HL Deb 11 February 1976 vol 368 cc81-3

2.57 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 whether their Representative on the United Nations Security Council will propose that the future status of Western Sahara should be decided by a plebiscite under United Nations supervision.


My Lords, the United Kingdom voted in favour of Resolutions 3458A and 3458B on 10th December, both of which called for an act of self-determination by Western Sahara. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has instructed Mr. Rydbeck, his Special Representative on the Western Sahara, to enter into consultations about implementing these resolutions. Her Majesty's Government welcome this development and also the efforts of a number of Arab countries to bring about a reduction of tension in the area.


My Lords, while greatly welcoming that reply may I ask this question? In view of the imminent prospect of some revolt within Western Sahara by the movement demanding independence, and the participation of Algeria which is not demanding territory but which is claiming self-determination (which Her Majesty's Government support), cannot Her Majesty's Government seek to speed the report from the Special Representative on the Western Sahara with a view to the implementation of the Security Council resolution?


My Lords, we would certainly wish to speed in every way possible the investigation of Mr. Rydbeck, who, by the way, got to Madrid on 3rd February and I understand will be visiting the area itself and possibly adjacent countries. As to the imminence of disturbance in the territory, I am not informed that it is all that imminent. In the meantime, as I indicated in my first Answer, a number of Arab countries have been active in reducing tension between certain countries in Western Africa, not without some success.


My Lords, can my noble friend say whether the full meaning of a plebiscite and all its implications are properly understood by the natives of Western Sahara?


My Lords, I certainly imagine that it would form part of the efforts of Mr. Rydbeck and of the Secretary-General that any plebiscite that is held in this territory is understood as fully as possible by those taking part in it.