§ 2.8 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government, with regard to suggestions reported in the Press advocating the boycotting of South African products, whether they will now take steps to bring home to the public generally the dangerous threat to employment which such statements may generate especially in their effect upon United Kingdom exports.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government do not consider it necessary to take any such steps at this 552 time. Her Majesty's Government have repeatedly made it clear that, while they wholeheartedly condemn the policy of apartheid of the Government of the Republic of South Africa, they do not believe that the boycotting of South African trade would help those who suffer from this policy. Trade between South Africa and Britain takes place because both countries find it advantageous, and I do not believe that either will allow it to be impaired by the Press reports which the noble Lord has mentioned.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. It gives the impression that the Government are not concerned about the prospect of a possible diminution of trade with South Africa, with which we have an active balance. But may I ask the noble Lord whether it is right to understand, therefore, that the risk of a reduction of trade is not one which the Government regard as serious? Secondly, may I ask him this: Would it not he to the disadvantage of this country if, through fear arising from such policies, the Government of South Africa chose to replace London by some other centre for the consignment and disposal of the gold produced by South Africa?
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, as regards this question of the gold produced in South Africa, there is no evidence to suppose that they will take that away from London as a centre. As regards the question of loss of jobs in this country, of course anything of any kind which leads to loss of jobs in this country is considered seriously by Her Majesty's Government. But we do not believe that some of the figures that have been published in certain pamphlets, and in certain newspapers, bear any real relation to the number of jobs that could conceivably be lost.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
My Lords, may I call the noble Lord's attention to the fact that the policy of the South African Government, be it right or wrong, was not a part of the Question; and may I respectfully suggest that much harm is done by constantly interfering with the internal policy of South Africa when the question has not been raised? May I finally ask the noble Lord whether he does not think that Her Majesty's Government, and all others who suggest 553 boycotting or otherwise interfering with South Africa's internal affairs, are encouraging revolution throughout Africa, when it might be better for moderate men to counsel moderation and thus encourage evolution?
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, may I repeat to my noble friend the second part of my Answer to the original Question? Irrespective of the policy of the South African Government which, as I say, Her Majesty's Government do not like,they do not believe that the boycotting of South African trade would help those who suffer from the policy",whether the policy is right or wrong.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, may I ask the Minister of State this question? Should we not be embarking upon a very dangerous course for British industry and British employment if we were at any time to consider restricting our trade according to our political likes or dislikes of the country with which we are proposing to trade?
§ LORD DERWENT
Generally speaking, I think that is so, but that is rather a wide question. There are other countries, of course, where we have restricted trade for various reasons, so I do not think I can give a categorical "Yes" or "No" to that particular one.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, there could not be a much better reason than exists where anti-racial practices are followed in a minority Government, could there?
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND MINISTER FOR SCIENCE (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, I think that we are getting rather far from the original Question.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I quite realise that; I was not rebuking the noble Earl in any way; but I thought the House would wish to discuss these wide issues probably in a different context.