HC Deb 23 October 1972 vol 843 cc770-3
17. Sir D. Walker-Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will refer the situation in Uganda to the Security Council for a determination under Article 29 of the Charter of the United Nations.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

No. But I must reserve the right to use any part of the United Nations machinery if it seems likely to serve the interests of the Ugandan Asians or of this country.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Is not the situation in Uganda a threat to the peace within within the terms of Article 9 just as much at any rate as was the situation six years ago in Rhodesia where the question of domestic jurisdiction was not held to invalidate the reference? Does not my right hon. Friend agree that not nearly enough is being done in the United Nations in regard to what is a clear breach of international law on the part of the Ugandan Government?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The question of a breach of the peace would first arise in relation to a possible conflict with Tanzania. The Tanzanian Government have not brought this to the United Nations or requested any action under Article 39. It would be difficult to establish in the United Nations that this is a breach of the peace under Article 39, whatever our opinion may be and notwithstanding the just comparison with the Rhodesian situation which my right hon. and learned Friend makes.

As to the action of the United Nations, my right hon. and learned Friend is familiar with the speech I made there and knows that the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Refugees are taking action. We had better get this operation over first and get the Asians out safely. Then I intend to review the whole of the relationship between this country and Uganda.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I certainly would not wish in any way to criticise but rather to praise the action the Government have taken in a thoroughly compassionate and laudable way over the reception of the Asians here and the attempts the Government have made to persuade other countries to help in taking them in. However, does my right hon. Friend realise that in the country as a whole there is a very considerable misunderstanding about the reasons why my right hon. Friend has not felt able to take more decisive action yet in the United Nations? Will he consider laying a White Paper so that the country can be fully informed about what Her Majesty's Government's policy is in regard to United Nations action on this matter?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I will consider my hon. Friend's suggestion. I am not sure that a White Paper is the best way to convey Her Majesty's Government's policy to the country on these matters. There is a wide variety of action which we could take in the United Nations. We must recognise the limitations of that body. If one takes action, one wants it to be effective. I would keep all the options open in relation to the future use of the United Nations machinery.

26. Mr. Normanton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether, in view of the actions taken by the Government of Uganda, he will now take steps as soon as possible to effect that country's expulsion from the Commonwealth.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Care for the plight of the Asian refugees and their property must be our first concern. The Commonwealth may be able to influence the Ugandan Government for example in relation to compensation for property.

Mr. Normanton

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. The House will support the general concept of playing Uganda cool, at least until the refugees have been extracted from that sorry land. But does not my right hon. Friend agree that Uganda and its Government appear to be cocking a snook at the whole institution of the Commonwealth and should not get away with it, and that we should at least take action and express our bitterest regret and annoyance at their whole attitude, and even cast in doubt the merit of Uganda's remaining in the Commonwealth?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I have said on many occasions, and repeat now, that the actions of General Amin have been totally inconsistent with any civilised standard of behaviour. Perhaps the best use of the Commonwealth is to influence people who go astray, but, as I have said, I should like to review the whole of our relations when the operation is over.

Mr. Grimond

While I do not disagree with the right hon. Gentleman's immediate answer, does he agree that the Commonwealth is either an institution in which all races are treated equally or it will be nothing, that the present behaviour of the Ugandan Government is incompatible with membership of the Commonwealth, though they may change, and that it is extremely difficult to justify a perfectly right expulsion of South Africa while retaining Uganda in the Commonwealth?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The Ugandan Government's behaviour is certainly incompatible with the standards we would expect of a Commonwealth member.

Mr. Rost

If the Commonwealth supports sanctions against Rhodesia, why does it not now support sanctions against Uganda, as a deterrent to any other potential racialistic dictator?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

That is a matter that can no doubt be put to members of the Commonwealth if and when they meet, perhaps later on in 1973.

Mr. George Cunningham

Bearing in mind that any decision to expel Uganda could only be one for all Commonwealth Governments, presumably acting in unanimity, will the right hon. Gentleman consider informing other Commonwealth Governments that it is our opinion that Uganda's behaviour is such that expulsion is appropriate? Will he consider an innovation in the idea of suspension from Commonwealth membership until such time as Uganda acquires a Government which are fit to abide by the principles of Commonwealth membership?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I fully understand the hon. Gentleman's feelings, which I think are shared by most hon. Members, including myself. The actions of the Ugandan Government have been intolerable. I do not necessarily conclude from that as yet that they should be expelled from the Commonwealth, but the Commonwealth must be aware of this behaviour, and perhaps it will see fit to take action of some kind.

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