HC Deb 12 November 1979 vol 973 cc907-1021 3.33 pm
Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 5, after '(1)', insert 'After agreement has been reached by all parties represented at the Constitutional Conference'.

The Chairman

Order. With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 4, in page 1, line 6, after 'Zimbabwe', insert accepted by all parties to the Lancaster House talks'.

No. 11, in page 1, line 14, after 'provision', insert agreed by representatives of the Muzorewa regime and the Patriotic Front'.

No. 17, in page 1, line 18, at end insert— '(4) Notwithstanding anything contained in subsection (1) above, no constitution provided by Order in Council thereby shall take effect unless a referendum has first been held in Southern Rhodesia upon a question as to whether such constitution is approved or not approved by the electorate of Southern Rhodesia; and such constitution shall be taken to be not approved unless a majority of persons voting in such referendum have expressed their approval thereof and it appears to the Secretary of State that not less than 40 per cent, of the persons entitled to vote in the referendum have expressed their approval. (5) Her Majesty may by Order in Council make all such provision as may be necessary for the holding of such a referendum (including, but without prejudice to any other matter, the definition of the persons entitled to vote therein); and the provisions of subsection (3) of the next following section shall apply to any such Order in Council.'. No. 51, in Clause 3, page 2, line 30, at end insert 'save that no act shall be taken under these powers until a ceasefire has been accepted by the Muzorewa régime and the Patriotic Front'.

Mr. Lyon

This amendment is crucial to the consideration of the whole Bill. It may be that some Conservative Members think that it is designed to make a false assumption of the intentions of the Bill and the bona fides of the Government, and that it is so different from the attitude that has emerged through the press regarding what has been going on at Lancaster House that it is totally unnecessary.

In an exchange at Question Time the Lord Privy Seal, with a somewhat patrician disdain, rejected any suggestion that the matter could go ahead if there were a breakdown. That was the initial attitude, but in due course there were conflicting statements by the Foreign Secretary and the Lord Privy Seal which would leave the Government open to go ahead and use the powers in the Bill even if there were no agreement with all the parties at the Lancaster House conference. The amendment is designed to prevent that situation.

I want hon. Members to consider the position if they were asked to approve Second Reading after the constitutional conference had broken down. That is what is behind the amendment. In the circumstances, is it not conceivable that many Conservative Members, apart from Labour Members, would have withdrawn their assent to Second Reading if it meant that we were taking power to install a Governor in Southern Rhodesia when the war was continuing and the Patriotic Front was still fighting? I suspect that no one of common sense would want that to continue. Yet the powers within the Bill allow that to happen.

It is true that certain of the powers are conditional upon assent by the House to an Order in Council, but that Order in Council would not be capable of amendment. It would be presented to the House on the basis that we had committed ourselves by sending out a Governor and that to leave him there without the necessary powers, which would be taken under the Order in Council, would make his position intolerable. Therefore, once the Bill is enacted, I stress that we could face a situation that most hon. Members would find intolerable.

Whatever hon. Members' views may be about the principle of the Second Reading and what should happen in Southern Rhodesia in future, I do not think that any of us would want the Bill without this qualifying condition. I hope, therefore, that there will be a fair amount of all-party agreement on this issue.

In order to present the case, I have to argue against the enormous weight of publicity that has come out through the BBC in particular, but the press in general, which has led us all to believe that the Lancaster House conference is on the brink of agreement among all parties. If so, the argument against the amendment is the stronger.

I do not take that view, because I am conscious of the attitude of the Patriotic Front. When I raised this matter last week, one Conservative Member pointed out that I was being the spokesman for the Patriotic Front. Of course, the BBC in its usual way chose to put that, rather than any other part, into the "Week in Westminster" programme. I should like to make the position plain for Conservative Members in particular and for others outside.

In our discussions before the Muzorewa-Smith deal and before the election, we had always said that a settlement in Southern Rhodesia had to be acceptable to the whole country, particularly the 6 million Africans. If they were prepared to settle for an agreement between Smith and Muzorewa in the constitution that they then had, I said that that would be acceptable to me. I have always maintained that position. I changed my view about the acceptability of that statement only when I went to Southern Rhodesia and saw what was going on, and felt the enormous impact of opinion against the deal.

I should be prepared to accept an election victory for Muzorewa in a free election if that were the genuine view of the majority of people in Southern Rhodesia. Equally, if the genuine view of the majority of people in Southern Rhodesia is that they want a Mugabe Government, a Nkomo Government or a Patriotic Front Government, they should have the right to have the arguments put forward in depth and to make their free choice in a free election.

That is what I want and I think that is what the Patriotic Front wants. From the beginning of the conference the Patriotic Front has argued that its major concern is that in the interim before the election it should have the right to put its case properly to the people in Southern Rhodesia. It did not want a settlement that simply gave Muzorewa the legitimacy of acceptance by Britain of what had happened in the past. I do not want that either. Frankly, if Conservative Members smile at the suggestion that we should pay any attention to what the Patriotic Front wants, I suggest that they misconceive what is happening in Rhodesia.

The truth is that there can be no end to the war unless the Patriotic Front is brought into an agreement. The position is not, as the Lord Privy Seal constantly says, that the Patriotic Front has a veto; the reality is that if it is not satisfied with the settlement it will go on fighting. It has the capacity to do so.

The Committee does not have to take this from me. I refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), who is not exactly sympathetic to the views of the Patriotic Front. Only last Thursday he said that he had just returned post-haste from Salisbury and that the Patriotic Front was expecting to have 20,000 guerillas in the field inside Rhodesia by Christmas.

In those circumstances, it is no use saying that we wish that the Patriotic Front did not exist and that we ought not to pay any attention to what it feels or thinks. The fact is that the war cannot end unless an agreement is acceptable to the Patriotic Front as well. That is not to say that it has a veto, any more than the British Government and Bishop Muzorewa have a veto. The British Government are constantly arguing that we cannot do this or that because it would not be acceptable to Muzorewa. Surely that is to give Muzorewa a veto. But Muzorewa cannot end the war; the Patriotic Front can.

In those circumstances, if we are to settle the problem by the ballot rather than by the bullet, we need the agreement of all parties—the British Government, the Muzorewa regime and the Patriotic Front. That will not be forthcoming until we have a settlement with which all parties are in agreement.

We shall come in due course, in the other amendments, to some parts of the so-called agreements made hitherto, which are conditional—

Sir Raymond Gower (Barry)

Does the hon. Gentleman go so far as to say that if, in the ultimate, the Patriotic Front, however unreasonably, will not consent to any settlement, there can never be a settlement?

Mr. Lyon

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. This was said by the Minister to be a truism only a fortnight ago at Question Time. There cannot be an agreement if there is not an agreement. An agreement is an agreement of all sides; it is not simply an agreement between the British Government and Muzorewa. If there is not an agreement of all sides, the war will continue. It is right, therefore, to say that if there is not an agreement with the Patriotic Front, there will not be an agreement. In that event, the war would go on.

What we have to remember is that the war would go on with a British Governor in Salisbury and British troops committed as observers. They would be there in the middle of the fighting. What attitude would they be expected to take? If a bomb were to go off in Government House, what would the British Government then do? How would they react to public opinion in Britain? We would have the possibility of being involved in the war. Hitherto we have not been. It would be the worst of all possible worlds.

I cannot see any good reason why the Government should have produced the Bill, as they did, before the agreement, when they knew that they could get the Bill through Parliament in a couple of hours after an agreement. I cannot see any reason for it unless the kind of possibility to which I have referred is felt to be open. I do not say that the Lord Privy Seal or the Foreign Secretary wants to go down that road, but I believe that they are seriously contemplating going down that road as an alternative to getting an agreement with the Patriotic Front.

3.45 pm

There are the major issues still at stake. It is not true to say that the Patriotic Front agreed to the constitution simpliciter. What it said was that there were several outstanding issues, of which the land question was absolutely crucial, but that it would agree to go on with further discussions about the interim arrangements and that perhaps it would not have to come back to discuss the constitution if it felt satisfied about the interim arrangements.

The Patriotic Front has always maintained that if it is possible to have a free and fair election the likelihood is that in any event it would win. That is perhaps not surprising. There are moments at which parties in this House believe that they will win. Sometimes they are wrong about that. The Patriotic Front believes that it would win in a free election. It is conscious that if there were deficiencies in the constitution that could be put right later by the Government in power it could look forward to that situation pragmatically. But it is essential that the transitional provisions should be right. It was prepared to go forward, therefore, even though it had reservations about the constitution, but there are still major issues of difference concerning the interim arrangements.

The essential condition is that in the election campaign the Patriotic Front should have as full a time as possible in which to make its appeal to the country. After all, the Patriotic Front has not been in control of the means whereby parties might make an appeal to the country in the period before the settlement, whereas the Muzorewa Government have been in control of those means. The Muzorewa Government control the newspapers, the television, the radio and the postal services. The Patriotic Front does not have any offices in the country. It does not have telephones. Those services would have to be put in before it could start on an election campaign. It is absurd to argue that all this could be done within two months of an agreement being reached at Lancaster House.

No party in this country would want to launch a campaign within two months without all the necessary prerequisites. It is true that we can have an election in this country within three weeks, but that is because the total organisation of the parties is already in existence. It is not in existence in Southern Rhodesia. There is no electoral machinery in existence on the basis of votes within constituencies. That is why, in the end, it is likely that there will have to be a popular roll and that the issues will be decided upon the basis of a national list. Nevertheless, it is clear that it will take time to mount a fair appeal to the country, and that is one of the major issues at stake at Lancaster House.

The second major issue—it will be discussed in relation to later amendments—is the control of the security forces in that period. None of us blinks at the difficulty of arranging an election that immediately follows the end of a civil war. There will be people going about with guns and there will be hostility, and emotions arising during the campaign may lead to bloodshed. This has to be controlled by somebody.

The Government initially were considering that that control should come from the existing security forces. That might seem a reasonable proposition to Conservative Members, but let us suppose that some of us had been fighting for 10 years against those very same security forces and regarded them as the enemy—and, furthermore, that they regarded us as their enemy. What would be the position if hostilities were to break out during the election campaign? Those security forces would release their venom on us and we would release our venom on them. That would be an impossible situation.

Originally, the Patriotic Front wanted to have a fusion of the forces. It has abandoned that idea and has now accepted that there ought to be an independent force in the country in order to provide security during that period. That is a perfectly reasonable suggestion to make. Indeed, my understanding is that the Commonwealth as a whole is prepared to back such a force. It is prepared to provide enough troops to undertake the total security of the country. At the moment the British Government are resisting that idea, on the basis that any military commitment should be restricted to a limited number of observers, who would observe the activities of the existing security forces and the existing guerrilla forces, who would retain their weapons.

In my submission, the suggestion of the Patriotic Front and the Commonwealth is far more likely to ensure a peaceful and a completely fair election campaign than is the suggestion of the Government. This is a very considerable difference, which has not yet been settled. It may be that it will not be settled. Can hon. Members seriously say that they would allow the Bill to go through with issues such as that still outstanding? That is the case for the amendment.

Mr. Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler (Norfolk, North-West)

Would the hon. Gentleman care to explain why he thinks that a formal force of Commonwealth troops, however expert, would be more effective in the field in dealing with guerrilla forces than troops native to Rhodesia, who know not only the terrain but the languages of those involved in the fighting inside Rhodesia? How does he feel Canadians, Nigerians or, for that matter, British troops might be able to cope in those circumstances? Does he not recall how ineffective, by and large, were British troops when employed on similar operations in Kenya 20 years ago?

Mr. Lyon

I do not accept that. It is true that local troops, whether guerrilla or security forces, will know the country better. They will know the local customs, the language, and so on. But it is precisely because they know the country in the climate of a 10-year war in which the opposition is the enemy, on whichever side they are fighting that the likelihood arises of some heated demonstration getting out of hand and resulting in bloodshed, which will exacerbate the intense feelings of emnity between the two forces, if they are the people charged with trying to put and end to it.

An independent force would no doubt have to rely upon some local expertise in communicating between the two sides but it would be regarded by both sides as being independent. If there were a dispute at Umtali and the dispute was alleged by the Patriotic Front to be due to some activity by the security forces that the Patriotic Front disliked, it would be open to the Commonwealth force to say that it intended to put the matter right. The Commonwealth force could say that it had listened to both sides and it would then decide. In that event there would be a possibility of acceptance by both sides. But if the argument were to be resolved only by the security forces, already considered by the Patriotic Front to be the cause of the disturbance, it is inconceivable that the Patriotic Front would accept the adjudication of the security forces on the issue.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

Is it not precisely in that role of intermediary, as someone to supervise the military operations in the field without being involved, that the Commonwealth observers can fulfil their most useful role? Is that not a role which, by its very nature, cannot be carried out any better by yet another armed force?

Mr. Lyon

No. The observer will come along as the wise man and give a ruling on what he says is a complicated situation. That is a different matter from effective forces being able to police the situation and able to tell the Muzorewa forces that they must move back and drop their arms, or to tell the Patriotic Front that it must keep out of the matter. What is the point of one man coming along and saying "You must keep out of it" when everyone around has guns and is willing to go on fighting?

We have seen the difficulties experienced by observers in Israel trying to police the partition line there. The PLO and Israeli forces decided, on occasion, to go ahead and do what they wished. If there were sufficient forces in the country to police the operation of the election, the possibility of fracas between two sides would not arise.

A considerable number would be required. I understand that the Commonwealth is willing to provide 20,000 men towards the security force. That seems to me a far better way of policing the election than the Government's suggestion. But the Government are sticking to their suggestion. I do not need to argue the merits of the security forces against the observers. That is a matter for a later amendment. I am saying, however, that there are serious issues between the two sides at this time.

If the Government were to announce that they intend to go on arguing the case for a little longer to see how it goes, that would be one thing. That is not what they are doing. Muzorewa has sent his delegation back home to get ready for the election. Why have they gone? Can it be true, as The Guardian says in a front-page story this morning, that the Government have already decided that they are going to do a deal with Muzorewa and that the delegation has gone back because Muzorewa knows that the issue is in the bag? If there were still an issue about the Patriotic Front's demands to be decided and that had still to be compromised, Muzorewa would not be sending back his people in order to start the election because he might not be willing to agree.

Muzorewa has said that he will not agree to Commonwealth forces taking over the role of the security forces. If that is on offer and still a subject for discussion, and if Muzorewa says he will not agree and yet has sent his people back to Salisbury to start on an election, he must know more than we know. He must know what the Lord Privy Seal meant by those elliptical words If we fail in our endeavours, which I very much hope will not happen, we shall certainly have to consider how we should proceed."—[Official Report, 7 November 1979; Vol. 973, c. 419.] Muzorewa must know what the Lord Privy Seal has considered and decided. He must know that The Guardian was right in its front-page story and that this deal has already been set up.

Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)

Would it not be better if this issue of the report in The Guardian could be cleared up by the Government? The report has apparently come from Whitehall sources. It states that the Patriotic Front will be told to give an answer today and that if this does not happen negotiations will break down and a deal will be done with the Muzorewa section. Is it not important to have a statement from the Government early in the Committee stage of this Bill? It would have a bearing on the deliberations of hon. Members.

Mr. Lyon

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. It is one of the reasons why I have tabled the amendment. If the Government can reject that report and say that they would not do what The Guardian suggests they are going to do, I see no reason why the Government should not accept the amendment and reassure everyone. If that is the position, I cannot see why Conservative Members should not support us in asking for that requirement.

Such a requirement would allay anxiety. It would mean that the Bill had been introduced only because of the difficulties of the Government party over sanctions. I would be prepared to accept that the Government had their own domestic difficulties and wanted to deal with the matter through the Bill. But if the Government have a more nefarious intention in mind, it is right that they should come clean or that Conservative Members should vote with us in order to ensure that this provision is in the Bill.

Sir Raymond Gower

I agree with the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) that it is desirable to achieve maximum agreement among all the parties. Like him, I feel that it behoves Ministers—I feel sure Ministers have this in mind—to spare no effort to try to achieve general agreement. I would go almost as far as the hon. Member for York in saying that we cannot hope for a real, lasting settlement unless there is this sort of agreement. To that extent, I have sympathy with his desire for the wording proposed. On the other hand, I am not sure that it is essential to have this wording after agreement is reached by all parties. One has to consider to what extent any disagreement, in the long term, may be reasonable.

I am sure that there are many points on which the Patriotic Front has cause for anxiety and that it wants these anxieties removed. The hon. Gentleman has referred to some of them. He will appreciate that some of those problems are due to the fact that the Patriotic Front did not take part in the elections at which the Muzorewa Government were elected. Had the Patriotic Front participated in those elections, its position today would be stronger from the point of view of organisation. It is a problem for the Patriotic Front and one with which many of us have a good deal of sympathy. But surely the hon. Gentleman's anxieties in this respect are covered partially by his later amendment, which might seem more appropriate were he to suggest that we should include a provision requiring the affirmative resolution procedure in respect of the order. It would then be seen as only enabling, because it would need that kind of sanction from this House.

4 pm

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman accepts that, but if he wants some additional safeguard it could be incorporated in that way in perhaps a less ham-fisted manner. I do not want to be unkind, but I should prefer that to the rather blunt terminology agreement has been reached by all parties". I do not know whether that sort of agreement is possible. I hope that it is and that public opinion within the country will lead to that sort of agreement.

The hon. Gentleman must not forget, when he says that the Muzorewa representatives have gone back, that there is another background. They have literally agreed to matters that it was inconceivable that they would agree to a short time ago. They have made concessions which might be seen to be unpalatable by some of their supporters, and they have a powerful need to explain to some of their supporters what they have done. So their presence is needed for other reasons, too.

I hope that the other formula will be deemed preferable and that we shall not put it in the form proposed in the amendment. My right hon. Friend may think differently. However, that is my view, and I am stating merely my own view on this.

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

The argument for having this clause does not depend simply on one's opinion about the merits of the views of the Patriotic Front or those of Bishop Muzorewa. The fact is that the current discussions were set in train as a result of a series of recommendations of the whole Commonwealth. The whole Commonwealth will expect the current negotiations to be conducted in the spirit of the Lusaka communiqué, which recognised clearly that a lasting settlement must involve all the parties to the conference. It is clear that if the negotiations are carried out in such a way that one party regards itself as shut out or presented with an ultimatum which it cannot accept or in some way forced into an agreement which basically it objects to, the spirit of the Lusaka agreement will not have been observed and there will be a reaction from the Commonwealth countries.

Quite apart from that, the Organisation of African Unity has already committed itself to support for the Patriotic Front, and whether or not we agree with that commitment it is of great importance for the future of stability and peace in Central Africa to take account of what the OAU thinks and the conclusions that it may come to about the kind of agreement that is arrived at eventually at the Lancaster House conference.

Therefore, those of us who support the amendment are not doing so out of some blind commitment to the views of the Patriotic Front or to its demands, though I think that many of them are eminently reasonable in practical terms, apart from anything else.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

Is not one of the difficulties the fact that for a very long time the leaders of the Patriotic Front have made it clear in their statements that they are hell-bent on a military result? [Hon. Members: "No".] That is what they have said. They have said as much from time to time. That would appear to be one of the problems that they face in coming to an agreement. They will have to cast aside what they have said often in the past and reach an agreement. If they still maintain that they can win by military conquest, it is right that the Government should take the line that they have taken.

Mr. Hooley

If the Patriotic Front were hell-bent on fighting the war to a conclusion, there is no reason why its delegation should have come to Lancaster House. The fact that the Patriotic Front has come to Lancaster House means that it is as anxious as the other parties to see, if humanly possible, whether a peaceful transition to legality and constitutional government in Zimbabwe can be achieved. I am sure that that is common ground to both sides of the Committee. The Patriotic Front is a party to the negotiations. It has argued its case for nine weeks, and I must say that its arguments do not appear to have received much sympathy from Her Majesty's Government, who have rejected point after point which it has made.

One of the reasons for the amendment is to make it clear that the arguments of the Patriotic Front, as well as those of the Muzorewa Government, must be taken seriously and that the points which it is making about the transition and about the constitution must be taken into account if we are to have a settlement which will stick.

These matters have been put forward very well by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon). My point is that it is no use supposing that the British Government can conclude an agreement which is acceptable to Bishop Muzorewa and presumably to Ian Smih but which is totally unacceptable to the Patriotic Front. Such an agreement, so called, will not be acceptable to the international community. It will be contrary to the spirit of the Lusaka communiqué, which is the foundation of the whole exercise. It will be received with hostility by the OAU. On top of all that, it will not be acceptable to the United Nations.

The British Government must be aware that in terms of both sanctions and of achieving an enduring settlement, an agreement, so called, which is not acceptable to the United Nations will not stick, will not bring peace to Central Africa and will not resolve this problem for us. We have been beholden to the United Nations for the policy of sanctions, and we shall come to that argument on a later amendment, but it is abundantly clear from the resolution passed by the Security Council as recently as 30 April this year that any agreement that is pushed through in such a way that it is wholly unacceptable to the leaders of the Patriotic Front will not command a majority within the United Nations. That means that, even if in our terms there is a form of constitutional and lawful government which can be accepted by a majority in this House, if the majority of member States of the United Nations does not accept it, the new Zimbabwe will remain outside the international community. I am sure that that is an end which the Lord Privy Seal does not wish to see.

It is said that if we are to go along with the line that an agreement must include the Patriotic Front, in some way it gives the Patriotic Front a veto. There are two answers to that. First, the various matters about which the Patriotic Front has expressed concern—the length of the transition, the freedom of elections and the supervision—seem eminently practical and sensible, and I do not think that the Patriotic Front is asking for anything which is at all outrageous or improbable. But, over and above that, if the Patriotic Front withheld agreement week after week and held out for what appeared to be impossible or unreasonable demands, I am sure that the frontline States—its supporters and allies in Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and other parts of Africa—would not back demands which were wholly and completely unreasonable.

The Patriotic Front depends on support from the front-line States and on African opinion. I am sure that the leaders of the Patriotic Front know that they would be very unwise to press demands which seemed quite unreasonable in the sense that they would alienate the support of other African States. Therefore, this argument about a so-called veto is an academic and an unreal one.

In my view, the Patriotic Front is asking for reasonable, practical arrangements to ensure that the elections, when held, and the transition period, when it comes about, will be arranged in such a way that the international community, the Commonwealth States, the United Nations, the OAU and others can look upon this exercise and say "Yes. That was fair and reasonable. We accept the result and the resulting regime or Government is welcome into the Commonwealth and the OAU and as a member State of the United Nations". That is the fundamental reason for the amendment. We are not seeking to make a case for the Patriotic Front; it can do that for itself.

It will be quite pointless to achieve an agreement that is acceptable to the Muzorewa faction but totally unacceptable to the other side in the argument. If that happens, the international community will say that Britain may have fixed it by legislation within the House of Commons and by agreement with Bishop Muzorewa and Ian Smith but it is not a genuine agreement made in the spirit of Lusaka. Nor does the international community expect such an agreement to emerge from the Lancaster House talks.

Mr. Iain Mills (Meriden)

It is difficult to accept some of the arguments of Opposition Members. The Lancaster House talks have continued for nine weeks, and one can scarcely say that they have been steamrollered or rushed. Surely the wind of change in Africa should after nine weeks stop, become fixed and transform itself into action.

It is a difficult job facing any Minister to achieve the sets of delicate balances required in such sophisticated negotiations. To achieve those balances requires an element of flexibility that might not be used but is essential for negotiating pur- poses. Flexibility is required to achieve any satisfactory balance. Many of the amendments to be taken later today will become pointless if this amendment is accepted. The amendment will tip that delicate balance that the Government are trying to achieve with all parties to the conference, by giving one party a positive force that the other has not got—an effective veto—

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Can the hon Gentleman tell the House to which of the three parties this amendment gives an effective veto? Surely it is being given only to the one that is being squeezed out by the other two.

Mr. Mills

If the Patriotic Front has to agree to the proposals, it can in theory continue the talks indefinitely. I am not suggesting that Ministers will say that if the Patriotic Front does not agree they will go ahead anyway. The Opposition are often sophisticated in their arguments. Can they not appreciate the subtlety and need for sophistication in this argument? For the Patriotic Front to have the power to be able to continue the talks indefinitely puts the balance in question.

After nine weeks the terms have been accepted by an elected Government who are effectively a democracy in sympathy with Western ideals and ideas. However, the Patriotic Front is not elected and uses the tools of terrorism to achieve its ends.

What is so frightening about the Bill in its original form? Is it proposing to put an axe to the neck of any of the Patriotic Front? Is it a Bill suggested by a dictator from Whitehall? It is a Bill suggested by a legally elected democratic Government—our Government—that proposes a real and lasting solution. Therefore, any party to the conference that does not accept these terms must have other factors in mind.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the reports, which are more or less correct, that although there have been nine weeks of talks, most of that time has been devoted to a future constitution, now outlined in the White Paper? That constitution has become an island of aspiration, but the bridge providing the transitional stages of ceasefire, reintegration and election have not been discussed at great length Therefore, do not the hon. Gentleman's words need modification?

4.15 pm
Mr. Mills

I am not sure, as I was not party to the daily discussions, what proportion of the nine weeks has been spent on each issue. However, judging from the available information, it may be that the latter subject has received less discussion than the others. I accept the hon. Gentleman's point to some extent, but is this amendment relevant? One is not saying that the discussions will stop. The Foreign Secretary is saying, not that this is an axe to be waved, but that he will have to reconsider and look at the existing situation. To say the opposite, that the Bill is an axe—providing an effective cessation of discussion—is not correct.

Mr. Spearing

It is an axe in the hand.

Mr. Mills

It is difficult to achieve a balance in such delicate affairs. I do not wish the balance to be placed in favour of Bishop Muzorewa. I want only that the present balance should not be upset. The Foreign Secretary should be allowed to tackle the situation as he thinks fit.

I urge hon. Members to oppose the amendment because in its heart the Patriotic Front must find it difficult to guarantee the delivery of goods that it has promised, namely, a ceasefire. Will all those men who are armed, some inside Zimbabwe-Rhodesia and some outside, lay down their arms? Perhaps the two leaders and their delegations will find it difficult to obtain a ceasefire because of the disparate and diverse views of politicians even within the same party. The Opposition will be particularly aware of those problems. If there is a diversity of opinion amongst the Patriotic Front, it is essential to allow the Foreign Secretary the ability to tackle such problems when they occur.

It is conceivable that in the midst of the final stages, or in the midst of the election, there will be an armed coup or uprising by the many thousands of armed Patriotic Front guerrillas at present in Rhodesia. I am sure there will be discussion on the amendments concerning that.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Does not the hon. Gentleman's point strengthen the argument put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) when he said that there should be a Commonwealth peacekeeping force in the area? If the hon. Gentleman envisages that possibility, an independent military force to keep the peace is essential.

The Chairman

Order. Before the hon. Member answers that point, I must remind the Committee that this is not a security debate and that we are dealing with a different subject.

Mr. Mills

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) for his comments. Perhaps we shall have an opportunity later to discuss them.

This is one of the factors which could change. If something is not guaranteed, we must leave it to the negotiators to effect the best balance and the best compromise for all the people of Zimbabwe.

Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)

I am quite certain that no one in this debate would want to say anything that even began to prejudice the possibility of reaching an agreement with all the parties to the Lancaster House negotiations. Certainly I have no intention of doing so. Equally, I do not wish to suggest that everything that the Patriotic Front proposes is right and that everything put forward by Bishop Muzorewa, the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, Mr. Smith or anyone else on the side of or in the delegation of the bishop is wrong. I am not concerned with that. I am concerned with the position into which the Government have got themselves by bringing the Bill forward—a position which I believe is impossible, and with which our amendments are designed to deal.

I start from the basic premise that we are still acting under the six principles, and in particular the principle that it is essential for any settlement to have the agreement of the people of Rhodesia as a whole. I do not think that the matter has ever been put better than it was put in the mandatory resolution of the Security Council which said that the United Kingdom as the administering Power should ensure that no settlement is reached without taking into account the views of the people of Southern Rhodesia, and in particular the political parties favouring majority rule, —those are the parties that I have mentioned— and that it is acceptable to the people of Southern Rhodesia as a whole". That, surely, is what we have to try to ensure—that those aspects are satisfied. It is apparent at the moment that we have not reached that stage, and if there were any doubt of that I would take the point from the Lord Privy Seal himself who said, in answering questions: 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."—[Official Report, 7 November 1979; Vol. 973, c. 419.] There is, therefore, no agreement about anything. There is certainly no agreement on a settlement which is acceptable to the political parties favouring majority rule and acceptable to the people of Southern Rhodesia as a whole. When this is put to the Lord Privy Seal he says that no party can exercise a veto. I do not understand that answer in the context of the need to obtain the agreement of all the political parties favouring majority rule and of the people of Rhodesia as a whole. What does he mean by a veto? Does he mean one of the political parties not accepting the views of the other one and the British Government? If he does, he is plainly saying that there is no such agreement as is required by the six principles and the mandatory United Nations resolution.

If his answer to the question of what happens if they do not agree in the end is that they cannot be allowed to have a veto, he is saying that the principle is being jettisoned. The Government are saying "Never mind that there is no agreement acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. We are none the less going ahead." If he does not mean that, he must tell us what he does mean. The only answer that we have had from the right hon. Gentleman is that if that situation arose the Government would have to consider what to do next. When we do not have an agreement that is acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole, what does he mean, in the context of seeking an agreement which is so acceptable and rejecting one which is not, by "We will have to consider what we shall do next"?

Sir Raymond Gower

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that a difficulty might be created if a very small but vociferous minority should persist in its opposition even after the vast majority of the people of Rhodesia were in favour of a settlement and of peace? Surely if that were the case that would be reflected in the returns in the subsequent election.

Mr. Silkin

If the hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) takes the words acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole as meaning acceptable to every member of the electorate of Rhodesia, of course, the kind of paradox he is suggesting might be appropriate. But that is not how any sensible person would look at the matter. We are considering the views of the people as a whole, which means the majority of the people of Rhodesia.

In the amendment which I and my hon. Friends have tabled we took the referendum test that was accepted by the Conservatives in relation to Scotland. I accept that we had our tongue a little in our cheek when we specified a figure of 40 per cent. of the people entitled to vote, but at least what we have proposed would provide some sort of working idea of what we mean by acceptable to the people … as a whole". Unless we know that a settlement is acceptable to the people as a whole, we have not met the conditions upon which the Security Council resolution and the six principles are founded.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the earlier amendments refer to all parties, not to every individual involved in the conference, and that the minority argument therefore would not arise?

Mr. Silkin

Of course, I agree with the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) has put to me. Matters are not made easier by the fact that even within the Muzorewa delegation the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, for example, took the view that the election was phoney and wanted to take proceedings in court to have it annulled. Subsequently he joined the Muzorewa delegation. However, there must be at least a very considerable doubt about the effect of the election that has been held, and of course that doubt is made very much greater by the fact that the supporters of the Patriotic Front did not participate in it. The whole point of all this negotiation is that they should be able to take part in it in an atmosphere of peace. That will not be possible unless and until an agreement has been made which is acceptable to all parties and to the people of Rhodesia as a whole.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)

We all have sympathy with the Amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon), but I am worried at the wording. I therefore ask my right hon. and learned Friend for legal advice. The amendment reads: accepted by all parties to the Lancaster House talks". I agree that the intention is to make sure that there is an agreement involving the Patriotic Front, without whom an agreement means nothing. However, do not these words also give a power of veto to Mr. Smith should he once again change his mind and walk out?

Mr. Silkin

One must recognise that the Government face a very great difficulty here. Clearly the only true and effective way of deciding whether a settlement has the support of the people of Rhodesia as a whole would be by conducting a referendum such as that to which we have referred in amendment No. 17. Of course, I accept that in practice if one got the agreement of all the parties at Lancaster House, even though it might be possible for Mr. Smith to opt out in the end, one could assume from that that the agreement would have the support of the overwhelming mass of the people of Rhodesia generally.

4.30 pm

The agreement might not have the support of some white people but it will certainly have the support of black people. If we leave out of the equation the views of the Patriotic Front, whether its support is inside or outside Rhodesia, we leave out of account an unknown but considerable number of people. I am talking not about the possible effects of a civil war but about whether we succeed in achieving a settlement which has the support of the people of Rhodesia as a whole.

It is quite clear that, unless all the people are involved in this—we might need a referendum or at least the agreement of all the parties—we cannot be sure that the conditions for a settlement will be satisfied. If we cannot be sure, I ask the Lord Privy Seal to give a clearer reply than heretofore about the Government's intentions. It is not sufficient to say that the Government will then have to consider what should be done because the right hon. Gentleman should know now what can and should be done.

Will the Government say that if they do not have the sine qua non—the conditions which are absolutely essential for a settlement in accordance with the principles of the Security Council mandatory resolution—therefore nothing further can be done? Will the Government test the matter through a referendum, as is suggested in amendment No. 17? If it is not so tested, what will be done? Will there be an imposed solution notwithstanding that there is no clear evidence of the agreement of the people of Rhodesia as a whole? That would flout not only the mandatory resolution but the six principles and thus run into the enormous danger of civil war, the advent of which has been painted, and not over-painted, in such striking terms.

I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to be perfectly honest, as I know he wants to be, and to tell us exactly what the Government have in mind if those unhappy circumstances, which we all hope will not occur, do occur.

Mr. Burden

I make only one comment on the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin). He said that it would be wrong if the views of the Patriotic Front were not carefully considered. During the nine weeks of discussions at Lancaster House its views must have been given careful consideration.

I am concerned about the impression—and this amendment conveys it—that the problems in Rhodesia have arisen only recently. They have continued for 14 years and this is the first time in that period that any Government have been successful in bringing together all the parties in the dispute. The Opposition should recognise that that is a great move forward. The effect of this amendment would be to postpone still further peace in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. There is no doubt that in recent months the situation has deteriorated. The number of people who have been killed in military action on both sides has escalated considerably. Many people who have no connection at all with the fighting, including children and innocent civilians, have also been massacred.

We do not want to prolong such a situation, but if the Lancaster House conference breaks up without agreement the fighting will continue. Whatever some Opposition Members may say, there is no doubt that the Patriotic Front has stated that it wants a miliary conclusion to the war. That is on the record. Any delay in bringing about an end to this unfortunate conflagration will undoubtedly mean that more and more innocent people will be killed. Time is running out and it would be wrong for anyone, on either side of this Committee, whether by this amendment or by anything he might say elsewhere, to prolong the struggle or encourage the Patriotic Front not to come to an agreement at Lancaster House.

Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Mitcham and Morden)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that to assert that something is on the record without giving details of the information is likely to make it much more difficult for us to arrive at a conclusion? Innocent people are being killed. Does he accept that if we approach negotiations for an agreement on the basis of legislation that will make it much more difficult for one side to accept an agreement, it is more, not less, dijcult to solve the problem?

Mr. Burden

It is almost always difficult in any negotiations for one side to accept everything. These negotiations will undoubtedly create difficulties for the Patriotic Front. We must remember that, whatever is said in this Committee, the Bill makes it possible for everyone in Rhodesia to have a vote. That is what it is all about. We must also accept that, although the Patriotic Front did not take part in the elections, there is an elected Government in Rhodesia who are prepared to give way to ensure future elections which are free and conducted in a manner which will be seen to be fair.

I find it difficult to understand how the Patriotic Front can come here and adopt an intransigent line when every possible step will be taken to ensure that the elections are fair. If my right hon. Friend comes to agree with the Opposition that two months between the arrival of the British representative in Salisbury and the election is too short, and if sound arguments are advanced by the Patriotic Front for an extension, I would support him. Above all I want to see an end to the carnage in Southern Rhodesia. Not only are lives being lost but the economies of Rhodesia and surrounding countries are being brought down by the prolonged conflict.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

The desire to see an end to the bloodshed makes it all the more important for an agreement to be reached with the Patriotic Front. This amendment has been tabled precisely because we want to see an end to the massacres and bloodshed.

The hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) said that the amendment was somewhat ham-fisted. However, it represents the essence of the disagreement between the two sides. We believe that it is wrong for the Bill to become an Act on the basis of no agreement with the Patriotic Front. We believe that agreement is vital, and that is reflected in the amendment.

For 14 years there has been pressure in the House for UDI to be legalised. Some Conservative Members have pressed for the UDI declared by the Rhodesian Front to be legalised. They have argued that we should take no responsibility and accept the facts of life. I see one or two Conservative Members in the Committee who were associated to a large extent with that view.

I always opposed that view. In the 1966 Parliament I opposed my own Government when they were trying to reach agreement on "Fearless" and "Tiger" because I believed that any agreement with Smith was pointless. Fortunately, no agreement was reached. If there had been an agreement I should have voted against it, like many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, because I would have had no trust in an agreement signed by the leader of the Rhodesian Front. It is interesting that the UDI bell did not ring yesterday.

Having reached the present state, it would be a great tragedy if agreement were reached with only one side—the Salisbury regime. Several Conservative Members argued that the talks have continued for nine weeks and that that seems to be a long time. We are talking of nine weeks after 14 years of UDI and many more years of white supremacy. If we want a lasting agreement, what difference does it make if it takes nine weeks, 12 weeks, or 14 weeks? The essence is a lasting and binding agreement. It is not a question of whether the negotiations should continue for a few more days or weeks.

Mr. Burden

Does the hon. Member suggest a limit of 14 weeks?

Mr. Winnick

There is no wisdom in setting a limit. I believe that the Patriotic Front is negotiating in good faith. It has made a number of substantial concessions. Both wings of the Patriotic Front want to reach agreement. They want to see an end to the bloodshed and a legalised Government in the new State. That is my view and that of my hon. Friends. Perhaps some Conservative Members agree.

What will happen if we do not reach agreement with the Patriotic Front? Apart from anything else, once the Bill becomes an Act, the fighting will continue. If the Patriotic Front cannot reach agreement with the British Government, it is hardly likely to discontinue the fighting.

4.45 pm
Sir Raymond Gower

The hon. Member argues that much has been achieved in a matter of weeks after years of white supremacy. Does the hon. Member believe, as I do, that in the long term the people of Rhodesia will not forgive any grouping which is responsible for destroying that which has been achieved?

Mr. Winnick

We want to reach agreement with the Patriotic Front. If there is a legal British presence in Salisbury, and if British troops have to fight the Patriotic Front, we shall have a mini-Vietnam on our hands. That is the danger of reaching agreement only with the Salisbury regime. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal and his colleagues have learnt the lessons of Vietnam. The Lord Privy Seal is one of the few Conservative Members who learnt the true lessons of Vietnam. I hope that he recognises that there is a lesson to learn from the Lancaster House talks.

There is a suspicion, voiced in an article in The Guardian today, that the British Government are not overkeen on reaching agreements with the Patriotic Front. The Patriotic Front suspects that the British Government are worried about there being a too radical or Marxist-type Government in the new State. The type of political Government which emerges in the new State is not our business. That is for the 6 million people of Rhodesia to decide.

A further danger arises out of reaching agreement only with the Salisbury regime. Britain would be placed in the dock. Those people who are never friends of Britain would be only too keen to say that Britain had betrayed the people of Rhodesia. There would also be justification in the comments of many others who are not enemies of Britain. They would accuse us of betraying the six principles and of doing a dirty deal—there is no other way to describe it—with the present Salisbury regime.

We are already in international difficulties over Northern Ireland. Time and again other countries criticise our policy in Northern Ireland. Would it be wise for the Government to go ahead and reach an extremely one-sided agreement without the unanimous consent of the House of Commons? Such an agreement would lead to another Vietnam. There would be a British presence and British troops would have to fight the Patriotic Front. Once again we would be placed in the dock at the United Nations. We would be placed in the dock by the African countries and by many European States.

That is why the amendment is crucial. It is the essence of the argument between the two sides and it is important that it should be carried.

Mr. Buchan

I wish to comment on some of the points raised over the past few days and especially today.

The term "veto" has been misused and overused. We are talking of the necessity to achieve an agreement before proceeding. There must be agreement between the parties at Lancaster House or there can be no peace in Rhodesia. The fear is that the Government may seek to impose legality before the conditions for that legality have been accepted.

I mention the use of the term "veto" in relation to the accepted position of the mandatory resolution and the six principles. Without the agreement of the three parties at Lancaster House the six principles have not been fulfilled. We should not nit-pick at this stage and say that the agreement of every last person who might possibly be represented at Lancaster House is necessary. What is necessary is the agreement of the parties at the conference, and there are three of them—our Government, the Muzorewa-Smith regime, whatever disagreements there may be between them at present, and the Patriotic Front.

It is a misuse of language, for which the Lord Privy Seal is partly responsible, to say that not to proceed before agreement is imposing a veto. It is nothing of the kind. It is a recognition of reality and an attempt to prevent a declaration of legality before the proper conditions have been achieved. It even appears to be suggested that the Patriotic Front may not be seeking agreement.

I understand that the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) is a new Member. When he has been here a little longer he will realise that the House of Commons takes time over the most minuscule of Bills. I was involved not in the future of a nation or the establishment of a constitution and the hope of resulting peace but with a little two-page Bill that took four months in Committee, week in and week out. We are dealing with the future of a State and the creation of peace in a very short time. We are concerned with the future not only of Zimbabwe or Southern Rhodesia but of Africa. Nine weeks is a short time. The rebellion has gone on since 1965. We may excuse a new hon. Member for arguing that nine weeks is a long time, but there is little excuse for the hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower).

Mr. Iain Mills

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, whilst in his view nine weeks is a short time, the whole question of Rhodesia and legality has been an endless subject for the last 10 years? It is therefore a little difficult even for a new Member to understand why the hon. Gentleman has not recognised that it is not merely a nine-week question but a very old one.

Mr. Buchan

That was the point I was making.

The argument and discussion have been going on for 14 or 15 years and the fighting for eight or nine years. This is the first time that real progress has been made, and I give credit to the Tory Party for that. Massive progress has been made because the parties have been brought together during these nine weeks. We are now seeking assurances that the conference will complete its task without being jolted into disaster by trying to achieve legality before the necessary conditions have been agreed.

There is no basis for saying that the Patriotic Front does not want a settlement. When people talk of a veto they are referring to the Patriotic Front and not the British Government or the Muzorewa-Smith regime. We should use language more carefully. It is also asserted that the Patriotic Front wants a military victory, but there is no basis for saying that. It has two simple objectives. The first is that more time should be given for the election, and I cannot deal with that because it is contained in another amendment. We were concerned in March when the Government fell and we realised that we had only three or four weeks to get our penny-farthing electoral machine into existence. We find it difficult to organise an election properly in three or fours weeks with our political system, and it is ridiculous to think that in Rhodesia it can be done in two months.

The Patriotic Front also wants security during the transitional period. The Patriotic Front has been an instrument in the achievement of legality. The members of the Patriotic Front were not the rebels but were fighting actively against the rebels. The illegal regime was the Salisbury regime. The Patriotic Front is on our side, although we may not have chosen its methods to achieve legality for Rhodesia.

The loose use of language or inaccuracy of concept does not help our understanding of these matters. The situation is unprecedented. It is the first time that I recall the House being able to discuss aspects of a constitution which was being discussed elsewhere, and I am glad that that has been recognised in the choice of amendments.

It is equally important to recognise that during the nine weeks the Patriotic Front has played a major part in the achievement of conditional agreement on the constitution. That agreement would be more conclusive if there were reassurance on the timing of the election and the supervision of the transitional period. Agreement must be reached and the inaccurate use of language is not contributing to that agreement.

Those taking part in the discussions and hon. Members on these Benches believe that the Government are wielding an axe, ready for use. That axe is not encouraging agreement and could even hinder it.

We believe that the Government have brought forward the Bill too rapidly and certainly wrongly, but as we are forced into discussion these points should be mentioned. We must not come to any decision that may damage agreement at Lancaster House. If one of the main parties at Lancaster House fears that the Government may be trying to impose a settlement that does not include the necessity first to reach agreement, that could ruin the hopes for a settlement and would be disastrous for the peace of Southern Rhodesia and Africa as a whole.

Mr. Spearing

We are glad that the Government accepted the sensible suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) and that we did not take the Bill in Committee at midnight last Thursday.

Agreement is the obverse of armed conflict and war, and the amendment gets to the root of the Bill and of the issues which confront the Government, although succeeding amendments are perhaps procedurally very much the responsibility of the House of Commons.

5 pm

I am glad that so many hon. Members have accepted that this is a negotiation in the progress of what amounts to a war. For the first time for many years the words of hon. Members could have some effect on agreement being reached. I remembered yesterday the fate of another small country between two zones of influence some years ago, when large forces went into action as a result of a failure to agree.

The Bill is unusual. The Government's proposals are coming not at the end of negotiations, not with an agreement, but before an agreement has been reached. The Lord Privy Seal has openly admitted that it may be necessary to take action if agreement is not reached. The right hon. Gentleman is coming to the House carte blanche and involving the House in de jure, if not in de facto, responsibility for what subsequently occurs. He said that he is willing to take action and that if agreement is not reached he will consider using the provisions of the Bill. It is right that the Committee should carefully examine the Bill.

There may be ingredients in the agreement to which the Lord Privy Seal has not paid sufficient attention. In future negotiations he should, in seeking an agreement, pay attention to certain ingredients that he, unlike others, may consider insignificant.

I said to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) that the island of aspiration, the new State of Zimbabwe under an agreed constitution, has been largely agreed. What has not been agreed is the bridge of agreement to that island. I suggest to the Lord Privy Seal—and I wish that I could suggest it to his right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, who is unable to sit in the Chamber—that the bridge is composed of faith which has to be erected in order to reach the island. Unless he pays attention to some of the matters that other parties will see in this hoped-for journey, he will not get an agreement.

First, Zimbabwe-Rhodesia has never had a Commonwealth, colonial or Foreign Office administration. It is possible that those helping and advising the Lord Privy Seal have gone through this process so often before in Africa, India and the West Indies that they forget we are dealing with something very different. Rhodesia has never had a Commonwealth administration, not even of the sort that Britain had in India. As I understand it, the Order in Council in 1923 handed over the administration of the British South Africa Company to a virtual self-governing colony. It is important that we note that the 1923 settlement was by Order in Council, authorising letters patent under the Crown. There was no debate on that occasion. The infrastructure of the country for the elections that we all wish to see take place is not that which we saw in Kenya or was present in Tanzania, Zambia and all the other territories in Africa of which we have had relatively recent experience.

The second difference is that, whereas in those countries people had been in prison—there was "terrorist activity" in Kenya, and Jomo Kenyatta was called names far worse than Mr. Mugabe is being called today—there was at the same time in those territories reasonable co-ordination among the independence parties. In all those territories there was only one large party representing the aspirations of the majority of the population. The difference in this territory does not need to be emphasised. The Lord Privy Seal must take account of the legitimate aspirations of those who seek to represent that authority. I do not believe that he has done that. In negotiation the aspiration and motivation of those who play a legitimate part must be taken into account.

The third difference is perfectly obvious, but perhaps not so obvious when it concerns the administrative arrangements that the Lord Privy Seal wishes to make. There has been a war with armed forces trained and drilled, with backers on both sides providing equipment and advice from outside the country. That has not been true of the other countries in Africa. We hope and pray that the ceasefire will come. When it does, there will be a need for those who have been engaged to assist to desist. That may be one of the important sticking points in the interim negotiations and cannot be overlooked at this stage.

Despite the resources of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Lord Privy Seal's detailed knowledge of what people are likely to find acceptable may not be as marked as on previous occasions. Nobody in the Committee could say that the bulk of those in the areas currently dominated by no side in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia would find one group of proposals more acceptable than another. They probably do not know. They wish the war to end and that is that. The local population may be far more unstable and unexpected than anything that he and his advisers have previously met.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

That might be authenticated as a result of the Pearce Commission.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for drawing that to my attention.

I wish to put on record that the territory being discussed was conquered by war. The first and second Matabeleland wars are not altogether absent from the minds of some taking part in the discussions, nor the way in which they were resolved. If Cecil Rhodes did nothing else, he was a brave man when he resolved a previous difficulty in that area. I know that he was retrieving a tarnished reputation at the time, but he certainly did something that was bold. His interests, the interests that he represented and the interests of Chief Lobengula in the ownership of the land by the Matabele and Mashona are also present. So is the third element represented by the Livingstone tradition in terms of education and the missionary tradition.

When the Lord Privy Seal looks at those round the table at Lancaster House, he will see the former historical elements. Lack of any one of those elements in the next agreement in Southern Rhodesia, or Zimbabwe—call it what we will—will make it incomplete and will not resolve the issue that he seeks to resolve. What we mean by an agreement is an agreement between all those historical elements in their entirety. Those representing the Patriotic Front represent a part at least of some of those historic elements. The influence of the Christian churches has not been unmarked in Tanzania or in the leadership of more than one delegation that has sat arount the conference, table.

Mr. Iain Mills

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the history of conflict in Rhodesia goes back long before Cecil John Rhodes? Is he aware that the very term "Bulawayo" means "the place of killing"? It was the place from which Lobengula would throw his unfortunate enemies. Unfortunately, conflict has been the due of that land. Conquering by war went on well before any white influence.

Mr. Spearing

The hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Burden

On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. These are interesting arguments, but are they not completely out of order while we are discussing the amendment?

The Chairman

The hon. Gentleman must leave that to me.

Mr. Spearing

I am only too well aware of the history of disagreement and the results of earlier wars. That is why I am suggesting that it is for the Committee, not only the Government, to ensure that we achieve a lasting agreement so that all the elements of Southern Rhodesia's history—I take the point of the hon. Member for Meriden, and we all know what he means—are present in the agreement.

The best means of getting rid of that history, perhaps for good, is by making the Bill operate within an all-round agreement. If it does not do that, it will be letting loose all the disagreements, parties and forces that historically are in the soil and in the people of the country. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for intervening, because I believe that he has emphasised the argument that is being advanced by my right hon. and hon. Friends. As I have said, if it is not a proper agreement all the disagreements of the past may recur in hideous and modern form.

The type of agreement that we are all after could be undergirded by the Commonwealth. We would not be having the Lancaster House talks but for the agreement that was found at the Lusaka conference. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) has mentioned a Commonwealth force. I do not believe that that would necessarily be acceptable to the Patriotic Front. I do not speak for that organisation. I am trying to be entirely objective.

I suggest that the Government have a legal responsibility to the House of Commons and a moral responsibility to those who were at the Lusaka conference. If it is possible to resolve the problems of time, of government and in obtaining agreement by virtue of Commonwealth assistance—not necessarily Commonwealth observers, and perhaps going beyond that—such as using Commonwealth good offices and Commonwealth forces as a catalyst, the opportunity should be grabbed.

We want an agreement and we want all possible components tested. I do not say that the method of obtaining an agreement that I have set out will work. However, I say to the Lord Privy Seal, and through him to the Foreign Secretary, that if the Government do not investigate that possibility those who were present at Lusaka, and Commonwealth colleagues throughout the world, will ask why they did not. The various members of the Commonwealth have achieved their freedom from Britain. In most instances, they have achieved independence without bloodshed. I am sure that they would be willing to discharge a moral responsibility to a budding member of the Commonwealth, namely, Zimbabwe, by contributing through peaceful means their assistance in finding the agreement that we are all seeking.

5.15 pm

In the right hon. Gentleman's search for a bridge, and in his search for a final reconciliation of the forces found in the unhappy land of Zimbabwe, I suggest that he proceeds through the Commonwealth, or uses some other means to assist all those living in and born within that country to come together in faith, and over a period to work together for the good of the country to which they ell have loyalty and which they all want to see prosper in peace.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stevenage)

If I may bring the Committee back to the nub of the amendment, it seems that both sides of the Chamber are close together if they will only analyse what is being said. If any earnest of faith were needed, surely that is provided by nine weeks of constant and continuous negotiation on behalf of the Lord Privy Seal and the whole of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

There needed to be a conference of the type now taking place at Lancaster House because of the Patriotic Front's fundamental disagreement with the constitution and the arrangements made earlier this year. The objective and thrust of the Government's policy is to bring the Patriotic Front into a legal framework that it will accept.

The Opposition are suggesting an amendment to the first clause so that there may be no end to the negotiations taking place at Lancaster House unless the Patriotic Front agrees. I agree that no agreement will be arrived at unless the Patriotic Front agrees. The Opposition have gone out of their way to point out that the Patriotic Front has a veto regardless of whether there is an agreement at Lancaster House. That is the veto of carrying on the war. The Opposition argue that that is the final veto. They say that it is the ultimate veto of force. It is clear that if an agreement is not reached the war will continue. It seems that the Opposition's arguments are self-defeating.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

I accept what the hon. Gentleman is saying, namely, that the Bill is a few weeks too early. Instead of approaching the negotiations on the basis of trying to agree, and if the Lord Privy Seal and the Foreign Secretary are unable to reach agreement with the other parties to introduce legislation, the Government are saying "We shall legislate so that if there is no agreement we shall be in a position to override your opposition." Does the hon. Gentleman say that that is the right way to attempt to reach agreement?

Mr. Wells

I agree that that is the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of what is intended, but I do not think that it is the correct one. If no agreement emerges from the negotiations, we shall have to consider what to do next. As I understand it, that is what the Government are saying. They are not saying that they will implement the full powers provided in the Bill if there is no agreement. The Government are saying that they will have to consider the position if there is no agreement.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

Surely, the hon. Gentleman was present when the Lord Privy Seal was pressed again and again by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, including myself, to give an assurance that the powers in the Bill would not be exercised in the event of there being no agreement. The right hon. Gentleman refused to give that assurance.

Mr. Wells

We shall come to another clause that enables the Government to implement parts of the Bill. Should the talks fail, the Government may think it right to implement only parts of the Bill.

Surely, the need for the Bill is manifest, given the state of negotiations. We need the powers in the Bill to implement what we have said we could do. It is a matter of faith. We must have those powers. Nobody will believe us if the Government do not possess the necessary powers.

It seems that we are close to agreement.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise the difference between the situation that obtained before the Lancaster House talks and what would obtain if there were no agreement and the powers contained in the Bill were in the hands of the Government? If that were the position, the war would continue and the Patriotic Front would be fighting the British Government as well as the Muzorewa regime. From the point of view of the House of Commons, that would be an entirely different kettle of fish. Does the hon. Gentleman want us to be involved in a war in Southern Rhodesia?

Mr. Wells

All that the Government have said is that they would need to consider the position that would present itself if there were no agreement. That does not mean that the British Government would be involved in fighting a war in Rhodesia. If there is no agreement at the conference, it will not mean that we have to send a Governor. The Bill does not make that mandatory. It merely means that we shall have to consider the best way to proceed.

It is a great pity that there seems to be a division between the Patriotic Front and the other parties to the agreement. What we should all be concerned with is providing a framework within which there can be an agreement. One of the most unfortunate aspects of this debate, and one of the things that the Committee should consider very carefully, is whether we, by debating this issue and dividing, as we did last Thursday and will do today, are helping the cause of peace in Rhodesia. In my view, we are not. This is one of the major problems that we are creating right now. I ask all hon. Members to consider how close we are to an agreement. We must try to find a way to bring independence to Rhodesia.

Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)

In view of what has just been said, you will be glad to know, Mr. Weatherill, that in view of the time factor I have no intention of developing a long dialectical, constitutional argument about Southern Rhodesia.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) was perfectly correct. The nub of our difficulties is that Rhodesia never was a colony as was Kenya or Tanganyika. Southern Rhodesia, with its 250,000 white settlers, has been such a queer place that as far back as 1922 a quirk of history might have meant that it joined with South Africa. There was an election at that time and the number voting was not the size of a fourth division football league gate today. Of the white settler population, 6,000 voted to remain outside South Africa and 4,000 voted to join with that country. But I do not want to talk about that aspect.

The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for York, (Mr. Lyon) was, as usual, very cogent. For that reason, I felt impelled to make a contribution. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) said that the essence of the argument is couched in the statement: After agreement has been reached by all parties represented at the Constitutional Conference". I agree with him. That is crucial. Without all-party agreement, we shall get nowhere.

For that reason, the Lord Privy Seal is under a duty to the Committee to say what he knows will happen. If he finds that after nine weeks or nine months—it is nine weeks at present—he cannot get what he wants, it will not be good enough for him to make a settlement on behalf of Her Majesty's Government with one section of the conference and have elections under the supervision of international forces, whether they are Commonwealth forces or not. That is just not good enough.

Briefly, I will tell the Lord Privy Seal what the consequences of such action would be. If the Patriotic Front does not come to an agreement, it will not put up candidates, and if there is no candidate for whom the people can vote it will continue to fight. It is no good hon. Members bleating about the whole Committee being united. This is the world in which we live. Hon. Members must accept that these black men and their families in Southern Rhodesia have a point, and that they will continue to fight.

The hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce), who is not here at present but who is a close colleague of the Lord Privy Seal, will understand what I am about to say because he has been to the Horn of Africa with me. If there is no settlement in Southern Rhodesia, the war will escalate. My blood was chilled—I mean that—when I saw in The Observer or The Guardian—I am not sure which—that Mr. Mugabe had gone to Addis Ababa.

There are those of us who, in the last few months, have been to such places as Mogadishu and Jijiga, although we have not been very near Salisbury. One only has to look at the purgatory in Eritrea. There was a war in the Sudan for 18 years between African peoples. I do not want to see an 18-year civil war in this territory, never mind the beastly conditions that have been mainly engineered by people such as Mengistu in Ethiopia. There are far bigger issues than just saying whether we get three or four parties, such as are now at Lancaster House, assenting to elections next month or in six months, as the case may be, as the Lord Privy Seal and his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary well know.

Will the Government make up their mind, given that conditions continue as at present, to do what some people unkindly call a deal with Muzorewa? I warn the right hon. Gentleman that that would only lead to double disaster. He has seen what has happened in other parts of Africa, so I beg him to look beyond the end of his nose and into the future.

For the sake of unborn youngsters in Umtali, Salisbury, Wankie or anywhere else, he should shoulder his obligations and not shuffle off to do a deal and then put in soldiers to keep order. That is no answer to a tragedy of this nature.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

I oppose this amendment, but before doing so I should declare an interest. For many years I have owned land in Rhodesia near Wankie, to which the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) referred a moment ago. I have had that property for 20 or 30 years. Years ago it used to be farm land and I retained it in the hope that one day in the not too distant future I would be able to develop it again as agricultural land for the benefit, in a humble way, of the new country of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West said that in his view the black man in Rhodesia would go on fighting. In the particular part of the country that I mentioned, I probably know the people as well as the hon. Gentleman does. My view is that the black man in Rhodesia is of a unique calibre. He is not a militant person, but a man who is living in fairly humble circumstances. He is anxious to improve himself, and rightly so, but is not prepared to do so through force. The Bill holds out great hope for the future for all people in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia—and by "all people" I do not mean the black or the white people but Rhodesians of all colours.

Mr. James Johnson

Does the hon. Member accept that this is not a matter of black men and their families being allowed to do what they would like to do? There are Cubans and East Europeans there. I do not love or hate Marxists any more than I love or hate my own people here, but as in other places, once Cubans and Russians are present, as they are in the Horn of Africa, the issue is much bigger altogether than simply stating that black men should be allowed to work out their own destiny and future.

Mr. Farr

I agree. The hon. Gentleman has great knowledge of peoples throughout the whole continent of Africa. However, I think that he will agree that the African in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, and indeed in Zambia, is probably the least militant of all the African races. He wants to live in peace and co-operation as much as possible. I accept that there are those who will try to stir him up, as indeed they are now doing, but they will have a harder task to turn him into a militant in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia than anywhere else in the continent of Africa.

5.30 pm

I do not regard it as realistic to accept these amendments, because all they will do is to give a veto to every party in the current negotiations unless their particular points are accepted. That will mean that there is no agreement at all. As we have seen so far, there must be reasonable give and take in order to achieve an agreement. It may be in the interests of the Patriotic Front to have no agreement and perhaps to continue with methods of force, but such a course is not in the interests of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia as a whole. Agreement must be good for both sides, and if necessary major concessions must be made for progress to continue.

The inclusion of these amendments in the Bill would do great harm to the whole prospect of peaceful coexistence in the whole area of Southern Africa. At the time of the old Capricorn Society, which the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West will remember, the ideals were good. For the whole of Southern Africa there is now a wonderful chance—if the Bill is enacted and the new Zimbabwe-Rhodesia established in peace—of setting a pattern for not only the continuing peaceful development of countries in Southern Africa but also for pointing the way towards a much larger target which the Committee must have in mind, namely, how to bring about a democratic situation and solution to the problems that undoubtedly lie in the Republic of South Africa.

Mr. Spearing

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that sort of sentiment, albeit well meant, was exactly the sort of sentiment that underlined the creation of the former Federation of Central Africa, which foundered because it did not have sufficiently wide agreement to provide success for it? Are not the Government in danger of following a parallel but even more disastrous path on this occasion?

Mr. Farr

I do not think so, because the Capricorn Society was established about 25 years ago and flickered into life for a few years. It failed because there was not universal suffrage in the Federation of Rhodesia, as it was then, and there was generally an absymal lack of knowledge among all Africans about the outside world.

The situation has changed, and I believe for the better. The peaceful African in Southern Rhodesia wants to live in coexistence. He now understands what it is all about. For example, the first European Member of Parliament was elected in the general election in Kenya only last week, and that is widely regarded as a hopeful prospect for that part of South-East Africa. We now have a chance of getting that same sort of target achieved in Southern Africa as a whole. I believe that the Bill should point the way that South Africa should follow as soon as possible. I reject the amendments because I do not believe that they will help very much in that respect.

Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)

Those of us who support the amendments are not opposed to the Bill in principle. However, we believe that it is untimely at this juncture. Many of the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) did not address themselves to the point that we are now making. I also disagree with some of his other views, and I ask him and his hon. Friends to concentrate on why we believe that these amendments should be accepted.

As the Bill stands, we are concerned that the Government may be tempted to impose a constitution for Zimbabwe before agreement has been reached. From what has been said so far, I gather that every hon. Member at least pays lip service to the idea of agreement being reached. When the Lord Privy Seal spoke last week, he suggested that agree-man was nigh. Many of us who follow these matters quite carefully believe that he was somewhat optimistic in taking that view. Although progress has been made, important differences have yet to be resolved. If the constitution in the Bill were promulgated, it could lead to the foundering of the talks, which I hope all hon. Members would very much regret.

In those circumstances, it is important to have the matter clarified, and I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will clarify it. Frankly, some of us fear that the Bill has been introduced at this stage not because agreement is immediately at hand but in order to allow the constitution to be put into effect on the basis of agreement with one side. If that is not the position—and my hon. Friends have already referred to today's article in The Guardian—it is up to the right hon. Gentleman to refute that point of view. Many Labour Members will be greatly reassured if the right hon. Gentleman goes further today than he did last week and states quite clearly that the constitution will not be introduced until an agreement has been made with all the parties at the Lancaster House talks.

What is wrong with that? It must surely be as plain as a pikestaff to everyone that unless agreement is reached with all parties it will be no agreement at all. If Conservative Members do not want a one-sided agreement, they should support the amendments. I know the realities of the situation, what with Whips and so on, but if they are interested in an agreement they should listen carefully to what the Lord Privy Seal has to say and try to get an undertaking that the constitution will not be introduced until agreement has been reached with everyone. If Conservative Members are saying that a constitution should be introduced on the basis of agreement with the Muzorewa regime alone, unless the Patriotic Front gives way, they are realising the very fears that I am expressing. It is incumbent on every Conservative Member to make clear where he stands on this issue.

If the Government try to proceed without an agreement with all parties, there will be no peace. I take it that all hon. Members want peace. We all want an end to the fighting, the bloodshed and the destruction of property. If the constitution that we are discussing is promulgated, without an agreement, there will be no peace. We are arguing not about whether peace should be achieved immediately but about the means to achieve it. I say seriously to Government supporters, who want peace, that it cannot be achieved on the basis of an agreement with the Patriotic Front remaining aloof. Not only will there be no peace but the settlement will not be stable, because as the war continues the settlement will continue to be undermined.

Sir Raymond Gower

Has it not occurred to the hon. Gentleman that if the Government desired only an agreement with what he described as the Muzorewa Government they need not have had the conference at all? If they had wanted an agreement only with the present Government in Salisbury, they need not have brought all these people to London. Obviously the Government have been most anxious to get agreement. It has been a long period of difficult negotiation.

Mr. Newens

If the hon. Gentleman is correct in his contention that the Government still want an agreement with all parties, the Government should accept the amendments. The only reason why they reject the amendments is that they may wish to go ahead without that full agreement of which we are speaking. There can be no other reason.

If the Government went ahead in that respect, they would secure a Pyrrhic victory. In those circumstances, the Opposition say that the Government must think again carefully. Britain might find herself involved not only in what some of my hon. Friends have called a pocket Vietnam but in breach of our international obligations. That could lead to reprisals being taken against us in trading terms by African States, with which me must, especially in the present economic circumstances, remain on the best possible terms.

Many Government supporters have spoken as though the Patriotic Front constituted the unreasonable party. In fact, one hon. Gentleman said that it was the unreasonable party. The people who flouted the House of Commons were not the members of the Patriotic Front but people represented on the Muzorewa delegation. Not only did they flout the will of the House for a brief period but by UDI they flouted it for longer than a decade.

Mr. Bowen Wells

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the only reason why the Patriotic Front is in its position today is that its members are the only people in the current round of negotiations who have not agreed? The proposals put by the British Government have been accepted by all parties except the Patriotic Front. That is the only reason why the Patriotic Front is an exception. However, it is not the enemy in the situation. We are not against it. It happens to be the only dissenting party at the moment.

Mr. Newens

If it is the only dissenting party, we should be a little patient with it and listen to some of its arguments. After all, if we were prepared to wait for 15 years for certain other people to agree to negotiate on a reasonable basis, it is unreasonable if we are not prepared to wait longer than nine weeks for the Patriotic Front, which opposed the illegal steps that were taken. If Members of Parliament were looking at the situation in a reasonable frame of mind, we would say that as those people always supported the point of view of the majority in Parliament, at least we should be a little patient with them at this time. We should not fall over ourselves to come to an agreement with another group that includes those who stood out longest against any agreement and who, in standing out, caused much of the bloodshed in Southern Rhodesia.

5.45 pm

It is not merely a question of ensuring that justice is done. We cannot possibly wash our hands of Rhodesia merely by promulgating this constitution. Britain's position in the world will continue to be at stake. The Government may be able to win applause from some of their Back Benchers who have been sympathetic to the white minority since UDI. I ask the Committee to consider seriously where we would have been if we had taken the advice of that minority in the past. We should certainly have been in great difficulties today. In the interests of the black majority of the population, and of the white minority who are outnumbered, it is vital that at this stage we should ensure that no precipitate step is taken that may lead to the continuation of the war.

I understand the pressures on the right hon. Gentleman. Government Back Benchers said that they would not vote for the renewal of sanctions. I understand that there are many other pressures on him at this stage. However, we must ask him to speak clearly in the long-term interests of Rhodesia, not of short-term party advantage. That is important. If the Government allow themselves to be pushed into taking a position because of the Back-Bench pressure to which the Minister is now subjected, many people may pay in blood over a long time. Members of Parliament have a right to say that that should not occur.

The Government could be on the verge of making a terrible error that could lead to a new bout of violence. In those circumstances the Opposition say that to secure support from both sides we should include some words indicating that the constitution will not be put into effect until agreement is reached with all parties. That is all we are asking. The Government must make clear that they will not go ahead on a one-sided agreement. If they said that, the Bill would have far more support from hon. Members on both sides. Although many of us consider that it is premature and should have waited, at least let us hear something that will allay our fears that steps are afoot leading to a one-sided decision and eventually the perpetuation of strife in Southern Africa.

We have an opportunity to stop that trend of events, which hon. Members on both sides deplore. I hope that the Minister, if he is not prepared to accept the amendments, will make a clear statement indicating that there is no possibility—as some of us fear—of putting the constitution into force without the full agreement of all parties at Lancaster House.

Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)

I apologise to the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) because I missed his speech when he moved the amendment. I hope that he and the Committee will forgive me if I make a short intervention. I think that I have heard all the other speeches.

I listened with great care to the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens), as I always do. As always, it distresses me to have to disagree with him. However ill-advised his arguments strike me as being from time to time, there can be no doubt at all about his sincerity. Nevertheless, it seems to me that when he explains these hideously complex matters he does so as though we were concerned with a new constitution for Harlow new town, or something of the sort, where all men are reasonable. He used the word again and again. Alas, in Central Africa things are far from being like Harlow new town, in every sense. I only wish that one day we could join together in a journey around the parts that we are concerned with in Central Africa. I do not know whether I should succeed in converting the hon. Gentleman to the view that things are very different, but I should certainly enjoy the trip.

There is no doubt that the effect of the amendments would be to give the Patriotic Front control over the timing of the conference and over events, from then on; indeed, it could drag it out for as long as it suited it. This would really be to reproduce the conditions which we all saw with such suffering during the Geneva conference—the most shameful episode in the whole of this wretched and unhappy story.

The only reason why the Government have made the progress that they have in this conference—to my way of thinking, anyway—has been that my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary has insisted, first of all, upon an agenda and, secondly, upon a timetable.

It has worried me very much from time to time that this timeable appeared, from what one could gather from newspapers, to be slipping. Every time it seemed to slip I began to question whether he would ever achieve his objective—and of course we still do not know whether he will. But as it slips, and as the agenda is allowed to become overlaid with new considerations, so the risk increases.

The right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin) said, quite rightly and properly, that he did not wish by anything that he said to risk or in any way delay the possibility of success in these negotiations. I am surprised at him. He must surely realise that the effect of these amendments would be precisely that.

Why does the Patriotic Front, at this stage in the game, wish to delay? Why would it welcome the acceptance by the House of Commons of these amendments? According to my information over the last 10 days, the terrorists, the guerrillas—call them what one will—have been steadily infiltrating over the Zambesi from Zambia into Rhodesia. Some elements have been captured on the way and, not unnaturally, asked what their orders were. Their orders are to get into the villages with no delay and to begin the intimidation necessary to permit the Patriotic Front to win the election. That is the reason for the Patriotic Front's wish to delay. That is the reason why these amendments would be immediately supported and welcomed by the Patriotic Front.

Opposition Members must ask themselves this question. Although it is not yet certain, we all hope that the election will be held. Whether or not it was necessary is another argument, which I do not intend to develop now. We hope that we shall have the election. When it comes, do Opposition Members want it to be fair? Do they want it to be, in so far as it can be, an election which we in this Committee could accept as a practice and a decision that we would accept, or do we want the decision to be affected by all the cruelty and ruthlessness of African intimidation? And if anyone who has spoken in the debate or is interested in this matter does not know what that constitutes, he should do by this time.

Mr. Buchan

The hon. Gentleman will accept that it is a little bit of impertinence to ask whether Opposition Members wish a fair election. However, in his desire for a fair election, would he agree with, say, the Patriotic Front, which says "Let us have an international force to control the transitional period and the election"?

Mr. Hastings

I think that that is a highly contentious suggestion. I am perfectly content to leave it to my right hon. and noble Friend and his team to ensure that whatever force and observers—

Mr. Buchan

Not observers.

Mr. Hastings

—he sends out there will be the best possible in the circumstances. But there can be several views as to what constitutes a fair selection there.

What I am concerned with, however, is the effect of the amendments if they were adopted. However reasonable the arguments may sound, the effect would be to favour the interests of those who wish to fix this election when it comes by the method of intimidation—and that we must avoid at all costs. Therefore, it is my profound hope that these amendments will be rejected.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) compares scornfully the setting up of the constitution of a new town with the resolution of the problems of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. There is no fundamental difference. A settlement of any dispute, whether it be the Treaty of Versailles or the setting up of Harlow new town, must be on a basis that is accepted as being fair and which all the parties to a dispute can accept. What is proposed at present is a constitution that is being presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

The major part of my life has been spent in negotiation, in trying to resolve the differences between parties in dispute. There are two ways in which one can approach negotiations. It very much depends on the outcome with which one is concerned. One can approach negotiations on the basis that one will achieve the best possible results and to hell with what the other parties are concerned about because one is strong enough to force one's wishes on one's opponents and one will thereby get one's own way. That is one way of resolving a dispute.

Sometimes that is the approach that one has to adopt, and it is acceptable, perhaps, if one is seeking simply a monetary settlement of some kind: but if one is trying to achieve a settlement that will enable people to work together, it is essential that in the negotiation of the settlement there is compromise, an acceptance of the other person's point of view and a recognition that the result that one may achieve by the exertion of maximum force will not be conducive to the long-term settlement and the long-term peace of the society or organisation that will exist when the dispute is over.

The hon. Member for Hertford and Stevenage (Mr. Wells) spoke as though we on the Labour Benches were the advocates of the Patriotic Front and that on the Conservative Benches there was a reluctant acceptance of the Muzorewa regime. Perhaps, to be fair to Conservative hon. Members, I should omit the word "reluctant"—but their support for the bishop came late.

Between Bishop Muzorewa and the Patriotic Front I have no preference. During my visit to Rhodesia some years ago I was able to spend two and a half hours talking to Bishop Muzorewa, and I was very much impressed by him. I was not able to speak to Mr. Mugabe because at that time he was in detention. That is, perhaps, a significant difference. It is certainly a significant difference so far as the approach to the election period is concerned and the opportunity for each to mount an effective election campaign.

My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) mentioned the dismay which many of us felt suddenly in early April at having to get our electoral machines into gear for an election four weeks later. We must bear in mind the apprehension that must be felt by someone who is contemplating fighting an election and who is at this stage fighting a war, possibly at the other end of the country, who must get himself to the place in which he resides, to register on the electoral roll and to try to organise the electoral system there. We must remember that those fighting with the Patriotic Front need the assurance that if things go wrong, proper security forces will be there to ensure that guerrillas laying down their arms and going to their villages to register for voting are not placing themselves at the mercy of their opponents, in what is still a civil war. One side, one party in this election, is being asked to put itself totally at the mercy of the other. It can be expected to do that only if effective peacekeeping forces ate present.

6 pm

I accept that the amendments are second best and that they are supportable only on the basis that, if we must have a Bill at this time, it must be amended. I should prefer that the Bill were coming before us in a few weeks' time. If I were then convinced, in consequence of the continued negotiations, that the Patriotic Front was filibustering, as has been alleged by Conservative Members and has been suggested in the press, and was not seeking a satisfactory conclusion, it would be reasonable to pass the Bill without amendment. But we are presented with the Bill now.

The overwhelming part of the Lancaster House talks has been devoted to hammering out a constitution. We are now involved in the transitional provisions and the security arrangements. The Government deserve great commendation for what they have done so far, but it is irresponsible now to prejudice the negotiations, to destroy that element of good will that they have deservedly achieved, by bringing in a blunderbuss and saying to the Patriotic Front "Unless you accept what we are proposing we shall carry it through, like it or not." In the absence of the provisions which we seek to put into the Bill, the Government are arming themselves with the power to do just that. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will accept these amendments, which require the agreement of all parties before the Bill is implemented.

Amendment No. 17 relates to proposals for a referendum. It is no coincidence that that amendment, tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin) and myself, is similar to amendments which were tabled to the Scotland and Wales Bills. It will be within the memory of hon. Members that we were then told that there was an overwhelming desire on the part of the people of Scotland and Wales for certain constitutional changes. Many people who were represented in the House, and even more who were not, contended that, in the absence of such constitutional changes, chaos would ensue. Some of my hon. Friends and I helped to insist that, before the Bills were carried into effect, there should be referendums to find out whether the proposes changes had the support of the people. Amendment No. 17 would provide that test in this instance.

The amendment would also perform another important function. It would provide additional time in which, if an election is to be fairly fought, preparations could be carried out effectively. It is ludicrous to suggest that such an election could be carried out as quickly as has been suggested. The amendments would give time for a proper electoral organisation to be set up for all concerned, and would also ensure that the constitution was acceptable to the people of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. Therefore, I urge the Committee to accept the amendments.

Viscount Cranborne (Dorset, South)

I do not wish to detain the Committee for too long. I declare my interest in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, as I have whenever I have spoken on this subject.

In considering these amendments the Committee must ask itself a fundamental question: is agreement possible? It is a truism to say that to achieve an agreement of any kind there must be a certain amount of good will by all parties.

If we examine the performance of the Muzorewa Government during these negotiations, what do we see? We see a Government vilified, as they often have been not only by Labour Members but by some Conservative Members. But what have that Government done? They have accepted every suggestion put to them by my right hon. and hon. Friends. They have accepted the constitution. They have accepted many other suggestions put to them since. Surely, that is clear evidence that we are dealing with men of good will in these negotiations. Perhaps some hon. Members would have preferred them to drag their feet in an attempt to obtain more in exchange, but that is neither here nor there.

Let us consider the Patriotic Front. What evidence have we that its representatives are people of good will? If I remember aright, they accepted the constitution, but only with great relucance and reservation. They accepted the constitution because of the skill and patience, so often demonstrated during the talks, of my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary. Some of us would perhaps beg leave to wonder whether these gentlemen would have shown the good will in the first place of coming to the conference had it not been for the force of circumstances ruling among some of the host countries which they were patronising before the conference began and which they patronise still. Would that good will have been shown had Mozambique and Zambia been the well fed and economically successful countries that we all hope they will become?

If both sides show clear evidence of good will, there might be some reason to consider these amendments carefully. But, in view of the Patriotic Front's performance so far—the fact that it has had to be dragged kicking and screaming through every phase of the conference—accepting the amendment would amount to giving the Patriotic Front the power of veto to drag out the negotiations until it suited it to accept them when the terrifying scenario postulated by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) comes to pass.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

The hon. Gentleman talks about the Patriotic Front being dragged kicking and screaming, and so on. Does he realise that the constitutional document put to the Patriotic Front for a "Yes-No" answer at the end of seven weeks of discussion was the same document, without any change, that had been put to it at the beginning of the negotiations? The Government have been negotiating on the basis "You take our view or you leave it." That is not the way to negotiate. If Muzorewa was willing to do that, the Patriotic Front was not.

Viscount Cranborne

; I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's memory is better than mine on these matters. However, I seem to recall that many years ago the Patriotic Front accepted the six principles that were established and accepted by both sides of the House during previous discussions on Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. I do not hear much question as to whether those six principles have been fulfilled or not. The Patriotic Front seems to have shifted its position and retreated in the face of the concessions made not only by Bishop Muzorewa and his regime, but by the British Foreign Office. That is my point.

It is absurd that these amendments envisage a veto for people who have not proved themselves to be men of good will. There conies a point when even the skill and patience shown by my right hon. Friend and the Government must reach a limit. That point, we understand, has not been reached. The first clause of the Bill surely must give the Government the power to say "Enough is enough". We cannot prolong these negotiations for ever when the horrors of the war in Rhodesia—which some hon. Members know all too well—continue unabated and in many cases are getting worse.

Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith, North)

I find it difficult to understand why the amendment is not acceptable. It seeks to ensure that any constitution approved by the United Kingdom is acceptable to the people of Zimbabwe as a whole. I thank speakers from the Government Benches for bringing me to my senses and for making me realise why it is so difficult for Conservative Members to accept it. They put forward an extreme and distorted view. How can they regard themselves as neutral? Their view must bring a great deal of harm to any attempt at impartiality.

I should like to think that all right hon. and hon. Members have an interest in the successful outcome of the Lancaster House talks. If it is passed unamended, the Bill will raise three fears. I shall weigh my words carefully, not because I think that anything I say will affect matters materially, but because the tone of discussion in the House may do so.

First, the Bill appears as an attempt to pressurise the Patriotic Front. Even if we believed that we could force the leaders of the Patriotic Front to give way on the issues on which the British Government or the Government of Bishop Muzorewa would like them to give way, if they did so they would lose the support of their commanders in the field, which would be disastrous for Zimbabwe in both the short and long term.

Secondly, the Bill provides the possibility of a constitution being imposed without majority support. If there is not majority support, the constitution will break down in the short or long term. Any constitution imposed without the support of at least a large proportion of the population is guaranteed to be disastrous.

I turn to the third fear with a sense of sadness, and in saying so I do not seek any political gain. One of the main reasons why we cannot pass the amendment with the support of the Government is that they are trying to preserve unity in the Conservative Party. Ultimately, in so doing, they are sacrificing principle on the high altar of political expediency. No hon. Member can take pride in that.

If that is not so, why did the Government not accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that the sanctions be renewed for short periods of a month or less? Why is the tone of the debate from the Government Benches massively in support of the rebel Government? Why are Conservative Members constantly wittering away and nagging at the Patriotic Front? This must be one of the few examples in history where a Government have given such support to a party that is in rebellion against them.

One can go a long way in leaning over backwards, but after a while something disastrous happens. That is the position now. We have heard speech after speech in favour of the rebel Government. I am not against the Government of Bishop Muzorewa. He represents a significant number of people in Rhodesia, but it is essential that we have the agreement of the other groups, including the Patriotic Front. Right hon. and hon. Members on each side of the Committee should have the wit and wisdom and, above all, the political status to be able to recognise the advantages of all groups rather than to pick out the advantages of one group at the expense of another.

Mr. Newens

My hon. Friend said that perhaps never in history had a Government done so much to accommodate people who were in rebellion against them. A previous Government gave way to the Curragh mutiny in Northern Ireland. As a result, the problem was perpetuated for many years. Is it not possible that the same thing could occur now?

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Mr. Soley

It is. There is a great deal to be gained from flexibility, but there comes a point at which flexibility becomes dangerous. About 18 or 20 years ago I was travelling in a train with a black Rhodesian who worked for the Rhodesia Broadcasting Authority, as it was called then. I had a long discussion with him about events there. He told me that, in the long run, he had confidence because he knew that the British Government and the British people would do the right thing. I was then naive enough to feel a sense of pride in that statement. Since then we have had a history of appeasement of a minority Government in Rhodesia because of British domestic political events. We must accept some condemnation for that. Few things damage a nation's reputation more than to be seen to be giving undue support to a minority racial group. We are supposed to put democracy first, and kith and kin second.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

The hon. Gentleman talked about a minority group. Is he not aware that Bishop Muzorewa's Government were elected on a turnout of 64.8 per cent. of all adult Rhodesians, which was rather more than those in this country who turned out for the European Assembly elections? How can it be a minority Government if it has been elected by a substantial proportion of the adult population? Bishop Muzorewa comes from a tribe which represents 80 per cent. of the people of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.

Mr. Soley

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. It enables me to point out—as my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) pointed out—that if there is to be an election that is in any way meaningful time must be given to the other side not only to gain access to the media but to organise itself from the point of view of offices, telephones and all the aids that would normally be expected in a general election campaign anywhere. It is dangerous to expect the other side to organise itself in two months.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

I remind my hon. Friend that in the free and fair election in May in some areas 105 per cent. of the electorate turned out to vote in their district. Some hon. Members would be grateful for that sort of electoral turnout.

Mr. Soley

I shall continue into a little more background. We tend to forget the effects of colonisation. The effects are not entirely bad, but in some crucial respects colonisation undermines the moral integrity and the self-respect not only of the colonised but of the colonisers. Colonisation is not unique to the British Empire. It has happened throughout history, and it is one of the reasons for the breakdown of empires. The power of the Government is no longer accepted.

I should like hon. Members to consider the possible effects of pushing through a constitution which does not have the support of the major parties. If we do that, we shall be trying, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) pointed out on Thursday, to get responsibility without power. I do not usually agree with his arguments, but I accept that to have responsibility without power is a dangerous occupation. The danger of trying to push through a constitution that does not have majority support is that inevitably it will break down.

I have never heard of or seen such a big red herring as the so-called veto. It is not a matter of the veto being right. It is not a matter of the veto being wrong. It is purely and simply irrelevant. What we have to remember is that it has been necessary for the Government to bring forward the Bill, and not to have it amended, in order to avoid another vote on sanctions.

If the constitution that the Government are trying to impose were to break down, the worst thing that could happen would be a position similar to that which existed in Vietnam. It would result in endangering the future good government of Zimbabwe. It would also bring about the rightful criticism of Britain.

If we act one-sidedly, it may also result in sanctions being imposed upon this country. I remind the Committee of what happened on the last occasion when he Prime Minister started to say what he would do about Rhodesia. Nigeria started to flex its economic muscles. We must also remember that the OAU recognises the Patriotic Front. That fact might not bring pleasure to Conservative Mem- bers, or, indeed, to Members in other parts of the House, but it is important to realise that the OAU recognises the Patriotic Front. The OAU is a powerful force in its own right. Nigeria and other Commonwealth countries which are actively involved, and have a rightful concern in this problem, will have the right to make their views known to Britain. They will also have the right to put pressure on Britain if we act in a way which they regard as not being in the interests of Africa as a whole. That needs to be borne in mind.

Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)

Is the theme of the hon. Gentleman's argument that if some other country does not do what we want we are entitled to put pressure on it by threatening sanctions and economic boycott? Surely that is a dangerous theory.

Mr. Soley

The countries that I have mentioned would have the right to impose sanctions, in the same way as we had the right to impose sanctions on the rebel regime in Rhodesia.

There is an acute danger here of our sacrificing our principles on the high altar of political expediency.

There is nothing wrong with the amendment. It is a simple, straightforward, honest and open amendment, which ought to be easily acceptable, unless the Government believe that it is necessary to pressurise one side. If such pressure results in making the leaders back down, the agreement will be unlikely to stick in Zimbabwe. There would inevitably be consequences for Britain. I put it to the Government that they do not need to bow to their own Back Benchers, who are still in the backwoods on this issue. There is another way forward, and it is a much more hopeful way for peace and prosperity in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant and Waterloo)

The House has a great deal to learn from the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) about the sacrifice of political principles on the high altar of expediency. Doubtless we shall learn more as he teaches us in seminar after seminar on this matter. We may not learn much about his wit and wisdom, although we shall give him a ready ear. But when he asks us to weigh our words, of course we listen to him. Hon. Members on each side will be weighing their words very carefully on a subject of such great sensitivity.

When the hon. Gentleman asks us to weigh our words carefully because we must not pressurise the so-called Patriotic Front, the question that I ask is this. Who are we to teach the Patriotic Front lessons in pressurisation? If any organisation in recent years and months has taught Southern Africa, if not the world, the most vivid and savage lessons in pressurisation, it is the Patriotic Front. Let us have no more about pressurising or not pressurising the Patriotic Front.

I turn now to a point that I regard as important. The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) fears—and asks the Committee to share his fears—the imposition of a constitution. He believes that by accepting the amendment we would in some way be tying the Government's hands, so that they were unable to impose a constitution. I shall not put myself in danger of being ruled out of order by discussing the constitution in any detail, but, quite frankly, if the House of Commons were asked to accept this constitution for the United Kingdom, I know what would be said on each side of the House. It would be described within the first five minutes as a coach-and-horses constitution. The Patriotic Front, whether legally elected or acquiring power in any other way, would find it very easy to drive a coach and horses through this constitution. It could achieve whatever objective it wanted.

I should like to deal with a point made by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), who entertained the House with some interesting history about Rhodesia. I am sorry that he is not present. He told us that the Southern Rhodesia of 1923 was different. He implied that there was a qualitative difference between the position which developed, and was encouraged to develop, in that country from 1923 onwards, and the position in the neighbouring British colonies in Africa.

I have some knowledge of this part of the world at that time, although nothing like as detailed a knowledge as I might have had. The one message that I can give the House is that the Rhodesia that I knew between 1923 and 1960 was one of the happiest, the most prosperous and the most successful countries in the developing world. Let no one contradict that. If the hon. Member is seriously suggesting that the devotion and dedication shown by the administrators of Southern Rhodesia before the Second World War was one whit inferior to that shown in Kenya, Uganda or anywhere else in British Africa, he is talking arrant nonsense, and it is time that that was said here.

I turn now to the agreement between what have been described as the historic elements. There were historic elements round the table in the veldt in 1890 when those concerned sat down with Lobengula and others. I argue that those historic elements were also very largely present round the table in Salisbury a year or two ago when there were negotiations which led to the establishment of a Government which I do not think can legitimately be described now as a regime, despite what some Labour Members may feel about it.

The historic element that was not present in the early 1890s was the Marxist, Kalashnikov-supported, Russian and Cuban terror, and the East German-dominated organisations, all of which we know lend support, advice, and a great deal more to the Patriotic Front. That is a completely new element.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnston) said that we should look to Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Indeed we should, for if there is a new element that has totally destabilised the Horn of Africa it is the same element that lies behind the Patriotic Front. Let us never forget it.

I come now to the most crucial point of all. The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) said that we should accept the amendment because in so doing we would gain the respect of the United Nations and place Her Majesty's Government in a position where the United Nations would say "Fine, that is what you ought to have done." But when we look at the United Nations today, what are we looking at? What is the United Nations? What can the Eastern bloc—accounting for a large number of members of the United Nations—teach Great Britain or Her Majesty's Government about parliamentary democracy? What can the totalitarian African States, members of the United Nations, teach Her Majesty's Government or this country about parliamentary democracy? What can some, although not all, Right-wing totalitarian countries of South America teach this country about parliamentary democracy? What can some of the Central American so-called republics teach us about parliamentary democracy?

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Those are the countries whose opinions we must now respect. We must seek their support. We must seek their approbation. I do not consider that such approbation counts. There are about 30 countries throughout the developed world, and others, which are members of the United Nations, whose approbation is important, even if, in some cases their approbation is misinformed on Southern Africa. I would seek to argue strongly with them, although not with the majority of members of the United Nations, that we must not allow our policy to be determined entirely on the ground whether this extraordinary organisation—that is, regrettably, what it is today—gives it approval.

Flowing from that is the argument that if we get the matter wrong we shall involve the United Kingdom in a Vietnam-type situation. I have heard the phrase "a mini-Vietnam" used. It is put forward as a powerful argument. No one in his right mind wants to get his country involved in a Vietnam-type situation. The alternatives put forward are that whenever the threat is posed—it is possibly being posed in Tehran as well as in Southern Rhodesia—we give in and agree, or else the other side threatens that we become involved in a mini-Vietnam. This is the new blackmail, the new international diplomacy with which we have to deal.

Mr. Soley

There are a number of alternatives in between. Not the least of these would be to pay more attention to the needs of the Patriotic Front, to recognise that it is involved in a war in the same way as Bishop Muzorewa's forces, and that it is possible to reach agreement between all parties.

Mr. Lloyd

There are always intermediate ways. It is always desirable to reach agreement between all parties. I would argue strenuously that if the Patriotic Front is as keen to reach agreement as has been suggested, and if it is as keen to enter the democratic process as has been suggested, why, in heaven's name, did it not stop shooting nine weeks ago? I should like to hear the answer.

Mr. Soley

I should have thought that the reason was obvious. Both sides have been fighting a bitter civil war. Both sides are afraid of losing ground if they give up shooting.

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his judgment. I do not believe that the question of giving up ground arises. The problem is different. The question is whether we are to devise and implement a sane, sensible and realistic policy which will preserve some of the immense achievements of Southern Rhodesia as an alternative to seeing that country totally destroyed.

Most wars, even the worst in Europe, try to avoid unnecessary and total destruction. The winning side knows that it will have to reconstruct. There has been no attempt whatever in Southern Rhodesia to avoid total destruction. One can show example after example where these people have deliberately destroyed their own people, their own cattle, their own veterinary services and everything else. I do not accept that this is normal war. It is terrorism.

Mr. Soley


Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Member says "Dresden". Does he expect me to believe that bombing in the Second World War, when there was a major declared war between two parts of Europe, is similar to what has happened in Rhodesia? If he asks me to believe that, he asks me to believe something that is totally incredible.

Mr. Buchan

The hon. Gentleman said that all countries in the West—he was not referring solely to Britain's bombing in the Second World War—took care of neutrals and children. Is he not aware that during the Second World War 6 million Jews were crucified in concentration camps by people who are part of his grouping? Is he not aware that we launched the atomic bomb, rightly or wrongly, regardless of the effect, that we bombed Dresden, and that 20 million, 30 million or 40 million neutrals as well as innocents were slaughtered as a result of war initiated in Western countries, which the hon. Gentleman holds up as an example?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not intend to pursue this matter. It is incredible that hon. Members should seek to remind me of what happened in the Second World War. I fought in the Second World War.

Mr. Buchan

So did I.

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) argues that the Patriotic Front has brought Rhodesia to legality. He says that the Patriotic Front is on our side. That is an incredible sentiment. I would argue totally the contrary view. It is not the Patriotic Front that has brought the Muzorewa delegation and the Europeans in Rhodesia to the conference table. It is the total lack of moral support from the West. I shall give a clear demonstration of why this has happened. Several terrorists were interviewed by someone I know. They were asked why they continued their actions when there was nothing to gain but destruction. Their answer was to ask the interviewer what was expected of them when they were supported with arms by the Russians, Cubans and East Germans and their opponents were totally opposed by the West. That is the situation that has brought the Rhodesian delegation to the conference table.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

My hon. Friend has touched on a valid point to counter the views expressed by hon. Members on the Labour Benches. Does he agree that unless we go some way towards lifting sanctions against Bishop Muzorewa's Government in Salisbury we are practising bias against the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Government and acting in favour of the Patriotic Front? There are sanctions against the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Government, but no sanctions against the Patriotic Front, which is receiving weapons from all over the world—

The Second Deputy Chairman (Mr. Richard Crawshaw)

Order. A special section of amendments deals with sanctions. Hon. Members should return to the amendment.

Mr. Lloyd

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) knows my reply without my having to state it in the House. I welcome the new realism and reality displayed in the Government's policy that we are discussing. I ask my right hon. Friend to realise that a substantial African community of moderate people in Southern Rhodesia have not gone over to the Patriotic Front. Those people—black and white—have shown immense character. They are the people who need the moral support of the House of Commons and this country. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will demonstrate that support increasingly and convincingly.

Mr. Ioan Evans

It is necessary to answer the points made by the hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd). We know his position on Rhodesia. He is a whole-hearted supporter of the South African Government. I think he would admit that if the Conservative Government had been in power in previous years and had sought agreement with Ian Smith in Rhodesia he would have supported power being handed over to Mr. Smith.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

indicated dissent.

Mr. Evans

The hon. Gentleman says "No" now, but on previous occasions Conservative Members have said that they disagreed with sanctions and wanted to recognise the Ian Smith regime. Although the Conservative Party now decries the Patriotic Front, we have to recognise that talks are taking place in London on the constitution due to resistance, particularly by the Patriotic Front. Muzorewa disagreed with the Ian Smith regime but obtained certain powers in Rhodesia, while the Patriotic Front, outside the country, said that it could not participate in the elections because the constitution was undemocratic and racialist.

Although I do not say that the new constitution is perfect, because it contains certain racialist undertones, it is one that the Patriotic Front is prepared to consider round the table with the Muzorewa forces from Salisbury, but, like my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon), I believe that it should come into being only if it is accepted by all the parties at the constitutional conference, and that we should hold the Government to that.

This Committee must recognise that if, tomorrow or the day after, we have an announcement from the Government that they intend to go ahead with this constitution and are turning down the strong representations made by the Patriotic Front, these talks will have failed. The parties to the Lusaka communiqué expected an agreement with the forces in Salisbury and the Patriotic Front. If there is not that agreement, the Commonwealth, the Organisation of African Unity and the United Nations will say that these talks have failed.

When the Lord Privy Seal replies to this debate, I hope that he will relate his remarks to the report appearing in The Guardian today which suggests that the Government will seek from the Patriotic Front today a final decision on the transitional period.

I believed that there has been progress in these talks. They have not been negotiations. They have virtually been discussions, because the Government have put forward proposals and said "Either accept them or reject them." The Patriotic Front has gone a long way to meeting the desires of the Government. It has insisted on a Commonwealth peace force going into Rhodesia, and that is a legitimate demand which the Government should accept. But I believe, secondly, that the talks should not fail because of the arguments about the ceasefire and the transitional arrangements for elections.

I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will make it clear that the report in The Guardian is not accurate and that the talks will not fail in the next day or so after this Bill has been rushed through Parliament.

The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Ian Gilmour)

I hope that it will be convenient if, before coming to the central issue of this debate, I try to deal with the amendment and the arguments advanced by the right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin) and the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann) in favour of holding a referendum in Rhodesia.

The constitution has been agreed by all the parties to the Lancaster House conference contingent upon agreement on the interim arrangements. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that we had not got agreement on anything. How- ever, I prefer the view of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), who said that massive progress had been made. I think that that is a fairer summary. Of course, it has been admitted freely that the agreement is contingent on the interim arrangements and a ceasefire, but the constitution is a compromise between the views of parties which were deeply opposed hitherto, and I think that the Committee will agree that the Commonwealth has accepted it almost without reservation. It has the great advantage of being acceptable internationally as well.

At Lusaka, the Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed that there should be a new constitution with majority rule but with guarantees and safeguards for minorities, and new elections to implement it. That is precisely what this Government have proposed, and both sides at the conference have agreed. No party at the Lancaster House conference has at any stage suggested a referendum. I do not think that it would be practical.

6.45 pm

My right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and I have made clear over the days where the Government stand about an all-party agreement. I think that our good faith in this matter is accepted by the Committee as a whole, although the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) had some suspicions about us and I am not sure that the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) did not as well, and perhaps also the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley). But in general it is accepted that we have been going flat out to achieve an all-party agreement. That has been our objective throughout. It is also fairly widely accepted that we have got further in that than anyone has managed to do in the past, although I accept that we have not yet got the agreement.

The main difference between the two sides of the Committee is that the Opposition in general seem to forget that the Government are negotiating with two sides. All that Opposition Members have said would be true if we were negotiating with just one side. I think that the realisation of the facts of life at Lancaster House has been far more clear among Government supporters. We have made detailed proposals both on the constitution, which has been accepted, and on the interim arrangements. But those proposals are themselves a compromise. Anyone who negotiates with two different sets of people knows that that is the only possible way to proceed.

The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) said that we had not made any alterations in the constitution. That is not true. However, it is true that the general shape of the document at the end is fairly similar to what it was at the beginning. That is inevitable. When negotiating with two sides, there is a limit to the concessions which can be made to one side. If concessions are made to one side, almost by definition one gets further away from the other side and therefore an all-party agreement becomes impossible. It would be no good meeting the demands of the Patriotic Front if in the process we lost the agreement of the Salisbury delegation—

Mr. Buchan

And vice versa.

Sir I. Gilmour

Yes, and vice versa.

In the debate, some hon. Members have come very close, if they have not actually got there, to arguing that if the Patriotic Front do not agree to our proposals, those proposals must be amended until they get the agreement of the Patriotic Front.

I remind the Committee that interim proposals which have now been on the table for some time provide for all parties to campaign with equal status, with both sides and their commanders being equally responsible to the Governor for the maintenance of the ceasefire, and, to the extent that existing civil servants and members of the Armed Forces are used, they will be under the control of the Governor. The Salisbury delegation has agreed to hand over ministerial powers to the Governor during the pre-independence period.

In a series of statements and clarifications of the Government's position to the conference, we have shown great understanding of the concerns of the Patriotic Front with respect, for example, to the security of the parties while campaigning and the monitoring of the ceasefire, although the latter has to be discussed formally in the conference and awaits the agreement of the Patriotic Front to the interim arrangements.

It is quite wrong for the hon. Member for York to say, admittedly sotto voce, that the Government have been very intransigent and to say, non-sotto voce that we have squeezed out the Patriotic Front. That is untrue. It bears no relation to what has been happening over the past nine weeks.

I hope that the Opposition will not encourage the Patriotic Front to prevaricate. That would be very damaging to the chances of a settlement. The Patriotic Front must be prepared to put its claimed electoral support to the test.

It will not be possible for us to persuade the Salisbury delegation to remain in London indefinitely while the leaders of the Patriotic Front make up their minds. The hon. Member for York said that the members of the Salisbury delegation had gone home already. That is not quite true. Some of them have, but the majority have not.

The hon. Member for Harlow asked for some patience to be shown; but we have been patient. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North to talk about the rebel Government, who have been mentioned several times at the conference, but he must realise that the overwhelming majority of the Salisbury delegation had nothing to do with UDI. Indeed, the vast majority opposed UDI and therefore to talk about rebel Governments has little validity now. The Opposition must move forward because we are no longer living in 1965. The situation has changed substantially.

Agreement has been reached about genuine majority rule and an end to the rebellion against Britain's authority. Therefore, it would be difficult for us to turn back. There have been no suggestions from Labour Members about what should be done in the absence of an agreement. Do the Opposition suggest that we should leave Rhodesia in a state of limbo and just go away and let things continue as before? Perhaps that is possible, but it is not desirable.

Mr. Buchan

An argument in relation to agreement is an argument in relation to this Bill, not the whole future of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.

Sir I. Gilmour

I do not follow the relevance of that point. We are talking about the whole context of our discussions and have been attempting to get an agreement by all parties about the future of Rhodesia.

The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North was incorrect in his remarks about the ceasefire. The Salisbury delegation agreed at the beginning of the talks to a ceasefire on the condition that the Patriotic Front also agreed to one. There will be no resolution of the conflict if any party refuses to put electoral support to the test during the elections held under our Government, if under these conditions it is able to decide unilaterally that Rhodesia should remain in a state of illegality.

Our proposals for the interim period place the utmost emphasis on enabling all parties to compete peacefully for power on a fair and equal basis. There are plentiful safeguards for all parties in the detailed arrangements which we have put forward. I hope that the Patriotic Front will accept that and so enable us to move forward soon to the next stage of negotiations. However, we have a responsibility to the people of Rhodesia to bring that country to legal independence with the widest possible international acceptance. That is a responsibility we intend to carry out.

Mr. Newens

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the Government will be prepared to put the constitution into effect without agreement being reached with all parties? If the Patriotic Front does not accept the agreement, will the Government go ahead along the lines indicated in The Guardian article today?

Sir I. Gilmour

I had finished my speech, and have answered the debate to the best of my ability. The Government have no responsibility for anything reported in The Guardian today.

Mr. Peter Shore (Stepney and Poplar)

As a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends have already spoken forcefully and explained the reasons for this package of amendments—led by amendment No. 2—I shall make only a brief speech. Although this debate is important, later debates will cover other important aspects concerning the whole negotiations and the future of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.

We have put forward the amendments in order to highlight the folly of the Bill. It has been presented to Parliament before the completion of negotiations at Lancaster House. Our amendments are designed not only to reveal that folly but to overcome it through our votes tonight. By pushing the Bill through at this time, and in this peremptory fashion, the Government have—as we warned them—provoked two main questions raised by virtually everyone, not just among the Opposition.

Those questions have not just been put by Labour Members of Parliament but arose simultaneously with the Government's announcement of an enabling Bill. All over the world, and at the conference, the same questions are being asked. Faced with such a Bill at extraordinarily short notice, it is first asked whether the Government will abandon the quest for agreement and call an end to the nine-week effort that many of us have strongly applauded. The conference has brought the parties involved nearer together than ever before.

The second question that arises is whether the Government intend to activate the Bill with the agreement of only one of those parties concerned, and to do so without a ceasefire. That last question is of fundamental importance. If a Governor is appointed and goes to Salisbury, he will take charge of the armed forces. I made that point on Thursday and repeat it now with no embarrassment. Therefore, in the absence of a ceasefire, the Governor will be conducting a war with forces over which he has only minimal control.

During last Thursday's debate the hon. Members drew from two historical analogies. One of those analogies referred to General Gordon going to Khartoum and illustrated the problem of having responsibility without power. The other analogy was that of the American involvement in Vietnam, to which the hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd) has again referred today. The analogy of Vietnam is more likely to hold true as there is a danger that Britain may be sucked into a civil war. That civil war might become a wider conflict, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) realistically pointed out. He described those areas of Africa where conflicts have escalated and other forces have intervened to the peril and misfortune of the areas and their inhabitants.

That particular question has increased in urgency since last Thursday's debate. Press reports have informed us over the weekend that the Government propose to establish a Commonwealth force to supervise and monitor the ceasefire. It is said that some 700 British troops—mainly Signals—would be involved, plus smaller contingents from six or so Commonwealth countries. Presumably they would be armed, if only for the purpose of their own self-defence. So the danger of being sucked in is not hypothetical and remote. In terms of activating this Bill without a ceasefire and without agreement, it could be real and imminent.

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It is amazing that the Lord Privy Seal failed to make a statement to the House today about the new proposals. I attempted earlier to obtain a statement, and I would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have wished to inform the House of this quite major development. It greatly affects the ceasefire and our thinking about the whole complex of issues, and was announced to the press and, presumably, to the participants to the conference, on Friday or even earlier. He failed to make a statement and did not even allude to the subject in the speech he has just finished.

That is extraordinary because it affects more than just the context within which we are trying to judge the different aspects of the Lancaster House conference and the provisions of the Bill relating to it. It has also almost certainly a quite direct effect on the provisions in the Bill, which was given a Second Reading against the wish and vote of the Opposition only last Thursday.

It is almost incredible that the financial memorandum at the front of the Bill refers to a sum not exceeding £3.5 million. Is it suggested that that would be sufficient to cover the cost of the quite substantially larger number of people who will be involved in the monitoring of the ceasefire? The presence of these people and the invitations to the other Commonwealth countries was made known only after we had debated the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman there- fore owes it to the Committee to explain what is going on. Was the proposal made on Friday after we gave the Bill a Second Reading? If it was made before, why was it not covered in the financial memorandum, and why was it not mentioned, even if only in outline form, during the Second Reading debate? The House has been treated disgracefully over the whole presentation of the Bill.

Let me turn now to the Government's answer to the major question. The Foreign Secretary was absolutely clear that there would have to be a ceasefire before the Bill was activated by the Governor being sent to exercise executive and legislative powers in Salisbury. If that is understood to constitute a veto, it is a veto that the Foreign Secretary most clearly identified in addressing the other place.

The Lord Privy Seal was equivocal. He could not say what the Foreign Secretary had said because that might, indeed, constitute a veto. Then we heard the unhappy Under-Secretary in quite a good winding-up speech, attempting to reconcile the differences between his two right hon. Friends. I suppose that there is some connection between the Lord Privy Seal and the Under-Secretary, but the latter concluded by saying that the Government would have to think about the new situation and decide what to do.

That is not, of course, a commitment to act in the event of failure at Lancaster House. However, it is not a commitment not to send in a Governor, and it falls short of repeating the very precise words and the context in which the Foreign Secretary delivered them in the other place. It is wrong for the Lord Privy Seal not to make perfectly plain whether what was said in the other place is the Government's position.

The other two questions which the Government's handling of the Bill has provoked is whether the Government are running out of their belief in their own capacity sensibly to continue the negotiations, and are about to bring them to an end. I heard on the BBC news at 6 o'clock that the Foreign Secretary at Lancaster House—and I hope that this is an inaccurate report—had delivered an ultimatum this afternoon and was demanding a firm acceptance of the proposals within the next day or two.

This raises the question of one's whole attitude and approach to negotiations. I take it that we are united in at least one thing—in wanting a successful outcome to the negotiations. A number of right hon. and hon. Members have spoken about the length of the negotiations. There are those who feel that they have gone on for far too long, but I remind them of the great advances that have been made in the nine weeks of negotiation. When I consider the starting point of the two sides on the question of the constitution, with one side wanting a presidential form of government, which is common in Africa, and the other seeking a traditional Westminster style of democracy with prime ministerial government, I am not at all surprised that the talks on that aspect occupied the first six weeks.

I believe that the first paper was put forward on this important and difficult interim period—it was but a single page—on 22 October. The serious paper containing the Government's proposals was tabled on 2 November. These proposals have not been long debated or been so long on the table that there was no prospect of people being persuaded to move one way or the other. I am not in favour of endlessly protracted negotiations, but I do not think that it is sensible to slap the proposals down on the table and demand a signature today or tomorrow. That is not the way to get an agreement.

Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will have heard the press conference by President Kaunda just before he left London. I think that his visit was designed to help in reaching an agreement. He called for a little more patience. If tonight's news is correct and an ultimatum has been delivered, that is a bad mistake in terms of a negotiating tactic. In a sense it is a

wrong dismissal of the advice of a President who seriously wishes to assist in solving problems and in reaching an agreement.

For those reasons, I believe that the Opposition cannot simply give the Government a blank cheque to go ahead with this Bill without the assurances sought by my right hon. and hon. Friends. It is entirely consistent with the view that we took in the reasoned amendment which we moved last Thursday that we should not merely give our support to the principle and the spirit of amendment No. 2 but that we should also vote for it tonight.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

The Lord Privy Seal failed to answer the crucial question which we have asked several times. What will the Government do with the proposed powers if there is a disagreement at Lancaster House and the position has to be reconsidered? The right hon. Gentleman made it plain that there would be no going back to the situation which obtained before the talks. It seems therefore that some of these powers will be used in the event of a disagreement.

Hon. Members on the Government Benches should carefully consider how they vote when they may be committing us to the use of troops to fight the Patriotic Front in Rhodesia. That would mean a continuation of the war in circumstances that we could not totally control. It would be the worst possible outcome of these talks and it will be made possible by the votes which hon. Members are about to cast. I hope that some hon. Members will seriously consider whether it is right to support the Government tonight.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 242, Noes 299.

Division No. 99] AYES [7.12 pm
Adams, Allen Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Campbell, Ian
Allaun, Frank Bidwell, Sydney Campbell-Savours, Dale
Alton, David Booth, Rt Hon Albert Canavan, Dennis
Anderson, Donald Boothroyd, Miss Betty Cant, R. B.
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough) Carmichael, Neil
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest Bradley, Tom Carter-Jones, Lewis
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Bray, Dr Jeremy Cartwright, John
Ashton, Joe Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Clark, David (South Shields)
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith) Cohen, Stanley
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Buchan, Norman Coleman, Donald
Beith, A. J. Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Conlan, Bernard
Cook, Robin F. Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Cowans, Harry Howells, Geraint Prescott, John
Cox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting) Huckfield, Les Price, Christopher (Lewisham West)
Crowther, J. S. Hughes, Roy (Newport) Race, Reg
Cryer, Bob Janner, Hon Greville Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Richardson, Miss Jo
Cunningham, George (Islington S) John, Brynmor Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven) Johnson, James (Hull West) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Dalyell, Tam Johnson, Walter (Derby South) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
Davidson, Arthur Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda) Robertson, George
Davies, E. Hudson (Caerphilly) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rooker, J. W.
Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Roper, John
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) Kerr, Russell Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Deakins, Eric Kilroy-Silk, Robert Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Kinnock, Neil Rowlands, Ted
Cempsey, James Lambie, David Ryman, John
Dewar, Donald Lamborn, Harry Sever, John
Dixon, Donald Lamond, James Sheerman, Barry
Dobson, Frank Leadbitter, Ted Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)
Dormand, Jack Leighton, Ronald Shore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)
Douglas, Dick Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Short, Mrs Renée
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Dubs, Alfred Litherland, Robert Silkin, Rt Hon S.C. (Dulwich)
Duffy, A. E. P. Lofthouse, Geoffrey Silverman, Julius
Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale) Lyon, Alexander (York) Skinner, Dennis
Dunnett, Jack McCartney, Hugh Soley, Clive
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth McDonald, Dr Oonagh Spearing, Nigel
Eadie, Alex McKay, Allen (Penistone) Spriggs, Leslie
Eastham, Ken McKelvey, William Stallard, A. W.
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire) Maclennan, Robert Stoddart, David
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central) Stott, Roger
English, Michael McNally, Thomas Strang, Gavin
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) McNamara, Kevin Straw, Jack
Evans, John (Newton) McWilliam, John Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Field, Frank Magee, Bryan Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Fitch, Alan Marks, Kenneth Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Flannery, Martin Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marshall, Jim (Leicester South) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Ford, Ben Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn) Tilley, John
Forrester, John Mason, Rt Hon Roy Tinn, James
Foster, Derek Maxton, John Torney, Tom
Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood) Maynard, Miss Joan Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Meacher, Michael Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Freud, Clement Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Mikardo, Ian Watkins, David
George, Bruce Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Weetch, Ken
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride) Wellbeloved, James
Ginsburg, David Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) Welsh, Michael
Golding, John Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Grant, John (Islington C) Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Whitlock, William
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Wigley, Dafydd
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Hardy, Peter Newens, Stanley Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith O'Halloran, Michael Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy O'Neill, Martin Winnick, David
Haynes, Frank Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Woolmer, Kenneth
Heffer, Eric S. Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Wrigglesworth, Ian
Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) Palmer, Arthur Wright, Sheila
Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) Park, George Young, David (Bolton East)
Home Robertson, John Parker, John
Homewood, William Parry, Robert TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hooley, Frank Pendry, Tom Mr. Ted Graham and
Horam, John Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down) Mr. George Morton.
Adley, Robert Bendall, Vivian Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)
Aitken, Jonathan Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Bowden, Andrew
Alexander, Richard Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Boyson, Dr Rhodes
Alison, Michael Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Braine, Sir Bernard
Ancram, Michael Best, Keith Bright, Graham
Arnold, Tom Bevan, David Gilroy Brinton, Tim
Aspinwall, Jack Biffen, Rt Hon John Brittan, Leon
Atkins, Robert (Preston North) Biggs-Davison, John Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher
Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East) Blackburn, John Brooke, Hon Peter
Banks, Robert Blaker, Peter Brotherton, Michael
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Body, Richard Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Browne, John (Winchester)
Bell, Ronald Boscawen, Hon Robert Bruce-Gardyne, John
Bryan, Sir Paul Heddle, John Page, John (Harrow, West)
Buck, Antony Henderson, Barry Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Budgen, Nick Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Paisley, Rev Ian
Bulmer, Esmond Hicks, Robert Parkinson, Cecil
Burden, F. A. Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Parris, Matthew
Butcher, John Hill, James Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Butler, Hon Adam Holland, Philip (Carlton) Patten, John (Oxford)
Cadbury, Jocelyn Hooson, Tom Pattie, Geoffrey
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford) Pawsey, James
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Percival, Sir Ian
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hunt, David (Wirral) Pink, R. Bonner
Channon, Paul Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Pollock, Alexander
Chapman, Sydney Hurd, Hon Douglas Porter, George
Churchill, W. S. Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Clark, Dr William (Croydon South) Jessel, Toby Price, David (Eastleigh)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcllffe) Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Prior, Rt Hon James
Cockeram, Eric Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Proctor, K. Harvey
Colvin, Michael Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Raison, Timothy
Cope, John Kaberry, Sir Donald Rathbone, Tim
Cormack, Patrick Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Corrie, John Kilfedder, James A. Rees-Davies, W. R.
Costain, A. P. Kimball, Marcus Rhodes James, Robert
Cranborne, Viscount King, Rt Hon Tom Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Critchley, Julian Kitson, Sir Timothy Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Crouch, David Knox, David Rifkind, Malcolm
Dickens, Geoffrey Lamont, Norman Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Dorrell, Stephen Lang, Ian Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Langford-Holt, Sir John Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Dover, Denshore Latham, Michael Robinson, Peter (Belfast East)
du Cann, Ri Hon Edward Lawrence Ivan Rost, Peter
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Lawson, Nigel Royle, Sir Anthony
Durant, Tony Lee, John Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Dykes, Hugh Lester, Jim (Beeston) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutand) Scott, Nicholas
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke) Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Eggar, Timothy Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Elliott, Sir William Loveridge, John Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Emery, Peter Luce, Richard Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)
Eyre, Reginald Lyell, Nicholas Shersby, Michael
Fairbairn, Nicholas McAdden, Sir Stephen Silvester, Fred
Fairgrieve, Russell McCrindle, Robert Sims, Roger
Faith, Mrs Sheila Macfarlane, Neil Skeet, T. H. H.
Farr, John MacGregor, John Speed, Keith
Fell, Anthony MacKay, John (Argyll) Speller, Tony
Fenner, Mrs Peggy McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Spence, John
Finsberg, Geoffrey McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Sproat, Iain
Fisher, Sir Nigel McQuarrie, Albert Squire, Robin
Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N) Madel, David Stainton, Keith
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Major, John Stanbrook, Ivor
Fookes, Miss Janet Marland, Paul Stanley, John
Forman, Nigel Marlow, Tony Steen, Anthony
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Stevens, Martin
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Mates, Michael Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Fry, Peter Mather, Carol Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Mawby, Ray Stokes, John
Gardiner, Georgs (Reigate) Mawhinney, Dr Brian Stradling Thomas, J.
Gardner, Edward (South Fylde) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Tapsell, Peter
Garel-Jones, Tristan Mayhew, Patrick Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mellor, David Tebbit, Norman
Goodhart, Philip Meyer, Sir Anthony Temple-Morris, Peter
Goodhew, Victor Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Goodlad, Alastair Mills, Iain (Meriden) Thompson, Donald
Gow, Ian Mills, peter (West Devon) Thorne, Nell (Ilford South)
Gower, Sir Raymond Miscampbell, Norman Thornton, Malcolm
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Gray, Hamish Moate, Roger Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Greenway, Harry Monro, Hector Trippier, David
Grieve, Percy Montgomery, Fergus Trotter, Neville
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds) Moore, John van Straubenzee, W. R.
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Grist, Ian Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Viggers, Peter
Grylls, Michael Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Waddington, David
Gummer, John Selwyn Mudd, David Wakeham, John
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll) Murphy, Christopher Waldegrave, Hon. William
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Myles, David Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Hampson, Dr Keith Neale, Gerrard Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Hannam, John Needham, Richard Wall, Patrick
Haselhurst, Alan Nelson, Anthony Waller, Gary
Hastings, Stephen Neubert, Michael Ward, John
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Newton, Tony Warren, Kenneth
Hawkins, Paul Nott, Rt Hon John Watson, John
Hawksley, Warren Onslow, Cranley Wells, John (Maidstone)
Hayhoe, Barney Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Osborn, John Wheeler, John
Whitney, Raymond Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Wickenden, Keith Winterton, Nicholas Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Wiggin, Jerry Wolfson, Mark Mr. Anthony Berry.
Wilkinson, John Young, Sir George (Acton)

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

I beg to move amendment No. 6, in page 1, line 6, leave out "the" and insert "a".

The Second Deputy Chairman

With this we may discuss the following amendments:

No. 7, in page 1, line 6, after "day", insert not less than six months after the passing of this Act". No. 35 in clause 2, page 2, line 8, after "constitution", insert but no provision to elect the Senate, House of Assembly, President or member of the Executive shall be brought into force within 6 months of the Royal Assent to this Act".

Mr. Lyon

These amendments involve the second major item that we wish to raise on the Bill. Amendment No. 7 seeks to ensure that there will be a period of six months before an election. It is not phrased in such terms because the amendment could not be drafted in that way. The six months applies to the period between the passing of the Bill and the introduction of an independence Bill. The amendment is designed to provide six months for preparing for an election.

During the negotiations the Goverment argued that two months should be allowed after the introduction of the Governor. I understand that proposals at Lancaster House are that the two months might apply after a ceasefire, on the understanding that the ceasefire would be dictated by the warring parties and that that might spin out the time.

From the morning newspapers I understand that the Government might be prepared to wait a little longer than two months but not as long as six months. There is room for compromise at Lancaster House. None of us wishes to be too hard about the exact figure. Nevertheless, it is clear to my hon. Friends and me that the original Government proposal for two months is too short for mounting an election in Rhodesia following an agreement. We hope that the Goverment will indicate that they are prepared to be more flexible about the timetable.

I shall spell out the difficulties. The Muzorewa Government in Rhodesia have experienced an election already this year. The election took place on a popular roll in a national list for Africans, although whites were sub-divided into constituencies. The only acceptable way to conduct an election in any country which gives fair weight to each man's vote is to use constituencies where the numbers are roughly equivalent. The proper way to conduct an election is to use a register of voters and to divide the country into constituencies in the normal way. The Government have refused to accede to that request, and the indication is that they propose that the election be carried out in circumstances similar to those in May.

7.30 pm

One difficulty is that there is no way of ensuring that people normally resident in an area vote in that area and reflect the pattern of assent to candidates from that area. As in May, it is likely that there will be much shifting about. The result will be that in some areas more than the number registered will vote, which is the sort of nonsense that occurred in May and which is totally unsatisfactory.

Nevertheless, in order to try to reach a compromise the Patriotic Front has agreed to accept the popular roll and the national list. In the previous debate Conservative Members suggested that the Patriotic Front was dragging its heels for surreptitious reasons. I hope that they will recognise that major concession by the Patriotic Front and that its request for a longer period before the election should be given credit.

The Muzorewa Government have had control of the press, television, radio and other means of communication in Rhodesia. They have established a pattern of organisation for their respective parties, and in the villages they have placed their people to act as party functionaries. It is fair to say that the Patriotic Front has also had guerrillas in rural areas concerned with political education. It has that rudimentary organisation, but it cannot acquire the apparatus for fighting an election without being allowed at least some weeks. It needs to set up an office and officials, attend to the installation of telephones and set up the normal apparatus for a national election before that election could be considered free and fair. In addition, it will need to establish organisations for publicising its programmes. Neither the Salisbury nor the Bulawayo newspapers will give the Patriotic Front the type of coverage that they will provide for the whites and the Muzorewa regime.

All that will require time, and I urge that some period is allowed, at least before the election proper, for that degree of preparation. If the Government insist on two months for the election proper, there should be a sufficiently long preparatory period.

In addition, in a short time it will be the rainy season, and there will be acute geographical difficulties in running an election campaign then. It would be easier to organise such things as transport in the drier season and after a period of preparation. That is a further reason for allowing the Patriotic Front a period to gain equality in the task of presenting its case. If the Government do not grant that, there must be a suspicion—which has already been voiced—that they want a rigged election in which the Muzorewa Government would win by concealment and trickery. The Patriotic Front would not be able to put its message across clearly and gain approval of its policies on a free and democratic basis. That suspicion is not entirely removed when considering what happened in May.

A group of Conservative politicians went to Rhodesia during the election, and the Prime Minister relies heavily on its report which said that the election was free and fair. It is interesting to note, however, that Pratap Chitnis visited Rhodesia on behalf of the all-party group in the House and prepared a document which is available in the Library. His conclusions were: 1. These elections should be discounted in any Government policy decisions about Rhodesia. It was not a valid test of opinion and its results are meaningless. 2. Free and fair elections cannot be held in Rhodesia under the present circumstances. For there to be a true test of black opinion there would need to be a ceasefire, which would of necessity presuppose the participation in the election of the Patriotic Front, significant demilitarisation, the lifting of press and other censorship to allow a free political climate and impartial supervision by the United Nations, this would involve not simply observers but a UN peacekeeping force. Before going into the reasons for that conclusion, I give way to the hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower).

Sir Raymond Gower

Why does the hon. Gentleman weaken his case by regularly betraying an animus against Bishop Muzorewa? He always refers to the Muzorewa regime as something less worthy than the Patriotic Front. That is an astonishing slant in his remarks which I cannot understand.

Mr. Lyon

On two occasions I have strayed into calling it the Muzorewa Government. I resile from that because they are not a legal Government, and the Government of the hon. Member for Barry have not recognised it as a legal Government. A prerequisite for these negotiations was that the Muzorewa regime abandon the concept of a Government and give up the pretence that they were a legally-ordered Government.

I am not seeking to prejudge the attitude of the Muzorewa regime, but the report of Pratap Chitnis indicates the defects in the May election and draws our attention to how that could be improved. For instance: a garage in Mount Pleasant, Salisbury, which employs around fifteen black workers received a visit from the security forces who said that they had heard that the employees did not want to vote and were being 'unco-operative'. The employees denied this but were told to expect a visit from UANC"— that is the Muzorewa party— auxiliaries. The auxiliaries visited the garage on April 16th and told the employees to be ready to go to vote at 9.30 a.m. the next morning. At 9.30 a.m. the next morning (day one of polling) all were taken to the polling station by their employer. No one could argue that that is an ingredient of the free and fair exercise of a vote. It is significant because the intimidation came from the security forces, which are the very forces that the Government want to run the country under Government supervision during the election. That clearly must not be allowed to happen.

Although hon. Members may not accept the totality of the report, I hope that individual incidents will be accepted as evidence of an unsatisfactory situation. I believe that Pratap Chitnis relates them in good faith. To ensure that similar incidents do not take place during the election, it must be made plain that the security force that takes control of Rhodesia is completely unbiased and fair. It must ensure that the degree of intimidation which inevitably takes place in African elections is reduced to the minimum. That duty must not be carried out by the security forces of the Muzorewa regime or the Patriotic Front.

That can happen only if there is a substantial force in operation ready to ensure that nobody disturbs the peace during the election campaign. That force cannot be assembled overnight and it will not be in position for a substantial period. It minimises the amount of time available for normal campaigning if only two months are allowed after the advent of the Governor. I could understand it if the Government agreed not to send the Governor until after the rainy season, and the limit was two months from that time.

The Government's case for getting the Bill on the statute book even before an agreement is that they wish to send a Governor immediately. They do not wish to wait for two hours while we debate the matter because the Governor must catch the plane as soon as the Patriotic Front says "Yes". It has until Wednesday to say "Yes", and the two months limit will then begin. The Government may not know anything about Rhodesia, but they know what it would mean if there were no election machinery in Britain.

To attempt to set up an election in two months is impossible. If that period is to be pressed by the Government, as it has been hitherto in the negotiations at Lancaster House, the only inference that can be drawn is that they do not wish the Patriotic Front to have a fair chance of winning the election. If that is the position, it will not be accepted by the international community.

Dr. Edmund Marshall (Goole)

I add a few arguments to those of my hon. Friend the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), relating the length of the transitional period to the fairness of the election as a whole.

I must complain that there has been precious little heard from Government spokesmen on what form the elections will take. I hope that the Under-Secretary will use the opportunity of the short debate to tell us more about how the election on the return to legality will be organised. First and foremost, may we have a clear statement whether the elections will be organised on the basis of an electoral roll? Will electors be required to register? My hon. Friend referred to a report made by five senior members of the Conservative Party on the elections held in Rhodesia last April. In paragraph 17 it states: A national registration of the population is in process but is complete in certain districts only. We were told that the original intention of the Transitional Government had been to conduct the first elections on the basis of a constituency-based electoral roll, but political and Parliamentary delays have left insufficient time for this to be achieved, even by April 1979. Furthermore, it was thought that an electoral roll would allow the guerillas to victimise those who had registered". We hope that if the elections go ahead on the basis of an agreement achieved at the Lancaster House conference there will not be any intimidation—for example, trying to persuade people not to register or vote. That objection to a form of registration and the issuing of voting cards to individual voters would not apply.

7.45 pm

What progress has been made in the development of a national register? It is only with a proper register that anything like fairness can be approached in democratic elections. There are two major objections to holding elections without any register, such as those held last April. The eight constituencies were called districts, but no one knew how many people were entitled to vote in those districts. No one knew the numerical size of the constituencies. There could be no accurate estimate of how many seats should be allocated to each constituency. It was done on a rough and ready basis of population projections from the appropriate department of the Administration in Salisbury. The result was that in Matabeleland South 51,000 voted to return five Members to the House of Assembly. In Mashonaland West 294,000 voted—nearly six times as many—and they elected only six Members to the Assembly.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer (Eye)

What about Newcastle, Central?

Dr. Marshall

The hon. Gentleman points out that there is a difference between constituency sizes in this country. At least we know the exact figures. It is easier to iron out the differences when we know the basis on which we are working. In Rhodesia there is no register and it is done by guesswork.

Mr. Buchan

In this country constituency sizes are decided by an independent Boundary Commission, which sometimes takes one or two years to reach a conclusion, let alone two months.

Dr. Marshall

The present redistribution in England has been proceeding since 1976. There are provisional recommendations for only 12 out of 40 counties in England. The matter is dealt with extremely carefully.

To attempt to develop in Rhodesia a system of constituencies when the number of electors is not known is trying to achieve the impossible. It means that it is not possible to get to the position of each vote having an equal weight. That cannot be fair. If there is not a list of electors, voters can cross the constituency boundaries and vote in another constituency. That was done in the elections held last April.

A second report on those elections was made by Mr. John Drinkwater, a member of the Boundary Commission for England. It is significant that he went to Rhodesia in the company of Conservative Members who compiled their own report. Paragraph 48 of his report states that there was bussing of large numbers of voters supporting the United African National Congress, to vote in Mashonaland West where the party managed to obtain a clean sweep of all the six seats in that district. The returns in that district showed a turnout of around 108 per cent. because voters moved into the constituency to build up the support of the UNAC. That is rather as though in Britain at the time of the general election the different political parties persuaded British Rail to lay on special trains to bring large consignments of Labour voters from Yorkshire and Conservative voters from Sussex to vote, for example, in marginal Hertfordshire. Obviously it is not possible to approach fairness when it is not known who the voters are in each constituency.

Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)

I ask the hon. Gentleman a simple question that may be considered slightly silly. He has said that it was not known how many voters were in each constituency. If that is so, how was it known that 108 per cent. turned out?

Dr. Marshall

That cannot be explained only on the ground of bussing. A number of other factors could be involved, which Mr. Drinkwater mentions in his report. Before the election was held an attempt was made by the population department of the Salisbury Administration to estimate how many adult voters were in each of the districts. The reference to 108 per cent. is to the total number of votes cast in the district of Mashonaland West as a percentage of the original estimate of the electorate in that district. That demonstrates the difficulties of attempting to produce a fair election in such circumstances.

The only way of arriving at anything approximating to a fair system is to do away with constituencies altogether and to have one national list system covering the whole country—in other words, one constituency. We have not heard whether that is proposed by the Government, or whether they are intending to repeat the form of election that took place last April.

I return to some of the ground that was covered by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for York. A short period for an election puts immense difficulties in the way of candidates who for various reasons have not been able to be close to their people for months or even years. It has been said already that members of the Salisbury delegation attending the conference at Lancaster House have returned home early to start preparing for the elections. In the previous debate it was the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) who talked about members of the Patriotic Front returning surreptitiously over the border into Zimbabwe to start trying to persuade their colleagues in the villages how they should vote in the elections.

That activity demonstrates how the politically minded in Rhodesia, including those who want to take part in the elections, realise that a lack of time imposes great constraints on the amount of preparation that they may make. Surely there should be more time available for would-be candidates to put their case across to the electorate.

I hope that we shall receive a clear statement from the Minister about the form that the elections will take. I hope that he will go some way towards accepting that there needs to be a period longer than two months for election preparations, so that the candidates and the others involved will have longer to prepare and so that the elections may be as fair as possible, even within six months.

Mr. Newens

If it is the Government's objective to ensure that the interim period prior to the holding of elections is two months, it is impossible to expect the elections to be carried out fairly and satisfactorily.

Hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber have enormous experience of elections. We must remember that many of the candidates in the elections in Southern Rhodesia will not have been in the constituencies that they are expecting to fight for many years, if at all. Many of them have lived abroad for many years and have been unable to return to their homes. It is ludicrous to expect them to return to their constituencies to fight an election that takes place two months after the conclusion of the conference at Lancaster House.

We all know that it is the custom in Britain to select candidates a long time before a general election takes place. In the interim before the election takes place the candidates nurse constituencies. We know that that is extremely important. We also know that if the constituency contains a large number of voters it is almost impossible to cover the constituency to get the message across. There has been much greater stability in Britain than in Southern Rhodesia, where a civil war has been continuing for a considerable time, and where before that war there was an emergency. There is no real experience or tradition of elections in Southern Rhodesia. Surely it is the height of folly to expect, if anybody does, elections carried out two months after the agreement to be fair or reasonable.

Members of the Patriotic Front who are abroad will be obliged, presumably, to wind up their affairs in the countries in which they are living and to return home. Presumably they will be expected to make arrangements to stay, to get their money into the area and to arrange for their keep. It may be possible to make those arrangements fairly expeditiously, but the time that it takes will have to be within the two months of which we are speaking. Anyone who seriously expects the proposed procedure to enable members of the Patriotic Front, or other candidates who are abroad, to feel that they have a reasonable chance of winning the election is not facing the facts.

My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) referred to the media. He rightly said that in the past the press and media have been in the hands of the Muzorewa Administration. It will be necessary to provide a period during which alternative candidates and alternative leaders have the opportunity to put themselves across through the media. That is all the more important when Opposition candidates have been vilified over a considerable period as terrorists and as being responsible for all the difficulties that have occurred as a result of the civil war. Those Patriotic Front members could not possibly be expected to present themselves reasonably to the electorate during a two-month period.

8 pm

Clearly, many disputes will arise in a country where there has been civil war for some time. We have already referred to the possibility of intimidation. One hon. Member on the Government Benches said that he considered that members of the Patriotic Front were anxious to delay the interim period so that intimidation by them would be more successful. If that is so, how much more important it is that we should not rush the elections through within two months. Sufficient time should be given for observers to go to Rhodesia and to establish themselves so that if intimidation occurs on any side it will be clearly exposed.

Mr. Hastings

What I tried to make clear was that intimidation is starting now. What the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) is now saying is clearly contrary to what he said on the previous amendments. The intimidation is starting now, and the longer the whole process stretches out the worse it will be.

Mr. Newens

I suspect that what can be described as intimidation may well take place on both sides. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) shakes his head. I cannot believe that he seriously thinks that the Patriotic Front is capable of intimidation but that the Muzorewa supporters would never intimidate. That is nonsense, and we all know it. I am prepared to concede that in present circumstances there may be intimidation by both sides.

We should ensure that observers are able to see exactly what occurs and that the Governor has an opportunity to get to grips with the situation. By doing that the necessary steps can be taken to prevent any undue interference or intimidation.

During the debate on the previous amendment the Lord Privy Seal did not reply to the arguments voiced by Opposition Members. Far from showing any spirit of compromise, he did not even do us the honour of answering our questions. If the conduct of the Lord Privy Seal at the Dispatch Box is an example of the attitude taken by him and his colleagues at Lancaster House, one may be forgiven for not being surprised that there are still many issues outstanding.

The interim period is regarded as a matter of principle by the Patriotic Front. If there is to be any agreement the Government must be prepared to move from their present position of two months. The Government have shown themselves to be most inflexible in their attitude. I hope that the Minister who replies to the debate will direct his attention to the arguments that have been raised. If he really believes that it is possible to arrange an election within two months, I hope that he will say so. Better than that, I hope that he will be prepared to demonstrate some flexibility on the part of the Government, and that the Government themselves will be prepared to agree that the period of two months is unacceptable and will extend it so that elections can take place on a much fairer basis.

Mr. Buchan

I am sorry that the Lord Privy Seal is not present. I understand the difficulties: we all have to eat. However, after the last answer we had I believe that all of us are anxious about remaining discussions on the Bill.

The most important aspect of any election is that it should be accepted by the electorate as being just and not rigged. I remember what happened in Scotland after the arguments on the famous 40 per cent. figure in the referendum. The only comments that are made about that figure now refer to the fact that people think that the whole thing was rigged and that the rules were changed to obtain a specific result. That is the only reason why the rejection of the referendum has left any bad feeling.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

I may have misunderstood my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), but there is a strong feeling that we should have a Bill on rules for referenda, which is another matter.

Mr. Buchan

The point is that we did not have rules for the referendum. The rules were changed in mid-stream, which is precisely what gave rise to the feeling that the whole thing was rigged. The logic of the decision was very sensible, but changing the rules in mid-stream allowed this charge to be made. That was the point I was making—the cry of "Foul" could be raised. If we leave ourselves in the position of having to conduct an election that arises out of a civil war, it is not a simple question of "Foul" being cried; it could bring about the resurrection of the civil war. Above all else, this election must be accepted by the electorate as fair and just.

In that context we must appeal to the Government. The future of Rhodesia is now very much in their hands. The Government have a majority in the House and they have brought this Bill upon us very quickly. I ask the few Conservative Members who are present to consider carefully what they would be doing if they were to impose a timescale such as this which they know, and we know, is totally absurd. The thought of moving out of civil war and into an election within two months is known to be an absurdity, not only by the Opposition but also by many hon. Members on the Government Benches, and virtually every national and international commentator.

I remind the Committee of previous discussions in the House when a sudden election was sprung upon us during the devolution debates in March this year. It took all of the three to four weeks to get any kind of electoral machinery into existence.

Large numbers of the population are refugees, concentrated in areas within Rhodesia, or even over the borders of Rhodesia, either for safety or because they are part of the Patriotic Front. There have been huge distortions about the displacement of people in Rhodesia. At least one party in these discussions is in the bush, in the sense that it is conducting a civil war on the side of legitimacy and against the rebel Government in Salisbury. Incidentally, these are the very people who brought this regime to the verge of legitimacy. It is against those people that this amendment would appear to be loaded. I am not saying that it is loaded, but that is what could be construed, which is sufficient to disrupt any consequence of the election.

For that reason, this amendment is one of the two crucial factors of our discussion, as it is in the discussions at the conference. One crucial factor is time, and the other is the question of an acceptable international or Commonwealth force to ensure security during the interim period.

Therefore, this is not an argument for a postponement. It is an argument for saying "For heaven's sake, you and the Government know that it is a nonsense to allocate two months to move out of this civil war". Incidentally, it is very rare for a civil war ever to cease overnight. By its very nature, there will be sporadic events and engagements before communication and proper order can be established. It will not be easy for agreement to be reached at Lancaster House and for a complete cessation to occur within 24 hours.

I was in action six days after the last war finished in Europe. At that time, I was on the borders of Karinthia facing a 100,000 strong group of Ustachi, Croatians and Panzers—mainly Yugoslavian-Balkan quislings who were refusing to surrender—who were trying to burst through Klagenfurt into Austria. That was after the war finished, in the highly organised situation of the Second World War. Action was still going on. It was not a small action. About 100,000 men were in that valley, and all I remember is saying "My God, I am not going to get killed a week after the war is over. I have survived it so far". If that happens in a highly organised international war, what would be the situation following a guerrilla war?

A period of two months is nonsense, because sporadic actions, problems and incidents will arise long before a Governor's arrival can establish total order throughout the country. Time will be needed to get people back to those areas where they have lived and where they ought to live and vote.

The example was given earlier of a fair, just, acceptable and known electoral list. In the last election in Rhodesia the example was given of a 108 per cent. vote in a district in relation to the population. None of us feels that our electoral list is accurate, despite years of work by an independent Boundary Commission. We know that such a thing cannot be done in two months. It is almost pointless to argue the case, and Conservative Members know that they are asking the impossible. What I am stressing is the consequence of their not openly saying what they know—that this is an impossibility. The time limit should be extended.

I urge the Government to recognise the dangers of what they are doing. If any group at all can credibly cry "Foul", or claim that the election was rigged, the consequence could be another civil war and not merely a complaint in the letters column of The Scotsman, as we had. That is the first important point.

Secondly, we are dealing with a situation that is totally unlike any electoral situation that we have seen. It arises out of a civil war. It must be remembered that people have felt strongly enough about the issue to die. They will not accept easily any infringements of electoral justice. There is no equality of contact with the media. The candidates themselves may be out of the country and may have to return. There will not be a normal broadcasting service which is structured in the same way as our own. Incidentally, our broadcasting service took many months to work out codes of conduct for dealing with elections. All these things must be done. There is also the problem of literature, because there are many areas of illiteracy.

The Minister knows that he is asking an impossibility. I beg him to see the consequences of not facing up to all these problems. There are already accusations of intimidation. There will be the same accusations and no doubt the reality of intimidation during the short space of two months because people will also be afraid. They would be afraid of the knowledge that it was not so long ago that they stepped out of a war to which they could return. Intimidation in those circumstances can be terrifying indeed.

8.15 pm

I have looked at the report of the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group, consisting of Lord Avebury, Liberal peer; Bruce Grocott, former Labour Member of Parliament; and the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley), Conservative. That makes interesting reading in relation to the last election. There is one small fact relating to domestic servants. The report stated: According to Government figures in 1979 there were 120,000 domestic servants in Rhodesia, many of whom had never been in their employers' cars in their lives, who were told that they were ready to take everybody to vote. A religious sister told us that she had talked to some domestic servants who had not wanted to vote but who had been given no choice by their employers. That is a major factor in the most highly organised areas of Rhodesia, and it is a factor that will remain. Tom Driberg used to tell the story of a motor car turning up at a rural polling station in the Home Counties. Two old ladies stepped out of the car and asked the polling officer "Where do servants go to vote for Sir Charles Napier?" They were expecting to be directed to a back door and had been taken there having been told who to vote for.

As to the role of the security forces, accusations are being made about intimidation by the Patriotic Front. However, the report says that there is evidence of intimidation by the security forces. This is the situation in which we shall try to make some attempt at legitimising the elections along Western democratic lines. This cannot be done within two months, and I doubt whether the Government believe that it can be done. I urge them to accept the amendment relating to six months. If they cannot, they should accept an interim period of four or five months. That, backed by the acceptance of a security force, is the only way in which we shall make this conference stick if agreement is reached. I urge the Government to think again.

Mr. Russell Johnston

I wish to make only a short contribution.

One of the main arguments against the Government introducing this enabling legislation at the stage that they did is illustrated by what has happened in regard to this amendment and what will happen in relation other amendments. Inevitably, we enter into a discussion of matters that are still under negotiation and about which no decission has been reached. Therefore, I do not believe that the Minister is in any position to accept an amendment that is equivalent to the Patriotic Front's position.

That does not necessarily mean that within the negotiations the Government may not reach the conclusion that that would be a proper course to take, but it is not a course that they can be expected to take this evening. In many ways that is most unfortunate. As has been said on many occasions, by bringing this legislation forward much earlier than they ought, the Government have forced us into this situation. The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) set out many of the difficulties, most of which we shall not overcome, even given the most favourable wind in Rhodesia in the search for a fair electoral process.

I want to ask only one question and make only one statement. It seems to me that one of the fundamental factors in trying to avoid intimidation in so far as we can—although there will be intimidation—is the secrecy of the ballot and the trust that people have in it. They want to be sure that the ballot will not be interfered with after it has been cast. They want to be assured that no one will know which way they vote so that they will not be subject to intimidation.

If the Minister takes the opportunity to say something about the Government's thinking on this matter, it might be to the advantage of us all. I do not ask the Government to lay down a specified time, because I hope that they will be flexible in this regard. They should not be rigid. They should consider the strong arguments for looking again at the eight-week period which they apparently propose.

Mr. Ioan Evans

I support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) in moving the amendment. The transitional arrangements requested by the Patriotic Front deserve on merit to be considered sympathetically.

Next November the people of the United States will elect a president. Already the presidential campaign has started to select a candidate. Therefore the people of the United States have 12 months in which to shape up for an election.

It may be argued that in Britain we have four weeks for elections to the House of Commons. It could be a minimum of three weeks. However, in the well-established democracy of this country the elections start well before the date of the election campaign. In the constituencies the prospective parliamentary candidates are selected one, two or three years in advance. The candidates may then make themselves known to their constituents. Although there is an announcement that the election will take place in three weeks' time, there is a long period leading up to it.

In Southern Rhodesia there is an incumbent Administration, and a well-established party with Ian Smith at its head has been in power for 14 years or more. A new party, which has been campaigning for recognition, has established itself up to a point. There has been resistance to the established regime by a group of people who have spent the best part of this period in prison or in concentration camps. They have been compelled to lead the resistance to the regime from outside the country.

The Bill says that a Governor and observers will go in to observe the election, but apparently there will be no registration of electors. The Bill also says that the change from the existing to a democratic system will take place within eight weeks. That is a physical impossibility. Since 1965 both Conservative and Labour Members of Parliament have not recognised the illegal regime in Rhodesia. In addition, it has not been recognised by other countries. People who have stood by the Government of this country say that they are prepared to return and to campaign for election, but if the Government insist on a two-month rule they will place those inside the country at an advantage compared with those at present outside it.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts (Cannock)

Does my hon. Friend agree it is surprising that the Patriotic Front has been prepared to agree to six months? Does he agree that even with a six-month period there is no question of solving all the problems of intimidation, finding out who is entitled to vote and enabling the maximum number of people to vote? The only advantage of a six-month period as compared with a two-month period is that some of the problems will at least be considerably reduced.

Mr. Evans

I agree with my hon. Friend that not only should political justice be done, but that it should be seen to be done. It will certainly not be seen to be done if the election is rushed.

If we are to establish a Government in Rhodesia we should try to create a neutral political situation there in which the electorate can consider the varying points of view put forward by the political Parties emerging in the campaign and be free to choose. We find that a three-week campaign in this country is too short. How is it possible for a short campaign to take place in a country in which people are living in primitive conditions and where there are not the sophisticated media that we have in this country?

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for York is to persist with the amendment. I hope that the arguments put to the Government in Lancaster House will be considered and that they will not persist in the ultimatum for an unconditional surrender, which was virtually put to the Patriotic Front. If the people of Rhodesia come together and there is a ceasefire, there will be a democratic campaign in the country and all parties involved in the election will accept the result. However, if the election is rushed through, that will be to the advantage of the present Government in Rhodesia and to the disadvantage of the Opposition. That will be seen by the United Nations and the Commonwealth as an unfair procedure leading up to the election.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Waltham Forest)

In considering the amendments it would be helpful if the Minister could clarify two points. First, will he confirm that the sequence of events is as follows: an agreement at Lancaster House, followed by a ceasefire on the ground, followed by the arrival of the British Governor, followed by elections, followed by the appointed day? That is not a trick question. Presumably the information is known to the Minister. I should be grateful if he would confirm, or otherwise, that that is the case.

Secondly, will he say from what particular event the electoral period will begin? The amendments argue about a period of six months. The Government want two months. I am not concerned to argue about that now. Will the period begin from the agreement at Lancaster House, from the ceasefire, or from the arrival of the British Governor?

Mr. Edward Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil)

The Minister should be more than impressed with the speeches made by the Opposition about the practicalities of the artificial time limit of two months imposed upon the period of electioneering, on which the Government insist. They speak with obvious total understanding as professionals—as we all are—on the question of electioneering. The practical issues that were raised by the Opposition should not be dismissed lightly or easily, as they apply with varying degrees to the situation that would exist in Rhodesia at the time of an election.

There is also the difficulty, if not the absurdity, of the way in which the Bill was brought forward and the lack of information and proper documentation available to the House. All Members have assumed in their speeches that there is before the Committee a document stipulating that the Government are laying down a two-month period. That is just not so. There is no document before the Committee which lays down the Government proposal for a two-month period. All we have are snippets of gossip, the odd replies to supplementary questions and one or two throw-away lines in the debate.

The only official document that has been offered to the House governing the whole period of the pre-independence arrangements is the document that was put into the Library and embodies the proposals that were put before the conference on 2 November. The paragraph relating to the whole of this debate is paragraph 10, which does not even mention a time limit. It says that the interim period must not be excessively protracted". I think that we can all agree with that.

It says that it must allow all the political parties adequate time to put their case to the people of Rhodesia. That is exactly the burden of the case advanced by Opposition Members.

8.30 pm

The document goes on to say: The longer the interim period lasts before the people of Rhodesia are given the chance to decide their political future for themselves, the greater will be the period of political uncertainty —and so on. Then it says: It is in the interests of the people of Zimbabwe that they should be enabled to choose their future leaders as soon as is reasonably possible. What has been argued by Opposition Members is that the phrase: as soon as is reasonably possible certainly does not mean two months. In no document that has been put to the Committee or the House have the Government justified the case for a two-month period. This was the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins), which I also wish to raise shortly. It is a bull point in respect of the amount of information available to us.

We have no clear statement of the time scale in which the Government are operating and to which the debate is related. My hon. Friend the Member for Waltham Forest asked about the time scale. When considering the deadline, the rundown to the date of the election, does the clock start from the time of the agreement at Lancaster House, the moment when white smoke, or something, goes up there to say "There is an agreement"? Is it two months from that moment that there should be an election? Is it two months from a ceasefire agreement being announced at Lancaster House? Is that the starting date of the election period? Is it to be two months from the time that the Governor first puts his toes on Rhodesian soil? Is that the time from which the two-month countdown begins? Or is it to begin from some time after his arrival and after a period of the handing over of the Administration? These are all perfectly reasonable and legitimate questions in the context of a debate on the time limits of the run-up to this election.

There is not one document before the Committee which clarifies or elaborates this matter. We have only the answers to a few supplementary questions. That is the absurdity into which the Committee has been placed as a result of the way in which the Bill has been brought forward and handled. The Committee has been kept wholly in the dark on the issues, except for snippets of gossip and our own bits of intelligence that we have gathered.

Yet it is clear—this is the sad thing about the whole process—that the issue of the length of the transitional period has become a major stumbling block in the process of negotiations and agreement. It is not that this is a secondary issue or one that can, sooner or later, be knocked about and decided. From snippets of information from the media and our own information, it has become a major stumbling block.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Does not my hon. Friend agree that this is a major issue because if the elections are to be in any way fair, to give any chance to organisations such as the Patriotic Front, against which the odds weigh so heavily, a reasonable period is essential?

Mr. Rowlands

I shall be making that point shortly. I was saying, however, that it is a major stumbling block, for whatever reason. We have had a totally inadequate explanation from the Government as to why they are sticking to the two-month period and from which point that period shall start. We demand clarification and a decent explanation from the Minister.

Among many of the things that we should like to raise is the time scale on which it would be possible to implement a ceasefire. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) made some very telling points based upon completely different experiences but which, nevertheless, revealed the nature of the problems of a ceasefire. It is nonsense to believe that, because a paper is signed at Lancaster House, overnight a ceasefire will take place. Mines which have been laid in paths or roads in circumstances very different from those in which an agreement may be reached cannot suddenly be removed.

A guerrilla campaign or a campaign involving liberation forces operating from two separate countries, often involved in complementary but separate operations, cannot suddenly be halted in hours or days. It takes time for a ceasefire, having been agreed, to be implemented. The members of one of the parties at the conference made the point that a ceasefire cannot be arranged and the war ended overnight.

Does the two-months period proposed by the Government start from a ceasefire declaration or from its implementation? If so, do they not underestimate the major practical problems referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West, which are applicable to this situation?

From what we understand of the Government's thinking about the lead into the election—the pre-election preparations—we should ask ourselves whether two months is a feasible time scale. We should consider what has to be done to clear the decks in order to establish not only free and fair elections, but the pre-conditions. I refer not to the electioneering period, but the period before that.

My hon. Friends have made a host of practical points about registration, how we can ensure that there is no fraud, double voting, bussing and so on. In view of what I have gleaned from the discussions that have gone on during the past two or three weeks on the process of preparing for the elections—laying down the pre-conditions for free and fair elections—we should ask ourselves whether that, too, makes nonsense of the two-month time scale I should like to draw attention to paragraph 32 of the pre-independence arrangements document. No one has so far mentioned this point. This concerns registration not only of voters, but of political parties. Paragraph 32 states: The Governor will fix a date not less than four and not more than six weeks before the elections on which political parties wishing to contest the elections should apply for registration, name each electoral district for which they wish to be registered and provide a list of the candidates whom they wish to nominate for each electoral district. That must be done within two weeks of the date set for the beginning of the two-month election period. Again, it will depend when the two-month period starts. The arrangement is that parties must register, name each electoral district for which they wish to be registered and provide a list of candidates whom they wish to nominate for each electoral district. In other words, they have to go through selection procedures of one kind or another. I do not know how the Patriotic Front, Mr. Sithole or Bishop Muzorewa organise their selection procedures, but those parties which have not been inside the country—and the Patriotic Front has been outside—are expected to comply with all those conditions in a period not less than four and not more than six weeks before the election. They have only two weeks to carry out the whole of this operation. I ask Conservative Members, who will presumably support the Government, whether they think that is a reasonable proposal.

Mr. Buchan

Would they do it here?

Mr. Rowlands

I do not know. The Conservative Party moves in mysterious ways. Certainly, the Labour Party would he incapable of organising its selection processes within such a short time. Conservative selection processes, according to what I have heard, are even more prolonged. The wives of candidates are asked to turn up and there are various other tests of social acceptability. By any standards, let alone those in a war-torn country such as Zimbabwe, the provisions of paragraph 32 of this document cannot be complied with in an election period of only two months.

That paragraph deals with only one aspect of the run-up to an election period. There is provision elsewhere in the document, for the establishment of an election council. All the parties have to be represented in a full-scale election council, to make sure that the whole operation will be reasonable, fair and impartial. We wholeheartedly support the concept of an election council but a good deal of work is involved. It has first to meet and arrange its procedures and to work out proper guidelines for the conduct of the election, to ensure that it is free and fair. That must surely be done before any election period can properly be said to begin. It cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be done in a matter of days.

From what point is the two-month election campaign to begin? Is it to be from the time when the conference finishes in London? Is it to be from the date when the Governor first puts his foot on Rhodesian soil?

Apart from arranging and implementing the ceasefire, there will be a host of practical problems of all kinds, such as the return and resettlement of refugees. The document to which I have referred quite rightly states that those outside the country will have every right to return and to involve themselves in the election. We are dealing here not only with the leaders but with the thousands of young people who for one reason or another have fled the country and are living in Mozambique, Zambia or Botswana.

Anyone who has talked, as I have, with refugees in the camps in Francis-town in Botswana, or who has seen the refugee camps in Zambia or Mozambique, will know how much work will be involved in the process of returning refugees. These refugees are as much entitled to play a part in determining the future of an independent Zimbabwe as are any of those who have stayed behind, or any European voters. The thousands of refugees have to get back to the regions in which they have previously lived. It is not simply a matter of crossing the border but of returning to the home village or town and then being able to take part in the processes of an election.

At what point is the Governor to declare that these thousands of refugees have made a successful return to their home areas? If, as a young man of 18 or 19, I had left my home to fight for my freedom, and later found myself in a camp in Botswana, Mozambique or Zambia. I would not feel in any way obligated to accept the decision of the electorate if I had not been enabled to get home in time to vote or to be involved in the electioneering process. Those who have fought the war—their kinsmen and fellow comrades—are entitled to vote in the election. That will take weeks to organise. It makes nonsense of the two-month period.

The protected villages have been secured by the existing Rhodesian security forces. Is the protected village to be dismantled and freedom of movement introduced in and out of those villages so that people can take part in the elections? My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) made the point about the problem of installing Commonwealth observers. Even the Government, I believe, accept that this will not be simply a polling day exercise. The Commonwealth observers have to be organised, introduced and brought into the process from the beginning. They have to be involved in the run-up to the election and in election day itself. It will take time to organise those observers. Is the two-month period to start from the time that the Commonwealth observers arrive? Or is the intention that they should turn up in the middle of a two-month election period?

8.45 pm

All these matters fall within the hand-over period during which the Governor assumes the responsibility and administration of this territory. This involves a period of many weeks. It is vital to know whether this will be inside or outside the two-month period.

Our basic point is that conditions for free and fair elections have to be established. There should be decent opportunity for all parties to prepare to organise themselves and to persuade the electorate that they are right. This Committee should be zealous and vigilant in trying to ensure that those conditions are well and truly met. As the Committee is not to take the point that there should be a referendum or some alternative test of acceptibility for the whole of these arrangements, an integral part of the establishment of the fifth principle, besides agreement at the Lancaster House conference, will be the elections themselves.

It was argued by some Conservative Members that the last elections involved observance of the fifth principle. We did not agree. Nor, fortunately, did the Conservative Party. But the next set of elections, in the context for which we are hoping, will be taken as an integral test of the fifth principle, that the whole operation is acceptable to the people of Zimbabwe as a whole. It is therefore doubly important that these elections are conducted in free and fair conditions. A two-month period for electioneering may seem reasonable in normal circumstances. But the circumstances in which Zimbabwe votes in its first independent elections are anything but normal.

The situation is, sadly, abnormal. We are discussing the prospect of trying to organise free and fair elections following a bitter civil war. We are talking about the prospect of organising free and fair elections when one of the parties is external to the territory. Its leaders are outside the country. They have been either banned or compelled to live outside the country for many years. One party has had the total and exclusive right to administer the country, to run and control the media, and to organise itself for a year and more, and it has had a dummy run with one set of elections already. That contrasts with the other party which has had none of these opportunities and has been excluded from the process and compelled to live for the most part outside the country.

It is very sensible and reasonable that, given the circumstances, there should be a real and proper opportunity for the other parties to organise, to construct formal civil party organisations and to get their points across in both the towns and the countryside—in other words, to have their chance to take part in free and fair elections. We must ensure that the electoral dice are not loaded against one party in this process. It behoves us, therefore, clearly to recognise that, given 14 years of UDI, given a civil war, given the exclusion of key political figures and given the state of affairs in the countryside and in the towns in Rhodesia, two months is totally inadequate for all the parties to organise and prepare themselves for free and fair elections. That is why the Opposition intend to press the amendment to a Division.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Richard Luce)

The discussions have concentrated on two amendments out of the three in this group, Nos. 7 and 35, which focus on the duration of the pre-independence period.

As the Committee can imagine, this is a very important problem which has been and is being discussed fully at Lancaster House. A number of very important matters have been raised by Opposition Members, and it would not be right to say that the Government underestimate the importance of the issue. It is important and, as I say, it has formed an important part of the discussions on the pre-independence arrangements. As the Committee probably knows, these discussions have been going on now for about three weeks.

On Second Reading, my right hon. Friend and I sought to explain the reasons for our proposal about the timing of the pre-independence period. I should like to expand a little on this, dealing especially with Her Majesty's Government's thinking about the timing. After that, I shall attempt to pick up the specific arguments advanced by Opposition Members.

I ask the Committee to consider this very important factor. We are trying to reconcile two very significant and important problems. The first is that, because of the long-lasting war, the position is extremely fragile. As everyone has acknowledged both in this debate and in the House last Thursday, there is a great deal of mistrust. We have said many times that we hope to reach agreement with all the parties. But whatever the agreement we reach, no one in his senses will deny that any agreement which leads to a casefire is bound to be exceedingly fragile, and a very important factor in our minds is that the longer we leave this, the more fragile it becomes and the more likely that it will be difficult to fulfil the objective which we all want to see attained—free and fair elections.

We have to reconcile that very important responsibility which we are taking on with the essential criterion that we must provide conditions which enable all the parties to have a free and fair opportunity to participate in the elections. We have to take those two factors into account and try to reconcile them.

Dr. Edmund Marshall

Does not the very fragility of the present position require that there should be a period of healing? If there were such a period, there would be an opportunity for consolidation and for the country to return to normal rather than become more fragile.

Mr. Luce

It is difficult to decide how to reconcile those two factors and the appropriate time needed. Although I disagree about the specific period, I agree with those hon. Members who have said that it is essential to provide conditions for free and fair elections. The Government believe that those conditions can be provided within that period. The only basis for stability for the black and white people of Rhodesia is to enable them to make their choice of Government as quickly as possible. The hon. Members for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands), for York (Mr. Lyon) and for Harlow (Mr. Newens) have said that the Government have shown no flexibility. However, when we started discussions on the pre-independence period we suggested that the basis of those discussions should be a period of two months from the conclusion of the conference.

Let us assume that there is an agreement between all the parties. The period would last for two months from that time until the election. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil is saying "It is not in this document"—

Mr. Rowlands

It is not.

Mr. Luce

However, my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary has proposed to the conference at Lancaster House that the run up to the election should be two months from the date at which the ceasefire comes into operation. The hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) raised that important point. We have shown flexibility, and I ask hon. Members to consider that seriously.

Mr. Buchan

That is an important statement, and I welcome the hon. Gentleman's remarks so far. How will he define the commencement of a ceasefire? Will it be linked to the arrival of the Governor?

Mr. Luce

As we said last Thursday, our objective, after we have secured all-party agreement, is that the Governor will arrive as soon as possible after the agreement on the ceasefire.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

The Under-Secretary has said that the Governor will arrive after an agreement to the ceasefire. The Patriotic Front has an incentive to delay that date until it has consolidated its organisation within the country. If the ceasefire were not to take place until four months after the signing of an agreement at Lancaster House, would not the Governor go to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia for four months? If so that would make nonsense of introducing this Bill.

9 pm

Mr. Luce

The Committee will not expect me to go into great detail about the discussions which are continuing on the pre-independence arrangements, or to anticipate the precise details that are worked out, as we hope they will be very shortly, concerning the ceasefire arrangements. As hon. Members will be aware, we have not yet reached the discussions on the ceasefire. We hope very shortly to secure agreement on the pre-independence arrangements which will then lead to a detailed discussion on the ceasefire.

I was answering a specific point about when the Governor would go out. At this stage I shall seek only to reiterate that our plan and our intention is that as soon as a ceasefire is agreed we should like the Governor to proceed to that country.

Mr. Rowlands

The Under-Secretary has just made the situation worse. There is even more reason now for us to be worried and concerned about the two-months period. The hon. Gentleman is now saying that the two-month period begins before the arrival of the Governor, before the establishement of the election council, before the observers arrive, and even before any handing over of administration to the Governor.

Mr. Luce

The Committee is getting a little confused, and I do not blame it. We are still embroiled in detailed negotiation, and I understand why these matters are difficult to follow. I was specifically asked when the Governor would arrive. A further point concerned the duration of the period between the conclusion of the agreement and the final election.

The Governor will arrive after the ceasefire agreement is reached at Lancaster House. That is an important point. As for the period between the Lancaster House agreement being reached and the holding of the election, I tried to explain that our thinking had adjusted in the last two or three weeks to there being a two-month period after the implementation of the ceasefire. The Committee will naturally realise that there will be a period of time—which has to be discussed—between the agreement on and the implementation of the ceasefire.

I have endeavoured to give the Committee as full a picture as I can in the circumstances and I wish to do justice to other points that have been raised. The hon. Member for Goole (Dr. Marshall) raised the question of registration. Later, under amendment No. 28, the Committee will have the opportunity to raise the issue more fully. We have looked into this matter very carefully and it would take an exceedingly long time to obtain a proper process of registration. It took Botswana, for example, a year to complete the full process of registration, and we do not see that it is possible in the circumstance of the pre-independence arrangements.

The hon. Members for Harlow and for Merthyr Tydfil asked about the Rhodesian refugees who are living in surrounding countries and what arrangements would be made for them to vote. In paragraph 19 of the pre-independence proposals we have said that the British Government will carry the responsibility of ensuring that these people have an opportunity to vote. Of course, I realise that this point was made in respect of the timing that we have in mind, and obviously we shall have to give the highest priority to making fair arrangements for these people. We have that point very much in mind.

The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) asked about a secret ballot. As he knows, the proposals provide for there to be a British election commissioner—that is one of our salient proposals—who will have a team of British advisers. Our responsibility will be to supervise the election. In that context there will of course be a secret ballot.

The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) spoke of the activities of the Patriotic Front and of unconditional surrender. We are not asking for unconditional surrender from any side. The Government seek compromise from all sides at the Lancaster House talks. It is only through compromise that we will reach agreement.

I reiterate that, on the one hand, the Government attach the highest importance to seeing that this process is carried through with the utmost speed, bearing in mind the fragility of the operation and the major responsibility which the British Government bear. On the other hand, there is the clear need to ensure that the criteria for ensuring that all parties have a free and fair chance to participate in the elections are taken very fully into account. I assure the Opposition that all the valid points that they have raised have been taken into account by the Government.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

For the reasons indicated by my right hon. Friend, we are not satisfied with that explanation. We wish to vote but we would prefer to vote on amendment No 7 which is the substantive one.

The First Deputy Chairman (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Does the hon. Gentleman wish to withdraw amendment No. 6?

Mr. Buchan

On a point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. Amendment No. 6 is the paving amendment for amendment No. 7. Amendment No. 7 is the substantive amendment.

The First Deputy Chairman

I was about to put amendment No. 6, so perhaps I should proceed on that basis.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 7, in page 1, line 6, after 'day', insert not less than six months after the passing of this Act".—[Mr. Alexander W Lyon.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 230, Noes 302.

Division No. 100] AYES [9.11 pm
Adams, Allen Dixon, Donald Johnson, James (Hull West)
Allaun, Frank Dobson, Frank Johnson, Walter (Derby South)
Anderson, Donald Dormand, Jack Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Douglas, Dick Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest Douglas-Mann, Bruce Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Dubs, Alfred Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Ashton, Joe Duffy, A. E. P. Kerr, Russell
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale) Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Dunnett, Jack Kinnock, Neil
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Lambie, David
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Eadie, Alex Lamborn, Harry
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Eastham, Ken Lamond, James
Bidwell, Sydney Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Leadbitter, Ted
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire) Leighton, Ronald
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough) English, Michael Litherland, Robert
Bradley, Tom Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Bray, Dr Jeremy Evans, John (Newton) Lyon, Alexander (York)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Field, Frank McCartney, Hugh
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Fitch, Alan McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith) Flannery, Martin McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Buchan, Norman Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston) McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McKelvey, William
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Ford, Ben MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Campbell, Ian Forrester, John Maclennan, Robert
Campbell-Savours, Dale Foster, Derek McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)
Canavan, Dennis Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood) McNally, Thomas
Cant, R. B. Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald McNamara, Kevin
Carmichael, Neil Garrett, John (Norwich S) McWilliam, John
Carter-Jones, Lewis Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Magee, Bryan
Cartwright, John George, Bruce Marks, Kenneth
Clark, David (South Shields) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Ginsburg, David Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Cohen, Stanley Golding, John Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)
Coleman, Donald Graham, Ted Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Grant, George (Morpeth) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Conlan, Bernard Grant, John (Islington C) Maxton, John
Cook, Robin F. Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Maynard, Miss Joan
Cowans, Harry Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Meacher, Michael
Cox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting) Hardy, Peter Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Crowther, J. S. Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Mikardo, Ian
Cryer, Bob Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Cunliffe, Lawrence Haynes, Frank Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)
Cunningham, George (Islington S) Heffer, Eric S. Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)
Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven) Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)
Dalyell, Tam Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) Morton, Barry
Davidson, Arthur Home Robertson, John Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Homewood, William Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Davies, E. Hudson (Caerphilly) Hooley, Frank Newens, Stanley
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Horam, John Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central) Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) O'Halloran, Michael
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) Huckfield, Les O'Neill, Martin
Deaklns, Eric Hughes, Roy (Newport) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Dempsey, James Janner, Hon Greville Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Dewar, Donald John, Brynmor Palmer, Arthur
Park, George Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L) Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Parker, John Shore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop) Watkins, David
Parry, Robert Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Weetch, Ken
Pendry, Tom Silverman, Julius Wellbeloved, James
Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down) Skinner, Dennis Welsh, Michael
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Soley, Clive White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Prescott, John Spearing, Nigel White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Price, Christopher (Lewisham Weal) Spriggs, Leslie Whitlock, William
Race, Reg Stallard, A. W. Wigley, Dafydd
Richardson, Miss Jo Stoddart, David Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Stott, Roger Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North) Strang, Gavin Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Straw, Jack Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Robertson, George Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Winnick, David
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West) Woolmer, Kenneth
Rooker, J. W. Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Roper, John Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East) Wright, Shella
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West) Thomas, Dr Roger Carmarthen) Young, David (Bolton East)
Rowlands, Ted Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Ryman, John Tinn, James TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Sandelson, Neville Torney, Tom Mr. Joseph Dean and
Sever, John Varley, Rt Hon Eric G. Mr. Austin Mitchell.
Sheerman, Barry Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Adley, Robert Cormack, Patrick Hastings, Stephen
Aitken, Jonathan Corrie, John Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Alexander, Richard Costain, A. P. Hawkins, Paul
Alison, Michael Cranborne, Viscount Hawksley, Warren
Ancram, Michael Critchley, Julian Hayhoe, Barney
Arnold, Tom Crouch, David Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Aspinwall, Jack Dickens, Geoffrey Heddle, John
Atkins, Robert (Preston North) Dorrell, Stephen Henderson, Barry
Atkinson, David (B'mouth East) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Dover, Denshore Hicks, Robert
Banks, Robert du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Hill, James
Beith, A. J. Durant, Tony Holland, Philip (Carlton)
Bell, Ronald Dykes, Hugh Hooson, Tom
Bendall, Vivian Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke) Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Eggar, Timothy Howells, Geraint
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Elliott, Sir William Hunt, David (Wirral)
Best, Keith Emery, Peter Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Bevan, David Gilroy Eyre, Reginald Hurd, Hon Douglas
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fairbairn, Nicholas Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Biggs-Davison, John Fairgrieve, Russell Jessel, Toby
Blackburn, John Faith, Mrs Sheila Johnson Smith, Geoffrey
Blaker, Peter Farr, John Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Body, Richard Fell, Anthony Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fenner, Mrs Peggy Kaberry, Sir Donald
Boscawen, Hon Robert Finsberg, Geoffrey Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Fisher, Sir Nigel Kilfedder, James A.
Bowden, Andrew Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N) Kimball, Marcus
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Fletcher-Cooke, Charles King, Rt Hon Tom
Braine, Sir Bernard Fookes, Miss Janet Kitson, Sir Timothy
Bright, Graham Forman, Nigel Knox, David
Brinton, Tim Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Lamont, Norman
Brittan, Leon Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Lang, Ian
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Fry, Peter Langford-Holt, Sir John
Brooke, Hon Peter Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Latham, Michael
Brotherton, Michael Gardiner, George (Relgate) Lawrence, Ivan
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe) Gardner, Edward (South Fylde) Lawson, Nigel
Browne, John (Winchester) Garel-Jones, Tristan Lee, John
Bruce-Gardyne, John Glimour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Bryan, Sir Paul Goodhart, Phillip Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Buck, Antony Goodhew, Victor Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)
Budgen, Nick Goodlad, Alastair Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Bulmer, Esmond Gow, Ian Loveridge, John
Burden, F. A. Gower, Sir Raymond Luce, Richard
Butcher, John Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Lyell, Nicholas
Butler, Hon Adam Gray, Hamish McAdden, Sir Stephen
Cadbury, Jocelyn Greenway, Harry McCrindle, Robert
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Grieve, Percy Macfarlane, Neil
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds) MacGregor, John
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) MacKay, John (Argyll)
Channon, Paul Grist, Ian McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)
Chapman, Sydney Grylls, Michael McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Churchill, W. S. Gummer, John Selwyn McQuarrie, Albert
Clark, Dr William (Croydon South) Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll) Madel, David
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Major, John
Cockeram, Eric Hampson, Dr Keith Marland, Paul
Colvin, Michael Hannam, John Marlow, Tony
Cope, John Haselhurst, Alan Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Mates, Michael Percival, Sir Ian Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Mather, Carol Pink, R. Bonner Stokes, John
Mawby, Ray Pollock, Alexander Stradling Thomas, J.
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Porter, George Tapsell, Peter
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Mayhew, Patrick Price, David (Eastleigh) Tebbit, Norman
Mellor, David Prior, Rt Hon James Temple-Morris, Peter
Meyer, Sir Anthony Proctor, K. Harvey Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) Raison, Timothy Thompson, Donald
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Rathbone, Tim Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Mills, Peter (West Devon) Rees, peter (Dover and Deal) Thornton, Malcolm
Miscampbell, Norman Rees-Davies, W. R. Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Rhodes James, Robert Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Moate, Roger Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Trippier, David
Monro, Hector Ridley, Hon Nicholas Trotter, Neville
Montgomery, Fergus Rifkind, Malcolm van Straubenzee, W. R.
Moore, John Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Morgan, Geraint Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Viggers, peter
Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Waddington, David
Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Robinson, Peter (Belfast East) Wakeham, John
Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Rost, Peter Waldegrave, Hon, William
Mudd, David Royle, Sir Anthony Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Murphy, Christopher Scott, Nicholas Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Myles, David Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Wall, Patrick
Neale, Gerrard Shelton, William (Streatham) Waller, Gary
Needham, Richard Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Ward, John
Nelson, Anthony Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills) Warren, Kenneth
Neubert, Michael Shersby, Michael Watson, John
Newton, Tony Silvester, Fred Wells, John (Maidstone)
Nott, Rt Hon John Sims, Roger Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Onslow, Cranley Skeet, T. H. H. Wheeler, John
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally Speed, Keith Whitney, Raymond
Osborn, John Speller, Tony Wickenden, Keith
Page, John (Harrow, West) Spence, John Wiggin, Jerry
Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Spicer, Jim (West Dorset) Wilkinson, John
Paisley, Rev Ian Sproat, Iain Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Parkinson, Cecil Squire, Robin Winterton, Nicholas
Parris, Matthew Stainton, Keith Wolfson, Mark
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Stanbrook, Ivor Young, Sir George (Acton)
Patten, John (Oxford) Stanley, John
Pattie, Geoffrey Steen, Anthony TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Pawsey, James Stevens, Martin Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Penhaligon, David Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Mr. Anthony Berry.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Spearing

I beg to move amendment No. 15, in clause 1, page 1, line 18, at end insert 'and shall be subject to affirmative approval by both Houses.'.

The First Deputy Chairman

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

No. 14, in page 1, line 17, leave out from 'section' to end of line 18 and insert 'shall be subject to the approval of each House of Parliament'. No. 16, in page 1, line 18, at end insert 'and shall be subject to negative resolution of both Houses.'.

Mr. Spearing

This is a series of probing amendments which will not detain the Committee unduly. I hope that when the Lord Privy Seal replies to the debate he will be able to explain something that might otherwise be complicated and give rise to some questions later. If he puts the issue on record in a clear way, there will be no difficulty in following his explanation.

Clauses 2 and 3 contain provisions for Orders in Council to be approved by the House. That is proper, because clause 2 brings in a new constitution and elections. Clause 3 brings in the powers of the Governor and powers of government up to the appointed day. We are told in clause 1 that the "appointed day" will be referred to in a forthcoming Act. We do not know when that Act will come, although we know from the White Paper the sort of constitution that the Government hope to include within that measure.

Clause 1(2) states: Her Majesty may by Order in Council revoke the Constitution of Southern Rhodesia 1961, and may make such transitional provision as appears to Her Majesty to be necessary or expedient in connection with the coming into effect of the new constitution or the revocation of the said Constitution of 1961. As I understand it, three constitutions are in operation. There is the 1961 constitution until it is repealed; there is the de facto constitution, under clause 3, which may from time to time be governed by the affirmative order procedure; and there is the final constitution, yet to be seen in legal form and yet to be put into a Bill or an Act, which the Government hope to bring forward.

The status of the provisions in connection with the coming into effect of the new constitution which may be necessary or expedient are not governed by an order that must pass through the House of Commons, as are the other provisions of the Bill. I understand that the coming into effect of the constitution itself will follow an agreement. That will therefore be putting into effect what has been agreed at Lancaster House or elsewhere as a new constitution. It would perhaps not be suitable for that arrangement to be included in an order to be passed by the House, or for that provision to be written into a Bill, but the transitional provisions which appear to Her Majesty to be necessary or expedient in connection with the coming into effect of the new constitution could be of a different nature.

Will the Lord Privy Seal confirm that the transitional provisions will come into effect only after a new constitution has been put into a Bill and the measure has been approved by Parliament? If that is not the position, why has he not put into the Bill a provision for the orders to be affirmed by the House of Commons, as he has in the other two clauses?

The amendment need not detain the Committee for too long. It is not necessary for us to regard the amendment other than as probing in character. However, if the next Bill is delayed for any reason, or if for some reason there is controversy about its nature and it is not enacted, it may be that the Government will wish to think about transitional provisions as may appear expedient to them. The House of Commons will have no control over what happens because it will be entirely for the Government or Her Majesty to decide what those provisions should be. It is right that the right hon. Gentleman should explain the status of the transitional provisions and their relationship to the final Act and the Bill now before us.

Sir Ian Gilmour

The question of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) may be answered fairly shortly.

The independence constitution will be promulgated by an Order in Council made under the Act. The reason why it is not open to amendment is that it is the result of an agreement between the parties at Lancaster House. It would be complicated and undesirable for the House of Commons to unravel a constitution and to try to put it before the parties again. The independence Bill that will come before the House later will have to be enacted before the independence constitution comes into effect. I hope that this is clear. The Bill has very little to do with the independence constitution except that it is necessary that the Order in Council bringing it into effect will be made under the other Bill. The rest of the independence Bill deals with the effect on English law—citizenship and so on—and has more effect here than in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. It is fully in accordance with precedent that independence constitutions are not subject to amendment by the House of Commons, for the reasons that I have given.

9.30 pm
Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to the Lord Privy Seal for his explanation, which indicated that the trigger is in this Bill and not in the constitution Bill. Can he enlighten the Committee as regards the other matters relating to transitional provisions as appear to Her Majesty to be necessary or expedient"? While they may be part of the new constitution which we shall see in legal form in due course, the Lord Privy Seal is saying, is he not, that the Government can take action relating to those matters without coming to the House of Commons at all? Can he explain why?

Sir I. Gilmour

Yes. Some of the independence constitution has to be brought into effect before independence in order to have elections. Elections will have to take place before independence. Moreover, some of the orders that will be made will not be fully in accordance with the constitution. In other words, we will not have registration of voters or constituencies whereas in subsequent elections there will be registration of voters and delimitation of constituencies.

Mr. Spearing

In view of what the Lord Privy Seal has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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