HL Deb 02 May 1977 vol 382 cc868-79

6 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Southern Rhodesia (UN Sanctions) Order 1977, a draft of which was laid before this House on 5th April 1977, be approved. This order provides for the implementation of parts of Security Council Resolution 388 which was passed last year (on 6th April) and which we cosponsored, along with all other members of the Security Council.

The principal objective of that resolution was to remove the benefits of insurance cover, to the extent that it was being provided by member-States, from a wide range of transactions including the insurance of commercial and industrial property in Southern Rhodesia and the movement of all goods and produce to and from Southern Rhodesia. Where effective means of enforcing sanctions voluntarily are possible, this is obviously preferable to statutory methods. In the case of insurance, the existence of two highly reputable bodies covering the whole industry enabled us to adopt this course. Since the passing of the UN resolution, therefore, discussions have been held with the Corporation of Lloyds and the British Insurance Association and I am pleased to be able to inform the House that both these associations willingly agreed to implement voluntarily the relevant sections of the UN resolution and these have been operative for some time.

What we are left with in this order, therefore, is a tidying-up operation to make effective the remaining operative clauses of the UN resolution and to bring our domestic legislation into line with our international obligations. These clauses are aimed at clearing up any anomalies that may exist in the areas of trade marks and registered designs. A trade name is a name by which a design is known and which may be used to confer on to the products of that design the hallmark of distinction. Over a period of time many of these names acquire considerable commercial value; other enterprises become interested in negotiating the rights to use them and very considerable sums are paid for these rights. A trade mark has similar properties.

No one believes that British companies are about to start licensing their trade marks to enterprises in Rhodesia at this time. Nevertheless, it has been possible under the existing Sanctions Order and while it would not have been possible under exchange control regulations for payments for their use to have been transferred from Rhodesia, there might be companies who would have been prepared to see the payments accumulate in Southern Rhodesia against the day of a settlement. Such a procedure, after all, would not cost the owner of the trade name anything.

A trade design, by definition, refers to a design; it may be for a textile fabric or a piece of machinery, which has been produced and registered by a particular manufacturer. This is a field of considerably more importance to the illegal regime, since it could enable it to obtain access to designs which might help it to alleviate the growing difficulty it has in importing machinery and other pieces of equipment designed outside Rhodesia. Again, this kind of transaction was not covered by existing legislation and the same exchange control considerations as to payment apply. It is right, therefore, that we should close these loopholes, and we expect other countries that have not yet done so to take whatever action may be appropriate in this regard.

The order is not retrospective and is completely comprehensive; nor does it do anything about trade names already in use in Rhodesia. There is, of course, no way that we can enforce compliance in Rhodesia and it would be unfair and unavailing to proceed against the British owner of the name for agreements made, many perhaps before UDI, and prior to this order. The same considerations apply to the unauthorised use by a Rhodesian firm of a trade mark.

The order, I hope it will be agreed, is completely in line with our approach to sanctions. We have, on the one hand, resisted, and will continue to resist, pressure in the United Nations for measures which we regard as unrealistic and counterproductive, such as the full implementation of Article 41 covering the fields of postal and other communications. On the other hand, we have supported and even, as in the case of the resolution we are discussing today, co-sponsored resolutions which extend sanctions in a practical way.

There is no particular significance in the timing of this order. Our line—and it was a line which was agreed by this House as recently as October of last year when the main Sanctions Order was renewed—has remained consistent throughout. It is that we favour the speedy lifting of sanctions if and when a satisfactory settlement is reached and Rhodesia is irrevocably on the path to majority rule. Until that time, we believe that the full rigour of our sanctions policy must be maintained and that any suggestion of a trade-off on sanctions at this stage would be positively harmful to our efforts to reach a settlement. Mr. Smith is in no doubt about our attitude on this.

There should he no illusions that any of these pressures can be eased in advance of a settlement. On the sanctions front, the repeal of the Byrd Amendment and the associated testing procedures which those countries wishing to sell chrome, ferrochrome and special steels to the US will have to introduce, will strike harder than ever before at Rhodesia's major foreign exchange earner. Your Lordships are already aware of the investigations into the vital imports of oil into Rhodesia which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has already announced and on which a further announcement may he expected shortly. These measures and the general tightening of sanctions to which I have already referred will, I believe, emphasise still further the international isolation of the réegime and have an important psychological as well as economic effect.

My Lords, it is sometimes the practice in debates of this kind to deal at some length with developments, if any, towards a settlement. I would remind your Lordships that a full Statement was, however, made in another place by right honourable friend the Secretary of State, and repeated in this House, following his visit to Africa. He indicated on 19th April that we would be working in close consultation with the US Government and would hope soon to be able to say whether the Americans feel it would be worth while to co-sponsor a conference. Discussions have been taking place with the Americans at official level and my right honourable friend will be seeing Mr. Vance in London at the end of this week. I hope therefore that your Lordships will not press me on these points on this occasion, but will assist me in addressing ourselves to the content and purpose of this order. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Southern Rhodesia (United Nations Sanctions) Order 1977, laid before the House on 5th April, be approved.—(Lord Goronwy-Roberts.)

6.9 p.m.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, the Minister has explained the purpose and objectives of the order before the House, an order which enables the Government to enforce the second paragraph of Security Council Resolution 388 of 6th April last year. Under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter we are, of course, committed to implement Security Council resolutions. That we accept. It is also accepted that we must fulfil our international obligations by bringing our domestic legislation into line. However, I think that it is fair to point out to Her Majesty's Government that, with regard to this particular order, it is not the fact that we are bringing our domestic legislation into line with international law as such—because, after all, the British Government were co-sponsors of that particular resolution; so that they voluntarily participated in the creation of this particular piece of international legislation—and it is not so much a case of tagging along because we have to do so, but of making ourselves involved in this particular decision. So, rightly or wrongly, the Government played a positive role in extending the scope of sanctions which are being imposed on Southern Rhodesia. I wanted to bring out that point.

It is however surprising—although the Minister has said that there is no significance in the timing—that the Government made no reference to this particular resolution or to the order which would have to be introduced when the Sanctions Order extension was debated last autumn. It is rather surprising that the Government made no reference to this particular order at that particular time. Although there is apparently no reason for the delay, we should like a slightly fuller explanation. Was it due merely to administrative oversight? Was it thought that the trade marks could be negotiated in the same way—obviously satisfactory for the Government—as the negotiations on the first paragraph of the resolution with the two insurance companies? Is it because pressure has been brought on the Government by anti-apartheid movements to deal with some particular individual cases? The Minister has referred quite rightly to the Committee of Inquiry which has been set up under Mr. Bingham. Obviously, we must ask whether this particular order has any connection with that committee.

It should be clarified that the order falls within the statutory period because many people have been asking: Why did this order come into effect on 1st May when we are debating it in this House on 2nd May? I understand however that this debate falls within the statutory period and does not affect in any way the enforcement of the order. I am glad to see that the Minister is moving his head in agreement. This particular order—let us be frank about it—is not, so far as one can tell, going to have very much effect within Rhodesia itself. Neither do I think that, at a time when this Government are having to realise more and more that they must bring all parties involved in the Southern Rhodesian settlement together, this kind of exacerbation and pinpricking is a particularly helpful contribution towards a peaceful settlement.

If the Africans were to find this was so important and to think this was such an important contribution to bringing Smith to agree, then it might have been worth it. The Africans, who are neither fools nor so small-minded as to think that this is going to play a major role in the changing of the situation in Southern Rhodesia, do not consider it in this light—if indeed one can speak of the Africans as a whole, which one cannot because there are very many views and shades of opinion among the Africans themselves as well as among other sections of the community of Southern Rhodesia.

The continuation of sanctions is a problem which many in my Party do not view with favour. We, in all parts of the House, look forward to the eventual removal of sanctions on Southern Rhodesia. Above all, we look forward to the Government taking the practical steps necessary to move from the present situation of uncertainty, bloodshed and potential chaos, to a general election in Southern Rhodesia for all the citizens of all colours to declare their preference in the form of Government for their own country.

The present régime will not be removed by this type of action. If it was to lead to a peaceful solution, we would have wel- comed this order. However, we realise that at this particular stage of proceedings it would be harmful to take any counteraction to the Government's proposals. We recognise the initiative that the Foreign Secretary made in going himself to Southern Rhodesia and discussing events with all the relevant parties. For the time being, therefore, we on this side of the House merely note the passing of this order. We very much hope that this is the last time we shall have to discuss either the extent or the timing of sanctions against that country.

6.14 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think that I need say that I support this order. I am glad that the noble Baroness has emphasised the point that the Government are not merely endorsing an international document but that they themselves took the initiative in securing its international adoption. I welcome the fact that our Government took that positive attitude. I do not want to enter into any detail because it would be unwise at this moment to make a comment on the present negotiations which are taking place regarding the future of Zimbabwe. I will say only that all of us ought to welcome and congratulate the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on the initiative which he has taken in this matter.

The alternatives are appalling. If this initiative does not bring about a settlement in Zimbabwe, we may have to look forward to a bloodshed in Southern Africa which may only repeat the appalling disaster which took place over the years in Vietnam. All who want to avoid this will wish the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs success in his endeavours.

I want to put one question to the Government. It may arise out of this order; it may arise out of orders already in force; it certainly arises from the later remarks which the Minister made in introducing this order. There has recently been presented to the Government a very convincing document by Runnymede and the anti-apartheid movement, to which the noble Baroness referred, regarding the supply of oil to Zimbabwe by Shell and BP. I am not going to ask for an answer to that problem today because a Commission has been appointed to investigate the evidence which has been provided to the Government. I want to ask one question incidental to that situation.

The Government have a majority share in BP and two representatives on its board. Those representatives have the power of veto on that board. But it has been made clear by successive Governments that that power of veto would be exerted only on specific issues, and those include foreign affairs. Clearly, the future of Zimbabwe is covered by that specification of foreign affairs. I want to ask Her Majesty's Government, quite apart from any decision which the Commission may reach, whether they would instruct the two British representatives on the BP board to insist that there shall be no supply of oil to Zimbabwe, either by BP itself or by its subsidiaries in South Africa. This is an issue immediate and not involving a report of the Commission.

I believe at the meeting of the BP board on 3rd March this year, Mr. Tom Jackson (who is one of our two representatives on the board) raised this issue. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give support to him in taking that stand, and will seek that our representatives on the BP board prevent oil from reaching Zimbabwe either directly from BP or through its subsidiaries.

6.17 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to remind the noble Lord, the Minister, that there exists in this country and, indeed, elsewhere, a large body of opinion which feels that in regard to Southern Africa at the present moment there are two clearcut trends. One is the aim of Communism, master-minded by Russia, to dominate Southern Africa. The other is the feeling that every action, policy and aim should supersede in that consideration for the purpose of opposing Communism.

That policy of opposing Communism caused me, by courtesy from the Minister, to have the assurance that it was wrong to feel that the Russian Communist danger was so dominant in Southern Africa. I would remind the House of an earlier era, when there were those who constantly reminded the country of the danger of Hitler and were reviled and ridiculed. Appeasement was the policy that was then followed, and it brought about the disaster which cost so many lives in World War II.

I would ask: What is the need for this order and for its being brought forward at this particular juncture? Surely, as has been expressed, there is no haste. It has been under consideration, apparently, for quite a long time and it would seem that this is entirely the wrong moment to bring it forward. Of course, it may be that vindictiveness and harassment are the aims: that is understandable. But to bring it forward at this time really reduces the inclination of the moderates to take courage, avoid intimidation and support a moderate view generally in Rhodesia and, in that way, to support alleged aims of bringing about a peaceful solution such as we all hope for. But if it be not harassment, perhaps the aim would be, when food production is so necessary in Rhodesia, to make it more difficult for the African farmer—and indeed the white farmer, too—to obtain spare parts for his tractor. How improbable is any effective result as regards piracy of textile designs and patents. Heavens! it is difficult enough to avoid piracy on designs and patents in this country, let alone attempting to do any good in Rhodesia, where this country has no power of enforcement.

The visit of the Foreign Secretary to South Africa recently was indeed to be commended. But what did we see? A first visit—shades of Palmerston, Disraeli, or Curzon—by the Foreign Secretary to a totally self-avowed Marxist State. And for what purpose—to get advice about a British territory? I am among those who believe that British prestige and pride have sunk to the nadir of ignominy. Perhaps now we are to see a visit to Russia so that we may get advice on how to overcome terrorism in Northern Ireland. Indeed, that might well produce a more successful result than the present Government have achieved to date with these constant murders and disorders. Mozambique, forsooth!—a country where Press reports indicate, without denial, that there are some 30,000 to 40,000 people held in detention camps, many of them probably without trial.

We have seen the curious position of negotiations recently going on with the intention of bringing about a settlement, without arrangements being made at the same time for the fulfilment of a truce to the fighting. That is a most unusual course, but understandable, because the so-called African leaders did not have, as leaders should have, authority to control what they like to call their troops in the field. My Lords, by all assessments and measurements of propriety, this order should not attract assent today.

6.28 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful for the tone and the temper of this discussion. No one wants to engage in sanctions. If, however, by international obligation it is necessary to act in this way, then this country must honour its word and its bond. I happen to be one of those who look to the time when possibly economic sanctions may supplement the arbitrament of physical warfare. We are a long way from that and, on those grounds, I would make a plea for sanctions, looking hopefully and perhaps idealistically ahead.

As to the points raised in the debate, the noble Baroness stressed that we were a co-sponsor of the resolution. That is true, and I give that assurance to my noble friend Lord Brockway, that we took a full part with the other members of the Security Council—we were unanimous on it—to promote this tidying up operation which is, nevertheless, vital to the consistency of our policy and that of the world authority in this case. I would hope that the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, would agree with me that it really would be counter-productive to present efforts to mobilise a consensus based on moderate opinion in Africa if the United Kingdom were the only one of the members of the Security Council not to sponsor this order: that is quite apart from the merits of the order, in which I believe. There is the overwhelming argument that we, of all countries, should not be seen to be the ones not to support or to co-sponsor an order of this kind.

The noble Baroness, Lady Elles, and my noble friend Lord Brockway also mentioned the question of oil and referred to the inquiry in which the Government have engaged. Perhaps I should say this. Assurances of a substantial character from the highest level have been given us that no oil from British companies, including BP, finds its way directly or indirectly to Rhodesia. This will, of course, be one of the questions investigated by Mr. Bingham as chairman of the inquiry. The question of the nature of the veto which members of the board can exercise will no doubt, especially after my noble friend has raised the matter in the debate today, be part of the consideration of this committee.

As to the question of timing, raised by both Members of the Opposition Benches, it is a fact that the talks on the insurance part of this order—the most important part—certainly took time. I said in my opening speech that it is preferable to have these arrangements agreed to voluntarily, rather than statutorily—they are less likely to be subject to breach, either by misinterpretation or by misapplication—and these two world-respected insurance organisations talked this over with us and decided that they would apply these sanctions voluntarily. That is a great gain, but it took some time.

As to the remainder of the order, Ministers decided to delay the rest pending the results of the Geneva Conference. I think that that is a wise step to take. But once the Geneva Conference had completed its course, and clearly was not going to issue a decision, then we had to resume consideration of the rest of the resolution, and embody it in an order as other countries were already doing, including some of our friends in the Community. I should like to give the assurance, for which the noble Baroness asked, that there has been no external pressure. The timetable has been on the basis of what I have just put to the House.

Before I sit down, may I join the noble Baroness in looking forward to the removal of sanctions on the terms which I set out in my speech in moving this order. I think that they are the terms which practically all of us see to be necessary; that when a new life, based on majority rule, is clearly and irrevocably available to the people of Southern Rhodesia, sanctions will be discontinued just as soon as we can dismantle the operation.


My Lords, before the Minister sits down, may I ask him this? He has said that assurances have been given by British companies that they are not supplying oil to Zimbabwe. Have assurances been given by them that their subsidiaries in South Africa are not supplying that oil?


My Lords, I cannot, and should not, in this context add to what I have imparted to the House. I have chosen my words fairly cautiously—I almost said "conservatively," but then I was replying to my noble friend. If he will be content with what I have said tonight, perhaps Mr. Bingham and his committee will follow up what is already a hopeful situation, and even satisfy my noble friend when the committee reports.

On Question, Motion agreed to.