Congo (British Subjects)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21 December 1964.

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Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Conway 12:00, 21 December 1964

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement about the safety of British subjects in the Congo.

Photo of Mr Walter Padley Mr Walter Padley , Ogmore

Since my hon. Friend answered a Private Notice Question on 14th December only three of the British subjects then believed to be in rebel hands have escaped. These are, Miss O. McCarten, Miss L. Limmer and a Canadian citizen. They arrived in Leopoldville from Bafwasende yesterday. They believe that the other members of their mission, including one man, three women and one child of British nationality have been killed.

At Banalia, the Government forces found the town deserted, but there were signs of violence and European clothing by the river. It remains possible that some of the 11 British subjects—two men, four women and five children—who were believed to be at Banalia, may have been taken somewhere else.

Twenty-eight British subjects—not including Canadians—are now believed to be missing, of whom 25 are citizens of this country. The rescue columns of the Congolese Army are continuing to press forward, and an R.A.F. aircraft is standing by in readiness to evacuate British subjects.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

Is the hon. Gentleman assured that we are keeping in the closest touch with the Congolese forces? His colleague the Minister of State informed us the other day that he thought that that was the only hope of rescuing these people.

Photo of Mr Walter Padley Mr Walter Padley , Ogmore

I can give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance. There is the most regular contact and we shall do everything possible to effect the rescue of the remaining British subjects.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

In view of the deteriorating situation in the Congo and of the sadness that it implies for everybody, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he will represent to the Cabinet or the Prime Minister that this matter should be taken up at the United Nations at the highest possible level to get the good will and the concerted action of everyone concerned?

Photo of Mr Walter Padley Mr Walter Padley , Ogmore

As I assured the House on a previous occasion, Her Majesty's Government have sought the co-operation of the International Red Cross and of the Organisation of African States, and, of course, the matter has been debated with a good deal of violence in the United Nations. There can be no doubt, therefore, about the concern of Her Majesty's Government in the United Nations and other organisations.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

Is there any chance of getting an African Red Cross mission to visit that part of the world?

Photo of Mr Walter Padley Mr Walter Padley , Ogmore

I should not like to dismiss any practicable suggestion. I will certainly consider that as a possibility, though it must be said that up to now, in so far as there are rebel authorities, they have refused admission to the International Red Cross. At present, there are no rebel authorities with whom one could negotiate. Furthermore, the difficulty is that we still do not know where the remaining British subjects are.

Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Conway

It is quite clear that Her Majesty's Government cannot negotiate with the rebel authorities. As it appears that certain African States, members of the Organisation for African Unity and, indeed, members of the United Nations, are in touch with the rebel authorities, does the hon. Gentleman not think that the Secretary-General could have contact with those States to see whether something can be done to assist British subjects who are in dire danger at the moment?

Photo of Mr Walter Padley Mr Walter Padley , Ogmore

They and other measures have been considered and will continue to be considered.