HC Deb 28 July 1965 vol 717 cc468-70
Mr. Thorpe

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether the British Government's approval for the appointment of a Rhodesian diplomatic representative to Portugal was sought by the Rhodesian Government prior to their public announcement of this appointment, and whether the British Government have granted, or will grant such approval.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Arthur Bottomley)

The Rhodesian Government's request for approval for such an appointment is the subject of confidential exchanges. The British Government's attitude will be governed by the need to preserve Britain's ultimate responsibility for Rhodesia's external affairs and for its diplomatic representation in foreign countries.

Mr. Thorpe

Can we know, first, what the status of this person will be? Will he merely be a trade and information officer, or will he have diplomatic status and be able to bind Rhodesia, and, therefore, indirectly Britain, in matters of foreign affairs?

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that if diplomatic status is given this is a way of giving de facto recognition to the independence and control by Rhodesia over its foreign affairs, which is independence by the back door?

Finally, would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the fact that Rhodesia has an ambassador in South Africa in no way creates a precedent? That is a very different situation which has historical and political origins which have no parallel in Portugal.

Mr. Bottomley

Yes, Sir. What the hon. Gentleman has said is true. The fact that Rhodesia has a representative in South Africa is no precedent. The Rhodesian Government had a representative in South Africa when South Africa was in the Commonwealth. When South Africa left the Commonwealth, it was thought unnecessary to make any change in the situation. I repeat that it does not create a precedent. On the other point, the discussions about representation are still continuing. As I have already said, the British Government are responsible for Rhodesia's diplomatic representation in foreign countries.

Mr. James Johnson

Has such an appointment ever been made in Washington? If so, when did this take place?

Mr. Bottomley

There is no such diplomatic appointment in Washington, but it is true that the Rhodesian Government have a representative on the staff of the British Ambassador in Washington.

Mr. Wall

As the Rhodesian Government have representatives in both Pretoria and Washington, will the right hon. Gentleman say why Her Majesty's Government are even considering not accepting an appointment to another capital?

Mr. Bottomley

It is not accurate to say that the British Government are not considering the representations which have been made. It is the status of the accredited representative which is in dispute.