HL Deb 18 December 1979 vol 403 cc1571-6

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I will repeat a Statement about Rhodesia being made by my right honourable friend the Lord Privy Seal in another place.

"With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement on Rhodesia.

"All parties at the constitutional conference have now initialled the final conference report. Formal signature of the report and of the cease-fire agreement is expected to take place within the next two days.

"The conference has thus reached final agreement. The Government welcome the spirit of compromise shown by all the parties and are grateful to the other Governments involved for their contribution towards a settlement.

"The House will wish to know that in the light of the requirement for a monitoring presence and its need for self-sufficiency of road and air transport within Rhodesia, the latest estimate for the cost of the pre-independence arrangements is £27 million.

"In the interests of reconciliation following a settlement, the Government intend to instruct the Governor to confer an amnesty in the law of Southern Rhodesia which will apply to acts committed in good faith by both sides.

"Many problems still lie ahead, but I am sure the House will agree that the successful conclusion of the Lancaster House Conference opens the prospect for peace and prosperity in Rhodesia."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that we are all delighted with the news that the final conference report has been initialled, and will be formally signed by all the parties concerned in the next day or two? Is he further aware that this will be immensely encouraging to the noble Lord, Lord Soames, and his staff, in their very difficult task of implementing the agreement which has now been reached by everybody concerned; and that we hope and, indeed, expect that all parties in Rhodesia will now co-operate fully with him as Governor in organising free and fair elections leading to an independent Zimbabwe, hopefully within the Commonwealth?

In conveying to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary once more our warm congratulations on the success of his efforts, will the noble Lord also convey our confident hope that the constructive attitudes shown by the leaders of the Patriotic Front, by Bishop Muzorewa, by the Front Line leaders and by the Commonwealth Secretariat during the negotiations will now be repeated during the critical pre-independence period that lies ahead? Finally, will he again ask his noble friend to ensure the same consensus in the British Parliament as has been achieved in Lancaster House by agreeing to the Affirmative Resolution procedure in regard to the order we discussed last night; or, at least, to seek a report on the conduct and validity of the elections in Rhodesia which Parliament—the Parliament of the paramount country—may consider immediately before that order is implemented?

4.29 p.m.


My Lords, we, naturally, also greatly welcome this Statement, and regard it as a splendid step forward. We share the Government's hope that the conclusion of a cease-fire agreement will give us a prospect of what we all hope will be a lasting peace. We note, however, that we must still await formal signature, even though this appears, as I understand it, to be practically certain. My Lords, beyond once more congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and all those associated with him, there is not much more that we can say now over and above the things which have already been said. The way is now practically clear for Lord Soames to be able to deploy all his great diplomatic skill and all his innate authority in order to get everybody into line.

I have only two small questions. First, I note that a very considerable sum—I think, £27 million—is to be expended in order to make the monitoring force self-sufficient in road and air transport. Will this include a number of suitable mine detectors (in order to prevent members of the monitoring force being blown up on unfrequented roads) similar to those now being employed by General Walls and his army? Secondly, I note the proposed amnesty. Very welcome though this is in itself, it will apply to what are called "acts committed in good faith" by both sides. I am in some doubt as to how this provision can be interpreted legally. Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to tell us whether it would cover a murder committed in good faith.


My Lords, I am much obliged to both noble Lords for what they have said in response to the Statement. Certainly, I shall convey all their good wishes to my noble friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. I shall also convey to my noble friend what the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, has said about his desire for the order about the date of independence. I can give no undertaking, I am afraid, as to what my noble friend will decide on this matter, but I will bring the noble Lord's words to his attention.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, asked about mine detectors. I do not have to hand a precise list of stores and equipment available to the monitoring force, but it seems to me inconceivable that they do not have mine detectors. I will look into the matter and write to the noble Lord. I think that those were all the points that were raised.


My Lords, the point about "good faith"?


Yes, my Lords. The point about the amnesty is an important one. The precise details of the amnesty will be published in the form of a Governor's ordinance within the next few days. The ordinance will set out the terms of the amnesty and I will arrange for a copy of the document to be placed in the Library of the House. It will apply to acts done in good faith by both sides since UDI. It will be those acts—all acts—done in good faith in the furtherance of the purpose of resisting and frustrating the illegal administration, for example. It will not apply to acts not done in good faith; for example, where the real motive was personal gain or private vengeance.

The Lord Bishop of LONDON

My Lords, may I from these Benches add our words of congratulation to all those who have been involved in these negotiations at their successful outcome? It has been a very long, anxious, worrying and wearying process. We have watched with the greatest possible admiration the way in which, with patience and understanding, the negotiations have been conducted. I think that the whole House must feel proud that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has brought this to a successful conclusion. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Soames, knows that he has our support and prayers in the very difficult task which he has ahead in implementing this very satisfactory outcome.

Lord HOME of the HIRSEL

My Lords, may I add my congratulations and echo the words of the two noble Lords opposite and of the right reverend Prelate. Since the Commonwealth Conference in Lusaka, this has been a most exemplary exercise in skilful diplomacy; and I hope that everything will be well in the end. May I ask a question on a matter which I do not think has been mentioned so far? How many places of assembly will be available to the Patriotic Front?


My Lords, 16. We believe that these will provide fully adequate capacity for all the Patriotic Front forces.


My Lords, will the noble Lord be kind enough to turn his mind to the answer that he gave me yesterday when I asked whether he would give the House an assurance that all the operational aircraft, and particularly helicopters, supplied by the South African Government, and the officers of the South African Government, and the officers of the South African Air Force who have been flying them operationally, would be withdrawn? He said—and I can understand the reason—that it would be inadvisable to answer me but that he would write to me. Will he be good enough to address his mind to that problem with some sense of urgency? Sending a letter to me is not of much importance. I should be wholly satisfied if he gave an undertaking that, whatever his answer to me may be, he will make it available for public consumption—in other words, through the Press.


My Lords, I shall have to consider that. I shall certainly be writing to the noble Lord as I promised, but I should wish to consider further whether the matter should be made public.


My Lords, may I add my congratulations to everyone concerned in the success of this conference? I am sure that the Minister and all his colleagues will agree that this is still only a first step and that we hope that we shall all be able to assist in its successful conclusion. May I ask two questions which arose out of the debate on the Bill yesterday? Can the noble Lord tell us who is actually responsible, once the cease-fire has been signed, for suppressing any incidents in which that cease-fire is broken? Will it be the Salisbury security forces' responsibility to suppress any incidents from their side and the Patriotic Front's those on their side, or is there any danger of either side being used against the other?

Secondly, as a supplement to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, am I not correct in adding to the answer of the Minister that, although 16 assembly points have been agreed at present, the way has been left open, if there are more Patriotic Front guerrillas than has been estimated by the British and Salisbury Governments, for the Governor to increase the number of assembly points as those men are identified?


My Lords, I can answer the second point readily. The question of additional places will arise only if the Patriotic Front forces assemble with their arms and equipment in numbers greater than can be dealt with at ail the assembly places designated in the cease-fire agreement. We do not expect that that situation will arise.


What about the responsibility for suppression of incidents?


My Lords, we certainly do not foresee one side firing on the other. This is what I think seems to be in the noble Lord's mind. We think that the best way to contain any potential breach of the cease-fire is by self-discipline on both sides.