HC Deb 17 November 1969 vol 791 cc839-41
23. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has now completed the study undertaken to examine the implications of communications sanctions against Rhodesia; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Luard

The study is continuing, and I have nothing to add to what my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State said in this House on 13th October.—[Vol. 788, c. 21–2.]

Mr. Biffen

When does the Minister expect to conclude the study, what are the factors holding up its conclusions, and has not ample evidence been adduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) to indicate the self-defeating futility of such an exercise?

Mr. Luard

It is true that the study has taken longer than we expected, but we hope to have results in the fairly near future. As regards the advantages or otherwise of communications sanctions, feelings on this are mixed in this country, in the Commonwealth and in the United Nations, but it is entirely understandable that this should be one of the measures being discussed and considered for the purpose of making sanctions effective.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

In view of the great long-term importance of the precedents being set by the sanctions imposed on Rhodesia, will my hon. Friend recommend to his right hon. Friend that he should give the House a White Paper setting out the whole history of sanctions and what has happened?

Mr. Luard

I think that the course and development of sanctions is well known, but I shall consider what my right hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Braine

Will this study make any distinction between the tightening of sanctions against the Smith régime and the injuring of innocent people? Does he realise that any proposal to stop postal communications between families in this country and their close relatives in Rhodesia would be regarded by most people as inhumane, rather petty, and possibly counter-productive?

Mr. Luard

The Commonwealth Sanctions Committee is concerned with the application of sanctions as a whole, and this question of communications sanctions is one of the many subjects which it has to consider. In considering communications sanctions, obviously, it will take some account of factors of the kind which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, but, clearly, we must balance against that the possible advantages in terms of greater effectiveness. Communications are a two-way function, and, we, therefore, have to take into account not only any harm which may be done to Rhodesia by cutting off communications but also any disadvantage to us in preventing us from making our views known in Rhodesia.

26. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what instructions he has given to Her Majesty's representative at the United Nations regarding the attitude he is to adopt to the Portuguese Government's request for compensation for losses of trade consequent upon the application of sanctions against Rhodesia.

Mr. Luard

None, Sir. The Security Council has not decided to take up this question.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Since Article 50 of the Charter expressly endows any third country which feels itself damaged by sanctions with a right of appeal under the Charter, why has Lord Caradon not called the Council together to discuss the Portuguese Government's complaint—or does the United Nations Charter apply only to countries which have not offended the Foreign Secretary's sensitive and selective conscience?

Mr. Luard

The interpretation of Article 50 of the Charter is subject to dispute. But Portugal is a member of the United Nations and is subject to the decisions of the United Nations, just as any other members are. If any country is to raise this Article in connection with sanctions, it should be not Portugal but one or two other countries, such as Zambia, which have suffered far greater economic problems. It is not for us, in any case, to take up this question with the Security Council. It is open to the Security Council to consider it at any time, and it has decided not to do so.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Will my hon. Friend instruct Her Majesty's representative to express the contempt of Her Majesty's Government for all the actions of Portugal in Africa?

Mr. Luard

It is not for our representative at the United Nations to express his opinion about all such actions, but our opinion of Portugal's deplorable failure to apply sanctions in general has been made clear on many occasions.