HL Deb 02 June 1981 vol 420 cc1107-9

2.42 p.m.

Lord Brockway

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 whether they will make a statement on the recent discussion by the Western Contact Group on measures to secure the independence of Namibia.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the Foreign Ministers of the five Western Governments met in Rome on 3rd of May and in a communiqué, the text of which I am circulating in the Official Report, reiterated their Governments' commitment to an internationally acceptable settlement of the Namibia issue. Senior officials of the five have since met in Washington to consider ways forward.

Following is the text of the communiqué referred to above:

1. The Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States of America met in Rome on 3rd May 1981, to review the situation in Namibia. The Five Ministers expressed their Governments' deep concern over the failure of the Geneva Conference and their regret over the outcome of the recent consideration of the issue by the Security Council. They noted, however, that the discussions in the Security Council indicated a general desire on the part of the great majority of participants in the debate for the five to continue their efforts in the search for a solution to this problem.

2. The five Ministers reiterated their Governments' commitment to an internationally acceptable settlement to the Namibia issue, one of the major problems of the African continent, the solution of which they see as essential for the stability of Southern Africa. The Ministers reaffirmed their conviction that only a settlement under the aegis of the United Nations would be acceptable to the international community.

3. The Ministers stated their belief that Security Council Resolution 435 provides a solid basis for the achievement of a negotiated settlement and agreed that continued efforts should be made to bring Namibia to early independence in accordance with Security Council Resolution 435. At the same time, the Ministers recognised that the settlement plan as endorsed by Resolution 435 with the complementary measures that have been added to it, such as the proposal for a demilitarised zone, has not proved sufficient to bring about implementation. They agreed that the search for a settlement should be intensified and that ways to strengthen the existing plan should be considered.

4. The Ministers believe that there is a need to establish understanding among all parties about the shape of the future, independent Namibia. Accordingly they instructed officials to develop proposals encompassing measures, including constitutional arrangements, with the aim of enhancing prospects of achieving a negotiated settlement. Senior officials of the five will meet in late May for this purpose.

5. The Ministers affirmed that the close cooperation of all the parties concerned is essential to the effort to bring about a negotiated solution. The Western five intend to consult with all interested parties in exploring and developing specific proposals which would facilitate a settlement.

6. Finally, the Ministers agreed that the Namibia issue has been on the international agenda for too long. They committed their governments to vigorous action in the effort to bring Namibia to independence at an early date.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is it not the case that negotiations have been held up by the new American proposal? Does not that proposal depart from the settlement suggested by the five western powers and United Nations Resolution 435? In seeking a constructive solution, has the Minister noted the statement yesterday in Salisbury by Mr. Nujuma, the President of SWAPO, that he would accept a Lancaster House type of conference if South Africa's illegal administration was ended and United Nations authority accepted up to the election? Would not United Nations withdrawal of its support from SWAPO before the election be a contribution to a solution of this problem?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, if I may say so, that is a slightly involved supplementary question, but the short answer is that we must take all parties with us in these negotiations if we are to reach an acceptable settlement.

Lord Goronwy-Roberts

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the advance which has been made is that the five-power initiative, which has been going on for about 18 months, is now, comparatively speaking, receiving American support? Will Her Majesty's Government very carefully nurture this support?—because without it even the best efforts of the European powers may prove fruitless.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the noble Lord is, of course, quite right that the five need to go forward with a degree of consensus in these matters and, of course, the position of the United States is crucial.

Lord Barnby

My Lords, is the Minister in a position to say that the United Nations has eased negotiations by revising its resolution that SWAPO is the sole authoritative voice for all the black African parties in Namibia?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the formal position of the United Nations in this matter is, of course, contained in the resolution of the Security Council and not in the resolution of the General Assembly, to which my noble friend has referred.

Lord Barnby

My Lords, is it not to be understood that the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance has yet been granted a hearing by the United Nations?

Lord Trefgarne

No, my Lords. It is, of course, the case that the DTA was denied a hearing at a recent United Nations meeting. We expressed our views on that at the time.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, does not the noble Lord realize—I am sure he does—that areas as primitive and tribal as Namibia cannot enjoy independence in any real sense, but that what we are really deciding is whose puppet Namibia will be? Surely it is important from our point of view that she should be the puppet of a friend of ours.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, what is important is that the people of Namibia should have a chance to decide these things for themselves.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, does the United States proposal for a Bill of Rights, which is now being considered by the five western Governments, include economic restrictions? Although one welcomes civil rights for the white minority, must we not be very careful not to contravene the African demand that natural resources should be nationally owned? Is this not particularly necessary, because 40 per cent. of the enriched uranium in this country comes from Namibia? The French Socialist Party, now dominant in France where our uranium is processed, has stated that it will break trade links with Namibia unless a satisfactory solution is reached.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I wish that I had the mental agility of the noble Lord and was able to offer him a comprehensive answer comparable with his supplementary question. I would simply say that it is important not to consider each of these matters in isolation, but to look for a solution to the whole problem.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, may I beg the noble Lord not to assume that because we are white, with the arrogance of our civilisation—with its yobboes at football crowds and elsewhere, muggings and murders in the streets—we are more advanced than some of these so-called uncivilised people who live peacefully in the bosom of their gods?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I do not think that I suggested any such thing as was inherent in the noble Lord's supplementary question.