HC Deb 12 March 1980 vol 980 cc1312-5
4. Mr. Winnick

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the latest position in Zimbabwe.

10. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the arrangements for transferring power to the new majority Government in Zimbabwe.

Sir Ian Gilmour

Mr. Mugabe has been appointed Prime Minister and has submitted a full list of Ministers to the Governor. Arrangements will be made shortly for the election of the Senate and of a President Elect. The date of independence is being discussed between the Governor and Mr. Mugabe.

Mr. Mugabe has asked for assistance from Britain in a number of fields, including military and police training, the resettlement of members of the forces of both sides and advice on the machinery of government and on broadcasting. We shall respond positively to these requests. Decisions on longer-term capital aid can be reached only after the new Government have set their priorities. An aid mission will visit Rhodesia as soon as practicable after independence.

The Government have informed the Commonwealth Secretary-General of Mr. Mugabe's request that Zimbabwe should become a member of the Commonwealth. The proposal has our full support and the Government hope that other Commonwealth members will agree in time for Zimbabwe to come to independence within the Commonwealth. In that event, the necessary adjustments to the Zimbabwe Act and other United Kingdom laws will be made by Order in Council.

Mr. Winnick

We all wish the new Government and country well. Should not the South African authorities learn the true lesson from recent events, namely that the tide of history and majority rule in Africa cannot be stopped and that it is essential that black people in South Africa, too, get the rights and freedoms that the people of Zimbabwe are to achieve?

Sir I. Gilmour

That may or may not be so. I do not think that it arises on this question.

Mr. Evans

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the stand taken by hon. Members on both sides of the House, over a long period, to the effect that there should be democratic elections in Rhodesia to achieve true representation of the people, has been fully justified? Will he give consideration to the suggestion by Prime Minister Mugabe that there should be a period of time before independence is granted?

Sir I. Gilmour

Of course, I agree with what the hon. Gentleman says about the elections. They have been free and fair elections. We welcome that. I see fully the force of what the hon. Gentleman says about the date of independence. As he may have heard in my original answer, this matter is being discussed by Mr. Mugabe and the Governor.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Since good relations with South Africa are important to the new Zimbabwe in economic and other ways, will my right hon. Friend use his influence to persuade Mr. Mugabe and the other front-line States not to rush their fences, and to allow the South Africans to settle down and get used to the new situation so that, in the end, all may benefit?

Sir I. Gilmour

What my hon. Friend says is absolutely right. My hon. Friend will have noticed the careful statement, or remarks, made by Mr. Mugabe about relations with South Africa, and he will no doubt have welcomed them.

Mr. Jay

Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer mean that a further legislative order has to come before the House before independence is formally and constitutionally established?

Sir I. Gilmour

It merely means there will have to be an amendment by Order in Council, as envisaged under the Zimbabwe Act. There has to be an order creating the independence of Zimbabwe, anyway whether or not Zimbabwe is a member of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

Are there any signs that, as a result of this huge election victory and his overriding majority in the new Parliament of Zimbabwe, Mr. Mugabe will seek to introduce constitutional changes differing from what was agreed at Lancaster House?

Sir I. Gilmour

So far, no. But it is early days. I cannot speculate. Mr. Mugabe has a majority sufficient to make some constitutional changes but not others, since some parts of the constitution are entrenched and need the 100 per cent. assent of the Assembly.

Mr. Shore

May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his original and forthcoming reply? May I also offer my congratulations on the outcome of the whole process of settlement that began in Lusaka and was concluded in Salisbury last week? It has been a major success for Britain and the whole Commonwealth.

Will the right hon. Gentleman turn his mind more to the urgent need for reconstruction in a war-torn Zimbabwe? Will he look again at the proposals for helping with land purchase for resettlement, mentioned during the Lancaster House conference and a major theme of the 1977 White Paper? That, I am sure, would be of enormous help and would be very stabilising to the new Zimbabwe Government.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider carefully any requests made to the Governor not to terminate abruptly his stay in Salisbury but to consider prolonging it until certain important interim matters have been settled, in consultation with the new Prime Minister?

Sir I. Gilmour

I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his kind words. I should like to thank him for the valuable tour that he carried out before and during the election. As was stated at Lancaster House, the British Government would be prepared to help with any agricultural development plan undertaken by the new Government. If an agricultural development bank or an equivalent institution were set up to promote agricultural development, including land settlement, the British Government would be prepared to contribute to the initial capital required and to support the efforts of the new Government to obtain assistance from other Governments. An ODA mission will visit Rhodesia as soon as possible after independence for further discussions on that and other priorities still to be identified with the new Government.

On the final point, I hope that it was implicit in what I said earlier that we are not rushing these matters. I take account of what the right hon. Gentleman has said. The Governor and Mr. Mugabe are discussing the matter during the next day or two.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. This matter also comes up on a later question on the Order Paper.

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