HC Deb 06 July 1970 vol 803 cc323-5
50. Mrs. Shirley Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to what extent he has consulted the Governments of Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana and other Commonwealth countries about the question of resuming arms supplies to South Africa.

48. Mr. Rose

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what decision has been taken by him concerning the sale of aircraft and frigates to South Africa in contravention of the United Nations resolution on the supply of Arms to South Africa.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home rose

Hon. Members

Hurry up.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

This Question was to be taken with Question No. 48. The hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) who was to ask Question No. 48, was not present when it was called. I will now answer Question No. 50—as I would have answered it with Question No. 48.

When a decision has been taken in the context of policy towards the Simonstown Agreements I will make a statement to the House.

Mrs. Williams

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind in his discussions with the Foreign Secretary for South Africa that the effects on British prestige, standing and influence in the world could be much more serious if the policy were reversed than if it were continued as under the previous Government?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I am very much aware—and will be saying something later on this if I catch your eye, Mr. Speaker—of the sensitivity of Commonwealth countries to South Africa's internal policies. I think on this side of the House we shall not be found wanting in this respect.

Mr. Michael Foot

In view of the acknowledgment which the Foreign Secretary has made about sensitivity of other members of the Commonwealth on this matter, will he give an undertaking to the House that he will not proceed with any renewal of the sale of arms to South Africa until there has been a recall of the Commonwealth Conference?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The question of the sale of arms to South Africa is one on which I will make a statement within the context of the Simonstown Agreement at the appropriate time and before very long. The hon. Member can rely on that. Of course there have been many statements from his own Front Bench showing how important is the Simonstown Agreement.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Will the Foreign Secretary say why it is necessary for this country to provide arms for South Africa to safeguard the trade routes round the Cape, when it is not necessary for other European countries with important trade links to do so?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Other European countries of course, without any protest, have supplied South Africa with arms, but I wish to confine this to the Simonstown Agreement concerning 5,000 miles of vulnerable sea routes. If the hon. Member is in his place, he will hear something further about it this afternoon.

Mr. James Johnson

The Foreign Secretary told us that there is sensitivity in African States and the O.A.U. Will he give a similar undertaking to consult them about the Common Market?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes. We have always said that we will keep in the closest possible touch. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is doing that with the Commonwealth countries.