HL Deb 17 December 1979 vol 403 cc1470-514

Second Reading debate resumed.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, after that rather long interchange, we come back to the subject of Rhodesia. As I see it, it is a great pity that we cannot make our approval of this Bill the occasion for expressing our gratitude to the Government, and indeed to all those who have assisted them in the recent negotiations, including the Commonwealth Secretariat, for having achieved a very remarkable settlement, at least setting the stage for the possible emergence of a new and viable State out of the chaos and misery of a long civil war. For this settlement is, after all, not yet in the bag, though judging from the Press, the Government are clearly confident that it shortly will be.

Your Lordships will recall that the last time we discussed this matter both the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts and I expressed some disquiet about the decision to send out the Governor before the cease-fire was actually in operation, and, as I think the noble Lord said, we can only hope that our apprehensions were unjustified. It was admittedly a great gamble—I think that this was admitted by everybody. But in any case I should like to associate myself with the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, in paying tribute to the great courage of the noble Lord, Lord Soames, in the mission that he is now undertaking.

Nobody can say that the elections which, if all still goes according to plan, will I understand, take place about three months from now, will necessarily result in the installation of a Government firmly based on a majority of the nation, or even that something like a conventional democratic system will necessarily follow. Nobody can deny that, on the contrary, there is a possibility that they will result in a bitter struggle for power that could in itself produce a further civil war of quite another character. But at least a régime may emerge now that will enable the white community to continue to take a useful part in the development of the country while ceasing to play any dominant political role. That is what the long negotiations in Lancaster House have at least made possible. If so, it is likely that the ravages of the war will fairly soon be made good—it is astonishing how soon the ravages of war can be made good—and Zimbabwe will then become, as is inevitable if racial and tribal tendencies can be overcome, one of the richest and most prosperous States in Africa. And not only that: the hope is that such a development would have a profound effect for good south of the border in the republic of South Africa itself, thus tending to reduce the intensity of the potential racial conflict that may then get out of hand in that part of the world, with appalling results for all of us.

On the other hand, if there is, after all, no agreement on a cease-fire in the next few days, what will happen then? Well, if that means that the elections will have to be conducted while a civil war is still raging, it is obvious that nothing like such a happy development will be possible. Even if the elections are held and do produce a majority in favour of some coalition, presided over, presumably, by Bishop Muzorewa—as would seem likely given the great support that I understand he is likely to have from many quarters—there is no guarantee, even then, that we should be able to achieve general recognition for it; worse still, we might as a Government be directly involved in a civil war. This of course would be even more likely—indeed it would be certain—in the event of no elections being possible after we had nevertheless resumed responsibility for actually governing the country. So it seems to me that it is essential for us to have a cease-fire in order to put the whole agreement into operation and if possible allow it to function as a great experiment in interracial co-operation.

Objectively considered, however, I should have thought that it might well be equally disastrous for the Patriotic Front to have to continue the war with evidently less sympathy and even support coming from the outside, and with some prospect of being defeated in the sense of not being able at least to impose themselves or play any part in the life of the new régime. It may indeed be that they will not obtain an actual majority in the elections, if they are held, but at least it would seem likely that they will achieve some kind of representation and, as powerful and responsible leaders, they would surely be able to exert great influence on the new Government in Salisbury in favour of their own political ideas, whatever they may be. Therefore, it would appear to be madness for them to decide in favour of a continuation of the war, and we can only hope, with some confidence, that the hold-up of the cease-fire will be temporary and that the difficulties will fairly soon be resolved.

I turn to the Bill itself. As your Lordships are perhaps aware, the Liberal spokesman in another place voted in favour of the amendment referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. This had been submitted by Mr. Peter Shore and provided that any Order in Council of the nature indicated in Clause 1(1) of the Bill should come into force only after a draft order had been approved by both Houses of Parliament. The purpose of this amendment was evident. Any decision to grant final independence would have to be dependent on elections having been held and found to be free and fair.

Here I should like to say that I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Gorowny-Roberts, said. If the method of broadcasting news—indeed the whole broadcasting system in Salisbury—is now changed for the better and becomes more objective, it would be an excellent preface to the holding of free and fair elections in any consideration. In addition, if the Governor should now see fit to free a good many of the detainees, that again would create the right atmosphere in which free and fair elections were likely to be held.

Under the Bill as it stands, the decision to recognise independence would be left to the Government of the day, which might or might not reflect the mood of the nation. No doubt if the elections are held and are duly monitored and if Commonwealth observers pronounce them to be "free and fair", that will in practice be the end of the matter; of course it will be. But it is after all possible that there may be ambiguities, more especially if complete peace does not prevail during the elections, or, worse still, if the Commonwealth observers are by any chance divided. In such circumstances it might well be preferable for the vital decision to be left to both Houses of Parliament.

We on these Benches feel that since the other place has taken a decision in this matter, it is not for this House to attempt to overturn it. That would be irregular, and as the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, recognised, it would probably be inadvisable even to put down an amendment, as was done in the other place. But I wish to associate myself with the noble Lord in suggesting that, in view of what has been said, and of what other people may say, at this late hour the Government might have second thoughts, or at least in some way indicate their willingness in the last resort to leave this question open when the Bill goes through.

My Lords, I really have not anything else to say about the Bill, I think, except that it is technical but, as the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack explained so lucidly, it seems inherently reasonable; nobody wants to quarrel with it as such. Since there are 80,000 (is it?) British subjects who can claim British passports now resident in Rhodesia and another 70,000 who have the right of abode in this country—150,000 in all—I suppose it is possible (I do not know whether I am right in saying this) that, if the worst should happen and all the 150,000 wanted to come back to this country, they could. I should imagine that that is extremely unlikely, but one must remember what happened in Algeria. When General de Gaulle came to a certain conclusion about Algeria, no less than 700,000 French citizens came back to France.

It was quite possible for the French State to absorb that 700,000, and they did so very satisfactorily within a year or two; and it seems to me that, even if a certain number of these people who have a right to come back to this country want to do so, we should be perfectly well able to accommodate them here, and indeed should welcome them. For the most part, I think, their ancestors or they themselves went out to Rhodesia with the great approval of the Government, and often they were urged on by the Government to go there. Therefore—for it is not their fault, perhaps, if things have gone wrong against them—I believe we should be able to welcome them if they take it into their heads to come back here one day.

The only other point I should like to make (I do not think it comes into the Bill) is that I hope the Government will be very generous in granting aid to repair the ravages of war in Rhodesia when and if independence takes place. I cannot see why, if necessary, some of the money we presently vote in aid should not be deducted and deflected to Rhodesia. It seems to me that a good deal of that money might be much better spent repairing the ravages of war in Rhodesia than committed to the rather dubious purposes to which it is sometimes put under the Act.

All I can say, therefore, is that I wish the Bill well, and I only hope that the difficulty affecting the final agreement on the cease-fire will be overcome very shortly. If it is not, if there is no agreement on a cease-fire, we shall all obviously have to think again, and our thoughts may well not be very agreeable—nor possibly unanimous, for that matter. Indeed, as I see it myself we might even be not far short of a state of national emergency, and what the political implications of that might be is anybody's guess.

4.33 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot with sincerity join in the chorus of congratulations which have been expressed to the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary with regard to the conduct of this conference, and I am sure he is the last person who would want insincere compliments paid to him. I believe he has made mistakes; I believe he has aroused unnecessary frictions; and, as I shall try to show in my speech, I believe that the conference could have been concluded successfully much earlier. However, I should like to congratulate him, and very sincerely, on two points. The first is in cutting the talons of his own Prime Minister and those members of his own party who have been, traditionally, supporters of the Ian Smith, white-supremacy régime, and more lately of the Smith-Muzorewa régime, and in forcing a change in what was thought to be at the time of the election Conservative Party policy. Secondly, I should like particularly to congratulate him on his great courage in doing what no British Government has had the courage to do since 1965, and that is to involve the responsibility of the British Government and the British Parliament, which I believe has always been the crucial issue in the ending of UDI. That, I believe, has given Britain the opportunity, for the first time, to lead towards a possibly successful conclusion to this unhappy chapter in our colonial history.

My Lords, I do not believe that the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary was wise in his choice of the Governor for Rhodesia, and I will say why. We all admire the noble Lord, Lord Soames. We all enjoy his bluntness and good humour. But I believe that the Foreign Secretary has put him in an impossible position. I believe he has put him in that impossible position, first of all, because Lord Soames would be the first to agree that he is an unashamed member of the Conservative Party, and always has been; and that in itself is a political disadvantage in Rhodesia today. Secondly, he is a member of the Conservative Cabinet, and as a member of the Conservative Party and the Conservative Government he is bound to inherit the favour which has been shown towards the Muzorewa régime over the past nine months; he is bound to inherit at least a part of the opposition which was made by the Conservative Party to the attempts by my right honourable friend David Owen and the Secretary of State for the United States; and in inevitably taking with him this prejudice he has been put into a situation in which he cannot be seen to be as impartial as he himself would no doubt wish to be.

Nevertheless, like every other Member of this House, I wish him well; I wish him all the luck, and I wish him strength during the almost impossible task which he has been given by this Government. But I should like to remind the noble Lord, Lord Soames, that he is in Africa, not in Europe; and, because he has had no experience of Africa, he must find the conditions, he must find the spiritual atmosphere of Africa, so very different—and, as many Members of this House will agree, that atmosphere takes some time to learn.

We are talking this afternoon not about a Bill which is bringing to an end a period of 14 years; we are talking about a Bill which is bringing to an end a period, and a sad period, of 90 years. Let us remember that the people we are talking about, on whom the future of Zimbabwe depends, feel themselves to be coming to the end of that 90-year period, not a 14-year period. During that 90-year period, one major historical principle has been demonstrated time after time, which surely we have learned throughout the history of the British and other European empires. That principle is, quite simply, that if there are no constitutional channels open to reform—reform which enables every citizen to participate in the conduct of the society in which he lives—then violence and force is inevitable; and the history of the last 90 years in Rhodesia, now to be called Zimbabwe, bears out that principle to the very last syllable.

To the African, the men we see in London today, Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe, are the inheritors, going right back to the days of Lobengula, who to the African had the land stolen from him and his people; to Chilembwe, in Nyasaland, who raised the spirit of revolt against white domination in the middle of the First World War; and to the Reverend Samkangi, who was one of the initiators of the African Congress in Southern Rhodesia itself. They are the inheritors, and they are the inheritors who continued that fight when Southern Rhodesia became a part of the Central African Federation, because that Federation, they believed, was still based on the essential principle that the man and woman with a white skin had a God-given right to rule—which they would not accept. They continued that fight through the Federation and through the Ian Smith régime; and they have won that fight. They won that fight because that fight was not for their individual power nor for the power of any individual party. That fight was for national self-determination; that fight was for the right of every individual in Rhodesia to participate in the government of the country. That fight is won.

So, my Lords, we are now talking about the details. I am not suggesting for a moment that it is impossible to reverse it. There have been many reversals of national self-determination, of universal suffrage, in the past. But the 90-year fight has been won this year, and won as a result of collective efforts going back to 1890. It was the break-up of that Federation, the break up caused by the efforts of those in Zambia and in Malawi who fought for national independence, that left us the residual problems that we have been discussing ever since 1964. We had to find some conditions under which Southern Rhodesia, like the other members of the Federation, could become independent. But those in power in Southern Rhodesia were not prepared to accept the same condition as had been applied in every other single British colony at the time of independence: namely, universal suffrage.

So we laid down that, first, the new constitution must depend on the will, and arise out of the will, of the people; that elections must be held with equal opportunity for all groups and all parties; that there should be universal suffrage and also that we should observe our international obligations.

I listened carefully to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack when he introduced this Bill in his very lucid style. I remembered very well the speech that he made in the debate on sanctions 13 months ago and the stress that he laid upon our international obligations. I am wondering tonight whether our unilateral rescinding of sanctions is in conjunction with our international obligations. Should we not have gone first to the Security Council, where we had initially asked for sanctions to be imposed, rather than take that action ourselves? We could not fulfil any of these obligations until we had found a means of ending the civil war. In that respect, again, I pay tribute to the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary for holding back his own party, or a section of his party, until he could get to Lusaka and get the support of the Commonwealth to make it possible for the British Government to take action which could lead to the ending of the civil war.

And so we come to the period of the Lancaster House conference. I have not much to say about that conference; but we have passed rather quickly over its details. Some of us on this side of the House have deliberately avoided being provocative or asking awkward questions while the conference was taking place. Now the time has come to say that on the first issue, on the constitution, I am dubious about some of the clauses within that constitution and about some of the principles enshrined. It is much more in keeping with African tradition to have an executive president than it is to have an imitation of the Westminster system of a constitutional president and a Prime Minister. I believe that the Patriotic Front was right to oppose specific racial representation in separating Members of Parliament according to the colour of their skins. I believe that a mistake was made when certain vital sections of the Bill of Rights were made subject to a 100 per cent. vote—which I believe is unique anywhere in the world.

Secondly, on the interim period, I believe that the Foreign Secretary has always been wrong in resisting the clamant demands from a whole variety of sources to organise a peace-keeping force, based on the Commonwealth, large enough to keep the peace. I believe that the reason he did so was nothing more than his reaction to the Owen-Vance plan which had laid down a United Nations peace-keeping force which could have been of great value during this period. Furthermore, it is absolutely essential that during this interim period equality is applied, and seen to be applied, to the forces of the two sides. But let us remember, when we are saying that, that we are talking in equal terms about on the one hand, the Patriotic Front forces who have been fighting for self-determination, and, on the other hand, the Salisbury forces who have been fighting to maintain a rebellion and to maintain white control of that country. There is, at least, a strong argument for reverse discrimination to give extra opportunities to the Patriotic Front to catch up with their backlog in electoral organisation.

Then, my Lords, there is the sending of the Governor before the cease-fire. I understood that the Foreign Secretary had pledged in this House that the Governor would not be sent to that country until a cease-fire had been agreed. I think he has been put in an impossible position; because we want to know what has happened since the Governor arrived in Salisbury and what is going to happen. We want to know why it is that the Patriotic Front parties are still bound in Salisbury. I was satisfied with what the noble and learned Lord said about the amnesty. It does not apply to breaches of British law against sanctions and, therefore, does not apply to the Question that I asked this afternoon about the Bingham Report. But here we have a situation with a British Governor in charge who is still maintaining the ban on those parties that are to be allowed to take part in the elections and who obviously represent several hundred thousands or even millions of people in that country.

We see that on Saturday one of the leaders of that party, Mr. Msipa, was arrested and charged with conducting an illegal demonstration, although he is representing one of the parties at the Lancaster House Conference. How can one put a Governor in that kind of stupid position? We have seen no repeal of martial law; we have not seen any cancellation of executions. And let us remember that those executions were ordered under an illegal régime, and that many of them were carried out despite the personal plea of Her Majesty the Queen that they should not be carried out. We are still asking for an amnesty and reconciliation; but the people who are dead are not going to be very impressed by that kind of reconciliation.

I should like to ask the noble Lord who is going to wind up whether he will answer a specific question which arises from a Statement made by the Minister in another place. Is it the case, that since the Governor arrived, South African forces, South African personnel, and (as admitted by British military authorities) South African units, have been withdrawn from Zimbabwe?—because on 12th December, the Under-Secretary of State had this to say, that during the pre-independence period and after the presence, therefore, of the Governor in Salisbury, there can be and will be no foreign involvement. Has that foreign involvement ceased? I think that we are entitled to a specific answer.

We have heard this afternoon of the dangers that the cease-fire may not be signed. I think it will be signed; but I do not think it is the most important issue. Unfortunately, regarding the conduct of the cease-fire negotiations I differ with the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack; this is not a political decision. This is a decision which involves the safety of the people who have been fighting for self-determination. The fact that the arrangements for the locations in the cease-fire were made between the British Government and General Wall, representing the Salisbury forces, has inevitably and naturally angered the Patriotic Front. They remember that it is only a few months since the forces of the erstwhile colleague of Bishop Muzorewa, the Reverend Sithole, were massacred by those of the Bishop—by the security forces. One hundred and eighty-three of them were massacred this summer. Can one expect, with that very recent experience, that the Patriotic Front is going to put its forces in a position in which they can be massacred either by air or by land power?

Now we come to the real crunch of the present deadlock: the locations. This seems so stupid from the Government's point of view. There have been suspicions that the Patriotic Front will not send all their forces into the assembly points. But the Patriotic Front is being honest, they are saying when the British Government says to them each assembly point will have 1,000 men there, "We have 31,000 men, so we need 31 assembly points." The British Government says, "No, we will give you a great concession, we will raise the number from 15 to 16." And what happens? There are 1,000 men in each of the 15 or 16 assembly points and the rest are in the bush. That is the inevitable consequence of the British Government's policy. They are inviting the Patriotic Front to keep their armed people in the bush because they will not grant what seems to be obvious: the opportunity for the Patriotic Front to have all its forces in assembly points which are so located that they can he protected from attack by the security forces. Not only has one cast doubt on the good faith of the Patriotic Front, but when the Patriotic Front have shown good faith it has been thrown back in their teeth. They are invited by the British Government to stay in the bush to the danger of the future of the cease-fire.

Another point which I should like to ask the noble Lord to clear up arises out of paragraph 25 of the British Government's paper on the cease-fire submitted to the Lancaster House Conference of 5th December. Part of the paragraph reads: If, however, all Patriotic Front forces inside Rhodesia assemble with their arms, and where there is no further movement by externally-based Patriotic Front forces into Rhodesia, there would be no need in those circumstances for the Governor to ask the Rhodesian forces to deploy from their company bases". What does that mean? Does that mean that the Governor is going to use the present Salisbury security forces to suppress any possible breaking of the cease- fire among the Patriotic Forces? There are bound to be incidents. Who is going to be told by the Governor to suppress any cease-fire violation? This is a specific question: is it going to be the responsibility of the security forces to suppress their own breaches of cease-fire or of the Patriotic Front to suppress their own, or is it, as this paragraph appears to make clear, that the Governor is going to use the present security forces in order to suppress breaches of the cease-fire by the Patriotic Front? We are entitled to an answer, and the Patriotic Front is entitled to an answer.

Finally on this point, may I ask the Minister to look again at the desperately important issue of the air force bases. As I understand it, only two air force bases are going to be monitored. The Minister and everyone know that there are far more than two air force bases controlled by the security forces in Rhodesia. I can mention two right now. My Lords, you have in your paper Salisbury; you have Gwelo. What about Hartley? What about Wankie?—and one could go on. I ask for a specific answer to the question about how many air force bases have been identified and who is going to monitor them. This is why the Patriotic Front, naturally, are very nervous that when their forces are deployed in these assembly points they will be open to attacks such as we have seen take place throughout Rhodesia and in neighbouring countries.

I am worried about one word regarding the future—and I shall raise this at the Committee stage. It is the word "irreversible". This was used in another place and it was used in a different way by the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack when he said that we cannot take on an open-ended commitment. We want to know whether in all circumstances this Bill is giving the Government the power to grant independence.

I remember particularly a statement made some years ago by my old friend Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore, when he was talking about the consequences of the end of the British Empire. He said—and said very boldly—to his fellow ex-colonials that the trouble was that the British had given responsibility without power; that they had given political responsibility but without the security and without the structure of defence to maintain that political settlement.

I believe that that is a danger today; I believe again that the Foreign Secretary has made a mistake in turning down the proposals that were made by my right honourable friend in another place and the United States Secretary of State and, above all, by the noble Lord, Lord Carver, for an independent force there that could integrate the security forces during the interim period. The noble Lord, Lord Carver, had the skeleton of a plan that could begin to integrate those forces so that when the new Government was elected it would inherit the power to support its own political structure. This goes further because everybody is talking about the danger of a coup after the election. There inevitably comes up in regard to the location of the forces the danger of a military coup conducted by the military forces previously under Bishop Muzorewa and Ian Smith supported by the South Africans as a part of their policy of developing what they call their constellation of Southern African States. It would only be if, during the interim period, a force was gathered together and trained at least to the point at which there is a national force—a national army and a national police force—to be inherited by the new Government, that this danger could reasonably be expected to be avoided.

As we pass this Bill, let us express our thanks to the many non-governmental organisations involved, to the Commonwealth Secretariat under "Sonny" Ramphal; to the front-line Presidents; to the Nigerian Government; to the Patriotic Front and to the Muzorewa Government and the many others whom the noble Lord will know. Let us express the hope that in the coming months and years, which are going to be very, very delicate and very, very fraught, the hard and patient work that has been done behind the scenes by so many organisations is continued now—continued with the further responsibility that falls on us all, and I include myself here, to mediate, to reconcile and to help in development. But let us always remember that we are facing this prospect. We are facing the expectations of land reform, the redistribution of wealth, of employment where there is unemployment and, above all, of peace. We are facing that at the end of a period not of 14 years but of 90 years, during which time the vast majority of the inhabitants of Zimbabwe believe that they have been ruled by other people. They are determined now to rule themselves.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that he appears to be worried about foreign intervention, but he does not appear to be at all worried about Soviet intervention. He does not appear to be worried about the hundreds of officers and advisers who are training the guerrilla armies in Mozambique and Zambia. He is not worried about the two Russian generals who have been based in Lusaka for some time. His argument really appears to be very one-sided and not at all impartial.


My Lords, I am glad the noble Viscount has raised that point, because it is one that has been raised by so many noble Lords on this side of the House and indeed a number of noble Lords on the other side. Of course there are Soviet advisers; of course there are Soviet weapons; of course there is a danger of the involvement of Cuban troops, just as there was the involvement of Cuban troops in Angola after the South African army, as attested by the Americans, invaded that country. The Africans want to exclude all foreign influence, but the influence of South Africa has been there for a very much longer time than that of the Soviet Union—long before the Soviet Union was ever heard of—and so long as there is the danger of intervention from South Africans and from mercenaries from other parts of the world, so long will the forces that have been fighting for self-determination inevitably turn to those who will help them. They are not turning to the Russians because they are Russians but because they cannot get help from Western Europe.

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, if I may say so at the beginning of my speech, I think it is a pity that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, has given us the impression that he has spoken in this House this afternoon not in the independent stance which noble Lords should on all sides attain, but as a spokesman of the Patriotic Front. We in this House have different views about the past and I shall be referring to them shortly, but I am quite certain that all of us today—and I wish to take only a few minutes of your Lordships' time—agree that we wish my noble friend Lord Soames success in his sudden assignment and offer to my noble friend the Foreign Secretary our warmest congratulations on a major achievement in the field of British diplomacy and statesmanship—


My Lords—


My Lords, perhaps I may go on: the noble Lord has had nearly half an hour. Some people have tended to criticise the length of the Lancaster House Conference. Negotiations about Africa with Africans are not amenable to the hectic time-scale of diplomacy in Europe and America. Your Lordships will perhaps recall that Rhodes' successful negotiations with the Matabele Indunas in 1896 lasted, on a daily basis, from August to October. That was to settle four months of violence and not seven years of escalating civil war. The Foreign Secretary, in handling these recent negotiations with Bishop Muzorewa, the Patriotic Front and the Rhodesian Front, has shown the same patience and decision that Rhodes showed on that occasion. In my view, that has been the basis of his success.

It gives me particular pleasure to be able to say this, because when in 1968 my noble friend Lord Carrington, as Leader of the Opposition, brought about in this House the defeat of the Southern Rhodesia Order in Council on sanctions, I led a handful of Conservative Peers in support of its continuance. I opposed the compact of my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel with Mr. Smith in 1972. I did not believe that it was a British solution to the problem of Rhodesia in accordance with the long-determined policies of the United Kingdom, and I think I can say that the Pearce Commission subsequently confirmed that that view was right.

Therefore, I am naturally glad that after so many years there is the hope that at last a British solution for the problems of Rhodesia may be on the threshold of agreement. That was, if I may say so, after all what I was sent out to bring about in 1961, and what as a servant of the British Government of a different political persuasion and as a private Member of your Lordships' House, I have tried to do ever since.

Now, at the end of this tale of failure and frustration and 14 years of UDI, what is the balance sheet?—20,000 dead, a beautiful and happy country in the process of political and social disintegration, neighbours in Zambia and Botswana gravely affected, the intrusion of Communist influence over the whole of Africa facilitated. And why? Because the British solution for the future of that country of Rhodesia was cynically rejected in 1962 and that rejection was dramatically endorsed in 1965.

Now, with good fortune, under Providence, there may be a British solution—not as appropriate a solution as could have been achieved in 1962, not a solution as favourable to the Europeans or the Africans in Rhodesia, not a solution which can bring to life the dead, not a solution which can open up the certainty of creating in Rhodesia a multiracial state on the British model which was possible 20 years age, but nevertheless a British solution with, for a few weeks, a British Governor in Government House in Salisbury and a few hundred British servants and soldiers endeavouring to rescue black and white from the consequences of the stupidity, selfishness and malignity of those who over these last 14 years have derided this country, vilified its leaders and done untold damage to the real interests of Southern Africa and the Western world in general.

For some time past I have been of the opinion that it was too late for Britain to find a solution which would avoid ultimate disaster in Rhodesia. I think that the prospects today are pretty small. Nevertheless, I believe it would be wrong not to acknowledge the courage which Her Majesty's Government have shown in undertaking a commitment where the cards are so heavily stacked against success. I believe it is right now that everyone should give it wholehearted support. It is a gamble with the residual authority of this country, derived from its imperial era and with our credibility in international politics. If it succeeds, our action will have great advantages to Africa and to our own international standing. It may give fresh life to the Commonwealth, from which this initiative was derived. It is something which is expected of us by our friends all over the world. If we did not make this effort even at this thirteenth hour; if we were not prepared to take this gamble; if we were seen to shirk a responsibility which we acknowledge to be ours, then I think we would have felt an overwhelming sense of guilt as we stood by, as helpless spectators of the subsequent unfolding tragedy.

Therefore, if it fails I shall not be among those who seek to blame the Government or criticise the Foreign Secretary from the comfortable vantage point of hindsight. And if that does happen, I hope that those who do so will remember that the noble Lord, Lord Soames, will be the only British Governor of a dependency in history who has been commissioned to exercise direct personal rule without a single instrument of the authority of this country at his disposal, except the commission bearing Her Majesty's signature—no United Kingdom recruited Civil Service, no battalions and units of the British Army, no staff with experience of Rhodesia; nothing, except his own judgment and personality.

One cannot go on for ever sustaining old bitterness or grieving over the mistakes and lost opportunities of the past. One of the greatest of the virtues of the English is that they combine an enduring respect for history and precedent with an ability to consign to oblivion the events and bitterness of the more recent past. Our own civil war, three centuries ago, ended with an Act of Indemnity and Oblivion. The Bill before us, in Clause 3, contains much the same provision. It covers, as I understand it from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, everything done in terms of the law of the United Kingdom by everyone—Rhodesian Front, Patriotic Front, security forces, guerrillas, the lot. It seeks, as he said, to wipe the slate clean.

I am sure that when independence comes to Rhodesia the slate will be clean, so far as we in this country are concerned. But whether such magnanimity is possible to black and white in Zimbabwe in the next few months, despite the hatreds and bitterness caused by these last many years; whether racial, economic and, above all, tribal differences will be submerged in the creation of a hopeful future for a Zimbabwe at peace, that I do not know.

There have been deplorable defects in the qualities of the leadership which the African peoples of Zimbabwe have produced from their own ranks during these last 20 years. Yet I know that there is a potential among the Africans in Zimbabwe, and among those who have been driven from it since 1965, which could make it the progressive, multiracial, prosperous country which it has always been British policy to create in that part of Africa. It is perhaps still possible that this may happen. It will require special qualities of tolerance, good sense and patriotism from both black and white which have seldom been evidenced elsewhere in history.

It could be that the men and women of Zimbabwe—Mashona, Matabele, European, Asian and Coloured—can, during the next few months, provide Africa and the rest of the world with an example of how to resolve a problem of human and political relationships of world-wide significance. And we here today in the Parliament at Westminster have, at any rate, the satisfaction of knowing that by passing this Bill we shall be giving them the chance.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I put this to him? I have the most enormous respect and admiration for the noble Lord who has just spoken, but can he understand that, while many of us on this side of the House applaud to an enormous extent everything that the Foreign Secretary has done and think that he has made a great breakthrough, we may have reservations, without saying anything unkind and without criticising the Foreign Secretary?


My Lords, the noble Baroness has never said anything unkind or ungracious about anyone, and I am quite certain that nothing like that would ever apply to her.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down for a second time, may I associate myself with everything that my noble friend Lady Gaitskell has said about the noble Lord, Lord Alport, for whom, as he knows, I have always had both a regard and an affection. But as he referred to me personally, would he just recognise that it is essential for some of us, with the kind of principles that we hold, to make a sharp differentiation between those who have been fighting in Rhodesia for self-determination, and those who have been fighting to maintain a rebellion against the Crown and the maintenance of white supremacy? Without taking any sides among the African parties, and without being accused of representing the Patriotic Front, this is the sharp and clear distinction which can and, to us, must be made.


My Lords, I am very grateful for the noble Lord's views. My view was very clear. He gave the impression of it, and that was the impression which was in my mind. I shall read his speech tomorrow in Hansard and see whether that in any way changes the very clear impression that I have at the moment.

5.17 p.m.


My Lords, I do not want to intervene in this discussion, but I listened carefully to the words of the noble Lord and to those of my noble friend and previous colleague Lord Alport. I thought he put the matter so extremely well that there was very little else to say. With respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, I thought that he had his own reservations and doubts, as all of us had, because we are discussing this Bill at a moment of twilight when none of us quite knows what the dawn will bring. Each of us can have his hopes and his fears, and we have heard both expressed this evening. But it is futile at this stage to indulge our fancies, certainly dangerous to prophesy, and quite otiose, on my part, to attempt to offer any advice. So rather than deal with the present doubts and difficulties, I prefer to take a rather broader perspective.

I was adviser, for the last seven years of my Government service, to successive Governments and Ministers on the problem of Rhodesia, and I feel that I should be lacking in a sense of history and in the fitness of things if I did not, at least, add a brief comment this evening. From 1962 until my retirement we were striving, first, to avoid any declaration of independence and, secondly, to end it, but as everyone knows we failed. No doubt many mistakes were made during that time; perhaps, most of all, the over-emphasis laid on the effectiveness of sanctions. So that for 14 dreary years the struggle went on, with occasional gleams of light from time to time, but no solution in sight and certainly no prospect of Britain exercising responsibility.

I am sure the Foreign Secretary would be the first to admit that circumstances have changed this year and new situations have been opened up, particularly since the Smith régime first recognised the principle of majority rule, and then agreed to its being put into practice. Nevertheless, it is to the eternal credit of the Foreign Secretary, of his colleagues in the Government, and of the officials who advised him that this opportunity was seized and the initiative was taken, and that with a mixture of firmness, flexibility, patience and determination, and a careful selection of the risks but a readiness to run them, the Foreign Secretary did bring matters, if not to a total conclusion, at least very nearly there.

Of course, we are still in medias res, and all of us must accept that there are bound to be arguments and difficulties, and possibly conflicts on the spot. There may well be incidents. All this emphasises the challenge to the noble Lord, Lord Soames, underlines his courage in undertaking the job, and emphasises also the need for him to show the same degree of nerve and character that Lord Carrington has shown in the negotiations.

I think that this is a tremendous achievement by the Government. As the noble Lord, Lord Alport, said, the Government have achieved something which has eluded all their predecessors. They have established in Rhodesia the authority of the British Government. I use advisedly the word "established" because authority has never before been established in this form. After 1890 it was the British South African company. After 1923 it was the self-governing Colony of Rhodesia. After 1965, admittedly powers were taken in this House to assert the sovereignty of Britain but they were never properly exercised on the spot. Now, for the first time, we have the British Crown in control. This in itself is an historic moment.

Secondly, the Government have achieved the return to legality which is the essential condition for international recognition of independence. Rhodesia has therefore been set on a new path. It is now up to the Rhodesians themselves to settle what future they want to have. Only the Rhodesians can do it. We can provide the conditions, and we can advise. We can do a variety of things. But in the last resort it must be up to the Rhodesians themselves to decide. In this way we shall be fulfilling the vital Fifth Principle, which undertook that the form of government would be one that was acceptable to all Rhodesians.

After so many years of disappointment and frustration Britain can again hold her head high and feel that she can withdraw from what is now her last major colonial responsibility with dignity and with honour. But I say this with no sense of selfish self-satisfaction over the achievement of a moral principle. As the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has implied, other great consequences are at stake, too. It can bring peace and stability to Rhodesia, which has been so unhappy for so many years. It can end the bitterness and argument that there has been in this country and throughout the Commonwealth, with all the stirrings of racial confrontation which that has brought about. Above all, in my view, it can point the way to racial harmony in Central Africa, and lead to a relaxation of tension and a renewal of energy in countries like Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana and others. Finally—who knows?—it may drive home a lesson which may be heeded in South Africa in years to come, with tremendous consequences for the peace and stability of us all.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, it is not my purpose to detain your Lordships for long. My task is made easier because I find myself in wholehearted agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Alport's description of the events of the last 14 years as tragic, unnecessary and potentially disastrous. The noble Lord did not, however, ask one question. I do not blame him for that, but I am going to provide my answer to the question which I think he should have asked: namely, why it was that in 1965 Mr. Ian Smith decided to embark upon this disastrous course of action, disastrous even for the interests which he represented.

To my mind, the reasons are twofold. The first reason is the action which was taken by a Conservative Administration before 1964–I do not know whether it was at the time when the noble Lord, Lord Alport, himself was a Minister—to supply Rhodesia with the Hunters, the Canberras and the Vampires which made it quite impossible for this country to take effective military action without clearly established air support. That opportunity to take the necessary action was denied to us by Mr. Nyerere, who refused to allow us to station the necessary air force squadrons in Tanzania. But there was a second reason: that Mr. Smith got a blank cheque from South Africa. He would never have proclaimed UDI without the certainty of the superiority of his air force, plus the support of South Africa underwriting the political and economic commitment into which he had entered.

My quarrel, if I may put it that way, or my difference with the Government, is that those two conditions still operate today. The first condition need not operate, because today Britain, now that there is a British Governor, has the capacity, if she so desires, to put effective air forces into Rhodesia which would take out the Rhodesian air force and which could, if necessary, take on South Africa.

I want to ask the Minister whether he would be kind enough to answer a question which was put to him by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, and which was put in another place to the Government but which was not answered. I wonder whether the Minister would tell the House whether the Government have made demands to South Africa that she should withdraw the forces which she has infiltrated into Mozambique, into Zambia and into Rhodesia itself. If a satisfactory answer is given, I believe that any opposition by the Patriotic Front to the cease-fire would then vanish.

I want to go a little further than that, and to particularise this. It is not merely knowledge of the ground forces that is required. I want to know whether the Pumas piloted by South African officers, and in particular the Bells which came originally from Israel, are still there, and whether they are going to remain there; because if they are there and the Patriotic Front gives the map references—which will be well known to everybody—then at any point, should negotiations break down, those concentration areas could be taken out in a matter of minutes. We have to remember that the Patriotic Front has no air cover—none at all—whereas the Rhodesian air force, based upon the South African commitment, can travel, in a matter of minutes, distances which would take days, if not weeks, to be covered in the height of the rainy season.

Without that condition, it seems to me that the Patriotic Front is putting itself in a position of extreme danger. Indeed, this country is putting itself in danger, too, for this reason. The outcome of Lord Soames' mission—and, goodness knows! I wish him well—depends not only on the elections but on what the rest of the world in general and what Africa think about them. Despite all the fine words in the great speech of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, and also the sincere words of the noble Lord, Lord Alport, if at the end of the day it is demonstrated that South Africa has paid the piper and has also called the tune, it is not only South Africa and Rhodesia which will suffer. Our reputation will sink to rock bottom, and that is disastrous, because for Britain the days of power are over. I had always hoped that the days of influence would then begin, but there can be no influence if we have not played fair over this. I am not absolutely sure that we have played fair. I like to think that we have, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

I will not detain your Lordships longer. This Bill is a blank cheque. The Government refuse to accept the Affirmative Order. I think they are unwise; I think it would be a gesture of goodwill and good intent that, for political reasons, they would do well to accept. If they refuse again, the responsibility rests firmly on their shoulders. But it is not only on their shoulders; it is the reputation of this country about which we all must be concerned.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, before I proceed to develop my speech this afternoon I should like to comment on some of the previous speeches. As I said in the debate on the Southern Rhodesia Bill, I was in Rhodesia during, the Lancaster House Conference. I met and talked with a number of black Africans in Victoria Falls, in Bulawayo and in Salisbury itself. I visited the security forces and members of the public service. In all the conversations I had with them there was one abiding desire which all of them seemed to want, and that was peace for the country. They seemed not to be unduly worried at what complexion might develop in respect of a Government elected to power after the election. I say that this evening because I wish to reduce the temperature raised in some of the speeches which have preceded mine.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, in his comments on the appointment of my noble friend Lord Soames as Governor of Rhodesia, implied that because he was a Conservative he was incapable of exercising a dispassionate consideration of many of the tremendous problems with which he will be faced when he has been in office for a few months and before he hands over to an independent Government. I objected to that statement by the noble Lord. I felt that it was impugning the honour of the noble Lord, which stands particularly high in regard to the services he has rendered in a dispassionate sense in the interests of this country, in many of the great appointments he has held overseas and in Britain.

Another point I should like to make in respect of some of the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, is that he seems to me to impugn the whole of the past colonial policies of Britain in exercising its powers as a colonial empire. This rubs off on me particularly, because for the whole of my life I have given effect to those colonial policies overseas, as I have said on rather too many occasions in your Lordships' House. Many books which I deplore are written now. They are being circulated in the schools of Africa and give a quite similar account to that of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, about our past policies, going back, as he seemed to indicate, over 90 years.

When I was at Victoria Falls in Rhodesia I was shown propaganda which was printed by the other side, or emanating from the Patriotic Front, which was captured by the security forces a week before my visit. It seemed to me that similar arguments to those which the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, deploys in your Lordships' House were used in this Communist propaganda by the forces which were then on the other side of the boundaries of Rhodesia. But this kind of argument deployed about our past policies is being used everywhere by every terrorist throughout the world who wishes us harm, and I deplore it. I feel it is about time that the true account was given of the honourable way in which we have acted over the years in many parts of the world.


My Lords, if the noble Lord would allow me to intervene, if he describes members of the Patriotic Front and similar people as Communists and terrorists, will he tell the House how he describes those who supported and fought for Ian Smith after he had broken his Oath of allegiance to the Queen?


My Lords, I have discussed that very point with many of the civil servants of Rhodesia, and I would say this. Perhaps what is not known in this country, and it should be known a little more clearly, is that the public servants of a country or any administration are bound to give their loyalty and support to any Government in power. They do not strike and they never have struck in defence of any disagreement with that policy; they are not allowed to have a policy at all. They merely have to serve the Government in power. I am not defending UDI. Many of the public servants I spoke to disagreed with UDI; many of the people in Rhodesia disagreed with UDI. But they were faced with a fait accompli. They had no alternative but to go on and do their duty in support of somebody with whom they may have profoundly disagreed.


Like the Nazis.


My Lords, this Bill and the Southern Rhodesia Constitution (Interim Provisions) Order 1979 give power to my noble friend Lord Soames, as the newly appointed Governor of Rhodesia, whom we all wish well, to act as Governor over various matters, one of which deals with the administration, and it is in respect of the administration that I now wish to make my comments. I shall be very brief, but I want to ask one question in regard to the public services of Rhodesia and their relationship with the Governor. I would ask this question of my noble friend Lord Trefgarne and I should like a considered answer.

At the present time in every respect the Zimbabwe Bill and these interim provisions give power to a Governor lawfully appointed by the British Government to govern. In every other territory in which Britain had a constitutionally appointed Governor hitherto, Britain, through her Governor and as soon as independence was finalised, entered into a public officers' agreement signed between Her Majesty's Government and the incoming independent Government. The object of this was to safeguard the terms of service and pensions of public servants. I should like to be assured that this procedure is being followed, or will be followed in due course, in the case of Rhodesia.

In that connection I would emphasise that there are many black and white public servants who would be involved. I would also emphasise to my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, that the public officers' agreement lays at the door of the independent Government full responsibility for pensions. If the public officers' agreement was omitted in the Rhodesian context—and I cannot see any reference to this in any of the documents we are considering this afternoon—then it would be the one exception to all other colonies granted independence by Her Majesty's Government.

The other point that I should like to make is largely a request to the Press and commentators outside your Lordships' House who by what they write and say—probably unwittingly, and only on some occasions—in the Rhodesian context, seem to give succour to those who would seek to make difficulties for my noble friend the Foreign Secretary and my noble friend Lord Soames in the peace which they both desire for Rhodesia. In that connection I should like to refer to a leader in The Times of 6th December on the difficulties that would face the Governor when he assumed duty in Salisbury. In reference to the Civil Service The Times wrote that the Governor would be facing the: administrative apparatus of a state which for 14 years has been in rebellion against the Crown and inspired by hatred and contempt for the British Government". That is simply not true. Note the date 6th December when The Times published this article. On the 13th November, in a debate on the Southern Rhodesia Bill, I spoke about my travels in Rhodesia where I found nothing but the highest traditions of public service anywhere and where I was to discover—and this is important—that in September 1978, over a year before my visit, a resolution was passed by civil servants who pledged to serve any Government elected to power. In the interim period they have pledged to serve my noble friend Lord Soames as loyally as they have served other governments in former days. I said a great deal of that in your Lordships' House, but even so The Times referred to the hatred and contempt of the: administrative apparatus of a State … inspired by hatred and contempt for the British Government. It is absolute nonsense.

It would be better for all concerned if the Press in general took a little more notice of what was said in your Lordships' House as regards what they publish as their opinions, and what commentators say in this connection, for the difficulties which lie ahead, even after a cease-fire has been achieved, may be extremely formidable. It is only too easy for those who on occasions seek no other interests but their own, to seize on any criticisms for their own ends in order to detract from the devoted courage, ability and character of my noble friend the Foreign Secretary in his efforts to secure peace for Rhodesia.


My Lords, with the leave of your Lordships' House I wish to support most warmly, if shortly, a most important point made by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts—namely, that it is of vital importance that broadcasting in Zimbabwe, particularly during the interregnum, be both fair and seen to be fair. That, other than Rhodesia, only Russia, Ethiopia and Radio Cairo broadcast in the two major vernacular languages of Shona and Matabele is not only sad but dangerous. The BBC Overseas Services, among others of course, broadcast in English to Africa as a whole. However, in Rhodesia only two people out of seven, at most, speak English. Arising out of that, may I ask the noble Lord whether Her Majesty's Government have any plans for using the unique experience of the BBC's African Services to assist the Rhodesian Broadcasting Service to maintain and even strengthen the impartiality of broadcasting, particularly in the tongues of Shona and Matabele and especially during the interregnum?

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, the Bill which the Government submit for your Lordships' approval tonight is the last major legislative step we have to take before we lay down our final direct responsibility in Africa. Our withdrawal from that continent has on the whole, I think, been achieved with dignity and justice.

The efforts which successive British Governments have made to solve this most intractable of problems by persuasion and negotiation, are perhaps best illustrated if I recall that your Lordships have held no less than 49 major debates and listened to 61 statements on the subject since UDI. Indeed, I venture to suggest that in terms of ministerial effort this problem has taken more time to resolve than the independence of Australia, Canada, India and New Zealand taken together.

The lengths to which this Administration have gone and the Herculian labours of my noble friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary are a matter of public record. Now, after three and a half months, the Conference at Lancaster House has concluded its work. The Salisbury delegation have accepted and initialled the documents, the contents of which are seen by world opinion to be entirely reasonable. All the main concerns of the Patriotic Front have been met. With the Governor in Salisbury all the agreements reached can be implemented without delay. We very much hope that the Patriotic Front will participate in the forthcoming election. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has described the final efforts which the Government have made to deal with their concerns. There is now no genuine obstacle to prevent them from initialling the agreements. But we cannot hold up Rhodesia's progress indefinitely. The Government have always made it clear, and I repeat tonight, that no party can have a veto.

My noble and learned friend described the achievements of the Conference, and the reasons behind the main thrust of our policy, with his usual clarity when he opened this debate, but perhaps your Lordships will allow me to deal with some of the narrower points which have been raised.

I understand the concern of many noble Lords about the decision to take direct responsibility for Rhodesia in the pre-independence period. There is no doubt that it will be a difficult time, and I believe we are fortunate to be able to call upon the services of my noble friend Lord Soames for this demanding task. May I say at this point that I quite reject the suggestions and criticisms put by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, when he suggested that my noble friend was less than suitable for the task.

It is important to emphasise the precise nature of that task. The Governor has full powers. But they are for a specific purpose and a short time. His main duty is to organise and conduct fair elections and provide an impartial administration of the country in the meantime. His responsibility does not extend further.

Several of your Lordships have asked how we will ensure that the elections are free and fair and, by implication, what we will do if the Commonwealth observers report unfavourably. My Lords, the world has long recognised that the resolution of this matter is a British responsibility and that, of course, includes ensuring that the elections are properly conducted. In the discharge of that responsibility we have appointed the Governor, together with a substantial staff, specifically to supervise the elections. We greatly welcome the expected presence of the Commonwealth observers and we shall do what we can to facilitate their task. But Rhodesia's prospects of international recognition and acceptance depend very much on the elections being seen to be fair. This will be an important incentive. But at the end of the day the final decision will be ours.

The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, asked whether the Government were considering the problems of reconstruction in Rhodesia. I can assure him that the Government will be ready to make development aid and technical assistance available to an independent Zimbabwe within the limits of our resources. In particular, as we have said at the Conference, we shall be prepared to provide assistance for agricultural development and land resettlement schemes. We shall also do all we can to support the independent Government in obtaining assistance from other donors. We are considering urgently what possibility there might be of obtaining for Rhodesia some preferential access to EEC markets during the interim.

We are also conscious of the heavy toll that continuing Rhodesian conflict has exacted on all the neighbouring States, particularly Zambia. We have made it clear that once the cease-fire has been agreed we shall wish to play our part in assisting Zambia to restore her infrastructure. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, is not in his place, but none the less it may be convenient for your Lordships if I deal with some of the points he raised, because they are of interest to several noble Lords.


My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend did not intend any discourtesy, but as the House will realise, we are two speakers short and I hope that he will be here any moment.


My Lords, I quite accept that, but it would probably be convenient if I deal with the points raised by the noble Lord as they are of interest to several other noble Lords. Indeed, I see the noble Lord now taking his seat. The noble Lord raised several points about the administration of Rhodesia under the Governor. However, I think that his expectations may be a little too great. My noble friend has been in Rhodesia for only five days. Although he is certainly giving urgent attention to the issues raised by the noble Lord, I am afraid that they cannot all be resolved immediately.

The noble Lord also raised the question of access to the media, which was echoed by my noble friend Lord Morris. The document on pre-independence arrangements agreed at the Constitutional Conference establishes the right of all parties to have free access to the media, as well as the freedom to publish and advertise political views. It will be important to ensure that the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation is genuinely impartial in its coverage of political activities, and the Governor's instructions specifically cover this point. I understand that those members of the corporation who are standing for political office have agreed to vacate their posts. I can also inform your Lordships that the ZRBC has agreed to take the BBC Overseas Service for its first news broadcast every morning.

The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, also inquired about detainees. If I heard him correctly, he suggested that there were 18,000 detainees. I know of no basis for that figure, which I must say is very much in excess of the figure available to us. Documents agreed at the Conference call on all parties to release persons detained arbitrarily and on political grounds, and the Governor will take steps to ensure that that happens. I hope that persons detained outside Rhodesia by or at the request of the Patriotic Front will also be released. The Governor will also be ordering a review of the cases of all persons detained. The noble Lord also asked me about refugees. A start will be made during the period of the Governor's rule on the resettlement of refugees.


My Lords, before the noble Lord deals with that point, it is not suggested, is it, that prisoners of war should be released before the war is over?


My Lords, neither side claims to hold any prisoners of war at present; but, as I have said, the Governor will certainly be reviewing the cases of those detained—at least those cases to which he has access.

To continue on the question of the refugees, it is a sizeable problem, and I can only say to your Lordships that I am confident that the Governor will use his very best efforts to deal with it. On the question of the shipments of maize, we are taking the necessary steps to lift the ban on maize shipments, but there are a number of administrative arrangements that have to be made, and these may take a few days.

The other important issue which the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, raised, was the question of the parliamentary procedure on the order setting out the day of independence. All the major issues of the Constitutional Conference have been resolved, and we think that the House and your Lordships should form a judgment now on whether the conditions for independence have been established. In the Government's view they have. The issue of majority rule, which has been at the root of the conflict in Rhodesia, has been settled by the independence constitution. With the appointment of a British Governor the territory has returned to legal status. It has been agreed that elections should be held, supervised under the British Government's authority. We have achieved agreement on these points at the Constitutional Conference, and there is nothing further which the Government intend to ask of the parties to the Conference. Therefore, we believe that we are fully justified in asking the House to decide upon the issue of independence now.

Perhaps I could now turn to some of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby. The noble Lord repeated a number of issues which were agreed by all the parties at the Conference. I do not think that tonight I shall re-open the discussion that took place at Lancaster House. However, the noble Lord also asked why the ban on political parties was being maintained. It has been made clear to the parties concerned that the ban will be lifted as soon as the cease-fire agreement is signed. Thereafter all parties will be able to take part in the election campaign, provided, of course, that they campaign peacefully. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, also asked why martial law had not been lifted. The document on the pre-independence arrangements agreed by all the parties at the Conference says that in the event of an effective cease-fire the need for martial law will disappear. That is certainly our position.

The noble Lord asked about the South African forces, a point which I think was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. My noble friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has told your Lordships that we envisage no external military intervention in Rhodesia under a British Governor. The Governments concerned are aware of our views and we are quite sure that they will comply.


My Lords, I asked the same question in more specific terms. I asked the noble Lord whether the Government have made specific requests to the South African Government to withdraw the forces that they have infiltrated into Mozambique and into Zambia, and whether they have withdrawn in particular the Pumas and the South African pilots who have been operating them.


My Lords, I think that I would be wise to consider the implications of that question before I answer, certainly before I answer in public. I shall consider it and write to the noble Lord. All the major issues of the constitutional conference are now resolved.


My Lords, I thought that the noble Lord was going to continue on the same point, because he has not answered the question which I asked nor that which my noble friend Lord Wigg asked. I quoted specifically from the Under-Secretary, who, in the debate in another place last week, said: During the pre-independence period and after the presence, therefore, of the Governor in Salisbury, there can be and will be no foreign involvement".—[Official Report, Commons, 12/12/79; col. 1413.] The Governor is in Salisbury. Are the South African forces still within the frontiers of Rhodesia?


My Lords, there are certainly no units of the South African forces in Rhodesia, but there are individuals of various nationalities serving in the Rhodesian armed forces. However, the only forces in Rhodesia in this period will be the Rhodesian armed forces and the Patriotic Front forces. We have made it clear at the conference and elsewhere that we do not contemplate any kind of purge of the personnel of the forces of either side.

As I was saying, all the major issues of the constitutional conference are now resolved. We have gone to the limits to reach agreement, and we sincerely believe that the documents now awaiting signature constitute a settlement which is fair to all parties. As my noble and learned friend has said, the achievements of the conference have been remarkable. It remains only to put a settlement into effect, and that we are poised to do. The Government hope that the Patriotic Front will sign the agreements very shortly and thus put the final seal on all that has been achieved at this conference.

The Government have now embarked upon an irreversible process to bring Rhodesia to independence. The first step of this last phase was to install the Governor in Salisbury. We cannot and will not impose new conditions. The conditions for independence have been fulfilled in the agreements reached at Lancaster House. They will now be carried out. We can no longer deny to the people of Rhodesia their right to take their place in the world as a free and independent Zimbabwe.

The choice now facing the Patriotic Front is a simple one. On the one hand, they can sign the agreements now on the table. They will have a fair chance to put their support to the test in elections held under our authority. These agreements, in the Government's considered opinion, constitute a settlement fair and reasonable to all the parties and give to the Patriotic Front a splendid opportunity to submit themselves and their policies to the approval of the Rhodesian people. If they take that course—and we do not underestimate the political courage required of them to do so—then Rhodesia can move swiftly to independence in a spirit of reconciliation and national unity. The people of Zimbabwe will then have the chance they surely deserve to live in peace and increasing prosperity surrounded by friends and allies. Alternatively, if they allow the negotiations to founder after all that has been achieved they will bear a heavy responsibility. I repeat that it is our hope and our expectation that they will agree; and it is the clear duty of Her Majesty's Government to keep Rhodesia moving ahead and on course for independence in the near future. That duty is wholly binding upon us and will be discharged within a matter of weeks. This Bill enables us to do just that.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, there is one point which my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts raised to which I think the whole House would like an answer, and that is about Zambia. It is difficult to get information from that part of the world. My noble friend asked whether it was true that traffic has now been normalised between Rhodesia and Zambia as we thought it would be as soon as the Governor got there. Zambia is in fact starving. They have no maize. They are desperately in need of salt. So far as we know those goods are being held up in Rhodesia, and we should like to know whether the Governor is taking prompt action to deal with this matter.


My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness and the House that the Governor is taking steps to get maize moving into Zambia as quickly as possible. The noble Baroness may also recall that I answered a Question in the House a week or so ago about maize being provided by the British Government from another source, and that is also moving into Zambia.


My Lords, if my noble friend cannot give me the answer about the public officers agreement, would he write to me?


Yes, my Lords, my noble friend asked for a considered reply. I will do just that, consider the matter and write to him.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Then, Standing Order No. 43 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution):

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Trefgarne.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Independence for Zimbabwe]:

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?


We on this side have tried throughout these complicated debates and discussions always to be constructive and not obstructive. We have warned the Government when we felt that they were taking risks that perhaps could not be justified. We have always been clear about that. But we have tried to be constructive—I am sure noble Lords opposite will agree—and we did not put down an amendment at this stage, although we were tempted to do so because there is no question that feeling in another place, and in this House, is very strong about the whole question of the Order in Council about the date of independence merely being laid before Parliament but not being given an Affirmative Resolution by both Houses.

I must say that on this side we were profoundly disappointed by Lord Trefgarne's reply. He himself said that it was a British responsibility; that the whole world recognised it as such. We feel that under those conditions it ought to be seen to he approved by both Houses of the British Parliament. We cannot indeed form a view about whether the conditions for independence are fulfilled until after the elections have taken place.

My noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts pleaded with the noble Lord that if he could not give way completely on the Affirmative Orders, he should agree that there should be a report to Parliament after the elections and before the date for the independence order is laid. I know that it is the thirteenth hour, as the noble Lord, Lord Alport, said, but we feel deeply about this. We are profoundly disappointed that the Government could not respond in another place, and we ask the noble Lord even now to say that he will consider if not the complete Affirmative Resolution at least a report.


I should like to associate my noble friends on these Benches wholeheartedly with what the noble Baroness has said. We voted for this amendment in another place. We should like very much that the Government should to some extent, anyhow, revise their view.

6.6 p.m.


In full support of my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies I draw the attention of the Committee to the issues involved in this question of whether or not the Order in Council will be subject to debate by Parliament before it is carried into effect. That is the nub of the question. I believe that we have a parliamentary responsibility in this matter to ensure that the conditions have been fulfilled in which Parliament would wish to grant independence.

I do not accept the argument of the noble Lord the Minister when he said that all the conditions have been fulfilled for the granting of independence. They have not. They cannot have been, otherwise why are we inviting Commonwealth observers, probably international observers, certainly observers from this country to go and see whether the elections are held in a free and fair manner? What is the point of doing that if, in fact, they report that they have not been held in a free and fair manner and there is nothing we can do about it?

What we are being asked to do by the Government is to give them a blank cheque. This has never been done before in these circumstances. There has never been an occasion on which independence has been granted to a colony when a civil war was taking place; and that civil war is taking place right now. It has not come to an end. Never before in the history of British decolonisation has independence been granted without there being both stability and peace.

I believe that the noble and learned Lord now sitting on the Front Bench will understand the point when I say that to some extent this agreement has had to be reached by balancing justice and peace, and we have had to diminish to a slight extent the justice that is meted out in order to obtain peace. But what we cannot do is simply to say to the Government that, whatever happens between now and some time in March, they have the right to grant independence to Rhodesia. What is more, is this not unfair to the Governor, Lord Soames?


I do not think we are questioning the right of the Government to grant independence. Surely this Bill gives the Government the right to grant independence. We are simply talking about the day on which we do it.


I very much regret that there is not the same amendment down in this House as there was in the other place. That would then perhaps have made it clear to the noble Lord the Minister that what we are challenging is not the right of the Government to grant independence but the right of the Government to grant independence without coming back to both Houses of this Parliament with the reports of the Commonwealth observers, with the observations of the Governor himself, instead of putting all the intolerable onus on the Governor who may very well be in an extremely difficult situation after the election in deciding whom he should call upon to be Prime Minister.

Surely is is a parliamentary responsibility. Surely it means something that this Parliament is granting independence. This Government, all Governments, have always said that only the British Parliament can grant independence. Then the British Government have the responsibility before they grant independence of ensuring that circumstances commensurate with independence have been fulfilled. But they have not. They cannot have been fulfilled yet, and the Minister cannot get away with it. They can have been fulfilled only after the elections have taken place, after they have been seen to be free and fair, and after there is a situation when a government can take over all the responsibilities of independence.

There is no amendment down on this matter, so we cannot divide the Committee. We are simply asking the Government to say, "When we table the Order in Council we will return to Parliament and report to Parliament the circumstances existing between now and that date", and that would mean virtually no delay whatever. If, as we all hope, things have gone well, it will be only a matter of days because the matter will go straight through Parliament. But that right should remain with Parliament until Parliament is satisfied that circumstances have been created when it is right, fair and just to grant independence, rather than putting the onus on the Governor. It is here, in Parliament, where the responsibility should lie and I beg the Minister to promise that when the Order in Council is tabled it will be brought before both Houses of Parliament so that it may be debated before it is carried into effect.

6.12 p.m.


We have just listened to what I would call a quibbling argument, and a dangerously quibbling one at that. It is Parliament which is granting independence and that is what the Bill is all about; nobody but the two Houses of Parliament has given authority for independence to be granted under terms with which Parliament has shown itself to be satisfied. The actual date on which the formalities are completed is a matter that must be at the judgment of the Government of the day, and the reason why I say the argument to which we have just listened is dangerously quibbling is that it reflects a lack of confidence in your Lordships' House as to the good intentions and the good sense of the Government when they come to whatever decision as regards the date that they will eventually have to reach. If we here in Parliament reflect such a lack of confidence, are we not adding fuel to the arguments of people who, for reasons quite different from whatever reasons may be expressed here, have also shown a lack of confidence in what will eventually be the decision?

If on this matter we cannot be unanimous in allowing the Government of the day, with the special knowledge that only the Government of the day can have, as to the date, time and hour when the final move should be made, I believe we shall be creating an atmosphere which could be dangerous. If in some special circumstances the conditions were completely changed or something unforeseen were to happen, we know that we have a Government who would take that circumstance into account and who would wish to share with Parliament any new facts which may arise. If that is not the sort of confidence which your Lordships' House can reflect, we should not be surprised if it undermines the advance that has been made in other quarters.


Would the noble Lord not agree that it is not just a question of having confidence in this Government; that possibly one may need to have confidence in another Government?


What the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, was asking was that this Government should not he allowed, if the circum- stances are in their judgment the right circumstances, to make the final decision. Let us not quibble and let us not, especially at this stage, be dangerously quibbling as we approach this great move forward.


We have heard repeatedly from the Government Front Bench that the process to which your Lordships' House is asked to agree is irreversible. In the light of that definition of what they are doing now in the name of this country, and for Rhodesia, we have suggested that the mechanism of the Affirmative Resolution be adopted—that would not delay the order by more than a couple of days—or, failing that (and this is a great concession from us) that a report either from the Commonwealth monitoring force or some other impartial source as to how the elections have gone, showing, we very much hope, and I very much expect, that the pre-requisite condition for independence, namely, properly conducted free and fair elections, have in fact taken place. I cannot understand why the Government first refuse the Affirmative Resolution procedure and, secondly, seem unwilling to present a report to your Lordships' House which we could then look at and say, "This is all excellent. Let the date be announced today and we shall all agree to it".

6.15 p.m.


I am afraid I cannot agree to either of the proposals put to me by the noble Lord.


The noble Lord will rue this day; it is a great mistake.


As my noble and learned friend stressed in his Second Reading speech, the Government have asked both sides of the constitutional conference to make concessions. They have agreed to our proposals on the understanding that, provided they fulfil the agreed conditions, independence will he forthcoming. The Rhodesian Parliament has been dissolved and Bishop Muzorewa and his colleagues are standing aside in the belief that an irreversible process is being engaged leading to independence.

Secondly, if a further parliamentary stage were added, it could—I emphasise "could"—mean that the Government were taking on an open-ended commitment in Rhodesia. The purpose of assuming legislative and executive authority in Rhodesia is to allow elections to be held in which all parties can participate and independence be granted to whatever Government emerges. This is a finite process and the Government cannot accept the possibility that it could be extended. If we allow the Affirmative Resolution procedure, of course Parliament might produce a Negative Resolution and that, we think, would be against the undertakings we have given.

The Government recognise that the majority of independence Bills set a date for independence, but that is by no means always so; it was not done, for instance, in the case of independence for Ceylon, Cyprus, Malaya or Malta. In none of those cases was it judged appropriate to provide any parliamentary procedure for the orders setting the date of independence. I have already explained to the Committee the uncertainty over the precise date of elections and the exact length of time which it will take to complete the various stages after them.


Would the noble Lord give way?


No, not at the moment. There will need to be consultation with the Governor and with the parties, and it may be that the final date for independence is not set till a later stage in the process which I have described. The Government must have reasonable flexibility in this matter.


I simply wanted to ask the Minister, while sincerely taking in all he has said, if he was aware that none of the Governments he cited had the problem of UDI. We were confronted with a completely different case. We are not attacking the Government; we are simply saying it is Parliament which should make the decision.


May I make an appeal to the Government Front Bench to concede our request? I think my colleagues have been extremely reasonable and I urge the noble Lord to accept that an Opposition has its rights; we believe that what we are suggesting is positive and constructive.


The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, said the position in Rhodesia was unique because of UDI. But UDI is at an end—legality has returned to Rhodesia—and I am afraid I cannot accept the proposals which have been put to us.


The Minister has not answered the simple question involved here or made any response to the appeal made by noble Lords on this side of the Committee. I quote to him paragraph 26 of a paper which the Government submitted to the Lancaster House Conference: Finally, I am conscious of the concern on both sides about the situation which might arise after the elections. I have made it clear that if there is a general wish, the monitoring force would stay in Rhodesia until the independence government are formed and independence is granted". So the British Government themselves recognise that there is a danger of a situation arising after the elections in which the new régime might need to call upon the monitoring force. Now surely it is only common sense, it is only reasonable and it is only good parliamentary practice that, if the British Government recognise that that may be the situation, they should say that they will come back and report to this House before they make the final decision on independence which is now being taken. I say to noble Lords opposite, you are asking us to make that decision tonight in a vacuum. You have no idea what is going to happen in the next three months, nor have we. You are asking us to give you a blank cheque, to say that at the end of three months whatever happens, independence is going to be granted because we have started an irreversible process. I suggest to the Government that what I propose might in the future very well be extremely helpful to themselves, as well as to the Rhodesians and to parliamentary practice.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Amnesty in respect of certain acts]:

On Question, Whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill?


I want to say a few words about Clause 3 because it seems that, quite apart from the Rhodesian issue, it is a matter of such constitutional importance. Without this clause Ian Smith and some of his associates would be in danger of prosecution for treason and murder. This clause is exempting them from that. It is the use of the legislative power to override the ordinary rule of law. For my part, I believe that it is sensible and right to have the clause in the Bill, and I think that most of my noble friends would agree with me.

What surprises me a little is that members of the Conservative Party, with their intense, at times almost fanatical, devotion to the rule of law, are so ready to see it set aside in this instance. I am reminded of an episode in the last Parliament, in the time of the last Government, when a very modest measure was put forward to relieve certain councillors at Clay Cross from legal penalties that they would otherwise have suffered for being over-generous with ratepayers' money and not showing a strict regard for the law. When that measure was put through, language was used suggesting that we were tearing up civilisation by the roots. At the time I wondered whether Conservative members who spoke in those terms had foreseen that the day would come when they would want a clause of this kind in this Bill.

I am a little surprised, too, that certain members of the judiciary who expressed opinions about the handling of the Clay Cross case have not had a word to say about this clause. Do we really take the view that overspending the ratepayers' money is unpardonable, but that treason and murder can be set aside so light-heartedly, as we appear to be doing? I believe that this is one of the occasions when it is right that of the two great principles of our Constitution, the sovereignty of Parliament and the rule of law, the sovereignty of Parliament should be allowed to override the rule of law and set aside normal legal consequences. It merely seems to me, however, that this is an unusual thing to do, at the very least, and that we ought not to let it pass entirely without comment.


I should like to make a very short observation to my noble friend. There is this difference between Rhodesia and Clay Cross: one is within the jurisdiction of our Government and within the realm of British law; the other is neither.


I think I ought to say that there is another distinction. I have known the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, for a very long time, if he will forgive me saying so; I think for probably more than 50 years. There is this further distinction, which he appears to overlook. In Clay Cross we were not endeavouring to put an end to a civil war; in this case we are.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Remaining clauses and the schedules agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.

Report received.

Bill read 3a, and passed.