HL Deb 15 December 1965 vol 271 cc697-9

2.40 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 what instructions they are giving the United Kingdom representative to the United Nations to oppose the resolution of the Committee of the United Nations, as reported in The Times of December 4, calling for economic sanctions against the South African Republic, in view of the fact that South Africa is the United Kingdom's fourth largest export market, amounting to over £212 million in 1964 (in the United Kingdom's favour by nearly £100 million), in view also of the £1,000 million of United Kingdom capital invested in South Africa, and also of the importance to the United Kingdom of the effective working of the gold mines by skilled staff.]


My Lords, the United Kingdom representative abstained on the resolution on apartheid in the Special Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on December 7. In the separate vote on individual paragraphs he voted against the paragraph recommending universally applied economic sanctions against South Africa.


My Lords, I declare an interest, and I would ask the noble Lord whether Her Majesty's Government will consider two points: one, that Lord Caradon said as lately as December 1 that nothing short of blockade could effect a boycott of South Africa, and that that could not be afforded by the forces available; and secondly, that unless friendship is maintained between South Africa and Britain then, apart from the points in my noble friend's Question, the future viability of the three High Commission Territories, and especially Basutoland, would be jeopardised.


My Lords, I am quite aware of what my noble friend the Minister of State said at the United Nations on that occasion, and I am in full agreement, and naturally Her Majesty's Government are in full agreement, with the views he expressed.


My Lords, it was a little difficult to get the exact wording of the noble Lord's reply, but it seemed inadequate. Does he not think that some more definite instructions are desirable, even at this stage, in face of a serious menace, on what seems to be a dangerous ideological ground, which could severely affect employment in this country?


My Lords, I think perhaps I can answer the noble Lord's question most effectively and truthfully by quoting from a statement made by my right honorable friend the Prime Minister in another place on November 25, 1964, when he said: We on this side have always taken the view … that except in war or near-war conditions one does not use trade as a means of expressing one's detestation of particular policies."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons. Vol 702, col. 1282.] This remains the position of Her Majesty's Government.


My Lords, is it not possible that something more definite could be said by our representative, or that more definite action could be taken, to indicate the implementation of what my noble friend has just quoted? Because, on the face of it, the resolution which has been quoted certainly does menace trade and our exports, which are so vital to this country.


No, my Lords, I do not think there is any need for any more specific declaration of our policy, nor for any different action at the United Nations. We have made it clear, by the quotation to which I have already referred, and on other occasions, how we stand, both with regard to apartheid and with regard to economic sanctions; and our actions, as I said in my original reply, are shown by the fact that our representative voted against those particular sections dealing with economic sanctions.