HL Deb 12 May 1980 vol 409 cc81-8

7.10 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 16th April be approved.— (Lord Trefgarne.)


My Lords, I did not take part in the previous debate because I wanted to speak on this Motion, and I wanted to speak in different terms and in a different tone from the way in which the previous debate was taking place. Therefore, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to welcome this order and to say a few things that I want to say, because this is the last time that we shall debate Zimbabwe in this House.

When my wife and I were watching the television presentation of Marshal Tito's funeral, we both expressed our happiness at seeing Mr. Mugabe as one of the Prime Ministers present on that occasion, indicating, as it did, that the people of Zimbabwe, through their elected leader, were able to take their place with the other nations. It is that happiness that I wanted to express here tonight, and because I wanted to express that happiness the previous debate did not really suit me.

I want to begin by expressing congratulations, belatedly, because I was not here during the previous debates, to the Foreign Secretary for having successfully walked his tightrope— because, as your Lordships remember, I described what he was walking as a tightrope. He has successfully walked it without falling off and I want to congratulate him. I also want to congratulate the Lord President of the Council on the part he played in bringing Zimbabwe into being.

I want, too, to congratulate the Commonwealth on getting its newest member, and on the part it has played in bringing into being its newest member. It is worth recording that from the beginning, from the time of the declaration of UDI, the Commonwealth has remained faithful to its insistence that there must be majority rule in Zimbabwe. It has, through it all, stuck solidly to that principle; and it was the Commonwealth conference in Lusaka that laid the foundation for the Lancaster House conference, and the eventual elections and the emergence of Zimbabwe and its place now in the Commonwealth.

I also— although some Members have done it before— want us to look at the inheritance of the present Zimbabwe Government. The question of the debt has already been raised, but I want to point out a few facts which need to be taken into account in thinking about it: the fact that one in three of adult blacks are unemployed, that there is a great deal of malnutrition and that what has been left as a result of what I would call the terribly wasted years is a devastated countryside. To illustrate what I mean when I talk about a devastated countryside, very few rural stores are functioning, most cattle are dead or stolen, rural health and education services are in ruins, large numbers of schoolchildren are without education, there is an absence of doctors in rural areas and, in addition, there are large numbers of refugees still in Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana.

To these must be added the handicap under which the new Government will be working. The alienation of land from the indigenous Africans has always been, and still is, bitterly resented. The new Government promises to concentrate on bringing neglected land into use and to pay compensation to the owners. But to do that it must have the wherewithal, and there is a great deal of expectation among the population which needs to be met. That is instanced to us by the number of strikes that are now taking place.

Therefore, a country in this position cannot be expected to service loans. What it needs is help. So the question of whether or not the new Zimbabwe Government says: "Yes, we will undertake to meet these debts", is not relevant. What is relevant is what will be the attitude of the creditors; and that is where this country comes in. What the country will need is a long enough spell before it has to repay any debts, so that it can develop to its full potential.

What is required from Her Majesty's Government— and this is why I wanted to concentrate on this debate, and not be diverted by debates on sanctions or anything else— is a commitment to provide every help possible to Zimbabwe in overcoming its difficulties. This Government and this country must give the maximum possible help, and also get other countries to give the maximum possible help.

If I may instance one, I have mentioned the land. At the time of the Kissinger plan, the Americans committed themselves to provide finance for the resettlement of people on the land. It is necessary for Her Majesty's Government to help the new Government of Zimbabwe to get that help. As to the kind of help that the USA will be giving, the suggestion so far is certainly nothing like what one was led to expect when the commitment was made. Therefore, what I am pleading for is that this Government should undertake to raise with the United States Government, its ally, the whole question of its commitment to helping this new country, and ask it to try to fulfil that commitment and not back down on it.

Here I have to agree with my noble friend Lady Gaitskell, that the Government's own commitment so far in terms of their £ 75 million was not good enough, was not a good enough example. Therefore I hope that we shall hear that it is to be regarded as a first step and that in fact the Government will be thinking, as things improve, of increasing their aid to this country. That is something the Government can commit themselves to doing. I was glad to read that at Nairobi it was agreed that Zimbabwe should be admitted as a signatory to the Lomé Convention. What I should like Her Majesty's Government to do is to use their influence in the EEC to see that there is maximum help from the European Development Fund. These are the sort of things I am talking about.

This order deals with diplomatic immunities. I was glad to see in one of the Commonwealth circulars that the Commonwealth is putting on a training programme in Salisbury for Zimbabwean diplomats. I think that we ought to thank the Commonwealth, congratulate them on the part they have been playing over the last 10 years in providing training for Zimbabweans, and also the part Her Majesty's Government have been playing in providing training for Zimbabweans, and ask that that training be continued, because they will need the help and the training now more than ever. One hopes that one of the ways in which Her Majesty's Government will increase their aid to Zimbabwe will be by increasing the extent to which they help with training and technical aid and personnel, where necessary. I know that we are giving military training, but probably we need to do as much in the civilian field as in the military field, and I hope that we shall do so.

While on the subject of the Commonwealth, I want to say something about Zambia because, of the Commonwealth countries, Zambia is the one that has suffered most from UDI. It is a country that has suffered most from what has been taking place in Rhodesia. What is very sad is that in the last period of Rhodesian rule, Britain and Zambia have seemed to be drifting apart. That is sad, but it is also dangerous. I hope Her Majesty's Government will take active steps to bridge that gap and remedy that situation.

Finally, I want to say something about South Africa. South Africa can, by its attitude, have a very definite influence on what happens to Zimbabwe. Because this country still has close and friendly relations with South Africa, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will use their friendship and close relations to persuade the South African Government to accept the result of the Zimbabwe elections— I think they have, actually— and, what is more, to accept the logic of the result of the Zimbabwe elections. By that I mean— I am merely giving an illustration— that if Ian Smith had accepted the logic of the Frelimo conquest of Mozambique, we should not have had to wait all these years for there to take place in Rhodesia the change that is now taking place. In fact, I am fairly certain that the group in Rhodesia that he was trying to help would have done very much better had he accepted the logic of what had happened in Mozambique. Therefore, I hope that the South Africans can be persuaded to accept the logic of what is happening North of the Limpopo, and that they can be made to understand that there can be no way of their being able to settle their problems without some accommodation of the urban blacks.

My own view is that that is the sort of message Her Majesty's Government need to be conveying to them. I do not think that the present Prime Minister needs to do what Harold Macmillan did and go there to tell them about the wind of change. I think she could do it without going. But they need to be told, and told in a friendly way, that these changes are essential. The noble Lord, whom I heard in the defence debate, argued that South Africa is one of our strongest and most important allies here. I want to say that, as South Africa now is, she is probably our biggest liability. On the other hand, she could become the kind of ally that the noble Lord was suggesting that she was. But again that would depend on the changes that take place there, and they have got to take place.

I have spoken for long enough. I wanted to convey a certain feeling to your Lordships' House and I hope that I have succeeded in conveying it. What I want to say is that I hope that Zimbabwe-British relations will blossom and bear fruit and that this country will use its influence to see that this situation in Southern Africa is one of stability and that this new nation is developed into a prosperous, progressive, non-racial nation whose influence for good could be infinite.

7.29 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to associate myself with everything that my noble friend Lord Pitt of Hampstead has said. It is indeed appropriate that it should be my noble friend Lord Pitt of Hampstead especially who welcomes this new state into the Commonwealth. As the noble Lord the Minister has already said, it will be probably our last opportunity to debate Zimbabwe and its relations to this country.

It would be ungenerous of me not to pay tribute to the work done by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the Foreign Secretary, and by the noble Lord, Lord Soames, lately governor of what was then Rhodesia. This I do gladly. I have already, on several occasions, praised the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, with whom I have many differences, for his courage in reasserting British authority over Rhodesia which I believed, over my 30 years of connection with Rhodesia, was the only way to solve the complex problems of that country. Since the declaration of the election, Lord Soames has acted impeccably and his friendship with Robert Mugabe is, I believe, of the utmost importance to the future relation- ship between his country and ours and to the race relations, the colour relations, within Zimbabwe itself.

Secondly, we must not forget the tremendous part played by Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo and their colleagues over the last 20 years: The profound sense of forgiveness that they have shown after their long experience of incarceration, after a decade has been torn out of their lives, has amazed everyone who knows them personally. But above all tonight I want to draw the attention of your Lordships to the tremendous part played by the Commonwealth in the whole of this drama.

There have been times when the Commonwealth has not been very popular or fashionable in the foreign policy of either party in Government. I believe, and always have believed, that that has been a major mistake. The Commonwealth is a unique association which brings together people of all races, all creeds and all colours; which includes nearly a quarter of the world's population; which above all brings together the north and the south, the rich and the poor and which has shown its ability to provide the means of dialogue between them. But on this occasion the Commonwealth has shown that it has a power to solve an internal problem of one of its members. As my noble friend Lord Pitt of Hampstead has said, it was the Commonwealth which always insisted to the British Government and to the rest of its members and the United Nations that nothing less than full adult suffrage could solve the Rhodesian problem. And some of the members of the Commonwealth have gone to the stake on that issue.

It was the Commonwealth which provided the opportunity last summer, as the noble Lord, Lord Soames, pointed out on his return last week. The timing was right, the timing was fortunate and provided the opportunity for the preparations for the Lancaster House Conference. Members of the Commonwealth Secretariat, and particularly its noted Secretary General, played an important part in that Lancaster House Conference. Then, perhaps above all, the Commonwealth observers and the monitoring force made a successful election possible.

I would ask the noble Lord, as I asked him last week and received a not very gracious answer, to make sure that the report of the Commonwealth observers, which is a report that gives a clear and objective historical account of what happened during that election, is made as fully available as possible— not just to Members of this House, not just to Members of both Houses, but to the British public at large. I would just remind him that the Government found it possible to place in the Printed Paper Office the report of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd, which was a report of the Conservative Party. This is a report of the Commonwealth, with no partisan support or connections, and it should be widely read. Those of us who have played any part and associated in any way with the Commonwealth welcome with open arms this new member. We praise the British Government, we praise the Zimbabwean leaders, we praise the Front Line Leaders for making this joyous occasion possible and we believe that the Commonwealth is now tremendously strengthened by the appearance of its latest member.


My Lords, I am much obliged to noble Lords for their interventions. If your Lordships will allow me, I will not attempt to answer all these points in depth or detail now but I will study what has been said and, if there is anything that needs to be taken up, I will correspond with the noble Lords in question.