HL Deb 25 February 1971 vol 315 cc1163-4

3.14 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 to what extent they are co-operating with the French Government for (a) common or co-ordinated policies towards French and English-speaking African States; or (b) a broad Anglo-French partnership or entente in Africa.]


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government keep in close touch with the French Government on a very wide range of affairs, including, of course, African affairs, particularly in view of the desire of those English and French-speaking countries to increase contacts with one another.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply, which does not go very far. I should have thought he could have gone further, in view of the fact that our relations with France are, I believe, extremely good at the moment. Would he not agree that co-operation, an entente, or searching for common guidelines, would have the desirable effect of bringing closer together the English and French speaking African States to which he referred, and also of providing greater opportunities for the erection of a linguistic, military, cultural and economic barrier to a takeover in Africa by the U.S.S.R. and China?


My Lords, my noble friend's question is couched in fairly wide terms. It would be misleading if I were to give him any indication that there was a direct and simple answer to this matter, or that there is an easy, simple policy which will cover his question. I can assure him that Her Majesty's Government are very concerned that the relationships between the countries and Africa—whether Anglophone or Francophone countries—shall be as close as possible, and Her Majesty's Government are keeping in touch with the French Government over this matter.


My Lords, while sympathising with Lord Merrivale's Question at this time, would not the noble Earl agree that he has put it at a very unfortunate moment, in view of the Immigration Bill that has just come forward and the fact that the French Government are much better about colour than we have ever been?


My Lords, that would be extending the Question slightly farther than its original purpose.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether he will be very careful in this matter? Is he aware that there is a deep division now among African countries, and that there is the danger that we and France may be adopting a paternalist attitude towards them which may increase rather than decrease the dangers to which the noble Lord has referred?


My Lords, I think the noble Lord will know only too well that all these countries in Africa, or the majority of them, are independent countries. All that we can do is to help them as much as possible along roads which are convenient to all sides.


My Lords, will not the solution of the Question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, be much clearer when the negotiations now going on in Brussels result, as it is expected that they will, in the adherence of most of these African countries to the Yaounde Convention, by which they will all get substantial advantages from the enlarged Common Market?


My Lords, the noble Lord has touched upon a point which is one of the complexities of the situation. At the moment, the French speaking countries have a Yaoundé-type of association, whereas the British ones have not.