HL Deb 04 February 1969 vol 299 cc5-11

2.44 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is holding up the continuation of the negotiations with Rhodesia.]


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have made it clear to Mr. Smith and his colleagues, and also to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers at their recent Meeting, that the "Fearless" proposals remain on the table. They have also made it clear that it is for Mr. Smith to make the next move.


My Lords, in view of the great importance of this matter, is it really necessary that we should stand on our dignity? Surely it is much more important to come to a settlement than to decide who takes the next move.


My Lords, I am surprised that the noble Lord, with his knowledge of this matter, is not himself aware of the repeated initiatives that have been taken by Her Majesty's Government to seek a settlement. We have made many proposals to the Smith regime. They have been rejected, and no alternative proposals have been put in their place.


My Lords, may we take it from the noble Lord's reply that Her Majesty's Government do wish for a settlement, or are they just prepared to leave matters as they are?


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government desire a settlement, but to get a settlement there need to be two parties, and, as I have said, the other party have not yet been willing to put alternative proposals to us if they, as they do now, reject our own.


My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that it is not just a settlement that is wanted, but a settlement that is just to all the citizens of Rhodesia?


And also honourable, my Lords.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what were the matters still unresolved in the most recent negotiations with Rhodesia.]


My Lords, my right honourable friend the Minister without Portfolio made a Statement in another place on November 18 last. It was not repeated in your Lordships' House since this House was not then sitting. The Statement was long and detailed, so for the convenience of your Lordships I will circulate it In the OFFICIAL REPORT.


My Lords, that is not very helpful to me in putting a supplementary. Should I be right in saying that the only issue between the parties is the additional safeguard which Her Majesty's Government have been insisting upon; namely, the question of an appeal to the Privy Council?


My Lords, I hope my noble friend will not think it is the duty of a Minister to make available opportunities for supplementary questions, but if my noble friend will look at the Statement that was made by my right honourable friend he will see that, apart from the point that he has just referred to, which is perhaps the most important, there are at least six or seven other points to which we attach great importance and to which we have not been able to find a solution.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend this question? Is not the difficulty here that Mr. Smith is insisting that any safeguard shall be within the Parliament elected by a minority of the people, and does not all experience show that such a safeguard would be ineffective once a Government obtains independence?


My Lords, I believe it is the will and desire of certain of the main political Parties in this country that any safeguard should be a real safeguard. This is what we are seeking to achieve, but so far we have not been able to achieve it.


My Lords, may I ask Her Majesty's Government whether it has ceased to be the duty of Her Majesty's Government to answer a Starred Question which has been properly put by the permission of the House? Has it ceased to be a duty to provide an Answer?


My Lords, I have a duty, clearly, to answer Questions that are on the Order Paper, but I think I also have to take into account the convenience of your Lordships' House. As I said, this was a long, detailed Statement. I will lay it in the OFFICIAL REPORT and there will then be an opportunity for any noble Lord to raise further questions.

Following is the Statement referred to:

"As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister informed the House on 1st November, I left for Salisbury on that date to assist in the consideration by Mr. Smith and his colleagues of the proposals for a settlement which we put to them on board H.M.S. 'Fearless' set out in Command 3793.

"I was in Salisbury from 2nd to 9th November; and again from 13th to 16th November after visiting Zambia, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya and having conversations with the Heads of State of these countries.

"While in Salisbury, my delegation and I held nine full-scale meetings with Mr. Smith and certain of his colleagues and advisers, in addition to a number of informal exchanges of view. No time limit was set for my visit and I left only when both sides were agreed that no useful purpose could be served by my staying longer.

"Together with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, I saw representatives of many different sections of Rhodesian opinion, ranging from Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Sithole to the Chairman of the Rhodesian Front.

"Throughout my talks with Mr. Smith I stood firmly by the 'Fearless' proposals, and I made it clear to him at all times that any settlement must be fully consistent with the six principles. Some progress was made on certain points, on the basis accepted on both sides that agreement on them would be contingent on an overall agreement being reached.

"But this measure of understanding was overshadowed by the number and weight of the points on which we were not able to reach even a contingent agreement of that kind. Mr. Smith and I agreed that we had reached a stage where it would be right for the public to know the facts about what still divided us and what, after prolonged talks, we had found ourselves unable to resolve. I also listed to Mr. Smith the items which I told him I felt obliged to explain to the House. I think that the House has a right to know these and I apologise for taking up time by giving them in detail.

"The first of these was, of course, a second safeguard for unimpeded progress to majority rule and against retrogressive amendments of the Constitution. We made it clear in the Fearless' White Paper that we were prepared to consider alternative methods to achieve this, although we believe that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council would provide the best instrument.

"I must emphasise that, to be acceptable to us, any alternative method must be fully as effective as that provided by the Judicial Committee. Mr. Smith, however, showed no interest in the other forms of judicial safeguards mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in this House on 22nd October.

"In these circumstances, I put forward a further alternative proposal for a second safeguard of a different character, which would not only begin in Rhodesia but would also leave the last word with the Rhodesian people. Under this proposal the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council would have the task of deciding whether a proposed amendment was of such a kind that the second safeguard should be brought into operation. This question would only come before the Judicial Committee on an initiative either by an agreed number of members of the Rhodesian Parliament, or by the Constitutional Council in Rhodesia.

"If the Judicial Committee considered that the second safeguard should be brought into operation, my proposal would then place fairly and squarely in the hands of the people of Rhodesia themselves, including the African majority, the responsibility and the power to decide whether the amendment should be proceeded with in the Rhodesian Parliament or not. They would take this decision in a referendum of the A and B roll electors voting separately.

"This seemed to me both to provide the necessary safeguard for the first and second principles and to avoid the objection which had been raised against our earlier proposal—namely, that it placed the final responsibility for what was in essence a political decision in the hands of a judicial body which did not form part of the political system of Rhodesia. But Mr. Smith told me that he totally rejected the principle on which this alternative proposal was based. I asked Mr. Smith whether he had any proposals of his own for a second guarantee. But he had none to offer.

"This is a fundamental point of difference between us. But it is not by any means the only important issue of principle on which we differ.

"For example, there is the question of the jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council sitting as an ordinary court of law, as opposed to acting as a second safeguard. Mr. Smith and his colleagues would not commit themselves to agree to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council continuing, as in the 1961 Constitution, to hear appeals in such cases.

"Other major disagreements also remain. The chief of them, taken in the order of the Fearless' proposals to which they relate, are as follows.

"First, the regime wish to extend the period under the 1961 Constitution for which the legislature can approve the proclamation of a State of Emergency. This, as the House will know, is a period of three months at a time.

"Hon. Members in all part of the House sill share our deep concern over a proposal which would mean lengthening the period for which Rhodesian citizens would be held in detention without charge or trial, and without the Rhodesian Parliament having the opportunity to scrutinise the need for the State of Emergency and, if it thought proper, to end it.

"Secondly, the régime wish to alter the composition of the legislature as proposed in the 'Fearless' document. While accepting a blocking quarter of directly and popularly elected Africans, the régime wanted either fewer elected Africans in the Senate or else more A roll seats in the Lower House and more European seats in the Senate. Again, we could not accept this.

"Thirdly, the régime wished to balance an extension—as in both the 'Tiger' and 'Fearless' proposals—of the B roll franchise by an alteration of the present arrangements for cross-voting. Their suggestion was that the proposed extension of the B roll franchise should be accompanied by a reduction in the existing value of B roll votes cast in elections in A roll scats. That value is at present 25 per cent. Their proposal was that it should be reduced to 10 per cent.

"This may seem to be a complex and technical issue. But its essence, I ought to explain to the House, is that it would postpone the date when majority rule might conic about. Obviously, we could not agree to such a proposal.

"Fourthly, the régime wished to eliminate the 'delimitation' formula which is also included in both the 'Tiger' and 'Fearless' propopsals. This provides that as the number of Africans on the A roll increases, the Africans' chances of capturing A roll seats should increase proportionately.

"Fifthly, the regime wished to extend the criteria which the Judicial Tribunal should apply when considering whether detainees and restrictees should be released to take part in the Test of Acceptability. The 'Fearless' proposals already cover cases where the Tribunal is satisfied that the person concerned would himself be likely to commit, or to incite or conspire with others to commit, acts of violence or intimidation.

"This is an adequate safeguard for the preservation of public order. The régime wanted to add to this case where, without any guilt on the part of the individual concerned, others might respond with violence to his release. This again, we could not agree to.

"Sixthly, there were important differences between us over the treatment of, those Rhodesian public servants who, since I.D.I., have felt bound to leave Rhodesia in order to remain loyal to the Crown. We felt that, as part of the necessary process of wiping the slate clean, if a settlement were reached they should have the choice of reinstatement or compensation. Mr. Smith said that he could not possibly agree to their reinstatement, although compensation was another matter.

"Each of these points, taken individually, is important. But more significant still is that all of them taken together indicate that the régime are not at this stage ready to commit themselves to the necessity of accepting majority rule except in an impossibly remote and indefinite future.

"I do not want to be unfair to Mr. Smith on these points. He did say that he believed that if it were possible to reach agreement on the question of the second safeguard our differences on the other points which I have mentioned could be quickly resolved. That may or may not be so. In so far as Mr. Smith meant that he would expect us to give way on them, I made it absolutely clear to him that there could be no question of our doing so. I cannot speak for his own readiness to change his position on them. I can only tell the House, as I have sought to do, the position he took on them when talking to me.

"To sum up, my discussion with Mr. Smith showed, in the words of a Press statement issued before I left Salisbury, that there remains fundamental disagreement on several major matters of principle. We both felt that a prolongation of my stay would not enable us to resolve that disagreement. So I have come back to report to my colleagues and to the House how things stand.

"Nevertheless, the proposals in our 'Fearless' White Paper and the alternative suggestion in the second safeguard which I put to Mr. Smith in Salisbury remain on the table for consideration, for discussion and, I would hope, for acceptance when reflection in Rhodesia has brought wiser counsel. Meanwhile, of course, sanctions will continue, together with all the other consequences that have flowed from illegality.

"My report, I recognise, is a gloomy one. I myself found the last fortnight disappointing and saddening. So fair an opportunity has been turned down that, I am afraid, I could not feel otherwise. But to repeat what I have said before: we for our part are not slamming the door, and perhaps one day the response from the other side of that door will be more constructive than it has so far been."