HC Deb 31 March 1976 vol 908 cc1286-91
4. Mr. Brotherton

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

6. Mr. Luce

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

14. Mr. Whitehead

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

1. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has about the progress of negotiations between Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Ian Smith.

Mr. Ennals

I would refer the hon. Members to the statement by my right hon. Friend on 22nd March about Rhodesia. As he said then, the talks between Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Smith have now been broken off.

Mr. Brotherton

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that by next Monday there will be an entirely different situation? Will he ask the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) or, failing that, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) to meet Mr. Smith at the earliest possible opportunity to make another effort to bring this long-drawn-out, shabby quarrel to a conclusion?

Mr. Ennals

I can assure the hon. Member that there will be a new situation next Monday, and, whatever occurs, I shall be delighted with the outcome.

Whoever is the Prime Minister and whoever is the Foreign Secretary, the policy on Rhodesia will remain precisely the same. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that we would certainly be prepared to have discussions with Mr. Smith and others, but only when the conditions which my right hon. Friend presented to the House have been clearly carried out. As the hon. Member knows, so far the first instant reaction from Mr. Smith has been to say "No".

Mr. Ioan Evans

Does my right hon. Friend realise that, whatever the outcome of events on Monday, at least we shall be pleased that the future Prime Minister will represent a Welsh constituency? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it has been the consistent and continuing policy of the Government that we should seek a peaceful solution, but that we should discuss continually with the presidents of the surrounding African States and ensure that we get majority rule as soon as possible?

Mr. Ennals

The principles stated by my hon. Friend are absolutely right. I am leaving London today for Dar-es-Salaam for talks with President Nyerere, who is the Chairman of the four Presidents. I hope also to go to Maputo for talks with the Mozambique Government.

Mr. David Steel

Could the Minister of State enlarge a little on the part of the Foreign Secretary's statement in which he hinted at possible aid to the European population, or those who might not wish to stay in a future developing Rhodesia? In view of President Nyerere's suggestions on the matter and the precedent in this country in the case of the Kenya settlers, will he tell us more about that?

Mr. Ennals

I do not want to go into great detail. My right hon. Friend indicated in his statement and when answering questions that the Government's view was that it was in the long-term interests of Rhodesia and co-operation between the races that the European population should remain there as equals within that society and that part of the proposals which we would put forward, if circumstances arose to negotiate rapid progress towards majority rule, would include certain aspects which would be of help to the European population. We have talked about the need for some kind of aid programme and for educational assistance. We have also talked about the interests of civil servants, for instance, and their need for security and assurances, which we have in mind. It would be wrong to go into full details, but these matters are being carefully considered by my right hon. Friend and myself.

Mr. Luce

In view of the grave danger of increasing violence in Rhodesia, will the Minister ask the Secretary of State to persuade the European Heads of State this week to come out with a clear message to all who are interested in a peaceful solution in Southern Africa and in Rhodesia—that is, the four African Presidents, South Africa and particularly the Rhodesians—that, if they reach an early settlement, Europe, led by Britain, will do its utmost to facilitate a peaceful transition to independence?

Mr. Ennals

The agenda for the meeting to which my right hon. Friend will be going with the Prime Minister is for them. I should be surprised if these questions are not discussed. An important statement has already been made by the Community in terms of Southern Africa as a whole. It may be that the Heads of State will think it appropriate—if not this week, soon—to publish a statement on behalf of the Community specifically about Rhodesia.

Mr. Stonehouse

What reply has been sent to the appeal by Dr. Kaunda for British troops to be committed to maintain law and order during the transitional stage in Rhodesia? Has the Foreign Secretary made it absolutely clear that British troops will not be committed at any stage?

Mr. Ennals

A reply has not been sent to President Kaunda because that point was made in a statement. He has not addressed anything specifically to the Government. The Government's position is absolutely clear. We were not prepared to intervene militarily at the time of UDI in 1965. We would no more be prepared to intervene militarily today either to take action to support the minority against the majority or, as President Kaunda suggested, to arrest those who are now holding power. We believe that it must be done by negotiation.

Mr. Maudling

Despite the Minister's obvious intention to exercise a dual mandate in a current contest, will he convey to the current Foreign Secretary the Opposition's disappointment at Mr. Smith's complete rejection of his proposals and our profound hope that the right hon. Gentleman will press forward in every possible way, despite the disappointments and difficulties, to try to find a solution to this desperately important British problem?

Mr. Ennals

I think that I indicated that, whatever my parliamentary colleagues may decide, they will produce a new Prime Minister of whom all of us can be proud.

To answer the serious part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, all who hope for a peaceful settlement in Rhodesia were saddened by the fact that Mr. Smith made his immediate and, I think, ill-considered rejection. I suppose that was not surprising, because some of the proposals required acceptance of a rapid transfer to majority rule. That is the precise issue on which the talks broke down. Therefore, it would be surprising if Mr. Smith, having made a statement on one day, took a quite different view a few days later. We hope that wisdom will prevail, that pressures will be brought to bear, and that the time will come when sense will be seen and a British rôle can in some way be resumed.

Mr. Hastings rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. This matter is to come up again.

Mr. Hastings

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Will the hon. Gentleman raise his point of order at the end of Question Time?

Mr. Hastings

It relates to this precise Question, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

To raise a point of order now is only taking up Question Time.

11. Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take account of proposals for guaranteeing the future in an independent Rhodesia for the minority of whites who would wish to remain there in his formulation of policy on Rhodesia.

Mr. Ennals

I would refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend's statement of 22nd March in which he made clear that we looked for a settlement in Rhodesia which provided the kind of background that would enable both communities to live and work together.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

Is it not clear that, now Mr. Smith has rejected the terms that were set out in the statement made in the House by the Foreign Secretary a few weeks ago, it is essential that the white minority in Rhodesia be assured as to its future prospects in that country after independence? Will the right hon. Gentleman amplify his earlier answer to the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) and cause Mr. Nkomo's thoughts on adequate proposals for the future of the white minority in Rhodesia to be published in the Official Report?

Mr. Ennals

It is really for Mr. Nkomo to publish the record of the negotiations. I shall be surprised if he does not do so. When he publishes them, the hon. Gentleman will see the moderate and balanced proposals that he put forward. I shall not elaborate on the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) for the reasons that I gave when answering him.

The hon. Gentleman referred to Mr. Smith's rejection. Over the years there have been many occasions when Mr. Smith has said one thing on one day and another on another day. We should be unwise to assume that we have necessarily heard the last word from Mr. Smith, or from others who may represent the Europeans. That is our hope.

Mr. Fernyhough

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the white minority interests will best be protected if they begin to lean a little more heavily on Mr. Smith and make him realise that he is at the end of the road and that for their own future Mr. Smith must go at once?

Mr. Ennals

There is much wisdom in what my right hon. Friend says. There is a responsibility on those Europeans in Rhodesia who recognise the folly of Mr. Smith's ways but who themselves wish to find a peaceful and just settlement in Rhodesia to speak up. Equally, it is the responsibility of hon. Members in all parts of the House, especially members of the Conservative Opposition who have closer contacts with Mr. Smith than do others in the House, to speak up loud and clear now.

Mr. Cormack

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Foreign Secretary—and it is a pity that the Foreign Secretary did not reply to this Question—whether he will invite Mr. Smith to a conference in London, bearing in mind the dreadful consequences of the adoption of President Kaunda's suggestions? Because we want to prevent war, will he also consider the possibility of a Select Committee of this House going to Rhodesia, as Mr. Smith made a virtual invitation to such a Committee last week?

Mr. Ennals

No, I cannot accept that proposal. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has said that the purposes of a conference, which would be broadly representative, would be to discuss an orderly transfer to majority rule and the circumstances in which Rhodesia should move to independence. The moment for such a conference will come when Mr. Smith and others have recognised the basic principle. To step in at this stage, when Mr. Smith has explicitly denounced that principle, would make no contribution at all towards finding a solution.

Mr. Whitehead

Since we do not want to be drawn into the toils of further discussions with Mr. Smith, whatever changes may take place in the Foreign Office, is it not clear that we should have a continuous policy whereby the white community in Rhodesia is encouraged to come to talks with the British Government—although under the leadership not of Mr. Smith but of more reasonable men?

Mr. Ennals

I agree with my hon. Friend.