HC Deb 11 May 1965 vol 712 cc265-70

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will instruct the British delegate to make clear in the Security Council, before a vote is taken on the question of Santo Domingo, that in Latin America as elsewhere the use of armed force is subject to the obligations of the Charter and that international security is the primary responsibility of the United Nations.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

Support for the principles referred to by my right hon. Friend was implicit in my noble Friend's statement to the Security Council on 4th May. My noble Friend will again make this clear before the debate concludes.

I propose, with permission, to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement on the situation in the Dominican Republic

Mr. Noel-Baker

While thanking my right hon. Friend warmly for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that the episode in Santo Domingo has caused consternation amongst those who care most about co-operation with the United States, that the despatch of American troops at the invitation of a Fascist military junta appeared to be a contravention of Articles 15 and 17 of the Charter of the Organisation of American States as well as of the Charter of the United Nations, and that in the present dangerous international situation any bypassing of the United Nations would create a disastrous precedent for other Governments in other continents?

Mr. Stewart

As to the action of the United States in sending forces necessary for the protection of its own nationals—[An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."]—its own nationals, British nationals and others, I have already expressed my view on that to the House.

With regard to subsequent events, the matter is now being dealt with through the Organisation of American States, but subject, as I made clear in my original reply, to the overriding authority of the United Nations.

Mr. Maudling

May we take it from that reply that the Foreign Secretary agrees that there can be circumstances such as he has described concerning the protection of nationals where action may be needed of a character which is more swift than the United Nations can possibly provide?

Mr. Stewart

I think that it has long been recognised that where swift action is necessary to save lives, a nation is entitled to take it. The right hon. Member will, however, notice that I said, "with regard to subsequent events". That is a matter that is now being dealt with through the Organisation of American States. It would be wise to await its actions and report on that matter when it comes again to the Security Council.

Mr. A. Henderson

Does not what has taken place in Santo Domingo, as well as in South Vietnam, only lend greater urgency to the need for creating a United Nations peace-keeping force which would obviate the necessity for sending in national forces?

Mr. Stewart

I am sure that that is true. One of the things lacking in the world today is an effective organisation to deal with situations of this kind which can act genuinely under the authority of the United Nations. It was with that in view that I made my announcement some months ago in the House about our proposed contribution to a United Nations peace-keeping force.

In the lack of a force of that kind, there is often a genuine difficulty in seeing what action is both wise and according to law. In the present situation, I believe that the result which we have now, that the Organisation of American States is subject to its duty to report to the Council, is for the present the wisest way of dealing with the problem.

Sir F. Bennett

Will the Foreign Secretary accept that none of us on this side would be so rude as to call out "Rubbish", as one of his hon. Friends did a short time ago? Secondly, would the right hon. Gentleman care to confirm or otherwise that from beginning to end Her Majesty's Government have not expressed one word of disapproval to the United States, through diplomatic channels or otherwise, of their action in this matter?

Mr. Stewart

As to the first part of his question, the hon. Member's memory is rather short. I remember quite a number of remarks addressed to me and to my right hon. and hon. Friends by hon. Members opposite.

With regard to the remainder, I expressed my view of the American action so far as it was concerned with the protection of their and other nationals. Since then, the matter has been dealt with through the Security Council and the Organisation of American States, and it would be foolish to do or say anything that might prejudice their so handling the matter that we can have a re-creation in the Dominican Republic of the conditions for democratic government.

Mr. Mendelson

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that after the original statement by the United States Administration that troops had been sent in to protect various groups of nationals the President and the State Department have agreed that the vast bulk of 30,000 marines have been sent in to combat alleged Communist infiltration? In view of the fact that all the Latin American States have disagreed with this assessment, and the grave danger of one Government laying down what is Communist infiltration and what is not, and thereby endangering the free, liberal development of countries everywhere under Presidents like Juan Bosch, who is a recognised liberal democratic leader, will not my right hon. Friend dissociate his Government, both in N.A.T.O. and in the Security Council, from such American action?

Mr. Stewart

The proper course for us to take in the Security Council was that which will, I think, be taken by the great majority of its members—to support the efforts of the Organisation of American States. On the question of the building up of American forces, I have said, with regard to subsequent events, that I have not pronounced an opinion upon that and that the matter should now be left to the——

Mr. Hirst

On a point of order. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to request the right hon. Gentleman to address the Chair, so that we may all hear him much better?

Mr. Speaker

I think that it is true, and experience shows, that if one addresses the Chair the amplifiers work. They do not work if one talks away from them.

Mr. Stewart

With regard to the subsequent events, as I have said, I have not expressed a judgment and I think that the matter now should be dealt with as it is being dealt with, jointly by the Organisation of American States and the Security Council.

Mr. Michael Foot

Can my right hon. Friend say when the American troops will be withdrawn from Santo Domingo? Is not that a matter of acute British interest, since we are eager to sustain the Charter of the United Nations? Is it not also a fact that the original American action was in defiance not merely of the Charter of the United Nations, but also of the Treaty of the Organisation of American States?

Mr. Stewart

It is now the intention of the Organisation of American States to establish, so long as may be necessary, a force under its auspices. As that is done, the American troops would correspondingly be withdrawn, except in so far as they formed a part of the O.A.S. contingent.

On the other matters, I do not think that it is necessary for me to add to what I have already said.

Mr. Fell

Would the Foreign Secretary agree that in this case and at this time, had the matter been left to the United Nations, British and other nationals would have been at risk? [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] Nonsense? Would it not, be somewhat appropriate for this House to express its appreciation to the Americans for saving British lives in this incident?

Mr. Stewart

I think that at one time there was a situation where there was great risk, and where, in the present situation of world organisation, there was no international body which could have acted speedily enough. The hon. Gentleman may remember that I expressed gratitude for that action.

The question has been raised of subsequent action, and whether force could be used to determine what the form of Government should be in Dominica. That is a matter which I am sure is for the O.A.S., subject to the authority of the United Nations.

Mr. Lubbock

Whatever ultimate decision may be made by the O.A.S., can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that neither under the United Nations Charter nor under the Treaty of the O.A.S., has it any power retrospectively to sanction the illegal use of force?

Mr. Stewart

One would have to read the Charter very carefully for this. It has power to take measures to secure peaceful settlements, and this, I think, is a matter of considerable complication on which the United Nations itself ought to form a judgment when it has the report from the O.A.S.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate the matter now.

Following is the statement: In December, 1962, free elections in the Dominican Republic resulted in victory for Mr. Juan Bosch, who as President, received sympathy and support from many quarters, including the United States Government. He was overthrown in September, 1963, by a military coup; it was alleged at the time that his Government had been infiltrated by Communists, and of this there was, indeed, some evidence. The civilian triumvirate which succeeded him was, in turn, overthrown on 24th April last by another military coup, engineered by elements of the Dominican armed forces with the declared object of restoring Mr. Bosch and the constitution of 1963. The revolt having met with determined and effective resistance from other elements of the Dominican armed forces, the rebels distributed large numbers of automatic weapons to civilian sympathisers. At this point, a small force of United States marines landed to evacuate those of their own and other nationals who wished to leave. The House had already been informed of the assistance generously given by the United States authorities in the evacuation of British subjects. Events then took a different turn. Reports from our own sources leave us in no doubt that, in the second phase of the revolt, the leadership was provided at least in part by persons who had received high-grade instruction in the technique of armed revolt. Had it not been for the skilled intervention of these relatively few activists, it is questionable whether the originators of the revolt would have been able to pursue the struggle. In these circumstances, the United States troops who had landed to protect American and other nationals remained and were reinforced; and the Organisation of American States sent a mission which, after consultation with both the combatant groups, recommended the despatch to the Dominican Republic of an inter-American peace force. That recommendation was accepted by the O.A.S. Council on 6th May, and the United States Government have made it clear that they will withdraw such troops as are not required by the Organisation. The immediate task of the O.A.S. is to create the conditions in which the functioning of democratic institutions in the Dominican Republic can be resumed. A speedy and successful conclusion to their efforts will be the general wish of the House.