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.
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?
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.
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.
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?