HL Deb 05 December 1979 vol 403 cc712-7

3.39 p.m.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall make a Statement on Rhodesia.

In the Conference on 22nd November, the Government put forward full proposals for a cease-fire, on which there have since been intensive discussions. The Salisbury delegation accepted these proposals on 26th November. I am at this moment in touch with the Patriotic Front leaders and I hope that they will shortly be able to agree. Only the detailed implementation will then remain to be discussed. I do not envisage that these discussions need take more than two or three days.

Both sides have now agreed on a constitution which guarantees genuine majority rule, on the pre-independence arrangements and on the cease-fire proposals. There can be no reason for delay in setting in train the arrangements for the cease-fire and for elections under our authority. An Order in Council has been made and was laid before the House yesterday which provides for the appointment of a Governor with full executive and legislative powers. The full text of the independence constitution has been given to both delegations. I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Library of the House. It is intended that an order providing for the constitution will be laid before Her Majesty in Council later this week.

The Government will also introduce into another place tomorrow the Zimbabwe Bill which will allow Rhodesia to be brought to independence at the appropriate moment. The process of finalising the arrangements for a cease-fire will require a British authority in Rhodesia. We are therefore making plans to send a Governor to Salisbury in the next few days.


My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord for making this Statement, but there are one or two questions which I should like to put to him about it. We very warmly welcome the words in the first paragraph of his Statement, that he is: at this moment in touch with the Patriotic Front leaders"; and that, again I quote, he hopes: that they will shortly be able to agree and, later on, that these discussions need take [no] more than two or three days". It is welcome news that there is nothing like a break-off of talks between us and the Partriotic Front, as has been rumoured in certain quarters. However, will the noble Lord also agree that all the action envisaged in the ensuing paragraphs of his Statement—in particular sending out a Governor armed with full powers, if not power, in Zimbabwe—must be contingent upon the achievement of a durable cease-fire that is properly operated, monitored and agreed to by all the parties to the conference at Lancaster House?

Will the noble Lord further agree, from what he has said in this House from time to time, that the sending of a Governor—indeed, the recognition of Zimbabwe as an independent country and other steps attendant upon that—must flow from a firm and lasting agreement on the cease-fire by the parties in Rhodesia, as represented at Lancaster House, and that any action which is taken—it may be bilaterally between us and the Salisbury régime—which does not rest on a general agreement among the parties is doomed to failure, and worse?

3.43 p.m.


My Lords, we, too, welcome most warmly the important Statement which has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. It appears to be rather more hopeful than we had expected from a diligent perusal of the daily Press. I hope that impression is justified; I think it probably is. It seems that there are some substantial points still to be negotiated with the Patriotic Front. However, it is also clear that the noble Lord believes there is every reason to suppose that they will be cleared up in the next few days—I think he will probably say whether or not that is so—and that thereafter there will only be minor points which will have to be negotiated and cleared up with the Patriotic Front.

We on these Benches feel that the fears of the Patriotic Front must at least be taken into serious account, and I am sure that the noble Lord has taken them into serious account—notably their fears about the presence, or non-presence, of South African forces in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. It would be excellent if the noble Lord could assure us, preferably that there are no such forces there now but that in any case there will be no such forces there when the cease-fire takes place.

We note, as the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, has noted, that the intention is to send out a Governor in the next few days. I, like the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, imagine this means that the Governor will be sent out when, as is confidently expected, there is in the next few days agreement on at least the major outstanding points which are being negotiated with the Patriotic Front.

However, we note from the Statement that the process of finalising the arrangements for a cease-fire will require a British authority in Rhodesia. Presumably that is the Governor. Therefore, we are making plans to send a Governor to Salisbury in the next few days. Does this mean that when, and if, the noble Lord reaches agreement with the Patriotic Front on the two or three outstanding points, detailed negotiations for the implementation of the cease-fire will be conducted by the Governor rather than by Lord Carrington in London?


My Lords, I had thought that my Statement—both noble Lords have a copy of it—was rather more hopeful than they have given me credit for. I am meeting the Patriotic Front and the Salisbury delegation fairly shortly in a plenary at Lancaster House, and I am extremely hopeful that there will be an agreement. When there is an agreement—as I hope there will be this afternoon—I say to your Lordships, as I said in the Statement, that only details will then remain to be discussed, which I think can be disposed of in two or three days. That, I think, disposes of most of the questions which I have been asked. However, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, asked me one particular question about South African involvement. I give the noble Lord this assurance: there question of external intervention in Rhodesia under a British Governor.


My Lords, certainly we welcome the Statement as indicating that talks continue with the Patriotic Front. Some of us thought from Press reports that there was an imminent danger of these being cut off. That is a very hopeful sign. The point we have made is that we very much hope that it is not the intention to go ahead with the action envisaged in the later paragraphs of this Statement if a general agreement by all the parties concerned has not first been achieved. Surely that is a reasonable point to make.


My Lords, I thought I had hinted several times that I thought a general agreement was in sight.

Lord HOME of the HIRSEL

My Lords, a great majority of noble Lords will, I am sure, echo the Foreign Secretary's hope that there will be an agreement, if not this afternoon at least in two or three days' time. His patience has already been exemplary. If there should be a delay of some hours or some days that seems to me to be perfectly reasonable, and I have no doubt that the Foreign Secretary can bear it. The difficulty with the policy advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, seems to me to be that it gives a permanent veto to one side.

Several noble Lords: No! Not true!


My Lords, may I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he is aware that many of us on this side of the House wish to associate ourselves with what the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, has just said about the very considerable skill which he personally has displayed during the course of these negotiations? May I ask him one additional question: I note that the noble Lord has suggested that a Governor will be going out to Rhodesia in the next few days. Am I to assume that it is likely that British forces will also be going out to Rhodesia in the next few days? Or what arrangements are being made? I do not wish to press the Foreign Secretary on the matter at this infelicitous moment.


My Lords, may I thank both noble Lords for what they have said. It is very important. My noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel is clearly right that we should understand the sense of urgency that there must be in this matter if, as I hope, we get an agreement on the cease-fire this afternoon, because if there is no urgency and if everything is allowed to go on in endless discussion then this ball of wool will start to unravel. This is why I say I think it is so important that the details of the implementation should be settled in two or three days; with goodwill on both sides, there is no reason why they should not be. That is what I mean when I say it should be settled in two or three days. Then I hope that the Governor will be there. With regard to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, I do not envisage British troops going there except when the cease-fire is agreed, because there will be no cease-fire to monitor unless there is a cease-fire.


My Lords, associating myself with all the desires of every Member of this House that the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary is successful this afternoon in getting agreement, and also noting the very real warning of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, about the real fears of the Patriotic Front—which I repeat are real fears—without going into any details, which obviously are inappropriate this afternoon, may I ask the noble Lord whether he still stands by the statement which he made in this House that the sending of a Governor depends upon an all-party agreement on a cease-fire?


Yes, my Lords, and I hope that is going to happen. That is exactly what I have said. I would just say this about the fears of the Patriotic Front: I think that they have real fears but I think that the Salisbury delegation also have real fears. They have real fears of the scale of infiltration which has been taking place from Mozambique and from Zambia over these last few weeks. Consequently, it is all the more important that the sense of urgency which I have been talking about should be realised by all the parties concerned.

Viscount BOYD of MERTON

My Lords, may I, as one who did know, and who still knows, a little bit about this problem, express to my noble friend the profound gratitude of many of us at the patient and impartial way in which he is conducting the conference?


My Lords, I share the Foreign Secretary's optimism for the first time because I believe that he is now facing up to the real problem, that of South Africa. He chooses to hide behind the words the "external forces": I am not concerned with external forces; I am concerned with Rhodesian Forces, which include the South African Pumas, the French Alouettes and the Israeli Bells which have carried on a strategic plan of isolating Zambia from both its line of communications to the Indian Ocean and to the Atlantic and it has done it as part of an overall policy of destabilisation. If the Foreign Secretary will face up to the problem of seeing that the concentration areas and the Rhodesian areas are adequately monitored, and that if in fact they have not got sufficient numbers they will bring in more; and he will make absolutely sure that the South African regular personnel, which have been serving in the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian Forces and are actually fighting the helicopters, are withdrawn; and will give the Governor adequate powers by sending a squadron of Phantoms into Rhodesia on to one of the airfields, and will make it absolutely sure that the Rhodesian Air Force is also monitored, I think he will be rendering a great service to Africa and to this country because our overall interest is in a policy of stabilisation.


My Lords, there is no question of South African units being in Rhodesia when there is a British Governor, and of course the Rhodesian air bases will be monitored. That is what the monitors are for.