HC Deb 30 January 1968 vol 757 cc1067-73
3. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the renewed negotiations with Mr. Smith's Government.

22. Mr. Turton

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether he has studied Mr. Ian Smith's comments upon the last official statement of Government policy on Rhodesia; and whether he will now make a further statement.

23. Mr. Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on recent moves by the Rhodesian Constitutional Association to enlist support among moderate Rhodesians for a negotiated settlement with Great Britain.

28. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether he has made any progress towards a settlement of the Rhodesian problem.

Mr. George Thomson

I would refer the right hon. and hon. Members to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 25th January to Questions by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor). We have noted with interest, the moves to which the hon. Member for Bromley refers.

Mr. Wall

Now that the judges have declared that Mr. Smith's Government are in fact the de facto Government of Rhodesia, is it not becoming increasingly clear that the policy of Her Majesty's Government has failed? Do they really intend to take no new initiative to try to reach a compromise before it is too late?

Mr. Thomson

I congratulate the hon. Member on having mastered the 197 pages of text of the Rhodesian judgment so quickly. His interpretation of it is certainly not mine. Nothing that has taken place so far makes it necessary for Her Majesty's Government to reconsider their attitude towards the validity of current Rhodesian legislation or the status of the illegal régime. I may add that it is to be noted that, although the judges gave rather differing judgments, none of them argued that the régime should be given recognition outside Rhodesia, whether de facto or de jure.

Mr. Turton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Mr. Smith in his statement at the end of December said that the difference between the Governments was not one of principle but of degree? Lord Alport in another place last Thursday said that there was scope for agreement and compromise. The Minister of State in another place said that the door was not closed. Has not the time come for the right hon. Gentleman to take the initiative and try to seek a satisfactory solution to this problem?

Mr. Thomson

The door is certainly not closed as far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, but I had understood that it was the general feeling on both sides of the House that the changed position that Mr. Smith took up when I met him in Salisbury represented a change of principle and not of degree. I read Lord Alport's speech with great interest. He was courteous enough to consult me and tell me that he was making it, though I am not in any way committed to what he said. But I also noted that the illegal régime in Rhodesia did everything it could to prevent the people of Rhodesia hearing what Lord Alport said.

Mr. Hunt

As one who has consistently opposed the Smith régime, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman what specific and positive encouragement the Government are now giving to the forces of moderation in Rhodesia? Is it not a fact that a major impediment to the work of bodies such as the Rhodesia Constitutional Association is the insistence upon Nibmar, which is regarded by moderate opinion both inside and outside Rhodesia as totally unreasonable and unrealistic?

Mr. Thomson

There are matters like Nibmar and other serious problems, but it is impossible to begin considering them so long as the régime takes up the kind of position of principle that it adopted during my talks. I have been studying with interest, as I am sure every hon. and right hon. Gentleman has, the recent developments inside Rhodesia, but it would not be helpful for me to make any comment on these developments.

Mr. Bellenger

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that, whether the policy of Her Majesty's Government has failed or not, it seems to have reached a position of stop without any go? Can my right hon. Friend ignore, as he seems to be doing, the position as outlined in another place that there is very little real disagreement, and in fact a considerable chance of agreement that might settle this problem? Should he now not consider whether he can open the door a little wider—he said he was not going to slam it—because where there is a will there is a way?

Mr. Thomson

I think my right hon. Friend's remarks ought to be directed to Mr. Smith in Salisbury and not me. If he studies seriously and objectively the report that I gave to the House after I came back, he will discover that it is Mr. Smith who has begun to close the door, not me.

Mr. Maudling

As the position of the chiefs appears to be of extreme importance and as they are elected by their own people, would the Secretary of State make clear the grounds on which the Government affirm that the chiefs cannot be regarded as representative of their people for constitutional purposes, and also what changes could be made in their position to meet this problem?

Mr. Thomson

The objection to the chiefs for this purpose is not that they ale not Africans, as is sometimes said, but that they are not legitimate political representatives for the purpose of forming a blocking mechanism. Indeed, our objection to the chiefs in this rôle is the same as the objection of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the previous Government to the chiefs forming an indaba as a test of acceptance.

Mr. Maudling

The right hon. Gentleman did not make the position clear. He said that they are not acceptable political representatives. But precisely why not? They are elected by the people they represent.

Mr. Winnick

The right hon. Gentleman knows why.

Mr. Thomson

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is as familiar as I am with the facts. The chiefs themselves are appointed by the régime in Rhodesia, they are paid by the régime, and can be dismissed by the régime.

Mr. Henig

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many on this side of the House feel that he and his colleagues have taken enough initiative towards the rebels in Rhodesia, and, if there is some movement towards the kind of agreement indicated from the opposite side of the House, it is now up to Mr. Smith to suggest that Southern Rhodesia return to constitutional rule and not for us to make further concessions?

Mr. Thomson

Yes. I think I agree basically with my hon. Friend's comments. Mr. Smith's New Year message gave no indication that he might be ready to depart from the position he took up with me during our talks. As I said, I understood that the change in Mr. Smith's position at that time was something that was recognised by both sides of the House as erecting formidable obstacles to progress.

6 and 7. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs (1) what information he has now given to the Commonwealth Sanctions Committee about firms involved in breaking sanctions against Rhodesia and the countries in which they are based;

(2) what proposals he has now put to the Commonwealth Sanctions Committee concerning the extension of sanctions and the internationalisation of responsibility for both their administration and the investigation of sanction breaking.

8. Mr. Gardner

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what proposals he has made to the Commonwealth Sanctions Committee on tightening sanctions against Rhodesia.

17. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress made in the tightening up of sanctions against the illegal régime in Rhodesia.

Mr. George Thomson

As the proceedings of the Commonwealth Sanctions Committee are confidential, I cannot disclose what proposals have been made, or what information has been given, to it.

We are, of course, constantly seeking, in consultation with other Commonwealth Governments, ways of making the existing mandatory sanctions more effective. It would be undesirable, however, to give the régime advance warning of any conclusions reached, or new measures in view.

Mr. Judd

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that we should pass on to Commonwealth Governments full information about the way in which France—and in particular firms like Total—is deliberately undermining sanctions, so that they can assist us in bringing effective pressure to bear? Would not my right hon. Friend also agree that it is only through the internationalisation of sanctions provisions that we can make effective what, for Britain, is a very expensive operation?

Mr. Thomson

Without commenting on the particular incident mentioned by my hon. Friend, I think that there is room for other Commonwealth countries to follow up as effectively as we do allegations of particular breaches of sanctions, and of course the United Nations Organisation is also assisting in this matter.

Mr. Gardner

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the incidents referred to by the hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. Hunt) are evidence that sanctions are beginning to work? Will he take heart from this and propose to our Commonwealth colleagues real, effective sanctions on oil?

Mr. Thomson

The test which I have always sought to apply to any particular sanctions measure is not whether it is punitive, but whether it is effective in producing a change of attitude in Rhodesia. I think that some of the changes that one sees in Rhodesia are evidence that there is an increasing awareness there that the present path on which the illegal régime has led Rhodesia is sterile.

Mr. Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend say what direct representations have been made by Her Majesty's Government to the French Government about this deliberate flouting of United Nations' decisions on the import of oil into Rhodesia?

Mr. Thomson

That is another question, and one for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Braine

The right hon. Gentleman said that there was evidence in Rhodesia of the effectiveness of sanctions. Can he say whether any study has been made by his Department of the effect on British firms which are observing sanctions, and if not, why not?

Mr. Manuel

They are not complaining; only the hon. Gentleman is.

Mr. Thomson

All aspects of sanctions are under continuous study by my Department, and other Departments of the Government.

Mr. John Fraser

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it is within the power of the United Nations to make further sanctions against communications with Rhodesia, and will he recommend action which will enable a United Nations presence to be established on roads and railways leading from Mozambique to Rhodesia to check what is going in, and who is sending it?

Mr. Thomson

I think that that suggestion comes under the heading that I used in my main Answer, that it is not feasible to give details of any particular propositions that may be in mind.

12. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs if he will give an assessment of the political and economic consequences of sanctions against Rhodesia based on the latest evidence available.

Mr. George Thomas

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave him on 5th December, 1967.—[Vol. 755, c. 1108–9.]

Mr. Biffen

The lapse of time since that Answer was given surely indicates that sanctions are continuing to fail, other than to consolidate rather than diminish the domestic political strength of Mr. Lin Smith. In these circumstances, will the hon. Gentleman recommend to his right hon. Friends that the policy of sanctions should be discontinued because it is becoming a tragic farce, with considerable harm to our national self-interest?

Mr. Thomas

No, Sir.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is it not the case that while European standards of living in Rhodesia remain higher than ours, the main victims of sanctions are Africans whose prospects of advancement are being retarded by a bigoted policy which is bad for Britain, and which has no hope of success?

Mr. Thomas

No, Sir.

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