HL Deb 15 April 1969 vol 301 cc7-8

2.47 p.m.


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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how the British representative in the United Nations Security Council voted on March 20 on the resolution condemning South African policy in South-West Africa.]


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government's representative at the Security Council, the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, abstained on the resolution but explained this course of action in a speech on March 20 which is available in our Library.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend may I ask him, first, who abstained with the British delegation on the Security Council; and, secondly, while the earlier failure to vote for the resolution might be justified on the ground of the action's being ineffective, in this case was it not a general statement of principle which our Government should have supported?


My Lords, I understand that the other country on the Security Council which abstained was France. In regard to the second supplementary question, it is true that a fair proportion of the resolution was a statement with which we did not disagree, but it did call upon possible action by the Security Council, and in our view this was not a resolution that we could support.


Yes, my Lords, but was not the action possible in the future, and dependent on circumstances; and would it not have been better for Her Majesty's Government to indicate the almost unanimous opinion in this country against the apartheid policy of South Africa?


My Lords, if my noble friend will read the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, I think he will be quite satisfied that the views of Her Majesty's Government were Well and truly expressed. It may be true that the resolution might call for future action, but it was an action that we did not believe it was possible to bring into effect, and for that reason we did not feel we could support the resolution.


My Lords, could the noble Lord tell us whether the resolution called for the use of force in the future?


No, my Lords; it did not call for the use of force.


My Lords, may I ask one simple question, which is also on a point of order? Do Her Majesty's Government really believe that it is fair, in dealing with what started as a simple question from the Front Bench, to enter into assumptions which cannot be fairly dealt with without a full-dress debate in this House? I suggest that it is really, however concealed, a breach of the Rules of this House, that one must not turn a Question into a debate or assume, as has been clearly stated, that the majority of people in this country are against the policy of South Africa in South West Africa, which to my knowledge is totally untrue.


My Lords, I must say that I think the noble Lord has also succeeded in breaching custom. I thought that to-day we were moving rather more expeditiously than usual.