HC Deb 24 July 1985 vol 83 cc1147-87 10.48 pm
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

It is right that the House should not rise for the recess before it discusses in more detail than we could today at Question Time the current position in South Africa. We are grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing us a longer debate than the one that has just ended. It will give us the opportunity to deploy some of the arguments at length and, I hope, allow the Government to deploy their arguments on a position that is clearly changing hourly.

Discrimination against people for various reasons is widespread on our planet. Our task should be to expose and oppose it wherever we find it. Without doubt—my hon. Friends will agree with me entirely—the most evil form of discrimination is that based on the colour of a person's skin. A Government whose existence depends on such discrimination are, by their nature, an evil Government. South Africa has such a Government. It is an evil system, where the Government rule by terror, and we should play no part in sustaining them. That is one of the reasons why we wish to put some reasoned questions to the Government about why they are not changing their policy.

By any international definition, South Africa is a high risk and unstable country. This has to be taken on board as much by those—if there are any left—who think of emigrating there as by those who are trustees of investment funds and have to approve investments there. There is no obligation on the trustee of a pension fund to approve investments in a high risk, unstable country.

For decades, warnings have been given inside and outside the House, and inside and outside the country, that South Africa would one day blow apart unless its rulers abandoned the evil system of apartheid. These warnings have been ignored both inside South Africa and, by and large, by United Kingdom companies operating there. There is the classic situation of a lack of movement and a stubborness to respond to reasonable demand, leading in the end to a clash that will be more serious and violent than it would have been if reasonable demands had been met.

As we sit here in the comfort and security of the Mother of Parliaments and debate the issues of the day, people are being arrested without charge—665 in the past few days —and are being killed by the hour. Concerned human beings around the world have trembled as they switched to the broadcasts of the past few days. World leaders, in the West in particular, are beginning to wake up, and we hope that our Government are not last in the queue.

We do not have to go back too far to see how much complacency there was in the West. I do not intend to recite the catalogue of history, as I need go back only a few months. I quote one question and answer in a press conference in December last year, just after the United States President had met Bishop Tutu. The questioner asked President Reagan: But the regime has become more repressive and the arrests have increased. Would you consider any kind of economic sanctions? And do you feel that your policies have, at all, given credibility to that regime? President Reagan answered: I know that there has been a surge of violence here and there, and that has resulted in violence from the other side. We regret this. But, as I say, I think the policy we're following—and it wouldn't be quiet diplomacy any more if I started talking about things openly — but, we have made solid progress, and we want to continue doing that. In December last year, he was talking about "solid progress" and "quiet diplomacy". He now talks about "constructive engagement", a phrase that our Government have picked up parrot fashion. It means nothing, although the Minister may try' to explain to us later what it means. At the moment, there is constant violence, a state of emergency in South Africa, with literally hundreds of people killed in the past few months. There was another large massacre on the 25th anniversary of Sharpeville, which came after the United States President spoke. People in South Africa are disappearing, in the well-known way of South America. There will be a catalogue of people who have disappeared.

Since President Reagan spoke, at least the Senate and the House of Representatives have voted for some form of economic sanctions. They have not voted for the same form, and I understand that discussions on that are taking place. At least the United States Government recalled their ambassador after the raid into Botswana—a raid purely designed to take out the peaceful opposition.

As an aside, I thank the Foreign Office and the Home Office for enabling two young teenagers to make a quick trip to Botswana to attend the funeral of their uncle, who was killed there, by making passports available. I know the Minister of State who deals with South Africa has put on record the Government's position about what happened.

We do not want our country to become isolated on the issue of South Africa. Between Question Time in the House today and this debate, it appears that France has moved. It has recalled its ambassador and has taken a United Nations initiative and banned all new investment. Some months ago, France was threatening to ban new investment after 18 months if things did not change. France has now responded to the changed situation and is to be commended.

I have a slight criticism of the BBC. When this was being reported on the "PM" programme earlier this evening, the BBC reporter in a London studio spoke to a reporter in France, and could not resist asking him if the news would be welcomed in France or would it be seen as a sop to the Left wing. The reporter in Paris said the public in France were scandalised by what was happening in South Africa. I do not know why the BBC have to put that kind of innuendo about a French action designed to meet the situation.

Norway has initiated a ban on the flights of Scandinavian Airlines System to South Africa. There will be no new investment from Sweden or Denmark, and Canada has also taken action. The Republic of Ireland has considered economic sanctions, although I admit it has been pushed on by what the South Africans would describe as 11 urban guerillas working for a Dublin supermarket. They were sacked for refusing to handle Outspan oranges and grapefruit at a checkout as a sign of solidarity over what was happening in South Africa. At least that Government have taken cognisance of that and they have to be followed by other Governments. New Zealand has called it a day and has broken off diplomatic relations.

When the United States imposes some kind of economic sanctions, as everyone knows it will, our Government will look stupid and isolated—until the day that we fall into line and then we will look like a client state of the United States. That situation can be avoided. We do not want it to arise and, I suspect, neither does the Government. It is in their hands to do something about it.

I am not sure whether the Foreign Secretary in his speech yesterday called for six bold steps, or said that if anyone wanted to take six bold steps, here they were, or whether he said, "Here are the ones we think should be taken, and this is what we are going to do to see they are taken." I am not sure what he said, but I expect the Minister will give us more details. The Foreign Secretary called for the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela; for an end to forced removals and detention without trial; an early end to the state of emergency; for progress on the abolition of discriminatory legislation; and for a commitment to some form of common citizenship. I would welcome an elaboration on the words "some form".

We also want to know what plans Her Majesty's Government have for turning the six bold steps the Foreign Secretary talked about into reality? Have the Government imposed a time limit before they will take some action to try to make the South African Government do something about the situation? Do the Government think that those six bold steps add up to political equality in South Africa? Do they think they meet that test? A generation of young South African blacks under the age of 24 have lived all their lives while Nelson Mandela has been in prison. Look at their existence today. They do not have a vote and 3½ million of them are unemployed. That is one in seven whereas the figure is one in 60 for the whites. They see after 23 years that there is still a stubborn refusal on the part of the white regime to meet and discuss the issues of political equality. They are told, in effect, that they will remain subjugated by the whites. In heaven's name, what is their choice? They will fight for freedom, as people all over the world will fight for freedom — to echo the phrases that the Prime Minister has used in the House—and they will fight in the knowledge that they will suffer most in the early part of the struggle. But they have no other road to take. They will pay the price that others have had to pay if they wanted to be free.

That is the position facing the young blacks. Their future looks hopeless and terrible. I wonder what people expect them to do when they see no hope. In the interview published in The Times today, Nelson Mandela was asked about one aspect of the "six bold steps". I accept that the interviewer said that the interview was conducted without notes, but the report says: I asked Mandela if he took hope for the Government amending laws banning interracial marriage and easing laws that limit black entry into urban areas. He smiled: 'you are speaking about pinpricks', he said. 'Frankly, it is not my ambition to marry a white woman or to swim in a white pool. The central issue is political equality. Our programme is clear', Mandela went on. 'It is based on three principles: a unified South Africa —no artificial `homelands'; black representation in the central Parliament, not membership in the kind of apartheid assemblies that have been newly established for the Coloureds and the Asians; and one man, one vote.' How does that square with the "six bold steps" for which the Foreign Secretary has called and how can it be related to the situation facing young blacks in South Africa?

Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for missing the start of his speech. Perhaps he told the House when he was last in South Africa. If not, I hope that he will inform us. The hon. Gentleman proposes economic sanctions against South Africa, but will he tell us on whom those sanctions will bear?

Mr. Rooker

The hon. Gentleman can make his own speech. It goes without saying that I have never been to South Africa. One does not need to go to South Africa to understand the British Government's relations with that country.

Why have Governments of both parties tried to impose restrictions, conditions and codes of conduct on British companies operating in South Africa? There must be a reason for that. Even the Government understand that there is a problem. Otherwise, they would not propose codes of conduct. Is the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) saying that there is no problem in South Africa?

I accept that people in South Africa know that they will have to pay a price. It is easy for me in the security of the Mother of Parliaments to say that I will help to impose that price on them. Some in South Africa say that sanctions will hurt them more than the Government, but people are prepared to pay a price for freedom. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to contradict me, I shall argue that case with him, but I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) will recite chapter and verse how Governments have imposed economic sanctions to bring about changes in internal conditions in countries with which we disagree. There is nothing wrong with that. In this case, the ends justify the means because of the refusal over decades of the South African Government to act reasonably towards the majority of citizens in their own country.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the question of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) is almost inane? Before the war, Labour Members could have been asked whether they had been to Nazi Germany. Was it necessary for people to go to Hitler's Germany to understand the terrible tyranny there? Is not it unfortunate that a number of Conservative Members go to South Africa quite frequently as guests of the South African authorities?

Mr. Rooker

I could not have responded better than my hon. Friend.

Mr. Wiggin


Mr. Rooker

No, I will not give way. If the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare is prepared to participate in the debate, I assume that, should he catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, he will be able to make his own speech, as he is clearly such an expert on the situation.

We are told that British companies can help by following the code of conduct. I know that the code of conduct has been changed over the years and incorporated into European situations, but I want to raise two questions on the code, which British companies are supposed to follow. Why on earth should the blacks in South Africa have to rely on the company house, the company bus, the company school or the company medical centre as a wary of improving their living standards? These are all points in the code of conduct. It is the right of the blacks in their own country to be able to organise the Government and the running of these facilities for themselves. It should not be for the British Government to say to a British company, Help create the odd company town to help the blacks, because their own Government are not interested in doing it". I raise this matter because some of these companies are the same companies which, in the United Kingdom, have refused British workers the right to hold ballots on political funds at the workplace. How on earth can we trust multinational companies which act in that way in our own country to do the right thing thousands of miles away in South Africa? They clearly cannot be trusted.

According to a reply to a parliamentary question on 2 July, United Kingdom exports of data processing equipment since 1982 have jumped into second place as our principal export commodity. Data processing equipment is the very equipment for running the bureaucracy of apartheid, and the exports should be stopped. The equipment did not appear on the list three years ago. The only use for it is in assisting that bureaucracy.

There are plenty of places in the world from which to get fruit and vegetables other than South Africa. It is not necessary for supermarkets to deal almost exclusively in products from South Africa. It is not necessary to fill up the stores with Cape and Outspan. People do not have to buy it, the supermarkets do not have to stock it and we should not have to import it. I accept that, in the early period, this would have a damaging impact on the economy of South Africa, but it is the purpose of economic sanctions to have a damaging impact so that the South African Government will effect some internal changes to bring about a situation acceptable to the civilised world.

What do we want from the Government? I will list a few points, and my hon. Friends can develop others. Will the Government and the Minister condemn the new apartheid constitution? I do not know whether the Minister has gone on record as condemning it. Will the Government support sanctions on the question of Namibian independence? We ought to have an answer to that before the international discussions which are to take place later this year. Will the Government stop blocking the efforts at the United Nations to improve collective international measures? Indeed, will they support today's new initiative of France, a country which is our closest geographical partner in the European Community? Will the Government agree to meet the President of the African National Congress for consultation? Will the Government implement the arms embargo strictly? It should be borne in mind that earlier this months five people were sentenced at Birmingham Crown court for arms smuggling. That may still be an issue which entrepreneurs somewhere are considering, and stricter implementation of the arms embargo is necessary. Will the Government accept the 10-point plan of the anti-apartheid movement?

Ministers can change their policy. I would rather that they followed the French and withdrew our ambassador for consultations than that they followed the Americans later. As sure as night follows day, when the Americans move, we follow them. I do not want that to happen. I hope that the Government will respond tonight to the changing position in South Africa in at least the same minimal way that the French Government have responded.

11.10 pm
Sir Patrick Wall (Beverley)

About 20 years ago I found myself as the British representative on the third committee of the United Nations which dealt with colonial problems. My references to apartheid caused official complaints from the then South African Foreign Minister. At that time I and a number of my hon. Friends now in the House fought to keep Cape coloureds on the parliamentary lists. The Nationalist Government removed them and have now put them back into Parliament. We objected to the gerrymandering of the boundaries by the Nationalist Government to favour their party in the elections.

Since then I have visited South Africa many times and I have always made a point of talking to black African leaders such as Chief Buthelezi, the Chief Minister of KwaZulu and Mr. Motlana of the Soweto committee of 10. Each visit showed me a change, although slow, for the better. Under President Botha these changes have accelerated. Black trade unions are now legal: they were not some years ago. Pass laws, mixed marriages and influx control are being altered or abolished. That is progress. The Indians and the coloureds now have seats in Parliament — perhaps in a separate Chamber, but they have seats and votes. A commission of the Cabinet is sitting to try to find a constitution for the future of the black majority in South Africa. Their probable place in the kaleidoscope of states was explained to me some years ago. As yet it is not official, but we hope that the commission will report in the near future.

The trouble is that when there is a loosening of controls, those who want revolution rather than evolution resort automatically to violence. How can this House demand an end to the state of emergency when more than 500 black men have been killed mainly by fellow blacks—not by the police? They have been killed by members of the ANC or UDF. Would we like to listen to a debate in the South African Parliament interfering with our relations in Northern Ireland? How can we demand the release of Nelson Mandela when he refuses to give up violence? Would we release a convicted leader of the IRA if he refused to do the same in similar circumstances? Of course we would not. The trouble is that here, in the United States and in Europe, South Africa is equated with a European country and is treated by European standards. South Africa is not a European country. it is an African country. To be fair, we must compare what happens in South Africa with what happens in other African states such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana and so on. Then we shall have a fair perspective. But that is not done by the western nations, which is part of the trouble.

It is estimated that 1.5 million blacks from other countries may now be working in South Africa, and on whose work some 10 million non-South African blacks depend for their livelihoods. In other words, they prefer South Africa, with all its imperfections and all its racial overtones, to their own countries, ruled often by dictators or generals.

Our colonial history has shown that once we proceed along the road to liberalisation, there is violence, followed by concessions, followed by more violence, followed by a hand-over to a group or a tribe and then one man, one vote, once.

South Africa is not a colony. It is the most powerful industrialised state in the continent of Africa. The Government of South Africa will not, for reasons that must be obvious to everybody, surrender to the concept of one man one vote. They see the consequences of that in the rest of Africa, where there are not large numbers of indigenous white people. They want progress towards some form of confederation between the various racial groups. That will take time to achieve, but it cannot be achieved under the threat of violence.

By all means let us apply moral pressure on the South African Government to move faster, but it is wrong to use that country as a whipping boy, and it would be wrong to impose sanctions or disinvestment. That would only cause the Afrikaaner section of the population to laager up and have disastrous effects on the black population, whose leaders are almost wholly opposed either to sanctions or to disinvestment.

Who can deny that progress was being made before the latest violence started? Only 2.9 per cent. of all job categories are now reserved for whites. It was a much higher percentage only five or six years ago. About 1.3 million people are members of 77 black or mixed trade unions. There were no African trade unions some years ago. Black workers' salaries increased by 40 per cent. between 1970 and 1979. The incomes of black people in South Africa are two to five times higher than in other independent African states. That is why the country attracts so many people from those African states. In 1970, the ratio of black workers' salaries to those of whites was 25 to 75 per cent. By 1980, that gap had been narrowed to 40 to 60 per cent. respectively. In other words, the salaries of the blacks are moving up rapidly, and there is now quite a large black middle class.

Since 1970, black wages have risen in real terms by 95 per cent., compared with a rise in white wages of 11 per cent. Thus, a levelling up is taking place. Not enough is being done, many will say, but give them time. All of that would be destroyed by revolution, which, there is no question in my mind is desired by some Opposition Members. Bloody revolution would destroy the whole country, and that would delight some of them.

Mr. Michael Meadowcroft (Leeds, West)

Can the hon. Gentleman explain the paradox? If the situation for blacks in South Africa is as beneficial to them as he suggests, why is it necessary to deny them the vote that would enable them to express their satisfaction with the system?

Sir Patrick Wall

I am not saying that it is entirely beneficial for the blacks. I am simply suggesting that to bring them to equality, economically and politically, takes time and education, and that is not fully widespread at present. [Interruption.] If we imposed sanctions or disinvestment, black Africans would receive little education. One need only think of some of the other countries in the continent.

Nor should we lose sight of British interests. Those are often forgotten by some hon. Members. British investments in the Republic of South Africa are said to total £3 billion. Many British jobs would be at stake if, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) suggested we were to impose sanctions. South Africa controls many of the world's key minerals, not to mention the Cape oil route.

In a black Marxist state, or even in a non-aligned state that we should see if somebody such as Nelson Mandela came to power, would South Africa be likely to be a friend of the West in any future conflict? I doubt it. One need only look at some of the other states, for example, a little further north at Zimbabwe.

To sum up, we should stop comparing South Africa with Europe. They are completely unalike. Give the South Africans time. They have moved, and they are moving faster than ever before under P. W. Botha. Give them a little more time and I am sure that they will evolve a prosperous society which is fair to all. Their leaders—black, white, coloured or Indian—face the most difficlt task in the world today. They will succeed if only we stop interfering with them.

11.20 pm
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

The hon. Member for Beverley (Sir P. Wall) has defended southern African regimes for a long time, including South Africa itself, what was Southern Rhodesia and a number of other countries, some of which were occupied by Portugal. He is well known for his views. He has lost out on all these places except South Africa, and I am convinced that he will lose out there as well.

Sir Patrick Wall

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied with what has happened in Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe and many other countries, either economically or politically?

Mr. Winnick

It is clear that the hon. Gentleman would like to revert to the former colonialism. When I said that he would lose out on South Africa, I meant that the regime and the sort of rule which he defends will not win. It is that to which I shall address myself, like my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), whom I congratulate on initiating this important debate.

No one should be surprised by events in recent months in South Africa. They are the inevitable results of policies pursued since the National Party won the election in 1948. All the instruments of the South African state have been used to oppress, harass and humiliate the large majority of that country's people. It is said that changes have taken place, but in the main the changes have been cosmetic. They have done nothing to give the African majority basic political and human rights. The hon. Member for Beverley has spoken about outside pressure; even the small changes which have taken place have arisen only because of international pressure. Does anyone imagine that there would have been any modification in the apartheid system if there had not been international pressure?

Mr. Wiggin

Of course there would. Has the hon. Gentleman been to South Africa?

Mr. Winnick

It was said that international pressure would merely harden the attitude of the authorities. There has been that pressure, and it will continue as long as the majority are discriminated against because of the colour of their skin. That is the reason for the unrest and the explosion in South Africa over recent months. That explains the renewed interest in the country, especially in the United States as well as some European countries, and the events taking place within it.

Many of us deeply resent the attitude of the Minister of State's ministerial counterpart, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), who I understand is now in Moscow. When he was interviewed on the radio the other day he gave a sort of lecture about Bishop Huddleston. We deeply respect the bishop, who has championed human rights and proved himself to be a steadfast campaigner against apartheid. Someone like him does not require any lectures from Ministers.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, West)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Winnick

I shall not give way now.

Mr. Carlisle


Mr. Winnick

Not now. I am not giving way at this moment. I remember listening to and watching Bishop Huddleston interviewed as long ago as 1960 on "Panorama", when he was explaining the boycott of South African goods that was about to be imposed. Even before 1960—those who have read his book will understand—he was a steadfast champion of human rights in South Africa.

Mr. Carlisle

The hon. Gentleman should be fair to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind). The criticism that he made of Bishop Huddleston was directed to his attack upon Alan Paton, the writer, whom he described as a broken man when the latter was criticising disinvestment. My hon. Friend was criticising the bishop for that reason and not because of the position that he held generally.

Mr. Winnick

The interview to which I listened made it clear to me that the Minister was wider in his criticism of Bishop Huddleston. What a contrast between the bishop and others like him, including of course Bishop Tutu in South Africa, and the attitude of the Prime Minister, who last year welcomed Mr. Botha to Britain. He was given a warm reception by her and he was a distinguished state guest. No doubt the Prime Minister told him that changes were necessary in South Africa. Mr. Botha expected her to urge changes along those lines. She was only going through a ritual.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

What about Gorbachev?

Mr. Winnick

The Prime Minister is not at all concerned about events in South Africa. She went through the ritual of telling the South African Prime Minister that certain changes were necessary, but she had no deep commitment. The Prime Minister has no greater commitment to fundamental changes in South Africa than the Conservative Members who are busy heckling me.

I welcome, as far as it goes, the statement on the state of emergency in South Africa issued by the Foreign Ministers of the European Community. We should bear it in mind, though, that more than 50 per cent. of foreign investment in South Africa comes from EEC member states. Britain remains the biggest single investor, with £7 billion of investment, accounting for 10 per cent. of total British overseas investment. A good part of the capital that should be invested in Britain to create employment goes to places such as South Africa. More than 600 British firms have invested there, some of them heavily. A third of the leading British firms in South Africa do not recognise independent black unions. Many invest to make the maximum profit by paying the lowest possible wage in a place where black employees cannot bargain collectively over conditions. These companies have a profitable stake in apartheid.

Conservative Members who do not like criticism of one of their favourite states will have to accept that their view differs greatly from ours. Let us give some credit to the Tory party—the views that are being expressed by the half a dozen Tory Members in the Chamber do not reflect, I hope, the views of the majority of that party.

I warmly welcome the French Government's action which was announced today. They were right to say that no more investment will go to South Africa. I am also pleased that they have recalled their ambassador. At Question time today I said that the British ambassador should be recalled. The trouble with the British Government is that they give the impression that they are firm allies of the South African authorities. They do not want to take any action that would be seen in South Africa and on the international scene as liable to cause embarrassment there.

There should be a policy of disinvestment towards South Africa; disinvestment along the lines announced today by the French Government should be pursued by the British Government. However long the fight, the African majority and its allies will win their rights in South Africa.

The hon. Member for Beverley said that some of us want revolution in South Africa. Surely this has been the essence of the argument all along—as long as apartheid continues and the large majority are denied their rights, there are bound to be events that lead to conditions like those at present. There is no better way of achieving outright revolution in South Africa than continuing with the policy that has been followed in that country since 1948. For all we know, some of the Conservative Members who are present may be underground revolutionaries who pretend to be otherwise. Perhaps their motive is the very revolution about which they warn.

On what side of the struggle in South Africa is Britain to be seen? For a long time we have said that the British labour movement is on the side of the oppressed majority in South Africa. We have made our position clear at conference after conference in the Labour party and in the trade unions. We shall want firm action by the next Labour Government, including economic sanctions. We want the United Kingdom completely to dissociate itself from the tyranny in South Africa.

There are many repressive regimes in the world, and I would be the last to claim that South Africa is the only tyranny. There are far too many dictatorships and regimes which my hon. Friends and I would in no way defend or condone. Some are in Africa and some are elsewhere, and there have been many in the past. However, there is one obvious difference between the tyranny in South Africa and other repressive regimes, which some Conservative Members refuse to acknowledge, which is that only in South Africa is one penalised from the moment one is born to the day one dies for one reason—the colour of one's skin. Even present Ministers have acknowledged that. No other regime is based on that vile principle. That is why there is such strength of feeling, and why, during the past months, the United States Senate has passed resolutions and the groundswell there has continued to press for firmer and far more effective action by their Government against South Africa.

There is no doubt in my mind that the people of South Africa will win their rights, despite the Conservative Right wing. No doubt there were such Tory MPs before the war. When Labour Members, such as Philip Noel-Baker raised the plight of what was happening in Nazi Germany, such people said, "Why exaggerate? Why should we interfere in the internal affairs of Germany? What business is it of ours? Has the hon. Gentleman been to Germany?"—the same sort of reaction as that from Conservative Members tonight.

The Labour party stands with the large majority of people in South Africa—the blacks, the coloureds and their white allies. We want to see fundamental changes, and apartheid destroyed. Our message to them is that we are on the side of those who fight to overcome the evil that exists there, we stand for the liberation of South Africa, and we shall not yield any more than we have done in the past. We support Nelson Mandela and his colleagues, and I hope that the Government will adopt the same attitude.

11.32 pm
Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

Among men without hope there is no insurrection. When expectation rises, violence erupts. The Government of President Botha have aroused expectations by constitutional and other reforms, which only a few years ago most people would have thought impossible.

The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) said that the changes and improvements in South Africa were merely cosmetic, but I disagree. My hon. Friend the Member for Beverley (Sir P. Wall) cited examples of the withering away of many aspects of apartheid. Nowadays white soldiers and policemen salute black commissioned officers. A decade ago, few would have imagined that Indians, coloureds and whites would combine in a parliamentary partnership and in government. That achievement serves to magnify the sense of grievance of blacks, now politically awakened but left outside the new parliamentary process.

The homelands are not merely to be dismissed and decried. They are as independent and as dependent as some other states in Africa. Nor is the Transkei, for example, just a barren waste. But the National party no longer regards the homeland policy as any solution, and by giving title to black householders in Soweto, the authorities have in effect announced the demise of apartheid. Nor can they expect anything other than black discontent with unemployment as high as it is—the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) referred to this — and 16 per cent. inflation. Black discontent will not be assuaged by even the most admirable schemes of local self-government.

There are movements in South Africa today that reject reforms because their aim is revolution. Often in the townships, vicious and murderous attacks on mayors and councillors, policemen and policewomen, are directed against the agents of evolutionary change by the forces of revolution. What has been happening in the townships is bad enough, but it should not be exaggerated. It is localised and is largely confined to the Rand and the eastern Cape.

There is complaint opposite of the state of emergency. I fancy that, if one were an ordinary black in a disturbed township, one would be less likely to complain that a state of emergency had been imposed. Like the violence, the state of emergency is localised, covering 36 magisterial districts——

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Out of 300.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

—as my hon. Friend says, out of about 300. It is the duty of any Government to try to keep order and to protect life and property. This state of emergency prevails in part of the republic of South Africa, but emergency powers exist in a part of the United Kingdom. I know that they are challenged by the Opposition, but the state of emergency is challenged in South Africa, in parliamentary debate and question, and in the columns of a free press. In the republic of South Africa, there is an independent judiciary, and a judicial commission set up by the Government has censured police excesses and called for urgent reforms. In which other African country could these things happen?

The sanctions called for by the Opposition can only do harm. They can put British workers out of a job and ruin South African workers and producers, coloured and black. Have we not learnt anything from Rhodesian sanctions? They harden resistance, and Afrikaners are not soft people. They induce economic self-sufficiency, and they work to the disadvantage of former trading partners. Have not African states suffered enough from Rhodesian sanctions? They would suffer at least as grieviously if they were deprived of their trade with South Africa and the aid that they get from South Africa.

Disinvestment is called for by the Opposition. Thai has been rejected as a policy by Bishop Tutu. Frankly, I am not impressed by the withdrawal of the French ambassador. The French conduct their diplomacy and commerce with dexterity. There is an arms embargo, subscribed to by France, and France has replaced Britain in the supply of the South African navy. Indeed, had the Labour Government not denounced the Simonstown agreement, the hazardous operation for the liberation of the Falkland Islands could have been undertaken at less cost.

This very complex and agonising question of South Africa is bedevilled by humbug, self-righteousness, double standards and a willingness to sacrifice human life — overwhelmingly black African human life — to abstract principles of little interest to the poor and the hungry.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

On this very point, I——

Sir John Biggs-Davison

I am about to conclude.

I hope that when the Minister replies to the debate, he will assure us that it is the purpose of Her Majesty's Government to maintain the trade and influence of the United Kingdom, using that influence to encourage President Botha and his colleagues to persevere in dialogue. In the wise words of the Times leader of 23 July, he should be encouraged to stand firmly behind his reforms and to contain his emergency measures required to protect blacks who support his regime from the bloody fate which has overcome so many of them.

11.42 pm
Mr. Michael Meadowcroft (Leeds, West)

I commend the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) on the topic he has introduced this evening and on the way in which he introduced it. I must say, though, that, on looking around the House, I feel it is perhaps a shame that a more widespread body of opinion is not represented on the Government Benches that might have participated in the debate. It seems to be a particular strand of Conservative opinion that wishes to involve itself in this debate. As I did not hear the radio broadcast which has been referred to and which involved the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), I can only speak as I find him in the House. I want to put on record my tribute to his forthright responses at Question Time on the issues of South Africa and apartheid.

Conservative Members have asked previous speakers in the debate whether they have been to South Africa. I have been there, although not for any great length of time. I had a job at one time that took me to parts of white Africa generally. There are great problems for those of us in such jobs who wish to go there partly, I suspect, because if one has any sensitivity one finds it virtually impossible to conform to the restrictions placed upon one. I found it difficult, if not impossible, to conform to signs that said "Whites only" or "Blacks only". I could not do that.

In addition, those of us who were involved in work with various groups in and out of Mozambique or Zimbabwe particularly found it difficult to work with people who were conscious that there were informers about the place. My presence with them was therefore in some way a challenge to their safety. It is not always easy to travel in those circumstances. One must thus discuss with a certain amount of candour what action is actually effective. I do not believe that many Conservative Members wish to maintain the present system. The difference in approach by hon. Members on both sides is in respect of how change is achieved. It is at that level that one's remarks and intentions should be related.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Will the hon. Member give way?

Mr. Meadowcroft

I shall develop my remarks a little further and then I shall willingly do so.

It is often a mistake to underestimate the skills of the South African regime in maintaining itself. At times, it gives little tokens which appear to contain the substance of change, such as the Bantustans. At times, the regime has worked quietly to undermine other countries such as Lesotho, which is wholly contained within the Republic of South Africa. It has given tokens in Namibia as if it was the reality of change when it was not. It has sought to undermine the precarious stability of Angola by involving itself with Unita within that country. That is all part and parcel of a trend. Latterly, to the surprise of many people who have to consider and deal with the situation in South Africa, the regime managed to find some basis of agreement with Mozambique, partly because of the pressure that was put on that country in its economic difficulties after independence. All those are interesting ways and means of demonstrating South Africa's skills in maintaining its own unpleasant and oppressive regime. We must address ourselves to the situation that we face in the light of what we have seen in recent years.

Mr. Corbyn

I was intrigued by a statement that the hon. Gentleman made earlier, that the only thing that divides hon. Members is not whether but how apartheid should be abolished. Does he seriously believe that all the Conservative Members who have such close links with the present South African regime seriously want to get rid of apartheid? Are they not acting in the House as apologists for the apartheid regime?

Mr. Winnick

Some of them are paid.

Mr. Meadowcroft

During many years in politics, not just in the House, I have always tried to work on the basis that, just as I object to people trying to attribute to me motives that I do not possess, I am not prepared to try to look into people's hearts and minds. I dislike what Conservative Members——

Mr. Winnick

They are paid. Mr. John Carlisle: Name them.

Mr. Meadowcroft

I dislike what Conservative Members say—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

Order. The sedentary arguments across the Floor are not helping the debate in any way. If an hon. Member wants to intervene, he should do so in the proper way.

Mr. Winnick

I entirely take your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker which was perhaps directed at me. However, I hope that I can draw your attention to the way in which the same sort of interruptions were made constantly during my speech.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that I was talking about sedentary dialogue across the Chamber, not just sedentary interruptions.

Mr. Meadowcroft

I fear that if some hon. Members lead with their chin, they always get it punched.

I am distressed by Conservative Members' remarks. I reject their arguments, but I am not prepared to say that they have an ulterior motive. If they have, so be it, but they must speak for themselves.

I am anxious to find ways and means of altering the oppressive regime, which is the disastrous consequence of the history of that continent. It is crucial that Conservative Members realise that and it is the other side of the coin. Their attitude is unfortunately self-fulfilling of the conditions that they talk about. If one says that the regimes that might follow will be unstable, that people are incapable of assuming office, that they are Marxists and that people who are now in prison are not safe to be released, it is as certain as night follows day that when change takes place, there will be instability, Marxist regimes and the oppressive regimes that we have seen elsewhere in Africa.

The problem is that if one resists people's ordinary aspirations and democratic desires, it is almost certain that there will be instability thereafter. That is true whether it is in Zimbabwe, with the imprisonment of Robert Mugabe for so many years, the present situation where black is killing black because of the complete frustration and inability to achieve democratic change, or the history of what happened in Kenya with Kenyatta and in Cyprus with Makarios. People who were thought to be terrorists eventually had to become the leaders of their countries, and had to be treated with. It would have been better had we not had such appalling attitudes to them beforehand.

Throughout my time working in South Africa, I found black leaders impressive. It was sad that because they could not achieve their legitimate aspirations, some were assassinated before they could achieve office. One of the great problems is the loss of leadership in black Africa because of the failure on the part of whites to give way when they should and let people assume office.

Sovereignty is a confusing and difficult problem. The boundaries of many of the states in Africa are not logical, partly because they were divided 100 years ago by a convention, with the consequence that natural tribes are divided between countries. That in itself causes instability. Unless one addresses that problem, and looks at pan-Africanism and what one might do in terms of sovereignty, there will continue to be difficulties.

Which policies might have some effect? The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) legitimately, emotionally and properly expressed moral outrage. I feel exactly the same moral outrage, but it is not a policy or a strategy. It will not bring about change.

The recent history of Zimbabwe shows that the thought that sanctions could bring down Rhodesia was a falsity. Countries under such pressure will consider what might be done from outside and plan for sanctions. That will certainly be true of South Africa. There is no way that sanctions imposed by Britain alone would be effective. If sanctions are to have any chance of being effective, there must be unanimity on the part of the European Community and the United States. Unless the hon. Gentleman believes that that is possible, he is displaying no more than moral outrage. I do not reject the importance of having personal standards. I will not buy produce from South Africa, but I do not pretend that my not buying such produce will bring down the regime there.

Conservative Members have asked who gets hurt by sanctions. I do not doubt that, in the short term, blacks would probably get hurt most. That is not such an important consideration in South Africa. What matters is whether the people are prepared to accept the consequences of sanctions. One of the slogans of African nationalism is that they prefer the poverty of freedom to the riches of slavery. There is no validity in the paternalistic argument that we know what is best for the African people, that we know that they will suffer and that we will therefore maintain a certain economic standard.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

The hon. Gentleman is presenting a rational case and the House is grateful to him. Is he aware that Professor Schlemmer has undertaken precisely the type of survey that the hon. Gentleman is talking about? An overwhelming majority of black South Africans have stated in two surveys that they are utterly opposed to disinvestment in their country. Will the hon. Gentleman give credit to the black people for voicing their opinions through those surveys?

Mr. Meadowcroft

The flaw in the hon. Gentleman's argument is that it is illegal in South Africa to call for a boycott. People there are so aware of informers in the black and white communities that no survey could properly represent the feelings of people there. Those who have been to South Africa and felt the repression there because of paid informers would never suggest that such a survey could be accurate.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Schlemmer report is a survey of 551 male black production workers in multinational companies and that their views were thought to represent the views of more than 20 million people? If the views of the African people are to be taken into account, why are they not given a vote and a real choice rather than a public opinion survey?

Mr. Meadowcroft

The hon. Gentleman has put his finger on the flaw in the argument of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). If matters are progressing so well, it is strange that the South African Government are not prepared to test it at the ballot box.

Many of us who have worked to end the apartheid system have viewed with trepidation the approaching disorder and instability that now exists. None of us wanted that, but we believed that it was inevitable. We might be seeing the beginning of the end. If that is true, I take no comfort from the fact that it is ending in this way because many people will get killed and others will get hurt in the process. Bearing in mind the concessions that have been made, the South African Government might even now realise that they cannot maintain apartheid and would like to get rid of it but cannot because they have only a white electorate. Then the paradox would be that if there were a wider franchise they could get rid of apartheid and achieve what they may already accept as inevitable. Therefore it behoves this Government to say to the South African Government with all the diplomatic force that they can bring to bear that only one immediate step can be taken which might save South Africa from a bloodbath: the release of Nelson Mandela. That step must be taken as quickly as possible. Change might then be introduced more peacefully than will otherwise be the case.

Whenever I look around the world I realise that liberty never comes easily. I sometimes wonder why we in this country believe that the liberties that we would fight for are gained easily. They are not. They are gained by a lot of sweat, struggle and toil. That will be the case in southern Africa. Those hon. Members who care deeply about the people in that country are not satisfied with moral outrage or with ritual confrontation across these Benches. We are interested in effective action. I hope the Government will bring pressure to bear by taking the kind of action that will solve this problem once and for all.

11.55 pm
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

The House will have enjoyed most of the speech of the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft). He spoke a great deal of sense and brought a somewhat calmer atmosphere to the various altercations we have had on both sides of the House on southern Africa Many hon. Members are grateful to him for the tone of his remarks. He will understand that I do not entirely agree with all that he said; however, he introduced a fresh approach to this debate, which Conservative Members welcome.

I apologise to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) for the fact that I missed his opening speech, but I welcome him to the ranks of those who are interested in southern Africa. I hope that he will take part in future debates on this subject, because future debates there will obviously be. It is interesting that Labour Members have, as usual, turned out in force tonight, although perhaps not so many as turned out for the South Africa (Sanctions) Bill of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn). I understand that they were under a very heavy three-line Whip to attend a vote that did not take place. There are probably more Labour Members in the Chamber tonight than we have seen since the debate on the Queen's speech in 1979.

Apart from the speech of the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), which was characteristically boisterous and characteristically inaccurate, I think that so far it has been a fairly sensible debate. I refer in particular to the contributions of my hon. Friends. The Leader of the Opposition, who is now on the African continent, may return with a rather deeper knowledge of that country than he had before he went there. He may bring to our debates some sense of experience, which Conservative Members, but not Opposition Members, are able to bring to bear.

South Africa always seems to be a fairly convenient whipping boy for Opposition Members. Understandably, they are outraged by the so-called violation of human rights in Southern Africa, just as they are outraged by the so-called violation of human rights in other parts of the world. Where we take issue with them is that, in their persistent arguments about South Africa, they rather conveniently forget what goes on elsewhere. If they showed the same passion about events in Chile, South America and behind the Iron Curtain as they show about South Africa, I think Conservative Members would accept their arguments with a little more understanding.

The argument about South Africa in this House will always be on the basis of whether or not apartheid is acceptable. We in this country believe that it is an unacceptable form of government and an unacceptable form of society. The argument is whether that system can be dismantled overnight, whether the pace of change can be dictated by the British Government or by this House, or whether the reason for the existence of that system should be understood. Before the hon. Member for Walsall, North jumps to his feet I will say again, as I have said before, that I deplore apartheid, but I understand the reason for its existence. Understanding of the system by Conservative Members will help to dismantle it in a far more humane way than will the histrionics that are so often displayed by Opposition Members.

Mr. Winnick


Mr. Carlisle

I give way to the histrionic Member who is about to rise.

Mr. Winnick

We know the views of the hon. Member, but may I return to his earlier remarks, when he said that Labour Members were selective. Does he know of any dictatorship that I have defended? Have I not constantly criticised the regime in Chile and the junta in Argentina? Have I not criticised eastern Europe? If the hon. Gentleman knew anything about these matters, he would know that I have criticised eastern European politics in some Labour movement journals, and I shall continue to do so. The explanation is simple. I am a democratic Socialist. I favour parliamentary democracy, and I oppose dictatorships completely.

Why does not the hon. Gentleman try to answer the point I made earlier? South Africa is different, in that it is a racial tyranny. Therefore, people are penalised, not for their politics or for anything they do, but because of the colour of their skin.

Mr. Carlisle

I am an avid follower of the hon. Gentleman's career and of what he says in the House. As a keen supporter of parliamentary democracy, he will understand that, even in the parliamentary democracies that we have bequeathed to Commonwealth countries, there are systems of apartheid. In the context of South Africa having been a member of the British colonial empire, perhaps the hon. Gentleman would compare the systems that still exist in some black African and other Commonwealth countries with the one in South Africa. If he did so, I might listen to what he says with a little more understanding.

Since hon. Members know my views on the subject, I shall confine my remarks to three subjects. The first must be the reaction of the British Government and people to the events in South Africa during the past few days—events that have been vividly portrayed on television and in the press. I say immediately how sad it is to see the terrible atrocities that have taken place in South Africa, mainly — as those of us who are interested in such matters will know—of the black communities attacking other black communities; of blacks attacking their elected representatives within their communities; of blacks attacking policemen; of blacks attacking administrators; and of the terrible atrocities that have not been reported.

This afternoon, at Question Time, when I asked about the alleged cannibalism, Opposition Members were surprised. They must understand that such things are happening in the present troubles such is the depth of the problems in South Africa.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Absolute rubbish.

Mr. Carlisle

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but if he took a little more interest in the subject, he would understand that what I said was accurate.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Would my hon. Friend highlight to the House the recent statement by Bishop Tutu, who is so often quoted by Opposition Members——

Mr. Winnick

Bishop Tutu has a right to speak, unlike the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Winterton

I have a right to speak in the House. I hope that the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), who professes to support democratic processes, will grant me that right.

Will my hon. Friend highlight the statement by Bishop Tutu, who has urged his people in South Africa to desist from violence, saying that if they continue to burn their fellow citizens in the black townships, he will be forced to leave the country because he cannot be a party to this brutality?

Mr. Carlisle

My hon. Friend is right. We welcome those words, as they were welcomed by all responsible commentators in the media this morning. My hon. Friend is the vice-chairman of the all-party British South Africa parliamentary group. It is a great shame that the Labour party has not seen fit to send any representatives to that group——

Mr. Corbyn

Is it all-party?

Mr. Carlisle

The hon. Gentleman must understand that the all-party Whip states that the meetings are open to all Members of the House. The fact that the Labour party chooses not to attend and not to put any officers up for election is its decision. Not many weeks ago, some black South Africans came as witnesses and they testified to the atrocities that are taking place in the eastern Cape.

Mr. Winnick


Mr. Carlisle

I found that their words were easier to believe than the hon. Gentleman's spurious words. He admits that he has had party political propaganda fed to him from the anti-apartheid party.

Mr. Robert Hughes

rose ——

Mr. Carlisle

I should like to give way, but I must get on.

My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) expressed a sentiment expressed by Mr. Harry Oppenheimer not long ago in London, which is that when hope exists, as it now does, for the black majority in South Africa, almost inevitably trouble occurs. We have the experience of America in the 1930s to prove this. There is no doubt that the position of the black in South Africa has changed considerably over the past 10 years. There are now trade unions, which there were not before. The wage gap between the blacks and whites is now much narrower than before. That hope, and the fact that some of the frustrations that existed 10 years ago are being diluted, has given a hostage to fortune for those who are intent on wrecking South African society, and have used for their own evil political means among the black community. That is why we have had the terrible black on black problems within South Africa, and it is part of the whole frustration of the system. The changes that are taking place are being encouraged by the Government.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that when people live in extreme poverty, some suffer severe pressure to be paid informers?

Therefore, it is not surprising that in such instability, some of those informers will be murdered? What is different from the situation in the north of Ireland, for instance, where people are killed because they are paid informers? How does one achieve the change that will prevent that? We must not simply say that we must apply more pressure from the top to try to repress the people still further. Someone must turn the light out from underneath, and I have heard nothing that convinces me that the hon. Gentleman is going to do something about that.

Mr. Carlisle

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has tried to broaden the argument. I shall not follow him into the subject of Northern Ireland.

I reiterate the view of Mr. Harry Oppenheimer, who is, as the hon. Gentleman will know, a persistent opponent of the South African Government. It is that the hope that now exists among the black South Africans is much greater than it was 10 years ago and the frustrations that were there then have now been alleviated. Such a situation is fertile ground for those intent on wrecking the system. That is why there are now problems in South Africa.

That is why the South African Government were inevitably forced to declare a state of emergency within those sections where the troubles have occurred. Innocent blacks—the majority of black South Africans—were finding that they could not go about their daily business as they wished. It was somewhat regrettable that the EC reacted as it did, but at least this afternoon my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary half-disassociated himself from the statement by the EC. The constitutional changes in South Africa should be applauded by the House, however inadequate Labour Members might find them.

My second point is about trade. It was heartening to hear this afternoon my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary reiterate that the Government would not engage in trade sanctions against South Africa. This argument is raging throughout the world, and a little more fuel was added to it this afternoon with the news from France. At least our Government understand that trade sanctions do not work; here I reiterate what the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) said. Secondly, they harm those whom they are intended to benefit. I recall the words of the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), who is not in the Chamber at present, when I intervened on a debate on Barclays bank some months ago to ask about the loss of jobs which would occur in South Africa. He said— and I paraphrase—"Some sacrifice has to be made."

I am not willing to sacrifice black jobs in South Africa on the sanctimonious basis of trade sanctions, in the same way that I am not going to sacrifice jobs in this country. I remind Opposition Members, and particularly the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), who is without a tie, that some of them represent constituencies with far higher unemployment than I have in my constituency, and that some 250,000 jobs would be lost in this country if full sanctions were applied to South Africa. Those jobs would be on their heads, and if they believe that would help black South Africans, then I am somewhat saddened by their view.

There is a political bandwagon in the United States and political shenanigans are going on about sanctions, which would lead one to believe that the people involved do not understand the full implications of sanctions upon the blacks in South Africa. If sanctions happen, the implications will be on the heads of Opposition Members and not on the head of this Government, who have stood firm and I trust will continue to stand firm, on trade sanctions.

My last point of the three that I mentioned is the farce of continuing sporting sanctions against South Africa. If my hon. Friend the Minister has a chance to advise the Prime Minister before she goes to the Commonwealth conference in the Bahamas in the autumn, he should tell her that if there is any way in which the innocuous Gleneagles agreement—[HON. MEMBERS: "Innocuous?"] —can be abandoned, she should take the opportunity to do so. If there is one place in South Africa where apartheid has been broken down and where integration now takes place, it is on the sports field.

It is a tragedy that we in this country, with our sense of fair play and with British sport so highly respected throughout the world, should continue non-co-operation with those in South Africa who are seeking within the laws of that country to bring sport into a fully integrated system. The courage of their sports administrators and of their sportsmen and women who are fully integrated within their own rules and associations and within the rules of society in South Africa, is admirable. The argument that we will help those so-called oppressed majorities in South Africa by staying away, is an argument I cannot accept.

The Gleneagles agreement is now beginning to bite and is doing real harm to the prospects of the blacks in South Africa. I admit that the sanctions in sport applied by the Gleneagles agreement, and sanctions taken by sporting authorities, have pushed the sports authorities in South Africa towards a fully integrated system. I have always admitted that. But there comes a time when the carrot must replace the stick, but now the goalposts have been moved, and for political reasons we are not engaging in sport with South Africa.

The conditions of the Gleneagles agreement about organised sport on the basis of race, colour or ethnic origin no longer exist. It is highly immoral of the British Government to continue such a policy when those conditions no longer prevail in South Africa. I hope my right hon. Friend will take that message to the Prime Minister and to those in authority.

Mr. Corbyn

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Carlisle

No, I will certainly not give way to that hon. Gentleman.

We should offer South Africa and the black, the coloured, the Indian and the white South African some sort of understanding and encouragement. I regret to say that the weasel words of Opposition Members will strike terror into the hearts of many black South Africans. If we are to make a positive contribution, and if we believe in the dismantling of apartheid and that one day everyone in South Africa should enjoy an equal franchise, we should take encouragement from the changes that have taken place. That is why the argument of Conservative Members is that we should offer encouragement and co-operation.

12.15 am
Mr. Dennis Healey (Leeds, East)

Like other hon. Members, I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) for giving us the opportunity to discuss a matter which clearly arouses strong feelings on both sides of the House and for his excellent speech.

Like the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft), I regret that the speeches of Conservative Members have so far represented only a single strain in the attitudes of their party. They regard the Government's policy as being too liberal in many respects and do not reflect the much more far-sighted strain that was represented by, for example, Mr. lain Macleod, the Earl of Stockton and Lord Carrington.

To save Conservative Members the trouble of intervening, I should say that I have visited South Africa and most parts of Africa, north, east and west. When I was in South Africa I met Ministers in the then Government, representatives of all communities, Gatsha Buthelezi and Nelson Mandela in prison on Robben island. I also had what I regard as the great privilege of spending a day with Steve Biko, a young man of exceptional political and human qualities who, a few years later, was beaten to a pulp in a South African gaol, thrown naked like a dog into the back of a truck and driven 200 miles over bumpy roads to a hospital where he died.

If Conservative Members had more feeling for those who have opposed apartheid, their speeches would be different from those that we have heard tonight.

We are witnessing in South Africa an historic tragedy which is in not its final but its penultimate stages. Just over a year ago, the South African Prime Minister left Britain after a visit that was described in The Times as a diplomatic triumph for him, and an unmitigated disaster for the blacks in South Africa.

The British press told us that our Prime Minister had taken Mr. Botha to task, but his Foreign Secretary, Mr. Pik Botha, said: If that is what she is like when she is taking you to task, then I would like to see her when she is friendly. That is not the Maggie we know. My impression from talking to Conservative Members is that when the right hon. Lady disapproves of someone she makes her views crystal clear. But there is no doubt that Mr. Botha left these shores with a different impression from that which the Prime Minister tried to convey to the House about his visit.

The right hon. Lady told us that we should expect significant improvements in South African behaviour following the visit, if not as a result of it. Let us look at how Prime Minister Botha rewarded her. Almost his first act was a slap in the face. He broke a solemn commitment to send four South African agents to stand trial for breaking the law in Britain, even though his embassy in London had put up bail of £400,000. The only reaction of the British Government was some verbal whingeing from a junior Minister at the Foreign Office.

Meanwhile, in Mr. Botha's own part of the world, he sent his troops to invade a friendly Commonwealth country and to carry out a massacre in Gabarone, he sent troops to invade Angola after saying that he was withdrawing all his troops from that country, he sent special forces to blow up an American installation in northern Angola and he sabotaged the United Nations resolution on Namibia by setting up a puppet Government there in straight violation of the policy that he had promised to pursue.

Inside South Africa's own borders, what have we seen in the last 12 months? Mr. Botha has presided over the killing of 500 blacks, often shot in the back or beaten up by police in balaclava helmets. All hon. Members deplore some of the atrocities which have been referred to, but the fact is that this whole terrible cycle started with the massacre at Uitenhage, in which a young officer was allowed to fire at people who were offering no provocation whatever, as was later demonstrated in an inquiry. We have also seen the death squads murdering the political opponents of the regime, and finally we have seen the declaration of emergency which has established a storm-trooper state in which the agents of the Government are licensed to kill without fear of legal retribution.

These are very serious developments, and it is not surprising that they have produced reactions in South Africa and in the rest of the world. Indeed, the wind of change, to which an earlier Conservative Prime Minister referred in a famous speech in South Africa, has now become a hurricane.

One of the most disturbing things I have read recently is the findings of the survey by an institute sponsored by the South African Government themselves. It reported that a majority of the South African people now react positively to using violence as a means of political change. That majority includes 63 per cent., nearly two thirds, of the blacks in South Africa and, surprisingly, I expect, to all hon. Members, 30 per cent. of the whites and somewhere between 30 and 50 per cent. of the Asians and coloureds.

These are facts which we cannot shut out of our minds. Much as I appreciated, if I may say so, the thoughtful speech of the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison), who made a classical case for a Conservative approach to the problem with moderation and some insight, the plain fact is that the situation which I have just described is one to which this type of Conservativism has become totally irrelevant.

As has been pointed out, we in this House have a long historic connection with South Africa, and we have a moral responsibility, though no political responsibility, for the welfare of the people there; and the real question we must face is this. Is there anything which we can do which may slow down or divert this accelerating race to catastrophe in South Africa, or must we, as the Foreign Secretary implied in his speech last night, rely wholly on Mr. Botha's good will? I do not think, in the light of what has happened in the last 12 months, that anybody can honestly expect the situation to improve without external intervention in some form.

I want to suggest, without total confidence that this will be effective, some measures which I believe must be tried, and which the Security Council, in a resolution which the British Government did not oppose, has already asked all countries to consider immediately. Indeed, as I understand it, the British Governent had a hand in drafting the resolution, although at the last moment they would not vote for it.

The Security Council asked all countries to consider immediate voluntary measures to try to shift the policy of the South African Government. In my opinion, what we in Britain should immediately do would include the following five steps. The first would be to withdraw our ambassador from South Africa. That does not mean withdrawing the embassy or ceasing all contact with the South Africn Government. Withdrawing our ambassador is a sign of displeasure, as President Reagan has already done, and as France announced today that it is doing.

Secondly, we should ban all new loans and investment, as France has now decided to do and as the American Congress—both Houses —has decided should be done by the United States. I believe that President Reagan will find it impossible to avoid doing so in the coming weeks.

Thirdly, we should make compulsory the Community code of conduct for European—including British—firms in South Africa. A voluntary code of conduct will not be effective. We have seen that already in the behaviour of the British BTR company, which has been found guilty by the International Confederaton of Free Trade Unions and the TUC of paying starvation wages to its employees in South Africa.

Fourthly, we must tighten the arms embargo to shut off the scope for the supply of licences for spare parts and components for a whole range of aircraft that could be used for military purposes—a loophole that has been opened by the new Export of Goods (Control) Order that comes into force tomorrow.

Finally, the Government must begin to establish informal contact with the African National Congress, as they have already done with the PLO. The case is similar. It is inconsistent of the Government to ask the South African Government to release Nelson Mandela, who has refused to forswear the use of force, and at the same time to use the ANC's commitment to force when necessary as an argument for having no contact with it.

Against that background of unilateral measures —many of which I freely admit will be symbolic rather than practical—we must begin seriously discussing what sort of United Nations mandatory sanctions it would be sensible to introduce if and when that proves to be necessary.

Mr. John Carlisle

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Government have always insisted that they have contact with the UDF, who have close contact with the ANC, much to the dismay of some of my hon. Friends. Does he agree that if such contact were to be continued, it would be better with the UDF rather than with the ANC, which has declared publicly within the past 48 hours on British radio that it intends by violent means to attack what it calls soft targets and is committed to revolutionary change in South Africa? Will he not give the Government some credit for at least having a line to the UDF, if riot to the ANC?

Mr. Healey

Of course I give the Government some credit. They are steadily forced back by events and public opinion in what I regard as the right direction. I am glad that they are establishing contact with the UDF. However, they should also establish contact wth the ANC. The Minister is well aware of the distinction in Israel between PLO representatives and people close to the PLO who are not members of it and with whom we have always maintained contact, such as the mayors of some of the villages on the west bank.

I do not think that contact with the UDF is an adequate substitute for contact with the key people in the ANC. I do not ask the Prime Minister to invite Oliver Tambo to Chequers next week—perhaps next year—but contact at an official level with these people would be desirable. We had such contact in the final stages of many colonial episodes, as Conservative Members will know, such as Rhodesia, Kenya, Cyprus and many other parts of the world.

The Foreign Secretary addressed himself to these problems in a notable speech last night and he repeated some of the points he then made in answering questions in the House this afternoon. His basic argument—it has been made by some Conservative Members in this debate —is that all economic sanctions are counter-productive and are bound to fail in their purpose.

To the amazement of many of us, the right hon. and learned Gentleman quoted the failure of sanctions against Rhodesia. Of course they failed. Because the South African Government acted as a free conduit for supplies from all over the world to Rhodesia, sanctions in that case never had a chance.

The Government are selective in their approach to sanctions. They imposed sanctions against Poland to influence the internal situation there. To do so in the case of South Africa, it is said, would be contary to international law. The Government are at this momemt applying sanctions against Nicaragua by instructing their officials in Washington and elsewhere to block economic assistance to Nicaragua from international institutions such as the IMF and the various ancillaries of the International Bank by confecting false reasons for refusing assistance. The House knows that because of the honesty of a junior official in the Overseas Development Administration who has since been sacked for his honesty.

Let us not forget that we imposed sanctions against Iran following the taking of American hostages. Those sanctions were certainly effective because the freeze on Iranian financial assets was a key issue in the release of the hostages. The final negotiations about the unfreezing of those assets clinched the deal and led to their release. The Government's arguments against sanctions against South Africa are contradicted by their own behaviour now and in recent years.

If we do not start by taking at least the minimal measures that I have listed, we shall not only be failing in our political and human duty, but we shall be isolating ourselves from our friends all over the world.

Mr. Robert Hughes

My right hon. Friend said that sanctions against Rhodesia had failed. Although I agree that sanctions by themselves did not bring an end to UDI, does he accept that if there had been full diplomatic recognition of Rhodesia, with totally free access of arms, finance and so on, the war would have been prolonged significantly?

Mr. Healey

I agree with my hon. Friend.

I come to the problem of Britain's isolation on this issue. The Prime Minister will meet her fellow Commonwealth Prime Ministers at a conference in the Bahamas in October. Every other Commonwealth country supports economic sanctions against South Africa. The white Commonwealth countries—Australia, Canada and New Zealand — have already announced types of sanctions, including many of the measures that I have suggested. The Third-world members of the Commonwealth pressed for that at a meeting in London, at which the British Government were the only dissenter from a communiqué published only last week. There is growing support for sanctions in Europe. The Scandinavian countries already impose them; France announced today that it is imposing them; and there is not the slightest doubt that other European countries, particularly the Netherlands, and probably Germany, will follow.

In the United States, too, sanctions are already being applied, although not yet by the Government. Most of the big banks have already decided to stop new loans to South Africa and are trying to disengage from their activities there, as are a couple of British banks; Standard Chartered bank has already got rid of its majority holding in its subsidiary in South Africa. A growing number of businesses in the United States and large multinationals are trying to disengage from South Africa, as are many public authorities, including New York. Both Houses of Congress have recently voted resolutions urging the imposition of economic sanctions. A conference will be held between them in the next few weeks to try to compose their differences. It would be remarkable if President Reagan chose to veto their agreed resolution.

The Government do not have a leg to stand on with their present policy. I respect the hopes that the Government entertained — although I never agreed with them — of constructive engagement with South Africa. However, the South African Government have already made a mockery of those hopes. The policy of constructive engagement lies in shambles. The Government have a clear duty to play an active role in shaping events in southern Africa, so far as that is possible for outsiders, as that is the only hope of avoiding a catastrophe which I believe hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to avoid.

12.36 am
Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I shall endeavour to be brief. I do not have a prepared speech and I hope to speak from my experience of visiting South Africa and Namibia on a number of occasions—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who paid?"] My entry in the Register of Members' Interests will provide Labour Members with all the information that they require.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Winterton

I shall not give way.

Mr. Rogers


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has made it clear that he is not giving way.

Mr. Winterton

I found the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) to be extremely negative. I shall comment on the constructive and useful speech of the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft). His contribution was thoughtful and positive and I believe that it will be heeded by the media and the press in the Republic of South Africa and elsewhere. I am interested that he and the leader of his party, the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), have advanced the proposition that the present chaos, riots and disorder in South Africa, which have necessitated emergency powers, might be defused if the South African Government released Nelson Mandela unconditionally. I hold reservations about that and I am not sure what dangerous precedent it might set.

However, if the South African Government believed that Nelson Mandela's release could be a useful initiative, I should not discourage them from taking it. There is no doubt that Nelson Mandela holds an important place in the eyes of many of the South African blacks. If he were released from prison, he might feature as one of the major black leaders with whom the South African Government could enter into negotiations and discussions to seek a way for the black majority people of South Africa to have a meaningful input into the Government of that country.

My message in this important debate—I am grateful to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) for initiating it — is that the Government of South Africa should consider seriously the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela. It is a possible initiative which could be acceptable to the black people and enable them, as it were, to enter into meaningful discussions.

I am sad that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East with his considerable experience of many areas of the world, including South Africa and Africa as a continent did not mention the plea of Bishop Tutu, the Anglican bishop of Johannesburg. He has spoken to his people in a loud and clear voice. He has said, "Please stop the violence. Please stop the killing. This no way to make progress in our country." I have been an outspoken critic of the bishop, but having sought to read everything that he has said, it seems that he has said to the Government of South Africa, "I am not at this time in support of disinvestment in my country. I believe that our Government deserve a breathing space of about two years to follow through even faster the reforms that they are introducing. If no meaningful progress has been made at the end of that period, I may support sanctions and boycotts which will bring great suffering to the majority of the black people."

Mr. Healey

I made it clear that I opposed the sort of atrocities that were recently carried out in South Africa. Of course, I endorse the appeal by Bishop Tutu. I think that thousands of people would be more interested if Conservative Members were less selective in quoting Bishop Tutu's words. They have not quoted his appeal to the South African Government to end the state of emergency, his blistering attack on apartheid and his appeal to the Government to end the pass laws and the most serious elements of apartheid and to give the blacks the political freedoms to which human beings all over the world are entitled. When the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) is prepared to endorse all that Bishop Tutu says, I will be more impressed by his choise of quotations.

Mr. Winterton

I do not think that Bishop Tutu would expect me to agree with everything that he says; likewise, I am sure that he would not agree with everything that I say. Bishop Tutu has made a plea for an end to the killing. I hope that his people in the black townships of the eastern Cape and eastern Rand heed him and that the restoration of peace will lead to the rapid return to the reforms that Mr. P. W. Botha, the President, was introducing.

Mr. Rogers

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Winterton

I shall not give way now, but I shall be happy to give way in a moment when I have developed my arguments.

It is sad that the House, the United States and the European Community Foreign Ministers seek to impose a European system of democracy on an African country. I want the system of apartheid to end. I say that unreservedly, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle). I must say as well—hon. Members will not like me for this—that I do not believe that, in my lifetime or, indeed, in the history of the Republic of South Africa, there will be a system of one man, one vote in a unitary state. I do not believe that it will work. Africa's history shows that it will not.

We need look just north of South Africa to see Zimbabwe rapidly moving towards a one-party state. It is based on a tribal system. Mr. Mugabe and the majority Mashona people are determined that their way will be that country's way. The 20 per cent. who are represented by the Ndebele people will not have any meaningful say in the Government.

That is the history of government in north, east, west, central and southern Africa. I want an end to the abhorrent system of separate development, but I do not believe that the system that will replace it will be a one man, one vote system in a unitary state. I believe that South Africa will move towards a democracy under a constellation of states with common purposes in foreign affairs, defence and economics. Within meaningful state areas however, there will be a one man, one vote system.

I regret the fact that the recommendations of the Buthelezi commission have not been taken on board by the Government of the Republic. When I was there earlier this year I think that many of the white South Africans in Durban felt that Durban would form a major part of a Zulu state in South Africa under the dynamic and inspired leadership of Chief Gatsha Buthelezi. He is one of the many leaders of the black people of South Africa who have been to many countries speaking on behalf of their people.

Chief Gatsha Buthelezi speaks on behalf of the largest black group in South Africa. He is perhaps the most important political figure there. I speak of him in his capacity as president of Inkata which is a political movement that crosses the ethnic groups of Zulu, Xhosa, Venda, Sotho and Tswana. He is the president of the largest black political group in South Africa, and is strongly opposed to disinvestment in his country. Should we not listen to Chief Gatsha Buthelezi? Surely he has a part to play as he is expressing a view representative of many people in South Africa.

If one does not accept what Chief Gatsha Buthelezi says, what about the most fervent Liberals there, some of whom have already been mentioned? Mr. Harry Oppenheimer for example, has for decades opposed the Afrikaans Boer Administration in Pretoria and Cape Town, and given tremendous support to the move to end apartheid and separate development. Alan Paton and Mrs. Helen Suzman have also been mentioned. Those people, who are widely respected throughout the world, have stated that in their experience of their country and Africa, disinvestment will not be of benefit to South Africa or bring about the changes that we all wish to see.

Do not the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and others who are critical of the stance of some of my colleagues and me, accept that, despite the fact that the Portuguese have left Angola, there is no democracy there? When was an election held in Angola? Yet is Angola recognised by the United Nations? Of course it is. When was an election held in Mozambique? None has ever been held there. Where is the democratic system about which the right hon. Gentleman boasts, and which he seeks to force on South Africa? The right hon. Gentleman should look at Africa through the eyes of Africans, not Europeans. The only reason why Dos Santos and the MPLA are in control of Angola is that they happened to be in Luanda on a particular date in November some years ago. If Jonas Savimbi had been there that day, he would probably be in power in Angola.

I ask the House to look at the true position realistically, not from a view tainted by international politics, which in the end does not solve the problems facing the world. I referred to Zimbabwe, and to South Africa as an African country. Please let us deal with that country from an African standpoint, not a European one.

The United Kingdom Government are taking an extremely constructive stance over South Africa. We may be one of only a few countries who are standing out against the trendy popular view at present, but that does not make us wrong. Nor did it make Winston Churchill wrong when, in the House, he stood out against disarmament, which was a popular policy at the time with both the Labour party and some Conservative Members. He was almost a lone voice in the wilderness, but none the less he stood by his belief. With hindsight was he not proved right?

Mr. Rogers

Is the hon. Gentleman attempting to equate his position on South Africa with that of Winston Churchill on Nazi Germany? When he asks my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) to listen to the views of Bishop Tutu and to speak to him about development of South Africa, is he prepared to ask the same of the South African Government, who have paid for his many trips to South Africa?

Mr. Winterton

That is cheap.

Mr. Rogers

It is not cheap. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would come clean with the House——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. This is a very long intervention.

Mr. Rogers


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has made his point, and he must resume his seat.

Mr. Winterton

Because of the hon. Gentleman's provocative intervention, I am tempted to be immodest and to say that I leave history to judge that. But, as I said at the beginning of my speech, my involvement in, and the visits that I have paid to, Namibia and South Africa are properly registered in the Register of Members' Interests in accordance with the resolution of this House. I do not need to go into any further detail this evening.

I ask Opposition Members to consider and comment upon the reforms that have taken place in South Africa under the initiatives taken by the state President —previously the Prime Minister of the Republic—and his Government.

There are now coloured trade unions, mixed trade unions and black trade unions. They are recognised and are part of the industrial scene of the Republic of South Africa. I wonder whether in all the countries of Eastern Europe there is the freedom of labour that there now in the Republic of South Africa.

We should also appreciate the housing reforms that have taken place. Freehold rights will shortly be granted to blacks living in such major cities as Alexandria, Soweto and elsewhere. That is a major change. I am sure that the leader of the Liberal party would agree that inevitably that must ultimately lead to the complete destruction of the whole system of apartheid.

Mr. David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

The point is—and I discussed this with Mrs. Suzman during her visit last week—that the advances that the hon. Gentleman accurately describes are confined to certain restricted areas. That is not true of other countries.

Mr. Winterton

I think the right hon. Gentleman means other parts of South Africa. But I believe that the reforms that are now taking place will inevitably lead to free movement within South Africa, just as I believe that the industrial needs and economic growth of that country are also contributing to a very marked extent to the breaking up of the system of separate development. Industry in that country needs skilled labour, and that cannot be provided by white South Africans. It is therefore inevitable that the other population groups will play an increasing part in the industrial and commercial life of that country.

There are many other areas where reforms have taken place. Forced removals have been suspended. In fact, they were suspended about the time that I visited South Africa earlier this year. That should be welcomed in this country.

The improved powers granted to black local government should also be welcomed. The additional money now being spent on the education of blacks in South Africa should be welcomed. The increased training of blacks, coloureds and Asians within South African industry clearly indicates that the system of apartheid will shortly end, and I am delighted at that.

Powers have been assumed by the South African Government because of the riots and disorder that have taken place in 36 of the 300 magisterial areas. The sooner those powers are ended, the better. But they cannot be ended until order has been restored. These powers are as much for the benefit of the law-abiding black, coloured and Indian citizens of the Republic of South Africa as they are in the interests of the Government. The Government have a duty to try to ensure law and order so that all people in that country can go about their work and other activities in the way that they would wish.

I also point out that South Africa is of considerable importance to the Western world. It is the only country on the African continent with deep-sea port facilities for Western shipping. All the other ports are used by the growing Soviet navy which operates in the Atlantic and the Pacific.

We should also not forget that, irrespective of the views of a minority in the Union of South Africa, as it then was, that country was a great supporter of the United Kingdom and the free world in the Second World War.

Before I finish, I wish to correct something that was said by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East relating to the inauguration of the transitional Government of National Liberty in Namibia. I find it extraordinary that this initiative mounted by the internal political parties of every political persuasion in Namibia should be condemned by the right hon. Gentleman. Mr. Shipanga of the SWAPO Democrats, is a leading Minister in this new transitional Government, which in no way impedes the implementation in due course of United Nations Security Council resolution 435. The politicians who are party to the internal Government of Namibia have made clear that they do not want total power because they do not wish in any way to go against resolution 435. They want that resolution implemented in due course and internationally supervised elections.

Is the right hon. Gentleman fair when he condemns this grouping of independent internal parties under such people as Andreas Shipanga? He was a founder member of SWAPO with Sam Nujoma. His only crime was that he suggested to Mr. Nujoma the Mr. Nujoma might care to stand for election as Leader of SWAPO, as a result of which he was imprisoned, and only after two and a half years did he win his release. He was then returned to his country to set up, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the SWAPO Democrats and participate in the internal affairs of that country. Mr. Moses Katjiuongua, the president of the South-West African National Union, a party which existed before SWAPO was even formed, has himself been in prison and has opposed South Africa from the year dot. These men are part of the new Government, which I hope will be an interim internal Government of national unity seeking to bring a country — which is four times in geographical terms the size of the United Kingdom and which has a population of 1 million people—towards evolutionary independence ultimately, with internationally supervised elections. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that is something that he really can deplore.

Mr. Healey

I think this is one issue on which I happen to agree with the present British Government and the American Administration, both of whom have condemned the setting up of this puppet Government.

Mr. Winterton

I am not sure the word "condemned" has come from the mouth of the British Minister. I believe that the British Government have said that in their view the Government in question are null and void. [Interruption.] Well, politicians use language that is often considered one way by one group and another way by others. I do not consider that that is a robust condemnation by the British Government. Certainly it does not amount to recognition, but I do not believe that it is a condemnation, either. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that I believe that the example set in Namibia, if it is successful, could when order has been restored in the Republic of South Africa, be an example to follow, and set a faster rate of progress in South Africa. I say publicly that I wish every success to the new transitional Government of national unity that is operating from Windhoek in Namibia. I hope that what goes on in that country will be an example to the rest of the African continent.

South Africa is a country important to the prosperity and stability of the whole of southern Africa. The African continent is vital to the free world. Let us try to encourage South Africa to make the necessary progress so that the abhorent system of separate development—apartheid—can be brought to an end as soon as possible. But let us not bring about a system whereby all the peoples of southern Africa are plunged into chaos, and the country into disorder. If we do, we shall be criticised in the years that lie ahead. We have a heavy responsibility at this time.

1 am

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

I hope that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) will not think that I am treating him too harshly when I say that when he appeared to be comparing himself with Winston Churchill, he reminded me more of the period when Winston Churchill was opposing the inevitable in India than when he was dealing with Nazi Germany. The inevitable cannot be avoided in South Africa. If Harold Macmillan did not succeed almost a quarter of a century ago in persuading Conservative Members that the wind of change was making an impression, the events of the past few weeks in particular make it clear that South Africa is heading in a different direction from the one that appears to appeal to Conservative Members.

I was particularly pleased that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) intervened to say that the quotations from Bishop Tutu were selective. That was especially right in view of the fact that his enthronment address when he was installed as the Bishop of Johannesburg was word by word and line by line, an utter condemnation of almost every expression of opinion that we have heard from Conservative Members in the debate.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) was successful in obtaining the debate. As usual he made an excellent speech. It was lucid and appealed to the House. When Conservative Members were asking him whether he had been to South Africa, I thought that my hon. Friend showed particular tolerance. I look forward to the time when he speaks in his normal role as Front Bench spokesman on housing matters, and when he in turn asks Conservative Members when they last saw a council house or visited a council estate.

Nevertheless, my hon. Friend spoke with great authority. I was particularly pleased when he referred to the article in The Times about Nelson Mandela. It told us a great deal about Mandela and South Africa, the man and his aspirations, and his love for South Africa, when he talked about the beauty of the city of Johannesburg and even about the role of the whites in the future of South Africa. That is a man who loves his country and who should not be in prison. He should be given the opportunity to express his ideas, which are much more representative of the future than those reflected in the British Government's policies.

In the article there was a most moving message from Mandela in prison, when he said to his fellow citizens: Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. That is true of South Africa in the context of the rest of the world.

We cannot be complacent about human rights, human dignity and progress for mankind if we have the blot of South Africa on the international landscape. In spite of the examples of America, France and the EC which have been given today, we have had a tepid response from the Government. That is especially astonishing in view of South Africa's record in respect of Commonwealth countries. What about Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana? Did the British Government offer solidarity with those countries when faced with provocation from South Africa? No. We urged them to sign treaties to comply with South African demands. The invasion of Botswana is outrageous and has not been condemned sufficiently by the Prime Minister or any other Ministers.

We have been asked to judge the record of the South African regime this evening. The hon. Member for Macclesfield asked us especially eloquently to do so. I should like to refer to a compelling letter that appeared in the Glasgow Herald of 9 July, signed by the high commissioner for Botswana. Of South Africa he said: Their recent activities in the region and their pressures on Botswana indicate that they now want from Botswana more than a commitment to our well-known policy of good neighbourliness. They now want Botswana, through the use of their overwhelming military force, if necessary, to commit itself, by treaty, to be co-opted in the enforcement of apartheid in South Africa and the perpetuation of colonialism in Namibia. The letter described the invasion thus: The so-called 'ANC operators' killed in the raid were: a 60-year-old man who had emigrated from South Africa in the early 1950s and was a temporary resident; a 71-year-old South African man who came to Botswana in 1981 to spend the remaining days of his life in peace and freedom in exile; a 47-year-old refugee businessman and his social worker wife who worked for our Ministry of Local Government and Lands; a refugee student at the University of Botswana who had tied the country to avoid the military draft; a musician; and a secondary school teacher who had just graduated from university in Nigeria and a South African student visiting relatives in Botswana. The rest were a six-year-old child from Lesotho, two Botswana housekeepers and a Dutch citizen of Somali origin working for a computer company, all of whom may never have heard about the ANC.

Mr. Rogers

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is in order for Conservative Members to use the Government's facilities to obtain statistics and information from the civil servants? My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) raised this matter recently with Mr. Speaker. If there is to be a connection between the British Government and the Government of South Africa through that Box, it is a travesty of democracy——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The matter was indeed raised. Mr. Speaker gave his ruling and I ask the hon. Gentleman to refresh his memory of it. The civil servants in the Box are there to advise Ministers.

Mr. Rogers


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The debate will end at 1.48. The Minister who is to reply to the debate would like to begin his speech at 1.30. These interruptions mean that hon. Members who have been sitting throughout the debate will not be called.

Mr. Clarke

I realise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that time is not on my side.

The state of emergency in South Africa means that violence and injustice prevail. More and more power has been given to the police and army chiefs. To those hon. Members who argue that this was inevitable I put this question: why has Mr. Botha gone out of his way to brief the press and ask them to take the view that the state of emergency was forced upon him by the police and the military? Powers which are absolutely disgraceful and indefensible have been taken: the power of arrest and detention, the power to supervise free journalists, and the power to police including the right to use force resulting in death. People do not even have the right to disclose the name of a detainee without official permission. If they do, they have to accept that it is a crime.

I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East was right to remind the House that Britain is in grave danger of becoming isolated. We have ignored the United Nations, the Commonwealth and those countries whose commitment to democracy is at least as great as ours. They have taken action to bring to South Africa's attention the repugnance that is felt by all.

Notwithstanding the atrocious record of the South African Government and the determination of all civilised people to put an end to apartheid, there are hon. Members who offer apologies and excuses and who make speeches in an effort to defend the indefensible. But it will be impossible to defeat the progress of the human spirit. Injustice in South Africa will be defeated. Ultimately justice will prevail.

1.13 am
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) made a speech, as did other Opposition Members, which, if one were a stranger from another planet listening to this debate from the Strangers Gallery, would lead him to believe that the whole world is like this country and that all the debates that take place throughout the world are like ours. Anybody who knows anything about the world realises that in many respects this country is unique. The way in which we can debate issues in this Chamber is unique.

Equally, this stranger would look at the world and realise that South Africa, like many other parts of the world, faces tribal problems. The difference between South Africa and many other parts of the world is that one can tell the difference between the tribes by the colour of their skins. But is that not true of other parts of the world? It is true of the Indian subcontinent, of the south American continent and of large parts of south-east Asia. One can tell the difference because of their different appearance and because of the religions that they practise. We have to ask ourselves whether we are pretending to ourselves or whether we are prepared to look at the world as it really is. Only a tiny minority of the world's population enjoys democracy. More than four fifths of the member states of the United Nations are not democracies.

If we are to make any attempt to understand the problems of southern Africa—problems which, like so many others, began as accidents of history—we must show tolerance and accept that regimes exist which are unpalatable by our standards and values. Regardless of our political positions, all hon. Members support democracy, freedom and free speech.

We know that the world at large is not like that. most of us abhor the administration in southern Africa. Few of us would compliment it or wish to have any association with it. I am sorry that the right hon. Member from the borders is not here. Since I am advised that he would not recognise me, I shall refrain from remembering his constituency. It was interesting to note that the right hon. Gentleman entered the Chamber during our debate for only a few minutes. Since he has recently spent some time in that part of the world, one would have hoped that he would have spent more time in this Chamber of democracy and made a positive attempt to do something about the matter, but he did not. [Interruption.] He has such a poor memory that he has probably forgotten what he saw there. He cannot even remember hon. Members who come to the Chamber every day.

If Opposition Members genuinely believe, as they claim, that it is right for the Scottish tribe to have its own homeland and its elected assembly in Edinburgh, why is it wrong for the Benda tribe to have its homeland? I make no apology for being a member of the Scottish tribe. I do not understand these double standards. Apparently for good political reasons north of the border, it is right to have a Scottish tribal conclave and a Scottish Assembly. However, they do not believe that it is right for the Benda nation.

Hon. Members delude themselves and the rest of the world if they believe that the House can provide a solution to the problems of southern Africa, because they are complicated and difficult problems that were created by accidents of history. However, we cannot escape the fact tht Britain is a manufacturing nation. We must purchase vital minerals for the manufacture of essential goods. Whether we like it or not, 98 per cent. of those essential minerals are in southern Africa or south-west Africa or under the control of the USSR. Those minerals are necessary for the manufacture of high-grade steel and alloys. If, as Opposition Members suggest, we did not buy those minerals, the effect on Britain would be far greater than the effects of the problems with OPEC.

The OPEC problems would shrink into insignificance in comparison. One cannot manufacture all the modern appliances that we manufacture and sell abroad without these essential minerals, and we could not have the avionics, aviation and shipping industries or most of the equipment used by our armed forces if these essential minerals were not available to us.

Instability in southern Africa cannot be in the best interests of the manufacturing nations of the West. The problems in South Africa now should remind us that it is one of the few countries in Africa that has not had a coup in the past 50 years. Nearly every other country has had a change of administration that did not take place under the normal process that one would expect.

That being so, we have to ask ourselves whether the speeches that we make inflame a difficult situation or help it. If it is the former, one should be careful about the speeches that one makes. We feel that way about the speeches that some politicians from other countries make about Northern Ireland, which we know inflame the situation there unnecessarily. Is it not also possible that if we take the licence that our freedom allows us —[Interruption.] I am not telling individuals that they should not make such speeches. I am saying that they should think carefully before doing so. There is a difference between saying that one should not do something, and saying that one should think carefully before doing so.

With democracy come certain conditions that should be recognised. One is that one is required to apply oneself sensibly in a way that will not unnecessarily damage others. [Interruption.] I do not find that funny.

I make no apology for the situation in southern Africa, because history shows that these things evolve slowly. The white tribe is in control. It has control that allows freedoms, and greater freedoms than I found in other parts of Africa. I am not talking about military control. We should think carefully before we do things that inflame the difficult situation, and we should apply tolerance.

1.23 am
Mr. Richard Caborn (Sheffield, Central)

I have only seven minutes tonight; at least I had 10 when I moved my South Africa (Sanctions) Bill a couple of weeks ago. Some of the things that have been said tonight are appalling. They have not taken account of what has been happening in southern Africa. I have not been to South Africa, and I shall tonight be quoting not only from people who have been there but from people who live there and are representatives of the people there.

The way that Bishop Tutu's words have been taken out of context is appalling. I shall quote what he said in St. Paul's cathedral, when he gave a lecture. He said: Ensure that your country exerts political, diplomatic, but, above all, economic pressure on the South African Government to persuade it to go to the conference table at a National Convention with the authentic leaders of all sections of our community, and for us blacks, it would mean the real leaders now in jail or in exile. That speech has been published.

The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) said that I had a three-line Whip for the Bill, which I had the pleasure to introduce in the House a couple of weeks ago. The contrary is the position. I was heartened to speak to many Conservatives, some of whom wrote to the antiapartheid movement saying they would be supporting the Bill, and quite a number said that they would not be prepared to go through the Lobby with certain elements on the Conservative side who were opposed to that.

Those elements have formed the voice of the Conservative party in this debate, and one could say it is a hard, Right-wing voice. It is a pity that a distortion of the Conservative party has come through in the debate. A number of people in the United Kingdom in all political parties would agree on the rejection of apartheid. The Government have adopted a platitudinous attitude and are taking no positive action. At Question Time today, the Foreign Secretary clearly underlined the position of the Government on the matter of constructive engagement.

The matter of Nelson Mandela and the ANC has been raised forcefully in the debate. For many years, Nelson Mandela and the ANC took exactly the course of trying to start a dialogue with the South African authorities. The abrupt end came in the 1960 massacre in Sharpeville. That was then the ANC and Nelson Mandela, together with his colleagues, said, "Enough is enough. We cannot tolerate the situation any longer." The ANC tried desperately for years to engage in a dialogue with the authorities, and it was the massacre of 69 people which drove Mandela and the ANC to take the decisions they did.

Some 25 years ago, a state of emergency was imposed in South Africa after the actions of the security forces in Sharpeville. The ANC was banned in 1961. Comments on constructive engagement have been made in the last 12 months by the Financial Times They were made just after President Botha embarked on a tour of European capitals. In April, the Financial Times said: Barely one year ago President P. W. Botha embarked on a tour of European capitals to explain changes in South Africa's domestic policies, against a background of apparent accommodation with the black states in the region. Mr. Botha would not be welcome in European capitals today. Such credibility as he may have enjoyed has been undermined by a series of events, including last weekend's incursion by South African troops into southern Angola. At the same time, the credibility of the western powers, which have often been prepared to give Mr. Botha the benefit of the doubt, has been eroded too. Washington's policy of constructive engagement with South Africa, adopted by Mrs. Thatcher, is looking increasingly threadbare. In the United States the growing strength of the disinvestment and sanctions lobby is pushing President Reagan closer to selective action. In conclusion, it said: Washington's patience has already been strained by events in Angola, where again diplomacy has taken second place to military ambitions. Throughout this period there is scant evidence that the west's cautious diplomacy has had a deterrent or constructive effect. I want to go briefly through the last 12 months of involvement or lack of it on the part of the British authorities and actions that have been taken in South Africa. As I said in my speech two weeks ago, the role of the British authorities in South Africa is greater than that of any other western nation. In August 1984 there occurred the detention without trial of United Democratic Front leaders prior to the coloured and Indian elections. In September 1984, the British Government refused to condemn the new constitution and was represented at the inaugural ceremony of the new state president. Also in September 1984, six leaders of the UDF sought sanctuary from detention orders in the British consulate in Durban, and British Ministers refused to meet with their representatives. In October 1984, the South African cabinet decided that four senior members who were convicted should not be returned to Britain to stand trial on arms smuggling charges in Coventry. Also in October 1984, all visits to those still in the Durban consulate were banned by the British authorities. In December 1984 the sit-in ended and those arrested were charged with high treason. They were the main UDF leaders.

In February this year, there were further arrests of UDF leaders. In March, there was the massacre in Langa on the 25th anniversary of the Sharpeville killings. In April, the South African president announced that a transitional Government would be established in Namibia in defiance of United Nations resolution 485. In May, there were South African commando raids on Gulf Oil installations in Cabinda. So it goes on.

Unfortunately, time is short, but I wish to quote two important statements. We have been told about developments in the trade union movement in South Africa. A Statement issued by the South African Congress of Trade Unions said: The Botha-Malan Regime has imposed a naked military dictatorship on our people. The South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) together with other democratic and fighting forces of our country, views this as a desperate but futile attempt to crush the democratic movement. In the light of this situation, SACTU calls on the international Trade Union Movement to take immediate action to cut off Apartheid South Africa by:

  1. 1. Refusing to handle all maritime, air or land traffic to or from South Africa
  2. 1183
  3. 2. Refusing to handle any goods to and from South Africa
  4. 3. Refusing to handle all telecommunications to or from South Africa
  5. 4. Refusing to handle all postal and telegraphic traffic to or from South Africa, and
  6. 5. Mounting massive demonstrations at all diplomatic missions representing the white minority regime abroad.
The South African Congress of Trade Unions call upon all Trade Unionists to urge the governments of their respective countries to impose immediate comprehensive mandatory sanctions against the Pretoria Regime. We have quoted Bishop Tutu and others, and on 28 April a conference of the South African Council of Churches passed a resolution calling for disinvestment. It was drawn up not by visitors to South Africa, but by people who are there all the time. They have to live with apartheid; they do not flit off to South Africa for three or four weeks. They echo Bishop Tutu's call. The statement says: This conference therefore resolves:
  1. (a) to express our belief that disinvestment and similar economic pressures are now called for as a peaceful and effective means of putting pressure on the South African government to bring about those fundamental changes this country needs.
  2. (b) to ask our partner churches in other countries to continue with their efforts to identify and promote effective economic pressures to influence the situation in South Africa, towards achieving justice and peace in this country and minimizing the violence of the conflict;
  3. (c) to promote fuller consideration of the issues by placing the case for the imposition of economic sanctions and disinvestment before the Executive Committee of the SACC and the Regional Councils, and the Councils of our member churches and organisations with the request that they encourage congregations to study and debate them;
  4. (d) to ask the Executive to appoint in consultation with the Director of Justice and Reconciliation a task force to examine the whole question of economic justice as well as issues of disinvestment and economic sanctions, to review and co-ordinate the responses from the churches, and to assist the church leaders by making available to them information and analyses;
  5. (e) to call member churches and individual christians to withdraw from participation in the economic system that oppresses the poor, by re-investing money and energy in alternative economic systems in existence in our region."
Conservative Members referred to the trade union movement, but when the movement gives its considered opinions on the crisis in South Africa, Tory Members reject those opinions. They want to have their cake and eat it. I hope that the Minister will be a little more conciliatory than some of his hon. Friends have been.

1.33 am
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Richard Luce)

It is the end of July, the middle of the night and the middle of the Consolidated Fund Bill debate. In normal circumstances, many of us would be dropping off to sleep. However, not once in the last three hours have I felt like dropping off to sleep and, when I have looked round the Chamber, to my amazement, every hon. Member has been awake.

It has been a stimulating debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) on raising an issue which is of profound importance not only to the people of South Africa and southern Africa, but to this country as well. It is, of course, an issue which raises great passions and feelings in the House, and they were expressed sincerely and strongly this evening. I believe that it has been a valuable and lively debate.

Like the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), I have travelled around the African continent a great deal and, indeed, many times to South Africa. My first job was in east Africa. I think that it is a wonderful continent, a colourful continent and a continent of great extremes—the extremes of harshness, but the extremes also of kindness and good humour. When I look back on my experience of being the Minister of State responsible for African affairs for three years, which was a great privilege, I remember in particular the Lancaster house conference on Rhodesia. I sometimes think, when I look back on that occasion, that the only basis on which we got through was the good humour of the British and of the Africans. It is a simple humour that permeates the African continent.

Apartheid casts a long shadow over Britain's relations with South Africa. Let there be no doubt about our detestation of apartheid, and all the repressive measures used to enforce it. It is contrary to all civilised values. The existence side by side of two communities—a ruling minority and a majority excluded from participation in the Government—is made doubly repugnant by the fact that the glaring inequalities between the two are founded on institutionalised racial discrimination. Such a system is basically unstable and dangerous. It makes economic nonsense. Apartheid is wasteful of resources. By putting barriers in the way of movement and opportunity, it inhibits economic growth. The South African Government know, because we have repeatedly made the point, and shall continue to do so, that the policy of apartheid is an affront to our most cherished values.

The Government have followed closely, and with deep concern, the mounting unrest in South Africa and the tragic death toll that has resulted. We have continued to condemn repression and human rights violations, and have repeatedly impressed on the South African Government the deep concern with which we view such things as forced removals and detention without trial.

What has been happening in South Africa is not simply a law and order issue. The continuing violence reflects the deep-seated frustrations of the majority of the people. We condemn violence, from whatever quarter, and we welcome the clear call from Bishop Tutu for an end to it. The declaration of a state of emergency last weekend will add to the growing numbers who languish in detention without trial or any legal recourse.

Mr. Robert Hughes


Mr. Luce

I must say to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn), who had some very strong views, went over his time, and I must proceed rapidly if I am to answer the debate.

Mr. Hughes


Mr. Luce

I must answer the debate.

Such action will solve nothing. It underlines the urgency of fundamental reform.

I believe that it is not for us to prescribe solutions. This point came out in a remarkable speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), to whom I listened with the greatest care. He takes a very close interest in that part of the world. The point came out also in a speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker).

We have made it clear to the South African Government that urgent progress must be made towards a system of government which commands the support of the people of South Africa as a whole. We do not dismiss the reforms introduced earlier this year. They are only a very small beginning, but they are not insignificant. I thought that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East was far too dismissive of — indeed he paid no attention to — some of the changes, however modest they may be, which are taking place. Indeed, I recall that, in the debate of 25 April, the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) said very much the same thing in welcoming some of the changes.

The fundamental reforms which we all seek are still not in prospect, and such changes as have taken place have been overshadowed by repression in its ugliest form. It is, indeed, difficult to reconcile the South African Government's call at the beginning of the year for a wider dialogue with their subsequent action in arresting many of those whom black South Africans regard as their leaders.

We and our partners in Europe have issued an urgent call for the Government of South Africa to begin a dialogue with the genuine representatives of the non-white community, which will deal with the fundamental question of black political aspirations. We have called on them to take certain steps that we believe would create an atmosphere of confidence for such a dialogue. Those steps should be, first, the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela and other acknowledged political leaders. I noted with interest that the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) advocated that. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield said that that could be helpful to the climate in South Africa. There was some disagreement from my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle).

Secondly, there should be an end to forced removals. Then there should be an end to detention without trial, then an early end to the state of emergency, then the progressive abolition of discriminatory legislation such as the pass laws and the Group Areas Acts and then a commitment to some form of common citizenship for all South Africans. Only by building on such a dialogue can the future security and prosperity of all South Africans be guaranteed.

I wish to come now to the heart of the debate—the question of engagement or disengagement with South Africa. Many hon. Members disagree with the Government's policy of developing and maintaining contacts, but we firmly believe that without contact there can be no influence on events. The disagreement is about means, rather than about ends. To turn our backs on South Africa would be irresponsible. Our conviction is that we should remain involved and use the means at our disposal to work for peaceful change. That reflects our belief that economic growth in South Africa, and especially the benefits it brings to the black community, can act as a catalyst for peaceful political change and will hasten the collapse of apartheid. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield referred to that.

Black skills are needed on a greatly increasing scale and at all levels, especially in the urban areas. Already that has led to the virtual ending of job reservation and a commitment to accept blacks as permanent residents in the urban areas. Moreover, in the longer term South Africa will face the problem of how to feed its growing population. Without economic development it will be unable to do so. Africa is suffering enough without our seeking to make it suffer more. Improvements in the education and training of non-whites in South Africa are vital elements in the strategy. Our aid programme is devoted almost entirely to improving the standard of black education. The European Community code of conduct can play a useful role in encouraging representational rights for black workers through organisations of their choice and by urging companies to open up career opportunities through better training.

The European Community is now urgently to consider strengthening the code so that it will contribute more effectively to the abolition of apartheid. We believe that British companies have made an important contribution to that process and that there is room for further initiatives by the private sector—community work, social welfare of employees, equal opportunities and so on.

We understand why many now press for the alternative strategy—sanctions and disengagement, but we do not believe that such policies would produce the changes we all wish to see in South Africa. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East was a member of a Government who for many years followed the policy of dialogue between this country and South Africa. I was interested to hear him say that his package of five measures, which I noted carefully, would be only symbolic——

Mr. Healey


Mr. Luce

I thought that the right hon. Gentleman used that word.

The Government remain opposed to economic sanctions, and I make that absolutely clear in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North. We oppose them because they simply will not work. They have virtually never worked when they have been tried. In Rhodesia they served to strengthen parts of the white business sector at the expense of the blacks. The South African economy is much stronger than was Rhodesia's and would undoubtedly adapt to sanctions.

Listening to the "End of Empire" series on the BBC the other day, I was interested to note that on the programme on Zimbabwe Mr. Smith himself said: We were worried for I suppose a month or so, uncertain, but nothing terrible happened. In fact, it was a little better than we had expected, and then gradually got better not worse"— [Interruption.] I hope that hon. Members will listen to me; it is better to listen. We became industrially self-sufficient. We developed a much broader base to our whole economy and industry. It was a shot in the arm. That was Mr. Smith speaking of his experience of the imposition of sanctions. I say, to be honest, that had I been in the House in the 1960s, I believe that I would have voted in favour of the imposition of sanctions against Rhodesia. Like the majority of my hon. Friends, I continued to vote in favour of them throughout the 1970s.

Despite that, the evidence is that they would not work. Sanctions would merely stiffen the resistence of the white South Africans to external pressure. Far from being persuaded to introduce more reforms, the Government in Pretoria would be more like to abandon their attempts at further advancement for the blacks. White South Africans are already an isolated society. Sanctions would merely reinforce the laager mentality. My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir. J. Biggs-Davison) referred to that.

The brunt of economic measures would be borne by the black South Africans, and that would be bound to increase the bitterness and violence that already exists. The House cannot ignore the views of remarkable people such as Mrs. Suzman, Alan Paton, Chief Buthelezi and, in certain circumstances, Bishop Tutu, all of whom have spoken about the grave consequences of cutting off economic contact with the people of South Africa.

Sanctions would affect the economies of South Africa's neighbours, even if the latter did not formally participate in the sanctions policy. There is no doubt that the economic survival of the majority of South Africa's neighbours depends on their ability to continue trading with each other and with the republic.

There would, of course, be adverse effects for our economy, too. We have much at stake in South Africa, including jobs in this country — jobs about which Opposition Members as well as my hon. Friends and I care. There would be no point in sacrificing jobs and prosperity in Britain for the sake of measures which would not only be ineffective but which would do most harm to those whom we are seeking to help.

We are under no illusions about the difficulties of working for peaceful change in South Africa, but we believe that there is no constructive — I emphasise "constructive" — alternative to remaining closely and continously involved and to working for positive and peaceful change.

1.47 am
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Only a few seconds remain for the debate. It is difficult to obtain information from South Africa. However, I have been advised today that the number of people detained is now well over 1,000, that at least one detainee has died and that there is great anxiety about the condition of many others.

For that reason, I have today sent a telegram to the International Red Cross asking it to intervene and to seek access to the people concerned. Will the Minister back that demand and call for access to be given so that the detainees may be seen and steps taken to look after their welfare?

In accordance with Mr. Speaker's Ruling—(Official Report, 31 January 1983; Vol. 36, c. 19)—the debate was concluded.

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