HC Deb 27 June 1968 vol 767 cc807-13
Q2. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make a further statement on reopening negotiations for a Rhodesian settlement.

Q7. Mr. Hastings

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a further statement on Rhodesia.

The Prime Minister

I would refer hon. Members to the speeches of my right hon. Friends the Commonwealth Secretary and the Attorney-General in the debate on 17th June.—[Vol. 766, c 728–45, and c. 840–52.]

Sir G. Nabarro

Now that the third anniversary of the declaration of independence approaches, has the Prime Minister any new offer to make for an approach to Rhodesia to stop the present disastrous drift in our affairs?

The Prime Minister

On a number of occasions very fair and honourable offers were made. There is no doubt that Mr. Smith would have liked to accept the "Tiger" settlement, but he was driven out of accepting it by extremists in his regime. When one does business with anyone, it is important to know that he will have the power to carry it through.

Mr. Hastings

When will the Prime Minister answer the specific charges of Mr. Dean Acheson and Dr. von Hofmannstal, not to mention my right hon. and learned Friends, that this matter is ultra vires the United Nations and that in referring it the right hon. Gentleman has twisted Chapter 7 of the Charter?

The Prime Minister

That does not happen to be the view of the United Nations members, or the legal advisers of every one of the many countries which supported that resolution. I prefer the legal advice of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General to any views of the hon. Member.

Mr. John Hynd

Will the Prime Minister inform the House to what extent the delay in coming to a satisfactory conclusion in this matter has been contributed to by the open support given to Mr. Smith and his colleagues from the other side of the House, including the Front Bench?

The Prime Minister

I think that at various times he had high hopes about this and believed a lot of the things he was told about things in this country. However, it is only fair to say that many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite and many of their Lordships in another place treated his recent attempt to interfere in our internal affairs with contempt.

Mr. Turton

Has the Prime Minister read the recent report of the meeting between Mr. Smith and Mr. Jonathan Aitken, in which Mr. Smith declares that he is ready to negotiate? Will he now take a fresh initiative to find an honourable settlement to this unfortunate dispute?

The Prime Minister

A fair and honourable settlement has been offered for a very long time. It has been refused time and time again. The number of times that we have had this sort of statement that has been made to Mr. Jonathan Aitken is almost beyond counting. When one comes to check, there is always an insistence on some form of braking mechanism.

Mr. Luard

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that, in view of some recent statements by Mr. Smith and other members of his Government about the kind of constitutional settlement that they have in mind, it is essential to allow the recently imposed sanctions of the United Nations to take effect, before there is any further contact whatever with this régime?

The Prime Minister

I would agree about the effect of sanctions. The House can make this judgment—the Whaley Commission which, with the wildest stretch of the imagination does not begin to fulfil the six principles, which successive Governments have laid down, was at first endorsed by Mr. Smith, and he was driven off, away from acceptance of that by extremists.

Sir J. Eden

Would the right hon. Gentleman confirm, that, notwithstanding his policy of sanctions, which so far have not yielded any positive results, it is still his purpose, ultimately, to settle the matter by negotiation and that to this end he is doing his best to keep the door open?

The Prime Minister

The answer to that question is "Yes".

Mr. Alfred Morris

Can my right hon. Friend say whether any comparison can be drawn between a piece of paper brought back from Salisbury by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) and a piece of paper brought back from Munich by his distinguished predecessor?

The Prime Minister

That would not in any sense be an accurate or fair comparison. For reasons stated in the House, the terms of the paper brought back by the right hon. Gentleman have not been disclosed. There is a difference of opinion between us—[Interruption.] At the request of the right hon. Gentleman the details have not been disclosed, for reasons we understand. It would be quite unfair to suggest that it represented any degree of appeasement, even though we put a different interpretation on it from that of the right hon. Gentleman.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in the course of a necessarily busy and perhaps worrying existence, he has yet found time to read the speech of Mr. Dean Acheson to the American Bar Association, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings)? If he has not, will he undertake to do so?

The Prime Minister

I have read that speech. I agree with it no more than I agreed with certain other speeches by that very distinguished statesman. I remember a speech he made a few years ago, with which none of us agreed. His latest speech does not represent the legal advice available to this and most other Governments members of the Security Council.

Mr. Blackburn

Is there anything to prevent Mr. Smith now informing my right hon. Friend that he accepts the "Tiger" conditions?

The Prime Minister

There is nothing to prevent him doing that. In some of his statements he has moved towards this kind of position, although in others he is a very long way away from it. The problem is that he was ready to accept the "Tiger" conditions a long time ago, and was pushed off by threats that they would treat him as they treated Winston Field.

Q4. Mr. Whitaker

asked the Prime Minister whether he will co-ordinate economic policy between the Board of Trade and Foreign Office to take steps to induce compliance by French, Portuguese and South African companies with the United Nations policy on Rhodesia.

The Prime Minister

Such compliance would be a matter, in the first instance, for the national governments concerned, Sir. The supervision of the implementation of such resolutions is a matter for the Security Council, which is establishing a committee for that purpose.

Mr. Whitaker

In order to make sanctions effective should not we and the other members of the United Nations tell those individual companies, such as the Compagnie Pétroles Francaise, who are torpedoeing sanctions, that they must choose between trading with us or Mr. Smith?

The Prime Minister

Individual companies in a number of countries may have a particular view about their trade with Rhodesia, but I do not think there is any ground for complaint against the French Government in this matter. Now that the sanctions which we have been applying have been applied more widely by other countries, and are being rigorously followed by so many countries, we ought to give more time for these countries to come into line with the United Nations resolution.

Mr. Drayson

Can my right hon. Friend say which other members of the United Nations have passed through their legislative assemblies orders similar to the one passed by this country? What is the position regarding the Federal Republic of Germany, which is not a member of the United Nations? Has it indicated that it intends to abide by the terms of the United Nations resolution?

The Prime Minister

The answer to the question about Germany is "Yes, Sir". It has given that indication, but not specifically to me. I should want notice of the question—perhaps my right hon. Friend should answer it—about the number of countries which have taken action, although I am not aware of any other countries, having passed a resolution in their elected House, having to face the tomfoolery which we had to face last week.

Mr. Boston

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be no longer appropriate for Britain to take part in such international events as the Lisbon Trade Fair at which Rhodesia was represented? Can he say what joint action is being secured through the United Nations?

The Prime Minister

I think that it would be better to leave these matters to the working of the United Nations machinery. I have referred to the committee of the Security Council. I am not certain that it would be for us to take unilateral action of the kind referred to by my hon. Friend in relation to Portugal, which is a fellow member of E.F.T.A.

Sir C. Osborne

Does the Prime Minister really think that the intensification of sanctions against Rhodesia will produce a new moderate opinion in Rhodesia with which we can deal as an alternative to Ian Smith?

The Prime Minister

I think that there is increasing evidence in Rhodesia that sanctions are having a very serious effect in bringing home the fact that they are now almost totally morally isolated in the entire world, despite their efforts, and indeed their certainty, that they would be a 9-days wonder, and that their action would be recognised by very many other Governments. The hon. Gentleman should be the last to underrate the effects of sanctions, because nobody in Rhodesia is doing so any longer.

Mr. McNamara

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in a Committee upstairs the director of a de jure British company, de facto operating from South Africa, was asked directly whether, if it were agreed to transfer the company to South Africa, he would give an undertaking that it would not invest in Rhodesia and that this gentleman refused to give such an undertaking? Does not my right hon. Friend think that this House should facilitate such legislation?

The Prime Minister

It does not sound to me very specific evidence. If there is anything that my hon. Friend thinks should be drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friend, I am sure that he will do that.

Mr. Heath

The right hon. Gentleman has always made plain that he and the Government would not enter into any economic confrontation with South Africa over the Rhodesian question. Will he confirm that that is still their position?

The Prime Minister

There is no change in our policy on that matter or on the other matter about which the right hon. Gentleman was concerned—the use of force.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Would my right hon. Friend instruct the British delegate to ask for a meeting of the Security Council at which the French Government and other Governments can publicly explain what they are doing to restrain the violation of sanctions?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that there is any need to rush into further meetings of the Security Council. But, as my right hon. Friend will have heard, I have mentioned that the Security Council is establishing a committee for supervising the implementation of these resolutions. Having taken this decision, we should leave it to them and to that committee.

Mr. Heath

Now that the right hon. Gentleman has confirmed that fact, is it not nauseating humbug and hypocrisy to pretend that the Government's position is based on any sort of morality whatever?

The Prime Minister

It was the right hon. Gentleman once who described the Rhodesia issue as a moral issue. We have heard from him before the phrase which he has just used—in December, 1966, after "Tiger", when he supported Mr. Smith and his régime in rejecting the "Tiger" negotiations. If there is any question of hypocrisy, it is the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has struggled for two years to get into a position in which he could get the plaudits of the Marquess of Salisbury.