HL Deb 07 May 1980 vol 408 cc1643-7

My Lords, before we proceed to the business set out on the Order Paper, I am sure that it would be the general desire in all quarters of the House that someone should welcome most warmly the return of the noble Lord, Lord Soames, to his accustomed place as Leader of the House.

Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!


In doing so, I am sure that the noble Lord would be the very first to join with me in paying a signal tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for the grace and efficiency with which he has discharged the duties of the leadership of this House. The achievement of the noble Lord, Lord Soames, in Rhodesia-Zimbabwe needs no further encomia from me or anybody else in this House. We have perhaps been a little repetitive in our appreciation of his achievements.

However, suffice it to say that he has implemented in a crucial part of Africa— and, indeed, the world—policies which have deservedly attracted the support of all responsible elements in all parties in this country and, I believe, in Africa. He has implemented with great success a policy of constitutional and ordered advancement of Rhodesia to independence as Zimbabwe which his noble friend Lord Carrington, as Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, so courageously promoted. If I may say so, he has received in that the support of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition with fair consistency compatible with the exigencies of the democratic life.

We have been delighted to see how the consensus in favour of ordered constitutional transfer from dependency to independency has been effected by the noble Lord and by the present Government. In so doing, he has been the instrument, with others, as he would agree, of averting a crisis in central Africa which might have escalated into catastrophe. It is still early days to pronounce with total confidence about the outcome of these negotiations, but I think that we can afford to look to the future in Africa and in the West generally with confidence.

Here I am sure that the noble Lord will agree with me that one of the most encouraging aspects of the outcome of the successful negotiations is the attitude and policies of the new Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Mr. Robert Mugabe. In speaking these few words of the warmest welcome and renewed congratulation, I am sure that the House would like this occasion to be one on which once more we convey to the new rulers of Zimbabwe our hope and confidence that they will conduct the internal and external affairs of that new country, the newest member of the Commonwealth, on the lines that we are all delighted to see they have begun so hopefully.


My Lords, may I, on behalf of my colleagues on these Benches, warmly endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, has said and welcome home most warmly the noble Lord the Leader of the House, We all feel tremendous admiration for a very difficult job extremely well done, without even incurring the usual transfer fee for the four to six months that he has been away. It was a remarkable achievement; and our congratulations and gratitude go not only to the noble Lord but to Lady Soames who clearly has been a tremendous help to her husband in bringing about a successful solution to a very difficult situation.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is not here for us to express our thanks to him for his patience and diplomacy at Lancaster House which led up to the situation from which the noble Lord, Lord Soames, could carry on. While this House can provide such expertise and such weight—and I mean "weight" in the political sense—when called upon to do so, I do not think that we are in any imminent danger of abolition from the Left Wing in another place.

As Members of this House, we are all proud at what has been achieved in our name and in the name of this country.

I should also like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for the way in which he has led the House in the absence of the Leader. He has done it with dignity and efficiency. We shall expect a little more discipline now that we have the boss back, but I do not think that the House will be any the worse for that. Welcome home!


My Lords, it was at the last Cross-Bench Peers' Meeting that I was asked to convey to the noble Lord, Lord Soames, our very warm congratulations on his splendid achievement. We should like to extend our appreciation also to Lady Soames, who must have been such a tremendous help to him during this time. I am sure that my colleagues here would not think me out of order if I said that we are also very appreciative of what the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has done in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Soames. We welcome Lord and Lady Soames back very warmly.


My Lords, may I add my congratulations and jubilation at the outcome of the whole Rhodesia success? I was very moved when I saw the noble Lord, Lord Soames, speaking to Mr. Mugabe on television at one point. The friendship between the two men was absolutely riveting. May I also, without taking away one iota of the congratulations that are being extended at this moment, suggest that perhaps we could have a small round of applause for the freedom fighters? I hope this will not be misunderstood, but they have made a great contribution too.


My Lords, I think perhaps it would be unfortunate if my noble friend were to get the impression that we on this side of the House did not equally welcome back our Leader, but when the headmaster comes in at the door one never knows what is going to happen! I should like to say, on behalf of my noble friends, that we tremendously admire the way in which he transferred from this House to Zimbabwe (Rhodesia as it was then) an atmosphere which certainly brought about splendid results. His own character, his dignity and his determina- tion to achieve the objective are beyond praise and I should like to express, on behalf of my noble friends, the tremendous admiration we feel for the way in which he created that atmosphere and also for his wife, who contributed so much to it.

2.46 p.m.

The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Lord Soames)

My Lords, you are all most kind, but I must say I cannot allow too much of this. You are all out of order—every one of you! I suppose that every moment I should have risen to my feet as Leader of the House and suggested that "the noble Lord should be no longer heard", but in view of the nice things he was saying about me I did not feel quite able to do that.

It is nice to be back, and may I thank your Lordships so much, particularly the noble Lords, Lord Goronwy-Roberts and Lord Byers, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, and also my noble friends on this side of the House for all the kind words that have been said. If I may, I should like to echo the thanks that have been expressed to my noble friend Lord Ferrers for the excellent way in which he has conducted business. We did have a few anxieties from time to time but none of them were concerned with the running of this House, because we knew that under the guidance of my noble friend and with the co-operation of all parties from all sides of this House everything would be well—and it almost was!

My Lords, timing plays such a large part in politics. So many people have turned their hand to this problem of Rhodesia, which has weighed so heavily upon one Government after another ever since UDI in 1965. It was never for want of trying that the situation was not resolved earlier. We have done our best. We have lived through a period of decolonisation. It was inevitable that Southern Rhodesia was going to be the most difficult of all that we had to take on. It was written on the wall: it was there for all to see. Many efforts have been made by many Governments time and time again, with the best will in the world and only wanting to hand over independence to that country with dignity. That is all that every party that has had responsibility for the government of this country has wanted to do.

Now it so happened that the timing was right this time and fortune has favoured, thank goodness! this wonderful country of Zimbabwe, which has gone through such awful anguish—seven years of war on top of 15 years of UDI. I doubt whether there has ever been a political issue in this country which all parties, be they in Opposition or in Government, have more wanted to solve than this one. My noble friend Lord Carrington and I were lucky enough to hold the responsibilities that we held at this particular juncture in time. That is why I think we all rejoice that, finally, we have been able, with providence playing a very large part, to hand over to a Government led by a most remarkable man, Mr. Mugabe; a man who has prepared himself for government and who is going to do his very best, I have no doubt, to lead his country to prosperity and to show the world what a multiracial society in Africa can really do.

This is not a trumph of individuals. It is not a triumph even of a party. It is a triumph of a nation sticking to its last, being determined to hand over its responsibilities with dignity. When the time came that this could be done, those who were involved in it can count themselves exceeding lucky. May I thank your Lordships for your great kindness in the words that you have said.

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