HC Deb 18 February 1969 vol 778 cc203-6
Q2. Mr. Molloy

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider making a direct approach to those in Rhodesia who support a return to legality under the British Crown.

Q4. Mr. Hastings

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the latest situation in Rhodesia.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to what I said in reply to Questions on 4th February.

Mr. Molloy

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this illegal régime, which is now contemplating introducing a Fascist form of constitution, has for many years been given the status of negotiating with this Government and has been supported in its treachery by large numbers of the Conservative Opposition, and that we should now encourage the decent people in Rhodesia to secure the status of being negotiators and return to loyalty to the Crown?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of a number of disturbing things which have happened in Rhodesia in the past few weeks, not only the point referred to by my hon. Friend, but also the expulsion of a highly respected journalist and other actions which have been taken. Nevertheless, whatever may have been the differences in the House in earlier years and before the "Fearless" talks, I think that the Government are right—this has had the support of a large number of hon. Members on both sides—to leave the "Fearless" terms on the table.

Mr. Hastings

Does the Prime Minister recognise that there are those of us who know Rhodesia who would accept the need even for a stringent economic or property qualification for the vote, always provided that the economic opportunity exists, but who hold that the longer this sterile quarrel is allowed to continue the longer African economic advance will be postponed? This is the only key.

The Prime Minister

I have not seen much sign of a willingness on the other side to end the quarrel referred to by the hon. Gentleman, still less to promote the constitutional position of the Africans. The latest proposals which we understand are being canvassed not only are a very sharp reaction even from the 1961 Constitution, for which the previous Government in Britain were responsible, but are a complete and flat denial of at least five of the six principles.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

If Rhodesia is coming to the point of a referendum, does the Prime Minister agree that it is extremely important that the people of Rhodesia should have an alternative choice before them to the Constitution which Mr. Smith is now offering? Therefore, would the Prime Minister consider the possibility of defining the alternatives proposed to the second safeguard of the Privy Council rather more definitely than the Government have done up to now?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman, who, if I may say so, made an extremely helpful comment in the whole Rhodesian context a few days ago, will be aware that, if there were to be a referendum, which would not be, to use the right hon. Gentleman's words, of the people of Rhodesia, but of the very limited and unrepresentative present electorate in Rhodesia, they would have the opportunity of the "Fearless" proposals, on the one hand, and any other scheme which has been produced, on the other. We have indicated in quite specific terms in debates in the House the alternatives on the second safeguard.

Sir Dingle Foot

Arising from the last question and answer but one, is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us on this side of the House also know Rhodesia and feel very strongly that there is no formula or compromise that would be accepted by the illegal Smith régime which could at the same time be honourably accepted by any British Government?

The Prime Minister

That is a matter that time alone will show. The "Fearless" proposals, set out on the basis of the advice of a large number of people who also know Rhodesia, would be the right basis for a forward movement towards majority rule, but certainly the qualifications proposed most recently in Rhodesia are not only much more stringent in economic terms but are racialist in concept.

Mr. Heath

To pursue the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), when the Prime Minister is asked for proposals about the second safeguard could he clarify one point? Is it his view that this must be an external safeguard, or would he be prepared to consider a second safeguard which is internal to the Rhodesian system?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman has perhaps forgotten that in the talks we had in Salisbury following the "Fearless" discussions, a proposal was made for a completely effective and democratic safeguard which would be purely internal to Rhodesia. If the right hon. Gentleman refreshes his memory of what my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio said, he will find that that had no external implications. It was purely internal.

Mr. Faulds

Since it is now clear that the only resolution of the Southern Rhodesian problem will be by the military intervention of the liberation movement, will my right hon. Friend exert what influence he can to see that captured freedom fighters are treated properly under the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war?

The Prime Minister

That is another question. I have never believed that this problem will be solved satisfactorily, on a permanent and honourable basis, by force, whether organised or on the basis suggested by my hon. Friend. But, equally, all that is going on and has been going on for three years in Rhodesia is based on a resort to force.