HC Deb 04 December 1974 vol 882 cc1555-66
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. James Callaghan)

I will, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, make a statement on the Government's review of policy towards Southern Africa, which is now complete. We believe it essential for Britain to make clear its firm stand against the policy of apartheid and racialism.

Following the Government's decision to reimpose the United Nations embargo on the sale of arms to South Africa, we have now completed an overhaul of the licensing arrangements for arms sales. This will ensure that our policies are fully in line with our international undertakings.

The Government have acted upon the Trade and Industry Sub-Committee's Report concerning wages and conditions in South Africa. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade has commended the committee's guidelines on employment practices to the chairmen of British firms with interests in South Africa. To assist this, I am making a new appointment of a labour attaché to our embassy in Pretoria.

In matters of civil trade, and where international obligations do not conflict, it is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government that commercial trading relations with other countries should be based on considerations of their internal or external policies. So far as normal trade and investment are concerned, firms remain free to carry out existing or future contacts in South Africa. The usual range of export services, including trade missions and ECGD cover, will remain available as for markets of equal commercial standing.

The Government regard sporting contacts with South Africa, so long as selection on the basis of race or colour is maintained, as repugnant, and they will receive no official support or approval. The Government ask organisations and individuals to take serious note of this policy, although we shall, clearly, not interfere with their right to decide these matters for themselves.

It is nearly 20 years since the Simons-town Agreement was signed, in circumstances very different from those of today, and some of the provisions of the agreement are no longer appropriate. We intend to hold discussions with the South African Government to bring the agreement to an end. We should be ready to use on a "customer" basis, as other countries do, the docking and other facilities at Simonstown as and when necessary.

The Government have considered the Advisory Opinion concerning Namibia which the International Court of Justice gave in 1971. This is a complicated matter, and I am, therefore, circulating a fuller statement of our position in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The Government's conclusion is that the mandate can no longer be regarded as being in force, that South Africa's occupation of Namibia is unlawful, and that it should withdraw. I am informing both the South African Government and the United Nations of these conclusions.

There are certain elements of the court's Advisory Opinion which we do not accept. In particular, we cannot agree that the existing resolutions of the Security Council concerning Namibia are mandatory. This is a point of fundamental importance, with implications going beyond the Namibia question itself. Nevertheless in keeping with the spirit of these resolutions we have decided to give no further promotional support for trade with Namibia.

The Government look to South Africa to heed the United Nations calls on her to withdraw from this international territory, and we shall lend our support in the international community to help bring this about.

We have made a contribution of £10,000 to the United Nations Fund for Namibia, and we shall, subject to Parliamentary approval, contribute £20,000 to UNICEF Funds for humanitarian assistance, through liberation movements, to women and children refugees from Namibia. We also propose to make a contribution to the United Nations Research Institute for Namibia at Lusaka. We have made repeated representations to the South Africa Government concerning the plight of SWAPO leaders and will develop contacts with representatives of SWAPO.

As regards Rhodesia, I set out in detail our policy when the House renewed the sanctions order on 8th November. The House will have noted that the situation is more fluid than for some time, and I shall be ready to take advantage of any developments.

As the House knows, I have planned a visit to Africa at the end of this month, and this will give me the opportunity of personal discussions with the African Heads of State most closely involved.

We seek a just and peaceful solution, which will require the support of the African people, and in this the African National Congress, ZANU and ZAPU have an important rôle to play. These bodies know that we are willing to enter into discussions with them as an essential part of discussions about Rhodesia's future.

Our aim throughout Southern Africa is to make a constructive contribution to peace, justice and racial equality, and we shall work in co-operation with other countries and organisations to that end.

Mr. Blaker

The Foreign Secretary has made an important statement which will require careful study, especially that part relating to Namibia. On South Africa, I will not press him further at the moment on Simonstown, since I understand that we are to have a debate before long which will cover that matter. But we welcome what he said about ordinary trade with South Africa, which carries further what he said in the debate on the Address about trade not being a badge of respectability. Would he agree that what he has just said means that the Government will welcome and encourage trade with South Africa?

As for Rhodesia, the right hon. Gentleman knows that the Conservative Government consistently strove to get a settlement within the six principles, and nearly obtained one. In this new and fast-moving situation, will he accept my assurance that, if he sees a suitable opportunity for a sensible intervention to secure a settlement within the six principles, he will have the support of this side of the House? Since other countries now appear to be involved, would he make it clear to the House that, constitutionally, responsibility still remains that of Britain?

On Namibia, the statement mentions the giving of help for humanitarian assistance through liberation movements. How does the right hon. Gentleman expect to be sure that the aid which is given is used for humanitarian purposes?

Mr. Callaghan

The normal practice will continue with trade with South Africa, namely that firms and companies in this country will no doubt take what action they think is right to secure business there.

I am glad to hear what the hon. Gentleman says about the six principles and Rhodesia. We have been having discussions at various levels since August, especially with Zambia, who took the initiative in this matter as I reported to the House in the sanctions debate. Mr. Mwaanga, the Foreign Secretary, came to see me in Geneva when I was in the middle of the Cyprus talks. I welcome very much the initiative that Zambia has been taking and the opportunity of concerting our policies with her and other countries such as Botswana and Tanzania. Of course this is constitutionally Britain's responsibility and in the end the constitutional position will have to be resumed. But I welcome the efforts of any country in Africa to settle what is essentially an African problem.

On the question of liberation movements, the use of organisations such as UNICEF is the proper way in which to handle these funds for humanitarian assistance, and I have no doubt that they will be properly disposed of.

Mr. Bottomley

Bearing in mind that the ultimate responsibility for the transference of power to Rhodesia rests with the United Kingdom, has my right hon. Friend considered arranging a meeting between himself and Ian Smith?

Mr. Callaghan

Yes, Sir. I have thought about this, obviously, but in the first place, as I said in the sanctions debate, it seemed to me much better, if possible, to concert our policies with the Africa Governments concerned. If, now or later, or, indeed, when I am in Africa, Mr. Smith were to express a desire to see me, I should, of course, consider that seriously.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we welcome his statement and the approach that permeates it? Is he satisfied that sufficient advice on guidelines on labour relations is given to British firms setting up in South Africa? Second, in view of the fluidity of the situation—probably in South Africa, too, to some extent—will he make the strongest representations to the South African Government that a genuine peaceful settlement in Namibia is possible if they recognise SWAPO, as they should do?

Mr. Callaghan

I am much obliged to the hon. Member for what he said about the general trend of the statement, which I believe sets our policy on realistic lines, consistent with opinion throughout the world, and on lines which will serve the best interests of peace in Southern Africa as a whole.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade has issued the guidelines. We have had replies from over 250 companies so far. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would welcome questions and would be willing to give further details. The fact that I shall appoint a new labour attaché in Pretoria, who will obviously be in close touch on these matters, will be of assistance.

Dealing with Namibia, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the cause of peace there, and of peace in Southern Africa, requires that the South Africans should recognise SWAPO at the earliest possible moment. Then, I agree with the hon. Gentleman—and I hope Mr. Vorster sees it in this way—there is probably the best prospect for years of securing a proper settlement and giving independence and self-determination to that country.

Mr. Dalyell

On behalf of those who have recently been on delegations to the Foreign Office on the question of Namibia, may I thank the Foreign Secretary? Are there not priorities of aid and trade and technical co-operation with Namibia if solutions are to be found to this problem?

Mr. Callaghan

There is a case for this. It presents certain difficulties. It is my desire to see that such assistance as we give should be in the form of preparing that country to become indepen- dent and self-governing, to train those who will be needed and to ensure that the country has a viable economic future.

Mr. Amery

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that because of the present fluid situation in Southern Africa no one would want to say anything that would make his task more difficult? May I follow the question put to him by his right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bottomley)? Does he not think that his influence and ability to mediate or work for a peaceful settlement would be greatly increased if he extended his forthcoming African journey both to Salisbury and to Pretoria?

Mr. Callaghan

I dealt with this question three weeks or a month ago. I agree that the situation is moving rather fast, and I am glad of that. As for meeting Mr. Smith, our previous experience can be summed up by saying, "Twice bitten three times shy". I should want very carefully to consider whether I would be helping towards a solution. As for the possibility of visiting South Africa, when I have had talks with the African leaders and we have measured each other's approach to the problem, that may be the moment for taking a decision on that matter.

Mr. Russell Kerr

While in general terms I welcome the Foreign Secretary's statement, may I press him on the question of the humanitarian aid being given to Namibia? Is he aware that £10,000 seems derisory in view of the known degree of deprivation in that territory? Will he think again, at least to the extent of moving the decimal point one place to the right?

Mr. Callaghan

I appreciate what my hon. Friend says and will certainly give consideration to it. I have not personally been into these sums of money that are being given. I am bound to say to hon. Members that we are being squeezed pretty tight on our budgets this year by an iron-fisted Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

May I welcome the Secretary of State's move towards a possible visit to Pretoria? Three weeks ago the right hon. Gentleman was very much against that. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is vital that he should do this now, especially after what he said about Namibia, especially in view of our uranium contract on which we very much depend for future power, and especially in view of the general placatory attitude now being taken by the South African Government towards Rhodesia's problems? Is it not vital that the visit to Pretoria should be made as soon as possible?

Mr. Callaghan

I take note of the right hon. Gentleman's opinion and I will certainly weigh it. I have no prejudices one way or the other, except for my intense prejudice against apartheid and racialism. Apart from that I will go anywhere and do anything if it will assist in reaching a settlement.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is genuine concern that citizens of Namibia, Rhodesia and South Africa resident in this country are being subjected to harassment and intimidation by agents of the Bureau of State Security of South Africa? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it remains Her Majesty's Government's policy that no co-operation is to be given by the security forces of the United Kingdom to the South African Bureau of State Security and that residents of those countries living in this country are entitled to the protection of the British police against any such harassment if they seek help and advice from our police?

Mr. Callaghan

Speaking from one of my past experiences, I do not think it usual to discuss security matters in this House. In any case, this is a matter for the Home Secretary, if he wants to discuss it. Obviously any citizen resident here is entitled to the full protection of the law and of the police forces of this country if he is being harassed.

Mr. Hastings

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there are many millions of white and coloured people in South Africa and Rhodesia, quite apart from the Governments of those two countries, who are entirely reasonable folk and who are very worried about their present position and their future? Does he think that it would help the climate of opinion generally if he appeared to be boycotting both South Africa and Rhodesia? Is this not another argument for his thinking most carefully indeed before deciding not to visit these capitals?

Mr. Callaghan

I shall appear to be boycotting them only if Conservative Members suggest that I am. This is a case of deciding what are the right priorities. In the circumstances in which this visit was planned, the right priorities were to try to get a common policy, if such were possible, between the African neighbours of Rhodesia and ourselves. I will not go any further than that and I will not be intimidated into visiting anywhere by hon. Gentlemen if I do not think that it will serve the cause which I seek to serve.

Mr. Kinnock

The word "negotiate" fascinates me and many of my hon. Friends. Given that the negotiations involve giving and taking, can my right hon. Friend say what he expects to give and to take in negotiations with the South African Government? Will he from today undertake to suspend the use of United Kingdom facilities by South African military personnel, which are our obligations under the Simonstown Agreement? Will he take it as an absolute fundamental that in what he calls the fluidity of the Southern African situation, unless we wish to get washed away, all the blandishments which Mr. Vorster is currently purveying throughout South Africa should be completely dismissed and distrusted and should not be taken as being an accurate guide to the way in which South Africa is going? Can my right hon. Friend further tell us, in the event of British firms not responding to the Government direction about the treatment of South African labour, what the Government will do to enforce those conditions?

Mr. Callaghan

My hon. Friend must have misheard me. I do not think I used the word "negotiate" throughout the whole of my statement. As for the position of British firms, I think my hon. Friend had better table a Question to the Secretary of State for Trade.

Mr. Gow

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us on the Conservative side of the House hope that sportsmen in this country will disregard the advice given by the Government? Is he aware that those of us who hold that view are no less opposed than is the right hon. Gentleman——

Mr. William Hamilton

Of course you are.

Mr. Gow

—to apartheid but that we believe that the best way of combating it is to multiply and not to restrict contacts?

Mr. Callaghan

The experience of the last year or two does not bear out the hon. Gentleman's view.

Mr. Hooley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his decision to accept the Advisery Opinion of the International Court to declare the occupation of Namibia illegal will be extremely welcome? Can he spell out a little more clearly the reservations about the acceptance of the Security Council's resolution which derives directly from the International Court's Advisory Opinion? Can he also make it clear that Her Majesty's Government would not be satisfied by the creation of Bantustans?

Mr. Callaghan

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement which I propose to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT dealing with our reservations. If he studies that he will see what are the difficulties about a total acceptance of this Advisory Opinion. The future of Namibia will best be determined, no doubt with the assistance of the United Nations, by negotiations between the SWAPO leaders and the South African Government. That would be the best way. We shall be willing to give any assistance we can.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Should we not welcome everything that can be done to bring labour relations in British firms in South Africa up to the level of the best South African firms? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many British firms have fallen well below the level of South African firms? When the right hon. Gentleman spoke of his proper detestation of racialism, may we be sure that this applies to both sides of the Zambesi, and similarily his principle of racial equality, whatever precisely that means?

Mr. Callaghan

I know that the hon. Gentleman wishes to be helpful on these, as on all other matters. I am never backward, and I hope none of my hon. Friends is, in taking each case and applying to it the principles by which we stand. I seem to remember that I reacted rather swiftly in the case of another territory in the Continent of Africa about three weeks or a month ago.

Mr. Ogden

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that if there is to be a priority in his journey to Africa, and if Rhodesia is to be a priority, a visit to the Government of South Africa may be very helpful in getting a settlement? Whether we like it or not, the Government of South Africa is an African government included in the negotiations.

Mr. Callaghan

I do not know whether the House wants to get rid of me. I certainly take very careful note of the suggestions for the places that I should visit. I will certainly reach a conclusion on that matter.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

Order. We must move on. We have a heavy programme ahead of us.

Following is the further statement

It will be recalled that the Security Council of the United Nations sought the advice of the International Court on the question "what are the legal consequences for states of the continued presence of South Africa in Namibia notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276". The principal conclusions reached by the Court in its advisory opinion of 23 June 1971 were—

(1) by 13 votes to 2. that, the continued presence of South Africa in Namibia being illegal, South Africa is under obligation to withdraw its administration from Namibia immediately and thus put an end to its occupation of the territory;

(2) by 11 votes to 4. that States Members of the United Nations are under obligation to recognise the illegality of South Africa's presence in Namibia and the invalidity of its acts on behalf of or concerning Namibia and to refrain from any acts and in particular any dealings with the Government of South Africa implying recognition of the legality of, or lending support or assistance to, such presence and administration.

2. In October 1971 the Government of the day informed Parliament and the Security Council that they did not accept these conclusions.

3. In its opinion the Court examined the legality of Resolution 2145 of 1966 by which the General Assembly purported to terminate the mandate. One of the underlying questions, to which the Court gave an affirmative answer, was whether the General Assembly had the competence to make such an executive decision. The Charter confers upon the General Assembly powers which, with certain exceptions of very limited scope, are recommendatory only, and in our opinion the arguments in support of the legal effectiveness of the Resolution are not convincing. Accordingly, we are unable to accept the Court's reasoning on Resolution 2145 and its conclusion that that Resolution operated of itself to terminate the mandate.

4. However, South Africa has itself repudiated the mandate and the obligations which it accepted by virtue of the mandate. The United Nations by resolutions commanding very wide support both in the Assembly and in the Security Council has adopted the position that, owing to fundamental breaches of its obligations on the part of the Mandatory, the mandate is no longer in force. In view of South Africa's conduct, by which she has divested herself of any entitlement under the mandate, and of the recognition thereof and response thereto by the United Nations and the international community, the mandate cannot be regarded as still alive and operative; and with the termination of the mandate South Africa's rights to administer the territory have lapsed. Nevertheless the international status of the Territory still continues, since no lawful basis exists or has ever existed upon which South Africa can or could have unilaterally altered that status.

5. The General Assembly having called the attention of the Security Council to Resolution 2145, the Council adopted Resolutions in 1969 and 1970 of which the essential one was 276 of 1970. This Resolution reaffirmed Resolution 2145, declared the presence of South African authorities in Namibia and all acts taken by the Government of South Africa on behalf of or concerning the Territory after termination of the mandate to be illegal, and called upon all States to refrain from any dealings with the Government of South Africa inconsistent with this declaration. There was no prior finding under Article 39 of the Charter to found a mandatory resolution within Chapter VII; indeed proposals for such a finding were not accepted. Nevertheless the opinion of the Court was that Resolution 276 imposed obligations upon member States. The Government believe that the course of events in the Security Council and the consultation amongst its members do not support the conclusions of fact asserted in the Court's opinion. And as a matter of law they remain of the view that the Security Council cannot take decisions generally binding on member States unless there has been a determination under Article 39 of the existence of a threat to the peace, a breach of the peace or an act of aggression. Consequently they are unable to accept this part of the advisory opinion.

6. However, for the reasons explained above, the Government take the view that South Africa is in occupation without title of a territory which has international status. This occupation is unlawful and South Africa should withdraw. Meanwhile South Africa remains the de facto adminstering authority. However, in the circumstances there is an obligation on States not to recognise any right of South Africa to continue to administer the territory. But there is no obligation, in the absence of appropriate decisions under Chapter VII of the Charter, to take measures which are in nature of sanctions. It follows that we do not accept an obligation to take active measures of pressure to limit or stop commercial or industrial relations of our nationals with the South African administration of Namibia.