HL Deb 30 January 1979 vol 398 cc4-8

2.41 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government wherein lies:

"the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression"

such as to justify the maintenance of sanctions against Rhodesia under the United Nations Charter; and precisely what action the Government of Rhodesia is now required to take in order to remove such threat, breach or act of aggression as the case may be.


My Lords, the threat to the peace derives from the rebellion by the régime. The "internal settlement" has not terminated the state of rebellion and the conflict has escalated. As my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack said on 9th November last year, we are bound in international law to maintain sanctions until there is a return to legality. Noble Lords opposite have accepted this position.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord very much for his Answer to my Question, may I put my views and a further question on this subject: Whatever may have been the reasons for the imposition of sanctions some 14 years ago, because of a threat to peace under Article 39 of the United Nations Charter, has not the situation markedly changed within Rhodesia itself? Does not the present threat to peace, as defined under Article 39, which I have quoted, lie at the door of the leaders of the Patriotic Front, who have consistently refused to enter into discussions or negotiations with the transitional multiracial government? Would the noble Lord accept that that government are pledged to the Six Principles and the introduction of one man, one vote? Can the noble Lord tell me what the transitional government are expected to do now to satisfy Her Majesty's Government and to secure peace in the very dangerous situation within Rhodesia?


My Lords, the very first essential is for the Executive Council in Salisbury to accept and implement the Sixth Principle and to see to it that, so far as it is concerned, there is a basis for truly free and fair elections in which it is demonstrable that everyone is taking part, preferably—indeed, we insist upon this—with a neutral observation and control. As regards the other points raised by the noble Lord, I am grateful for the views which he gave but they are not views with which this Government, or indeed our American partners, agree. We see the situation in a rather different way. I regret to say—as my right honourable friend Mr. Cledwyn Hughes perforce had to report—that at present there does not appear to be the basis for a rewarding conference on this matter. However, that does not mean, of course, that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will not seize the earliest practicable opportunity of convening such a conference.


My Lords, I hope that I have not misunderstood what my noble friend has said. He spoke about waiting for a conference. On the assumption that, within the foreseeable future, there is no such conference which embraces all the parties concerned, or those who think that they are concerned—although there may be no basis for their assumption—will my noble friend explain to me, because I am bound to say that I am rather confused, which I am sure is my fault and not his, what is meant by a return to "legality"? Will he explain in an explicit way what they are expected to do? Is it simply the case that they must wait for a conference which at present does not seem to be attainable?


My Lords, briefly it should be said that a conference which is accepted in good faith by all parties concerned would be the first step to the return to legality in Rhodesia. As I see it, no declaration of legality is possible before there is such a conference. I should like to take this opportunity of repeating what I have already said, that despite the report which my right honourable friend regretfully made after his painstaking visit to Rhodesia, no basis exists at present for such a conference. Nevertheless, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will seize the earliest practicable opportunity of convening such a conference.


My Lords, without taking away a word from what I said on a previous occasion or what the noble Lord said about the Opposition in the last sentence of his Answer, is not part of the difficulty, that whereas sanctions are being applied on one side, nobody seems to think that it is necessary—and is it not necessary?—that sanctions should also be applied to those who will pursue a civil war in such a way that a peaceful form of election, or the Sixth Principle, becomes impossible? Is it not working in a one-sided way?


My Lords, I have considerable sympathy with the motivation, if I may call it that, behind the intervention of the noble and learned Lord. The situation in Rhodesia is that a number of years ago the then Government took certain actions which we regard as being illegal and which the international authority regarded as a threat to the peace under Article 39, and continues to do so. No such determination by this country or by the international authority has been made in regard to anyone else in, or connected with, Rhodesia. The noble Lord has expressed a view. I have tried to repeat what is the situation.


My Lords, is it not a fact that the threat to the peace which, as the Minister rightly said, originated with Mr. Smith's rebellion, will continue in practice until such time as Mr. Smith or his successor accepts the Anglo-American plan or something like it?


My Lords, I know there is some reservation about the continued validity of the Anglo-US plan. We have said in both Houses of Parliament that we still regard that as very much the essential basis of any peaceful agreement. I should like to take this opportunity of echoing what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said a few days ago in another place. This is the only possible basis upon which we can proceed, but—and I think I quote him—we do not wish to be dogmatic on this. It is necessary to add once more that that is not only our view, but the view of our friends and partners in the United States, and specifically of President Carter.


My Lords, will the noble Lord tell me whether I have understood him aright? I understood him to say that the threat to the peace was the rebellion of 13 years ago, which resulted in 10 years of peace and order, and not the rebellion against the rebellion organised from outside Rhodesia's frontiers, which took place three years ago and which has resulted in three years of war. Is it to be indefinitely the view of Her Majesty's Government that one should impose sanctions on the first rebellion which resulted in peace and not the second rebellion which was conducted in war?


My Lords, there are other usurpations of authority in history which, for a few uneasy years, produced something which no doubt my noble friend would describe as peace. However, they do not last and the effect, sooner rather than later, is to create conditions of great danger and even of disaster in that area. As he has reminded us, the fact is that those who are now fighting in the field against the illegal régime, for 10 years stayed their hand and only three years ago took up arms—a remarkable example of patience. I must say that it is straining at the facts to assert that the events of the last three years are not the results of the events of the last 13 years.


My Lords, as two minutes ago the noble Lord said that he did not wish to be dogmatic in these difficult matters, may I ask him whether or not he would be sympathetic to any approach made during the past two days by the Council in Salisbury to a person in this country in an endeavour to take some initiatives in this difficult situation? I am sure that the noble Lord is not aware that such a message is now being delivered to 10 Downing Street.


My Lords, I am always grateful for information, especially from such well-informed sources. In return, I am bound to say that, of course, we are always very ready to look seriously at any proposal which might help to break the deadlock in Rhodesia.


My Lords, will my noble friend not agree that the fall of Mozambique and the ending of Portuguese colonialism in Africa was the turning point which undermined the whole situation of the Rhodesian Government?


My Lords, it would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the events to which my noble friend has referred. For many years the whole of Central and Southern Africa has been waiting for a solution on the basis of a resolution of the colonial position. The events in Angola, Mozambique and elsewhere have simply pointed up the urgency of such a solution. We now hope that developments in the rest of Africa—not excluding the countries to which my noble friend has referred—may, indeed, assist us in solving the position in Rhodesia.