HC Deb 27 October 1970 vol 805 cc27-9
Q11. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement about his visit to the United Nations Organisation.

Q14. Mr. James Johnson

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement regarding his official visit to the United Nations.

Q17. Mr. Barnes

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statment about his official visit to the United Nations in New York.

The Prime Minister

I addressed the Commemorative Session of the General Assembly on 23rd October. I had discussions with the Secretary General, the President of the General Assembly, and the Secretary General of U.N.C.T.A.D. I was also able to have informal talks with a number of leaders of both Commonwealth and other Governments.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is it not a refreshing change from the last Administration that we now have a spokesman for this country who can defend British interests and British independence as being fully compatible with international peace and security, which is the professed object of the United Nations?

The Prime Minister

I appreciate my hon. Friend's point of view.

Mr. Johnson

In view of the unhappy meeting with Kenneth Kaunda at No. 10, did the Prime Minister take an opportunity in New York to mend any fences by talking to Commonwealth leaders? Has he thought of asking the Defence Ministers of the Commonwealth to meet him about this obsession of his with the Soviet Fleet in the Indian Ocean?

The Prime Minister

There was no need for me to mend any fences in New York. As for the second part of the question, no proposal for a Defence Ministers' conference was ever put to me by any Commonwealth leader. It is understandable that it should not have been put to me by the unaligned countries, which would obviously find difficulty in a conference of Defence Ministers about the Indian Ocean.

Mr. Barnes

Will not the Prime Minister agree that apartheid is too difficult and explosive an issue for countries like Britain to talk about enlightened self-interest with so little thought to the consequences? Will not self-interest and independence be dearly bought if, for example, it gives a boost to the cold war in Africa?

The Prime Minister

The leaders of the Commonwealth to whom I have spoken so far have said without exception that they recognise that this Government has nothing to do with apartheid and are in no way racialist.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

While I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his pledge to the United Nations to reach the Pearson Committee aid target by 1975, can he say whether the Government have any special plans to supplement those of the late Government?

The Prime Minister

Again, I will not anticipate the statement which is to be made later by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My statement that we would do our best to meet the target by 1975, including both private and governmental provision, was warmly received by all members of the Assembly in New York.

Mr. Maclennan

With regard to the suggestion of a Commonwealth Defence Ministers conference, is the Prime Minister saying that he was unaware that the proposal had been made and unaware that it was made by the delegate from Kenya at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting in Australia?

The Prime Minister

I was referring to the talks with Commonwealth leaders here and in New York. Surely that is the source from which one would expect an official suggestion of a conference of this kind.

Mr. Healey

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Indian Prime Minister gave him a serious warning about the implications for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference were he to decide to break the United Nations arms embargo on South Africa before the conference took place? In the light of that, will he undertake to take no decision before the Commonwealth Prime Ministers have had a chance collectively to consider the matter?

The Prime Minister

All my talks with Commonwealth leaders and Prime Ministers have, as always, been on a confidential basis. But I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to put forward statements such as that which he has just made, which do not have any foundation in truth. As for the second part of his question, the Government will make a statement when they consider it right to do so.

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