HL Deb 26 June 1979 vol 400 cc1323-6

2.47 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 action is being taken to resolve the deadlock in Namibia following the debate in the General Assembly of the United Nations.


My Lords, on behalf of the Five Western Governments I discussed with the South African Foreign Minister in London on the 20th June possible ways to reach agreement on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 435. We agreed that there would be further exchanges.


My Lords, while appreciating that the noble Lord has had those discussions, may I ask whether they give promise that there will be a renewal of dialogue with the Western Five and do they hold out hope that there may be an election under United Nations supervision in Namibia?


My Lords, they certainly will mean a renewal of dialogue, and I very much hope that they will do precisely what the noble Lord has in mind.


My Lords, is there not a danger, unless these discussions evolve hopefully, that the unrecognised National Assembly in Namibia may adopt legislative powers and that the South African Administrator-General may have executive powers, which he is now using with great draconian authority?


My Lords, I think there are a great number of reasons why we should get on with this as quickly as possible. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. I would, however, say this about the National Assembly, what-ever we may feel about it. It is seeking at this moment to remove racial discrimination in Namibia, and that certainly should be welcomed.


My Lords, could the noble Lord say whether it has not been the practice of the South African authorities all the way through these dealings on Namibia to suggest that they may ultimately comply with Resolution 435 without actually taking any steps towards doing so? Did the noble Lord in particular take up with the Foreign Secretary of South Africa the continued political detention without trial of members of the Opposition there and seek to obtain their release, as provided for in that resolution?


My Lords, there has been a good deal of recrimination on both sides in this matter. I thought the talks I had with Mr. Botha were constructive and useful, and I hope very much that they will lead to a settlement of this problem. I would not wish to say anything at the moment which is going to make things more difficult.


My Lords, may I say that we on this side welcome the tone of the Foreign Secretary's answers this afternoon and certainly would support him in his hope. We wish him well in all the discussions he will hold. Perhaps he would like to assure the House that in future discussions he will take full advantage of the very promising initiative of the Five, which, although it met with certain difficulties after a very good beginning, nevertheless holds a great deal of hope for a solution in the future.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord, but I hope that there is no misunderstanding. What I am talking about is discussions within the context of the Five's proposals. The difficulty is paragraphs 11 and 12, as the noble Lord will know, about inspection of SWAPO bases in Angola and in Namibia itself. The dialogues which will take place, to which I referred in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, are, of course, within the context of the Five's proposals.


My Lords, may I ask the Secretary of State whether it is not true that Britain is being put in a difficult position by her continuing membership of the Committee of Five; that the United Nations leans to SWAPO; that SWAPO is directed by Russia and is in receipt of Marxist sources of finance, weaponry and training, and therefore shuns the ballot box and continues terrorism and delay?


My Lords, the proposals of the Five, as the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, knows very well, were accepted by SWAPO, by the frontline States, by the South African Government. What we now have to face is that subsequently there has been an interpretation of one part of that agreement with which the South Africans do not agree. The purpose of my conversation with the South African Foreign Minister was to start a dialogue going again on those points with which the South African Government do not agree.


My Lords, arising from that reply, would it not be possible to resolve this problem by asking that both SWAPO and South African troops should be restricted to their bases pending an election?


My Lords, I think all these proposals have to be discussed, and if the noble Lord with his fertile mind has any other ideas about how this can be resolved they will be gratefully received.

The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Lord Soames)

My Lords, may I suggest that we have had a longish run on this Question and should move on now to the next one.