HL Deb 23 November 1966 vol 278 cc262-4

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, with the permission of the House I should like to repeat a Statement about Rhodesia which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is making in another place. His words are—and I am now quoting the Prime Minister:

"We have now studied Mr. Smith's reply to the terms for a settlement put forward by the British Government. In spite of some further elucidatory exchanges, I have to tell the House that there remains a very wide gap of principle which would have to be bridged before there could be any settlement which we could honourably commend to Parliament.

"However, the Governor has made an earnest appeal to my right honourable friend the Commonwealth Secretary to pay a further visit to Salisbury to discuss with him the present critical position. In view of the Governor's courageous stand over the past twelve months, my right honourable friend has decided this is right. Accordingly he proposes to leave to-morrow for a short visit to Salisbury. Should Mr. Smith wish to take the opportunity while my right honourable friend is in Salisbury to convey any further views to Her Majesty's Government, the Commonwealth Secretary will, of course, again make himself available for a meeting under the Governor's ægis.

"I hope to make a further statement to the House early next week after the Commonwealth Secretary's visit."

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


My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Earl the Leader of the House for having repeated that Statement. In spite of the pessimistic tone of the Statement as a whole, I think all your Lordships will welcome the fact that the Government obviously think it worth while for the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs to go to Rhodesia to-morrow, and certainly he goes with the best wishes for his success from everybody who sits on this side of the House, for we believe a solution can be found only by a negotiated settlement.

May I ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House whether he has anything to tell us of the arrangements for next week? We had, through the usual channels, arranged that there would be a debate on Rhodesia some time next week. Is it possible yet to tell whether we can still hold to that arrangement, or will it be unlikely that the Secretary of State will get back from Rhodesia in time for us to adhere to it?


My Lords, in thanking the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, for giving us that Statement, may I first endorse the reference to the Governor? In view of his request it would seem right that the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs should make this further visit. However, with regard to the last part of the Statement—and this follows the words of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington—could we have some assurance that a debate will take place as soon as possible after the further Statement, since time is running out?


My Lords, I am grateful, both on my own behalf and on behalf of the Government, for what has been said about the Governor, and also for the expressions of good wishes from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and the noble Lord, Lord Wade. Inevitably I cannot make a promise about the precise date of the debate. I can certainly give the assurance that the Government are anxious to bring it on as soon as possible, and I do not rule out by any means the possibility that we should have a debate next week. I cannot give a guarantee; I can only say that we shall keep very closely in touch through the usual channels.