HL Deb 19 July 1973 vol 344 cc1382-6

3.49 p.m.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The Statement is as follows:

"I promised the House that I should make a further progress report on efforts to settle the Rhodesian problem before the Recess.

"I have now been able to study Sir Denis Greenhill's report on his visit to Rhodesia. In the light of it I am sure that the policy we have been following remains the right one. Our purpose, as the House knows, has been, while maintaining the status quo, to bring the various parties in Rhodesia together so that they could work out for themselves a settlement which could resolve the difficulties within their country, bring the dispute with Britain to an end and be a basis for independence for Rhodesia.

"Honourable Members will have seen that Mr. Smith and Bishop Muzorewa have met. Mr. Smith has also met the leaders of other African groups. This meeting between Mr. Smith and the Bishop is certainly a step forward, and we must hope it will eventually lead to that agreement between the races which everybody in this House would like to see".

That is the end of the statement.


My Lords, the House will want to thank the noble Baroness for repeating that Statement, and I am sure the whole House will welcome the fact that Mr. Smith has at last been able to bring himself to meet Bishop Muzorewa and that Her Majestys' Government consider this to have been an important meeting. The House would like to ask the noble Baroness whether she has any news of what took place at the meetings, because the Press reports have been extremely scanty. I should also like to ask the noble Baroness about the phrase "maintaining the status quo." I think the House would like an assurance that "maintaining the status quo" means that there will be no change of Government policy during the Recess and that sanctions will, of course, necessarily be a part of that until the House meets again. May I ask the noble Baroness whether, if the United Nations Sanctions Committee meets during the Recess and there is the same pressure that sanctions should be strengthened, Her Majesty's Government will not again use their veto against that?


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends we regard the noble Baroness's Statement as entirely unexceptionable, and for our part should like to be associated with it.


My Lords, I should like to thank both the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for what they have said. We have no details of what exactly took place between the Bishop and Mr. Smith but, to quote what the Bishop said himself, "The discussions have been general, cordial but highly confidential". He believed the meeting was an important advance for Rhodesia and for her people. The noble Baroness asked whether the status quo means sanctions. The status quo, of course, means going on as we are unless events in Rhodesia justify a change. My Lords, on the third point about the United Nations, we have always said that we believe that present sanctions should be made effective. We are doing our best as far as our responsibility goes, but we believe that other nations can make them more effective if they try. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for his good wishes for what is a start to a possibly happy solution.


My Lords, has the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, not indicated that as a result of these welcome conversations some proposal for a settlement may be made? Is she aware that, anticipating this for some weeks, I have a Question down for the last day of the present Session? But if news is not available during next week and takes place during the Recess, what will be the Government's action if a development takes place which means some change in the Government's policy during that period before Parliament can meet?


My Lords, I do not see that the Government's policy can in fact change during the period of the Recess, because, as noble Lords will remember, under the 1971 proposals, and whatever settlement was agreed in the future, the Rhodesian Parliament would have to pass certain legislation before an Independence Bill was passed through this House. Therefore I think one can say that the situation would not materially change, but we should be very pleased to see any progress towards a settlement.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether she is aware that I think all my noble friends on this side of the House welcome very much this return of the dove to the Ark, even with such a small olive leaf in its beak, and that we should wish to say nothing that would prevent a settlement? May I also ask the noble Baroness whether it is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government to think first and foremost of the interests of the people of Rhodesia of whatever colour, and that that policy will not be changed during the Recess or at any other time?


My Lords, I gladly give the assurance to my noble friend that the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards people of all races within Rhodesia is that they should come together and reach together a just settlement, and that the policy of Her Majesty's Government in that direction certainly will not be changed. I agree with my noble friend that we must guard against saying anything which might be either too hopeful or too depressing, or which might cause difficulty.


My Lords, would the Government agree that a great many people on both sides of the House would be very glad if a satisfactory settlement could be found to this question; and if conditions in Rhodesia change in such a way as to justify it, would the Government consider establishing some sort of exchange of unofficial representatives with the régime in Salisbury, so that there may be at least some sort of contact to explore the possibilities of a settlement and develop them as soon as the time comes?


My Lords, it is true that we are hampered by not having representation in Salisbury, but, of course, the sanctions which we pursue under the United Nations mandate preclude us from having a Rhodesian envoy here in London. It was for that reason that the representative that we did have in Salisbury was asked to leave after the Pearce Commission. But if a measure of agreement could be reached between Rhodesians of all nations themselves and there were any remaining difficulties over which they thought we could help, we should certainly be ready to do so.


My Lords, we are encouraged by the hopeful expression of the noble Baroness that a settlement will be reached, a hope which of course everyone in this House must endorse. The settlement proposed by the Foreign Secretary lies on the table and therefore is the negotiating basis for the Rhodesian Government. As early discussions have taken place between the African groups (the A.N.C. and the pro-settlement groups) and the Rhodesian Prime Minister has set out clearly what the Bishop had stated as receiving his endorsement (those requirements were set out by the Prime Minister, in view of the visit of Sir Denis Greenhill recently), and following upon the Statement of the Prime Minister in the Rhodesia Parliament, can the noble Baroness give any indication whether there is hope that those will not be the minimum demands? They were patently unacceptable to the Rhodesian Government. The visit of Sir Denis Greenhill included a requirement to go from Salisbury to Umtala during a weekend—a considerable journey—which left him little time to assess Rhodesian opinion. Could the noble Baroness make some comment on Sir Denis's interpretation of the relationship between the statements which the Prime Minister made and what the A.N.C. might finally agree?


My Lords, as I understand it, Bishop Muzorewa said in an interview to the Rhodesia Herald on July 6 that he was the only person who knew details of all the A.N.C. proposals and that he was prepared to negotiate a pro- gramme working towards parity with the Rhodesian Front, but not asking for "one man, one vote" right away. Beyond that, I do not think it would be helpful for me to speculate. The Bishop did not give Sir Denis Greenhill the details of his proposals and I think it would be better to leave it as suggested by my noble friend Lord Coleraine.