HL Deb 23 June 1977 vol 384 cc756-60

3.18 p.m.

The Marquess of DONEGALL

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what qualifications have been taken into account in deciding the selection of front line Presidents for consultations regarding Rhodesia.


My Lords, the question of selection did not arise. The five Governments of the front line States—Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana, Mozambique and Angola—have been co-ordinating their own policies on Rhodesia for some time and it is appropriate, in view of their close and direct involvement with the problems of the area, that Her Majesty's Government should consult with them.

The Marquess of DONEGALL

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer, arising out of which I should like to ask whether it does not seem strange to Her Majesty's Government that the Governments of Angola and Tanzania are consulted at every point although their borders are further from Rhodesia than those of Malawi, which so far as I can make out is never consulted at all?


My Lords, I take the point made by the noble Marquess, but contiguity is not the conclusive factor in these matters: it is the involvement and the interests of countries in the future of Rhodesia. These five countries and their Governments are very closely involved. I am glad to say that they have co-operated with the Consultative Group so far and there is every prospect that they will continue to co-operate with them when the Group return to Africa.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the people of Rhodesia are also concerned in their own fate? What do the Government intend to do about hearing the wishes of all the people of Rhodesia with regard to their fate, as opposed to listening only to the front line Presidents?


My Lords, I am sure the noble Baroness will wish to look at her supplementary question in print in the cold light of the morning. We are already of course, and have been, consulting the peoples of Rhodesia, and indeed in contact with the illegal régime, as is perfectly proper and necessary; we are consulting interests in Rhodesia via the Consultative Group, and we shall continue to do so. We are in contact with a wide range of countries and interests who may be able to assist in the pursuit of a peaceful and lasting solution, not least, of course, the United States of America, who completely approve of the British Government's approach to this question.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, I am very grateful for the Minister's reply. Would he at some stage be prepared to expand on the results of the consultations he is having with the peoples of Rhodesia, and indicate which groups in Rhodesia the Government are in fact consulting with?


My Lords, of course, in due course, as we do from time to time, we shall report to Parliament about the progress of these consultations. I do not want to put too high the expectations arising from the latest attempt we have, with our American friends, set in train—I am referring to the Consultative Group—but so far it gives reason for cautious optimism, very cautious optimism, knowing the difficulties of this matter. I expect that when the Group return to Africa, as they most likely will, for a second round of talks, all the elements of consultation that the noble Baroness has mentioned will again be consulted.


My Lords, would the Minister agree that Malawi also has very close interest with Rhodesia? Certainly in the past a lot of Malawians used to work in Rhodesia, and I think quite a few still do today. Would not the Minister agree that it might be helpful to us if we had one of the front line Presidents on our side? I am quite sure that Malawi is pro-British and pro-West generally. If the Minister will allow me to put another supplementary question, would he not agree that it seems extraordinary that the President of Malawi, which, after all, is nearer to Rhodesia than Tanzania geographically, is not included as one of the front-line Presidents?


My Lords, we have excellent relations with Malawi, and indeed I would say with practically all the countries of the region. Indeed there is no lack of contact with Malawi. I personally, and I am sure the Government, would agree with the noble Viscount that to the extent that the Government and the leaders of Malawi wish to contribute to these consultations we shall be delighted to engage in them, and that applies to other countries as well. There is no question of appointing any country to the ranks of the five Presidents. They came together over the years, since about 1971. We recognised that fact, and therefore acted practically to consult them.


My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Tanzanian border is no less than 470 miles from Rhodesia at the nearest point? How then can it be seriously maintained that Tanzania has a neighbourly interest in the matter?


My Lords, clearly they have an interest. They have expressed an interest, with the other five. We accept that. Whoever expresses an interest, and certainly an interest in helping to reach a solution, we accept as being worthy of consultation. As I said before, it is not contiguity that is the test here; otherwise we would not be working with our friends and allies the United States of America.


My Lords, surely all the black peoples on the Continent of Africa have an interest in eliminating a white minority racist régime?


My Lords, the noble Lord puts in philosophical terms what I prefer to put in practical terms.


My Lords, remembering the definitions given to the House yesterday in very generous measure by the Minister, does he not realise the perplexity that is widespread as to why there should be such strong leaning on Tanzania, which seems to be a centre—particularly Dar-es-Salaam—for subversive elements in Southern Africa, while it is not even contiguous with, and does not march with, Rhodesia? Further, would the noble Lord not agree that in the tribal trust areas wherein live the largest proportion of the African population of Rhodesia there is a strong desire that there should be an internal settlement of the problem?


My Lords, I am sure the desire for an internal settlement in Rhodesia is shared by a very large number of people indeed, and in Rhodesia. It must be our task to mobilise, over as wide an area as possible, without regard for simplistic questions of contiguity, support for a peaceful and lasting settlement. We are far from reaching this, but the approach which, with the United States, we are now pursuing offers the best hope for it.


My Lords, is it not the case that Tanzania has helped us greatly in our policy of sanctions against Rhodesia by its co-operation in building the railway from Zambia to Dar-es-Salaam, which has enabled Zambian products not to go to Rhodesia?


My Lords, that is so, and looking beyond sanctions we would hope that a solution is reached which will bring together all African States, as the noble Lord reminded us is necessary, in a new situation of co-operation for the good of the entire continent. Tanzania and others have a contribution to make—we hope it will be by consultation and negotiation—to settle this matter, and to move on to a safer and saner future for Africa as a whole.


My Lords, I hope we can now proceed to the next Question.