asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations have been received from the United States Government with regard to the searching of British ships on the high seas.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make clear in reply to the United States of America that it is for the British Government, and no one else, to control movements of British ships on the high seas.
Her Majesty's Ambassador in Washington was asked by the United States Government whether, in the event of a British ship being suspected of carrying arms to Guatemala, and if time and circumstances did not permit the British authorities to take the necessary action to prevent the arms reaching Guatemala, Her Majesty's Government would authorise the United States Navy to intercept and detain the vessel.The position of Her Majesty's Government in this matter has been made quite clear in the statement issued on 18th June, the full text of which I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT. We cannot recognise the power of other countries to interfere with British shipping on the high seas in time of peace except in accordance with recognised provisions of international law.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make it clear that the actions of successive British Governments in refusing to license the export of armaments to Guatemala has not been dictated by the political complexion of the Government of that country, but has been taken purely in defence of British interests?
I think it has been quite clear that the decision not to export arms to Guatemala in particular has been borne out by events.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the hostility that this proposal aroused is enhanced by the complaint that American citizens are apparently shipping arms? Will he not serve the cause of world peace best if he notifies the American Government that if they stop shipping arms—if this complaint is well founded—we may have a peaceful settlement in that area?
I think that the position of Her Majesty's Government has been properly stated in the statement issued and in the answer that I have given.
Would the Minister not agree that now that it appears that Guatemala is subject to attack from another State, the Government ought to reconsider their ban on the supply of arms?
I do not think it is proved that Guatemala is the subject of attack from another State.
Is it not a fact that in the past the British Government have often asserted the right to stop gunrunning by ships not flying the British flag?
My hon. Friend will notice that in the answer which I gave I used the words "except in accordance with recognised provisions of international law."
Is there no limitation on the export of arms to Nicaragua and Honduras? If not, is not this a pure discrimination because of the land nationalisation proposals which have taken place and which happen to be very necessary in this backward Republic?
I should like to have notice about the question of the export of arms to Nicaragua and Honduras. If it is a question of attributing these matters to the land nationalisation policy in Guatemala, I would point out that the ban began in 1948.
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is able to tell the House that the ban on the shipment of arms to Guatemala has taken place since 1948. cannot he also tell the House whether there was a similar ban on the shipment of arms to Nicaragua, Honduras and other States in Latin-America?
The Question on the Order Paper relates to representations received from the United States Government with regard to the searching of British ships on the high seas. If the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question on the point which he has raised, I will certainly try to answer it.
Following is the statement:
Her Majesty's Government strongly disapprove of the sale of arms to Guatemala and for several years have been refusing licences for the export of any arms to that country. We will, of course, continue this refusal.
In fact, very few British ships sail to Guatemalan ports, but the British Government will co-operate to the fullest extent possible under British and international law in seeking to prevent British ships from carrying arms to Guatemala.
There is no general power of search on the high seas in peace-time. The British Government, however, have certain powers under Defence Regulations and otherwise to detain or requisition in certain circumstances. The Commander-in-Chief, West Indies, is being instructed to take appropriate action where practicable if the carriage of arms by British ships should he suspected.