HC Deb 20 December 1966 vol 738 cc1175-83
Q1. Mr. Rose

asked the Prime Minister what action he is taking to halt the supply of oil to Rhodesia from Portuguese territory in Africa.

Q26. Mr. Freeson

asked the Prime Minister what plans Her Majesty's Government have, in enforcing oil sanctions against Rhodesia, for preventing oil being sent to Rhodesia from Mozambique.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

As hon. Members will know, the Security Council have adopted a Resolution calling for oil sanctions. The Resolution is binding on all member States, of which of course Portugal is one.

Mr. Rose

Since most of the oil flowing into Rhodesia comes from Portuguese East Africa, would my right hon. Friend consider applying diplomatic pressure on Portugal and on the Total Oil Company which supplies the oil and, if that is not successful, would he consider sealing the frontier by taking physical action to destroy the rail link which allows for the transportation of oil into Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

This is entirely hypothetical, because the Resolution has been passed, and it would be quite wrong for the House to assume that Portugal will not abide by it. The question of what action will be taken in those circumstances is a separate one which was not covered by the Resolution passed last week.

Mr. Freeson

Is it not a fact that, in the past, until the matter was referred to the United Nations, the Portuguese authorities were undermining the conduct of the British Government's policy with regard to economic sanctions against Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

It is certainly a fact that a considerable flow of oil was going in from Mozambique to Rhodesia—considerably more over the greater part of the time than was going from South Africa. From my own personal knowledge in recent weeks, the Portuguese Government were helpful in trying to create conditions in which we could get a settlement at the time of my meeting with Mr. Smith.

Q5. Mr. Wall

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on Rhodesia and, in particular, on his discussions with Commonwealth Governments and with the United Nations.

Q6. Mr. Hamling

asked the Prime Minister what further proposals he will make to the United Nations concerning the illegal régime in Rhodesia.

Q22. Mr. Hastings

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on Rhodesia.

Q25. Mr. Michael Foot

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the progress towards the fulfilment of the terms of the Commonwealth Conference Communiqué on Rhodesia.

Q27. Mr. Freeson

asked the Prime Minister whether it is now Her Majesty's Government's policy that independence should not be granted to Southern Rhodesia until majority rule has been achieved.

The Prime Minister

Following the approval by the Security Council of a resolution providing for effective and selective mandatory economic sanctions against Rhodesia, Her Majesty's Government's policy is now as set out in paragraph 10 of the Communiqué which was issued at the end of the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in September and endorsed by a clear majority vote in this House on 8th December.

The objective of that policy is, as hitherto, to secure a settlement of the Rhodesian problem which is just and fair, and Her Majesty's Government remain willing to reach such a settlement through discussion and subsequent negotiation with a legal Government in Rhodesia.

Mr. Wall

Does that reply mean that the full terms of the Communiqué are now effective, and in particular the withdrawal of all previous British offers to Rhodesia? Has the Prime Minister finally slammed the door?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. It means precisely what the hon. Gentleman has said. It means that the offers made to the illegal régime, which have been persistently rejected by the illegal régime, are no longer on offer to the illegal régime, and, despite my belief, which not all hon. Members share, that Mr. Smith wanted a settlement on the lines of the "Tiger" agreement, it is now clear that he is a prisoner of some very racialist and Fascist-minded people, and that they forbade him to enter into this agreement. [Interruption.] I know what happened on the ship as well as what happened after he went back. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What about the berth?"] He was in a berth of his own choosing. I know what happened when he got his orders from the racialist régime there, and I know what happened after he went back and the complete falsification of the agreement put out by them, including now Mr. Smith's statement, no doubt under orders, that he does not accept even the constitutional settlement, for example, on cross voting.

Mr. Hamling

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his proposals to take this to the United Nations have the overwhelming support of the electorate of this country, and will he also note that any further action which he intends to take against the illegal régime will be strongly supported on these benches?

The Prime Minister

I am well aware of what the House voted on 8th December, and of the decision of the House, and I believe that it is the decision of the country.

Mr. Hastings

In view of the fact that the Governments of both Zambia and New Zealand appear to have the gravest doubts about these mandatory sanctions, is not the Prime Minister automatically released now from the commitment into which he entered when he so unwisely signed the Commonwealth Communiqué, and as he is bound sooner or later to negotiate again, why does he not minimise the danger and do it now?

The Prime Minister

Because, as I have explained to the House, for several months they had every chance to negotiate. They had a chance on the ship, and subsequently, to settle, but they rejected that settlement and were supported by hon. Gentlemen opposite in doing so.

With regard to the second part of that question, the real difference between us is that we on this side were not prepared to break up the Commonwealth in the interests of a very small minority, including a minority now which has been successful in exerting its will over Mr. Smith himself.

Mr. Freeson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, even though many of us have been rather anxious about certain compromises over Rhodesian policy which appeared to be taking place over a period of time, we welcome his categorical statement that there will be no independence for Rhodesia without majority rule, particularly bearing in mind that had that agreement been accepted on the "Tiger" there might not have been independence with majority rule for the rest of this century?

The Prime Minister

The agreement worked out on the "Tiger" involved—if it was fully honoured, and that is why we had internal and external guarantees—a trend towards majority rule at roughly the programme set out in the 1961 Agreement, if it had been honoured. It is clear that some of those who forced the rejection have no intention at all of honouring anything like the timetable set out in the 1961 Constitution, which was itself not an independence Constitution.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Does the Prime Minister recognise that his reply will be bitterly regretted by many outside, and will he, looking back to the success of the constitutional talks on the "Tiger", even now reopen negotiations on the method of arriving at that proposal? The right hon. Gentleman said that Mr. Smith had rejected the constitutional proposals. Will he give his evidence for that statement?

The Prime Minister

The agreement reached on the constitutional provisions, which Mr. Smith never doubted at all, or suggested that he doubted, included as an absolute paramount condition the retention of cross voting, which was in the 1961 Constitution, for which the right hon. Gentleman had a great deal of responsibility. We were prepared to make the very generous offer which we made about 15 reserved European seats, which were not in the 1961 Constitution, only on condition that cross voting would continue in relation to the enlarged B roll franchise. Mr. Smith two days ago exempted from his acceptance of the constitutional settlement the cross voting provisions. He wanted all along to drop cross voting. There is no doubt that his hand has been forced. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there will be bitterness, but there are a lot of people who are very bitter also about the fact that we have been trying, and have gone to the limit in concessions to get this agreement, some would feel beyond the limit, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition himself on television appealed to Mr. Smith to accept it the day after he voted against it himself in this House. Some of the responsibility for not getting an agreement which I believe we could have got has been the encouragement given by many hon. Members opposite to the illegal régime, and this has caused some of the bitterness.

Mr. Maxwell

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what success the Foreign Secretary has had in persuading the United Nations to share some of the burdens of the cost of maintaining the blockade against Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

That point was made in the debate. As hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out, while we were loyally abiding by the sanctions agreed to by this House there were businessmen from other countries who were getting in and scooping up markets. This now makes the sanctions binding on all countries.

Mr. Maudling

Are the Government now firmly committed to the disastrous policy of no independence before majority rule?

The Prime Minister

I have already answered that question. I have said that we have now withdrawn all the offers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] When I was asked the question I gave the answer, "Yes", which I hope is clear to the right hon. Gentleman. He was very unclear a fortnight ago. I gave the answer, "Yes", but it was not to a question which included the word "disastrous". The question was put by my hon. Friend. It was quite clear. The right hon. Gentleman can look it up tomorrow.

Mr. Maudling

The Prime Minister's memory is a little faulty. The question he was asked was about the withdrawal of previous offers. That is a different point from the one I have just raised. My question asked about the withdrawal of previous offers under paragraph 10(a) and whether the Government will not contemplate in future any proposition for independence before majority rule. It is a different point.

The Prime Minister

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who has studied this matter so much in recent weeks, will take the same view. The answer was given in my answer to the original question, which I hope the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) understood. I said that Her Majesty's Government's policy is now as set out in paragraph 10 of the Communiqué Strange as it may seem to the right hon. Gentleman, paragraph 10 contains subparagraph 10(a) as well as 10(b). Therefore, he has had his answer. I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for his broadcast after the evasive performance that night by Mr. Smith, when he appealed to Mr. Smith to accept the whole of the "Tiger" agreement although the Conservative Party, almost to a man, had voted that Smith was right to reject it.

Mr. Heath

In the circumstances which the Prime Minister has now described, can he tell the House how he proposes to bring about the settlement with Rhodesia of which he spoke in his Answer?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I am hoping that we shall have a little more support from hon. Members opposite, and that we shall have no more pressure from this country on the régime to stand out for tougher terms than this House could agree to. I now say that anybody at all—anyone in Rhodesia now—on becoming the legal Government—which the Smith régime could do tomorrow if it wished—is free to negotiate with us for a return to the 1961 Constitution, with the end of sanctions and with the long-term progress towards majority rule as set out in the 1961 Constitution. This will be a legal Constitution and will involve the full restoration of self-government to Rhodesia on the basis that they have always had it. They could have had all this and independence, too, if they had not, a fortnight ago, overwhelmed Mr. Smith and his obvious desire—which was dear to me on the ship—for a settlement, and to do this because there were men in his so-called Cabinet who were not prepared to have majority rule in their lifetime.

Mr. English

Does my right hon. Friend's original Answer mean that he has also withdrawn his undertaking never to use force against Rhodesia in any circumstances?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, it means nothing of the kind. I dealt with this in questions on the night that the Rhodesian régime rejected the settlement. There has been no change in Her Majesty's Government's position so far as that is concerned. If there was a change, and it became necessitated by events, the House would be informed.

Mr. Sandys

Does the Prime Minister's disastrous decision amount to a decision to fight this out to a finish?

The Prime Minister

There were some who were prepared unconditionally to surrender at the beginning, including the right hon. Gentleman. We decided that we would do everything in our power to get an agreement and the right hon. Gentleman himself was generous enough to say so a couple of weeks ago. It was no fault of ours that there was no such agreement.

Mr. Sandys

I never said anything of the sort.

The Prime Minister

If the right hon. Gentleman thought that our offer was not generous enough, that confirms most of what I have been saying about him this year. It was the rejection of that agreement by the overwhelming of Mr. Smith by these men that made it clear that there was no future in negotiating with that group of people any further. They are not Rhodesia. They are not even the Rhodesian Europeans. They never had a mandate to commit illegality, which the right hon. Gentleman treats as such a trivial thing. It is now up to the Rhodesian people to return to the 1961 Constitution, with our help. We would then be prepared to join, as the right hon. Gentleman very helpfully suggested last weekend, not only in economic development, but educational development, which he and I always thought was one of the keys to a solution. As to fighting to the bitter end, that has never been our aim. I thought I had proved that on board H.M.S. "Tiger", with the depth of the concession that we made, and the degree of trust that we were prepared to put not only in Mr. Smith but in a number of men who have been shown to be totally unworthy of that trust or of our confidence.

Mr. Tapsell

In view of his reply to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, will the Prime Minister—who knows my views on this subject—at least confirm the suggestion put forward by the Commonwealth Secretary in the Rhodesia debate that if the illegal régime in Rhodesia were to give effect to the constitutional proposals agreed to in H.M.S. "Tiger", Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to continue to negotiate on the procedural arrangements to give effect to them?

The Prime Minister

That is what my right hon. Friend said, but the régime refused to do it, except on a prior assurance by us that they would have their independence anyway, whatever the result. This was totally unacceptable to us and to most hon. Members. They have tried a number of manoeuvres—the latest ended last night—to postpone the issue. They could have had a Commonwealth mission. They rejected it three months ago. They could have had an independence commission, and there were many other offers.

Mr. Michael Foot

Does not the Prime Minister's most welcome statement, accepting in full the commitment contained in the Commonwealth Communiqué, mean that the same principle is now to apply to Rhodesia as was applied to all other British territories, namely, that independence is to be given only when majority rule is established?

The Prime Minister

We were prepared to make a unique exception, so far as our lifetime is concerned—I know that there was the case of South Africa, but that was before most of us were born—to the rule followed by Governments of every party and we went to extreme lengths to work out a Constitution which would have meant independence before majority rule. This was rejected and, as my right hon. Friend has said, we have carried out what the House has endorsed, our obligation to the Commonwealth. I know that some have said that we should have broken our obligations to the Commonwealth, but we have carried them out.