HL Deb 24 March 1988 vol 495 cc352-75

7.23 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to dissuade the South African Government from silencing all opposition to their policy of apartheid.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, if there were a need to justify this debate it was provided to me today when I had lunch with a number of British businessmen who are trading and investing in South Africa. Without exception I was told that the events of the past two weeks have totally changed their attitude towards the business situation in this country and their hopes and efforts in South Africa.

It is approximately 18 months since your Lordships' House fully debated South Africa. I should like to begin by posing, and answering, the question which is often put in such debates: are the events in South Africa our business? Many noble Lords will remember that that question was asked when Hitler was persecuting the Jews and overrunning Europe; when Mussolini was tyrannising the people of Italy and Ethiopia; and when the Japanese were invading Manchuria and China. In each case the atrocities were committed with the assistance of Western finance and business.

Since 1960 we have seen in South Africa the atrocities of Sharpeville, Soweto, Langa and many others. They have been committed also with the assistance of Western resources to South African white regimes. It is not surprising that people such as Bishop Tutu and Doctor Boesak are suggesting that there exists some hyprocrisy in the West. It is that if white children were being detained, imprisoned and tortured there would be a different response from the people and the governments of Western Europe.

When the House last debated this issue it was in the context of the report of the Eminent Persons Group. It was when the Foreign Minister had just returned from a humiliating experience in South Africa; it was just before the mini Commonwealth Summit in August, 1986; it was a month before the meeting of the EC; and it was two months before the United States Congress passed its anti-apartheid law.

I should like to remind the House of the conditions under which the Eminent Persons Group was set up. The British representative was a Member of this House, the noble Lord, Lord Barber. The group was set up at the Nassau Commonwealth Conference under the following conditions. After the Eminent Persons Group had reported, the Heads of Government or their representatives would meet to review the situation. If in their opinion adequate progress had not been made within that period they agreed to consider the adoption of further measures. The Eminent Persons Group found that those conditions had not been fulfilled. Indeed, the report of the group—which still is worth while reading in order to gain an understanding of the situation in South Africa—said categorically that reforms were not taking place in South Africa. It stated: We have examined the South African Government's programme of reform and have been forced to conclude that at present there is no genuine intention on the part of the South African Government to dismantle Apartheid".

The group went on to warn the country and the world of the consequences that could be expected unless serious action was taken to prevent the South African Government from pursuing their policies. It did so in these words: That question In front of heads of government is in our view clear. It is not whether such measures will compel change"— the "measures" being economic sanctions"— it is already the case that their absence, and Pretoria's belief that they need not be feared, defers change. Is the Commonwealth to stand by and allow the cycle of violence to spiral or will it take concerted action of an effective kind? Such action may offer the last opportunity to avert what will be the worst bloodbath since the second world war".

What was the response of the British Government to that warning? What has the British Government done since? At that time the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, responded to the debate by saying that the British Government were basing their hopes on dialogue and persuasion. What has happened as a result of the policy that has been followed by the British Government since that report was published? So far as I can see, the main action that has been taken—in fact the only specific action that has been taken by the Government since the publication of the report—is that the Security Council vetoed the motion for mandatory sanctions to be imposed on South Africa.

What has been the consequence of that absence of action of two years ago in South Africa? It has been a continuation, a strengthening and a deepening of the state of emergency. It has been a widening of censorship. It has been an increase in detentions, including hundreds of children—children as young as nine years old. It has been the arrest of bishops and other clergymen. The military are still in the townships, and the Eminent Persons Group report showed what danger would lie ahead unless the military were removed from the townships. The military budget has been increased this year by over 20 per cent. Literally hundreds of people over the 18 months have died. The neighbours of South Africa have been bombed by the South African Air Force.

The South African Government have refused to make any move towards meeting the United Nations resolution of 10 years ago, Resolution 435, which demands the independence of Namibia. At this very moment South African forces are in Angola in what is no less than an international invasion of a nation state. Over the past two weeks we find that the South African Government have taken large steps in the further oppression of their people—the banning of 18 anti-apartheid organisations, including significantly greater restrictions on the trade union movement, and the threats made to clergymen like Bishop Tutu and Dr. Boesak.

When we last debated the issue in 1985–86 her Majesty's Government had two alternatives policies that they could pursue. One was diplomacy and persuasion, which had been the policy of British Governments for 80 years and resulted only in a continual reduction in the rights of non-Europeans in South Africa, and increasing state terrorism against them; the other was positive action as demanded by the rest of the Commonwealth, the majority of members of the EC, the United Nations and not least the majority members of the United States Congress.

The hopes held out by Her Majesty's Government that their policy would result in a liberalisation in South Africa are very well expressed in a book just published by a white English speaking South African. In the book entitled "White Boy Running", Christopher Hope, the author, spoke of liberal hopes. I particularly hope that the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, will note this because he and I have debated many times the issue of the position of white liberals in white South Africa. I believe that this sums up the views expressed by Christopher Hope through his personal experience: The star of white liberal opposition must have exploded many light years ago and yet the news is only now filtering through".

This record shows the total failure of the policy adopted by Her Majesty's Government. In that failure Her Majesty's Government must share responsibility for the consequences that I have outlined. I do not doubt that the vast majority of members of the Government and of the Conservative Party are opposed to apartheid. That is not enough. As I have said in the House on other occasions, apartheid is only the latest section of the policy of white supremacy that has dominated South Africa for 100 years. It is not enough to say. "We are against apartheid". If the Prime Minister is sincere and honest, either she will admit that she is supporting President Botha and the continuation of white supremacy, despite her professed hatred of apartheid, or she will recognise that the rest of the world is right, that she is wrong and that action, not words, is now necessary if the continent of Africa is to be saved from total disaster.

We have talked about sanctions before. I hope that no speaker in the debate will go back to the old argument that sanctions are counter-productive or impossible. I have always advocated in this House and elsewhere that sanctions must he specific and aimed at a target that can be reached. I have always suggested that the sanctions we advocate are not punitive sanctions, nor are they total sanctions; they are sanctions aimed at reducing the power of the South African white regime to torture, to maim and to kill the opponents of that regime and at the same time to persuade those whites—and they exist—who do not believe that the future of South Africa can ever be peaceful so long as white supremacy remains a first principle that their self-interest lies in negotiations with the genuine representatives of the whites.

A whole variety of sanctions has been proposed by Africans themselves. Bishop Tutu wants us to withdraw our ambassador. There have been suggestions that we should ban flights. There have been suggestions that sanctions should be placed on mineral production, the coal, diamonds and gold of South Africa. I have said before in the House that, if the IMF and the United States were to start selling gold, that in itself would be something against the South African regime, because a reduction in the price of gold would strike directly at the revenues that the South African Government use to pursue their military objectives.

We have always to be firm in giving our full support to those who are our allies in South Africa: they are the front line states who will suffer most from sanctions and who have always admitted that fact. I hope that no one will argue tonight that apartheid will be destroyed by increasing the prosperity of the South African Government. It has been during those periods of maximum prosperity that the worst features of apartheid have been imposed. It has been during the weak periods—as it was two years ago during the financial crisis in South Africa when it appeared that the economy was dependent on Western finance and South Africa was worried about its future—that the few cosmetic reforms have been attempted.

We are standing now at a crossroads so far as the future of the whole African continent, and perhaps far wider, is concerned. Unless we show ourselves to be firm supporters of those who are aiming at full democracy in South Africa, irrespective of colour, they will see that there is no peaceful opportunity to secure their human rights. It has always been a constitutional principle that when people are prevented from securing their rights by constitutional means they have to turn to violence.

For 40 years the African National Congress forswore violence and attempted non-violent resistance. This week we have seen in South Africa that the Africans are so angry that, even after the banning of the 18 organisations, they were able to conduct a nationwide general strike.

Those are the issues today. We need to know where our Government stand on these issues. We cannot be content with the old, tired excuses for not taking any action and for going on talking irrespective of the increase in state terror in that country. We have a right to know from the Government, after the experience that we have all seen and all endured during the past two years since they forswore sanctions, what is their attitude today to a new and graver situation than we have ever faced before in regard to the future of South Africa.

7.42 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, for tabling this Question and I look forward with some anxiety to the reply from the Minister. I think it is true that ritual condemnations of apartheid are no longer enough in this very grave and serious situation that faces South Africa, the world and our own country.

Your Lordships will be aware that the Archbishop of Canterbury has sent his personal envoy, the Bishop of Lichfield, to South Africa to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Church leaders there. Part of the reason is a gesture of solidarity which has been put on the form of a message to President Botha: "You touch one of our bishops and you touch all of us". It is also a sign that the British Churches feel, through their leadership, that much more is required from us in this country and particularly from our Government than anything we have yet seen as a response to what is happening in that tortured country.

The statement of the 18 bishops from South Africa—it is noticeable that the Bishop of Namibia, Bishop James Kauluma, was included—said that they would not be deterred by threats or accusations from obeying God, who in the last resort has a higher claim on their allegiance than any kings, princes or presidents. That is something of a classic statement of the limitations of Church obedience to the state—we should obey God rather than man. It is noticeable that the action for which Church leaders were arrested—including Archbishop Tutu, although only temporarily—was simply to try to present a petition to the Parliament and to the President.

It is this clamping down on all legitimate forms of opposition which is so deeply disturbing and highly dangerous in that situation. As we approach the events of Holy Week and Easter, I think that Dr. Alan Boesak's words, powerfully delivered in the style of the late Martin Luther King, will have struck a chord in many parts when he stood in the pulpit during the great service which was held when outside meetings had been banned and said, "You can put a ban on our organisations but Jesus Christ is Lord. You can even put us in prison but Jesus Christ is Lord". Therefore, we are faced with a situation in South Africa which is of increasing gravity.

It is noticeable too that during the events leading up to the imminent execution of the Sharpeville Six, which has mercifully been stayed, President Botha asserted that he was not able to intervene in the legal processes. At the same time we have the news at the moment that he has stopped the trial of six white and black soldiers over the death of a Namibian citizen on the ground apparently that South African defence forces engaged in the enforcement of law and order and defence are not liable to prosecution if they have a genuine conviction that they are carrying out their duties.

We must express thanks to the Prime Minister for her strong statement over the Sharpeville Six. Many of us were very grateful for that. The case is by no means finished but it is at the moment suspended.

I believe that the Government must face the situation that Britain and the Government are seen by many parts of the world as friends of South Africa. That may seem very unfair, because the Government have frequently made strong statements about the iniquities of apartheid. However, we are reminded of the statement of one of the great civil rights leaders in the United States: "We will not listen to what you say, but we will watch carefully what you do". It is what we actually do that counts in the South African situation.

Over the years in this country the leadership of the British Churches has moved steadily into the position of calling for disinvestment and for selective targeted sanctions on South Africa as the last means open to us of bringing some effective pressure to bear. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, said something about what this means in terms of the advice of the Eminent Persons Group, and that is advice which has never been properly followed through.

I should like to say a few words about black support for sanctions, because this is a question which is often raised. I have seen it queried in a letter in the press even today. The argument goes that there are many blacks in South Africa who would not support sanctions. I have little doubt that up to a point that is true, but the most genuine voices of black leadership now come from the leadership of the Churches who are able to express themselves; from people like Archbishop Tutu and Dr. Alan Boesak. I believe that they are speaking for the great bulk of their people in calling on Britain and other nations to act more effectively.

As to whether sanctions would be effective, no one can really answer that until sanctions have been tried. Previous arguments about the ineffectiveness of sanctions in the case of Rhodesia, as it then was, do not carry complete conviction because they were never followed through as they should have been. I believe that in co-operation with the international community this country has an opportunity to play a part in trying to bring that kind of pressure to bear on the present South African leadership.

It has also been argued that the results of the recent white elections, showing a distinct swing to the right, indicate that increasing pressure on South Africa would be ineffective. To my mind the argument cuts right the other way. President Botha and the present leadership are under great pressure from the Right wing. The pressure must surely be increased in all other directions and particularly from outside the country to show that the rest of the world simply will not put up with such policies and a clamping down of all legitimate and peaceful opposition.

I had the opportunity of meeting last year Mr. Oliver Tambo the President of the African National Congress. I remember him saying to the leaders of the British Churches: "Please tell us what we should do. We have tried for many, many years to pursue peaceful means of resistance. This was completely and utterly ineffective. We were forced to take up arms. We are concerned to keep our struggle within decent limits as much as we possibly can." We were able to represent to him the deep desire of many people in this country for a peaceful solution and our reluctance in any way to support violence. If it had to be violence our desire was that it should be limited to military targets. We had to see the desperately difficult situation in which the African National Congress has been placed over the years. I hope the Minister will be able to respond positively to this Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, and to give us some encouragement in believing that the British Government are going to produce more effective action.

7.51 p.m.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, I believe it is some 30 years since the Government of South Africa fell into the hands of a group of people who put into practice the policy of apartheid. Since then a number of things have happened. There have been what were called reforms in apartheid; shifts of policy this way and that. But one fact has remained true throughout. The situation is that three-quarters of the population of South Africa have been denied any kind of political rights. They have no votes; they cannot legally engage in organised political activity. Not only is that the case now but the South African Government make it clear that this is to be a permanent condition. They are not saying, as imperial powers have sometimes said, "We cannot give you votes because you are not yet ready to exercise political power". In effect they are saying: "Because you are of a particular race, you are permanently debarred from any legal participation in the government of your country".

What happened? Political parties were formed and the African National Congress came more and more to the front of the stage. A number of prominent black citizens of South Africa were put in prison. We were told that they were imprisoned and would go on being imprisoned until they renounced the use of violence. What does that mean? It means that first you say to three-quarters of your subjects, "You have no prospect of getting political power peaceably, and if you try to get it in the other way that shows you are addicts of violence and cannot expect any support or sympathy from the government".

From the first proclamation of apartheid one moves to the denial of political rights and the denial of legal, political activity. Most recently, since these actions have resulted in criticism in the press and elsewhere, we have the banning of free speech and a free press. The process goes on all the time. The South African Government are meeting a rising tide of resentment and they are trying to deal with it by the process of constantly trying to pile up sandbags against the flood. The flood will not be contained in that manner.

The demographic situation is such that the three-quarters of the population I have mentioned will gradually shift and the proportion of people denied political rights will become steadily a larger proportion of the whole population. There is no sign of their being discouraged by the actions of the South African Government from resistance, from protest, and from adopting measures that the South African Government call "illegal". This is the situation that the world as a whole has to face and Britain in particular. I say Britain in particular partly because we have connections with South Africa going back a long way. We have very considerable trade with South Africa. More particularly, it is because the British Government have taken up a policy towards the South African situation which is the object of much criticism throughout the world. As I understand it, the Government's policy is that you ought not to apply sanctions because they will be counter-productive but if you remain in an easy relationship with the South African Government you will be able to exercise powers of persuasion to deal with the growing menace of the situation. I agree with the view on sanctions put forward by my noble friend Lord Hatch of Lusby.

For the moment, I wish to shift the argument onto the Government's own ground. As I understand it, they are saying "We do not believe in sanctions for reasons we have often stated. We believe that instead we should engage in a policy of persuasion and influence." What is being asked in this Question is what kind of persuasion; what kind of influence are you exercising and what harvest do the Government expect to reap from this? That is the situation in which we are placed. That is the problem that the Government will continually have to answer. So far there has been no sign that the policy they have adopted—namely, the rejection of sanctions and a policy of trying to exercise peaceful persuasion—is getting them anywhere at all.

There is one other argument that I should deal with. When we raise the question of the injustices of apartheid and the duty of the British Government to do something about it, we are sometimes told that this is very hypocritical because there are many other tyrannies and cruelties in the world so why concentrate particularly on injustice to South African blacks? It is quite true that the planet is disfigured by tyrannies and acts of injustice of many kinds and in many places. If we were asked which is the most cruel and the most wicked, it would indeed be a hard question to answer. There is one practical question that we can answer. That is the question of which of them at the moment is the most dangerous to us and to mankind as a whole? I think it is clear from the situation in South Africa, and radiating out from that into the African continent as a whole, that this is the one where the danger of doing nothing is the most serious. The situation has been getting worse and it will go on doing so.

When I consider the South African question, I am sometimes reminded of the terrible words used by Abraham Lincoln at his second inauguration when the civil war in America was drawing to its end. He said: It may be the Almighty's will that this struggle should continue until every drop of blood drawn by the lash is paid for by one drawn by the sword and that all the wealth created by the bondmans's 250 years' of unrequited toil is destroyed. Similar considerations may apply in Africa if we allow matters to go on as they are at the present time. We shall face ever-increasing destruction and slaughter. It is this problem which is on the Government's doorstep. It is not to be driven away by the kind of rather flippant attitude towards it which the Prime Minister sometimes adopts when she suggests that those of us who believe in sanctions are both stupid and immoral. Even if she were right about that, it would not free her and her Government from the obligation of finding something else that might be effective to deal with a situation that grows, gets steadily worse and is fraught with menace for us, for Africa and for the world.

8 p.m.

Lord Greenhill of Harrow

My Lords, for a very few minutes I should like to take advantage of this debate to raise the question of the withdrawal of Miss Zola Budd from the British team in the world cross-country championship in New Zealand. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, encouraged me to do so and I assume that he agrees that there is some connection with his Question this evening. I recognise that it is a very trivial matter compared with the sombre events and pictures that have been so eloquently put forward by the three previous speakers. I believe it is wrong that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, should trigger a debate on this very grave question by, so to speak, a surprise Unstarred Question at this time of the day and at this stage of Parliament.

The situation justifies a debate with a full House so that we can draw on the knowledge and experience of noble Lords who are absent tonight. That does not mean that the wise words of the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lords, Lord Stewart of Fulham and Lord Hatch of Lusby, are wasted. But it is the proper use of this House to discuss these matters when there is a full assembly of its Members.

I return to Miss Budd. Before speaking tonight I was in touch with the office of the Minister for Sport. A very courteous official quickly denied that the matter of Miss Budd was anything to do with him. In the best tradition of Pontius Pilate, he washed his hands of the whole business. That was a disappointing response because most people consider that Miss Budd has suffered an injustice and that this country has suffered an injustice.

Many people in different walks of life have chosen British nationality for the undisguised purpose of their own advancement. These people, from all walks of life—from the arts, the theatre, music, the professions, medicine and so on—have contributed to the good reputation of this country, and we welcome them here. However, they are not criticised for visiting the country of their birth and seeing their families there; for the most part the countries of their birth are ones in which human rights are held in contempt and in which cruelties, which compare with some of the cruelties in South Africa, are perpetrated. I have seen with my own eyes the contempt with which black people are treated.

I understand that no firm evidence has been produced of objectionable behaviour by Miss Budd when she was recently in South Africa. Indeed there is a strong possibility of mistaken identity. Identity is often mistaken accidentally, and not infrequently deliberately. It is sad to reflect—perhaps it is significant—that some of the sharpest competitors in the event in which she specialises come from countries such as Ethiopia, which have the most appalling record of human rights. I raise this matter now not because anything can be done but in the hope that the Minister may be able to consider the position in good time for the approaching Olympics in Korea. Disputes of this kind serve only to raise emotions and make even more difficult the longed for elimination of apartheid.

8.4 p.m.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

My Lords, I agree with the previous speaker in one respect. It would have been better to have had a full debate with a full House. I am nevertheless grateful to my noble friend for asking his Unstarred Question.

The issue of South Africa is serious and daily becomes more serious. South Africa has legislated for segregation and has legislated to prevent the majority of the people influencing the decisions that are made about the country. It did so for years and that majority did not rebel. They had petitions, they protested but they did not rebel vigorously. It was not until the Government went further and started to act atrociously towards them that they started to respond. I refer to Sharpeville in 1960 when the security forces shot 60 people just like that.

Over the years that government have steadily gone down that road and the position has become worse each time. That has convinced people in many parts of the world that action must be taken against South Africa. The consensus has been that, as South Africa relies greatly on foreign investments, economic sanctions are the best means of dealing with the situation. However, others—and his is where the British Government are conspicuous—have held that sanctions would not work, would probably cause more harm than good, and that other methods must be used. British businessmen and the businessmen of many Western countries have attempted to deal with the matter by trying to build a black middle class, by trying to get more blacks into managerial positions and positions of prominence, and by helping in education and training to equip them to play a proper role.

This question is important and I want a proper answer. If one follows that road it is necessary that those workers should be able to organise in trade unions which are allowed to function properly. I grew up in the Caribbean. In any society where the bulk of the people do not have the vote they tend to express their politics through their organisations. When they have trade unions they tend to express themselves through those unions.

I have come along this circuitous route because a most serious development has been the detention and imprisonment of trade union leaders, even though the trade unions are not banned. Once it is impossible for working people to express themselves through their organisations—a point made by the right reverend Prelate—and once the Church leaders are prevented from expressing their worry and anxiety and from trying to explain to people how Church people are feeling, there is an impasse which cannot be dealt with except by violence. There is no history of that type of situation being solved in any other way than by violence. Therefore if one does nothing to unravel such a situation, one is accepting that there will be a blood bath in the area. Moreover, it is not merely the Government's action in relation to the workers or to those who are protesting within their boundaries. We have a government in South Africa who, in the last few years, have been waging war against their neighbours under the pretext that they are preventing illegal organisations that are stationed in those countries from affecting them. That is the excuse that has been made.

My noble friend mentioned the war in Angola. However, what is more sorrowful is what is happening in Mozambique. There the South African Government are sponsoring a resistance organisation which is deliberately undermining the economy of that country; the consequence of those activities has meant starvation for many people living there.

Her Majesty's Government have this picture and are aware of all the factors that I have mentioned. However, until now they have said that sanctions will not work and will do more harm than good. Those of us who have studied what some businessmen are doing, as I just mentioned, and who know about some of the work that the British Government do by way of scholarships and so on, realise that they probably feel that that is the way in which they can best help the situation, in addition to keeping an open door and thus being able to talk to the South African Government.

Surely the recent developments suggest that that approach cannot work. We must find a way to dissuade the South African Government from following their present course. That is why the Question put by my noble friend is so important and I am most grateful to him for putting it. I hope that when he replies the Minister will tell us what the Government see as their role at present. Furthermore, can he tell us what they think they can do to try to dissuade the South African Government from travelling down their present road? Unless the Government have an answer to that question, in effect they have no answer at all to the problem.

8.13 p.m.

Lord St. John of Bletso

My Lords, as one who has spent most of his life in South Africa I join the noble Lord in expressing my grave concern at the retrogressive and repressive measures announced by the South African Government in restricting passive and active opponents to their policies.

I believe that President Botha is in a way in a stalemate position in that he is being pressurised by the far Right and the far Left. Moreover, I believe that there are now three categories of South African nationalists. First, there are the 1,000 Year Reich nationalists, the Afrikaans Weerstand Beweging, those who believe that the status quo will continue for the rest of time. Secondly, there are the Aprés nous le déluge nationalists, those who believe that it is all right for their lifetime, Jack, and who do not really mind about their children's lifetime. Thirdly, and more importantly, there are the liberal nationalists.

On previous occasions I have given credit to the reforms that have so far taken place in South Africa. There is no denying that more reforms have taken place over the last six years than in previous years. However, I contend that those recent repressive measures—this is expounded by what the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, had to say after his lunch today—have done untold damage to the confidence which the international community may have had in the sincerity of the reform programme. The knee-jerk reaction has been to maintain the status quo with the forces at their disposal. The Government's achievements in their reform programme have in my view been severely stunted. I shall expound later on how I see the reform programe developing from here. In order for any negotiating process in South Africa to succeed there must be two pre-conditions: first, the eradication of all discriminatory legislation; and, secondly, the unbanning of all political groupings.

The reforms that President Botha has to date implemented have not materially changed the everyday lives of the bulk of the South African population, both black and white. Last year the President's Council recommended the scrapping of the Group Areas Act and the advent of "grey areas". The abolition of that Act would indeed promote integrated housing and education measures. However, what is desperately needed in order to build bridges between the opposing parties is a climate of trust. Indeed, it is that element of trust that I wish to expound upon later.

The South African Government are currently moving the National Council Bill, whose objectives are: For participation of all South African citizens in the planning and preparation of a new constitutional dispensation. The granting to Black South Africans of a voice in the process of government in the interim period and the furtherance of sound relations among, and the human dignity, rights and freedoms of all South African citizens; for the achievement of the said purposes to establish a National Council, to provide for the constitutional function and functioning of the Council and to provide for incidental matters". If the policy is to succeed it has to be agreed by all groupings, including the ANC, the UDF and others. I do not believe that it will succeed because it has not been addressed to all South Africans.

Central to the white nationalist party's manifesto is concern for the protection of minority rights. I was a lawyer in South Africa for several years and one principle which I always upheld was that South Africa was based on a rule of law with an independent judiciary. While I am not suggesting that that principle has been abandoned, there is a growing danger that respect for the rule of law has been lost. As much as I should have liked to expand on the implications of the Sharpeville Six trial, as well as the recent challenges to the Church, I feel I should curtail the length of my speech.

Many people may argue that the declaration of the state of emergency several years ago has succeeded in quelling much of the unrest in the townships; I certainly would agree that it has done so. However, the South African Government must not see that situation as a normal and continuing state of affairs.

I shall now address myself to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby: what action are Her Majesty's Government taking to dissuade the South African Government from silencing all opposition to their policy of apartheid? Many noble Lords have called for mandatory economic sanctions.

Does the noble Lord, and those other noble Lords who have spoken, honestly believe that economic sanctions can bring the South African Government to their knees? If so, I would support limited economic sanctions. My noble friend Lord Greenhill raised the issue of sporting sanctions and Zola Budd. Sporting sanctions have brought about integrated sport in South Africa. They have worked; but many South Africans will argue that now that they have integrated sport—and one cannot argue against that—the Gleneagles agreement will only be repealed when there is a change of government.

I have lived long enough in South Africa to understand the mentality, workings and determination of the South African Government. I am afraid that sanctions, as applied at the moment, are counter-productive. They have merely put people into long-term unemployment. The current unemployment level is 3 million. The blacks have invariably been affected by those measures. The measures have also led to a hardening of political attitudes. The recent by-elections and the swing to the far Right are evidence of that. One must however stress that the recent by-elections took place in Conservative strongholds.

South Africa lives on relatively few categories of exports. Gold, diamonds, platinum and coal are the most important. Coal sanctions have waned in importance in recent years, ironically because of an oversupply in the coal industry. I contend that if economic sanctions are to work they must be imposed universally. It is well known that for every sanction imposed there are two sanction-busters around the corner who are only too pleased to make a quick buck. I advocate a Marshall Aid package to raise general standards of health, education and the other amenities of the country. One effective method of putting short, sharp pressure on the South African Government would be if every South African were to drop tools for three weeks. One might argue that they cannot afford to do that, but if they were to do so they could bring production almost to a standstill.

I would argue—this is disputed—that most black South Africans do not agree with the plea for economic sanctions. They want pressure to be put onto the South African Government. But will economic sanctions, as implemented at the moment, have any marked effect?

While I join in deploring the latest restrictive and repressive measures which the South African Government have taken against their opponents, let us urge Her Majesty's Government to act in concert with other members of the world community, in particular the OECD countries, in encouraging Pretoria to get on with its reform programme of which it has spoken for so many years. To achieve any long-lasting solution, the Government and the peoples must decide among themselves how South Africa will be governed. As much as I urge Her Majesty's Government, the rest of the Economic Community and the United Nations to place pressure on the South African Government to bring about change, it will have to be achieved through trust and negotiation.

8.24 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, I should like to apologise for the late declaration of my intention to speak in the debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, for giving me the opportunity to speak. Like the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, I wish we had a larger attendance so that more well-informed and expert voices could be heard. I wish to address one question to the Minister. Is the British Goverment's policy towards South Africa today credible? The two main features of British policy in South Africa have been laudable, although they may have been criticised by those nations who wish for a greater commitment. The first feature of the policy is the wish to bring people around the table to move towards a negotiated settlement. My question on that is: is it now possible to reach a negotiated settlement when we can no longer have access to the people who previously could have sat around the table because of the banning of the United Democratic Front and the 16 organisations which have declared peaceable means as the way to bring about a settlement in South Africa? It seems to me and my colleagues on these Benches that that feature of British policy is no longer effective.

The second feature of British policy which, as I said, is praiseworthy relates to the measures to which they lent their name, carried out through the British Council for the promotion of education in South Africa, and the funding of the non-violent antiapartheid organisations which effectively no longer exist. Is not that second feature of British policy towards South Africa totally ineffective?

I follow the line taken by other noble Lords. What is the Government's present view and what are their intentions? It seems to me that they have only two options: they take more effective measures, or they do nothing. If they do nothing, they will lose further credibility with their friends. They will have the hostility of those countries which are totally committed, especially the third world countries. They feel that the British Government's policy is one of inertia; not one of hostility to black people, but that they hope things will disappear in the natural course of events. We on these Benches want to know what the Government intend to do. Every day that passes without a firm intention to act creates difficulties for us with our friends and those who are not so friendly towards us because of our position on South Africa.

I wish to ask a further question. West Germany has changed its position. It had previously taken a hawkish view of South Africa. I suggest that it was a more hawkish view than ours. By its recent abstention on the Security Council's draft resolution, which was an incredible turnaround for West Germany, it joins France, which continues to abstain on such occasions. We are therefore left in a conspicuous and damaging position. We stand alone in relation to our European partners. Would the Minister tell me how we are going to relate to our European partners in our approach to South Africa from now on? It seems to me that probably the most powerful and effective way in which we can put pressure on the South African regime is by taking more and more serious and effective action in Europe. But we are now getting out of step with our European partners and neighbours on this very difficult issue.

Perhaps I may leave noble Lords with those two questions which I should like to address to the Minister. If the Government are taking some time to make up their mind as to what positive action they can take, I hope that at least I may congratulate the Churches and warmly praise the initiative of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in sending the Bishop of Lichfield on this visit. That at least shows in one section of our community a firm commitment and resolve to see things change in South Africa.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, we are indebted to my noble friend Lord Hatch of Lusby for once again drawing our attention to the continuing crisis in South Africa. Here, as in other areas, there are limits to what we as a country can do to resolve the enormous problems which exist. Because of our long association we still feel a sense of responsibility and probably a sense of guilt for what occurs there.

My noble friend has said what action he thinks the Government should take. It is on the action which should properly be taken by the British Government that a sharp difference of opinion exists between the Government and the Opposition, all Opposition parties and many right reverend Prelates, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. There appears to be no division on the attitudes towards apartheid, as many speakers have said. The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and other Ministers, including the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, have condemned apartheid time and time again in unequivocal terms. The Foreign Secretary repeated this condemnation in the debate on South Africa in another place on 29th February on a Motion in his name which ended by referring to: the aim of bringing the repugnant apartheid system to an end and establishing a non-racial, representative system of government."—[Official Report, Commons, 29/2/88; col. 674.] Furthermore, the Foreign Secretary has also strongly criticised the recent repressive actions of the South African Government. It is these measures by that government and the inevitable response to them which has escalated the crisis to a new level of merciless government intolerance. We should remember that the National Party and even more extreme elements in South Africa have always argued that they preserve civilised values in southern Africa where they say they are menaced by ignorance, by anti-Christ and by communism. If Archbishop Tutu criticises them he is branded as a tool of communism and of the Soviet Union. He and other churchmen, black and white, of all denominations who publicly criticise the government's policies are excoriated, defamed and often thrown into gaol.

We should not be surprised, for many of us in all parts of the House have believed and said that the cycle of violence would continue and grow unless genuine practical steps were taken by the government to move towards the non-racial representative system of government advocated by Sir Geoffrey Howe in his speech last month. I recall our debate here on the report of the Eminent Persons Group which was referred to by my noble friend Lord Hatch. I recall the speech made then by the noble Lord, Lord Barber, who was a member of that group. If that report, which had widespread international support, had been received constructively by Mr. Botha, there might be a different story to tell today. But the group was snubbed by Mr. Botha and their report destroyed when his government made deliberate military incursions into the front line states. They dealt with the report as Attila the Hun might have received the Sermon on the Mount.

For such a government to pretend that they believe in an independent judiciary, in academic and press freedom and in other manifestations of a civilised society is a farce. They dealt the final blow to freedom of association on 24th February when they commanded the 17 opposition organisations to cease all activity. It was as a result of this that Archbishop Tutu and others set up the Committee for the Defence of Democracy which was again banned on 12th March.

What about the South African judiciary? They had and still have some respected judges who defended their independence and defended the separation of powers. The trial of the Sharpeville Six has put them very much to the test. My noble friend and other noble Lords have dealt with this case and I shall not go into detail tonight, save to say that the High Court judge who ordered a stay of execution pending an application for a new trial shows that there are men of integrity on the Bench in South Africa even today, because this was a significant gesture of judicial independence. But more needs to be done to recreate confidence in the Bench. The next few weeks and months will be crucial.

Again, on the academic front, freedom is being progressively curbed. The universities are being told that there must be no politics on the campus or there will be no money for the universities. Press freedom, as we know, is a thing of the past and we now understand that the newspapers which have annoyed the government, despite the existing censorship, may be closed down. One of these is the Roman Catholic New Nation whose editor has been locked up over the last 12 months.

Finally, the emergency powers which were imposed in June 1986 seem now to have a permanent aspect. It is a depressing story from start to finish. It is depressing because we know that when governments try to hold back the tide of history, they end up in a far worse case than if they work hard to find just solutions. I am sure that noble Lords will agree with me that a solution seems very much further away today than it did as recently as when the Eminent Persons Group produced their report.

We are told that Mr. Botha must placate his Right-wing, but that will get South Africa nowhere. In its words and actions this Right-wing is as unpleasant and nasty a group as I have seen for a very long time. Is it not far more important that Mr. Botha should look towards the 25 million black South Africans who are excluded from Parliament? For repression sweeps away moderation. The moderate black leaders who would participate in democratic procedures will be weakened. Mr. Mbeki who was released from prison has been banned. Mr. Nelson Mandela who could have provided a bridge to a settlement is still in gaol. It is a monstrous misjudgment by the South African Government. If Kerensky is disposed of, then Lenin and Stalin may be lurking somewhere. Where will Mr. Botha and his people be then?

What should we do in these grim circumstances? We believe that the Government's weak reaction to the sanctions proposals is totally unacceptable. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester said, the ritual condemnation is not enough. The time is past. The Government recognise that a grave and dangerous crime is being committed against humanity and they proceed with great solemnity to bind the defendant over to keep the peace.

I regret to say that the position of the Government is also ambivalent. After all, the Prime Minister has accepted the principle of sanctions when she agreed to apply them to krugerrands at the Commonwealth summit at Nassau, and when the Government applied sanctions towards other countries with the support of my noble friends and of the other Opposition parties. It is a sad state of affairs, and the arguments that sanctions would be ineffective and that black Africans do not want them or that they would be harmed by them are not sustainable.

Black Africans want action which will bring apartheid to an end, and what they are ready to sacrifice is a matter for them, not for us. What indeed would the British people have said in 1938 if they had been told, "Well, you must not be called upon to sacrifice. You should not be prepared to sacrifice"? What would we have said at that time and what would have been the consequences of that? We must try to understand the attitudes and the feelings of the black South Africans at this time.

The Prime Minister and her colleagues have from the start taken a determined stand against what we would call effective and meaningful sanctions. In the debate on 29th February to which I have referred, Sir Geoffrey Howe condemned the South African Government in the clearest and most unequivocal terms. He said: South Africa is not the only country where there is racial discrimination, but South Africa claims to be a part of Western society and to share Western democratic values. Yet, tragically, South Africa is the only country which has institutionalised racial discrimination at almost every level of society … Instead of moving forward, the South African Government now seems to be moving backwards".—[Official Report, Commons, 29/2/88; cols. 675–676.] Here we are at one with the Foreign Secretary and we support every word he said. It is when we come to the action which we believe should be taken in response to these policies that we regrettably part company. The Foreign Secretary condemned violence and we can join him there too. But violence is the inevitable consequence of the policies and actions of the South African Government.

The Government say that sanctions would stiffen resistance and worsen the cycle of violence and repression, undermine the economy of South Africa and the economies of neighbouring front line states. I agree that these are arguments which must be weighed in the balance. But when black South African organisations like the ANC, neighbouring front line states, the Commonwealth and most of our EC partners call for sanctions as the only remaining action short of force which can influence the South African Government to change course, I believe the time is overdue for the Government to act decisively.

The established Church in this country has made its position plain and the Government should pay heed. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester is an admirable advocate for his Church. The Bishop of Lichfield is now in South Africa on behalf of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. He joined with 18 other bishops in declaring that; they would not be deterred, by threats and accusations, from obeying God who in the last resort has a higher claim to our allegiance than any kings, princes or Presidents". That is the spirit which will ultimately prevail in South Africa.

8.43 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, the House will already be familiar with the Government's views on the complex and challenging problems facing South Africa and the South African region. But it can do no harm whatever to restate them again.

At the heart of all those problems lies the awful system of apartheid. Our position on that is quite clear. It is repugnant, it is a blatant abuse of human rights and it must go. To that extent it certainly is our business, to use the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby.

Like the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, we too have acknowledged the reforms which the South African Government have made in the past. But while President Botha himself has acknowledged that apartheid is outmoded, the basic institutionalised structures of apartheid remain intact. The system continues to be based on fundamental racial discrimination.

As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made clear in another place on 25th February, we utterly condemn the restrictions announced by the South African Government on 24th February against most of the leading extra-parliamentary political groups in South Africa and against certain leading political figures. The South African Government's new measures are a ban on legitimate peaceful political activity by many of those, both black and white, working by peaceful means for an end to apartheid. They are a further move towards silencing all those who speak out against apartheid.

We have sought hard to change the South African Government's mind. My right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs issued a Statement as soon as he heard the news. My right honourable friend the Minister of State at the Foreign Office summoned the South African Ambassador on 25th February. Our ambassador in Cape Town has made clear our views to the Government there.

We reject the South African Government's claim that these measures are necessary to: ensure the safety of the public". They are measures of repression. Like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester we are also profoundly concerned at subsequent actions of the South African Government against senior South African Church leaders, whose spiritual calling has led them to oppose apartheid.

We have recently witnessed yet another backward step. Only this week we learnt of the suspension of the leading Catholic newspaper, The New Nation. We deplore this action. The South African Government are removing basic freedoms from the majority of their fellow citizens, the freedoms of speech and expression.

All these measures are a recipe for despair among black South Africans. They are steps away from dialogue. The South African Government must realise that despair can only strengthen opposition to their policies. It will not lead to acquiescence—rather the risk is that it will breed violence. We urge the South African Government to think again, not only because their acts are unjust but because they threaten the future well-being of South Africa, and of all South Africans.

We wish to see apartheid ended by peaceful means. That was the theme of everyone who spoke in the debate. We are right to react with revulsion to apartheid and to wholly unacceptable acts by the South African Government. But, as the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, said, only South Africans themselves can find a solution to their country's problems. Change will not come until those in power in South Africa accept the need for it.

We are all frustrated when we look at what is happening there. Outsiders cannot impose solutions. But we are right to try to help the people of that country meet the challenge. What is needed above all is a genuine national dialogue between their Government and free and freely chosen leaders of the black community.

The most effective means so far identified of getting such a process started remains the "possible negotiating concept" of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group to which the noble Lords, Lord Hatch and Lord Cledwyn, referred. That concept is based on initial reciprocal and matching commitments by both sides. It calls for the unbanning of the ANC and other political parties. But we are now seeing intensification of proscription even of peaceful activity.

I can assure the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, that we are doing what we can to dissuade the South African Government from silencing the opposition. We are urging them to come to the negotiating table. Our policy is one of pressure and persuasion. The restrictive measures that we have adopted are an integral part of that policy. That is why we have been scrupulous in implementing them. They are designed to bring home to the South African Government the need for change.

The measures now total 15. They include a rigorously enforced arms' embargo, a ban on oil exports to South Africa, a ban on military cooperation of all kinds, voluntary bans on new investment and the promotion of tourism and a ban on the import of South African iron and steel. These are substantial measures and they have indeed helped us emphasise to the South African Government our belief in the need for urgent changes. But restrictive measures do not in themselves constitute a viable policy. Their effects are limited. To impose more in present circumstances would not improve the prospects for political change.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, very largely rests his case on his conclusion that sanctions are the cure-all for the South African problem. Others picked up that theme. Punitive economic sanctions, which many call for, are certainly not the answer. They would not promote peaceful change. They would be a catalyst for violence. They would stiffen those in the white community who oppose change. They would damage those whom we are trying to help—namely blacks. But the fact is that they simply would not work.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, suggested that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister had accepted the principle of sanctions. The Government have recognised the need for sending signals, such as the krugerrands issue, to the South African Government on the need for change. But we do not accept punitive sanctions which would hurt those we wish to help and which would prolong the conflict. We are outraged at the policies of the South African Government. But it is useless to adopt policies which would make matters still worse. Comprehensive mandatory sanctions are not the answer.

In answer to the noble Lords, Lord Hatch, Lord Stewart and Lord Pitt of Hampstead, perhaps I may say that it is a fact that the South African Government have demonstrated their readiness to defy the rest of the world. That situation has come about in part as a result of previous sanctions. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord St. John, with all of his direct experience of that part of the world, when he says that sanctions would make South Africa's problems harder to solve. How could isolation of South Africa, economic warfare in the region, a declining economy, deepening misery for all races—in short, the consequences of punitive sanctions—possibly change minds among whites and promote the constituency which favours change? Sanctions would deepen the gulf dividing the races in South Africa. I give way to the right reverend Prelate.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the Minister. However, it is difficult to follow the logic of the argument that certain measures adopted by Her Majesty's Government are said to have been sending signals to Pretoria and at the same time any further sanctions will he counterproductive. What makes one course productive and the other counterproductive? I do not follow that.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I think that the question which the right reverend Prelate must answer when he promotes the idea of further sanctions is whether or not the sanctions will do what he wants them to do. All the experience we have gained from sanctions which have already been applied tells us that they have done the reverse. They have strengthened the resolve of certain elements in South Africa. They have demonstrated to the rest of the world that the South African Government are ready to defy the rest of the world. There is nothing to suggest that they would not continue to do that. They would defy any action which the Government may take, if we were to go down the road suggested by the right reverend Prelate.

Our approach must remain positive. Instead of punishing ordinary South Africans for the sins of a government in which they have no say, we shall continue with our major programme of direct assistance to the black community. We are taking a lead in helping to educate black South Africans to escape the difficult present and progress towards a more promising future. We are also among the leaders in our programmes of economic and security assistance to the neighbouring states, as the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, would have us do. We are working to reduce the economic and transport dependence of the region on South Africa. Our activity in that area is widely recognised and it is welcomed elsewhere in Africa.

The noble Lords, Lord Stewart and Lord Pitt, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, asked the same question: what kind of persuasion would we have and what kind of harvest would it reap? I must say that there is no panacea and it will be a long haul. However, we shall keep working for progress in South Africa. Whatever the South African Government may do, there are many South Africans on all sides who are showing themselves receptive to new ideas. Now more than ever they need our support. We have a role in building bridges, easing conflict and promoting dialogue. The important work of our embassy and our ambassador in South Africa is essential in that.

We shall keep up the pressure. We shall continue to condemn apartheid. We shall continue to condemn repression. We shall continue to condemn abuses of free speech and human rights. We shall continue to use our contacts with the South African Government to press on them the need for fundamental change. There is an important job to be done both by Ministers and officials in London and by our ambassador in South Africa.

The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, asked about our role in Europe. We shall keep in close contact with our EC partners and with the Commonwealth. We shall continue to examine together how we can work for peaceful change. Above all, we shall continue to seek to persuade the white community in South Africa that change is in their own interests. I think that point was well made by the noble Lord, Lord St. John. We shall press for the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, and for an end to the ban on the ANC and other political parties in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides.

We shall continue to take every opportunity to make known our opposition to actions which infringe the sovereignty of neighbouring countries or further destabilise the region. We shall call for a peaceful settlement in Angola and Namibia through the withdrawal of all foreign forces in the region. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, that we remain committed to Security Council Resolution No. 435, which we helped to draw up in conjunction with our partners in the western contact group. As evidence of our commitment, we voted for Resolution No. 601 on 30th October.

As regards the matter of SADF intervention in Angola, which the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, raised, South African intervention has played an important part in the fighting between FAPLA and UNITA. We have always condemned all cross-border incursions from whatever quarter. South Africa's actions constitute a flagrant violation of Angolan sovereignty.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He has given a long list of condemnations and promises to continue those condemnations. Does he not realise that during the whole course of those condemnations by the British Government the situation in South Africa for the non-Europeans has become steadily worse? Does he disagree with the report by the Eminent Persons Group which says that the removal of the threat of sanctions in itself defers change in South Africa?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I do not know how many times I must say it or whether I can say it in any different way. I have explained the policy of the Government on sanctions. We believe that they would be counterproductive. They would damage the very people whom the noble Lord is so keen to help. I do not think that he will be doing them a favour if he pursues that particular line of argument.

I accept that there is a very strong body of opinion which suggests that sanctions of the type which the noble Lord has proposed would be effective. I respect that point of view. But I must say in all sincerity to the noble Lord that we do not believe that they would produce the results which we all want. That is why I set out and shall further set out the procedures which we believe arc most likely to bring about change.

The right reverend Prelate referred to the question of President Botha's decision to halt the trial of six soldiers for the murder of Shifidi. I can say that I have seen the reports. I understand that lawyers are pressing for the trial to be continued. It is certainly important that those responsible should be brought to justice.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, raised the matter of Zola Budd. I listened most carefully to the noble Lord and, as he requested, I shall consider the situation he described. I should like to consult my honourable friend the Minister for Sport and, if I may, I shall write to the noble Lord and place a copy in the Library.

As for the detention of trade unionists to which the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, referred, I say simply that we condemn all detentions without charge in South Africa and we condemn all such abuses of human rights. We have made our views on that matter perfectly plain to the South African Government.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

My Lords, will the Minister allow me to intervene? What I really wanted to know was, since the banning of trade union leaders is an obstacle to the sort of progress that he has in mind, what solution the Government have for unlocking that door. That is the real question.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, we have not done the banning, nor are we responsible for the detentions. That is a matter for the South African Government. By condemning it in the way that we have we hope that a gradual understanding will dawn upon the minds of the South African Government that what they are doing is counter-productive.

Perhaps I may briefly refer to the question of the Sharpeville Six case, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. We shall continue to follow the case of the six closely and with concern.

The South African Government claim to uphold Western values. On 15th March South African radio said: The present South African state is committed to the values of the Western, Judaeo-Christian civilisation …". I say to your Lordships and to the South African Government tonight that their recent actions—which we deplore—are contrary to those values they claim to espouse. Their actions are anti-democratic, anti-libertarian, and anti-human rights. It is no accident that the South African Government are at odds with most of the Churches. Opposition to apartheid will continue to be voiced inside and outside South Africa, until it is abolished.

Anyone in South Africa who continues to believe in white supremacy must be sure of this: apartheid will be ended. It can be ended peacefully or by violence. We want to see peaceful change. We urge the South African Government and the white community as a whole to recognise and to accept that this can only be achieved if they are prepared to negotiate with genuine leaders of the black community. The alternative is conflict.

House adjourned at three minutes past nine o'clock.