§ 4.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
This debate on Rhodesia now begins in rather unusual circumstances, both for the Opposition as a whole, for the House as a whole, and, indeed, for the spokesmen for the Opposition. I am sure that the Prime Minister will recognise—as he did in the 717 last part of his statement—how difficult a situation is created for the House by announcing before a major debate a major change in Government policy. It is certainly a change in Government policy—of that there can be no doubt—but it is one which we wholeheartedly welcome on this side—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—because it is one for which we have been pressing over a considerable time now.
It was our purpose in this debate to emphasise precisely the need for talks, because we could see the danger of a situation already tragic developing into catastrophe. It was apparent to us that the course set in London and Salisbury, until this announcement, was a disaster course fraught with very serious consequences for us in this country and for the whole of Africa. We hoped, therefore, and we are glad that our hopes have been so swiftly realised, that this chance would be taken, possibly at the eleventh hour, to start talking, which is the only logical alternative to fighting.
Thank heavens this chance has been taken. Indeed, it was with this in mind that we refrained from putting down an official Amendment to the Address on this subject. We did not want to do anything which, by forcing a Division, would make the Government's situation more rigid than it needed to be at a time when, quite clearly, flexibility, change and a willingness to take a new initiative were all important. Therefore, as I say, this debate takes place in a somewhat different situation from that which we had anticipated, but it is a change we wholeheartedly welcome.
Our argument on Rhodesia is that for some time past Her Majesty's Government have been pursuing policies leading the way down an increasingly dangerous path. And the dangers facing this country now, especially after the United Nations resolution and the invoking of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter are very considerable. I say this to emphasise the background to the need for talks and, even more important, the background to the need for people both in London and in Salisbury to understand that this is the last chance. Unless they can agree, and can make progress,a 718 tragedy will befall this nation, and many others as well.
We had, therefore, come to the conclusion that whether sanctions fail or succeed, whether the Rhodesian economy survives the impact of sanctions, or whether the Rhodesian economy is crushed by sanctions, sanctions alone are not a policy; they are half a policy. Sanctions merely designed to lead to the crushing of Rhodesia make no sense in the context of history. Sanctions designed as part of policy, with discussions going on hand in hand with the desire to reach agreement—this is the policy we wish to press on the Government.
We felt increasingly that the developments since the unilateral declaration of independence—and the present menace now surely apparent to all men of sense in Africa, Britain and elsewhere—should have created a situation in which people were prepared to talk without commitment; to talk with the sole objective in mind of reaching a solution in the true interests of Britain and in the true interests of all the peoples of Rhodesia.
Let us be clear on one thing: we on these benches have condemned the U.D.I. from the start. We thought that it was an act of great unwisdom, and we were convinced that it would bring serious consequences for Rhodesia, for Africa, for Britain, for the Commonwealth, and, tragically, up to now that assessment of the effects of U.D.I. has been borne out by events. On the other hand, we have been concerned at the growing way in which the Government have appeared to be pushed further and further, step by step, along a road that leads inevitably to the employment of force. That has been our great concern.
Stopping points have been mentioned from time to time, but each time the Government have called a halt at one point they have very shortly afterwards been pushed even further. In November, when the first measures were announced of the stopping of aid, removal from the sterling area, the stopping of tobacco and sugar imports, those were said to be enough—in November. But in December a wider embargo was introduced. In December, again, the oil embargo was introduced, and in January there were a number of further measures designed together to add up to a total exercise of 719 economic power against Southern Rhodesia.
I believe that it is increasingly clear that the Government misjudged the effects of those economic actions. If we look at the communiqué which was issued in Lagos in January, it is quite clear there that in the view of the Government these measures would bring what they called at the time the "rebellion" to an end within a matter of weeks rather than months.
Clearly, this expectation has been falsified, and it is against this background of the falsification of the Government's beliefs in the economic field that we should examine what the Government have done in invoking Chapter VII and in asking authority for the use of force against ships trying to run oil into Rhodesia. It is very important, despite the announcement this afternoon, to look at the situation that has been reached, because the consequences for the future, and the consequences for the future of the United Nations, are very considerable indeed.
There obviously was a change of policy in deciding to take an initiative in the United Nations under Chapter VII. The action which the Government took was not consistent with what the Prime Minister said on 21st December either about blockading Beira, or about the British Government not intending to take an initiative. The Government changed their mind, and I do not understand why they do not say so. It is perfectly open and proper for Governments to change their mind if they think that the national interest demands it, but I think that when they have changed their mind they should make clear that they have done so, and give the reasons for their doing so.
I want to curtail my remarks this afternoon, in view of the new development, but I must make it clear that we on this side do not accept that the reasons put forward for invoking Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter are by any means convincing. We do not believe that this long train of tankers bringing supplies to Rhodesia would have materialised, in the light of what we know about the policies of the Governments both of the shipowning countries and the oil-producing countries, which are very important. We do not accept 720 that the limits of diplomacy had been exhausted.
Nor do we accept that by moving a resolution in the Security Council, the Government prevented unfortunate initiatives being taken there. We think that they opened the door to precisely those initiatives. In our view, the consequences of this invoking of Chapter VII are so very serious that it should not have been done without overwhelming reasons, and no evidence of those overwhelming reasons has been produced to this House.
I say, emphasising again the lateness of the hour and the seriousness of the situation we are facing, this action in the United Nations has led to doubt about our determination to treat this as a British problem. This is tremendously important. It must be made absolutely clear that in our eyes this is a British problem.
I am delighted to think that this afternoon's statement by the Prime Minister will reinforce this point of view, which we have so often put forward from these benches. I believe that the action in the United Nations was an encouragement to those who believe in the use of force to settle this problem. There are many countries, as the House will be well aware, who believe quite genuinely that force is the right solution. This both sides of the House have consistently and totally rejected.
I ask the Government spokesman this afternoon to make one thing quite clear, that not only do the Government themselves totally reject the use of force in any circumstances to impose a solution to the problem of Rhodesia, but that they are also totally opposed to the use of force by anyone whatsoever. Rhodesia remains part of Her Majesty's domains and I trust it will always be treated as such in negotiations and action taken by a British Government.
The other danger in the present situation arises from the possible spread of mandatory sanctions to the whole of Southern Africa. The consequences of this upon South Africa, upon our relations with South Africa, upon our trade with South Africa, which has been so often emphasised, and rightly, by the Government, could be very serious indeed. It is true to say, as my right hon. Friend said 721 the other day, that the arguments applied in the case of Portugal could equally be applied in the case of South Africa. Then the effect of mandatory sanctions on the economy of Zambia would be very serious indeed.
Another thing which troubles us very much is that there is no limit to the precedent of declaring this situation to be a threat to peace. There is no threat to peace whatever from Southern Rhodesia. There is no danger whatever of the people of Southern Rhodesia creating a threat to peace. Other people say that so offensive to them is this régime that fighting may break out. But it is a very new concept that nations can say that because they so dislike what is going on in another country they will declare that there is a threat to peace although it comes from themselves. I am glad that the Foreign Secretary is present. The consequences of this in many other countries on the future conduct of British foreign policy could be very serious indeed.
Finally on United Nations action, I think that there are grave doubts about what may follow from the Security Council purporting to authorise actions which are illegal in international law.
Then there are the very real economic dangers and the big charge already on our balance of payments. I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to give some estimate of what the present cost to our balance of payments is of the measures the Government are taking. Perhaps it is estimated at £50 million a year, including the copper situation. I do not know how much it is, but it is very serious.
We must also recognise the loss of future goodwill and trade for us in Southern Rhodesia, which can be very serious. We must recognise that while our people are not trading plenty of other people are taking their place. That is part of the cost which Britain is bearing because we regard this as part of a British problem. We must not let the other people have it both ways. If we bear the burden on the balance of payments they must recognise that because we bear that burden it is our problem, which we intend to solve. If the sanctions spread further the damage to the South African economy and damage 722 to trade with South Africa and the trade of Zambia can be very serious.
My conclusion on this situation, which I am heartened to feel that the Government now accept in substance, is that the present sanctions policy will not work because, as I said, it is only half a policy. The Prime Minister said that sanctions, to be meaningful, must be effective. That, in logic, is a strong argument. But to be meaningful they must also lead to a clear objective. Our objection to sanctions throughout has been based on this. We accept sanctions if they are designed to create a situation in which talks can take place, but we can never accept sanctions if they are designed merely to beat Rhodesia down into acceptance of unconditional surrender.
That, I think, was clearly the attitude put forward in the Government statement this afternoon. It must fairly be said that in the Prime Minister's statement of 25th January the use of sanctions was designed not to start talks going with Mr. Smith and his colleagues, but to get them to abandon U.D.I. as a prerequisite to any discussions at all. We are all gratified to think that talks are now to start on a basis of no conditions on either side. I must say in fairness to the Opposition that it is an acceptance of our attitude on the argument put forward consistently over the whole period for many weeks previously.
Sanctions alone will not be enough. If they failed as I think they probably would, over a period, the growing pressure of the United Nations and growing difficulties of the temptation and urge to use force would become very serious. On the other hand, if they succeeded in destroying the economy of Southern Rhodesia, if they brought economic chaos to that country—because people like the Rhodesians do not give in easily when they think they are right; and they think they are right—if the effect of sanctions was merely to bring chaos and destruction of the economy of Rhodesia, all there would suffer and no one, in the long run, would benefit.
There has been a clear and overwhelming need for these talks to begin between Her Majesty's Government and the Smith régime. Whatever the mechanics of the talks, that is of little importance. The details, the way it is done, how it is done, the level of the talks, whether they are 723 official or Ministerial, private or public, we on this side of the House do not care what form they take so long as they take place, and take place as soon as possible without conditions, with the willingness to try to reach agreement properly understood and accepted on both sides.
I make two points about these talks. First, in the meantime can there be a truce in the verbal war between Salisbury and London? It would surely be a good thing if, in both capitals, there were an end to the strong language used, strong language which is not surprising in a dramatic situation such as this. If there were an end to some of the things said by both sides about each other the chances of agreement would be all the greater.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
When the right hon. Member says that he is in favour of these talks taking place without any precondition, does that mean that he has abandoned the condition which was laid down by his right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) in the debate on 21st December, when he said that, in particular, he laid down two propositions which must precede any proposals for conciliation? The first was that majority rule for the Africans must be certain.
That was the view expressed on 21st December by the right hon. Gentleman, and reaffirmed on 31st March as a precondition for conciliation. Will the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) say whether he abides by that precondition for conciliation?
§ Mr. Maudling
If the hon. Member will be a little less impatient he will find that I am precisely coming to the situation of with what the talks should be concerned. They surely must concentrate on the future rather than on the past.
I believe that recent experience both in London and Rhodesia will have brought the gap between the two parties much closer than it was before. We must, on the one hand, disabuse people in Rhodesia of the belief that what a British Government are aiming at is immediate one-man, one-vote majority rule. On the other hand, we must dispel the idea that it is possible to accept the circumstances in which there can be a constitutional regression in which we would go backwards instead of moving forwards. [Interruption.] The hon. Member can 724 make a speech later if he catches Mr. Speaker's eye. The object—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. So far the debates in this Parliament have proceeded in an orderly fashion. A disorderly fashion is for hon. Members on both sides to shout across the Floor at each other.
§ Mr. Maudling
Mr. Speaker, I have been endeavouring to treat what I regard as a tragic problem with the proper seriousness it deserves. I shall continue to do so.
§ Mr. Michael Foot rose—
§ Mr. Maudling
No, I will not give way again.
I think that the objective must be, without any doubt, uninterrupted progress towards majority rule as envisaged in the 1961 Constitution and as supported consistently by all my right hon. and hon. Friends. This is our responsibility and I do not believe it is in any way contrary to what Mr. Smith himself would accept and has, in fact, accepted in the past. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is inherent in the 1961 Constitution. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Mr. Speaker, we shall not make any progress in an atmosphere of this kind. I was saying a little while ago that the purpose must be to reach agreement. We can reach agreement only by trying to reach agreement and not by trying to represent the views of other people in the most hostile way possible.
There must be uninterrpted progress towards majority rule as envisaged by the 1961 Constitution; but this progress must be based on a capacity to rule responsibly. This, I believe, has also been accepted by the House throughout. Hence, there is the need, first, for time to make the transition, and, secondly, for efforts, particularly in education and training, to make the time of transition as short as it can practicably be made. On the one hand, people need to have an assurance that there will be no perversion of the Constitution, that there will be no going back on it, and that this uninterrupted progress will continue. On the other, people seek an assurance, I believe justifiably, that there will be no imposition of immediate majority rule.
This, it seems to me, is the kernel of the problem we must face. The difficulty 725 is to establish this sort of certainty in the case of an independent country. Our object clearly, on both sides of the House I am sure, is to achieve the independence of Rhodesia in acceptable conditions. Anyone who has had, as I had for a short time, responsibility for the Colonial Office, knows how difficult it is to write into a constitution safeguards for minorities, safeguards indeed for majorities, that cannot be overruled by the action of those who hold power. One sees what happens so often in so many countries where we tried, and tried desperately as a British Government, to secure the constitution so that it could not be overthrown. One has seen time and time again how, in practice, this cannot be done.
Therefore, we have a new and unique problem in this case, because we must all recognise that here in Rhodesia we must finally solve the problem of how this can be done, how these guarantees can be given in an independent country. There have been many suggestions—for example, a treaty of guarantee, the supervision of the Privy Council, and so on. I hope that the Government will examine and re-examine all these possibilities, because they seem to be the kernel of our whole problem.
It will need the utmost of good will and flexibility all round if this is to be so, but the solution is a task of a noble nature which reasonably calls for all the efforts that any of us can make in the House.
I conclude in this way. I said at the beginning that this situation is a tragic one. It has the two great elements of tragedy. First, there is a conflict, not so much of right and wrong as of right and right—two parties believing that they are right and sincerely believing that they are right. This must be recognised if we are to get an answer. Secondly, it has the nature of a tragedy in moving inexorably down the road step by step to catastrophe. All this we have seen. All this we hope can now be resolved.
I visited Salisbury once as Colonial Secretary. I had been in Kenya and in Zambia. The problems there were difficult, but the problems of Southern Rhodesia were the most difficult of all for Britain. Perhaps that is why they were our last problems: they were the hardest of all to solve. I could see clearly 726 on my first visit there that here in this lovely country, built up by people in a relatively short time, might well lie Britain's Algeria. This is a thought which has haunted all of us who have been concerned with this problem for so long.
We greatly welcome the fact that the Government now intend to embark upon these talks. We welcome the fact that they will take place without condition. We ask for a cessation of controversy, of strong language, of accusation, of distrust. We ask that a genuine attempt be made to put aside considerations of face, artificial pride or smaller considerations. We ask that a real attempt be made to solve, in the traditions of this House and of our constitution, the last and the greatest of Britain's African problems.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Arthur Bottomley)
The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) will not expect me to agree with everything he has said. For example, he suggested that there had been a change of Government policy. I hope to show in the course of my speech that that is not so. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the restraint and moderation with which he has handled this subject, the most difficult of the problems which confront us in the world today.
I intend to follow the right hon. Gentleman's example and speak with equal restraint, because I would remind hon. Members on both sides that we are dealing with an extraordinarily tense and complex situation. Words spoken in heat in this Chamber very often are carried into Salisbury and throughout Africa where they are given the wrong emphasis and perhaps undue significance which they might not otherwise deserve. I am sure that no one in the House wishes to make more difficult an already very difficult situation.
This is not to deny the Oposition's right to criticise. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues before him have certainly done this. I hope that I can rebut every one of the criticisms. I hope and believe that all of us on both sides of the House are agreed on certain fundamentals and that what separates us are differences of opinion on tactics and not on strategy. Indeed, I think that the right 727 hon. Gentleman himself has shown that this is so.
Let me, without taking up too much of the time of the House, reflect for a moment on the essential issues between us and the Rhodesian régime which led to their illegal action last November. To do this, it is necessary to look back beyond October, 1964, when this Government assumed responsibility for the problem. Our predecessors, those who now sit on the benches opposite, were faced with the same basic difficulties. They were and still are, insisting on the recognition in any solution of the same principles which we on this side have consistently put forward. All of the principles which we have laid down in the course of our negotiations with Mr. Smith were elements in the policy of hon. Members opposite when they carried the responsibility. Likewise, right hon. and hon. Members opposite encountered essentially the same obstacles in their efforts, which we commend, to reach agreement.
We should not lose sight of the fact that the issues are the same today, although obscured by the drama and passions of the I.D.I. and world reaction to it. In the short term our policy must be to secure a return to constitutional rule and to avoid a disastrous conflagration or a collapse of authority or the economy in Central Africa. Fundamentally, our policies are directed towards a solution which would be compatible with the standards and principles on which we wish to see a democratic society develop in Rhodesia.
During the hopeful meetings which the Lord Chancellor and I had with Mr. Smith in Salisbury in February of last year, these fundamental considerations were constantly in our minds. We believed then that we had found a basis on which we could negotiate a solution which we could commend to Parliament as satisfying the aspirations and fundamental rights of all races in Rhodesia. I recall a personal meeting with the then Prime Minister of Rhodesia, Mr. Smith, and this was followed by a meeting between Mr. Smith, my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and myself at which a basis for a settlement of the Rhodesia problem seemed likely to emerge. This approach was subsequently expressed in the terms 728 of the five principles. The House is familiar with those five principles, to which has been added a sixth to give some safeguards for the European Rhodesians. Mr. Smith accepted these as a framework within which discussion could proceed. Mr. Smith, the Lord Chancellor and I acknowledged that we could not commit our colleagues. For my part, I promised to put the proposals to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which I subsequently did.
I can only guess what happened in the case of Mr. Smith. I believe that he reported to his colleagues and that they considered he had gone too far in agreeing to a possible set of conditions for a settlement. It is my feeling—I can only use my personal judgment—that there was a split in the Rhodesian Cabinet and that it was decided to take the differing opinions to the party caucus. At the party caucus meeting these differences could not be settled, and it was then resolved to have a general election. I think that in going for this general election the Prime Minister himself hoped to win more liberal support for his views and the rather more extreme members of the Administration hoped to push Mr. Smith forward in support of more reactionary policies.
In the event, as the House knows, Mr. Smith won the election handsomely, and I am bound to say that I was encouraged and hopeful that a realistic policy would then be followed. A leading Minister, a supporter of the reactionary element in the Rhodesian Government, was dismissed and sent as the Rhodesian representative in South Africa. A leading liberal supporter, who had left the earlier Government with the then Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Field, was brought back into the Cabinet. But I am very sorry to say that, in the event, my hopes were not fulfilled.
In retrospect, it is clear to me that I.D.I. was virtually inevitable. The almost complete elimination of moderate European opinion from the Rhodesian Parliament at that election created political pressures for the seizure of independence which proved irresistible. Everyone would, I think, agree that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did everything possible to avert what we knew would be a damaging, even a disastrous, event for Rhodesia and her neighbours. The end of 729 this, we then said, we could not possibly foresee if that development continued.
The House will recall the sincere and strenuous efforts made by my right hon. Friend during his visit to Salisbury last October. At his request, the Attorney—General and I stayed on in Salisbury for a further day or two in a final effort to bridge the gap. We have had plenty of evidence since then that the Rhodesian Government of the day had in fact decided upon I.D.I.—[HON. MEMBERS: "U.D.I."]—and it was only the Prime Minister's visit which had delayed I.D.I.
§ Mr. Bottomley
No, not U.D.I., not "unilateral". It is an illegal declaration of independence, and that is why I say "I.D.I.". If the hon. Gentleman had been in the House earlier, he would have known that "I.D.I." has been said not only today but on other occasions too.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Is the right hon. Gentleman trying to coin a new phrase this afternoon by saying "I.D.I."? We have always understood it to be U.D.I.
§ Mr. Bottomley
The hon. Gentleman is showing that he is evidently behind the times, but perhaps we ought to excuse him. He was out of the House for a time. I should like to have coined the expression, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it was used by hon. Members on his own side of the House in earlier debates. Perhaps he will accept that from me.
So far as the Prime Minister's visit was concerned, it did hold up I.D.I., but, as I have said already, it was virtually inevitable from then onwards. The almost complete elimination of moderate European opinion created political pressures which led to this pressure for illegal independence. I think everybody, those who have been told the story, will agree that what the Attorney—General and I tried to do was to get a set of conditions which we could adopt and present to our Government and to Parliament which would form the basis of an agreement.
But I regret to say that Mr. Smith and his colleagues could not come forward and meet us. The Rhodesian Government wanted the power to stop African advancement. They wanted the power to reside in the hands of the Europeans for as long as they could see so that they 730 could control the destiny of the country. I do not think any responsible opinion could support that. In the same way, no responsible opinion would demand the imposition of majority rule in Rhodesia without adequate preparation. We have certainly never said that from this side, and I have no evidence that the other side would want to press us on this matter.
I believe that Mr. Smith misjudged our position on this point. Although we made it clear continually to him, I think he thought that he could get away with it without the consequences that inevitably developed not only in Britain but in the world as a whole. I think he and his colleagues convinced themselves, in effect, that there was no room for compromise with the evolution of a democratic society. In doing so, they abandoned, temporarily, I hope, the political philosophy which has always distinguished the Rhodesian approach to their problems from that of South Africa. I believe, equally, that this philosophy is more deeply ingrained in Rhodesian thinking than they may realise. Those who would pull Rhodesia towards a racial solution to their problems may yet be confounded.
We have been accused of mishandling the situation. But those who accuse us conveniently ignore the fact that we inherited this problem from right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We inherited a tense situation overshadowed by the threat of an imminent U.D.I. as it was called at that time. The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), when I was shadow Commonwealth Secretary, kept me fully informed. I am, therefore, in a position to understand how closely the policy pursued by the then Conservative Government conformed with our own. Let me pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Streatham. Right up till polling day itself, with the approval of the then Prime Minister, he stuck to his guns and they refused to be pushed by demands from those who were acting irresponsibly in Rhodesia at that time. In fact, it was not an issue of semantics or a constitutional quibble. It was something that affected the liberty and the right of individuals, and this is something upon which the whole House, certainly in a Parliamentary democracy, can unite. The principles on which the policy 731 of the Opposition and our own policy have been based would provide a platform, I believe, on which the whole House could unite, and this was my belief when I became Secretary of State. I thought we should act in this way.
Whatever may be the views about sanctions and negotiations as expressed by the right hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues, I still believe there is no significant difference between us as to the nature of the solution that we seek. I hope that the House will bear this in mind and will accept that this is why we cannot and will not abdicate from our purposes or, as seems to be desired by some hon. Members opposite, quietly draw a curtain over the whole affair.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether the basis upon which eventual negotiations will start, or would start, if the initial informal talks succeed, will be the basis that was last put forward by the Prime Minister just before U.D.I.? I think the right hon. Gentleman agrees that that offer went further, so far as immediate self-government was concerned, than any previous offer had ever gone.
§ Mr. Bottomley
The hon. Gentleman always endeavours to be helpful on this question of Rhodesia. I hope that he will not press me on that. The informal talks are beginning and I think it will be much better to see how they develop before we see the next step forward.
I have tried to fill in the background of events up till last November. The point I emphasise in this connection is that, right up to the very last moment, we tried in every possible way to reach a settlement and, as has been said, we went to the very limit of what we could reasonably commend to Parliament as a fair and just solution. Our proposals for a Royal Commission, for example, were a final effort to achieve a compromise with Mr. Smith's point of view. No one can justly accuse us of not trying our utmost to settle this matter by peaceful negotiation.
I emphasise again that the troubles which have confronted us since November were caused solely by the illegal declaration of independence and the rejection of our constant and patient efforts to 732 find a solution round the conference table. The Rhodesians broke off the negotiations when they could have led to a solution, and this act was a revolt against the Queen and a rejection of the authority of this Parliament. This was the situation which faced us on 11th November last. We could not accept this illegal action, and both sides of the House agreed that the rebellion must be brought to an end and a way must be found to induce the Rhodesians to return to the conference table.
We were faced with the choice of methods by which we could bring this about. Many urged us to use military force to bring the rebellion to an end, and pressure for this has remained heavy since last November. The right hon. Gentleman asked me to give an answer to a specific question. If he will look at column 531 of HANSARD yesterday, he will see that the Prime Minister himself gave the complete answer. I will just add a reference to one part having regard to the point which the right hon. Gentleman made. The Prime Minister said,or anybody else's armed forces …So that this covers not only British forces but other armed forces, too.
We were, as I have said, faced with the choice of method. We rejected force. There were many reasons why we did so, but the basic reason was the one to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, that we wanted to avoid bloodshed, chaos and the consequences which could follow from the use of force. Instead, we chose sanctions, a more lengthy but a bloodless method. We knew that sanctions would take some time. It is not true to say that we over-estimated their effectiveness. The length of time depended on the stocks which the Rhodesians built up in preparation for I.D.I., that build-up of stocks having been done with great secrecy. It depended also on how quickly we could shut off Rhodesia's sources of supply. It was bound to take time. For instance, we had to organise the air-lift to Zambia and to persuade all the many countries concerned to take the necessary steps.
But we knew that, in the end, sanctions would prove effective. This is where I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. We hoped that, as their effect was increasingly felt, sensible 733 Rhodesians would begin to realise that, perhaps, it was better, after all, to return to the conference table. Indeed, the sanctions policy is proving successful. This is why we are able to talk more hopefully today. The steadily increasing economic pressure is being felt in Rhodesia. There can be no doubt that the level of economic activity in Rhodesia is decreasing and that the added effect of this is continuing to weaken the Rhodesian economy. The combined effect of British and international embargoes on Rhodesian exports denies to the illegal régime about 50 per cent. of their normal supplies. It can be expected that this process will gather force. The full impact has by no means yet been exhausted.
The effect of reduced earnings and the financial controls which we have imposed upon Rhodesia has been to compel the régime to institute a rigorous system of licensing and exchange control. They are undoubtedly in difficulty as regards the import of oil, credit, the sale of the tobacco crop, unemployment, and the general run-down of business and commercial activity. An economy based on the necessity of buying at a premium and selling at a loss is a poor risk. Their credit problems are likely to increase and, as the extent of their failure to dispose of the tobacco crop at a reasonable price becomes apparent, they are bound to find themselves in most serious financial difficulty. Unemployment cannot be disguised by expedients for ever. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Bottomley
And one other.
The migration of workers, manpower orders and National Service tend to obscure the full extent of this problem. It cannot be contained for long, and there can be no doubt that, as the weeks pass, Rhodesia will be running deeper and deeper into financial and economic crisis. [Interruption.] This is so.
The right hon. Gentleman raised with me a question about oil sanctions. The question of the oil embargo is a separate 734 matter, and there was a very full exchange between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition last week. I do not intend to go over this matter again. The right hon. Gentleman was answered by the Prime Minister fully on all these points, and, in particular, on the accusation that our decision to go to the United Nations represented a change in policy.
It might be helpful to hon. Members speaking later in the debate if I summarised again briefly the situation which faced us and which led to the United Nations action.
§ Mr. Maudling
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of an accusation of change of policy. This is not an accusation. A change of policy is very often welcome. Certainly, the change of policy today we fully welcome.
§ Mr. Bottomley
I was showing the right hon. Gentleman, and I shall continue the process of showing, that it is not a change of policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I shall continue to show that that is so, and I think that any fair-minded observer will, at the end of the debate, be able to see that that is so.
Let we now go over the background for the benefit of right hon. and hon. Members who will take part later in the debate. The right hon. Gentleman has asked me some questions about the "Joanna V".
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
The right hon. Gentleman is making an extremely interesting speech on the background. I think that he said something about the Lagos Conference. It is most important that he explains whether he still stands by the statements made by the Prime Minister at Lagos.
§ Mr. Bottomley
I intend to make my own speech. If the right hon. Gentleman can get in later and make his own contribution, it is open to him to do so.
The right hon. Member for Barnet asked me some questions about the "Joanna V." [HON. MEMBERS: "He did not."] Indeed, he did. He referred to the fact that the ships were breaking the embargo, and I said that I would answer his question. If he did not specifically name the "Joanna V," I am referring to it as 735 such because it is the only one which actually got into the port.
§ Mr. Maudling
I did give the Secretary of State notice of some questions I intended to ask him, but I shortened my speech after this afternoon's announcement and left out that part.
§ Mr. Bottomley
With respect, the right hon. Gentleman raised this matter, and I am dealing with it in the way I think best to answer it satisfactorily. If he does not want me to pursue it, all I can tell him is that I shall nevertheless do so because I think it is necessary in order to show that the action taken by Her Majesty's Government was the only way in which we could be sure that the oil embargo would continue. What the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have failed to do is to say what they would have done in the circumstances. Would they have allowed the oil to go through? If this had happened, we would not have been in the position we find ourselves in now when, as the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged, talks look likely and more profitable than was the case before an attempt was made to breach the embargo. I shall if I may, leave my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General to pursue it further, if anyone else wants it pursued on the basis of the United Nations decision, because he was present at the time and he is much more competent to do it for that reason. That point which the right hon. Gentleman had in his note I have no intention of answering, but if it is necessary to do so my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, who took part in the United Nations proceedings on that matter, will be able to do it very efficiently and effectively.
Let me turn to the negotiations about which the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to hear. The Prime Minister this afternoon indicated the road which we were travelling and showed that it was one which has been reached because of this Government's policy and not because of the behaviour of the Opposition, who had no policy at all and who at one time were split in three ways. I do not want to go further into that, but I will leave it as a fact.
So much for the policy which dealt with the illegal action. I am sure that this part of the policy is proving successful 736 and has proved successful in improving the prospects for the talks which have been mentioned this afternoon. Since November, we have applied a double policy of bringing increasing pressure to bear by imposing sanctions while at the same time making it clear that we were always ready to discuss a return to constitutional rule. We have always made it clear that anyone is free to talk to the Governor or to our representatives.
Throughout the months since November we have constantly watched for signs that the Rhodesians were willing to return to the conference table and to embark on fruitful discussions. We have had no lack of information on what was going on in the minds of the Rhodesian leaders and the state of thinking in Salisbury. Since 11th November many channels of communication have been open to Salisbury. Many Rhodesians, some of them Rhodesians of prominence, have visited this country, and many of them have produced ideas on which a settlement might be based. Many of them have reported the views or what they believed to be the views of the Smith régime. Many hon. Members, some from the other side of the House, and business men have gone from this country to Rhodesia and have reported to me on their return what they discovered about the prospects of negotiations.
In addition, the Governor was in constant touch with the thinking of Mr. Smith and his followers. I am sure the whole House will agree that we should pay a further tribute to the part which the Governor has played and is playing. He has remained at his post as the representative of the British Crown and a symbol of loyalty. More than that, as a distinguished Rhodesian himself, he stands for the interests and future of the Rhodesia in which he firmly believes. His robust and honourable advocacy of Rhodesian interests has been the cause of encouragement and enlightenment to us all.
I cannot, emphasise enough that we are and have been in the closest touch with the Governor. It would not be right for me to reveal the advice which the Governor, as a servant of the Crown, has given to Her Majesty's Government from time to time any more than it would be right for me to reveal the information which I get from my professional advisers. 737 But I can assure the House that we do know the Governor's views and he knows ours. [Laughter.] I do not see what there is to laugh about in that. It is quite offensive to the Governor, and if that is the intention of some hon. Members opposite I do not see why they joined so wholeheartedly in the tributes which I have paid to him as a very worthy servant of the Crown.
All these many contacts with Salisbury have shown until recently one thing—that the régime was prepared to negotiate only on the basis, the precondition, that they retained their illegal independence. This came out time and time again both in public statements from members of the régime and in private remarks to visitors. It was clear that they saw negotiations merely as concerned with the confirmation and ratification of their illegal independence, and this we could not accept.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear on 21st April that we could not legalise an act of rebellion against the Crown or compromise on principles laid down by two successive Governments. We could not embark on negotiations on this restrictive basis—negotiations which would have conceded all that we have worked for over the last two or three years. But we continued to watch anxiously, as I have said, for signs of a change in the Rhodesian attitude, and those signs have been evident over this last week. The House has heard my right hon. Friend's statement before the debate. It would not be right for me to go any further into that matter now. Public comments cannot do good to this delicate exploration at this moment now that the talks are due to start.
Let me conclude by saying that I think that a new phase may now have opened. I submit to the House that all that has happened demonstrates the success, within the inevitable exigencies and pitfalls of a developing situation, of the policy which this Government have pursued since last November. We have remained throughout entirely flexible and reasonable. We have always been willing to listen to any proposition which held out any opportunity of fruitful and meaningful discussions. We have always wanted to return to the conference table, and we have repeatedly made this clear to the 738 Rhodesians through every available channel. At the same time, we have remained inflexibly resolved to stick to our chosen course of sanctions rather than the use of force, and to pursue this course despite all the criticisms and pressures to which we have been subjected. I believe that that policy has paid off.
§ Sir G. Nabarro rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
Order. If the Minister does not give way, the hon. Member must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Bottomley
I believe that that policy has paid off and that it was the right policy to pursue. Critics of this policy, aimed to hold out in one hand the widening of sanctions and in the other hand the olive branch of talks, have been mainly disruptive. They have accused us of not using enough of the olive branch or not using enough of the weapons. None of them has been able to produce an alternative policy except the two extremes of the use of force or the complete acceptance of the illegal declaration of independence. I believe that the majority of thinking people would not accept either of those two extremes and that the middle course which the Government have pursued commands general acceptance in this country and the world.
It is not a very good moment to look into the future. A final settlement of the Rhodesian problem is still a long way off, but I will emphasise again that we shall work for this settlement with the same policy of moderation and flexibility. We stand by the six principles.
At the same time, we are not pressing for immediate majority rule. Our objective is a steady advancement through achievement in a way and over a period which will secure for Rhodesia orderly government and the essential conditions of stability for the future economic and social development of a non-racial society. We are seeking to promote the evolution of a non-racial society where all, black and white, can play their part. There is much for the Europeans and Africans in Rhodesia to do before this kind of society can be evolved, but Europeans must recognise that 4 million Africans cannot be treated as though they did not exist and must be given a majority say in the development of their country. The 739 African leaders, too, must realise that they cannot discharge their responsibility to the African people by opting out of the constitutional sphere. Without their co-operation progress by evolution would be impossible. When constitutional government is restored to Rhodesia, the situation will make heavy demands on the statesmanship and good will of both the African and European political leadership. It is that statesmanship which we hope will be forthcoming. If it is not, there cannot be a peaceful and just solution to the Rhodesian problem.
But this is looking far ahead. In the meantime, I will ask the House to support the policy of Her Majesty's Government, which I think has been responsible for bringing about the present situation and is the only hope of leading to a peaceful solution of the Rhodesia problem.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral) rose—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Before the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations sits down—
§ Mr. Lloyd rose—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not a perfectly legitimate and well ordered device for the Chair to allow a question at the end of a long Ministerial speech before the right hon. Gentleman sits down?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
But I rose before you called my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I said, "Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down". Further to the point of order, I have, in perfectly legitimate and well-ordered fashion, four times asked the Secretary of State during his speech to give way, but each time he has refused. Am I not, therefore, perfectly entitled, before you call the next speaker, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to ask for a question 740 to be taken before the Secretary of State sits down?
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
I think that many of us listened with great interest to the final sentences in the Prime Minister's statement this afternoon when he gave his instructions to his colleagues as to how they should handle the debate. I think that the Secretary of State has honoured those instructions rather in the breach than in the observance.
I welcome very much the Prime Minister's statement and his belated decision. I also welcome the language in which he couched it, which is very different from that which he used before, in that he has spoken about "a solution of the problem" rather than "the ending of the rebellion" and "making it the basis for negotiations" rather than "accepting these representations". I welcome the statement, and the fact that the statement has been made will shorten my speech, although I do not think that it will alter its content.
On 22nd February I saw the Commonwealth Secretary after my return from Rhodesia and urged him to do exactly what the Prime Minister has announced this afternoon. The Prime Minister said in his speech last Thursday that there was nothing in the report which I brought back which suggested any basis upon which a settlement could be reached, nor did my report:raise any new points on which Mr. Smith was prepared to move forward from the issues rejected before last November."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st April, 1966; Vol. 727, c. 95.]I want to deal with that contention not just for the record, but because what I said to the right hon. Gentleman then is, I think, directly relevant now. I told him of the people that I had met in Rhodesia—327 of them, of whom more than 60 were Africans, and that I had spent more time with the Governor than with any other individual. I told him that I had stressed three points to everybody, the Rhodesian Front as well as the others. I said that U.D.I. had been illegal and wrong, that the European minority could not for ever rule a majority very much larger in size than itself, and, also, that if European and African Rhodesians 741 were to live happily together they had to begin to end racial discrimination. That is still my position. I also defended the responsibility of this House for all Rhodesians.
I gave the right hon. Gentleman my conclusions, and nothing that has happened since has caused me to change them. I think that they are just as relevant in this new phase. First of all, I said that Mr. Ian Smith was in control. There was no doubt about that. I said that the action of Her Majesty's Government here had consolidated white Rhodesian opinion behind Mr. Smith and his colleagues, and there is no doubt about that. I can give an example of that to the House. When I was in Bulawayo I met about 25 businessmen, many of whom were concerned with British companies. Tbey said that there was not a man in the room who had been a political supporter of Mr. Smith and that they opposed him politically, but that now they would do everything they could to co-operate with him to ensure that sanctions did not succeed, and that when they had beaten the sanctions they would go back to opposing Mr. Smith politically.
That showed that there had been a complete misjudgment of the effect of sanctions. It had not been realised that all European Rhodesians, or the great majority of them, would look on this as a battle for Rhodesia and rally behind Mr. Smith.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman believe that the present hope of negotiations would ever have arisen either if sanctions had not been imposed, or if the sanctions had been ineffective?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I will deal with that point; it is obviously a relevant one. I will deal with what I told the right hon. Gentleman on that matter.
I told the right hon. Gentleman that white opinion had been consolidated behind Mr. Smith and that there was no chance of a change in that opinion until an alternative to U.D.I. was put forward which Rhodesians would think reasonable. The offer of 25th January had been quite disastrous. I was told that by representatives of Mr. Smith's opponents. I think that that is true today— 742 that if the approach to the new talks is to be the approach of 25th January there is not a chance of success.
Secondly, I told the right hon. Gentleman, dealing with the point that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) has just raised, about what I thought was the effect of sanctions, that they were likely to damage the Rhodesian economy. I was talking then towards the end of February, but I did not think that they would cause a collapse. I did not think that they would cause the Rhodesians to throw their hands in and accept unconditional surrender.
I thought, however, that they would be a powerful influence towards a settlement. I have always said that in the House. I have always advanced the view over sanctions that they should be a means of bringing pressure to bear so that we could have a settlement and agreement, but not unconditional surrender. I believe that that also is true today. However, I think that we make a mistake, according to my most recent information from Rhodesia, in exaggerating the present effect of sanctions upon ordinary people in Rhodesia. I think that the people who are looking ahead, realise the dangers.
The third point that I made to the right hon. Gentleman was that neither side could win this contest. If Rhodesia succeeded in sticking it out, as it was probable that they would stick it out in some fashion, there would be a very bleak future before the people with whom I discussed the matter and their children. If, on the other hand, Rhodesia were to be forced to capitulate after a struggle lasting years, there would be a great bitterness towards us in South Africa—not only in Rhodesia, but in South Africa as a whole. That would cause us grave economic damage. So I thought that it was a conflict that neither side could win. I advised the right hon. Gentleman that, in my view, there should be talks at once without prior conditions.
I told the right hon. Gentleman, also, that I had made it quite clear to Mr. Smith that I had not gone out to Rhodesia to negotiate. I did not think it right for an Opposition spokesman to negotiate; he would be accused of undermining the position of Her Majesty's 743 Government. Nor did I think that Mr. Smith would be likely to give me terms that he would accept when negotiating with Her Majesty's Government. If he gave me certain terms, he would expect the Government to want him to go further. So I did not try to negotiate with him.
But I told the right hon. Gentleman that I had three discussions with Mr. Smith and that my advice was that talks should be held as quickly as possible. I should not have given that advice unless I had thought that a settlement was possible. I have never said that it was easy, and I do not think that it is easy today, but it is possible. The clearest possible implication was that, in my view, there had been some movement in the position of Mr. Smith and his colleagues.
There had been a great deal of information on that, although I agree that some of it had been conflicting. I agree that what had been said privately was not always repeated publicly. That is not peculiar to the Rhodesian situation. But there was movement and I think that the Government knew that there was a movement of opinion on this, and I think that they are to be blamed for not starting the process of talking earlier. However, at long last my advice has been taken and they are starting talks.
In my view, the purpose of the talks should be a constitutional settlement as a result of which Rhodesia can have its lawful independence. I think that the reason why the offer of 25th January was hopeless was that it involved direct rule from Whitehall thinly camouflaged, and I found no one among European Rhodesians who really accepted that. It also involved a constitutional conference the outcome of which was completely uncertain.
As to the nature of the settlement that can be reached, it is very important that we in this House should not be too specific at the present time. If I had responsibility for these matters, I would put certain matters on the agenda. The first matter would be educational development and educational advance, with the United Kingdom playing a substantial financial part in it, and having also, I think, therefore, some measure of say in the programme. I agree with what Mr. Smith told me when he said that he did not think 744 it right to educate African Rhodesians just to be voters. They must have a place to go to in the Rhodesian society. Therefore, it is not just a question of an educational programme. It is also necessary to have a placing organisation so that people can be put in worthwhile jobs.
Secondly, I am absolutely certain that there must be movement against racial discrimination. I have told some of my hon. Friends before, and I hope that they will not mind if I repeat it, that while I was in Rhodesia I met an African doctor who told me, "While I am in the hospital, I am treated as an equal and I get the same pay as my white colleagues who are perfectly good colleagues, but when I leave the hospital gates I cannot come to speak to you in your hotel". This was a special occasion and he had been allowed to do so. He went on to say, "I could not go and live anywhere near my white colleagues".
I told the Rhodesians that on that basis they could not have a happy community. He told me that he was not an extremist, but felt that he was a second-class citizen. The white Rhodesians must realise that they cannot get a united, multi-racial Rhodesia unless they start to change that. But it cannot all be swept away overnight. The same thing applies to the business quarters in the big cities which are white areas. It is unreasonable to expect progress unless that situation is altered.
In addition, for the agenda for the talks one must consider a blocking mechanism. I know that some people doubt whether any blocking mechanism would be effective, but it is important to have some specific measure so that there cannot be retrogression. There must be more African seats and phasing out arrangements for the B roll seats and one must also include on the agenda a widening of the franchise. There is the matter of entrenching clauses on these topics in the new constitution and the question of the collateral treaty should come up again.
Most important, at least as important as the other things, there must be independent procedures for establishing breaches of any undertakings given. I agree with my right hon. Friend that there can never be absolute certainty that an agreement in a constitution will be kept, but we can arrange procedures 745 for making it perfectly clear if there has been a flagrant breach. I say quite frankly that I do not think that there will be agreement on all these things, but I hope that there will be agreement on sufficient of them to make a bargain possible.
The atmosphere for the discussions is extremely important. If the Government continue with their approach—"we shall be graciously pleased to listen to any representations which you choose to make"—or if they talk about the régime beginning to weaken, or the oil sanctions having been successful, they will only make it more difficult to get agreement. Getting agreement will be a difficult enough operation. Those of us who have been to Rhodesia have seen the bitterness and even the hatred which has been engendered. The extremists on both sides are stronger than they were and great diplomatic skill is needed, of the type shown, for example, by the Foreign Office during the Trieste negotiations.
There is a need to try to improve the atmosphere. With respect, I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman's speech this afternoon will improve the atmosphere. Some things have been done which have been very silly, for example, the stopping of the Nuffield gift for the medical school at the multi-racial university. That looks like vindictive action and I hope that the Government will think it wise to try to improve the atmosphere.
If, by mischance, agreement is not reached, I hope that the Government's final offer will be clearly stated. I believe that it would get through to the Rhodesians and they could then form a judgment upon it. I beg the Government to adopt this approach. I have deliberately suppressed criticisms which I could have made of the conduct of certain aspects. I have not become involved with Chapter VII, and so on.
Finally, I do not think that anybody who has been to Rhodesia recently could have failed to be impressed by the sadness of it all—a beautiful country where great economic progress has been made, by Africans as well as Europeans, with great potential wealth and with especially close ties with Britain and with a better chance, as it had, of multi-racial society than almost any other country, with few 746 extremists on both sides. That was the situation.
Now that country, with its proud and tough people of European origin, is engaged in a conflict which neither side can win. Extremism has been strengthened all the time and there has been a great strain on race relationships in Rhodesia and elsewhere in Africa. I do not think that it is a threat to peace, but it is certainly a threat to progress. A new effort is needed and I am delighted with the statement by the Prime Minister today.
The Commonwealth Secretary ended his speech with a reference to the need for statesmanship. I entirely agree that statesmanship is needed. It is late in the day and it will be very difficult and we have to be very careful not to be drawn into day-to-day comments on the discussions or negotiations taking place, but I pray that statesmanship will be shown by both sides in these discussions.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Henig (Lancaster)
I claim the indulgence of the House on the occasion of this my maiden speech. I believe that I am the first representative of the ancient and honourable City of Lancaster ever to speak from the Labour benches.
I believe that in accordance with the traditions of the House I am entitled, before referring to the subject under discussion, briefly to mention just one of my constituency's problems. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will pay due heed to the fact that we in Lancaster are still awaiting adequate transport facilities between the two sides of our city. In particular, I hope that now that the railway link between Lancaster and Morecambe has, unfortunately, been ended, the railway bridge will be made available as a second road bridge over the River Lune.
At the same time, may I pay tribute to my predecessor who was from the other side of the House, especially as this is a debate about Rhodesia. I assure right hon. Gentlemen opposite that they will find my views on Rhodesia even less palatable than they occasionally found those of my distinguished predecessor. However, I believe that on my side of the House there was some admiration for the courage with which 747 Mr. Berkeley always put his views on all kinds of subjects.
I hoped to catch your eye in the debate yesterday, Mr. Speaker. I was unfortunate then; I am fortunate now. Had I spoken yesterday, I would have wanted to refer to Britain's entry into the Common Market and to say—and this is not irrelevant now—that I and many of my hon. Friends are against Gaulleism of all kinds wherever it may be found, Gaulleism of the gunboat mentality, Gaulleism of the nationalistic variety. I must confess that I find it odd that some hon. Members opposite who wish, they say, without reserve to enter a supranational community, none the less seize every opportunity they can find to ridicule the United Nations.
The Rhodesian problem is not a British problem alone. The danger of Southern Rhodesia is that many African countries in the long run would never tolerate a situation in which the wealth and power of Rhodesia were in the hands of a small cliqué differentiated from the bulk of the population by virtue of the colour of their skins. Had the British Government allowed Rhodesia to get away with its illegal declaration of independence last year, there would have been a potentially explosive situation in the middle of Africa, a situation which could have been resolved ultimately only by conflict. Britain, therefore, had to act.
However, this problem also involved Britain herself, because we had had some historic responsibilities in the area, responsibilities which had been ill carried out. It ought to be a matter of profound regret to many people in this country that only now are we concerned with the fact that Rhodesia is a thoroughly anti-British police State, after Rhodesia has illegally declared its independence, when it seemed for 40 years that we were very little concerned with what was going on in that country.
I turn to what, in my view, is the basic principle for settlement. It is difficult for any hon. Member this afternoon to say too much on this subject because obviously, of necessity, we are in the dark about some of the things that have been happening in the last few days. However, in any settlement the needs, aspirations and desires of the bulk of the population 748 must not be overlooked and I hope that in the talks which presumably will shortly be going on in Southern Rhodesia between the forces representing all political groups the coloured population will not be overlooked.
I am not one of those who says that we must have democracy as on the British pattern in Southern Rhodesia. It does not behove us to go around the world trying to create little Britains. The phrase "free elections" is much overdone. The real danger about Rhodesia is not so much that one has a tyranny. One has a tyranny, and a rather nasty one, but there are tyrannies in many other parts of the world. In Southern Rhodesia, as in South Africa, one has a tyranny based on the colour of a man's skin.
This is a world in which the majority of citizens do not have a white pigmentation in their skin. If the future of our planet is to be a clash based on racialism, on colour, there is the danger that we might lose it. But, apart from this consideration—and I believe at this point it is relatively minor—there is the disaster which it would mean to us all. This has been the point at stake in Southern Rhodesia.
Had this country allowed Mr. Smith to get away with his illegal declaration of independence we would have said once for all that whenever there was a clash between the interests of whites and coloured people, then regardless of moral principles we would support the interests of the whites. But we did not. We stuck to our moral principles and, in doing so, we left a reasonable probability that if the future of the world is not to continue in conflict between East and West—and I sincerely hope that it will not—it will not be replaced by a far worse conflict between North and South.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Duncan Sandys (Streatham)
It is my pleasure to congratulate the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Henig) on his maiden speech. He did not hesitate to express views, which he obviously holds strongly, with vigour and conviction. He will not expect me to say that I agree with all that he said, but I am sure that the House will look forward to further contributions from him on this and other topics.
749 I warmly welcome the decision which was announced by the Prime Minister today. It is a belated decision, but none the less an exceedingly welcome one; the decision to have talks with the Smith Administration in Salisbury. It is obviously the only sensible way out of the present dangerous deadlock.
This welcome decision does not alter the fact that since we last discussed Rhodesia in this House a very grave new development has taken place. The Government have effectively lost control of the situation in the United Nations, and that is a very serious development. By asking the Security Council to issue mandatory orders to Britain, the Government have abdicated their responsibility. They are now no longer free to exercise their own judgment or of their own discretion. They have in this matter become agents of the Security Council, acting under instructions from New York.
When my hon. Friends and I criticise the Government's recent action, we are asked "What would you have done?" It is a fair question, and I propose to answer it. To begin with, we would not have allowed ourselves to get into this position. It is all very well for the Secretary of State to smile, but as far back as the debate last December we clearly foresaw that attempts might be made to break the oil embargo and that this would raise the dangerous and awkward question of blockade. That is one of the reasons why we pressed so hard for early talks with Mr. Smith so as to try to settle this matter before the country was faced with this perilous dilemma.
Having ignored our advice, and having allowed the situation to drift into this position, the Government should have persevered longer in their efforts to secure the voluntary co-operation of the other countries concerned. The possibilities of persuasion had quite obviously not been exhausted, since a British Foreign Office Minister was actually talking to the Portuguese Government in Lisbon at the very moment when the Foreign Secretary took this matter before the Security Council in New York. While these further diplomatic approaches were proceeding, no doubt—and I will be frank about this—a tanker or two would have slipped into Beira and Mr. Smith's Administration would have received some 750 small additional quantities of oil. On the other hand, this must be weighed against the grave dangers which will now result from having placed Britain under the orders of the Security Council.
The British Resolution, for that is what it is, approved by the Security Council, declares that the continuance of the Smith régime constitutes a threat to international peace. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said, this is palpably untrue, but I will not go into that because it is so obvious. Apart from the question of truth, this declaration has presented to other nations the most powerful justification for demanding more and more new measures of increasing severity, including, if necessary, the use of force.
Having themselves asked the United Nations to order Britain to blockade Portuguese territory, Her Majesty's Government should not be surprised if, quite soon, they are ordered to extend the blockade to South Africa. South Africa would not docilely accept being blockaded. It would, no doubt, hesitate to start a shooting war. But quite certainly the South African Government would turn the Royal Navy out of the Simonstown base and revoke the Defence Agreement to which the present Government have said, like their predecessors, that they attach importance.
Even if we managed to prevent South Africa from obtaining additional supplies of oil over and above its normal requirements, it would not be at all difficult for that country, by dipping into its large reserves, to provide Rhodesia with enough oil to carry on for quite a while. Then, no doubt, we should be urged by the United Nations to put further pressure on South Africa by imposing economic sanctions. That, of course, would be ruinous. As Lord Caradon told the Security Council the other day, the suspension of trade with South Africa might damage our balance of payments to the tune of £300 million a year. That is something which we obviously could not afford and we would have to refuse.
In that event I have no doubt that the United Nations would turn to us and say, "If you are not prepared to take economic action against South Africa, having stated that the continuance of the Smith Administration is a threat to international peace, it is your bounden duty to take 751 military action to overthrow it inside Rhodesia." That is something which would be totally repugnant to the British people. That is the perilous tangle into which the Government's action has got us. It is therefore, more than ever fortunate that they have now decided to try to resolve the problem by negotiation before the siuation gets completely out of hand.
If, however, the talks are to have any chance of success, the Government—and this was referred to by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)—must make it clear that they have dropped their insistence upon a period of direct rule by the Government, since, no matter what the Government say to the contrary, this amounts to a demand for unconditional surrender. It amounts to a demand for a blank cheque, which would make any negotiations a complete farce. I hope, therefore, that the Minister who winds up the debate will take the opportunity quickly to remove any doubts on this important point.
As the interesting survey broadcast by the B.B.C. the other day shows, sanctions are not as yet cutting very deeply. The Europeans continue to be firmly united behind Mr. Smith, and they are not likely to surrender until their whole economy is in ruins and the machinery of government has collapsed. There is no certainty that sanctions, however long pursued, could necessarily be sufficiently effective to produce that result. Even if they were, surely that is not what anybody in any part of this House wishes to achieve. That, however, is now largely academic, because in any event the process of slow strangulation would certainly take very much longer than the Security Council, which now possesses the initiative, would be willing to wait.
Therefore, unless a settlement can be arrived at fairly soon, the Government, to use the phrase of the Secretary of State, will find that more and more they are being pushed around by other countries which have no love for Britain and which are more interested in satisfying their racialist emotions than in doing what is best for the people of Rhodesia.
752 It has been said that we on this side are in favour of sanctions only as long as they are not effective.
§ Mr. Sandys
That is totally unfair and untrue. Most of us on this side have accepted sanctions as a sad but unavoidable necessity. We have accepted the purpose of sanctions, which is to help to create a mood in Rhodesia which will be conducive to bringing Rhodesia back to constitutional rule, and we wish that objective to be achieved.
We must, however, keep things in perspective. Rhodesia is not our only problem. There are other objectives of British policy at home and abroad which are just as important. We have to consider how our action over Rhodesia is likely to affect the achievement of those other aims. We have to weigh one with the other. To resolve the Rhodesian problem, we must be prepared to take appreciable risks and to pay an appreciable price, but not unlimited risks and not an unlimited price.
We have to consider how far it is right to alienate our old and trusted allies—[An HON. MEMBER: "Portugal."]—how far it is wise to risk military embroilment how far we can afford to lose important and valuable export markets and how far it is fair to ask the British taxpayer to foot the bill. The sky is not the limit. Somewhere, there must come a point beyond which we could not go. The task of the Government is to negotiate a reasonable settlement before that point is reached.
The Prime Minister has said that he is not asking for immediate African majority rule as a precondition for independence, nor is he insisting upon a fixed timetable for the advance of Africans thereafter. That means that, subject to safeguards for the future advance of the Africans, the Government envisage independence for Rhodesia under a government which, at least initially, will be under European control. Since Mr. Smith is the only person who is in a position to speak with authority for the Europeans, it has been clear all along, at least to us on this side of the House—
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North) rose—753
§ Mr. Sandys
—that sooner or later the Government would have to make up their minds to talk to him. The Prime Minister has now announced informal talks to explore the possibility of more formal negotiations. I hope very much that the question of legal status, to which the Prime Minister referred in passing in reply to a supplementary question this afternoon—
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West) rose—
§ Mr. Sandys
If the hon. Member will forgive my not giving way, I do not want to make a long speech. I hope that the question of legal status and protocol will not be allowed to stand in the way.
§ Mr. Sandys
The holding of talks should not imply any recognition of the legality of the Smith Administration. Equally, it should not imply any renunciation by Mr. Smith of U.D.I.
I do not underrate the difficulties which caused the breakdown last autumn, but I am optimistic that this time they will be overcome. The reason for my confidence is that in the interval both sides have learned a lot. The bitter experience of these last months and the dangers which are looming ahead for both sides provide a powerful inducement to agreement. Each will, no doubt, have to make concessions to the other. But, with so much at stake, with so great a prize, and with the hopes of so many centred upon them, I cannot believe that once negotiations have been re-started either could allow them to fail.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Moonman (Billericay)
The choice that every Member faces in a maiden speech is one related to the question whether he refers to his own specialist knowledge or whether he should deal strictly with the subject under discussion.
I was unfortunate on previous occasions in catching Mr. Speaker's eye, and, therefore, I have chosen to deal with the effective running and organisation of the nation's resources rather than with Southern Rhodesia, the subject under debate. That is not to say that I am disinterested in the problem surrounding 754 our relationship with Southern Rhodesia, but there are many hon. Members who will wish to pursue the subject further, and, no doubt, make the points that have caused me some anxiety.
I should like to say a word about my own constituency of Billericay, which has the largest electorate in the country. I am not making any special plea for the size of the constituency. It reflects the extraordinary development which has taken place in Essex in recent years.
There are two particular problems which are relevant to Billericay. One is the fact that the social services have not developed as they have done in other parts of the country, and certainly one contrasts that with my own home area in the North-West. There are not in existence the many institutions like hospitals and schools built in previous decades. I know that those who live in Brentwood and the nearby towns will recognise that there is a great case for a regional development plan which will help to co-ordinate transport and the social services.
The other matter which is relevant to my constituency is the dramatic growth in the new town of Basildon. I regretted that there was no reference in the Gracious Speech to the independence of the new towns in the country, and it may be that the town of Basildon, like other new towns, will cause just as much concern in future as Southern Rhodesia does at present. In my view, a U.D.I. is likely to happen in our new towns, and I would give them my support. The danger is that a new town will become an old town not only without in any way achieving its potentiality, but without even going through the processes of self-discovery. The lack of a hospital, for instance, in the new town of Basildon is a disgrace.
I want now to deal with the effective running of the nation's resources and, in a way, I am not too apologetic about introducing this subject into the debate today because many of the speeches on Monday under the heading of technology and education were probably as relevant to the forms of debate on that occasion as mine is today.
Many of my colleagues in the technological universities and colleges have probably become depressed, if they have read HANSARD or the newspapers, by the general tone in the debates on the Gracious Speech on the two important 755 areas of our national resources—on the one hand, technology, and on the other, education.
The theory behind technology is the utilisation of new ideas into action. In other words, we have some knowledge arising from research studies to take appropriate action in industry so that the nation as a whole can benefit. That is a tremendous challenge to the universities and industry.
There is obviously a great need for a co-ordinating agency to translate the findings of the research establishments into a practical form. It is extremely doubtful whether there are many industrialists in the country who are fully aware of the enormous advances made in human relations research here, in the United States and in India. The names of the late Professor MacGregor, Tom Burns and some of my colleagues at Manchester University would be strange to them.
The important question is whether industry is fully aware of the real value of research. What particularly concerned me the other day was the fact that much of our discussion ignored the myths which prevent both managements and the trade unions from thinking clearly. There is, on the one hand, the myth of management, which is that of the manager or employer who does not want to modernise. He is the autocrat who feels that the work problems can best be tackled by using methods that were adequate many years ago. I have had a number of conversations with managements who are content to run their businesses as they have done for the last 40 years. There are also those managers who are willing to accept the challenge of new ideas but who are not aware of the price that it involves. The bill for good human relationships is something that they may not meet but one which will have to be met probably by another generation of managers and trade unionists.
There are myths on the part of the traditional trade unionist who is concerned with terms like "worker control". A more correct interpretation of what is relevant to modern industry is "industrial democracy". There can be little opportunity for workers to share in the control of a business in the way that we have seen in Yugoslavia, because there were 756 special circumstances which surrounded the setting up of worker control in that country as in Israel.
The problems that we face in British industry today are problems that are quite deep rooted. Unless we can understand fully the myths which surround the problems, we are not likely to bring about the sort of effectiveness for which we are all searching.
A major problem in industry is that the "rights" claimed by many employers and trade unionists are mutually exclusive. If employers' rights were met in full, it would mean that there would be no place for the trade unions, and the greater uses of technology would suffer. Similarly, if the trade unions' rights were met in full in the existing social and political climate, management would become possible.
I want now to turn briefly to the subject of the running of Parliament. I can only add my voice to the speeches and comments already made about the way in which our business is conducted. In the language of the estate agents, there is no doubt that this building is well sited, has all sorts of modern conveniences, and is in a desirable position in our city. But there are many practical difficulties facing both the new Member and even perhaps a Member who has been here for some time. I hope that in this Parliament there will be great opportunities for Members from all parts of the House to consider very seriously the sort of organisation that we want to have, which will not only reflect what is right for the conduct of business, but the sort of organisation which the nation expects.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Without any reflection on my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), may I point out that he is the fourth Privy Councillor in succession to be called from this side of the House? How long is the line to spread out? Is it till the crack of doom?
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I should like to congratulate 757 the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Moonman) on going through the ordeal of making a maiden speech in the House. I hope that we shall hear him on many occasions when the subject of debate is technology and education or the reform of procedure in the House. He has a great command of his subject, and I shall be glad to hear him another time.
I think it is without precedent, when an Amendment is placed on the Order Paper regretting the exclusion from the Gracious Speech of an item of policy and Mr. Speaker does not select that Amendment, for the Government to come down on the day when the debate on the subject is taken to repair the omission in the Gracious Speech by adding that policy. Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you require any protection from my hon. Friends, may I say that as some of my hon. Friends and I have put down an Amendment regretting that talks were not being opened, I have a certain right to speak.
The Government's action means that everything that I was going to say in my speech has had to be altered. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman made a mistake in trying to justify his policy in his speech. I had prepared a speech criticising condemning his policy, but I do not believe that my speech of condemnation, or his speech of justification would be helpful today.
What I want to try to do in a short time is to define the issues of what I believe the Minister has announced as the talks about talks. We are not promised talks, but talks about talks, and the confusion into which the House and the country often gets in this Rhodesian problem is the confusion of trying to make as one two distinct but inter-related aspects of the situation. There is, first, the break by Mr. Ian Smith with Whitehall, and, secondly, the fact that the present state of the electoral system in Rhodesia is such that she cannot be accepted as an independent member of the Commonwealth. In my view these are two distinct problems requiring distinct treatment.
Taking the first one first, the illegal seizure of independence, I think that what the House does not realise is that the idea of direct rule from Whitehall is offensive to Rhodesians of every colour and race. They have never been under direct rule from Whitehall. At one 758 time they were under the rule of a Chartered Company. When that ended, they were offered union with South Africa, or a relationship with the British Government. They chose to be under the British Government for foreign affairs and defence, but to have internal self-government, and I think that a great deal of the bitterness which has been aroused since 11th November has been due to the failure of the British Government to recognise that fact. No one wants to have direct rule from Whitehall, and therefore Mr. Smith has had rallying to him those who disagree with his policy merely because he is at last getting away from Whitehall.
Where I think the Government have made a mistake—and here I want, if not to criticise, to elucidate—is in appearing to attach all the importance to what they call the illegal régime. I believe that this policy at the United Nations under Chapter VII is thronged with disaster. The Resolution which was moved on 9th April says:Considering that such supplies of oil will afford great assistance and encouragement to the illegal régime in Southern Rhodesia thereby enabling it to remain in being, determined that the resulting situation constitutes a threat to peace.That is clearly saying that to enable the illegal régime to remain in being constitutes a threat to peace.
As I understand it, the threat to peace is a tanker going into the port of Beira, or, alternatively, a tanker which had discharged oil leaving Beira, and Britain was given the right to use armed force against those two tankers. If that is a threat to peace—and I hope that when the learned Attorney-General replies he will deal with this point—are the Government arguing equally that bringing oil over Beit Bridge, or across the Limpopo, or the action of the Germans, the French, the Japanese, and the Americans, in buying tobacco at tobacco auctions, and in selling their goods to Rhodesia, thereby enabling the illegal régime to continue, are also threats to peace? As my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) said, I think that this is the dangerous step which has developed by the Resolution of 9th April, and Parliament should be told. Whatever views we may have, and however much we differ in our views as to the treatment of 759 the Rhodesian Government, we were told that the British Government were not in favour of using force, but by using Chapter VII and Articles 39 and 42 they are in fact empowering the United Nations to order them to use force in those contingencies.
Perhaps I might now leave the first problem and go to the far more difficult one, namely, the fact that the present state of the electoral system will not enable the Commonwealth to accept Rhodesia as a constituent member. We have to remember that the present state of the electoral system is one agreed by the British Government. The 1961 Constitution lays that down, and unless we can get the economy of Rhodesia developing, and education proceeding fast enough, there is no hope for many years of getting that electoral system changed so that we get a Parliament reasonably representative of the whole country.
Every action which the British Government have taken against Rhodesia since 11th November has postponed and delayed the possibility of getting more Africans educated and of Africans being able to qualify through having the qualificatory level of income under the Constitution. This seems to me to be the most difficult problem.
§ Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)
Would not it be true to say that, even if a large number of Africans received the vote because of new qualifications, there would be no more African representation within the Constitution?
§ Mr. Turton
No. If they were to qualify on the "A" roll, they could get a majority in Parliament. What I think the hon. Gentleman is talking about are "B" roll qualifications. What we have to think of is how we can accelerate the development of Rhodesia so that the electoral system is such that she can be accepted by the Commonwealth as an independent member.
That brings me to what I think is the most important aspect of this problem today. What are the talks going to be about? How will they be conducted, and who will play a part in them? I have defined the issue under two separate heads. I think that the two main aspects of the talks must be, first, to clarify the terms under which the British Govern- 760 ment can accept Rhodesia as an independent country, and, secondly, the conditions under which the Commonwealth can accept Rhodesia as an independent member. They are two separate issues, but both must be considered during this process of talks, either in the early informal talks or in the later ones.
I was delighted, when the Prime Minister made his announcement, that he said that the talks would be without the glare of publicity. I believe that the talks about talks should be without the glare of publicity, and so should the consequent talks. That is of great importance—
§ Mr. James Johnson rose—
§ Mr. Turton
I will give way a little later.
This is of great importance, because the action during the last five months has so heated the passions of many people in various parts of the world that publicity will not help if we are sincerely anxious to get an honourable settlement of these problems.
§ Mr. James Johnson
Would the right hon. Gentleman accept that an honourable settlement could only be on the basis of satisfying 4 million black men and their families who live in the territory and not simply satisfying the 200,000 white men? Is that not the only honourable basis for any agreement between Her Majesty's Government and Salisbury?
§ Mr. Turton
The hon. Gentleman must not think that all the electors will ever be satisfied. The last election here proved that they were not all satisfied. The hon. Member is simplifying the problem. He is moving on to the next section of my speech.
I believe, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) rightly said, that the lines of the agreement to secure both the first objective and the second are the six terms which have been announced. I do not want to repeat them, because I want to make a short speech, but I should like to add to one.
I do not believe that a crash programme of education is of the slightest use in Rhodesia unless it is accompanied by a crash programme of development. Every action which the British Government have taken in imposing sanctions has retarded 761 that possibility for the Africans. Therefore, Britain and the Commonwealth must make their contribution to a crash programme of education and of development.
We should bear in mind that, only last week, the Minister of Education in Mr. Smith's Government announced a crash programme of primary education. I do not believe that that is sufficient, but at least it shows a certain amount of willingness. They have not the financial resources today to promote a crash programme of secondary education. That should be our aim and one of the offers which we make in the talks which are now to be held.
Who are to conduct the talks? If I am right, and this is not merely a matter between us and Rhodesia, as to the assumption of the illegal régime, but is also a question of Rhodesia's place in the Commonwealth, it is very important that, in the second stage or in subsequent stages of the talks, Commonwealth statesmen should be asked to take part. As I see the position, in all these talks, we should talk not merely to the Government in power but also to those who are not in power.
Therefore, not only should the Prime Minister of Britain take part in the talks, but also the Leader of the Opposition. Equally, in Rhodesia, not only should the Prime Minister of Rhodesia take part, but also the Leader of the Opposition—
§ Mr. Turton
The Leader of the Opposition is Mr. Chad Chipunza, and he should be at the talks. It would be valuable if he were—
§ Mr. Turton
I believe that representatives of Commonwealth countries should be at the talks. It would be of immense help if Sir Robert Menzies could be persuaded to take part, or, if he were not available, Mr. Harold Holt, the present Prime Minister of Australia, representing the Commonwealth countries outside Africa. I believe that the Commonwealth countries in Africa should also be represented at the talks. It might be of value if someone like General Ironsi of Nigeria could be asked to take part.
762 That is the kind of picture which I suggest to the House today—a body of seven men, representing this country, Rhodesia and the Commonwealth, to hammer out what is probably one of the most difficult problems with which any statesman has ever been faced in any part of the world. I believe that if that could be achieved, then the prayers of the whole world would be for the success of the deliberations of that body of men.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
After the statement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, this debate has become something of an anti-climax. It is obvious that many of the things which many hon. Members wanted to say—as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have said, probably by way of criticism—and other remarks which I had wanted to make to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State especially must fall by the wayside. I think that Mr. Speaker was right in reminding the House that, in those circumstances, speeches should be short. I will follow that advice.
There were one or two points which might have been put by way of questions if we had had a longer opportunity. They were what one might call committee points, but they are relevant today. As the Prime Minister said, it is no good crying over spilt milk. Enough milk has been spilled already to cause considerable apprehension, not only in Rhodesia but in this country, where substantial interests are at stake in the policy being followed.
I have not intervened in any debate on this subject before today since U.D.I. took place, because I thought that Mr. Ian Smith made a very grievous mistake in declaring U.D.I. However, that is in the past—at least we hope so—in view of what the Prime Minister has said. Therefore our thoughts should be directed to the future.
The Prime Minister has said that informal talks will take place. What does that mean, precisely? The Prime Minister's Private Secretary has been to Rhodesia, as has an official of the Commonwealth Relations Office, and Mr. Smith has told the world—or his Parliament, which is the same thing—that that individual, a State servant, a civil servant, who has gone out there especially to explore the ground, said nothing to him, 763 or at least to those civil servants of the Rhodesian Government who saw him. He said that there were three.
I submit that it is no use having informal discussions unless they are specific. In that respect, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and the Prime Minister himself—we know that it is the Prime Minister who takes the initiatives in these things—must instruct those who enter into these informal discussions to discuss matters which will bring the present impossible situation to a successful conclusion. I will not ask my right Friend what these discussions should be about. I agree with him that they should be on a diplomatic basis and not in the glare of publicity, but obviously as the discussions proceed Questions will be asked in the House about the progress which the Prime Minister has made in the informal discussions, whoever he sends there.
I suggest that our man in Rhodesia is there—the Governor. Although Mr. Smith has treated him somewhat discourteously, partly through the frustration that he felt through having Her Majesty's representative still there, I think that the Governor might be accorded a little more status by Mr. Smith and might possibly be used by the Prime Minister to conduct discussions, perhaps in an informal manner, because he is not now recognised by the Smith Government although we consider him to be the legal representative of the Crown in Rhodesia.
If that is accepted by the Prime Minister, what comes next? One hopes that these informal discussions would soon be lifted off that basis on to the basis of formal discussions. Everybody now knows what is at stake and what are the differences between the Smith Government and ourselves. I have said that Mr. Smith acted very irresponsibly, but he was pushed into that position by many people in Rhodesia—good people on the whole, many of whom were met by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) and many of whom I have met when I have been out there. They were afraid that they would be completely dispossessed and ignored, as has happened in African countries north of them, as we know only too well. It is small wonder that they were apprehensive and that, al- 764 though there are only 200,000 whites compared with 4 million blacks, the whites felt that they had done a good job there which should be recognised. Those who have seen Salisbury and other towns and who have seen the farms know what they have done in the 70 years since they took it from the jungle and created a modern industrial and agricultural State. Is there any wonder they they say, "We want to be as much masters of our fate as the blacks want to be masters of theirs"?
How are we to bring these two conflicting interests together? That is the test of diplomacy. I urge the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State to study history and, in particular, recent history. I lived through the Irish rebellion when murder was abroad and when members of the Government of the day were under great difficulties and fear of assassination. Never let us forget that the I.R.A. came over here and assassinated a British field-marshal on his doorstep. It might have happened to Ministers, as it did to the Ministers in Ireland. But there had to be a time when these inflammatory circumstances were discussed round the table and there had to be give and take.
A lot of give and take will have to take place between Britain and Rhodesia before a mutually acceptable settlement is reached. I think that at some time the House is entitled to know what the Prime Minister has in mind for a settlement without, as it were, putting all his cards on the table. It is remarkable how all politicians always keep their cards close to their chests, Mr. Smith in Rhodesia and the Prime Minister here. But the issues do not concern just those two gentlemen. They concern people who might slide into war, as has happened before, because all the big shots have kept their cards close to their chests as if they were playing a game of poker.
The issue is as vital to the country as it is to Rhodesia. Look at the trouble which is being caused to considerable British interests at stake in Rhodesia, with Lloyds having to deny their own policies and not being permitted to conduct their business in a peaceful way. The two Governments have to get rid of that, for if it goes on for a long time it will not only be the future of Rhodesia which is at stake; as others have said, there will 765 be considerable difficulties for this country.
Following a point made by the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), I read two very illuminating responsible and statesmanlike articles in the Sunday Telegraph last Sunday, one from the former Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, and the other from Sir Roy Welensky. I have met and had long discussions with both these gentlemen, with Sir Robert Menzies as recently as last October. I should like to set the tone for the debate by reading quite shortly two extracts from these articles. Sir Robert Menzies, by no means entirely takes the British point of view, but he is in favour of sanctions. He refers to the older members of the Commonwealth, and one must make this distinction in debates on Africa because there are older members of the Commonwealth with far more experience, far more erudition and far more responsibility than is to be found in some of these coloured races to whom this country, not the United Nations, has given liberty.
Sir Robert Menzies wrote:The older members of the Commonwealth would, I am sure, welcome efforts towards creating a state of affairs in which the ultimate recognition of Rhodesia as a member of the Commonwealth, on a basis acceptable to the wisest African leaders and in conformity with the principles stated by the British Government could be made possible. But Mr. Smith and his followers must play their part.I will suggest one or two little things which Mr. Smith might do now to show his good will.
We should never forget that Sir Roy Welensky was the Prime Minister of the Federation of the three constituent parts of the country until recently. He wrote in his article:I am an opponent of U.D.I. but I love my country.That is simple language. I wonder how many of the coloured races whom we have liberated and who will have to look for their prosperity and their future to the white man, with all his powers for developing the country, could say it as simply as that. From what I have seen of them on television and in other ways, they are much more emotional. They want immediate power, and when they get it they do not know what to do with it. That means that for millions of people 766 their future is at stake because of the irresponsibility and naivety of their leaders.
Sir Roy Welensky is out there, and if any man knows about that part of Africa, he does. He wrote:We cannot be starved into submission.Let us put that together with the sentence, "I love my country." He adds,Even if oil were cut off we could still limp along, but the long-term effects would be most damaging.They would, with the tobacco crop, which is the backbone of the Rhodesian economy, cut off at the behest of the British Government and the tobacco growers not being allowed to trade with anybody they liked.
I do not know all the facts. It may be that the policy employed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was to avoid a bigger danger. We all know from where that danger comes. But the pursuance of these policies will bring Rhodesia into a state of confusion in which she will be ripe for real rebellion. What then will happen to British interests in Rhodesia? Certain other nations could not care a snap of the fingers about that.
There is one suggestion which I want to make. I hope that it will be reported in Rhodesia; I suspect that Mr. Smith takes some interest in our debates in this House. He might let up a little on the conditions of austerity of the Governor. This would show good will. It would not bring about a further rebellion against his Government, but it would make life tolerable, as life should be made tolerable for civilised people even though they are in a country which is at odds with Britain. It would not matter much to Mr. Smith, but it would make the Governor more amenable to talks and possibly would lead to a better spirit in the so-called unofficial negotiations.
Meantime, sanctions are being continued. Britain probably will not lose much if oil is stopped altogether, although I would remind those hon. Members who have experience of another occasion when oil sanctions were imposed on Italy at the behest of the League of Nations that they did not work. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I am not concerned with that, The oil sanctions are not complete at present; never mind why. Industry in Rhodesia can be brought almost to a stop 767 only if the sanctions are made effective. But if they are made effective, if we stop all trade, this will lead to a situation in which it will not be possible for unofficial or official negotiations to take place. I am merely referring to another incident about which I know only too well and which eventually, with other reasons, precipitated us into war.
Hon. Members may scoff at that suggestion as being extravagant. Let them read history and recent history. When a statement is made like that which I have just quoted from Sir Roy Welensky, 200,000 white people are not going down completely without asserting their rights, such as they are, even though they may be in conflict with 4 million black people. I do not want to introduce—[Interruption.]—perhaps hon. Members will wait. They anticipate quite a lot. Some hon. Members do not have much experience of this House. I do not want to make any statement which may exacerbate feelings. My right hon. Friend is quite right. But I must state the facts as I see them; and let my hon. Friends state the facts as they see them. This is a subject for debate. I have heard enough debates in this House to be able to draw many conclusions from them.
We must hope that the Prime Minister will be successful. But we must also hope that British interests, which are suffering severely, will not be put to the test much longer. If they are, it will react on this country's balance of trade and we shall suffer. Then hon. Members can perhaps explain to their constituents what it is all about.
I hope that when this debate concludes and negotiations start the House will be kept informed, as far as possible, about where we are going. At present we are in an impossible situation—not only Rhodesia but ourselves. Who will state with assurance that the United Nations will endorse a policy of sanctions or pass resolutions as they have just done and then leave it to Britain to carry them out at no expense to themselves? I am not so sure.
For these and other reasons I welcome the Prime Minister's initiative, although he gave a reason for it with which I would not agree, namely, the efficacy of sanctions. Let us get the two sides together for talks. As Sir Winston Churchill said, 768 talk is better than war. I do not mean war in the physical sense, but a state of war exists between the two countries. I hope that we will urge the Prime Minister forward to a successful conclusion of formal as well as informal negotiations.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)
It is, I think, true to say that until the Prime Minister's statement this afternoon the feeling was universal in this country that the Rhodesian problem was not merely eluding a solution but was proceeding step by step to a catastrophe which none of us on either side of the House wished to see. Suddenly there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. It is a very good thing that there are to be talks and that these talks are to be without commitment. I hope that there will be a readiness on both sides from the beginning to try to understand the point of view of the other. U.D.I. was technically an act of rebellion. It was an illegal act. It was an act carried out, I have no doubt, without the approval of the majority of the Rhodesian people. In my view, no British Government worth their salt could have done anything other than to condemn Mr. Smith's action. It was also an act of folly, because it precipitated a course of events which predictably would damage the interests of all the parties concerned.
Then the great question arose as to what to do about it. Down the ages there has been only one way in which to deal with rebellion, and that is to put it down by force of arms. But one cannot put down a rebellion by staying many thousands of miles away and hurling invective at the rebels. I recall that Winston Churchill said in the 1930s, when the pacifist Left was talking about stopping Germany, that this could not be done by a card vote of the T.U.C. In this case the Prime Minister decided not to use force. He has protested all along that he has no intention of using force. In principle, he was quite right, because this was—and let us recognise it—a rebellion with a difference.
First of all, British public opinion would never have supported military action. It is uneasy enough as it is about economic sanctions. The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) rightly referred to what 769 happened in Ireland nearly 50 years ago. Memories of what happened there have been revived in recent weeks, and they are not happy memories; they underline the old saying that the grass never grows over the battlefields of civil war.
Moreover, at the back of the Prime Minister's mind there must have been the knowledge that this rebellion was taking place, not in a dependency governed closely by the Colonial Office hut in a country which had enjoyed over 40 years of full responsible self-government. I would hope, therefore, that this fact, which must have been in the back of the Prime Minister's mind throughout, is in the forefront of our minds now we are approaching the question of talks. Rhodesian leaders had attended successive conferences of Commonwealth Prime Ministers for many years before a great many of the present Commonwealth countries had received their independence. Indeed, but for the Rhodesians' readiness to pool their material resources—and, I would add, their hopes and aspirations, too—in the ill-fated idea of the Central African Federation in 1953, they might have attained their political independence long ago.
I do not wish to be misunderstood. In my heart, I do not believe that there is any future for the white man in Southern Africa unless he is prepared to move very much faster in offering a genuine partnership to the black man. Here I echo every word uttered by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). On the other hand, as one who had some hand in the piloting of the 1961 Constitution through this House, I know that the majority of white Rhodesians at that time genuinely wanted a liberal solution. A good many of them accepted the inevitability of majority rule, although they thought then, as no doubt they think now, that the process would necessarily take a long time. But the fact that under the new Constitution virtually all Members of their new Legislature would owe their seats to the votes of both races would mean that in time the fact of race would matter less and less. That is the answer to the hon. Member who asked a question a moment ago about the 1961 Constitution. In the end, given time and 770 good will, it would have been possible to arrive at a multi-racial solution and majority rule.
That was the belief then. If it changed subsequently, it is important for the House to understand why. I beg hon. Members who think—and a good many genuinely think—that all white Rhodesians are illiberal, to recall what happened in the years immediately following the introduction of the 1961 Constitution. Two developments conspired to inject fear into the situation and to destroy that confidence without which it was quite impossible for that Constitution to work.
There was, first, the refusal—the ill-advised refusal—of the African Nationalists in Southern Rhodesia to work the 1961 Constitution; and their use of open intimidation, of arson and physical violence to prevent Africans from registering as voters in the first place, or once they had registered from casting their votes. The second development was on their borders—not in Hampshire or the Isle of Wight or Canvey Island—but the mounting chaos, mutilation and murder which became a daily occurrence in the Congo.
If then the Prime Minister excluded the use of military action, as he was right to do, was there any hope of economic sanctions succeeding? The Prime Minister clearly and genuinely thought that those sanctions would succeed, and when it was plain that they were not bringing down the Smith régime quickly, which was the object of the exercise, he turned to oil sanctions. He told the Lagos Conference that this would do the trick in a matter of weeks. We now know that it did not do so.
It is very easy to be wise after the event, and I am not casting myself in that rôle. When U.D.I. was declared I was on my way to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in New Zealand. I returned in time for the debate on oil sanctions and abstained from the vote that followed. But had I caught your eye on that occasion, Mr. Speaker, I should have said that all who know Southern Africa, who have been there or who have friends and business acquaintances there, could have predicted the failure of economic sanctions to act quickly. That they would succeed in the long run in pulling Rhodesia down 771 there is no doubt, but they would not act quickly.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was absolutely right when he said that sanctions had not rallied the moderates to us but had rallied them to Mr. Smith. Sanctions have had the effect of evoking something of the Dunkirk spirit in Rhodesia, and I would not sneer at that—there were many Rhodesians with us at Dunkirk. They have also had the effect of developing a pathological hatred—and I say it with great sorrow—for the Prime Minister. The one thing they have not done is to bring down the Smith régime quickly.
On the other hand, sanctions have failed in their primary object of bringing down the régime quickly, they are likely to succeed in doing what could hardly have been in the mind of the Prime Minister at any time—in slowly eroding the Rhodesian economy, and paving the way for ultimate collapse which would make it quite impossible for the 250,000 whites to remain there except under the umbrella of South Africa. What a tragic irony that the people who, just over 40 years ago, had the opportunity of becoming the fifth province of the Union of South Africa but instead chose—proudly chose—self-government under the British Crown, should be faced with this agonising dilemma.
This slow erosion simply could not have been in the Prime Minister's mind, because he must know, his advisers must have told him, that the first sufferers would not be the Europeans but the Africans. Every one of us who understands how the Rhodesian economy works, who knows how dependent it is on labour drawn from neighbouring territories, knows that long-drawn-out sanctions would hurt the Africans more than the Europeans. Prime Minister Banda really hit the nail on the head when he said:I will not boycott Rhodesia, South Africa or Mozambique. If I boycott Rhodesia, am I boycotting Smith? No, I am boycotting my own people.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw referred to powerful articles in the Sunday Press. There was an equally powerful article in this week's Spectator, written by Sir Edgar Whitehead, who was responsible for intro- 772 ducing the 1961 Constitution. This is what he says on the subject:The black are likely to suffer more than the white because the white are relatively so few that they can be helped by job-sharing and other devices, while the black are so numerous that it is probably beyond the resources of the régime to do much to assist them other than by returning as many non-Rhodesians as possible to Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia, thereby adding to the difficulties of those countries.He goes on to say that in London last November…many people were talking as though sanctions would quickly bring Rhodesia to ruin. Today the wheel has swung full circle and many people are talking as though sanctions are doing no damage to Rhodesia at all. Both views are absurd. Of course damage is being done, but I doubt whether more than a third of the financial loss is falling on Mr. Smith's supporters.Where do we go from here? It is an impossible situation in which to find ourselves. My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) was absolutely right when he spoke of the futility of raking up the past. In this context I remember Edmund Gosse's apt words:The past is like a funeral gone by.Every raking up of the past serves only to exacerbate the position. What is needed now is fresh thinking, and I am delighted there is evidence that the Prime Minister is prepared to indulge in fresh thinking on how this unhappy business can be resolved.
Until today I must confess it looked very much as if both the Prime Minister and Mr. Smith were too involved personally to resume the dialogue with any chance of success. Both have been protesting for some time that they wanted talks. Now there are to be talks, and that is good, but how do we take the statement by the Secretary of State this afternoon that this does not represent any change in policy? It is imperative that this should be clarified by the Attorney-General when he replies tonight, because one of the most alarming features of the Government's policy until this afternoon has been their belief that at the end of the day it would be necessary for Britain to impose a period of direct rule on Rhodesia. On that basis, there could be no talks. I hope, therefore, that the Attorney-General will spell out exactly what the Secretary of State meant, because it does not fit in with what the Prime Minister was saying earlier.
773 On the other hand, I hope that a great deal of attention will be attached to the wise words of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral. Clearly Rhodesia is not in a position to bring about a rapid improvement in the economic and educational standards of her people if we are to see the 1961 Constitution, which I take it will be the basis of any settlement, being treated as something which Africans as well as Europeans can accept. It may be that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) said, we in this country will have to pay an appreciable price. I hope that after all the moralising we have indulged in we shall be prepared for that. There is need to get rid of racial discrimination. There is need for give and take on both sides.
I do not believe that the going will be easy. I hope that nothing will be allowed to break off these talks once they have started. My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) suggested that Commonwealth statesmen might be brought in to assist. I understand that Sir Roy Welensky, who of course was an opponent of U.D.I. but is a passionate Rhodesian patriot, has been suggesting that an outside mediator should be called in and suggested an American of the stature of Dean Acheson. That is an idea, but there is no need to go outside the Commonwealth. There is no more respected or experienced figure than Sir Robert Menzies. I hope that the Prime Minister will consider this.
I was reading the other day what was said of Disraeli:that he educated the Tories and dished the Whigs to pass Reform, but to have become what he is from what he was, is the greatest reform of all.I say this in a genuine spirit of friendliness to the Prime Minister. He will lose nothing at all but will gain a great deal in reputation and stature if he is prepared now to break fresh ground. That would be a reform which the whole nation would welcome. Somewhere, someone has got to make a start in bringing about a settlement, in securing justice—perhaps rough justice at this stage—for both black and white. Otherwise, if the situation is allowed to drift, the interests of black and white in Rhodesia will suffer, conflict will spread, chaos will ensue and one of 774 the most hopeful parts of Africa will slip back into darkness.
The responsibility resting on the shoulders of the Prime Minister and Mr. Smith is enormous. Neither of them can afford now to let the situation drift. It would be tragically ironic if this final chapter of Britain's mission in Africa was concerned with bringing ruin to what many of us know has been a prosperous and civilised country. Equally, what could be said of obstinate men who control the levers of power in Rhodesia persisting on a course which makes it impossible for their children and their children's children to enjoy their inheritance? I therefore beg the Prime Minister and Mr. Smith, when considering their duty in this matter, to remember Thomas Jefferson's warning, uttered soon after another U.D.I. He was thinking of the contradiction between a state of slavery in the new United States and the high principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, when he said:I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ben Whitaker (Hampstead)
As this is my first speech in this House, I should like to start by paying tribute, as the new Member for Hampstead, to my predecessor, Mr. Henry Brooke, both for his integrity in taking unpopular decisions and for his courage in changing his mind on the issue of capital punishment. Both these are not easily found qualities inside politics or out. He and I have successively had the honour to represent a constituency which it would be presumptuous of me to say is an intelligent one, but which is one I believe concerned less with party than with principle. I believe I was elected despite rather than because of my own party's record on immigration and Vietnam.
It has been said in some quarters that the issue of Rhodesia was shielded from the electorate at the last election, but certainly at my meetings Rhodesia was the issue most frequently discussed. Some of the most memorable moments of the campaign were when people who had voted Conservative all their lives—this meant for some 10 or 15 times—told me that this time they would vote Labour, although some of them found difficulty in bringing that word to their mouths because they were unaccustomed to it, 775 because, to use their words, of their view of some Conservatives' appeasement of an illegal racialist police State. Hon. Members might also be interested to know that I received letters from Service men of high and low rank who were unable to write to the Press to express their disgust that they had been slandered by the accusations that they would not fight against racists because they were white racists.
I shall speak briefly tonight on behalf of another very large body of men who are supremely and vitally concerned in this debate but who have no voice here. I mean the people of Rhodesia of all races who have been loyal to Britain and democratic principles in the last few months. We here are purporting to be their legal Government, yet for the last five months we have been unable to prevent them being imprisoned and restricted without trial. We have seen their families made destitute, both European and African, because of their belief in the rule of law. They have been intimidated by measures of Mr. Ian Smith, such as the one which makes it an imprisonable offence to bring a Minister into disrepute or to spread alarm and despondency. I think that hon. Members will agree that those are the bases of a free Press.
While I was in Rhodesia I saw even school children arrested and punished for peacefully declaring their loyalty to Britain. Conditions in Rhodesia have been accurately described by a courageous bishop who has been living there during the last few months as being no different from those obtaining in Nazi Germany or occupied France. Let us never forget that it was on the 1961 Constitution that these discriminatory laws were based, and it is under that Constitution that the apartheid principles of the Land Apportionment Act are still existing in Rhodesia.
I found it a very unpleasant experience to be a Briton in Rhodesia since U.D.I., because one was impotent to help those people who have the courage to speak their minds by actions and words to what we were only saying in this country by words. I ask the Government tonight to give a pledge that we shall not forget these people and will compensate them fully for their courage and suffering because they have been bearing the brunt of our own responsibilities during the last few months.
776 I found the really shaming thing about being a Briton in Rhodesia since U.D.I. to be this. If U.D.I. had been seized in Aden, who can doubt that honourable and gallant Members opposite would have been loud in their demands for immediate force to arrest the rebel leaders? Supposing the same thing had happened in Belfast, would hon. Members opposite who represent Ulster seats have suggested that we negotiate with those people for five months? Some Americans have rightly commented in the past few weeks that even President Eisenhower was prepared to take stronger measures against his own countrymen at Little Rock, Arkansas.
I suggest that the difficulty of talks with Mr. Ian Smith became apparent before U.D.I. and has been exactly the same ever since. It is simply that, if Mr. Smith ever makes the slightest concession, he knows full well that he will be replaced by a more extreme politician. It is in this light that I would like respectfully to congratulate Her Majesty's Government on taking the action they did through the United Nations. I think that moment was an historic landmark in the evolution of civilisation in the world. It is, I think, in eloquent contrast not only with this country's previous action at Suez but also with the American activities in Vietnam at present. Unless we can solve the problem of Rhodesia in a fully democratic and speedy way, we shall rightly be asked to cease pretending to a responsibility which we appear to be incapable of discharging.
In those circumstances let us not hesitate to ask the United Nations to take the fullest multilateral rôle here. Meanwhile, let us never be afraid of advocating a full democracy in Rhodesia. We have seen the fears of European settlers about an African government dispelled in Zambia and in Kenya. Africans, fortunately, seem to differ from Europeans in their freedom from colour prejudice, despite the fact that they have so much more logical reason for feeling it.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)
On a point of order. I am very reluctant indeed to interrupt an hon. Member who is making his maiden speech, because I remember, from having undergone it not so long ago, the ordeal which a maiden speech involves. However, is it not a convention in the House 777 that Members during their maiden speeches do not raise controversial matters?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am really distressed that the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who himself made a maiden speech so recently should have raised a point of order which is not a point of order during a maiden speech.
§ Mr. Whitaker
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. What Africans in Rhodesia cannot stomach, and rightly so, is the fact that over 90 per cent. of them are at present denied any democratic representation.
I am sure, from having talked to people of all races in Rhodesia, that there are enough people of all races there who are free from colour prejudice and who will be willing to form a non-racial coalition. Government along the lines of the plan recently suggested by the distinguished Rhodesian lawyer, Mr. Hardwick Holderness. There are in fact more graduates amongst the Africans in exile and in concentration camps in Rhodesia tonight than there are amongst the Rhodesian Front Cabinet, so the replacement of the latter will be to the benefit of the advancement of civilisation in Rhodesia.
To conclude, every moral and practical consideration for both Britain and Rhodesia unite to demand that we lose no further time in taking any effective step as long as that results in the reconstruction of a democratic Rhodesia as soon as possible. I know that many hon. Members will watch very carefully to see that we do not in the negotiations ahead compromise with essential moral principles, so that we never again have any repetition of the succession of Rhodesian crises we have had in past years. Let us insist that these talks are with all Rhodesians and not with the tiny minority of them for whom Mr. Smith purports to speak. Time and time again this afternoon we heard hon. Members opposite reveal their minds by talking of Rhodesians when they quite clearly meant only white Rhodesians. Let Her Majesty's Government never fall into the same error in the negotiations ahead.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
This is the first time that I have had the good fortune to be able to congratulate an hon. Member after making his maiden speech. I am delighted to be able to congratulate the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker). I think all hon. Members will have particularly appreciated the generous tribute he paid to his predecessor in that seat. We welcome the views the hon. Gentleman expressed on Rhodesia, even though they may have been rather controversial. I also welcome his belief in freedom—freedom, I am sure he will agree, for both black and white. I hope that we shall meet the hon. Gentleman frequently in controversial debates, on Rhodesia and on other subjects, in the future, and I look forward to having the opportunity of crossing swords with him on a later occasion.
I visited Rhodesia in January and have recently returned from a visit to Singapore, Australia and the United States. These visits convinced me, both from the point of view of Britain and from the point of view of Rhodesia, and indeed of the outside world, that the final settlement of this dispute between Britain and Rhodesia must be made within the next few weeks. That is how I intended to open my speech, Mr. Speaker. I think that the statement the Prime Minister made this afternoon, of which of course I did not know when I wrote down my notes, underlines the fact that this really is the last chance of settling this unfortunate dispute before it spreads into a conflagration of war.
In view of this, I think that it is right to examine both the economic and political background as it is at present. I think that the Secretary of State's apologia for the Government's action was more than a little biased and one-sided. I want very briefly to discuss the present economic situation. I believe, as do many other hon. Members, that sanctions have failed if their design was to bring the Rhodesian Government to their knees. It is quite clear that sanctions may have induced a belief that it would be wise to negotiate. It is equally clear, I think, that sanctions have failed to bring the Rhodesian Government down or to make them disposed to surrender unconditionally.
779 Obviously, the nub of the whole policy of sanctions was the petrol and oil blockade. It is quite clear that sufficient petrol and oil for some time to come are still getting into Rhodesia. When I visited Salisbury and Bulawayo, I saw a very large number of foreigners who were prepared to buy or sell Rhodesian goods under the counter—at a price, of course, but, above all, on the understanding that, when sanctions were finally lifted, their country would have a share of the market which up to that time had been almost exclusively British.
Again, I have been reliably informed in the last few days that over 50 per cent. of this year's tobacco crop has been sold to foreign buyers. I also understand that both chrome and asbestos are getting through the blockade. I am told that there may be a coal shortage in Rhodesia because so much coal is going to export.
Again, we have been told that one of the main dangers facing the present Rhodesian de facto Government is a shortage of foreign exchange. Yet the allocation of foreign exchange to industry in the second quarter of this year is 20 per cent. higher than the allocation in the first quarter of this year. So it does not look as if foreign exchange will knock the Rhodesian de facto Government out in a short period of time. Indeed, they are saving something like £13 million a year in foreign exchange by not servicing the loans taken over by Britain when she took over the Rhodesian Reserve Bank.
Against this background, it is fair to say that a number of foreigners are beginning to think that the blockade is breaking down and are therefore preparing to get into the Rhodesian market on a rather larger scale than they have done during the past few months. Some very prominent foreigners—I will not name any, but hon. Members may know who I have in mind—have been visiting Rhodesia recently. I believe that there will be considerable developments in trade following these visits.
There is, of course, the other side of the picture. Small textile firms in Rhodesia have closed down. Some major firms have been prohibited from discharging their employees and, therefore, are obviously suffering because they 780 have to pay their employees although they have not any work for them. I understand that Standard Telephones has been closed and that this business has been taken over by foreigners. It is clear that shop employees and building operatives have been affected quite seriously, but there are many jobs for this type of worker in South Africa and many of them will go to South Africa and get other employment while continuing to send money to their families in Rhodesia.
Therefore, I think it is clear that those who claim that the policy of sanctions was intended to soften up Rhodesia to persuade her to negotiate have made a case, but those who claim that the object of sanctions was to bring about the unconditional surrender of the Rhodesian Government have not made their case, and it is unlikely that they will ever do so. In other words, the short-term effect of sanctions may have been reasonably satisfactory from the point of view of Her Majesty's Government, but the long-term effect of sanctions is unlikely ever to be satisfactory from the point of view of the Government in this country. It may, indeed, lead to a slowing down of Rhodesian industry, but it has clearly created a strong anti-British feeling and a consumer boycott not only in Rhodesia but in other territories of Southern Africa. This means, whatever happens in the talks, a serious and inevitable long-term loss of markets and invisibles in both Rhodesia and South Africa. This could be very disastrous for the economic future of this country when our balance of payments exists on such a narrow margin as it does today.
While considering the economic background, one must bear in mind the cost of economic sanctions to this country. The trade loss has been estimated at £33 million a year and the loss in invisibles at £26 million a year. The cost of the economic war—the additional cost of copper and similar matters—is estimated at £6 million; exchange control guarantees £10 million; the airlift to Zambia £7 million; economic assistance to Zambia £7 million; extra service costs £2 million; the maintenance of a Javelin squadron in Zambia £3 million; improvements to Zambian roads £3½ million; the Francistown Radio £½ million. That totals £98 million in a year. In addition to that, the guarantees to the World Bank 781 on Kariba, if they are called in, amount to £65 million, and British assets in Rhodesia, which could be taken over by the Rhodesian Government, total £108 million. The bill to the British economy, if these proposed talks do not succeed and if the situation deteriorates, could be well over £200 million and probably nearer £300 million in a full year. This leaves out of account the effect on invisibles, banking and trade in South Africa, Mozambique and Angola.
I wish to follow the example of other hon. Members who have spoken in the debate and to keep my speech fairly short. May I, therefore, deal briefly with the political background. The most important change is the use of Chapter VII which sanctions the use of force, and the use that tie British Government have made of this sanction—in other words, the fact that Britain has used force on the high seas. The Prime Minister only yesterday distinguished between the use of force to prevent oil from getting into Rhodesia and the use of force in Rhodesia itself. I appreciate that distinction, but I do not believe that any representative of the Afro-Asian bloc in the United Nations will make that same distinction.
I believe, therefore, that these talks must succeed and that the alternative to talks succeeding may well be mandatory sanctions imposed by the United Nations. This means—and the House must consider the possibility—a naval blockade of the whole of Southern Africa. It means that the British would be the first to be hit. British investment in South Africa totals over £1,000 million. Last year South Africa was our third largest customer. Exports last year to South Africa were £261 million and imports from South Africa were £181 million. This means that we had a balance of trade in our favour of £80 million. This is no mean achievement in these days when our balance of payments is balanced on a knife-edge, quite apart from the fact that 70 per cent. of the gold backing of the free world's currency comes from South Africa, and Southern Africa contains 4 million white people, which some hon. Members opposite seem to forget.
In describing the political background, I have mentioned the use of Chapter VII and mandatory sanctions, and I now want to refer briefly the effect of the use of force or the threat to use force on British 782 Services. I recently visited the Middle East and the Far East, and I believe that the effect on morale of the possibility of hostilities with Rhodesia has been very severe indeed. The Prime Minister will know what inquiries have been made and I understand that the older men, the officers and senior N.C.O.s, have made their views fairly plain. In Australia there is official support for the British Government's policy of sanctions. But there is strong unofficial opposition, and I think this was manifest in the Australian Government's recent refusal of the British Government's request to increase economic sanctions. They know that they will be the next to be subject to Afro-Asian pressures.
In the United States the prevailing view was summed up in an article in this week's edition of the United States News and World Report. I should like to quote two paragraphs which are indicative of the views of many people to whom I spoke in the United States last week:The U.N. which voted to authorise armed force against peaceful Rhodesia has failed to act against Communist war-makers in Vietnam. Britain which sought and got co-operation on a naval blockade and trade with Rhodesia insists on trading with war-making North Vietnam whose troops are killing Americans. The British also continue to trade with Communist China and Communist Cuba. American urgings to halt such trade are rejected.That is a very strong feeling of the Americans. They have been asked to follow the British Government's policy as far as Rhodesia is concerned but there has not been much reciprocal action.
Now I turn to the talks themselves, and I should like to say how delighted I am, as I am sure every hon. Member is, at the Prime Minister's statement today. The Rhodesian Prime Minister said only yesterday that he would be prepared to talk without any preconditions. Our Prime Minister has now accepted this offer. I would say that when I discussed possible negotiations with various members of the Rhodesian Government and with friends in all walks of life, both black and white, in Rhodesia I found the general view that in order for the talks to succeed there must be an agreement to put the operation of U.D.I. on one side. A leading Rhodesian said, "You cannot expect us to give up U.D.I. Equally we cannot expect your Prime 783 Minister to recognise U.D.I. Let us therefore put U.D.I. on one side. Let us put aside the 1961 Constitution and the 1965 Constitution. Let us concentrate on talks for a new constitution which will give legal effect to independences". I believe that is good advice and that talks along those lines could succeed. If we really are endeavouring to find a constitution which can be agreed between Her Majesty's Government in Britain and Her Majesty's Government in Rhodesia to give legal independence to that country, we could succeed. If we make clear that that is our aim the Rhodesians will co-operate.
I believe that we can get agreement on a blocking operator and that it is also important to come to an agreement for the gradual repeal of the Land Apportionment Act. In talks with Africans, I have found that this affected them more than any one other issue. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) referred to the views of an African doctor working in a hospital. It is the same with African Members of Parliament. There must be a gradual repeal of the Land Apportionment Act, but one cannot expect it to be thrown out of the window altogether, because it prohibits for example, European traders going to the African tribal areas and taking over the trade. Only Africans can at present trade in these areas, so that the Act affords a great deal of protection to the Africans. Therefore, it cannot be repealed overnight; it can, however, be modified.
I should like to emphasise the advice given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral and my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) who said that economic assistance from Britain to speed up educational advance must be accompanied by healthy economic development. It is no good producing high-grade students from secondary schools or universities unless we can also produce jobs for them. There is nothing worse than an educated and frustrated man. He turns to politics, and we all know the unfortunate result in many parts of Africa. Therefore, I think that any educational programme must be accompanied by a programme of economic development and economic help must be provided for both.
784 These talks can succeed and, what is as important, is that for the first time a British Prime Minister could sell an agreement made with a Rhodesian Government to the Commonwealth and to the United Nations. He could do this because he can now say, "I have thrown the book at Mr. Smith and in so doing I have really damaged the economy of my own country and now I have reached an agreement which I believe to be fair to all races in Rhodesia which Mr. Smith can accept. Therefore you must accept it, or you can go and jump in the lake." This is a very important matter, as I believe that the factor inhibiting all previous British Prime Ministers has been that any agreement they might have reached with the Rhodesian Government would never have been accepted either by the Commonwealth or by the United Nations. I am sure that that is now out of the way and that both the Commonwealth and the United Nations would accept an agreement which both our Prime Minister here and Mr. Smith accepted.
The House must not be too optimistic. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) said, we are going to start talks to start talks. The House and the country must consider the alternatives. What could happen if talks failed? It is by looking at the terrible alternatives that we shall create the right approach to the talks. It must be fully understood on both sides that these talks have to succeed.
But, if they fail, what are the alternatives? First, a continuation of the economic blockade. I do not think that this will satisfy the Commonwealth, and I gather that the Commonwealth Ministers are coming together to discuss the question in July. Not much can be done further to strengthen the economic blockade, and, as I have said several times in this House I do not believe that South Africa will ever stop supplying oil and petrol to Rhodesia. She knows that, if she does so, the same sanctions will be applied to her within six months. As I have said, there are signs that the economic blockade is now breaking down and that other countries are beginning to take advantage of the British position.
The next alternative is the direct use of force by British troops. There was talk during the election campaign, rather wild talk, I thought, of the use of two British 785 brigade groups. It has been estimated that two divisions would be required. Whether it be two brigades or two divisions, where are they to come from today, and if we could find anything like that number of troops, what would their morale be like? We must face the fact that, if a British force were used in this way, say, moving over the Zambian border to invade Rhodesia, immediately South African volunteers in plain clothes, would come north to help the Rhodesians. When I was in South Africa, someone remarked to me, "If there was any invasion either by the United Nations or by Britain into Rhodesia, there would be only generals left in South Africa because everyone else would be gone over the border iii plain clothes". This may not be palatable, but we must face these facts. Any such idea could well lead to defeat and, in any case, such action would be disastrous for both Britain and Rhodesia. Therefore, we should put the use of British troops out of our minds.
But we cannot put out of our minds the use of United Nations forces. If these talks fail, the United Nations, whether we like it or not, may impose mandatory sanctions. [Interruption.] The majority can ask for mandatory sanctions and this can be put to the Security Council. Would it be vetoed by Britain? All the remarks of the Prime Minister over the last three or four months have led me to believe that we should not veto such a suggestion because, as he said on one occasion, if I remember aright, such action would lose us the Commonwealth. He had an exchange with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) some months ago on this very issue. It may well be that the French would exercise the veto, and that might save our skins. But then, of course, there is the procedure of the "Uniting for Peace" resolution which gets round a veto in the Security Council. Although it might not be enforeable, such a move could produce great international pressure.
If these talks fail, there will be very heavy pressure from the United Nations for mandatory sanctions, which could mean either a naval blockade or the putting of troops into Rhodesia, presumably via Zambia. This would be absolutely fatal to all concerned. However, such action could get off the ground only 786 if someone were ready to pay for it. The United Nations could not, of course, pay for such operations. Here we come again to the Americans. I understand that a report was recently prepared for the President on this very matter. No doubt, the decision there would be wrapped up more as a matter of internal politics than anything else, as to how much such action could help to gain the negro vote in any future election. I am certain that the Americans would not wish to involve themselves in another Vietnam. They have more than enough on their plate at the moment.
What is clear is that any such action as an oil blockade of the whole of Southern Africa would be regarded by the four nations affected as an act of war, and the first to suffer would be Britain through her investment and her trade.
I conclude in this way. The real danger we face is United Nations intervention, which would be as ineffective but far more destructive than in the Congo. It would be destructive not only to Africa but to the West as a whole. I quote here a paragraph from a report by three Congressmen who were sent to Rhodesia recently by the American African Affairs Association:It would be comforting to assume that sanity will prevail, that the ideologised fury of Britain's Prime Minister Wilson will be recognised for what it is and not for the principled assault on racism that it claims to be".These three Congressmen conclude that,Rhodesia as now constituted will not be crushed by Mr. Wilson and the Labour Government of England. There is a firm determination to stand up to whatever the British, the neighbouring African States and the United States of America can throw at them …".The House must realise that the only sane alternative to war is talks. I am convinced that the vast majority of the British people are in favour of negotiations. Negotiations have now been announced in the House by the Prime Minister. In the referendum recently carried out by the Anglo-Rhodesian Society, 74 per cent. of those approached wanted negotiations. In a similar referendum by the Sunday Post of Glasgow the number in favour was, I understand, 92 per cent. In the Daily Express questionnaire during the election period a total of 71 per 787 cent. opposed the use of force. I understand also that the Daily Express also ran a questionnaire among Labour Party candidates during the election campaign, asking them, "Would you approve the use of forcre against Rhodesia in any circumstances?". The newspaper told us that only seven gave an unqualified "Yes", and 117 gave an unqualified "No", with many others giving specified answers either way.
The point I am trying to make is clear. We have been saved today, by the action of the British Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Rhodesia in agreeing to talks, from the grave risk of war. The choice, I am quite sure, is still between peace and war. This choice lies wholly in the hands of our Prime Minister, and he will go down in history and be remembered by history for the decision he makes. It looks now as though the Prime Minister will come down on the side of peace. I devoutly hope that he will, but I hope also that he will remember that time is running out.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
If I may, in this new Parliament, I shall say a word to introduce myself. I know Rhodesia. I have taken a great interest in Rhodesian politics for 20 years. I have been a forward critic of the native policy and its unfairnesses under both the Federal Government and the Rhodesian Government. Indeed, I received the accolade, if that be the right word, on one occasion, of being described by Sir Roy Welensky as "the worst b… of the lot". My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson)—who, I think, is the other Member on this side who knows Rhodesia—and I achieved by our combined agitation some reforms which were very beneficial to the black Africans.
But, when it came to this issue, I took the view from the start—not because I wanted it to be so but because I knew it to be so—that independence was inevitable and would have to be accepted, that penal sanctions would only have the effect of uniting the Rhodesians behind Smith, and that we should have to negotiate with Smith. In all this, I committed the political crime of being right too soon.
788 None the less, I welcome the present decision and, in particular, that "toppling Smith" has ceased to be numbered among our objectives. I do not think that hon. Members who talked about toppling Smith had any idea what it meant. Toppling Smith meant breaking the spirit of white Rhodesia. A country lives, above all, on its spirit, not only material things. What is important is the will, the belief and the confidence in itself. If one destroys that, one has destroyed the future. In doing that, one would utterly destroy the prospect of racial co-operation. That is what happened in the southern states of America; they destroyed the spirit of the South, and the resulting racial bitterness endured for 100 years, a wretched decadent society. That is what we should have landed ourselves with, because all white Rhodesians identified themselves with Mr. Smith once this decision was taken.
Let us remember that if we had toppled Smith we should not have had a Civil Service there because the Civil Service would have been defeated, bitter and hating. We should not have had a police force there, because it would have been defeated, bitter and hating. We should have had no co-operation from the whites. The Africans of Rhodesia—this may be our fault, or it may be nobody's fault—are not capable of governing, not capable of forming a Civil Service and not capable of forming a police force—yet. Time has to be given. If we had toppled Smith Rhodesian civilisation would have toppled too. It would have been a tragedy for Rhodesia, for Africa and for us. So I am thankful that that is out of the way. Now we have an opportunity to get a sensible agreement. This agreement must be our responsibility. We must not be diverted by other considerations or by outside interests.
I should, therefore, like to look for a moment at the Organisation for African Unity, the creation of Dr. Nkrumah, to see to what extent it is responsible, to what extent it is representative and to what extent it has power. As to its responsibility, I think it will be judged by two of its efforts. There was the conference at Addis Ababa which unanimously agreed to withdraw recognition from Britain. In that conference there seemed to be no distinction between members of the Commonwealth and those who were 789 not members of the Commonwealth, and members of the Commonwealth who withdrew recognition decided to remain members of the Commonwealth. That is a measure of its responsibility. Also, half of them were repudiated by their own Governments before they got back home.
The other measure of responsibility is shown by those on the Committee of 24, the anti-colonial committee of the United Nations. Just consider its latest effort in Aden—full support for the terrorists in Aden, with a refusal to hear what we had to say because what the colonial Powers said should not be considered. I think that this, too, is a measure of its responsibility.
Let us for a moment see how representative they are. What is not realised in this House is how astonishingly narrow-bottomed these African Governments are. Consider for a moment Mr. Smith in Rhodesia. He has the conscious support of the Europeans, perhaps 7 per cent. of the population. He probably has the opposition of the Nationalists, which may be 200,000-300,000—another 7 per cent. of the population. Apart from that, there is the passive acquiescence of the great tribal minority. This passive acquiescence is an African phenomenon—acquiescence to the Government. It is similar to the acquiescence to the blind movement of the fates, the elements, the weather, and the tribal gods. This acquiescence dernands no more than a minimum interference with the tribal habits and customs.
I say that Mr. Smith, with his 7 per cent support, has probably far more popular support than nine-tenths of the Governments in Africa. Let us look at them for a moment. They are both narrow-bottomed and unstable. Not 5 per cent. of Africans north of the Zambesi know or care whether Rhodesia is black, white or piebald. Let us first look at Francophone Africa. In all that part the language of Government is French and participation in Government is confined to the very small numbers who speak French anyway. That is how we start.
It is expressed by five military dictatorships and seven one-party presidencies. It is probably misleading to call them Fascist, because they do not enjoy anything like the popular backing which Fascist régimes had.
790 Then let us look at some of the others. Let us take Nigeria. What do the Nigerian Government represent today? They represent a group of Ibo officers who have seized power by murdering the Government. We seem to have recognised them a week after they had murdered the Prime Minister of Nigeria, a colleague of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of this country and his recent host.
In Ghana we have another Government which represents a military dictatorship. In the Congo we have a Government which represents a military dictatorship. In the Sudan we have not only a military dictatorship but a savagely racial one. This is an Arab military dictatorship which is engaged in what is very near to genocide of the negroes in the south, with the refugees going across the frontier into Kenya and into Ethiopia. Terrible things are happening there. In Ethiopia we have a medieval monarchic autocracy fully engaged in an undeclared war with Somalia.
Look at Tanzania. Mr. Nyerere has not recovered, I very much regret to say, from having to be rescued by our troops from his own mutineers. Tanzania is in a sorry state. The writ of Government is not running. Let us take Zambia. The Zambians are the real victims of these sanctions. They are in a terrible mess. A quick settlement is necessary if Kaunda is to be saved. He is the man who is in real peril.
Finally, there is Dr. Banda, the one man who can talk sense because he is sufficiently secure to do so. Let there be no doubt at all that in their hearts Nyerere and Kaunda are longing to see this settled, because it is an appalling peril to them, but only Banda is sufficiently secure to come out and say so.
So much, then, for the representativeness of O.A.U. What about its military capacity? It is simply non-existent. Dr. Banda has said that two platoons of the Rhodesian army could dispose of all the forces that black Africa could place on the Zambesi. This is the truth and the reality.
So what have we there? There is no responsibility, and there is no real representativeness. There is impotence. There is sound and fury signifying nothing. I urge my right hon. Friend not to let the 791 O.A.U., in or out of the Commonwealth, stand in the way of a just solution on Rhodesia.
I come to the point on which I disagree with the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall)—the position at the United Nations. This matter has been assigned to the Security Council, and under Chapter VII, Article 12, the General Assembly is excluded while the Security Council is seized of it. On the Security Council we have a veto. Our consent is necessary. But hon. Members should not imagine that it is only our consent which stands in the way of Chapter VII mandatory sanctions. We had the utmost difficulty in persuading both the French and the Americans to go as far as they did this time.
The French we persuaded, but only for concessions to General de Gaulle's policy in Europe, not to exercise their veto this time. The Americans were most anxious to help us in Rhodesia. They regard it as our business and they were anxious to help because, as they put it, we had been "good guys" in Vietnam. But they drew the line, and told my right hon. Friend so, "Rhodesia is your business but we cannot recognise that as far as South Africa is concerned. We do not want to become involved in South Africa over it." If it is a question of using the Security Council it is not a matter that they will go ahead of us; it will need the utmost persuasion and effort on our part to persuade and drive them along.
§ Mr. Paget
There may be a section holding that view but it certainly is not dominant, that certainly is not American policy and that certainly is not the reaction which we have had. On this matter we can possibly push the Security Council to further sanctions with great difficulty and great pressure, but if we want to stop and agree, let us look at some of the members of the Security Council: America, France, Taiwan, Japan, Holland, New Zealand, We only 792 have to persuade Jordan or one South American and we have a majority there for any settlement. We need not be inhibited by U.N.O.
Let us realise that the alternative here is war—there is no question about it—because sanctions are not going to work. Portugal and South Africa cannot allow sanctions to work. It is a matter of self-preservation. Edgar Whitehead has pointed out the facts in the current Spectator. I do not like Dr. Verwoerd and I do not approve of his policy, but he is not a Chamberlain or a Daladier, and he can recognise his Czechoslovakia as well as anybody else. Mr. Kapwepwe, the Foreign Minister of Zambia, said only two nights ago on television that if Rhodesia were broken, then of course South Africa's spine would also be broken. Dr. Verwoerd can see that as well as Mr. Kapwepwe, and to imagine that he can allow Rhodesia to fall is simply wishful thinking. If this goes on it can only escalate into war, and it would be a terrible and costly war. Those who were responsible for it would be as guilty of a crime against humanity as any who are buried at Nuremberg. This would be a dreadful thing to allow to happen.
What can we do? I should like to do a balance sheet of what the mere continuation of the present situation would cost us. I was astonished at the figure given by the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling). Look at the costs. The cost of the airlift to Zambia and various other services is £19½ million a year. I have not the cost of a naval blockade of the Mozambique channel, but it is an expensive operation keeping ships at sea and aircraft constantly on patrol—a very expensive operation.
There is trade with Rhodesia. We lose £30 million in exports. We earned, and probably have lost permanently, in insurance and services and interest, another £18 million. Apart from that we have to get our raw materials at far higher prices from non-sterling sources.
Then consider copper. It is very expensive to get copper, and it takes a long time to sink a mine—and copper happens to be obtained in areas of bad political stability. As a result there is a very close margin between the supply and demand for copper. One of the factors which has caused prices to go wild is a strike in Chile, but another factor is what is 793 happening in Rhodesia. People have been stocking up for fear of what might happen to supplies. There has also been a strike in Zambia.
The present price rise alone is costing us upwards of £60 million on our balance of payments. If we were to extend the sanctions to Zambian trade then, on the Board of Trade's most optimistic estimate, it might be possible to get 60 per cent. of the copper out of Zambia but not more. The copper trade tell me that it would be nearer 45 per cent. The loss of even 40 per cent. of Zambian copper means that we go shopping for an additional 100,000 tons of copper in a world which has not got it, and that means that copper prices—again I am told this by my friends in the industry—will rise to over £1,000 a ton. This will be another £200 million on our balance of payments.
Look at the problem of South Africa. South Africa is about our biggest customer. She takes £265 million a year in our goods. But we have created in South Africa such a hatred as has to be experienced to be believed, and particularly among South Africans of British descent. It is Natal which is particularly infuriated and outraged by our behaviour and which already has an unofficial boycott of British goods. In a period when Japan increased her exports to South Africa by 46 per cent. and Germany by over 20 per cent., our exports are falling, and will fall catastrophically if we do not settle this matter. If we take sanctions to South Africa, three-quarters of the free world's gold, which comes to London, is involved—and what happens to that, and what happens to the £, I ask those who regard that as the ultimate disaster?
We cannot afford to allow these things to drift on as they are. We have got to negotiate. We have got to get an agreement and we have got to negotiate it in a spirit that what we are looking for is getting together to make a success of Rhodesia for all the people of Rhodesia. We have got to get together with good will and to forget about protocol.
From the talks I had with Mr. Smith, with the Governor and with others in Rhodesia, I should like to state what is not negotiable. Let us start off with all this stuff about a return to the Constitution, a return to the rule of law, the 794 Governor's authority and not legalising rebellion. Whatever that may sound like here, in Rhodesia it is regarded as a mere euphemism for "You lick my boots for a start". That is not acceptable. No nation, however it achieves its independence, surrenders that independence until it is defeated. Whatever form it takes, the reality is that we must negotiate with independence.
The second thing which is very important and which is not really understood—and this is one of the five points and I think that it was a mistake that it was put forward—is the suggested need to hold some form of plebiscite. "Securing the agreement of all the people" just does not fit. It is contrary to African custom and is offensive to African custom. This is a difficult thing to explain, but to the African it is the ruler's job to decide and if the ruler asks the African to decide, to the African that is passing the buck. At the indaba which is the traditional council of the African, the chief must decide, and if he does not decide, he has abdicated and loses all respect. There is the deepest inhibition about decision in the African. To him to ask him to decide is asking him to do somethinig unlucky, something impious. That is precisely what wrecked Federation. We asked the Africans to decide and from then on Federation never had a chance. In their view it was an unlucky thing.
The decision must be taken and the decision must be imposed. This is the only point on which I found myself in disagreement with the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). I would not bring in anybody from the Commonwealth or anywhere else. This must be decided between us and them. It must be a firm decision and it must be imposed. If that firm decision is imposed, it will be accepted in Rhodesia and gratefully accepted in the countries just north of the Zambesi.
What are the points which are negotiable? The first is education, and this is the essential thing to majority rule in Rhodesia. At present, the Rhodesians are relatively paying as much for African education as we are paying for our army in terms of national product. It is the biggest single item in their budget, but it is nothing like enough and that is where we have to go in and help them. I talked about this with Mr. Smith. The 795 Rhodesians provide £6,500,000 and we should provide a similar sum. That having been done, an agency should be put in charge of that education programme, reporting to the two Governments who provide the money.
But that education scheme—and the Rhodesians regard this as of the first importance—must be geared to an economic expansion plan so that the Africans produced as educated men can pass into an economy which has jobs for educated men. What Rhodesia fears and rightly fears is the creation of a babu class, as it was called, of educated unemployed. That is not good for the stability of any country. Thus, the second thing which we must negotiate is a Rhodesian expansion plan as to which we would help them to get the capital—which would not be difficult because there are great prospects there if there is political security—which would absorb the educated African as he came forward. If that were done there would be a majority of African voters within 12 to 15 years.
Another matter which must be negotiated is protection of the qualifications so that they are not stepped up so that the Africans do not get the vote. So must the constituencies be protected. They must not be gerrymandered on a racial basis. I am not an enthusiast for blocking powers or anything like them. I have never found anywhere in constitutional history that minority blocking powers work. I believe that the administration of the electoral roll, the actual registration of voters and the actual establishment of constituencies, should be handed over to the courts and should become a matter for the courts to decide in a judicial and not a political manner. I believe that that would be acceptable.
As to non-discrimination; if we are to create an economy to take the Africans, we want to be assured that it does and we therefore want an undertaking about non-discriminatory legislation requiring the employment of an appropriate proportion of Africans as they come forward; and also requiring what Rhodesia already has—an appointments board working on a non-racial system in public employment. I believe that it is essential that the Land Apportionment Act should be turned into a control of user Act and not a control 796 of race Act. It is perfectly reasonable that there should be areas of big farms and areas of small farms, that there should be areas of high population per plot of land in housing areas and areas of low population. But that does not mean that one does not keep back the tribal areas and it does not mean that one does not have certain protection for the African townships. It means that one has it on a user basis and not a racialist basis.
All this is negotiable and on this basis it is perfectly possible to negotiate a future for Rhodesia which has the consent of the people who presently rule Rhodesia, the consent of the Civil Service which has to work it, the consent of the police force which has to administer it, and which will move forward to the first genuinely non-racial society which we have seen, because both races would have time to come forward to the forging of a joint establishment. We should get this kind of agreement concentrated on the right things, make it and impose it. Third parties should not be allowed in and we should not consider the necessity to appease the outsider. This is a matter between us and Rhodesia. We are the trustees of the black Rhodesians. We have to do what is the best for them, and the best for them is to provide a society in which they can develop, not to wreck the society in which they live.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torquay)
I am truly delighted to be succeeding the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), because very modestly at the beginning he said, perfectly fairly, that from the very start of the crisis he had taken a precisely similar line, and I think that he will concede a little compliment to me in return and agree that I have been bracketed with him, even starting from last November, in adopting a precisely similar attitude. If I might break a lance on behalf of both of us; the fact that we have tried throughout these months to be realistic should no longer lay us open to attacks on the basis of being pro-Smith or pro-white Rhodesia. That is absolute nonsense. To be realistic does not mean that one has to be pro a particular contender in a dispute. It is merely a matter of accepting the facts of the situation. That 797 the hon. and learned Gentleman has done extremely well and extremely concisely while addressing the House tonight.
A number of hon. Members have now been to Rhodesia over the years, especially in recent months as this crisis has arisen, as the hon. and learned Gentleman and I have. However, I think that I can claim to have been there more recently than anyone else, because I came back to take the Oath barely 48 hours ago from an African tour when there were taking place the events which have culminated in today's statement, a tour which included particularly Zambia and Rhodesia itself. I was very glad to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman mention Zambia, and I propose to do so again.
There is not nearly enough appreciation or realisation in this House, certainly by hon. Gentlemen opposite who clamour most loudly for sanctions, of just how much we have done to damage Zambia and undermine its political and economic stability. If we wanted to topple anyone, we have done a good deal more to topple our friend Mr. Kenneth Kaunda than we have Mr. Smith in Salisbury. No amount of trying to hide the facts will make them any less true.
For many years, almost since its inception, Zambia has developed a trading pattern to the south and to Rhodesia. By our actions and by persuading the Zambians to go along with us on entirely false premises, to which I shall come later in my speech, we have distorted these traditional patterns of trade. Although we have come to their help in a first-aid way, we have not by any means ameliorated the damage that Her Majesty's Government have done in the last few months.
One cannot find anywhere in Zambia a Zambian who does not feel deeply embittered because the Zambians were persuaded to break their pattern of trade and upset their economic progress—certainly the progress made since the days of Uhuru—all on the basis that the sanctions would succeed in a matter of weeks; that they would be quick and effective, as the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister wrongly said, and that everything would soon return to normal.
One of the real tragedies of the situation—and I hope that these words reach Zambia—is that the sanctions have not 798 been quick and effective. Apart from all the other reasons that have been given today, one reason why I hope that sanity will be restored in Central Africa is that Zambia will be spared any further totally undeserved suffering. I say that because whoever may be blamed in this matter, the Zambians certainly cannot be blamed. They have been the unfortunate instruments of the unsuccessful policies of this country.
In his opening remarks, the Secretary of State claimed that the sanctions were responsible for bringing about the situation which the Prime Minister described today. Whatever views we hold on this subject, I am prepared to admit that there may have to be some face saving. If he or anyone else likes to think something different from what I think, let them think it. I used precisely the same reply to Mr. Smith only a few days ago when he said that, from his point of view, he had suffered no rebuff over the oil embargo because he had enlisted so much extra sympathy in the Portuguese territories and Africa—so much so that he was expecting more, rather than less, support from those areas in future. He felt that in any negotiations he was now in a stronger position. I said the same to him as I said a moment ago, that if that is what he would like to think, then it was all right with me—as long as the talks got started. That, I pointed out, was the most important item.
To show the real state of affairs in Rhodesia I will describe what I saw when I was there just a day or so ago, for it would be wrong for us to think—indeed, it would be dangerous if we allowed ourselves to think it—that we have browbeaten Rhodesia to a point when it is ready to talk. To think that would be wrong and to state it would give a completely false psychological impression which might be damaging.
I will describe, without any party political undertones, the situation which I found there a day or two ago. It is absolute nonsense to talk about that country being beleagured. The streets of Salisbury are more crowded with motor cars than many towns in this country, and that is saying a lot. One can go by taxi virtually anywhere and buy an aeroplane ticket to any destination. If one goes into any hotel, good or bad, one finds every form of food on the menu in addition to 799 drink. In the food shops one can buy almost anything one requires at reasonable prices.
These facts may be unpalatable, but they are true. The shopping centres and shops generally are still extremely well stocked. The people are well dressed. If one says to people, "You are a beleagured economy", one receives a rude horse-laugh, because that is not the view of the average Rhodesian. It would be absolutely wrong if we tried to mislead ourselves into having false impressions which might lead us into believing what is not true about the position there.
It was suggested earlier that a great deal of unemployment has been caused among the European population in Rhodesia and that many of them had had to go to South Africa to seek employment. I understand that the figures are admittedly considerable and I gather that between 3,000 and 4,000 Europeans have gone to South Africa to work. People do not understand, however, that these people have not necessarily left Rhodesia for good. In many cases their families remain where they have been living all along. There is an immense number of vacancies for white workers in Johannesburg. This is not a matter of poor whites leaving Salisbury to seek work in Johannesburg. They have merely gone to South Africa to work—remembering that, with air travel, it is only a stone's throw from Salisbury and Bulawayo to Johannesburg—and there they earn more wages and take or send that money home in hard currency which Rhodesia wants.
All this is not breaking the economy of Rhodesia and it would be a misconception to think that it is. Indeed, when I left Salisbury I took with me a copy of the Rhodesia Herald and I have with me a cutting in which there appear 150 advertisements of vacancies in Rhodesia covering every grade of technical, administrative, farming and other work. If what has happened has represented a disaster for Rhodesia, the position should be the other way round. Quite the reverse is the position, with plenty of vacancies for jobs to be filled.
I am saying these things not to encourage the Rhodesians to a point when 800 they will not talk but because it would be absolutely foolish for us in this country to imagine that Rhodesia has been browbeaten by sanctions. The opposite is the truth.
Instead I pay tribute to the people of Rhodesia and to Her Majesty's Government for realising where the collision course on which we were engaged was leading us. More and more sensible people in Rhodesia, in and out of the régime, and people in this country, in and out of Government, in addition to people throughout the world, have been realising that had we kept our collision course, the only end would have been total economic disaster and the creation of an African industrial slum in Salisbury, the alternative being a form of civil war which would go outside Rhodesia's borders. The Government may have been tardy in bringing the situation back to sanity, but at least more people are now agreed that the time to talk has arrived.
It is depressing for someone from this country to visit Rhodesia just now. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) explained this in his remarkable summary of what he accomplished in Rhodesia. There is an almost shimmering haze of hatred for a British visitor. I cannot remember a mission which I have enjoyed less than being in Salisbury during the last few days. It is no good saying that the Rhodesians should not feel that way. What should they say? "You are good chaps for trying to browbeat us." Is that what they should say? Instead, they are saying and feeling utterly betrayed by Britain.
The remarks I am making are factual and I am not talking about the régime or the Rhodesian front but about the air stewardess, the waitress in the café and the taxi driver. They all feel a sense of resentment against this country and we should not mislead ourselves into thinking that such feelings are limited to the white population. There are many Africans who, while they would, of course, like to see greater advances for Africans in their country, do not see much fun in Britain conducting sanctions which have not brought them political advancement but have lowered their already too low economic standards. This is the view of many Africans. If we delay much 801 longer trying to come to a sensible settlement, the psychological climate for doing so will worsen from day to day. In that context, it is folly to imagine that time is on our side.
Every speaker today has tried to be brief, and I intend to follow that precept. I had prepared a long and, I thought, very good speech to make today after my return from Rhodesia, but it is now wholly inapplicable in view of the statement which has been made today. If that is the only sacrifice which has to be made to accomplish success in the talks, I shall regard it as being well made.
Without going into the details of the sort of constitution which should emerge, I should like to make two or three general points about what, in the most general terms, we should aim at in coming to a settlement. First, I plead that we do not get misled, particularly those of us who are lawyers, into thinking that we can create a stable society in Rhodesia by a whole series of built-in constitutional safeguards. I have grown increasingly cynical about the effect of constitutional safeguards, and Africa is littered with countries whose constitutions, with which we so proudly set them independent, are now totally in ruins.
I have been honorary constitutional adviser in one or two countries and I have been proud of myself in managing to get acceptance of, for instance, provision for an appeal to the Privy Council, before a constitution could be changed. If there are ruthless men after independence who are determined not to live under that constitution, they will not do so and nothing that we can do in this House will alter that. We have seen this only too recently in several African countries, which it might be invidious to mention, but which, incidentally, are among the most stringent criticis of Rhodesia. Therefore, let us think instead not quite so much of the form of all the safeguards, but of producing the sort of constitution which will receive general agreement and which, therefore, there will be no driving urge to change. This is much more important than dwelling upon those paper safeguards which, we know well, can be swept away.
This sort of progress will require a great deal of far-sightedness by the Europeans as well as by the Africans. 802 If, however, we merely concentrate on thinking that all we now need to do is to fiddle about with "blocking" this or that in the 1961 Constitution and we then impose it, and it is still not satisfactory to the effective power in that country, which for some years to come will be the whites, once they have got their independence they will tear up that constitution exactly the same as other countries in Africa have done. The mere fact that the power there is white will not stop them tearing up the constitution if they believe that it strikes at their basic security.
§ Mr. Molloy
Would not the hon. Member acknowledge that that by itself does not mean that they have power for ever, because there will be the power of Asia and the power of the remaining African countries, which might take objection to it and might take power forcibly? That is the whole danger of the situation.
§ Sir F. Bennett
Without going into the details of the speech by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, I would have thought that by now we had learned not to take too seriously the power of the rest of Africa to use force to change the Rhodesian Constitution. I cannot believe that that power will be that much greater after independence than it is beforehand. If the hon. Member reads his hon. and learned Friend's speech tomorrow, he may see that for the foreseeable future at least, one of Rhodesia's least worries is the thought of a Mali-Guinea army setting out from 7,000 miles away to occupy Salisbury. That is one of the more unlikely contingencies to be faced.
I was trying, however, to make some serious points and I hope that I will not be drawn into matters of a purely hypothetical nature which are not realistic. Another point which I wish to make is that in the new constitution we should not make too much of a fetish of voting procedures and the question of how many people vote, what sort of vote they have, A and B rolls and the rest. We have to find a constitution which is generally acceptable within an African society, including the aspirations of the Africans themselves.
I wish that I could count the number of occasions when I have sat through debates when we have sent African 803 countries into independence and have given them our blessing. We have got the principle of one man, one vote, for them. We have sent a deputation and given them their Mace, and we have sent them autographed copies of Erskine May. Within a few months, however, the only purpose of the Mace has been to hit Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy Speaker over the head, that being regarded as its most logical use, and within a few weeks, or within a few months at most, it has no longer been one man, one vote, but has become one man, one vote, and one election. This could happen again if we concentrate too much simply on the fetish of voting procedures as opposed to getting a constitution which will command general acceptance right across the races.
My third and penultimate point concerning the constitution is that I whole-heartedly share the views of those who have said that it is totally unrealistic to think that we could ever get the Rhodesians to go back to a period of colonial status or direct rule, merely saying to them that if they are good boys, within a certain length of time they will get their independence. This one simply is not on and there is no one among the effective white society in Rhodesia at present who would wear it for one moment.
However hard it may be for us to accept this, one of the reasons why they will not do it is that they do not trust us thereafter to give them their independence. That may be an uncomfortable thought for us in the House of Commons, but we have sometimes changed our minds, and whatever the Secretary of State may say, we have even occasionally changed our policies. Some of the people out there think this one up for themselves, too. Therefore, whatever constitution they get, next time must be the last one, a generally accepted one and an independence one. I hope that this will be in the forefront of all our minds.
I now make a small practical suggestion about how we could get the talks going with a greater prospect of success even than we expect today—and we must obviously be cautious in our hopes today. I seriously wonder whether it would not be worth the while of both sides to make one or two gestures to try to get 804 some of the hatred and distrust out of the air. I cannot expect Mr. Smith to express regret, but I should like him openly at least to say that he will withdraw his demand that the British diplomatic representatives in Salisbury should leave. I wish that he would reconnect the Governor's telephone and stop behaving childishly in that context. There are one or two other things that I wish he would do.
I wish also—and it cannot easily be calculated what a good effect this would have upon the prospect of negotiation between reasonable men—that Her Majesty's Government could now make some concession, however small, as a gesture. I do not suggest that the whole panoply of sanctions should be withdrawn, but can we not relax some small item of the kind that causes more irritation than damage out there? I shall not enumerate them, because I do not want to spoil the atmosphere tonight. We are doing a number of things to the Rhodesians which do not help to achieve settlement but cause widespread irritation.
If, within the next day or two, the Secretary of State could say that to try to get the new climate established, that we here, too, will play our part and will do this, that and the other, I believe that there will be a chance, and it may be the last chance, for us to get this appalling problem out of our way and to ensure the future prosperity and happiness for all the people of Rhodesia irrespective of race.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Rowland (Meriden)
I welcome the hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) to the small club of those of us who have been to Rhodesia since the illegal declaration of independence. We were in need of another member, because the former hon. Members for Lancaster and Preston, North are no longer with us and we have gained my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker). We were, therefore, one short.
As a number of hon. Members may know, I went to Rhodesia early this year with two of my Parliamentary colleagues, now the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Power and the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army. I 805 should like to think that some of the things we said when we were there have borne fruit and might be contributory factors towards the announcement made today by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
When we were there, we said that the British Government were not and had not been insisting on immediate majority rule. We pointed out that in our opinion the sanctions which the Rhodesians were then enduring and are still enduring were not a hump over which they would get but a slide down which they would go, and, though there have been doubts about the effectiveness of sanctions, there is no doubt that there has been a gradual slide in the Rhodesian economy.
I said in particular that in my view Britain was interposing herself between Rhodesia and the rest of the world, that in some ways we were shielding and protecting the white Rhodesians from the consequences of their own folly, but that we were getting remarkably little credit for it. That was my analysis of the situation. I like to think that, as the last three or four months have rolled by and the world consequences of the situation have been brought home to the Rhodesians, what I said then has been accepted with a little more credibility than it was at the time. I said that if one was a white Rhodesian it was probably better to be coerced by one's one-time friends than attacked by enemies.
I pointed out that there was a world interest in Rhodesia. It may be that it lacks at present a military presence, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has been at pains to point out. But I said that it could not be doubted that there was a world interest which was capable of sparking off some form of military action, possibly by the United Nations.
When I was in Rhodesia I also said that there was broad, all-party agreement in general about post-war policy towards Africa and that, despite the divisions about the application of sanctions or a particular sanction, there was a great measure of unity in the House about the commitments of the British Government towards ensuring that the peoples of Africa enjoy majority rule, if not today at least eventually. I found myself quite frequently having to defend 806 the records of Lord Butler, the present right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), and the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod). I tried to point out that what the British Government of today were doing was but a continuation of the policies of the last two decades. Some of that may perhaps have been perceived in Rhodesia as the months have gone by, but there were many sad impressions that I formed then, and I expect that I would be sad today as well.
I found that the European Rhodesians were remarkably insulated in their awareness of the world. They really thought that they had had to seize independence because, otherwise, they would have been attacked on the initiative of the Commonwealth after the next Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. They thought that it was a pre-emptive strike against such an eventuality, with little awareness that the British Government would not be coerced by the Commonwealth in the matter. They felt last November that they had to take that action before next June came. I found that many people, not among the leaders but with what might be called grass root opinions, genuinely believed that the British Government were part of a worldwide Communist conspiracy, and that the visits by the Prime Minister to Moscow were part of it.
I suppose that I am reasonably well known for supporting the Government over matters like Vietnam. I found myself at a famous meeting in Rhodesia about which there has been some publicity, and the only question that I answered was from someone who assured us that we were supporting the North Vietnamese Government against the United States, and to be attacked a few minutes after denying that was rather ironic. That kind of complete fallacy about Britain is one of the sad impressions that any visitor going to Rhodesia today would form.
There was contempt not only for the authority but for the possible power of the United Nations. And I suppose that in some ways one was saddened, if one was trying to assess the chances of an eventual settlement, by the very strong and high morale of the European population. I saw there a mirror image of the cussedness and perversity of my own 807 people, and I recognised it for what it was.
That is not to say that all white Rhodesians support the Smith régime. To say that would be a slur on many people, some of whom have now had to come to this country, and it would be a slur on all those of liberal persuasions who either openly or privately speak out against the régime. In some ways, it would be a slur on the great number of people in the middle, particularly in the business community, who, in a state of controlled schizophrenia, deplore what has been done but try to make the best of a bad job in the interests of their businesses and their country.
Like all visitors to Rhodesia from this House, I was saddened by these various impressions, because one wondered how it would all end. Yet, at the same time, one found certain positive features. First of all, the sanctions had been more comprehensive than had been expected. That is not to say that the British Government did not warn Mr. Smith frequently and in detail of what would happen, but there is no doubt that to his people it was more than they had expected. Perhaps things are changing a little, but I must say that at that time the impact was still to be felt by the man in the street. There was a great division of opinion between the better-informed persons and their worries and the less well-informed persons. The less well-informed person, in many ways, was more likely to be a strong Smith supporter. I felt then that the long-term political effect of sanctions, in terms of influencing the leadership of Rhodesia as well as the man in the street, had still to be determined.
If I may say so to my colleagues on the Front Bench, four months ago I felt that more time was necessary for sanctions to have effect, either economically or politically, than at that time was felt to be the case. It is precisely because of that that I believe that the Opposition of this country have been ill-advised to press so strongly so quickly for talks with Mr. Smith. In other words, the essence of the whole policy of the British Government has been one of time—to decide not only how much pressure to apply but at what point it should be decided that enough pressure 808 has been exerted to influence the situation.
Today's statement by the Prime Minister is an indication that the British Government are trying to get the timing right. If one thinks back only a few weeks, it is quite clear that no suggestion of talks could be made by the British Government until we knew how the tobacco sales, or non-sales, fared. In taking the line throughout the campaign that we must talk now, the Opposition were omitting to look at the date of 29th March when the tobacco sales started. There might have been a good deal of popular sympathy and support in the country for the British Government last month, to say, "Yes, we will talk to Mr. Smith." That might have struck an unthinking chord in the country, but it would have been quite a wrong policy, given that our key sanction had still not had a chance to operate before the end of last month; and the fact that it was two days before the General Election was pure coincidence.
Another reason why time has had to elapse has been because, as time has gone by, the threat of United Nations involvement has become more real. There are limits to how long Britain can say to the world, to ourselves, or to Mr. Smith, that the Rhodesian situation is solely our responsibility. In particular, I believe that Dr. Verwoerd has had to weigh that very carefully indeed. I would stick to what I said when I was in Rhodesia, that in the final analysis it would not pay Dr. Verwoerd to bail out Rhodesia if it embroiled him in a confrontation with the United Nations. I know that hon. Members who have great experience of Southern Africa may disagree with that view, but on the other hand there are other people who would accept it.
I also said that in my judgment the success of sanctions against Rhodesia, assuming that they are successful, does not mean that sanctions will then automatically be applied to South Africa; but the risk which South Africa runs is if it is thought that sanctions can succeed against Rhodesia only by coercing South Africa. She then puts herself in a much more dangerous position. But the argument which some hon. Members have used that Dr. Verwoerd must come to the rescue of Rhodesia because if he does 809 not and sanctions succeed against Rhodesia the world will say, "We have done it against Rhodesia, we can do it against South Arica", is a false line of argument, and I hope very much that Dr. Verwoerd sees the wisdom of what I am saying. In fact, I hope this is one of the ingredients in the present situation which has led to today's announcement.
But if I am wrong, and if Dr. Verwoerd sustains Rhodesia and does not influence Mr. Smith in the direction of making concessions, or if Mr. Smith refuses to take notice of Dr. Verwoerd even if Dr. Verwoerd does not sustain him, if any of those eventualities occur, there will be a limit to how long Britain can claim, or the world agree, that Rhodesia is Britain's exclusive responsibility. I think that it is for Mr. Smith, and nobody else, to decide whether that is a risk worth taking.
I think that tonight, in the continuing Rhodesian crisis, we may be at a turning point. If that corner is not turned, it will be Mr. Smith's responsibility, and when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton, talks in apocalyptic terms—as he did about what would happen if talks did not succeed, if the United Nations took up the matter, not through our own volition perhaps, but because we cannot stop it—I trust that he realises that the one man who can avoid all this happening is still Mr. Smith.
Finally, I should like to say a word about some people whom I do not think have been mentioned, or at any rate not very much, in the debate today. I am thinking of the Governor, and of the Chief Justice. As one of the many Members who has visited Government House and met Sir Humphrey Gibbs and Sir Hugh Beadle, I hope that they will think that today's move, in which clearly the Governor has played a part, and I hope a considerable part, is some tangible reward for their long vigil in Government House. They, together with their officials, notably Mr. Pestell and Captain Owen, the Governor's A.D.C., have endured a peculiar form of incarceration during the last few months, and I believe that the people of Rhodesia, white and black, as well as the people of this country, owe them a debt of gratitude. I think they have combined good sense with honour throughout the last five agonising months since 11th November.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
I think that the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Rowland) has given what I would describe as a rather idealised picture of the position. I understand the motives for his apologia, but he will understand if I disagree with him. He spoke of the critical nature of the timing, but the Prime Minister—if he said it once he must have said it half a dozen times in statements to the House—said that the purpose of the sanctions was that they must be effective and quick. This is what he intended, and I do not think that the description to which we listened from my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) accords with the picture which the hon. Gentleman gave us. The hon. Gentleman told us that when he was out in Salisbury he believed the sanctions were comprehensive. Perhaps they have become a little less comprehensive since. He said that he felt that the Rhodesian Europeans were insulated from the world. This may be so, but if it is, I think it is also true that there are far too many people in this country and beyond the shores of Africa who are equally insulated against the reality of Africa, and certainly I have not heard a more realistic picture of the situation than that contained in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) this afternoon.
As one who has had a life-long connection with Rhodesia, naturally I welcome without reservation what the Prime Minister said this afternoon, and like everybody else in this debate I shall have to readapt a speech which would have been different if the right hon. Gentleman had not been able to say what he did. I accept the Prime Minister's recommendation that we would be wrong today to go into detail about how these talks were started, or indeed to go too much into the precise terms of the discussions, because the first thing that we have to do is to create the atmosphere in which they can succeed, and we are far from that at the moment.
I regret the tone of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. I think it was wrong to suggest that sanctions had brought about this situation. It is plain that the Prime Minister believed that they would be short and 811 effective—he said so on many occasions—and they were not. This is true even of oil. In spite of the Joanna V incident, adequate supplies are still reaching Rhodesia over Beit Bridge and from Mozambique, certainly enough to maintain the present level of rationing for the foreseeable future.
It is interesting to note what the Prime Minister said in the first instance when he mentioned oil sanctions. On 10th December he said:… 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 769.]I do not think that anybody on either side could claim that oil sanctions today are multilateral. What the Joanna V incident led to was the invocation of Chapter VII of the Unted Nations Charter. I regard this as a grave development. I believe that the Prime Minister did internationalise the crisis by doing this, and I think that it is fair to make one more short quotation from one of the right hon. Gentleman's statements on 20th December, when he referred to the same Chapter VII in these terms in reply to a question from the hon. and learned Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne):… I was well aware during my visit to the United Nations last week that Chapter VII Resolutions on any aspect of the Rhodesian question might have a habit of escalating."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 1694.]It was the Prime Minister who invoked Chapter VII, and in my view it is precisely this drift from apparent stopping points towards further escalation which has so deeply disturbed many of us on this side of the House, and I think more than one on the other side as well.
What has in fact happened is that the Prime Minister has, mercifully, recognised the facts of the situation, and has had the courage—and I say that without reservation—to change his policy. If he had continued, he would have been faced with three alternatives, and here I shall repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) said earlier. He mentioned the same three alternatives. The first would have been to extend the oil blockade to cover South Africa—in order to make it multilateral, as he said it had to be in order 812 to succeed. The second would have been to try to use armed force against Rhodesia by some means or other across the Zambesi. The third would have been to turn the whole matter over to the United Nations by some device.
In any one of these three courses, had we gone that far, he would have been met by force. The blockade would have led almost inevitably to an armed commitment by this country against all the entrenched Europeans of Southern Africa. An attack on Rhodesia would have resulted in overwelming pressure on Dr. Verwoerd for support for Rhodesia, because support for Rhodesia among South Africans, both Dutch and British, is now at fever-heat. Who knows what an appalling muddle might have resulted from armed action by the United Nations? The Congo was bad enough, against practically no serious opposition at all. I had the chance to see the United Nations force in action on more than one occasion there and I would not want to witness the same thing again.
We came perilously near the edge of the cliff and I think it right that the House should consider in a little more detail what this would have meant. An interesting report was made by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in New York, in March, 1965. I understand that this organisation commands the resources to make a serious inquiry of this nature. It was entitled, "Apartheid and the United Nations: Collective Measures, An Analysis." My contention is that any one of these three courses with which the Prime Minister would have been faced, if he had not decided or felt able to say what he did today and launch unofficial talks, would have led to escalation to a use of force involved in this situation.
The Carnegie Endowment worked it out like this. For a blockade of 120 days, 50 warships of all kinds would have been necessary, plus 300 aircraft at a cost of 111 million dollars. To maintain it for six months would have cost 165 million dollars. This, in their view, would have led almost inevitably to a military operation and, based upon the logistics of the Congo, 93,000 men would have been necessary in the initial assault. Four months of operations would have cost 223 million dollars and additional naval and air strike necessary would have 813 added 50 million dollars. Therefore, a six months' blockade followed by an assault of this nature would, in their view, has cost about £300 million.
The casualties for which they budgeted in the assault period alone were 7,200 on the United Nations side killed. Moreover it is salutary for us to remember and reflect at this time that the Rhodesians could and would maintain in the field something like 30,000 to 40,000 men; the South Africans, counting commandos and everyone else, 250,000.
I go even further and ask the House to remember one other fact, that the last time we, as a country, engaged in military operations in that part of the world, 448,000 men were in action on our side to hold down about 60,000 Boers. The British South Africans were on our side on that occasion—about 50,000 of them—but they would not be the next time. We were helped by 50,000 Empire troops as well, and there were 97,000 casualties.
The conclusion from this, surely, is that the operation simply is not on, militarily, without the active assistance of a major Power. There are, I suppose, two such Powers—the United States and Soviet Russia. 1 cannot believe that the Prime Minister would ever seriously consider inviting Soviet Russia to assist. As for the United States, does anybody seriously think that they would accept a commitment of that size on top of what they are suffering in Vietnam at present? Of course they would not.
However, even if it were on and even if it succeeded, I believe that the pain and destruction involved would be no less massive than the direct colonial commitment which this country would have taken on or would have forced on the United Nations for the foreseeable future in Southern Africa. The British Empire and all we have achieved overseas would be seen finally to dissolve in a welter of death, destruction, and anarchy.
This course of events seems unthinkable to us, but it was perilously close—
§ Mr. James Johnson
Is not the logic of this argument that we should simply let Mr. Smith fix his own terms as he thinks fit in Central Africa for four million Africans?
§ Mr. Hastings
I have mentioned no terms for Mr. Smith or for the British Government. I am trying to show what, in my view, would have happened inevitably if the Prime Minister had not decided—how this exactly happened, he asked us not to inquire and I am prepared to accede to that request—to make the statement which he has made. What terms will be possible is another matter altogether, and obviously there must be give and take on both sides: I would be the first to admit that.
We should realise, as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton said, that, whatever solution the Government may succeed in reaching—and I hope, as I can call myself a Rhodesian or at least more Rhodesian than anything else that they will succeed—there will be protests and reproaches galore. There is no doubt of that. I hope that the Government are facing up to this consciously already and have no intention of giving way to international or external pressure in the way in which some of us on this side have felt, with good cause, that they have done more than once in the last six unhappy months. If the Attorney-General felt able to give reassurance on this matter it would reassure not only me but many others in the House.
I should not detain the House much longer. Others wish to speak and, happily, the tenor of the debate has been altered by what has happened. I want to support the proposition put forward that, whatever contribution we may make finally to a settlement in Rhodesia, let us remember that education by itself will only turn sour unless we create the jobs and economic conditions to absorb those educated.
The plea here is also a fair one that Mr. Smith and his colleagues have, even since U.D.I., introduced a new education programme involving 18,000 new places in secondary schools and primary education for every African child in the foreseeable future. That was a bold thing to do and I do not believe that such a plan could have been advanced simply as a propaganda manoeuvre. Indeed, it was in preparation long before U.D.I. The will is there and we can do something positive to assist agreement and help them with this sort of problem.
815 Another form of activity well worthy of support and which I hope the Secretary of State might turn his mind to is the African Farmers' Development Corporation, a body started by the European farmers to help their African neighbours in the reserves. It started with a small group of European farmers in the Umvukwes district getting together with their African neighbours and helping them to improve their crops, using their own machinery and money. The scheme now includes hundreds of Europeans and thousands of African farmers and the results have been stunning. But funds have been short. In this way we could help not only towards agreement but towards the future of Rhodesia.
Those who have been fearful about these matters all along will be filled with relief and hope as a result of what has been said and, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), I believe that far too much is at stake on either side for the talks to be allowed to fail. I repeat that on both sides there must be concessions, of course, but I hope for more.
I must say this hope has grown as the debate has continued. I hope that perhaps as a result of success—and we cannot yet count on success—this may be a new starting point for our dealings with Southern Africa as a whole. There has been deep thought in the debate not only about economic and political conditions but about the African personality. It is through understanding of this particularly difficult problem for Europeans—and I make no apology for referring to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton again in this connection—that we can make success out of this intractable tragedy. I look forward to the day when help for the poor and, indeed, unstable regimes of Central Africa comes, if not completely, at least in large measure, from the richer countries of the south. It is in this way that fear may be repelled—and fear lies at the heart of the danger and difficulty.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) has welcomed, as I think every hon. Member welcomes, the statement which the Prime Minister made today. I believe that had it not been for the 816 policy of sanctions which this Government have pursued in the last five or six months the hon. Gentleman would not have been able to welcome the statement because it would not have been forthcoming.
I do not have the advantage, or perhaps disadvantage, of the intimate connections which the hon. Gentleman apparently has in Rhodesia, but I believe that his assessment of the effect of sanctions is optimistic from the Rhodesians' point of view. He said that petrol rationing would not be taken any further. That reminded me of the statement which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) made some months ago, when he said that petrol rationing would not be necessary at all. The hon. Gentleman's assessment that there would not be a further cut in the petrol ration is not shared by a number of informed political commentators in the Press of this country.
In recent weeks we have been faced by a dangerous, escalating situation arising from the Rhodesian crisis. I therefore welcome the Prime Minister's statement today as something which can hold up that escalation. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary will understand it when I say that, although we welcome the statement, we must regard it with caution. No one who has read the detailed report of the negotiations which took place between the Rhodesian Government and the Governments of this country, both Conservative and Labour, can underestimate the difficulties or problems which still have to be dealt with. Although we must try to lay aside our memories, none of us finds it easy to forget some of the things which have taken place in Rhodesia in the last six months. I welcome the statement with caution because the alternative could well have been catastrophe.
The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said that when the British Government took action under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter we were going along a road fraught with danger. I agree with him. But I do not believe that there are any safe roads in a situation like this.
Before I come to the main burden of my speech, which will be to argue that the present situation has been reached 817 directly as a result of Government policy, I should clear up one thing which happened when the Commonwealth Secretary spoke today. He suggested that the present Administration had inherited a dangerous situation from the Conservative Administration. This was greeted with jeers by a number of hon. Members opposite, suggesting that that was not true.
The Blue Book shows quite clearly that as early as February, 1964, in a message sent by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) to Rhodesia, and later at a meeting in September, 1964, the Conservative Administration felt it necessary to spell out in some little detail the consequences of an illegal declaration of independence.
They talked of what would happen at the United Nations; of the possible reaction in the Commonwealth; of the possibility of non-recognition of or relations with an illegal régime; of Southern Rhodesia in such circumstances being a target for subversion, trade boycotts, and so on.
It came to the point when, in June, 1964, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham felt obliged to write to Mr. Smith saying that talk of U.D.I. in recent speeches in Rhodesia might well oblige the British Government to tell Parliament the attitude of the Conservative Administration on the lines of the communication that had been sent to the Rhodesian Government as early as February, 1964.
We must continue to evaluate and judge the present situation in the light of international repercussions and in its international context. I have felt that when many hon. Members opposite have applied themselves to the international repercussions arising from the situation in Rhodesia, their thinking—even on the Front Bench—has been affected by the views of that section of the Conservative Party which tends to minimise the significance of African nationalist attitudes, the pressures and views expressed at the United Nations and the future implications for both the Commonwealth and the United Nations.
A Government spokesman was right to say in a recent debate on this subject that what was at stake was the whole future rôle and influence of this country in world affairs. We should view 818 Rhodesian policy and the situation in Rhodesia in the light of these external factors. They may be external, but they are intimately bound up with the Rhodesian situation, and in this international context one should judge British Government policy and the propositions of the Opposition.
I think that in making an assessment of the situation, it is necessary to take seriously into account the ingrained attitudes and fears, the hopes and aspirations, of the Europeans in Rhodesia and the rest of Africa, and those also of the African populations in Southern Rhodesia and in other parts of Africa. I am sure that Sir Edgar Whitehead was right when he said in the Spectator on 22nd April that both sides must be assured that their legitimate interests are protected, and that a solution must be found that is acceptable to both sides.
In this debate, over-shadowed as it is by this afternoon's statement, it is perhaps as well to balance and consider and try to understand the attitudes of the Europeans as well as of the Africans. The attitude one certainly gets is that the time spirit in Southern Rhodesia is very much that of another century—and I think that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister used such a phrase last year when we debated the subject here. Sir Roy Welensky speaks of the… almost pathological antagonism which our electorate felt towards the imposition of an African majority.Where this kind of attitude exists, it arises partly from the kind of environment and views current in that part of the world but which are no longer acceptable in this country and in other parts of the world.
The second thing which we should bear in mind is the apparent distrust of many white Southern Rhodesians of intentions of British Governments, but I do not think this is the responsibility of this Government. On any reading of the situation, it has been quite clear that throughout the Prime Minister has at all times been frank with the Rhodesian Government on his attitudes. Sir Roy Welensky made a number of interesting comments about the negotiations and contacts which took place with our Conservative predecessors. I have not the time tonight, nor do I want to get involved in 819 an argument about good faith and methods of negotiations pursued by the previous Conservative Government, but on the Monckton Comission and its terms of reference Sir Roy Welensky leaves one in no doubt that he had very little faith in what he was told by Mr. Macmillan and the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod). We have to live with this distrust; it is a distrust which we inherited.
Certainly one would be wrong to overlook and to ignore the attitudes and the fears of the Europeans because of what happened on their borders in the Congo. We would be wrong also to overlook the attitudes in Southern Rhodesia of a section of the population which has natural inclinations towards South Africa. We must remember that many of the white Southern Rhodesians have genuinely believed that there is no alternative to the 1961 Constitution but immediate black majority rule. I believe this Government have done everything they could to get rid of this illusion, and certainly it has not been our responsibility that it exists. Although one would not wish to push the matter too far tonight because of the delicacy of the situation, Mr. Smith, in his statements, suggested that he could put to the electorate only the question of the 1961 Constitution or black majority rule. He holds some responsibility in this matter.
If we are to bear in mind the attitude of the Europeans, as we must to get out of the impasse, we have also to pay regard to the legitimate aspirations of the black majority. Some hon. Members opposite have not done so. Once the ideas of democracy begin to run through a people and a continent, there is little that can stop them. It is almost like a field of corn before a strong wind. Ideas of democracy sometimes go wrong, and there are difficulties, but we should pay regard to the legitimate ideas of the Africans in Southern Rhodesia and in the rest of Africa. We should understand their bitterness after the long history of racial discrimination in Southern Rhodesia. We should understand the legacy of bitterness left by the Federation and the bitterness arising from the events of the last six months.
If we try to examine the situation in its international context and look at the 820 attitudes and aspirations both of the European and Africans in Southern Rhodesia, it is obvious that if an agreed and moral solution is to be found it has to be a compromise solution. During the long negotiations between the British Government and Mr. Smith, there is no sign that Mr. Smith ever realised just how far the Prime Minister and the British Labour Government had moved towards a compromise with him and just how difficult it would have been on the kind of terms we were talking about to justify this to African national opinion. Even at the end of the negotiations, before the illegal declaration was announced, the Prime Minister was still flexible and willing to compromise. He was going further than any previous Administration in his terms of reference for the Royal Commission and the attitude of the British Government towards it.
I turn to the proposition propounded by a number of hon. Members opposite, that severe sanctions have hardened the attitude of many people in Rhodesia who were not basically sympathetic to Smith and that they have increased the bitterness. I believe that in the short term this has been so. There has probably been some rallying towards the Smith Government because of this. It should also be appreciated that, if no sanctions, or if ineffective sanctions, had been applied against Southern Rhodesia, there would still have been a movement of opinion to Smith, because it would have been widely believed that he had got away with it. We have been able to have the statement that we had today from the Prime Minister only because of the policy of economic measures and sanctions which the British Government have taken.
I want to look in a little more detail at the Opposition's attitude that the British Government have lost control of the situation and that we should not have gone to the United Nations—this was the clear message of the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling)—but should have tried other methods first, presumably legal and diplomatic methods. I want to consider the other possibilities. I want, first, to comment on one statement made by the right hon. Member for Sreatham. He suggested or implied that it might have been preferable to have allowed the odd oil tanker to have gone through to Beira rather than invoke 821 Chapter VII sanctions at the United Nations. I disagree strongly with the right hon. Gentleman on this.
§ Mr. Sandys
I said that I thought that we ought to have exhausted all the possibilities of persuasion before taking that very serious step.
§ Mr. O'Malley
This is one proposition that I intend to examine very briefly. I was also under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman implied that it might have been preferable to mandatory sanctions that the oil tanker should have gone to Beira. The Leader of the Opposition certainly implied this the other day. This is a fundamentally wrong appraisal of the situation, because if this had happened not only would there have been a whole pile of tankers going there, but other foreign business men in all parts of the world would have decided that sanctions had failed and they would have moved in increasingly. It would have meant that Great Britain would have lost the initiative and the pressure for force at the United Nations would have been ever stronger than it has been in recent weeks.
The diplomatic situation again belies the attitude of the right hon. Member for Streatham. When the oil tankers were on their way to Beira the attitude of the Greek Government was helpful. They sent wireless messages asking the vessels to turn back. They made some threats of the possibilities of fines and the revocation of licences, but when the Ioanna V was first intercepted, as I understand the position, we had no specific permission from the Greek Government to do that. It had been left to Great Britain, acting, I would assume, in conformity with the United Nations resolution of 20th November. Therefore, we were left with no legal right to stop these oil tankers going through. The Greek Government had at no period in the negotiations, which had been going on over a number of weeks, given us any permission forcibly to stop those vessels.
A formal statement on 5th April announced. Portugal's non-participation in sanctions. There was no statement from the pipeline company meeting on 6th April. As I understand it, my hon. Friend and Lord Walston returned to this country on 9th April with no promise that the 822 Portuguese Government would prevent a link between the pipeline and the vessel.
I cannot continue with the rest of my speech. All I have been able to do is to look at the diplomatic situation which existed between Greece, Portugal and this country and to note very briefly what had been happening and the constant pressure at the United Nations in the weeks previously for action by the 36 African member States. I believe that this statement of the Prime Minister's probably gives us, for the first time, a little light at the end of the tunnel. If we are seeing that light at the end of the tunnel tonight, as I hope we are, I believe that it is directly the responsibility and the result of the policy which the British Government have pursued in the last six months.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Barber (Altrincham and Sale)
In the House of Commons unique situations are not infrequent. Certainly the circumstances of this debate today have been somewhat unusual. The debate was preceded by a statement given by the Prime Minister which, I think it is fair to say, has altered the whole basis of our discussions this afternoon and this evening. Whatever else I have to say later on, I certainly join with all those who have welcomed this change of policy on behalf of the Government. Indeed, the rousing cheers which the Prime Minister received from the Opposition benches should leave him in no doubt at all that, at long last, he is now doing the right thing. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) said, as long ago as February he urged the Commonwealth Secretary to do just what he is now doing.
I should like to join in the congratulations which have been heaped upon those hon. Members who have made maiden speeches today. Because of the course of events—the making of the Prime Minister's statement immediately before the debate—the task of those hon. Members speaking for the first time in this House was not an easy one, but certainly those whose speeches I had the privilege of hearing acquitted themselves well, and I know we all look forward to hearing them again.
823 With every week that has passed since U.D.I.—if the Commonwealth Secretary will pardon the expression—the issues associated with the developing problems of Rhodesia have become more complex and more tangled. I think all will agree that they have also become very much more serious. The Prime Minister, when he spoke in the House last Thursday, said that the Rhodesian problem was one of the most difficult with which the Government had to deal. Of course, he was absolutely right. The dangers inherent in the present situation as it has developed are equally obvious to the Opposition as to the Government. It is perfectly true that we on these benches do not shoulder the executive responsibility, but we have, nevertheless, to reach our conclusions on the basis of such information as is available to us. One of the purposes of a debate such as this, even after the important announcement made by the Prime Minister, is to do just that—to impart information to back benchers and to the Opposition.
Whether the Prime Minister likes it or not, it is a fact that throughout the whole country the question of Rhodesia is considered to be a political matter of paramount importance. I mention this because, frankly, I did not understand the line taken by the Prime Minister last Thursday when he told us that he had hoped that it would have been possible to have kept Rhodesia out of the General Election. I can only give my own experience. Certainly, whenever I spoke at meetings during the General Election and did not mention Rhodesia, on every such occasion I was closely questioned about it at the end of the meeting. After all, this is a matter not only of supreme importance, but also of immense danger. It is also a matter of universal interest in Britain, and it is no discredit either to the British electorate or to hon. Members of this House that their views do not always follow party lines. Certainly at least one or two speeches today have shown that to be the case.
My home is not far from one of the largest coalfields in the country, and I can assure the House that there are many people who voted Labour on 31st March and who, at any rate until the statement which was made today, had hitherto been extremely dubious about the Government's Rhodesia policy. This is, of 824 course, quite natural and inevitable when there are great moral issues at stake, as there are in this case. It is very natural that there should have been these differences. I am told that hon. Members opposite are not entirely united on the Government's policy of wholehearted support of the bombing of North Vietnam, another issue of worldwide significance.
I mention these facts because the views and feelings which have been expressed by my right hon. and hon. Friends in the House as well as at private party meetings have been both a recognition of the gravity of the situation which we have reached and a reflection of the deep and sincere convictions held by individual Members. I have had occasion to speak on Rhodesia twice in the past from this Dispatch Box, on comparatively minor matters, and I have never sought to minimise the immense difficulties with which right hon. and hon. Members opposite are faced. But I hope that right hon. Gentlemen in their turn will recognise that, despite the differences we have had, throughout the whole of this period the sole criterion of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has been the national interest. It was precisely because we believed it to be in the national interest that, before ever we knew that the Prime Minister was to make a statement today, we decided that we would not put down an Amendment to the Address and so call a division.
It is now more than five months since the folly of U.D.I., and, until the Prime Minister made his statement today, we were all agreed on two matters. We were all agreed that the U.D.I. was illegal, and we were all agreed that the object of all we did should be to ensure the return to constitutional government in Rhodesia. Now, after the statement this afternoon, we are all agreed on a third aspect of policy, that there must be, and will be, talks.
The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations went out of his way today, at considerable length, to defend the Government's handling of the situation as between Rhodesia and this country. Indeed, I think it fair to say—the right hon. Gentleman will not deny it—that he spent most of his time, naturally, perhaps, in view of the statement made earlier, in dwelling on the past history 825 of the matter. I shall, therefore, explain to the House, in as moderate language as I can, why we on these benches believe that the Government's handling of the situation has, to say the least, been somewhat inept.
In the period which preceded U.D.I., my right hon. Friends did all they possibly could both in private conversations with Mr. Smith and by means of public statements to dissuade the Rhodesian Government from seizing independence illegally, and, when Mr. Smith did seize independence illegally, we immediately condemned it. In response to the important point raised by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot)—he is not here now, but it will be within the memory of those who heard the intervention—I want to say that it has always been our view that the white minority in Rhodesia could not and should not permanently rule that country. But it is equally clear—I am sure that the Secretary of State will be the first to agree with me now—that, whatever settlement is ultimately reached, the progress to majority rule must take time.
§ Mr. Barber
The right hon. Gentleman said so this afternoon, but it is important to emphasise it. This brings me to a point which, I believe, raises one of the most unfortunate aspects of the discussions which led eventually to the U.D.I., the fact that many intelligent, moderate and normally well-informed people in Rhodesia genuinely thought that the alternatives which the Labour Government were forcing upon them were illegal independence or almost immediate majority rule.
Within a few weeks of the U.D.I., I spoke to a leading businessman who had visited Rhodesia and who, I may say, was of sufficient importance to be seen by the Prime Minister on his return to London. He told me that, in the conversations he had had in Salisbury and elsewhere in Rhodesia, again and again otherwise perfectly reasonable people had told him that they thought that the alternative to U.D.I. with which they were faced was majority rule either immediately or within a ridiculously short period.
The Government may say that this was never their policy. They may say 826 that they made this absolutely clear to Mr. Smith. But the fact is that they were not able to get it across to the white Rhodesians. I believe from what I have heard that this was one of the prime causes of the support which Mr. Smith received.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
I do not disagree that this has been one of the big misunderstandings in Rhodesia. But it was certainly not our fault. As I have reported a number of times to the House—indeed, on my return; and I said this very plainly in Rhodesia, on their television and on their radio, and in my public statement at the airport on arrival and when I left—we did not control the system of propaganda and what was put out in Rhodesia. I think that the dilemma or choice that the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned was rather assiduously spread at that time. But we did everything in our power, not having control of the media of propaganda, to make it quite plain that we thought it was going to be a matter of a very long time.
§ Mr. Barber
I accept what the right hon. Member says. Indeed, I think he will agree that I was trying to put the matter fairly. I said that he might well say that he and his colleagues had done everything that they possibly could, but the fact was, as it turned out, that many of the white Rhodesians simply did not believe the statement which the right hon. Gentleman was making. This may well be—if I may put it this way; I want to try to be as moderate as I can—because of some of the statements made by senior members of the Labour Party when they were in opposition.
At any rate I raise this question now not because I want to hark back to the past but because I believe that if the talks are to succeed, as we all hope and believe they will do, the path of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will be made considerably easier if they go out of their way, with the new means of communication now at their disposal, to make it abundantly clear to the white Rhodesians that there is not before them the simple choice which some of them genuinely believe existed before. To do this would certainly make the chances of success in the talks more likely.
827 In his speech this afternoon, the Commonwealth Secretry spent a great deal of his time on the history of sanctions. He said "We knew that in the end sanctions would be effective." He then went on to dwell at length on what the Government had done. I should like to make a few remarks on the points that he made.
First, on the day after U.D.I. the Prime Minister was asked about the likely effectiveness of the first batch of sanctions which were announced either on the day of U.D.I. or on the following day. He was asked whether, if they did not prove effective, he intended to do something further. The Prime Minister replied—I want to be perfectly fair about this—that the Government would certainly have to review the situation in the light of discussions at the United Nations and elsewhere. But he said this about the first batch of sanctions, which we supported:It is our view that these measures will be effective, not least because of the financial considerations … we have no other measure in contemplation so far as we are concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 635.]I am not saying that at that stage there was anything whatever reprehensible about this statement, but I am saying that either the advice which the right hon. Gentleman was receiving was wholly wrong or he made a very great error of Judgment, because, as we all know now, those measures were not nearly enough.
Then there was the right hon. Gentleman's speech on 21st December on the question of the blockade of Beira. I do not intend to go over the ground again, because the Prime Minister gave his explanation on Thursday, but the Commonwealth Secretary went out of his way to mention this again today. I would only remind the House that, whatever else the Prime Minister may have said on 21st December in referring to a possible resolution under Chapter VII of the Charter, he said in terms:We do not ourselves propose to seek such a resolution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1965; Vol. 722. c. 1919.]Again without going into the merits, the hard fact is that the Government have done precisely that which they said they would not do. There may or may not have been good reasons why the right hon. Gentleman concluded that it was right to go back on the assurance he had 828 given to the House of Commons but go back on that assurance he most certainly did.
This afternoon the Prime Minister, in answer to a supplementary question, referred to the Lagos Conference. It is as well, when one is reviewing the history of sanctions in the light of what the Commonwealth Secretary told us, to be reminded of one of the most important passages in the Lagos communiqué which was issued three and a half months ago. It said:… the Prime Ministers noted that the statement by the British Prime Minister that on the expert advice available to him the cumulative effects of the economic and financial sanctions might well bring the rebellion to an end within a matter of weeks rather than months.That was three and a half months ago. I wonder what the time scale for sanctions is now for the Government.
From all the information I have received, I entirely agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral that it would be a great mistake if the Government were to exaggerate either publicly or, much more important perhaps, in their own minds, the effect of sanctions. I am only sorry I was not here to listen to the speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) who, I believe, is the last hon. Member of this House to have been in Rhodesia, because I understand that he made very much the same point.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral and my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay and others are not alone in the doubts they have about sanctions. I mentioned the Lagos communiqué of three and a half months ago and want to quote a short passage from the Financial Times two months after the conference. The report said:Rhodesia's economic performance since independence is much better than most economists and businessmen had expected. The air of great optimism in Salisbury has been dampened a little, no doubt, by the nonappearance of an oil tanker this week. But there is a growing belief that sanctions have already failed to achieve their purpose.In official circles here"—the report came from Salisbury—Whitehall claims that sanctions are taking their toll are greeted with amusement. Even anti-Smith Rhodesians have become extremely cynical about what they consider to be unrealistically exaggerated British claims of the success of sanctions.829 Those were the views of a correspondent of the Financial Times who was out there.
If we on these benches over the last weeks and months have been restive about the Rhodesian policy of the Government—which the Commonwealth Secretary, judging by his speech today, seems to think has been an unqualified success—if we have been unhappy about some of the things that have happened, I can only say that the Government have themselves to blame. I can see that, while these informal talks are going on there is obviously a limit to what the Prime Minister can tell us about them. But we only regret that it has taken him so long to accept the clear advice which has been given both by the Governor and by Sir Hugh Beadle.
Long before the Prime Minister got involved in the last few days with the talks to which he referred in his statement, he had every opportunity of telling the House why he did not accept the advice given for several weeks past by these two eminent and respectable gentlemen. These are the two men who only a few months ago were held in high esteem by the Prime Minister and I assume that they still are. I well remember that, on the first day of the debate on the Gracious Speech last November, the Prime Minister praised Sir Hugh Beadle'…for his sagacity, judgment and humanity …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 29.]I hope that the Commonwealth Secretary will listen to this, because we on these benches, as did the whole country, knew the advice of Sir Hugh Beadle as long ago as January of this year. Sir Hugh Beadle then conveyed his advice to the British people through the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who this afternoon, everybody will agree, made a fine and courageous speech. Considering that this is what was said in January of this year, I should like to quote from the article—not an interview but a considered article—which the hon. and learned Gentleman wrote on his return to the United Kingdom in the middle of January. I quote only the first two paragraphs:My last two hours in Rhodesia were spent at Government House with Sir Humphrey Gibbs, the Queen's representative, 830 Sir Hugh Beadle, the Chief Justice, and Sir Godfrey Nicholson, M.P.A very full discussion ended with Sir Humphrey saying 'We seem to be in entire agreement', and Sir Hugh turning to me and saying: 'When you get back, for heaven's sake convince them that they have got to negotiate with Smith. There is no one else. The alternative is disaster'. I asked: 'May I quote you?' And he answered 'Yes'.This afternoon, the Commonwealth Secretary said that words uttered in this Chamber are often carried to Salisbury. How right he was! I wonder whether he still remembers the words which he uttered in the House on 7th December and which were carried to Salisbury. He then said:… we cannot deal with Smith in any way—because he is not a man to be trusted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 385.]I must say that there is no need to ask the right hon. Gentleman this evening where he stands on those words now. The Prime Minister, thank goodness, has at long last had the good sense totally to reject them and to accept the policy which was proclaimed weeks ago by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition; in other words, to open talks without prior commitment.
Then there was the clear and unequivocal advice of the Governor. The Prime Minister knew weeks ago that his advice was precisely the same as the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—to get round the table and to talk. But at that time, for reasons which were never given to us, the Prime Minister rejected it, and so the only way which was left open to the Governor to make the British Government see sense was to publish his views to the world. This he did, as we know, in a talk which he had with Lord Bolton when Lord Bolton was authorised to make his views known on his return to this country.
The message which Lord Bolton conveyed to the British people was, of course, true, and I was somewhat surprised this afternoon that both the Prime Minister and the Commonwealth Secretary went out of their way to say that there had been no change in policy. I would have thought that it would have actually helped the talks at this stage if they had admitted what, after all, is the obvious truth to those of us who have listened to the previous debates—that there has been a complete change of policy, because this is 831 what it is. If anyone doubts that, I will explain why.
These informal talks are taking place, as the Prime Minister told us, as the result of a meeting between his Principal Private Secretary and Mr. Smith, and these talks, to use the Prime Minister's own word, are directed to seeing whether a basis for negotiations genuinely exists. This was welcome news, and I ask the House to note the words "to see whether a basis for negotiation exists", because previously the Prime Minister's policy was quite contrary, for he said:We cannot negotiate with these men …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 771.]When we on these benches took exception to what we believed to be a rigid and uncomprising approach by the right hon. Gentleman, we were criticised and treated almost as traitors ourselves. Yet this is now what the right hon. Gentleman is doing. Of course there has been a change, and a very welcome change indeed.
Then this afternoon the Commonwealth Secretary, in his valiant defence of Government policy, said that nobody had produced a better policy. That is precisely what my right hon. Friend did—the policy of talks without prior commitment—and we are delighted that this is now also the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
I have already mentioned the fact that three and a half months ago the Prime Minister told our friends that he expected the rebellion to be brought to an end within a matter of weeks. I had a considerable amount more to say on the question of sanctions and I had hoped to be able to deal with some of the specific points that have been raised—
§ Mr. Bottomley
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, is he aware that the difference today is that before we had to recognise the illegal régime before talks could take place? Is that what the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting we should do?
§ Mr. Barber
I am saying that three and a half months ago the Prime Minister announced to the world in a communiqué that he thought there was a fair chance that the rebellion would be brought to an end within a matter of weeks. If the Commonwealth Secretary wants me to pursue this, I will read it.
§ Mr. Barber
I was dealing with that very point. I am making the point that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have consistently misjudged the effect of their sanctions on the Rhodesian economy. If the right hon. Gentleman will look, for example, at the independent report—not an anonymous report—of Nicholas Carol, diplomatic correspondent of the Sunday Times, last Sunday, he will see that this is borne out. It was borne out today in every speech by hon. Members who have been to Rhodesia.
§ The Prime Minister
It is a fact that at the time about which the right hon. Gentleman is talking, in January, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and I both insisted, I think rightly, that there could be no negotiations if those negotiations meant validating or accepting the illegal régime and if there was no forswearing of that illegality. That was the position which both Front Benches took up at that time. There has been a change now. Is the right hon. Gentleman now saying, contrary to what his right hon. Friend wrote in Punch and said in a number of places and in the House, that we should have negotiations if negotiating meant accepting the illegal régime of that time?
§ Mr. Barber
No. What my right hon. Friend has said is that there should be negotiations without prior commitment. This is what the right hon. Gentleman has now proposed, and this we welcome. There is nothing to quarrel about over this. It is acceptable to the whole House and we are delighted that he has done it.
I had something to say about the grave consequences for the relationship between ourselves and South Africa in connection with Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, but obviously I must bring my remarks to a conclusion. I will just say that I hope—indeed, I expect—that Her Majesty's Government are taking into account the very serious economic consequences for Britain if a policy of blockade of Beira were ever to be applied to South Africa.
833 South Africa, after all, is Britain's third largest customer. Last year we sent it £265 million worth of exports, and those hon. Gentlemen opposite, and some Cabinet Ministers, who used to parade in favour of a trade boycott of South Africa may like to know that last year, under a Labour Government, whereas the overall increase in exports was 7 per cent., the increase in exports to South Africa was 11 per cent.—and this is a measure of the importance of this trade to us. On top of this, it has been estimated that our investment in South Africa amounts to about £1,000 million. None of these economic factors is paramount, but in our present balance of payments position the Government are, I am sure, certainly weighing them seriously in the balance.
I hope it is now agreed on all sides of the House that sanctions are not an end in themselves. They are a means to an end, and that end, as my right hon. Friend has repeatedly said, is to persuade the people of Rhodesia to turn back to moderation and constitutional rule. As the Prime Minister now realises, the tragic situation in Rhodesia at the end of the day can be solved only by conciliation.
On 25th January the Prime Minister made a statement in the House in which he set out the Government's aims and purposes. He reaffirmed that policy when he spoke last Thursday in the debate. I shall not go over that ground again. Suffice it to say that we on these benches have real reservations, and I hope that they will be respected as sincere reservations, as to the likelihood of this plan, which was reaffirmed last Thursday, succeeding.
I say that because to those in Rhodesia to whom that plan was aimed, and whom it is necessary to influence if the object of all of us is to be attained, that plan must seem very like a call for unconditional surrender. Certainly, as my right hon. Friends the Members for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and Streatham Mr. Sandys) said this afternoon, Rhodesia is unlikely to accept a period of direct rule.
In his statement today, the Prime Minister asked the House to understand why he could not say anything in last Thursday's debate, but he went out of his way to reaffirm his statement of 834 25th January, and I am bound to say that that was unfortunate. Unless a policy of economic sanctions and a genuine and realistic attempt at reconciliation go hand in hand, there is a real danger that the actions of the Government will drive the Rhodesians to extremes rather than bring them to moderation. This is surely an anxiety which must be shared by all of us, in all parts of the House.
Time and again my right hon. Friends have said that at the end of the day there would have to be talks. This is the only way to reach a constitutional settlement that is fair to all Her Majesty's subjects in Rhodesia. That should surely be the aim of the United Nations. It is certainly in the interests of South Africa and Portugal that a settlement should be reached. It is certainly in the interests of Zambia, as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton pointed out. If the Government are right and sanctions are really biting, it is obviously in the interests of the Smith régime to reach a settlement. Who can doubt that a just solution would bring joy and relief to all of us here in the United Kingdom?
Over the past few months, we have had deep and serious differences with the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Those differences were genuine and they were sincere. Whether, on the question of the timing of the talks, the Prime Minister is right or my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was right in putting forward the suggestion earlier, we all welcome the decision which was announced today to get talks going and we all pray that they will be successful.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Elwyn Jones)
I am glad that the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) began and ended his speech by supporting the important statement made today by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The fact that that statement of the Prime Minister could be made and came to be made is a measure of the success of the Government's policy in what the right hon. Gentleman has conceded to be a highly difficult situation.
I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman's speech has been helpful to what should be the common cause. It seems to have been more concerned with making party points than in working towards 835 unity in this House and settlement in the interesting development that has arisen. If I may refresh the right hon. Gentleman's memory about recent history and the alleged failure of my right hon. Friends to take advantage of opportunities for negotiation, he will not, I am sure, forget that as recently as January of this year, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations sought to go to Salisbury for talks, the condition was that there should be preacceptance of the illegal régime by Her Majesty's Government.
Happily, there are signs of a change of outlook. I certainly do not want in my observations tonight to widen any differences, because I am quite sure that all men of good will cannot fail to applaud the Prime Minister's statement.
A number of suggestions have been made in the course of the debate as to how the negotiations that are about to begin should be conducted, what the agenda should be, who should take part in them, and where they should take place. It would not be helpful for me at this delicate stage in the preliminary exchanges to comment upon those matters. As my right hon. Friend has said, the informal talks are being entered into without commitment on either side but we realise that there is much at stake, and the overall message that has come from the House of Commons in the course of the debate has been to wish success to what is now being undertaken.
Before I deal with some matters to which, nevertheless, an answer is called for from me, I should like to congratulate three of my hon. Friends on their admirable maiden speeches. I refer to the speeches of the hon. Members for Lancaster (Mr. Henig), Billericay (Mr. Moonman) and Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker). They maintained the tradition of the House of paying tribute to their eminent predecessors, which is the kind of tradition that oils the wheels of Parliamentary progress.
I should like particularly to commend the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead, and may I say one word about a specific matter which he raised? We shall honour fully the undertakings announced in the House by my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth 836 Secretary on 22nd December, 1965, to give financial and other help to members of the Rhodesian public service and of the police and armed forces who lose their jobs or suffer in certain other ways as a result of their loyalty to the Crown.
§ The Attorney-General
My hon. and learned Friend's eternal unhelpfulness in the situation is once more indicated. There are some, and we shall stand by them.
§ The Attorney-General
The major matter to which I desire to address myself, and which has been the subject of criticism by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in the course of the debate, is that the Government should not have gone to the Security Council. In my submission, the taking of the problem to the Security Council and the obtaining of a Chapter VII resolution was not only unavoidable; it was wholly justifiable in the situation in which the Government found themselves on 5th April.
May I commend to the House the observations that were made by the American delegate, Mr. Goldberg, at the Security Council meeting which I had the honour to attend? He said:The world has quite properly looked to Britain, the constitutional authority, to solve this very difficult question. Britain has never hesitated to acknowledge its responsibility publicly and to the members of this Council, and in coming here when it did originally and when it does so today, it seems to me, as a believer in this world Organisation, that Great Britain should be congratulated and not condemned for manifesting its recognition of its obligations under the Charter and its respect for the decent opinions of mankind.The fact is that, had we not obtained the powers given to the Government by the terms of the Security Council resolution, three things would have happened. First, oil sanctions which the House approved, and to which effect had been given in the law of the United Kingdom and Rhodesia, would have been in danger of total collapse. Of course there are some hon. Gentlemen opposite who think that that might have been a 837 good thing, but it was the view of the House that they should be enforced. Secondly, a major victory would have been won by the illegal régime in Rhodesia. Thirdly, more far-reaching action would undoubtedly immediately have been demanded at the United Nations.
The position on 5th April was that the "Joanna V" had arrived at Beira that day, and it was possible that the pumping of oil through the pipeline to the Rhodesian refinery might start at any moment. What was more grave perhaps was that one tanker was actually approaching Beira, and other tankers were undoubtedly on the way. Of that we had a considerable body of evidence at our disposal.
The position was that the Security Council resolution of November calling for an oil embargo was not a mandatory resolution under Chapter VII, and it could not, in the view of the Government, give legal authority for the use of force to prevent tankers with oil for Rhodesia from entering Beira. The Committee of 24 had met on 4th and 6th April, and was clearly determined on action. It was clear that in the very near future there was likely to be a call for a Security Council meeting at which a mandatory resolution in the most far-reaching terms would be proposed.
It was in those circumstances that Her Majesty's Government, therefore, called for a meeting of the Security Council on 7th April to secure the adoption of a resolution which would avert the immediate threat, that is to say, a major breach of the oil embargo through the unloading of oil at Beira and its pumping through the pipeline, and the arrival of further tankers and supplies.
That resolution was adopted on 9th April, and the House will recollect that by its terms the Security Council determined under Chapter VII that the situation resulting from the arrival of a tanker, and the approach of another, and the consequences which would flow from that, constituted a threat to peace. The Security Council went on to call on the Portuguese Government not to permit the pumping of oil from Beira, and not to receive at Beira oil for Rhodesia. It called on all States to ensure the diversion of any vessels reasonably be- 838 lieved to be carrying oil destined for Rhodesia, and on the United Kingdom to prevent, by force if necessary, the arrival at Beira of vessels reasonably believed to be carrying oil destined for Rhodesia. The Government therefore sought and secured from the Security Council the action necessary to deal with the urgent situation resulting from an apparently imminent and major breach of the oil embargo, including authority for the use of the necessary minimum of force.
§ Mr. Barber
One part of the resolutionCalls upon the Portuguese Government not to receive at Beira oil destined for Rhodesia.Will the Attorney-General explain to the House why, on the same day, Britain abstained from voting on an Amendment whichcalled on South Africa to take all measures necessary to prevent a supply of oil to Rhodesia."?Why the discrimination?
§ The Attorney-General
Another resolution in far more extreme terms was proposed by the Security Council that day. I am making the point that the very limited, and immediately necessary, terms of the United Kingdom resolution were of great importance in limiting the action at that stage, and were the limit of what the immediate situation required. On the South African situation, of course, diplomatic negotiations were taking place and have been taking place throughout the whole of this period. I will certainly not be drawn into describing the nature either of those which have been taking place in the immediate past or of those which are taking place at the present time.
However, right hon. Gentlemen opposite must really ask themselves, not merely what they would have done themselves—we have failed to get an answer to that—but, objectively, what the alternatives were in the situation in which we found ourselves. Some, of course, are obvious. The Government could, in the absence of authority, under a Chapter VII resolution, either have allowed these foreign flag tankers to go into Beira unimpeded or have intercepted them unilaterally—unless they had obtained the authority of the flag State to intercept the tankers on 839 the high seas and diverted them, if necessary by force, to other destinations.
To have allowed tankers to go into Beira in that situation without taking any action to prevent them would, of course, have been to acquiesce in a serious breach of the oil embargo which this House approved and which is obviously critical in the Rhodesian situation. That would have removed, in the view of the Government, a most powerful element in the pressure on the illegal régime in Rhodesia.
In this connection, I can do no better than quote from an article written by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) in the News of the World on 27th February. In it, he suggested that sanctions:… are a powerful influence towards a settlement.
§ The Attorney-General
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that today, as well.
However, one cannot help noting on the other side of the House still the view of sanctions, "Sanctions are fine so long as they are not effective." That has been continually the effect of the speeches which we have heard from many hon. and right hon. Members on the other side of the House—
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley) rose—
§ The Attorney-General
I will give way in a moment.
I will say this, in regard to what we have heard this evening about the effect of sanctions. I could not help detecting a certain satisfaction reflected on the other side of the House that sanctions apparently were not biting so effectively as the Government are claiming they are. Whatever the position was last month or six months ago, the information at the Government's disposal is that our economic measures and the economic measures which other countries have taken—let us take note of the remarkable international co-operation which has gone into this effort of dealing with the rebellion in Rhodesia—are biting more and more and that the economic difficulties of the régime are increasing.
840 I do not know whether I have departed from the point which the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) wanted to raise, but I will now give way.
§ Mr. Heath
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has in fact completed the circuit. I wanted to ask him this. He has just emphasised the remarkable co-operation between countries and he said that the Navy was unable to intercept unilaterally unless the consent of the flag State had been obtained. I would ask him this direct question. Was the consent of the Greek Government asked for and was it refused? This is very important. Secondly, how can he stand at that Box and make accusations against this side of the House of wanting sanctions to be ineffective when his Government abstained on a resolution which called for effective sanctions to prevent South Africa from sending oil?
§ The Attorney-General
It is generally conceded that, potentially, perhaps the most effective sanction is oil. If what the right hon. Gentleman has just said is true, why did he not vote for the oil sanctions? Why was the House treated to that dismal experience that night when the Opposition divided into three? The men who are really supporting us went into the Lobby with us. What did the Leader of the Opposition do? He sat on the fence.
I have answered the question about the South African position; that was not the immediate challenge and threat to international authority which was faced at that time, and in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's efforts to create difficulties with South Africa, I will say no more than that diplomatic discussions are continuing. As for the position of the flag State, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already answered this question quite clearly; express permission to the Royal Navy to intervene had not at that material time been obtained.
§ The Attorney-General
I refuse to be drawn further into the matter of the diplomatic exchanges with an ally.
§ The Attorney-General
There is no dishonesty and it is outrageous that the 841 right hon. Gentleman should have the impertinence to address that observation to me.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the Front Bench wishes to intervene, it must intervene in a Parliamentary way.
§ The Attorney-General
The position therefore was that on 7th April we were faced with the very destruction of the sanctions policy and the reinforcement of the position of the illegal régime. What else would have resulted? What would have resulted is that other States would have insisted on taking the handling of the Rhodesian situation out of our control. The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) said that our decision to take the matter to the United Nations resulted in our losing effective control. The opposite is the case. We regained it. Anyone listening to those proceedings in the Security Council would have been under no illusion at all that if the British Government had not acted immediately and effectively on 7th April as we did, we should have been faced with the introduction of measures of a far more stringent and potentially far-seeing nature.
§ Mr. Sandys rose—
§ The Attorney-General
I cannot give way, particularly in the light of the recent exchange with the Leader of the Opposition.
§ The Attorney-General
I have very few minutes left and I am trying to deal with some of the matters raised in the debate.
As I have said, we could as a Government have intercepted vessels on the high seas unilaterally. The Royal Navy had the power to stop the "Joanna" and to stop the "Manuella" from going in, and it may well be that if another Administration had been the Government of our country this is what they would have done. But the Labour Government believe in the rule of law.
§ Mr. Heath rose—
§ The Attorney-General
Having had the rare experience of being accused of dishonesty by anybody, I will certainly not give way.
842 The position which we took is that we required the legal sanction of the Security Council for the necessary action which needed to be taken. By taking the step which we took we prevented from arising a situation in which a mandatory resolution of a more far-reaching character would undoubtedly have been proposed.
The sort of resolution likely to have been proposed can be seen by examining that which was in fact adopted by the Committee of 24 on 21st April by 19 votes to nil with five abstentions. That resolution condemns the failure of South Africa and Portugal to implement the resolution of the Security Council and condemns their alleged support and assistance for the illegal régime in Rhodesia. It calls on the United Kingdom to use force to bring the rebellion to an end. It considers that the situation in Southern Rhodesia is a threat to international peace and urges the Security Council to call on all states to impose mandatory sanctions under Chapter VII.
Her Majesty's Government could either have allowed the Security Council to adopt such a resolution, with incalculable consequences for Britain, for the whole of Southern and Central Africa and for the United Nations; or, as the right hon. Gentleman keeps repeating quite unnecessarily, it would have been open to the United Kingdom to veto such a resolution, despite the apparent illogicality of vetoing a resolution which in part confirms or appears, on the face of it, to confirm our own policy of applying an embargo on the supply of oil and oil products to Rhodesia. What is perhaps more important, the use of the veto in these circumstances would have had profound and incalculable results for our relations and the relations of the West as a whole with Africa in general.
Clearly, therefore, an objective consideration of these alternatives which faced us at the beginning of April dictated unavoidably and inescapably the course which the Government took in the Security Council. Now, with the Security Council backing, we have plugged one of the most important breaches of the oil embargo. It is quite true, as has been said more than once in this debate, that there are other leaks, but such supplies as reach Rhodesia by these other means are less 843 satisfactory and are considerably more expensive to Rhodesia than the supply of crude oil to their own refineries.
In our view, it is preferable to allow time for the implications of the Security Council decision to sink in while the action which we are taking through diplomatic channels continues. I am sure that the House will not expect me to make any comment on the various diplomatic exchanges which are taking place, particularly in the light of the Prime Minister's statement today. They have been taking place before and after the recourse to the Security Council.
There is still time to comment on one matter, namely, the suggestion that there were no grounds for saying that the situation in Rhodesia constituted a threat to peace. In my view, the resolution of the Security Council on that matter and to that effect was entirely justifiable and reasonable in the circumstances. The Security Council had already declared in the resolution of 20th November that a continuance in time of the situation resulting from U.D.I. 844constitutes a threat to international peace and security.The loss of control of the situation which would have resulted from a major breach of the oil embargo, the assistance which it would have afforded to the illegal régime, the diminution of the prospect of an outcome acceptable to world opinion, might well have led others, in this highly explosive situation, to despair of peaceful solutions and to demand resort to action which would have had grave and incalculable consequences for the peace of Africa. The determination by the Council represented a reasonable assessment of the situation.
In my submission, no Government could have done more than this Government have done to achieve a peaceful solution to this grave and difficult problem. But the Government are determined to continue in their efforts to achieve a just settlement peacefully which will do justice to all Rhodesians.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.