HC Deb 27 May 1977 vol 932 cc1777-815

11.58 a.m.

Mr. Michael Brotherton (Louth)

I beg to move, That this House would not welcome the presence of the President of Uganda at the forthcoming Commonwealth Conference. One is deeply conscious of the great luck that one has when No. 63 comes out of the Ballot and one is entitled to move a motion in the House. I have thought deeply about what subject that we should debate. I think that most hon. Members have had a considerable amount of correspondence from their constituents and others about the question of the forthcoming Commonwealth Conference and whether President Amin should be allowed into this country.

My thoughts on the subject are obviously concerned deeply with the plight of those British citizens who are in Uganda and are today, one believes, being paraded in Kampala. Therefore, the wording of my motion is deliberately very mild. I merely wish to give the House of Commons a chance to express its opinion and to tell Her Majesty's Government that we do not wish this man to come. I hope that anything that is said in this House today will not have an adverse effect on the lives of those few hundred British citizens who are still living in Uganda.

However, I think it right that we should pass this motion. I believe that it will be supported by both sides of the House, because this is not the same as letting in a man from Russia, or letting in a Head of State of a South American totalitarian State, or even, as some hon. Members on the Government Benches would say, letting in somebody from a country such as the Republic of South Africa. All those people are not members of the Commonwealth.

What is the Commonwealth? I think that we would do well to look at this in the light of the fact that, amongst other things, this week has seen the coming and going of 24th May, Empire Day. I remember when I was the same age as my small children standing in front of the Union Jack on 24th May saluting and singing "Land of hope and glory", and there are many of us who think that would be no bad thing.

The Empire has gone, and we now have a Commonwealth. The nations of the Commonwealth are a wide and varied section of world opinion. There is the old white Commonwealth of Australia, Canada and New Zealand. There is the great Indian Empire, now, alas, split into two nations. And there are the new countries of Africa. Let us make this quite clear. We all realise that there is no democracy in any of the black African Commonwealth States.

I remember saying in a speech some years ago that in black Africa it is a question of one man one vote, once, and then the president of that country is the one man who has one vote and who rules. That is the way in which the Africans run their affairs. They are totally different from us. Giving a black African nation a Speaker's Chair, a Table and a Mace will not give it Westminster parliamentary democracy as we know it. These are people who are totally different from ourselves.

What is the ideal behind the Commonwealth? If the Commonwealth means anything—and one sometimes doubts whether it means anything at all—it must be that it is a getting together of people from all five continents of the world to discuss, to plan and to think about the future of people, no matter how different their approach may be to problems.

But this man, the President of Uganda, is, I submit, totally different from any other head of any other country in the Commonwealth, and time is not on our side. The Government will have to make a decision on this question in the course of the next two weeks. It may be that the Foreign Secretary will announce a decision today, but even if he does not today tell the House the Government decision on whether to admit this man into our country he will have to tell the House and the nation very soon, because it is now a matter of only a couple of weeks before the Commonwealth leaders assemble in London.

In Uganda today there is a complete and utterly totalitarian police State. The Russian influence in Uganda is great indeed, and all the refinements of a Communist Government's method of running a country have been imported into Uganda—all the refinements of torture, and all the refinements of repression—and I think that we would do well to remember that Russian influence on the Continent of Africa is very great indeed.

I cannot help but draw a contrast between what goes on in Uganda and what is happening in, say, Rhodesia. In Rhodesia there is a moderate Government in a multi-racial State. The Government there are trying to maintain law and order by normal, decent Western methods, and I find it very sad that the Minister of State should go to Mozambique to discuss matters with those who harbour and shelter the guerrillas who are murdering blacks and whites alike in Rhodesia.

Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire)

And going, incidentally, in the week when all the Europeans have either to escape from the country or be interned.

Mr. Brotherton

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for that intervention. It must be remembered that it is not just this week, but this very day.

Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)

Would the hon. Gentleman put into purdah or attempt to forbid Her Majesty's Ministers from seeing anyone or attending any conference at which there was anyone on a certain list who was alleged to be doing things that he, the hon. Gentleman, does not like? Is that what he is after?

Mr. Brotherton

I am not in favour of Her Majesty's Ministers working in cahoots with murderers who kill Rhodesians, black and white. If the hon. Gentleman likes such people, be it on his own head.

Today we had the news that some paraplegic Rhodesians, black and white, are not to be allowed into this country. If we are to ban four white Rhodesians and four black Rhodesians from coming to this country to take part in the Paraplegic Olympic Games, I submit that we should not allow President Amin to come in.

I remember the Prime Minister, when he was Foreign Secretary, admitting in this House, that there were double standards. The double standards that are abroad in the world today are totally, completely and utterly terrifying, and the double standards of the United Nations are something that I find very difficult to stomach.

I draw the attention of the House to a leading article in The Times of Wednesday, 18th May about the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations headed Human Rights Commission shirks its job". The article said that the United Nations are always happy to condemn Chile, South Africa and Rhodesia, but whenever it is a black African State that is involved the Commission seems to shirk its responsibilities and talk in the most equivocal terms. The article went on to say that the Commission was quite active in respect of South Africa, Chile and some other countries which its membership agree are inhumanely oppressive regimes, and it added For the Human Rights Commission to live up to its title by a strong resolution, white men have to torment and debase black men", but there is never any question of bringing to book black men who perpetrate atrocities against their fellow citizens.

It is not my intention to detain the House for very long because I know that my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Le Marchant) has an important motion that he wishes to move and which is a matter of great concern to my constituents, but I should like to give the House five examples of why I believe Amin should not be allowed into this country.

First, there is the question of the murder of his wife. Secondly, the House will recall the arrest and imprisonment about two years ago of Mr. Hills. I believe that on that occasion the Prime Minister, who was then Foreign Secretary, behaved in an absolutely exemplary manner. I remember his performing in the House in what I thought was a masterly manner, and I know that many of my constituents thought that the right hon. Gentleman proved himself in that instance to be a great Englishman.

Thirdly, there is the question of the hijacking at Entebbe. There is no shadow of doubt that President Amin was with the hijackers and was on their side. There is no doubt, also, that the vast majority of people in this country saluted the Government of Israel when they released those who were trapped at Entebbe. I know that the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) is particularly interested in this matter, because I believe that he represents the relations of Mrs. Bloch, the woman who was murdered by the Amin régime in Uganda. There is also the question of the murder of the Archbishop of Uganda, and I know that the British Council of Churches and the Conference of the British Missionary Societies are particularly interested in this matter. We know that the Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned President Amin. The Archbishop of Canterbury is on record as saying that he believes that this man should not be admitted to this country.

Finally, we have the report, issued 10 days ago, from the International Commission of Jurists. I do not think that it could ever be said that I would be likely to be on the same side of the political divide as Mr. Whittaker, of that organisation. The evidence given to the Human Rights Commission by the International Commission of Jurists is so overwhelming that I believe that this motion will commend itself to the House. The overwhelming majority of the people in the country have no desire to allow this murderous tyrant to come to our shores.

12.10 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Dr. David Owen)

This is a Private Member's motion, and I have to say at the outset that I congratulate the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) on the tone of his speech and the moderate way in which he introduced the motion. I know that he feels extremely strongly about this issue. It is not always necessary for the Government to state a view on a Private Member's motion, but I thought that on this occasion, in view of the considerable anxiety that exists, that it was right for me to explain to the House the Government's position.

There can be little doubt about the sentiments that will find general expression in the House during the course of this debate. Right hon. and hon. Members have expressed themselves on previous occasions firmly and clearly on this subject over a considerable period. There can be no doubt about the strength of feeling in the House and in the country at large. It seems wholly appropriate that the House of Commons and private Members should have an opportunity, before the Heads of Government meeting, to make their views quite clear to the Government.

The Government will listen to what is said. Hon. Members will appreciate that this is an extremely delicate matter for the Commonwealth as a whole. I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) and to the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition for the way in which they have handled this delicate issue. I believe that Mr. Ramphal, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, distinguished very well, in his speech of 25th May to the Diplomatic and Commonwealth Writers' Association, between the Commonwealth aspect and the responsibility of the host Government to make every effort to ensure that the Heads of Government Conference takes place in an appropriate atmosphere.

In the last analysis the decision must lie with the Government. We shall not put our responsibilities on to other shoulders. We shall take those decisions. We shall make any decisions that are necessary over the question of President Amin's proposed attendance at the Heads of Govment meeting so as to protect and to further the overall interests of the Commonwealth. Given this background and the delicate issues involved, I ask the House to accept that it would not be in the interests of the Commonwealth if at this stage I were to say more than that it is still the Government's hope that, in the interests of the Commonwealth, President Amin will decide not to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London next month.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

While I accept the way in which my right hon. Friend approaches this problem and his difficulties, which arise from the delicacy of the situation, may I ask him to be good enough to assure the House that if President Amin does maintain his intention to come, and if the British Government decide that he should not be admitted, my right hon. Friend will bear in mind the strong feeling in the House and in the country against the admission of representatives of the President if the President is excluded? Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us would feel that it is no answer to exclude the African Hitler but to admit his Goebbels or Hess?

Dr. Owen

I recognise that that is a view. However, I noted carefully what the hon. Member for Louth said when he pinpointed his anxiety in the motion and in his speech. It may well be that others have anxieties on other aspects. I do not deny that. I should make it clear that there is no suggestion on our part that Uganda, as a member country of the Commonwealth, should be excluded from this or other Commonwealth meetings altogether. That would be a major decision to make. That would be a decision which, in my judgment, would gravely damage the Commonwealth. It would be a decision, in my judgment, which would certainly ensure that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference did not take place. It would be a decision, in my judgment, which it would be much harder for the host Government to justify.

Not all Heads of Government are always able to attend these meetings, and it is not uncommon for delegations to be led by someone other than the Head of Government. This is what has happened in the case of Uganda at the last two Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings. I should remind the House that this problem is one that other Governments, too, have faced. They, too, have hoped that the question would not arise. In the last two Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings this situation did not confront the host Government. All other factors aside, there is something to be said for such a practice when, as in this case, there are no diplomatic relations with that host Government.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

If there were to be a representative from Uganda, presumably someone representing the President, I would have thought that he should be accorded some kind of observer status or observer-plus-speaking status. It would be unsatisfactory if such a person were to attend in the same capacity as another representative who was representing a Commonwealth leader who could not attend because of illness. Any representative of President Amin would, under those circumstances, be taking part in the social and other occasions surrounding the meeting.

Dr. Owen

I respect the views of the hon. Member, as I respect the views of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). These are views which no doubt will be expressed in this House and by citizens in this country as they are perfectly entitled to do—in marked contrast to the situation existing in some other countries we are discussing.

The issue is not one just for this Government. We are a member of the Commonwealth. All of these points could be put in the Conference and discussed there. The spirit of the Commonwealth is that we make decisions by consensus. There is this great problem for a host country of what decisions it should take unto itself. We shall take our decisions against the background of what we think will strengthen and further the principles on which the Commonwealth is based. We have already made a decision, as a single Government, to break off diplomatic relations.

Amid all the general concern that has been expressed in the House and the country generally about this question, it is right to recall that the United Kingdom has always enjoyed good relations with the people of Uganda. It was only after very careful consideration and with the greatest reluctance that we broke diplomatic relations in July of last year because of the impossibility of maintaining working relations with President Amin. That was a decision we had to take.

We know that the British community in Uganda has been through many trials in recent years. It was told, when we broke diplomatic relations, that there was a clear limit to our ability to protect it. It is right that we should not only express our gratitude to the French Government for accepting responsibility to protect our interests in Uganda but should congratulate them on the way in which this task is being carried out.

At all times I have to bear in mind my responsibilities to do what I can for those British citizens in Uganda and not to provoke a situation that would affect them. I feel sure that at this time members of the British community who have decided to stay on in Uganda in full knowledge of the risks have sensibly been concerned to follow developments and to make their own decisions. It is not for me to make that decision for them. It is for them.

Mr. James Johnson

Is it the Minister's intention, before he sits down, to say anything about the fact-finding tour being made by Lord Thomson, whom the Secretary of State, with his usual forethought, has asked to ascertain the consensus among our sister Commonwealth States about this delicate and sticky business?

Dr. Owen

I was intending to say something about Lord Thomson's mission. Lord Thomson was sent as the personal emissary of the Prime Miniter. This has been a precedent established at previous Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings. He went primarily to discuss the agenda for the forthcoming meeting. I hope that despite all the genuine concern about this issue of President Amin we shall not allow ourselves to be diverted from the central purpose of the Commonwealth.

There are many serious and important issues to be discussed at the meeting. That is why we wish to make our decision in the light of ensuring, first, that the Conference can take place and, secondly, that it can take place in a spirit of reasonableness and understanding so that these important issues will be discussed objectively and fairly.

By its nature, Lord Thomson's visit included discussions on the whole question of Uganda, but that was only one of many important issues that he raised with the Heads of Government. His purpose as a personal emissary was that the Heads of Government could say to him what they would have said to the Prime Minister if he had had enough time to see them all about the meeting. The content of what was said must remain private and personal, but it has been important background, allied to the information that we have heard from our diplomatic missions and high commissioners in the field. In forming any judgment—and it is our judgment; we cannot duck out of it because the decision must be taken by the host Government—we shall constantly bear in mind the findings of Lord Thomson's tour. It was an extremely successful tour. Lord Thomson is a highly experienced former Member of this House, an experienced diplomat, who is widely respected in the Commonwealth. His views and findings have been before the Government at all times and the Prime Minister and I have discussed the issue with him on a number of occasions.

I do not think that I should say as much today as I should wish, or as I have said in various other forums, about human rights. Hon. Members will be under no doubt about my view and the Government's position. We have made that clear in the House, and, in reply to the point raised by the hon. Member for Louth, I should remind hon. Members that I have made clear that I am extremely dissatisfied with the United Nations Commission of Human Rights procedures that were followed. I do not believe that this matter can be allowed to rest.

In his speech to the United Nations Economic and Social Council on 5th May our permanent representative to the United Nations repeated our concern to see effective use of the established procedures. We shall do all we can to try to reform the procedures and to ensure that other member Governments of the United Nations face up to the problems and use the existing machinery. In many ways, it is not so much a problem of the procedure as a simple matter of persuading other Governments to explore and examine it. The report of the jurists has rightly caused considerable concern, and this issue will continue long after the problem that we are discussing has been resolved.

The House has been extremely patient, and I shall stay to listen to what hon. Members have to say, but I thought it right that I should intervene early in the debate. I do not intend to be drawn into hypothetical questions about what will or will not be done. Decisions that may have to be taken will be taken on one basic criterian—whether they will serve the interests of the Commonwealth.

12.23 p.m.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)

I am grateful for the opportunity to follow the Foreign Secretary's thoughtful and carefully-prepared statement, which we all listened to with interest. When considering what to say in the debate, I thought that I would congratulate the Government because my views were similar. However, as I listened to the Foreign Secretary, I found that I was rapidly disengaging from the Government's position. I am also grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) for giving us the opportunity to debate a foreign affairs issue. To many of us such opportunities appear few and fleeting. My hon. Friend has chosen a topic of growing public interest at home that has been poorly handled by the international community.

I knew Uganda before it became independent and, having talked with Milton Obote, I find Amin a most unrepresentative leader of his countrymen, who have a natural grace and gentleness. The swift end of Amin's tyranny is the earnest desire of all Africans, especially Ugandans. The House would be wise to remember the early stand taken by the All-African Church Council headed by a Liberian, Canon Burgess-Carr; that President Nyerere was the first national leader to call Amin a murderer—at a time when Britain and Israel were helping Amin to consolidate his position; that Kenya was the first country to attempt an economic blockade of Uganda; and that Ugandans have made at least nine attempts to assassinate their president.

I have tried before to draw attention in the House to the fact that Russian support for Amin is one of the main reasons for his survival. Such support is both cynical and sinister. It is a calculated piece of big power politics. As a writer in the Observer put it, the Russians see a chance of getting a political foothold in a part of the world where they have been outmanoeuvred by the subtler policies of Peking". More than 1,300 Ugandan soldiers, airmen and technicians have been sent for training to Eastern Europe. No doubt the Russians hope one day to be able to influence the character of a future military régime led by a cadre of Marxist officers.

A sophisticated secret service has been established on Soviet lines. It has enabled Amin's special police to operate with greater selectivity and refinement of methods. An article in the Observer last summer commented: A reasonable estimate of Soviet military aid puts the figure at 12 MiG fighters and bombers, 60 light tanks, 100 armoured personnel carriers, 50 anti-aircraft guns, 200 anti-tank weapons and 850 bombs and rockets. Amin says the supply of Russian arms has 'improved the balance of power in Africa' which is his way of saying that he is making Uganda the Prussia of East Africa. As one who believes that human rights cannot be regarded solely as the internal affairs of individual countries but must be the concern of all of us, as individuals, and of particular concern to those international bodies that have the capacity to act, I approach the question of human rights in Uganda with a sense of anguish bordering on despair. From his courageous Archbishop to his first wife, Amin knows no mercy. He kills, and he causes to be killed. As a leader in The Times observed: There comes a point at which numbers in organised State massacres fail to register on the mind. It is the localised atrocity, not the statistical enormity, that produces horror. All this has gone on almost in public. Uganda is not behind the Iron Curtain, and many refugees have managed to cross the borders. The Geneva-based lawyers of the International Commission of Jurists have carefully studied the evidence. Their findings have been presented as reports to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Consideration of their first paper was delayed for nearly two years. Three more communications were kept from the Commission for procedural reasons. A lengthy fifth document lay on the United Nations table for nine months, during which time Uganda became a member of that Commission—a cynical twist to events.

The Commission has borne the hopes of all who believe that the dignity of man stands on values that transcend national frontiers. It has crashed hopelessly to the ground. It has shown indifference to the sufferings of mankind. It has made a mockery of human rights. It has done a great disservice to the United Nations.

What more should be done about this maniac, who, since seizing power in 1971, has killed 100,000 men, women and children? The first prority is for him to be removed from power, but that must be an internal matter. We must leave it to his countrymen, who will no doubt be supported by neighbouring countries, to do that for us. But the international community must be far more decisive than it has been up until now. Here I part company with the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. International dissociation must be extended. We were right to break off diplomatic relations with Uganda, although I thought that it was done too late. We should press for the immediate suspension, not expulsion, of Uganda from the Commonwealth. That might encourage local opposition.

It must be mentioned that the Organisation of African Unity has a miserable record on this tyrant. It ignores the human rights issue, allows President Amin to preside over its Summit, and defends him in the United Nations. I find it hard to give the reasons for this. It may be immaturity, or the feeling that the members of the OAU must all hold hands together against pressures from outside. I do not know the reasons but clearly we must diplomatically try to persuade the OAU to face up to its international responsibilities, because it is in a special position to put pressure on the President of Uganda.

Up to now I have had no criticisms of the Government's handling of the visit itself. Let there be the maximum coordination behind the scenes within the Commonwealth, and an unsettling uncertainty for the President of Uganda. If, in a few days' time, it can be seen that the suspension of Uganda is supported within the Commonwealth, it will be a satisfactory conclusion to months of diplomatic manoeuvres.

In reality, there must be no question of President Amin's coming to Britain. That would be deeply offensive to the Queen and her subjects. I know that it would be deeply offensive to my constituents. As a proud and a free sovereign State, we have a basic right and perhaps a duty to refuse entry to mass murderers and their henchmen. I make it clear that his Foreign Minister would be totally unacceptable as a replacement. We do not wish to greet a Himmler standing in for a Hitler.

There are those hon. Members who see recent Ugandan history as representative of the post-colonial pattern in Africa, but I am not one of them. On the contrary, conditions in Uganda are totally unlike those prevailing in the rest of East Africa. I see a real danger to the future of such countries as Zambia, Sudan, Zaire and Kenya if Amin, supported by Soviet arms and unconcealed savagery, survives for another six years. He has openly expressed his aim to liberate Cape Town and, more seriously, to open a corridor to the coast to secure a port at Tanga. Uganda Radio has recently canvassed the possibility that it might be necessary to extend Ugandan territory to the Kagera River, to the west of Lake Victoria. Heaven knows what other grandiose military schemes swirl through his crazed head! But his Russian tanks and his dislike of President Nyerere add up to a serious threat of confrontation within East Africa, the flames of which could spread far and wide.

Britain must convince moderate African countries of the real perils that face them, and stir up international action, including sanctions, against this dictatorship. This is the heart of the matter, and this is what our debate should be about. Those of us who have closely studied foreign policy between the wars, when sanctions were frequently called for and national economies were not so interlocked, are continually surprised that international sanctions are not given more consideration by the Governments of today.

Amin is the rogue elephant of Africa. Sanctions, beginning with oil sanctions, present our best hope of destroying him. I call on the British Government to take the lead in working for international sanctions against Uganda.

12.35 p.m.

Mr. William Whitlock (Nottingham, North)

Unlike my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, I did not find the remarks of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) entirely moderate. He attacked the Commonwealth, an organisation which I believe is still of great significance in the world today. He portrayed Rhodesia as a model democracy, which I find completely laughable. I profoundly disagree with some of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, but I shall not be tempted to go into those wider matters because I support the motion that he moved, and I wish to indicate how far I support it.

I believe—as the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) said—that the overwhelming majority of British people do not want President Amin to come to this country. This corrupt and savagely inhuman monster, with his maniac delusions of grandeur, must not be allowed to poison British soil with his presence. To allow him to come would be as bad as allowing Hitler to come here if that Nazi dictator were found to be alive today. If President Amin came he would want to bring an army of men as bodyguards, men whose hands are as red with the blood of innocent people as are the hands of President Amin himself. They obviously would not hold their jobs if they were not as vicious as the President himself.

All the evidence shows that there has been a complete breakdown of the rule of law in Uganda. There is a reign of terror and torture, rape and rapine, murder and massacre. There is suppression of all the freedoms of the majority of people in that country, while there is untrammelled licence for this sadistic beast and his followers, who vie with him in piling atrocity upon atrocity.

Thousands of people have disappeared. Thousands have been liquidated for personal, political and factional reasons entirely outside the processes of the law. Their bodies have been disposed of in a way which makes it impossible to trace them or, if they are found, they are so savagely mutilated that they cannot be identified. This brutal dictator, who seems to look around with obvious pleasure and some warped sense of achievement on the bloodsoaked scene that he has created, does not represent the wishes of the people of Uganda.

For the sake of the suffering people of Uganda, we must not allow him to come here and be seen to be accepted as being in any way representative of his people. It would be damaging to the people of Uganda if this were done. It would be a great offence to the people of this country if he were allowed to come, and I believe that it would also be damaging to the whole Commonwealth if he were seen to come here and, in spite of his record, to be assumed to be worthy of being entertained here as one of the distinguished heads of our Commonwealth of nations.

Mr. John Page:

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, although I think that perhaps when I ask him the following question he will be sorry that he gave way. Will the hon. Gentleman give us his view, as an ex-Minister with experience in this field, on what would be the position of a representative of President Amin coming here instead of the President himself? I have agreed with every word that he said about the President, but I want to be convinced that the Foreign Secretary is right about the position of a representative.

Mr. Whitlock

I can understand the difficulties that the Foreign Secretary faces. Obviously if someone other than the President attends the Conference on behalf of Uganda, the Conference will have an opportunity of dealing with a man who may perhaps be less offensive than President Amin. In this way the Conference might have some influence upon what is happening in Uganda. However, I fear that anyone who might come here in the place of President Amin would be the President's man and would therefore also be totally unacceptable to the British people. As I have said, I understand the Foreign Secretary's difficulties, but I hope that he will bear in mind the strength of feeling which has been voiced in the House today and which is shared by the whole British people.

12.41 p.m.

Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)

I intervene briefly because when I was a United Kingdom member of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Human Rights dealing with the persecution of minorities, in 1972, I raised the issue of the Ugandan Asians in an attempt to give international prominence to their plight. I am sure that nobody inside or outside the House has forgotten that this nation assumed a grave and courageous responsibility for those unfortunate people. The then Conservative Government came under heavy criticism but, to its great and enduring credit, maintained its position. None of us who were present will ever forget the speech that was made by Robert Carr, now Lord Carr, at the Conservative Party Conference. It was a courageous speech and it established a principle of faith that we can look back on with pride and pleasure.

I have also had the experience—unusual among hon. Members—of having met President Amin. All I can say of him is that I have never been in the presence of anyone who radiated such concentrated evil. That impression has, alas, been confirmed by his record since that time. He and his henchmen have plundered, ruined and destroyed a once beautiful and fine nation. The rule of President Amin has been characterised by brutality and bloodshed. Uganda has now become a cat's-paw in the increasingly bitter international power struggle in Africa. None of this is new to the Foreign Secretary or to the House, but perhaps there are occasions when these points ought to be reiterated with emotion and strength.

It needs to be said—and I say it with regret—that the embarrased silence of the OAU leaders does them no credit. Alas, they have made successful attempts to prevent debate in the United Nations, thus denying the right of the United Nations to take note of evidence placed before it, and that is equally lamentable. As a former official of the United Nations and British representative on one of Its bodies, I believe in that organisation and in its potentialities. We are now in a situation in which cynicism and international hypocrisy has resulted in a position that is absolutely intolerable. Certain nations, particularly Israel and South Africa, are constantly being abused and having their internal affairs investigated and debated. However, as soon as another country is mentioned, whether in Eastern Europe, Africa or Asia, everyone remembers about Clause 2(7) relating to interference in the sovereign affairs of nations.

We know that the United Nations Charter contains a built-in dichotomy. It establishes principles of human rights and the quality of men and women and yet at the same time enshrines and strengthens the concept of sovereignty of individual nations. This dichotomy always will be with the United Nations, but it is of supreme importance that we in this House and this nation should emphasise that we believe that the concept of human rights and our understanding of fellow citizenship of this planet far transcends the rules and conventions relating to interference in internal affairs. I hope that that point will be emphasised in the discussions at the Commonwealth Conference, particularly during informal discussions, because this double talk is one of the factors that is discrediting not only the United Nations but the majority of the members of the Commonwealth.

My concern in this matter is for the future of the Commonwealth. How can the Commonwealth maintain what value it has if it carries the rule of non-intervention in internal affairs to these lengths? How can the Commonwealth hope to have any public support in this country if such a man as President Amin comes to London?

I fully understand the Government's predicament. To prohibit Amin would be to create a precedent that could unquestionably rebound on us or on other nations in the Commonwealth in future. I understand that point. I also understand the concern that exists for British nationals in Uganda and the concern that the Government must have—indeed, that we all have—for the people of Uganda themselves.

However, having considered those things—and I want to emphasise that I recognise their weight—it is also important for us to emphasise that there are limits, and that Amin and his régime have far transcended them. I regret that the Secretary of State was unable to give a more decisive statement this morning—just as I regret the fact that the Prime Minister yesterday asked hon. Members not to press him on this matter—because time is running out and a decision must be made shortly.

In the circumstances, having considered the matter and having been involved in the affairs of Uganda for the last five years, I have come to the view that I should urge the Government that President Amin should be personally prohibited from entering this country for the Conference and that we should also look carefully at whether he should be allowed to nominate a representative.

12.47 p.m.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

The sincere speech of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes lames) has emphasised once again what is best in the House. That is that there are areas of concern, particularly relating to human rights, that unite most of us most of the time. I was certainly impressed by the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks regarding Lord Carr and the fact that even today the main area of human rights, race relations and immigration is common ground between most hon. Members in the House. Indeed, the policies to which the hon. Member for Cambridge referred—policies that were expounded by Lord Carr—are essentially the policies that the Government follow today, in spite of certain criticisms from certain members of the Opposition.

However, I find it almost incredible that I should be agreeing with the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) on anything. I was a little reassured when the hon. Member for Louth started off in his usual non-controversial and radical way concerning Rhodesia because I then knew that we should not agree on everything. Indeed, I should have felt extremely uncomfortable if I had agreed with everything that was said by the hon. Member for Louth in the same way as I agreed with all that was said by the hon. Member for Cambridge. However, divisions on the Opposition side are quite as real as the unity on my side.

There is in this country a most remarkable amount of agreement on the motion that is before the House today. I have received a huge mail. Even the writers of the hundreds of letters that attack me always start off by agreeing about Amin and then launch into an attack about something else. The only way in which some of the writers disagree with me is that they believe that we should bring Amin here and then keep him here as long as possible or murder him, or else keep him here long enough to ensure that he is ousted before he can return. I do not find favour with that proposition because I wonder who would replace him since he has slaughtered everyone in sight. Anybody whom Amin raises to office is wiped out before he gets too near the throne.

I do not believe that anyone in this country wants Amin to come here. I do not believe that he would have a happy welcome if he arrived here. A nod being as good as any number of winks, this debate is almost dead at the start regarding the admission to this country of Amin, because it seems clear that the Government will not permit him to come. I do not believe for a moment that his plane will be allowed to land or, if it does, that he will get any further than the tarmac.

However, that is not the end of the matter, because this unanimity is awaiting expression in other ways. This morning, five young people from an organisation known as the B'nai B'rith Youth Organisation brought me over 7,000 signatures which they had collected in various parts of the country, because they felt that the feeling of the public should be known. The hon. Member for Louth has enabled that to be done.

This unanimous feeling, that this wicked dictator should not be permitted to come into this country, is a matter that the Government must hear from all sides. The question is whether substitutes will be satisfactory. I fear that the disagreement begins here. It was clear from the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that the intention at this stage is to allow representatives of President Amin to come to this country. That was not said in terms, but my right hon. Friend said that we could not keep them out and that it was right that Uganda should be represented.

I take issue on that, because Amin is not just a man; he is representative of a régime. He is not an elected Prime Minister. Therefore, if we do not like him personally and cannot guarantee his safety, we cannot say "Very well, let his Foreign Secretary come in his place". He is the regime. He runs the country. He decides what will be done. He provides others as his mouthpieces. If they come here, they will not come as free men able to speak their minds. They will come, not as representatives of a free regime, but as pawns of a dictator.

Mr. Townsend

The logic of the hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks is that Uganda should be suspended from the Commonwealth. The British Government cannot pick and choose which Minister or Ministers should represent a country Does he agree with my conclusion?

Mr. Janner

I find that an important and difficult question to answer. We have no diplomatic relations with Uganda. We should say that we shall not admit Amin or his representatives. I believe that the first item on the agenda for the Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference should be consideration of the membership of Uganda, just as that same body considered the membership of Rhodesia and of South Africa, which were also members of the Commonwealth. That is a Commonwealth decision.

Our decision is whether we admit people into this country. It is an open secret that we had hoped that the Commonwealth countries would take that decision off our shoulders by saying "We do not want him." They have not done that. Even our friend the Canadian Prime Minister said "You must decide. We will back your decision."

Amin is symbolic. We cannot picture the 90,000 to 100,000 people whom the International Commission of Jurists said that he slaughtered. Mrs. Bloch, whose family I know very well, is symbolic in her own way. She was not just one dear, courageous, kindly old lady who was strangled and shot, and whose body was then burned. She was a British citizen. People can understand and see the death of one person as a reality. But the deaths of 100,000 people represent something which the human mind in this decent and splendid country of ours cannot possibly encompass. We might think "He killed all the people whom we saw in Wembley Stadium on the day of the Cup Final", but that old lady was a reality.

I do not believe that Amin should be allowed into this country. Equally, how are we to know that the murderer of that old lady will not be among those sent to represent General Amin? I do not know who murdered Mrs. Bloch. The Bloch family have alleged that it is a person whom they have named in a writ which is waiting to be served on that gentleman.

I come now to a point which has not so far been mentioned—the question of what diplomatic immunity is to be accorded to those who come as representatives of General Amin. They do not get diplomatic immunity automatically. They have diplomatic immunity accorded to them by their names being put on a list which the Foreign Secretary has to draw up in accordance with an Act which rejoices in the title Diplomatic Immunities (Conferences with Commonwealth Countries and Republic of Ireland) Act 1961. The Foreign Secretary draws up a list of representatives and they then acquire the same diplomatic immunity as the representatives of any non-Commonwealth country.

I ask my right hon. Friend, who I am pleased to see is back in the Chamber, to tell us whether he proposes to draw up such a list and, if so, whether he will ensure that he does not provide diplomatic immunity for the man who, according to the family of the lady concerned, who are very well informed on the matter, personally murdered a British lady. How will he ensure that the representatives of Uganda whom he allows to come into this country do not include among them the person who murdered this British citizen? Will he provide diplomatic immunity for those representatives if and when they are allowed in?

I very much hope that Amin will not want to come. I hope that, if we offer to allow Ministers to come in his place, that offer will be rejected. But we must consider the possibility of Amin coming any way, of his security being at risk, and of his wanting to send Ministers.

We have had similar problems with other countries which sent people who were unacceptable and who were not welcomed with total joy and accord by the entire British people. But they were not in the main people of whom we could say "Yes" or "No" they could or could not come. They were sent as representatives by other nations or other parties within nations.

In this situation the head of the country concerned is almost certain to be excluded. I ask the Foreign Secretary, having grasped the nettle, which he should do very tightly, to say that it is not just the man who committed the murders and who has been indicted by the International Commission of Jurists, but the règime which is dominated by and dictated to by this man that we do not want in this country.

12.58 p.m.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

I join other hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) on raising this matter today, this being the last parliamentary day before a decision on this important matter can be made and announced by the Government in this House.

I am honoured that the Foreign Secretary should have returned to the Chamber to hear my speech in full. I think that must be the reason for his brisk return. However, he missed three extremely distinguished and unusually strongly based speeches by my hon. Friends the Members for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) and Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) and his hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Whitlock). The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt hear reports of and read those speeches. However, it is a pity that he did not get the feel of them. They were distinguished and important speeches and I should have been prepared to give up my own if that would have given him the opportunity of hearing those speeches.

That leads me to the disappointment which many of us feel today about what has happened. This being the last parliamentary day before 8th June when the Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference begins, the Foreign Secretary has missed the opportunity of announcing to the House the Government's decision on this important matter. The Government were unwise to miss that opportunity.

There may have to be further consultations—and I am sure that the Foreign Secretary is considering that carefully—but had he taken the opportunity of making this announcement in the House it would have made a great difference to the attitude of the people of this country towards the decision, whatever it is and whenever it is made.

I speak today because I feel that it is important for the Foreign Secretary and the Government to know the strength and the wide base of the feelings in the country and in my constituency about President Amin's visit. I have letters about it. Whenever I am in my constituency this matter comes up in discussions. Earlier this week I received a small petition urging me, if I spoke in the debate today, to say that President Amin must not come.

I have not had the opportunity of examining the speech by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, but I feel that this country is more in the position of host than hotelier. As the host country we have a right to decide who should and who should not come in. I accept that although we are the host we do not necessarily issue the invitations.

I take issue with a number of people who are reported in the Press and on the radio who want President Amin to come to this country so that our people can demonstrate their disgust and their disfavour of him. I do not enjoy the demonstrations which take place against visitors to this country. I feel that if we are the host we should treat our guests with dignity. I object to the idea that President Amin should be invited so that he can be shown how much we dislike him.

I now turn to the more difficult proposition of allowing in a representative. I am convinced, as is the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), that President Amin will not be allowed to come to this country. Often when one is listening to a debate in the House one's preconceived notions are sometimes overturned, often by the speeches which try to persuade one the other way. Before I heard the Foreign Secretary's speech I was prepared to accept the idea that a kind of stooge representative would do no harm I am no longer convinced of that.

It would not be a satisfactory way out of our dilemma to allow in a nominee or Minister of President Amin's to come to represent him and his régime at the. Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting, if he is to be accorded the same status and diplomatic immunity as a Head of Government. We are killing ourselves not with 1,000 lashes but with 500. I say that we should not give our bodies for flagellation in that way at all. I would accept no more than a person invited as an observer, who takes no part in any activities other than the sessions.

I am worried about the trivia of the flag. If we have ordered the flag, as the Prime Minister said yesterday in a rather oracular manner, it looks as if we might feel that we must put it up. This flag should not be flown. It should be left in the flagmaker's store for flying on another occasion when the régime is changed, as we all hope it will be.

Finally, if a representaitve from Uganda is admitted to the Commonwealth deliberations it will do harm to the concept of the Commonwealth. I was persuaded by the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath, who put the matter in an exact perspective and argued the case better than I could. The first item on the agenda should be a discussion of the position of Uganda in the Commonwealth.

As the leading article in the Observer of 22nd May said, If it failed to get a consensus vote (the basis of all Commonwealth decisions) another question would have to be faced: is a Commonwealth which could find room for a régime like Amin's worth preserving? That is the position with which we are faced.

It is ridiculous that there is within the Commonwealth a country with which we cannot have diplomatic relations. I beg the Foreign Secretary to accept the strong, instinctive feelings of the people of this country. They are more often right than the decisions of Governments and Members of Parliament. It would be totally undesirable to have Amin or a member of his régime attending this conference.

1.7 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)

I am sorry that I missed the earlier part of the debate. I particularly regret missing the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton). My views on the matter are fairly clear and I suspect that they coincide with those of my hon. Friend.

I am strongly opposed to President Amin's being invited or admitted to this country for the Jubilee celebrations. He should be so refused or not admitted because of his treatment of British subjects in Uganda. Maltreatment and humiliation of British people is surely conduct that should dissuade us from inviting the perpetrator of that conduct to join in the celebrations for the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

I do not believe that the way in which he treats his own people is a matter that we should take into account in this context. It is there that error sometimes creeps into the discussion. Bad as President Amin is, he is almost like a Sunday school teacher compared with the leaders of some of the régimes that exist today. Some of those leaders have been to this country. I am talking of Russia and even more of some South-East Asian regimes, where undreamed of murders take place and where the ground is almost drenched in blood.

Mr. Greville Janner

What about Chile?

Mr. Bell

The hon. and learned Member must be joking. The only thing that is wrong with Chile is that it has a Right-wing Government and the hon. and learned Member is a Left-wing politician. That is not a good reason for condemning that State. I expect that law and order in Chile is admirable.

Mr. Greville Janner

The hon. and learned Gentleman and I agree about Amin, but is he aware that there are some of us who detest breaches of human rights and attacks on human dignity from wherever they come?

Mr. Bell

I dare say they do, but this debate is about President Amin and Uganda, and it is not particularly helpful to bring in references to controversial regimes, such as Chile, about which I take one view and the hon. and learned Gentleman takes another, and these differences of view would be reflected among reasonable people throughout the community.

The fact is that all kinds of outrages against the standards of conduct that we accept here are committed and have been committed all around the world in a great many countries, and we do not on that account refuse to meet the leaders or representatives of those countries. I think in general that that is right. That is a relevant consideration here, because one has to consider whether one is going to admit President Amin himself—the person—or whether one is going to admit a representative of his country. In my view, the objection that I have is to him, and the way that he has ill-treated and humiliated British people, so that we ought not to have such a person here, whereas—

Mr. Keith Stainton (Sudbury and Woodbridge)

Would my hon. and learned Friend care to particularise in talking of British people? Would he care to make particular mention of the murdered archbishop, an archbishop of the Church of Her Majesty the Queen?

Mr. Bell

I was deeply shocked by that. However, the difficulty that I feel about that—my hon. Friend will realise the shape of what I am saying—is that I think the archbishop was not in fact a British person by extraction, a part of—in Winston Churchill's phrase—the British race dwelling around the world, which is the proper concern of this Parliament.

Mr. Greville Janner

Not a patrial.

Mr. Bell

He was not a patrial, as the hon. and learned Gentleman puts it, and not our concern, because we are here to look after the British. When President Amin treats British people in the way in which he has treated them, we have to say "You jolly well do not come to our country on a celebratory occasion". However, as for his country, as such, and its Government, which is a legally constituted Government, we have to recognise the fact that there are all kinds of standards prevailing in the world.

I listened with great interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James), who knows a great deal about these things from his own personal experience in the past. I would differ from him only on one point. That is in the relative emphasis that he gave to what he and many others call human rights, on the one hand, and national sovereignty, on the other hand. The declaration about human rights is preambular to the Charter of the United Nations. Article 2.7 is part of the substantive document—part of the treaty—and it plainly prevails over the general sentiments in the preamble. It is actually a part of the constitution of the United Nations. Therefore, it is more important juridically, and it should be more important in controlling the actions of States that are members of the United Nations than the high principles set out in the preamble.

On some suitable occasion I should like to say what I think about the preamble. I read with great interest a leading article in The Times on human rights a couple of weeks ago, because I have always taken the view that no such thing exists or possibly could exist. One cannot have rights against animals or insects, or against the Milky Way. There is no such thing as human rights. I was a little inclined to think that this was my own possibly pedantic view of the language, but when a leading article in The Times takes the same point I realise that I am quite respectable

The human race has always been attracted to these wide-ranging declarations, as though in their own generation the ultimate light had been seen and all the succeeding generations of the human race, through millions of years, were to do nothing else but apply the general principle which they in their particular and municipal wisdom had laid down. So I am not a great believer in declarations, whether universal or not, on human rights.

However, the point is that the United Nations Charter lays down with total clarity in its operative part that the United Nations has no concern and is not to take action about matters of domestic jurisdiction—not of domestic interest, which is the equivocating escape so often used but of domestic jurisdiction. That means that we are not entitled to look inside a country and see what goes on in its domestic jurisdiction in so far as we are members of the United Nations.

Of course, we have other existences. We are people and we have our view and we can express our view—but not as members of the United Nations. That reinforces the point that I made that Uganda the country, as distinct from Amin the man, is something on which we should not turn our backs.

For one thing, of course—I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page) will agree with me about this—there is in Uganda, among the people, a very great fund of friendship for Britain. I am referring not to Amin and his colleagues but to the people of Uganda, who have had a long connection with us and a very friendly and happy connection, until this wretched business arose.

Just as in the case of India, although I did not agree with the Attlee policy, nevertheless I have always felt a tremendous affection for India. I think that anyone who has had any personal dealing with Commonwealth countries usually has that feeling. Whatever our faults, we left a great legacy of friendship in all these territories. I think that that, too, should be given its weight.

I do not know what are the juridical difficulties here. The Foreign Secretary has obviously looked into those. I think that they are not insubstantial. Frankly, I do not know how they will be got over. But I take the view that we should feel so strongly about this matter that somehow we must find a way around the juridical difficulties.

Of course, if Amin had any sense—which, almost by definition, he has not—he would get us out of the difficulty by saying that in view of the misunderstanding, and so on, he would send a representative—instead of which he behaves like an impudent scallywag and suggests putting up 200 dancing girls at Buckingham Palace.

This makes it all the more impossible for us to allow him in and all the more important for the Foreign Secretary—who has, after all, no other difficulties at present—to find a way of coping with this situation in a way that will express the feelings of the British people both to Amin as a person and to the people in the territory of Uganda with whom we have a long and happy association.

1.18 p.m.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)

I believe that the country will welcome the tone of the debate, and I hope that the people of Uganda will notice the moderation in the motion, as my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) mentioned in his opening remarks. However, I think that we must remember that in a few weeks' time the Prime Ministers' Conference will be over and that what is happening in Uganda will continue.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) has put the legal points about what we may or not do in the internal affairs of another country. I think that what one must also accept is that if nowadays this country is not going to carry out the sort of responsibilities that it has had in the Colonies, and other areas that were not Colonies, over the last 150 years—of going in and sorting out what we regarded as inadequate or repressive regimes, and often imposing régimes of our own—one must ask to where we can turn as an alternative.

I think that it has been accepted in international convention that sanctions are the way. My hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) suggested that one of the countries that require sanctions is Uganda, because although that is not interfering in the internal politics of the country, it is an external act which would have the effect of forcing an internal change. That is a point that needs to be emphasised, and one that I hope the Government will try to put in hand, through the Commonwealth and, with the Commonwealth bloc, through the United Nations, in the weeks and months that follow the Prime Ministers' Conference. Although the debate that we are having on the motion is relevant to that, it is not the basic problem of the people of this country or of Uganda. I shall not go on at length about that but leave that topic and spend a moment on another.

If this House is to express its will on the motion, it must be willing to go further when it comes face to face with problems caused by régimes such as that in Uganda. Here I should like to follow up the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) on the praiseworthy way in which in 1972 the Government reacted to the Ugandan Asian refugee problem. It is no good Right-wingers, Left-wingers or middle-wingers all uniting on the question whether a tyrannical President should be able to come to this country to join in celebratory occasions and the Commonwealth Conference. One has also to be willing perhaps to sacrifice some party principles, and some of the prejudices of this country, to make way for people who are suffering from tyrannical régimes.

It is no good anyone in this House deluding himself and thinking that the last wave of refugees from that tyrannical régime came and were accommodated five years ago. Some of us had something to do with the resettlement of the Ugandan Asians. For a time I had a family in my house and I felt horror at the stories they told of what happened to them. Worse things have been happening to the Africans left behind in Uganda. Although there may be a responsibility on this House, and on the Government, for Britons and for patrials, there is an equal responsibility as human citizens for people, be they Africans, patrial, Anglo-Irish, or whatever other amalgam of Anglo-Saxon or Norman we have in this country.

As members of the Commonwealth and of the United Nations we have a responsibility to assist the world in trying to work towards some way of making sure that tyrannical regimes fail to get international support and that those who come from those regimes in the end find freedom, whether they come to this country or to other countries around the world.

1.22 p.m.

Mr. Nicholas Fairbaim (Kinross and West Perthshire)

I apologise for not being present throughout the debate. In particular, I did not hear the Foreign Secretary's speech—although I have had a precis of what he said—but I hope he will forgive me for speaking in the debate despite that.

It is important to ask ourselves what the Commonwealth is for. Is it just a trading association? Is it just a sort of ex-soldiers' club which used to have an association now past but which likes to keep up comradeship by meeting once a year, or is it genuinely concerned with any principles of any kind? Clearly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) said in his discreet and careful proposal of his motion, there are in the Commonwealth a large number—indeed a majority—of the countries to whom we gave the parliamentary democracy of Westminster rule, together with the goods and chattels which are symbolic with it, which have become one-party States and in which there is no parliamentary democracy as we know it. There is no opportunity as we know it for electing those who rule those countries.

I find it extraordinary that with regard to the last remaining leper of the Commonwealth—Rhodesia—we should be trying to give it the very thing which we know that those who are indigenous and black members of that country will inevitably reject as soon as they get the opportunity. But I suppose the British people have to go through the ritual of guilt by which they can eventually indulge in a duplicity which is probably the greatest reason why we doubt almost everything we now do.

We have to ask ourselves why President Amin wants to come here. It surely cannot be because he has not had a holiday this year. It cannot be that he feels some unsatisfied love of our Sovereign. It cannot be that there is no other way in which he can meet his old friends. Why does he want to come? That seems to be the nub of the question. He wants to come in order to demonstrate to the world, and to us in particular, that he can behave contrary to all the tenets that we hold dear, and which the Commonwealth stands for, and get away with it. That, I believe, is his motive, and none other.

We should consider whether it would be more appropriate that when he gets here he is the object of derision and taunt, or whether it would be better to forbid him and enlarge his mindless rage against principles which are dear to Members on all sides of the House. I would have thought that the Foreign Secretary may have juridical difficulties, but there has never been any difficulty in preventing an alien from coming to this country. There are no difficulties in finding juridical reasons for preventing an alien from coming to this country. I hope the Government will not hide behind alleged juridical reasons, because there is no right of an alien, even if he is a member of the British Commonwealth—since it has no membership and no constitution I cannot see that that makes much difference—to come to this country.

But there is another matter which should not be misunderstood in this context. That is the sense of genuine basic revulsion and annoyance which the decent people of this country will feel if we do not stand up for our principles. I took great note of what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) said about the fact that one can have an absolute principle that one does not interfere in the internal affairs of another country whether it commits genocide or not. But I think that where a representative, even if he be an alien, of the Church of whom the Sovereign is the head, namely, the Church of England, is publicly massacred with a cynicism, lie and deceit which cannot often have been equalled in tyranny, it is wrong that such a person should come here immune from any of the proper results of such a piece of horror.

That is a principle that we must understand because the Queen is not only head of the Church of England but also head of the Commonwealth. How is the Sovereign and the constitution to bear a situation in which the Queen must tolerate, with her headship of the Commonwealth, the fact that one of her presidents is entitled to slay the representative of the Church of England of which she is also head? I believe that that poses a much more important constitutional and juridical problem than the mere question whether Her Majesty's Customs and Excise can say "We are sorry" and put someone back on the next aeroplane.

Of course the Foreign Secretary has a grave and weighty responsibility, which no one should under-estimate, not only to the unfortunate British citizens upon whom pique may wreak a terrifying revenge but also to the people of Uganda upon whom pique may equally in a moment of rage, anger, or childishness, wreak a revenge. It would be dangerous, even weak, if we were to say that we were powerless within the Commonwealth—over which we so proudly reign, or of which inter pares we are part—or that we are incapable of enforcing any of the principles which we believe are sacrosanct for the behaviour of Governments and for the conduct of human beings.

It would be symbolic if President Amin, or anyone representing him, were to be allowed to come here in order to demonstrate that one can not only get away with genocide on a scale estimated at 100,000 by the International Commission of Jurists but be praised and lauded for having done so. It is the symbolism of what it would represent that would do the greatest damage.

I should like to think that the first thing the Commonwealth Conference will put on the agenda is discussion of a declaration of human rights to which Commonwealth members could or would subscribe. If we read the articles of the Declaration of Human Rights, we see that very few of them are underwritten in practice by these members of the Commonwealth. I should like to think that, whether President Amin comes here and is derided or whether he is kept away in disreputation, the Conference will consider doing something about a nation that is in bondage and servitude under a tyrant.

1.32 p.m.

Mr. Richard Luce (Shoreham)

We are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) for moving this motion. It will undoubtedly be the last opportunity that this Parliament will have before the Commonwealth Conference begins in two weeks' time to discuss this delicate and difficult issue. It has enabled hon. Members on both sides of the House to express our views as strongly as we can—and our views, with different degrees of emphasis, seem to be more or less unanimous.

On a day such as this, when we are dealing with a Private Member's motion. we are all very glad to see present throughout the whole of the debate the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary.

I should like to make clear that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said in the House on 19th May it would be utterly repugnant if President Amin were to attend the conference."—[Official Report, 19th May 1977; Vol. 932, c. 687.] It seems from the evidence that there is little disagreement with that view in the House. What is noticeable in many speeches today is concern as to whether it would be acceptable to the British people and Parliament that President Amin should be allowed to send representatives. I sympathise with the Secretary of State in this difficult decision, but it would be unacceptable for any leading member of his Administration to come here as a representative. If we ban the President, that surely means that we are banning his régime. I stress that it would be unacceptable for any leading member of his Administration to come here.

One or two hon. Members have drawn a parallel between the present situation and past occasions. For example, if we had decided to ban Hitler from this country for one reason or another, would he have been any less or more acceptable than Himmler or Goebbels would have been? What would have happened if we had decided not to allow Stalin to come to this country? Would it have been any more or less acceptable to have had Beria coming here? This is an important point that needs to be taken into account by the Secretary of State.

I believe that there is a difference between previous Commonwealth Conferences and this year's Conference. Previously President Amin decided not to attend but to send a representative. On this occasion we are advocating that he should be banned from coming, and are therefore saying that his régime is unacceptable. It is surely the case that not only Amin but his régime and all those who support him in his Administration are beyond the pale of civilisation. We are talking about a tyrant who has committed appalling atrocities. Words cannot describe what we all feel about his actions since he came to power. I believe that the whole régime and all its leading members share in the guilt of what has happened in Uganda.

We have reached the conclusion that President Amin's presence would be unacceptable and offensive to the British people. The Foreign Secretary told the House that the Commonwealth Secretary, Mr. Ramphal, has indicated that he has considerable sympathy with the British Government in their decision in terms of physical safety and public security. What is more, one of the great African leaders, President Kaunda, was reported earlier this week to have said that had he been host to the Commonwealth Conference—and had this not been Jubilee year the conference would have been held in Zambia—he would have found it unacceptable to have allowed President Amin into his country. We should also carefully consider that point.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) referred to our great historic ties with the people of Uganda. Because we have great concern for its people, we feel more passionately about this problem. I served in the overseas Civil Service in East Africa, and as a young boy I used to cross the border from Southern Sudan into Uganda to see some of our friends there. I and many other people who served in that part of the world have acquired a great affection for the people who live in Uganda and in East Africa generally. Our special ties with that part of the world lead us to even more concern and passion about the present situation and in deciding whether we should allow President Amin into this country.

The background of the situation has been highlighted by many hon. Members. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) referred to the International Commission of Jurists. We are all aware of the successive reports on this subject, of which the most recent is only one of many, indicating the degree of atrocities in Uganda. The figures show that in the first two years of Amin's régime at least 80,000 people were murdered, and that figure is now estimated to be over 100,000. Indeed, Amnesty International, in a less deep assessment, reckoned that figure to be between 50,000 and 300,000 in the last six years.

The report from the International Commission of Jurists points to the growing abuses of human rights in Uganda. It points to the expulsion of Asians in 1972 and to growing abuses in other fields. The most recent report refers to the reign of terror and to the policy of Amin in seeking to eliminate all those who might be a threat to him, particularly the more educated people. It refers to the atrocities at Acholi and Lango and to many other tribes. It also pointed to the accumulated evidence of atrocities, for example, at the village of Lira, the corpses in the Mabira and Namumre Forests in 1974, and the killings at Makcrere University in 1976. It tells of the murder of Chief Justice Kiwannka, the assassination of two former Cabinet Ministers, and the brutal murder of Archbishop Luwum. There is the endless persecution of Christians in a country where it is estimated that about one-third of the people are Roman Catholic and one-third Anglican.

There is the terrible use by Amin of his State Research Unit. My hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) referred to the support which, the evidence suggests, Amin is getting from outside Powers such as Libya and the Soviet Union. It is noticeable, and should be noted by the British people, that the Soviet Union is more and more moving in to support some of the most odious regimes. It is not just Uganda. There is the recent evidence of such activity in Ethiopia. It is noticeable that the Soviet Union is moving in to support regimes that reasonable and friendly African leaders themselves must regard with the greatest of concern.

There was a most moving cry of pain, if I may put it that way, in the report of the International Commission of Jurists, in a letter that it published from Wannme Kibedi, who was Uganda's Foreign Secretary in Amin's early days but who resigned. He wrote to Amin: When future generations look at your period of one-man rule in Uganda they will realise that never in the history of our beautiful country did one man ever cause so much misery and bitterness to so many people in such a short period of time. Your excesses are exceptional and unique to you and in no way representative of independent Africa. I think that that is a fair point, and one that we in this country understand, for in the African context Amin has done a gross disservice to the African people.

Moreover, Amin has made a settlement in Rhodesia that much more difficult, because he has instilled into the Europeans there an even greater fear of what could happen if an agreement were reached about majority rule—a fear that some people may say is irrational but which has, understandably, been whipped up by what is happening in Uganda. President Amin has done a great disservice to the Africans in Rhodesia by his massacres in Uganda. No African has the right to condemn what is happening in South Africa, or condemn, as was rightly condemned, the Sharpeville massacre in the 1960s, if at the same time he fails to condemn the atrocities in Uganda.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) said, there had been until recently a sad and ominous silence from the leaders of the other African States, until the brave and statesmanlike statement by President Kaunda this week. The Organisation of African Unity has said nothing; at the Cairo conference of Arab nations, nothing was said.

Within the Commonwealth context, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire said, if the Commonwealth means anything this is surely the kind of issue upon which we must make a stand. Indeed, if it does not mean anything, what is the point of its continuing? But I believe that it does mean something. I believe that we have between us great historic ties and that we can still be, despite what many people think, a unique force for peace in a troubled world.

When we worked together in the Empire, we stood for freedom under the law, freedom from fear, freedom from terror, and, above all, in the context of these atrocities, freedom to live. So I am entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman that when the Commonwealth Heads of Government meet, whatever the final formula arrived at, the British will ask that the situation in Uganda be fully discussed and consideration be given to what further action can be taken. Indeed, I go along with the view of many of my Friends that there is a strong case for setting up some kind of machinery in the Commonwealth to deal with the human rights situation as it exists.

Dr. Owen

I am grateful for the tone of what the hon. Gentleman is saying. The agenda of the Conference is agreed by consensus, just as the form and pattern of the meeting, whether in open session, plenary session or closed session, is a matter for consensus. I assure the House that we shall lose no opportunity open to us, through diplomatic means, the United Nations, the Commonwealth or by direct representations, to change the current policies of the Ugandan Government and to make it abundantly clear to them, on issues of human rights and many other aspects, that it is fundamentally important that there should be a complete and radical change of policy.

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. That is a great reassurance to us. There is no place for tyranny in the membership of the Commonwealth.

My final point is on the general question of human rights, to which many hon. Members have made reference. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge—with his experience of the United Nations—and my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath made strong references to the whole question of machinery for human rights. I agree that the present machinery of the United Nations shows futility in its being unable to do anything whatever to get impartial and objective assessments and follow-up action. We are entitled to say that whether the situation be in Chile, in Ethiopia, in South Africa, in Cambodia, in Uganda, in Indonesia or in the Eastern bloc, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights should look at these issues from an impartial and objective point of view. There should be no double standards, but I am afraid that the evidence of the last few years suggests that we have had the most terrible degree of double standards in looking at these issues.

The International Commission of Jurists has referred the Uganda situation to the United Nations Commission no fewer than three successive times in three years, and each time that Commission has decided not to make a thorough review and not to take follow-up action. It has simply said that it will keep the matter under review. All that it has done in the past—and I do not blame it in these individual cases—is to set up working parties to look at the situations in Chile, South Africa and Israel. That is fine, but there are many other parts of the world which the Commission should be examining.

The right hon. Gentleman should make the strongest possible representations to the United Nations Commission that it should use teeth and look into the question of the atrocities in Uganda and try to do something about the situation. If it does not do that, the whole thing can only be regarded as a complete farce. I urge the Government to take all the action they can to support President Carter's move to make that Commission not only impartial and objective but to give it teeth.

The Commonwealth must be left in no doubt today, after this debate, about the views of the British people and of the British Parliament. We are friends of the people of Uganda, and we want them to know that it is unacceptable that their oppressor should be allowed into London and that we all long for the day when ordinary standards of civilised behaviour can once again reign in Uganda.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House would not welcome the presence of the President of Uganda at the forthcoming Commonwealth Conference.

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