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Spain (Diplomatic Relations)

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 11 May 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the United Kingdom representative on the Political Committee of the United Nations abstained on the resolution to permit members of the United Nations to re-instal Ambassadors in Madrid.

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary stated in the Adjournment Debate on 2nd February, His Majesty's Government feel that there are practical advantages in having a channel of information and a possible means of humanitarian representation in the form of an Ambassador in Madrid. But, as he also said on the same occasion, we do not attach great importance to this question and are content to abide by the decision of the United Nations as a whole. Our delegation were accordingly instructed to abstain from voting on it.

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that the speech made on this occasion by the United Kingdom representative was distinctly in favour of the resolution, and that it was a surprise to many of the United Nations that he abstained; and can he tell us how he reconciles this action taken at Lake Success on behalf of the United Kingdom with the statements made in the past week by the Under-Secretary, who definitely gave an assurance on more than one occasion that in this matter the Government stood where they did in 1946?

I still stand where I did in 1946, and I am sorry there was the interruption in 1947 by taking away the Ambassador.

Will the attitude of the United Kingdom representative be the same when the matter comes before the General Assembly, where a two-thirds majority is required?

Is not the question whether or not we have an Ambassador in Madrid one of principle and not merely whether it is to our advantage or disadvantage? I understand we have an Ambassador in Moscow, a country which is far from being friendly to this country and is a danger to the peace of the world, but we have not one in Madrid.

What practical difference, either as a channel of communication or as a means of humanitarian intervention, does the presence of an Ambassador make, compared with the previous set-up where there was a full Embassy staff with that one exception; and is not my right hon. Friend aware that the only practical result of this move is to provide ammunition for Communist propaganda, as is evidenced by this Question?

I do not think that Communist propaganda has very much effect in these days. This was a decision which I thought did not serve the interests of either country when it was taken, but we are in the habit of observing the rules; we are parties to the United Nations, we honoured the decision, and ever since, Members who are opposed to Spain have been asking me questions about why I do not intervene.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no good purpose will be served by our representative abstaining from voting when the matter comes before the General Assembly, and that that abstention will be interpreted as meaning either that His Majesty's Government have not made up their mind or that they are frightened of declaring where they stand?

Does not the Foreign Secretary recognise that the public conscience will be outraged if he puts back the Ambassador in Madrid?

Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that if the British Ambassador returns to Madrid he will then intervene in defence of political liberty in Spain?