HL Deb 31 January 1979 vol 398 cc137-40

2.54 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 what consideration has been given to the imposition of an embargo on trade with Uganda whilst the present régime continues.


My Lords, we have enforced a total arms embargo, broken off diplomatic relations, and terminated all bilateral aid programmes. It would however be a very serious step to embark upon general trade sanctions, with implications for our policies in other areas.


My Lords, have not the Government of the United States of America gone further than this? Have they not applied a trade embargo? In view of the evidence of revolt within Uganda and on its border now, might not a similar decision by our Government be decisive in overthrowing this tyranny?


My Lords, we sympathise, of course, with the motivation of American policy in this regard. However, trade with Uganda, so far as we are concerned, falls within the scope of the Community's common commercial policy. We are not, in the American sense, free agents for this purpose, even if—and I do not say we would—we decided that this was the best way to tackle this question. We should much prefer to rest on a decision of the United Nations in the normal way. We have not applied general trade sanctions to any legitimate country in the past. I see no likelihood of our doing it unilaterally in regard to Uganda, however obnoxious the régime may be to us. I see every likelihood of our obeying any decision of the international authority in this instance.


My Lords, have any of the black African countries, who are so disposed to attack Britain and her past, shown any disposition to get rid of this bloodthirsty criminal lunatic?


My Lords, I think that there are quite a number of people in Africa of varying colours and creeds who would welcome the early withdrawal of the President from the scene. As to whether any constituted Government has taken commercial sanctions, no, I have no evidence of any African government having done that.


My Lords, would it not be more profitable for my noble friend Lord Brockway, with his close connections with African countries and close knowledge of many African leaders, to ask his African friends to say something about Uganda? In my seven years at the United Nations, I was present during three months of each year and I never heard one African country condemn Uganda. Is it not time that some of us on this side of the House took account of that?


My Lords, there is no doubt that there is a certain solidarity in the post-colonial world. No doubt the many individuals, and indeed organisations, whom I mentioned in my previous reply who are certainly totally opposed to the President of Uganda's policies, may in due course prevail upon their own Governments to take action. I think we should take into account a certain hangover from the colonial past in this respect. I would not condemn African Governments out of hand on this score. As to my noble friend Lord Brockway, I know how assiduously he has worked for peace in Africa and an understanding between all races there, including Rhodesia and Uganda. I also know of the sterling work which my noble friend Lady Gaits-kell has done in these matters in the United Nations.


My Lords, would not the action recommended by his noble friend have a significant effect on exports of whisky?


My Lords, I am almost inclined to invite the noble Lord, who is an uncomfortably skilled parliamentarian, to put that question to another Department. I say so quite seriously because this is a question of exactly what is the trade between Stansted and Uganda. I have tried to find out, not by practical experimentation but by inquiry, but I really do not know what the situation is. We are looking into it very carefully, and I should be grateful indeed if a certain Department took upon itself to edge me aside and answer such a question on its own.


My Lords, is it not a fact that at this moment the troops of Tanzania are engaged in operations against this gentleman, whom the noble and learned Lord accurately described in terms which I used in this House five years ago when he was a little more popular? Is it not a fact that this is an extremely sensitive and dangerous area, with the troubles in Rwanda-Burundi extending over towards the area of Congo-Zaire, where there are the most distressing complications, but coming from other European countries? On the whole, the African nations—

Several noble Lords: Question!


As I say, on the whole, the African nations are showing as much concern for peace as they can, although they are not being let alone to run their own affairs. I would add that Kenya has also shown the same disposition.


My Lords, I appreciate my noble friend's statement on the situation in Africa. Of course, what he says is perfectly true; there are perimeters of friction there, quite in the European tradition of the 19th century, where sovereign States are attacking each other. What the position on that particular boundary is now I cannot say. There has been fighting, but I cannot say whether it has continued to this day, and I will try to find out. What my noble friend says is clearly true. There is at once a picture of remarkable forbearance in an area where there are deep-seated tribal as well as national enmities and competitiveness. On the other hand, there is the ever-present danger of friction and hostilities leading to more than local wars. That is what makes Central and Southern Africa of such worldwide importance today.