HC Deb 06 February 1968 vol 758 cc232-3
Q8. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Prime Minister what communications he has received from the Prime Minister of South Africa about future use by the Royal Navy of the Simonstown naval base; and what reply he has sent.

The Prime Minister

None, Sir.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In those circumstances, and arising out of what has recently been said in South Africa, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that he has assured the South African Government of our continuing desire to cooperate with them in operation of a base whose importance to us and our allies has been so enormously increased by recent events?

The Prime Minister

The first point is that I have had no communication at all from the Prime Minister of South Africa. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Why not? He did not send me one. That probably is the reason. In regard to the main part of the question, we have continually assured the South African Government that we attach importance to the Simonstown Agreement and regard it as still in force.

Mr. Winnick

Is it not disgraceful that a leading British politician now on a visit to South Africa should state that if a Conservative Government were elected they would sell arms to the South African Government? Did the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) ask permission to visit Mrs. Helen Joseph?

The Prime Minister

I have no idea whether the right hon. Gentleman has asked permission to vist any particular South African citizen. Of course, all right hon. Gentlemen on their visits abroad, whatever their party, are responsible for their own statements. The statement the right hon. Gentleman made was not the statement or the view of this House after the debate and the Division on this matter in December.

Mr. Heath

Does the Prime Minister agree that the statement which my right hon. Friend was reported to have made was exactly the same as the statements made in this House by Her Majesty's Opposition throughout the debate?

The Prime Minister

Yes, it was exactly in accordance with the views of the right hon. Gentleman and everything said by hon. Members opposite in the debate. I still think it shameful that they should hold those views. The House rejected them.

Sir C. Osborne

Is not the Prime Minister aware that our good friends in South Africa —[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] —cannot understand our wanting to use the base and not being prepared to sell arms to defend the base? Will he not alter the policy of refusing to sell them arms?

The Prime Minister

There will not be any alteration. The matter was fully debated in the House in December and the House reached a conclusion which is the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Orme

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) has no authority to negotiate with the Rhodesians on behalf of this Government?

The Prime Minister

I think the right hon. Gentleman when in South Africa in the same interview made that quite clear and said that he had no intention of attempting to mediate. Certainly, when he had a discussion with my right hon. Friend, neither he nor my right hon. Friend suggested any mediatory activity on his part in present circumstances.