HC Deb 09 February 1976 vol 905 cc28-9
Mr. Gwilym Roberts

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister what study he has made of the reports of deaths of British mercenaries in Angola, and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

The whole House will be concerned at the reports in today's Press that a group of British mercenaries were executed in Northern Angola on or about 3rd February.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has been in the closest touch with Kinshasa, but Her Majesty's Ambassador there is not yet in a position to confirm or to deny that executions have taken place and, if they have, still less who is responsible for the executions. From all the facts available, however, I regret to inform the House that it appears probable that tragic incidents, including the loss of life of a num-mer of recruited mercenaries, have taken place. It is equally the case, on the information available to me, that a considerable number have also been killed in warlike operations.

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I hope to make a fuller statement tomorrow, which will include any further information received from Kinshasa, and will also deal with some of the wider issues involved.

Mr. Maudling

This is clearly a bloody business. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister will be making a fuller statement tomorrow, would not it be wise to leave it at that for today?

The Prime Minister

I thank the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Roberts

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the whole House joins him in feeling a sense of horror at these dreadful deaths and hopes that the figures given are exaggerated? Will he agree, however, that there is a need to look at the whole of the mercenary situation and the question that the very existence of mercenaries in such numbers in Angola is creating a wrong impression in parts of black Africa——

Mr. Speaker

Order. It may be that the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts) did not hear: there is to be a fuller statement on the broad issues tomorrow.

Mr. Roberts

When my right hon. Friend is preparing his fuller statement, will he consider the possibility of using some additional powers to deal with this situation?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend expresses the hope that the figures quoted in the Press are exaggerated. I share his hope, but I have doubts about it on such limited information as is available, though there is still some argument about how they met their deaths. But as to the substantial numbers killed in warlike operations, I fear that there is no doubt that these are very considerable.

With regard to the latter part of my hon. Friend's question, I shall be dealing with wider issues in the statement which, with your permission, Mr. Speaker. I hope to make tomorrow.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Since this matter can come up again tomorrow on the fuller detail, we had better move on to the further Private Notice Question.