HC Deb 28 November 1979 vol 974 cc1273-4
8. Miss Joan Lestor

asked the Lord Privy Seal what reaction he has received from the front-line Presidents at the passing of the Southern Rhodesia Act and if he will make a statement.

Sir Ian Gilmour

The Presidents of the front-line States were informed of the contents and purpose of the Southern Rhodesia Bill at the time it was introduced. None of them made any formal comment about it to Her Majesty's Government. The debate at that time gave hon. Members the opportunity to discuss all aspects of the Rhodesia question. Since then, the Patriotic Front has accepted our proposals for the transitional period before independence and discussions are now proceeding on a ceasefire. I shall make a further statement when there are significant developments to report.

Miss Lestor

Could not the Lord Privy Seal be a little more forthcoming? Could he say, for example, what arrangements have been made during the transitional period for the peaceful return of all refugees and political exiles from Zambia, for example, to Southern Rhodesia in time for the elections? What further representations has he made about the constant bombing and infiltration into Zambia by the Rhodesian forces at a time when we are trying to organise a ceasefire?

Sir I. Gilmour

The hon. Lady will remember that we stated earlier that we shall facilitate the return of refugees as soon as we can. On the second point, the hon. Lady may have been in the House last week when I answered a private notice question on this point. We deplore all violence by either side at this very delicate stage of the negotiations. We are very close to an agreement and anything which endangers that is thoroughly to be deplored.

Mr. Amery

I fully appreciate that the process of negotiating takes time, but is my right hon. Friend aware that there is growing anxiety on the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia/Salisbury side about the delay in implementing the dateline that his right hon. and noble Friend laid down? Could my right hon. Friend tell us how much further this dateline will be stretched?

Sir I. Gilmour

Naturally we want to proceed as quickly as possible. Everyone will accept that. Equally, my right hon. Friend will probably concede that the date was postponed because of what happened in Zambia last week. I cannot give a dateline, but I can assure my right hon. Friend that we are as anxious as anyone to proceed as quickly as possible.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Have the Government accepted the principle of a Commonwealth peacekeeping force? If not, why not, particularly in view of the fact that Bishop Muzorewa is now increasing his private army to 25,000 at the expense of the taxpayers in Rhodesia?

Sir I. Gilmour

The hon. Gentleman has a fairly short memory. In view of what he said during the debate on the Southern Rhodesia Bill, I should have thought that he would have been more careful in his present comments. He will appreciate that we are discussing these matters at present. We had a three-hour discussion with the Patriotic Front last night and another two-hour discussion this morning and I shall be returning to discuss matters with them as soon as questions and the statement have been dealt with. I hope that the House will understand the position if we confine discussions on the ceasefire to the Lancaster House discussions and wait until we make a statement in the House.