HC Deb 30 July 1964 vol 699 cc1786-8
Q4. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he has now received a reply from Mr. Ian Smith following his invitation to Mr. Smith to come to London for discussions on the constitutional problems affecting Southern Rhodesia.

Q8. Mrs. Castle

asked the Prime Minister what reply he has now received from the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia to his invitation to him to visit London for discussions on constitutional advance in Southern Rhodesia.

Q14. Mr. Brockway

asked the Prime Minister what conclusions have been reached in the official exchange of letters between him and the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia.

The Prime Minister

As I told the House on 16th July, I hope that Mr. Smith will soon be able to announce his reply to my invitation.

Mr. Henderson

Is the Prime Minister satisfied that the Commonwealth will not be faced with a unilateral declaration of independence by the Southern Rhodesian Government during the Parliamentary Recess?

The Prime Minister

I hope that we are all trying, both here and in Southern Rhodesia, to prevent anything unconstitutional happening.

Mrs. Castle

Is the Prime Minister aware that the other Commonwealth Prime Ministers signed the conference communiqué on Southern Rhodesia only because they believed that the Prime Minister would call a constitutional conference? Is he further aware that two days after the conference President Nyerere told the Cairo conference on African unity: We left London confident that action would be taken "? If the right hon. Gentleman does not take action and just waits indefinitely for Mr. Ian Smith to insult him, far from his chairmanship of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference having proved a success, it will have marked one of the most disastrous moments in the history of the Commonwealth.

The Prime Minister

I do not know by what authority the hon. Lady thinks she can talk for, or indeed interpret the minds of, Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I made it clear to all my colleagues that I was hoping to see Mr. Smith and, as a result of a conversation, that we should then be in a better position to know how to deal with this very delicate and difficult situation which was recognised as such by every Prime Minister at the conference.

Mr. Webster

In view of the extraordinary remarks of the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), is it not much better that nothing should be said in this House which would exacerbate a highly delicate situation and the very delicate discussions which are to take place?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I hope that the House may have noted the speech made yesterday by Mr. Smith in his Parliament.

Mr. Grimond

Would the Prime Minister confirm that, in accordance with the communiqué which he himself signed, it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that a conference should be summoned which not only Mr. Smith but the leaders of other political parties in Southern Rhodesia should attend? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what response has been made to the appeal in that communiqué signed by Her Majesty's Government for the release from detention of African leaders?

The Prime Minister

What I want to do before we deal with these matters or try to reach a settlement is to see Mr. Smith, because a conversation is so much more satisfactory than correspondence.

Mr. Brockway

Has the Prime Minister seen the statement by Mr. Ian Smith yesterday that he wrote to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations three weeks ago and has not received any reply to that communication? Is that the case?

The Prime Minister

The correspondence between Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth is always confidential. Very often a number of very complicated questions are raised in letters and it takes some time to give a considered reply. I have invited Mr. Smith to come here, and I hope that he will be able to accept my invitation.

Mr. Wall

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if Mr. Smith comes to London his electorate will expect him to return with some positive proposals leading to independence which have some chance of acceptance by the Rhodesian electorate? Will he be in a position to make some proposals?

The Prime Minister

I would rather see Mr. Smith first.