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Un Security Council Discussions

Volume 529: debated on Monday 5 July 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, following the abstention of the representative of Her Majesty's Government on the Security Council with regard to the matter of the invasion of Guatemala, he will now instruct Her Majesty's representative that it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that any country has the right to appeal to the Security Council under Article 35, even though that country is a member of a regional arrangement.

The abstention recorded in the Security Council on 25th June by the United Kingdom representative in connection with the Guatemalan question in no way indicated that Her Majesty's Government consider that membership of a regional arrangement impairs the right of appeal to the Security Council under Article 35 of the United Nations Charter.

The reasons for the abstention in question were explained in my reply to the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) on 30th June.

If the Minister is now accepting what we have said on this side, that Guatemala had every right to bring her case before the Security Council, does he not think that it was most unfortunate that we appeared to equivocate at the important time?

I do not agree. There is the right referred to, under Article 35 of the Charter, to bring a matter to the attention of the Security Council. That was done.

Does not Article 39 also impose an absolute duty on the Security Council to determine whether or not there has been an aggression?

It certainly leaves it quite open to the Security Council to decide by what method it shall come to a conclusion on that point.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether the Press reports, to the effect that the total invading force consisted of one colonel, 38 other ranks and one radio transmitter, are true or not? Are not they less numerous than the whole Security Council put together?

I think it is quite clear that the whole business has been grossly exaggerated.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggest that it is necessary to determine by what method an aggression took place, and can he answer my previous question, which was whether he will publish the information which he obtained from this naval attaché in charge during the period?

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is getting a little muddled. There was no naval attaché in charge during the period, but there are later Questions on the Order Paper about the publication of a White Paper, with which I am going to deal.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will publish a White Paper on the discussions in the United Nations Security Council on the events in Guatemala, similar to the one that was issued on events which led to the United Nations action in Korea.

Will it not be forever to our shame that when this small country came to the United Nations Security Council with its complaint we did not act with the speed which the United Nations Charter requires, but shared in the equivocation and delays suggested by the United States, so that, whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter may be, we shall be forever on record as being prepared to act quickly when Communists undertake aggression but not when it is suggested that others may have?

That is, of course, a wholly misconceived comment. What happened was that on 20th June a suggestion was made for immediate action by a body already in existence to find the facts, namely, the Organisation of American States, and it was a Russian veto on 20th June that caused the delay.

In view of the aspersions that have been cast upon a religious institution known as the United Fruit Company will the Minister of State undertake in the White Paper to tell us something about the United Fruit Company, how much of the land it owns, whether it is a monopoly, and whether the whole affair has not been organised in the interests of monopoly to overthrow a democratically elected Government?

I have promised a White Paper on the discussions of the United Nations Security Council on the events in Guatemala.

Could my right hon. and learned Friend possibly indicate whether the treaties and international agreements of this century have done anything, in effect, to modify the Monroe doctrine of the last century?

There is a strong feeling among Latin American States that the Monroe doctrine still exists and this Organisation of American States, which includes Guatemala, is in existence. Guatemala thereby pledges herself to take these matters first of all to the Organisation of the American States.

Is the Minister aware that these events have been described by Mr. Dulles as a splendid victory against Communism, and that the Foreign Secretary has been specifically congratulated by Mr. Dulles for his success in preventing them being investigated by the United Nations? Does he not realise that a British policy which deliberately condones invasion by proxy by America and causes millions of men to die for invasion by proxy by Russia is something which brings this country into utter disrepute?

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is true."]—and I believe that when this White Paper is studied, and the course of events is seen, very few people will agree with the hon. Gentleman.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the action of the Security Council in relation to the Guatemalan question.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on further action taken by the Security Council of the United Nations regarding the invasion of Guatemala.

The position remains as stated in my reply to the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick), on 28th June.

As there is little doubt that this attack on the Guatemalan Government has been launched from bases outside the country, and that the Security Council's appeal for a cease fire was ignored, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say why the British representative did not urge the Security Council to intervene with the same speed as it intervened in the case of the Korean aggression? If the Minister says that this incident has been exaggerated is he saying that it was only a little murder and that, therefore, we should not bother much about it?

What I say is that when the matter first came before the Security Council on 20th June action was taken, supported by Her Majesty's Government, which, I believe, would have resulted in the facts being found very quickly, but that resolution was vetoed by the Soviet Union. Then, on a later occasion, on 25th June, an attempt was made to bring the item before the Security Council again. The hon. Member does not need much imagination to see what might easily have happened, and, in the circumstances, Her Majesty's Government were perfectly right in doing what they could to urge the Organisation of American States to send out a Fact-Finding Committee. In fact, the whole thing has fizzled out,

May the House take it that it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that the outcome of the revolution in Guatemala will not be allowed to impede the consideration of the matter by the Security Council after it has received the report of this Fact-Finding Committee? Can we take it that the question whether or not there has been an act of aggression will not be ruled out by the fact that the revolution is over?

We have always said that the sending out of the Committee by the Organisation of American States should not exclude the matter from the Security Council. The matter would obviously have to be considered again by the Security Council in one form or another.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take note of the fact that his hon. Friends on this side of the House do not share the apparently unanimous regret of hon. Members opposite at the disappearance of a Communist régime hostile to this country?

May we take it from the Minister's reply that it is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that if an aggression succeeds quickly enough it has the full approval of the Government?

Not at all, but one has to seek to take such action as is possible in the circumstances. The simple and the best form of action was vetoed by the Soviet Union on 20th June.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will give details of how the British representative voted on each complaint of a threat to her security made by Guatemala to the United Nations organisation during the last two years; what were the dates; and what action was taken.

The only occasions in the past two years on which the Guatemalan Government have asked the Security Council to take action to put an end to threats to her security were on 19th June and 22nd June of this year. These requests were considered by the Security Council on 20th June and 25th June. The House has already been informed of the way in which the United Kingdom delegate on the Security Council voted on those two occasions and of the action taken by the Council.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that the sacrifice of a vital principle of the United Nations cannot be excused by saying that the Guatemalan war is only a small war, and that a small war is much more easy to regulate and prompt action is more easily effected? Is the Minister not aware that to refer to the bombing of an open town, the invasion of a country, and the sinking of a British ship as a matter which is fizzling out is a little unusual in this House, and that we heard it with regret? When the right hon. and learned Gentleman talks of exiles invading from without, might not a similar description be applied with equal accuracy to a war by Formosa against China?

I do not think that I referred to any of the matters as fizzling out. It appears that hostilities have terminated. They have fizzled out and, as has been suggested, the two colonels now are in comparative amity.

Can we take it from all these Questions and answers on this subject that it is now the policy of the Government that the United Nations organisation as such should only deal with aggression when the aggression arises from Communist countries?

Not at all. We wish the Security Council to operate in accordance with the terms of the Charter. On 20th June there was one veto on a certain course of action and, as I say, I do not think it requires much imagination to understand what would have happened. I am convinced that the course we took was the right one.

Will the Government insist that the Fact-Finding Committee shall give us the full facts of what occurred?

We certainly shall endeavour to find out the full facts. We have no power to insist.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, as one who was on the staff of the legation in Guatemala for some years, I feel that it is fortunate for British interests and for the interests of everybody in Central America that the disorders have ceased so quickly? Will my right hon. and learned Friend, therefore resist attempts to transfer the fighting to the Floor of this House when it can do nothing but harm to the interests of this country and of the Central American countries?