§ Mrs. Castle
(by Private Notice) asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will instruct the United Kingdom delegate to the Security Council to support the request by 32 African States for the imposition of an arms embargo against South Africa.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)
The meeting of the Security Council concerned has been called at the request of 32 African States to consider the situation existing in the Portuguese territories and in the Republic of South Africa. In the memorandum accompanying their letter on South Africa to the President of the Council, they referred to a comprehensive resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 6th November, 1962, which called, among other things, for the rupture of diplomatic relations with South Africa and a total trade embargo. The debate is, therefore, likely to range over a wide field.
As far as arms are concerned, Her Majesty's Government's policy was described in detail in the House by my right hon. Friend the present Minister of State during the debate on the Address on 31st October last year.
§ Mrs. Castle
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government's policy to date on the export of arms to South Africa has been entirely unsatisfactory? Is he not further aware that the United Nations Sub-Committee on apartheid has, in its second report to the Security Council, reiterated its call for a total embargo on the export of arms and ammunition to South Africa?
Is it not a fact that the United States Government are about to announce their acceptance of this recommendation? Would it not be intolerable if this country were to fall behind? Can we have an assurance that the United Kingdom delegate will be instructed to support this at least of the recommendations of the Sub-Committee?
§ Mr. Heath
I am aware of the recommendation of which the hon. Lady speaks, but perhaps we had better await an announcement of United States policy before we form a judgment about it. Our policy is always to scrutinise all these applications for arms, from the political as well as the economic point of view, and the fact that they may be used for internal repression is a most important factor which is taken into consideration.
At the same time, we recognise the requirement of countries for arms for external defence and, in particular, of South Africa for the defence of the sea routes around the Cape. As for instructions to our permanent delegate to the United Nations, the Security Council debate has not yet begun. We must wait and see what resolutions are put forward. I would not like to anticipate any instructions we may give in the circumstances.
§ Secondly, in relation to the voting in the United Nations on this question, 1055 will the right hon. Gentleman for once ensure that the Government, instead of being ranged with a smaller group of oppressive Powers, including South Africa and Portugal, vote on the side of the vast majority of people who want to see peace and civilised conduct?
§ Mr. Heath
If the right hon. Gentleman refers to the debate on 31st October, 1962, he will see that my hon. Friend the Minister of State—then Under-Secretary of State—said:We scrutinise all requests from the political as welt as the strategic and economic aspects before they are authorised…and the possibility that a particular supply of arms may be used for measures of internal repression is taken into account."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1962; Vol. 666, c. 286.]That was a statement of Government policy, and I have restated it today. There has been no question of trimming in response to pressure from the right hon. Gentleman. There has been no change in our policy. It remains as stated in October.
As for action in the Security Council, what is important is that we should hear the representations which are to be made by representatives of the 32 States and form our judgment of the right policy to follow. It is not necessary that one should always follow the majority. I would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman himself would recognise that.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Is it not significant that there should be these attacks at the United Nations and in Trafalgar Square not only on South Africa's racial policy, but also on the entirely opposite Portuguese policy of total racial integration and intermarriage? Does this not suggest that what, in fact, is under attack are the sea routes round the Cape and the strategic interests of the Western Alliance?
Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that the last Government statement on this issue was made on the day of the Whitsun Adjournment by the Minister of State, Board of Trade, 1056 who made no reference at all to scrutiny of the type the Lord Privy Seal has mentioned? Would the right hon. Gentleman at least state now that arms capable of internal use will be banned by this country?
Mr. H. Wilson
The right hon. Gentleman has not made a clear statement. The word that the right hon. Gentleman has used is "scrutiny". What happens after scrutiny? Is he aware that time and again, during the past year, the President of the Board of Trade, who does not seem to have heard of this statement in October, has refused to interfere with shipments of arms which may be used for internal purposes in South Africa? Will the Lord Privy Seal now answer specifically, not as to whether there is scrutiny of the shipments, but whether there is a ban on all shipments for this purpose?
§ Mr. Heath
The situation is as I have described it. This factor is taken into account with all other factors in the scrutiny of every arms application which is made. The right hon. Gentleman knows the difficulty of making public information about individual arms items. That applies not only to South Africa, but to every other country at well. It is a general policy which has been followed by this and by every other Administration.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
In scrutinising these arms, will my right hon. Friend be careful not to allow any exports to take place which might be used against the people of the Yemen through the dropping of canister bombs?
§ Mrs. Castle
If this scrutiny takes place how can the right hon. Gentleman justify the export to South Africa of which the South African Minister of Defence has boasted, of helicopters, tear gas, Saracen armoured cars, tanks, to say nothing of military strike aircraft—all of which can be, and are, used for internal repression?
Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is a possibility of the United Nations taking action about South-West Africa and that Her Majesty's Government are continuing to allow the export of arms to South Africa which may well be used against the decisions of the United Nations itself before very long?
§ Mr. Heath
In these circumstances, we had better await the debate and see what are the issues put before the Security Council by the 32 countries. It is right that we should hear the representations which they have to make. The whole question of South-West Africa is also to come before the United Nations in the comparatively near future and that is another factor in the situation.