HC Deb 19 January 1967 vol 739 cc648-54
03. Mr. Channon

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make a further statement about the Rhodesian situation.

Q5. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Prime Minister what plans he has to reopen discussions with Mr. Smith regarding a possible settlement of the Rhodesian problem.

Q8. Mr. Longden

asked the Prime Minister when he proposes to reopen negotiations with the illegal Government of Rhodesia.

Q9. Mr. Worsley

asked the Prime Minister what conditions he now lays down for reopening negotiations with Rhodesia.

10. Mr. Anthony Royle

asked the Prime Minister what further steps he is taking to solve the Rhodesian dispute: and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

I would refer hon. Members to the Answers given by my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State to similar Questions last Tuesday.—[Vol. 739, c. 24.]

Mr. Channon

Can the Prime Minister give a categorical denial this afternoon that Her Majesty's Government have put any pressure whatsoever on the World Health Organisation to cease supplying information to Rhodesia, as any such pressure would be contrary to the interests of both the Europeans and the Africans in Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

With all the information available to me, I would certainly deny this. There has been no such pressure. However, in view of the hon. Member's question, I will confirm that this is so.

Mr. Taylor

Should mandatory sanctions fail to achieve the Prime Minister's object—and he must have considered that possibility—would he say clearly whether the final decision on the next step of escalation will be made by Great Britain or the United Nations?

The Prime Minister

As I explained to the House in a speech of greater length than I intended, we have always sought to keep control of this matter in our own hands. We intend to do so—if by "escalation" the hon. Gentleman refers to an intensification of sanctions or any further steps to make the sanctions more effective.

Mr. Longden

May I, first, express the hope that relations between the Prime Minister and Mr. Smith will be as friendly as they have always been? Secondly, irrespective of the wisdom, for the time being, of having raised the matter in the United Nations, or, for that matter, in Trafalgar Square, does the Prime Minister realise that "no negotiations before majority rule" must mean that there will be no negotiations within the next 15 or 20 years? Is that really his policy?

The Prime Minister

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's opening words. In fact, my personal relations with Mr. Smith have always been extremely good, and they were particularly good in our discussions on H.M.S. "Tiger". The tragedy was that when he returned to Rhodesia he was not able to make effective, as I know he would have wished to have done, the agreement which we had reached because he was under the control of some very strong extremists of a kind who perhaps were fully represented on the fringe of the crowd supporting the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) in Trafalgar Square.

On the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, there was never any suggestion that there could be no negotiations before the achievement of majority rule. The declaration which we made was exactly in the terms of the Commonwealth communiqué and, apart from the control of this very small group of extremists, there is nothing to stop Rhodesia returning to constitutional rule, and certainly, as I say in answer to a later Question, this would mean a return to the 1961 Constitution. But we could have further negotiations with them thereafter about any developments or changes in that Constitution.

Mr. Royle

Would the Prime Minister answer the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor)? Is he aware that the United States Congress is not in favour of supporting sanctions? In view of this, it is clear that sanctions will fail. Therefore, what steps will the Prime Minister take when they fail?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman must take the responsibility of speaking for the United States Congress on this matter. I know the action taken by the United States Government. In international affairs, however, I am able to speak for the House of Commons, which supported, by a large majority, the action of Her Majesty's Government and rejected the Opposition's support of the extremist rejection of the "Tiger" agreement.

Mr. Heffer

In view of the fact that there has developed a businessmen's opposition to Mr. Smith, who interpret the agreement that was not reached or signed to mean that there can be no independent rule for the coloured people of Rhodesia for at least 70 years, may we have an assurance from the Prime Minister that under no circumstances will there be any treating with such a group who are, in fact, committed to a policy of white majority rule in Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

I do not quite understand my hon. Friend's reference to 70 years. The agreement on H.M.S. "Tiger" would have meant, on the best calculations, majority rule probably after a second General Election there, or possibly after a third; and no opposition whatever was at any time raised by Mr. Smith to that proposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "0h"] None at all. It is only since he got back that the extremists have been talking in terms which would mean an extension, possibly indefinitely, beyond the period envisaged on H.M.S. "Tiger", but I have not heard a reference to 70 years.

As for the internal political situation in Rhodesia, it is always difficult, in what various party leaders have called a police State, to assess the importance of what is going on there. But we should not feel inhibited—indeed, we would welcome an opportunity of discussing with any legal Government in Rhodesia the future of Rhodesia within the terms of the declaration which we made in this House before Christmas.

Mr. Paget

In view of my right hon. Friend's assurance that it is Her Majesty's Government's intention to retain control of the situation, would he assure us that sanctions could be removed without the consent of the Russians, as permanent Members of the Security Council, and could he say what the procedure for doing this would be?

The Prime Minister

The position is that the sanctions—international sanctions, like our own—were imposed against a situation of a threat to peace arising from a rebellion. They were not associated with any constitutional position, except the unconstitutional position of rebellion; and as soon as the rebellion were to end we would ourselves, nationally, act and, internationally, we would take the initiative in ending the sanctions, which relate only to the period of rebellion.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the Prime Minister aware that on Tuesday the First Secretary told me that he would give favourable consideration to my suggestion that contact should be made and encouragement given to the 3,500 people in Rhodesia who responded to an advertisement in the Rhodesia newspapers calling for implemention of the constitutional changes agreed on H.M.S. "Tiger"? What steps have been taken to give implementation to that?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that it would be the desire of all hon. Members that any of us who is capable of doing so should have friendly relations with those who have shown great courage in the face of possible victimisation, which has been going on there, in public identification with the letter in the Rhodesia Herald. Apart from any contacts which Government representatives might have, I hope that hon. Members visiting Rhodesia in future will make it their business to have association with all sections of opinion there instead of the, I believe, dangerous concentration which some Members have had with only the extremists there.

Mr. Whitaker

Would my right hon. Friend give a clear assurance that all his future negotiations about Rhodesia will not be with a tiny minority who do not represent Rhodesia but with the leaders of the vast majority of the Rhodesian people, of whom the chief leader is Mr. Nkomo?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend knows as well as I do some of the difficulties arising from the divided leadership of African nationalism in Rhodesia, something I saw for myself when I had long discussions with Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Sithole on my last visit there, when it was a question of negotiations since they were in a legal position and when I had discussions with representatives of all sections of opinion, including Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Sithole. So did my right hon. Friend on his recent visit to Salisbury, subject to the veto which Mr. Smith placed on him meeting them. At the meeting on H.M.S. "Tiger", which was of a special character and which was designed to secure a return to constitutional rule, I indicated to Mr. Smith the deSire I had to met Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Sithole, if he would agree to release them to come to this country for that purpose and would agree to let them go back, if they wanted to do so.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Is the right hon. Gentleman certain that he was correct in the reply he gave to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)? Is it not a fact that if, for example, the Russians were to veto the withdrawal of the present resolution, it would stand?

The Prime Minister

That is not our advice in relation to the situation arising where this particular resolution operates under the heading of a threat to peace, the threat having been defined as a continuation of the rebellion. I have made it clear that as far as we are concerned —and this applies to all other countries applying the sanctions—this is against the background of a rebellion and that the sanctions would come to an end when the rebellion comes to an end.

Mr. Michael Foot

Would my right hon. Friend confirm that, whereas it has always been open to the regime in Rhodesia to return to legal rule and whereas presumably that would be for a period under the 1961 Constitution, the absolute principle to which Her Majesty's Government are committed—committed to the United Nations, the Commonwealth, and this House—is that there shall be no grant of independence until majority rule is established?

The Prime Minister

1 have already made that declaration in the House. It has been confirmed on a number of occasions and it follows from the Commonwealth Conference communiqué. As I have said many times, we had to fight very hard at that Conference—against the fear of a real and dangerous breakup of the Commonwealth—to secure a further period in which we could give Mr. Smith and his colleagues a last chance to return to majority rule. That chance, tragically, was not taken, and, with some of the rumours going around and the pressures being placed on Mr. Smith, I regret that, contrary to what Mr. Smith said to me, he has not had the spunk to stand up to those extremists, despite his great confidence that he could and would do so. As a result of this, he has now been pushed into the very dangerous position of a declaration of a totally illegal and divisive republic.

Mr. Sandys

As the Prime Minister has twice referred to the fact that Rhodesia constitutes a threat to international peace, would he explain how and in what way Rhodesia constitutes such a threat? Does he not know perfectly well that Rhodesia threatens nobody? [Interruption.]

The Prime Minister

This is, of course, an answer which could be given more easily in debate than at Question Time. If I were to give it in debate and if I had long enough to do so, I could not improve on some words used by the right hon. Gentleman in a stiff warning letter he sent to the then Rhodesia Government when he had responsibility, when he acted as though he had responsibility—[Interruption.]—when he said that the matter would inevitably be raised at the United Nations and when he referred to the attitude of the whole Commonwealth and of the surrounding Governments. The right hon. Gentleman must not get so inebriated with the cheers of his new friends in Trafalgar Square. He should not forget the great sense of responsibility he showed when he had responsibility for this matter.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that we are well past Question Time.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

On a point of order. During these exchanges the Prime Minister kindly referred to a later Question of mine appearing on the Order Paper. In view of that reference, might I have an Answer to that Question, which could be in the form of "Yes" or "No", and be permitted to put a supplementary question?

The Prime Minister

I would naturally consider, in view of what the hon. Gentleman has said, whether to ask your permission to do so, Mr. SPEAKER. However, in the course of my answers to supplementary questions I did answer the hon. Gentleman's Question and I think that he will find that, from his point of view, my answer was slightly better than the "Yes" or "No" he was expecting.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot go back now.