HC Deb 12 May 1970 vol 801 cc1059-61
Q3. Mr. Hooley

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek a meeting with other heads of Governments in Western Europa to concert national policies towards southern Africa.

The Prime Minister

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) on 16th April.—[Vol. 790, c. 1567–8.]

Mr. Hooley

Off the cuff I do not recall the answer to that Question, but the Prime Minister will be aware that we have an arms embargo against South Africa while France is selling all the arms it can; we are imposing sanctions against Rhodesia, whilst Italy and Germany are trading merrily with that country and we are refusing N.A.T.O. arms to East Africa while Portugal is using them in colonial wars. Would not there be some point in seeking to harmonise Western European policies in this racially inflammable area?

The Prime Minister

The right place for co-ordination in these matters, as my hon. Friend will agree, is the United Nations, which has declared itself unequivocally. We are following the United Nations resolution on arms to South Africa, and any who want a different policy would have to consider our interest in trade and investment, and the great importance of our trade and investment north of the Zambesi, but apparently some right hon. Gentlemen are prepared to put this at risk. I cannot accept what my hon. Friend said about Germany and Italy. If there are cases of individual traders going against the policy of their Governments I should be glad to be informed of them.

Mr. Grant

Will the Prime Minister confirm positively that, contrary to the views of many of his hon. Friends, he wants to increase trade with South Africa?

The Prime Minister

It has never been in doubt that, while we have placed a ban on arms to South Africa, we wish to increase trade in peaceful commodities, which we have been doing. Although I have been warned from the benches opposite for five and a half years consistently that our trade with South Africa would suffer because of the arms embargo, this has not been the case.

Mr. Winnick

Is my right hon. Friend surprised by the large number of people in all walks of life, including some hon. Members opposite, who are opposed to the South African cricket tour? Does not he agree that the Cricket Council and the M.C.C., if they do not recognise their original blunder in inviting the team and do not cancel the tour, will show themselves totally insensitive to race relations. to the Commonwealth and to common decency?

The Prime Minister

In my recent public statement on this I was not concerned to talk about blunders. What I said was that if these proposals were now withdrawn this action need not be a sign of weakness or panic and would be respected by many people, so I do not want to put it in that way. In view of the threat to the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh as a result of this, and in view of the danger that many countries in future will not want to play cricket with us, I think that there is a case for reconsidering the decision. If the Leader of the Opposition had identified himself with my proposals I believe that the Cricket Council would have thought again, because it is probably more responsive to him than to me in these matters. While the Home Secretary is prepared to make available all the police necessary to maintain law and order, if the tour were cancelled there would be much less call on those police, who should be dealing with the prevention of crime and the preservation of law and order.

Captain W. Elliot

Is the Prime Minister aware that shore-based South African aircraft are co-operating with the Royal Navy in exercises in the vicinity of the Cape? Is he satisfied that those aircraft are up to date, and if they are not, does not he think it important that they should be up to date?

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to what was said on the supply of aircraft in my announcement to the House in, I think, November, 1964. I do not think that has very much to do with the irresponsibility of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in wishing to stir up community problems in this country.