HC Deb 08 November 1979 vol 973 cc625-62

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That if the Southern Rhodesia Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House, further proceedings on the Bill shall stand postponed and that as soon as the proceedings on any Resolution come to by the House on Southern Rhodesia [Money] have been concluded, this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill, and that the Southern Rhodesia Bill may be proceeded with at this day's sitting, though opposed, until any flout.—[Mr. Waddington.]

Mr. McNamara

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you indicate whether you will be calling my amendment?

Mr. Speaker

I have not selected the amendment.

Mr. McNamara

Then may I speak to the motion?

Mr. Speaker

Later on, maybe.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

The motion is that the Southern Rhodesia Bill should be debated and that the debate should be continued until any hour, in the expectation that the Bill can be completed at one sitting.

This is a Bill of profound significance for the future of Southern Africa, and it is not too emotional or high-flown to say that lives depend upon a wise judgment about the course of the Bill and the time that we take to study it. The Opposition are incensed by the presentation of the Bill at this stage of the negotiations at Lancaster House. We are not opposed to the production of an enabling Bill to allow the Government to carry out the terms of an agreement that has been reached by all three parties to the consultations at Lancaster House, but it is essential before an enabling Bill is passed that there should be such an agreement.

If there is not such an agreement, the effect of the Bill that we are called upon to discuss is that the Government will have the power legally to take control of Southern Rhodesia again, to conduct the business of government in Southern Rhodesia up to the election, to have elected within Southern Rhodesia a Government who, by the time scale envisaged by Her Majesty's Government, are intended to be a Government headed by Bishop Muzorewa, and to confer legality upon that Government by recognising them there and then.

The Government's argument in presenting the Bill is that they do not have the power legally to confer independence because they do not have the independence Bill and the constitution in it. In fact, they will have had legal authority to take Rhodesia up to the brink of independence, to have a Government elected on their terms by their conception of what is a fair election, to recognise them, and, if they are recognised, to try to pass them off as the fully independent Government of Rhodesia, who could in those circumstances call in South Africa and accept the help of a foreign Government in fighting the guerilla forces. If that were to be the scenario, there is no one in the House who would want it. The only reason why there is not the same ferment of revolt by Conservative Members as by Labour Members is that so far the Government have been able to persuade Conservative liberal critics that they are getting near to an agreement at Lancaster House.

If there were an agreement and the Government brought forward the enabling Bill, they could have the Bill in a couple of hours. In those circumstances, no one in the House would want to oppose it. If all the parties at Lancaster House had agreed on the terms of a new constitution and they had all agreed that an enabling Bill was necessary, no one would want to put a barrier in the way of stopping the war and ending the loss of life.

In those circumstances, what is the rush to prepare the Bill now and to produce it today when no agreement has been reached at Lancaster House? Some of my right hon, and hon. Friends take the view that all that this is about is the embarrassment that the Government may feel on having to introduce a sanctions order before next Thursday, and the revolt that may follow on the Conservative Benches. I have no doubt that that is in the mind of the Government, too.

If that were all it were, they know that they could get the sanctions order. They know that there is a majority for the order in the House. It would cause them some embarrassment to have a large revolt, but it would not be so embarrassing if they were ultimately to get an agreement a few days later and were able to say "I told you so.".

I believe that the real reasoning of the Government in producing the enabling Bill before they have an agreement at Lancaster House is that they suspect that they will not get an agreement. I believe that they are hoping to have legal authority to push through an agreement bilaterally with the Muzorewa regime when they do not have the assent of the Patriotic Front. They would have the legal authority of the House to do that because they had already obtained an enabling Bill.

If that is in the Government's mind, nothing more disreputable has been put before the House. In addition, there could be nothing more dangerous for the future of Southern Africa. The reality of power in Southern Rhodesia is that the Patriotic Front has military control of a considerable section of the country. It has the capacity to continue fighting as long as it wishes. Only if the Patriotic Front gives its assent to an agreement will the war stop. If the Patriotic Front is not in agreement, whatever we do in the House will not bring the war to a close one day earlier.

If we were to give the Government the authority to bless the Muzorewa regime and to bring about an appearance of legality that extended the war, the blood would be on our hands as well as on the hands of those who are taking part in the fighting. I do not believe that the House wants that to happen. I do not believe that the House recognises that that should happen.

In discussing the motion, the issue is whether there is such urgency as to make it necessary for the Government to have the Bill this week. If we leave the Bill until there is an agreement, the Government can have it within a day. They have talked for nine weeks on the independence negotiations and another day will not hurt very much. I want the war to end as soon as possible; so does Bishop Muzorewa, so does the Patriotic Front and so does everyone who has the best interests of Rhodesia at heart. I do not want to prolong the Bill by appearing to bless an independent Muzorewa regime that does not have the assent of the Patriotic Front. We must remember that the Patriotic Front can dictate whether the war continues.

Conservative Members, with their preoccupation with sanctions and their own constituency interests, should recognise that there is a real danger if the Bill proceeds today.

I hope that even at this late stage the Government will reconsider. We have made them a reasonable offer. I should prefer not to have the Bill until an agreement is reached. However, if the Government accept our offer, we can delay the passage of the Bill until Tuesday night. By that time President Kaunda will have had discussions with the Prime Minister. By that time President Nyerere could have indicated his view. There could be discussions with the other frontline States about what should happen if there is to be a breakdown in talks. By Tuesday night we will know probably better than we know now what the ultimate outcome of the talks at Lancaster House is to be. If that were possible, I am sure that the House would be in a better position to decide whether the Bill should proceed.

Mr. Fell

Is the hon. Gentleman talking about all stages by Tuesday night?

Mr. Lyon

I have always understood that we shall reach the end of discussion in the House by the end of Monday's business, which may go into Tuesday but will not interfere with Tuesday's business. It is my understanding that the Bill could go to another place on Tuesday afternoon. It seems that that is a fair offer. Indeed, it gives more than I should want to give if I were asked to consider the matter afresh.

The Government have a majority to push the Bill through. If the offer is accepted, the parties at Lancaster House will have only the weekend to make plain their views about the outcome of the negotiations. If there is to be an agreement, and if all parties agree that there can be an agreement, there is no one in the House who will not give the Bill a fair wind. If there is not to be an agreement, it is only right that we should stop the Bill now. It is dangerous and it could produce more bloodshed than we have seen hitherto.

Mr. Newens

I also wish to oppose the motion that stands in the name of the Prime Minister and concerns the business of the House. As my right hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) has pointed out, the motion provides for the Southern Rhodesia Bill to be rushed through all its stages in one sitting.

No one can doubt that it is a most important Bill. It raises issues of vast import for the future of Africa and of this country. In the opinion of many hon. Members, the Bill may contribute to the continuation of the civil war in Southern Rhodesia, and we all wish to bring that to an end. In those circumstances it is vital that the issues involved should not be dealt with at one sitting and rushed through the House in the way here proposed.

That is particularly important in view of the situation at Lancaster House. We were told by the Lord Privy Seal yesterday that an agreement was near, but some of us believe that it is not as near as was suggested, and there is at least doubt about it. If we were to rush the Bill through in one prolonged sitting we might jeopardise the long-term agreement at Lancaster House. In those circumstances it is highly unadvisable for us to proceed at this stage.

Further, the time allowed by the Prime Minister's motion would not be sufficient for hon. Members to express themselves on all the issues that are raised. Yesterday I raised a point of order concerning the position of right hon. and hon. Members who may wish to deal with some of the principal issues at stake. The Bill raises the question of sanctions, security and other issues about the future of Southern Rhodesia or Zimbabwe. The House should consider carefully whether it would be right to rule hon. Members out of order if they raise such matters or if they are not given adequate time to discuss them. If the motion were passed today it would be impossible for hon. Members to discuss those issues in full.

Such important issues require lengthy discussion. I remind the House of the amount of time required to discuss devolution in the previous Parliament. Unless it can be proved that the Bill should go through today because it is absolutely essential for agreement at Lancaster House, it would be totally wrong for these discussions to be thrust on one side and to deny right hon. and hon. Members the opportunity of putting forward their views at this stage.

We have had to discuss on many occasions matters of crucial importance to the future of former British colonies, and in several of those colonies blood has subsequently been shed. Had further consideration been given to the measures at the time, a great number of the problems might have been avoided. As an example, the difficulties in Ireland are still with us, although many people hoped that they would have disappeared half a century ago. We should not today take a decision in haste that could lead to the perpetuation of the problems in Southern Rhodesia and the whole of Africa for a long time to come.

Unless agreement is reached at Lancaster House, the civil war will continue. In those circumstances it is important for hon. Members to have time to reflect.

As my hon. Friend the Member for York said, we do not yet know the position of the front-line States. President Kaunda is here and discussions are shortly to take place. It will be totally wrong if we are unable carefully to weigh the words of President Kaunda and other front-line Presidents before taking decisions on these important issues.

It is not merely a question of the continuation of the civil war or a settlement in Southern Africa; it also concerns Britain's standing in Africa and the world at large. We have international obligations, and if the Bill becomes law and is acted upon we may find ourselves in breach of those obligations. Should that happen, there will be adverse effects on Britain's standing in the world, and some countries may choose to take economic sanctions against us. That would be most undesirable in present circumstances.

If democracy is to have any meaning we must resist the Government's intention to push the Bill through regardless.

A further consideration is that many of us have long felt that if important issues have to be discussed hon. Members are not at their most alert and freshest in the early hours of the morning. Through tiredness, some hon. Members do not make the contributions that they would wish. Unless there is a pressing need, it is wrong for us to embark on an all-night discussion on such an important matter.

Some of us wish fully to express our views on the amendments, and, as all hon. Members know well, we may be subjected to pressures from colleagues who wish to get away. By keeping the House here in the early hours of the morning we may be causing considerable inconvenience and difficult to colleagues. That is a responsibility that we are forced to consider. I do not believe that the Government have made out a case for proceeding through the night and placing hon. Members in that difficulty.

There is no justification for carrying on the debate through the night. The supposition put before the House yesterday, that the Bill is essential to implement the agreement, was based upon the idea that that agreement was near. Many of us believe that judgment to be invalid.

If the Bill is rushed through, the Patriotic Front—the party to the discussions which is unlikely to reach agreement—may see it as an ultimatum. My hon. Friend the Member for York said that it was the Government's intention that if the Patriotic Front did not reach agreement they would not bother about that unduly but would implement the agreement based upon the consent of the Muzorewa Government. The House should wake up to the fact that agreement is not likely to come next week.

Yesterday the Lord Privy Seal, when answering questions on the matter, hinted that he was not clear about the outcome of events if agreement was not reached with the Patriotic Front. Indeed, I believe that his right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary said something different in another place. My right hon. and hon. Friends would like to know what will happen if agreement is not reached with the Patriotic Front. The Government must undertake not to implement the Bill that we are being asked to rush through the House. Of course, it would be too late to ask for that when the Bill has gone through the House. Therefore, it is important to resist the Bill strongly today, so that all those matters can be cleared up.

Many of us feel that the Government are not only concerned to avoid splitting their ranks on the issue of sanctions next week but are also anxious to present the House with a fait accompli, should the negotiations break down next week.

We all wish to see an end to the war. No. hon. Member can dissent from that wish. We all wish to see peace in Southern Africa—it is in the interests of everybody. Therefore, we should not allow a Bill to be thrust through the House which may jeopardise that peace eventually being achieved. If we allowed the business motion to go through we would be accepting a state of affairs before the outcome of these matters was known. It is vital to resist the proposal on the Order Paper that would give effect to the Bill today.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument. Why will matters be different on Monday night? How will the problems be resolved at that stage, in terms of the offer that has been fairly made on behalf of the Opposition and supported by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon)? What will happen over the next three or four days to resolve all those problems?

Mr. Newens

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. These matters are important. If it were clear by early next week that the front-line States were opposed to the Bill and its effects, and that agreement was some time off, even Conservative Members, as well as Opposition Members, would consider the Bill to be inapposite at this time. Perhaps the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) does not share that view, but some of his right hon. and hon. Friends have expressed misgivings about the matter and may feel that we may be placed in breach of our international obligations. The vast majority of Opposition Members, if not all, are opposed to the measure. Strong pressure may well be brought on the Government next week to postpone the Bill if no agreement has been reached.

If it became clear next week that an agreement was unlikely, after the Bill had passed through all its stages, it would be too late. It would be no use crying over spilt milk. Therefore, those of us who can envisage that possibility should object strongly at this stage. I appeal to Conservative Members to consider the points that I am raising. The Bill would carry much more force with the support of the entire House behind it instead of being pushed through by a majority in the face of a determined and convinced minority. The agreement would be more difficult to put into effect at international level if the Bill were pushed through.

The Government should recognise that if the Bill is taken next week and if an agreement has been reached, it will receive the blessing of all parties in the House. That would be preferable to pushing the Bill through the House at this stage without the support of the minority. I hope that the Government will give the matter serious consideration and tell us why, if they do not accept this point of view, they think it desirable and important to push the Bill through the House. If they are pushing the Bill through to save them from party differences—I am not suggesting that that is necessarily the case—all hon. Members would consider that behaviour to be disgraceful. If something is being done purely for party advantage and against the long-term interest of the people in this country and in Southern Africa, it is to be deplored.

Mr. Porter

I understood the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) to be speaking on behalf of those who wish to amend the Bill. He said that if there was to be a delay until Monday they would not put any difficulties in the way of the Government. However, the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) appears to be saying that the delay should take place in case the Bill is to be put off until Monday. I thought that the hon. Member for York was speaking on behalf of the Opposition hon. Members below the Gangway.

Mr. Newens

I speak for myself on the issue. No doubt many of my right hon. and hon. Friends agree with me. I was not saying that everyone agreed with me on every aspect of this matter. Nor did my hon. Friend the Member for York say that. My hon. Friend did not say, or imply, what the hon. Gentlemen has claimed. I should like to clarify the position so that the hon. Gentleman need be under no misapprehension.

If it became clear next week that agreement was still some distance away, and that the front-line States were opposed to the Bill and to the effects of the Bill, and if it also became clear that the Bill, in the judgment of many hon. Members, would not help to end the civil war but would perpetuate it, my view, which I hope would be shared by everyone on this side of the House, and perhaps by some hon. Members on the Government side, would be to say that the Bill should not go through at this stage.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will my hon. Friend explain to the hon. Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port (Mr. Porter) that the only proposition before the House at this time is that the whole matter should be driven through today? If the hon. Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port wants to be constructive, he should direct his remarks to his own Front Bench in whose hands this matter rests.

Mr. Newens

What my hon. Friend says is true. There is no other proposition on the Order Paper except that which provides for all the proceedings to be rushed through today. If any of the expressions of opinion, suggestions, hints and promises that were voiced earlier today are made good, it is possible that our problem will to some extent be resolved, although I emphasise that I am not suggesting that the Bill would be timely, even next week.

Mr. John Townend

The hon. Gentleman seems to be indicating that the Patriotic Front should have the right of veto over these discussions.

Mr. Newens

I believe that we need to get an agreement. One cannot get an agreement unless all parties to the agreement are eventually satisfied. To talk in terms of a veto, one is posing the question whether there should be an agreement with all the parties or, if necessary, only with some. My view is that we must seek agreement with all the parties. Unless we achieve such an agreement, the civil war will continue. We are talking about the continuation of the killing, the disruption and the ruination that is taking place in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.

We should take a long look at the situation. I believe that the Bill is likely to precipitate a situation in which the civil war will be carried on. Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends yesterday congratulated the Government on the progress that they had made to date in the talks. Many of us would agree that the talks have gone further than we might have expected at one time. Should those talks break down and should the war continue, it will be extremely difficult to take a new initiative and such an initiative would not be likely, anyway, to be in our hands. We are at a crucial crossroads. More care and more delay may enable us to achieve a reasonable result or at least satisfy ourselves that we have gone as far as possible in achieving a reasonable result. Surely we should not accept a state of affairs in which this procedural motion is rushed through the House.

Mr. Temple-Morris

Hon. Members on the Government Benches wish to be helpful, but Back Benchers are in a hopeless state of confusion. To take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port (Mr. Porter), how does the hon. Gentleman reconcile what he says with what his hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) says? I understood the hon. Member for York to say that the Government could have the Bill on Tuesday, come what may. The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) now says that unless there is agreement between all three parties we shall suffer next week exactly the same resistance as he is now displaying. How does he reconcile his position with that of his hon. Friend the Member for York?

Mr. Newens

I do not believe that there is any deep rift between my hon. Friend the Member for York and myself. If there is, I respect the view of my hon. Friend, but I still hold to my view. My view is that if the Bill next week is seen to be damaging to the possibility of a settlement, it ought not to go through. If my hon. Friend the Member for York wishes to interrupt, I will give way.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

I remind my hon. Friend, and, perhaps, hon. Members on the Government side, who have not looked at the Order Paper, that 15 sets of amendments have been tabled. One of them, at any rate, allows us to discuss the whole of the White Paper and all the constitution. I do not know what hon. Members can do with that. But on that one set of amendments, I could talk for eight hours. Recognising that another 30 votes could take place, I believe it is possible that even if the Government Front Bench are not inclined to allow us to conclude the debate next Monday, it will not be through the House by next Monday anyway. In the meantime, hon. Members will be here on Saturday and Sunday. I intervene in my hon. Friend's speech only to indicate that there may not be much difference in practice between us. It is a question of the wear and tear on hon. Members on the Government Benches.

Mr. Newens

My hon. Friend has clarified the matter so far as he is concerned. I hope that hon. Members on the Government Benches will see clearly the point I am making. When the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) mentioned that Conservative Back Benchers were hopelessly at sea—

Mr. Mikardo

Not only on this matter.

Mr. Newens

Not only on this issue, as my hon. Friend remarks. I want to ask the hon. Member for Leominster whether he believes it would be a good idea to push this measure through at this stage as swiftly as the Government propose. I believe it is totally undesirable. If Labour Members had remained silent and allowed the procedural motion to go through, we might have been guilty of allowing a Bill to be passed which would have had long term repercussions that none of us, on either side of the House, would think desirable.

There is a suggestion, I am told, that the Government intend to concede that the Bill should not proceed in the terms set out in the procedural motion. But, at this stage, at 20 minutes to five, we have received no definite indication that this is the situation. Hon. Members may say that talks are taking place all the time. But if we were to give way, who is to say that those talks, let alone those at Lancaster House, might not break down? If they broke down, we should still be faced with a procedural motion, and one well knows what the situation would be. If Conservative Members were asked to vote for it and we were asked to vote against it, that would be pushed through.

I hope that hon. Members will not regard this as some sort of fractious and unreasonable opposition. We are very deeply concerned about the fundamental principles which are at stake if this matter goes through.

Mr. McNamara


Mr. Ioan Evans


Mr. Speaker

Mr. McNamara.

Mr. Newens

I was giving way to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans).

Mr. Speaker

Order. I thought that, since the hon. Gentleman was making that point for the fourth time, he was concluding.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Perhaps I may tell my hon. Friend that I believe that he and my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) are doing a service to the House, because it would be wrong for us to proceed to make a decision on this motion without knowing the Government's intentions. It is important that this debate should continue until we know the Government's intentions.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps I may help the House on that matter. There are several other hon. Members seeking to catch my eye to talk on the motion. Mr. Newens.

Mr. Newens

I realise that other hon. Members wish to speak, Mr. Speaker, and I shall shortly be bringing my remarks to a close. But I make no apology for taking up the time of the House with what many of us feel is a vital issue. With due respect, we frequently discuss in the House all sorts of trivial matters at very great length. On this issue the future of Southern Africa is at stake. Those of us who feel strongly about this issue would be in dereliction of our duties if we did not raise this matter now.

As my hon. Friend the Member for York points out, at this stage no Government statement is before us. None of us knows that the Government will not stick to this particular motion, nor do we know what alternative, if any, they may be proposing.

In these circumstances, it would be totally wrong of the House to proceed to vote in favour of the motion. I hope very much that all hon. Members will weigh what I have said very carefully indeed, because it will be no use saying afterwards that we ought not to have had the Bill, and had we not taken this step other things might have been possible. Once the talks at Lancaster House break down finally, civil war will continue indefinitely. We here have a duty to see that nothing is done which makes that more likely. I hope that not merely my right hon. and hon. Friends but also some Conservative Members will support my point of view.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Having frequently spoken from the Opposition side of the House in opposition to procedural motions that appeared to be rushed, I can well understand the passion with which the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) has spoken. In the many years that he and I have differed across the Floor, I have never doubted his sincerity. I hope that he will not take it amiss if I say that I have never listened to a more effective demonstration as to why Mr. Speaker is right to be introducing the 10-minute speech rule. I shall be very brief in what I say.

In no way do I disagree with the hon. Member about the vital importance of what is at stake. Of course we all wish to see an end to the war. But I hope that the hon. Member will not conclude that, because he feels passionately about it, he has any monopoly of concern for the ending of this war and that I and many of my right hon. and hon. Friends who support the motion are not just as concerned as he or any of his hon. Friends that this war rapidly be brought to a conclusion. I hope that he will concede us that.

Mr. Newens

The hon. Member obviously thought that my speech was too long. He must have missed part of it. I said that I believed that all tight hon. and hon. Members were concerned to get peace in Southern Africa. We may differ about the terms, but I certainly believe that the hon. Member and his hon. Friends are sincere in their desire to get peace.

Mr. Griffiths

I am grateful to the hon. Member. However, although he made every one of his other points about seven times, he did not make that point very clear.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

The hon. Gentleman has referred to the length of my hon. Friend's speech and suggested that it ought to come within the ambit of the 10-minute rule. Is he not aware—he must remember his days in opposition—that the one weapon that an Opposition have is time? The 10-minute rule is not intended to take away that power, be cause that rule is related only to Second Readings, which are within confined limits. If we were not to have the right to delay business in order to get across serious issues of great importance to the country and to the party, we would be emasculated. I hope that there will be no suggestion that because we are delaying this motion today we are acting against the practices or the procedures of the House in any way.

Mr. Griffiths

I shall not comment on those remarks, Mr. Speaker, which were obviously addressed more to you than to me. In commenting on the speech of the hon. Member for Harlow, I merely said that I thought that it was a very good advertisement for the advantages of the 10-minute rule.

Two matters concerned me when the debate upon this procedural motion arose. The first was that things might be said in this House that would have a sideways effect on what is going on in the discussions at Lancaster House that would be damaging to the prospects of a settlement. I am bound to say directly to the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), whose sincerity I also recognise, that when he says—I am paraphrasing it—that it is the Government's intention so to arrange things that the Muzorewa party will be given a sort of built-in advantage which will enable it to carry the day, which I refute as being totally untrue, I suggest that what he was doing was making the task of the Foreign Secretary and others at Lancaster House more difficult, because he was virtually placing his name and, by implication, those of many members of the Labour Party, on the view that the Patriotic Front may well come to feel—-namely, that the talks are being arranged to its disadvantage. Whether or not the Patriotic Front feels that, it is not the business and not the duty of any Member of this House to give to the Patriotic Front an impression that could prolong the war in Rhodesia. The hon. Member did that.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

The hon. Gentleman has made a serious charge. Therefore, I am grateful to him for giving way so that I may answer it. If we are to discuss the Bill, as we shall, in great detail over a long period, including all the details of the negotiations, it is inevitable that we shall express views about the kind of proposals that have been put forward about the nature of the bona fides of the participants in the discussions, which in some way may inhibit a good agreement coming out of them. Does not all that indicate that it would be far better to have the discussion on the Bill after there has been an agreement at Lancaster House, and not while the negotiations are continuing?

Mr. Griffiths

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way to him again. I think that I am now entitled to make my speech, just as his hon. Friend the Member for Harlow made his speech. I say only this: it is right, of course, that the hon. Member and all his hon. Friends should give their views, as they undoubtedly will, on the nature of the negotiations and on the nature of the Bill and its implications. I accept that. But there is this difference: we are now discussing a purely procedural matter—the question when we are to discuss the full Bill.

We are talking about a timetable—no more and no less. The difference is that, when we come to the substance of the Bill, a Minister will speak and express the views and intentions of the Government. I believe that the Government will make clear beyond peradventure that the idea that they are arranging things for the exclusive benefit of the Muzorewa Government and the disadvantage of the Patriotic Front will be wholly and convincingly refuted by the Minister. If after that Labour Members wish to express their anxiety, they will have the opportunity to do so.

My concern is that there will be a sideways effect on the Lancaster House talks from what is said in the House this afternoon. When the Patriotic Front forms its judgment about the state of play and assents to an agreement, as we hope it will, it is far better that it should do so in the full context of what the Government are able to explain to the House, rather than as a reaction to remarks made this afternoon by the hon. Member for York without the benefit of having heard the Minister first.

I am sorry that on a procedure motion the hon. Member for York was able to put into the hands of the most doubting members of the Patriotic Front delegation a suggestion which I believe is untrue and which I am sure that the Minister will demonstrate is untrue when he has the opportunity to speak.

Mr. Ennals

My hon. Friends have given a number of reasons why this procedural motion should not be passed. We are now waiting for just one reason why it should be passed. Without elaborating too much, I hope that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) will give us one reason, because the Lord Privy Seal was unable to do so yesterday. We have heard no reasons at all why the Bill should be pushed through today.

Mr. Griffiths

I take the point, but it is not outside the calculations of everyone in this Chamber that there are negotiations under way, not only at Lancaster House but also in a smaller room close to us. Therefore, my second concern is not only that some unintended remark could compromise the negotiations at Lancaster House but that it could also compromise the negotiations on the timetable taking place in the House.

The Leader of the Opposition, who speaks for most of the Opposition, said that while he was doubtful about certain aspects of the Bill, particularly the sanctions clause, he would nevertheless give a fair and honourable undertaking that if the Government were to proceed with the Bill, and if they made a concession which would give us Monday as well for the remaining stages, he would see that the Bill was delivered. Those were his words, not mine.

Subsequently the hon. Member for York, who described himself as the one who organised the amendments, gave a similar undertaking. He supported the Leader of the Opposition. On that basis the Leader of the House and the Patronage Secretary began talks with a view to achieving what the majority of hon. Members want—an agreed timetable for the Bill.

Now we are in a different position because it has become apparent that the "shop steward" of the amenders, the hon. Member for York, cannot carry the shop floor with him. Whatever he might say, his troops will not necessarily be bound by it. Thus it is becoming clear that the Leader of the Opposition may not be able to carry out his undertaking.

What will be the position of the Leader of the House and the Patronage Secretary when representing the majority of hon. Members? They seek an accommodation with the Opposition on the timetable motion. I suggest that there is an eloquent revolt against the Leader of the Opposition's undertaking on the timetable—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is how it seems to me.

The Leader of the House and the Patronage Secretary are having complex discussions with the official representatives of the Opposition with a view to achieving a timetable which will involve concessions by the Government. I hope that there will be concessions by the Government, but I must point out that the position will be very difficult if the undertakings given by the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for York are not worth the words in which they were couched.

While I am mainly concerned about the possible sideways effect on the Lancaster House talks, I also believe that we need some clarity from the Opposition Front Bench on whether their undertakings on the timetable can be fulfilled.

Mr. McNamara

I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), but I disagreed with his interpretation of the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for York (Mr. Lyon) and Harlow (Mr. Newens).

Quite apart from the Rhodesia problem, a situation has arisen in which many people on the Opposition Benches felt that there had been an affront to the procedures in the way in which the Government sought to push through the Bill in all its stages in one go. We regard this as an affront to the major minority party, and indeed to all minorities in the House. That was the purpose of my amendment and the reason why we are debating the motion this afternoon. We wished to show the Government that we did not want to be treated in this way.

The essence of democracy is that in the long run the majority gets its way in the House. Although many of us may regret it, that is the case. But, equally, it is the essence of democracy that the minority has a proper opportunity to examine what is being presented by the majority, and that it should also be allowed to seek to persuade the Government to change their mind. The minority seeks to do this by careful argument and by drawing attention to factors which the major party may not have considered in reaching a decision. We would have been denied that process on the basis of the presentation of the Bill yesterday and the suggestion that we should complete all the stages today.

When my hon. Friends and I put down our amendments to the Bill yesterday and the motion today we were seeking to ensure that we would not be trampled on by the Government in the way that they suggested yesterday afternoon and in a way that Conservative Members would never have accepted when they were in opposition. We will not accept that kind of treatment.

Looking at the arrangements made by the Government, it is clear that we will have a paltry Second Reading if we take a vote at 10 o'clock tonight. It is now 5 pm and we anticipate a couple of Front Bench speeches. We might vote on the closure and the substantive amendment. Sonic hon. Members may wish to pursue important points of procedure. Legislation of such constitutional and world-wide importance should not be treated in this way. We must have the opportunity to examine the issues carefully.

My hon. Friend the Member for York pointed out to my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow that there would be 15 individual debates within the principal debate. If we assume that, on average, each debate lasts two hours, that totals 30 hours. If we had a vote on the closure or on particular amendments, that might take a further 10 hours. That means that we spend two days on this Bill from whatever time we start the business after the votes this evening. That is not the right way to examine important and historic issues. We must examine them carefully and precisely.

There may be Divisions as the Bill goes through Committee, and my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow may get the chance to vote against the Bill. We should have proper discussion on all issues. Opposition Members could behave in a dilatory fashion, but it is not our intention to do so even though that is the only weapon of Back Benchers when attempting to persuade the Government to scrutinise these matters more carefully.

Mr. Burden

Surely, if agreement cannot be reached through the usual channels, we shall complete all stages of the Bill in one prolonged sitting. According to the undertaking by the Leader of the Opposition, if we get agreement through the usual channels, we can take Second Reading today and the amendments and remaining stages of the Bill next Monday by sitting until a late hour. Those are the only two propositions before the House.

Mr. McNamara

I agree. The first option which would take us through all stages of the Bill at one go would work, but it would not be good for the legislation and I hardly think it would be a good thing for Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. A protracted debate would also produce frayed tempers.

Mr. Hooley

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a third possibility—that we should drop this grotesque proposal, introduced in the middle of complicated and delicate negotiations, to push the Bill through?

Mr. McNamara

We might wish that the Government would do that, but it is not their intention. The Government will get their Bill, but they should seek to get it with the minimum of hostility from the House. That will mean, not that there is universal agreement, but that the Bill will go through with reasonably good humoured arguments on the issues and not while tempers are frayed in the middle of the night.

This debate is significant for my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved) and myself. My hon. Friend was elected to this House on the day UDI was declared. I was elected in the subsequent by-election and throughout both his campaign and mine UDI played an important part. Since that time we have looked on sadly at what has happened in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. We have seen the failure of talks, the inability to reach agreement, the tragic events in Angola and Mozambique and the pressures forced upon Mr. Smith and others to negotiate. After all that, the Government are now saying, that we can suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, put right in one sitting of this House the mistakes of the past 14 years. For the sake of the people who have died, on whatever side in the Rhodesian conflict, and because of what has happened to innocent people and to the economies of several countries, it would be wrong for us to rubber-stamp this measure.

Yesterday the Lord Privy Seal said that this was simply an enabling Bill, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for York and other of my right hon. and hon. Friends have shown that by their amendments, it is more than that. The powers which can be assumed under this Bill—through Orders in Council and other ways—are such that it would be possible to reach a settlement and establish a constitution for Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. By pushing this Bill through, by agreement with one or other of the parties at Lancaster House, the Government could then wash their hands of the issue and say that, having legislated, that is that. I feel that there are pressures upon us to resolve the problem in this way. In justice to ourselves we should not brush this problem under the carpet in so short a time.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

Is my hon. Friend saying that this Bill could be passed before it is established that the constitution has the support of the people of Rhodesia as a whole? That is one of the six principles.

Mr. McNamara

My right hon. and learned Friend has argued my case succinctly.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds spoke of his fears that by passing this legislation we might influence events at Lancaster House. I believe that that is the danger. With this Bill the Government could, even with that degree of objectivity that they have shown throughout these negotiations, put a pistol to the head of Bishop Muzorewa or the Patriotic Front and demand acceptance under the threat of a deal with the other side. That will not help.

We should not pass this legislation when every agreement is contingent upon another. A constitution is contingent upon interim arrangements, interim arrangements are contingent upon a ceasefire, and a ceasefire is contingent upon constitutional arrangements. To rush through this measure will do a grave disservice to the negotiations.

Mr. Crouch

The hon. Member is not making himself absolutely clear. Is he saying that we should not consider the Bill at all or that we should not rush our consideration? He has not commented on the Leader of the Opposition's observations both yesterday and today when, in a reasonable way, he asked for more time for reflection. He asked for the Committee stage to be concluded on Monday.

Mr. McNamara

I shall make myself clear. I would not have introduced the Bill at this stage when negotiations are taking place at Lancaster House, nor would my right hon. Friends the Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Foreign Secretary. However, the Bill has been presented and we are faced with that problem. We are faced with either rushing the Bill through today or giving it a Second Reading today and completing the remaining stages on Monday.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will my hon. Friend make it clear that a number of us are determined to vote against the Bill in any case?

Mr. McNamara

I am dealing with the question of time.

Those of us who are passionately concerned about this issue intend to examine the amendments properly. It is not our intention to prolong business to such an extent that the Government do not have reasonable time to enable the Bill to go through the House of Lords and be passed. That is our intention if the Government give us an undertaking. It is not in my power to say that not one of my hon. Friends will get on his hind legs and seek to prolong the debate by speaking at interminable length. My hon. Friend the Member for York has said that if agreement is not reached he could speak for eight hours on one amendment and then perhaps have to refer to his notes. We do not want that to happen.

We do not want the Government to introduce this Bill, but they have done so. We accept that the Government must have their Bill and that it must go to the other place. We recognise the problems involved in renewing the sanctions order. All we want is a reasonable time to discuss the issues. We want to be treated properly.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

There has never been a shadow of doubt in the minds of the majority of my hon. Friends about what the Leader of the Opposition said. I urge the hon. Member to address his mind to the Leader of the House, who has a duty to the whole House. Should my right hon. Friend make an agreement with the Opposition that the Bill will be achieved by Monday night at a late hour in the knowledge that a number of hon. Members will do their verbal best to thwart it? What sort of agreement is that?

Mr. McNamara

Every agreement that is made through the usual channels is on the understanding that each hon. Member is a free agent. That is the way it must be.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Is there a split in the Labour Party?

Mr. McNamara

The hon. Member should not tempt us. We are trying to be helpful during these difficult negotiations. The hon. Gentleman could tempt us into dealing with certain difficulties within his party that would arise if nought came of the negotiations. I am not underestimating the ability of this side of the House to discuss the legislation right through until Monday.

Miss Joan Lestor

I will see my hon. Friend outside.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Peace has broken out.

Mr. McNamara

I read the footnote to an article by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) in one of today's newspapers. I shudder to think what my wife will say when she reads in Hansard the remark of my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor).

We believe that the Opposition have been trampled. We are trying to accommodate the Government while at the same time preserving our position as Back Benchers. Some statements from the Government Benches are not helpful. Some of us took much persuading to agree with the Leader of the Opposition's proposition. We have undertaken to ensure that, if we achieve a concession, the Government will have their Bill in time for it to go to another place on Tuesday. We believe that that is fair.

The offer made by my right hon. Friend during Prime Minister's Question Time two hours ago should be sufficient for us to reach agreement so that we could now be debating the Second Reading. I regret that the Government have not seized that opportunity so that the issues may be examined properly. If we continue in this manner, neither the Government's case nor the Opposition's case will be presented properly before the country. The Government will lose out as much as the Opposition. That is not good enough when we are dealing with an issue of constitutional and historic importance. I urge the Government to think carefully about what we have said and to accept the compromise that they have been offered.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

During my time in the House I have seldom heard arguments from one side convince Members on the other to change their intended course of action. I hope that my remarks on this procedural motion will not result in any hon. Member talking for too long when the Bill is considered in Committee.

It is reasonable for the Government to get into a position from which they can deliver their side of any agreement or settlement made at Lancaster House. I do not believe that it makes a great deal of difference whether the Bill gets through all its stages by tomorrow, or at an extension of this day's sitting, which might be tomorrow, Saturday or Sunday; whether it passes through the House of Commons by Monday; or whether it goes through, by agreement, with a break for the weekend, or straight throught. It is up to the House to decide. It is for the usual channels to say, when they come to their own view.

Two important issues were raised. The first was the effect on the procedures of the House. In my time in the House I have seen Governments, normally of the Labour complexion, force measures through the House. I have no doubt that during the next four years I shall see the same done by my Government. On most occasions I shall be relatively happy for that to happen.

Another issue is the effect of this procedure motion on the negotiations at Lancaster House. The point was made—no doubt it will be made again on Second Reading—that this enabling Bill should not be passed until or unless a settlement was reached at Lancaster House. I do not believe that that view is correct. Whatever arrangement we come to, we should try to ensure that some part of the deadlock at Lancaster House is given a chance to be broken down. I hope that the consultations now going on behind Mr. Speaker's chair—unless they have now finished—will go on at Lancaster House this weekend. Perhaps President Kaunda can help on that.

One matter seems to be dividing the participants. I refer to the length of time up to the elections. It should be possible to take into account the fact that there is a rainy season now in Rhodesia. For that reason the election last year was put off until April. It applies just as much now. There may be the opportunity of persuading the participants at the Lancaster House conference to recognise that they have the opportunity of spinning out their discussions for another few weeks, with a consequent loss of life. Instead of that, I hope that they will come to some arrangement for an earlier ceasefire—in the same way I hope that there will be an earlier ceasefire on this motion in this Chamber—but still fix a time when the elections will take place. In the same way, I hope that we shall know when there is likely to be a decision on the Second Reading, Committee stage and Third Reading of the Bill.

There are other points of deadlock at Lancaster House into which I shall not go. They are probably better kept until the other stages of the Bill. It is important to realise that the Government should have the power to put into effect without delay the provisions of the Bill. It is reasonable for the House to allow the Government to have the Bill passed through all its stages either at today's sitting extended or by Monday. If Government Front-Bench Members are interested in my view, I prefer to take the Second Reading and Committee stage at this day's sitting and keep the Third Reading until Monday.

Miss Joan Lestor

My hon. Friends, with their well-known eloquence, have already covered many of the reasons why we believe that the proposition put forward by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is the correct one for the procedure on this Bill, now it is obvious that the Government are determined that the Bill should be before the House at this time. We wish very much that the Government had not decided to bring this Bill forward, for several good reasons.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) has his arguments round the wrong way when he tries to put the onus on the Opposition for the way in which we look at the Bill and the way in which we want to have it discussed.

The Government, when having these discussions—which I hope are fruitful—and the whole House must bear in mind that we have sat through many decolonising processes and independence constitutions, certainly over the years that I have been here, and longer than that. None of those constitutions ranks as important as the one we are now discussing.

It is of paramount importance, in view of the history of Southern Rhodesia, and the outcome, if we get it wrong, that every point of view is heard, is seen to be heard and that the proper processes of justice and law are observed.

There were differences in the presentations yesterday, in the House of Commons and in another place, about how the Bill would be considered and what was the situation—differences about emphasis, the ceasefire, and arrangements for the interim period. Those points need deep examination and clarification.

The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) referred to deadlock at Lancaster House. I believe that that is so. Perhaps for the first time he and I are in agreement. However, the Government have not said that. Yesterday they said that they were on the eve of an agreement and that they would achieve the agreement. Yesterday, from behind the Chair and in another place, I was accused of belligerence. It was said that everything would be all right and that the agreement would be achieved. We are asked what we were worried about. This is what we are worried about.

The Patriotic Front case has not been given anything like the airing that it should have been given by the press of this country. I have sat at press conferences with the Patriotic Front and seen very little reported in the press the following day. I do not blame the Government for that. However, we hear two sides of the story. We are told that we are on the eve of an agreement and that the problems of the interim period, the security forces and the length of time before the elections will be solved. We are told "We can have the Bill. There is no problem. Give us the blank cheque and the legal authority. Everything will be all right." But next we are told that there is deadlock at Lancaster House.

The Government should consider how that appears in the eyes of Africa, the front-line States and of people in this country and abroad who always understood the case of the British Government, of whatever complexion, to be that any agreement must be seen to have the acceptance of the people of Rhodesia as a whole.

Together with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), I had the privilege of visiting Lusaka at the time of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference and of monitoring carefully what happened there. It seems to me that what was agreed there has not so far been carried out at Lancaster House. Therefore, for those reasons—for the sake of the appearance of the matter and the questions that need deep searching—it is in the interests of the Government, the Opposition and all parties concerned at Lancaster House that the proposition to change the procedure put forward by the Government should be adhered to.

I do not know what is being said or whether we are on the eve of an agreement. If the matters of the interim period, defence, the security forces, the ceasefire, the refugees, and people returning to vote, have been agreed, would it not, in the interests of democracy and of the future, have been far better for the Government to agree to delay the Bill's passage until it could be discussed in the full knowledge of what had—or had not—been agreed at Lancaster House?

Mr. Temple-Morris

May I repeat what my hon. Friends and I put to successive Opposition speakers? The hon. Lady talked as though the Bill was not appropriate until the Lancaster House conference was concluded. Does she agree with her hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara), who was asked a question a number of times and eventually said that the Bill should be ready to go to the House of Lords on Tuesday? As the hon. Lady is concerned, is she able to give that commitment?

Miss Lestor

I do not believe that the Bill should be brought before the House unless and until agreement has been reached at Lancaster House by all parties concerned. But the Government, in their wisdom or lack of it, have decided to bring forward the Bill. Therefore, because we do not have the overall majority in the House—we would not be in opposition if we had—we have to use whatever methods we can to ensure that we are able to examine the Bill in detail, to put forward amendments and to argue them.

At the end of the day, whatever assurances are or are not given, the ball is in the Government's court. I shall oppose the Bill unless agreement is announced during the passage of the Bill. It would be a different matter then. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman cannot ask me for a guarantee that I will support the Bill on Tuesday, or whenever it goes to the Lords. I shall oppose the Bill unless the Government are able to say that agreement has been reached and that is verified by all concerned. If all parties reach agreement, we shall cheer as loudly as anyone because we would have a constitution and an interim period acceptable to all.

For me to be asked to drop my opposition to the Bill on condition that the Government allow the new procedure is to put an onus on me which should be on the Government. I suppose that at the end of the day the Government will dictate whether the Bill is carried. I cannot dictate that—I wish that I could—unless my eloquence is such as to persuade enough Conservative Members to come into the Lobby with us if we decide to oppose the Bill. We shall know that only when we know whether there has been agreement at Lancaster House, and that we do not know.

As has been said earlier, the President of Zambia is in this country. The Prime Minister said that she was seeing him today. Considering what was agreed at Lancaster House and as the President of Zambia, the President of Tanzania and the front-line Presidents were all deeply involved in setting up the constitutional conference, it is insulting, not only to the President of Zambia but to the House, for discussions to be taking place with the President—someone closely involved—and for us to be asked to discuss the Bill without knowing his view or the views of the front-line Presidents.

The matter is more complicated than saying that the Opposition wish to frustrate the passage of the Bill. No one would cheer louder than I—and I was involved in this matter even before I entered the House of Commons—if we had agreement at Lancaster House and could proceed to put forward the constitution and have free elections in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.

It is because we fear the outcome if this matter is not considered properly that we ask the Government to delay bringing forward the Bill, to accept the proposition put forward by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, to give us time to examine the Bill, to argue our amendments in the proper way and to get more information on what is happening at Lancaster House. Are the talks deadlocked, as the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) said, or are we on the eve of an agreement? If we are on the eve of an agreement, the Government should give us the details before the Bill is passed so that we know what we are doing.

Mr. David Price

The speech made by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) shows the difficulty in which the House finds itself. We have not been able to hear the Government deploy what I should call the broad Second Reading case. Inevitably, the hon. Lady moved beyond the procedural motion, not only on to the Bill, but on to the negotiations. I am sure that she would agree that it is difficult, during the course of negotiations, for those of us not personally involved to discuss blow by blow the successes which are being gained.

Mr. Robert Hughes


Mr. Price

I want to be brief. I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman shortly.

I want to make three points with which I hope the House will agree. First, whatever personal views we may have about the negotiations, we all want to see a successful outcome. We are probably all agreed that it would be better if we could get all-party agreement in the House. That point was made by the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley). If this procedural motion stands in the way, I hope that there will be room for negotiation. That is clearly what is taking place now, but some of us wish that it was being resolved a little quicker.

Mr. Robert Hughes

The hon. Gentleman said that he would require to hear the Government's argument on Second Reading for the necessity of the Bill. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has been following this matter, but not in tremendous detail. Does he agree that it would make sense if, having had the Second Reading, we were to have a couple of days for reflection before the Committee and remaining stages?

Mr. Price

The hon. Gentleman tempts me. I have such confidence in the ability of my right hon. Friends that I know that I am more likely than the hon. Gentleman to be totally convinced. However, like him, I have not yet heard that argument. It is a pleasure to be anticipated.

My second point follows the point made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara). The hon. Gentleman posed the fair question: why do we need the Bill at this stage? I am sure that point will be dealt with by whomsoever of my right hon. Friends moves the Second Reading of the Bill. However, we must resist the temptation, as it were, to stand behind my right hon. Friends in their negotiations and tell them which cards to play. I have always been doubtful about President Wilson's famous tenet about open covenants openly arrived at. I am in favour of open covenants, but I am almost certain that good open covenants cannot be arrived at openly. There must be a certain degree of privacy and discretion.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon


Mr. Price

Before giving way to the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), I ask him and other hon. Members to reflect on what is probably the most important negotiation that any one of us has entered into: getting engaged and married. How many of us would like to have carried out the negotiations for that covenant openly? I think that most of us would agree that it is better done with a degree of covertness and discretion. I suggest that goes for diplomatic negotiations, too. The world is the worse for negotiations by television, press conferences, leaks and so on. Debate in the House at the wrong time can be equally bad.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that he is arguing against the introduction of the Bill until there is agreement at Lancaster House? If we have to discuss the Bill, we have to take stands; we have to decide on positions; we have to make comments about the negotiating arguments of the various parties. In those circumstances, we shall inevitably be drawn into the kind of quagmire that I, as well as the hon. Gentleman, want to avoid. Therefore, should we not leave the Bill until there is agreement?

Mr. Price

With respect, it depends upon the nature of the Bill. That is what we shall be discussing when we get to it. If this were a Bill of great detail, there would be merit in what the hon. Gentleman said. But this is an enabling Bill. There are trigger clauses which will be brought in only when the negotiations are completed. Until the negotiations are completed, the legislation will not be active.

Having given way to the hon. Gentleman, I find myself almost involved in making a Second Reading speech. That illustrates the difficulty that we are in on this procedural motion. I am almost in danger of doing what I criticised the hon. Member for Eton and Slough for doing—namely, discussing the Bill and the negotiations when we are on a procedural motion. I am sure that the House would agree that we should not get involved in trying to mark the cards to be played at Lancaster House.

Much has been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House about the fact that a civil war is going on in Rhodesia and that the aim of the negotiations is to end it. Certain hon. Members have spoken as if only two parties are involved. That view is too simple. Both delegations are complex. Other people are involved, including this House. What are commonly called the front-line Presidents and other countries are involved. The matter is highly complex and it can be over simplified. Therefore, the more quietly these things are done, the better.

Thirdly, I think that we should congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends on the enormous progress that has been made. We should recognise that, whichever party is in Government, we have little effective power in Southern Africa. Therefore, if this process is to succeed, it must be largely by influence. I hope that the House will not adopt any postures tonight that will make my right hon. Friend's position in the Lancaster House negotiations more difficult. There is a great deal of good will towards the negotiations and towards a successful conclusion. I hope that we shall keep to that spirit.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Nothing has been advanced so far on this procedural motion to explain why the Bill should go through in such haste. One thing that ought to bind and tie all the Members of this House together, from whatever quarter of the House they come, is the desire to achieve peace in the colony of Southern Rhodesia. So much life has been unnecessarily lost that I am sure we would all wish to end the conflict quickly.

The Government's case, as expounded in discussions earlier in the week, is that the Bill is necessary at this time to facilitate the carrying out of the agreement at Lancaster House. But a great deal of uncertainty and suspicion has been caused, not only in the House but among some of the parties involved in the talks, by the fact that on Tuesday it was widely reported by the news media that the Government were to try to get a Bill through the House by the end of the week.

When I raised the matter on a point of order on Tuesday and asked whether the Leader of the House, who was present at the time, had sought to make a Business Statement, he sat quiet and said nothing. It was only yesterday that we had confirmation that the Bill was to be published and that we would proceed to deal with it in one sitting.

I accept that there is a need for an enabling Bill—there is no question about that. But if we accept also, as I do, that at the end of the day all the parties involved in the discussions and negotiations will sign on the dotted line there will be no need for Second Reading speeches on such a Bill except for those of a congratulatory nature saying what a wonderful thing has happened. Nor will there be need for amendments to be moved. The same process will apply in the other place. The Bill would then be law and matters would be settled. If agreement is so close, why do we have to rush the Bill? If agreement had been freely offered, the Bill would be freely accepted.

What the Government do not understand is that we are seeking to preserve a negotiating atmosphere at Lancaster House. One hon. Member has said that if we were to suggest that the Patriotic Front was suspicious, we would be putting words into its mouth and would be encouraging it to be suspicious. Anyone who has had discussions with the Patriotic Front—or even someone who has not—and who has followed the reports in the press, such as they are, must be aware that there is an intense feeling of suspicion among Patriotic Front members. The Patriotic Front is greatly concerned that every concession it has made has not been matched by any concession by Lord Carrington. Is it any wonder that there is a great deal of suspicion at Lancaster House?

If we think back, we see that Mr. Robert Mugabe and Mr. Joshua Nkomo, quite apart from being the heads of armies that had to fight a war to achieve the conference at Lancaster House, were incarcerated for 10 years hundreds of miles from the nearest city, with very few people around.

Mr. Nkomo then suffered almost the ultimate humiliation. I believe that it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) who went to Rhodesia and asked to see Mr. Nkomo. Mr. Nkomo was brought hundreds of miles in the back of an enclosed van with not even a cushion to assist him during the journey. Is it any wonder that in such circumstances people are suspicious? There is not one of us who would not be. The same is true of Mr. Mugabe. He spent many years in detention.

The irony is that of all the so-called terrorists—I am glad that that term has been dropped, to a large extent—of all the liberation leaders, the only one who was ever convicted of an offence was the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole. We do not hear much about him these days, but there was a time when he was the darling of the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). Suddenly, within 24 hours of being a terrorist, Mr. Sithole was a great statesman. It shows how we can come to terms with life.

I have no doubt that if we can reach agreement with all the parties at Lancaster House and there is an election, whoever is elected—whether it is Mr. Nkomo who is President or whatever transpires—will be welcome to come to this country, take his place among the world's statesmen and reside at Buckingham Palace for the weekend.

If there is no agreement, the situation will be entirely different. If there can be no all-party agreement at Lancaster House, not only must everyone think about what he must do, but the Government must think about what they must do with the enabling Act, assuming that it has been passed. We are all realists in the House, and I do not think that anyone will misinterpret my words when I say that the reality is that the Government will get their way and put the Bill on the statute book. They certainly will not do that without opposition. I could never agree to vote for it in present circumstances.

But that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the blunt reality that the Government, having got a majority in the House, will get the Bill through. This is where the suspicious aspect enters into it.

I do not want to make a Second Reading speech, but as I read the Bill there is nothing in it which indicates that it will come into effect only if there is all-party agreement at Lancaster House. It is a straightforward enabling Bill. Once it is on the statute book, the Government can do with it what they will. They can, if they so wish, decide to conclude the bilateral agreement with the Salisbury delegation and proceed to do what is required to facilitate elections.

Hon. Members must realise that discussions in the House have an impact outside. It sometimes seems that some of us think we live in a cocooned world and that what we say will have no effect on the outside world. I do not want to be provocative about this, but the fact remains that the Government's election manifesto, if it did not specifically dot the i's and cross the t's, certainly gave all of us, including many Conservative Members, the distinct impression—almost a distinct assurance—that one of the first acts of the Government would be to lift sanctions and recognise the SmithMuzorewa regime.

Given the fact that we allowed UDI to pass almost without comment or any real action, the history of politics in Rhodesia over the past 20 years, and the fact that we went through producing the sanctions orders and yet connived at allowing oil to enter Rhodesia to fuel the economy, how can we not understand the problems faced by the Patriotic Front when it tries to learn to trust the British Government? Yet it is something that we must understand and come to terms with.

The negotiations are at a delicate stage, and I do not believe that we are quite as close to agreement as the Lord Privy Seal suggested. The Patriotic Front members have made a great number of concessions in order to reach agreement. I am astonished at how conciliatory they have been. However, Lord Carrington, the Lord Privy Seal and others have failed to remove their distrust completely. It is most important that that distrust is removed. We desperately want an agreement out of the Lancaster House talks, but not a paper agreement. We want an agreement that will stick and provide peace and security for the new Zimbabwe.

It will be to the long-term disadvantage if the Patriotic Front is pressurised into signing an agreement which in its heart of hearts it knows it cannot keep. One of the factors that appears to be missing from the Government's calculations is that those who signed the agreement have to be able to sell it to their followers back in Rhodesia. That applies equally to Ian Smith, Bishop Muzorewa, Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo. Perhaps in some respects the task facing the Patriotic Front is the more difficult. They have to sell the agreement to the people who are wielding the weapons and, more important, to those who have been on the receiving end of the weapons of the Smith regime. They have to sell it to people living in refugee camps which have been bombed and attacked by marauding troops who have crossed the border into Zambia, Mozambique, Angola and even Botswana.

I am surprised to have to say this to Conservative Members who seem to fail to understand it, but when a war is in progress it is difficult for people not to hate the enemy. During the Second World War, I was too young to fight, but as a young lad I shared the intense hatred of other youngsters not just for Nazi Germany but for Germany and every German citizen. Today, the Common Market aside, the people of Germany are our friends. When we hear people speaking German in the street we do not spit upon them or show rancour towards them. Such rancour does not disappear in five minutes, however, and that is true of Rhodesia as it is true of Britain.

I am not suggesting that postponement of our discussion through the weekend will end the rancour and bitterness in Rhodesia, because that would be nonsense. However, we are trying to avoid the injection into the situation of factors that would confirm the Patriotic Front in its mistrust of the British Government. By adopting a reasonable pace of progress we may have an impact on the Lancaster House talks far beyond what we might imagine. We are concerned that they should succeed. I am sure that the Government did not think seriously enough about what effect rushing the Bill through would have on the talks.

The events at Lancaster House are not taking place in a cocooned atmosphere. They are susceptible to what happens here and elsewhere. Against that background, the Government could have produced their Bill two weeks ago, timing progress on it to match the progress in the talks. The Second Reading debate could then have taken the form of a broad discussion of how we saw Rhodesia being governed through the transitional period. We could then have seen what came out of the Lancaster House talks before proceeding to the Committee stage and the tabling of amendments. I would hope for a spirit of flexibility from the Government which might lead them, like my hon. Friends, to want to move amendments during the Committee stage.

Mr. Crouch

I have listened to the hon. Gentleman with great care. He seems to be speaking to yesterday's brief, showing his dismay at what my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal said yesterday about the timing of the Bill. Should he not apply himself to today's brief, to what was said by the Leader of the Opposition about extending our consideration of the Bill, with time for reflection over the weekend? Does he not feel that there is flexibility on his own Front Bench?

Mr. Hughes

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), first for saying that he has been listening with care and, second, for reinforcing the point that I am making.

I see that the Leader of the House has now entered the Chamber to make the statement we have all been awaiting, Mr. Speaker. May I give way to the right hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member may come to a conclusion if he wishes.

Mr. Hughes

I hope that the proposition so generously put forward by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, which has wide assent in the House, that we have the Second Reading debate today with remaining stages on Mondey, will have met with the agreement of the Government.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement. I am happy to be able to report to the House an arrangement which I believe will do justice to the different views held by Members on the Rhodesia issue. It will meet the needs of Government and Opposition and will be in accord with the dignity of this House.

The House will be asked to approve the business motion forthwith. The Second Reading debate will commence immediately and will be concluded between 10 o'clock and 11 o'clock tonight. The money resolution will then be taken. The House will then be required to resolve into a Committee and we shall report progress immediately. The remaining stages of the Bill will be taken on Monday 12 November and will be concluded at a reasonable hour—that is to say, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. The Opposition have undertaken to facilitate progress of the Bill to achieve the Government's date for completion in order to obtain Royal Assent on Wednesday, 14 November.

Accordingly, the business for next week has been rearranged as follows:

MONDAY 12 NOVEMBER—Completion of the remaining stages of the Southern Rhodesia Bill.

THURSDAY 15 NOVEMBER—The business will now be: Second Reading of the Protection of Trading Interests Bill and of the Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa and Nauru (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, and proceedings on the Isle of Man Bill.

I believe that this agreement is honourable and reasonable and will facilitate the successful outcome to the Lancaster House conference that the whole House desires.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

The Opposition believe that this agreement is honourable and was worth waiting for. Yesterday, the Opposition indicated that this was an important constitutional Bill that needed full consideration and should not be rushed through. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition took that point further this afternoon, and we are glad that the Government have accepted our view.

We shall endeavour in the Second Reading debate tonight, and again on Monday, to discuss the Bill fully. There will be no fractious opposition. We shall consider each of the amendments. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition put it, the debate should be concluded at a reasonable hour—either late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. We shall facilitate the passage of the Bill so that it will reach another place on time. We shall oppose the Bill, but we shall stick to the agreement, because that is the way that this House conducts its business.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered, That if the Southern Rhodesia Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House, further proceedings on the Bill shall stand postponed and that as soon as the proceedings on any Resolution come to by the House on Southern Rhodesia [Money] have been concluded, this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill, and that the Southern Rhodesia Bill may be proceeded with at this day's sitting, though opposed, until any hour.