HL Deb 13 April 1976 vol 369 cc2028-30

2.38 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 list the specified diplomatic initiatives they have taken about the continued presence of Cuban troops in Angola.


My Lords, during the fighting in Angola my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary made representations to the Soviet, Cuban and South African Governments about their intervention in that country. We recognised the People's Republic of Angola on 18th February. Since then, while we cannot dispute the right of the Government of Angola to invite Cuban troops to remain on Angolan territory, we have continued consistently to make known our wish to see them withdrawn from Africa altogether.


My Lords, could the noble Lord say whether, during Mr. Gromyko's visit to this country, representations were made to him as to how deeply this sponsored invasion was deplored by all people in this country? More particularly, as it came so quickly after the solemn declaration of détente at Helsinki, was this point forcibly put to him? Finally, may I ask whether the noble Lord has a summary of the conversation and answers, perhaps, which he would consider putting in the Library so that their effect may be studied?


My Lords, I can certainly give that assurance. The Prime Minister and the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, as they were in their respective statuses at that time, gave Mr. Gromyko a clear understanding of the extent of public concern in Britain and in the West generally about Soviet policies in Africa. Mr. Gromyko was left in no doubt as to our view that detente is indivisible. I will see what I can do about providing in the Library the documentation asked for by the noble Lord.

The Earl of SELKIRK

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether the Cuban troops were in fact invited by the Government of Angola? Were they not invited by a Party which was not recognised as a Government by any other country?


My Lords, in the first instance the noble Earl is quite right. They were invited—if that is the right term—in the first instance by a Party. However, in common with many other countries including our partners in the Nine, since February the present Government of Angola have been recognised and in that capacity they have invited Cuban troops to remain.


My Lords, as the British Government have recognised the Angolan régime de facto, can the Minister tell the House what diplomatic, consular or other representation there is in Angola to protect British citizens who may face trial or arrest, among other things?


Not enough, my Lords. We have contacts, but we seek to build up proper diplomatic representation for the purposes the noble Lord has mentioned. We are now in contact with the Angolan Government for this purpose.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that those who want détente between Britain and the Soviet Union would want him and his Government to say to the Soviet Union, "The enemy of détente is Red imperialism as illustrated in Angola"?


My Lords, I hesitate to disagree on any account with the noble Lord, to whom in another incarnation I have been accustomed to referring as "Mr. Speaker, Sir." But I am in substantial agreement with him. Perhaps he and I would agree to phrase it in this way: We are in total opposition to any form of imperialism.


My Lords, following the original Question, can the noble Lord give us information about any further Cuban troops Russia has put into Mozambique, Somalia and Dhofar?


My Lords, I believe there are a few Cuban troops in two of the three countries named by the noble Lord. I am not aware that there are any in Mozambique.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether, in the course of the diplomatic initiatives that have been taken, it has been firmly established who arms the Cubans, who pays them, and under whose command they are at present serving?


My Lords, I think the noble Lord probably has his own answer to that question.


My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the continued presence of Cuban troops must endanger peace in the whole of Southern Africa? So until he gets a more satisfactory answer from Mr. Gromyko to the representations which were made, would it not be realistic to stop presssing Russia to accept the £950 million of loan, which we can ill afford in our desperately serious balance of-payments position?


I do not in the least think so, my Lords. I think the agreement of last year which the ex-Prime Minister made after a personal visit to the Soviet Union holds very important hopes for détente on a commercial level between the two countries, and indeed between the East and the West.