HL Deb 14 July 1960 vol 225 cc300-3

3.42 p.m.


My Lords, the Prime Minister in another place is making a statement about the resolution of the United Nations Security Council regarding the situation in the Congo.

The Security Council to-day adopted the following resolution: The Security Council; considering the report of the Secretary General on a request for United Nations action in relation to the Republic of the Congo, Considering the request for military assistance addressed to the Secretary General by the President and the Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo, Calls upon the Government of Belgium to withdraw their troops from the territory of the Republic of the Congo, Decides to authorise the Secretary General to take the necessary steps, in consultation with the Government of the Republic of the Congo, to provide the Government with such military assistance as may be necessary, until, through the efforts of the Congolese Government with the technical assistance of the United Nations, the National Security Forces may be able in the opinion of the Government to meet fully their tasks, Requests the Secretary General to report to the Security Council as appropriate. Before the vote the Council rejected three Soviet amendments. The first called for a condemnation of Belgium for armed aggression against the Republic of Congo; the second called for the immediate withdrawal of Belgian troops from the Congo; and the third amendment specified that the military assistance should be supplied by African States. Our representative in the Security Council voted against all the Soviet amendments and abstained on the final resolution. In his explanation of his abstention Mr. Beeley who is the Acting Head of the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations said that Her Majesty's Government were entirely in favour of the resolution except the part which called for the withdrawal of Belgian troops. Her Majesty's Government did not feel that it would be right in the present state of knowledge of the situation of the Congo to call for Belgian troops to withdraw without any qualification.

Nevertheless, so far as the action by the Secretary General authorised by the resolution is concerned. Her Majesty's Government are informing the Secretary General that they will give him full support.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Earl for the statement that he has made, and I should think that, taken as a whole, it can be called a very satisfactory statement of the situation. There is some little anxiety, I dare say, in some places, regarding the resolution which has been carried by the United Nations, as to what might arise in any interim period when the Belgian troops are withdrawn, and before there were really effective United Nations Forces in the area. All foreign countries are likely to have some nationals of theirs in the area. On consideration, I think that the action of abstaining on this particular resolution was justified from the point of view that, if we were placed in a similar situation, we should want to give first place to the safety of our nationals. Therefore I think that, taking it by and large, this is a satisfactory statement which has been given to Parliament to-day. I hope very much, of course, that we shall do everything we can to assist those very experienced authorities under Mr. Hammarskjold in raising a satisfactory force to do this particularly difficult job.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend the Leader of the House this question?—I do not know whether he is in a position to answer it. While I think we should all accept the resolution which was passed, and certainly be in the most emphatic agreement with what the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition has said about the vital interest of everybody, not least the Congo itself, in having some forces there to maintain, or restore and then maintain, law and order, and that there must be effective forces of one kind or another for that single purpose, can my noble friend the Leader of the House throw any light upon this point? When the United Nations force reaches the Congo, to whom will it be responsible—to the Prime Minister and President of the Congo, or to the United Nations? Will it act on its own discretion, or will it be like a force when troops are called in in aid of the civil power, when the military authority has discretion how to exercise those functions? What will be the position of this force?


We are, of course, in touch with the Secretary General on these matters, and he is very skilful in arranging them and has great experience. I would take it that, as in other previous cases, the force would be responsible to the Secretary General and to the United Nations. I say that, of course, without having consulted the Secretary General. But I should think that would be the process, as it has been in other cases.


My Lords, is it not a matter for serious consideration that we should be in rather less of a hurry to admit new members to the United Nations? In the old days, there used to be some considerable precedent, diplomatic law and international practice, as to the de jure recognition of new Governments. They would have to be a de facto authority in a well-defined area, with proper civil administration, with their troops under control, providing protection for foreigners, accepting international obligations, and so forth. That used to be the criteria before people were admitted, certainly to the League of Nations, and had de jure recognition. Is it not possibly worth considering that we should be sure that these criteria are objective facts before admitting new members to the privileges and responsibilities of members of this organisation?


My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Viscount's question, but this is a matter which is in the hands of the members of the United Nations themselves. In our territories, as we lead them to independence, we try to secure that there is political stability upon which to build a real nation which can hold its own in world affairs. I hope we shall always have the support of this House to do that.