HC Deb 21 January 1969 vol 776 cc245-9
Q4. Sir G. Nabarro

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

Q7. Mr. Wall

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his further discussions with Mr. Smith's Government.

Q16. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Prime Minister whether, following the Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference, he is now prepared to meet Mr. Smith.

The Prime Minister

As I said in the House on 5th December in reply to the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) the "Fearless" proposals remain on the table.—[Vol. 774, c. 1830.]

Sir G. Nabarro

But is there no limit in time to these proposals lying quiescent on the table? We are now in the fourth month. Is it the Prime Minister's intention either to advance revised proposals or to withdraw the original proposals, or is he going to remain quiescent for ever?

The Prime Minister

No time has been set—and I made this clear at the Commonwealth Conference—for the period that the proposals will lie on the table. I was under strong pressure to withdraw them immediately. So far as the number of months is concerned, the House has had a full report from my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio about his talks with Mr. Smith. It is not for us to put forward revised proposals. Our proposals are there. They are clear. They can be picked up by anyone with authority in Rhodesia at any time.

One of the difficulties which we have had—and I do not want to make things worse by outlining the difficulties—is that whenever we have put forward proposals they have been rejected and we have not had alternative proposals put forward. For example, on the question of the second guarantee, we put four or five alternative proposals about which the House was informed. They were each rejected without an alternative being put in their place.

Mr. Wall

While congratulating the Prime Minister on maintaining his stand on the "Fearless" proposals at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, may I ask him whether he will confirm that he is prepared to consider an alternative to appeal to the Privy Council and, in particular, the suggestion recently put forward by Sir Albert Robinson, who was formerly the High Commissioner in London?

The Prime Minister

Concerning the Privy Council, as I told the House after the Gibraltar talks, we put several alternatives. They were all turned down without alternatives being put forward. My right hon. Friend put forward another proposal not all that dissimilar from Sir Albert Robinson's proposals. This was turned down by Mr. Smith and no suggestions, Sir Albert Robinson's or anyone else's, were put forward. It is for Mr. Smith and his colleagues either to accept the "Fearless" proposals or to say what they will accept. No responsibility lies on us to make any further move.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Will the Prime Minister take the same realistic view of the situation as does Dr. Banda of Malawi? Will he now go all out for a settlement?

The Prime Minister

Dr. Banda supported the "Fearless" proposals and the line taken by Her Majesty's Government. If by going "all out for a settlement" the hon. and learned Gentleman means going beyond the "Fearless" proposals and selling out the six principles, the answer is "No".

Mr. Heath

The Commonwealth communiqué said that, when a settlement has been reached, it will have to be put to the people of Rhodesia in a way which carries conviction with outside countries. Was this a reaffirmation of the existing position, or was the Prime Minister proposing to make new proposals?

The Prime Minister

No. Everything that I said, and everything that my right hon. Friend said, was a clear reaffirmamation of the position which we have taken up in the House. There are no proposals. I was asked about a referendum in place of a Royal Commission. We gave our reasons for suggesting a Royal Commission as a means of testing, although we said that a Royal Commission would be free to report that fair conditions for a test did not exist, perhaps because of a banning of free expression of opinion, and, if it felt so minded, report that it had not been able to reach a solution and recommend some other way of finding one. But there has been no change from what has been said in the House.

Mr. Crawshaw

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the fears expressed by a majority of the Commonwealth countries about the "Fearless" proposals echo the thoughts of many hon. Members on this side of the House and that it is many times better not to make an agreement with people if one has to rely on trusting those people when their previous conduct does not entitle them to that trust?

The Prime Minister

I fully understand my hon. Friend's point. I have as much reason as anyone to understand what he is saying. Among the majority of Commonwealth countries which intervened in the Rhodesia debate, there were some very cogent and telling points made against Her Majesty's Government in many cases. I did not hear from them any alternative, apart from an alternative suggested by certain members of the conference who thought that the matter should be settled by the use of armed force. I spent some time saying why we considered that wrong, impracticable and, indeed, dangerous.

Mr. Thorpe

Surely the Prime Minister would agree that the longer the proposals lie on the table without being taken up, the less likelihood there is that they will be accepted. Rather than this country suffering the humiliation of always appearing to be running after Mr. Smith to see what might please him, should not we indicate that they will lie on the table for weeks, not months?

The Prime Minister

There is no suggestion of running after Mr. Smith to see what might please him. One of the arguments which had to be used at the conference and which has been used in this House was that, while it might be tempting to say, "Let things drag on and on", there are considerable dangers affecting not only African employment but perhaps more dangerous developments there. Certainly there is a danger of a strong move towards apartheid. This is why we feel it right to leave the proposals on the table so that those presently in authority there or anyone who may wish to put pressure on them will have something to turn to as an alternative to what I believe to be the very dangerous developments which will happen if they are not taken up.

Mr. Michael Foot

My right hon. Friend says that the "Fearless" proposals are clear. Is it not the case that the overwhelming majority of members of the Commonwealth Conference dispute that and claim that the proposals do not contain any foreseeable date for majority rule in Rhodesia? My right hon. Friend also says that he did not hear any alternative expressed at the Commonwealth Conference. Is it not the case that the present policy being pursued by the Government is the one which many of them regard as the alternative but that they wish it to be pursued with greater determination and a refusal to come to terms with a man who has shown that his whole aim is to oppose majority rule in Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that there was any suggestion by my Commonwealth colleagues that the "Fearless" terms were not clear. That they were unacceptable may have been the case, and was the case with many of my colleagues. When I said that they did not present any alternative, I meant that some of them who a couple of years ago were saying that only force would do the trick and that sanctions were no good were now beginning to say that in their own experience sanctions were beginning to bite. But this did not deal with the problem of the drift to apartheid which I have mentioned, which may be one consequence of no settlement being reached, unemployment and the danger of a blood bath in that area. The other point they did not answer which I put was that if the people of Rhodesia as a whole accept the "Fearless" proposals, neither Her Majesty's Government nor any other Commonwealth Government would have the right to tell them what they should want—if they accept them after a fair test of opinion. That was the point we put forward, and that was very widely understood.

Mr. Gardner

Does not the introduction by the Smith régime into the so-called Rhodesian Parliament of legislation to extend the emergency powers, make it increasingly obvious that there is no point at all in talking to this régime?

The Prime Minister

I think that measure, which aggravated one of the points at issue in the discussion which my right hon. Friend had when he was refusing on our behalf to agree to a six-months power for the renewal of emergency legislation—they are now talking about 12 months—is one sign that Mr. Smith, who obviously took a great interest in this at one time, is again being pushed by some of his wild men. I hope that this will prove not to be the case.

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