HL Deb 17 December 1979 vol 403 cc1514-9

6.27 p.m.


Me again, I am afraid, my Lords! I beg to move, that the Southern Rhodesia Constitution (Interim Provisions) Order 1979, a copy of which was laid before this House on 4th December, be approved. The order was made on 3rd December under powers contained in Section 3 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1979. It is subject to Affirmative Resolution of both Houses within 28 days. Sections 1 and 3 of the order came into operation on 4th December. The remainder of the order was brought into effect on 12th December by a notice signed by my noble friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary.

The purpose of the order, as its title indicates, is to make temporary provision for the Government of Southern Rhodesia for the period between the Governor's arrival and the grant of independence, to which your Lordships have just agreed. It sets no time limit for this period, but as my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said, we expect it to be in the order of three months. The terms in which it provides for the government of Rhodesia implement the agreement reached at the Constitutional Conference on the pre-independence arrangements.

The order establishes the offices of Governor and Deputy Governor of Southern Rhodesia, which have been filled respectively by my noble friend Lord Soames, and Sir Antony Duff, Deputy to the Permanent Under-Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who has played a leading part in the negotiations at the Lancaster House Conference.

The order confers full legislative powers in Southern Rhodesia on the Governor. He will be able to make laws by ordinance. He will also have the power to continue existing laws with such modifications as he thinks fit, and to validate transactions entered into during the period since 11th November, 1965. The Governor's first ordinance, published on the day of his arrival, set out in greater detail how he will exercise his powers. His second ordinance has been published, which deals with the functions of the Election Commissioner and his staff and establishes the Election Council, in accordance with the arrangements agreed at the conference for the pre-independence elections. Copies of these ordinances have been placed in the Library of the House.

While the legislative power conferred upon the Governor is very extensive, my noble friend Lord Carrington made clear at the constitutional conference that the power will not be used to make changes in Rhodesia which are properly the business of an elected Government. This re-assurance was repeated by the Governor in his first broadcast to the people of Rhodesia. The Governor's role will be to organise elections and maintain the administration of the country on a caretaker basis.

The order also confers upon the Governor full executive authority in Southern Rhodesia, and requires all officers and authorities in Rhodesia to obey his instructions. Bishop Muzorewa and his colleagues will not exercise ministerial powers during the Governor's period of office. This provision is crucial to the implementation of the pre-independence arrangements agreed at the constitutional conference. It will give the Governor the authority with which to ensure the impartial administration of the country during the elections and the implementation of the cease-fire. At the same time, it recognises that he will work through the existing administration and police. As your Lordships know, the Government have taken the view—and this has been accepted by the parties at Lancaster House—that there is no practical alternative in this brief period to using the existing services. It will be for the Government of independent Zimbabwe to decide on the future structure of the services of the State.

The order also vests in the Governor the prerogative of mercy. During the pre-independence period no sentence of death can be carried out unless it be confirmed by the Governor. It would not be in accord with the policy of Her Majesty's Government that executions should take place. Finally, the order makes provision that the rights and liabilities of the Government of Southern Rhodesia including the debts and liabilities incurred before UDI remain enforceable.

The reasons for appointing a Governor have been explained fully to your Lordships, and I shall not repeat them now. The constitutional responsibility for bringing Rhodesia to independence rests with Britain, and this order confers the powers which enable the Governor to carry out the responsibilities laid upon him under the agreements reached at the constitutional conference. I beg to move that the order be approved.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 4th December 1979, be approved.—(Lord Trefgarne.)

6.33 p.m.


My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, began his speech on this order and used (if I heard him correctly) the words "the Bill", I thought for a moment that at last, after a splendid revelation on his part, he was going to make the concession which has been so vigorously sought on this side of this House and in another place as well. But, my Lords, as we have heard, that is, alas!, not so. I do not propose to detain the House long on this particular order. As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne—and the House will be grateful to him for his explanation of the order—it gives extensive powers to the Governor in Salisbury, and in our view it is right that he should be given all the powers necessary to govern the country; for, after all, the Salisbury Parliament has already dissolved itself—it did so last week—and, also last week, Rhodesia returned to the status of a colony.

So in our view it is essential that the Governor should be given these powers: not only legislative powers but also, as the Minister has explained, executive powers as well. These latter powers are indeed very wide in scale, and include control over the Armed Forces as well as—a further point which the noble Lord mentioned in the course of his remarks—the Governor's assumption of powers connected with the prerogative of mercy. I am sure that everyone—certainly my noble friends on these Benches—will be pleased to hear the observation that he made concerning the question of the possibility of executions during this particular period.

So all those powers are very necessary; but, at the same time, it is also necessary to make the point that still, as yet, there is no cease-fire in that country. We all hope fervently that that will come, and will come soon. But, if I may say so, I do not think that the House can escape the implications of any clash (we all hope it will not take place, but any clash which could take place) between the Rhodesian armed forces and the guerrilla forces, because there is no doubt at all that Britain itself would be directly involved; for, after all, the Governor, as part of his functions as explained by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, tonight, is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces exercising responsibilities of this country.

My Lords, I do not want to go over the implications of this again—they have been discussed extensively on other occasions—but I nevertheless feel that it is right that Her Majesty's Opposition should have pressed, as they did, for agreement on a cease-fire before the Governor went. As the noble Lord the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Lord Carrington, said to your Lordships on 7th November and again on the Second Reading of the Southern Rhodesia Bill, as it was then, on 13th November, the plan was for a cease-fire to be agreed before the Governor was actually sent. On that second occasion, on 13th November, he added a reservation which will be familiar to the House.

We have made full and well-deserved comments about the success which the noble Lord the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has so far achieved, and I have no wish to be critical of him on this or, indeed, on any other point, but, with respect, I feel it is right that the House must face the possible consequences of the sequence of events that was chosen. I would add only that we also quite understand all the reasons and all the circumstances which led the Government to decide to send the Governor there last week.

My Lords, the only other point I would make is that this particular example is not the first which has confronted the House tonight, in the course of our deliberations, of where, in our view, the cart has been placed before the horse. I hope there will be no difficulties arising as a result of the Government's refusal—and this is the other instance we have had tonight—to accept the Affirmative Resolution procedure for an Order in Council on the date of independence following elections. It would be wrong of me—and, indeed, I would be out of order in doing so—were I to pursue that further tonight; but I say that because it is not the only occasion on which in these matters we have experienced the cart being placed before the horse tonight.

It has been said already in the course of our debates on the Bill itself that this exercise is something of a gamble. We all hope—on these Benches as well as on the Government Benches and, indeed, elsewhere—that there will be a complete agreement soon; that there will be a swift cease-fire; and that Rhodesia will proceed to the remaining stages of independence with the minimum of trouble and, we hope, complete success. This is what I believe all of us desire with all our hearts for the sake of all the people of Rhodesia.

6.39 p.m.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Minister one brief question in two parts? As I understand it—perhaps he will correct me if I am wrong—this order gives power to the Governor, both to command the armed forces and to order the police force. Can the noble Lord tell me whether the police force is now going to be separated from the combined operations; in other words, separated from the armed forces? That is the first part of the question. Secondly, will it be the police force or will it be the armed forces who will be responsible and given command by the Governor in the event of any cease-fire? I will understand if the noble Lord has not got the answer ready, but, if not, perhaps he will write to me about it.


My Lords, those are perfectly proper questions to which, I confess, I do not have the answer at this moment, but I will find out the answer and write to the noble Lord. I do not think your Lordships would wish me to rehearse again all the arguments that we have been through this evening. I hope your Lordships will now agree to pass this order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.