Oral Answers to Questions — South Africa (Shipment of Oil)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd December 1964.

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Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Willesden East 12:00 am, 3rd December 1964

asked the Prime Minister whether he will initiate through the United Nations an international embargo on the shipment of oil to South Africa.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

No, Sir. All forms of measures, of which oil sanctions are only one, are at present being considered by the United Nations Expert Committee on Sanctions in New York. Her Majesty's Government are playing a full part in the work of this Committee, without commitment to adopt any particular measures which may be recommended. We must await the Committee's report.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Willesden East

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that drastic action is necessary to avoid a near-war situation developing in South Africa which could engulf Commonwealth countries and the African Continent as a whole and that the embargo on oil internationally would be a speedy way of getting the South African Government to negotiate an end to apartheid, which creates this situation?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The whole House in various ways has expressed its detestation of the apartheid policies of the South African Government. I said on a previous occasion—I think it was a week ago—that while an arms embargo is one thing—on this we have announced our decision—we are not committed in any way to any form of unilateral or multilateral control over trade in relation to South Africa. This is a matter which will have to be considered when this Committee reports, but we have entered into the work of the Committee, as did the previous Government, without commitment as to the outcome of that work.

I have expressed the view in the House, and many times outside, that an oil sanction is very relevant to a near—war or war situation and that the only difference between an effective oil sanction and outright war is pretty well the difference between strangling a man slowly and hitting him on the head with a hatchet. One hopes that situations will not arise where either of these would be matters for consideration by the Government, or by any Government. But certainly we do not feel an oil sanction to be appropriate.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

Has the Prime Minister made any calculation of what would be the cost to the sterling area if such a proposal were adopted?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Since we are not in fact considering adopting the proposal we did not do the calculation.