HL Deb 01 December 1966 vol 278 cc806-8

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, with permission, I should like to make a Statement on Rhodesia, using the words of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. His words were:

"As the House will already know, I shall be leaving this afternoon, together with my right honourable friends the Commonwealth Secretary and the Attorney General, for a meeting with the Governor of Rhodesia and Mr. Ian Smith.

"The purpose of this meeting is to ascertain whether, within the programme of action to which the British Government are committed by the communiqué issued at the end of the recent meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, a settlement of the Rhodesian problem can be reached on the basis of the principles to which successive British Governments have throughout adhered.

"I must make it clear to the House that the fact that this meeting is taking place should not be allowed to disguise the fact that despite the signs of movement we have had in the last week there is still, as far as I can at this moment judge, a considerable gap to bridge. The House will wish us to do everything in our power to get a settlement, and this we shall seek to do; but the House equally will insist, as the Government are insisting, that there can be no question of a settlement which does not honour the principles which all of us in this House stand by. The House will agree that a decision one way or the other cannot be delayed any longer. If no settlement on the terms which we are prepared to commend to this House is possible, then it is right that this fact should be known and known quickly.

"I shall, of course, make a full report to the House after my return."

My Lords, that concludes the Prime Minister's words.


My Lords. I must thank the noble Earl for repeating this Statement. This is obviously not the occasion for a debate or questioning, and I would confine myself to only saying that I am sure everybody will wish the Prime Minister well and earnestly hope that out of this will come a settlement.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl the Leader of the House for this Statement. I note that the Prime Minister will be making a full statement on his return. Is it possible for the noble Earl to give us any indication of when this full statement will be made? Is it likely to be on Monday?


My Lords, I am grateful, and I am sure the Government will be, both to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the Leader of the Opposition, and to the noble Lord, Lord Wade, speaking for the Liberal Party, for their good wishes. This is a time when the earnest good wishes of all Members of this House are of special value.

The noble Lord, Lord Wade, asked me when I thought that a further statement would be made after the return of the Prime Minister. I would suppose—of course, in a situation as flexible as this one cannot give any guarantees—that there would be some statement on Monday, although I cannot promise this. I should also think it likely that this House might wish to debate Rhodesia during next week, and, after some discussion, we are at the moment earmarking next Wednesday. But the situation is so flexible that here again I think it would be unwise for me to commit the Government, and I do not suppose the House would wish to be committed, to holding a debate on a particular day.


My Lords, will the noble Earl find some means of conveying to His Excellency the Governor the admiration that a great many people in this country feel for his staunchness and wisdom over the very trying period of the last year?


My Lords, I feel sure that what the noble Lord has said will be immensely welcome to the Governor. When the noble Lord says that this admiration is felt by a great many people, I should think it is felt by everybody who has studied the matter at all.