§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
Following the exchanges at Question time yesterday, I ask your permission, Mr. Speaker, to make a statement.
To put the issue of Her Majesty's Government's objectives in relation to Rhodesia beyond doubt, I should make it clear once again that the purpose of the economic measures we have undertaken is to bring Rhodesia at the earliest possible moment back to the paths of constitutional Government. These measures are harsh, they will involve hardship, but the Government consider that quick and effective measures will involve less suffering than a long-drawn-out agony. They are aimed also at minimising the dangers, which are all too obvious, that if Her Majesty's Government's measures are not believed to be effective others will seek a speedy solution by the use of methods which we would abhor.
We must now leave the measures to work themselves out, but at the same time we are examining with others concerned the question of oil sanctions, provided this is multilateral in application, for only multilateral action is, in our view, likely to be effective.
Economic measures are likely to bring about the desired effect in Rhodesia when, and only when, hardships of continuing illegal action are felt to outweigh fears of what may happen when illegal action is brought to an end. It is those fears which led to illegal action, but Mr. Smith never sought to find out whether even the present unrepresentative electorate felt that their fears justified illegal action. He never put his plans to the test of a democratic election or referendum. He had no mandate for the actions of 11th November.
770 Even so, within that limited electorate, though much less outside it, there has been and is a continuing fear that the renunciation of illegal independence would be followed, perhaps within days, by the introduction of ill-prepared majority rule. This is not our policy, as was made clear in my statement to the Rhodesian people in Salisbury on 30th October—and I quote that statement:Given time, I repeat given time, I think that working on these same lines, I think this problem can be solved and a basis found for Rhodesia's independence acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole—for on that we, no less than our predecessors, must insist. … Time to recognise that it is not a simple choice between two extreme courses, between an illegal assertion of independence today, or an African majority tomorrow or next week. Rhodesia—and I say this with deep conviction and with all the emphasis at my command—is not faced with these stark alternatives. There are other courses open to us and they need to be examined, canvassed and assessed—not dismissed out of hand through letting impatience and fear take command.That is still our position. It is now for the Rhodesian people, through His Excellency the Governor, to make clear their desire to return to their allegiance and the rule of law.
As I have made clear from 11th November onwards, Mr. Smith, like any other private person in Rhodesia, is free to make representations to the Governor. If the Governor, in his discretion, forwards any such submission to Her Majesty's Government, it will be considered.
In particular, as and when the illegal régime indicates to the Governor their acceptance of the need for a return to constitutional methods, Her Majesty's Government will be glad to welcome such assurances, and in particular any proposals for dealing with the mechanics of returning to constitutional rule.
What I must make clear is that Her Majesty's Government are not prepared, directly or through the Governor, to enter into negotiations with Mr. Smith on any basis which involves dealing with an illegal régime, or on any conditions, other than procedure conditions, for a return to constitutional methods. I offered to the then Rhodesian Government, even on the morning of 11th November, clear and far-reaching proposals for Rhodesian independence, subject to their proved acceptability to the Rhodesian people as a whole, a condition on which successive 771 Governments in this country have insisted; that was an offer to a legally constituted Government.
But we cannot negotiate with an illegal régime, particularly one which has perverted, distorted and misused the 1961 Constitution in a sense not intended by its authors or the British Parliament, when that Constitution was approved, and which has introduced in Rhodesia police-state methods repugnant, not only to the spirit of the 1961 Constitution and to the standards always laid down by this House when we have granted independence to dependent British territories, but repugnant to all civilised standards. We cannot negotiate with these men, nor can they be trusted, after the return to constitutional rule, with the task of leading Rhodesia in the paths of freedom and racial harmony.
Mr. Smith has it in his power to end the hardships which his illegal action has brought on his country. He can end these hardships by an approach to the Governor. He cannot, however, dictate terms to the Governor, nor can he now be treated—as he was treated until 11.15 a.m. on 11th November—as the leader of the Rhodesian people.
He must accept the utter determination of Her Majesty's Government and of this Parliament to continue, and if necessary intensify, the measures necessary to induce Rhodesia to return to constitutional rule. He must recognise that the sooner he, or in his default the Rhodesian people, act the less will be the sufferings of the Rhodesian people and the easier the task of economic and political reconstruction. As soon as Rhodesia returns to constitutional paths we shall relax and remove the economic measures we have introduced—if not literally within the hour, as quickly as possible. The longer this moment is delayed the greater the suffering, the greater the tasks of economic reconstruction, the greater the dangers of outside intervention and of conflict in Africa.
I repeat, Sir, we seek no conclusion in Rhodesia except an honourable return to constitutional rule. On this we must insist. For this Government, for any Government of this country, there can be no turning back until Rhodesia has returned to constitutional rule. Once 772 that is achieved, with malice toward none, with no recrimination, in no punitive spirit, we shall seek to achieve peace and security in Rhodesia, on the basis of the five principles set out in the published declarations of this Government and our predecessors, the principles which have throughout inspired the approach of successive British Governments and of this House throughout these past months and years.
§ Mr. Heath
Is the Prime Minister aware that in his statement on 23rd November he dealt with this question of the approach to Rhodesia and the future of Rhodesia very clearly and without any qualification whatever? Will the Prime Minister recall the words thatas soon as the people of Rhodesia are prepared to return to constitutional paths, as soon as the Governor feels that there is an opportunity of, perhaps, forming a Government among those who will act in a constitutional manner, we would want to deal with those people, without any recrimination or any rancour a,bout the past. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1965; Vol. 721, c. 258–9.]Was it not those words which the Lord Chancellor quoted in another place, saying that it wasopen to Mr. Smith, now, to put before the Government any proposals"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 7th December, 1965; Vol. 271, c. 131.]and these proposals would be most carefully considered by the Government?
Has not the Prime Minister's statement today introduced in fact considerable confusion into the position rather than clarifying the position? Is not this an attempt to reconcile what he himself had previously stated, absolutely clearly and without reservation, and which the Lord Chancellor repeated, with what his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations said in the House the other night? Would it not have been better for the Prime Minister to have adhered absolutely clearly and firmly to his original statement, which the Lord Chancellor and other members of the Government have endorsed? Is not the Prime Minister saying in fact in his statement today that, far from being able to put forward any proposals which would be carefully considered by the Government, Mr. Smith and any member of the illegal regime can only put forward something about the mechanics of how the future of Rhodesia can be governed, how 773 it would take place, and that in fact thereafter the British Government are not prepared to deal with any single member of the existing illegal régime, where the Prime Minister says "We cannot negotiate with these men, nor can they be trusted." That is the attempt to reconcile what the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations said the other night.
Does not the Prime Minister really believe that by making this dogmatic statement, which has now gone back on what he previously said, he will in fact only indicate to these people that what is required from each and every one of them is unconditional surrender or else no progress can be made?
§ The Prime Minister
I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman will want time to study very carefully the statement I have made. It reached him only a few minutes before I rose. I hope that, as on other occasions, when he has had time to study it and to consult his colleagues, whatever his first feelings, he will recognise that we are now at a very serious turning point in our whole history, if not in the history of the world, and that he will feel able to associate himself with what I have said. I do not ask him for an answer about that today. I will answer his points in a moment.
As to the statements I have made, what I have just said is absolutely clear. Mr. Smith is perfectly free to come to the Governor. What we are not prepared for him to do is to have him dictate terms to us, terms unacceptable to the House, terms which have always been unacceptable. His only approach to the Governor which I am aware of involved him saying that of course he is prepared to negotiate the ending of U.D.I. with us, on the basis of their getting independence on their terms, terms which throughout have been rejected by this House. He has said, for example, that he will end the illegal régime provided that he continues to have independence on exactly the same terms. We are not accepting that, and I am sure that the House—in fact I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman—would not accept it.
So far as the statements made in this House are concerned, although I always believed that Mr. Smith negotiated in good faith, it is a fact that he has gone 774 back on a number of the things he said—and nothing more serious than one I must report to the House. The whole situation has been transformed by this declaration—this fraudulent declaration—of a state of emergency under which Rhodesia is being turned into a police State. Mr. Smith got that—he got the Governor's signature to it—on the eve of U.D.I. with a categorical assurance to the Governor that this was not a preparation for U.D.I. Then immediately afterwards, having got the powers, he claimed that they were legal for the operation of U.D.I. This fully justified the statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations the other evening; and, if it does not fit the views of the Parliamentarily squeamish, it fits the facts.
On the second point made by the right hon. Gentleman—that the dogmatic statement, as he put it, that I have just made will unite all the Rhodesians in favour of U.D.I.—this is wrong. We are hearing—I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is hearing—of very many people in Rhodesia who want to get back to constitutional rule. I believe that a majority want to get back to constitutional rule, because Mr. Smith never had a mandate for this. He never took a mandate for illegal action. He never sought one. He did not dare ask for one. Most of the people who are in that position are saying to us, as I hope they are saying to the right hon. Gentleman, that they want the measures to be quick and effective and that they want there to be no haggling and no terms with the illegal régime.
If there is one thing that is prolonging illegal rule in Rhodesia—I had this many times by implication from Mr. Smith himself before 11th November, and there is a lot of evidence of it—it is his vain belief, because he has an enormous capacity for self-delusion, that this House is not united. He has a vain belief that a small number of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway who attend meetings arranged, as we now know, under Fascist auspices—I am sure they did not intend to do that—that these are the voice of Britain. Further, there have been doubts, though the right hon. Gentleman when he has had time to consider these problems, has, I think, given very fair support to our position, because of some 775 of the questions the right hon. Gentleman has raised, as to whether this country is united in these measures. I hope that the declaration I have made this morning can, after consideration, get the support of the whole House, because then the Rhodesian people as well as the British people will know where they stand.
§ Mr. Heath
May I ask the Prime Minister whether he recognises that the great majority of this House has given support to the measures which the Government have taken and that this has been plain to the world as a whole? Does he recognise that nobody is suggesting for a moment that the British Government should be dictated to in negotiations by Mr. Smith or by anybody else? That is not really the question. Further, does he recognise that the whole House abhors the aspects of the police State which have been and which are being introduced into Rhodesia today? That is abhorrent to the whole British people.
The fact is that the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations knew what was happening under the emergency powers, but the Prime Minister also knew when he made his statement on 23rd November. What I would say to the Prime Minister is that the whole House can unite behind the statement which he made on 23rd November that those who come forward from whatever source to make a negotiation on the constitutional future of Rhodesia will be negotiated with. On that we can all unite, but not on the sort of statement he has made this morning, in those particular aspects—[Interruption.]—let me finish the sentence and make clear which aspects—when he says that none of these men who are apparently at the moment associating with Mr. Smith can be dealt with, either personally or together, nor can they take any part in the political life of Rhodesia afterwards. That is what he has in fact said.
§ The Prime Minister
A lot of what the right hon. Gentleman said is perfectly fair. I know that he recognises that we are discussing this matter against a very difficult world background. We have made it clear that we are not going to be pushed around in relation to what we think to be right, by resolutions or by extreme statements made by other countries, even Commonwealth countries. We 776 have made that clear. I know the right hon. Gentleman realises the very urgent situation in the world at this time and we have got to look at these things against that background. I am sure he recognises that.
I am glad the right hon. Gentleman accepted that we cannot be dictated to by this régime. I am suggesting that we cannot discuss with them the basis on which they are prepared to drop an illegal act. They must drop the illegal act. I believe the majority of white people in Rhodesia, even within the limited white electorate, want the illegality to be dropped as quickly as possible. But if we are going to have this haggling that we had before, these arguments about entrenched clauses, when we now know that they were negotiating in bad faith, when U.D.I. was already decided, when we know that despite their assurances about the 1961 Constitution they never meant to work the 1961 Constitution, that is why I say that we cannot negotiate with them now the basis of independence.
I do not think these people can be trusted to bring Rhodesia, in the much more bitter atmosphere that followed events of the last few weeks, into harmony and constitutional rule in the future. The fact that they have twisted the Constitution in the way that they have and have introduced a police State—and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman today, not for the first time, was categorical about that—means that they are not people who can be trusted with this job. The only basis on which Mr. Smith is prepared to call off independence is on his terms. When we have a return to constitutional rule we shall then need more urgently than ever to seek the views of the Rhodesian people on the next steps, on the path forward to fulfil the five principles; and whether we do it by a constitutional conference, as proposed by the Prime Minister's conference, whether by a Royal Commission, this is a matter that we shall have to consider against the background.
Whatever method of consultation is taken, we shall want to seek the views of any leaders of the Rhodesian front who are prepared to seek a return to constitutional rule. Mr. Smith, although a private person, is the leader of a great political party there, and certainly his 777 views will be sought. But as to entrusting to them, to that Government or to that Parliament, the conduct of restoration and reconstruction of affairs in Rhodesia—I think this would be absolutely intolerable. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be just as categorical and will say that he is not prepared to deal with Mr. Smith while he is in an illegal position, or to hand to these people who have so betrayed their trust and promises the responsibility for a harmonious and multi-racial Rhodesia.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the statement he has made today will be received with dismay by those Rhodesians who have been hoping that negotiations might have been reopened? Will the right hon. Gentleman explain, if he does not regard Mr. Smith as the leader of Rhodesia, how he is going to negotiate with a quarter of a million individuals at second hand through the Governor? Will he take this opportunity of furthering the hope that negotiations could be reopened by taking the step of renouncing his letter to Dr. Mutasa which bedevilled the recent negotiations and which is a major difficulty in reopening them?
§ The Prime Minister
It never bedevilled them at all. [Interruption.] I happen to know. I have done what no Minister has ever done before. I have published all the exchanges, knowing that some hon. Member would want to go through them with a fine tooth comb and find a split infinitive. The hon. Gentlernan has done very well.
That was the basis—that was mentioned—in some of the angry letters that I was getting before last Christmas. After my meeting with him on the day of Sir Winston Churchill's funeral this was discussed, and so were some absolutely unacceptable statements of his, including the statement that there would be no majority rule in his lifetime—for 150 years, he said. From then on we negotiated on the basis of the five principles. None of those points that the hon. Gentleman mentioned were thought worthy of mentioning either by Mr. Smith or myself after 30th January.
As to the hon. Gentleman's point about this being greeted with dismay by those who want to see negotiations, we really cannot go on from the point where we 778 broke off on 11th November. There was a perfectly clear offer and many people thought that I went too far in what I offered on that occasion. I was concerned to avoid all the horrors of U.D.I. for Rhodesia, Africa and the world. That was not taken. It is now clear that what he said to me that morning was not said in good faith. It was widely believed in Rhodesia that Mr. Smith voted against U.D.I. in the final Cabinet decisions. If this is so, it is to his credit. It would have been more to his credit if he had gone to the Governor and formed a new Government. What he says now is, "What we negotiated for we will now get, and we will get it by illegal means." We must get a return to constitutional rule, and we will then deal with people in Rhodesia who can be trusted.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
As to the eventual solution, as soon as conditions make it possible, will the Prime Minister do everything he can to see that the white Rhodesians meet white Kenyans and learn from them at first hand that it is possible to have a multi-racial community living peacefully under a black majority Government?
§ The Prime Minister
I think that is a very good point. My hon. Friend referred to it in the debate on 12th November and the message from these very distinguished white Kenyan citizens was published just before I went to Salisbury. I drew Mr. Smith's attention to it, because there is great ignorance in Rhodesia as to what does go on in the countries to the north. I suggested that he should send some representative Rhodesian citizens who have these anxieties—and I do not underrate the genuine depths of those anxieties—that they should go to Kenya and discuss the problems with the settlers there. I hope it will be possible. But the situation is more terribly embittered since even the time when my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) made his speech in this House, but I hope it will be followed up.
§ Mr. Hastings
Is it true that the Prime Minister has had verbal messages, through the Commonwealth Relations Office, from the Governor and Mr. Smith this week indicating clearly that negotiations can and should begin? If this is so, what can be the point of prevaricating?
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman will always be given in this House the authority which his standing deserves, which is a good deal less than the authority that he is given in Rhodesia. It is not true that the Governor has this week communicated either with the Commonwealth Relations Office or myself saying that negotiations are possible. It is true that a little earlier Mr. Smith indicated that he would be prepared to call off U.D.I. if we would give independence on the same terms as those on which U.D.I. was declared. This is unacceptable.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I understood the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) charged the Prime Minister with prevaricating. If I heard him aright the hon. Member should withdraw the word.
§ Mr. Hastings
Mr. Speaker, I did not accuse the Prime Minister of prevaricating. What I suggested was that if this story were true, not to begin negotiations would constitute prevarication. That I did say.
§ Mr. Speaker
I hope the hon. Gentleman will note what I said. It is quite in order for him to accuse the Prime Minister of inaccuracy or foolish statements or impolitic statements. It is not in order for an hon. Member of this House to accuse another hon. Member of prevarication and I hope the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the word "prevaricating".
§ Mr. Thorpe
May I ask the Prime Minister three questions? Could he give the House a little more information about what is meant by the procedural matters upon which he would be prepared to have discussions with Mr. Smith? Secondly, does he not agree that it is vitally important to spell out the sort of machinery which Her Majesty's Government would like to see set up for negotiations? Has he considered the possibility, for example, of a Crown Council being appointed by the Governor consisting of persons with whom we could negotiate to form a caretaker ad- 780 ministration which would presumably need a reform of the 1961 Constitution?
Finally, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the statement that Her Majesty's Government are utterly determined that this illegal régime will not succeed is a vital ingredient for encouraging those Europeans and Africans in Rhodesia who have the courage to stand up to this illegal régime and, we hope, overthrow it?
§ The Prime Minister
By procedural matters, I meant, for example, certain problems of handing over responsibility, but above all it is right, if there were this approach, that Mr. Smith should indicate to the Governor that the command of the Armed Forces would pass into the hands of the Governor pending the establishment of constitutional government again, and some assurances should be given about the rôle of the police who are a para-military force and among whom there are strong Fascist elements, though I would not like to suggest that all or even the majority are of that persuasion.
On the question of machinery, obviously in the first instance it would mean direct rule by the Governor. The first responsibility would be that of the Governor. It would be for him, I think, to recommend to us, and we would have to decide quickly, whether he would have ad interim an executive council of the kind of people mentioned by the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe). All of us know that these exist and are only too anxious to make themselves known at the right moment and identify themselves with constitutional rule. As soon as possible after that, there will have to be consultations with all shades of opinion about the changes necessary in the 1961 Constitution, such as were mentioned in our discussions with Mr. Smith. These are now clearly necessary, particularly in relation to the protection of racial minorities and even racial majorities in Rhodesia. I think that the House will have to be more concerned about these aspects than we were on the basis of the assurances given by Mr. Smith and his colleagues.
Thirdly, on the question of the statement not succeeding and our having to continue our measures, I agree with the hon. Member that this is important, but 781 I press every hon. Member commenting on this, within the fullest freedom to criticise—and I hope that we shall have full criticism as we go along—to realise the effect of his words being amplified by the highly selective system of amplification represented by the methods of communication and public relations in Rhodesia.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
Will the Prime Minister say whether when the Commonwealth Secretary made his statement in the House he was aware of the views of the Lord Chancellor? Secondly, does the new policy enumerated in this present statement mean for Mr. Smith and his régime unconditional surrender?
§ The Prime Minister
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and I discussed these very issues earlier that very day. As for unconditional surrender, I have made the position plain in a statement earlier this week. If by unconditional surrender the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham) means that they are to surrender all that they have struggled for, including, for example, an assurance that there will be no ill-considered or ill-prepared majority rule, of course it does not mean unconditional surrender, and the more we can make this clear to them in Rhodesia the more quickly this business will end. If the hon. and learned Gentleman means that they must return to the paths of constitutional rule, there can be no half-measures about that, and I hope that there will be no dispute in the House about it. Certainly we cannot negotiate on the basis that, "We will do this for you if you agree to be legal." That is not the basis on which one can deal with illegal action.
§ Mr. Sandys
The Prime Minister has said several times, and we all agree with him, that the first step must be a return to constitutional rule, and he added in his statement today a return to their allegiance. It is very important that people in Rhodesia should know what is open to them and what is not open to them. Is it open to the people of Rhodesia, through the Governor, to return to the 1961 Constitution as it now stands without any frills or modifications 782 as a prelude to further negotiations on independence, when all these other points, such as the five principles and other matters, can be raised? Is it open to the people of Rhodesia to return, and know exactly where they stand, to the 1961 Constitution as it was before the declaration of independence?
§ The Prime Minister
A return to allegiance means that they must first accept the authority of the Governor, who is the Queen's representative, and not the authority of a usurper, Mr. Dupont, who is claiming to have legal authority in that country. It is difficult to forecast the exact conditions under which this will happen—and the right hon. Gentleman has envisaged a number of possibilities. My view is that at first there will be ad interim a period of direct power by the Governor with the help and advice of Rhodesians, I hope of all races, who will place their considerable experience at his disposal. There are a lot of ex-Ministers and others with experience.
During that period the 1961 Constitution will not be able to function because it can function only after we have a duly elected Parliament. It would not be possible for such a Government to work with the Parliament elected with a 100 per cent. Rhodesian Front membership committed to oppose the whole function of that Government. In all other aspects the 1961 Constitution would obviously remain. It will be then for them and for us, whether by constitutional conference or Royal Commission, to consider what amendments should be made in the 1961 Constitution for the purpose of getting full constitutional rule. I have indicated to the House the problems which we negotiated before with Mr. Smith without success. I am sure that we shall need now to entrench more strongly the provisions for human rights and minorities.
The 1961 Constitution will be the law in Rhodesia, but, of course, we have power to suspend and revoke, and we have done so on two aspects of human rights. We shall have to do that because we cannot have the Rhodesian Front giving orders to a Government of which it does not approve. Therefore, these things will have to be sorted out in the period of direct rule on the basis of the five principles, when we shall have to decide what amendments are to be made 783 to the 1961 Constitution, and these will have to come before this House and can be changed only by the authority of this House.
§ Mr. Sandys
It is terribly important to distinguish between conditions for a return to constitutional rule still as a Colony and the conditions which would be required for independence. The five principles have all been related to independence. Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that it is important to encourage all those who might wish to return to constitutional rule by letting them know exactly where they stand? The only clear basis on which they can be invited to return to constitutional rule is on the basis of the 1961 Constitution, with Rhodesia still a dependent territory, and then, as a second step, negotiations could be started for independence with another new Government. It is then, it seems to me, that the five conditions arise and not before. Otherwise nobody will come forward and wish to form a legal Government if they do not know on what basis they will be able to do so.
§ The Prime Minister
That is perfectly fair. The right hon. Gentleman understands the difficulties of saying how long the period of direct colonial rule would be while all this was being established. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why direct?"] Because in the first instance—it may be a matter of hours or days or longer, we do not know what the state of Rhodesia will be—there is first the question of the return to loyalty of the troops, the police and the rest. It may be that the Governor will be able to find a Government. Perhaps many of us on both sides of the House could almost suggest probable members, but I do not think that they would be able to form a Government if they felt that they had to sit in a Parliament with 100 per cent. membership from the Rhodesian Front making their task impossible. While agreeing in principle with the right hon. Gentleman, we have a problem to decide how quickly we can get the basis for new elections, and new elections which will more fairly represent the principles which we have to establish.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
My right hon. Friend referred to the people of Rhodesia. I wondered whether he was referring to the whole people of Rhodesia or whether 784 he indicated by that expression, as is sometimes indicated when some hon. Members use it, concern not for the people of Rhodesia as a whole but for the white minority only. Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it would be very unfortunate if the impression were to go out from the House that, in speaking of this subject, we were concerning ourselves mainly with the white minority and not with the people of Rhodesia as a whole? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the leaders of the people of Rhodesia are, in fact, in prison and, when he goes to the United Nations, he will there be facing an Assembly representative of the peoples of the world as a whole which consists of a multi-racial or coloured majority, and, in the circumstances——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. I take no exception to the substance of what he has said, but in questions on statements we must be fairly brief.
§ Mr. Jenkins
May I just finish this sentence, Mr. Speaker? In the circumstances, will not my right hon. Friend agree that, when he goes to the United Nations, he will wish to take a message from this House that we are concerned for the people of Rhodesia as a whole and not for a minority?
§ The Prime Minister
I use the expression "people of Rhodesia" in exactly the same way as it has always been used, under this Government and under the previous Government, as in the famous statement of the right hon. Gentleman the then Prime Minister in September, 1964 and many times by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), when they said that the terms of independence must be acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. I have never heard that phrase qualified by any right hon. Gentleman on either side of the House in terms of colour or race. That phrase meant what it said, and I hope that there will be no doubt about it outside the House, in the United Nations or anywhere else.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
The Prime Minister referred to the selective character of Rhodesian propaganda. Will he tell us whether his own broadcasts to Rhodesia are objective or more in the nature of psychological warfare, and may we have transcripts in the Library?
§ The Prime Minister
I have done only one broadcast to Rhodesia, and that was immediately after the illegal declaration of independence. Considerable steps were taken to see that it did not get heard in Rhodesia, but my information is that it did get heard by a number of people. I should be very happy to put in the Library the text of what I said in an interview on that occasion.
§ The Prime Minister
I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman means by the Government's broadcasts. The B.B.C. broadcasts, and the B.B.C. has made clear both as regards the new transmitter and its existing broadcasts that it will continue to broadcast on the basis which it has always followed, that is, to put an objective view on world affairs. It is important that the people of Rhodesia should hear the B.B.C.'s world news bulletin, which they used to do but which has been cut off, and that they should also receive some Rhodesian news. This will be in strict accordance with the high traditions of the B.B.C. in its overseas broadcasts, and it will not be used for what the hon. Gentleman calls psychological warfare or what in the last war were known as "black" activities—though that expression has other meanings now.
§ Mr. Rowland
Will my right hon. Friend take it that, in my view and that of many hon. Members, his statement today, while being admirably firm is also generous, in that it suggests a mode of honourable retreat to Mr. Smith? Will my right hon. Friend say what he thinks the prospects are for both his statement today and the statement by the Leader of the Opposition condemning the growing police State nature of Rhodesia getting through to Rhodesia?
§ The Prime Minister
I think that, with the broadcasting facilities now, more of what goes on in this country is being heard there, and, since my right hon. Friend made the Order outlawing the censorship powers which Mr. LardnerBurke assumed, the Rhodesian regime has, I think, been a bit easier on censorship. Although there is some censorship, I think it has been eased. Therefore, I 786 hope that everything said today by hon. and right hon. Members in all parts of the House will be reported as fully as possible in Rhodesia.
§ Sir H. Studholme
I am quite certain that every right hon. and hon. Member believes that the U.D.I. was wrong and that anyone who thinks, in 1965, that minority rule can continue indefinitely in Rhodesia must be living in a dream world, but I should like the right hon. Gentleman to answer this question. When he said in Rhodesia that majority rule could not come tomorrow or next week, what did he really mean, and what did he tell the Rhodesian Government, who must have asked him? Did he mean five years, ten years, or fifteen years? As I see it, that is the stumbling block.
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman has made a very fair point. What I was trying to indicate is that, whatever the hardships caused by the illegal declaration, and by our actions, people will not fight it if they fear still more the unknown which would follow the end of the illegal declaration. What I said to the Rhodesian Government and to the Rhodesian people in my broadcast, and what I said very plainly, and several times, to Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Sithole is that we could not agree to early majority rule. As regards time, the very point made by the hon. Gentleman, I said that time would have to be measured not by the clock or by the calendar, not by weeks or months or years, but by achievement, and the real test of achievement—I said this very, very bluntly to Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Sithole—would be the willingness of the African nationalists to work within Parliamentary conditions and to work within the existing Constitution, to get themselves elected to the House under the B roll or the A roll, and, one hopes—I pressed this on Mr. Smith—to get themselves accepted as members of the Government as Parliamentary Secretaries and as junior Ministers so as to gain experience not only in multi-racial Parliamentary activities but in multiracial Government activities.
Certainly, Her Majesty's Government—this is true of any party, I think—would require to be absolutely satisfied that there had been a long enough period, measured not in years but in achievement, before we could agree to majority 787 rule in Rhodesia. I have said this many times, and I hope that it is clearly understood, and the more it is understood among those who have, willingly or unwillingly, given their support to Mr. Smith, the sooner we shall see an end to illegal action.
§ Mr. Doughty
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that we want to get back, first of all, to as calm a situation as possible for negotiations to take place and that remarks such as that Mr. Smith is a liar and not to be trusted and the remark of Mr. Smith that the Prime Minister of this country is deceitful do not help negotiation? This country wants to get back to negotiation with someone who can negotiate in that country and bind its people for the future.
§ The Prime Minister
Mr. Smith and I spoke very frankly to one another—I certainly used the expression "police State" to him and he took it—but we did not get into the kind of epithets referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman. What led to the statement by my right hon. Friend the other night was the statement made by Mr. Smith, and repeated by an hon. Member opposite who, apparently, believes that Mr. Smith is the final expression of pure truth in this world, to the effect that he had heard from his intelligence sources that I had made certain remarks to Mr. Todd and certain remarks to someone else to whom I spoke. The statement of Mr. Smith was absolutely false. I have the whole record of my discussions with all these people, Garfield Todd, Roy Welensky, Mr. Nkomo, Mr. Sithole, Mr. Macdonald and the rest. I never said anything of the kind, and my right hon. Friend was present. I think that my right hon. Friend was rightly nettled by the fact that not only had Mr. Smith perpetrated such a falsehood, but that some hon. Members here should go on peddling that falsehood in this House. That is why my right hon. Friend used that phrase.
§ Mr. Molloy
Will not my right hon. Friend agree that there is grave danger of this fine examination of legal and constitutional points being interpreted by the leaders of other British Commonwealth African nations as a substitute for resolute action and that we in this 788 House may be leaning over backwards to accommodate an illegal regime? Might not this attitude in which we are involved this morning lead to the break-up of the British Commonwealth of Nations?
§ The Prime Minister
I have never leaned over backwards, but I have certainly leaned over forwards, and so did right hon. Gentlemen opposite, to try to get, as far as we can, an agreed policy in this House, despite the difficulties. In reply to the specific point made by my hon. Friend, I remind him that the detailed examination of legal and constitutional points such as those raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) is absolutely vital. What we need is a clear expression of principle and then the implementation and working out, as far as we can, by constitutional means of what those principles mean. We need both. Sometimes we have had more of one than the other. Sometimes we have concentrated on the principle to the exclusion of the constitutional points. I know that there are strong passions, and I have always understood the terrible strength of passions north of the Zambesi in Africa and the terrible pressures being put on this Government. I do not think that any Government have had to face such a cruel dilemma as we have had to face in this situation, but we have made clear where we stand both about the principles and the possible detailed machinery for giving effect to those principles.
§ Mr. Heath
No doubt there will be opportunities for further discussions about the details of the situation which may arise in regard to a return to constitutional rule. The importance of these exchanges is the influence that they may have on the people of Rhodesia. Will the Prime Minister, therefore, in the intervening stage give very careful consideration to one point that he made, that there will be a return for a period to direct rule? All the messages that I have had from those of moderate opinion in Rhodesia have indicated that any suggestion that there will be this period of direct rule would prevent people coming forward to support the moderate people in Rhodesia. It is, therefore, essential to make plain to them that it would be a transference straight away to constitutional rule even though 789 Parliament could be dissolved by the Governor and another Parliament elected. If the people of Rhodesia are ready for constitutional rule, the new Parliament would be a different one and it could be to the 1961 Constitution.
§ The Prime Minister
The period will be the very minimum necessary. It may he minutes, hours, days, or weeks. We might want to return to constitutional rule as quickly as possible, but there is the Parliamentary difficulty referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. Whether a group of people emerges willing to work the Constitution during the interim period as the Governor's executive advisers pending their appointment as a full Government depends on the circumstances, and how quick it would be before they became the Government would also depend on the circumstances. In the House we all share the desire for a return to constitutional rule as quickly as possible, and we all share the desire for getting into that Constitution the safeguards with regard to human rights and in other ways which are needed and are seen to be necessary.
§ Several hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The questioning has gone on longer than usual for a statement, but I think the House wanted it to on this important occasion. I must, however, protect the rights of hon. Members who have Motions down for today.