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Congo

Volume 654: debated on Wednesday 21 February 1962

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31.

asked the Lord Privy Seal for what purpose the United Nations sought the agreement of the Katanga Government to the movement of their troops to Kolwezi and Jadotville; and whether he will make a statement.

I understand that the United Nations purpose was to maintain their right to freedom of movement of their forces throughout the Congo and to act in co-operation with the Joint United Nations-Katanga Mixed Commissions whose task is to see that mercenaries really are leaving Katanga. Her Majesty's Government have continued to stress the great importance in matters of this kind of the United Nations acting in full co-operation with the Provincial Government.

In view of the two campaigns of aggression by the United Nations against Katanga, was not this request dangerous and provocative, and would it not be better now to think about the withdrawal as soon as possible of United Nations forces from Katanga, with possible benefit to the British taxpayers?

My noble Friend made clear in another place very recently that we have taken great pains to explain our view in regard to these actions, that any actions taken by the United Nations should be taken in conjunction with Mr. Tshombe and that it is very important that there should be complete agreement before moves of this kind are taken.

Does not my hon. Friend realise that it would be quite easy just to send an ordinary commission, without sending troops to these towns, if there is any particular study that has to be made? Does he not also realise that the sending of United Nations troops into Katanga on the borders of Rhodesia is a most dangerous matter in so far as they come from countries with which the Rhodesias may not be very much in agreement?

I am aware of those views. We have certainly made the British position on the whole matter quite plain to the United Nations in New York.

Did not the hon. Gentleman's noble Friend say in another place the other day that Mr. Tshombe had agreed that all mercenaries should be removed and that he would co-operate in every way with the United Nations in getting them out?

Would not the United Nations' expenditure, to which we contribute, be much better spent if the United Nations concentrated less on sending troops and much more on sending administrators and technicians to help in administering the country, with the free will of the Governments concerned there?

These troops are already in Katanga, but I know that it is the wish of the Secretary-General to reach a position in which it would be possible to withdraw them as early as possible.

Since the policy of Her Majesty's Government, after many hesitations, is still presumably based upon the United Nations, with the concurrence of the overwhelming majority of Members of this House, can the hon. Gentleman say what good purpose is served by the constant attempt to fish in these troubled waters and make the task of unification and pacification more difficult than it is already?

We must be clear on this. Of course, we support the United Nations, but as major contributors we are entitled to make our views known in New York, which is what we do.