HC Deb 23 January 1962 vol 652 cc29-32
Q8. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Prime Minister what consultation he has had with the Prime Minister of the Federation of Central Africa regarding the stationing of United Nations observers on the frontier between Northern Rhodesia and the Republic of the Congo.

Q10. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Prime Minister what consultation he has had with the Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland regarding the United Nations and the situation in Katanga and the United Nations' request for facilities within Northern Rhodesia; and whether he will ask Sir Roy Welensky to visit London to discuss these matters.

The Prime Minister

Our consultation with the Federal Government is close, but, as the House will know, it is not our practice to reveal the nature of such confidential exchanges.

Direct Ministerial discussions will be held whenever necessary, either in London or Salisbury as may be convenient.

Mr. Thomson

Is the Prime Minister aware that it does a great deal of damage to Britain's reputation in the world to appear to be giving way to the obstinacy of Sir Roy Welensky over the issue of stationing United Nations observers on the border? Will he not make it clear that part of the foreign policy in Central Africa is in the hands of Her Majesty's Government here, and will he not say unequivocally that we accept the request of the United Nations Secretary-General to station observers on the frontier to try to ease tension there?

The Prime Minister

What we were hoping possibly to arrange was for useful discussions to take place in which some of these difficulties could be resolved.

Mr. H. Wilson

Would the Prime Minister say what there is to hide in this matter? Why does he not agree to this request? Will he not make it clear that the Government recognise that, both constitutionally and in our foreign relations, it is the Government in Whitehall, in Westminster, that has the responsibility here, and not a Government with very restricted powers in these matters? Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, in the last two years of this Government, it would be rather nice if we had the Prime Minister operating in Westminster and not delegating his responsibilities to another Prime Minister in Southern Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, the constitutional position is that the British Government have entrusted responsibility for external affairs to the Federal Government to the fullest extent possible consistent with the responsibility that we must continue to have in international law so long as the Federation is not a separate entity.

Mr. Stonehouse

Will the Prime Minister answer the second part of my Question in order to conclude these useful discussions to which he referred and to bring an end to the contradictions which have existed between pronouncements in Whitehall and pronouncements on the part of Sir Roy Welensky in Salisbury? What steps has the right hon. Gentleman taken to check the very strong reports that mercenaries and arms have been allowed to cross Rhodesia into Katanga?

The Prime Minister

The second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is another matter. I tried to answer the first part, but perhaps he did not hear what I said. I said: Direct Ministerial discussions will be held whenever necessary, either in London or in Salisbury as may be convenient. That was intended to reply to the suggestion that there should be a meeting of Ministers on this matter.

Mr. Gaitskell

Would the Prime Minister clear up the constitutional position? Would he say whether or not in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government it lies within the functions and powers of Her Majesty's Government to agree to the request made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations?

The Prime Minister

I would rather not get drawn into a constitutional discussion, but all history shows that there is a difference between constitutional rights and the wise way to exercise them.

Mr. Gaitskell

That is really a most inadequate answer. This continual sheltering behind obscurity is doing the country no good at all. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman give us an honest answer to the question whether the Government accept their responsibilities or not?

The Prime Minister

Had the right hon. Gentleman lived at that time, he would have been a supporter of Mr. Grenville or Lord North.

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