§ Mr. Speaker
I have selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition.
Before we begin the debate, I should like to say that an exceptionally large number of right hon. and hon. Members wish to take part. Almost everybody who has indicated to me that he hopes to catch my eye has a good reason for being called; it seems that most of the House has been in Southern Africa for the recess. Obviously, I should like to call them all. The rule is suspended and there is an extended debate, but none the less there is room for restraint on the part of those who are called.
May I say, in conclusion, that this is one of those difficult occasions when I hope right hon. and hon. Members will not come to the Chair either to seek their place in the batting order or to advance their cause. In the words of my predecessor, which for me will be immortal, such efforts would be counter-productive.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the light of the decision you have just given on the selection of the amendment—a question that I raised with you last week—you rightly reminded me and the House that the subject of debate is not a matter for you. However, in view of the exchanges that we had earlier 695 this afternoon, it appears that my suggestion that there had been collusion between the two Front Benches was quite unfair. I therefore withdraw it. It appears that there was a lack of co-operation between the two Front Benches, and that one thought we were debating Bingham and the other Rhodesia.
Would you confirm, Mr. Speaker, that your selection means that the House will have no opportunity to give its opinion on the question whether there should be a further inquiry into matters raised by Bingham? If we are to have a two-day debate, it means that we can raise the matter verbally but the House will have no opportunity to decide the matter.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that the only vote that can take place is on the amendment that I have selected.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I fully accept your decision not to select the amendment in my name and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) about the supply of arms to Zambia, Mr. Speaker, as the subject is left out of the official Opposition's amendment to-day for some extraordinary reason. Will you confirm that, as is usual with debates on the Queen's Speech, it will be in order to raise it and any other matter in today's debate?
§ Mr. Speaker
The amendment that I have selected is in very wide and general terms, and I have no doubt at all that the hon. Member, if he is called to speak, will be able to bring in that subject.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Dr. David Owen)
I think that the whole House would like to pay tribute to John Davies, who would have been speaking in this debate. We were all extremely sad to hear of his illness, and we all wish him a full recovery. He came into the House after a distinguished career in industry, and he deservedly built up a reputation of somebody who was fair and honest and objective in his comments. He will be missed from our debates.
I shall try at the outset of this two-day debate both to deal with the current 696 situation in Rhodesia and to set it in the context of the report by Mr. Bingham and Mr. Gray, which investigates in detail the way in which oil had reached Rhodesia since 1965. The report is a model of careful research and balanced judgment. It brings out a whole range of facts and issues and provides helpful background for the specific debate tomorrow night on the order to renew section 2 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965.
The report explains in the preface that no general attempt was made to relate it to the political, diplomatic and economic events of the time. This was not part of Mr. Bingham's and Mr. Gray's task, which was essentially to establish the facts concerning the supply of oil to Rhodesia and to investigate evidence relating to possible breaches of British sanctions controls by British nationals or companies subject to British law. It is for this House in the first instance and Parliament itself now to set the report in its wider political context, to consider the full implications of its findings, to establish such further inquiries as it thinks necessary and to learn the appropriate lessons for the future.
To consider the facts, objectively it is necessary to recall the climate of the time and some of the political and economic factors which influenced past Governments in their framing of policies towards Rhodesia. It is not my intention to pass judgment now upon the actions of past Governments. I know that many members of those Governments will wish to speak both in this debate and when the report is discussed in another place.
Only one month after Rhodesia had become a colony in rebellion against the Crown, oil sanctions were imposed by Britain acting under a non-mandatory resolution of the Security Council. The then Labour Government had forsworn the use of armed force—
§ Dr. Owen
—but realised that the measures taken immediately after Mr. Smith's illegal declaration of independence would not prove sufficient in themselves for the short, swift campaign against the regime which was then envisaged.
From the first there was always doubt whether international co-operation in an 697 oil embargo would be forthcoming. In particular, it was obvious that Portuguese and South African co-operation would be essential if oil sanctions were to be fully applied. It was believed at the time that the closure of the principal route for the supply of oil to Rhodesia— the Umtali pipeline—could deal a major blow to the Rhodesian economy and bring about an early return to legality.
The Government decided to impose oil sanctions unilaterally on 17th December 1965. No oil entered Beira in Mozambique after that date, and none reached Rhodesia's only refinery after 31st December. The refinery has remained closed ever since then.
Early in 1966 there were reports of pirate tankers bound for Beira. These were intercepted, first with the authority of flag States concerned and then with the authority of Security Council resolution 221 of 9th April 1966. Mr. Bingham has described in some detail the action by the Government over this period.
It is now alleged that the Beira patrol, which was maintained by successive Governments from April 1966 to June 1975, when the Portuguese pulled out of Mozambique, was ineffective and a waste of taxpayers' money. It is perfectly true that it did not achieve the initial objective which the Government had hoped for, of cutting off all oil supplies to Rhodesia, but it did ensure that oil never reached Rhodesia from the quickest and cheapest route, namely Beira and the Umtali pipeline. Hon. Gentlemen can laugh about it, but it was an extremely important policy objective, which they sustained throughout the periods that they were in Government.
At any time to have lifted the patrol and thereby acquiesced in oil flowing along the pipeline would not only have reduced the economic costs of alternative supply routes; it would have been a significant political act tantamount to recognition of the illegal regime. Successive Governments openly and publicly acknowledged that the route, initially through South Africa, subsequently through Lourenço Marques and then again through South Africa, remained open. Yet no Government from 1966 onwards were prepared to use force to close these alternative routes. It was optimistically hoped that diplomatic pressure and considerations of self- 698 interest would bring the South African and Portuguese Governments either to re-examine their sanctions policy or to use their political influence on the regime to achieve a settlement. Events have shown that that was much too optimistic an assessment.
The House must appreciate the complexity of the factors which influenced successive Governments' thinking during this period. Those who were responsible for policy towards Rhodesia had to weigh the implications of every action they took across a complex field of interrelated and often contradictory policy objectives for the prospects of successful talks with the Rhodesian regime, which were continuing throughout this period, for our relations with Commonwealth countries and the international community as a whole, for Britain's own economic well-being, often coinciding with times of acute domestic economic difficulty, for the effect on Britain's extensive commercial and investment interests built up over many years in South Africa, and for South Africa's willingness to exercise a moderating influence on the regime.
During this period some of our major allies lacked any enthusiasm for the implementation of even existing sanctions. There is no joy in laughing at that inability to mobilise international opinion. Many of them also certainly had no sympathy or support for any measures designed to strengthen those sanctions.
The House should not forget that BP and Shell were not the only oil companies. The French and American oil companies—Total, Caltex and Mobil— appear not to have been influenced let alone controlled by their Governments. Moreover, chrome, for example, was reaching the United States from Rhodesia for many years before the 1971 Byrd Amendment actually gave congressional approval for breaking mandatory United Nations sanctions.
I mention these facts just to stress that the international climate is very different now and, most important of all, that the attitudes of the French and the United States Governments are much more sympathetic now to the views of African countries and a firm United Nations-backed policy.
The most difficult decision, and the one which the Government between 1966 and 699 1968 agonised over most, was how to stop oil getting through Lourenço Marques to Rhodesia, once it became obvious that it was moving on from Beira. It was felt, rightly or wrongly, that there was no practicable way of monitoring or controlling the flow of oil through Lourenço Marques without a major confrontation with South Africa, to whose law the South African subsidiaries of the oil companies were subject. Much of the oil passing through Lourenço Marques was earmarked for the Transvaal province of South Africa, for Botswana and for Swaziland.
It was established from the start and maintained as a policy by successive Governments that the burden which any economic confrontation with South Africa would entail should not be borne by Britain alone among the Western nations. There was never any attempt to conceal this fundamental conviction from Parliament or the country. As any hon. Members who were in the House at that time will attest, as a matter of political judgment taken at the highest level of Government decision-making, action was ruled out if it was thought it would lead to Britain facing economic confrontation with South Africa without the full support and involvement of some other Western industrialised countries as well.
Other Western countries were as reluctant as Britain to face an economic confrontation. It was not until November of last year that it was finally agreed in the Security Council to put a mandatory arms embargo on South Africa, though Britain had, with a few exceptions in 1970–71, particularly been operating its own arms embargo since 1964. Even today, with the international climate far tougher towards South Africa and its policies, we and our Western allies still judge it to be far preferable for everyone —ourselves and those living in Southern Africa—to avoid confrontation. But to do this South Africa must use its influence over Namibia and Rhodesia in concert with the international community rather than against the international community and must also start to dismantle the institutional framework of apartheid. An economic confrontation with sanctions over South Africa may come. But let no one be under any illusion; this is not a course which should be relished by any- 700 one who has the interests of the people of Southern Africa at heart, for those whom we do not wish to hurt will suffer most.
After the failure of the 1966 "Tiger" talks, the Government proposed the resolution which was adopted by the Security Council on 16th December 1966, imposing mandatory sanctions on Rhodesia's major exports and on certain key imports, including oil.
Throughout 1967, the Government conscientiously sought to find ways of intensifying oil sanctions. The Bingham report describes 1967 as a yeardominated by a series of initiatives taken by HMG to make the oil embargo against Rhodesia effectivebut observed that at the same time the problems of enforcement became plainer. Chapter 6 of the report sets out in detail some of the schemes advanced by the Government and discussed with the oil companies. All were eventually rejected on one or more of the following grounds.
The first ground was that the refusal of Portugal and South Africa to apply sanctions left a gaping hole in the blockade of Rhodesia, which I have already mentioned.
Secondly, it was felt that certain courses of action could lead to the economic confrontation with South Africa which had been ruled out.
Thirdly, the reluctance of certain Western Governments at that time to put pressure on their oil companies, and the wider political arguments against attempting to exercise legal control over subsidiaries of United Kingdom companies operating abroad, meant that the oil companies could hide behind South African legislation. The legal problems were seriously explored at the time. They involve the whole question of the control of multinationals.
Fourthly, there was reluctance for the Government to act alone, without effective support from their partners. This in turn meant that the various schemes to ration supplies of oil or oil products through Lourenço Marques were all reluctantly—and, after reading all the relevant papers, I stress the word "reluctantly"—judged to be unworkable.
In July 1967, and again in March 1968, the Government actively considered the possibility of a naval blockade of 701 Lourenço Marques as well as Beira. The South African Government would not have prevented oil supplies reaching Rhodesia from South African suppliers should supplies through Mozambique cease and we were not prepared to threaten a naval blockade of South Africa. Despite the Salazar dictatorship, Portugal had been allowed to be a member of NATO, and this was also a factor which was considered. The American and French Governments of the time were judged as unwilling to agree to any blockade. A blockade which tried to ration imports of oil or oil products by limiting them to the needs of normal non-Rhodesian customers, including those in the Transvaal, Swaziland and Botswana, was seriously considered but eventually judged to be impossible to administer.
A limitation of oil imports to a level below the normal demands of Mozambique, the Transvaal, Botswana and Swaziland would have entailed enforcement action against Mozambique and South Africa. There was no possibility that other international oil companies, which had their own interests both in Mozambique and in South Africa, would join in any rationing scheme. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the political judgments of the time, no one reading all the papers as I have done can make the charge of complicity, deceit or double-dealing. Here were honest men of successive Governments struggling with massive political problems, seeking the best solution bearing in mind all the restraints and all the limitations within which they felt they had to operate.
By the end of 1967, Britain was grappling with the economic crisis which followed devaluation of sterling, and the Rhodesian authorities seemed more intransigent than ever. There was good reason to believe that support in many countries for the maintenance of sanctions was wavering and that the introduction of new sanctions would cause difficulties with our partners. In these circumstances, as the report records, Ministers decided collectively to defer further consideration of proposals to intensify sanctions, including the possibility of stopping the supply of oil to Rhodesia through Mozambique. Yet, even so, as I have mentioned, a further study was made in 1968 of the possibility of rationing oil supplies to Lourenço Marques 702 following the widespread outburst of indignation against the Rhodesian regime for its execution of a number of Africans despite the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. The Government, however, reluctantly again reached the same conclusions as they had in 1967.
It is against this background and in this political climate that I suggest Parliament should view the discussions which those Ministers directly involved had with the oil companies in 1967–69. I think it is important to stress, as indeed the report does, that it was only towards the end of 1967 that the Government began to suspect that British oil companies and their subsidiaries were involved, directly or indirectly, in the supply of oil to Rhodesia. It was widely assumed at the time, though not then proved, that the French company CFP, as the company most heavily involved in refining and marketing within Mozambique, was principally to blame. The Portuguese authorities had alleged that British oil companies were involved, but they did not produce firm evidence, and the oil companies themselves had rejected these allegations.
The Government's own investigations had suggested that any refined oil products delivered to Lourenço Marques for bulk storage by British companies—themselves only a small proportion of oil imports into Mozambique—were largely destined for the Transvaal. It was thought possible, however, that some of the oil companies' customers were reselling oil to Rhodesia. It was at this point that the then Commonwealth Secretary decided to meet the directors of Shell and BP, with the outcome that is recorded in the Bingham report. The actual records of the subsequent meetings are printed in the annex to the report.
I do not want to judge or justify now, the positions which were then taken in relation to what was said to the companies, the consideration given to it in Government, or on the question whether there should have been a reference to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Parliament and the country will hear from those who were directly involved. It is, however, the public dispute about exactly what happened over this period that has, above all, made people call for a further inquiry. It is in revealing exactly what did happen at this time that I believe 703 our parliamentary debates can now add an important dimension. Decisions throughout this period were taken in the full recognition that the denial of British oil to Rhodesia, while a necessary political instruction and legal obligation, would not and could not in itself reduce Rhodesia's capacity to obtain oil.
Whatever conclusion is reached about the legality, the morality or the justification for this swap arrangement, we must not delude ourselves into believing that Rhodesia's imports would, in practice, have been seriously restricted if British companies and their subsidiaries had simply pulled out of the South African market in an effort to avoid any direct or indirect involvement in the supply of oil to Rhodesia.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
Is it at this point in the narrative that my right hon. Friend ought to indicate his view that Parliament should have been informed that we were engaging in the swap arrangement which was manifestly against the spirit, at any rate—and I suggest the letter—of the mandatory regulation that we had passed?
§ Dr. Owen
I am trying to give an objective account of the events of this period, which is extremely difficult to do, and I have therefore decided not to make my own judgments about the morality, the justification or, indeed, the legality of the swap arrangement, and I would include in that the question whether or not Ministers should have explained matters to the House. I believe that many hon. Members will wish to comment on that issue and that it is this area which has caused the greatest concern to right hon. and hon. Members. I am trying to put the arrangement in its context and explain what I can from the documents that are available, and then I believe the House will be able to hear from people who were themselves intimately involved in the matter and to form a judgment. I believe that it is very important not to form a judgment at this stage.
§ Certainly, if we had been able—
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
Will the House be given another opportunity to make that judgment which the right hon. Gentleman 704 says it is very important for the House to make about the conduct of individuals and Governments in this matter?
§ Dr. Owen
The Government have promised to listen to this debate. We have always said that we would come first to both Houses of Parliament and listen to the debate and then reach a conclusion. Parliament itself, will be able to reach a conclusion and if the Government's decision is challenged Parliament has ways of bringing this issue to them. Indeed, the Government have ways of bringing this issue to Parliament.
The Government have been totally open about the whole of the handling of this process. We established an inquiry as soon as the allegations were made. When I said that we would publish the findings of the inquiry and had to make reference to the fact that in the actual legal provision there is a priviso that I had to get the agreement of those who had given evidence to the inquiry, many people suspected that we would not publish the report of the inquiry. We did publish the report at the earliest possible opportunity, and at all stages there has been the utmost openness and candour.
I would say that if we had not made this swap arrangement we would have been spared the international and domestic criticism which has flowed from this finding in the report. But other international oil companies were in contact with agents for Rhodesia. I do not do this to explain away the decision; I do it to put it in the context in which the decision was made.
A memorandum written by an employee of BP in South Africa some years later, and quoted in the report, not only set out in full the respective market shares of all the international oil companies involved in supply to Rhodesia; it revealed in paragraph 8.39, on page 270 of the report—which is worth looking up—that another major oil company, Esso, had in 1970 offered to supply 100 per cent. of the Rhodesian market at heavily discounted prices. The offer was turned down, probably because a continued diversification of sources of supply was considered more secure. But Rhodesia would have had no difficulty in finding compensating supplies through South Africa in the event of any shortfall from one supplier. It is hard to 705 escape the conclusion that without a higher degree of co-operation from our major trading partners than was then forthcoming, any British Government were powerless to affect the oil supply position on the ground in Rhodesia.
From 1969 until 1975 there was little change in the position. The Conservative Government of 1970 to 1974 maintained virtually unchanged all the existing sanctions, including the Beira patrol. In 1971, according to the report, the swap arrangement, which the companies had set up to take Shell Mozambique, a British-registered company, out of the line of supply lapsed and a direct supply arrangement was apparently reinstituted. It is for the DPP to decide whether there was a breach of United Kingdom sanctions legislation, but the report found no evidence that the lapse of the swap arrangement was known to the then Government. I have no way of knowing whether or not new Government Ministers were told about the swap arrangement in 1970. The report states clearly that even the London offices of the oil companies did not know about the lapse of the arrangement until 1974, and that even then the companies did not inform the Government.
In 1974, a Labour Government returned to office determined to seek any practicable way of enforcing sanctions more effectively, and I have found no evidence to indicate that Ministers were told about the swap arrangement then which could have been assumed to be still in operation though it had in fact lapsed. Particular efforts were made by the new Government—with some success—to encourage a more determined application of sanctions by our international partners, the United Nations and members of the European Community. The number of prosecutions for breaches of the sanctions controls increased.
In 1977, it became a matter of increasing concern that there appeared to be grounds for believing that the oil sanctions legislation had been circumvented and perhaps broken. On 6th July, after the Bingham inquiry had been established, I tried to persuade Mr. Rowland to release all the documents in his possession. At our meeting, I had in front of me a letter which the Prime Minister had written to Mr. Rowland on 4th July stating quite categorically that 706 the Director of Public Prosecutions had not yet completed his consideration of the report on Lonrho. No reference was made, in any of the further letters to the Prime Minister, to his having received from me the assurances which he now claims he was given. In my meeting, and in all subsequent correspondence, it was made clear, as we would be bound to do, that any decision was for the Director of Public Prosecutions. His decision was announced last Friday.
In establishing the Bingham inquiry, the Government believed that a searching examination of the entire history of oil supplies to Rhodesia since 1965 was inevitable and right. We were anxious that all the facts should be brought to light, however unpalatable some of them might be. The Government gave every help to the inquiry and unhindered access to all the departmental papers. Once the report had been received, the Government decided that it should be published virtually in its entirety, protecting only one annex, and that on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions. We concluded that, before deciding what further steps to take, both Houses of Parliament should have this early and full opportunity for debate.
There has been no cover-up. There will be no cover-up. It is for the Government, this House and the country to face the implications of the report. We will listen carefully to this debate as we have promised. It will be for Parliament ultimately to decide.
§ Mr. Willian Hamilton (Fife, Central)
Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking to the House, in view of what he said about unhindered access to Bingham and to the relevant papers? Will he now announce that the Government agree in principle to that unhindered access through any Select Committee that this House chooses to set up?
§ Dr. Owen
I imagine that my hon. Friend is referring to the question whether Cabinet papers should be made available. This is one of the issues that will be discussed in the debate. However, it is not for me to decide. These are Cabinet papers for two Cabinets, of which I was not a member, in two Administrations, and I believe that there are serious issues which the whole House will wish 707 to consider. They concern issues of precedent and issues of trust, in which Ministers participated in the decisions of Cabinet, believing that there would be a period of confidentiality, at present a 30-year period.
The Government have not taken a view about this matter, particularly in view of the suggestion from my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), who was Prime Minister for part of this period. We shall want to consider what he has to say, the arguments which he wishes to produce, and why he thinks his suggestion would be helpful. I think that the House will need to take all these considerations into account but will wish to bear in mind that on many occasions in the past, when there has been a very good case on the issue involved for releasing Cabinet papers immediately, successive Governments have always resisted it because of the danger of precedent. This is an open issue, on which we should like to hear the views of Parliament.
It is obviously urgent to satisfy ourselves—I think that everyone in the House will agree—that, whatever was the position in the past, British oil companies and their subsidiaries are now playing no part whatsoever in the supply of oil to Rhodesia. I personally saw the oil company chairmen of BP and Shell in April last year to tell them why I was establishing the inquiry and I made it clear to them that I expected them to take firm action to close any loopholes in their or their subsidiaries' involvement in the supply of oil to Rhodesia. The report traces the efforts made since then by the British oil companies to ensure that they and their South African subsidiaries were no longer directly or indirectly involved in the supply of oil products to Rhodesia. Last autumn Shell and BP told me the terms of the assurances which they had received from their South African subsidiaries, to the effect that these companies were not directly or indirectly concerned in supplying Rhodesia.
The report brought to light, however, an arrangement between the companies' subsidiaries in South Africa and the organisations which continue to supply Rhodesia. The report records that, when in 1976 the supplies made by the South African subsidiaries of the British oil 708 companies to agents acting for the Rhodesian purchasing organisation were taken over by the South African State oil company, the subsidiaries were compensated by increased access to their own customers in part of the South African market, according to a formula which took into account their previous level of supplies to Rhodesia. Such arrangements were still in force when the Bingham report was completed.
I took up this matter with the oil companies as a matter of the greatest urgency. I left them in no doubt that in my view such arrangements were totally incompatible with the spirit, if not the letter, of the assurances they had passed to me. They have now told me that, although their subsidiaries were until quite recently involved in such arrangements, these have now been terminated and their South African subsidiaries are not now involved in any marketing activity related to the supply of oil by others to Rhodesia.
I have decided to refer the details of the Government's exchanges with the companies on these matters to the Director of Public Prosecutions so that he may consider them in conjunction with the relevant passages of the Bingham report. I have also brought to his attention further material which has come to light relating to three "spot" sales of naphtha by BP Trading—a British-registered company—earlier this year to the South African State oil company, or brokers understood to be acting for that company. Where Castrol is concerned, in view of the reference in the preface of the report to that company, the DPP will be already considering whether to investigate the matter further.
One further point remains outstanding. We are in discussion with Associated Octel, a company which has Shell and BP among its major shareholders and which supplies to South Africa a lead additive which is used in local refineries to improve the quality of petrol. This company falls outside the scope of the assurances given for their groups by Shell and BP relating to the sale of oil and oil products to Rhodesia, and we are seeking in its case also to obtain satisfactory assurances of non-involvement in supply to Rhodesia.
I have now placed Shell and BP formally on notice of the Government's 709 strongly held view that no company in the Shell or BP group should be involved in the supply of oil to Rhodesia, whether direct, indirect or by participation in marketing arrangements related to the supply of oil by others to Rhodesia. The Government expect that the head offices of the companies will at all times act accordingly, and in particular that the necessary steps will be taken by them to ensure that all the assurances in these matters which they have given to the Government are faithfully adhered to both in the letter and the spirit. I have sought and received undertakings that any difficulty encountered by their companies or their subsidiaries in maintaining this position will be immediately notified to the Government so that appropriate action, whether of a practical, diplomatic or legal nature, can be taken. Both companies assure me that they have put the necessary procedures into effect to ensure that this responsibility can be faithfully discharged. The Government are determined to take every step in their power to ensure that, so long as sanctions are in force, neither Shell nor BP, nor their South African subsidiaries, nor any other company in the Shell-BP groups, will ever again supply Rhodesia directly or indirectly, or enter into any arrangements related to the supply of oil by others to Rhodesia. I hope now that other Governments will feel able to take similar action in respect of their own oil companies.
One fact is, however, self-evident. It is South Africa which supplies the oil that Rhodesia needs. It is argued by many countries in the United Nations— in fact, that debate has gone on over the last week—that all oil to South Africa should be cut off. This should apply, it is argued, even if South Africa were to decide to supply Rhodesia solely from its own resources—as it could, by giving Rhodesia only the 4 per cent. or so of its total oil consumption which it currently produces from coal mined in South Africa and making up the balance from its reserves.
In a few years' time, we estimate that South Africa could produce as much as one-sixth of its total consumption from its indigenous coal supplies. A total embargo now upon oil supplies to South Africa would therefore—bearing in mind its indigenous oil production capacity, conser- 710 vation, alternative energy sources and a careful use of its substantial reserves of oil already stored in the country—take full effect only over a period of some years. It is not, therefore, a sanction which would have an immediate effect in terms of oil, although it could have a psychological effect.
No one can say that such an embargo will never be introduced, but such sanctions could be justified only by a situation of the utmost gravity. Some understandably argue that we face such a situation now in Rhodesia. Others believe that we have reached this situation over Namibia. We have to consider all this, with our partners, in the context of the important negotiations that we are trying to carry forward. The pressures are an doubtedly mounting. It is in the self-interest of the South African people that their Government—as we have urged them to do over Namibia—should work with us for United Nations—supervised elections in Namibia and for a negotiated settlement in Rhodesia on the basis of the most recent Anglo-American proposals. There may be only a few months left in which to settle these issues. Instead of resting South African policy on the self-interest of the DTA Party in Namibia or on the Rhodesian Front Party in Rhodesia, it is time that South Africa took a broader view of its own interest
South Africa's refusal to apply the sanctions laid down by the United Nations has meant that sanctions could not by themselves have compelled the illegal regime to accept majority rule. The failure of sanctions stimulated the armed struggle. In the first few years after the illegal declaration of independence, it was hoped and believed by many hon. Members in this House that sanctions could achieve majority rule peacefully. Yet those who now spend their time castigating the Rhodesian Africans who took up the armed fight for their freedom would do well to remember that their undermining of the effectiveness of sanctions has fuelled the arms struggle.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the logic of not applying sanctions to South Africa yet continuing to apply them to Rhodesia? Why does he not come clean and say that we cannot afford sanctions 711 on South Africa and, therefore, that sanctions against Rhodesia will not work?
§ Dr. Owen
I do not think that anyone could claim that I have tried to hide the economic background against which the sanctions policy has been developed under successive Governments. I have never believed that it is worth attempting to carry out a policy, either foreign or domestic, on the basis of trying to hide information. It is better for people to face the facts, and I have been very open about our involvement in South Africa. The logic is that I believe—as I have explained, and will continue to explain about sanctions, and hon. Members will have a chance to debate this later—that to lift sanctions would be seen as a political act at a time when I believe that it would be extremely foolish to take that act. Those hon. Members who have always held this view about sanctions ought seriously to consider the stance that they have taken over the past 13 years.
It would be totally wrong to argue now that, because sanctions failed by themselves to bring about majority rule, the maintenance of sanctions was a waste of time or, as some have alleged, a farce. Sanctions have been a clear demonstration of a national and international resolve not to accept UDI. [Interruption.] I know that Opposition Members do not like this, but they are going to hear it, because it is time the consequences of some of their actions were brought home to them. Despite the fact that a group of people have constantly refused to face this situation, this House, under successive Governments, has not been prepared to accept UDI and has not been prepared to underwrite the regime's refusal to accept majority rule. That position should be maintained.
Over the years, sanctions have had a steadily debilitating effect on the Rhodesian economy and, more recently, have been enhanced by a world recession. They have been part—only part—of the outside pressures imposed on the regime.
The wish to secure the lifting of sanctions has been an influence on, though certainty not a determinant of, the policy of the illegal regime. As the armed struggle has intensified and as world opinion has toughened, the regime 712 has begun to shift its ground. While rejecting the inclusive settlement proposals put down by ourselves and the United States last September, it nevertheless felt obliged to work for the exclusive "internal settlement"signed in Salisbury on 3rd March. As part of that agreement we were promised elections in December. These, it appears, may not now take place and may be postponed to the spring —we are told, for technical reasons.
Yet, ever since March, private briefings to civil servants and others, not only from Mr. Smith and Mr. Van der Byl, but from other members of the regime, have demonstrated that they at least had little intention of keeping to the December date. So it comes as little surprise to those who doubted their sincerity that the election date may now be postponed.
To those in this House—and there are some—who genuinely feel that the internal settlement could still enable fair and free elections to be held in a manner which could satisfy the Africans on the basis of the fifth principle—we can never rule out this possibility—there are very strong arguments for maintaining sanctions. Otherwise, the elections may be postponed from December, possibly never to take place. Sanctions were never relaxed throughout the period of successive Governments and throughout even the period of the Pearce Commission. To lift sanctions now would be to give up the one peaceful pressure that we have, first, for a proper negotiation at an all-party conference and, secondly, to honour even the terms of the internal agreement of 3rd March.
To those in this House who genuinely believe that the internal agreement cannot provide a settlement capable of being endorsed by this House, that elections cannot be fair in the present atmosphere of violence and martial law, and that only an all-party conference followed by agreement on the basis of the Anglo-American plan can provide for a genuine transfer of power to majority rule acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole, there are, similarly, very strong arguments for continuing the pressure of sanctions. Those in this House, however, who support Mr. Smith, and have done so for very many years, will continue to argue for the lifting of sanctions. They will be joined by others who appear 713 to believe that they now know what the people of Rhodesia as a whole want. The Pearce Commission's findings are a reminder of the dangers for us in this House of trying to interpret the minds of the Rhodesian people.
At the time, many people thought that it was a simple matter for the Pearce Commission to report that proposals negotiated by Sir Alec Douglas-Home were favoured by the people of Rhodesia. The real argument of many of those in this country who want sanctions lifted is that they do not want—some never have wanted—genuine majority rule.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)
The right hon. Gentleman has made many references to people, such as myself, who have held these views. Will he help us, and perhaps the House, by clarifying our minds and his own about what he means by majority rule? Will he relate it to something that he sees in one of the African countries around Rhodesia?
§ Dr. Owen
There is a country which has shown a good example of majority rule and democracy which happens to be alongside Rhodesia—Botswana.
But what is acceptable is the fifth principle. It is the fifth principle which successive Members of this House have subscribed to, and that is a judgment on the question whether something is acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. It is this to which we have resolutely stuck throughout this period.
The hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friends have, publicly or privately, supported the regime against their own party policy or against their own Government when their party was in power, and some even supported the regime before UDI. They justify the regime every twist and turn, and they lend credence and respectability to the endless attacks on the integrity of this country. Where is their patriotism? Each year when the sanctions debate arrives they seek different arguments to justify their basic position, wholly unable to come to terms with the need for a genuine transfer of power.
The hon. and learned Gentleman poses the question what is majority rule as if he were a living example of someone who has held out for years and years for the principle of majority rule. To give 714 him credit, he has been quite open about his position. Nobody who has been in the House over the past 10 years can be under any illusion about where the hon. and learned Gentleman stands on the issue.
Since 3rd March and the internal settlement the Rhodesian situation has sharply deteriorated. The violence has increased. Nearly 4,000 people have lost their lives within Rhodesia, while an estimated 3,000 people in neighbouring countries have been killed in the war so far this year—and that estimate may well be wrong.
Of the 3,000 primary schools in Rhodesia, 900 are now closed, and martial law is declared over roughly half the country. In whole areas of the country the Rhodesian security forces do not venture. Many of the tribal trust lands are near to being abandoned. Censorship ensures that our own newspaper and television reporting is totally inadequate, and many distinguished British reporters have been thrown out since UDI. It is hard to ensure objective reporting. The news comes from Salisbury, but the real news story is the situation outside Salisbury.
We are in grave danger in this House, and in the country, of underestimating the deterioration since March. The Catholic Institute for International Relations has produced an analysis of the situation which gives a very different account from that which we read in British newspapers. It concludes thatthe signing of the internal agreement in March 1978—because of its inherent defects— simply intensified and prolonged the struggle".The internal settlement, we were told by the signatories to the March agreement, had the support of the Rhodesian people. We were told that they were in contact with the liberation fighters and that they would influence them to return to Rhodesia. We were told that the war would wind down and that elections in December were a firm commitment. It is utter nonsense to pretend now that a failure to achieve these objectives can be laid at the door of the British and American Governments. Even if we had given wholehearted and enthusiastic support to the March agreement, as some hon. Members wish, and had taken sides and tried to buttress the agreement, it would not have made it any 715 more attractive to the Rhodesian people, and probably would have hardened opposition to it. Within weeks our credibility would have been damaged by the Byron Hove incident, we would have been identified with the regime, and our credibility would have been undermined month by month, as has the credibility of Bishop Muzorewa and Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole. Our policy would have been identified with the minority whites and we would have had no standing in the world and no influence to bring about a negotiated settlement with all the parties.
To act now, as some hon. Gentlemen appear to want, in defiance of mandatory resolutions of the Security Council which we proposed and which successive British Governments have supported, would have the most serious repercussions on our political and economic interests throughout Africa and, I dare say, the world. It would certainly destroy once and for all our ability to contribute to a negotiated settlement.
We and the United States Government have put forward our own detailed proposals for a negotiated settlement to focus discussion at a conference but not to exclude other proposals. The proposals offer three options: A, B and C. All depend on full agreement by all the parties and a viable ceasefire. A and C options involve elections after six months, followed by independence. Option B is more controversial. It involves a referendum within three months on the basis of a fixed agreed date for elections and an outline independence constitution.
If endorsed, independence would be granted provided this House was satisfied that the fifth principle had been upheld prior to elections. If rejected, elections would automatically follow within six months, and independence would follow elections. The British and United States Governments have made it clear that they prefer options A or C. Option B was included in an attempt to satisfy those who would prefer self-government as soon as possible and the presence of a neutral resident commissioner for as short a period as it takes for a referendum to be organised.
I would be interested to hear the views of this House on option B and on this issue. Option B has already been criti- 716 cised by some of the parties, and we have our own doubts about its merits. The proposals give the detail of a transitional constitution for a council with executive and legislative powers which could be enacted by an Order in Council under the legislative authority given under section 2 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965, which will be debated tomorrow night.
We believe that the council must not give dominance to either the Executive Council or the Patriotic Front if we are to develop the basically neutral transition which is essential for a ceasefire to be agreed and fair elections held. We envisage an agreed figure as commissioner being appointed to hold executive authority for all the forces of law and order with a United Nations military force and a United Nations police monitoring unit. We have made detailed proposals for integrating the forces, put by Field Marshal Lord Carver to all the parties, not as a blueprint but as a basis for further negotiations.
The whole framework depends on agreement. It cannot be imposed, and in the last analysis, if all the parties can agree to any alternative proposals, the British and United States Governments and, I believe, this House will not stand in the way. It is for the Rhodesian people and all those who intend to live in Zimbabwe to decide their destiny. [Interruption.] It is no one particular group, and there are no vetoes.
We can point the way. We can indicate what we feel is negotiable. But we are not the sole arbiters. We stand by the all-important fifth principle. It is for the people of Rhodesia as a whole fairly and freely to decide.
The Government will, therefore, in the formal debate on the order providing for the renewal of section 2 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965, be asking this House to approve that order.
The most important task for Britain and the United States, having forsworn force and therefore having influence rather than power—a point which the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has often made—is to continue, despite all the obvious difficulties, to work for a negotiated settlement. We cannot change the minds of men. The regime can continue to berate the British and American Governments, but this hostility 717 convinces fewer and fewer people even in Rhodesia.
What more can they do, the regime ask? The answer is clear: face reality; stop blaming everyone but yourselves; stop ignoring the evidence of the widespread hostility to the internal settlement. The parties to the Salisbury agreement who have persistently refused since April to come to an all-party conference must now recognise by their actions that the Patriotic Front, which has been ready to come to a conference since April—
§ Dr. Owen
The hon. Gentleman can call out "humbug" if he likes. However, it is a fact that the Patriotic Front has been ready to come to a conference since April. We shall now face difficulties in getting members of the Patriotic Front to a conference because they will not be bombed into submission. Launching offensive raids deep into Zambia on the very day one at long last accepts a conference is not the best way of ensuring success at the conference, let alone ensuring the attendance of the other parties.
If a negotiated settlement is wanted—I am pointing to the atmosphere which has to be developed on all sides—it is time that Mr. Smith recognised, too, that accepting an invitation to come to a conference without proconditions means that one cannot simultaneously, first, rule out proposals for a neutral figure to hold executive power over the forces of law and order during the transition; second, rule out, as the basis for a ceasefire, serious proposals for integrating the forces currently fighting each other, by saying that that will dismantle the existing forces; third, rule out the presence of a neutral United Nations force during the transition aimed at helping to maintain law and order at a particularly vulnerable time; and, fourth, when Britain and the United States have fought against any party demanding dominance and fought against the Patriotic Front in its demand for dominance, insist on a transitional authority on the basis of the existing Executive Council with two additional seats for the Patriotic Front. Equally, he cannot insist that legislative power should remain in the hands of the Rhodesian Front parliament. If they 718 genuinely want to end the fighting, restore legality and lift sanctions, the Salisbury parties will have to develop a more flexible negotiating position than that.
Everyone will have to compromise to make a negotiated settlement possible The compromise will either come from submission of one side through force of arms or from persuasion, with both sides recognising the horrors of a continued conflict. Britain cannot impose a settlement. We shall not, in 1978, interpose ourselves between the forces currently fighting each other and assume an administrative responsibility we have never held and which we rejected in 1965. We shall contribute fully to a negotiated settlement and to fair and free elections, but we shall not commit British troops or a British presence until there is a settlement and a ceasefire, and only as part of an international force.
We shall continue to work with the United States, our European partners, our African and Commonwealth friends and the United Nations to bring to bear the influence of the international community. We shall convene an all-party conference the moment that we think there is a chance of success. We shall not wait for certain success. We shall seek to narrow the differences and widen the areas of agreement. Above all, we shall stand by the fifth principle endorsed by this House and successive Governments and embraced in the broad framework of the proposals that we have recently put, with the United States Government, to all the parties. This is the way to the fair and free elections that I believe everyone in this House wants.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question. to add:But humbly regret that, hearing in mind the manifest inadequacy of the Government's policies towards Rhodesia, the measures outlined in the Gracious Speech are incapable of creating the conditions in which free and fair elections can be held as the only basis of a peaceful and orderly transfer of power to a democratic majority in that country.I should like, first, to thank the Foreign Secretary for the kind words he said about John Davies at the start of his speech. I know that the whole House will be extremely sad and sympathetic at the news of his retirement from the 719 House. He is one of the most civilised and delightful of men and greatly respected here and far outside. I am sure that everyone wishes him a steady recovery to good health.
Having been asked to act in the place of John Davies for the time being, I approach the subject of Rhodesia with a strong sense of humility, more especially because I was not one of those who went to Rhodesia in the course of the recess. So much is at stake and so many mistakes have been made. If we do not handle the matter of Rhodesia wisely now, the consequences for us and the free world will be grave. I want to say at the outset that, as far as we on the Opposition Benches are concerned, this debate is not the fulfilment of the Government's undertaking, given in the recess, for a debate specifically on the Bingham report. Of course that report has relevance to the debate, but it is about the past, as the right hon. Gentleman's speech showed. His speech about it, which I think took about 45 minutes, sounded something of a reluctant apologia and hardly appropriate to a debate upon the Gracious Speech, which is about the future.
Today and tomorrow we are concerned with the whole Rhodesian crisis and the future of that country. That is the debate for which the Opposition asked and which the Government have facilitated. The right hon. Gentleman hardly addressed himself to it at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Only for the last few minutes. What he did say I found profoundly disturbing. It seemed to me that he was asking everyone except himself to compromise.
We asked for this debate because, obviously, Rhodesia is by far the most critical problem that faces us internationally. The strategic importance of Central and Southern Africa to Europe and the free world could scarcely be exaggerated. [An HON. MEMBER: "Including Zambia."] Including Zambia. In Southern Africa a condition of war exists, certainly civil war. The risks and the dangers are frightening and fill us with foreboding. Thousands have lost their lives already, many of them in a horrible way. The death toll continues, it is said, at the rate of one death every hour.
720 The anxiety we all feel was well described in this House in the debate in August, and since then things have got worse. It is the black Africans who have suffered the most through the atrocities committed by the guerrillas against their fellow Africans. In the first nine months of this year, nearly 4,000 people were killed in the guerrilla war inside Rhodesia, and 800 were killed in September alone. This compares with some 6,700 in the previous five years. In addition, many hundreds have been killed in the attacks of the Rhodesian security forces on guerrilla camps in Mozambique and Zambia.
The very existence of those camps poses a threat to a peaceful settlement in Rhodesia now being sought by the transitional Government, and, of course, they cannot ignore them. Hundreds of schools have been either shut or destroyed, affecting at least 200,000 black children, as a result of the violence, and, as well as human beings, large numbers of cattle have died because the veterinary services have largely broken down—again, because of the violence.
That is the grim position we have now reached. The worse the fighting gets, the more difficult it becomes to resolve the conflict. For the Foreign Secretary it must be far more than acutely worrying. I do not want to challenge his intention to bring about a multi-racial democracy and he has had better opportunities, perhaps, of bringing it about than existed previously—but the inescapable fact is that his policies have, however unfortunately, led to failure—failure to reduce the fighting, failure to start talks, failure to get a settlement.
The right hon. Gentleman has admitted today that the situation is worse. However hard he has tried, however sure he may have been that he was right to handle the civil war—the struggle for power—in the way he has, the hard fact of his achievement is that he has made matters worse. Nothing in his speech today was hopeful or constructive for the future. As far as I can find out, in the time that I have been considering these matters intently he seems scarcely to have a friend anywhere in the world, and that is a position of weakness.
721 I do not want to take up the time of the House by listing the Foreign Secretary's errors and misjudgments as we see them, but I shall summarise them. First, he has clung with far too rigid an adherence to the Anglo-American proposals. Some of those proposals had sense—for example, a United Kingdom presence in Rhodesia. I should have thought that there was everything to be said for a United Kingdom presence and representation there. At least on that principle we can agree. But in the Anglo-American plan the detail of even that caused controversy when, surely, it need not have done so. The fact remains that the Foreign Secretary has so far failed to establish such a presence.
Other Anglo-American proposals always seemed to us so unacceptable and unrealistic that the package as a whole was suspect from the start. It does not require a highly sensitive man to understand why the proposals for the security forces could not be appropriate and could not be acceptable. It is so self-evident that, by pursuing the idea, the Foreign Secretary, in effect, torpedoed himself from the start. His second major blunder was that, from 3rd March onwards, he has shunned the internal settlement. When one thinks of the history of it, that settlement was a big stride forward, ending the struggle of black versus white and bringing with it the prospect that at long last real progress would be made. The Foreign Secretary's reaction to the settlement has been not to grasp it, not to support it, not to build on it, but to spurn it and to give the impression that there was no good in it, and apparently almost to frustrate it, while at the same time pretending that he was not doing that.
I do not understand how that attitude could hope to make progress towards a settlement possible. The interests and passions of the various sides to the dispute are, as we know well, very different and equally strong. Somehow, they have to be reconciled. When any of the parties moves its ground significantly and produces a substantially new or changed position—in this case, the provisional settlement, which contains many of the very elements for which this House has long been asking—it seems a negation of common sense for the Government not 722 to take hold of it thankfully and positively and to build on it.
The principle of majority rule had been conceded already.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
The right hon. Gentleman claims that my right hon. Friend is isolated in his attitude to the internal settlement. Is he aware of the view taken of this settlement by the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the entire continent of Africa?
§ Mr. Pym
Yes, I am, and no doubt if the hon. Gentleman catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, he will be able to express his views about it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] I will come to all these points —the United Nations and all—so hon. Members need not get fussed about it.
As I say, this internal settlement contained many of the elements for which we had long been asking. The principle of majority rule had already been conceded. The firm intention to hold democratic elections was declared and racial discrimination is now being ended. The other side of this coin is, of course, the persistent bias that the right hon. Gentleman has shown in favour of the Patriotic Front, one of whose partners has proclaimed his aim to be the establishment of a single-party Marxist State. A balanced position was what was needed, not a biased one.
The Foreign Secretary described Mr. Nkomo recently as "the father of his people". That seemed strange when we saw Mr. Nkomo on television apparently laughing about the shooting down of the Viscount, about which the Prime Minister said this afternoon he would make no protest. That is not exactly a paternal attitude—
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)
That really is not fair, is it? I did not say that I would not make a protest. I made my view clear at the time. What I said was that it was not the responsibility of President Kaunda, so I did not protest to him. However. I went on to say that President Kaunda thought that this was a matter of moral concern so far as he was concerned, and he would not support in any way attacks on civilians by Mr. Nkomo's forces or by anybody else.
§ The Prime Minister
With respect, I have not added anything to what I said at Question Time. I should be grateful, therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman would not try to give the impression that I am adding something or explaining something that I failed to do at Question Time.
§ Mr. Pym
We shall, of course, see Hansard in the morning.
The description that the Foreign Secretary used about Mr. Nkomo has had no effect whatever in the way of causing Mr. Nkomo to come to the conference table, to play his part—and a very important part—in achieving a democratic settlement in Rhodesia. Anyway, who is the Foreign Secretary to say, what right has he to judge who are the fathers of the people of Rhodesia? He said himself this afternoon that there was difficulty in interpreting the minds of the Rhodesians, so he should apply that standard to himself as well. At any rate, one result of the right hon. Gentleman's mishandling is the statement of Mr. Nkomo that the only talks would be on the battlefield —the very opposite of what the right hon. Gentleman says he himself wants.
This brings me to the last criticism that I wish to make today of the right hon. Gentleman. The one remaining crucial principle out of the six principles which has to be satisfied is the fifth—the test of acceptability. The actual result of the Foreign Secretary's policies has been to make it more difficult for that test to be carried out—and that is the very heart of the problem, as he himself said at the end of his speech. What is worse, he has put at risk—I put it no higher than that and no lower—the fulfilment of the fifth principle. I hope that I am wrong, but that is what it looks like to me.
Since our last debate, there have been several major developments, of which the Bingham report, of course, is one. It has an immediate relevance, even though it concerns events which began over a decade ago. The Government were abso- 724 lutely right—we totally support them—to publish it. I do not intend to take this occasion to pass judgment on those events, but one point has to be made if one is to give an objective assessment, as the Foreign Secretary himself tried to do, namely, that the report has exposed the ineffectiveness of sanctions as a general policy.
But there must be no question of sweeping those findings under the carpet. The report has exposed something which could be described as a scandal, which calls into question nothing less than the integrity of government. The Opposition, like the Government, will certainly wish to consider all the views that are expressed in this and any subsequent debate. However, we think that a tribunal under the 1921 Act would be quite inappropriate.
How much more any further inquisition of any kind would reveal is uncertain. However, if such is thought necessary, as well it may be, our preliminary view is that it should be of a parliamentary kind, because the issue is wholly political and the buck stops in this House. It is a parliamentary matter because it is concerned essentially with the relationship between Ministers and this House. We therefore think that it should be confined to this House.
However, as I have said, we do not regard it as satisfactory that this report can be debated in depth and detail as part of a general debate on the Rhodesian crisis.
Another important and recent development has been the spread of the war to Zambia and the supply of arms by this Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) said on 2nd August, referring to the war:there is no guarantee that it can be confined to Rhodesia. There is no guarantee that it will be confined to Southern Africa".— [Official Report, 2nd August 1978; Vol. 955, c. 835.]No longer is it confined to Rhodesia, and our anxiety now is about the danger of spreading the war further by the Government's own contribution of arms.
Although it was not clear at the time, it is clear now—the Prime Minister spelt this out this afternoon—that this was part of an understanding reached at Kano. We 725 still know very little about the deal that was struck then. The House is entitled to know and certainly wants to, because it relates directly to the securing of a settlement in Rhodesia.
The announcement of the arms decision came not after the meeting, as might have been expected, but later and after the Rhodesian raid on guerrilla bases in Zambia. It has therefore caused genuine suspicions and fears which have not yet been allayed. Of course the Zambian president is entitled to obtain arms for the defence of his country—in fact one might say that it would be his duty so to do—and we would rather he had those arms from us, but, so far as the British Government's decision to supply them in this instance is concerned, we have to be satisfied that there are real safeguards against the release of those or other weapons for use by the guerrillas.
It is the existence of those guerrilla bases in Zambia which makes the Government's decision controversial. That is the point which my lion. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) is making.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Will my right hon. Friend insist on this further assurance—that those arms should not be used to provide protection for the bases in which guerrillas are trained to invade Rhodesia and kill Her Majesty's subjects?
§ Mr. Pym
I have also asked whether President Kaunda had given any undertaking that he would use his position and influence to persuade Mr. Nkomo to take part in the talks. Unfortunately, there is little sign of that happening. But, until the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary explains these matters so that the House has the fullest information about the whole arrangement, it is difficult to make a judgment. Are we to be expected to take a view without knowing all the facts? The House will expect and hope for more clarification today or tomorrow. Of course, we shall also take into account what the Prime Minister said at Question Time.
During the short time that I have had temporary responsibility for foreign affairs on the Opposition Bench, I have concentrated as intensely as I can on the situation as it actually is now and on what can be done to rescue it now.
§ The Prime Minister
I am not anxious that there should be misunderstanding. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) might be asking me fair questions, but he will realise that when one is dealing with another Head of Government it is not always possible to report, even to the House of Commons, the full nature of the discussions that take place. I must ask the House, with respect, to accept that I am fully aware of the points made by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, and that naturally I took those into account in my conversations with President Kaunda. Although I should like to help the right hon. Member and the House, I do not wish to go much further at present about the kind of discussions that we had.
With his vast experience, the right hon. Member will realise that it is not usual to go into as much detail as we have perhaps gone into on this occasion. It is not out of lack of respect for the House but because of our relations with President Kaunda and the future of Zambia that I do not wish to go further.
§ Mr. Pym
I am certainly not unappreciative of the Prime Minister's argument. He too will appreciate that in the circumstances that now exist in Zambia, with the guerrilla bases, the war that is going on and the effect on Rhodesia, there is an anxiety and concern about the decision 727 that he took. I have not made a judgment about it because I feel that I do not know enough about it. I hope that the Prime Minister appreciates that. We want him to be as forthcoming as he can, because otherwise it is difficult for us to make a judgment.
I have been trying to work out how best we can rescue the situation. The crisis in Rhodesia is too far advanced to allow us to think in terms other than that of a first-class emergency, how we can end the fighting and secure a lasting settlement.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling), I want to adopt the most constructive approach that I can. My right hon. Friend's proposal is set out in last Session's Early-Day Motion No. 555. It is an attractive and positive proposal. Since it comes from my right hon. Friend with all his experience, I hesitate to comment upon it. Months ago my right hon. Friend forecast that elections in Rhodesia would not take place in December. It looks as if he was right.
Circumstances have changed since my right hon. Friend made his proposal. I share with him the objective of a return to legality at the earliest possible moment, with a consequent lifting of sanctions. But I have some doubt—and I put it no higher—about the extent to which this plan would be acceptable in Rhodesia.
Even if it is temporary and transient, the idea of a status akin to colonial status raises hostile reactions among some in Rhodesia and that must be taken into account. The plan also carries with it a contingent responsibility and liability which this country might in some circumstances be unable to meet. It is all very well for Government Members to laugh, but if that happened the situation would be serious. If we could be reasonably confident that all the parties would remain reasonably quiescent, the risk might be worth taking, but the dangers are obvious.
Whether my doubts about the proposal are valid—and I speak with humility—I accept absolutely that a new and more constructive policy is required to bring about a return to legality. The way to achieve that is through free and fair elections. However hazardous that might 728 seem, that is the central objective to which we must address ourselves.
The alternatives are catastrophic for all Rhodesians. To the partners in the internal settlement, it would mean the denial and frustration of their genuine aspirations for democratic evolution, while the suffering and deprivation continued. For the external factions, and for the Patriotic Front in particular, the path of violence means the destruction of the country. It would mean the takeover through violence of a Rhodesia which was in ruins, deprived as it would be of a white population upon whom the jobs and prosperity of the country depend.
The objective is to secure the test of acceptability. Nothing less will secure international recognition and the consequent removal of international sanctions. We must strive for international recognition.
The question is whether, after all that has happened, and with all the opportunities that have been lost, especially this year, we can still achieve that. Given the right diplomacy and the best possible handling, I believe that it can be done.
I shall put to the House some specific proposals that appear to me to hold out at least the best hope of success. I begin with a renewed call for the immediate establishment of a high-level mission in Salisbury. I know that the Foreign Secretary also wants that, but he has not managed to achieve it on his terms. It would be better to achieve it on somebody else's terms than not to achieve it all. Demonstrably it is necessary to have a presence in Rhodesia. We must reconcile what might seem irreconcilable. Reconciliation must be attempted by every means at our disposal.
Britain not only has the ultimate responsibility; it should also have the most positive contribution to make to that reconciliation. If we have no high-level presence in Rhodesia where all the action and argument are, our contribution cannot possibly be as sustained or as effective as it could and should be.
§ Mr. David Steel
The right hon. Member says that the Government should be willing to extend high-level representation in Salisbury on other people's terms. Does that include the recognition of the present Government?
§ Mr. Pym
No. What I am saying is that the Foreign Secretary laid down conditions and has a strong view about what that representation should be. Many other people disagree. I am saying that the Foreign Secretary should think again about his own position on that matter.
My second argument is that the internal settlement must be taken as the firm basis for progress to independence. Nothing less than a complete reversal of the Government's attitude towards the settlement is called for. I am not asking the Government to recognise it, but to change their attitude towards it. It is so obviously the starting point that it is incredible that I have to emphasise it.
After all the agony that everybody in Rhodesia has experienced, here we have a dramatic shift in position and outlook upon which, for all its limitations, we can build a democratic constitution for which we have all been working and which the people of Rhodesia want.
It is the only basis for enabling elections to take place quickly. Nobody suggests that the internal settlement, or anything else, is perfect. but I ask the House to reflect upon the achievement of its creation. For example, Mr.Sithole, whom I saw last week, was sentenced to six years' imprisonment in 1968 for plotting to assassinate Mr. Ian Smith. Today he is a member of the Executive Council with Mr. Smith. Bishop Muzorewa rallied African opinion against the 1972 settlement proposals made by Lord Home and Mr. Smith following the Pearce Commission. Today, he too is a member of the Executive Council.
One has only to contemplate those circumstances to appreciate the remarkable fact of the internal settlement's existence. There has been unexpected delay in publishing the constitution and holding the referendums. With the right encouragement from the Foreign Secretary, that need not have happened. There was delay in changing the law on racial discrimination. That was also unfortunate. But that is now in hand. We welcome the decision of the Executive Council to steer this legislation through as quickly as possible.
The transitional Government are in office, with African and European Ministers working together handling day-to day affairs. Of course, the parties have their own separate party interests. How 730 could it be otherwise? We would not wish it to be otherwise. But it is no part of our responsibility to take sides. Our responsibility is to help them to independence, based on majority rule with full international recognition.
The transitional Government is the only Government that can make possible the holding of elections in the near future. If that is to be done, whatever the Foreign Secretary's prejudices, it is necessary for him to take a different attitude towards the internal settlement from that which he has taken so far. If he is also to establish a round-table conference, then again I say he must take a different attitude towards the transitional Government.
I support the Government wholeheartedly in their desire to secure and establish that conference and to include in it leaders of the Patriotic Front. The prospect of setting it up is less bright than it should be but it is the best way forward.
Such a conference has two functions to fulfil. The first is to obtain a ceasefire. If there are to be elections, there must be something very close to a ceasefire—obviously a complete ceasefire if that is possible and a minimum level of intimidation. Unfortunately, there are many participants in the war, and to stop it they must all agree to do so. The best way of achieving this is by such a conference.
The second purpose of such a conference is this: both within and outside Rhodesia there is a strong desire that the elections should take place with a United Nations presence. My inquiries indicate clearly the widespread wish for United Nations observation. I emphasise observation, because there is also a strong feeling in Rhodesia against any idea that the elections should be administered by the United Nations. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd), who will speak in the debate tomorrow and who has just returned from a tour of Southern Africa, confirms that there is little or no support for that. But United Nations observation is clearly wanted and the most authoritative body to request it is the kind of all-party conference which the whole House would welcome.
There are two other proposals that I wish to make—both with the purpose of 731 holding elections and obtaining independence as soon as possible. The first is to adopt a new approach in bringing, the parties together. This is an approach based on the technique used in Namibia. Some success resulted from a major diplomatic effort there. A contact group was created which established a relationship with all the parties concerned. This was a relationship founded on the detailed knowledge of all the issues and continuous discussion about them which made a comprehensive negotiation possible. It seems to me there are at least similarities —and I put it no higher—with the Rhodesian situation and the same technique seems wholly appropriate.
At the moment there is no organisation, no body, no forum, that is capable of carrying through the sustained process of discussion and negotiation that is necessary here. The parties are not negotiating with one another; they are fighting one another. Bridges must be built. It is a very formidable task.
The Queen's Speech refers only to the Government continuing to strive with the United States to achieve a ceasefire. I believe that there must be a much wider approach—a much wider contact group that goes further than the Anglo-American concept. That would be invaluable in the present predicament.
Over and beyond that, and in conjunction with it, there is another and perhaps more immediate possibility. Past history does not encourage me to propose it, and if the Prime Minister is not convinced about it it would not be worth pursuing. Nevertheless, the facts of Rhodesia are so awful and so urgent that I will pursue it. The Prime Minister has expressed his own misgivings about bringing the parties together. I want him to stir himself into much more positive action to bring it about. We have followed minutely the course of events in the Middle East, and we join in the congratulations to the Nobel Prize winners. Something must be learned from what has happened there. The circumstances are different, but the stakes are the same—thousands of human lives. My proposal is that the Prime Minister should conduct what I can best describe as a "Camp David". The situation is grim enough to require the full authority of the highest office in the 732 land—the Prime Minister himself—to be brought to bear.
The United Kingdom carries the ultimate responsibility for Rhodesia. It is upon our own consciences that our own actions lie. Without raking over the mistakes and misjudgments of the past, I urge a fresh, resolute and new approach.
I am not suggesting any repeat of the ill-fated Geneva conference of 1976 which resulted in so much political posturing under the glare of the television cameras. I am talking about negotiation behind closed doors—at Chequers or wherever the Prime Minister wishes. I urge the Prime Minister to bring the leaders together. We are striving for reconciliation and peace. The Prime Minister should consider deeply using his office to take a major initiative of this kind.
§ The Prime Minister
I have thought about this a number of times and have been approached from Rhodesia on this matter. I have considered it and talked it over. If I can see a hope of bringing people together privately with any prospect of success—because, once engaged upon, if this moves fails, there is no card left—I give the assurance that I shall not hesitate to do so. I would conduct such a meeting privately, if necessary. That is probably the best way. But at the moment I regret to say that I do not think that either side is yet sufficiently willing to compromise to enable this final card to be played, but I will take the opportunity if I see it.
§ Mr. Pym
I am grateful to the Prime Minister for that intervention. We are glad to know that this has been considered. I think that my earlier proposal for a contact group much wider than the United Kingdom-United States effort might be a very valuable preliminary for getting us to the necessary stage.
In putting forward these methods of making progress I am motivated solely by the necessity to facilitate the establishment of peace and multi-racial harmony before it is too late. Some say that it is too late now, but I do not accept that. It need not be so. I try to put myself in the position of the Foreign Secretary burning to end the war. Whoever the Foreign Secretary is, he must deal with the facts as they are and the situation as 733 it is. He must build a structure of bridges between the islands of differences. All parties have their own legitimate interests to pursue and all have their prejudices and preferences. I come to the question whether sanctions—such as they are—should continue. As soon as the six principles have been satisfied, of course they should go. That is common ground. Britain entered into certain obligations which cannot be lightly dismissed. However strong the temptation to make a gesture of protest, we should keep our faith with our obligations.
There is only one principle to fulfil, and everything that I have said in this speech is intended to make that possible and practical at the earliest moment. It seems clear to me that our judgment at this time on the issue of sanctions must be based on the criterion whether the lifting of them would be more or less likely to be conducive to the fulfilment of the fifth principle.
We regard sanctions as a highly undesirable and, as the Bingham report shows, a largely ineffective means of exerting pressure on another country. We opposed the previous Labour Government when they took the matter of sanctions to the United Nations. We foretold what would happen and we voted against them. It is no comfort now to have been proved right. As soon as the obligations then entered into, for better or worse, have been fulfilled—and there is only one left—a Conservative Government would go to the United Nations and seek the immediate lifting and removal of the sanctions. I wish to make it clear that as soon as the elections have been held satisfactorily we would apply to the United Nations for the lifting of sanctions. Indeed, even in Opposition we would, in those circumstances, bring the matter back to the House immediately.
At present the significance of the Rhodesian sanctions has become more symbolic than economic on both sides of the argument. To the whites and blacks supporting the settlement, it is symbolic of our support, or lack of it. To the majority of black African leaders and to the United Nations, it is symbolic of their faith in our commitment to majority rule. No one can doubt that commitment now but it has yet to be fulfilled.
A powerful case will be made by some of my right hon. and hon. Friends to end 734 sanctions now. I recognise the force of the arguments but I have to ask myself whether, if I were at the Government Dispatch Box instead of the Opposition one, I would find it easier or more difficult to bring the dispute to an end now if the order were rejected.
In the immediate situation, in the actual circumstances which exist now, it is our considered view that it will be less difficult if things are left as they are. The last thing I want to do is to put at risk the strength of our relationships with our friends and allies. If we are to be in the strongest possible position to help Rhodesia, we shall need the active support of all our allies. A decision to oppose sanctions now, against the weight of international opinion, would not make that task any easier. Whether they are right or whether they are wrong, it is the fact that all our Commonwealth friends and allies and all our European and American friends and allies are against lifting sanctions now.
When we go to the United Nations to get the sanctions lifted, we shall need the support of all our friends and allies if we are to help Rhodesia then, which is the sole purpose of our policy and our thought on this matter. What is more, it seems to me that by lifting sanctions immediately we should be diminishing rather than enhancing the chances of negotiating with the warring parties now. I want the British Government to be in the strongest possible negotiating position, with all our friends and allies.
The Early-Day Motion No. 516 of last Session, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Clark), urges the lifting of sanctionsto facilitate the success of the internal… settlement.I agree that it would give that settlement a boost, but I think that it would turn out to be a transitory boost.
There are many ways of encouraging the settlement, as I have argued in this speech, and we must weigh the repercussions of any actions that we take. The lifting of sanctions before we have fulfilled our undertaking would not stop the bloodshed and could cost us dear. Indeed, I must share with the House my Own fear—it may not be right but I have it—that ending sanctions now would intensify the war, with more and bigger arms 735 coming in. I may be wrong, but that is my fear and I think it right to say that to the House.
I have studied carefully what John Davies said in July. I think that the conditions which he stated then, about progress towards majority rule and about elections being about to take place, were very right, proper and accurate. Unfortunately, they have not come about. I wish that they had. With a different Foreign Secretary they might have done. It seems that the elections may have to be delayed—we all hope, for the minimum time—but at any rate there is uncertainty. The draft constitution has not yet been published, although I believe that it is likely to be very soon, and the referendum is yet to be held, when it had been hoped to complete it by 20th October.
It is obvious that we on the Opposition Benches do not have any confidence in the Foreign Secretary's handling of this major crisis. He has bungled it. That is painful for us to watch and demeaning for our country. The Rhodesian crisis is a national crisis and it is an international crisis, and, speaking from the Opposition Front Bench today, I have treated it as such. I have sought to be as constructive, positive and forthright as I can. I ask the Prime Minister himself to come now to the forefront of the negotiations. The slide into war has gone too far already. An infinitely more resolute and realistic approach by the British Government is needed now, and it is hard to exaggerate the urgency.
We want no more failures. We want a negotiated ceasefire and democratic elections. It may be too late already, though it need not be. Very soon it will be too late, and that would be a catastrophe which the British people could neither forgive nor forget.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Sir Harold Wilson (Huyton)
I associate myself with what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said about the retirement of John Davies. We shall remember his unfailing courtesy and his diligence in whatever task he was given. Some of us, of course, remember him in his FBI—and later CBI —capacity, 736 I am glad to have the opportunity today to comment on all that has been said and written before and since the publication of the Bingham report on Rhodesian oil sanctions. I was abroad when it was published. When I returned to London, I said then that I would reserve all public comment until this debate since, as I was Prime Minister during part of the relevant time covered by Bingham, I was answerable then to the House and therefore the statement is due to this House.
At the same time, I called for a full public inquiry involving or invoking whatever powers were needed, which must mean the right to call for the appearance of persons and the production of papers, including all relevant Government documents, Cabinet minutes, Cabinet committee minutes—all papers submitted to the Cabinet and its committees and all interdepartmental exchanges. I have called also for all the relevant papers to be laid as soon as possible before the House itself and to be published. Before I sit down I shall say why I think that that is necessary.
Even since that time a month ago when I made that statement, still further facts have emerged which keep putting the controversy into a yet different light. A fortnight ago, The Sunday Times carried a story asserting that one of the two British oil companies was still supplying oil to Rhodesia, on a transfer arrangement with Mobil, Caltex and others, right up to a date four days before the Bingham report was published. What that means, of course, is that not one but three Prime Ministers in office from 1968–69 to 1978 were unaware of this disreputable traffic. Whether it was disreputable and illegal must be a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions and the courts. But over this period there have been three Prime Ministers, five successive Foreign Secretaries and nine Energy Ministers— counting my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Energy as two because he held the position both in 1969 and from June 1975.
I am perfectly certain that none of those Ministers—none of the holders of those posts in successive Governments—knew of any of these events. Indeed, I should mention that you yourself, Mr. Speaker, received an honourable mention in the Bingham report, particularly for 737 putting inconvenient questions to Shell at one of the meetings when, I think, you were Minister of State. There is in a letter reference to both my noble Friend Lord Thomson and to the then Minister of State, whose name at that time was George Thomas and, I understand, still is.
The situation regarding knowledge of these facts has not changed from that time right up certainly to 1976. In 1976 the Government sent a report to the United Nations sanctions committee, and this is what it said:The competent United Kingdom authorities have studied the report most carefully, and have discussed its contents with the British oil companies mentioned. These authorities are satisfied that the report contains no evidence of sanctions breaking by any British companies or individuals and have accepted the assurances given by Shell and BP that neither they nor any company in which they have an interest have engaged either directly or with others in supplying crude oil or oil products to Rhodesia.I emphasise that the report said:neither they nor … with others. This is the same position—the report continued—established as in 1968 when Her Majesty's Government investigated similar charges at the highest level with the same companies.That was 2nd September 1976. The Government made it plain that in 1976 it did not regard the position as having changed since 1968 and that no more about the illegal or disreputable traffic was known in 1976 than in 1968.
In my own case the first time I received any information—I shall give details to the House in a moment—indicating this traffic now exposed in Bingham was last April, seven months ago. In a speech at Oxford I criticised on that occasion Mr. Andrew Young's attack on my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary the previous day, when Mr. Young accused my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench of wanting to get rid of the responsibility for Rhodesia. On the following day, 2nd April, I was asked to appear on BBC radio to discuss Mr. Andrew Young's position.
I was asked in the course of that interview about sanctions. I repeated what I had always been told and what I had made public, namely, that in my view the breach of sanctions was due to Presi- 738 dent de Gaulle, who appeared to connive at oil shipments through Mozambique, crossing the border into South Africa, and then, some miles further into South Africa, forking right into Rhodesia. It was a tortuous route, now described in detail in the Bingham report, with place-names and maps. That was what we understood to be the position and it was what I told the House and said publicly. Indeed, I had been asked by the Cabinet, as the House knows, to raise this matter of French behaviour with President de Gaulle on my visit to Versailles in June 1967. Our conversation on that occasion and what President de Gaulle said has been reported and is public knowledge.
My reference to this matter in the BBC programme led to my receiving a somewhat intemperate letter from Mr. Rowland, of Lonrho, which he has recently published. He said that I must have known about the action of BP and Shell, and he enclosed a number of documents of his own purporting to substantiate his allegations about them. I replied to him that I knew no more than what I said on a number of occasions, including the BBC broadcast, but that since his documents seemed to relate to his legal action against the oil companies concerned, I could not comment.
At this point it is appropriate to quote the Bingham report. At the begining—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Once the right hon. Member who is addressing the House gets back to his feet, the hon. Gentleman must he aware that those who are intervening must resume their seats.
§ Mr. Speaker
I know that the House wants to give a good hearing to the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), who has an important statement to make to the House.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Ex-Prime Ministers are not absolved from the normal rules of the House. The right hon. Gentleman gave way to me. [HON.MEMBERS: "Sit down."] I have the same rights as any other hon. Member of this House in debate. The point I wish to make—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. May I explain the position? I thought that the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), who knows procedure very well indeed, knew that if the person who is being called to speak rises to his feet again he must be allowed to continue, otherwise it will be possible for an hon. Member with an intervention to speak for 20 minutes. The right hon. Gentleman had got back on his feet. Sir Harold Wilson.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is not in accordance with the rules of order of this House that when a Member gives way to another he can then terminate a short intervention by rising again. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is.") It is not. I put the quesion to the right hon. Gentleman—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is on one of those rare occasions when he is not correct. [HON. MEMBERS: "Quite right."] Order. I wish the House would leave this to me. The hon. Gentleman, on reflection, must realise that the House wants the right hon. Gentleman to continue.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I willingly and gratefully give way to your ruling.
§ Sir H. Wilson
There are some important matters to discuss, and I am sorry that I gave way and caused that long delay.
At this point it is appropriate to quote the Bingham report. At the beginning of what he calls "Factual conclusions" on page 212, chapter 14, paragraph 3(b), Mr. Bingham says:In making this summary we would emphasise … that the summary is of facts now known".The word "now" was underlined by Mr. Bingham. He goes on:many of the facts now summarised were not contemporaneously known to one or other or both of the Groups—that is BP and Shell—in London; some were not known until the relevant documents were assembled from many sources for presentation to us—that is, the Bingham pair. He continues:some came to light in the course of the investigation. It would be wrong to assume that all the events now summarised were known to the Groups in London at the time the events were taking place.That is certainly true. Bingham's examination of 40 witnesses, mainly South Africa-based—especially Mr. Walker— has unearthed many facts. Some, I am sure, were not known to Shell and to BP headquarters. All the more so, they were not known to Her Majesty's Government until Bingham was published.
The Sunday Times report of 22nd October this year, referring to the supplies continuing until September this year until four days before Bingham was published, was first denied by BP within the day. The report was then confirmed by BP the following day. If BP did not know that, Her Majesty's Government had an even smaller chance of knowing. Yet this was going on all the time until September this year. The same is true of fact after fact catalogued by Bingham—some but not all of which the London headquarters of the major oil companies did know, but they were facts, which we, the Government, did not know.
In August, while I was on holiday, I read press reports seemingly anticipating what the Bingham report would say. They were mainly leaks of Lonrho's submissions to Bingham. Therefore, in September I availed myself of a former 741 Minister's right to look at all relevant documents, as well as Cabinet documents and papers, as well as two other documents sent from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to No. 10. One of these was the letter from Lord Thomson of Monifieth. He said in a Granada Television programme that he had apprised me of the fact that British oil was getting through to Rhodesia. In fact, his letter said that British, French and American oil was getting through to Rhodesia.
The second of the documents which I especially asked to see, and almost know by heart now, was the minute of the meeting chaired by my noble Friend on 6th February 1969, now published in Bingham, annex II pages 268 to 271. I shall address myself first to those two documents because most of the discussion was centred on them. My study of the documents at No. 10 confirmed that the letter of 15th March 1968, to which he had referred, was sent to me and that I had seen it. I had ticked it in the usual way. Now let me refer to its contents. The letter was from Lord Thomson's secretary to mine. It was in reply to a memorandum from my office which had asked for an investigation into President Kaunda's allegations of British breaches of oil sanctions.
The reply began by outlining the action taken by the Commonwealth Office to secure a rebuttal of the suggestion that the British major oil companies were breaking the sanctions. It stated that it had been decided to use a Question tabled by my noble Friend Lord Brockway in another place that was answered by Lord Brown, then of the Board of Trade. The letter recorded the Minister's answer of 5th March 1968, which read:The investigations done into the activities of British oil companies leave Her Majesty's Government satisfied that the British oil compaines themselves are not supplying oil to Rhodesia."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 5th March 1968; Vol. 289, c. 1220.]That was an arranged answer that will be found in Hansard of another place.
Hon. Members will have noticed the word that I accentuated—namely, "themselves". I inquired into that. That was a reference to "unreliable purveyors" as we knew them in those days, secondary dealers in Lourenco Marques who were suspected by our people of not being 742 above passing on their supplies to South Africa. Some of them were suspected by our people of not being above sending on to Rhodesia by one of a number of routes the oil that they had bought. The oil majors and the British Government were all at one in warning British companies in Mozambique to be vigilant in checking the bona fides of those whom they supplied. The letter went on to refer to assurances of Mr. McFadzean of Shell and Mr. Fraser of BP on careless sales to those who were really spivs.
The letter included another much publicised phrase that justified my noble Friend's answer to a question put to him on the Granada programme. The passage in the letter reads:although we are satisfied that British oil companies have at no time been directly involved in the supply of oil to Rhodesia through Mozambique, we now know that a good deal of the oil which is getting to Rhodesia has been corning from refined products delivered to Lourenco Marques by the French, British and US oil companies. In other words, the oil which is getting through to Rhodesia, does not all come from Sonarep or CFP".My check on that point was again answered in terms of the spivs, the unreliable secondary dealers, whom the Government and the oil companies agreed should be investigated and dealt with by denying supplies case by case.
The conclusion drawn at almost every Cabinet and Cabinet committee every time we met throughout the period, and for a long time afterwards, as the House was told on many occasions, was that French, Portuguese and some American companies were the real culprits. At every stage that was recognised, and at almost every ministerial meeting renewed demands were made for bilateral approaches to be made to France, Portugal and the United States and reference made to the need for a comprehensive United Nations resolution binding on all these suppliers.
I have referred to my meeting with General de Gaulle. In the event—much later—we had the United Nations resolution. The countries that I have named ignored it or got round it.
I have set out the Government's aim during that period. I do not know what more we could have done. I take up a point, with which I totally agree, that was made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. We knew that we 743 could not have a major military confrontation with South Africa. It would have been necessary to impose a blockade on South Africa. The Beira patrol took five frigates. A study of a possible Lourenco Marques patrol suggested that a further 17 would be needed. Any question of blockading South Africa would have been utterly unreal. Even if it had been possible, what would it have meant? Would it have meant cutting off all oil supplies to South Africa? If we had "rationed" South Africa, Rhodesia could still have been supplied. The oil consumption of South Africa was far greater than Rhodesia's needs.
At the beginning of the Bingham report it is made clear that South Africa needed 5 million tons a year while Rhodesia needed only 400,000 tons. Rhodesia's consumption was 8 per cent. of South Africa's. In an old phrase, the South Africans could have put aside the supplies needed for Rhodesia in their eye corner and seen no worse. The hope, forlorn as it proved, was to try to get a United Nations resolution and South African compliance.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has mentioned the arms embargo on South Africa. That was something we were able to deal with and we did. We had made an announcement before the General Election of 1964 that we would immediately impose an arms embargo. That was done the morning after the Government were formed—indeed, before the Cabinet had ever met. I gave an order that all shipments of arms to South Africa must stop. I heard to my surprise on the Sunday that arms were being unloaded from some ships at Southampton. Opposition Members may or may not have agreed with our policy, but they will recall that in 1974—some shipments of arms to South Africa had taken place while Labour was out of office—we announced to the House a short time after taking office that we had stopped the aircraft shipments and the shipments of other arms to South Africa.
I turn to the second important document to which I referred—namely, the Foreign Office note of the meeting held between my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Thomson, Foreign Office officials and the chairmen of Shell and BP. My 744 right hon. and noble Friend took that meeting, but by that time he had no direct responsibility for Rhodesia and sanctions. The Commonwealth Office had been merged with the Foreign Office. In 1968 he had, as Minister without Portfolio, maintained a sort of residual responsibility for Southern African affairs. By 1969 he had entirely different duties as Minister without Portfolio. Later as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster he had a number of entirely different duties—for example, the co-ordination of Government action on the Redcliffe-Maud report on local government reform to a growing, later full-time, preoccupation with renewed plans for seeking entry to the EEC. Nevertheless, at that time my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary was away and my right hon. and noble Friend was asked to chair the meeting with the oil majors.
The only Minister present with direct responsibility for African affairs was Maurice Foley. The House will remember that he had a great knowledge of Africa. As we can see in the note now published, his only contribution was on an entirely separate point that had nothing to do with the so-called laundering—namely, the rationing of South Africa.
The text of the note of the meeting is published in the Bingham report. The report makes clear its circulation. A copy was sent to No. 10. It was not circulated to the Cabinet either by the Foreign Office or by No. 10. I have checked on that on a number of occasions in recent weeks.
I have seen the copy that came over. It was not marked to me. There is no record of my seeing it. Nor is there any record of it having been seen by Sir Michael Palliser, as he now is. That may sound bizarre, but hundreds of documents, telegrams, despatches, notes of meetings, reports and assessments from the Foreign Office come in every week from the Foreign Office. This particular document—I note that the Prime Minister agrees with me—was not marked urgent or highlighted in any way. It was not marked in any way.
A copy was also marked—I must tell the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) that this is not a laughing matter—to the private secretary 745 to the Cabinet secretary, Lord Trend. Again it was not marked for special attention by him. If Lord Trend had thought that it contained anything of the sort that the Bingham report has imported into it, I am sure that he would have come steaming in right away to insist that it go to the Cabinet. It was the document that set out the minutes of the meeting that I have mentioned, the Shell-BP-Total deal.
The text of the meeting suggests that there was little realisation of the import of the disclosure. Partly in the light of material only later available, the Bingham report clearly regards it as important. If we had had the same material available, we would have regarded it as important. There is also published in the Bingham report a report of the oil companies of the same meeting. No one took the view that it was important at the time. They did not even open a file on it.
My right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary saw me shortly after the document had been circulated. He saw me not about Total but about the Soames affair, which was greatly engaging the interest of the Foreign Office at the time. My analysis is that Michael Palliser was similarly preoccupied. He had been appointed to the post of Minister at the Embassy at Paris. He was being briefed and was, indeed, regularly visiting Paris at that time. He was also heavily engaged in preparation for my visit with him to Nigeria and Addis Ababa at the height of the Nigerian war. There is no reflection on him whatsoever for failing to realise what nine and a half years afterwards is now recognised in that particular document.
It is tempting to ask: what would have happened if someone—a Foreign Office Minister or official—had realised the document's importance? I know what would have happened. The Foreign Secretary, my right hon Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart), would have dropped everything and come round to see me, perhaps stopping for a moment to telephone me to say that he was on his way. He would have put it as the first item on his weekly general report to Cabinet on foreign affairs. My right hon. Friends who were members of Cabinet know that this would have been reported there. But it was not in fact reported to 746 the Cabinet or to any relevant Cabinet committee or any other. I ask the House to consider what would have happened if our attention had been drawn to its implications.
The Bingham report, nearly 10 years later, has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Obviously, I cannot comment further on this.
§ Sir H. Wilson
I am sorry, but I have given way once too often. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I shall certainly give way to the hon. Gentleman. I always used to do so on similar subjects. However, I should like to develop this point before I give way.
The then Attorney-General, now my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, would in these circumstances have been no less vigorous in taking action, if the meaning of the minute had been realised, than the Director of Public Prosecutions. I do not think that my noble Friend the present Lord Chancellor would object to my saying—and there are former colleagues present tonight who will confirm it —that no member of the Administration was more hawkish on Rhodesia than my noble Friend when he was Attorney-General. He had been intimately involved long before UDI. He had been with me to Salisbury in our October 1965 mission, hoping to head off UDI. He was with me on HMS "Tiger" and on HMS "Fearless". He was, if anything, critical of any willingness to do any kind of a deal with Mr. Ian Smith on those occasions, as indeed, equally, was my noble Friend Lord Thomson. Both of them were very critical of apparent easy ways out. So his duty as Attorney-General would have been clear if the significance of the Total deal had been recognised.
Therefore, unless one suspects a conspiracy of the then Foreign Secretary, my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, a wide circle of foreign officials and the Cabinet Secretary to deceive both the Cabinet and Parliament, it is certainly the case that the future conduct of every ministerial meeting involving Rhodesia would have been entirely different, and we would have been taking up these questions many years ago.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
The right hon. Gentleman is taking us through a catalogue of events as he remembers them. Will he take his mind back to the date when he saw President de Gaulle? Am I not right in saying that precisely 12 days before that Foreign Office officials had met French Foreign Office officials in Paris in order to discuss alleged breaches by British oil companies of sanctions? Is the right hon. Gentleman telling the House that he was not told of that at the time, that he and his senior civil servants were totally unaware that sanctions were being broken? I think that the right hon. Gentleman owes the House an explanation in view of the statement that he has been making, which would suggest that neither he nor his senior officials, at any time, knew anything about what was going on, and that is very hard to believe.
§ Sir H. Wilson
No, Sir. There were two cases in those years, and certainly at that time, in which allegations were being made about Britain. Indeed, the meeting to which I have referred concerned allegations from the Portuguese. The Portuguese themselves were spreading allegations that Britain was breaking sanctions at that time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is all in Bingham. They were making allegations and our officials discussed with the French the allegations that were made against us. That was when we were trying to get the French to agree, before I met de Gaulle, that they would stop breaking sanctions. That is as I recall it. Certainly there was a meeting just before I went for that purpose.
§ Mr. Roderick MacFarquhar (Belper)
Accepting my right hon. Friend's statement, of course, that there was no vast conspiracy of the type that he indicated at the end of his last set of remarks, may I ask whether he would not at least accept that there must somewhere have been a grotesque error of judgment and that it is impossible to see, in his catalogue of all the people who could not have been guilty of that grotesque error of judgment, where it lay?
§ Sir H. Wilson
Before I sit down I intend to say where I think criticism may be applied. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly. But the very point raised by my hon. Friends is my reason for press- 748 ing so strongly for a full and independent inquiry. Let the inquiry see all the papers and all the facts and let the inquiry say, independently—not those who were involved in this matter or those who were not involved, or those who put questions about it now—who, if anyone, was guilty of this evasion.
As I have said, I have been through the record of every Cabinet and Cabinet committee meeting during those three years. These are the ones that I have suggested ought to go to an inquiry, and not only to an inquiry but to the House. I do not know whether the assent of one Prime Minister is enough to get the papers for his period. As far as I am concerned, if it is necessary to have my consent, I am agreeable, if the rules and conventions permit. I am sure that they do.
I will say this much: at the Cabinet meeting of 7th March, one month after the famous meeting in February chaired by my noble Friend, we discussed sanctions. No reference was made to the 6th February meeting. At none of the meetings held that year—I cannot go into details, though I have read all the minutes and all the papers—was any reference made to that particular meeting of 6th February. At a sub-committee in April, I asked for a full report on sanctions to be submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, and we got a full report, on nearly 30 pages, both by my right hon. Friend and by a committee of all the officials of all the Departments concerned. There was no reference there to the Total deal, CFP, nor was there any reference whatsoever to the meeting on 6th February.
§ Sir H. Wilson
No, I am sorry. I have given way too often. I might give way when I have finished developing my point.
In addition to the Cabinet and associated minutes and documents, I asked No. 10—the people there are always ready to do this—to make available every letter, every minute, every comment, notes of telephone calls, the lot, during this relevant period—four bulky files, in all about 8 in. or 9 in. thick. I have been through them. They cover inquiries mainly by myself or by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on drought 749 in Rhodesia, registration of trade marks, successive drafts of speeches for my noble Friend Lord Caradon, a scheme of mandatory certificates of origin in reducing exports from Rhodesia, queries about Orders in Council, queries about reports from Lisbon about a questionable sugar deal, demands to chase up reports from Greece, Norway, Italy and West Germany, two more about dubious shipments of ferrochrome and maize, questions about certain European countries and Japan concerning CKD cars, and where the Dutch were getting their tobacco from.
I cite all this. I think that Opposition Members felt that this was work that should not have been being done. I am just making it clear that so much work was going on and I was so much involved in this myself that it is inconceivable that any of us could have known about or colluded with the story about a total breakdown of sanctions on this important question of oil.
As I say, some hon. Members might feel that I should have been concerned with weightier matters, but that was what was inevitable. As I say, it is inconceivable that it could have been involved at the time if we had known anything about an oil swap with France, Total or anyone else.
I have mentioned these as well as the whole history that I have unfolded, and even the documents that I have quoted, because I believe that I have the right to ask the House to conclude that it would have been inconceivable for my Cabinet colleagues, myself, the Attorney-General or the officials to have connived at any action brought to our notice constituting a body blow to our sanctions policy.
There was therefore, as far as the Government as a whole and individual Ministers were concerned, no awareness that the meeting of the oil company chairman with Lord Thomson had created a new situation. With the advantage of hindsight and what Bingham has revealed, this collusive agreement had shown the situation very clearly in terms of BP and Shell's relationship with Total. Had we known then what Bingham has reported, it would have been taken much more seriously. It would have been the duty of myself or the Foreign Secretary, or the duty of us both, to report to Ministers 750 collectively. We would have to have initiated a fresh look at the whole situation and involved the whole Cabinet. The Attorney-General would have had to look at the situation and the Director of Public Prosecutions would almost certainly have been involved—nearly a decade earlier than he has been involved. All the heart-searching of Cabinet and Cabinet committee meetings in 1969 would have had to take account of this situation. Instead, the whole emphasis was placed on trying to secure South African, as well as French and Portuguese, adherence to United Nations policy.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
The whole implication of what my right hon. Friend is saying is that our colleague Lord Thomson did not disclose to him what we know, through the Bingham report of the meetings, was disclosed to the noble Lord. Is my right hon. Friend really saying that that would happen between the Commonwealth Secretary and the Prime Minister on an issue of this importance? How does my right hon. Friend meet the denial of Lord Thomson that he failed to disclose to the Cabinet what took place at the meetings?
§ Sir H. Wilson
Let me say first that Lord Thomson was not Commonwealth Secretary at the time. He was working on other things entirely. He might not have known whether there had been any developments. I certainly do not believe that when my noble Friend heard what was said he realised the implications. It is easy to he wise and critical 10 years after, but it is clear and the Commonwealth Office official—and I am not resting on officials here—interpreted it to him in terms which suggested that there was no necessity to get worried about it.
We knew that, because of South Africa, oil was getting through to Rhodesia. Even if we had realised the extent and implications of the BP, Shell and Total agreement, apart from action with BP-Shell, I do not think that we would have gone to the United Nations and asked for oil sanctions to be ended.
There have been recent press comments suggesting that, with this problem, we should have ended oil sanctions, but, with or without the knowledge that we now have, we would have been right in seeking, as we were all the time, a United Nations ban—even though the countries 751 I have mentioned proceeded to disregard it. There was no question of dropping the other sanctions which were, to a high degree, effective. In answer to a Question in the House, I said that, as a result of sanctions, Rhodesia's gross product had fallen very considerably and I gave the figures. All the criticisms from Conservative Members were that we were doing too much damage to Rhodesia. There was never any suggestion that we had been slack in what we were doing.
Though there was no change in the situation after the time the Conservative Party became the Government, despite the United Nations decision, even though, as we now know, the Total-British arrangement was still working throughout the early 1970s, I am sure that the incoming Conservative Government were no more aware than we were of the implications. I do not believe that they were told. The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) will no doubt say whether this was so or not. My strong impression is that no one thought of telling him or Lord Home any more than they had during the period when we were in office. Lord Home was very active in relation to Rhodesia. He visited the country and made proposals for a settlement which were put to a test of the opinion of the people of Rhodesia. Clearly the Conservative Government knew as little and as much as the outgoing Government. Their ignorance of what was going on and their inability to stop the flow of oil to Rhodesia was the same as ours.
I should like to rebut some views expressed in press comments about the conventional practice relating to the briefing of an incoming Administration. The suggestion has been made, apparently with authority, that an incoming Government are not told of anything that occurred under the previous Administration unless it has been made public. It is true that an incoming Government are not told of internal discussions round the Cabinet table during the outgoing Administration, but anything that bears on relations with external bodies, whether overseas Governments or, say, industrial corporations in this country, must be explained, whether those relationships have been publicly explained in detail or not. For example, if we had been involved in discussions 752 with the United States or the EEC, and they had not been announced, it would have been the duty of officials to tell the incoming Government how far that process had gone, though to do so with discretion, of course. Equally, the incoming Government in 1974 had to be told about the degree of commitment made by the previous Government in respect of Rolls-Royce engines. Were there to be a change of Government in a foreseeable period, the incoming Administration have to be told about the commitments entered into by the National Enterprise Board or Government Departments in relation to help for industry. I believe that the alleged constitutional bar is a fiction.
I remind the House that in my statement on 6th September I expressed my strong support for an independent, high-level inquiry. Should the House, at the end of this debate, still have doubts or reservations, I would repeat my view in favour of such an inquiry and, as the Prime Minister responsible for the Cabinet and Cabinet committee meetings during part 1 and part 3 of the various phases of this period, I express the hope that all the internal papers of the Government during that period—I cannot speak for others—including the minutes and associated documents should be made available to the inquiry and to the House.
This is only fair, not just to the three Prime Ministers who have been involved during this period, but to my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham and his successors and, as is underlined by a careful study of the Bingham report, to my right hon. Friends who were Ministers or Secretaries of State for Energy, including my right hon. Friend who was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland until November 1969 and my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Energy who took over the old Ministry of Fuel and Power in November 1969 and has got it again now. Was he told? I would judge that he was not. Only the internal papers of the Ministry, which I have not seen, can tell us.
Ever since I prepared these notes last week, new evidence has come to light. Hon. Members will be able to form their own view on how far Foreign Office officials withheld information from Ministers. I would judge very little, though at the famous February meeting, 753 Lord Thomson's conclusion followed advice. I believe that there is no complaint against Foreign Office officials about informing Ministers and doing so quickly, but if we are to believe what was published in the press this weekend, officials of the Energy Ministry were in much closer contact with the oil companies—that is to say, with the London headquarters of the major companies, not with the pro-consuls of the oil companies in South Africa.
A book on the Bingham report was published yesterday. It has been written by a solicitor. I have not read it and few other hon. Members will have had time to read it, but The Sunday Times published an extract two days ago. In February 1968, Mr. Francis of Shell did not tell the Ministry. The Bingham report confirms this but points out that while the Shell note was explicit about the Total deal, the note of the meeting sent to the Foreign Office was not. The report goes on to say that in May 1968 much more detail was given to a Ministry official. The report in The Sunday Times said:although the view was taken that neither the groups nor H.M. Government would wish to be too much involved with the details".That is a quotation from what the oil companies said. The Sunday Times said that, according to the book by Mr. Andrew Phillips,by this time it was too late for Ministers to undo the swap".I believe that that would have been for Ministers to decide, but the accusation here is that information about the swap was given and that it was not until many months afterwards that we were told about it, even if one accepts that Lord Thomson meeting as being full information. It is alleged that it was known in the Ministry nearly a year before.
What is even more suspicious—and this is something which, even if there had been no case before, makes the case for an inquiry now—is the suggestion in Sunday's article that BP and Shell were giving assurances to Rhodesia before UDI and therefore resolving Smith's doubts about going ahead. This is the accusation in a serious book, published after a lot of study and based on the Bingham report.
754 Still worse, there are suggestions that there had been discussions between British oil companies and Total for a swap even at that time, before UDI. There have been all the stories about the letters which were missing. Bingham could not find them. There were the letters that were not written because it was thought that it would not be safe, and there were the letters that were destroyed.
These matters really do provide the need for an inquiry, but perhaps most of all the need for an inquiry if there is any suggestion at all that Ian Smith—who was considering whether to go for UDI or not, and was being pushed this way and that—was helped to be persuaded into UDI by oil companies saying that they would look after him in regard to sanctions and "There is no need to worry, old chap", and so on. These are the allegations, and there is certainly a case for their investigation.
Some of my hon. Friends are deeply concerned about the power of multinational companies. I have not shared, and I do not share, their anxiety about many of them, and never have. But the Bingham report, and now the facts published this week, if verified, might suggest that their case has been not overstated but understated, certainly in respect of Shell, arrogantly asserting power with scant regard for responsibilty. There were the BP revelations of only a fortnight ago, showing that, even while the Bingham report was being duplicated, the company was still engaged in sordid swaps with a group of international oil corporations, Caltex, Mobil and the rest.
§ Sir H. Wilson
It may be a laughing matter to Conservative Members, but they wanted this debate, as I wanted it. They have to be told these facts, whether they like them or not. Certainly, as I pointed out, while I do not go along with some of my hon. Friends in what they say about the multinationals, I have always felt—
§ Sir H. Wilson
I absolutely accept this. But, concerning the multinational oil companies, it is a fact that successive Governments have had difficulties with them on the home front. For example, I remember a Minister of Fuel and Power who was flatly refused any statistics from the oil companies, although he could get statistics from all his other clients. I remember very well indeed that senior Treasury officials have told me that they could not get the information necessary from the oil companies. I believe, therefore, that if the latest book to which I have referred is true, we are up against a much more serious problem than any of us thought when this debate was decided upon some weeks ago.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
I do not wish to be discourteous to the right hon. Gentleman. I recognise that he is making an important statement of a kind. Nevertheless most of us, I think, are here to discuss the tragedy of Rhodesia, which may seem to a good many of us to be even more important. You have appealed to all of us, Mr. Speaker, for brevity. I wonder if you would prevail on the right hon. Gentleman to move a little more rapidly towards his denouement or conclusion, or whatever it is.
§ Sir H. Wilson
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings), if he was here earlier, will remember that we wasted 10 minutes as a result of an intervention of one of his hon. Friends on what, if this were not the House of Commons, I would call a piece of pure tomfoolery.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell and Wishaw)
My right hon. Friend will recall that I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power in 1966–67. He will also be aware that I do not owe him any particular political debt. Will my right hon. Friend accept that if I catch Mr. Speaker's eye I shall seek substantially to support and to elaborate some of the points that my right hon. Friend has made concerning the Ministry of Fuel and Power?
§ Sir H. Wilson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I will just say this about 756 the Ministry at that time. Looking back on it—it is a bit ludicrous, and we are all to blame for this—I recall that to police what was being done by these powerful corporations, as we now know, we had only a very small group. That was in addition to doing all the other oil work of the Ministry. There were three under-secretaries and five assistant secretaries, one of whom took up employment in BP in 1970. That is what we should look at.
Suppose that we had had the reports to which reference has been made. Suppose that we had known—this is hypothetical—what could we have done? We would have informed the Attorney-General. Perhaps there would have been a cease and desist order under the sanctions power. This might have led to the oil companies withdrawing from South Africa, or the Government might have pressed them to do so. But Rhodesia would still have got the oil. South Africa would have seen to that. We should have had to come to Parliament for all the powers needed in that situation. Parliament would have had to comment on the cease and desist order.
I believe that if all that had happened. Rhodesia would still have got the oil, because oil is a viscous fluid, and nowhere is it more viscous than in South Africa.
We have learned a lot about that viscosity in South Africa. It would have flowed to Rhodesia, but the Government strategy would still have had to be what it was, in those circumstances, namely, to get a mandatory United Nations order binding on South Africa, France and Portugal. We did get action in the end by the United Nations, and it was defied by all three of those nations. But that is hypothetical, because Ministers were not told.
Although that was the case all those years ago, there is one institution, the House of Commons, which cannot be denied a full disclosure, and which has the right and the duty to see all these facts—and, by the tabling of the information that I have asked for, the media and the British people also have the right to know. That is why I press for an inquiry, whether by Privy Councillors who are Members of this House or by Privy Councillors who are Members of another place, provided that they have 757 had no connection with these problems during this period. That is why I press for such an inquiry, however it may be done. I also press for all the papers to be laid, not just for the members of the inquiry but for this House and those we represent.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward du Cann (Taunton)
I have no doubt that the House is indeed grateful to the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) for his very detailed account. Indeed, I agree with him—as the whole House will—that this House is the proper place for personal statements of that kind. I do not doubt that what the right hon. Gentleman has said will well repay careful study, as always. I do not suppose that I am alone in the House in saying that I was extremely surprised by some of the things he told us.
The Foreign Secretary asked for views, and I wish to respond to that invitation. The right hon. Member for Huyton said at the beginning of his speech that no fewer than three Prime Ministers, five Foreign Secretaries and eight or nine Energy Ministers—there was some element of double counting, I believe—did not know the position. I accept that that is so. I accept also that there was no conspiracy. Of course, nobody would suggest for one moment that there was. This House certainly never knew the position, and that is exactly the complaint of the majority of us. This House should have known the position, and it is a disgrace that it did not. The case for a further inquiry is therefore overwhelming. Indeed, on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman alone it is fully made. If the Foreign Secretary, with the Prime Minister sitting next to him, wants a collective view of the House, I say that that is it, and I am sure I do not claim too much.
I have a commercial interest to declare. As is generally known, I am a director of a company with interests in Africa. I hope that those commercial interests have been of benefit to many territories in Africa as well as to the United Kingdom.
That narrow consideration apart, I hope that another message that we shall send from this debate to the world at large, to Rhodesia and to the front-line States will be that, as democrats, we wholly reject the philosophy which prefers to achieve 758 political ends by violent means. Because so many of those affected by this appalling, abominable situation in Southern Africa are my friends, I am bound to express a view. I think that there are lessons for us in the House of Commons to learn from this present tragedy. We in the House of Commons, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said, are trustees for the safety of Africans in Rhodesia, white and black alike.
Incidentally, what a remarkable contrast there was between the two Front Bench speeches. The first, from the Foreign Secretary, was defensive and, as my right hon. Friend said, largely an apologia for the past. If men were innocent, what would there he to apologise for? On the other hand, my right hon. Friend's speech was one of the most constructive and best that I have heard him make in this place.
This debate is, or ought basically to be, on the subject of accountability—the accountability of civil servants and of Ministers to Members of the House, to Parliament and thereby to the nation. I believe that we should inquire particularly into the relationship of civil servants to Parliament and the integrity of that relationship. It has seemed for a long time that neither Ministers nor civil servants have been as fully accountable to Parliament as they should be. Too much is decided in the corridors of Whitehall, in the committee rooms and in the Cabinet room, when the proper place for decision making and discussion is this Chamber and the Committees of the House. There are countless examples. They seem to come to light daily. One might almost say that there are lorry-loads of examples.
On no fewer than 13 occasions Members of Parliament, on both sides of the House, have been required by their different leaders and by Ministers to support and to endorse sanctions against Rhodesia. Since Bingham, we know what a shaming, shocking farce it has been. It is now clear—I say this with the deepest regret—that until just lately we have never been told the truth about these matters. Indeed, I do not believe that we yet have the whole truth. We must have it now. I hope that Back Bench Members on both sides of the House will insist upon 759 it, for what is at stake is nothing less than the integrity of our British Parliament.
It is impossible, however, not to have some sympathy with the Foreign Secretary at this time. He is, to a considerable extent, the apologist for past Administrations. Nor is he helped by references, such as those which occurred in The Times on Monday, to his adroitness in aranging the debate in this way. It was described as a "deft stroke". Such references are to the muddling of the promised separate debate on Bingham with the general debate on Rhodesia. We want not adroitness or deftness but the truth.
I give the Foreign Secretary credit for the appointment of the Bingham inquiry, though I seriously wonder whether that style of inquiry was adequate. Even so, I do not believe that the Bingham inquiry would have been appointed as quickly as it was, or it might not have been appointed at all, had it not been for pressures from outside.
The right hon. Gentleman, in a rapid passage in his speech, referred to a friend and colleague of mine. I hope that he will not think it unreasonable if I quote from a letter which Mr. Bingham wrote to Mr. Rowland on 21st November 1977. The House may think this rather remarkable. He said:You were instrumental in having this inquiry set up.I think that is true. I hope that in talking to the House about his relationship with Mr. Rowland, if there is to be further discussion of these matters—I do not know—in his account of those meetings, which I do not think was quite correct, he will also make information available about the situation when Mr. Rowland was talking to one of his officials in the Foreign Office, Mr. Mellor. I shall not go on about those matters. Mr. Rowland is capable of speaking for himself. Indeed, some people may think that he is very capable of speaking and writing for himself. However, I do not think it unreasonable that those of us who know and respect him should pay tribute to him for what he achieved single-handed in the establishment of part, at any rate, of the truth about sanctions.
§ Mr. Hooley
The right hon. Gentleman is overlooking the fact that import- 760 ant secret documentation of Mobil was released in New York in mid-1976. The publication of those documents and the work of Mr. Rivers and his colleague forced the Government to institute the Bingham inquiry.
§ Mr. du Cann
I think that a number of people have been concerned. For example, there were the inquiries in the United States Congress. One could pay tribute to a number of sources. But, as Mr. Rowland had been mentioned particularly, I thought it right to comment.
Equally, I suppose it is possible that Bingham might not have been published had it not been for strong pressures from outside. I do not want to be guilty of particular cynicism—I prefer to call it experience—but the longer that I am in this place—I am proud to be here—it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that there is a natural tendency in Government to hide, to obscure and to confuse in this as in other matters. I hope that we are once and for all declaring in this debate that we shall have an end of it.
There is one minor matter illustrative of this point, a matter perhaps not noticed in the House, yet I assure right hon. and hon. Members that it has caused a great deal of irritation outside. Let us consider how the Bingham report was published. We are all agreed that it covered a most complex subject. It contained no fewer than a quarter of a million words. But, unusually, it was issued with no précis, no cross-references, no index. I ask, and I am sure that other right hon. and hon. Members will also ask: was this unhelpfulness deliberate or casual? Either way, it deserves criticism.
If I have an ambition in this House, it is to make more open government a reality. I hope that my colleagues and I on the Public Accounts Committee are going some way in that respect. In any event, the subject of Rhodesia makes a very good beginning, for plain answers are needed to many questions. Rhodesia is a landlocked country. Its economy and military effectiveness were and are wholy dependent on supplies of oil from overseas.
Picking up something that the right hon. Gentleman, with his customary acuteness, said, what was the basis on which Rhodesian leaders took the risk, 761 the calculated risk as it must have been, of declaring UDI in November 1965? I would assert as a fact that without an assured supply of oil there would have been no UDI. I would say, further, that after UDI, had the oil supplies been stopped, the rebellion would have ended in months or weeks rather than years—and the House will understand the significance of that phrase. There would undoubtedly have been peace.
It follows that the world, the nation and we in this House must be told the facts of the matter. First, was the oil supply to Rhodesia assured before UDI? It is not good enough to demur, as Bingham does, that too much time has passed for the truth to be available. I quote from Bingham:This"—that is, the passage of time—has necessarily meant that documents which would otherwise have been available have, in the ordinary course, been destroyed, and that memories have faded with the passage of time."Rubbish", I say. In any case, Bingham was virtually only a commercial inquiry and is therefore certainly incomplete. It left the Civil Service and Ministers largely, if not wholly, unquestioned.
So we move to other questions that must be answered and that follow from the first. Did the civil servants know the position? If not, should they have known it? Did Ministers know it? If not, should they have known?
What Bingham writes on these matters is not conclusive and therefore, in my view, is not acceptable. I quote again:The Groups"—BP and Shell—did not deliberately encourage the Rhodesian Government to make its illegal declaration of independence".So far so good, the House may think. Now comes the qualification:There may have been informal expressions of opinion to the effect that sanctions were unlikely to be imposed and, if imposed, were unlikely to be effective…We cannot adequately account for the confidence shown by the Rhodesians.In plain English, that means that there was not a formal agreement, perhaps, but a deal, an understanding. To put it another way, UDI was underwritten by the oil companies. Was it underwritten 762 —I ask, and this House must ask—by the civil servants or by Ministers?
On 15th November 1965, as the majority of us here will certainly remember, Parliament passed the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965 through all its stages. Each and every year since, we have repeated the same dreary, farcical routine. Each and every year since, we have made fools of ourselves. While we thought that we were imposing sanctions, we were doing nothing of the sort.
I believe that somebody knew the truth. Certainly, many people should have known the truth. That is why the right hon. Gentleman is right: Bingham cannot be the epitaph of this matter, nor can or should this debate be the last word to be heard on the subject. It will not be the last word abroad. However we may try to sweep the matter under the carpet at home, it certainly will not be the last word abroad. Our enemies abroad complain that we were pretending to do one thing whilst actually doing the opposite. That is difficult to deny. Even our friends, those whose friendship, as my right hon. Friend said, it is crucial for the United Kingdom and the free world to retain, have not understood.
The only logical position in this House, I think, has been assumed by those who consistently voted against sanctions, arguing that they were ineffective. How right they were! We did not realise it at the time, but, my word, how right they were!
Sanctions have been ineffective against Rhodesia for 13 years, just as they were ineffective against Mussolini in the years before the war. But it will not be like that in the case of South Africa in 1980, perhaps. That is a matter upon which the House should ponder.
When oil supplies continued to flow into Rhodesia to such an extent and at such a rate that the storage facilities there were inadequate, exactly what inquiries did the civil servants make? The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary quite rightly stated that there was some account of this matter in a chapter in Bingham. But exactly what inquiries did the civil servants make? Let us have it out in the open. Let us see. What inquiries did Ministers cause to be made? How well informed were they, and what did they do about the matter? Let us see all the papers. Let us learn about all the 763 meetings that took place. Let us see not only the Cabinet papers but, as the right hon. Gentleman quite properly asked—and we all congratulate him upon this and approve of what he said—all the internal memoranda as well.
The report to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, the review of the Bingham report produced by Mr. Phillips, asked at the end no fewer than 19 questions, more sophisticated than those that I have been putting to the House in a general way. Those questions must be answered.
The reality of this matter is that while we were trooping through the Lobbies year after year, what was really happening about oil supplies in the real world outside this place was an open secret. There were reports in all sorts of newspapers and on television. British Government agencies were even noting down the numbers of railcars that were carrying oil into Rhodesia. What happened to their reports, by the way? On whose desk did they land? What I know is that they never came to this House. Why did they not come to this House? Why was Parliament not told what the real situation was?
So it is plain that there must be a further and more careful inquiry. As to its form, there are two suggestions. One is a Select Committee. The right hon. Gentleman referred to that, as did my right hon. Friend. I think that that suggestion may be right, for it is Parliament that has been deceived, and it should be the resolve of us all to see that Parliament not merely controls the Executive in future but is seen to do so.
To that extent, the case for a Select Committee as a form of inquiry is overwhelming. On the other hand, it is true that a tribunal under the 1921 Act could be argued to have certain advantages. It could be politically impartial. It could have the help of the forensic skills of lawyers, and to that extent it is perhaps a better investigative body.
However, there is no reason why a Select Committee should not have the assistance of lawyers. To anybody who says that this House is so prejudiced by the ordinary political divisions between us that it is incapable of conducting a proper inquiry into its own affairs, I would reply "Nonsense". It should be 764 a matter of pride to us to put the interests of this House, this Parliament, before all else.
But, whatever body might be chosen —and I think that I have made clear that I prefer the Select Committee—what is certain is that we must insist upon full disclosure of all documents and that we must act with speed.
Finally, I think that I should re-emphasise my reasons for declaring so strongly that the matter cannot be left as it stands. My first point is this. We in this Parliament appear to have connived at sanctions-breaking on a massive scale. Of course, we did not mean it. That is not what we intended. But that is what we appear to have done. We must not now condone what has happened.
Second, I abhor the hypocrisy of this scene—for example, the prosecution of some companies and the apparent casual immunity of others. Worse than that is the contrasting treatment of individuals. I dare say that not one of us has not had a constituency case where some wretched person has wanted to come here from Rhodesia to visit relatives or whatever and been turned away. I had a constituency case of a retired British Army officer whose pension was retained in the United Kingdom. He wanted to apply it, while himself living in Rhodesia, to the assistance of his daughter. No doubt in accordance with the law, but the Treasury refused that tiny, trivial request by a former loyal servant of this nation. How despicable that is.
What is the contrast? Are you aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the two heads of Rhodesian security, Mr. Ken Flowers and Mr. Derek Robinson, come into and leave this country as they please? Are you aware that provided they advise our people in Pretoria in advance of their visits, they are met at the airport and taken through immigration and customs formalities without the usual encumbrances and hold-ups to which the remainder of us are subjected? I repeat, I abhor the hypocrisy of the scene, with one rule for some people and another rule for others.
Third, I care desperately, as I know the House does, about the good name of Parliament and of our country. Business men travelling abroad, including my own colleagues, tell me that they are now 765 being asked in Africa and as far away as South America "Are you, I hope, more honest than British Governments and British politicians are?" Let us see whether we cannot restore our good name and show our good faith.
Fourth, and finally, I believe that the battle for freedom is being fought out now in Africa. British interests are very much at stake. We have a duty in the national interest to protect them and to protect our own people—black and white British passport-holders. The loss of our interests in Southern Africa—let us make no mistake—would affect seriously the standard of living of our people here in the United Kingdom.
I believe that the prospects for a settlement—and I dare say that privately the Foreign Secretary agrees with me—and for peace may now be brighter than they were for some time. Once, this country had a reputation for bringing justice, peace and honest administration to the countries of the world. Let us determine to resume that ancient occupation and bring them to Rhodesia if we can. With peace, the prospect for Rhodesia and the neighbouring territories—especially for Zambia, which is so well led and which has suffered so cruelly—might be very remarkable. We are probably the only nation which could bring all these people together. But first let us see that our hands are clean. That, above all, is why I argue for this inquiry.
We would be wrong in this House and we would be wrong in this nation only to blame Mr. Smith for UDI and what has happened to date. We would be equally wrong to blame Mr. Nkomo only for the escalation of violence—that remarkable man who will, I am sure, have a great part to play in the future in achieving peace in Rhodesia. We, too, must accept our share of the responsibility. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire was entirely right when he said in that old phrase "The buck stops here." I believe that we have been more incompetent than perfidious. But let us never again conduct ourselves in this deplorable way. Let us at any rate learn something from this bitter tragedy that is Rhodesia in 1978.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Bryan Davies (Enfield, North)
During the past few months it has be- 766 come clear that Rhodesia has been reaching a very significant stage in its development. I had the opportunity to visit the country in September, and I came back shaken by what I saw there and desperately concerned about its future.
Although today we are caught in a difficult parliamentary position in which we have to address ourselves both to the important issue of Bingham and also to Rhodesian policy, there is no doubt where the priority of our debate ought to lie. Whatever the lessons of Bingham for our Government and for our society, and whatever the issues at stake with regard to Bingham, which certainly are very serious, we ought also to recognise that people are dying in Rhodesia today and that the issues are being fought out in the most difficult and tragic circumstances. We have a moral responsibility stretching back over many years for the present state of affairs, and certainly we have to address our minds to the immediate future of that unhappy country.
In passing, I might say about the Bingham report and sanctions that Opposition Members cannot have it both ways. If sanctions have been of no effect and if it is suggested that those who opposed sanctions because they were ineffectual were right, what is the claim to take Bingham seriously? How dare the Opposition emphasise the necessity for a full investigation of sanctions-breaking when so much of the argument that we have heard from them is that sanctions have not been all that germane to developments in Rhodesia over recent years?
I think that sanctions have been important not in terms of their direct economic effect but clearly in terms of political reality. Commitment to sanctions has demonstrated just where loyalties, attitudes and perspectives have lain. In these terms, it has been of enormous importance that the basic position of Her Majesty's Government, whether represented by my own party or by the Conservative Party, has been a commitment to oppose the Smith regime.
In such circumstances, how can we argue that a country which has borne the brunt of sanctions and for which the sanctions have been a brutal reality— and I refer especially to Zambia—should be denied all help, sustenance and aid in 767 circumstances where its economy is in a parlous state and its territory is being violated by the power of the illegal regime based in Salisbury? That surely is a moral responsibility stemming from the past 15 years of British policy represented by Governments of both major parties.
I do not wish to spend too much time on the issue of sanctions. I add merely one comment. To the extent that they have had an economic bite, that bite has been in the past 18 months or two years. There is a sense in which the economic significance of sanctions has been muted throughout the 12 years or so during which we all knew that oil was getting through, from whatever source, and the real key to turning off the oil has never been the British oil companies or the Beira patrol but has always been South Africa. At the point when the South African Government made up their minds that the oil would be switched off, for their own reasons of policy with regard to Rhodesia, for four days the oil did not flow. The oil trains and trucks were mysteriously lost in the northern part of South Africa as the determination came through from Pretoria that Smith had to be taught a lesson.
These are realities of which we cannot be unaware. Whatever we have to say about the Bingham report—and I look upon it as a very sorry record in terms of Government action—we ought not to deny the basic fact that the effectiveness or otherwise of sanctions has been well known to right hon. and hon. Members and to the country at large. But they are beginning to bite now because Rhodesia is at war.
Do Opposition Members think that the internal settlement of March of this year was created because of the effectiveness of sanctions which they deny continually and which it is recognised have had a limited effect? Do they think that it is because of divine inspiration on the part of political leaders in Rhodesia who have seen the light and the error of their ways? Do they feel that perhaps the missions sent so often by the Opposition Benches, frequently representing the more extreme wing of the Conservative Party, have convinced Ian Smith that the end of the road is at hand? Of course not.
768 Most of the intelligence that has gone directly from this country to Rhodesia has been intelligence giving sustenance to Smith in his struggle—intelligence which has emphasised the fact that people at home have a rather different perspective from that set out in the declared policy of Her Majesty's Government. That is why for so long the position in Rhodesia has been so crucially misunderstood.
The internal settlement was not created as a result of the moral force of Bishop Muzorewa, who certainly depicts in his book the struggle he has been involved in in recent years. It was not created as a result of the articulate politics of the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole and his ability to convince Ian Smith, who incarcerated him for so many years. The settlement internally has arisen because the going has become sticky. The security situation inside Rhodesia is worsening. Law and order are breaking down. The settlement does not arise from our efforts or those of the international community. It is the result of the internal situation in that country, in which clearly the men with the guns have begun to bring home the lessons to the Rhodesian regime which a lot of us had hoped it would learn without such violence being necessary.
It is because of this fact that the House must recognise that the future of Rhodesia cannot be built upon the sands of an internal settlement which recognises only a small part of the black leadership in Rhodesia. It has to be based also upon the power of the people who have carried the struggle—and often paid for it with their lives—against the Smith regime. That is the crucial factor which has changed over the past 18 months. It is the position of the war in Rhodesia which has altered. If we are concerned to build soundly for the future, we have to recognise that simply bandying crude slogans against the representatives of guerrilla forces of Nkomo or Robert Mugabe is no way to construct a future for Rhodesia.
These are the people who at present represent a degree of power within that strife-torn land. We have to come to terms with that. There is no serious way in which Her Majesty's Opposition can purport to adopt a policy based upon the internal settlement. The internal settlement is not delivering to the people 769 of Rhodesia the requirement which we all demand, in the last analysis, of our Government and the people who represent us, namely, peace and security. Certainly Ian Smith recognised that he could not hold the situation without some concession to black power in Rhodesia. It was thought that if he could divide the forces ranged against him, if he could bring within his Government a certain range of opinion, that would be enough.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)
I am following closely what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Is he making the point that the guerrilla forces of Nkomo and Mugabe are delivering the peace and security which he says are the prime needs of the people of Rhodesia?
§ Mr. Davies
I am scarcely suggesting that people who are fighting a war are delivering peace and security. I am saying that we cannot get out of this war, we cannot achieve peace and security in Rhodesia, until we have a political settlement which is agreed by those forces represented by the Patriotic Front. The Conservatives must recognise that that is the position.
The internal settlement is not delivering what the majority of people in Rhodesia want. They want, first, peace and security. Second, they want a commitment to building a Rhodesia in which all can share in a multi-racial society. Clearly the credentials of the existing Government in Rhodesia are dubious in the extreme. It is not just a question of personality. It is not just a demand that Ian Smith must go and that some rather more moderate and less tainted white leadership should take his place as representing that part of Rhodesian society. That is not the issue. In terms of credentials, the issue is what the whites, using the internal settlement, have delivered and intend to deliver to the Rhodesian people.
The record thus far is exceedingly bleak. Let us analyse the record, first in terms of the distribution of power. If this is genuine power-sharing between white and black in Rhodesia, and if the most crucial factor is peace and security, clearly, in circumstances where events are of a dramatic quality, power is related to control of the armed forces and the police. Without those levers of power, 770 a politician is not in a position of power in Rhodesia.
The fact is that the blacks in the internal settlement are not in that position of power. It is not the case that the security forces are under the control of the political arm in the way in which we pride ourselves they are in a developed society in Western Europe, in our country in particular. In Rhodesia it is abundantly clear that the security forces cross frontiers into neighbouring States without the political will of the so-called black leaders. It is equally clear that the regime can renege on the commitment concerning the basic undertaking towards unimpeded majority rule by holding elections by 31st December while the leading black participant in the power-sharing Government is unaware that that decision has been taken and resists it when it is brought to his attention.
That decision was taken when Bishop Muzorewa, apparently one of the most significant power brokers in the new arrangement, was in London. He declared himself to be absolutely astounded by the decision. That is a true measure of the limited control which black politicians have over the internal settlement. Although it may be difficult for the Conservatives to understand the point, in Rhodesia black people know of this all too well. It is because of that that the credibility of those significant politicians who joined the internal settlement and upon whom such hopes rested is beginning to evaporate.
We have only to look at the evidence that has been clearly portrayed in recent weeks, even since the time when I was first able to talk to people in rather more direct circumstances. There was the crucial decision to introduce conscription for blacks in that society, which everyone recognised as the most enormous and significant step because it clearly meant that the regime was having to move to a stage to which it had always been unreservedly reluctant to move. That decision is provoking the obvious response among large numbers of blacks.
Some students from the university of Salisbury were interviewed about what they would do in such circumstances. When I and my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) were in Rhodesia and talked to people at the 771 university of Salisbury, it was already known that the guerrilla forces and the Patriotic Front were being greatly strengthened in terms of the sympathy of large numbers of blacks in that university.
But when these students are asked what are the consequences of conscription being applied to them and what they intend to do, I have no doubt that some would reply that they would accept conscription and join the forces. There are those who are very reluctant to be involved in the fighting and would possibly attempt to avoid this, but there are also those who have said quite straightforwardly "If this issue is now clear that we have to fight and possibly to die, we will fight and die on the side of freedom, which means joining the Patriotic Front and the boys in the bush". That means, therefore, that the internal settlement is founded upon sand.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), as the spokesman for the Conservative Party, adopted a strong, aggressive style of delivery, but let us analyse what h0e said. He said, first, "That part of my Back Bench opinion which supports the position of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) that somehow Britain can restore itself to colonial status in Rhodesia unfortunately misunderstands the position." He could not see any way in which we would commit ourselves to resuming that kind of authority, which would have to be backed by British troops in the parlous and tragic circumstance of Rhodesia today; and he is right.
The right hon. Gentleman then turned to the other wing of his party which has been given quite undeserved plaudits all afternoon for apparently having been right about sanctions. He turned to that other section, the section that has often gone to Ian Smith and told him "Of course, things back home are rather different from the official Government position."
We should make no mistake about it. One of the interesting points continually made to the first two Labour Members of Parliament to visit Rhodesia since UDI, with the exception of one or two Ministers, was "We always get the most extreme opinions out here. We always 772 get what we regard as a portrayal of British opinion and we are beginning to recognise that there are severe limitations to that perspective." That extreme opinion is that Smith has been right all along, that the past 13 years have led Rhodesia to a position in which the whites' values and the defence of their narrowly conceived idea of freedom accept that a quarter of a million whites should dominate 6½ million blacks and that the land distribution in that country should be hopelessly ill balanced in favour of the whites. Is that position justified by what looks like being the impending holocaust that Rhodesia now faces?
Is it not tragic that Smith should have ever had any sustenance from any quarter in the United Kingdom over these past 13 years? At the end of the day in terms of the future of Rhodesia there is not a great deal of differences between the two Front Benches. Despite the strong terms in which the issues were expressed this afternoon, the actual concrete proposal that emerged from the Opposition was a validation of what Her Majesty's Government are engaged upon —that basically there is no way forward in terms of ending sanctions, that basically there is no way in which Smith can be backed outright at this present time, that there has to be a settlement in which the Patriotic Front has to play its part, and that there have to be all-party talks.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
I do not want to delay the debate, because I am hoping to speak myself. But the hon. Gentleman is totally inaccurate. The second and most important point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym)—I think I wrote it down correctly—is that the internal settlement should be used as a firm basis of agreement to the next step. That is exactly and totally contrary to the suggestions that the hon. Gentleman is making.
§ Mr. Davies
There is a distinction between the expresison of sentiment and the reality which underpins it. The reality which underpins the argument of the right hon. Member is that security will be achieved in Rhodesia only if there are all-party talks in which the Patriotic Front plays its part, that therefore one canont put all one's eggs into the basket 773 of the internal settlement because that is not feasible, and that it is nothing more than a gesture to argue that we should increase our representation in Rhodesia because the conditions that would be imposed on us by the internal regime for doing so at the present time would be full recognition of that regime. Neither we nor the Conservative Party will concede that; at least, that is how I understand the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
The hon. Gentleman says that a conditon for a permanent presence in Salisbury would be full recognition. Will he take into account the fact that there was a permanent presence in Salisbury for several years after UDI without British recognition?
§ Mr. Davies
The question is the extent to which one takes action which gives recognition at this moment. I maintain that there is no way in which one can build the future upon the sands of the internal settlement and that, despite the rhetoric of the Conservative Party, it does not see the reality very differently.
We must recognise that we are not by any means the chief power brokers in this situation. We may have a great moral responsibilty and it may be necessary that we discharge that and play our part in bringing parties together, but, when it comes to power-broking in Rhodesia, it is of the utmost importance that we take the front-line Presidents with us and that we take African and United Nations opinion with us, since otherwise we shall tie ourselves to the dead weight of an internal settlement which we cannot deliver.
That is why the issues in this debate are fairly clear. Let us by all means deal with Bingham by means of a Select Committee. Let us recognise that we have a responsibility to make the position of sanctions as clear as posible. But much more important is to recognise the realities and how tragic the situation could be without correct policies being supported and seen through. In those terms, it is no contribution to the future of the people of Rhodesia for the Opposition to appear to give succour and support to an internal settlement which cannot work and is not working.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)
I am delighted that the hon. Members for Enfield. North (Mr. Davies) and Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) went to Rhodesia during the recess. I was about to say that a visit to Rhodesia by a Labour Back Bencher is about as rare as a member of the Supreme Soviet voting in the "No" lobby. It is bad for their career prospects. I am glad to have been proved wrong, although this is the first time—certainly that I can recall—for many years that Labour Back Benchers have been to that country. It is very desirable that more should go.
The hon. Member for Enfield, North does not seem to have got his ideas entirely straight as a result of his visit, but it is a step in the right direction.
§ Mr. Blaker
I am grateful to have that point recalled also. Nevertheless, I repeat that it is highly desirable that more Labour Members should go to Rhodesia to gain a better understanding of conditions in that country.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann), I greatly regret that we are having one debate on three important topics—the Bingham report, general policy towards Rhodesia and the renewal of the sanctions order. Those are totally different matters. Certainly Bingham is entirely different and raises very big issues, quite separate from those raised by the other two subjects—issues such as the integrity of government, the knowledge by Ministers of a deception, the effectiveness of Question Time and our methods for holding Ministers responsible. All would surely be better dealt with by separate debates.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton and the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) that a further examination of the issues raised in the Bingham report is needed. Such an examination is needed if only because so far the conduct which has been examined 775 is principally that of the oil companies. The politicians—with the exception of Lord Thomson of Monifieth—and the civil servants have escaped examination. The public will not be content with that situation.
I also agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) and the right hon. Member for Huyton that the right body to make that examination is a Select Committee. The right hon. Member for Huyton raised more questions than he answered. The further examination should certainly cover the contradiction between the right hon. Member for Huyton and Lord Thomson about the extent of the knowledge of Ministers.
The right hon. Member for Huyton said that neither he nor Sir Michael Palliser had seen the document recording the meeting on 6th February 1969. Of course, there is an alternative explanation to that which the right hon. Member appeared to have in mind. I say this having a certain knowledge, from my own experience as a member of the Foreign Service, of the way in which such documents are dealt with.
If neither the right hon. Member for Huyton nor Sir Michael Palliser saw the document, it suggests to me that its contents were regarded as being insufficiently new to be drawn to their attention. In turn, that suggests that the possible explanation was that the swap arrangement was fairly widely known in Government circles. That is a possibility which the further examination will have to take into account.
Another question occurred to me during the right hon. Gentleman's speech when he said that Lord Thomson had no responsibility for Rhodesian matters or oil sanctions at the time that he held the meeting. That raises the question of the way in which the right hon. Member for Huyton's Government was run. If he did not have any responsibility for oil sanctions or Rhodesian matters, what on earth was he doing presiding at a meeting with the chairman of Shell and a senior officer of British Petroleum?
The further examination will have to look into what happened under the Conservative Government. We have read 776 that, according to Lord Home's recollection of his time as Foreign Secretary, the isssue of oil sanctions did not arise. Since that remark comes from that source, we must take it seriously. Based on my brief time as a Foreign Office Minister before the February 1974 election, I regard that as a convincing explanation. In that time there was not much change in the situation, and everybody knew that oil was reaching Rhodesia by one means or another. Sir Alec did not face a new situation when he came to office. I spent only six weeks as a Foreign Office Minister and this matter was not drawn to my attention in that time.
Another matter that should be examined is the correspondence which appeared in the press between Mr. Rowland of Lonrho and the Foreign Secretary. Mr. Rowland made three serious accusations. The correspondence was published in The Times on 3rd October this year. The first accusation was that in July 1977 the Foreign Secretary pressed Mr. Rowland to ensure that Lonrho dropped the legal proceedings which it was taking against the oil companies. In the light of the Bingham report this is a serious matter. The House will want to know the facts.
Secondly, Mr. Rowland alleged that an assurance was to be given to him, according to what the Foreign Secretary told him, that the report of the Department of Trade inquiry which already had been published would not lead to steps being taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions against Lonrho. He believed that that assurance was unreasonably delayed. We now know that it was given to the company only last Friday.
Mr. Rowland's third allegation was of harassment by the Government in a number of ways—some of them rather surprising—against Lonrho, apparently on the ground that Lonrho was not prepared to drop the action against the oil companies.
I hope that the Minister who is to make the winding-up speech will tell the House something about these matters, which the Foreign Secretary did not mention. If they cannot be cleared up in that way, I hope that the further inquiry will look into them.
I turn to the question of the Government's policy towards Rhodesia. My 777 right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire said that the Foreign Secretary had failed in his policy. There are four main reasons why he has failed. First, I believe that the Labour Party has never tried to understand sufficiently the outlook of the Rhodesian whites. I say that not because I particularly favour the whites as opposed to the blacks in Rhodesia; I do not. I say that not because I regard the economic contribution of the whites in Rhodesia to the life of that country as vital, although I do regard it as vital. I say it for the simple reason—and the Government have not attached sufficient importance to this—that no agreement for progress towards majority rule can be made without the consent of Rhodesia's whites. I have never heard that recognised by the Labour Party.
In the past, Mr. Smith has been abused even by Ministers in the Labour Party. The right hon. Member for Middles-brough (Mr. Bottomley) once called Mr. Smith a liar. That was a great mistake. It did not help to make the white population in Rhodesia more receptive to the suggestion that they should abandon their power to the majority.
The second mistake that the Labour Party made was not to believe that Mr. Smith was sincere on 24th September 1976 when he publicly accepted majority rule. I recognise why everybody might be a little cautious about such a statement, bearing in mind what had happened in the past.
Labour Members may sneer once more, but I put it to them that it can be dangerous not to accept a conversion when it is made, just as it can be dangerous to be hoodwinked by a deception when it is practised. The Government would have been right to operate as if they believed that Mr. Smith really meant what he said. I have been to Rhodesia twice since then and I believe that he did mean it.
This is one of the explanations for the fundamental misjudgment that the Government have made of the internal settlement and for their coolness towards it. I believe that their right course on 4th March 1978, the day after the internal settlement was announced, would have been to go to Mr. Smith and the other leaders of the internal settlement and 778 say "We take you at your word, we assume you mean what you are saying, and we will provide the help that you need in drafting your constitution, drawing up your electoral laws and all the other things that you must do between now and the end of the year." The Government could have done that without any recognition of the new regime and without commitment. But, in fact, by their rejection of the internal settlement—that is what it has amounted to—they have led us up the path to disaster.
The third mistake that the Government have made was twice to allow the momentum of an agreement to fail. It happened after the Kissinger agreement of September 1976. At that time the American Government were in baulk because they were approaching a presidential election, and therefore they were out of action. That was a great opportunity for the British Government, which they failed to take.
Eventually we had the Geneva conference, but only after great pressure had been put upon the British Government to call the conference at all. They had to be pressed into calling the conference; they had to be pressed into chairing the conference. When they held the conference they did so entirely on the wrong basis. It was held in public and it was a long-drawn-out contest for power between all the parties involved. It would have been much wiser to hold it in private. Wounds were publicly opened and aggravated, the guerrilla forces on various sides were steadily built up and people who were already reluctant parties to an agreement were allowed to have greater doubts. This was all because of the reluctance of the present Government to get involved. The Prime Minister believed that if we were involved Rhodesia would be Britain's Vietnam.
The fourth cardinal mistake of this Government was the statement by the Secretary of State on 1st September last year, at the time of the announcement of the Anglo-American proposals, that the armed forces should be based on the guerrillas. That had never before been suggested in any proposal for a Rhodesian settlement. It has not happened before in the process of taking any other colony towards independence. Psychologically, it was the death blow in the eyes of the 779 white Rhodesians to the Anglo-American agreement. That was, perhaps, the crucial error of the Foreign Secretary.
I believe that proposal was an American one. I think that the Americans bounced the British Government into it. But the British Government should not have allowed themselves to be bounced. They should have asserted themselves more vis-à-vis the Americans. There are many people in America who would welcome a lead from this country because they recognise that we know a lot more about Africa than do the Americans, and Africa matters much more to Britain than to the Americans. African questions, when they are dealt with by the Americans, tend to get mixed up with the East-West conflict and to be the subject of a trade-off with the SALT agreement, or something of that kind. That is not necessarily in the interests of Britain. Keen as I am on the Anglo-American relationship, I do not think that we should have been dragged along in the American wake to the extent that we have on the Rhodesian issue in recent years.
What should be done? I very much welcome the constructive and powerful speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire. I welcome particularly his suggestion that the technique used in Namibia, of the contact group, should be applied to Rhodesia. I also welcome his proposal that the Prime Minister himself should be involved.
Britain must accept its own responsibilities much more in future than it has in the past in relation to Rhodesia. We should certainly have a representative in Salisbury—a proposal that my right hon. Friend repeated. Even now such a representative could help the interim Government to get a move on with their constitution. It is astonishing that eight or nine months after the internal settlement a constitution has not been produced. This is not simply because of a lack of desire to do so. It is more likely to be, to some extent, because of inexperience. One of the things that our representative could do would be t.) help the progress of the internal settlement in connection with the constitution.
The British Government should at long last lean in the right direction as between the internal settlement and the 780 Patriotic Front. I share the desire of the Government for Mr. Nkomo in particular to be brought into the Rhodesian settlement. What is the best way to achieve that? So far, the Government, in spite of what they have said, have given the world the impression that Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe have a veto. There is no point in saying that they have not got a veto when they have one in practice. The Government have not led Mr. Nkomo to believe that things would be any the worse for him if he stayed outside the settlement. The right way to persuade him to come in is to give him the impression that if he does not get on the bus if will leave and get to its destination without him. That might give him some incentive to get on the bus. So far there has been no indication how he will lose or suffer if he stays out. That has been a very substantial error.
That is why there is now a serious danger that Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe may decide that their best course is to stay outside and fight to the bitter end. If the history of Rhodesia ends in darkness and death, I believe that this Government will have their share of the responsibility.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Bottomley (Middlesbrough)
Tributes have been paid tonight to John Davies, and I would like to add mine. John Davies whas a late-comer to the House of Commons but soon became an excellent parliamentary companion. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North (Mr. Bryan Davies) said a moment ago that there was not much difference between the two Front Benches in their attitude to Rhodesia. I can confirm this. It goes back to the days of Lord Sandys, when he was Secretary of State, and I was shadow Commonwealth Secretary. Throughout the years of successive Governments we have had a common interest of looking after Britain and making sure that the British case was understood. That case was much more honourable than some have contended. including some hon. Members of this House who should know better.
Last year John Davies and I were in Canada together at a Commonwealth Parliamentary conference. At that conference Britain's honour was at stake. We were able to put the Conservative and the Labour views, which were nearly 781 identical, although not exactly, and as a result of that we came out of the conference very well. It is my belief that we have missed John Davies today. He would have made the kind of contribution that put Britain first rather than party conflict.
I believe that there will be no settlement of the Rhodesia problem until Mr. Smith goes. In his desire to hold on to power he has wriggled and deceived and he continues to do so today. That is not saying that he is a liar—in fact, it may be saying far worse. On reflection I agree with the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) that it might have been wrong for me to use that word. Perhaps I should have used the words of Sir Winston Churchill—"a terminological inexactitude". As far as Ian Smith is concerned I have nothing to be sorry about. I believe that he is fundamentally the cause of all the trouble that exists today. I think that his recent visit to the United States is part of the tactics that he has continually employed—tactics of delay to hold on to power.
Mr. Smith deceived the Lord Chancellar and myself in 1965 when he accepted the five principles laid down by a Conservative Government and then denied doing so. He was also responsible for deceiving one of the most honourable and upright public men ever to serve our country, the Governor of Rhodesia, Sir Humphrey Gibbs, Sir Humphrey was asked by Mr. Ian Smith to sign some emergency orders, and he said "It is not for the purpose of UDI?". Mr. Smith said "No", and then, very soon afterwards, he used precisely those emergency orders in order to give him the power to make an illegal declaration of independence.
Mr. Smith has deceived many hon. Members, eminent lawyers and industrialists who have all come back and reported to one Secretary of State or another that the situation was going in a way in which there could be a settlement. This is all part of the deception, and even his recent visit to the United States is a further effort in his desire to hold on to power at any cost.
That is why I disagree with the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). In my view, whether it were a mission or a permanent representative in Rhodesia, that would be merely another 782 means for Mr. Smith to use in order to hold on to power. It is my view that unless he goes we shall never have a settlement of the Rhodesia problem.
It is all very well for us to be concerned, but it is the Africans who have the strongest reasons for not trusting Mr. Smith. For years, most of the African leaders were held without trial, in inhuman conditions. Several were condemned to death, and recommendations for reprieve by Secretaries of State on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen were ignored by Mr. Smith.
In my view, there is a deteriorating situation in Rhodesia which gives us all cause for great concern, as my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North, who has just been on a visit there, has been telling us. I believe that the discontent is leading to immense bloodshed and disorder and I think that it will increase. I repeat that, in my view, if Mr. Smith stands down there will be a chance that the danger will ease. Either he gives way to a European acceptable to the Africans and goes ahead with the Anglo-American plan, put into operation with Field Marshal Lord Carver taking over, or, if he is not able to do that, there are other ways—perhaps I may return to this in a moment—by which we might help to resolve the matter.
Today's debate, as was expected, has in substantial measure dealt with the Bingham report. It is regrettable that the Zambian Government declined to give evidence to the inquiry. Here I return to what I said a moment ago. If any other country had been subjected to the same kind of inquiry as the British Government and Parliament have gone through as a result of the Bingham report, it certainly would not have come out of it as well as we have done.
When I was Secretary of State, the oil sanctions order of 1965 came into effect. There can be no denying that everything possible was done by the Government to stop oil from going into Rhodesia. My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes), who was my Minister of State, was chairman of an official committee monitoring sanctions against Rhodesia, and I have it on his authority to say that there was no breach of the oil sanctions during that period. I was responsible for suggesting that the 783 Commonwealth Secretariat should form a committee composed of Commonwealth high commissioners to study and report on economic sanctions against Rhodesia. During the period when I was Secretary of State, I had no evidence brought to me by that Commonwealth Secretariat sanctions committee that oil sanctions were being broken.
Of course, I knew that oil was going into Rhodesia, because South Africa said that it would not breach the oil sanctions itself but it would do nothing to stop voluntary supplies going through, and the emotional situation was such that supplies did go through South Africa to Rhodesia. The Portuguese said that they would play no part at all—oil would go through—and they did everything they could to let oil go through. The bulk of the oil going through went by means of the Beira and Umtali pipeline. That was the way by which the great amounts went through. What did we do? We blockaded that part of the coast and many ships failed to put their oil into the pipeline. Indeed, one of them, the "Joanna V", was there for a long period and finally had to go away.
As regards the oil going through over the Portuguese South African frontiers, I got my colleagues in the Foreign Office to agree that embassy officials should go from Pretoria to the Portuguese and South African borders to see how much oil was going, and I well remember—I am clear in my mind that this is so—that they said that substantial amounts were not getting through.
In further support of our sanctions policy, we went to the United Nations and got a mandatory resolution to support the trade embargo. I should add that in all this I had the full support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson).
The criticism which can, I think, justifiably be levelled against Britain is that we conspired to break the oil embargo by arranging for an oil company of another country to send in supplies on our behalf—the swapping arrangements referred to in the Bingham report. It may be—I do not know; I was not in the Government at the time—that there were legal and economic reasons why that ought to be done. If there were, I 784 fail to understand why Parliament, the country and the world were not told. This under-cover arrangement places the then Government in a bad light and is damaging to Britain's honour.
In due course the swapping arrangements came to a stop and British companies began to supply oil to Rhodesia directly. It can be said that in the case of the Labour Government the law of the land was not being broken since no British company was supplying oil direct to Rhodesia. That cannot be said of the following Tory Government, because the swapping arrangements had ended and oil was being directly provided to Rhodesia by British companies. By allowing oil supplies to go to Rhodesia in that way, the Conservative Government were themselves associated in breaking the law.
The immediate task before us all is to end the war in Rhodesia. It is in the interests of all peace-loving nations that a Vietnam situation does not develop.
§ Mr. Bottomley
It may have developed, but we do not want it to be exacerbated in a way which would lead to a similar situation. I believe that we are in danger of world conflagration if the great powers become involved in the struggle in Southern Africa. I have lived through two world wars and I do not want to see another. It was in 1935 that I saw that the war was coming, I said so at a Labour Party meeting, and I was howled down. I believe that we are in a similar position today. We face the threat of another world war and we are doing little about it.
When I was in China last year, I met Deputy President Tan Chen Li and many other leaders. They believe that a third world war is inevitable. They expressed their alarm and said that they felt that we British were not doing enough about it—we had suffered in two world wars and we ought to do everything possible to avoid the third.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary must continue with his efforts to get the British-American plan accepted, with United Nations backing, because I regard that as the best hope for resolving the Rhodesia problem. Equally, time is running out. In the present climate a 785 great struggle is developing between the major powers and war could esclate in a short time.
All the world leaders proclaim that they want peace, and I believe them. They know that if war breaks out, destruction to humanity as a whole would be likely. Let me make a suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. As the sovereign Power responsible for Rhodesia, why should we not call a top-level conference of the leaders of China, the United States and the Soviet Union so that they may see to it that no future peoples of the world have to suffer what my generation suffered in two world wars?
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
In his opening remarks, the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bottomley) paid a well-deserved tribute to John Davies, who was for some years my political boss at the Department of Trade and Industry. I wish to echo what has been said about John Davies's fair-mindedness and unfailing courtesy.
The right hon. Gentleman said that if John Davies was taking part in this debate he would put Britain first. I hope that in this debate we shall all put Britain first. By no stretch of the imagination can this be seen to be a partisan issue. The issues which the right hon. Gentleman described are far too significant, worrying, and ominous for us to allow this debate to degenerate into a party political argument.
I took to heart the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the danger signals in Africa. Because of those signals, I take a marginally different view from some of my hon. Friends. Equally, I share very much the sense of humility displayed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) at even daring to advance any solution in this matter—a matter in which the problems are so complex that they have defied resolution for over a decade by men in various Governments who have worked hard to try to settle them.
I do not doubt that the Foreign Secretary has tried hard to settle this issue. It is clear to everybody in this House that he remains invincibly confirmed in the rightness of his own case. It is that conviction and the strength with which he 786 holds to it, despite all that has happened in past months, that causes me most anxiety. Would that he shared some of the humility that we feel in contemplating issues of this magnitude.
We must start our consideration of Rhodesia with the fact that is apparent to everybody, namely, that the Government's policy has failed. It has failed to bring about its objectives, it has failed to bring about an all-party conference, and it has failed to bring an end to the fighting.
In these circumstances we must look again at the Government's policy. Indeed, the Government must re-examine their own policy to see what else might be done. First, they should ask themselves, in all humility, why their policy has so far failed to achieve their objective. Surely the one thing that stands out is the fact that the Foreign Secretary has demonstrated a clear bias in one direction. He has failed to be open-handed in his treatment of the participants in this conflict. I believe that, because of his bias, he has intensified terrorism. He talks continuously of the armed struggle for freedom, but this has gone far beyond the so-called struggle for freedom; it is a naked struggle for power. The fight is a fight for power in the future independent State of Zimbabwe. That is the fight in which Mr. Nkomo is engaged at present. This is why, so far, he has resisted the invitation to come to the conference table. The Government's policy has also failed in that the Foreign Secretary appears to have made no attempt to conciliate the opposing parties; nor has he built upon the internal settlement.
§ Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
I am following my right hon. Friend's remarks with great care. Does he agree that the situation is even worse than he has painted it, since the denial to allow Mr. Smith even to set foot in this country has made matters very much worse than they need have been, because we could have got the notion across to Mr. Smith that talks were needed and could start?
§ Sir J. Eden
I agree with my hon. Friend that that invitation should have been extended, so that Ian Smith could have met Members of all parties. I think such a meeting might well have had good results. I think that he would then have been confronted, much more than he has 787 been so far, with the strength of feeling of some Labour Members. They might have welcomed the opportunity to represent to him why they felt that he should go further than he has already done. Furthermore, it would have given the Government the opportunity to impress on him to do all he possibly could to speed up the process towards the ending of racial segregation in Rhodesia, in those cases where such discrimination takes place, and to advance discussions on the constitution.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire that there is an urgent need for a new initiative. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his imaginative and constructive speech—a speech in which he advised the development of a contact group to lift these matters out of the impasse in which the Anglo-United States proposals have currently brought them. If such a contact group is set up, I hope that it will be this country that will take and keep the lead.
I also hope that my right hon. Friend's suggestion about the Prime Minister intervening more directly on the lines of the Camp David agreement will be followed up. I regret that the Prime Minister was so quick to intervene on this issue in response to my right hon. Friend, except in so far as he kept the door open to the possibility of such an initiative.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
As I am waiting to speak in the debate, I am not anxious to prolong the right hon. Gentleman's speech. However, will he say something about the contact group? We have involved the front-line States and South Africa. What sort of contact group have the Opposition in mind, apart from those countries?
§ Sir J. Eden
We have in mind something along the lines of what has been used in Namibia. I have no doubt that there will be further references, perhaps from the Front Bench opposite, to contact groups during the remaining part of the debate.
I hope that the further initiative that we are enjoining upon the Government will bring an end to the fighting, with the assistance, perhaps, of some permanent British presence in Salisbury. I also hope, as do all hon. Members, that there will be early elections in Rhodesia. 788 If these have to take place under the observation of independent or United Nations representatives, that will be to the good. However we must realise how difficult it would be to hold elections in the present circumstances. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire said that international recognition must depend upon the acceptability of the final proposals or shape of the government and constitution of Rhodesia to the people of that country. I agree that international opinion is of the greatest possible importance, but to hold elections while the terrorist campaign continues would, as in any country, prove most difficult.
Terrorism is being inflicted upon the people of Rhodesia by armed gangs operating within and from outside its borders There is a different situation now from that which we saw in that part of Africa in earlier years, certainly since UDI began. The difference is that there is now the sinister incursion into African affairs of the emissaries of Communism and the Cuban mercenaries. It is the fact that that new element has come into existence that more than anything else has intensified what the Foreign Secretary refers to as the "armed struggle". To continue with sanctions in these circumstances would mean extending Russian influence in Africa.
We must be clear where British interests lie. They lie clearly in an end to UDI as soon as that can be brought about. They lie in the development towards a conference in which all parties take part. They lie in the holding of early elections in conditions where a true test of opinion may take place and be seen to take place. British interests also lie in the maintenance of an economically stable Rhodesia. Our interests lie in the maintenance in Rhodesia of the fabric of the institutions of government on which may be built for the future a proper system of justice and order to protect all the citizens of the future independent State.
I should like to see a package proposed which would combine the introduction of a permanent British presence in Salisbury with the determination to end sanctions. It has rightly been said from both sides of the House during the debate that sanctions are a sort of virility symbol. Sanctions are also an 789 act of appeasement. They are an appeasement of all the elements within Africa and outside it that have a vested interest in the disruption of orderly government and all its impartial institutions.
It is appeasement that the Foreign Secretary has been practising. It is appeasement that has been the most unhappy feature of Government policy. It is appeasement that has led Nkomo to stand out. Only a firm lead on our part, which must embrace the ending of sanctions, will give a clear indication to all concerned that we are determined to rescue what remains of fair and orderly government in Rhodesia.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell and Wishaw)
I would like to take up the remarks of the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) about the present situation in Rhodesia, but I should not be serving the House well if I did so. May I say that I profoundly disagree with the right hon. Gentleman's condemnation of sanctions as a factor in the present tragic situation in Rhodesia. As the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said, the present situation would be greatly exacerbated if sanctions were to be abandoned. I hope that many Opposition Members will be guided, in the vote at the end of the debate, by what the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire said.
The Bingham report gives the inside story of the work of British multinational oil companies and their relationships with Government. It appears to be an accurate, painstaking and well-documented account of complex events of which I saw the fringe. The participants in those debates have been given the opportunity to comment upon the Bingham report and to correct the text on matters of fact. I assume that they have done so.
The report tells how the oil sanctions introduced by a Labour Government and maintained by the Conservative Government were broken by British companies. It explains how British Ministers and the chairmen and chief executives of BP and Shell declared repeatedly that British oil was not going to Rhodesia when the bulk of oil supplies to Rhodesia was coming from those companies. I find the story tragic but utterly credible.
790 I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power from April 1966 to January 1967, during which period the breach of sanctions as described in the report and the supply line by rail from Mozambique to Rhodesia were firmly established. I was not engaged in the operation of sanctions, that being handled ministerially by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. However, I take any responsibility that falls to me either in the present knowledge of the House or in any further information that is disclosed in a subsequent inquiry.
My limited experience of relations between the Ministry of Power and the oil companies at that time accords with the picture painted in the Bingham report. The report deals mainly with the oil companies, which gave remarkably full access to their staffs and papers. In future the Bingham report will be a textbook on the internal workings of major national oil companies. It appears that there was no inquiry into activities within and between Government Departments except in so far as it was strictly necessary to describe the doings of the companies in their meetings and communications with Ministers and officials.
The first argument that we have to consider is that sanctions have been useless because the British Government were not prepared to face the confrontation with South Africa that would have been necessary to make them work. If that ruled out the possibility of a straight knock-out of Ian Smith, it did not rule out a dislocation of the lines of supply and an attrition of the economic resources of the illegal regime that could have brought it down years ago.
In July 1977, only a year ago, under the pressure not of Government but of public exposure, BP finally threatened to cut off its supplies of lubrication and other non-main-line oil products to its South African subsidiaries. The South African Government caved in and undertook not to send them to Rhodesia. On main-line products South Africa has effectively given an assurance to all its suppliers, including Iran, that their oil does not go to Rhodesia.
The chasing up of breaches of those undertakings and the blocking of replacement supplies is what sanctions are all about. Why could the pressures upon 791 BP that worked so effectively on their own without Government pressure in 1977 not have been rallied by the Labour Government in 1966 or 1967 when the breaches in sanctions first became obvious? For the Government to have exerted that pressure in 1966 would have required close working with, and pressures upon, the oil companies, which the oil companies plainly expected at the time but which did not materialise.
When in December 1965, immediately upon UDI, George Brown, as First Secretary of State, harried Mr. Berkin, the regional managing director of Shell, on the diversion of tankers from Beira, things happened and Beira was closed. But subsequently, and normally, dealings between oil companies and the Government took place through officials of the Ministry of Power, an extension of the lines of communication which gravely damaged the sanctions policy.
For example, as soon as 31st December 1965, Mr. Berkin wrote to the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Power asking for clarification of what was expected of Shell's companies in South Africa. He asked for—I quote from the report—an urgent expression of the Permanent Secretary's views or a meeting with the Minister of Power early the following week.All he got was a meeting of himself and Mr. Frazer, the managing director of BP, who was equally concerned, with the under-secretary of the petroleum division, two levels down from the permanent secretary.
These were the managing directors of major multinational oil companies, concerned with the major current issue of Government policies. The oil companies did not get their answers, and the officials neither probed nor pressed the oil companies on the matters about which they had come.
A year later, on 12th January 1967, George Brown, then Foreign Secretary, met Sir Maurice Bridgeman, chairman of BP, and Mr. David Barran, the senior British executive of Shell, to explain Government thinking and to seek the tightening of sanctions—this a year after UDI, when it was obvious that something had to be done. George Brown maintained the position that specific 792 measures could and should be taken to have a direct economic and not merely political effect on the Smith regime.
To read the Bingham report is to be reminded how much we have missed the toughness of George Brown since he left the Government. He sought specific measures to tighten up on Shell and BP leakages in Mozambique. On 18th January, a follow-up meeting was held—that was only six days after the meeting with the Foreign Secretary—between the oil companies and the under-secretary in the Ministry of Power. As is noted in the Bingham report, clearly there were differences between the Ministry of Power and the Foreign Office. Instead of seeking means of implementing Government policy as outlined by George Brown, the Ministry of Power officials advised the oil companies on how they could best undermine the Foreign Secretary's plans. They suggested a meeting with George Thomson, whom they regarded as more flexible, or Sir Paul Gore-Booth, the permanent under-secretary in the Foreign Office, at which Ministry of Power officials would try to be present to support the oil companies' views. That was meant to be a follow-up meeting to implement the policy of the Foreign Secretary.
The very following day, de Bruyne of Shell supplied the Ministry of Power with figures which identified the likely leakage to Rhodesia as coming not from the Portuguese refinery at Lourenco Marques but from Shell and BP imports of refined products to Lourenco Marques. Instead of informing Ministers of this at once, Ministry of Power officials allowed misconceptions to grow up, building up to the meetings with George Thomson on 21st February 1968 and, a year later, on 6th February 1969.
At the end of 1967, as Bingham reports, attitudes within Shell were hardening against co-operation in sanctions, when suddenly the companies adopted a more emollient line, because they were beginning to suspect that the assertions that they had been making that their oil was not going to Rhodesia—that they were not supplying oil to Rhodesia—were in fact wrong. At the meeting of 21st February 1968 they expected the Government to take a very tough line and they met nothing but understanding and absolutely no serious questioning at all.
793 I quote from the Bingham report:The meetings of 1968 and 1969 were events of great significance in this story. In the mind of HMG an arrangement had been made which was unsatisfactory but which was thought to be the best that could be made given the clear policy that confrontation with South Africa was to be avoided. Oil would still reach Rhodesia, but it could be truly said that it was not British oil. In the minds of the groups, the significant thing was HMG's acceptance that oil would continue to reach Rhodesia. It thereafter seemed to them that Her Majesty's Government was more concerned about allegations of sanctions breaking (and in particular with allegations that British oil was reaching Rhodesia) than with any attempt to prevent oil reaching Rhodesia.It was at that meeting in 1968 that George Thomson made the kind of remark that destroys us as politicians in the eyes of industry, and sets the tone which civil servants then follow up, when he said:A great deal of politics itself normally is the problem of presentation.In fact British oil had been, and again became, the bulk of Rhodesian supplies, as we now know.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) has this afternoon told the House the circumstances in which Lord Thomson, who was not dealing with Rhodesia at the time, came to chair the meeting in 1969. Whatever the reason, as the Bingham report says, the effect of the meeting was that contacts on sanctions between the Ministry of Power and the oil companies effectively ended for a period of seven years.
Who were these Ministry of Power officials? The junior officials are named in the Bingham report, so it is only fair to name the senior ones also. First Mr. Powell and later Mr. Gregory were the assistant secretaries engaged on the sanctions work. Their doings and views are chronicled in the Bingham report, with a thoroughness which I think in the past would have been considered grossly unfair on any civil servant. But it has been done and it is only fair that it should be followed up by naming others who are responsible.
On an issue of such sensitivity, assistant secretaries do not act alone or without the knowledge and support of their seniors and subject to their guidance. The under-secretary of the petroleum division was Mr. Angus Beckett, whose 794 name appears less frequently in the Bingham report. Mr. Beckett had been in and out of oil matters in Government since the 1940s. He had a knowledge of the jargon, gossip and personalities of the oil industry unequalled in Whitehall. He was largely responsible for the first four rounds of North Sea oil and gas licensing and had been publicly quoted by Sir Laurence Helsby as an example of how versatile and expert an administrative civil servant could be.
In fact, I found that whenever I pressed Mr. Beckett on any business, financial or economic question he quickly took refuge in generalities. His view was that whatever was good for the oil companies was good for Britain. He passed on to Ministers the views of the oil companies regarding their own supranational status and the folly of any Government intervention, adding pepper and salt of his own. He was so obviously in the pocket of the oil companies that I do not think that they had any great respect for him. Certainly, when he retired and sought the reward that, alas, seems now to be the expectation of many civil servants who have had responsibilities for industry, he did not get a job in any of the oil majors but obtained one with William Press, the North Sea oil contractors.
In my own experience, Mr. Beckett deliberately—
§ Mr. Jim Spicer (Dorset, West)
I wonder whether the hon. Member is taking due account of what he is actually saying here. He is breaking every convention that we have ever held true, in that he should not attack those who serve us in this House and who serve this country. It is inexcusable, in my view.
§ Dr. Bray
If the hon. Member reads the Bingham report—and from the reactions in the House today it is quite obvious that very few Members have actually read the Bingham report—he will realise that extremely critical remarks were made about junior civil servants who were answerable to Mr. Beckett. It is only fair that Mr. Beckett should also be plainly called to account for matters for which he was responsible. In my experience, Mr. Beckett deliberately blocked information going to Ministers. We were a small Department with only two Ministers, Richard Marsh and 795 myself. As well as some specific responsibilities, Dick Marsh gave me free rein in the Department. When I asked for some information on refinery capacity and throughputs, the petroleum division was unable to supply it. I asked the statistics division and it produced some data. When Mr. Beckett found out, he blocked any further such information coming to me, not only from his own division but from the statistics division.
While Mr. Beckett, the under-secretary, was well established in his job, Mr. Robert Marshall, the deputy secretary, was appointed to the Department at the same time as the Minister and myself, in April 1966, without any knowledge of the oil industry or any background in the energy field. As I had worked on the operation and control of the oil crackers and petrochemical plants of ICI for six years before I entered the House, I had at least some background in the industry and some tough schooling in the politics of multinational companies.
To establish Mr. Marshall's attitude, it is necessary to go more deeply into the background, and I apologise to the House for having to do so. The whole energy field was in a state of flux. Miners were leaving profitable pits at the rate of 1,000 a week. Gas had just been discovered in the North Sea. Nuclear power was claimed to have become competitive with fossil fuels and memories of the effects of Suez on the reliability of oil supplies were fresh in people's minds.
The White Paper on fuel policy published in 1965—before the permanent secretary, the deputy secretary, the Minister or myself had been appointed to the Department—did not seem to me to cover the new situation. I asked for the working papers lying behind that White Paper. There was no response from the Department. When I pressed the matter I was told that there were no working papers. I asked for the files and found that they contained merely earlier drafts of the White Paper, which had just been plucked out of the air.
I suggested that we ought to undertake a serious fuel policy review in the new circumstances and outlined the form that such a review should take. I had done this sort of thing in ICI and I thought I knew what I was doing. I had been 796 a member of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries and had therefore had exposure to the feelings of the House in such matters.
Not only the Department but Treasury officials supported my suggestion. I remember, in particular, Robert Nield, the Government's chief economic adviser in the Treasury, whom I knew personally, and the Treasury under-secretary, Mr. John Hunt, who is now secretary to the Cabinet but was at that time dealing with Treasury interests in energy, dropping in to say how much they agreed on the need for a review. That is important in order to establish the nature of the Treasury interest in oil. The Treasury was obviously very interested but was not in the lead. It plainly looked to the Ministry of Power to take the lead.
When it came to carrying out the review, there had been suggestions that it should be chaired by the Parliamentary Secretary. As I had initiated the review and knew more about the subject than did some of the officials involved—certainly more than the deputy secretary or the permanent secretary—I thought that it would be the natural course for me to look after the review, but I had reckoned without Mr. Marshall. He chaired the review and effectively blocked close examination of the economics and statistics of oil supply. If any hon. Member cares to look at what became the 1967 fuel policy White Paper, he will see that the sole contribution I was able to make on the treatment of oil supplies and cost factors was to have put into the review, as a proxy to the escalation of oil prices, increases of twopence and fourpence per gallon in the fuel oil tax as hypothetical possibilities, the consequences of which should be explored.
§ Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have listened to the whole of the speech of the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray) and I find it difficult to understand how he is addressing himself either to the motion or to the amendment which you have called.
It seems peculiar that the mea culpa which we are hearing, with the identification of civil servants in an unusual and unaccustomed way, can be part of the debate on the Queen's Speech. May we have your guidance on this matter?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray) is, I understand, pursuing the question of the breaking of oil sanctions. His references to civil servants are his personal responsibility. As I have indicated before, hon. Members take personal responsibility for statements they make in the House.
§ Dr. Bray
Everything to which I am referring was taking place in 1966 and 1967 during the breaking down of oil sanctions and it relates directly to the officials who were the direct line of liaison between the oil companies, which were breaking those sanctions, and the Government. The House needs evidence of the outlook and behaviour of those officials at that time and I am trying to assist the House in that respect.
Lest it be thought that I misinterpret Mr. Robert Marshall's attitude to ministerial authority and the role of Ministers, I remind the House of the Public Accounts Committee report on North Sea oil and gas in 1973, which was the most damning report of departmental mismanagement in recent years. The accounting officer was Sir Robert Marshall, as he had become by then. In its conclusions, the PAC report said:We are surprised that, when the results of the tender competition "—that is for the fourth round(resulting in successful bids totalling £37 million) were known on 20 August 1971, the questions of reconsidering or withdrawing the invitation for the discretionary allocation were not discussed interdepartmentally or put to Ministers for a policy decision.That was the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Trade.
Sir Robert Marshall was the accounting officer and Mr. Angus Beckett, who had retired by the time the PAC report was published, was the under-secretary directly in charge of the give-away fourth round of licensing. It was the same team which oversaw the breakdown of sanctions by the oil companies in the crucial years of 1966 and 1967. Sir Robert Marshall, who was not mentioned in the Bingham report, would, I am sure, wish to give evidence to any inquiry that the House set up about his knowledge, action or inaction on the question of sanctions.
798 The permanent secretary was Mr. David Pitblado, now Sir David. I remember one extraordinary incident in which he was involved. Wanting an independent view on oil, I had fixed a lunch with Dr. Peter Odell. The House will understand why, in the circumstances, I felt the need for an independent view. Dr. Odell has continued his interest in oil and is now an adviser to the Department of Energy. Hearing of this lunch date, Mr. Pitblado went to the Minister and objected that I was having lunch with undesirable characters. Dick Marsh quite properly told him that I could have lunch with whomever I liked.
While Sir David Pitblado must be questioned in any inquiry, and while he must have known the general character and attitude of the people involved, I doubt whether in any serious way he was responsible or whether any blame can be attached to him. In fact, the evidence is that he was rather ashamed of his oil team. He was the Comptroller and Auditor General who in 1972–73 investigated his own former Department and helped produce the PAC report from which I have just quoted. He certainly had a much greater effect on his former Department as Comptroller and Auditor General than he ever had as permanent secretary.
I have mentioned Mr. Beckett's belief that what was good for the oil companies was good for Britain. There was a myth in the Ministry of Power which helped to protect this attitude from serious inquiry. It was claimed that, because of their great importance for the balance of payments, the Treasury handled direct dealings with the oil companies. I checked this with Mr. McFadzean, the managing director of Shell, and with Mr. Fraser, the managing director of BP at the time, and they effectively denied it. The Treasury was directly concerned with movements in and out of sterling, on which it had specific understandings with Shell and BP, but had no specific departmental interest in or oversight of the general economic or foreign policy impact of the oil companies on Britain. Quite clearly, Mr. McFadzean thought that no one should have such an interest, but the Bingham report showed that in fact the direct line on economic and foreign policy matters lay with the Ministry of Power. Mr. 799 Beckett, however, used the Treasury interest to exclude the Ministry of Power Ministers—none of whom is mentioned in the Bingham report as ever having met any of the oil company executives over the whole period of sanctions—from probing too closely. In fact, as I have said, Treasury officials were sympathetic to Ministers in the Ministry of Power probing oil questions much more thoroughly than they had done so far.
Behind Mr. Beckett's attitude was the doctrine—stated so clearly by Mr. McFadzean, managing director of Shell, in the Bingham report, and much earlier, and many times over, publicly, and also to me personally—of the supranationality of the oil companies. Local companies, Mr. McFadzean argues, must comply fully with the law of the country in which they are operating. They follow their home Government's policy only if there is a clear legal basis—note this—requiring them to do so. In other words, Mr. McFadzean is saying "We observe the law but we go no further than that, and I think it would be fatal for us as a multinational enterprise to do so."
In practice. the fault with that argument is that the whole is greater than the part, and by their swap arrangements—which quite clearly were not understood by Ministers at the time, and certainly not told to Ministers by officials—the oil companies can make nonsense of many local laws, if they wish to. Also, the oil companies can then set up their own commercial interests as standing above any legal authority, and any considerations of human decency.
I should say at once that I have heard the McFadzean doctrine—widely known and understood in Shell—hotly contested within Shell, both during Mr. McFadzean's time there and since. Certainly some of my friends in Shell would regard Mr. McFadzean as something of a maverick in this respect. Although it is wise, plainly, to expect any behaviour from the oil companies, it is unnecessary to accept it. I do not believe that the McFadzean principle is a principle on which any decent human organisation can work.
These are not dead coals that we are raking over. Sanctions, including oil sanctions, are a live possibility today in 800 South Africa and elsewhere. The Government must put themselves into a position to handle them much more competently and effectively than they did or, I suggest, were able to do between 1966 and the present. The Government and the House must protect themselves against the development of cells of specialists within Government Departments gathered round some interest or person or job which are opposed or indifferent to Government policy and to official views of other Departments, and even of their own.
I support the suggestion, made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton, that the full Cabinet papers should be made public. I think that the departmental papers are also needed. But I do not think that they will reveal a very different picture from that painted by Bingham, nor will they tell all that happened.
Further inquiry is needed. There is force in the argument that, because of the quantity of evidence to be considered, the need to interrogate witnesses and the difficulty of arriving at an impartial judgment, a judicial inquiry is needed. But, on balance, a Select Committee of the House seems more appropriate. It will work quicker and be qualified to handle the interaction between Ministers, civil servants, industrialists, other Governments and the House. It is not and must not be treated just as a matter of relations between Ministers and the House.
I hope that I have said enough to establish the need for an inquiry into governmental and departmental activity comparable with the thoroughness of investigation of industrial activities in the handling of sanctions. The publication of papers, suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton, is needed to achieve this end. The House can do the rest through a properly staffed Select Committee.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stanley (Tonbridge and Mailing)
I hope that the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray) will forgive me if I do not pursue him on the question of the Bingham report but return to the central issue for the Opposition—the question of Rhodesia.
Like most hon. Members in the Chamber now, I was in Rhodesia recently and 801 returned some 12 days ago. I listened carefully to what the Foreign Secretary said in opening the debate. I found his remarks out of tune with the reality of the political situation in Rhodesia as I found it. It may be that the speech he made today would have been appropriate in November 1977, but it did not seem to be appropriate in November 1978. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to speak as though the 3rd March agreement had never been entered into or, if it had been entered into, was of no consequence.
Many Labour Members have already cast grave doubts on the internal settlement. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) referred to it as being built upon sand. I agree that it is easy to knock the internal settlement. It is easy from where we stand to under estimate the enormousness of the political and constitutional changes which have to be brought about in that country. It is easy for us with 300 years of constitutional development behind us to knock an internal settlement which has yet to be in existence for just 300 days.
I find it difficult to understand why Labour Members do not take some cognisance of the far-reaching political achievements which have been made since the 3rd March agreement. Hon. Members do not seem to be willing to recognise that there is a multi-racial Government in Salisbury today. There is a system whereby there are black and white Ministers for every Department. That multi-racial Government have firmly and clearly agreed on a transfer to black majority rule. I do not doubt the conviction of any of the parties to the internal settlement in accepting the need for black majority rule. There is also a clear agreement that that transfer to majority rule should be achieved by means of elections.
It is certainly easy to be scornful and sceptical, but the internal settlement is the one agreement that is on the table. It has not been agreed by all the parties, but it is the one agreement that exists. The Government have not so far answered the question as to what they offer in return. They have produced White Papers, various options and talks, but they have not produced anything in the shape of an agreement. They have not yet got an agreement even on talks. There is the fundamental contrast between an 802 agreement that exists in some shape or form and the Government's position, which is based simply on expectations.
What disturbs my right hon. Friends and me is that while the Government are prepared to go on talking, while the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary is prepared to go on flying around the world, people in Rhodesia are being killed in large numbers, and the Government continue to spurn the internal settlement and the multi-racial agreement that already exist. One of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, is that there is still not sufficient recognition of the degree of fundamental change that has taken place in Rhodesia.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary regularly uses the phrase—he used it in the statement on arms for Zambia and used it again today—"liberation struggle". I should be the first to agree that "liberation struggle" was at one point an appropriate term to use, describing a struggle of black nationalists against a white minority regime. But what has happened fundamentally this year is that that struggle has now been subsumed into an even more pressing, even more urgent and, I think, even more central struggle, which is not the struggle between white and black but the struggle between black and black for political power. The Government's stance does not seem to recognise that change.
I do not think, either, that the Government recognise that among those contestants for power, among the black nationalists' methods of a quite different order are being used as between the external nationalists and the internal nationalists. Let us take the external nationalists. On the Conservative Benches we wished to see Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe take part in elections in Rhodesia, but what cannot be ignored is that the external nationalist leaders have deliberately chosen for the moment to contract out of the democratic process inside Rhodesia and to try to secure their ends by the exercise of terrorism within Rhodesia.
To someone who has recently returned from Rhodesia it is immensely distressing and perturbing to see the degree of brutality and ruthlessness with which terrorism is being prosecuted in Rhodesia, particularly inside the tribal trust lands. The latest figures that I have 803 are that 1,002 African schools in the tribal trust lands have now been closed and that as a result about 250,000 African schoolchildren are now without any education.
The policy of the terrorists who attack cattle dips as part of their programme of disruption and economic dislocation in the tribal trust lands is having a desperate effect on the native cattle herd. Tick disease is spreading very fast. Foot and mouth disease is spreading. Tsetse fly is spreading. About 250,000 African cattle have died so far. The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that the figure could rise to as much as 1 million native catle dead by the end of the rainy season next April, out of a native cattle stock estimated at 3.2 million. The country possibly faces the loss of up to one-third of the African cattle stock as a result of the ravages of terrorism. Cattle form the basic bank balances, the basic assets, of the African.
Terrorism is being launched against the transport system in the tribal trust lands, with sustained attacks on buses and lorries. There is an appalling amount of personal violence—burning in the kraals, a steady stream of abductions, robberies and murder. Every day, at present, 20 to 30 African civilians are being killed.
It is an appalling war of terrorism that is going on. I found it very strange that at no time in his speech did the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary see fit to offer one note of condemnation of what ZANLA and ZPRA are doing in the tribal trust lands.
I now turn to the internal nationalists. The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary might have made some mention of the political contribution that the internal nationalist leaders in Rhodesia—Bishop Muzorewa, the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole and Chief Chirau—have been making over the past nine months. After all, it is they who chose not to leave Rhodesia but to stay and to work for a settlement within Rhodesia. They have chosen not to pursue power by terrorist methods but to try to do it by a peacefully negotiated settlement. They have chosen not to put back the clock in Rhodesia by undermining education, the cattle dips and so on in the tribal trust lands, but to try to get progress in Rhodesia, to work constructively and to try to bring 804 about a peaceful transition to majority rule.
I do not think that those achievements are insignificant. In addition, they have managed to secure from the Rhodesia Front a written agreement to a transfer to majority rule—something which has defied successive Governments of both parties over many years. They have obtained a firm agreement, and, I believe, one which will be honoured by the Rhodesia Front, to end racial discrimination in Rhodesia. They have entered the Government as Ministers to try to work constructively in that country. I should have thought that this, too, deserved at least some acknowledgment, some reference and possibly a little praise from the Foreign Secretary this afternoon.
There was no more striking contrast than that at the end of the speeches made by the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) about the way forward. Two alternatives are being offered. I cannot but be thoroughly pessimistic about the solution put forward by the Government. They offer only the possibility of all-party talks, and it seems to be a very slender straw. This was evidenced by the Prime Minister himself in response to an intervention earlier today when he acknowledged that at the moment he saw no prospect of a basis for agreement, even if he was able to closet the various Rhodesian nationalist leaders together.
The Government offer all-party talks with no real prospect of their coming into being. Apart from that, they offer nothing. Is it really the Government's position that if the all-party talks fail they will sit back on their hands and do nothing, whilst innocent civilians in Rhodesia are murdered day in and day out? I find it hard to credit it if it is.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire was entirely right when he said that we must try to go forward on both fronts and get progress todwards all-party talks with limited objectives plus support for the internal settlement.
I wish the Foreign Secretary well in trying to get all-party talks off the ground. However, from what he said today, he is being far too ambitious or over-zealous in the agenda which he is prescribing for the talks. If he wants to try to use the 805 talks to draw up a new constitution, if he wants to continue to persist with his original proposals for the transfer of the security forces, and if he is determined that the United Nations should not merely observe the elections but run them, the possibility of getting agreement is so slim as to be almost impossible to achieve.
In my view, the Foreign Secretary would do far better to concentrate on the more limited fronts suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire and to use the all-party talks in the first place to try to secure an agreement to a ceasefire and, secondly, to try to get in the United Nations, as observer only, to supervise elections in Rhodesia. Side by side with that, the Government should now refocus their attention on the possibility of using the internal settlement as a means to move forward.
Possibly the Government have only a short time now in which it will be practicable for them to revise their views. As of today, the internal settlement is working. It is in being. There is a multi-racial Government in Rhodesia. A constitution is being formed, and I believe that shortly it will be published. I hope and believe that an election date will be forthcoming very soon. There is a foundation on which to build, and that seems to be most important in the present situation. However, I do not believe that the internal settlement can indefinitely withstand military attack from within Rhodesia and political attack from outside Rhodesia. By its nature it is something which will have a limited life.
As for the future of the internal settlement, there is no factor more critical to it than the attitude of the British Government, whichever party is in power. As long as the Labour Party is in Government, its attitude towards the internal settlement will be fundamental. As of today, there is nothing that could achieve more rapid progress towards some form of final transition than the readiness of the Government to give their support to that settlement as a basis for holding elections. That, above all else, could be sufficient to transform the attitude of Nkomo and Mugabe towards taking part in elections in Rhodesia.
If the internal settlement breaks down, the Government will bear a heavy responsibility for its failure. I implore and urge 806 the Government to look again at the internal settlement, to give it their support and to rescue something from the lawlessness that is savaging Rhodesia before it is too late.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Mr. Stanley) far down the path of his argument, except to say that I always feel slightly strange when I hear Tory Members from time to time clasping to their hearts different leaders of nationalist opinion in Rhodesia and saying what fine fellows they are. I remember, in 1977, Bishop Muzorewa addressing a fringe meeting at the Tory Party conference. At that meeting he claimed that the guerrillas were his boys in the bush. He was howled and spat at. The epithet "murderer" was thrown at him. He, at least, had the courage to speak at the Tory Party conference, which is more than I would do.
We are told that we have a multi-racial Government in Rhodesia. It seems a strange form of multi-racial Government when Bishop Muzorewa's autobiography is not allowed to be published in his own country. We would not even dare to try to ban the autobiography of the Leader of the Opposition, let alone a member of the Rhodesian Government, on whom we pin such great faith and whom we expect to carry Rhodesia forward into some marvellous future. This perhaps rather small episode shows that the people involved in the Government are not trusted by the whites, who still govern the colony which we call Southern Rhodesia.
I wish to deal primarily with the Bingham report. I pay tribute to the Foreign Secretary and to the Government for having established the Bingham inquiry. It was done under pressure, I know, but nevertheless it was set up. The Government listened to all who argued that the inquiry's findings should be published in full. I know that there is an appendix which is not published, because the information might lead to prosecution. Basically, the information provided in the Bingham report has been published, and that is something which we ought to applaud.
If I say some harsh things about the story revealed by the Bingham report, I 807 hope that it will not be thought that I am laying specific charges against any individual, named or otherwise, or that I am making innuendoes against anyone who may be mentioned in the report or may have taken part in this debate. I am speaking about the policy and the effects of the story related in this inquiry. It is a sad story. It is a story of deceit, of hypocrisy and of either an astonishing lack of comprehension as to what the policy entailed or total and cynical disregard for the future and the effects of the policy on the whole of Southern Africa.
I say that it is a story of deceit because we were going to the United Nations, and saying in this House and in the other place that our policy was to use sanctions to bring down the Smith regime as an alternative to the armed struggle. It is a story of hypocrisy because of what was done to a number of British companies. I have no love or sympathy for British companies which broke sanctions or for any individuals prosecuted, fined or imprisoned for breaking sanctions. But those who were prosecuted were relatively small guys in the business world. The big sanction-breakers, the big boys, were left alone. That is why I say that there is hypocrisy.
Did we fail to understand the nature of the swap arrangement? Did we really not understand what it was about? My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) suggested, by implication, that the importance of the swap arrangement was not really understood by anyone and was not considered important enough to be reported to the Cabinet.
I suppose that the charge that there was cynical disregard of the policy fails, of course, if Ministers did not know about it. But, reading through the Bingham report—and I suspect that my right hon. Friend was wrong when he referred to you, Mr. Speaker, as having been mentioned, and I think that it is a misprint —as far as I know the names of only three Ministers are mentioned—Lord Thomson of Monifieth, Lord Goronwy-Roberts and Mr. Maurice Foley. With respect to these individuals, I do not believe that they were senior enough to have taken a deliberate policy decision as to how the Government would act. Yet to some extent that is what my right hon. Friend again suggested. This decision was 808 taken by people who had other things and activities on their minds at the time.
It is difficult to be sure exactly where the truth lies. But there is clear evidence, and a clear suggestion in the report, that the motivations of the Government—I use the term "Government" to encompass not just the political Government but the Administration as well—were twofold in the meetings with the oil companies.
Ministers were really concerned, first to be able to say that British oil companies were not themselves directly supplying oil to the Rhodesian regime and, secondly, to do nothing which would provoke a confrontation with Southern Africa. If my right hon. Friend is correct, it seems clear that no one in the Government knew, and apparently no one cared enough about sanctions to have an effective monitoring system to see what was happening.
It seems almost to be suggested in the Bingham report and in all the comments made about it that sanctions were really put forward as a kind of cosmetic effect. I do not believe that this is so, because although oil sanctions certainly failed it is clear that they have been an important part of the weapons that the Government have used against the Smith regime.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the cosmetic interpretation of sanctions. When the oil swap arrangement was arrived at, the senior executive of Shell referred to that change as a cosmetic. Further, on page 187 of the Bingham report, Lord Thomson of Monifieth makes clear that the then Government's immediate concern was not to stop the leakage of oil to Rhodesia, and so on, but to be able truthfully to say that British oil companies were not party to the leakage. That seems to have been the main contention of the Government at that stage.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am trying to summarise and shorten my speech by not reading every line to support my argument, because I assume that most people have read the Bingham report. The hon. Gentleman's intervention confirms the passage to which I was generally referring. But the aparent failure of innumerable officials—a large number of them are named—to notify anyone in real 809 authority, if that is what did happen, in my view stems from the lack of drive and, indeed, enthusiasm for sanctions.
I suppose that all one can say about the Bingham inquiry at the end of the day is that the only thing that we can be certain of is that we cannot be certain about the events during the period covered by the report, because it seems inconceivable to me that the incoming Conservative Government in 1970 were not told about the swap arrangement and that no Minister ever even asked about the way oil was getting to Rhodesia.
Indeed, there was a point in time when it was logical for the civil servants to tell the Government. That was in 1971, when the swap arrangement was temporarily stopped and oil was being directly supplied. So that change in the situation should at least have led to the Government being told. But one wonders, because one is drawing political conclusions from events which happened and which we later relate together.
The time that the swap arrangement was changed and oil was being directly supplied was almost exactly the same time as the Sir Alec Douglas-Home proposals were under discussion. Perhaps the change was made because people felt that it was all going to be all right: "Sir Alec Douglas-Home will come to a deal with Smith, the people of Rhodesia will accept the proposals, so we need not worry about the little conventions of not supplying directly." None of us can say what was in people's minds at that time.
All these matters, taken together, mean that we must have the fullest possible inquiry, with publication of all the Cabinet and departmental papers relating to the whole period covered by Bingham—and, if necessary, earlier times and the post-Bingham period as well. My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton has made it clear that he agrees to the papers of his Administration being made available and I hope that the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) will agree to the papers of his Administration being available as well.
An inquiry into the breaking of oil sanctions, to establish the facts—who was responsible and what the political rationale was at the time—is needed for a number of reasons. It is needed to show exactly how powerful the multi- 810 national companies are and how weak the Government machine is to deal with the effects of those companies. Also, we need to consider not just the past. It is important to discover who was responsible and how the machinery worked, but this inquiry is important for the future
I agree entirely with those who have so often said, here and elsewhere, that there is nothing glamorous about war, and certainly not about guerrilla war. Anyone who has seen the results of such war cannot look upon them with favour. But what alternatives are we offering the nationalist leaders and the people calling for their freedom? The one sanction which could have ended the Smith regime, if not in "weeks rather than months", certainly in months rather than years, was vigorous application of oil sanctions. Yet oil was supplied.
Anyone who visits Southern Africa, outside Rhodesia and South Africa itself —Mozambique, Angola, Zambia and Tanzania—to discuss with Governments, parties and the liberation movements will know that they say "Not only were you not really pushing to help us obtain our freedom; it seems as though you were actively supporting the enemy." This is seen as a confirmation of their belief, which becomes stronger with each month that passes, that we really did not wish to see a transfer of power to majority rule in Zimbabwe and Namibia, and far less in South Africa.
That is the belief which they have had for a long time. Perhaps some of them, from a revolutionary standpoint, cannot be persuaded otherwise, but more and more people whom one would class as moderate are also coming to that conclusion. They are saying to us that they do not believe that we will do anything to help them which in any way impinges on our economic interest.
Indeed, they believe that we do not want to see a real transfer of power. It sometimes seems to them that we are telling them "You can have any Government you like so long as it is not black" —a kind of reverse Henry Ford pronouncement—" and if you have a black Government it must be one controlled by the whites." That is how they see it. and if we are to understand the realities of Southern Africa, the sooner we listen to them the better.
811 When they consider our prevarication over Namibia, they remember that the contact groups which have been proposed are similar to the one set up to deal with that problem. What has that group achieved? It achieved a United Nations plan which was apparently acceptable to all the parties—to SWAPO, to the Western Powers involved, to the front-line States—and then suddenly not acceptable to South Africa. So we sent the Foreign Ministers to Pretoria to meet the new Prime Minister, and we achieved nothing whatever.
The South Africans are busily engaged in trying to establish in South-West Africa a buffer assembly or bantustan Government with which they will then say negotiations should be held. We shall be hearing all the old propaganda about how, instead of negotiating with South Africa, we should be building on the internal settlement of Namibia. Can we quarrel with those in the liberation movements who say that we are not really interested in seeing a transfer of power? Can we honestly blame them for taking up arms in order to find freedom? There is no doubt that even the 3rd March agreement would not have been thought of if it had not been for the fact that ZAPU and ZANU had taken up arms. If one looks beyond Rhodesia, one sees that it is not simply ZAPU, ZANU and SWAPO who have recognised the importance of the arms struggle in obtaining freedom.
It is interesting to examine the speech by Chief Buthelezi, who is chief of the Zulus and leader of the Inkatla movement in Southern Africa. No one in this House would regard that man as a rabid revolutionary. In a speech in March this year to the Jewish Board of Deputies in Johannesburg, he said that it was only when all pressure—including recourse to the arms struggle—was used that the enemy, the oppressor, began to think about the problems of South Africa. When such a man says that the arms struggle has an important part to play, we should not condemn it out of hand or say that we shall have no truck with it.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Does the hon. Member recall that Chief Buthelezi, if not in that speech in another, particularly asked that sanctions be not applied to 812 South Africa because of the damage that they would do to his own people?
§ Mr. Hughes
It is true that Chief Buthelezi made a speech along those lines. He also made a speech on different lines. He said that he was in favour of economic pressure because he could see that only by that means would there be an end to the problems. I agree that the chief has been a little wobbly in his public statements.
One must remember that in December last year Chief Buthelezi was close to being locked up. He is anxious to remain at large in order to carry out the political propaganda of one South Africa as against the bantustan policy. I agree that he prevaricates a little. Nevertheless, it is important that he has spoken out in favour of the arms struggle as one of the ways in which freedom for his people can be achieved.
We must realise—as many people do —that there is a war in Southern Africa. In times of war, what side one is on matters. Those who suggest that there is a way to peace by splitting off Mr. Nkomo from the Patriotic Front and bringing him into an internal settlement are living in cloud-cuckoo-land. Nothing could destroy him more than a connection with the internal settlement.
Even now we have failed to learn the lessons of history. Last night on "Panorama" there was a programme about the breaking of the arms embargo. It was a strong, detailed exposé of how weapons and equipment were reaching Southern Africa. That happens daily. It requires vigorous action. The lesson which emerges from the Bingham report and the various exposes of sanction-breaking is that we need as much as anything a powerful committee to investigate the companies involved.
It is no use my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton saying that there were difficulties about monitoring, that the people involved were worried about the Redcliffe-Maud proposals and joining the EEC, and that there were only two or three Under-Secretaries in the Ministry at that time. If we intend the policy to work, we must establish the machinery to investigate the facts and to ensure that the loopholes are blocked.
813 We have not yet understood, especially as far as South Africa is concerned, that South Africa regards compromise as a weakness. Nowhere is this more clearly obvious than in Namibia.
We saw in today's news that Angola is on a war footing because as soon as it was known that the Foreign Ministers were going to Pretoria there were daily reconnaissance incursions by South African air force planes deep into the country. There were South African naval patrols and an increase in the uplift and the supply of sophisticated weapons to UNITA, in the southern half of Angola. This is because Angola expects an invasion by South Africa once again.
If we want to establish peace, and if we want these countries of Southern Africa to join what is called, almost laughingly, the free world, or at least the Western democratic alliance, and if we want them to look to our kind of government as a way forward, we cannot expect them to trust us unless we are prepared to defend their territorial integrity. The Government should issue a statement saying that they respect the territorial integrity of Angola and that if Angola is invaded by South Africa we shall be willing to provide such assistance as necessary to help it defend its territory.
§ Mr. Hughes
I do not believe that the Angolans will ask us for troops or even weapons. But I think that we should offer them such assistance as they require, otherwise the right hon. Gentleman will not be laughing when the Angolans call in the Cubans again. He will be condemning them. But they do not have the strength at the moment to prevent the South Africans from attacking them. At the moment they are spending most of their money on trying to develop their country.
I am committed, as I hope all Members of this House are committed, to the transfer of power in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa and to the establishment of non-racial Governments by peaceful means. But I recognise that the minority regimes in those countries have always held power by the force of arms. We need go no further back than remembering the case of Nyasaland, when, as a colony, it was a police State. There is 814 nothing new here. Minority regimes have always held power by force of arms. We must decide whether we support minority white regimes which hold on to power by force or whether we are committed to helping the black majority populations of those countries to obtain their freedom.
If we fail to help them, let there be no misunderstanding as to where the blame will lie for loss of life. Just as those who failed to operate oil sanctions effectively over a 10-year period bear a great burden of responsibility for the loss of life in Rhodesia, so in the future if there is chaos and bloodshed the responsibility will rest here and nowhere else.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) will understand if I do not follow him into the quicksands of his ideological obsessions.
This whole debate, to the extent that it has been raking over the embers of all those who broke sanctions years ago, is a waste of time, given the serious situation that the world faces over Rhodesia.
The Foreign Secretary has already appeared in sackcloth and ashes over this business of who broke sanctions and I do not want to refer to that. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) made a speech the whole tenor of which reminded me of the traditional naval gag about the Maltese steward who was accused of something, and invariably he replied as Maltese stewards are supposed to reply, "Not me, signor, it was my brother from Gozo."
I wish now to say something far more serious with reference to the speech of the right hon. Member for Huyton, and I am sorry he is not in the Chamber at this moment. I went to Rhodesia very shortly after UDI, and I saw Mr. Ian Smith. I have never revealed this up to now. I said to Mr. Smith "If you had still been dealing with Sir Alec Douglas-Home"—as he then was—" or with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), would you have been driven to take UDI in the first place?" He replied "Never". I said "May I, please, make use of that answer of yours when I get back to the United Kingdom?" He thought again and said "I do not think 815 that it would be for the benefit of Rhodesia if I were to appear to take sides in the politics of the moment."
I have respected Mr. Smith's confidence until now, but I think that, 12 years afterwards, it is possible that I am not betraying any confidences by revealing that fact.
There is another point to be made about what has been said regarding sanctions and sanction-breaking, and this relates to the Beira patrol. Plainly, from all that has been said by a number of hon. Members, the Beira patrol was just a humbug, a cosmetic exercise and nothing more. I think it reasonable, nevertheless, that the House should put on record its appreciation of the service done by the Royal Navy personnel who went up and down on that dreadful patrol, enduring endless boring hours, days and months at sea for what, as we now recognise and as has been admitted in this place, was nothing but a cosmetic exercise. If no one else will, I certainly pay tribute to them today
. I come now to what was said by the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray). It was your guidance, Mr. Speaker, that the way in which hon. Members express their views is a matter for them. That is quite correct, of course, but is it not a convention of the House that, for sheer courtesy, we do not attribute blame to civil servants or to people in uniform who are unable to have the same forum in which they can stand up for themselves? We have that forum. They do not.
§ Dr. Bray
As I explained to the House, obviously before taking the course that I did I considered it very carefully. Civil servants had indeed been named and discussed and their attitudes had been described in detail in the Bingham report, but they were junior civil servants of the rank of assistant secretary. I suggested that the House needed to be informed of the attitude of their superiors. That is what I sought.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
I must say that it does not seem to me to matter much whether they were junior or senior civil servants. They cannot stand up for themselves in this forum. That is the point.
§ Dr. Bray
On the contrary— in this forum that does not arise, because we frequently refer here to people who are able to reply elsewhere. But Mr. Angus Beckett has retired from the Civil Service—he is a private citizen—and I suggested that Sir Robert Marshall would wish to give evidence to any Select Committeee which was set up by the House.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
In my time here, I have always understood there to be a convention—it may not be a Standing Order—that there shall be gentlemanly behaviour in these matters.
However, turning aside from that, I come back to the plain fact, which I House must face, that sanctions, whether one agrees with them or not, have been a farce, and, as many hon. Members have said, "weeks, not months" have become 13 years. The urgent need is to look at the policy now and for the future in the matter of Rhodesia.
We heard the Foreign Secretary's speech, but we were not told what the Government's constructive policy is now and what the specific purpose of sanctions is. Perhaps the Minister who is to wind up will give us, in words of one syllable, a definition of the purpose of sanctions and what renewed sanctions are intended to achieve. Even the right hon. Member for Huyton, when he was Prime Minister, said that they were not intended to be punitive. What are they intended to do now?
Is it the Government's policy to rub Mr. Smith's nose in the mud regardless of the consequences? Having heard the remarks of one or two Labour Members, including the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bottomley), who at one time had a heavy responsibility in Government, I could not get away from the sneaking feeling that a great deal of the Government's policy is conditioned by vindictiveness against the person of Mr. Smith. I know that the Under-Secretary of State may disagree, but that is what is believed in Rhodesia by people of all races.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) made a splendid speech, but his remarks on the renewal of sanctions did not fit in with the rest of his comments and I do not know what undercurrents exist in that context. 817 However, I disagreed with his conclusions on sanctions, as do many of my constituents.
I have seen for myself some of the effects of sanctions. The first effect is that sanctions are now preventing the possibility of Mr. Nkomo entering into discussions with the provisional Government. Clearly, he believes that all will be handed to him on a plate, and he has said so. It must be obvious that the effect of sanctions, far from getting the two sides together, which I understand is the Government's intention, is preventing that process from taking place.
Although sanctions have not reduced the determination of the provisional Government and the security forces to defend their country, the sanctions are having dreadful consequences for the ordinary innocent African. Refugees are crowding into Salisbury from the rural areas and tribal trust lands. In the tribal trust lands there has been a murder of innocent civilians by the indiscriminate placing of land mines on roads and tracks. We have heard about the closing of various schools and missions. We all know of the wonderful work undertaken by the missions. Rhodesia has also seen the withdrawal of health services. A recent television programme showed the effect of an outbreak of measles in that country. It has become almost impossible to carry on the veterinary services, with the consequent dangers to cattle because of the activities of the tsetse fly. The terrorists kill tribal chiefs, black teachers and councillors; they burn down schools and colleges and sabotage welfare projects. The terrorists have even burned alive families in their homes. These are some of the dreadful effects of sanctions.
One most important aspect is that sanctions are making a mockery of Britain internationally. They are proof to world opinion that the Foreign Secretary is not even-handed. He speaks as though he is taking an unbiased view, but clearly he is not doing so. So long as he maintains sanctions against the provisional Government, he is, in effect, subsidising Mozambique, and therefore Mr. Mugabe. Furthermore, the Government have recently given arms to Zambia. If oil managed to get through to Rhodesia in the way dealt with by the Bingham report, how does the Foreign Secretary 818 believe that the arms which the British Government have provided will not fall into terrorist hands?
Furthermore, if arms are getting into South Africa, as we saw from a recent "Panorama" programme, how can the Foreign Secretary be satisfied with assurances that other arms will not be used by the terrorists? Sanctions make a mockery of Britain because we are seen to be the lap dog of President Carter and Mr. Andrew Young. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) said, sanctions are clearly a most blatant form of appeasement to pistols that are held at our head. Fourthly, sanctions make the efforts of the provisional Government much more difficult.
I say in all seriousness to Labour Members that if the provisional Government do not succeed the inevitable result must be a civil war on a tribal basis, Matabele versus Mashona, and a million innocent dead Africans. Whether we support the provisional Government or those who have formed it, they offer the only hope on which a way forward may be built. The rivalries of the other members of the Patriotic Front are such that I cannot understand how Labour Members imagine that civil war will not eventuate.
Sanctions are of benefit only to one country, the Soviet Union. My right hon. Friend spoke about British interests The Foreign Secretary never mentioned Soviet influence, as if it were not a factor in the present nightmare. I was in Salisbury only two or three weeks ago and I saw the ballistic laboratory in which has been collected a fantastic armoury of Soviet weapons, including submachine guns, automatic machine guns, land mines and missiles. There are pieces of missile that were removed from the airliner that was shot down. They were put under a forensic microscope and compared with a captured Sam 7 missile. The grooves are identical and manufacture was probably by the same machine That is proof, possibly, of how the airliner was shot down.
There is the terrifying supply of arms to the guerrilla forces by the Soviets that the Foreign Secretary did not mention. That is all part of the nightmarish Soviet destabilisation policy. I am afraid that the renewal of sanctions will show the 819 world that the West will always yield to power. In that respect, the effects will go far beyond Africa and the present crisis.
South Africa and Rhodesia seem to be the only two countries that pay heed to the facts concerning Soviet adventurism in Africa and the dangers that that implies for the freedom of all countries in Africa and for the free world as a whole.
Although I agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge shire said, I shall vote tonight against the renewal of sanctions, as I have every year in the past.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I was fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, when we debated Rhodesia in the summer. I do not propose to say anything tonight about the main problem. I shall confine my remarks to the matters covered in the Bingham report during the period when I held office.
I have to confine my remarks to that period. I cannot join in the speculations about whether there was collusion between the oil companies and Ian Smith before the illegal declaration of independence. There may or may not have been collusion. but I am not in a position to say anything about that. Nor can I comment on events that took place after the change of Government in 1970. It should be noticed that a large stretch of time in the events covered by the Bingham report is post-1970. It will be helpful if, before the debate ends, we hear more from those who held responsibility during that period I shall return to that matter later.
As to the events during the period in which I held office, I want to make this comment first. It was throughout—and I believe that any inquiry will confirm this— a firm resolve of my colleagues and myself to promote sanctions to the full extent of our power, and that we did in good faith and diligently, and I must reject any suggestion to the contrary. I believe that an inquiry will confirm that. However, I used the phrase "the full extent of our power", and that is an important qualification, particularly relating to the oil sanction.
820 From the very beginning when the oil sanction was up for discussion in the Security Council of the United Nations, we all knew that neither South Africa nor the old Governent of Portugal, which at that time held the territory of Mozambique, would co-operate in the matter and that that would be a great difficulty. It was for this reason that I proposed during that debate in the Security Council that the first step should have been to appoint a committee of the Security Council to study, in effect, the nuts and bolls of an oil sanction.
It might have been possible—we shall never know now—to have arranged some kind of rationing system that would have made it possible to prevent oil getting to Rhodesia. However, unfortunately, that proposal did not find favour and the whole world community went into the oil sanction, in my judgment, insufficiently prepared for the difficulties that were likely to arise.
This basic fact, that one could not make the oil sanction work effectively unless one got the willing co-operation of Portugal and South Africa or one was able to impose a blockade on them, was there all the time and everybody knew it. There was at no time any concealment by the Government of the fact that we could not enforce an oil sanction with anything like the fullness that we should have liked. The fact that we not only would not but, in the circumstances of those days, could not engage in a full-scale economic confrontation with South Africa, much less blockade her, was never concealed from the House or from the United Nations. I think that this basic and solid fact runs throughout the whole argument, and it is against that background that some of the events described in the Bingham report have to be seen.
It was in 1967—I am referring now to what is actually said in the Bingham report—that BP and Shell informed Her Majesty's Government that some of their subsidiaries had been supplying oil to customers from whom that oil went on to Rhodesia. That was towards the end of 1967. At that time I myself was a Minister without portfolio. But that is no great matter, because I learned of these events some months later when I returned to the Foreign Office.
When that information was given to the Government, we know, from what is 821 said in Bingham, that that direct supply was stopped. It was an anxiety of my noble Friend Lord Thomson to bring that to an end as soon as possible. It was at some subsequent stage—and I am bound to say that neither my memory nor the most careful reading of Bingham will enable me to be more precise than that —that what are called the swap arrangements were developed, and their full nature was not clear to me, nor I think to anybody, until 1969 and the meeting of my noble Friend Lord Thomson and representatives of the oil companies.
With regard to those swap arrangements, it should be noted that these were arrangements made by companies which were subject to South African law and which risked sequestration if they did not make some kind of arrangement of that sort. They were outside our jurisdiction. It was impossible for us to prevent those arrangements being made.
If we were faced with a similar situation now, it might be possible for us to prevent such arrangements. This was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray). I invite the House to notice the difference between then and now, particularly with regard to the position of South Africa.
During the past 10 or 12 years, which is the period we are considering, world opinion, not only of people but of Governments, has moved increasingly against South Africa. Governments all over the world are willing to consider actions against South Africa which they would not have looked at in the 1960s.
I remember that when George Thomson—as he then was—and I were at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office we had to engage in a whole series of diplomatic activities to try to persuade countries with which we were on good terms to be as zealous as they ought in the enforcement of sanctions. The difficulty in getting a country to enforce sanctions is that enforcement cannot be assured simply by the passing of a law. It requires continued vigilance to see what the Government's subjects are doing. Our job was to try to see not only that we were vigilant but that we dealt with the many claims brought to us by African Commonwealth countries of breaches of sanctions by subjects of the United States, European countries and 822 countries in other parts of the world. Indeed, it is a legitimate criticism of the policy of African countries at that time that they concentrated their criticisms entirely on Britain. If they had sometimes directed their fire against Governments that were not taking sanctions seriously, it might have been easier to get better results.
I shall not pursue that point. I have developed it in order to show that at that time it was a considerable job to get countries that had agreed to sanctions to be diligent in enforcing them. It was out of the question to invite them to widen their attack and take on a blockade of South Africa as well.
The record shows that when the nature of the swap arrangements was clear, we attempted to take diplomatic action, particularly in making approaches to the French, who were especially concerned in the matter, to see whether we could get agreement for effective operation of sanctions. I am sorry to say that such an agreement could not be obtained.
I have thought time and again whether we could have done it differently. I doubt whether, whatever we had done, we would have arrived at any result other than that there was bound to be a gigantic hole in oil sanctions unless there was a change of heart in South Africa or unless the world was willing to blockade her. Neither of those conditions prevailed.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
Is there not a question that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues should have asked themselves at that time? Given these insuperable difficulties and the acute political embarrassment which the Government were suffering, should not Parliament have been told?
§ Mr. Stewart
That is exactly the point I was coming to. I maintain that we did all that was in our power. With the benefit of hindsight, I now address myself to the question whether we ought to have made public the conversation between George Thomson and representatives of the oil companies in 1969. That is described in the Bingham report, where the substance of the matter is set out most plainly. We could have done so, but I invite the House to consider the balance sheet of doing so.
823 It would not have made the slightest difference to the supply of oil to Rhodesia. It would certainly have made it impossible to reach agreement with the French because they would have been tremendously offended if the matter had been made public. There was not much chance of agreement with the French, anyhow. This would have destroyed any chance. It might well have resulted in the sequestration of the companies by South Africa. All the items on the loss side of that balance sheet were wellnigh certain. The gain was not there at all. I am afraid that, however expansive we might have been, the result would have been exactly the same with regard to the flow of oil to Rhodesia.
I think that the House will agree that when I held the office of Foreign Secretary I always did my best to explain plainly to the House what was the policy that I was pursuing and why, and was prepared to face criticisms on it. All who have held Government responsibility have had to tackle from time to time the problem of exactly how much of everything that they are bound to know while in office ought to be made public. There are always very grave arguments either way. My answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that I do not believe that it would have been a wise thing to do.
Another question is whether we ought to have said to ourselves "If we cannot make the oil sanction work, what is the good of sanctions at all? Ought we not to go back to Parliament and to the United Nations and admit that it is no go and that it is hypocritical to pretend otherwise? " I have also examined that question, and my conclusion is that it is true that the fact that the oil sanction worked in so limping a fashion, if at all, was indeed a grave blow to the policy of sanctions. If we could have made it work effectively it would certainly have brought the Rhodesian rebellion to an end. But I think it is a mistake to suppose that, because the oil sanction could not work, all the rest of the sanctions were not worth pursuing.
I think that we are a little in danger of getting things out of proportion in all this argument about the oil sanction. I do not dispute its great importance, but the fact that it did not work does not reduce 824 the importance of the other items of sanctions.
It was Smith's intention and hope, when he started the rebellion, that it would, as he put it, be a nine days' wonder, and that before long migrants would come in, investment would pour in and the success of his illegal declaration of independence would be apparent to the world. One effect of sanctions straight away was to turn that hope into a pipe-dream. Clearly, sanctions would work only over a much longer period than we had hoped, but they did create a situation in which Rhodesia was walking down a road that was getting ever narrower and narrower. It was quite clear that the illegal declaration of independence would not be a success. If Smith had been a man of longer sight, and if he had not received encouragement from certain quarters in this country to continue his rebellion, he would have realised what the situation was on the occasion of the "Tiger" talks or the "Fearless" talks, or on certain other occasions.
§ Mr. MacFarquhar
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way; I am following his argument with great care. He has addressed himself to the question why he and Lord Thomson did not tell the House about the swap arrangements. Will my right hon. Friend say whether the swap arrangements were discussed with his Cabinet colleagues and, if not, why not?
§ Mr. Stewart
Without more consultation of papers, I cannot be certain what is the answer to that question. I do not think that it was a matter of our solemnly considering whether we ought to tell this. To us it appeared—as, indeed, I think it was—as an inevitable consequence of the plain fact about the oil sanction, that without South Africa's help, or without blockade, it could not possibly work. We did not give the question the importance that it is now given. I suggest that a little later on people may come to see it in rather different proportions from those it now has and to see the swap arrangement simply as a facet of the solid fact that without South Africa's help the oil sanction could not be made to work.
I was addressing myself to the question whether we ought to have called off sanctions altogether. My answer is, first, that 825 it was quite apparent that the operation of sanctions, partial though it was, was a constant shackle on the success of the Rhodesian rebellion.
It seems significant—I repeat a phrase from my speech in the summer—that the parties to the internal settlement from the outset gave two reasons for entering into the settlement. One was the guerrilla warfare; the other was the effect of sanctions. They are possibly in as good a position to judge as anybody. Therefore, I believe that we were right to conclude that, even if the oil sanction was limp, it was right to continue with the rest.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
If there were good political reasons why my right hon. Friend could not explain the whole situation to the House, what conceivable reason could there be for lying to the House?
§ Mr. Stewart
I repudiate that suggestion altogether. I repeat what I said at the beginning. From the start, everyone knew that the oil sanction must limp because, one way or another, oil would get to Rhodesia. What was said in the House did not conflict with that.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
I make no such accusation as has been made to the right hon. Gentleman from his own Benches. Before he sits down, will he give the House the benefit of his great experience by saying exactly what function he thinks sanctions are now performing?
§ Mr. Stewart
They are making it clear to Ian Smith that unless he reconciles himself to the international community and to considerations of racial justice, he will not get what he needs. The ideal course for Mr. Smith at present would be to adandon his rebellion. That is what Opposition Members should have been urging on him for months and years past.
The question often asked is: why did we go on with the Beira patrol? It is the more interesting because it is a question to be addressed not only to the Government of which I was a member but to subsequent Governments. What weighed in my mind and the minds of my colleagues was, first, that it could not prevent Smith getting the oil but it could and did make it more laborious and costly. Secondly, while any oil which 826 went to Lourenco Marques might or might not go to the Rhodesian rebels, it was beyond doubt that any oil which went to Beira would go to Rhodesia. It was the only place to which it could go. Therefore, if we were to pursue a policy of doing everything that we could, we did at least stop Beira.
Those arguments seemed adequate to us. The remarkable thing is that they also seemed adequate to our successors subsequently because they continued the Beira patrol. It is not in dispute that they continued the Beira patrol. It seems to me that at some stage the Conservative Government between 1970 and 1974 must have asked themselves: why are we continuing the Beira patrol? In view of the criticism from their own Benches, I should be greatly surprised if that were not so. Once they began asking that question, they were bound to become interested in the whole question of oil to Rhodesia. It would be interesting to know from them whether that was so.
That brings me to the end of the time during which I held office. We now reach this fascinating chapter about which we hope to hear from other speakers.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
The Beira patrol is a vital issue, which affects Governments of both parties. The only way of getting oil effectively from Beira into Rhodesia was through the pipeline. The pipeline was controlled by a British company against which sanctions could have been taken in the courts here. Therefore, the Beira patrol was ab initio a farce, in that to land oil at Beira without the use of the pipeline was a waste of time; it was going to Lourenco Marques.
§ Mr. Stewart
The trouble was that, whatever action we might have taken in the court, we were not in a position physically to prevent the use of the pipeline once the oil got into Beira. But perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to pursue this question further with his right hon. and hon. Friends, who operated the patrol, I think, for even longer than we did.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant and Waterloo)
I think that it was Lady Avon who once said that the Suez canal went through her drawing room. Some hon. Members at 827 this stage have almost reached the conclusion that the map of Rhodesia is drawn on the carpet in front of us, so frequently do we debate this vital topic.
Members such as I, who may be assumed to have a natural sympathy for the predicament of the European in South Africa, often find themselves in considerable difficulty when debating this subject. Labour Members assume so often, and so incorrectly, that because we disapprove of the policy of sanctions, for all sorts of reasons, some of which I shall come to, we automatically approved of UDI and of the many foolish and unwise actions of Mr. Ian Smith, and even in some senses approve of the general policy of apartheid and racial discrimination in South Africa. Certainly, none of that is true of me.
I think that it was Goethe who said that one should beware of those in whom the urge to condemn is strong. I sense that whenever we discuss the affairs and issues of Southern Africa the urge to condemn appears in great strength in this Chamber.
The right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) asked himself the rhetorical question "What should Mr. Smith do?" and replied that Mr. Smith should now abandon his rebellion. He put forward that proposition as though Mr. Smith, having been powerfully persuaded by 11 years of active economic strangulation and hostility by the West, could now suddenly undo what he had done, because that would be a comparatively simple decision and because he would have seen the light.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman to use a little historical perspective when he looks at Southern Africa. Why did the Boers trek from the Cape in the middle of the nineteenth century? What happened in 1899 that led to war? What has happened since in Rhodesia that led that small, isolated and perhaps unwise community to incur the enormous risks, which many of its members must have foreseen, in declaring UDI? Was it merely a desire to maintain an absurd and obviously untenable form of white supremacy in Southern Africa? I do not think so. That is where the right hon. Gentleman makes his mistake. That is where so many hon. Members make their 828 mistake. That is the interpretation that is put on something much more fundamental.
That fundamental matter is something that can be appreciated only by those who have spent not a week, not a month, but years living in the Southern African environment. Anyone who has had the good or bad fortune to do that is aware of something much more fundamental and much more difficult. If I can put it in this way without incurring the wrath of Labour Members and being attacked by them as a racialist, he becomes aware that there is a problem of maintaining standards.
The problem of maintaining standards lies at the heart of the difficulty. It has done so for a century and it will for the rest of this century. The hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Davies) mentioned the university of Salisbury, which illustrates this point very well. The hon. Gentleman and I have both had the privilege of visiting the university. I think that it can fairly be said that it is the only effective multi-racial university north of the Zambesi and possibly the only effective multi-racial university in the Western world.
How does the university survive? It does so because it is supported by the taxation of 95,000 Europeans and 5,000 Africans in Rhodesia. That is the fiscal structure which supports the university of Salisbury. The university is an effort to maintain what we understand as Western educational and other standards. I think that one can say very fairly that it succeeds in doing so in very considerable measure, and it has succeeded in doing so in the past 11 years facing the most appalling difficulties, many of which are the direct consequences of the economic strangulation which the West has sought, for reasons of policy that we all understand, to impose on Rhodesia.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said that some of the students there would resist conscription because they thought that they must now join the right side, which was that of the "boys in the bush" and the liberation fighters and the concepts which the liberation fighters presumably were seeking to apply in, or inflict upon, Rhodesia. I put this question to the hon. Member because again it illustrates my 829 point. I wonder whether the students at Salisbury university have the foggiest idea of the educational standards which would be imposed on the university if they achieved power in Salisbury as a result of the bayonet and the gun. I wonder whether any of them has the foggiest idea whether there would be a university of Salisbury for more than a few months. I wonder whether any of them has the foggiest idea of the sort of academic standards which would be maintained in the university of Salisbury if the "boys in the bush" took over.
This comes back to my central argument. It is the maintenance of standards which lies at the heart of the European dilemma in Southern Africa. If those standards are to be maintained, the demands on the European are very grave and extensive and very demanding. Many of them have fallen short of those demands. The very emergence of racial discrimination and apartheid is possibly one expression of this fear of falling short of the demands. But do we assist that process, whatever the reason, by introducing, as we did in 1965, a process of economic strangulation? My argument is that we do precisely the opposite. We make it and have made it much more difficult in Rhodesia to maintain the standards which are thought to be important.
We may have a concept that those standards are inadequate. We may believe that they have to be raised, widened and generalised considerably. But we ignore and we have ignored repeatedly the fact that a small European minority of 250,000 people with a tax base of 95,000—less than that of my constituency and of most other right hon. and hon. Members' constituencies —is asked to raise the entire economic standard of a nation of 7 million people and to do it in less than a century in order to bring it to the standards which we see, recognise and respect in the West.
This is what causes such grave hostility when we go out there for a few weeks and ask "Why have not you done this and that? Why have not you generalised the European standard of hospital service so that every African in Rhodesia can have it, and why have not you generalised the standard of education so that every African in Rhodesia enjoys a secondary education equivalent to that 830 which we offer children in our country?" The simple and practical answer is that it cannot be done with the resources at their disposal, and we do not make that problem any easier to solve by limiting the resources at their disposal.
So I come to the central issue. At this stage of this long and sorry saga, I do not regard an inquiry into Bingham as likely to produce constructive ideas. All that it will do is rake over the coals and expose the inconsistencies which are fundamental when policy is totally impractical. The right hon. Member for Fulham rightly pointed out that policy of this kind is totally impractical once we admit the qualification, as the concluding chapters of the Bingham report do, that to make sanctions effective against Rhodesia they must be made effective against the whole of Southern Africa. We know that that is not on. We have always known that. I told the House that it was not on in 1965 for simple, practical, direct reasons. Now we have learned.
That is why there is no point in raking over these coals, in going back and asking" Who did what? Why was this memorandum written? Why did not this committee meet? Why was some action not taken?" when inherent in the whole analysis is the total impracticality of taking this step, of pursuing this policy. Where does this get us? It brings us right up to—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
That the Motion relating to the Queen's Speech (Motion for an Address) may be proceeded with at this day's Sitting, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Bates.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Lloyd
It brings us up to today, when we have to face a grave and serious future upon which this House can still exercise considerable influence. I do not believe that we persuade people by imposing economic strangulation upon them. I do not accept the argument of The Times leader this morning, that this is an inherent part of British policy. I say that sanctions are the central plank in British policy and that all else attaches to them. What I also say is that if the main objective of British policy is to look forward to a far more sane and more 831 civilised multi-racial society in Southern Africa as a whole and Rhodesia in particular, the time has come to ask ourselves a question. This is a question to which we produce bad answers when we deal with our kith and kin overseas. We produced bad answers in the United States, in South Africa and in Rhodesia.
The question we have to ask is—how do we persuade people, how do we convince them? In this context we must offer help, sympathy and understanding. Then, and then only, shall we see a remarkable change of attitude on the part of those whom we are seeking to influence. With that change of attitude, that great solvent, so much more will be possible. I do not for a moment believe that we shall achieve that change by forcing the terrorists into the camp, by saying to these people who are already afraid, with good reason, "The only solution which you can possibly face and which is practical is that in which you sit down with the chap at the other end of the table holding his Kalashnikov, because if you do not do so he will shoot you." I do not believe that reasonable people respond reasonably to that type of pressure or argument.
Our obligation is now clear. We must give an important and dramatic signal that we realise what the situation is, that we know we were wrong. That will possibly call for some humility on our part. But humility and compromise are required all round.
I am sure that the House will be astonished at the result which that will produce. Having done that, we shall have to say "We shall assist you in every way we can, economic and otherwise, to drive through a constructive, multi-racial solution in Rhodesia, in the new Zimbabwe." If we do that, we have some hope of succeeding. If we do not, and we merely renew the sanctions order, we have no hope.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell (Grimsby)
This debate falls rather awkwardly between two stools, in the sense that it is at one and the same time a post mortem on sanctions and a prognosis on the future of Rhodesia—and the future of Rhodesia is spelt "Zimbabwe". It is interesting, in a debate in which practically everything 832 has been said three or four times already, that these two trends in the debate have not been tied together at the starting point. The subject of the unilateral declaration of independence was brought in only by the hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd), who, characteristically, got it all wrong.
The unilateral declaration of independence was a selfish, short-sighted attempt by Ian Smith and the Rhodesia Front to stop the clock and the inevitable progress to majority rule—inevitable in a population of 250,000 whites and 6½ million black Africans. The declaration was an attempt to preserve for ever—for 1,000 years or the lifetime of Ian Smith, whichever is longer—a white monopoly of power and privilege and the white exploitation of the black African.
The effect of that UDI was to bring us to the problems that we are talking about today. Its effect was to stop black advancement for 13 wasted years. There are no black police officers and hardly any black senior civil servants.
There has been no preparation for black advancement. There has been no attempt to close up, narrow down or restrict the channels for political advancement which would have brought the black African into the political arena. There has been the attempt to resist the emergence of any black leadership and to break up black leadership and political organisations as they emerge—
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that in 1961 Sir Edgar Whitehead, Prime Minister of the then Southern Rhodesia, offered a constitution which Mr. Joshua Nkomo welcomed as being an advance for the political aspirations of the black Rhodesians that he never expected to see in his lifetime, and that it was only when Mr. Joshua Nkomo had seen Mr. Nkrumah and one or two other then front-line presidents that, under instructions, he rejected that constitution and demanded one man, one vote, and no less? Had that constitution been introduced in 1961 and accepted by Mr. Nkomo, we should not be arguing this dreadful, miserable tragedy today.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the history lesson, which is, in fact, more ancient than I was delivering. 833 Mr. Nkomo rightly rejected that constitution as being inadequate in the concessions it held out, but the fact that he rejected it as inadequate is no reason for trying to narrow the concessions even further, which is what Smith and the Rhodesia Front were doing under UDI. The problem is that if political advancement was close to the African and there was no prospect of political preparation or training of the African for it, it was inevitable that the African would turn, as he has done, to the guerrilla warfare in order to try to get power through the barrel of a gun, because power was denied him. We were told that it would not happen for 1,000 years that there would be majority rule in Rhodesia. It is small wonder that the situation has developed as it has through UDI.
The sanctions problem arose because, having misguidedly renounced the only weapon which would have been effective in the situation in 1965—the weapon of military force—we went for the softer option of sanctions. I think it was realised from the start that those sanctions would never be totally effective unless South Africa itself was blockaded. The debate on Bingham is obviously relevant to how we influence and control multinational corporations, and it is obviously relevant, too, to inquire why the information on the supplies of oil never reached the Cabinet. But it is not strictly relevant to tonight's debate, because had it been realised even at the time it would have brought Ministers to the question that they did not really want to face, which was how to have effective sanctions without blockading South Africa.
It could be argued that sanctions in the initial stages, administered as they were, helped Rhodesia, because we thereby provided the white Rhodesians gratuitously with a framework of import controls behind which they were able to develop new crops and new industries and provide new jobs, and it is only now that sanctions have become directly politically relevant in this way because, with the huge demands of military expenditure, they are imposing a ceiling above which that military expenditure cannot increase. That is why sanctions are now so important, and that is what makes it important to renew them, because they are our only effective means of bringing pressure on 834 the Smith regime, pushing it in the direction in which Rhodesia has to go—towards a political arrangement with the Patriotic Front. Why is such a political arrangement necessary?
§ Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire)
If, for instance, there were a successful armed invasion and the Smith regime, as the hon. Gentleman calls it, fell, and an Nkomo regime was formed by force, would the hon. Gentleman refer to it as the "Nkomo regime"?
§ Mr. Mitchell
The Smith regime is an illegal regime. I do not have to remind the hon. and learned Gentleman of that fact.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I am not answering hypothetical questions about illegal regimes.
The problem is that the Smith regime reached in March an internal settlement and we are being asked by Opposition Members to throw our weight behind that settlement, to use it as a basis for development of negotiations. That argument has been put forward in Rhodesia and by respectable opinion in this country. Yet the whole impression I came back with from Rhodesia is that the internal settlement has failed, is failing and should not be supported.
It has failed and is failing, for a number of reasons. The regime is essentially a white Government which has been blackwashed for the purposes of a public relations exercise. The advances which have been made in terms of discrimination, in housing, education, land ownership, and so on, are all hypothetical advances which, even if they are implemented, affect only the better-off African —the kind of African who wants to use the bars of Meikle's hotel and not the mass of the Africans. It is failing because that settlement has not brought an end to the war, which was the promise held out by the black leaders when they joined the regime—that they could call in the boys.
The war has got worse since March, with 30 killings a day. A deteriorating military situation has been the result of that settlement. The situation is getting worse because of the number of private armies built up by African leaders within 835 the internal regime, which is making the situation far worse.
The settlement is failing because it cannot have elections. Postponement is merely a recognition that, in a country half or more of which is controlled by no one—neither by the Government nor by the guerrillas—it is impossible to hold the kind of elections which would validate the regime which is being set up.
Even if—let us concede the hypothetical case—elections were held, they would be held excluding leaders who have the power still to carry on a guerrilla war and will carry on that war, and they will be held to give a choice between leaders whose stature and whose ability to control the situation which they will inherit one must beg leave to doubt.
My impression was that the popularity and standing particularly of Bishop Muzorewa but also of the other African leaders in the internal regime was rapidly slipping away and being transferred to the leaders of the Patriotic Front—particularly Robert Mugabe. It is impossible to be scientific and to give an accurate impression of the popular standing of black leaders in Rhodesia, but that is the firm impression that I gained—that Mugabe is the man whose standing and popularity have increased and that Muzorewa, as a result of joining the settlement, has lost considerably in standing and popularity.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
The hon. Gentleman and I were in Salisbury together. How on earth did he gain the information about the relative popularity of black leaders that he is retailing to the House?
§ Mr. Mitchell
I will supply the hon. and gallant Gentleman later with a list of the people to whom I talked. It is fairly lengthy.
I say that the internal settlement is failing because there is not the good will on the part of the Rhodesia Front which will allow it to succeed. The Rhodesia Front is still what it started as—a racialist party, dedicated to the proposition that all men are not equal, that the 836 white is superior to the black and that the white has to govern the black.
After 13 wasted years of resisting every element of African advance and aspirations, 13 years of stopping the development of African political organisation, 13 years of fostering divisions, whether political or tribal, among the African population, it is inconceivable that the Rhodesia Front has had the change of heart which would be necessary to make the internal settlement effective. Therefore we cannot work with, accept, back or in any way come near the internal settlement.
The range of options open to this country narrows. We cannot back the internal settlement or accept it. We cannot interfere. We have not the military strength. Public opinion in this country would never stomach, tolerate or accept a British intervention. It would be folly to get involved in any way militarily in a situation which is degenerating as rapidly as the guerrilla war in Rhodesia. So intervention is ruled out also.
The only alternative, therefore, is that we must use our influence and our remaining good will, which is considerable, to encourage and back negotiations to secure the all-party talks which alone can bring the two parties together—the regime which controls power in much of Rhodesia and the Patriotic Front, which has the power to block that regime—and to try to break the military deadlock which has built up between the two sides.
The urgency of these talks is indicated by the scale of killings—30 a day—the closure of the schools and all the other problems so graphically portrayed to us by the hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Mr. Stanley) and the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles). However, they left out the brutality of the security forces, the number of people killed in crossfire by the security forces, the cruelty of the protected villages and the incidents such as the Gutu massacre, in which over 100 tribesmen were massacred by the security forces.
When killing is on such a scale, it makes the convening of talks a matter of absolute urgency. There is no guarantee of success in these talks. The evidence points the other way—to the difficulties and the problems. The fact that makes the talks necessary—that there is a 837 military deadlock in which neither the regime nor the guerrillas are winning at the moment—also makes the talks very difficult. Each side is striving for the type of short-term advantage which Mr. Smith is trying to pull by his raids into Zambia. I welcome the supply of British arms to Zambia. That will stop Smith trying to seize the short-term advantage and prevent himself from being brought to the negotiating table.
The talks are necessary, but there is no guarantee that they will succeed. Talks 838 are the only method by which we can act responsibly in Rhodesia. They are the only way in which we can make our influence felt. However, we have to face the certainty that if the talks do not succeed, if we do not bring the Patriotic Front and the internal regime round the table to achieve some kind of settlement and if we do not persuade the sides to talk instead of fight, Rhodesia will descend the long spiral towards civil war. Talks are not only essential but they are the only way out.
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)
I propose to add only a few minutes to the hundreds of hours which the House has spent on debates on Rhodesia over the years. I need only a few minutes, because the crucial issue is simple. It is not a question of a post mortem on the Bingham report—although I am prepared to accept that the debate today has shown that there is a case for a further inquiry. It is not a question of the illogicality and the ineffectiveness of sanctions—although again today's debate has shown that both of those factors apply. The crucial issue is this: are this Government really interested in free elections and a constitutional Government in Rhodesia, or are they not?
If the Government are so interested, the way ahead is clear. Let them support and build upon the efforts of the transitional Government on the basis of the 3rd March Salisbury agreement. Let us stop profitlessly raking over the cold embers of the mistakes of the past, the sins of Ian Smith and Mr. Vorster and the organised hypocrisy of the sanctions saga, about which we have heard so much this evening.
Instead of offering us a plethora of pious assertions in an attempt to cover the total bankruptcy of policy, let the Government at last find the nerve to act responsibly on the international scene. The Government must stop being frightened of the shadows which they create for themselves.
There has been a significant and alarming change in the Government's approach in the last 12 months. When the Foreign Secretary spoke in the Rhodesia debate last November he referred no less than 12 times to the need for the creation of majority rule in Rhodesia, which has been the objective of all British Governments since 1965.
This was not his theme today, nor has it been his theme in recent months. What we have heard about is the need for a regime in Salisbury which will achieve what the Foreign Secretary calls "international recognition". The phrase that he settled on today was "negotiated settlement." As my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said, this negotiated settlement seems to 840 involve a compromise and negotiation on the part of everyone except the British Government.
When he adopts this new line the Foreign Secretary knows that he is no longer talking of the emergence of the sort of democratic government which has always been envisaged in the six principles. He seems to be accepting the replacement of a white despotism by a black despotism.
The Foreign Secretary's insistence on maintaining sanctions now that we have the transitional Government demanded by Dr. Kissinger in his September 1976 package serves to help the Patriotic Front in its effort to prevent that Government from fulfilling the only one of the six principles which has still to be carried out—to satisfy the British Government that any basis proposed for independence is acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole.
It so happens that my experience in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is somewhat longer than that of the Foreign Secretary, albeit not at his exalted level but at the working level—that stage before the realities of the international scene inevitably become merged and distorted with ideological attitudes and dogma as we have seen so often in the Rhodesian question.
I appreciate the pressures upon the Foreign Secretary—or at least those which he believes he has upon him. These have led him to abandon the cause of democracy in Rhodesia. I am sure that he is tragically mistaken because the issue is simple.
We now have a situation in Rhodesia where the interests of all the people of that troubled country, black and white, the interests of Britain and the West and the principles of morality, decency and democracy all point in the same direction. We need to bring this home to the Government Front Bench. We need to face realities. We must understand that the reality is that the internal settlement provides the one chance that has appeared. It is a reality, of course, that sanctions have failed. It is also a reality that the international threats that the Foreign Secretary sees which would be involved in a rejection of sanctions now will disappear as a shadow in the night.
841 Therefore, I call upon the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues to stop misleading the American Government about the realities of Rhodesia today. I am glad that the American Congress is waking up to the situation and I hope that shortly the American Administration will follow suit. I beg the Government to stop falling for the primitive blackmail of every African politician who says that if the West does not help him he will turn to the Russians and the Cubans. By now African leaders know that if they want economic aid for their people they must look to the West, and that from the Communists they will get only guns, ammunition and trouble.
If the killing is to be stopped and bloodshed on an even greater scale avoided we must have a new approach. Sadly, this cannot come from the present Secretary of State. Anyone who is capable of suggesting that the army of the new Zimbabwe must be based on the so-called liberation forces with only what he characterises as the acceptable elements of the present Rhodesian armed forces shows himself to be out of touch with the real world.
I never thought that I would hear a Foreign Secretary of the British Government suggest to the House of Commons that we should get our information about what is going on in that country from an organisation such as the CIIR—the Catholic Institute for International Relations—which has a record throughout the world which is, to put it mildly, highly questionable.
I ask the Government to think again and to start again. Are they and are the leaders of the African countries interested in creating a democracy in Rhodesia? If so, their way is perfectly clear. It was a way pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire. The Government must co-operate with the transitional Government, give one final chance to the Patriotic Front to co-operate and then push ahead with all possible speed to free elections, a constitutional Government and an independent Zimbabwe.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)
One of the main purposes of this debate was to enable the Government to listen to Back-Bench Members and to ascertain what they felt should be the consequence 842 of the publication of the Bingham report. That is what I shall deal with exclusively in my speech.
It is interesting that the four Privy Councillors who have spoken from this side—three from the Back Benches and one from the Front Bench—have all pleaded innocence or pleaded mitigation on the policies which were pursued between 1964 and 1970. We have all heard of Houdini. I am interested to tell the House that Houdini is still alive and well, and represents Huyton.
Since the publication of the Bingham report, and before we came back from the recess, I got the impression that all the powers of what I loosely call the Establishment have been engaged in a damping-down exercise. Ministers and ex-Ministers, Labour and Tory, including those who have not yet spoken or who have not even been here—we shall hear the next chapter tomorrow, when some of the heavies will come to give their mitigating story—have paraded and protested their innocence of any trickery or deception—"We did not know", "These matters were never discussed in the Cabinet", and so on. All have said that they were completely innocent or totally ignorant of what was going on as the oil poured into Rhodesia. No one can blame Back-Bench Members on either side of the House or interested people outside the House if all those protestations cause us to be extremely cynical and suspicious.
I share with other Members the gratitude of the House to the Foreign Secretary for initiating this inquiry. I contrast that strongly with the Tory attitude to Suez 20 years ago. At least, we shall somehow get to the truth behind the story of sanctions in Rhodesia. We have never yet got to the truth behind the disaster—the criminal disaster—perpetrated by the Tory Government of the time at Suez.
As for the Bingham report itself, I found it difficult to read and assimilate. I do not think that, from the point of view of the politician, it is a well-produced document, although a lot of labour has gone into it. It is not essentially a political document, and it is up to us in the House to extract the political content and the political lessons to be learnt from this saga. That is what I propose to the House.
843 I think that the Government and, to some extent, the Opposition Front Bench are banking on the singular lack of impact on the public at large of what is exposed in Bingham. They are playing it down because there are not any votes in it. It is the more shame on us that that should be so, but I think that that is the calculation which is being made.
Already, there are ominous signs that the "old boy" network in the House, commonly called the "usual channels", is at work in seeking to arrange matters. Despite the denials of the Front Bench, this debate has been so organised as to have a damping-down effect—perhaps on the basis that "Jim and Maggie can fix it". They cannot—I am sorry, but they cannot—and I hope that Back-Bench Members above all in this House are sovereign, more than they have ever been in my lifetime, and that they will use that sovereignty to see that they get exactly what they want from the aftermath of Bingham.
To be fair, the Government have indicated that they are prepared to organise matters in this way, and they have argued very plausibly. They have organised it with the Opposition Front Bench in such a way that they will be able to listen to and give effect to the propositions that come from the Back Benches on both sides. I hope that they have been impressed by the fact that every Member who has referred to this matter has called not for a Royal Commission and not for a tribunal but nothing save a Select Committee of the House.
However, there are qualifications to be added, because that alone is not enough. Let me tell the House why I believe that to be the position. There must be general agreement in the House that the Select Committee should be set up, because the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said that the questions left unanswered are essentially political and can be dealt with only by the House. No outside body is qualified to deal with the kind of questions that we want to ask. They are of direct concern to the House, because they involve directly the behaviour of senior and junior Ministers and senior and junior civil servants, and they raise fundamental issues governing the relationships between the Executive 844 and the Legislature—questions relating to the secrecy of Government, not to say its duplicity in dealing with Back-Bench Members.
All these matters can be dealt with only by a Select Committee of both Houses. Only by having such a Select Committee can we ensure that evidence is given by Members of the other House. We all know that there are ex-Ministers in the other place who are very much involved in this matter.
It has been suggested in the press that the proposition that these matters should be dealt with by a Select Committee opens us up to the charge that it will be a cover-up job by Parliament. If it is able to be sustained, that is a powerful argument. We must see that it is not sustainable by ensuring that membership of the Select Committee is not fixed by the Whips but is decided by this House.
When the Select Committee on the Civil List was set up a few years ago, we went through every name on the Floor of the House and individual amendments were made to delete certain names and substitute others. My name was moved to be deleted from membership of that Committee, but I am glad to say that the suggestion was overwhelmingly rejected. That is why we have never had a Civil List Select Committee since. We must make sure that we, as Back Benchers, select the Committee and that it is not done by the Front Benches through the usual channels.
The subsequent debate promised by the Government following this debate should be so organised that we are able to discuss these matters to ensure that this House controls the composition of the Committee, and that its terms of reference spell out the right of that Committee to have access to all Cabinet and departmental papers, as suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson). Unless the Select Committee gets that right, we may as well not set it up at all. Unless it has access to information, we shall have to rely for what happened on the interpretations of the interested parties—the parties to whom we have listened all day today.
The other proposition that I wish to make concerns multinational companies. The Select Committee might want to set 845 up a Sub-Committee from its own members to probe the relationship between British Petroleum and Her Majesty's Government. I have a copy of the Bradbury memorandum, dated 20th May 1914, which was supposed to regulate the relationship between BP and the Treasury. I quote from that memorandum as follows:I am to add—it is in the name of Mr. Bradbury, speaking on behalf of the Treasury—that His Majesty's Government do not propose to make use of the right of veto—the veto is mentioned in earlier paragraphs of the memorandum—except in regard to matters of general policy, such as (1) The supervision of the activities of the Company as they may affect questions of foreign, naval or military policy.That was set out in 1914 and it still appertains to the relationship between the Government and BP.
As far as I know, the veto powers have never been used, and yet the Government have a 51 per cent. holding in the company. The role of the Government-appointed directors needs to be clarified. That is why I suggest that there should be a Sub-Committee of the Select Committee to examine that relationship. No one seems to know what the directors do and it is time that we knew.
Several questions would need to be probed in depth by the Select Committee. For instance, since 1964, to what extent have successive Governments, both Tory and Labour been guilty of duplicity or incompetence, or both? They have been guilty of one or the other, there is no doubt about that. It is no good anyone denying it. My right hon. Friends the Members for Huyton and Fulham (Mr. Stewart) may deny it, but I do not believe the denials. Secondly, how far were these Governments misled by the oil companies and how great was the collusion between the Smith regime and the oil companies? Were the oil companies so ignorant of what their subsidiaries in South Africa were doing? I do not believe that they were.
Which Ministers were responsible for the cover-up, if that is what took place? My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham said that it is always a delicate matter deciding how much to reveal to 846 the House of Commons. Lord Thomson has said that it is all a matter of presentation. How much can a Minister get away with by using a certain form of words in the House? That is the sort of thing that appears in the evidence to the Bingham report. Lord Thomson discovered—he must have known for a long time—that oil was getting into Rhodesia through South Africa. He said in evidence:the best we could make of a bad job was to be in a position to say at least there was no oil from British companies reaching Rhodesia.How cynical can one get in trying to form important policy decisions and arriving at a form of words with which the House could be deceived? It amounted to that.
A further question that the Select Committee should probe is why the House—this involves us all—did not at any time from 1964 onwards use its own Select Committee investigatory powers to tackle the sanctions-busting that we all knew was taking place. We are all guilty.
In such a situation as this it is easy and tempting to exercise the wisdom of hindsight. It is easy and tempting to engage in much sanctimonious humbug and hypocrisy and seek to apportion blame between individual Ministers, national Governments, civil servants and company officials. My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton declared his innocence this afternoon, though I am bound to say that his behaviour on the Canadian television programme, which I hope we were all privileged to see, was not a convincing exhibition of an innocent man. I put it no higher than that.
In contradistinction to that, I quote from the book "Sanctions Double-Cross —Oil to Rhodesia" by Mr. Jorge Jardim, who is a Portuguese special pleader. He had this to say:The support given by the international oil companies was undoubtedly the most decisive factor. Without their encouraging assurance, it is improbable that UDI would ever have been declared.Supplies were made in such a way, over twelve years, that it is impossible to accept that the governments which had responsibility for making sanctions effective could claim ignorance as to what took place.That has the smack of truth in it, which must be ascertained by a Select Committee of the House.
847 Time is against us. If we hang on and delay matters until Christmas, we shall be in an electioneering period and this matter might be swept under the carpet. I do not believe that the House wants that to happen. We must have the subsequent debate and the Select Committee set up and at work before Christmas.
§ Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)
If we are all to blame for the past, which the hon. Member suggests, would we not all do better by looking forward to the future?
§ Mr. Hamilton
Yes, but I think that we must learn a lesson from the past if we ate to go forward to the future. There are very important lessons for this House to learn from the past in order that we may better face the future. It is important for our future relations with our friends in Africa that we should be seen to get at the truth and punish those people who were responsible. The only way that we can do that is by having a Select Committee to go into the aftermath of Bingham, as I have suggested.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Terence Higgins (Worthing)
I think that there is general agreement that the structure of this debate is highly unsatisfactory, bringing together, as it does, three quite separate sets of arguments. At the same time, I believe that it is equally true that we have had a number of very remarkable speeches. The most remarkable speech of all was that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), who seemed to put forward quite the most constructive and helpful suggestions that have been advanced in this area for a very long time.
I want first to comment briefly on the Bingham report. I read it with very considerable sadness. It revealed matters which were very damaging to the political life of Britain. Although I understand the important point that in this debate we should look forward, it is also true, as the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) has suggested, that there are lessons to be learned from the Bingham report. It is very important that they should be learnt.
I feel bound to say to the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) that I cannot conceive of myself having gone along with the arrangement implicitly 848 made in the meeting which was discussed in the Bingham report, on 21st February 1969, with regard to the operation of the oil companies and the swap arrangement in particular, not least given the actual terms of both the United Nations resolution and the measures which were passed in this House. I find it very difficult to believe that I could have gone along with that.
Therefore, it is right and proper that the matter should be looked at further. I wholeheartedly support the suggestion that we should have a Select Committee. It is the right suggestion in this context.
There is one particular point on which I hope we shall get an answer from the Government Front Bench. That is that we are now assured that all the loopholes concerning oil sanctions have been closed. If that is so, I am a little puzzled to know why it was not possible for that to have been done in the first place. Perhaps that is something on which the Government might like to comment. Precisely how secure are the arrangements that have now been made?
The points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire were extremely important, and I am sure that he was right to stress that sanctions are important not only in terms of the extent to which they may or may not be effective but as a symbol. We ought to judge sanctions against at least three important criteria: first, is their continued imposition likely to facilitate a settlement on the basis of the six principles? Secondly, is their continued imposition likely to reduce further bloodshed? Finally, is their continued imposition likely to increase our influence, rather than Communist influence, in Africa? All those criteria are extremely important and I think that all hon. Members would agree that they are sensible criteria against which to judge the continued imposition of sanctions.
I turn first to the six principles and, particularly, to the question whether we ought to say that we should forget the fifth principle—whether the proposed basis for independence is acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole—and lift the sanctions. I believe that it is tremendously important that sanctions should be continued and that pressure should be maintained on the Government 849 in Salisbury to ensure that the fifth principle is implemented. It is, after all, one that the Conservative Party has consistently supported over the years and it is what the Pearce Commission and that whole episode was all about.
It seems apparent to me that Mr. Smith has not been prepared to make concessions except under pressure. That is an important point in relation to the continued imposition of sanctions and the order on which we shall be voting tomorrow.
It is important that we should make further progress on the basis of the internal settlement. It has many defects, but it is something on which we can build and it is deplorable that the Government have not done more to build upon it. However, I believe that Mr. Smith has greatly exacerbated the situation by procrastinating time and again. In particular, if he had made the proposed change in the race relations law when the internal settlement was announced, it would have had a much better chance and made it much easier for us all to build on the structure which it provides.
We seem to have slipped slightly on the question whether we have a test of acceptability to the people of Rhodesia or elections. The first proposition has been swept under the carpet and the concentration has been upon elections. I do not believe that the two are identical. It does not necessarily follow that if one votes in an election, which has been organised by someone, one accepts the constitution. It is important to make that distinction and I hope that we shall not take the view that, if elections are held, everything is all right. We also want at that time an indication of the acceptability of what is proposed to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. The proposals from both Front Benches earlier touched on the possibility that we could bring that about.
The right position for us to adopt is to say that sanctions should continue, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire argued, until the movement towards independence is irreversible. The crucial point is that we should not take off sanctions until we can be assured that this process is irreversible.
§ Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire)
I am interested in my 850 hon. Friend's concept, which I think is important. Does he therefore propose that there should now be a test of opinion, such as the Pearce Commission, in Rhodesia to see whether the present interim Government, before any elections, is acceptable? If it were, would he then propose that sanctions should be lifted? If not, does he take the view that if elections take place after whatever settlement there is, he will not accept it, and that sanctions should still be imposed?
§ Mr. Higgins
I think we should be quite clear that the sanctions should remain until the six principles have been fulfilled. Precisely what form that will take we have yet to consider, because a number of different proposals have been made from each side of the House. It would be very foolish indeed to rule out any of those options. Elections are not the same as getting acceptance for whatever is proposed. That was the only point I wanted to make. We have to look at the matter in the context of the various specific proposals which have been made.
I turn to the second main criterion which I suggested we ought to take into account in deciding whether sanctions should continue to be imposed. We need to be desperately concerned about whether the measures that we are taking are likely to reduce further bloodshed. Again, I believe that sanctions are symbolic. In that context it would be playing very much into the hands of those who would like to see a solution by force if we were to withdraw sanctions at this stage. Indeed, we should then be effectively washing our hands of the affair, almost in the strict sense of the word.
If we in this House were to say "We will remove sanctions now", I think that could be interpreted in Africa and throughout the world only as meaning that the United Kingdom Government, after all this time, having tried to get a solution on the basis of the six principles, have finally said "We wash our hands of the whole affair; it is all yours." That would be the starting pistol for further bloodshed and further incursions across Rhodesia's border, and that is not what we wish to achieve. If we were to withdraw sanctions at this stage, it would create a situation in which a solution through bloodshed and the gun 851 would be the only possible one. It would rule out the negotiated settlement which I believe all men of good will wish to seek.
I now turn to the question whether continuing sanctions would be likely to further British interests in Africa or would be likely to add to the Communist incursions into that continent, from Russia, from China or from elsewhere. Again, I believe that in this context sanctions are a symbol. I believe that if we were to vote against them tomorrow, or seek to remove them in the present circumstances, it could only help our enemies in the propaganda war which is going on in Africa and, indeed, throughout the world, for again we would be saying "We wash our hands of the whole affair."
It would be not surprising in those circumstances if many African countries were to decide that the only thing to do was to turn to other influences, in particular Communist influences, in Africa. That would be a tremendously serious step for us to take. It would be quite contrary to the interests which some of my hon. Friends who believe that sanctions should be lifted actually want to achieve.
There is no difference between us on the objectives. We want to see a settlement on the basis of the six principles and to avoid further bloodshed. We want to prevent further Communist incursions into Africa. We want to promote British interests. But I am absolutely convinced that if a significant number of Members were to vote tomorrow against the continuance of sanctions the effect would be quite contrary to our real interests, quite contrary to the policy which the Governments of both parties have pursued, and quite contrary to the basis on which Conservative policy has been formulated ever since the beginning of the Rhodesian crisis.
I very much hope that my hon. Friends will support the view which was put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire this afternoon. I believe that his speech was balanced, and that the points he made about sanctions were an integral part of the balanced approach which he was putting forward. We all hope that it will become possible 852 to reach a settlement whereby we can say that our commitments have been fulfilled, that we can look forward to the future, and have a future for Rhodesia which we throughout this House would like to see.
That being so, I hope that the message will go out to Rhodesia that the official policy of the Conservative Party, put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire this afternoon, is that sanctions should not be removed at this stage but that we hope that a situation will be created as soon as possible in which that will be the legitimate and sensible thing for us to do.
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)
I hope that the hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) will forgive me if I do not follow his argument, much as I agreed with a great deal of what he said, particularly about sanctions.
I want to deal solely and exclusively with the Bingham report. My attention was first drawn to specific allegations about the breaking of oil sanctions when an ex-colleague of mine sent me a copy of an article in an American church magazine which referred to the document "The Oil Conspiracy", which was produced by an American church group. I sent a copy of that article to the Foreign Office asking for the Foreign Secretary's comments. That was in early November 1976.
On 30th November I received a reply from my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who said:The report mentioned in the article you enclosed came to our notice some months ago and has been studied very carefully. It contains no evidence that British Petroleum, Shell or any other company in which they have an interest have engaged either directly or with others in supplying crude oil or oil products to Rhodesia. We have been in touch with representatives of BP and Shell and are satisfied that UK companies have not violated sanctions.The letter goes on to talk about subsidiaries in South Africa beingprohibited by law from imposing 'conditions of sale' on their local customersand so on.
It is true that the report entitled "The Oil Conspiracy" was almost exclusively about the Mobil Oil Company Ltd. Therefore, in a sense, the reply was technically correct. However, if one major 853 oil company was shown to be breaking sanctions and, furthermore, the means by which it was doing so were set out in such detail, suspicions must inevitably arise that other oil companies were engaged in similar practices. Further, we have what I might call the stock statement in that letter to the effect that assurances had been received from Shell and BP, and apparently they were good enough.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Rodgers) asked a Written Question on 23rd February 1977 and received from the Under-Secretary of State a reply which talked about allegations of sanctions-busting being made from time to time and pointed out thatSo far as the British oil companies are concerned, Her Majesty's Government have in the past received firm assurances that they are observing sanctions."—[Official Report, 23rd February 1977; Vol. 926, c. 617.]Again, we have the same bland assurances from the oil companies, which apparently were regarded as being good enough.
However, when the matter was raised a week later on the Floor of the House by a number of my hon. Friends and myself immediately after the publication of the anti-apartheid Haslemere Trust publication "Shell and BP in South Africa", the Minister of State acknowledged that the matter could no longer be dealt with by bland assurances and easy denials. He said:I shall certainly look at it very seriously indeed and if there is evidence relating to sanctions-busting by British companies we shall take appropriate action."—[Official Report, 2nd March 1977; Vol. 927, c. 346.]The following month the Bingham inquiry was set up. I understand that that inquiry was the first of its kind under the terms of the sanctions order. Well over a decade had passed since UDI and since it had become clear that oil was reaching Rhodesia in sufficient quantity —indeed, almost more than sufficient quantity—to keep the Rhodesian economy going.
I do not wish to detract from the credit that should go to my right hon. Friend for having established the inquiry and, despite the limitations in the order, having the report published almost in full. But it took a mighty long time and several Governments of both major par- 854 ties before action was at last taken in the matter.
Having the report before us, what do we find? We find that the suspicions and allegations are confirmed. Worse than than, we find a story that has seriously put in question the already fragile respect with which politicians and Governments are regarded in this country. How far those responsible in the various Governments concerned were powerless, how far they were merely naive in their trust, how far civil servants were implicated in witholding information—these and many other questions would be answered fully only in a further public inquiry with full access to, and revelation of, all the relevant documents.
Without wishing to be vindictive, I must say that it is not good enough to forget the whole affair or to say "That is in the past. We must look solely to the future." It is important for the health of our democracy to have a full revelation of what happened, and, if people have broken the law, for the law to be enforced. As has been said many times in this debate, that further inquiry should be conducted by a Committee of the House, specially set up for the purpose.
But it is not enough just to do that. We must learn lessons for the future. We have in the report a classic case study of the operation of multinational companies and their relationship to Governments. It has become almost a cliché to point out the immense wealth and power of multinational companies—a wealth and power that make them into political entities, so powerful that it is very difficult for any one nation State to control them or bring them to account.
Shell and BP are certainly in the big league. According to Fortune magazine, in 1977 Shell was third and BP was eighth in the world ratings of industrial companies, and if the American-based multinationals are excluded the positions are first and third. Their sales were, respectively, almost $40 billion and $20 billion-plus.
As an example of the dealings between multinational companies and the Government there is the account in the report, from page 142 onwards, of the negotiations between the Government and the two companies concerned about the way in which oil sanctions could be put into 855 effect. As I understand it from the report, no fewer than four different ways in which sanctions could be enforced were discussed throughout 1967. Every one of those possibilities was rejected by the companies.
We do well to remind ourselves that what was in question was not merely the carrying out of a policy which the Government thought was desirable. To obstruct that might be bad enough, given that a Government are, after all, elected by the people and answerable to them, but what was at issue was the carrying out of the law.
As I understand it, a potential law breaker does not normally enter into negotiations with the police or the judiciary on the question whether he should comply with the law. He is expected to comply with the law, and he must take the consequences if he does not. However, not only did the companies negotiate with the Government; they won. We ended up with what has been described as the cosmetic but, worse, basically dishonest position of the Total deal—an arrangement which, in the words of the report itself,plainly did not have the effect of denying supplies of oil products to Rhodesia.In practice, apparently, after 1971 even that thinnest of thin veils was discarded and the breaking of sanctions went on completely naked and unashamed.
Of course, the Government agreed to the Total arrangement, and I make no excuse for their doing so. But it is not good enough for the managements of Shell and BP to say "It must be all right because the Government say it is all right". That is to ignore what had gone on before and totally to ignore the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Government and the oil companies in the preceding negotiations.
This is not an isolated case. We could cite the recent negotiations between the Government and Peugeot-Citroen about the take-over of Chrysler, where there are no prizes for guessing who held the trump cards.
What is more, this is not only a question of information. Information is important, and Bingham rightly draws attention to it in the final paragraph of the report: 856The criticisms which we have made have related in the main to failures to disclose, either within the Groups or by the Groups to HMG. We do not regard these failures as in any way unimportant. The Groups should have been able to base their actions and determine their conduct vis-à-vis HMG on the basis of such full and accurate information as was available. In the context of the relations prevailing between it and the Groups, HMG should have been able to base its policy towards the Groups and to determine its conduct internationally on a clear understanding of the salient facts so far as these were known to the Groups.But in my view Bingham is wrong to regard this question of information as the only or even the major problem in itself. What matters is power, and information is important only as a means to the end of power.
Multinational companies—and here we have the case of a mutinational company in which we are nominally the major shareholders—time and again can exercise more power than elected Governments. Time and again, Governments are seen to be able to do only so much as multinational companies will allow them to do—[interruption.] The hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) has hardly been here during the course of the day. I hope he will not persist in interrupting from a sedentary position.
§ Mr. Clemitson
No. I shall not give way to the hon. and learned Member. He came into the Chamber less than half an hour ago.
I am not saying that multinational companies are intentionally malevolent institutions. I am not saying that good does not flow from their operations. But I am saying that unless ways and means are found of controlling multinational companies and calling them to account, our democratic institutions are at best merely a pale shadow of what they ought to be.
No nation State, even the most powerful one, can do this job alone. It is only through co-operation between nation States and through co-operation between trade unions that this can be done. If the Bingham report does not serve to put this question of the control of multinational companies firmly on the political agenda, a great deal of our debates about 857 international affairs, or any other political affairs, will be so much hot air.
§ 11.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I have been to Rhodesia many times. It is a magnificent country. The war going on there is a terrible tragedy. It is an African tragedy and a British tragedy. Every year since they were first introduced, I have either supported or not opposed sanctions. I did so largely on the judgment, in the first instance, of the man for whom I worked, Sir Alec Douglas-Home. I never liked sanctions, and when the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) went to the United Nations and made them international, thereby placing the sovereignty of the United Kingdom under the United Nations, with Sir Alec I pleaded with the right hon. Gentleman not to take this course because the day would come when we would seek to remove sanctions and it would prove difficult because they had been placed within the jurisdiction of the United Nations.
I have never liked sanctions, although until this year I have always supported them. But tomorrow I shall vote against them, with a heavy heart. I shall do so for these main reasons: first, there is a new situation in Rhodesia. Sanctions were imposed upon the rebel Smith regime, perhaps rightly. Today, however, Rhodesia is ruled by a different regime. It is multiracial and committed to one man, one vote. It is arranging, although with difficulty, to hold elections, when possible. It is also dismantling, far too slowly, racial discrimination. The principal object of sanctions was to get the Rhodesians to agree to and implement the six principles. They have not done so completely but in my view they are, for all practical purposes, committed to those principles, so the main objective of sanctions has been largely achieved.
That is the first reason why I shall oppose the order. My second reason is Bingham. Whatever else this compendious report has shown, it has demonstrated that sanctions have been a flop. Frequently during the 1960s I would go to Rhodesia and see the oil flowing and the goods from all over the world on display in the shops and I would come back to this House and report that this was so. Labour Members would refuse 858 to believe it, for the best of reasons—because their Foreign Secretary and their Prime Minister were telling them that it was not so. But it was so, and Bingham has now underlined it. He has demonstrated that sanctions have been a flop.
Bingham has further shown that British officials, British oil companies and possibly British Ministers knowingly connived at sanctions not working. I listened to the right hon. Member for Huyton with great interest and I shall read his speech very carefully tomorrow. Like all hon. Members, I am inclined to accept what any other hon. Gentleman says in this place. But I find the right hon. Gentleman's witness incredible. No man was more interested than he in seeing that sanctions were a success. It was he who had talked of their bringing down the Rhodesian Government in weeks rather than months.
The right hon. Gentleman was also a restless Prime Minister, always looking to see whether his subordinates were doing their job, and I cannot believe, when I remember the battering that he had from hon. Members on the Opposition Benches, when we would tell him that sanctions were not working and when he knew from the evidence that the oil was arriving and that Rhodesia was flourishing, that the right hon. Gentleman did not say to his colleagues in the Cabinet "What on earth is going on? Give me the information, Get me the facts." Of course he asked those questions, and of course he got the answers, and I believe that he got them well before three months ago. I therefore find the right hon. Gentleman's testimony in this matter very hard to believe.
But the fact—and it is this that will influence my vote—is that Bingham has shown that British oil companies, officials, and possibly Ministers, connived at sanctions not working. The right hon. Gentleman has also demonstrated that, in so far as sanctions have had some impact on Rhodesia—I am sure that they have—the main sufferers have been the blacks, and I cannot believe that that is in the interests of peace or of a settlement in Rhodesia.
The third reason why I shall, reluctantly, oppose the order tomorrow is what lies ahead. Here I am thinking, above all 859 else, of South Africa. Before long, we shall be confronted with a United Nations demand for mandatory sanctions against South Africa. There may be a strong case for them—I make no mistake about that. But for economic reasons, because of jobs, trade and investment in this country, no British Government that I can foresee in the next year or so will go along with it.
The British Government—this one or the next—will oppose those mandatory sanctions against South Africa. But what is to be the argument for opposing sanctions against South Africa whilst supporting them for Rhodesia? Without the first —sanctions against South Africa—the second — sanctions against Rhodesia —cannot work. We all know that. Therefore, it is humbug to go on against Rhodesia and not against South Africa. We shall find ourselves in a position of selling our morals for our trade. If we are prepared to do that, we should be quite clear about the humbug into which we are entering.
I turn to the internal settlement. I do not believe for a moment that it is satisfactory. I have on occasions put this to Mr. Smith personally. I have also, as the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary know, pleaded with Mr. Nkomo, both in his home in Rhodesia and in my own home in this country, to come to the negotiations, to join in the talks, to play his part—and an important part it must be —in the future government of a democratic Rhodesia. I had hoped at one time that he would do that.
§ Mr. John Page
My hon. Friend has led us to a very exciting story. What is the denouement? Why will not Mr. Nkomo say "Yes"?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I suspect that, above all else, there is a degree of suspicion and bitterness that has built up over the years and months which makes it extremely difficult for him to do so. I am also bound to say that while he believes that his forces are winning by bullets he is not prepared to risk the ballot, for if he went to the ballot he might lose.
I said that the internal settlement was not good enough. But I believe that it has gone far enough towards all of the six 860 principles to justify now the lifting of sanctions.
My last point relates to arms for Zambia. Sanctions generate the heeat but it is the arms for Zambia that are the far more dangerous matter. The Foreign Secretary said that this had been the most difficult decision he had had to take in government. I understand that. But it was the wrong decision.
I have asked myself three questions. First, will these arms shorten the war? I fear that they will prolong it. I cannot see how the injection of more weapons into this war situation can possibly reduce the fighting. On the contrary, one way or another, some of them will fall into the hands of the guerrillas—I hope they will not, but I fear it—or, more likely they will release other weapons to be used by the guerrillas. As those weapons are acquired the guerrillas will launch more raids across the Zambesi. They will kill and maim more people.
Second, I ask, are these weapons likely to bring Mr. Nkomo to the conference table? I once discussed this question with President Kaunda. On 8th October—a significant day, because it was just about the time of the Rhodesian raid, which we all deplore—Mr. Nkomo told an impeccable British source, whose name I ask the House to allow me to withhold that he would under no circumstances return to the conference table, that he would not again sit in on any multi-party talks under the chairmanship of the Foreign Secretary and that in his view Britain no longer had any role to play in Southern Africa.
I discount some of the things that any nationalist leader may say in conversation. But far from bringing Mr. Nkomo to the conference table, I believe that the arrival of these weapons will fortify him in the belief that Britain is now providing protection and assistance to his own forces in Zambia. This will encourage him to stay away from the conference table—because he believes that he is winning.
My third and final question is: are these weapons likely to bring nearer the nightmare day when British troops could become involved in Rhodesia? Every British Foreign Secretary since this tragedy began has had clearly in his mind that we must not get British troops involved. How right they have been. But 861 I understand that several hundred technical and support personnel will be needed to man the anti-aircraft guns and missiles which have been sent or are being sent to Zambia. Most of them—of course I accept the Foreign Secretary's word for it—will be civilians; some may well be volunteers; and some are British nationals already resident in Zambia.
Nevertheless, several hundreds of trained British technicians will be required to man and service these missiles. What happens if the Rhodesians—not everyone would blame them—decide to "take out" these missiles and in the process some of these British technicians are killed? Will the British Government then send in combat troops to protect them? I do not know the answer. But the question must be faced.
If—as God forbid—as I saw in Vietnam and other places, we are progressively sucked in, perhaps in ways that we cannot yet visualise, the Government will face two questions. First, what would be the effect on the British Army if some of its men were asked to involve themselves in a shooting war in which Briton might have to fire at Briton? That question cannot be ducked. It might not be far in front of us.
Secondly, I wonder whether the Foreign Secretary has considered the possible effect of British weapons being used—as a Russian missile was used to shoot down the Viscount airliner—to fire across the Zambesi to destroy British people? It could be a mission station, a farming enterprise or a factory. What is to happen if those British missiles kill British people?
There could be a nightmare consequence. For if, as God forbid, such horrors were to happen in Rhodesia, we could see the consequences in the racial ghettos of our big cities in this country. Let us think ahead. In the United States the impact, night after night, of pictures of the killings in Vietnam on the colour television sets in millions of living rooms had a profoundly deep and divisive effect. Should the day come when British missiles are used against mission stations, factories and homes in Rhodesia, a price will be paid in race relations in this country. No Foreign Secretary should take that risk.
I believe that the decision the Foreign Secretary had to take must have been 862 agonising. I am sure that as a conscientious Minister he gave it great thought. But, as with every other decision, at the end it is a question of the margins. The Foreign Secretary came down on the margin of sending the weapons. I believe that he was tragically wrong. That is why I hoped that the Conservative Front Bench would demonstrate more clearly than it has done that large numbers of Conservative Members are worried by that decision. I wish that it had not been taken.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)
I agree with the hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) that the six principles still apply and that nothing has happened in Rhodesia to justify the removal of sanctions at this stage. I might disagree with the hon. Member on other points which I do not have time to pursue, but I agree with him on the starting point of the debate. I also agree that the structure of the debate over two days on a wide-ranging issue is unfortunate, because it detracts from the impact on the whole question of Bingham. Despite this, I think that the case for a Select Committe has been very well made.
I am also concerned and interested in the interpretations made by different hon. Member on the question of the internal settlement, the extent to which it is working, and the extent to which it would be different if Britain had recognised and blessed it. When one hears some Opposition Members speaking of the internal settlement, one would imagine that Byron Hove had never happened, and that all the violence had ceased. It is my view, backed by some evidence, that if Britain had recognised, blessed or encouraged the internal settlement, far from encouraging Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe it would have done the opposite. It would have indicated to them that they were out for all time because we were recognising a settlement for an internal agreement which, in fact, did not match the principles which, up to now, this House had always agreed with.
Also, we would have placed ourselves in a very difficult position with the United Nations, the Organisation of African Unity, the front-line Presidents, and the whole of the international community.
863 Therefore, I do not think that the Government have in any way failed in their obligations in that respect.
The argument has been put forward that oil sanctions have not worked, or that they have proved ineffective. It seems to me that they have never been tried. The whole of the Bingham report indicated that oil sanctions, either wittingly or unwittingly, were never applied against Rhodesia. The whole history of the matter shows not that the sanctions have not been effective—I believe that they could have been, and still could be—but that they were not tried.
The argument whether one continues with oil and other sanctions rests on an underlying base of the whole question of Southern Africa and Rhodesia—that is, that the intensity of the armed struggle in Rhodesia which we now see is directly related to the intensity of the amount of unarmed pressure that the West can put on Rhodesia, and indeed upon South Africa. This House must take very seriously what Bingham has shown if it does not want to see an escalation of the war. It must take seriously the importance of continuing the pressures of sanctions to try to alter the situation.
The Foreign Secretary told the Parliamentary Labour Party on another occasion that unless one had a blockade of South Africa one could not really deal with oil getting through to Rhodesia. That makes the point that it is really impossible to operate oil sanctions against Rhodesia. But last March the Foreign Secretary made a widely publicised speech outside the House—I wrote and congratulated him on it because I thought that things were changing—in which he said that it was time Britain looked at the question of her over-dependence on South Africa. This, he said, had implications for the economic situation. It is my reading of the situation that whatever may have been the dependence of Britain on South Africa in the past for trade and economic involvement, the need of South Africa for Britain today is far greater than Britain's need for South Africa. If the Foreign Secretary meant us to take him seriously on that occasion I would have thought it was time he made clear exactly what he meant.
864 On the question of the tragedy revealed by Bingham, we all know that the report has shown up the inability of Governments to do what we all believed they were doing. Of course we all knew that while South Africa was not blockaded oil was bound to reach Rhodesia. That we knew, and I do not believe that anybody persuaded himself otherwise. What we did not know, and what we still do not know, is to what extent the British Government were aware of the matter, and how they went along with the fact that BP, Shell, and others were going along with and assisting in this process.
It is one thing to say things to South Africa. It is another thing to say that BP, Shell or any other oil company is, by the use of swap arrangements or by the use of British tankers, conniving in the whole operation.
I am always somewhat confused about the emphasis that is placed on the argument about Zambia. I think that the Foreign Secretary was absolutely right to supply military aid to Zambia for her defence, not just because Zambia has suffered more than any other country from the application of the sanctions policy but because the economies of Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia were tied together by the House at the time of the independence of Northern Rhodesia, which later became Zambia.
There is another reason, which the Foreign Secretary pointed out, namely, not only that Zambia had a right to call upon this country to help her but if she had not and had gone elsewhere—presumably to Communist countries—Conservative Members would have been the first to scream and say "Look at the Communist influence that is building up. Communist arms are being supplied."
I accept President Kaunda's assurances about the use to which the arms will be put. After all, they are being supplied to the Zambian Government and not to anybody else. The argument could be turned against some hon. Gentlemen. I wish they showed the same concern about, for instance, the use of British weapons which are being supplied to Rhodesia, because, at the end of the day, they, too, may well be used against British people if we are not very careful about how we 865 deal with the situation. The same concern should be shown about some of the repressive regimes to which some hon. Gentlemen have wanted the Government to supply arms.
I accept President Kaunda's assurances completely. It is rather two-faced to express a great worry at this point about the misuse of weapons when we have seen throughout the long night of the saga of Rhodesia the misuse of weapons which have come via South Africa to maintain Smith in office. We have seen the fuelling of Smith's war machine by South Africa, and that has been defended by many Conservative Members—not all of them. We have been condemned when we have protested about it.
In 1967 the Government set up a coordinating sanctions committee under Mr. McNeill. What I do not understand is why, from 1969, when the meeting with Lord Thomson took place, that coordinating committee does not seem to have made any inquiries or asked any questions about what was happening about oil sanctions, although everybody knew that oil was reaching Rhodesia. There seems to have been a blank acceptance of assurances that were given, and no investigations took place. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) that we are all guilty in this; none of us was vigilant.
I spent a very useful hour this morning with the National Union of Seamen's representative in Clapham. I was interested in another aspect of the Bingham report, or its consequences. I find the international shipping set-up and its relationships very complex, as the television programme on Antigua showed us, and as this saga has shown us. I was anxious to learn what tankers actually carried the oil. One point which needs to be established, as British Tankers Limited is a subsidiary of BP—if they were the tankers that were used, if they were the tankers that BP employ many Indian workers on and not British workers—is just which tankers were used.
The NUS representatives told me that when they tried to discover which Department was responsible for investigating the activities of British Tankers Limited, they were told that it was not the Department of Energy, the Department of Trade, or the Ministry of Transport but the 866 Treasury. The Treasury was involved through its representative on the board of that company. However, the Treasury was involved not in the company's administration or in the tanker arrangements but only in financial matters.
I find this difficult to understand. Of whom should one inquire when one is trying to find out how oil supplies were increased at the time in question? Who in the British Government is responsible for these matters? I hope that a further inquiry will illuminate that aspect.
There are other important matters to be considered. I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) said that he would be happy for all the Cabinet documents and other relevant papers to be made available to the House. I think it is right that such papers should be made available to a Select Committee of both Houses.
Civil servants should not be allowed to hide behind Ministers. If it is true that information was not forthcoming from civil servants, or if Ministers had such information and did not use it, whatever the reasons may be, we shall have to find out the truth. We must know how this breakdown of information took place. The advice given to Ministers in both Labour and Conservative Administrations at the relevant time should be made available. Until we have that information, we shall not know whether we were misled by Ministers or civil servants, or whether it was not all a great misunderstanding.
Although the documentation that existed during the time of the Labour Government's running of these affairs was made available to Bingham, it appears that the documents that existed at the time of the Conservative Government, from 1970 to 1974, were not made available to that committee. I may be wrong in this assumption, but the Bingham report does not appear to give the same emphasis to what happened under that Conservative Government as it did to activities in this respect under the Labour Government. I believe that that matter should be brought out in any further investigation.
I have carried out a little investigation of my own into these matters. I should like to know how many people in the Civil Service at that time who were involved in the imposition of oil sanctions 867 have left the Civil Service and are now working for oil companies. That also is a relevant consideration in the matters that are now being discussed in this debate.
I believe that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was right to publish the Bingham report. I congratulate him on that decision, and I am delighted that he took it. I would like to think that he and the Prime Minister had already made up their minds to have a further inquiry on the lines suggested by some of us in this debate. I hope that he will not be pressured into setting up such an inquiry. I would like to think that my right hon. Friend, having read Bingham and considered its implications, as well as the distrust which it has caused among many people in this country and many who are still our friends in Africa, will not take such action under pressure but will do so willingly. If that happens, the British Government will be seen to be hiding nothing, because they will make clear what advice they were given at the time.
If Ministers are badly advised they take responsibility for it, but if we are to safeguard ourselves against a similar position in future, this House must say that all those who were involved in the years since UDI must make all the facts and information available to this House. If that does not happen and if anything on these lines ever happens again, we shall never again be trusted.
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
I start my intervention seriously, sincerely and sadly. The last occasion that I spoke on matters of Southern Africa was at the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Bonn, in September. The secretary of the British branch of the IPU was Brigadier Paul Ward. I wish to record the great loss that I feel the House shares in his death the Saturday before last. In the few years that he was secretary of the British branch of the IPU, he made a tremendous impact on our life at Westminster. He had tremendous devotion to his job, which for him was almost a mission. He was a famous character at IPU conferences. I believe that many of us 868 in the House have lost a friend, and that hundreds of parliamentarians throughout the world will feel they have lost a friend.
I am happy about one aspect of the debate, because I believe that it has shown that there is a great divide between the Opposition and the Government. That was witnessed in the speeches from the Front Benches. I noted a return of the bedside manner of the Foreign Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to be saying that he was not telling the patient everything. He was saying "Take it easy. Stay in for a bit. Take a few aspirins and perhaps in time you will get better." I do not believe that that is the treatment that the Rhodesian patient needs. He has been receiving the wrong treatment from the Foreign Secretary until now.
The excellent speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) was in marked contrast with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I listened to my right hon. Friend with great enjoyment and enthusiasm. It was positive, clear and realistic. Although in some parts of it—perhaps my right hon. Friend will feel in some of the more important parts—I did not agree with him, I felt that it was a clear statement. No one can say now that he does not know the direction in which the Opposition are driving on the Rhodesian problem.
I shall use my right hon. Friend's speech as providing various pegs on which I can hang my own ideas. First, I deal with sanctions and the Bingham report. As colleagues on both sides of the House know, I am modest about my intellectual ability. Over 17 years in the House I have constantly found that my instincts and gut feelings have been absolutely right. However, I have never been able to defend them intellectually with my more brilliant colleagues. That is a disaster from both our points of view.
On sanctions and the Bingham report I was therefore delighted to read the comments of Lord Blake in the Sunday press. The noble Lord took the two points which, while lying in bed on a Sunday morning, I thought I would make in my speech, they being the two matters that he felt most important about the Bingham report. He said that the report demonstrated that a number of Governments 869 should apologise to the British people through Parliament for misleading them. Secondly, he said that Governments should apologise to the Royal Navy for allowing it and ordering it to take up the Beira patrol over many years while knowing it to be a fraud.
On the Bingham report, I go out on a limb and say that it would be perfectly ridiculous to go through the paraphernalia of yet another investigation and so on. I believe that we know all that there is to know. I could not bear to read again the speech made today by the right hon. Member for Houdini, or Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), to read day after day in The Times everything that he said. It would cost an awful lot and produce absolutely nothing.
We know that there was a fiddle. Everyone knows that there was a fiddle. Every ordinary person knew that the oil was getting to Rhodesia through South Africa and that probably someone here had something to do with it. I really do not know what point there is in having a full-dress investigation.
Tomorrow night I shall vote against sanctions. I shall do so, first, because I believe that in Rhodesia now there is a multi-racial regime. Secondly, it is an act of—I wrote down "contrition" and then crossed that out and wrote "recognition of the Bingham report". I shall do so, thirdly, because I should like to show how totally different my view is from that of the Foreign Secretary, and the vote will be a vehicle that enables me to show that publicly.
In August 1977, at a most appropriate and vital moment, I begged the Foreign Secretary not to produce his absurd White Paper about the future of Rhodesia. If he had not done so, and if the elections had taken place and the internal settlement had arrived, he would not have had to defend the policy which he presented then. It was a disaster. I hope that I shall not incur the ire of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) by saying that the Foreign Secretary was encouraged in his policy because his views were echoed in the Foreign Office itself by a sense of frustration and vindictiveness there on the part of officials against the Smith regime, which had defied the British Foreign Office successfully for 11 or 12 years.
870 I come now to some of the points raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire. He is spot-on in saying that we must have a representative of the British Government in Rhodesia. That is most important and most necessary. Rather unwisely, I sold Lord Carver for this purpose, in August 1977, when I was in Rhodesia. But I have to say, as an old desert colleague of his, that he has disappointed me slightly. I hope that when the Conservatives are in power, they will find another representative to go there. However, the present Government should send a full-time diplomat, set him up there and let him be the listening post, which is so much needed.
Secondly, my right hon. Friend said that the internal settlement should be used as the basis for an agreement on a future constitution, or words to that effect. Again, he is absolutely right. I have a strange and unhappy feeling that the Government Front Bench and their Back Benchers are looking only for unconditional surrender from the whites in Rhodesia, and not only the whites but those who have supported the current regime, and the growing middle class in Rhodesia. I hate to think what will happen to them if either Mr. Nkomo or Mr. Mugabe has charge of a Government and the war machine in Rhodesia. I believe that there would be a reign of terror worse than others we have witnessed in Africa.
I have been a little sickened by the amount of reverential, immoderate genuflection in the debate to President Kaunda who is running a repressive regime in Zambia. I heard Andreas Shipanga at an interesting meeting at Chatham House on 10th July. He spoke about the attitude of President Kaunda to dissident members of SWAPO and said:Mr. Nujomathe head of SWAPO externally—and his associates … asked the Zambian Government to intervene in SWAPO internal affairs. President Kaunda obliged. In April 1976, 1,800 members, mostly young men and women, 56 freedom fighter commanders and 11 senior executives of SWAPO and SWAPO Youth League were arrested and detained without trial or charges. Thirteen of us who were taken to Tanzanian prisons from Zambian detention camps have just emerged in freedom a month ago. The rest are still in Zambian detention camps; a number have already been 871 killed by the Zambian army, and many more died of hunger and lack of medical treatment. Unity cannot be bought at the price of detention without trial.I have a feeling that because Mr. Shipanga has deserted Mr. Nujoma, the spokesman for SWAPO at the United Nations and elsewhere, he will be regarded as a Quisling. The sadness of our debate is that only black men with guns shooting down other black men are considered respectable by the Labour Government and proper persons to be considered for the leadership.
My right hon. Friend made five points. I shall not deal with the fifth—the "Camp David at Chequers" idea—because I have not had time to sort it out in my own mind. The Prime Minister has great gifts of persuasion and if he really believed in the idea it might be worth having a go, but I should like to think a little more about that possibility.
The fourth point of my right hon. Friend was the setting up of a contact group on the lines of the five Western Powers in the Namibian discussions—the United Kingdom, United States, France, West Germany and Canada. They did a useful job, but I have a warning for my right hon. Friend. On 25th April, the five Powers came to an agreement with the South African Government on how a new agreement could be reached on Namibia. One condition was that elections should take place before 31st December. Unfortunately, the Western Powers then negotiated with SWAPO, which kept them at arm's length until October and has still not agreed to the basis of the agreed plan.
The United Nations considered the plan and Mr. Waldheim introduced the working papers, but there has been a gazumping of the contract between the South African Government and the five Powers. The tragedy is that it gave SWAPO a veto. I was originally opposed to the idea, but luckily the elections are now to take place this year. In the same way, the Patriotic Front has been given a veto by the Foreign Secretary. This veto is allowing the Patriotic Front to delay and delay and delay elections and further moves forward, so that the people inside Rhodesia are becoming disillusioned about the likely success of the internal settlement.
872 I still believe, with my right hon. Friend, that it is on the internal settlement that we must base our hopes. I believe that in Rhodesian and in Southern African affairs, the influence of Great Britain could still be of major importance. I long for the day when this influence will be exercised by more worthy and responsible representatives of government.
§ 12.1 a.m.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
On the face of it, it is slightly ludicrous that a country such as the United Kingdom, with 50 million people, a sophisticated industrial economy and by no means negligible Armed Forces, could not deal with a rebellion by a white population which is about half the population of Sheffield.
I think that there are two reasons to explain this curiosity. First, in 1965, this country was at the end of a period of two decades of disengaging from its empire position around the world and disengaging from its military position, and the Government of the day took the view, in some ways very reasonably, that they did not wish to become involved in a war in Central Africa. The Congo chaos was only just coming to an end in 1965. There were colonial wars going on in Mozambique and Angola, and I think the Labour Government at that time, probably quite reasonably, had a serious fear that if they used force they could not quite see where that might lead in Central Africa.
The second reason why it has been impossible so far for this country to put down the white rebellion has been the policy of successive Governments that in no circumstances must there be any confrontation with South Africa. Not only has it been the policy of successive British Governments; it appears to have been the policy of the Western world as a whole until now—that is to say, the policy of Germany, France, Italy and, of course, the United States of America.
With that background, the policy of Her Majesty's Government—certainly from 1964 to 1970 and I think to a limited extent between 1970 and 1974—has been, first, at all costs to negotiate a settlement with Smith and with any African nationalist leaders available, and, second, to use economic sanctions as a 873 means of pressure on the illegal regime to make it negotiate.
Unfortunately, the decision not to use armed force undermined the possibility of compelling Smith to negotiate seriously, while the decision not to have any confrontation with South Africa destroyed the credibility of economic sanctions. the effectiveness of the one weapon that might have replaced armed force, namely, an economic blockade of Rhodesia, was undermined by the refusal to deal with the South African problem.
The question of sanctions is of much wider implication and greater and more fundamental importance than the important questions raised by Bingham on how far they were properly or competently pursued or how far civil servants gave correct advice or Ministers followed or disregarded such advice.
It will be within the memory of most hon. Members—it is vividly in mine—that it was on the issue of oil sanctions against Italy in the Abyssinia affair that the League of Nations failed—and that failure was largely the failure of the United Kingdom and France—to live up to its principle of collective security. It failed to take action which, with hindsight such as we now have with Bingham could be seen to have prevented the Fascist invasion of Abyssinia and the terrible suffering that was caused by the Fascist armies in that country. But, more seriously, I think that it is now generally accepted that the disaster over sanctions within the League of Nations contributed considerably to the destruction of the League of Nations and the eventual progress to the Second World War.
I am concerned that the relative failure so far—we are by no means at the end of the road—over the application of sanctions to Rhodesia could have a damaging effect on the United Nations and the collective security system which is built into the Charter and which the United Kingdom, France and the United States, as permanent members of the Security Council, have a peculiar responsibility to uphold and enforce. Not only that; the failure to pursue sanctions against Rhodesia in an honest, forthright and effective way by exercising control over multinational companies, which, after all, are based in Britain, France or the United States, is bound to call into 874 question the good faith of the Western world in the eyes of the Third world. Third world countries are bound to say to themselves, as many people in this country are saying, "Of course, when economic interests prevail, when it is a question of profits either for the multinational companies or for Britain, the United States and Western Europe, such matters as human rights, racial discrimination and so forth can be set on one side, and the principles and the application of the mechanism of the United Nations Charter can be disregarded."
Failure on sanctions will also have repercussions on transnational corporations. I do not think that the oil companies need to delude themselves that their activities over Rhodesia and in South Africa and in the whole complex of war and turmoil which is now vexing South Africa will pass unnoticed. Trans-national corporations at large are under severe scrutiny within the United Nations and by many different countries. The behaviour of Shell, BP, Mobil and other companies will not enhance their reputations but will rapidly lead to the day when their activities are brought under effective international and national control. Shell, BP and other companies will rue the day when they allowed their sheer profit greed to lead them to ignore the law of this country and the considered judgments of the international community through the United Nations.
§ Mr. Hooley
No. It is extremely late. I have waited nine hours to make this speech. I respect the hon. Gentleman, but I prefer to get on with my speech. Others of his hon. Friends also wish to speak.
We must consider the consequences of the failure by this country, the United States and France to press the sanctions issue. Throughout the debate there has been a lack of emphasis on the co-responsibilities of our so-called allies in this matter. After all, we have within NATO and the Western world countries such as the United States, France and Germany that ask for our economic co-operation and expect us to operate within the ambit of the Western world. On this issue they have not been particularly forthright and forthcoming 875 hitherto in dealing with the problem of Rhodesia.
The consequences of not taking effective steps through international sanctions have been, first, that Smith's rebellion has been allowed to survive for 13 years, whereas otherwise, as is clearly indicated in Bingham, the denial of oil would have seriously damaged Rhodesia's economic framework and the regime.
Secondly, the failure on sanctions convinced the people in Zimbabwe that the only way to get rid of the racist regime that they were saddled with was to resort to an armed struggle. That has led to the civil war and the ghastly casualties mentioned in this debate.
Thirdly, the failure on sanctions has done nothing good for this country's reputation in Africa, the Commonwealth and the United Nations. The United Nations has given us all we asked for on the sanctions issue. On 17th December 1965 the United Nations approved oil sanctions against Rhodesia. On 9th April 1966 the United Nations took a step that was unprecedented to that date and I think is unique in the whole of the postwar period. It authorised this country to use force on the high seas to interrupt international commerce—in other words, to prevent oil going to Beira. That was an important decision by the international community, because it gave us the lawful right to use force against the commerce of other countries in pursuance of bringing down the illegal regime in Rhodesia and destroying the rebellion there.
In subsequent years the United Nations also gave full support to demands for sanctions against South Africa, as well as Rhodesia, to make sure that the problem was solved if possible by peaceful means.
The decision about the Beira patrol represented in a sense the high point of the Government's policy of international sanctions and international pressure against Rhodesia and the point at which we had acted sensibly, fairly and honourably in a difficult situation. We had set aside the option of making war, for reasons that I have mentioned. We had called into play the force of the international community and used the mechanism of the United Nations Charter in a perfectly proper manner, and the United 876 Nations had responded to what we had wanted very fully and very promptly. Unfortunately, from that point on there seemed to be on the part of the Government and of the international community a curious lack of interest in or concern about carrying through the sanctions policy, which was effectively the alternative to war, in settling the rebellion.
Two years after the Beira patrol had been authorised and put into effect the Government were notified—in February 1968, according to the Bingham report —that Shell and BP, two British companies, had been supplying oil to Rhodesia, but no action was taken. Nothing at all was done. Nobody disputes the authenticity of the document in Bingham. Nobody disputes that the Government were told at that time—I think George Thomson, as he then was, was the Minister concerned—that Shell and BP had been supplying oil to Rhodesia, but no action was taken.
In February 1969 the Government were again informed about the swap arrangements with Total—in other words, the agreement to make it appear at any rate that British oil companies were not involved was breaking sanctions, although everyone knew that the French company was. Again, no action was taken following this information, and, candidly, I find the explanation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) rather feeble—that on a matter such as this apparently a Minister who was not even directly responsible for the sanctions business conducted the talks with the oil companies and that, after that, somehow the document which contained the statement about these talks wandered round from the secretary to the Cabinet to Ministers here and people there, and no one really took much notice of it. If the account is true, and probably it is, it is a very strange commentary on the seriousness with which the Labour Government in 1969 took the whole issue of sanctions.
But even more astonishing was that, according to the Bingham report, between 1969 and 1976, for a period of seven years, there was no further contact between the Government and the oil companies. That is a most extraordinary situation. Here we had economic sanctions, in which oil clearly was a key factor, approved year in and year out by this 877 House. It was a policy which we had persuaded the international community to adopt and endorse. Yet for a period of seven years there was, according to Bingham—and there is no reason to dispute it—no serious contact between the Governments of the day—Conservative and Labour—and the oil companies about how matters were progressing, despite the fact that it was common knowledge in the world at large that oil was flowing freely through South Africa to Rhodesia. In fact, at the time of the oil crisis in the autumn of 1973 and the beginning of 1974, it was a joke that while we were printing petrol coupons with a view to introducing a rationing scheme, petrol was freely available in Salisbury. Yet no effective action was taken.
In 1973, there was an interesting change, because the Arab countries decided, for their own policy reasons, to impose an oil embargo against South Africa. As a result, South Africa became almost entirely dependent upon Iran for her oil and to this day gets 90 per cent. of her supplies from Iran, which may have some political significance in the present situation.
But far from bringing any additional pressure to bear on South Africa to reinforce the sanctions policy in the period from 1974, I regret to say that since 1974 the Labour Government on three occasions used the veto in the Security Council to protect South Africa from the consequences of her own policies.
The result of all this has been that with sanctions allowed to become ineffective by the neglect of the United Kingdom Government and of the Western world—I emphasise again the responsibility of the United States, France, Germany and other Western Powers in this, because it is very important—we had the drift into civil war in Rhodesia, with the African groupings and leaders coming to the conclusion that they could not look to effective action from the Western world and that there was no alternative but to reach for the gun.
As for Bingham, more than two years ago, in June 1976, there was published in New York a document called "The Oil Conspiracy" by a group called the United Church of Christ. This was based on hitherto secret documents of the Mobil 878 company, which indicated clearly the paper chase and the various schemes and stratagems that Mobil, at least—and, by inference, other oil companies—had been using to get around sanctions.
I mention the date of June 1976 because within a couple of months the British Government were telling the United Nations Sanctions Committee, on 2nd September 1976:The competent United Kingdom authorities have studied the report most carefully, and have discussed its contents with the British oil companies mentioned. These authorities are satisfied that the report contains no evidence of sanction breaking by any British company or individuals, and have accepted the assurance given by Shell and BP that neither they nor any company in which they have an interest has engaged, either directly, or with others, in supplying crude oil or oil products to Rhodesia. This is the same position established as that in 1968, when Her Majesty's Government investigated similar charges at the highest level with the same companies.We had the documents produced in New York, thorough and comprehensive statements, and the Government cheerfully rejected the idea that Shell or BP could be involved in anything. Yet, within seven months of this clear denial that anything wrong was going on, the Bingham inquiry was set up. During the course of that inquiry various bodies have produced abundant evidence of breach of oil sanctions. Just about a year ago, on 16th December 1977, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling on the Security Council to impose oil sanctions against South Africa. This was carried by 113 votes to nil, with 10 abstentions. I cannot give the names of the abstaining countries, but I suspect that they were the Western Powers.
The crucial point which emerges from this history is our policy towards South Africa. In a sense this debate on Rhodesia is a debate on our relations with South Africa. It is peculiarly appropriate that this should be taking place in International Anti-Apartheid Year. Smith's rebellion was possible, and has been continued, only because of support by South Africa. Smith's war machine is fuelled by oil from South Africa. The international war which is now spreading from Rhodesia into Mozambique, into Zambia, into Botswana and, perhaps soon, into Angola, is being waged by aircraft, trucks and military weapons fuelled by oil supplied by South Africa.
879 The United Nations position is clear. We should support oil sanctions against South Africa. I believe that this is the logic—one Conservative Member said this—of continuing with the policy of sanctions against Rhodesia.
An interesting report has just been submitted to the United Nations Centre against Apartheid by two British economists, Martin Bailey and Bernard Rivers, which deals in detail with oil sanctions against South Africa. It points out that oil is the one vital raw material that South Africa does not possess. A total of 90 per cent. of her supplies come from Iran, and this is vital for the strategic mobility of her armed forces.
The report deals with the suggestion that South Africa could get by for some time without oil imports. It is suggested that she has only one and a half year's stocks and her capacity to produce oil from coal, which has been commented upon a great deal, amounts to meeting only 1 per cent. of her needs. It would be quite feasible for the international community to take a decision that any oil tankers that broke the sanctions and called at South Africa could be subsequently impounded when they called at any other port.
I have concentrated on the sanctions issue because I believe that it is very important to the credibility of this country and other Western countries within the United Nations. I believe that it is very important to the United Nations system of collective security, and that if we do not now abandon the policy of indifference and casual approach towards the issue, make sanctions really effective and take on the challenge of South Africa, not only the interests of this country but the chances of a peaceful settlement of disputes in the world at large will be seriously imperilled.
§ 12.26 a.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
One can only admire the moral certainty with which some Members speak not only about the Bingham report, in which the issues were fairly clear, but about Rhodesia, where it is much more difficult to get at the truth.
I think that many Members who have spoken regard the situation in Rhodesia either as one of a small racial 880 minority determined to maintain its privileges against an oppressed majority, or as one of a community battling for Christian values against the forces of international Communism. These two views may be tenable, but they do not assist in reaching the sort of settlement which I sincerely believe is wanted by Members on both sides of the House, namely, the peaceful transition of Rhodesia towards a stable Government—a Government elected by the majority of its people. As I understand it, that is what is wanted by both Government and Opposition, and it does no good to speak in such terms of moral certainty and to ignore the realities.
No one who has visited Rhodesia, as I did this summer, can fail to be impressed by the tremendous achievements by 250,000 mostly British people with the willing co-operation of about 6 million Africans. They have achieved a standard of living and standards in other respects, technical and cultural, which are tremendously impressive. The Europeans there have a higher standard of living than the average European has in Europe itself, and the average African in Rhodesia has a much higher standard of living than is obtainable elsewhere in Africa.
But the unilateral declaration of independence was wrong, tragically wrong. It was based upon a massive miscalculation, which has led to terrible distress, suffering and bloodshed for the people of Rhodesia. In making that disastrous error, Mr. Smith and his colleagues were actuated by a fundamental misconception. They simply did not believe that their Africans had the capacity to share in the government of their country, at least not up to the standard that they required. That misconception, that misunderstanding, that mistake, has been made elsewhere in Africa, and yet by now it must surely have been proved to our cost that it was a disastrous error.
I remember that when I was a district officer in Nigeria at the time when that country was gaining its independence by evolutionary and peaceful progress through constitutional development, we used to be surprised at the fact that people whom we had regarded as fire-eating nationalists suddenly became responsible politicians who actually wanted to learn and who, in partnership with their British 881 colleagues, were able to learn and took advantage of the lessons that we passed on to them. That is something that Mr. Smith and his colleagues have not been able to do in Rhodesia, at least, not until recently.
Unfortunately, not one senior post in the army, the police and the civil service in Rhodesia was filled by an African until just over a year ago. That condemns Mr. Smith and his colleagues, because of their wrong attitude to African development. The whole story might have been different, and we might not have been here today, if only people like Mr. Smith had associated the Africans in the development of their country. That would have built up a feeling among some educated Africans—there are plenty in Rhodesia—of belonging to their country and sharing in its constitutional development.
However, I believe that the internal settlement represents a tremendous change by Mr. Smith and his colleagues. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) quoted something that Mr. Smith said to him some years ago, so perhaps I might quote something that Mr. Smith said to me more recently.
I said to him, "Don't you think now that it was disastrous error to go for UDI in 1965, considering the damage, the suffering and the misery that it has brought on the people of Rhodesia?" He said, "Not at all. I am even more convinced now that I was right then. We should have been in this position within two years instead of 13." In other words, he regarded UDI as worth it, in spite of all the suffering that it has caused, because they got an extra 11 years of the same sort of constitutional regime as they had had up to then, and without the nuisance of interference by the British Government.
§ Mr. Fairbairn
When Zambia became independent, there were four African graduates. Now, after 13 years of UDI, there are 40,000 African graduates in Rhodesia. Is it not more hopeful that Rhodesia will be a better prospect than Zambia now is?
§ Mr. Stanbrook
Yes, there is a lot to be said for that point of view. I could 882 cite Nigeria, for which I had some responsibility, as a good example. It had 1,000 lawyers, 1,000 doctors and thousands of other graduates by the time we passed the country over to self-government.
But the more educated people there are, the more danger there is in excluding them from some participation in political development. We Britons live by democracy. We taught the world our form of democracy. It is the only form we know. It follows that if we administered a colony and did not allow the subject peoples a say in government, eventually they would be bound to demand it, because that is what we had taught them. That happened elsewhere in Africa, and it certainly happened in Rhodesia.
In spite of all that, I believe that Mr. Smith made the right decision in March when he sought the co-operation of nationalist leaders in an internal settlement. It is a great misfortune for Rhodesia that only Bishop Muzorewa and Mr. Sithole—Chief Chirau does not represent a significant political force—took advantage of that offer. There is no doubt that the internal settlement was a genuine attempt at progress of a multiracial kind towards a constitution which would be acceptable to the majority, satisfy the six principles, and ultimately obtain for Rhodesia international recognition.
Much of the blame for what has happened since must attach to the British Government. Instead of rising to the occasion and seeing that it was possible that there was a fundamental change in the outlook of the white rulers of Rhodesia, they gave it the cold shoulder; they ignored it, castigated it and provided the opportunity for Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe to be intransigent. Intransigence has been the besetting sin of all politicians, both black and white, in connection with Rhodesia. Leadership can sometimes transform a situation. When leadership was demanded of the British Government it was not supplied.
The only policy of this British Government for bringing about a settlement is to encourage people to go to the conference table. What is beyond that? What happens if Mugabe will not go to the conference table? What happens if everybody is unreasonable in his 883 demands? This could happen. Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe do not think that it is necessary to negotiate at a roundtable conference because they believe that they are achieving their aims through violence. They do not want elections, because they know that they would not win them.
There is a striking parallel between Mr. Nkomo of Rhodesia and Dr. Nnambe Azikiwe of Nigeria. Dr. Azikiwe was the most famous African nationalist politician in the 1930s and 1940s. He was well known outside Nigeria, just as Mr. Nkomo has been known in the last 20 years in Rhodesia. Dr. Azikiwe, for all his long experience and age, represented a party the political support for which was based upon tribes. In Africa almost all politics are so based. Mr. Nkomo's support arises from his tribal group which, like the Ibos of Nigeria, is in a minority.
Ultimately, Mr. Nkomo will go the way that Dr. Azikiwe went. He will be taken on as the acknowledged father of his people for a little while, and possibly as a president. But he will not have the support that would be given to a truly representative African leader from the majority tribe or tribes.
Just as Dr. Azikiwe found that he did not have the power in Nigeria, and was in fact displaced by a younger man representing the majority tribe, so in Rhodesia we shall find that Mr. Nkomo will be similarly displaced. I hope that we do not have to press the parallel further, because we all know what Dr. Azikiwe's tribe did—it rebelled against the constitution, and there was terrible bloodshed and many millions of lives were lost. That could happen in Rhodesia.
Yet it is in that direction that the British Government want to push Rhodesia. Many Labour Members who have been involved in African politics in the past and know Mr. Nkomo very well fondly imagine that he is another Nehru. In fact, I think he is another Dr. Azikiwe, and that they are backing the wrong horse.
That is not the only mistake that the British Government have made. Perhaps a more important one is that in the White Paper setting out the Anglo-American proposals it was stated that the Zimbabwe national army would be formed from the 884 Rhodesian security forces and the guerrilla forces. But in the statement issued by the Foreign Secretary personally in Salisbury on the date of publication of the White Paper, he said that the Zimbabwe national army would be based on the guerrilla armies with only "acceptable elements" from the Rhodesian security forces.
What is the inference from that? What conclusion can the white population of Rhodesia draw from that? Only that the British Government intend that the Rhodesian security forces should be disbanded and that the terrorists should take over before the creation of the Zimbabwe national army. If that is so, and if that happens, it is no wonder that the white Rhodesian community—small and mostly British—will go on fighting until the end.
§ 12.43 a.m.
§ Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
There are many hon. Members on the Conservative Benches who have been sitting here as long as I have, and I do not intend to prolong my speech unduly.
The present Prime Minister, on 8th December last, stood at the Dispatch Box and talked aboutlapses in accepted standards of public administration "—[Official Report, 8th December 1977; Vol. 940, c. 1650].That description seems to be about the politest that we can give today's subject —the matter of Bingham, and the sanctions-busting. We have seen lapses in the conduct of public administration. Unless he is pushed, I do not expect the Prime Minister to be as forceful over this issue as he was on the issue of 11 months ago, which was, of course, the Crown Agents. The Prime Minister came to the House a week after the Government had been defeated on the issue of the Crown Agents, having been forced to set up a further inquiry because of the unsatisfactory nature of the debate and the answers given following the Fay committee inquiry.
I intend to address my remarks to the Bingham report itself, not the foreign policy implications, because I am not qualified to do that. I have learnt a lot today from the debate, but the point is that the debate should have been about the report. There does seem to have been a bit of a "con" here. The Prime Minister said today that he intended to 885 have a two-day debate on Bingham, so I am taking him literally and concentrating solely on that. It is unfortunate that we have not heard as much about Bingham from the Opposition Benches as I should have liked. I understand the reasons for that, and the reasons why Rhodesia, in its wider context, has been the subject of many of the speeches.
There are many aspects of the report by Bingham and Gray which are unsatisfactory and leave many questions unanswered. I shall go into two in particular. The speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) lasted about an hour and seemed to drag everyone in—every Tom, Dick and Harry who had ever been a civil servant, a Prime Minister, a Foreign Secretary, an energy Minister, even on one occasion, a Speaker, Lord Chancellors, Attorney-General—they were all roped in. In fact, I almost expected my right hon. Friend to mention the Leyland and Ford shop stewards. He encompassed almost everybody. Never have I seen a political net cast so wide.
When my right hon. Friend talked about Lord Thomson and the oil companies, he concentrated solely on the meeting of February 1969. He did not once mention either of the other two meetings that took place between Ministers and the oil companies. I want to draw the attention of the House to only one aspect of 6th February 1969, as set out in annex II, at page 268. The beauty about that minute, which was carefully kept for us, is that it describes the swap arrangements in considerable detail. It is not the first indication of the swap arrangements. The last sentence in paragraph 4 of the minute says:Mr. Thomson said that it would be useful to know how these arrangements were working.Mr. Thomson mentioned the fact that the chairman of Shell, Mr. McFadzean, had, at the meeting in February 1968, referred to arrangements.
The middle of paragraph 5 states that the then chairman of Shell said:The arrangements which had been made were as follows.Then he described the swap arrangements, in answer to a request by the then Comonwealth Secretary. He was referring back to a meeting in February 1968.
Because the minutes of the meetings in 1968 do not describe the swap arrange- 886 ments whereas the minutes of the 1969 meeting do, that does not mean that we are left with the tale that is put about by the former Prime Minister, to the effect that February 1969 was the first time that anybody in the Government knew about the swap arrangements, because clearly that is not the case; otherwise, why would Lord Thomson have said—I paraphrase him—" By the way, how are those arrangements that we talked about last February working out?"
Paragraph 4 of the minutes, supplied by the Civil Service, of the meeting held on 21st February 1968 says:the rearrangements made in the modus operandi would prevent the diversion of British oil".It is as plain as a pikestaff that at the February 1968 meeting discussion took place about how they would organise the swap arrangements. It is not spelt out in great detail, but it is referred to in that way. A year later the swap arrangements are referred to again when the matter is chased up.
It is the 1968 minutes, particularly paragraph 7, that spell out the fact that Ministers were acting in concert with the bosses of the oil companies in order to lie to this place. That is the crucial issue. We see how the companies suggest the phrasing of answers to parliamentary questions—"By the way, use any one of three sentences in any statement or answer you make, and you cannot be accused of telling a lie." That is what they were cooking up in fixing a formula so that Ministers could lie to the House.
This is an important issue, but there are no votes in it. The issue of Bingham and sanctions-busting is not alive in my constituency. But what is an issue in my constituency is the fact that once again we have seen yet another example of the big boys in London carving matters up, covering up and not telling the truth. The top nobs always get away with it. What was said in my constituency—because this matter has been given a good deal of attention in the media—was "Who will be brought to book over this matter, or is it another case"—and this Government, under the present Attorney-General, has a pretty good record on this aspect—"of going after all the little fish and letting the big fish 887 escape?" This is the biggest example of that attitude in the last four years. It is all laid out for us in the Bingham report —in a way that no constitutional textbook has ever done—showing how Ministers got together to organise how they could systematically lie to this House.
There is a distinction between the minutes of 1968 and those of 1969—a distinction which requires an explanation. At the top of the minutes of 1969, set out in annex II, on page 268, there is a note:This document was formerly classified and has been de-classified for the purpose of publication.I bet it was, because that was the one that tells all about the swap. But there is no such note at the top of the minutes of 1968. I do not know whether that means that the 1968 minutes were not classified in the normal Civil Service way. Clearly they were not made available to this House or the public prior to publication of the Bingham report.
We must remember that there was a third meeting, to which few hon. Members have referred—the meeting in December 1967. Because of the lack of indexing and cross-referencing in Bingham, I missed the fact that there were no appendices relating to the 1967 meeting. It was only when I looked at the report by Andrew Phillips, entitled "A Review of the Bingham Report: Social Audit Special Report 1978" that I noted in appendix C a list of questions relating to facts that should be elicited for the future. One such question was:Where is the HMG minute of the meeting between the oil companies and George Thomson on 11.12.68?That is a misprint. It should read "1967", as I understand from Mr. Phillips' colleague.
There is no such minute. The December 1967 meeting is referred to in paragraph 6.27 of the Bingham report, but in view of the contents of the 1969 minutes, spelling out the swap arrangements, why are not the minutes of that meeting set out at the back of the Bingham report? Did they at that meeting decide to have further meetings to tie up the swap arrangements? Another meeting certainly took place fairly soon, 888 in February 1968. Were they told in 1967 "We shall have to cook something up?" That is how the matter appears. The House in its further inquiries must examine why those minutes were not included in the Bingham report. Such an inquiry should seek to answer some of the other questions asked by Mr. Phillips. May we, for example, see the minutes of the meeting that took place in 1967 between the chairman of Shell and the Prime Minister of South Africa? That would be a useful document for a House of Commons inquiry to have before it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) referred to another question raised by Mr. Phillips. Were there no contacts between Shell, BP and the Government on sanctions breaking during the seven years after the 1969 meeting with George Thomson? Seven years elapsed, and there were two changes of Government and three General Elections. It is inconceivable that no contact took place.
At the back of the Bingham report, at pages 283 and 284 there is a letter to Sir Michael Palliser dated 30th June 1976 from the chairman of Shell, Sir Frank McFadzean. The letter was written on the day that Sir Frank retired as chairman of Shell. He wrote in the last paragraph that he wasabout to vacate the Shell chair".Never was there a truer statement. That was written on literally his last day as chairman of Shell. He spelt out to Sir Michael Palliser, chief Foreign Office official and permanent under-secretary, that he was referring to the report published in Washington by the United Church of Christ. He reminded Sir Michael of two of the three meetings. I do not know why he did not remind him of the third one. He reminded Sir Michael of the meetings that took place in December 1967 and February 1968. He did not remind him of the meeting in 1969 that clarified for all concerned at that time the details of the swap arrangement.
The company was, in effect, saying "By the way, if the Government are questioned we remind you, should you have forgotten, that we have done a deal between ourselves and Ministers to keep 889 the matter under wraps." The letter stated thatany public escalation of this issue can only make an already difficult situation more difficult ".Never was a truer statement made. I find it incredible that that letter is the first recorded contact in seven years. I do not believe that it was. If any Member is prepared to say that there was no contact during that time, I shall not believe him.
I speak with no experience, but I do not believe that the British Government work in that way. We know that they do not miss a trick. They work with minute precision in organising and drafting their letters and minutes. I do not believe that during seven years there was no contact and that nothing was recorded.
That is why I was pleased last Thursday night when, at a private meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton said "Let us have all the papers." My right hon. Friend said that again today. Indeed, he went further and said that we should have the departmental papers.
We want more than the Cabinet minutes. It could be that the Cabinet was lied to, or was not told anything. The Cabinet minutes will not tell us the full story. We want the departmental papers. We want the papers that my right hon. Friend has not seen. For example, I I know that he has not seen the papers of the Department of Energy and the Ministry of Defence. These are departmental papers that bear the names of officials and set out the background.
We also need the Government papers before UDI. In my opinion Mr. Bingham started at the wrong date. He should have started in October 1964, the time of the incoming Government. According to the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles), Smith said that things changed because of the change of Government. The hon. Gentleman told us that Smith said that he would not have declared UDI if the Tory Party had still been in power following the 1964 General Election.
From October 1964 until UDI there was to-ing and fro-ing, phone calls and meetings in Rhodesia and in London. The British Government machine must have been at least drawing up an agenda of 890 what might happen on the declaration of UDI. A civil servant must have put on paper for his senior civil servants or Ministers a scenario of what might happen. That is the way in which the Civil Service works, as I understand it. If civil servants say that they did not do it, I do not believe them.
I want us to see the papers in which what it was thought might happen was laid out. One of the crucial factors in any assessment of that situation would, of course, be oil. Some civil servant must have thought it necessary to put on paper, between late 1964 and in 1965 before UDI, the question "What about the oil?" We shall need to see such papers. I do not believe anyone who says that they do not exist.
Perhaps such papers have been destroyed. I would accept that. There have probably been bonfires in several Departments. However, the papers were drafted, and there were civil servants doing the work at that time. I just do not believe that the British Government machine works in any other way. Such papers are important. This is an unfortunate aspect of Bingham. It is not Bingham's fault; it is the fault of the terms of reference. There is a slight flaw in the report. I think that Bingham started at the wrong date.
Who should look at all these further papers? I support the suggestion of setting up a Select Committee. We cannot simply leave the matter as it is. That would be totally unacceptable. The phrase used by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) was "parliamentary inquiry". He did not use the term "Select Committee". It was someone else who used that term later. However, we normally think of a parliamentary inquiry in terms of a Select Committee.
I am prepared to accept that it will probably have to be a Joint Committee of both Houses to overcome the problem that might arise if Members of the other place do not wish to appear before a Select Committee of this place. I understand that we cannot force them to do so, because of the privileges of the two Houses.
It is not just former Ministers in the other place who have an interest in this matter. I suspect that Lord Greenhill of 891 Harrow will have a few things to say to any Committee of this House that is set up to inquire into the matter, because he retires today, I think, as the Government-appointed director of BP. That in itself is worth a few paragraphs before any Select Committee.
I have told the Prime Minister that when we consider appointing a new Government director of BP to replace Lord Greenhill, the very minimum that we ought to do is to advertise the post before we announce the decision. Let us advertise the post and see what happens. It would be intolerable, following this debacle, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I tabled a Question to the Prime Minister on this subject, and it was immediately transferred to the Treasury —to announce, in reply to a planted Written Question, that he has appointed so-and-so as the new Government director of BP, without any consultation with the House or his Back Benchers. Let us advertise the job and state the terms and conditions and what is required of the person who will have to watch over the company on behalf of the taxpayers, and to do a job of work. A job of work has clearly not been done.
I am prepared to accept a Select Committee, but that presents certain problems for me. I have no experience of serving on a Select Committee. I have been blacked whenever I have volunteered to serve on a Select Committee. Some tell me that that is a big advantage, and a plus for me. I am prepared to live with that. It is fine. But we know the way in which Select Committees are set up. It is done by patronage. The Whips decide these matters.
Therefore, my view of Select Committees is that they ought to be packed with people who, first, are not Privy Councillors. Let us have no Privy Councillors on this Select Committee. Let us have no one on this Select Committee who has been a Minister. It is unfair to suggest that the membership of the Select Committee should not include anyone who has served in the House prior to 1974. That is probably going a hit too far. However, the Select Committee does not need to be packed with people who have spent 30 years sitting on the Front Benches, because clearly they are people at the root of the malaise of getting the 892 Government machine fixed up so that it can lie to the House.
This is not the only problem. Lying to the House over sanctions is the tip of the iceberg. One of the reasons why we need to bring to book those responsible is to send off a warning shot to those who are now lying to the House on other matters. It goes on every week. We must tell them that if they step out of line, one day it may be uncovered. If the House sets up an inquiry to get to the bottom of this matter, it may deter present and future Ministers, of any party, from fixing the sort of deal that Lord Thomson fixed with the oil barons so that a form of words is produced deliberately to mislead the House. There needs to be a warning shot across the bows.
We must also exclude Parliamentary Private Secretaries from the Select Committee. Hon. Members who have seen the news tapes tonight will know that, on the orders of the Prime Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore) has been sacked as a PPS for doing his job as a parliamentarian in a Select Committee on Friday. What faith can we have in any PPS put on the Select Committee? How can we be sure that he is not a Government placeman? We may have trouble finding a chairman, but I am willing to be guided by those who have had more experience than I in these matters. We do not want a Select Committee of placemen; we want a Committee that will do a real job for the public, which is important, and on behalf of hon. Members.
There are two other vital matters that I wish to raise. Hon. Members may not like my raising them, but this is the only place that I can discuss them, and they are relevant to our debate.
With one or two honourable exceptions, there has been silence on the Conservative Benches about the need to get to the bottom of the matters raised by the Bingham report and the need to bring to book those who were politically responsible for what happened. When the report came out, I asked myself why the eager young Turks in the Opposition were not going for the Government's jugular vein.
§ Mr. Rooker
The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) may 893 prove me incorrect, but why are the eager young Back-Bench Conservative Members, who are rooting to get their hands on a ministerial post if their party gets to power, not going for the Government's jugular vein on Bingham? There is plenty of evidence. They do not have to look for it. It is all there. The homework has been done for them.
I thought that perhaps those hon. Members were bearing in mind that the implication of the Bingham report was that the Conservative Government of 1970 to 1974 did nothing about the issue, but I believe that they cannot be held to be as morally accountable as can my right hon. Friends. I expect higher standards from my right hon. Friends than I do from the Conservatives. Deep down, we think that they do not believe in sanctions and we would not have expected them to pursue the matter with vigour between 1970 and 1974.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
I do not wish to add to the length of the hon. Gentleman's speech, but does he not realise the bitterness that is felt on the Opposition Benches at the fact that the Royal Navy was used to patrol off Beira when it was known that it was on a futile mission?
§ Mr. Rooker
I was not in the House between 1970 and 1974. It may be that there are records of Conservative Members chastising their Government and urging that the Beira patrol should be withdrawn, because everyone knew that the oil was getting through.
But there is more to it than that, including the seven-year gap in the contacts between the oil companies and the Government. I put myself in the place of the alert, democratic Conservative Back Benchers who want to be partisan, and in the run-up to a General Election there is a case for being partisan. Why are they not going for the Government's jugular vein? It may be that they do not want to implicate their former leader and colleagues in the Shadow Cabinet. That may hold some of them back, but some Tory Members normally have the courage—and they need courage—to have a go at their own people, to ask a few questions and to try to bring them to account.
894 There must be other reasons for the silence on the Conservative Benches. I cannot go into all the reasons, but one must be the issue of Castrol. The only speech that I missed was that of the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker). Of all the other speakers, only one has mentioned the word "Castrol". It was my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, of course, because he knew that I would raise it if he did not. In the introduction to the Bingham report, which hon. Members will have read, there is a paragraph on page v which states:At the very end of March of this year"—that is, 1978—we learned for the first time that since 1965 lubricants had been marketed in Rhodesia under the brand-name Castrol. We at once took this matter up with Castrol Limited, which in 1965 had a branch in South Africa and a sub-branch in Rhodesia, and which subsequently formed a locally-incorporated company in South Africa. We have since then pursued the matter with Castrol Limited as far as possible but without obtaining any clear picture as to how these products reached Rhodesia.We know that Castrol is now being looked into by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Castrol Limited is not just a company which was flogging a few tins of lubricating oil and greases. It is not an unimportant subject, for without the lubricating oils and greases, all the lakes of petrol in the world would not have been any good for running the internal combustion engines. If we could have stopped the Castrol lubricating oils reaching Rhodesia, it would not have mattered about the BP and Shell petroleum products, the ordinary petrol and diesel oil, reaching Rhodesia. Castrol therefore becomes an important factor in the equation.
Why have not Conservative Members been raising the issue of Castrol? Not one of them has mentioned it. Only BP and Shell have been mentioned. It cannot be beyond the wit of anyone in this House to put two and two together. It is as plain as a pikestaff. No Conservative Back Bencher will raise the matter of Castrol because he would not want to embarrass his leadership. The simple matter is that between 1967–68 and 1976 a director of Castrol Limited, the company referred to in the report and now the subject of the DPP's inquiries, was Mr. Denis Thatcher, MBE.
895 That must be a relevant factor in the calculations of any Tory Member of Parliament. I am not saying that it is the only reason, and I am not making any personal attacks on the Leader of the Opposition. No one is responsible for other members of his or her family. I am talking of the minds of the Conservative Back Benchers and why they have not gone for the Government's jugular vein on this issue of the report and, in particular, Castrol—because Castrol is an important aspect. It is to the undying shame of the Conservative Opposition that no Tory Member of Parliament has been willing even to raise the matter, and that it has been left to a Labour Member and to the Foreign Secretary, of course, to mention it and to get it somewhere near the record.
I hope that the rest of the debate today and tomorrow will again bring calls, as there have been calls today, for a full parliamentary inquiry into all aspects of the matter and to bring all the Ministers to book, so that we are not put off with another rewriting of history such as we had for an hour this afternoon. What we want to know is what happened. There is only one way to get that information, and that is by having all the papers and all the persons concerned brought before Members of this House.
§ 1.13 a.m.
§ Sir Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) has made a pretty devastating speech. The questions that he has raised should certainly be answered. This reinforces the view that I —and, I believe, an increasing number of Members on each side of the House—have formed, that the case for a parliamentary inquiry into this sorry business is unanswerable.
This has been a fascinating debate and I only hope that after the welter of self-relevation and self-justification from certain key figures in the drama we shall not allow ourseves to forget the eminently practical and sensible suggestions made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) in a most notable speech, full of common sense, refreshing, realistic and a delight to hear.
Later, I listened with great respect to the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough 896 (Mr. Bottomley). He and I have a long association together on the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I know him well. He is an honourable man, who cares passionately, as I do, for the Commonwealth relationship which has been so gravely damaged by the Rhodesian rebellion. The right hon. Gentleman asked a key question: when it was clear to Ministers that sanctions were being broken—he was no longer in office —why was Parliament not told? That is the question that I ask. Twice in the course of the debate today I have put that question—first, to the former Prime Minister and, secondly, to a former Foreign Secretary. On neither occasion did I get a convincing answer.
I do not propose to argue that the oil companies or anyone in London deliberately set out to encourage the Rhodesian Government to proclaim UDI on 11th November 1965. Bingham rejects the idea of any deliberate conspiracy. Wherever criticisms can be directed at transnational companies operating across national boundaries, we must accept that those trading in Southern Africa were and are in acute difficulties, because the general practice is to observe the laws of the countries in which they operate. Here was a clear conflict between the laws of this country and of South Africa.
Nor do I suggest that sanctions were imposed by the Labour Government knowing at the outset that they would be ineffective. Of course not. Efforts were made up to 1967 to stop the oil flowing. The Beira patrol took up its station, and the then Foreign Secretary was probably correct in saying that the naval blockade cut off the shortest and cheapest supply route for oil to Rhodesia.
But let us consider the underlying realities. Bingham is vague on the subject and does not answer all the questions. I make no criticism on that score. Mr. Bingham and his colleague, with a relatively small staff, had a monumental task to undertake.
It has been alleged elsewhere that about one month before UDI Rhodesia had 24 days' supply of oil. By the end of November—about a fortnight after UDI—Rhodesia had a three months' supply. What is more, she had managed to cut off oil to beleagured, landlocked, Zambia.
897 Why did the Government at that time not ask the very simple question: why did Ian Smith feel so confident about UDI? Is it not incredible that our intelligence services were so defective or that the system was such as to prevent the information available becoming available to Ministers? I ask that question because by early 1966 the oil was flowing quite freely into Rhodesia over the Limpopo line. By April 1966, when the Security Council was voting on sanctions, Rhodesia was getting all the oil that she needed. In fact, by 1967 the oil companies had cut back their supplies because the Rhodesians had no storage capacity left. The country was awash with oil.
If we accept what the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) said today, none of this was known to Ministers. That was the effect of his speech. All I can say is that if the Government were unaware of what was going on they should have been aware. It is the business of Government to govern. It is not for the Civil Service to govern. It is the business of Ministers to ask questions, to insist on information, to be accountable to the House of Commons. That is what we are here for. Otherwise, we are wasting our time.
The right hon. Gentleman admitted that as early as 1967, 12 days before he saw President de Gaulle, allegations were being discussed between British and French civil servants in Paris of breaches of conventions by the oil companies.
All this reflects gravely on the efficiency and the awareness of Ministers and their advisers. I can see no alternative to our holding a searching parliamentary inquiry.
That leads me to make two observations. In the House I have not spoken on Rhodesia for 17 years. Long before I had the responsibility for steering the Southern Rhodesia (Constitution) Bill through the House in 1961—a Bill that would have brought Africans into the Southern Rhodesian Parliament for the first time—I was convinced that it was wrong that Africans should be denied a share in the direction of their own government. For me, this was a great watershed, a great move forward, in line with everything that was taking place elsewhere in the former colonial empire.
898 How right my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) was! How can one talk of advancing people without educating them, and if one educates them how can one fail—here I am paraphrasing Macaulay, speaking in 1833 on the subject of India—to give a vent for ambition, and if there is a vent for ambition what will one's subjects seek to do but to emulate one's example and govern themselves? It was inevitable. It was all part of the process.
Therefore, to me what we did in 1961 was right, proper and timely. It was a tragedy that Sir Edgar Whitehead, who accepted that constitution, was defeated in the 1962 elections and Southern Rhodesia then started down the road to confrontation, rebellion and bloody violence.
It was for that reason that, like most of my hon. Friends, I went along with the notion that sanctions were necessary, after the fatal step of UDI had been taken, to bring Ian Smith to his senses and cause him to return to legality. However, in my view, if there had been a case for sanctions it disappeared when Ian Smith, admittedly under pressure, concluded his internal settlement.
I recall the Minister of State assuring the House in the debate on the renewal of sanctions in 1976 thatDetailed contingency planning is under way."—[Official Report, 20th October 1976; Vol. 917, c. 1614.]for the lifting of sanctions on the establishment of an interim Government in Rhodesia. It is true that we have not yet reached the stage at which elections can put the stamp of approval on what has been achieved so far. But the elections have been made infinitely more difficult by the Government's failure to recognise the settlement as a basis for a return to legality, and as a consequence we have seen an escalation of violence on both sides.
One of my hon. Friends suggested that the removal of sanctions would escalate violence. What, in heaven's name, has been taking place in the last two or three years but mounting bloody violence on a scale which horrifies us all? Who constitutes the majority of the casualties? Certainly it is not the whites of Rhodesia. The vast majority are innocent Africans 899 caught up in this tragedy. If it was right last year and the year before to support sanctions against the rebel regime, it cannot be right to do so now that Ian Smith has conceded a large part of what sanctions were designed to bring about.
My second observation is that we now know that sanctions were and are a farce. An elaborate pretence was kept up that they existed and that they were biting. That is the phrase that was so often used by Ministers at the Dispatch Box. We have had a procession of Ministers at that Box telling us, I prefer to think unwittingly—perhaps it is a characteristic of government in this country under all parties that so often the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing—what we now know to be untrue, and we can be fairly certain now that before announcing UDI Mr. Smith and his Cabinet were well aware that the oil would continue to flow by one means or another. We also know now that when Ministers were told in 1968 that their brave pressures on Smith, including the naval blockade on Beira, were a sham, they did not tell Parliament and the nation the truth of the matter.
So I come to my main theme. I do not think that any hon. Member has said this, so far in as many words. Taking the long term, what is being discussed today concerns this country even more, perhaps, than Rhodesia. It is not just that sanctions have been a farce and that at no time was the Smith regime injured by them in any significant sense: it is that Parliament's right to know has been treated with contempt by Ministers It is not for the first time. It has happened before. At this late hour I shall not go into the cases that I have in mind. But it has happened before. Parliament has been kept deliberately in the dark and deceived. There is no doubt that everyone in this case has been deceived. The supporters of sanctions have been deceived. Those of us who thought that sanctions were likely to be effective have been deceived. Those who opposed sanctions have been deceived. Parliament as a whole has been deceived. Our friends and partners in the Commonwealth have been deceived. One hon. Member said that the only beneficiary was the Soviet 900 Union. In an indirect sense, there may be some force in that. But as far as can see the only beneficiary has been the rebel regime itself.
It is ironic that the deception practised by those who were seeking to bring the rebel regime to the conference table has aided and abetted treason. In an earlier and more robust age, Ministers responsible for these offences against Parliament and the nation would have been impeached. It is a measure of the decline in the authority of Parliament and in the credibility of government in this country that this sort of thing can happen and that the years can roll on.
In answer to the question posed by the hon. Member for Perry Barr, the only reason why this matter suddenly surfaced was the appearance of a report emanating from Washington, and so an attempt was made at the last moment to start explaining matters to the Government, who may well have seen this report. The words were quoted by a Government supporter, so I shall not go over them again. But for that we would still not have had Bingham. There would have been no inquiry and no debate, and we would not be troubled by this matter. We would be drifting along, as we do in the conduct of pretty nearly all our affairs.
There is a lesson in this for all who care about the reputation, indeed, the future, of Parliament itself. Even in a democracy, Governments cannot automatically be trusted. Power is corrupting. Unless Ministers are made to answer for the powers that they exercise in our name, power will corrupt. Alas, our parliamentary system, once the envy of constitutionalists the world over, has grown too weak to ensure that Ministers can answer effectively, either in Whitehall or at the Dispatch Box.
For reasons that we all understand, this Parliament has achieved very little of note, but it might still secure a respectable niche in history if it sent out a message loud and clear that it will not tolerate deception, that it accepts the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire of a parliamentary inquiry into this sorry business, and that, following this, significant steps will be taken to reform our procedures here to strengthen the Legislature in relation to 901 the Executive. As The Times said in a notable leading article on 7th September:The issues now extend far beyond the Rhodesian sanctions themselves. They involve the integrity of government.
§ 1.31 a.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I share the views expressed by all hon. Members and say how sorry I am that John Davies is no longer with us. I also wish to express my sympathy for the relatives of Brigadier Paul Ward, the late secretary of the British group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, who died a few days ago and who did an awful lot for hon. Members on both sides, in a personal way, at home and abroad. His passing is a sad loss.
I ought to declare an interest in this debate because I have property in Rhodesia—a farm which I used to farm, and still try to, near a place called Wankie, which is about 95 miles from Victoria Falls. I am also probably the only Member of Parliament who has lived in Rhodesia for any length of time. That interest, which one has to declare, is normally supposed to put an hon. Member on the defensive. I do not find it so in this debate. Perhaps it is the lateness of the hour which has caused me not to feel at a disadvantage.
If a person lives in a country, for only a few months or weeks, and he has a home there, he understands far better the point of view of the people who have a permanent home in that country—far better than those who spend a few days in the country, perhaps on a fleeting visit, as privileged Members of Parliament, who return home with the impression fed to them. They cannot gain a true impression unless they live with the people in that country.
Our debate has ranged over a wide area. We have had apologias from several former senior Ministers on the Labour side for past Government actions. We have had three or four hon. Members, almost entirely from the Government Benches, who have seemed to rejoice in finding what murky substance there is in the shadows of the past concerning these affairs. They seem to have rejoiced in stirring up as much dirt as they can. The hon. Members for Motherwell and 902 Wishaw (Dr. Bray), Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) and Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) seem to have rejoiced in making speeches which no doubt they are well equipped to make in their own way, but dealing entirely with the past, looking for dirt in the best Private Eye tradition. Indeed, in the speeches of at least two of them there was not a word about the future of Rhodesia. As has been said on both sides of the House, time now is really running out.
I want to confine my remarks not to the past and not to raking over the contents of the Bingham report or any other document but to considering what we in this House can do today for the future of Rhodesia. As I have said, I have found it an advantage to be, at any rate for a short time, a resident of Rhodesia. That has enabled me to understand the point of view of its people, both black and white, today.
I know, for example, how the British settler there has carved out from wild bush, with immense effort, fertile farms and has constructed reservoirs, roads and services to go with the civilisation he has brought. He is not ashamed of that. He has also brought prosperity to both black and white alike, coupled with a peace which has lasted 100 years. He is not ashamed of that.
The European settler has brought an enviable record of enlightened civilisation and progress which is unequalled in modern times in any other country in Africa—and I have been to most of them —or, for that matter, in most countries in the world. Despite that record of progress and achievement, with the African in Rhodesia enjoying a higher standard of living than his brothers in neighbouring countries, Rhodesia is assailed by enemies from without.
These enemies are jealous of the country's progress, whether it be in education, housing, health care, or tsetse fly control, for example—a programme that has been hampered recently—and in many other advanced forms of scientific production and agriculture. In many ways, Rhodesian society is very advanced. Its farming technique is superior to most, if not all, in Africa.
But these enemies are not motivated by jealousy alone. What really activates 903 them is that, although the black Rhodesion today enjoys a better standard of living than the African in many other countries, the white Rhodesian enjoys a better standard still. Spurred on by fury and a belief that the white Rhodesian is hanging on to his privileges for too long, the forces of evil have gathered outside to bring this situation to an end.
I can tell the House from my knowledge that the white Rhodesian did not feel that what he was doing before 3rd March last was wrong. He—or his father —in most cases came to the land as a pioneer, chiselling out the farm or the enterprise, and almost certainly built the house in which he lives. They were both carved out of a hostile bush after immense hardship and toil, and often in complete isolation. Simultaneously he brought the benefits of regular employment to tribesmen who would otherwise be squatting on the ground in the dust beside their mud huts as their fathers did for generations before.
World opinion now decrees, however, that whatever effort the European settler in Rhodesia has made or is making it shall no longer result in his race in Rhodesia enjoying a position of privilege in Rhodesia.
UDI followed the attempt to end this situation in Rhodesia, until the Kissinger talks which resulted in the internal agreement of 3rd March 1978. That agreement has been widely welcomed by hon. Members on both sides. I particularly welcome the solid support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). The agreement embodies five of the six principles. The sixth—the free vote on universal suffrage —was scheduled for 31st December, but, because of difficulty with the mechanics of preparing an electoral register, has had to be postponed. However, I hope that it will take place at an early date.
On 3rd March, the new Executive Council, of Mr. Smith, Bishop Muzorewa, Mr. Sithole and Chief Chirau, was appointed to run the country, and the special position of the Europeans was brought to an end, to be followed by the election of an independent Government.
A million words will probably be spoken in both Houses this week about Rhodesia, so what useful contribution 904 can one possibly make at this time of night that will be remembered by breakfast time? I want to make three or four points, in the hope that one or two will be new and that the others will reinforce the best points already made today.
First of all, I urge the Government to back the internal settlement with their full authority. The Foreign Secretary appears to resent the agreement, possibly because it was brought about without any participation by Her Majesty's Government. We feel that the last hope of a peaceful settlement is to back the internal agreement.
I also strongly support the establishment of a British mission in Salisbury. My friend John Davies was also anxious to press the Government on this point, to try to guide the internal agreement, at least to give the people there some indication that we do not disapprove, that we are interested at least to the extent of sending an official British representative to help bring about as early as possible the first general election on universal suffrage.
The best bet for the soonest election on that basis, which we all want to see, is to give the internal agreement our full-hearted backing, in the hope that if 31st December is not the date it will be early in 1979.
Time is desperately short. As some—not enough—hon. Members have said, we must be humble when talking about Rhodesia. Although I know a little more about it than some hon. Members do, having lived there and having substantial interests there still, I do not find it any easier to propose a solution. The more one knows of this problem, the more one realises how difficult it is to bring about a reconciliation between two races who live in the same country and who even today have different objectives.
Time is desperately short. I hope that those who have yet to speak in the debate—and we have an important day tomorrow—will not spend all their time trying to pick out who is to blame.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) particularly for his comments about sanctions. However, I do not agree with his recommendation that a Select Committee should be appointed to consider the 905 Bingham report and other matters. I feel that all that is water under the bridge. The Select Committe chaired by my right hon. Friend is a model example of a body on which we should all like to serve. But my right hon. Friend should not advise the House to appoint a Select Committee to consider this report. It is totally wrong to insinuate or—worse—state that civil servants are to blame for not informing Ministers.
I accept that various Ministers did not know. The question is, should they have known? One cannot blame the civil servants for not informing them. The Minister in question must be totally responsible for any actions which have or have not been taken by civil servants in the past.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton, in an excellent speech—particularly on sanctions—felt that a Select Committee should be appointed. But it is deplorable to consider appointing such a Committee for this purpose. It is totally wrong to single out civil servants to blame for the failure of Ministers. It is wrong for Members to attack civil servants in the House in this way.
I now turn to matters about which hon. Members are probably not aware. In Rhodesia, between black and white, there exists today a bond of mutual affection and trust. It exists particularly in the country and small towns. To a large extent the mutual trust has vanished, or is vanishing, in the big cities, but throughout Rhodesia for 100 years or more there has been a link of mutual affection between black and white. They recognise, without politicians telling them, that they each have a sensible and valued place in running a prosperous Rhodesia. That partnership is typified by the Executive Council of Bishop Muzorewa, Mr. Sithole and Chief Chirau.
I support any suggestion, since time is so short, on how to find a solution, however bad or long a bet it might be.
I condemn wholeheartedly the Foreign Secretary for not inviting Mr. Smith here. It may not have paid off, and we may not have got anything out of it, but time is so short that even if there were a very long chance, Mr. Smith should have been allowed to visit Britain and enter into discussions with Members of both Houses 906 of Parliament as well as the British Government.
I welcome any suggestion, such as the possibility that the Prime Minister himself might be able to take over and in some magical way pull a rabbit out of the hat or do a "Camp David". We must not be proud; we must accept any suggestion that has any possibility of success.
I believe that peace can still be saved if support is given to the internal agreement. I believe that that support must be given by the British Government and by the Foreign Secretary. If the Foreign Secretary will not do this, and continues to remain so coldly aloof and hostile, in the interests of peace in Southern Africa he should go, and go now.
§ 1.52 a.m.
§ Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)
In rising to speak at this stage of the debate at this time of the morning one can perhaps take encouragement from the biblical quotation that thefirst shall be last; and the last shall be first.In referring to Rhodesia at the beginning of the debate on the Queen's Speech, the Prime Minister said that he was led to doubt whetherthe will for agreement that would lead to a peaceful settlement really exists."—[Official Report, 1st November 1978; Vol. 957, c. 45–6.]From what the Foreign Secretary told the House yesterday afternoon, it seems that the time has long since come for the Government to consider whether they really have a will of their own in this matter. They should now be asking whether their attitude and approach to the problem is the major factor in discouraging a peaceful settlement.
In their own blind pursuit of the mirage of all-party talks, without offering the practical prospect of the lifting of sanctions and without recognising positively the opportunities offered by the internal settlement as a basis for achieving the ultimate objective of majority rule, the Government are encouraging each side to believe that it has less to lose by boycotting the conference table. It is this lack of will on our part—this policy of drift and pursuit of the unobtainable—which is encouraging each side, and the parties to the internal settlement as well, to look to ensure their own position and 907 survival through private armies and intimidation.
Perhaps the Prime Minister is right in implying that a peaceful settlement is remote. Nkomo and Mugabe took to the bush in self-imposed exile to war instead of jaw, and it was only when Ian Smith flew to Lusaka in August to talk to Nkomo that there appeared to be a glimpse of the prospect of negotiation. Since then, the Viscount massacre, for which Nkomo has gloatingly taken the credit, and the Rhodesian raids have encouraged both sides to take it in turn to be adamant in their refusal to talk.
Let the Government recognise the situation for what it is, and not what they would like it to be. The war is escalating, its cost is draining the economy which is already under siege through sanctions, and the exodus of white expertise, which is so necessary to make this new country work, is accelerating, with the result that the blacks are losing their schools and their jobs. Many are encouraged to join one of the seven armies now operating on Rhodesian soil. On these trends total economic collapse cannot be long away. In those circumstances, a very different Nkomo and Mugabe will attempt to take over, under the influence of their Marxist advisers and paymasters, to prepare for the final round between the two, representing, as they do, the two main tribes of Rhodesia—the Matabele and the Mashona.
Thus may Rhodesia go the same way as the rest of Africa, for of that continent's 45 non-white States only three have Governments that are democratically elected from a free choice of candidates from more than one party. The rest, including those of the so-called Patriotic Front leaders who do not themselves practise the democracy which they preach for Rhodesia, are subject, as we have seen so frequently in recent years, to inter-State wars, inter-tribal conflicts, corruption and nepotism, mismanagement of land and resources, leading to Soviet subversion.
It would be a tragedy if this were to happen in Rhodesia, for there is today so much in that country for the newly elected leaders to inherit, and for all its citizens to share, not only for themselves, but with Zambia and their other poverty-striken 908 neighbours whom they are so willing to help if given the opportunity.
So I hope that we shall hear from the Government at the end of this debate of a change of direction in pursuit of their aim to establish a multi-racial democracy with black majority rule Government following free and fair elections. I hope that we shall hear that henceforth they will give positive recognition to the internal settlement as a genuine attempt to achieve that aim; that henceforth they will reestablish diplomatic communication with Rhodesia and offer the transitional Government all possible help and expertise for the drafting of the constitution, for the reform of the Land Tenure Act, for the end of discrimination, and for the registration of voters and the organisation of the elections. I hope that henceforth the Government will no longer lavish the "Government in exile" treatment on the Patriotic Front leaders and that they will hold them responsible for the atrocities that are committed in their name in the same way as they condemn Rhodesia for its raids beyond its own frontiers. I hope that henceforth Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe will be pressed to make a firm decision on whether they will stand as candidates in the one man, one vote elections for majority rule which they have themselves long advocated, or whether they really are seeking the one-party Socialist State that they are now claiming.
On the question of sanctions—the future, not the past—I ask whether the Government have considered the effect that a pledge to lift sanctions on the day following a "Yes" vote by the proposed white referendum on the new constitution would have on achieving that all-important step, representing as it would the psychological point at which the whites commit themselves to majority rule. If the Government have, they have given no indication of it.
So I believe that a further indefinite period of sanctions will now be counterproductive in achieving the aim of majority rule. Since Ian Smith and the transitional Government have gone so far down the road to majority rule for the process to be irreversible without risking the most tremendous anarchy, there can be no useful purpose in continuing to hurt the blacks whom sanctions are designed 909 to help, and our own trading prospects at the same time, which is why I shall oppose sanctions tomorrow. It is only by a change of direction in the Government's policies towards Rhodesia, by recognising the internal settlement and by holding out the prospect of an end to sanctions, that the Patriotic Front will realise that it will be left out in the cold if it does not agree to all-party talks and take part in the elections. By so doing, not only will the Government at last be giving a positive lead towards a peaceful transition to majority rule in Rhodesia but they will at last be representing the majority view of the British people for a change.
§ 2 a.m.
§ Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)
This has been a somewhat peculiar debate, having swung from the Bingham report to an analysis of Rhodesia's past and projections about its future. Although I am pleased to see the Foreign Secretary so well supported on the Government Front Bench at the moment, it has been a pity that for so much of the debate the Government Front Bench has contained only one of the Law Officers.
§ Mr. Rathbone
Yes, it is. For extensive periods the Government Front Bench has had on it only a Law Officer, and for even more extensive periods there was no other representative of the Government at all.
§ Mr. Rathbone
In the part of debate that dealt with the Bingham report it was a sad and sorry speech that we had from the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), who should have been reminded of the well-established adage "I did not know, nobody told me, I should have asked." I hope that he will bear that in mind when a Select Committee investigates this matter at some future date.
In common with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) and my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), I feel that the internal settlement represented a great step forward. If the internal settlement of 3rd March had been given 910 more initial support by Britain and by the United States, it probably would have been a positive step forward, as everybody hoped.
§ Mr. Rowlands
The hon. Gentleman made a disgraceful remark a little earlier in his speech. This debate has been taking place for 12 hours. I have been present for eight hours of that time, and this Bench has always contained a Minister, either a Law Officer or a Foreign Office Minister, including my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The hon. Gentleman should withdraw his outrageous statement.
§ Mr. Rathbone
I stand entirely by what I said before. There have been long periods during this debate when only a Law Officer was present, and there have been some periods when no other Government Minister has been present.
§ Mr. Rathbone
It is not untrue, and the Government Whip should be able to bear out my statement.
Let me return to the point I was trying to make. If the Government had given the agreement of 3rd March better initial support, it would probably have been a positive step forward as everybody had hoped. Unfortunately, that support was not forthcoming, and the British Government's approach, as described in The Times this morning, was "aloof, unconvinced and unconstructive". Now there are few who give the internal settlement of 3rd March any chance at all. That opportunity to obtain real, finite commitment by the Rhodesian Government to actions rather than to promises of actions has been missed.
Just such an opportunity now exists again. There is an opportunity to offer Mr. Smith a way out of his new dilemma, which is the need to keep his transitional Government partners together in the face of their rising incredibility as terrorist activities continue and indeed escalate, as segregation in housing, education and health continues, as the likelihood of elections before 31st December recedes, as the leaders of Zambia and Mozambique become weaker and weaker as they pander more and more to the terrorist groups which inhibit their countries, and as the front-line Presidents and the far too shaky 911 Governments in Southern Africa reassess where their own self-interests really lie. This opportunity is not to be found in round-table conferences, as suggested by the Foreign Secretary. That must turn into a platform for a party-political propaganda war, if not worse. That is no substitute for incisive direct action.
I am less optimistic than is my right hon. Friend the Shadow Foreign Secretary in expecting that a conclusion might be found in a system of private talks instigated either by the Prime Minister on or the basis that has been successful in Namibia. I believe that the only way forward in Rhodesia is through a concerted push for an end to the terrorist war before it turns into a civil war. There must be an end to the battle of the bullets so that the battle of the ballot box can be joined. That can be achieved only by bringing pressure on Mr. Smith to invite British responsibility for Rhodesia once more, by establishing legitimate and legal government under British control, and by having a British supervised all-party meeting to lay the ground work for transition to majority black government through proper elections in late 1979.
At the same time it is crucial that the black and white communities are reassured by the restoration of internal law and order. That can be done only with the commitment of a substantial body of British and United Nations' forces up to division strength—I mean in substance—working with the best parts of the security forces already there. The question has been raised whether we can raise such a force. I have been reassured from various sources that if it were on the basis of being asked now to restore the peace, we could do so. If we leave it until later and have to turn that force into a firefighting force we shall not be able to do so.
That is not the only guarantee that is needed. It is crucial that economic guarantees for minorities are built into any subsequent constitutional settlement.
For all the reasons given by my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins), sanctions must not be lifted until such a settlement as I have described is imminent. Unless that step is withheld, 912 the success of the whole programme that I have outlined will be put in jeopardy.
On all aspects of the Rhodesian tragedy the Government drag their feet. Their tendency to be behind events must cause them to be nicknamed the "Government of the afternoon". Is it too late now for the Foreign Secretary to change his mind and for the Government to change their course? I hope that it is not.
§ 2.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
It is a late hour at which to seek to detain the House, even if I speak only briefly. For me it is a historic debate, and it is a privilege to be allowed to take part in it.
I greatly regret and deplore the Government's disastrous decision to lump together the Bingham report, the present political and military situation in Rhodesia and the sanctions order. How typical it is of the Leader of the House that he allowed such a shameful state of affairs. Inevitably, it has resulted in a confused and disjointed debate at a time when the country is looking for clarity and political leadership on the most emotional political crisis since Suez.
I have no doubt that the findings of the Bingham report and all that has flowed from it have further undermined respect for our political institutions at home and gravely damaged our country's reputation abroad. I believe that what has happened will burden our diplomacy for many years to come. I support the call that has been made from both sides of the House for a committee of Members from both Houses to carry out a comprehensive review and, in particular, to add the political dimension. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) seemed to think that in doing so we would be merely cross-examining civil servants. That would not be so. Such a committee would have to get to grips with the politicians. We need to know what has been going on before we can attempt to prevent such incompetence and duplicity from occurring again.
I wish to deal mainly with the broader Rhodesian issues. Britain is in the dock over its rebellious colony. This is the moment at which to remind ourselves that whatever have been the faults of the 913 present Government, previous Governments and Foreign Secretaries—and they have been many and various—it is Ian Smith more than any other living person who has brought Rhodesia to its present plight. Whilst we all respect the incredible agricultural, industrial and commercial achievements of Rhodesia, we should remember that about 80 per cent. of white Rhodesians have constantly supported Mr. Smith not only in his sometimes smart tactics but in his calamitous long-term strategy.
As a Conservative, with a deep interest in defence, I admit to finding Ian Smith's calls for the West now to defend Rhodesia and Southern Africa from the Marxist hordes as particularly galling. By his actions over the past 13 years he has wrecked the pitch for us. If we side with the forces of racial domination the Communists will gain all the advantages. The idea that by some happy turn of fortune the frontiers of enlightened civilisation coincide with the borders of his country is arrant nonsense. Always, the concessions that he has made have been too little and too late.
The other day there arrived on my desk a pamphlet entitledThe Removal of Racial Discriminations in Rhodesia.If that pamphlet and its proposals had come out a few weeks before they might have been important. Had they come out a year before they would have caught the international press. Today they are forgotten almost as quickly as they come out.
The internal settlement was a remarkable step forward. After all, it is only a few years ago that Ian Smith talked about there being no majority rule for a thousand years. The settlement was an excellent basis on which to build, but it was clearly insufficient in itself. The fact remains—it is now a historical fact—that the Governments of Britain and the United States have failed to give it the support which is essential for any possible success. As a result, it is a broken-backed settlement. The war increases in intensity. The vital elections edge away into the mist. The co-operation between the tour leaders, always suspect, is seen to grow weaker daily.
914 After four years it is impossible to have any confidence in the Government's handling of this highly complex and emotional issue. I shall highlight but four classic errors to bear that out.
My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) mentioned the Foreign Secretary's proposal to base the new Zimbabwe national army on the liberation forces. Such a proposal could only send a shudder through Rhodesia and make a settlement more difficult to achieve.
Secondly, it was a fatal mistake not to build on the internal settlement, and thus to miss the crucial time for doing so. God knows whether it would or would not have worked, but clearly there was an opportunity to be grasped and there was a failure to grasp it.
Thirdly, the Government have given the impression that the Patriotic Front has a veto over the future of Rhodesia. They may not have intended to give that impression, but undoubtedly to the world at large they have done so.
Finally, I mention that very unfortunate remark of the Foreign Secretary:I think myself Joshua Nkomo is in many ways the father of his people.How can one claim to be unbiased when one comes out with a comment such as that?
It is, of course, this mishandling of the crisis that has led to the widespread demand in our constituencies for sanctions to be lifted as a means of adjusting the balance. In my view, sanctions should be lifted only after a return to legality. That is surely the logic of sanctions. They cannot be regarded in isolation. They are part and parcel of British policy in Southern Africa. To vote to lift them now would be a primative and emotional gesture, and one that would weaken our influence in Southern Africa just when we need to increase that influence.
I earnestly ask those of my colleagues who have mentioned tonight that they will vote to lift sanctions to think again. Much is at stake, and the position of the incoming Conservative Government will be greatly weakened if we make such a foolish gesture later tomorrow. As a country, it is not our habit to break international obligations, particularly without prior consultation.
915 I do not believe that it is too late for the Foreign Secretary to install a permanent, high-grade mission in Salisbury. Such a mission could keep him informed of the swiftly moving scene. From time to time I get the impression that he is not being informed of that scene. A mission could act as a channel of communication and assist in the preparation of the vital elections.
Of course it is right for the Foreign Secretary to try to associate the Patriotic Front with a solution, but the Front suspects that it will not gain power through popular elections and it therefore intends to gain power through force, through a cruel, evil and loathsome campaign of intimidation against black Rhodesians. What is unforgivable and astonishing is that the free world shows every sign of supporting the Front in its long-term debate. What must come out of our debate is a fierce determination to persuade the Popular Front, through all diplomatic and peaceful means, to change its attitude.
We must surely make clear that we, for ever and for always, are totally biased, not in favour of any particular party or leader but in favour of those who seek to ride to power on ballot papers and not on bullets.
It may be that Rhodesia is already over the precipice, that what we are all united against will come about and that a squalid tyrannical Marxist regime will take over Salisbury as in Maputo, but for the present let the Government be flexible and not stick too rigidly to the Anglo-American proposals. Let them be imaginative —perhaps the Prime Minister should intervene personally—and, above all, let them mobilise international economic and political support for a peaceful transfer of power in Rhodesia.
§ 2.17 a.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire)
It must be rare for an hon. Member, particularly a Back Bencher who is the last to speak in a debate, to be able to lose tomorrow's business if he continues to bore the House for 12¼ hours.
The Minister of State, with whom I have had talks on Rhodesia, will agree that my personal and emotional concern is for the people of that country, and I make no distinction between their tribe or 916 colour, when they went there or their level of prosperity.
We need to look with extreme care at our objective. For far too long it has been obscured by nominal fantasies, the use of words such as "majority rule" and "one man, one vote" and a number of concepts which have obscured what should be the concern of those of us who believe in the dignity of man and the Commonwealth concept, namely, what will achieve for the people who live in that most promising and excellent land prosperity, security and a Government who will be beneficent.
In the House we imagine far too often that what we conceived as the method of running our affairs 150 years ago, after we had phenomenally abolished corruption, not by the great Reform Act but by the 60 years of legislation that preceded it—and we conceived the concept of incorruptibility and democracy almost simultaneously—can be parcelled with a Speaker's Chair and a Mace and sent by post to societies that have utterly different historical concepts and traditions and are in utterly different situations. That is part of the arrogance of the British concept, and it is one with which we have constantly footled about in our attempts to solve the problem of our last colonial responsibility—if, in law, it is a colonial responsibility.
We have to understand that whether Ian Smith was wise or unwise—and I agree greatly with what my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) said in a most excellent speech —we have a country which contains about 6 million people, of whatever colour, whose prosperity has been based essentially upon the genius of the Western urge for progress which the Europeans happen to have invested in it.
My relations and my friends who went there did not go out of some imperial desire to impose their will on anybody else. As I think another hon. Member said, there is in that country a racial harmony and a racial success which is the result of the skills of the European and the urge for progress of the European, his decency and industry and his love of the African. This is the reason for the achievements of that country. Alas, there are many countries in Africa where this 917 has not happened, but here we have a country in which the people, with the land and the minerals, given the right conditions and the right impulses, can achieve vast prosperity and excellence.
I therefore find a great deal of humbug and hypocrisy in the words of those who talk about democracy, majority rule and one man, one vote, as if the forms of the House of Commons were what everybody wanted. Let us be clear about Rhodesia. What is wanted in Rhodesia—
§ Mr. Fairbairn
And in Africa. I am obliged to the Minister of State. There is no democracy in the same sense, as we fool about saying it, in Zambia.
§ Mr. Fairbairn
I am saying it. The President has just had to dissolve all the rights of the citizen in order to keep his own political power against his own political party. This is the man, a manipulator, to whom we are sending British arms, to protect him, allegedly, against Rhodesians who have no quarrel whatever with the Zambian constitution. Their only quarrel is with the fact that the terrorists who seek power in Rhodesia by force are able to have a sanctuary there.
As the Minister of State will remember, at the time of the dismissal of General MacArthur, he said to Congress "Why should it be that those who seek to enslave another country should have the sanctuary of a country we cannot attack?" That is an important and everlasting question. But let us be absolutely clear that government in Africa is not the sort of democracy that we understand in this country. I am rather tired of people talking about the alternative of the bullet and the ballot box, because there is no question at all but that whatever Government of the majority—in other words, the black African as opposed to the white African in Rhodesia—come into force they are likely to become, and would, I believe, inevitably become, an autocracy. It will be an autocracy which will not be re-elected. The only question is whether it will be an autocracy which will be overthrown.
This is where I find the hypocrisy and the silliness in the use of this phraseology.
918 If tomorrow, if on 31st December or 31st March, or whenever the date is, the overwhelming majority of the black Rhodesian people voted for a black Government under Mr Sithole, or Bishop Muzorewa, or Mr. Chikerema, or whoever it might be—or Chief Chirau, which is very unlikely—and 250,000 members of the Tongagora tribe or 250,000 members of Mr. Nkomo's tribe were to overthrow them, we would not hear the British Foreign Office say "There is an illegal regime." It would say "That is the Government of that country", and it would recognise them.
I find a fundamental difficulty in the constant pretence that we are interested in liberality and democracy and elections when we know that that will not be the eventual method of government in Africa. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves the fundamental question: how can we sustain in this African country the prosperity which has been achieved by the European genius combined with the African decency, that wonderful spirit amongst all the Africans, which is found in Rhodesia? In no other country on earth do we find the excellence of human decency, good will and love that we find in that country.
I believe that there is no factor alone upon which the future prosperity of the people of Rhodesia will depend. I assume that hon. Members are concerned about the future prosperity of the black people of Rhodesia, but I sometimes wonder whether they care a monkey's tuppence about the future prosperity of the white people of Rhodesia. Do they merely wish ill-will on the whites and the imposition of some farcical cipher Government?
The one thing which will ensure the degradation of the black people of Rhodesia will be the white European element being caused to flee. We are talking not about white farmers with shotguns but about those who run the universities and schools, administer the civil service, administer the hospitals and drive round the countryside as nurses and doctors. If such people withdraw, the whole of the country's infrastructure will collapse. It will matter not what Government they have. I am concerned about the survival of the Western prosperity which the black people in Rhodesia enjoy.
I ask myself: how long will the Europeans in Rhodesia sustain insult? It is 919 no use talking in unctuous terms from the House of Commons about the father of their country, and so on. The whites in Rhodesia love that country. Having put into it all they have, they can leave, but those they leave behind cannot leave. It is their prosperity about which I am concerned. Therefore we must look for a formula which will achieve a Government who will give the whites a reason to stay. That is the aspect to which the Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Office should address themselves.
It is all very well to say that we must get the Patriotic Front involved, but what is its interest? It is not an interest in Westminster-style elections. It is not an interest in sitting on the Opposition Benches. It is not an interest, like that of the Scottish National Party, in parading a national fantasy in order to achieve an imaginary concept of independence. Its interest is to achieve power, which will be total, permanent, merciless and corrupt. That has been the case throughout Africa, and whether one likes it or not it is the likely event.
No proposal was more likely to drive out the whites, the Europeans, than the suggestion with which Lord Carver went to Salisbury—that the Rhodesian African Rifles would be confined to barracks, that the Rhodesian Light Infantry and all other regiments would be disbanded, and that the security forces would be the guerrillas, with a cadre of United Nations forces. That is the equivalent of saying in Irish terms that the Royal Ulster Constabulary would be confined to barracks, the British Army would be disbanded and the IRA, with a cadre of United Nations forces, would ensure free and fair elections. The suggestion was as corrupt as that.
It is fallacious to imagine that that lovely country can exist if we determine that the white European will go. We see constant hypocrisy in the face of the realities, which are simple: is there to be a moderate Government who are tenable, or is there to be a Government who will be almost genocidal? I do not believe for a moment—and I have talked to his supporters—that if Mr. Nkomo got power he would not immediately eradicate, or make life impossible for, all those who had co-operated with Mr. Smith or with the present Government of Rhodesia.
920 I have not the slightest doubt that Mr. Nkomo would also eradicate, imprison or otherwise make life impossible for all those who might be a challenge to his power. He could do so only if he could secure—and that through the British Foreign Secretary—the ultimate removal of security forces that are incorruptible. That is the central fact of the Rhodesian problem.
I come to the matter of incorruptibility. It is abominable that we are confusing a constitutional issue in Great Britain that arises out of the Bingham report with a major international responsibility that arises out of Rhodesia and with another matter that arises out of sanctions. I should like to make one passing comment on the Bingham report.
The report demonstrates clearly public corruptibility in the Government of this country. If it does not demonstrate that, it demonstrates public hypocrisy, which has been the Foreign Secretary's mantle over Rhodesia since he took office. It demonstrates that if there is one hypocrisy in the life of Britain it is this. We are always told that nationalisation means that things belong to the people. If the Government have 51 per cent. of the shares in British Petroleum, is it not remarkable that they are ignorant of what British Petroleum does? If ever there was an example of the fallacy of public control, this must be it. The only public feature that they do not seem to control is public hypocrisy.
We must be extremely careful about Rhodesia. There is a formula, and it is a very successful one, which events in Persia now show and which events in Mozambique and in Angola have shown. It is carried out on Western guilt by Russian arms throughout the world. The formula is simply that if it is possible to foment resentment and invent resentment on racial grounds as in Rhodesia or in Mozambique, or on nationalist grounds as in Vietnam, eventually the forces of the West will give in to guilt and to arms and will allow dictatorship under our influence to take over with the concepts of genocide, slavery and degradation for those who are concerned.
I hope that we shall not repeat that abominable concept in Rhodesia. But let us give up the hypocrisy of imagining that we can have democratic elections in 921 Rhodesia as we have them in Westminster with incorruptible Ministers of State, as I trust we have in Westminster. That will not be possible. We shall set up an African State on the concept and the type of Zambia or Kenya. A great friend of mine came back from Kenya and had to pay only £10,000 in corruption to get out his money. We shall be setting up an African State on African principles and not on European principles. Let us ensure that we set one up which is not so tyrannical and so corrupt that the European influence of 2,000 years which has created in that country a European prosperity is destroyed as it has been destroyed in so many others.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Tinn.]
§ Debate to be resumed this day.