HL Deb 28 January 1969 vol 298 cc1117-8

2.42 p.m.


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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what further action is proposed to restore peace between Nigeria and Biafra.]


My Lords, the attitude of Colonel Ojukwu is not encouraging, as was clearly shown when his representatives in London at the time of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference refused to meet the leader of the Nigerian delegation even for informal talks to which no pre-conditions were attached. Peace can be achieved by negotiation only if both sides will enter into meaningful talks, which has been the aim of Her Majesty's Government and the O.A.U.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. May I ask whether he is aware that I am not going to comment on his statement because I do not want to aggravate the difficulties? Further, may I ask this? Despite the disappointments during the Commonwealth Conference, of which I have inside knowledge, are there not now hopeful gestures on both sides: Colonel Ojukwu's offer of an uncommitted ceasefire without insistence upon secession, and, secondly, the Federal Government's offer of a representative constitutional conference without including confederation? To facilitate these movements towards peace, would Her Majesty's Government support two proposals? The first is—


My Lords, my noble friend said that he was not going to comment; but he is engaged, if I may say so, on an operation which is equally not in accordance with the Rules of Order of this House. He should rise really to ask questions.


My Lords, I indicated that I was not going to comment on what was said during the Commonwealth Conference. I am asking Her Majesty's Government two specific questions: whether they will support the proposals for an African Committee of Good Offices, of which the Emperor Hailé Selassie should be chairman and in which an African Head of State would support both sides; and, a new proposal, Whether Her Majesty's Government would make some approach to the French Government, each supporting one side, to use their joint services to try to bring peace in this terrible war?


My Lord, I am not aware of the statement that my noble friend referred to and attributed to Colonel Ojukwu. I will certainly look at it, but my understanding of the Biafran position is that while they would go for a cease-fire unconditionally, this in fact means that they would still remain in de facto control of their present territory, which is clearly contrary to anything that the Federal Government would be prepared to accept. In regard to an African Committee of Good Offices, as my noble friend knows, the O.A.U. under Hailé Selassie has been working very actively, and if any such committee could arise from such an organisation I am sure it is to be welcomed. As to an approach to the French, clearly we would consult any country that could bring about a settlement; but we must remember, as I am sure my noble friend appreciates, that we must not appear to bring in a colonialist attitude in seeking to impose a solution from outside on an African problem.