HC Deb 28 October 1992 vol 212 cc999-1001
6. Mr Pike

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the Government of the Republic of South Africa regarding progress to a post-apartheid system of government.

Mr. Hurd

Despite a tragic drought, most countries of the region are going through what we believe is a hopeful period of political and economic change. Stability in South Africa is crucial for the region as a whole. Last month I went there with the troika of EC Foreign Ministers. We discussed with President de Klerk and other political leaders practical ways to help reduce violence and encourage an early resumption of the constitutional negotiations.

Mr. Pike

We all wish to see the negotiations back in session and proceeding rapidly, but we all realise that the time for those negotiations is being eroded. Will the Foreign Secretary give the House an assurance that the only solution to the problem of ending apartheid that will be acceptable to a British Government is one that is acceptable to the majority of people living in South Africa—and that that means the majority of black people?

Mr. Hurd

Of course, any solution must be acceptable to those people, but it must be worked out in the constitutional discussions, which were interrupted because of the violence. That is why we in the Commonwealth and the European Community have taken steps by sending observers to underpin the peace accords. Fifteen EC observers will arrive this week—two of them are British. We already have a British police officer in South Africa, with the Goldstone commission. Those are practical steps which we in this country can take to help those on the spot to deal with the violence, and so bring forward the constitutional discussions which are the only possible way forward.

Mr. Riddick

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the South African rugby tour of this country should proceed, despite the sudden and unfortunate opposition of the African National Congress—[Interruption.] Will he also ignore Opposition Members, Bishop Trevor Huddleston and Leeds city council, among others, all of whom seem happy to act as the ANC's toadies in the matter.

Mr. Hurd

I have good news for my hon. Friend. The ANC yesterday publicly confirmed that it had not withdrawn its support for the tour—[Interruption.] I hope that Opposition Members are listening. The ANC called on anti-apartheid groups not to disrupt the Springbok tour.

Dr. John Cunningham

First, I welcome what the Foreign Secretary said about sending more observers to South Africa. They have a crucial role to play in the progress towards free and fair elections in that country and, ultimately, towards the establishment of a truly democratic state. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to work, by means of his presidency of the EC Council of Ministers, to ensure that more observers are sent. The 15 are welcome, but that is certainly nowhere near enough to oversee the process throughout South Africa.

With regard to the imminent South Africa rugby football union tour of Britain, will the right hon.

Gentleman make it clear that, although he has accurately reflected the ANC's position, which I too welcome, the ANC stressed the need for us in Britain and for people everywhere not to reduce the pressure on South Africa, especially on the South African rugby football union, which has made no significant progress towards multiracialism in that sport?

Mr. Hurd

The 15 EC observers are only part of the total number, as the hon. Gentleman knows. There is also a UN team and there is likely to be a Commonwealth team, too. There may also be an Organisation of African Unity team. The total number of observers underpinning the peace accords may fall short of 100 initially, but it will be far more than 15.

As regards the rugby tour, I am glad that the hon. Gentleman confirmed what I said about the ANC's attitude, and I hope that, before long, he will be able to confirm that Leeds city council is withdrawing its opposition to the match that is to be played there.

Mr. Cryer

Why should it?

Mr. Hurd

The reason it should is that the ANC, whose lead it follows, has changed that lead and decided that the tour should go ahead.