§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Individual hon. Members have rights in this House. I must protect the right of an individual hon. Member to differ from the vast majority of hon. Members.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I understand that an agreement, albeit an unofficial one, has been reached between the two Front Benches—perhaps based on slightly varying motives—that this Order should be passed without debate and without discussion. Such an agreement is, of course, not binding on me nor indeed, I should have thought, on any other back bencher in any quarter of the House.
Lest references to this House are to become a mere formality, I suggest that the measure of importance of this Order is such that, whatever the differing views which hon. Members may hold on this issue, there is a duty on the House of Commons to express its views; for those who feel disquieted on this matter to express them and for those who have questions to ask to address them to the Government. Indeed, it is only right that that should be so, since whatever settlement is arrived at in Rhodesia, it will ultimately have to receive the assent of this House.
I am second to none in my concern for the future of Gibraltar, which is the subject that will follow the discussion of this Order. Be that as it may, the House of Commons is being asked to extend Section 2 of the Southern Rhodesia Act, 1965, the effect of which will be to continue in the hands of the Government the powers granted to them under that Act and automatically to extend for a further year the Orders in Council which, in the form of Statutory Instruments, were laid before this House.
As hon. Members will recall, those were powers granted to the Government to make Orders in Council varying or altering the Constitution of Rhodesia 1564 and bringing in prohibitions, restrictions or obligations on Rhodesia and on people in this country, the chief effect of which has been the introduction of the various Orders dealing with sanctions. Hon. Members will also remember that included were measures relating to the Reserve Bank, general trade and specific products like chrome, petroleum, sugar, tobacco, iron ore and asbestos which have, I suggest, a considerable effect on trade in this country and on individual concerns. This is, therefore, no light matter to go through automatically.
It has been suggested that this is the wrong time to have a debate—I appreciate that suggestion and will try to answer it—because, we are told, although Mr. Smith's reply has been received, we are waiting for a decision by the Government to be published and that this may come at a very difficult moment.
However, there are matters which are cause for considerable disquiet. For example, it has been strongly suggested that one senior civil servant was very recently on the brink of resignation because of the extent of the concessions to the six principles which Her Majesty's Government were prepared to make in their negotiations in Salisbury.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Hon. Members ask "who", but I do not think it is the practice to disclose the name of a civil servant.
§ Mr. Thorpe
It is not without significance that those who are connected closely by reason of their Ministerial positions—their Civil Service occupations in Ministries—should have expressed grave disquiet—[Interruption.] I should have thought that it is cause for concern when there is obviously evidence of disquiet expressed in certain quarters by a person who is in a position to know what is happening.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
When a number of my hon. Friends asked the hon. Member to say to whom he was referring, we asked the question because some of us were rather confused—in view of the statement referring to a Minister of Her Majesty's Government—because the hon. Gentleman referred to a civil servant.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I was coming to the second person in a moment. I was saying, initially, that the suggestion widely believed—and this would be an ideal opportunity for it to be denied—was that a high-ranking civil servant in the Commonwealth Relations Office had been gravely concerned at the extent of the concessions which Her Majesty's Government were making to the six principles and was on the brink of resignation.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Is it not equally improper and out of order to refer to the opinions of a civil servant whether he be named or not?
§ Mr. Thorpe
Secondly, it is well known that the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, who is our Minister at the United Nations, is known to have expressed disquiet, and, indeed, the suggestion has been made that upon the occasion of his last visit to London he, in fact, tendered his resignation, but it was not accepted. I mention these two factors because I think they are an indication that there are people, closely concerned with current negotiations, who have cause for grave disquiet.
I believe that whatever may be the developments in the Rhodesian crisis, this Statutory Instrument, which will in effect renew the 1965 legislation, will be directly referrable to that Act. If the Government tell us that after six months of talks or negotiations—whether one is a realist and calls it the latter, or lives in a world of make believe and calls it the former—there is a chink of hope and that, therefore, some senior Minister of Her Majesty's Government will again be dispatched—possibly with his visit prefaced by the humiliating request that he should be received by Mr. Smith when it is convenient for Mr. Smith to see him—any constitutional settlement that might be brought about would clearly be introduced by reason of an Order in Council, which would take the form of a Statutory Instrument laid before the House, which would be passed by reason of the powers in the 1965 Rhodesia Act.
Therefore, if that is to be the outcome, clearly this Act would be relevant in that context. My own view is that it is very unlikely, after six months, that there will 1566 be such a change of heart on the part of Mr. Smith to make this the case. If it were the case, the House would, I suggest, at that stage be under certain inhibitions in discussing the matter, far more than we are at this moment, because for the whole of the past six months the House has been told, "Let us not discuss these matters because talks are proceeding". At the moment there are no talks proceeding. Mr. Smith's reply has been received and Her Majesty's Government will make their reply. It is not a bad thing if this House makes known its views before Her Majesty's Government finally send that reply back to Rhodesia.
If there is to be a reference to the United Nations for selective or mandatory sanctions pursuant to the agreement reached at the Commonwealth talks, they would not have legislative effect unless the agreement which we reached at the United Nations was contained in a Statutory Instrument laid before this House pursuant to the 1965 Act. So, whatever may be the outcome of the present negotiations, this Act and this Statutory Instrument are relevant to it.
What, very briefly, is the background to the Act and to the Statutory Instrument? The Act itself had an unopposed Second and Third Reading and all the Statutory Instruments, with one exception, were passed without a division. The only exception was the Petroleum Order of 22nd January, 1966, when—I cannot interpret, but appearances would suggest that the Conservative Opposition felt that the arguments were sufficiently evenly balanced between those who were for, those who were against, and those who did not know—they divided in three ways. Apart from that, there has been, both on the introduction of this Act and on the Statutory Instruments, unity in this House.
I would suggest that we are entitled today to ask three questions: First, what were the conditions and the principles involved at the time which brought about this unity of purpose in the House, and do those conditions and principles still obtain? Secondly, what use have the Government made of those powers granted, and have they achieved the desired objective? Thirdly, what use do they propose to make of those powers if they are granted for a further period of a year?
1567 I do not believe it fruitful to go into the history of the parentage of this Bill. We all know that when the Second Reading was debated it was against the background of a situation in which the Rhodesians had previously been moving with assured advancement for the 4 million Africans, with safeguards and undoubted rights for Europeans, under the 1961 Constitution, negotiated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)—a Constitution which was generally accepted.
Some felt it did not go far enough, but I think that not even the Rhodesian Front in their wildest moments would regard the two right hon. Gentlemen as the standard bearers of black nationalism. It was that Constitution upon which the request was made for independence, and there is no question that two successive Prime Ministers in Rhodesia were told that there could not be independence on that Constitution because it was a more restrictive franchise than that of any other territory which had acquired independence in the last 50 years.
That was the view which, quite rightly, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham expressed on 22nd February, 1964, to Mr. Winston Field, the then Rhodesian Prime Minister, and which was repeated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire when he was Prime Minister, to Mr. Smith, who was by then Prime Minister of Rhodesia. With that very proper attitude of the right hon. Gentlemen, I wholeheartedly agree, as I believe does the whole House.
The House was united because there had been agreement on the 1961 Constitution. There was agreement that it could not be the basis for independence, and there was agreement that when the Constitution was torn up it was an illegal act and was an act of rebellion. It was not only the view of this side of the House and of the Government benches, but it was also the view expressed in all parts of the House, and, perhaps more eloquently than most, by the Leader of the Opposition himself.
Therefore, I ask the question whether or not the conditions—either the political 1568 conditions in Rhodesia or the constitutional principles involved today—are any different from what they were when this House, in a spirit of unity, passed this Bill and passed the Statutory Instrument.
In my submission, it is hardly surprising that the Rhodesian régime still faces the united opposition of the Churches in Rhodesia and of courageous public opinion in Rhodesia in the light of the powers of restriction and detention, in the light of the unilateral amendment of the 1961 Constitution, the closing of African primary schools because they happened to be in European quarters, in view of censorship and many other aspects of Rhodesian society with which this House is well familiar.
Therefore, I would hope that there is no hon. or right hon. Gentleman who would think that those conditions and principles have in any way altered from the attitude which the House adopted one year ago. I hope that we shall on this Order be able to show a spirit of unity—not brought about by silence from a stifled debate, but after free discussion when doubts and anxieties have been properly aired—and that the House will move to a decision, I hope, in a united spirit.
I believe, also, that the House agreed to a course of sanctions for two reasons. The first was that we recognised our continuing responsibility for all races in Rhodesia—something which Mr. Smith himself, in a very remarkable speech which is reported in The Guardian today, appears to accept is the continuing responsibility of Britain. The second reason was that, if I may coin a phrase, we felt that we had obligations to our kith and kin living in black African countries surrounding Rhodesia, where attempts are being made to build up non-racial societies, and because we believed, as a nation that had created a multi-racial Commonwealth, that Rhodesia's action was something which we could not tolerate.
I believe that this was the bloodless method of bringing pressure to bear on that régime. I do not say that it is a method which excluded the use of force, because on 9th April last Her Majesty's Government went to the Security Council 1569 and were granted by that Council the right to use force in certain circumstances—to prevent by the use of force if necessary, the arrival at Beira of vessels reasonably believed to be carrying oil…and, if necessary, to arrest and detain the tanker "Joanna". So sanctions were supported as a bloodless method, but not necessarily a method excluding the use of force in the sense referred to in the Security Council Resolution.
That is, the background. I suggest to the House that none of these principles and none of these objectives has been changed by the course of events in Rhodesia in the last year.
Have those objectives been achieved? Have sanctions had the desired effect? I think that the Prime Minister himself would be the first to admit that the Government's calculations were completely wrong.
§ Mr. Thorpe
As the hon. Gentleman says, miles out.
This was recognised in the communiqué after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. It was weeks, not months. It may now be months, not years. The Prime Minister may even have reached the stage of years, not decades. At any rate, there is no question but that the Government were hopelessly out in their timing on these sanctions.
What have these sanctions achieved? First, economically there is no doubt that they have had an effect in regard to tobacco. Only 30 per cent. of Rhodesia's tobacco has been resold, to the best of one's knowledge. [Interruption.] There is censorship in Rhodesia and it is, therefore, difficult to ge information on these matters. The hon. Gentleman may have better information than I have. No doubt he will correct me or inform the House if I am wrong.
The evidence would appear to suggest that approximately £6 million worth of tobacco has been bought by merchants from France, Germany, Portugal, Korea, Holland, China and Czechoslovakia and that South Africa has bought approximately £5½ million worth with the reserves which she holds in the Bank of Rhodesia in South Africa, making a total of £11,600,000 worth of sales.
1570 It is also true that tobacco farmers have received two additional payments for their crops, but that has come out of the reserve of £28 million which the Rhodesia Government, as they then were, had reserved for the payment of loan and service charges but which the régime have now said they are no longer under an obligation to pay and which clearly the Government had not taken into account in their initial contingency plan. Further, a store has been built at Belvedere, on the old Salisbury Airport, where there is extensive stocking of unsold tobacco. Indeed, that building is at present being expanded.
We are entitled to ask what has been the effect of these Statutory Instruments before we renew them. That is why I am touching in some detail on the various products affected.
The main purchaser of sugar has been South Africa, partly because of the failure of its own crop. With regard to flour and wheat, I regret to say that there is a British company here which has milling interests in Rhodesia, and the latter Rhodesian-based company has used its London firm, albeit indirectly, as buying agents for Rhodesian wheat. The Government now have details of this and no doubt the matter is being looked into.
There is asbestos in this country which has been identified by experts as being of Rhodesia origin. It is true that this could perhaps be old stock, or it might have been bought in good faith from a European supplier. At any rate, there are matters which the Government might care to look into there.
Much chrome has gone to the United States. As the House knows, oil continues to flow into Rhodesia from South Africa and Lourenco Marques. The major source of supply is by rail from Lourenco Marques across the Malvernia Desert.
Therefore, it is clear that on the economic effects of sanctions the Government's contingency planning has been most inadequate in the last year, and, clearly, the diplomatic initiatives they have taken have not produced the desired results.
One casualty of sanctions has clearly been the effect they have had on Zambia's economy. With some justification, Zambia holds Britain economically and 1571 politically responsible for any cost to it of resisting sanctions. I believe that, although this is a British economic responsibility, it is also a world one. It is regrettable that some countries which have been most vocal in calling on Britain to bring down the Smith régime have not been among those who have come forward to any great degree to assist Zambia in her troubles.
One of the effects is that Zambia, because of this inadequate economic backing, has to buy many of her products from Rhodesia. Rhodesia demands payments in dollars. Those dollars are drawn out of the sterling pool. Therefore, the sterling pool, ironically, is the major supplier of hard currency to the Rhodesian economy.
We should realise that, unless adequate economic assistance is given to Zambia to resist sanctions, not only will the policy of sanctions fail, but Zambia's economy itself may falter, if not fail, as well. The bitterness which that will produce could well have grave economic consequences. It is no secret that there are those in Zambia who are suggesting that, when the long-term buying contracts for copper expire, there are European countries which have offered to buy the whole of Zambia's production. In such an event, instead of buying direct at favourable rates, this country, which imports 700,000 tons of copper a year, would have to purchase copper from European middlemen at greatly inflated prices, an operation which, I suggest, would have a devastating effect on our economy.
As regards the political and economic effects of sanctions, I believe that the whole House must honestly agree that they have not had the hoped-for results. I never believed that they would have results until at any rate 18 months. Even that may be too optimistic a view to take.
Then the alternative arises which, I suggest, is relevant to the discussion of the Order, because it is under the powers granted by the Act which we are to continue for a further year that we shall have to act. There is the suggestion that we should go to the United Nations and that we should have mandatory sanctions, either selective or comprehensive.
My first comment is this. If the Government ask us to vote for this Statutory Instrument and if they intend, by extend- 1572 ing the life of the Act, to continue and escalate sanctions, I beseech them to do better and more effective planning than they have done in the past year. It would be much better to have no sanctions at all than to go through the panoply of voting for sanctions only to have them fail and for the failure to be not only the humiliation of this country, but of the whole of the United Nations as well.
Secondly, if the Conservative Opposition believe, as they did, and as I think they still do basically, that this is an illegal régime which is harming multi-racialism all over the world, and if they intend to give their support to the Order, as I hope they will, they should be under no illusions as to what it can, and possibly will, lead to. It may well lead to mandatory sanctions under the United Nations. For reasons which I shall state in a few minutes, I hope that it will, because I believe that this is the only bloodless way of bringing the rebellion to an end. [HON. MEMBERS: "Bombing?] I shall come to that.
The Conservative Opposition, when they vote, as I hope they will, to support this Measure must do so only on the basis that they are prepared to make effective what they are voting for, that they will not vote for a Measure in order to give the appearance of unity and thereafter renege from the ultimate logical conclusion of what they are voting for—voting, for example, for sanctions provided that they are not effective, or voting for international action provided that it does not involve one in taking effective action. Just as it would be much better that the Government did not ask us to vote for something which would be ineffective, so it would be wrong for the Conservative Opposition to vote for something which they were not genuinely prepared to back.
I believe that sanctions could work, but they are a long shot. The only alternatives to sanctions are these. We could wash our hands of the whole business, saying, "This is the last chapter in our imperial history. We gave independence to 700 million people all over the world, in every continent, but we were faced with a rebellion by 200,000 people and it was beyond our capacity to deal with it." That could be one alternative. The other could be a bloody and not necessarily successful deployment of troops—not less 1573 than three divisions—which, I believe, would be not only morally wrong but logistically disastrous.
Therefore, we may under this Act have to introduce Statutory Instruments which will give legislative effect to the determination of this country to bring in either selective or comprehensive mandatory sanctions. Basically, this course could be made effective by action taken by member Governments at source, under a licensing system, perhaps, such as we exercised during the war and such as has been exercised by the oil exporting countries since U.D.I. But one must not set upon a course like this without having the intellectual honesty to ask how far ultimately one is prepared to take it. Are we going into something, and shall we then wash our hands of it? I would much rather not be set on that course. I would much rather look at something and take it through to its logical conclusion or not go in for it at all. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) has made enough sedentary interruptions already to last him a lifetime.
Supposing that South Africa and Portugal were not prepared to abide by mandatory sanctions and would breach them, I would say straight away, first in regard to South Africa, that, although I profoundly disagree with almost all her Government's policies, they have a clean record on abiding strictly by the letter of international law. I do not think that one can point to any legal decision or obligation put upon them which they have breached. I may be wrong, but I believe that to be so. [An HON. MEMBER: "South-West Africa?"] This is an arguable case because the decision there was not the decision of the International Court but of the United Nations. South Africa is claiming that this constitutes internal interference which is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations. It will be for the World Court to decide whether or not that contention is right. I think that that is the legal position, however much I want to see South-West Africa liberated.
Before hon. Members vote for this Statutory Instrument, they must ask themselves these questions. It is no good voting in the dark. Supposing that South Africa and Portugal, for example, were to breach international sanctions, what 1574 then? We might then find a move for a right to search on the high seas such as was exercised during the war against ships carrying goods to neutral ports which were reasonably believed to be carrying contraband. I believe that, if it were felt that goods were being despatched to defaulting nations which would then re-export them to Rhodesia, the world might ask for a right to search.
Now, if only to clear the record for myself and to satisfy the Tory Party, which appears to have some interest in the matter, I come to another alternative. I have been wildly misrepresented on it, but I do not complain about that because it is a customary part of politics. Supposing that the main breach in sanctions, the main obstacle to bringing about a settlement by reason of economic pressures, were the continued flow of oil into Rhodesia, and supposing that the main source travelled along a railway line passing for several hunderd miles through a totally deserted malaria-infested desert——
§ Mr. Thorpe
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman would like to live out there. I am sure that he would be very welcome, but he would find that his nearest neighbours were about 400 miles away in Gonakudzingwa detention camp where there are men detained for up to five years without trial and without charge, many of whose relatives do not know that they are there because it is a criminal offence to publish the fact in the newspapers.
If the continued flow of oil and the only, or main, obstacle to the efficacy of sanctions were the continued supply of oil along that railway route, would it seriously be said that the preservation of that railway route was more important than the bloodless settlement of the whole Rhodesian crisis?
§ Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)
Would the hon. Gentleman consider that the bombing of that line would be an act of war?
§ Mr. Thorpe
No, I would not, and I hope that I can persuade the hon. and learned Gentleman, by reference to legal principles known to him, that it would 1575 be very much the reverse. We are dealing with a rebellion in Rhodesia. Lest there be any doubt on that score, let me remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that his own leader—[An HON. MEMBER: "Which one?"—his official leader—said on 12th November, 1965:We recognise that it is an illegal Government and that the Government of this country can have no dealings with it. We do not in any way condone its actions and neither must the Governor."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 539.]We are talking about an act of rebellion in a British Colony. Was it an act of war to put in troops to put down Mau-Mau? Of course not. Was it an act of war to put in troops in many parts of the world to put down civil disorder? Of course not.
But I am not suggesting that we go that far. I am merely suggesting—I do not want to put it out of its context, and I mention it only because I have been misquoted on it—that if, ultimately, the only obstacle to the effectiveness of sanctions were the supply of oil to which I have referred and the means to make sanctions effective in bloodlessly ending the rebellion were the destruction of that one railway line, which is at present carrying oil into Rhodesia, this would be not too high a price to pay, and certainly it would not involve Britain in what many hon. and right hon. Members are rightly frightened of, an economic confrontation with South Africa and, to a lesser extent, with Portugal as well.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
Will the hon. Gentleman clarify something in order to clear our minds? Are we to bomb Botswana or Rhodesia? Has he had any experience of repairing railway lines after bombing? If he has had, he will know that it would be necessary to keep on bombing.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am not quite certain how it is suggested that Botswana might be bombed when it has never been mentioned in the debate. If the hon. Gentleman is asking whether it would be possible for us to make political representations to Botswana when mandatory sanctions were introduced, asking her to cease supplying Rhodesia from existing railway lines, the answer would be, "Yes". Botswana is a member of the United Nations and if a resolution were passed would be bound 1576 by it. Thus, the answer to the question of whether we should bomb Botswana is, "No".
Secondly, it is true that railway lines can be repaired but we are talking of a railway line which is several hundred miles long in an extremely isolated area. I believe also that nothing would prove more forcibly to the South African Government that, whilst we were not anxious to have an economic confrontation with them which would damage the trading relations of both nations, we were determined to end the rebellion in Rhodesia. It is because South Africa was not convinced of this country's determination from the very beginning that she gave so much support to Rhodesia. It was in the initial few weeks that South African support of Rhodesia made the difference between success and failure.
I believe that we shall have to have mandatory sanctions and that they are the only bloodless way of bringing down the Smith régime. If hon. Members do not want to bring down the Smith régime, logically they will not vote for this Statutory Instrument.
§ Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)
As the hon. Gentleman is so anxious that we should think this through logically, and as we understand that he believes that the centrepiece of British policy must be the overthrow of the Smith Government, does he recommend, in logic, that if the economic sanctions fail military action should follow?
§ Mr. Thorpe
I thought that I had made it clear that I do not believe that the deployment of military force in Rhodesia is practical or desirable. The Minister of State, Foreign Office, who I am glad to see here, said at the Labour Party conference—and I agree—that, in the early stages, a token force might have done the trick. I believe that if there had been British troops in Zambia before U.D.I, was declared it might never have happened. I accept the logic of the situation that, unless sanctions succeed, and if we discount the use of force, this country fails. I believe that it would be the most appalling humiliation and tragedy if we did, and I believe this because Britain has such a long and honourable tradition of building up a non-racial Commonwealth.
1577 That is why I believe that when the right hon. Members for Kinross and West Perthshire and Streatham negotiated the 1961 Constitution, which safeguarded the rights of Europeans but still recognised the political rights of 4 million Africans, the great tragedy was that it was ripped up because those in power in Rhodesia were not prepared to accept the doctrine of racial partnership, although they were not being asked to accept African majority rule overnight but the inevitability of an increased share by Africans in government.
We have a choice. Do we perpetuate the régime backed by many of the 200,000 Europeans, forgetting the responsibilities which we have for the 4 million Africans and doing so at the cost of the 150,000 Europeans at present living in Black African Commonwealth countries around Rhodesia—already we see the pressures that have been put on them in Zambia, which are very wrong—and thus give up any idea of developing a multi-racial Commonwealth?
The second choice is whether, having enunciated the principles we did last year—that this is a rebellion, an unnecessary rebellion and cuts at the roots of every racial policy this country has tried to introduce—this House shows, on the eve of the first anniversary of U.D.I.—and let us hope it is the last—that we have resolution, that we are united, that we have the determination and that therefore this Statutory Instrument will be passed without a Division.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) on at least one thing—that he has rejected the Front Bench argument that it is only proper for this House to discuss a matter after the decision has been taken. That always seems to me to be a case of closing the door after the horse has been stolen and it is one that I am not prepared to concede. But—again to take things a little out of sequence—I want to say a word or two about his military arguments. The hon. Gentleman might have been interested in a research project carried out by the Rand Institute on the cost effectiveness of various operations of war. At the bottom of the list came, "Bombing Railways". According to its 1578 calculations, it costs 1,200 times as much to make a hole as to fill it up.
I give another figure, because the most astonishing nonsense has been talked on this subject. We recently had fighter planes in Zambia. We supplied them from the nearest effective and available railhead and it had to be done by Britannia aircraft. The round trip by a Britannia used 6,000 gallons of petrol and it carried 4,500 gallons for the fighters. That amount of petrol keeps a modern fighter in the air for 50 minutes. That is the kind of logistic problem which one is faced with in supporting military force. The hon. Gentleman said that it would be a three-division job. It would certainly be a minimum of two divisions. We have not the logistic capacity to support a thin brigade on the Zambesi for an operation and the Secretary of State knows that very well.
The final folly of all is the idea that we are going to take on South Africa. This reminds me of an incident which occurred to me in April, 1942. I had been working continuously for 50 hours with what landing craft we then possessed to land an unarmoured division on an undefended shore. When I got back, I received a telegram from the Haldane Society—a society of Socialist lawyers—urging me to "open the second front now". Perhaps I can point out to those who think in these sorts of terms that it took the industry of Britain and America over two years before we could cross with absolute air superiority 80 miles of sea, and even then it was a near thing. South Africa can mobilise a great deal more than Rommel had in Normandy and is 6,000 miles away.
Having listened to some of the absurd military arguments here, I want to draw up a balance sheet of what we have done and what we are being asked to authorise. The cost to our balance of payments is already £100 million and, if sanctions are continued for another year, it would be taking a very optimistic view of copper futures to imagine that it would cost us less than another £200 million next year.
What are we getting for it? My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) put it very well at Question Time on Tuesday. He said that Mr. Smith was stronger than he was a 1579 year ago and that sanctions were completely discredited. I am bound to say that I agree with him. I do not say that sanctions have had no effect, but they have probably had the opposite effect to that intended. Certainly they have made Rhodesia far more of a nation. They have had very much the same kind of effect in Rhodesia as the Arab war and the Arab sanctions had on Israel—they have made a group of immigrants into a very self-conscious nation.
Sanctions have undoubtedly arrested Rhodesian industrial development. When I was there recently I pointed that out when talking to Rhodesian Front members in the rural areas. I said that while they were obviously not having any shortages, developments which would otherwise be occurring had been stopped. I am afraid that the answer was, "And a bloody good thing, too! We have been developing much too fast. The last thing we want to see is the kind of get-rich-quick development which we have been experiencing".
That, of course, is the rural point of view. The Rhodesian Front is basically a rural party not in the least interested in the distress of business men in Bulawayo and Salisbury. They are interested in the countryside, and certainly the countryside of Rhodesia has never been so happy. [Interruption.] I am afraid that that applies to the black as well as to the white people.
Tomorrow there is an anniversary and in Rhodesia there will be great celebrations in all the tribal areas. There will be fireworks, and I am afraid that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is apt to be featuring in a Guy Fawkes rôle. That is the atmosphere. There is no alternative Government in Rhodesia, and I think that everybody recognises that. There is almost no opposition, and here I am quoting black as well as white. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about detainees?"] There are 350 detained, probably the lowest figure for any country in Africa.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)rose——1580
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) will address the Chair.
§ Mr. Paget
There have been infiltrations into Rhodesia by guerrillas. There are two guerrilla camps in Zambia, each with a capacy of about 500. They have been passing people across the border into Rhodesia, but these guerrillas have received no support from the local population who have given immediate information to the police, which is why the guerrillas have totally failed.
For these reasons, it seems to me that, whether we like it or not, Mr. Smith is in fact ruling with the consent of almost all the people of Rhodesia.
§ Mr. Winnick
If the hon. and learned Gentleman believes that everyone is so happy in the rebel Colony, why has it been necessary for the Smith régime to institute the most vigorous form of Press censorship.
§ Mr. Paget
It is not a rigorous Press censorship when a paper like the Rhodesia Herald is strongly hostile to the Government and is allowed to continue publication all the time and to publish blank columns to show what has been taken out. This is nowhere near as savage a censorship as happens behind the Iron Curtain, or in any other African country.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
Is it not a fact that Z.A.N.U. and Z.A.P.U., the two independence movements who speak for the black men in Rhodesia, have a totally different view about the guerrilla movements, the numbers killed and the extent of their support? I submit that my hon. and learned 1581 Friend has been brainwashed in Salisbury into accepting the official statements of the Smith régime. The Africans themselves have quite a different tale.
§ Mr. Paget
There is no doubt that fantastic casualties inflicted by guerrilla forces, have been announced by Zambia for operations in the border areas, but anybody who goes into the countryside can see the absence of any need for people to concentrate at night and the absence of any defence measures on the farms. Right up in this area it can be seen that there is freedom from any serious kind of threat. These are simply propaganda stories from a movement which has entirely failed.
Obviously, there are no shortages in Rhodesia. She is getting all she wants. She has a favourable balance of trade which would make my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer very happy indeed. The Smith Government has been strengthened. All this has cost us so far about £100 million. We are now asked to continue.
What is the prospect for the future? What kind of difference to the picture will it make if sanctions are made mandatory? Germany is not a member of the United Nations, so they will not be affected by the sanctions one way or the other. South Africa, Portugal, Malawi and Botswana have all declared that they will not participate in mandatory sanctions. That is quite a good start. Zambia cannot do so, because her economy just cannot exist without Rhodesia. What difference will it make?
The key is obviously South Africa, and for that reason I went to South Africa to find precisely what the South African attitude to the Rhodesian rebellion was and what the South Africans would do. I think that the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) will probably be able to confirm what I say. I saw the South African Government and I saw the South African opposition. I had long talks with the Bank of South Africa and the Standard Bank. Although I did not see Mr. Oppenheim, who was in London, I saw two of his lieutenants, and I saw almost every leading figure on the Rand and discussed this situation with them. It was made abundantly clear to me that South Africa was completely determined that sanctions, least of all 1582 United Nations sanctions, should not succeed in her part of Africa. It was for her own defence and that was the view taken.
What happens now? It is quite clear that without South Africa any attempt to blockade Rhodesia is completely futile. The example of oil has illustrated that, and Rhodesia's oil storage capacity is full. Of course, we could cut down Rhodes an exports. But there is only one point in that. The only point of stopping a country exporting is to put it in balance of payments difficulties; and that was the point on which I was consulting in South Africa.
None of the people in South Africa whom I met—I think that the right hon. Gentleman will probably confirm this—thought that sanctions were capable of putting Rhodesia into a balance of payments deficit. But, if they were wrong, there was no question whatever that they were completely determined to fill the deficit if it occurred, to provide the necessary money, and to make the advances on the stockpiles if those advances were required and the stockpiles could not be moved.
While I was sitting round one table, the maximum conceivable figure mentioned was £25 million. The view was, "Without bothering the Government we can provide that round this table". When the hon. Gentleman says that it is no use going on unless we are to succeed, I tell him that we cannot succeed. There is no possibility of succeeding. This is a futile continuation of something which cannot succeed.
Is South Africa bluffing? I am convinced that she is not. South Africa regards Rhodesia more or less as her Czechoslovakia. Whatever opinions one may have of him, Mr. Vorster is no Chamberlain or Daladier. He is a very tough cookie indeed, and very resolute. South Africa is a very difficult country to blockade. She has very few requirements. She has the cheapest coal in the world. Only one-tenth of her power requirements depend on oil. As to that, she is very conscious. She built up her storage facilities. She has bought tankers. She has put in two huge coal-conversion plants which I have seen. Furthermore, just to show how seriously this matter is taken, the whole of her petrol rationing coupons are already printed. I am assured 1583 that by February they will have supplies to cover their ration coupons for three years, and that the coupons include the allocation to Rhodesia, which is 4 per cent. of the South African figure. So South Africa is not bluffing.
If we go in for a confrontation with South Africa, let us consider what it is. It is £220 million of exports. It is £90 million on balance of payments. It is probably not far short of £2,000 million in capital investment. What happens to the £ when the gold supplies are cut off?
What should one do? I do not see any point in proceeding with a policy in which one cannot win. I do not regard return to constitutionality as being very important. In the days when we were a great empire, perhaps we could afford to make an example of successful rebellion. But to whom is this an example? To Captain O'Neill, perhaps; but who else? In this case, return to constitutionality is nothing but a euphemism for face saving. I do not think that we should go to this kind of expense or do this sort of damage for what is simply a face-saving operation.
The kernel of the matter is this. We should concentrate on creating conditions which will bring the African majority in Rhodesia into power. That should be our aim, and that I believe we can achieve. I am no believer in paper constitutions. We have seen many of them in Africa, and none of them has lasted five years. The important thing is power relationships. That is what is effective. We did not give independence to India, Kenya, or Nigeria. We faced a power situation——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I must remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that he should address the Chair.
§ Mr. Paget
I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
In those cases, we faced a power situation in which it was no longer possible to rule except by the inhabitants of the country. That is the situation at which we must aim, and that is the only effective guarantee which we have. We have to create those conditions in Rhodesia.
The effective power in Rhodesia is the Rhodesian Front. The tribal African is not the power unit. Tribes are organisations, not to progress, but for the purpose 1584 of staying still. While a tribe is effectively protected, it desires no more. It is not a political influence in Rhodesia. The migrant workers coming from Malawi and Zambia are not a political factor in Rhodesia. They are employed because the local African is, on the whole, too primitive for employment. The black power factor in Rhodesia is, and will be, the industrial labour force in the townships. As that force is built, so African power in Rhodesia is made inevitable.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I entirely agree with what the hon. and learned Gentleman said about the need for increasing African power. I am sure that he would agree that education is one of the best ways of doing it.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman consider, when he comes to it, that Governments of both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party made substantial offers of cash for increased African education, all of which were rejected? Many of the primary schools of Salisbury now stand empty.
§ Mr. Paget
I am extremely glad that I have a basis of agreement with the hon. Gentleman.
The only way to hold back the advance of the Africans is to hold back industrial development, and that is exactly what sanctions do.
What should we do about it? Let me say at once that this is not South Africa. In South Africa, the black urbanised worker is, and always will be, in the minority. In Rhodesia he is already near being in the majority. As the economy develops, Africans will become a very large majority. They will become the effective power. They will become a power which cannot be denied. I believe that only sanctions, by holding back development, can prevent that from happening.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Smethwick)
May I ask my hon. and learned Friend why the interesting progression to democracy which he outlines as being possible for Rhodesia has never happened in South Africa?
§ Mr. Paget
I thought that that was the point which I made. It is simply a 1585 question of figures. The black African industrial labour force in South Africa, where the ratio of Africans in the total population is only three to one, has always been quite a small minority. In Rhodesia it will be a very large majority and it counts.
What ought one to do? I have had some very interesting discussions with Mr. Smith. The first proposal I put dealt with this educational point. Mr. Smith was very clear that he did not want African education simply to produce African voters who would become an unemployed intelligentsia. There was no question about that. What he said was very interesting, and what is possibly negotiable is this, which I urge upon my right hon. Friends, that Rhodesia and ourselves should jointly form an African educational agency, of which each country should supply half the money, which is about £6 million. That is very much less than the cost of sanctions. That agency should act independently of political control, with an agreed assignment, which should be to fit into an economic plan, which we also should work out together.
There would be a balance between technical education, academic education, and teaching and medicine skills would be placed to the requirements of the economy which was evolving, and which one was creating according to one's plans. The licences for new development and similar matters would involve undertakings as to employment, so that one would be able to guarantee the educated African, as he came forward, a job for an educated man in the economy which we would be creating.
All of this could be negotiated. I am not talking about African rule because I hope that would not happen. I hope that it would be multi-racial, but this would provide a majority of African voters in probably 10 or 12 years. This is a system which I feel could be negotiated.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
I am very interested in the hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion that this should be independent of political control. Could he now tell us how it can be guaranteed that Mr. Smith's régime would not interfere and tamper with its progress?
§ Mr. Paget
I can only say that things of this nature acquire an impetus of their 1586 own. If one creates an agency and it receives payments from two Governments, and it takes over a job and reports to the Governments, then I think that it would acquire this impetus. It is no good dealing with anyone if one is to assume that the other person is acting in bad faith. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is every reason to believe that."] The Rhodesian Government make the same answer and one gets nowhere at all. This is why I feel a certain sense of frustration about this. I have such a tremendous feeling in my own heart that I could negotiate this if I were given the chance because, there is mutual agreement about this. [An HON. MEMBER: "By selling out."] This would be an advance on the sterile frustration of constitutional protocol, getting nowhere, taking us further to economic and political humiliation, a policy which, in our hearts, we know cannot succeed and which South Africa has no intention of allowing to succeed. [An HON. MEMBER: "The hon. and learned Gentleman hopes it will not succeed."] So one drifts on. This seems to be the essence of futility and I hope that, the present course having led only to the strengthening of Mr. Smith and to the strengthening of the sort of Rhodesia which suits the Rhodesian Front, we shall now change course and try something more constructive.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
We on these benches recognise that the Rhodesian situation is now reaching a critical phase. Within a short time there will either be agreement or, in our view, an alternative which may lead to disaster for this country, Rhodesia and many other countries. We are profoundly concerned in every way to try to facilitate agreement. We believe that there should be an early and major debate—possibly a historic debate—in this House, but we do not believe that we can hold that debate until we have more facts before us.
We just do not know whether the chances now are for agreement or disagreement. One reads speculation in the newspapers, but one cannot rely upon it for a debate of this importance. We do not know what was contained in the proposals made by Mr. Smith to the British Government, nor do we yet know what attitude the British Government will take to these proposals.
1587 We have clear and repeated undertakings from Ministers and the Leader of the House, that in a short time a White Paper will be published giving these facts and details. We have been assured that upon the publication of the White Paper there will be an immediate debate. This is a very clear assurance from the Government Front Bench which we accept. In those circumstances, we do not think that to debate this subject this afternoon would aid the cause that we all have at heart.
I would very much like to take issue with the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) on some of the points that he has made. I would point out, in a sentence or two, what our position is on this matter. First of all, we do not consider that force should in any circumstances ever be used to try to obtain a solution to this constitutional problem. We do not consider it right to hand over this British problem to the United Nations. The reasons for this point of view we would rather deploy on an occasion when we have the facts before us in detail, and with all the solemnity which we can attach to an occasion of such great Parliamentary importance.
It is therefore our view that, in this highly dangerous situation, a better contribution can be made by this House towards a solution of this problem, which we all desire to see, by having the debate immediately the White Paper is available.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Herbert Bowden)
I will not detain the House long, particularly as the House will have an opportunity, as early as possible, for a full debate on the whole Rhodesian problem. On that occasion the House will, I hope, have in front of it all the relevant material, proposals and counterproposals, with a full report on my conversations in Salisbury with Mr. Smith and some of his colleagues.
I am sure that the House will understand that at this moment it would not be right to lay this material before the House. In the very near future we shall be able to discuss all of these matters with the facts in front of us.
The present phase of the Rhodesian problem opened with the Commonwealth 1588 Prime Ministers' Conference, which met in London in September. Although the Conference had many other important matters to discuss, as the House will recall, its main pre-occupation was Rhodesia and this was perhaps understandable.
As the Prime Minister reported to the House on 18th October, this was probably the most difficult Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference that there could possibly be. The House will have read the communique, copies of which will be placed in the Library. It will be seen from this that the British Government were under great pressure, not only from the radically orientated members of the Commonwealth, but from nearly every one of our Commonwealth partners. Nevertheless we stuck very firmly to our principles. We made it clear, as we have repeatedly told the House, that we are opposed to the use of force in order to bring about a constitutional solution and settlement.
Hon. Members will also notice that we, the British Government, were not prepared to accept that a new and yet tougher phase should be entered into until the illegal régime in Salisbury had a further chance to take those indispensable steps which would lead to a restoration of constitutional government in Rhodesia.
As the House will recall, my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General and I flew to Salisbury immediately after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference to ensure that the Government's intentions were known to all sections of opinion in Rhodesia as far as we were able. Under the aegis of the Governor, we met representatives of many different bodies. The people whom I saw were representatives of professional groups and trades unions which in all countries, I hope, would represent a cross-section of the people. We saw both supporters and opponents of the Rhodesian régime, white, coloured and black.
In my own discussions with Mr. Smith, I took particular care to make sure that he realised the unique opportunity which was now being granted to Rhodesia to make an early, peaceful return to constitutional rule. Naturally, we understood the need to make crystal clear the exact nature of the constitution which we envisaged under a legal government in Rhodesia; that is, 1589 the road along which the Rhodesian Government would have to go.
It was for that reason that Sir Maurice James communicated the statement of our terms to Mr. Smith on 15th October. Last weekend—on Saturday, to be precise—we received Mr. Smith's reply. That is now being considered, and the next steps are being weighed up carefully.
At this stage, I am afraid that I cannot possibly say very much more, and I hope that the House will be patient for a short time until all the facts can be laid before it. I am sure that the House would agree that, while there is a chance of resolving the matter, it would not be right to go further into the details which are at present being discussed. It could only have the effect of damaging seriously the prospects of a just and honourable settlement.
Nevertheless, I want to make one or two general points. Firstly, to those who think that the secrecy of the discussions in which my right hon. and learned Friend and I have been engaged means that some dishonest deal is being made, I would only repeat that we, the British Government, are resolved that any settlement must be based on the six principles and on the terms of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' communiqué. It will be remembered that five of the six principles were ones which we inherited and endorsed completely. No proposals have been put forward which lie outside those terms of reference. There is no question of compromising on the six principles which have been accepted by both sides of the House. We will not be a party to a dishonourable settlement or one which is not just and fair to all the people of Rhodesia, of whatever race.
Secondly, we are committed to carry out the terms of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' communiqué. There can be no going back on that. Among other things, it means that there is now a time limit. Mr. Smith is fully aware of it, because I discussed it with him. He knows perfectly well that, unless the matter can be resolved within the next few weeks, the undertakings which we gave to the Commonwealth will be carried out in full. There should be no doubt about that on either side of the House.
Finally, to those hon. Gentlemen-some on each side of the House, though I think that they represent a small 1590 minority—who dislike the assurances which I have just given and would ask that we make a deal with Mr. Smith on something less than the six principles, I have to say this. We have the interests of the whole of Rhodesia as much at heart as they have themselves, including the white minority. We want to see a future for the white minority in Rhodesia, and we want them to continue to play in the future the rôle which they have always played in the past in building up the prosperity and happiness of that country. But there is no future for the white minority if it is not accepted by their fellow Rhodesian citizens or by the world community.
There is no solution in a Rhodesia independent but isolated from the world community, and there is no future for a white minority governing an increasingly dissatisfied and restive majority.
Mr. Smith's solution of I.D.I, can only be a temporary one. World opinion and opinion within his own country will not stand still. He has now the last chance to put Rhodesia back into the main stream of world progress. He has the last chance to show statesmanship. It must be the wish of us all, even at this very late hour, that Mr. Smith will rise to the needs of the situation. Therefore, I ask the House to approve this Order.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
May I thank the Commonwealth Secretary for what he has said and for intervening in the debate, which was started from this bench. It is quite right that we could not expect him to go beyond what he said, and we could not expect him, nor did we ask him, to reveal to the House matters which are still subject to delicate discussions between the Government and the régime in Rhodesia. We accept what he has said.
The House must be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) for raising this matter in the first place and, in a very statesmanlike speech, giving the House the opportunity of assessing the situation and conveying to the Government the views which some hon. Members have about the present state of affairs. That, after all, was the object.
If I may, I will remind the Commonwealth Secretary of two statements made 1591 by the Prime Minister on 10th December last, with which my colleagues and I are in wholehearted agreement. It would help a great deal if he knew that most of us in the House re-endorse them.
The Prime Minister said:…we cannot negotiate with an illegal regime, particularly one which has perverted, distorted and misused the 1961 Constitution … We cannot negotiate with these men, nor can they be trusted, after the return to constitutional rule, with the task of leading Rhodesia in the paths of freedom and racial harmony.That is the important part of the statement. He went on:Mr. Smith, although a private person, is the leader of a great political party there, and certainly his views will be sought. But as to entrusting to them, to that Government or to that Parliament, the conduct of restoration and reconstruction of affairs in Rhodesia—I think this would be absolutely intolerable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 776–7.]That is the position which many of us would like to see reaffirmed in the discussions which have taken place.
I believe that a lot of the doubt in the Commonwealth about where the Government's purpose lies has been created by the many reports which we have heard, reliable or unreliable, about the content of the talks. It is perhaps summed up in an article by Mr. Garfield Todd, published in The Guardian a week or two ago, when he wrote:One of the great psychological defeats suffered by Mr. Wilson results from legal prohibitions which are met only by impotence when defied.It is the Government's determination which has been in question, not their integrity. I hope that the statement which we have had from the Commonwealth Secretary has meant a reaffirmation of the Government's determination.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North said, there is a case for accepting that the whole affair is expensive to us and a difficult question and, therefore, the answer simply is to recognise the Rhodesian Government and wash our hands of it completely. I hope that that position is not endorsed by anyone in this House, but there is a case for it. The alternative case is for standing firm on the principles which have been outlined, but, more important, on a correct interpretation of these principles, the interpretation which was placed on them 1592 by the rest of the Commonwealth. There is no case for falling between those two stools and for creating doubt and confusion throughout the Commonwealth about the British Government's course of action in dealing with this very difficult matter.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Evan Luard (Oxford)
I know that the House has many other things to discuss tonight, and I do not want to detain it for too long.
I agree with the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe). It would be wrong to let this opportunity go by without giving careful consideration to this matter before a final and irrevocable position has been reached and merely to wait until we are faced with a fait accompli.
There are very few matters more important than this that the House ever has to discuss. It is not a common occurrence—and this is fortunate—for the House to discuss matters which are the primary concern not of our own people but of another. In this case this country—and in particular this House—stands as the guardian of another population, as the protector of their freedom, their fortunes, and their future, and I think that we should be erring in our duty if we allowed this occasion to go by without expressing our deep concern about the present situation in Rhodesia, and the kind of solutions which may be reached within the next few days or weeks.
I am not an extremist in this matter, or at least I do not regard myself as being so. Indeed, in many ways my views are moderate compared with some which I have heard expressed, and some which I know are shared by some of my hon. Friends. I do not, for example, believe that it is realistic to ask the Government at this stage to demand that majority rule should be achieved before independence is given; in other words, to go back on the six principles which have been laid down from the beginning as the basis on which these negotiations are being conducted.
I would be content with any settlement which incorporated the six principles, on one condition, and that is that these principles were implemented fully, firmly, and fairly, and that the interpretation placed on them was one that a reasonable use 1593 of those words would lead one to expect. It is clear that these principles are like the words of Humpty Dumpty, which can be made to mean anything that one likes. The crucial question for the House, and for the country, is, what interpretation is being placed on these principles by the Government? It is on this point that we require some assurance from Ministers this evening.
Perhaps I might consider the six principles one by one. The first principle is that unimpeded progress towards majority rule shall be maintained and guaranteed. One of the main things about which many of us are concerned is the way in which this unimpeded progress will be guaranteed. This point is closely bound up with another of even more vital importance, namely, the speed at which this unimpeded progress takes place, because it would be possible for this principle to be implemented by adding, say, three Africans to the roll of electors in each year, or in such a way that independence was finally achieved in the year 2000 or 2100. What really counts is how fast this unimpeded progress towards majority rule takes place.
If, for example, it were to be done by some kind of educational qualification as has been suggested and provided under other constitutions, it would be possible, simply by delaying the development of education, or by other means, by subjective interpretation about whether the qualification had been reached or not, to hold up the arrival of majority rule. Many people will not be satisfied unless this principle is interpreted in such a way that regularly and unmistakably more Africans are added to the roll every year in such a way that it can be seen that majority rule will be reached by a certain year. I would be satisfied if we could be certain that majority rule would be reached within ten years. Others may have other ideas, but if it were to be fifteen or twenty years, for many of us it would be far too long.
The second principle is that a guarantee should be provided against retrospective amendment of the Constitution. This is, mainly, one of the guarantees demanded within the first principle, a guarantee that this unimpeded progress should take place without some subsequent amendment which will hold it up.
1594 It is suggested in the Press that the Government are seeking to meet this principle by the establishment of an Upper House, or Senate, with perhaps equal numbers of Africans and White Rhodesians, and that it should be impossible to amend the Constitution with less than a two-thirds majority. This would be admirable on one condition, namely, that the Africans who attain membership of the Upper House in this way are representative of the normal African Rhodesians, that they are not representative of the chiefs who might be induced by the Government to get up and nod and cheer approval if at some later stage there were to be an amendment of the Constitution, or some other impediment to the normal procedure. It is vital that the Africans should be representative Africans, and, if possible, elected on a normal franchise.
The third principle is that an immediate improvement should take place in the political status of the African population. This seems to me a somewhat woolly principle, and to some extent superfluous, because it appears to be already incorporated in the first principle. All that needs to be said about it is that it is desirable, so far as is possible, that Africans should take part on a common roll with the white population of Rhodesia, rather than on a B roll, since the B roll has the implication that African citizens are in some way second-class citizens of the country whose votes should count for less than those of others.
The fourth principle is that progress should be made in removing racial discrimination in Rhodesia. I think that there are few Members who would not wish this principle to be fully implemented in whatever settlement was arrived at. This refers particularly to the Land Apportionment Act in Rhodesia, and to continuing segregation in hotels, places of residence, places of entertainment, and other public places. I am sure that every hon. Member regards it as essential to lay down that all segregation of this kind shall be abandoned, in order to prevent Rhodesia, on the way to independence, perhaps following the path of South Africa, and certainly to ensure that property rights within the country are fairly distributed among the populations.
The fifth principle is perhaps the most crucial of all. This principle lays down that, whatever basis of settlement is 1595 arrived at, it should be acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. The crucial question is, in what way should this acceptability be tested? Press reports suggest that the Government have suggested that there should be some kind of roving commission in the country, going round asking people whether they approve of the proposals or not.
There are two disadvantages to this course. First, it is by no means sure that such a procedure will provide an accurate representation of the views of the Africans, because it depends very much who is asked. A procedure of this kind can often be used in such a way as to get the kind of answer that people want to arrive at. It is also dangerous for an even more important reason. An answer that is arrived at by this process is open to challenge by anybody who chooses to challenge it, and there is a strong likelihood that if such a procedure is used the answer arrived at will be subsequently challenged by the African population of Rhodesia and, perhaps even more important, by other African countries and the membership of the United Nations as a whole—and that would place this country in an extremely embarrassing situation.
The only fair and unchallengeable way of testing the feelings of the people of Rhodesia is through a referendum in which every adult citizen of that country has a chance to say for himself whether or not he regards these proposals as acceptable. If such a commission as has been suggested is established, it is of vital importance to ensure that its membership is widely representative; that it is not primarily a British commission but, perhaps, a Commonwealth commission with at least one African member. This might do something to make its conclusions more acceptable to the outside world.
1596 Finally, there has been added the sixth principle, that any solution arrived at should not provide for any oppression of the majority by the minority, or of the minority by the majority. This is in no way a controversial principle. I am sure that every hon. Member would endorse it and would wish to make sure that it is clearly laid down in the constitution that there should be no subsequent oppression of any kind. It is particularly important to lay it down at this stage because it goes some way towards relieving the natural and quite understandable anxieties and apprehensions of the white population of Rhodesia as to the kind of settlement which may be arrived at.
These are the six principles. If I felt that they had been adequately and justly met I should be quite prepared to accept a settlement on those lines, but if a settlement were arrived at and subsequently approved by the House under which those principles were not fully met and at a subsequent stage the process towards constitutional majority rule were to be halted and, for whatever reason, the rights of the majority in Southern Rhodesia to attain control of the government of their country were impeded we in this country and in this House would have been guilty of such a betrayal of our most sacred responsibility that history would find it difficult to forgive us.
§ Question put and agreed to.