HL Deb 18 April 1978 vol 390 cc999-1005

3.40 p.m.


(Lord Goronwy-Roberts): My Lords, I will with permission read a Statement on Rhodesia which is now being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The Statement is as follows:

"I will, with permission, Mr. Speaker, make a Statement on Rhodesia.

"The United States Secretary of State and I met the leaders of the Patriotic Front in Dar-es-Salaam on the 14th and 15th of April. We also met President Nyerere. On 16th April we had talks in Pretoria on Namibia and Rhodesia with the South African Foreign Minister and on 17th April we met the signatories of the Salisbury Agreement.

"The aim of all these meetings was to prepare the ground for round table talks to bring about a negotiated ceasefire and an internationally acceptable settlement.

"I do not wish to hide from the House that there are still major differences between the parties, both of whom think they are winning. However, there are some signs that we could widen the existing areas of agreement in two important ways, both of them crucial if we are to establish a neutral administration for the transitional period, capable of holding fair and free elections.

"First, the Patriotic Front is now closer to accepting a role for the United Nations in supervising a previously negotiated ceasefire and in monitoring the activities of the military and police forces. There is more understanding in Salisbury that United Nations in-volvement gives an assurance that sanctions would be lifted prior to independence.

"Secondly, all would probably now agree to a Council with wide executive and legislative powers whose members would hold Ministerial portfolios. The Patriotic Front said that, provided their other demands (some of which are unacceptable to us) were met, they could accept a council presided over by a Resident Commissioner holding reserve executive powers over defence and law and order.

"There was widespread recognition in all of Southern Africa that if we and the United States were to abandon the search for a negotiated settlement based on the principles of the Anglo/ United States proposals there would be no alternative to a bitter and bloody conflict, with an uncertain outcome and the grave danger of it becoming internationalised and involving all the countries surrounding Rhodesia. The Patriotic Front accepted our invitation to round table talks and the signatories of the Salisbury Agreement have undertaken to give it serious consideration ". My Lords, that is the end of the Statement.

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, the House will wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for repeating that Statement and, since we are to have a debate on Southern Africa next week, I shall confine myself to a very few remarks. I am quite sure that it is right that the Foreign Secretary should still be trying to get agreement between the two sides, and if the gap has narrowed that is welcome, though there is a very long way to go. But I think that the British and American Governments, and in particular Mr. Young, must not give the appearance of favouring the Patriotic Front, with its forces, at the expense of the internal group.

We ought to remember, and should remind ourselves, that of the two parties with whom the Government are dealing one has accepted, without qualification, the conditions for independence laid down by successive Governments, both Conservative and Labour, including a supervised general election; while the other party, without much evidence of public support in Rhodesia but with large guerrilla forces, armed and financed by the Soviet Union, is asking for what amounts to total control of Rhodesia in the interim period; and, indeed one of those leaders has openly advocated a one-Party Marxist State. No doubt Dr. Owen the Foreign Secretary, cannot say these things so bluntly, but it is not a bad thing that those of us who are not so inhibited can do so. So let us work for an association between the two sides; that must be right. But let us, above all, have regard—because it is ultimately Britain's responsibility—to the wishes of the people of Rhodesia.


My Lords, we on these Benches should also like to thank the noble Lord for repeating this important Statement. In our view, the Secretary of State is to be congratulated on making what seems, at any rate, to have been some progress towards a settlement, together with his United States colleague; though here I must say that I personally associate myself, to some extent, with what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said. We also entirely agree with the last paragraph of the Statement. Unless there is some agreement between the Patriotic Front and the new regime in Salisbury, we can only expect a continuation and, no doubt, an extension of the war. In this connection, would the noble Lord like to comment on the recent report that a Russian general has arrived in Mozambique and is engaged in preparing for an invasion of Rhodesia, based on tanks and MIG fighters from a base North of Beira?

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, may I first thank the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for the tone and content of his contribution this afternoon. I think that we all welcomed what he said, and the way in which he said it, and I certainly include my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary in what 1 am saying. I am quite sure that what the noble Lord said to us will be most welcome to him. I merely want to underline one or two of the points of non-inhibition which the noble Lord felt able to make.

Of course we do not seek to place a premium on violence. The whole object of the exercise is to ensure that there is an orderly movement into independence in Rhodesia. I am quite sure that my right honourable friend, the British Government and the British people would not countenance an attitude which encouraged the idea in Rhodesia, or anywhere else, that the way to get an acceptable solution is to spill blood. On the question of meeting the wishes of the people of Rhodesia, this is of course very much the vital fifth principle, and here, again, it is the basis of my right honourable friend's assiduous efforts of the past few weeks and months, and the efforts that he proposes to make, hopefully in an all-party round table meeting in the near future.

Equally, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, made a constructive contribution to our very interim consideration of the situation, bearing in mind that we are to have a debate next week. I take under advisement what he had to say about Russian generals in Mozambique and other places, and I hope that next week, if he will develop that and other points, I may be able to reply more fully.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether we can follow the example of our own Foreign Secretary, and not take Mr. Andrew Young too seriously? After all, he is very young, very new and has a lot to learn.


My Lords, Mr. Young is a very able young American leader who has shown great enthusiasm in regard to the solution of these problems. I do not think that we should exaggerate too much what is said from time to time by enthusiastic negotiators, including those from our own country.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that those of us who have for many years wished to see majority rule in Rhodesia believe that, if there is now further scope for discussion with the object of bringing the two sides together, so be it, but that many of us will be a little anxious if it appears that some of the leaders of Rhodesian opinion are becoming more concerned about where, at the end of the day, they finish up in the leadership than they are about the achievement of majority rule for the Rhodesians?


My Lords, this is not an unusual situation for politicians in politics. On the other hand, as my right honourable friend, a former Secretary of State, knows better than I, it is a difficult but necessary operation that, in achieving a peaceful settlement, regard has to be had even for unacceptable points of view which are held by people all around the table. As my noble friend knows, the hope is that we can effect the highest common factor of agreement among all the parties, including the Patriotic Front and elements in Rhodesia who up to now have proved as obdurate and unreasonable as have certain elements in the Patriotic Front. But we are not without hope. It is necessary to emphasise the difficulty of the operation, but it is also necessary at all times to emphasise the need to continue with the kind of negotiation that my right honourable friend, together with Mr. Cyrus Vance and, indeed, Mr. Andrew Young, has been conducting.


My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord for having repeated the Statement. I wonder whether he can explain to the House why his right honourable friend is so anxious to see in power the leaders of the Patriotic Front who have been responsible for the death of thousands of innocent Rhodesian black people—women and children—and have killed them in the most savage, horribly indecent way? Why does he want to see these people leading the country?


My Lords, it is for the people of Rhodesia, of all creeds, colours and backgrounds, to decide who they want to lead them, and it is for us to do our best to ensure that they have the opportunity to choose their leaders, whoever they are. It is not for us, I suggest, to apply certain criteria to potential leaders which might equally be applied to another set of leaders. I do not believe that we can advance the argument very profitably on that basis. Two principles are involved. The first is that the people of Rhodesia, whoever they are, should choose. The second is that we must do everything that we can to ensure that they have a fair and free choice.


My Lords, there is one very narrow, tactical point which arises out of the Statement. Reference has been made to the need to come back to the Anglo-American agreement. I am wondering whether it is wise to continue to present the Anglo-American agreement in such definite terms. They were not accepted by the Patriotic Front; they were not accepted by the others. It is quite clear that circumstances have altered a little. While what the Anglo-American agreement wanted was quite sound, and one applauds it, to cause the other people now to accept something that they previously turned down may make a solution of the conflict rather more difficult than if it were said that the Anglo-American agreement, as it was first presented, can now be amended and replaced by something else. I believe this would be preferable, rather than that the impression should once again be given that it is the Anglo-American agreement and nothing else that must form the basis of the discussions.


My Lords, I think that the noble Lord has put it very fairly. I believe that on another occasion in this House I have put it this way: that what we rest on are the Five Principles, and in particular the fifth principle which states that the people of Rhodesia should choose. The Anglo-American proposals are, we suggest, a very good way of implementing those principles, but they are by no means sacrosanct. They are a means of applying irrefutable principles.


My Lords, I do not know how well the noble Lord understands the Matabele people, but they have a rather interesting proverb which runs: The wise goat keeps his mouth shut when the witch doctor approaches the flock with a knife. May I suggest that the noble Lord should pass on these remarks to Mr. Andrew Young who seems determined to precipitate a blood-bath in Rhodesia.


My Lords, no doubt Mr. Young could command his own set of proverbs in reply. I think that we are a little in danger of engaging in a slight, friendly altercation with our friends. We should all unite, on both sides of the Atlantic and with our friends in Africa, who are myriad, on the central purpose of these negotiations and should draw in support of those negotiations proverbs from America, Europe and Africa.

The Earl of PERTH

My Lords, would the noble lord agree that whatever may be the opinions in the House about Mr. Young, we all welcome the American participation with ourselves in talks to seek a solution?


My Lords, I, in turn, welcome wholeheartedly what the noble Earl has said. I do not think that anybody in this Chamber would dissent from the content and the warmth of what we have just heard.

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