The newly elected British Government under Prime Minister Edward Heath is facing its first major controversy ...
The newly elected British Government under Prime Minister Edward Heath is facing its first major controversy ... the resumption of arms sales to South Africa. That country's Foreign Minister, Hilgard Muller, at present on a private visit to Britain, has arranged to meet his British counterpart, Sir Alec Douglas Home, next Wednesday (July 1). Observers in London expressed surprise that the meeting had been put off that long...many felt it would come within days after the announcement of the new British Cabinet.
In 1953 the British and South African Government signed what has become known as the Simonstown Agreement. Under its terms Britain would sell arms to South Africa and in return, would be allowed to retain a naval presence at the base in Simonstown.
In 1964, the Conservative Government, then governing Britain backed a United Nations resolution which embargoed arms sales to South Africa because of that country's apartheid policy. However, the Conservatives maintained the right to judge for themselves what arms would be embargoed. The policy was not to supply arms that could be used to support South Africa's internal policy of apartheid, but maintained that it had the right to defend itself from outside forces.
When Prime Minister Wilson came to power in 1964 he banned all arms sales to South Africa and maintained that position throughout the 6 years the Labour Party was in power. The stand was maintained despite pressure within the Labour party to continue the sale of arms to help the country's balance of payments.
But now the situation may change. Under the new Conservative Government, there may be a resumption of arms sales along similar lines to that of 1964.