HC Deb 26 June 1985 vol 81 cc905-8
8. Mr. Madden

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made to the South African Government following their decision unilaterally to establish a transitional Government in Namibia.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We told the South African Government, both privately before their announcement and in a public statement following it, that we regarded the establishment of an interim Administration in Namibia as null and void. We have taken every opportunity to remind South Africa of its international obligation to implement Security Council resolution 435.

Mr. Madden

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman concerned about the fact that the British Government's present posture on Namibia is causing Britain to become isolated in the Commonwealth and among much of the international community? Will he make it clear at forthcoming meetings of the United Nations Security Council that Britain will not automatically oppose the imposition of sanctions on South Africa? Will he also make it clear that Conservative Members who saw fit to attend the inauguration of the puppet Government recently were not there with the support or, indeed, silent blessing of the British Government?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The answer to the last part of that supplementary question is that I fancy that some of my colleagues who attended that occasion are not in the habit of seeking the blessing of Her Majesty's Government, silent or otherwise, and seem able to speak and act for themselves. I have already answered the earlier part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question about Her Majesty's Government's position. I must also make it clear that we do not believe that an advance in the direction on which the whole House is agreed—namely, the implementation of resolution 435 — would be most effectively secured by the imposition of economic sanctions. However, it is, of course, important to maintain pressure in the most effective way that we possibly can.

Mr. Amery

What progress is being made towards securing the withdrawal of Cuban forces from Angola, which is a necessary precondition for the fulfilment of the United Nations plan for Namibia?

Hon. Members


Sir Geoffrey Howe

As Opposition Members are pointing out, the withdrawal of Cuban forces does not form any part of resolution 435, as my right hon. Friend knows. Nor do we recognise it as a precondition for a settlement. The South Africans have made it clear that they will not agree to the implementation of resolution 435 unless a way of implementing the withdrawal of Cuban forces is found. It is to that end that the United States-led negotiations have been and continue to be directed—not helped by the recent incident, which we all deplored, at Cabinda.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman taken the opportunity to express to the South Africans the disgust of the House about their behaviour of late and particularly about their invasion of Botswana and the terrorism that followed, which represented an affront to all decent standards of behaviour?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

As was made plain at the time, we stongly condemned the blatant violation of Botswana's sovereignty that was involved in that affair. We deplored and deeply regretted the loss of life involved, and I summoned the South African ambassador immediately to see me and made clear the serious view that we took of that attack.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Why are the British Government not prepared to support an interim Government of national unity, representative of all the major political parties in Namibia, which are united in their determination to remove all vestiges of apartheid? Why are the Government not prepared to support them, as this in no way undermines the determination of that interim Government ultimately to hold elections under international supervision?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The answer is basically because the so-called interim Administration has no standing under the plan endorsed by United Nations resolution 435. The plan was accepted by the South African Government. We have made our view entirely clear to South Africa. Previous internal arrangements in Namibia have not proved of lasting significance.

Mr. Robert Hughes

When the Foreign Secretary this afternoon meets the President of SWAPO, Mr. Sam Nujoma, will he tell him two things? First, will he tell him that the Government do not have unlimited patience with South Africa and will not allow it to flout the wishes of the vast majority of countries in preventing resolution 435 from being passed? Secondly, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman try to explain to Mr. Sam Nujoma what the purpose is of having a transitional Government in Namibia if it is not to thwart resolution 435?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Although I am prepared to try to explain many things, it is not for me to explain the answer to the last question that the hon. Gentleman raised. This is a matter for those who are responsible for that action. I shall certainly make plain to Mr. Nujoma the importance that we attach to securing progress on resolution 435, and will leave him in no doubt about that.

Mr. Robert Banks

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider whether there could be an alternative to United Nations resolution 435 by bringing together all political parties in Namibia, and SWAPO, to agree on a constitution and a formula for holding elections? Given that the transitional Government obtain the essential reforms that are necessary to that country and the credibility that goes with them, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider whether support at that stage will be relevant to Namibia's obtaining independence through those means?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

One starts from the universal importance attached even by the South African Government to resolution 435. Of course, one does not exclude the possibility of some means of help of the type that my hon. Friend has described. If SWAPO were involved in such talks and if those talks led to conclusions that would assist in the implementation of resolution 435, one would not exclude that possibility.

Sir Russell Johnston

I refer to the meeting which the Foreign Secretary will have with Sam Nujoma, to which the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) referred. My impression from conversations this morning with Mr. Nujotna is that, while he recognises the positive nature of the statements which the Government have made—they were repeated today by the right hon. and learned Gentleman—about Namibia and the status of a transitional Government, he has the impression that neither the British Government nor the contact group have any practical proposals which are likely to have any effect on South Africa. How will the right hon. and learned Gentleman respond to that question?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

One has to recognise — [Interruption.] I am sure that the House would like me to welcome the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) at this late stage in the afternoon. In answer to the question from which we have been diverted, the role that we can play is to identify the objective, which is resolution 435, and to recognise that the United States-led negotiations, for all the patience that they require, represent probably the most effective route towards making headway in that direction. We give our support to that and to any other measure which is likely to be effective and which does not cut across that process.

Mr. Anderson

Is it not becoming just a little comical to see the number of times that the South African ambassador is called in for a ticking-off or a mauling from the Foreign Secretary, whatever the gravity of South Africa's actions? Even the Americans, for example, withdrew their ambassador over the Gabarone incident. Let me not say that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) can add respectability to anything, but does not the Foreign Office believe that the visit on 17 June of those Conservative Back Benchers to the inauguration of the new interim Government was unhelpful and is to be condemned?

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Certainly not.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I hear my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) expressing his view in his own characteristic fashion. So far as we are concerned, we have made our view quite clear that the establishment of that interim Administration is null and void, and we have nothing to add to that. Of course, it is necessary for us to make our position clear to the South African ambassador as we have done not just in relation to the Gabarone incident but also to the Cabinda incident. The hon. Gentleman points to the fact that the Americans have withdrawn their ambassador for consultations. It is our view that it is not helpful, if we are trying to get our views across to the South African Government, for us to take that step. Each country takes its own view.