HC Deb 09 July 1986 vol 101 cc302-4
16. Mrs. Shields

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the South African Government on the release of Nelson Mandela.

Mrs. Chalker

The statement issued by European Community Heads of Government following the European Council meeting on the 26 and 27 of June at The Hague, called on the South African Government to release unconditionally Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners. This was immediately communicated to the South African Government.

Mrs. Shields

What is the Foreign Secretary planning to do if, when he meets the South African authorities, they refuse his request that Mr. Mandela be released?

Mrs. Chalker

Should that unfortunately be the outcome of my right hon. and learned Friend's discussions with the South African Government, I am sure that, when the matter is considered with the Heads of the Commonwealth, our European Community partners and the seven industrial nations, they will jointly decide on further action. We believe that the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela and other detainees, but especially Nelson Mandela, is a key to bringing about the end to violence and to getting dialogue moving in South Africa for a peaceful, evolutionary solution to the problem.

Sir John Farr

Does my hon. Friend agree that Nelson Mandela's release should not be unconditional but that it should be conditional upon his renouncing the use of violence, as has always been the principle behind the British Government's policy?

Mrs. Chalker

My hon. Friend will be aware that when I met the acting President of the African National Congress I spent a good deal of the time trying to persuade Mr. Oliver Tambo and his colleagues that there was no way out of this problem by violence—that it had to be by negotiations. The unconditional release of Nelson Mandela represents one of the best hopes of controlling the violent elements that exist among black people and of bringing about some common sense in the great battle for a dialogue leading towards negotiation and an end to the violence.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Mikardo — and a very happy birthday.

Mr. Mikardo

I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker.

Will the hon. Lady be good enough to suggest to the Foreign Secretary that, when he meets South African Ministers, he ought to tell them the self-evident fact that the longer they delay talking to the Mandelas and the Tambos, the more likely it is that they will finish up talking to other people with whom they might find it much more difficult to reach agreement?

Mrs. Chalker

May I join you, Mr. Speaker, in wishing the hon. Gentleman a happy birthday.

The tragedy of not talking now is that that provides a perfect recruiting ground for Communists and people with other undesirable views in black opposition parties in South Africa. That is why my right hon. and learned Friend is using all his endeavours to bring about a framework for dialogue between all peoples in South Africa. I hope that the House will join me in wishing hirn the very best success in those efforts, which will be long and hard.