HC Deb 24 November 1965 vol 721 cc668-95

11.10 p.m.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Douglas Jay)

I beg to move: That the Southern Rhodesia (Commonwealth Sugar Agreement) Order, 1965, dated 16th November, 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Southern Rhodesia Act, 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th November, be approved. It may be convenient, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if with this Motion we also debate the next two Motions on the Order Paper, namely: That the Southern Rhodesia (Withdrawal of Commonwealth Preference) Order, 1965, dated 16th November, 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Southern Rhodesia Act, 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th November, be approved. That the Southern Rhodesia (Withdrawal of Commonwealth Preference) (No. 2) Order, 1965, dated 23rd November, 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Southern Rhodesia Act, 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on 23rd November, be approved.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think that would be for the convenience of the House.

Mr. Jay

These three Orders are comparatively simple. There are no grandchildren, let alone great grandchildren. They have all been made under the Southern Rhodesia Act, 1965, which was passed by Parliament last week. The main Order is No. 1954 which removes Rhodesia, for the time being, from the Commonwealth Preference area. It provides quite simply that goods from Southern Rhodesia and goods from a part of the Commonwealth Preference area which are consigned from Southern Rhodesia no longer qualify for Commonwealth Preference on importation into the United Kingdom and are therefore liable to the full rate of duty.

This Order was made on 16th November and came into force on 19th November. It applies to goods entered with the Customs on or after that date. The Order mentions under Section 1 (b) Lourenco Marques and Beira, because these are the ports through which nearly all the goods from Southern Rhodesia are shipped though they are not themselves in a part of the Commonwealth Preference area.

Whatever views are held on other issues arising out of the Rhodesia situation, and we have heard quite a few this afternoon, I do not think anyone will argue that the existing illegal régime should be given the benefit of Commonwealth Preference in present circumstances. It will, of course, be possible for the British Parliament at any time it wishes to restore Rhodesia to the Preference area and this would not constitute a new preference for the purposes of G.A.T.T.

Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)

I do not disagree with what the right hon. Gentleman is saying, but by naming Lourenco Marques and Beira the right hon. Gentleman is limiting himself. Why should not goods be shipped by light service offshore between these ports which are a long way apart? Why does he specify these, if not only for historical reasons?

Mr. Jay

In the great majority of cases the goods are thus shipped and if they are consigned from Rhodesia they are covered in any case.

The point I was making was that it will be possible to restore Rhodesia to the Commonwealth Preference area at any time that this House wishes.

Much the most important imports affected are tobacco and sugar. The Commonwealth rate of duty on tobacco is £4 5s. 10d. a lb., which is 1s. 6½d. a lb. less than the full rate. This difference does not sound very great, but a large amount of tobacco is involved. Imports, subject to the exception in the amending Order to which I will come in a moment, will have to pay the full rate of duty on any tobacco entering on or after 19th November and withdrawn from bond while Southern Rhodesia is still outside the Commonwealth Preference area. The same arrangements apply to other imports now enjoying Commonwealth preference, of which the most important is sugar.

The amending Order, No. 1987, has been introduced in order to meet an exceptional situation, affecting tobacco in particular but not exclusively tobacco, which was brought to our notice by the traders concerned only last Thursday, the day before the Order came into force. Incidentally, I am indebted to the right hon. and learned Member for Wirrall (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) for bringing it to my notice even a few minutes before the companies did. When this information was given to us I decided that it was better to meet the difficulty at once, as far as possible, rather than to adhere simply to the original Order. I apologise for the very short notice which the House may have had in seeing the amending Order, but this was the only way in which it could have all the facts before it tonight.

The Government had warned the tobacco companies frequently during recent months to ship from Rhodesia all the tobacco from the last crop for which they had already paid. It was represented to us, however, last week that substantial amounts were still in transit and would not arrive in this country until after 19th November. If, therefore, the amending Order had not been made, the higher rate of duty would have been imposed on goods which had in fact left Rhodesia before the date of U.D.I., although this could not have affected the situation in Rhodesia afterwards in any way. I was advised that the extra duty would have amounted to at least £1 million.

We therefore provide in the Order that as long as the goods left the African port of shipment before 19th November, they need not pay the higher rate of duty, even though they arrive in the United Kingdom after that date. This provision, which affects not only tobacco but all the goods previously bearing a preferential rate of duty, will, naturally cease to have any practical effect after a short period of time; it is a self-liquidating position providing for goods in this period.

The remaining Order, No. 1953, suspends the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement in its relation to Southern Rhodesia. Rhodesia joined the Sugar Agreement in 1964 with an annual quota of 25,000 tons, and membership naturally implies the advantage of a more stable and at present a higher price than the free market price for sugar.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

The right hon. Gentleman used the word "suspends". As I read the Order, it terminates the membership of Rhodesia. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean?

Mr. Jay

The hon. Gentleman is quite right; the Order terminates the present arrangement. But, as I was about to explain, it is possible to reverse this Order at any time the House wishes. We must remember throughout the discussion that the Act under which all this happens is subject to annual renewal. A Parliamentary Order is necessary to do this because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is at present under obligation to take an annual quota of sugar from Rhodesia, and the contracts under which the Sugar Board accordingly agreed to buy the sugar have to be cancelled. No more sugar will now be bought, but the Order does not affect purchases actually made before the date of the Order, which in this case was 18th November.

As with the preferences, the exclusion of Rhodesia from the Sugar Agreement is intended to be only temporary. It is, as I said, in suspense and hon. Members should remember that the whole Act is subject to annual renewal. I hope, therefore, that the House will approve the three Orders as being necessary in the present exceptional and unfortunate circumstances.

Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, would he comment on the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke); namely, the specific references to goods consigned from Lourenco Marques or Beiro? Am I right in thinking that under the Import Duties Act goods from a variety of countries—which, presumably, will include Malawi, the successor to Nyasaland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland —can gain the benefit of Commonwealth Preference and will be deemed to have originated from those countries if they are consigned to the United Kingdom, but that that will no longer apply to Rhodesia? How can the right hon. Gentleman satisfy himself that goods which purport to have come from Bechuanaland, Swaziland or Malawi will, in fact, have come from those countries and not, as a result of a little transmission, from Rhodesia? Could not that happen as a result of goods being inaccurately consigned as having originated in another country?

Mr. Jay

The legal effect of the Order is to remove the preference advantages from goods originating in Rhodesia. As for the method by which the place of origin is checked, that is a problem with which the Customs administration must deal all the time. For example, if goods arrive in this country and preference is claimed on them because they purport to come from a Commonwealth country where preference applies, the Customs must insist on the normal documentation which is held to prove the origin of the goods. This is not a new problem. The Customs follow the normal procedure in these matters.

11.22 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Barber (Altrincham and Sale)

Ever since U.D.I. hon. Members and a good many commentators outside have sought to draw a distinction between those actions of the Government which might be said to be the natural and probable consequences of U.D.I. and those which are not. Whether or not that is a precise and accurate mode of expression, I believe that most hon. Members understand what is meant by the distinction.

If the distinction is a valid one, the three Orders before the House fall within the category of Government actions which flow naturally from U.D.I. Their purpose is, respectively, to exclude Southern Rhodesia from the Commonwealth Preference area and to withdraw from Southern Rhodesia certain advantages under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. The authority of the Government to ban further purchases of tobacco and sugar is a separate matter and does not derive from these Orders. On this basis, I hope that my hon. Friends will, when we have completed our discussion, see fit to support the three Orders.

Having said that, there are a few points of detail I wish to raise. Before we finally make up our minds I hope that the Minister will give the House some assurances on them. I am bound to say that at the concluding stages of the previous debate the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations made what many of my hon. Friends thought was an appalling speech. I therefore feel constrained to make a few general observations on the Orders and trade between this country and Rhodesia.

May we be told the value of the imports from Rhodesia which will be affected by the operation of the Orders? If the right hon. Gentleman could give us some idea of the imports which are involved we should be grateful.

I ask because this is an important matter. Apart from tobacco and sugar, we have to remember that there is no ban, as yet, on general trade between Rhodesia and Britain. Secondly, have the Government made any estimate of the effect of these Orders on likely investment in Rhodesia? I understand that we have considerable investment in the sugar industry out there. Then, there is the third and, perhaps, most important point. I am still puzzled about the date of the operation of the two Orders which deal with Commonwealth Preference. The effective date is given as 19th November —that is the date when Order No. 1954 came into operation—but under that Order Commonwealth Preference is still applicable to such goods as are, as it slates in paragraph 2 … entered for warehousing … before de date of the coming into operation of this Order". That is, 19th November. It is obvious that this exception was not wide enough in its operation and so, as the right hon. Gentleman has told us, it was decided to lay Statutory Instrument 1987 which, it was thought, would put the matter right.

So, under the second Order dealing with Commonwealth Preference, there are the words added which were read out by the President of the Board of Trade. As I understand it, what he said, broadly speaking, was that goods in transit will qualify for Commonwealth Preference. Is the advantage of Commonwealth Preference limited only to goods shipped before 19th November?

The ambit of these two Orders covers the whole range of imports from Rhodesia, and is not confined to tobacco and sugar. Those other imports are still permitted. I will give an example. A British importer might have entered into a firm contract before the U.D.I. and he would find that if the goods are shipped after 19th November, he will not get the benefit of Commonwealth Preference. To deny that Preference in such a case could have no possible effect of any sort on Mr. Smith or his Rhodesian régime. All that will happen, if my understanding of the situation is correct, is that because of the Government's action the cost of the imports—and they are permitted imports —will be increased. I really cannot believe that this is what the Government intend.

In the case of tobacco, there is a clear and obvious discrepancy with the rules governing import licences. I have here the Board of Trade Journal for 19th November, and in an article under the heading, "Restrictions on Rhodesia following Declaration of Independence—Prohibition of Imports of Tobacco, Tobacco Manufactures, Sugar, Sugar Products", there are two paragraphs which I should like to read to the House. They state, In accordance with the Government's announcement dated 11th November, 1965, imports of tobacco and tobacco manufactures and sugar and sugar products from Southern Rhodesia are prohibited as from 15th November, 1965. Exceptionally, the Board of Trade may issue licences for such goods shown to the satisfaction of the Board to have been purchased by British importers (or their subsidiaries in Southern Rhodesia) on or before 11th November, 1965. Licences will not normally be valid after 31st January, 1966. What this means is that tobacco purchased before U.D.I. will be licensed by the Board of Trade for import into this country although, unless it was shipped before 19th November, it will not qualify for preferential tariff, and the only people who will suffer as a result will be the British importer and, consequentially, the British people.

I would ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he cannot accept the principle that if the Commissioners of Customs and Excise are satisfied—and I am content to leave the discretion to them—that a firm contract for the import of Rhodesian goods was concluded before the U.D.I., and the import of these goods is not prohibited by the Board of Trade, the goods should qualify for Commonwealth Preference. We cannot, here and now, amend these Orders, but I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will undertake, at any rate, to give consideration to introducing an amending Order to put this matter right.

I will give only one example to show the seriousness of this matter. A considerable amount of tobacco was purchased before the U.D.I. It was not shipped before 19th November—indeed, the bulk of it is still in Rhodesia. A clear purchase was made before the U.D.I. Under the Government's policy, the import of that tobacco is permitted. It will be put on board ship and brought here, and because of the withdrawal of Commonwealth Preference in respect of these shipments the additional cost to the United Kingdom manufacturers on this consignment of tobacco alone will, I am told, be about £1 million or £14 million. That is what it will cost the manufacturers as a result of the loss of Commonwealth Preference, and this happening cannot affect Mr. Smith or Rhodesia at all. That relates only to tobacco, which is, of course, the main import, but the same considerations will apply to many other commodities.

The third Order—No. 1953—concerns the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. Again, I would remind the House that prohibition on the import of sugar does not derive from this Order we are now considering. It is somewhat surprising that less than three years ago Rhodesia was still an importer of sugar. The change has been brought about as a result of massive investment, mainly by companies outside Rhodesia. In fact, I am told that, of a total direct investment of £27½ million in the sugar industry in Rhodesia, only about £4 million came from within Rhodesia itself.

I mention these facts because, when considering these matters, the House should be under no illusion as to what is being done. Having said that, and subject to clarification on one point which I shall mention in a moment, I hope that the House will see fit to support the Order, which is concerned, not with the embargo on future purchases of sugar but simply with the withdrawal of an advantage which stemmed from Rhodesia's membership of the Commonwealth.

The one point on which I should again like to touch is that which was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman in an answer to an intervention from one of my hon. Friends. It is my hope that we can have an unqualified assurance on the wording of the Order. I will not weary the House with the details of why this assurance is important, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will take it from me that this is of great importance to those involved in the purchase of sugar from Rhodesia—and, indeed, from elsewhere.

When the Prime Minister made his statement on 11th November after the unilateral declaration of independence, he said: We propose to suspend the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement in its relation to Rhodesia …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 354.] My hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery) raised the same point during the Committee stage of the Enabling Bill, when the Attorney-General assured him in the following terms: What will be done in regard to the sugar quotas will be suspension rather than revocation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 843.] Since those assurances were given the Order now before us has been published and it has been suggested that there is some doubt as to whether Section 1 of the Order dealing with the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement is drafted in such a way as to involve suspension rather than revocation. I shall explain the sort of point which those involved in the trade have in mind and on which I think they are entitled to have a clear answer. The Order provides for cancellation of the current contract. What these people want to know—and it is right that they should know where they stand—is, in the event of a reasonably quick solution to the problem with which we are faced in Rhodesia—the sort of solution which the Government are hoping 'for—would the Rhodesians be permitted to fulfil their current contract? This is a point on which these people would like to have an answer. This is or.e illustration of the broader question which I put to the President of the Board of Trade, that this is genuinely and legally a suspension and not a revocation. This is not a mere academic point, but one of some importance.

I shall not keep the House long, but there are one or two observations of a general character in connection with these Orders and trade between this country and Rhodesia that I should like to make. I make them—I say this advisedly—in the light of what was said by the Minister of State in answer to the last debate. Again I make clear that nothing I say now detracts from the conclusion that it would be right to grant to Her Majesty's Government the powers sought in these three Orders, subject to the particular amendment I mentioned and on which I hope we shall have an answer.

Thirteen days have now elapsed since the folly of U.D.I. The whole House has agreed that it was illegal. We are all agreed that the object of all we are doing of which these three Orders form a part should be to ensure the return of constitutional government in Rhodesia. That hon. Members on both sides of the House realise the difficulties with which the Government have been faced during the past fortnight is self-evident. I do not complain, although I was a little surprised that the President of the Board of Trade had to lay another Order yesterday to amend the first one concerned with Commonwealth Preference on goods coming from Rhodesia and I hope that he will go a little further and consider laying yet a third.

It is not in any spirit of carping criticism that I mention that many of us on these benches have become more and more sceptical about the approach which is being adopted by the Prime Minister. What we are now asking ourselves is whether the Prime Minister, for all his studied conviction, is genuinely persuaded that his latest proposals will lead to the return of constitutional government or whether they may not simply exacerbate the situation and lead to extreme hardship for Africans in Rhodesia and consolidate Mr. Smith's position. This alternative was treated with derision by the Minister of State who spoke in the last debate, but of course——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hesitate to interrupt the right hon. Member, but I hope that he is not going to repeat the last debate at this moment. He must confine himself to these three Orders.

Mr. Barber

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I am deliberately trying not to go too wide and I bow to your Ruling. We are now considering three Orders concerned with trade. I shall put this as briefly as I can and do my best not to be provocative about it, but I should like to look at these Orders in the context of what the Prime Minister said about trade and economic boycotts and so on in relation to Rhodesia orginally and what he told the House yesterday, because I think this is a fundamental question we have to ask ourselves in connection with these and the other Orders. Is it whether they will contribute to the sort of solution which the Prime Minister has in mind and the sort of solution which all in this House want.

This has not been an easy question for many of us to answer. The Prime Minister told the House on the day after U.D.I. that it was the view of the Government that the measures he had announced and which, of course, include the proposals enshrined in these Orders, would be effective. He went on: … we have no other measures in contemplation so far as we are concerned."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 635.] Yesterday—I shall not do more than refer to it—the Prime Minister made a statement in connection with the resolution passed at the United Nations, involving a proposal to go far wider than these Orders—indeed, to break off all economic relations with Rhodesia.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is what I was warning the right hon. Gentleman about. We cannot debate, first of all, what we debated earlier on the first Order and certainly cannot debate the oil embargo and what happened in the United Nations on these three Orders.

Mr. Barber

With respect, Mr. Speaker, at least in my hearing these three points were not raised in our previous debate, which was not concerned with trade matters but with the broad question of what sanctions would be. My question is this: is it still the view of the Government that the measures announced initially by the Prime Minister, which include these three Orders, are likely to be effective or that a considerable number of other sanctions are required if the Government are to achieve their object?

On the answer to this depends the view that many of us who feel that we want to help the Government on this form on these Orders. I should like the President of the Board of Trade to give a general answer to this, because there has been some conflict between what the Prime Minister has said on two occasions.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman and I are old Parliamentary friends and he usually observes the rules of the House. He cannot ask the President of the Board of Trade to debate the whole question of what other proposals the Government have in mind when we are discussing only three Orders, one to do with sugar and the two others to do with Commonwealth Preferences.

Mr. Barber

Naturally I defer to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, as I always shall do. Without debating the whole matter, I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will tell us whether the Government still think that these three Orders and the other proposals put on the day after U.D.I. will be effective?

Mr. Jay

If I were to refer to the other action I should be out of order and therefore, clearly, I cannot answer the right hon. Gentleman's question.

11.44 p.m.

Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)

I refer to the Southern Rhodesia (Withdrawal of Commonwealth Preference) (No. 2) Order. The Explanatory Note frankly confesses that it has retrospective effect. I should like to support my right hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) in this matter on the ground that the retrospective effect, which we all by tradition dislike, may hit the wrong persons.

If it was going to hit the illegal Government of Southern Rhodesia one would, of course, swallow one's dislike of retrospective effect and support it, but, according to the views and evidence adduced by my right hon. Friend, in substantial measure this will merely hit those who happen to own a bill of lading or have the ownership of a cargo in transit at the time. This might, therefore, come into the category of being merely a propaganda measure if that be the case.

There is, of course, another example, that of the cargo of sugar which was on its way to the United States and which President Johnson has embargoed. As far as one knows, that is no longer of any interest to Mr. Smith or his friends because, under the normal rules of commerce and the shipping trade, the bill of lading or bill of exchange will have passed through one or more hands by then and will be in the possession of some trader who will be most seriously and unfairly injured by such an act. What I want to know is whether some of our own people may not be in the same or a similar case.

If it be true to say that as a result of this, people other than Mr. Smith or his friends may be injured to the extent of over £1 million, by this restrictive Order, it seems that we are using propaganda for the wrong purpose. I should like an assurance from the President of the Board of Trade that before we pass this Order he is not taking too blunt an instrument, and is not injuring some innocent trader by making him pay for the defaults and misdeeds of Mr. Smith and his friends.

11.45 p.m.

Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)

I want to confine my remarks to the Order about sugar, which is a subject about which I know a little more than tobacco or the other commodities in question. I should like to make it plain that I depart from the premise which I tried to explain in my speech the other day, that this tragedy and all the aspects of it, including the measures now before us, are the responsibility not only of the Rhodesian Government before U.D.I. or anybody in Rhodesia, but of successive Governments in this country as well. That is the light in which we have to review all these measures, and it is certainly the light in which I should like to look at the possible effects of the sugar measure.

We should at least try to understand what we are throwing into jeopardy here. Any Member who knows Africa would agree that the greatest single initial obstacle to advance is the difficulty of creating genuine opportunities for the rural African, and of persuading him to make use of modern training methods. In many areas progress in this direction has virtually halted since independence. With this in mind I want to look at the Order in Council dealing with sugar.

There are two major sugar growing areas in Rhodesia. The first is in the Zambesi Valley, but the most important one, and the one to which my right hon. Friend was alluding in his speech, is on the Low Veldt, in the south-east corner of the country. This is a vast scheme under the direction of the Sabi-Limpopo Authority. The history is of some interest. It was scarcely settled or populated or developed at all for the first 75 years of Rhodesia's history. The whole achievement was due to the guts and courage of one man, Tom MacDougall, who set up there in 1919, convinced that sugar could be grown. For most of his life—he died only two years ago—he set about trying to prove that this was so, and he succeeded. Since then, in an incredibly short space of time, since 1962, two great dams, at Baugala and Kyle, have been completed. There is another at Chiredzi which is nearly finished, and there are two more schemes to come at Tokwe-Mukorsi and Dotts Drift.

As a result, by 1962, 25,000 acres of virgin veldt were under sugar, by 1963 as much as 53,000, and if this scheme continues, by 1966 something like 69,000 acres will be under cultivation, the vast majority of those acres being under sugar. The scheme could be bigger still. Six hundred thousand acres of the low veldt, discarded as uninhabitable until a few years ago, could be irrigated and cropped with sugar. There are many crops possible, such as cotton, wheat, Burley tobacco, fibre crops, Lucerne, soya, many of them particularly important to the African, but there is no question that the scheme will fall down unless the main cash crop of sugar is able to continue.

The area now supports a population of 1,000 Europeans and 35,000 Africans, all of whom moved in as a direct result of the Sadi Lundi scheme. When the other schemes are complete and the canals built, a population of something like 500,000 Africans, and some 7,000 or 8,000 Europeans could find their livelihood here. We are talking not simply of another crop or commodity, but of a new economy in Central Africa. The gross revenue, even at the most conservative estimate of prices and yields should have been of the order of something like £10 million now.

What are the social implications of all this? This is something that we should consider with the Order before us. The people who lived in that area—the Shangaans—were particularly poor, living on a subsistence agriculture and with no great hopes of early development or advance until these schemes came There were a few ranchers, but the land was not considered possible for anything except cattle ranching.

Now, there is what can only be described as a city growing almost overnight—I have seen it myself—with areas pegged out for hotels, schools and the rest, growing almost before one's eyes out of the veldt on the Chiredzi. Two other townships are planned also. There are African housing schemes of a particularly advanced kind. The plans for schooling, both primary and secondary, are all complete.

As much as any other factor, the spirit of the men who developed the SabiLundi area was one of the most remarkable experiences I have had in the various times I have lived and been in Africa.

I was taken to the top of the first mill at the Hippo Valley estate by the manager and shown this vast area of thousands of acres of sugar. He spoke with pride of what he was building. This was no Nazi. This was not somebody who was simply concerned to dominate his fellow beings in Africa. This was a man who believed that he was doing good, and nothing but good, by making wealth from the veldt for all who lived there. There is no question whatever that this is what he and his colleagues were achieving down there on the low veldt. Perhaps it was the enthusiasm of that man and his colleagues which was the most infectious thing I witnessed there, but, equally, I have never seen the speed of advance equalled on any development scheme, either in Africa or elsewhere. Canals were advancing at the rate of 100 yards a day. The bulldozers were going day and night. All this would have provided within the space probably of one generation, certainly of two generations, for people who lived on bare subsistence, without any real knowledge even of elementary agriculture, the expectancy of their children going through at least primary schools, and, quite possibly, secondary schools.

This is the measure of the achievement which was attempted and which has advanced so far already in the Low Veldt of Rhodesia. The vision of many men has gone into it, and my right hon. Friend alluded to this in his speech. This is what we are concerned this evening to frustrate. Let us not escape the issue. I shall not touch on the political rights and wrongs. We have covered these things in several debates, and affecting, deep and important debates they have been, but what we are doing in the Order is to bring this achievement to a stop.

I repeat that any who know Central Africa, any who know Africa right up to the Sahara, realise just as well as I do and will not need reminding that this kind of scheme and this approach to the future of Africa—the creation of wealth and opportunity from poverty and ignorance—is the only hope.

Let us, therefore, as we pass the Order tonight, at least be conscious of what we are doing, and let us, perhaps, pass one thought for what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) said in the earlier debate today: that this is a moment not for recrimination, but for magnanimity.

I believe that we are right—we must be right—in these tragic circumstances to pass the Order. This is the price of illegality. If I had not believed that, I should have tried to oppose the Enabling Bill which we debated last week. This far, but no further. I would suggest to the Government, and, indeed, to the Prime Minister, that he has no right, beyond the matters which we are discussing in these Orders today, to assume unity in this House or the country for any measures going further. For my own part, I shall do my best to oppose them.

11.55 p.m.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

If I may say so, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) has made a speech which drives home very forcefully the speeches which were made in another place, particularly by Lord Forester and Lord Hastings, and I would suggest that every hon. Member ought fully to appreciate that the effect which these Orders is likely to have—the tobacco embargo as well—on the economy of Rhodesia itself, and possibly the economies of Zambia and Malawi as well, is very serious indeed, and that they will in all probability not serve the end, but rather will act contrary to the end, we are trying to serve.

Nevertheless, I think we have got to recognise, on this side of the House particularly, that on 22nd February last year the then Commonwealth Secretary said to Mr. Winston Field in the event of U.D.I.: I cannot believe that Parliament would be willing to vote financial aid of any kind. What is more, we should certainly be under heavy pressure to withdraw Commonwealth preferences and to reconsider Southern Rhodesia's membership of the Sterling Area. That was said by a member of the Conservative Government. Therefore, there can have been no doubt for a very long time in the minds of Mr. Smith and his friends that this was going to be one of the probable consequences of U.D.I. We have to recognise this.

Nevertheless, the more one looks at it the more one is bound to come to the conclusion that not only are we likely to endanger the very people whose rights we are said to be trying to preserve but we are also tending to cut off our own nose to spite our own face, because this is going to affect our own economy here as well. We have to recognise that this is one of the consequences which flow from this.

The Government have an obligation to answer hon. Members even on their own side, particularly the hon. and learned Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne). On 12th November, referring to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), who, speaking from the Liberal bench, was trying to emphasise the difference between preferences and sanctions, the hon. and learned Member for Lincoln said: Why withdraw Commonwealth Preferences? Rhodesia is still a member of the Commonwealth. She has not ceased to be a member of it. Her trade with this country, by virtue of being a member of the Commonwealth, is mill entitled to the preference which being a member of the Commonwealth implies."—[OFFICIAI REPORT, 12th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 558.] The Government have really not answered that one.

In many ways it is a paradoxical thing we are being asked to do, because the Prime Minister himself has been insisting that Rhodesia still remains Dart of the Commonwealth, and although it has an illegal Government it remains part of the Commonwealth. I think we have to ask this question which I hone is not too tautological. Are Commonwealth Preferences conceded to a people, or to their Government or must preferences always be conceded to both simultaneously? This issue arises as a matter of principle here.

My own feeling is that Mr. Smith and his friends must have known this would be one of the consequences of U.D.I. Nevertheless, at the same time I think we have a duty very seriously to consider what the impact of these Orders will be. If it is going to tend to stiffen the resistance of Mr. Smith and his friends and rally support to them, then we ought to think again.

I ask the Government to consider very seriously whether, assuming that the House gives these Orders to them—and in the light of what has been said over the months to Mr. Smith and his friends, I think that it should—they will be prepared to delay the full imposition of them until such time as it has been found possible to send an all-party mission from the House, consisting of a Privy Councillor from each of the parties, out to Rhodesia charged with the obligation of doing all in its power by consultation or any other means possible to bring about some solution whereby these Orders may no longer be necessary.

In the speech which I made on 12th November, I suggested that we ought to be very careful before we are too precipitate over the problem. We have had the argument today that as soon as we bring in everything with full force, the more likely it is to be effective. That is one argument, and I would accept it as an alternative argument. But the one that I support is that if we arm ourselves and give the Government all the powers that they need, and recognising as I do the pressure that the Government are under from the United Nations and elsewhere, nevertheless could we not say to Rhodesia, "We have taken these powers, and we can use them. We believe that they will hurt you. We know that we run the risk of hurting other people, too, and to some extent they are going to hurt us. But still we would like to give you one more chance to come to your senses before we impose them fully."

I would very much like to see that done, because I believe that the full comprehension of what the withdrawal of Commonwealth Preferences is going to mean has not been appreciated by Rhodesians, even by the members of Mr. Smith's Government as it now is. I would like to give Rhodesia one last opportunity to think again, having armed the Government with these powers, before we go full steam ahead in implementing them.

The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture has now disappeared, unfortunately. I wanted to put a question to him arising out of the Order which deals with the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. As I understood the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, he said that about 25,000 tons of sugar a year has been coming in from Rhodesia. What do the Government propose to do to replace the 25,000 tons if it no longer comes from Rhodesia? I wondered if the Minister of Agriculture was going to tell us, perhaps, that we were going to instruct the British Sugar Corporation to take on a bigger acreage in Britain to make sure that people here do not go short of sugar. That seemed to me to be a perfectly logical train of thought, and, if the President of the Board of Trade cannot answer it, perhaps he will ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to write to me and tell me what he is planning to do.

12.4 a.m.

Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

I do not intend to delay the House for very long, but I want to comment briefly on the speech by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) who, from his great experience of that part of the world, pointed out the economic development and advantages which have been brought to certain parts of Rhodesia.

If I may say so to him with respect, the arguments that he then adduced from that are very similar to the arguments which I used to hear from the settler population in Kenya when I lived in that Colony before independence. They said, "We have built up the living standards of the people and created something prosperous where there was nothing before." But then there is that peculiar jump in logic—and it is the root of the difficulty that we face in Rhodesia—when they say that because they have done that, they have some peculiar right to arrest the forward development of the territory in which they live. This is the principle which divides us from Mr. Smith and his colleagues. We claim that there is no such right, and if the measures which the Government have brought before us have the effect of pulling these people up sharply and making them realise the danger in which they are putting what they have built up, they will achieve their object.

It is to be hoped that although some people there were not prepared to oppose Mr. Smith and the Rhodesian Front Party in the steps that were taken towards U.D.I., the measures which we are proposing now will make them realise that Mr. Smith's course of action is disastrous, and they will add their pressure to the moderate forces of opinion in Rhodesia. It seems to me that this is the whole basis on which the Government are resting their policy, and the whole basis on which the House should support it this evening.

12.6 a.m.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

I am very worried about the implications of this Order, and here I follow what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). It seems to me that if by this Order we are withdrawing Commonwealth Preferences from Rhodesia, we are in fact giving de facto recognition to the Smith Government, because if we are withdrawing Preferences it means that they are the Government and they are therefore outside the Commonwealth. If we consider that constitutional Government rests in the person of the Governor in Rhodesia, as has been said consistently by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, we should not withdraw Commonwealth Preferences from Rhodesia.

I am very worried about this situation. I am very worried about the person of the Governor, because if he is the representative of the Crown in Rhodesia, and he is the receptacle of Government through the British Parliament, then surely it is wrong that his person should be protected from molestation solely by the agents of a Government which Her Majesty's Government do not recognise.

It seems to me that my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) made the only really logical speech. He made the kind of speech which should have been made by the Prime Minister and other Ministers in order to explain the situation, and I am sure that my hon. Friend would support me in saying that.

There are a number of distinguished lawyers on the Government Front Bench, and when the right hon. Gentleman replies to the debate I hope he will tell me whether I am barking up the wrong tree, or whether there is some logic in the point that I have tried to make.

12.9 a.m.

Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)

Even at this late hour it is evident that a number of hon. Members are extremely concerned about these Orders, not because they are trying to defend an illegal Government, but because they are worried about whether they will achieve the desired object, and about the manner in which they will operate.

My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) referred to the effect which these Orders will have on this country, and it would help if the President of the Board of Trade could give an estimate of the extra cost which the Board of Trade believes will be incurred by British importers as a result of having to buy from other sources some of goods which they would normally get from Rhodesia. This is not always a simple sum, because owing to the terms of the Sugar Agreement the 25,000 tons which we talk about initially, on what I believe is the negotiated quota price, will be cheaper to British importers than it would have been if that aspect of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement had been carried through. Because many estimates have appeared in the Press as to these costs it would be useful if we could have the Government's estimate. It might clear up a number of points.

Secondly, I turn to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement itself. This has been mentioned a number of times, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) mentioned a reply that I received from the right hon. and learned Attorney-General in Committee on the Enabling Bill. I do not want to rehash this point unnecessarily, but on reading the actual wording of the Agreement Order I find that it says quite clearly that this shall have effect as if the Rhodesia Sugar Association had not become a party to that Agreement". Therefore, I am informed that legally this should be interpreted as though the Agreement exists without the Rhodesians al this moment of time.

As I a m also informed that we are not the only party on the receiving end—Canada has also agreed to this—how can the Agreement be replaced just by another Statutory Instrument? Would we not have to consult the Canadians in order to do this? It is important that we should get the position with regard to revocation absolutely clear. What will happen to the Rhodesian quota, which will have to be replaced because Rhodesia is no longer a party to the Agreement? In six or nine months—perhaps not in the short term, in the present contract, but when the annual levels are renegotiated—will the position be held open for the Rhodesian sugar producers if they can get a Government which will come to their senses?

I would have thought that this was extremely important, because if we are trying to encourage people to form a Government we want to be able to hold out rewards—a sort of carrot—to such people to gather round and form a Government which will be acceptable both to Her Majesty's Government and the House generally. Therefore, the question of what will happen to the quota is of particular importance.

In dealing with Statutory Instrument 1954, on Commonwealth Preference, it is right that we on this side of the House should say to the President of the Board of Trade, "Before we decide whether it is right to pass this Statutory Instrument we must ascertain whether the Government consider that this is all that is necessary to achieve the required effect." If that is not the case—if the Government feel that they will have to bring more Statutory Instruments to go further with trade embargoes—the whole basis for the present Statutory Instrument seems to be in question. The House is therefore entitled to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he believes that these Statutory Instruments will be effective, as we were assured by the Prime Minister, or that the Government will have to go further than these Orders.

It is absolutely clear that we—as a nation, not as Socialists or Conservatives—have to make the decisions about Rhodesia. It must also be understood that such decisions are being made because we know that they are morally right—not because the United Nations, the Ivory Coast, Hungary, or, in the Commonwealth, Ghana or Tanzania believe them to be right, but because we as the House of Commons believe that they are necessary, after the action taken by Rhodesia. It is our decision and ours alone that these actions should be seen and carried through. If these Orders are not passed, it will be impossible for the House to do other than condone these illegal actions. That is why I believe it is essential that we should pass these Orders.

12.16 a.m.

Mr. Jay

I will do my best both to answer all the questions which have been raised and to remain in order. I agree with some of the comments of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) about the great economic potential of Rhodesia. As long ago as 1949, I heard Sir Edgar Whitehead, then Finance Minister of Southern Rhodesia, describe the enormous economic possibilities and prospects of that country. He made it sound one of the most favoured and luckiest countries in the world, which is a measure of the present tragedy and folly.

I was asked whether there was any implication in the Order that, because we are removing the Commonwealth Preferences, we are treating Rhodesia as if the country was no longer a member of the Commonwealth. That, of course, is not so. Rhodesia remains fully a member of the Commonwealth. I would say to the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) that this is not illogical, because Commonwealth Preference does not follow automatically from membership of the Commonwealth. It follows from specific trade agreements made between members of the Commonwealth which ensure that Commonwealth Preference shall exist.

As he knows, that is what happened at Ottawa. Agreements were made between Governments and enactments put them into force. Therefore, we are throwing no doubts on Rhodesia's membership of the Commonwealth——

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Is there any other case of a member of the Commonwealth not getting Commonwealth Preference?

Mr. Jay

Before Ottawa, of course, there were many member countries of the Commonwealth to which Preference was not extended, and it exists today to a greater or smaller extent over a greater or smaller number of commodities and has done for some time. This is a flexible and not an absolute arrangement.

Mr. John Page

I do not want to labour this point, but if government resides in the person of the Governor of Rhodesia, it seems that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to remove Commonwealth Preferences which previously existed from the local government, which they see in the person of the Governor. That seems thoroughly illogical. Perhaps this point can be dealt with later.

Mr. Jay

The legal position is as I have stated. The practical legal position is that, in this unhappy situation, it is not possible to exert economic pressure on the Government without taking action which one would not otherwise wish to take against the loyal subjects in the country. That is, unfortunately, the inescapable dilemma.

Although the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) tempted me into straying out of order at the end of his speech, he generally supported the Orders and asked a number of relevant questions. He first asked what proportion, roughly speaking, of the imports that this country takes from Rhodesia previously enjoyed Commonwealth Preference and will lose it as a result of these Orders. The answer is that it is a high proportion indeed. If we take the average for 1962–64, tobacco alone amounted to £26 million out of total imports of £30 million from Rhodesia, and if we add to that figure sugar and one or two other commodities, it comes very near to 100 per cent. of our imports from that country.

The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery) asked whether I could estimate the extra cost which British importers will have to pay as a result of this change. That would be very hard to do. We should have to know in the case of each commodity where the goods are to be taken from in substitution for the imports which previously came from Rhodesia. I would not like to hazard a guess now, but I will see whether I can give him a more reliable estimate later on.

When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Altrincham and Sale inquired whether there would not be a damaging effect from these Orders, I suppose he meant on British investments in Rhodesia. I do not think that these Orders in themselves will create any great effect because it is the trade embargo, which it would be out of order for me to discuss, which will clearly have the biggest economic impact and not the Orders. I would not attempt to deny, indeed it would be foolish to deny that the total effect of the measures taken will be damaging to British investments. In the first place, it is impossible to have this situation and avoid damage to all sorts of people. That I would not deny for a moment.

The right hon. Gentleman asked why in our amending Order we had taken the date when the goods would be shipped from an African port as the final date for obtaining remission of this increase in duty, rather than the date at which the goods were actually purchased by the British importer from Rhodesia. He pointed out correctly that for the purpose of the embargo, which we ought not to discuss, we have taken the date of purchase and not the date of shipment. This point was fully considered and I discussed it with the Customs in considerable detail when we learned of the difficulty that had arisen. The reason for that is that the Customs did not feel that they could discharge their duty to Parliament of administering the collection of duties with absolute precision and certainty, unless there is the definite test of the time at which goods were put on board ship at an actual port.

If they had to try to obtain evidence not merely of the fact the goods came from an origin within Southern Rhodesia, but the actual date on which they had been purchased, they did not believe that they could do that with sufficient precision to make this a workable arrangement. That, at any rate, is the reason why we thought it right to take the date of shipment. In going as far as this and prescribing a different date for this class of goods than for goods generally, we have departed considerably from the invariable practice of Customs. We have done this to meet the difficulty which the tobacco importers and others had encountered. I think we have gone a long way to meet this difficulty which had arisen.

Mr. Barber

I appreciate the difficulty. This is not a minor point. The sum involved for the tobacco companies is over £1 million, so they tell me. I appreciate that the President for the Board of Trade cannot give a categorical assurance. I was wondering whether he would consider with the Customs and Excise making the date of purchase the relevant date, and not simply that, but allowing the Customs and Excise a discretion so that the wording in the Order would appear "where it is shown to the satisfaction of the Customs and Excise", with, so far as I am concerned, no right of appeal. If we pass this Order I hope he will consider this with the Customs and Excise. A lot of money is involved and many traders in commodities other than tobacco will be affected.

Mr. Jay

I have already considered that in detail, but if the right hon. Gentleman asks me to give it further thought I will not refuse to do so, although I must not raise any hopes in his mind that it is likely to prove possible to make an alteration. I will consider what he said. He is not quite correct in estimating the amount at stake now at over £1 million. The total amount at stake on tobacco, had the original Order gone through and had no exception been made for goods which had already been shipped but which had not arrived in the United Kingdom on 19th November, was £1½ million. We have excluded a high proportion of that, although I could not state the exact sum, and the sum now involved, therefore, is a good deal less than that. We have met the main difficulty in so far as we considered it possible in accordance with the proper administration of the Customs.

The right hon. Gentleman and several hon. Gentlemen asked whether we were quite sure that the Order putting the Sugar Agreement into suspense did not go beyond that. That is certainly the case. We are satisfied about that. The Order terminates the Agreement and the contracts. The situation is that at any time when it is desired by Parliament an Order can be made reversing this Order. In any case, as I have said, the Act under which this is done comes up for annual renewal, so that in that sense, too, the whole arrangement is temporary. The hon. Member for Reading was genuinely worried because he thought that we might have gone further than that and have involved countries other than the United Kingdom and Rhodesia who are members of the Agreement. That is not so, for this reason: this is a series of agreements between the United Kingdom and each of the exporting countries. We are the only importing and consuming country.

Mr. Peter Emery

What about Canada, which is an importing country as part of the Agreement? I am informed that of the present quota of 125,000 tons Canada is probably taking between 30 and 35 per cent.

Mr. Jay

Canada is also an importing country, but the effect of the Order is to suspend the Agreement as between Rhodesia and ouselves.

Mr. Christopher Rowland (Meriden)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Canada is not a member of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement?

Mr. Jay

I said that Canada is a sugar importing country, which is true. The substantial point is that if and when circumstances change in the way in which we all want to see them change, it will be the Government's intention to recommend to Parliament an immediate reversal of this arrangement which would restore the previous Sugar Agreement as it has worked between Rhodesia and ourselves.

The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely directed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture the question how we proposed to replace the supplies of sugar which will not now come from Rhodesia. I do not think that I can answer that precisely now because 24,000 tons is a pretty small proportion of our total sugar consumption. The House will be aware that there are other sugar producers in the Commonwealth, notably Jamaica. There is no great world shortage of sugar at the moment and, therefore, I do not think that we are likely to have any difficulty in replacing these sugar supplies. Nevertheless, we regard this as a suspension and hope that this situation will not go on for longer than we would all wish.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman cannot comment in detail on the other suggestion I made about sending people to Rhodesia before the full force of the Orders comes into effect, but would he at least give an assurance that he will ask his colleagues in the Government to consider the matter further?

Mr. Jay indicated assent.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Southern Rhodesia (Commonwealth Sugar Agreement) Order, 1965, dated 16th November, 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Southern Rhodesia Act, 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th November, be approved.

Southern Rhodesia (Withdrawal of Commonwealth Preference) Order, 1965, dated 16th November, 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Southern Rhodesia Act, 1965 [copy laid before the House 17th November], approved.—[Mr. Jay.]

Southern Rhodesia (Withdrawal of Commonwealth Preference) (No. 2) Order, 1965, dated 23rd November, 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Southern Rhodesia Act, 1965 [copy laid before the House 23rd November], approved.—[Mr. Jay.]