HL Deb 14 December 1965 vol 271 cc618-21

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps this might be a convenient moment for me to reply to the Private Notice Question which the Leader of the Opposition asked earlier.

In response to the humanitarian considerations involved, and in accordance with the advice received from the Governor of Southern Rhodesia, Sir Humphrey Gibbs, permission will again be given for payments from the United Kingdom of pensions due to residents in Rhodesia. The question of interest payments does not therefore arise. I should emphasise that this decision implies no change in the policy, in the tight and effective control that is being exercised over other financial transactions.


My Lords, it is hardly necessary for me to say how welcome this statement is to those of us who sit on these Benches. It seems absolutely right and absolutely fair. Those of us who spent some ten hours debating this matter last Tuesday will feel that at any rate our labours were not wasted. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will agree that it was that debate and the speeches made in that debate which have caused this change of mind on the Government's part. There is, of course, on these Benches great joy when one sinner repenteth; but when a whole Government repent, then we have even greater joy. I do not want to say any more, and make it difficult for the Government to follow the same course in the future on other mistakes, which I am afraid they are sure to make.


My Lords, I think it is appropriate to say that those noble Lords on these Benches, and, I am sure, all other Benches in the House, would like to be associated with what the noble Lord has said. This really is a great advance. I wonder if the Minister could say whether there are any other indications to those who are loyal to the British Government in this matter to encourage them to maintain their loyalty and not sign on that dotted line on which we do not wish them to sign.


My Lords, I think the point which the noble Lord, Lord Rea, has made is fairly wide of the reply that I have given to a Private Notice Question; and, therefore, I am quite sure he will not be surprised if I do not follow him in the width of his supplementary.

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for what he has said. I think I should repeat that it was always our intention to consider the humanitarian considerations, as was quite clear to anyone who read the Treasury Statement. The Government have come to this decision after very careful consideration, which shows, as the noble Lord has said, that Governments which are wise listen to Parliamentary comment. Having heard that from him perhaps we on this side may express equal regret that when he was in office there was not a similar response.


My Lords, may as the one who initiated last week's debate, say how very much gratified I am—not that that matters—and how very much gratified noble Lords who supported my Motion in the Lobby and noble Lords who abstained are about the fact that the Government have had second thoughts? May I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that there is a growing body of opinion in this country which hopes, quite desperately, that the Government will have second thoughts about other aspects of their policy before this tragic situation gets altogether out of hand?


My Lords, I think the noble Lord has put quite a different construction on the Division that took place last Tuesday. I imagine that in most quarters of the House it would be thought that those Members who went into the Lobby with the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, went for reasons other than those in regard to pensions. However, I am glad that, in that respect, we have given the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, satisfaction. In regard to the last part of his supplementary question. I will repeat, if I may, what I have said in reply: that the Government are determined to continue with the financial and economic measures until Southern Rhodesia returns to constitutional Government within the Commonwealth.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that what he has said is that the Government demand unconditional surrender and that the Government are determined to create a desert in Southern Africa?


My Lords, as Chief Whip I have always been rather loath to follow any widening of a discussion, and I would therefore not follow the noble Lord, but I feel I should say that it is not the Government's intention to create an economic desert in Rhodesia. What we wish—and I am quite sure this wish is shared in most quarters of this House—is a return of Southern Rhodesia to constitutional Government within the Commonwealth.


My Lords, as one of those noble Lords who voted against the Motion of my noble friend Lord Coleraine last week, may I say how much I appreciate the change of view which the Government have undergone, and particularly the association of the name of His Excellency the Governor with the decision? Am I right in assuming that that is not merely a form of words but that in fact the advice of His Excellency the Governor is taken in matters of this sort? Secondly, may I ask the noble Lord whether the Government have considered any further the problem of those Rhodesia pensioners in this country who will not have available to them funds from Rhodesia in order to pay the pensions which are due to them from the Rhodesian Government? In those circumstances, will the Government hear in mind the claims of those pensioners on any funds that may be available to Her Majesty's Government in this country?


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alport, and I am quite sure that the House recognises the distinction which he has gained during the debates on this very difficult subject. In regard to the latter part of his supplementary, this, again, is slightly wide of the Answer I have given. I gave an undertaking to the noble Lord, as he may well remember, that, if he wished to raise a particular case to test the principle, we would see what could be done; but I would not like to answer that question this afternoon. In regard to the question about advice from the Governor, I may say that we all respect the Governor in Southern Rhodesia, but the decisions must be taken by Her Majesty's Government, although the advice of the Governor will always be taken into account.