HC Deb 07 February 1990 vol 166 cc871-3
3. Mr. Nellist

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations Her Majesty's Government have made to the Government of South Africa; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

We make frequent representations to the South African Government on a wide range of issues.

Mr. Nellist

Is the Secretary of State aware that following President de Klerk's weekend announcement about the unbanning of the African National Congress and the release, after 27 years in prison, of Mr. Nelson Mandela, heads of western Governments sought to claim responsibility and ignored the white Government's retreat in the face of mounting defiance of the black workers and youth of South Africa? That is a bit like a chicken and a pig discussing an egg and bacon breakfast: for the chicken, it is a small contribution, but for the pig it is a total commitment. Are not the only negotiations that the black majority would seek, and consider worth while to enter into, ones that were about the transfer of power, a genuinely freely elected constituent assembly, the ending of segregation, laws of emergency and the Labour Act and the reinstatement of the right of black workers to bear arms for their own defence?

Mr. Hurd

I should have thought that even the hon. Gentleman could bring himself to welcome warmly the decision announced by President de Klerk. Those changes, and the way that they were announced and are to be brought about, vindicate our policy of contact rather than isolation. The South African Government have taken major steps, opening the way to negotiations, and I hope that even the hon. Gentleman will expect the ANC and others to respond positively to them. We certainly do.

Mr. Gardiner

As President de Klerk has taken such significant steps to set the stage for constructive negotiations and discussions with all sections of the community, culminating in the expected release of Nelson Mandella, will my right hon. Friend do all that he can to impress upon the leaders of the ANC that they must put the concept of the armed struggle behind them and join the representatives of other blacks in constructive negotiations?

Mr. Hurd

Indeed, I agree with my hon. Friend. When Mr. Mandela is released, we hope that the ANC and others will agree to join in negotiations in conditions of peace and that the remaining emergency restrictions will be lifted.

Mr. Winnick

The changes announced last week by the South African President are certainly welcome. It is a step in the right direction, but does not the Foreign Secretary agree that much more must be done? Will the British Government make it quite clear to the South African authorities that if the people of eastern Europe have a right to freedom and democracy, the people of South Africa ߞblack, white and colouredߞhave no less a right? Does not the Foreign Secretary recognise that the policy of sanctions and disinvestment followed by the United States played an important role in forcing the South African authorities to recognise the realities of life?

Mr. Hurd

I agree with the hon. Gentleman to this extent: there is a long road still to travel. However, I am sure that he will agree that President de Klerk has shown courage and wisdom in moving further at this time than anyone had expected. If the British Government had yielded to pressure from hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and many others outside the House, and had supported the imposition of comprehensive sanctions against South Africa, the result would have been an impoverished black majority in South Africa and the virtual impossibility of the South African Government being able to take the measures that they have announced.

Mr. John Carlisle

As the Prime Minister has sensibly and bravely lifted the cultural and scientific boycotts against South Africa after President de Klerk's excellent initiatives, will my right hon. Friend consider pursuing the same policy for sporting contacts, in particular for sports which, under the Gleneagles agreement, have proved that selection is not based on race, colour or ethnic origin? May we have some carrots please, instead of all the sticks of the past?

Mr. Hurd

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear, we believe that that is rather further down the road. We remain committed to the Gleneagles agreement.

Mr. Kaufman

The Foreign Secretary has just referred to the dangers of an impoverished black population in South Africa. When he visits South Africa next month, will he ask to be taken to Alexandra or Soweto by the sea, or to any of the other black townships where he will see the unbelievable grinding poverty that has been imposed on the black people of South Africa by the white supremacists in South Africa? As to what the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) has just said, will the right hon. Gentleman explain why it is that when he and the Prime Minister say that we must not lower our guard against the Communist regimes that are toppling day by day in eastern Europe, they nevertheless want to get rid of such puny sanctions as we impose on South Africa at a time when the whole structure of apartheid remains intact? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, apartheid remains totally intact; it has not been touched in any way. Can it be that this Government's hostility to Communism, which is becoming defunct, is greater than their hostility to apartheid, which still flourishes?

Mr. Hurd

Of course, there is black poverty in South Africa, though less than in many other African states. However, that poverty would have been made much worse and the ability of blacks slowly to rise to positions of responsibility in their society would have been made impossible had we yielded to the right hon. Gentleman's policy on sanctions. He cannot say that every aspect of apartheid remains intact. He is justified in saying that there is a long way to go, and I have already said that. If, however, he talked to holidaymakers in Durban and said that apartheid remains intact, he would get a very negative response. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take the opportunity to make it clear whether the Opposition are wholly committed to comprehensive sanctions or whether they, too, acknowledge that the sort of steps that President de Klerk has taken deserve encouragement and a response from them.

Mr. Nelson

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is about the exchanges on that question.

Mr. Speaker

No, unless it is a definite matter of order that requires my immediate attention.

Mr. Nelson

I submit that it is. The prospect of reaching another question on South Africaߞ

Mr. Speaker

No. There is another question relating to South Africa on the Order Paper. The hon. Gentleman may be fortunate then.