Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action has been taken this year to alter the conditions under which Her Majesty's Government will accept the rulings of the International Court at The Hague in disputes with other countries; when the decisions were made; and why Parliament was not consulted at the time they were made.
Will not the Secretary of State be a little more forthcoming than that? Is it not a fact that the decision was made in April and not disclosed until Parliament was in Recess? Is it not a fact that the alteration means that unless we are judges in our own cause we shall not play? Having struck a disastrous blow at the United Nations through the Suez adventure, is it not a serious matter that again we strike another blow at laws designed to keep the peace between nations? What do the Government want—international anarchy?
As to whether I have been forthcoming or not, I referred the hon. Member to the statement I made recently, which takes up more than three columns in HANSARD, and in which I set out the whole of the position. Our position is that we regard our obligations in this on a basis of reciprocity. I, for one, am not prepared to have matters of national security referred to this tribunal when fifty other countries are not bound by the Optional Clause at all. The whole purpose behind the International Court of Justice was that countries should go there on the basis of reciprocity.
As there was a great deal that was obscure in what the Foreign Secretary said on 8th November, and as there is widespread anxiety in the country about this matter, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider laying a White Paper explaining, first, what he meant by the Ponsonby Rule, and secondly, the reasons for his action on the Optional Clause? Will he recall that the Labour Government in 1929 laid such an explanatory memorandum when they signed the Optional Clause?
I will certainly consider an explanatory memorandum. In my speech on 8th November, I dealt with the matter in great detail. The right hon. Gentleman has referred again to the Ponsonby Rule. Since 8th November, I have gone further into that matter, and I am advised that the purpose of the Ponsonby Rule was to enable Parliament to discuss treaties requiring ratification before ratification took place. That situation does not arise in this case.
As to the suggestion of the hon. Member that I was trying to conceal this, this decision was communicated to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for onward transmission to 82 countries members of the United Nations, and it was also sent to the Registrar of the International Court of Justice.