HC Deb 20 November 1985 vol 87 cc266-9
11. Dr. Mawhinney

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy towards South Africa.

15. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement about the situation in South Africa.

Mr. Rifkind

We are working for the total elimination of apartheid and for rapid progress towards a genuinely non-racial democracy in South Africa.

Dr. Mawhinney

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his reply. Has he had an opportunity to meet and offer encouragement to any of the South African industrialists, business men and others who recently visited Lusaka? If not, has he plans to do so?

Mr. Rifkind

I have had contact with at least one of the South African business men. We have obviously noted with interest the efforts being made by the South African business community to persuade their Government to work for a more rapid dismantlement of the apartheid system.

Mr. Canavan

On the question of sanctions, will the Minister heed the words of black South African leaders such as Oliver Tambo, who recently told the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs that real and effective sanctions would be welcomed by the majority of the South African people, who are prepared to make further sacrifices so as to overthrow the apartheid regime and bring about the liberation of the majority of the people? Has the stubborn refusal of the British Tory Government to implement real and effective sanctions against South Africa got anything to do with the fact that many of the British based companies with vested financial interests in South Africa are also big contributors to the financial coffers of the Tory party?

Mr. Rifkind

Mr. Tambo is only able to put forward his own views and those of his organisation. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that Chief Buthelezi, who speaks for many millions, takes the opposite view. With regard to whether the British Government's view on sanctions is because of an alleged connection with donations made by British companies to the Conservative party, I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Labour Government also strongly opposed economic sanctions. I leave it to the hon. Gentleman to inquire from his own leadership whether that was because of secret donations to the Labour party.

Mr. John Townend

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that Her Majesty's Government have no more right to interfere in the internal affairs of South Africa, a sovereign state, than they have a right to interfere in the internal affairs of the United States of America or Soviet Russia?

Mr. Rifkind

I agree with my hon. Friend that one must always be cautious when commenting on the internal affairs of any country. The need for a peaceful resolution of the problems of South Africa is not only of importance to the people of South Africa but has profound implications for the stability of southern Africa and for wider international issues.

Mr. Madden

As the South African Government have chosen to stop the media, including the British media, telling the truth about what is happening in that country, why do the British Government allow the South African ambassador to remain here and to use the media, including the British media, to propagate lies about what is happening in South Africa?

Mr. Rifkind

I notice that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to see the recall of other ambassadors from countries with which we have equally profound differences of opinion. I ask him at least to try to be consistent in his approach.

Mr. Hayes

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that if there is to be real change in South Africa, it will come from within? Will he wholeheartedly support the many industrialists—I met one who came back from negotiating with the African National Congress in Lusaka—who publicly and openly condemn apartheid?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct to emphasise that at the end of the day profound change will come because of factors and pressure operating within South Africa. One of the most encouraging developments is the increasing proportion of white South Africans, including those from the Afrikaner community, who are taking the lead in calling for much more fundamental and radical reform from their own Government.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Does the Minister accept that the Government's laudable intentions to see the end of apartheid in South Africa will be widely accepted? However, does he realise that intentions are not enough? Will the "teeny weeny" measures that the Prime Minister said were being taken against South Africa be built up into bigger measures after the six months have gone by?

Mr. Rifkind

We have always made it clear that we are prepared to contemplate measures that show our disapproval of and do damage to apartheid, but we are not prepared to support measures designed to destroy the South African economy to the disadvantage of all South Africans, black and white.

Viscount Cranborne

Following that reply, will my hon. and learned Friend also bear in mind, when he is considering British policy towards South Africa, what the effect of sanctions could be on neighbouring countries, particularly if miners native to neighbouring countries have to be sent home as a result of the imposition of economic sanctions?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to that matter. One has noticed in recent months that Swaziland has been opposed to economic sanctions, Botswana has said that it intends to campaign neither for nor against economic sanctions, thereby showing its sensitivity to the matter, and the Zimbabwean Government have said that while they approve of sanctions, they would expect to be compensated for their effect.

Mr. Beith

Would it help the success of the Commonwealth mission if the British Government said, as the Prime Minister did, that if the mission is not successful there are no further measures in the direction of sanctions that the British Government are prepared to contemplate?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that our efforts at the moment are concentrated on the eminent persons group that the Commonwealth has decided to appoint. We hope very much that the objective of the group, which is to establish a dialogue with all those in South Africa who can help towards the evolution of fundamental reform, will be successful.

12. Mr. Eastham

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures are being taken to seek to discourage scientific agreements between bodies in Britain and South Africa by Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Rifkind

We know of only one formal scientific agreement between British and South African public bodies, and it is due to expire in June 1986. We agreed as part of the Luexembourg measures to discourage those scientific agreements with South Africa which could have a role in supporting apartheid.

Mr. Eastham

In view of the instability of the South African Government, are the Government not concerned about having an official agreement on nuclear development? Why should South Africa further enjoy associate membership of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority systems reliability service? All those matters cause great concern among people in this country, especially with such an unstable country as South Africa.

Mr. Rifkind

As I said to the hon. Gentleman, we know of only one scientific agreement between the United Kingdom and South Africa. It relates to the South African astronomical observatory and is due to expire on 30 June 1986. Indeed, the decision to allow it to expire was not taken in the context of the agreement that I announced earlier.

Mr. Pawsey

What positive benefit to the black community is likely to come from banning scientific agreements between the United Kingdom and South Africa?

Mr. Rifkind

I remind my hon. Friend that we specifically insisted, when the wording of the agreement was settled at Luxembourg, that we should discourage scientific agreements that could have a role in supporting apartheid, and we had no desire or intention of discouraging any agreements, either scientific or cultural, which could have no possible conection with apartheid. For example, we were particularly anxious to ensure that the work of the British Council, which is concentrating on assisting the black community in South Africa, would not be impeded by any measures of the sort proposed.

13. Mr. Home Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will discuss the situation in South Africa with representatives of the African National Congress.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We recognise the African National Congress as one important focus of black South African opinion and aspirations. The Commonwealth accord called for a lifting of the existing ban on the ANC and other political parties in South Africa and for the beginning of a process of dialogue in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides. Clearly, the ANC's support for such a suspension of violence would enhance its reputation and help to promote dialogue within South Africa and with those outside the country who seek a peaceful political solution to that country's problems.

Mr. Home Robertson

Is it not spectacular hypocrisy for the Government to condemn violent opposition to the violent system of apartheid while at the same time opposing effective sanctions, which must be the only alternative to violence in overthrowing the system? Since we all know that the African National Congress would infinitely prefer a peaceful route to liberation, will the Government now enter into sensible negotiations with the ANC, which is the universally accepted representative of the majority in South Arica?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I repudiate absolutely the hon. Gentleman's simplistic view that the only alternative to the present position is the imposition of sanctions. I agree that the suspension of violence by all sides would be desirable. That is what we are seeking, alongside the promotion of dialogue with the leaders of black Africa and the South African Government.

Mr. John Carlisle

Will my right hon. and learned Friend finally explode the myth that the ANC speaks for the majority of black people in South Africa? Does he agree that Chief Buthelezi, who speaks for about 7 million Zulus, has a far stronger voice and preaches peaceful reform rather than violence? Is it not disgraceful that a House of Commons Select Committee asked a violent revolutionary such as Oliver Tambo to give evidence to it rather than asking a peaceful man such as Chief Buthelezi?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The Select Committee must be accountable for its actions and decisions. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that Chief Buthelezi is an outstanding example of someone who speaks for many millions of South Africans and who is not committed to violence.