HC Deb 19 October 1971 vol 823 cc668-94

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Goodhew.]

9.5 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

May I say what a relief it is to have this short debate at about nine o'clock when it was expected to come on at about three or four a.m. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State joins in this expression of delight.

In 1962, I was a British representative at the General Assembly of the United Nations, and in a debate on the South African administration of South-West Africa I said: Apartheid is morally abominable, intellectually grotesque and spiritually indefensible. At that time I had not visited South-West Africa and I was basing my opinion on what had been taking place in South Africa—for example, the Bantu Education Act and the Group Areas Act. My words were strong words and they led to considerable criticism on the part of the authorities in South Africa. But I must say to my friends in South Africa that I do not withdraw a single word, as terrible acts have taken place and were taking place at about that time.

However, the House will agree that, nine years later, changes have occurred. In South Africa the races, except the coloured, are now separated and better amenities are being provided for them. Economic standards are improving. The good neighbour policy pursued by the present Prime Minister of South Africa is paying dividends to his country and is, I am sure, bound in due course to alter the status of the non-white in the Republic. Even more terrible events have taken place elsewhere in Africa during the last nine years. The House will recall the Congo, the Nigerian civil war, what has happened in Zanzibar, in the coups, military Governments and one-party States which have sprung into existence in the past nine years. Let us therefore be honest enough to compare like with like and Africa with Africa.

It remains to be seen whether the concept of Bantustans can work in South Africa. I have been impressed by what I have seen during two visits to the Transkei, but I find it extremely difficult to see how the much fragmented Zululand can emerge as one united State.

It would be right for me to digress for a moment from the main burden of my speech to say how much we on both sides of the House welcome the visit to this House of the leaders of the Xhosa and Zulu nations—Paramount Chief Matanzima, the Chief Minister of the Transkei, and Unntwona Buthelezi, the Chief Executive of the Zulu Territorial Authority who, together with Chief Executive Councillor Chief Mangope of Tswana Authority, will be paying us a visit during the next few days. We look forward to discussing many problems during their visit to this country and, in particular, to this House.

I visited South-West Africa in May this year and soon discovered that the situation there bore no comparison to the situation in South Africa. South-West Africa is vast. The tribes are small and are mutually antagonistic. However problematical the future of the Bantustans in the Republic, this concept appears to me to make considerable sense in South-West Africa.

I wish to recall briefly the recent history of that territory as it has a considerable bearing on the present situation. In the mid-nineteenth century the dominant tribes were the Hereros and the Hottentots, now called the Nama. These tribes were locked in almost continual warfare. In 1884 came the annexation by the Germans, and the Hereros became their allies, only to rebel in 1904 when the tribe was defeated and nearly annihilated by the Germans at Waterberg. In 1914 the territory was taken by South African forces, and in 1920 South Africa received the League of Nations mandate for the territory. In 1960 Ethiopia and Liberia appealed against this mandate to the Hague Court. They failed by the President's casting vote in 1966. Three months later, the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Security Council voted to place South-West Africa, or, as it is now called, Namibia, under United Nations control. In 1970, a further appeal was made to the Hague Court, and in June this year the court found by a majority of 13 to two against South Africa, the British and the French judges dissenting.

It is not my purpose to discuss the validity of this judgment: it is obviously a complicated legal matter, and I would not be competent to do so: but, as a layman, I would say that a number of events do cast doubts on the impartiality of the court. For example, the objections to judges who had openly spoken against South Africa prior to the sitting of the court were disallowed by the court itself. South Africa's customary request for the appointment of an act hoc judge was refused. The court did not visit South-West Africa, and it refused an offer of a referendum amongst the people of South-West Africa.

I understand that the Government have upheld Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice's objections and have refused to accept the court's findings, and I hope that my understanding will be confirmed by my hon. Friend when he replies to this debate. That is the first point on which I want to be assured.

I wish, however, to deal with another important point, and that is the practical implications and effects of meeting the United Nations' demands to hand over the territory of Namibia to United Nations administration, and to consider what I suggest would be the inevitable effect which this would have on the people of that territory.

The territory, as I said, is vast, and the tribal groupings are small. I hope the House will forgive me if I quote some figures, because they are very germane to my argument. The largest tribe is the Ovambo, of 293,100 or 43.8 per cent. of the total population. The second largest—I emphasise this, and it may surprise some hon. Members—group are the whites, 113,100 or 16.8 per cent. of the total population. Then come the Damara at 54,300 or 8.1 per cent. of the total population; the Herero, at 43,200 or 6.4 per cent. of the total population; the Nama, at 42,600 or 6.4 per cent., again, of the total population; the Okavango, at 34,100 or 5.1 per cent. of the total population; the Caprivians, at 19,500 or 2.9 per cent. of the total population. The remaining tribes are smaller and make up the remaining 10.5 per cent. of the population.

The Ovambos, the largest tribe, live in the north and have always tended to keep themselves to themselves. The Hereros and Nama were hereditary enemies, and the Damara were, in the past, enslaved by the Hereros. I hope the House will appreciate that with this history of conflict between some of the major tribes it can only be expected that there is precious little love lost between the tribes at the present time. The Herero still see themselves as the dominant tribe and undoubtedly hope to use United Nations intervention to achieve their aim of ruling Namibia. The Ovambos and Okavango are already moving along the road to self-government and are followed by the Damara and the Nama.

In Ovamboland, when I last visited it, I spoke to the chief councillor, Chief Wilpard Shimi, who told me that he was just not interested in the setting up of Namibia and that his own people wanted to run their own affairs without interference from other tribes or from the United Nations, and said that they were now being helped forward by the administering Power. They had a good network of schools and clinics, as well as an excellent training college at Odingwa, the capital. In a five-year development plan for the country itself, which is financed by South Africa, the new irrigation system would cost £¾ million, and water was being brought from the Cuene River in the west and from the Okavango River in the east.

Chief Shimi's country had an executive council, of which he was chairman, and a legislative council, members of which were elected by the tribal councils. Thirty-five per cent. of the Civil Service and nearly 100 per cent. of the primary school teachers were already Ovambos. The chief said that he hoped his territory would be economically viable in about 10 years' time. He was very positive, and so were his councillors whom I met, that they wanted to have nothing to do with the concept of Namibia. Much the same views have been expressed by the Okavango, and the Damara leaders have recently issued a statement two paragraphs of which I will quote to the House: We Damara accept Damaraland as our home and the country in which we want to enjoy self-determination and exercise our right to exist as an independent nation. We therefore wish to state quite clearly to the United Nations that we do not know that Organisation; that we do not want to know it and that we shall not recognise it. I think the House will agree that those are very strong words.

The South African Government, when it offered the suggestion of a plebiscite to The Hague Court, in my view knew that it would win a free vote in South-West Africa for the following reason. As I have already said, the majority of the Ovambos, Whites, Damara, Nama and Okavangos want nothing to do with the United Nations, and together these groups make up over 80 per cent. of the population of South West Africa. That is a fact which the House much bear strongly in mind.

In the past 10 years I have made a particular study of guerrilla warfare in Central-Southern Africa and have visited many parts of the frontier from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, Angola, the Caprivi strip, Rhodesia and Mozambique. Generally considered, one of the best organised and led guerrilla organisations was S.W.A.P.O., which was formed in 1960 after the Windhoek riots. Two years later it reached its peak membership of perhaps 10,000. However, it was never supported by the chiefs and headmen, and the advent of internal self-government took away much of its appeal. In 1964 about 800 young men were sent abroad for military training, and in 1966 S.W.A.P.O. announced from its Dar-es-Salaam headquarters that it would lead the fight to free South-West Africa. Military action took place in South-West Africa in that year, which coincided with the first judgment of The Hague Court. It was defeated and there has been no guerrilla activity except in the Caprivi Strip since 1969.

I visited the Caprivi Strip in 1970 and can certify that South Africa has not got a large military base in that area. Incidents have taken place, and are taking place, in Caprivi, including one last month, but these are mainly the mining of roads and tracks by groups which can retreat into Zambia when pursued. This kind of activity can never be effective, and S.W.A.P.O. has lost whatever hold it had in South-West Africa. If this is not so, why did not S.W.A.P.O. mount an offensive to coincide with The Hague Court's recent judgment, as it did in 1966?

I conclude with what is perhaps the most important aspect of this problem, and that is the economic development of the people of South-West Africa. The House must agree—in fact figures have been published—that much money is being spent by South Africa in developing the African areas of South-West Africa. The cynic might fairly say that this was because of outside pressures. The fact remains that self-government is being implemented and has gone too far to be withdrawn. I do not believe that any South African Government could now withdraw the degree of self-government it has already given to some of the African areas of the territory.

Good road, rail and air communications are provided by South Africa, which also subsidises posts and telegraphs, vital irrigation schemes, education health and so on. The per capita income is one of the highest in Africa at about £260, which is three times that of Zambia and 10 times that of Tanzania. In 1970 alone South Africa spent £100 million on running the railways in the territory. The numbers at school, though still not high enough, have doubled in the past nine years and at Windhoek and Odingwa I saw two of the best African colleges I have seen anywhere in Southern/Central Africa.

Economically and technically, South-West Africa is wholly dependent on South Africa, which is the territory's largest market and provides 80 per cent. of its imports. If the United Nations took over who would provide the manpower, expertise, markets and, above all, the capital that is required to develop this territory? The United Nations is already in debt and I suggest it would have to administer South-West Africa through some other power, and what other power is there than the Republic of South Africa?

My final request to my hon. Friend is this. The Security Council will soon be considering the Hague Court's decision—indeed the Security Council may have considered this decision in the last few hours. I hope very much that the British representative will abstain on this matter to signify the disagreement of the British Government with the Hague Court's decision. But it is expected that the Security Council will go further and suggest a plan to take over Namibia. I suggest this would result in economic disaster for all the people of that territory. I hope Her Majesty's Government will oppose any such impracticable proposals, if necessary by use of the veto, for in this case I suggest abstention would not be enough. I hope that when my hon. Friend concludes this debate he will be able to say that he broadly agrees with the economic conclusions I have put forward and will be able to give me an assurance on the two points I have advanced, namely Her Majesty's Government's view of the decision of the Court and their view of any attempted takeover of the territory of Namibia or South-West Africa by the United Nations.

9.23 p.m.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate on South-West Africa, which has been raised on the Adjournment by the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall). This will give us an opportunity to discuss some of the very important points which arise out of the advisory opinion of The Hague Court.

There was much that was contentious in the hon. Gentleman's remarks, and I daresay that some of the contentious items were quite deliberately included. Nevertheless, one would not quarrel with his history of what happened in the early years between the Germans, the Hereros and the Ovambo in South-West Africa. However, one begins to depart from the hon. Gentleman's views when one comes to the stage of discussing exactly who speaks for the African population in South-West Africa.

It is fashionable to say that the chiefs of the tribes are not in favour of the independence of Namibia under the total territory structure and that they would prefer the system to go on as it is. It is fashionable to say that the headmen have similar views. But bearing in mind that the chiefs and headmen probably would lose a tremendous amount of influence and power if there was a proper democratic structure in South-West Africa, it is hardly surprising that their views represent self interest. Indeed I would suggest that the African chiefs are probably as representative of public opinion in that part of Africa as our noble friends in the other place are representative of British opinion.

Mr. Wall

If that is so—and it is of course the case advanced by the Labour side of the House on Rhodesia—why is it that the people of these territories have not supported the guerrilla force which have entered their countries, but have supported their chiefs and the Governments of those countries?

Mr. Hughes

That sounds all very well, but I believe the African people in South Africa, South-West Africa and in Rhodesia support the guerrilla organisations and do not support the chiefs of their own free will. Simply because there is, apparently, tacit acceptance of the state of affairs as it now is, that does not mean that the people are enthusiastic supporters of the chieftain system. Just as many people in a different context passively accept the existence of the House of Lords, that does not mean that, if the House of Lords had the kind of power that it once had, it would still be acceptable to them.

A great deal is said about the so-called prosperity of South-West Africa being dependent on South Africa and her capital. Much of it does not ring true. The truth is that the riches of South-West Africa have always been administered for the benefit of the 70,000 white people at present living in South-West Africa, now considered to have been encompassed by the South African State. There are lessons to be learnt from this.

The hon. Member for Haltemprice asks why there have not been revolutions and military uprisings of the kind that we have been led to expect. I believe that the guerrilla organisations in South-West Africa have held their hands until such time as the opinion of the International Court of Justice became known and they saw what happened at the United Nations. I accept that the level of military activity is quite small. However, anyone who makes the mistake of thinking that because it is small it will be easily crushed and crushed for ever has not learned the lesson of Vietnam, where so far it has taken 30 or 40 years, and it is still going on towards success.

The encouragement which hon. Members give to revolutionary organisations by saying that we must accept the status quo in Southern Africa is the greatest stimulus to them to get on with the job of creating a revolutionary situation in that part of the world. I should prefer it if the problems of South-West Africa could be solved other than by revolutionary means by the people of the territory themselves. I have no desire to see innocent blood shed on either side of the colour line, although the majority of that blood will be of those whose skins are darker than our own. If we fail, at this time especially, to give to the people of South-West Africa the kind of support that they need in the United Nations, we shall leave them with no other course than to send out the call to arms and we shall have no other course than to support that call.

I want now to comment on the position at the United Nations. It is important to contrast the initial idea of the mandate given to South Africa by the League of Nations with what South Africa is doing in that territory today. No one can quarrel with the original mandate, which was to be in the paramount interest of the people of the territory of South-West Africa. However, it has long been recognised that that interest has been far from paramount, and Resolution 2145 adopted by the General Assembly on 27th October, 1966, was agreed to by 114 votes to two, the two against being South Africa and Portugal, which gives some idea of the character of the Opposition, and with three abstentions—Britain, France and Malawi—which is a sad expression of the character of those who abstained. That Resolution proclaimed the inalienable right of South-West Africa to freedom and independence.

The intention of that Resolution must be contrasted with the actions of the South-African Government. They set up the Odendaal Commission, which recommended that the territory should be divided into a series of six Bantustans for the major tribes. In carving up the territory, one would have imagined that it would have been divided into six in terms of the indigenous population. Far from that being the case, in fact only a quarter of the area of South-West Africa was allocated to a total of half a million non-whites, whereas the remainder was allocated to 75,000 whites. So there are 500,000 people in a quarter of the territory, and the remaining three-quarters goes to a smaller population.

So far as we know, the only Bantustan who has been set up has been that of the Ovamboland. It is no accident that in the geographical boundaries of the projected Bantustans the majority of the valuable minerals in South-West Africa lie outside the territories of the so-called homelands. The truth, as any student of what is happening in South Africa must recognise, is that the Bantustans are a fraud and do not mean real freedom at all. I believe that the projected Bantustans are contrary to the spirit of Resolution 2145 of 1966.

The problem of South-West Africa has exercised both the United Nations and the International Court five times since 1945, but this is the first time that the International Court has been asked to rule by the Security Council. This makes the present advisory opinion extremely important. I know that the Government have said—I think that it was the Foreign Secretary—that this was an advisory opinion and, therefore, was not binding on member States. Whether that is legally correct, I do not know. But we cannot dismiss the International Court's ruling as being of no consequence. I believe that it has extremely important consequences. This flows from its first proposal, which is simple and categoric: that South Africa's continued presence in South-West Africa is illegal and that South Africa should withdraw.

If we fail to take consequential action in support of the United Nations then we are saying to South Africa that possession is ten-tenths of the law and that as long as it is there by force of arms it has the right to remain there. The corollary, the opposite, the converse, is that the only way that South Africa will be removed is by force of arms.

It is true, as the hon. Member for Haltemprice said, that since 1966, when guerrilla activity started, it has been spasmodic and relatively small. None the less, it is growing. The fact is that South African troops and police are extremely active in South-West Africa. Incidents have been reported of Buccaneers being used in the Caprivi Strip. We know that that is all-important because it is from there that the South Africans are said to have launched their incursion into Zambia.

I believe that we have a tremendous job to do here in facing the realities of the situation. It is no use the hon. Member for Haltemprice saying that the economic prospects are good, that the standard of living of the South-West African people is increasing, and that, therefore, they do not need any other form of democracy except the Bantustan. This was the old idea in defence of slavery: if one fed and kept one's slaves well, they did not need freedom. We on this side are speaking with real freedom. I am grateful for the opportunity of discussing this matter, even in short detail. I know that some of my hon. Friends would like to join in the debate. I hope that the Government will clearly state, under their policy of abstention—a policy followed by successive Governments over the past 20 years—that they must and will take action in support of the people of that country.

9.34 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Anthony Kershaw)

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) for his interesting and well-in-formed speech about South-West Africa, in which he depicted a pattern of events and pressures which is not exactly as many suppose and is more complicated than some may wish to think.

I am also obliged to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes) for his contribution. In the course of my remarks I shall seek to answer some of the points which he raised.

It is true that considerable material benefits have been and are being brought to the area by the protecting Power, South Africa. But, as my hon. Friend knows—he made clear how much he deplored the practice of apartheid—we must, despite the material benefits which I have mentioned, deplore how apartheid has been allowed to spread to this territory—a territory, after all, with international status.

We bear in mind that South Africa undertook, in 1920, to promote the material and moral well-being, and the social progress of the territory concerned. I cannot believe that anybody in this House can think that that duty is fully discharged by the introduction of apartheid to the territory, and we cannot condone it. That is how we feel about the moral aspect of this problem.

When we come to the legal aspect, we must examine the matter with a different eye. Hard cases make bad law, and if we were to follow our sentiment we might—indeed, we would—do harm to the standing and authority of the United Nations, both now and in the future. I hope, therefore, that the House will bear with me while I seek to expound the legal matters and the judgment to which reference has been made. I hope that this will be of interest to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North.

It will be known to hon. Members that on 21st June the International Court of Justice at The Hague delivered an advisory opinion, which was passed by 13 votes to 2, that the continued presence of South Africa in Namibia being illegal, South Africa is under an obligation to withdraw its administration from Namibia immediately and thus put an end to its occupation of the Territory", and by 11 votes to 4, in two other paragraphs, called upon both members and non-members of the United Nations to recognise and to act on that advisory opinion.

The crucial question in legal terms concerns the termination of the mandate. As the opinion of the court recognises, any powers of the United Nations to terminate the mandate depend upon the position under the League of Nations, since the mandates system was established by the Versailles Peace Conference within the framework of the League of Nations.

The first question, therefore, is whether the League of Nations had the power to terminate the mandate unilaterally. As to that, neither Article 22 of the Covenant of the League, nor the mandate itself, contains any provision conferring such a power of termination in any circumstances. The notion of revocaability was discussed when the mandate system was established, but objections were raised to it and it was not incorporated either in the Covenant or in the individual mandates.

In those circumstances it is not possible, in our view, to infer a power of unilateral termination. Moreover, the suggestion of the existence of such a power does not accord with the nature of the mandate system. That system gave no executive powers to the League, but only a power to receive and examine reports.

Furthermore, even if the mandate for South-West Africa as such was understood as implying some possibility of revocation in the case of breach, the Council of the League, working within its own constitutional framework, would not have been in a position to exercise that power without the consent of the mandatory. Article 5 of the Covenant provided that the Council of the League must take its decision by unanimity, except where otherwise expressly provided. By Article 4, the mandatory was entitled to be present to vote at meetings of the Council concerning the mandate. The mandatory was thus in a position to block any resolution seeking to assert and exercise a power to revoke the mandate. Whatever our views on the drafting of the Covenant in that respect, that was the position.

A number of limited exceptions to the rule of unanimity are contained in the Covenant. There is, however, no provision which could have deprived a mandatory of its vote so as to enable the Council to exercise any powers in relation to the mandate without the mandatory's consent, including a power of revocation if one had existed. It is surely not without significance that the League of Nations never did revoke a mandate, or even try to do so, even though accusations of breach of mandate were made during the League period.

I now come to the General Assembly Resolution No. 2145. The General Assembly is an organ created by the Charter and can only act within the powers conferred upon it by the Charter. The Charter explicity conferred upon the General Assembly powers which, with certain exceptions, are recommendatory only. These very limited exceptions relate to matters such as the admission of new members, the approval of the budget and the apportionment of expenses. There is no provision in them or elsewhere in the Charter which would give the Assembly the powers necessary for the termination of the mandate. The exceptions, therefore, are not of relevance in the present context.

The General Assembly has no general competence of an executive character, and, with the exceptions to which I have referred, there is no basis in the Charter for the attribution to it of competence to adopt Resolutions which are other than recommendatory. It was for this reason that, during the discussion of Resolution No. 2145 in 1966, the United Kingdom delegation, together with a number of others, expressed serious reservations as to the legal effectiveness of that Resolution.

The arguments before the International Court went into the matter more deeply than had previously been done, but, having given the most careful consideration to the question, Her Majesty's Government are not persuaded by the reasoning advanced in that advisory opinion to sustain the validity of Resolution No. 2145.

To sum up, therefore, for us to be able to agree that there was a power of termination of the mandate, certain propositions of law would have to be established. It is our considered view that these propositions have not been established either in relation to the League or in relation to the General Assembly. Since we have reached the conclusion that the mandate has not been validly terminated, we cannot accept the legal consequences deduced by the court from different premises, and accordingly we cannot accept the conclusions of the court set out in paragraph 133 of its advisory opinion.

Whatever we may all feel about South Africa's actions in its administration of the territory—I have made Her Majesty's Government's attitude to this quite clear, I hope—we are still faced with a question of law, and the serious legal difficulties which the Government encountered earlier have not been dispelled. We attach the greatest importance to the rule of law and also, therefore, to the institutions, such as the International Court of Justice, which uphold that law. And we have given the most careful consideration to this advisory opinion.

As an advisory opinion only, it is not, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North conceded, I think, binding, but it is of course entitled to the very closest consideration and respect. After giving it that consideration, we have concluded that, on the basis of the law as we understand it in this country, we must reject the Court's opinion.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Apart from Resolution No. 2145, the Security Council itself adopted Resolution No. 264, which called upon South Africa to withdraw from its administration of South-West Africa. Would the Minister not agree that the advisory opinion, while it had reservations about Resolution No. 2145, accepted that the Security Council had the power to act? Does not this change the Government's view on past premises?

Mr. Kershaw

I am coming to that point now. There is a point of legal interpretation in the advisory opinion which raises issues far wider than just the question of South—West Africa. I refer to that part of the advisory opinion which asserts that certain Resolutions adopted by the Security Council on South Africa were legally binding—No. 264, for example. It is this part of the majority opinion which seems to the Government to be open to the most serious legal objections.

Some Governments represented on the Security Council may have wished to take a binding decision on South-West Africa, and in order to achieve this, they proposed findings which would have brought the situation within Article 39 of the Charter. But these proposals were not accepted. The Government do not believe that the course of events in the Security Council and in the consultations among its members supports the conclusion of fact asserted in the court's opinion.

As a matter of law, the Government consider that the Security Council can take decisions generally binding on Member States only when the Security Council has made a determination under Article 39 that a threat to the peace, a breach of the peace or an act of aggression exists. Only in those circumstances are the decisions binding under Article 25, and no such determination exists in relation to South-West Africa or Namibia. This view is shared by a number of other countries in the United Nations, including the majority of the permanent Members of the Security Council.

As we do not accept the illegality of South Africa's presence in South-West Africa, we do not accept either that we should, as the advisory opinion goes on to suggest in its last two paragraphs, take practical measures to discourage the South African presence in South-West Africa.

We do not accept, for example, that we should discourage trade in or with South-West Africa. We do not accept that we should discourage investment in that part of the world. We do not think we should cancel the contract made by the late Administration for the supply of our strategic supplies of uranium coming from South-West Africa.

We must accept—I appreciate that this may seem hard to some—as a fact that South Africa is in control of the territory of South-West Africa. We must accept that the efforts of the U.N. to act beyond its capacities are bound to fail. We must accept that such efforts will not be advantageous to the people of South-West Africa.

Given the fact of South Africa's position, we believe that a policy of dialogue with South Africa is more likely to safeguard the true interests of the inhabitants of South-West Africa than a policy of sterile confrontation.

The situation is, of course, unsatisfactory from our point of view and we wish that it could change. We hope that the South African Government for their part will be ready to discuss with others how to implement the trust given to them under the mandate, which must lead ultimately to the principle of the people of South-West Africa freely and fully exercising their just, due and inalienable right to self-determination. I believe that the policy of dialogue with South Africa is now increasingly getting acceptance among other nations in the southern part of Africa and that this may be the way in which this can be done.

I am sorry to have to put the legal position so starkly to the House, but I think there is no way round it. Our opinion about what has been done—it was supported at one time by the late Administration—is, I believe, the best that can be had. We will not in the end benefit South-West Africa by trying to fudge the legal issues, and I am certain that we should take a strictly legal view of this so as not to compromise the future of the U.N. or harm the future of South-West Africa by so doing.

9.48 p.m.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

This issue is one of great potential importance for the future not only of Southern Africa but of international relations generally. It has not yet been seen in this country in that light, and I hope that this debate will be the beginning of a more general one about the future of South-West Africa which, in my view, is of as great potential importance as the future of Rhodesia.

I hope that we will have an opportunity at a later stage to discuss the attitude of the British Government to the Security Council Resolution in a wider debate on a more well-attended occasion than is provided by an Adjournment debate, albeit by an accident of time which gives us rather more room for manœuvre. However, this is a useful opportunity for reflecting a little on the advisory opinion and the attitude of successive British Governments to this problem. The situation has changed considerably as a result of the advisory opinion of the court.

In effect, what the Under-Secretary of State has just said amounts to the fact that we, as a potentially interested party, have been to the fount of justice and have there seen our case turned down; because we have seen our case turned down, we reject this as justice, and we put our considered legal case before the court, saying that our case is better than the majority view of 13 members to two.

Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice has been arguing since 1950 that the mandate never passed from the old League of Nations to the United Nations. There is nothing new in his dissenting opinion; he has been arguing it consistently for about 20 years. But if his opinion was right, we never had a United Nations mandate in Tanganyika. Nevertheless, we accepted that the United Nations exercised a mandate in Tanganyika, and we reported to the appropriate committee overseeing trusteeship territories.

If Sir Gerald's opinion had been right in 1950 we, like South Africa, should have been exempt from reporting to the United Nations about our stewardship in Tanganyika. We did not take that view. We have never taken the view that the United Nations was not the legitimate successor to the League of Nations in relation to the stewardship of these territories. It is a bit late in the day to say that we dissent from that view because it happens to be in our interest to do so.

True, on previous occasions we have taken the view that there never was a power of revocation in relation to the trusteeship territories and that, therefore, that power did not devolve on the United Nations; but that view was seriously considered in a very long advisory opinion of the 13 majority members of the Court and was rejected after careful legal analysis. It was not rejected out of pique, or out of bias. Indeed, the most interesting part of that part of the judgment, which I know will appeal to the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), is the quotation from Jan Smuts at the League of Nations in 1920, when he said: In case of any flagrant and prolonged abuse of this trust"— namely, the trust of stewardship— the population concerned should be able to appeal for redress to the League, who should in a proper case assert its authority to the full, even to the extent of removing the mandate and entrusting it to some other State if necessary". If Jan Smuts thought that one could revoke the mandate I have no doubt that the 13 members of the court, who also thought that one could revoke it, are to be preferred to Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice, who did not think that one could, and to the Foreign Office lawyers who have been advising the Under-Secretary of State.

Mr. Kershaw

It is not only the Foreign Office lawyers, by whom, perhaps, the hon. Gentleman may not be excessively impressed because he may not know exactly who they are—though if he did he would be impressed; it is also my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General.

Mr. Lyon

I am even less impressed by that.

Looking at the whole situation, one sees that we are not dealing here with a simple legal problem which can be dealt with in an academic atmosphere. We are dealing with a highly political issue, in which the British Government are seeking to hide behind certain legal niceties which have already been exploded by the majority of the court. Coming down to the legal realities, we are opposing implementation of Resolution 276 of 1970 only because we happen to be the biggest foreign investors in South-West Africa and also the biggest trading nation with South-West Africa.

In the report of the ad hoc committee appointed to look into the relations of States with Namibia, we see from the reply to its request for information about trading relations with Namibia, and about investment, that we were far and away the biggest traders with, and the biggest investors in, the territory. Japan and West Germany, and most of the European countries, have little trade or investment there, even though West Germany was once a colonial Power. In those circumstances we can see why the British Government are at least minded to take the attitude they do to the legal niceties.

Mr. Kershaw

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that our view of the law is wrong; that it does not matter what the law is, because this is such a political question and so we should decide as we please; or that we are motivated entirely by financial gain?

Mr. Lyon

I am about to say which of those three it is. It is clear from what I have already said that it is the first and third reason. "Your law is wrong, your politics are bad and your morality is even worse."

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is addressing the Chair.

Mr. Lyon

With respect, Mr. Speaker, I couched that in inverted commas. It was not intended as an address to the Chair, but simply as the kind of reply that one would make to the question put to me.

The issue is clear. The law stated by the 13 members of the Court who made up the majority opinion is now clearly the international law on the subject. The Government have regularly said that they advocate the rule of law in international affairs. Here they have an opportunity to implement that legal opinion, but they do not do so. They put forward bad legal grounds for objecting to the implementation of the advisory opinion, and I suggest that their motives are simply the economic stake that Great Britain has in South-West Africa.

The argument put forward by earlier Governments for not implementing Resolutions on South-West Africa was that we had no physical power to intervene. But the implementation of Resolution No. 276 does not require a physical power to intervene; it does not call for the use of force. It says that all Powers should abstain from any acts which give an appearance of legality to the South African presence in South-West Africa, and such acts include economic and trading relations with that territory. We can adhere to the terms of the Resolution by simply withdrawing the economic links that we have. Whatever the case for not withdrawing economic ties with South Africa, it does not appear to apply to South-West Africa. The scale of the economic activity is much less, and it would be much less hurtful to this country if we did withdraw. Many of the ventures are simply beginning, and we could take a decision which would mean that we pursued them no further.

In the evidence which the British Government gave to the ad hoc committee the following items were listed as the kind of foreign investment which we had in South-West Africa. It was said that: Shell and British Petroleum are operating a concession to explore for petroleum and natural gas. H.M. Mining and Exploration Company in association with Syracuse Oils of the United Kingdom hold concessions for exploration for petroleum and natural gas. The South West Africa Company Limited is registered in London, although 90 per cent. of their shares are owned by … South African mining interests. It was also said that a number of British firms had interests in the fur trade from South-West Africa. All that is on a relatively small scale, albeit that it happens to be one of the biggest foreign interests in the territory.

It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Rossi.]

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Lyon

The biggest interest of all is that of Rio Tinto Zinc in the uranium mine at Rossing. The Under-Secretary makes the valid political point that the concession was exploited in the period of a Labour Government and that the contract which was made by R.T.Z. with the Atomic Energy Authority was sanctioned in the declining days of the last Government.

The advisory opinion of the court has changed the situation to the point where we should now say that the contract should not be implemented. The contract is not producing much uranium. The Atomic Energy Authority could find its uranium elsewhere. If we mean it when we say that we adhere to the rule of international law we should observe this part of the court's advisory opinion. As we are the biggest investors in the territory we have the biggest stake in upholding the authority of the United Nations in this respect.

What is the alternative? The hon. Member for Haltemprice paints a glowing picture of what has happened under South African supervision in South-West Africa. He says that because the activity of S.W.A.P.O. has declined since 1968 it indicates that there is general assent by the people of the tribes to the new Bantustans which are being created.

The hon. Gentleman fails to pay much attention to the trials that took place, at Johannesburg and Pretoria, of 35 of the major leaders of S.W.A.P.O. at a crucial time. If their leaders are taken away and imprisoned, and if there is the kind of security system which South Africa has and which is exemplified in the evidence in the case against the Dean of Johannesburg—where they rely on informers for information—clearly there will not be the kind of political activity in the territory which might be expected in legitimate circumstances, and even in illegitimate circumstances.

Mr. Wall

The hon. Gentleman has missed my main point, which was that I could discover no desire for Namibian unity in the territory. I found that there were very strong tribal feelings, which were mutually antipathetic. Tribes wanted to become independent, self-governing States, not part of a nation which does not exist.

Mr. Lyon

The hon. Gentleman is sufficiently knowledgeable about the affairs of Africa to know that at certain stages of the development of African territories that is not an unnatural reflection of opinion. In areas north of the Zambesi where territories have been given their independence, the tribal factor, although still a very sensitive part of political relationships, is none the less being overcome.

Mr. Wall

Oh, come.

Mr. Lyon

The situation which has occurred in many of the newly emergent territories where tribal trouble has developed is that gradually, partly by political skill, sometimes by the use of political authority, the tribal divisions are being overcome.

Of course it is in the interests of South Africa to try to exacerbate and exaggerate tribal divisions. That is exactly why South Africa took part in the Biafran adventure—to indicate that the tribes were more important than the new-found nationhood of these newly emergent territories. In the areas where the South Africans have political control they try to exacerbate these tribal differences. I have no doubt that the Ovamba still think of the Hereros as their enemies. They are not encouraged to think of each other as one nation; equally, inside South Africa.

But even in South Africa there is a growing sense of the black people finding a new unity in their privation. They find it despite the attempt to cram them into Bantustan. That would happen in South-West Africa if it was under United Nations trusteeship and was being led gradually towards the concept of one nation with a good democratic structure to provide new leadership and new political parties.

The reason why it is important for the United Nations to assert its mandate in this area is not loss of investment but the creation of more political activity and a sense of nationhood. No doubt the chiefs of whom the hon. Member for Haltemprice spoke were sincere in their view that they did not want the United Nations presence, but as long as they maintain that attitude the prospect for their people of a new kind of maturity and a new assertion of political authority in what is their country will never be found. It is for that reason that the United Nations mandate should be asserted by all civilised nations.

The Under-Secretary recognised this when he said that we deplored the spread of apartheid in this area. It is not good enough for the Government to deplore apartheid and then to go on to say that there is nothing that they can do about it, when there are items within our control. The case that we should abstain on this crucial resolution before the U.N. is far from made out and I hope that even at this last moment the Government will have second thoughts about it.

It has been suggested that if any other kind of resolution is put forward in the Security Council about further action which should be taken to implement the judgment we will veto it. If so, it is a serious blow to the prestige of this country in the U.N. But, even more important, it would be a dangerous precedent for the African nations in relation to their conduct in Southern Africa.

In 1966, when the International Court decided by that one vote on a technicality that it could not consider the application of Ethiopia and the other countries in relation to South-West Africa, the effect in Africa was extreme The result of African disillusionment with the International Court and international institutions was a fillip to the growing impetus towards nationalist movements, the freedom lighters. It was after that judgment that the O.A.U. set up its fund to help the freedom fighters.

If the British Government are truly sincere in saying that there is a way to relieve the sufferings of Africans in Southern Africa apart from violence, they should support the judgment of the International Court and not veto any action by other nations to implement it, because that would lead to the same sense of disillusionment which was found in 1966, but this time it would be accentuated. Whatever the British Government decide to do about the general proposition in relation to abstention—and we know the different attitude of the United States—if any other States propose to implement the judgment I hope that our Government will not veto the resolution of the Security Council. They may think it unenforceable. They may not intend to abide by that resolution. But to veto it would be an affront to African opinion which we would find very difficult to control.

10.5 p.m.

Mr. Frank Judd (Portsmouth, West)

I apologise most sincerely to the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) for not being present to hear his speech. I had been looking forward very much to hearing what he had to say because I always find his remarks on this part of the African continent of great interest. However, like a number of other hon. Members, I was surprised at the early hour at which the debate started. I think it important that I should make a few observations because I returned only yesterday from a visit to neighbouring African States.

The Minister referred, very sincerely, to his conviction, and that of the Government collectively, that more change is likely to be achieved in South Africa and South-West Africa through dialogue than by any other means of approach. I should like him to give us, if not tonight then on some other occasion. some specific examples of how, through dialogue, the Government are attempting to secure change in South Africa and South-West Africa and to give evidence of the success which has been achieved. I am afraid—and I hope that the Minister will accept this remark in the spirit in which it is made—that this has become an empty refrain. Since we have had in this country a Government committed to this approach. I do not believe that there is any evidence or sign of success in changing the South African Government's policy. Perhaps the Minister will take the opportunity at some time to provide evidence in support of his assertion.

The second thing of interest which the Minister said was—and it is a very seductive argument in many ways—that we must accept the fact of the presence of South Africa in South-West Africa. He was by implication arguing that we in the international community were impotent to do anything practical about it. Even if one accepts that pessimistic interpretation of events, there is the world of difference in a situation like this between saying that one is unable to do anything physically to remove South Africa from a position within South-West Africa and saying that, because one is in no position to do anything practical, one would exploit every opportunity for continuing to invest and to co-operate through every economic channel available with the South African authorities and, therefore, to shore up a system of which one does not approve.

I have never understood the logic of those who argue in that way, because, while it may be possible to sustain the argument that it is impossible to do anything physically about the situation, it is surely not then illogical to go on and say that we must examine ways in which we can extricate ourselves from the kind of involvement which is leading to the maintenance and strengthening of a status quo of which we disapprove.

The Minister said that the Government felt bound to continue with the arrangement on the supply of uranium which was secured by the previous Administration. There are Members on this side of the House, including myself, who were most unhappy about this arrangement at the time. It is fair to argue that the advisory opinion of the International Court and the subsequent action of the Security Council has changed the situation so that while there could previously have been a legalistic argument about the rights and wrongs of having done this, there is now a different situation within which the Minister or anyone else tries to advance the virtues of maintaining the relationship. I support my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) who said that we have no alternative but to withdraw from that commitment.

Mr. Kershaw

The hon. Gentleman says that we have not got anything very much to show for dialogue. Has he anything to show how we will get rid of apartheid by seeking to impoverish the countries concerned?

Mr. Judd

The point I make is that we have to examine who is being impoverished and whose economic situation is being improved by the present form of co-operation. What is clear from the present form of co-operation between Britain and South Africa and South-West Africa is that the whites are benefiting disproportionately. There is no evidence that we are doing anything to close the gap in terms of economic justice.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) quoted an average black per capita income of £200 as being greater than most of the African territories. What he concealed is that the white per capita income in Namibia is £950. Therefore the average for the blacks is considerably below £200.

Mr. Judd

I hope that the Government will resist the temptation to get bogged down in a narrow and legalistic approach to this essentially political issue of Southern Africa. I am convinced that the time has passed when we can talk in isolation of the crisis or difficulties in South-West Africa, the difficulties and tensions in South Africa and the problems of the Portuguese territories. As a result of a chain of events when we look at the Southern African situation we see in economic and political terms an essentially inter-related problem. Failure to act effectively in one theatre has repercussions in others. We have to recognise, and I cannot stress this too strongly, the cynicism which will be engendered in the majority of thinking Africans if we say that because we are impotent to do anything physically about the situation we must go on exploiting, expanding our involvement, our co-operation, increasing our economic benefits through association with a system of exploitation of which we say we disapprove. To them this just seems like plain double talk and if we continue it two things will happen.

Whatever the hon. Member for Haltemprice may have said, about the relative ineffectiveness of S.W.A.P.O. during the past two years we will increasingly see the feeling in the white-dominated areas of Southern Africa that because the international community is not prepared to do anything about the situation, even in the economic sphere, the only course will be to take the law into their hands and to use the freedom fighting and violent methods of which many of those involved do not ideally approve. They would far rather see peaceful change if it could be secured. This has to be seen in relation to what is already happening in the neighbouring Portuguese territories where there is plenty of evidence of considerable success with this form of activity.

The second point, which is closely related to this, is that as the cynicism grows as the double talk become increasingly evident something else will happen. We frequently hear the Government talking about their preoccupation with the spread of Communist influence in the African continent. One of the points which I feel very strongly about is our failure to identify ourselves with the rightful struggle, and even the Minister is inclined to endorse the moral justice of that struggle. Our failure to identify ourselves with the struggle is provoking the very thing which the Minister and his colleagues say they most fear in the African continent, and that is the spread of Communist domination. Increasingly those people with their feeling of cynicism, of disappointment, feel that in the final analysis the only people who will stand firmly by them, who will take positive action on their side, are the totalitarian Communist Powers in the world.

I believe that this is an absolutely deplorable situation with the gravest implications for the future stability of the African continent, and for the future of our own economic situation in terms of the degree of involvement which we now have in the African continent.

Therefore, I would beg the Minister to consider with his colleagues whether we really are going to take this line, which I have already said this evening, seen by the people on the spot as nothing more than the weakest form of double talking.

Mr. Wall

The hon. Gentleman talks about double talk by this country. Has he not seen that the economic influence of South Africa has increased to the north and that the majority of independent States are increasing their trade with South Africa? South Africa's influence, economic influence in particular, is moving to the north far more rapidly than that of the guerrillas, the freedom fighters, to the south.

Mr. Judd

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point. If he is talking of countries immediately to the north of South Africa—for example, Zambia—

Mr. Wall

I was talking of the west coast.

Mr. Judd

—Zambia is a country which has absolutely no alternative in her landlocked situation; but if he is talking about the west coast—and he is now gradually beginning to narrow the argument down, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman that from a sedentary position he is increasingly confining his argument—of which part of West Africa is he talking about? Clearly, he is not speaking of Nigeria. He must be much more specific if he continues to make this form of observation.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-two minutes past Ten o'clock.