HL Deb 08 October 1968 vol 296 cc1011-4

12.59 p.m.


My Lords, with your permission I should like to inform your Lordships of the terms of a Statement which is to be issued in about one minute's time. It is as follows:

"The Prime Minister and Mr. Ian Smith are to meet each other at Gibraltar on Wednesday, 9th October, for talks aimed at discovering whether it would be possible to arrive at a settlement of the Rhodesia problem which would be acceptable to both sides. The Prime Minister will be accompanied by the Commonwealth Secretary and the Attorney General. Mr. Smith will be accompanied by Mr. Lardner Burke and Mr. Howman. The Governor of Rhodesia, Sir Humphrey Gibbs, will be present at Gibraltar for the period of the talks, which will be held in H.M.S. "Fearless".


My Lords, I think that all of us are greatly obliged to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for having made that Statement; and of course I think that everybody on both sides of the House will also greatly welcome the fact that talks are to be started once again between the Prime Minister and Mr. Smith. I think that all I would say now is that anybody who wishes these talks to succeed would not wish, and I think would not be wise, to press the noble Lord the Leader of the House at this moment to say anything.


My Lords, I should like to endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said and to add only that if there is a possibility of a just and honourable settlement which can be approved by the majority of people in Rhodesia, everyone in this House will be delighted. I wish the talks well.


My Lords, as this Statement was, I think, in reply to a Private Notice Question of mine, may I thank the noble Lord for the Statement? May I add this—and I put it in the form of a question: that I believe it is the overwhelming desire of the British people that a settlement should be reached, and I think it is best to confine oneself at the moment to the hope that this will be the result of the talks?


My Lords, I am very much obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for the reception of this Statement. Perhaps I might also say that I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grimston of Westbury. I was unable to reveal yesterday that I was hoping to make a Statement at this time, but we managed to make it combine happily with his Private Notice Question.

I am qute sure that everybody in this country wishes to see a settlement. It must be an honourable settlement. The Government have always made clear that they have no wish to slam the door on any possibility that might exist of securing a settlement which would be consistent with our principles and could be commended to Parliament. But I agree with noble Lords that there is nothing that I can usefully add. I think we all wish success to those participating in these talks. It is noteworthy that time is available for a very thorough examination of all the issues.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether any attention has been paid to the precedent for a negotiation of this sort set by the Irish negotiation in 1921–22, the success of which was, to some extent at any rate, due to the fact that it was undertaken on a bipartisan basis? Has any consideration been given to the association of a leading member of the Conservative Opposition—for instance, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who has already played a part in paving the way for this development—and associating him with the negotiations that are about to take place? And have the Government considered the advantage of this from the point of view of achieving a successful outcome of these negotiations, in so far as the presence of a Conservative Opposition leader on this occasion would make it clear to Mr. Smith that this was a negotiation in which it would not be possible to play off one Party against another in the United Kingdom?


My Lords, I think that the circumstances of the Irish negotiation were somewhat different. There was a Coalition Government at the time; and the negotiation was, of course, immediately followed by civil war in Ireland. But I take the point: obviously, national unity is of great importance. I could make observations on this, but

I do not think it would be helpful to do so.