HC Deb 20 October 1976 vol 917 cc1474-619
Mr. Speaker

Before I call the Secretary of State to begin the debate, I seek the help of the House. A very large number of hon. and right hon. Members have signified to me their desire to participate in today's debate. A great proportion of these Members have recently visited Southern Africa and undoubtedly wish to give the House the benefit of their information. It is possible for me to call all who wish to speak but only if hon. Members impose a strict self-discipline on the length of their speeches.

I try to ensure that every point of view gets a chance to be heard, but I depend heavily in this matter on the cooperation of the House. I hope that those who are fortunate enough to be called will bear in mind the difficulty I have in getting in everyone who wants to speak.

4.39 p.m.

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

I beg to move, That the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965 (Continuation) Order 1976, a draft of which was laid before this House on 14th October, be approved. The Order extends for a further 12 months Section 2 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965. This is the eleventh time that successive Governments have asked the House to renew Section 2. I profoundly hope that it will be the last time that the Government have to ask hon. Members to maintain sanctions against an illegal regime in Rhodesia. For 11 years the House has been almost unanimous in maintaining an uncompromising attitude towards the Rhodesian regime. Both Labour and Conservative Governments have consistently refused to consider a negotiated settlement in Rhodesia until basic human rights and conditions of democracy were first established.

After the many disappointments and frustrations which successive Governments experienced in dealing with Mr. Smith since 1965, this Government thought it right to lay down specific preconditions for a negotiated settlement and the terms on which the British Government would be prepared to take part in any negotiations.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out these preconditions on 22 March. He said: … there must be prior agreement by all the principal parties to a number of preconditions. These are as follows: first, acceptance of the principle of majority rule; secondly, elections for majority rule to take place in eighteen months to two years; thirdly, agreement that there will be no independence before majority rule; fourthly, the negotiations must not be long drawn out. There would also need to be assurances that the transition to majority rule and to an independent Rhodesia would not be thwarted and would be orderly.]—[Official Report, 22nd March 1976; Vol. 908, c. 30–s 31.] All parties in the House—I think it is right to say—warmly endorsed these principles; so did the front-line African presidents, and they are still today the cornerstone of British policy.

On 24th September, as the House well knows, Mr. Smith announced that the illegal regime accepted the principle of majority rule within two years. This announcement, reflecting at long last a realistic understanding of Rhodesia's position in Southern Africa, opened the way for a negotiated settlement within the framework of these preconditions and, therefore, fulfilled the conditions which Her Majesty's Government had laid down for participating in any negotiations.

Since the statement of 22nd March it has not, therefore, been the position of the British Government that has changed but that of the illegal regime in Rhodesia. As Mr. Smith himself made very plain in his broadcast, no one has miraculously converted him to liberal views, but the acceptance of the principle of early majority rule was forced on him by a steady shift in the balance of power in Southern Africa. This reflects the collapse of Portuguese power in Angola and Mozambique; the growing pressure of the nationalist forces inside Rhodesia; and the slow but steady weakening of the Rhodesian economy brought about by sanctions.

Finally, Dr. Kissinger's intervention was decisive in persuading Mr. Smith to accept the principle of early majority rule. The writing was already on the wall for the rest of the world to read, but it needed American intervention to compel Mr. Smith and his colleagues to read it. Dr. Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy was based firmly on the principles laid down by the Prime Minister on 22nd March; and the visits to Southern Africa of my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Office provided indispensable support for his efforts.

After Mr. Smith's broadcast, it was vital to mobilise as quickly as possible on the momentum created by this breakthrough. The African Presidents shared this sense of urgency. I accordingly decided, as the House knows, to convene a conference in Geneva under the chairmanship of Mr. Ivor Richard to discuss the formation of an interim administration. I invited Mr. Nkomo, Mr. Mugabe and Bishop Muzorewa, accompanied by their respective delegations, to attend on behalf of the nationalists, and sent a similar invitation to Mr. Smith.

Since my statement last week, there have been two further developments affecting the organisation of the conference. First, I have decided, after consultation with those concerned, to invite the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole to attend with a delegation. Secondly, I decided to delay the formal opening of the conference until 28th October, although it is still my intention that delegates should assemble in Geneva from tomorrow onwards, and some of them are of course assembling now. The delay will give some of the delegations more time to make adequate preparations for the conference and will also usefully extend the period for preliminary talks between Mr. Richard and the delegations.

We have heard in recent days a great deal from both sides about further preconditions. Nevertheless, the Rhodesian nationalists and Mr. Smith have agreed to sit round a table in Geneva and to talk on the basis of a transfer of power to the majority within a period not exceeding two years.

In the Government's view this development, which when the House last debated Section 2 would have seemed to belong to the realms of fantasy, fulfils the only preconditions that can properly apply: namely, those laid down in the statement of 22nd March. I am sure that the House will agree that this is the main—the historic—achievement of the last few weeks, in comparison with which everything else pales into insignificance. It is in this perspective that we should view some of the other issues that have been recently raised.

This leads me to the status of the proposals put to Mr. Smith and announced by him on 24th September. This was the subject of heated exchanges in the House last Tuesday during which I was, in effect, accused of duplicity. Mr. Smith has apparently stated that any agreement on an interim government must correspond to the live points set out in his broadcast of 24th September, but both Dr. Kissinger and I had already gone on the record before Mr. Smith's broadcast as saying that the details of the interim arrangements were bound to be a matter for negotiation.

As to whether this difference of interpretation was or was not due to a misunderstanding I do not propose to speculate. In the course of five separate Anglo-American ministerial visits to six or seven separate countries in Southern Africa many people have given different accounts about what was said by whom to whom. I prefer to treat all these accounts as being given in good faith. I am not disposed to challenge in public all the current interpretations being given to these discussions, especially as for quite understandable reasons the parties directly concerned are taking up negotiating positions.

I make only one comment on this. When he made his broadcast, an assessment of the situation could not have left Mr. Smith in the slightest doubt that the five points could in no sense be pledges or promises or guarantees on the part of the British Government, for the simple reason that the British Government had no power, even it they had the wish, to impose such terms on the African nationalists or the front line Presidents. Indeed, Mr. Smith understands that probably better than anyone in the world.

We have consistently held that the five points are a reasonable basis for discussion and it was in this understanding that my hon. Friend the Minister of State held talks with Mr. Smith on his recent visit to Rhodesia. Beyond this, I am not prepared to go. As is normal in these matters, I cannot, without prejudging the success of the whole endeavour, reveal the details of what were confidential diplomatic exchanges, and still less speak on behalf of the American Secretary of State.

Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)

Will the Secretary of State clear up one point? In his broadcast, Mr. Smith said that he was quoting from paragraph 6 of the actual terms of the proposals put to him by Dr. Kissinger. Were those proposals then in a document which had previously been agreed to by the right hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Crosland

No, they were not. They appeared in a document which I believe was handed to Mr. Smith and, as far as the British Government were concerned, I made it clear before, and have made it clear again and again since, that those five proposals—in fact, one was added by Mr. Smith; I make no objection to that—did not represent an agreed final position on behalf of Her Majesty's Government but represented what we considered to be a fair and reasonable basis of discussion. It was absolutely understood by us—I shall choose my language very carefully this afternoon—and I imagine that it was understood by Mr. Smith, that there was no way in which these could have been sealed or signed by the British Government, because obviously the British Government had no power to impose these five or six points or any other proposals on the African nationalists or on the front line Presidents.

Mr. Ian Cow (Eastbourne)

In his broadcast on the 24th of last month Mr. Ian Smith said this. On this occasion the assurance is given not only on the authority of the United States Government, but of the British Government as well. The Foreign Secretary heard that speech.

Is the Foreign Secretary saying that Mr. Smith failed to understand the position, or what is the Foreign Secretary telling the House?

Mr. Crosland

I am not going to comment on that statement. I can only comment—the House must accept this—in a way that would worsen the atmosphere still further at Geneva. Therefore, I prefer not to comment. I have said perfectly clearly that I prefer not to speculate about whether this was due to a misunderstanding. I should be mad to speculate in public whether it was.

In the view of the United Kingdom Government the position is quite clear —that the five points and the other proposals made in the course of the endless ministerial visits were a useful basis for discussion and were not something that had been signed, sealed or guaranteed by the British Government.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)

During his broadcast Mr. Smith went on to say: The United Kingdom will enact enabling legislation for this process to majority rule. That was in the alleged document from which he was reading. Was there a document or was there not? If there was, had Dr. Kissinger the right hon. Gentleman's authority to put that in the document?

Mr. Crosland

I have already said that as I understand the position Dr. Kissinger had handed the five proposals to Mr. Smith, so in that sense there was a document. I have also, I hope, made clear twice in the past eight days what the status of that document is in the eyes of the British Government. I can speak for no one except the British Government. There is no difference between me and Mr. Smith on the question of legislation. I shall come to that later in my speech.

Whilst in my statement of 24th September I warmly welcomed Mr. Smith's acceptance of Dr. Kissinger's proposals, I also made it clear that they stemmed from the statement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 22nd March and that they would now need further consultation with the United States Government and the African Presidents. No one could infer from that statement, to which the Leader of the Opposition referred last week, that the British Government were committed to the detail of those proposals, still less to the interpretation that Mr. Smith put on them. Our position has remained consistent throughout.

Beyond that, it would be inconsistent with Britain's rôle as chairman of the conference for me to comment on the many public statements which have been made by parties to the conference. These statements have raised issues which only the conference itself can resolve. The essential fact is that all those invited are now, or shortly will be, on their way to Geneva.

The Government are well aware of their responsibilities towards the conference. All the parties are entitled to expect a high degree of fair-mindedness from the conference chairman. Yet we cannot be neutral towards the driving principle behind the conference, the commitment by all parties to achieve majority rule within two years. While it must be for the parties themselves to decide on the details of a transition to majority rule, we shall do everything in our power to see that the conference ends in agreement on the establishment of an interim Government.

The arrangements agreed at Geneva must be such as to ensure that the Rhodesian Front will no longer control the levers of power or be in a position to sabotage or delay the transfer to majority rule, and that this transfer should be both peaceful and orderly.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)

Is the right hon. Gentleman now saying that if the Rhodesian Front were to win a majority on the universal adult suffrage that would not be acceptable?

Mr. Crosland

I confess that that is not a hypothesis which has played a large part in my recent thinking on the subject, but now that the hon. and learned Gentleman has raised it, no doubt it will be a matter for endless speculation in the corridors of Geneva.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)


Mr. Crosland

I have given way four times in the past five minutes and do not propose to give way again now.

It will in the first instance be Mr. Richard's task, as the Special Representative of the Government who will chair the talks, to try to steer the conference towards these objectives. As our representative at the United Nations in New York, he has given ample demonstration of his skill as a negotiator and of his concern to uphold the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter on fundamental human rights, including the right of peoples to self-determination. I have every confidence in his ability. But he will need the good will of all concerned. No agreement will be reached unless, despite the suspicions and the bitterness of the past, the parties are prepared to make an act of faith in the future.

Mr. Roderick MacFarquhar (Belper)

Whilst I endorse everything my right hon. Friend has said about Ivor Richard, is it not possible for my right hon. Friend to reconsider his decision not to go to Geneva, as requested by some Rhodesian nationalist leaders, to chair at least the opening sessions of the conference, to underline the Government's determination that it should succeed?

Mr. Crosland

As my hon. Friend can imagine, I have considered this matter very recently. I considered it again in the past two days in the light of the representations to which he referred. But I have come down firmly against the prospect that I should open the conference. There are a number of reasons. It is partly that I have complete faith in Mr. Richard, who was chosen not as a career ambassador but as an ex-Member of this House, as a politician. Also I believe that if I were to open the conference that would only have the effect of devaluing Mr. Richard's role to it, and I am extremely anxious not to do that.

My next point is relevant to what some African leaders have been requesting or demanding of the United Kingdom Government. Here I want to clear up a misunderstanding. Some African leaders have proposed that Britain should resume "full colonial powers". In fact, as many hon. Members know, Britain has never exercised "colonial powers" in Rhodesia. Rhodesia did not become a British colony, even in law, until 1923, having been until then administered by the British South Africa Company. Neither under the constitution of 1923 nor under the 1961 constitution which replaced it did we ever administer the territory or directly exercise any power or authority there. The Rhodesian public service was never staffed by the British Colonial Service or other British officials. The situation, therefore, contrary to what has been said recently, is in no way the same as in other former British dependent terrories such as Kenya, Tanzania or Zambia.

I turn now to the question formally before the House, the renewal of Section 2 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965. We ask the House to approve this for two reasons. First, the continued validity of the Act may be of vital importance to arrangements to be made for the legalisation of the interim administration. Any hon. Member who votes against the motion will be voting to deny us this facility.

Secondly, it is absolutely necessary now, as in past years, to keep in force the sanctions legislation against Rhodesia. The Smith régime's acceptance of majority rule within two years has of course completely changed the situation. But until we can all be satisfied that majority rule is inevitable within two years Britain must give a lead to the international community in ensuring that sanctions are maintained.

Sir John Hall (Wycombe)

While all of us on both sides of the House must devoutly hope that the conference will be successful, if by any chance it should fail through no fault of Mr. Smith or his delegation but perhaps through the activities or intransigence of the African leaders, would it not then be very unfair to continue sanctions? Should not they then be removed?

Mr. Crosland

I have no intention of answering that hypothetical question.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

The right hon. Gentleman is trying to take a reasonable perspective on this matter, and we want to see a peaceful solution. Therefore, can he say what efforts Her Majesty's Government have made to persuade frontline Presidents, in the run-up to the conference, to cease guerrilla activities inside Rhodesia from across the border?

Mr. Crosland

That is a very fair point. We have attempted to persuade the African Presidents that in the medium term, if the conference succeeds and there is an interim Government, we should use every endeavour to get them to cool off guerrilla activities altogether. In the meantime, in the run up to that situation, before an interim Government has been agreed, we think that it would be sensible from every point of view to de-escalate those activities as soon as that can be achieved. That line has been agreed with the Americans, who take the same stance.

Some hon. Members in past debates have derided the effect of sanctions. They have pointed out how the Rhodesian economy has thrived despite the sanctions and how Rhodesia's industries have prospered; although they have also argued—inconsistently—that the chief sufferers from their effects have been the Africans in Rhodesia. Yet few would now deny that sanctions have made a major contribution to the latest developments.

The decision of the Mozambique Government last March to close the border with Rhodesia, and the resultant congestion on the South African transport system, had a powerful impact. Without the sanctions, the guerrilla war would not have imposed such a growing strain on the Rhodesian economy. By the same token the premature removal of sanctions would lift from the régime one of the main pressures on them to agree finally to early majority rule. That would surely be folly. But once the introduction of early majority rule is certain beyond any shadow of doubt, the justification for sanctions will fade away. The situation in Rhodesia will then no longer constitute a threat to international peace and security which warrants the continuation of measures against the régime under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.

In these circumstances it would be wrong to maintain sanctions in force when the overriding objective is the establishment of an independent Zimbabwe on the road to peace and prosperity. We have also to remember that Rhodesia's neighbours have suffered seriously from the sacrifices which they have made in applying sanctions. Therefore, we all look forward to the day when sanctions can be lifted. But when that day arrives will depend entirely on the final and irrevocable acceptance of early majority rule.

Mr. Gow


Mr. Crosland

No; I have given way for the last time.

There could be no more opportune time for our debate than today provided that we conduct the debate with some degree of restraint.

First, I hope that the debate will not turn into a long wrangle about who said what to whom and when. I look forward in my retirement to reading every country's official diplomatic history of the recent diplomacy—and I dare say that it will hold surprises for every one of the participants, including myself. But it is not the past that matters. It is surely the future. We cannot afford to risk that future by raking over the ashes of all the events of the past three months.

Secondly, I have no doubt that the debate will point up some of the obstacles that lie in the way of a settlement. That is an inevitable fact of life. Living with the subject as I do from day to day, and even more constantly than that, I could make as good a speech as anyone in the House about the pitfalls. I see them all with a blinding clarity.

There is no certainty that the conference will succeed, but without it the only prospect would be one of disruption, chaos and bloodshed. That would be a disaster for Rhodesia, a tragedy for the States which surround her and a setback—perhaps an irretrievable setback—for the long-term prospects of peace in Southern Africa.

We have already come a long way towards success. Three months ago, it seemed inconceivable that Mr. Smith could be brought to recognise the inevitability of majority rule. Three months ago it seemed impossible that he would soon be sitting round the conference table with the African nationalists. Three months ago it seemed absurdly optimistic to suppose that Britain would have this early opportunity finally to discharge her responsibilities in Rhodesia. At every stage of this rapidly moving process, the voices of the Jeremiahs have been loudly raised—yet, despite them, we now have our conference.

The situation, in my view, can never be the same again. The Europeans in Rhodesia must realise that there can be no going back, for the notion of an independent Rhodesia under white minority rule has been shown to be illusory. For their part, the Zimbabwean nationalists must realise that, without the co-operation of the Europeans, majority rule would come in conditions which could worsen the sufferings of the African people.

If we fail, we fail. But let the message go out from this House that we believe that we shall not fail. Britain will do 'everything within the limits of her power to bring about a successful agreement. We are fully backed by all the members of the Nine. We must all seize this opportunity to work for a solution which brings to Zimbabwe a multi-racial solution firmly based on majority rule, and thus on justice and equality.

5.5 p.m.

Mr. Reginald Maudling (Chipping Barnet)

All sane people desperately want the conference to be held in Geneva to succeed, and of that there can be no doubt. But I hope that the Foreign Secretary will not assume that we take the opposite view if I venture to criticise some of the things that he said this afternoon.

We are discussing an immensely important British responsibility, and I do not think that the speech made by the Foreign Secretary measured up to what is expected of a British Foreign Secretary in these circumstances. I say that in all seriousness and after deliberation, and I believe that it is right to do so. It is right to enter the conference clear about the respective positions of the different parties. If we press Her Majesty's Government, it is because we believe that clarity is essential and that confusion will only undermine the prospects of success.

We understand that the proposals set out in Mr. Smith's broadcast, the actual terms of which he said came from Dr. Kissinger, were put to him as a package. We have not yet been able to discover whether that is true. It is important to know whether it is true. Nobody, as far as I know, apart from the Foreign Secretary, has denied it. Dr. Kissinger has not denied it, nor has Mr. Vorster, and the Foreign Office put out a statement that noted with satisfaction the announcement of acceptance of proposals put to Mr. Smith by Dr. Kissinger for a peaceful settlement. Those proposals were said to represent an elaboration of the plan advanced by the Prime Minister. Surely that was a clear acceptance that the package of proposals was put forward with the approval of the British Government, and was accepted in good faith by Mr. Smith.

If there is any confusion about this, if the facts are in dispute and if the Foreign Secretary does not know the truth, why was he not there himself? Why did he leave this matter to Dr. Kissinger? Why throughout, in dealing with this basic British problem, has the lead been given to the United States Secretary of State with the British tagging on behind.

The Foreign Secretary said that the proposals were only a basis for discussion. I do not believe that is true. I do not believe that is the view of the Americans or the South Africans. Of course an agreement can bind only those party to it, but in my judgment it binds the United States and Britain. It does not necessarily bind the African Presidents because what they said about the matter and what was said to them is still obscure. We have not heard from the British Government what was said to them or what they said. Of course, in the course of discussions and negotiations changes can be made, but they can be made only by agreement between those who are a party to the proposals. If we were a party to forcing Mr. Smith beyond the terms of what had been agreed, we would be going back and acting in ill faith. It is important that these things should be said.

In any case the major principle—and on this matter the Foreign Secretary was right—has been established, namely, the acceptance of majority rule within two years. That is an enormous step forward. What possible justification have the nationalists now for continuing the arms struggle? How many people must now die to reduce that period from two years to one year? There can be no possible justification for continuing the guerilla activity when there is the chance of a settlement. History will deal sternly with those who will not take "Yes" for an answer. Mr. Smith has made an enormous step forward, which we all welcome on both sides of the House, and surely it is now right to back him up. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir J. Hall) said, if the conference collapses through no move back on the part of Mr. Smith but because others put forward extreme demands, there can be no doubt where the justice will lie. Her Majesty's Government should act on where the justice lies.

That brings me to the sanctions order that we are formally discussing and the position of the Opposition.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain what he means when he says that the Government should act where justice lies? What exactly does he mean by that?

Mr. Maudling

If the hon. Gentleman had given me time, I was proposing to do so.

Mr. Faulds

No, the right hon. Gentleman was moving to another subject.

Mr. Maudling

I intended to deal with the same subject but in different phrasing. If the hon. Gentleman contains himself, he will realise that that is so.

The Government are asking for a 12-month renewal of the sanctions Order. I agree with that, but I should have preferred a renewal of three months. I believe that that would cover the term of the conference. However, I am told that in practice it is not possible within the rules of order to make it three months instead of 12 months. Of course, 12 months is not immutable. What Parliament decides Parliament can always change. It would be possible for Parliament to undo such a proviso if it wanted to do so.

As the Foreign Secretary implied, if the conference succeeds the Government will immediately drop sanctions. I hope that we can have an assurance that all the necessary preparations are now being made with that idea in view. The Government want the conference to succeed and they must proceed on the assumption that it will succeed. They must act so that they are ready to remove sanctions the moment that the conference has succeeded.

What if the conference fails? Like the right hon. Gentleman, I am reluctant to contemplate failure. However, we must recognise that Her Majesty's Government want to keep their options as open as possible. The Government should take note that if the conference fails after Mr. Smith has accepted the Kissinger package because other elements at the conference want to go further, we would have no justification for continuing sanctions against him, or even less continuing to give aid to Mozambique. We should move to that effect.

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

The right hon. Gentleman is putting forward a most extraordinary proposition. He is giving every encouragement to Mr. Smith to make the conference fail, because in that event the right hon. Gentleman is proposing that no further sanctions will operate against the white régime.

Mr. Maudling

I was only suggesting that the British Government should keep faith. I do not regard that as an extraordinary proposition. The question now is whether all those taking part will keep faith. It will not help us if we go back in history and argue about who has kept faith with whom. What matters is how to make the conference succeed. It will succeed only if the position of each party is clear beforehand.

I turn to the conference itself. As the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, it is the last hope for a peaceful solution. For years it has been the approach of British policy to attain majority rule with proper safeguards for individuals and minorities. A guarantee of unimpeded progress to majority rule was the first of our five principles. The former Prime Minister added a sixth—namely, the need to ensure that regardless of race there is no oppression of the majority by the minority or the minority by the majority. Those are the principles on which we have operated on both sides of the House. It is now time to define majority rule and to establish safeguards. That is the job that must be done.

What is majority rule? What are the proper safeguards and how can they be guaranteed? It should be said that majority rule does not necessarily mean one man one vote. In other words, it does not mean immediate universal adult franchise. Decisions must be made about the voting age, property and educational qualifications within which the franchise can operate. It should provide that the majority of people qualified to vote reflect the majority of black people.

Second, we must consider safeguards. Safeguards against what? There must be safeguards against political oppression or victimisation. That means that the courts must have the power and ability to protect individuals against the arbitrary use of power and provide compensation if people are expropriated.

The trust fund seems to be an admirable idea. It is designed not to persuade people to leave Rhodesia but to persuade them to stay. It is the continuing presence of the white cadre on which the prosperity of the whole country will depend. The trust fund is of the greatest importance but it is no substitute for proper compensation if people are expropriated. It should not be a temptation to people to carry out acts of expropriation.

Probably the most difficult problem of all is how the safeguards can be maintained and guaranteed. What is the feeling of the ordinary European now living in Rhodesia about majority rule? I suggest that such a person thinks "We may have safeguards for the individual and courts of law, but how long will it take for a Rhodesian General Amin to turn up?" That is the real fear in people's minds. That fear must be dealt with if there is any chance of getting a settlement that will stick.

I hope that the House will forgive me if I draw on some personal experience of presiding over similar conferences. I have presided over a substantial number—for example, on Kenya, Trinidad and Uganda. They were different, but there are lessons to be learnt from them. The fundamental lesson to be learnt from all the conferences leading to the independence of many of our previous colonies is that the main problem is fear and suspicion. In Trinidad there was fear and suspicion between the Indian and African communities. In Kenya those feelings existed between the Kalenjins and the Kikuyus, with implied dangers for the white residents. Those were problems of the greatest danger, which were solved in different ways by the statesmanlike and reasonable action of the people concerned. The real answer lies not in the provisions of the constitution but in the general desire to ensure that the constitution will work.

We found at all the conferences that there were particular problems about framing a constitution that would protect individual rights. In any constitution there must be provision for emergency powers. How does one prevent a majority Government using emergency powers to impose their will, against the constitution, on the minority? That is a practical problem when dealing with any independent constitution. Those who have said that it is not a problem did not sit in Lancaster House in conference after conference on Kenya, Uganda, Trinidad and Jamaica.

Another real problem is how to write into a constitution a guarantee that it will not be broken. It is no good having a Clause 7 that provides that it is against the law to break the constitution. There must be other practical means of ensuring that the rights given by a constitution are maintained.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

The right hon. Gentleman's fears are absolutely correct. He expresses the fears of many people in Rhodesia. However, is he not doing a disservice to those he might wish to help by suggesting that we have the power to guarantee such matters in a country where we have little at all? Is he not raising hopes that we cannot possibly fulfil?

Mr. Maudling

I did not say that. I am saying that we must recognise that difficulty if the conference is to work. That is one of the key issues.

There are three approaches. The first is to go for the maximum amount of mutual trust between black and white and black and black. In the context of Rhodesia, alas, it will be a long difficult and arduous problem, but it is the first priority. Secondly, I believe that the trust fund will provide a safety net. That will help, but I hope that we shall be able to avoid using it.

Thirdly, I suggested a short time ago the possibility of a British presence during the transition period. I do not suggest that such a presence should involve the governing or administering of the country, but if a British Governor General could be installed with the agreement and support of the four Presidents, the United States and our European allies, he could act as a guarantor of the independence of the courts and the impartiality of the affairs of law and order. I believe that that is a possibility. I do not say that it would be easy. There would be many difficulties. However, I put it forward as a positive suggestion. I have not yet heard of another suggestion that is more likely to succeed but I hope that I shall. Above all, I wish to see something that will succeed.

The duty of the United Kingdom in this context is not confined merely to taking the chair. There must be a practical role. The chairman must, I am sure from experience, be prepared to listen almost interminably to argument after argument until the conflicting sides wear themselves out and then at the right moment, as I hope Mr. Richard will do, come forward with proposals that are acceptable and will lead to success.

There is too much concentration on the next two years and not on the next 200 years. What we really care about is a permanent solution and not the interim arrangements. If we spend all our time at the conference on the interim arrangements, it will not solve the problem of what is to be meant by majority rule. There are in the proposals some rather difficult things to follow. For example, what will be the position of Parliament? Will the Council of State and the interim Government be responsible to the Parliament of Rhodesia, or is that Parliament to be abolished? We should know about that.

Secondly, is the Council of State really the right body to draw up a constitution, a body which is to be divided 50–50 between black and white, with every decision subject to a two-thirds majority vote? Can one expect decisive agreement out of a body of that composition? I do not know, and the matter should be examined with care. One cannot yet be confident that it is the right mechanism by which to achieve majority rule and a constitution for independence which will guarantee the future prosperity of the Rhodesian people.

Mr. Ian Smith has said that it is time for the Rhodesians to work things out for themselves. That is the ideal, but they will need a great deal of help, and they must not look to us in vain, because this is a matter in which the British are involved to an immense extent. Military and strategic considerations, the importance of southern Africa, metals, the sea routes, the penetration of Soviet and Cuban activities there—all these are immensely important, and we must not overlook them. But more important still is the honour of this House and this country because we have a responsibility still to the peoples of Rhodesia. May be our power is, alas, very limited, but what we still have we must use.

5.22 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Bottomley (Middlesbrough)

In 1965, when I first went to Rhodesia, the then Governor, Sir Humphrey Gibbs, and some business men said to me that they were against Mr. Smith and his party. They did not think that the country would be run well, in the best interests of all, if Mr. Smith's Government continued. I said to them, "Why don't you do something about it?" The Governor stood firm and loyally by Her Majesty the Queen. The business men said that they wanted economic sanctions applied and were not given the support by this House. I tried hard to get economic sanctions applied so that they would bite fully and effectively, but the House declined to give that support. Therefore, to some extent, the situation we meet today rebounds on all of us because we failed to take the right decision initially.

I join those who have some satisfaction in getting Mr. Smith at long last to accept majority rule, but that was inevitable. Anyone sitting on a time bomb must at some stage recognise that something must be done to defuse it. In addition, I think that we recognise that the five African Presidents are concerned about peace in the area. They do not want bloodshed to run in Southern Africa.

But I believe that Her Majesty's Government have been misled. I have never been a believer in instant diplomacy. I think that it was a mistake for Dr. Kissinger to go to Southern Africa at the time he did. If the atmosphere were right for a visit by anyone, it should have been a British Minister. A British Minister has much more knowledge and knows how to handle the situation better than United States or, for that matter, Soviet diplomats.

I had the opportunity a few weeks ago of meeting Dr. Kissinger's aide, Mr. Schaufele. I asked him "Did you see Robert Mugabe?" He replied "No". I asked "Did you find out who is responsible for the freedom fighters, because the man in the field, the one who has the gun, has the power?" He replied again "No".

I cannot believe that a British Minister would not have known that these two are probably the key figures in any settlement that is to be reached. It is true that Robert Mugabe is going to the conference. Did the African Presidents give an assurance that they were going to get a united team to represent the African interests? If not, they should have been asked to do so. A divided African representation spells doom for the conference

I cannot see any prospect of an agreement coming out of the conference, although, of course, I wish my right hon. Friend every success in his endeavours to bring about a successful result. But his aide, Mr. Ivor Richard, has more or less an impossible job. He goes with our good will, too. I think that my right hon. Friend is right not to go himself.

I also think that it is wrong that we should have got ourselves as involved as we have. But having said that, I ask one question of my right hon. Friend. If, as I think likely, the conference fails, Mr. Smith has made his views known, and Mr. Vorster has given him his backing, while the African nationalists have made it known that the freedom fighters will go on with the struggle. What thought have we given to the initiative we should take if the conference breaks down? We should be given some idea of what the Government will do to meet the situation if the conference fails. I sincerely hope that the conference will succeed, but I remain a pessimist.

5.28 p.m.

Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)

I am sure that no one wishes more passionately than the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bottomley) that his pessimism will be disproved. I am sure that Mr. Ivor Richard will find his good wishes of value if he accepts them but discounts some of his pessimism.

I start by summing up some of the hopeful signs that I think we can look at. It is against those hopeful signs that I wish to enter a word of caution on one or two points. Many of us have taken part in the series of unhappy debates on Rhodesia, usually on an Order such as this, which is the only opportunity we have for discussing the subject, apart from those occasions of a failed agreement such as those reached at the "Tiger" or "Fearless" talks. I think that the hopelessness of the situation has been felt in terms that when the sanctions Order has usually been introduced the Government, whether Tory or Labour, have had about three people defending it and the opposition has been found from hon. Members whether under a Tory or Labour Government, sitting below the Gangway opposing sanctions and indicating fulsome support for Mr. Smith.

But I think that this debate has real meaning because, as the Foreign Secretary said, one can hope that this is the last time we shall have to renew sanctions. I want to pay tribute to Dr. Kissinger. Whatever he may or may not have agreed—that is always one of the imponderables—he has at least achieved a general acceptance that there will be majority rule in two years and that there will be an interim Government, and many very representative people are going to Geneva to talk about it.

That is an enormous improvement on the situation which I found when I was in Rhodesia last year. I felt then that there was some movement towards liberalisation when I was told that I could enter the country, although I was reminded that I was still a prohibited immigrant so it was hoped that I would behave myself while I was there.

I think that I shall be acquitted of being an apologist for Mr. Ian Smith—indeed, I do not think that anyone would allege it. But whatever his interpretation, he has appeared on television and frankly, publicly and without equivocation, accepted the principle of majority rule and an interim Government within two years. That is an enormous improvement, an enormous advantage. It is, in fact, a revolution in his thinking and that of his Administration.

It is also immensely encouraging that such a variety of African opinion will be represented at the conference. Whether ZIPA, with Mr. Rex Nhongo, will continue to be absent I know not. I suspect that that is very much a matter which will be determined by the views of President Machel of Mozambique. I hope that ZIPA will be there, so that no one can say afterwards "We are not parties to any agreement and are not bound by it."

It is to the credit of both sides, African and European, that they are going to the conference to talk, and I think we should recognise that. It is an enormous advance.

It should also be realised—I am coming to the question whether there was a package and whether it is negotiable—that this is the very first time in the history of Rhodesia that the Africans will be negotiating on a basis of equality.

Even in the early 1950s, when Lord Gordon-Walker and the late Jim Griffiths went to negotiate Federation, at the Victoria Falls conference, there was no African representative present from the whole of Southern Rhodesia. At no stage when Federation was starting did a Labour or a Conservative Government say that African consent should be a condition precedent to the granting of Federation. That was a great mistake. There was a fundamental mistrust at that time.

This will be the first occasion on which African opinion will be represented on a totally equal basis in negotiations affecting the Africans' future. It is right, and it is an enormous advance. I also believe that it may be the last opportunity that Mr. Smith will have to meet such a wide spectrum of African opinion around a table. That is another reason that I fervently hope the negotiations may succeed.

It has been suggested that the difficulty is that we were not present at the talks and were not a party to the discussions, although we were fully informed of them. I somewhat disagree with the view that we should have been there. The one thing said to me by at least four of the front line Presidents—two of whom I have known and regarded as very close friends for about a quarter of a century—and by the African nationalists, the Rhodesia Front and every shade of opinion, is that whatever else the British Government can do to help, they should keep out and let those concerned try to settle these things themselves.

We have, unfortunately, made an almighty hash of affairs in Rhodesia ever since we started on the road to Federation. The conference has a chance of success which it might not have had if we had interfered too much in the beginning. I am very happy to leave it to Dr. Kissinger, just as many of us are very happy to leave the Middle East to him. We should be very grateful for that.

But the fact remains, as the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said in reply to the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) at the time of the last statement on Rhodesia, that there is no "precise document". As was also said by the Secretary of State to the Leader of the Opposition during the same exchanges, the six points mentioned in the broadcast offer a useful basis for discussion."—[Official Report, 12th October 1976; Vol. 916, c. 249–51.] It is not for me to question the sincerity and the conviction with which Mr. Smith holds to the view that there is a package which is not negotiable. It is not for me to question the good faith of others who say that there is a package which is a useful basis for negotiation. I merely give my own experience. After the first Lusaka talks, when 10 points were agreed, I found that those 10 points were interpreted in one way by the African Nationalists with whom I spoke in the morning, and in another way by Mr. Smith, with whom I spoke in the afternoon, and both interpretations were perfectly reasonable.

I said to Mr. Smith "The great problem here is that there are people who genuinely differ in the interpretation of what was agreed in Lusaka." There was nothing in writing. I said "Surely the real problem now is one of interpretation." I believe, therefore, that this will be a great danger unless it is cleared up, and that it is one of the first matters with which Mr. Ivor Richard will have to deal. I echo the views of other right hon. and hon. Members in wishing him well in what will be an enormously important and significant conference.

I think it is right that we should start on this basis, and that if the Foreign Secretary is required to come in at a later stage that should be a matter for subsequent consideration.

Mr. Ronald Bell

The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that it is now conceded that there was an exact document. This was conceded this afternoon by the Foreign Secretary that when Mr. Smith read out the terms in his broadcast he was reading them from a document given to him by Dr. Kissinger, setting out the points one by one.

Mr. Thorpe

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for his intervention, but this does not solve anything. What was the document? Was it a basis for discussion and negotiation or was it a package deal? The existence of a piece of paper is not convincing in regard to any particular deduction.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) that we have to try to allay the fear on both sides. I can understand why the African nationalists are anxious about which shall prevail, the Council of State or the Council of Ministers. I do not want to rake over the past, but the Africans remember the African Affairs Board. They remember how it was overruled, and how Chief Justice Tredgold resigned. They remember the situation in which the State of Emergency was signed in November 1965, when the Governor said to Mr. Smith "May I have your assurance personally that this is not a prelude to doing a UDI?", and Mr. Smith said "You have my assurance." With that background and experience, it is most likely that there will be negotiations on that aspect.

Likewise, concerning law and order, I can understand that both sides would have reservations. I believe that Mr. Smith would want to say that if there were to be any continuation of terrorism and guerrilla activities there should be a loyal force under the command of the elected or appointed interim Government. But again, the African community would want certain guarantees in that regard as well, because their experience has not been altogether happy at the hands of the security forces, particularly the police, in the last 10 or 11 years. I therefore believe that these, too, are matters that will have to be negotiated.

I believe that the proposed two-thirds majority vote is a very wise precaution. I remember the late Tom Mboya telling me that it was a great advantage in the 18 months transitional period before independence in Kenya that no African, European or Asian bloc could get its own way in Legco without being able to attract the support of the members of the other racial communities. It was in that way that people started to work together. That doctrine of collective responsibility meant that Africans would be defending a decision taken by a European Minister, and that a European Minister would be defending a decision taken by an African colleague. They were able to move forward on that very fragile basis, remembering that after Mau-Mau there was enormous bitterness and mistrust between the various communities which had to be cleared up. That concept of each relying on the other, in a sense of partnership, in making decisions has been one of the reasons for the success of Kenya. It is by no means a perfect situation, but certainly I would rather be a European living in Kenya than an African living in Rhodesia.

Mr. MacFarquhar

I am following the right hon. Gentleman's remarks with interest and sympathy, and his recounting of the history of the developments in both Kenya and Rhodesia. This exposes clearly the problems involved in the suggestions made by the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) about having a British Governor installed at this stage, as though this could in any way guarantee a settlement. Will the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) agree that what is necessary to guarantee a settlement is an interim period of working together by people of all races?

Mr. Thorpe

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. This is a point that we have to recognise—that we have authority without power. Rhodesia will succeed only on the basis of trust between the races, and there is a lot of mistrust to be overcome. The longer it takes to achieve a settlement, the more the mistrust will grow.

If we are to go to the United Nations and to recommend that the sanctions be lifted, we shall obviously have to show that there has been a return to legality. That would not mean necessarily that Rhodesia would have to revert to the pre-1965 constitution, or that she had yet achieved independence, but that she would be a Crown colony and have to revert to her former juridical status. We should therefore have to have some symbol of the Crown.

The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet asked who should be put in. Should it be a Governor-General? What would be his position? I believe that probably we need a man who would be the trusted mediator between the two sides.

I well remember what to me was the most appalling example of the distance between the various parties in Rhodesia. It is better now than it was. But it occurred when I was at the first constitutional conference. I was talking to Joshua Nkomo, who was then one of the leaders of African opinion, and Roy Welensky came up. He was then Prime Minister. I said "There is no need for me to introduce you two". They replied "We have never met". That situation has changed dramatically today. If today Roy Welensky were 20 years younger, I believe that we might have had a very different situation.

The job of the British mediator will be that of a man who can be trusted by both sides and who can try to mediate, because very often the disagreements are not as basic as both sides think.

As I say, I am not wildly optimistic. We have to show all the flexibility politically of which this country and this House are capable. I believe, for example, that we may well get an agreement only to find it breached continuously by outbreaks of violence. When I was in Rhodesia, I suggested to Mr. Smith that if that was happening there was possibly a case for a mixed armistice commission composed of two members of the ANC and two members of the Rhodesian administration. It may be that that will have to be done again. It may even have to be under the auspices of the United Nations. I know not. But an enormous amount of flexibility will be needed.

I believe that it would be wrong if Mr. Smith went to the conference and said that the six matters were inviolate and were not subject to negotiation. That would be an unreasonable demand. I must also say to many of my African friends that I believe that they have the chance of an immense prize—that of African majority rule within two years. Everyone has to take risks. The only alternative is not to take them and face the certainty of bloodshed.

I also say to my African friends that, if they are successful in Rhodesia, there is another great prize which will be brought decades closer to achievement. It is the liberalisation and freedom of the whole of Southern Africa. That is an enormous prize. To avert the possibility of bloodshed along racial grounds and to have the southern part of Africa an area of genuine partnership between the faces showing that one of the most lethal cankers in politics, racialism, can be solved on a non-racial basis in Southern Africa would be the supreme prize.

I believe that there has to be great flexibility all round. I hope that this conference will succeed. The prospects if it does not succeed are too appalling to speculate. Mr. Richard has our very good wishes.

Let us hope that this is the last time that we have to debate this order.

5.43 p.m.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

I hope that the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) will not think me discourteous if I do not comment in detail on his speech, though I shall say a word or two about his closing sentences in a moment.

The House would be less than worthy of this occasion if we tried to emphasise the differences between us, instead of trying to emphasise the agreement that there is between us. So, on the Order before us, the formal reason for this debate, for the eleventh time I will support an order which I hope will not be necessary much longer. At least on this occasion we can all hope that, after the establishment of an interim government, in three or six months' time we can join togeher to revoke this order. This might be the only unanimous decision these orders ever receive, and that will be one difficulty out of the way.

At this stage, there are only two certainties about Southern Africa. One is that there is to be a conference in Geneva. It seems that those who are going there are going with different purposes, for different reasons, and by different persuasions. The invitations have been sent and, for whatever reason, they have been accepted. There remain some doubts in my mind about how this was achieved. Good causes can be advanced for a short time by getting understanding and agreement about different expediencies. I remain doubtful that the American Secretary of State said exactly the same to everyone to whom he spoke. That is a matter which could cause much disputation. It is a difference which is not as important as the fact that there is to be a conference. The conference will decide, among other matters, an interim form of government.

I wish to ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State three questions. Will he at least publish the terms of the invitation sent by Her Majesty's Government to those who are taking part in the conference? It may help in a little way to know them. Will he agree that any recognition by Her Majesty's Government of an interim government will be on the basis of the same six conditions which we insisted had to apply to a settlement with Smith régime of government? Will he agree that, if we in the United Kingdom are asked to work for and to accept a multi-racial society in the United Kingdom, we have the right to expect that there will be a multi-racial society in Rhodesia itself?

The second certainty is that the future development of Rhodesia will be decisive in what is to happen over the next 10 or 20 years for the future of all of Southern Africa. If Rhodesia becomes another Vietnam or another Angola, any hope of advance towards the kind of society that I should like to see in Southern Africa will be denied for many years.

The conference will be deciding not only the future of Rhodesia, important though it is. It will be setting out the terms for progress in Southern Africa, and about that I have great fears and doubts. There is no Mahatma. There is no Nehru. There are few Nyereres. There is certainly no Martin Luther King. There is a degree of hope, but I have more fears than hopes.

Certainly the House will be raising hopes that we have no chance of carrying through if we pretend that, whatever situation is agreed and accepted at Geneva and followed through with an interim government, we are in any position to guarantee the future developments in Rhodesia. We can hope and help, but we cannot guarantee. A long time ago this country decided that our effective power in Southern Africa was to be reduced. We cannot guarantee, and we do less than justice to people there if we pretend that we can.

Everyone concerned, not least Her Majesty's Government, deserves good fortune. Everyone will need it. Those taking part in the conference are deciding not only the future of Rhodesia but the future of millions of all races, creeds, colours and denominations in the whole of Southern Africa.

5.48 p.m.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

I share the realism implicit in most of the words of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden). Today will be the eleventh occasion on which I shall have cast my vote against the 1965 Act and its renewal. I shall not have done so because of any approval which I feel for the state of affairs in Rhodesia in the past 11 years but because I regard that Act and its continuing renewal as an exercise in national hallucination whereby we have pretended to a sovereignty and an authority and asserted a responsibility which were all unreal because they were unaccompanied by power; indeed were unaccompanied by anything but the most vestigial influence. I noticed that the Foreign Secretary referred to our having no power in Rhodesia even if we had the wish to exercise it.

The events of the past few weeks have placed the unrealism of what we have been doing over the past eleven years in a new and menacing context. There is to be a conference at Geneva and the chair at that conference is to be taken by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. We are not taking the chair at that conference as neutrals. The chairman is not there to arrive if possible at a lowest common denominator between those present like a good arbitrator and if possible to register the result. We are not there as might be Switzerland or Sweden. The reason why the British Government are chairing that conference is that we still claim to be the only source of legitimate government and law in Rhodesia. We have asserted that claim in the face of the world for the last eleven years, and now the claim is being brought home to us and has seated us in the chair at Geneva.

It is worth looking more closely at what this conference is about. We have been too vague about its functions so far. I find it helpful, in answering that question, to look at what the Foreign Secretary said on 24th September immediately after Mr. Smith's acceptance—if he did accept anything—of the proposals. The Foreign Secretary said: Two constitutional acts are involved here. The first is to legalise the interim Government which will come—we hope—into being in a short space of time. He went on: At the end of two years … we shall then need final legislation which will confer total independence. At least one of the subjects which is before the conference in Geneva is the nature of the interim government. This nature was set out in some detail in the famous proposals, for which the only written authority is Mr. Smith's broadcast on 24th September. From those it is quite clear that it will not be an interim Government under the present illegal constitution of Rhodesia, but an interim set-up which would need to be provided for by specific and fairly detailed legislation. That legislation could only be legislation of this House, because from our point of view the present state of affairs in Rhodesia has no legal basis. If, in the Foreign Secretary's words, we are, to "legalise the interim Government", it must be an Act of this Parliament which will lay down the legal basis for that new government.

So presumably, whatever else happens in Geneva, there will be a settlement of the terms of an Act which this Parliament will be invited to pass. I am not sure that that has been sufficiently clearly stated today. But we have had the pleasure of reading the words of Dr. Kissinger who told us that the United Kingdom will enact enabling legislation for the process to majority rule". He gave a whole series of details on what might go into such a Bill, though other passages of the famous proposals suggest that we might legislate for a blank cheque. There is the phrase: Upon enactment of that legislation, Rhodesia will also enact such legislation as is necessary to the process. I do not regard that as satisfactory to this House and I would not support a proposal to enact a one-line Bill following the Geneva Conference which gave carte blanche to whatever authority it legalises in Rhodesia.

So the business of the conference at Geneva is, if nothing else, to arrive at an interim constitution which, with the general agreement of the parties present, will be sufficiently acceptable to the British Government and to us to be turned into an Act of Parliament and thus, after eleven years, to give, in our eyes, legality to the state of affairs in Rhodesia.

In doing that we shall, whether we like it or not, and in the eyes of all who are parties to the agreement, however temporary, be believed to be responsible for maintaining the constitution which this House sets up. Thus we shall, once again, and much more deeply, have committed ourselves to an act of responsibility without a vestige of power.

It may well be that agreemnt will be arrived at in Geneva for such and such provisions; but what if these provisions are overridden, and what if the expectations of those at Geneva are disappointed by actual events in Rhodesia in the next six or 12 months? What then is the position of the Government and this House? One thing is certain. We shall be believed to have accepted responsibility for what comes out of Geneva if, under our chairmanship, agreement is reached and we legalise the new state of affairs.

The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) did in fact ask this question, although I found his conclusion very difficult to accept. He posed the question of the way in which the United Kingdom, having passed, as intended, such an Act, was to give effect to that Act and discharge the responsibility attached to such a piece of legislation. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman did a service to the House by producing a reductio ad absurdum. That reductio ad absurdum was a British governor and a "British presence", which is a euphemism for British forces. Thereby the right hon. Gentleman revealed an incompatibility between the stance we are taking up, not just by renewing the 1965 Act but by chairing this conference and entering upon a new train of events, and our total lack of power in Rhodesia.

The right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) put his finger on this when he said that of all the fateful factors in Rhodesia it had been the attempt of this country to exercise authority and responsibility there which had most impeded the natural development of events.

Mr. Hooley

The right hon. Gentleman is being more academic and abstruse than usual. The factors in this equation are not merely the legal constitutional rights of this House, which the whole world recognises, but the practical involvement on the ground of African States and the external pressures of the great powers such as the United States, which can be brought to bear in support of policies or enactments which we adopt. These are the power factors. The right hon. Gentleman's references to consittutional points ignore the realities of the situation.

Mr. Powell

The hon. Member has my arguments entirely upside down. I entirely agree that what happens in Rhodesia is decided by the parallelogram of forces there, including the actions of the United States Government. It will be something which we shall not have the power to control, to police or to influence. Yet here we are, putting ourselves in the position of chairing—and thereby of taking responsibility for the outcome of—a constitutional conference, and of inscribing upon the statute book a constitution which we have no power to maintain.

Mr. Thorpe

Will the right hon. Gentleman come to the logic of his argument? Is he saying therefore that we should not take the chair because we cannot enforce the outcome—

Mr. Powell


Mr. Thorpe

—and that we should have recognised UDI because we could not prevent it?

Mr. Powell


Mr. Thorpe

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that if we had recognised UDI we would not now be having a conference to discuss the possibility of a multi-racial Government in Rhodesia?

Mr. Powell

Yes. The right hon. Gentleman has followed me all through the last 11 years. Without variation I have said that we should have accepted de facto that we had no authority after 1965, and that thereafter we should have dealt with Rhodesia as a part of the world in which our writ did not run and in which we had minimal influence. That is why I regret that we shall be chairing the conference and why I am opposing that as a reversion in much more grotesque form to the pretence and hallucination in which we have been engaging in the last 11 years.

What harm can come of it? In practice I suppose that on the ground in Rhodesia it will make little difference. I agree with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) that whatever happens in Rhodesia will be decided by forces over which we not only have no control but of which we can make no projections even for a year or two, let alone over the 200 years that the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet aspired to survey.

But there is still a result for us which I believe will almost certainly be disastrous. It is that the difference between the outcome and what we purport to enact in this House will be regarded for ever by many, including many in Rhodesia—not necessarily all of them white people—as the evidence of a breach of faith and a dishonour on the part of this country. We shall be understood as having undertaken that which we cannot and certainly shall not perform. As for ourselves, we shall have contrived another humiliation on top of all the rest that our blindness and our unwillingness to face reality have loaded upon us.

That is the reason why tonight, and with a heavier heart than ever for the future, I shall once again cast my vote against the renewal of the 1965 Act.

6.4 p.m.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (Lichfield and Tamworth)

Once again the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has been in one of those moods of his in which he applies strictly legal and logical arguments to a situation. At other times he thinks it right to apply largely emotional arguments to a situation. As a politician I suppose it is his right to mix the two.

Anyone who looks at the situation in Rhodesia must admit, which so far as I can see the right hon. Gentleman did not admit, that there is a profoundly important and significant emotional element to be catered for there apart from the question of legality which must be dealt with I do not think that anyone is in any doubt that to restore Rhodesia to her legal position in the international community will involve an Act of this Parliament. I recognise, and I think that we would all have to recognise, that any interim Government that was sanctioned by an Act of this Parliament would run precisely the risks that the right hon. Gentleman said we would have to face, with a situation of responsibility without power. But, as he rightly said, that has been the situation for much of the last 11 years.

The situation in Rhodesia, and in the whole of southern Africa, is by no means simply a legal situation and the subject of legal argument. If it were, the lawyers would now be clamouring for, above all else, the extradition of Mr. Smith upon his arrival at Geneva to bring him to trial before a British court for the various crimes which under British law he has presumably committed over the past 10 or 11 years. I do not think that anyone would suggest that in the immediate situation that would be a useful way to proceed.

We are debating whether the sanctions should be renewed for another 12 months. The circumstances in which we debate that issue are very different from those which obtained a year ago, when a far smaller number of hon. Members were here to consider that same question.

I say this much of sanctions, in disagreement with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. They have not been a significant factor, or even a factor in bringing Smith to the conference table, if he comes. The factors which have done that are, above all, the military situation in and around Rhodesia, the situation which has resulted from the collapse of the Portuguese empire, and, as I said last year, overwhelmingly and crucially the relationship which exists, or which does not exist, between Rhodesia and South Africa.

It is this relationship with South Africa which has always made an absurdity of sanctions in terms of bringing Rhodesia down. For as long as South Africa is there—and it is breaking sanctions, particularly in the construction of a new rail route, and so on —it is clear that Rhodesia can survive sanctions. But, as South Africa has slowly come to realise the inevitability of the situation in that part of the world, that relationship has been crucial in bringing Smith to the conference table.

I agree with those who say that sanctions are irrelevant when it comes to forcing Smith to the conference table. But they are not irrelevant in one crucial respect in the South African situation, which the right hon. Member for Down, South overlooked. That is the importance of emotion and symbolism in that part of the world. Britain has come to this last spasm of empire. By and large we have discharged our imperial responsibilities far more satisfactorily than most imperial powers, certainly more so than the Portuguese, the Belgians or the French. Throughout these last 11 years the one thing we could always turn to has been the symbol of our good intent and our commitment to the side of right and the side of democracy. That has been symbolised by our willingness to continue with sanctions. It has been profoundly important in the understanding of Britain's responsibilities and the respect with which Britain is held by African countries and by the African groups in Rhodesia.

Those hon. Members who think that sanctions are irrelevant must answer that point. If they think that symbolism and emotion are unimportant in politics, they fail completely to understand the political process. We profoundly hope that Britain will discharge its final imperial responsibility with honour. My submission is that sanctions have made it much more likely that we shall be able to do that, and it would be disastrous if we did not renew sanctions for the next 12 months.

What are Britain's remaining responsibilities? They are legal and political. The legal responsibilities are that we shall have to pass an Act to give legality to the interim government and, finally, to the independent State of Zimbabwe.

The political responsibilities are that, as with all other de-colonisations by previous governments, we shall at least have to see that when independence is granted its structure and constitution conform to the aspirations and values by which we live and try to run our affairs. But there can be no guarantee that this will continue after independence.

Many countries to whom we have given independence have been successful in maintaining those values, but there is no way to guarantee that. The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) spent some time discussing how to achieve precise safeguards for communities. His attitude could be summed up by saying that he profoundly hopes, as do we all, that the majority in Rhodesia will treat the minority a damned sight better in future that the minority has treated the majority in the past. However, there is no way of guaranteeing that.

British Governments tried for almost a century to guarantee that the rights of the coloured community in the Cape would be maintained by entrenched clauses in the South Africa constitution, but, if the political will in South Africa is that they should be denied those rights, nothing can alter that situation.

We all hope that the transition in Zimbabwe will be peaceful. We all put on our cathedral faces and nod solemnly when an hon. Member says we abhor bloodshed. We abhor bloodshed, not only because we do not like people being killed, but because whether Zimbabwe achieves independence through bloodshed or by a peaceful transition will be an overwhelming determinant of the new régime.

African countries which have had to achieve independence by force of arms have had régimes after independence of a kind with which we would not be happy to be associated and of a kind different from those countries where there has been a peaceful transition. This is a crucial factor for us to bear in mind.

I must add a word of warning about Britain's position at the conference and during its immediate aftermath. There are a number of issues about which we should be profoundly concerned.

We are concerned here, not just with Rhodesia, but with the whole of southern Africa and South Africa. Although it may be convenient to use Mr. Vorster as a means of putting pressure on Mr. Smith, there must be no compromise in our past attitude of profound and equal condemnation of what goes on in South Africa. Tactically it may be convenient to have Vorster helping to isolate Rhodesia. That may be one of those parts of politics which is inevitable, but about which we prefer not to talk too much. However, we must not compromise the stand, perhaps symbolic, that we shall take on South Africa in future.

Let us also remember, in considering how to deal with the various groups in Rhodesia after independence, that during the past 11 years there have been rebels and there have been those who have lived under an oppressive régime. Clearly we want safeguards and wish to do all we can to see a peaceful transition, but let us do nothing to compromise our stand on this issue either.

I hope that we shall act with honour in this last spasm of Empire, as we have done by the use of sanctions in the past. I profoundly hope that we shall continue their use for the next 12 months.

6.16 p.m.

Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)

I agree with a number of the conclusions of the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Grocott) though not necessarily with the reasoning which led him to reach them. I correct only one of his descriptions. The only way in which Rhodesia differs from any other part of the Empire that we dissolved after the war is that it is not a last spasm of Empire. Rhodesia has never been a British possession administered by this country and we have not had power over it.

Other than in name, Rhodesia has been an independent country since 1923 and this has been the primary cause of the difficulties which did not arise in other colonies where the administrations owed their allegiance directly to this country.

It would be strange if anyone did not wish the conference success. Yet I cannot but share the pessimism of those who have already expressed it, but it is better to concentrate on at least hoping that it will succeed because the alternatives appear so frightening.

The Foreign Secretary said that he recognised that a number of pitfalls lie ahead, but that he would not enumerate them. It is up to some of us to spell out some of these pitfalls. If there were more time, I should like to discuss them in greater detail, but we have all promised to be brief.

It is particularly up to those of us who have had something to do with similar conferences in the past to point out the possible pitfalls. I have been constitutional adviser to a number of African parties and was present on at least one occasion when my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) was in charge of the conference.

There will be great internal nationalist dissensions in Rhodesia. This is inevitable as the moment for taking power comes closer. There will be jockeying between the forces and there are deep-seated tribal, as well as other, differences. It will be a miracle if the conference does not founder, quite apart from any actions by the Europeans or the British chairman, on the strife between the various nationalist forces which is temporarily under cover because of the desire to get to the conference table but which will, I suspect, emerge rapidly as the moment of decision approaches.

I recollect the present President of Tanzania telling me at his country's independence celebrations that he had asked Britain for independence after 12 years. He said that immediately that concession was made—that there would be independence in principle—the momentum grew so rapidly that it took place within a couple of years.

We have started with two years for Rhodesia. I find it impossible to believe that there will not be strong pressures from the rival nationalist groups in competition, aided by people outside who have not had genuine good will for the people of Rhodesia, to try to speed up the two years with all that that will entail. I do not think that many hon. Members would differ from what I think will take place.

I turn now to the interpretation of majority rule. It would be a tragedy if we were to back the principle, at a single stroke, of one man, one vote in Rhodesia when the conference takes place. In my view, majority rule means that African voters will be in the majority at the election that sets up the Government to take the country into independence. We shall not reach a solution merely by adding numbers.

Almost without exception, every African country that achieved independence on the principle of one man, one vote went on to one election and an authoritarian rule afterwards. We should be deluding ourselves if we did not think that would be the likely pattern in Rhodesia. We talk in terms of setting up a parliamentary democracy on the principle of one man, one vote. If that takes place in Rhodesia, it will be a shining example which the rest of Africa has not followed.

I make no complaint. I do not believe that when we give up an imperialist rôle we can dictate the form of government that should be set up by those who follow. I believe that it would lead to humiliation for us if we tied ourselves to some kind of glorious Westminster-type constitution, which we all know in our hearts and minds would be in ruins within months.

Turning to minority rights, I think that everybody agrees that for economic, social and political reasons European co-operation is essential in building the new Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, or whatever it is to be called. Many hon. Members who have visited that part of the world many times and know it have seen what has happened to paper safeguards elsewhere in Africa. It is all very well to write down a whole series of regulations, but we all know that in fact 70 per cent. vote for one thing, 60 per cent. for another and 40 per cent. for yet something else, and they all go into the wastepaper basket. This is not the form of government that the Africans want or propose to adopt.

The Europeans know that we cannot give them guarantees by providing them with a magnificent Magna Carta giving them rights of appeal to the courts and to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. We must not allow ourselves to be deluded into that dream world. If we are to get the help of the Europeans—this is not defeatist—we must provide a safety net for them to get out of Rhodesia if things become untenable for them. If we want their co-operation, we must provide them with that safety net. That is what we did, in effect, in Kenya. Quite early in the negotiations for Kenya's independence we accepted that some Europeans would want to leave that country. Therefore, we bought their farms with money which was provided by way of aid to get them out. We must do something along those lines in Rhodesia if we are to get European co-operation. Paper safeguards with red ribbons around them will not convince cynical Europeans in Rhodesia that majority rule will ensure that they continue to play a significant political rôle in that country.

Mr. Ronald Bell

I think that the situation in Kenya was different. There are over 250,000 Europeans in Rhodesia. Is it not a highly developed, civilised country, with industries, and so on, which could not possibly continue, except as a total shambles, without the European population?

Sir F. Bennett

I do not argue with that. We would have to provide a different and bigger safety net. The shambles would be there. If we are to get the Europeans to try to prevent that shambles by working with the Africans, then, apart from paper safeguards, we must give them the opportunity to get out under reasonable conditions if things become untenable for them. If not, at the end of the day there will be a mass exodus of white Rhodesians. If all they have is a bit of paper, they will leave, and the shambles to which my hon. and learned Friend referred will come about.

Regarding sanctions, the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth was right when he said that we delude ourselves if we think that sanctions orders made here have brought about this situation. I am not admiring or condemning the pressures that have been used. We have to deal with de facto politics.

When we passed the first order 11 years ago, the then Prime Minister said that the purpose of sanctions was to bring down Mr. Smith's Government. It certainly did not do that. As it became evident over the years that sanctions would not bring down Mr. Smith's Government, we said that their purpose was to bring him to the negotiating table. They did not do that either. Anybody can check this by looking through Hansard for the last 11 years.

Three things have brought Mr. Smith to the negotiating table: the collapse of the Portuguese empire, the events in Angola, and the decision by Mr. Vorster that in the climate of world opinion it was becoming too expensive to sustain Rhodesia as well as South Africa. That, if we are telling the truth, is what it is all about.

For reasons of time, I shall not talk about symbolism, but factually Mr. Vorster ought to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Foreign Secretary, not those who have been responsible for bringing in sanctions orders.

Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, whereas the United Nations has sought international sanctions, South Africa has over the years blatantly not carried out those sanctions? If, in 1965, South Africa, together with the rest of the world, had observed the sanctions, we would have had these talks much earlier.

Sir F. Bennett

That is hypothetical. At least 100 speeches have been made in which that point has been stressed with complete truth during the last 10 years. It is like saying what might have been and that wishing will make it so. The fact is that South Africa and Portugal did not impose sanctions. Whether they should have done would necessitate far too long a discourse in what is meant to be a brief speech.

I have no wish to vote against the order. We are talking about a package deal. Mr. Smith has not asked for the removal of sanctions before the formation of an interim Government. Therefore, it would be illogical to break the package deal tonight. But it carries with it a certain responsibility. If an interim Government is formed and Mr. Smith plays his part in the package deal, I expect the Government to take certain action. It is no use saying that the lifting of sanctions was part of the basis of Dr. Kissinger's negotiations. To say "I shall lift sanctions when there is an interim Government" is not capable of being a negotiation. It is a stated fact. There is no possibility of wriggling round that.

I hope that the Minister, in winding up the debate, will make it clear that, as we expect Mr. Smith to live up to his side of the bargain, we shall live up to ours if an interim Government is formed on the lines that have been agreed.

I hope that the Minister will also make it clear that if, due to deliberate wrecking tactics by those who do not want the conference to succeed at any cost, all our best efforts are in vain, this House will not be asked to continue to pursue a vendetta against Rhodesia. That would be immoral.

We brought in sanctions to bring Mr. Smith to the negotiating table. Whether or not they brought him to the table. he is there. We have achieved what we have been told for years was the purpose of sanctions. If, now that Mr. Smith has come to the table, the terrorists and others make a successful outcome to the conference impossible. I should regard it as entirely unethical if we still continued with sanctions because agreement was not possible.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

We should remind ourselves that the purpose of the order that we are now debating is to honour an international obligation. By this order we are continuing sanctions which were imposed at our request by the Security Council of the United Nations. We have a clear international obligation to honour that decision of the Security Council and to continue sanctions until such time as there is a return to legality in Rhodesia.

In case people imagine that the Security Council is no longer interested in this matter, I remind the House that a further resolution was passed by the Council in April of this year reaffirming sanctions and, indeed, extending their scope.

There has been some discussion about how effective this technique is in settling this problem. The relative effect is that the Western world has defaulted on its international obligations to a large extent by not bringing pressure to bear on those who broke sanctions. That is a disagreeable thing to have to say, but it is a fact. I believe that the action of the American Congress in passing the Third Amendment and deliberately importing raw materials from Rhodesia was a disgraceful flouting of the authority of the United Nations which does no credit to the United States Administration.

It is equally true that when sanctions have been imposed, as, for example, by the closing of the Mozambique border, they have intensified the problem and had an important effect. I draw the attention of those who do not believe this to a report in The Guardian a short time ago about what has recently been hap- pening to the Rhodesian economy. It stated: Foreign exchange is desperately short, new investment low, manufacturing production fell … Investor confidence in Rhodesia's future was indicated by the fall in the Salisbury stock exchange index this month to 230, against the high point of 490 in July 1974. Most worrying for the regime is the high white emigration rate, a factor likely to accelerate if African opposition detroys the basis for the present agreement. Emigration has averaged 1,200 for the first seven months of this year, a high proportion of the total white population of 278,000. The effect on the construction sector can be seen now construction plans for the first five months of 1976 are 25 per cent. lower than in the same period last year. The drain of skilled labour by emigration has been exacerbated by increasing demands of the security forces on the time of young white males which in turn has accelerated emigration. Those were some of the effects of the closure of one of the gaps in the sanctions ring, namely, the Mozambique area.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hooley

No, I have only just begun my speech. There is no doubt at all that had the Western world effectively intended to deploy sanctions, as it had the authority to do under the Security Council Resolution, it could have had a rapid and tremendous impact on the Smith régime.

Those who deride the application of economic sanctions as a result of an international dispute had better reflect that we would have been left with no interval between agreement and war. If we say that the two parties concerned must get an agreement, but we do not bring to bear any kind of sanction or pressure of an economic or diplomatic nature, we must face the fact that the other end of the scale is war. In fact, this has happened in Rhodesia. Although sanctions have had some effect, they could have had a total effect had they been fully applied. But because they were not fully applied we have drifted into a situation where there is now war.

We need to remind ourselves of the nature of the Rhodesian society at the moment. It is simply not good enough to expect to understand the attitude of the African nationalists who are coming to negotiate in Geneva unless we attempt to understand what they have had to put up with in the past 11 years. The idea of UDI being a decent and civilised interval in the development of Rhodesia may be all right for some people in this House, and it may be all right for the white racist community which imposed it and administered it, but what it has meant for the Africans needs to be spelled out, at least a little, in this debate.

I quote from a document published by the International Defence and Aid Fund in London concerning the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act. It states: The Law and Order (Maintenance) Act, in particular, substituted for the rule of law the rule of force, and evoked a storm of protest in liberal circles, the press, churches, the legal profession and the academic community. The 'savage' and 'primitive' character of the Bill, coming as it did on top of a whole series of 'drastic curtailments of ordinary liberties', prompted Sir Robert Tredgold, then Chief Justice of the Federation, to hand in his resignation. He later wrote about the Act in his autobiography: 'An eminent lawyer described the proposals as vicious and a leading newspaper as hysterical and neither epithet was unjustified. It almost appeared as though someone had sat down with the Declaration of Human Rights and deliberately scrubbed out each in turn. … At the time I described it as an anthology of horrors—and it was not an inept description'. That is the kind of society from which the Africans are now coming to negotiate with Mr. Smith—the author and administrator of that Act. This has been carried further still in a report on emergency courts which have been set up this year. I quote: The rapid breakdown of standards of law in white Rhodesia has been dramatically illustrated in recent weeks through the setting up of special 'mobile courts' in the operational areas to try offences under the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act. The Emergency Powers (Criminal Trials) Regulations 1976"— note the year—1976— provide for impromptu trials to be convened in which the right to legal defence has been virtually extinguished and the rules of procedure reveal some drastic departures from accepted legal conventions. In the space of a week at the end of May, eight people are known to have been sentenced to death by special courts. Although provision is made for appeals against conviction and sentence 'the execution of any sentence of imprisonment or a fine shall not', under Section 12, 'be suspended by the noting of an appeal'. That is the kind of legislation and the kind of society under which the Africans in Rhodesia have had to live for the past 11 years. Of course, it does not cover the fact that over and above this Draconian legislation we have had the imprisonment without trial of a great many of the leaders who are coming to Geneva—among them Mr. Nkomo, Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Sithole—and many of their friends have been hanged illegally by the régime. That is the kind of background, from the African side, that we have to take into consideration when looking at what will come out of Geneva and what is the basis of the facts.

My right hon. Friend said that the most important development in 1976 was the speech of the Prime Minister on 22nd March. What he spelled out then is, I understand, the basis of the British position. It was not the diplomatic details negotiated by Dr. Kissinger, although they could have had a value in setting in motion the possibility of convening a conference. The basis of the British position, as I understand it, was the statement made by the Prime Minister in his capacity as Foreign Secretary on 22nd March. It is worth quoting once again what this position is— First, there must be prior agreement by all the principal parties to a number of pre-conditions. These are as follows: first, acceptance of the principle of majority rule; secondly elections for majority to take place in eighteen months to two years; thirdly, agreement that there will be no independence before majority rule; fourthly, the negotiations must not be long drawn out."—[Official Report, 22nd March 1976; Vol. 908, c. 30–31.] Any idea that Mr. Smith can evade or get out of those conditions on the basis of some document, the existence of which nobody seems to be certain of, is nonsense. The British Government's position is clear, and it is important that the House should understand it.

Over and above that htere was the important speech by the American Secretary of State in Lusaka, in April of this year. That was before he undertook his shuttle diplomacy. I think that there he spelled out the principles of American policy in Southern Africa, which are in many ways more important than the technicalities of his diplomatic mission in recent weeks. What he said was that American policy centres on America's "unrelenting opposition" to the Rhodesian regime. He said that the policy also called for swift constitutional changes to bring majority rule in Namibia and an end to apartheid in South Africa.

Those principles were spelled out in a considered and deliberate speech in Africa way back in April this year. They seem to me to be far more important than the bits and pieces of the so-called package, about which we have heard so much from the Opposition today. Nevertheless, I think that there was a considerable psychological importance in Smith's acceptance of the principle of majority rule. It would be very difficult for him to go back on that acceptance and it makes his position quite untenable if the Geneva Conference breaks down.

There are a number of background points that we might consider in relation to the Geneva Conference. Its success or otherwise will clearly depend on the Africans, on Smith and, I hope, on Mr. Richards, too, as they sit around the table. But the influence of the rest of the world will play some part as well in the background to the conference and what the British Government may do.

I think that the important points are as follows: first, I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend that all aspects of the proposals that Mr. Smith read out have to be negotiable. We must make it quite clear that Smith is not going to Geneva to be crowned king of Rhodesia. He is going there to capitulate. That must be clear.

Secondly, we must hammer home to Smith, in one way or another, that in the event of this conference failing, he is not going back to a comfortable, white-controlled UDI Rhodesia but to a guerrilla war, and that he can expect no help, comfort or defence from the Western world if he goes back in failure from Geneva.

Thirdly—and this is equally important—America and this country, and indeed, the Western world generally, must hammer home to Mr. Vorster that if he tries to interfere again in Rhodesia in support of Smith, he will not be protected from pressures from the rest of the world by any further vetoes by France, the United States or Britain in the Security Council, and that so far from being so protected, any attempt by the South African Government once more, by economic help or even by overt military help—as has happened in the past—to sustain the Smith régime will provoke strong and powerful countermeasures by the Western world.

I take the point made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that there are limitations to such measures as this country alone can take, but I think that he is quite wrong in supposing that the Western world at large is impotent to deal with Mr. Vorster or with Smith if it summons up the political will.

On the more positive side, I believe that it will be necessary for the British Government to take some steps to indicate to the participants in the Geneva Conference that if they can come to a reasonable agreement, reasonable interim arrangements which are generally acceptable to all the persons there, we for our part will be prepared to seek to organise an international force of some kind, as I would hope, on the ground, to supervise the transition period. This is a matter of practical common sense. I do not see how men such as Muzorewa, Mugabe and Nkomo, who have been imprisoned by Smith, can possibly trust a régime such as his in control of the armed forces of Rhodesia. However, equally, I accept that many white Rhodesians, white families living on the frontier, are terrified that if that control is released they will be murdered, tortured or killed by guerrilla activity. That is a fear that I would certainly have if I were in their situation.

Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)

I should like to put to the hon. Gentleman a point about a British intervention. We have heard a large number of contributions in that direction. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if there is to be any British presence, that presence must be by the invitation of all parties and by guerrilla leaders in the field? If it is not so, we shall put ourselves, if we go there in any form at all, in the position of being branded as colonial oppressors and we shall contribute nothing to a solution in Rhodesia.

Mr. Hooley

Either the hon. Gentleman did not hear what I said or I must have expressed myself badly. I did not suggest a British presence. I said that there should be some form of international force. That could be organised by the OAU, the United Nations or the Commonwealth. My own inclination would be very much in favour of some kind of Commonwealth force, in which countries such as Nigeria and Ghana could play a useful part. I certainly agree that the suggestion of putting a British Army there would be nonsense, from any point of view. However, I would not rule out the possibility, with some diplomatic effort and private discussions in the background while the conference is going on, of making some arrangements for a force on the ground that was regarded as sufficiently effective and sufficiently impartial to be accepted by all concerned during the transfer of power.

It is also absolutely essential that whatever comes out of Geneva must include a provision for free elections on the basis of one man, one vote. I do not share the rather weird exegesis of what is majority rule, as put forward by some Opposition Members. It would also help make for a greater possibility of agreement at Geneva if the political detainees still held by the Smith régime were released forthwith—and, of course, there must be an absolute end to hangings by that régime, otherwise the atmosphere for talks cannot possibly be propitious from the African side.

I must admit that I am not wholly optimistic that this exercise will succeed, but in some ways I would be prepared to adopt a phrase that Vorster himself used—the alternaive is too ghastly to contemplate. Certainly, failure at Geneva would mean a continuation of a very savage racial war. That would probably spill over from Rhodesia into South Africa and link up with the war that is already going on in Namibia.

I believe that all civilised men hope that we can get a peaceful transition to legal, constitutional majority rule in Rhodesia and that the Geneva Conference will prove to be the vehicle for doing this.

6.48 p.m.

Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) opened his remarks by describing the slide on the Stock Exchange and the brain drain that has been taking place in Rhodesia. The idea that the policies of the Labour Government in London and of the Rhodesia Front in Salisbury should lead to the same result may cause hon. Members either to laugh or cry, according to their persuasion.

I should preface my remarks by reminding the House that I have business interests in South Africa, though not, of course, in Rhodesia. Thanks to those interests, I spent the best part of a month in those two countries this summer and had the opportunity of speaking with leading people of all persuasions and parties in both countries.

The Foreign Secretary began his speech with an historical retrospect of the situation in Rhodesia. I shall briefly follow his example, though perhaps in a rather broader context than that which he chose to use.

In the spring, in the debates that took place in the House on defence and foreign affairs, a number of us argued that the main thrust of Soviet imperialism was increasingly being directed against the raw materials on which Western industry depends and the supply routes by which they come.

Since then, the momentum behind the thrust has increased. I will not weary the House by rehearsing the details. I will merely give one example. If we suddenly learned that the Prime Minister had made himself an Admiral of the Fleet, that would mean a field day for the cartoonists. But when Mr. Brezhnev—whose military experience is about the same as mine—makes himself a Marshal of the Red Army, we may think that it is a joke, but it is in fact a recognition of the importance of the military establishment in his country.

It is now becoming clear that a main theatre—perhaps the main theatre—of the Soviet imperialist thrust is central and southern Africa. It advances under the banner of the national liberation of the African. No doubt it does its best to exploit local discontents, genuine as some of them undoubtedly are. But its real objective is control of the Cape route, upon which not only our oil supplies but our trade with Australia and the whole Indian Ocean depends, and also control of the mineral resources of central and southern Africa, upon which our industries and the jobs of our people depend.

I recently made a speech in Wales and travelled on the railway line from Newport to Swansea. That route covers a solid steel industry band where, without the alloys that Southern Africa provides, there would be massive unemployment. If the Soviet Union, whether through puppet Governments or surrogates, put their hands on those supplies and either denied them to us or controlled their prices, the consequences could be catastrophic. [Interruption.] I am merely stating the facts.

Up to this point we have seen the Soviets establish a colony in Angola garrisoned by Cubans, who are the Gurkhas of the Soviet Empire. I am glad to see that the Cubans are having a difficult time suppressing the freedom fighters of UNITA, although they nevertheless supply bases for the SWAPO Communist-directed movement which is operating against South-West Africa. Mozambique is a protectorate rather than a colony, but it is interesting to see that the Soviets have acquired a 20-year lease of an island off the coast of Mozambique and are expanding the harbour of Nacala and the airfield adjoining it.

The main threat to Rhodesia is directed from Mozambique. Several thosands of trained guerrillas—estimates range from 7,000 to 10,000—are in Mozambique, near the Rhodesian border. They are being trained by Soviet instructors or Soviet-trained instructors and are well equipped with Soviet material. Their fighting capacity is not great, but it is improving. Those captured and interrogated have proved to be well-indoctrinated in fairly rudimentary Marxist ideology. More guerrillas are in primary training in Tanzania. The prospect is grim. About 1,000 of the guerrillas are operating inside Rhodesia, and go back and forward as circumstances allow.

Dr. Kissinger appears to have convinced Mr. Vorster and Mr. Smith that such operations would be greatly increased after this winter and that there was a real danger that Cubans and others would come in and help the attack against Rhodesia. I see from the Press that the Foreign Secretary has endorsed that view. We are therefore faced with the prospect of a possible Soviet-inspired takeover of Rhodesia. We can hardly be indifferent to that if we take account of the importance to us in Britain and to Western Europe, Japan and the United States of the minerals of Southern Africa and the importance of the Cape route and all that is bound up with it.

There are limits to what we can do. There are "pathetically narrow" limits if I may quote General George Brown—and I agree with him—to what we in Britain can do alone, but still, as a member of the European Community we could give a lead which we have been unable, incapable or unwilling to give. As allies of the United States we could co-operate with them; and, with our experience of that part of the world, we should surely exercise some influence. The problem is how best to resist what is already a Soviet attack on Southern Africa.

When the attack began in Angola the Government were singularly supine in their efforts Dr. Kissinger, by contrast, understood, and as is now well known, encouraged the South Africans to intervene in Angloa to counteract the Cuban invaders, and squared Zambia and UNITA to accept co-operation with a country with which they had not previously envisaged working. Dr. Kissinger was right, but he was frustrated by Congress. He was frustrated to the extent that in the United Nations he had to condemn the very South African action that he had himself encouraged.

The reasons are many. There was the hangover of the Vietnam war, which still deeply affects the American public. There was the feeling, common in the United States and here, that we would not be morally justified in siding with the white Governments of Southern Africa. There was a total lack of any leadership from the European Community. I cite a Press conference by Mr. Houphouët-Boigny, the President of the Ivory Coast, who said that the failure of the Europeans to react over Angola was worse than the failure of the Americans, because Europe's interests were so much more bound up with the stabilisation of Africa than those of the United States. So, we suffered a major defeat because we were not prepared to defend our own vital interests against external aggression.

Realising that he could get no support from America or Europe, Dr. Kissinger adopted a more indirect strategy. We do not know if it will work. But I think that Mr. Smith quoted Dr. Kissinger correctly when he said: Dr. Kissinger assured me that we shared a common aim and a common purpose, namely to keep Rhodesia in the free world and keep it free from Communist penetration. They have the same objective but have been unable to give direct support. Dr. Kissinger proposed instead that they embark together, with South African support, in a bid to set up a moderate Government which would keep Rhodesia broadly on the side of the West and with adequate safeguards for the European community in Rhodesia. That was the package deal expressed in Mr. Smith's speech to which many hon. Members have referred. It was the subject of mutual congratulations on a fine back-scratching scale between the Prime Minister—who, after all, had been Foreign Secretary in the early stages—and Dr. Kissinger.

The Foreign Secretary now tells us that all this is of no real account. The only thing that really matters is the commitment to majority rule in two years' time. All the details are negotiable and are not concrete proposals. The Foreign Secretary said that they were welcomed because there was urgent need to capitalise upon the change in the situation.

The Foreign Secretary, in a rather surprising statement, went on to say that the five Presidents shared his view. But only a couple of days after Mr. Smith's speech the five Presidents issued their communiqué, which ended with that gallant Portuguese phrase A luta continua—"The struggle continues." So far as I can see, at any rate in words, they totally rejected everything that Dr. Kissinger and Mr. Smith—and, according to the Foreign Office statement, the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary—had agreed. The African nationalist leaders, with some variations, all followed suit—some were more extreme than others—in their rejection of the package deal.

What are we to conclude? Could not we get a little more clarity? Was the deal described in the American paper read by Mr. Smith an agreed Anglo-American position? The Foreign Secretary has still not made that clear. That is what Mr. Smith and Mr. Vorster were told, and I ask the Foreign Secretary to confirm or deny it or to get his representative, when making his winding-up speech, to clarify that point. Did Mr. Smith report accurately what he described as "the actual terms of the proposals put to me by Dr. Kissinger"? Was this genuinely an American paper? Did Mr. Smith, in his comments on it, in any way misrepresent Dr. Kissinger, the right hon. Gentleman or the Prime Minister? If he did, why was no comment or denial made?

Last Tuesday the Foreign Secretary said that he could not speak for Dr. Kissinger, and I perfectly well understand that. But my understanding also is that there was an official from his office with Dr. Kissinger in the aeroplane, travelling with him all the way, and that our Ambassador in Pretoria, Sir David Scott, was kept continually briefed and was fully up to date about everything that transpired at the various meetings between Dr. Kissinger and Mr. Smith. As two days elapsed before Mr. Smith made his broadcast, there must have been plenty of time for the right hon. Gentleman to see whether there was any discrepancy between what Dr. Kissinger had discussed with Mr. Smith and told Sir David Scott, and what he and Dr. Kissinger had previously agreed.

Mr. Vorster, who was present at any rate at the second part of the conversation, has, according to the Press, apparently confirmed Mr. Smith's account. Does the Foreign Secretary agree or disagree with those Press reports?

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I understand that in the United States this matter was put to Dr. Kissinger, who was asked precisely whether Mr. Smith had or had not properly represented the agreement in his broadcast. I understand that Dr. Kissinger's reply was "Yes"—that he thought that Mr. Smith had accurately described their agreement.

Mr. Amery

I am grateful to my hon. Friend but, while appreciating his intervention, I think that we should all like to have the same confirmation from the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Crosland

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) who is putting his questions and criticism sternly but fairly. On the point raised by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), the position was made absolutely clear by Dr. Kissinger himself, apart from what I have said twice in the House. The question of ministerial portfolios and other questions of that sort are still subject to negotiation. That is a statement which can be repeated if necessary—I have it here in my file—by my hon. Friend the Minister of State when he concludes the debate. That statement was made firmly by Dr. Kissinger at a public Press conference which was reported on television and the radio.

Mr. Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give us the date?

Mr. Amery

If I understand aright the Foreign Secretary's intervention, he confirmed what my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) said about what Dr. Kissinger said in his Press conference, but added that there were certain details, like the distribution of portfolios, which were not yet firm. Except for the one reference to the two portfolios—law and order, and security—which is contained in the agreed statement, the document that Mr. Smith read out is only an outline, and there is a lot of detail to fill in. Presumably, if there were not, we should not have the Geneva Conference. It is to fill in the detail that the conference is being held.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that what has been agreed, what was read out by Mr. Smith, what was confirmed at the Press conference by Dr. Kissinger and is now reconfirmed by the Foreign Secretary, is that this document constitutes heads of agreement of a firm package deal agreed by Britain and the United States and imposed or persuaded upon Mr. Smith with Dr. Vorster's help? It is not a basis for negotiation; it is the basis for negotiation. I should like the Minister, when he concludes, to confirm that that is also the Government's view.

Mr. Hooley

I find it difficult to follow the right hon. Gentleman's arguments. The negotiations in Geneva are not between Dr. Kissinger and Mr. Smith; they are between Mr. Smith and the African national leaders, and the African national leaders are in no way committed to or parties to what he is saying.

Mr. Amery

The hon. Gentleman is completely right. All I am arguing is that the British and American Governments are committed to the agreement which they reached with Mr. Vorster and Mr. Smith on the basis of the package deal and that they are committed to the heads of agreement contained in the paper. It is perfectly true that in his speech Mr. Smith did not claim that the African Presidents or the African nationalist leaders had accepted these commitments; but there was one interesting suggestion that they had, and that is the undertaking given by Dr. Kissinger, who said, on the subject of the cessation of terrorism: But on this occasion the assurance is given not only on the authority of the United States Government but of the British Government as well that terrorism would cease. The Foreign Secretary spoke very wisely, in much the same vein as did the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), about the limits of our power. Did we give an assurance that terrorism would cease? Did Dr. Kissinger give such an assurance? How did we do that? If MI6 or the CIA controlled the terrorists I can see that it would be possible. Has the right hon. Gentleman received bankable assurances from Mozambique or Moscow to this effect? How did we come to give such assurances? The implications of these assurances are far-reaching, and that is why I said at Question Time the other day that the honour of the British Government was at stake. Suppose that terrorism does not cease. Suppose that external aggression develops, either because an interim Government is not formed or because the interim Government that is formed does not please the terrorists. Is not there then a clear obligation upon the West—Britain and America, in particular—to help Rhodesia to defend itself against terrorism? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that obligation? Do the United States accept that obligation? That is the crux of our debate today. If we are prepared to stand by the deal which we and the Americans with South African help have persuaded Mr. Smith to accept, and, if need be, to defend it against external aggression, there is a good chance that Rhodesia could develop into a prosperous multi-racial society. But if we are not prepared to stand by the deal it will be not a settlement but a sell-out.

Mr. Crosland

The right hon. Gentleman talks about the honour of the British Government in a way that touches me very strongly. I think that I have as much respect for the honour of the British Government as he does, and that he would not seek to deny it on an occasion like this.

I want to make two points in answer to the right non. Gentleman's question. First, there was not a deal with Mr. Smith's Government. I tried to make that plain on Tuesday of last week and again this afternoon. I repeat that there was no deal with the Smith Government. What there was was a series of proposals which we thought, as I confirmed this again this afternoon, constituted a useful—I go further, and say "equitable"—basis for further discussion and negotiation.

Secondly, I answered a question about guerrilla activities this afternoon. It is clear what our position is here. We have no power to enforce the cessation of guerrilla activities. The right hon. Gentleman, particularly with his background, knows that as well as I do. What I have said and repeated and what the American Government have said and repeated in all the discussions is, first, that we think that while negotiations are continuing it would be highly desirable for those activities to be de-escalated; secondly, that all the influence we have to bring to bear when the interim Government are announced and agreed—this goes for the American Government as well—would be to seek an end to guerrilla warfare. I do not think that I can put it more fairly than that.

Mr. Amery

The right hon. Gentleman's statement must be deeply disturbing to the whole House. There is no sign of bad faith in what Mr. Smith said in his speech, because he was saying that he did not like the proposals. He described them as proposals put to him by Dr. Kissinger and said earlier that they were proposals which he accepted very reluctantly and which were, as he understood it, backed by the British Government as well as the American Govern- ment. When it came to the question of terrorism he was, like me—and, it appears, like the right hon. Gentleman—sceptical. He said: Dr. Kissinger has given me a categorical assurance to this effect. My acceptance of the proposals is conditional upon the implementation of both these undertakings terrorism and sanctions. In the light of previous experience there will be some understandable scepticism regarding the undertaking that terrorism will cease, but on this occasion the assurance is given not only on the authority of the United States Government but of the British Government as well. The right hon. Gentleman is now telling me that no such assurance was given. [Interruption.] Hon. Members should have been listening to what I said earlier. It seems to me about as dubious an undertaking as Mr. Neville Chamberlain's guarantee to Poland.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Amery

The Government are in much the same position. This is very like that agreement. Mr. Smith was given to understand that we were looking after the cessation of terrorism; that Dr. Kissinger had received assurances from the front line Presidents and nationalist African leaders in his talks, and from other talks conducted by his officials and the Minister of State, that we could deliver.

Suppose we cannot deliver. Are the Government then prepared to give the Rhodesians at any rate the means of defending themselves? If we are not prepared to stand by the agreement reached with Mr. Smith, it is not a settlement but a sell-out. Dr. Kissinger will have committed a second Vietnam, but without the excuse of having to bring the boys back home, and the British Government will be dishonoured.

Mr. Crosland

Mr. Chamberlain's negotions with Poland in 1939 are a matter for Conservative Members to answer for, not this side of the House. Poland's present position, which has come under criticism, is a matter for the grandfather of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) to answer for, not for me.

I have made absolutely plain the commitment of the British Government on the question of guerrilla warfare. It is within their power to do the two things that I have now mentioned twice today. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman, who is very experienced in these matters, talking about our capacity to enforce all these things on a great number of independent Governments. The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) smiles. He knows that we do not have this capacity. For all his efforts, we could not even win the Icelandic cod war. The hon. Gentleman has become rather more realistic about defence matters than he was six months ago.

But I give the assurance that the best influence that the British Government can exercise will be exercised in this respect. I have given assurances about this twice now. The right hon. Gentleman should know that to talk of Poland and 1939 is a nonsensical historical analogy.

Mr. Amery

The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has kindly intervened again to try to clear the matter up, and he has helped us a little. He accepts that we were not able to give the assurance that Dr. Kissinger appears to have given in categorical terms on our behalf. He has now back-tracked on that assurance. I can well understand that he does not feel able to give it categorically. I could not do so myself if I were in his shoes. All that I am asking is that he or the Minister of State should tell the House that if we cannot deliver the goods over terrorism we shall at least help the Rhodesians, within the limits of our power and the Americans' power, to resist external aggression against the settlement which we have persuaded Mr. Smith to accept.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Many right hon. and hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. Constant interventions make it unlikely that they will have the chance.

Mr. Amery

I shall leave that point by simply saying that the settlement, unless we are prepared to stand by it and defend it, is not a settlement but a sell-out.

My last point relates to the order. The Government are asking a great deal in asking us to renew sanctions tonight, nearly a month ahead of the last date by which they have to be renewed. Suc- cessive Governments have stated that the argument with Rhodesia should be resolved by negotiation, backed by economic pressure. But all of them—Labour and Conservative—have specifically and explicitly ruled out the use of force. We tried first to get agreement between the British Government and the Rhodesian régime. Then we hoped to encourage agreement between the Rhodesian régime and the African nationalists. Since the order was made last year the issue has shifted from the political arena to the battlefield.

The right hon. Gentleman has made it a major point in his speeches on this subject that we risk a major conflagration in Southern Africa and a confrontation with the Soviets over what will happen there. Therefore, we must ask ourselves in this confrontation which is already developing—it has already gone well beyond the Mau-Mau activity or what we knew in Cyprus with EOKA—whose side we are on. By giving aid to Mozambique the Government are indirectly helping the guerrilla operations against Rhodesia. By renewing sanctions, we are making it more difficult for the Rhodesians to defend themselves against an attempt to solve the matter not by negotiation but by force.

If we accept this order tonight we shall become accomplices and accessaries in the campaign of murder, mutilation and bombing that is being indiscriminately aimed by the guerrillas at Africans and Europeans, regardless of age, sex or occupation.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

What about the terrorism directed at youngsters in Rhodesia?

Mr. Amery

The hon. Gentleman knows—and I did not want to spell out these matters—that there have been incidents involving people whose lips have been cut off and where wives have been made to eat them. That has happened in the presence of witnesses. However, I do not want to go into that kind of horror politics.

Mr. Mendelson

The right hon. Gentleman asked for it.

Mr. Amery

The Foreign Secretary has asked us to accept the renewal of sanctions. I understand the argument that if we are to pick out a vital element from the package, namely, sanctions, and lift them today, it could prejudice the negotiations in Geneva, and that we should therefore maintain sanctions until the negotiations have begun. I would raise no objection to that course, much as I dislike being an accomplice to what is going on in terms of terrorist activity, but provided we are given certain assurances. One of them is the assurance that, if an interim Government is formed, sanctions will be lifted automatically. The argument of the legal arm of the Foreign Office that they could not be lifted without the consent of the United Nations should not inhibit us from taking that course. But there is another issue.

Suppose the Africans reject the package deal and that no interim Government is formed, will sanctions then be lifted? Suppose Mr. Nkomo accepts the package but others—Mr. Mugabe or Bishop Muzorewa—do not, will sanctions be lifted? The Foreign Secretary told my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir J. Hall), that that was a hypothetical point. But it is not hypothetical, because all the African nationalist leaders have publicly declared their rejection of the package deal, as have the five Presidents. I hope that that information was for domestic consumption, but we in this House have to make our judgments on the basis of public statements from responsible leaders. I do not have such a contempt for African leaders as to believe that they do not mean what they say.

We need a clear statement that the Foreign Secretary will lift the sanctions—we cannot stop terrorism but we can lift the sanctions—if an interim Government is formed, or indeed if an interim Government is not formed through no fault of Mr. Smith.

I was worried by the Foreign Secretary's statement that the Rhodesia Front cannot be left in control of the levers of power. That seems to be retreating from one of the central conditions of the package deal, and we shall require a reply on that point in the House tonight.

In an admirable speech my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) demolished much of the logic of the Foreign Secretary, but he then seemed to assume that the Government would stand by what we thought they were committed to. I do not think that he listened as attentively to the Foreign Secretary's speech as he should have done, or perhaps his easy-going and generous nature led him to give the right hon. Gentleman the benefit of the doubt. I suggest that we need much firmer assurances before we let this order go through the House. It is not only the honour of the Government and the House of Commons that is at stake, but also the honour of the Tory Party.

7.26 p.m.

Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)

I have no intention of following the geopolitical hallucinations displayed in the speech of the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). To do so would be a waste of time and, in the interests of other possible contributors to the debate, I wish to make a short speech.

It might have been noted that not one African diplomat has been present for this debate. That may give some indication of the value placed on the importance of this debate either by representatives from Salisbury or by the black leaders fighting in the bush in and about the borders of Mozambique and Tanzania.

I do not wish to appear Cassandra-like, but this is a delicate and difficult debate in which to take part. We have embarked on difficult and dangerous discussions in the past—we have only to think of the debates about the Mau Mau in Kenya, the Nigerian civil war and other occasions—but we must not shirk this kind of discussion, because this is probably the last territory in the African Continent in respect of which we have obligations We certainly must not shirk our obligations to the African peoples on this occasion, any more than we did in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria or elsewhere.

We must all thank Dr. Kissinger for initiating the beginning of these debates, because it was he who unlocked the logjam. We were not able to do so. Therefore, we must thank him for exposing the dangers in the situation.

There are big dangers for us, but even bigger dangers for the African peoples. We were recently urged by Julius Nyerere to take the "hot seat". We are no longer the hosts to African peoples, nor are we any longer the umpire in this situation. We are being asked to act, first because of our imperial past, and the Africans, since they got to know us, have faith in us, and believe that we shall give them a square deal. It is argued by some people that if there is difficulty inside this territory we should send out a governor general and a couple of battalions to keep order. Does this mean that we are contemplating an African Ulster where we shall have to hold the ring? I hope that that will not be the case, and I support the suggestion made earlier in the debate that if any forces have to go in they are not battalions from Yorkshire but are sponsored and fully backed to the hilt by the OAU, the Commonwealth or the United Nations, if they must go there to keep law and order.

I am not usually pessimistic about Africa because I have much faith in the black peoples, but we must be realistic about the situation. I believe that we should and could have settled the situation in 1964. On that occasion my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) and I thought that we should have sent forces to Rhodesia, but we did not, and it is no good going back over old ground. As a former imperial Power we cannot now go in alone in 1976.

I should like to ask the Minister to tell the House, when he replies to the debate, whether there has been any agreement about an agenda for the Geneva conference. What are the opposing parties to talk about? I do not see how there was not some form of agreement between Smith, Vorster and Kissinger and others involved. I believe that Ian Smith has been guilty of some large prevarications, or let me bluntly call them lies. He has behaved in a most dishonest fashion in the past decade. I cannot see how he can have changed courses so quickly, unless he has been given some hope or encouragement to do so.

There is a morass of ambiguity about the situation. The black participants are saying that anything is negotiable at Geneva. May we be told whether that is so? Can anything be discussed? Can anything there be settled?

I believe that Mr. Smith has signed his own death warrant as a white leader in the last but one enclave in Africa that is controlled by white men. There is no future for any white man, whether it is Mr. Smith or anyone else, in Africa who has the white settler mentality. These men left Kenya and they left Tanganyika, and Mr. Smith and other white men must accept that their day in the old-fashioned sense has now gone for ever. Africa is a black continent and any Government, whether in Kenya, Tanzania or Rhodesia, must accept that the black people are the majority and are the indigenous people. They were born there, whereas 60 per cent. to 70 per cent. of the whites in Rhodesia have gone there since 1948. In that year the white population of Rhodesia was only 80,000, whereas it is now about 270,000. What claim do they have, our own so-called kith and kin, to hang on and dominate a territory where millions of black men were born? What right do they have to impose conditions upon them.

We heard a moving speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley). He told us of some of the happenings that have taken place over the years under Mr. Smith's régime. Those things have happened, and it is no good anyone on the Opposition benches shutting his eyes to such behaviour. My hon. Friend described what has been happening, and it has been condoned by other Europeans. We must finally accept that in black Africa the white settler mentality has gone for good.

In future what is to be the position of these white men and women and their families? What is to be the attitude of ourselves in the House of Commons? No one can know with certainty.

Far too much dogmatism is displayed in this place by those who have paid a few visits to Africa and who now talk about black men. I listened to the speech of the former leader of the Liberal Party, the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe). He mentioned Sir Roy Welensky. It seems that Opposition Members keep in touch with white men in Africa, including Smith and many others But some of us also keep in touch with them. I am not only talking about Sir Garfield Todd, who was incarcerated for so many years in house detention, but Sir Roy Welensky, who for many years has opposed UDI. Indeed, he lost his seat at Dupont at a by-election because he opposed the Rhodesian Front and Smith. He has been a life-long opponent of Smith. Sir Roy has been in Africa for 70 years, and said to me a few days ago, that he has never known the country to be so confused and concerned as Rhodesia is at this moment. He does not know what is for the best in that country.

When—as in the last speech—political hallucinations are inflicted on me relating to what the Soviet Union wishes to do, I must compare them with the testimony that I receive from other people in other quarters, people who have spent their lives in Africa.

I have spent one or two years going in and out of Africa since 1952 but I do not profess to know black men. I should be the last man to dogmatise about that. However, I believe that the men in the bush know exactly what they want. Power is in the bush. Men like Robert Mugabe have been mentioned this evening. The question has been asked, "Why were not people like Robert Mugabe taking part in all the negotiations?" Mugabe is the man whose name was mentioned to some of us in the House by the High Commissioner of Tanzania many months ago. He informed us that we should not look in Salisbury or Bulawayo for leaders of the black African, but to those people who are in the bush. Those are the men with whom we now have to talk and must take into account. They are the men who at Geneva will be saying what they feel about the situation.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

If the hon. Gentleman had not been making his speech he would have been able to see on the tape a few minutes ago the report that Mr. Mugabe has been calling for the intensification of the war on the pattern of that in Vietnam.

Mr. Johnson

I note what the hon. Gentleman has said but I make no comment about it.

Mr. Cormack

Why not?

Mr. Johnson

Because what I am saying is that Robert Mugabe and others like him will speak for themselves when they get to Geneva. What they say will be on the record when they come face to face with our own Ministers and with others. They will then say what they think.

Geneva will be a difficult conference. Unless we visualise the Africans in Rhodesia taking over power and unless we not merely expect but actually see the white man accepting that, as in Kenya and elsewhere, it is inevitable that some white men will have to leave. Unless we see the white man working his land or standing for parliament, as the white man has done in other territories that were once under our jurisdiction, some will have to leave. They may wish to go to South Africa or New Zealand, or a scheme might be put forward by some omnipotent Western sponsor such as Rockefeller or Carnegie in order to compensate them. However, no white man should stay in any State in Africa if he is not prepared to accept laws that are made by a parliament in which there is an overwhelming majority of black men. It must be recognised, if that is the ethnic composition of the population. If we look back at history, that is what has been happening in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

As we go into the 1980s, Ian Smith and men like him will be seen to be fighting against the tide of history. That is something that they should acknowledge. At Geneva they should be sufficiently big to look at history and to recognise that the black man should come into his own and that black and white must work together in Rhodesia. That is not impossible. If it is found to be impossible, I can only contemplate a holocaust. No one can even contemplate the situation that will come about in Southern Africa if we do not achieve some mutual accommodation and understanding between races. I speak of a situation that could arise between the quarter of a million whites who are now there, but mainly having gone there since the war; and black men who were born there and who belong there.

7.38 p.m.

Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)

I am sure that there is no one here who does not have at heart the interests of Rhodesians both black and white. We have at heart the interests of the blacks as we realise that they have been dying in greater numbers than others at the hands of the terrorists. Everyone in the Chamber has their interests at heart and wishes the conference to succeed.

When we are trying to achieve some sort of consensus I am disturbed that Labour Members insist upon trying to make out that it is the white settler attitude alone that has kept back the black African. Those who follow these affairs will remember that in 1961 Sir Edgar Whitehead introduced a constitution which gave a great political advance to the African. Mr. Joshua Nkomo accepted it as the head of ZAPU, but when he went to the OAU Conference he was sent back with instructions to reject it and to demand one man one vote. If he had not done that and if that constitution had been accepted in 1961, there is no doubt that by now there would have been many Africans taking part in the governing of their country. However, that was prevented by outside black leaders. That is why I am pleased to see that they are not being brought in as observers at the conference.

It is high time that the Government learnt not to give in to pressures from outside Rhodesia. The state of Rhodesia is a matter for the Rhodesians, both black and white.

Mr. James Johnson

I accept what has happened in the past but the past has gone. Let us talk about now and let us not go back and dwell on what the black man did or did not do 20 years ago.

Mr. Goodhew

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) has spent much of his time doing just that, and it is a pity at a time like this. He has talked about a brain drain in Rhodesia. I remind him that the Rhodesian dollar was originally two to the pound but that only a couple of weeks ago its value had risen to one to the pound. That is an example of the stupidity of hon. Members opposite in making general attacks on the running of Rhodesia.

What worries me is the report in to day's Daily Telegraph saying that Mr. Richard, in his preliminary talks with Mr. Smith, … will try to budge him from his stand that the only thing to be discussed at the conference is the implementation of the 'package deal' he claims was offered by Dr. Kissinger. Why did the Government start on this business of trying to budge Mr. Smith from the package deal? It took us half an hour last week to get the Foreign Secretary to say that the proposals that were accepted were what Mr. Smith had set out in his proposals. We all know that.

Mr. Smith told me only 11 days ago that this was a package deal put to him by the Government. He still believes so. Dr. Muller, the South African Foreign Minister, whom I saw two weeks ago, was also convinced that this was a package deal agreed by the British Government. So were a number of other people, including British officials, whom the Minister of State was seeing at the same time in South Africa. They were all convinced that there was a package deal which the British Government had agreed.

It is disastrous for the Foreign Secretary now to be quietly back-tracking on the package deal when it is essential to try to encourage Mr. Smith in his belief that there is a chance of success and when he is going to the conference determined to make it a success. We have talked enough about these six proposals, but it is worth reminding the House that if one goes into a conference saying "We no longer regard these points as a package but as a basis for negotiation, and we do not hold them as sacrosanct", one must expect the other parties to say, as Mr. Smith might say now, "Two years is now negotiable". He can do that if all the other five points are negotiable.

It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to treat me so lightly, but this is a serious matter. Mr. Smith has achieved what has been acknowledged by hon. Members opposite as a complete revolution in the ideas of his party in accepting majority rule in two years, which most people here would not have thought possible and believed incredible when the Prime Minister suggested it in this House. It is monstrous that anything should be said that would discourage Mr. Smith from going ahead.

There is no doubt that these proposals were precisely stated, and the Foreign Secretary agreed last week that they had been accepted by Mr. Smith as put to him by Dr. Kissinger, with whom the Foreign Secretary had been in touch throughout the negotiations. When I saw him 11 days ago, Mr. Smith was in no doubt of this being a package deal; nor was Dr. Muller in any doubt, and he firmly believes, as we do, that the British Government were a party to the agreement. Therefore, we hope that the Foreign Secretary will try to do something to put right the damage which has been done in some of the speeches and interventions that he has made during this past week.

In particular, there is the question of law and order and defence. It is not only the whites who are worried about terrorism and its containment. Africans also will lose confidence if responsible Ministers are not in charge of these portfolios. What about those serving in the Army and the police? What about the black African civilians who have been supporting their country against terrorism directed from outside? What is to happen to them? These are the people we are concerned about. It is for the protection of these people that the portfolios of law and order and defence should be kept in responsible hands.

Mr. Smith has never said that he would never have multi-racial government. He always said that he wants responsible government. It is a great misfortune that the 1961 constitution was rejected by people outside Rhodesia who wanted to see not evolution but revolution.

I hope that we can get something more encouraging from the Foreign Secretary. I am not too depressed about some of the things said by such people as Mr. Mugabe. Anyone who has talked to Africans in such situations in the past knows very well that they say one thing in private and something quite different outside on the hustings. It becomes a party political battle, with each trying to outdo the other to become the leader of the country. But it may well be that once they are in conference they will say much less violent and extreme things and that some agreement will be reached.

I remain convinced that Mr. Smith believes that there is a package deal on which the basis of the new interim Government can be discussed and formed. He believes that there can be a successful outcome to the conference. What is more, he is determined to do nothing that will prevent the success of the conference, and he has been very careful to say nothing in the interim which would damage the chances of success. If all the other parties to the conference would go into it with the same feelings, we would have a good chance of a successful outcome.

7.48 p.m.

Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)

The hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) and the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) have made great play of the suggestion that someone is going back on a package deal. I cannot see that there could be a package deal. Discussions have taken place and proposals have been made. Are they suggesting that there must be an imposed settlement which the African leaders must accept? In his broadcast to Rhodesia, Mr. Smith said that these proposals had been made. If one is to accept what hon. Members opposite say, they are suggesting that Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Nkomo, Bishop Muzerewa, and Mr. Sithole should have been told "Here it is and you must accept it." But there are talks and negotiations, and we should understand that people are taking up negotiating positions.

I regret that in these negotiations there are some hon. Members opposite who almost seem to want to sabotage the talks, to give Mr. Smith yet again an excuse to back-track on a commitment he has made.

Mr. Ken Weetch (Ipswich)

He is a traitor, and a rebel against the Crown.

Mr. Evans

My hon. Friend says that Mr. Smith is a traitor. What we have in Rhodesia is an illegal regime which has brought down the Union Jack in Salisbury and has gone against this country. Yet the hon. Member for St. Albans seems almost proud that he has met Mr. Smith. I do not know under what auspices he met Smith, who is in rebellion against this country.

Mr. Goodhew

I went to Rhodesia privately on the way back from a visit to South Africa. I thought that in the prevailing circumstances I should try to inform myself about the situation in Rhodesia. Had I not been called back for a vote in this House I should have seen some other leaders there as well.

Mr. Faulds

Quite simply, the hon. Gentleman was consorting with a rebel.

Mr. Evans

I believe that there are those of us on the Government side who have visited the illegal regime. The hon. Member for St. Albans could have gone to the concentration camps where the future leaders of Africa are to be found. He could have asked to visit Bishop Lamont, a Catholic, in prison. [Hon. Members: "He is not in prison."] He has been threatened with imprisonment. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Sedentary interventions are of no assistance.

Mr. Evans

Bishop Lamont is a Catholic missionary who went out to Rhodesia to try to bring about reconciliation between black and white. He has been tried by the Smith regime and found guilty of consorting with terrorists. People talk about terrorists, but what is meant by this term? I presume that the American colonists, when wanting their independence, were termed terrorists. The African leaders who will be involved in the coming negotiations have been imprisoned because they were fighting for their freedom, and they, no doubt, have been called terrorists.

Certainly we know that if any group of people has risen against this House of Commons it is the white settlers who have formed the illegal regime in Rhodesia and who have tried to obtain a type of independence which is not recognised by this House or, indeed, by any country in the world. Even Fascist Portugal was not prepared to recognise the Smith regime. Even the racialist Vorster in South Africa would not recognise the Smith regime. Yet there are spokesmen of the Conservative Party who are prepared to get up in this House and speak on behalf of the Smith regime.

I read in the newspapers recently that the right hon. Member for Pavilion has been put forward by the Selsdon group as the future Foreign Secretary in a Tory Government. That is another good reason for making sure that the Tories are not returned to office. I see that Conservative Members are smiling, and I take some hope from that. But the right hon. Gentleman is talked of as a future Foreign Secretary if the Leader of the Opposition or the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) were ever to be asked to form a Government.

There have been many debates on Rhodesia in this House since 1965, and the Conservative Party will not come out very well when the history of these debates is written. In the early debates there was division in the ranks of the Conservative Party. There were some who were prepared to go along with Smith. There were others who were more realistic, more far-sighted and who realised the inevitability of majority rule in Rhodesia. The Conservative Members who have blatantly supported the Smith regime have done a disservice to the white community in Rhodesia in encouraging them not to come to the negotiating table much earlier.

We have gone through the various stages, with different Governments in power. There were the "Fearless" and "Tiger" talks. When Lord Home was Prime Minister a group of people was sent to Rhodesia to find out the wishes of the African people. We know the history of that period.

Mr. Cormack

Everything the hon. Member is saying is totally inaccurate.

Mr. Evans

It can all be read in the Official Report. In the early stages when the then Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), advised Members of his party to abstain, the hard Right-wing element in the Conservative Party, who supported Smith, went into the Lobby against the Government. There were other Conservative Members who came into the Lobby with the Government. But this is all in the Official Report.

Mr. Cormack

This hysterical rhetoric does no good to anybody or to any cause. Lord Home went out as Foreign Secretary to meet Mr. Smith at a time when my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was Prime Minister. That meeting was followed by the Pearce Commission. If the hon. Member would get his facts right we might listen with more attention to what he is saying.

Mr. Evans

I am familiar with the fact that the Pearce Commission went to Rhodesia, and found, from the talks held with the black majority, that the Smith regime at that time did not represent the wishes of the Africans.

Now we have a position in which the illegal regime has accepted majority rule within two years, and that is a major step forward. In a sense one wishes to keep the atmosphere cool, but one is provoked by Conservative Members who are still to this day almost encouraging the Smith regime not to come to a settlement.

Mr. Cormack


Mr. Evans

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will get up later and encourage Smith to come to a settlement. But discussions will no doubt take place with the Rhodesian nationalist leaders concerning the formation of an interim Government, and at least the illegal regime has shown its willingness to enter the twentieth century. Just as the Fascist regime has gone in Portugal, and colonialism has now ended in Angola and Mozambique, so too, inevitably, one hopes that soon Zimbabwe—as the Africans call Rhodesia—will achieve independence, and one hopes that before long also Namibia will achieve independence.

The tides of history are with the desires of these people to govern themselves. We on the Government side reject the paternalistic attitude of Conservatives who ask why the Africans do not accept what Smith says, as if they can be persuaded to accept any proposals put forward under some old boys' act. The fact is that the Africans are fighting for their inalienable human rights. They are fighting for the right to determine their own political future.

An important rôle has been played by the five African Presidents, Kenneth Kaunda, Seretse Khama, Julius Nyerere, Samora Machel and Agostinho Neto. They have been brought into consultation and have accepted the principles of a transition to independence on the basis of majority rule and the need for early discussions to establish an interim transsitional Government. We should welcome their co-operation. They can have an important part to play in bringing the African leaders together in the period of transition to democratic majority rule in Rhodesia.

Some play has been made by Conservative Members about the differences between the various Zimbabwe leaders. They make these points as though in this House of Commons we were all agreed on everything. I am sure that Conserva- tive Members will agree that they have vast differences in their party on a number of issues. Certainly, speaking for my party, I can say, thank goodness, that we have many differences among ourselves. Yet it is suggested that Joshua Nkomo, the Rev. Ndabaingi Sithole and Bishop Muzorewa should immediately come to an agreement. Of course there will be differences, but one hopes that they will now concentrate on the essential task facing them—the achievement of a settlement enabling them to move rapidly towards majority rule.

Mr. Vorster—give the devil his due—has played his part in this. But if we had had co-operation from South Africa in the very early stages, the Smith regime would have ended in weeks and not in years. The Smith regime was sustained not only by Mozambique and Angola when they were under Fascist Portugal but also by the South African regime.

However, there has now been a political assessment in South Africa. There is no thought of absorbing Rhodesia, because the blacks outnumber the whites by 20 to 1 or more. So it is not a practical possibility to think of the Voortrekkers moving up to the north and absorbing Rhodesia. Now the South African regimes hope that there will be a government in Rhodesia which, like some of the other African countires, will enter into a dialogue with South Africa. I believe that South Africa has written off the Smith regime and that that is why we have come to the end of the road for the illegal Rhodesian régime.

We have now to work for an independent government which will be truly representative of the people of Zimbabwe. We hope that, in building a new economy and a new society in Zimbabwe, there will be some white settlers who are prepared to work with the newly-emerging democratic government and who will stay.

We have only to consider the statements of the majority of the African leaders. I have met some of them. They do not make the kind of racialist pronouncements that are to be heard from any Rhodesian settlers. They are prepared to have white settlers working alongside them to build up a new Rhodesia. In other African countries, white settlers are working alongside black Africans. When I went to Salisbury, I stayed on a farm where there was an attempt to run a co-operative community with white and black people working together to make a living for themselves. It was a farm which was previously owned by Lord Acton. The experiment lasted a very short time. Just as would have happened in South Africa, the Rhodesian régime would not allow those black and white people to work together.

We hear talk suggesting that it is Smith who wants white people to work with black people and that it is the black people who do not want to work with the whites. However, in recent years, Rhodesia has been moving steadily along similar lines to that of the apartheid policy in South Africa. I do not say that there is the same oppression in Rhodesia. But there are concentration camps there. It is no use right hon. and hon. Members condemning people for fighting for elementary human rights as though they have said everything when they describe such people as "terrorists". They are fighting for what we in this country take for granted. We hope that the fighting will come to an end, but that will happen only when the people are given the kind of rights that we take for granted.

In this debate, we are discussing the maintenance of sanctions. As was to be expected, we have had from the Conservative Party a demand for sanctions to end. However, in my view, while these talks are taking place, it would be quite wrong to end sanctions. They have played a part in bringing about a situation in which no one in the world has recognised the Rhodesian regime. There has been no international recognition of the régime. The lifting of sanctions will be important for the future progress of Zimbabwe, but it can come only after the setting up of a provisional government and a demand from the majority of the people in Zimbabwe for the sanctions to be lifted.

The talks will be important, and it is not for various groups to insist upon preconditions. The African leaders should not insist upon preconditions before getting down to negotiating. In the same way, nor should Mr. Smith. He cannot say "These are the six conditions on which I intend to accept the new régime." These are proopsals for negotiation. The outcome of negotiations is a negotiated settlement.

One problem which will arise is this vexed question of who, during the transition, is to be responsible for defence and law and order. As I see it, it is an impossible situation for the black majority to accept. I do not want to add difficulties to the discussions, but clearly it is impossible for the black majority to accept that an illegal régime not recognised by anyone should be given the responsibility for the maintenance of law and order.

It will be difficult for this country to play a part. We have all the complexities of kith and kin, and it will not be easy for us to assume responsibility for law and order. In the circumstances, we have to go to the United Nations. In the transition, there needs to be a United Nations presence in Zimbabwe while the black majority move towards their full freedom.

I have spoken at some length, and I apologise, because I am aware that other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. However, I believe that it is important from the Government Benches to put on record the fact that we have been consistent in demanding that certain conditions should be met. They are minimal conditions. They were mentioned in the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he was Foreign Secretary. On that occasion, I asked him whether he would point out to the white population that they were facing a choice of settling for majority rule quickly or opting for civil war and bloodshed. My right hon. Friend replied that he feared that that was the choice before them and that that was the reason why he hoped that there could be negotiations with responsible African leaders who represented their people.

I hope that these talks will succeed. If the negotiations are not successful, there will be civil war and there will be bloodshed. That blood will be on the hands of those who support the Smith regime.

8.8 p.m.

Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)

As we have just witnessed, in a debate of this kind it is perfectly possible to make long and inflammatory speeches. However, I hope that I shall be able to resist the temptation to take up some of the observations of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans). I hope even more that this House will somehow find a collective voice to give heart and encouragement to people of moderate persuasion in Rhodesia, black and white, who represent the true majority in that country and whose real aspirations and future must be so closely associated with the outcome of the conference.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, the record of our relationship with Rhodesia has been marked by mistakes, mismanagement and mistrust. There would be little purpose in going back over the past other than to confirm that there has been no monopoly of error or misjudgment on the part of any of the elements involved in the many talks which have been held.

Increasingly in recent months, the full horrors of a major international and racial conflict have seemed to me to be scarcely avoidable. The inevitability of escalating violence seemed all the more real because of the reluctance of Her Majesty's Government and of European Governments to stand firm at any point against the advance of terrorism in Africa. Therefore, it was with an enormous sense of relief and with a renewal of hope that I listened closely to the momentous broadcast of Mr. Smith to his people in Rhodesia. Everyone now must be deeply anxious for the success of the conference.

By "success", I mean that the conference should lead to the orderly establishment of a multi-racial Government in Rhodesia, providing security for minority and majority alike and holding out for Rhodesia as a whole the promise of a stable and prosperous future.

I was interested to read in a book which Lord Home has just published that he quoted from a letter which he had written in 1961. Because it is relevant, I give the quotation now: Anyone can give a country independence without worrying about the result; but if the aim is to launch a nation in which there is law and order, tolerance and justice, a nation which is capable of surviving economically and conducting its foreign relations according to the code of the good neighbour, it all becomes much more complicated. I confess I am not satisfied that freedom is everything and the rest nothing. If, therefore, we are to fulfil our trust to these people, we must try to give them an independence where they have a chance, at any rate, of making it work to their profit and credit". That is not an easy task, but it is a great objective. In this case it is not just a question of bringing together black and white. There is not only a history of tension between some elements in the two races; there is also tribal and factional strife, in which black is set against black.

Perhaps the new sense of realism which has affected the attitude of Mr. Smith, his colleagues and his party will spread from their ranks throughout Rhodesia to those who speak for the varying interests in the black communities. Perhaps we shall see coming from them as a whole as great an act of statesmanship as Mr. Smith displayed recently. If that happens, the prospects for Rhodesians are bright.

However, we should recognise that there are many who want to ensure that the conference does not succeed. There are those to whom success will be marked by the collapse of the conference. These are the people who brought tyranny to Mozambique and Angola—the agents of Communism, engaged in a merciless campaign of terror. It is odd that we are still subsiding them to the tune of £15 million. It would be an enormous help if there were a little less secrecy about the extent of Communist agitation and penetration through out the African sub-continent. I am not an alarmist, but I would be more of a realist if the Foreign Office disclosed more openly to the people the effects of Communist penetration.

I am not pessimistic about the outcome of this conference. There is a real hope that it can succeed and it is a hope derived directly from the nature of the proposals that were brought to Mr. Smith by Dr. Kissinger and which form a basis on which he accepts that majority rule can be achieved within two years. It is this realism and restraint that Mr. Smith has shown which offers the best hope for the successful outcome of the conference, whether this be derived from a package in the form of a fixed series of agreed points or a package in the form of a broad understanding between two leading political and international figures. What matters here is that it does form the basis for a real settlement in Rhodesia, so long as it is contained within the framework suggested by Dr. Kissinger and accepted by Mr. Smith.

This is a package which envisages the continuation of sanctions, and therefore it is right for us to allow this order to proceed tonight. However, it does also embrace a categorical assurance of the future removal of sanctions, and those categorical assurances which are binding on Dr. Kissinger also commit the honour of the British Government. If there is one message which has come from this debate tonight it is that we in Britain must not run out on those assurances.

When we talk about majority rule we should not think solely in terms of a black dominated Government. This is not, alas, an automatic talisman to freedom from oppression and tyranny. What we are groping for here is the hope that people of moderate persuasion—both black and white, whom I genuinely believe are in the majority in Rhodesia—should have a chance to practise in government what they have practised in countless areas of life in Rhodesia—in daily business, commerce and private dealings. Harmonious relationships do exist in many sectors of the Rhodesian community. On that foundation, I believe the conference will be able to build so that people of common sense, moderation and restraint in Rhodesia can form a multi-racial government for the future. The extent to which that is achieved by this conference will be the measure of its success.

8.17 p.m.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I wish to take up one point made by the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden), who said that he was concerned about Communist penetration in Africa. I think that he is a victim of the capability that we in this country have of creating self-fulfilling prophecies.

When the Portuguese were engaged in colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique, using NATO weapons and equipment against the Africans, we refused to do anything about it. We refused to compel Portugal not to use those weapons, and we would not provide assistance for the MPLA or Frelimo. When they had no one else to turn to, they sought assistance from Warsaw Pact countries. We then pointed the finger at them and said that we were right not to help because they were Communists. Having refused assistance, we drove them into the arms of the Communist bloc and then used that as an excuse to condemn them. To do that is to misread the whole history of Southern Africa, and that is why Tory policy in relation to Southern Africa has failed.

It is often very difficult to maintain one's optimism that there can be a peaceful transfer of power in countries where there is domination by one side of another. But we must ask ourselves whether we want this conference to succeed. I want it to succeed, and I want to see a peaceful transition of power if that is at all possible. If it fails it will because we have made the same mistake as we made in the past—we did not consult the African leaders in Zimbabwe at the right time.

The Central African Federation was imposed on the Africans without their consent and it had to be broken up. It broke up because it could not succeed against the wishes of the African population. Some criticism was made of Joshua Nkomo for not accepting the 1961 proposed constitution, but with the Central African Federation disbanded, Zambia got independence on the basis of majority rule, as did Malawi. What was so different about Southern Rhodesia that it had to have an especially long transitional period, a weighted constitution, weighted representation and qualifications? If Joshua Nkomo had a fault in 1961 it was that he was too moderate in his dealings with the Government then in power. In reality the Africans of Southern Rhodesia have been extremely moderate and patient over the years, and I am not surprised that their patience has run out.

Much has been said in the House about the Smith proposals. It is not surprising that there are difficulties of interpretation because the Kissinger method of shuttle diplomacy seems to be to fly all over the place, back and forth, throwing out suggestions here and there. I believe that he once described this process as "constructive ambiguity". There is certainly ambiguity, and that kind of ambiguity is inevitable in the circumstances. So perhaps Smith is genuine in his belief that there is a concrete set of proposals which form an agreement which is binding on all the parties. He might be acting in good faith, but all the reports from the United States suggest that a number of things were suggested as a basis for negotiation, and that proposals which might lead to a settlement were put forward, but that this was in no way a hard and fast bargain.

One can therefore criticise Dr. Kissinger for not being firm enough and not proceeding in such a way as to leave no room for argument about what was arranged and what meant. However, we owe Kissinger one thing, and that is the public acceptance by Smith of the principle of majority rule in two years. As little as three months ago Smith was saying that there would be no majority rule in his lifetime and never for a thousand years. He was arguing that the Rhodesian economy was strong and that sanctions had failed. Increasingly he referred to the Communist threat in the hope of deeply embroiling the Americans on his side with perhaps a physical military presence on the ground.

He already had the involvement of South Africa whose troops and paramilitary police had been operating inside Rhodesia on behalf of the white régime. But now he and the white Rhodesians have to face the stark reality of isolation. They do not have friends outside in the world who would help them. Ultimately even the white South African Government abandoned them. I believe that that has been a psychological blow for the white Rhodesians from which they will never recover. Irrespective of whether the conference goes sour or not, I believe that in a very short time there will be majority rule in Rhodesia, either by peaceful means or by a struggle.

Some hon. Members have said tonight that we have no role to play, that the Government have no role to play. That view has been expressed even by some of my hon. Friends. I do not accept it. I say to those who believe that we should abrogate our responsibilities, particularly those on the Opposition Benches, that if we do that we must accept the consequences of our actions. It is no use saying that this has nothing to do with us and then complaining at the way in which events transpire. The consequences of abandoning our rôle completely are not pleasant to contemplate, because that goes beyond those who will be killed in the actual physical conflict. Sadly the casualties of war go beyond those who are directly involved and affect those who are not troops on either side.

We have seen blacks killed for no other reason than that they were in the area in which guerillas were believed by the so-called security forces to be operating. We have seen Africans killed because they were on the move after curfew time, and for no other reason. That kind of conduct is hardly conducive to good relations. If the war escalates, innocents on both sides of the colour line would be killed. In the continuing escalation of violence there is the possibility that outside forces would be brought in. The South Africans might be tempted to come in as they were in Angola. That might provoke the intervention of forces from outside Africa, and that could lead to an escalation on the scale of Vietnam. No one would wish that on the Africans.

I therefore hope that the negotiations will succeed although to some extent I am pessimistic that Smith will come to the conference and will not negotiate away some of the things he says are not negotiable.

Another aspect of the Kissinger mission has not had much coverage. Perhaps the Minister who is to wind up the debate can be asked to tell us what South Africa was offered for putting the pressure on Smith. I do not believe that Prime Minister Vorster agreed to put pressure on the white Rhodesians out of a sense of altruism. I believe that some advantage was offered to him. It has been suggested that there was the offer of economic assistance—the South African economy is under great strain. Some Press reports have suggested that an easing of the arms embargo was offered. If that is so, it is a very sinister move. Or was the price for Vorster's involvement demonstrated in the veto in the United Nations yesterday? Perhaps that is too simple an equation to make, but it illustrates to us that a bargain was struck somewhere. We are entitled to know whether Dr. Kissinger or anyone else is trying to bargain on our behalf, and we are entitled to know what that bargain is to be.

If the conference is to succeed and if there is to be a peaceful transition to majority rule, there must be a concession that those people who are at present detained in Rhodesia are freed to carry on normal political activities through the period of the interim Government and the constitutional events which will take place. We must demand clearly that those under sentence of death by the illegal regime should receive an amnesty, and there must be no more hangings.

Anyone who believes that there can be an interim Government with control of the Army and the police left in white hands is living in cloud-cuckoo-land. I was interested in a racial slip by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) who said that there had to be responsible control of the Army and police, and that in his view was equated to white control. He could not conceive that there would be responsible black people in charge of the Army and the police. That comment illustrates the difference between the two sides of the House.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will make clear, as he made clear at the Labour Party Conference, that there can be no question of sanctions being lifted until majority rule has been achieved, not just until the interim Government is set up. A lot could go wrong after the establishment of the interim Government. Lifting sanctions too soon could be a bad thing. In a brief clip on the television I saw my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary at the United Nations. I got the impression—and I will gladly withdraw this comment if my impression was wrong—that my right hon. Friend was a little less firm at the United Nations than he was at the Labour Party Conference.

Dr. Kissinger should have been told from the beginning that he had no mandate to try to bargain away the rights of the black people of Zimbabwe. The British Government do not have that right. The right to freedom, a democratically-elected government and the opportunity to build a society in which people can provide the sort of future for their families which we take for granted cannot be bargained away.

We have one last chance to solve the dilemma of Rhodesia and to achieve majority rule by a peaceful transition. If it fails, we cannot pretend that we had nothing to do with it. If we had shown the resolve and will, we could have solved this problem long ago.

If the white Rhodesians feel let down by successive British Governments, perhaps it is our fault because we encouraged them to think that we were turning a blind eye by letting them carry on. If this attempt to find a solution fails, it is our responsibility to support the African guerrilla movements and all that entails because we must take the side of those people who have been demanding their freedom for so long.

8.32 p.m.

Mr. Michael Brotherton (Louth)

I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) will forgive me if I do not follow his arguments directly. In a quiet way, the hon. Gentleman showed what some of his hon. Friends have showed more loudly—an extraordinary hatred of the white man in Africa. It is incredible that not a single speaker on the Government side has condemned the activities of the guerrillas operating against all the people of Rhodesia.

This debate takes place against a very different background than that of the past 10 years. There is a very much stronger Marxist and Communist influence in South Africa. Again, it is regrettable that no one on the Government side has mentioned this fact and that, as evinced by the abrogation of the Simonstown Agreement, no one in the Government realises what has been happening.

I do not believe that any nation, apart from Great Britain and Rhodesia, is involved in this problem. It was a pity that Dr. Kissinger rather than a British Minister got involved in the negotiations, but as he did, we must accept that situation.

The Foreign Secretary said that he hoped our debate would not revolve round the semantics of whether there was a package presented to Mr. Smith. He was tied in knots by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). As an hon. Member representing a Humberside constituency, I hope that the Foreign Secretary gets in less of a muddle in the fishery negotiations with the EEC.

The conference in Geneva is due to start in a few days. The Foreign Secretary should at least open that conference. He said that he would rather not go because he thought his appearance would diminish the influence of Mr. Ivor Richard as chairman, but surely if the right hon. Gentleman went to Geneva it would show how much importance the Government attach to the conference.

I should like the Foreign Secretary to go to Geneva and tell Mr. Smith that we welcome his change of attitude on the possibility of a settlement in Rhodesia and to tell the black African factions—ZANU, ZAPU and the ANC—that Mr. Smith has gone a long way on the road to a settlement and it is up to them to concede a few points as well.

If the conference fails and it is not the fault of Mr. Smith, we should give him considerably more support than we have in the past. He has shown that he is willing to concede quite a lot to the black Africans. It was a massive concession for him to say that he would accept majority rule within two years.

We have seen recently the emergence of the five front-line Presidents. The front-line five—they sound like a pop group or a crazy gang. It has been decided that those Who have no concern in the problems of Rhodesia should be brought into the negotiations. The Foreign Secretary refused to say that he would ask the Government of Mozambique not to give support to the guerrillas operating against the people of Rhodesia. The right hon. Gentleman talked about de-escalating the violence. That massacre of the English language presumably meant that he was asking President Machel to see that the guerrillas kill only 50 per cent. of the number of people they have killed in the past. This is not good enough. We require from the Government and the Foreign Secretary a demand that President Machel should call off the guerrillas. We have some power over Mozambique. If President Machel continues to support the guerrillas we should say that not a penny piece of British taxpayers' money will be paid into his country.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Would the hon. Gentleman take the same attitude towards the South African Government for its support of the Smith regime?

Mr. Brotherton

No. The de facto Government of Rhodesia asked for help to maintain law and order in their land. Guerrillas were murdering black and white Rhodesians alike.

What will happen if there is no settlement and a major civil war breaks out? What will happen to the black Rhodesians who support their own country? Those in the police, the army and positions of authority in the civil service will suffer more than any others if the guerrillas take control.

Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)

That does not bother hon. Members on the Government Benches.

Mr. Brotherton

Of course not. My hon. Friend is right.

I said last year that Mr. Smith had made three mistakes in life. He was born white, he fought for us in the last war, and we have never put him in prison. If he had been black, he would be the leader of a black African State and an honoured folk hero on the Government Benches.

I have always been opposed to sanctions. I thought in 1965 that we were wrong to take this matter to the United Nations. It had nothing to do with them then and has nothing to do with them now. For the Foreign Secretary to talk about Rhodesia being a threat to world peace is utter nonsense and shows that he totally fails to understand the problem.

Some of my hon. Friends have said that they do not believe that it would be right to oppose the renewal of sanctions in present circumstances. I believed sanctions to be wrong 11 years ago when they were introduced and wrong two years ago, when I made my maiden speech. I believe them still to be wrong now. I shall vote against their renewal.

8.39 p.m.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)

The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) asked: whose side would we be on if external help were sought for Southern Rhodesia in the event of the talks breaking down?

The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) has given the game away. External help for whites in Southern Rhodesia has been given since UDI was declared. The Opposition have not complained about that. The hon. Gentleman said that it depended on which side got the external help. The external help which has been coming from South Africa for so long has been exclusively on the side of Ian Smith.

The Opposition may believe that they are helping Ian Smith tonight by giving the impression that they will be able to get him off the hook because he believes that he is committed and has agreed to a settlement deal which Labour Members do not seem to be aware has been made. But the Opposition may not be helping Ian Smith. The external help which kept him in control in Southern Rhodesia has now been withdrawn. If the Opposition's intention is to get him off the hook by suggesting that a deal has been done between Ian Smith and Dr. Kissinger, they may force Ian Smith to fall through his own trap door, unless they know that external help will come from somewhere or other to support Smith if he is able to wriggle out of or to destroy the negotiations which we hope will be successful. I do not believe that there is any evidence to support the allegation that a deal has been made. It could not have been made.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Miss Lestor

No. I promised Mr. Deputy Speaker that I would be brief. That is why he allowed me to intervene at this juncture.

I do not believe that a deal has been made. I hope that we have all learned the history of the years since UDI. Deals cooked up between parties excluding the most important ingredient in the deal do not come off at all. That is the history that we have learned.

I have followed this matter with interest and observed how people have rewritten history. The central event in the whole situation seems to have been rewritten before it has taken place, because people are already talking of something which does not yet exist.

The right hon. Member for Pavilion asked: whose side are we going to be on? That is the crucial question. Unfortunately, we have always been on the wrong side. It is not a question of black against white. The hon. Member for Louth should be aware that many black Rhodesians also fought on the side of Britain during the last war. This is a question not of black against white but of democracy. The question is whether we believe in minority or majority rights and extending opportunities to the majority.

Lookin at the history of Central and Southern Africa, we have been on the wrong side when it came to democracy. We gave white supremacy to South Africa in 1910 and to Southern Rhodesia in 1923. We admitted South Africa to the Commonwealth in 1931. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said, we imposed the Central African Federation on the peoples of Central Africa in 1953. We presented to Southern Rhodesia the Federation Armed Forces. These forces have been used over the years since UDI to help keep Ian Smith in power over the majority. Looking at it from the point of view of the minority, of the majority or of democracy, we have been on the wrong side. We have appeased Ian Smith both before and since UDI. I am convinced—I hope that I am right in my conviction—that we have now ceased any appeasement of Ian Smith.

Our whole history—we have all been guilty—shows that we have been on the side of the minority against the majority. It is true that the majority has been black and the minority in these instances has been white. This is a democracy argument. It is no other kind of argument.

The question of freedom fighters, guerrillas and terrorists—it depends on one's point of view—has always been a bone of contention between both sides of the House in this argument.

The Opposition have again asked "What are we to do? The Communist influence is so great. This is a terrible situation." They are inspired by the Communists. Looking at the history of Africa, I am not surprised that, when we abandoned our responsibilities, the people there should turn to others who were prepared to intervene on their behalf. I am not saying that that is right, but it does not surprise me. It also begs the question, which has still to be answered: why is it that hon. Gentlemen who are apologists for Smith, and usually for South Africa, too, are always prepared to condemn interference when it is on the side of the majority but never when it is on the side of the minority?

Those bolstering up the Smith régime say that it does not matter—that South Africa was there to keep law and order in Southern Rhodesia. But the prospect of law and order breaking down in Southern Rhodesia would not have arisen if the conditions whereby Zambia and Malawi and the other countries gained independence had been accepted by Ian Smith at the time. That is why I am not surprised that the Communist influence is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the same way, when we refused to finance the Tanzam Railway, as soon as the Chinese stepped in we said it was a Communist influence. What do we expect? It is a lesson that we have not yet learned.

I hope that these negotiations succeed because I do not want to see an intensification of violence in Southern Rhodesia. I do not want to see a Soweto in Southern Rhodesia. I do not want to see that whole history repeated. But I do know that if we consistently deny to people, as South Africa has done, the legitimate means of economic, social and political change, then violence is the only way out. We rewrite history and turn things upside down when we criticise those people who have been condemned to take the only road open to them—as terrorists.

The genesis of violence in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia cannot be laid at the feet of the freedom fighters. It must be laid at the feet of those people who have consistently denied those rights to the majority.

If people here favour democracy and complain about some of the oppressive regimes in parts of Africa and other parts of the world, they cannot hold that view and at the same time deny that the argument in respect of Southern Rhodesia is about democracy. They cannot say that external forces such as South Africa have been right to bolster up Ian Smith and at the same time say that other external forces have been wrong to support the majority of people.

I want the talks to succeed. I do not want to see any extension of violence in Southern Rhodesia because I do not believe it will end in Southern Rhodesia. It will go on in our lifetime and in the lifetime of our children. I believe that certain hon. Members, from what they have said, bear a very grave responsibility for what will take place when we get to the negotiating table. If they are trying to help Ian Smith, they should not destroy for all of us the very basis whereby we may have a settlement in Southern Rhodesia.

8.48 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) made a great appeal for democracy. I would ask her how she explains the fact that out of the 47 members of the OAU only three have Governments that we would call democracies. There have been 98 coups d'état or attempted coups d'état in independent African States since 1965. It may well be that either Africans do not want democracy or are not ready for democracy. Perhaps the hon. Lady will think about that. They are the facts and she must accept them.

In the past I have told the House that I first visited Rhodesia in 1957, when I was on a parliamentary mission, and I purchased a rocky outcrop on which one day I hoped to build a holiday home. For obvious reasons this has not been done, and so far it has not been an asset, it has been a liability. That is the only pecuniary interest that I have in that country. But I still believe that it is one of the finest countries in the world. I believed then that its race relations were the best in Africa and I believe that they have only really started to deteriorate within the past year or 18 months. With the scale of guerilla warfare that we have in Rhodesia today we are bound to get a polarisation between white and black. I very much regret that, because Rhodesia could have been an example to the rest of Africa.

The word "break-through" has been used—and I think rightly used—on both sides of the House. There has been a break-through in Rhodesia because Mr. Smith has indicated that majority rule can take place in his counrty within two years. Once any Government admit that they are prepared to surrender power, they cannot go back on that admission, whatever happens. Power is bound to be transferred. I shall not go into the question whether that concession is right or wrong, but nothing can stop it.

I want to deal with the reasons why Mr. Smith has taken this line, why there has been this break-through, and why he has given in. There are certain reasons for this, and they do not include sanctions. Sanctions have had nothing to do with it. One reason that has been advanced is the guerrilla warfare. I want to spend some time on that matter, although I shall not be too long. I spent three days recently with the Rhodesian Army in the three operational areas. The first phase of the guerrilla war took place between 1966 and 1970 and ended with a complete victory for the Rhodesian security forces. The second phase started in 1972 and increased in violence and strength after the capitulation of the Portuguese and the closure of the Mozambique frontier, and the assistance given by Tanzania and Mozambique to the guerrilla forces.

There are three operational areas in Rhodesia. There is Hurricane, which started in 1973. That is in the north and east. A new one, Thrasher, was started in January 1976. It is on the Mozambique frontier, near Umtali. Finally, there is Repulse, started in May this year, which is in the east and south of Rhodesia. They are all more or less bordering on the Mozambique frontier, where the guerrilla camps are located.

I have visited all of these areas and I believe that the figures I am about to give are correct. They are smaller than those that have already been given to the House, so they may be an under-estimate, but I believe that they are about right. I am told on good authority that there are about 1,000 guerrillas in Rhodesia at any given time, with a back-up force of at least 1,000 in Mozambique and probably another 2,000 in Tanzania or Mozambique who are under training. That sounds an awful lot, but with 781,000 square miles and 1,000 guerrillas one gets the balance of the problem—one guerrilla to 781 square miles.

It is not fair to say that the Rhodesians are being beaten on the field. In fact, the boot is on the other foot. The Rhodesian Army is doing very well. With the possible exception of the Israeli Army, I believe that it is the best anti-guerrilla force in the world today. The real danger to Rhodesia, as I see it, comes from roughly the Umtali area.

I believe that Samora Machel, the President of Mozambique, and an admitted Communist, is assisted in all ways by the Soviet Union, and that his motivation is that he wants to take over a good chunk of Rhodesia. He is assisting the ZANU guerrilla fighters in these three operational areas and there is assistance at the frontier by regular units of the Tanzanian and Zambian armies. The Rhodesians can hold this guerrilla warfare as it stands for some time, but in the long run the danger is the possibility of an OAU army being formed in Mozambique to assist Machel to take over Rhodesia and impose his Marxist régime on that country.

If sanctions or the guerrilla war have not forced the break-through, what has? I believe that it is pressure applied by the United States on South Africa, and pressure applied by South Africa on Rhodesia. If anyone should have the thanks of the British Government, it is the South African Prime Minister, but I notice that the British Government have carefully omitted to recognise this fact. The broad view of South Africa on the Rhodesian situation is that in the long term—not in the short term—it is untenable because of the disparity in the numbers of both races and the fact that the guerrillas are being assisted by the Communist Powers, as we are also assisting Mozambique by subventions from the British Government, as my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) has pointed out. The real answer on the break-through is the pressure on Rhodesia from South Africa, because the South Africans have thought that in the long term it was not worth sacrificing South African interests.

I should like to deal briefly with the Geneva Conference. I am worried about the representation at that conference. We have, for example, ZAPU, under Mr. Nkomo, who represents 18 per cent. of the population—the strength of the Matabele tribe of which he is a member. He has earned the respect of many white Rhodesians and although he has made some immoderate speeches recently I regard him as a moderate. We have Bishop Muzorewa, who is also a moderate. He is the figurehead of the African National Council and one might say that he is not prepared to make up his mind one way or the other.

The people who really matter are those in Zanu, because they have the largest guerrilla army. I do not want to exaggerate the size of that army, and I have already described it. They have the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole—whom I hope is on the way out, because I believe him to be an evil and dangerous man—and also Robert Mugabe, who is extreme in his views. I know him fairly well. He is a person with whom one can negotiate. He has the support of younger Africans in Rhodesia. He is a man of high intelligence; he gained two or three degrees whilst in detention. In many ways he is a moderate man and is not a Communist, though he is under the thumb of Samora Machel, and we will have to deal with him.

Having dealt with the three guerrilla forces that are represented at the conference, I am worried about the absence of other more moderate Africans. Where are the representatives of the two-thirds of the army and the police who are black Africans who have fought with great gallantry and success against guerrilla forces? Who will represent them? Who will represent the African farmers, particularly those in the border regions? Who will represent the African business men, the elected African Members of Parliament and the tribal chiefs? Surely they must count. I hope that the Minister will say who will represent these Africans, who are basically opposed to the violence of the guerrillas. They are, of course, nationalists. They want to run their own country, but they are opposed to many of the actions that have been taken by guerrillas. I want to know why they are not represented at the conference.

I was in Pretoria when the talks with Dr. Kissinger were progressing—in fact, I was staying in the same hotel as Dr. Kissinger. The belief there was that there was a package deal with Mr. Smith, who was presented with certain terms and told to accept or reject them. The understanding was that Dr. Kissinger had already visited the front-line Presidents and had gone there with their agreement. They were speaking on behalf of the three nationalist organisations to which I have referred. That was the impression in Pretoria at the time. Dr. Kissinger went back to talk to some of the front line Presidents after his talks with Mr. Smith. The majority view was that this was a package deal. The Rhodesians did not like it. They felt the time was too short, but they felt that theer was a chance of a transfer of power to moderate hands—and I include some of the guerrillas in that, because they must be included in the negotiations. The Rhodesian Ministers believed that there would be a transfer of power to a combination of guerrillas and African moderates, and that if that was so the responsibility for security forces must be in white hands during the transition period. In whose hands would it otherwise be put? If responsibility were put in the hands of ZAPU the security forces would be used against ZANU, and if put in the hands of ZANU would be used against ZAPU.

Surely it is worthwhile for the African nationalists to work together for two years and try to understand the problems before the country is handed over in working order. I suggest they take the example of the "Turnhalle" talks in Namibia where all ethnic groups have been working closely together for over a year and now understand one another.

Because there was a package deal which was accepted by Mr. Smith—and part of that deal was that sanctions would not be lifted until after the transitional period—I shall not vote against this motion, provided I get a clear statement from the leaders of my party that if the conference does not succeed—of course we hope that it will succeed—my party will raise the whole question of sanctions within the next three months. If I have that categorical assurance, I shall not vote tonight.

The Government have made three basic mistakes. The first was when the Prime Minister said that power would be transferred in two years. I met no one in Rhodesia—other than the nationalists, who wanted two months—who believed that there could be a successful transfer of power in Rhodesia, with its sophisticated economy, in less than five years. Perhaps two years would see the beginning, but a period of five years needs to be allowed before the final transfer of power. I am surprised that the Prime Minister made this mistake, because he knows a lot about this part of the world. Two years is too short a period, and that could be dangerous.

Secondly, there should be representation of moderate Africans at the conference.

Thirdly—I hope that I am wrong here—there appear to be no plans in the event of the failure of the conference. We hope that it will succeed, but if it does not there should be contingency plans and both sides should know them, otherwise there will be a period of complete chaos.

I believe that Mr. Smith will stick solidly to the package that he maintains he agreed to. He maintains, rightly or wrongly, that he has an undertaking, backed by the British and American Governments, that he accepted in good faith. The nationalists will be in conflict with each other, each becoming more extreme. Mr. Mugabe did not help matters with his demand for the transfer of power within the next few weeks. Of course, that is out of the question. Therefore, the conference will have a difficult time.

What happens if there is a breakdown? There will be severe danger. There will be a continuation of guerrilla warfare and, more serious, a breakdown of law and order. Once power has been surrendered the security forces cannot be expected to go on fighting with much enthusiasm. Morale will be affected. There is a serious danger of the breakdown of law and order, which will do no good to the blacks or whites in Rhodesia. What will happen if the squabbling goes on between the nationalists, as has happened over the last 20 years? Every attempt that has been made to bring them together failed, except on one occasion, for a few months.

My real fear, and that of many people in Rhodesia, is of civil war between the Matabele and the Shona. That would cause an exodus of the whites. There would be no alternative if law and order broke down. Eighty thousand whites in Rhodesia are patrials and have every right to come to the United Kingdom. I hope that we are making the necessary arrangements should this calamity occur. Another 80,000 may have a right to come here. Their fate, in the possibly not too distant future, is very serious. The effect on South Africa could be disastrous. The transfer of power in Rhodesia to moderate hands would have a good effect on South Africa, but if things did not go well in Rhodesia the effect on South Africa would be disastrous.

All the Government can now do is to say that they stand by the package duly presented to Mr. Smith by Dr. Kissinger and will see that it is enforced. That will not be easy, but that is what they should be saying to the Africans, and that is what they must do if the conference fails.

The Secretary of State did not mention this, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) forcefully pointed out the danger of Soviet penetration. I believe that the whole Soviet strategy in the world is now directed at detaching Southern Africa from the Western orbit—Angola, Mozambique, Rhodesia, Namibia, and then the final attack on South Africa. The comparison is Austria, Czechslovakia and Poland in the 1930s. The reason is the same.

I remind the House that the top Soviet expert on Africa, a man who has been Chairman of the African Institute in Moscow for 10 years—Vasili Solodovnikov—is now Soviet Ambassador in Lusaka, a comparatively minor post for a man of his stature. The reason for his being there is to orchestrate the Soviet strategy. They do not want to take over in South Africa; their aim is not to colonise. It is to install a Government like that in Angola, or in Mozambique, which is anti-West and which will make it difficult for the West to maintain control of the vital Cape route and above all the mineral resources of Southern Africa.

I believe that, if we should be deprived, as we would be in those circumstances, of chrome, manganese, vanadium, gold, industrial diamonds, uranium, lithium, and all the minerals vital to an industrial society of which South Africa is the first or second major exporter in the whole world—the Soviet Union being the other—it would mean utter disaster for the West.

I believe that tonight the Government may be opening the door for the final defeat of the West. It is a matter that we must seriously consider. I hope that the Government spokesman will refer to the Soviet threat, which I cannot believe they do not recognise or understand. I believe that, thanks to stupidity and subversion, the Soviet Union now seems to be winning all round the world.

9.7 p.m.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

The analogy between the situation in Europe in 1939 and that in South Africa now has been used on at least three occasions since I have been listening to the debate. Although I was not even born in 1939, my reading of history and my conversations with people who were mature adults at that time lead me to believe that there were few in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Belgium and Holland who actually welcomed the Nazi armies.

Although I would not even claim that the majority of the people in Zimbabwe would welcome the Soviet support or even that the majority of the people of Angola would welcome the Soviet support, I do not think that by any stretch of the imagination could one conceive of the popular attitude in either of those countries to the Soviet support being similar to the attitude of the people in Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Belgium and Holland in 1941. The result is also entirely different, but that is a matter for academic debate.

The question that the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) asked, as indeed do all hon. Members who agree with his general assessment of the situation—including the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), to whom I listened with fascination—was: why is it, even accepting that it is entirely true, that the Soviet Union can exercise in 1976 such enormous influence in the general internal and external relationships and in the promotion of particular groups of power in South Africa when we and, indeed, many European nations which have had a strong presence in those areas, not merely for the 50 years that the Soviet Union has existed but for many years before that, are unable to do so? It is because we did not try with sufficient effort or sincerity or funds to emancipate the people from their conditions. Now they are offered the chance, albeit an authoritarian chance, to be emancipated from their difficulties.

We were told that this is not a time for recrimination, and I have no interest in going in for recriminations. But I cannot listen quietly to hon. Members who support the idea that the whole Western Alliance is threatened and that the Cape route will be destroyed and denied to the Allies in the Alliance because for a spontaneous reason the peoples of Southern Africa welcome Soviet support with open arms. They see the Soviet Union as a decolonising Power, a freeing Power. I agree that we cannot, on the basis of our criteria, see it as a democratising Power, but when they compare it with the regimes of Vorster and Smith and the colonial regimes of Portugal, people have the general conception that things will be better in Southern Africa with its assistance. Whose fault is that? If Southern Africa is not gained for democracy in the way that we should like, we must investigate the historical reasons.

The prospects in Southern Africa have been brought about most obviously and spectacularly by the direct intervention on the side of the MPLA in Angola of what the newscasters call, with their superficial shorthand, Soviet-backed forces against Western-backed forces. The fact is that the other forces, UNITA and the FNLA, were not Western-backed at all. If they were, the West made an incredibly incompetent business of backing them. They were backed by South Africa.

It is because of the failure of South Africa's backing that we have been precipitated into a situation in which we are contemplating the clear possibility of the negotiation of a settlement in Rhodesia which will bring majority rule, at least in a few years. I do not accept that the prospects for majority rule in two years can be regarded with sanguinity.

Today we have heard the arguments that I have heard every year in the six years that I have been a Member, and I suppose that they were rehearsed before that. Generally speaking, they flowed back and forth from the same mouths, though they were none the worse for that. What we on the Labour Benches have been seeking to do for the past 11 years in Rhodesia, South Africa and other countries which are now gradually securing their freedom is to make the inevitable peaceful, to secure it by bloodless means. The conquest of the tyranny that controls Southern Africa is inevitable. We seek to make it possible by the smoothest, least bloody, most peaceful means.

The right hon. Member for Pavilion said that we must take the responsibility of being the accomplices of terrorists who kill women and children and in the foulest possible way abuse and torture people. But Conservative Members have special contacts with the Smith regime and the Vorster regime. By not trying enthusiastically to promote the cause of racial equality in Southern Africa, they are just as much the source of the present violence in Southern Africa, which will continue because of the political, social and democratic immobility of the occupying forces of the dominating white minority cliques that rule there.

Mr. Wall

By what right does the hon. Gentleman suggest that Conservative Members have not promoted the cause of racial equality?

Mr. Kinnock

The hon. Gentleman comes to the House every October and November and makes speeches justifying the perpetuation of the status quo as it existed in 1965. He cannot do that without taking some of the blame for sustaining the philosophy, politics and discipline that exist under the Smith régime and all the prejudice that goes with it.

I would be the last to accuse the hon. Member for Haltemprice of being spurred by racialism. I do not think that is any part of his political philosophy, but he must recognise the consequences of the fact that he is seen here and in Southern Africa as an apologist for the Smith régime.

It is no good our simply indulging in an annual exchange of insults, and I would not have become involved in the argument had it not been for the uniquely superficial and prejudicial points advanced by the right hon. Member for Pavilion. I thought that his remarks required a direct answer.

The right hon. Member for Pavilion spoke about the only leg that Ian Smith had left to stand on, and many Conservative Members spoke of a package deal. Do they think that the African Heads of Government are stupid, or that Dr. Kissinger is stupid, or that Ian Smith is stupid—or indeed that we are stupid? Anybody with a modicum of intelligence will accept that Mr. Smith has been left by Dr. Vorster with no options. The consequence of that situation is that Mr. Smith has to make the best of a bad job—and the best of that bad job is the present idea that Ian Smith has been presented with a sealed and honour-bound package by the American Secretary of State, and that it is not just a basis for negotiation but a concluded negotiation. That is absolute nonsense.

What African Head of Government, or indeed what American Secretary of State, would give an undertaking—and indeed who would accept it—that the state of terrorism was to be ended? Anybody who takes that view is an idiot. I do not think that Mr. Smith is an idiot, nor do I think that the right hon. Member for Pavilion is an idiot. However, he does himself, and indeed the House, a great disservice by presenting a tissue-thin argument in seeking to uphold the Smith régime.

Surely Ian Smith cannot think that we are stupid, although he might think that his party members are stupid and might be excused for so doing if he takes that view of their average intelligence. Ian Smith had to put the best face on the idea—namely, that he and his party and the whole Smith regime are so important that they require the direct participation of the United States Secretary of State. That, in their view, puts Rhodesia in the epicentre of world political events.

In the event of the other parties to the general negotiations not accepting what Mr. Smith would accept—which is a strong likelihood, as we must acknowledge—Mr. Smith has a convenient way out. It could then be said that those who have ruined the negotiations and spoiled the chances of an interim government were not Mr. Smith but the naughty blacks out in the bush who ruined the whole business by not accepting the package which Dr. Kissinger allegedly offered to Mr. Smith. That is not a tortuous construction to put on affairs. That is a fairly straightforward piece of diplomacy as we have learnt it from Tory diplomats year in and year out. That is to be the art of it.

The fact is that in the package there are undeliverable undertakings—as the package has been reported by Mr. Smith. No one but a total political virgin or a moron would regard them as being in any way acceptable, well-founded or agreed. If the right hon. Member for Pavilion accepts them, I trust his word as a man of honour. He has told us that he believes that Mr. Smith genuinely believes that that is the package. As I say, either Mr. Smith has a hypnotic effect on the right hon. Gentleman, whereby I excuse him for coming to those conclusions, or the right hon. Gentleman deliberately wants to provide an alibi or way out for Mr. Smith.

I give the right hon. Gentleman credit for showing consistency. He is prepared to stand by his friends. I do not go in for all this talk about rebels. The right hon. Gentleman knows where he is, we know where he is and Mr. Smith knows where he is. I hope that the electors of Britain and those of Rhodesia, when they eventually get a vote, will put matters into their correct perspective.

I think that my hon. Friend the Minister of State has found Africa even more difficult to manage than Merthyr Tydfil. That would have come as something of a suprise to me, as I suppose it did to my hon. Friend. I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend have made progressive steps in the right direction. As we frequently enough criticise the machinations of Dr. Kissinger, I think we should welcome his participation in these matters, whatever the motivation behind them. I think that we are on the way to some sort of progress.

In all the debates one acknowledgement cannot be removed—namely, that Mr. Smith has had to make a realistic acknowledgement that there is no permanent white rule in Southern Rhodesia. He has had to do so with more than the lip service that he has paid in the past. He has had to do so without accompanying phrases such as "Over my dead body" or "About 50 years, perhaps". That is the sort of comment that we have heard in the past. The whole business is irreversibly on the slide. It is in the interests of the House and of the black and white in Rhodesia to try to make it a peaceful slide if we can, an arrangement that will assist them.

I take up one of the points made by my right hon. Friend. Although it must be for the parties to decide on the details of the transfer to majority rule, we shall do everything in our power to see that the conference ends in agreement on the establishment of an interim government. Within the terms that he has set himself, my right hon. Friend has done everything in the power of the British Government to secure that desirable end. If we are to have any real measure of guarantee that the transition can be accomplished peacefully, and if we are to do everything in our power towards that end, there are a couple more steps that have to be taken, with all the attendent risks.

The first step is that my right hon. Friend, or at the very least my hon. Friend the Minister of State, should be in attendance at Geneva. That is not a vote of no confidence in Mr. Ivor Richard, who is a man of some accomplishment. He is also Welsh, which is of great good fortune. The fact is that we need that presence in Geneva to convince Mr. Smith that he is in a position where there can be no further concession, that there is a man in Geneva who is prepared to say a final "Yes" or "No". Such a presence would be a direct assertion to Smith of our position in a way that he could not forget, surmount or avoid. Secondly, it would be the most positive reassurance to those who represent the majority of people who live in Rhodesia—namely, the black leaders—that we mean business and that there is the most direct commitment.

I recognise the realistic difficulty which the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) pointed out during Question Time last week. A constant difficulty faced by Britain more and more as the years pass is having responsibilities without the power to enforce them. But the responsibility here is unquestionable. We have direct responsibility. Whether Rhodesia is de facto independent or not, the relationship is still there, the resolutions of the United Nations are at our instigation, and no one can deny that there is a political connection which, until true independence is reached, is immovable.

But we have no power. We are not the power which has brought Smith to the negotiating table, or which will force the interim Government there to fulfil the transition to majority rule. Such power exists elsewhere. Some of it is held by those who hold the machineguns in the bush. The Americans have commercial power. Most important of all, Mr. Vorster has a sensitive regard to the best interests of the Republic of South Africa and will constantly exercise his power. I do not think that we should infringe these possibilities if we attended the conference.

Then there is the question of who has the law and order powers and control of the armed forces during the transitional period. Some hon. Members say that it is justifiable to retain these powers in the hands of the white Rhodesians because of the threat that would otherwise be posed to black policemen, black soldiers, black officials, and black Members of Parliament. It is a respectable point to make, but I do not think that it is sustainable. I do not think that, if we secure a multinational force in Rhodesia during the transitional period, anyone of them need even lose his job let alone his life or have his life threatened. I have no interest in these people being frightened and threatened and bullied and possibly killed because of their association with the white regime, and the transitional period provides an opportunity for them to be the leaders of the infrastructure of law and order when majority rule comes and not to be jeopardised in the process of transition.

This is why I make a plea for the transfer both of law and order powers and of the control of the Armed Forces to a Commonwealth multinational force so that the transition can take place without being rotted away and undermined from the start by leaving all the muscles and the mailed fist in the hand of Smith and his associates. In this way we can provide the black Africans who have been part of the regime, for reasons we can understand, with the only guarantee that we can conceivably offer to them of some protection and means of assurance.

Hon. Members are justifiably worried about these people, but the fact that Smith retains law and order powers and control of the armed services will not save the life of a single black soldier or black Member of Parliament. The only thing which will safeguard their position, their lives and their families, and their professional standing and importance is the recognition by the people of Zimbabwe that they have a real rôle in the multi-racial society of the future.

But if they have to sustain Smith over the next two years, if they have to be a band of security between Smith and his people, their rights really will be in danger. We shall not then be talking about 80,000 patrials who are white. If we mishandle the situation we shall be asked to take in black refugees who are in fear of their lives. As I argue for refuge and asylum for political refugees of all kinds in this terrorised world—terrorised far more by legitimate Governments than by terrorist groups—so I shall argue for the entry of these people because I do not think that they should be left in danger of being killed or that anyone's life should be jeopardised. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will think again about the whole prospect of a ministerial presence at Geneva.

Without recrimination, I say to Conservative Members that everybody must understand two features. If there is not a sufficiently large and sophisticated African electorate to satisfy their criteria for the election of a majority of black Members of Parliament, the reason is that as long as the system exists as it does in Rhodesia, there will never be enough literate, numerate and sophisticated black constituents, because the system is not even intended to make that kind of provision. If it ever comes within danger of being a reality, the rules will be changed, as indeed they have been changed on so many occasions in the past, by a totally arbitrary government. No black in Rhodesia can trust that kind of Government. There are many whites, too, who cannot trust it.

If the response of black Zimbabweans in the next two years to the prospect of majority rule is impatience and also been taught that their patience brings no rewards. They have been well tutored in violence by Government and by the order of affairs. The whites have brutalised, subordinated and exploited them over very many years.

While we ask Conservative Members and white Rhodesians to approach the modern world with open minds and with hope, we ask, too, that the blacks in Rhodesia will exercise that patience and will be willing to forget the lessons of violence. We are asking a great deal of both groups, but the alternative, as the hon. Member for Haltemprice said, is the bloodiest possible conflict for a generation. It is not easy for us to talk here and it is not so easy for them to act there, but I hope that in this House we shall make every effort we can to persuade those with whom we may have some influence, both white and black in Rhodesia, of the way in which we regard the situation, and the hopes we have for Zimbabwe.

I hope that we shall ask our Government to make the most direct and strongest possible contribution to a peaceful settlement. That contribution, as far as I am concerned, must include a ministerial presence.

Mr. Speaker

I make one more appeal to the House. I appealed earlier today for hon. Members to exercise self-discipline. A number of hon. Members are still hoping to be called.

9.33 p.m.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)

Bearing in mind your comments, Mr. Speaker, I hope that the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) will excuse me if I do not follow him in detail.

No chapter in our history gives me more satisfaction than that which records the granting of freedom to over 600 million people of all races and creeds throughout the world. It is a chapter which surpasses others recording astonishing feats of daring and organisation in the arts of war. It is a chapter which must not be further blotched by events in Rhodesia—a country for which we are still responsible in the eyes of the world, morally and legally.

Historically, Britain has had far more experience of Central and Southern Africa than has the United States. All the more credit, then, to Dr. Kissinger for the frankly surprising success of his mission.

Mr. Smith's speech on 24th September appeared to mark a watershed in the affairs of Southern Africa. For 11 years the world has attempted to persuade Mr. Smith to accept the principle that no minority is entitled to dictate to a majority—a view shared by all parties in this House. But it seems to me that over the last month we have been sliding down the wrong side of the watershed. Members on the Government side may not like to be reminded of this, but following Mr. Smith's speech a statement was produced by the Foreign Office, apparently with the approval of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. The statement read: Her Majesty's Government have noted with satisfaction Mr. Ian Smith's announcement in Salisbury tonight accepting the proposals put to him by Dr. Kissinger … These proposals represented an elaboration of the plan originally advanced by the Prime Minister in March of this year. From that it is perfectly clear in my own mind that there was a package deal. I draw the attention of right hon. and hon. Members to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) which gave a lot of evidence on that point.

It may be said that the Foreign Office was wrong to make such a statement, that in any negotiations there is an element of uncertainty, and that there must be if they are to be successful. It may be said that the Foreign Secretary is trying desperately to get the Geneva Conference off the ground. In my view, the Foreign Office blundered over the handling of that statement.

I do not underestimate the problems posed for our Government by the situation in Rhodesia. I trust that I do not overestimate our diplomatic strength. But I fear that the Government have failed to match the hour. I believe that a senior member of the Government, not just the bloke in the baggage train, should have accompanied Dr. Kissinger on his mission to Africa. All too clearly the Americans were given the impression that Britain was dragging her feet.

After Mr. Smith's historic speech, it should have been the Foreign Secretary and not one of his Ministers of State who went round Central and Southern Africa trying to tie up the loose ends and trying to get this vital conference off the ground. I quote from a letter which Lord Caradon wrote to The Times recently: All the complicated political and economic questions now to be settled will need positive leadership and clear determination to carry out urgent decisions. There can be little or no likelihood that the Smith ministers and the African nationalists will agree on all these issues merely by putting both sides together—any more than agreement can be secured merely by putting Greek and Turkish Cypriots together in Cyprus or by putting Israelis and Arabs together in the Middle East. There must be independent initiative. I regret that the Foreign Secretary is not to open the conference. I believe that he should. I regret that a Cabinet Minister is not chairing the conference. I believe that one should. I remember how Harold Macmillan employed R. A. Butler to try to bring a measure of responsibility and pressure into the affairs of Central Africa in his time. I regret that the conference has been postponed. Surely speed is the essence of success. Mr. Ivor Richard may be a distinguished ambassador, but we would do much better to have a Cabinet Minister chairing this conference. Mr. Richard, after all, is not even a member of the British Government. I also agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) that the composition of the conference is a cause for concern. Who is to represent the moderate Africans? I hope that the Minister will pick up that point in his reply.

It has become painfully clear that only by Britain pulling out all the diplomatic stops can disaster be avoided. I find it rather humiliating that today it is the African Presidents who are demanding that Britain should perform her traditional duties.

If a proper agreement is achieved at Geneva, the Government must not pretend that they have discharged all their responsibilities. A constitutional conference must be called, and it should take place in London. I support the idea that a Queen's representative should be appointed, and what about a Chief Justice being nominated? Does Rhodesia have a legal judiciary at present? What is the present position of the Chief Justice in Rhodesia following the passage of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965? I hope that the Minister will give us some guidance.

I do not doubt for a moment the scale of the military problems which will face all the nations concerned if the conference is a success. Clearly a military vacuum will be created. Britain is in no position to take unilateral action. I add to the suggestions which have been made from both sides of the House today merely that we should face the reality of the situation. There may be a role for either a Commonwealth force or a United Nations force, provided that the frontline Presidents can guarantee some sort of co-operation from the guerrilla leaders. Surely the United Nations has a role to play in such a desperate situation when Britain, the responsible Power, lacks power, and when NATO and Europe are not in a position to influence events.

I welcome the clear statement by the Foreign Secretary that sanctions will be removed if a settlement is reached. Have the Government set in motion the process for lifting sanctions? I gather they have not. Surely this would be a gesture of encouragement to moderate whites in Rhodesia, and they are entitled to such a gesture. I believe that a sanctions Order for three or six months would have been a better proposition for the Foreign Secretary to bring to the House today. It would have better met the feelings of many Members on this issue. I do not believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) has any need to be holier than the Pope. I do not believe that Mr. Smith expects an immediate lifting of sanctions. I hope that my hon. Friend will refrain from voting against the Government.

The Foreign Secretary said he hoped that guerrilla activity would be deescalated now that the conference had been called. Heavens above, why should it not stop altogether? There should be an immediate ceasefire. Why should the conference take place against a background of such brutality?

I do not doubt that a long and tortuous road lies ahead. I do not doubt that missed openings and opportunities could condemn a generation, not just in Rhodesia but in the whole of Southern Africa, to bitterness and bloodshed. I do not doubt that there is a high risk of a full-scale war between black and white, possibly involving the great Powers. But I do not doubt that a magnanimous and lasting settlement can be achieved along the lines of the Anglo-American proposal put by Dr. Kissinger and accepted by Mr. Smith. My message is that the Government should and must do more than any other party to ensure the success of the conference.

9.43 p.m.

Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)

One of the previous Opposition speakers—the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery)—asked whose side we were on. There may be a crisis of orientation on the part of some hon. Members opposite, but we on this side are in no doubt whose side we are on. We know whose side we are not on—we are not on the side of the white racialist régimes in Southern Africa. We are on the side of the black majority and, thankfully, most members of the Conservative Party agree with us, as do the American Government.

The American Government have almost reversed what has virtually become the iron law of foreign policy for that country, in not backing—as they have done almost without exception hitherto—the corrupt minority régimes wherever they may have been in Asia, Africa and America. On this occasion the American Government have backed the progressive forces, the movements in society fighting against a minority holding on to power and exploiting its position. We know where we stand and obviously the vote at 11.30 p.m. will reveal where other hon. Members stand.

Some Conservatives and, indeed, some hon. Members on the Government Benches seem to be obsessed with the arguments surrounding the circumstances of the setting up of this conference. I am delighted that a conference has been set up at all. It is naïve to assume that diplomacy in the modern world is anything but secret. Maybe Woodrow Wilson desired to see covenants openly arrived at, but that situation does not exist in the real world. Diplomacy, by its very nature, is secret. Whether any nefarious deals were done I know not, but the fact remains that the conference has been convened, and I am delighted about that. It is a remarkable achievement that the participants will include people with so many diverse views. We should be looking forward, not back- wards, and asking how the conference came about and who is telling lies. Some Conservatives appear to be obsessed with trying to accuse Dr. Kissinger and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of double dealing, and have almost been calling them liars.

There are diverse views on how to deal with the threat of Communism in Southern Africa. According to some Conservatives it is best done by allying with minority white racist régimes. The Americans, however, fully realise that the way to beat Communism in Southern Africa is not to ally with corrupt régimes but to identify with other forces combating them.

This is the twelfth such order to come before the House. In bygone years there was perhaps little prospect that the debate than being held would be the last. Events are now building up to a climax in Rhodesia, with the undeniable movement towards majority rule. People have doubts whether the process will be achieved by diplomacy or violence, however.

The events of the next few days and weeks will be crucial. The situation will Southern Africa is one of unprecedented fluidity and is fraught with danger. The price of failure, however, will be high, and everyone, both black and white, will pay it.

We must show the participants in Geneva how earnestly we desire a peaceful transition to majority rule. We recognise the myriad problems that these people are facing in Switzerland, and we wish them success. Even six months ago we could not have been blamed for predicting that the prospects for conventional diplomacy were slight, but it is a remarkable achievement that conventional diplomacy is now taking place.

We appear to be facing the last opportunity for solving the problem by peaceful means. If the negotiations fail there may be no alternative to bloody conflict. Almost every day we are told in the Press that the conference will collapse. There are those who report such a possible break-up, and others who are actively working towards such an end.

We must praise all sorts of people for bringing the conference about. First, the front-line Presidents must be acknowledged for their diplomacy and sense of moderation in influencing the black participants in Rhodesia. One must compliment the nationalists for coming to the conference. We should also praise the British Government, but we should not delude ourselves into thinking that because we are chairing the meeting and because we have historical and legal obligations we hold the centre of the stage.

There is the great prospect that things could go wrong, and if that happens our representatives could end up with egg on their faces, hurled at them from so many different directions. We must congratulate the Ministers who have been negotiating over the last two months for their success so far. We should also praise Dr. Kissinger for helping to create the conference.

America recently discovered Africa. It appeared slow to appreciate the strategic importance of the continent and it realised fairly recently the consequences of opting out of a foreign policy of which a dominant theme was relations with Africa. Obviously the Angolan adventure showed the Americans the dangers of their policy in Southern Africa, and they realised their past failures not a moment too soon.

Dr. Kissinger said: I do not want to pretend that the realisation of the significance of Africa has come easily to American policy. It grew out of painful experience. But whatever the past omissions, the lessons have been learned. The Americans appear to have broken their iron law of diplomacy and, remarkably, are backing the right horse in this race. I regard that with some satisfaction. If they had followed the well-trodden path of previous Administrations, we could have expected them to be allied with South Africa and Southern Rhodesia, but they are now supporting the nationalists.

This policy, ushered in by Dr. Kissinger's historic speech at Lusaka, represents an enormous change. Although Dr. Kissinger will not be in Geneva, his presence will be felt.

The options for South Africa and Rhodesia have diminished dramatically in the last 12 months. There has been a dramatic shift, resulting from the removal of the physical and psychological protection of the Portuguese empire, and the dramatic unrest within their own countries has added a new dimension. The Portuguese and American pillars have been removed from South African and Rhodesian policy. The Americans have made it abundantly clear that they will not support South Africa or Rhodesia in any conflict. Indeed, they will offer assistance to those seeking to oppose the regime in Rhodesia.

Last year, in the debate on sanctions, we were told how strong the Rhodesian economy was, and any suggestion that sanctions were having some success was vilified by hon. Members opposite. We have our own economic problems, but in Southern Rhodesia foreign exchange is desperately short, new investment is low, and tourism is at less than half the level of 1972 because the prospect of a tourist getting killed is quite high. The economic situation is disastrous and this has combined with the political and military crisis to propel Mr. Smith into a conference chamber which he will not enter with any degree of hope.

The conference will be a big step towards majority rule. The interim Government must obviously reflect the realities of the new situation in Southern Africa. It will reflect the fact that there will be a fundamental shift in the balance of power in that country, away from racist minority rule to a form of majority rule with, we hope, some form of democracy—though with the bad training the Africans have had from Britain and the Southern Rhodesians, democracy is by no means assured.

The Rhodesians will not be negotiating from a position of strength; quite the reverse. I hope that the Africans, who have been shabbily treated over the last eight decades, during which they have been conquered, subordinated and exploited, and seen their leaders gaoled, will be more magnanimous towards the whites than the whites have been towards them.

Some hon. Members have mentioned with distaste a statement appearing on the Press Association tapes tonight by Mr. Mugabe, but if I had been in gaol for 10 years, I would not be entering these negotiations in a spirit of great affection for my adversaries. The Rhodesians are getting it back in their faces in the same way that they have delivered it to the Africans.

Perhaps they do not deserve it, but I hope that the white Rhodesians will be presented with an alternative to a last-ditch stand. They cannot, however, expect to dominate the interim Government or retain their economic domination. For the sake of a peaceful transition to majority rule, I hope that some of the understandable anxieties of the European population relating to pensions, homes and jobs, will be allayed. If they are, the prospects for a speedy transfer of power will be much more attractive.

We must hope that the conference will be a success. We must reaffirm in some cases and affirm in others our dedication to the ideal of creating within Rhodesia a country in which all, regardless of race or colour, can live, work and prosper together. Those are not my words. Those are the words of Prime Minister Ian Smith.

The obstacles to success are formidable and have been reiterated many times tonight. We hope that the nationalists will remain a viable united force throughout the negotiations.

Rhodesia watchers can hardly be optimistic. Many times we have reached the stage where we felt that the situation would be sorted out, only to be disappointed.

I hope that in two years, when the Rhodesian flag is lowered and the flag of the new Republic of Zimbabwe is unfurled in its place, it will have been achieved by a bloodless process of transition.

We wish our representatives in Geneva the best of good fortune in the weeks or months—probably weeks—which lie ahead because, should the conference fail, the future for Africa will be desperate. I am sure that everyone in this House is anxious to avoid failure.

9.57 p.m.

Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

I think that the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) made a foolish mistake in suggesting that one side of the House wishes to support the cause of the whites while the other side supports the cause of the blacks.

Mr. George


Mr. Rifkind

That was the implication of the hon. Gentleman's speech. The emphasis that we wish to get over is that all hon. Members wish to ensure a long-term future for both the white and black communities in Rhodesia in whatever form of Government applies.

I am delighted to have this opportunity of speaking shortly in the debate. I had the privilege of living and working in Rhodesia for two years. I worked in the University of Rhodesia, which is one of the few multi-racial establishments in that unhappy country. In that capacity I met many African students who will undoubtedly play a major rôle in the future government of their country.

For the first time in 11 long years I have a slight feeling of optimism. It is not a substantial degree of optimism. It is similar perhaps to that of the gentleman who defined a pessimist as a person who believes that things could not be worse and an optimist as someone who believes they could be.

Nevertheless, even within those substantial reservations, Mr. Smith's statement, when he accepted majority rule within two years, was perhaps the first time that we were able to envisage a peaceful resolution to this serious problem.

The statement was dramatic for two reasons. First, without it, bloodshed in Southern Africa would have been inevitable. Secondly, but equally important, without it there could have been no long-term future for the white community there. I believe that, both in their own interests and in the interests of the black majority, a permanent white settled and confident presence in Rhodesia—or Zimbabwe—is vital to the economic growth and prosperity of that country.

Clearly, the statement, coming from a man whose whole life has been dedicated to the cause of white supremacy, must have been enormously difficult for Mr. Smith to make. We should pay tribute to the fact that, even if he has not been convinced of the desirability of majority rule for its own sake, he has nevertheless had the realism to accept that the future of the community which he wishes to promote depends on an acceptance of the facts of life and that majority rule therefore is a necessity.

Given that we have had a substantial degree of generosity on his part and on the part of the white community, we must now look to the West and to the African nationalists to respond in a similar way. The African nationalists must appreciate the great difficulty for any community to surrender a monopoly power which it has exercised for over 80 years. This is a major change, and not an easy one, irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the situation. A similar sprit of generosity and co-operation from the African nationalists would possibly make the whole experiment a success.

With regard to the attitude of the British Government, I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary has refused to accept that there was not a package deal. I accepted that there was such a package, not because I have great faith in Ian Smith's words but for one simple reason—that shortly after Ian Smith gave his broadcast, the Foreign Office issued a statement welcoming that statement. If Mr. Smith's claim that there had been an agreement along the lines he indicated was a sham and a fabrication, that was the time for the Foreign Office to indicate its disagreement with Mr. Smith's interpretation of what had occurred. To wait for several days or weeks and then claim that there had been such a misunderstanding gives no credit to the Foreign Secretary. I believe it would have been more sensible for him simply to say, "There was such an agreement but, unfortunately, the African nationalists do not feel able to go along with the details of it". That would have been a more sensible and realistic approach, and I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary was not able to respond in that way.

I listened with great interest to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and I agreed with virtually everything he said. However, I want to comment on his suggestion that if, unfortunately, the conference were to fail we should consider dropping sanctions immediately if the failure of the conference was due not to Mr. Smith but to the African nationalists. If that situation were to develop, and Mr. Smith was not at fault, our course of action would depend on Mr. Smith's reaction subsequent to that failure. If he nevertheless sought to implement the spirit of his announcement of some weeks ago, to seek a majority rule system within two years with those Africans who were prepared to co-operate, then undoubtedly there would be an overwhelming case for the dropping of sanctions. If, however, he sought to use the failure of the conference as a justification for returning to square one, clearly no such justification would exist.

The important issue will be the deliberations at the conference in Geneva. The one point that I would stress is that it would be wrong for this House, or the public, to look to the conference to settle all the long-term problems of Rhodesia. That is not the purpose of Geneva. Its purpose is to set up an interim Government. During the two years that that Government will serve, its whole purpose will be to work out the details of the long-term future. The purpose of Geneva is a modest objective and we should remember that when considering its likelihood of success.

One of the fundamental differences of view is who should hold the vital posts of law and order and defence. On the one hand Mr. Smith maintains that they should be in white hands and, no doubt, the African nationalists will maintain that they should be in black hands. Perhaps there is a compromise, and I hope that Mr. Richard, as chairman of the conference, will consider putting forward such a compromise. The third possibility is that these two sensitive posts should be held not by the Rhodesian Front or the African nationalists but by white Rhodesians who have been opposed to Mr. Smith over these 11 long years. I believe that they would be persons who would be acceptable to the bulk of the white community and also to the African nationalists because they would not be tainted with membership of the regime against whom the African nationalists have been fighting for many long years. There are several individuals who could hold such an office, such as Mr. Garfield Todd, Dr. Ahrn Palley and Sir Robert Tredgold, who made their opposition to the Smith regime well known over the years.

We must remember that 20 per cent. of the electorate voted for parties other than the Rhodesian Front at the last general election in Rhodesia. There is the Rhodesia Party, the Centre Party, which I understand is pressing for representation in Geneva. I hope that the Foreign Office will give consideration to inviting them to participate so that a white point of view contrary to that of Mr. Smith will be able to make its presence felt. The Foreign Office has extended an invitation to include Mr. Sithole. Perhaps it should also consider a similar extension to ensure that the totality of opinion is represented at the conference.

I am optimistic and I would give the House my fundamental reason why that optimism exists. For the first time perhaps, certainly since the advent of power by the Rhodesia Front, there is an identity of objective existing in Rhodesia between Mr. Smith, on the one hand, and Mr. Nkomo, on the other hand. Mr. Smith has now accepted, perhaps sadly and reluctantly, the necessity of majority rule within two years and that the interim Government during that period should be headed by an African Chief Minister or Prime Minister. Clearly, Mr. Smith's hope is that Mr. Nkomo will emerge as the chief spokesman of moderate African opinion. Undoubtedly, Mr. Nkomo hopes that he will emerge in that rôle.

That is an identity of interest that has never previously existed. Mr. Nkomo knows that this is his last chance to lead African moderate opinion and to aspire to his objective of leading a Rhodesia under majority rule. Mr. Smith knows that if the moderate Africans represented by Mr. Nkomo are alienated by this conference, there will be no further opportunity for the whites and the blacks to resolve their difficulties and to provide a future to which they can look forward.

Given that identity of interest and given that the Geneva Conference has a limited objective of establishing an interim Government, given the British Government's rôle in chairing that conference and ensuring that all the potential possibilities are considered and discussed, I hope that the British Government will realise that only by facilitating an opportunity for Mr. Smith and Mr. Nkomo to meet and by promoting those areas of policy in which they actually agree and have a common interest can Rhodesia now move forward, with the dropping of sanctions, to establishing an economic potential that may be the envy of the rest of Africa. That would ensure that that country, which many of us have believed has long had the opportunity to be the jewel of Africa, should be the jewel of Africa in practice as well as in aspiration.

10.7 p.m.

Mr. Churchill (Stretford)

There has been one very clear theme running through the debate. It has been evident on both sides of the House. That is the recognition of the gravity of the present situation and what is at stake, as well as the price of failure. It is not the price of failure for Britain. That would be limited, as was suggested earlier, to egg on the face of Mr. Ivor Richard. What is of much more concern is what could be the fate not only of the Europeans and Asians but of the great majority of the African community of Rhodesia if things do not work out as we all hope they will.

Right hon. and hon. Members on the Labour Benches, in their keenness—indeed, their passion—to bury the old colonialism are in danger of failing to see the rise of a new imperialism in Africa today. That was not the case with the speech of the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), who spoke with great clarity and an admirable lack of cant or humbug. He recognised the Soviet threat, what the Russians are involved in and what is at the back of their minds in involving themselves in support of the cause of African nationalism.

In recent weeks we have seen some very dramatic and far-reaching developments on the African scene, the principal of which has been Mr. Smith's acceptance of majority rule and the fact that the conference is to take place in Geneva next week. We must all hope that it will be successful. However, there can be no illusions about the background against which this conference has been convened.

Two factors have brought this situation about. Sanctions is not one of them; nor are the forces of the African nationalists, of themselves, another. The two factors have been, first and foremost, Soviet imperialism and Soviet direct intervention in Southern Africa, and the unwillingness or inability of the Western nations, even in the context of detente, to persuade the Soviet Union to move away from the path of military interventionism and neo-colonialism in Africa which represents a threat to every independent country and is directly counter to the spirit of Helsinki.

One must ask why, in opening the debate and referring to the various factors in shifting the balance of power in Central and Southern Africa in recent months, the Foreign Secretary studiously avoided making any reference to the Soviet Union, to its intervention in Angola with an invading Army of 8,000 Cubans. [Interruption.] That was the figure that I mentioned the last time I spoke on the subject and I am not aware that the figures have changed in the past four months. One must ask why the Foreign Secretary, in the context of Mr. Smith's acceptance of the principle of majority rule within two years and the agreement to come to Geneva, made no call on behalf of the British Government for an end to terrorism.

No one has suggested that the Soviet Union's involvement in Africa today is motivated by a love of the African people. What faces us is a brazen struggle for power in Africa, the like of which we have not seen for more than 100 years. The independence of the present independent States of Africa and the future of all the peoples of Central and Southern Africa are at stake. Our prosperity and our independence are also at stake. I am not just referring to the Cape route, which is vital, but also, as other hon. Members have mentioned, to our substantial dependence in terms of jobs and prosperity on the products of the South African economy. If those were to fall into hostile hands it would have adverse effects on our domestic, social and defensive interests.

The question before us today and before the Geneva Conference next week is not whether there should be majority rule or when it should be. That has been agreed, and even Mr. Smith has accepted it. The question to which we must address ourselves today and above all at the conference next week is whether a moderate African majority Government can be established. We must ask whether a tolerant African majority Government can emerge which will uphold order and justice, and respect the rights of its own peoples and of the racial minorities in the new Zimbabwe, or whether a Soviet-backed Fascist dictatorship will come to power—as in Angola and certain other countries in Africa—where bloodshed, racial strife and hatred would reign in the future.

There is no justification for imagining that the terrorists trained in the Patrice Lumumba University and armed with Kalashnikov machine-guns supplied by the Soviet Union represent the majority African opinion in Rhodesia. The hon. Member for Bedwelty made that point. These men are not the liberators of the African majority. They are the potential enslavers on behalf of those to whom they have sold themselves out and to whom some at least are prepared to sell their country. It is vital to differentiate between the forces of African nationalism that are at play here and the forces of Soviet imperialism.

As a country with direct responsibility, our role must be to back the forces of moderation. It is regrettable that invitations have not been issued to the moderate elements of the Europeans in Rhodesia. Why has the invitation been given only to Smith? Do the British Government believe that Smith represents the whole of the European community? Surely that cannot be their position. If not, let them even at this late date issue invitations to the minority parties.

What can we in Britain do? Where does the responsibility rest? We have the prime responsibility. It is not for the Americans or the Soviets, it is not even for the four front-line Presidents, to decide the fate and future of Rhodesia. Above all, it is our responsibility. We owe it to all the peoples of Rhodesia to produce a satisfactory outcome. We all want the conference to succeed and we must work actively to achieve that success. I re-echo the words of hon. Members on both sides of the House who entered a plea to the Foreign Secretary that he should chair, or at least open, the conference next week, so that people will realise that they are talking not to the office boy but to someone who bears full responsibility in the name of the British Government and is a member of the British Cabinet.

I look forward to the establishment of an independent, non-racial Zimbabwe which cherishes and respects the rights of all its peoples, but, looking elsewhere on the African continent, I cannot be over-optimistic of the chances. The Soviets were certainly taken by surprise at the speed of Mr. Smith's acceptance of the Crosland-Kissinger package deal, for such it undoubtedly was. Dr. Kissinger made it abundantly clear before he embarked on his travels, with a representative of the British Government from the British Embassy in Washington travelling with him in his entourage, that the plan he was putting to the African Presidents, Dr. Vorster and Mr. Smith was in essence the former Foreign Secretary's plan. It was the British plan that Dr. Kissinger was pushing. It would have been wholly inappropriate for him to push any other plan.

Therefore, it is clear that the document—the existence of which the Foreign Secretary this afternoon admitted—which was handed by Dr. Kissinger to Mr. Smith contained the Anglo-American proposal for the basis of the settlement. It does great disservice to the hopes of success next week in Geneva for the Foreign Secretary and Government Ministers to seek to backpedal on what clearly was an Anglo-American initiative which should be recognised as such. We are in the intolerable situation of having responsibility without power, but we must work for the success of the Geneva talks in the short term and for the success of the interim Government.

The right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) referred to Kenya. There is no doubt that the transfer of power in Kenya has been one of our more successful efforts in handing over power to African majority rule. There are two keys to the success of that transfer. The first is that the British Government held the ring for several years. I fear that two years is a very short period in terms of the advance that needs to be made in Rhodesia. The Africans and the Europeans in Kenya were able to work alongside each other, building up understanding and trust.

Secondly, there was what the right hon. Member for Devon, North referred to as a mediator, in the form of Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, who was trusted by Europeans and Africans alike. I hope that we can find somebody to fill that role during the interim period. The ultimate character of an independent Zimbabwe will depend, above all, on the interim period and whether sufficient trust and understanding can be built up on both sides.

The House is being asked tonight to renew the sanctions Order for a whole year. But why should it be for a whole year? We are in a fluid and fast-moving situation. The Minister who is to wind up does not know what the situation will be this Christmas, let alone next Christmas. What the Foreign Secretary is asking of us is a one-year's blank cheque to take him on trust on the question of sanctions. The performances we have seen today and last week from the Foreign Office Ministers do not inspire sufficient confidence to enable one to take on trust for a whole year a matter of such gravity.

The Secretary of State rightly says that sanctions will be lifted in the event of the establishment of an interim Government. But what is to happen in the event of a failure to establish an interim Government? This is the question that the right hon. Gentleman does not answer. What if the Crosland-Kissinger proposals accepted by Mr. Smith are rejected by the African nationalists?

The situation has changed today out of all recognition from the time that the House last debated the sanctions Order. Not only is there today a Soviet-Cuban army of occupation in Angola, but there is a terrorist war of great viciousness being waged, not just against the Europeans but, above all, against the Africans. It is, above all, the Africans who have been bearing, and who are today still bearing, the brunt of this hateful war. The terrorist campaign is to a great degree based on placing small mines in the middle of roads which naturally succeed in blowing up buses carrying Africans rather than in blowing up Army Land Rovers.

It is against this background that we are being asked to renew the sanctions Order. By continuing to enforce sanctions Britain would be exerting economic pressures which would tend towards exactly the same direction that the Soviet-backed terrorists operating out of Mozambique would be seeking to do and we would be making ourselves the accomplices of terrorism, as the Government have already done by giving £15 million in aid to Mozambique knowing full well that this was the principal base from which the terrorists operate.

In the absence of an undertaking, which I greatly hope that the Minister will be able to give us, that the Government will come before the House again within three months and place this sanctions Order once again before the House for it to be voted upon, I shall feel unable to support this measure at this time. Obviously, we must all vote according to our consciences. Having seen the situation on the ground for myself only a few months ago, I do not believe that in all conscience I could support the renewal of sanctions for a whole year on the basis of a blank cheque. I greatly hope that the Minister will be able to give some reassurance.

10.24 p.m.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) spoke in a spirit which I very much hope to follow. Like him, I have some acquaintance with the university college in Salisbury. I share his view about the atmosphere and spirit in that institution. I take some encouragement from my experience that it is by no means the only place in which there are feelings of mutual respect among the different groups in Rhodesia, not least some of what are called the old African families among the white population that the hon. Gentleman will probably know. I met some of them and enjoyed their hospitality in years gone by. Some have, unfortunately, left in the years since the Smith regime took power, because they could not stomach living under it, but many are still there in the business and professional communities and among working people. They are people whose families have been there for generations and who, one can reasonably hope, will be able to make a positive contribution in the white population in a new independent country.

I very much welcome the spirit in which the hon. Gentleman approached the debate. To approach it in that way is probably the best contribution we can make on the eve of the important conference in Geneva. I take all the less kindly to the way in which, for example, the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) spoke. The right hon. Gentleman is not here. I make no complaint of that, because he attended most of the debate and listened to most of the speeches. One cannot be here all the time. But I must mention the right hon. Gentleman because I want to spend much of my time criticising what he said.

I do not believe that anything is gained at this stage, on the eve of the conference, by producing the fantastic kind of analysis that the right hon. Gentleman attempted in trying to trap the Government or my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary into artificial formulations. They might serve his propagandist purpose but have no relationship to the situation in Rhodesia as all of us who have been there must know it to be, no matter what view we take of the kind of solution that should be attempted there or in Southern Africa generally.

It should be common ground, at least among realistic right hon. and hon. Members, that the historic change which has made Mr. Smith agree is the break-up of the Portuguese colonial empire. One does not have to say nasty things about him in order to come to that conclusion, but need only make a realistic assessment. As a result of that break-up, which is the great historic fact of the past five years, it was incumbent on the Government of South Africa to tell Mr. Smith certain facts. It was not that they would coerce him to do anything. There has not been a great liberal regeneration in the mind of Mr. Vorster or the South African Government. It would be equally unrealistic to assume that. The basic philosophy of the South African Government has not changed. But that Government was obviously compelled to tell Mr. Smith that from now on they could not guarantee the continuation of the Smith regime because they, in Pretoria, were not sure that they could guarantee the continuation of their own regime. That is the decisive new historic fact that has made Mr. Smith change his mind.

The right hon. Gentleman tried to concoct a theory, based upon no American sources whatsoever, that Dr. Kissinger promised Mr. Smith the earth and more, and that that created Mr. Smith's willingness to change his mind, to undo and unsay what he had believed in ever since UDI—to him, for good reason. To concoct that theory and not mention the attitude of the South African Government is such nonsense that it is wholly unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman's normal level of debate.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

It is no part of my responsibilities to try to describe my right hon. Friend's comments, but I believe that the hon. Gentleman, for whom I have some respect, will accept that the historical changes are not only the end of the Portuguese empire but the arrival of the Soviet Union as well as the changes in South Africa. Will the hon. Gentleman address himself to the issue, which is that Dr. Kisinger believed that he had obtained from the four Presidents, including President Machel, undertakings that they would support the kind of settlement that he suggested to Mr. Smith? What appears to have happened is that at least some of those Presidents have gone back on the undertakings Dr. Kissinger thought he had obtained from them.

Mr. Mendelson

That is precisely what I have characterised as the concoction of which the right hon. Member for Pavilion is guilty. He is now joined by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths); he is committing the same error, based upon no American evidence of any kind. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister of State speak for the Government.

I can only speak for myself when I address myself to the same point. There is no evidence of such a plan having had the approval of the Presidents, or any one of them. It was not any promise of Dr. Kissinger—he was not in any position to make promises—and it was not the assurance of having persuaded the African Presidents that changed Mr. Smith's mind; it was pressure from the South African Government. That was not because the South Africans had changed their philosophy but because they told Mr. Smith that they could not continue to guarantee the security of his regime. That changed Mr. Smith's mind. That is the new factor in history that we must accept as governing the present situation.

It is wrong to charge my right hon. Friend and hon. Friends with having moved away from any prior agreement or deal. The Government have no mandate and never pretended to engage in a preconference deal. They have said that they are organising a conference. That is all that they have done and that is all that they have asked the House to give them authority to undertake. As for other matters, they speak for themselves.

The other historic factor is what has happened in Angola. Of course that is relevant. It is far less important than the break-up of the Portuguese empire in changing the mind of Mr. Smith but it is certainly relevant. We have only ourselves to blame if the Soviet Union has any entry in Africa. If we are on the wrong racial side, if we support a racialist regime, we allow a country inspired by a dictatorial anti-democratic philosophy like that possessed by the Soviet regime to gain entry without having to show its credentials. The only lesson for us is to support human rights and to be seen to be on the right side wherever there is a great and historic conflict involving human rights and the oppression of human rights. Any moving away from that position, any frittering away of our chances even at this late stage, and our not being seen to he in support of human rights and the equality of human rights—as we all know, most of the black people of Rhodesia have been oppressed in that context—will increase the chances of the Soviet Union and destroy all the chances of the Western Powers to have influence in Africa.

The right hon. Member for Pavilion knows that that is the situation. He has been in politics for far too long to need me to tell him about these matters. If that is the second relevant factor, the essential thing for us is to go to the conference with clean hands. I welcome the fact that the Government are conducting themselves in a way that will allow them to appear not only in the chair but as members and participants of the conference. I hope that the Government will firmly reject any propagandist demands by Opposition Members to try to move the Government little by little into a one-sided position. On the eve of the conference, when the Government, above all, must show complete impartiality towards the procedures of the conference, it is nonsense to give assurances tonight as to what military action might be contemplated if the conference broke down. I did not believe my ears when I heard the right hon. Gentleman asking for such ridiculous assurances. No Gov- ernment worth their salt would begin to consider such nonsense on the eve of the debate.

The task of Her Majesty's Government at the Geneva Conference is to bring the two sides together to reach agreement and not to talk about military provision when the conference breaks down. It is pure nonsense for the Opposition to ask for such an assurance, and they know it. Their irresponsibility was shown up by that approach, if by nothing else, during the debate.

There is involved in this conference the important historic fact that among the white population in Rhodesia are a number of people who have been longing for the opportunity that is now occurring. No one can assess the absolute figure, but the situation is far from hopeless. Quite a number of white Rhodesians have realised that the Smith regime cannot go on, and they will now look to the British Government to see to it that the conference is a success.

But it must be equally admitted that there are a number of people there who have no future in Rhodesia if their colour superiority is once removed, who have, indeed, not got the qualifications for some of the positions they hold, which are entirely based on the inferior place of the black in the organisation of Rhodesia so far—and the same applies to South Africa.

Such people will have to make up their own minds as to their future, and we cannot hide from the fact that they mean difficulty. It is no good being falsely sentimental about it, it is a development of history. It has nothing to do with injustice and unfairness. These people felt that they were going there with certain advantages and they now have to face the future. At the same time, there are the African people who, in their own country, have been denied so far the educational and other opportunities which are theirs as of right. They, too, are looking to the British Government to help in liberating them from the oppressive regime from which they suffer. That is all one has to say in indicating the obligations of honour of the British Government.

To talk as the right hon. Member for Pavilion did about the duty of honour upon the shoulders of the British Government and to bring in the name of Mr. Neville Chamberlain in such a context was near to historic lunacy. The right hon. Gentleman really did not know what he was talking about when he made that reference to Mr. Chamberlain. But we had better move away from Mr. Chamberlain and leave him in peace. These present matters in Rhodesia have their difficulties but they are not on that sort of scale.

What is involved here is the task that the British Government will have at Geneva. The difficulties are not the dangers which have been falsely described. I know that my right hon. Friend does not want to commit himself before the conference or to hold the conference on the Floor of the House first, but we are not so limited. One of the difficulties is the account that Mr. Smith has given to the white population. I am profoundly convinced that Mr. Smith has given a rosy account of the position to his own people and that ways will have to be found for him to move away from some of that account. I hope that he will be helped in that direction at the conference. If not, he will be in great political difficulty, and I suspect that some of his political friends on the Benches opposite expect that he will be. They are already preparing a position for him to make it easier for him when these difficulties arise. That is why these propaganda barrages were opened up this afternoon.

Difficulties will arise, because I do not believe that it can be acceptable either to us or to the majority of the African people in Rhodesia that the conditions of security should remain as they are throughout the two-year transition period. The Africans will have a right to insist on political freedom, free political organization, the right of association, the right of publication, and the right of assembly, which they do not possess now.

On one occasion when I was in Rhodesia, Mr. Joshua Nkomo—now regarded as the acme of moderation by hon. Members, and even getting some good references from Mr. Smith—was being visited by some friends. He was taken by some friends to visit one of his supporters whose daughter was celebrating her birthday. I happened to be in the same township outside Salisbury. Within 20 minutes, 16,000 people assembled to cheer him. But what did the police do? They set police dogs on the crowd to disperse it. That is how Mr. Joshua Nkomo has been treated in the past by the regime which two hours ago was described as so benign by Conservative Members.

When the conference is being held and the African delegates demand these freedoms, they will also be perfectly entitled to ask for a return of the exiles. They will be entitled to make the condition of success of the conference a guarantee that these exiles will be welcomed in their own country.

We have heard a lot in the debate about the cessation of activities from across the border, from Mozambique, but there has been no reference by Conservative Members to the return of the exiles to their own country. Surely an agreement on a cessation of activities will have to include a full guarantee as to their rights as citizens in their own land.

These are real difficulties, and in the Labour Party, in this House and in the country we shall watch with keen interest that the interests of the vast majority of the people of Rhodesia are fully safeguarded. We must not only ensure that there is fair play. We must interpret the point of view of those Members of the House of Commons who have a direct interest in seeing that the majority of the citizens of Rhodesia get fair play at the conference. This is especially important after the propaganda and poppycock that we have heard from Conservative Members in the debate.

The right hon. Member for Pavilion referred four times to the need to co-operate in every possible way—possibly even in security matters—with the other Common Market countries. He seemed to have in mind an initiative by the Nine which might include at some stage, if the conference did not go too well—and particularly if the responsibility for this could be thrown on the Africans—some joint military initiative. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Federal Republic of Germany is a full member of the Nine and has a very powerful army. Does the right hon. Gentleman have in mind that in any such initiative the West German army should be associated with military operations in Africa? When he suggested that the Nine could do this together, I wonder whether he had in mind some new adventurous ideas as to the way in which the Common Market could be used. This was a new tone that we heard when these suggestions were made in the debate. Any ideas of adventurism of that kind should be knocked on the head as soon as they are advanced in this House of Commons.

The Government have a clear task to limit their responsibilities in Africa to the co-operation in which they are engaged at present, and the co-operation with the United States of America is effective to the extent that, as Dr. Kissinger pointed out, he is following agreed policies in the interests of the furtherance of United Nations policy. We have heard very little from Opposition Members about the United Nations—[Interruption.] Yes. The right hon. Member for Pavilion mentioned my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the policy of the British Cabinet. One of the merits of Dr. Kissinger's conduct in these affairs is that he co-operates closely with the British Government, and I value that greatly. But Dr. Kissinger has also stressed prominently that what he is doing is based upon the decisions of the Security Council of the United Nations—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman may laugh at the mention of the United Nations, but Dr. Kissinger did not, and that gave added strength to his policy.

Therefore, the mandate of Her Majesty's Government is clear. The policy on South-West Africa, the policy on Rhodesia and the policy on sanctions are all based upon clear United Nations decisions, and not Common Market decisions. Any suggestion that this should be turned into a policy of the Nine with the possible use of the military forces of the Nine countries is dangerous nonsense and should be rejected as such.

But we know that for a few hours, in listening to the speeches of Opposition Members, we have been living in the land of fantasy. Against that, we have the quiet realistic approach of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and his Minister of State. We know that they have been conducting the country's business responsibly and that if there was any additional evidence needed to show why the country would be ill-advised even to consider entrusting any of our affairs to right hon. and hon. Members on the Conservative Benches, we have the example of the great disservice that they have done to the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) today.

Anyone who reads a report of this debate tomorrow will realise that the right hon. and hon. Members who spoke in these nonsensical terms are adventurers to whom our foreign policy should not be entrusted. The policy of wisdom and safety is to leave these matters in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who deserves well of this House and the country for his conduct of the affairs which have led to the setting up of this conference. It has been a major success of Her Majesty's Government, and I wish to put on record the profound approval of it which is felt by Government supporters in this House, of all members of the party and of many other people up and down the country. [Interruption.] The Opposition do not like that, of course. I put it on record knowing that they will not like it.

I wish all success to the conference. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will be able to report agreement at the conference, and that agreement will be followed by a peaceful future for all the people of Rhodesia.

10.49 p.m.

Mr. Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)

I make no apology for returning to the subject of the package, because it has been the central feature of the debate. I do so not because the Opposition wish to get Mr. Smith off the hook, as one Government supporter suggested, but because I believe that, before the conference begins, it is necessary to know the truth.

In an intervention earlier today, I asked the Foreign Secretary on what date Dr. Kissinger had made his statement that nothing had been settled about the composition of the interim government. I think that is relevant for reasons I shall explain. On 12th October—Official Report, column 242—the Foreign Secretary said that Dr. Kissinger had made that statement at a Press conference on 22nd September. According to The Times Dr. Kissinger was then in Kenya. In answer to a later question—column 250—the Foreign Secretary said that he had made it at the end of September in New York. There seems to be a contradiction here. Maybe the Foreign Secretary could clear up the date on which Dr. Kissinger's statement was made.

There is no doubt that there was a package. It was proposed by Dr. Kissinger to Mr. Smith, and it contained the six points which Mr. Smith listed in his speech on 24th September. The authority for this is contained in the Foreign Office statement of 24th September and in the Foreign Secretary's answer to questions on 12th October when he said: The proposals that were accepted were what Mr. Smith set out in his six proposals." [Official Report, 12th October 1976; Vol. 917, c. 251.] The package was an Anglo-American one. This is confirmed by the Foreign Office statement, by Dr. Kissinger's statement as reported in The Times on 20th September, and by President Ford's statement reported in The Times on 25th September. Therefore, Britain is bound by it.

What is significant is that at no time until late in September, some time after the statement by the five presidents on 26th September can I find any mention of the package being put forward as a basis for discussion. As far as I can discover that line was only adopted later, after the statement by the five presidents in which they dissented from the package and called for an entirely different approach. If this is true, it is clear why the Government line changed. It was because the five presidents took a line which was inconsistent with the one which Mr. Smith took on 24th September, which the Government had instantly approved at the time.

We do not know whether the package was agreed with the African leaders and therefore we cannot assert that it is binding on them. But it is binding on us and on America. Therefore, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said, any changes to it can be made only by the agreement of those who were a party to it.

My right hon. Friend said that we wanted the conference to succeed. That has been the view expressed by almost every hon. Member who has spoken from this side of the House. We want it to succeed because we believe that it presents a unique opportunity—perhaps the last—for a peaceful settlement, and the alternative to such a settlement is more killing, more chaos, and probably a totalitarian regime in Rhodesia. It is unique because I believe that Mr. Smith has genuinely changed his mind. He has made a mental leap of seismic dimensions. [Interruption.] It would be a great help if hon. Members opposite did not sneer whenever Mr. Smith's name is mentioned. If they genuinely want to promote a peaceful settlement, they will try to understand the anxieties of the moderate population in Rhodesia, including the white people.

The Foreign Secretary said that a year ago, when we last debated this Order, it would have been in the realms of fantasy to imagine the situation we are now in. That confirms the dimensions of the change in Mr. Smith's outlook. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) described his broadcast as a momentous one. I entirely endorse that adjective. Upon hearing the broadcast I said that if the African leaders did not grasp the proposal put out by Mr. Smith, they would be making a catastrophic mistake. Nothing I have heard or seen since has changed that view.

Some of the African leaders are saying that two years is too long. That is ironic when we hear from Labour Members anxieties over our ability to move in two years to direct elections to the European Parliament. I hope that we shall not find any support for that view from the Government Benches. Rhodesia has been under white rule for 90 years. We are talking now about the next 1,000 years. Is it sense, therefore, to say that two years is too long? Sir Roy Welensky thinks that five years is the minimum period, yet Mr. Smith and his Cabinet and party are, as I understand it, unanimously prepared to accept two years. Let us not underestimate the importance of the fact that Mr. Smith has carried his Cabinet and his party with him.

I hope that when they get to the table the African leaders will give Mr. Smith the chance to show that he is sincere and that their suspicions are ill-founded. I hope also that the African leaders who genuinely want peace will put aside their rivalries. It has been clear that in the past these rivalries have been one of the factors delaying progress. If they do so, history will deal harshly with them.

The Foreign Secretary made an inadequate speech this evening. His performance in this whole matter has been inadequate in recent months. His attitude was described by The Guardian some weeks ago as one of "supercilious distaste". When he has stirred himself to action it has taken the form of an undignified reaction to pressures. I am not prejudicing the chances of a successful conference by criticising the Foreign Secretary, because what I am saying is very much what the people of Africa, including the leaders there, have been saying. They have been urging him to action.

He allowed Dr. Kissinger to take up the British plan and by himself to sell it in Africa. I do not complain that Dr. Kissinger took it up. The movement we have seen has been largely due to his vigorous diplomacy. But do we not possess as much knowledge of southern Africa and its problems as do the Americans? Might it not have helped to avoid misunderstanding if the Foreign Secretary had pursued a more vigorous role and had not come out of purdah only to attend the Press conference in London which Dr. Kissinger held on return from his apparently successful African tour?

Let us follow through this saga of vigorous activity and careful planning by the Foreign Secretary. After Mr. Smith's speech the Foreign Office issued a statement approving what he had said. Two days later the African Presidents issued their statement calling on Britain to call a conference on a different basis. The Government's reaction was to say "Why not?". They went on to ask how and where the conference could be arranged and who should attend. That does not seem to be a very striking example of forward planning.

The African presidents have played a useful role from time to time, but it seems odd that Britain should have handed over its responsibilities to them in such an obvious way. The vacillation does not end there. The Foreign Secretary issued an invitation to three African leaders, presumably chosen after careful consideration of their claims, and when another vociferously staked his claim, the Foreign Secretary asked him along, too. We do not know the reaction of the other three leaders, but we can make a good guess.

It is well known that Talleyrand's advice to aspiring diplomats was: Above all, not too much zeal but the Foreign Secretary is going too far. If I were preparing a report on his first six months' work, I should say "This student appears to think that diplomacy is played like water polo, with himself in the role of the ball."

A number of important questions have been raised in the debate and I hope that we shall have some answers from the Minister of State. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) asked whether sanctions would be lifted immediately and automatically when the interim government was formed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet asked what will happen to the Rhodesian Parliament. There has been no mention of this in any of the statements I have read. My right hon. Friend also asked whether preparations were now being made for the lifting of sanctions without delay if the conference succeeded.

The Foreign Secretary said that it was necessary to renew Section 2 of the Act in order to allow the Government to pass the necessary legislation giving affect to the interim government. Does this mean that the legislation will be in the form of an Order in Council? Shall we be able to amend it?

I hope that my hon. Friends will not allow themselves to be provoked by the speech of the Foreign Secretary and some of his answers [Interruption.] It is interesting to note the levity with which hon. Members opposite treat this matter. We are dealing with the future safety of Rhodesia, the prosperity of its people and the interests of Britain in that part of the world, I should have thought that Labour Members would devote more serious attention to the matter.

It is right for us not to oppose the Order. Mr. Smith has made clear that he is prepared for sanctions to be lifted only after the interim government is set up. I do not believe that we can put ourselves in advance of him. Secondly, there is a package and if we voted against sanctions, we should be untying the package. Others might also start to untie it in ways which my hon. Friends would not welcome.

Thirdly, it is doubtful whether a vote against sanctions by the Opposition would help the moderate African leaders who will have to sell the settlement to their followers. Fourthly, without doubt there will be other debates on this subject in the near future and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet made clear, our hands will be entirely free in the event of the conference breaking down.

Those who have visited Rhodesia, as I have had the good fortune to do, understand why those of all races who live there feel so strongly about it. It is a magnificent country. It has a beautiful climate. It has a fertile land which is capable of producing two crops a year. It is an exporter of food in a continent which badly needs it. It is rich in minerals. It is developing a broad industrial base. The relations between the races, despite everything, are relatively relaxed. [Interruption.] I do not think that any Labour Members can have ever have been to Rhodesia. By their laughter they betray their ignorance of the facts.

The conference is about whether the people of Rhodesia of all races will have the chance to develop that potentially rich country in peace. It is about whether the Europeans will still be able to have a role, or whether there will be a worse and more serious guerrilla war, which would lead to death for many people, to scorched earth, and to more Russian penetration. But the conference concerns more than that. It concerns also the question whether, by creating a true multiracial society in Rhodesia, encouragement can be given to more liberal trends in South Africa itself.

In the past 11 years many opportunities have been missed to find a solution to Rhodesia's problems round the table instead of at the end of a gun. This time, too, I think that we have to admit that the talks will not be easy. But there are two encouraging facts. First, this is the first time that talks have begun with a clear statement by Mr. Smith and his whole Cabinet that they accept majority rule within two years. Secondly, this is the first time that all three groups—the British Government, Mr. Smith's Government and the African leaders—will be taking part in talks round the same table. It is evident that there is a general desire that Britain should not be just a spectator, not only the chairman, but should play an active role in getting agreement.

Therefore, it is right that, from the Opposition side of the House, I should say to the Government that they will have our support in doing whatever Britain can do to ensure success, within the limits of the obligations which Britain has accepted and provided that we keep our word.

11.7 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Edward Rowlands)

This is a very important debate at a crucial moment in the problems of Rhodesia. It has been a pleasure to listen to many of the speeches today, particularly the speech made by the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) who spoke with great authority. For me it was a very important contribution to the debate.

We are on the eve of a conference which will have to grapple with the task of achieving an orderly transition to majority rule. I do not think that any right hon. or hon. Members have at any stage under-estimated either the importance or the crucial nature of this conference. The House has generally agreed that the conference is vital and has been unanimous in wishing its success.

There is no doubt that the next few weeks will have a profound significance for the future of Rhodesia. Contrary to what was said by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) in the earlier part of his speech, the Government responded very quickly to the request by the African Presidents to hold the conference. It is no exaggeration to say—I doubt whether there has been any serious contention about this point—that, had we not taken this action of calling the conference as an indispensable next step, the initiative begun over the last few weeks would have foundered. That is a matter of basic agreement in the House as a whole.

Equally, many hon. Members have said that this is probably the most hopeful initiative for 11 years—the right hon. Member for Devon, North said so—for the basic reason of Mr. Smith's acceptance of the fundamental conditions put forward in the statement of 22nd March by the Prime Minister. At least we are starting on this initiative from a basic common principle that there should be majority rule within two years. That is encouraging, despite the alarm bells which have occurred almost daily.

If hon. Members had been as totally, almost hourly, involved as I have been and had sat down at home after a pretty arduous week and heard the Saturday night new broadcasts, which seemed to dash all our hopes and on Monday had discovered that the interpretation of Mr. X or Mr. Y was not so pessimistic, they would realise the difficulties of getting a conference and reaching the point that we have reached.

The House has generally accepted that the delegations, particularly the African delegations, are representative of Rhodesian opinion. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall). We have had a difficult job trying to get a true representation at the conference. We make no apology at ail for adding the additional delegation in the case of Mr. Sithole. Our sole desire had been to try to get a conference which is representative. That has been the sole basis upon which we have tried to work.

The hon. Member for Haltemprice made a valid comment about the large number of moderate Africans in Rhodesia. We have had to try to choose just who represents effective political power in Rhodesia. That is why we invited Mr. Smith and the Rhodesian Front. They represent de facto political power for those people who have been part and parcel of his regime. Equally, we have endeavoured to get a cross-section of political opinion and representative opinion from the Rhodesian nationalist movement.

Mr. Rifkind

The Minister has sought to get a cross-section of African opinion to participate in the conference. Why has he not tried to get a similar cross-section of white opinion to include representatives of the 20 per cent. of the white electorate who have never voted for the Rhodesian Front?

Mr. Rowlands

I think we have already explained that Mr. Smith represents de facto power. He has 50 out of 50 seats in the existing Rhodesian Parliament and we recognise that he represents that section of Rhodesian opinion. Although some hon. Members have complained, I think that generally speaking the House has not complained about the representative nature of the conference itself.

Several hon. Members asked what the agenda at the conference would be. It is not an agenda. The conference has an objective and that is to discuss the formation of and to reach agreement about an interim government. That is its purpose. That is what we have set out as its sole objective. Many other important issues raised in the debate go beyond the role and function of the conference. Its single basic objective is to discuss the formation of and to reach agreement on an interim government, and no one has challenged that in the debate.

Many hon. Members discussed the role of the United Kingdom at the conference. It has been gratifying that most hon. Members, with a few exceptions, have welcomed Mr. Ivor Richard as chairman. In our view he has the right qualities for this task and he will be combining a certain independence with the knowledge and encouragement that he has our full support.

Let me make a general comment about our role at the conference. We believe that the only effective and lasting solution, both of an interim government and for the achievement of majority rule, is a solution agreed by the Rhodesians themselves. It is wrong to assert that Britain could, in some traditional colonial fashion, impose a solution. We cannot. That is why we have called a conference, and that is why the settlement must be negotiated by the Rhodesians themselves at the conference.

However, we acknowledge that we have a responsibility to play a vital role at the conference, though hon. Members have argued profoundly about the extent of this responsibility. We shall not shirk the task of working, through our chairmanship of the conference, for a settlement that meets the basic criteria laid down by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 22nd March. We are not neutral on the essential principles of the settlement. We are committed to a successful outcome of the conference. We are committed to the principle of majority rule. We are committed to the establishment of an effective, stable interim government, and we hope to ensure a rapid and orderly transition to majority rule.

Those are our commitments. We are not neutral on this. We shall continue, therefore, to strive to achieve the objective that we have described with all the energy at our disposal, both during and after the conference.

The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Mauldling) and other hon. Members have said that somehow we should take some dramatic, direct responsibility for Rhodesia. My right hon. Friend has agreed with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that we have a direct responsibility for Rhodesia but one which we have never exercised internally there in practical terms.

I have been asked about Britain's role once the conference has produced results and in interim government has been established. This will depend on the kind of arrangements agreed at Geneva. We must await the outsome of the conference. We are clearly giving a great deal of thought to what should follow if an agreement is reached.

I emphasise, however—and I listened to the suggestion of a direct role in affairs after the interim government has been established or after the conference—that Britain can provide no substitute. There can be no substitute for the essential requirement, which is an agreement reached between Africans and Europeans in Rhodesia and their mutual co-operation in giving effect to that agreement. But any such agreement would be an excellent augury for the future.

The best safeguard for the European minority in Rhodesia lies not in internal or external paper formulae or constitutional proposals. It lies in the growth of mutual trust among peoples of all races and in their working together.

Mr. Kinnock

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Rowlands

I have a great deal to get through. I am trying to sum up a debate of nearly seven hours. I do not wish to shirk my hon. Friend's comment, but I want to go through the issues raised in the debtate.

It is very heartening that there are, even now, movements in being within Rhodesia dedicated to the purpose of and giving support to a multi-racial society by a settlement and an interim government, and these movements are building up. Mr. Smith's statement of 24th September has encouraged these movements and those people to redouble their efforts. It is clear, none the less, that once an interim government has been formed, it will have to be endowed with legality. As my right hon. Friend has explained, it will be for the Government, with the support of the House, to take the necessary steps to endow that interim government with legality.

Similarly, we shall be doing everything in our power to secure the cessation of the guerrilla war, which would have then lost its justification in African eyes.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Rowlands

It has lost its justification in the eyes of the majority of Africans. We would seek the lifting of economic sanctions. Hon. Members have asked me for that assurance. I can give another assurance. Detailed contingency planning is already under way. However, as my right hon. Friend said earlier, there can be no question of lifting sanctions until and unless a satisfactory interim government is installed in Rhodesia and is irrevocably on the path to early majority rule.

Mr. Amery

Will the hon. Gentleman consider lifting sanctions if no interim Government can be formed through no fault of Mr. Smith, if it is simply the rejection of the package by the African nationalist leaders?

Mr. Rowlands

I have said clearly that there can be no question of our seeking to lift sanctions until and unless a satisfactory interim government is installed in Rhodesia and is irrevocably on the path to early majority rule.

I turn again to the so-called package. A great deal has been said about the status of Mr. Smith's broadcast on the proposals. My right hon. Friend made plain the status of the proposals in his opening speech and in interventions in the speech of the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). He made it plain that in citing the five points Mr. Smith was quoting from a document and that they were proposals. I have little to add to that.

In my own meetings with Mr. Smith I made it clear to him that in our view the proposals could provide a reasonable basis for negotiation. No-one can challenge that I made that clear to him. I was candid and straight forward in saying that alternatives would be put forward. I got the impression that Mr. Smith accepted that this was a realistic approach. No one can fairly accuse the British Government of bad faith on that issue. We did not sign or seal a package deal of any kind.

When speaking to Mr. Smith I reflected on the Press conference given by my right hon. Friend and Dr. Kissinger on 24th September, before Mr. Smith's speech, in which he made clear that there were a number of possibilities that could form part of a plan which could be put to both sides. He said that a certain number of possibilities had been put to both sides. He said: It is not for the United Kingdom Government to say in advance that they want this or that they do not want that. This is for the whites and the blacks in Africa to agree amongst themselves. There can be nothing clearer than that and it has been our position ever since.

At no stage in close association with American colleagues was there any question of our imposing any detailed plan on anyone. It would have been presumptious of us to think in such terms—that point was almost given by the right hon. Member for Pavilion, who talked of the problems of the package deal and the issues arising from the council and Rhodesian Parliament, in other words, the issues that could be and should be discussed at the conference. They are understandable and reasonable matters. I hope, therefore, that hon. Members opposite will not continue to spread the suggestion of a perversity or of gross breach of faith on our part.

I cannot wind up the debate without some reference to the many aspects of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Pavilion and others who have interpreted the whole of the Rhodesian problem in terms of some strategic chess board on which the pawns of the cold war come into play. The right hon. Member was the cold war warrior on his charger.

I was shocked that the right hon. Member for Pavilion did not once talk of the wishes and aspirations of the majority of Rhodesians. What astonishes me about such speeches is that they talk about both extremes as if both extremes speak the same language, and they forget the fundamental wishes of the people.

Whose side are we on? We are on the side of over 6 million Rhodesians—not just 270,000 whites, but the 6 million blacks as well. That is the side for which we shall fight.

In the course of the travels that I had to undertake during recent weeks I had the privilege of spending a few days in Botswana. It is a small country and a poor one. The great thing about Botswana, and what moved me greatly in celebrating the tenth anniversary of its independence, was that its people did not talk about whose side they were on, whether it was the West or the East—they belonged to themselves. They had established their own identity. It was a small but very important country. This is what we are supposed to be fighting for and aiming to try to establish in Rhodesia, not the power politics of the East or the West.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)


Mr. Rowlands

The hon. Member has scarcely been in the House during the day, so he is not entitled to intervene. We want to try to ensure that all Rhodesians can make up their own minds by democratic means about what type of society they want and on whose side they wish to be—not by guns imported from outside, nor, indeed, by virtue of the prerogative of a small minority of whites within Rhodesia who have decided what type of society Rhodesia should have for the past 10 to 12 years. Let them make up their own minds. That is why as soon as possible we want to devise a peaceful settlement.

It has been rightly said from this side of the House that the trouble with force is not that we just get independence, even if it is an imposed solution which is alien to the wish of the majority of the people. We want to create a peaceful means of achieving a settlement so that Rhodesians can decide on whose side they are on.

Mr. Ogden


Mr. Rowlands

No. I will not give way.

Mr. Ogden

It is on a subject I raised.

Mr. Rowlands

No, I must reply to the debate.

In the meantime, while the search for a peaceful settlement takes place in Geneva, we must ask the House for the

renewal of the 1965 Act through this Order. As my right hon. Friend said, while we search for peace, sanctions must remain. He also said that the continued validity of the Southern Rhodesia Act may be important to enable arrangements to be made for the legalisation of the interim government. He said that hon. Members who voted against the Order would be seeking to deny us this facility. I therefore ask the House to support the motion.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes, 191, Noes, 20.

Division No. 337.] AYES [11.29 p.m.
Abse, Leo Flannery, Martin Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Anderson, Donald Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston) Morris, Alfred (Wylhenshawe)
Armstrong, Ernest Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Ashton, Joe Forrester, John Moyle, Roland
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Atkinson, Norman Freud, Clement Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Bain, Mrs Margaret George, Bruce Noble, Mike
Bates, Alf Gilbert, Dr John Oakes, Gordon
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Golding, John Ogden, Eric
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Gourlay, Harry Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Blenkinsop, Arthur Grant, George (Morpeth) Padley, Walter
Boardman, H. Grant, John (Islington C) Palmer, Arthur
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Grocott, Bruce Pavitt, Laurie
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Perry, Ernest
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Price, William (Rugby)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Radice, Giles
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hatton, Frank Richardson, Miss Jo
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Heffer, Eric S. Robinson, Geoffrey
Brawn, Ronald (Hackney S) Henderson, Douglas Roderick, Caerwyn
Buchan, Norman Hooley, Frank Rodgers George (Chorley)
Buchanan, Richard Hooson, Emlyn Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Horam, John Rose, Paul B.
Caliaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Campbell, Ian Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Cant, R. B. Hughes, Roy (Newport) Rowlands, Ted
Carmichael, Neil Hunter, Adam Ryman, John
Cartwright, John Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Sedgemore, Brian
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Clemitson, Ivor Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) John, Brynmor Silkln, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Cohen, Stanley Johnson, James (Hull West) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Coleman, Donald Jones, Barry (East Flint) Skinner, Dennis
Conlan, Bernard Jones, Dan (Burnley) Small, William
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Kilroy-Silk, Robert Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Kinnock, Neil Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Lambie, David Spearing, Nigel
Crawshaw, Richard Lamborn, Harry Spriggs, Leslie
Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony Lamond, James Stallard, A. W.
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Cryer, Bob Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Stoddart, David
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Loyden, Eddie Strang, Gavin
Davidson, Arthur Luard, Evan Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Davies, Denzll (Llanelli) MacCormick, Iain Temple-Morris, Peter
Davles, Ifor (Gower) McDonald, Dr Oonagh Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) McElhone, Frank Thompson, George
Deakins, Eric MacFarquhar, Roderick Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Doig, Peter McGuire, Michael (Ince) Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Dormand, J. D. Maclennan, Robert Tinn, James
Douglas-Mann, Bruce McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Tomlinson, John
Duffy, A. E. P. McNamara, Kevin Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Dunnett, Jack Madden, Max Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Edge, Geoff Mallalieu, J. P. W. Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Marks, Kenneth Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Marquand, David Ward, Michael
English, Michael Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Watkins, David
Ennals, David Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Watt, Hamlsh
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Maynard, Miss Joan Weetch, Ken
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Mendelson, John Weitzman, David
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Mikardo, Ian Wellbeloved, James
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Welsh, Andrew
White, James (Pollock) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E) Young, David (Bolton E)
Whitehead, Phillip Wise, Mrs Audrey
Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch) Woodall, Alec TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford) Woof, Robert Mr. Joseph Harper and
Wilson Alexander (Hamilton) Wrigglesworth, Ian Mr. Frank R. White.
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Lloyd, Ian Skeet, T. H. H.
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Meyer, Sir Anthony Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Brotherton, Michael Molyneaux, James Wakeham, John
Churchill, W. S. Normanton, Tom Winterton, Nicholas
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Page, John (Harrow West)
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Dunlop, John Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Rear Admiral Morgan-Giles
Fell, Anthony Ross, William (Londonderry) and Mr. Stephen Hastings.
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved: That the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965 (Continuation) Order 1976, a draft of which was laid before this House on 14th October, be approved.

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