HC Deb 18 February 1976 vol 905 cc1270-4
9. Mr. loan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his meeting with Rhodesian African leaders.

Mr. James Callaghan

I was glad to accept a proposal from Mr. Nkomo that he should visit London from 1st to 5th February during an adjournment in the current talks between himself and Mr. Smith. My discussions with Mr. Nkomo were wide-ranging and dealt with the political situation in Southern Africa generally as well as with the particular problem of Rhodesia. I have agreed with Mr. Nkomo that details of our discussions should remain confidential.

Mr. Evans

Does my right hon. Friend agree that time is running out for the illegal régime and that, if it does not have serious constitutional talks to meet the serious aspirations of the majority of the people in Rhodesia, it will be taken to the barricades? Does he also agree that, just as in the past a number of nations have refused to recognise this illegal régime, no one will get it out of the difficulties it gets itself into?

Mr. Callaghan

I have very recently pointed out my hon. Friend's general sentiments to those in control of Rhodesia at the present time.

Mr. McCrindle

Will the Foreign Secretary take this opportunity to clarify what would be the Government's reaction to the introduction of either Russian weapons or Cuban troops into Rhodesia before the Government have discharged their constitutional responsibility?

Mr. Callaghan

The Government would have a clear responsibility in Rhodesia provided the régime acknowledged Britain's authority, with all that that entails. I see no sign of that so far.

Mr. Luard

In view of the rather gloomy views expressed by President Kaunda about impending civil war in Rhodesia, would my right hon. Friend make known to Mr. Smith and the Rhodesian régime, by whatever means available to him, that there is a very urgent need to reach a settlement in the constitutional talks now taking place?

Mr. Callaghan

I am continuing to do this. One of my very senior and most trusted officials was in Southern Africa only 10 days ago and proceeded directly to Washington in order to discuss these matters. I can assure the House that, although it is not possible to make many public statements on this matter, the seriousness of the situation is being conveyed to Mr. Smith and the European in Rhodesia and elsewhere. I trust they will take due note of it.

Mr. Hooson

In view of the potential danger of the situation in Southern Africa to the whole of the Western world, has the Foreign Secretary had discussions with his counterparts in NATO with a view to bringing influence to bear on the Smith régime to show that Rhodesia might act as a catalyst for the whole of Southern Africa and provide the circumstances for an explosion which could affect the whole of the Western world?

Mr. Callaghan

I have had many discussions both bilaterally and on a multilateral basis on this matter recently. I should like to make clear to Mr. Smith and those who follow him that the sure way to avoid the threat of bloodshed in Rhodesia is for the illegal régime to agree to meet the legitimate aspirations of the African majority and to do so very soon.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend accept that it is the serious desire of everyone in the House that a peaceful solution should be reached on the Rhodesian constitutional issue and that the last thing we want is any further bloodshed? Will he convey to the South African Government that if they send troops into Rhodesia they will provoke the kind of backlash that will lead to a very serious loss of life? Is he aware that we are all certain that he will do everything possible to reach a settlement in Rhodesia?

Mr. Callaghan

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said in the first part of his question. There is no doubt about the extreme gravity of the situation that Mr. Smith is facing. He has very little time left to come to an accommodation with Mr. Nkomo. That has been pointed out by me and by surrounding Governments in Africa on all sides of the question. I hope that he will soon meet Mr. Nkomo and give a positive response to his proposals.

Mr. Amery

I appreciate that it is right for the right hon. Gentleman to exercise the maximum pressure on Mr. Smith to come to terms with Mr. Nkomo, but will he make clear to Mr. Nkomo, and perhaps more widely, that, if the talks were broken off and the Africans decided to resort to terrorism and invasion from Mozambique as the alternative method of settling the problem, we could not be a party to continuing sanctions in circumstances which would make us accomplices of the guerrillas?

Mr. Callaghan

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Africans and not Mr. Nkomo deciding on guerrilla activity, and I think what he said is right. If only Mr. Smith would realise that Mr. Nkomo is probably the last chance he has of avoiding guerrilla activity which will spread until Rhodesia is engulfed! The future of sanctions in relation to a situation that might arise is a hypothetical question. I cannot say that sanctions would fall away unless the regime accepted a return to legality. That has always been the test.

13. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement about constitutional talks on the future of Rhodesia, and about recent contacts with Mr. Joshua Nkomo and Mr. Garfield Todd.

Mr. James Callaghan

The present situation in Rhodesia makes it vital that the opportunity to reach a peaceful settlement presented by the current talks between Mr. Smith and Mr. Nkomo is not missed. But I think we should respect the decision of the parties themselves to make no public comment for the present on the substance of the talks.

On the question of my discussions with Mr. Nkomo I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I have already given this afternoon. I hope to meet Mr. Todd, who is an old friend, on a social occasion in the near future.

Mr. Whitehead

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while Mr. Todd's conduct on his visit here has been exemplary, as the Rhodesian Herald said, he should be returned on 1st March not to detention but to the conference table? He is one of the few white people in Rhodesia trusted by the African majority. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that that comes about?

Mr. Callaghan

I do not think that it would help Mr. Todd if I were to take any steps of that nature. I agree with my hon. Friend that Mr. Todd's wisdom could add a great deal to the reconcilia- tion of the Smith régime with Mr. Nkomo.

Mr. Maudling

As the Foreign Secretary could not tell the House that be could get assurances from the MPLA before recognising it that it will respect the territory and constitution of Rhodesia, will he assure us that the Government are making contingency plans in case the Cuban troops present in Angola do not show such respect?

Mr. Callaghan

I suppose that question arises out of the subject of the future of Rhodesia. Certainly, the presence of Cuban troops, to which I drew attention as early as anyone, represents a potential danger to the neighbouring countries of Southern Africa. Although they may have been invited into Angola by the MPLA, they have certainly not been invited into any neighbouring countries. In our judgment, it would be by far the best thing if both the Cuban and the South African troops were to withdraw from Angola. Rhodesia's security and a good life for the people of Rhodesia will be best safeguarded if Mr. Smith and Mr. Nkomo come to an agreement on the basis of the six principles that were laid down many years ago.