HC Deb 24 June 1981 vol 7 cc240-1
11. Mr. Radice

asked the Lord Privy Seal what is the policy of the United Kingdom towards the proposed South Atlantic pact between South Africa, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil; and if he is satisfied that British interests will not be adversely affected.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Nicholas Ridley)

We have seen press reports on this matter. The proposal was apparently discussed at a private meeting and it would be inappropriate for me to comment. There are no indications that British interests would be adversely affected.

Mr. Radice

Has the Minister seen reports to the effect that security and defence experts from the United States of America, Argentina, Brazil and other South American countries met last month in Buenos Aires to discuss a possible South Atlantic pact? Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear that Britain is hostile to such an ill-conceived alliance, which would almost certainly do nothing for security in the area and which would alienate the whole of black Africa?

Mr. Ridley

I have seen the same press reports as the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he has seen the press report from South Africa to the effect that General Malan recently denied that there would be any South African participation in the conference or that there were any negotiations at present with any countries on such issues. We must have more detail before we can form a view.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Although I share my hon. Friend's ignorance about this proposal would not he agree that the Tropic of Cancer is an obsolete frontier in terms of the maritime defence of the West? Is not there a need for a South Atlantic defence organisation? Would not the Falkland Islands be a suitable headquarters for it?

Mr. Ridley

I think that the point is that the meeting was a private one and not a governmental meeting. We cannot comment on what private individuals may have said in a private meeting. The question of the Falkland Islands is hardly relevant at this stage, because as my hon. Friend knows, there is no question of us taking part in any such defence pact.

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