HC Deb 24 October 1967 vol 751 cc1471-8
1. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what authority he now recognises as having control of Rhodesian Railways, now the Rhodesian section is split from the Zambian.

The Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. George Thomas)

The Rhodesia Railways, set up in 1963 as a body corporate for Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia—now Zambia—jointly, has not been dissolved. While the Zambian and Southern Rhodesian sections of the Rhodesia Railways have been operated as two distinct sections since 30th June this year, the assets and liabilities of the Railways remain vested in the original body corporate, which is still jointly owned by the lawful Government of Southern Rhodesia and the Government of Zambia.

Mr. Digby

Is not this something that ought to be talked about, if only from the point of view of pensioners? May I express the hope that the Secretary of State will prolong his stay to clear up these kind of points, as the pensions aspect is very important?

Mr. Thomas

I know that the House will wish my right hon. Friend fair weather and godspeed in the journey which he will make today, but I can give no assurance on the other part of the question.

Mr. Paget

From that reply, does my right hon. Friend say that the Government of Great Britain, which is the lawful Government of Rhodesia, are responsible for these pensions and debts and will pay them?

Mr. Thomas

I said that we are responsible.

3. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the effect of the sanctions campaign against Rhodesia and on the constitutional position in that country.

Mr. George Thomas

On the basis of the réegime's own figures for 1966, the effect of "voluntary" sanctions was to reduce Rhodesian exports from £164.7 million in 1965 to £104.7 million in 1966 and imports from £119.8 million in 1965 to £84.2 million in 1966.

No trade figures have been published by the illegal régime for the period since the mandatory sanctions were adopted on 16th December, 1966, but the United Nations' Secretary-General has stated that on the basis of the trade statistics provided by U.N. member States there has been a significant decline in trade between Rhodesia and many of her trading parties in most of the commodities covered by mandatory sanctions during the first months of 1967.

The constitutional position is that Southern Rhodesia remains a part of Her Majesty's Dominions.

Mr. Wall

May I offer my congratulations to the Secretary of State on the assumption of his very important office? He carries with him the good will of this side of the House. Is the Minister of State aware that sanctions will not bring down the Smith Government and that a compromise could be reached on the basis of the "Tiger" constitution if the Government would only drop their insistence on their formula for a return to legality? Is it the Secretary of State's intention to try to seek a settlement by compromise when he visits Salisbury?

Mr. Thomas

I presume that the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question proper was wishful thinking, when he said that sanctions would not succeed. There is no evidence yet. Mandatory sanctions have not been running for one year yet and it is much too early to reach a decision.

Mr. Maclennan

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that, contrary to reports, the present embargo on exports from Rhodesia covers nickel exports and nickel products?

Mr. Thomas

No, Sir.

Mr. Frederic Harris

When will the Government come out of cloud-cuckoo-land and realise that sanctions are not realistically working? I advise the Minister to go to France and ask people there what is happening. It is nonsense. Is he forgetting entirely what the Prime Minister told the House in the early days about the effect of sanctions?

Mr. Thomas

It is not for me to deny the authority of the hon. Gentleman on cloud-cuckoo-land: he might know more about it than me. Sanctions are having a very serious effect on the external trade of Rhodesia, and we take no joy in that. We want a settlement on honourable terms.

Mr. Park

Will my hon. Friend reaffirm that the Government's policy of not granting independence to Rhodesia before majority rule remains unchanged? In the meantime, will he assure the House that, where necessary, all effective steps will be taken to increase the efficiency of sanctions?

Mr. Thomas

We are constantly looking at the question of the effectiveness of sanctions. There is a Question to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister today on the question of not granting independence before majority rule.

15. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made, or other action taken, regarding the use of Zambian and Tanzanian soil by terrorists invading Rhodesia.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. George Thomson)

The British Government's views on terrorism and unconstitutional action are well known to all Commonwealth countries. As the House will be aware, the British Government have recently reiterated their concern to the Zambian Government.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Do Her Majesty's Government accept full responsibility for the integrity of Rhodesian territory against agression from outside? If so, may we be assured that no taxpayers' money will pass from the United Kingdom to either of these two Governments while there is any question of terrorist invasions being launched from their territories?

Mr. Thomson

I think the hon. Member is making a wrong approach to this very difficult problem. Rhodesia is in a state of rebellion against Her Majesty's Government, and I wish that we had had rather more support in the months gone by from the hon. Member in seeking to end the rebellion and restoring constitutional progress. It would not be sensible to deal with the matter in the way that the hon. Member suggests. The question of British aid to countries in Africa is of great importance in itself, and there is no reason to believe that stopping aid would have the results that the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Mr. Crawshaw

Is my right hon. Friend aware that while most hon. Members regret the use of these forces which are bringing suffering to women and children, the responsibility lies with the present Government in not imposing effective sanctions against Rhodesia, which has left the African people no other remedy than to take the matter into their own hands?

Mr. Thomson

No, I cannot agree with that either. Her Majesty's Government have imposed sanctions in a way that has had much greater effect than has been generally accepted. If other countries in the international community were to do as well as we have done, greater progress would be made towards restoring peaceful and constitutional progress in Rhodesia.

Mr. Maudling

In the light of the Government's attitude to terrorism, repeated this afternoon by the Secretary of State, can the right hon. Gentleman say what reply has been received to the representations made to these two Governments? Were the replies regarded as satisfactory, and, if not, what further action will the Government take?

Mr. Thomson

We have received a reply from the Government of Zambia to our note, and that reply, as is customary in exchanges of this kind, remains confidential. I would not express myself as satisfied with the reply, and we are continuing to keep in close touch with the Zambian Government.

17. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on recent evidence concerning trade between British firms and Rhodesia.

Mr. George Thomas

Recent allegations by a spokesman of the illegal regime that trade between British firms and Rhodesia in the first seven months of this year amounted to £5.9 million are untrue.

Since 2nd February, 1966, the export from Britain to Rhodesia of virtually all goods other than those for essential humanitarian purposes, and for the maintenance of the common services which Rhodesia shares with Zambia and Malawi, has been banned.

The permitted exports in the period January to July, 1967, amounted only to £623,000.

Mr. Judd

Does my right hon. Friend agree that effective means of enforcement are essential to a successful sanctions policy, and can he assure the House that there will be no hesitation on the part of the Government in bringing to justice any British business men involved in transactions of this kind?

Mr. Thomas

I can give the House this very full assurance. Whenever hard evidence is obtained of United Kingdom citizens deliberately flouting the law, we shall take the strongest action.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Japanese Government are claiming 100 per cent. increase in their exports to Rhodesia this year and the Swiss a 50 per cent. increase in their imports? If British firms were allowed to follow this example, would there not be rather less unemployment and misery in Scotland and Wales this winter?

Mr. Thomas

If the hon. Gentleman has any evidence of sanctions being deliberately flouted by citizens with whom we can deal, I promise that we shall take action. For the rest, he had better talk to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Mr. David Steel

May I from this bench, albeit belatedly, offer congratulations to the Secretary of State on his appointment, saying how pleased we are that a Scot is once again in control of the Commonwealth, to which, I believe, the English have made an occasional contribution? Have the Government followed through the evidence given by the Sunday Times and the television programme "World in Action" about the breaking of sanctions?

Mr. Thomas

My right hon. Friend is overwhelmed by the congratulations of a fellow Scot. As a Celt, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the article in the Sunday Times, which was informative and useful, has been studied with care, as also has the programme "World in Action". The hon. Gentleman will not want me to go into details here.

21. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what study he has given to the extent to which officially recorded United States imports from Rhodesia, amounting to $4.7 million during the first seven months of this year, included goods subject to United Nations embargo; and with what results.

Mr. George Thomas

I have studied these statistics with interest, and I am satisfied with the explanation given by the United States Government that goods subject to United Nations embargo such as tobacco and chrome which appear in the statistics were exported from Rhodesia before 16th December, 1966.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

How much longer does the right hon. Gentleman think that this curious trade will continue in conformity with the embargo? In view of his statement, will the right hon. Gentleman seek to persuade the United States Government to set aside the proceeds of this trade to help to offset the dollar cost of additional tobacco imports from dollar sources into this country?

Mr. Thomas

That is another question. I thought that the hon. Gentleman would be pleased at the agreement between the United States and ourselves.

22. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what study he has given to the extent to which the 31 per cent. increase in exports from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries to Angola during the first five months of this year included goods destined for Rhodesia; and with what results.

Mr. George Thomas

I have studied these figures with interest but have no evidence that this increase is attributable to the use of this route for goods destined for Rhodesia. Figures for imports into Zambia through Angola recently given by the Zambian Minister of Transport, Power and Communications show that, in the six months prior to I.D.I., Zambian imports through Angola amounted to only 9,253 tons, whereas in the first five months of the present year 83,154 tons were imported by this route.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider advising British firms which have lost valuable export markets to overseas competitors to use the Angola-Zambia route into Rhodesia in the future?

Mr. Thomas

I do not believe, and the Government do not believe, that goods are going through Angola and Zambia to Rhodesia. Zambia has re-routed her imports, and that accounts for the increase in trade.

Mr. Whitaker

As everyone knows that sanctions are being breached through the port of Lourenço Marques, will Her Majesty's Government quarantine this port with the same naval vessels as are quarantining Beira?

Mr. Thomas

That is a fair question, but I am in no position to give a full reply to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Bellenger

Having recently returned from those parts of Africa, I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, which is factual, but does he understand that the House looks to the visit of his right hon. Friend to get a settlement of this problem, as, undoubtedly, sanctions are, one way or another, being broken by members of the United Nations?

Mr. Thomas

I believe that the House and the country look to my right hon. Friend to obtain a settlement on honourable terms if possible, but he is in honour bound by the conditions which both sides of the House have accepted in the past.

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