HC Deb 02 February 1977 vol 925 cc530-3
7. Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will give a date for the reconvening of the Geneva Conference on Rhodesia; and if he will make a statement about the prospects of a peaceful solution.

16. Mr. Brotherton

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

17. Mr. Wall

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

Mr. Crosland

I would refer the hon. Members to my statement of 25th January.

Miss Fookes

Does the Secretary of State see any sign of a new initiative coming forth?

Mr. Crosland

I prefer not to give a definite answer to that because Mr. Ivor Richard has arrived back only today and I want to hear his personal and detailed report. I have had conversations this morning with Ambassador Andrew Young, who is due to go to South Africa tonight. I prefer not to make a statement about new initiatives until I have had time, as I said a week or two ago, to make a cool and detailed appraisal of the situation as it now exists.

Mr. Wall

Is the Secretary of State aware that by departing from the Kissinger package he ensured the failure of the Geneva Conference? Is he aware, further, that his continual refusal to recognise any talks or agreement between Mr. Smith and non-Marxist Africans may condemn Rhodesia to the fate of Angola?

Mr. Crosland

The immediate factor which is condemning Rhodesia to a further and probably aggravated period of guerrilla warfare is Mr. Smith's rejection even of the proposals that we put to him as the basis for further discussion.

Mr. Hooley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the tactic of using Mr. Vorster as an ally or quasi honest broker has failed and that it is important now that the Western world should make it clear that it is allied with the front-line Presidents and African opinion and not with South Africa?

Mr. Crosland

I think that the Western world has made it abundantly clear again and again—not merely the British Government, but the Nine in their declaration issued on Monday and the new United States Administration in its statement last week—that it stands unequivocally for majority rule in Rhodesia. It is no good ignoring the existence of the South African Government. That Government are a factor in the situation, but the general moral and political position of the Western world has been made repeatedly and totally clear.

Mr. John Davies

Does not the Foreign Secretary realise that Mr. Smith, in his broadcast in September last year, accepted the principle of majority rule within a given time limit? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that his inability to come before us now with any kind of position to try to fill the serious vacuum which has been created by his dilatoriness and inattention to this matter is deplored very deeply?

Mr. Crosland

Mr. Smith appears to have accepted the principle but to have rejected any possible means whereby that principle might have been achieved. As for dilatoriness, as I said in answer to the right hon. Gentleman a few days ago it is absurd to suppose that a problem which has baffled successive Governments for 11 years could conceivably be settled in a matter of weeks, or even months. It is bound to take much longer than that.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Even if the Geneva Conference is not reconvened, will my right hon. Friend keep in contact with the Zimbabwe African leaders to prepare for the day of majority rule? Does he agree that the Smith regime would collapse within days if it was not sustained by the Vorster regime in South Africa?

Mr. Crosland

We shall certainly seek to keep in contact with the nationalist leaders. They should also seek to keep in contact with us, however. It was not particularly helpful for Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe to decline to meet Mr. Richard a few days ago. There must be a sensible give and take on this issue. We do not have the power to dictate to South Africa what its policy should be. I merely reiterate that in the total Southern African picture South Africa is a force and influence which cannot be neglected.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Will the right hon. Gentleman take the opportunity which this matter offers of an approach to the Botswana Government about the kidnapping of 400 children from South-West Rhodesia for indoctrination and military training against the wishes of their parents, since the reported statement of the Botswana Government about a voluntary march at gunpoint excites incredulity and ignores the parents? Is it not time that the British Government took a stand against the cynical barbarism of totalitarian States whenever it occurs and not selectively?

Mr. Crosland

To call Sir Seretse Khama's State a totalitarian State is hardly an accurate description of the Botswana regime. We have had two totally contradictory accounts of this matter, one from Sir Seretse Khama's Government and the other from the Rhodesian Government. I have no intention of making an approach to anybody until we discover which of these is true. There have, of course, been innumerable incursions on the part of the Rhodesians into Botswana territory in recent months. These border incidents will occur, whether we like it or not, in consequence of Mr. Smith's rejection of the British proposals.

Mr. David Steel

Can the Foreign Secretary say, following his talk with Ambassador Young, whether the policies of the British Government and the American Administration towards Rhodesia are still closely aligned? Is it not time that we in this House accepted that the way for the West to combat the spread of Communism in Africa is not for us to identify ourselves with those who seek to perpetuate white minority rule in that part of Africa?

Mr. Crosland

I agree on the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question. On the first part, British Government policy, while it may not be accepted by the Opposition, is fully in line with the policy of the American Administration and, as Monday's statement demonstrated, with that of the other eight members of the European Community.