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New Hebrides

Volume 886: debated on Thursday 13 February 1975

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asked the Prime Minister if he will seek to make arrangements with the Prime Minister of France to make an official visit to the New Hebrides.

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend sees no need for such a visit. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs visited the New Hebrides last month at the same time as the French Minister concerned with the territory.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) gained conspicuous success in negotiations and co-operation with the French in this British and French condominium? Does he agree that equal success is required in persuading the French to join the International Energy Agency? Irrespective of any membership of the EEC, is it not a fact that Britain can co-operate in many international agencies of this sort to gain many of the world-wide advantages that international action can bring?

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend said in the first part of his question. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State achieved a great deal of success. I understand that the first elections for a representative assembly will be held next year. There is, therefore, real constitutional advance in the New Hebrides. I will put the second point to my right hon. Friend.

On the subject of the recent visit to the New Hebrides, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is much good will in that country for the initiative that Her Majesty's Government have taken? Will he ensure that this is maintained in close co-operation with the French Government?

Certainly. Again, I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman has said. This is a success story which is not generally known. There has been a second meeting in London since then between my hon. Friend and her French counterpart. I hope that this process will go on and that there will be real advance towards self-government.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we greatly welcome the progress that his hon. Friend made on her visit? In the course of her conversations with the French, will she bear in mind that the New Hebrides, alone of the territories of the earth, is not entitled to any nationality of its own? Will he consider this point?

This is one of the aspects of the problem being discussed. It is hoped that a basis for a distinctive New Hebrides nationality can be worked out.