HC Deb 12 March 1980 vol 980 cc1316-9
6. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the future of Namibia.

Mr. Luce

A team of senior officials from the United Nations secretariat is in Southern Africa at present for talks with the parties to the Namibian negotiations, in an endeavour to reach agreement on arrangements for implementing the United Nations plan. Agreement was reached on certain details of the proposed demilitarised zone on Namibia's northern border in meetings between General Prem Chand, the United Nations force commander-designate, and the military authorities in Angola, Zambia and Namibia. After useful and wide-ranging discussions in Capetown with the South African Government last week, the United Nations team is now visiting capitals of the frontline States.

Mr. Townsend

Following the free and fair elections in Rhodesia, will the Government do all that they can to obtain free and fair elections in Namibia without undue delay? Can my hon. Friend confirm that economic sanctions against South Africa would be the wrong way to proceed towards that objective, because such sanctions would have to be maintained by force?

Mr. Luce

We are fully committed, as are all parties, to the United Nations plan that there should be free and fair elections held under United Nations supervision. I am sure that the House will recognise that after lengthy discussions over a long period it is important that the parties proceed as quickly as possible to an agreement, but it is only human that, after the events of the past few days in Rhodesia all the parties will want to reflect carefully on the implications for the future of Namibia.

Mr. Ford

When instructing the British representatives in the contact group, or our representative at the United Nations, on this matter, will the Government bear in mind the infrastructure of civil assistance that has been built up by South African civilian Army specialists in the operational area and which would be endangered by a withdrawal of South African troops? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Britons could usefully fill that role?

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Britain is still preoccupied with the problems of Zimbabwe, but we are equally concerned to assist the future stability of Namibia. As the hon. Gentleman knows, important discussions are taking place, with the South Africans among others, led by the United Nations team and I do not wish to pre-empt those.

I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) for not commenting on his question about sanctions. At a time when we hope that there will be an agreement on Namibia between all the parties and we are determined to do our best to help in that process, it does not seem wise, sensible or constructive to talk about sanctions.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Does my hon. Friend agree that considerable progress is being made in the settlement of the South-West Africa problem and that progress towards a more democratic government in that country has already taken place? Will he pay tribute to the part played by Mr. Dirk Mudge and the multi-racial black majority party that he leads in South-West Africa? Does my hon. Friend also agree that it would be wrong to put pressure on South-West Africa and South Africa at this time, bearing in mind that the Government of South Africa must be assessing what has occurred in Rhodesia recently? It could be counter-productive to constructive progress if great pressure were applied now.

Mr. Luce

I agree in general with my hon. Friend's latter point. I think that it is the view of all parties to the problem that after such a major event as the elections in Zimbabwe, which are bound to have an effect on the future of southern Africa as a whole, it is natural that all the parties will want to reflect. At the same time, it is important that if we are to achieve a settlement in Namibia—which everyone wants and which is in the interests of everyone—we should proceed as rapidly as we can.

Mr. Rowlands

What are the areas of difficulty and the obstacles to achieving an internationally acceptable agreement for Namibia to proceed to free and fair elections? Will the hon. Gentleman draw the important lesson from Zimbabwe and realise that a flawed and inadequate internal settlement in Namibia will not produce a stable and peaceful settlement?

Mr. Luce

Since the United Nations team under General Prem Chand and the political team are involved in detailed discussions, the issue focuses on the demilitarised zone and the proposal to provide adequate security to enable free and fair elections to take place. Many aspects of the problem are still being discussed and all the parties to the dispute, not just South Africa, are anxious to clarify many of the aspects of the proposals involved in setting up a demilitarised zone.

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