HC Deb 13 July 1977 vol 935 cc413-6
8. Mr. Rifkind

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the progress of Government policy with regard to a settlement in Rhodesia.

9. Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

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

Dr. Owen

The Anglo-United States Consultative Group has completed a further round of consultations in Africa. I have studied its report and am considering urgently how best to proceed with the present initiative.

Mr. Rifkind

Will the Foreign Secretary comment on the reported discrepancy between the statements of the British diplomat, Mr. Graham, who has indicated that the Rhodesian authorities are now prepared to contemplate British supervision of Rhodesia during a transition period, and the denial of the Smith regime a day later that such an agreement had been reached?

Dr. Owen

It is very difficult to comment on these allegations. I think it is best to try to pursue a course of negotiations without exchanging public statements. But the statement issued by Mr. Smith's spokesman, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, was a very dis- appointing one, and certainly in some parts it conflicts with the report that I had from Mr. Graham and Ambassador Low.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

In the light of recent developments, is it not now clear that time is running out? Will the right hon. Gentleman now consider establishing a permanent mission to prepare for a referendum to determine an interim Government? Further, will he now report on the discussions that he is reported to have had concerning the presence of a Commonwealth or British force to safeguard the security of Rhodesia during an interim period of government?

Dr. Owen

I think that time, in some senses, has been running out ever since the illegal declaration of independence. I do not hide the fact that I think that the situation is deteriorating. It has been deteriorating steadily now for some years, particularly since the armed struggle has gathered momentum.

The problem that we face, more than anything else at the moment, is how to achieve a transition during which there could be fair elections in a climate of peace. This relates to law and order and to some way of bringing together the two armies, the Rhodesian defence forces and the liberation armies. [Interruption.] Hon. Members must recognise that there is a war being fought and that if we wish to bring about a peaceful settlement we shall have to try to have a cease-fire, and that means both sides ceasing fire.

Mr. Hooley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the key factor on the ground at the moment is the continuing flow of oil to Mr. Smith's war machine? What steps will Britain and the United States take to interdict that flow of oil, since mere representations will have no effect?

Dr. Owen

There is no physical way that we can interdict, in the sense of using force. What is necessary is to bring some influence to bear on the South African Government, who, ever since the change of Government in Mozambique, have allowed oil to flow into Rhodesia, in direct contravention of the sanctions. But the whole question of how this can be done, particularly in relation to subsidiaries of international oil companies. is under investigation in this country and in many other areas. I believe that this is a central problem, which will have to be faced if the armed struggle continues in Rhodesia.

Mr. John Davies

Does the Secretary of State realise that we are very anxious at the thought of this House going into recess in the state of uncertainty that currently exists and the condition which the right hon. Gentleman himself has referred to as a deteriorating one? Does he know that the reference to the people through the ballot box which we have so long advocated cannot be achieved without proper advice from Salisbury itself and that the delay in setting up a mission in Salisbury to advise him and this country how to set about such a reference to the people is long overdue? Can he now please assure us that there will be a full statement to the House before the House rues, so that these and other matters may be adequately discussed?

Dr. Owen

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's concern over the matter. I do not think that:I should promise to make a statement if I have nothing to say, but I believe that were there to be any changes in the situation which the House would wish to be aware of I should let the House know. The House should know that I intend to go to see Secretary of State Vance in Washington on Saturday next week.

Mr. Clemitson

Returning to the subject of the breaking of oil sanctions, what action are the Government taking to follow up the communique issued at the end of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in June? In particular, is our legislation being re-examined with a view to reinforcing and strengthening enforcement procedures, and what steps are we taking to persuade other countries to do the same?

Dr. Owen

As my hon. Friend knows, under our legislation I have established the inquiry under Mr. Bingham to look into allegations about oil sanctions busting, but I think that our own legislation is strong enough. There have been no cases in which we have not had powers to deal with breaches when they have come to our notice. The problem is those companies in South Africa operating under South African legislation. We have referred to the United Nations Sanctions Committee over the years many different breaches of sanctions orders and we are taking all steps that we can to tighten up existing sanctions. Also, of course, there are pressures for an extension of sanctions.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

After the Secretary of State has had the opportunity to consult Mr. Vance, will he take the opportunity that that presents to put out a clear definition of majority rule, which one hopes means the civilised administration of alternating majorities freely elected under the rule of law?

Dr. Owen

I have often told the House that I see majority rule as being based on the widest possible franchise, and it is my judgment that a constitution that was not based on one man, one vote would be unacceptable.

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