HC Deb 28 February 1973 vol 851 cc1480-4
12. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he held on the subject of Rhodesia during his African tour; and if he will make a statement.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I had discussions on Rhodesia in all three of the countries which I visited in West Africa. The content of these discussions must, as is customary, remain confidential.

Mr. Haselhurst

Was my right hon. Friend able to ascertain any sympathy for the point of view that in the light of likely alternatives it might be better for the Africans in Rhodesia that a settlement should be found within the course of this year on the basis of something similar to the proposals which he discussed with Mr. Smith a year ago?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I do not think that the African Governments would as far as that. They would like to see a settlement for the sake of the whole African continent in which the Africans could take part.

Mr. McBride

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Mr. Smith is reported as saying that talks are taking place between Her Majesty's Government and the Rhodesians on the Rhodesian question, as the British Government are more amenable to such discussions than their predecessors were? Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether these talks are taking place, and, if they are, what is the nature and extent of them, and who is speaking to whom?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I do not know about comparisons with our predecessors. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite had many discussions during their term of office. I have followed those up, so far unsuccessfully, but we are in touch with Mr. Smith. We hope that Bishop Muzorewa and the Africans can get in contact with Mr. Smith, and that as a result some proposals may come from Rhodesia. I cannot say that I am very optimistic, because one knows the history of this matter, but that is what we are doing.

Mr. Callaghan

There can be no objection to discussions with the Government of Mr. Smith, provided that the principles upon which the right hon. Gentleman has hitherto acted are maintained. Has the right hon. Gentleman any information about the arrest of the three members of the African National Council, and does he propose to make any representations to Mr. Smith that this kind of behaviour is unlikely to encourage that council to have serious discussions with him?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes, Sir; I am doing that.

Mr. Callaghan

I thank the right hon. Gentleman.

13. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement about Rhodesia.

6. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what notification he has received of recent developments in Rhodesia conducive to an eventual settlement of the constitutional dispute with the Smith Government.

25. Mr. Maclennan

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the present position in Rhodesia.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

There have been a number of contacts between the régime and various sectors of African opinion. In spite of difficulties reported during the last few days, it is our hope that such contacts will be pursued. But, as the House knows, we cannot directly bring about a dialogue between the races in Rhodesia. This is something which only the Rhodesians can do for themselves.

Mr. Molloy

Bearing in mind what the right hon. Gentleman said about the grave danger to Southern Africa as a whole, to which the present régime in Rhodesia is contributing, may I ask him whether he can say anything about the report of the imprisonment of Mr. Niesewand, and also the allegation that ships carrying the British flag are conveying Rhodesian chrome to the United States of America?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I should like to make inquiries about that and inform the hon. Gentleman of the result. I do not have the facts.

I understand that Mr. Niesewand is appealing against his detention, and therefore nothing that I do must cross what he wants to do for himself, but I have again made representations on this matter.

Sir Robin Turton

Would it not help the situation if my right hon. Friend were to have a representative in Rhodesia so that we could get more accurate information about what is happening in Central Africa?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

There is quite a lot to be said for my right hon. Friend's suggestion, but at the moment I do not think that it would be acceptable to Mr. Smith.

Mr. Whitehead

Mr. Ian Smith is reported to have said, before he re-opened his side of the border with Zambia, that he had received certain undertakings which made him happier. Did those undertakings come from the Government, or is this another example of Mr. Smith trying to save his own face?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The Government gave no undertaking. There may have been other contacts, but they are not to my knowledge.

20. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Rhodesia-Zambia frontier situation.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

A confrontation on the Zambesi is not in the interests of any of the parties or countries involved. I very much hope that tension in the border area will speedily be reduced.

Mr. Wall

I do not want to get my right hon. Friend confused, but does he not agree that during the past six years Zambia has harboured armed guerrillas who have on a number of occasions invaded Rhodesia, and that this was the justification for the closure of the frontier? Does not he also agree that traffic was returning to normal until two days ago, when the Zambians kidnapped a Rhodesian engine driver?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The facts about the engine driver are not yet sufficiently established for me to take any action on this matter. I can only repeat that the danger of a build-up leading to a military confrontation on the Zambesi is something which we should all con- template with horror. We must do all that we can to avoid it.

Mr. Molloy

I agree very much with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. It will be an incredibly intolerable situation if an illegal régime which has been treacherous to the British Crown and Parliament should in any way endanger a Commonwealth Government. Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore continue to do his best to ease the situation there?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes, Sir. I shall be seeing the Zambian High Commissioner tomorrow, and shall talk over the situation with him. Zambia has decided to free herself of the danger of any interference with her trade. That we can understand. But, returning to the original question, nothing could be more dangerous than an armed frontier on the Zambesi.