HC Deb 22 May 1974 vol 874 cc354-5
4 . Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what advice is given about the domestic political situation by his Department's representatives in South Africa to visiting British trade missions who seek political guidance.

Miss Joan Lestor

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to a similar Question on 1st May.—[Vol. 872, c. 1128-30.]

Mr. Huckfield

Is my hon. Friend aware that members of these trade missions get some of their air fares and their expenses paid, their appointments made for them and other facilities provided? Is she not aware that many of us feel that by continuing to do business with South African firms British firms are only seen to be propping up apartheid? Is it not about time that this Government stopped financing British-sponsored trade missions to South Africa?

Miss Lestor

I shall certainly bear that question in mind when we are conducting the general review of the whole question of our relationship with South Africa which is now taking place, as my hon. Friend knows. In the meantime, what we have done is write to all the British firms, companies, subsidiaries and associates in South Africa drawing attention to the guidelines contained in the TISC Report. That goes for a start, but the other matters I shall draw to the attention of those of us who are conducting the review of South Africa in general.

Mr. Hal Miller

Does the hon. Lady not agree that there is some hypocrisy in the suggestions of her hon. Friends, and that if they really wanted to help the African population of South Africa and of Rhodesia they would do everything to encourage their development by trading and other means?

Miss Lestor

I do not believe that there is any hypocrisy in what my hon. Friend has said: quite the contrary. I suggest to the hon. Member that it seems to some of us that the perpetuation of the policies which he has mentioned gives no evidence that conditions have been improved for those subjected to inhuman treatment in South Africa.

Mr. Jay

Does my hon. Friend not agree that in dealing with countries with which we have political disagreements— whether South Africa, the Soviet Union or China—it is essential to distinguish between arms contracts and peaceful trade?

Miss Lestor

By banning arms sales to South Africa we have already made that distinction, but we are conducting a survey of the whole question of our relationship with South Africa, and whatever distinctions are made between arms and other trade is a matter that I think we should discuss in great detail.

Sir A. Douglas-Home

When the hon. Lady is reviewing the policy towards South Africa, will she recollect that the present Secretary of State for Defence told us in 1970 that his policy and that of the Socialist Government was to maximise trade with South Africa? Is that still the Government's policy?

Miss Lestor

I have already told the House that the whole question of trade with South Africa is under review, despite the fact that—[Interruption.] Not everything is under review. The Wasp helicopter is no longer under review, because a decision has already been announced. That is one thing that it not under review. [Interruption.] I shall repeat what I said. Not everything is under review. The question of the Wasp helicopter is not under review, as the licence has been revoked. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I will, if hon. Members will let me. On the general point, whatever may or may not have been said in 1970, the whole question of further trade with South Africa is under review. It will be an extensive review. I hope that we shall be able to make a statement within the next few weeks.