HC Deb 01 July 1987 vol 118 cc486-8
9. Mr. Pike

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations Her Majesty's Government have made to the South African Government regarding the release of political detainees.

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

We have repeatedly made clear to the South African Government our deep concern at the continuing detentions without charge. We have done so both bilaterally and together with our European partners.

Mr. Pike

While accepting what the Minister has said, may I ask how the British Government intend to make the South African Government realise that we want to see positive steps towards ending the policy of apartheid in that country? One of the important prerequisites of that is the release of all political detainees. How will the Government spell out the message so that the South African Government understand and act on it?

Mrs. Chalker

We have made repeated representations to the South African Government, not only about detainees, but about all the other issues that have arisen in recent months and years. We shall continue to impress upon the South African Government the need to bring people together around the conference table so that together they can work out a future constitution. There is no way in which we can bring about change from outside. The changes that are needed in South Africa to abandon apartheid totally have to come from within, and we shall use all our diplomatic efforts, with the Twelve and with the Commonwealth, to bring that about.

Mr. Hunter

In the light of what my right hon. Friend has said, will she please explain her apparent reluctance to enter into a dialogue with the leaders of the black homelands in South Africa, who represent moderation in that country? If she is not reluctant, will she please refute that allegation?

Mrs. Chalker

I think my hon. Friend knows very well that the so-called independent homelands in South Africa are a key element in what is known as grand apartheid. They are bitterly resented by most black South Africans. Neither we nor any other state have recognised the so-called independent homelands. We believe that no British interests would be served by recognising any of them. The historical background does not alter the present facts. Even fellow Tswanas in Botswana do not recognise Bophuthatswana. It is simply not possible for us to have the sort of official dealings that my hon. Friend would like, without the risk of appearing to recognise such a homeland as an independent state. It would do nothing to bring about the end of apartheid. If I thought that it would do so, we might change our ideas.

Mr. Battle

In the light of the post-election message of congratulation from President Botha, did the Prime Minister mention detainees in her reply?

Mrs. Chalker

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister received a large number of letters from Heads of State as a result of the election. There was nothing out of the ordinary either in the letter that was sent or in the reply, a copy of which I do not have to hand.

Mr. John Carlisle

Will my right hon. Friend accept that internal security matters in South Africa are for the South African Government, not for our Government? Will she also accept that while certain political detainees are detained, and while the state of emergency exists, peace has returned to the black townships and that people can go about their lives normally, apart from the murderous intent of the African National Congress and others who are bent on disruption?

Mrs. Chalker

Internal matters are for the South African Government, but I think my hon. Friend knows well enough that the concern of the House and of thousands of people outside it about those who are detained without charge is very real. It is something that we have never espoused in this country, nor do we think that it should happen in other countries. We regret the renewed state of emergency in South Africa, because it is no answer to South Africa's problems. The South African Government need to engage in a dialogue with free and freely chosen representatives of black opinion. That is the first necessary step on the path to a peaceful solution that we all wish to see. Nothing is gained by throwing brickbats in the way that some would have us do.

Mr. Anderson

Although repression in South Africa is censored and does not appear on our television screens, does the Minister agree that, as was confirmed recently by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, repression there is at an unprecedented level and that it includes the detention and torture of children? In the light of that, why do the Government continue to give aid and support in the United Nations to the apartheid régime, and why do they protect South Africa in the Security Council by the continued use of their veto?

Mrs. Chalker

There is no protection of the South African Government in the United Nations by this country. We are deeply concerned about the allegations in the recent report "Children under Apartheid". Although the South African police have denied those allegations, I understand that the South African Deputy Minister for Law and Order has said that such allegations, if true, are horrendous. No doubt, over time we shall hear more about them. The allegations refer to a time past. We hope that if any children are still retained in detention they will be freed by the South African Government.

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