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South Africa (Iron And Steel Corporation)

Volume 894: debated on Wednesday 25 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many complaints he has received on behalf of British citizens resident in South Africa about the activities of the Iron and Steel Corporation of South Africa.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Edward Rowlands)

Five such cases have come to the notice of our consular posts in South Africa.

Can nothing be done about this corporation placing in the British Press misleading advertisements which depict South Africa as a land flowing with milk and honey and which lure British workers to that country with paid passages and promises of housing for their families? These workers often find themselves stranded in South Africa, and then Members of Parliament are obliged to ask the Foreign Office to assist in bringing them back to Britain, to their families. Can nothing be done to stop the further exploitation of labour by this racialist régime?

British workers going to South Africa should be cautious in their approaches, especially to some of the advertisements, which in some cases could be misleading over matters of overtime and conditions of work. On the practical action that we can take when problems arise in South Africa, the staff of our posts in South Africa keep a close watch on these matters. The recently appointed First Secretary will shortly be visiting the area where a number of our immigrants work and will discuss a number of matters with them.

Has the time not arrived when the Foreign Secretary should remind some of his colleagues that British governmental responsibility for the actions of a State-controlled South African-governed corporation ended in 1909, and that if British citizens have complaints against such a corporation, the proper address to which such complaints should be sent is the Minister for Industry in South Africa?

I do not think that any British Government or consular post in South Africa can wash its hands of the problems which may arise with British citizens.