HC Deb 26 June 1974 vol 875 cc1529-31
3. Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contacts he has made with the Smith régime in Southern Rhodesia; and if he will make a statement.

23. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the progress of negotiations between the Rhodesian Government and the African National Council.

25. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent contact has taken place with the Smith régime in Southern Rhodesia; and whether he will make a statement.

The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. David Ennals)

My right hon. Friend has received no direct reports from the Rhodesian régime, but hon. Members will have seen in the Press that it has detained Dr. Edson Sithole, the Publicity Secretary of the African National Council, and that in consequence Bishop Muzorewa has announced that the ANC would suspend negotiations with Mr. Smith. These developments seem to set back the prospects for an early accommodation between the Africans and Europeans in Rhodesia, since in our view such an accommodation must be reached if there is to be a peaceful settlement for Rhodesia.

I sincerely hope that wiser counsels will prevail and that Dr. Sithole will be released.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

In the light of those remarks may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he would care to say—as Bishop Muzorewa has indicated his intention to discontinue negotiations with the régime—why it is that his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is meeting Canaan Banaana, the No. 2 of the African National Council, this week? Further, in this situation, will he confirm that he and his right hon. and hon. Friends will begin to take a more charitable view towards the white minority in Rhodesia, who, coming under increasing pressure—as they will in the coming months, as a result of the changed situation in Mozambique—will need some encouragement from this country if they are to be persuaded to accept a reasonable solution to the problem which will avoid widespread bloodshed?

Mr. Ennals

On the second half of the hon. Gentleman's question, the encouragement I want to give to the white minority in Rhodesia is for them to recognise the facts of the situation and properly enter into negotiations with the Africans to secure a just and fair settlement which would be acceptable to the majority. In answer to the first part of the question, I very much hope that Dr. Sithole will be released, but we welcome the possibility and likelihood that representatives of the African National Council will be here in London shortly. They are hoping to meet my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and this should provide a valuable opportunity to enable us to be brought up to date on discussions taking place there and to take stock of the situation.

Mr. Huckfield

Although there may not have been any recent contacts between the British Government and the Smith régime, is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the level of contacts that have been maintained in Rhodesia by British firms and State-owned corporations? For example, is he happy about the sales representation force which is still being maintained by British Airways in Salisbury?

Mr. Ennals

I am aware of the problem of the British Airways office in Salisbury, and I am informed that this matter is now being looked at as part of the general review, particularly in respect to sanctions against Rhodesia.

Mr. Wall

Is it not Government policy to hope that talks between Mr. Smith and the ANC will succeed, in which case does the right hon. Gentleman believe that the sort of remarks alleged to have been made by his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State in Zambia will help in any such agreement? Is it not a fact that Bishop Muzorewa told the Press that he knows of no representatives of ANC who are coming to visit Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Ennals

I am not aware of the last matter mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. The representatives who are coming here are, we understand, senior representatives of the ANC. It remains to be seen whether they will come with any message from the Bishop, but they will be welcome here because it will enable us to be brought up to date. On the situation following the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, I support what she said, and I believe that the representations she made on her visits to East Africa will be extremely helpful in respect of contacts with organisations in Rhodesia.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Will the right hon. Gentleman look again at his original reply, in which he appeared to suggest that all Europeans are on one side with Mr. Smith and all Africans are on the other side against Mr. Smith? This racialist over-simplification is damaging. Will he avoid it in future?

Mr. Ennals

The hon. Gentleman is right to the extent that there are differences, and happily so, within the white minority. It has been reported in the Press that there will shortly be an election, and those differences may well be made clear. On the point about the African majority, I have little doubt that the African National Council enjoys a wide measure of support among Africans in Rhodesia, but it does not mean that it has any exclusive claim to represent African opinion.

Forward to