HL Deb 16 July 1962 vol 242 cc460-3

2.48 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question of which I have given Private Notice. The Question is:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have instructed Her Maejsty's Representative in New York to make to the United Nations authorities regarding the action of the local United Nations Commander in Katanga in cutting the last road connecting Elisabethville with the outside world.


My Lords, representations have been made on the spot to the responsible United Nations authorities by Her Majesty's Ambassador in Leopoldville and Her Majesty's Consul in Elisabethville. I understand that the sole purpose of the road block was to control military movements, and I have received assurances that the United Nations forces have been instructed to do everything possible to avoid incidents. Her Majesty's Consul in Elisabethville has since reported that the atmosphere is much less tense and that traffic is passing freely both ways through the road block.


My Lords, ten days ago the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, stated in London that the United Nations had no intention of imposing a political solution of the Katanga problem by force, and I gather from what my noble friend said and from what I have seen in the Press that this present action was taken on local initiative. I should like to ask my noble friend three questions. First, is it not a fact that this fresh action constitutes an open violation of the "hold-fire" of (I think it was) December 20 last? Secondly, despite the reassuring reports that my noble friend has received, has he not seen Press reports to the effect that these events might well lead to further fighting in the immediate future? Thirdly, may I ask him whether he will now make representations, or will instruct our representative to make representations, to the United Nations authorities in New York to restore the status quo, and to allow the traffic which is proceeding into and out of Elisabethville to be free and unrestricted by any military action?


My Lords, my noble friend asks, "Is this not a breach of the 'hold-fire'?". As I understand it, there was an agreement between Mr. Tshoimbe and the United Nations forces that some 300 troops should come in for the so-called independence celebrations, and that in fact some 2,000 troops arrived. That is not unknown. The Lady Mayoress here invited, I think, 4,000 people to go to something in the City, and 30,000 turned up. I do not know that we need make too much of this. No shot, let us remember, has yet been fired, and Press reports to the effect that shooting might break out are a speculation which I hope will be falsified.

So far as representations in New York are concerned, U Thant is well acquainted with my views, which I have expressed to him time and again, that there is no solution to this matter if force is used; and he himself has said that he has no intention of using force. So I hope that this incident will be handled locally and sensibly, and that it will not involve the wider issues which are concerned in getting an agreement on the Constitution, and on a fair division of revenue between Mr. Adoula and Mr. Tschombe.


My Lords, whilst I agree especially with the last part of the statement of the Foreign Secretary, may I refer to an earlier matter he mentioned? Is it not reasonable for the United Nations authorities to make the kind of instruction which is complained of for the direction and control of troops if the Katanga people brought in six times as many troops as had been agreed upon between the two sides for the celebration? Was that not a perfectly reasonable attitude for the United Nations authorities to take?


My Lords, it is difficult to judge these matters from this distance; but, of course, the United Nations troops are charged with preventing a situation arising which might lead to civil war. Whether this situation would in fact have led to any difficulty, I do not know, but in fact it did not, and therefore there is a difference of opinion as to Whether or not this action was wise. But the great thing is that now, as I have said, on the spot traffic seems to be passing freely backwards and forwards, so I profoundly hope that this particular incident is over.


My Lords, can the noble Earl say whether there is any truth in the Press statement that the Katanga gendarmerie threw stones at the United Nations forces? I think we all agree with, and accept, the statement by U Thant that there is no intention of imposing a solution by force; but it is surely the right of the United Nations forces to protect themselves if they are attacked in any way. I am asking whether there is any truth in the statement.


My Lords, I have had no corroboration of Press reports to this effect.


My Lords, referring to what the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition said, my noble friend had not seen one Press report, which quoted an Indian officer of the United Nations Forces as saying that "the Katangans have caused no trouble; we have no idea why we have been alerted".