§ 2.48 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I rise to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The first thing that I have to tell your Lordships is that I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint your Lordships that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Zimbabwe Bill, has consented to place Her Royal prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament.
The Bill itself contains a number of technically complicated provisions; but it is not for this reason that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary thought that, in the unavoidable absence of himself and of the Leader of the House, it was a courtesy to the House that the one remaining Member of the Cabinet should move the Second Reading of this piece of legislation which may be, indeed, an historic piece of legislation. I am sorry, and I think we are all sorry, that it has been necessary to compress the parliamentary timetable for its passage; but in another place the Opposition were good enough to understand the reasons for this and we were grateful to them there. I am given by noble friends to understand that in this House the Opposition intend to be equally accommodating. We acknowledge and are grateful for their public spirit in this matter.
The whole good faith of Her Majesty's Government, and therefore of Britain, depends upon placing this Bill speedily upon the statute book. It is essential that the independence Bill should pass before the actual occurrence of independence so that elections may be held before Independence Day and all affected by the granting 1441 of independence—particularly individuals—shall know in advance the arrangements to be made.
For 14 years now Rhodesia has been living in a state of illegality, of defiance of lawful authority. There is scarcely a person in any party in this country who did not deplore the unilateral declaration of independence when it was made; and certainly no one with any influence in my own party who did not use that influence against it being made. It was against the grain of history and contrary to the whole movement of British policy since the war. Worse than this, by defying lawful authority, the régime in Rhodesia made it difficult or impossible—and we do not yet quite know which; but difficult at least and possibly impossible—for Britain to help them and their country out of the impasse that they had created for themselves.
Since then, every party in every part of the House, has striven to the best of its ability to put an end to the state of illegality, and to create conditions in which Rhodesia could be brought to legal independence—its one chance, as all of us believe, of peaceful stability upon which the happiness and fortunes of all its inhabitants can be seen to depend. That has been the aim of us all throughout, although about the means we may have been in a state of difference with one another. The negotiations of the past 14 weeks have at last resolved the main political difficulties which stood in the way. This involved compromise between both sides in the negotiations. I know that my noble friend would wish me to pay tribute to both sides in those negotiations for their readiness to make the necessary compromises.
But an essential condition throughout has been a return to legality. It has been recognised throughout by the international community that it was the responsibility of Great Britain, it was the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, to secure this return to legality. That was recognised by the Commonwealth at Lusaka, it has been accepted by Her Majesty's Government and by the parties to the negotiations. That is why the negotiations have taken place here at Lancaster House; that is why my noble friend has chaired the conference. The House will perhaps 1442 forgive me if I pay shortly my own tribute to my noble friend for the enormous public service that he has performed in doing so.
In addition to the immense burdens which inescapably attend the office of Foreign Secretary, he has risked his health and almost worn himself to a standstill in the cause of peace. He has been patient in the face of frustration; courteous in the face of discourtesy; helpful in the face of discouragement; firm without being precipitate in the face of vascillation. Now we hope that his efforts—all our efforts—are almost within sight of success. The main political issues have been resolved and only details remain to be settled. The first stage was of course to agree and then to enact the constitution. The summary was agreed between the parties in October. The full text (available to your Lordships) has been enacted by Order in Council. It achieves full majority rule, both in the administration and in the legislature. It provides safeguards, persuasive and entrenched, for the minority community: safeguards but not privileges; entrenched but not with blocking powers. Let us hope that they will prove sufficient for them to remain and to make their own distinctive and substantial contribution to the prosperity and security of the new State.
The next step was to secure the agreement of the parties to accept the authority of the Governor in the transitional period prior to independence. This was necessary in order to achieve a return to legality. That was no mean achievement. Your Lordships will remember that never had Rhodesia had a Governor with full powers such as my noble friend Lord Soames has. Your Lordships will remember the special position of Rhodesia ever since 1923. But the Governor's presence is essential in order to give confidence to both sides and to secure that there should be an impartial administration and an impartial organisation of elections. The House has already wished my noble friend and Lady Soames Godspeed and success in discharging their responsibilities.
As I have said, the task of my noble friend Lord Soames is to assume administrative power prior to the elections, and to organise and supervise the elections under the authority of Her Majesty's 1443 Government. That was agreed at Lancaster House, and it had previously been agreed at Lusaka. The elections will be held under British authority; all parties have agreed to campaign peacefully and all parties have agreed to accept the results. Independence will be conferred on whatever Government emerges as the result. The detailed arrangements for the elections have also been agreed at Lancaster House, and the legislative steps have been taken here by Order in Council and in Rhodesia by Governor's orders.
The dispatch of the Governor and the introduction of this Bill this afternoon are closely related to one another. Taken together, they enable us to do what the international community has constantly urged upon us as our responsibility. But of course there can no no question of our accepting an open-ended responsibility, an open-ended commitment. Our purpose is to organise elections in which all parties can participate equally. Our one remaining responsibility will end when that purpose is achieved and the constitutional formalities completed. In our view, that should not last more than three months. We are taking this action to discharge our remaining responsibility and to bring it to an end and not to prolong it.
This was well put by my noble friend Lord Soames in his inaugural address to the people of Rhodesia, when he said—and I quote him:
My aim is to work with you for a better and more peaceful future for all the people of this country. My task is to hold the Government of the country in trust while the political leaders of all parties put their case to you. As soon as you have made your choice I shall hand over my powers to the Government which you elect and return to London. Your country will then become legally independent. This is an irreversible process".With my noble friend's arrival as Governor, Rhodesia has been restored to legality. Our permanent representative at the United Nations has informed the President of the Security Council that the situation which led to the imposition of sanctions no longer exists. The United States and New Zealand have already followed our example in lifting sanctions. The Government hope and assume that others will do so very shortly.
1444 The third and final task of the conference was to secure agreement on a cease-fire. Agreement has been reached on the Government's proposals for a cease-fire. These offer security to the forces of both sides and enable them to be effectively monitored. The Salisbury delegation have subsequently accepted further proposals for the detailed implementation of the cease-fire. Discussions continue with the Patriotic Front. We have told the Patriotic Front that, if their forces assemble with their arms and equipment in numbers greater than can be dealt with at the assembly places designated in the cease-fire agreement, the Government will assess the need for additional sites in relation to the successful accomplishment of the assembly process by the Patriotic Front forces and in relation to the disposition of their forces. The Government also recognise that the Patriotic Front had a practical problem in one particular area, and have agreed to provide a further assembly point. We hope that, with these additional assurances, the Patriotic Front will now also initial the agreement.
The conference has now concluded its work and the final documents are now ready for signature. They have already been initialled by the Salisbury delegation and by Her Majesty's Government. The Patriotic Front must now take the crucial political decision whether to put its support to the test of elections rather than continue the war. When so much has been achieved and when the basic causes of the conflict in Rhodesia have been removed, it would indeed be a tragedy if the Patriotic Front were to refuse a peaceful settlement at this last moment. The Government hope profoundly that they will agree to participate in elections. I do not believe that a refusal to do so would have international support; nor can the Government keep open the date of elections indefinitely while the Patriotic Front make up their minds.
The Zimbabwe Bill now before your Lordships will enable the Government finally to discharge Britain's responsibility. As I have said, I regret the compression of the parliamentary timetable and am grateful to the Opposition for their understanding and consideration in this matter; but the passage of the Bill is for the parties to the conference a crucial test of the Government's good faith. We have been 1445 able to persuade them to make concessions—in many cases they have been very difficult concessions—by assuring them that the result will be independence for their country. We cannot hold a sword of Damocles over the country by leaving that issue in doubt. The parties have agreed to abide by the agreement and now we must show our good faith in return. It is also important that the arrangements to be made on independence should be made known well in advance, particularly to those individuals who may be affected by them.
I now turn to the legislative provisions of the Bill. Clause 1 establishes a new independent Republic of Zimbabwe, and, upon independence, terminates the responsibility of the Parliament and Government of the United Kingdom for Southern Rhodesia. In the Bill no date is set for independence. This will be determined by Order in Council. It may well not be possible to set the date until a late stage in the interim period: that will be for the Governor to decide in the form of a recommendation.
The Government do not propose that the order setting the date for independence be subject to further parliamentary procedure. There is nothing more that the Government intend to ask of the parties to the conference as a condition of independence. The certainty that independence will follow if the agreements reached at Lancaster House are honoured will be a strong incentive in the interim period for both parties to carry them out in full. So far as the parties to the conference are concerned, the final hurdle is the agreement of the conference. We cannot allow further obstacles now to be added.
The Government have undertaken to ensure that the coming elections are fair. Observers will be present from the Commonwealth and from other countries to see that they are fair, but it is the British Government's responsibility to bring Rhodesia to legal independence and the basis on which we shall do so is agreement reached at the conference.
Most of the remaining clauses are technical but they must be summarised, even though I shall attempt to do so briefly. First of all, there is the question of membership of the Commonwealth. In most, though not in all, previous case membership of the Commonwealth was 1446 discussed prior to independence. In this case the question must and will be decided by the newly-elected Government when it comes. Thus, since the processes of consultation will need time, the Bill assumes that independence will occur outside the Commonwealth and it contains provisions to deal with this, particularly in order to avoid an abrupt change of status for individuals. I need hardly add that if the future elected Government of Zimbabwe decide to seek Commonwealth membership, Her Majesty's Government will give the application their warm support.
The next question to be dealt with is citizenship and nationality. There are, we believe, some 80,000 people—I should say that I am now referring to Clause 2—who are also citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. They have this status quite independently of their relationship and connection with Rhodesia, usually because they were born in this country. The position of those 80,000 will not change on independence.
In addition to these, we estimate that there are some 70,000 citizens of Rhodesia who have a right of abode here under existing law because at present they are Commonwealth citizens. These would automatically lose their right of abode when Rhodesia came to independence outside the Commonwealth, unless some transitional provision were made. That is what we are doing. Since the Government believe that Zimbabwe may well join the Commonwealth within one year, it would not be fair to change abruptly the position of this second group of 70,000 persons. Schedule 1, paragraph 2, to the Bill therefore preserves their right of abode for one year. If, at the end of that period of a year, Zimbabwe has not joined the Commonwealth then that right of abode will be lost.
There are two further transitional provisions for citizenship. Rhodesians who are already in this country and who have an entitlement to registration as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, will have a further 12 months after independence within which to apply. That is contained in Schedule 2, paragraph 2. It applies only to persons who have already been in this country for some years.
1447 Then, there is a very narrow category of Rhodesians who were British subjects before 1st January 1949, with a United Kingdom born ancestor in the male line and other close connections with the United Kingdom. These, too, will also have a further 12 months in which they will be eligible to apply for registration as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, if they intend to take up residence here. But I should make it clear that in this case there is no automatic entitlement to registration. It will be at the discretion of the Home Secretary.
I can therefore give your Lordships two assurances. First, the Bill does not create any new citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies. Secondly, the Bill does not give rise to any significant new immigration commitment. The persons affected by the transitional registration provisions which I have described will amount, at most, to a few hundred.
Since we are moving from illegality to legality, and from a state of war to peace, it is clear that there must be an amnesty. "Amnesty" is a word of Greek derivation. It means that if you want peace you must learn to forget the past on both sides. So be it. Clause 3 deals with the amnesty according to the law of the United Kingdom. The details of the Acts covered, both in furtherance of the unilateral declaration of independence and in resistance to it, are set out in Clause 3(2). There will also be an amnesty under Rhodesian law—that is, an amnesty different from that which I have just described in Clause 3 of the Bill—and that will be made under Section 3 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1979. In reply to a question from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, on 29th November, my noble friend the Foreign Secretary promised to inform the House of the Government's intentions before any action was taken about Rhodesian law, and the Government hope to be in a position to make a Statement on that shortly.
It has long been recognised on both sides of your Lordships' House that an amnesty will be required to draw a line under the past in Rhodesia, and to allow a fresh start to be made. It is appropriate that the amnesty should extend to the law of the United Kingdom, too, so that those 1448 concerned with the unfortunate events of the past can travel here without fear of prosecution. If we can lift the burden of the past, the task of building a future Zimbabwe on a foundation of reconciliation and unity will be eased. We must use the opportunity, too, to wipe the slate clean in our own relations with Rhodesia, and try to pick up the threads of normal relations.
To leave the House in no doubt, I also confirm that the amnesty contained in Clause 3 of the Bill before the House does not apply to sanctions offences. Section 3(1)(b)(ii) of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1979 already confers on the Government the power to grant such an amnesty. My noble friend the Foreign Secretary informed the House of that during the debate on the Bill. The matter is one which the Government still have under consideration and a further Statement on that will be made in due course.
Clauses 4 and 6 of the Bill enable consequential changes to be made in the laws of the United Kingdom, as a result of Rhodesian independence. Most of the necessary changes are already identified and are found in Schedules 2 and 3 to the Bill, but of course there may be others which we have missed. Clause 4 would also enable the Government to ensure that when payments for interest on and redemption of Rhodesian stock, which have been in abeyance for 14 years, are resumed the interest of creditors will be satisfied in an equitable manner. Clause 5 enables the Government to deal with the situation should Rhodesia become a member of the Commonwealth after independence. Many of the changes in the laws of the United Kingdom made by this Bill and its schedules would then be reversed.
Schedule 2 deals more extensively with the consequences of Zimbabwe ceasing to be a part of Her Majesty's dominions, without being a member of the Commonwealth. A number of Acts require that the holders of certain offices, including, I am told, that of Lord Chancellor, should be British subjects. These restrictions will not apply to citizens of Zimbabwe for a period of one year after independence. They will also be allowed to remain members of local authorities until their term of office expires. They will remain eligible to vote at national and local 1449 government elections during the validity of any register on which they have been included while they were British subjects, and they will be exempt from the liability to deportation in certain cases for a period of one year, and any additional period during which their application for citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies is under consideration.
The transitional period of 12 months from the date of independence, during which these savings, as well as those affecting citizenship, will have effect gives reasonable time for the new Government of Zimbabwe to reach a decision on Commonwealth membership, and for an application to be dealt with by the Commonwealth, as well as for individuals to make any necessary adjustments in their private affairs.
Schedule 2 also continues in force provisions for the registration of colonial probates and maintenance orders, and those relating to a dominion register of companies. Southern Rhodesians presently registered on a Commonwealth list under the Dentists Act and the Veterinary Surgeons Act will continue to be so registered. Schedule 3 provides for the repeal of a number of measures relating to Southern Rhodesia which will no longer apply after independence, and for the deletion from various measures of certain references to Southern Rhodesia and to matters and persons connected with Southern Rhodesia.
Though this Bill deals with Southern Rhodesia and its future as Zimbabwe, the House would not wish me to conclude my speech without referring to the immense benefits that a peaceful settlement will confer on the lives and fortunes of neighbouring peoples and neighbouring Governments. These Governments have played a vital and valuable part in making a settlement possible and we are deeply grateful to all of them. We have kept in close touch with them all, both in the preparation for the conference and throughout its course. There can be no doubt that their support and the support of the Commonwealth, the support of our partners in the EEC and the support of the United States and other Governments for a negotiated settlement has been a major factor in persuading the two delegations at Lancaster House to accept the proposals put before the conference, 1450 and to try to reconcile their differences. I do not need to remind the House of the effect that the Rhodesian dispute has had on relations between the countries of the region. I hope that even before Zimbabwe attains independence considerable progress can be made to normalise the country's relations with its neighbours.
The agreements reached at the conference and now awaiting signature are perfectly fair and widely recognised internationally to be so. They have been achieved because both sides have recognised that there is a more excellent way to a happy future than the continuation of a costly and tragic war. Can either side step back at this late stage and withhold its consent? I will not contemplate that possibility. In any event, nothing can obscure the fact that a constitution has been agreed, that elections have been agreed and that a return to legality has been achieved. There is now no longer any reason to withhold legal independence from Rhodesia, provided that, and as soon as, elections have been held.
It only remains for me to express the hope that the spirit of reason which has characterised the conference up to this point will be shown on all sides during the weeks leading up to independence. It is of crucial importance that the elections which are held should be, and should be seen to be, fair elections, if this beautiful country is to return speedily to a normal relationship with the rest of the world. From all parties this will demand restraint and it will demand goodwill. A settlement has been achieved honourably. We must now see that it is implemented and observed.
Perhaps I may finish on a personal note. My father died in 1950. With the exception of the seven years I spent in the Commons, I have been in your Lordships' House throughout the period since. I have been a Back-Bencher; I have been in Opposition; I have held office; I have led the House; and now I am for the second time the occupant of the Woolsack. Throughout that period of a quarter of a century the problems of Southern Africa have bedevilled the relationship between races and nations and have baffled the efforts of successive Governments to bring them to a peaceful settlement.
1451 Of those problems, the question of Southern Rhodesia has proved the most intractable to date. We remember the Federation; we remember Sir Roy Welensky; we have sent out, particularly from this House, some of the best and wisest of our number—judges and statesmen, diplomats, soldiers, politicians; we have met round the table; we have met aboard ship; we have conducted inquiries; we have held debates, sometimes embittered by controversy amongst ourselves.
But what Southern Africa needs most is peace. What the world needs is peace. What the world needs, what Rhodesia needs, what Zambia needs, what Tanzania needs, what all Southern Africa needs is a period of stability. And stability can only be obtained through justice, justice only by liberty under law, liberty for all under a law just to all. This time, we have within our grasp the chance of a major success. It is the first time we have come so close to one. It may be our last opportunity. This Bill is a necessary condition of our achieving it. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, the House will be very grateful to the noble and learned occupant of the Woolsack for the superb clarity with which he has explained the contents of this very complicated and, as he said, historic Bill. It comes to your Lordships after Second Reading in another place and it is not the normal practice of your Lordships' House to refuse a Second Reading to a Bill which has had that experience in the other place. Nor, indeed, do Her Majesty's Opposition seek to do that today. This, however, does not mean that the misgivings that we on this side of the House have expressed, especially in the last two or three weeks, about the timing and sequence of events and action by the Government, particularly in sending the Governor to Zimbabwe before a cease-fire had been agreed by all the parties, are without foundation. We have to repeat those reservations today, hoping profoundly that they will be proved to be unfounded as events develop in Zimbabwe in the next few days and weeks.
1452 The Foreign Secretary has indeed exercised considerable skill in bringing the matter to the point at which it now stands. But we all agree with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, and welcome his references to the very considerable concessions made by other parties to the discussions at Lancaster House, including the Patriotic Front and the Muzorewa Government, and not forgetting the important role played by the Front Line Presidents. Equally, the Commonwealth Secretariat, so ably led by Sir Shridath Ramphal, its Secretary-General, has from time to time made crucial contributions to resolving very difficult situations.
I hope that on the basis of the agreements so far achieved the Governor in Zimbabwe will succeed in the very difficult tasks imposed upon him. We for our part fervently hope that he succeeds, and we shall certainly do everything we can to assist him in his work. I believe that the Opposition, both here and in another place—and, indeed, the country—have shown that they are keenly cognisant of the difficulties of this matter and have done or said nothing to hinder and everything to help the solution that may now be within sight. We particularly salute the courage of Lord and Lady Soames in going out to Rhodesia under the conditions imposed upon them. They are going out without the fundamental assurance behind them of an agreed cease-fire, and in that set of circumstances their courage is all the more remarkable.
So much for timing and sequence. The objectives of the Bill before us are of course acceptable to Her Majesty's Opposition, as they are, I believe, to the rest of Parliament and the people. In fact, the Bill generally expresses the policy which we in Government consistently pursued, not always at that time with the full-hearted support and encouragement of the party opposite. Nevertheless, we rejoice in their present sanctity, even if they are somewhat latter-day saints, and we look forward to many more agreeable U-turns of policy, both at home and abroad, by the present Government. The Bill therefore seeks to achieve what we all want: an orderly, peaceful transition by Zimbabwe-Rhodesia to independence, hopefully within the Commonwealth, through the democratic and elective process. The objectives are agreed.
1453 Now, how are they to be achieved through this Bill? The instrument, of course, is the Governor. Now, and until the day of independence, he is the government of Rhodesia, or we might say the United Kingdom is governing Rhodesia now, and will continue to do so until the day of independence, through a plenipotentiary who is the administrative executive and military head of the country. What is his central task, as described in this Bill and in the concomitant order? It is to organise free and fair elections, and that means that he has to make sure of a number of things. In particular, all the parties concerned must see that the arrangements for the elections and their conduct are fair and free.
At the top of the list of the things that he needs to ensure is equal access to the media for all parties taking part in the election. The results of the election will not otherwise be seen to be credible, and they will not be accepted. For years the Rhodesian broadcasting system has been the creature of the illegal régime, propagating the policies of the Smith party, and, latterly, in the last few months, that of the Smith-Muzorewa régime. The staff, technical and editorial, have operated in that groove of partiality. It is not the BBC World Service that has been put over the wires to the Rhodesian population; it is the news as prepared by the South African agency. Is that still the position? Is the Rhodesian radio still conducted by the same people and for the same purposes as has obtained in the last 14 years or so? Is not this one of the first things, if the election is to be seen to be fair and free, that should be put right? It is indeed essential that the position should be changed, and that it should be seen to be changed.
I understand that the Governor left for Rhodesia without experts drawn from our own media to accompany him. I believe one member of the COI went out with him. Perhaps the Minister, when he replies to the debate, will reassure us that the Governor has with him or will have sent out to him personnel from our own media, particularly from the BBC, which enjoys a deservedly high reputation in Africa and indeed throughout the world, so that this essential of a free and fair election is properly taken in hand.
1454 Secondly, what is being done about the political detainees? It is no good making elaborate preparations for an election when perhaps 18,000 people, who have very definite views about what kind of government should be elected as a result of that election, are not in the country to take part in the election. What steps are being taken to release the political detainees? I am not referring now to those who are in prison for criminal reasons. Are the political detainees being freed and enabled to vote and work for the kind of government they want? And what about the refugees, both inside and outside Rhodesia? There may be as many as a quarter of a million Rhodesians who are in fact refugees from their own homes. Will the electoral commissioner make arrangements for these people—they are a very substantial body indeed—to return to their districts to take part in the election and to vote on election day?
Of course, the release of detainees and the facilitating of the return of refugees to their homes applies equally to the Patriotic Front and to any irregular organisation which may be detaining anybody or preventing anybody from returning to his home. The message is mainly to the Governor of Rhodesia, that is to the United Kingdom Government operating in Rhodesia through the Governor, but equally to those who are in command of a great deal of territory and under whom a great many people are at present living. The electoral commission, coming as it does from personnel in this country, will make a very good job of the election. But that is not enough. Unless in fact everything possible has been done to enable the maximum possible number of the population to be registered and to take part in the election and to avail themselves of the free media, then even the most tightly organised election will not carry with it, either in Rhodesia or abroad, the credibility that it must have.
Thirdly, all sections of the people of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia must see for themselves that the United Kingdom, through the Governor, is already beginning on the task of reconstructing the economic life of the country and looking to a future of co-operation with and practical assistance for the new independent Zimbabwe, and indeed practical assistance to countries 1455 like Zambia which have suffered greatly as a result of UDI and as a result of the sanctions régime. In Rhodesia itself a great many schools, local clinics, hospitals and other facilities have been closed or destroyed in the past few years. In Rhodesia itself there are local scarcities of food, of medicaments, of essential provisions. It is mainly a matter of transport, of organisation. A cessation of the fighting and co-operation on all sides in order to get these facilities going again and the resources flowing more freely may very quickly solve the position. But I make the point that while we are organising the election there is also the need to proceed with the practical policy of reconstructing the life of the country, and certainly attending to the more immediate urgencies, such as those I have mentioned.
May I also ask, what is the position about the supply of maize, and indeed of food generally, to Zambia, and the restoration of communications with that country? There is an impression, I think, that maize and other foodstuffs have begun to flow freely again into Zambia. Some of us have been disturbed in the last day or so to be told by dependable sources that this is not so, that the food is not moving into Zambia yet. I think it is a matter of some priority that attention should be given to this matter and that Zambia should receive its customary supplies, especially of maize, and that we should do everything we can to rebuild the bridges in more senses than one, because Zambia, through its President, has made a vital contribution to the development of this agreement. I hope—indeed, I assume—that, while the work of negotiating the transition to independence has been proceeding, the Government have at the same time been thinking ahead about the problems of reconstruction. Once more one has to remind oneself that there may be a copybook election, but if the electors themselves do not find a comparable movement forward in reform and reconstruction in the economic reassurances which they seek, then a vacuum of loyalty may be created, despite the elections, into which undemocratic and wholly uncongenial forces may flow. Politics alone is never enough; it must be supported by constructive economic action.
The Bill, as we have heard, does not 1456 name a date for independence and the reason is that between the enactment of the Bill and the granting of independence there may be developments which affect the very date of independence. We do not disagree with that procedure, but we feel that the Government would have been well advised to make the order subject to an Affirmative Resolution in both Houses. The point was very ably argued by my right honourable friend Mr. Shore in the other place last week and he was strongly supported in the House. We regret that situation, but we hope that before the end of today's proceedings the Government may think again about this and decide that an order of this kind, naming the date of independence, could, without creating any kind of delay or breaking the momentum of events, be placed for affirmative approval before both Houses. As it is, whatever happens in Rhodesia, and however unsatisfactory the conduct of the elections may prove to be—we very much hope that they will prove to be totally satisfactory to all who take part—if a situation arises there which gives grounds for serious concern, the Government nevertheless under the Bill and the consequent provisions which flow from it, may designate a date for independence without putting the matter to Parliament for discussion and providing it with the opportunity of determining finally whether the true conditions of independence have, in fact, been fulfilled.
We have, as the noble Lord knows, been considering on this side of the House whether to put down a manuscript amendment today. We have finally decided against that course, but I make a last appeal to the Government to reconsider their position on this matter. At the very least, realising as they must the strong feelings of the Opposition on this point, will they not give the assurance that a report on the conduct of the elections will be made to Parliament and opportunity for discussing that report be provided, before the order is made? For our responsibility does not end with the Second Reading of this Bill. It will not even finally come to end when we are able to say in the British Parliament, "We are satisfied that the elections have been so held as to show conclusively the wishes of the Rhodesian people; and therefore the date for independence is hereby approved".
1457 I shall press on as quickly as possible as other noble Lords wish to speak. I am glad to see that Clause 2 deals fairly with the questions of nationality. There are some 150,000 Rhodesians whose position might be unfairly prejudiced if an abrupt change were made in their status. The provisions for the categories which we have heard described seem to us to be eminently fair.
The clause in the Bill which deals with amnesty is equally acceptable to us although we shall wish to study perhaps a little more closely the form of words used by the noble and learned Lord when introducing the Bill. Suffice it to say for the moment that the clause, in making provision for amnesty, is in a humane and constructive tradition. No reconciliation is possible in circumstances such as this if there is a backwash of revenge or of persecution after independence. We have many examples to draw on to show that amnesty is the best policy when independence has been achieved—I would not say through a process, but in an adversary atmosphere. Without amnesty in these terms reconciliation might be postponed or even made impossible.
We also very much welcome the opportunity provided for the new independent State to join the Commonwealth if it so wishes and of course if the Commonwealth agrees. Membership is by application. I hope that Zimbabwe will indeed decide to apply for membership, and I may be permitted to hope that another member of the Commonwealth, our own country, may be one of its sponsors on that happy day. I am sure that it would be to the benefit not only of Zimbabwe but of the Commonwealth.
The role of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth secretariats in promoting a solution of this difficult problem, especially since the Lusaka Conference, has been considerable. Once more we have been reminded of the strength of the links between widely diverse countries that make up its membership. If Zimbabwe chooses to join, it will find itself among friends old and new—not least of whom will be the United Kingdom.
So, we extend to the Bill and its purposes a warm support. We regret that the order which is consequent upon it, in relation to the date of independence, is 1458 not made subject to Affirmative Resolution by both Houses. We ask the Government even at this late hour—it is perfectly possible—to look at the situation again. We agree with the purports. We are bound to repeat our misgivings about the handling of the timing in the last two or three weeks. It smacks a little of bouncing. Bouncing people into a position of agreement, when fundamentally they do not agree, may succeed at the time, but only for a time. Sooner or later the basic differences and resentments will surface. We very much hope that the methods which the Government have adopted for this purpose will succeed. It will be not the triumph of one party, but the victory of a whole nation which wishes for Zimbabwe, as it has for its previous dependencies, nothing but peace, stability and prosperity.