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Angola (United Kingdom Missionaries)

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1961

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27.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what reply he has sent to the letter he has received from Leamington Road Baptist Church, Blackburn, regarding the ill-treatment of United Kingdom missionaries in Angola by the Portuguese authorities.

The letter which my noble Friend has received from the Leamington Road Baptist Church, Blackburn, does not refer to the ill-treatment of United Kingdom missionaries in Angola.

Is not the Lord Privy Seal dodging the issue? Is he not aware that it refers to the deterioration of the situation in Angola, one of the factors of which is that Baptist missionaries are being compelled to give up their work and to return to this country? Have the Government yet carried out the request contained in the letter that they should make representations to the Portuguese Government asking them to abandon the excessively repressive measures which they are adopting in Angola and to negotiate with the Angola people on the basis of moderation and Christian charity?

If the hon. Lady asks me a Question specifically directed to the ill-treatment of the United Kingdom missionaries said to be mentioned in a specific letter sent to my noble Friend, I answer that Question. The letter from the Leamington Road Baptist Church, Blackburn, was a very fair letter. As I have said to the House previously, we have made it plain that there is a difference between our policy and that of the Portuguese Government, that we deplore the loss of life and that we hope that law and order will soon be restored there with the minimum loss of human life.

Have we made representations to Portugal, both as our oldest ally and as a member of N.A.T.O., to see if she will cease from some of the things she is now doing in Angola?

My noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, as has already been stated, discussed this matter with members of the Portuguese Government when he paid his visit to Lisbon a few weeks ago.

Is not the Lord Privy Seal aware that there is very widespread concern on this matter in the country, and that what we are asking for is that the Government, either through the Lord Privy Seal or otherwise, should ask the Portuguese Government to cease their present policies in Angola, and that till we have an assurance that the Government have made such representations we shall feel that they are failing in their responsibilities to humanity?

There is another Question later on the Paper today which I will deal with at rather greater length, but, on this particular point, we have made clear our regret at this loss of life. We deplore it. I have said so publicly and so has my noble Friend.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it would be better to await the result of the inquiry which is now being made to discover the true position before we have all these questions which only make my right hon. Friend's job a great deal more difficult?

We have also expressed our desire that the sub-committee should be able to carry out its investigations and make a report as soon as possible.

Further to the supplementary question by the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance), is it not the case that the British Consul-General in Luanda, who has been charged by the Foreign Secretary with inquiring into this matter, should have been reporting on this matter over the last three months, and can the Lord Privy Seal say what information, if any, he has conveyed to the Government on the true situation in Angola?

The Consul-General in Luanda has been endeavouring to send us the fullest information in the last few weeks.

Because he has asked the mission to go to the northern region of Angola and the Portuguese Government have undertaken to give it facilities to go there.

28.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what representations have been made to the Government of Portugal regarding the order given to the Rev. David Grenfell, a United Kingdom citizen and the senior Baptist missionary in Angola, to leave his station at Quibocoio after twenty-eight years' service.

38.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what representations have been made to Her Majesty's consular representatives in Angola regarding orders to British missionaries to leave their mission stations; and what advice has been given by Her Majesty's consul.

50.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what representations he has made to the Portuguese Government in respect of the security of British nationals in Angola, particularly Baptist missionaries; and what reply he has received.

Her Majesty's Consul-General at Luanda has asked British missionaries in Angola to keep him informed of their whereabouts but he has not advised them to leave. Her Majesty's Consul-General has taken up with the Portuguese authorities the order they have given for the evacuation of the Baptist mission at Quibocoio. He has been informed that the decision was taken on grounds of security and could not be rescinded.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware how full of admiration many of us are for the work of the Baptist missionaries in Angola and, indeed, for that of their Methodist and their Catholic colleagues, and how shocked we are that these British citizens have not been sustained by help from the Government? Is he aware that 21 of the 28 Baptist missionaries have had to leave Angola, and is it not about time that we defended British subjects and British principles of liberty in Angola?

This is a particular case of which we know in which the missionaries were asked to close their mission and then to withdraw it from that area. The Consul-General immediately took that matter up with the Portuguese authorities. They said that as it was for security reasons they were not able to withdraw or rescind the order.

If the hon. Member will contain himself for a moment. We have no details about other missionaries being forced to withdraw, but I will gladly look into any case which hon. Members are able to bring to our notice.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House a firm assurance that the Government will stand up for the rights of British citizens who have given devoted services to the people of Angola for many years and have shown a sense of outrage at the recent policy of repression there? Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he has had an assurance from the Portuguese Government that Her Majesty's consular representatives are to be allowed to go to the areas from which these British missionaries are being forced to withdraw?

We have the greatest admiration for the work which the missionaries have done, in particular for that of the Baptist missionaries since, I believe, 1879, and we shall do our utmost to support them in their work. But they are in the territory of another country, and there is, therefore, a limit to what we can do in this respect. As far as the visit of the Consul-General is concerned, the Portuguese authorities have told us that he will be able to visit the northern area.

Can my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that he will not follow the suggestion of hon. Members opposite—and will not send a gunboat?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many missionaries we have in this area and whether any of the missionaries have requested permission to stay and have sought the good offices of the Government to enable them to stay and have been refused?

I have been looking at the total list of our missionaries in Angola. If the hon. Gentleman would like to put down a Question I will try to give him the full details about that. We have not, as far as I know, had any further requests from missionaries to be able to stay in a particular area.

Can the Lord Privy Seal say whether the Consul-General inquired whose security the Portuguese Government were referring to? Is he not aware that the British missionaries in Angola declared that they did not consider that there security was at stake in this area since they had very good relations with the African population? Is this not in fact a case of the security of the Portuguese repressive forces, which was threatened by the presence of the British missionaries?

I am not aware of this, but the decision is the decision of the Portuguese Government.

Will the Lord Privy Seal arrange that the evidence of the Baptist missionaries shall be instantly sent to the United Nations committee of inquiry, since in fact they are the only independent witnesses on the spot?