HC Deb 07 February 1990 vol 166 cc874-6
5. Mr. Robert Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans Her Majesty's Government have to ensure that South Africa implements the measures agreed by the United Nations in the declaration on South Africa at the United Nations 16th special session of the general assembly.

Mr. Hurd

The measures that President de Klerk announced on 2 February come very close to implementing the steps called for by the Commonwealth eminent persons group, with which the declaration is consistent. More is needed, but a warm welcome for the steps already taken is surely deserved.

Mr. Hughes

Will the Foreign Secretary join me today in paying tribute to the many South Africans of all races whose decades of struggle and suffering have brought President de Klerk to the position that he is in today? Will he listen to their voices, which are saying almost unanimously that the potential, the promise and the hope that President de Klerk's statement brings may well remain unfulfilled if the external arm of the struggle is abandoned or lessened? Will he say clearly that sanctions and external pressure can be dismantled only when apartheid itself is dismantled?

Mr. Hurd

I certainly join in paying tribute to all whose work has made possible the present progress; they come from all parts of South African society.

The House has argued about sanctions time and again. I believe that the statement of 2 February and the prospects now opening up for South Africa are justification for the policy of combined encouragement and persuasive pressure for which the Government have always stood. I believe that if we had followed the hon. Gentleman's sincerely given advice, South Africa would not have advanced to its present prospects.

Mr. Rathbone

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the developments in South Africa seem to have been hastened by the British Government's stand on continued commitment to fundamental change in that country, but ߞit is an important provisoߞthat some substantial changes are still required, particularly with regard to the most sinister aspects of apartheid, before we can relax our pressure on that Government? It might be unwise for the leader of this country to go to that country before those relaxations have taken place.

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend will have noticed how my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister responded to President de Klerk's announcement. I hope that he will agree that that response has been carefully measured. It seems a reasonable and justified first step to ask the President to visit the Prime Minister at Chequers and to say that Mr. Mandela, when free, would also be welcome here.

Ms. Abbott

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that, welcome as Mr. de Klerk's speech was, there were some grave omissions? In particular, there was no reference to the Group Areas Act whereby white people still own 87 per cent. of the land in South Africa and, more significantly still, no reference to one person, one vote. Welcome though the changes in eastern Europe have been, the Government have not seen them as the signal to abandon NATO, so does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be premature, on the basis of one speech, to abandon sanctions?

Mr. Hurd

As part of the measured response that I described, we have removed the discouragement given to academic, cultural and scientific contacts. In the present new climate in South Africa, 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. In that climate, it is logical that we should discuss with our partners in the EEC lifting the voluntary ban on new investment in South Africa.

Mr. Grylls

Although trade matters are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, will my right hon. Friend give his views on the relaxation of trade restrictions that remain in South Africa? Would not it be good for people of all races in both countries if we could encourage trade in both directions?

Mr. Hurd

As my hon. Friend knows, there are specific trade restrictions. There is the arms embargo imposed by a Security Council resolution and there are various specific restrictions agreed by the EEC. The logical next step is to discuss with our partners lifting the voluntary ban on new investment.

Sir David Steel

The Foreign Secretary was right to give a warm welcome to the change of heart foreshadowed in President de Klerk's speech, but does he agree that we cannot discuss future democracy in South Africa while the legislative framework of apartheid is still in placeߞnot just the Group Areas Act, but the Population Registration Act? It is inconceivable that the rest of the Community will agree to lifting measures until those measures of apartheid are lifted as well.

Mr. Hurd

The underlying importance of what President de Klerk announced is that he has done enough in the minds of most reasonable people to open the way to negotiations. I note that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with that. There is more to come and we are a long way from seeing the end of apartheid, which is our aim and his, but the next step is to have a reasoned response and the beginning of a dialogue with the ANC and other Africans, which goes along with the release of Mr. Mandela and the lifting of the remaining emergency restrictions.

Mr. Nelson

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman's point of order is to complain that he has not been called, I cannot hear it.

Mr. Nelson

My point of order is exactly the same as the previous one. The Opposition have had three calls on eachߞ

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have to be fair to everyone. If on raising a point of order of that kind an hon. Member was called immediately, there would be chaos in this place because I would have points of order all the time.

Mr. Knapman

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

No, I shall deal with the hon. Gentleman's point of order later.

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