HC Deb 12 December 1979 vol 975 cc1415-42 8.40 pm
Mr. Shore

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 1, leave out lines 15 and 16 and insert 'no recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty to make an Order in Council under this section unless a draft of the Order has been laid before Parliament and has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament'.

The Chairman

With this amendment it will be convenient to take the following amendments:

No. 3, in page 1, line 16, at end insert: '(4) No Order in Council shall be made under this section before a report from the Commonwealth observers that the election was free and fair has been submitted to and accepted by resolution of both Houses of Parliament'. No. 4, in page 1, line 16, at end insert: '(4) No Order in Council shall be made under this section before a report by the Governor, advised by the Commonwealth observers and the Election Commission, that the election was free and fair has been submitted to and accepted by resolution of both Houses of Parliament'. No. 5, in page 1, line 16, at end insert: '(4) No Order in Council shall be made under this section before a report from the Election Council that the election was free and fair has been submitted to and accepted by resolution of both Houses of Parliament'. No. 6, in page 1, line 16, at end insert: '(4) No Order in Council shall be made under this section until a report from the Election Commission has been submitted to both Houses of Parliament and both Houses of Parliament have determined by resolution that the election was free and fair'.

Mr. Shore

The Committee will by now be sufficiently familiar with clause 1 to understand that it deals with the independence of Zimbabwe and that it envisages an independence day which has yet to be proclaimed. As the Lord Privy Seal told us, that day will be some time after the election has taken place and after the Governor has consulted the newly elected Prime Minister of Zimbabwe and, I assume, the other political leaders.

I come straight to the point. As clause 1(3) stands, as far as the House of Commons is concerned, all that is to happen is that an Order in Council—and I quote the words of the clause— …shall be laid before Parliament after being made. In other words, there is no provision that the Order in Council should be approved by Parliament.

I devoted part of my speech on Second Reading to the reasons why we feel that that is unsatisfactory. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands), who wound up for the Opposition on Second Reading, paid considerable attention to this point and I need not labour the point again. Our amendment sets out what we believe to be the most effective and sensible way of once more bringing before the scrutiny of Parliament the events and the many developments which are bound to take place between our discussion of the Bill today and the post-election independence of Zimbabwe. We cannot easily envisage the development of the events of the next 10 to 12 weeks. We all have a feeling that many things will happen and that it will be a fraught period. At least we know that an election is to be held. Perhaps that is the most important internal event for Zimbabwe.

The way in which that election is to be conducted is of the utmost importance. We shall need to be satisfied that the election has been free and fair. That is the essence of what is required in Zimbabwe. It is the one major matter about which we must be satisfied before we say "Yes" to an order which nominates a day as independence day. It is wrong to decide now that we have nothing more to say, regardless of how the election takes place, regardless of the train of events and regardless of the scale of irregularities—and, of course, there will be irregularities. That would be irresponsible and unworthy of us in view of the enormous and painful attention that has been given to Rhodesia in the past 14 years.

We are discussing a number of other amendments and no doubt my hon. Friends will wish to refer to them. They spell out in different ways what I almost take for granted. They assume that in one way or another there will be a report upon the elections in Zimbabwe under the authority of the Governor. They assume that a report will be produced, whether by the Commonwealth observers who are to play an important part in observing and witnessing the election, whether by the Governor, the election commission or a Select Committee of the House. An amendment which was not selected suggested that a Select Committee should make such a report. The origin of the report does not really matter so long as there is an authoritative report on the way in which the election is conducted.

No hon. Member would say that this was a minor matter. We remember well the rival and often conflicting reports from observers following the elections in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia earlier this year. The arrangements then were inadequate. There should be—indeed, there are bound to be—Commonwealth observers; and with those of our own people who have experience of going to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia there is every possibility of getting an objective and comprehensive report on the election.

I believe that we should have a report. I am not sure whether we need to embody it in an amendment, but I am certain that whether or not we have a report, and whatever form such a report might take, it is important that the House should have the opportunity, before independence day is nominated or announced by Order in Council, to debate and give judgment upon what has happened in Zimbabwe and to give its consent to the proclamation, as it were, of independence.

I hope that the Government will not be difficult about that. I hope that they will not parade the old argument that, under the procedures that have been put forward, it is possible that we shall have to wait up to 28 days. We know that that is not so. It would be entirely up to the Government, with an Order in Council of the kind that we suggest, to place the matter before Parliament for decision at any time after that order was laid. Therefore, the matter could be brought before the House, debated and decided within three or four days, if that was what was required, of the election, or after the report upon it had been received. So there should be no argument that it would be inconvenient because of the time span under an affirmative order of the kind for which we have pressed.

With those arguments in mind, and taking account of the arguments that have been deployed on Second Reading, I hope that the Government will accept the amendment so that we can move on to other matters.

Mr. Robert Hughes

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) said, the Bill, as presented to us, takes no account of the possibility of the House of Commons debating the procedures of the election that we assume will be held in Rhodesia. The amendments that stand in my name and in the names of some of my hon. Friends are variations on a similar theme, which is to try to ensure that some form of report is made to the House before the final step of independence is taken.

Throughout our discussions earlier this evening—I suspect that it will occur in later discussions—the thread of the argument has been basically that what is now required for the future of Rhodesia is trust. The Patriotic Front must trust the Government, the Governor and the security forces. It must trust the Government to ensure that the South Africans are withdrawn. We have been asked to have a great deal of trust in the Government.

However, our difficulty—I expressed it earlier—is that, although we saw the proposals that were deposited in the Library, we saw them after the agreement stage had been reached. We raised points of detail with the Minister. The Minister has said that he has reported regularly to us on the progress of the negotiations, but he has never reported to us on issues of detail.

Whatever happens from now on, or from whenever the final agreement is reached, we have a responsibility to ensure that as far as possible everything goes well. After the election is over we, as a Parliament, must be able to say that we have discharged our responsibilities to the people of Rhodesia, especially now that we have taken that country back to legality after 14 long years.

In order to help foster the trust of the parties involved at Lancaster House, we have suggested in our amendments a number of different ways in which a report might be made. I shall give later details of the best solution. The final agreement is being held up by this matter of trust. There is a feeling among members of the Patriotic Front that if they sign an agreement which is not exactly what they would wish but which they have accepted in a spirit of negotiation and compromise, they are expected to take a lot on trust.

The previous Act was pushed through while negotiations were still in progress. Therefore, if we push through another Act which allows the Government to confer independence on Zimbabwe, the Patriotic Front will feel that there is no way in which it can retrieve the situation if its fears prove to be justified. We must show the parties concerned that we are willing to take another look at the whole issue if things do not work out.

The major and perhaps the only remaining point of any substance in the details of the ceasefire to be decided is the question of the disposition of the forces and the monitoring of them. According to information provided to the conference, specific areas have been identified where the Patriotic Front forces will rendezvous. These rendezvous points are close to the positions which those forces hold at present. The Patriotic Front forces are being asked to move from these rendezvous points to assembly points on the periphery of the country. In other words, they have been asked to evacuate the centre of the country. I do not make any extravagant claim about the Patriotic Front forces controlling the centre of the country, but the Government appear to recognise and accept that those forces are in these central areas.

Although the Patriotic Front forces are being asked to move to assembly points, there will be no such movement of the Rhodesian security forces from their areas to specific points. Unless we can find some way of solving this problem, there may not be an agreement at all.

We seek from the Government an assurance that they will be flexible in their negotiating position, and that that position will not be hard and fast on the question of monitoring. If we cannot have this assurance, there is a grave danger that the present negotiations will be disturbed and all that the Bill represents will be lost.

In our amendments we canvass a number of specific propositions. First, we believe that there should be a report from the Commonwealth observers to the House of Commons on whether the elections were free and fair. That is not an unreal proposition. In the arrangements agreed at Lancaster House there is provision for Commonwealth observers. As far as I am aware, the number of such observers is not specified. Perhaps that will have to be determined.

What are the observers to do? Are they simply to go to Rhodesia? If they are unhappy, if they do not believe that things are working out properly and take the view that the elections were not free or fair, what do they do then? Do they just return to their own countries and say that they are not happy? How are they to comment on the way in which the elections have been run? There must be some mechanism by which they can make a report. The place to report to is the House, through the Government or the Governor. They should prepare a specific report to be laid before the House before we put our final seal of approval on the independence constitution.

The agreed arrangements contain a provision for an election commission. In addition to the Governor and his staff—I do not suppose that they will be involved in the day-to-day work of the commission—there will be representatives of the British Government on the election commission. We understand from the press that numbers of people with experience of elections are waiting to go. In addition, parties contesting the election will be represented on the commission. That will allow investigations and reports of irregularities to be made and give the parties a feeling that they are participating and that the commission is not wholly outside their control. This arrangements will allow them to have trust in the manner in which the elections are conducted.

9 pm

I have no reason to doubt the press reports that we are sending out people who are experienced in running elections. They should have a say in determining whether the elections were fair and free. They should have a part to play in reporting to the House on how the elections were run. If anyone thinks that after the election we can simply say "That is all, boys; come home; that is the end of the matter," he should read the proposals. There is a provision in the Lancaster House proposals—I cannot remember whether it is contained in those tabled yesterday or in previous ceasefire proposals—that the monitoring force may remain in Rhodesia if the new Government want it to do so.

The United Kingdom Government admit the possibility that after the election there may be one or two matters that need sorting out. It may be necessary for the monitoring force of 1,200 men to stay on for a few days, or possibly a few weeks, in case, post election, there is too much exuberance which may spill over into something else. I do not know. The Government are aware of, and have taken on board, the worries of those taking part in the Lancaster House negotiations that all might not go according to plan, even after the election day. Therefore, it is important that there should be a procedure for making a report to Parliament.

Some Government supporters think that members of the Opposition take too gloomy a view. They think that we are churlish. On Second Reading the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) said that our fears arose more from sour grapes than genuine concern. It would be foolish if I said that I wished that a Labour Government alone had been able to resolve the matter. I assure Government supporters of my genuine concern to ensure that, if an agreement is reached, it sticks and that there is no trouble after the election. I have a genuine concern that there should be stability in Rhodesia. I visited Angola and Mozambique and saw the aftermath of instability and the possibility of the destabilisation of Governments. Immediately after their election, Governments are very susceptible to destabilisation.

I do not take lightly the threat made by the South Africans that, if the Government eventually elected in Rhodesia are not to their liking, they will make sure that they are stopped. I know that the Under-Secretary said that that would be a serious responsibility, but they have been doing that repeatedly in Mozambique. They have been repeatedly attacking and invading Zambia and Angola. Therefore, why should we think that they will adopt a completely new philosophy on foreign policy towards the new Zimbabwe? I am seriously worried about the possibility of intervention and the possibility that the Rhodesian security forces will create a coup and install some other Government, especially if there is no change in the disposition of forces.

For these reasons, the Government would be unwise to say "It is all over. We have nothing to be concerned about." I believe that they have a better chance of obtaining an agreement and of getting what they want if they ensure that the arrangements for the transition period operate effectively and that there is an election which, at the end of the day, we can all accept. If the Government will accept an amendment—not necessarily this amendment—which will ensure an intermediate stage between now and eventual independence, I believe that that will help the agreement to move forward and will help people to work effectively for a free Zimbabwe.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) set out our general fears on this matter. If the Government are being fair about the proposals that they have put before the House, they will recognise that if an order is to be tabled, with the possibility of a parliamentary review, it is better that it should have the teeth of a positive resolution in both Houses and that that positive resolution should follow some form of report back that allows the House to take a clear decision on the matter. If the report is that the election was free and fair, I doubt whether there will be any delay. The matter may be put through in a few minutes.

Our real concern is about what will happen if a free and fair election does not take place. If that were to be the situation, would any Conservative Member, let alone any Labour Member, want Rhodesia to go into independence after a palpably rigged election? Clearly not. Therefore, I should have thought that the amendment would be accepted unopposed.

The only issue is the form of the report back. I am sorry that you, Mr. Weatherill, could not accept my amendment, because that seemed to me to suggest the best way of all. I think that the best way would be for the House to have people whom it knew and trusted to go out to Rhodesia as members of a Select Committee and to come back and possibly say "We have looked at the situation. We think that the election was free and fair." That would be better than any of the devices that have been suggested so far.

The monitoring group from the Commonwealth is an army of soldiers concerned about the military disposition, not election practice. The Election Commissioner who will go out from this country is an official who will deal with the formal method of registering an election. It is rather like asking the town clerk of a city to come along and tell us whether there has been a fair election in his city. He does not have the political perspective to make that kind of judgment. We need politicians whom we know and trust to go out there and to come back and give us their judgment on the election. That is why I hope that, even though my amendment has not been selected, the Government will yet think that that is a way of meeting these anxieties.

The Chairman

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not argue for his amendment, because it has not been selected.

Mr. Lyon

I accept that, Mr. Weatherill. However, although it was not accepted, I was assured that I could mention it.

The Government may think that our fears are groundless, but I fail to understand how anyone can possibly take that view when there are three months of uncharted territory before us and an election thereafter.

Let me put to the Lord Privy Seal the detail that so far has emerged that justifies these anxieties. Until today, the country of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia has been under the control of a man and a party who will be part of this election. Already he and his party have booked all the buses in Rhodesia until next March. Anybody who has ever been to Rhodesia knows that there is a constant movement between the tribal trust lands and the African townships in the cities. That movement is almost all by buses owned by African entrepreneurs. With all those buses booked by Bishop Muzorewa's party until next March, there is no way in which the Patriotic Front can hire buses inside Rhodesia to transport their people to the polls. They will have to find some other way of transporting them.

The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings), who seems to think that the Kremlin has an outpost of empire down in Meikle's hotel in Salisbury, suggested that there is a lot of Communist money flashing around that will be used in the process of the election. I can tell him, and I know that the Lord Privy Seal is aware of this, that the Patriotic Front is concerned about where it will get the necessary money to run the election. Its cash sources are extremely limited, and for it to hire alternative vehicles when no buses are available will cause major difficulty.

In addition, the whites control the business premises in the two major cities, Bulawayo and Salisbury. There is practically no black ownership of real property in the centre of either of those towns. Where will the Patriotic Front get offices? Already the word has gone out among the whites that offices should not be rented to the Patriotic Front. All kinds of difficulties are already emerging, therefore.

The Lord Privy Seal has given a general assurance that the Governor wishes there to be equality of treatment in the mass media. Perhaps the Rhodesia Herald and the television do not matter so much. Out in the tribal trust lands the people do not have much use for either. They get their sources of information by radio—not necessarily radios that they own themselves. They hear the radios in the shops. Who will decide on the balance within the radio programmes? It is all very well to say that the Governor thinks that that should be done fairly. I am sure that he does, and I am sure that the broadcasting man that he takes out with him thinks so, too. However, we all know from our experience of the BBC that it needs only one producer to decide that the proper balance falls in a particular way and one knows that one will be misrepresented and that the case that one thought one was putting will not actually get across.

All the producers in Rhodesia have worked for Rhodesian broadcasting throughout the period of illegality. It is they who have been constantly campaigning against the Patriotic Front, using the media in a way which even the most Right-wing of our journalists who go out for The Daily Telegraph find offensive. The kind of news that one hears through Rhodesian broadcasting is a travesty of fair and free broadcasting. How will that be dealt with, and will it give a fair and free election?

I think that I have said enough to indicate that already a pattern is emerging that causes us some concern. The real issue is how the Governor, with his limited staff, can control all these difficulties, recognising that the Civil Service in Rhodesia will be the same Civil Service as operated under Mr. Smith and Bishop Muzorewa. There are massive areas in which it can tend to show bias towards one party rather than another.

It is therefore essential that before we take the final step to allow Rhodesia to have its independence we should be assured that there has been a free and fair election which justifies the election of whoever gets most votes.

9.15 pm
Mr. Hooley

I explained in my speech on Second Reading that the circumstances under which Parliament is purporting to grant independence to Zimbabwe are most extraordinary. I am not going over all those points again, but, so far as I know, Parliament has never previously sought to grant independence to any dependent territory unless the situation there was stable and peaceful and there was some acknowledged national leader, some accepted legislature and a general presumption that, on independence, the life of the country would continue in a normal and peaceful manner.

Here, we have a totally contrary situation. The Government acknowledge this by the mere fact that they have accepted the need for a monitoring force for the transitional period. All the points that have been rehearsed by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) indicate the practical difficulties that will be faced in the next three months. I would have thought that in those circumstances Parliament—this House and the other House—should make an act of ratification of what goes on in the next three months and that the Government should put down an order that Parliament can then say is satisfactory and that gives the seal of approval to what has gone on, or, in very exceptional circumstances that I hope will not happen, will refuse to accept that what has been done, due to the various difficulties that have been rehearsed, was fair and proper.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Is there not another possibility? If the Government, as we hope, accept this amendment and some doubt and some difficulty arises, which we hope will not happen, the mere fact that there has to be an affirmative order may make the Government hesitate even to bring it before the House. Without the amendment there would be a temptation, in such circumstances, for them to take the premature attitude to events that they appear to have done on at least two occasions in the past.

Mr. Hooley

That is a fair point. The fact that there would have to be a final act of ratification by Parliament might also act as a deterrent to certain people in Zimbabwe who would have to reflect, if they thought they might have something to gain by being disruptive, that, at the end of the day, if they were disruptive and their disruption called in question the whole interim process, they would know that this Parliament still reserved to itself the power to decline to give the seal of approval to the election process and the interim stages that have yet to be gone through.

It is worth repeating a point that I made earlier. If this exercise is to be fully successful, we have to secure the approval of the international community. That means the approval of the countries of Africa and the Commonwealth and the approval of the United Nations. Hon. Members may think that this does not matter or that it is a secondary consideration. I do not think that it is a secondary consideration. I am sure that if, by some mischance, the election process went through in an unsatisfactory manner and the Government's reaction was to say that they were fed up with this business, that this was good enough, and to take the attitude "For Heaven's sake, let's get rid of it", we would then face the situation of an independent Zimbabwe that Africa and the United Nations were not prepared to recognise. We would have done a very ill service to the people of Zimbabwe. If that situation should arise, we would not have discharged our duties as a Parliament satisfactorily.

I do not see what the Government have to lose if they accept the amendment. After all, they have the ultimate power to put the order before the House. If they think that things have gone well enough for the process to be ratified, no doubt they will summon their cohorts, as Governments usually do, and the order will be approved. But at least Parliament will have had the final word.

We will have said to the world that we entered on the exercise in good faith, observed carefully how it was put into effect and are satisfied that, within the limits of human fallibility, the elections were free and fair. In good conscience, we could pass the order giving Zimbabwe independence.

In the tragic event that the elections were not conducted satisfactorily or a mishap occurred that invalidated the result in the eyes of the world, Parliament would have the right to say "We embarked on the exercise in good faith, but it has not worked and we cannot give it the final stamp of approval".

Mr. loan Evans

It would expedite our proceedings if we had an indication from the Government whether the amendment is acceptable or the reasons why they cannot accept what seems to be an eminently sensible proposal.

Mr. Hooley

That is a charming suggestion but one that it is not within my power to further. The Government have nothing to lose by accepting the amendment. It could act as a deterrent to any element in Zimbabwe wishing to disrupt proceedings and would enable Parliament to ratify or decline to ratify the process that we have set in motion.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Like the charming hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans), I have a great love of brevity, and my speech will certainly be brief. I rise to suport the amendment and to make three short points related to interventions that have already been made.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) properly pointed out that both the monitoring group and the electoral commission should have an opportunity of indicating their views not only to the Government but to the House.

Mr. Robert Hughes

In order to avoid any misunderstanding, I should make clear that I was speaking not of the monitoring force but of the observers. Various communiqués have made clear that Commonwealth observers will be present to witness the elections. Commonwealth Governments will be invited to send observers, whose role will be to witness that the elections have been free and fair. It is those Commonwealth observers who should be involved in the report to the House.

Mr. Johnston

I am sorry if I did not make that clear. The officers whom the Government are sending from this country, for the good and sound reason that they have knowledge of elections and can make sure that they are properly conducted, should also have an opportunity of expressing a conclusion about what they have seen and how the elections were conducted.

I do not see what objection there can be to the amendment. The Government have called at various stages for the trust of the House and they have been given its trust and co-operation. They, in turn, should trust the House by saying that the House has accepted the Government's risk and has a responsibility in the matter. We should be able to exercise that responsibility in a proper manner by saying that we have witnessed the act being done, we are well pleased with it, we approve it and we ratify it. I do not see anything wrong with that.

Sir Ian Gilmour

The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) said that the Government had had the trust and co-operation of hon. Members. Certainly that is true, and I am grateful to the Committee. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) spoke about the spirit of amity that prevails, and that is correct. I am grateful for that, and especially grateful for the attitude, tone and content of the speeches from the Opposition Front Bench.

The right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore), in an extremely cogent speech—and there have been many cogent speeches on the amendment—said that he hoped that the Government would not be difficult. I assure him that I am not being difficult. It is not through being either contrary or perverse that I wish to put the other side of the case.

The hon. Member for Inverness asked why the Government do not accept the amendment. I hope that I can convince him of our case. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said when he replied on Second Reading, all the major issues at the constitutional conference have been resolved. The Committee must now from a judgment on whether the conditions for independence have been established. In the Government's view, they have been established, and I shall not detail again what has been decided at the constitutional conference.

I ask the Committee to bear in the mind the following points. First, as I stressed on Second Reading, the Government have asked both sides of the constitutional conference to make concessions. The right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar paid tribute to them for the way, and the fact, that they have done so. They have agreed to our proposals on the understanding that, provided they fulfil the agreed conditions, independence will be forthcoming. The Rhodesian Parliament has been dissolved and Bishop Muzorewa and his colleagues are standing aside on the understanding that an irreversible process has begun that will lead to independence. At this stage we cannot put the issue in doubt by imposing further conditions.

The certainty that independence will follow if the agreements reached at Lancaster House are honoured will be a powerful incentive, in the interim period, for both parties to stick to their side of the bargain. We cannot say "Maybe you will get independence or maybe you will not; it all depends." It will be our responsibility to ensure that the elections are free and fair, and that is what we intend to do.

Mr. Robert Hughes rose

Sir I. Gilmour

Secondly, the Opposition amendment, if accepted, could have curious consequences. In the Government's eyes, the sending of the Govenor and the passage of the Bill are closely associated. We have undertaken to discharge our responsibility to bring Rhodesia to legal independence, and that process has been set in train with the Governor's arrival in Salisbury. It may interest the Committee to hear what Lord Soames said on Rhodesian television this evening: My aim is to work with you for a better and more peaceful future for all the people of this country, and my task is to hold the government of the country in trust while the political leaders put their case to you and seek your votes. When you have made your choice I shall hand over my powers to the Government which you elect. Your country will then become legally independent. This is an irreversible process. My task will then be complete and I shall return to London. 9.30 pm

I stress to the Committee that there can be no question of Britain taking on an open-ended commitment or accepting a situation in which our stay in Rhodesia could, even in theory, be extended. Our only purpose in assuming legislative or executive authority in Rhodesia is to allow elections to be held in which all parties may participate on an equal footing. It will be the Governor's responsibility, with the aid of his staff, to ensure that the elections are fair. Thereafter we shall grant independence to whatever Government are elected. It is a finite process. We do not envisage that it will take more than about a week. If I may say so, the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar made an estimate that seemed to be accurate. The Government cannot accept an open-ended commitment. Our intention is to discharge our responsibility.

Almost every contributor to the debate has referred to the need to ensure that the elections are free and fair. That is the purpose of the course on which the Government have embarked in sending a Governor to Rhodesia. The task of Lord Soames is to enable peaceful activity by all parties to be conducted freely without fear of intimidation. We will be assisted by an Election Commissioner with a staff of over 100, who will supervise the electoral process of the polling itself.

The Committee will be aware from the publication of various documents that each party will have the right to have its observer at each polling station. Commonwealth and other observers will be present. The Government are going to great lengths to ensure that the elections are fair. The Government's reputation is involved in ensuring that they are. If irregularities are brought to the Governor's notice, he will take appropriate action. It will be for other Governments to reach their own decisions on the conduct of the elections. As I have said, responsibility for ensuring that the elections are free and fair will be ours and we shall discharge it.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I was not sure how the right hon. Gentleman would proceed in Committee. I was not sure whether he would respond to further interventions. I am glad that he has given way. In a document dated 2 November 1979, which carries the imprint VSQAG/79, at page 5, article 26,it is stated: Commonwealth Governments will be invited to send observers to the elections. Their role will be to observe that the elections are genuinely free and fair and that the British Government is carrying out its responsibilities to supervise them. No restrictions will be placed on their movements, and every effort will be made to facilitate their task. I understand that it has been agreed at Lancaster House that Commonwealth observers will have a dual role, namely, to observe the elections to ensure that they are free and fair and to ensure that the British Government is carrying out its responsibilities to supervise them. The right hon. Gentleman cannot say that the Governor will do it all and that that is the end of the matter if observers are to be invited to carry out the role that I have described. How are they to discharge it on behalf of the Rhodesian people and the British Parliament if the Governor is to do it all?

Sir I. Gilmour

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can fairly accuse me of a reluctance to give way to interventions.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I apologise. I was not accusing the right hon. Gentleman of refusing to give way. I was reluctant to intervene because I did not know how he would respond to further interventions.

Sir I. Gilmour

I thank the hon. Gentleman. It might have been better if I had not given way to him. I was about to deal with the question of Commonwealth observers, who have been mentioned by virtually everybody.

The Governor has the power to take appropriate action against any party that consistently breaks the rules or practises intimidation. We have done everything, and will do everything possible, to ensure that the conditions set out in the agreed document concerning the pre-independence arrangements will be honoured.

The presence of Commonwealth observers will provide an added incentive to all parties to abide by the rules. There will probably be one Commonwealth team, consisting of representatives from a number of Commonwealth countries, as well as individual Commonwealth observers. Some countries may send representatives as part of the team in addition to their own observers. Those observers have an important part to play in witnessing that the elections are conducted fairly.

The communiqué from the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Lusaka said that it was the constitutional responsibility of the British Government to supervise the elections with Commonwealth observers. It is also our responsibility to grant legal independence to Rhodesia on the basis of majority rule. The Bill enables us to do that, and we shall discharge our responsibility.

The Government appreciate the wish of the House to keep a close watch on developments in Rhodesia as that country moves towards independence. We shall ensure that the House is adequately informed, as we have done previously. The House will be able to discuss events and express its views in a variety of ways. Every technique of opposition and persuasion will be open to hon. Members. Motions of censure could be moved if the Opposition felt so inclined, although I hope that they would not feel so inclined. Having got the parties at the conference to agree to satisfactory terms concerning independence, it is not right to suspend that agreement or hold over those parties the proverbial sword of Damocles.

The parties are committed to abiding by that agreement and we should show good faith in return. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil spoke of this as the final stage. Successive Governments have often been criticised for adding further hurdles to an already wearving race. However, the final hurdle placed before those parties is that of agreement at the conference. To ask hon. Members to decide the issue now is not inconsistent with our continuing responsibility.

The decision to send a British Governor to Rhodesia marks the beginning, as Lord Soames said this evening, of an irreversible process leading to legal independence. The Government are taking action in order to discharge their responsibilities and not to prolong the situation. The Government cannot accept an open-ended responsibility, nor can the Governor. That is why the Government cannot accept these amendments.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir I. Gilmour

I have finished.

Mr. Dobson

Although I have listened carefully to everything that the Lord Privy Seal has said, and although I have been accused of sour pessimism about the settlement. I shall remain pessimistic until the Lord Privy Seal can explain to me, and to most of my colleagues, what will happen if at any stage of the proceedings the Commonwealth observers say that the elections have not been free and fair.

The basis of consent by the House to the agreement is that the elections will be free and fair. We are told that Lord Soames is infallible. I do not accept the concept of papal infallibility, nor do I accept the concept of gubernatorial infallibility. Everyone wants free and fair elections that will be accepted by all parties to be free and fair, so that the losers will be bound to accept the outcome. Let us face it; anyone who loses an election has doubts about it. If the doubts of the losers are endorsed by the Commonwealth observers, they will have a let-out to continue whatever adversarial action towards the new Government they want.

In addition, we are trying to establish a Government who will be accepted by other countries and by the United Nations. Here again, if, following the elections, the Commonwealth observers decide that they were not fair and free, we shall not get international acceptance for Zimbabwe. Therefore, the Lord Privy Seal is under an obligation to clarify that matter.

It may be a reversal of the normal parliamentary procedure, but I feel that the right hon. Gentleman must justify not accepting the amendment, rather than our having to prove that it is necessary, because it seems self-evident that it is necessary.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Many Opposition Members were rather disturbed by the Lord Privy Seal's use of the word "irreversible". It expressed many of the fears that we have had throughout this whole process. In effect, what he is saying is that, even though we still have not got a full ceasefire, and even though we have no real guarantee that there will be fair elections, the process is irreversible. He is arguing that whether or not there is a ceasefire, whether or not the elections are free and fair, and whatever happens, the process will go ahead. To many of us that means that under some guise or other we shall have a continuation of the Smith regime and a continuation of white supremacy. We are not prepared to accept that.

The Lord Privy Seal should reconsider the amendment and give it his support. He should allow the House to give its agreement to the final act of independence when it knows that there is a legitimate Government in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Shore

The Lord Privy Seal has disappointed the Committee. Although I listened carefully to his arguments, as I am sure other hon. Members did, I did not find them persuasive.

I wish to comment on the two major arguments that the right hon. Gentleman used. First, he said that the parties to the conference had been assured that an irreversible process had been embarked upon and that it would be almost a breach of trust between the Government and the parties at Lancaster House if it did not proceed. I find that very difficult to believe. I am sure that the parties at Lancaster House have almost an equal interest to ensure that the elections are conducted fairly and that no unexpected or intrusive events take place that might disturb the results of the elections.

I cannot believe that the parties would take the view that a report back to this House, and to the other place as well, could possibly be taken as meaning that the Government had gone back on their commitment. I cannot accept that the amendment is a sort of sword of Damocles, because the parties know that we would contemplate withholding the declaration of independence only if some pretty dreadful and catastrophic event intervened.

Secondly, the Lord Privy Seal argued that the Government cannot accept an open-ended commitment. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman was well advised to use that argument. I understand very well that the Government do not wish to continue their slender and delicately poised presence in Rhodesia any longer than circumstances warrant, but it is not good enough for the Government to say that, regardless of events, as soon as the elections are out of the way and the minimum number of formalities that were described earlier have been completed the Governor will recommend that the Secretary of State should declare and nominate independence day.

9.45 pm

Arguments against that proposal were put up by my hon. Friends and other Opposition Members. They were made particularly persuasively by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) and by the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston). The hon. Member for Inverness asked the Government to trust the House, just as the House has been asked, in a most extraordinary way, to trust the Government and pass a Bill months ahead of events—indeed, very uncertain events. Those events will unfold now that Lord Soames has arrived in Salisbury. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North said that it would help to create confidence and trust in the minds of those involved in the discussions at Lancaster House, and no doubt in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, if the arrangements were reported back to the House. It is important to establish that trust now.

The amendment that we have moved would be of considerable assistance to the Governor. Knowing that the matter has to come back to Parliament to be approved on an affirmative order would have some part to play in giving a certain stability to the events. Those who, on the morrow of polling day, might be tempted to take a course of action which they might otherwise refrain from doing would be forced to think twice. The idea that, regardless of events, the Government will confirm independence by order rather than by a definite and proper vote in this place greatly weakens the possibility of our influencing events between now and independence day.

Many hon. Members have arrived late in the Chamber because they were unsure when the vote would take place. We shall certainly press this matter to a vote. I hope that those hon. Members who have been in the Chamber throughout will think twice about this matter. The Government do not have a strong case, even for the support of their own supporters. I hope that the Committee will unite and insist upon accepting our amendment, to ensure that an affirmative order is brought before the House at the end of the events that are being set in train.

Mr. Spearing

The voice of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) has, as usual, combined common sense with constitutional propriety. Alas, throughout the serious and worrying negotiations the Government, in the view of some of my hon. Friends and myself, have not shown a comparable degree of concern—at least, in respect of the wisdom of the comments that they have made and sometimes, alas, in the manner in which matters have been conducted.

I acquit the Lord Privy Seal of any wish to mislead the House or to do anything that is not up to the highest standards of democratic government. However, I have to remind him that those Opposition Members who have warned and have felt deep forebodings over the way in which certain matters have been handled have never been able to see his right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary. I do not think that I have ever set eyes on the Foreign Secretary of this country. That we have not been able to question the Secretary of State himself at certain times has cast something of an air of gloom over the proceedings.

When the Lord Privy Seal brought to the House the first Bill a few weeks ago, some of us were full of foreboding, because at that time no agreement had been reached. I concede that it may well have been the fact that the Government got that Bill that helped with the agreement that followed. At the same time, however, the right hon. Gentleman was asking the House to give its assent to something when, in terms of usual constitutional proprieties, he had no right to ask for that.

During that debate a number of us, on many occasions, asked the right hon. Gentleman why he was not in favour of a large Commonwealth force, or at least a larger Commonwealth force, to ensure free and fair elections and to give some degree of stability to an area that we all want to remain stable, free and peaceful. On every occasion the right hon. Gentleman sought refuge in the fact that negotiations were taking place, and he refused to answer any question of that sort.

Today we have the second Bill, which has been introduced before the final arrangements for the ceasefire—again, a repetition of a process in which one might have thought that the constitutional proprietries would have suggested a reverse order.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the Governor now in Salisbury is the Governor of a colony temporarily, that legality is now restored, and that, irreversibly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) said, independence and legality as an independent State will follow. But all the time the right hon. Gentleman is presuming on the will of the House. By denying the opportunity for a final view of the House of Commons on an Order in Council, he is denying the Opposition's right to associate themselves with the final act of independence. We are not in a position today to make a final judgment. I think that even the right hon. Gentleman would agree that that is so. Unhappily, it is so, because the ceasefire is not with us.

The last chance that the House of Commons will have, and the last power that it will have, albeit perhaps de jure or by example, will be when the Question is put on Third Reading. If we had one other order at some future date the Government would, quite properly, have to render account for their trusteeship. The right hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar mentioned trust time and again in their closing speeches on these amendments, but I put it to the Lord Privy Seal that by denying the right of the House of Commons to look at the Order in Council and an opportunity for the Government to render account on that question he is taking away from Parliament trust that he has no right to take.

If the right hon. Gentleman wished to help to engender here an atmosphere of support for his Government in the very difficult path that lies ahead, he would have been very much wiser to accept this reasoned and cogent amendment, because then the constitutional proprieties would have been seen to have been carried out in this place and would thereby provide an example for the constitutional proprieties in Zimbabwe.

The First Deputy Chairman (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

I call the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes).

Hon. Members


Mr. Robert Hughes

We have been trying for 14 years to discover a way of resolving the Rhodesian situation. I should think that hon. Members would at least be concerned that we spent a few minutes trying to get it right.

The Lord Privy Seal has confirmed that the Government have given their full and solemn approval to the proposition, agreed at Lancaster House, that the Commonwealth will send observers to see whether the elections are free and fair and to ensure that the British Government are carrying out their responsibilities. He was unable to say how the observers would discharge their role and how they would communicate their conclusions to the House or anywhere else. The Lord Privy Seal was asked about the process towards independence being irreversible even though elections were found not to be free and fair. I was astonished to see Conservative Members nodding their heads with great enthusiasm. They appeared to be delighted at the prospect that we might approve independence on elections which were not free and fair. That is absolute nonsense.

It is because of that kind of attitude that there is deep concern at what has taken place at Lancaster House. All of us are anxious not to say anything which could be construed as making things more difficult for the Government in reaching agreement. We want the Government to reach agreement. We want the Patriotic Front to come to an agreement, just as we want elections. However, if we do not achieve the conditions that we believe are essential we shall be in difficulty in passing the Bill.

The Lord Privy Seal said that the Government could not take on an open-ended commitment. Of course they could not, and I understand that. At least he appears to anticipate that after election day there may not be a readily apparent Government able to take over. Paragraph 26 of the document that he submitted yesterday at Lancaster House states: Finally, I am conscious of the concern on both sides about the situation which might arise after the elections. I have made it clear that if there is a general wish the monitoring force would stay in Rhodesia until the independence Government are formed and independence is granted. So the right hon. Gentleman and the conference foresee the possibility that it may

be necessary for the monitoring force to remain after the elections.

If that is the case, surely it would be prudent and I believe helpful—because we are trying to be helpful—to the Government in their negotiations at Lancaster House to accept my right hon. Friend's amendment, which would at least indicate to the parties concerned that if they felt that they had a grievance they would have an opportunity to put that grievance to the House of Commons.

The process that we are debating should not, if it goes utterly wrong, confer independence. There must be some assurances. If agreements are reached and if the propositions that we are discussing have any meaning—and they must have a meaning in order to be laid—the Lord Privy Seal should, even at this stage, repent and accept the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made: —

The Committee divided: Ayes 131. Noes 172.

Division No. 125] AYES [9.58 pm
Alton, David Golding, John Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Grant, George (Morpeth) Newens, Stanley
Beith, A. J. Grant, John (Islington C) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Bidwell, Sydney Hamilton, James (Bothwell) O'Neill, Martin
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Palmer. Arthur
Buchan, Norman Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Parry, Robert
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Pavitt, Laurie
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Haynes, Frank Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) Prescott, John
Canavan, Dennis Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) Race, Reg
Carmichael, Neil Home Robertson, John Radice, Giles
Clark, David (South Shields) Homewood, William Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Hooley, Frank Richardson, Miss Jo
Coleman, Donald Horam, John Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
Conlan, Bernard Howells, Geraint Robertson, George
Cox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Roper, John
Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Ross, Ernest(Dundee West)
Cryer, Bob Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Cunliffe, Lawrence John, Brynmor Rowlands, Ted
Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven) Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Sever, John
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Barry (East Flint) Sheerman, Barry
Davidson, Arthur Lamond, James Shore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) Leighton, Ronald Silverman, Julius
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Soley, Clive
Dewar, Donald Litherland, Robert Spearing, Nigel
Dixon, Donald Lyon, Alexander (York) Spriggs, Leslie
Dobson, Frank Lyons, Edward (Bradford West) Stallard, A. W.
Dormand, Jack McCartney, Hugh Steel, Rt Hon David
Douglas, Dick McDonald, Dr Oonagh Stoddart, David
Douglas-Mann, Bruce McElhone, Frank Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Dubs, Alfred McKay, Allen (Penistone) Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Duffy, A. E. P. MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Dunnett, Jack McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central) Urwin, Rt Hn Tom
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth McNally, Thomas Welsh, Michael
Eadie, Alex Marks, Kenneth White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Eastham, Ken Marshall, David (Gl'sgow.Shettles'n) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Whitehead, Phillip
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Marshall, Jim (Leicester South) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Evans, John (Newton) Maxton, John Winnick, David
Ewing, Harry Maynard, Miss Joan Woolmer, Kenneth
Flannery, Martin Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) Mr. George Morton and
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw) Mr. James Tinn.
Aspinwall, Jack Grist, Ian Newton, Tony
Atkins, Robert (Preston North) Gummer, John Selwyn Onslow, Cranley
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll) Osborn, John
Banks Robert Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Page, John (Harrow, West)
Bendall, Vivian Hampson, Dr Keith Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Hastings, Stephen Parris, Matthew
Berry, Hon Anthony Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Patten, John (Oxford)
Best Keith Hawkins, Paul Percival, Sir Ian
Bevan, David Gilroy Hawksley, Warren Price, David (Eastleigh)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Heddle, John Proctor, K. Harvey
Boscawen, Hon Robert Henderson, Barry Rathbone, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Hicks, Robert Renton, Tim
Braine Sir Bernard Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Rhodes James, Robert
Bright, Graham Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Brinton, Tim Hooson, Tom Robinson, Peter (Belfast East)
Brotherton, Michael Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe) Hunt, David (Wirral) Rossi, Hugh
Budgen, Nick Jessel, Toby Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Bulmer, Esmond Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Scott, Nicholas
Butcher, John Kershaw, Anthony Shelton, William (Streatham)
Cadbury, Jocelyn Kilfedder, James A Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) King, Rt Hon Tom Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Knight, Mrs Jill Sims, Roger
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn) Knox, David Skeet, T. H. H.
Channon, Paul Lang, Ian Smith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)
Chapman, Sydney Langford-Holt, Sir John Speed, Keith
Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Lawrence, Ivan Speller, Tony
Clark, Dr William (Croydon South) Lee, John Sproat, Iain
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Le Marchant, Spencer Squire, Robin
Cockeram, Eric Lester, Jim (Beeston) Stanbrook, Ivor
Colvin, Michael Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Cope, John Loveridge, John Stradling Thomas, J.
Costain, A.P. Luce, Richard Tebbit, Norman
Crouch David Lyell, Nicholas Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Dean, Paul (North Somerset) MacGregor, John Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Dorrell Stephen MacKay, John (Argyll) Thompson, Donald
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Dover, Denshore McQuarrie,Albert Thornton, Malcolm
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Major, John Townend, John (Bridlington)
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Marland, Paul Trippier, David
Dykes, Hugh Marlow, Tony Viggers, Peter
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke) Marten, Neil (Banbury) Waddington, David
Eggar, Timothy Mather, Carol Waldegrave, Hon William
Eyre, Reginald Maude, Rt Hon Angus Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Fairgrieve, Russell Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Waller, Gary
Faith, Mrs Sheila Mellor, David Ward, John
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) Watson, John
Fisher Sir Nigel Mills, Iain (Meriden) Wheeler, John
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Mills, Peter (West Devon) Wickenden, Keith
Forman Nigel Miscampbell, Norman Wilkinson, John
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Winterton, Nicholas
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Molyneaux, James Wolfson, Mark
Garel-Jones, Tristan Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Younger, Sir George (Acton)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Younger, Rt Hon George
Goodhew, Victor Murphy, Christopher
Gorst, John Myles, David TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gow, Ian Neale, Gerrard Mr. Peter Brooke and
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds) Needham, Richard Mr. John Wakeham.
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Nelson, Anthony
Question accordingly negatived.
It being after Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
Committee report Progress
That, at this day's sitting, the Zimbabwe Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Le Marchant.]
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