HC Deb 21 May 1968 vol 765 cc270-5
6. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has recently received from Mr. Ian Smith relating to constitutional settlement of the Rhodesian problem.

34. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what are the latest representations he has received from the head of the de facto Government in Rhodesia, with a view to a settlement of the constitutional problem.

Mr. George Thomson

None, Sir. I should add, in reply to the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham) that the only legal head of Government in Rhodesia is the Governor, Sir Humphrey Gibbs.

Mr. Biffen

Is it not clear that sanctions have totally failed to induce in Mr. Smith any desire for a constitutional settlement? Is this not a singular commentary on the total lack of success of the Government's policy and is it not time that they reviewed that policy and altered it?

Mr. Thomson

The Government's policy on sanctions has been endorsed and voted upon by both sides of the House. I do not know how far the hon. Gentleman speaks for the Conservative Party. I would certainly not accept that sanctions have failed. They are having a substantial economic effect in Rhodesia, but I still hope that it will be possible to find a fresh opportunity in which a settlement that can be honourably commended to Parliament can be negotiated. There are, however, few signs of that sort of attitude from Mr. Smith at present.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Will the right hon. Gentleman use his sound commonsense Scottish nous and ask his colleagues to rid themselves of the unreal Alice in Wonderland atmosphere which surrounds this problem and get a settlement?

Mr. Thomson

The hon. and learned Gentleman had a most disarming preamble to that supplementary question, and I respond by saying that there would by no greater prize for any Commonwealth Secretary of any Government in this country than to get a settlement, but a settlement needs some sort of basis for starting it, and I regret very much that Mr. Smith is saying publicly that he has never accepted the principle of majority rule, which is one of the fundamental principles accepted by both sides of the House and was recently endorsed by the Scottish conference of the Conservative Party.

Mr. Evelyn King

Having regard to the existence of liberal groups in Rhodesia, of which the Forum Group is an example, will the right hon. Gentleman give weight to their view that their task is being rendered impossible by the imposition of sanctions and that the more sanctions that are imposed the further Rhodesia moves to the Right?

Mr. Thomson

I certainly respect the efforts of all those in Rhodesia who are seeking an honourable settlement. I do not accept that it would be right to withdraw sanctions in the present circumstances.

12. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether he intends to publish a list of persons who will not be allowed to travel to and from Rhodesia.

Mr. George Thomson

No, Sir.

Mr. Ridley

Since the Government are unable to specify the crimes which these people are supposed to have committed, should they not specify the people who they think will commit the crimes?

Mr. Thomson

I do not think that it would be helpful to publish a list. Indeed, from the point of view of the individuals involved, it would be foolish to give advance warning to these people by the sort of publication—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I want to give my view—the hon. Gentleman is suggesting, and so enable the people concerned to keep their passports for possible travel to the detriment of British interests and those of other countries.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that hon. Members on both sides of the House have received letters from people who have been waylaid on their private travels overseas, having had no notice that that might happen to them, with the result that great inconvenience has been caused to them? Is he aware that I received a letter this morning from a lady stating that she was asked to give the same sort of declaration to get a British passport as Sir Frederick Crawford was asked to give, and that she refused? As this is surely an intolerable situation, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he must at any rate clarify the position?

Mr. Thomson

If the right hon. Gentleman will give me the details of the case he has just mentioned, I will, of course, look into the matter carefully. To answer the first part of his supplementary question, about people in other countries, there have been only two cases and I reported them to the House in the debate last week.

Mr. Hooley

Would my right hon. Friend remind the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) that notice was given in this House two years ago that people adhering to the illegal regime ran the danger of having their passports confiscated, which means that clear notice of the dangers which these people are incurring was given?

Mr. Thomson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding the House of that. Hon. Members may have forgotten that they accepted that proposition at that time without substantial dissent.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that, whether it be an absurd or a right policy, the only way to make it effective is to use it as a deterrent? This being so, will he be logical in the pursuit of his policy and publish the names, as requested in the Question?

Mr. Thomson

The reasons I gave, from the point of view of British interests, for not publishing these names are quite logical. Whatever doubts there are about the policy—and I know that there are doubts—its deterrent value is substantial.

13. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether there will be an appeal procedure for those refused permission to travel to and from Rhodesia as a result of their breaking sanctions.

Mr. George Thomson

I have nothing to add to what I said in the debate on this subject last Wednesday.

Mr. Ridley

Since the British Constitution has always provided appeals for those accused of breaking the law, and since in this case there is no law, should we not at least have a system of appeals so that those wrongly accused may have some chance of establishing their innocence?

Mr. Thomson

I assured the House last week that we would look closely into the question of whether it was practicable, without making impossible the policy on passports as one of the weapons in the general sanctions policy, for Rhodesia to have some kind of review procedure. I remind the hon. Member before he gets too indignant about this, that the arrangements about passports are something which successive Governments have upheld in the whole history of passports.

Mr. Peyton

Does the right hon Gentleman not realise that in such a field at this where the liberties of the subject are involved some very much better protection is needed than the good intentions of temporary and passing Ministers?

Mr. Thomson

I do not think anyone in this House, Minister or otherwise, would take lightly the question of individual liberty, but I think the hon. Member is in some danger of putting the individual liberty of one man against the political freedom and liberty of 4 million Africans we are responsible for in Rhodesia.

Mr. Whitaker

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on asserting that we are talking about the liberty of 4 million Africans? Will he urge that in such circumstances it is time for Rhodesians to come off the fence and individually to come out for law and order or for treason, as they cannot have it both ways and must declare allegiance either to Britain or to anarchy?

Mr. Thomson

The unique and unprecedented situation in Rhodesia faces individuals with an act of conscience and those who are not for us are against us.

Mr. Braine

The Secretary of State must be clearer about this. Apart from those who may be charged with breaking sanctions and for whom at the moment there is no appeal procedure, are we to understand that there is no restriction on travel from this country to Rhodesia and the refusal to allow Mr. Colvin to travel to Portugal without a passport this morning, as reported in the Press, does not represent some new restrictions not yet disclosed to Parliament and the nation?

Mr. Thomson

I can assure the hon. Member that the question of Mr. Colvin and questions about passport procedure generally are matters for the Foreign Secretary. I have no reason to believe that the procedure there is different from what it has been under previous Governments in this country.

27. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether he will publish a White Paper on the condition of the Rhodesian economy since the unilateral declaration of independence.

Mr. Whitlock

No, Sir.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Since the Commonwealth Secretary repeatedly tells us that sanctions have not failed, which is not the impression gained by those who visit Rhodesia—perhaps that is the reason why the Government wish to re-Strict travel—may we not have the facts set out so that we may really judge the grounds for the Government's optimism? Which is stronger, the Rhodesian pound or the pound sterling?

Mr. Whitlock

We are always anxious to provide the House with as much information as possible, but we would be reluctant to disclose all that is known about the Rhodesian economy, since this would enable the regime to identify and therefore suppress sources of information, and thus to deny us in future information about their economic activities.

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