HL Deb 24 March 1981 vol 418 cc1051-3
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 progress of arrangements for the independence of Namibia (South West Africa).

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

My Lords, all concerned in the negotiations, including the new administration in the United States, are reviewing their approach in the light of the setback to hopes of an early settlement at the Geneva meeting in January. We hope that negotiations will resume soon but it is too early to predict when or how it may be possible to make progress.

Lord Brockway

Yes, my Lords, but is it not the case that there has been no progress since the abortive Geneva Conference owing to the intransigence of South Africa in relying on a new attitude by President Reagan? Is it not the case that South Africa is now using its military strength to increase its occupation, even going deep into Angola? Will the Minister answer this: Are the United Kingdom and the other Western powers who were parties to the settlement balancing the pro-South African visitors toWashington by urging unitedly that President Reagan should end the illegal South African occupation of Namibia?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, while the United States will have an important role to play in this matter in due course—that is, when they have determined their policy—the fact is that the principal organisation involved in reaching a settlement will be the United Nations.

Lord Barnby

My Lords, would the Minister not agree that impartiality is the essence of the exercise and that, while the United Nations are now funding SWAPO and have resolved that SWAPO alone is the authentic voice of the people of South-West Africa, progress must necessarily be slow and difficult for all those participating, and particularly for the Republic of South Africa? Secondly, can he comment on the reports in the press that arms for SWAPO are of Russian origin? Are they paid for by the United Nations, or are they given freely to SWAPO by Russia?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am afraid I cannot comment on the press reports relating to the sources of arms which are available to SWAPO, but, on the question of the United Nations' partiality, it is true that some of the resolutions and other statements that have come from the General Assembly have been less than helpful in this matter. On the other hand, the policy with regard to Namibia is the one determined by the Security Council and administered impartially by the Secretary-General.

Lord Goronwy-Roberts

My Lords, would the Minister agree that the successful outcome of the negotiations which resulted in the settlement in Rhodesia provides a very hopeful precedent for the way in which the United Nations and we in the West, and everybody else concerned, can deal with the Namibian situation? Will he in particular remind his right honourable and noble friend the Foreign Secretary that one of the major features of the Lancaster House negotiations was that everybody concerned in the future of Rhodesia within Rhodesia and in countries contiguous to Rhodesia were consulted and took part in fashioning the very effective settlement?—in which case it would seem very helpful for Her Majesty's Government to speak firmly in Pretoria and with clarity in Washington.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, it is right to say that the settlement in Rhodesia is a source of hope that a settlement can also be achieved in Namibia. But I would warn against drawing too close a parallel between the two situations, for I doubt very much whether the approach which was successful in the case of the Rhodesian situation would be equally fruitful with regard to Namibia.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, is it the fact that the United States Government have recognised the revolutionary movement known as Unita in Angola? If so, is that not likely to have a certain effect on Ovamboland and on events in North-West Namibia?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I do not think it is true to say that the United States have recognised Unita as such. There was the repeal of the Clark amendment which may, it seems, pave the way for certain assistance to be granted to Unita if the American Government so decide; but this is a matter for the American Government and the American Congress. We have full diplomatic relations with the Angolan Government and do not recognise or support any opposition movement in Angola.

The Lord Bishop of Southwell

My Lords, will the Government, as we are one of the five United Nations contact countries, give an assurance that they will not agree to any further delays in a cease-fire and in the implementation of the United Nations plans for Namibian independence? Will they further give an undertaking that they will not agree to any electoral reforms which do not recognise the rights of SWAPO to seek the support of the Namibian people?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, on the first point put by the right reverend Prelate, the question of the way forward in the Namibian context, it is not for the United Kingdom alone to decide whether delay occurs or does not occur. It is quite properly the case that the Five—the contact group as they are called—move forward with a degree of consensus, and we are seeking to achieve that. On the second point, that of electoral arrangements which will in due course come to pass in Namibia, I do not wish to go further than to say that our policy is to allow all the people of Namibia to express their views at the due time.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, since the real issue in Namibia seems to be whether there is going to be Cuban control or South African control, have Her Majesty's Government applied their mind at all to which of those two real alternatives they prefer?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, not for the first time the noble Lord has over-simplified the matter.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, is the noble Lord the Minister aware that there is a very widespread feeling in Southern Africa that the South African Government are deliberately postponing any decision about the cease-fire until they are able to destroy the forces of SWAPO, and that if this were so it would ignite an inferno which would sweep right across Southern Africa? Do Her Majesty's Government condemn the aggression which the South African forces are daily carrying out within the boundaries of Angola?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, we condemn all violence from wherever it may come, particularly in this context. However, the South Africans are not alone in this matter.

Lord Pargiter

My Lords, may I ask whether, whatever political settlement is arrived at, it is likely that none will be agreed by South Africa unless her commercial interests are well looked after, and that these commercial interests of South Africa fit in very well with British commercial interests?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, many supplementary questions seek to ascribe to the South Africans one motive or another. I can only answer for the motives of the British Government in this matter. Our motive is to seek a settlement in this area as soon as may be.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, does the Minister not agree that when there is fear of SWAPO's ideology we should bear in mind the case of Zimbabwe where there was similar fear of Mugabe's ideology? Is it not the case that failure of the West to act will increase the influence of the Soviet Union and help to determine the character of the independent Namibia?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the question of the ideology of one party or another in Namibia will in due course be a matter for the Namibian people to decide, and that is the purpose of our policy.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, I think it may be for the convenience of your Lordships if we move on to the next Question.

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