HC Deb 18 March 1976 vol 907 cc1535-9
Q1. Mr. Rifkind

asked the Prime Minister whether he will pay an official visit to Maputo.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. Rifkind

Does the Prime Minister realise that he will now have plenty of time to accept all the invitations he receives to visit exotic world capitals?

Does he accept that, it would be intolerable for Britain to enter into any financial commitment with the Mozambique Government without a clear and unambiguous guarantee from that Government that they will not approve, condone, or permit armed intervention from Mozambique into what is still British territory?

The Prime Minister

Questions about future visits clearly refer to my visits as Prime Minister. Otherwise, this Question would, I suspect, be out of order.

I hope that the hon. Member is not suggesting that we should go back on the unanimous agreement of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, which I reported to the House at the time, and on the view now being taken by the Security Council. We have made clear our opposition to the settlement of the Rhodesian dispute by terrorism or bloodshed, but we are certainly prepared, as we agreed at the Commonwealth Conference, and as is now the wish of the Security Council, that we should make a contribution to Mozambique in respect of its financial losses through honouring the United Nations sanctions agreed on the initiative of the then Labour Government.

Mr. Ford

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us are sorry that he will not be visiting Southern Africa in the near future? Will he speak to some of his friends in charge of the Southern Africa Solidarity Fund to ensure that its resources are devoted to helping oppressed people in this area wherever they are?

The Prime Minister

Yes, that has always been my view.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Does the Prime Minister agree that the situation in Southern and Central Africa is now extremely dangerous and that great care will be needed to prevent minor clashes on the Rhodesian border from escalating into a full-scale guerrilla war? Will he take steps to improve urgently, as far as he is able, the channels of communication between this country and both black and white leaders in Rhodesia? In particular, will he accept that there is one thing upon which Mr. Smith, Mr. Nkomo, President Kaunda and Mr. Vorster are now agreed—that they want a British presence to back them up? Is the—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is long enough.

The Prime Minister

I recognise that the hon. Gentleman has been trying to help in this matter and I understand that he has spent some time in the last few days in these areas. I have no doubt that because of his sincerity in this matter, which I acknowledge, he will put at the disposal of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary all the information he has gleaned during his visit. We naturally get our own direct reports of the views of some of the leaders whom he has mentioned, but my right hon. Friend will be grateful for anything that the hon. Member is able to tell him.

Mr. Lee

Is not the time fast approaching when my right hon. Friend might go to President Maputo with a view to getting access to Rhodesia? Is it not time for us to take the initiative in this matter and to set about establishing a lawful Government in Rhodesia for the first time since 1965?

The Prime Minister

I do not believe that it would be the view of either side of the House that we should intervene in a military sense, certainly not, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made clear, to support a white minority in opposition to majority rule, when on the suggestion of successive Governments, going back to the time of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the Rhodesians have had every chance to negotiate a satisfactory settlement. There will be no question of any intervention. If we have any rôle to play in discussions we shall be ready to consider the matter. In my view it must be something that looks like succeeding and not be a reason for further manoeuvring to postpone a settlement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Does the Prime Minister accept that the Mozambique Government are either conniving at or fomenting terrorism against black and white Rhodesians across the frontier? Will he also accept that, quite apart from the illegal régime in Rhodesia, we and not the Commonwealth have the ultimate responsibility for Rhodesia? Therefore, is he aware that many Conservative Members believe that it is quite wrong to give aid to Mozambique in those circumstances?

The Prime Minister

I do not accept the right hon. Lady's views about fomenting. Mozambique has shown great patience and tolerance, because throughout this period it has not invoked the sanctions for which the Security Council has called. We proposed and invoked them when the Conservative Party was split three ways. Will the right hon. Lady say whether she supports the United Nations sanctions? Does the Conservative Party support the sanctions? [Interruption.] I can understand the nervousness of Conservative Members. Last May the right hon. Lady was told in the House about the Commonwealth agreement on financial assistance if sanctions were reimposed. Does she support that? She did not oppose it at the time.

As for outside intervention, as the House will know I called in the Soviet Ambassador immediately on his return from Moscow and warned him strongly against intervention in that part of Africa, as well as in other parts.

Mr. Thorpe

For the avoidance of doubt and as the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition has alleged that Mozambique has fomented terrorism, will the Prime Minister take steps to find out whether she includes President Kaunda of Zambia within the ambit of her condemnation?

The Prime Minister

I did not think she did. It is a matter for her if she did. I was interested in what the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) said after having met President Kaunda and others. We shall be very interested to study what he found there.

Q2. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister if he has any plans to visit Oxford.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. Skinner

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when I tabled this Question about a fortnight ago I had something else on my mind? As that has been overtaken by events, will he take a trip to Oxford in the few days remaining and consult the Oxford-based British Leyland workers about their new three-day week chairman—the £22,500 a week chairman?

Mr. Russell Kerr

£22,500 a year.

Mr. Skinner

I must not exaggerate.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

That will be a change.

Mr. Skinner

Will my right hon. Friend look at the possibility of having a snap election there to replace that chairman so that the workers can make the choice this time?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. If I do visit Oxford it will be to see the twins, not to go to Cowley.

It is not for me or even my successor to go round the country to find out what people in particular factories think about these matters. There has been a great improvement in the British Leyland situation recently in terms of productivity and in its approach to viability. However, I would rely on the elected trade union representatives in these matters. As I have explained to the House, Sir Richard Dobson was appointed by the British Leyland Board in consultation with the National Enterprise Board, and we do not interfere in these matters. However, when this appointment was put to the Government, they approved it.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

Does the Prime Minister recollect that in 1964 the present Foreign Secretary attended a crash course in economics at Oxford University? Does the right hon. Gentleman have any plans to arrange a similar course for his right hon. Friend in the next few weeks?

The Prime Minister

At that time my right hon. Friend was a Visiting Fellow of Nuffield College, as a number of distinguished right hon. and hon. Members of all parties have been. However, in view of the great disappointments—and I hope not to go finally to resignation without receiving an answer to my repeated question—I should like to arrange for similar facilities to those described by the hon. Gentleman to be provided for Opposition Front Bench spokesmen.

Mr. Luard

If my right hon. Friend should find himself with some time on his hands in the weeks to come, will he accept that he would be extremely welcome to visit my constituency, which is already quite well known to him? Does he appreciate that there are other things to visit than the University colleges, other even than grandchildren? Will he take the opportunity to go to Cowley to see for himself the dramatic improvement in industrial relations which has taken place over the last few years and to offer his congratulations to the workers and management of British Leyland at Cowley?

The Prime Minister

We have received very full reports not only about the Cowley factory but about other factories. I am informed that in the six or seven years prior to the change in ownership of British Leyland there were only four days on which there were no disputes. The great improvement in industrial relations there is remarkable. I understand that last month for the first time the factory was able to fulfil its production programme and even to exceed it.