HC Deb 18 November 1965 vol 720 cc1336-9
Mr. Thorpe

[by Private Notice]asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement about the purported dismissal of H.M. Governor in Rhodesia by the Smith regime in Salisbury.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

Yes, Sir. The House will have seen with regret and noted with contempt the action the illegal regime have taken in purporting to replace the Governor by Mr. Dupont. I repeat that the Governor holds his office during Her Majesty's pleasure and can be removed only on Her Majesty's instructions.

As I warned earlier in the week, this is an act of treason.

Hon. Members will have noticed that in carrying through this illegal procedure the persons concerned appear to have been unable to secure the services of the Chief Justice or any other judge and had to use a justice of the peace.

The House, too, will have noticed the contemptible actions of the illegal authorities in the forms of pressure put on the Governor, Lady Gibbs and their loyal staff.

I would only add this on the question of this action. Hon. Members who know Sir Humphrey Gibbs, and who have had an opportunity of forming some impression of Mr. Dupont, will, in making the inevitable contrast, be able to measure the extent to which Rhodesia has been degraded and her people abused by the events of the past seven days.

One point I should perhaps add. The House will recall that, in last Friday's debate, the hon. and gallant Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew) intervened and suggested that the Governor's salary should be borne on the Consolidated Fund. I am most grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for this helpful suggestion, and I am sure the whole House will be ready to give effect to it if it proves to be the Governor's wish.

Mr. Thorpe

I thank the Prime Minister for that statement. Is he aware that hon. Members on both sides of the House will applaud the courage and dignity with which the Governor has continued to act as Her Majesty's sole representative in Rhodesia?

May I ask two questions? First, can the Prime Minister give some assurance that every effort will be made to make known the very important undertaking which he broadcast relating to accrued rights and pensions rights of civil servants and other Government officials who, like the Governor, and, indeed, his A.D.C., would wish to remain loyal to the Crown?

Secondly, as this latest act has indicated that nothing has yet caused Mr. Smith to pause in the path of treason, will the Prime Minister consider making a request to Lonrho, which is a British firm, that it should close the pipeline carrying oil from Beira to Umtali in Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

First, may I say how very much I agree, as I am sure the House does, with the opening words of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. With regard to my broadcast to Rhodesia yesterday, we will do everything possible to see that it gets through. I have good reason to think it was heard in Rhodesia. I was speaking quite loudly, and all the reports are that the repeated broadcast by the B.B.C. did in fact get across.

With regard to the second point made by the hon. Gentleman, this raises some very much wider issues than we can discuss at this time, but the House will have been following with close interest, and perhaps some concern, the prob- lems which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been facing at the United Nations.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Will my right hon. Friend say what steps are being taken to give Her Majesty's Governor some de factopresence in Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

The Governor is the legal Government in Rhodesia. As to any other question, we have already had a Question today about whether there should be a mission from this House, and all sorts of ideas are being considered at this time.

Mr. Heath

Is the Prime Minister aware that we on this side of the House would like to express our admiration for the courage and dignity of the Governor in the present circumstances, which we all feel must be becoming more and more difficult for him daily, and we would like to express the hope that he will be able to continue his representation for as long as it is humanly possible?

The Prime Minister

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said. I think that the two words he chose "courage" and "dignity", are the two words that stand out in the minds of most of us in considering the way in which Sir Humphrey Gibbs has carried on in the face of this most intolerable pressure, and, of course, it is quite clear that conditions for him living there are becoming more difficult all the time.

Mr. Hastings

While endorsing what has been said about the Governor's courage, may I ask the Prime Minister to ensure that he does not exploit the personal courage of Sir Humphrey Gibbs [Interruption.]Is he aware, as I am sure he must be—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member has the right to express his opinions in this place.

Mr. Hastings

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. Is the Prime Minister aware, as I am sure he must be, as indeed the House must be, that Sir Humphrey Gibbs is neither a young man nor very fit?

The Prime Minister

Which is another reason why the hon. Gentleman might have thought twice before saying what he did. There is no question of exploiting Sir Humphrey Gibbs' personal courage, because that speaks for itself, but some hon. Gentlemen might consider how far remarks of that kind might be taken— that will not be censored—reported and exaggerated out of all relation to the hon. Gentleman's significance and then used by people in Rhodesia to suggest that this House is not united in the steps it is taking.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that we must move on.