HC Deb 18 January 1968 vol 756 cc1948-54
Q2. Mr. Ronald Bell

asked the Prime Minister whether he will propose the imposition of economic sanctions by this country upon every country whose system of government does not incorporate the six principles.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Bell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that Answer will be heard with relief all round the world, since in most countries, including this one and all the newly independent countries of Africa, those six principles do not wholly apply? Since there is no moral case for the Government's action, why does not he look at the £40 million a year that he could save by dropping sanctions?

The Prime Minister

The difference between Rhodesia and other countries which the hon. and learned Member may have in mind is that Rhodesia is a country for which we have responsibilities. This House—every one of us—has a duty in deciding the terms on which Rhodesia can be given independence. As for the hon. and learned Member's remarks about other countries, I would remind him that Rhodesia is the only country in the whole of our history of decolonisation, since the case of South Africa, where successive Governments— the previous Government and our own— were prepared to agree to independence ahead of majority rule being achieved. That was in the original proposals by the Conservative Government and in the proposals that I discussed with the régime before U.D.I. That sets out Rhodesia as a different case from the other countries which the hon. and learned Member has in mind.

Mr. Winnick

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the help and support given to the illegal régime by some hon. Members, opposite is a shocking case of aid being given by some M.P.s to traitors?

The Prime Minister

We all have our own views about the way in which individual Members interpret their responsibilities in this matter. I would not use such strong language as my hon. Friend has used. One of the dangers is that some hon. Members who have visited there, or who have made statements or written things in this country about it, have encouraged them in the most fanciful expectations about what was going to happen, and it may well be that some hon. Members are rated higher in Rhodesia, as a consequence, than they are rated in this House.

Mr. Sandys

Were not Her Majesty's Government also responsible for Aden? What steps did the right hon. Gentleman take to assure majority rule when he handed over to terrorist dictatorship?

The Prime Minister

We announced to the House that we were going to evacuate Aden by the time that we did. It was our task to try to find somebody with whom we could negotiate, and who claimed to represent, and had the right to represent, far more of the people of Aden—[Interruption.]—certainly than the totally unrepresentative group of Federal feudalists with whom the right hon. Gentleman negotiated and left us to deal with for such a long period.

Q4. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Prime Minister what renewed efforts have been made during the Recess to achieve a settlement of the problem of Rhodesia; and if he will make a statement.

Q10. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a further statement on the negotiations with Rhodesia; and whether he proposes to meet Mr. Ian Smith.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary told the House in his Statement of 12th December that he had expressed the hope to Mr. Smith that he would reconsider the position which he had taken during their talks. We have so far received no further communication about this from Mr. Smith. As regards the question of meeting Mr. Smith, I would refer hon. Members to the Answer I gave on 19th December to a Question by the hon. Member for Chigwell.—[Vol. 756, c. 211; 379.]

Sir Knox Cunningham

Does the Prime Minister still believe that sanctions will succeed in weeks, not months—or will it be years? When shall we get back to normal trading with Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

The answer to the last part of that supplementary question is when Rhodesia returns to legality, which it has had many opportunities of doing, and on very favourable terms. As for the question of sanctions working, the hon. Member's feeling or hope that they are not is not shared by the Rhodesia Tobacco Growers' Association.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

If the Government had not proceeded with this futile and ruinous policy, might not they have had enough financial resources to keep their words to our Commonwealth partners east of Suez?

The Prime Minister

By carrying out the steps we did following U.D.I., we followed out not only the word of this Government but of the previous Government that we would not recognise U.D.I.; that we would have no dealings with them until they ended it, and fulfilled the six principles as a basis—[Interruption.]— for trading relationships. We are carrying out what was said by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), and we are still doing it even though we have lost his support in carrying out his own policy.

Mr. Roebuck

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the illegal régime in Southern Rhodesia is being assisted by people engaged in sanctions-busting? What representation has he made to the French Government about the supply of petrol and oil by a French company?

The Prime Minister

This question has been discussed with the French Government and also in the Commonwealth Sanctions Committee, because there is a growing feeling in many Commonwealth countries that they are going to be less tolerant of countries which are permitting sanctions-busting by their nationals, and are going to make it harder for such countries to trade with them.

Mr. Lubbock

Will the Prime Minister make it absolutely clear to General de Gaulle that by following this policy he is not only jeopardising his chances of increasing French trade with the rest of the African continent, but also runs the risk of having this matter raised at the United Nations by this Government, in co-operation with our Commonwealth friends?

The Prime Minister

I think that this matter is best left to the African countries both within the Commonwealth and outside it—many of whom are extremely concerned about this and other aspects of the breaking of sanctions.

Mr. Leadbitter

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the final acts of the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), when Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs, was to tell the Prime Minister of Rhodesia what the consequences would be of U.D.I.—in circumstances that are similar to those existing today? Is the Prime Minister, therefore, satisfied that the present posture of the right hon. Member for Streatham and some of his hon. Friends is a disgrace to this House?

The Prime Minister

That was one of the two actions of the right hon. Gentle- man, but I have previously paid tribute to him for the fact that, actually on polling day, 1964, he sent a telegram to Rhodesia categorically refusing to recognise an Indaba of Chiefs as the means of representing African opinion. That is why I am now very sorry that he is backing Mr. Smith, whose reason for departing even from the very generous "Tiger" terms is that he wants African Chiefs to have this function and is therefore denying to African representatives the blocking minority needed to make the Constitution work.

Mr. Hastings

Who does the right hon. Gentleman think will survive the longer, the Prime Minister of Rhodesia or himself?

The Prime Minister

The difference is that there is no legality at all in Rhodesia. The answer to the question is that, throughout successive Parliaments in this country under Labour rule and a whole succession of Prime Ministers, we shall not give way on this issue until legality is restored.

Mr. Judd

Would my right hon. Friend agree that there is widespread respect for the Government's determination not to compromise on principle with the increasingly racialist illegal régime in Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, this is what is particularly shocking about many right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition is not in his place, since I cannot therefore go into some of the contradictions which we have had particularly from him, but it does not lie in the mouths of any hon. Gentleman opposite to talk about constitutional or other principles in view of their attitude to Rhodesia.

Mr. Evelyn King

Does the right hon. Gentleman concede that, since sanctions, however regrettable this may be, as a matter of fact the political position of Mr. Smith has strengthened and his own political position has weakened? Would he therefore in any continuing negotiations bear that fact in mind?

The Prime Minister

Mr. Smith has been buoyed up many times from doing what he knows to be the right thing, and even in going back on the right thing, by remarks made by hon. Members opposite, suggesting that there would be either a coalition or a change of Government—[Interruption.]—they always give him this idea. The hon. Gentleman is once again devoting himself—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman can wait just as we can wait so far as the political situation in this country is concerned. This House, which is democratically elected, can look after itself and so can the next Parliament. What we will not do, as I say, is negotiate—[Interruption.] It is interesting to see how hon. Gentlemen opposite are prepared to recognise an illegal Government or so-called Government in Rhodesia but not to recognise the legal Government of this country.

Mr. Maudling

Is the right hon. Gentleman still trying to negotiate an agreement with the illegal régime?

The Prime Minister

The position is exactly as I stated in my Answer. If Mr. Smith is prepared to return to legality on the basis of the "Tiger" talks, or even to make new proposals, we are prepared to consider them. I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman's statement last week to this effect is based on a total dream world, because, as he knows, since my right hon. Friend's visit, Mr. Smith has gone still further away from the "Tiger" agreement. The right hon. Gentleman should really direct his proposals to Mr. Smith.

Mr. Thorpe

Is not the main difference between—

Hon. Members

Bomb them.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have a lot of business ahead.

Mr. Thorpe

Now that the Prime Minister has had an opportunity to digest those original remarks coming from the benches behind me, is he aware that the main difference between himself and Mr. Smith is that the Prime Minister of this country is dependent on the wishes of an electorate based on universal suffrage, whereas no such principles apply in the case of Mr. Smith? Since he has paid tribute to the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), would the right hon. Gentleman not also, in fairness not only to the right hon. Member for Streatham but to his right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) offer them both his profound sympathy that Mr. Smith should have seen fit to tear up the Constitution which they most painfully negotiated and upon which they reached agreement?

The Prime Minister

And a Constitution against which some of us voted in the House of Commons. None the less, it was the Constitution of Rhodesia. We debated this and negotiated with them as the legal Government operating that constitution. We have given them many chances to return to it, and I think that all we have heard this afternoon from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite is going back completely on the very honourable position taken up by my predecessor as Prime Minister and by the then Commonwealth Secretary, and I am surprised that they have gone back on what they then said because of the irresponsibility of being in Opposition.

Sir Knox Cunningham

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that Answer, I beg leave to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment as early as possible.