HC Deb 22 February 1978 vol 944 cc1407-12
1. Mr. Rhodes James

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimates have been made of the total monthly costs of a United Nations peacekeeping force in Rhodesia; what proportion of those costs would be met by Her Majesty's Government; and whether he will make a statement.

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

These estimates must depend on decisions which would have to be taken by the Security Council. The size and extent of any United Nations involvement, anyhow, depends on the nature of any ceasefire agreement.

Mr. Rhodes James

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. Can he indicate whether the Government still consider that this is a practical possibility? Is he aware of the considerable difficulties already facing the United Nations in its other peacekeeping activities?

Dr. Owen

I am aware from our experiences in Cyprus that the cost of peacekeeping is a considerable problem. Under discussion is the possibility of using the United Nations in Namibia in a peacekeeping role, and in Rhodesia. Some people believe that there is also a possible role in the Horn of Africa. All of these would stretch the limited resources of the Secretariat, probably to the limit. There is a role for the United Nations, not always in a force presence but in an observer capacity—to see free and fair elections, for example.

Mr. Hooley

Whatever the cost in money, does my right hon. Friend agree that the advantages of achieving a peaceful transition to constitutional rule in Rhodesia would be enormous? Does he agree that we badly need support for the United Nations peacekeeping efforts in various parts of the world and not continual criticisms and objections?

Dr. Owen

I agree that the United Nations has a very important role. I do not believe that questions of finance should be the dominant issue when deciding this. For instance, in the talks that I had in New York recently about a peacekeeping force to go to Namibia, one of the anxieties expressed by SWAPO was that permanent members would use their financial interests to restrict the level of forces. We made clear that we would support whatever level of support the Secretary-General thought appropriate for Namibia.

Mrs. Knight

Before a United Nations peacekeeping force can go into a country, the agreement of the Government of that country is required. Has the Foreign Secretary had any talks with Mr. Smith on that issue?

Dr. Owen

General Prem Chand accompanied Lord Carver to Salisbury and discussed this with all the parties there. It is true that a ceasefire is the only circumstance in which the United Nations peacekeeping force would go in. I have never tried to hide the fact that I believe that it is ambitious to seek a ceasefire, particularly between two armies neither of which has won or lost.

11. Mr. Biggs-Davison

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

17. Mr. Molloy

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

18. Mr. George Rodgers

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will refuse to recognise any internal agreement in Rhodesia that does not embrace the principle of one man, one vote.

Dr. Owen

This week I have been seeing the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole and we have been in contact with representatives of Bishop Muzorewa. I am speaking this afternoon to the United States Administration and I hope to continue private and public discussions with all parties to the dispute to try to widen and build on the existing areas of agreement.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Will the Government endorse a settlement that is within the Six Principles and which enables the people of Rhodesia democratically to elect a majority-rule Government? On a settlement being reached, will they end sanctions? If not, why not?

Dr. Owen

As the House knows, successive Governments have fully supported the Six Principles. The first four are not as appropriate as they might have been when first drafted, because events have moved on. The whole objective is contained in the fifth and sixth principles. The lifting of sanctions is an issue for the United Nations.

Mr. Molloy

If, as reported, my right hon. Friend may be meeting Mr. Richard Moose, of the United States State Department, to discuss the problem of Rhodesia, will it not be possible for my right hon. Friend to consider calling a meeting with Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe and persuade them, even at this late hour, to join the talks on the future of their country? In all fairness, they ought to be offered the opportunity for the Patriotic Front to join the forces of the new Zimbabwe.

Dr. Owen

It has been a central objective of mine, despite all the difficulties, to get all the nationalist leaders together. I agree with my hon. Friend that even at this stage it is worth trying to get greater unity among the nationalist movement, in which event we shall be able to ensure a ceasefire and peaceful election period. That is a prize which we must all fight for.

Mr. Rodgers

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the voting formula that has emerged from the internal talks is not in accord with the Six Principles that had previously been accepted by both parties to this dispute during the past 12 years? If there is to be a departure from the Six Principles, should not we be made aware of it?

Dr. Owen

As my hon. Friend knows, the sixth principle protects the rights of minorities. It is because of the protection of the rights of minorities that we ourselves proposed specially elected Members. The anxiety that has been caused, both in Rhodesia and outside, concerns the large number of specially elected representatives—28—but it appears that there will be agreement that those 28 will never form the Government of Zimbabwe. That would avoid the situation of those 28 Members being able to link up with a minority to subvert the results of the election. I also think it important that those 28 Members should not elect a President of Zimbabwe or be able to impeach the President of Zimbabwe.

Mr. Temple-Morris

We agree—I think that the right hon. Gentleman agrees, also—that any settlement has to be based on democracy. Would the Foreign Secretary like to hazard a guess about the potential vote of Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo? Does he seriously think that there is the least chance of their joining in with any settlement while the Western world, the international community and the United Kingdom Government are in a total state of indecision?

Dr. Owen

I would not like to hazard a guess about that, nor would I like to hazard a guess about the vote that the hon. Gentleman will get at the next General Election. I suspect that he would not hazard a guess with regard to what my vote will be at the next General Election.

Mr. Grocott

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that one of the things which concerns the Patriotic Front is the question of an amnesty for Mr. Smith and his associates? Does he agree that it is as psychologically impossible to expect African nationalists who have been imprisoned, tortured and seen their friends executed by Smith and his friends over the last 12 years to grant an amnesty as it would have been to expect the Free French to give an amnesty to Petain?

Dr. Owen

The amnesty was part of the proposals put before the House in the Command Paper. I believe that if we are to get a peaceful settlement for an independent Zimbabwe we shall have to turn that page of history and not look back. Although I accept that it is asking a great deal of people to accept an amnesty, I am convinced that an amnesty is an essential ingredient for a new independent and stable Zimbabwe.

Mr. Amery

I hesitate to give the Foreign Secretary advice or guidance, but may I suggest to him that his blatant advocacy of the Patriotic Front, has only made it put up its terms? If he wants to bring in the Patriotic Front he would do better not to run after it. I should also like to venture to correct one of his statements—

Mr. Speaker

Order. May I correct the right hon. Gentleman? He may do that in the form of a question.

Mr. Amery

May I also ask the Foreign Secretary whether he is aware that when he said that the issue of sanctions was a matter for the United Nations it was almost a contempt of this House, because if this House does not renew the sanctions order in the autumn there will be no sanctions?

Dr. Owen

There will be no sanctions at all in the United Kingdom, but that is a very different question. If I understood the question, it related to the renewal of sanctions under the mandatory order of the United Nations, of which we are a member.

As to my "blatant advocacy", I am an unrepentant believer that it is my task to try to bring all the nationalist leaders together, despite the attacks that are frequently made. The right hon. Gentleman has not been slow in coming forward on this issue. I shall continue to try to get Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe to recognise the need for a peaceful settlement, but not, as I have made clear, to give them a veto.

Mr. Whitehead

Is not the essence of the Six Principles that any settlement should be acceptable to the people of Rhodesia or Zimbabwe as a whole? Does my right hon. Friend think that the present arrangements give anything like adequate coverage to those people in Zimbabwe who support the Patriotic Front?

Dr. Owen

It is difficult to make a judgment of what is or is not acceptable until the people of Zimbabwe have made their view clear. It is for the people as a whole to come to a decision, because, as my hon. Friend knows, there are still very important discussions going on and quite obvious disagreements on major issues, such as whether the transitional Government will reflect the balance of the executive council, as has been asked for, as I understand it, by Bishop Muzorewa, Mr. Sithole and Chief Chirau. There is some dispute about the nature of the transitional Government. The greater the extent to which the world can see a movement towards black majority government, the more credible it will be.

Mr. John Davies

Does the Foreign Secretary recognise that the House welcomes what appears to be the markedly more conciliatory tone that he has adopted today to the whole question of an internal settlement? Will he also take advantage of his discussions with the United States representative this afternoon to make clear that careful reflection and consideration of the whole matter is desirable before giving vent to what might be very damaging statements?

Dr. Owen

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said. On Thursday I suggested that careful consideration and thought would provoke a thoughtful response, and I did not get the understanding from Conservative Benches that I have received today. In the light of the events of the past few days, more people have come to recognise that my initial response of caution was wise.