HC Deb 30 January 1969 vol 776 cc1521-2
Q4. Mr. Ridley

asked the Prime Minister if he will arrange to visit Nigeria.

The Prime Minister

As the hon. gentleman will be aware, I have been in close personal touch with the Head of the Federal Military Government in Nigeria, through the usual diplomatic channels and successive Ministerial visits, and in addition have had the benefit of a number of talks with the head of the Nigerian delegation to the Comomnwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting earlier this month.

Mr. Ridley

Will the Government not stop supplying arms to Nigeria for the most unpleasant reason that they wish to influence events there? Is he aware that this smacks of a sort of neocolonialism which comes very ill from the Government?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman ponders that question, he will feel that he fails to do justice to the situation, which has been debated very fully in this House just before Christmas. He will recognise that, if this country, as the principal arms supplier throughout the history—including colonial days and after—had decided, when a civil war broke out, that that was the moment to stop supplying arms, it would not have been a move towards neutrality, it would have been a hostile act towards a Commonwealth country.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Surely the Prime Minister will correct the record in so far as, after the Commonwealth Conference, he said that the Biafrans were not prepared to negotiate? Is it not perfectly clear now from Press communications from Biafra that they are prepared to negotiate?

The Prime Minister

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has given me that opportunity. It is the case that they have said that they are prepared to negotiate, although they have laid down their own very stringent terms, namely, prior recognition of their nationhood, as they call it. What I said last week—and I am glad to have this chance to correct it—was when I was trying to refer to the position in the week of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, when they refused to meet unconditionally with Chief Awolowo. What I said certainly gave the wrong impression, and I am glad to have the chance of making it clear.

Mr. Heffer

Can my right hon. Friend tell us whether he has had an opportunity of looking into the question of the use of "Enugu Palm" by the Federal Nigerian Government for the transportation of Federal troops from Lagos to Port Harcourt? Would he say whether the Government intend to make quite clear to the Nigerian Federal Government that the requisitioning of our ships in this way should not be carried through?

The Prime Minister

I have had an opportunity of studying this matter and, as my hon. Friend knows, my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has been into it very thoroughly. I fully support the answer which my right hon. Friend has sent to my hon. Friend.