HC Deb 28 February 1973 vol 851 cc1491-2
23. Mr. George Cunningham

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will take the initiative in proposing to other Commonwealth Governments that Uganda should be suspended from Commonwealth membership; and what the result is of the review of general policy towards Uganda which he undertook to conduct.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I announced the result of our review of policy towards Uganda in the House on 30th November and amplified this on 19th December. At present we are concentrating on the question of compensation for the United Kingdom passport holders and British subjects who have been evicted.

There are clearly a number of possible courses of action with regard to Uganda which may be open to us. The proper place to discuss Uganda relations with the Commonwealth would be at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting in August.

Mr. Cunningham

Will the Foreign Secretary accept my apologies for having missed the results of his grand review of policy? Will he say whether he is not considering the termination of Commonwealth preferences immediately, and not waiting for the EEC arrangements to take effect? If we are to exercise any pressure upon Amin, does not he agree that we must make clear what consequences will follow on our part? Would not he agree that it is essential, before the Commonwealth Conference, to say that for our part we draw the line at Amin and that other Commonwealth countries should do the same? Have we taken soundings of other Commonwealth Governments to that end?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The hon. Gentleman did not miss this; I remember his commenting on it. We ended all aid to Uganda. Now we are looking at the question of compensation for the sake of individuals. I remind the hon. Gentleman that individuals suffered terrible hardship. We must try to get compensation out of the Ugandan Government.

The question of expelling a member from the Commonwealth—if that is what is in the hon. Gentleman's mind—must be discussed by the Heads of the Governments of the Commonwealth when they are assembled.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

Is it not simply a matter of principle that if the Commonwealth means anything the British Government ought to take the lead in trying to expel Uganda so long as it practises its racialist and obscene policies?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Certain conventions and principles guide members of the Commonwealth, and they have to be discussed in the proper forum. Certainly one member cannot take an initiative in expelling another. The proper time to discuss this is undoubtedly when the Commonwealth Prime Ministers meet.

Mr. Callaghan

There will be a lot of support, despite the emotion, for the right hon. Gentleman's caution in this matter. Is there not a great difference between a country like, for example, South Africa—where the people had a chance of expressing their views in a very limited sense when the decision to leave the Commonwealth was taken—and the position of the people of Uganda, who have had no opportunity of expressing a view?

Whilst obviously it is right that we should take all action to recover compensation and on other matters, membership of the Commonwealth is a very important thing, and the actions of a single individual unsupported by his people should be thought about very carefully before we take such a decision.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. What he says is true. Our relations with Uganda were very close, and the people were and still are very friendly. We should not move with haste in this matter.