§ 2.26 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I beg to move the Order standing in my name. Perhaps I should first of all apologise to the House and, in particular, to the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, for bringing this matter before your Lordships on a day which we normally keep for Motions. In these circumstances, I hope the House will think it right if I confine my remarks to the terms of the Order and do not go into the broad issues of Rhodesia.
The House will know that, as a consequence of U.D.I., the United Kingdom has prohibited imports and exports to and from Rhodesia. The Government are very heartened and gratified at reports received from our various friends. The United States has asked importers to fall in line and the large importers, particularly of tobacco, have prohibited imports of that commodity. I think the House will agree that, if sanctions are to be imposed, it is essential that they should be effective and, above all, that there should be nobody to profit from sanctions. This Order strengthens the existing sanctions and is a clear warning to any form of speculator who may wish to seek profit in the circumstances that he does so at his peril.
The Order arises from Section 2 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965. Article I provides that, except so far as may be authorised by the Secretary of State, it will be a criminal offence, first, to export or import specified commodities from or to Rhodesia; and, secondly, to make or carry out a contract for such imports or exports, even though it may be through a third party; thirdly, to promote such a contract. The penalties for contravention are contained in Article 2 of the Order. I think I should stress that this Order is now in force and is now the law within the United Kingdom and within Rhodesia, and that it applies to all persons who are mentioned in Article 1(4).
It might be well that I should remind the House that it applies to a person who:is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies or a British protected person and is 1049 ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom; or…is a citizen of Southern Rhodesia; or…is a body incorporated or constituted under the law of the United Kingdom or the law of Southern RhodesiaI would make it clear that these persons would be committing a criminal offence if they were to conduct any of the actions specified in Article I anywhere in the world: it does not matter where it is. The procedure for dealing with the commodities to be involved is outlined in Article 3(2), which provides that by an Order made by the Secretary of State a commodity may be defined. Article 3 deals with the Parliamentary procedure for those Orders; and in this particular case it is the Negative Resolution procedure; in other words, the Orders can be annulled by a Resolution of either House. The House may be interested to know that two Orders specifying commodities—namely, chrome and tobacco— have been made. So far, I do not think that there is any legal point involved.
I now turn to one part which may give concern to the House because it involves a degree of retrospectiveness, but I hope that the House will understand the reasons for this when I give them in a moment. Article 1(5) renders void any contract made in regard to the goods that may be specified, entered into before or since the passing of the Order. It also renders void any transfer of property rights carried out after the Order is made. It clearly specifies that any money that has been paid under a transfer of property or under a contract after the making of the Order would not be recoverable in any court of law.
The reasons for these sweeping powers are twofold. First, in regard to foreign importers, as I have mentioned, many countries have helped us in this matter, but the Government appreciate the position of foreign importers who may have outstanding contracts within Rhodesia and may have difficulties in their minds about whether they will follow the advice or instructions of their Governments or carry out their contracts in Rhodesia. This Order relieves them of any obligation about fulfilling contracts. I think that this is right.
The second reason, which I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, is in regard to speculation. We believe that we must take into account justice to other 1050 merchants who are loyally carrying out the orders and requests of their Governments in not trading with Rhodesia, and also the position of Rhodesia when it returns to constitutional government. In the case of tobacco, this is a commodity for which there is now no market, and there is no doubt that where the tobacco is sold the price is a depressed one. It may well be that some individuals think that this is an opportunity to buy tobacco at low prices, to store it either in Rhodesia or in some other country, and when the Smith regime falls and the normal trade in tobacco starts again, then a very substantial profit would be made by the speculator. The Government do not believe that this is right and have taken power in this Order to ensure that contracts will be void and that there should be no lawful transfer of property rights after the making of this Order.
I think I should stress that the Government will see that any speculator buying any of these commodities will do so at his peril. He will not be able to achieve a profit out of this unhappy state of affairs in Rhodesia. The Government recognise the dilemma of loyal United Kingdom citizens in Rhodesia and of Rhodesia as a whole. They may find themselves contravening orders of the illegal régime in carrying out the law of Rhodesia—as provided in this Order now before the House. I can only say that civil servants and the military forces are in a similar position, as is the Press in Rhodesia, which I am sure will receive our undying admiration in their stand for the freedom of the Press in that country. But, as sanctions are necessary to return Rhodesia to constitutional government, it is vital that they be effective, and this Order strengthens the sanctions already imposed. It also clearly gives warning that there will be no profiteering or speculation in any of the commodities the Government may specify. With these few words, I hope that your Lordships will give approval to this Order.
§ Moved, That the Southern Rhodesia (Prohibited Exports and Imports) Order 1966 be approved.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ 2.36 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, the Fifth Report of the Select Orders Committee rightly reported that this Order raises an important question of policy and 1051 principle and that it cannot be passed by this House without special attention. We have now had a series of Orders which we have been asked to approve, all of which have been in fulfilment of the Government's sanctions policy in relation to Southern Rhodesia. On November 11, immediately upon the U.D.I., the Prime Minister announced the various measures the Government proposed to take, and among them was the banning of tobacco. That step, of course, did not have to be considered by either House, as it was taken under existing legislation. Now we have to consider, and are asked to approve, a further turn of the screw, to give the Secretary of State power to specify any product he may choose. Once he has done so, it will be a criminal offence, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has said, to deal in the import or export of that product to or from Southern Rhodesia in relation to anywhere in the world—a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment or a fine of any amount, or both.
One of the two products specified is tobacco, and the first question I would ask the Government—and I hope that we shall have a reply to it—is this. Why, if this Order is necessary, has there been such a delay in making it? The Prime Minister repeatedly stressed last November the importance of the ban on tobacco then imposed. He repeated that it was perhaps the most important measure taken for the purpose of bringing Southern Rhodesia back to constitutional and lawful government. Yet until February 7 and the making of this Order there appears to have been this loophole. A person has been free to contract to export tobacco from Rhodesia. I must say that I feel that this delay in stopping this loophole requires considerable explanation.
On November 12, the Prime Minister said, with regard to the measures he had announced (and I quote his words):It is our view that these measures will be effective and we have no other measures in contemplation.He also said then:it is better for the action to be effective quickly than for it to be lingering and involve great and prolonged hardship."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 672, col. 634.]On November 16, no fewer than seven Orders were made. On December 1 the 1052 Prime Minister announced that an embargo had been placed on the export from Rhodesia of various commodities, including chromium, and on January 20, chrome was declared to be a specified product, which it was made a criminal offence to export from Southern Rhodesia. Again I ask why, if there was this gap in the embargo which required to be stopped, there was such delay in stopping it?
Two days later we had the Reserve Bank of Rhodesia Order to secure that the assets of that Bank were safeguarded. Then, on December 10, the Prime Minister said, with regard to the economic measures taken (again I quote his words):These measures are harsh. They will involve hardship. But the Government consider that quick and effective measures will involve less suffering than a long-drawn-out agony.To complete the history, we had the oil embargo imposed by the Southern Rhodesia Petroleum Order on December 17. Now we have this very far-reaching Order of January 20 making it a criminal offence to do anything with regard to the import or export of a specified product.
The delay in making this Order, although it calls for explanation, is not, I think, a valid ground for refusing to approve it. Twice, at least, the Prime Minister has stressed the desirability of quick and effective action. The stronger the case for this Order—and a strong case does require to be made out for it— the less excusable the delay from November to January. Many Orders have been made since the Prime Minister said that the Government had no other measures in contemplation. Is this to be the last of the Orders that we shall be asked to approve in this field, or are there likely to be more? It will be interesting to know.Every measure ",the Prime Minister said on November 12,has been judged, and must be judged, against its ability to restore the rule of law and the functioning of a democratic constitution in Rhodesia."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol 720 (No. 4), col. 632; 12/11/65.]So we should apply that test to this Order. We have the Prime Minister's authority for that. This Order must then be judged against its ability to restore the rule of law. I myself do not think, despite what the Prime Minister has said, 1053` that it is possible to judge this Order in isolation. The case for it, if I understood it correctly, is that it fills a gap, which the Government should admit, with the emphasis placed so repeatedly on quick and effective action, should have been filled long ago.
At some time—and I think it may be fairly soon—we should review and consider the effect of the consequences of the Government's sanctions policy. I hope that nothing that I say will be taken to imply any approval of the Smith regime or of its actions. But this policy of sanctions was intended to induce the people of Rhodesia to return to constitutional rule. Is it having that effect, or is it being counter-productive? Is it consolidating support for the illegal regime? I must say that I find it difficult to assess the situation. The accounts that one gets from those who have visited the country recently differ so widely that one may almost suppose that they had not been to the same country. According to some, sanctions are only solidifying support for Mr. Smith and are not hurting him. According to others, they are really beginning to bite. Are there any signs of people emerging who wish to return to constitutional government? "Quick and effective action", were the Prime Minister's words. Is the action being effective? It does not seem to me to be so very quick. Is it going, to use the Prime Minister's words again, to involve a "long-drawn-out agony"?
I have mentioned these matters because they are matters on which we, and I believe the country, would like to know more. I hope that when my right honourable friend Mr. Selwyn Lloyd returns we shall obtain some valuable information. But I do not think it would be right, or indeed useful, to discuss to-day the effectiveness of the sanctions policy. I think that we should do so soon, and that we should have a full report from the Government as to the way in which matters are developing; and that we should consider whether there are any further steps, not involving the use of force, which could usefully be taken to secure a settlement.
It is difficult for us to learn what is happening in Southern Rhodesia. How difficult must it be for the people in Rhodesia to know what is happening here and of the laws which we make here! 1054 There is the censorship, which would appear to indicate that Mr. Smith dare not let the people of Rhodesia know the truth. But how are the people in Rhodesia to learn of the terms of this Order? Every United Kingdom citizen; every British-protected person ordinarily resident in this country; every citizen in South Rhodesia; every United Kingdom and Rhodesian company, is made liable to conviction of a crime if he makes or carries out one of these prohibited contracts. It is often said that ignorance of the law is no excuse: we are all familiar with that statement. But ignorance of the law, when there is no means of knowing what the law is, would rob the infliction of heavy penalties on business men in Rhodesia of any appearance of justice. It is therefore of the utmost importance, so it seems to me, to know what steps are being taken by the Government to ensure that the terms of this Order are known in Rhodesia, and for us to be satisfied that the steps that are being taken are likely to be effective. I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, when he comes to reply, will direct some of his observations to this, as I think, most important question.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, referred in particular to paragraph (5) of Article 1 of the Order. I must say that, while I listened to his observations with interest, I feel considerable concern about the width of that particular paragraph. It provides that any contract, whether made before or after January 20 of this year, for the import or export of a specified product shall be void. So every contract for the export of tobacco for Rhodesia is made void. It does not matter when the contract was made. Even if it was made long before U.D.I., it is now made void. I can see that it was necessary to make any further performance of a contract for the export or import of any specified product, such as tobacco, illegal and to give some protection for foreign importers. But this provision does not apply only to contracts which have still to be carried out in some degree; it applies to all contracts, whenever made, and whether carried out or not.
Suppose that, three years ago, a contract for the export of tobacco was carried out, and the tobacco was delivered, and 1055 a dispute arose as to whether the quality of the tobacco was up to that stipulated, and that litigation is pending, the result of which will depend on the terms of the contract. Now, as a result of this Order, that contract is made void. That would seem to me to be its effect. If it is, the parties to the contract will be deprived of their rights. Is that really going to help to restore the rule of law in Rhodesia? Again, suppose that a product is imported into Rhodesia from this country, and after it has been imported into Rhodesia, and before it has been paid for, it becomes a specified product. If that happens, the contract is void. Is not the consequence that the person here is deprived of his right to recover the money for the goods from the importer in Rhodesia? If this is right, is this really going to help to restore the rule of law in Rhodesia?
As I have said, I can see the case for saying that the further performance of any contracts relating to the export or import of specified products shall, in so far as it consists of the delivery of goods to Rhodesia, or their export from there, be illegal. I can see the case, too, for saying that payment shall not be made for such goods to persons in Rhodesia or to anyone for exports from Rhodesia. But, as I have indicated, this Order would appear to me to go much further than that. If this Order were intended to apply to tobacco and chrome alone, there would be no need to take the general power to specify other articles. Suppose a man lawfully contracts for the import or export of something to-day, and next week those products to which the contract relates are specified, then his contract, lawful to-day, is made void, and his rights under it are gone. Therefore, does this Order not mean that from now on there can be no certainty that a lawful contract made to-day will be lawful to-morrow?
My Lords, I know this is fairly technical stuff, and I apologise for spending so much time upon it, but I think it is rather important. I suspect that there is little difference between what the Government desire to achieve and what I think there is a case for doing. I hope there is little difference, but I would ask the Lord Chancellor to say, when he comes to reply, that he will look into the points 1056 I have raised and consider them carefully. I am, of course, willing to discuss them with him. If he will say that if, on further examination, he comes to the conclusion that this particular provision is drawn too widely, he will not hesitate to replace this provision by another provision less widely drawn and having effect from the same date, January 20, that will satisfy me—perhaps I should add, at least for the time being.
That is all I wish to say on this Order. My advice to my noble friends is not to divide against it, for it appears to be ancillary to the Government's present general sanctions policy. If I may, I should like to repeat again that I think it likely that we shall require an opportunity—and to-day is not a suitable occasion—for considering the effect of the Government's policy since last November, and what further steps might usefully be taken to secure a peaceful settlement of this matter. I should like to conclude by expressing the hope that nothing I have said to-day will be of the slightest comfort or encouragement to the illegal regime, for that is certainly not my desire or my intention.
§ 2.53 p.m.
§ LORD COLERAINE
My Lords, my noble and learned friend expressed the hope that his noble friends will not divide the House. I can at once, I think, reassure him, and certainly for my own part I would not seek to divide the House about an Order which seems to me to be unimportant and altogether ineffective. I cannot see that this Order will lead to one pound of tobacco or one ton of chrome being withheld from the market. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, must know as well as I do that Salisbury to-day is swarming with businessmen from Germany, Austria, Italy, France, yes, even from the United States, picking up the threads of the business that we have rejected. They are not going to be affected by this Order.
As for the Rhodesians themselves, what is the effect likely to be? We embark on a policy the purpose of which is to starve them into subjection. They take steps to avoid starvation. We then tell them that in doing so they are guilty of criminal acts, and will be liable to heavy penalties. The only conceivable result of that can be to stiffen their resistance. I am afraid that the real significance of this 1057 Order is this: it indicates that the Government have learned nothing at all by the experience of the last three months.
Surely there must be some lessons to be learned. Every calculation on which this policy has been based, as my noble and learned friend indicated in his speech just now, has been proved wrong. There has been no immediate solution. Surely, my Lords, the only justification for a policy of economic sanctions is that it should be effective immediately. That is the only way in which you can get a change of heart. If it is long-drawn-out, going over week after week, you do not get a change of heart; you get a hardening of heart. You do not diminish resistance; you stiffen resistance. The only justification for this policy would have been if it had been immediately effective, as it is quite evident the Government last November believed that it would be, but they miscalculated.
The other lesson that I think stands out from the experience of the first three months is this. It is surely a mistake to put everything upon the constitutional issue. What is our objective? Is it really to return Rhodesia to the paths of constitutional Government? Or is it to ensure a future for the inhabitants of Rhodesia, black as well as white? If our purpose is to ensure some kind of future for the people of Rhodesia, of all races, then it is surely clear that this policy, long-drawn-out as it is, ineffective as it has been, can only deny them a future. I suggest that we have now reached the stage in which not only has the policy failed, but it is inconceivable that it can succeed. I do not mean that it is inconceivable that Mr. Smith and his Government may be brought down: that may happen. But surely it is evident now that they can be brought down only at a price that is going to be far too high for us to pay; a price that we shall have to pay with damage to our own economy; a price that we shall have to pay through the collapse of Zambia and the collapse of the Copper Belt mines—the price we shall have to pay ultimately, unless we check this crazy policy, by war. Surely we really ought to pause and look at the stage we have come to; look where we have been led.
I remember years ago listening to my father speaking in the House of Com- 1058 mons. He was supporting the Irish Treaty. If Mr. Lloyd George and Sir Austen Chamberlain had taken the same view of the sanctity of any given Constitution at any given moment, as the Government take of the sanctity of the 1961 Constitution of Rhodesia, the Irish Treaty would have been impossible and, presumably, the Black and Tans would still have been roaming all over Southern Ireland. Mr. Lloyd George, Sir Austen Chamberlain, and my father realised— my father was not in the Government then—that a Constitution is not something that is absolute; it is relative: relative to times, relative to conditions, relative to the people who are working it, and if you stake your whole policy on the sanctity of a given Constitution you find yourself in an impasse from which you simply cannot escape.
My Lords, I hope very much that we shall have the full debate for which my noble friend asked and, if it is impossible to persuade the Government, I hope we shall be able to persuade the people of this country that the only alternative to ruin for the whole of Southern Africa— probably the only alternative to war—is negotiation with the de facto Government of Southern Rhodesia, to reach a settlement which will ensure the future, not just of the white Rhodesians but of all Rhodesians, whatever their race and whatever their colour.
§ LORD SALTER
My Lords, I do not propose to discuss to-day the provisions of this Order. Nor do I differ from the advice that has been given to us, both by the noble Viscount who spoke for the Opposition and also by my noble friend who has just spoken, as to not voting on this Order to-day. Nor do I propose now to discuss, even to the extent to which my noble friend Lord Coleraine did, the general Rhodesian position. I only want to say this, that I think it is of extreme importance that at a very early date we should have an opportunity of discussing the Rhodesian question on a wider basis than a particular Order such as the one now before us. In the second place I want to say that I share very many of the apprehensions which have just been expressed by my noble friend.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, in common with my two noble friends who have just spoken I do not propose to 1059 enter into any general discussion on sanctions, on which I have expressed my views in earlier debates. I rise only to underline, and in one respect to take a little further, the questions put on a purely legal matter by my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne. I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor may be able to enlighten me a little about the terms of paragraph (5) of Article 1 of the Order. It seems to me that in putting the difficulties my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne really understated them, for the reason I shall give.
I think we are all quite familiar with the frustration of a contract by illegality. Illegality frustrates it in so far as it is executory, but as I understand sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5) this frustrates the contract ab initio. If I am wrong about that, that may be the complete answer. But I feel that the difficulty arises when we get to sub-paragraph (b), which says:any transfer made, after the commencement of this Order…shall be absolutely void".That I can quite understand. Suppose, however, that it is made before the commencement of this Order and I am right in my supposition (although I hope I am wrong) that sub-paragraph (a) avoids the contract ab initio: the whole matter would then be left in the utmost legal doubt. For this reason, I join in the plea made by my noble and learned friend that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor should consider the matter further, if he has not already fully done so. But it may be that he will be able to enlighten me straight away.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, in view of the principle that silence gives consent I feel that perhaps one might be allowed to make a few comments on this Order, because in my case silence would not mean consent. Like noble Lords who have already spoken, I have no wish to divide the House on this question, but I think that perhaps the idea that no Member of the House, except perhaps one or two on the Front Benches, should be allowed to reflect at all upon the background of this Order to-day is not one which is really fair to Back-Bench opinion. I want to say, quite Briefly, that one views with great 1060 apprehension, and, indeed, acute distaste, the Motion before the House, as exemplifying the unbending attitude of the Government in Rhodesian affairs. Their apparent indifference to the risks involved appals me, and I think this is not an unsuitable occasion to mention this, now that we are laying the coping stone of some of these efforts.
It has been said, and it is repeatedly being understood, that negotiation is the only way to produce a solution to this problem; and negotiation cannot take place unless there is an active desire on both sides to make it possible. To my mind, it is the negation of statesmanship to pursue a vindictive vendetta against a country which would make any negotiation extremely difficult to start. The measures being taken by the Government, if continued to the bitter end, would lead—and, indeed, are already leading, on the road—to unemployment and poverty for those whose interests it is designed to further, and ultimately, if successful, to the breakdown of law and order; to civil war, famine, violence and, incidentally, as has been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Coleraine, the collapse of Zambia.
Can the architects of chaos sit complacently on the Government Front Bench and review the results of this work to date with any satisfaction? I think not. I believe that we started with the idea of inducing in the de facto Government of Rhodesia a frame of mind favourable to negotiation. I still believe that negotiations in the right frame of mind would achieve an acceptable compromise—acceptable both to Parliament and to the de facto Government of Rhodesia. I have not recently visited Rhodesia myself, but from most of the accounts of those who have visited it, the right frame of mind is probably present in Rhodesia to-day. But it does not seem to me, and to many others, to be present in the mind of the Prime Minister. The preliminary insistence upon a humiliating surrender, with their fate entirely in the hands of this Government, would make a mockery of the word "negotiation"; nor could the subsequent imposition of terms upon a helpless community be so misnamed.
If sanctions fail to produce the chaos now envisaged, there still emerges the ugly threat of force—an even surer way of 1061 achieving tragic results. The policy of the Prime Minister is leading us straight down the path which leads to war, and this country should, I feel, be left fully aware of the path we are treading. It may or may not be the right path, but it is very wrong that the people of this country should not have it clearly stated to them where it may all end if we go on as at present. The Motion before the House does not commend itself to me, could not commend itself to me, without some assurance from the Government that they do believe in and are taking steps to initiate negotiation, if necessary—and I think it is necessary—with the de facto Government of Rhodesia; and now.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I rise to support my noble and learned friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and I wish to speak for only a few minutes to underline one or two things which he said. The Order we are discussing to-day is No. 41, which was made on January 20 and laid before Parliament on January 20. The same day Order No. 42 dealing with chrome was made and laid. But, for some reason, Order No. 115, dealing with tobacco, which as my noble friend said is probably the most important sanction, was not made until February 7 and it was laid before Parliament only on February 8. From information I have received, the blunt truth of the matter is that the Board of Trade forgot about it. However, it is a great pity it was not made even earlier than January 20, because the Board of Trade, the Government, should have known that the real crux of the tobacco sanctions was not on the 1965 crop, which we have already dealt with, but the 1966 crop, the markets for which are supposed to open in two or three weeks' time. None of us knows what quantity of tobacco is going to be offered on the 1966 auction or who will buy it. We do not know. No British manufacturer can buy it, clearly; that was fixed way back in November.
But for the last few weeks the merchants, Americans and otherwise, have been pouring through London on their way to Salisbury. What they will do, I do not know. I can tell your Lordships that representatives of the American merchants were summoned before the State Department on January 29 and asked to co-operate with the American Govern- 1062 ment, who have no powers to forbid them to buy Rhodfisian tobacco if they so feel inclined. The newspapers tell me that there are about sixty of these merchant firms in America. I do not know whether that is right or not, but some newspaper reports said that last year they bought over a quarter of million pounds worth of tobacco. It was really very important that this Order should have come out as early as possible so that these foreign buyers should have known the position of Her Majesty's Government. I think it is now almost too late for them to be informed. As I have said earlier, none of us knows what quantity of tobacco will be offered for auction this year. Before U.D.I, the estimate was 280 million lb. Whether Mr. Smith's Government will arrange auctions and arrange for this to be bought I do not know. What I suspect is that British manufacturers' packing factories will be commandeered by the Smith régime to house and pack the tobacco which they hope to sell, to whom I do not know.
I support this Order. I think it is a necessary part of tobacco sanctions. I do not like sanctions. I think, as I have said before in this House, they are blunt instruments and they can even act as boomerangs, which they have done in this case. Nevertheless, I support this Order, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government's estimate of what it will achieve will come to fruition, because if this sanction is to act it really must act quickly.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD GARDINER)
My Lords, none of your Lordships' House seeks to divide the House against this Motion, but a number of questions have been asked as to the construction of the Order and as to its effect and with these I will seek shortly to deal. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, asked first why the Order had been made so late. I do not agree that the Order has been made late. In the first place, so far as chrome is concerned this is really an Order intended to help those who are prepared to help us. We had, of course, first to canvass and find out in what countries normal purchasers of Rhodesian exports were prepared to help us. If one may take for example an American company which normally buys chrome from Rhodesia, 1063 what of course it did not want was to decline to take this chrome which it had already contracted to buy—though being prepared to do so to help us—and to find that it was then exposed to an action for damages for not having taken delivery of the goods from the Rhodesian manufacturer. The main object of the Order so far as it applies to chrome is to give these normal chrome buyers who were prepared not to take any further deliveries from Rhodesia an answer to claims which might otherwise be made against them.
So far as tobacco is concerned, again I am unable to agree that the Order was made late. It was, of course, far too late in any case for the 1965 crop; but so far as the 1966 crop is concerned, tobacco in Rhodesia, as your Lordships know, is normally sold by auctions, the auctions starting in March and going on to the summer and early autumn. It would be most unusual for anyone to contract to buy until the auctions start, because they want to see the quality of that year's crop, and therefore there would have been little object in making the Order before February.
What one is apprehensive about in relation to tobacco is that, although nearly all those countries which normally purchase Rhodesian tobacco have agreed not to, there may be the German gentlemen or other speculators, to whom the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, referred, who may well think that if, taking advantage of the situation, they can contract to buy part of this year's crop for about one-third of what it is worth, which is probably all the Rhodesian farmer in any case could get for it, they then only have to sit tight and store the tobacco and when the country returns to constitutional Government they will be able to sell it at the world market price. And, of course, one of the objects of this Order is to make it quite plain to gentlemen of that kind that if they think they can profit in that way they will find they have got their fingers burned, because they will have purported to buy tobacco when under the law which operates in Rhodesia they will acquire no title to it, and in any case, it may well be that, after return to constitutional Government. Rhodesian export control may be continued in order to make quite certain that profiteers of this kind have not benefited in this way.
1064 Then the noble and learned Viscount asked what steps were taken to publicise the Order. It is most important that such steps as can be taken should be taken. The steps which are in fact taken are, that the Order is broadcast, I believe many times, at dictation speed, from the Francis-town station, which is now, at last, widely and easily heard throughout Rhodesia; and steps are taken to see that all Rhodesian lawyers have copies of such Orders as are made. That will be done in this case.
As to the points which were raised by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, on the wording of Article 1(5), both noble Lords do not need me to tell them that the ordinary effect in English law and Rhodesian law on this point is the same—that if it becomes impossible to carry out a contract by reason of supervening illegality, the effect is that both parties to the contract are discharged from further performance. There is, further, a right, whether the contract subsists or not, to claim a recovery of money which has been paid for a consideration which has wholly failed, though not at Common Law for one which has partly failed. Noble Lords will remember that because of that anomaly the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act was passed; and that also, I understand, has its Rhodesian counterpart. This, therefore, was not really intended to do more than state the law as it is in any case—I think it is really tautologous—and "shall be absolutely void" does not mean, and was not intended to mean, void ab initio. It is really on that point stating the existing law.
The noble Lords also raised a second point, which I think in substance was whether the provision that certain things should date from the commencement of the Order ought not perhaps to be from the date of the Order specifying the particular commodity. I think there may be something in this point. Of course, if no further commodities are specified the point will not arise at all. But I will certainly look carefully into these points and, if we are satisfied that in any respect the Order is too wide, the Government will be quite prepared to amend it, if it proves necessary. It is a point which may well be left until the time comes 1065 when orders specifying other commodities are made.
The other noble Lords who have spoken will not, I think and hope, think me in any way discourteous if I say that I do not propose to follow them to-day in discussing the whole question of Rhodesia and the general question of the policy of sanctions. For my part, I should desire respectfully to accept the view put forward by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, that the present occasion is not a suitable one for a general discussion on Rhodesia. If noble Lords require such a discussion, no doubt communications will be made through the usual channels and such a debate will be arranged. I hope that I have satisfied your Lordships as to the specific points raised on the Order. For these reasons, I hope that your Lordships will accept the Motion.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.