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Hms "Leopard" (Visit To Angola)

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 17 May 1961

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13.

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what is the purpose of the good will visit of H.M.S. "Leopard" to Angola.

As I explained on 15th May, the ship was making its 4,000 mile return journey from Sierra Leone to Simonstown and paid a routine visit to this and other ports.

Is the Civil Lord aware that the incredible stupidity of arranging a so-called good will visit of this kind to Angola has resulted in a great sense of shock among the newly independent countries, but not alone among them? There has been a sense of surprise also in Brazil and, indeed, among the Portuguese themselves. Will the hon. Gentleman take this opportunity of making clear that there is no question of this visit in any way endorsing the repressive colonialist régime?

I made my views clear in answer to the Private Notice Question on this issue on Monday. I cannot endorse the supplementary question asked by the hon. Gentleman. This is one of 800 routine visits which Her Majesty's ships have made in the last four months to different ports in the world. It would have proceeded quite satisfactorily if it had not been made a political issue by hon. Members opposite.

Is it not also a traditional duty of the Royal Navy to visit places where there are outbreaks of rebellion or troubles? [Laughter.] I cannot understand why hon. Members are laughing. Is it not traditional that the Navy should visit such places in order to see that British nationals are looked after properly and also to bring information back to this country, of which we have very little?

The Civil Lord used the word "paid". Does that mean that the visit is now over? If it is over, is he aware that that will be very welcome news indeed? Is it convenient for any of Her Majesty's ships to choose this particular moment for a visit to Seoul?

I used the word "paid", perhaps inadvertently. The ship arrived there at 08.00 hours on Monday and is due to leave tomorrow, so the visit is still continuing. I have another Question on this.

Have not all of us great good will towards the people of Angola and deep sympathy with all those, black or white, who have suffered so atrociously since the abominable invasion of Angola from across the Congo border.

The hon. Gentleman said in reply to Questions the other day on this matter that this had been cleared with the Foreign Office. If this ship was proceeding from Simonstown to some other port, how was the matter cleared with the Foreign Office?

It was cleared at the Foreign Office because we perfectly well understood the anxiety concerning Angola. There is another Question to be answered later on this matter and I would prefer to wait until it is reached before making any further comment.

14.

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what is the complement of H.M.S. "Leopard"; how many ratings and officers will be allowed shore leave in Luanda during the good will visit; and what steps he is taking to protect them from disturbances, in view of the dangerous situation in Angola.

The complement of H.M.S. "Leopard" is 13 officers and 184 ratings. Shore leave is being allowed. Admiral Copeman, who is in the ship, sent me a signal this morning reporting that Luanda was absolutely quiet and that everything in the city was normal.

Can the Civil Lord say what reports were available on conditions in Luanda when arrangements for this good will trip were made? From the reports which have appeared in The Times and elsewhere, it would seem that the position in Luanda was far from secure a short time ago.

We have a consul in Luanda and the Foreign Office were consulted and, presumably, they got their information from our consul in Luanda. Therefore, the situation was quiet then and it was quiet as of this morning, when I received the signal. Perhaps the Press reports to which the hon. Gentleman referred were somewhat exaggerated.

15.

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty whether he authorised the good will visit to Luanda now being paid by H.M.S. "Leopard".

The visit was authorised, after consultation with the Foreign Office, in the normal way.

In view of the Admiralty's ineptitude in having this visit—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]—will the Civil Lord now assure the House that after H.M.S. "Leopard" has spent a few days in Simonstown it is not proposed to visit Mozambique, where Africans are also being murdered and imprisoned in large numbers?

This Question asks who authorised this visit. My noble Friend authorised the visit and takes full responsibility for it.

When H.M.S. "Leopard" returns to port in this country, will my right hon. Friend provide transport to enable the officers and ratings of that vessel to come to the House of Commons in order to leave green cards for hon. Gentlemen opposite?

I am sure that the Civil Lord would not deliberately mislead the House. Can he state, specifically and categorically, on which date the Foreign Office cleared the proposal, by the Admiralty presumably, that this vessel should visit Angola?

We have been in consultation with the Foreign Office over a period of weeks, the last occasion being on Wednesday of last week.