HC Deb 18 November 1968 vol 773 cc886-7
20. Mr. Hastings

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many staff of the Rhodesian Political Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have personal experience of Rhodesia.

37. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what changes have been made since the amalgamation of the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices in the structure and personnel of departments concerned with Rhodesia; and what are the qualifications, and experience of Rhodesia, of the present staff of those departments.

Mr. M. Stewart

Both the Rhodesia Political and Rhodesia Economic departments of the former Commonwealth Office have been incorporated in the new Foreign and Commonwealth Office with only two minor changes in staffing. Among the members of these departments and the superintending Undersecretaries there are five people who have had personal experience of Rhodesia, and two other senior staff who have worked on Rhodesian affairs for several years.

Mr. Hastings

In the circumstances, is this adequate? Whatever the Minister without Portfolio may have to say later, does not the Secretary of State think that, if he chose more people with a more profound experience of Rhodesia, particularly of the tribal trust areas, some of the current misunderstandings might be eased? What encouragement is he giving to the members of the residual Mission in Salisbury to travel and learn?

Mr. Stewart

The latter part of that supplementary question might be better asked of my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio. On the first part, the answer is "No'. I have every confidence in those working in my Rhodesia political and economic departments. A substantial proportion of them have either personal experience or detailed knowledge of Rhodesia.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

May we take it that Government policy is now being decided as a result of these changes with more regard for Britain's world position, which demands an early settlement with Rhodesia, and less regard for an obsolete colonialism?

Mr. Stewart

I am glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman is discarding an obsolete colonialism, but I do not accept the implications of his question.

Mr. Paget

Is it not a fact that this Department, including the High Commission, misled the Government in every single assessment it made and that that has been a great deal of the cause of the trouble? When this happens, is there not a case for some change of personalities?

Mr. Stewart

My hon. and learned Friend is incorrect in the first question, so that the second does not arise.

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