HL Deb 19 July 1979 vol 401 cc1594-605

7.50 p.m.

The Marquess of SALISBURY rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure the safety of Her Majesty during Her forthcoming visit to Zambia in view of the unsettled condition of that country. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I ask this Question because there is considerable concern in this country as to the safety of Her Majesty during her current tour. I may be a little late in asking it as she has already left, but I ask it in specific terms about Zambia. In the meantime, I wish to offer her Godspeed on her journey.

Questions have already been asked in another place about the propriety of this trip but, as noble Lords will know, they were concerned generally with whether it was desirable for the Queen to go to Lusaka. We now know she is on her way there, but I still think it is desirable to ask Her Majesty's Government about the security arrangements. I accept it is impossible to give details—indeed, they would be counter-productive if given—and therefore all I am seeking at this stage are general assurances.

My reasons for seeking such assurances are that I have doubts because of the limitations of what is available to the Zambian Government in their capacity to afford the protection I suggest is required. I shall give my reasons for raising this issue briefly. First, I do not think it can be said that the Zambian Government are in complete control of the whole country; it is difficult to assess the exact position, but I believe that to be fundamentally correct.

Secondly, President Kaunda is not always able to travel, as the Queen is in this country, without a considerable escort. I assume, I hope correctly, that Her Majesty will be travelling on occasions through the streets of Lusaka in company with the President and it is surely not impossible that an attempt might be made on his life which would directly involve her. I believe a similar situation arose when she undertook an official visit to Ghana when the Head of State was President Nkruma. It was known that he had not been out of his presidential house for some time and it was known there were dissident elements who wished to take his life. As I understand it, Her Majesty's Government sent the Minister concerned—the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, as he is now—to tell the then President that, unless he was prepared to take the route which the Queen was to follow through the streets under similar conditions to those which would apply during the official visit, that visit would be off. I wonder whether steps of a similar kind might have been appropriate on this occasion.

Thirdly, there is the question of the ability of the limited intelligence service, police and other security forces available to the Zambian Government to provide the necessary cover, and here again there must be a question mark. If there is any doubt, I hope some arrangement has been reached for our security services to give the necessary support. Fourthly, there could be a problem with the Zambian Army. It is not, by European standards, a very competent army and I doubt whether it is fully under the control of its senior staff. This could be a source of trouble in the capital. There have been reports of rioting, troops breaking out of barracks and so on, which does not seem a very happy situation for the main security force in the country.

Fifthly, there are the terrorist forces of the Patriotic Front which are in Zambia in some strength. They are not a particularly efficient force either, but reports indicate they are more efficient than the Zambian Army, and where clashes have taken place these forces have tended to come out on top. Moreover, there are certain areas close to Lusaka where they, rather than the Zambian official forces, appear to be in control. We know they have problems with those forces and that it is difficult to control them. For example, there have been the occasions when two civilian airliners have been shot down by those forces. I wonder whether the leaders of the organisation were responsible or whether it was just some trigger-happy group taking the opportunity to fire off their exciting weapons.

If that was true then, it is equally possible if might happen again, in particular because I understand that on leaving Lusaka Her Majesty intends to pay a visit to Botswana and will be flying over an area which is infiltrated by some of these groups who are armed, reports say, with very sophisticated SAM weapons which have a homing device on aeroplanes flying overhead. Her Majesty's aeroplanes are Andovers, which are slow and, I would have thought, easy targets should anyone decide to attack them. This point needs clarification. I am not really suggesting that any of the leaders either in Zambia or of any other forces would wish to do the Queen any harm; that is highly unlikely and indeed, from their political point of view, could be counter-productive. I am however suggesting—this is my concern—that they are not always in control of the forces which exist there.

There is perhaps one man who has a bigger say in what is going on there than any of the others, and he is the KGB man who is masquerading as the Ambassador of the USSR in Lusaka. It is reported that he has a considerable say in what is going on and it may be that he, as much as anyone else, should have been consulted and perhaps the Government have already done so. At any rate, such information as I can obtain indicates that the Russians have indicated they would very much deplore any attack being made on Her Majesty, although the same sources indicate they would not necessarily take the same view about Mrs. Thatcher, and it may be that she will be at considerable risk during the course of her visit.

Those are the grounds for my raising this matter tonight. Rumour has it that Her Majesty has expressed a strong wish to attend the conference in her capacity of Head of the Commonwealth, and that is what all your Lordships would have expected of her and it is in line with her known courage and devotion to duty. These are among her very great qualities and ones we greatly admire in her, but she is very deep in the affections of all her people and we would deplore it if anything were to happen to her during this trip. I believe that the blame if such a misfortune were to occur would fall squarely on Her Majesty's Government, mainly for the reason that I have advanced: that the Zambian authorities are not really in a position to give the required cover. So I ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to provide a safe passage for the Queen.

8 p.m.


My Lords, I have very little to add to what the noble Marquess has said. The great problem here is that Her Majesty is going into an area which, with the best will in the world, is not capable of providing for her protection. It has an army which has shown itself not to be in control of its command, and there are the guerrilla forces, which are better armed and possibly on the whole better trained. But, again, who is responsible for them? Then there are the so-called instructors who are responsible to a gentleman such as the Russian Ambassador. I am quite sure that the Russians, and probably the Cubans, who are very sensitive to Russian control, would not wish to harm Her Majesty, but I am not so certain about the Libyans. What Libyan presence is there there, do we know?

The other matter which worries me is that where there are highly sophisticated weapons which are in the charge of very unsophisticated people, the temptation to let them off at any excuse is very acute. I remember in the war when we had much more advanced people who were trained in anti-aircraft work. The difficulty to prevent them shooting down our own planes was very acute, and a great many of our own planes were shot down. In the situation we are now considering there are considerably less trained and less controlled people in charge of more sophisticated and dangerous weapons.

This causes anxiety; and it is not only a question of physical danger. I am sure that we do not want Her Majesty to be embarrassed. What has been going on in Liberia at the OAU meeting shows what a good many of the members of the Commonwealth intend to talk about at Lusaka. How is Her Majesty not to become involved? After all, the Com- monwealth is a club whose membership does not involve very much discrimination; you have to be there, but it does not matter in the least how you get there. Field Marshal Amin is elsewhere at the moment. But I believe that, without naming names, one can imagine among the numbers one or two potential Amins who will be there. Really Her Majesty should be protected on this occasion from anything in the nature of private interviews, which could be very difficult indeed. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to give us some assurances.

8.4 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise that I gave notice of my intention to speak too late to the Chief Whip for my name to be recorded on the list of speakers, but I have given notice to the Minister that I wished to speak. We will all feel that the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and my noble friend Lord Paget of Northampton are deeply concerned about this question and have spoken with great sincerity about their anxieties. I venture to take part in the debate only because I have been in Zambia this year and because I have some knowledge of the attitude of those who may be concerned if there were any dangers to Her Majesty when she goes to Zambia.

The Queen is our Head of State, and I am perfectly sure that the Prime Minister, before reaching a conclusion on this matter, will with very great concern have sought to give the best advice, and I am fairly confident that she would not have advised Her Majesty to go to Zambia had she felt that there was any danger to the Queen or Prince Philip. I was in Zambia at the beginning of the year. Even then there was very considerable State security. That was enforced not only at the State House—with gates locked, armed soldiers protecting it, very thorough interrogation about one's own person and about one's intention to visit—but also at all the other mansions in which Ministers live. My daughter and I stayed in the State Lodge where Her Majesty the Queen will be accommodated. I say only incidentally that Her Majesty cannot possibly have greater comfort and greater care than we experienced there. State Lodge is some distance from Lusaka, but again the gates were locked and soldiers were protecting it. I want to be objective and therefore I should say that I am perfectly sure that when Her Majesty stays at the State Lodge the security will be increased. The lodge is at the entrance to a drive, but the area surrounding the lodge will need great security as well, as will the road by which the lodge is reached.

I want us to remember tonight that Her Majesty when she goes to Lusaka will be going not only as our Head of State; she is the symbolic link of the Commonwealth. I will not enter into controversy tonight, but I regard the fact that she is that link as one of the few reasons for defending the system of a Monarchy in this country; but I put that aside. The Queen has the responsibility of opening a conference of the very many nations which are in our Commonwealth.

I had the greatest admiration for the statement issued by Buckingham Palace—even before our own Prime Minister had reached a decision—telling of Her Majesty's firm desire to go to Lusaka and to open the Commonwealth Conference. It will be a conference of enormous importance, and the issues that will be raised I will not discuss tonight. But I add my own belief that Her Majesty will be safe in Zambia. I say this not merely because of the extent of security which I found while I was there, but also for additional reasons which I hope may meet some of the points raised by the noble Marquess and by my noble friend Lord Paget of Northampton.

First, there was the danger that there might be some action by the guerrillas in Zambia. Joshua Nkomo has considerable forces there, and there was some fear that they might act because of their doubts about British policy towards Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. I believe that that fear has been completely met. It has been met, first, by the assurance which Joshua Nkomo has given that during the period of Her Majesty's visit he will carry out a ceasefire, and will give instructions to his guerrilla forces not to take any action during Her Majesty's visit which might endanger it. In addition to that, his forces have now been moved a considerable distance from Lusaka, so that additional security could be obtained. I put this argument with conviction, because quite clearly it would be contrary to the interests of Joshua Nkomo, in the present situation of discussions about the possibility of an all-in conference with representatives of the interim Government, with their possibilities, to do anything, or to fail to control his guerrillas. It would be absolutely disastrous to the cause of Joshua Nkomo and the guerrillas themselves if any action were taken which might be regarded as a danger to Her Majesty.

To that argument I add this. It would equally be against the interests of the interim Government in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia if any action were taken during that period. It would absolutely destroy the negotiations that are now taking place; and I think we can be quite certain that, during the visit of Her Majesty to Zambia, there will be no military action on the part of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia against the guerrilla forces that are in Zambia. From that point of view, as well, I think the danger has been removed.

Lastly, I say this. In this situation we are not relying upon the security forces of Zambia. I want to admit at once that I doubt whether the security forces of Zambia alone would be adequate, either to protect Her Majesty or to protect the representatives of the Commonwealth who will be at the Commonwealth Conference. But I know that there have been the closest discussions between our own security representatives and the security representatives of Zambia, and it was only because of the arrangements made after those discussions that the Prime Minister was able to give the advice that she has given. Her Majesty is not going only to Zambia. She is going to Tanzania, Malawi and Botswana. I hope that, in those territories, the arrangements that have been made are as thorough as I know are the arrangements which have been made in Lusaka itself. We all express the hope that one of the results of her visit, not merely to Zambia, to the Commonwealth Conference, but to those other territories in Central and Southern Africa, will add to the hope that the disastrous conflict which is taking place in South Africa will be ended and a solution to its problems assisted.

8.15 p.m.


My Lords, this is of course not a moment of controversy but of concern, and affectionate concern, for the safety and wellbeing of our Queen. The concern which the noble Marquess has expressed is of course shared by all her subjects, and, indeed, by millions throughout the world who are not her subjects. Because our Queen is not only a symbol of the unity of the Commonwealth: she is a message, always, to the wider world, wider than the Commonwealth, of those values and standards which she more than anyone today upholds with such grace and dignity.

We are here, of course, to listen to the assurances which we are bound to receive from the Minister who will answer this short debate. We are aware of what the right honourable Lady the Prime Minister said in another place two days ago. She said then that she had given " deep and careful consideration " to this question, as indeed Prime Ministers do whenever the Head of State is contemplating a proposed visit outside the confines of the realm. The Prime Minister went on to inform the other place that she had received from the Government of the Republic of Zambia assurances that all necessary measures were being taken to ensure the safety of the Queen and of those attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, and that in addition there had been, and there continued to be, close consultation between the Zambian and British authorities on these arrangements. The Prime Minister concluded: In the light of these assurances, and of the arrangements that are being made, I have concluded that it is not necessary for me to advise the Queen against going to Zambia ". The noble Lord the Minister will no doubt be able to supplement that very strong assurance which the head of Government in this country has already given us, and meet the proper and loyal concern expressed by the noble Marquess and others in this debate. My Lords, we all wish Her Majesty Godspeed on her tour of Africa and, in particular, on her visit to Lusaka to take her place as the Head of the Commonwealth on the occasion of the meeting of the assembly of the Commonwealth. It is a moving and inspiring occasion, as indeed the Queen, in her own way, reminded us she saw it.

I mentioned the deep feeling of respect, and love, which Her Majesty has earned beyond this country and, indeed, beyond the Commonwealth. I, like other Ministers, have had the privilege, the great privilege, of being the Minister in attendance to Her Majesty on her visits to various countries—countries greatly differing one from the other—in Asia, in Eastern Europe and in Western Europe. In every country I, and no doubt others here, have seen for myself the extraordinary respect and, I repeat, love which the people of far-away countries, not even members of the Commonwealth, feel for this still young woman who has led this country for some years now with such natural dignity, and who has given to us all, here and abroad, a new confidence in the abiding values. I have absolutely no doubt that the people and the leaders of Africa will welcome her as those of Asia and Europe are accustomed to doing and it may well be that she will need protection, not from the elements that we have heard mentioned this evening but from the overpowering respect and affection of the crowds who will wish to have a glimpse of her.

8.20 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Salisbury for having given the House a valuable opportunity to consider this matter, particularly because it gives me an opportunity to emphasise what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said to the other place earlier this week. The importance of the matter cannot be over-emphasised; because it is clear, if there were any doubt, that all noble Lords will agree that the safety of Her Majesty, whether at home or abroad, is of paramount concern to us all.

I therefore sympathise with the anxiety that lies behind my noble friend's Unstarred Question. I can, however, assure the House that, in deciding what advice to give Her Majesty in connection with her visit to Zambia, my right honourable friend gave the deepest and most careful consideration to the security implications. As my right honourable friend said on 17th July—and the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, referred to this—we have received assurances from the Government of Zambia that all necessary measures are being taken to ensure the safety of the Queen. In addition, there has been, and continues to be, the closest consultation between the British and Zambian authorities on these arrangements.

I am sure the House will understand that I am not able to give details of the precautionary measures being taken; to do so might undermine their efficiency. I can however state that there have been very full discussions between the British and Zambian security authorities. High-ranking British service and police officers have visited Zambia to undertake detailed studies of the arrangements for Her Majesty's visit. These experts received every facility and assistance from the Zambian Government and I would here like to pay tribute to the great personal interest shown by President Kaunda and to the whole-hearted co-operation on the part of his senior officials in all matters affecting the safety of Her Majesty. The reports of these experts, together with the helpful and thorough measures taken by the Zambian authorities, have been of the greatest value to the British Government in deciding what advice to tender to Her Majesty.

The House will also have noted the undertakings given by both Mr. Nkomo and Bishop Muzorewa concerning hostile actions during the period of both Her Majesty's visit and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Several noble Lords have mentioned these undertakings. Perhaps I can read them to your Lordships. Mr. Nkomo said on 6th July: We will not engage in any such activities on the Zambia-Rhodesia border as are likely to provide pretext to the Rhodesian régime to undermine the prospects of the Commonwealth Conference in Lusaka ". Bishop Muzorewa said on 7th July: Our own security forces will take no action which could endanger Queen Elizabeth or anyone attending the Commonwealth Conference ". In this Unstarred Question, my noble friend referred to the " unsettled condition " of Zambia. It is true that Zambia has had more than its fair share of problems. We know only too well how much Zambia has suffered as a result of the Rhodesian situation. The Zambian people have borne hardship and perils, even loss of life. However, it would be quite wrong to gain the impression that Zambia is in a state of turmoil, unrest or armed conflict. This is not the impression given by the many visitors who go to Zambia, or the experience of the overwhelming majority of those who live in Zambia—and these include many thousands of British engineers, teachers, businessmen, farmers, doctors and nurses. While some have undeniably faced difficulties, the majority have chosen to continue to live and work in a country whose history of racial harmony and intergation is to be admired, and where expatriate skills and expertise are still welcomed.

Thus, we do well to remember that, contrary to what is sometimes suggested, Her Majesty will be visiting a country where day-to-day life continues unaffected, whose traditions and history are linked firmly with our own and where she can be assured of the warmest personal welcome. The Queen will be in Zambia on a State visit at the personal invitation of President Kaunda, who has always laid great emphasis on the importance he and his country attach to the British Monarchy. I believe Her Majesty will find this spirit of affection and warmth the keynote of her stay in Zambia.

During her visit, the Queen will not only sec Lusaka; she will also have an opportunity to visit the Copperbelt area in Northern Zambia where many of Zambia's large British community live and work. She will also see something of Zambia's abundant wild life and natural beauty at Luangwa Game Park. The Queen's visit will underline still further the wealth of common culture and links between our two countries, and I am sure that the Zambian people will do everything to ensure the enjoyment and comfort of a guest who is held in the highest honour and affection.

During her last four days in Zambia, the Queen will be present, in her capacity as Head of the Commonwealth, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. It has become customary for Her Majesty to attend these meetings, whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. She does so at the invitiation of the host Commonwealth country, and at the desire of the Commonwealth as a whole. It is well known that Commonwealth Heads of Government greatly value the opportunity these meetings provide for continued contact and discussion with Her Majesty. The Queen has indicated her desire to be present on the occasion of the Conference and we are sure that her presence will contribute to strengthening links between Commonwealth countries and the friendly spirit which, over the years, has become the tradition of these meetings.

We believe that Her Majesty's visit to Zambia will be of inestimable value, both in the support it will demonstrate for Anglo-Zambian relations and in the support it offers for the ideals of the Commonwealth, which we, and our fellow members, hold dear. But however great the value and however strongly the desire to show support, I must again stress that, to any British Government, the safety of Her Majesty must take precedence over all other considerations. That is why, in deciding what advice to offer to the Queen, the Government have weighed the question deeply and seriously and have considered her safety to be the paramount factor.

In the light of the arrangements that are being made and the assurances given by the Zambian Government, my right honourable friend has concluded that it is not necessary to advise Her Majesty against going to Zambia. I may add that, before reaching her final decision, she was in touch with the Prime Ministers of all the other realms. Noble Lords may like to know that the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who made some comments on the subject during his visit to London in early June, has issued a statement expressing his full support for my right honourable friend's decision. I can assure the House that the situation will continue to be kept closely under review. But I believe that noble Lords will share the Government's—and Her Majesty's—hope and belief that no change in present plans will be necessary.