HC Deb 06 July 1965 vol 715 cc1319-22
1. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what further initiatives he proposes to take to solve the Southern Rhodesian problem.

2. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will make a statement on the problem of Southern Rhodesia, indicating what further negotiations have taken place during the last two months and what progress has been made towards a settlement.

4. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will make a statement about the progress of discussions on independence with the Rhodesian Government.

10. Mr. Goodhew

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what consultations he has had with the Rhodesian Government since the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference; and if he will make a statement.

12. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what progress has been made in his discussions with the Government of Rhodesia since the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Arthur Bottomley)

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 29th June, we are going forward with the discussions with Mr. Smith. These, of course, remain confidential, but the general considerations which guide our approach to the negotiations were outlined in the communiqué of the recent Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting.

Mr. Hamilton

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that, whatever the eventual solution of this problem, time is not on our side, and would he refute the suggestion recently made that a few years here or there do not matter?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That matter can be raised on another occasion, but not on this.

Mr. Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend say, following this expression of opinion, what official protests have been received in his Office about it?

Mr. Bottomley

None, Sir.

Mr. Hughes

Cannot my right hon. Friend devise some way of bringing home to the Government of Southern Rhodesia the importance of the solidarity of the Commonwealth, and would he consider paying another visit to that area with a view to emphasising the importance of trade relations between that country and the rest of the Commonwealth, indicating to it that it may suffer economically unless it settles its political differences?

Mr. Bottomley

I am assuming that the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend that I should pay a visit to Rhodesia refers to the political situation and not to increased trade. Increasing trade, we hope, will continue. With regard to the suggestion that I might visit Rhodesia, if I thought that any useful purpose would be served by doing so I would not hesitate.

Mr. Wall

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we wish him well in these negotiations and hope that by the exercise of patience and understanding we may reach an agreed solution? Does he think that Mr. Smith might be visiting this country in the near future?

Mr. Bottomley

No, Sir. The discussions are continuing and we hope that, as a result of these continuing discussions, in the end success will result.

Mr. Sandys

In view of the difficulty of getting Oral Questions answered at the right time—we know that Parliamentary business makes it difficult—would the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that if there is something to report about the progress of these negotiations he will take the opportunity to make a statement?

Mr. Bottomley

Yes. As in the past, I will do my best to keep the House informed on this matter.

Mr. Goodhew

Does the right hon. Gentleman know that there is some concern that the undertaking which he gave to the House on 15th March, when he said that the Government intended to abide by the convention, is somewhat in conflict with the undertaking which he gave to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers that he would be prepared in certain circumstances to call a constitutional conference without the agreement of the Rhodesian Government? Would he confirm that this is not so?

Mr. Bottomley

Mr. Smith has said that he would regard the convening of a constitutional conference by Britain as an interference in Rhodesia's internal affairs. I can only say that the British Government do not accept the validity of that statement.

Mr. Fisher

If, as all in this House are agreed, there is no question of imposing a settlement by force, and while not wishing to appear in any way unsympathetic to the wishes of the other Commonwealth Prime Ministers, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will confirm that there is no way open to Britain of carrying out the wishes expressed in the communiqué that we should suspend the 1961 Constitution and introduce an interim Government?

Mr. Bottomley

As I told the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, the issue is one of settling the matter by peaceful means or by war, and no one goes to war until he has failed to succeed by peaceful means.

Sir C. Osborne

They do not go to war either.