§ 12.56 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the problem of relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of South Africa, with particular emphasis on industrial relations. I say that because during the last six months or so we have heard of suggestions of economic sanctions or arms embargoes, both of which, 1764 in my view, are bound to load to some form of retaliation upon the industrial relations with this country. It is on that side of the problem that I want to dwell at the start.
To put the picture into perspective, I think that I ought to reiterate that there are vast areas of South Africa which, 150 years ago, were not supporting, and could not support, human life. Now many millions of people live there, mainly and basically because of the vast industrial expansion which has taken place in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. This industry upon which many millions of people of both African and European stock exist has been built up over the last eighty years, basically by British industry and British brains.
The industry which is now operating there is of a highly complicated and skilled nature. Much of it has been financed by and much of the experience has come from this country. Admittedly, in recent years there has been the great development of the nationalised industries which have been controlled by the Afrikaans-speaking South African, such as the steel industry and the railways industry. This is a development which may extend. Since the war there has been an influx of competitive firms from other industrial countries such as America, Japan, Germany, and Italy, all anxious and willing to take away the British business which is being done there and, under competition, capable of doing it.
I believe it to be very important that we should sustain the good will of British industry and British manufacture out there, much of which is owned in this country. I do not believe that we could afford what one might call wild and woolly threats about embargoes and sanctions, which can lead only to retaliations upon the business done between these two countries. I emphasise the size of industrial investment which the United Kingdom has in South Africa.
Since the war the total investment of the United Kingdom throughout the world has been assessed in the Overseas Development Institute as about £4,000 million. Others think that it may be higher. Mr. A. R. Conan thinks that it may be higher, but as an estimate of our total world investment £4,000 1765 million is about right. In South Africa, the British investment is over £1,000 million, which means that out of the whole world overseas investment of this country 25 per cent. is invested in South Africa. This is a very high proportion, and it may not be generally known in this country.
There is a very substantial export trade from this country into South Africa, and this export trade has been increasing. From the figures which I have obtained from the Trade and Navigation Accounts, our exports to South Africa about ten years ago were running about £80 million a year. The latest figure, for 1962–63, shows that the rate was £140 million a year of exports from this country and imports into South Africa. I am sure that the Minister of State will appreciate that this is an example of the efforts of British exporters to increase their exports into South Africa during those ten years.
On top of this, there must be an investment return by way of dividends and interest of about £50 million a year. One may say that there is a potential trade of exports and return of interests with South Africa of about £200 million a year. I believe that to prejudice trade of this size by talk of sanctions and embargoes, implying retaliation upon us, is something which we cannot afford to do. Above all, we have a favourable balance of payments to South Africa of about £40 million a year.
This sets the size of the problem which we are discussing. I should like to make a particular point about employment in the United Kingdom. Exports from this country mean jobs at home, and jobs at home mean money in the wage packet. A great part of the exports to South Africa which I have mentioned have steel as a content in one form or another. I represent the Heeley division of Sheffield, and my particular interest in respect of my constituents is to keep up employment in Sheffield's industry, and to keep up the sale of steel and the sale of components into which steel might go.
I am prepared to attack any policy which may prejudice the livelihood and employment of my constituents. It should be realised that steel is used in aeroplanes and vehicles, and that the export 1766 of those two commodities to South Africa was worth £21 million last year. At present 35 per cent. of the motor cars running on the roads in South Africa are British.
The question also arises of armaments, and I will say something about this later. As long as armaments are, unfortunately, used in the world, steel is used in them, and that means jobs for the people in Sheffield. Exactly the same comment applies to shipbuilding. Machinery and machinery goods form a vital export for Sheffield—and steel goes into them. Over £34 million of machinery goods were exported to South Africa according to the figures which I have for last year. These exports mean jobs and wages, and they are at risk when we invite mutual boycotts for political and other reasons.
In South Africa, there are plenty of firms from other countries who are only too willing to take this business away from us and only too anxious, in competition, to take away from my constituents in Sheffield the jobs which are represented by these exports. To express a desire for economic sanctions or an arms embargo to be imposed upon South Africa can lead only to retaliation and to unemployment here at home.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
I appreciate that there are two separate problems. One is the suggestion of a general economic boycott against South African goods and the other is an arms embargo—and it is only the latter which is Labour Party policy. Can the hon. Member visualise no circumstances in which he would be prepared to refuse to supply arms to anyone who wanted them? Would he be prepared, for example, to have the same philosophy in relation to the supply of arms to the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc?
§ Sir P. Roberts
I am prepared to go into this matter in some detail later in my speech, for I want to refer specifically to a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in Trafalgar Square.
I feel that no British Government and no British Opposition should incite trade retaliation between the United Kingdom and South Africa. What we need is good will. I was delighted to observe that the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), on 19th December, when asked by an hon. 1767 Member opposite whether the Government would work out economic sanctions against South Africa, replied that we do not think that sanctions are right. I fully support the Government in this approach, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State to the Board of Trade will reiterate that policy this afternoon.
I come to 17th March when, in Trafalgar Square, the Leader of the Opposition made another call for an arms embargo. I have here a report from The Times of 18th March, the following day, in which it is reported that the right hon. Gentleman said that the British people could not tolerate the help that Western countries—which, presumably, includes the United Kingdom—were giving to the South African Government which by its actions had put itself beyond the pale of human civilisation.
I shall have something to say in a moment about the extravagance of those terms, but, first, I should point out that he was referring specifically to the question of an arms embargo. I was in South Africa at the time that this statement was made—and that is one of the reasons that I asked to raise the matter in the House today. The result of that speech in South Africa on the industrial relations to which I have referred was disastrous. I met no section of the industrial community—Africaans-speaking or English-speaking, supporter of the Government or supporter of the Opposition—which did not condemn this type of political pressure which used the question of armaments and of exports from this country as a political weapon. This immediately led to talk of retaliation and trade difficulties.
To answer the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh), I believe that we should not use the question of an arms embargo or arms supply as a political weapon. I say this because there are plenty of other firms and other countries which are prepared to supply these weapons. So long as we have to have them—I make that proviso—as long as people are prepared to use conventional or unconventional weapons, and so long as there is a friendly country which is prepared to supply 1768 them, I do not see why my constituents should be deprived of their jobs for political reasons of this kind.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will join with me in repudiating the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition in Trafalgar Square on 17th March. There was an interesting article in the Daily Express on Wednesday of this week, interesting in view of the statement made in Trafalgar Square when the Leader of the Opposition said that the British people could not tolerate the help which the Western countries were giving to the South African Government.
According to the Gallup poll which appeared in last Wednesday's Daily Express—I think that the experience is that these Daily Express Gallup polls are reasonably accurate—45 per cent. of the Labour supporters questioned were not in favour of sanctions against South Africa and only 27 per cent. were in favour of them. The majority of the country as a whole was against sanctions of this kind. The Leader of the Opposition's statement that he is speaking on behalf of the British people in these matters is an exaggeration. I hope that today my hon. Friend will be able to put the point of view of the Government.
I appreciate that the attack which those people make who wish to impose sanctions or an arms embargo is a political attack. It is necessary to face up to this in a debate of this kind. There have been political advances in South Africa. It is necessary that the Leader of the Opposition and others should be more familiar with the advances which have been made in recent years.
There have been great steps forward in the modernisation of housing in what might be called the urbanised areas. Vast new estates have been built. As to employment, there is now a system whereby there is no known unemployment in the vast urbanised areas which depend on industry. Much has been done with regard to health. I saw a clinic where European doctors and nurses spend their whole time looking after the sick from these urbanised areas.
On the political side, when I was in South Africa I attended the House of Assembly. They were discussing a Bill dealing with the problem of the Transkei, 1769 where they are proposing to try the experiment of setting up vast areas where the Bantu will be able to work out their own problems inside those areas. Many of the European settlers were complaining that they were having to be turned out. However, some form of advancement is taking place. I say this with a mixture of pride and of commiseration in view of the taxes which about 900,000 South African taxpayers have to bear to cover this.
Accepting that there has been a move foward in the last four years, let us now look at the whole question of the political democracy in Africa, and particularly in South Africa. It is very important to realise, when considering this problem, that there is a vast difference of politcal thinking in different areas of the African Continent. I do not believe that any hard and fast rule or hard and fast timetable could be laid down for political development in all areas of Africa.
There must be a distinction between areas such as Ghana and Nigeria, which are basically African areas; areas such as Kenya and Southern Rhodesia, where there is a proportion of European technicians; and an area like South Africa which is entirely supported by a European industrial community. These differences must be taken into account when considering the problem of democracy in Africa.
We must try to find a principle. I think that the principle is that the advancement of the full democratic way of life as we understand it is much more easily accomplished in an area producing merely food and raw materials and where there is not a greatly complicated industrial complex In fact, where life is simpler I believe that politics are simpler. In a highly industrialised State where a high proportion of the people are of European stock, I believe that the problem is much more complicated. Where the economy cannot operate without European control, where without industry the country would die, I believe that the problem needs care unless there is to be a catastrophe one way or the other.
This point is proved by the experience in the Congo, where in the areas towards the Atlantic seaboard which were essentially what I call the raw material areas the problem was simpler, but in the areas of Katanga there were some industrial 1770 problems of which the whole world is now aware.
We must be very careful to appreciate the difference between the type of political advancement in one area and in another. I am frightened that the desire to thrust what we properly call democracy —a highly complex system—too quickly, will defeat the objects which we desire. It can produce what one African described to me as the one-time vote. In other words; there is a Constitution; then there is an election; but that is the only vote the voter gets, because after that a dictatorship appears. The opposition leaders are put into gaol, and the electorate has no opportunity of casting another vote. We do not desire that.
I am certain that some of the happenings we have experienced in Ghana and the sort of democracy there is at the moment in Ghana are not quite what we had hoped to see. Therefore, we must avoid anything which would lead to the concept of the one-time vote which eventually leads to dictatorship.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
Would the hon. Gentleman equate the kind of democracy which he regrets exists in Ghana—with some justification—with the state of democracy in Britain at a comparable period of our development?
§ Sir P. Roberts
I would equate it, in that at our comparable period of development we had a large number of slaves in this country and had been ruled by the Romans. However, I take the point. I am merely saying that there is a different rate of development in different areas and in different circumstances. If we go too fast, we can run the risk of murder and riot. I do not believe that world opinion will allow any country to go too slowly.
I will sum up the argument I am trying to present to the House. South Africa has its problems, and it acknowledges that it has its problems. The South African Government acknowledge it. The South African Opposition parties acknowledge it. They have to live with the problems. Any too hasty moves can lead to possible disasters. For people from the United Kingdom—for instance, the Leader of the Opposition, who, I believe, has never been to South Africa —to thrust ill-timed and dangerous emotional solutions on the South African 1771 Government is irresponsible and damaging to those who want to help. South Africa needs time in which to be left alone to find her own solution to her own problem. All South Africans wish to find a proper and lasting solution, but they should be allowed to work out their own destiny in their own way.
Boycotts, and talk of boycotts, sanctions, and talk of sanctions, can do no good in the long run, particularly when goods can be got elsewhere. Such talk is damaging to our interests at home, and to our influence in South Africa. It encourages hatred and it dismays our friends. In no other foreign country—and, alas, one must now refer to South Africa as a "foreign country"—do so many people look upon the United Kingdom as representing their home background. We still have much good will there; but irresponsible and uninformed statements such as that made by the Leader of the Opposition in Trafalgar Square can do nothing but harm.
§ 1.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
My first criticism of the remarks of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Sir P. Roberts) is that he has attempted to deal with a vastly important subject on a ridiculously narrow front. One cannot begin to analyse this problem properly by merely discussing it from the angle of whether or not the application of certain policies would have a deleterious effect on a very narrow type of British production.
The hon. Member quoted from the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in Trafalgar Square on 17th March. I fully agreed with that speech, and in it my right hon. Friend suggested that if after twelve years of Tory Governments we can ensure full employment only by exporting arms to South Africa, that is just about the crowning indictment of Tory economic policy; and I fully subscribe to my right hon. Friend's point of view.
In his speech the hon. Member for Heeley was rightly concerned with the employment position of his constituents. He mentioned that we export a certain amount of steel to South Africa. I have tried to obtain the figures for these exports, and, from my investigations, I do not agree that our exports to 1772 South Africa are rising. The figures for the past few years seem to reveal that they are falling. In 1960 we exported £154 million worth of goods, in 1961 the figure had reduced to £146,900,000, and in 1962 the figure was £146,300,000. It does not look, from the figures of the last three or four years, that our trade has been increasing.
It is astounding to note how, since I7th March, the question of our trade in arms with one country has suddenly become a cardinal factor in our consideration of the preservation of a high level of employment in Britain. I wish to make it abundantly clear that the subject matter of my right hon. Friend's speech on that occasion—indeed, that of a number of speeches made by my hon. Friends—was not concerned with general exports to South Africa. Despite this, the hon. Member for Heeley spoke at some length about general exports. We have made no suggestion that we would in any way curtail our ordinary commercial exports to South Africa. We have made that point time and again and have said that it is purely a matter of the export of arms to that country.
§ Sir P. Roberts
The main point I was endeavouring to make today was that it is the fear of retaliation with which we must be concerned when considering the whole range of exports.
§ Mr. Lee
I will come to that matter. I am now saying, because I do not want there to be any confusion in the public mind about exactly what we mean on this point, that when the hon. Member broadens the issue and includes the global figure of exports he gives the impression that it is a question of an embargo on our general exports. From the point of view of a Labour Government, that would not be the case. As to the possibility of reprisals, that is a matter for the South African Government, but for my part I insist that today we are talking only in terms of arms.
We have been told from time to time —and the hon. Member for Heeley said this—that we must not condition our trading policies by whether or not we like the nature or colour of a Government and considerations of that sort. The hon. Member gave the impression, therefore, that this is the first 1773 time that anyone has suggested doing anything of that sort. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) intervened and referred to the strategic list. In other words, for many years there has been an embargo on the export of arms conditioned by the colour of the Governments of the Communist countries. No one can say at this stage what that embargo has cost us. The hon. Member couched his speech purely in economic terms, but it should be considered on a much wider front and he was mainly concerned with the effect of the embargo on employment in Britain. I do not know what the effect has been as a result of the embargo on the Communist countries, but it is abundantly clear that, whatever the total figure of the export of arms to South Africa might be, it would be infinitesimal to what could have been obtained had the strategic list not existed.
I would like the Minister to say what this figure would be. It could then be analysed and we could discuss the subject of the export of arms to South Africa with the full facts available. I cannot discover the figure. Perhaps the Minister will not be able to supply it. I will willingly give way now if I can be told the figure, but if the Minister wants time in which to find it I hope that he will make inquiries so that we can know about what we are arguing. At the moment we do not. We know the global figure, but that is all. I have with me the figures for steel exports which shows a rise in the last few years. Is this steel being used to produce arms in South Africa by that country's own factories?
Not only has there been a ban on the export of arms to Communist countries, but for many years this ban has applied to our exports to Israel and Egypt, and we had such a ban on the Batista régime in Cuba. This shows that we are not talking about new principles but about an extension, for certain political considerations, some of which the hon. Member mentioned, of something that has existed.
Apart from this important matter, we must consider that the South African Government may have the ability to oppose attempts to implement international decisions which are likely to arise over South-West Africa. This may 1774 depend on the strength of her Army and Air Force. This is a matter in which Britain is heavily involved towards South-West Africa, and it would indeed be ironical if we were supplying arms to South Africa with which her Government could oppose the implementation of international decisions in that part of the world.
§ Mr. Lee
My hon. Friend is quite right. There are many instances of that kind.
On the argument that a Labour Government would be acting in isolation on this issue, let us consider the policies of some other Western Governments. By means of export licences, the United States Government are enforcing a policy of forbidding the sale ofany arms which could be used by the South African Government to enforce apartheid".Is the United States Government a sort of extreme Socialist administration which is concerned only with keeping arms from Governments whose colours it does not like very much?
The German Government has now said that it is the policy of the Federal Government not to deliver arms to any zone of tension, and South Africa is included. The Federal Government controls the export of arms and all kinds of strategic material to the Republic of South Africa, and permission for the export of offensive weapons is being refused.
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Alan Green)
I promise the hon. Gentleman that this is a factual question. Is he saying that the Labour Party's policy towards the export of arms to South Africa is now confined to a ban on those arms which might be used internally for repressive purposes?
§ Mr. Lee
I have not come to that yet. I will ask the hon. Gentleman a question on the same subject. I have seen replies by the Minister of Defence purporting to show that the arms now being sent to South Africa are of a type which could be used only in external warfare—motor boats and so on. If that is the case, will the hon. Gentleman say on behalf of the Government that they will ban arms of a kind which could be used in an internal 1775 struggle? Perhaps he would like to consider his answer to that.
§ Mr. Lee
I am saying that, in their replies to Questions in the last week or two, Government spokesmen have been emphasising that these arms have been of a kind which could not be used internally. I am very pleased to hear it if that is the case, but I want to know why they will not line up with the Governments of the United States and Western Germany and ban arms which could be used in an internal conflict. I would ban all types of arms for South Africa on the general possibility that arms which are first intended for external use can be adapted to internal use. The Buccaneer aircraft design has changed from what it was when it was first laid down. It is now a naval aircraft, although it was not intended to be. There is a whole series of arms which, while they could be used in external warfare, would be equally effective, and perhaps more effective, against a population antagonised by the kind of government which, it is felt, is abusing it disgracefully.
§ .Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us, in view of the rather comprehensive nature of the ban which he is envisaging, whether he would also ban the export of materials from this country which might be used by the armaments industry in South Africa?
§ Mr. Lee
No, I have not said that. I pointed out that exports of steel from this country have risen quite a lot over a period of years. Some of the steel may be used for arms, but it is the case that as a nation becomes industrialised supplies of steel for commercial needs become more and more necessary. I am not saying that we would ban exports of that kind at all.
I started by saying that the hon. Member for Heeley had taken the debate on too narrow a front. He must know that there has recently been a conference of Heads of State of the independent African countries at Addis Ababa. The 1776 decisions there made it perfectly clear that those nations are pledging themselves to support African populations in their struggle against white supremacy. This is a terrifically important issue. They made it clear in those decisions that South Africa was particularly in mind.
If instead of trying to get a solution to problems of this kind at the United Nations, we are now to be a partner of the South African Government in building up its powers on a military scale, it is obvious that the South African Government will become even mare arrogant towards the population than at present, if that is possible. The Continent of Africa is now rapidly emerging into a number of independent States, some of them with ideas which might not suit us, but nevertheless independent. With what kind of Western nation will they prefer to trade—those which refuse to permit the export of arms to the South African Government, or those which connive at it?
This is not even a nice balance. The question is obviously answered by saying that as these nations develop and become manufacturing nations they will consider, all things being equal, trading with nations which have taken the attitude which the United States and Germany have taken.
I mention these things, especially the conference at Addis Ababa, because the South African issue can be a far greater flashpoint in world affairs than has been suggested in this debate. I have read reports from and listened to people who have visited South Africa recently, many of them knowledgeable people. They have come to the conclusion that such is the position there that it is rapidly reaching the point at which no peaceful settlement will be possible. I profoundly hope that they are wrong, but when to that is allied what was said at the Addis Ababa conference, we should think again before we continue with the type of policy which my right hon. Friend criticised.
On the straight issue of unemployment, my right hon. Friend prophesied in Trafalgar Square that the Conservatives would do just what the hon. Member for Heeley has done today. He was right. There have been suggestions in the Tory Press and in the 1777 House and in speeches in the constituencies which have been based entirely on employment prospects. I have replied to those suggestions to some degree by what I have said about the possibility of trade with the emerging independent States of Africa, but my right hon. Friend and I have answered in another way as well. We have given a pledge that a Labour Government would take up any contracts which were cancelled for use by our own Forces, by our friends in N.A.T.O. and by other Commonwealth countries. We have given that pledge and we will adhere to it.
It is remarkable that the hon. Member should choose to initiate this kind of discussion today, because at the moment the Minister of Economic and Defence Co-ordination in the Indian Government is in this country. He has visited Washington and has arrived at certain agreements with the American Government. Now he is here to secure the agreement of the Prime Minister and the Government for the supply of arms to India. Some of us have been concerned over this for some time. I look after aircraft problems on this side of the House, and I know that the Indian Government require a considerable number of aircraft since the Chinese invasion took place and that they are in trouble over credits.
The Daily Telegraph said this morning that the present requirements of the Indian Government are for
a bigger medium-term plan for equipment which will enable India to double her army and increase her air force by nearly three-quarters over three years.…It has been pointed out in London and Washington that the full Indian requirements, variously put at between £500 million and £800 million, are beyond the capacity of the two countries.Where, therefore, will this unemployment in Sheffield come from?
§ Mr. Lee
The hon. Member's argument is ridiculous too.
I do not know the figures relating to arms for South Africa. I have invited the hon. Member to tell us, but I am saying, in pursuance of what my right hon. Friend and I have said on this subject, that there is ample scope for other Commonwealth countries to 1778 take their requirements of arms from us, and I am quoting the position of India as one country alone to show that anything we lose from South Africa would be infinitesimal against the potential which India alone requires.
§ Sir P. Roberts
Is the hon. Member saying that the Indian Government are offering to purchase £800 million worth of arms for cash or gold for the same sort of payment that we are getting from South Africa? If we are talking about employment there must be some payment.
§ Mr. Lee
Let us talk about employment. I do not remember the hon. Member opposing American methods of financing credit in Europe after the war. I do not say that the Indian Government are in a position now to obtain these things for cash, otherwise their Minister would not be here negotiating credit terms. I say, on the straight issue of employment, that there is not the slightest reason why there should be unemployment in Sheffield or anywhere else because of this, and I quote again from the Daily Telegraph that one of the problems put to the Indian Government, both in London and Washington, is that the full Indian requirements are beyond the capacity of both countries, the United States and Britain, to meet with all their great industrial potential.
I should have thought, therefore, that on that issue alone any idea that there need be unemployment because of our attitude towards South Africa in any part of Britain where arms are made disappears at once. I add for good measure the point which my right hon. Friend and I have made about what the Labour Government would do in these conditions. But I do not particularly like the idea that we have to depend on the export of arms to achieve a balance in our economic forces.
The South African Defence Minister was saying in the South African Parliament two days ago:The country is working in the direction of training every available young man for military service. South Africa has to prepare against the threat made by African States in the recent Addis Ababa conference. Our aim is to train every young man for military service, whether he is flat-footed or not.This represents something which I had hoped would be never seen or heard of again. The whole conception of the 1779 policy which we now see pursued in South Africa gets nearer and nearer the things which we heard with horror when Hitler put them across in Berlin. The hon. Member for Heeley may say that I am exaggerating. He said that certain political progress had been made in South Africa in the last four years. I wish that he could tell me where it comes politically.
I could recite to the hon. Member a string of legislation never seen or heard of in any country other than Fascist countries, as far as I can remember. There are the Job Reservation Act, the Group Areas Act, the General Law Amendment Act and, more recently, the Publications and Entertainments Act, which has meant that no vestige of freedom remains in South Africa. When the hon. Member said that he had talked with Government people and Opposition supporters there, the only people whom he excluded were three-quarters of the population of South Africa.
This is a far bigger issue than we can debate comparatively briefly now. It is an issue which I feel could lead to the sort of conditions which we saw in prewar days. We see a great continent emerging from hundreds of years of thraldom, determined that what the Prime Minister called the "wind of change" shall not be stopped by any type of Government. I should hate to think of this being accomplished by violent methods, but I believe that it is now essential for nations like ours to play a far greater part in organisations like the United Nations to ensure that the progress which is bound to come can come by international agreement and not by the kind of violence which may well come if wiser counsels do not prevail.
I have referred to some of the Acts passed in South Africa recently. There have been attacks on the freedom of the Press and the freedom of speech. We have seen a ruthless carving up of the country into racial kraals of white and non-white and land being dismembered into Bantustans with only 13 per cent. of the land for the Africans who comprise 75 per cent. of the population. This nation, with all its great background, cannot possibly agree to these things.
1780 While I appreciate that the hon. Member for Heeley says that the party opposite is as opposed to apartheid as we on this side of the House are, when the Government supply weapons of war on which apartheid depends, I am entitled to say that their enthusiasm against apartheid is not what I should like to see from any Government in this country
I saw a statement from Chief Luthuli which hon. Members may say is exaggerated because of his position there, but when a Nobel prize-winner tells us of the mounting force of violence and turmoil because of the outraged feelings of the people there we must take notice of it. In any event, the International Commission of Jurists, in a report published on 14th May, said that South Africa wascopying many of the worst features of the Communist Stalinist regime.The statement went on:South Africa is now more than ever a police State. Liberty has gone. Justice is blinded and maimed despite the efforts of the Bench and the Bar to save such remnants as still remain in that unfortunate country. The measures introduced by the South African Government call for strong condemnation by all the civilised world…Let us remember that the Commission of Jurists has consultative status with the United Nations. It analysed the new Act to which I have just referred, and it states that that Act is aimed to crushsubversive activity, including sabotage and Communism.The Commission says:Under die South African laws, 'Communism' means virtually anything that is opposed to the policy of the Government, particularly with regard to apartheid.I could go on to quote the manner in which this Commission of International Jurists condemned in violent language everything which is now happening in South Africa.
Looking at apartheid in action, as I have stated, they are dividing the country in a disgraceful way. Well over 100,000 people have already been forcibly removed from one area to another or from the towns to the stagnant, workless native reserves. Another 500,000 are under notice of removal. By the time the process of creating Bantustans is completed, well over 5 million people will have been uprooted under the plans already announced.
1781 Colin Legum wrote in the Observer on 28th April:Not since Stalin moved the Volga Germans and Hitler moved Europe's Jews has there been such a calculated effort to transport populations solely for the purpose of serving the interests of a ruling oligarchy.This is the kind of thing that we ought to be opposing with everything in our power.
The hon. Member said—and I am sure he is right—that many people in the white population of South Africa still look to this country as something which is worth having. I am certain that they cannot possibly feel that the support of our Government for this kind of activity is a good thing from the point of view of the ultimate outcome in South Africa.
Turning to the key to this question, the arms build-up which is taking place in South Africa, the South African Government are committed to rule by the machine gun and the armoured car. A quarter of a million white people are trained and equipped for defence. South Africa has a police force 30,000 strong, armed with modern weapons, mobile and decentralised; voluntary rifle commandos organised on military lines; an air force equipped with jet fighters, turbo-jet transport, long-range maritime Shackletons and a helicopter squadron; and a small navy equipped with an extensive coastal radar system. There is now a vast expansion in the size of the standing army. This is planned to consist of 60,000 trained men by 1966. Defence expenditure has nearly doubled between 1961 and 1962. As I have painted out, the army is backed with jet fighters and so on.
The South African Government publicly claim that this great army build-up is to enable South Africa to face external aggression. They claim to bethe main bulwark against Communist penetration.I wonder where we heard that one before. I do not think Hitler ever made a speech without telling us that. A certain fear comes into one's mind when one looks back.
I have tried to show that an unclean régime exists in South Africa. I have suggested that it is not enough merely to confine ourselves to the narrow point of whether we should or should not send a small quantity of arms—for that is what it is—to South Africa. I believe 1782 that the repercussions in the great struggle which is emerging in Africa are so intense, vital and important to the development of the world that we cannot fail to line up with those Western nations which I believe are taking the right and proper attitude towards this kind of thing.
I mentioned Chief Luthuli. He has made a plea. He has said that many other countries which now supply arms to South Africa haveknown the travail of war, of conflict against ruthless oppression; have known the bitterness of race hatred and the wounds of armed conflict.Yet these countries today, and Britain foremost among them, are guilty of arming the savage Nationalist Party regime. The Saracens built in Britain have already left an indelible blot on the history of my country; now it seems that your Buccaneers and your tanks must leave their foul imprint. Perhaps it is futile to appeal to those who put profits before justice and human lives. Nevertheless, in all sincerity, I appeal to them to pause and re-think their sense of values which puts material values before human lives. For this is the meaning of their making available their murderous wares to the South African Government.Luthuli is a man of great eminence. He has been honoured for his attempts to ensure world peace, and we should line up with Luthuli.
I have tried to show that there is no truth in the suggestion that the action which we propose would mean unemployment in any part of Britain. But there is a wider moral question upon which we take our stand. Our belief is that once it is clearly understood, the British people will back us wholeheartedly.
§ 1.57 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Alan Green)
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Sir P. Roberts) has raised the question of industrial relations with South Africa, and I suppose, somewhat inevitably, other points have come into this debate. I must make it perfectly clear that many of the points raised are not within my own direct ministerial responsibility and I do not imagine that on those matters I am asked to reply on behalf of somebody else.
Quite plainly, the Government condemn the racial policies of the South African Government. We have made this clear on many occasions, even if the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) does not appear to have noticed the fact.
§ Mr. Green
I am glad. In that case, a lot of his diatribe was without application across the Floor of the House.
We trade with many countries with whose political systems we disagree. Indeed, my hon. Friend made that point. My responsibility today is to give the House, as best I can, the facts of our trade relationships with South Africa. In each of the last three years we have sold to South Africa about £150 million worth of our products, or about 4 per cent. of our total exports. In addition, we have had valuable invisible earnings of more than half as much again from shipping, insurance, banking and the like.
The hon. Member for Newton, in view of what he said earlier, may be interested to know that in the first quarter of this year our exports have risen substantially. It is not a question of a decline in trade in any way. It is not a question of a stagnant trade. It is a question of an increasing trade. These exports, plus the invisibles, obviously make a valuable contribution to Britain's prosperity. It is the Government's policy, with which I know hon. Members on both sides of the House agree, to expand further our overseas earnings, because on this depends the growth of our economy. The hon. Gentleman will notice that I used the words "our overseas earnings"—not necessarily the same in all cases as a plain export. We sell our goods in a competitive world and we must find and exploit markets wherever we can.
In South Africa, we have long-established trading links and our goods are well known. Therefore, we have a small advantage there. The growth of our exports to the whole world, visible and invisible, is important, and not only for the well-being of the British people. Without it we could not possibly afford to give aid to less developed countries on the scale that we should like to provide. Indeed, without securing overseas earnings on our present scale, we could not even support the overseas aid on our present scale. So there is more in this—if I may say so with respect to the hon. Member for Newton—than he suggested.
I was struck by the fact that the hon. Member began by accusing my hon. Friend of taking the issue too narrowly, and then himself sought to narrow it down solely to the matter of arms ex- 1784 ports to South Africa. That really will not do.
§ Mr. Green
Of course net. It would be useful if occasionally the hon. Member would listen to what is being said instead of picking up words wholly wrongly. I said that having accused my hon. Friend of narrowing the issue too far, namely, to the total of our exports, it is a little strange that the hon. Gentleman should seek to narrow it so much further, to arms exports. That is all I said and I think that tomorrow's HANSARD will show that that is not an inappropriate pick-up of what the hon. Gentleman said.
I agree with my hon. Friend that trade means employment. I should not endorse some of the extravagant estimates which I have heard made of the numbers of jobs dependent on our trade with South Africa. Nevertheless, quite a number of jobs depend on this. There are some firms, such as shipping lines, which specialise in South African trade. They and their employees could be seriously affected by any substantial drop in trade with South Africa and it is not easy to see how an exact substitution could be made for that sort of thing. One may like to do it. But to be able to do it is a very different matter.
South Africa provides a useful market for some British industries which, for various reasons, are short of orders at the present time. This is well known by hon. Members who represent constituencies in Lancashire. For example, in 1962 we sold £4½ million worth of cotton yarn and fabrics to South Africa; over £5 million of iron and steel and £2½ million worth of railway vehicles. South Africa is our second largest export market for cotton textiles. My hon. Friend spoke of his constituency interest in steel. I have an area interest in cotton textiles.
South Africa is an important market for many other British industries. Last year, we sent her machinery of many kinds to the value of over £50 million; road vehicles were over £18 million; metal manufactures were £12 million; and chemicals worth £l1¼million. There 1785 are other useful British export trades to South Africa and they range widely —hand 00ls, cutlery, glass and glassware, and so on. Some of this trade is spread over a broad range of engineering and other manufactures. Some of it may rot have a direct effect on the number of jobs provided by the manufacturers concerned. But sales of this order must have some effect on the prosperity of many factories where the goods are made and on the security of employment and earnings of those who work there. So, of course, I must agree with the statement made by my hon. Friend.
Our trade with South Africa provides jobs in South Africa, too. In fact, we are her biggest overseas market, taking almost one-third of her exports, leaving out the major items like gold, diamonds and uranium, which are not included in trade figures. The loss of this trade would no doubt have a more serious proportionate effect on employment in South Africa than the loss of our exports to South Africa could have on employment here. There are many side effects which have to be carefully considered before one starts flinging words round wildly on these matters.
In addition, we have a direct responsibility for the inhabitants of the three High Commission Territories, Swaziland, Bechuanaland and Basutoland, which are under British rule. Large numbers of Africans—well over 100,000 from Basutoland alone—from these territories are employed in the Republic of South Africa. Their livelihood would be affected by a reduction in South Africa's export. I agree that one should not narrow these questions down too far. One should look all round them with the greatest care.
The produce of the territories finds its main outlet in or through the Republic and depends on South African marketing organisation. They, too, would be damaged in any decline in the South African economy.
I turn now to the question of arms exports. The Government have repeatedly made it clear that the military equipment sold to South Africa is intended, first and foremost, for defence against external attack. This is the attitude taken by our partners in the Western world, particularly—
§ Mr. Green
I will repeat the sentence if the hon. Gentleman would like me to. I do not think that he always hears things right the first time.
The Government have repeatedly made it clear that the 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.
For example, the House will recall the decision, which attracted some attention last year, to supply some Buccaneer aircraft to South Africa. The hon. Gentleman mentioned it again today. These are long-range naval aircraft now coming into service with the Royal Navy. Their performance and role makes them quite unsuitable for use in suppressing civilian disturbances. We believe that South Africa, like other foreign countries with whom we are in normal relations, is entitled to buy arms for external defence. But we examine all requests from the strategic, economic and political points of view before they are authorised. The possibility that a particular supply of arms may be used for measures of internal repression is taken into account. The South African authorities know this.
In the light of what I have just said, it would be unfortunate if statements by hon. Members opposite caused the South Africans to divert orders from Britain. It should not be assumed that we could find a ready alternative market for equipment likely to be ordered by the South Africans, or that the productive capacity likely to be employed in this work could readily be applied to other purposes.
I am not going to get drawn into debates about the defence attitude towards India, and particularly am I not going to do so without consideration of the whole of Asia, because it would be very foolish to do that. What is quite clear is that the intervention of my hon. Friend has some merit. There is clearly a difference in the capacity of this country to give arms away as compared with our capacity to sell arms overseas. The amount which could be given is very much more limited than the amount which could be sold. It is this part of 1787 the equation which the hon. Member for Newton should take into account before he gives pledges in public with his right hon. Friends, without having stopped to work out the practical application of them.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation told the House on 6th May that orders from South Africa for aircraft and aircraft equipment alone are currently providing the equivalent of a year's employment for 25,000 people in the United Kingdom. A sudden switch of that in itself would take time to achieve. It is linked with employment. The only point I am making is that it is linked with employment, and it would be very wrong to pretend that it is not.
What reason is there to think that the South African Government would not be able to obtain from other sources the sort of equipment which they buy from us? Recent reports that there has already been a substantial diversion to others have, however, to the best of our knowledge, not been well founded, but the danger undoubtedly exists.
I have dwelt on the importance of trade between Britain and South Africa to both sides. We should like to see it grow, and I am glad to say, as I have already pointed out, that it has been growing. In the first four months of 1963, total exports from this country to South Africa amounted to £71 million compared with £49 million in the same period last year. So the growth this year is really substantial.
I cannot believe that either South Africa or Britain would be so misguided, because we abhor apartheid or because South Africa dislikes some of the public statements made by right hon. Members opposite, as to disturb trading relations which bring great advantages—I repeat, great advantages—to the peoples on both sides of this partnership.