HL Deb 12 May 1980 vol 409 cc61-81

Lord TREFGARNE rose to move, That the order laid before the House on 23rd April be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I wish at the outset to apologise for not being in my place a few moments ago; the speed of the Industry Bill left me speechless.


And absent.


Quite so, my Lords. In moving the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper, I will, with your Lordships' permission, speak at the same time to the second Motion standing in my name, but move the latter only formally when we come to it.

The Sanctions Amnesty Order 1980 is made under Section 3 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1979 by which power was granted to deal with the consequences of the expiry of sanctions provisions. The purpose of this order is to provide for an amnesty, and the discontinuance of criminal proceedings, for offences against those measures which provided for the imposition of economic sanctions against Rhodesia. My noble friend the Foreign Secretary gave the background to the Government's decision to grant an amnesty for sanctions offences in his Statement on 15th April. An amnesty in United Kingdom law was granted by the Zimbabwe Act 1979 for political offences in connection with UDI. Subsequently, a comprehensive amnesty was granted by the Governor in Rhodesian law. In these circumstances, the Government judge it inappropriate to initiate further prosecutions arising out of the tragic business of UDI, and this order provides accordingly.

There are no prosecutions for sanctions offences pending and the appeal to which my noble friend referred on 15th April has now been determined. This order does not pardon the actions of past sanctions-breakers, nor does it affect past convictions. However, with the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to proceed over matters arising from the Bingham Report, and in the absence of any pending proceedings, the Government believe a line must now be drawn under the past. This country and British industry in general had a good record in the maintenance of mandatory sanctions against the former illegal regime. No Western country sacrificed more in this cause. There is no evidence to suggest that any major evasion of sanctions by British firms or individuals has taken place which has not already been investigated by the authorities and, where appropriate, dealt with by the courts.

But the era of Rhodesian illegality ended last December. The newly independent Zimbabwe has now taken its rightful place in the world community. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, in the presence of very many distinguished world leaders, has handed over the instruments of power to a Government fairly chosen by the people. It cannot surely be right in these circumstances to con-templace new prosecutions for offences which were part of our apparatus of disapproval of an illegal government no longer in power. To do so would serve only to open old wounds to no one's advantage. I do not believe that, in this context, the continuance of prosecutions for sanctions offences would be regarded as anything other than an anachronism and a reflection of the past to which the people of Zimbabwe and the world outside are now pledged to forget. I believe your Lordships will agree that a comprehensive amnesty both for political and sanctions offences is an important element in the overall settlement of the Rhodesian problem and that with such an amnesty we can build on the spirit of hope and reconciliation which has transformed Zimbabwe over the past few months.

I turn to the second Motion in my name relating to the Zimbabwe (Independence and Membership of the Commonwealth) (Consequential Provisions) Order 1980. When the Zimbabwe Act was enacted it was uncertain whether Zimbabwe would attain independence as a member of the Commonwealth. The British Government took the view that it would be for the incoming government of Zimbabwe to decided on Commonwealth membership. The Act was therefore drafted on the basis that Zimbabwe would become independent outside the Commonwealth, but a power was included to enable the necessary modifications to be made in the event of a decision in favour of Commonwealth membership. The Zimbabwe Act also contains a power enabling the modification of enactments or instruments in consequence of Zimbabwe's independence. In the event, Mr. Mugabe applied shortly after his election victory for Zimbabwe to become a member of the Commonwealth when it attained independence. It was announced on 9th April that this application had been unanimously accepted by Commonwealth members and that Zimbabwe would come to independence as the 43rd member of the Commonwealth.

The main object of this order, therefore, is to give effect in the law of the United Kingdom to Zimbabwe's Commonwealth membership. It also contains further provision consequential upon Zimbabwe's independence. In brief, the effect of the Articles, taken in order, is as follows. Article 2 (1) restores Zimbabwe to the list of Commonwealth countries from which it was removed by the Zimbabwe Act. Article 2 (2) renews the status of British subject— that is, Commonwealth Citizen— for those who enjoyed the status by virtue of their citizenship of Southern Rhodesia before independence and who became citizens of Zimbabwe on independence. Article 3 repeals two transitional provisions now unnecessary concerning applications for citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by persons with a Southern Rhodesian connection. Article 4 repeals that part of the Zimbabwe Act which preserved for a limited period for Zimbabwean citizens the benefits of the status of British subject. This provision is no longer necessary now that Zimbabwe is in the Commonwealth. Articles 5 and 6 make provision in connection with the Government of Zimbabwe assuming responsibility for the stock and debts of the Government of Southern Rhodesia. Mr. Mugabe has stated that his Government will honour pre-UDI debts and talks are taking place in London at the moment with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable arrangement.


My Lords, in relation to Articles 5 and 6, the Minister mentioned that they deal with stocks and debts of the Government of Southern Rhodesia. I do not see any reference to debts. If they are intended to cover debts, what is the position in regard to debts incurred by the illegal Government of Rhodesia between 1965 and 1980? Presumably Mr. Mugabe's Government are not accepting responsibility for those, so what is the position about those?


I have it in mind, my Lords, that I should speak again at the end of this short debate, and perhaps the noble and learned Lord will allow me to deal with that matter in more detail then. As I said, Mr. Mugabe has stated that his Government will honour pre-UDI debts, and talks are taking place in London at the moment with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable arrangement.

The schedule to the order contains a number of technical and consequential provisions concerning diplomatic immunity, evidence, the enforcement of judgments, inter alia fraud prevention, solicitors and double taxation relief. The basic intention is to provide for the application in relation to Zimbabwe of relevant enactments and instruments in these fields. Zimbabwe is also accorded the status of a Commonwealth country in relation to the Commonwealth Institute, and to service and visiting forces law.

In all probability, this will be the last legislation concerning the transition of Southern Rhodesia to independence. It is a moment which your Lordships may wish to savour. I therefore beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Order laid before the House on 23rd April be approved.— (Lord Trefgame.)

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, all Members of your Lordships' House will welcome the amnesty in Rhodesia for those who committed military offences during the war and for those who committed political offences during UDI. These steps are necessary for reconciliation in Zimbabwe itself. However, I regret the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to proceed in the cases of alleged sanctions breaking by prominent oil companies. I am strengthened in that view by the annex to the Bingham Report— to which little attention has been drawn— headed "Evidence of Criminal Offences". The annex lists all the companies involved, and at great length it also gives the names of the directors of those companies, I regret to say that those directors include a number of Members of this House, including at least one who had close association with the Foreign Office.

The Minister said that he is doubtful whether other companies not yet discovered broke sanctions, and that he has no knowledge of this. I submit to the House that not only oil sanctions were broken; sanctions were broken over a much larger field. Would it really be necessary for the order to be produced if there were not other British firms concerned? The order refers to companies who are alleged to have broken sanctions and who have not yet been exposed. It refers to them only. These would be cases not of activity in Zimbabwe but of breaking British law in this country.

It is difficult to overstate the seriousness of the offence. It amounted to a conspiracy to assist an illegal Administration in rebellion against the Crown. These offences were committed purely for monetary gain. Those guilty placed profits for their companies before a sense of patriotism to this country. They were also offences against international decisions which had the effect of international law. The sanctions were authorised on British initiative by the United Nations Security Council.

One must face the fact that sanctions-breaking meant the loss of hundreds of lives in Rhodesia and in the civil war. If the sanctions had been applied with the co-operation of big business, UDI would have ended much earlier and the civil war would have been concluded before it reached its climax of destruction. The sanctions breakers have that on their conscience. I submit that it should be on the conscience of this Government as well, if they now condone the guilt of those who so far have escaped discovery.

We shall be asked this week to endorse sanctions against Iran. I shall oppose those sanctions because I believe that they will endanger the lives of the hostages, rather than save them. But how can those who will vote in favour of sanctions against Iran also vote for this order, which provides an amnesty to sanctions breakers? Will not this order positively invite breaches of sanctions imposed against Iran? Sanctions breakers will feel that this is a precedent allowing them to go scot-free. My Lords, I hope that this House will reject the order.

6.16 p.m.


My Lords, my very old and noble friend, and my best political friend, has done a considerable service to the House in putting these facts before it. I came here informed, to my surprise, that the Labour Party were proposing to vote against the order. I came to follow the course of a decision that I have taken already, to say that I support the order. I support it fully realising the strength, the power, the sincerity— which is always there— of all that my friend has said. I support it thinking that but for other considerations I might have been tempted otherwise. My first view is this. I shall not start coining a phrase about amnesty being indivisible; but amnesty is a position which if taken up abstains from distinctions.

The spirit which prompted that wonderful organisation which is endeavouring to consider the question of the application of human rights all over the world, by men of vastly different religions— the religion of some of them includes hatred as a virtue— is a very complex matter indeed. If we are now to say let us rejoice, and let us give Zimbabwe a chance, let us not muck it up with attempts to bring cases which can never succeed. I doubt whether any practising lawyer will ever tell your Lordships that people should be charged with offences in breach of these regulations— vague, ambulatory and so on— over years that are passed, in times of acute controversy when Ministers themselves were being accused of letting sanctions go by and going to sleep, and when it was being said that the British Navy was deliberately watching the wrong port. Let us not forget these things.

The Bingham Report was a very thorough report, and after that we had to consult ourselves as to whether we should go further and endeavour to embark upon criminal prosecutions when there was clearly evidence that oil companies might say, "We were negotiating with that particular section of ministerial officers which deals with this matter". They have said it. We know that they are going to say it. We know that, even on pragmatic grounds, the intention is to do something; it does not vindicate justice. It expresses a determination to blame somebody for it— not us. I was one of those who were to blame. I have never been to Rhodesia; but I was certainly a Member of Parliament during this period, and I was certainly a Member of the House of Lords at some time during this period. Not many of us really asked ourselves very carefully what was happening, and why cars in Rhodesia were running, with every seat taken, in full sight of men. Many of us, very conveniently, did not ask ourselves what was happening to the chrome of Rhodesia. Every one of us who cared to know knew it was going to America. As to whether or not it was in President Carter's time, I do not think it was, to be fair to him, but we shall have another appeal, as allies, to back America on the question of sanctions.

I take the view that, after all the discussions we have had and after all the praise we have lavished, we should now say, "Call it a day". This is the moment when amnesties are granted; a moment when there is something to celebrate; a moment when there is something to be pleased about; a moment when we can say that, just because they happen to be big companies and not individuals— and even big companies, I am afraid, have got to exist— to embark on further bitterness will serve no purpose, and this order as presented is an order that commends itself to the main decencies of most Members of this House.

6.22 p.m.


My Lords, it is not often that I disagree with my noble and old friend Lord Hale, but I do so on this occasion, and I take his own words to illustrate my first disagreement. My noble friend said that amnesty means the abolition of discrimination. This amnesty does not mean the abolition of discrimination, because according to this order those in this country who (I put it no higher than this) may be guilty of breaking sanctions in the past are going to be given preference over those companies which have already been convicted and fined for the same offence. So far as discrimination is concerned, therefore, this order introduces discrimination; and I wish that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor were here, because I should very much like to hear his views on the question of natural law. Does it square with natural law that certain groups of people and certain individuals should be penalised under our law for an offence when we are now asked to grant an amnesty to other people who have been accused of the same offence? I doubt it; and it is for that reason that I disagree with the argument that my noble friend has put forward.

But is it not curious, my Lords, that this order comes from the party that claims to be the party of law and order? All Governments since 1965, Conservative and Labour, have maintained the law imposing sanctions on the illegal regime in Salisbury. We are now being asked to give a blanket amnesty to those companies and those individuals who broke that law, and who broke that law for no other reason than economic gain. I hope that the noble Lord the Minister who introduced this order, when he visited Salisbury for the independence celebra- tions, also went round such African townships as Harari, and went out into the countryside, and saw some of the cripples, some of the damage and some of the destruction caused to that country as a result of the war. Without blaming one side or the other, are we not entitled to say that if the sanctions law, as it was imposed by Labour and Conservative Governments alike, was designed to shorten that war, then those who broke that law are themselves responsible for the thousands of deaths and mutilations, and the massive destruction that has continued over the last 15 years? And, if they are— and most of them are large companies, particularly oil companies— should they not now be paying some compensation? Is it not a usual principle in an amnesty to confess one's sins and pay compensation for them? That compensation, surely, is due first to Zimbabweans, but also to Zambians and to Mozambiquans, who have suffered in some ways equally with the people of Zimbabwe as a result of the breaches in sanctions which have bled both their countries.

We have heard of the Bingham Report, and we have been told again that the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to proceed with those prosecutions. Like my noble friend Lord Brockway I disagreed and thought, as did indeed many legal minds in this country, that the reasons given for the refusal to prosecute were very weak indeed; but, beyond that, there is perhaps one bright spark that comes out of this. We were frequently told, and told particularly in this House, that one of the reasons why there should not be a parliamentary inquiry following the Bingham Report was that those who might be called as witnesses on oath could be incriminating themselves by appearing before such an inquiry. If this order goes through, that excuse has gone. If this order goes through, there will be no further excuse for not holding a parliamentary inquiry on the grounds that witnesses may incriminate themselves. They will already be amnestied; and whether or not this House agrees, I hope there will be a parliamentary inquiry into the affairs that were raised by the Bingham Report, if only because of the phrase used by a member of the party opposite, that this issue raises the whole question of the integrity of Parliament.

Finally, there is a still bigger issue which is raised by this order— bigger, even, than that of the future of Zimbabwe and of Central Africa. It is the future of sanctions. There are many of us here— and I particularly bow my knee to my noble friend Lord Brockway for his long service, and to my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker— who have argued that the only alternative to war as a means of settling international disputes is economic sanctions. As my noble friend has already mentioned, this week, in another place and in this place, we are going to be asked by the same Government who proposed this order to impose another set of sanctions— this time on Iran. Will the Bill or order (however the Government decide to deal with it) asking for sanctions on Iran contain a provisional clause that there will be an escape route, that those who break that order will be excused?— because if this order is passed, as it will be, and when it is passed, what it is going to do is to weaken the use of sanctions themselves as a means of settling international disputes. Sanctions are one of the few non-violent international means of coercion still at the disposal of the international community. If it is now found that those who break the sanctions laws are going to be legally forgiven and that no penalties are to be exacted, then that means of settling international disputes will be thus much weakened.

I believe that we shall live to regret the means that we are now taking to weaken the international use of sanctions by saying to those who have broken the sanctions laws of this country under Governments of both parties: "Now we wipe the slate clean. We are not going to pursue you as we pursued those who did the same as you have done. We are now going to forget that we passed the law and that you broke it".

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened with the greatest respect to the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Brockway and Lord Hatch. I should like to support the Government proposition that there should be an amnesty. I should like to put this to both noble Lords. When I went to Rhodesia (or Zimbabwe as it now is) during the Lancaster House conference I found an overwhelming desire by the people of that country, both white and black, that the war should be ended and that there should be peace. We now have the chance of a settlement and of good government in Rhodesia under the Prime Minister, Mr. Mugabe. I feel with the utmost sincerity at this time that if we were to proceed with prosecutions— and I do not deny that in certain circumstances sanctions may have been broken and that possibly, in normal circumstances, prosecution might be justified— and possibly long-drawn-out prosecutions against the various individuals and companies who (it is alleged, at this stage) have broken sanctions, this would be the very source of dissatisfaction within Rhodesia itself, possibly setting black Rhodesians and white Rhodesians against one another. For that reason, in all sincerity this evening, I feel that this amnesty should be granted.

I should like to make one point in a final exposition of what I have said. At the end of the last war, I remember the criminal trials in Singapore where, of 12 Japanese brought to trial, six were executed. I would have wished at that particular time that the life of the camp commandant of the prison where I was incarcerated had been spared. I see no point in carrying on an Act to perpetuate something which is now in limbo. In Zimbabwe, the chances are that there will be peace, good government and prosperity. I think that this chapter should be closed on the question of sanctions.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, I find it very difficult to speak on this occasion because my instincts are entirely on the side of my noble friends Lord Brockway and Lord Hatch. I have always been what is described as a hawk over the matter of Rhodesia. When I was a member of the Government I criticised the Government from the inside, and when I left it— and my resignation was not entirely unconnected with my attitude towards their conduct of the Rhodesian affair— I criticised the then-Labour Government for taking too soft a view about it. I still believe that things would have been better had the "hawks" had the upper hand in that argument. Therefore, my instinct is to go into the Lobby with my two noble friends and others.

But, my Lords, I come down on the side of my noble friend Lord Hale and, possibly regretfully, on the side of noble Lords opposite. My reason for doing so is basically because our great duty now is to do all that we can to see that the new country of Zimbabwe succeeds. It is going to have a very uphill struggle. It faces enormous problems. It is led, in my view, by a remarkable man whom later generations will describe as one of the great statesmen of Africa— a rash prophecy, but I believe it to be true. He has shown by his actions as well as by his words that he wants to wipe the slate clean; that he wants to start his new country without recriminations and without rancour over what has happened.

One of the most remarkable things that have happened in the Lancaster House proposals, in everything leading up to them and in everything since, is that a man who suffered, as Robert Mugabe suffered, at the hands of Ian Smith and his colleagues, should be prepared to sit down at the table with them, to talk with them and, since his victory, to say the things that he has said. I think it would be wrong indeed for us here, sitting thousands of miles away from the scene of this struggle that is now going to go on— not, thank God! a military struggle but an economic struggle— to rehabilitate a whole country with appalling difficulties facing it, to take a different line from the line which he so courageously is taking there. For that reason above all, I think that, much as I personally should like to pursue those who, as my noble friend Lord Brockway rightly said, prolonged the war, caused the death and suffering of many hundreds, many thousands, of people; much as the vindictive side of my character would like to do that, I still believe that we shall serve the best interests of Zimbabwe by following his example and by agreeing to this order.

6.40 p.m.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, I should just like to point out one small thing. Some 20, 000 people were killed in the war in Zimbabwe, tens of thousands of people are paraplegic, possibly hundreds of thousands of people were wounded, maimed, hurt, displaced and terrorised. The people who actually wounded, maimed, hurt, displaced or terrorised on either side, be they Selous Scouts, ZIPRA or ZANLA, are not being prosecuted. Nobody is being prosecuted. There is a call for amnesty, reconciliation and forgiveness. We all believe it to be right for an amnesty for these people. Of course this is preferential treatment. Some of them were hanged. Some of them suffered actually during the war. For us to contemplate further petty prosecutions of somebody for "flogging" razor blades, oil or whatever it is, would be mean, vindictive and counterproductive. I am totally and completely on the side of Her Majesty's Government. This is a good example of forgive and forget. Of course the sanctions-breakers were wrong; but let us forgive, forget and end it now.

6.41 p.m.


My Lords, I am very worried about this business of enforcing sanctions, either against Zimbabwe or even against Iran. It is a very tricky issue. Sanctions, if applied to Rhodesia, are very unfair— no one can deny that— to the freedom fighters, to the people who fought and who have suffered. There is no doubt about that. I can only say that I would understand it if the Government, instead of enforcing sanctions, would raise their miserable £ 75 million that they have offered to Zimbabwe for the suffering that all those people there have gone through. I cannot support sanctions wholeheartedly for Zimbabwe or even for Iran.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, the House has, I hope for the last time, considered an order relating to Rhodesia or Zimbabwe. It has done so with evidence of very deep feeling about the issue of the amnesty proposed in the first of the two orders. So far, at least, it has considered with a remarkable absence of recrimination and rancour this very testing question for all of us. I join my noble friend Lord Walston, who says that our first duty today is not to do or say anything which will in any way imperil the further progress of Zimbabwe on peaceful and democratic lines into independence within the Commonwealth. However, we may differ a little as to our attitudes on these two orders, bearing in mind that major objective. If the House will bear with me for a few minutes, I should like to put the position as I see it and as I think the majority of my noble friends on this side of the House see it.

As to the second order, which is consequential upon the acceptance by the Commonwealth of the 43rd Member, there can be nothing but enthusiastic agreement. We are delighted that this has happened on its own volition. I have presided over constitutional discussions and have never asked them: "Would you like to be a member of the Commonwealth?"; they have asked me. In this case one of the most remarkable gestures of statesmanlike goodwill on the part of the new Prime Minister and Government of independent Zimbabwe was that they said: "We wish to apply for membership of the Commonwealth".

This order finalises and formalises in all its consequences the fact of their membership of the Commonwealth. All of us look forward to having the benefit of their contribution to the deliberations of the Commonwealth and of their cooperation in the various agencies— some of them very important indeed— which carry forward the great work of the Commonwealth. So, on the second order, there is no disagreement in this House.

As to the first— that relating to the blanket, retrospective amnesty— we have profound reservations. There are two views on this matter. We have heard both those views put most powerfully this evening. There is the one that says: "Let bygones be bygones. Let us draw a thick line under the past and look to the future". There is the other that says: "Unless you make it absolutely clear that there shall be no expectation of amnesty for the breakers of national— and, ultimately, international— law then the whole efficacy of economic sanctions as a substitute for military action is destroyed ".

My noble friends and I, in all sincerity, will vote against this particular order; but we do so not in recrimination about the past, but in reinforcement of the future. One thing has come out of all these years of discussing sanctions and their application: many have felt that sanctions are ineffective and should be abandoned. That is a dangerous mood for any member of the United Nations and any subscriber to its Charter to take. Once we abandon the possibility of non-violent economic pressure on the lawbreaker, we are left with no alternative but war, or indeed surrender. I would ask my friends on both sides of the House to consider very carefully whether they are serving the greater purposes of the peace of the future by denouncing sanctions as such by urging that they should never be part of the armoury of the international authority to guard and preserve the peace.

I believe that non-violent economic sanctions together with peace-keeping and peace-making are of immense importance to the maintenance of international law and order in the future and the preservation of the peace. There are others who say that in any case they are ineffective. But so is war. For centuries we have applied the dread arbitrament of force to international disputes, and have learned very little from it. From this last attempted application of non-violent means of coercion we can learn a lot. It is this to which J hope we shall address ourselves. Certainly I do not wish to stir up sterile recrimination about what has passed; but we have a duty to study very carefully the lessons of the past so that in the future we avoid those past mistakes.

I want to make three points before I invite those who agree with me to make this gesture in the Lobbies tonight. First, we should assert that we regard the instrument of non-violent economic sanctions as part of the armoury of the world to preserve order and to preserve peace. Secondly, we should learn from the imperfect attempts to apply this instrument, for instance in Rhodesia— not completely ineffective but certainly imperfect, as we heard tonight. We should learn from the experience of our admittedly imperfect attempts to apply it as to how constantly to improve this instrument for the future, so that nations whom we saw during the past 15 years were hesitant about throwing themselves wholeheartedly into this international action will in the future have more confidence to co-operate in international J action.

Thirdly, in any proposal we put forward, we must above all avoid either on our own behalf (as may be imminent in the next few days) as a country, or in concert with friends or in the United Nations, in the name of the world, creating an implicit precedent that although sanctions are to be engaged in, at the end of the day there will be a general amnesty for those who broke them. That is the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, with great force, and it is something which concerns us all.

If, as I hope, there is a determined effort made in the United Nations, and severally in individual countries, to learn from the past so as to refine and make more effective the bloodless instrument of economic pressure, then surely to include in any provision for such a pressure any assumption beforehand there will be no sanctions against the sanctions breakers will destroy every hope we have of building up an effective alternative to war as the instrument of settling international disputes.

That is the approach we have to this question. We deeply respect the sincerity of feeling on both sides on this issue; but it goes beyond Rhodesia. It goes to the very heart in the future as to how the nations of the world, through the United Nations, fashion and increasingly perfect and learn from deficiences and experience an alternative to war which will give them confidence as well as security and peace.

It is therefore in no spirit of recrimination or any desire to stir up the old agruments about Rhodesia that I state clearly from this Box that the Opposition will vote against this particular order. Having heard what they have heard this evening and having studied what has been said in the other place with great force and sincerity, particularly by my right honourable friend Mr. Peter Shore, I hope that the Government will take on board that we will not accept proposals even for non-violent action of this kind, if inside them there is an assumption of this sort of retrospective, indiscriminate amnesty for people who, for profit, broke the law of this country and, in doing so, helped not only to hearten the people of Rhodesia but to weaken one of the best hopes of mankind for a really effective alternative to war.

6.53 p.m.


My Lords, I confess to being somewhat surprised by the tone adopted by some of your Lordships concerning this order, especially as the announcement by my noble friend on the 15th April that there would be a sanctions amnesty drew no reaction whatsoever from your Lordships— and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, who has waxed so eloquent this evening, was not even in the House on that occasion. In commending this order to your Lordships, I must make one point quite clear. Certain noble Lords, including in particular the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, have referred disapprovingly to the granting of what they call "a blanket amnesty", thus giving the misleading impression that an amnesty is being given to a very large number of people known to have committed offences. My Lords, it is not. As I explained in my introductory speech, this is simply not the background against which the Government are introducing this measure. There-are no prosecutions pending: indeed there are no proceedings pending and no evidence whatsoever to suggest that any major evasion by British firms or individuals has not been the subject of full investigation by the authorities. Furthermore, I believe that a number of your Lordships are attempting, by means of a debate on this order, to revert to the Attorney General's Statement in another place last December on the Bingham Report.

The decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to proceed on the matters arising from the Bingham Report was a legal matter. It was not a decision taken by this Government. The DPP had to consider and assess the enormous quantities of oil company documents available in this country. The decision not to proceed with the further inquiries was taken by the DPP totally independently of the Government and was based upon the impartial advice from outside counsel. His decision was based upon the evidential problems involved, and his conclusions as to the chances of successfully mounting prosecutions were that these were remote. I believe his conclusions should be respected.

Can I just touch on some of the other points that have been raised this evening. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, asked me about the debt provisions, which are actually covered by the second order but to which I referred in my opening speech. I am advised that my noble friend— the governor as he then was, Lord Soames— validated, with effect from the return to legality, a number of transactions including debts incurred by the Smith and Muzorewa régimes. The "independence" Government of Mr. Mugabe succeeded to these obligations as well as to the pre-UDI debt, but these obligations are not, in any event, affected one way or the other by this order. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch—


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Will payment of those debts, incurred by the Smith regime in the period of illegality, by the successor Government of Mr. Mugabe be necessary? Also, will the amount they have to pay come off any grant-in-aid the Government will name in the meantime? If that were the position it would be perfectly appalling, would it not?


My Lords, I am sure that is not the position. I think the noble and learned Lord may be referring to the oft-quoted £ 75 million of aid. It is certainly not the case that repayment of debts should come from that aid allocation, but it is the case that the various debts incurred during UDI, which have now been accepted by the new Government, will have to be repaid in due course. But doubtless, like all the other debts which Mr. Mugabe has accepted, the timing and dates of repayment will be negotiated with the creditors, and agreed in due course.


My Lords, will the noble Lord let us know if included in those debts are those which were incurred by the Smith regime for arms imports from South Africa?


My Lords, I have not got that information in front of me, but I will find out if I may and write to the noble Lord. I was coming to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, who, I think, once again, if I may say so, has not fully understood the nature and extent of the change which has taken place in Zimbabwe following the Lancaster House agreement and the elections which took place earlier this year. The noble Lord asked me whether those who had sinned should not confess. I am not quite sure who he now says should confess because, as I have said, there are no prosecutions pending and we are not aware of anybody who really ought to be prosecuted in this matter.


Why not?


My Lords, if the noble Lord had listened to my earlier speech, he would have heard the reasons for that. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, and the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, on different sides of the House were most helpful and I thank them for their contributions. My Lords, finally, to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, who referred to a blanket and retrospective amnesty, I will say as I said earlier; this is no such thing. I must also refute the allegation.


My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive my interrupting? If evidence emerged showing gross violation of the law of this country in relation to our obligations and to the various enactments we passed, and if those violations emerged now, would they be covered by this amnesty? If it were reported, with prima facie evidence, that there had been violations of the law at some time in the past few years before independence, surely the effect of this order is to ignore such evidence and to declare that the amnesty covers anything tlat comes to the knowledge of the Government from now on about that period in that particular field.


My Lords, the noble Lord, I think, is describing a purely hypothetical situation. The situation we are faced with at present is that there have been a number of prosecutions which will stand. There is no question of a pardon for convictions which have already been made. We are saying we shall not

continue indefinitely the "witch hunt", if those are the right words, of people who may or may not have committed offences under the sanctions legislation. We shall draw the line, now that Zimbabwe has come to independence. The intention behind this measure is to continue the logical process of granting an amnesty to those involved in the sad events of the past 15 years. An amnesty for political offences was granted in the United Kingdom and in Rhodesian law so as to assist the implementation of the Lancaster House Agreement. An amnesty for sanctions offences was not necessary to the functioning of the Governor's administration, but the British Government have always considered it an important element in making a clean break with the past.

I believe that the effect of this order on the development of close Anglo-Zimbabwean commercial and economic relations has been underestimated by some of your Lordships. Some have given the impression that sanctions breaking has only a British connection and that somehow no Zimbabwean citizen might be involved. In my experience, commercial transactions tend to involve more than one party and I believe that this amnesty will help to build confidence among individuals and institutions in Zimbabwe which are now committed to support the new Government there, and work for the reconciliation for which Mr. Mugabe has so eloquently called. This order is an important and logical element in that settlement.

7.3 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Motion shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 83; Not-Contents, 33.

Ailesbury, M. Davidson, V. Gridley, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. de Clifford, L. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Alport, L. De La Warr, E. Halisham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)
Ampthill, L. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Auckland, L. Drumalbyn, L. Hale, L.
Avon, E. Elliot of Harwood, B. Hall, V.
Barnby, I,. Exeter, M. Harvington, L.
Bellwin, L. Ferrers, E. Henley, L.
Belstead, L. Forester, L. Holderness, L.
Chesham, L. Fortescue, E. Hunt of Fawley, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Inglewood, L.
Craigmyle, L. Gainford, L. Kaldor, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Galloway, E. Kilmarnock, L.
Daventry, V. Gowrie, E. Kimberley, E.
Long, V. O'Hagan, L. Strathspey, L.
Lyell, L. Onslow, E. Swinton, E.
McFadzean, L. Orkney, E. Teviot, L.
McGregor of Durris, L. Reigate, L. Torphichen, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Romney, E. Trefgarne, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. St. Aldwyn, E. Trenchard, V.
Mancroft, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.] Trumpington, B.
Mansfield, E. Selkirk, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Margadale, L. Sharpies, B. Vickers, B.
Marley, L. Shepherd, L. Vivian, L.
Monson, L. Soames, L. (L. President.) Walston, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Stamp, L. Westbury, L.
Netherthorpe, L. Stedman, B. Winterbottom, L,
Nugent of Guildford, L. Strathcarron, L. Young, B.
Ardwick, L. Gosford, E. Noel-Baker, L.
Bernstein, L. Hatch of Lusby, L. Oram, L.
Birk, B. Janner, L. Peart, L.
Blease, L. Kilbracken, L. Phillips, B.
Boston of Faversham, L. Lee of Newton, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Brockway, L. Llewelyn-Davies, L. Stone, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.] Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Collison, L. Underhill, L.
David, B. [Teller.] Lovell-Davis, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. McCarthy, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Gaitskell, B. Mischon, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Goronwy-Roberts, L.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.