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New Guinea Council (Inauguration)

Volume 641: debated on Friday 5 May 1961

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asked the Lord Privy Seal on what grounds the United Kingdom was represented at the inauguration of the New Guinea Council.

Her Majesty's Government were invited by the Australian and Netherlands Governments to send representatives to the inaugural meetings of the new Legislative Councils both in Netherlands New Guinea on 5th April and the Australian territory of Papua and New Guinea on 10th April. We naturally accepted these invitations from a fellow Commonwealth Government and from the Government of a friendly and allied nation.

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he will very carefully consider the implications of this action? Is not it the case that there is now a dispute between the Indonesian Government and the Government of the Netherlands regarding this area? Is he aware that an increasing number of Dutch politicians and businessmen, and British businessmen, are recognising that it is inevitable that West Irian will become part of Indonesia? Since even America refrained from sending an observer, would not it have been wiser to have abstained from this course of action?

No, Sir. Her Majesty's Government have always made plain that we recognise the Netherlands as being the sovereign Power in this area. We did not think it inappropriate to send representatives to what were the celebrations of an important step in the constitutional advance of this territory towards self-determination—something which I should have thought would have been welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House.