HL Deb 08 March 1982 vol 428 cc1-3
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 they will consult with their allies and the front line states on the practicalities of imposing economic sanctions against the Republic of South Africa to end the policy of apartheid.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office: (Lord Trefgarne)

No, my Lords. In our view sanctions would fail to achieve the desired effect, would inflict serious damage on the economies of African and western countries including Britain, and wreck any chance of success for the Namibia negotiations.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, does the noble Lord the Minister recall the number of times that his Government have objected to the principle of economic sanctions as a means of international pressure? Why have the Government changed their mind over Poland? Do they believe that the Polish régime is more tyrannous than that of South Africa? Is this not leading the Government to use double standards in their actions in foreign policy?

Lord Trefgarne

No, my Lords. The comparison which the noble Lord seeks to draw between Poland and southern Africa is not in the remotest degree valid. What we have done in respect of Poland is to indicate by the measures we have taken that business cannot continue as usual with that Government or with the Government of the Soviet Union.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, I am a little worried about the word "allies". Could the noble Lord confirm that in two great wars South Africa proved to be a most valuable and loyal ally? Could he further confirm that she continues to be one of our most valued and valuable trading partners?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, it is indeed the case that we have substantial commercial relations with South Africa. As for the drafting of the Question and the words used in the Question, the noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, should address that point to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the noble Lord the Minister aware of the letter in The Times from the Archbishop of the Indian Ocean asking the Government to explain the moral difference between their attitude to Poland and their attitude to Namibia? As the noble Lord himself is apparently unable to do that, will he ask his noble friend the Foreign Secretary to do so?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I did see the letter in The Times to which the noble Lord refers. In particular, it drew attention to the case of Mr. Walesa, currently detained in Poland. Our anxiety and indeed our locus for expressing our anxiety in regard to Poland stems not least from the Helsinki Final Act.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that the actions of the South African Government—who include certain individuals who are opposed to South African participation in the war—against trade unionists, against the Churches and against the South African Council of Churches, is parallel to the actions which we all deplore in Poland? Can he explain where the difference in principle lies? Would he also note that in the Question I asked him whether he would consult with the front line states, which he has mentioned, and all of which have declared that they are willing and anxious, even if they have to suffer, to play their part in international sanctions against apartheid?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the distinction between Poland on the one hand and southern Africa on the other hand is as follows. First, we have not sought to impose trade sanctions on Poland. The difficulty in which we now find ourselves in regard to our trading arrangements with Poland is that the vast amount of credit Poland has enjoyed in recent years has imposed serious difficulties on her economy. To continue the trading relationship as it was would involve extending a good deal more credit to that economy under circumstances which would not, I believe, be prudent. We have consistently and repeatedly stated our opposition to apartheid, to everything that goes with it, and to everything that it stands for. I do not believe that they or the noble Lord can be in any doubt about our views on the matter.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the debate on this Question, which was as distinguished for its length as for its interest, has, according to our clock, taken only one minute? Although witty as ever, his brevity was not quite up to that standard. Perhaps officers of the House would have a look at the clock.

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