HL Deb 04 July 1978 vol 394 cc834-8

2.41 p.m.


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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made with the Anglo-American plan for Rhodesia.


My Lords, Mr. Graham and Ambassador Low are continuing their consultations in Africa. Our goal remains early round table talks involving all the parties. There is increasing recognition among them of the need for such talks.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that Answer, may I ask whether he would accept that some of us, including prominent white leaders in Kenya, have been warning those who rebelled against the Crown and the authority of this Parliament of the dangers which now have arisen, unhappily, in that country for both black and white British citizens? Would he further agree that to support the shaky internal settlement and remove sanctions at this stage could only intensify the dangers and violence in that country and involve Britain in a Vietnam-like situation? Would he convey to his right honourable friend the support of many of us with long experience in Rhodesia, or Zimbabwe, and say that we admire his patience and courage in pursuing the Anglo-American plan, which alone can help to solve the problems of that country.


Naturally, my Lords, I agree with my noble friend that there are dire dangers for all concerned—not only those in Zimbabwe—from a continuation of a situation of escalating conflict and bloodshed. Secondly, the internal settlement to which he refers is seriously deficient; there is no lack of people in Zimbabwe itself and in Salisbury who agree on that point. Finally, I shall certainly convey to my right honourable friend the support of my noble friend for his policies and procedures.


My Lords, does the Minister agree that the support for the internal settlement in Africa must vary in relation to, or as a ratio of, the extent to which it is seen in the country that support is being given by external sources —such as Russia, Britain, the United States—to external elements? Does he also agree that this is associated with the fact that inevitably, as the African element will feel that they want to be on the winning side, they will support moves from one side of the balance to the other? Furthermore, would he care to make any comment on the view that the working of the "double-headed" departmental Ministers is effective, as I learn from latest information that black and white Ministers associate on the same platforms in making speeches throughout the country?


My Lords, the external influence on the internal progress of agreement and cooperation in Zimbabwe is very important indeed. I would add to the list of external influences which the noble Lord mentioned the Organisation of African Unity and the Front-Line Presidents. I am sure that he would not disagree that the list of external influences would be somewhat incomplete without those additions. As to the progress of the internal agreement, whatever its motivation and purpose, unfortunately it has not so far yielded results which have consolidated opinion in Rhodesia to the extent that a ceasefire is any nearer than it was before the agreement was concluded. One wishes that it were otherwise. Indeed, to the extent that the internal agreement approximates to the Anglo-American proposals it will become more attractive to the external influences which the noble Lord mentioned, as well as to the international community.


My Lords, to revert to my noble friend's original Question, I should like to ask the Minister whether he agrees that the simple answer is that there has been no progress with the Anglo-American plan, and that there will not be any progress with it; but that the only plan in existence is the internal settlement? Furthermore, does he agree that the alternative policy is support of the massacre of soft targets, which is what we have in fact been doing by flattering the so-called Popular Front?


My Lords, my noble friend is not deficient in articulation, but he may be slightly deficient in hearing. I should like to repeat the original Answer I gave. Mr. Graham and Ambassador Low are continuing their consultations in Africa. I went on to say that there is increasing recognition among them—that is, the parties in Africa—of the need for round table talks.


My Lords, can the Minister say whether Mr. Graham and Ambassador Low were able on their visit to take evidence as to the degree of support which the internal agreement has received? Has the Minister noted that only yesterday Mr. Chinamano, representing the Patriotic Front, urged that there should be all-Party talks to prevent a more horrible war? Is there not increasing support for this view both inside and outside Rhodesia?


My Lords, of course it is a fact that the Patriotic Front indicated at Dar es Salaam in April its readiness to attend round table talks. It is equally a fact that Mr. Smith and his confreres have indicated that they, too, would attend such talks if they saw some prospect (as they say) of their being successful. It is precisely on that somewhat hopeful basis that Ambassador Low and Mr. John Graham are now working. We think that there is evidence of movement—small, but perceptible—and we must all hope that this movement is accentuated, with the result that we shall get an all-Party round table conference which will agree on the essentials of proceeding to independence on the basis of a ceasefire and a neutrally-controlled transitional arrangement.


My Lords, may I finally ask my noble friend to convey to the appropriate channels that there is some desire that this House should debate this most important and responsible issue before we rise for the Recess?


My Lords, it would seem to me, and possibly to your Lordships, that this matter is being debated almost every day to one extent or another. I would say that, if there was a request through the normal channels for such a debate, we should not resist it. However, in this House we are able to look perhaps more frequently than the other place at matters of continuing concern in this way, and no doubt noble Lords will consider carefully before they decide that a time is ripe in the near future for a full-dress debate.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, would the noble Lord say what happened—


My Lords, with the horrible example of last night, when we rose after 12.30, noble Lords would perhaps like me to remind them that we have 33 speakers today. I am in the hands of the House, but I think we have had quite a good run on this Question.