HL Deb 28 July 1976 vol 373 cc1345-8

2.44 p.m.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat in the form of a Statement an Answer which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth affairs has given to Questions in another place today. My Lords, the Answer is as follows:—

"I have now considered the future of our relations with Uganda.

"These relations have a long and troubled history. The events of recent weeks have again demonstrated that it is not possible for our High Commission effectively to discharge their normal duties. Two members of the High Commission have been expelled for no good or adequate reason.

"I have therefore decided that we should break diplomatic relations with Uganda. The Ugandan authorities are being so informed this afternoon in London and in Kampala.

"We have for the past two weeks been advising the British community in Uganda that they should seriously consider leaving. My best estimate is that all but some 200-plus have now left. Those who remain are mostly residents of long standing who well understand the risks which they run in staying in Uganda.

"I have asked the French Government to look after our affairs, and they have generously agreed to do so. I propose to leave a British Interests Section in the French Embassy to assist them in carrying out this task.

"The Government have done their utmost to help and advise our people in Uganda. Bearing in mind the interests of those who remain, I hope that the House will accept the need for some restraint in language.

"Mr. Speaker, I have taken this decision with deep regret. This is the first time that we have severed relations with a Commonwealth country. We have no quarrel with the people of Uganda and we look forward to the time when it may be possible to renew our traditionally close relationship."

My Lords, that is the end of the Answer.


My Lords, the House is grateful to the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. In the circumstances Her Majesty's Government had no alternative but to take the course that they have taken. I agree that it is much wiser to say nothing further this afternoon, except that the whole House would like to thank, for doing their duty so well, those members of the British High Commission who have remained in Kampala over these last months in the most difficult circumstances.

Several noble Lords: Hear, Hear!


My Lords, I should merely like to say that I am sure the Government's decision is the right one. I should like to endorse exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said.


My Lords, I fully endorse and agree with what has been said on this matter, and I am sure everybody in the House will agree with what has been done. May I ask what kind of action can now be pursued in order to ascertain what has happened to the unfortunate Mrs. Bloch, so that at least her family may have some information about what has taken place?


My Lords, if I may reply to my noble friend first, he will be aware, as the House will be aware, that we have pressed hard for satisfaction on this tragic affair and will continue to do so. May I say how much I appreciate the tone and content of the responses to this Statement by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on behalf of the Opposition Front Bench, and the noble Lord, Lord Byers. This consensus of approach to this very difficult situation can only help not only British residents still in Uganda but, hopefully, a revival of our traditionally close friendship with Uganda in the future.


My Lords, while accepting the decision of the Government, may I ask whether this may not have great repercussions on the situation in the whole of East Africa? Will Her Majesty's Government do their utmost to support the efforts which are now being made to being about a reconciliation between Uganda and Kenya, particularly by the Secretary of the O.A.U. and Dr. Ramgoolan, the Prime Minister of Mauritius, so that the danger of a conflict in the wider area of East Africa is lessened?


Certainly, my Lords.


My Lords, I think that one should perhaps express one's deep appreciation of the French Government, for taking over the task of ensuring the interests of British nationals within Uganda. Would the noble Lord agree that the French are probably the best qualified nation, apart from ourselves, to deal with Africans?


Yes, my Lords.