HC Deb 24 March 1969 vol 780 cc1013-6
1. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the latest appraisal he has made of the domestic economic and political effects upon Rhodesia of the policy of sanctions; and when he expects an initiative from the Rhodesian Government providing a basis for further constitutional changes.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. William Whitlock)

We are satisfied that sanctions are having a substantial economic effect, but we cannot predict what initiatives the illegal régime will take. Nothing it has said so far provides the basis for an honourable settlement.

Mr. Biffen

Would not it be much happier if the Government's policy were aligned with reality and not with myth, and would the hon. Gentleman agree that whatever might be the economic effects of sanctions they are just not producing the political conditions that were foreseen by the Government?

Mr. Whitlock

We prefer our estimates of what sanctions are doing to Rhodesia. The régime's figures are selective and tailored to convey the kind of impression that the hon. Gentleman seems to want, but those figures do not warrant our changing our assessment that the Rhodesian economy is in a state of stagnation.

Mr. Hooley

Would not my hon. Friend agree that the sanctions policy might be pursued with rather greater vigour, that greater publicity might be given to the report of the United Nations Sanctions Committee, and that more active steps should be taken to stop up the holes which undoubtedly exist?

Mr. Whitlock

The policy of sanctions is being pursued with the utmost vigour.

14. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what communications he has received and what discussions he is undertaking concerning a Rhodesian settlement with the Prime Minister of the Republic of South Africa.

Mr. Whitlock

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) on 17th February.—[Vol. 778, c. 22–3.]

Sir G. Nabarro

Does that reply mean that the Government have now abandoned altogether any prospect of a friendly Power—namely, South Africa—mediating in this long-standing quarrel with Rhodesia?

Mr. Whitlock

No. As my hon. Friend indicated on 17th February, from time to time we have discussions with the South African Government, as with other African Governments, about the Rhodesian situation; but obviously those discussions are confidential.

Mr. Hooley

What recent representations have Her Majesty's Government made to the South African Government about the unlawful presence of South African forces on British territory?

Mr. Whitlock

Representations have been made on a number of occasions to the South African Government about their unauthorised presence. The South African Government are very well aware of our views on this matter.

32. Mr. Hastings

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the export of Rhodesian ore and mineral products.

Mr. Whitlock

No figures for exports of Rhodesian mineral ores and products have been published by the régime since the illegal declaration of independence. Exports of mineral products continue but I would prefer to say nothing at this stage which might reveal the extent of our knowledge of the complicated and expensive means used as this would only be of benefit to the régime.

Mr. Hastings

Is not that entirely understandable? Is it not the case that chrome ore, a highly strategic material, is being exported to Soviet Russia and China, directly or indirectly? What does the hon. Gentleman have to say about that?

Mr. Whitlock

The public statement by the chairmen of the two mineral corporations with substantial interests in Southern Rhodesia indicates that there is considerable concern about the future of the chrome, asbestos, ferro-alloy and nickel industries of Rhodesia. We are quite sure that the Rhodesian economy is in a state of stagnation and that the mineral industry is in considerable difficulties.

Mr. Paget

Is my hon. Friend aware that since U.D.I. Rhodesia has become one of the six largest exporters of copper?

Mr. Whitlock

That may well be true.

Mr. Hastings

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

34. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his recent exchanges with Mr. Smith's Government.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

I have nothing to add to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on 11th of March.—[Vol. 779. c. 269–70.]

Mr. Wall

Will the Foreign Secretary at least confirm that discussions are continuing in Salisbury in an effort to reach a compromise agreement?

Mr. Stewart

No. I do not think I would put it that way. So far we have not received anything which could be described as a plan or genuine proposal.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there are many people in this country who would think that any discussions with the Smith régime were most unlikely to lead to an acceptable result?

Mr. Stewart

I think the general opinion in this country is that it was right for us to make the offer that was made on "Fearless" but it would be wrong to make any substantial departure from it.