HC Deb 13 June 1973 vol 857 cc1460-5
2. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has had any recent communication with the Smith régime in Rhodesia; and if he will make a statement.

4. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further arrangements he now proposes to re-open negotiations on all outstanding matters, including sanctions, with Mr. Ian Smith.

5. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement about Anglo-Rhodesian relations.

12. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contacts he has had with the illegal régime in Rhodesia since 25th May 1973.

23. Mr. Hastings

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the present state of negotiations with the Rhodesian Government on a settlement.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

As the House knows, we believe that no worthwhile progress can be made until there is more agreement between the races inside Rhodesia on the basis for a settlement. That position has not, as yet, been reached. We have not therefore entered into fresh negotiations with the Rhodesian authorities, but we are maintaining contact, so far as it is possible, with all sections of opinion in Rhodesia, including the Rhodesian authorities.

Mr. Haselhurst

Is it not clear, sadly, that there is a world of misunderstanding between Her Majesty's Government and the Smith régime as to what would constitute the proper basis for a settlement? In the absence of a settlement, will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government's existing policy towards the régime will be maintained?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I would not care to measure how far there is a gulf of misunderstanding between Mr. Smith and the Government, but my judgment is that the races in Rhodesia have not come together sufficiently yet—although some progress has been made—for me to be able to say that negotiations can be resumed.

Mr. Judd

Will the Foreign Secretary say what he intends to do about tightening the administration of sanctions, in view of recent convincing revelations of British sanction-breaking? Does he not agree that the degree of commitment to sanctions policy internationally is directly to be related to the degree to which we are prepared to demonstrate our own administration of sanctions?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

If the hon. Member or anyone else can give me evidence that sanctions are being broken—that is what is wanted, not newspaper stories but real evidence—we shall proceed to examine it and send it to the United Nations committee responsible for enforcing sanctions.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is it not a fact that the whole world is breaking these sanctions and that Great Britain is evidently the only Power of any substance which is adhering to a sanctions policy? In these circumstances, would it not be best for us to turn our back on sanctions, recognising that it is an impossible policy to implement, and try to reach agreement outside the ambit of the sanctions policy?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I think that my hon. Friend's objective is really the same as mine and that of the Government, which is to get a settlement. I am sure that the whole House would agree that that is the prize. Therefore, for the moment at any rate, and until I make a statement to the House, I believe that it is better to maintain the status quo. That gives us the best chance of a settlement, and that prize being so great it is worth exercising infinite patience, even though I understand my hon. Friend's impatience because others are breaking sanctions.

Mr. Whitehead

Does not the Foreign Secretary recollect that last month he told the House that what was needed in the sanctions procedure was the political will to make sanctions effective? In view of that statement, and of what my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) has said, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what he proposes to do about firms that were named and against which specific evidence was claimed in the Daily Mirror investigation last month? How can a British newspaper do more than Her Majesty's Government can in this matter?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

British newspapers can say whether, in their opinion, certain firms are breaking sanctions. Her Majesty's Government must have actual evidence of this before they send it to the United Nations committee. I am having this matter examined, and if the evidence is there it will be given to the United Nations committee.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

My right hon. Friend spoke of contacts. Will he send a diplomatic or consular representative to Salisbury to help British subjects in trouble and to assess from day to day the degree of support obtained by the Rhodesia Settlement Forum, the National African Council and other Africans interested in a settlement; and also to assess the true character of the variegated body, the ANC?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

It is, as my hon. Friend says, difficult to get accurate information from Rhodesia. I will consider at some point the necessary contacts which ought to be made out there so that the Government may be fully informed and kept up to date.

Mr. Callaghan

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how he is having this matter of sanction-breaking examined? Has he asked the editor of the newspaper concerned? What form is his examination taking? It is important in our view, and that of many other countries, that this matter should be examined.

Secondly, what period of reflection does he think is necessary, and when will it come to an end? Has he seen the words of Sir Roy Welensky, who said that future talks were always bound to fail unless Mr. Smith brought Africans into his Government and made a number of other changes? Is he making any representations to the Smith régime on this matter?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I am in contact with Mr. Smith. I agree that the situation has not developed possibly as we in this House hoped it might on the ground in Rhodesia in relation to contacts between the races. I do not think that this is any reason for the House to lose patience. We ought to be very patient because the prize of a settlement in that part of Africa—a just settlement agreed to by the Africans—would be enormous.

As to how the questions are being examined, I shall ask for the evidence of the newspapers on the matter of breaking sanctions. I do not think the House should ignore the fact that on a number of occasions—on 18 occasions—British firms have been prosecuted,

Mr. Wall

Is there not considerable evidence that Africans who were opposed to the Pearce settlement proposals have now realised that the only alternative is eventual fusion with South Africa and have changed their minds? What is my right hon. Friend doing to ascertain the strength and depth of this opinion?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

As I said just now, I shall certainly take steps to ascertain as best I can at first hand what is happening in Rhodesia and how far these movements have gone. I would rather not take it further at the moment.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the Foreign Secretary undertake to examine the evidence in last Sunday's Observer of sanction-busting by Lonhro? Does he agree that sanction-breaking by anyone in aid and comfort of an illegal régime is the unacceptable face of treachery?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

As long as we are required to implement mandatory sanctions, if there is evidence that sanctions have been broken that evidence will be acted on and sent to the United Nations committee.

19. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the latest assessment of the attitude of African opinion in Rhodesia towards a settlement.

24. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will invite Bishop Muzorewa and other Rhodesian African leaders to London to discuss the current state of African opinion on his settlement proposals.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We try to keep in touch with all shades of Rhodesian opinion, including the Africans, as best we can. But we are not in a position at present to make a comprehensive assessment of African views. I am, of course, always willing to see anyone from Rhodesia if I think that such a meeting could contribute towards a settlement.

Mr. Molloy

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is evidence of growing apprehension and fear among white Rhodesians as well as black about the illegal régime? What can the Government do to encourage those of all races who wish to return to legality, loyalty to this House and the Crown, and the establishment of a decent democratic society? What can be done to help those in Rhodesia, both black and white, to achieve these desiderata?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's approach. It is a very bad situation that is arising in Rhodesia, and all Rhodesians, both European and African, should realise it. That it why I hope that they will come together and make proposals that Her Majesty's Government can accept as a basis for settlement. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall try our best. We have not made as much progresss as I would hope, but I will report to the House as discussions go on.

Sir F. Bennett

Does not all history in Africa show that where a minority refuses to deal with a nationalist majority the situation becomes increasingly more difficult? Would not Mr. Smith be well advised to start talking seriously to representatives of African opinion before it becomes more extreme than it is now?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I agree with my hon. Friend. He is right.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman specifically to invite Bishop Muzorewa and other African leaders to this country to open negotiations if it proves impossible to open negotiations right across the board? Is he aware that informed opinion in this country—the African Bureau for example—and not irresponsible opinion takes the view that it is time to open negotiations with the majority rather than to continue to attempt to negotiate with an unrepresentative minority?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

It would be useless to open a negotiation to which the governing party in Rhodesia would not be a party. It does not seem to me that that would lead us anywhere. If we can get the parties to come together, many more things are possible, including possibly the negotiation.

Mr. Jenkins

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

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