HC Deb 27 June 1967 vol 749 cc237-40
8. Mr. Bilfen

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what is the result of his discussions with the Zambian Government regarding the statements made by Mr. A. M. Simbule, Zambian High Commissioner-designate; and if he will now declare himpersona non grata.

28. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs if he will now officially recognise Mr. Simbule as the High Commissioner for Zambia.

36. Mr. Ronald Bell

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what action Her Majesty's Government have taken and intend to take about the despatch to this country as High Commissioner by the Government of the Republic of Zambia of a person whom Her Majesty's Government have declared to be unacceptable to them.

41. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to recognise officially the new High Commissioner of Zambia.

Mr. Bowden

The position is as follows. In February of this year the Zambian Government sought agreement to the appointment of Mr. Simbule as High Commissioner in London and Her Majesty's approval was duly given. Subsequently, Mr. Simbule was reported to have made statements at Dar es Salaam in derogatory terms about Her Majesty's Government. Her Majesty's Government made it clear to the Zambian Government that the controversy created by Mr. Simbule's remarks would, if they were left uncorrected, make it impossible for him to fulfil the task of fostering good relations between our two Governments which would fall on him as Zambian High Commissioner in London. Mr. Simbule arrived in London at the end of last month despite the fact that our inquiries of the Zambian Government were incomplete. Since then he has made a number of statements stressing his feelings of warm friendship for the British people and his desire to strengthen Zambia's relations with Britain. Our consultations with the Government of Zambia have, however, still not been completed; consequently no steps have yet been taken to arrange for Mr. Simbule to present his Letter of Accreditation and to be received as High Commissioner.

Mr. Biffen

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there are limits of self-effacement which the public will expect from Her Majesty's Government in this situation? Will he take it that the kind of gratuitous insults offered by Mr. Simbule at Dar-es-Salaam are totally unacceptable, and that his position as the accredited representative of his country cannot be accepted unless he makes an unqualified withdrawal of those remarks?

Mr. Bowden

Of course, everyone in the House regrets the inane remarks of this gentleman before he arrived in this country as the High Commissioner following on the signing of the Agrément, but one does not want to be vindictive and I would have hoped that an opportunity could have been given to him, and I think it has been given to him now, to retract. Unfortunately although he has himself made some statements regretting the controversy and assuring us of his friendship, some of his colleagues have not been helpful in this respect.

Mr. Hamilton

If we can send Lord Alport to talk to representatives of an illegal and totalitarian régime in Rhodesia, why cannot we make this gesture to our friends in Zambia who have suffered more than most from the sanctions policy of the Government, often without consultation?

Mr. Bowden

I do not accept that the position is quite on all fours with that of Rhodesia. Here was a gentleman who was accredited to this country as the representative of his country, who was to attend here as the High Commissioner, and he made remarks which I am sure he would now personally regret having made. With regard to the comparison with Rhodesia, there we have an illegal régime guilty of a treasonable act against Her Majesty and Britain.

Mr. Ronald Bell

As this gentleman has, quite rightly, been given this extended opportunity of withdrawing his remarks, and has not done so, and since during that period the Foreign Minister of Zambia has, most unhappily, repeated and approved them, is there really any alternative facing us but to declare this person persona non grata?

Mr. Bowden

I accept and appreciate the difficulties, but I still feel that nothing is lost by waiting a little longer to see whether we can get the position resolved. I would remind the House that, apart from this incident, there are between 40,000 and 50,000 British subjects in Zambia.

Mr. Luard

In view of the crucial importance of this country's relations with Zambia and many other African countries over the coming months, will my right hon. Friend undertake to think very carefully before taking any irrevocable step which would cause our relations to deteriorate still further in the near future?

Mr. Bowden

The fact that I have been considering this for a month since Mr. Simbule arrived here indicates that I am giving it full consideration.

Mr. Wood

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we can expect a decision on this matter? The continued inability of the right hon. Gentleman and his office to make up their minds makes him look a little ridiculous.

Mr. Bowden

On the contrary. The fact that we have during the past month tried very hard to help the position by getting an adequate retraction does, I think, indicate to everyone who is fair-minded about the matter that the British Government are doing their best to resolve the problem and not exacerbate the position in Central Africa.