HL Deb 01 July 1982 vol 432 cc328-31

3.18 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

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, after their experience with Argentina, they are satisfied that economic sanctions can play a part in opposing breaches of international law and whether they will now consider using them to end South Africa's defiance of such law in Namibia and Angola.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the Government have always considered that, in the appropriate circumstances, economic measures can play a useful role in encouraging observance of international law. The situation which obtained in the Falklands is different from that in Namibia and Angola. We do not consider that sanctions against South Africa would be helpful.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord three related questions. First, does he consider that the illegal occupation of Namibia by South Africa—illegal under the United Nations and under the International Court of Justice—is as serious as the invasion by Argentina of the Falkland Islands, and that the invasion by South Africa of Angola comes into the same category? Secondly, would he agree that economic sanctions are one of the alternatives to warfare? And if the answer to these two questions is in the affirmative, would the noble Lord further agree that the application of economic sanctions to South Africa, so long as she resists the international community, could save the whole of southern Africa from a terrible racial war?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I do not agree with the last question, and may I say that the five states and indeed all the parties to the Namibia negotiations, negotiating from very different points of view, are all agreed that what is wanted are negotiations which, as I replied to the noble Lord only last week, are now beginning to accelerate. We really throw this into the melting pot if at this stage in the negotiations we start to talk about sanctions. With regard to the first two questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, as I said in my original Answer there is a clean difference between the Namibia situation and the Falklands situation.

The Security Council in its Resolution 502 made a determination that the Argentine invasion constituted a breach of the peace. The Security Council has made no comparable finding in the case of the South African presence in Namibia. As I said, South Africa is in fact negotiating on this important matter. So far as Angola is concerned, we have deplored South African incursions into southern Angola and called for the immediate withdrawal of South African troops. These incursions underline the need once again for a negotiated solution to the Namibia problem.

Lord Gridley

My Lords, may I ask the Minister if it is not a fact that some of our former colonies which are now members of the Commonwealth—that is, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—would have their very survival greatly threatened if any imports from South Africa to those countries were stopped by sanctions?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. His experience underlines the Answer I sought to give, which is that I believe that sanctions in this case would be disastrous.

Lord Soper

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the British Council of Churches and the Catholic Institute for Social Affairs have both made representations to the Government in general support of the nature of this Question? If he is so aware, what response have the Government made to these very strong recommendations?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the response remains the same as that which I made to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby—which is that we must negotiate ourselves through to a solution of the Namibia problem. This is what the Security Council Resolution 435 in essence adjures us to do. This is what this country, together with four other countries, SWAPO, the so-called front-line states and all the parties to the negotiations, are seeking to do.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, would my noble friend the Minister not agree that this form of Question, with its inbuilt comparison between Argentina and Angola, can serve no useful purpose, for two reasons: first, because the day must come when we must make accommodation with Argentina, and, secondly, that to talk of the use of sanctions against a friendly state is contrary to our concept of international law?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway for asking this question, because, again, it underlines the answer I sought to give on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, which is that there is not a comparison between the two sets of circumstances set out in the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby.

The Earl of Bessborough

My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that this situation has arisen very largely because of terrorists entering Namibia from Angola?

Lord Belstead

Here again, my Lords, Lord Bess-borough's question underlines the need to negotiate our way through to the situation where there will be a constituent assembly and a proper constitution—that is what Resolution 435 adjures us to do—and when terrorism in Namibia will be no more.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, has not the experience of the past 50 years conclusively shown that economic sanctions are never effective, unless it is the intention to reinforce them by military measures if necessary?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, once again I would not disagree with what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, says on that particular point.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree at least that there is something of which we must be cognisant: that after what happened to our kinsmen in the Falkland Islands we had the strength, the nerve and the determination to carry out the action required? Therefore, would he not agree that where such things happen in any part of the world, particularly with the way in which South Africa is behaving, we should not take any profit or monetary factors into consideration but should maintain the principle that we are opposed to the debasement of human beings anywhere; and that we are against those who debase the standards of life and threaten people illegally anywhere in the world as well as on the Falkland Islands?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, on the first part of his question about the Falkland Islands. On the second part, may I repeat to the noble Lord that we are in a situation where the negotiations are, we believe and hope, accelerating. It could be that the Security Council resolution so far as Namibia is concerned may be getting somewhere. Do not let us take any action now which would almost certainly cast that into the dark.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, would the noble Lord the Minister agree that, in view of the Answer that he has given to me and the questions which came from behind him, all the countries of South Africa which have been mentioned are in favour of sanctions being used by the Western powers against South Africa until South Africa withdraws from both Angola and Namibia? Secondly, in the noble Lord's answer he referred to Resolution 435; is he aware that this matter was debated in 1966 at the United Nations General Assembly and the mandate was then ended, but that in 1971 the International Court of Justice declared that South Africa was illegally occupying Namibia? Is he now saying that South Africa is not in breach of international law?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I can answer both questions with the same reply. Whether we are talking about the views of the countries of Southern Africa or whether we are talking about a view given by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, on whether or not South Africa is in breach of international law, the fact of the matter is that we are in a situation in which all the parties concerned with Namibia are negotiating in good faith in order to bring Resolution 435 to fruition. In answer to the noble Lord's question, I believe—and I repeat this for the umpteenth time— that if economic sanctions were to be imposed in this particular case, it would be disastrous.

Lord Brockway

My Lords —

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Young)

My Lords, I believe it is the wish of the House that we should now move on to the next business.

Several noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Forward to