HC Deb 31 January 1966 vol 723 cc686-94
Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Mr. Speaker, may I ask a question of which I have given the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations Private Notice, but which I understand the Prime Minister is to answer, namely, if he will make a statement about the latest sanctions imposed on Rhodesia, as announced last night?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

Yes, Sir. When I made my statement in the House on 25th January about the means by which constitutional government could be restored in Rhodesia I foreshadowed further economic measures. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has now made an amendment to the Open General Import Licence to prohibit the importation of those goods from Southern Rhodesia which have hitherto not been subject to control, mainly manufactured goods, from 2nd February, 1966, with the exception of goods which have been purchased and fully paid for before the date of my right hon. Friend's announcement or which are in transit.

My right hon. Friend has also made an order, the Export of Goods (Control) (Amendment) Order, to extend export licensing control to the export of all goods to Southern Rhodesia.

Again provision is made for exceptions in respect of goods in transit. It is intended that licences under the Order will be made only where it can be shown that the goods are for the essential needs of the Rhodesian railways, Central African Airways, the Central African Power Corporation, or for essential humanitarian purposes. It is not intended that the control will interfere with the free movement of books, periodicals, newspapers and cinema films.

Further, the Treasury have issued a statement warning individuals and bodies, whether public or private, inside or outside Rhodesia, that the present illegal regime in that country is not capable of incurring legal obligations on behalf of the Government of Southern Rhodesia and never has been so capable. Thus any person lending money or giving credit to the accounts of the illegal regime or any agency of that regime will do so at his own risk. The same considerations apply in respect of any security offered or purported to have been offered by or on behalf of the illegal régime. When constitutional government is restored in Rhodesia, it will be for the new and lawful government foreshadowed in my statement of 25th January to take the necessary decisions and this Government will not, of course, be bound to accept responsibility for any such obligations.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Will the Prime Minister explain more clearly how these measures can really make easier the settlement which he professed to desire last Tuesday? Is he aware that the economic ruin of Rhodesia will do no one any good? Is he aware, further, that in his statement last Tuesday he grossly over-simplified the problems involved in restoring the Rhodesian economy after a return to constitutional government?

The Prime Minister

The statement last week envisaged that while we were continuing, and indeed intensifying, the economic measures making it impossible for the illegal régime to carry on, we should at the same time make the statement to show the basis on which there could be a return to constitutional rule. Every time the right hon. and learned Gentleman or his friends get up they underline what was clear, I think, some months ago, that they are in favour of these sanctions so long as they are not effective. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggests that economic measures of this kind will stiffen resistance and delay a return to constitutional rule, I ask him to consider that the most potent force in this direction is the statements of some hon. Members on this question and the feeling in the minds of the illegal régime that the Front Bench opposite are now moving into sympathy with the minds of their hon. Friends below the Gangway.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Does not the Prime Minister agree that, irrespective of sanctions, the time is ripe now to try to improve the relationship between this Government and the Rhodesian people? [HON. MEMBERS: "Which people?"] Does the Prime Minister recall that last week he referred to my right hon. Friend making a New Year resolution? Would it not be a good thing for the Prime Minister and his colleagues to stop dishing out abuse to the white Rhodesians and try to establish a better relationship?

The Prime Minister

There has been no abuse of white Rhodesia. I remind the House that, on a number of occasions, I have had to point out that Mr. Smith and his colleagues never sought a mandate, even from the Rhodesian European electorate, for the action he has taken. What we are dealing with is an illegal regime, and I should have thought that all hon. Members in all parts of the House were now willing to support a return to the rule of law.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Prime Minister aware that it would seem logical for all those who are supporting sanctions as a means of bringing about a return to constitutional rule in Rhodesia to support this further application of sanctions? May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is now the case that all goods imported into this country from Rhodesia will be subject to control, or are there still some exceptions? Can he give the House any information about the response of other countries to the embargo we have placed on Rhodesian goods?

The Prime Minister

So far as the import controls are concerned, this is in fact only a marginal addition to the sanctions, because already there was a control over 95 per cent. of our normal imports from Rhodesia and this brings it up to 100 per cent., following the action of a very considerable number of other countries which have already done that. In the case of export controls, the sanctions involve a considerable extension, though, because of financial controls at both ends, not least the Rhodesian financial controls, the amount of goods exported from this country has been falling in any case.

Mr. Ennals

In view of the belief, certainly on this side of the House, that the more effective the sanctions the quicker the régime will be brought to an end, may I ask the Prime Minister what sort of pressure is now being brought to bear upon other Governments, such as the United States Government, who are still purchasing chrome, in order that the effect can be tightened?

The Prime Minister

I think that certainly the United States have followed the line we have taken, particularly in all those cases where we have applied Orders in Council making it illegal to have exports of particular products from Rhodesia. More and more other countries now are getting to the state of almost complete control on imports. There are still one or two marginal cases—one or two fairly important ones, but small against the total—where discussions are still going on.

Mr. Taverne

While welcoming the Prime Minister's measures, may I ask if he is satisfied that these measures cannot be weakened by goods going through South Africa? Is he satisfied that the tobacco sanctions have not in any way been avoided by sales going through South Africa?

The Prime Minister

South Africa's attitude, which has been recently stated by the Prime Minister of South Africa, is that it is not operating boycotts but it is not providing special arrangements; in other words, South Africa is confining itself to normal and not abnormal trade. As to tobacco, there are stories that a number of merchants in various parts of the world are contracting to buy Rhodesian tobacco cheap, store it in Rhodesia, and make a fat profit when exports become possible. In view of what I have said relating to the Treasury warning about obligations, I think these people are very likely to be running themselves into very heavy financial loss if they play that game.

Mr. Evelyn King

Will the right hon. Gentleman concede that in the field of foreign affairs an attempt to humiliate an opponent is almost always misconceived? Would the right hon. Gentleman not now bend his very considerable abilities, which we all recognise, to the task of reconciliation?

The Prime Minister

I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman's premise. It is for that reason that we on this side of the House refuse to allow this illegal regime to humiliate Her Majesty's Government and the rule of law.

Mr. Paget

There are two questions which I should like to ask my right hon. Friend. First, with regard to tobacco, does he say that private tobacco growers who sold their tobacco are entering into an illegal contract? Secondly, as I understand, last Tuesday my right hon. Friend agreed that the point had now come at which negotiations, if they were to be reached, had to include Mr. Smith at least in his capacity as leader of the Rhodesian Front. If that be so, does it really make those negotiations easier by continuing to insult Mr. Smith?

The Prime Minister

On the first point, I was not saying that it was illegal for Rhodesian tobacco growers to enter into any contracts to sell tobacco to private persons. I said that anyone who accepted I.O.U.s or other forms of credit was taking a very big risk for the reason stated yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I also said that those who speculate in tobacco might well find that when constitutional rule is restored it had been an extremely bad speculation.

With regard to the situation about Mr. Smith, I think this was very fully gone into in our exchanges last Tuesday. I think the real situation must be that we cannot have dealings with that illegal regime. What I said about negotiations related to a wide spectrum of representation covering the whole of the Rhodesian people of whom a member of the Rhodesian Front, whether Mr. Smith or another, might be one.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Would the right hon. Gentleman look at the question of those missionary societies and others who are not receiving their due in Rhodesia today? I know there have been statements in London, but the fact is that in the medical, educational and other services there are individual missionaries who are receiving only 75 per cent. of what they got last year. Surely the time has arrived, if virtue is to be rewarded, for these people to be treated like the University of Rhodesia and the pensioners. Surely the right hon. Gentleman should take action at this moment.

The Prime Minister

We shall certainly keep this seriously under watch. Indeed, new arrangements have recently been made. I agree with a lot of what the right hon. Gentleman says on this question. It is certainly true that not only the missionary organisations but all the churches of Rhodesia have shown very great courage and have paid a very high price in consequence of the reaction of the Rhodesian Front and the propaganda against them for what they have done.

Mr. Amery

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this new batch of sanctions which produces a total embargo seems to be in some contradiction to his original statement just after U.D.I. that he did not seek a total embargo? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that there will be widespread opposition to this announcement—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"]—in this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—precisely because those sanctions will be seen as a means of enforcing the right hon. Gentleman's policy of demanding the unconditional surrender of the Europeans in Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

I have no doubt that at the Monday Club meeting which the right hon. Gentleman has arranged for this week there will be powerful voices raised in terms of the unconditional surrender of this country to an illegal act. But the right hon. Gentleman must not delude himself into thinking that people who attend his Monday Club in any way represent the views of this country.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Can my right hon. Friend confirm The Times report that the oil sanction is proving increasingly effective, as he predicted, and can he say whether further measures are to be taken to tighten it up?

The Prime Minister

It is certainly the case that the oil sanction is proving increasingly effective. Indeed, the present level of the ration in Rhodesia is not being honoured in terms of the amount of supplies that are forthcoming. It is being watched in case of any reaction, but I do not think any new measures at this time are needed so far as the oil sanctions are concerned.

Mr. Sharples

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that not only have these new trade restrictions been announced, but that the Board of Trade is issuing instructions to firms which formerly traded with Rhodesia not to have contacts with their opposite numbers? Is he aware that there are many other quarters who are both able and willing to take their place?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, but I think many of the stories about those who are able and willing to take their place are vastly exaggerated for propaganda purposes. The amount of substitution is very small indeed.

Mr. Heath

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, neither in his statement last Tuesday nor today, he has given no reasons whatever for taking these particular measures at this particular time? Will he, at any rate, confirm that they are in no way the consequence of the visit of Sir Hugh Beadle to this country? If these measures are of the importance which the Prime Minister has tried to indicate, why has he not taken them before? If, in fact, they are only of marginal importance, as he indicated today, why should he take them at this particular moment? Does it not, in fact, indicate a complete failure of psychological understanding of the present situation that he should have put forward a so-called peace offer and then followed up with these minor measures when, in fact, the major economic measures have already been taken?

As a result of his behaviour in the House today and his continued abuse of those in Rhodesia, the House and the country are rapidly coming to the conclusion that, so long as the Prime Minister is there, there can be no honourable settlement in Rhodesia.

The Prime Minister

Of course, if I had known, after the equivocal three-way split of the Opposition, that they wanted the sanctions brought forward more quickly we would have seen what we could do about them, but they had to be properly prepared.

With regard to the relation of this to the statement made last week, I said then and I say again that it is necessary to deny to the illegal régime the munitions of rebellion—I thought the right hon. Gentleman understood this—and these additional sanctions will help to do that, while at the same time putting forward our views on the basis on which Rhodesia can return to constitutional rule. I have already said to the right hon. Gentleman—and his words call on me to repeat it—that the only thing in Rhodesia standing in the way, or which did stand in the way, of a diminution of the right-wing and semi-Fascist resistance there—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—yes, because it is the hard core that is rallying round Mr. Smith—was their belief that because of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman, delivered with increasing heat every time he gets to his feet on the Rhodesian question, the Conservatives were taking a different view from that of the Government in this country. That is the one thing that they are clinging to—perhaps less after last Thursday; I would not know about that. This will explain why they intervened from Rhodesia with leaf- lets printed in Rhodesia in the Hull by-election. All I can say is that we will not get very far with this exchange across the Floor of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman's heat and feeling really represent his sincere views and are not an attempt to play to those below the Gangway, perhaps the next step should be discussions through the usual channels to debate the Motion of censure which I am sure he is ready to put down.

Mr. Heath

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he constantly displays his inability to deal with the real points which are being put seriously from this side of the House, by irresponsible challenges to the Opposition to put down Motions which would break any sort of bipartisan approach? If the right hon. Gentleman were earnest in his desire to see a national policy he would refrain from this continual abuse. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that we shall let the duellists tight it out themselves.

The Prime Minister

Of course, these are not related to Sir Hugh Beadle's visit to this country because, as the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, I have said that we were working on additional sanctions before Sir Hugh Beadle came to this country. This, I think, was well and widely understood, and it was also mentioned at Lagos and was widely reported. As for the last outburst by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, the position is that we have sought—and we have very often had his support —to secure a bipartisan approach, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman's position has been made intolerable by some of his hon. and right hon. Friends. Any pretence that the right hon. Gentleman was supporting the measures which we have taken disappeared when a considerable section of his party voted against our measures in December and when he and the whole of his Front Bench abstained.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker


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