HC Deb 28 April 1976 vol 910 cc365-7
10. Mr. Forman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has any plans to make an early visit to Pretoria.

Mr. Crosland

I have at present no such plans.

Mr. Forman

When he does have talks with members of the South African Government, will the right hon. Gentleman impress upon them the importance of early progress being made on a timetable for independence for Namibia so that the world can avoid witnessing in that country the kind of bloodshed I now feel to be inevitable in Rhodesia?

Mr. Crosland

I very much agree with the hon. Member. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has already referred to our view on Namibia, which is much in line with that of the hon. Member. Early progress in this direction is crucial if we are to avoid another of the racial situations which are proving so disastrous in Southern Africa.

Mr. David Steel

May I offer the right hon. Gentleman congratulations on behalf of my party on his appointment? I do not know whether he has been to Pretoria in a previous capacity but, if not, is he aware that he will find it a distinctly less congenial place than Grimsby? However, is he aware that we hope that he will not hesitate to go there if he thinks that a visit to his opposite number in South Africa would help the situation in Rhodesia or Namibia?

Mr. Crosland

If I thought a visit would help to contribute to a solution of the racial problems in South Africa, I should not hesitate to go, but at the moment it does not seem that anything particularly profound or good would follow from an early visit.

Mr. Robert Hughes

If my right hon. Friend does consider going to Pretoria, will he make clear that the British Government oppose apartheid with such vehemence that there is no question of any South African defence commitment being allied to NATO?

Mr. Crosland

I would certainly make that clear. It is on the record and our total opposition to apartheid has been stated many times.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

What discussions has the right hon. Gentleman had with the South African Government about the possibility of closing South Africa's road and rail links with Rhodesia and blocking Rhodesia's access to foreign exchange?

Mr. Crosland

I have not had discussions on this subject in the three weeks I have been in office. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, but we have no particular power to impose policies on South Africa, whether we want to or not. There is a limit in practice to the influence we can bring to bear.

Mr. Frank Allaun

In the light of six recent revelations of vast exports of arms from Great Britain to South Africa, will my right hon. Friend tell Pretoria there will be no more—either direct or indirect—and that this is part of the programme on which we fought the General Election?

Mr. Crosland

Defence equipment is a matter for my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Defence and Trade. On trade in general, it has been our policy to trade with all nations, regardless of their internal political structure.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

As part of his apprenticeship, as the right hon. Gentleman so charmingly put it, will he resolve to put British interests first and consider where we are to get our uranium and chromium rather than moralising about the internal problems of other countries?

Mr. Crosland

In my period of apprenticeship, to which the hon. and gallant Member has referred, I am new to considerations of foreign policy, but I have always assumed that the foreign policy of this country under successive Governments must be a reasonable balance between national self-interest and morality. The difficulty is in drawing the line where it should be drawn, but I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that I am not lacking in national patriotism.

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