HC Deb 15 June 1977 vol 933 cc376-9
20. Mr. Blaker

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

23. Mr. Wall

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

27. Mr. Biggs-Davison

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

15. Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

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

Dr. Owen

Following my visit to African capitals in April, an Anglo-United States consultative group has held bilateral discussions with the parties in Southern Africa on possible elements in an independence constitution. Its report is being assessed by both Governments, and further consultations are likely soon. I have put in the Library a copy of a statement which I issued at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting describing the latest situation.

Mr. Blaker

Is it not clear that until there is a greater willingness to agree on the part of the Rhodesian nationalist leaders, the chances of securing a peaceful solution to the constitutional problems of Rhodesia will be much reduced and the possibility that, even if there were a peaceful solution, there may thereafter be continued fighting will be much increased? Can the Foreign Secretary report any progress in securing agreement between the Rhodesian nationalist leaders?

Dr. Owen

I think that on the constitution it is not too difficult to see a way of getting agreement among the Rhodesian nationalist leaders. The problems there may well be with the Rhodesian Front, but of course the constitution is only one part of the problem. There is the problem of the transitional arrangements for elections, and there is the whole question also of law and order. In addition, we are all trying to ensure the economy of an independent Zimbabwe. All these elements come together in any negotiated settlement, and I am afraid that we shall have to try to reach some agreement with all the parties on all aspects if we are to reach a negotiated settlement.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must ask for brief questions and answers, since it is nearly time to turn to EEC matters, but I shall allow the House to finish this Question.

Mr. Wall

Does the Foreign Secretary not agree that any settlement will need the good will of both black and white in Rhodesia? How will this good will be helped by the Government's unworthy decision to ban the visit to this country of five black and five white crippled children?

Dr. Owen

As the hon. Gentleman knows, that matter is dealt with under the legislation that was passed in this House, which prohibits all people coming here from the illegal régime. The hon. Gentleman knows the law of the land on this issue. I quite agree with him that the settlement will be achieved if we can reach an understanding between both black and white people who are to live under an independent constitution in Zimbabwe, but I have constantly stressed that there must be consent on both sides in this issue.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

When the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was Secretary of State for Defence, did he not authorise the pursuit of hostile forces across the Indonesian frontier at the time of the Malaysian confrontation? Why, then, does the right hon. Gentleman condemn the Rhodesian forces for using this means of defending British subjects whom the Government are powerless to help against brutal terrorism?

Dr. Owen

The hon. Gentleman knows that "hot pursuit" has an international legal meaning and that it is not compatible with an announcement by a general that he intends to stay 50 miles inside another country and to keep his forces there for a matter of some days. This outraged world opinion, quite rightly, and was something that threatened the whole territorial integrity of countries. In no sense is that hot pursuit, and the hon. Gentleman knows that well.

Mr. Clemitson

May I refer to the inquiry into alleged sanction-breaking by British oil companies? Does my right hon. Friend not think that there has been a long delay in this inquiry starting work? Will the inquiry or any parts of it be held in public?

Dr. Owen

Under the legislation it is not held in public. In some respects the inquiry is on a narrow point of law. It is not an overall inquiry into the whole question of oil sanctions and the breaking of them. This is one of the issues that have been discussed in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Without prejudging the communiqué, I think that they will all address themselves to the opportunity that there may be for a wider look at the whole question of sanction-busting that has gone on for many years.

Mr. John Davies

Does the Foreign Secretary not agree that with the almost daily reports of murder and escalation of atrocities in Rhodesia the rate and momentum of activity seems to us mani-festly inadequate to bring about the solution that is needed in that country. Will the Government now please take account of our repeated advice to them to consult the people of Rhodesia, in whose hands the decision should rest?

Hon. Members


Dr. Owen

The House asks "How?" That is one of the most difficult questions to answer. We have been consulting a very wide cross-section of opinion. I held consultations myself and they have been held recently in the Anglo-United States consultative group. That group will be going again into Rhodesia at the end of this month.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that time is running out in this issue. The violence is escalating and there is a real risk of a serious breakdown of law and order and of a violent solution. Time is not on our side. I can promise the House that I am pushing ahead as fast as is humanly possible, but it is not easy when there are so many disagreements.

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