§ Mr. Speaker
Before I invite the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) to speak, may I ask whether he has let a Minister know that he proposes to raise a subject on the Adjournment?
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I have been in touch with the Prime Minister's Office, Mr. Speaker, and I am assured that that office is attempting to get a Minister to reply to the debate. I regret that the notice has been so short, but, as hon. Members will appreciate, none of us expected the business of the House to collapse as quickly as it has done this evening.
I want to raise the question of the oil embargo against Rhodesia. I do this because we are in a difficult situation and because a matter of urgency has developed. Most hon. Members will, I think, have read in the Press within the last two days that a British-owned oil tanker carrying 12,000 tons of crude oil for Southern Rhodesia is now on its way. We ought to express our opinion in this House on this important question.
A few days ago, the United Nations discussed the whole matter of Rhodesia and decided to put forward a resolution, part of which contained the proposition of an oil embargo. It seems ludicrous that we should be party to a United Nations decision concerning an oil embargo on Southern Rhodesia but at the same time cannot find ourselves justified in stopping the tanker which is at present carrying the crude oil to Rhodesia.
This House should say clearly to the Government tonight that we feel without qualification that without waiting for the total oil embargo to be placed upon Southern Rhodesia the Government could at least take a decision and make a gesture to the rest of the nations involved by stopping this tanker forthwith. This suggestion meets, I think, with the general approval of most hon. Members—not all hon. Members, but those who want to bring this matter to a speedy conclusion. The most effective way of doing this is undoubtedly to impose the oil embargo and to take the step which I have suggested.
314 Everyone should know that the object of our Government concerning Rhodesia is to bring this matter to a speedy conclusion without bloodshed and without long-term suffering for the Rhodesian people. We have taken positive steps. We have stepped up the sanctions within the last few days. We have not, however, taken this final step in sanctions which is the very one of which the Rhodesian rebel régime is most afraid.
It was reported by John Worrall in The Guardian a week ago that the one thing of which the rebel régime in Rhodesia was terrified was the imposition of oil sanctions by the British Government. Equally, we had a statement from a Rhodesian official who said that the one thing that was feared by them was the introduction of oil sanctions and that this would create the greatest difficulties for the rebel régime. This testimony comes from a journalist in Salisbury and from an official of the rebel régime. It is not somebody in this House of Commons who is arguing this. It is somebody out there who understands the effect of the decision which it is essential for us to take.
I therefore urge the Government, without waiting for a study to be made, immediately to stop the oil tanker which is carrying crude oil to Rhodesia as a gesture to show the Commonwealth nations as a whole that we are determined to bring this matter to an end in the speediest manner without bloodshed. If we fail to do this, if we refuse to stop the tanker, the Commonwealth nations, particularly the African Commonwealth nations, will say that we are speaking with a forked tongue. On the one hand, they will say, we wish to bring down the rebels but, on the other hand, we are not taking the most effective method to bring down that régime at the earliest possible moment.
We wish to continue to keep the Commonwealth together and to retain the support of the Commonwealth countries. I reject completely the argument used in the Sunday Express, which asked what it would matter if the Commonwealth were to fall to pieces. As far as I am concerned, the Commonwealth is a wonderful idea and we ought to develop it. We certainly should not take any step which is likely to bring the Commonwealth to an end.
315 I believe that if we as a Government decided to tell the company concerned that the tanker must be stopped forthwith, we should not only be carrying out effective sanctions against the rebel régime but we should be cementing the Commonwealth together and proving to Commonwealth countries that we are determined to bring this matter to a speedy conclusion.
It has been argued throughout this Rhodesian issue that the basic responsibility is ours. I accept this argument. It is not a question of the responsibility being that of other nations. It is our responsibility. It is the British Government and the British people who are basically responsible and who must take decisive action to bring this matter to a conclusion at the earliest possible moment. If we do not do that, once again it will be argued that the only reason why we are talking about everyone else getting involved in oil sanctions is because we do not really want to do anything effective about it. I do not accept that argument, but I think that the real test for the Commonwealth countries will be whether we are prepared to stop that oil tanker.
I do not want to detain the House very long, because it is quite obvious that a number of other hon. Members wish to participate. I appreciate the fact that we have got to concern ourselves with the effects on Zambia. That is a real problem, and no one is going to run away from the trouble and say that we ought not to consider those effects. It seems to me that the answer is to speed up the airlift in the same effective way that we were able to carry out an airlift to Berlin when the Soviet Union and the East German authorities closed the Berlin road. We did it then for Berlin, and it seems to me that we can do it now to Zambia. We have a precedent. The precedent is Berlin.
It is quite probable that I shall be told by the Minister concerned that that is going forward. I am quite certain that it is going forward and that plans are being drawn up for an effective airlift. I am quite certain that plans are going forward for a total oil embargo. What I am asking the House is that whilst the plans are being prepared and whilst these longer-term effective 316 measures are being worked out, in the meantime we should stop that shipload of crude oil going to Rhodesia in order to prove conclusively that we are determined to bring the situation there to a speedy conclusion.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
We are in the debt of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) for having raised this matter, and in the debt of the Leader of the House for having so arranged the business today that adequate time is left for debating what is an extremely important matter. Mr. Speaker, you in your wisdom, which I accept, did not see fit to rule that it was a matter which could be brought under Standing Order No. 9, but it is a happy fact that the Leader of the House has enabled us to debate it some fifteen minutes earlier than would have been possible had you seen fit to grant the adjournment of the House. Therefore, I can begin in a non-controversial vein by saying that we are in the debt of many people for the fact that at a quarter to seven we were able to debate this important issue.
It is true to say that the whole House, with one or two unnotable exceptions, regard with abhorrence the régime in Rhodesia, not only for the illegal, unnecessary and stupid action which it took in November, but for all that it stands for in terms of repression and racial domination. For those of us—and I think it is the view of the majority of hon. Members—who are appalled at the prospect of violence and bloodshed, we have the hope that economic measures will be sufficient to bring the vast majority of those who have power and influence in Rhodesia to their senses.
It is for that reason that Her Majesty's Government have adopted the economic measures which they have. I do not want to indulge in a play on words as to whether or not they are punitive ones. As has been constantly said, the test is whether they are likely to be effective, and by that presumably is meant whether they are rightly to cause opinion in Rhodesia to think that the Smith régime is something which can only lead to economic disaster for all sections of the community.
317 Therefore, the more one abhors the use of force, the more determined one is that the peaceful means of economic sanctions shall succeed, and that is the relevance of all the discussion about an oil embargo.
I think it right to remind the House that on 20th November last a resolution was adopted by the Security Council to which, Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I will refer. It said in paragraph 8 that it called on all States to refrain from any action which would assist the illegal régime and, in particular, to desist from providing it with arms and to do their utmost in order to break all economic relations with Southern Rhodesia, including an embargo on oil and petroleum products.
That was a resolution for which Her Majesty's Government voted, and it is reasonable to assume that they were in favour of it. Now we have been told by Her Majesty's Government that it is a very complicated question and that it is going to be very difficult to make an oil sanction completely effective.
I accent that. I must confess that if have a criticism of Her Majesty's Government it is that they have not done enough contingency planning, that they were so determined to avert a unilateral declaration of independence that they found it almost impossible mentally to adjust themselves to it as a possibility and therefore to plan what they would do in the event of U.D.I. I find it staggering that many of the sanctions now applied were not applied within a matter of hours.
Be that as it may, there is a vast volume of information upon oil sanctions as a result of the studies which were carried out in regard to the Union of South Africa. I would say to Her Majesty's Government that even if an oil sanction is not likely to be a 100 per cent. effective, if it were only 50 per cent. effective and the immediate results were that oil rationing and petrol rationing had to be introduced in Rhodesia, with Europeans finding themselves restricted in the use of their motor cars and European employers having difficulty in getting sufficient oil to run the buses carrying their employees to their places of work, that again would be by peaceful means a pressure which would cause them to think again.
318 There is no doubt that oil can play a great part in causing the Rhodesian population, particularly the European population, to think again. So the first matter that I would pray in aid is that everyone who is averse to the use of force, with the exception of those few who secretly hope that the Smith régime will succeed—and some of them are perhaps not as secret as others—will be in favour of short, sharp and effective sanctions.
Another point that I would ask the House to consider is the psychological posture of this country. The Organisation for African Unity has issued an ultimatum that unless we crush the Smith régime by 15th December they will break off diplomatic relations with us. What is far more serious is that anything up to nine African countries will leave the Commonwealth.
I say at once that that is an extremely unreasonable and rather stupid request to have made. It is totally impracticable and could not possibly be achieved by that deadline. The reason it was made is that they are not yet satisfied with the determination of Her Majesty's Government to bring down the illegal régime.
I do not want to bring an undue element of controversy into the debate, because I think that the Government should be supported up to the hilt on the matter, though it may be necessary to push them on and give them a little more courage to stand up to the Tory Right wing and some of the Empire Loyalists in the country, and not exclusively Empire Loyalists but supporters of the Labour Party and the Conservative Party who are hoping for a last imperial kick. I hope that the Government will have the courage to stand up to those people and do what is right, and not what the Prime Minister thinks is the maximum that he can do to maintain complete unanimity.
Therefore, I think it is not surprising that they have taken the view that it is necessary to give an astringent message to the British Government. There has been the dither over the despatch of troops to Zambia, and they were not particularly placated by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Commonwealth Secretary who, in a speech to Royal Air Force personnel at Ndola, referred to the Zambians as "noble creatures". I do not think that they were unusually flattered by that. I think 319 that the equivocation about the purposes for which British troops were being despatched has caused some heart searching and lack of faith as to the determination of Her Majesty's Government. For example, I should like to see a sealing off operation round Kariba, and I do not believe that there are the military objections which have been raised.
Again, I think it is true to say that the Bank of England gave assent for Rhodesian pounds to be freely convertible into South African rands at an early stage after U.D.I., and this is why the Rhodesian pound, which had sunk to 5s., gradually climbed back to what I believe is now parity. Therefore, I can understand that in the minds of many African countries, not least our partners in the Commonwealth, there is some doubt as to whether Her Majesty's Government have determination to see this through.
I want to be fair to the Prime Minister. I think that he is genuinely determined to see that the Smith régime is brought down. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition is genuinely determined to see that that régime is displaced, and in its place there is some political agreement which will lead towards a multi-racial society. At least I hope that is so, and if it is, I hope he will make it plain to his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Right wing who are displaying posters and stickers on their cars saying, "Support Rhodesia", and to the right hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), that Her Majesty's Government are completely determined to bring down the Smith régime, that they are anxious to prove to our partners in the Commonwealth that although they wish to avert bloodshed, they will take all measures practicable to bring this régime to an end. Let us assume that the Leader of the Opposition, who I am sure the House is pleased to see at this unexpected debate, is equally determined to see that the illegal Smith régime is brought down.
Against all those assumptions, how do we at this moment judge Her Majesty's Government? I think that we judge them in the terms of one ship, the "British Security". What a strange and coincidental name for a ship which has such a political significance. What has hap- 320 pened? This British ship, which at the moment is on the high seas, is carrying 12,000 tons of crude oil. It is being shipped not by some sheikh, not by some unknown oil company which is selling off its surplus, but by the British Petroleum Company in which Her Majesty's Government have a 49 per cent. shareholding. [HON. MEMBERS: "Fifty-one per cent."] That is even worse. Her Majesty's Government also have on the board of this company two directors who, on policy matters, have a virtual veto.
There is no lack of Government influence on that company. There is no question of a free enterprise Socialist Government saying that they do not like to interfere with private commerce. There is nothing of that sort. This is a company in which the Government have a 51 per cent. shareholding, and two appointees on the board of directors. This British ship, carrying British oil, in which the British Government have a 51 per cent. interest, is to dock as Beira. The oil, I might say, emanated from Abu-Dhabi, a Trucial Sheikhdom, for whose internal affairs we are responsible. The oil is being sent, not to help our oldest ally, the Portuguese, in furtherance of democracy in either Mozambique or Angola, or any other centre of Portuguese oppression, but to be carried along a British-owned pipeline, owned by Lonrho, a firm of which Her Majesty's cousin is a director, and pumped to Rhodesia to give the Rhodesians another fortnight's oil supply.
Does the Minister who is to reply to the debate think that this will give the impression that Britain is determined in her economic sanctions against Rhodesia, or the reverse? What is going to be the impression? It is for Her Majesty's Government to judge. Will this indicate a growing enthusiasm to bring pressure to bear on the Rhodesian rebel régime, or will it merely indicate that Her Majesty's Government are in a difficult world and that they really cannot overcome the complexities of the situation?
The Prime Minister's remarks were well worthy of a Tory Government when he said that there were two or three ships stacking up behind, and went on to imply that if we did not get in the Kuwaitis or any other oil producing country that one might like to name might do so. I remember reading the question 321 which was put to Sir Thomas Inskip before the war when he was Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. He was asked why we were supplying Mussolini with spruce spars which would be used for his fighter planes, and whether he would cancel the contract. He said it was not possible to do so "because it would impede the course of normal trade".
Her Majesty's Government have shown great commercial sense. I do not know whether the First Secretary of State, who has just arrived, thought that it was in the interests of our balance of payments that we should get in before the Kuwaitis or any other oil exporting country; that we had to get in first or the National Plan would be in jeopardy. I do not think that this nicely calculated less or more, this cynical argument that unless we deliver the oil somebody else will, allows one to forget the morality of the fact that we are responsible for Rhodesia, and that it is a British Government who now want to supply British owned oil on the basis that if we do not somebody else might.
Then there is what might be called the humanitarian argument—"Yes, but some of it might go to Zambia". That is quite correct. Has anybody asked President Kaunda what his view is? Has anybody suggested that President Kaunda is not prepared to make every conceivable sacrifice to bring down the Smith régime? Has anybody suggested that Her Majesty's Government would of course like to turn this ship back but they feel that they must have some regard for the susceptibilities of the President of Zambia? Are they trying to hide behind him?
President Kaunda has shown great courage, and not only in dealing with extremism in his own country. He has faced great difficulties and been under great pressures, and if he had given in he might now be the centre of a cold war in Africa. He has shown great skill and courage in resisting these pressures. On the other hand, he knows that sanctions could ultimately destroy the economic: life of Zambia. Yet he has said that he is prepared to face all the consequences of sanctions. He wants no special treatment for Zambia. Do not let us think that it is because of President Kaunda that we are trampling on our own principles.
322 It may be that we have not given adequate consideration to the question of shipping oil through Lake Tanganyika, or that we have not given adequate consideration to an air oil-lift, and that must do a lot of thinking very fast; that the roads from Tanzania into Zambia must be improved, and that we have to have a crash programme. All these things are proper considerations. It may be that it will be very expensive to underpin the economy of Zambia, but principles are assessed not by their cost but by their value.
That was why I deplored the efforts of some people in this House to sell their principles for a packet of Woodbines. Fortunately that stage has been passed. We no longer hear any complaints about the intended tobacco sanctions. Of course this operation will be expensive. It will be expensive for our people, and it will be expensive to maintain the economy of Zambia. But are we to go on to say that it is too expensive for us to support? Are we really going to say that we must deliver oil to Rhodesia because if we do not somebody else might'? Are we really going to say that we must go into the mad economic scramble of the capitalist system, which I thought that many hon. Members opposite deplored? Is that what is now suggested?
In my submission, if this ship is not turned back it will symbolise to the African countries and to almost every country in the world the fact that Britain is not determined to bring down this régime; that it is prepared to compromise and to temporise, and to hide behind facile arguments. There is an issue of principle here, and I say to the Prime Minister that even if this means that the unity that has so far existed in this House is shattered—even if the Tory Right wing mounts a campaign throughout this country—it is far better that the right hon. Gentleman should stick to his guns and do what is right than that he should try to compromise on principles with those who are not prepared to accept those principles as worth defending.
This is the acid test: deliver this 12,000 tons of crude oil to Beira and the nine African members of the Commonwealth will be satisfied that we are not determined to bring down this régime—and face all the consequences, one of which 323 is that the idea of a multiracial Commonwealth will have to be scrapped and that instead there will be a white club. If that is what we want, that is the price that we are going to have to pay. But if we do as President Johnson did, when he said "Although these 6,000 tons of sugar are on their way to America I will not take them. I will turn round the ship," we will have shown that we are determined to bring down this régime by economic measures.
If these economic measures fail we may have to contemplate what I believe could be a bloody war. It is because I want to avoid war and bloodshed, and because I believe the people want to avoid war and bloodshed, which could bring only misery to all the races in Rhodesia, that the economic sanctions must be effective. This is a case in which the Government must act.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
This debate has arisen suddenly, but nobody can complain on that account, because one of the virtues of the House of Commons is that it has a certain flexibility. It is right that we should express our gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) for raising the issue, and included in our thanks should be the Ministers for having come here at such short notice. I do not know what dinners we have interrupted, but I am sure that the Ministers are much more profitably employed listening to us than they would be anywhere else. We are very grateful to them for coming along, although it is their duty to attend the House of Commons when matters arise here, since this is the most important function that they have to discharge.
Although the debate has arisen suddenly, I agree with the concluding words of the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) that we are discussing an extremely serious matter. I believe that in the general discussions about Rhodesia, not so much in this House as in the country at large, people are not yet fully aware how far-ranging are the issues involved. I believe that one service that this debate can perform is to help to awaken people to a recognition of how deep are the issues at stake in the whole Rhodesian controversy, and how 324 necessary it is for us to apply our minds to them.
I read the headline in the Daily Mirror yesterday quoting an interview with the Prime Minister and saying "No Invasion. No Bloodshed". I dare say that we would all like the situation to arise in which there was no invasion and no bloodshed—but nobody can guarantee that. The Prime Minister cannot, nor can anyone else. The events that are taking place in Africa are, unfortunately, not all within our control. We may wish that they were, but they are not. They can travel very much further, and we must therefore consider the best measures that we can take to avoid bloodshed and the spreading of bloodshed in Africa.
The issues are extremely important, and the more the country is aware of them the better. The right place for these matters to be debated is the House of Commons. I therefore first of all want to add something to what has been said by the hon. Member for Devon, North, about the background to the oil sanctions. I hope that we may have from the Government a clearer statement of their attitude to an oil embargo. We have not had a clear statement from them on this subject.
Before 11th November the Government must surely have considered the developments that would occur if Mr. Smith went ahead with his unilateral declaration of independence. We knew that that was always a possibility. Therefore, prior to 11th November, the Government must have made some examination of the kind of sanctions which would be effective. Before 11th November there must have been some estimate in the Government Departments of what status an oil embargo would have among all the other sanctions, and what steps would be necessary to make it effective. Some thought must have been given to the question of which countries would have to be approached. Before 11th November there must have been documents dealing with the subject in various Government Departments.
On 11th November, when the Prime Minister made his first announcement, he said:As for the economic sanctions, I think that it will be right for us to concentrate on trying to get other nations to follow our lead rather 325 than seeing them get too far ahead of us."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 361.]He did not mention oil sanctions at the time, but oil sanctions must have been a consideration. Even if the Government thought that they would be very difficult they must have known that the question of oil sanctions would be raised at the United Nations at a fairly early date. The Government have had a long time since 11th November to make up their mind about oil sanctions.
What happened when the issue came before the United Nations? There was strong pressure by various nations to include oil sanctions among the sanctions which should be pressed. The hon. Member for Devon, North has quoted the United Nations resolution. Of course, there was a debate before the resolution. What happened in the debate was that the British Government urged upon the other countries that instead of including the exact reference to the oil embargo in the resolution, a study group should be set up to examine the question of an oil embargo. That was the British Government's attitude then, although they were not able to press that view because they apparently had little support from the other countries. Then the British Government not merely did not vote against the resolution but supported it, even though it was carried with arguments which the British Government did not entirely accept.
However, that was the decision made on, I think, 21st November by the United Nations, a decision to which this country adheres. Ever since that date, several of us have been trying in the House to discover from the Government exactly what is happening about that United Nations resolution. On each occasion that the Prime Minister has answered Questions, Questions have been put to him about it, including the Question which I had on the Order Paper today. I asked the Government whether we should not be given some indication of the timing involved, of when they thought the discussions in the study group about these sanctions would take place, of what was the date they were aiming at and when they hoped to reach a conclusion on these matters.
The Government have given us no indication at all. I should have thought 326 that, from every point of view, on every occasion that this question was asked of the Government, their answer should have been, "We wish to reach a conclusion in this matter as speedily as possible. We are taking urgent steps with all the diplomatic facilities open to us to try to get this embargo imposed as swiftly as possible. There are certain obstacles, but we want to overcome them." If the Government had answered in that fashion, it would have been much better and might have put in a different light their attitude towards the sailing of this ship.
It appears to the House—certainly to me and, I should have thought, to anyone who has listened to the answers on this subject—that the Government have shown at any rate no great enthusiasm for proceeding with the oil embargo as swiftly as possible. That is most regrettable, for many reasons. Some of us wish to see these sanctions made speedily effective, but it is regrettable also because of the Government's desire to sustain support for their policies in Africa and elsewhere. If the Government had shown, ever since 11th November, that they were eager to get an oil embargo as swiftly as possible, they might have had less difficulty in some of their other controversies with African States.
What I should like first of all from the Government is a much fuller statement than they have given so far of their general attitude to an oil embargo. Many of us who thought that the Government were proceeding much too slowly with the study of the oil embargo could hardly believe it when we read the report in the Sunday Times on Sunday about the sailing of the ship and the apparent attitude of the British Government to the whole proceedings.
The report in the Sunday Times—some of us did not get our Sunday Times that Sunday but got it when we went out on Monday—not only gave the account of the ship sailing but also indicated, if not in so many words, that those responsible for the ship had taken all precautions before it sailed to try to make sure that they were acting in conformity with the desires of the British Government. I do not think that the Government have attempted to deny this, so it appears that the ship is sailing towards Rhodesia with 327 two weeks' supply of oil and with the full support of the British Government.
I wonder what the Government really think will be the effect, not merely on their policy over an oil embargo but on their policy on other matters, if the ship gets through and no steps are taken about it. Do the Government really think that this will assist their diplomacy in dealing with the African States and others at the United Nations and in Africa? I read, in the same issue of the Sunday Times, a most interesting and, I believe, quite truthful account of an interview with President Kaunda, given to Nicholas Tomalin, in which President Kaunda expressed his attitude towards the British Government and his view of their dealings with Mr. Smith's régime generally.
Those of us who have a great respect for President Kaunda, as, I am sure, the Commonwealth Secretary has, believe that one of the keys to the whole situation is how we are to make our policy conform to his desires. I do not mean that we have to agree to everything which he proposes, but the key lies in how we are to have a common policy with him. After all, he is the Commonwealth functionary most nearly concerned in the whole matter, and it must be the firm desire of the British Government to keep our policy and that of the Zambian Government in close alliance. If that is the case, the report of this interview made extremely melancholy reading for those of us who wish to keep the Commonwealth together and wish to see this business properly dealt with.
President Kaunda expressed his doubts about the British Government's resolve in this matter. I should have thought that the British Government's desire would be to allay those doubts by every possible means. It may be said—it is, of course, an essential part of the debate—that, if the ship were stopped, this might create particular difficulties for Zambia itself. I think that the first answer to that point was given quite properly by the hon. Member for Devon, North—that we should be very interested to hear what President Kaunda himself has to say to that proposition.
We should like to have a report to the House on what consultations have taken place with President Kaunda on this subject: whether he agrees with the policy 328 of the British Government over this ship, whether he has entered any dissent about it and whether he made any alternative proposals. We are entitled to have an indication, from the Commonwealth Secretary above all, about the view of the Zambian Government on this question——
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
Suppose that it proved to be correct after investigation that, on practical grounds, it would not be a good thing to stop the ship because it may injure the achievement of a unanimous decision of others to stop such ships too, and would injure Zambia. If the practical grounds on which the Government stood at Question Time were correct in their mind, does the hon. Member still think that they should ignore that in order to achieve this diplomatic effect?
§ Mr. Foot
I am asking about three distinct matters, though the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) may not be conscious of the fact. The first is the question which I am now discussing with the Commonwealth Secretary, the view of President Kaunda about whether this ship should be allowed to proceed. The second is whether, if the ship proceeds, it will or will not assist in a general embargo. The third is what will be the effect on Zambia's economy. I am dealing with the first question now, as to what is the Zambian Government's view of this ship being allowed to proceed——
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
The hon. Gentleman firmly asked whether the Government had considered the diplomatic effect which it would have on the African countries if they did not do something about it. Does he rate the diplomatic effect so high that he would ask the Government to disregard any practical considerations such as I put forward?
§ Mr. Foot
The two matters would have to be balanced: one would have to be taken into account with the other. But we are, first of all, trying to sort out the facts. I am asking that the House should be given an account of President Kaunda's view on whether the ship should be allowed to proceed—and not only his view but that of the heads of some of the other Commonwealth countries. Since I believe that the other Commonwealth countries will be influenced in the whole 329 of this Rhodesian affair by what happens to the ship, I want to know what views have been given by those countries on this matter, because our view should be partly influenced—I do not say determined—by the views of other Commonwealth countries about it.
Proceeding from that to the other question which the hon. Member for Peterborough raised, although it is obviously an aspect of the matter which must be raised anyway, I should have thought that the question which I put about the views of Her Majesty's Government on the effects of allowing the ship to continue raises, first, the important question of the attitude of the Persian Government. I say that because, as I understand it, the Persian Government refused to supply the oil originally. In other words, the Persian Government were abiding by the spirit of the United Nations resolution and it is to their credit, I should have thought, that they took that attitude. I should have equally thought that Her Majesty's Government would have been grateful to the Persian Government for taking that attitude. Indeed, the Prime Minister expressed some thanks at Question Time today.
Therefore, what would be the effect on the Persian Government in future—and this has considerable importance on this matter, because the Persians can supply quite a lot of oil—towards their ban, they having refused to supply oil in this instance, and B.P. having gone elsewhere to get it, if the oil is delivered? I should have thought that the inevitable effect of the ship proceeding would be for the Persian Government to say, "We will not join in imposing sanctions in future. Why should we? We attempted to do so but Her Majesty's Government did not want us to proceed with them".
We see, therefore, that another consequence of the ship proceeding might be for the Persian Government henceforth to say that they will continue to supply oil to people who bring their tankers in and who wish to take it to Southern Rhodesia. And will not the same apply to other countries? On that aspect, when one considers the question of getting common agreement to employ an embargo there would not appear to be much doubt that if the ship does go ahead the chances of getting an embargo later will be 330 infinitely reduced. If that is the case, this matter represents a serious policy issue. That is one reason why it is right that we should try to intervene.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said today that he did not think that a gesture was of much importance in such matters. I should have thought that so complicated are the possibilities of getting an embargo that it is only by a series of gestures that one can make the embargo work at all. Only by getting a series of Governments to say, "We regard the United Nations resolution as being a matter of supreme governing importance" are we going to make it work. By allowing this ship to go ahead Her Majesty's Government are defying the United Nations resolution—or, at any rate, defying the spirit of it—and are, therefore, making it infinitely more difficult to get that resolution into effect later on.
So I believe that this is a matter of such great importance that Her Majesty's Government should reconsider the whole of their attitude expressed on this subject and should, within the days which are left, come to the House of Commons—because I do not expect that we will get a full, fresh decision tonight; that is too much to expect, hopeful though we may be—and make a statement on this issue. It is only right that we should ask the Government to reconsider the whole matter afresh. They could make a statement to the House tomorrow, and I hope that this debate will show how widespread is the concern among hon. Members about the effect which the allowing of this ship to go through will have on the whole of our Rhodesian policy.
The events which have taken place in the last few days, apart from the sailing of the ship, have, I believe, been greatly disturbing. We had a statement from the Prime Minister last week in which he said that we were taking further actions to enforce the sanctions against Rhodesia to make our attitude more effective. We were also told, in relation to the Kariba Dam, that in certain circumstances Her Majesty's Government could not stand idly by.
I do not wish to probe into all the military details of these matters. I do not think that that would be proper. However, I must say that I was amazed when the official Opposition raised any objection to this proposition. I would 331 have understood it had the right hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) raised an objection. He has been against this policy since the beginning, even though he has not always voted against it. However, when the Leader of the Opposition protested, that was a rather different matter.
We have had something even further than that. At the weekend we had the speech of the Leader of the Opposition carrying his objection to the Government's policies very much further. The right hon. Member for Preston, North has every reason to applaud the fact that his Leader is moving in his direction. I only wish that my Leader was moving in mine. The Leader of the Opposition, nailing his colours to the mast, said at the weekend in Bristol, "We would stand idly by". Is that really the policy of the official Opposition, whatever the Southern Rhodesians do; whatever they do to the dam for which we in the House of Commons are directly responsible now that we have taken powers under the Act, for which the right hon. Gentleman also voted? The Leader of the Opposition expressed the attitude that the official Opposition would stand idly by.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am listening with great interest and complete sympathy to everything the hon. Gentleman is saying. Would he not agree that one of the tragedies, if one is to place any credence on the interview which the Prime Minister gave to the Daily Mirror published on Monday, is that now the Prime Minister would himself stand idly by?
§ Mr. Foot
Different interpretations may be placed on the Daily Mirror article. I hope very much that that was not the case and that the Prime Minister is not moving in that direction. It would be a very serious matter indeed if that were so.
I am saying that nobody can doubt—whatever may be the interpretations placed on a Daily Mirror article—that what the Leader of the Opposition did at the weekend was to deliver a much stronger attack on the policy of the Government and to draw a deeper line of divergence between his policy and that of the Government than had been done previously.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Which does my hon. Friend consider is the best way to preserve a power station—which is what we are talking about—fighting a battle over it or standing idly by?
§ Mr. Foot
As the Prime Minister said in the House, there may be other ways of dealing with the dam. As I said, I am not going into the military ways in which it should be dealt with. I have held the view from the beginning that, in the last resort, military force would have to be employed if the Southern Rhodesia Government proceeded with their act of rebellion, but I know that my hon. and learned Friend takes the view that nothing should be done.
§ Mr. Foot
I do not think that anyone can deny that the Leader of the Opposition made a strong attack at the weekend on what had been said by the Prime Minister about the dam. The Leader of the Opposition said, in effect, "We would standly idly by". He also said that the only way to solve this problem was by a process of conciliation. He did not exactly define on what there would be conciliation, but we were left to surmise it for ourselves—and I have little doubt that the policy of the Leader of the Opposition is not so different from that of the right hon. Member for Preston, North. They are both in favour of treating with Mr. Smith. They are both in favour of reopening negotiations with Mr. Smith—and so, I understand, is my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget).
I am opposed to it. I am opposed to it, first of all, because it would tear the Commonwealth to pieces. We cannot have a British Commonwealth being maintained at all and have the Smith 333 régime, which is the fundamental issue. The right hon. Member for Preston, North called it a rebellion wrapped in the Union Jack; it is much more like a putsch under the emblem of the swastika, because it is imposing a police State on a country for which we are responsible.
I know that many hon. Members and other people will say, "There are other police States—why do you not go and attack them?" The difference is that we in this House are directly responsible for Southern Rhodesia. We have assumed absolute authority, and I believe that when we do that we should exercise it. We should execute what we have done—and the right hon. Gentleman himself is implicated in that situation, because he did not vote against the taking of these powers. We are absolutely responsible for what happens in Southern Rhodesia, because we have assumed absolute powers in this House. Some may say that what was done was the wrong way to do it, but we have done it, and I am in favour of exercising those powers, and living up to our obligations to all the people of Rhodesia.
If we can do it without bloodshed, so much the better, but if economic chaos is produced by effective economic sanctions we may get a moment when military forces have to go in. It is not right to disguise this from people. We must say it, so that people may understand the choice the country has to deal with. Of course, if the main operation can be done without bloodshed no one would like it better than I. If we are to do it, we must make the economic sanctions as swiftly and drastically effective as possible. How can it possibly be said that we are doing that when we are not even attempting to get an effective oil embargo? And how can it be said that we are trying to get an effective oil embargo if we let this ship go through?
I therefore believe that the Government are faced with an extremely serious choice. If they stop the ship going through, it does not solve the problem. They have to go further. They have to take steps to get an effective oil embargo; take a whole series of other measures in order to execute the authority in Southern Rhodesia that this House has taken to itself. We have to face it, 334 because if we are not prepared to take these decisions—many of them very awkward decisions—we shall be responsible for establishing a new South Africa in British territory for which we are responsible.
If this country, and particularly if a Labour Government under our aegis, were responsible for seeing the establishment of a new South Africa in South Rhodesia we would never be forgiven—we would have no right to be forgiven. If that were to occur, our whole reputation throughout Asia and Africa of Britain as a liberal Power would be destroyed. These are the kind of things that must weight in the balance when the Government apply their mind afresh to the question whether they are going to take effective action to deal with Southern Rhodesia, to deal with the embargo, and to deal with this ship.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
The hon. Members for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) and for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) have said that they are extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) for raising this subject tonight. I do not honestly think that the hon. Gentleman has done a service to the House in having this matter discussed when the great majority of hon. Members are not here to take part in the discussion—[Interruption.]—or even to hear the arguments. It does not help us to solve the problem, or even to look for a solution, when we have a discussion like this with a good number of hon. Members unaware that the discussion is taking place.
I am convinced that the main reason why this subject has been raised at all is, first of all, that it gives those on the Government side who disagree fundamentally with their Government's own policy an opportunity to have a full discussion, to express their disagreements, to criticise the Government and then, at the end of the day, not to have to voice their disagreement with the Government by voting against their own party. It has sickened me to see in this Chamber, time and time again, the same people on that side tearing their own Government to ribbons, yet not having the guts and the courage to say, "I disagree with this"—
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us how many on his own side followed him into the Division Lobby the other day?
§ Mr. Taylor
The only thing I can deduce from that event is that I was the only member of my party who felt in that precise way that it was wrong in principle to have an Enabling Bill on these lines. Many people may share some aspects of my views on Rhodesia, but I am convinced after discussing the matter with many of my hon. Friends, that I was the only one who felt that way. But that in no way answers my challenge, and the hon. Member who has just interrupted me is just as guilty as many others of his hon. Friends in regard to many other issues where there is fundamental disagreement. In particular, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale says that if a new South Africa were to be established on British territory—and, in particular, by a Labour Government—we would never be forgiven. The hon. Gentleman did not say what he and his hon. Friends would do about it if a new South Africa were established on British territory, and by a Labour Government. That is the first reason why hon. Members opposite are glad to have this present discussion.
Their second reason is that in dealing with this slow, tedious, tortuous problem which, in the way we are going, will unquestionably take months or years to be concluded, we have in this one little ship a wonderful opportunity to bring the whole thing to a dramatic climax and say, "Here is the point of no return. Here is the point at which the fundamental decision can be made." It has been made quite clear by the Government, and admitted by those who have spoken tonight, that if this ship is turned back and sent elsewhere it will make no practical difference whatsoever to this Southern Rhodesia problem. More ships are to go. If the supplies do not come from this ship, they will come from other countries and from other ships. We are, therefore, discussing something that will make no practical difference to the real physical problem of Southern Rhodesia.
It is quite clear to me that we are being asked to indulge in a massive act of international public relations to tell the world where we allegedly stand. Here, 336 again, we have the same point of view put forward by hon. Members opposite that we want to show the world something, without thinking of the consequences of what we are doing or whether it will ultimately be helpful to an amicable solution. After tonight, no one on the Government side of the House should ever have the impertinence to talk about disagreement on this side. Once again, it has been completely shown that there is a fundamental split on that side.
Certain questions were raised by hon. Members opposite, and one was on the effect on Zambia. It was asked whether President Kaunda had been asked if he would agree to this ship being turned back, and what he would say if he were asked. It is quite clear what he would say in the present climate of opinion, particularly after the meeting of the Organisation for African Unity. He would probably say, "Go ahead and stop the ship". Nevertheless, I suggest that if President Kaunda and the other Prime Ministers who might be directly involved were asked, quietly and sincerely, what they really thought and not what they felt the world wanted to hear from them, they might have other views, because African leaders like that are essentially concerned with their own people, and bringing peace, security and harmony to their own countries; and, although such matters as this can influence their public announcements, I am sure that, were they asked the question privately and without all this great clamour, their answer might be different.
The suggestion is that a great international storm might develop if we turned the ship back. I respectfully suggest that, were it not for the storm created in the House at Question Time today and this evening, this matter would not have had anything like the international significance which it now has.
We are asked to indulge in a gallant act of international public relations.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)
As there has been a unanimous United Nations resolution and a great number of States in Africa have taken an extremely strong line in this situation, what on earth does the hon. Gentleman mean by saying that, if it were not for what we were doing, there would not be an international storm?
§ Mr. Taylor
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can deny that, while the question of oil sanctions is an international matter taking up the time and attention of statesmen throughout the world, tie dramatic significance of this one little ship has been raised in the House today and its significance would not have had that dramatic intensity if hon. Members had not created it themselves.
We must consider this matter in the light of the whole policy of sanctions which the Government are supporting. Certain Facts which have come to light within the past few days and weeks should make us think seriously about what the Government's policy has actually achieved and what it is likely to achieve. Before we take any further measures of sanctions along the glorious path of cutting off all supplies to Rhodesia, we should consider the effect of what we do.
First, can our actions be effective when we have no assurance from nations as great as France, Spain, Japan, Portugal and South Africa about what their attitude will be? There is no real point in our pressing ahead with these particular sanctions unless, as the Prime Minister has said, we are convinced that they will work.
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
It is time the House knew exactly where the hon. Gentleman stands on the question of Southern Rhodesia. What is his policy? Does he believe in any sanctions at all, or is he trying to ride two horses and to please the Right wing of his own party that he wants to crawl to by appearing to support Mr. Smith whenever he can?
§ Mr. Taylor
The House will not be very interested in my personal views. That is to give them a significance and importance which they do not have. But I hope to have the opportunity, before I sit down, to say what I think should be done. It has been a great pleasure to me to see that the Government themselves seem to be moving largely in the direction which I should like them to follow.
I cannot see the need or justification for going ahead with a policy of sanctions simply to satisfy the souls and consciences of hon. Members opposite if such 338 a policy will not achieve the object which they desire. It is clear, on the question of oil sanctions and this ship in particular, that there will be no successful result, or no kind of result that the Government want, if we do not have the co-operation of States which can make a real and practical contribution to the economy of Southern Rhodesia.
What is worrying hon. Members opposite is that sanctions do not seem to be working and that they will take too long to bite—far too long from their point of view. Hon. Members opposite want to see things come to a dramatic conclusion, but it is more than clear that, if we follow this policy, there will be no dramatic conclusion. It will be a slow, tedious and miserable business involving a great deal of suffering.
One question which has not been answered is what will be the effect of a policy of sanctions on Zambia and Malawi. We are told that we could organise an airlift which would take out 20,000 tons of copper and bring in millions of gallons of oil. Is this a feasible proposition? Can the Secretary of State or someone else assure us that this whole matter has been thought out carefully, has been costed, and is regarded as practicable? If there is complete severance of trade and economic ties between Southern Rhodesia and Zambia, can it be done?
§ Mr. Taylor
Coal has not been mentioned at all, but I understand that the coal used in Zambia comes from the Wankie colliery in Southern Rhodesia. However, no one has explained how this coal is to get from Southern Rhodesia to Zambia.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Is the hon. Gentleman in favour of sanctions only if they are likely to be effective, or does he feel that we should not have sanctions unless we have the good will and support of South Africa and Portugal? Is that his argument?
§ Mr. Taylor
Certainly not. I was trying to point out that, as at present organised, sanctions will not work and, moreover, if they work only in certain directions, we shall bring misery and distress to many people not for weeks or a few months but for a long time. We 339 should think more about the human suffering which will be involved and we should not get our standards mixed.
§ Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)
Does the hon. Gentleman wish the Smith régime to be brought down or does he wish it to survive? Are his real considerations for the Zambians and others or for the Smith régime and its ability to survive? If the hon. Gentleman supports the Smith régime, why not come out and say so, instead of putting forward hypocritical ideas about the people of Zambia and the misery which might be inflicted on them?
§ Mr. Taylor
It is quite delightful to hear allegations of hypocrisy and the rest. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I am taking up far too much time, largely because of the interruptions, but I shall give an indication on that matter before I sit down.
We should remember how greatly values are being changed. The extreme Left wing of the Labour Party, which has been calling for cuts in the whole of our defence expenditure, now says that we should think in terms of sending troops to Rhodesia. The same people who call for massive reductions in military and aircraft expenditure now call for a vast airlift to aid Zambia. Where would the aeroplanes come from if their demands had been granted? The same people who call for peace in Vietnam because of distress and suffering there do not seem to think of the distress and suffering which might well result from the policy of sanctions. Moreover, no one seems to remember that in the Sudan now more people are being killed daily than in the Vietnam war.
We should reconsider our whole policy, particularly on the question of whom we should negotiate with and when. I say this particularly in the light of certain matters which have been brought out in the past few days with reference to the negotiations which actually took place. I am becoming more and more convinced that these negotiations did not take place in good faith. It is becoming clear that either the Prime Minister and his representatives were saying different things in different places at different times or the negotiations did not, in fact, take place in good faith.
340 We say that, first, because, just before the election, in a letter to Dr. Mutasa, the Prime Minister clearly stated,The Labour Party is totally opposed to granting independence to Southern Rhodesia so long as the Government there remains under the control of a white minority.What happened when negotiations actually started? That letter was more than clear, and I do not think that anyone has tried to deny it. Why, then, in all the negotiations and the exchanges of letters, did the Prime Minister consistently refuse to face this question or answer it directly?
§ Mr. David Ennals (Dover)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Prime Minister was wrong to make any concession during the course of negotiations or exchanges with Mr. Smith?
§ Mr. Taylor
Certainly not, but there is a great deal of difference between concessions over a long period of time, having said on 2nd October, 1964, that independence would be given only on the basis of majority rule, and saying only one month later, in a letter of 27th November, when the point had been raised by Mr. Smith,We have an open mind on the timing of independence".It is one thing to make concessions over a long period, but it is quite another thing to change one's point of view within a period of one month.
On 21st September, when Mr. Smith again tried to get a firm commitment on this, what was said was:I give a clear undertaking that we have an open mind on the timing of independence.Time and time again this has been repudiated.—Only this morning we had a report—not confirmed, I admit—that it was said clearly in public by Mr. Smith in Salisbury that he has heard of discussions which took place between Mr. Garfield Todd and the British Prime Minister in which it was alleged that the Prime Minister was playing for time and simply stringing Mr. Smith along. If that was so, and the Prime Minister had a firm commitment in his own mind that independence would be given only on the basis of majority rule, can we think that our record is an honourable one if months of negotiation went on when this whole point of view was completely changed and the Prime Minister was allegedly discussing the whole question of independence 341 in good faith? We should have regard to this particularly when considering the responsibility for U.D.I.
This is one point initially on which I disagree violently with certain hon. Members opposite. It is the point of where the responsibility lies for U.D.I. It rests primarily on Mr. Smith for taking it, but it also rests upon the negotiations in which one side appears to have been negotiating from a position of bad faith, and it also rests to some serious degree on the African Nationalist leaders who, after welcoming the 1961 Constitution, refused to co-operate or to operate it.
What should be our aim? Essentially, it should be to try to get to a situation whereby we can have gradual progress towards majority rule. Are our present policies going to achieve that in any way? They certainly do not seem to, judging by what has happened in the last few weeks. There has been a hardening of opinion in Southern Rhodesia backing up Mr. Smith, and even those alleged moderate elements who were supposed to be against his policies now seem to be backing him in face of what they consider to be a national emergency. The British Government were hoping that the people in Southern Rhodesia would stand up and indicate that they did not agree. Apart from some dubiety about the point of view of judges and apart from two policemen who appear to have come back to this country, there have been no mass resignations from the general, main stream of support for Mr. Smith. It seems if anything——
§ Mr. Taylor
There have been individual citizens who have done this sort of thing. I have mentioned some, and the hon. Gentleman has mentioned others. However, I think it would be agreed that the British Government expected that on the basis of the opposition against Mr. Smith before U.D.I. a far more substantial body of opinion would have expressed itself as against his policies.
§ Mr. Ennals
Would not the hon. Gentleman recognise that not only before 342 U.D.I. but since U.D.I. Mr. Smith's régime has tightened up the pressures upon every conceivable form of opposition and has created what is tantamount to a police state? Can he expect the sort of opposition that one would find in a free country to exist in the circumstances that he knows well now exist in Rhodesia?
§ Mr. Taylor
I am afraid that I am taking up too much of the time of the House on these quesions, and I apologise for that. I intend to make the points that I had proposed to make. But, this point having been put to me, I suggest that as before U.D.I., in the future when the emergency disappears, no matter what Government is in charge, there will be more opportunity for freedom of expression in Southern Rhodesia than in many other countries in Africa. On the other hand, can we expect that when a Government have made a unilateral declaration of independence and are surrounded by régimes which are hostile to them, threatened with international violence and constantly thinking in terms of the danger of terrorism—from which they suffered before U.D.I.—it would not be reasonable for them in that situation, if they wanted to continue as the de facto Government, to take emergency powers? It is obvious that such a Government would.
The hon. Member for Central, Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) asked what I want and what I stand for. It is completely and absolutely essential that we should stop Southern Rhodesia going into the South African camp. I am convinced that the trend of our present policies is driving Southern Rhodesia in that direction. I believe that they will not surrender at any time. I cannot see them giving up so long as there is a possibility of their carrying on on their own. It is not easy in a country like Southern Rhodesia, when one has a small minority living at a high economic level, to ask it readily to accept the principle of majority rule if there appears to be a choice. On the other hand, there is an inherent decency. I believe, in all the people out there, and I believe that unless they are presented with only one alternative they will opt for majority rule as an ultimate aim. I believe that our present policies will drive them into South Africa's arms. I do not think that South Africa would be happy about having immediate majority rule proposed 343 in Southern Rhodesia just over its borders. Obviously, South Africa would take measures, admittedly as quietly as possible, to prop up the Smith régime.
What we must do is to find some means whereby the principles of majority rule as the ultimate aim established in the 1961 Constitution can be made a reality. I recognise that the present policies will not operate in that way. Say we do overturn the Smith régime, as some hon. Members appear to think we can do, although I think that it would take at least 18 months. What do we do after that? Are we prepared to say that we will not insist on majority rule now? Of course, we say that, because the Prime Minister has indicated it, saying that we start off from the 1961 Constitution with some amendments to take account of the five principles. What will this mean? It will mean that the same body of opinion represented in the Rhodesian Front will be re-elected to office under the new arrangements. I believe that this will happen. On the other hand, say we insist on majority rule. This would be a straightforward practical answer. But the British Government do not say that. They say that they want gradual progress towards majority rule. I suggest that if we have that we shall have the same set-up after Mr. Smith has been overturned as at the present time.
I should like to see us trying by negotiations—with anyone in any circumstances—to return to a situation whereby Southern Rhodesia can come back into the Commonwealth, perhaps as though nothing had happened. It is very easy to say that this is a silly point of view and that it might not work. But what I can say in all sincerity is that I am convinced that the obvious result of what the British Government are doing will be to make Southern Rhodesia follow the immediate policies of the South African régime.
What would my suggestion mean in practical terms? It would, in effect, mean that we should put an end to our sanctions policy for a short period and send out a group of people to reside with the Governor, who is in our eyes and the eyes of the world the legal representative of the British Government in Southern Rhodesia, and put out feelers to see whether the effect of our ending our sanctions policy would be that Southern 344 Rhodesia would be prepared to come back to the path of legal government. If we remain in the present situation where neither Mr. Smith nor the British Prime Minister will budge, we shall not get anywhere. Someone has to make the first move.
I suggest that in sending out a deputation to reside with the Governor we should not be recognising the Smith régime and not going back on any of our principles. I believe that it would have a real chance of success. I feel that the de facto Government in Southern Rhodesia must be terrified about the consequences of the policies which are at present being applied in Central Africa. Apart from that, I believe that they have a deep-rooted will and wish to remain united or associated with the British Commonwealth. In these circumstances, I am convinced that my suggestion would be well worth trying. At the present time our policies can only lead to two clear alternatives—the continuation of the Smith régime and its association with South Africa, or else it will inevitably lead to a blood bath. I cannot see any other course at the present time.
For these reasons, we should look again at our policies. We are justified in doing so in the light of the correspondence about the Prime Minister's negotiations en the Rhodesian problem. Enough has been established to say that perhaps we made some mistakes, that perhaps some of our motives were wrong—that perhaps we made a small mistake, just as Rhodesia has made a great mistake.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) tried to do that for years and failed? The present Prime Minister was trying to do the same and he failed. If what the hon. Gentleman suggests takes place, and Mr. Smith and those who support him still refuse to give way on the 1961 Constitution, what will he do then?
§ Mr. Taylor
It is easy to call these people traitors and rebels and threaten to send in troops. That was precisely what was done by the Government and that was a great mistake. The hon. Gentleman says that this has been tried time and again, but no Prime Minister from 345 this party has ever negotiated or appeared to negotiate from a position of bad faith. In particular, I cannot envisage any circumstances in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) would ever negotiate from a position of bad faith.
What I am trying to explain is that these relevations about what happened in the negotiations are adequate justification for us to be prepared to admit that perhaps we have made some mistakes and that we are prepared to take this initial step which might result in a settlement which might prevent a South African-type régime in Rhodesia or the prospect of a blood bath that would affect all Africa.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
We have had an illuminating outline from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor). First of all, he complained about my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) initiating this debate. Then he took up 30 minutes of it. He attacked certain hon. Members on this side of the House but he failed to stand up to the direct question put to him. Does he or does he not support Smith? He has not given an answer. We have had from him much about appeasement and suggestions for ways in which the British Government might try to crawl out of the present situation, but no direct answers.
The debate has arisen at an opportune moment, at the very time when a B.P. tanker is traversing the waters of the Indian Ocean on its way to Beira. This is how we can, surely, in a democracy express our opinions to the Government and ask for certain actions and assurances. This tanker is being watched by the world. The British Government hold 51 per cent. of the B.P. shares, and are surely therefore in control of the tanker. We have a right to ask the Government in the name of their present policy towards Rhodesia to turn the tanker back. The Government have control of the company. If they have not, then there is something wrong with what we have been told about B.P.
The momentum of the Rhodesian crisis is mounting. We are not 12 or 18 months from a solution. We are much nearer. 346 We are perhaps days from a solution if we step up the sanctions and the policy the Government have initiated. The stronger sanctions that have been taken by the Government have been whole heartedly supported on this side of the House and by the Opposition, though very much with tongue in cheek. Even so, many hon. Members opposite fully support these stronger actions. We are moving to the "crunch." with sanctions when we reach an oil embargo.
Some months ago my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) asked the Prime Minister about oil sanctions against South Africa at the time when we cancelled the aircraft which were to have been sent to South Africa. The Prime Minister said that to implement oil sanctions on a modern nation was tantamount to declaring war on it. This is where we are moving now in relation to Rhodesia. We have to take this step. Those hon. Members who continually challenge hon. Members on this side of the House as to whether or not we are in favour of force know that our answer is that we should make the sanctions strong enough and swift enough to overthrow the Smith régime without resorting to force. That is the crux of the matter.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations has had a very tough job under trying conditions. He is attempting to maintain the situation. But we have had indications from Persia and elsewhere that other nations are prepared to implement the sanctions. I hope that, if he cannot answer tonight, then the Prime Minister will be able to tell us tomorrow that oil sanctions are to be imposed and that we shall try to make them work. The way to do so is to put a blockade on Beira Port.
I see that the right hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) has now gone. He nods his head and says, "Hear, hear", but does not get up and say what he would do. He was one of the leaders of the Suez rebels. He was the person who believed in gunboat supremacy. Last week the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) spoke very strongly against stepping up the action against Smith. But other quarters of the world are in favour of any action 347 to see that the policy he attacks is brought to a successful conclusion. Because it happens to involve Smith and a White Rhodesian minority, the hon. Gentleman is not prepared to go that far.
The hon. Member for Cathcart talked about splitting and dividing the white Rhodesians. What about the 4 million Africans in Rhodesia? That is the issue which has the whole of Africa and Asia in turmoil. The British Government have to take firm control, for Rhodesia is our territory. Does anybody believe that if the Smith régime did not have a modern air force and a modern army equipped with modern weapons, we would not have moved into Rhodesia on 11th November when U.D.I. came? It is the possibility of using arms against a well-armed minority which is worrying people.
Not many debates are held in such a dramatic form. If the Government believe that oil sanctions and other sanctions which I welcome are essential and are the answer to the problem, they must turn back this tanker, irrespective of what other tankers are coming and from where. We can settle that when the final decision is taken about the blockade and other action.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations last week was in Zambia negotiating with Kenneth Kaunda. He has met many African leaders and we have all heard the rumblings from the African Continent about relations with Britain. I believe that my right hon. Friend is trying to hold a balance and to maintain a multi-racial Commonwealth—and there is no Commonwealth which is not multiracial. The world is not on an East-West axis, but on a North-South axis. We have to come to terms with people whatever the colour of their skins and we have to remember that coloured peoples constitute two-thirds of the world's population. How can we allow a tiny minority to twist our arm and flout, the changes of the twentieth century?
We have seen an indication from the Smith régime that the initial sanctions are beginning to hurt—a very good sign. The Rhodesians are having to tighten their belts, and the Smith régime is trying to convince them and to bolster them up 348 with stories about our attacking pensioners and is saying what it will do about that. Our first actions are beginning to be felt, and the quicker we take other steps, the quicker will the Smith régime be overthrown. After what has happened, how can any hon. Member talk of negotiating with Smith and his Cabinet? Yet that is what the official Opposition are hankering for. A letter in The Times this morning is an example of the way in which the trend is going and I hope that my right hon. Friends will have no truck with these people.
The debate is timely and important. We are asking the Government to step up the actions which they have already taken. If they do, in a matter of days we could see the end of the Smith régime, and that is what we want.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
As the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) has referred to my statements of last week, it might be permissible for me to put two things on the record. I hate racialism, and I have lived in a society in the United States where I have seen it in action perhaps a little more closely than the hon. Member has. There is no more obscene thing in human history than the application to a man, because of the colour of his skin, of the character of inferiority and I reject it and I hope that the hon. Member will accept my rejection. But, secondly, I hate war and in what he has said this evening the hon. Gentleman has seemed to suggest that, in order to stamp out the evil of racialism, he is prepared to espouse the evil of war.
I do not see the equation so easily as that. I find it more complex, more delicate and more difficult, and it is for that reason that I sympathise—and I do not find that easy—with the position in which the Prime Minister and the Government find themselves this evening.
The House is debating in the dark. There are facts which are known to the Government but not known to us about where the tanker is and precisely the reasons why it is difficult for the Government to interfere with its deliveries. Until we have heard those facts, we are not in a position to judge and I very much regret that the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, who has been 349 sitting on the Front Bench, has not felt it to be his duty to intervene in the debate and provide us with the facts about which we are debating. Until we know what the facts are and what is in the Government's mind, we are beating about in the dark. I very much regret that the Government have not seen fit to intervene in the debate, and put the House in possession of facts upon which it could make a judgment.
This debate has moved into a general debate upon the Prime Minister's handling of the situation and I should like to add my thanks to those who have made the debate possible. In the handling of this delicate and dangerous situation the Prime Minister has got himself, and this country, into very grave difficulties. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] He has placed himself in the position of a wasp in a jampot, and the more he flaps about the more he is covered with difficulty and is incapable of moving.
If there is any doubt about that let me point to two things which he has done. He has succeeded in having himself attacked by the white racialists who support Mr. Smith and by the black nationalists who oppose Mr. Smith. He is in a position where, in this House, he is attacked from the extreme Left and from the extreme Right. It takes genius to achieve this. The reason, I regret to say, is that the Prime Minister has spoken out of both sides of his mouth, and he has continued to do so. He began by saying that there should not be punitive action against Rhodesia, and the party on this side of House gave him its support on that basis. Only last week we had the punitive action over pensions. At the beginning he also said that force was ruled out. Now, in the Prime Minister's own words, there has been an intimation that force is not ruled out. He has spoken out of both sides of his mouth.
One day he talks of an olive branch, and says that we are now going to have a new peace initiative. This was said within 24 hours of screwing up the sanctions as far as they could go and using this intimation of force. I do not complain that the right hon. Gentleman should follow either of these policies, but I wish that he would not follow them both together and expect the House of Commons to believe that he is being consistent, because quite plainly he is not.
350 We need to try to define what is common ground between both sides of the House over policy in Rhodesia. I would define the correct policy as an attempt to get that unhappy country back on the road towards a multiracial democracy, with safeguards for the white minority under the rule of law.
If that is the objective that we are seeking, we have to measure everything which the Government do in terms of whether it is likely to be effective in achieving that result. That is the purpose of the House examining the Government's Rhodesian policy. We are told that the Commonwealth is likely to be broken up. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) both made much of this point. It may be so, but where is the threat to the Commonwealth coming from? It is coming mainly, I regret to say, from the African States themselves.
It was not in this House that the threat to break up the Commonwealth arose. It arose in Addis Ababa at the meeting of the Organisation for African Unity. I regret this, but the Organisation has put down an ultimatum saying that unless this Government have crushed the Smith régime by 15th December they will break off diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom and leave the Commonwealth. Is there a Member of this House who seriously believes that that is a responsible way for a Government to act? I think that it is a measure only of the immaturity of those Foreign Ministers gathered in Addis Ababa that they were prepared to make that threat. Not an hon. Gentleman opposite will say that it was a responsible statement.
§ Mr. Newens
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the attitude taken by many back bench Members on his own side of the House has greatly contributed to the attitude being taken by the African States to which he has referred?
§ Mr. Griffiths
The Commonwealth has a long history, and it is extraordinary to me that any hon. Member should believe that it is responsible for a member Government to threaten this country with ultimatums on the ground of something which it may have heard in the House of Commons and not liked. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I am 351 answering the question. The answer is very precise. I do not accept that it is responsible for any Commonwealth Government to give ultimatums and to threaten to march out of the Commonwealth because of something which may have been said in the House of Commons or anywhere else. The interests of the Commonwealth are much greater than that.
To that kind of irresponsible ultimatum there can be only one answer from a British Government, and it is an answer which we may have to regret. The Commonwealth is founded, above all else, on mutual acceptance of differences in our society. We do not like many of the things in other Commonwealth nations. I did not like the killings which accompanied the recent election in Western Nigeria, or the refusal of India and Pakistan to negotiate over Kashmir, and I do not like the dictatorship in Ghana. But this does not mean that I propose that we should immediately intervene or force them to bend to our will.
If the Commonwealth is founded on anything, it is founded on mutual respect for differences. Therefore, our answer to this ultimatum from the African States must be this: "If you do not like the policy of the British Government, and if you propose to go all the way and to move out of the Commonwealth because we are not prepared to do what we believe would be disastrous in Central Africa—if you press the ultimatum on us for that reason—then on your head be it".
§ Mr. Will Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
I understand and sympathise with what the hon. Gentleman said about Western Nigeria and Ghana and noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries of the Commonwealth. But, in drawing this analogy with Rhodesia, it must have escaped the hon. Gentleman's notice that we are directly responsible for Rhodesia.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I was not dealing with our responsibility at the moment. I accept that. I am simply making a reply tc the ultimatum delivered by the African States. They are saying to us, "You must do in Rhodesia what we ask of you, namely, go to war". The British Government with the support of this House, have decided that they are not willing to go 352 to war over Rhodesia. On that point, the African States are saying, "If you do not go to war, if you do not do what you yourselves believe to be disastrous, we shall quit the Commonwealth." To that we can give only one answer, namely, that it is an irresponsible ultimatum, that we do not accept it and that we are not prepared, in the Prime Minister's words, to be pushed around in that fashion. We must make our decisions in the areas of our responsibility, which include Rhodesia. I take the hon. Member's point.
The constitutional lawyers, above all else, have got us into a most absurd position over Rhodesia. The House is being asked to follow policies which many of us, perhaps most of us, doubt will work, against a Prime Minister whom we do not recognise but who has all the real power, on behalf of a Governor whom we all admire but who does not even have a telephone. By any measure this is absurd. It is not of our choosing, but that is the position, and it is because of the illogicality of the British position that we seem to have got lost. We have lost our purpose there.
I come back to what I said. It is our purpose in Rhodesia to try to restore this unhappy land to the path of multiracial democracy. Of course, we want that, but I do not believe that we can achieve it unless we provide for the white minority as well as for the African majority a reasonable safeguard for their future. That was what U.D.I. was all about. It was about the fact that most of the white people in Rhodesia had fears for their future. Some of them are racialists—I have no truck with them—and others are ordinary British people. Whatever they be, they were fearful that Her Majesty's Government might be pushing Rhodesia too rapidly into the state of African democracy that has led in so many other countries to chaos. That was their fear.
If we are seeking to resolve this matter and to attract the moderates whom we are told so much about, we have above all to tackle the problem of their fear for the future. I believe that the ways in which the Government have tackled the situation have so far proved themselves to be ineffective. If I believed that economic action against Mr. Smith would 353 bring the result which we all hope to achieve, I should support it to the hilt. If I believed that force would achieve the purpose which I have defined, I would support it to the hilt. My doubt is whether it will be effective. [An HON. MEMBER: "What does the hon. Member support?"] I will support what is effective in achieving our purpose. I have defined this purpose many times. I will come presently to the policy that I propose.
The consequential actions that followed U.D.I. had the support of both sides of the House. The cutting off of Smith from the sterling area and the Commonwealth connection had the support of this House. Where we are getting into different ground is where we seek to find whether the actions that hon. Members opposite are proposing now will achieve the result we want.
On the economic front, it is plain that we will not get a universal policy of sanctions against the Smith régime. We will not get it, because South Africa and Portugal have lined themselves up against it. To that extent, there is a gaping hole in any economic embargo that this country or its allies seek to impose. For that reason alone, it seems to me unlikely that the economic sanctions that the Government are imposing will work.
There is, secondly, the fact of experience. The United States, with all its great power, imposed upon the tiny island of Cuba, 90 miles off its shore, the whole range of economic sanctions backed up by the power of the United States Navy. There was an island which had an economy just as precarious as that of Rhodesia. It had almost no trading partner and no common frontier, such as Rhodesia has. The result of two and a half years of tight economic squeeze on Cuba was simply to make Fidel Castro stronger than he had ever been before. Once again, therefore, one has to face the fact that on the record, this type of policy appears not to achieve the object which we wish to see.
Then there is the third point. We assume that this policy, tightening the belt, producing unemployment, hunger, perhaps disease—this is what it means—will somehow or other make moderate men leave Mr. Smith, forsake him and come back to the British nest. I wish it were true, but I doubt it. I see no 354 evidence that unemployment, hunger, disease and a breakdown of the national economy will somehow restore these people to the British fold.
I do not know what effect it will produce. It may well produce chaos. It has certainly produced suffering. There is no evidence on the record historically, however, that this will make those people forsake the Government which they have chosen and come back to the one they have thrown off.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
I lived through the Abyssinia campaign. Mussolini declared that if an oil sanction had been imposed on Italy for a fortnight, he would have been on his back.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Of what Mussolini may or may not have declared, I have no knowledge. I am looking at the facts as they exist. We have the facts over Cuba and China. The United States imposed upon the Communist Republic of China, year in year out, the tightest possible blockade and the result has been simply to fasten the grip of the Communists more tightly than ever on the people of China. That is not in doubt. I do not oppose economic sanctions if they will produce the result that we want to see, and it is for the Government to demonstrate that they will. But if they are not going to produce that result, one is entitled to be doubtful and sceptical, and I am both.
Beyond that, what is the constructive policy that the Prime Minister is now edging his way into?
§ Mr. Manuel
Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that the facts which he is quoting are historically wrong? He cites the case of China, but surely the great difference between China and Southern Rhodesia is that the mass of the people were behind the Communist régime in China and that is why they succeeded in the face of the massive American blockade.
§ Mr. Griffiths
If the hon. Gentleman believes that, he can believe anything. Ten million people were executed by the Communists.
I want briefly to detail some of the constructive arguments that I would ask the Government to consider. Having attacked the policies that the Prime Minister has been putting forward, it is 355 incumbent upon me to suggest an alternative approach.
One would like to see the British Government offering the carrot of a conciliated settlement with extensive educational and economic advances, above all for the Africans in place of the stick of unconditional surrender which is virtually all that they can see in the Prime Minister's hand at the moment. [Interruption.] I will deal with the hon. Gentleman's point in the few remarks that I have yet to make.
I am perfectly well aware that in the Prime Minister's conversations with Mr. Smith and in the offers of both the Conservative Government and the Labour Government there were extensive proposals for economic and educational advance. I think that that was what the hon. Gentleman sought to say, and I accept that. I know that the Prime Minister has reiterated it. I want to hear him reiterating it again and again, loudly and convincingly. I say that he has not done so. [Interruption.] I will deal with that point as well.
I should like to see the British Government spell out a blueprint of how they see Rhodesia developing under British guidance over the next 10 or 15 years. Until we deal with the white population's fear of the future and the African population's ambition for the future we shall not get to the heart of the matter. I should like the Prime Minister to say that while we cannot recede in any way from the ultimate idea of one man, one vote—the multi-racial democracy—we cannot achieve that tomorrow. The Prime Minister has not said that we can, but I should like him to define the qualifications by which Africans shall come on to the electoral register in Rhodesia.
It is reasonable to say that those Africans who wish to come on to the electoral register and participate in the future of their country should live up to at least four requirements. First of all, they should be literate. Secondly, it is right to ask that they should be of fixed abode and not nomads. Thirdly, I think it is right that they should be law abiding. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is Smith law abiding?"] These are the British views that I am putting forward. I am not putting them forward on Mr. Smith's behalf.
§ Mr. Buchan
Mr. Deputy Speaker, is the expression "law abiding" only to apply to Africans? We are faced with breakers of the law who happen to be Smith and his cohort.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Perhaps I can put the hon. Gentleman's mind at rest by saying that, of course, I make no distinction when I say that people should be law abiding. Everyone should abide by the law. If hon. Gentlemen opposite wish me to say that I regard Mr. Smith as a rebel, I do so. He has broken the law. That is what this debate is all about. The debate is about how we can effectively put an end to the rebellion.
If the British Government were to define the conditions on which they were prepared to move towards the multiracial society which we all want, they would go some way to assuring the white population of its future, which is what it is really concerned with. I repeat that I should like to see the British Government say that the qualifications required for going on the electoral register in Rhodesia are that a man, whatever his colour, must be law abiding——
§ Mr. Heffer rose——
§ Mr. Griffiths
I shall complete my speech more quickly if I am allowed to continue without constant interruptions. Nevertheless, I give way to the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Heffer
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the point that he is making about literacy has arisen in the southern States of America? One of the difficulties is that the system there is administered by the white minority, and in the past some of the best negro scholars have been kept off the electoral roll, despite the fact that they were highly educated.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am trying to define what the British Government's position should be, and if Mr. Smith and his white cohorts in Rhodesia are not prepared to accept it, we shall be quite clear where we stand. I shall be quite clear where I stand. I am not clear at the moment.
I ask that the electoral qualification should require of all men that they be literate, that they be law abiding, that they pay some tax, and that they be of fixed abode. If the British Government could make these things clear, they would go some way towards giving the white minority a little assurance that the Africans with whom, quite rightly, they are to be asked to share their future, will be responsible men, will be men with whom any of us here would be willing to share our future because they are literate, because they are law abiding, because they pay some tax to society, and because they live in a fixed abode.
I ask that the British Government should not merely confine themselves to the qualifications for being on the electoral register, but should offer again—and spell out what it means—to provide an economic and educational crash programme in Rhodesia. I know that the Prime Minister said these things on the telephone. I want him to come to the Dispatch Box and say that during the 10 years while these electoral qualifications are being achieved, and the number of Africans on the electoral roll is growing, according to British policy, not Mr. Smith's policy, we as a nation will be willing to spend a large sum of money to bring 500 to 600 Africans to our teacher training colleges each year, to bring Africans to learn at our police academies, to bring them here to learn to be J.P.s., to learn to be sanitary experts, to learn to be all the things that go to make up the woof and the warp of a civilised nation and at the same time we should be willing to spend perhaps £100 million over the 10-year period on improving the whole social infrastructure of Rhodesia. If hon. Gentlemen opposite think that that is a lot of money, perhaps I might remind them that they spent more than that on abolishing prescription charges.
We should try to give the white minority an assurance that the Africans with whom they are to share their future will be educated, responsible men, and 358 we should back this up by providing the wherewithal for Rhodesia to achieve this advance.
The hon. Member may say that the Prime Minister has offered this, and that the last Government offered it, and that Mr. Smith would not accept it. Let us say again, clearly—and in detail, not in general terms—how much money and how many teachers we will supply, where they will come from and when they will go. Let us be as precise as possible and put our proposals up before the forum of world opinion as well as British opinion. If Mr. Smith rejects those proposals again, people such as I will be very much clearer about the way in which our policies should develop.
I want to see the Government once again affirming and spelling out in detail what they are prepared to do over the next 10 or 20 years in Rhodesia, and spelling it out in such a fashion as to show both the white minority and the black majority that their futures are assured and that they will peaceably arrive at the multi-racial democracy that I want to see. But I want to see the Government spell this out rather than to move us step by step, inexorably, to the war that may well otherwise come, and that will more assuredly spell the end of the Commonwealth than anything else. Let them spell it out by publishing a White Paper on the matter, and offering this opportunity once again before they go over the brink, to war.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I came in to listen to this debate, and I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) deliver a very reasoned speech. I cannot say that I found it all quite sound tactically, but it was a reasonable contribution to the debate and it put a case for the Government to answer. Since then, in the latter stages of the debate, there have been some of the most irresponsible speeches I have ever heard in this House.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths), in a broadcast the other night, did the marvellous gymnastic trick of justifying both sides of Conservative Party policy as expressed in the recent debate on Rhodesia. That was a triumph of speechifying for the Conservatives, 359 because the hon. Member achieved what appeared to me to be the impossible; he reconciled the views of the right hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) with those of his leader and the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas Home). Anybody who can do that can obviously deliver the kind of speech that the hon. Member delivered tonight. He has said everything that could have been said on every side of the Rhodesian question. He has been for the blacks, for the whites, against everybody, for the Government and against the Government. It has been impossible to follow either his logic or his reasoning. I give him credit for the fact that it is reasoning, but he did not reach any reasonable conclusions.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), with his usual university debating agility, managed to indulge in the maximum amount of condemnation of everybody without making any constructive contribution towards a solution of the terrible problem with which the country is faced.
As a simple observer—I have no Government knowledge of the question—I want to tell the House some of the factors as I see them. During the period of Conservative Government the policy was continued of giving freedom to people who had previously been subject to our rule. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds talked about violence. Where could there have been more violence than in Kenya? He brought out all the arguments about the ignorance of the natives and their savagery. I must remind him that the natives of Kenya were pictured as savages during the Mau Mau period. Mr. Kenyatta was imprisoned for nine years, but we now find that he is one of the greatest African statesmen, and that the advice he has given concerning this crisis has been among the best. We have been told the same thing about every African country.
It has been pointed out, however, that the white settlers in Kenya, although they have not got all they wanted, are now settling down in a multi-racial State. The other day President Nyerere, in Tanzania, told his people that they must not interfere with the harmonious relationships existing between whites and blacks. 360 The same thing is happening in Uganda. I found that there was no distinction among races there. The people mixed together as friends and colleagues, and there was not the slightest indication of the question of colour entering into relationships between the whites and the blacks.
Naturally, when the people of these countries become the Government, they want to get good jobs for the people who are educated. There are few good jobs in a place like Uganda, and it is natural that the administrative jobs should pass gradually into the hands of the people who are native to the country. However, there is a university there with a black principal and a large number of white lecturers and professors. There is a medical school where black doctors and white work side by side. Even in the Congo, about 72,000 Belgians are still working there—some people may say that it would be better if they were not—and co-operating in the life of the country.
Rhodesia was part of the Federation, which has now broken up Northern Rhodesia has formed its Government under President Kaunda. Malawi is ruled by Dr. Banda. Nobody has suggested that there has been any difficulty in these countries co-operating and making a multi-racial society work.
Southern Rhodesia has been the exception. It had a Constitution which was designed eventually to lead to a multiracial society. It has been the policy of this country for 50 years that, in our trusteeship of these nations, we would educate them until they were able to govern their own country. We did this in the case of India, and by the time we left India the Indians had reached the stage when they were already running their country. Practically no British people held administrative jobs. It was not a question of being put out—we walked gracefully out and left the country to the people inhabiting it.
A different problem arises in a place like Rhodesia, where practically the whole country has been built up round the economy created by white settlers. The same is to some extent, true of Northern Rhodesia. The Africans, realise, I am sure, that this economy is valuable to them as much as to anyone else. Until U.D.I. occurred, the Constitution of 1961 361 operated, under which there would be gradual progress towards majority rule. Who talked with them? Who could have interfered with the 1961 Constitution? The Constitution was there. It was their business to carry out its provisions. It is true that world moral pressure was exerted on them to speed up this process by bringing the Africans into Government, but, instead of that, I understand that they have been limiting the education of Africans and preventing them from going on beyond primary school.
I heard the principal of the college in Salisbury, speaking on this subject, say that there was no doubt that the African children in Rhodesia were as capable of being educated to the same degree as white children in Rhodesia. Therefore, what can justify the Government of a country not allowing children who have the ability to be educated to their maximum potential? In other words, there is a policy of suppressing the education of the people and not allowing them to achieve the civilised state which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds wants them to reach.
The world today is no longer governed by force but largely by moral pressure. The one great triumph of the United Nations is that every country in the world has to justify, in the face of world opinion, its treatment of its own people and its behaviour towards other people. Therefore, how can Britain, which is responsible for Rhodesia, justify what is happening in Rhodesia if it seems to be a repressive policy?
Mr. Smith has declared war on the whole moral purpose of the world. That purpose is to bring people up to the state of civilisation and equality which we all desire to see. Mr. Smith has declared—and I heard him myself—that it was their business to preserve white domination. He did not use those exact words, but he meant white domination of the blacks for time immemorial.
This represents a challenge to the whole world, and not merely to Britain. It represents a challenge to the blacks in Africa, to India, to the United States, which is in the process of with great difficulty trying to bring its people to a state of complete equality, and to the world in general. Mr. Smith has declared 362 racial war on the black population of the world and, in particular, on the black population of Rhodesia.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds and the hon. Member for Cathcart, merely say that we should do nothing.
§ Mr. Woodburn
They propose nothing and said that anything which we tried to do would be futile. They said that nothing would work, which meant, in effect, that we should leave Mr. Smith alone to get on with his policy.
I put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite that during 13 years of Conservative rule independence and majority rule was given under former Colonial Secretaries to several countries. It is to their credit that this was achieved. I repeat, that was done by Conservative Administrations and not by a Labour Government. Indeed, one of the former Colonial Secretaries has been denounced by his colleagues in the House of Lords for ruining the Commonwealth by being too smart by half. The former Colonial Secretaries did a great job in extending the freedom of home rule to the people of those countries.
The only exception is Rhodesia and, therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman the former Prime Minister discussed the matter with Mr. Smith and when Mr. Smith asked for independence on his own terms, this country could not possibly, in the moral attitude of the world and with the attitude which has prevailed in Britain for the last 50 years, refuse to say that before handing over responsibility for self-government there must be the right eventually of majority rule.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have made a number of smart quips and university debating points about what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said about this or that on one occasion or another. Are they not aware that this is a serious matter and that we are not in a debating society at a university where somebody scores points? It is entirely irresponsible for the two hon. Gentlemen to whom I referred to give encouragement to Mr. Smith in his rebellion by saying that it is futile for us to do certain things, that those actions will be ineffective, that nothing can be done and that, in the long 363 run, Mr. Smith will win. If that is the case, God help the progress of that country and the progress of the world.
Could Britain, in these circumstances, do nothing? Is that not what those two hon. Gentlemen opposite were suggesting? If not, they should have suggested what we could do. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will read the wonderful, simple sort of suggestions made by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds. Does that hon. Gentleman think that my right hon. Friend had not considered those facts previously or that he will, next week, be able to resolve all the difficulties by doing what the hon. Gentleman suggested?
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
The right hon. Gentleman is obviously in high dudgeon. I must correct him. I wish to see Smith's régime come to an end, and I wish to see Rhodesia put back on to a multiracial path. The right hon. Gentleman must not misquote me.
§ Mr. Woodburn
My hon. Friends approve of the hon. Gentleman's objectives, but none of us heard anything in his remarks that would enable us to achieve them. He said something to please everybody—and something which displeased most of us. I approve of his policy to bring Rhodesia back to the line of progress. This is our objective. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman made no practical suggestions for achieving that, except by giving us to believe that we should allow Mr. Smith to carry on with his policy of suppressing Southern Rhodesia for the next generation. Britain could not stand still and do nothing.
France is a very logical nation. France refused to take any action at the United Nations to suppress Southern Rhodesia. Why was that? It was because General de Gaulle's representative said, "If we acknowledge that the United Nations has any right to interfere in this matter, we are tacitly accepting that Mr. Smith's Rhodesia is an independent nation and no longer part of the British Commonwealth. It is a matter entirely for Britain." He said that France would not interfere, and if we once accept the point that Mr. Smith has to be left alone this ceases to be a British affair and becomes 364 the affair of the United Nations and of every country, with Britain playing a very minor part in it.
Britain has therefore accepted the responsibility. The hon. Member approves of that, and his leaders approved of it, and demanded it, but now they do not want to allow Britain to accept its responsibility and do the job in the best way she can. It may be that some of these steps will not be successful, but hon. Members opposite should not be quite so pessimistic.
We have applied sanctions. Since the League of Nations days it has always been the policy of this party that the countries of the League of Nations—now of the United Nations—should try to avoid war if it were possible; that they should use every method short of war to bring rebels and rebellion into order. Had the other nations backed up sanctions in the case of Abyssinia, Mussolini would have come to heel, but the application of sanctions was blacklegged by certain nations and the whole policy collapsed.
This is where I rather differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale. Mr. Smith has declared war on the whole Commonwealth. He has declared war on the principles of his Government. That war has to be fought. How do we fight it? Do we allow every Tom, Dick and Harry to rush in prematurely and be beaten? Bernard Shaw wrote a play called "Lord Augustus Does His Bit." Lord Augustus was a terriffic leader in the Army. He was told to retreat. He would never retreat—being a true Briton—so he rushed forward and, of course, was taken prisoner. When the Germans interviewed him, he told them that he would not retreat and gave them his ideas on military strategy. So the Germans said, "You are the man we want. We are prepared to exchange you with any general in the British Army and we will send you back to help the British," because that kind of warfare where people put themselves out on a limb is just not winning a war or a battle.
When we have people in charge of an operation, they have to handle it in the way that is best. As I gather, the Prime Minister said that the way to do it was to make sure that oil sanctions would be effective before imposing them. That is to say, we had to get agreement amongst 365 the oil-dealing nations to impose sanctions and not tackle it spasmodically by stopping a ship here and there. That was the policy declared last week, and I do not remember it being altered. I therefore cannot understand this excitement.
I cannot appreciate why, until this policy is altered, someone should want to start a guerrilla war, stopping a ship here and there. If this policy is to be effective it has to be applied, as it should have been in the case of Abyssinia, by all the nations involved. I am not convinced about the part of Portugal and South Africa. They might be inviting too much trouble getting mixed up with Rhodesia. They should be careful. They themselves are vulnerable to world opinion and may also be vulnerable to other things that might reflect on them if they were to get mixed up in sanctions.
It has been suggested that we ought to use troops. I have a certain sympathy with those who feel a measure of caution here. I remember Suez, when right hon. and hon. Members opposite used troops. The worst thing in the world for this country is to start to use troops without being prepared to make a job of it. The reason why the Africans are calling for us to use troops is that they know that their troops would be no match for the very effective Southern Rhodesian troops, who are well equipped and well armed. Obviously, the Africans would suffer terrible casualties if they entered upon war. They would do it if necessary, but they want Britain to do the job.
If Zambia is not altogether willing to have our troops on its territory—this does not seem to he settled yet—how do the troops get to Rhodesia? I remember Suez and Cyprus. It is not so easy for a big army to curb a population. Therefore, those who have to decide these questions must think carefully and make proper provision before they start moving troops anywhere at all. The worst thing would be to move troops and make a mess of it. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not attempt anything of this kind until they know what they are doing, where they are going, and what the result will be. Anyone who is prepared to take a gamble is a fool unless he knows the result, but if he gambles and knows the result he is a wise man. In my view, our Government must be 366 trusted to have a little common sense in this matter.
The problem is to do what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston, North has proposed, in his saner moments, and that is to try to get Rhodesia into the Commonwealth again and working on a proper basis. Some hon. Members tell us that everyone is behind Mr. Smith. But Roy Welensky is not behind Smith. Sir Edgar Whitehead is not behind Smith. Winston Field is not behind Smith. Garfield Todd is not behind Smith. The business men of Rhodesia are not behind Smith. The F.B.I. sent out a delegation, before all this started, to advise people there to get this man to stop his mad nonsense and be reasonable. That is what they wanted to do, but they had no power because of what Mr. Smith, not with his British colleagues so much as some of his Boer colleagues, wanted to do. We all talk about our kith and kin, but it must be remembered that some of these people are South Africans who do not have our outlook on these matters at all.
We are talking about 250,000 people, about the population of Aberdeen, dominating 4 million Africans. They are having a fine time of it, of course. One can understand their reluctance to give it all up. But does anyone believe that they can perpetuate their sort of Government in a world in which people are moving towards freedom and in which it is the plain duty of the British Government to do what they can in the circumstances to secure what they know is the right end? No one can guarantee success. No one can guarantee that sanctions will succeed. Is the alternative to have no sanctions? This is what seems to be proposed by hon. Members opposite.
As my hon. Friends have said, the Leader of the Opposition has become quite irresponsible in this matter. He is so anxious to play party politics and score little points that he is losing his dignity as party leader and is becoming a mere political hack. I hope that he will carry on no more like that. I give credit to the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, who rose manfully at that Box, in spite of his colleagues, and confirmed that the Prime Minister was doing exactly as he had done in his offers to 367 Mr. Smith. When hon. Members condemn the Prime Minister for his actions they are automatically condemning their former Prime Minister who pursued exactly the same policy, the policy which we have continued.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)
The debate was initiated to discuss one oil tanker, and it is upon that oil tanker that I propose to concentrate my remarks. It has been suggested by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) that the eyes of the world are upon that tanker. I suggest that the eyes of the world are upon Her Majesty's Government and the decision which they will make about the fate of that tanker.
This time last week I was in New York at the headquarters of the United Nations, and I had the opportunity of a number of informal and quite unofficial conversations with members of the delegations there. Two things impressed me above all else. The first was that Britain's sincerity in the matter of the illegal régime in Southern Rhodesia is under suspicion, that even our best friends are doubtful whether we seriously intend to take the measures that are necessary to overthrow the Government of Mr. Ian Smith. The other thing, which depressed me more than anything else, was the very obvious cynicism of the representatives of the Communist countries who believe that we shall take enough measures to save our face but not sufficiently strong measures to ensure the fall of the Ian Smith Government and that, consequently, we shall seek to please all sides of opinion while at the same time refusing to take the necessary steps to enforce the rule of law.
In those circumstances, I believe that the issue of this one oil tanker assumes a very considerable proportion indeed. This afternoon the Prime Minister quite cordially and openly welcomed the actions of the Government of Iran in imposing oil sanctions upon Southern Rhodesia and carrying them immediately into effect, but in the very next breath he stated categorically that he was not prepared to turn back this one oil tanker, British owned and British controlled, whose contents will serve Southern Rhodesia. This is, in effect, saying that we welcome the action of one country in imposing oil sanctions but we ourselves are not pre- 368 pared to follow that example. Yet it is the British nation which has the prime responsibility for resolving the situation in Southern Rhodesia.
The suggestion was also made by the Prime Minister that because there were other ships following the oil tanker it was not important to turn back that vessel, that Southern Rhodesia would, in fact, obtain her supplies from another source. That argument is absurd. It would be equally sensible to argue that we might today be supplying arms to the Viet Cong on the grounds that if we did not supply them somebody else would do so. If it is to be said that we must supply Southern Rhodesia with oil because if we do not another nation will do so, why are we imposing sanctions at all and why have we taken the measures to restrict the economy of Southern Rhodesia? It is quite probable that countries such as South Africa and Portugal will take steps to do everything in their power to assist Mr. Smith, and if one argument is logical then so is the other.
I believe that the Prime Minister, whose handling of this situation I have until now admired profoundly, is wholly wrong in this matter. I believe that the eyes of the world are on the Government and on the decision which he has either made or will make in the days ahead.
There has been reference to the position of the Commonwealth. My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) referred to the ultimatum issued from Addis Ababa. I share his view—a view expressed by other hon. Members—that the ultimatum is melodramatic and possibly absurd. But the fact remains that it was the result of a deep-rooted concern felt by the African states—a concern and fear that Britain will not take the measures necessary to crush Mr. Smith.
It may well be, as the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) said, that the ultimatum is an indication of immaturity, but the fact remains that it was issued after long and serious debate by African Foreign Ministers meeting in Addis Ababa and that it was not an ill-considered or ill-judged move in their opinion, nor in the opinion of the countries they represent. It follows, therefore, that a decision of the Government about the tanker must have 369 a psychological effect upon the States concerned in that ultimatum—as, indeed, it will have an effect upon all other members of the Commonwealth who are anxious to see the Smith régime crushed.
We are in danger—in serious and real danger—of a break up of the British Commonwealth. If that occurs it will be a profound tragedy, not only for Britain and not only for the member States of the Commonwealth but for the whole world—and if for no other reason we have to decide to take measures which are painful, which we ourselves dislike, in order to crush the Smith régime, then the fact that by so doing we shall preserve intact the British Commonwealth is to me a sufficient reason.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that in order to crush Smith, we should smash up the economies of the whole of Rhodesia, North and South? Or does he mean that we should get rid of Smith and try to preserve the economies of both countries for the benefit of the people who live in them?
§ Mr. Bessell
Of course I want to see the economy of Rhodesia preserved if possible, but I do not think that the preservation of the economy of Rhodesia is the main issue in this matter. It may be an important issue but it is not of overriding importance. I am concerned, as other hon. Members have shown themselves to be concerned, to see that the interests of the white minority are preserved, that they are taken care of and that they are treated as fairly and as equitably as the indigenous people of that country. The real issue, the only issue in the eyes of the vast majority of the free countries of the world, is whether Britain really believes that she has a duty to uphold the rule of law.
§ Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham) rose——
§ Mr. Bessell
I have given way once and I do not propose to give way twice because I know that many other hon. Members wish to speak.
The issue is: does Britain intend to uphold the rule of law? Does she really care about the rule of law? That is the question in the minds of millions throughout the world. Or do we instead intend to permit the defiance of the authority of the Crown and of Parlia- 370 ment which has so far been expressed by the behaviour and the conduct of Mr. Ian Smith's Government?
If we as a nation really believe in a democratic system of government for ourselves, it follows that we must believe in it also for those Colonial Territories for which we still have care. If we believe in the terms of the Charter of the United Nations and all that that means in terms of individual freedom and human rights, then we apply them not just to a few nations, but in all our relations with every nation on earth and in particular with those for which we still have a responsibility. If we really believe as a nation and as a people in upholding the rule of law, then the illegal Government in Southern Rhodesia must be crushed, and that is the first and, I believe, the only consideration in this whole matter.
§ Mr. Awdry rose——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is not in order for the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. John Harvey) to interrupt from outside the Chamber.
§ Mr. Bessell
I wish to be brief because I know that a number of hon. Members wish to speak.
Does this ship seriously affect the future of the illegal Government in Southern Rhodesia? I believe that it does, because it is the most profound single test of the sincerity of the intentions expressed by Her Majesty's Government and its resolution to restore the rule of law which it has yet had to face. As I have said, there is a widespread suspicion throughout the whole of the free world and among Communist countries that we do not seriously intend to take the measures which are necessary to ensure the defeat of the Smith Government.
This one issue, as I have said, will have a profound psychological effect upon world opinion. I say to the Prime Minister that this is for his Government, in the eyes of the world, the moment of truth. I said at the beginning that I thought that the hon. Member for Salford, West was not quite correct when he said that the eyes of the world were upon the 371 tanker and I said that they were upon the decision which will be made by Her Majesty's Government. I will amend that further. I believe that after the remarks made at the Dispatch Box this afternoon by the Prime Minister, the eyes of the free world are now upon the right hon. Gentleman.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Mr. David Ennals (Dover)
The House is grateful not only to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) for initiating the debate, but also to the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) for bringing us back again to the small sharp issue which we are discussing this evening. This is not the time for a general debate on Rhodesia, and I shall be extremely brief in associating myself with a plea to the Government that they should take action which will prevent this one tanker from going to Beira.
It will be said, as it has already been said in the House, that this would be only a gesture. I agree that it would be only a gesture. It is far more important that economic pressures should be effective and that oil sanctions should be organised and should work, but we cannot ignore gestures. The hon. Member for Bodmin was right to say that, rightly or wrongly—and I believe that it is wrongly—our sincerity is being questioned. If we ask ourselves why the African States at Addis Ababa issued their ultimatum, we would all agree that it was impossible for the Government to accept and that it was irresponsible and that it was calling for action which was unreasonable. But beneath it all was the question in the minds of some of these Foreign Ministers about whether they felt confident, totally confident, that though they might disagree with the methods being used by the British Government, come what may we would see this job through to the end. It is because, I think wrongly, they were not able to give an affirmative answer to that, that they have taken this decision. I would transfer the question to the Europeans in Rhodesia. I do not believe that we can ask the loyal European Rhodesians to come out against the illegal Government, to risk their livelihood and their futures if there is no certainty over what would be the outcome of this struggle.
372 While I have agreed with every action taken by the Prime Minister, and while I deplore the irresponsible and cheap jibes which came from one speaker on the other side of the House, what is required more than any other thing is a statement from the Prime Minister that, without question, and however long it may take, the task which this Government has set itself is not just to return Rhodesia to legality but to set in motion the process, however gradual, towards majority rule and that nothing will deter us from that task. It is in this light that I believe we must look at the incident of the ship. There is no question that people are asking about the sincerity of the British Government. One reason why they are doing so is because of statements that have been made from the other side of the House, not only from the back benches, where extremely irresponsible statements have been made, encouraging to Mr. Smith, but also from the Front Bench.
We are looking not to the Opposition but to the Government. If they decide that the ship should go on, while in the long run, in terms of actual oil, the significance may not be very great, the fact that we do not take this gesture of stopping the ship, could lead to misunderstandings that are not only unjustified, but which could be profoundly important. It is for this reason that I want to add my voice to those who have made their appeal and ask the Prime Minister, if not tonight or tomorrow, to say that this ship, for which we can issue an instruction, should not arrive in the port.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
When we are faced with a rebellion in Rhodesia there are only three possible methods of bringing it to an end. One is the use of economic sanctions, another is the use of force and the third is a combination of these two. There seem to be no other alternatives and these are the spheres of discussion which are open to us. Therefore, when the hon. Members for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) and Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) come forward with varying suggestions, that in some form or another we can treat with the rebels, that we can in some way offer them various proposals, these proposals 373 must clearly fall into one of two categories.
They are either a repetition of the proposals made to the Smith Government before U.D.I., in which case there is every likelihood that they will be turned down and there is no reason why we should offer such proposals after U.D.I., or else they are new proposals, in which case they must be a retreat from the five principles which successive British Governments have laid down as preconditions of the granting of independence to Rhodesia. There can be no question of accepting any of the suggestions which came from these sources. I believe that the British Government must declare themselves on two points. They must state what is their long-term objective following the bringing down of the Smith régime. This we have not had.
The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that we can go back to the 1961 Constitution. I believe that this is not a possible solution and that it would not be acceptable to the majority of the people of Rhodesia. The right course is to say that the form of policy which the British Government should pursue would be, having brought the rebellion to an end, to impose a period of direct British colonial rule and to make steady progress towards the normal transition to majority rule such as we have experienced in all other territories under our control. This is a matter on which the Government have yet to declare themselves clearly in the eyes of the rest of the Commonwealth.
The other matter on which the Government have to declare themselves clearly—and this is where the issue about the oil tanker comes in—is their immediate determination to bring down the régime in Rhodesia. We have had too many phrases like, "We shall not stand idly by", which are capable of one interpretation by the African Commonwealth, one interpretation by the readers of the Daily Mirror and another interpretation by the Conservative Opposition. These phrases must stop. We have to have phrases which indicate clearly to the African Commonwealth that the British Government and this House are absolutely serious and clear-cut in their determination that this régime shall be brought to an end.
§ Mr. Steel
I think that I indicated what the possible courses of action were. The Liberal Party has never ruled out the possibility of circumstances which might involve the use of force. We do not believe that this should have been ruled out. We are not saying that this is a desirable course. What I am saying is that the British Government must, at every step, make absolutely clear and in unambiguous terms what is their determination and their policy.
It is in this context that we come to the question of the tanker heading for Beira. We are told that it is vital to maintain oil supplies to Zambia. In the next breath we are told that there are other ships behind this one which will supply oil to the pipeline. These two statements seem to me to be contradictory. Either the oil flow to Zambia is imperilled by stopping this ship, or it is not. We should have this point cleared up in the reply tonight.
In the course of Questions earlier today the Prime Minister said, with a note of pride in his voice, that Britain had done more in the form of sanctions than any other country. This is not a matter for pride. This was essential and natural. This was our responsibility. I do not see this as a matter for self-congratulation. It is not good enough that the Prime Minister should dismiss as an idle moral gesture the suggestion that this ship should be turned back. As many people have said, this is, if nothing else, a moral issue. It is not an issue on which it is easy to make practical suggestions. A moral gesture on this moral issue could be exceedingly important at this time, and that is the case of those of us who are urging the Government to take a swift decision on the diversion of this ship.
The Organisation for African Unity and the whole African Commonwealth are concerned about our good faith in the present Rhodesian situation. To put it another way, they are concerned with their kith and kin who happen to represent the majority of the population in Rhodesia. May I end by quoting the statement of President Kaunda in an 375 interview which appeared in last Sunday's Sunday Times—and it seems to me that he was speaking not just for himself but for the whole of African opinion in countries throughout Africa:I must be frank. It is a terrible problem for the Zambian Cabinet and me to decide whether Mr. Wilson is determined with sufficient singlemindedness to carry this through to the end. Mr. Bottomley explained to me at length the difficulties of the Labour Government with their tiny majority. I understood that difficulty. But what is good politics in England may be bad politics in Africa. Let us say I still remain to be convinced that Britain will be absolutely committed to help us.I believe—this sums up our case—that it is because they remain waiting to be convinced that we are absolutely committed to help that we must turn this ship back.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
I wonder how many times the door has to be slammed in the face of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) before he realises the true nature of the Smith régime. A great deal has been said by that hon. Member and by his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) about the question of majority rule and the nature of the Smith Government. They seem to have overlooked the official documents relating to the negotiations, at page 72 of which Mr. Smith said that he must make it clear that the Government party in Rhodesia did not believe in majority rule, that they accepted that the 1961 Constitution would eventually bring it about, but that they would not take any action to hasten this process. In other words, they were quite prepared to frustrate the process.
I did not intend to enter this debate until I heard the hon. Member for Cathcart, the cabin boy, so to speak, in the ship of which his right hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) is the captain, but unfortunately, unlike some captains, he refuses to man the bridge. We had an example of this only the other day when the hon. Member for Cathcart was left wallowing in the sea while the rest of the crew of this peculiar ship were not prepared to follow him or to stand by their convictions, 376 which were easily expressed at the Monday Club or at rallies at Caxton Hall but not in the House of Commons.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart referred to this debate, which was so well introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), as an exercise in international public relations. I can only assume that the hon. Member was indulging in an exercise in Glasgow public relations, which is something that we have witnessed from him for some time.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor
The point I was trying to make was that hon. Members on this bench, and particularly the group occupying the benches behind the hon. Member, are not representative of the main strength of both their parties' points of view.
§ Mr. Rose
On the contrary, strange as it may seem, I feel that on this issue I am very much a representative of my party's point of view, having supported throughout every action taken by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in connection with the Rhodesian situation. This is the very first time that I have felt any doubt, because up to now he has played it with remarkable coolness, ability and skill.
My feeling is that there are hon. Members opposite who are willing to play appeasement in this dangerous situation as much as there were others who were prepared to play appeasement in another situation which was equally dangerous. When the hon. Member for Cathcart talks about opposition in Rhodesia, he should realise the extent to which the Government of Southern Rhodesia is willing to fetter opposition and to stop the expression of opposition. In spite of this, many brave voices have been raised in Southern Rhodesia and it is up to us to show those people that we mean what we say.
A strange comparison was made with Cuba. The difference is that in this case we are applying economic sanctions on behalf of the great majority of the people of the country—four million of them—rather than against the majority of the people. There is a strange proposition inherent in the decision with regard to the tanker. The proposition is rather on the lines that it is legitimate to do an evil act if others also are prepared to do it. That kind of defence was rejected at the 377 Nuremberg trials as not being a defence. It is up to us to set an example of international morality, because this is where we have to see justice done. It is not good enough in this situation merely to know that we want justice, as many of my hon. Friends and a great many hon. Members opposite want it. We have to show the world that we are intent upon achieving it. All the more so in this particularcase—and it is not a frivolous point—when the Government have in a sense a majority of shares in the particular company which is sending oil to Rhodesia.
I want to know why the Government feel it legitimate to give another two weeks' start, so to speak, to the Smith Government. There may be an explanation for it. I accept economic sanctions to the hilt. We have said that we reject direct military intervention at the present stage, mainly because of the geographical factors and the military factors involved apart from any other question of principle. If we accept that sanctions are the only way to bring this rebel Government to heel, surely we have to make them as effective as possible? If the Government of Iran can set an example, surely it is up to us in the seat of Government here purporting to have control over the Rhodesian situation to set an example to other countries.
It may be that shortly we shall be imposing oil sanctions, but how foolish it would be to allow another two weeks' lease of life to the illegal government in Rhodesia by sending in that oil shipment, and how many countries may take heart from and be encouraged by our action if we refuse to send it.
We are deeply indebted to what the Prime Minister has already done, but it is not for the Government to do the maximum consonant with support from the Opposition Front Benches. It is for the Government to decide what is right, and it is up to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to decide which side he is on. Is he on the side of the civilised people in his party, or is he on the side of the lunatic fringe in the Monday Club? That is a decision that he has to make. The decision should not be made by the Government Front Bench.
It is for us to show the world that we really mean what we say and that we are going to apply sanctions to the hilt 378 as quickly and as sharply as possible. They may hurt, and they will have to hurt if we are going to succeed, but it is the lesser of two evils eschewing, as we do, the use of force. It is the only way to bring the rebel Government to its knees.
Our first consideration should not be how far we can take the Leader of the Opposition along with us, because the only result of doing that will be that we shall advance towards him and he will retreat, as we have seen happen before. The only way that we can resolve the situation is to stand firmly by our convictions, apply the sanctions necessary and not hesitate, because the march of history is on this side of the House and not that side.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)
I want to say how grateful I am to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) for raising the subject-matter of the debate. It is very important that we should have an opportunity to discuss it, and the debate has been timely and appropriate.
I should be less than honest if I said that I am other than profoundly disappointed by what the Prime Minister said today. I am very proud of the way in which my right hon. Friend has stood up to Smith so far because, beneath all the conciliatory attempts which have been made to resolve the situation in the best possible way, there has been a firm determination to resist Smith, U.D.I. and the consolidation of a police state, and to resist the shilly-shallying of the Opposition. The determination which the Prime Minister has shown has had the overwhelming support of the majority of the British people and certainly a very considerable measure of support even on the other side of the House.
The decision which has been made about the tanker contradicts the line which the Prime Minister has taken up to now. He has spoken out in favour of short and sharp measures which will bring Smith to heel. Unfortunately, the decision not to stop the tanker will spread despondency among the opponents of Smith and give satisfaction to his supporters.
Just consider for one moment the position of those people in Rhodesia who 379 wish to be loyal to the British Government and who wish to see Smith laid low. Will this decision encourage them? I maintain that it will profoundly dismay them. Consider the position of those people in the African States who have been doubtful of the resolve of the British Government. Will it encourage them to trust in Britain's determination to go through with her policy? I think that it will encourage them to doubt British sincerity on this matter.
It is not enough for us—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mrs. Harriet Slater.]
§ Mr. Newens
I consider that it is not enough to count the moral effect of such a move lightly, because basically what we must seek to do in this country is to win the support of the majority of the Rhodesian population against Smith. I do not think that permitting this ship to go through will help to win over that population to our point of view. I believe that all necessary measures, including force, should be used to bring Smith down. I hope very much that the use of military force will not be necessary, but it is quite clear that the need for military support will be the less the stronger the sanctions and the more clearly it is shown that we intend to impose them.
Stopping the ship going through is not merely a moral gesture. I have been told that it will provide two weeks' supply of oil. If this enables Smith to hold on longer, I think that it will help to postpone the end that we are seeking to achieve. I believe that it will be easier to make oil sanctions effective if Britain acts now, and therefore, even at this late stage, I think that my right hon. Friend should go to the Prime Minister and make it clear how necessary we on this side of the House, and many hon. Gentlemen opposite, feel it is to revise the decision which has been announced today. We must remember that, with the wisdom of hindsight, it is easy to see mistakes a long time after they have been made. At this moment we are at a crucial point is history. We are at what may be a turning 380 point, and we must act with resolve now if we intend to see that Smith is brought down.
I believe that many hon. Gentlemen on the back benches opposite are prepared to accept a situation which will lead to white supremacy being consolidated in Rhodesia. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) refused to answer the question that I put to him, and I can only assume that he refused because he knew what the reaction would be to a clear statement of his true position with regard to Smith.
I hope very much that my right hon. Friend will be able to discuss this matter with the Prime Minister, and that a decision will be taken to turn back this tanker, to speed up the agreement to stop other tankers going through, and to see that sanctions are made really effective. I am all for plugging the holes afterwards, but let us turn off this tap now.
On this side of the House there is almost unanimous agreement that Smith be brought low. We want the Prime Minister and the Government to take all necessary measures to see that that aim is achieved. I hope very much that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations will realise the sincere feelings which have been expressed by the majority of hon. Members who have taken part in this debate, and that all necessary measures, including the one that I have suggested, will be taken to see that the Smith régime is brought down at the earliest possible moment.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie (Caithness and Sutherland)
Many speakers have mentioned the profound effect on world opinion of the lack of a British gesture in turning back this ship. I do not know what it would cost if the oil had to be pumped out into the sea—perhaps £100,000—but I know that the cost of landing this oil in Rhodesia would be infinitely more. I was profoundly shocked to hear the Prime Minister's reasons for not stopping the ship.
I once saw a newspaper cartoon which made a deep impression on me. It was a picture of two torturers in a dungeon, in the Middle Ages. They were dressed in black, wore masks and were leaning on axes. They had instruments of torture such as the rack and thumbscrews, 381 and the rest, and one was saying to the other, "As I see it, Jack, if we did not do it someone else would." This is the reason twat the Prime Minister gave for not making a moral gesture which is supremely important. I say that this will have a profound effect on world opinion. The Prime Minister and the Commonwealth Secretary should consider the profound effect that it is having in this House, not least on hon. Members on this bench.
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Arthur Bottomley)
This has been an interesting and useful debate. It would be dishonest of me if I told my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) that I welcomed it. I make that point not for personal considerations but because of my colleagues in the Department who, day in day out and week in week out over the past four months, have been heavily engaged with me in trying to solve the Rhodesian problem. Earlier today I told them, "Well chaps, you can have the evening off".
But I accept what my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said. The first responsibility of Ministers is to this House. When I heard that the debate was going to take place I hurried round at once. I am sure that it has not escaped the notice of my hon. Friends that, except for the Opposition Chief Whip—who, by custom, seldom speaks—the Members of the Conservative Front Bench have been noticeably absent; not only on this subject, but on any aspect on the Adjournment for which they have the right to challenge the Government, they have been absent.
One thing upon which we can all agree, perhaps with one exception, is that we want to bring down this evil régime in Rhodesia in the shortest time. My hon. Friends and, I believe most hon. Members opposite, too, agree that it is preferable to do this by means other than the use of force. That is why we all agree that economic sanctions should be imposed. We may differ about the degree of severity with which they should be imposed, but my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister himself put the Government's view on record, in answer to a Question from the Leader of the Opposi- 382 tion, on 23rd November, when he said thatthere is the position of Zambia to be considered, along with other countries. These matters will have to be very carefully studied, and while we must insist that whatever sanctions are applied must be effective, we do not want those which are damaging and ineffective, any more than we want to create damage or resort to ineffectiveness. It is very important that in this we proceed only in agreement with others principally concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1965; Vol. 721, c. 252.]It is in this respect that I have been trying to work. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale asked what I discovered as a result of my talks with President Kaunda and others. President Kaunda has the responsibility to provide for his people, and he wants to do so in the best possible way. We must remember that he and his Ministers have had just over 12 months of full authority. We want to help them. We have a duty to see that Zambia develops peacefully and successfully.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walton said that one way in which we could make sure of doing that was by an airlift, and he cited the example of Berlin. I ask him to believe me that this question has been considered, but that it is a different situation from that which existed in the case of Berlin. In Berlin there is a highly developed society, and there are airports, and so on. If an airlift were possible to save Zambia, it would have been put into operation already. This is not forgotten: we want to provide an airlift and it is one of the things which we have to look at. Indeed, one of the experiments now going on, which is proving successful, is an aircraft picking up copper from Zambia, taking it to Tanzania and bringing oil back. This is a beginning, but it will be a long time before we can say that it is successful.
On the subject of oil, those hon. Gentlemen who have raised the matter should tell me what they really want. Do they really want to make a gesture, an isolated gesture, in respect of this ship—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."]—regardless of consequences, or do they want an embargo on oil and other goods going to Rhodesia with the least possible damage to Zambia and other African countries? The Government are trying to concentrate not on gestures alone but on the most effective 383 means which will do the most damage to the Smith régime and the least damage to the parties we represent—
§ Mr. Heffer rose—
§ Mr. Bottomley
My hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not give way: I have very much to say. If I gave way I would not answer every point put to me tonight and I must do that if I am to do my duty.
As far as Africans generally are concerned, I am bound to tell the House that, with one or two exceptions, they take the view that, whether it is oil or other supplies, this will not do the trick. They do not think that economic sanctions will be effective. They have said to me continually—I have tried to destroy the argument—that, on the two occasions that sanctions were applied, they were failures. The first which they mentioned, of course, is that of Abysinnia. It was never intended that economic sanctions should succeed in that case. The other case is that of Cuba: I tried to explain to them that, in that case, there was one major country determined that the economic blockade should not succeed.
However, in the case of small Rhodesia, as a result of the United Nations' decision, the whole world is determined—or they should be if they are to abide by that decision—to apply economic sanctions. I repeat that these economic sanctions, properly applied, will succeed. In these circumstances, we should not talk about force. I told my African colleagues, "It is easy to use force if you are not prepared to face the consequences, the economic deprivation, the misery, the loss of life, the bloodshed. Try my way first before you resort to those methods."
Britain has applied strict economic measures, of which the House will be aware. We have stopped all aid, the export of arms—the list has already been given, and if the House accepts it, to save time, I will not go through it. Not only economic measures have been applied but stringent financial measures too. All these things have been done. Unfortunately, others have not followed that lead, except for the O.A.U. conference last Monday, which decided that it would apply economic sanctions. I am glad that that is so, because if economic sanctions are applied in this way, we shall get the required result.
384 I will now go on to talk about—[An HON. MEMBER: About the ship.]—I know about the ship and I will answer that, but I want to answer the points which have been put to me and I will do it in my own way—
§ Mr. David Steel rose—
§ Mr. Bottomley
No. I will talk about it. Leave it to me—[Interruption.]Do hon. Members want a reply or do they not?
When I visited Zambia, the President told me that he wanted to be sure about safeguards against the illegal régime in Rhodesia. In the first case he said that he was afraid of the Rhodesia Air Force, which has very efficient and effective aeroplanes, and he wanted British aircraft to give the adequate defence he required. In this connection we assured him that we could meet his wishes. While being sorry that the Foreign Minister of Zambia doubts the efficiency of these machines, I can only say that they are the best machines available and that they will see any of the Rhodesian aeroplanes out of the sky.
He next said that he wanted an opportunity to have troops not in Zambia—he could look after his own internal affairs—but on the Rhodesian side of the dam. He was afraid that the switch would be used and he would lose his power. I had to say to him, "If you put forces on the other side this would result in an armed conflict, resulting, without doubt, in the cutting off of power, or perhaps even the dam might be mined and blown up, in which case you would be deprived of the power".
The next point is oil. He is concerned about oil supplies as well as other supplies. One of his troubles is the putting on of economic measures and the fear that they will make it more difficult for him to survive. He rightly says, "This is no responsibility of mine. To some extent it has been caused by the illegal régime in Rhodesia, but by the failure of past British Governments to do what was right in the case of Rhodesia".
So I had to say, "We are anxious to keep you alive and we will do all we can to assist, whether it is oil or other things. We wish to meet your needs and we together will work out a contingency plan". I believe that until that contingency plan 385 is properly worked out and operated we should consider very carefully anything we do which might damage the economy of Zambia.
I will now attempt to answer the other points put to me in the debate. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) impugned the character and veracity of the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. It so happens that I was present at the interview with Mr. Garfield Todd and at the talks which we had. What has been said is a lie. I went out of my way on one occasion to say of Mr. Smith, the then Prime Minister of Rhodesia, that he was a man with some integrity and character, although in blinkers. It has been my experience since I have said that, in negotiations with him, to find, in fact, that what I have just said has been confirmed not once but more than once. He has lied not only to me but to others. This is one of the reasons why we cannot deal with Smith in any way—because he is not a man to be trusted.
I will tell the hon. Gentleman what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I said to Mr. Garfield Todd. My right hon. Friend said, as I did, to him that we, the British Government, were determined upon unimpeded progress towards majority rule in Rhodesia on a basis acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. That is what we said to him. We stood by it and we still stand by it.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) put some questions to me and the one matter with which I wish to deal in particular concerns his remarks about our peace aims and how we might see a way of transferring power to Rhodesia in such a way as to give satisfaction to the people there as a whole. The hon. Gentleman wanted to know about electoral qualifications for Africans. He asked whether we might do something which might be on the basis of, say, literacy, law abiding, taxpayers or fixed abode. I understand from what the hon. Gentleman said that if something like that—some sort of standard of that type—could be reached, that would be a fair way of negotiating and saying that the Africans should be brought into discussions fully on such a basis.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths indicated assent.
§ Mr. Bottomley
Naturally, this goes far beyond the 1961 Constitution and, in fact, would give immediate majority rule. If the hon. Gentleman really means that, then I am glad to find that he has come far ahead of any of his colleagues and that he joins with marry of my hon. Friends.
One reason why the oil embargo is not fully on is because we have not yet got other countries following our lead. If everyone was to put on the oil sanction it would be very useful, but not as effective as the economic and financial sanctions that have already been applied. The amount of oil consumed in Rhodesia is relatively small—about 400,000 tons a year. If we were to stop one ship, there are between 400 and 500 other ships at sea, many of which could slip oil into Rhodesia very quickly. The other economic pressures are much more effective.
One reason why the Smith régime is stronger than it ought to be is that hon. Members opposite, instead of backing the economic measures which the Government said were essential, have stated that the measures must not be punitive or effective. This has encouraged the Smith rebel régime—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] The hon. Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) has been very courageous and consistent throughout, and I do not associate him in an way with that comment. The right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), who was perhaps more responsible than anyone in the House for the wind of change, has encouraged the rebel régime.
Smith has said that a high rate of investment would come about and the standard of living would improve. He was encouraged to believe that by some hon. Members, but the way in which he has been putting it to his people could lead to his downfall. Mr. Smith said to his people, "Look, if we get our independence, we will get increased investment and our standard of living will rise." In fact, this is not happening, and there are people in Rhodesia who are getting discontended and discouraged. We should encourage that feeling. I think that we can do it in a way which, ship or no ship, will bring us the result that my hon. Friend the Member for 387 Walton wants, and which we all want, but it is a matter of judgment how to bring this about with the least discord for Africa and for our own economy.
I sometimes wonder whether all hon. Members recognise how much damage we are doing to our own economy in order to carry this policy through. We believe that it is necessary, and it is far from being an empty gesture. It will hurt the British people. Hon. Members should face that and recognise their responsibilities in this respect——
§ Mr. Thorpe rose——
§ Mr. Bottomley
If the hon. Member has not heard me referring to the ship, not once but two or three times, he and perhaps other hon. Members have not been listening or according me the courtesy I extended to them.
I believe that our economic squeeze—in particular the recent very severe measures we took—is beginning to tell on Rhodesia. The white Rhodesians are now being compelled to face up to the hard facts of life. It is a dismal awakening for them. Mr. Smith has shown it to be so by his latest pained pronouncements. The House will not expect me to name sources, but I can say that I get constant information from Rhodesia and letters expressing disappointment with the Rhodesia régime. That kind of demonstration will grow. I want to be in a position to encourage it to grow and to get these people to co-operate. I think that mine is the best way, and I do not want to be told otherwise by the hon. Gentleman opposite who has not the responsibility—if he had, he might look at things in a different light.
I want to refer to the decision taken last Friday in Addis Ababa. I am very glad that at last the African nations as a whole are following our lead on the question of economic sanctions. This will enable us, as I have said, to bring down the illegal Government. I hope that they will implement their resolution as speedily as possible. It has taken them a long time to come to it. The Common- 388 wealth countries have been very good on this. My criticism is not of them, but I have a criticism of other African countries who have not taken the opportunity to follow our lead. However, the decisions of the O.A.U. and of our Government are now identical. We all want the restoration of constitutional Government in Rhodesia and then, I hope, a peaceful transition to eventual majority rule in that unhappy country. I am sure that my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite basically agree with me. We want to see that the British Government, who have this responsibility and who cannot abdicate it, are able to bring about the end we all desire.
Hon. Members on both sides will, I think, acknowledge that, if there be any disagreement at all, it is about methods and timing. In this respect, I can tell the House that, whoever may be pressing us, whether it be the O.A.U. or hon. and right hon. Members of this House—and we welcome it—the right and the onerous duty to decide this issue rests nevertheless with myself and with the Government. We shall determine how we shall bring about the downfall of Smith and his supporters. As I said in Kampala on 4th December, the British Government and people are in no mood to be pushed about by anyone who believes that we ought to take irresponsible actions. We do not propose to take foolish or hasty steps which could result in plunging the larger part of Africa into a blood bath. But, naturally, we fully understand and sympathise with the passionate African feelings about the possibility of a second white supremacy State in Southern Africa. Britain's aim and the Government's aim is racial equality, but our hearts must not get the better of our heads. We shall restore constitutional Government in Rhodesia, but we shall do it in our way and in our time.
I conclude as I began, by saying that I did not welcome the debate but I think that it has been extremely useful and valuable. The only reason why I did not give way to hon. Members occasionally was that I felt that I had an obligation to all hon. Members. I have tried to answer all the points that have been raised. If I have failed to do so, this is not because I chose that way but merely because the limited opportunity to take down all the points rapidly 389 and cover them in succession did not enable me to do so.
The illegal régime in Rhodesia will not go on. It is our endeavour to bring it down and I believe that, if we bring it down, we shall win the support not only of the House as a whole but of all liberal minded people in this country and the world over.
§ Mr. David Steel
The right hon. Gentleman has still two or three minutes left. He must realise that the object of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Haffer) and of most hon. Members in taking an interest in the debate was not to have a wide-ranging discussion on all points but to debate the particular question of allowing the oil ship to go in. If the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to give us an assurance that the Government 390 will look at this again, and if they are quite determined that they will not intervene, we are entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman to give a reasoned explanation of the grounds on which they have reached this unfortunate decision.
§ Mr. Bottomley
I repeat that, during the course of my speech, I have endeavoured to cover all the arguments and points raised. If the discussion had been specifically on an oil embargo, I should have addressed myself to it, but that would have been discourteous to other hon. Members. I can only reiterate that I dealt substantially with the question of oil.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at twenty-nine minutes past Ten o'clock.