§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on Rhodesia.
The House will recall that, following the break-up of the Central African Federation in 1963, there have been continuing discussions on the question of independence for Rhodesia, and in particular on the terms on which Her Majesty's Government could recommend Parliament to pass the necessary legislation. For it cannot be too clearly stated that independence for Rhodesia can come only by the authority of this Parliament.
In pursuance of the discussions which began in September, 1964, the right hon. Gentleman, the then Prime Minister, and his colleagues, had thorough and frank discussions with the Prime Minister of Rhodesia. In those discussions the then British Government made clear three things. One, any unilateral declaration claiming independence would be invalid, illegal and indeed a revolt against the Crown. Two, that while the discussions should start from the 1961 Rhodesian Constitution, that had not in fact been devised as an Independence Constitution (the Rhodesian Government contest this statement), and there must be sufficiently representative institutions as a condition of the grant of independence to Rhodesia, a view which was endorsed by the 1964 Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting. Third, the then Government made clear 630 that whatever settlement was reached as a basis for independence must be acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole.
This was the position at the time of the change of Government in Britain, and Her Majesty's Government have in fact consistently followed the principles laid down by our predecessors and have sought to give effect to them. On 15th October last year, Polling Day, the then Government rejected Mr. Smith's suggestion that the judgment of the forthcoming indaba of Rhodesian Chiefs could be taken as indicating the views of the Rhodesian people as a whole. On taking office we confirmed that rejection.
The House will recall that, in view of evidence that a Unilateral Declaration of Independence was imminent at that time, the Government issued on 27th October, 1964, a statement on the legal, constitutional and economic consequences of such a step. The House will recall also that when, in April this year, in the course of the Rhodesian election, doubts were thrown on the implication of that statement, I made a further statement in this House on 29th April.
I will not weary the House with all the details of my exchanges, written and oral, with the Prime Minister of Rhodesia. But it will be recalled that, after written exchanges, I met Mr. Smith when he came to London to attend the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill and that shortly afterwards my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations visited Rhodesia for discussions with the Government there and with representative leaders of all shades of opinion.
Following that visit, exchanges continued by letter and orally through the British High Commissioner in Salisbury—and I cannot find words adequate to pay tribute to his work through all this time—on the basis of five principles which Her Majesty's Government considered must be realised before independence could be granted, and which Mr. Smith accepted. These principles, as the House knows, were:
These were the five principles. A fuller statement on the position which Her Majesty's Government have taken up on these principles was in fact published by my right hon. Friend's Department on 9th October after the breaking off of the recent London talks, and for the convenience of the House I propose to circulate that statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
- 1. The principle and intention of unimpeded progress to majority rule, already enshrined in the 1961 Constitution, would have to be maintained and guaranteed.
- 2. There would also have to be guarantees against retrogressive amendment of the Constitution.
- 3. There would have to be immediate improvement in the political status of the African population.
- 4. There would have to be progress towards ending racial discrimination.
- 5. The British Government would need to be satisfied that any basis proposed for independence was acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole.
Going back to the summer; in furtherance of the discussions on these principles, my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations, in July, visited Rhodesia for further discussions and then, after further written and oral exchanges, Mr. Smith came to London for talks aimed at producing a final settlement of the points at issue. After talks lasting four days, from 5th to 8th October, it became clear that no agreement was in sight, and an agreed communiqué was issued saying so. The statement of 9th October to which I have referred set out in more detail the points at issue and I will not take up the time of the House going over the material in that statement.
Although we failed to reach agreement on the means of giving effect to every one of the five principles, I will particularly draw the House's attention to our insistence that guaranteed and unimpeded progress to majority rule should not be frustrated by the freedom of an independent Rhodesia to amend the 1961 Constitution in a retrogressive sense. In this connection the House will be aware of a singular feature in that Constitution, in that while certain constitutional safeguards are entrenched, other provisions—including even the numbers of Members of Parliament to be elected on the "A" roll and "B" roll, respectively—are not 632 entrenched and, on a two-thirds Parliamentary majority, could be altered in such a way as completely to frustrate the Constitution and the prospects of orderly progress to majority rule. Equally, in the London talks, there was no agreement at all on the means of giving effect to the overriding fifth principle that the British Government and the British Parliament must be satisfied that the terms for independence are acceptable to the Rhodesian people as a whole.
Despite the breakdown, I made clear to Mr. Smith on the day of his departure, and my right hon. Friend reconfirmed when he saw him off at London Airport, that we were prepared to continue the discussions. There were, of course, a number of proposals which deserve further consideration, including our proposal of a Constitutional Conference, Mr. Smith's proposal for a Senate to vote on constitutional matters—though, on his formulation, only on the entrenched clauses—and the proposal which came up very late in the day for a Treaty between the British Government and the Government of Rhodesia to provide the necessary safeguards.
As the House knows, exchanges continued, including those covering my proposal for a Commonwealth Mission to be headed by Sir Robert Menzies which Mr. Smith rejected. On 20th October, Mr. Smith sent me an urgent letter, which hon. Members will have seen and which many hon. Members will have regarded as being in the nature of an ultimatum, demanding our immediate acceptance of independence on the basis of the 1961 Constitution combined with a Treaty on the lines suggested by Mr. Smith. Following my visit to Salisbury, I must tell the House that I am in no doubt that a U.D.I. would have followed the Government's rejection of that demand, for I am sure the House would never have agreed to our accepting it.
As the House knows, I replied saying that I proposed to go to Salisbury to continue the discussions with the Rhodesian Government and to have talks with all—including African Nationalist Leaders and ex-Prime Ministers—whom I felt could help. Accordingly, accompanied by my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Overseas Development, who went for 633 the purpose of discussing an intensified education programme with Rhodesian Ministers, I left for Salisbury on 24th October. I should perhaps add that in the course of my journey, more than 13,000 miles, I discussed the Rhodesian and, of course, other questions with the Presidents of Kenya, Zambia and Ghana and the Prime Minister of Nigeria, while my right hon. Friend has visited Tanzania and Kenya. The House will recognise that, although Britain alone carries the responsibility and the trust, there are other people to consider, not only the peoples of Britain and of Rhodesia, but also the Commonwealth, and indeed the United Nations as a whole.
For my talks in Salisbury I was joined by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. In all I had talks spread over four days, and covering practically every minute of those four days, with the Government of Rhodesia and with leaders of all sections of Rhodesian opinion. Just to give the House an idea of the scope; in all, my talks covered nine and a half hours with Mr. Smith, alone, or with his colleagues, and in one case, with the whole Cabinet: twenty-nine hours in separate meetings with other leaders of opinion, including three long meetings with Mr. Nkomo and his colleagues, three with Mr. Sithole and his colleagues, and one meeting with Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Sithole together. In all, serious talks with 126 leading and representative Rhodesians.
No one, British or Rhodesian, has been able to hear the views of so many leaders of opinion, African or European, for very many years. Before I come to the crucial meetings with the Rhodesian Government and describe the state at which the discussions stood when I left Rhodesia, I should tell the House that in my talks with the African Nationalist leaders, and with African and other M.P.s elected on the "B" roll, I made clear, with absolute frankness, three things. First, I regarded it as my duty to remove from their minds any idea or any hope they might have had that Rhodesia's constitutional problems were going to be solved by an assertion of military power on our part, whether for the purposes of suspending or amending the 1961 Constitution, of imposing majority rule tomorrow or any other time—or for that matter of dealing with the situation that would follow an illegal 634 assertion of independence. To quote the words I used to them:If there are those who are thinking in terms of a thunderbolt hurtling from the sky and destroying their enemies, a thunderbolt in the shape of the Royal Air Force, let me say that thunderbolt will not be coming, and to continue in this delusion wastes valuable time, and misdirects valuable energies.Secondly, I said:Although successive British Governments are deeply and irrevocably committed to guaranteed and unimpeded progress to majority rule, the British Government who alone through the British Parliament have the legal power to grant independence, do not believe that in the present and tragic and divided condition of Rhodesia, that majority can or should come today, or tomorrow. A period of time is needed, time to remove the fears and suspicions between race and race, time to show that the Constitution of Rhodesia with whatever amendments may later be made, can be worked, and is going to be worked, and that the rule of law, equally with the maintenance of essential human rights, will be paramount. And the time required cannot be measured by clock or calendar, but only by achievement.Thirdly, I urged them to unite the at present bitterly divided forces of African opinion, to work the Constitution of Rhodesia in a constitutional manner, to persuade their followers to register and to vote; I urged them to stand for Parliament and to show to Rhodesia, to ourselves here in Britain and the world, that they and the others concerned could make a reality of a multi-racial Parliament, with a system of multi-racial government, as long as possible before and, of course, indefinitely after majority rule. And let it be clear—if this is listened to—such an achievement is going to require a very painful surrender of prejudice, a very substantial eating of words, by a lot of people, African and European alike.
Now I turn to the discussions with the Government. Every issue was exhaustively discussed and there is no question which has not been fully thrashed out. And I want the House to know that no one in authority in Rhodesia can now be in any doubt of the dire consequences, legal, constitutional or economic, of an illegal seizure of power. Indeed, I would hope that no one in Rhodesia at all, following my statement to a news conference on Saturday—which, if the House wishes, I will place in the Library—would now be in any doubt of the position. For the House must realise, and I am sure many hon. Members do, that Rhodesia today is not only hyper-charged with 635 emotion, particularly the emotion of fear, it is also—Europeans and Africans alike—characterised by an extraordinary degree of self-deception.
There were no threats. There were warnings, not only of the action we should have to take, but also my assessment of the international reaction and of the steps that might be taken, and taken irrespective of anything we might do, by the United Nations or by other African countries.
On the issues we discussed, it became quite clear that the proposal for the Treaty is not a runner. We were fully prepared to discuss it in depth, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General flew out specially for this, but it became clear that it plays no real part in Rhodesian thinking. They and we agree that constitutional safeguards should be entrenched in a Constitution, not a Treaty. Moreover, even if a Treaty were regarded as an appropriate vehicle, we should still need to agree on its contents, including the problem of the un-entrenched clauses. The Treaty idea, therefore, is dead and we agreed to pursue the discussions on the basis of amendments to be made now to the 1961 Constitution.
Sir, by last Friday morning we had made no progress, indeed there were ominous signs, not only of a breakdown of the discussions, but of imminent, illegal action.
In these circumstances I put to the Rhodesian Prime Minister two propositions. The first of these stemmed from Mr. Smith's repeated assertion that the Rhodesian people, including a majority of Africans, wanted independence on the basis of the 1961 Constitution. I proposed to him that this should be tested by a referendum of the whole Rhodesian people, whether on universal suffrage, or perhaps—we were prepared to consider this—on the basis of the present electorate plus the majority of Africans who Mr. Smith has proposed should now be added to the "B" roll voters on the single test of whether they pay taxes. There would have to be safeguards, including international, presumably British, supervision, guarantees against intimidation from either side, and freedom for lawful, constitutional political organisation and 636 canvassing. This would show whether Mr. Smith was right or whether those were right, European and African, who said that the country would be opposed to independence on Mr. Smith's terms. That was one proposition I put to him.
The second proposition was that Her Majesty should be recommended by the Governments, both of Britain and Rhodesia, to set up a Royal Commission, under the chairmanship of Rhodesia's Chief Justice, to recommend the amendments to the 1961 Rhodesia Constitution which would provide the basis on which Rhodesia may proceed to independence as rapidly as possible, in a manner giving effect to the principles enunciated by the British Government in our statement of 9th October, 1965, and which at the same time would be acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. What we envisaged first was that the Royal Commission, in addition to taking formal evidence, should be free to make informal contacts to reach agreement on an acceptable independence constitution. Secondly, it would need to recommend how its proposals could be shown to be acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. What I had in mind, therefore, was that the Commission should continue the informal consultation, should continue the work we had begun in breaking down the apparently irreconcilable and intransigent positions of those involved. For in fact what we were doing last week, and what I hope the Commission would continue, to do was to hold a running and informal Constitutional Conference, in place of the formal Conference referred to in this year's Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference communiqué, but which in present circumstances, as I frankly told those who pressed it on me, would be a meaningless gesture.
Both propositions were later put by me to the African leaders. On Friday evening my colleagues and I met the full Rhodesian Cabinet. While accepting neither of my two alternatives they came forward with a proposal which, in fact, represented a combination of them. They agreed on a Royal Commission, under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice of Rhodesia, and proposed that one member should be nominated by the Rhodesian Government, one by Her Majesty's Government, the three to work on the basis 637 of a unanimous report. But, instead of the Commission proceeding from the 1961 Constitution towards an entirely new Constitution which would be generally acceptable, they proposed that it should work on a narrower canvas, namely, to receive from the two Governments an agreed draft independence arrangement, based on the 1961 Constitution, with such amendments as we might consider necessary; and that the Commission should then proceed to ascertain whether such a document was or was not acceptable to the Rhodesian people as a whole.
I believe this was a helpful, not to say ingenious, combination of our own proposals, though I should make it clear that we reserve our position on two main points. First, on our right to revert to our original concept of the Commission's powers and duties, the wider concept, not least if the Commission reported failure or could not agree when working on the narrower terms of reference. Second, on balance, we feel, and we reserved our position on this, that it might be more consistent with the responsibility which the two Governments carry in this matter, for the Commission to produce, first, an interim report to the two Governments on the methods it recommends for consulting Rhodesian opinion as a whole, and if these were accepted by the Government, to go on to supervise the consultation process.
I believe that, subject to these reservations, we now have a way in which, given good will and ordinary plain commonsense, it is possible to settle the problem on a basis acceptable to the Rhodesian people, to this Parliament and I believe to world opinion. Procedurally, at least, there is nothing to prevent an agreed settlement, and we have provided for the realisation of the fifth principle.
But the House will realise there is one outstanding difficulty. We have still to agree—as we would have had under a Treaty, or on any other basis—on the content of the document which, after approval, by the two Governments, the Commission would put to the peoples of Rhodesia. My right hon. Friend and my right hon. and learned Friend stayed on in Salisbury to seek agreement. They are now on their way back to report, but I have to tell the House that there are still important differences. The principal issues include the doctrine of the so-called 638 blocking third, or blocking quarter, for amendments to the Constitution of clauses which are not entrenched and also for the provision of effective safeguards for the specially entrenched clauses. The Rhodesian Government proposal to augment the elected African members for this purpose by a number of hereditary chiefs, who are of course paid by the Rhodesian Government, simply will not do. I have seen the chiefs. They cannot by the widest stretch of imagination be said to be capable of representing the African population as a whole.
Equally I am sure that the House would feel that we cannot leave without safeguards a situation which would permit, amongst other things, an independent Rhodesian Parliament without check or constitutional hindrance to reduce, as they would have the power to do, the "B" roll seats from 15 to 1, or to increase to 100 the "A" roll seats, and thus postpone for many more years the achievement of majority rule.
We have still to reach agreement. With the necessary good will, I do not see why we should not.
I simply cannot believe, now that we have got so far, that the Rhodesian Government or anyone else in their senses, could reject an agreed and constitutional means of resolving this problem, and embark on the dangerous lunacy of an illegal declaration, with all that would follow. The way is open, given the will, and now only those—and there are those—who want a U.D.I. for its own sake, or who in their hearts reject the ultimate purpose of the 1961 Constitution and of the five principles on which Mr. Smith and I have agreed to base all our discussions, could now contemplate illegal and unconstitutional action.
I apologise to the House for the length of this report, but I did not want to oversimplify it by an attempt to shorten it in view of its importance.
Sir, I hope that the House will concede that I have done everything in a man's power to avert the tragic and dangerous development which only 10 days ago was imminent, and cannot, even now, be said to have been removed, and to carry through the consultations necessary as a preliminary to any long-term solution. I hope that hon. Members will 639 agree, that as a result of those 10 days we can say that the door is wide open to an acceptable, agreed and constitutional solution, that we can agree that there is no case for—that we in Britain and the rest of the world could not now understand, still less condone—an attempt to solve Rhodesian problems by illegal and unconstitutional means. And I hope that they will agree that we have reached this situation without any retreat whatsoever from the principles which all parties in this House have proclaimed, without any surrender of that position of trust which we hold and must hold for the peoples—all the peoples—of Rhodesia. For that is a trust which we cannot morally escape or seek to evade; it is inescapably ours until we hand over to an independent Rhodesia not only our powers and responsibilities but also our trusteeship, on terms and on conditions which will ensure that, in letter and in spirit, the principles which have inspired that trusteeship will endure.
§ Mr. Heath
Is the Prime Minister aware—I am sure that he is—that the whole House welcomes him back warmly after a long and arduous mission—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and that all of us will wish to thank him for making such a full statement to the House about the position—he has absolutely no need to apologise for its length—on the very first opportunity? It is a long statement which we have not had very much opportunity to consider. I do not think that my right hon. and hon. Friends or I would wish to press the right hon. Gentleman today on any details in it. We would prefer to give it careful consideration.
However, is the Prime Minister aware that we welcome the fact that he has been successful, with Mr. Smith, in creating a new piece of machinery under which these problems can be further examined? He has not disguised the fact that considerable problems still exist in the way of finding agreement between the two Governments about the specific means of realising the five principles on which both are agreed. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to give us the detailed terms of reference of the Commission when they are agreed and 640 the name of the representative of the British Government on the Commission.
Meantime, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept that we are indeed glad that, together with the Prime Minister of Rhodesia, he has been successful in creating this machinery. We certainly wish it every success in its deliberations.
§ The Prime Minister
I should like to express my very warm thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said on my statement and about the fact that we have been able to reach agreement on machinery. He is quite right: we have now reached agreement on an appropriate system of machinery. But, as he also pointed out, there is the problem of the content of the document that has to be put through that machinery, and this would have been a problem if we had had a treaty or anything else. I want to assure the right hon. Gentleman that we pursued the idea of a treaty to the very fullest point—indeed we were much more active in pushing it than Mr. Smith's Government—although if we had been able to devise suitable treaty machinery rather than a Royal Commission machinery for finding out the views of the Rhodesian people we would still have had the problems I have mentioned of safeguards for the entrenched clauses and of the unentrenched constitutional safeguards.
§ Mr. Grimond
Can the Prime Minister say whether the draft independence arrangement will contain not only the five principles—I take it that it will give effect to those—but also the arrangements for putting these principles into practice, because that would seem to be the crux of the matter? Can he say whether he is confident that the Commission will eventually only recommend and that the ultimate decision will be for the two Governments with which responsibility must rest?
§ The Prime Minister
The document to be submitted to the Commission—which would be an agreed Rhodesian and British document—would certainly give effect to the five principles. We could not agree to any document going forward in our name which did not give effect to those five principles. The second question which the right hon. Gentleman put is still to be 641 settled. I would say that both Governments could, in theory, be free to disregard the findings of this very distinguished and powerful Royal Commission. But if a Commission in which we had thefullest confidence as individuals—made up of the very distinguished Chief Justice of Rhodesia and two persons appointed by ourselves—working on the unanimity rule, were to report that the people of Rhodesia said "Yes" or "No" to this document, it would be very difficult for either of us to disregard such important evidence. The answer in theory might therefore be that either side might reserve their position, but I hope in practice that it would mean that we should accept the report.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
Can the Prime Minister say whether he was able to get any response from the Rhodesian Government to the appeal for the release of the large number of people in Rhodesia who are now in prison or restricted without trial? Does not he agree that this appeal has twice been made by Commonwealth Conferences but so far has been apparently rejected by the Rhodesian Government? If good will is to be established to enable the Commission to do its work, does not the Prime Minister think that the Rhodesian Government should take some action in this respect?
§ The Prime Minister
I think that it is extremely important that if the Commission is to be a success there must be freedom of the leaders of all sections of opinion in Rhodesia, not only to make their views known to the Commission, but also for them to be able to ensure that their supporters are equally free to make those views known. I did, of course, press this matter on Mr. Smith, and he was perfectly frank that if he could get a satisfactory assurance from the leaders in question and from any others in detention that they would revert to purely constitutional means of political activity without intimidation—there is a great deal of intimidation in Rhodesia on both sides—he would be prepared to release them from detention, from restriction, whatever it may be.
The House will know that no impediment was placed on the movement of the African Nationalist leaders and their followers from their places of detention or anywhere else to Government House for very extensive discussions with me. They 642 were allowed to stay in Salisbury. I rather think that they were provided with hospitality so that they could stay there as long as I was there and answer all my questions and discuss things with me. But I attach a lot of importance—and, of course, this would have been an essential feature of the first of the two propositions which I put to Mr. Smith—to the giving of assurances about constitutional and legal working without intimidation which would be necessary if we had any kind of referendum to seek the views of Rhodesian opinion.
Sir A. V. Harvie
Can the Prime Minister estimate how long it will take the Royal Commission to complete its work?
§ The Prime Minister
This must be a matter for the Royal Commission. I have had a very full discussion with Sir Hugh Beadle, the Chief Justice, whom we have agreed should be Chairman. He thinks that it would be able to complete its work by the turn of the year—that is, within about two months. We must leave it to the Commission.
§ The Prime Minister
In my original proposal for a Commission, which would have the much wider terms of reference of seeking to fill up a blank sheet of paper with an agreed independence constitution instead of hawking round an agreed Anglo-Rhodesian draft, I had it in mind that we should have a bigger Commission much more representative of different shades of opinion, though not as delegates but as members of the Commission. With the job which we are giving it to do, I think that a Commission of three is adequate provided that there is a unanimity rule. I have the fullest confidence in Sir Hugh Beadle—I think that all Members who know him have—not only as a distinguished judge but as a man of great humanity, which is the other necessary qualification here, and I think that I shall have the fullest confidence in whoever we nominate to the Commission.
§ Mr. Doughty
Will the Royal Commission issue only a final report or is there any likelihood of there being an interim report?
§ The Prime Minister
As I have said, the proposition put by Mr. Smith when he combined our two original propositions was that it would produce a final report saying, "Yes, the people of Rhodesia agree", or "No they do not" without giving reasons or descriptions of their procedures. We have reserved our position. On the alternative idea—I think the better and more satisfactory one—we think that the Commission should first report to Governments on the means which it intends to use for consulting Rhodesian opinion and when we have had time to consider and approve that means, as I am sure we should be able to do, then to go forward to supervise the consultation process, whether it be by referendum or other means.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
Does not my right hon. Friend think that it would be far more realistic to include an African member on the Royal Commission and that only if this is done will we be able to convince African opinion that we are really serious about eventual majority rule in Rhodesia?
§ The Prime Minister
No, Sir. I have already dealt with this. As I have said, with a wider Commission one would have wanted it to be more representative, but I am fully convinced that we shall have a Commission that will carry conviction here. I do not think that anyone has talked to more sections of African opinion, from the extreme Right-wing—indeed, from the hereditary chiefs themselves, who were most charming but not exactly, I think, fully in touch with the situation—right through the elected Members under the B roll and to the Nationalist leaders.
I am not sure that it would be easy quickly to decide upon who should be a representative African to choose, even if one were to decide upon one—and, of course, one cannot rule out that the Rhodesian Government may nominate an African member. But I shall have full confidence—[Laughter.] Yes, they have a lot of Africans on their side, although what we want to know is whether they have all the Africans on their side.
§ Mr. Ennals
May I ask the Prime Minister whether not only the final recommendations of the Commission will be laid before the House for its approval, but also the method of consulting the Africans in the interim report?
§ The Prime Minister
If we get an interim report. It is, of course, a matter on which, on receipt, we would immediately report to the House and would state the views of Her Majesty's Government upon it if it is done by that method. Obviously, when the Commission as a whole reports, we shall make a report to the House. The report will be published and the House will be free to take action thereupon. But, of course, the House still holds the ultimate control. There can be no independence legally for Rhodesia except on the basis of a Bill carried through this House and another place. We hold the ultimate control. I hope that no one in Rhodesia fails to recognise that fact. If anybody fails to recognise it, it is through no fault of mine last week.
§ Mr. Hooson
Is the Prime Minister fully satisfied that Mr. Smith has no intention of making a unilateral declaration of independence until the Royal Commission has reported, in view of the fact that the Prime Minister has stated that differences of opinion still exist? Do I understand that the Rhodesian Government have absolutely accepted the idea of the Royal Commission and that any action will be delayed until that Commission has reported?
§ The Prime Minister
We worked very hard, all of us, representatives of both Governments, to try to find a means of an agreed settlement. I believe that we negotiated in good faith. Although even on Thursday night or Friday morning it looked as though it would break down and there was ominous evidence that a U.D.I. was in prospect within a day or two, we agreed on Friday night on the procedure by which African opinion could be consulted. I am in no doubt at all that Mr. Smith, in accepting that procedure, intended that procedure to be carried right through to the end in the hope of reaching an agreement.
I have referred, as the hon. and learned Member rightly says, to the fact that we have not agreed the document to be 645 submitted. I said quite frankly that the threat of a U.D.I. has not entirely receded. I hope that now that we have got so far and covered so much of the ground and reached agreement on the vital fifth principle, the pressures which there are in Rhodesia for a U.D.I. notwithstanding, the views of those who seem to have a death wish upon them rather than a wish to get an agreed settlement will not prevail over Mr. Smith and his colleagues. Speaking for myself, I am still very hopeful that Mr. Smith will feel that we have an adequate procedure, whatever might be our differences on the content of the document.
§ Mr. Jackson
Can my right hon. Friend give a general idea concerning the question of intensive educational programmes and what would be the reaction of the Rhodesian Government to British aid?
§ The Prime Minister
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary had intensive discussions on this matter. All of us are keen on this. Indeed, when all the history of these interchanges becomes known, the House will find how very strongly this was pressed upon the Rhodesian Government by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)—indeed, on the Government of Mr. Winston Field—as a means of giving effect to the built-in provisions of the 1961 Constitution to allow more Africans to qualify on the "A" roll.
At all times in the last year we have pressed this upon Mr. Smith. We made very clear last week that we would co-operate with them, not only in an educational programme designed to provide more facilities for primary and secondary education, but—a thing which I have stressed many times—an educational programme for training Africans in various aspects of administration—technical training for industrial work, but, perhaps no less important, training even in such things, which are necessary to all civilised communities, as the collection of taxes, exchequer and audit control, surveying and hospital administration, all these things. This is vital to the future of Rhodesia on a multi-racial basis and we have offered our fullest support and financial aid in securing this.
§ Mr. Speaker
There has been a good run of questions. I think that the House 646 would wish to consider the statement to which it has just listened. I hope that we may now proceed to the Orders of the Day.
Following is the statement:
The Government have decided to make clear the facts about yesterday's breakdown in the discussions between H.M. Government and the Rhodesian Ministers which have taken place at the Commonwealth Relations Office and at 10 Downing Street.
2. The meetings held this week have been in continuance of the discussions initiated during the visit of the Commonwealth Secretary and Lord Chancellor to Salisbury last February. Since that time H.M. Government have been patiently and genuinely seeking to remove the differences between the two Governments in extensive exchanges with the Rhodesian Prime Minister. These discussions themselves have been a continuation of negotiations begun by the previous British Government. The Government have also kept in close and continuous touch with all other Commonwealth Governments who throughout have shown their interest in the problem. They have been guided in the talks by the considerations explained to Commonwealth Prime Ministers at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting in June 1965 and, as they undertook at that Meeting, have continued in their discussions with the Government of Rhodesia to take full account of all the views expressed by other Commonwealth Governments.
3. The Government look forward to the day when Rhodesia will be able to take her place among the fully independent members of the Commonwealth, but H.M. Government must insist that the responsibility for the grant of full independence rests with Parliament, that Parliament has a responsibility which cannot be abrogated towards all the peoples of Rhodesia and that the Government would be able to recommend the grant of full independence to Rhodesia only if certain conditions were fulfilled.
4. In the discussions with the Prime Minister of Rhodesia this week the Government made clear, as they had done throughout the discussions with the Rhodesian Government over recent months, that, before agreeing to the grant of independence, they would need to be satisfied on the following essential points:—
5. These principles are in conformity with the undertakings given by the Prime Minister and the Commonwealth Secretary to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting in June, 1965.
6. The Prime Minister of Rhodesia made certain proposals designed to meet the principles which the British Government laid down and in particular stated the view of his Government on the five principles as follows:
This would replace the referendum procedure under the 1961 Constitution.
III. The Government of Rhodesia stated that their proposal for a Senate to be composed of 12 African Chiefs represented a major advance for Africans. They could not contemplate any increased representation for Africans in the Assembly, while so many Africans rejected the opportunities offered under the present Constitution, but they were prepared to consider an extension of the B roll franchise, for example by admitting to it all tax payers.
IV. The Government of Rhodesia stated that they wished to see an end to racial discrimination by an evolutionary process, but they could not agree to the repeal of the Land Apportionment Act.
V. The Government of Rhodesia claimed that they had already demonstrated that the majority of the people of Rhodesia desired independence on the basis of the present Constitution; this had been shown by their consultation of tribal opinion and the referendum of the electorate.
8. The Government do not consider that these proposals provide any positive advancement for Africans in the political and social fields, any fully effective safeguards against retrogressive amendment of the Constitution, or adequate means of consultation with African opinion in Rhodesia on the Rhodesian Government's proposals for independence.
9. In particular, the Government cannot accept that representations of the Chiefs can be regarded as adequately representing Africans throughout Rhodesia as a whole. The Government of Rhodesia held an Indaba of Chiefs and Headmen in October of last year to which they invited the British Government to send observers. The previous Administration took the view that the procedure proposed would not provide conclusive evidence of the wishes of the people and that it would not therefore be appropriate for them to nominate observers.
This was confirmed by the Government immediately after taking office last October.
10. It must be repeated that it has been the aim of successive British Governments to bring remaining British territories to independence on the basis of democratic government and the principle of universal adult suffrage. The past in every case, with the exception of the Union of South Africa in 1910, majority rule has been established before the grant of independence. Moreover in all cases where there has been any doubt of the views of the population as a whole, the people have been consulted either in a general election or by means of a referendum on their wishes for independence on the terms proposed. In the case of Rhodesia the only territory except South Africa to request independence without majority rule, and the only territory where the Opposition has not been included in a Constitutional Conference, it is doubly important to have the views of the Rhodesian people as a whole that they both desire independence and desire it on the terms proposed by their Government. It is therefore doubly important that the mechanism whereby the feelings of the Rhodesian people is to be ascertained, must be fully democratic.
11. In these circumstances no basis at present exists on which the British Government would feel justified in granting independence to Rhodesia.
12. In view of public statements made by Rhodesian Ministers the Prime Minister thought it right again to remind Mr. Smith of the grave consequences of unilateral action. There should be no delusions in Rhodesia about the ability or determination of the British Government to deal with the utmost firmness with any act of rebellion; or about the effects of the mass of international condemnation to which Rhodesia would expose herself. Having cut herself off from the Crown and from Britain, Rhodesia would find herself practically friendless in the face of the almost solid hostility of the world.
13. It is now for the Government and people of Rhodesia to take serious stock of the position in the interests of the future of their country. It remains the wish of the Government to see Rhodesia achieve independence as soon as possible, through peaceful discussion, on a basis which is fair and just to all. They stand firmly by the principle of unimpeded progress to majority rule and the need to secure a settlement which is acceptable to the people of the country as a whole. They will continue to strive for effective negotiation towards independence on that basis.
14. It is the sincere hope of the Government that the Rhodesian Government will not decide in favour of a course which will be fraught with such serious consequences for all, but most of all for Rhodesians themselves. The Prime Minister outlined alternative courses which would provide for the steady advancement of democracy in their country, leading to early independence on the basis of co-operation between the races and designed to ensure the future happiness and peace of all the peoples in the country.