HL Deb 05 April 1962 vol 239 cc255-7

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government under what Article of the Charter of the United Nations the 17 member Committee on the abolition of colonialism was set up; and whether they consider themselves bound by its recommendations in regard to the constitutional status of Southern Rhodesia, or by any resolution of the United Nations Assembly arising out of such recommendations.]


My Lords, The Committee of Seventeen is a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly. The establishment of such bodies is provided for in Article 22 of the United Nations Charter. As noble Lords are aware, the General Assembly and its subsidiaries can only make recommendations, and members are in no way bound to accept them. Her Majesty's Government have made it clear that they cannot share their responsibility for their colonial territories, nor can they shift it. This, of course, applies to Southern Rhodesia in so far as Her Majesty's Government retain responsibility in that country.

As, however, we are always anxious to assist the United Nations, I informed the General Assembly last September that we recognise the interest of members of the United Nations in the constitutional and political steps that we have taken in directing these territories towards independence, and I said that we would be prepared voluntarily to give the United Nations constitutional and political information on our dependent territories. Subsequently my noble friend the Minister of State made it plain in his speech on November 27 that we should be very willing to explain the facts to the Committee of Seventeen if its members so desired.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that long reply, I should like to ask the Government this. Since this Committee, so far as I can make out, is actually contrary to Article 2 (7) of the Charter, which forbids the discussion of any matters essentially within the jurisdiction of any State, and therefore forbids any discussion of Southern Rhodesian affairs, why is it that in that event the Government decided to participate in the work of the Committee; and why, in particular, have they invited a Sub-Committee of Six, under an Indian Representative, Mr.Jha, to come to this country? May we have an assurance that when they do come here this Sub-Committee will not in any circumstances discuss Southern Rhodesia?


My Lords, the Assembly is entitled to information and we have said that we would give information to the relevant Committees of the United Nations. One is the Committee of Information, another is this Committee of Seventeen, which has been set up by the Assembly; and if information is given the information, I think, must be discussed. What we have made clear to the United Nations is that we cannot accept resolutions or recommendations, because colonial policy must be a matter for Her Majesty's Government.


My Lords, is it not a very good thing that information should be given on a matter of this sort? If it is not a question of discussing policy, at least they should be aware of the facts, and if Her Majesty's Government can give the facts I should have thought that was in the interests of all concerned, both in the United Nations and in Southern Rhodesia.


Yes, I find myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. I think there are so many facts which can be given to justify our Commonwealth and Colonial policies that it is as well that the world should know them.


My Lords, I do not want to press my noble friend in the matter, but do not these resolutions, once they are passed by the General Assembly, tend to become regarded in the eyes of many States as binding; and will it not put us in a very difficult position if such a resolution is in due course passed?


My Lords, so far the Committee have decided, and I think wisely, not to pass a resolution on Southern Rhodesia. Should they do so, I find it difficult to say whether or not it would put Her Majesty's Government in an embarrassing position. What I have made clear is that neither I nor Her Majesty's Government will allow such resolutions or recommendations to influence our colonial policies, which must be Her Majesty's Government's responsibility.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl one more question? On December 19, in relation to the Goa debate at the United Nations, The Times reported Mr. Jha as saying that whatever anyone else may think, Charter or no Charter, Security Council or no Security Council, India would go through with her present action. May I ask the noble Earl whether it is considered that Mr. Jha is a suitable person to come here to discuss colonial matters or matters of Southern Rhodesia with this Government, in view of his, to put it mildly, very biased attitude towards the United Nations and its authority?


My Lords, I do not think I must be led into answering questions about what Mr. Jha should have said or did say. He was, of course, in that capacity acting, I take it, as a Permanent Representative of India in the United Nations. I should hope that when people take charge of Committees of the United Nations they can prove themselves to be impartial, whatever their nationality.

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