HC Deb 05 February 1986 vol 91 cc275-6
9. Mr. Stan Thorne

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations are being made to the South African authorities regarding the remaining four defendants in the United Democratic Front treason trial.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)

We voted for Security Council resolution 560 calling for the dropping of charges against leaders of the United Democratic Front. We have also repeatedly called, independently and with our European and Commonwealth partners, for the release of all political prisoners. That remains our position.

Mr. Thorne

Although I welcome the fact that 12 people have been released, I must ask whether the Government are prepared to take a further initiative on behalf of the four trade unionists still charged with high treason.

Mrs. Chalker

We have already made the South African Government well aware of our attitude towards the trial of all the UDF leaders. Certainly the prosecution of the UDF is inconsistent with the South African Government's announced desire for dialogue with non-violent representatives of other communities. We shall make such representations as we can.

Mr. Dykes

Although I welcome my hon. Friend's reference to the farce of all those trials and her call on behalf of the Government for them to be dropped, may I ask whether she agrees that the UDF, the ANC and other representatives of the black majority are gaining increasing support? Does she further agree that middle-class blacks are becoming increasingly radical and revolutionary because of the absurd oduracy of the South African Government?

What is my hon. Friend's reaction to the latest laughable suggestions by the State President on the exchange of prisoners and on so-called reforms? Will the Government make it clear to the South African Government that until the whole rotten system of apartheid is dismantled there will be no basic justice in that country?

Mrs. Chalker

I shall repeat what I said in the House last week — that we are positively working against apartheid. We have made our views quite clear to the South African Government. The speech of the President of South Africa last week was only part of the process of reform. While it contained statements of principle as well as outlining positive steps to be taken in this Parliamentary Session, there is much more to be done. Steps must be taken on the road to reform, including those mentioned by my hon. Friend. Those steps must not only be legislated upon this Session, but must be put into effect as fully and as speedily as possible.

Mr. Anderson

Does not the continuation of the trial against the four trade unionists, and the separate trial against 22 UDF activists, suggest that the real motive of the South African Government is to silence democratic opposition within their country? Does that not seriously put in question the professed desire of President Botha for profound change? Does the Minister realise that yesterday another trial began, of seven Namibians at Windhoek? Does the Foreign Office recognise the validity of the legal structures raised by the illegal South African regime in Namibia, and if not, what is it doing about it?

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

That has nothing to do with the question.

Mrs. Chalker

As my hon. Friend says, the question posed by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) has nothing to do with the original question. I shall do my best to answer the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. He knows that we do not have discussions with the Government of Namibia, and therefore we do not recognise them. However, the South Africans have such discussions. We have to avoid hardening attitudes in South Africa, while strengthening the hands of those who argue in favour of internal settlements, whether of trials or any other matter.

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