HC Deb 09 April 1970 vol 799 cc742-6
Q1. Mr. Molloy

asked the Prime Minister what further communications he has received from United Nations and Commonwealth sources regarding Rhodesia; and if he will make a statement.

Q3. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister what further consultations he has had with other Heads of Governments regarding the illegal régime in Rhodesia.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

The United Nations Secretary-General on 23rd March formally transmitted to my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary the text of Security Council Resolution 277. Otherwise I have nothing to add to my reply to Questions by my hon. Friends the Members for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson), Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) and Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) on 26th March.—[Vol. 798, c. 1646–57.]

Mr. Molloy

Would my right hon. Friend agree that it is important for this country and for Her Majesty's Government to show a lead in maintaining a policy of decency towards those for whom we are responsible? Would he accept that it is wrong for some people to draw analogous situations with some régimes which are not responsible to the British Crown but which we should nevertheless deplore?

Would my right hon. Friend agree that when the Leader of the Opposition made his violent protestations just before Easter about his willingness to embrace the six principles, that seemed to be quite the reverse of his "great divide" speech at the Tory Party conference in 1966?

The Prime Minister

There is no parallel between Rhodesia and some other countries to which reference has been made in debates and Questions.

As to the great divide, which the right hon. Gentleman denied in this House, by this time he will, no doubt, have looked up his speech, in which he referred to the great divide between the two major parties, and, on the question of Rhodesia, said: There is now, alas, a clear divide between the parties as to how to bring to an end the Rhodesia tragedy. That justified my statement about his equivocal and divisive attitude throughout the Rhodesia question.

Mr. Winnick

In view of Smith's remarks, in which he expressed the hope that the Tories would win the next General Election, is it not understandable that many people believe that a senior Conservative Party official recently went to Rhodesia? [Interruption.] If this is true, and if any kind of deal has been made between the Official Opposition and the illegal régime, is not this a very serious matter indeed?

The Prime Minister

I know nothing about the movements of senior Conservative officials, whether in Rhodesia or anywhere else. Suggestions have been made in the House that the Conservative Opposition have been going behind the backs of Her Majesty's Government in dealing with this racialist régime. I have no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition will choose his own moment to make his position clear.

Mr. Heath

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for quoting from my speech at the Conservative Party conference, because he has completely made my point. Far from calling for a great divide, I regretted it—as the quotation which the right hon. Gentleman has given shows.

On the question of discussing Rhodesia, as is well known, everybody who comes to this country from Rhodesia is, if he or she wishes, free to see me. The fact that most of them are opponents of the Smith régime is neither here nor there. I am delighted to hear their views because we are anxious to take the right course. Similarly, anybody who has gone to Rhodesia informed of my views is at liberty to tell Mr. Smith of them, if he or she wishes. The difference, perhaps, is that my views in private and public remain the same.

The Prime Minister

On the first part of that supplementary question, the Government's policy, the policy of this House, on Rhodesia was well known. The right hon. Gentleman sought to make it a divisive issue in his speech—[Interruption.]—I have quoted his words—by dissociating himself from the position which we and others have taken on the matter.

On the second part of his supplementary, I welcome, as he does, the fact that visitors from Rhodesia—fortunately many of them are opponents of racialism there—should speak to all hon. Members of this House whom they know or can see and influence.

As to the last part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary, he has never shown any consistency over Rhodesia. [Interruption.] I welcome the fact that he chose, before Easter—I welcomed it clearly—finally to answer my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, when the right hon. Gentleman said that if he ever got into a governmental position he would maintain sanctions until there were further negotiations. He had not said that before, and he has consistently voted in this House against sanctions.

Mr. Thorpe

The Prime Miniter will be aware that many hon. and right hon. Members have been critical of the Government for their handling of the Rhodesian situation, but would he not agree that, since we are dealing with a rebellion against the Crown, perhaps more on this issue than any other it is essential that there should be complete frankness on the part of all parties in this House? Has he seen the very damaging suggestion that a Tory Peer with mining interests in South Africa, or a member of the Tory Shadow Cabinet returning from South Africa, or a Press magnate en route to Australia has given indications to the Rhodesia Front on behalf of the Opposition which led Mr. Smith to make the reported remarks to a West German newspaper—[HON. MEMBERS: "Far too long."]—that the Tory Party is realistic, the Tory Party knows what it wants and the Tory Party is what matters? Will the Prime Minister not agree—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]—that if loyalty to the Crown means anything, it means that it is in the interests of this country that the Leader of the Opposition should take this opportunity to deny those allegations if they are untrue?

The Prime Minister

These seem to be important issues, but they do not seem to be issues for me. I think it has been fairly well recognised over many years that an Opposition, in their dealings with foreign Governments, keep the Government of the day informed of anything that may be said contrary to Government policy and seek briefing from the Government. I remember a case in Geneva when I was invited to meet Mr. Chou en Lai with Mr. Anthony Eden, as he was then. I met Mr. Chou en Lai on condition that a Conservative back-bencher was with me throughout. That suggested that we then had an Opposition concerned with the bipartisan interests of this country and the position of the Government in negotiations. In this case we are talking not about dealings with a Government but about dealings with an illegal régime. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition will wish to deny any contacts with it.