HL Deb 14 February 1978 vol 388 cc1345-404

7.7 p.m.

Lord GEORGE-BROWN rose to ask Her Majesty's Government their attitude towards the steps being taken to achieve a peaceful settlement in Rhodesia which assures majority rule. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of seeking a discussion on the subject of Rhodesia at this time is quite deliberate and is, I think, important because so much confusion is in fact arising in various people's minds as to what the aims of the Government really are, what their priorities are, and what their view is of what is the best route to achieving a justifiable, negotiated settlement in Rhodesia. I hold the view that the Government have in fact been drifting—I do not think they have been doing it deliberately, but the Minister will no doubt tell us—from their original position to a position now reached which is quite incompatible with the purpose that we all had in mind after UDI over 12 years ago.

There is going on at the moment in Salisbury, a series of negotiations, about which I hope the Minister will give us as full an account as he can of the Government's information. I understand that the Government are in very close, almost day to day, touch at any rate with some of the participants in those talks. All the House has so far had to go on are the various somewhat confusing and contradictory accounts in the newspapers. We should be glad to be told as much as the Government are able to tell us about what they understand to be the position there. In particular, we really must ask the Minister to tell us now much more clearly than, with respect, he was able to tell us in the Question and Answer session the other day, the Government's attitude to these negotiations.

Many people feel that by the introduction of the Anglo-American plan the Government have put themselves in a position of competition with the negotiations in Salisbury and that, far from being in the position of someone who wishes to encourage a negotiated settlement, they are rather afraid that a negotiated settlement might emerge and put their own plan—the joint plan with the Americans—out of court. This seemed to be borne out the other day—I have with me a whole list of quotations, but in view of the hour I will not refer to them unless I am pressed—by a statement, attributed to a Foreign Office spokesman, rather to the effect that no settlement would be approved by Her Majesty's Government unless it was in accordance with the Anglo-United States plan. It seemed to be further borne out by the Resident Commissioner Designate when he said, on leaving Mozambique—and he was quoted directly—that if too much attention was given to the internal discussions in Salisbury, it would draw attention away from the Anglo-United States plan.

When did the Government see themselves as being in conflict with—what I understood was always our aim—an attempt to negotiate a settlement inside Rhodesia? It is surely permissible to put it squarely to the Minister that if Mr. Smith had been willing to negotiate along these lines 10 years ago, we would all have been delighted; that is what we were seeking to get him to do and we expressed regret that he did not do it. Why he has got to the point of doing it I will come to shortly, but it seems to me, on the whole, to be irrelevant whether he has come to it by a good or bad route. If he has in fact come to it, I would find it hard to see, were I now the Secretary of State, why I should be bothering my head overmuch about his reasons instead of concentrating on keeping him going.

I have never met or negotiated with Mr. Smith; in my day as Secretary of State the two offices were still separate. However, I am prepared to respect the very near unanimity of view among those of my friends who have, that he is a very difficult gentleman, to put it mildly, and that keeping him to his word is very difficult. But there are all kinds of difficult people in the world, and if we started conducting our foreign policy on the basis that we would negotiate only with nice, easy, kindly gentlemen we would hardly be in business today. Some of the other characters in the drama being played out in Southern Africa are not very nice, easy, kindly, gentlemen either, but I shall return to that in a moment.

Thus, I start by putting it to the Minister, firmly, but I hope politely, that despite all the protestations which the Secretary of State makes in another place and which the Minister loyally repeats here, the present Owen-Young policy and actions are preventing—discouraging, if not actually preventing—a settlement, and are certainly not promoting it. We are elevating something we refer to repeatedly as "the international community" above all else, and that is open to various interpretations. Mr. Young, for example, says that any settlement in Salisbury "must be acceptable to the East"; I quote his words. "The East" in this context must, I think, mean the Soviet Union. If we are to say, as the plan does and as the repeated replies of the Secretary of State do, that it is the international community, meaning the Soviet Union, that must approve of any settlement, then I am bound to say I wonder what we think our policy is.

The present operations of the Soviet Union in Africa hardly seem to be addressed either to the peaceful settlement of conflicts, other than their way, or to anything other than reducing the capacity of the West to get access to its raw materials, to its essential supplies and to its essential sea routes. I appreciate that the Minister does not answer in this House for Mr. Andrew Young. On the other hand, the Secretary of State makes great play of the fact that this is a joint Anglo-United States operation. I would therefore ask the Minister whether in fact he accepts that it is essential to judge any settlement by whether the East approves of it, and the East must mean Soviet Russia.

The other day at the Dispatch Box the noble Lord was vigorously denying the proposition put to him that the Secretary of State's operations at present were handing a veto to Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo; he said, "No, certainly not". But if the proposition must be acceptable to Soviet Russia, then what, assuming that ordinary words still mean what they used to mean, is that but giving Soviet Russia a veto? It simply must mean—it has to mean—that if Russia says the proposition is not acceptable to her, we will not ourselves endorse or accept it.

We elevate the Patriotic Front. I put this to the Minister the other day and he did not accept it, though I was not persuaded. He makes a tremendous point of the consultations with Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo and their guerrilla forces while they are conducting a bloody war and while Mr. Nkomo is referring to the black leaders who are negotiating inside Rhodesia as a criminal clique who must be finished. We are also elevating, it seems to me, the one party in all this whose aim is not to have a negotiated settlement because, as it has been put so clearly by commentators here, they think, rightly or wrongly, that they have brought Mr. Smith to this negotiating position by the power of force they have deployed against him. And, as it has been put, they do not want to see the fruits of that use of force enjoyed by Bishop Muzorewa, Mr. Sithole and the other negotiators inside Rhodesia; they want to enjoy those fruits themselves. This seems to me to be elevating force as a desirable means to an end, whereas, clearly, I would think that any policy pursued by this Government must not do that.

We elevate the front-line States. The Times correspondent, normally very well informed, described the mood of the High Commissioner-designate when he left Mozambique as one of elation. With great respect, it is Rhodesia we are talking about; it is the Rhodesian people and Rhodesian interests we are talking about. I cannot see why one should go off to Mozambique to get elated. They exist; they are a fact in Africa; but they are not a party, or they ought not be be admitted to be a party, to this conflict. It seems, indeed, that everybody is elevated by the Government except those who have chosen to stay in Rhodesia—I am talking about black people—and seek to negotiate their way to a settlement, rather than to impose it or force it from outside.

I am saying this not aggressively but rather firmly because I want it to be clearly read and understood across the way as well as in this House. We will listen, obviously, to what the Minister has to say if he feels I am wrong about this; but I hope he will put it to the Secretary of State. I hope, too, that, if these debates are read in the State Department and the White House in America, and if they are read in Rhodesia, as I am quite sure they will be, the fact that this view is held by some of us—and held by some of us who have no links with the white settler community in Rhodesia at all; held by some of us who could not be called, by any stretch of imagination, Right-Wing reactionaries—will be clearly understood by them.

With respect, I do not think it is for us—and this is one of the major criticisms of the plan—to impose a plan of our own, however good. I do not think it is for us to choose whom we would wish to see become the Government, the Administration, in Rhodesia after a settlement is reached. It is for us to monitor; it is for us to "jolly along"; it is for us to help to guide if we can, and to make suggestions. But the other day, when addressing the other place—and I have the quotation here if noble Lords want me to read it—the Secretary of State repeated: It is the Government and this House alone who can confer independence upon Rhodesia", and he proceeded to say that, We would not do it if the settlement did not accord with the Anglo-US plan". But why, my Lords? In the first place, I think the allegation "we alone can confer" really may be legalistically right in the sense that an Act of Parliament would need to be passed in order to clear the situation up, but 12 or 15 years on is an awfully long time to go on repeating the old thing.

I am constantly being reminded by my ex-colleagues and my friends in the Government that yesterday's terrorists often turn out to be tomorrow's statesmen. Obviously, there are many examples around the word to prove that that is so; but by the same token, yesterday's white rebels can also turn out to be tomorrow's statesmen. It would be a long list to produce of British politicians and British Ministers, past and present, who have been succoured and sustained by marriage to the daughters of the American revolution. So, obviously, there is a point at which that becomes respectable, without the rebels giving in. I ask the Minister not to make that particular point again. After 12 or 20 years—at some point—it is no use going on with the old argument; and certainly it is no use replacing the principles set out by the previous Prime Minister by the Anglo-US plan of today. The two things are not the same. To say, as used to be said and as was said by Sir Harold Wilson when he was Prime Minister, that any settlement must satisfy what began as Five Principles but to which was added a sixth a little later on, is one thing; but to say, we having produced, a decade later, a detailed plan of our own, "It has got to fit that", is a different thing altogether.

The Secretary of State is getting the Prime Minister very confused here, because, while the Secretary of State is telling us that it must satisfy the plan, in the other place the other day the Prime Minister, in answer to a Question, said that he wanted to see it against the Five Principles, and if it met those or a substantial number of them he would be very pleased. They are two quite different answers. The other day the Minister of State himself was using the Anglo-US plan as though it were the Five or Six Principles. It is my view that it is not. It is quite a different thing altogether; and I believe that this is where the Government went wrong. We should have adhered to our principles and tried to secure that other people who are doing the negotiating were helped to adhere to them.

Here, let me ask something I was going to raise later on but which I might as well raise now as it fits in. We read lots in the newspapers about the communications which are said to be passing between the Foreign Office and the participants—or, rather, some of the participants—in Salisbury. Apparently they are going to Mr. Smith, they are going to Bishop Muzorewa and they are going to the Reverend Sithole, but for some reason or other they are not going to Chief Chirau, who is the third of the black negotiators. That is for some quite legalistic reason, that ZUPO, his organisation, did not exist in 1971, or something or other, which seems to me to be a highly dubious reason. So they are going selectively to the participants, as we understand it, and they are going to Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo. It is being alleged that these documents turn up at inconvenient or convenient moments, and that, indeed, they played some part in Mr. Muzorewa's hiccups the other day, when, having agreed, he withdrew.

I think it is fair to put it plainly to the Minister of State. It is no use pretending that these deductions are not being drawn. They are. It is believed in Salisbury, as I know, by black leaders that there have been attempts by the British Government to draw attention to issues for the purpose of discouraging or disturbing the negotiations or of making them more complicated. I understand now from sources (as they say in the media) that an enormous document, with very many pages indeed, is about to be on its way, if it has not already left, to the same selected people, elaborating all that has been sent before. Again, it will be assumed that the reason for doing this is to put another spanner in the works of what are already very difficult negotiations. Would the Minister please tell us what documents have passed and what documents are passing? What is the purpose of them? Why are they only selectively circulated? And will he please consider putting them in the Library of the House?

If they are the British Government's statement of the British Government's position and what the British Government think negotiators must take into account, we cannot have a very intelligent participation either in this House or the other place if we do not know what is in them. They cannot be all that sensitive, because with that number of people receiving them obviously they get out—otherwise how do I know about them? We are being denied them as one of the legislative Chambers who will be asked to pass the legislation at the end and to comment on the Government's handling of the negotiations.

May I turn for a second to say that the other thing which I want to get clearly to the Minister and to the Secretary of State—and this particular Secretary of State, whose accession to office I welcome. I should have preferred that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had filled the vacancy when, unhappily, it occurred. I thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer easily the best qualified, over the many years he had taken a major interest; but if the Government, quite properly, decided it could not be him, I was happy at the elevation of the present Secretary of State.

But no consultation takes place with this Secretary of State. There are X Secretaries of State in this House and in the other House who would very happily be available for consultation, just as I used to see my predecessor, and as my successor used to see me. But no consultation takes place at all. I do not think I have exchanged a single word with the present Secretary of State since I left the other House seven years ago. Therefore the only way of addressing him is publicly in this way.

The point I want to put to him is this: Is he really trying to co-relate what is happening in Rhodesia, what he wishes to happen, what could happen there, with other events going on in Africa? I have a terrifying feeling that he is not. I have a feeling that the office is not getting through to him. From the developments around the Horn of Africa, which are very serious from our point of view and the point of view of the whole of the West, the present developments in Ethiopia and the subsequent possibility of risk to the Sudan, to Egypt, and all that flows geographically from there, without being an old cold war warrior it is quite apparent that a Soviet grand design is being worked out there.

We know that the Americans have been tortured by the consequences of Vietnam, Nixon, Watergate and all that, and have rather disqualified themselves at the moment for long-term clear thinking about this matter. It can only be we who draw attention, and if we are going to permit or encourage—at the end of the day we cannot affect what happens in that sense—the Soviet Union's other clients, the Patriotic Front and some of the front line States in Rhodesia, then not only are we contributing to the grand design but we are extending it, ensuring its extension southwards as well as in the direction in which it is at present moving.

I see no reason not to conclude that the Foreign Secretary, who would not deliberately want to bring this about, is not taking time and care and trouble to be advised and guided, either by his advisers in the office or those outside who would like to discuss with him the way in which all these pieces fit together. Of course one can be so interested in travel and instant decisions and instant policies that one ends up by not really studying the brief, and that may have happened here.

May I say to the Minister of State fairly that I think the hallmark of the Government's attitude may be put like this: They have this detestation of Mr. Smith and of the white settler community, to which I have referred already, and they find it hard to get over. I must say that Mr. Smith has dealt with pretty well every British politician and Minister of distinction we can throw at him, and, if my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel will allow me to say so, he seems to have survived all of them pretty well intact. There is something to be said for taking seriously a bloke who has survived all this and still knows when to temper to the wind. I repeat that one has to deal with those who are there. The great Ernest Bevin, whom all of us who were then on these Benches or were allied in some way to these Benches, remember with fond affection and great admiration, put this straight to a Party conference at Bournemouth, at which I was present, when he answered, I think Mr. Mikardo and various others who are still with us, by saying he had to make his foreign policy with those who were there and not those whom he wished were there. I would commend that to our present Secretary of State so far as Mr. Smith is concerned.

The second hallmark of the Government's approach is their disparagement of the internal leaders and their astonishing partiality for Nkomo and Mugabe, when I should have thought, in such a situation as this, that everything points to trying to get Nkomo and Mugabe apart. As Mr. Smith wrote very plainly the other day in the Sunday Express—it was clear and it had his name attached to it— We did not exclude Nkomo and Mugabe; they excluded themselves. He made it quite clear that if either or both wished to go back and join in as a negotiator—not as a commander in the field or shooting Rhodesians black and white—then they could do so.

I was talking today to somebody well known to everybody in this House, very well informed on the situation, who said that there would be no difficulty about that, that even today Nkomo and Mugabe are not on speaking terms. Yet instead of seeking to persuade Nkomo to go back to where he was, namely, as a negotiator, and to encourage him to believe that by that means he will ensure that all power does not after settlement go to Muzorewa, Sithole and Chirau (if that is what he is bothered about), we are in fact so elevating them, so puffing them up, so letting them understand that it is their say-so that will be required, that we are virtually signalling all the time, "do not give in, boys; at some point Muzorewa and Sithole will slip apart, the negotiations will come to an end and you will be the only fellows in the field." Were I Foreign Secretary it does not seem to me that that is the message I would be wanting to put up. Quite the reverse.

The next hallmark is the elevation of the use of force. Because others have used force, are using force and, as it was put to the Secretary of State, will still be in the field after negotiation, and you might have black shooting black—meaning that you will have the Patriotic Front (so-called) troops shooting those blacks who have made an agreement—it does not seem to me good to say that we cannot make an agreement of which they do not approve. That is just a signal to everybody that we do not, ourselves, believe in negotiations.

I have said why I think we should go back to the Five Principles. I do not count the sixth: all that it said was that the majority should not discriminate against the minority and that the minority should not discriminate against the majority. A slightly dubious presentation; but we can all agree with it. I stick to the original Five Principles.

We should go back to them. Let the Anglo-US plan lie. It is no great hurt to our pride. It can always be revived if everything else fails. A spokesman for the office who was quoted in the papers said that if it was not pushed ahead by February it would run out of steam. The implication is that this is one of the reasons why so much pressure has been applied in the last few weeks: it is to avoid the negotiations in Salisbury getting too far down the road.

I do not mind if the Anglo-US plan runs out of steam. What I would mind would be if any settlement by anybody, did not match those Five Principles which we hammered out when I was in Government just around the time of UDI. I repeat that, had Sir Harold Wilson I succeeded, as he thought he was going to succeed at that time—he really did think that—in getting Mr. Smith to negotiate within those principles, we should have made no point about an Anglo-US plan; we should have made no point about the front-line States; we should have made no point about the Patriotic Front or anything else; we should have been happy to encourage everybody to get down to negotiating on that basis. I, myself, do not see why, just because it is a few years later, we should change from that.

Perhaps I may draw what I was going to say to an end. Many of my noble friends have stayed in order to take part at this inconveniently late hour and I shall not go on for long. To sum up, I think that our present actions are misconceived. I do not want to turn this into a great battle with the Foreign Secretary. I hope I have made it quite plain that I should like to help him. I have no desire to do the Foreign Secretary down or to do him any harm. I should like to see him make a success of it.

However, I think, for the sort of reasons I have given, that our actions are misconceived. I think that we are just adding to British mistakes that have gone on throughout this period. I cannot remember whether the Minister of State was with me in the House in 1945. I think so; but I have been in the thing long enough before 1945 and since 1945. I am thinking particularly about the time of the central African Federation, of the late Jim Griffiths—that very dear man—who let Welensky down on some ridiculous legalistic argument that we should not let the Colonial Office Commissioners go and advise the people at their meetings how to vote. We could go and explain but we could not give them any advice. As a result, we let Welensky down: I think that we have contributed to the downfall of every liberal-minded white leader until, finally, we got Smith.

We have made mistakes all along the line because we will not treat the blacks as equals; we keep on feeling that we must somehow cosset them and treat them in a way we should not treat white people. I am a great believer in total non-racialism.

I believe that you should treat one man as you treat another man. The blacks can work things out for themselves without us leaning over backwards. We have always done that and still, to some extent, are doing that.

We are wrong to moralise. I am a Christian as is the Secretary of State; but I do not think that that should lead us to be continually moralising about the issues and the people we are dealing with. I do not mean that one should keep Christianity only for Sundays; but I do mean that one does not parade it on every issue.

We are wrong to try to choose acceptable leaders. I think we are wrong to resurrect colonial responsibility here. There came a point—and the Minister of State will remember when he and I were working together—when I took the view in Cabinet (and I did not succeed in persuading all my colleagues) that the time had come for us to say that we had no more responsibility for Rhodesia. This was just after sanctions were imposed and we were being heavily attacked for not applying sanctions more efficiently. At one painful meeting, I was heavily attacked by the then Foreign Minister for Zambia because we were not imposing sanctions more efficiently. He said that we were doing it because we fancied the trade. At that time, our balance of payments was suffering very badly and that of Zambia was growing very fast.

I took it ill. I came back from New York and I expressed the view that the time had come to say that this was not a special British problem, that this was no longer a colonial problem—we had never administered the Colony anyway—and that we should, in fact, accept our share of the responsibility in the United Nations in the same way as anybody else—no more and no less.

The Anglo-US plan resurrected the rather special colonial responsibility on our part. I do not see why we should accept it. I do not think that we should become activists because we were once a colonial power. We should seek to be bridge-builders. We are assuming the guilt and the blame here. Whatever happens, the outcome of this will be that we shall be blamed and accused of being the ones who made matters go wrong by trying to be so active. We can do nothing if the talks break down in Salisbury either because we did not help enough or because we interfered too much; we could do nothing thereafter but ensure the success of terrorism.

I want this put clearly to the Secretary of State. No nice playing with words! If this fails and we have any share of the responsibility for its failure, be it a positive or a negative share, we shall have achieved nothing but to ensure the success of terrorism in that area and the handing of influence to the Soviet Union.

I think that is really what I wanted to say. I should perhaps have said it differently if I had not had the feeling that I ought to consult the interests of those noble Lords who have come down today and who wish to speak. I should perhaps have said it at greater length and less dogmatically and affimatively. I hope that the Minister will not think that it suffers because of the way I have chosen to put it. I do not want, speaking for myself, a continuation of the using of words in order to fluff the issues.

I believe that we are making a great mistake at the moment. I believe that we have the policy wrong and our operations wrong. I believe that we have not thought the thing through. I believe that it has to be our only mission to help being about a negotiated settlement which, whoever makes it, can be tested against the Five Principles and seen to fit. I do not believe that we have a role beyond that. I think we have made a great mistake.

I should very much prefer, as I said in an article that I wrote two or three months ago, that Mr. Andrew Young should stay out of this. I have discussed this matter with him and he is really naive about it. He really does see it much more like another State of Georgia problem than as the great complex problem that all African problems are. I would much rather he stayed away from it. I know how little part it really plays in White House—State Department—thinking. They have too many other things on their minds. It all comes back to politics with them; and especially in a mid-term election year.

Frankly, I would rather our own Secretary of State stayed at home rather more and that I had the feeling he was directing affairs instead of always wanting to be leading the tactical battle at the front with nobody really able to do the strategic planning at the back.

My Lords, please do not take too hard what I have said or the way I have said it; but let us have from the Minister of State as much as he thinks he can tell us by way of answer. He should not read us the brief if it does not cover those points because the Secretary of State would rather that he did not enter into them. Just let him tell us that it does not cover those points but that he will put all this before the Secretary of State and let us perhaps have another debate at a better time of day. But I wanted it tonight. I wanted to make these points before the negotiations break down, and not in the form of an inquest after they have done so.

7.50 p.m.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, any informed debate on the future of Rhodesia and its people must of course be subject to the political realities of the day. No subject has been more intransigent, intractable or more fluid than the attainment of a peaceful transition to majority rule. Therefore we can only speak in the context of the situation as it is today. We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, for having raised this issue, and for having expressed so clearly and so cogently many of the arguments that we on these Benches share. I will not seek to repeat any of the questions he has already put to the Minister, because we have a long list of speakers and I know that we want to get the benefit of their wisdom and contribution. I should say from these Benches that nobody will be listened to with more respect than my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel who has such knowledge and experience on this matter. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, will be paying particular attention to these statements.

This short debate enables us to ask the Government to clarify their position in relation to the negotiations with the various parties concerning the fate and future of Rhodesia, and their objectives. I accept that we bear in mind in a period of delicate negotiations of this nature that, while having clear objectives, it is essential to keep options open. But no one Party should become a prisoner of their words or be pegged to a position which is no longer realistic or practicable, and from which they cannot then withdraw. I will not expect a studied answer to night to any questions I put to the noble Lord, who, I know, always answers with extreme courtesy. I should be much more grateful to have a studied written answer later.

The very complexity of the situation has allowed, and still allows, many options to be open to the Foreign Secretary. His choice so far—and this was indicated by the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown—must lead one to believe that he appears to have been guided more by prejudice or pressure than by wisdom. He remarked, for instance, on his return from Moscow that he wished to explain to the Soviet Union—and I quote as per the Daily Telegraph—that "Our intentions are exactly the same as theirs in relation to Rhodesia". This was later reinforced by open negotiations only with the Patriotic Front one of whom, according to the Financial Times, is alleged to have declared that he is fighting not to bring about a ceasefire but to bring about political change. That is politics at the muzzle of a gun.

This leads to the belief that the Government are playing into the hands of those seeking to destroy any more democratic rule in a future Zimbabwe. The noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, has already drawn attention to developments in other parts of Africa. I therefore will not enlarge on those now. The Government have an opportunity to give a reassurance that we are being misled by the Press, that their intentions are not as they appear to indicate. Will the Government allay the genuine fears, both of the people of Rhodesia and those outside, by confirming that the Government will only approve a settlement, internal or otherwise, which involves free and universal elections before majority rule. Mr. Smith appears to have accepted this principle. As has already been said, Mr. Smith has been severely criticised in the past for accepting and appearing not to keep his word. For the time being, he has appeared to accept this principle. The Government are therefore at the very least entitled to call his bluff and confirm that principle. I ask the Government therefore to do so.

Since the Government have accepted the responsibility of bringing Rhodesia to independence, what are their views concerning the possibility of an internal settlement? It is admittedly not yet reached; but it is of course, as we all know, now in the process of negotiation by Bishop Muzorewa, the Reverend Sithole, Chief Chirau and Mr. Smith, who, it is generally agreed—and I have not seen anybody deny it—command at least 75 per cent. of the support of the population. I recognise—if I may call her this on this occasion—my noble friend Lady Gaitskell has been concerned for so many years with United Nations instruments on human rights, and the principle of self-determination for colonial peoples has always been supported by the present Government and many others. How do the Government envisage the realisation of that principle? Is a ceasefire considered to be a precondition to the acceptance of an internal solution, or do the Government accept that the majority of the people of Rhodesia are there to show how they determine their future? In this connection, it must be asked whether Mr. Nkomo or Mr. Mugabe have been encouraged to join the internal talks?

We accept that many things can happen; but, nevertheless, we are at the moment in a stage of negotiations where these internal arrangements are possibly coming to some kind of conclusion. If the internal solution falls within the Six Principles, which have been upheld by successive United Kingdom Governments—and despite what the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, said about possibly leaving the Anglo-American plan on the table—within the conditions laid down in paragraph 3(a) (it looks at the moment as though the internal solution may be reaching that stage) the Government of course will be faced with a situation, certain consequences of which would devolve on themselves in view of their accepted responsibility.

Therefore, surely the role of the Government must change from one of negotiation with one faction only to one of conciliation, not of confrontation; to conciliate and not exacerbate the relations between the Patriotic Front and the leaders in Salisbury. It must be realised that while the Patriotic Front may have arms partly—if not mainly—provided by the Soviet Union, they are fighting against their own people. Hundreds if not thousands, of black Rhodesians have volunteered to fight in the Rhodesian forces to protect their own people and their own territory. This factor cannot easily be brushed aside by the Government which they always seem intent upon doing.

There is the offer to the members of the guerrillas who are prepared to undertake routine training in the Rhodesian forces to be accepted into those forces. Do the Government consider that is a fair offer and one that can be agreed? If an internal settlement is agreed in conformity with the Principles that I have mentioned, are the Government considering measures to ensure that such an agreement is acceptable to the people of Rhodesia? Of course, by "the people of Rhodesia" I mean all the people of Rhodesia, black and white. In this, Mr. Smith cannot believe that any consultation with the white minority is a sufficient or adequate answer to that acceptability.

I should like to ask the Minister whether the Government have considered how this assurance might be achieved. For instance, have the Government considered holding a referendum? If not, will they undertake to consider this suggestion? It is no more than a suggestion but it is something which should be seriously considered by the Government should an internal settlement be reached within the principles which we have already mentioned. Further, will the Government consider the legal and procedural steps which will need to be taken to ensure that the process is fair and just? It will obviously take some time to prepare electoral lists; but they will be needed in any case for eventual elections. Will the Government consider how this can be done? Are they prepared to offer specialist assistance to Mr. Smith and his colleagues now seeking a settlement? This is a role that the Government could usefully play.

Another consequence would be the need to make arrangements for international observers to verify the fairness of a referendum. There would obviously be a lot of consequences flowing from this and I ask the Government to consider them very seriously.

The arrangements for a transitional period must also include some guarantee of protection for the people, both black and white, against aggression, both external and internal. The Anglo-American proposals, about which we hear so much in Cmnd. 6919, contain a reference to a United Nations-Zimbabwe Force, whose role, it is stated, may include, "support of the civil power". I should like to ask the Minister: On what basis is that proposal made? It is my understanding—and the Government will know better than anyone else—that a United Nations peace-keeping force has no authority in any way to undertake such a role. Therefore why is it mentioned and what alternative proposals would the Government suggest, knowing full well that such a peace-keeping force could never ever fulfil that particular role under its statutory authority.

Great responsibility rests with the Government to ensure a peaceful transition to majority rule. As the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, has pointed out, if it fails it will be the British Government who will be blamed, and indeed the United Kingdom as a whole. In ensuring the protection of the lives and property of all the population—that is, of all those living in Rhodesia—the good faith of the British Government is being tested and international acceptance may well depend on the Government's attitude.

The noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, referred to the necessity, as it appears, of such international acceptance, but a great deal depends on the attitude of the Government themselves in leading this international acceptance; and the Government must accept that this is so. Therefore, I would ask that, for the sake of the future of a country which is undoubtedly beautiful and undoubtedly rich in resources, with people who have one of the highest standards of living in the whole of Africa, the Government must show that it is capable of rising above prejudice and playing a role more fitting to an old democracy, encouraging and helping a new country to have a new Government which will have at least a chance of stability, security—above all, a Government which is representative of the majority of the people of Rhodesia.

8.2 p.m.


My Lords, when I spoke on this vexed question last November, I was rather gloomy, perhaps too gloomy, expressing the view that any successor regimé in Rhodesia, always provided it was in command of the army and the police, would decide on its own what part the settlers would play in the future, and that if it were not in such command it would very probably not be accepted by the powerful forces now operating both inside and outside the country. No terms agreeed in advance, I thought, were in any case likely to last for very long, and when the transfer of authority did take place, as it must one day, there would quite likely be a struggle for power and we should be lucky if a civil war were averted.

I also said that we on these Benches believed that the Government were doing what they could and that all our sympathies must be with them in a terribly difficult and quite possibly hopeless task. These are all sentiments which my friends and I see little reason to repudiate today. I agreed with a great deal of what the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, so eloquently said, although I should not like altogether to associate myself with his general criticism of the Foreign Secretary's policy, because I believe that the Foreign Secretary has been doing what he could, where he could and in whatever forum he could. I think it is even quite possible that indirectly his long struggles—now, it seems, fruitless—with the representatives of the Patriotic Front may have even produced a situation which is now more hopeful as regards some kind of settlement which seems to be emerging in Salisbury.

Since last November, of course, a more hopeful development has taken place in the shape of the parallel negotiations of which we now hear so much. My impression, though it is only an impression, is that the Government would if not welcome, at any rate accept, any resulting agreement, even before a cease-fire, provided it could be shown to be in broad conformity with, if not all the Six Principles, perhaps five of them, and even if no actual provision were made for a British presence but perhaps only for a United Nations presence of some kind—not necessarily a force but a United Nations presence—during any transitional period preceding elections on the basis of "one man, one vote" already accepted by Mr. Smith. If I am wrong on this, as I well may be, no doubt the noble Lord who is to reply will correct me.

Unhappily, but perhaps not unexpectedly, these general suggestions appear to have been stalled by Bishop Muzorewa's insistence on a smaller white representation in the proposed new legislature—a minority presumably incapable of blocking any constitutional alteration in the future and, more importantly, perhaps, on at least some participation of the forces of the Popular Front in any new defence force that would, as we all admit, have to be constituted before the elections to any such legislature can take place: some small element, perhaps, of the guerrilla troops which would not necessarily play a decisive part in any defence force that might be organised.

I imagine that insistence on such conditions as these by the bishop is due to his belief that their acceptance by Mr. Smith might possibly disrupt the Patriotic Front and even result in the return to Salisbury of one or more of its leaders. That may well be his objective. I believe that the majority of your Lordships would feel that if that were to be the result of the Salisbury talks it would, and should, be generally welcomed, even though, as I said last November, the future of the small white community could not even then be absolutely guaranteed except perhaps for a few years, though it would undoubtedly give them a desirable breathing space. No doubt it is towards that end that Mr. Smith is now directing his not inconsiderable talents. But what seems to be an ineluctable if distressing fact is that if the bishop does not succeed in inducing Mr. Smith to agree to his proposals, or to something like them, what is called the armed struggle of the Patriotic Front will continue.

If so, what policy can now best be pursued? I should have thought that if the Anglo-American talks with the Patriotic Front are indeed dead, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, suggested on 2nd February—I do not say that they are—as a result of the Front's complete intransigence and its demands to take over completely from Mr. Smith prior to any transfer of power, we should still do our best to get them to contemplate some constitutional proposals on the general lines of those now proposed by the bishop, and even to return to Salisbury, if by any chance his proposals should be accepted by Mr. Smith. That should be our objective in any negotiations we may still have with the representatives of the Patriotic Front. Equally, though we may have little influence in Salisbury—though I gather from what was said by the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, that we have people there who can still make representations to the régime—it would surely be our duty to tell Mr. Smith that unless he agrees on a new Constitution with the local black leaders, including the bishop, who represents a very large proportion of the population of Rhodesia, he has really had it.

The war, in those circumstances, will go on, and after another year or two the position of the whites will, to all intents and purposes, be hopeless. One has only to imagine the possible intervention of modern fighters and even tanks, operating from one or more of the bordering countries, to realise that the prospect of some extremist or Marxist régime being imposed by force is very real: some might even say it is inevitable. Would not the Government think, therefore, that short of some proposal for partitioning Rhodesia on tribal lines, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Alport, last November, the sort of tactics I have suggested represent now about the only line they can hopefully pursue? I say "hopefully" because, bleak though the prospects now seem to be, we must never lose heart.

Even if the Patriotic Front remains completely obdurate, is it not still possible that some of the so-called front-line Presidents, notably President Kaunda, might see some advantage in what one might call the "revised Muzorewa proposals" and that President Kaunda might himself be prepared to recommend them to his guest, Mr. Joshua Nkomo? After all, if he did care to exercise a little pressure on Nkomo he has the means of doing so, owing to his present tolerance of a considerable Matabele army in Zambia. I shall be interested to know how the noble Lord who is to reply to the Question of the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, would react to this general line of thought.

Finally, in the absence of real progress in Salisbury, there is of course one other alternative which I hesitate to mention, but I think it would appeal to some citizens in this country. That is, to admit that all attempts on the part of ourselves and the Americans to achieve a peaceful settlement are now useless, and that all we can do is to leave Mr. Smith and his friends to their, no doubt, rather unpleasant fate—and if we do not look out, I think that a great many people will increasingly come to share that, as I think, unfortunate point of view—making it clear at the same time, as I suggested last November, that we should be prepared to receive at least some of the settlers in this country, as, after all, General de Gaulle received many more pieds noirs into France when it became clear that they had no future in Algeria. Even if we and the Americans do not adopt this policy of despair, it looks as if it might, in the long run, he forced upon us by events.

Many of your Lordships would, of course, instinctively react—I should myself—against, so to speak, washing our hands of the whole affair; others may want us to lift sanctions at once and back up Mr. Smith, whatever he may choose to do. It is difficult, however, to see what positive action either school of thought would, in practice, expect the Government to take, other than that which I have suggested, that could conceivably result in the peaceful emergence of a new State of Zimbabwe, which would have the slightest prospect of obtaining international recognition.

I am afraid that the debate this evening—it is in no way the fault of the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown: very much the contrary—is taking place at the wrong moment, since, clearly, we must await the final result of the Salisbury talks before coming to any conclusion about what to do next; and of course the Government are in the same position as we are. But perhaps it will at least do something—I hope that it will—to clear the air and, as the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, said, define the basic issues which will, I am afraid, become plainer and plainer as time goes on.

8.13 p.m.


My Lords, the news from Salisbury is not good. I think it is clearly understood that there are great difficulties there in the internal talks which are proceeding and, while no one in this House would take any pleasure whatsoever in that fact, it is something which we must bear in mind in this debate. I have listened as has this House and as well we might, with close and detailed attention to the words of the three earlier speakers in the debate. We shall do the same to those who follow. By the time this debate is over, we shall have heard from former Foreign Secretaries, from a former Prime Minister and from former diplomats of great repute. They have asked for assurances and have raised questions for which they seek answers from the Government. Yet, as I have listened with care and noted in detail the questions, I have discovered that no question has yet been asked in this debate which has not already been answered. As I looked through the reports of debates which I studied before coming here, I found that every question raised in this debate had been answered before on the pages of Hansard in this place or in another. I may take this: The acceptance of one man, one vote was an important change in Mr. Smith's position, and one of the central demands in the Anglo-United States' initiative".—[Official Report, Commons, 2/2/78; col. 705.] That was a statement by our young Foreign Secretary on 2nd February in another place. It is a direct acceptance of the question that arises in the minds of those who are informed, as of those who are uninformed, about the complexities of a war which is going on in a former colonial territory—in the sad and saddening country of Rhodesia. We are not talking abstractly about conditions that we can affect by measured phrases in this House. We are talking about a war, a civil war, which is taking place; where some men are struggling to bring peace; some, perhaps too late, are coming to conclusions that, as has already been said, they should have come to 10 years ago. Yet we are debating the situation and we are all, each in his or her way, trying to help from this House at this hour of the night.

The Foreign Secretary, speaking in another place in the same debate, took up the point of the Patriotic Front agreeing to stop fighting. He said: It is a fact that while two armies are fighting each other we do need both sides to agree to a cease-fire. The question of achieving a cease-fire between the two armies, neither of whom has won or lost the battle, is extremely difficult". No-one would deny that. If there is a war going on, a ceasefire has to be achieved. We have part of the responsibility for achieving it. I happen to believe that the Foreign Secretary, as, indeed, has our own Minister of State, who needs no help from me in replying to the debate, has given constant reassurance. We are able to reassure ourselves and reassure this House and, through this House, the nation that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its major Ministers of State have acted with total responsibility to this country in the discharge of their duty.

There is another point which I should like to make from the debate in the other place. I quote: The right honourable Member asked whether I urged the Patriotic Front to talk to other nationalist leaders. The answer is "Yes, I have done so continuously and consistently". It is the division of opinion within the nationalist leadership that is one of the most serious problems in Rhodesia, and it is one reason why it has always been very difficult to achieve a solution". I feel, as do other Members of this House, nothing but respect and affection for those Members who have taken part and particularly for those who inspired my own youth in politics for the great service that they have given to the cause of peace, freedom and democracy in this country. I believe that one of the saddest, one of the most painful and, at the same time one of the most human and intelligent remarks that I have ever heard, I heard one night following a General Election when the initiator of this debate, whom I thank, said "Democracy has democked" accepting that there comes a moment in democracy when those who have long been chosen to speak for the people are denied, by the people, the opportunity, to speak again, in that role. We are dealing with problems of democracy in this debate tonight and one of the difficulties about being an ex-Foreign Minister or an ex-Prime Minister or an ex-Minister in a former Government is that, like ex-generals, there is always a tendency to think of the next stage of the diplomatic war, the next move in terms of the strategies of the old.

I do not say this in any disrespectful sense. I accept the way in which the mover of this debate, bluntly and courageously, put the points that he had to put, and I do so with equal vigour in exchange. I say that one of the difficulties, after democracy has "democked", is that the diplomats, the former Foreign Secretary and even the former Prime Minister are also debagged and debriefed and, like any other one of us, come naked into this conference chamber. Not having the information, not—and, rightly, within our democracy—being privy to all those details which are available to those who continue in office and who carry the mandate of the people, they have, more than us, both a double responsibility and a double challenge. That is all that I want to say on that point.

It is customary in our debates, and it is a good custom, to say, "I agree with the former speaker here, and I agree with him there". The former speakers in this debate will accept that there are issues on which I agree with them. They will not want me to be hypocritical, because there are some on which I disagree. For example, a major point in a major speech, which will be read with concern and interest not only in this country but throughout the world and which was made at the beginning of this debate, was that the Government "elevate the Patriotic Front". I do not agree with that.

Secondly, I do not agree that we elevate the front-line States. I do not agree that "everybody is elevated by the Government except the Rhodesians". Finally, I reject the assertion that we have elevated force. I reject it as being unworthy of the rest of the speech. There is nobody on this side of the House, nor, I suspect, on the Cross Benches, nor, indeed, on the opposite side of the House, who would say that this Government have elevated force or have failed at any time to challenge force where it has been used as an argument in international affairs. Let us discount that argument and say that we consider force to be at all times damaging both to those who use it and to those upon whom it is used. Therefore, I speak in this debate as one who feels as deeply as any Minister in high power, but as one who has never held office because democracy for me "democked" at an earlier stage. I find myself in this House as a conspicuous failure—


My Lords, never!


—but nevertheless as one who is committed, as I have always been, to the principles of democracy. I am grateful to my noble leader for giving me such encouragement in the middle of this serious debate.

One point needs to be taken up and answered seriously. It relates to Watergate and the trauma of Vietnam. Anybody who has been in America, as I have been several times recently, and who has walked through the graveyards in the provincial villages and the great cities and seen the flags—the Betsy Ross and the Old Glory—flying over the graves of the soldiers who were squandered in Vietnam will understand that it was a national trauma and that Watergate was something from which even a great democracy does not easily readily recover. It would be a shame if it went out from this House tonight that, because of the tragedy of Vietnam and the iniquities of Watergate, the American people should be discouraged, even for five minutes, from trying to bring their massive power and authority to bear upon the great problems which we share. They know that these are not national but international and supranational problems. It is for this House to welcome the presence, at the side of our young Secretary of State, of the Secretary of State of the United States and of their representative at the United Nations. In a particular and peculiar sense, that man not simply shares the spiritual and physical problems of running vast States in a post-colonial period but also shares the problems that accrue to a man who has a different coloured skin. He knows the problems that arise from it.

It was said that nobody wishes to let down the Foreign Secretary. I hope that is true and that it is the co-ordinated will of this House that what the Foreign Secretary is attempting to do should be understood and supported. Relating to the discussions that he held recently in Malta with the Patriotic Front, the Foreign Secretary very carefully said this: The Malta talks, rounded out, completed the pattern of talks involving all parties in Rhodesian-Zimbabwean political life". This was not a case of singling out the bullies, nor was it a case of singling out the men who are with their troops in the jungle now and who see themselves, however we may see them, as fighting for the freedom of their particular group in their country. It was a case of completing a pattern, and the talks in Malta had that justification and sanction. It was a United Kingdom, United States, United Nations initiative, not a matter of a young lad who has got on in the Labour Party, accompanied by a young black from a Southern State who has got on in America, going to exercise their egos in the African frontier States.

This was a case of men representing not simply their nations but the United Nations as well because, as they again said, the United Kingdom, the United States and the United Nations have never wavered in their view that the Command 6919 proposals represent the best route to independence and the surest guarantee of peace and stability". We, as nations—and who am I, a single member of a national State, to speak for nations— accept responsibility for bringing the territory to independence". There should be elections. They should be free and they should be impartial. The United Kingdom, the United States and the United Nations' initiative—the "Owen-Young policy" and actions—are not preventing a settlement. They are designed and carried through with energy in order to bring it about.

I shall not enter into the complexities of the Russian dimension or into the fact that when there are fish in a pool everybody takes his rod to its edge. Nor shall I go into what the noble Baroness Lady Elles said. She asked for a Government assurance that their position had not changed. We had the Government's absolute and total assurance in a debate which took place in this House on 12th February when the spokesman who replied from the Government Front Bench said: Internal discussions are taking place in Salisbury and my right honourable friend has clearly stated that it is not part of his policy to discourage or to frustrate those in any way. Indeed, he has said that he would welcome the implementation of the Six Principles from whatever source the proposals came, including, of course, Salisbury … If a peaceful, orderly settlement is to be arrived at there must be a cease-fire, and the people who cease firing are those who are firing and that means the Patriotic Front". There has to be local and internal discussion of the problems. We hope and pray for a local and internal settlement of those problems. But, even if they do succeed, are they not building insecurity into the very future pattern of that particular area of Africa, the type of insecurity into which others might well move? There has to be international acceptability of all that we achieve. I say that what we should be asking for tonight is that the Government should continue their efforts, and that, if there are areas where there is confusion, that confusion should be removed, but that we should accept that the Government recognise that no discussions on Rhodesia can take place and be of value if they effectively ignore the context of Continental Africa itself.

Nor can our discussions come to a conclusion if we ignore that what is happening in the whole of the Continent of Africa is complicated by that other great issue of human relationships—namely, the problem of men of different races, creeds and colours rapidly finding an accommodation for each other's differences so that they can live in harmony and peace and save not simply the province of Rhodesia but the world for our children and our children's children.

8.28 p.m.


My Lords, I retired from Government service precisely 10 years ago this month. For the last six years of that service, largely spent advising the noble Lord who opened the debate with such powerful eloquence this evening, my career was frustrated by one single problem, that of Rhodesia, because of the intractable nature of the internal problem and because of the repercussions outside, particularly in the Commonwealth where such strong emotions were felt. Both of those problems are still with us today. After 16 years nobody would dare to be optimistic, and I certainly do not wish to add to the difficulties of so complex a situation by any questions that I may put to the Minister this evening.

As the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, has made abundantly clear, there is anxiety, but equally, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, showed, today there is light as well as dark on the scene. Much has happened in the last year, and I am not sure that during this debate the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has received all the credit to which he is entitled for the astonishing change which has come over the scene. Taking advantage of the opening admittedly made by Dr.

Kissinger, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has kept the situation moving, and to my mind this is a most welcome change after the period of stagnation and frustration which we have endured for so very long. All the parties involved in the dispute seem to me to have moved, and some of them a very long way.

The British Government certainly have. I thought that their proposals last September were original and imaginative, but I think I part company a little with the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, here, because I do not interpret those proposals as a rigid scheme in any sense. It seems to me that they were designed as a practical way of trying to put into effect the basis of the Six Principles. Here I ought to interpose that I think the Six Principles are now a little out of date, because once you assume that there is a majority Government, then some of the earlier principles fall by the wayside. I thought that the proposals were certainly a startling innovation. I thought it required great courage on the British Government's part to say that they would be willing to shoulder the burden of responsibility for administration in a territory which for its nearly 90 years of existence the British Government have never administered themselves. I thought it showed great insight to appoint a man of the eminence of the noble Lord, Lord Carver, to act as the deputy Resident Commissioner.

However, many others have moved too; the United States very powerfully in support; the United Nations to some extent; Mr. Smith above all. There indeed is a dramatic change, and it is a key point in the current discussions that he has been willing to accept at least the principle of majority rule, although admittedly he is trying, as has always been his wont, to tight a rearguard battle for certain provisions in the transition stage. Tragically, in a way, the only people who have not moved as far as one would have liked them to are the various groupings among the nationalists, because you still have the division; although in their own way each has moved, the nationalist parties in Rhodesia by being willing to have negotiations with the régime, the Patriotic Front at least to the extent, in the recent discussions as I understand it, of being willing to accept at least a degree of British responsibility during the transition period. So there has been a dramatic change in the situation.

But I must confess—here I agree with some of the things said in the opening speech—these advantages have been gained at a certain price, and the price is that the impression has certainly been given that the Government are more willing to listen to the terrorists than to others in Rhodesia. Indeed, it has been argued—it was suggested even this evening—that the Government's contacts with the Patriotic Front prejudice the success of any internal talks in Salisbury. I think I would take the contrary view to that. I think to a large extent the Government's behaviour has probably acted as a spur, as a stimulus to Mr. Smith—who is often in need of a stimulus, may I add—to hurry up with seeing whether he cannot reach a reasonable settlement internally.

I think one can see, to some extent, how this impression has been created. In the first place, obviously any parleying with terrorists is unpalatable. In the second place, it appeared that the conference in Malta was rather a dramatic affair. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I think perhaps this was really an erroneous impression. The reason for the conference in Malta was that the Foreign Secretary had been able to talk to all the other parties, either on the spot in Rhodesia or in Africa or in London, but no other arrangement could be made for talking to these particular people.

Thirdly—and Lord George-Brown touched on this in some of his remarks—I think it is the case that some of the more extreme extravagant remarks made, particularly, if I may say so, by American spokesmen, have given this impression of appeasing the terrorists. But no doubt the Minister will tell us more. However unfair that impression is, the fact is that it is there and it seems to me serious from two points of view: first, in this country, because, although I know there have been great strains and stresses, we have had remarkable success hitherto in what is an extremely difficult problem for the British people as a whole, in achieving broad agreement between the political Parties. If that were to break down, it would be a tragedy, to my mind, in itself, but it would be a further tragedy because of its effect in Rhodesia itself. It is to that I should now like to turn.

It seems to me not impossible—I would not rate it too highly, but it is not impossible—that in the future it would be conceivable to reach some settlement that assured a reasonable future for all races. But two elements, in my view, could upset that. The first clement is the black extremists, and I myself would share the Foreign Secretary's view that there is really no future for Zimbabwe if the terrorists are determined to carry on the struggle. Of course, one cannot overlook that there are dangerous influences at work who for their own reasons would be willing to support them in doing so. The other element that could make infructuous any settlement is the European element in Rhodesia itself. I have no doubt that many whites will want to go when there is a complete change in the political set-up, and no doubt some of them should be encouraged to do so. But a Zimbabwe without any expertise at all from the European element, in banking, commerce, administration and so on, is really a recipe for disaster. It would be most unfortunate if the minority group in Rhodesia felt in any way that they were being left in the lurch or ignored and were ready to leave what they would regard as the sinking ship when a final settlement came.

There is a further general point I would make. Lord George-Brown touched on the international dimensions of all this. I think I agree with most of what he said, but I think we must bear in mind that we should not pay undue attention to everything that is said by all those concerned. The United Nations, for example, we know perfectly well does adopt double standards, particularly in matters that affect racialism or colonialism. The Front-Line Presidents, admirable men as they are, are subject to very severe political pressures from the OAU and elsewhere, and it is difficult for them to take a moderating line. The United States, for reasons which have already been mentioned, while their support is absolutely vital to us, do have rather different angles. I think there have been some examples of this in the Rhodesian problem itself. We all know they do have an angle on the situation with which we would not totally agree. Therefore, I do say that, while we want all the support we can get, we must act, if necessary, on our own, and should not be unduly swayed by advice from outside. In the end it is a British problem. It is a British responsibility; and the day will come, I hope, when this House will be asked—and it is only this House that can do it—to confer legality on whatever régime emerges in the territory and to accord the final act of independence.

The way ahead is not clear, and no one could in present circumstances be optimistic, but for my part I really see no alternative to the Government pursuing, with all the imagination and flexibility that they can, the proposals in the White Paper, and trying to achieve a peaceful solution by negotiation that will stick. It is very important that the arrangement should stick. I hope that today's debate may serve both as an encouragement to the Government to carry on and persevere with those efforts, and also perhaps as a slight warning that if they are to succeed they must carry conviction that they are ready to pay equal attention to the requirements of all the parties involved, including the European minority and the various groups so painfully seeking a negotiated settlement in Salisbury at this time. My understanding is that that is the Government's position, but doubt has been expressed about it not only in this House, but outside. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us a resounding and comforting reply.

8.41 p.m.

Lord HOME of the HIRSEL

My Lords, no one knows better than the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, the difficulty of timing debates on sensitive international issues. The day is never right, and now it seems that the time of day is never right. However, I am glad that he took the risk, if only because it seems that there may be a prospect that the theme of all the speeches this evening from the Benches on both sides of the House, may be a desire to help the negotiating parties in Salisbury to come to a Rhodesian settlement.

After "Tiger" and "Fearless", which were rejected by the Europeans, and after the provisional settlement which I made with Mr. Smith in 1971, which was rejected by the Africans, I concluded that the only settlement which had a reasonable chance of acceptance and a reasonable chance, as the noble Lord, Lord Garner, has put it, of sticking, was one contrived by Rhode sians for Rhodesians in Rhodesia. Therefore, with some reluctance—because although the British power has diminished we still have something to offer in the art of political compromise—I concluded that a cut-and-dried plan which had its origins outside Rhodesia, whether that plan was inspired by the front line Presidents, by Dr. Kissinger or by the British Government, certainly could not be imposed and in all probability would not find favour either with the Europeans or the Africans in Rhodesia.

It is necessary to remember that the Rhodesians who stayed at home and have borne the heat of the day have not only seen some of their countrymen ally themselves with guerrilla forces sponsored by the Soviet Union and supported by Cuban mercenaries, but seen some of the African countries and some members of the Commonwealth hold out to them no hope of anything but fighting and no hope of anything really but perpetual civil war. They are therefore hypersensitive on the question and subject of any intervention from outside. They are terrified—of this I am quite sure—that the British Government may seek to appease those kinds of people who had offered them nothing but war, and therefore those Africans and Europeans now want to keep the control of events in their own hands. I believe that they will accept advice, but they will not accept orders.

The motive of the British Government is, I am sure, well-intentioned. But if it is their purpose, as I believe it is, to relaunch a British plan including, for example, during the period of interregnum between European and African rule, a resident Commission, a United Nations force, and a reconstruction of the armed forces within six months, I trust that it will not be presented as an Anglo-American plan on a "take it or leave it" basis. That, I think, is what the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, said in rather stronger terms; and, to use his own words, this must not be a plan which is competitive with the designs that may be being worked out by the Rhodesians themselves, but rather—if one calls it and dignifies it with the name of a plan at all—it should be used as a way to discover how the British Government's ideas can help to complement and complete the tentative pattern for settlement being negotiated by the Rhodesian leaders in Rhodesia.

I am bound to say that my strong preference would be for the continuation of quiet diplomacy with the stated goal of achieving a settlement which the Rhodesians can claim that they thought of themselves. In a sentence, that is almost the whole art of diplomacy. However, I would repeat the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown. There has been no collusion between us but, for various reasons, I have arrived at the same kind of anxiety as he expressed, and therefore I hope that we can have this anxiety removed by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. Are the Government seeking to help Mr. Smith, Bishop Muzorewa, Mr. Chirau and Doctor Sithole to arrive at a settlement? Will they not themselves be inhibited by the need to please the front line Presidents or anybody else? In other words, if the settlement comes, and it has merit and is within the Five Principles—although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Garner, that some of them have now been diluted or disappeared—will the Government give that settlement their support and use it as a basis for independence for Rhodesia?

What is the real status of Britain in this affair, acknowledging that we have, of course, lost a lot of power? First, we must give advice stemming from our knowledge of the checks and balances involved in majority rule and minority rights. We have had great experience of this kind of exercise. But, more tangible—here I qualify in my own mind something said by the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown—is Britain's ability to place Rhodesia's independence on a basis of law. The noble Lord, Lord Garner, is quite right in saying that only the British Parliament can do that, and their decision will not be affected by the United Nations or by anybody else. It is the British Government's right to give this independence; and I do not discount this as a formality, because I believe that, despite the last 10 years, inside Rhodesia there is a strong desire among European and Africans to resume what I might call a productive contact with Britain. If that is there in Rhodesia, that feeling is certainly reciprocated here.

Legal independence is, I believe, an incentive to agree. I assume that Mr. Smith, having conceded majority rule, would like a rapid settlement. The indications of the kind of mechanism which he seems to be willing to accept for the protection of the European minority in Parliament point, I think, to the conclusion that the tactics of which the noble Lord, Lord Garner, hinted, "waiting for something better to turn up", are clearly over. In such circumstances, I think that it is permissible, now the great prize for the Africans, of majority rule, has been won, to suggest that the Africans can afford to be generous and can compromise on the number of seats for Europeans in the Parliament and the progress towards a common role. I do not know, and nobody but the Rhodesians can settle this, but the transfer to the latter in two Parliaments would seem to be reasonable against the prospect of a common role in perpetuity and majority rule in perpetuity too. As I say, no one can settle this except the Rhodesians, but there is a very real sense in which the future of Rhodesia hangs, not on cold statistics of this sort, but on racial co-operation, understanding and goodwill.

There is one area in which the concern and the interest of Rhodesian Africans, Rhodesian Europeans and the British coincide; it is in the physical security of the new State of Zimbabwe. If Rhodesia is to survive, its armed forces must have a tradition of loyalty to the State, approved discipline in the field, professional leadership and a high degree of skill in the use of modern weapons. I hope that that is understood. I expect that Mr. Smith understands it: he fought in a European war. But I wonder whether the African leaders understand it; they have had no war until now. But unless it is understood what ingredients the Rhodesian forces must contain, then the Rhodesians will be sent reeling by the impact of Russian power and Cuban mercenaries—of that there can be no doubt at all. There would then be no Smith, no Muzorewa, no multi-racial society, and the call of "freedom for Zimbabwe" would simply be a mocking cry.

The noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, spoke of the grand design of the Soviet Union. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, knows that I have been critical of the inertia of the Western allies for failing to halt Cuban intervention in Angola. I cannot understand now why the allies are not taking the Soviet Union to the Security Council on a charge of action leading to a breach of the peace. Veto is neither here nor there. I should like to see our Foreign Secretary get up in the Security Council and expose to the world—and especially to the Third World—the most cynical and cruel use of power that many of us have seen for a long time. The point is that the appetite grows with eating, and it is as certain as I am standing here that from Angola the Russians have graduated to a strategic position in which they can obtain control of the Red Sea and some control of the oil routes from the Gulf; nothing is more certain than that they will move South.

Therefore, I pray that this debate will help the Rhodesians to settle their own political affairs; that they will recognise the urgency of the situation and that within a reasonable time we, in this House, shall be able to endorse a settlement which is within the Five Principles, or such of them as remain, and which will place independence on a legal basis—a basis which the House of Commons can unanimously support and to which it can give its backing.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down perhaps I could ask him one small question. When, towards the end of his remarks, he referred to the Rhodesians, did he mean the white Rhodesians, the black Rhodesians or both?


My Lords, I hope that I have been talking all the time in the context of the African Rhodesians and the European Rhodesians jointly taking those decisions.

8.53 p.m.


My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, and I was particularly interested in what he had to say. I find myself in complete agreement with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Garner, and those made by my noble friend Lord Parry. We can all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, for initiating this debate because it is important to know and understand everything about the Anglo-American endeavours for a settlement in Rhodesia, and to understand the position in Rhodesia itself.

I am not quite sure about the rather snide word used by the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, when he asked what the Government's "attitude" was towards Rhodesia. He spoke of a great deal of confusion. I believe that he is a little confused himself. The Foreign Secretary, Dr. David Owen, was under attack in the other place on 8th February last when answering Questions put by the Opposition, but the superior tone affected by the speakers was not enhanced by their ignorance about the Malta talks. Although the noble Lord, Lord Garner, did not actually name the Malta talks, I believe that he was referring to the results achieved at the Malta talks.

Personally, I like the style of our Foreign Secretary. His replies in the other place were frank, forthright and factual. I wonder how many people have a clear idea of the political tapestry that makes up Rhodesia—the different Parties and what they stand for. I think precious few. So today I should like to send a Valentine to a member of the Press—namely, Colin Legum of the Sunday Observer. In last week's issue of the Sunday Observer he set out the results of the Malta talks, and he was the only member of the Press who did so. The noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, referred to the Press but it was obvious that the noble Lord has not read Colin Legum's article. Colin Legum is an expert on African affairs.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to interrupt her. I believe that this is one of the criticisms that we had and it relates to the remarks that the noble Baroness made about the Opposition in another place. The fact of the matter is that we had to read about the Malta talks in an article in the Observer which was extremely well written by Colin Legum. It would have been better if the Minister himself had given us the results of the talks in Parliament.


My Lords, with great respect to the noble Baroness, the talks were secret, but Colin Legum had a healthy disregard for diplomatic secrecy and wrote about the results. I applaud him. The Press are really our everyday communicators and researchers on the complex problems of Rhodesia in the long aftermath of decolonisation, which results in responsibility without power. As I say, the most lucid and comprehensive account on Rhodesia that I have read in the last few days has been an article by Colin Legum—an absolute expert on African affairs. In his article after the Malta talks there was no requiem for dead negotiations or a moaning about a drift into war. He analysed and assessed the outcome of the talks frankly, stating the hopes and strong difficulties that still remain before a peaceful settlement can be brought about.

We all know that terrible atrocities are being committed all over the world, and that includes ugly deeds in Rhodesia. But if we use the words "Marxism" and "guerrillas" only as expletives, how can we explain that they have gone so far in the battle of equal rights between black and white people in Rhodesia? The peevish pessimism about the Malta talks is a feeble weapon; it is realism that ultimately wins the day. That is why I have been impressed by this analysis of the possible outcome of the Malta talks.

I shall touch very briefly on a few of the points which give some hope for the future. First, the gap between the Patriotic Front lead by Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe is still very wide, but not so great as it was before the talks. Second, that all the parties are thus committed to free elections towards an independent Zimbabwe. Third, it came out of the Malta talks that the Patriotic Front is not ideologically committed to armed struggle to achieve its ends. Fourth, the central issue is how to arrange the transition period. Here lie most of the greater difficulties. The Patriotic Front—and I think that this is very important—has accepted a period of colonial rule under a British High Commissioner, Field-Marshal Lord Carver, during the interim period, and the Patriotic Front has agreed to a UN rôle. This is a terrific change for the transition period.

My Lords, many differences of view remain. One cannot blame the Patriotic Front for claiming that its armed struggle was the only reason why Mr. Smith agreed to the internal settlement talks—nor can one blame it for being rather difficult at the moment, because it wants a dominating position during the transition period. The Anglo-Americans are totally opposed to the Patriotic Front's guerrillas being the only force in the security forces. That too seems to me to be a very great advance.

One more point only I wish to mention, and I think it most important. Dr. Owen and Ambassador Andrew Young agreed at Malta to change their present attitude about Lord Carver's role so that he would not have dictatorial powers but would be assisted by an advisory govering council composed of all the people who are involved—Lord Carver, a UN representative, Mr. Smith's Rhodesian Front, Bishop Muzorewa's UANC, Mr. Nkomo, Mr. Sithole, and even Mr. Mugabe. These are some of the proposals emerging from the Malta talks, and I think they are profoundly important and hold out a good deal of hope.

Finally, my Lords, though I have shamelessly stolen and agreed with the analysis and arguments in the Observer article. I myself have known from my experience in the UN that groups like the Patriotic Front comprised of freedom fighters, guerrillas—call them what you will—cannot be left out of any settlement or agreement that is meaningful or strong enough to endure.

9.3 p.m.


My Lords, I am not an admirer of the way our policy in Rhodesia has worked out in practice in the past. If anyone had known that sanctions would prove so ineffective and go on so long, we should never have voted for them. I think that that is very regrettable. But I have not come here to make carping criticisms; I really want to make a positive contribution to the situation we have now, as many other speakers have done before me.

First, the situation has been very much changed by Mr. Smith starting these internal negotiations and accepting the principle of one man, one vote. I am coming to admire the courage, initiative and resource of Mr. Smith in doing this and in opening negotiations with the leaders of the main Parties in Rhodesia. A considerable number of our own countrymen here are beginning to feel the same because they have begun to take account of the real change in the situation. I suggest that this is something that a go-ahead and practical diplomacy on our part really ought to take account of.

The whole object of our policy has been to produce a one man, one vote situation in Rhodesia, and Mr. Smith is now trying to achieve exactly this. It would be quixotic and quite absurd for us to make things more difficult for him. We ought certainly, as the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, implied, to do the opposite to the best of our ability. This means that Ministers and Members of both Houses of Parliament, and also the media, must be prepared to move with the times and not keep on the old lines of carping criticism regardless of this new trend. Let us hear less talk of rebels for one thing. I think it always was pretty inappropriate in the case of Rhodesia.

It is vital that we should take no action which could possibly wreck the internal negotiations. These are our countrymen in Rhodesia. Their country will be no good without them. If things go seriously wrong, they are all going to be pushed out penniless from the land which they have developed and enriched, and a great many are liable to be murdered along with the Africans who have worked with them. I think Her Majesty's Government would be quite powerless to stop it. We cannot even properly control Northern Ireland on our own doorstep.

I hope that the Government will recognise that this would not—and I repeat, not—be a successful or creditable outcome of British policy over the last decade, even if some sort of nominal Zimbabwe eventuates from it. Indeed, I really think there would be a great revulsion of feeling here, and that abroad the United Kingdom would be brought into considerable discredit among the allies it has pressed, with such dubious success, to apply economic sanctions.

On every ground we must want these internal negotiations to succeed, and even when they succeed we really must try to stop the sanctions which have fatally damaged our trade and benefited that of France, Germany, Japan and others. I believe, but I admit I have no statistical proof, that sanctions have almost certainly harmed the African population more than the white population in Rhodesia, as the Africans have been deprived of a great deal of education and perhaps of some employment which they might otherwise have enjoyed. I therefore urge that we should all now adopt not a change of policy—I believe it is too late for that—but a new open-minded attitude about the internal negotiations and even about the continuing necessity for sanctions. What I advocate is a really new emphasis and one that moves with the rapidly changing times.

That brings me to Messrs. Nkomo and Mugabe. I have not had the advantage of meeting them, as some noble Lords have, and I am glad that our energetic and enterprising Secretary of State has been able to do so. Speaking with that reservation, but on the basis of a close study of Press and television programmes, I cannot share Mr. Andrew Young's sympathetic view of them. I think, rightly or wrongly, I hope wrongly, that they really have committed themselves to the Communist Powers who finance and arm their forces. It may well be that they can at present reasonably hope to bring down any Government in Salisbury resulting from an internal settlement, and I quite understand the Government's argument on that; but that is the case partly because hitherto the Government in Salisbury have been on the wrong leg with the outside world and with a considerable part at least of their own African population. If that position were altered by an internal settlement and by the dropping of sanctions, might not the security situation be altered? At least I think that would merit further careful consideration.

I have another reason for being chary about Messrs. Nkomo and Mugabe. The Communists aim everywhere to remove and supplant Anglo-Saxon and Western European influence. They have done so in one country after another; this is not really a matter of controversy. In my view, we have made it much too easy for them by making agreements which they proceed to disregard. I am thinking of Yalta, of Poland, a most distressing and shocking case if ever there was one. I am thinking of Hungary, where I likewise lived through a Communist revolution. I am thinking of Vietnam, where we and the Russians together fathered at Geneva a partition-type settlement which the Communists, with Soviet help, flagrantly disregarded.

The conditions in Aden, Ethiopia, Maputo, Angola and in other countries do not lead me to believe that we can reasonably press Mr. Smith or Bishop Muzorewa to let Messrs. Nkomo and Mugabe join the new régime with their guerrillas, unless perhaps they get a lot of support at the polls; that might put a new aspect on it. I feel that, at best, it would be another Yalta, another Geneva Agreement; we should see our friends sold down the river and we should fatally undermine the very democracy we hope to see established in Rhodesia. At worst, all the opposing leaders and many other people would be murdered or imprisoned without trial, as we have seen in other countries.

These are hard things to say, but it is essential to face facts. One must always try to settle disagreements with the Communists and I myself have tried for years as hard as anyone to do just that; but in my experience the Communists will keep an agreement only if one can make them do so or if it is very strongly in their interests. I do not think that would be the case in Rhodesia, and at any rate, so far as our own powers are concerned, I am sure we should be in no position to compel them.

For that reason, I earnestly hope that we will not accept such a responsibility, certainly not too much responsibility, although I realise that this is a part of the Anglo-American plan, because I do not think we could do so nearly as effectively as Mr. Smith and the others with an internal settlement behind them. And if it all went wrong under our auspices and many of our countrymen and African friends in Rhodesia were murdered or imprisoned, as has happened in Aden and various other places, it would be an undying disgrace for our country. That is another overwhelming reason why we should try to promote and in no way hinder a good internal settlement which should become part of any general settlement which we try to achieve about Rhodesia.

I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord George-Brown that we should not look at Rhodesia in isolation. It is time to recognise that wherever we allow European influence to be weakened and a Power vacuum to be created, the Russians move their pawns in followed by their castles, their knights and other chessboard characters. The Russians are superb chess players. If chaos in Rhodesia is followed by chaos in South Africa, will the Soviet Fleet not eventually appear at Simonstown, which we so unwisely got out of, as it has at Aden, in the Red Sea and in the Indian Ocean?

Yet without the oil that comes round the Cape of Good Hope, neither the American nor the Western European economies can be kept going; nor can their Armed Forces be kept in the field or at sea for a long time. Do not forget that oil was Germany's achilles' heel in the last war, and it might very well be the achilles' heel of NATO in the next one. Might the Russians, in certain circumstances, be tempted to say, "Checkmate"? I do not know what else their vast fleets and overseas bases, their enormous army, air force and nuclear capability are intended for unless it is something like this. I made a carefully documented speech about this on 10th November in your Lordships' House.

To conclude, I urge that it is high time to be a great deal more open-minded about the position of the Europeans in Rhodesia and Southern Africa. I am all for human rights. I entirely share the views on human rights of the noble Baroness who has just spoken, but let us not press the point to the degree where those hostile to our vital interests are assisted to take power, especially as the first thing they do when they get power anywhere is to abolish truth, mercy and justice and themselves disregard human rights.

I am very sorry; I am recovering from a serious operation and am under medical orders. I shall not be able to stay until the end of this debate as it has not taken place at the time that everyone expected. I hope your Lordships will not impute it to me as discourtesy. I shall read every word that is said with the closest attention. I offer your Lordships my apologies.

9.16 p.m.


My Lords, I shall stick strictly to five minutes because like the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, I, too, have to make an apology to your Lordships. It is not that I have had an operation, but I had no idea that this debate would last so long and I have to catch a train to the country. So I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy- Roberts, will excuse me; but I shall read carefully everything that he has said. I was extremely interested to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, and I agree with everything that he said, particularly regarding the Soviet grand design in Africa. I have spoken about this over many years in your Lordships' House. When I first brought it up I think people thought I was mad; but I can remember speaking in this House about the dangers in the Horn of Africa which would arise one day, and that was about 16 years ago. However, of course that is all beside the point.

If we look at this matter very quickly—and I have spoken on it, I do not know how many times; 50, 60 or 70 times; I spoke in the last debate we had here and in the debate before that—we have only two alternatives. We have the alternative of supporting the internal discussions which are now going on in Rhodesia. Those discussions will, I hope, lead to an agreement, and then, of course, there will have to be a transition period—and the shorter the better—out of which will come a new constitution. We shall have to be very tactful during the transition period. It will be a very delicate matter. I understand that, under the Anglo-American plan, United Nations observers would play a superintending rôle. I think that that would be a mistake. By all means have observers, but I do not think that we want to be—in fact, I do not think we can afford to be—too arrogant and to superintend, which is the role which the Anglo-American proposals would appear to lay down.

What are the risks of accepting an internal agreement? The risks are, of course, that the guerrilla war will go on for a bit longer, but it will gradually peter out, as I said in the last debate. Once there is majority rule in Rhodesia, the war is bound to run down. Russia is bound to block the raising of sanctions, but, in the end, she will have to give way over that. Of course, the other alternative is a solution by force. Up to date, certainly, it would appear that Dr. Owen has rather backed that solution, but, if that was to be the policy of the Foreign Office and were the guerrilla forces of Nkomo and Mugabe, backed by the Soviets and with the connivance of the United Kingdom and the USA, to take over Rhodesia or attempt to take it over, there is no knowing where matters would end. It would probably start the most bloody war and it would not be as easy—a walkover with Russian tanks and Cuban troops—as some people may think. Eventually, South Africa would be bound to be drawn in. I think it is fairly common knowledge that South Africa has the atomic bomb, so we do not know where it would end. Her Majesty's Government must shy away from a solution by force. Supposing the guerrillas eventually won, we should never get a stable Government; the guerrillas would have to be destroyed, as has happened throughout history before stable government.

All I have to ask in the very short time available is that Her Majesty's Government should give some encouragement to the negotiations in Salisbury. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, who mentioned that the Government appear to be in conflict, to be favouring one side, the Nkomo and Mugabe side. This should not be a matter of Party politics; it is far too serious. It appals me that Party politics are brought into it. As I think the noble Lord also said, it is a great pity that Her Majesty's Government have not used their influence to get Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe to join in the negotiations in Salisbury. I do not want to be disrespectful to Mr. Nkomo, but, if you study his career, you must regard him as a considerable opportunist. He appears to have favoured all sides. A short time ago, he was dealing with Lonrho and with Mr. Rowland, and I should think that would hardly have endeared him to the Socialist Party, but, if the Government had put pressure on Mr. Nkomo or had advised him, he would no doubt have joined the negotiations in Salisbury.

I think the fact that many Africans in Rhodesia look around and see what is happening in Mozambique, Zambia and Angola and they say to themselves, "We do not want it to happen here" has been overlooked. Any question of a guerrilla take-over appals the average African. We must also remember that, for a considerable time—certainly over the last decade—the Rhodesian Government have been training Africans to take over the country. They have done a very good job. There are some very highly trained Africans in Rhodesia who would make good Ministers and fill responsible posts. In fact there are I believe already one or two African Ministers.

Finally, I should just like to repeat what the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, said, about a bridgehead. Though we are no longer a colonial power we must try to form bridgeheads, and use the vast experience in colonial matters that we have built up through our former colonies. In fact, Rhodesia never was a colony and we have responsibility only for her foreign affairs and defence. I shall end by asking Her Majesty's Government to show some real support for the efforts in Salisbury to achieve an internal agreement and a settlement. I ask them to put their emphasis on that and to leave aside any personal prejudice regarding Mr. Smith and any of the other members of the government in Salisbury. My Lords, this is far too important; it is a constitutional issue of vast importance. Do forget all the personal prejudices!

9.26 p.m.

The Earl of LYTTON

My Lords, I like following the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, whether it is in the matter of the spoken or the written word. In fact, as an admirer of his written works, I am now under suspicion in the Library for having purloined his book on the Lords (which is out of print) and not having returned it. I repudiate the charge; but I am getting old and my memory is poor. I may come cap in hand for a spare copy to replace it.

I have taken part in the last two of these debates, and presently I will mention that the only outward evidence of any impact that I had was a letter from an African representing those who claim to represent 75 per cent. of the people of Rhodesia. The impact on him led him to ask for my views—which I gave—and I shall come back presently to say what they were.

I should like to begin by saying that the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, has robbed me of everything that I could have said. I regard him as the Colossus of the two debates that we have had recently on the subject. All that I wish to do is to underline one or two points. I thought that he made a considerable impact on the Government Front Bench, particularly on the noble Lord the Leader of the House.

My Lords, it is my function in life to judge people by looking at them and by reading what they say. I read every day what the BBC monitors of all the people with power in the Middle East and Africa, which is my pitch. I no longer wander about very much; but all the things that were quoted by the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, I have heard before: the Foreign Secretary's remarks in Moscow and the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Carver, in Maputo. There are others, too: the remarks of Mr. Andrew Young in the United States on the subject of Marxism and the remarks of President Carter on the subject of Mr. Andrew Young. These are the only ways in which, nowadays, as a recluse in the country, I keep in touch with the world. But sometimes people write; and in my reply to the comments of this African who is struggling for an internal agreement, I warmly supported what he had said, that they were anxious for an internal settlement. Everything that he said implied that one imposed by the Anglo-US plan was not to their liking.

Moreover, I have studied Mr. Mugabe's broadcasts from Maputo and those made on his behalf. I have no doubt in giving this advice to the people who are seeking an internal settlement in Rhodesia: Have no truck with Mugabe. In no circumstance dilute your security forces with the terrorists under his command. That will be your ruin. It is you black men who will suffer. You will be on the blacklist, your bodies will be found on the municipal dump. It is not the white men; they will all presently escape and find their way out. It is you black men who are educated who, in a revolutionary Marxist context, will go.

I say it because I have experienced it in the Balkans at the end of the last war. It is a horrifying thing to see the shutters go up and the Marxists come. That is what is going to happen if these people are let in. I dislike the way in which these concessions to force are made. I entirely agree with the expressions used by the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, on this matter. I felt that he was trying to make out that he was not accusing members of his former Party in this matter, but endeavouring to show that by one circumstance or another they had slid into that position. That is what I think has happened. If I can suggest anything of any use, it is that Mr. Andrew Young is a very weak link. He knows nothing of Africa and nothing of Marxism, either. He is extremely tolerant to Marxism for that very reason. He has not seen the bloody thing it is on the ground.

Perhaps I deviate a little from the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, who knows so much more about the subject than I do. He says he does not count for much in the councils of Washington. But I have heard President Carter commend him in the highest terms. President Carter is an admirable man, our friend and our shield. We cannot afford to be rude to anybody whom he chooses to be his general in the field or his representative.

All I can suggest is that if the Government agree with anything that the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, has said—and they will agree to it because he said it, not because I did—a joint withdrawal from this rather difficult position of making the Anglo-US agreement an obstacle, or perhaps a lower profile on the part of both the Foreign Secretary and Mr. Andrew Young might be possible. My Lords, I think that the same tone of debate as last time has persisted. Everybody seeks an internal agreement, and it does not seem to be very far away.

9.34 p.m.


My Lords, Rhodesia offers Her Majesty's Government a crucial opportunity to influence the course of events in Africa. Of the various areas of vital important to the West capable of being brought under Communist influence, the Russians now regard Africa as politically the most vulnerable, and minerally and strategically the most valuable. Rhodesia remains a British responsibility as we are frequently reminded, not least in the United Nations. If our discharge of that responsibility appears lamentable, it is in part due to our trying to act without the power that we abandoned at the time of UDI. Instead of conducting affairs from Salisbury, we try to do it from HMS "Tiger", HMS "Fearless" or Malta. The Anglo-American suppository for guerrilla aspirations prescribed by Dr. Own is no cure for an opportunist inflammation of the Rhodesian anatomy. It is no remedy for Rhodesia, for the Russians are on the move, stalking jungle and scrub with the Caribbean carabiniers provided by that other medicine man turned politician, Dr. Castro.

What we are seeing is worse than Munich at the time of Hitler. Mr. Callaghan cannot dismiss the Rhodesians as a "far-off people of whom we know nothing", as Mr. Chamberlain dismissed Czechoslovakia in 1938, but his Foreign Secretary is offering "peace in our time". We will appease the Patriotic Front, whose legitimacy has received scant recognition even among black Rhodesians. The man who is holding the pass is Ian Smith, a former Battle of Britain fighter pilot, to whom much is owed by many, of whom too few have the courage openly to say so. Ostracised and blockaded by the world, his enemies encouraged by the Government of the Sovereign to whom he continues to owe allegiance, Ian Smith and his tiny, highly efficient security forces are fighting a war of infiltration on three frontiers as well as in their own backyard.

Undermined by those to whom one might have thought he could have looked for help, Smith is also fighting for time to achieve an internal solution to the immense problem of making a stable transition to majority rule in a community traditionally dominated and brought to prosperity by a numerically far from insignificant minority. If our Foreign Secretary would take his stethoscope to the hearts of the British people, and indeed of the Western nations, he would find them beating overwhelmingly for "Smith".

I referred to the opportunities we have to influence events. Instead of helping the guerrillas to drag him down, Her Majesty's Government should hold out a hand and grant him and his Ministers an amnesty. This would be on the understanding that British rule would be restored in Salisbury. Responsibility for Rhodesia's defence and foreign affairs would be assumed here, pending an internally acceptable restructuring of that internal independence Rhodesia legitimately enjoyed before UDI.

If we can forgive and make up with other rebel leaders with whom we have been faced in the course of our Imperial rule—from President Kenyatta, "the Burning spear of Mau-Mau", to the Irgun gunman, Mr. Begin, from Pandit Nehru to Archbishop Makarios—we ought to be able to make it up with Ian Smith, who has never hurt a hair on our heads, though he may have punctured our self-esteem.

The purpose of helping, instead of thwarting, him would be not to prop up an unwanted dictator but to hold the ring while a constitution was established. Once that was working properly we could, on the analogy of our relinquishment of colonial rule elsewhere, finally grant full independence—this time with stability. Those of Mr. Mugabe's and Mr. Nkomo's misled followers who wished to return peaceably to their homes in Rhodesia could, after due screening, do so. The effect of such a reconciliation between London and Salisbury would be far-reaching. We would have allied ourselves with a gallant redoubt against Cubo-Communism, instead of associating ourselves with attempts to reduce it. We would have helped to foster the most successful example of black and white collaboration in the world.

The Salisbury Government has shown it is perfectly possible for a quarter of a million whites to survive and prosper among Africans, even in the teeth of world hostility and without the help of friends on whom it ought to be able to count. The lifting of trade embargoes, and therefore the reinforcement instead of the destruction of this phenomenon, would have beneficial effects beyond Rhodesia's borders. It would be an example and an inspiration to the increasingly Laager-like mentality of the South African Government and so serve to speed up overdue reforms in that country. It could provide a formula for the return to Mozambique and Angola of many of the 100,000 Portuguese civilians now refugees in Portugal who, until ditched by the revolutionary Marxist Government then in power in Lisbon, were making a major economic success of these two countries now miserably impoverished. It could help to extend stability to the shores of Lake Nyasa and help to keep the Russians from dominating three-quarters of East Africa.

By showing that whites and blacks can not only work but live successfully together, more would be done for relations with coloured immigrants in the United Kingdom than the Race Relations Board seems capable of. Above all, Southern Africa could thus be helped to become politically and economically viable, instead of appearing, as it does now, a region of doom. It would make that part of the African Continent a place in which it would be enjoyable to live and work. It would be a place with which the British people could identify, and in which they could take pride.

By their steadfastness and resolution, the Salisbury Government and people of Rhodesia have set an example which I hope Her Majesty's Government can bring themselves to recognise. It is impossible to see the policy currently being pursued by them commanding anybody's respect, be they friend or foe. If Ian Smith and the Rhodesian leaders, with whom he is now seeking an internal settlement, succeed, we shall be left having backed the wrong horse. If they fail and Rhodesia is engulfed by guerrillas, we shall have betrayed not another Czechoslovakia which would be bad enough, as it was then, but a quarter of a million of our own flesh and blood. The Russian bear would be the bulgier and the Western Powers the weaker. What I am suggesting would avoid such ignominy, such a disaster. It would raise British standing and fortunes in Africa as nothing else could, and would command overwhelming support in Britain and the West.

9.41 p.m.


My Lords, on 2nd February, when I repeated a Statement which my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary had made in another place, a number of noble Lords responded with expressions of concern about our approach to a Rhodesian settlement, which looked to them as being too rigid. This concern has been apparent in the speeches of noble Lords this afternoon, and eloquently and effectively put forward by my noble friend Lord George-Brown. I wish, therefore, to recall the principles upon which the Anglo-American settlement proposals are based, and to relate these to the present state of our negotiations and discussions with the parties, and of the talks currently in progress in Salisbury.

Our fundamental principle is that independence must involve a genuine transfer of power to a Government representing the majority of the people of Rhodesia, following free and fair elections on the basis of universal adult suffrage. These elections should be open to all parties, and be held under conditions which ensure that the outcome truly reflects the will of the majority. Only so can they help to establish the internal legitimacy, the international acceptability and, indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, reminded us, the legality of the new State in an independent condition.

The Anglo-US proposals incorporate the essence of the Six Principles. I would put it to my noble friend Lord George-Brown that the Six Principles remain firmly the basis of our policy, and that the White Paper and the clarificatory notes to which he referred, and on which I will have a little to say in a moment, are working documents to show how those Six Principles can be put into effect. There is no dichotomy, there is no paradox at all, between the Six Principles variously expressed in a long series of Government statements and documents, and in the White Paper Cmnd. 6919; that is, the Anglo-US proposals. Those proposals seek to marry the principles with reality, as that reality develops.

We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Garner, how there has been a perceptible shift of position in almost every party to these negotiations, and this is true. There has been no shift in principle but there has been a shift in circumstance, and the talks which were held in Malta were the continuation of talks which had been held with other interested parties, as the noble Lord pointed out. They helped to round off what is essential in this situation; namely, talking to everybody so that, in the event, everybody, we hope, will be involved in a durable and equitable solution.

They involve the laying down of an administrative and military framework within which a peaceful transition to majority rule and independence can be achieved. These concrete proposals—covering the transitional period, the independence Constitution and the rôle of the United Nations, to which the noble Baroness referred, including the composition and purpose of what we may call a United Nations-Zimbabwe Force—have been elaborated without departing in the slightest from the basic principles, and they have been refined, even since the publication on 1st September of Cmnd. 6919, in the light of our further consultations with the parties and, indeed, with our friends and allies. The principles remain. The negotiations move on. That is a fundamental fact of diplomacy that perhaps more than anybody my noble friend would appreciate.

Her Majesty's Government have been accused also of according too much attention to the claims of the Patriotic Front. The recent meeting at Malta has been held up as evidence supporting this charge, but I hope I have shown that unless those talks had been held in Malta—and there may be others—then the full round of consultations with everybody concerned would have been imperfect. These talks were our first opportunity for serious and detailed discussion with the Patriotic Front and were therefore nothing more and nothing less than a continuation of consultations which were held last year with other parties in Africa. My noble friend Lady Gaitskell brought out this point very clearly when she referred to the Malta talks as having had important and helpful results. This is the position. We did not emerge from that sector of the talks with a ready made agreement, but we did come away from those talks with a firm belief that many points of difference between us and the Patriotic Front had been solved and that a far greater mutual understanding of each other's attitudes had been attained.

As to the rôle of the Patriotic Front in these negotiations, I should like to refer to the very powerful speech of my noble friend Lord Parry who faced this question head on. It is not a fact; it is not true that we have elevated the Patriotic Front over and above any other element or Party in these negotiations. Nor is it a fact, as my noble friend Lord Parry pointed out with telling quotation, that somehow we have been elevating force as a token of respectability and entitlement in these negotiations. It is quite the other way. The whole purpose of these talks and negotiations and the whole purpose of the scheme is to avoid bringing about in Rhodesia a solution by force.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question on this point? The noble Lord, whose attitude is very impressive, is not meeting the main point which was made by the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown. As I understand it, the point which the noble Lord made was that whether or not these things are being done, the impression has been given that they are helping those groups in that way. Does the noble Lord, on behalf of the Government, recognise—whether it is just or unjust that the impression should be there—that the impression does exist, and is anything being done to remove it?


My Lords, all this has been done to remove impressions, but if impressions are concocted nobody can remove them. Here I would pay a tribute to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn; he made a speech which I thought was helpful, constructive and utterly fair. If there are impressions, genuinely false impressions, and some sedulously spread abroad, then the responsibility for playing fast and loose with the facts rests not with the British Government but elsewhere. The attitude of the British Government, the attitude of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has been crystal clear from the start. If my noble friend, as I am allowed to call him, wishes an assurance from me that we certainly would not wish any impression other than the one I have described from this Box today to go abroad, he has it.

The purpose of our policy has been, as I stated at the beginning, to bring Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, into sovereign independence, hopefully within the Commonwealth, certainly within the Commonwealth on the basis that the noble Lord, Lord Home, described, the reconciliation not only of peoples within Rhodesia but between Rhodesia and ourselves. In both countries the great mass of the people and their leaders want to see a re-creation of the relationship that used to be so fruitful and so hopeful. Most of us have kin in Rhodesia; I have, and I know that the feeling the noble Lord described is a very real one there, as it is in this country.

I go on to one or two other remarks about these consultations. I come to Lord George-Brown's point about documents. I take the point he has made. He will equally take the point I am going to make now. Following these consultations, we have circulated to the parties working documents containing revised proposals for the peaceful transition, including the proposed governing council, and our own preliminary thoughts on the rôle of the proposed UN Zimbabwe force—which, of course, is ultimately a matter for the UN and not ourselves to determine—and our detailed ideas of an independence Constitution. That is, I suggest, a forthcoming description of what by mutual consent need to be, at least for the moment, private working papers. We have circulated them. The second query that the noble Lord put to me was, what about the circulation? Well, we based this on the membership of the Geneva Conference, and in that sense Chief Chirau is not a direct recipient of copies of these documents. But Mr. Smith, of course, is entitled to make what use he might wish of these documents, and indeed he already has been doing precisely that.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene for one moment. Would he not accept now that the Geneva Conference is finished and has gone into history; that the Government should look at this in a new light and include all those who are negotiating with Mr. Smith in Salisbury, and include Chief Chirau in any further distribution? Would it not be a matter of courtesy on the part of the British Government not to exclude him?


My Lords, it is a matter of judgment and of arrangement who you include in a distribution of this sort. I am not disposed at the moment to argue specifically about one or other. There are others. I think I said at the time somewhere—not here—that there are white Rhodesians not necessarily represented in Mr. Smith's movement or Government. We all have pleas for inclusion in these matters, and if and when the noble Baroness is engaged in arranging these matters, she will find it is not all that easy to draw up the right list. I do not think that the noble Baroness feels that they are fundamental to the success of these negotiations.

I should like to point out one further characteristic of the Malta talks. They showed that, while we are ready to give close consideration to the views of the Patriotic Front and to accommodate them where this is possible within the framework of our proposals, we are, as I have said, rock firm on the essential principles. We have rejected any claim to exclusive representation in the transitional government for the Patriotic Front. That is the litmus test. Any undue favour shown to the Patriotic Front would meet them on that point, because that is their central demand at present. I hope that it will cease to be, because that would compromise the principle of fairness to all parties—not simply to Chief Chirau, but to others already in the negotiations.

Our aim at the next meeting with the leaders of the Front—if it comes about—must be to persuade them to accept that they are one element in a number or in a composition of elements on the basis of which an equitable and durable settlement must be based. It is for that reason, among others, that we must reserve our position on the Salisbury talks to the extent that the intention appears to be in practice to negotiate and implement a settlement which does not include all the elements of Black Rhodesia.

I was asked by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel—I took a note of his words and if I may say so it is never necessary to note the noble Lord's words in order to correct him but only in order to correct oneself—whether, if a settlement arrives, and it has merits, Her Majesty's Government will give that settlement their support. I think that the noble Lord himself gave the answer when he spoke of how Her Majesty's Government's plans (Cmnd. 6919) can complement and complete any internal plan.

I shall go a little further and say that it all turns on merit or, as the Prime Minister said the other day, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The merits of any so-called settlement which may emanate from one direction or another must really be tested in two ways. First, it must be tested against Rhodesian acceptability and African acceptability. One noble Lord mentioned that those involved in the Salisbury discussions represent 75 per cent. of the Rhodesian population. That may well be, but there is the other 25 per cent. and there are also a number of Rhodesians who do not live or work within Rhodesia but are outside the country. There are a number of countries which have the best vested interest in a stable and peaceful Rhodesia. They lie all round Rhodesia and they are Black African States. Moreover, as some of us know, they are as keen as any one of us on a peaceful, orderly and durable solution for the Rhodesian problem. I shall not name them.

The front-line Presidents are very much in the front-line. Their interest is in a solution and not in a Congo solution. They want a British solution, an Anglo-British solution if one wants to describe it in that way. They want a solution which is based on pulling everybody in, and on talking to everybody. That solution must in the first place be acceptable to Rhodesians and Southern Africa and—and may I add this as a bonus?—it must be acceptable and helped on by South Africa. I am glad to be able to say that the interest of the Republic of South Africa lies precisely in the kind of solution that I have described—and that we should welcome. Before now, Mr. Vorster has signally helped to get people to be less rigid and to discuss matters in a constructive way. I have absolutely no doubt that he and his Government will do so in the future. They have a vested interest in that kind of solution.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord. If the internal settlement comes up with a solution which fits in with the most important of the Six Principles, which is that it is acceptable to the Rhodesian people as a whole, and the Patriotic Front rejects it, what happens then? Everyone will agree that my surmise is just as hypothetical as the noble Lord's.


My Lords, the noble Earl is very able at putting forward these hypotheses with which I do not claim to be able to cope for a moment. After all, a radical Whig is always far more difficult to handle than a modern Tory. As the person who introduced me to that excellent biography of Talleyrand, I always approach him with a mixture of awe and admiration. It comes to this. If there is merit in whatever emanates from whatever source, then that carries with it the antibiotic which will put paid to the persisting pretensions of the extremists.

That takes me to the second test, the first being the test of acceptability to Africans. The second test is that of acceptability to the international community. It is no good saying that people should not interfere. With one breath we are told "Leave it to the Rhodesians. Do not let anyone else intervene"; in another breath we are reminded of the Horn of Africa. In one breath we are told that we must look at Rhodesia in the light of what is happening in the Horn of Africa, but then we are told that we must not look at it in the light of what may be happening among the front-line States. We must be consistent about this. So acceptability is the second test. After all, for this to stick it must be generally accepted, not only in Africa but in the United Nations, because very probably the United Nations will have a major part to play in making the transition stable and peaceful.

That brings me to the quotation—which I have been unable to identify—from Mr. Andrew Young—not that I am responsible for everything that every American everywhere says, any more than he is responsible for what I say. This was very skilfully done by my noble friend, the suggestion being that Mr. Young thought that nothing could be done unless it pleased the East. I should like to look at the full context of what he said. I am absolutely certain that the Anglo-American proposal means that it must be acceptable to East, West, North and South. If that includes the East, so be it. But as for East, West, North or South having a veto—no. That is what makes it so difficult.

In the past, the imperia settled difficult questions by imposing their own veto. That is how it will be done at the end of the day. It cannot be done that way today. You simply must carry a variety of people and interests with you. During the past 10 or 11 years at least three times we have been within an ace, as we thought, of settling this problem—very close indeed under the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Home, and at least twice when my noble friend was Foreign Secretary and Sir Harold Wilson was Prime Minister—but at the end of the day one element or other pulled out, and in pulling out pulled down the whole edifice. I shall not today, when we are hoping for a solution, identify the hand that pulled the plug on all three occasions. I think, partisanship apart, everybody will agree that at least on three occasions one hand wrecked perfectly feasible, perfectly reasonable, very hopeful possibilities of solution.

I can well understand the widespread desire in Parliament and in the country, after all these years, to find a quick solution to the Rhodesia problem. The endorsement of Mr. Smith's negotiations would appear, on the face of it, to offer an immediate opportunity to do so. We shall certainly not do anything to discourage, hinder or frustrate the efforts now being made in Salisbury. I have said so from this Box, and my right honourable friend has said so in another place beyond all misunderstanding. We shall seek to complement whatever proposals come from Salisbury, or anywhere else, by our own efforts; always remembering what I said at the beginning, that the principles remain, and that our White Paper is an executive document aimed at offering a best way of implementing those principles.

Finally, I think we are all agreed as to how complex the situation is. Few would say today that the solution is simple. There have been criticisms of the Government's handling of this matter. I think they are unfounded. Governments must continue, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said, despite the immense complexities and difficulties of this problem—and my noble friend knows them as well as anybody. Despite that, we must carry on. We must seek, through negotiation, information, exchange of ideas, opinions, examining views, and indeed prejudices—not all the prejudices are on one side—so that we may hope to create a solution of sense and stability.

My right honourable friend expressed last week the hope that this might be done without resort to force. In saying so he, as always, revealed his thoughts, and he said that he sometimes thought that it might not be so. Who has not had that thought? He expressed it, but that does not mean for a minute that he, or any one of us, feels that force is the solution. Exactly the contrary. Having listened to a debate of very high standard, if I may say so without presumption—and I think my noble friends who have been here all the time and have listened would agree with me—and a debate to which noble Lords and noble Baronesses of great distinction and experience have contributed (beginning with the noble Lord who put the Question in a speech of extraordinary ability, as always, my noble friend Lord George-Brown) I would hope that the message from this House to Rhodesia, to Zimbabwe, would be a united one.

We wish to see, and we would all continue to work to see, a solution which is not based on force but which is based on agreement between black and white within Rhodesia and throughout Central and Southern Africa. We wish to see a transition which is peaceful and based on the will of the people, of all colours, creeds and backgrounds, to free and fair elections, supervised it may be by the world authority. We wish to see, speaking from Britain, a Rhodesia that enters its next phase as a sovereign, independent African country in which all its people can take part with pride and efficiency, a country which will resume its warm and rewarding special relationship with the United Kingdom.