HL Deb 06 July 1977 vol 385 cc418-48

6.43 p.m.

Lord BROCKWAY rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what actions they propose to take to implement the decisions of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. The noble Lord said: I think that there will be many who will welcome this opportunity to look at the recent Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. I am not sure that we have yet realised its significance. At its end it issued a very remarkable Communiqué. It was remarkable, first, for its length. It covered more than a page and a half of The Times. It was remarkable, secondly, for the extraordinary comprehensive survey it made of the relations between all the countries in the Commonwealth. It was remarkable, thirdly, because of the consensus of opinion which it expressed.

One often hears of the divergencies within the Commonwealth, but I think that the agreed decisions reached showed how valuable the Commonwealth still is. We must remember that it represents 33 countries, nearly one-fourth of the total membership of the United Nations; that it represents 44 per cent. of the developing countries in the world, if we exclude China, and 88 per cent. of the poorest countries in the world. The Communiqué was remarkable in the fourth sense, because it not merely analysed the problems of today, but almost always proposed at the end concrete suggestions for action to implement them.

I think that it is worth briefly having a look at the ground covered by this Communiqué. In the first place it recognised that there is now a new structure of the world. Power is no longer dependent exclusively on military and economic strength. The unaligned nations of the world are important in the approach to world détente. It inevitably discussed the situation in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe, the Republic of South Africa, Namibia. I want to return later to the problem of Zimbabwe. But all those problems were analysed.

I was delighted that it gave such early attention to the problems of Cyprus and its acceptance of the United Nations' Resolutions. It turned to the Middle East, and it endorsed the proposal for a homeland for the Palestinians, and authentic and legitimate representation of the Palestinian people at the projected Geneva Conference. Its next item showed how the Commonwealth is concerned even with small communities when their right to self-determination is threatened. It has established a Working Group on Belize, not only of Caribbean countries, but of India, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Tanzania, to co-operate with the Commonwealth Secretary-General. This indicates the intense interest of all Commonwealth countries in the right of peoples to their independence.

The Communiqué went on to discuss the situation in the Indian Ocean, and supported the proposal that it should be a zone of peace. To that I want to return. It spoke of the Law of the Sea Conference, and urged that there should be consultation at that conference of all the Commonwealth delegates. It endorsed human rights. It denounced the régime in Uganda, and it declared for equal rights, not only political and civil, but social and economic as well, understanding that impoverishment, the inability to live a full physical and mental life, is the greatest of all the denials of human rights.

At the end it spoke of youth, and of the Commonwealth Youth Council to expand a youth programme in the Commonwealth countries. It spoke of the position of women, and asked the Secretary-General to report on the progress of the participation by women in all spheres. Before those final references it had its long passages about economic development. It spoke of rural reconstruction, of regional co-ordination, of technical assistance, of aid, of commodity prices, of the Common Fund, and of the proposal for a new international economic order.

My Lords, in opening this debate with a reasonably short speech it is quite impossible to discuss the effects of all these analyses of the situation, and their proposals for implementation. I propose to take only three, which are symbolic of the very wide area which the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference covered, and even then I propose to take only specific items. I am quite sure that the speakers who are to follow will deal with other matters. I have given notice to the Minister of the proposals that I wish to raise.

First, what was known as Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe. The Communiqué emphasises that, while we are all hoping that negotiations will succeed in finding a solution to the constitutional problems involved, something which is often forgotten is that success in establishing majority rule depends, not only on constitutional change but on—and I quote: the dismantling of the apparatus of repression in order to pave the way for the creation of police and armed forces which would be responsible to the needs of the people of Zimbabwe and ensure the orderly and effective transfer of power".

My Lords, this reminder is very important for understanding the reality of the situation. Both during an interim Government in Zimbabwe and after independence, whoever controls the army, the air force and the police will control Zimbabwe. At the time of the dismemberment of the Central African Federation, the major armed forces were allowed to remain in Southern Rhodesia. I realise it is impossible at this moment to be definite, but the principle which the Communiqué raised is of decisive importance. It may be that a solution could be found in either a United Nations peacekeeping force or a Commonwealth peacekeeping force with the present Rhodesian forces incorporated within them. The control of the actual forces will be absolutely essential if real independence for Zimbabwe is to be gained.

The second issue which I want to raise as indicating the breadth of view of the Communiqué is the Indian Ocean. The Communiqué endorses that the ocean should be "a zone of peace", and proposes a United Nations conference to establish such a zone. A few months ago this seemed a Utopian idea, but since then President Carter of the United States has endorsed it. One recognises that the dismantlement of super-Power presence in the Indian Ocean would be difficult. The British Government have permitted the Americans to establish their airbase at Diego Garcia. The argument has been that the Russian Navy was also there, and there were allegations that it had its base in Somalia, though the Russians have denied this. A new situation has now arisen, because Somalia and the Soviet Union are in conflict over the issues of Ethiopia. I want to ask whether the British Government now accept the proposal that the Indian Ocean should be neutralised by the withdrawal of the navies of all the super Powers. If this were done in the Indian Ocean, it might serve as a precedent for other areas as well, perhaps even in the Mediterranean.

The third question I want to ask of the Government is whether they will seek to implement the whole series of proposals made in the Communiqué on economic development. The Conference had before it the final report of the experts' committee, set up at the last Commonwealth Conference at Kingston on the initiative of Mr. Harold Wilson, who was then Prime Minister. The experts' committee has been termed a union of ten wise men, and it is significant that it included as the British representative the former Deputy-Secretary of the Department of Trade. The Commonwealth Conference welcomed the committee's report, and asked for a thorough study of its proposals with a view to its implementation.

This report from the experts' committee stated, perhaps more dramatically than I have ever seen, the gulf between the rich and poor nations of the world. It said that for half the world's population the average annual income is 200 dollars per head. It said that among one-seventh of the world population the average annual income per head is between 2,000 dollars and 5,600 dollars. That gulf between the rich and the poor cannot continue if there is to be harmony or if there is to be peace.

For five years the discussion between the rich and poor worlds has been disappointing. There have been conferences on population, conferences on pollution, and conferences on food; and there was the dismal failure of the last talks between North and South at Paris. But a new and much more hopeful situation is now arising. The West, despite the opposition from West Germany and the USA, and the doubts of our own representatives, has now accepted the proposal for a common fund and the Commonwealth Conference endorsed this. But there is still a very deep difference between the West and the developing countries about the nature of the common fund. The experts' committee to the Commonwealth Conference urged that the common fund should be a positive instrument of change, opening the way to a new economic pattern for the world.

The experts' committee took a very broad view of the common fund. First, it discussed the trade relations between the developing nations and the industralised nations; second, it proposed a survey of the capacity of the developing nations in their own rural development of primary produce; and third, it discussed how those primary products might be processed within the developing country itself.

The Western view of the common fund does not include those objectives. Its idea is that the common fund should act merely as a clearing house for separately-negotiated commodity agreements—with very limited cash available for technical development. I hope that our Government will now stand for the interpretation of the common fund which was endorsed by the experts' committee.

Finally, my Lords, I want to say this. The common fund is only a part of the proposals for the new international economic order which was submitted by the experts' committee. That new economic order includes the ownership of natural resources by the nations of the developing world. It urges some control of the multi-national companies and partnership in the transport of goods between the developing countries and the industrialised countries. It asks for representation by the developing countries on world financial organisations such as the IMF and the World Bank, and it asks for an economic arm of the United Nations as important as its political arm.

These proposals mean a new world economic order. Have we any doubt that it is necessary?—necessary not merely to lift millions of people from their poverty, but for our own country. To lift the standard of life of half the world would mean a demand for the products of this country which would end unemployment. I hope that one of the results of the Commonwealth Conference will be that in future Her Majesty's Government will seek to support these proposals for a new world economic order and so help to end the gulf between the rich and the poor nations of the world.

7.5 p.m.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, always gives us an opportunity to talk about matters of great moment in international affairs even though he will not expect me to follow him in everything he has said. Of course, my noble friends on this side of the House welcome the fact that the Commonwealth Conference was held in the United Kingdom, in this Jubilee Year of Her Majesty the Queen; and we were delighted that she received the Heads of Government at Buckingham Palace. I believe that all members of the Commonwealth greatly appreciated this particular fact. I think that this set a certain seal on the feeling and spirit that undoubtedly dominated the whole of the Commonwealth Conference during the meetings in London and for a short period at Gleneagles. We also welcome the fact that 26 out of 33 Commonwealth countries were represented by Heads of Government. I believe that this, again, is an indication of the importance that Commonwealth countries attach to this particular conference.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, I shall not go through the Communiqué item by item—something for which noble Lords and the Minister will undoubtedly be grateful—but there are one or two items which, since we are discussing this Communiqué, cannot pass without comment. First, we agree that all countries in the modern economic world are now interdependent and are becoming more so as their standards of living to some extent converge. While recognising the enormous difference between rich and poor nations (which nobody would deny) it might sometimes be a good idea to turn our attention to the wide divergences between rich and poor which exist in every country. It cannot always be assumed, because a country has a low average income per capita, that there are not enormous concentrations of wealth within that country. Therefore, it seems to me that, sometimes, when money is given to a country which undoubtedly deserves and needs it, some kind of advice and guidance should be given on how that money may best be utilised to meet the needs of the people. I do not believe that we should control it; that would be quite wrong. But I feel that a combined effort as to the way these enormous sums are to be utilised should be considered. I know from modest and simple conversations that I have had with many people, particularly from African countries, that they themselves would welcome this. This could sometimes be a better contribution to co-operation and co-ordination between the developed and the developing nations than merely passing over large sums of money which are very often wasted and not put to good use for the benefit of the people for whom they are intended.

Secondly, I cannot pass by paragraph 14 of the London Communiqué, which refers to the armed struggle. In this paragraph it says, in connection with the independence to be achieved in Rhodesia, that the armed struggle has been complementary to other efforts, including a negotiated settlement, and agrees that its maintenance is inevitable. I should like to ask the Minister what is now the Government view. What, as of today, is their attitude to the support, both financial and material, of those front line Presidents who are supporting the armed struggle against Rhodesia?

My Lords, the Prime Minister, when commenting in another place upon the Statement on the Communiqué of the Commonwealth Heads of Government said: Some Commonwealth leaders put their faith primarily in the armed struggle to bring about majority rule in Southern Africa. We shall continue to try and find another way".—[Official Report (Commons), 16/6/77; col. 561.] That is undoubtedly something that we would all believe in. There are problems in Rhodesia; but what we find it difficult to go along with is that money should go from this country to support armed struggle against anybody, and particularly that it should support the forms of violence, mutilation and killing of innocent civilians of all colours that are taking place both in neighbouring countries and in Rhodesia itself. In any case, this is entirely contrary to the spirit, intent and express wording of the Charter of the United Nations in Article 2(3) which lays down that the settlement of international disputes should be achieved by peaceful means.

Supporting the arms struggle in any of these countries, be it Rhodesia or elsewhere, is a violation of the Charter. The people of this country find apartheid repugnant, and if taxpayers knew that their money was going to support armed struggles in national liberation movements in certain parts of the world, it would be repellent to the vast majority of taxpayers in this country that we are providing the means and arms for the killing of anybody anywhere. It is totally contrary to the policy of my Party and I hope also of Her Majesty's Government.

Regarding the amount of financial aid that has been undertaken as a result of this Communiqué, as I read through it carefully it seemed that each paragraph contained a commitment to disburse sums of money. It may be that they are already calculated and accounted for in the public expenditure accounts. Nevertheless, it gave rise to some feeling of concern when I read first of all in paragraph 22 that Heads of Government commending the front line States were to accord full support and assistance to these particular countries. I do not wish to go into the reason; but, nevertheless, paragraph 22 states that full support and assistance is to be given to the front line States. I wonder what that means in terms of cash.

In paragraph 23 we are told that refugees fleeing from repressive régimes in Southern Africa should have full support and assistance from Commonwealth countries. We know already that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provides considerable sums of money to help these refugees. We do not question that; this is the policy of the United Nations, so be it. We also know that UNESCO helps these refugees and national liberation movements. I am querying whether the Government are now going to give further financial contributions in particular to these organisations and other specialist agencies of the UN to implement that particular paragraph.

Paragraph 24 says that the Commonwealth Governments will continue to support the special Commonwealth programme for the people of Zimbabwe. Secondly, it is appreciated that in connection with the Commonwealth fund for technical co-operation there is a need to increase the resources available. Have the Government decided that we should increase the contribution already made to that fund? There was certainly a Press statement that the British contribution was to he increased to £3 million, which was not the original amount that the Government were going to contribute.

Thirdly, there was a programme of technical assistance financed by Commonwealth funds for Mozambique. Are we also going to contribute to that particular fund in increased amounts? Fourthly, in paragraph 26 there was a pledge of bilateral and collective support to counteract the economic difficulties which have arisen in neighbouring countries as a result of the political, economic and social situation in that part of the world. Does this pledge include further payments from the Government which have not already been accounted for in the public expenditure accounts?

Fifthly, there was also the statement that the Heads of Government have agreed to increase their contribution towards the official development of these countries, and to try to attain the 0.7 per cent. UN target. If this is a further undertaking of the Government, does this mean that more will now be given to overseas aid than was hitherto contemplated? If this is so, and if the Government are really trying to reduce public expenditure, will the Minister say whether these are merely cosmetic phrases or will the Government be giving more money to overseas aid and possibly taking it away from some other part of the national budget?

All Commonwealth Heads of Government should be congratulated on the action they took on Uganda. It was not an easy decision, particularly for those who are members of the Organisation of African Unity. It must have required considerable courage and firm decision to condemn Uganda. We all know that Uganda's record in the field of human rights has been absolutely disastrous. Since about 1974, those of us who have served in the UN have read reports of some of the events occurring in that country. I welcome the fact that the Heads of Government condemned the President of Uganda for the atrocities that are being perpetrated there. We hope that that condemnation will mean that there may be a return to a more civilised, more peaceful, standard of living for Ugandan inhabitants.

On human rights, I regretted that more attention was not paid to Cyprus. Resolution after resolution at the UN has condemned the present situation where the human rights of about 200,000 people in the Southern part of the island have been consistently violated since July 1974. It is unfortunate that more attention was not paid to this and that possibly more force was not inserted in the paragraph to the effect that not only will they try to reach a peaceful solution but that some firm measures should be taken to try to restore, to any extent possible, the situation of the refugees living in the Southern part of Cyprus.

I should like to comment on the Indian Ocean and the zone of international peace to which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, referred. One can understand why some people are looking forward to such a zone. After all, two days before the Commonwealth Conference there was a bloodless revolution in the Seychelles with the take-over by a Left-Wing Government; so that altered the balance of power in that part of the world.

The Russian deployment in the Horn of Africa is undoubtedly unsettling the original balance of power there. The recent treaty of friendship between Mozambique and the Soviet Union has again altered the balance of power, particularly since this treaty with Mozambique includes fishing rights down the coast and the use of ports. Those who wish to see a Soviet balance of power in that part of the world will naturally support an Indian Ocean international zone of peace. If there is to be such a zone, we on this side of the House wish to see it entirely preserved by the littoral countries involved, and no great Powers should have interests down those coasts who have no territorial rights. To talk about a zone of peace in the present conditions is a form of euphemism which I would not support.

Finally, having made those criticisms of the Communiqué and realising the great dangers that exist, particularly in Southern Africa, we certainly hope that a peaceful solution will be found. We do not think that the removal of the "means of aggression", as the noble Lord called it—the "apparatus of oppression" I think was the term, referring to the Rhodesian forces—should be contemplated unless there is an equal undertaking that the armed struggle will cease forthwith. I think it is impossible for any people, whoever they are and whatever their colour, to be expected to lay down their arms and their means of protection and defence for the whole of their people, if there is not an equal undertaking by those who are attacking and aggressing from a neighbouring country that they will do the same.

It may well be that the best way to solve this problem would be to set up a defence council which would comprise leading black members of the Rhodesian community who are accepted by their people and possibly including some two or three members of the white community. I do not know exactly how that could be dealt with, but, as I say, I do not think one can expect any people anywhere in the world to lay down their arms unless there is a firm undertaking, a protection and a guarantee, that the other side will do precisely the same.

In conclusion, my Lords, we must be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for having given us the opportunity to discuss this matter. I certainly do not expect the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, to answer tonight the points I have raised, because a certain number of figures are involved. I think that one of the good things which came out of the Commonwealth Conference was voiced by Mr. Ramphal, the Secretary-General, who, referring to the North/South dialogue —which, as we are all aware, is a vital part of the co-operation between nations of different economic balance and status—said that it was the first time since May 1975 at Kingston, on the occasion of the last Commonwealth Conference, that the leaders of the North and South were able to meet together and discuss their problems. I think that was a great contribution to better understanding between the peoples of the Commonwealth and certainly we on this side of the House look forward to the continuance of this relationship, which we believe contributes to peace in the world.

7.23 p.m.


My Lords, I think it would be appropriate if we reminded ourselves that the Conference which has recently taken place is, so to speak, a direct descendant of another conference which took place in the Jubilee of another Queen exactly 90 years ago. The first Imperial Conference of 1887 was regarded by the country and the world as a matter of immense political significance. As a result of it, there was a prolonged debate in this country and overseas about the possibility of the development of some federal system within the then Empire. From that conference stemmed, to some degree, the great movement that affected British politics for many years of Imperial Preference, and it was a matter for constant debate and discussion in both Houses of Parliament.

It is, I think, symbolic of the astonishing lack of interest about the Commonwealth in contemporary Britain that, instead of a debate to assess the value and results of the recent Conference, whether it was initiated either by Her Majesty's Government or by the Opposition—either of the Front Benches—and that debate graced by the luminaries of the Front and Back Benches such as ex-Secretaries of State, ex-pro-Consuls and experts of various kinds, our debate tonight should be initiated as an Unstarred Question rather late in our proceedings and initiated by a distinguished ex-General Secretary of the Independent Labour Party.

It has not been our habit—I am referring to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and myself—to exchange political courtesies in the past, but I offer him very sincerely my thanks for having initiated this debate on this occasion. He and I represent diametrically opposite attitudes in British public life to colonialism, the British Empire in the first half of the 20th century and the emergent Commonwealth that has succeeded it. No doubt time and events have stripped each of us of some of his ideals and illusions. The India of Indira Gandhi cannot be the India for which he had hoped in the land of his birth, any more than the South Africa of Vorster is the South Africa I had hoped for in the land of mine. Yet, if I may say so, there must be some strand of common experience, of shared sentiment and political intuition, which brings us both to take part in the only debate in your Lordships' House designed, so far at any rate, to evaluate an occasion which three generations ago would have been regarded as having unparelleled significance for both Britain and the world.

I have no intention tonight of trying to analyse the Communiqué, except to say—I did not have an opportunity at the time—that I totally disagree with those who suggest that no Communiqué should have been issued. My purpose tonight is solely to draw to your Lordships' attention the extraordinary success of British Imperial policy which the Conference represents.

Take, first, India. It was my duty, as a Minister at the CRO many years ago, to escort Mr. Moraji Desai to Dawneywood on the very first occasion he had ever travelled outside the sub-continent. He was in fact going on to Stratford to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform and I asked him if he did not find it strange to be travelling abroad for the first time. "No", he replied. "I have read so much about England that all I have seen so far and, I am sure, all that I will see, is as familiar to me as if I had known it all my life". He maintained then a friendship and an understanding of this country which we have not always given to India; and now I am glad to know that he is back as Prime Minister of that great country.

Many of my friends in the Conservative Party have argued that the Westminster model is not applicable outside this country, but what could be greater justification for British democratic constitutionalism or, if you like, the much disparaged "British Raj" than the outcome of the last Indian election? What is a village pump coup in the Seychelles or the brutality of a temporarily dominant régime in Uganda, compared with the democratic process in India, by which a dictatorship, to all intents and purposes, has been transformed into a democracy by an electorate of whom a large percentage are illiterate, and which is accepted by the deposed Prime Minister and her Party without recourse to violence and, indeed, almost 'without complaint? Whatever my contemporaries may think, I am certain that the great multitude of British men and women who served Britain in India over two and a half centuries will be resting untroubled in their graves, knowing that the people they tried to serve have taken such marvellous advantage of their endeavours.

Let us remember, too, my Lords, that at that Conference here in London a few days ago there were two men who had been imprisoned and exiled by the British Government—President Banda and Archbishop Makarios—and a representative with the good will of President Kenyatta, who had spent seven years in confinement. I think no one could have made a more agreeable speech at the beginning of the Conference than President Kaunda; and, at the end, the Communiqué that was issued represented the highest common factor in the political views of tiny islands in the Caribbean, together with those of the second most populous country in the world, from an ancient monarchy to the most recent republic, and of every variety of race, colour and creed.

My only sadness is that so many people here in Britain and so many members of my own Party who should, after all, know better—have failed to recognise the immense significance of the British achievement which the Commonwealth today represents. The residual problems are there. For the most part, they are the legacy of historic attitudes, some of which derive from the consequences of settlement by British people overseas in an era when the political climate of the world was totally different from what it is today; and some derive from indigenous characteristics, which British influence was able to cover only with a thin veneer of ordered administration.

What was encouraging to me was that neither Rhodesia nor Uganda was allowed to dominate the proceedings of the conference. There may have been straight talking, which, after all, is the object of the occasion, but there appeared to be little playing to domestic galleries; little of the hysterical self-justification of the era of the emergent nations. There was, so it seemed, a greater willingness to recognise the beams in their own eyes, rather than to concentrate attention on the motes in ours. It was, I think, significant that President Nyerere was not present, because the insecurity of his position in Tanzania did not permit his absence from Dar-es-Salaam. Therefore, we were saved some lecturing from that quarter.

The impression I got was that the Commonwealth had come to terms with itself in 1977, the year of Her Majesty's Silver Jubilee. The stridency, the posturing, the playing at politics, the desire for self-justification had largely gone. Instead, there was a sense of maturity which, I suppose, comes to all of us—nations and individuals alike—from the passing years. As I followed the Conference, I felt that, if we in Britain still possess a spark of imagination and are still capable of looking beyond the narrow nationalism of the devolution controversy; beyond the regionalism of the European Community; beyond the artificial constraints of our economic situation, we could, with our friends and partners in the Commonwealth, big and small alike, provide a stabilising influence for the world which could be at least as effective, and certainly far more desirable, than the balance of military power and economic strength of the super-Powers.

I have neither the time nor the ability to elaborate my theme on this occasion. All I seek to do is, first, to say to the people of Britain "For Heaven's sake don't under-estimate the world significance of the achievement which the Commonwealth of today represents". Secondly, just because we in Britain are no longer an imperial Power in the nineteenth century sense, with fleets, armies and industrial superiority, we should not jettison or ignore the opportunity which the Commonwealth of today proffers to throw our weight in the scales of world policy on the side of political stability and economic progress. It is within the capacity of the super-Powers to destroy our world. It is within the capacity—so I believe—of this Commonwealth, created as it has been by the genius of our nation and the process of history, to influence the world towards a freer, more stable, more humane world system than has existed hitherto. I only hope that, whatever Government rules Britain in the next decade, they will not ignore the opportunity for national fulfilment which the contemporary Commonwealth—the Commonwealth of today—seems to me to represent.

7.34 p.m.


My Lords, I would go so far as to agree sincerely with my noble friend Lord Alport, that Britain has a very important role to play in the world within the Commonwealth and, bearing in mind the Convention of Lomé, outside the Commonwealth. But before proceeding further, I, too, should like to express my appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for initiating this short debate.

Considering that the Heads of Government last month, agreed that the need for a rational and equitable economic order"— which they recognised at Kingston, was— more urgent than ever before", I am wondering whether a more positive approach could have been made by the developed countries towards this irreversible and beneficial proposal for a new international economic order. As a minor contribution to this end, I am thinking particularly this evening in terms of industrial co-operation and the implementation of such co-operation. This, of course, includes the transfer of technology, training in industrial, supervisory and managerial skills, the provision of finance and assistance with the development of local processing; and, of course, industrial co-operation must be taken to include the agricultural sector.

With reference to training, the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, will certainly be aware of the fact that the progress report by a Commonwealth team of industrial specialists, HGM (77) 6, draws attention to the positive role which employers' organisations, professional bodies and trade unions can play; for example, in the training processes for the improvement of managerial, technical, craft and other skills which may sometimes need adaptation for developing countries. Like your Lordships, I believe, I am very conscious that much has been said in various international fora, such as the CIEC, UNIDO and UNCTAD, on the question of industrial co-operation, transfer of technology, multi-national companies and so on. But little has been achieved in concrete terms, apart from the production of many reports and mainly insufficiently implemented decisions.

However, I welcome the importance which the Lomé Convention attaches to industrial co-operation, and accordingly, the recent setting up in Brussels of a centre for industrial development. Under the guidance of its Director, Dr. Roger Theisen, and the assistance of a 12-member advisory council, one can but wish it well. Conscious as one is that a decision to manufacture within a specific developing country must necessarily be a matter of commercial judgment, in compliance with the manufacturing programme of the country concerned, it is an encouraging thought that a close relationship now exists between the centre in Brussels and the CBI, bearing in mind the centre's functions as laid out in Article 36 of the Convention. A further source of encouragement may be found in the positive and sound approach to this matter by the CBI, as exemplified by their Evidence to the Select Committee on Overseas Development last February, in which they rightly stressed, on the theme of industrial co-operation and transfer of technology, that it is a two-way process requiring mutual recognition of interdependence.

The unions' attitude, too, is encouraging, for the ILO in Geneva, in a report dated April 1974, stressed that the incidence of unemployment and under-employment in developing countries is a cause for grave concern. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions stressed also, during the course of their eleventh World Congress in October, 1975, that, developing countries need greater industrialisation, not least in order to earn foreign exchange to purchase those goods from the developed world which are needed to meet the basic needs of the people, with the emphasis not just placed on creating industry, but more on increasing employment". Similar recognition of the needs of the developing countries may be found in the TUC Economic Review of last year.

In view of the great importance that developing countries attach to the process of industrial co-operation—I am now thinking in particular of West Africa, bearing in mind the Economic Community of West African States—can the Minister say, perhaps not this evening but on another occasion, to what extent the following measures which are available to Her Majesty's Government to promote investments in developing countries are proving effective; namely, double taxation agreements, bilaterial investment protection agreements, pre-investment study schemes and investment insurance schemes provided by the ECGD?

Regarding the essential question of the transfer of technology and technical formation, I understand that Her Majesty's Government are assisting developing countries through their technical assistance programme. However, I should like to ask the Minister whether Her Majesty's Government are prepared to consider the intensification of this assistance by taking the lead in the elaboration and launching of an international research programme on teaching and training in the developing countries, as proposed by the Club de Dakar in their Declaration on Global Co-operation between Industrial and Developing Countries of December 1976.

For the information of your Lordships, may I add that the Club de Dakar, under the very able leadership of Mr. M. T. Diawara, Minister of Planning in the Ivory Coast, consists at the moment of 80 members who have been selected from developing and industrial countries and includes Ministers, diplomats, Members of Parliament, economists, bankers, learned professors, top administrators and industrialists. I might add that the EEC Commissioner, Claude Cheysson, said that the principal characteristic of the Club de Dakar, being born in Africa, was that it expressed better than others the vision of the Third World. Like the CBI, the Club de Dakar recognises that the prosperity of the industrial countries and the development of the developing counties are closely interdependent. Ultimately, therefore, both groups will benefit from such co-operation.

At this stage it is interesting to note that there are many points of similarity between the CBI Evidence, to which I previously referred, and the Club's Final Documents of December 1976, which include a proposed charter on industrial co-operation and a list of activities to be developed at first in a concerted way in the developing countries.

May I refer now to the excellent final report by a Commonwealth Experts' Group, established by Commonwealth Heads of Government at Kingston in 1975, in which they emphasise the urgency of introducing new measures to accelerate the industrialisation of the developing countries. They state that the expansion of manufacturing and processing can be expected to proceed in three main directions. That may be so. However, I should like to see implementation, not just recommendation. To this end, I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will be willing carefully to study the Club's Final Documents—he has a copy in his possession—for I believe that he will find the approach of the members of the Club to be both positive and realistic, culminating in sound proposals which affect members of the Commonwealth just as they affect non-members of the Commonwealth.

A step further in industrial co-operation was taken last month. I mention this, although it is not totally relevant to the Heads of Government meeting, because I believe that it shows that something can be done towards realising the aim of further industrialisation. There was a meeting in France last month which brought together top industrialists, members of the Club and African leaders. The interesting point is that, following a general discussion, meetings were held on the basis of individual developing countries, six of which were represented, and on the basis of industrial activities, ten of which are listed in the Club's report.

May I express the hope—I trust with the active co-operation and support of the Commonwealth Secretariat—that next year a similar meeting can be held in this country. Taking into account the Lomé Convention, with regard to West Africa there are four Anglophone countries and, naturally, a greater number of Francophone countries. If one can bring the two groups closer together, because of their desire to develop on a regional basis, it can do nothing but good.

Furthermore, the final report of the Commonwealth experts states that they see a need for specific bilaterial agreements which will spell out the responsibilities and obligations of Governments and industry and establish machinery and institutions for effective implementation. I stress the word "implementation" because I believe it to be important. May I add that in Article I of its Charter on Industrial Co-operation the Club de Dakar equally recommends bilateral or multilateral agreements.

Finally, as the Heads of Government agreed that rapid industrialisation is an indispensable element of balanced national development, will Her Majesty's Government, with imagination and political will, do all in their power to ensure that, as was asked for by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, a better balance is struck between the developing and industrial countries?

7.48 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for raising this interesting Question. In opening my speech I should like to pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Alport who, I felt, endeavoured to raise the issues which we are debating, to a very high level. I consider that discussion of the Commonwealth is sadly lacking in this country and it is my fervent hope and, indeed, belief that we shall soon come to realise its importance for the world and for ourselves generally.

Certain noble Lords, including myself, consider that the emergence of the Commonwealth is one of the wonders of our planet, and that, in the past, our Empire was a force for peace over one quarter of the earth's surface. May I therefore suggest that, when we consider Commonwealth issues in future, Parliament should be entitled to know in some detail what is discussed at the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers?

I shall not take long to develop my arguments in view of the time and of the fact that I am the last speaker before the Minister replies. I am concerned not so much with what appeared in the Communiqué issued at the conclusion of the recent Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, as with what was omitted. Parliament is now of sufficient stature, as, in view of the length of time that these various countries have had their independence, are the Prime Ministers, for us to be entitled to discuss these matters rather than that a communiqué of broad agreement should be issued at the conclusion of the Conference or, as was done by the Government, a Statement made in this House.

I refer to the matter which particularly concerns me. In Hansard, on 16th June at column 304, the following Statement was issued by the Government: We discussed serious and difficult issues without acrimony and with a growing understanding of each other's positions, and on many issues we reached a complete identity of view". My Lords, are we not entitled to know what were those differences of opinion and what agreement was reached? I am of the opinion that this House and, beyond this House, this country, are entitled to know what those issues were. In addition, there must in your Lordships' House be a wealth of experience which, in a constructive and statesmanlike way, might well make its contribution to the solution of the difficulties that arise within the Commonwealth.

Mention has been made of the burning issues of Rhodesia and Uganda which face the Commonwealth and present serious difficulties. As regards Uganda, I congratulate the Commonwealth Prime Ministers on their condemnation in unequivocal terms of President Amin's disregard for human life. However, what does that show to all of us in this House and people throughout the world? It shows that these independent nations are now growing in stature and that we should have more confidence in our dealings with them and not hesitate to have open discussion in Parliament on Commonwealth problems or problems which arise in the various territories. We should not avoid discussing difficult situations and we should not be frightened of past susceptibilities. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, will understand the point that I am making.

While we congratulate ourselves on this tremendous association of the Commonwealth which extends to over a quarter of the globe, we should never ignore our own shortcomings or failures in past overseas policies. It was, after all, a policy decision on our part that bequeathed independence to the people of Uganda. I can speak from my experience as a colonial officer who gave effect to our overseas policies for 30 years. It was also our policy never, under any circumstances, to grant or give independence to a country for which we were responsible until we were satisfied beyond doubt that we were handing the country over in a condition of stability which we thought would carry into the future. I wonder tonight what the average citizen of Uganda in the present conditions of that country feels in his bones about our action. I wonder if that point came up at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. Although we in this country and the Press in general condemn President Amin, we cannot entirely exculpate ourselves from the results of our past actions. I mention these points in the firm belief that, in consideration of future problems within the Commonwealth, we can understand one another better if we each state frankly what we feel we are compelled to state. Each one of us must face the issues squarely without hiding or pushing anything under the carpet.

As regards Rhodesia, I wonder whether anyone can explain the reason the coloured forces in that country under Mr. Smith, numbering several thousand, continue to fight the same coloured people from Zambia and Mozambique. What is the reason for their continuing to support Mr. Smith's forces? I should like to know whether even that matter was discussed at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. May it not have been due to the fact that the services assisting Mr. Smith in Rhodesia in that connection are simply fearful of what may happen in that country if independence comes and the same catastrophe were to befall Rhodesia as befell Uganda? I want far more information about what issues were discussed in the hope that some of us with experience could make some useful contribution to their solution in the future.

What happened about immigration at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference? Was that discussed? There is no mention of it in either the Communiqué or in the Statement made by the Government at the conclusion of the Conference. As I have stated, I was involved for many years in giving effect to your overseas policies. I trained people to be responsible for their own affairs and to make their own contributions, while remaining in their country to assist its progress towards independence. Was that matter discussed? It is an extremely important issue and one about which I believe this country would like to know.

I have addressed a number of questions to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, and I have done so because I have tremendous faith in the future of the Commonwealth. It is growing in stature and maturity. I believe that some of the matters which we have, perhaps, swept under the carpet in the past are better brought out into the open. Those Ministers and Members of this House who played such a tremendous part and contributed to this one little concept could make a most useful contribution to some of the difficulties that have befallen us.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, will consider the points that I am making, I feel deeply about the Commonwealth: I was there for 30 years. I have seen the area in which I served grow from colonial status to independent nationhood. I have taken part in training people to a degree where we lost our own appointments. During the war the country where I was serving was overrun and I was imprisoned for four years. I mention that only to point out that when we were in dire straits the people whom we had served in those years risked their lives by smuggling food and drugs into the prison where we were incarcerated. I have tremendous affection for the place. I believe that it is growing in stature. I believe that the example of what has happened in India given by my noble friend is a complete justification of our past policies, and I sincerely hope that what has been said this evening will be of use to Her Majesty's Government.

8.1 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join those noble Lords who have expressed appreciation of the action of my noble friend Lord Brockway in enabling us to have this very useful and, indeed, timely debate on the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government in London. I think the debate in which we have taken part confirms a general view that the meeting was a resounding success. Very much for the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Alport, and the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, the Empire grew, the Commonwealth develops. It has once more proved to be a durable and vital organisation, attracting and retaining the membership and the affections of 36 varied countries with many more various races contained in them. Not only does it go on but it is increasingly giving an impression of what the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, has called "a new maturity". I think originally that phrase was used by the noble Lord, Lord Alport, but it was taken up by Lord Gridley and developed in a way which I found extremely attractive.

I entirely agree that we should not underestimate the Commonwealth. It is unique. It is not an alliance; there is no treaty binding the members to assist one another militarily or even economically. The days of preference are over. Many of us may regret that fact but, nevertheless, although still informal, it is serviced by a first-class secretariat and indeed a first-class Commonwealth Secretary, Mr. Ramphal. I believe that it would be fair to say that a great deal of the success of the Commonwealth meeting in London this year derived from his experience, his very capable secretarial guidance and organisation and, of course, the chairmanship of our own Prime Minister, to which others from the Commonwealth paid resounding tributes.

But, however we look at the Commonwealth meeting and at the Commonwealth itself, there is there the fact of life and even if we, in this country, for some reason were to abandon it, the others would not. There are people in Africa and Asia who are at least as devoted to the concept of the Commonwealth as we are. The life is there. It is a group of entirely sovereign States in varying stages of development, a cross-section of the world. It meets somewhat informally but with plenty of opportunity to discuss on the margin questions which may not surface in the more formal meetings. It does not proceed by decision in the way that other international organisations do and yet its meetings lead to decision and action.

We have heard the example of the Kingston meeting quoted by more than one noble Lord tonight. That is an example of how the Commonwealth took up the difficult and complex question of co-operation between the developed and the developing. As the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, stressed, it studied how to implement the North-South dialogue in terms of real economic action and presented the conclusions, the blueprint, to the United Nations—the world authority—which has for many sessions been grappling with this but has not come up with anything like the documents that emerged from Kingston.

I turn rapidly to a number of points raised by those who have taken part in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, inevitably raised the question of Zimbabwe or Rhodesia—both euphonic names for that country—and mentioned in particular the need for police and armed forces, especially in the transition stage to independence, to command the confidence of all the peoples of the new independent State. I can assure the noble Lord and the House that practical measures to ensure the transfer of effective power to a majority government in an orderly fashion are under intensive study and will form an important part of a new settlement package.

Now the Communiqué itself demonstrated the very deep concern felt by the Commonwealth about Southern Africa, including Rhodesia, and referred to the root cause of the destabilised and dangerous situation in that part of Africa, which is, in fact, getting worse. We fully share this concern and fully subscribe to the language used in the Communiqué to express the concern of the Commonwealth as a whole and I personally—and I am sure the Government and this House—welcome this consensus of attitude by the Commonwealth as a whole, from Canada to New Zealand, towards the particular difficulties of Southern Africa, which is practically all Commonwealth. There is a Commonwealth look about this problem in Southern Africa and it may presage (who knows?) a Commonwealth presence linking up with the ideas emphasised by my noble friend Lord Brockway.

As to Namibia, which he also mentioned, there is some reason for optimism. There have been two rounds of talks with the South Africans and the major elements of a settlement based on conditions laid down in Security Council Resolution 385 have been defined. There are of course many problems left to be resolved and we have yet to obtain black African and SWAPO endorsement of the proposals that have emerged, but considerable concessions have been made by the South African Republic and it is right that we should recognise them. Five months ago these concessions seemed hardly possible, but now they are facts on which we may build a safer and saner future for Namibia, and, by example, for other parts of Africa.

A particularly difficult question that was presented to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting was that of the organisation of sport. Sport today is more an industry than an interest. It is certainly international and has great possibilities for either international cohesion or international quarrels. The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting led here to practical results over sporting contacts with countries practising apartheid, South Africa specifically. The Statement that issued from the discussions at Gleneagles expressed general detestation of apartheid in sport and looked forward to the holding of the Commonwealth Games in Canada next year. I think we are all aware that the prospects for the Canadian Games looked rather doubtful before those discussions in London and in Gleneagles. They are much better now. This is something the meeting has done. It has clarified the position. It has brought people together into a consensus declaration on the role of sport in their international relations. There is now a feeling of confidence that this important aspect of Commonwealth co-operation will go forward without interruption.

My noble friend in his speech raised the economic question of North-South co-operation. The Commonwealth meeting came shortly after the conclusion of the Paris meeting of the Conference on International Economic Co-operation, and this enabled us as a Commonwealth to take stock of the results of the CIEC and to consider practical ways forward. I do not agree that the prospects are dismal. The CIEC, the Paris talks, in fact, endorsed the idea of a common fund, and that was a great step forward from previous international meetings where we could only record failure on this question. In addition, the Commonwealth meeting noted that the United Nations, through the Economic and Social Council, will shortly be addressing itself to this question, and there are other studies proceeding, including the Commonwealth's own study of the common fund. It was indeed at the suggestion of the Australian Prime Minister and the Jamaican Prime Minister that the group was set up to study the technical aspects of the common fund. This was one of the most hotly contested elements of the Paris talks, although endorsement was forthcoming at the end for the concept, and we are now looking forward to taking an active and constructive part in its work.

Britain has much to contribute in the practical implementation of this towering idea of a common fund. We have shown the mettle of our ability in the Kingston meeting. I am sure that we can make a very great contribution in the next two or three years to the practical implementation of this idea. The Commonwealth fund for technical co-operation is one of the most practical examples of Commonwealth economic co-operation, and we strongly support the fund. The noble Baroness asked me a specific question about this. I am glad to say that during the meeting my right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced that our contribution would be increased by two-thirds to £3 million in 1977–78, and it was particularly encouraging that so many other members of the Commonwealth also came forward with increased pledges.

On the question of overseas development assistance, another point the noble Baroness raised, we intend to continue progress towards the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP as economic circumstances permit. I should remind the House that our aid is already among the most generous of any donor, and indeed 95 per cent. of the British commitment in 1976 was composed of outright grants. So while we are all impatient to see the British as well as other people's contributions to international aid increase, in order to achieve the targets put forward by the United Nations, nevertheless we must not unduly criticise the British contribution and its present commitment. It is among the best in the world. Indeed in some ways—for instance, its emphasis on out-right grants rather than loans—it stands in the very van of international contributions.

On human rights, the Commonwealth meeting made quite clear its commitment to the protection and enhancement of human rights. In particular, in the continuing turn of events in Uganda, the Commonwealth as a whole was forthright in its condemnation of the situation in Uganda, and it was encouraging, to say the least, to see how unanimous the 35 nations of the 36 were on this particular issue. On the question of Cyprus, we have, of course, consistently supported the inter-communal talks in Cyprus under the auspices of the UN Secretary General. They offer the very best hope of making progress in the search for a solution to the problem. The concern of the Commonwealth Heads of Government to give all possible assistance to Dr. Waldheim is precisely the concern of the British Government. Here the consensus, I think, is firm and general. We support the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General to promote intercommunally a peaceful solution and system for the island of Cyprus.

With regard to the Middle East, my noble friend mentioned that part of the Communiqué. It think it would be fair to say that the attitude of the Commonwealth, as shown in the London Communiqué, is that we are very much in support of the broad objectives of President Carter in the Middle East, that we seek as a Commonwealth a balancing of the need of Israel for an assured position as a country and a nation in the future with the concern of the Arab nations for the future of the Palestinians, constitutionally and economically.

My noble friend referred to the proposal for an Indian Ocean peace zone. We could have an Unstarred Question debate entirely on that matter. As we see it, the desire of the littoral States of the Indian Ocean for arms limitation in the area should be the starting point—it was a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles. It is no good going about this by a series of headlines and slogans saying that it is a good thing. Of course it is. All the littoral States must first be clear on this and then the super-Powers—the United States and the Soviet Union—have an essential role to play.

We believe that a successful and effective arms limitation agreement in this area would depend upon mutually agreed restraint by the United States and the Soviet Union. We therefore welcomed President Carter's recent initiative which has led—and this could be extremely important—to United States-Soviet agreement to establish a joint Working Group, an American-Soviet Working Group on the Indian Ocean. A number of joint Working Groups have been set up by the two super-Powers. This, I think, is one of the most important. If they can work together in a phased practical delimitation policy in this area, not only the countries and peoples of the area will benefit but the whole world.

I have a great deal more to say about the Commonwealth. However, an Unstarred Question debate is the opportunity not for a full dress debate—and an old and practised Parliamentarian such as the noble Lord, Lord Alport, certainly knows this—but for the exchange of views and the raising of outstanding questions without necessarily exhausting the possibilities of the subject. Indeed, how could we? We must return to this. I am always more than ready to join in a discussion of the performance and the prospects of the Commonwealth. If I have omitted a number of points which appear to your Lordships to be of particular importance, let us remember that there are other opportunities for us to raise these matters.

I shall scrutinise the record in the morning to see what points have been raised by noble Lords which require a factual and precise reply. For instance, the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, raised the whole question of aid to African countries. I want to give her a firm assurance on one point tonight and an equally firm promise on another before I sit down. The firm assurance is as follows: when we bilaterally and multilaterally join in forms of aid for countries in Southern Africa, or elsewhere for that matter—countries such as Mozambique, possibly Angola and so on—not one penny is intended to be used for arms or violence, whatever the presumed justification. Anything that we make available to those countries is either for development or technical assistance training. If members of armed guerrilla forces benefit in that way from what we make available, we are glad; it may help them to devote their energies to a better way of promoting their causes and their countries. That is the assurance.

I have given the assurance from this Dispatch Box, and so have my right honourable friends in another place more than once. I do so again forthrightly tonight because I share the concern of the noble Baroness that nobody in this country should have his or her money, through taxation, devoted to promoting bloodshed and violence in Africa or elsewhere. I share her concern that, as individuals and as a country, we should do everything we can to help people in Africa and in other less privileged parts of the world technically and industrially to develop. But there is a distinction between the two which is the heart of the Government's policy, and I have no doubt of its predecessor and its successor, especially if, as seems increasingly likely, it succeeds itself. I thought that I had better say that, before I encourage the noble Baroness unduly.

The promise is as follows. I was looking at my notes when she was speaking and I see that a great many details of the aid are set out in, for instance, the Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place on Monday, 23rd May this year. That Statement sets out pretty well the facts and figures of the aid that we make available. I have given a few in the course of my speech—for instance, the increase in the Commonwealth Technical Fund, which is meant for developing countries in the Commonwealth. There are a number of other interesting and reassuring facts and figures which I can make available directly to the noble Baroness who speaks from the Opposition Front Bench on these matters. Therefore, I am prepared to have bilateral relations with her in that sense. Alternatively, she may wish to table a Question for Written Answer, so that not only the noble Baroness but the rest of the House are given the other figures which could be of interest to the House generally. Perhaps we might have a word about that later.

So, my Lords, I end on the note struck by everyone who has taken part in this extremely useful and timely debate. We can take pride in the Commonwealth. There is a difference between pride and arrogance. From time to time some international organisations give a certain impression of arrogance—but not the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth gives an impression of pride in itself. It was a most moving occasion to listen to Kenneth Kaunda making that eloquent and graceful speech of admiration for this country and its Queen. Having heard that speech from that man, that cultivated and able African leader, and heard his real pride, I felt a pride at being associated with others from all over the world in this unique association—the Commonwealth. This pride comes out in spite of all the struggles of the past, the disputes of the past, occasionally the violence of the past, in this wonderful testimony to the British idea and to the British Queen, the Head of the Commonwealth.