HC Deb 08 December 1978 vol 959 cc1738-833

11.30 a.m.

Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

I beg to move,

That this House expresses its concern that Her Majesty's Government may be intending to support the imposition of economic sanctions against South Africa and believes that such sanctions, if imposed, would be likely to be unenforceable, would be resented by the black as well as the white community in South Africa, would severly damage the economies of other states in southern Africa, and would have serious consequences for employment in the United Kingdom.

For the past 13 years both Conservative and Labour Governments have rejected a policy involving an economic embargo against South Africa. They have rejected it in terms of seeking to influence internal domestic policy in South Africa and as a means of seeking to enforce a sanctions policy against Rhodesia. Anybody who has studied the Bingham report knows that again and again Labour Ministers, for very good reasons at that time, ruled out economic sanctions against South Africa.

I tabled this motion because there is a clear indication that the Government are in the process of changing their mind on this important issue. In May or June of this year inquiries were made by the Departments of Industry and of Trade of a number of British engineering, shipbuilding and chemical firms asking them what would be the effect on their industries if a trade embargo were to be imposed against South Africa. I have no doubt that this was carried out not as an academic exercise but because Government circles were considering the possible implications of such a policy. I believe that firms such as ICI and GKN were included in this inquiry.

That is only one small indication of a possible change of mind by the Government. On 12th November this year in the United Nations, Britain, with other Western States, abstained on a Security Council resolution which warned South Africa that if it did not change its policy on Namibia the Security Council might move towards consideration of economic sanctions against South Africa. On 22nd November this year, in reply to a supplementary question asked by me, the Foreign Secretary refused to give an assurance that the Government would oppose any such sanctions policy. He said: I am not prepared to give a categorical assurance that in no circumstances would we not agree with a resolution involving sanctions on South Africa."—[Official Report, 22nd November 1978; Vol. 958, c. 1252.] That statement clearly indicates that the Government either have changed their policy, or are in the process of considering a change in a policy which has been pursued by successive Conservative and Labour Governments over the past 13 years.

If we take at face value the statements made by Ministers on a number of occasions, we are faced with two possible interpretations of what is happening. Either the British Government are bluffing —in other words, that although they have no intention of voting for economic sanctions against South Africa, they wish to give that impression at this stage in an attempt to persuade South Africa to change its policies—or they are not bluffing and they have undertaken a serious change of policy. Those are the only two possible explanations of what we are now witnessing.

I am well aware that not only our own Foreign Office but many Foreign Ministers throughout the world believe that in the interests of diplomacy it is occasionally necessary to be ambiguous, uncertain and vague about the details of one's policy and future commitments. I recall that Harold Macmillan, when he was Foreign Secretary, once said in this House: A Foreign Secretary… is always caught with this cruel dilemma… He is for ever poised between the cliche and the indiscretion." —[Official Report, 27th July 1955; Vol. 544, c. 1298–9.] He said that a Foreign Secretary is either dull or dangerous. The danger in regard to the present Foreign Secretary is that he is moving towards a position in which he will be dull and dangerous. It is the dangerous aspect of his approach that worries me.

If the Government are merely bluffing, if they believe that in order to ensure our continuing good relations with black Africa and countries of the Third world it is necessary not to give the impression at this stage that they are ruling out any question of an economic embargo, although at the end of the day that is what they will do, I believe that is a dangerous and short-sighted policy.

' Sooner or later that bluff will be called, and Britain will have to make clear its position on an economic embargo. If it becomes clear to our friends and other countries in black Africa that all along Britain has had no intention of operating an economic embargo, that will do more harm to our international position and our interests than if we were clearly to state our position now.

Surely if we have learnt anything from the Bingham report and from the fiasco of Rhodesian sanctions, it is that a policy pursued primarily for cosmetic reasons to gain short-term diplomatic initiatives will do lasting damage to this country when eventually the intentions of the Government become clear. If it is the Government's policy simply to create the impression that they are open to the imposition of economic sanctions against South Africa and that there is no real change of policy, I believe that will be dangerous and harmful to our long-term national interests.

I assume that that may not be the Government's policy, but I turn now to the more dangerous aspect which will present itself if they have changed their policy and are seriously considering a total economic embargo against South Africa—or, more likely, a selective system of sanctions to be imposed on a relatively small scale. If that is the situation, the first issue that inevitably must be raised is whether such a policy would be enforceable. We have seen in the past 13 years in the case of Rhodesia—a small, relatively weak country, with no access to the sea, with relatively insignificant military potential and few vital natural resources—that it has been impossible for Britain and the world as a whole through economic sanctions to achieve the objective for which the sanctions were imposed.

If such a policy is unenforceable in the case of small, land-locked Rhodesia, is it credible that such a policy would be enforceable in the case of South Africa—a country with a long coastline, significant military potential and in possession of vast, vital mineral resources and with a vast area to police and protect? If it is not enforceable, it would be absurd to initiate such proceedings.

Such a policy can be thought to be enforceable only if Western Governments and the United Nations are contemplating a full naval and air blockade of South Africa. Without such a blockade there would be easy access to anybody who wished to frustrate a sanctions policy. If such a blockade is within the parameters of possible policies by the United Kingdom Government, who will provide this naval blockade? Is it suggested that the Royal Navy, with its experience in the Beira patrol, will be called upon to patrol the whole of the South African coast?

Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)

What about the Russian navy?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) suggests another possibility for undertaking this exercise. Will it be the United States—or will it be one of the most powerful navies in the world, the Soviet navy, which will be asked, on behalf of the United Nations, to enforce such a policy?

This is not a ridiculous suggestion, because there are relatively few countries which have navies able to enforce such a blockade. We are left with the United States and the Soviet Union as the two most likely countries. Is it seriously suggested that it will be in the interests of the United Kingdom to invite the Soviet Union to play a major part in enforcement of such a blockade? Unless the Government are contemplating a naval and air blockade of South Africa, and unless they know who will provide the means, that is a factor which illustrates the poverty of thought by the Government if there is indeed a change of policy.

We must consider another aspect of this problem. If the Government are moving in this direction, what thought have they given to the question of the mineral resources of South Africa on which the United Kingdom and other Western countries so strongly depend? We all know that a large number of minerals are concentrated, to an extraordinary degree, in South Africa. More than 70 per cent of the world production of gold comes from South Africa. Have the Government contemplated this fact? From where would they, or the Western world in general, get their gold supplies? Are we to be dependent on the Soviet Union?

Platinum is another example. More than 90 per cent. of world production of platinum comes from either South Africa or the Soviet Union. That mineral is of great importance to many essential industries upon which we depend. If we deny ourselves access to platinum from South Africa, are we to become dependent on the Soviet Union for our supplies?

Yet another example is manganese. Again, more than 90 per cent. of the known resources of this metal are in either South Africa or the Soviet Union.

Will the Government be hypocritical and say that they will not trade with South Africa except in certain minerals which we need? I do not think that that would impress anyone. The alternatives are a dependence on the Soviet Union, or an acceptance that these minerals will not be available to the West, with all the consequences to our own industry and technology.

Perhaps the Government are not contemplating seriously a total embargo on South Africa. I accept that that is likely. What they and other Western countries, particularly the United States, might be contemplating is a few selective sanctions, imposed on a number of minor aspects of trade as a warning to South Africa of what might follow unless there is a change in policy.

What would that involve? The obvious case in point is oil. This is one of the few resources that South Africa does not possess to any significant extent. There have been suggestions over the years that if South Africa could be denied access to oil this would be a way of strangling its economy and enforcing political change.

Is that realistic? Oil can be prevented from getting to South Africa only by a total naval blockade. However selective the sanctions might be, they could not begin to be enforced without such a blockade. But, in any event, few people seem to appreciate that South Africa is far less dependent on oil than most other countries. It does not use it for its industry to any significant extent; it uses it simply for transport. By next year it is estimated that South Africa will have 28 per cent. of its own requirements of oil produced from coal resources. Already South Africa has reserves of oil which would enable it to survive for up to four years even if there were a total blockade.

Therefore, unless we envisage a long-term policy of slow strangulation through the denial of oil supplies, it is unlikely that any significant impact would be made.

There is a much more serious criticism that could be made of a policy of selective sanctions of the small cosmetic kind. Until now the only embargo that the West has agreed with is the arms embargo. Once the United Nations, with Western support or acquiescence, allows any form of economic sanction of the type that may be contemplated at present, the principle of opposition to economic sanctions has been breached, and we shall find ourselves going slowly but inexorably towards a policy of full economic sanctions against South Africa.

There may be some people, including some Labour Members, who would welcome such a policy, and that is a perfectly logical and consistent approach. But it is hypocritical for anyone to argue that we can impose one or two forms of economic sanction on South Africa and yet resist total economic embargo.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Does the hon. Member accept the case for an arms embargo?

Mr. Rifkind

That is a separate issue. Personally I accent the case for the arms embargo—an embargo on the supply of any form of arms or military equipment that can be used to enforce or prolong the system of apartheid. But that is a separate issue. An economic embargo has implications far beyond the question of arms supplies. Once there is acquiescence in the principle of economic sanctions against South Africa, there will be no logical stopping point before a full economic embargo.

I do not believe that one can have selective sanctions. If is is simply a cosmetic operation, it will not be effective. It will not lead to the ending of apartheid, or persuade the South African Government to see the error of their ways and demolish the existing political and social system. It will simply be a cosmetic exercise which will be increasingly ignored and which will inevitably lead to further demands for more comprehensive economic sanctions, which the Government and other Western Governments could not in logic resist once they had accepted the principle itself.

Let us assume that the Government are moving in that direction and contemplating the enforcement of substantial economic sanctions against South Africa. Who would suffer as a result? Other States in Southern Africa would be affected. If any effective system of economic sanctions were enforced against South Africa, it would mean a strangulation of the economies of several black African States in that part of the Continent.

Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland depend on South Africa for 90 per cent. of their imports. More than half a million of their citizens, and citizens of Mozambique, work in South Africa and would be the first to suffer if any contraction of the South African economy led to mass unemployment. They are foreign nationals working in South Africa and they would have to return to their homelands. There would be disastrous consequences for the economies of these land-locked and weak countries which, for historical reasons beyond their control, are dependent on the South African economy for their survival, not just their prosperity.

Then there is the question of not-so-small States. Zambia only recently had to reopen its links with South Africa in order to ensure vital supplies of fertiliser and other products. Clearly, no policy of sanctions against South Africa could be enforced without closing the lifeline to Zambia again. Similar considerations apply in the case of Mozambique. We know that the whole economy of South Mozambique is dependent on its entrepot role as a supplier of the hinterland of South Africa. Therefore, Mozambique's, economy would be severely damaged. That is why the present Mozambique Government are only too anxious to maintain their economic links with South Africa, despite abhorrence of that country's system of government.

Therefore, we know that a realistic policy of effective sanctions would have the most serious and damaging consequences, not just for South Africa but for every State in that region—those governed by Africans as well as those governed by whites.

Let us look beyond those States and consider the consequences in South Africa. Itself, One of the most significant facts is that the black community in South Africa, while being over-overwhelmingly hostile to apartheid, is substantially divided over the question of whether an economic boycott is the best means of dealing with this issue. Many of the most prominent spokesmen, who are hostile opponents of apartheid in South Africa, have come out against economic boycott as being a realistic or helpful solution to the problem. Gatsha Buthelezi has strongly opposed economic boycotts on numerous occasions. Percy Qoboza, who was recently arrested and imprisoned by the South African Government for his hostility to apartheid, has spoken against an economic boycott.

I refer hon. Members to a remark made by a black shop steward which typifies the views of many black Africans in industrial jobs. He was commenting on the possibility of the United States supporting economic sanctions. This man, by the name of Freddy Sauls, who is organiser of black and coloured workers in the Port Elizabeth automobile industry, said: It is all very well for people to urge disinvestment who sit in safe comfort in some nice office 8,000 miles away. But if the American auto plants here close down I'd have thousands of men looking for work and literally wondering where the next meal would come from. I do not believe that is an isolated point of view. It reflects the views of a vast number of black South Africans and others in South Africa who are hostile to apartheid.

The centre for business studies at the university of Witwatersrand showed in a survey that about one in 10 new jobs in South Africa were provided by foreign investment. That is a significant number in a country with a rapidly growing population who need to be provided with proper employment in order to maintain and ensure a decent standard of living. If the Minister has any remaining doubts on this issue, he should ponder the remark that was made in this House by a prominent right hon. Member earlier this year: An economic confrontation with sanctions over South Africa may come. But let no one be under any illusion, this is not a cause which should be relished by anyone who has the interests of the people of Southern Africa at heart, for those whom we do not wish to hurt will suffer most."—[Official Report, 7th November 1978; Vol. 957, c. 699-700.] It was the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary who said that. If that is the right hon. Gentleman's view, as I am sure it is—the Under-Secretary nods approval —and in the Government's own view the black people of South Africa would suffer most by the imposition of economic sanctions, how absurd it would be if the present Government were in any way to acquiesce in the introduction of economic sanctions against South Africa. It is clearly a policy that would not help the very people it is designed to help in the eyes of those who support it.

I turn finally to the effect that such a policy would have in the United Kingdom. I deliberately reserve this for last because I fully accept that if it could be demonstrated that the imposition of economic sanctions would in a short time lead to the destruction and disappearance of apartheid, and its replacement by a decent system of government, there would be a powerful case for Britain and other countries making sacrifices in order to support such a system, But, because I believe that the effect would be the contrary, the policy should be opposed.

It is clearly legitimate and proper that the Government and the House should contemplate the consequences in this country if such a policy were imposed. Let us consider the extent of Britain's economic links with South Africa. Our exports are about £580 million a year. We have a total income, including earnings from invisibles, approaching £2,000 million a year. We have total investments in South Africa now valued at over £5,000 million. Ten per cent. of our total foreign investment is in South Africa.

Therefore, we are not dealing in small figures. We are not dealing with a country that is peripheral to our economic interest. Indeed, the United Kingdom would be far more severely affected by any comprehensive system of economic embargo against South Africa than any other country, including the United States and France, West Germany and other countries in Western Europe.

Over 50 per cent. of the foreign investment in South Africa comes from the United Kingdom. That would all be forfeited if an economic embargo were imposed. Over 400 British firms have trading links with South Africa. That substantial number of firms would be jeopardised if economic sanctions were applied. I mention only one firm as an example. GEC Traction, in Sheffield, depends almost entirely on its South African market for its very existence. It would go out of business if any sanctions were imposed.

Let us consider the consequences on employment in this country. I should be interested if the Government could confirm the estimate that I have heard, which was given in a speech by the president of the United Kingdom South Africa Trade Association. That figure, based on studies, is that if full economic sanctions were imposed the initial effect would be the loss of 70,000 jobs in the United Kingdom, simply from the cessation of trading links.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Would the hon. Gentleman care to identify the source of his statistics? Did they come from a booklet called"Economic Sanctions: A Political Back-grounder ", issued by South Africa House about a fortnight ago?

Mr. Rifkind

No. The hon. Gentleman may obtain his information about South Africa from South Africa House, but I do not need to use that source, although I can understand his problems in this respect. The figures that I am using—

Mr. Robert Hughes

They are suspiciously high.

Mr. Rifkind

I have no doubt that South Africa House has access to the same figures as I have access to. The only point I am making is that I do not have to go there to get them. The figures are based on a study carried out in that well-known centre of opposition to the South African Government, the university of Witwatersrand. Its centre for business economics carried out the inquiry.

Mr. Robert Hughes

It is the same material.

Mr. Rifkind

That may very well be, but it does not come from Government sources or sources sympathetic to apartheid. The estimated immediate increase in unemployment in this country as a result of the cessation of trading links is 70,000, and it is estimated that a further 180,000 would be unemployed if we were to deny ourselves access to the minerals that we presently import from South Africa, on which much of our industry depends and which cannot be obtained from alternative sources. Therefore, a total and effective embargo of the South African economy could lead to a quarter of a million jobs being lost in the United Kingdom.

If the hon. Gentleman disagrees with those figures, the Government have the power to make their own assessment. They have the resources, and they have no doubt been making inquiries— although they are not prepared to admit them publicly—of British firms and industry. If the Government disagrees with that assessment, let the Minister or his hon. Friends state what their assessment is. The British public have a right to know the employment consequences of a policy that might be pursued by the United Kingdom Government.

As to the effect on the United Kingdom. I again quote that authoritative source, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, who said in a speech to the Young Fabians in October 1977: Our economic links with South Africa could not disappear overnight without causing dislocation to the domestic economy and having severe repercussions on the level of employment. We are living in the real world, and this is a harsh fact which we have to take more into account than any other Western European country.

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

Impeccable sources.

Mr. Rifkind

I always rely on impeccable sources, because I know that the Minister will pay great attention to them. As he, like me, believes that his right hon. Friend is an impeccable source, I assume that that is still the Government's approach, that they accept that the people who would suffer most from an economic embargo would be black South Africans rather than white and that there would be the severest employment consequences in this country as a result of a policy of trade embargo. If the Government take that view, it should not be difficult for the Minister to give a categorical assurance today that the United Kingdom could not support any such policy were it to be raised in the United Nations or any other forum. We are not arguing about the merits of the policy. It appears that the Government, if not the Minister's hon. Friends, agree with us about the likely effect of such a policy.

I do not doubt, and I do not think that any hon. Member would doubt, that those who control the Government machine in South Africa—the Afrikaaner community, the Afrikaaner political establishment—are not likely to change their whole political philosophy because of economic sanctions. Even if such sanctions were to be effective, they are unlikely to turn their backs on a belief which, however strangely, however indefensibly in our eyes, they have held for many years and which is part of their very thinking. I do not believe that economic sanctions would have a persuasive effect. If they did, there might be something to be said for them.

There is a much more powerful argument—that the absurdity of apartheid, its indefensibility and unworkability, is to be much more clearly demonstrated by the growing industrialisation of South Africa and by its growing prosperity, for black and white people within it, than by any system of boycott. The extent to which apartheid is already breaking down at many levels in industry is caused not by the poverty of the country but by its very wealth, the dependence of white South Africa on black labour to keep its economic machine going.

The reason the homelands policy is not working is that, although it might meet the needs of people in rural areas, it does not begin to deal with the problems of the urban African, who needs the white economy and on whom the white economy almost totally depends. That is the way in which apartheid will eventually collapse and be replaced by a system more acceptable to the black community and world opinion as a whole.

If the Government agree with that analysis, it would be harmful and dangerous if they were to allow the United Kingdom, Western Europe and the Western world as a whole to embark on a sanctions policy which, however well meaning, could only thwart that process, and could only lead to the severest consequences for our own economy without any corresponding benefit to the black and coloured communities of South Africa.

It is a very dangerous path that the Government appear to be willing to set out on. If I am wrong in suggesting that that is the path on which they are setting out, the Minister has a golden opportunity today to nail that suggestion once and for all by denying any possibility of a British movement towards a policy of economic sanctions.

12 noon.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)

In common with every other hon. Member, I regret the illness of the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) and I wish her a speedy recovery. However, I am pleased that inadvertently we have the opportunity to discuss the very important subject of apartheid in South Africa and Britain's position in it in the comparative calm of a Friday morning. This is a very welcome motion, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands (Mr. Rifkind) for the manner in which he moved it. Many of us thought that it would not be reached today.

I take the point made by the hon. Member for Pentlands that, if the Government are contemplating economic sanctions against South Africa, as I greatly hope they are, certain questions have to be answered concerning the extent of the sanctions, their effect on this country, their effect on South Africa, and so on. I look forward to hearing the Minister's answers to the questions put to him very fairly by the hon. Member for Pentlands.

I make one other general comment. The hon. Member for Pentlands is perfectly right to detail the economic involvement of this country with South Africa. That economic involvement has grown over the past 15 to 20 years.

It is nearly two decades since the antiapartheid movement in this country called for the economic boycott of all goods to South Africa. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) and I were very much involved in it at the time. We argued all that time ago that, if the economic involvement of Britain with South Africa did not begin to change, if investment were not curtailed and if alternative markets for both imports and exports were not found, at the end of the day Britain would be saying that she could not possibly join in economic sanctions against South Africa because they would be too damaging to her own economy.

At the time of the unilateral declaration of independence in Rhodesia, which occurred roughly 10 years after the formation of the anti-apartheid movement in this country, Britain argued just that, and we all know, having read the Bingham report, that it was the actions of South Africa which militated against the success of any sanctions policy against Rhodesia even if we had been able to apply the oil embargo.

What the hon. Member for Pentlands said about the extent of British involvement in South Africa is true. It is because so many of us have argued consistently over the years that this would happen that we are where we are today. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North will be dealing with one or two of the matters raised by the hon. Member for Pentlands—and undoubtedly the Minister must deal with them —but I am bound to make this point on the subject of alternative markets. The hon. Member for Pentlands is right when he says that successive British Governments have argued that we could not support economic sanctions against South Africa because of our own involvement and because of the difficulty of finding alternative sources of many of the raw materials with which South Africa supplies us. I was in the Foreign Office at the time of the overthrow of the Allende Government in Chile, and I remember my own Government arguing that, if we were too hard on Chile, we would not be able to buy her copper and that it would be almost impossible to find an alternative source of copper if that happened. We all know that copper is not exactly in short supply and never was There were always alternative markets from which we could obtain our copper.

I do not want to push this counter-argument too far, but I think that the Minister must say, if it is to be argued that it would be difficult to find alternative sources of many of these raw materials, just how hard we are looking.

I was very interested in a speech which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs made last March in the course of which he stressed Britain's over-involvement with South Africa and said that it needed to be looked at carefully. I remember writing to my right hon. Friend and congratulating him on his speech, which was made outside this House and received some publicity. I thought that at last we were beginning to review our position and that possibly some good results would come of it.

Two arguments are advanced on the subject of Britain's involvement with South Africa. The first is that Britain cannot afford to pull out. The second is that the existence of Britain's subsidiaries, investment and trade will help to achieve the emancipation of the blacks, that the influence of Britain and other countries in South Africa will help to enhance the economic position of the blacks, and that ultimately by our example, by the way in which we behave, and because of the sheer dependence of South Africa on the blacks, they will become better educated and have better job opportunities which will begin to break clown the system of apartheid.

Those were the arguments. There was the economic argument that it was in our interests to maintain trade with South Africa. But the second argument which must not be forgotten was that this was the way that apartheid would begin to crumble.

We have been through two or three phases of codes of conduct for British firms in South Africa which have come to nothing. It has been argued that, it only we could persuade British companies in South Africa to recognise trade unions —of course, in the general sense that is not possible because trade unions of any force are not allowed, in any event—if only they were compelled to pay their black workers the same as they paid their white workers, and if only we had codes of conduct with real teeth, the position of the blacks would change.

I put it to the hon. Member for Pent-lands and all other hon. Members who take the view that our presence in South Africa in terms of subsidiary companies and in terms of investment improves the position of the blacks, that that has not happened. It is true that South Africa's economic position today is not as rosy as it was in terms of foreign investment and of its ability to raise loans. But in fact unemployment among the blacks is increasing. The argument that Britain's economic involvement was of advantage to the blacks has not been proved. I am reminded of the argument about Britain remaining in the Common Market. It was said that if we came out, we would have unemployment. We stayed in, and we have an unemployment rate which shows very little signs of changing. The argument that the economic involvement of Britain and the West in South Africa would enhance the position of the blacks has not proved to be right.

We must also bear in mind the massive immigration into South Africa of whites from all parts of the world, especially from this country. That in its turn has militated against any improvement in the economic position of the blacks in South Africa.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)

The hon. Member is not being as logical as she usually is. If there is increasing unemployment both here and in South Africa, surely the position in both countries would be far worse if sanctions were applied, which is what we are discussing today.

Miss Lestor

I prefer not to pursue that, save to say that I am riot being illogical. I thank the hon. and gallant Member for his compliment. As he says, I am a very logical person. I am saying that we have unemployment here and that there is increasing unemployment among the black population in South Africa. However, the argument has been that we should damage the position of the blacks in South Africa and that if we imposed economic sanctions there would be unemployment there. This is happening, anyway. All the arguments in favour of our involvement in South Africa have been overturned because those improvements have not occurred. This has always been the defence of those who have argued that we must stay in South Africa.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Miss Lestor

I shall give way to the hon. Member in a moment. However, I should prefer to be allowed to develop my argument a little further. The hon. Member knows that I have no animosity towards him, although we are on different sides of the fence. Recently, our bicycles almost collided on Westminster bridge, so on that we stand together. It was his fault, incidentally. He did not know his left from his right. I shall give way to him in a moment.

I and many of my hon. Friends look with horror at Britain's increasing involvement in South Africa in relation to apartheid. Apartheid is not breaking down, believe that it is stronger than ever. We have raised the issue of ICL computers in South Africa and the fact that those computers are being used by the police for the purpose of entrenching apartheid. They are now being advertised in Rhodesia.

South Africa is now a nuclear power because of technical knowledge and skill obtained from the West. Nobody can convince me that it is in the interests of blacks in South Africa or any other country that South Africa should be a nuclear power. It is as big a threat to peace as any threat from the Soviet Union that hon. Members may mention in this House.

It is true that successive Governments of whatever complexion have so far ruled out economic sanctions against South Africa. I was a Minister in the Foreign Office for a brief but merry period from 1974 until after the referendum of 1975. At that time, we conducted a review on South Africa. It was agreed that, apart from one or two minor extensions of the arms embargo, there could be no question of economic sanctions against South Africa.

As the hon. Member for Pentlands said, times are changing. Attitudes are changing among other countries. They have been voiced through the United Nations Security Council. Attitudes are also changing in this country.

In the past 20 years, predictions have been made about the breakdown of apartheid and about how the involvement of Britain and the West could influence the attitude of Governments in South Africa. Yet we find that the attitude of the South African Government to apartheid is stronger than ever.

The hon. Gentleman's information on Buthelezi is out of date. Chief Buthelezi is seriously questioning the West's economic involvement in South Africa. Until recently, Buthelezi argued against economic sanctions. 'That does not make Buthelezi right or wrong, but the latest information is that he now wonders whether he was right to advocate that course. What he believed would happen—I believe many hon. Members here hoped that it would happen—has not taken place.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Would my hon. Friend confirm that Chief Buthelezi was extremely angry and protested bitterly about the use of his name in a South African Government advertisement opposing economic sanctions which appeared in the British press?

Miss Lestor

Yes. My hon. Friend has made a valid point. This did take place recently and Buthelezi protested strongly about it.

In August 1976, several hon. Members, from both sides of the House, were privileged to attend the World Conference Against Apartheid in Nigeria. Documents produced at that conference showed the decline in the South African economy, the decline in the position of the blacks, and the problem of unemployment. They also reinforced—this information has been updated since 1976—the argument for Britain to change her economic involvement, especially in relation to black Africa.

The balance of Britain's trade with South Africa is now in deficit. The balance of Britain's trade with Nigeria gives considerable hope that our influence in that part of the world will extend economically and in other ways. The 1977 figures show imports from South Africa of £876 million and exports to South Africa of £586 million. In the same year, Britain exported to Nigeria £1,078 million of goods and imported £237 million of goods. There are comparative figures for many other parts of Africa which show that our balance of trade, almost by accident—we do not have a definite policy—is beginning to change.

If we took positive steps to reduce our involvement in South Africa and extend it to black Africa, two things would happen. Economically, we would be in a much stronger position. We should also be able to wield much more influence in those countries in which many hon. Members, including some of my hon. Friends, are worried about the influence of the Communist bloc. We cannot keep out the Communist influence by staying outside. We can counter that influence only by having an economic stake in those countries, an interdependence between the two sides.

Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)

Does not the hon. Lady realise that the vast part of our imports from South Africa are of minerals and raw materials? They are vital to keep the wheels of the industry turning in Britain. Many of those raw materials cannot be obtained from any other country.

Miss Lestor

That is a fair point to make and one of the points that the Minister will obviously have to answer, but I have already referred to copper. The question was asked"How are we going to get copper if we are too hard on Chile "? We now know what is the position of copper throughout the world.

South Africa is not the only country that possesses the mineral resources required by this country. We have never tried elsewhere. We have always used this argument and have increasingly extended our involvement in South Africa. We now say, as many predicted nearly 20 years ago, when the Anti-Apartheid Movement first became active in this country, that there is no alternative to our sources of minerals. I do not accept that.

My argument breaks down only if there are no alternative means of obtaining the goods that we need. I believe that there are alternative means.

It is also argued that Britain's involvement in black Africa would not be welcome. I believe that such involvement would be welcomed with open arms. When I visit black Africa, I am saddened to see confirmation that Britain has lost many opportunities to countries of the Communist bloc. That is a pity. One of my main concerns about apartheid and Rhodesia is that for 20 or more years, Britain's economic involvement in South Africa has increased and been enhanced.

Many hon. Members have argued that this was the way to change apartheid, but another more fundamental and more worrying point must be borne in mind. At the end of the day, a country is driven to defend its economic interests wherever they exist. If our economic interests in South Africa continue to escalate, the day may come when we have to choose where we stand on apartheid. We will have to make a positive stand, not simply indulge in a lot of hot air. My fear has always been that Britain's stand would be based on her economic interests. That would be a terrible mistake for this country, apartheid and the whole of black Africa.

I welcome this debate and the questions that the hon. Member for Pentlands has asked. I should welcome signs from the Government that they intend to examine the question of Britain's economic involvement in South Africa. That would have a positive effect on the changes that must take place in that country.

12.20 p.m.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), who is always so courteous with the House. There are probably two bicycle lengths between the red lines in front of the two Front Benches.

Even to contemplate the application of economic sanctions against South Africa is unworthy of British statesmen. Any Ministers who applied them would merit impeachment. We know that the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has contemplated the imposition of sanctions. In his book"The Politics of Defence ", the right hon. Gentleman envisaged the good offices of the Soviet fleet in a blockade of the Republic of South Africa. The hon. Member for Eton and Slough asked why South Africa was a nuclear Power. I should have thought that such manifestations, not only from the East but from the West, accounted for the feeling of vulnerability which has prompted South Africa to become, as I believe it is, potentially a military nuclear Power.

Of course we have an exceptional Foreign Secretary. He is petulantly capable of almost anything. It is no wonder that the Prime Minister, in his shrewdness, beholding the wreck of the Foreign Secretary's policy in southern Africa, turned to the right hon. and greatly respected Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) to try to salvage something from that wreck.

The Government had a solution in Rhodesia within their grasp and they threw is away. The hon. Member for Eton and Slough attacked South Africa for frustrating sanctions against Rhodesia. However, that may be, it is largely due to South Africa, against which, it is suggested, sanctions should be taken, that the Anglo-American plan presented by Dr. Kissinger to Mr. Ian Smith was accepted by the Rhodesian Prime Minister.

To say the least, to suggest sanctions against South Africa is somewhat ungrateful. It was not South Africa's fault that Her Majesty's Government failed to build a settlement on that promising foundation. The failure arose because of a cowardly attempt to appease the unappeasable guerrilla warlords of the Patriotic Front. There is a sinister symmetry between the desire of Labour Members to install the Patriotic Front in power in Salisbury, although it dare not face a free electorate within Rhodesia, and the desire to install SWAPO in Namibia. Both are chosen instruments of Soviet imperalism.

It has been said that Europe breathes on two lungs—Middle East oil and South African minerals. Both are threatened by a Soviet squeeze. Hon. Members may not like the Shah, but let us think of the alternative. We may not like the rulers of South Africa, but deliberately to attempt to destabilise South Africa—surely that is the purpose of sanctions—would be, for obvious strategic reasons, apart from the minerals which may be important to our American allies and other States in their part of the world but are absolutely indispensable to Western Europe, an act of self-destruction.

Our case was put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), the Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, on 23rd November at Peterborough. The case has also been ably presented today by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), whom I congratulate on drawing lucky and choosing this subject. My right hon. Friend said: The case against imposing sanctions on South Africa is overwhelming. Their imposition would only give comfort to the Communists and those who seek a violent solution to the problem of Southern Africa. My hon. Friend spoke of the effect of economic sanctions primarily on the black population of South Africa and mentioned the opposition to their imposition expressed by nationalist leaders. if I may use that expression, hostile to the system of government.

I want to refer to the effect of economic sanctions on the Republic's black neighbours to the north. It may or may not comfort Labour Members, but it is South Africa which shores up Marxist Mozambique. South Africa also upholds Zambia.

Deep concern about Zambia's economic plight has been expressed in the House recently. The port of Dar-es-Salaam and the Tanzanian railway are congested, to put it mildly. The Benguela railway has been reopened—ceremonially. Today, most of the maize that goes into Zambia and the copper that comes out depend on Rhodesia and South Africa.

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough said that there was plenty of copper about. Builders in my constituency have been complaining to me that they cannot get enough copper pipe at the moment. What the situation would be if she had her way, I do not know. There is no need for Zambia to be deficient in food grain or animal feeding stuffs. If her agriculture were well organised, she could be a net exporter of those commodities but Zambia is desperately short. It is South African Railways which are shifting the fertiliser at, I believe the rate of 1,000 tonnes in one train per clay into Zambia. It is thanks to South Africa and her railways that the farmers of Zambia have been able to spread fertiliser before heavy rains interrupted that work.

If we are in the least concerned about African States and Commonwealth partners such as Zambia, we should be concerned to encourage economic relations and political dialogue between them and South Africa. A number of black African States of the Commonwealth and the French-speaking community trade briskly with South Africa today. It is in their legitimate interests to do so. They use South African advisers and technicians, which is also in their legitimate interests.

Of course they keep quiet about these dealings with South Africa, and I shall not embarrass them by entering into particulars. Some African Presidents have in recent years entered into a dialogue with the South African Government. They have been warned off by other members of the Organisation of African Unity, but one president makes no secret of an almost special relationship with South Africa.

I refer to Dr. Hastings Banda. When I met him a few years ago with colleagues from this House, including Labour Members, he recalled his youthful experience, shared with many Nyasas at that time, of an initiation into manhood which included a spell in the mines of the Rand."Then ", he said,"no white South African would shake me by the hand. Now, they receive my ambassador ".

Mr. Anderson

Was it also to Dr. Banda that one of the South African leaders said that the South African Government would welcome him and his entourage so much that they would build a special hotel for him?

Mr. Biggs-Davison

I do not know whether that is so. Certainly that would not be the position today, because there has been a great reduction in petty apartheid in the Republic of South Africa. Despite what Labour Members may say, there has been great progress in that direction.

Our visit to Malawi took place shortly after the visit of the South African Foreign Minister of the time, Dr. Muller. He had been well received not only in the main centres but in the villages of that Commonwealth country.

Dr. Banda is not impressed by antiapartheid clamour. Who, he asked, was prepared to send troops to suppress apartheid by force? I heard Dr. Banda speak at the opening of Parliament in Zomba. He said that he went to the Organisation of African Unity where he greeted as his African brothers the descendants—not very distant descendants—of Arabs who had slave traded in Nyasaland. That is the great memory of the Africans in that part of Africa. However, President Banda said"I go to the OAU and I greet these people despite living memory of Arab slave trading. I greet these Arabs as my African brothers. The time will come, I believe and I hope, when I shall greet the white people of southern Africa as my African brothers, too ".

If we are to move in that direction, which I believe is the right direction, and if we are to help to bring about a more just society in a South Africa at peace with its neighbours, we should be concerned not with sanctions but with promoting economic expansion, helping employment in South Africa and thereby putting apartheid out of business.

12.33 p.m.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) began by saying that he was afraid that the Government were about to change their policy and that there was no justification for applying economic sanctions to South Africa.

Sometimes those of us who are opposed to the South African Government and all their works are accused of being anti South African. I have a great affection for South Africa and all its peoples. Although it is some time since I visited South Africa, I have an advantage over many hon. Members in that I live in the country for over eight years. Therefore, my experience of South Africa and its people is not that of somebody who has made a fleeting visit or has stayed for a couple of weeks. My experience is that of one who went to school in South Africa and worked in South Africa.

No one who knows South Africa can do other than recognise that it is a country of immense material wealth both above and below the ground. It is a country that geographically is beautiful. There are tremendous contrasts of vegetation and different sorts of countryside. It is a country where the people of all races have a tremendous optimism and a tremendous faith in the future.

I am the first to acknowledge that white South Africans, when met socially, are, even when one disagrees violently with their views, as I always did, warm and generous with their hospitality. The feature that strikes me and many others who have had contacts over many years with white South Africans is the Jekyll and Hyde approach to their existence. They are people who individually and collectively are open and free with their friendship. They are generous to the extreme. However, at the same time they support the evils of apartheid. They support a system that is the most racist in the world.

The fact is that the majority of white South Africans support the apartheid system either actively and explicitly or implicitly and tacitly. The apartheid system would not continue if it did not have the general support of the white population. Although the hon. Member for Pentlands referred specifically to the fact that the Government of South Africa over the past 22 years has been in the hands of the Afrikaaner Nationalist Party, it is wrong to single out the Afrikaaner as being the architect and the only supporter of apartheid.

In some ways, I have a greater respect for the Afrikaaner because his belief in apartheid starts—it may be from a rather obscure Biblical quotation that the sons of Ham shall forever be hewers of wood and carriers of water—with a distinctive religious and political philosophy. If we want to condemn a particular group of whites, I feel that much greater condemnation should be heaped on the English-speaking South Africans who have merely reaped the benefits of apartheid. They have not done much about it although they have complained about the Afrikaaner Nationalist Government on the ground of language and other such matters. However, the apartheid system exists, and it will continue to exist because of the support of the white population.

It is necessary sometimes to point out the justification of economic sanctions and the justification of our condemnation of apartheid. It may be that that does not seem necessary. I began to think that the hon. Member for Pentlands would finish his speech on South Africa without once condemning apartheid. However, in his final remarks he managed to condemn it. I am glad that he did so. There is almost a tacit acceptance in the House and outside that everybody is against apartheid. It is rather like sin. It is assumed that everybody is against apartheid. One may wonder, therefore, why it is necessary to have these debates. Why do we quarrel about apartheid? Why do we quarrel about what we are to do about apartheid?

The system of apartheid determines the whole future of an individual from the moment he is born, depending solely and wholly on the colour of his skin at the time of birth. It determines the sort of education that the child will have and the sort of health service that will be available. It determines what kind of training for the future a boy will receive as he grows into manhood. It determines his job prospects. It determines where the shall live and whom he shall love. It determines whom he shall marry and how he shall die.

The system is virtually immutable. Once a person is classified as white, the whole richness of South Africa is available to him freely. However, if a person is classed Indian, black, or coloured at birth, that person, no matter how clever he is, no matter how hard he is prepared to work and no matter what virtues he has, will never have the right to be a citizen in the country in which he was born. That is the nature of the apartheid system. No non-white South African has the right to be a citizen of South Africa.

A person born in South Africa inherits a mother tongue. He inherits that tongue although it may be that his father and mother, or grandfather and grandmother, have never even been in the part of the country where the language exists in its originality. However, on the basis of the language of one's parents, it is said by the South African Government that a person is a Zulu or a Xhosa, or whatever tribe is determined.

On that arbitrary test the South African Government say that a person is a citizen of the Bantustans, Kwa Zulu, Kwe Kwe or whatever the tribe happens to be. That is decided at a stroke of the pen. That is because a clerk in an office decides that it is time to move a person to his homeland. He or she will be transported from the area of his or her birth to another part of the country hundreds of miles away. He or she will be moved from an urban society in which he or she has grown up to a rural society with which he or she has had no connection for generations. That is what apartheid is all about. It is not only about jobs or job opportunities. It is about the very essence of life, the very essence of democracy.

It is said that we must have maximum defence expenditure in order to protect us against the totalitarian States where there is no free discussion and where human rights are crushed, yet at the same time it is said that the Government in South Africa can carry on crushing these human rights because of our economic ties with that country. Given the great rapport between many politicians in this House about the evils of apartheid, how is it that we cannot move forward from that condemnation and do something about it? I wonder why it is.

I hope that the hon. Member for Pent-lands will forgive me if I say that he is one of the most civil and civilised Members in this House, yet he is unwilling to go beyond saying"I condemn apartheid, I dislike it, and I will do nothing more."

Again, how is it that the white population of South Africa are able to be the kind of people they are and vet support the apartheid regime?

The same sort of question was being asked prior to 1939. People were going to Germany, meeting Germans in their homes and on social occasions, and saying what good people the Germans were. People go now to the Federal Republic of Germany and to the German Democratic Republic and say what splendid people the Germans are. They wonder how the Germans could possibly have allowed the Nazi system system to grow up and how they could have allowed all the horrors of Hitler to be perpetrated on people of German nationality just because they happened to be of a different religious persuasion.

The German people allowed it to happen because of the great dichotomy between caring about self-interest and the availability of riches, and knowing what happened to those on the other side of the great divide. The Jews in Germany were classified as sub-human, just as the non-whites are today in south Africa. The fear of being translated from being one of the elite into someone who has to scrabble for a living, with all the difficulties of unemployment and so on, is so great that people shut their eyes and are prepared to accept the things which are done in their name.

We return time and time again to the economic argument whenever we discuss this question of sanctions against South Africa. I do not dispute the figures given by the hon. Member for Pentlands. I think that he said that £5,000 million of British money was invested in South Africa. I would say that the figure is £6,000 million, but in these circumstances what is £1,000 million? It does not affect the principle of the argument. We have poured all this money into South Africa. I think the hon. Gentleman said that over 50 per cent. of foreign investment in South Africa comes from British sources. I believe that the figures from the EEC countries together represent over two-thirds of the foreign investment in South Africa.

The hon. Gentleman suggests that, because all this money has been poured into South Africa over the past 15 years or more, this economic connection is the only means by which we can break down apartheid and the only means by which the people of South Africa can improve their position. But let us look at the facts. The period of the greatest economic growth of South Africa and the period of the greatest investment from outside was exactly the period in which the greatest number of repressive laws were put on the statute book in South Africa.

It began with the Suppression of Communism Act, under which almost anyone could be classed as a Communist. Indeed, there was a famous case in Cape Town in which a distinguished professor was called to the trial in order to define what was meant by Communism. The defence lawyer read to the professor a number of statements in seeking his opinion whether they were Communist statements. Many of the statements which were declared to be Communist came from people such as the late Hugh Gaitskell, the late Nye Bevan and my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson). The professor was so determnied to prove that everything was Communist that he even classed as Communist statements from his own writings in his university days. The Communist definition, therefore, was very wide, and included anyone who opposed the system.

South Africa, in a continuing period of turmoil and unrest among the black population, then passed what was called the 90-day law. Under that 90-day law anyone could be picked up off the street and held for 90 days for interrogation before an appearance in court. I pay tribute to the many non-white South Africans who have been imprisoned and interrogated under that law. Many of them did not come out of prison again. Many of them have died. Over 67 have died in the last 18 months under interrogation in South Africa's prisons. They had no trial. They were simply arrested under the law. I pay tribute to the people who have gone through the 90 days of torture and survived. Some were released at the end of 90 days, they were given all their belongings, they signed for them, they walked outside the prison or the police station, and were then immediately picked up against for a further 90 days' detention.

Eventually it became too much of an administrative inconvenience to go through this process every 90 days, and so the 90 days became 180 days. After 180 days of interrogation and being kept in solitary confinement, those who survived were given back their belongings, they walked out into Jan Smuts Square in Johannesburg and were picked up and taken in again. Then eventually that became too much of an administrative inconvenience, so that now the law in South Africa has been changed again.

I hope that the distinguished lawyers on the Conservative Benches, who are constantly defending the rights of the individual and speaking about freedom will take note of this and remember it. The present position in South Africa is that a person can be picked up off the streets and kept for ever, with no rights of habeas corpus. A person can now be kept under interrogation until the South African police feel that they have broken him and he is prepared to make any kind of statement which will incriminate friends who are opposed to the regime. The South African press may not publish the fact that a person is missing as a result of being picked up in this way.

That is the country to which we are asked to give support. We are being asked to say that, although we recognise that it is a bit rough there for those who are not white, or for those who are treated in the way that I have described, the alternative for us is so bad that we really must not attack South Africa too much.

We in this country—politicians in particular—often have a love-hate relationship with the press, but we value press freedom. We value the rights of individuals, however extreme their cause and however much we disagree with them, to publish their propoganda and distribute it. South Africa has one of the tightest censorship laws of any place in what we call the Western world. It is as tight as that of the Soviet Union.

It is interesting—although perhaps not surprising—that the South African Government became very upset about the amount of British anti-apartheid material which was circulating in South Africa. They were especially concerned about the propaganda material that we were putting out on the case of Solomon Mhlangu, who is under sentence of death for activities against the apartheid regime. They decided that they had better stop this, so they published in their official gazette all the material about Solomon Mhlangu that the Anti-Apartheid Movement, of which I am proud to be chairman, had published.

We should give credit to the efforts of the South African press, to avoid as best it can the pitfalls of the law. One of the South African papers then published on its front page the official gazette, which was, in effect, the same as publishing the material, because all the leaflets had to be included in the gazette. Naturally, the South African Government would not let that go for very long. They have now published a regulation that any material produced by the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, past, present and future, may not be distributed, published or referred to in South Africa.

If we are seeking justification for an economic boycott of South Africa, the case is extremely powerful because we are speaking in favour of freedom for the individual and not just the right to a square meal. After all, the slave owners used to say that it was wrong to argue for the abolition of slavery because the slave owners provided work for the slaves. They put a watertight roof over the slaves' heads and gave them three square meals a day, it was argued, and therefore there was nothing wrong with slavery.

We have long since thrown that argument out of the window. In terms of human rights and human freedoms, we believe that there is a strong case to be made for economic sanctions against South Africa. I believe that what divides us from those who oppose us in some respects, and what certainly divides the hon. Member for Pentlands from me—I do not know about others on the Opposition Benches with whom I believe we have a much deeper difference—is really the question of what is best for the nonwhite people of South Africa and how we can go about changing the situation.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles: The hon. Gentleman's speech has been very interesting, but would he agree that what the argument is about is what is best for all the people of South Africa, not just one section?

Mr. Hughes

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is perfectly correct; the argument is about the position of all the people in Southern Africa. But where he and his hon. Friends make a mistake is that when they refer to South Africans they mean white South Africans. When they refer to Rhodesians they mean white Rhodesians. When they talk about Rhodesian lives being lost in the war there they refer on almost every occasion to white Rhodesians. So when I speak about the rights of the individual peoples of South Africa, I am not referring to one section but to every section.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

I think the hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. I was taking up the point in the sentence he had just uttered about what was best for the non-white people of South Africa. It was that narrow point with which I was concerned.

Mr. Hughes

It is a narrow point, but the fact is that white South Africans control all the wealth, they have all the democratic rights, they have all the freedoms and they are doing everything in their power to prevent similar status being given to those who are not white. The argument in this case arises from the claim of the motion that sanctions would be against the interests of the black as well as the white community and would be resented, and so forth.

However, let me make it plain that I am not only concerned with what happens to black South Africans or other nonwhites, although I think this must be of primary concern. I shall return to that particular question at the end of my speech, and I shall explain my position more clearly concerning white South Africans then. But, while many of us agree about the evils of apartheid, we disagree about what to do about it. It is worth referring to a book I came across a year ago written by a Colonel Silbran, who was a member of the last Parliament of Natal and of the first and second Parliaments of the Union of South Africa.

In his book entitled"South Africa, White and Black—or Brown ", written I think in 1928, he made some interesting points. I think it is worth quoting because the author was speaking in the days when the concept of modern apartheid as we know it had not been defined. He was arguing for something much harder than even apartheid has turned out to be. He was arguing—and I explain this background because it puts into context the importance of his statement—for absolute and total separation of the races on the grounds that this was necessary to protect the purity of the blood of the different peoples of the country. He had this to say about South Africa and the solutions to the problems of non-white South Africans which have been in our minds for many years: Any consideration of the future of the Native as a race is antagonistic to the exploiting of the Natives as an economic asset, and is therefore strenuously opposed by those who benefit from the labour of these people. Had it not been so the mines and industries of the country would fail to pay the dividends that are expected of them. There one sees the rationale of apartheid. It is more than an obnoxious moral system, it is more than a philosophy which has to be condemned; it is, essentially, an economic system. Profit is the name of the game and that is why putting money into South Africa will never change the fundamental human rights of non-white South Africans.

Money goes to South Africa for the precise reason that one gets a bigger return on one's capital, and because one is pretty certain that the machinery of the State will prevent the work force becoming involved in campaigns for trade union rights. Because of the large pool of unemployed, which is always there, anyone thrown out of a job will find that there are a hundred other people waiting immediately to step into that job. I have seen this, and I remember a strike of black rubber workers in the village of Howick, in Natal. There the management simply sacked those who were trying to organise a trade union and within a couple of days the word had got around and there were hundreds of people waiting to step into those jobs.

I say quite explicitly that apartheid is an economic system. That is why it attracts capital and that is why it will never give up its rights. It is concerned primarily with the economic interests of capitalism and profit.

The hon. Member for Pentlands said that we were economically involved in South Africa and that much as he would like to see the system changed—and I take that to mean rapid change in the conceivable future, not change in 50 or 100 years from now, and that he means a change in apartheid—he nevertheless disagrees with economic sanctions. This argument was taken up by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) who, putting the other part of the argument, contends that sanctions would be bad for our economic interests. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) has further pointed out our concern over the years that we might become so locked into the system of apartheid that we might be unable to do anything to bring about change in South Africa. That is one aspect of the argument. The other is that there are lots of minerals in South Africa on which we are totally dependent uranium and gold are often mentioned.

I am very hopeful that the territory still legally South-West Africa, but which we now call by its proper name Namibia, will be an independent country under majority rule before very long. We can get our uranium from Namibia, though it is true that the South African Government would like to control the economy of that country after independence by keeping a stranglehold on Walvis Bay—we know that. But I cannot conceive of Namibia becoming independent without itself controlling Walvis Bay. So there is an immediate source of uranium which we could use.

Uranium is also available elsewhere, and not just in the Soviet Union. There is certainly a prospect of uranium being available in Mauritius and what about Australia and Canada? There are vast areas of Zaire and Angola which are unexplored, and there is reason to suppose that they have deposits of copper and uranium, and probably platinum as well.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

I have listened with considerable care to what the hon. Gentleman has said, but would he not concede, that if sanctions of any kind were imposed on South Africa they would automatically have a very grave effect on our supplies of raw materials? It might be that we can get them from somewhere else, but would he not agree that sanctions would have a very serious effect on this country—for instance, on employment and on questions of defence?

Mr. Hughes

If we were to say today that we should have complete and immediate sanctions against South Africa—Britain by itself, overnight—without making any alternative arrangements, that would, of course, be true. But we have never argued that as the clock strikes midnight there should be a sudden total embargo on South Africa. Of course not. No one has ever argued that.

That is why I am addressing myself to the argument about the availability of resources in other places. The resources are available. The time to begin investigating these other resources is now. Indeed, we ought to have been doing it a long time ago.

I agree with the hon. Member for Pent-lands to this extent—that the day will inevitably come when sanctions are imposed on South Africa. It will be resisted —certainly resisted by the British Government for as long as they can—but sanctions will be applied to South Africa. We must get used to that. When we had an argument about a mandatory arms embargo on South Africa, it was resisted and people said that it would never happen, but now we have a mandatory arms embargo on South Africa.

I believe, therefore, that we must accept at least in principle that sanctions will come, and we must begin to look for alternative resources. Of course, people will say that we have spoken of sources for this, that and the other, but what about A, B or C? The world is not standing still. There are explorations going on to find various metals and materials elsewhere in the world. If someone had argued about an oil embargo, say, in the Middle East 10 years ago, we should have been told that it would create havoc for Britain because we were totally dependent on Middle East crude. We still have a dependence on Middle East crude, of course, even though we have a lot of oil from the North Sea, but the point is that we have discovered oil in the North Sea. It is therefore not inconceivable that elsewhere in the world there are sources of uranium and platinum yet to be discovered. We have to choose where we are going in this matter.

Mr. Anderson

It is true also that any successor regime would have to find markets in any event for those raw materials.

Mr. Hughes

That is true. Moreover, although it is true that we have great trading links with South Africa—my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough mentioned the figures and the fact that we are in trade deficit with South Africa—South Africa has greater need for us than we have for South Africa. Let there be no mistake about that.

I believe that that is shown by the way in which, on every occasion, as soon as there is some kind of attempt to bring the system in South Africa to the attention of the world at large, and any such attempt looks like succeeding in the imposition of sanctions, South Africa always reaches into its pocket and pulls out the anti-Communist ticket. In fact, that was done here today. We are told that the real danger for Southern Africa is the spread of Communist influence.

There is nothing new in that, either. In one part of his book, Colonel Silburn blames all the evils of the world on agitation from Moscow. That might have been a tenable position some 10 years after the revolution when people believed that the Soviet Union would spread revolution throughout the world and be successful. So there is nothing new in playing the anti-Communist card.

It is fashionable, when one attacks the apartheid system in South Africa, to shout"Communist propaganda"across the Floor or in audiences outside. We ought to nail that on the head. It is worth noting that within the past few weeks Mr. Oliver Tambo, the acting president of the African National Congress in South Africa, Mr. Silundika, one of the executive members of the Patriotic Front and Mr. Shapua Kakungwe of SWAPO had an audience of the Pope, and the Pope gave his endorsement to their fight for freedom. To some simple-minded people, I suppose, that makes the Pope a Communist. In truth, it means that in every part of the world and in every section of society there is a great understanding of the position of non-whites in South Africa and why it is essential to act.

The hon. Member for Pentlands said that he was opposed to apartheid but he did not think that sanctions was the right policy and we should put money in. Beyond that he did not say what we should do. It seemed to me that he failed totally to realise what is happening in Southern Africa. He failed to realise the effect of the armed struggle by the PAIGC in Guinea-Bissau, by Frelimo in Mozambique, by the MPLA in Angola. The hon. Gentleman totally failed to realise the impact which that has had on the non-white peoples of Rhodesia, South Africa and Namibia.

It is all very well to condemn apartheid, but what do we do about it? If the answer is"nothing ", what do we advise those people to do? Do we advise them simply to accept the position? Do we advise them to wait until enough investment goes into South Africa and enough money and wealth is generated so that the whites in South Africa will say"The country is now so industrially rich that we can afford to give up our prestige position and we can allow you to share in our wealth "? Is that what we are asking them to do? If we are, we had better forget it.

These people have been fighting for so long, their legitimate aims and political aspirations have been crushed for so long, that they are not prepared to tolerate the system and await the coming of freedom in South Africa being left to some other agency.

The African National Congress is banned. It is not allowed to operate legally. Within the past 12 months, we have seen a ban on every organisation in South Africa which has had legitimate and legal representation to fight against the apartheid regime. This has happened to students' organisations, church organisations and distinguished individuals. Far from there being any move towards liberalisation in South Africa, the lid is being screwed down tighter and tighter.

That is why the non-white peoples of South Africa decided that they would fight for their freedom. This poses a dilemma for those of us who sit on these Benches more than it does for others, perhaps, because we have a longer pacifist tradition than, I think, any other party represented in the House. I certainly do not want to see matters gradually develop to the point when there is an all-out race war in South Africa. Yet that is exactly where we are going.

If we are not to have economic sanctions, what are we to do?

Mr. Ronald Bell

Sit down!

Mr. Hughes

If the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks that the people of South Africa will just sit down and do nothing about it, it is time he had another look. I know that he takes a close interest in Southern Africa as a whole. He does not agree with what I am saying, I know, but I hope that he will understand the logic of the position. The logic is that one either fights totalitarianism or one goes along with it. If we go along with it, as many did before the war, during the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany, the end consequences are there for all to see. The end consequences are there for all to see in South Africa as well. Let there be no mistake about that.

No one has yet demonstrated that economic sanctions will not be effective. Throughout the years, although a lot has been said, including by Governments of both parties, about Southern Africa—

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman and I appreciate his generosity in giving way. Why does his indignation not extend to the other authoritarian regimes which hold power in practically every other country on the African continent?

Mr. Hughes

That was a most unworthy intervention from the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He knows that my condemnation of totalitarian regimes extends wherever totalitarian regimes exist. I am sure that he would not want me to take up the time of the House today, in a debate on a motion dealing with Southern Africa, by going on a peripatetic trip round the rest of the world, taking each country in turn. We have enough on our plate in discussing South Africa without going further. I am disappointed that the hon. and gallant Gentleman should make an intervention of that kind, because the stock intervention from an hon. Member who knows that he is losing the argument is to throw doubt on the bona fides of someone who is on his feet.

Mr. Anderson

Is it not also fair to say that South Africa is unique in that in no other country in the world, as part of official policy with all the panoply of legislation, is one section of the population discriminated against in that way on the ground of colour?

Mr. Hughes

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. That is precisely the point.

Over the years, we have said a lot about South Africa but we have done nothing. South Africa has always been aware that as long as it was able to try to claim that it was part of the defence of the free world against the spread of Communism it would have our support. For the past 14 years, South Africa has felt that we regarded it as the key to the Rhodesian situation. Of course, in many ways it is. But we have failed to take action against South Africa because we felt that if we pussy-footed on South Africa we would be able to persuade the South African regime to impose a majority rule system on the whites of Rhodesia.

That is like asking Satan to rebuke sin and to become an ally of the Lord in wiping out sin. It was never a policy which would succeed. We thought that if we did nothing effective about South Africa we could gain some support in Rhodesia and get majority rule there, that if we were a bit careful we would get South Africa voluntarily to allow Namibia to be free, that once we had got those two countries free we could turn our attention to South Africa itself. That policy was bound to fail, and it has failed, because South Africa has demonstrated quite clearly that it looks at any compromise as weakness.

The flaw in the South African argument is that South Africa believes that nothing will change the view of Western Governments on economic sanctions. To some extent, it may be right, but I think that the situation is changing, and people are now considering such a change.

I therefore believe that we can begin an economic sanctions policy, which must be mandatory through the United Nations. There is certainly no future in one country itself trying to take on economic sanctions overnight. We could begin with oil sanctions. Of course, it is perfectly true that South Africa can generate up to 28 per cent. of its oil from coal—I think that at present the figure is much less—once the big new SASOL scheme comes into operation. It is true also that South Africa has a considerable amount of oil in stock. The estimates vary because no one really knows how much oil South Africa has. The estimates of stock vary between 18 months and three years.

Let us assume that those figures are broadly correct. But the other significant fact is that two-thirds of South Africa's imported oil comes from Iran. There was certainly a time when the Shah of Iran was able to say"I do not care what anyone says, I will make certain that the oil goes out of Iran ". He was so much in control of the situation that he did not care about dissent in his own country. However, I shall not discuss Iran. The point I am making is that the Shah is not now in a strong position domestically to resist mandatory oil sanctions being imposed on South Africa.

Indeed, there are many dilemmas in this situation. I do not pretend that it is easy. But if there is any justification for the Government supporting the Shah of Iran, on the basis that the installation of a Right-wing Moslem Government would be worse for the people, I hope that we would at least get some advantage out of it and be prepared to say to the Shah"We are at least prepared to tolerate your regime a little longer and perhaps assist you in some way, but our quid pro quo is that you help us end apartheid in South Africa."

Hon. Members should think of the psychological effect which the imposition of mandatory oil sanctions can have in South Africa. For the first time, the white South Africans would see that the position was challenged and that we in the West really do mean what we say when we talk about freedoms for the individual. Up to now we have never really embarked upon economic sanctions with seriousness. I hope that when the Minister replies to the debate, which is about sanctions, and since Rhodesia has already been mentioned, he will say that there will be an announcement soon about the inquiry into what happened to Government policy on oil sanctions against Rhodesia. I hope that my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary do not think that because we have been preoccupied with other matters in the last couple of weeks we have forgotten about oil sanctions and the Bingham report.

Mr. Grieve

Does the hon. Gentleman perhaps think that at the moment the evidence tends to show that the Government deliberately broke the policy of sanctions which they had deliberately brought about?

Mr. Hughes

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for that helpful intervention, because that is precisely the point that I was about to make. That is precisely why we need a further parliamentary inquiry into the events reported by the Bingham inquiry. This was not simply a technical matter of failure to report what was happening. It was not simply a technical matter of the swap arrangements, important though they were. The important point was that the whole tenor of Government policy during the period—this also applies to the Conservative Government between 1970 and 1974—is that no one cared enough about the future of Rhodesia or about the policy of oil sanctions, to see that sanctions were working. It was either a failure of policy to be carried forward or, as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests, deliberate act of policy of saying one thing in public and another in private.

If we are to have any credibility in the world, and any influence over the affairs of Southern Africa, we surely ought to be able to say"This is our policy and we stick by it ". Some of us may not always agree with it. It may be that the liberation movements in parts of Southern Africa will not like what we say. But at least if we say it openly and honestly we will have more credibility and more possibility of influencing the future than if we say that we are all in favour of oil sanctions yet do nothing about it.

That is how the people of South Africa look at this question. They do not see the Bingham report revelations as a failure of mechanics. They see them as a deliberate attempt to confuse the world and to make certain that the Smith regime is not brought down. That is how they feel about it. I therefore agree with the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve). We must be open and we must look at this situation.

I hope that people will understand that we are dealing with a system of government in South Africa which is repressive in its legislation, because the classification of individuals as Indian, coloured, black or white affects their whole future. Indeed, once one is classified, it is very rare for one to be re-classified. But there are examples of people who have been living happily as whites for 30 or 40 years suddenly being classed as coloureds, being thrown out of where they live and out of their jobs and bunged into the country hundreds of miles away because someone believed that they were wrongly classified at birth. I admit that there are changes. However, I hope that people will realise that there is a justification for economic sanctions, because the only alternative is to support the armed struggle.

Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant and Waterloo)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have now listened for nearly 45 minutes to the hon. Gentleman's views. I think that we have heard 95 per cent. of them. Is there any hope that the rest of us will have an opportunity of having 5 per cent. of our views presented during the rest of the day?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

Unfortunately, no power is vested in the Chair to limit the length of speeches. This is a matter which has been discussed on many occasions. But I dare say, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) has already indicated, he is now coming to his concluding points.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd) should not provoke me or I shall go on for another 45 minutes. I could quite easily do so. I was saying that the alternative to economic sanctions is support for the liberation movements in their struggle. Indeed, at this time I support those liberation movements which are fighting for their freedom because I believe that they have a just cause to fight for. But that is a different matter from being able to persuade a Government themselves to support the liberation struggle by providing arms, equipment or medical facilities to those movements. The result of our failure to do this is simply that they go to Eastern Europe or Russia to get the arms and equipment, and they are grateful for that assistance. They make no bones about it.

The tragedy of South Africa is that very little of what is said is new. All that happens is that the situation gets worse as time goes on. We have consistently warned South Africa, the people of this country, Europe and America of precisely where we would end up.

If one refuses people the right to defend their freedoms by legitimate, legal means, by peaceful rights of protest, by argument and persuasion, one has a savage, repressive State and naturally people try to free themselves. We in this country gave unstinting support to the partisans of Yugoslavia and to the French resistance groups who fought against German occupation of their country. I hope that we would at least have the courage to recognise that those people who are fighting for their freedom in South Africa are fighting for just as noble a cause. They are fighting for the rights of man and their dignity.

At the beginning of my speech I said that I had affection for South Africa and its peoples. I go further and say that I love South Africa and its peoples of all races. The short-sightedness of Opposition Members, and sometimes of our own Government, regarding the effects of the failure to act to end the apartheid regime is such that the tragedy which will unfold in South Africa will make Vietnam look like a small, local skirmish.

We have the opportunity to change this. We have the opportunity of at least giving the South African population, all of it, the right to live in a democratic society. We can at least give them the opportunity to share in the richness of that country and the opportunity of contributing to the richness of that society. Therefore, I am saddened by the shortsighted views of many hon. Members opposite, and I hope that they will be converted to the view that the cause of democracy and freedom and of individual liberties is very strong indeed. I hope that they will realise that to oppose economic sanctions is not to help anyone but is simply to guarantee that the future will be extremely difficult. I shall be very sad indeed if we cannot find a peaceful way of ensuring that the people of South Africa are free. It is their destiny and it is inevitable, whatever the cost.

1.23 p.m.

Mr. Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)

I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) has said at such length on the evils of apartheid. I yield to no one in my revulsion of that system. However, I cannot agree with him about the present state of the apartheid system in South Africa. As he said, it has been many years since he was there. I fear that both the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) are not aware of the developments that have taken place.

I very much hope that this debate is based on a false premise. I believe that that hope would be shared by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands (Mr. Rifkind), who so effectively and eloquently moved this motion.

I cannot believe that even this Government, who have shown such inept and muddled handling of so many aspects of our international relations, could allow themselves to be brought to the point of contemplating the imposition of sanctions on South Africa.

If we are to be brought to that point on the subject and issue of Namibia, I should find it particularly depressing. I believe that it is right that we should look at recent developments in Namibia. I believe very strongly that what has happened there recently has been obscured from the House and, indeed, from international public opinion. I have a deep suspicion that the Government and their information machine have placed no small part in that obfuscation.

We are dealing with the problem of bringing Namibia to independence. I believe that that objective is widely shared by all hon. Members. We want to do it quickly and to create in Namibia, based on a democratic regime, a constitutional and multi-racial Government.

Work towards that end went very slowly until April 1977. I am happy to pay full tribute to the work put in thereafter by Her Majesty's Government in the operation of the five-Power group, the Western members of the then Security Council, in their initiative. As a result of that initiative, an agreement was produced which, on 25th April this year, the South African Government signed. That agreement allowed for the independence of Namibia by the end of this year. That was not a new date. The date of independence by 31st December 1978 had originally been settled by the Tonhalle conference on 18th August 1976. Therefore, we all knew that we had two years or more in which to work towards the independence of the territory of what was South-West Africa.

When the South African Government made this momentous decision, having acceded to the heavy pressure to which they were subjected by the five-Power negotiating representatives, was there rejoicing on the part of the members of the organisation which had been struggling for independence, the South-West African People's Organisation—SWAPO? Did they throw their hats in the air? Did they sign at once? They certainly did not.

We have had repeated in Namibia a situation which is all too familiar in Rhodesia. Just as in Rhodesia, where people are trying to work for free elections and early independence, and all parties have been invited to participate in that process, the external groups—in the case of Rhodesia, the Patriotic Front, and, in the case of Namibia, SWAPO—have not—

Mr. Robert Hughes

The hon Gentleman must understand that SWAPO accepted the five-Power proposals through the United Nations and that South Africa reneged on them.

Mr. Whitney

I should be happy to accept that were it the case. It is clear that on 25th April 1978 the South African Government accepted the five-Power proposals. It is also clear that the date of independence was given as being before the end of this year. That is a fact. But we have both these external forces in Rhodesia and Namibia—these independent movements which have been fighting so long for independence—suddenly shying away from it. We must examine why.

Have they been led to believe by their supporters, whether in Moscow, Havana, Lagos or London, that power will come to them without the necessity of going through a form of election? Is it reasonable to assume that they are beginning to doubt very much whether they would win the election? SWAPO has lost a considerable amount of the influence that it had in Namibia. Every event and development that we see brings that point home.

When the authorities in Windhoek launched the registration campaign, SWAPO not only advised strongly against it but stepped up its terrorist campaign of killing. According to the statistics—

I accept that we have very little to go on —there was a 93 per cent. registration. Whether it is 90 per cent., 92 per cent., or whatever, who can argue? The fact is that there was a very high level of registration. SWAPO claims to speak for Namibia, but that fundamentally underlines the falsity of that claim. We should remember that it was SWAPO which the United Nations General Assembly in 1973 annointed as the authentic representative of the Namibian people. Yet we have this authentic representative saying to the Namibian people"Do not register." However, over 90 per cent. registered.

This week elections have been taking place. They have been boycotted and strongly opposed by means of terror, bombing and killing by SWAPO. According to reports—the elections finish today —over 60 per cent. of people have voted. The world's press is there. Representatives from many foreign countries are there. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) is also there. I look forward to hearing his report when he returns. There can be little doubt about the genuineness of that election. There has been a 60 per cent. vote flatly against the idea of SWAPO.

Where does that leave SWAPO and the sincerity of the negotiating position adopted by the British Government? I mention this matter because it is important to bring us back to the context in which the debate is taking place. We are trying to deal with the whispers, suggestions and rumours that the Government may be contemplating bringing sanctions into force against South Africa against the very unsatisfactory background of the negotiation with regard to Namibia.

Ideas of what might happen with the imposition of sanctions have been well expressed by a number of my hon. Friends. The problem is whether the rest of the world will honour them. I believe that on this occasion, should it happen, with the lessons of Rhodesia and Bingham behind us, the Government will in all honesty try very hard to honour such undertakings as they give with regard to the imposition of sanctions.

The question we have to ask is: will the rest of the world follow suit? We must recognise that the omens, putting it at its mildest, are not propitious. Our Common Market partners take a much more realistic, or perhaps Realpolitik. view of the world generally, and certainly of the situation in Southern Africa in particular, than Her Majesty's Government appear to be capable of if we consider what has happened with regard to the code of conduct for companies operating in South Africa. That is a measure which I would endorse. Having visited South Africa recently, I accept that we must work on this matter.

Let us consider what the rest of our Community partners are doing. In May, the then Secretary of State for Trade offered the hope or expectation that the rest of the Community would follow suit. I have since put a series of Questions to that right hon. Gentleman and to his successor. The position in Europe is not at all what the then Secretary of State expected on 25th May. Our partners are reluctantly going down that particular road. How much more reluctantly would they go down the road towards the imposition of sanctions against South Africa, whether partial or complete?

We are now clear, having had the matter explained to us by my hon. Friend the Member for Pentlands, about the effect on blacks in South Africa. That point has been stressed by all the black leaders quoted by my hon. Friend. I should be interested to have produced in this House the evidence to which the hon. Member for Eton and Slough referred when she alleged that Chief Gatsha Buthelezi had changed his mind on this fundamental issue. If the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North would offer that evidence, I should welcome it.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I was perhaps over-generous in giving way when I spoke. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) said that Chief Gatsha Buthelezi was changing his mind on his matter. If the hon. Gentleman cares to look at the speech made by Chief Gatsha Buthelezi at the Jewish Board of Deputies in Johannesburg on 3rd March, he will get his evidence. I do not have it here, but he can check it. If he finds that I am wrong, he is liberty to correct me.

Mr. Whitney

I should be happy to look at that speech. I should be equally look at that speech. I should be equally happy to refer the hon. Gentleman to a speech made by Chief Gatsha Buthelezi at a conference in Freiburg after March —I cannot give the date—in which he clearly spelled out the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Pentlands, namely, that the people who will suffer first from any economic sanctions against South Africa will be the blacks. Indeed, they are suffering already, as we must recognise. That is not because apartheid is being intensified. It is a fact of the economic recession from which we are all suffering, but none more so than South Africa because of the political and economic circumstances in which it finds itself.

One of the factors in this situation is the major growth rate in the black population particularly in the early 1960s. That means that coming on to the labour market now in South Africa is an increased number of blacks seeking employment. Most calculations forecast a minimum growth in the economy of 5½ per cent., or possibly 7 per cent., simply to absorb the new black labour and, to a certain extent, white—although it is a predominantly black problem—which is coming on to the market. We must recognise that fundamental problem. Anyone who seeks to deflate or to cripple the South African economy must recognise the immense harm that would be done.

We should recognise the efforts which are being made in South Africa to achieve progress on this front. We talk about the EEC code of conduct. There are many codes of conduct in industry in South Africa, and they are all to be welcomed. There is the Urban Foundation, the Sullivan code and all the other codes. They are achieving results. There is no doubt that the lot of the black man in employment in South African industry is improving rapidly and markedly. That improvement is made all the greater because it is being achieved against the difficult economic background to which I have referred.

More than that, the South African Government have set in train two commissions —one headed by Professor Wiehahn and the other by Dr. Rieckerts—to look into labour and trade union practices in South Africa. I understand that those reports are virtually complete. 1 had a long discussion with Professor Wiehahn in August when I was in Johannesburg. I believe that those reports are to be published within a week or two. Professor Wiehahn told me that he very much hoped that the proposals that he put forward, which I understand include full legitimisation of black trade unions, would be put through the legislative session beginning next January. Such progress is to be welcomed and encouraged.

One sure way to set back that progress would be to cut South Africa off from its economic partners in the rest of the world. That would have the effect, to use the old cliche about the laager, of driving everyone in the white part of South African society, whether in politics, economics, commerce or industry, into much more fiercely nationalistic positions. It would set back the course that is in train.

We must recognise the unique difficulty posed by apartheid. I accept that apartheid is uniquely bad and that we must solve it. However, there are no quick or simple solutions. The recognition of this fact has dawned on most of the whites in South Africa—not just the members of the Progressive Federal Party. Many members of the Nationalist Party take this view. If one studies the internal debates in that party, one sees that they know that there is a problem to be solved and are trying to solve it. Anybody who suggests that there is a facile solution is being dangerously misleading.

Anybody who asks us to impose sanctions should carefully examine their effects not only in this country but in Southern Africa generally. The effects of such sanctions in the United Kingdom have been underlined by many of my hon. Friends. We are dealing with a serious threat to the economy of the Western world, and our economy is particularly vulnerable.

We have been asked to consider whether a new regime in Southern Africa—Namibia, South Africa, Rhodesia, or a new Marxist regime such as SWAPO—would be prepared, or indeed obliged, to trade with the West. Perhaps, in due course this would happen, but the House must consider the effect which this would have if Southern Africa fell within the Soviet orbit. The grip which this would impose on the economy is too fearful to contemplate. The House should appreciate that 97 per cent. of the world's chrome supply would be in Soviet control, as would 90 per cent. of its platinum and 80 per cent. of its gold. There are no cheap solutions or quick alternatives. We must also consider the strategic threat—an argument which no doubt a number of my hon. Friends will develop.

Therefore, I beg the Government to act with sense and courage. I hope that they will carefully examine the motivation of those who seek to push Britain and the other Western Governments into a position in which they feel the need to accept the inevitability of sanctions. I am glad to see the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office present because I wish to conclude by calling on the Foreign Office to act for once in international relations with intelligence, sincerity and courage.

I ask the Government to recognise the motivation of those who are trying to drive this country to the brink of sanctions. If the Government are interested in progress in South Africa and in continuing the movement towards the dismantling of apartheid, if they are interested in the economy of the West and in the provision of jobs in this country, there is only one course for the Government, and that is to reject any suggestion of economic sanctions against South Africa.

1.44 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Anderson (Swansea, East)

I hope that the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) will not question the motivations of those of us who accept that in a rapidly evolving world, particularly in Southern Africa, the debate about economic sanctions is with us. Therefore, we as a country, in response to our national interest and our world view, must make our view plain.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned chrome and other raw materials on which we in the West substantially depend. However, we also have an interest in ensuring the long-term stability of those sources of supply. He must accept that the political situation in Southern Africa is inherently unstable, and will be so long as the relatively small white group in terms of total population remains in a position of dominance.

Mr. Grieve

Is it not plainly the case that to create a situation in which South Africa is thrown into a siege economy, with sanctions imposed by the rest of the free world, would create precisely the dangers that the hon. Gentleman adumbrates? Would not such a policy drive the white people of South Africa into a siege economy, and would it not reinforce the dangers, difficulties and uncertainties of the position?

Mr. Anderson

I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will listen carefully to my views on economic sanctions. But given the inherent instability of the area, we could expect there to be an eventual holocaust in such an event, resulting in substantial disadvantages to ourselves and the South Africans. But the premise on which the hon. and learned Gentleman rests is that the internal situation in South Africa is so evolving that it is moving towards a period of greater internal stability. I question that premise.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands (Mr. Rifkind), who I congratulate on his good fortune in the Ballot and on his eloquence in moving the motion, concluded by expressing his abhorrence of apartheid. I propose to make that my starting point. The debate about the prospect of sanctions must depend on that system of apartheid which is unique in the world and which is inhuman because of the way in which it classifies individuals on the irrelevant basis of colour of skin. Furthermore, it is wasteful economically; and mankind as a whole clearly finds apartheid revolting.

How should we react to this situation? Should we merely throw up our hands in horror and take the view that, although this abhorrent system exists, because we have substantial economic and trade interests in South Africa we should do nothing to remedy the position other than to express platitudes about our revulsion?

The normal liberal expectation is that in all countries there will be a gradual evolution as the powers that be recognise that the evolution of new forces requires some kind of reform Act and consequential changes in industrial policy to accommodate the new pressures. However, this liberal progression is not working in South Africa, although there are, as the hon. Member for Wycombe said, reports by learned professors which may bring some minor benefits in legitimising, as he put it, trade unionists in South Africa. I understood him to say that these reports still relate to black trade unions. Therefore, no doubt the essence of the apartheid system will remain wholly untouched even if such reports are implemented.

The idea of a gradualist solution to the South African dilemma is hardly possible because of the stubbornness of the Afrikaaners. In common with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), I have a somewhat ambivalent attitude to the Afrikaaners and to South Africa as a whole. They are a people with immense cohesion and a proud history. Anyone who has read their history, particularly in the last century, charting it with the various battles, and the last stands which they had against the encircling groups, must sympathise with them in their current dilemma. As a people they rely on a series of symbols to ensure that cohesion.

Yet now, by that stubbornness, the Afrikaaners are, in world terms, left on the sandbank of time. In the light of the hurricane which is now sweeping around Southern Africa, they are spitting in the face of history, unwilling to make any significant concessions to developments which must come by force or by evolution. The idea of drop by drop change, or a move brought about by the effects of British business, by the codes of conduct and so on, is clearly manifestly insufficient to meet the needs of the situation.

Those who talk about the blacks in South Africa having the patience to see their own economic and political situation evolve, fail to appreciate that the blacks have been patient for too long. They have been patient since 1910, when we refused to accept their stake as blacks in their own country. The key question that everyone must ask in relation to apartheid—this unique situation in Southern Africa—is whose side are we on and what will we do about it. Therefore, how does one react to the debate about economic embargo which will take place over the next few years, and in which we as a country must play a significant part because of the extent of our trade and personal interest in Southern Africa? I have a large branch of my family in the Republic.

The hon. Member for Pentlands eloquently set out the dangers and illogicalities of economic sanctions, the way in which one can be, little by little, forced along a road, the end of which is unsure, and the impracticality of many of the proposals. He suggested that it would have adverse effects on other Southern African countries. That is a matter for the people of Southern Africa and their leaders in terms of the United Nations debate. It is not for us to lecture them about what is in their own interests.

Mr. Rifkind

I have no desire to lecture the people of Southern Africa on their own interests. The countries that I mentioned—Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland—have made it abundantly clear that they would not favour a policy of economic sanctions in South Africa precisely because of the effect it would have on their own economies.

Mr. Anderson

The case for economic sanctions is an important point to be taken account of in the debate. The hon. Member for Pentlands mentioned the effect internally on blacks in South Africa and he quoted some shop steward from East London. It might be embarrassing to ask the hon. Member his source, since he is referring to an American publication, but it sounded like one of those American Right-wing publications which one receives from time to time. The shop steward said that he thought that the sanctions would hurt most the people that he represented. This was perhaps the only naive part of the hon. Member's speech because he failed to appreciate that it is illegal in South Africa for blacks or whites to voice support of economic sanctions. If they express those views outside South Africa they are unlikely to find their way back to that country.

The chances of a view about economic sanctions being freely expressed by a dissident South African are nil, and therefore that point is naive in the extreme. The shop steward in East London, a man in the front line, must have been well aware of what would have happened to him and his family had he chosen to express dissident views.

I believe that a significant body of black opinion in South Africa feels that black South Africans are suffering anyway under the apartheid system. That suffering is now pointless because there is no light at the end of the tunnel. They feel that by that suffering they are allowing an unjust system to continue. The suffering would be more meaningful if, by sanctions imposed on a United Nations basis outside, there was a clearer prospect of justice in their own country. One cannot say how widespread that view is, but it has been put to me as a view expressed by the more articulate among the black population.

The hon. Member for Pentlands remarked on the effect of economic sanctions on our economy. However, he did not say that there has been a substantial decline in our trade with South Africa over the past decade, and a corresponding increase in our trade with other countries of black Africa. For example, we now have more substantial trade with Nigeria than we do with the Republic, and this is a significant consideration in the debate about sanctions.

If we disapprove of apartheid—and certainly I think that all those present in the House today do disapprove—how do we do so in a meaningful way, apart from sanctions? This must be considered carefully. What effective non-violent alternatives are there within the time scale that articulate black opinion in South Africa—which has been patient for a long time—can seriously contemplate? The negative arguments have been made by the hon. Member, but there is no workable system at present devised on a United Nations or any other level.

One option canvassed has been the idea of some initiative by the super Powers—the United States and the Soviet Union—to bring pressure on South Africa. I think that this is unrealistic, because the Soviet Union would clearly seek in an opportunist way to frustrate any initiative that might be embarked upon. The Soviet Union, in terms of its propaganda throughout the world and particularly in Africa, finds the continued existence of apartheid very convenient.

There are substantial difficulties in the blockade, yet in South Africa there are only five ports to be patrolled. There are no very significant nations outside the United Nations—only South Korea and Taiwan—and these could be brought into line by sufficient United Nations pressure. Clearly Britain cannot stand aside when the matter is debated in the United Nations.

If there is to be some form of sanctions apparatus, it must be workable. We would have the worst of all worlds if the apparatus were sloppy and messy. The point was made by the hon. Member for Wycombe about the way in which even our own allies within the Community have evaded the sanctions. The apparatus will have to be graded. The proposal will have to be put by the United Nations to the Government in South Africa with a clearly expressed timetable for change in their country, with varying degrees of sanction at each level—" If you fail to do such and such within a certain period, these consequences will follow." Given the present economic difficulties in South Africa and a degree of flexibility in the proposed system, the Government in South Africa might be forced to accept such a timetable without recourse to sanctions by the United Nations.

This debate will come. What are the interests of this country in respect of that debate? We have —to interest in meaningless and ineffective gestures which can harm us if there were to be a long rundown of the South African economy, if there were to be a long period of evasion by other countries, when we could be the only country that adhered to a United Nations resolution.

Among the matters that our Government would have to consider is the fact that there is already a considerable rise in trade with the remainder of Southern Africa and an increasing feeling of resentment in the remainder of Southern Africa towards the regime in the Republic. If a workable system of sanctions were to be devised at a United Nations level, it would not be in our interests to stand out alone against it and be isolated.

One factor that has been given insufficient attention by Conservative Members is that we are in a rapidly evolving world situation. Who could have guessed 10 years ago what the position would be now in Mozambique and Angola? Who knows what will be the position in Rhodesia in a year or so?

There is almost a feeling of historical inevitability about the changes that are taking place in Southern Africa. There is the inherent instability of Rhodesia. It seems to be generally accepted by people who have visited that country over recent months to find out the position objec- tively that the forces of Mr. Mugabe are likely, within a measurable period, to dominate that country. South Africa itself will stand as the last remaining bulwark, The tides are already lapping at the frontiers of the Republic.

There will inevitably be a debate. The Government will have to watch the rapidly evolving situation very closely. Yet, if any United Nations initiative is likely to succeed, as we believe it is, it would be politically and morally right for us in Britain to join in effective pressure to end an evil system and to provide self-determination for that unhappy but potentially marvellous country.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

In the interests of fair play, and to restore the balance of time consumed in the debate as best I can, I propose to call two hon. Members from the Opposition Benches before I turn again to the Government Benches. Although few hon. Members on the Government Benches have spoken, they have taken roughly twice as long as Opposition hon. Members.

2.4 p.m.

Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant and Waterloo)

The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) asked us whose side we were on. It is an important question, but one that should not be answered. We are always asking whose side we are on, expecting an answer that we are on the side of the Europeans, of Mr. Smith, of Mr. Mugabe or of Mr. Nkomo. I am not on the side of any of them.

When I answer that question in relation to South Africa, I say that I am on the side of facing facts, of dealing with these matters rationally, without prejudice; on the side of understanding, a far deeper understanding than many of us show; on the side of intelligent persuasion, if I am dealing with problems of pressure; on the side of evolutionary, not revolutionary, political developments; on the side of appreciating the vast complexity of what I recognise as the world's most difficult problem.

The hon. Gentleman also used the expression"bringing pressure ". We hear a great deal about political pressure. Perhaps we place too much faith in it. There are times when nations, people, individuals and pressure groups bring too much pressure to bear on each other, with disastrous consequences.

There is more continuous, damaging—almost neurotic—political pressure on the average South African today than on probably any other individual in the Western world. Yet we say that we must bring more pressure to bear on him, because by so doing we shall persuade him to change.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Hear, hear.

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman has great faith in the effect of pressure on people's attitudes. I have much less faith. I think that the hon. Gentleman said that he wanted to see South Africa at the end of the day resembling West Germany as it now is, after the second world war.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I did not say that.

Mr. Lloyd

Then shall I say that the hon. Gentleman wants to see an ideal social democratic State, if he does not choose to give West Germany as a specific example.

I, too, would like to see South Africa as the world's most perfect example of a multi-racial—and, if the hon. Gentleman wishes to put it in this way, social democratic—State. But I make this difference. I do not want to see that target reached after a third world war which has cost another 20 million or 30 million lives. That is a price which I do not wish to pay, which I do not think the House wishes to pay and which I do not think the Western world should be prepared to pay to achieve a different position in Southern Africa, whether in Rhodesia, South Africa or anywhere else.

The hon. Gentleman temptingly invites us to go under his umbrella of antiapartheid. Most of us find it easy to go under the umbrella. As the hon. Member for Swansea, East said, no hon. Member upholds the political theory of apartheid. Our difficulty is that when we get under the umbrella and look out at the political scene all over the world we see 1 million lives lost in Cambodia, where there are the most fearful forms of discrimination, and hundreds of thousands of lives lost in Burundi, where inter-tribal warfare is as destructive as, or more destructive than, anything that has happened in South Africa since the middle of the last cen- tury. We look at Eritrea, where tens of thousands of lives are lost.

Looking out from the hon. Gentleman's umbrella, we see a sad and tawdry world. When we make comparisons, as we are entitled to, we say that the situation in South Africa, although perhaps serious and in many respects regrettable, bears no comparison with the situation in those States.

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) argues that there is no press freedom and no liberty in South Africa —indeed, that the situation is similar to that in Soviet Russia. Would the hon. Lady seriously assert that the comment which has been allowed in the English and Afrikaans press in South Africa during the past four months, comment highly critical of the regime, could have been published in the Soviet Union? She strains our credulity beyond all points of strain if she asks the House to accept that.

We are looking at a world in which there are many kinds of totalitarianism. There is certainly racial totalitarianism, a most regrettable and deplorable kind. But there are many kinds of political totalitarianism that are equally reprehensible, equally disastrously damaging to human relations, equally deserving the censure of the House of Commons. However, time and time again we are preoccupied with censure of Southern Africa. That is the fashionable focus of the censure of the House—[Interruption.] Our motion is not a motion of censure. It regrets the possible application of sanctions. Certainly I regret that, and I shall say why in a moment.

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough said in her analysis that the continuation of British investment was deplorable because there had been no effect in terms of the codes of conduct on the economic life of the African peoples or in pursuit of the general ideals which she would like to see pursued in Southern Africa. Does she really believe that there has been no effect? Where does she read her evidence? Every time I have visited South Africa in recent years, the one change which is conspicuous is the significant economic advance of the African peoples throughout Southern Africa. If we are frank and honest when we make comparisons between Southern Africa and the rest of Africa, we find that this is the great economic madness of the sub-continent. The African peoples are choosing continuously and deliberately to cross the boundaries of this terrible, repressive State and to work there because the economic advantages to them are considerable and are, generally speaking, found in few other places in the sub-continent.

I invite hon. Members to consider the more specific evidence—the analysis of what companies are doing and the extent to which Africans have been brought on and are occupying positions of responsibility. It is nowhere near perfection, of course, but no human state is perfect. However, the evidence of progress is significant. Certainly we want more, and we hope that it will be more widespread, but do not let us confuse ourselves by pretending that nothing has happened and that economic progress achieves no effective and desirable aims in Southern Africa, because it does.

If hon. Members wish to see the most cogent, powerful and telling argument in its favour, I refer them to the speech made by the chairman of the Anglo-American Corporation, Mr. Harry Oppenheimer, at the New York Bankers' Association. Let Government supporters disagree with that if they will, but let them refute the arguments in detail. If such a refutation is possible, I should like to see it. I have not seen it yet.

The attitude sometimes expressed on these matters is naÏve. The hon. Member for Eton and Slough implied that if we got our relationships with South Africa right in the eyes of the United Nations and her friends elsewhere, suddenly we should be able to exercise a much more persuasive influence over the onset of Communism in Africa and elsewhere. How naive can anyone be? Does the hon. Lady really believe that the Communists, with their determined and significant advance elsewhere in Africa, suddenly will listen to the British because we have done what they regard as being in their interests in Southern Africa? I doubt it very much. They will go on with their advance, military and otherwise.

We know that there are now 5,000 East German troops on the southern border of Angola. The latest figure for Cuban troops in Angola is 30,000. One question which the Government may have to answer sooner than they expect is of the utmost importance. If these East Germans and Cubans are launched in a trans-border operation into Namibia, where do the Government stand? Will the Government take sides, as their supporters want them to, or will they wash their hands of the situation? Will they say"This is what we said would happen "? Will they let such an advance continue, with the whole Southern African position under severe and serious threat? I hope that we shall be told.

If sanctions are imposed against South Africa and they are cosmetic, which in my opinion is all that we are likely to be able to achieve, what will be their effect? I believe that they will simply destroy our credibility as a serious political force in Western affairs. They will destroy relationships at all levels—social, political and economic. 'They will do very little else.

If, as some Government supporters would like them to be, sanctions are effective—for example, sanctions against the supply of arms—let us ask ourselves what the consequences will be. South Africa was already a fairly formidable and effective power in terms of its own arms provision during the second world war. The decision not to supply sophisticated weapons has had one predictable and, perhaps from the point of view of the West, necessary and desirable effect. It has created within the boundaries of Southern Africa an extremely effective and sophisticated armaments industry. That is the consequence of arms sanctions against South Africa. Whether they have advanced the interests which Government supporters would like to see advanced, I doubt very much.

If we say that we intend to make sanctions effective, we shall of course have to interdict the supplies of oil. As I have said in the House before, if we do that, this is such a serious threat to the major interests of all the peoples of Southern Africa—not merely the Europeans but everyone who lives in the sub-continent —that undoubtedly they will regard it as an act of war, or very nearly an act of war.

Are we prepared to risk that? If we are, Government supporters seem to think that we shall be able, possibly with an inconceivable combination of the United States and Soviet navies, to interdict the supplies of oil to South Africa. However, I remind the House that the strength of the South African air force is at the moment roughly equal to that of the RAF in combat squadrons. Will they stand by and see supplies of oil to Western Europe continue? They will be under the strongest pressure from their military leaders to say that if we are intent on destroying them they will see that in that destruction the temple is brought down. Who could blame them?

That is a state of affairs which Government supporters refuse to face, and I urge with all the persuasion at my command that we do not under-rate the extent and the scale of the damage which a reaction of this kind would cause. The South Africans would choose such a course of action with the greatest regret and with the greatest concern. Again, who could blame them if they did? But they would choose it and, in my view, the damage to Western cohesion and to Western interests as a whole would be colossal and irretrievable. Who would rejoice more than the occupants of the Kremlin if they saw Western interests damaged and destroyed on a broad front in ways which really mattered and affected the economic position of the West?

There is no real point in persuading ourselves or attempting to bluff ourselves that we can apply effective political and economic sanctions against Southern Africa without consequences of the most grave and serious kind. The imposition of sanctions would mean not merely a few factories closing in the United Kingdom. The result would be far graver and more serious than that.

Is this the way that we should look at this subject? In an office in the City of London which I frequent, there is a fine oil painting. It shows that noble promontory, Table Mountain, which was described by Vasco da Gama as the most noble promontory on the circumference of the earth. From it is sailing a convoy of Union Castle mail ships, escorted by the Royal Navy. The painting is dated 1914 and is entitled From the ends of the earth at the Empire's need. That is a long time ago. There has been another world war when once again from the ends of the earth at the Empire's need a great deal of South African blood was spilt.

Perhaps we should forget about that. Perhaps this is not the Realpolitik of 1978. But there is now another need. The need is in the reverse direction. There is a need for our political wisdom, for our skills and for our economic resources. There is no need for condemnation and for the pious attitude which displays itself so often on the Government Benches that this group of peoples are so much lacking in wisdom and political finesse that not only must we give them no assistance in dealing with their political problems but we must employ all the strength of the United Kingdom to damage their interests further in the misconceived belief that we can do that in isolation. We need another approach. We need to show our sympathy and understanding.

Many years ago, travelling on a ship to South Africa, I had the good fortune to meet the late Sir Hugh Cairns, Nuffield professor of surgery at Oxford University. We discussed at great length the sociological, political and economic problems of Southern Africa. He told me—it is a phrase I have never forgotten—that there is no greater problem facing the peoples of the Western world than the symbiosis of black and white in Southern Africa. Never has the truth of a phrase been more clearly borne out. I believe it is the world's greatest problem. It needs the greatest skills, compassion, wisdom and understanding that this House can muster. In that way we can contribute. Sanctions will never help.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. There are six hon. Members who hope to speak within the next hour when we hope to begin the winding-up speeches.

2.21 p.m.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) on his choice of subject, which is most interesting, and my hon. Friend the Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd), who made a most powerful speech. I agree strongly with the arguments that they have put forward.

Great progress is being made in South Africa and nothing must be done to prevent further progress. I should like to ask the Minister a specific question. I hope that he will be able to answer it. Is it true that sanctions are being contemplated in certain circumstances by Her Majesty's Government? If not, he can say so now. I invite him to say so now. If they are not, the debate is not necessary and we can all go home. Did the Minister want to say anything to that?

Mr. Rowlands

I shall try to reply to the debate.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Whatever the reasons may be for sanctions, they would be ineffective, illogical and directly contrary to our British interests. They would be ineffective. The Bingham report on Rhodesian sanctions is the most recent and typical example of the fact that sanctions are never effective.

In the debate on the Bingham report recently, virtually everyone concerned, except the right hon. Member for Huy-ton (Sir H. Wilson), made it clear that Her Majesty's Government knew very well that sanctions were being short-circuited on a massive scale, and that nothing could be done about it. The right hon. Gentleman is not here today. I would therefore not attack him but simply extend the compliment of saying that he is a man of genius and that his capacity for engendering disbelief amounts to genius.

Similarly, the Beira patrol, mounted at great expense over 10 years, is shown to have been absolutely ineffective. Nobody in the House has paid tribute to the Royal Navy for steaming up and down, month in and month out, on that ghastly, boring patrol when the Government sending them there knew that the whole thing was a nonsense.

The Foreign Secretary, in his book"The Politics of Defence ", said: It cannot be stressed enough that a total maritime blockade of South Africa is a perfectly viable strategy provided that the international will still exists among the major powers in the United Nations to enforce it. The Foreign Secretary adumbrates the idea that the Royal Navy and the Soviet Navy should join together to impose such a blockade. That is adding insult to injury to the Royal Navy in the context of what I have just said.

South Africa has obtained all the military weapons she requires despite the arms embargo. It has been no trouble whatever. The only shortages are maritime weapons and equipment to which I will refer. The armed forces of South Africa—I have recently seen them—are very effective. I pay tribute to them. I am glad to know that South Africa is in such a strong defensive position. We must not neglect the scenario painted by Sir John Hackett in his recent book"The Third World War"in which he envisages an attack on South Africa from the north which is easily repulsed.

The next point about sanctions or proposed sanctions, is that they would be entirely illogical. If one wishes to persuade South Africa to change her internal policies, ostracism is the wrong way to go about it. Afrikaaner politicians will not be persuaded by ostracism or by bogus resolutions about"threats to peace"and talk about sanctions. The very opposite will happen. This point has been made by several hon. Members.

It is no good simply fulminating against apartheid. Today's debate is about whether economic sanctions would help to ameliorate the situation internally: My whole case is that they would not. I have seen the effects of the internal situation on a recent visit which I undertook on a"Go anywhere, see anyone"basis. I should like to inform the House of what I saw in Soweto. Next door to Soweto—the name, in the language of the Left, has become almost a wicked word—is Baragwanath hospital, the largest hospital, I understand, in the whole southern hemisphere. It exists specifically to cater for the medical needs of the inhabitants of Soweto.

I spent a whole day going round that hospital. I saw the most careful, modern and up-to-date treatment being deployed. I saw a huge ward full of renal dialysis machines operating around the clock and keeping alive inhabitants of Soweto who had kidney diseases. These machines were the most up to date in the world. They had been imported from Germany, Britain and Canada.

Sanctions would entirely prevent that sort of apparatus from being taken to the hospital. The supply of spare parts would also be halted. Sanctions would prevent this sort of work and medical help from being given to the black inhabitants of Soweto. The Foreign Secretary, who, after all, is a doctor and under medical oath, should pay attention to this matter rather than fulminate about the idea of imposing sanctions against South Africa.

At the hospital, I saw in the intensive care wards a huge number of premature babies being most carefully looked after by doctors, both white and black, and by nursing staff, who were black and white but mostly black. Little black scraps of humanity were being kept alive and given the chance to remain alive by the intensive care and the magnificent apparatus available for them.

There have been vast improvements in black purchasing power. Anyone who visits South Africa can go into the supermarkets and shops and see what is available for people to buy and see the enormous purchasing power in the hands of the black public.

Law and order, too, are a precious commodity, probably more precious than any high-falutin' political ideas. As my hon. Friend the Member for Havant and Waterloo, has said, why do Africans from the north seek to enter South Africa instead of getting out of it? If it were an oppressive regime which they did not like, they would go out. Instead, they seek to go in. No one can refute that. The pass laws, often quoted as an example of the oppressiveness of the regime, exist because, without them, there would be a veritable flood from the north.

My third point relates to the importance of the shipping route. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said that the South Africans need us more than we need them. I believe that that is not true, particularly in the context of the shipping route. I am talking essentially of merchant shipping, in peace and war. The strategic importance of the Cape route is paramount in peace and war. Part of the ability to exert surveillance on it and protect it is the Simonstown agreement: I deplore the fact that that agreement was unilaterally abrogated by this Government. I have been to the Simonstown base recently. The communications set-up is fantastic but totally ignored by the British Government. Intelligence about Soviet U-boats and other Soviet moves there—I have photographs—which are available from that intelligence headquarters is ignored by the British Government. The Soviet threat and aspirations towards South Africa are very real. When I was in Namibia, I was given a specific location just over the border in Angola where the regime finances and encourages a Baader-Meinhof training camp.

The Republic of South Africa is a delightful and magnificent country. Let us resolve that its future should be built on the great fund of good will which in fact exists between all races in South Africa and upon the progress which is being made there, rather than upon the ideological obsessions of the Left wing of the Labour Party.

2.32 p.m.

Mr. Bryan Davies (Enfield, North)

I must first apologise to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) for having missed his speech. I am afraid that he was called earlier than I had expected, but this week our timetable has been subject to some unexpected change. However, I have received some notes on his major propositions, so I hope that I shall be able to construct my speech basically in response to his arguments.

I am not sure what the hon. Member expected from a debate which would revolve around the possibility of economic sanctions against South Africa, but I would have predicted that the full array and panoply of the powers of the Monday Club would be displayed in full force on the Opposition Benches and that the most Right-wing Members of the Conservative Party would deploy their full attempts at apologia for the South African regime. The last two speeches have come close to that.

Thus, despite the lip service paid in some quarters to the hope that at some stage there will be evolutionary change in Southern Africa to produce what I imagine would stick in the craw of some hon. Members opposite—a multi-racial society with black majority rule—the bulk of Tory speeches have been a straightforward defence of that regime in all its horrors.

What is this new-found feeling for evolutionary change which Tory Members have about Southern Africa? Is it that piece of evolutionary change which, over 13 years in Rhodesia, produced no sign at all of any movement to a multiracial society until brute force began to appear on the scene? Hon. Members who pride themselves on their understanding of the military logistics of the situation must surely recognise that after 1965 the Smith rebellion showed no sign of amelioration of the black condition in Rhodesia until the collapse of the Portuguese in Southern Africa manifested on Rhodesia's borders powers which made the sustaining of the illegal rebellion considerably more difficult.

We are supposed to learn from this lesson of the obdurate racism of the whites in Rhodesia that somehow a vastly more powerful enclave of whites in South Africa are about the business of some kind of Fabian evolutionary change towards a multi-racial society. I do not believe it, and I do not think that the people of this country believe it. I think that we face in Southern Africa exactly the same kind of strength, force of character, determination, history and racism that infused the Southern whites of the United States in the 1860s.

In the Southern states a: that time, was there gradual evolutionary change in which people learned the error of their ways and came to respect those whom they had tyrannised for so long? Of course not. What happened was crisis, political and economic, in that society, contributed to partially from outside sources. That is also the only way in which South Africa will change.

When Conservative Members try to portray the issue solely in economic terms, let them not totally deny our own history in this respect. We as a society—certainly we representatives of our society—have a major obligation to look to the economic wellbeing of our people.

We must recognise that any form of sanctions against South Africa will have a cost. But let us not underestimate the extent to which such costs have been borne in the past when our people have realised the extent to which regimes have subscribed to values to which they did not subscribe themselves. I remind hon. Members again of the history of the last century. British working people in this country supported sanctions against the Southern states even when their own economic interests were directly at stake.

I have spent a mere 18 hours in South Africa, passing through it. I am sure that that will bring to the lips of Conservative Members a sardonic sneer and the statement that that scarcely gives one the right to understand a country. One does not have to go to the Soviet Union to understand the nature of that totalitarian regime. Yet hon. Members opposite, who do not flock there in such profuse numbers, have always been eloquent about that society. One does not have to go to South Africa either to get clear and ample testimony of the horrors which that regime has not only perpetrated in the past but is perpetrating at this very moment.

One interesting thing in my short sojourn in South Africa was that a Foreign Office official, who I assume fell into the category of those who had graduated with a first in history from one of our more ancient universities, took me to lunch at the SS"Alabama "—a pleasant enough restaurant and a pleasant enough lunch. The significant thing is that the SS"Alabama"was the vessel which set out to break the Northern blockade in the 1860s and thus help to preserve slavery in the Southern states. That thrust by that British Government was repudiated by British working people and I am sure that the vast majority of our people today are eager for the day when racism in Southern Africa is destroyed.

That day will come, but our present tragedy is that hon. Members opposite should recognise that we are not arguing just a moral case. We are arguing also in terms of our own self-interest. Hon. Members are often too glib in their talk of the Communist threat in Southern Africa. Whenever people struggle for any freedom and to throw off the yoke of oppression, it is easy for hon. Members opposite to brand them as Communists.

But the rhetoric of many of the liberation movements in Africa bears little resemblance to that of Marx. I see little evidence that they get involved in the tortuous arguments which some Marxist theoreticians do about change in Africa. What they do is fight for freedom in the classic way in which oppressed minorities have always done. The very slowness of the pace of change, the obduracy of white racism, has provided the opportunities for Communists to develop in Africa. It has created circumstances in which the Cubans and the Soviet Union can play their roles.

I remember a striking illustration earlier this year when a group told me that if we wanted to restrain Russian influence in South Africa—I assume that we are at one in the House in having that objective—it was important to get the Rhodesia issue and the South African issue settle quickly. The group addressing that analysis to me is one that often receives a fair amount of sympathy and understanding from Conservative Members—namely, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Peking and his colleagues. The Minister said that by failing to bring down Smith in Rhodesia and by failing to tackle the South African problem, we are creating circumstances in which the Soviet Union may deploy its forces and arguments.

If the West cannot settle an issue in which it is closely related in terms of history, investment and often direct relationships with the societies involved, assuredly the oppressed majorities of the southern African countries will look to other forces to settle the issue.

We should recognise that Rhodesia and South Africa are part and parcel of the same problem. It will not do for Conservative Members to suggest that the threats that are posed in those countries are part of a world plan of Communism. That is not the nature of the problem. From whatever sources the arms come and whatever outside relationships the various struggling groups may have, the pressure comes from the people themselves in their basic desire to be free. Our own history surely illustrates that those commitments are deep and unstoppable.

I beg Conservative Members not to use the motion and the debate to give sustenance and support to regimes that surely cannot survive. Nor should they give sustenance and support to circumstances in which as time goes by our capacity to act becomes increasingly inhibited and the opportunity increases for interests greatly hostile to our own and to our people to wax in strength. We must recognise that, unless we are prepared to bring justice and freedom to the oppressed peoples of Southern Africa, others will do it at the point of a gun.

Although the sanctions issue is mighty difficult, it must be recognised that it is more difficult now, 20 years after many in our society demanded that Governments should take firm action against both Rhodesia and South Africa, because we have intertwined our economy rather more with South Africa. In economic terms the price of sanctions today would be higher than 20 years ago.

The lesson that we should learn is not to delay further and not to drag ourselves further and further into the morass whereby we try to sustain the unsustainable. We should act with a degree of resolution in the confidence that our people will understand that, although there are short-term costs in any operation of sanctions, or in any significant action against South Africa, there are infinitely greater costs both in moral terms and in economic terms in severing ourselves from the mass of Africa that is determined, whether there is outside help or there is not, to set Africa free for the black majority.

2.44 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)

The hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Davies) is a newcomer to debates on Africa. He appears to apply his prejudices to the facts rather than the facts to his prejudices. If he were more familiar with the affairs of the African continent, he would know that Rhodesia, which he described as a racialist society, was fairly set, until we interfered, to become the only multi-racial State of the former British Empire. It was and is a country with the most admirable relations between the different races. It was, so far as I know, the only country in Africa that had a multi-racial society where people were eligible, regardless of their race, for registration on a common roll of electors. However, I shall leave those matters aside and turn to the motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands (Mr. Rifkind). I congratulate him on introducing it.

We must not get into the habit of applying sanctions to other nations because we decide that we do not agree with their politics. That is a bad habit. We used it unsuccessfully before the war. We have used sanctions against Rhodesia, for reasons which I have always considered totally inadequate, with disastrous results.

It has been plain from the speeches that we have heard from the Labour Benches —for example, the speech of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor)—that many Labour Members would like to apply sanctions to Chile because they do not agree with the politics of that regime. There were many Labour Members who wanted to apply sanctions to Greece during the period of the colonels' regime because they so strongly disapproved of the character of that regime. If the United Nations is to become an instrument of political dogmatism, the United Nations will be a nuisance and we shall have to get rid of it.

Another consideration apart from that of precedent is that nearly all the postwar applications of sanctions, including the Rhodesian case, have been breaches of the charter of the United Nations. If sanctions were applied against the Union of South Africa by a United Nations resolution, that would unquestionably be another act of lawlessness. The justification put forward for such action has been certain people's abhorrence or dislike of the internal regime of South Africa. However, the United Nations charter says explicitly that the United Nations must never interfere in matters of internal jurisdiction. It is often misquoted. It is often suggested that it should not interfere in matters of internal concern, but the words are"internal jurisdiction ". There can be no doubt that apartheid is a matter of internal jurisdiction.

It is pure equivocation to say that people outside South Africa may feel so indignant that apartheid may amount to a breach of the peace. That is cheating with words. In any event, the chapter of the charter dealing with threats to the peace is itself subordinate to the basic rule that the United Nations must not interfere in matters of internal jurisdiction. There could be no possible justification for the application of sanctions against the Republic of South Africa.

It is sometimes said that the conduct of South Africa in relation to German South-West Africa justifies the imposition of sanctions. That is an instance of politics subverting law. German South-West Africa was made a mandate of the Union of South Africa by the League of Nations. It was held by an international court—the court could not have held otherwise—that the United Nations was not a legal successor to the League of Nations. Plainly that was right. Unfortunately, the international court, rather like the Supreme Court of the United States, has become an instrument of politics. When its constitution was sufficiently changed the court reversed its previous finding and, on precisely the same facts, held that the United Nations could be considered the legal successor—not the historical successor—of the League of Nations. Therefore, we have the preposterous situation that the United Nations claims some sort of jurisdiction or right to speak on the affairs of former German South-West Africa.

There is absolutely no justification whatever in law for the use of sanctions against South Africa. It would be an act of reckless lawlessness of the kind which, unfortunately, is all too common when people allow their prejudices and passions to over-rule their sober judgment.

I suppose that the underlying substance beneath the legal argument is that separate development is such an evil thing that one need not bother about the law —anything is justified. This is really a lot of nonsense. I take the same view as other people, that the Afrikaaner Establishment in South Africa has been clumsy in many of its doings and harsh in many of its methods. Taking the Cape Coloured people off the common roll was an act of consummate folly and one with which I totally disagreed. But it is all very well to attack the general drift of South African policies: the question which has to be answered is: what else could be done?

Some favour one man, one vote because they think that the Westminster system is wonderful. I think it is wonderful—for us. But I do not see one man, one vote working anywhere in Africa for a very long time to come. I can say that historically. It is not working anywhere in Africa. It does not work. We ought not to make Africa the plaything of our own political prejudices. That should apply to me as well as to Labour Members. We have to think of what, in common sense, is best for that continent, in so far as it is a matter for us to decide at all.

In Africa the choice is simple and stark. We either have a qualified democracy, with slow and deliberate enlargement of the privilege of voting and influencing, or we have no democracy at all. If we suddenly introduce a flat universal adult suffrage—such as we have had in this country since 1951 but not before, after our 700 years of gradual extension—what is the result? If we suddenly and discontinuously introduce that to people who are between two and four generations from the new stone age, we are destroying all prospects of a representative society for those people.

The Africans have a sort of representative tradition, but it is the tradition of the indaba. It is a consultative tradition, certainly for those who are still in the tribes and have not become detribalised urban people. Every man has a say and speaks on every major issue, but there is no vote. I do not think that they understand votes. I do not think that they really want votes. They want a say in the sort of way in which the African has a say in his tribe. Every adult male African has a significant say. I do not know how one can adapt that system to the more sophisticated processes of society, or whether, indeed, it is for us in Britain or in Europe to try to adapt it to the more sophisticated processes of society. Perhaps that should be left to the Africans.

It is very near to lunacy to apply economic sanctions to a country in another continent for not adopting our own Westminster system of democracy as we finally established it 17 years ago, after 700 years of progressive development, and to say that if it does not take the lot at once we shall smash it. That appears to me to be absolutely crazy.

That is why I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Pentlands has brought this very useful motion before the House today. I am glad that my own views on it are so clear that I have been able to present them in about seven minutes.

2.55 p.m.

Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)

Like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell), I shall endeavour to be brief. He set out clearly and cogently the objections in law to the possible application by the United Nations of sanctions to South Africa, and I shall not for one moment seek to enlarge upon them. I believe that they are cogent and valid and ought to be given the greatest weight by this House.

I congratulate, as all my hon. Friends have, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) on bringing this issue before the House of Commons, and I should like to go very briefly to the merits of the matter. In saying that, I am not saying that the legal issue is not a matter of merit; it is very much a matter of merit. I put under three heads my objections to the possibility of sanctions being applied. We are dealing, of course, with a hypothesis, but it is a hypothesis of which a great many of us have been very frightened indeed over recent months, in the light of statements which have emanated from Government sources.

The first objection, in my view, is that, were the Government to be party to the application of sanctions to South Africa in present circumstances—and without the consent of the Government there can be no sanctions in law, because the Government have a veto in the United Nations—it would be one of the gravest betrayals of the interests of this country of which any Government had ever been guilty. I shall enlarge on this briefly in a moment.

The second objection is one to which some of my hon. Friends have already adverted. It is the objection that sanctions in history, in the experience of all of us, have been counter-productive. They have done the very reverse of that which they sought to do.

The third objection is that we must be very careful indeed not to destroy in South Africa one of the bastions of the free world, in a part of the world where our enemies in the East are getting an ever larger foothold and are seeking to extend their hegemony not only over the African continent but over the surrounding areas.

As to the betrayal of British interests, my hon. Friend the Member for Pentlands and my other hon. Friends have underlined the degree of interdependence of the economies of this country and South Africa. Let there be no doubt about it. Were sanctions to be imposed, this country would bear the brunt of the suffering of the countries of the free world. Our trade with South Africa, as to both imports and exports, exceeds that of any other country, save that in 1976 the United States had a very slightly larger figure for imports than we had.

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) said that that really does not matter, because we have an adverse balance of trade. I intervened briefly in the hon. Lady's speech. It is the most arrant nonsense to say that it does not matter, for our trade with South Africa is classically what the trade of a commercial nation should be. We import from South Africa the raw materials which are necessary to keep our industry in being and our people in employment. We export to South Africa the greater part of our manufactures. The imposition of sanctions would destroy or undermine —if it were genuine, it would certainly destroy—that trade nexus. Can we at this stage in our history, with unemployment running at 11 million and our industries in decline, afford to take a step of this gravity and. may I say, of this stupidity'?

My hon. Friend the Member for Pent-lands has underlined the vast amount of raw materials with which South Africa alone can provide us. Our industry and our economy have grown up in partnership with South Africa. Our investments in South Africa are immense. All of this would be put in jeopardy by the imposition of sanctions and, as I have already said, we would see South Africa retreating into a seige economy, beset by the whole world to the detriment of the free world.

I turn to the question of counter-productivity. Surely we must have learned our lesson by now. In 1935 the League of Nations imposed sanctions on Italy because of her invasion of, and her behaviour in, Abyssinia. Nobody would have said that such a move was unjustified. The whole world was affronted by the Italian Government of the time over Abyssinia. But those sanctions did not succeed. Had we not imposed sanctions there still, I suppose, was a faint hope that we would have weaned Fascist Italy from her Fascism. But what did we do? We thrust her into the arms of the Nazis and we accomplished the alliance between them which became so dangerous for us when we found ourselves at war in 1939.

Thirty years later, in 1965, we imposed sanctions on Rhodesia. Not only did we impose them but we procured the application of sanctions by the United Nations and thereby we surrendered any control we might have had over events. The result is that, although sanctions have been a conspicuous failure, and although it is plain to everybody that they should be lifted, this House cannot now, because of the world-wide repercussions, lift the sanctions we imposed. The evidence points to the fact that the Government saw the danger of sanctions and that the whole thing, so far as British participation was concerned, was a complete sham. So much for counter-productivity.

What shall we see in South Africa? We shall, if we impose sanctions, see a seige economy imposed on that country, and we shall see the leaders of the Afrikaaner opinion there reinforced, not broken, in their views. We shall see a reinforcement of the tyranny and apartheid, which I think all of us in this House agree, are things we would seek to see undone and wish to see reformed.

My third point needs little enlargement. South Africa remains, in its wealth, in its power, in its strength and in its strategic position, one of the bastions of the free world. The policies advocated by many hon. Members on the Government benches would undermine that position and that defence which the free world has in the southern oceans of the world. The only beneficiary in such a situation would be the Soviet Union and her allies. Let us avoid that at all costs.

The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), who at least had the grace to say that he had some sympathy with, and understanding of, the dilemma of white leaders in South Africa—and I pay him tribute for having done so—said that if we did not impose sanctions we would be isolated and alone. That is not the case. The position is that sanctions cannot be imposed without us. We have a veto.

I trust that the Government will take the message of this debate as calling upon them, if necessary, to exercise that veto in the national interest, in the interests of all the peoples in South Africa, and in the interests of the free world.

3.4 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

I shall be brief, since I know that others of my hon. Friends wish to speak. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) has done a great service in bringing this matter before the House. In my view, the core of his motion can be expressed in the form of two questions. First, would sanctions help to alter South Africa's internal policy? Second, are they feasible? My answer to both questions is"No ", and I shall give the reasons.

I believe that the effect would be to seal off South Africa, to alienate her, and to cause the loss not only of any influence which we might have but also of a great deal in the commercial field.

As for the effect of sanctions, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) put his finger on the answer. Did sanctions prevent Mussolini from continuing his aggression in Abyssinia? Have sanctions against Rhodesia proved effective? In each case, no. Therefore, what is the point? Now that we have learned from history that sanctions do not work, surely, it would be an act of folly to try to resuscitate them in the case of South Africa.

We have already seen the ineffectiveness of the Beira patrol. How much more difficult would it be to patrol South Africa's great sea coast, which those who have been to that country know very well? It would be almost an impossibility.

I now put one or two questions to the Government. I take, first, the effect of sanctions on our supplies of minerals. I shall not enumerate them, but uranium, manganese and vanadium in particular come to mind. What would be our loss of imports of those materials which we regard as essential for our economy, both civil and defence?

Second, in the Government's view, what would be the loss in respect of our trade and investment in South Africa? The Minister of State knows that we have considerable investments in South Africa which bring back large earnings—in this case, invisible earnings.

Third, has the Minister any intention of trying to impose full sanctions or trying to impose partial sanctions? What estimate have the Government made of the effect of any such sanctions or action against South Africa on the employment of blacks in South Africa and, equally important, on employment among our own people, especially in view of our present heavy unemployment problem?

Next, what would be the effect on adjoining countries in Africa? We have heard of the fertiliser going from South Africa to landlocked countries which are completely dependent on South Africa for many of their essential supplies.

The Government should be turning careful attention to matters of that kind before thinking of embarking on any sort of sanctions policy.

Most important of all, however, is the subject of defence. No one can deny the strategic importance of South Africa. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) emphasised the vital significance of the Cape route. There is also a new situation now in relation to the super-Powers such as Russian and China whose activities have made it even more important for us to have a base in South Africa. Day by day the world is changing, and I believe it to be essential that we maintain our bases and keep our Cape route secure.

I shall not go into the history of these matters. I say only that the motion deserves full support and should be passed, since sanctions in any form are, first, unworkable; second, they are not in the interests of this country or in the interests of the black or white people in South Africa; and, third—most important of all, in my view—they would impair the defence of the Western world, which to my mind is of supreme importance. They could have the effect of letting the whole of Southern Africa eventually go Communist.

3.9 p.m.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

The brilliant delivery of the opening speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) almost disguised the strength of purpose and, above all, the brilliant timing of our debate today, forms often in our political life we consiter maters far too late for the House of Commons to take action on them, Both today and in all our recent debates on Southern Africa—on Rhodesia, Namibia and South Africa—two of the most unpleasant attributes of the politician have been polished, burnished and exhibited. The first is double standards. The second is selective indignation.

I hope to show how the Government have adopted double standards over Rhodesia and Namibia, but I must refer to the selective indignation of Labour Members in their recent speeches. For instance, the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Davies) talked about the oppressed peoples of South Africa. He never seems to talk about the oppressed peoples of the rest of Africa. I get the impression that if there is oppression on black by black the hon. Gentleman does not think that matters.

Mr. Rowlands

Of course it matters.

Mr. Page

The Minister says that it matters, but I seldom hear him and his hon. Friends discussing it. I believe that the speech of the hon. Member for Enfield, North—which we have heard on several occasions—indicated this prejudice.

However, I was amazed and delighted when the other evening, while driving home in my car I listened to one of the Reith lectures by the Rev. Dr. Edward Norman of Peterhouse, Cambridge. I found the view which he took on Southern Africa refreshing. I should like to read two passengers from his lecture. He drew attention to the selective indignation of Christian churches about conditions in Southern Africa and said: Though represented as fundamental Christianity, the churches' opposition to apartheid is really also a campaign in favour of liberal politics—for majority rule and economic equalitarianism. Though neither of these has exactly figured prominently in the political arrangements and ideas the Christian churches have either sponsored or tolerated during the past 2,000 years, they are now insisted upon as absolutely required by the law of God. In the case of Southern Africa, some Christian groups are prepared to shed blood for them on a large scale—groups like the World Council of Churches, the All Africa Conference of Churches, and the Christian leaders of the armed liberation movements ". Later he said: as the Reverend Canaan Banana, of the Zimbabwe African National Council, has put it, in his version of the Lord's Prayer: 'Teach us to demand our share of the gold. Forgive us our docility, as we demand our share of justice '. His last sentence stated: The churches, unhappily, are so concerned with their social and racial moralising that they have tied themselves very closely to a world of material values. It was time that a distinguished churchman put forward a different view from those which we hear so often.

I should like to refer to the Government's double standards. They have criticised the Rhodesian Government for not holding elections by the end of 1978, and they have criticised the South African Government for holding elections in Namibia by December 1978. Both of those attitudes seem to me to be impossible logically to sustain. I blame the Government for the fact that elections are not being held in Rhodesia by the end of this year, specifically because of their failure to show anything but a sneering attitude to the internal settlement and because of their consistent support of what is known—although the name is one which should not be used very much —as the Patriotic Front.

As far as Namibia is concerned, on 25th April this year the South African Government accepted the plans outlined by the five members of the Security Council. However, the five members and the British Government decided to allow SWAPO a veto. SWAPO has gazumped the contract that was made between the South African Government and the five, and that has resulted in the preparations by the United Nations not being made in time.

I wish I had more time to speak, but I have not. We look forward today to a clear denial by the Minister of the Government's intentions to grant, prepare for or activate sanctions against South Africa.

3.16 p.m.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

I detest the policy of apartheid as much as anyone in the House. I had the good fortune to serve in Nigeria in Government service for 10 years. I shudder to think of the unhappiness that would be caused to the many thousands of Nigerians I know if they were treated in the way that the South African Government treats their black citizens.

If we disapprove of the internal policies of another country, are we to do anything about it; and, if so, what?

We must look at this problem with a cool appreciation of the facts. If a country is an enemy, or a potential enemy, we must do nothing to assist it in any future war or conflict between us whereby we may suffer. That applies not only to weapons and arms, but to trade.

It cannot possibly be suggested that South Africa is an enemy or a potential enemy of this country. It is not engaged in hostilities against the Western world. It does not pursue on an international level any sort of conflict with us. It has no hostility with us or the rest of the Western world. South Africa does not finance political parties in order that they may subvert the constitution of the countries in which they exist.

Mr. Robert Hughes

The hon. Gentleman must be joking.

Mr. Stanbrook

South Africa does not carry on a world-wide movement designed to overthrow existing regimes. By those standards, South Africa is in a white position compared with the blackness of Soviet Russia. Yet, the Labour Government are prepared not only to trade with Soviet Russia, but to finance it with a credit of £1,000 million for that purpose. Therefore, how can the Government possibly be consistent when they approach the subject of South African sanctions?

We should all condemn the tyranny which is exercised in South Africa. But we must not forget that tyranny exists on a far wider scale and over a far wider area of the world than in that small portion of Africa.

For those reasons, we must say to our friends and to all hon. Members who rant and rave about the apparent inability and intolerance on the part of South Africans to understand their point of view, that sanctions are not the way to influence them. We have no right to interfere in these matters. This is the wrong way to influence these people. It is for us, with our great knowledge and experience of the world and of governments —indeed, of African Governments—to suggest the right approach. We must help to induce a different policy. Indeed, the abolition of the policy of apartheid in South Africa would be more likely to be achieved by peaceful progress than armed conflict.

3.20 p.m.

Mr. Richard Luce (Shoreham)

The House is at least united on one matter, and that is in its gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands (Mr. Rifkind) for giving the House an opportunity to debate the important subject of Britain's relationships with South Africa. Many of us feel that there are inadequate opportunities in the House to debate important issues of foreign policy. Therefore, this debate is to be welcomed all the more.

The question of our bilateral relations with South Africa and the wider implications of developments there are matters of profound concern to us all. Britain, through accidents of history, has been acutely involved in the affairs of many parts of Africa, particularly in Southern Africa itself. There is no underestimating the implications internationally of the acute developments in Rhodesia, Namibia and, looking to the longer term, in South Africa. We must consider problems of racial harmony, prospects of reconciliation, of peace between black and white people in South Africa, and what is at stake in that area for the Western world.

The United Kingdom is in a special position in its dealings with Southern Africa, and this must be seen in historical perspective. We are involved in an historical sense as well as in our trade and investments. Because we are involved, the United Kingdom must set the lead for the Western world and internationally in our relations with South Africa. We in the United Kingdom must make positive efforts to build bridges between the communities in South Africa to help the people of South Africa work towards a peaceful solution to their problems. This is a matter of fundamental importance.

The Soviet Union would like to portray Britain and the Western world as being part of the white defensive bastion, as they would call it. However, that is unacceptable to us in Britain. Our task is to help the people of South Africa remove the tinder which the Soviets and Cubans could set alight if we do not do something positive and constructive.

The motion which was so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Pent-lands refers to our bilateral relations and to the question whether sanctions, selective or general, should be imposed on South Africa. It is true that in the United Nations and elsewhere there are increasing calls for the imposition of sanctions. However, I detest the kind of language used by some Labour Members. For example, the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) spoke of historical inevitability—a kind of Marxist phrase. But it is not an historical inevitability; it is a matter of judgment. If we think that a certain course of action is right, we must stand up for it.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that the tension over Namibia could act as a trigger for certain tough moves at the United Nations to impose selective sanctions. Certain countries will advocate that the only way to bring about a change in racial policies would be to impose sanctions against South Africa.

I wish to make plain that the Conservative Party is totally opposed to the imposition of sanctions on South Africa, whether selective or general, with a view to creating racial harmony in that part of the world. We believe that such a policy would be counter-productive and destructive.

Equally, I wish to make it clear that we in the Conservative Party—and many of my hon. Friends in their speeches today have made this clear—disagree fundamentally with the racial policies that now exist in South Africa. A failure on the part of the South African Government to find a way—I choose my words carefully—to satisfy the aspirations of the black Africans will be disastrous for the white South Africans as well as for the West.

I want to develop the reasons why we believe that it would be counter-productive to impose sanctions of any nature. These reasons were set out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) on 23rd November in Peterborough.

The first is the hardship that sanctions would cause the black Africans of South Africa. This was also alluded to by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) in an excellent speech. Inevitably, sanctions would impose increasing unemployment on black Africans. It is thought by some sources that a 50 per cent. cutback in South African exports could lead to an extra 1 million unemployed black Africans.

This would lead to lower incomes for the black Africans, whose incomes are already low enough, and a deterioration in their standard of living. This, in turn, would lead to more civil unrest and bloodshed, and exacerbate racial antagonisms in South Africa. As a result there would be increased repression of black Africans.

Secondly, sanctions would harm neighbouring black States—Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho—which depend almost wholly on the South African economy. Zambia, Mozambique and many other African countries also would be affected. Zambia depends on South Africa for the supply of fertilisers and its very survival is at risk.

My hon. Friend the Member for Pent-lands said that about half a million foreign labourers worked in South Africa and sent their remittances back to their homeland. These remittances make an important contribution to their standard of living. Therefore, there is no shadow of doubt about the harsh effects sanctions would have on neighbouring African countries.

Thirdly, sanctions would imperil Western access to essential mineral resources. This point was made effectively by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) and many others. The United Kingdom depends on South Africa for 73 per cent. of its total gold imports; 55 per cent. of its total vanadium imports; 41 per cent. of its total platinum imports and 39 per cent. of its total chromium imports. If supplies of vanadium, platinum and manganese from South Africa were cut off, all the evidence suggests that we would have to resort to the Soviet Union to get essential supplies.

Fourthly, there is the question of British investments being at risk. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) referred to this. There is some dispute about the market value of our investment in South Africa. The Secretary of State has said that it is £5 billion. Some others put it higher. Let us be cautious and take the £5 billion figure. This constitutes 10 per cent. of all United Kingdom direct investments overseas and makes up about 55 per cent. of the total foreign investment available in South Africa today.

Apart from the employment for black African people which this investment provides, we obtain important growth earnings from investment in South Africa which amount to £380 million for 1978. Therefore, apart from the practical difficulties of a policy of selling our investment in South Africa, there is the question of our ability to do so considering the kind of exchange controls that the South African Government inevitably would impose.

The fifth reason is the trade reason, to which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull referred, our very important trade, both exports and imports, with South Africa. My hon. Friend the Member for Pentlands referred to the gross income that it is estimated this country derives from trade with South Africa. The accumulation of our visible and invisible earnings and the re-export of diamonds could amount to about £2 billion-worth of gross earnings.

Arising from that there is the direct British interest in terms of unemployment in this country, a point forcefully made by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor and Maidenhead. We can dispute figures, but I shall not enter into that argument. The estimates from various sources range between 70,000 and a quarter of a million more unemployed. There could be a serious effect upon an already grave unemployment situation.

The sixth reason is the end result of a policy of isolation upon South Africa—the laager effect, if one likes, the impression given to the Afrikaaners, who are already suffering from a degree of fear about isolation, and the effect that it will have upon them of feeling that this would create a garrison state in South Africa. That can only lead to increased oppression and countervailing violence. That is a most important point.

The seventh and final reason to be found is the evidence of history. We recall Abyssinia, for example, and the painful experience that we have all suffered in this House with regard to Rhodesia, from which we know that the policy will not be effective. That is the lesson of history. The Bingham report only serves to highlight something that we have known for a long time.

For all these reasons, the case against the imposition of selective or total sanctions is overwhelming, in the Opposition's view, which is endorsed by many distinguished black Africans in South Africa.

I listened with the greatest interest to many hon. Members. It is regrettable that every speech from the Labour Benches has been in favour of the imposition of sanctions. Listening to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), I waited and waited for a rational argument in favour of the imposition of sanctions. It was like waiting for Godot; it never came."Waiting for Godot"is the only play I have ever walked out of. I decided out of respect to the hon. Gentleman that I would not walk out on this occasion.

It is a matter of the greatest regret that no rational argument has been put forward. Every Labour speaker today has supported economic sanctions, against the interests of this country and, I believe, against the interests of the black people of South Africa.

We on the Opposition Benches advocate a more constructive and statesmanlike approach to the whole problem. Let us bring out the best in the people of South Africa, black and white alike, by using our influence constructively and helpfully.

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) says that we must build up our trade with Nigeria, Kenya and other African nations. Of course we must. But the hon. Lady said that we must do so with a view to using our influence with them. If she thinks that it is right to build up our trade with Nigeria with a view to using our influence constructively with Nigeria, why is it wrong not to do precisely the same with regard to South Africa?

The West must make it clear to South Africa that it is in its interests and ours to find a way of enabling it to satisfy the aspirations of black Africans.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Tell us how.

Mr. Luce

We must not advise the South Africans in a patronising way. It is up to them, knowing their history and background, to find their own way. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) made that point most forcefully.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Biggs-Davison) said, it can be alleged that some progress has been made, in regard to petty apartheid only, and it would be churlish not to acknowledge that. Yet there is still a long way to go.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe said, the code of conduct which has been drawn up through the European network and which should be adopted on a wider scale is a constructive way of looking at the problem. Western firms ought to be setting the lead and should desire to set the lead in such matters as collective bargaining, consultative procedures, pay, equal pay for equal work, the provision of skills and training, promotion opportunities for Africans, desegregation at work, housing and fringe benefits. In all these matters we can set a positive lead through western firms. This is the kind of constructive approach which the Opposition believes should be made.

My hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr. Lloyd) referred to the very important speech made in Mexico by Mr. Harry Oppenheimer in May of last year, when he put forward a forceful argument for suggesting that economic growth in South Africa would stimulate the breakdown of racial separation in South Africa whereas stagnation and poverty in South Africa—the end result of sanctions—would ossify and strengthen the system of apartheid. If the Africans in South Africa are to have growth in the last part of this century, the South African people will be dependent upon an increasing number of black people with skills and managerial experience to provide that growth and that increase in the standard of living. In that sense, therefore, private investment could, should and can act as a catalyst for change and progress in South Africa.

Until very recently, the position of Her Majesty's Government was quite solid and clear. In a book written by the Foreign Secretary, published recently, there is a chapter on the subject of apartheid. In it, he says quite clearly that a policy of sanctions of any kind would be wrong and counter-productive. Therefore, it was with considerable dismay that the Opposition read the Answer to a Question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Pentlands on 22nd November in which the right hon. Gentleman equivocated and said: I am not prepared to give a categorical assurance that in no circumstances would we not agree with a resolution involving sanctions on South Africa."—[Official Report, 22nd November 1978; Vol. 958, c. 1252.] This is a very serious change in policy, and the House needs a reassurance from the Minister that this is not the policy of the Government and that they will not equivocate.

The real danger now is that this Government will accept, with the Western world, that South Africa is a threat to international peace. But, as so many of my hon. Friends have said, if South Africa is a threat to international peace, what do the Government feel about Cambodia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and even the Soviet Union?

If it is to be a policy of only selective sanctions whether it be oil or simply restricting banking or credit facilities—this in itself is a start down that slippery slope, and that would not only be a test of our credibility but would open up the flood gates towards total economic sanctions which would be disastrous for us and for the people of South Africa.

It is time that we stood up for our interests. It is time for Britain to say what she thinks is right. It is time for us to take a positive and constructive lead. An economic boycott would be negative and destructive. If the Minister wishes to reassure the House, the people of this country and the people of South Africa, all that he need say is that the British Government will not countenance selective or comprehensive sanctions of any kind upon South Africa.

3.38 p.m.

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

I, too, wish to thank the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) for initiating this debate and also for the way in which he moved the motion. He underlined, as did most other hon. Members who have spoken, that the issues behind this debate are very serious and fundamental. They are issues of principle and of self-interest, and those two aspects of the debate have been woven into the speeches of most hon. Members.

First and foremost, the debate has been about our approach towards South Africa and its internal policies. I disagreed fundamentally with the remarks of one or two Opposition Members, who, while making the odd gesture towards antiapartheid views, nevertheless talked about apartheid as being regrettable. It is not regrettable. It is repugnant and an abhorrent form of suppression based, as it is, on colour. I do not know how the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) can use such terms as"defence of the free world." How can one equate defence of the free world with a system and a society which not only allows—

Mr. Grieve

The Minister has attacked me. Will he give way?

Mr. Rowlands

When I have completed my attack. The hon. and learned Gentleman talks about a system and a society where millions of people, because of their colour, are not merely deprived of their right to vote and normal civil rights but are denied the right of citizenship in the territory in which they live.

Fundamental issues are involved. The question arises of the British Government's position and what pressures can be brought to bear by Britain and other members of the international community for change within South Africa. This is an important issue and one that it is right to debate.

Mr. Grieve

The Minister could not have listened to my speech if he says that I equated the existence of apartheid in South Africa with the fact that that nation remains a bastion of the free world. I was talking in terms of strategy. The Minister knows that perfectly well. It is not right for the Minister to say that I equated the existence of apartheid with South Africa being a bastion of the free world. I ask him to withdraw that observation.

Mr. Rowlands

We could not support a strategy of the defence of the free world based on supporting or being related to a society and a system which stands for the very opposite of all the values for which we stand. Nor would most Opposition Members. Otherwise, they would not agree with an embargo on arms to South Africa which I understand is now official Conservative Party policy.

As well as the question of our bilateral relations of which many hon. Members have spoken, this debate has also dealt with our wider political and economic relationships with Africa and the international community. One cannot debate sanctions on South Africa as a purely bilateral issue. Other issues of our international relationships and relationships with the rest of Africa and the Third world and the international community are equally important in considering what action to support within the United Nations or the international community, as in our bilateral relations with South Africa.

The question of sanctions raises issues both of principle and of self-interest. The balance that one has to strike must be based on all the factors and considerations. For example, in what context would sanctions against South Africa be proposed? Would it be in the context of South Africa's internal policies, in relation to apartheid, in relation to Namibia or its attitude to Rhodesia? What will be the position of our partners, particularly in the EEC, and our close allies, the United States? What would be the nature of the sanctions imposed? Would they be selective or, as hon. Members opposite have said, general?

Conservative Members have argued that whatever the circumstances and whatever conceivable situation may arise, the British Government should not accept any kind of sanctions being imposed against South Africa. Apparently, if I had simply agreed to that, we could all happily have gone home. That cannot be the position of the British Government. We cannot say that we would automatically decide against an embargo or sanctions of some kind or another, some time in the future, in situations that one cannot anticipate.

Mr. Rifkind

Will the Minister give the House an assurance that the British Government are not at present giving serious consideration to the imposition of selective or comprehensive sanctions?

Mr. Rowlands

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my speech. No decisions have been taken, and there has been no change in policy.

The hon. Member made a great deal of what he assumed to have been a change in policy. He quoted—we both agreed, on my part from a sedentary position, for which I apologise, that we were drawing on impeccable sources—my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. In those same speeches that the hon. Gentleman quoted were many other references, of which I will give only one for illustration, which has been repeated over the last year or more as the position of the British Government—that South Africa cannot be given a blank cheque to pursue policies in Southern Africa, internal or external, in direct contravention of the United Nations charter.

I therefore say to hon. Members that there is no change of policy when I repeat that we cannot rule out absolutely the possibility of sanctions in certain future circumstances. But what we have repeatedly said—we have been perfectly consistent—is that we could consider sanctions only in a situation of the utmost gravity and that then we should have to consider them in the light of all the issues and factors brought out in this debate.

A variety of figures have been quoted to show the economic damage that Britain would suffer, the problems facing both neighbouring African States and black South Africans, as well as the issues of our own employment problems and use of raw materials. I shall come back to these points, which are crucial to any decision that the British Government might have to take in future.

I would put some of those figures in another context. I said earlier that there were wider economic and political considerations. Hon. Members have talked of the severe impact of sanctions upon the British economy. Very few Opposition Members spoke of the important political and economic interests in the rest of Africa. If Britain on its own—without another Western partner or the United States—had to decide whether to veto a United Nations resolution on sanctions, what impact would that have on our wider economic and political interests in Africa and the international community?

Many figures have been quoted about our bilateral economic relationships with South Africa, including investment—those are agreed—to show that the impact of any dramatic or immediate decision upon those interests would be of considerable severity. But let us consider—this has not been put into the equation today except by one or two of my hon. Friends —the importance of our economic and political relations with the rest of Africa if we were in the excruciating position of having to make a choice.

In 1977, our visible exports to South Africa were worth £583 million. That made South Africa this country's fourth largest market in the world. Imports from South Africa were worth £875 million. But, by comparison, our exports to black Africa last year were £1,790 million and our imports were £1,261 million. Thus, our visible exports to black Africa were worth three times those to South Africa and our total trade, with imports taken into account, was worth double that with South Africa. Those figures therefore show the excruciating difficulty of the choice that a British Government might have to make.

In visible trade, the South African market has declined in relative importance. It was this country's fourth largest market in 1965, it was tenth in 1974 and had dropped to sixteenth in 1977. Nigeria, which has been used as an illustration by my hon. Friends became our ninth most important market in 1977.

I need not develop the argument, however, to demonstrate the crucial importance of the balancing factors and the issues which would be raised in the context of a unilateral decision to veto sanctions when the rest of the international community were pursuing that policy. I wish only to demonstrate that a British Government cannot consider their attitude in isolation from their wider economic and political relations and that no British Government could at this stage undertake, as the motion would wish us to do, that for ever and a day and in whatever circumstances they would not accept the possibility of sanctions against South Africa.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman has referred to the excruciating choice that might be faced by a British government. It is clearly an important matter. Will he suggest how many of the countries represented by the other trading bloc that he has described could go to the United Nations and say We ask the British Government to support sanctions against South Africa because they have not achieved standards that we have achieved in the rest of Africa "?

Mr. Rowlands

The hon. Gentleman has been arguing about standards consistently and with regularity for a long time. He has never discovered that many people are willing even to sacrifice standards for freedom. They are willing to accept cuts in their standard of living. That has been the story in much of Southern Africa. That has been the stance taken by many leaders in Africa on behalf of their peoples both in colonial days and now, given the present situation in Rhodesia and Southern Africa. President Kaunda of Zambia has made considerable economic sacrifices for a principle. The hon. Gentleman has never understood that fundamental aspect of Africa and the politics and principle involved.

It is nonsensical to assume that we could ignore opinion in Africa and our Western allies and friends. We could not ignore whatever they thought and felt and be bound for ever and a day by a decision that the motion seeks to impose upon the British Government.

We agree with the assessment that has been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House of the impact of sanctions. First, we should be fully aware of the impact of comprehensive sanctions on neighbouring African States. However, that would be a matter for the African States themselves to determine. We have seen how Lesotho has been willing to stand up for a principle in its relationships with Transkei. Mozambique and other States might be willing to stand up for a principle and accept the economic consequences. That would be for the countries concerned to decide. We accept that there could be a drastic impact on neighbouring African States if comprehensive sanctions were introduced.

Secondly, the impact of sanctions on black people within South Africa would be serious. That would be a vital part of any decision that might or might not have to be made at some time if we embark on a sanctions policy.

As hon. Members have said, Chief Buthelezi has cast considerable doubt on whether he is opposed to various forms of sanctions. However, Conservative Members, with their contacts, must know that there is an active debate taking place among black South Africans on the right policy to pursue. They are debating whether they should ask the West or the international community to support some form of economic boycott. That debate is taking place, but it is not being spoken out loud and clear within South Africa. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) said, it is sufficient to suggest the presence of that debate.

In the circumstances, there cannot be direct quotes. The evidence cannot be quoted because the people concerned would find themselves in most serious internal legal problems with the South African authorities. That is another illustration of the lack of freedom of speech and the right to make a call on behalf of one's community and one's people and recommend a course of action. That would be treated as sedition within South Africa.

We completely understand the importance and the seriousness of any form of sanction, especially a comprehensive form of sanctions, and the effect sanctions would have on the British economy, especially on investment and employment. We recognise that there would be difficulty in obtaining alternative sources of raw material. Given developments over recent years—the hon. Member for Pent-lands referred to the contracts that the Government have had with British industry concerning South Africa—I am surprised that there should be anxiety that sponsoring Departments are keeping in close touch with firms and discussing on an informal and confidential basis the economic problems that are of concern to them. The political and economic assessments of developments in South Africa are bound to be included among them. Indeed, it would be negligent of us, in our relationships with firms which are involved in economic investment and development in South Africa, if such informal contracts were not being maintained and if such an exchange of information were not taking place.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will my hon. Friend answer the question that I put earlier about when we shall have an announcement about the need for a parliamentary inquiry into the revelations of the Bingham inquiry?

Mr. Rowlands

I appreciate my hon. Friend's point and I understand why he wishes to press me on it, but I am not the Leader of the House and therefore I cannot respond.

The whole thrust of the British. Government's policy towards South Africa, towards its internal policy of apartheid, towards Namibia and South Africa's relations with Namibia, and towards Rhodesia, has been to try to solve these problems without recourse to sanctions, which create the very severe and considerable problems which hon. Members have raised. In the case of Namibia, we have striven, with the five Western powers, to carry out just that policy. In our relationships with South Africa and in our reaction and attitude and approach to the internal South African policy of apartheid, we have tried to use our powers of persuasion and pressure, through those very economic contacts and through the code of conduct with the other members of the EEC, to create the change that is desperately necessary in South Africa and in Southern Africa.

3.57 p.m.

Mr. Rifkind

I have listened with great care to all the speeches, and I should like particularly to thank my hon. Friends who have spoken in support of the motion.

It is significant that Labour Members, with the sole exception of the Minister and the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), have not addressed themselves to the question of sanctions as opposed to the general abhorrence of apartheid. Even the Minister and the hon. Member for Swansea, East did not come to terms with the realities of the problem, namely, whether sanctions can be enforced against South Africa, what would be involved in seeking to enforce them by naval blockade, and whether they would succeed in their purpose of changing the domestic policies of South Africa.

We have had many ritual condemnations of apartheid and I associate myself 100 per cent. with those condemnations, but I sometimes believe that certain Labour Members are more concerned, when they support sanctions, with demonstrating their abhorrence of apartheid than with whether sanctions would have a realistic effect on the policies of South Africa. They feel that they have to be able to demonstrate their condemnation of apartheid, and that it does not really matter very much whether the policies in question would succeed in their stated purpose.

No one has yet been able to state whether the United Kingdom Government, with the support of the rest of the Western world, would be willing to bring in the Soviet Navy, for example, to help blockade South Africa. What effect do they believe sanctions would have on changing white opinion in South Africa in the direction they believe to he necessary?

I listened very carefully to the Minister and I was delighted to hear—as, I am sure, were my hon. Friends—that no decision has yet been taken on the question of economic sanctions. But, with respect to the Minister, that was not the question I asked him, as he knows perfectly well. I asked whether any serious consideration was being given at present to the enforcement of selective or comprehensive sanctions. The Minister's silence on that matter was more revealing than the rest of his speech.

That is the matter with which we are concerned, and the Minister's failure to respond on that point more than justifies the holding of the debate, in order that the House can make clear, not only something that is believed on the Opposition Benches but represents the feelings of many people throughout this country, and of black and white in South Africa. This is a matter which transcends party politics. There is a deep belief that, even if we embark on cosmetic selective sanctions, it will not end there, because they will not work. The demands to increase them will become increasingly strengthened, and it will become increasingly difficult for any Government to resist, once the principle of sanctions has been conceded.

The purpose of the debate was to focus the attention of the Government on the strong feelings of the House on this question. I will not ask my hon. Friends to divide the House on this matter, because I do not believe that this is the time at which to do that, but the Minister must realise that, if and when the Government reach a decision, and if that decision is on the basis of supporting economic sanctions, there will be strong opposition.

I hope that the House will give me leave to withdraw my motion, because I believe that it has served its purpose of giving warning to the Government of the very strong feelings in the House and in the country on this subject. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.