HC Deb 06 July 1988 vol 136 cc1056-7
12. Mr. Skinner

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will now consider applying economic sanctions against South Africa; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Chalker

We do not believe that the application of punitive economic sanctions against South Africa would help bring about the end of apartheid, which is the objective of the hon. Member and of Her Majesty's Government alike.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that if there was any doubt in anybody's mind either here or outside about the ideological empathy between this Government and the South African Government, it was surely dispelled on Monday night when the Prime Minister walked through the Lobby to support a private Bill to enable the South Africans to export more coal to Britain? That coal has blood on it. Surely it is time that the British people understood more clearly that the Government's opposition to sanctions is not about some mere technicality, but because they want to give aid and succour to the hated Botha regime?

Mrs. Chalker

The hon. Gentleman's question is almost not worth replying to. I can only say that if he continues to act as Scargill's voice in this House and to drum away at policies that will not help black people in South Africa, it will be a very poor show for him and for what he is supposed to stand for. The hon. Gentleman spoke about a decision of the House. The House is responsible for Britain's economy. There is no ban on the import of South African coal, and to have one would depend on a number of other people and not just on Britain. The hon. Gentleman does not help black people in South Africa by the way in which he approaches this issue.

Sir Jim Spicer

Will my right hon. Friend take every possible opportunity to speak privately to the leaders of black South African trade unions to ascertain their true views relating to sanctions, as opposed to the views that they have to express publicly to avoid attacks from the ANC?

Mrs. Chalker

I assure my hon. Friend that we have many continuing contacts with leaders of black trade union leaders in South Africa. We intend to keep in close touch with their views, and we know of surveys that have been taken of those views. They do not wish sanctions to be introduced, but it is true that they sometimes fear to speak out about the real views of their people. While we do not believe that enough progress has yet been made, we very much welcome the successful establishment of black trade unions in South Africa, and we hope that it will continue.

Miss Lestor

I warn the right hon. Lady that when I meet her later this week to discuss Mozambique I shall not deal only with the banditry and terrorism that is being practised by the South African-funded MNR in Mozambique, but will raise with her the question of the sanctions that South Africa imposes on Mozambique; for example, the slashing of the number of Mozambican miners it employs and the under-use of the port of Maputo. The Government acknowledge the damage that South Africa does to Mozambique with those sanctions by trying to compensate it through the aid programme. If South Africa——

Mr. Dickens

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Miss Lestor

No, I will not. If South Africa can destabilise Mozambique in that way, does the right hon. Lady not realise that sanctions imposed on South Africa by Britain and other countries would have the same effect?

Mrs. Chalker

The hon. Lady will have to sort out one or two things before she comes to see me tomorrow. Many Mozambicans have told us that it is precisely the denial of jobs in South Africa, which sanctions would cause if they were implemented, that would deny their families the income on which they depend so heavily. We shall go on aiding Mozambique in a positive way, just as we shall continue to aid black people in South Africa in a positive way, but I can tell the hon. Lady that she and I will have a lot to say to each other tomorrow.

Mr. John M. Taylor

Is my right hon. Friend aware of any instance of sanctions achieving the objectives that they were intended to achieve?

Mrs. Chalker

No, I am not.

Mr. Anderson

Even if the Government reject economic sanctions, will the Minister consider sending a signal to the South African Government? First, will she instruct our ambassador in South Africa to ask for permission to visit Nelson Mandela in prison near the time of his birthday and convey to him a tribute from this House? Secondly, will she issue an ultimatum to the South African Government about Zwelakhe Sisulu, a former official guest of the Government, who is now starting his third year of detention without trial and who is now in hospital? Will she inform South Africa that unless he is released from prison we and our European partners will order the withdrawal of senior South African diplomatic personnel?

Mrs. Chalker

The hon. Gentleman is well aware that I do not believe that ultimatums will bring about what he and I seek, which is the humane treatment of Mr. Sisulu, who, we are sad to know, is now in hospital. I assure the hon. Gentleman that Her Majesty's ambassador in South Africa will make such visits as he can to those who need our help there. The hon. Gentleman should await the continuation of our policy, which has always been to represent to the South African Government our view that Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners should be released without any conditions.

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