HL Deb 15 November 1978 vol 396 cc709-12

2.45 p.m.


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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in addition to the sophisticated weapons being supplied to Zambia, British instructors are also being provided; and what limitations, if any, have been imposed on the use of such weapons over or towards British territory.


My Lords, as I said in my Statement of 2nd November, no British personnel or aircraft will be stationed in Zambia; any necessary military training for the Zambians will take place in this country. The Zambian Government have given us firm assurances that the equipment will be used only for the defence of Zambia, that it will not be passed to any third party, and that the air defence equipment will safeguard the integrity of the capital.


My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reassuring reply. In view of the generous grant of hardware to Zambia, would it not have been a good opportunity for the British Government to urge upon the Government of Zambia that they should eliminate from their territory alien terrorists who are at present operating over their borders?


My Lords, I think I can assure the noble Lord and the House generally that that objective is well understood in Zambia as a result of our friendly representations to them, and to others, over the past months, if not years. I do not think that action by Zambia is an option for them until there is a political settlement of the Rhodesia problem. It is against the background of the peculiar difficulties which beset Zambia and its people that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister met the President and came to the agreements that I have described.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, in view of the provision of arms to Zambia, for reasons which the Minister explained in this House on 2nd November, could the Minister say what measures the Government are taking to protect British citizens in Zambia from threats and attack on their lives and property?


Yes, my Lords. We are greatly concerned about recent incidents of attacks on British subjects in Zambia—and so are the Zambian Government with whom we are in very close touch on this matter. We have spoken to the Zambian High Commissioner in London and our own High Commissioner in Lusaka has made similar representations to the Zambian Government. There is full co-operation and total concern and we are watching the position carefully. I am very glad to be able to say to the House that while there has been something like a backlash in recent weeks in Zambia, there are some signs that this is lessening and that the situation is improving.


My Lords, will my noble friend agree that the guerrillas based in Zambia referred to are fighting against a régime which is in rebellion against the Crown and, further, they have been driven to violence because of the continual constitutional blockage to reforms in their country over the past 50 years?


My Lords, I find it very difficult indeed to disagree with my noble friend in his historical assessment of the situation, how it has evolved and the causes for it. At the same time, neither he, I nor anybody else would wish to say anything to encourage anybody to believe that, whatever the difficulties or grievances may be, the way to settle them is by armed force.


My Lords, will not the noble Lord meditate upon the analogy and danger of holding guerrillas in one's country by the appalling example of what has happened in the Lebanon?


Yes, my Lords, it is absolutely right to remind everybody of these comparisons. There are acute dangers in doing this or, as in the case of Zambia, being practically forced to tolerate such a situation. I have said that it is not a realistic option for Zambia to order these elements out of its country and that the true solution—one which President Kaunda himself is working hard to achieve—is a political settlement of the Rhodesia problem, and then ZAPU, like everybody else, will return to their own country.


My Lords, may I ask a constructive question? Did the noble Lord say the supply of arms to Zambia by the British Government was for the protection of the airspace over Lusaka? Does that mean that it will extend to airspace over the guerrilla camps of Mr. Nkomo? Difficulties might arise from that situation.


The equipment, my Lords, is being made available—and is accepted by Zambia as such—for the defence of their country and protection of their capital. It has not been offered—nor has it been accepted—on any other count whatsoever.


My Lords, could the noble Lord say from whom they are expecting attack?


My Lords, presumably from those who have engaged in similar attacks in the past—and the recent past.


My Lords, could my noble friend confirm that the Government are doing their utmost to de-escalate a war which seems likely to engulf an important part of Africa where there are a great many of our countrymen, where a great many black British citizens have already suffered, and where an enormous amount of British capital is invested?


My Lords, certainly every action of ours and others who work with us in Africa as well as in the West is designed to de-escalate the present hostilities and substitute this method of attempting to solve a dispute of this kind. Everybody involved in Rhodesia and outside is welcome to an all-party conference where these matters can be solved by agreement. In that sense, we are actively seeking not only to de-escalate this appalling conflict but to substitute for it a much more rational and effective manner of solution.

The Earl of GLASGOW

My Lords, will the noble Lord say whether there is any evidence to show that President Kaunda is embarrassed by the presence of Mr. Nkomo in his territory and would be pleased to get rid of him?


My Lords, I could not speak for President Kaunda's personal feelings in this or indeed any other matter. I should be very greatly surprised if he were not concerned about the situation in Zambia arising from the presence—inevitably, I think—of certain elements within his borders, and certainly by the more pressing effects of the Rhodesian problem on his own economy and therefore on the stability of his State. It is in Zambia's interest, as an old friend of ours and a fellow member of the Commonwealth, and it is in the interests of this country and Western democracy, that the stability and security in Zambia is maintained by every possible means.