HC Deb 07 November 1979 vol 973 cc406-23
The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Ian Gilmour)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement on Rhodesia.

In my statement of 24 October I described the proposals that the Government had put to the constitutional conference for the holding of elections in Southern Rhodesia and the administration of the country in the pre-independence period. The full proposals that the Government tabled on 2 November have been placed in the Library of the House. We have also published today, as a White Paper, the summary of the independence constitution accepted by the parties at Lancaster House.

At Lancaster House we have now achieved provisional agreement on a constitution, and have made considerable progress towards agreement on the interim period. I hope that we shall soon be able to proceed to negotiations for a ceasefire and the arrangements for monitoring it. The conference is, therefore, moving towards a conclusion. We must be able to act without delay to implement the final agreement for which we are working with all parties. Any delay in putting a settlement into effect would cost further lives and could place the settlement itself at risk.

The purpose of the enabling Bill that the Government are introducing later today is to enable us to implement the interim arrangements without delay. It will enable the Government to make the independence constitution, to introduce parts of it before independence to allow elections to be held, and to provide for the appointment of a Governor with full powers. Existing legislation is not adequate for these purposes.

The Salisbury delegation has accepted the proposals that the Government have put to it as a basis for a settlement. The Patriotic Front has also accepted the principles of a British Governor and new elections. We are therefore very close to a settlement that is fully consistent with the communique of the meeting of heads of Commonwealth Governments in Lusaka.

In these circumstances the Government believe that it would be wrong now to take the positive action of renewing section 2 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965. But as the House will be aware, the great bulk of sanctions—those relating to direct trade and the transfer of funds—depend not on section 2 but on orders made under other Acts, and they will continue until they are revoked. These sanctions will be lifted as soon as Rhodesia returns to legality with the appointment of a Governor and his arrival in Salisbury.

The Bill that will be placed before the House enables the Government to take whatever action is necessary in relation to Rhodesia, depending on the state of progress at the conference. This includes the power to continue those sanctions at present imposed under section 2. But, given the position now reached, the Government find it difficult to envisage circumstances in which this would be necessary.

While the Government would have preferred to give both Houses more time to consider the Bill, the timing of the introduction of the Bill has been related to the progress of the conference. It is essential that the Governor should be in a position when, as we hope, agreement is reached to give effect to a settlement without delay and for elections to be held as soon as possible. A great deal of progress has been made in the talks. We were glad to hear this morning that President Kaunda will be coming to London tomorrow. This will be a most timely visit. His presence will, I am sure, assist our progress towards a peaceful settlement.

Mr. Shore

The Lord Privy Seal's statement reports further progress at the constitutional conference, and we greatly welcome that. The prize of peace, a properly elected Government and lawful independence must certainly not be allowed to elude us after so many difficulties have been surmounted.

Will the Minister confirm that the discussion of the ceasefire—the last and perhaps most difficult stage—has yet to commence? Does he concede that agreement on the other issues is still contingent on the outcome of that discussion? Will he, therefore, explain to the House why he needs to introduce this Bill at such a critical stage of the Lancaster House conference? Does he agree —it is a matter of common sense—that it would be far better for the House to debate such a Bill, which will inevitably lead to fierce argument, after and not before those negotiations are concluded? The House understands the need for an enabling Bill without unnecessary delay. Why does the right hon. Gentleman seek to push this Bill through in a single day and, moreover, within 24 hours of its publication?

I turn now to sanctions. Does the Lordy Privy Seal really believe that his decision not to renew section 2 is likely to promote agreement and good will at the conference? Is not the opposite more likely? Is this not a blatantly political move, designed not to assist the conference but to appease his own Back Benchers?

How does this decision square with our international obligations to the Security Council? Will it not be seen by the international community, whose support the Government have, rightly, so far claimed as essential to a solution, as a substantial change in British policy? In the light of all this, may I renew the plea that we have already made to the Minister and to his colleagues? With agreement, as he says, so close, and in the light of the visit of a very important President and neighbour from Zambia, will he please reconsider the timing of this measure and postpone its introduction until at least Monday of next week?

Sir I. Gilmour

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said about the progress that we have made so far. I regret that that welcoming tone was not carried through to the end of his question. We are proceeding now because we have to take account of the progress that we have made during the constitutional conference. We have progressed far towards a conclusion.

The 1965 Act is not sufficient for our purposes. We need new legislation. In those circumstances it must be right to introduce the legislation now. When the conference ends we must be in a position to make the arrangements to appoint a Governor and to proceed with the interim arrangements for governing Rhodesia. That is logical and right.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about sanctions. I made a careful statement about them. The right hon. Gentleman must realise that circumstances have changed considerably since they were imposed in 1965. They have changed considerably since we debated this subject last year. Sanctions must be related to the situation that they were designed to remedy. Since last year we have had the May elections in Rhodesia, the Lusaka agreement and the Lancaster House conference, which has lasted for nine weeks. In those circumstances, and when the Salisbury delegation has agreed to all the proposals, which are in accordance with the Lusaka agreement, for us to say that we should renew section 2 would be a gratuitous insult.

The idea that this somehow will not help the Lancaster House conference is erroneous. The bulk of sanctions will continue until the Governor arrives in Salisbury and until Rhodesia returns to legality.

Mr. Shore

It has always been understood that the two acts should go together—that is, that sanctions should lapse when there is a return to legality and the Governor takes up his power in Salisbury. I question the wisdom of putting these two events on a different time scale. They should be kept together.

Apart from sanctions, does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is no reason why the House should not debate this constitutional Bill, with its enabling powers to introduce a constitution, in the ordinary way, without undue delay? I should certainly hope to see it through well within the next week.

Sir I. Gilmour

We do not know what will happen in the few days before 15 November. Perhaps the events will not be separated. I can see that we are putting the House to some inconvenience by the timing. I do not deny that, but it is not unique. Labour Members will remember that a Labour Government introduced the 1965 Act on a Friday and that it was passed through all its stages in one day—the following Monday. The Opposition should not take too high-minded an attitude to the timing. We accept that we are putting the House to some inconvenience but we believe that the issues are so important that we are fully justified.

Mr. Rippon

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement and congratulate him and the Foreign Secretary on the progress of the talks. My right hon. Friend referred to this as being an enabling Bill. Can he confirm that the House will be able to monitor and, if necessary, debate the progress of the Bill, step by step? I welcome my right hon. Friend's assurance that sanctions will end as soon as the Governor takes office. It would be absurd to impose sanctions against ourselves. At what point does my right hon. Friend envisage that the Government will be able to go to the United Nations with a request to lift the resolution on mandatory sanctions?

Sir I. Gilmour

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend. Of course the House will be kept fully informed of everything. This is an enabling Bill. Under it, in accordance with precedent, we shall be able to create the independence constitution, which will be introduced by Order in Council. However, that will not introduce the independence of Rhodesia, or Zimbabwe. That will be done in a subsequent Act, which we shall introduce when circumstances allow, preferably later this month. I cannot give a definite date. It is important to recognise that two Acts are involved.

Mr. Arthur Bottomley

I welcome the progress made in trying to find a solution to the Rhodesian problem. Our thanks are due to all involved. Would it not be polite to the President of Zambia to meet the wish of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) that the debate be postponed until next week?

Sir I. Gilmour

I am grateful for what the right hon. Member said in the first part of his question. He will have heard what I said about the President of Zambia in my statement. We look forward to important discussions with him. I do not think that the President of Zambia will expect to be involved in debates in the House. The timing of the debate does not have any particular relevance to the timing of his visit.

Mr. Amery

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his decision not to renew the sanctions order next week. Will he confirm the Foreign Secretary's assurance that although we want to see all parties committed to the agreement we shall not leave a veto on agreement in the hands of the Patriotic Front?

Sir I. Gilmour

It was said at Lusaka that no party should have a veto. That is still the position. I emphasise that we are working for a full agreement by all parties at the conference. That is our major objective.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Why is it necessary to rush the Bill through tomorrow? The right hon. Gentleman says that the Bill will be necessary following an agreement. Is he aware that the House would pass such an enabling Bill in hours if there were an agreement? Is he saying that the purpose of the enabling Bill is to allow the Government to proceed to conclude a separate agreement with the Salisbury delegation and to go ahead even if there is no general agreement?

Sir I. Gilmour

The hon. Member asked the same question as his right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore). My answer is the same. Of course the object of the Bill is not to make a separate agreement with the Salisbury delegation. If we had wanted to do that I dare say that we should not have gone through nine weeks of the conference, we should not have had the Lusaka agreement, and we should not have spent many hours a day on the important objective of trying to gain agreement with all parties. That is still our objective.

I know that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) follows these matters closely. We told the conference on Friday that legislation was imminent In the paper that we produced on Friday we said: The authority of the United Kingdom Parliament will be sought for the appointment of the Governor, the making of the Independence Constitution and the holding of elections under it. Legislation will be submitted to Parliament as a matter of urgency so that the Governor may, without loss of time after his arrival, take the steps necessary to allow elections to be held. This Bill is to enable us to bring peace to Rhodesia. It has nothing to do with a separate agreement.

Mr. Whitney

I congratulate my right hon. Friend and my right hon. and noble Friend on the statement this afternoon and on what they have achieved in the talks so far. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Opposition's attitude is an extraordinary manifestation of go-slow tactics? We have been told that two months is insufficient time for the Patriotic Front, which we were previously told would be welcomed with open arms by all the people of Zimbabwe. Now the Opposition seek to deny the Government the speedy opportunity to restore Rhodesia to legality. Does not my right hon. Friend agree that this shows yet again the Opposition's total failure to comprehend the reality of present-day Zimbabwe?

Mr. English

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Clearly, the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) was not aware that we have been forbidden to receive the Bill, which is in the Vote Office. I have been told by the Vote Office that instructions have been given to it that the Bill must not be given to any Member until after the statement and questions upon it are over. [HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful."]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am listening to a point of order, and I want to hear it.

Mr. English

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to exercise your right, as the person with power to give orders to the Vote Office, to order it now to issue to us the Bill, which is in its possession, so that we can make sensible comments to, and ask sensible questions of, the right hon. Gentleman, whose Department is clearly frightened that we might ask relevant questions.

Mr. Speaker

There is a very simple explanation. No Bill can be published before it is presented to the House. If hon. Members will look at their Order Papers, they will see that it is—

Mr. English

Why is it not available?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman must not shout whilst I am speaking. If he reads the Order Paper he will see that presentation of the Bill follows statements, as is invariably the case.

Mr. English

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman wished to make a statement after the Bill had been presented we should, in accordance with the normal customs of the House, allow him to do so.

Mr. Speaker

Let us continue with questions.

Sir I. Gilmour

I should like to revert to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney). It is only right to say—I hope that the Opposition will not take this amiss—that the Opposition's attitude to this matter during the past three months has been extremely helpful, and we are very appreciative of that attitude. I have already said that I see that there is a procedural difficulty, to which any Opposition could object, but I hope that the attitude that they have displayed over the past three months will continue for the next week or two.

Mr. James Callaghan

I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, but is he aware that he has not given us any convincing reason why the Bill must be debated, in all its stages, within 24 hours of its presentation? That is the grievance. I think that it will contain matters of substance.

Nobody can suggest that the right hon. Gentleman must take important decisions about the future governance of Rhodesia by Saturday. That is simply not true. Therefore, what we are saying is that there should be time for reflection and time to consider these matters. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman again that the House as a whole should have time to consider these matters, even though Conservative hon. Members may not wish it.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman one question? It is the view of a number of us that what he does on sanctions may be very much misunderstood and may lead the Government into great difficulties. I can understand that he may not want to renew sanctions for a 12-month period, in view of the advanced stage that he has reached, but will he not consider what I would hope he would have considered already? Why not renew sanctions for a shorter period? For example, why not renew them for three months, or even one month? [Interruption.] I understand that hon. Members on the Government Benches below the Gangway are not open to argument, but there are international complications here that are of great significance.

I do not want to see the Government bitch this matter at the end of the day. That is why we are putting to the right hon. Gentleman that he should not alter the balance on sanctions at this eleventh hour. If he asked for a renewal for a shorter period than 12 months, we should certainly be ready to concede that, and, of course, should not insist that it should be for the period for which the order has been renewed in previous years.

Sir I. Gilmour

I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for what he said.

On the question of timing, I am sorry that evidently I did not make myself clear in answer to the Shadow Foreign Secretary. We have reached a crucial stage of the conference. At the same time, the existing legislation is not suitable—it is not sufficient—for our purposes. Therefore, we must legislate. Equally, the existing legislation, which is not sufficient, runs out next week. Therefore, there is a considerable hurry.

I see that theoretically there is a point for debating the Bill on Monday rather than on Thursday or Friday, but the right hon. Gentleman will know why we do not want to do that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why is it?"] We must be certain of getting it through.

On the question of sanctions, of course, a balance must be struck. The Leader of the Opposition said that he did not want us to alter the balance of sanctions, but in our judgment—in view of what has happened, and as the Salisbury delegation has done everything that has been asked of it in pursuit of an agreement at Lusaka—to take the positive action of renewing sanctions, as opposed to running on the great bulk of sanctions that will run on anyway, would be a quite unjustifiable slap in the face for it. As I have said, the bulk of sanctions will continue. Of course, it is a matter of judgment.

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is right to say that the order is renewable for less than 12 months. I can see that it could be cancelled within that period. The ex-Patronage Secretary knows these procedural matters very well. I think that the order can be renewed only for 12 months. I take the point made by the Leader of the Opposition, but in our view it would be altering the balance of sanctions against the Salisbury delegation.

Some hon. Members and some people outside the House are inclined to forget that in the very intricate and delicate negotiation that is taking place at Lancaster House we are negotiating with two parties. We must secure the agreement of both. Many people seem to think that our problem is only to get one party to agree. We must get both parties to agree. That is the major difficulty of this negotiation. That is what is informing all our actions in this matter.

Mr. Stoddart

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I listened to the Lord Privy Seal very carefully, and I believe that he committed a breach of privilege of the House and treated the House with contempt. He said that he was introducing the Bill tomorrow in order to be certain of getting it through. Whatever does he mean by that? I can well understand that Tory Members laugh at democratic procedures, Mr. Speaker, but I have always understood-I hope that you will confirm this—that a Government present a Bill to the House for debate and decision, and no Government should be so autocratically minded as to present a Bill in the certainty that it will go through. I believe that the Government have committed a grave contempt of the House.

Mr. Speaker

Since I have been here, many Governments have assumed that as they have a majority—normally—they will get the business. I did not feel that there was a breach of privilege in what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that all reasonable people in the House will wish him well in solving the problem? Nevertheless, he must be sharply aware of the fact that a great many people feel that he is being less than fair to the House in forcing it to deal with this matter so quickly. Can he assure us that there is no connection between the fact that sanctions are included in the Bill—and section 2 sanctions are only a small percentage, about 15—and the fact that the Government feel there would be a problem in dealing with the matter a week tomorrow? That is the crux of the matter. I am sure that the House will welcome the Lord Privy Seal's assurance on this issue. Could not this Bill have been presented before, or could not more time have been given to our deliberations on it?

Sir I. Gilmour

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his good wishes. As I explained, the legislation existing at present is not sufficient for our purposes. We need other legislation. The Bill that we shall introduce will provide power to do everything that we would wish to do in Rhodesia, including the imposition of sanctions, should that be necessary.

On the point about the inconvenience caused to the House, I should make it clear that this is a four-clause Bill and the fourth clause is merely an interpretation clause. Therefore, it really should not exercise hon. Members' minds unduly. We should be able to get right on top of it tomorrow.

Sir John Eden

Timing is all important in these matters and it must be for my right hon. Friend to judge what is right. Surely it makes sense, however, in the light of all that has been achieved in these long and complex negotiations, to maintain the momentum towards independence and legality. Therefore, is it not absolutely right for my right hon. Friend to seek to have in his hands the powers to enable him to proceed expeditiously when the opportunity arises?

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there are still some issues outstanding, and can he give us any information about them? In the light of the history of sanctions and in view of all that has been agreed to by the Muzorewa Government, would it not be very wrong to make any attempt to reimpose sanctions against that regime?

Sir I. Gilmour

Of course we wish to maintain momentum; that is very important. I hope that all parties at the conference will agree with that. On the question of the matters that are still outstanding, the Salisbury delegation has agreed to our interim arrangements and the Patriotic Front is still considering them. We discussed them yesterday and we are doing so again today. There is a certain difference of philosophy about this, but I hope that the Patriotic Front will signify its agreement fairly soon. After that we shall go on to discuss the arrangements for the ceasefire. That is the main outstanding matter at the conference and it is almost the most important.

Mr. Ennals

Is not what the right hon. Gentleman has just said one of the most profound reasons why we should not debate this issue tomorrow? Does he recall that the last time he made a statement to the House, which I read when I was in Salisbury, Rhodesia, he asked that he should not be pressed on a number of the very difficult questions that he has just touched upon? Does he not think that at a time when the Lancaster House conference is at a crucial stage and when there are delicate issues still to be determined, for this House openly to discuss those issues is very unwise? Having said that the Opposition Front Bench had been helpful, surely the right hon. Gentleman must be aware of the strength of feeling that exists among Members of the several parties on the Opposition Benches. Will he consult other right hon. Gentlemen on his own Front Bench in order to get this Bill before the House without the sort of controversy that has resulted from his statement today?

Mr. Dykes

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Should not the leader of the other party also sit on the Opposition Front Bench?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Sir I. Gilmour

I know that the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) has been in Rhodesia recently and that he met a great many people there. With respect, I believe that he has slightly misunderstood the position of the enabling Bill that we are introducing. That Bill does not affect the details of the transitional arrangements that we are debating now at the Lancaster House conference. I do not think that what the Government propose in any way cuts across anything that I said in my statement the other day.

Mr. Higgins

I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on the great progress that has been made so far. In view of the importance of upholding the rule of law, will he give us an assurance that the Government will take steps to ensure that we are at no stage in breach of our international obligations? Will he also confirm that it would not be the Government's intention to use powers under their proposed Bill in the absence of a general agreement, because that could be very dangerous?

Sir I. Gilmour

Of course it is the aim of the Government to remain fully in accordance with their international obligations. No doubt that is true of all Governments. I have explained the situation about sanctions fairly carefully. This is an enabling Bill, designed to put into operation the results of an agreement at the conference. That is our aim, and in that objective I am sure we have the support of the vast majority of the House. If we fail in those endeavours we shall have to think again.

Miss Joan Lestor

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that both the Lusaka conference and later Sir Shridath Ramphal, of the Commonwealth Secretariat, said that agreement at Lancaster House must be reached not only on the constitution but on the interim period. Since agreement on the interim period has not been reached, particularly in relation to the length of time before the election and on the security forces, will the Lord Privy Seal say whether he intends to proceed with his Bill if that agreement is not reached?

Sir I. Gilmour

I have already explained to the House that we have contingent agreement on the constitution and we are now discussing the interim arrangements. Then we hope to move on to the ceasefire. It does not need the Commonwealth Secretary-General—whom we all respect—to point out that we have not reached agreement. That is common ground. Our Bill is an enabling Bill, which will allow us to proceed with the future government of Rhodesia. At present there is no legislation that enables us to do so. That is why we seek the agreement of the House to proceed in this way.

Mr. Tapsell

May I put it to my right hon. Friend, speaking as someone who has consistently and strongly supported the policy of sanctions during the past 14 years, that against the background that my right hon. Friend has described I believe that the Government are right to take the limited decision not to continue section 2? Does he recognise, however, that a major diplomatic task lies ahead for us in explaining to the rest of the world—and particularly to sections of the Third world—the good faith that lies behind the decision? In explaining this, will he ensure that the full resources of the external broadcasting services of this country are brought fully into play?

Sir I. Gilmour

Naturally, we shall endeavour to put our case across by all means available to us. My hon. Friend has touched on a matter that is not strictly germane to our proceedings, but I am grateful to him for what he said about sanctions. I take his point that the reasons for what we are doing should be put across to all our friends, and, indeed, our enemies, such as they are, in the world today.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order, I propose to call four more hon. Members from either side. There is a Business Statement to follow, which is linked with this matter.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

As the Minister's statement is made on the assumption that an agreement will be reached, will he confirm that the agreement by the Patriotic Front so far has been contingent upon total agreement about the package? If that is not finally forthcoming, does the Bill mean that the Government can proceed to independence irrespective of the assent of the Patriotic Front?

Sir I. Gilmour

I certainly confirm—I have said it many times; it hardly needs confirmation—that the Patriotic Front's agreement to the constitution is contingent on agreement to the rest of the package, just as the agreement, which I hope will soon be forthcoming, to the interim arrangements will be contingent on agreement to a ceasefire. That is common ground. We hope that all parties will agree. If they do not agree, as was said in Lusaka, nobody can have a veto. That, I think, is generally agreed. If we fail in our endeavours, which I very much hope will not happen, we shall certainly have to consider how we should proceed.

Mr. Emery

Does my right hon. Friend realise that many people never expected this conference to attain anything like the success that it has already achieved? He and the Foreign Secretary deserve congratulations for having brought the conference to its present stage. Therefore, if his advice is that this piece of legislation is necessary tomorrow, most hon. Members should support him in reaching that conclusion. Would my right hon. Friend mind pointing out to certain Opposition Members below the Gangway that in November 1965 the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965 was pushed through this House by the Labour Government of the day in one sitting.

Sir I. Gilmour

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. I appreciate what he said about the conference. I believe that it is widely agreed that, while we still have some way to go, as we certainly concede, the conference has achieved a great deal. We all hope and pray that we shall bring it to a successful conclusion. As my hon. Friend said, there are certain precedents for what we are doing.

Mr. Hooley

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that in November 1978 the Lord Chancellor made it perfectly clear that all the powers required for an interim period—which is what we are now discussing—were contained in section 2 of the 1965 Act? Is he also aware that even if that section were to lapse there are sufficiently wide powers in the 1961 Act to enable the Government to effect reasonable and sensible interim arrangements? In those circumstances, why are the Government asking for a new blank cheque? Does it mean that they wish to go ahead in the absence of real agreement?

Sir I. Gilmour

The hon. Gentleman has got it wrong. Present legislation would not entitle us to produce an independence constitution or to introduce, prior to independence, part of a constitution. Nor could we, without amending the constitution of 1961, introduce a Governor with executive powers. I believe that the House would agree that to approach future legislation by amending the 1965 Act or the 1961 Act would be an extremely muddled and retrograde way of proceeding. It must be better now to look forward rather than back.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Will my right hon. Friend accept the good wishes of the House for trying to overcome the intransigence of the Patriotic Front in the same way as the Government have overcome the intransigence of the Rhodesian Front? Does this country now recognise the Salisbury regime? If we do not, why are we lifting any sanctions before we get the Governor in or produce independence?

Sir I. Gilmour

I would not like to refer to intransigence either by the Patriotic Front or by the Salisbury regime. I hope that both parties are negotiating in good faith, although it is true that there have been certain delays, which I hope will soon end.

I think that I have made it clear that the vast bulk of sanctions, which do not depend on section 2 of the 1965 Act, will come to an end only when legality is restored to Rhodesia. It follows that the present regime is not legal and that we do not recoginse it.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

We welcome the emphasis that the right hon. Gentleman has placed on the need to obtain the agreement of both parties and not merely the agreement of one. In the light of that, will he give an assurance that, assuming that the legislation is passed through the House this week, none the less no powers under it will be exercised until the agreement of both parties is achieved?

Sir I. Gilmour

To do that would be to give a veto to one party or the other. That would be contrary to the Lusaka agreement and to common sense. If we were to do that, we would never obtain any agreement. I appreciate what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said at the beginning of his question. I repeat that our objective is to obtain the agreement of both delegations so that we can restore peace and security to Rhodesia.

Mr. Hastings

I congratulate my right hon. Friend and his team on what they have achieved so far. My right hon. Friend spoke of having elections as soon as possible after the arrival of the Governor. Does he agree that any unnecessary delay over these elections would increase the risk of confusion and intimidation? Many of us are aware, sadly, of the consequences of that in the past. The Foreign Secretary is reported to have recommended a period of eight weeks and no more. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that in no circumstances will the British Government agree to a day more than eight weeks?

Sir I. Gilmour

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. After the attainment of agreement, elections should take place as soon as possible. As we all know, electioneering is a very divisive process. After a war, such as that in Rhodesia, the last thing that a country needs is to be divisive. Our proposals are that elections should take place eight weeks after the conclusion of a ceasefire.

Mr. Spearing

As the Bill will give a blank cheque for legality to Rhodesia—if it does not, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would say so—why does he think that he can get the Bill tomorrow but would find it more difficult next week? Has he had consultations with the Commonwealth countries at the Lusaka conference concerning his intention to present a Bill tomorrow? If they objected, would they not only be agreeing that the work of the Prime Minister in Lusaka had been undone but that the likelihood of a ceasefire would decrease and the likelihood of civil war increase?

Sir I. Gilmour

The hon. Gentleman is not right about blank cheques, and I do not think that we ever said we would get the Bill tomorrow. We will start debating it tomorrow, and we hope to get it as soon as possible, but we are certainly not pre-empting any of the debating procedures of the House.

I do not think that it is the usual procedure to consult the Commonwealth about legislation to be introduced into this House. As I explained earlier, we adumbrated our intentions at the constitutional conference on Friday, when we put our proposals on the table, and the Commonwealth observers at the conference are kept in close touch with what we are doing.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

I welcome part of my right hon. Friend's statement, particularly in relation to the Government's assurance that they will not seek to reintroduce sanctions, but is he aware that he and my right hon. and noble Friend are presiding over the destruction of a multi-racial democratic Government in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia? If the official Salisbury delegation has agreed to everything that the British Government have requested, will he please give specific reasons to the House now why he and the Government are not prepared to lift all sanctions immediately?

Sir I. Gilmour

Talk about destruction, and so forth, going on in Rhodesia does not bear serious examination. We are not seeking to destroy anything. We are seeking to build up a multi-racial society in Rhodesia based on a constitution that gives genuine majority rule with safeguards for the minority community. We are seeking to bring peace to that country. I would have thought that my hon. Friend would have the sense to welcome what we are doing. I have answered his question about sanctions two or three times before. Sanctions will be lifted when the Governor arrives in Salisbury and Rhodesia returns to legality. Surely that is perfectly clear.