HL Deb 29 July 1968 vol 296 cc5-7

2.38 p.m.


My Lords, in the absence of my noble relative, Lord Rowley, through illness, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what direct intimation has been received from Mr. Smith that he accepts the Six Principles as a basis for a settlement of the Rhodesian problem.]


My Lords, I am sure we all regret the absence of our noble friend Lord Rowley and hope that he will soon recover from his illness. I am very sorry to tell your Lordships that the answer to this question is, "None."


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, may I ask him further whether he can give an assurance to the House that if any such intimation is conveyed through unofficial channels it will not be ignored?


Yes, my Lords. Any such intimation would be very carefully considered, but it will of course depend upon the source of such an intimation.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend, since the Six Principles included the delay of Independence until there was an assurance that there would be an advance to majority rule, and in view of the fact that the Privy Council have now declared that legislation since U.D.I. is illegal, could the Minister confirm the statement in The Times this morning that the proposals which Sir Alec Douglas-Home brought back incorporated a refusal of the Rhodesian Administration to accept the authority of the Privy Council on constitutional matters?


My Lords, my understanding is that the message that Sir Alec Douglas-Home brought back from Rhodesia was confidential, and therefore I think it would be wrong for me on that basis to comment in any way upon the report in The Times.


My Lords, does that apply also to the most interesting statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, about the special proposals which he had received from Rhodesia and which he had submitted to the Prime Minister?


My Lords, I am well aware of what my noble friend Lord Silkin said on July 18, that he had evidence that Mr. Smith accepted the Six Principles as a basis for a settlement of the Rhodesia problem. But whenever we have examined his ideas for a solution of the problem we find that they cannot be reconciled with these Principles. For instance, Mr. Smith has so far shown no signs of being ready to accept an adequate clocking mechanism. As my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said, in winding up the debate on the Southern Rhodesia (United Nations Sanctions) (No. 2) Order 1968, if Mr. Smith is in fact ready to accept an adequate clocking mechanism, let him say so.


My Lords, is not this a matter that could usefully be discussed between this Government and the Rhodesian authorities? After all, there are various ways of satisfying this particular requirement.


My Lords, we have made many efforts ourselves to find a solution with the régime in Salisbury, and so far, we must admit, with regret, that we have not been able to reconcile the Six Principles that have been accepted by the British Government. But if Mr. Smith believes that he has an answer to these Six Principles, and that there could be meaningful talks, I am sure the House will appreciate that the Governor in Rhodesia would be only too ready to voice such overtures or such requests in talks to Her Majesty's Government.