§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich)
At this stage in the debate I desire to invite the attention of the House to another question, namely, that of the export of arms to South Africa. This is not the first time that my hon. Friends and I have sought to raise this issue during the present Session. Three months ago 100 of my hon. Friends, together with certain members of the Liberal Party, placed this Motion upon the Order paper:That this House condemns the policy of apartheid pursued by the Government to South Africa, the denial of elementary human rights to the great majority of the South African people and the series of enactments whereby the South African Parliament have abrogated the rule of law and transformed the Republic into a police state; further condemns the refusal of the South African Government to accept and act on the opinion of the International Court on South West Africa; and, having regard to the views expressed on 6th November, 1962, by the General Assembly of the United Nations, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to propose to the United Nations a general embargo upon the export of arms and military equipment to South Africa.That was last May.
More recently this has become a matter of great urgency, because it is extremely probable that this issue will be raised before the Security Council in the near future. The purpose of my hon. Friends and myself in initiating this debate this evening is that we wish to discover, if we can, what will be the Government's attitude when this question is debated by the Security Council or, as it may be a little later, by the General Assembly.
Let me emphasise that what we are concerned with this evening is the question 1567 of a universal embargo effective through the United Nations. When last March in Trafalgar Square my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said that a Labour Government would impose an embargo on the export of arms from this country to South Africa, the immediate objection was raised in various quarters that orders would merely be transferred elsewhere. It was said, in effect, that we must continue supplying arms to South Africa because if we did not do it someone else would. Any pimp or prostitute or drug pedlar could put forward precisely the same justification. But what we are asking for tonight is not unilateral action by this Government but action by the United Nations.
For a very long time past this country has been open to the reproach that, while we condemned by our words and speeches the policy of apartheid pursued in South Africa and all its manifestations, we nevertheless condoned it by our actions. I remind the House, if I may, of one of the terms of the resolution passed by the General Assembly last November. Among other things, the General Assembly expressedregret that the actions of some member-States indirectly provided encouragement to the Government of the Republic of South Africa to perpetuate its policy of racial segregation, which has been rejected by the majority of that country's population.Clearly Britain was one of the countries there referred to.
I do not need tonight to enlarge upon the policies of the South African Government. We all know that we are dealing with an evil régime. It is not fortuitous that the leaders of the South African Government were pro-Nazi during the war. Theirs is indeed the doctrine of Hitler, the doctrine of the Herrenvolk. Anyone who has any doubt at all on that source need only read the Report of the International Commission of Jurists in 1960. Since 1960, as the whole world knows, there have been still further measures of repression, culminating in the recent Act under which persons can be and are held incommunicado without trial and without even legal advice for a period of 90 days.
Whenever we raise this matter in debate or at Question Time, the Government tell us that the equipment exported to South Africa 1568is intended first and foremost for defence against external attack".That was the phrase used in our last discussion on the Whitsun Adjournment by the Minister of State, Board of Trade. I remind the House of what the hon. Gentleman said:The Government have repeatedly made it clear that tine military equipment sold to South Africa is intended first and foremost for defence against external attack and particularly for the joint defence of the sea routes round the Cape, in which our two Governments—and other Governments of the free world—have a long-standing common interest. The equipment is not, for the most part, of a type which is suitable for measures of internal repression."—[Official Report, 31st May, 1963; Vol. 678, c. 1786.]The House will observe the two qualifying phrases—"first and foremost" and "for the most part". This is a very disingenuous statement, typical of a great many statements which we have had from the Government front bench in recent months. When military aircraft or helicopters or armoured cars are exported to South Africa, of course they can be used, and of course they sometimes are used, for policies of internal repression. The importance of the arms does not end there. They have a further effect. They necessarily strengthen the position of the South African Government vis-à-vis the rest of Africa and vis-à the United Nations.
I should like to ask for a little information as to the arms which are now being ordered and the licences which are being granted. There is a report from Pretoria in The Times this morning. One passage in the report says this:Mr. Fouché,Minister of Defence, has said a contract for supersonic Blackburn Buccaneer navalstrike aircraft has been signed and the aircraft are now being assembled in England. A submarine-hunting frigate is now under construction in Britain and due to be delivered to South Africa next year. The Minister also hinted that South Africa might buy submarines from Britain. Orders have been placed for British helicopters and for military vehicles,Are we to be told that helicopters and military vehicles have nothing to do with policies of internal repression? I would like to know from the Minister tonight whether this report is correct, if these orders have been or are being placed in this country on behalf of the South African Government, and whether licences for this equipment have in fact been granted.
1569 We on this side of the House are fully aware of the commercial factors involved. It may be true that an arms embargo might result not only in the immediate loss of orders which are being placed in this country but also in some general damage to our trade with the South African Republic. We do not underrate that in the least, but we have reached a stage when these considerations can no longer be paramount. We have reached the point when we must choose.
It may be logical, but trade in arms is always regarded as in a category entirely by itself. Thatis why we permit arms to be exported only under licence, If in October, 1956, just after Soviet tanks had shot their way through the streets of Budapest, it had been announced that this country was to sell military equipment to either the Soviet Government or the puppet government of Hungary, there would have been a storm of protest from every political party in Britain. But we have today something similar in Africa and we have a similar African reaction. In the last debate my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) referred to some utterances of Chief Luthuli and I will quote two of his sentences. Referring to the countries of the West, Chief Luthuli said:Yet these countries today, and Britain foremost among them, are guilty of arming the savage nationalist party régime. The Saracens built in Britain have already left an indelible blot upon the history of my country; now it seems your Buccaneers and your tanks must leave their foul imprint".We can be absolutely certain that those words of Chief Luthuli find an echo throughout the whole African continent.
If we ourselves continue to supply arms to South Africa or if we fail to support a general embargo when one is proposed, either in the Security Council or the General Assembly, we shall inevitably pay a very heavy price. We shall find ourselves increasingly distrusted by the newly independent African States, all those which were represented a few weeks ago in the conference at Addis Ababa, and most of the Asian countries as well. Even from the point of view of trade alone—even if we could, as we cannot, put aside the other considerations—it is questionable whether it is worth while in the long run alienating the whole of the Afro-Asian bloc.
1570 There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer tonight. I think I am right in saying that in September there will come before the International Court a case brought by Liberia and Ethiopia against South Africa in relation to the South-West African Mandate. They will be submitting that by the policy of apartheid as pursued in South-West Africa, and in other ways, South Africa has failed to carry out the terms of the Mandate. They will further submit that South Africa is in breach of her obligations under Section 73 of the United Nations Charter.
A few days ago I asked the Lord Privy Seal by whom Britain was to be represented at this hearing. I received the reply that the United Kingdom was not a party to these proceedings and that, therefore, it was not proposed to intervene. I do not want to go into the technicalities of this. I only say that it may be open to this country, if it were thought fit, to intervene under Article 62 of the Statute of the Court. Britain was one of the principal allied and associated Powers to which Germany renounced her rights in South-West Africa at the end of the First World War. Britain was a member of the League of Nations, which created the Mandate; and the Mandate was conferred on His Britannic Majesty for and on behalf of the Government of the Union of South Africa.
All of those are grounds on which it might be held that we are entitled to intervene. I make this suggestion because it would, I believe, do a great deal to restore the reputation of this country on the African Continent if we were to intervene in these proceedings in support of the Liberian and Ethiopian case.
We should base ourselves on Article 73 of the Charter, under which, as the House knows:Every Power administering a non-self-governing territory is under the solemn obligation to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement.No one can possibly say that those obligations have been discharged in South-West Africa.
1571 I therefore put these questions to the Minister. First, will Her Majesty's Government themselves propose an embargo on the shipment of all arms and military equipment to the Republic of South Africa? Secondly, if not, alternatively, will they support such a proposal if it is made in the Security Council or in the General Assembly by some other country? Thirdly, will they seriously consider intervening in the forthcoming proceedings in relation to South-West Africa before the International Court? I am not too sanguine, but I hope that for once we may have clear and categorical answers from the Treasury Bench.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Humphry Berkeley (Lancaster)
It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot), and I find myself in large agreement with what he has said. There can be no doubt whatever that our reputation in Africa will very largely be judged in the coming months by the attitude we adopt towards the Republic of South Africa.
It is a rather melancholy reflection that despite an outstanding record of bringing territories from dependence to independence in Africa, despite a large degree of good will that we have acquired in those territories that we formerly governed and now have with us as equal partners of the Commonwealth, we have, by our ambiguities of policies in other parts of Africa, done so much to destroy the admiration and the cerdit that we have rightly earned for our own actions in our own territories.
If one thinks of our policy, until recently, in the Congo, if one thinks of our policies towards the Portuguese territories, and Portugal in particular, if one thinks of our policies towards the Republic of South Africa, particularly since South Africa left the Commonwealth, one must feel that these ambiguities have done a great deal to tarnish Britain's image and reputation in the Continent of Africa.
I go with the hon. and learned Gentleman in saying that in the leading politicians in the Republic of South Africa we have chosen some rather curious people with whom to do business. The hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly right. At a time when people in this country— 1572 and, indeed, people throughout the Commonwealth—were engaged in fighting a war against the Nazis, these people who are now in control in South Africa were openly sympathising with the German cause, and more than one member of the present Government in South Africa was imprisoned for subversive activities. We should recognise that in assessing the quality of that particular Government.
There are overwhelming arguments for our Government to introduce a complete arms embargo against the Republic of South Africa. In my view, there are arguments for this both for internal and for external reasons. I imagine that very few people would disagree with the internal reasons. The thought that British arms were being used to enforce the policy of apartheid, the thought that British arms were being used to bring about violent death, is something which few people in this country would be prepared to accept with any equanimity. I think, therefore, that we are probably all agreed that small arms which can be used for internal police purposes should certainly not be sent to South Africa.
An almost equally compelling argument is now arising with regard to arms as a whole. I say this for external reasons. I have felt more and more convinced in the last few months that we are about to see in southern Africa an area in which the possibility of armed violence becomes a probability. This has become even more clear since the Addis Ababa conference, a few months ago. I do not believe that, in our own interests or in the interests of world peace, we should send to a probable area of violence weapons of the kind described by the hon. and learned Gentleman. It seems to me that, as it is almost certain now that the American Government are likely to impose a total arms embargo in the near future, the British Government might well take the lead in this particular instance and do the same. As I have said, I think that there are overwhelming arguments, for both internal and external reasons, for our doing so.
I suppose that we shall be told that a possible penalty for this action would be the loss of our rights in the Simons-town base. I am not sure that this is necessarily a consequence of such action. But, supposing that it were, exactly what assessment do the Government have of 1573 the seriousness of our deprivation of these rights? I can quite see that, when the British Empire bestrode the world, it was necessary to have our communications open to the East both through Suez and round the Cape. I find it hard to envisage circumstances, except of the most academic kind, in which the Simonstown base would be a vital Western strategic interest.
I suppose that one could think up a situation in which, perhaps, war broke out between Malaysia and Indonesia and, for some reason best known to himself, Nasser closed the Suez Canal. It is arguable, I suppose, that the Simonstown base would have some sort of relevance in that kind of situation. But I think it most unlikely that the South Africans would, in those circumstances, refuse to give us in this base the kind of rights we should require. We know that chiefs of staff tend to say that all bases are essential, until the moment when they are given up and they then cease to be essential. I cannot help feeling that there is at least an element of that approach in this case, unless the Government can produce very special reasons for saying that Simonstown has a general utility value far beyond what most of us believe to be the case.
It seems to me that, quite apart from the moral position as regards the South African Government, we ought, as we base or try to base our foreign policy on realism, to assess the future of South Africa and the future of our relationship with South Africa. We hear that South Africa is a very valuable customer of ours. That is accepted; it is known to be so; we can see it from our export figures. But does anybody seriously suggest that the present South African Government will last indefinitely? I would myself believe that in some way or another—unhappily, it looks like being a way involving violence—the South African Government will not last for the foreseeable future. Ought we not to make an assessment on that sort of basis of realism?
Secondly, and I think importantly, ought we not to make some assessment as to whether there is any possibility of the South African Government liberalising their policies without outside pressure? If we felt that they were moving in the 1574 right direction and that outside pressure would merely stiffen their resistance I could quite appreciate that there might be an argument for trying to limit outside pressure to enable them to pursue more liberal policies. This is the reverse of the case. Every action taken by the South African Government during the last two or three years has been sharply in the direction against liberalism and in favour of tyranny and authoritarianism. It must, therefore, be clear to all of us now that unless South Africa is subjected to pressure of some kind there will be no intention on the part of the South African Government of changing or amending their policies in the least.
I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State a question about the status of our representative in South Africa, who is at the moment Ambassador and High Commissioner, Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa and High Commissioner, and, in effect, Governor, of the High Commission Territories. I cannot believe that this is a function which can satisfactorily be combined for very much longer. I think—I hope, anyway—that it is the policy of our Government to bring the High Commission Territories to full independence as rapidly as we can. It may take five years, it may take more.
We do not, very rightly I think, set a rigid timetable to these matters, but for how long can we have the same man negotiating with our Government as the Queen's representative in the High Commission Territories—constitutions wholly contrary to all the policies of the South African Government—and attempting, as all ambassadors should do, to maintain at least some normality in the relationship between the two Governments? I cannot help feeling that either his capacity to be a British governor will be affected or his capacity to be a good diplomat will be affected, and I should like the Minister of State to tell us exactly what views his Department has on the long-term possibility of this highly anomalous situation remaining.
Finally, I should like to say that I have always felt, for the last five years, that there has been a certain lack of co-ordination between the many Government Departments involved in the formulation of our policy in relation 1575 to the African Continent. I do not know whether we all realise that the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office, the Colonial Office, the Central African Office, and the Department of Technical Co-operation—five separate Departments—all deal with different parts of the Continent of Africa. I have said before, and I think it would be even more true now, that what we require is a Minister of State with special responsibility for African affairs.
I do not wish to suggest that we should try to find a British version of Mr. "Soapy" Williams, but I think that my hon. Friend would probably agree that there is a certain basic sense of purpose about American policy in Africa which has been totally lacking so far as our Government's policy in Africa has been over the last four or five years.
§ Mr. Berkeley
I do not mind my hon. Friend saying "Rubbish", what I am saying quite carefully is that I do not necessarily approve of all that America does.
I do say that there is an identity of purpose in the American Administration which has not been apparent in the British Government's actions towards Africa during the last four or five years. Irrespective of whether we approve of the particular attitudes that our Government have taken up, identity of purpose is a fairly important part of the external relations of a country. I cannot help feeling that at times there has been a certain basic improbability in the concept that our Foreign Office has had—it is perhaps caricaturing it slightly, but it has enough relevance to make it true—that countries like Portugal matter and countries like Nigeria do not.
I believe that this is a very real, instinctive feeling that we have had in the Foreign Office, at any rate until the last year or so, and I believe it to be a basically wrong conception. I hope that in the coming months we will, particularly now that the Congo situation has been resolved, get a more co-ordinated view in relation to Africa and play a more 1576 courageous rôlein the United Nations than has hitherto been our lot regarding Portugal and South Africa and, as the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich said, regarding South-West Africa.
What we have to realise, whether we like it or not, is that quite likely there will be at least some identity of view between the United States of America and the Soviet Union in relation to the South African problem. If, once again, we get ourselves into the position in the United Nations where we are totally isolated from our American friends, from our Commonwealth partners then I believe that not only is this a most unwise and foolish policy, but also a policy which can cost us very dear in terms of our relationship with the countries in Africa and Asia, whether they belong to the Commonwealth or not. Therefore, I hope that we can see, in the next few months, clarity of mind and firmness of purpose in our relationships with the Afro-Asian Powers and our attitude towards the Republic of South Africa.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
I am glad that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot) has raised this important matter tonight. Obviously some of us who are taking part in this debate would wish to take more sweeping measures against South Africa than others might wish to do. What we are concentrating on tonight is a demand for a very limited form of action on which surely it ought to be possible for this House to agree. I welcome the speech of the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley), which shows that opinion in this country in favour of our taking this action cuts across party lines.
This is not a matter with which we are dealing in a vacuum. It is one of topicality and urgency. At this moment in the Security Council a debate is going on based on the demands of 32 Afro-Asian countries for all the powers in the world to agree that the time has come to do something practical about the situation in South Africa, and the policy of our Government in that debate will be of vital importance from two points of view: first, its effect on world opinion, and secondly, the practical consequences inside South Africa itself.
All of us, of all parties, claim to support the United Nations. But no one will 1577 deny that South Africa is openly defying the United Nations on a dozen points. Consequently, the question we are really debating tonight is whether we are going to help South Africa in her defiance by making it possible in one of the most immediate and practical ways to continue to enforce her apartheid policy.
Surely, by definition, racial discrimination and apartheid are incompatible both with the spirit of the Charter and with the purposes of the United Nations. I agree that an important principle of the United Nations is the one on universality. That is why I am not in agreement with some among the Afro-Asian nations who are now pressing for the exclusion of South Africa from the United Nations, because that seems to me to be violating the fundamental concept of universality.
But we cannot have it both ways. We cannot on the one hand oppose the exclusion of South Africa from the United Nations and then refuse to oppose the exclusion of the majority of South Africa's citizens from participation in their own Government and in world affairs. Yet that is the situation. Out of a population of 16 million souls in South Africa, 13 million are totally deprived of elementary civic and human rights. They have no right to vote for the South African Government who speak in their name. They have no right to be represented in it. They have not even a right to reside in white areas. They are allowed in there only in so far as they serve the interests and needs of the white population, and when they cease to do so, they can be turned out again without any kind of consideration for their equal human needs.
Under the Group Areas Act the most brutal uprooting of African and Indian families is taking place, to the ruin of their homes and the ruin of their businesses. Many are being returned to the areas allocated to them—the so-called Bantustans. This is put forward as a new principle of human relationships, but what it means in cold practical terms is that 75 per cent. of the population of South Africa are having to scrape a living—some of them are not; they are dying of famine—on 13 per cent. of the land They have no trade union rights. As a result, the standard of living is a scandal in a modern so-called civilised country like South Africa, one of the richest in 1578 the world. African babies are dying in South Africa as a direct result of the denial to the overwhelming majority of the population of South Africa of all the rights outlined in the universal Declaration on Human Rights.
The infantile mortality rate is between 100 and 300 per thousand births in the rural areas among Africans, compared with 27 per thousand births among the white population, 90 per thousand in Ghana and 76 per thousand in Nigeria. When we are treated, as we have been recently, to full-page advertisements by the South African Government in the British Press, lauding what has been done for the African people under the principle of Bantustan, let us remember that in that rich country less than 2 per cent. of the national expenditure is being allocated for the direct benefit of Africans.
The focal point of South Africa's treatment in the United Nations is based on the fact that these conditions are contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The principle of apartheid is repugnant to the whole concept behind the United Nations Charter, yet the essence of the South African Government's philosophy is based on the principle. That is why this is an exceptional case in the United Nations. This is not just a case of another Government with whose policies or politics we disagree. This is a case of a canker at the very heart of everything we are trying to achieve in this international forum based on all races, political views and creeds.
The conditions are being enforced by repressive laws of a ferocity unparalleled since Hitler. This is not just a piece of Trafalgar Square propaganda by the hon. Member for Blackburn. Do not let us forget that among the white element in South Africa there are thousands who are as deeply shocked as we are by the repressive measures which are increasingly being adopted.
We should note the fact that when the most recent of these repressive measures—the General Law (Amendment) Act—was introduced in the spring, the Johannesburg Bar Council came out in outrage to comment on it and to declare that certain provisions would result in…the virtual abrogation of the rule of law in South Africa.1579 The Council was "gravely concerned" at a number of provisions in the Bill which give the police power to detain suspects for repeated periods of three months, and said of the detention Clause…contravenes the fundamental provision of the jurisprudence of every civilised country (other than totalitarian states) that persons are not liable to be imprisoned without trial.The purpose was…to make provision for a police inquisition…Under a system which renders any citizen liable to be interrogated on the mere suspicion of a police officer, abuse and tyranny are inevitable.On the death penalty Clause, the statement said that the creation of offences retrospectively was…repugnant to all sense of justice.That point of view has been echoed by lawyers throughout the democratic world. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich referred to statements by the International Commission of Jurists as long ago as 1960. I remind him that in May of this year they, too, joined in the attack on this repressive legislation and declared, commenting on this new General Law Amendment Act, that South Africais now more than ever a police state and in its laws and procedures is copying many of the worst features of the communist Stalinist regime.It is these impartial judges who are publicly indicting the South African Government for crimes which no democratic community can tolerate. According to The Times of today, the tyranny of the pass laws and the curfew goes on and it is still true that 1,000 Africans per day are arrested and convicted for breaches of pass laws and curfew and other offences which in our view would certainly not be considered crimes.
I remind the House of these facts, of which I know hon. Members are well aware, for the simple reason that it is against that background that we have to consider the supply to that country of the instruments of repression. Is it not clear that no Government which is treating the overwhelming majority of its population in this way can continue to govern without physical repression of a most brutal kind? The question we have to answer in the House tonight is whether the 1580 British Government, in our name, are to go on assisting the South African Government in doing this. It is as simple as that. Are we to put the arms and equipment in the hands of the South African Government to allow it to impose upon its people the worst features of a police State?
On this issue of the supply of arms to South Africa, the Government have hedged and dodged and, once again I suggest, deliberately misled the House. Whenever we have tried in the first place to find out what their policy is, in other words what arms are being supplied, what they are allowing to be supplied, we have been fobbed off time and again with the answer that it is not in the public interest to disclose this information. Fortunately for us, the Minister of Defence in South Africa, Mr. Fouché, is not so reticent, and time and again in speeches in South Africa he has openly boasted of the arms orders he has continued to place with the British Government.
Faced with this fact, we have begun to get a change of tone from the Government, and when at Question Time some of us have risen to protest, time and again we have found that a new note has crept into the Government's replies. We were told as recently as 31st May, by the Minister of State to the Board of Trade:…we examine alt requests from the strategic, economic and political points of view before they are authorised."—[Official Report, 31st May, 1963; Vol. 678, c. 1786]We are never given any details. If it is true that the Government have come to the conclusion that they ought to discriminate and ought to bear in mind the political implications, then the House has a right to be informed of that policy and its practical application.
What is the practical application? What is the result of this scrutiny which is supposed to be going on? We know that Saracen armoured cars provided from this country helped to secure the deaths of 67 innocent Africans at Sharpeville. They wore made in British factories. We know that the tear gas to round up people, who might be merely carrying out a peaceful demonstration which would be legitimate in any other country, has been supplied from this country.
1581 Dealing with helicopters, on 24th June Mr. Fouché, the Minister of Defence, boasted in Cape Town that he had placed orders in the United Kingdomthough"—and I am quoting from an article by the Cape Town correspondent of the Guardian of 25th June—there is no provision for it in the Simonstown agreement.This is Mr. Fouché's open admission, so I hope we shall not have that red herring thrown across the scene.
In the same speech he announced that orders had been placed for Buccaneer strike aircraft, and he added gloatingly:There had been no objections in Britain to these orders.What he meant was that they were tolerated by the British Government.
I think we all know what this policy of scrutiny amounts to, because, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich pointed out, we have had it revealed in The Times today in a report from its correspondent in Pretoria. The Government want to be able to come to the House and say that they are not supplying instruments for internal repression. The report says:There is not likely to be any difficulty from the South African side about conforming to the reported wish of the British Government that small arms and ammunition should not be ordered from the United Kingdom. As far as can be ascertained, the military equipment on order from Britain, worth millions of pounds, is of a large nature…During a Parliamentary debate last month the Minister of Defence mentioned that Britain had asked South Africa not to ask for small arms and ammunition, and said he had replied, 'We do not buy that type of stuff. We sell it ourselves '.So much for the policy of scrutiny on the basis of political consideration.
What are other countries doing? We are concerned with the effect of our policy on world opinion as a whole and not, important as it is, merely on opinion in Africa and Asia. We find that the West German Government have laid down a policy that they will not export arms to any zones where there is tension, and everybody knows that there is acute tension in South Africa. They strictly control the export of arms and all strategic material to South Africa.
The United States Government have a slightly different policy. By means of 1582 export licences they prevent the export of any arms which could be used by the South African Government to enforce apartheid, but they add that if the weapon or other equipmentis essentially designed for purposes of national defence—and, in particular, Free World military requirements—exportation may be considered.Each contract is separately examined. What has America been exporting under that policy? According to the Guardian of 24th June, Mr. Fouché told the South African Parliamentthat although South Africa had an agreement with the United States as well"—that is as well as with Britain—she had not yet made any arms deals under the agrement".So when the United States come to consider the armaments that might be exported to South Africa, in effect none has been sent. It is widely understood that the United States has now come to the conclusion that it is time for a total ban on the export of arms to South Africa to be agreed to by the United Nations, and that she will back that suggestion in the coming session.
Hon. Members on this side of the House believe that the Government are not seriously scrutinising these exports. We also believe that it is impossible to draw a distinction between the uses to which the armaments might be put. The Government have tried to argue that the Buccaneer strike aircraft was purely for external use, but the other day I received a letter from the Rev. Kenneth MacKenzie, who is now in St. Colm's Missionary College, Edinburgh, but was formerly a missionary in Nyasaland, enclosing copies of letters which he has written to the Government urging them to ban the export of all arms to South Africa. He points out that in the 1959 emergency in Nyasaland types of aircraft comparable to the Buccaneer were used in low-level unarmed flights to terrorise the population—although not by the United Kingdom Royal Air Force.
It must be made clear that the Simons-town agreement does not provide for this type of equipment. It is quite possible to refuse these orders without violating that agreement. I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Lancaster, that it is doubtful whether this base is as important to the freeworld as it once was, but I happen not to want the 1583 Simonstown agreement to be cancelled. It would not be bad for us to have a base in this part of the world—a presence in South Africa for the troubled period that lies ahead. We may want to use it for the free world, against tyranny.
§ Sir D. Glover
I shall strengthen what the hon. Lady is saying, although I do not agree with a lot of it. We do not have a base at Simonstown; we have the use of that base.
§ Mrs. Castle
I accept the correction. It still may be useful for us to have the use of those facilities in the difficult years that may lie ahead unless pressure from the outside world brings about a change of government in South Africa.
But there is no doubt about the purpose for which helicopters could be used in South Africa. Only a short while ago I was talking with some of the leaders of the Africans in South Africa who are now in this country. They reminded me that when, in May, 1961, a general strike was called in protest against the declaration of a Republic by Dr. Verwoerd the police moved into the African townships, 10,000 Africans were arrested, the searches went on by night and by day and in the evening helicopters equipped with searchlights were brooding over the townships and picking out the fleeing Africans.
Again, in 1960, helicopters were used in the Transkei when opposition by the Africans to the Bantustan project was brutually repressed by the police, and many deaths were caused by them. Helicopters were used to search for Africans fleeing for cover and refuge in the forest. These helicopters are being ordered from this country.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Peter Thomas)
Can the hon. Lady say what type of helicopter was used in the operations to which she has just referred?
§ Mrs. Castle
No. I am saying that according to Mr. Fouché, in June of this year he placed a large order for heli- 1584 copters in this country, and that Britain had no objection. I am merely pointing out that a helicopter is an obvious instrument of suppression, and that in the face of the increasingly suppressive measures of the South African Government we should not send a single helicopter to South Africa.
Why is South Africa building up her fighting forces in this way? She has one of the most powerful air forces of any small country in the world. She has trebled her defence budget since 1959 quite apart from expenditure on a highly armed police force. She is mobilising her white people and putting them under training. If it is invasion she fears, why is she arming only the white minority of the population for the defence of the country?
We know that an arms embargo by this country, by every country in the world, would be welcomed by every progressive force in South Africa. It would be welcomed by the Churches of all denominations which have gone on record as expressing their horror at the situation in South Africa and calling, as Joost de Blank did on the radio the other night, for the isolation of South Africa. It would be welcomed by all white students in South Africa. One of the most heartening things which has happened to me was the receipt of a letter from an official of the Students' Society for Human Rights in one of the white universities in South Africa. The House will not expect me to give his name or the name of the university. But he wrote to thank me for the work of the anti-apartheid movement in this country. He wrote:As you know the fight against apartheid in South Africa itself is being weakened by the bannings of individuals and organisations which are the vanguard of the opposition. At the moment much of the opposition is limited to the universities, but even this is weakening. This is due, apart from general intimidation, to the lack of speakers against apartheid of sufficient calibre and standard—the majority of the leaders are banned…I would like to express thanks to the Anti-Apartheid League for the support and encouragement it is giving us in South Africa in our opposition to apartheid.Finally, this move would be welcomed by all the coloured members of our Commonwealth. I wish to ask the Government what representations they have been receiving from Mr. Nyerere of 1585 Tanganyika? Is not it a fact that once again not only the Afro-Asian bloc as a whole, but the African and Asian members of our own Commonwealth are demanding that the British Government at least should show themselves fit to be the head of a multi-racial Commonwealth. I wish to reinforce the plea of my hon. Friend. May we have a categorical assurance that when the Security Council comes to the discussion of an embargo on the export of arms to South Africa we shall be there, fighting for it—not dodging, twisting or finding excuses or blaming someone else? Let us be there in the van of the fight with the United Nations in a demand for united action by the Security Council.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
I am glad that the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) took part in this debate. I found myself in agreement with almost the whole of his observations. In particular, I share with him concern at the damage done by the ambiguities in British policy in recent years.
I think it impossible to justify any action that might assist the present Government of South Africa in pursuing its policy of apartheid, or any action which might appear to condone it. Merely to deplore apartheid is of little use. To criticise apartheid and at the same time to encourage or permit the sale of arms to be used to enforce it, is as inconsistent as it is illiberal. But, the question is asked, where do we draw the line? In October, 1960, Mr. Alan Paton, the President of the South African Liberal Party, referred to the training of South African paratroopers in this country and asked:What do you think these paratroopers are going to be used for?I remember the occasion very well. I had the opportunity of meeting and discussing this problem with him. I know how concerned he was about the supply of arms to South Africa.
The question he asked was very pertinent. He was, of course, thinking of internal security, but I intervene in this debate to raise a rather wider issue. I do not believe that one can limit this question to assessing the nature of the arms which are being exported and considering solely the question whether they will be used 1586 only for maintaining law and order internally, or whether they are required for generaldefence with South Africa as part of our Western defence system.
I am afraid there is a temptation towards double talk on this whole subject. It is suggested in some quarters—although not by the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot)—that one can stop the export of arms to South Africa while not affecting employment in this country. I do not think that is true. We have to be frank and recognise that it may affect employment; in this country. It has also been suggested in some quarters that it is possible to collaborate with the United Nations and at the same time honour our agreements with South Africa on Western defence, including the Simonstown Agreement. I am not sure that that is so. We must look at this frankly. Is it possible? We must look at the facts.
The hon. and learned Member for Ipswich referred to the question of South-West Africa which is now before the International Court. It may well be that very soon a decision will be reached by the International Court and that it will be adverse to South Africa. The Security Council will then be asked to take steps to implement the recommendation, or to take steps arising out of the decision of the International Court. I have always taken what I think is a consistent view on this subject of South-West Africa. So far as South Africa itself is concerned, it is at any rate arguable that a policy of apartheid is a matter of internal policy. I do not agree with it, but it is at any rate arguable. I do not think it could ever be contended, however, that what has gone on in South-West Africa is simply a matter of the internal affairs of the Government of South Africa.
It is quite clear that there is a mandate there and the Government of South Africa are only there at all in the position of trustees. It is quite clear that there has been a breach of the Mandate and there would be a very strong case for some United Nations force to be sent there. That may happen; we must recognise that possibility. Arising from that, there is a very real danger of a clash between some United Nations force and the forces of the South African Government. What would be the position of the British Government in those circumstances?
1587 This is not just a hypothetical case; it is something which might happen. What use would be made of the arms which have been already sold to South Africa, and are still being sold? Generally when this subject is discussed or raised in the House it is pointed out on behalf of the Government—it has been pointed out by the Lord Privy Seal—that there is careful inspection and that one of the factors taken into account was the possibility of arms being used for internal repression, but we must consider these wider aspects.
What does South Africa intend to do with the arms which she buys? For example, a reference has been made to the Blackburn Buccaneer fighter. This fighter is a twin fighter-bomber designed ordinarily for the Navy. It is designed to fly low to evade radar screens. I understand that it can carry a small atomic bomb. It may be suggested that this is obviously part of the Western defence system, but I am not so sure that it is. One has only to think of the reports of the use of planes by the Egyptians in the Yemen. Even if these planes are not likely to be used against African demonstrators for maintaining internal security, they could be very useful against any task force operating in South-West Africa, and in the same way this kind of plane could be used against African States to the North.
That brings me to what is potentially an even more explosive situation—namely, the possible conflict between South Africa and other African States. This is the last thing which I want to happen, but it would be foolish to turn a blind eye to the possibility. I repeat, what will these arms be used for? It may well be that the low-flying aircraft are not intended to be used against the people of South Africa who are now being oppressed by the policy of apartheid, but will they be used, is it any more likely that they will be used, in a conflict between East and West? It is very difficult to think of circumstances in which these planes could be used for that purpose.
They might well be used in some future conflict between South Africa and other African States. Even if that does not happen—and it is the last thing that I wish to happen—we must consider the 1588 reactions in the meantime to the export of these arms to South Africa. May I read a short extract from one of my correspondents:If the West continues to regard the white South African Forces as an asset in any Western defence assessment and therefore continues to aid and abet the arms build-up, the West will ipso facto be excluded from the preparations that the African States are making and the Western Powers will almost come to be regarded by the African States as accomplices of Verwoerd.One cannot ignore the conference at Addis Ababa. Those who attended were not just a few extremists. We have in Africa all the makings of a very dangerous situation. We must look at the facts and look a little further ahead. Already there are promises from China to some of the countries of Africa. Perhaps in one respect this is to the good. I believe that there may now be an opportunity for co-operation between Soviet Russia, the United States and Britain to try to prevent an outbreak of war in Africa. I believe that Soviet Russia is not anxious to see a conflict in Africa, certainly not if China is taking any part. But China is looking for new allies, and it would be unrealistic to assume that in discussing this question we are considering only whether arms which are being exported will be used as an addition to the police forces or for some major Western defence. They could very easily be used in the future in some conflict in Africa. That is what I fear.
We must consider, in the light of all this, whether South Africa, with her present Government, is not an embarrassment to the West. It is very unfortunate that that should be so, but I believe that we have reached the situation when South Africa is an embarrassment, and it would be very much better if we no longer regarded South Africa, under the present Government, as a necessary part of the Western defence system.
If that is so, what are we to do? At least we should be honest about it. I think of how we dealt with Portugal. I am no admirer of Portugal. I have taken part in debates on the actions of Portugal in Angola. I am not at all sure that we were very honest with Portugal over Goa. We had our longstanding treaty with Portugal, but when Goa was invaded we did nothing about 1589 it. Would it not be more honest now, therefore, to reassess our position vis-à-vis South Africa and our whole defence system and our agreements relating to defence? That would be a more honest thing to do. We should at any rate discuss this with the other Commonwealth countries and the whole of the Western Alliance, because, after all there is a changing climate. Before long Canada may decide upon an embargo. We know the attitude of the United States. Italy and Germany have already decided not to export arms to South Africa. There is only France, and I am not sure how long France will continue to be willing to do this. As for other sources, I believe that the arms from what are called unauthorised sources have been drying up since the end of the Algerian war.
Therefore, I believe that some agreement on the banning of arms to South Africa by a number of countries, including Britain, is a practical proposition, and I advocate it not merely because I regret the actions of the Government of South Africa and the policy of apartheid but also because I want to prevent the build-up of arms in the continent, which might lead to such an appalling conflict in the future, the outcome of which we can scarcely foresee. In the days before the last war the civil war in Spain was a prelude to the Second World War. What a tragedy it would be if a conflict in Africa were the prelude to a Third World War, but it is in that context that I believe this subject must be considered.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
Everybody who has listened to this debate will regard it as tragic that it should take place, but, none the less, it is of great interest. There can be few people in the United Kingdom today who support the South African Government's internal policies. Most people look upon the whole idea of apartheid with distaste and, in many cases, horror. This is part of the great problem confronting the world. In the United States, over 100 years ago, a civil war, perhaps the most bitter in human history, was fought over the freeing of the slaves because as a result the Confederate States wished to secede from the Union.
1590 Even today, 100 years later, as the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), who has spoken so movingly about the problem of South Africa, knows, the problem, at very nearly the same intensity, exists in the Southern States. In this matter the United States cannot stand in a white sheet and criticise the United Kingdom Government for their various actions. The United States has its own problems.
Last year, I was at the United Nations. Even if I say it myself, I enjoyed the friendship and, I think, respect and understanding of an enormous number of African and Asian politicians who were at the United Nations. What bothers me about these debates in the House is the idea that nowadays if a person's skin is white he must automatically be wrong, but that if his skin happens to be a darker shade, he must automatically be right. I do not think that the issue can be stated as simply as that. These people are torn by the same dissensions and pressures as we debate in the House.
For instance, I was shocked and surprised to learn that the Africans think nothing of the West Indians, because, in their view, the West Indians are descendants of slaves. I should have thought that in the history of the coloured races this would have caused Africans to have enormous respect for the West Indians, but they have just the reverse opinion of them. The people in every country in Africa are torn between tribal and racial inter-rivalry.
On the question of South Africa we are worried, disturbed and, I think, disgusted over the policy of apartheid. At some point in each speech tonight hon. Members have pointed out that South Africa's policy of repression has got worse since 1959. Of course it has, simply because the people there are frightened. This may seem a strange thing to say about a Government who seem so strongly entrenched in power, but they are frightened—and when people are frightened they inevitably take repressive measures. The South African Government are frightened because—as the hon. Member for Huddersfield West, (Mr. Wade) said—they fear that in a few years there will be the threat of an invasion from north of their borders. They fear that that will become a valid threat 1591 to their territory, for they have already been threatened with this becoming the policy of the North.
The more the world tries to isolate South Africa, the more South Africa will have this phobia for internal self-sufficiency. Although I do not like their policy, I am sure that the more we debate the United Nations and the more pressure is put on South Africa in this country, the more determined one will make South Africans to go in for their policy of isolation and apartheid.
I am disturbed to hear that because of recent events the English South Africans are now rallying to the Nationalist Party; something that must disturb all who want to see the present situation in that country change. They are doing this because they feel that their own nation is threatened. If a nation is threatened all the social reforming zeal that should be growing and flowering dies and thought is solely upon solidarity and protection against the threats from outside. I believe, therefore, that much of what we are doing is making the situation in South Africa worse instead of better.
I leave the matter there and turn to the question of armaments, which is the principal point of the debate.
§ Mr. John C. Bidgood (Bury and Radcliffe)
I am finding it difficult to hear my hon. Friend, because of the noise that is going on on the Opposition Front Bench.
§ Sir D. Glover
I am not in charge of the Opposition Front Bench, but I must say that the noise was bothering me.
The hon. and learned Member for Ipswich Mr. D. Foot) made great play of the fact that at the moment a frigate is on order. This was followed by his hon. Friends trying to show how this and other armaments could be used for internal repression. I cannot for the life of me see how one could possibly use a frigate for that purpose. I would have thought that the frigate being constructed in this country was bringing much-needed orders to our shipbuilding yards, represented part of the Western defence and that it certainly could not be used for any other purpose.
1592 As a businessman, if I wanted some aeroplanes or weapons for internal repression I would not think in terms of paying £1 million a time for Buccaneers. These aircraft, of the naval strike type, are designed for external and not internal use. If one wanted to produce aeroplanes for internal use I do not think that one would wish to buy those with speeds of 1,000 m.p.h., because at such speeds they are not accurate enough to be of use as internal weapons.
If one wished to obtain weapons for the sort of use hon. Members opposite and my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley)—who, I regret, is not now in his place—are discussing, have they not realised how quickly such weapons could be manufactured in Africa? The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn made great play about the use of Saracens. I recall that in 1940, when we expected to be invaded within weeks, ordinary lorries were taken off the streets and were armour-plated on their sides and underneath to prevent them being destroyed. Such vehicles were capable of carrying troops and weapons at considerable speeds.
I am quite certain that it would not take South Africa many weeks to produce that sort of force to deal with internal problems. The Saracen scout cars are dangerous weapons—any weapon designed for war must, by its very nature, be dangerous—but, apart from the convenience of having them there, I do not think that it would be much to ask South Africa to produce what I might call home-made material equally effective for the purposes the hon. Lady described.
That applies to so many of these arms. If we deprive South Africa of the type of arms that she is getting, all we shall do is to reduce her effectiveness, in that she will get no more frigates, no more Buccaneer strike aircraft for the Navy—weapons designed for external use—and will force her, because she will not be deprived of them, to open a factory to make the equipment, the Saracen scout cars; force her to increase her small arms manufacture. In other words, we will force her to arms production that will not be controlled or under licence and that, I think, would be far more dangerous than the present system. That is quite apart from the fact that, in doing so, we should deprive an enormous number of 1593 our people of jobs in producing these weapons.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster is not present, because I want to refer to what he said about the Trustee Territories. The only thing he said with which I agreed was about the anomalous position of the ambassador and the High Commissioner. This is an absurdity. I do not see how a man can be an ambassador to a foreign country and a High Commissioner for Commonwealth territories—particularly when there is the additional difficulty that those Commonwealth territories are inside this independent country. I do not see how he can divide his mind between wanting to be friendly with the South Africans, as ambassador, and wanting to do his job as a High Commissioner. I hope that the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Foreign Office will look at this position, because I think that it could be improved.
But when my hon. Friend says that these three High Commission Territories should be given their independence at the earliest possible moment—because, I presume, of the attitude of the South African Government—I shudder to think how woolly minded some of my colleagues can get. He says, rightly or wrongly, that the South African is Fascist, a grinder of a population, and unable to consider the rights of minorities, or majorities without votes. He then says that the territories inside this area should be given their independence, meaning that the United Kingdom would then have no responsibility for them. How long do they then remain independent?
If my hon. Friend's view of the South African Government is right, it seems to me that our duty is to lead these three territories to the maximum amount of self-government. Speaking for myself, they can all have a Prime Minister responsible for all internal affairs, but if my hon. Friend really believes that there is in South Africa the sort of Government he describes I should have thought that, automatically, Her Majesty's Government had responsibility to keep control of these territories, so that if there were any question of taking them over, the South African Government would know that they were dealing with the United Kingdom, and not with three almost defenceless territories,
1594 It is a very serious thing to say, "Independence at once." Responsibilities do lie upon this country. Here, I should have thought, almost more than anywhere in the world, we have a responsibility in keeping an end control over the destinies of the three High Commission Territories because, otherwise, their future will not be very much to write home about.
I had not intended to intervene in the debate, but I am glad that I have because some of the things which I have said needed saying. The debate has been rather one-sided so far. I conclude in this way. By persuasion and example, we should do all we can to help the advancement of the South African people towards a better understanding of the problems in their country. But, when I look about the world and see in how many other places where these problems have existed for at least as long, if not longer, people find them just as difficult to solve.
I am convinced that we shall not solve them by making the Government of South Africa and the people there, both Afrikaner and English, feel that they are the pariah dogs of world society. If we do, we shall only succeed in making them determined to produce a police State, impregnable from outside and from within, and this will mean that, if there is any change, it will be a change with a massive blood-letting which everyone in the House would deplore.
§ 10.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). I am sure that his purpose was to come to the assistance of the Government, but many of his remarks, particularly with reference to the supply of arms to South Africa, were contradictory. The Government can be contradictory on this matter without any assistance from anyone else, and I dare say that we shall have that sort of answer from the Minister of State in due course.
First, the hon. Member for Ormskirk says that the arms which we are sending to South Africa are not for internal use. Secondly, he says that the South Africans are themselves quite capable of manufacturing the arms they need for internal purposes. Thirdly, he says that, if we 1595 stop sending them arms, they will manufacture more of these weapons for internal use.
§ Sir D. Glover
I did not say that they were manufacturing them at this moment. I said that, if we put an embargo on, we shall force them to create their own arms industry.
§ Mr. Foot
I thought that the hon. Gentleman's three arguments were contradictory; they are not the same argument at all. I shall not go into them in detail, but that is how it appeared.
The hon. Gentleman's remarks at the beginning of his speech illustrated what is wrong with the whole of the Government's approach to this question. The hon. Gentleman deplores that we should have debates in the House on this matter. He deplores that there should be debates at the United Nations about apartheid. He thinks that all the world-wide discussion about the conduct of the South African Government is only forcing the South African Government to be more intensive in the application of their objectionable methods.
The hon. Gentleman is in this difficulty. The course which he recommends the rest of the world to take is one which would spread black despair among the Africans who happen to have the misfortune to live in South Africa. The hon. Gentleman knows very well that all those in South Africa who are trying to resist apartheid take a view exactly the opposite of the one which he advocates. All those people, whether they believe in violence or non-violence, whatever their method for objecting against what is being done to them by the South African Government, plead that the rest of the world should take note of what is happening in South Africa. It is very strange, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman should presume to think that he knows better what is good for the Africans who live in South Africa than the Africans themselves. I shall come back to his argument in a few minutes.
Much of what I had in mind to say on the subject has already been said better by others, so I shall be as brief as I can.
Although there is not a large number of Members here, this debate is one of great importance for the good name of 1596 this country and for its world-wide interest, and the reply of the Minister will be studied in many countries. It will probably be studied by many more people than live in this country. Many countries in Africa will study it very carefully. Therefore, it is important that he should reply to the debate carefully, and it is necessary that he should reply to it in much more specific terms than we have had from the Government in response to previous debates and Questions about this matter in the House.
The Lord Privy Seal said the other day, in response to a Private Notice Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle):As far as arms are concerned, Her Majesty's Government's policy was described in detail in the House by my right hon. Friend the present Minister of State during the debate on the Address on 31st October last year."—[Official Report, 22nd July, 1963; Vol. 681, c. 1053.]I looked up the debate. I could not recall that the Minister had made a detailed statement of what was the policy. I discovered that that supposedly detailed statement of policy on this matter, which is one of great interest to the nations of the world, and as has been said, is being raised by 32 nations at the United Nations, could be got into less than one column of Hansard. It was on 31st October that the Minister gave what the Lord Privy Seal said was a very detailed statement of the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
I find that it is not even a policy referring solely to South Africa. It is a policy which the Government apply to all countries in the sale of arms, and there is no distinction made for South Africa specifically because of South Africa's policy of apartheid. If anybody doubts that let him look up Hansard. The Minister said:Our arms policy towards all foreign countries—and, of course, South Africa is a foreign country as far as we are concerned—is to allow arms sales to countries with whom we are in normal relations. South Africa is a sovereign country and as such has the right to buy arms for external defence. We scrutinise all requests from the political as well as the strategic and economic aspects before they are authorised."—[Official Report, 31st October, 1962; Vol. 666, c. 286.]That is not a policy which is devised largely to deal with the challenge presented by what the South African Government are doing to 30 million of their 1597 citizens. It is a general policy which the Government apply to all countries. How does the hon. Gentleman think that is right? Because the British Government apparently take the view that it is not necessary to have a distinctive policy about the sale of arms because of what is happening specifically in South Africa.
The Government were challenged earlier in the week about whether they had made some modification of their policy under pressure from the Opposition, the United States and the United Nations. They tried to deny that any change has been made. It may be that the Minister will say tonight—it will be a deplorable thing if he does—that the Government have made no change in their policy. Whether this is so or not, as indicated already by quotations which my hon. Friends have made from The Times of today, from that report from Pretoria, it would appear that the British Government have made some alteration, because the report says:During a parliamentary debate last month the Minister of Defence"—that is, the South African Minister of Defence—mentioned that Britain had asked South Africa not to ask for small arms and ammunition.So apparently what the British Government did was not to be courageous enough to say to the South African Government, "We will not send you any more small arms", because that would have been too forthright an action for the Government to take, but to say to the South African Minister of Defence, "It would be very convenient for us it you would not ask for arms." I do not know whether pusillanimity could sink any lower. Surely the Government could speak on this matter much more boldly than that.
It has been said by my hon. Friends that Italy, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Israel, most recently, have made declarations about refusing to export arms to South Africa.
It has already been quoted, too, by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade), that Communist China and Czechoslovakia may be thinking of sending arms to South Africa. They have sent trade delegations there. I suppose that the Minister may say that that is 1598 justification for their argument—that if we do not sell them arms other people will come in. But he will not be able to deal with the problem in that way.
If it were proved to be the case—I do not know whether it is, and if the Minister can give us information on the subject we should very much like to hear it—that Czechoslovakia and Communist China were sending arms to South Africa, we should have quite a lot of protests from hon. Gentlemen opposite. They would say that it was a shocking thing for them to do. We shall have no grounds at all for protesting against their doing it if we persist in doing it ourselves.
§ Mrs. Castle
I think it only fair to the Czechoslovakian Government to point out to my hon. Friend that whereas, in the past, they sent certain small arms for domestic purposes, a total ban on arms to South Africa has now been imposed by that Government.
§ Mr. Foot
I am very glad to hear it, and I am sorry that they sent arms before. [Laughter.] Some hon. Members opposite are laughing about it. The Government which they support are still sending arms to South Africa. It is not a matter for them to smirk about. At any rate, apparently some pressure has been brought to bear on the Czechoslovakian Government, and what we are trying to do is to bring some pressure on our own Government to see whether they, too, will adopt a civilised attitude towards this matter.
The real condemnation of the Government's policy is that they do not appreciate the scale of the intensity of feeling about apartheid. That was very well-illustrated by the hon. Member for Ormskirk. He talks of being concerned and disturbed about what is happening in South Africa. He views the apartheid policy with distaste. I do not think that it is possible to regard the apartheid policy in South Africa merely with disaste. That is the Government's attitude. That is the impression that they give to the world, that we do not like apartheid and think it objectionable, and whenever the matter is raised in the United Nations we make our formal protest against it. But what the Government fail to say is that they have a sense of outrage about what is happening in 1599 South Africa. We cannot show the world that we have a sense of outrage about it if we are sending arms to assist, perhaps, in the suppression.
What is happening in South Africa is not so very different from what Hitler did to the Jews in the concentration camps in Germany. It is the same policy of brutality aimed at people because of their race. What we are doing, in effect, is to help supply some of the instruments for use in the gas chambers. That is what we are doing. It is no use hon. Gentleman opposite saying that these are exaggerated words.
§ Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
Has the hon. Gentleman any evidence of gas chambers being used in South Africa at the moment?
§ Mr. Foot
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has followed me. We have no evidence of gas chambers being used in South Africa. I did not say that we had. I said that what the South African Government are doing to 13 million Africans is not so very different from what Hitler attempted to do to the Jews. That is grind them down and prevent them from having any life worth living. This is where this attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite comes out. They apologise for what is happening in South Africa.
The hon. Gentleman talked as if some people got things out of proportion and sometimes said that all white Governments were right and all black Governments were wrong. That is not the position at all. Here we have a Government whose major policy is to brutalise and impose hardships of an indescribable nature, intensified week by week and month by month, on a whole people. What would hon. Gentlemen do about it? What would they think about it if they had black skins?
I should like every member of the Government, when he goes away for the Recess, to read a book recently published by Mr. James Baldwin, in which he describes what the American negro feels about what is happening to him in the United States and how infinitely worse is what is happening to the coloured African in South Africa. If hon. Gentlemen would read that book and try to think what it would feel like if they were 1600 coloured people, then I think they might understand the position, and, instead of coming along and making these evasive and prevaricating excuses about why we should continue to send arms, they would show a sense of anger about what is happening there.
If hon. Gentlemen opposite acted on that basis, they would have a wiser policy—maybe it is no good appealing to their emotions—because what we are going to do at the moment is to isolate ourselves, perhaps with only Portugal and the Union of South Africa on our side. As the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) said, it is utterly pitiful that we should have to have a debate of this nature in this House and have to argue about whether we shall send a few more arms to South Africa. Sending them will not do us any good. We may make a bit of money out of it and it may mean a few more people in employment, but the consequence will be that the whole of our reputation in respect of the coloured people, the whole of the reputation built up over the years by actions which have been magnanimous and wise, will be cast aside.
There is no doubt—and the Government must recognise it—that the test of what is thought by every coloured person in the world about Her Majesty's Government and our country is what we do about South Africa, and as long as we continue to send arms to South Africa or assist the South African Government in carrying out their policy, so we shall injure our prospect of binding together in association with us the nations in the Commonwealth and the nations that we want to assist us in furthering our policies in the United Nations.
Therefore, I ask the Government not to be content with the kind of formal excuses which they have given before, but to take the whole of this policy away and have the courage eventually to come back to the House and say, "We have abandoned the whole idea of giving any shred of support to apartheid because we believe this to be the most evil thing in the whole wide world".
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Peter Thomas)
I hope that I may be permitted to say without any 1601 sense of patronage that we have had a very high standard of debate. I am very conscious of the fact that hon. Members on both sides have spoken with deep feeling and real sincerity about this very difficult and, indeed, very topical subject.
I want to join issue in a small measure with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot). As I understood it, he appeared to suggest that Her Majesty's Government were not truly sincere in their expressions of abhorrence of apartheid. I want to make it perfectly clear what the view of Her Majesty's Government is on this matter. We have frequently, not only by statements, but also by demonstration, shown our complete abhorrence not only of apartheid, but also of the measures used to enforce it.
Our views have been expressed not only in this House and in another place. They have been expressed forcibly in the United Nations, where we have voted for resolutions condemning South Africa's racial policy. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has even spoken against those policies in the very Parliament of South Africa itself.
We have not neglected any opportunity to bring home to the South African Government our real disapproval of these policies and our dismay at their continuation. Her Majesty's Ambassador in Cape Town this year invited non-Europeans to the Queen's Birthday celebration. Those who know South Africa today will appreciate how strong a public demonstration of the British Government's position that was. To suggest either in terms or by implication that our policy towards South Africa and our relations with it imply some sinister, clandestine support for its racial policies is absolute nonsense, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale knows it.
The racial policies of South Africa are the direct opposite of what we believe in and practice here and in the territories for which we are responsible. We believe that any system based on racial discrimination is morally indefensible and leads inevitably to disaster. I know that the hon. Member does not like this word, but we are greatly concerned about South Africa. But that concern is not just with the system that is practised, which we 1602 deplore. We are also concerned for South Africa itself, with which we have had for many years close and valued human and material links. No country, apart from South Africa, has so great an interest as we have in seeing a solution to South Africa's racial, problems which will ensure a full, prosperous and free life for all—and I repeat, all—its peoples.
We think, and I believe that we are right, that our influence with South Africa is an influence to the good. We are, therefore, opposed to the severing of those links with South Africa that remain. To break those links would not only drive South Africa into further isolation but would greatly discourage and perhaps drive to despair the many South Africans, in particular the Europeans mentioned by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), who are opposed to apartheid.
I am conscious that we are sitting late tonight and I apologise for having made these preliminary remarks, perhaps at length, and I will come now to the basis of the debate. I have been asked to explain the Government's policy on the supply of arms to South Africa.
This matter was raised in the House by the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn on Monday when she received a reply from my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. He referred her to a statement I made in the debate or 31st October, 1962, and reference has been made today to a statement by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Board of Trade, on 31st May last following an adjournment debate. What was said on those occasions has been criticised by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale because there was not sufficientdetail apparently, and by the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich because of certain ways in which it was phrased. I would suggest that this is a clear statement of policy—one may disagree with it—but it is that we believe that South Africa, like other foreign countries with whom we are in normal relations, is entitled to buy arms for external defence.
Then we said on these occasions which I have mentioned that we examine all requests from South Africa from the strategic, economic and political points of view before they are 1603 authorised. This is the important point—the possibility that a particular supply of arms may be used for measures of internal repression is taken into account. The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn wondered whether we did scrutinise. I can assure her that we do. The South African Government knows that we do and knows exactly what our attitude is about any arms which are requested which may or could be used for internal repression. Reference has been made in the debate to various arms and perhaps I can reply to some of the things which have been said.
The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) and the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn referred to Buccaneer aircraft. Let us be quite clear about this. Buccaneer aircraft are long-range, naval aircraft now coming into service with the Royal Navy. Their performance, I am informed, and their rôle make them quite unsuitable for use in suppressing civilian disturbances.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
Will the hon. Gentleman deal with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) about the use of the Russian Ilyushin bombers for the massacre of civilians in the Yemen and why Buccaneers should not be used for a similar purpose?
§ Mr. Thomas
I do not know that that is a particularly valid point in as much as any aircraft, presumably, could be used for bombing purposes and presumably would be used for those purposes if there were an attack on South Africa. We are talking about weapons which are likely to be used for internal repression, and surely the hon. Member does not think that a highly sophisticated naval aircraft would be used for internal repression. I suggest that that is quite wrong.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Which mark of the Buccaneer is the hon. Gentleman talking about, Mark I or Mark II?
§ Mr. Thomas
I am afraid that I am not sure, but I will find out and let the hon. Gentleman know. I take it that it would be Mark II, because they are very up-to-date aircraft.
Reference was made to what the South African Minister of Defence, Mr. Fouché, 1604 recently said in a speech in Capetown about Westland Wasp helicopters which that Government has ordered from a British firm. I can tell the House that Her Majesty's Government approved the supply of some Westland Wasp helicopters to South Africa last year. We know of no more recent orders. The Westland Wasps are naval helicopters and are being introduced as standard equipment in the Royal Navy which employs them primarily in an anti-submarine, weapon-carrying rôle.
§ Mrs. Castle
Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that helicopters are obviously a highly suitable instrument for internal repression, that helicopters have been used for that purpose in South Africa in the past? Will he give the House an undertaking that the Government will not authorise the export of any more helicopters to South Africa?
§ Mr. Thomas
I cannot agree with the hon. Lady about these helicopters which are used for naval purposes in our joint defence system for the Cape. I know that South Africa has bought and has aircraft from other countries. From the information I have, that these helicopters are used for naval purposes, I think that they would be unsuitable for the purposes which the hon. Lady has in mind.
If I may refer to the frigate mentioned by the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, under the terms of the Simonstown agreement we agreed to supply the South African Government with 12 naval vessels. All these have now been delivered, except this one frigate. Under the agreement this will be delivered next year and after that no more of these vessels would be delivered under this Agreement.
It is quite true, as has been said by hon. Members, that under the agreement there is no general commitment on Her Majesty's Government to supply arms to South Africa. However, the supply of such items as the Buccaneers and helicopters I have mentioned are in our view consistent with the general purpose of the agreement, which is co-operation between our two Governments in the general defence of the sea routes round the Cape. The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn also mentioned Saracen armoured personnel carriers which were used—and we were all horrified at this—at Sharpeville. These were supplied to South 1605 Africa in 1955, when she was a member of the Commonwealth. No such vehicles have been supplied since South Africa left the Commonwealth two-and-a-half years ago. We have had no order for submarines, nor have the South African Government recently ordered military vehicles from Britain.
I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) about the dual rôle of the Ambassador in South Africa. Both of them appeared to think that this dual rôle was not a rôle to which they would give their support. This dual rôle has also been criticised in South Africa, but for reasons entirely different from those given by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster.
We have considered this matter carefully. It was raised during the debates on the South Africa Act and careful consideration was given to it at that time. We still remain of the opinion that, in view of the vary close way in which the problems of the territories interlock with South Africa, the present arrangement is the most suitable, but I assure my hon. Friends that this matter will remain open to re-examination if circumstances should seem to require it.
The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West referred to South-West Africa. That question is under discussion now in the International Court of Justice and the court's findings are not expected before the end of the ear. I am sure that the hon. Member would accept that it is quite impossible for me to anticipate what would be the findings of the court and what action the United Nations would seek to take about them or what attitude we would take to any such action. The hon. Member suggested that the arms which are in South Africa might be used against what I presume he meant as a United Nations task force in South-West Africa. I would point out to him that the question of military action in the case of South-West Africa has never been suggested in the United Nations, and it is somewhat improper to suggest that it might happen at this juncture while the case is sub judice.
I was asked by the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich what would be our attitude to events which will be taking place shortly in the Security Council and 1606 he asked me some questions. The Security Council is meeting at the moment to consider the question of the Portuguese territories and apartheid. It is likely to get on to the latter question next week, and in that debate no doubt all aspects of the situation in South Africa will be reviewed. We, like other Governments, wilt have to consider our position in regard to the points which may be made.
I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will acquit me of discourtesy if I say that I cannot anticipate the resolutions which may be placed before the Council, or the instructions which may be sent to Her Majesty's Government's representatives about any particular text. As in all debates in the Security Council, we shall be faced with a developing situation, and we have to decide on out attitude in the light of the resolutions tabled there.
The issue has been brought before the Security Council in response to the requests of 32 African Foreign Ministers, and it is right that we should hear what the African representatives have to say on their behalf. Our objective will be to do what we can to encourage the emergence in South Africa of racial policies which are more in harmony with world opinion and the realities of human relationships.
As I said in the debate on the South Africa Bill nearly eighteen months ago, we want to help, not to hinder or complicate this process, and this is the end to which our actions in the United Nations, as elsewhere, will be directed.
§ Mr. D. Foot
Will the Minister answer the question I put to him? I asked whether, if a complete arms embargo were proposed at the Security Council, Her Majesty's Government would support that proposal. This is not something new. This is not something that cannot be anticipated. Are we to understand from the hon. Gentleman's speech that Her Majesty's Government have not been able to make up their mind on this issue?
§ Mr. Thomas
That is hypothetical, because the memorandum which is before the Security Council contains many recommendations, of which the arms embargo is but one, and one would have to see the resolutions before making up one's mind what instructions to give to our representative.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I shall not keep the House for more than a few minutes, but I want to press on the Minister and on the Foreign Office what I am sure will be a very novel point of view. When they supply arms to a country, will they look at the supply of such arms in realistic terms? I am willing to lay myself open to a charge when I ask them to put moral considerations on one side and to look at the problem realistically, not in the interests of South Africa, but in the interests of this country. I know that it is extremely novel to ask Her Majesty's Government to look at defence policy in terms of the military requirements of Britain.
One of the problems about South Africa—and I am going to try to put all moral considerations on one side—is that they are pursuing a policy that cannot succeed. It is like putting a fast motor boat in a canal. If the motor boat is driven fast enough, one of two things will happen, either a wave will build up in front which will prevent the boat passing, or all the water will be washed over the countryside and the boat will be grounded.
The policy of the South African Government is similar to that, and one cannot find a better example than the oft-repeated jibe from the more ignorant of the Government supporters on the benches opposite—and that is saying something—when they talk about Simonstown. Simonstown in modern terms is not worth tuppence. It is completely out-dated. It is outmoded, and it is in the wrong place. It is clear that political conditions are so unsettled that the use of it, even if one had a war like where the last one left off, would not be a very good bet.
There are a couple of possible substitutes. There is Sierra Leone which was used extensively in the last war. Secondly, there is the new port of Tema which is being built in Ghana, and I wonder whether the Government, when looking at the naval requirements of this country, have ever examined the possibility of getting facilities in Tema for the British Navy? The advice that I have received from those who know something about these matters is that no one is worried two pence about Simonstown, except in exclusively political terms.
1608 Likewise, turning from Simonstown to the Buccaneer aircraft, we must face the arguments put up by hon. Members opposite. They say, not being the least concerned—or so they would have us believe—with the interests of the South African Government, that if a Labour Government imposed an embargo upon the Buccaneer it would create unemployment here. I do not believe anything of the kind. The Buccaneer Mk. II is a very useful weapon, and it will be badly needed by the Royal Air Force. I am glad that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) is now here, because he knows something about the history of the Buccaneer. It was origin ally the NA39, and it was rejected by the Royal Air Force and subsequently taken over by the Navy. The Royal Air Force preferred the TSR2.
Now that the TSR2 is in the balance—the order has been delayed, and this is one of the things that is worrying the manufacturers knowing the previous form of the Government in these matters—if the Buccaneer Mk. II is the success I believe it will be, and the TSR2 is cancelled, I am sure that although the Royal Air Force rejected the Mk I version both the Navy and the Air Force will want it.
But the Buccaneer Mk. I is a different story. While it may be true, as accepted by the Foreign Office—knowing the effect of various weapons is not something that would disturb the sylvan calm of the cloistered life that its officials lead—that the Mk. I would not be of much use if it came up against real opposition, it would nevertheless have a useful purpose as a low-level attack weapon, which could be used, in certain circumstances which one can easily visualise, for internal purposes in South Africa. The idea that the Mk. I is of no use is a piece of political nonsense.
If the Government are pursuing an arms policy in terms of the money to be made out of it, I have nothing to say; they are simply selling where they can, irrespective of the consequences. It is the sort of argument that any gunsmith might produce if he sold a pistol to a hold-up man who subsequently murdered a policeman. It is a valid argument, which has been trotted out with more care and sophistication than I am using now. I am not suggesting 1609 that the Government are following this policy. What they are pursuing is a sort of halfway house between something that is a policy and something that is not. If anything, it is a policy of expediency. In their weakened condition the Government cannot now face even the opposition they would get from hon. Members opposite below the Gangway if they faced the stark realities of the situation; so they will go on doing what they are doing now, regardless of the military consequences to this country. It is a sure way of keeping the South African set-up on the boil.
In the long run the South African Government cannot possibly win. Therefore, I should have thought that the interests of this country lay in providing military support for, and in equipping and training the forces of those countries which, ten years from now, will have some hope of political stability, so that they can play their part inside the United Nations in building up the only permanent basis—inside the framework of the United Nations—of a conception of world unity and the rule of law. But the Government are following the opposite policy. They are backing a certain loser, as usual. I do not know when they have backed a winner. They are backing a policy which is bound to lose in the long run.
I am sure that the Minister is utterly sincere. I accept everything that he says and that the Government say, about their feeling of abhorrence at South Africa's racial policy. They are English gentlemen. They hate this sort of violence. It is sordid and horrid, and all their feelings and emotions are against it. I accept all that. But by their policy they are prolonging the present situation, and preventing the day of settlement. At the same time, they are seriously wounding the chances of this country's enlisting military support in areas where, one day, we may badly need it.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
I apologise for coming late, but the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) referred to me, and I wish to ask, does he mean that the Buccaneer II, which is due for delivery to South Africa, I believe, in the early months of 1965, in the unlikely event of a Labour Government being in control then and this aircraft being prevented from delivery to South Africa, 1610 the Royal Air Force would have to take them regardless whether they are good or bad, to save the unemployment situation? Would the hon. Member further argue that by exporting transport aircraft to Peking and China we are right when it could be a menace to one of our close allies in the Commonwealth, India? Would he say that would be right? We have heard no protest from the other side about that.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Member asked me a question and I am replying to it. I did not say that the Royal Air Force has got to take this weapon or any other. The hon. Member knows me perfectly well and must not be disingenuous. He knows the history. The Royal Air Force would not take the NA39 because it thought there was a better bet. So the Navy took it and the Mark II is a better weapon. The TSR2 is in doubt.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Member shakes his head. Although the Government placed an order they placed it only for production and there is no firm order. This is a doubtful starter. If the present Government are there long enough and have to cancel the TSR2, the Royal Air Force would have to wait to take the Buccaneer Mark II. The hon. Member cannot have it both ways. It cannot be supplied to South Africa and given to the Royal Air Force as well. If the TSR2 is cancelled the Royal Air Force might be glad to get it. If not, I do not mind, but I ask the Minister whether it was the Mark II which was in question.