HC Deb 18 October 1966 vol 734 cc30-4
Q2. Mr. Wall

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

08. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister what is the present position with regard to talks with the illegal régime in Rhodesia.

Q10. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made during the Parliamentary Recess in solving the problem of Rhodesian independence.

Q15. Sir T. Beamish

asked the Prime Minister if he will publish in the form of a White Paper the detailed terms of his proposals for settling the Rhodesian constitutional crisis.

The Prime Minister

As the House knows, following the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting, my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary visited Rhodesia to discuss with leaders of all sections of opinion the Government's proposals for solving the problem presented by the illegal assertion of independence last November, and for laying down the basis on which Rhodesian independence could be negotiated with a legal Government on the basis of the principles laid down by successive Governments in this country. Following my right hon. Friend's return to this country the Government have worked out in detail the steps to be followed and the constitutional changes necessary to give effect to those principles on a basis guaranteeing unimpeded progress to majority rule, so that the resulting settlement would be, and be seen to be, acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. Last week, as the House will be aware, a statement on these lines was taken to Rhodesia by a high official of my right hon. Friend's Department.

Mr. Wall

Is not the Prime Minister again misjudging the character of the Rhodesians by sending them final terms almost amounting to an ultimatum? Has he considered that, if the matter is handed over to the United Nations and that organisation takes control, it might initiate economic warfare against Southern Africa, which may be very damaging to sterling?

The Prime Minister

In the first place, as the hon. Gentleman will know from the speech of my right hon. Friend last Thursday, of which I will be glad to send him a copy, these were not final terms. The principles are final, in the sense that they have been laid down for some time and there [...] be no departing from them. They are further enshrined in the Commonwealth communiqué. But my right hon. Friend made it absolutely clear that, provided that the principles are accepted, there is room for discussion as to the implementation of particular details, but we must be absolutely firm on those principles.

Mr. Winnick

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us consider that the Afro-Asian countries had a very strong case indeed—a stronger case than our own Government? Can he give a guarantee that we will not follow the cowardly and despicable line of the Tory leadership on this question of Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

As to my hon. Friend's suggestion that the Afro-Asian countries had a better line than that of Her Majesty's Government, I would say that we stuck exactly to the line which we have always taken with regard to the principles which must be followed. There were different views expressed, of course, by different Afro-Asian countries, but although they, naturally and understandably—one applauds them for it—felt passionately keenly about the questions of racialism and multiracialism and ultimate majority rule, I was gratified to see how well they understood some of Britain's difficulties in this matter and Britain's difficulties in relation to enforcement. I think that some tribute is due to them for their understanding of this problem.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Why did the Prime Minister change his view that Rhodesia was a British responsibility and decide to take it to the United Nations?

The Prime Minister

What I have always said, right from the day of U.D.I. and before, is that while this is a British responsibility, it is a matter of world concern. In this House, in July, I said that we would try to keep it in our hands but that we were getting a little tired of having to shelter the Rhodesian régime not only from Commonwealth opinion, but from United Nations opinion, placing us in a small minority in both organisations.

We have, therefore, given Rhodesia further time—quite long enough time—to accept the principles which successive Governments have laid down. At the end of that, we really cannot go on with a position of having to shelter Rhodesia if Rhodesia makes no move whatsoever, because it is quite clear that we should be facing—we might be facing this week—very strong action and resolutions by the United Nations going far beyond what any of us would want to see.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House what proposals he is making to the Rhodesian Government to guarantee unimpeded progress towards majority rule? If it is not possible at this moment to let the House know what the proposals are, when will he be in a position to make a statement to this effect?

The Prime Minister

I think that it would not be helpful, with the visit of Sir Morrice James to Salisbury, to go into details about the proposals that we have worked out. As I have said, however, they involve the necessary constitutional provisions to give full effect to the first principle of guaranteed progress towards majority rule and to prevent, in accordance with the second principle, retrogressive amendment of the Constitution. These are the two things to which we attach importance in the context of my hon. Friend's question. I would not at this stage like to say when it will be possible for my right hon. Friend or myself to make a further statement.

Mr. Heath

Can the Prime Minister confirm that the judges in Rhodesia have now ruled that Mr. Smith's régime is the de facto Government of Rhodesia and that from this flow certain consequences concerning the implementation of law in Rhodesia, about which the Prime Minister made a statement right at the beginning of this affair after the declaration of U.D.I.? What is the British Government's attitude towards the judges' declaration in Rhodesia?

Secondly, can the Prime Minister confirm that the Commonwealth Secretary discussed with Mr. Smith, not only the handing over of power, but the basis for the future constitutional settlement in Rhodesia, and that there have now been these direct discussions between the Commonwealth Secretary and Mr. Smith on this matter?

The Prime Minister

I would want to make a separate statement with regard to the judicial decision if the right hon. Gentleman would arrange for a Question to be put down. I feel that he is certainly greatly simplifying the 100-odd pages of judicial ruling in what he has just said.

Within the context of law and order there was a limited recognition, but it did not, as I understand it, give de facto recognition to the régime in Rhodesia. Indeed, it went so far as to describe it as an illegal régime, which, of course, we have always maintained.

Since that decision, the right hon. Gentleman will know—and I am sure that he would not want to support this—that a Constitutional Amendment Bill has been introduced by the illegal régime which would have the most serious effects on the principles which the three parties here have accepted, and there is also the new proposal that the chiefs, who are known to be paid servants of the Government, should now have criminal jurisdiction in their tribal areas. In these circumstances, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman shares with us our deep anxiety.

In reply to the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, it is certainly the case that when my right hon. Friend was there discussing with leaders of opinion of all kinds in Rhodesia, he met, of course, the President of the Rhodesian Front, Mr. Smith. He had discussions with Mr. Smith, both informally on the question of possible constitutional settlement and on the mechanism of ending the illegal action taken last November. Both were involved in the discussions and I think I can safely say that both are involved in much more detail in the statement that has gone to Rhodesia.

Mr. Faulds

On a point of order. Is it in order, Mr. Speaker, for the Leader of the Opposition, temporary as he may be, to plead a rebel cause in this House?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member must know that nothing has happened so far that is out of order.

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