the Crown, apart from informal contacts. I understand that the Sub-Committee is now preparing its report on the visit in New York. We believe that the visit has been useful in demonstrating our willingness to co-operate to the fullest reasonable extent with the United Nations in providing information on colonial matters and in bringing home the facts to the members of the Sub-Committee, particularly in regard to Southern Rhodesia.

Mr. Thomson

Whilst welcoming the fact that the Government have met the members of the Sub-Committee in London, may I ask the Minister to bear in mind that Britain enjoys an immense amount of good will at the United Nations, and deservedly, because of her record in advancing political progress in Colonial Territories? Will the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, seek to use that good will to influence the European minority in Southern Rhodesia to make the kind of changes that are necessary for a peaceful solution there?

Mr. Thomas

Our wish to co-operate with the United Nations has been made clear and has been generally appreciated by the United Nations.

Mr. Healey

Is the Joint Under-Secretary aware that the members of the Sub-Committee were somewhat disturbed at the refusal of Her Majesty's Ministers to make any gesture even towards meeting their views on Southern Rhodesia? Will he consult his right hon. Friends to see whether, even at this late date, Her Majesty's Government could not adopt one of the courses of action suggested to them by members of the Sub-Committee and at least give the lie to the statement by the Foreign Secretary in another place that Her Majesty's Government did not intend to be influenced in any way in their colonial policy by the views of the United Nations?

Mr. Thomas

The information which was given, both here and in New York, on the facts of the situation in Southern Rhodesia in particular was very full. While expressing the concern which some of them feel, the members of the Sub-Committee made it clear that they recognised both the strict limitations upon the powers of Her Majesty's Government in Southern Rhodesia and the fact that the United Nations should not seek to arrogate to itself the responsibilities of government there.

Sir Richard Pilkington

Has this Subcommittee paid any tribute to British colonialism for ending tribal warfare, slavery and witchcraft and for promoting law and order in so many territories?

Mr. Thomas

The Sub-Committee certainly did pay a tribute to British colonial policy.

Mr. Dudley Williams

In view of the enlightened policy which has been followed by the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, does my hon. Friend think that this continual sniping by the opposition in the United Nations can be anything but bad and the means of encouraging extremist elements, both black and white, in that territory?

Mr. Thomas

I certainly agree that one cannot take just one side without knowing the full facts about both sides.

37. Mr. Brockway

asked the Lord Privy Seal what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government regarding the decision of the Sub-Committee of the Committee of Seventeen of the United Nations to report on the constitutional position of Southern and Northern Rhodesia.

Mr. P. Thomas

As has been made clear both in New York and to the recent visitors here from the Committee of Seventeen, we recognise the interest of members of the United Nations in the steady progress of our overseas territories. Our sympathy with this interest cannot, however, extend to sharing or shifting our responsibilities.

Mr. Brockway

Yes, but did not the speech of the representative of the United Kingdom go rather further than that? Is it not now obsolete to try to suggest that the United Nations should not intervene in the affairs of dependent counties? Will not the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the Government will take a more up-to-date view of this situation and adjust themselves to the new world?

Mr. Thomas

I think the best thing I can do is to quote what my noble Friend said on this point in another place: The United Nations is entitled to information, and we have said that we will give information to the relevant committees of the United Nations. We have also made it clear, however, that we cannot accept resolutions or recommendations, because colonial policy must be a matter for H.M. Government. Therefore, I would say that the United Nations is certainly not entitled to intervene.

Mr. Healey

Apart from the juridical position, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that having support from the United Nations for British policy, which on the whole is extremely good in Africa in this field, is of the greatest importance if we are to achieve a peaceful transfer of power in these regions? Will he not, therefore, answer the question which I asked him earlier—whether he will seriously consider carrying out some of the proposals that were made to him during the discussions last week by Dr. Jha?

Mr. Thomas

All the conversations and discussions we have had with Dr. Jha and other members of the Sub-Committee will certainly be very carefully considered.

Mr. Goodhew

Will my hon. Friend suggest to Dr. Jha and his Sub-Committee that they might look at countries in which the people are not moving towards self-determination in any way, such as Kashmir and the countries behind the Iron Curtain, rather than territories where great strides are being made towards this end?

Mr. Thomas

I think that Dr. Jha and his Sub-Committee appreciate that the British colonial record is a good one, and, indeed, paid tribute to it.

Mr. Fernyhough

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that in taking this attitude Her Majesty's Government are guilty of double dealing? Does he not recall that when Russia cruelly suppressed the rising in Hungary, Her Majesty's Government joined with other nations in demanding that the United Nations should be given the right to go and see what happened? Does he agree that we have no right to demand that the United Nations should be given facilities of that kind in an Iron Curtain country unless we ourselves are prepared to accept the decision of the United Nations when it wants to investigate territories under British control?

Mr. Thomas

I entirely disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The very fact that we were hosts to this Sub-Committee in London and gave it the very fullest facts indicates that we are perfectly prepared to discuss these facts and give the fullest information.