HL Deb 22 October 1985 vol 467 cc1030-61

6.19 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

It is indeed timely that this Bill should come before the House at this moment, in view of the end of the Commonwealth Conference tonight and the events in Nassau over the last few days. Let me say right away that I welcome the Prime Minister's conversion to the policy of sanctions, even though it is belated and reluctant. We are not concerned about the semantics of whether she likes to call them "measures" or "sanctions". That does not make any difference to their practice. However, it is somewhat undignified to find that the Prime Minister of Britain should be dragged kicking and screaming by the Commonwealth into the real South African world, a world where the stench of death, the agony of children, the desperate grief of parents—wives, fathers and mothers—is the reality with which we are dealing.

The Prime Minister says that she has made a small concession. It is small—too small. Nevertheless it is a concession on principle and, just as President Reagan was forced by his Congress to accept the principle of sanctions, so our Prime Minister has at last recognised that that principle must be observed by this country. Of course once you observe that principle there is no retreat. I do not doubt that events in South Africa and the continued concern of the international community will force greater tightening of screws in the future.

I believe that it is also unfortunate that the Prime Minister has acted in the way she has at Nassau, because if sanctions are to have any constructive effect at all they must be backed by a strong political will, not by the apologias that the Prime Minister has been offering the world by the sneering compliance to the Commonwealth will. That is the way to get the worst of both worlds. It would appear from the Prime Minister's attitude over the last few weeks—indeed, over the last few months—that she prefers the schoolmarm admonitions, whether to President Botha or to other members of the South African regime. made presumably with her tongue in her cheek because they are continually accompanied by the economic support which this country has been giving to the apartheid regime.

The Prime Minister talks about dialogue. Dialogue with President Botha? What has happened since President Botha visited Chequers 18 months ago? Would the Prime Minister—indeed, would any noble Lord or noble Baroness in this House—like to tell Mrs. Moloise, the family of Steve Biko, the husband and family of Ruth First, Winnie Mandela, Mrs. Sisulu or Helen Joseph that dialogue is changing events in South Africa? Indeed, would they like to tell the families of the 800 Africans who have been killed in the last 12 months and the thousands more victims who have suffered during that period that dialogue is working? Would they like to tell the victims in Botswana, Angola, Namibia or Mozambique that the policy of dialogue is changing South African attitudes?

Dialogue started a long time ago. Back in 1908–09 there was a national convention organised by the Government of this country, which was then a Liberal Government. No blacks were at that convention. It brought forward the Act of Union 1909, in which this country gave power to the white minority in South Africa to rule that country. However, let us note that even at that time there were, as there always have been since, certain brave white men and women and certain brave Afrikaner men and women who saw the danger. It was William Shreiner who came to this Palace and submitted an appeal to the Parliament and Government of Great Britain. It was William Shreiner, an Afrikaner, who saw the danger of the inclusion of the colour bar in that constitution and who described it as: A blot on the constitution". He was right and this Parliament was wrong.

The dialogue continued, and has continued ever since. That dialogue did not prevent the massacre of the mineworkers by the Smuts regime in the 1920s; it did not prevent this country giving independence to racialist South Africa in 1931. It did not prevent the removal of the Cape African vote or the strengthening of influx control, of land consolidation in the 1930s—land consolidation which provides 13 per cent. of the land for 80 per cent. of the population, and 87 per cent. of the land for the whites. In that white land are included the gold mines which were stolen from the Africans—the gold mine areas which were inhabited by Africans before they were expelled by force of white arms.

It did not prevent discrimination against the Asians in the 1940s; nor in the 1950s did that dialogue or the influence, the persuasion and the voices of British critics prevent racial classification, the Group Areas Act, the Mixed Marriages and Immorality Acts, the abolition of the Cape coloureds, the African franchise, the Bantu Education Act, the Suppression of Communism Act, giving the Government power to describe anyone who differed from them as communists, nor the series of terrorism Acts which have been constantly used and which are still being used against any opponents of the Government. It did not prevent the Sharpeville massacre of 1960; it did not prevent the massacre at Soweto in 1976.

There is a long and very tragic backlog of blatant persecution, and the people of South Africa today are suffering from the effects of that backlog. But now their pent-up anger has burst. However, the Government have been very vociferous in condemning terrorism and in refusing to talk to anyone who does not denounce terrorism. Let me tell the Government from my own personal knowledge that all African organisations, all Cape coloured organisations, all Asian organisations and all those multi-racial organisations containing men and women of all races, tried and tried for decade after decade to use peaceful means for reform.

In the 1950s I pesonally was working with Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisula for peaceful methods of reform. Perhaps that is why in 1959 the South African Government banned me and have never allowed me back in the country. We organised days of protest because strikes were illegal, and that was a euphemism for a strike. We organised passive resistance where thousands of men and women voluntarily went to jail by purposely breaking apartheid laws. We organised the Freedom Charter in 1955, which asked for nothing more than basic human rights.

Note too that during the whole of this period until the present day the Africans who have been revolting against the present regime and the past years of discrimination have always accepted that the white community of South Africa is genuinely South African. They have neither threatened nor have any desire to expel any white man, woman or child from South Africa. Yet every one of these attempts to use peaceful means for reform was crushed. Crushed by what? Crushed by violence, and crushed by state violence. It was state violence that began the horrible, terrible circle that is now almost completed—the use of the terrorism Acts against anybody who opposed the Government. The imprisonment, the flogging, the torture was state violence under every regime over the past 40 years. Africans themselves turned to violence only when every avenue of peaceful change had been closed to them.

It is hypocrisy for Her Majesty's Government to refuse to talk to leaders of the African National Congress or the United Democratic Front, describing them as terrorists, as people of violence, when they are prepared to talk to President Botha himself—President Botha, who was a member of the Ossewabrandwag, the pro-nazi organisation during the war—and other white leaders who have continually and consistently employed violence against blacks, coloureds and Asians.

It is said that economic development will destroy apartheid, and that therefore we should not impose sanctions. Yes, my Lords, there is an argument that theoretically economic development could undermine apartheid. But every time that the Afrikaner community have been faced with the choice of economic development or preserving their ideology, they have chosen to maintain their ideology. Indeed, they have stood traditional Marxism on its head; they have preferred theory to the economic interests of their community.

Yet I will give to the Government—and here I think that the noble Baroness who is to reply and I would agree—that there has been some change. Yes, there has. I believe that the change has been largely because Afrikaners have deliberately entered the business and financial world over the last 15 to 20 years, and therefore they have seen that job reservation is uneconomic. They have modified it. They have not destroyed it, but they have modified it. They have seen that trade unions can help production, and so they have been legalised although, as in the gold mines and coal mines, they still use the police, and there are sackings of their members when the trade unions try to take strike action.

There has been some talk of relaxing influx control; perhaps, but so far only talk. There has been subordinate representation in Parliament, but very subordinate and not including the vast majority of the community which is black. There has been a wiping away of the sex Acts, which frankly concerned very few Africans and have been much more the concern of the Afrikaner community itself.

Then there has been the offer of the restoration of citizenship. What kind of citizenship? Citizenship without any political rights. What is this citizenship that is being offered? Is it simply, as it appears to be, a paper claim to be a citizen of South Africa without any rights accompanying it? Yes, there has been a fear of economic collapse. A fear among the international business community and among South Africa's own business community of the undermining of confidence in the future of that country. There have been internal and external pressures, and not least the black boycott of white stores, which has been attacked by the police, and which has shown white South Africa that this time the blacks really mean business.

When we talk about these reforms as cosmetic we do not suggest that they have not slightly raised the burden upon non-whites in South Africa, but we say that they have never touched, and have no intention of touching, the fundamental issues of human rights. They have been given too late, they are too peripheral, and they have no ultimate objective whatever of establishing a genuine democratic society.

Then it is said that sanctions will push the Afrikaners back into their laager. But the real issue is this: do we really believe that President Botha, or any other white administration of the foreseeable future, intends to surrender the white monopoly of power? Any knowledge of South African history reveals this as simply self delusion. The reforms that have been praised by Her Majesty's Government are no more than the reconstruction of the administration to maintain white supremacy. It is pressure, not words, which is needed if South Africa is to change from the oppressive regime we see today.

We are also told that sanctions will harm the front line states. Well, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho, Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, all have had experience of, and are experiencing, what happens without sanctions; what happens when there is simply the admonition which comes so easily from the lips of Western ministers. The front line states have unanimously called for international sanctions despite the knowledge that they will suffer under them, because they believe that it is better to bring apartheid to a quick end, even through suffering, than to go on with the conditions, the attacks, and the dangers under which they are living today.

We are told that sanctions will harm black South Africans. Yes, it is known. But only a few weeks ago the Sunday Times published a poll showing the overwhelming majority, 77 per cent., of black Africans in favour of sanctions, despite the fact that in South Africa it is a punishable offence to say that you approve of international sanctions.

We have seen Desmond Tutu and Allan Boesak, both men of peace, calling for sanctions in order to end the horrors in which they live today. A quarter of a century ago Chief Luthuli made exactly the same plea to end apartheid with the help of the international community rather than to continue with simply paper criticisms.

We are also told that British jobs will suffer if sanctions are imposed. The numbers have undoubtedly been exaggerated, but yes, there is a threat to certain British jobs if widespread sanctions were imposed. But at its conference the TUC, which has some interest in British jobs, has unanimously supported the imposition of sanctions. On the 30th and 31st of this month, at a conference in London, the seafarers' unions are meeting together with 30 other countries to organise an oil boycott by which the seafarers are determined to stop the oil going to South Africa.

Lord Soames

My Lords, would the noble Lord give way for a second? He has spoken about the attitude of the leaders of the front line states towards sanctions. The noble Lord knows something about it. I think I know a little about it, too. In my view there is great relief in a number of those states and among their leaders that in fact heavy sanctions have not been imposed by the Commonwealth upon South Africa, because they know full well the damage that they would have done to their countries.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, that of course is a matter of opinion. I would not deny for a moment that there are many people in those countries who are relieved that sanctions are not being imposed. After all, we called upon Zambia to impose sanctions in 1965, and Zambia suffered for those sanctions. But what did we do when we imposed sanctions? We did not help Zambia. We knowingly allowed those sanctions to be broken by our own people, sabotaging the efforts of the Zambians. The Zambians suffered, but they took their decision quite openly. I would agree with the noble Lord that there are some people in the front line states who are relieved, but the front line states and the other members of the Commonwealth, and those of us who support this Bill, are not asking for total sanctions; but I shall come to an answer to the noble Lord if he will give me one moment.

So far as jobs in this country are concerned, it is not only the threat of the imposition of sanctions which could threaten jobs in this country; it is also the refusal to participate in international sanctions, as has been seen by the reactions of the leaders of India and Nigeria, to give just two examples. We may be throwing away our own economic future in those markets of the world we have to consider if we are to restore the manufacturing industry of this country—those markets which are at present half closed. The lesson of this—and this is the answer to the noble Lord—is that now is the time when we should be preparing to help the front line states and the Africans in South Africa. We should be imposing EC regulations on British companies in South Africa much more strictly than we are doing. We should be working with the TUC to prepare for any form of threat to jobs in this country. Now is the time to do it, because it seems quite clear that the strong probability is that in six months' time, when the Commonwealth reviews what has happened in South Africa, there will be an even more clamant demand for increasing rather than decreasing sanctions.

The Bill is especially concerned with Namibia within the South African situation and within the situation between South Africa and Namibia. We should remember that it was this country which passed over the mandate for the administration of Namibia to the South Africans in 1920. We have a special responsibility there. The International Court and the Security Council have both declared the South African administration of Namibia to be illegal. We have gone along with the American leadership, with the weak and watery contact group, for several years now. What have they done? They have constantly been duped by the South African Government, which is a master of duplicity and procrastination. But the economic heights of Namibia are held in this country. Eight multinational companies based in this country control the basic economy of Namibia. It is only with the approval of the British Government that the South African administration has been able not only to remain in Namibia but to allow their companies illegally to rape the resources in Namibia—the diamonds, the fish and the uranium—and we are buying illegally from that régime in Namibia. The imposition and use of sanctions is necessary not only to assist those forces who are demanding human rights in South Africa, but also to bring this country back within international law and to put economic pressure behind that international law, so far as it applies to the administration of Namibia, and to the attainment—as has been approved by the United Nations and supported by this Government—of Namibian independence.

This Bill does not call for universal sanctions; it does not call for total sanctions of any kind. It gives the Government and Parliament the opportunity of showing where the people of this country stand in the struggle now going on in South Africa and in the crucial issue of international law regarding the South African occupation of Namibia. I hope that the Government will see that this is an opportunity to put into practice the sentiments expressed in Nassau over the last two weeks. They will see that economic sanctions, as has been the case since the formation of the League of Nations, is an alternative to violence; that sanctions can help to bring violence to an end; that sanctions can help to bring negotiations both within South Africa and between South Africa and Namibia. My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Monson

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he not agree that some 3 million whites plus tens of thousands of Asians have been expelled or squeezed out of various parts of the South African continent over the past 30 to 35 years? How can he convince the whites and, for that matter, the Asians, of South Africa that the same thing will not eventually, not necessarily immediately, happen to them if the one man, one vote system were introduced in a unitary state, notwithstanding the protestations of the ANC?

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I would simply refer the noble Lord to the example of Zimbabwe. I was in Zimbabwe along with other Members of Parliament 12 months ago, on the first parliamentary mission. We unanimously found that in Zimbabwe, although some whites had left they had left voluntarily and that others were coming back. We unanimously found in regard to race relations that, miraculously after seven years of bitter civil war and 50 years of domination by the white community, under the new black government there was no racial revenge, that racial harmony existed between Government and whites—there was a white man in a very prominent position in that Government—and that racial harmony existed between white, black and brown communities.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for that reply, but he would agree that 70 per cent. have, in fact, left.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Hatch of Lusby.]

6.46 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in support of the Bill which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, for a number of reasons. First, I would remind your Lordships of the way in which the Bill is framed: An Act to give effect in United Kingdom law to United Nations Security Council and General Assembly Reolutions on Namibia.". It is appropriate that at this time of the 40th anniversary of the United Nations when there is an effort to secure a world community in which questions are settled peacefully, that we are being called to consider what we can do to implement what the United Nations has said about peoples who are in danger of being forgotten. In this context I believe that this is the sort of Bill which ought to secure support from all parties. It is not a party political matter. It cuts across the parties and I hope very much that noble Lords from all political persuasions will feel they can vote for the Bill on Second Reading tonight.

I visited Namibia in 1981 at about this time of year on an invitation from the council of churches there which represents more than three-quarters of the Christians in Namibia. I should like to remind your Lordships of the importance of the churches in Namibia which is not generally understood in this country, even for people who know something about that country. We live in a highly secularised society in which the churches are not as influential as they were in years gone by. In Namibia the churches are very influential indeed, particularly among the black African population which constitutes 83 per cent. of the total population.

During that visit I had the opportunity of travelling widely in the country, although it was a comparatively short visit, and in particular I visited the war-torn areas in the north. Along with other colleagues in the British Council of Churches we listened to story after story of the most appalling suffering that was being wrought by the war in the north and on the borders of Angola; a war which was being maintained by the South African defence forces and their activities. Those to whom we spoke were prepared to admit that on occasions suffering was caused to them as well by members of SWAPO, the resistance movement, the South West African Peoples' Organisation. But they had no doubt that the great mass of their sufferings was caused by the activities of the defence forces of South Africa, an illegal colonial-style occupation and a war that was just dragging on. We also found in talks with many people up and down the country that there was widespread support for SWAPO, but this was not simply from the majority Ovambo tribe, but that it cut across different tribal and racial groups. I believe it is important to say that because the contrary has often been asserted.

We found that there was very little popular support so far as we could judge—and I believe that this has been confirmed by other independent observers—for the parties which are involved in the transitional government which has been set up by the South African authorities and which I understand is now in the process of setting up an information office in London.

We found also, somewhat pathetically, that there is still a great deal of faith in Britain, with her long links with Southern Africa, and a faith among the people to whom we talked that somehow Britain could use her influence constructively and effectively to bring about an end to this disastrous situation. However, we had to try to reply to the comments that were made about the ineffectiveness of the contact group of five powers, of which Britain is one. It was said that this was not proving very effective in bringing the war to an end. Many of us believed that one reason for this was that what was said by the contact powers and the diplomacy being conducted was not really backed by the threat of effective sanctions of any kind.

Since the time when I visited that country, these sufferings have continued. They have, if anything, grown greater and constantly there are reports coming out of Namibia of continuing horrors and sufferings as a result of the war. A few days ago, I received a press release from the churches in Namibia. Perhaps I may quote briefly from it. It is only one unknown man; why should he concern us? However, this is typical of what is happening: According to church sources in Namibia, the inquest by the South African government into the death in detention of Mr. Tomas Nikanor has been adjourned until January with 'no conclusive findings' thus far. An active member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, [he] … was arrested by the South African security police on 22nd January&On 29th January [of this year] the South African police announced that Mr. Nikanor was dead, having 'hung himself with his socks' on 27th January. No charges had been made". According to his wife Mrs. Nikanor's attorney, the family do not believe that he took his own life. Mr. Smuts said that suicide 'is not part of the Ovambo culture;". The pathologist for the family testified that the cause of death was not inconsistent with manual strangulation, a severe blow to the neck or pressure to the neck.

That is just one small example of one individual which is typical of the sufferings taking place in Namibia today, in which people are looking to this country to try to bring the kind of pressure which can bring this terrible war and this occupation to a conclusion.

I may say that the findings of our own delegation from the British Council of Churches have been subsequently confirmed by other delegations which have visited Namibia on behalf of the churches, a Roman Catholic delegation in particular and our own Anglican delegation last year. As a result of that, representations have been made to our own Foreign Office, in which those who have gone on these delegations have appealed for more effective steps to be taken, for sanctions to be implemented and for effective support from this country for United Nations resolutions.

The churches in Namibia are calling for an end to South African occupation and for international action. As I have said, the Council of Churches represents all the main churches in Namibia and is remarkably representative of public opinion there.

Perhaps I may be permitted to quote briefly from a statement which they made to a visiting delegation from the United States recently: Endless negotiations on minor grounds prolong the acute agony and suffering of our people, as they only increase the numbers of our people who die as a result of the war&It is in the interests of all our people, therefore, that every effort be made to immediately resume discussions aiming for a cease-fire date, and start of implementation in accordance with Security Council Resolution 435&We reiterate that it is our continued conviction and confidence that the only practical peaceful solution lies in the hands of the United Nations". It is the authority of the United Nations which is rejected by the occupying South African power.

There are two special concerns of the churches in Namibia at the present time—perhaps three. One is the activities of the organisation known as Koevoet. In Afrikaans I understand that that means "crowbar". Archbishop Hurley at the South African Catholic Bishops' Conference characterised the activities of Koevoet as responsible for murders, assaults. rapes and robberies in Namibia. These activities continue with apparently comparatively little check on them.

Secondly, there is the question of the conscription of black Namibians into the South African defence forces. This is a matter of the deepest concern to the churches, which have protested many times to the South African authorities. They believe that their young men are being forced into the army in order to fire on their fellows and take part in their war for illicit, illegal purposes.

Then there is the question of foreign companies at work in Namibia, to which the noble Lord. Lord Hatch, has already referred, and the fact that firms from this country are exploiting the resources of their country as they see it. There is no doubt that after independence SWAPO or any succeeding government representative of the people would wish activities to be continued but properly controlled, but at the moment it is regarded as exploitation, and illegal exploitation at that. Perhaps it is not irrelevant to say that British firms have been implicated in what I have just referred to: the conscription of young blacks to serve in the South African defence forces.

I know that there may be some of your Lordships here tonight who would doubt the effect of sanctions. This point is often made. Nobody is saying that sanctions would automatically bring this tragic situation to an end. There are complex pressures at work. The imposition of sanctions is only one element in the overall situation. However, many of us believe, I think with good proof, that there would be more effective pressure on the occupying South African power to withdraw and to see that its interests do not lie in this continuing colonial war.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has already referred to the argument of the effect on black Africans. It is perfectly true that there would be some suffering in Namibia. However, I think it is essential for us to listen to responsible black opinion so far as we possibly can. By responsible black opinion I mean black opinion that represents the mass of people in the country and not those who may have other reasons for wishing to avoid sanctions.

It is noticeable that Namibia is estimated to be one of the 10 richest countries in Africa by gross domestic product. Yet its peoples are as poor as those of Tanzania. That says something to us, does it not?—that in fact so much of this wealth is being exported or it is going to only a tiny proportion of the population, principally white but also some blacks, and not benefiting the mass of the people. Therefore the effect on black Africans would in many senses be minimal so far as Namibia is concerned.

The effect on our own employment has already been referred to. However, I believe there are many people in this country who would rather look at the long-term interests for ourselves and our grandchildren of a stable and peaceful world, who would much rather look at Britain's moral status in the world rather than simply looking in the short term at problems with our own economy. However, I have to add this. As is sometimes said about the world development lobby, which I am glad to say is being active outside this House today, it is of course very easy for middle-class, comfortable people to assert, to put forward policies from which others would suffer. This is why any effective sanctions policies must be taken seriously so far as concerns domestic policies in this country, and the effect on those who might suffer be mitigated as much as possible.

Thus I should ask your Lordships to take this Bill very seriously indeed and, in the interests of the suffering people in Namibia, to support it tonight.

6.58 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, I wish very briefly this afternoon to express the support of the Alliance for the ideas behind this Bill. The case for applying to South Africa the sanctions and measures which it envisages is not that that country is alone in denying basic civil rights to millions of its citizens. There are plenty of members in the club of police states. Nor is it that South Africa, even with all the torture and the deaths of young people which have become daily news, the most brutal regime of recent times. It is true that Uganda under Obote, for example, suffered the murder by the army of hundreds of thousands of people and we must all hope that a better day may dawn for that unhappy land.

There are different and compelling reasons why the apartheid system in South Africa calls for a special and massive effort on our part to bring about change. First, it embodies in the government of the country and in the daily lives of its citizens what most of us feel in our hearts to be the most evil and the most dangerous doctrine ever to have been preached and practised by whole nations: that human beings can be treated as inferior on the basis of their race. It is the direct descendant of the ideology of the holocaust. In the strict sense of Gladstone's words about another regime, it is the negation of God erected into a system of government.

Secondly, South Africa is historically and economically tied up with the Western democracies and dares to claim that it is defending our values. The economy of South Africa depends upon the economies of the Western world. South Africa needs the Western democracies, which are therefore in a position to say, and have an obligation to say, "We are not in the business of financing racism".

That is the general position. But that position has been given added force by the events of the last few weeks. The economy of South Africa has suddenly become immensely more vulnerable than it was even before. There are some reasons to be sceptical about the effectiveness of long-term sanctions, however strongly their moral justification. You only have to look at the way that Rhodesian sanctions were evaded, not least by firms operating from this country; or the scandalous way in which the current arms embargo is being flouted. But I think that there is no doubt at all that immediate international sanctions applied now would terrify both the South African government and the business community. Indeed, the business community has recognised the need to talk to leaders of the black majority. Western banks are beginning to see that baling out South Africa is, in commercial terms, a bad risk.

Even President Reagan, as has been mentioned, has been forced into accepting a package of sanctions which, although weak and limited, is far beyond what Mrs. Thatcher has been prepared to contemplate. In this situation, Britain's position is crucial and our attitude is disastrous. The position is crucial because it was we (as the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has said) who gave South Africa her constitutional independence; and there can be no doubt that, in any international situation which involves her, we have a part to play, a part which we have a duty to play. Our attitude is disastrous because we have effectively succeeded in watering down over the past few days an important Commonwealth initiative where we alone stood out, basing our case on an argument which held no kind of water and which I hope I have already demolished.

We it was. It was not a question of the old Commonwealth against the new or white against black—those divisions would have been equally disastrous and more understandable. But it was Britain against the rest. All reports told us this, all the journalists told us this. Mrs. Thatcher seemed to be proud of it: Mrs. Thatcher, Mr. Botha's sole ally in a hostile world. Almost equally reprehensible is our attitude towards the United Nations. The right reverend Prelate has already touched on this and, although it is highly relevant to the Namibia question, I shall leave that topic aside for the moment, not least because I have to speak about it in your Lordships' House during the Archbishop's debate next week.

I come to this Bill very briefly. It is our practice on these Benches not to take a party line on Private Members' Bills and many of my colleagues feel that this Bill is not the most suitable vehicle for the registering of this House's views on this matter, that there are ways which we could devise to express our views. But I do not wish just to say that. I have a suggestion to make. If this Bill goes through, well and good! I, for one, will be wholeheartedly pleased and so I believe will all my colleagues. But even if it does not, I believe that there is a job that this House has to do and I think that we ought certainly to join together all those who are really concerned about this matter and to call for and put forward a resolution backing sanctions against South Africa and, in particular, calling for the full implementation of United Nations Resolution 435 on Namibia.

My party, at its recent assembly, passed a very full motion on that subject, and we ourselves would like in this House to forward in any way we can the task of expressing the feelings of a very large number of Members of your Lordships' House about the situation in South Africa and the steps which Britain should take. I invite the Labour Party and other interested Peers to join with us in devising a suitable vehicle whereby this House can express its feelings on this matter. Meanwhile, unsuitable or not, I for one certainly intend to vote for this Bill. In no circumstances could I do otherwise.

7.7 p.m.

Lord Morris

My Lords, strive as I may, I cannot find even the smallest excuse to join in the customary thanks to the promoter of this Bill. No such thanks were proffered by those noble Lords who spoke earlier. The only reason that I can thank the noble Lord for promoting this Bill is out of courtesy; and rather paradoxically courtesy is never small. So I unreservedly thank him. I am afraid that the real reason for my reluctance is that in my view this Bill is devoid of any merit, save maybe for the citation clause and that it is well printed on nice paper.

I am astonished that not one of the previous speakers, and not least the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, truly spoke to this Bill at all. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, did so in that he felt that it would not be an appropriate vehicle. In that, I entirely agree. I could go further and say that if a Lobby correspondent from Mars had descended upon this House and listened to the three opening speeches he would have had very little evidence from what had been said, before I stood up, that we were discussing a Bill that has ambitions to enter the statute book. Rather, he would have come to the conclusion that this was a general debate on south-west Africa.

This Bill is mischievous, unnecessary and, with respect, utterly useless. It is mischievous in that it abuses the Private Members' Bills procedure of the House by attempting to use statute law as a vehicle for raising issues more properly raised in general debate. It is mischievous in that the noble Lord opposite, together with the right reverend Prelate below, have not even bothered to understand what role domestic law, let alone international law—whatever that may mean—plays in inter-governmental relations. This may be because they are not lawyers. Neither am I, but as a miserably unimportant member of the legislature the very least that I have tried to understand is what is the role of the law. We are discussing the law. We are discussing a Bill of Parliament.

This Bill is further mischievous in that the promoter knowingly promoted this Bill in the full knowledge that not only was its substance more appropriate to the executive action of government than to statutory expression, but also that it did not have a cat in hell's chance of seeing the light of day as an Act. This Bill is totally unnecessary in that the Secretary of State already has powers that are sought in Clauses 1, 2 and 3 of the Bill. The Secretary of State has all the powers in the world to pass those regulations with regard to civil aviation and exchange control.

Despite the fact that it would be highly unlikely that any sane Secretary of State would even dream of taking executive action which results in the setting aside in the most cavalier style of international treaty obligations which this Bill purports to achieve by virtue of Clause 1, this Bill is useless in that it is incapable, certainly in respect of Clauses 2, 3 and 4, of practical fulfilment. Can anybody tell me how the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of all people, can by order, say, prohibit dealings in travellers' cheques by a resident of Gibeon on the Orange River? Can anybody tell me how Her Majesty can by order in council prohibit, say, the French from netting fish on the Orange River at Kalkrand? This is precisely what Clause 4 is suggesting.

Successive British Governments—and I include socialist Governments, which the noble Lord who promotes this Bill purports to support—have taken the view that the South African occupation of Namibia is unlawful and have been working for Namibian independence. Although Her Majesty's Government hold South Africa's mandate to have terminated, they do not consider that that was by virtue of the 1966 General Assembly resolution, nor do they consider that the General Assembly has the authority and claim to establish a United Nations Council for Namibia.

It is my understanding that Her Majesty's Government do not recognise the claim of the United Nations Council for Namibia to be a legally administrating authority for Namibia, nor do they accept decree No. 1, which is the underpinning point to Clause 4 of the Bill, as valid or binding on member states or their governments. Furthermore, resolutions of the General Assembly to the same effect are not binding.

I suggest that it is a matter of right that any British individual or company, forgetting whatever they achieve for the wellbeing of the people of Namibia—and believe me, my Lords, they do—should follow the position of Her Majesty's Government. It is my understanding that that is the position of Her Majesty's Government today and it is also my understanding that it is exactly the same position as that taken by preceding administrations. I believe that it is totally inappropriate for Parliament, by means of a Private Member's Bill, to compel the Government to take executive action in relation to international obligations. Furthermore, Clause 2(4) appears to attempt to create—and this is quite astonishing—a latterday Court of Star Chamber. It is quite unprecedented for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to institute or administer prosecutions. This is the proper function of the law officers of the Crown.

This Bill brings to mind one of the targets of Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner in "The Mikado"—namely, The pestilential nuisance who praises every country but his own". It reminds one of generations of primary school teachers and nannies, whose favourite question to their charges was, If you were king, what law would you pass? I cannot believe that your Lordships would be so naive as to give this Bill a Second Reading. Furthermore, I cannot believe that the noble Lord who is promoting this Bill has taken any counsel of anyone or anything, other than his own imagination. I am certain that if he had done so the advice that he would have received would have been to withdraw this Bill.

Should he see fit not to do so, he will be placing so many of his noble friends on the other side of the House—many of whom, in all humility, I count as utterly delightful and wise colleagues and friends—in the invidious position of voting, wittingly or unwittingly, for a measure that can do nothing other than harm. Not least, any further attempt to bring this Bill any closer to the statute book would bring your Lordships' considerable repute into serious disrepute.

7.18 p.m.

Lord Soper

My Lords, I, to a certain extent, can sympathise with the last speaker. He is in great trouble, it seems to me, because he has not appreciated that this is principally a matter of the moral law from which the application of statute law must necessarily be stipendiary. I want heartily to support the intention behind this Bill, notably because it can be modified, I dare say, in Committee, but also because it represents something which in part is of the substance of what I believe this country, and all the people who are concerned with justice, should approve and should seek to make possible in legislation.

Let me start where I believe the necessary initiation of our attitude must begin. The constitution of South Africa is a theological document, the second article of which proclaims the sovereignty of God and that it is God's intention that the creation of the South African community should be an expression of the racial condition which the high priest of apartheid—none other than the late Malan, who was a predicant of the Dutch Reformed Church—announced to be the creation of God and irremovable by man. I intend—I hope with charity—to indict the Dutch Reformed Church as guilty of apostasy and I would presume to give the evidence to that end.

But I preface what I have to say by reminding myself that I stand on no pedestal of purity and that one of the best definitions of Christianity I know is one sinner telling another sinner where grace is likely to be found. But that ought not to prevent me from making what I believe to be a statement about the essential characteristics of the Christian faith represented, or so-called represented, in the Dutch Reformed Church, or rather the NGK. I shall not try to pronounce that in Dutch, but if noble Lords will allow me to use the Dutch Reformed Church to define one of the churches, and the principal church in the complex of religious life in South Africa, that will do.

Upon two bases have been erected apartheid's spirit and the apartheid programme. One is the highly dubious use of the old Old Testament with particular reference to one of the sons of Noah whose name was Ham, who was involved in a primitive condition of alcoholism. Out of the results of his unfortunate existence it was assumed that the whole area of black life was intrinsically inferior to that of white life as the Old Testament apparently said.

The second is the appropriation by the Dutch Reformed Church of the promises made to the ancient Israelites as if they had equal opportunity of being fulfilled among the Voortrekkers. On no occasion has the original 1665 Dutch Reformed Church repudiated these quite iniquitous and thoroughly immoral propositions. Perhaps noble Lords will allow me for a moment to tell the story, which I do not think is genuinely appreciated, of the way in which the various efforts to modify this quite wicked concept of the Christian faith and its application to human beings have been rejected by those who had the power not to accept the modification and in fact to destroy it.

The Cottesloe conference of 1960 represented the attempt made by many of the members and smaller churches in South Africa to modify apartheid. This was indignantly repudiated, and in fact the Christian Institute, which was a revolutionary body within the general church, was prohibited and finally was regarded and was condemned as an illicit organisation. In 1968 not only was the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa separated by its own decision from its original partners in the Netherlands, but it went on to say that it was completely convinced that it represented the ultimate purpose of God and that there was no kind of compromise with any other communion within South Africa.

I could give chapter and verse for this indictment but I should like to say—although I do not like saying it at all but it has to be said—that so long as the Government of South Africa is pledged to that kind of so-called Christianity it is apostate and should be excommunicated, although I do not know how one would do it. That does not mean that one has no fellow feelings with publicans—I almost said republicans—and sinners; what it does say is that there is an element of such hostility to the practice as prevents the kind of cosy friendship and fellowship which otherwise I am quite sure would be an amenable kind of practice and indeed a very generous attitude. I do not believe that that is possible and without any rancour I do indict the Dutch Reformed Church, the NGK, of being the principal and irreconcilable foe of the processes of justice and peace and indeed of the abolition of apartheid.

But what do you do? Let me first remind myself that there is no morality merely in passing resolutions as to the iniquity of your fellow members. The parable of the good Samaritan has been somewhat more popularised lately—indeed, by none other than the Prime Minister—but there is no virtue in the priest walking by, shaking his head and saying, "How unfortunate it is for this poor man. I wish I could help him but of course I can't". There would be no added virtue if he got in touch with the Levite who also passed that way and they had a conference and decided that it was all very iniquitous and that they were thoroughly against it. Virtue which, in Milton's immortal phrase, is "unexercised and unbreathed". ceases to be virtue. Therefore, if I do believe that principally the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa is the instigator and the expression of something which is unchristian, I am under an obligation, as I am sure this House would feel itself under an obligation, to do something about it.

I am a pacifist and therefore, much as I sympathise with liberation theology, I cannot believe that by the exercise of violence, even in a so-called justifiable cause, the results would be as desired and would be beneficial. At the same time I do not believe that all sanctions are justifiable. I am quite sure that certain cultural sanctions are even more important than some economic ones. But to embark upon a principally nonviolent attitude of hostility to the principles that operate in that regime is not only justifiable but is imperative. If we are to make anything of our moral stance, then it must be in the proposition to which we must be ready to accede that it may hurt in many ways and it may affect our own well-being, our own affluence and our own amenity. It is this concept of the price which it is necessary to pay if you are to embark upon a moral course that without impudence I would invite your Lordships to consider.

Here we are presented with a particular kind of evil. There is a great deal of injustice and apartheid in practice all over the world but in most cases it is not enshrined within the constitution of the country in which it is practised. In South Africa that is so. Therefore it has a peculiar iniquity; and in confronting that peculiar iniquity I would regard a measure like this, though it is imperfect and though it contains many assumptions, as a necessary process. I probably share with the last speaker a concern for some of the difficulties which will emerge, but on the moral issue I am quite sure that the present Administration of South Africa is linked with an unchristian concept, an immoral concept, of government in which ordinary people are regarded as tools within the framework of institutions rather than as having, as other speakers have already said, that ineffable right to say together "Our Father" and to believe in so saying that they belong to the same family.

It is in that regard that, whatever the particular and immediate difficulties that would emerge if this Bill became law, I believe it is imperative for those who concerned with justice to regard it as a necessary process which would immediately transform the general atmosphere in which in this country as well as in the rest of the world we could represent ourselves as those who are seeking justice and mercy and are not unprepared to pay the price for both.

7.28 p.m.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, it is a pleasure for me to follow my noble friend Lord Soper. He will not be surprised when I say that I share entirely the views which he has expressed. I have had a very long association with African affairs. I have been concerned with the transfer of power to most of the former British colonies and attended their independence ceremonies.

My first association with South Africa was when I went to that country at the invitation of Field Marshal Smuts. I was then the under-Secretary of State at the Dominions Office. Field Marshal Smuts was a remarkable man. He impressed me tremendously, particularly when he said that peace and security could never be assured in southern Africa except on the basis of the equality of the races, and that it was his ambition to help to try to bring that about. It was probably a factor that led to his electoral defeat when Dr. Malan became the Prime Minister of South Africa. He was clearly determined to stop that move and to turn things around, so that we have the evil, repressive system of today.

One of Dr. Malan's first actions was to take away rights from non-white Africans by placing coloured voters on a separate electors' roll. My noble friend Lord Hatch has already spoken about other significant reactionary moves which added to that evil departure upon the standards which Field Marshal Smuts tried to set.

It was because of that change of attitude that non-whites were compelled to resort to measures which ultimately led to the Sharpeville massacres in 1960. It was inevitable that with such a policy South Africa could not continue as a member of the Commonwealth, which she left in 1961.

Unfortunately there is much discrimination in the world today, but the most wicked form of discrimination is based on the colour of a person's skin. That is the case in South Africa. The system is brutal and unjust. The Government rule by terror. For decades, many of us have been warning South Africa that there would be bloodshed and destruction unless they abandoned the system of apartheid.

It cannot be denied that the South African Government have provided black Africans with better educational opportunities than the western colonial powers have done. Most of the leaders of the South African nationalist movement received their education at Fort Hare or Lovedale—two outstanding educational establishments in South Africa. Those nationalist leaders—highly intelligent and well trained—are denied the opportunity of having a voice in the running of their own country. They are forced to revolt in order to obtain their rights. Their desire to discuss matters peacefully and rationally was shown by their meeting recently with white African businessmen in Lusaka.

The violent methods used by the South African security forces to prevent peaceful demonstration is inevitably leading to civil war. Black Africans are now better informed than ever before. They have transistor radios and television. They know what is happening in their own country and in the rest of the world. Their leaders would prefer to lead their people towards a peaceful democratic state but they are being forced to take violent action to obtain their rights.

Today, South Africa is a high risk and unstable country. The fact that white South Africans are entirely dependent on their black servants puts them in a very vulnerable position. If ever the time comes when black Africans feel that they have reached the end of the road then black servants could use violence or poison their masters' food.

South African businessmen are aware of the dangers of apartheid and are doing everything they can to try to overcome it. It is true that they are in the minority, but this development was illustrated by the way in which a number of white businessmen went to Lusaka to talk to the African nationalist leaders. It might be a useful investment for British businessmen to consider doing the same.

It is certain that the policy pursued by the present South African Government will create even greater instability. A generation of South Africans under the age of 24 have lived their lives while Nelson Mandela has been in prison. They are denied any rights as citizens and nearly 4 million of them are out of work. They are demanding their freedom. They have a right to do so and we should show them, by the action we take in this House tonight, that they have our support.

The Bill which is before your Lordships' House this evening complements the South Africa (Sanctions) Bill which received its First Reading in another place just before the Summer Recess. This Bill seeks to enact measures agreed by the United Nations to bring about a free Namibia. It covers the voluntary measures which the United Nations Security Council agreed earlier this year.

That resolution called for member states to consider taking appropriate voluntary measures against South Africa—including ceasing new investments there, reexamining maritime and aerial relations and prohibiting the sale of krugerrand gold coinage. It is tragic that Britain, which created the Commonwealth, should be isolated from all her partners. In the western world, only Britain and the United States failed to support the resolution. Since then, however, the United States has decided to ban new investment and the sale of krugerrand coins. The least that we can do is to follow America's example, thus ensuring that we are not completely isolated from our friends and allies.

At the recent Commonwealth Conference in the Bahamas, the Government agreed to ban the sale of krugerrand gold coins after persistently refusing to take any action whatsoever. There will also be a ban on trade fairs and missions being supported by Government funds. As my noble friend Lord Hatch has said, this is the principle accepted by the Government. The Commonwealth countries as a whole will in due course expect the Government to follow the lead set by our partners in the Commonwealth in progressing more in the application of sanctions, to put an end to the system that prevails in South Africa. The Government must show more decisive leadership than they are at the moment.

It is with much joy that I welcome the move made by my noble friend Lord Hatch today and I congratulate him on introducing this Bill.

7.38 p.m.

Lord Caradon

My Lords, I am anxious to say some words in this remarkable debate from an international point of view on the question of the evil of delay. I was in the United Nations some 10 years ago when it was clearly decided by, I believe, every state there represented that Namibia should be free. I do not intend to speak this evening on the wider issues of South Africa, on which I hold the strongest views, but about Namibia in particular.

It was decided by the international community a decade ago that the people of Namibia, who were once the responsibility of this country but responsibility for whom was subsequently transferred by our action to South Africa, should enjoy freedom. No one disputed that. No one doubted it. The people of Namibia accepted the decision of the international community with happiness and rejoicing. But now, much later, we are meeting here in this country, throughout the Commonwealth and the world, faced with the situation that our decision for freedom has been denied, that the people who had been led to expect by our declared decision that they were to be freed are told "No", that they are to remain in subjugation.

How long must this continue? How long must it be that, when a decision is taken without dispute by the international community, one country can, by its manoeuvre and by its frustration, obstruct the will of the world? If that is to be so, it may be that the institution which was created 40 years ago is useless.

It is not only in this particular matter that delay has been so serious. It has been serious enough—has it not?—in the Middle East. Indeed, in practically every other main dispute in the world there has been dreadful delay owing to the failure of the world organisation to act on its decisions. It has taken decisions and done nothing about them. We hear the phrase "constructive engagement"; but when I hear that phrase I think it really means "destructive indifference". The great issues of the world on which we have taken decisions based on the highest necessary principles are now being destroyed not by opposition, not even by doubt, but by failure to act.

If I had to choose one instance in the world where this is most typical—and I can think of many others—it is Namibia. Namibia is a separate entity. It is entitled to its own freedom and was granted that freedom by the international community, but now sees no action to carry that out. On the contrary, it sees fighting taking place in Angola, based on Namibia, and the destruction of Namibian forces. That is the opposite of the freedom that was promised.

It is on that attitude that I say these few words tonight. I believe it is essential in the wider issue that I raise that we in this country should not be misled by anyone else but should be prepared to make use of the international instrument for peace, and not destroy it by indifference and by language which means nothing. I am not speaking tonight on the Bill before us on the wider issues of southern Africa and it is not my business tonight to speak about sanctions generally. However, I would say that unless, with our encouragement, urgent action is now taken to give the people of Namibia the freedom they were promised, then it is not only a disgraceful betrayal of the people of Namibia but we are also working against the interests of future world peace.

It is on that aspect of the matter that I hope we will reach our conclusion tonight and say that no longer shall this miserable evil of delay be allowed to take charge of international affairs. Here is an issue where we can be absolutely clear and not be prepared, as a nation, to delay or neglect the obligation which we undertook.

7.44 p.m.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

My Lords, I must apologise for not being here for the debate so far. Unfortunately, I undertook to run a friend's practice for him this week so I have been running in and out between surgeries. I have just now finished one. However, I have been lucky because I arrived just in time to hear my noble friend Lord Caradon. His was a very moving plea from someone who has been involved in the work of the international community for many years. It was a moving plea to this House that we should do our duty by the international community of which we are a part.

It is in that setting that we must see the Bill. The international community made certain specific decisions about Namibia. Those decisions have been flouted by the South African Government. Of course, I have always been a strong advocate of an international police force. Therefore, if your Lordships ask me what I would be doing, I have given the answer already. However, we do not have an international police force so we must take whatever other weapons are available to us.

The weapon of economic sanctions is one that can be used lightly to push or can be used powerfully. The extent to which we use it and the way in which we use it, to my way of thinking, is constrained by the situation inside South Africa. The people there who have been oppressing the majority of the population do so for economic and social gain. It is because they are doing it for those reasons that any evidence that the economic and social gains may not be available unless they change course could be of significant effect. Therefore, I think the slight push contained in this Bill is what is required at this stage.

It is not merely over Namibia that the South African government have behaved dishonourably. They have behaved dishonourably to Mozambique. They made an agreement but continued to support the revolutionary movement in Mozambique against the Mozambique government in spite of that agreement. In addition, the South African government broke faith with Angola and did not honour the agreement they made with Angola. Therefore, the South African government must be made to understand that the international community is not always going to sit by and allow them to behave as they please without any query as to why and without any attempt to make them change course.

Therefore, I hope that tonight your Lordships will give a straightforward answer by giving the Bill a Second Reading. We need to be able to make the South African Government realise that they cannot just flout the international community. There is much talk about constructive dialogue, but constructive dialogue has been going on all the time. After all, Harold Macmillan's "wind of change" speech is now more than 25 years old. That was an attempt at constructive dialogue. It never got us anywhere. At no stage so far has constructive dialogue got us anywhere, and it is because of this that we have to take an additional step. As I see it, this additional step is that we must use economic pressure. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that economic pressure can be effective. What happened to them recently when they found that their loans were not being rescheduled easily indicates the way in which they will in fact react to economic pressure. I think that applying pressure in the economic field, not necessarily by means of a blunder- buss, but applying a steady, increased pressure will have some effect. In any case, it at least shows that the international community is not prepared to have people thumb their noses at it. I hope that the House will pass the Bill.

Lord Morris

My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, who is my noble friend in the non-technical sense if I may be allowed to address him as such, sits down, may I ask him this: how can the domestic law of the United Kingdom further the ends that he suggests in his speech?

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

My Lords, this country is South Africa's biggest support in terms of investment, in terms of loans, and in terms of the economic tie. Therefore the withdrawal of that economic support must have some effect on South Africa. It is all very well to say "They will jump elsewhere", but. if the international community is applying such pressure, then of course "jumping elsewhere" is not so easy. The law of this land applied in the economic field in order to bring pressure on South Africa can in fact have such an effect.

7.53 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words at this stage, and first of all apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, the right reverend Prelate, and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, for being unable to be here to hear their speeches.

This whole Bill gives rise to emotion, and emotive issues affect the feelings of the heart rather than the thoughts of the mind. It is not often that I find myself in agreement with the principles of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, but on this occasion I am bound to say that I do. Many of us in our own way regret sincerely the state of unhappiness, the troubles and the difficulties in southern Africa of which we hear every day. We all deprecate, regret, and I think disagree profoundly with the system of government which gives rise to the concept of apartheid. However, that is as far as the noble Lord and I may be able to go in agreeing this evening, because I venture to suggest that his Bill is not the right way to deal with the problem.

South Africa, to which I shall refer principally if I may, which is one of the greatest and most beautiful countries of the world, which has been one of our greatest allies in the past, and is one of the countries still allied more towards the West than in any other direction, is in need of great help. We are a Christian nation and we should be led by Christian beliefs.

Perhaps I may disgress for one moment and tell your Lordships something of my own personal experience and my broken marriage. When I saw my vicar and told him about the situation and that I was the "fly in the ointment", for want of a better phrase, I said to him, "I suppose, vicar, I should really absent myself from taking Communion". "No", he said, "not in the least. You are at a cross-roads of your life at the moment and you need God's help more now than you have ever needed it before. You will come to Communion and I will give it to you." I have never forgotten that. I hope that it did me a lot of good. I was very grateful.

This country ought to adopt the same attitude toward the difficulties that southern Africa and Namibia are experiencing at the moment. To try to impose sanctions, which is what this Bill is about, can only do harm to the country as a whole. It will not harm only the white man and the existing rulers; it will be harmful also to the black population of South Africa. It will do them no good in the long run. It is the wrong way to proceed. We ought to recognise and accept that a sovereign state is entitled to attend to its affairs in the best way it possibly can. We have seen clear demonstration over the years—I know it is not quick enough, nor does it go as far as some of your Lordships would like—that South Africa has tried to make some move to include her coloured population in the affairs of the country. But South Africa must be allowed to operate at its own speed. I appreciate that that speed is not fast enough for some people, but going too fast will break the system. We have seen what has happened in the rest of southern Africa, the whole of southern Africa. It is no secret; we know it perfectly well.

Two people were talking in a bar together some time after Ghana or Nigeria or Uganda or wherever it was became independent, and subsequently suffered troubles.One man turned to the other and said, "You know, the trouble with our country is that we were given independence too soon. We were not ready for it." Of course it is our desire that the native population to whom the country belongs should be more involved with the running of their country but it should be done gently, slowly, carefully and patiently.

I understand the thinking behind this Bill, but I feel that it is really the wrong way and that it is the wrong moment to proceed. Therefore I ask that your Lordships do not give this Bill a Second Reading.

7.57 p.m.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I should like very briefly to add my voice to that of my noble friend Lord Mountgarret and that of the noble Lord, Lord Morris. Like everyone else in your Lordships' House and outside it, I regret apartheid. We should like to abolish it overnight, but it is not possible. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, I know from my knowledge of Africa that we must go slowly. I am not an economist but I hope that I have common sense. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, that South Africa needs the West financially because South Africa must be a strong South Africa.

There are 3 million whites in South Africa. There are 182½ million coloured people. Therefore to cut South Africa off from the West by sanctions would be disastrous not only for the South African Government but for the coloured population as well. The noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, referred to education. I know that the Government of South Africa, with money made available on the whole by whites to educate the coloured population of South Africa, are trying to educate as many people as they can within that 18½ million population. But I think what is more important to us, with all that we have learnt about the top of Africa, is the food situation in Africa. I was in South Africa about 2½ years ago, in Johannesburg. They had had a disastrous maize crop and South African money was being used to buy millions of tons of maize from Canada, with South African rands earned by the people who are running South Africa. If we put sanctions in their way, the coloured population will suffer far more than the whites. If they have a bad harvest I envisage that the whites will not be able even to feed 18.5 million people. Those people rely on them not only for the stages of their education but for food.

I agree with my noble friend that this is neither the time nor the way to help the people of South Africa or Namibia. I hope that the Bill will not be given a Second Reading.

8 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hatch of Lusby has introduced a Bill on a subject of critical importance and also delivered a wide-ranging speech in support of it. The Bill is also important against the background of the Commonwealth Conference. My noble friend has raised the problem of Namibia in this House on several occasions over the past few years and, as we know, he has great experience of southern Africa. His Bill deserves the most careful consideration. As the right reverend Prelate pointed out in his knowledgeable speech, we should try to deal with it, if we possibly can, in a non-party political way.

Namibia is unfortunate because, although it has great resources and potential, as the right reverend Prelate said, its history and geography have made it a pawn in the complex and unhappy politics of southern Africa. Many attempts have been made to find an equitable and democratic solution to the problem but they have all failed thus far, and we must ask who or what is to blame for that failure and also what part our Government have played in seeking a solution.

I mentioned the resources of Namibia, and perhaps we should record those in this debate because they are relevant to an understanding of the developing story. It is a large country—larger than France and the Federal Republic of Germany combined. Because only 1 million people live there the population density is very low. Out of that million about 10 per cent., or 80,000, are white, and they own 43 per cent. of the land, including some of the most fertile and mineral-rich areas. The indigenous inhabitants—some 900,000 of them—are allocated 10 homelands which comprise some 40 per cent. of Namibia. The rest of the territory is under the direct control of the South African authorities.

As the right reverend Prelate told us, Namibia is potentially very rich. Large quantities of diamonds, silver, copper, lead, zinc and uranium are mined there. The mining sector provides, on average, about 50 per cent. of the GDP, 60 per cent. of the export revenues and between 40 and 50 per cent. of the territory's income. Properly organised, agriculture, cattle, farming and fishing—Namibia has a coastline 869 miles long—could prosper in due course. A detached observer—the observer from Mars, as the noble Lord, Lord Morris, said—looking at these advantages might say that here is the basis for a happy and thriving community. It is a sad commentary on civilisation in the last years of the 20th century that we must reply that the contrary is the case, for here is a country riven by war, used as a puppet by its powerful neighbour and with an economy in the depths of depression, with all that that means for its unfortunate native population.

The all-party delegation which visited Namibia earlier this year summed up the position. These were its words: Namibia is a tragedy and one which the British Government and the West as a whole should now give a much greater priority. It is, above all, a human tragedy … about people, mainly entirely innocently involved in a wider conflict, not of their making and longing for an end to their nightmare". The prolonged war, political uncertainty, to some extent the world recession and drought in some areas, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, has just referred, have all contributed to six years of almost unbroken economic decline in this potentially prosperous country. It is by any standards a major tragedy.

I referred to the efforts to resolve the problem; and, as my noble friend Lord Caradon said, we must start with the United Nations and Security Council Resolution 435, which we support and which the Prime Minister and other Ministers have also indicated that they support, although some reservations (to which I shall refer presently) have been made by them. The Bill enshrines the resolution, as I understand it. One of the key elements in that resolution was that free elections to a constituent assembly should be held in Namibia under the supervision of the United Nations. As we know, South Africa refused to accept that resolution. It held its own restricted elections which SWAPO declined to recognise. The resulting "government" fell in 1983 and South Africa returned Namibia to direct rule under the Administrator-General.

The latest development in this saga of dreadful South African policies was the setting up of the puppet government last June. As the Economist, a detached newspaper, said at the time: The trouble is that any regime installed by the South Africans is almost bound to be seen by local blacks as a puppet". They flouted the United Nations and ran counter to world opinion, but that, unhappily, is nothing new in the recent history of this South African Government as they plunge from tragedy to disaster. It is a miserable experience to switch on one's television set and see the things that are happening in that sad country today. As my noble friend Lord Bottomley, with his great experience, said in his speech, it is a classic example of failure to govern the country properly; it is a classic example of far too little far too late.

This Bill is justified because the conclusion cannot be avoided that South Africa has no real intention of permitting United Nations sponsored elections—of agreeing to free elections—because it believes that they would lead to a SWAPO electoral victory. The present internal crisis of South Africa makes it unlikely that Mr. Botha will move an inch in view of the implications of what might be regarded as a concession to black opinion. I think that he will be required to move more than an inch in due course, and this Bill may help him forward.

The consequence of this action by him—that is, the setting up of the puppet government in June—was that the Security Council voted by 13 to nil for the imposition of voluntary sanctions against South Africa as a means of exerting direct pressure for attaining Namibian independence. Our Government followed the United States in abstaining in that vote on what was really a fairly mild resolution.

That leads us to consider the Government's general attitude towards Namibia and the way that they have conducted themselves. As has been said by several speakers, we have special responsibilities because of our historic associations with that part of the world. As on some other issues, the attitude of the Government has been ambivalent. On the one hand, they have announced support for Resolution 435; on the other, they have tended unobtrusively to bow to United States prompting. There was a good example of this in the other place last year when (at col. 160 of Hansard on 5th June 1984) the Prime Minister uttered these words: Independence for Namibia, we say, must come under resolution 435—that is. in a way acceptable to the international community—and I do not believe that that will occur until there is also in parallel the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola". It was, as we recall, South Africa supported by the United States of America who insisted on "linkage". As we have seen, Her Majesty's Government followed on in due course. There are several examples of the Government criticising South Africa on the one hand and then on the other making reservations which dilute the criticism and its effect. For example, the Foreign Secretary last January said: "We do not recognise linkage as a precondition for settlement". That is something we can all agree with. He went on to say in the same sentence, "but the fact that linkage has been made cannot be ignored". This House must recognise, and the Government Front Bench must agree to it, that there has been this unhappy ambivalence running throughout the statements of the Government during the last two or three years.

Again, the stance of the Government over the imposition of the new "government" was certainly not one of outright condemnation. The Government have also intimated their willingness to meet informally South Africa's Namibian friends, which would only help to win de facto recognition for the regime, which is precisely what South Africa wants.

My Lords, nor have the Government prevailed on the Government of South Africa to comply with the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war, and this is deplorable. Anyone who has experience of politics must realise there are complexities which are economic, and complexities which are commercial. The noble Baroness can run through, as I can. the British investments in South Africa, the figures of imports and exports, and so on. No one in Government can ignore those facts, or the consequences for this country. One must weigh them in the balance against what is happening in South Africa today. There are moments—and the right reverend Prelate was right to remind us—when it is right to take a moral stand on these issues, when the moral aspect outweighs the economic and commercial aspects.

I would particularly appreciate the view of the noble Baroness the Minister on the current importance of "linkage". Do the Government still regard the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola as a prerequisite to free elections under United Nations auspices and therefore to independence? It is a simple question requiring a simple answer.

My Lords, in conclusion, this is not the moment to discuss the Commonwealth Conference. No doubt we shall have a Statement from the Prime Minister which will be repeated in this House in due course. But it is clear that Namibia was closely related to the main subject under discussion in the Bahamas and the Bill in fact covers some of the matters agreed upon. It is always possible to criticise a Private Member's Bill because it is always possible to say it is a pity the parliamentary draftsmen were not called in to amend this or change that. I have never seen a Private Member's Bill introduced without the proposer saying he is quite prepared that the Government will look at it if they accept the principle. What my noble friend is asking the Government to do is to accept the principle of sanctions. Neither he nor we are asking the Government at this stage—and no one here thinks this Bill is likely to become law in this Session of Parliament when we are in the last few hours of the Session—for more than that the principle of this Bill should be adopted by them. We are glad that the Prime Minister indicated in the Bahamas that she was prepared to move to some extent. Indeed, the Bill itself refers to the importation of krugerrands into this country, and this is one of the concessions the Prime Minister in fact made.

My Lords, support for the Bill would help to clarify the attitude of the Government on this acute problem. The Bill contains a list of practical measures which would bring pressure to bear in an effort to change the policies of South Africa. For all these reasons, this Bill deserves the most careful consideration. It is, in letter and spirit, in line with the United Nations' policy. A continuation of the present chaos will only make matters worse. Indeed, it will create the very conditions which those who support the South African Government openly or covertly fear most. They are grim possibilities. The prospect for South Africa is truly grim. No one in this house, of whatever party or point of view, would wish to see South Africa drifting into chaos, with all the consequences for both the black and white populations. It is the duty of the British Government, supported by every political party in this country, to do all they can to avoid that disaster. For these reasons, my Lords, I hope the House will give this Bill a Second Reading.

8.15 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)

My Lords, I speak this evening to give the view of the Government on the Bill now before this House. We have listened to a long debate this evening and I think I might say that with the notable exceptions of my noble friend Lord Morris and the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, few of your Lordships have addressed the Bill which is the subject of the debate. Indeed, the debate has been about the system of apartheid. There have been many occasions on which I have put the Government's view on this policy before your Lordships. I do so again this evening, and say it is a system which we find abhorrent; I wish to make that quite clear.

I now turn to the Bill which is the subject of our debate, and I should like to start by putting the position of the Government on Namibia. As noble Lords are aware, the United Kingdom has long been involved in international efforts to end South Africa's unlawful occupation of Namibia. Through our membership of the Western Contact Group we helped to draw up and to negotiate the United Nations plan for Namibian independence. This plan, which was endorsed by United Nations Security Council Resolution 435, represents the only basis for independence which has the support of all parties concerned and the international community. I should like to assure the House and all those who have spoken this evening—and perhaps I may particularly refer to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, who I thought was rather dismissive of the Western Contact Group—that Resolution 435 has come about to a large extent because of its efforts, and we as the Government remain fully committed to it.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, at the end of his speech asked me about the Government attitude to linkage. I say to the noble Lord and to the House that the Cuban withdrawal from Angola is not part of the Security Council Resolution 435. Nor do we recognise it as a precondition for a Namibian settlement. But the South Africans have made it clear that they will not agree to the implementation of Security Resolution 435 unless a satisfactory arrangement on Cuba is found.

We shall continue to take every opportunity to urge the South African Government to put the United Nations plan into force without delay and without preconditions. We shall insist that it offers the only internationally acceptable solution, that there is no viable alternative to genuine independence for Namibia, and that any unilateral transfer of power that might take place now or in the future to bodies established by the South African Government would be totally unacceptable.

Let me say here that our attitude to the current interim administration is that we do not recognise it. We will not hold discussions with the new administration in its official capacity. This does not affect the negotiations towards Security Council Resolution 435. Indeed, the previous internal arrangements in 1978 and 1981 did not last and already there are signs of disagreement within the MPC on key constitutional issues. In our view, the establishment of the multiparty conference interim administration in Windhoek by the South African Government earlier this year in no way alters their responsibility to implement the United Nations plan and to bring Namibia into internationally recognised independence. We shall continue to press home this inescapable fact.

Having said that, I shall now explain why we consider the United Nations (Namibia) Bill would not help to achieve this objective—something which, having listened to this debate, I can say every single one of your Lordships who has spoken wishes to achieve. Indeed, we believe that it could even put at risk the implementation of the United Nations plan. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary announced on 25th September that we would join with our European Community partners in endorsing a number of restrictive and positive measures towards South Africa. These measures drawn up in Luxembourg on 10th September represented a legitimate and necessary political signal to the South African Government.

At the same time, the measures sought to avoid any destabilisation of the South African economy or harm to those in southern Africa whom we are seeking to help. This balanced approach has now been echoed by the agreement reached this Sunday at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Nassau. To quote from the Commonwealth accord on South Africa: We have agreed on a number of measures which have as their rationale impressing on the authorities in Pretoria the compelling urgency of dismantling apartheid and erecting the structures of democracy in South Africa". These measures have been taken in response to (and again I quote from the accord): South Africa's continuing refusal to dismantle apartheid, its illegal occupation of Namibia and its aggression against its neighbours". Like the European Community package these measures are designed to send an important psychological signal to the South African Government and impress upon them the urgent need for fundamental changes without harming those whom we are seeking to help.

In reaching agreement on these measures, we made clear to our Commonwealth partners the risks inherent in the adoption of economic and trade boycotts designed to damage the South African economy. We remain firmly of the view that economic pressure of that sort would not act as an effective lever of change in southern Africa. Indeed, it would be unrealistic to expect anything other than a hardening of attitudes both in South Africa and among the white population of Namibia in response to such pressure.

With the one exception of the importation of krugerrands, the measures proposed in the Bill before your Lordships' House go well beyond the measures that were agreed in the Commonwealth accord. We believe therefore that the Bill would not only be damaging and counter-productive, as I have already indicated, but would also cut across the important initiative agreed in Nassau. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, who referred to differences between Britain and the front line states, that the agreement in the Commonwealth accord that has just been reached includes of course the front line states, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Tanzania as well as India and Nigeria. Whatever may have been the intention of the noble—

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, would the noble Baroness agree that, in fact, from all reports, the majority of leaders of the Commonwealth countries were pressing for measures of the kind envisaged in the Bill?

Baroness Young

My Lords, it is not for me, I think, to speculate on what might or might not have been discussed at a meeting at which I myself was not present. I can only stand by the accord that has been reached which is of importance within the Commonwealth. It is an accord that has been reached by all the members of the Commonwealth and it has a value. And that is what it says.

Whatever may have been the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, in introducing the Bill, it was presumably not. to undermine the concerted and constructive pressure towards reform being brought to bear by ourselves and our partners either in the Commonwealth or in the European Community. However, unilateral imposition at this time of the economic measures proposed by the Bill could very well have exactly that effect by precipitating a hardening of attitudes within the South African Government. The importance of concerted action has been recognised by the Commonwealth heads of government throughout the discussions leading up to the accord that concludes by stating that: in pursuing this programme jointly, we enlarge the prospects of an orderly transition to social, economic and political justice in South Africa and peace and stability in the Southern African region as a whole". We cannot therefore countenance the adoption of measures outside the scope of those already agreed within the Commonwealth programme.

The Bill does not restrict iself purely to the question of economic measures. Paragraph 4 permits the enactment of, such provisions as appear … necessary or expedient for enabling the United Nations Council for Namibia Decree No. i for the protection of the natural resources of Namibia to be effectively applied". These provisions would have the effect of recognising that the United Nations Council for Namibia has exclusive rights over the management and exploitation of Namibia's natural resources.

In establishing a body with the powers that it purported to confer on the Council for Namibia, we consider that the General Assembly acted beyond its competence under the United Nations charter. Consequently, the United Kingdom does not recognise the claim of the council to administer the territory. Successive United Kingdom Governments have therefore taken the view that pronouncements of the council, such as Decree No. 1, do not impose any obligations upon us. Indeed, there are no mandatory United Nations measures at all which prohibit trade with Namibia. In no way therefore does the Government's position conflict with our international obligations. Thus, the Government see no reason to interfere with trade or investment in Namibia.

In conclusion, I should like to repeat what I said at the beginning—that we remain fully committed to the achievement of internationally recognised independence for Namibia under the United Nations plan. For the reasons that I have outlined we believe that the adoption of this Bill would not help that process and could even be prejudicial to it. While we will therefore continue to take whatever action we judge to be effective in bringing about the early realisation of Namibian independence, we are unable to support the adoption of the United Nations (Namibia) Bill and to give it a Second Reading.

8.27 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, this is a Second Reading debate which is normally based on the general principles of a Bill. Most of the Members who have participated in the debate have addressed themselves in that way. As my noble friend Lord Cledwyn said from the Front Bench, what we would ask the Government to do is accept the principle, not the details, of the Bill. As he said, it is obviously not going to be possible within this Session to go through all the stages of the Bill, although I assure the House that there will undoubtedly be further Bills introduced in the new Session. What we are asking is that the House recognises that what has been done so far in the use of words and resolutions has not changed the situation in South Africa nor in Namibia, and that the rapidly worsening conditions within South Africa and within Namibia have occurred despite the condemnation such as that made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, tonight.

I appreciate her views. I appreciate the views as expressed by the Government on the system of apartheid. But those views have been expressed for years and years. They have not helped the people who are today losing their lives in South Africa. Nor have they helped the people who have been suffering from imprisonment and torture during that period. The President of South Africa visited the Prime Minister last year. I understand that the Government have asked and now the Commonwealth has demanded that Nelson Mandela be released from jail. What has happened to all these words? The consequence has been nothing except that the whole escalation of violence has gone unchanged.

What has been the effect of the contact group? I met the contact group when I was in Zambia several years ago. Has it brought Namibia any nearer to independence? Has it stopped the oppression of the South African administration within Namibia?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has asked me a number of questions. But the question to which he ought to address himself is: will sanctions bring about the objectives which he is seeking? There is no evidence that they have been effective in the past.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I am sorry, but I thought that I had dealt in my opening speech with the question of the validity of sanctions. If the noble Baroness wishes further evidence I suggest that she reads a new, very extensive book published by the International Institute for Economic Affairs in Washington. It is an examination of the use of sanctions on each occasion—several hundred of them—since the First World War. I simply quote one statistic from that book. According to that examination, on 36 per cent. of the occasions on which sanctions have been used they have been effective.

They are effective on certain conditions: first, if there is a political will behind them; secondly, if they are limited to a specific objective, as this is limited to the objective of the independence of Namibia; thirdly, if they are carried out thoroughly with seriousness and with commitment. I would remind the noble Baroness that sanctions were very effective when they were used by South Africa against Lesotho not very long ago; and they were very effective back in 1956 when it was American sanctions which brought the invasion of Egypt by Britain and France and Israel to an end. It was the refusal of the Americans to allow dollar reserves to be used for oil by this country which effectively ended that invasion. One could go on. There are plenty of examples of the successful use of sanctions.

What I am suggesting here is simply that the principle of sanctions should be accepted. The details can be worked out. Nobody has suggested in this debate that sanctions should be applied at this stage on a total and widespread basis. But the noble Baroness has been arguing that her views (which I applaud and share) on apartheid can be most effective if they are put in words. I would simply ask: what has happened since those words of the Prime Minister to President Botha? What has happened in Botswana?—bombed by the South Africans. What has happened in Angola?—invaded by the South Africans. What has happened in Mozambique?—support for the guerrilla movement against the government. What has happened in Namibia?—further armed intervention by the South Africans in support of their administration. This is since the words were spoken by the Prime Minister to President Botha.

The noble Baroness has suggested that this Bill could undermine the Commonwealth and EC initiatives. That is surely not so. There are other countries in the Commonwealth and in the EC who have applied much stronger sanctions than those agreed at Nassau. There are other groups, such as the Nordic Group, who have applied stronger sanctions. I am asking this House to recognise that we are facing a desperately dangerous, tragic situation in South Africa.

I have been asked many times whether revolution is not imminent in South Africa. After Sharpeville I said, no. After Soweto I said, no. Today this has been going on for 14 months. Nearly 1,000 people have been killed. The central objectives of political sharing of power in South Africa, elections and independence in Namibia, are now clearly in the sights of the African people. This will not go away. The wealth of international opinion has been shown to support the application of sanctions. We have been isolated. This kind of escalating violence will leave South Africa as a derelict, smouldering, burnt-out shell of a state unless we can do something to help them to stop it. I suggest that it can be prevented only by external action to assist the South African people, to assist the internal negotiations in South Africa, to assist those who are working for justice, and to assist people to start talking to each other in South Africa.

I hope that the record of the British Government will not be one of appeasement in the face of this challenge, because I believe that the British people are now widespread in their demand for something more, as has been shown in many demonstrations round this country. I hope that the Government and the House will recognise this challenge and allow the Second Reading of this Bill to endorse the principle of sanctions, their use to be applied according to the circumstances of the next few months. I ask the House to give this Bill a Second Reading.

8.36 p.m.

On Question, Whether the Bill be now read a second time?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 36; Not-Contents, 52.

Airedale, L. Kilbracken, L.
Beaumont of Whitley. L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Boston of Faversham, L. Lockwood, B.
Bottomley, L. Manchester, Bp.
Brockway, L. Milford, L.
Buckmaster, V. Morton of Shuna, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.[Teller.]
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Dean of Beswick, L Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Rea, L.
Elystan-Morgan, L. Rhodes, L.
Gallacher, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Glenamara, L. Scanlon, L.
Gregson, L. Soper, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. [Teller.] Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Heycock, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Howie of Troon. L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Underhill, L.
John-Mackie, L.
Belstead, L. Lane-Fox, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Long, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L. McFadzean, L.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Butterworth, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Caithness, E. Merrivale, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Monk Bretton, L.
Colwyn, L. Monson, L.
Davidson, V. Morris, L. [Teller.]
Denham, L. Mountgarret, V. [Teller.]
Effingham, E. Munster, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. O'Neill of the Maine, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Pender, L.
Elton, L. Polwarth, L.
Fortescue, E. Renton, L.
Glenarthur, L. Richardson, L.
Greenway, L. Rochdale, V.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Shannon, E.
Harvey of Prestbury, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Henley, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Hooper, B. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Inglewood, L. Swinton, E.
Killearn, L. Trefgarne, L.
Kimball, L. Whitelaw, V.
Kinnaird, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and Motion for Second Reading disagreed to accordingly.