HC Deb 24 April 1991 vol 189 cc1083-5
10. Mr. Martlew

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to ensure the implementation of the United Nations declaration on South Africa adopted in December 1989.

Mr. Garel-Jones

We continue to encourage all sides in South Africa to maintain progress towards the aims set out in the United Nations declaration—the end of apartheid and the adoption of a non-racial, democratic constitution arrived at by peaceful means through negotiation.

Mr. Martlew

Surely the Minister agrees that it would not be right to remove sanctions at this time, because apartheid has not been done away with? Apartheid is not something which can be partially done away with. It must be put in the dustbin of history. We cannot take away sanctions, because there are still 1,300 political prisoners in South Africa and there are serious doubts that the land reforms proposed by the South African Government will take place. There is news this week that those land reforms will be watered down. I should be grateful for the Minister's comment on that point.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am afraid that I do not entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. Britain, in conjunction with our partners in the Europe Economic Community, is attempting to recognise that President de Klerk has made substantial strides towards the type of society that all hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to see. That is the policy in both the United Kingdom and the wider community.

I have seen an early-day motion on political prisoners, to which the hon. Gentleman and several of his hon. Friends have subscribed. Certainly, that is also a serious matter. We welcome the release of 500 political prisoners this year, and we hope that that process will continue.

Sir Peter Blaker

Is my hon. Friend aware that there will be a wide welcome for the fact that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will visit South Africa soon, for the statesmanlike remarks of President de Klerk during his visit to Britain, and for the arrival of Mr. Nelson Mandela in Britain this morning? Does he agree that the view that the progressive dismantling of sanctions is the best way of encouraging consolidated, desirable change in South Africa is ever more widely accepted throughout the world, except, it appears, by some of the dinosaurs on the Opposition Benches?

Mr. Garel-Jones

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The visit of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to South Africa this summer is a welcome step. It is a recognition by Her Majesty's Government of the encouraging progress that we have seen in South Africa. As my hon. Friend will be aware, Mr. Nelson Mandela will meet my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this afternoon. I agree with my hon. Friend: some Opposition Members had the opportunity to meet President de Klerk during his visit to London. [Interruption.] I am afraid that they did. Whether that will cause them trouble in their own party, I am not aware. It is encouraging that some Opposition Members met President de Klerk. I hope that they were impressed, as many of my hon. Friends were, by what President de Klerk had to say about progress in South Africa.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is the Minister aware that we expect from him something much better than parrot-fashion repetition of what he is told by President de Klerk? Is it not the case that the political prisoners have not been released; that the exiles have not returned home; that, since the release of Nelson Mandela, no progress has been made towards real negotiation about the transfer of power; and that the black majority in South Africa still have no vote? President de Klerk declined to meet the all-party South Africa group and when, yesterday, he was asked about the political prisoners, he could not answer but responded with the memorable "Majorian" phrase, "Wait and see." Does not the Minister realise that the people of South Africa cannot wait any longer? The peace progress is in great danger, and nothing that the Government are doing is helping to put pressure on de Klerk to deliver the goods.

Mr. Garel-Jones

The hon. Member's interest in and commitment to an integrated South Africa is well known, and I respect it. However, he is not prepared to recognise the very encouraging steps that have been taken by President de Klerk. It is untrue to say simply that political prisoners have not been released. In fact, 500 have been released in the past year. In addition, more than 1,000 political exiles have returned to South Africa. Unless the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends are prepared to recognise the real progress that has been made in South Africa, they will not make the contribution to the future of that country that I am sure they would wish to make.

Sir Ian Lloyd

May I endorse warmly the welcome that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) has just given to the news that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is to visit South Africa and that, possibly, there will be a visit shortly after that by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister? May I remind both of my right hon. Friends that, in 1962 or 1963, the then right hon. Harold Macmillan made a very dramatic speech before both Houses of the South African Parliament, in which he referred to "the wind of change"? I suggest that, if the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister is asked to make a similar speech, they will recall the hurricane of change that has blown through that continent and elsewhere in the world. The world as a whole is pretty sick of hurricanes, so perhaps such a speech would be more appropriately referred to as "the change of wind" speech.

Mr. Garel-Jones

My right hon. Friend's visit to South Africa will be part of Her Majesty's Government's efforts to continue the process of changing it into a non-racial, democratic country. I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would like to visit South Africa when the time is right. No doubt he will be encouraged by the cautious welcome that the Leader of the Opposition has given to that proposition.

Mr. Anderson

Do not the Government recognise the potential danger to British interests of our being still seen in the international community, including the European Community, the Commonwealth and the United Nations, as enthusiastically in favour of the premature lifting of sanctions? Are the Government prepared to listen not only to President de Klerk but to the representatives of the majority? Will they recognise that, in addition to the matters that have been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), the Internal Security Act, particularly section 29 on preventive detention without trial, is still in force? Until that Act is scrapped, all the exiles are back home, and all the political prisoners have been released, there cannot be a climate for negotiations with a view to bringing South Africa truly back into the international community.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I am sorry, but I am afraid that I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. For example, the recent decision of the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Community to lift sanctions against South Africa was not pressed by Britain, but was taken unanimously. As the British Minister attending that meeting, I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I received substantial and solid support both from Mr. Genscher and from Mr. de Michelis. I do not think that Her Majesty's Government would for one minute apologise for attempting to lead the European Community and the rest of the world in recognising the very important changes than have been taking place, courageously led at the moment by President de Klerk.

Mr. John Carlisle

Will my right hon. Friends take the opportunity to get through to Mr. Mandela and to the African National Congress the message that the world is growing increasingly impatient with their persistent policies of sanctions and non-co-operation in the time warp in which they seem to be stuck? Will my hon. Friend take every encouragement from what President de Klerk has been saying this week, that legislative apartheid will be abolished in June and that the British Government's policy of relaxing and indeed abandoning sanctions will help that process far more than the ANC's policy of trying to wreck everything?

Mr. Garel Jones

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that the consistent policy that the British Government have pursued has played an important part in the process of reform to which he referred. Mr. Mandela is a force for moderation, and his meeting with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this afternoon will undoubtedly be an opportunity for my right hon. Friend to make some of the points to which my hon. Friend has just referred.

Back to
Forward to