HC Deb 11 December 1972 vol 848 cc5-8
5. Mr. David Steel

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will give an assurance that a notice issued by the Rhodesian régime declaring a British citizen to be a prohibited immigrant is not recognised by Her Majesty's Government is valid.

The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Lord Balniel)

I can give that assurance.

23. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British subjects he estimates are at present in prison in Rhodesia.

Lord Balniel

We have no information about the total number of persons, whether British or otherwise, in prison in Rhodesia. The number would include those held for all kinds of criminal offences. As I told the House on 20th November, so far as we know there are approximately 65 persons held under ministerial detention orders.—[Vol. 846, c. 882–4.]

Mr. Mitchell

Is it not very odd that the Minister cannot even give an estimate of how many of Her Majesty's subjects, to quote an expression used earlier, are at present imprisoned in Rhodesia, many of them without trial? What efforts is the Minister making to try to get some of these people released from gaol?

Lord Balniel

It is difficult to obtain reliable information on such matters now that we do not have a representative in Salisbury and an uninformed guess or estimate seems to me to be worthless. I was asked by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) to make representations on behalf of those detained during the test of acceptability. We have done so.

Mr. Callaghan

Why not ask the Rhodesian Government direct?

Lord Balniel

That is precisely what we have done. We have made representations on behalf of those detained during the test of acceptability, as I was asked to do by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Callaghan

But the Question goes far wider than that. Why not ask the Rhodesian Government how many people are in prison? After all, they are still our subjects.

Lord Balniel

We can certainly try to make further representations to ascertain the position, but we are in exactly the same situation on this matter as were the Labour Government.

36. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about his latest exchanges with the Rhodesian Government.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

It is our intention to maintain contact with all sections of Rhodesian opinion, which of course includes the Rhodesian authorities, during the current period of reflection. But it must be left to the Government to decide if and when a statement about any such contacts would be desirable. The present is not the right time.

Mr. Whitehead

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that on 4th December Mr. Ian Smith said at a press conference in Salisbury, Rhodesia, that there was no stalemate and that things were moving and working the whole time? May we be told exactly what is moving and what is working or whether that is just another lie from Mr. Smith? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we should not continue the present contacts while increasingly racialist legislation is being placed on the Statute Book in Rhodesia?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

When the hon. Gentleman asks me what is moving, I can tell him that there have been talks between the African National Council and the Rhodesian Government, and there are various bodies in Rhodesia which are seeing whether they can devise a basis for a settlement founded on the provisional settlement of November 1971. On the question of discriminatory legislation, we have made representations to the effect that we regard this as undesirable.

Mr. Haselhurst

Will my right hon. Friend make very clear to the Rhodesian authorities that if their present line of policies which are discriminatory towards the Africans is continued, this will completely destroy any atmosphere in which there might be fruitful negotiations in the future?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes, I accept that from my hon. Friend. It is worth recalling to the House that had the provisional settlement of 1971 been accepted, these things could not have happened.

Mr. Callaghan

Is it not clear that the Commission found that Africans did not accept the 1971 proposals? I welcome the Foreign Secretary's statement that he is keeping in touch with all sections of opinion in Rhodesia, but can he say how he is maintaining contact with African opinion and whether he has been able to get any idea from them about the nature of the racialist legislation which is now passing through the Rhodesian Parliament?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

During the past year or so I have seen a number of Africans from Rhodesia who have come to London; we have had other contacts in Rhodesia with some of them. It is difficult at this moment to see that there is anything of great substance happening, and that is why I cannot make a statement to the House. However, I have very much in mind the desirability of keeping in touch with African opinion in Rhodesia.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

But something of substance has happened. Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the Government in Rhodesia have now conceded all the demands of the Roman Catholic Church, which has been very firm on multiracialism in regard to discriminatory legislation as applied to its missions and activities? Does my right hon. Friend not think that this shows good will and that we should build on that good will rather than keep nagging all the time at the Rhodesians?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes, I am aware of what my hon. Friend has just said, and it is satisfactory that there should be agreement between Mr. Smith's Government and the Roman Catholic Church. I hope that these areas of agreement can be extended in the next few months.

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