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Volume 656: debated on Monday 19 March 1962

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asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will now state the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the official proposal of the United States Government to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for an economic and strategic boycott against Cuba.


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will instruct the United Kingdom representative at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to vote against the proposals that have been made to the Organisation to put a trade embargo on Cuba, as being inconsistent with the provisions of the United Nations Charter.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what decision has now been taken by Her Majesty's Government in relation to economic action against Cuba in concert with other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation powers, following the proposals to that effect submitted to the Organisation; and what study has been made of the application of the Charter of the United Nations to these proposals.

I have nothing to add to my hon. Friend's reply of 21st February to the hon. Members for Ash-field (Mr. Warbey). Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) and Southall (Mr. Pargiter).

Which said nothing at all. Will the hon. Gentleman say, first, by what right the N.A.T.O. Council discusses the affairs of a country which lies outside the area of the North Atlantic Treaty? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I am asking the Minister a question. Secondly, is it now the case that the N.A.T.O. Council is having secret discussions, reaching secret decisions, and making secret recommendations to member Governments on matters like trade with Cuba which have nothing whatsoever to do with military security?

The hon. Gentleman said that the reply of my hon. Friend said nothing at all. The reply of my hon. Friend said that the proceedings in the North Atlantic Council and the instructions to our representative are confidential. That is the answer to all the questions asked by the hon. Gentleman.

Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us that he deprecates and discountenances this idea of a boycott? Does it not resemble the attitude of the child who goes into a huff because he does not like the way in which someone else does things? Does he not realise that we shall influence other nations—if we want to influence them—far more easily if we trade with them rather than if we try to isolate them, and send them to Coventry?

There is no alteration in our policy of trade with Cuba. As for the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that we should deprecate the action of the United States, I would suggest to him that the problem of Cuba concerns the United States and other members of the Organisation of American States much more closely than it does Britain, and we should not be justified in telling them how to order the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.

With respect, the hon. Gentleman has not answered my Question. Are the Government consulting their legal advisers on whether concerted economic action aimed at making a nation change its Government is or is not in accordance with the obligations of Articles 1 and 2 of the Charter?

With respect, my Question asks, in terms:

"… what study has been made of the application of the Charter of the United Nations to these proposals."

As far as I know, there is no specific prohibition of such action in the Charter.

Does the hon. Gentleman recall the persuasive argument of the Lord Privy Seal on the South Africa Bill last week, to the effect that economic sanctions of this kind invariably consolidate the régime against which they are used? Will he, perhaps, use the same persuasive argument in this case with the United States?

I certainly remember the arguments very forcibly put forward by my right hon. Friend, and I agreed with his speech.