HC Deb 24 June 1981 vol 7 cc236-8
8. Mr. Skinner

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he proposes to take any new initiatives in connection with civil rights for the black community in South Africa.

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

No, Sir. But we shall continue to take every opportunity to stress to the South African Government our strong conviction that lasting peace in that country depends on rapid progress towards the extension of full political and civil rights to all South Africans of whatever race.

Mr. Skinner

Will the Government go even further and call upon British firms with South African connections—such as British Leyland and Rowntrees, with its subsidiary in South Africa, which doles out large sums of money to the Social Democratic Party and the Liberals—to stop their brutal form of apartheid by paying starvation wages to the black South Africans?

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman takes a remarkably unconstructive attitude towards this problem. It would be healthy if more of us spent more time dwelling on those British companies in South Africa that are trying to take a lead by providing extra opportunities for black people. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would spend more time thinking about that.

Mr. Stokes

Are not these foreign affairs questions, and is it not the main duty of the British Government to look after British interests in the whole of southern Africa rather than to make unproductive and useless comments on other matters?

Mr. Luce

I entirely agree.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does the Minister recall the tough line taken by the Government over British participation in the Olympic Games? However, when it comes to sporting contacts with South Africa, sporting organisations seem to receive only a mild rebuke, followed by a wink and a nod from the Minister responsible for sport to go ahead. Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that there is a perpetual invasion of the human rights of the coloured population in South Africa by police armed with guns and tear gas? Is it not time that the Government took an equally tough line in this respect?

Mr. Luce

Our approach over the Olympics and South Africa has been entirely consistent. Whether with regard to the Olympics or under the Gleneagles agreement on South Africa, we have sought to use whatever means we can to persuade sportsmen not to participate. However, we are a democracy and we believe in individual liberty. Consequently, we believe that it is wrong to use Government powers to prevent sportsmen from exercising their rights.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Does not my hon. Friend agree that attempts to persuade the Government to engage in a boycott of South African sport merely undermines the efforts of those who have achieved a great deal in moving towards multi-racial sport in South Africa, as would have been the case on the football field?

Mr. Luce

It would be churlish, wrong and highly irresponsible not to acknowledge evidence that change has taken place in South Africa. Although that may still be on a modest scale, it is nevertheless happening. While we are fully committed to the Gleneagles agreement, as soon as there is clear evidence of greater integration on the sporting field, that will be the time to review that agreement.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Does not the Minister agree that it is now time for the British and other Western Governments, especially the United States, to take a much tougher line on civil rights in South Africa? Does he not also agree that the greatest danger to peace in southern Africa, the surest magnet for insurrection and subversion in South Africa, and the greatest danger to Britain's commercial and strategic interests in South Africa lie with the evil regime in Pretoria?

Mr. Luce

It is self-evident that it is in the interests of the West to explain to the South African Government that, so long as government is not based on the consent of all the people concerned, there is likely to be instability. Therefore, it is as much in the interests of the South African Government and people that there should be change. That is the task and objective of Britain and other Western Governments.

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