HL Deb 25 November 1971 vol 325 cc1157-70

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, with the permission of your Lordships I should like to repeat a Statement now being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. This is the text of my right honourable friend's Statement:

"With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a Statement about my recent visit to Rhodesia.

"Following my Statement on the 9th of November I have been in Salisbury and have held talks with Mr. Smith. I had the opportunity also to meet many Rhodesians of all races and opinions, including a number of detainees and ex-detainees. As the House will be aware, Mr. Smith and I have signed a document setting out certain proposals for a settlement which are fully within the five principles to which the Government have constantly adhered. These proposals will now be put before the people of Rhodesia as a whole in a test of acceptability, according to principle five. For this result I am greatly indebted to the Lord Goodman and to the team of negotiators, who have worked so hard for it.

"The proposals have the following main features. First, amendments will be introduced into the present Constitution of Rhodesia to remove the provision which precludes any possibility of progress beyond parity of representation in the House of Assembly between Europeans and Africans. This will be replaced by arrangements providing for unimpeded progress to majority rule. The present number of lower African roll voters will be increased by a reduction of the franchise qualifications. Secondly, in order to proceed to this end, changes in the present franchise conditions will be made and the present income tax regulator abolished. The present number of directly and indirectly elected Africans in Parliament will continue but there will be created a new higher African roll with the same qualifications as the European roll. New African seats will be added as the proportion of voters on the higher African roll increases in relation to the numbers of voters on the European roll. On the present estimates it seems likely that four new African seats will be due to be created when the procedures for registration are completed and in that case they will be filled by by-elections in advance of a general election. These new seats will be filled, the first two, by direct election by the higher African roll, and the next two by indirect election on the same lines as the present indirectly elected members, until parity is achieved. At parity ten new seats will be created and filled through election on a common roll consisting of the European and higher African rolls. At that stage the numbers on each roll would be approximately equal. Throughout this period up to parity the blocking mechanism for the specially entrenched clauses of the Constitution will be two-thirds of the Assembly and the Senate, voting separately, plus majorities of the European and African members of the lower House, again voting separately.

"At the parity stage, when there are 50 African members of the House of Assembly a referendum will be held amongst voters on both African rolls to determine whether all the African members should in future be directly elected.

"Following that referendum and any consequential elections, the ten common roll seats will be filled, unless the Assembly determines, on the recommendation of a commission to be set up at that stage, that some more acceptable alternative arrangements should be made. Any such decision, however, would be subject to the blocking mechanism I have described. Thereafter the blocking mechanism will revert to a simple two-thirds majority. This would mean that at least 17 African members of the Lower House would have to approve any change to the specially entrenched clauses, and at that stage the Africans would be represented by directly elected members if that had been their choice. So much for the constitutional arrangements.

"The proposals also involve other important changes designed to reduce discrimination and to promote racial harmony. There will be a Declaration of Rights that will be justiciable in the courts. This is a major advance on the present Constitution. In particular, on discrimination the Declaration will re-enact the safeguard relating to discrimination contained in Section 67(4) of the 1961 Constitution. Secondly, there will be a three-man Commission, whose membership, to be agreed with us, will include an African, the task of which will be to review the question of racial discrimination throughout the whole field, but with particular regard to the Land Tenure Act and to certain of its effects. Mr. Smith has put it clearly on record in the proposals that it is his Administration's intention to reduce racial discrimination and that he will commend to his Parliament legislation to give effect to the Commission's recommendations, except where there are considerations which any Government would regard as overriding. Thirdly, there will be no further evictions of established communities from Epworth or other areas, until the recommendations of the Commission have been considered. Fourthly, further land is now available for African settlement and as the need arises, more will be allocated. Fifthly, when sanctions have been lifted, the State of Emergency will be revoked, unless unforeseen circumstances intervene.

"Fifty-four detainees out of 116 have been or will shortly be released. For the remainder there will be a special review, at which a British observer will be present. Rhodesians living abroad will be free to return save only where criminal charges lie against them. The Rhodesian Government have undertaken to encourage African recruitment to the public service. As a further important part of the settlement the British Government will provide £ 50 million in aid over ten years for economic and educational development in African areas, such aid to be matched appropriately by the Rhodesians with money additional to their present planned expenditure.

"Finally, the whole complex of these proposals is to be submitted to the Rhodesian people for approval. This test will be conducted by a Commission appointed by Her Majesty's Government, of which Lord Pearce, a former Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, has agreed to be Chairman, and will report to Her Majesty's Government. The Rhodesian authorities have agreed to allow a full and fair test, and to permit normal political activity to the Commission's satisfaction. Thereafter, if the proposals are acceptable the Rhodesian Parliament will be asked to enact the necessary legislation to give effect to them; and the Government will ask this House, once it is satisfied on that score, to enact the amended constitution and to give independence to Rhodesia. This will clear the way for the lifting of sanctions.

"Honourable Members will wish to study these proposals in detail. I am publishing the text in a White Paper which I hope will be available tomorrow. Meanwhile I am arranging to make available in the Vote Office to-day, in advance of the White Paper, the text of the Proposals for a Settlement which Mr. Smith and I signed yesterday. This—with the addition of its most important Annexure III containing the full text of the revised Declaration of Rights—will of course form part of the full White Paper. We shall also want to debate the issue: for their part the Government will be ready to make time available. I will therefore confine myself to saying that I believe these proposals are fair and honourable; and that they provide an opportunity to set a new course in Rhodesia, which can lead to the greater harmony of all races there and to the partnership and prosperity of all Rhodesians.

"This is a complicated matter and I have kept the House already too long. Honourable Members will wish to study the documents and to make up their minds. I would ask them to do so fairly, considering past history and the present realities of power. Whatever honourable Members may feel about the proposals now put forward I believe that they will agree that the Rhodesian people should certainly be given the chance to judge for themselves. And let us be in no doubt that the price that will be paid if we fail in this attempt, will be paid not by us but by others."

My Lords, that concludes my right honourable friend's Statement.

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, the House is very grateful to the noble Earl for reading this long and complicated Statement. Clearly, we shall all wish to study it very carefully, and we shall particularly wish to look at some of the small print in it; but I am bound to say that some important concessions have been made, which is a tribute both to the Foreign Secretary and to the effectiveness of the sanctions which have been imposed. Since, as I understand it, the usual channels have been at work and we are to debate this matter next week, we shall have an opportunity then to go into it more fully. None the less, to help those of us who wish, as we are enjoined by the concluding remarks, to make up our minds fairly with regard to this matter, there are some questions that I should like to ask the noble Earl.

First, one of the great anxieties with regard to a settlement in Rhodesia has been the willingness of the British people to trust the Rhodesian Government, and Mr. Smith in particular, under heavy pressures as he must be, not to proceed later on to some form of retrospective violation. I note, incidentally, that the proposal of which the Government were at one time in favour, a treaty, has not been pursued, and I make no complaint of that. There is one very important omission. May I ask the noble Earl (he may not be able to answer at the moment) why the Government abandoned any attempt at having an external safeguard? Noble Lords will recall that a quite fundamental part of the negotiating position of the previous Government was that there should be some external safeguard in the matter; and I stress "external" safeguard.

This again may be a matter of argument as to whether these proposals are within the Five Principles, but would the noble Earl attempt to elaborate on that very difficult phrase, "unimpeded progress to majority rule"? Then may I ask how long do the Government calculate will elapse before parity is achieved, and how long to majority rule? There have been a number of statements from Rhodesia which suggest that the period is a great deal longer than anything that is likely to be of interest to us personally, but for which, none the less, we shall be responsible. I do not know whether the Government have considered any further safeguard after the lifting of sanctions. It is important that we should be certain on this point. May I also ask here (and this is a question of fundamental importance): will the blocking mechanism in the initial stages consist of elected or payroll African members—in other words, the chiefs? That is fundamental to the test that we must apply. Previously, I would remind the noble Earl, we were not even satisfied with the equality of the elected members.

Then I ask: must the changes which may take place with regard to racial discrimination depend on a purely Rhodesian Commission, even though we have to approve it? I particularly ask —and this is, to my mind, the weakest part of the proposals—why there is no immediate action to deal with racial discrimination with regard to land. Admittedly, an important Commission is to be set up, but why was it not possible to achieve something on this question? Then, how soon will the Government be enabled to announce the membership of the special Commission on acceptability? We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pearce, for taking on what is an extraordinarily difficult responsibility; but it is rather important, however much we may be content with his appointment, that we should know who the other members will be. Finally, may I ask whether any effort was made to persuade the Rhodesian Government to dismantle the apparatus of the Police State which has been developed there?

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join in thanking the noble Earl for making this important Statement. I will not repeat the questions that have already been asked by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, but clearly we should all like to know when it is anticipated that parity will be reached. Obviously, we shall require time to study the White Paper. If I may say so, I think there has been some rather premature rejoicing. On the other hand, it would be wrong to condemn this White Paper out of hand before we have read it.

May I ask one or two questions? First, how soon will the political detainees be released—those that have not already been released? Secondly, what protection will there be for those Rhodesian Africans in the future who have the courage to say "No"? In regard to the Commission, is there not something to be said for including persons with political experience as well as great judicial experience? May I make one, I hope, constructive suggestion before the situation hardens? Knowing the resistance on the part of Mr. Smith and his followers to the political and the educational advance of Africans, does the noble Earl really think that the proposed financial grant will be adequate to meet the situation? I fear not. For that reason, I ask whether Her Majesty's Government would provide generous facilities for advanced education in this country for Rhodesian Africans, of course with a guarantee that they will be allowed to return. Whether majority rule comes peacefully or not, obviously trained personnel will be required, and their training will be required. I doubt whether it will be carried out adequately in Rhodesia, and I would rather see it done in Britain than in China or Russia.


My Lords, I am grateful for the tone of the remarks of both the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord Wade. I do not wish to stonewall, but in my replies I may not be as informative as I normally hope to be. These are delicate matters, and it would be a mistake to get too far down the road of debate and dialogue until your Lordships have had the chance of studying these proposals, which are not only comprehensive but also very detailed in certain respects. That study will be possible as soon as the White Paper is available, which, as I have said, should be tomorrow. That said, I should like straight away to say that it will be our intention to make time available for a full debate in your Lordships' House as soon as may be. I understand that the usual channels are, as usual, flowing freely, and that my noble friend the Chief Whip hopes to make a Statement later on this afternoon after those discussions have been completed.

That said, may I deal, I hope not summarily but fairly quickly, with some of the points which have been put to me? So far as an external safeguard—which is the first point which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, put—I would merely remind noble Lords that an external safeguard existed in appeal to the Privy Council, but when it existed it did not prevent the slide toward the present situation. I do not believe that, short of a military occupation, there can be any absolute and permanent guarantee against retrogression. I think this has always been a fact in the situation which I think all of us have recognised.

I have been asked about unimpeded progress towards majority rule and the time scale. All I would say is that my right honourable friend, like the Leader of the Opposition in another place, has constantly and consistently emphasised that there could not be a specified time scale towards majority rule. There may be those who can produce precise forecasts in this matter, but there are so many variables here that I shall certainly not be tempted at this stage to produce a precise forecast. There is the variable of the degree to which Africans register; there is the variable, above all, of the economic and industrial expansion which will, hopefully, follow a settlement. But I believe the crucial point here is that the way is now open—or can be open if this settlement is consummated—to steady and unimpeded progress towards majority rule. Under the status quo progress was imperceptible, or, rather, the reverse.

Thirdly, I have been asked about the blocking mechanism. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, when he studies the Statement which I have repeated, will see that from the outset the specially entrenched provisions will require the votes of nine Africans in the House of Assembly. That means that at every stage one directly elected African will have to vote for change together with all the indirectly elected Africans. I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that the existing indirectly elected Africans have, in fact, voted against the Government in every division in the Rhodesian Parliament so far.

I was also asked about the land question. This, again, is complicated. It will be fully covered in the White Paper. All I should like to point out is that land will fall specifically within the justiciable Declaration of Rights. I was asked by both the noble Lord, Lord Wade, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, about the further membership of the Commission. It will consist of a Chairman, deputy chairman, and a number of commissioners. I am afraid I cannot say how many that number will be, but I can say that besides the noble and learned Lord, Lord Pearce, my noble friend Lord Harlech and Sir Maurice Dorman, the former Governor General of Malta and Sierra Leone, have agreed to take part in the Commission; but that is all the information I can vouchsafe on that score at this stage. I should like to take careful note of what the noble Lord, Lord Wade, has said about aid. I think that at this stage I should reserve my comments on it as being perhaps a matter which we shall more fully debate when we discuss these large issues, presumably next week.


My Lords, as one who had the privilege of being on the "Fearless" when the negotiations took place, may I first of all say that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, who negotiated for the Labour Government when it was in power, has taken part also in these negotiations. Therefore I think it would be unwise of me to be pontifical about the Statement we have now had until I have had a chance to study the White Paper in depth. I say that, after having been on some of these difficult negotiations. However, I should like to pay a tribute—and I hope I never regret having said this—to the work that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has done here. I am saying that rather blindly, in view of the statement from the Front Bench, but it is a measure of my faith in that noble Lord.

May I ask two simple questions, as one who is interested in the educational side and who saw the difficulties even in India in their progress towards majority rule. It is now the fact, is it not, that we have abolished NIBMAR—no independence before majority African rule? Secondly—and let us take the simple questions; the others are too complicated without reading the White Paper in depth—regarding the money that the British taxpayer will be giving, shall we have some control over its expenditure in the educational field? Because it is fundamentally education that is going to emancipate the black African.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, for what he has said about "not pontificating". I hope noble Lords will reserve judgment until they have had the chance of fully digesting the White Paper. I would echo the very well deserved tribute which the noble Lord has paid to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. Whatever views we may ultimately form about this settlement, none of us will be sparing in our praise for the devoted labours of the noble Lord in helping to pave the way for it. I think I must take notice of the second question. So far as the first question of the noble Lord is concerned, I think he has read the position correctly.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl what steps are being taken, or have been taken, to acquaint neighbouring African Governments not only with the results of these discussions, but with all the arguments that have taken place during them which have persuaded Her Majesty's Government of the fact that these are the best? May I also ask what their reactions are so far to the arguments that have been put to them?


My Lords, I cannot say what the reactions are so far. All I can say is that I remember very well the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Walston, when I repeated a Statement on November 9, and very full steps have been taken to acquaint neighbouring Governments not only with the proposals for settlement, but also with the arguments in this respect.


My Lords, may I join others in thanking the noble Earl not only for making the Statement, but for the frank way in which he has been replying to questions which have been put? May I ask whether the noble Earl is aware that those of us who take the view that there should not be independence before there is actual majority rule will not therefore be able to support these proposals? But is he also aware that we recognise—and I do so by personal contact—the integrity of the Foreign Secretary and, indeed, consider that he will almost have performed a miracle if he has actually brought back proposals which are within the Five Principles? We shall have to begin calling him not "Sir Alec" but "Saint Alec", if he has achieved that.

Reserving argument for the debate, may I ask the noble Earl two questions? First, when he says that there will be no further evictions until the review by the three-man Commission, does that not only include the residents in the Catholic and Anglican lands who have not yet been affected, but also apply retrospectively to the Africans on tribal lands who have already been driven out of their homelands to the hills? The second question which I should particularly like to put to the noble Earl is this, because it is so important if a better atmosphere is to be secured. Can he yet give us any indication when the African leaders, who have been detained without charge for seven years only on political grounds, are to be released? Until that is done it will be impossible to create a better atmosphere among the African population of Rhodesia.


My Lords, I should like to say straight away that I deeply appreciate the remarks which the noble Lord has made about the integrity—of which I think none of us needs any proof —of my right honourable and saintly friend in another place. On the two points which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has put to me, I think I should be guarded in my reply as I am not certain that I am fully conversant with the facts. I should like to confine myself merely to repeating what is set out rather more fully in the document Proposals for a Settlement, which is now in the Printed Paper Office. The relevant paragraph refers to the eviction of Africans from land in the European area at Epworth and Chishawasha Missions, and reads as follows: The Rhodesian Government have given an assurance that they will not take steps to evict African tenants or other occupants from these two areas or from other areas in which they are living until such time as the Commission referred to in paragraph III above has reported and its recommendations have been fully considered. I think it would be a mistake for me to go beyond those words at the present time. But I assure the noble Lord that I will make a point of being able to give him a fuller answer when we come to debate this matter.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, while noble Lords in all parts of this Chamber will join in the tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, noble Lords certainly on this side of the House and, I think, on all sides—would also like to join in a tribute to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, who has achieved what appears to be a settlement in line with the Five Principles involved in this unhappy dispute? Is my noble friend aware that we all feel a deep sense of gratitude to my right honourable friend for bringing about what appears to be a satisfactory settlement?


My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend. I should like to say that I, for one, share that feeling of gratitude.


My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that, before we agree to the canonisation or even the beatification of the Foreign Secretary, there are a great many questions that remain unanswered in his Statement and in the Proposals for a Settlement? For example, when we speak of "normal political activity" will the noble Earl state categorically that this means an end of censorship? Is he aware that radio and TV time is allocated only to Parties represented in the present House of Assembly? The vast majority of Africans are unrepresented in that House. How does the noble Earl think that their views are going to be represented through this media of communication? Is the noble Earl also aware that the Commission is only to scrutinise the provisions of the Land Tenure Act, and that the implementation of any recommendations they make is not subject to any safeguards at all? In particular, the sentence that he has just read out, about the Epworth and Chishawasha Missions, leaves Mr. Smith free to state ultimately that he has fully considered the recommendations and has decided that these Africans should be removed. Finally, can the noble Earl say how the 62 detainees who will be left in custody after the release of those he has mentioned are going to take part in normal political activities, and will he circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of names of those people, so that we can see how many leaders of the African people such as Mr. Joshua Nkomo, are not going to be released until after the end of the procedures?


My Lords, if I were to attempt detailed answers to those rather detailed points which the noble Lord has put to me, I think I should be going beyond the self-denying ordinance which I imposed upon myself at the start of repeating this Statement. Therefore, I am afraid that I am not going to reply to those very detailed points. I believe that it would be a great mistake for me to do so, and that it is far better that we should discuss these and other matters when we can do it fully. I can give an assurance to noble Lords that I, for one, will use my best endeavour to see that we have very full time— as much as we like—to debate what is a very important Statement indeed.


My Lords, I fully agree with the noble Earl that we should not go much further on this important Statement this afternoon, and that we should await our debate next week. But may I ask one question about the debate? I presume that this will be on a Motion to "take note of" the settlement proposals and not on a Motion for approval, because there are many questions that will have to be asked and answered, and I suspect that to obtain those answers will be very difficult in the course of a normal debate. Therefore I hope the noble Earl will give this House time to consider all the details in the White Paper, and the questions and answers, before he comes to the House on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to seek approval. I trust that the high hopes we had of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will not be in any way dashed—but, like the noble Earl, I am being cautious. I have seen some of the small print and I have some anxieties.

But can the noble Earl answer two simple questions? First of all, once Rhodesia has fulfilled the settlement will it be a Republic, and will it remain inside the Commonwealth, or, as it is now, outside? Secondly, will the Declaration of Rights, to which great importance must be attached, be entrenched into the Constitution? My quick reading of the settlement proposals does not make this last point very clear.


My Lords, first of all I should like to say that I take very careful note of what the noble Lord has said about the form of our debate. I can already see the arguments, pro and con; but I can assure him that the considerations which he has put will not be absent from my mind when we come to a final decision about the form of the debate. The question of whether Rhodesia will or will not remain within the Commonwealth, and what the form of its future Government will be, must be, I think, according to my understanding of the workings of the Commonwealth, a matter for the Rhodesians. On the second point which the noble Lord put—and I quite see the importance of that—my understanding is that the Declaration will most certainly be entrenched. But in the short time available to me since the noble Lord asked that question I have not been able to put my finger on any precise statement in the White Paper. But that, as I say, is my understanding. If I am wrong, I will let the noble Lord know straight away.


My Lords, may I press the point about the form of the debate? The noble Earl will appreciate that the matters which we shall have under review are to be referred to the people of Rhodesia, and that will take, I understand, several weeks, and perhaps some months. Obviously it would be quite impossible to have a vote asking for the approval of something that has yet to be referred to the people of Rhodesia. Would not the noble Earl be content with asking your Lordships' House merely to "take note of" the settlement proposals?


My Lords, I always pay very close attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, says on this, or, indeed, on any other matter. I think I will not go beyond saying that I will pay as close attention to what he has said from the Back Benches on this matter as to what his noble friend Lord Shepherd has said from the Front Benches on the same matter.