221 Minutes of Meeting of Prime Ministers

PMM(46) 7th Meeting LONDON, 29 April 1946, 3.30 p.m.



Draft Agreements for United Kingdom Mandated Territories in Africa The Meeting had before it a memorandum (P.M.M.(46)12) outlining the background of the United Kingdom Government's proposals for placing Tanganyika, British Togoland and the Cameroons under trusteeship.

MR. CREECH JONES said that the United Kingdom Government had thought it right to take the lead in this matter. The United Kingdom had always supported very strongly the principle of the mandate system; the principle of trusteeship was one which had long been advocated by the Labour Party and, indeed, by Liberal opinion generally in the United Kingdom. Obviously, there could be no question of obtaining international agreement for any policy towards the mandated territories less liberal than that represented by the mandates; and there was a distinct advantage in taking the initiative in supporting the new system. A declaration of the Government's decision to place the three territories under trusteeship was accordingly made to the United Nations General Assembly; and a further statement of intention had been made and endorsed at the Final Session of the League of Nations Assembly.

As regards the proposed terms of trusteeship, they were based on those of the 'B' class mandates. But the draft Agreements marked an important advance in two respects. First, the limitations imposed by the mandates in regard to defence had been abandoned and adequate authority taken for defence measures. Secondly, the provision that there should be economic equality for all was now subject to the overriding principle that this must not conflict with the well-being of the inhabitants. In the case of Tanganyika, care had been taken so to draft the proposed terms of trusteeship to ensure that it would not preclude closer association with neighbouring territories. The question whether any of the territories should be designated strategic areas under the Security Council had been considered, but the decision had been against this course. The Chiefs of Staff had reported that the draft terms were generally acceptable from the aspect of security.

Mr. Creech Jones said that the draft Agreements for the Cameroons and Togoland had been sent to the French and South African Governments and that for Tanganyika to the Belgian and South African Governments for their concurrence, as being in each case 'States directly concerned.' The Belgian Government had intimated their concurrence. The reply of the French Government was still awaited. It was desired that Parliament and the Legislative Council of the territories concerned should have the fullest opportunity to consider the terms and the United Kingdom Government were anxious to proceed with publication. He understood that the South African Government had felt some diffidence in regard to the terms, but he expressed the hope that they would now feel able to signify their concurrence.

FIELD-MARSHAL SMUTS said that he did not wish to make any further representations to the United Kingdom Government in regard to the three draft Trusteeship Agreements. He had already drawn attention to the points on which he desired the United Kingdom Government to be fully satisfied. The South African Government had no objection to the United Kingdom Government's proceeding with publication of the draft Agreements.

He assumed that the arrangements of Dominion Governments in respect of their mandated territories would not be prejudiced by the action of the United Kingdom Government. South-West Africa was in a special position and the South African Government contemplated a settlement on different lines for this territory.

After the 1914-18 war South Africa had refrained from annexing South-West Africa, in deference to President Wilson's wishes, but the 'C' mandate terms had given her very extensive rights there. A new situation had been presented with the close of the mandate system, but he did not wish on this occasion to go into the question of the course desired by the South African Government.

Field-Marshal Smuts expressed concern lest under the new trusteeship system the administering Governments should not have power to limit or control immigration. There had been adequate powers under the 'C' mandates but not under the 'B' mandates, with the result that Tanganyika had had at the outbreak of the war in 1939 more German than British inhabitants. He would not regard as satisfactory a situation in which that could happen again. In the case of South-West Africa, if South Africa could not obtain agreement on reasonable conditions to the course which she now proposed, she would continue to administer the country under the terms of the existing mandates. The United Nations Charter seemed to provide that this might be done, though as the League of Nations had now been wound up there could, of course, be no Permanent Mandates Commission to whom she would be able to report.

The French might follow the same course. It was not indeed impossible that the United Kingdom would be the only mandatory Power to place territories under trusteeship, apart from Belgium who in respect of Ruanda-Urundi could hardly do other than follow the United Kingdom's lead.

Field-Marshal Smuts considered that the opportunity for mischief- making would be much greater under the trusteeship system than under the mandate system. The Permanent Mandates Commission had been composed of experts, appointed not as representatives of their countries, but as individuals. Most of them had in fact been nationals of small States with no direct interest in the mandated areas. The Trusteeship Council, on the other hand, would be composed of the representatives of States, including the Great Powers, and they would be bound to be swayed in their decisions by political factors. Experience of recent months did not inspire confidence in the prospect of their working in harmony without regard to their own interests. South Africa would, therefore, proceed with caution. The members of the British Commonwealth which held mandates had, he thought, done their best, in a purely humanitarian spirit, for the inhabitants of the mandated territories; in South-West Africa conditions had certainly become incomparably superior to those of the previous German rule. But he feared that now power politics would be introduced under decent pretences into a system which was meant to be humanitarian in nature.

DR. EVATT said that he agreed with the draft proposals of the United Kingdom. If the draft Trusteeship Agreements which she had circulated were approved he thought that they would be a considerable improvement on the existing 'B' mandates, in their provisions regarding defence, equality of opportunity and the possibility of association with neighbouring territories.

The mandated territories in the Pacific were under 'C' mandates.

These, like the 'B' mandates, contained provisions for the benefit of the native population and for the restriction of the use of the territories for security purposes. Under the trusteeship system, the obligations to promote the advancement of the people would remain as before, but there would be much more satisfactory provisions regarding the security of the area. Australia and New Zealand had observed the obligation in the mandates to erect no fortifications in their mandated territories, but the Japanese had not done so. It would be necessary for Australia that she should in future be able to establish the necessary bases in New Guinea.

Under the new system she would be entitled to do so; and, indeed, there would be a positive obligation under Article 84 of the Charter to 'ensure that the trust territory shall play its part in the maintenance of international peace and security.' Dr. Evatt did not share Field-Marshal Smuts's fears that the provisions of the Charter would permit undesirable immigration.

The drafting of Article 76 of the Charter had been the subject of much discussion at San Francisco. In its final form the provision about equal treatment for the nationals of all members of the United Nations within the area was subject to the overriding obligation to promote the advancement of the people of the country. it would clearly not promote the advancement of the Melanesian peoples of New Guinea to permit the immigration of Orientals to that country. Therefore, Australia could exclude Orientals from New Guinea because their infiltration was calculated to destroy native customs and lower their standards.

Nor need one be unduly afraid of undue 'interference' by other nations. The nations on the Trusteeship Council would have no executive powers whatever and he did not see why their activities should be more of an 'interference' than those of the Permanent Mandates Commission.

The definition of the term 'States directly concerned' was undoubtedly difficult. He would have been inclined to interpret it as meaning those with some recognised international legal interest in the territories, for example, the Principal Allied and Associated Powers to whom the territory had been ceded by the enemies and so possibly including the United States. The United Kingdom had in practice submitted her draft Agreements to neighbouring countries.

Dr. Evatt said that he thought the objectives of the system were based upon a great and noble principle; the Australian Government had played a prominent part in establishing it and should join with the United Kingdom in giving a lead in placing mandated territories under trusteeship.

MR. NASH said that he thought the new system was a great advance on the old system. The only territory which New Zealand held under mandate was Western Samoa. They proposed that it should be placed under trusteeship and they were now preparing a draft agreement which they proposed to submit to Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and France, as the States directly concerned.

He agreed with Dr. Evatt that, on the defence aspect, the new arrangements were very much better than the old, since they would permit the trusteeship Power to defend the territory itself and to use it for defence of the region of which it formed part. He also agreed with Dr. Evatt's view that the provisions of the Charter would not permit undesirable immigration. It would certainly not be in the interests of Western Samoa if Chinese or Indians were allowed to enter that territory in any number.

FIELD-MARSHAL SMUTS said that he hoped that Dr. Evatt and Mr. Nash were right in this view. He could not himself help wondering whether it would be possible to keep these territories permanently barred against immigration from China and Japan. There was, of course, no question of immigration from Japan at the moment, but eventually Japan would emerge from her present subjection. China was a Great Power and would herself be on the Trusteeship Council.

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