HC Deb 28 April 1976 vol 910 cc353-8
2. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a further statement on recent developments in Rhodesia.

3. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement about Rhodesia.

12. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the latest situation in Rhodesia.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Anthony Crosland)

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in his former capacity as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, set out in his statement of 22nd March the terms on which Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to become involved in further efforts to negotiate a settlement. Recent events in Rhodesia can only have underlined the need for the white community to face up to the realities of the situation and to do so soon.

Mr. Lane

As it is increasingly clear that the only hope of a secure and peaceful future in Rhodesia for both European and Africans lies in a negotiated settlement leading to early majority rule, has not the time come for a new British attempt to stop the drift to disaster and to disaster and to restart negotiations—subject, of course, to the hesitation of the Secretary of State—for example, by calling together a conference outside Rhodesia to which the right hon. Gentleman could invite not only Mr. Smith and the African leaders but perhaps some representatives of neigh bouring States?

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir. I have considered this very carefully, as obviously my predecessor did, and I share his view that no further direct intervention by Her Majesty's Government would be effective unless there were a prior commitment on the part of the Smith régime in Rhodesia to the four preconditions set out by my predecessor in his statement of 22nd March. Otherwise we should simply start off again on that long, stony road that we did not advance up but tried to inch up over the last 12 years.

Mr. Whitehead

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his new responsibilities, and on the elevation of Grimsby to be one of the chancelleries of Europe. Could he now perhaps accept that the whole House would welcome the Kissinger acceptance of the British Government's initiatives, and particularly the undertaking on the part of the American Administration to repeal the Byrd amendment concerning the sale of chrome by Rhodesia to the United States? Will not my right hon. Friend agree that there is now a case for saying to the Rhodesian people, black and white alike, that Her Majesty's Government will talk to any representatives of both communities there who will move for a settlement not by the cosmetic means now being employed by Mr. Smith?

Mr. Crosland

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his congratulations. I approach this new task with great diffidence, and I hope that hon. Members will be tolerant if during my apprenticeship I fail to answer all their questions to their total satisfaction.

On the substance of my hon. Friend's question, I entirely agree with him. Dr. Kissinger's speech is, of course, a major contribution to African policy. What it makes clear is that the views which my predecessor and I have been expressing on Rhodesia are not simply those of the British Government. They are not simply those of the leaders of African Governments. They are the views of all the other members of the European Economic Community and also now the views, clearly expressed, of the United States. This is a major contribution—in my view, at any rate—to a possible solution of this problem.

Mr. Maudling

I add our congratulations to the new Foreign Secretary, and hope that he has a very successful and very brief tenure of office. Will he confirm that it is really his intention to do nothing whatsoever about Rhodesia?

Mr. Crosland

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and, indeed, grateful for the letter he wrote to me in the columns of The Times. It at least had the advantage that I did not have to send an acknowledgement.

On the substance of the question, I adhere to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 22nd March. This is a matter which obviously I had the privilege of discussing with Dr. Kissinger when I met him last Saturday. It is my view that as of now, until the Smith regime accepts the four preconditions set out by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, a direct or personal British initiative would not contribute.

Mr. MacFarquhar

I add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend. In the light of the very important Kissinger speech, would it not be wise for Her Majesty's Government at least to explore whether behind the brave words that Mr. Smith is putting out in Salisbury there may not now be a realisation that he is totally isolated in the Western world and that it is time to come to terms with the African majority?

Mr. Crosland

I shall certainly continue to consider—and consider daily—whether there is a new initiative that I could take, or that Her Majesty's Government could take, that would ease the situation. But for the moment the essential thing is for the white community in Rhodesia to grasp the full significance of the Kissinger speech, which means that they are dealing not just with the British Government and the four presidents, but with an opinion now held by the whole world community.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is the right hon Gentleman aware that, although we wish him well, he and Dr. Kissinger have made a bad start in Africa and that between them the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and the American Secretary of State are undermining every moderate person in Rhodesia and giving comfort to Soviet imperialism in Southern Africa? Since Southern Africa is vital to the European economy and to Western strategy, how does the right hon. Gentleman now propose to make his stand to defend those vital British interests?

Mr. Crosland

Apart from questions of morality and justice about majority rule, which I leave aside for the moment, if the hon. Gentleman is talking about legitimacy in terms of national interests and in terms of the global balance of power, I suggest to him that. if the United Kingdom Government and Dr. Kissinger had not taken the line that we have taken, we should have undermined every single moderate black leader in the entire continent of Africa.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. This subject arises again.

17. Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on Rhodesia.

Mr. Crosland

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my reply to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane).

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that in the light of Mr. Smith's response to Dr. Kissinger's speech yesterday, the Government should now recognise the apprehensions that are felt by all minority groups in Rhodesia, and not only white minority groups, as to their future in an independent Zimbabwe? In those circumstances, will he now publicise Her Majesty's Government's proposals for their protection during any transfer of power and afterwards?

Mr. Crosland

No, as of now I am not prepared to go beyond what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 22nd March. As the hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friend said that any consideration of safeguards and guarantees for the white minority must come in stage two, after, not before, the Smith regime has announced its acceptance of the four preconditions mentioned in his statement. That still seems to be the right order in which to proceed, but this is something that I am keeping very much in mind in case the situation changes.

Mr. George Rodgers

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Mr. Smith has proved a very slippery customer who has utilised every gesture and overture that has been made by the British Government to extend his period in power? Is there not a danger that even a progression of two years, as suggested by Dr. Kissinger, towards majority rule would be utilised for further procrastination?

Mr. Crosland

There is no doubt that there has been a lot of procrastination on the part of Mr. Smith over the past 12 years. The "18 months to two years", as the Prime Minister put it, is not a period during which we think no movement should occur. It should be a period during which the elections to provide majority rule must occur. Of course, it will take some time to work out electoral arrangements. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to take a period of 18 months to two years. Should any change in the situation occur which alters our view, we shall still be able to alter it.

Mr. Churchill

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Dr. Kissinger's one-sided approach to the problem of Rhodesia, an approach that was made without even going to see the situation at first-hand or informing himself of the position of the Opposition, is widely regretted? Furthermore, is he aware that any decision to give economic assistance, either by the British Government or the American Government, to Governments which are countenancing the use of their territory for terrorist activity against British territory is widely resented by millions of people in this country?

Mr. Crosland

The question of British aid to Mozambique has been many times discussed at Question Time. We have made it clear more than once why we think that the aid should be given. They are the reasons which were repeated by Dr. Kissinger in his speech in Lusaka yesterday. It seems a proper stance to adopt, to be one-sided in support of democracy.

Mr. Maudling

What representations has the right hon. Gentleman made to President Machel of Mozambique about the actions of terrorist gangs from Mozambique, such as committing armed robbery and murder in the British territory of Rhodesia?

Mr. Crosland

I deplore that incident as it was reasonably and properly deplored by the South African Government. Such incidents are regrettable wherever they occur and whoever is responsible, but we have said repeatedly that violence is inevitable in Rhodesia unless agreement can be reached on a rapid transfer to majority rule.

Mr. Maudling

What representations are being made by the Foreign Secretary?

Mr. Crosland

There have been no representations—

Mr. Churchill


Mr. Crosland

—because acts of violence will be committed in different parts of the sub-continent by different sides as long as there is no sign of any settlement over Rhodesia. It is impossible to make representations every time an act of violence occurs. The lesson to be drawn from the violence is the need for an early settlement of the Rhodesian problem.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend look further into the interesting question put to him by the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) about closing the border between South Africa and Rhodesia, since clearly to impose the widest sanctions will drive home to white Rhodesians that they are totally isolated?

Mr. Crosland

I will look into that matter, but I stress, as I did in answer to the Question, that there is a limit to our power or, indeed, influence in a matter of this kind.

I should like to see sanctions tightened up. We constantly attempt that, but the experience of the last 12 years has shown that sanctions alone will not solve the problem. I regret to say that the problem has become not an economic but a political and military one.