Skip to main content


Volume 530: debated on Monday 12 July 1954

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how long the fact-finding commission of the Organisation of American States was in Guatemala.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the report of the fact-finding commission which recently visited Guatemala.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Fact-Finding Committee of the Inter American Peace Committee has carried out an inquiry on the spot into the alleged aggression against Guatemala; and whether a report of its conclusions has yet been made to the Security Council.

The Fact-Finding Committee of the Inter-American Peace Committee left Washington for- Mexico City on 29th June. It there received a message from Colonel Monzon, the then leader of the Guatemalan military junta, asking it not to proceed further for the present owing, so he said, to the difficulty of organising a suitable reception in Guatemala.

On 3rd July, the Committee received messages from the Guatemalan military junta and the Governments of Honduras and Nicaragua, informing it that the dispute which was the cause of its journey had ceased to exist between the three countries. The Committee accordingly returned to Washington on 3rd July.

On 5th July, the Chairman of the Inter-American Peace Committee made a brief report of these developments to the Secretary General of the United Nations, and informed him that the Committee would shortly submit a complete report on its activities in connection with the dispute.

Is it not a complete farce that this Committee should be expected to produce the facts about this situation in Guatemala without first visiting the country, and do not these very lamentable proceedings provide clear evidence that once again the interests of the United Nations have been subordinated to banana politics?

No, Sir; I think that this result, which, I agree, is certainly subject to comment, is due to the veto on 20th June, but for which this Committee would have been able to have a chance of getting all the necessary information in good time.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the United Nations does not have to rely upon a fact-finding committee sent out by another body, but has its own responsibility for making its own inquiries before it washes from its agenda, as I now understand it has done, a charge of aggression made by one of its members?

This matter has not been washed off the agenda of the United Nations, and we think that the most speedy method of finding the facts would have been to use this machinery of the American States.

On what date was the military junta recognised as the Government of Guatemala? If it has not yet been recognised as the Government of Guatemala, why was any notice taken of its communications?

It has not yet been recognised as the Government, so far as this country is concerned.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government have yet decided which Government they recognise in Guatemala.

Her Majesty's Minister-designate to Guatemala has not yet presented his credentials. Until he does so, our relations with the Guatemalan authorities will remain on a de facto basis. The presentation of his credentials to the eventual President of the Republic will constitute formal recognition.

Does not this situation mean the de facto recognition of this Government? Does this mean that Her Majesty's Government are accepting without further protest this defiance of the authority of the United Nations, not only by these aggressors but by those who supported them morally and in other ways? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman instruct our representative on the Security Council to press even now for a full inquiry by the Security Council into the whole of this sorry business?

No aggression has been proved. As to recognition, Her Majesty's Government have a Mission in Guatemala. The situation is slightly complicated by the fact that the Minister-designate, with credentials made out to the ex-President, has not yet presented his credentials.

Does the Minister deny that the ability of the United Nations to investigate and prove aggression was rendered impossible by the United States' veto on the Security Council investigating the matter? Do we not know that the United States threatened to use their veto, and that that is why we climbed down?

was the Russian veto, on 20th June. As to subsequent action, it is exceedingly doubtful whether a body operating from the Security Council would have been able to get any more information than this organisation.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps the British representative on the Security Council took to ensure that the Council would receive an authoritative report upon the events which gave rise to the complaint of aggression lodged by Guatemala; whether any such report has yet been received; or when one is expected.

The House is already broadly familiar with the proceedings in the Security Council. On 20th June the British representative supported the proposal that the existing machinery of the Organisation of American States should investigate, but, as is known, this was vetoed. If the Soviet representative had not vetoed this proposal, which was supported by all other members of the Council, the Council would have been on record officially as asking the Organisation of American States for a report.

When, nevertheless, the Inter-American Peace Committee began its inquiry, the British representative stressed the importance which Her Majesty's Government attach to a report being made by this Committee to the Security Council. Since then, he and Her Majesty's Ambassador in Washington have kept in close touch with the United States authorities in order to ensure that the Council should receive this report at an early date. The Inter-American Peace Committee made an interim report to the Council on 6th July in which a complete report was promised very shortly. I now understand that this report may he expected at any moment.

Is the Minister aware that it is almost impossible for this House and for opinion generally to accept as having much value the report of a committee which never got to the spot, and which returned to Washington on being told by the successful party that the whole thing was over?

I certainly agree that it is most unfortunate that this committee did not get to work earlier.

Is not this a matter of an attack by one lot of Guatemalans upon another lot of Guatemalans? Is that acceptable as aggression, in the international sense? Are not all these Questions from the opposite benches vicious anti-American propaganda?

My hon. and gallant Friend is quite correct in saying that no aggression has been proved.

Is not the intervention of the hon. and gallant Member for East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) further proof that we ought to have proper evidence as the result of authoritative reports, and that we should not simply go on hunches, which, I imagine, is all that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is going on?

Did not the Minister say last week that the Government were most anxious to know the facts in this matter, which resulted, among other things, in the burning-out of a British ship'? As we are to get no report from the Fact-Finding Committee, what other steps are Her Majesty's Government taking to get to know the facts about that burning-out and sinking?

I have promised the House that a White Paper will be issued setting out what facts we have been able to ascertain.

But what steps are the Government taking to get the facts for the White Paper?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how far items relating to the recent alleged aggression against Guatemala are still upon the agenda of the Security Council, or in what other way is it proposed that the Council should discharge its responsibility in respect of this allegation.

Among the matters of which the Security Council is seized is an item entitled, "Cablegram dated 19th June, 1954, from the Minister for External Relations of Guatemala addressed to the President of the Security Council." This item was adopted on the Council's agenda on 20th June.

May we take it that when the report to which the previous answers have referred comes before the Security Council the British representative will see that this item is revived and that the question is considered anew?

If it is not revived, how can we possibly accept the assurance which we had from the Government last week that they would see that the Security Council did not shelve its responsibility?

The shelving of the responsibility of the Security Council is not a matter solely for Her Majesty's Government. We have endeavoured to make the point throughout that this report must come to the United Nations. When the report comes, we must see what is in it and decide then what action to take.

Is it not a fact that the Security Council received an appeal which alleged that aggression had occurred? Will Her Majesty's Government see that the Security Council receives information which disproves that allegation?

It is not within the power of Her Majesty's Government to say what does come or does not come before the Security Council. The next stage is to see the nature of the report—the final report—that has been promised.