HC Deb 22 March 1978 vol 946 cc1497-500
9. Mr. Rifkind

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on further measures he intends to take towards achieving a peaceful settlement in Rhodesia.

13. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the Rhodesian settlement.

15. Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on Rhodesia.

18. Mr. Brotherton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about Rhodesia.

Dr. Owen

I made the Government's view clear in the debate on Monday.

Mr. Rifkind

Will the Foreign Secretary confirm today's newspaper reports that the Government accept the new multiracial Executive Council for Rhodesia as the de facto Administration of the territory?

Dr. Owen

The Government consider this new Executive Council to be illegal, as was the previous regime, but we have to take account of the fact that it exists, as, indeed, we have done with Mr. Smith's regime. When it is appropriate, either officials from my Department or myself will be prepared to discuss matters with the illegal regime.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

In the light of the establishment of an interim Government, will the Secretary of State now reconsider the appointment of a permanent mission to Rhodesia, if only to ascertain the views of the Rhodesian people on an internal settlement, in order that the Government's policy may in fact take account of the views inside Rhodesia at least as much as it appears to take account of the views of the Patriotic Front and those outside Rhodesia?

Dr. Owen

This is an issue to which the Opposition always come back. They must recognise, however, that when dealing with an illegal regime I am not a completely free agent in these matters. There were two officials involved in Salisbury, and it was not my doing that the senior one was removed.

Mr. Brotherton

Will the right hon. Gentleman contact his friend, Mr. Andrew Young, and tell him that Her Majesty's Government have come to the conclusion that their policy on Rhodesia has failed, that they are now repenting, and that Her Majesty's Government will now support the forces of moderation and will cease giving encouragement to murderers?

Hon. Members


Mr. Ioan Evans

While seeking a settlement in Rhodesia, will my right hon. Friend ensure that it is as peaceful a settlement as possible? In order to do that, there will be a need to contact the nationalist forces outside the country as well as those inside Rhodesia. Until we can get a copper-bottomed guaranteed settlement that will meet the Six Principles, will my right hon. Friend assure the House that we shall not end economic sanctions?

Dr. Owen

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. We shall judge the outcome against the Six Principles and, in particular, draw attention to the Fifth Principle and the Sixth Principle, which are the ones that are highly relevant to any test of opinion. In the meantime, we shall work as hard as we can to involve all the nationalist leaders, both inside and outside the country, and to try to achieve a ceasefire.

Mr. Thorpe

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the acid test of whether the internal settlement is genuinely intended to transfer power to the African majority is whether security matters will now become the responsibility of the Executive Council and no longer of Mr. Smith exclusively? Does he agree that unless decisions such as the pre-emptive strike against Zambia, which was a politically disastrous move, are matters on which there is some discussion and possibly a power of veto by the three Africans who are members of the four-man Executive Council, there will be no hope of bringing about integration between the freedom fighters and the regular forces of Rhodesia, and no hope of getting the Patriotic Front involved in talks? Unless we can achieve those two things, civil war will be inevitable.

Dr. Owen

As I understand it, responsibility for the armed forces will be held by the Executive Council. If that is so, it is certainly an improvement from the present situation. But it must be carried much further than that. I think that it will have to be shown in the Executive Council's actions, as the right hon. Gentleman implies, and in the way in which it deals with the whole question of the integration of the liberation fighters.

Mr. Grocott

Has not the predictable and entirely understandable response of the rest of the world to the so-called settlement in Salisbury completely vindicated the Government's position of refusing to welcome this settlement? Will my right hon. Friend make it plain that there can be no reasonable possibility of any settlement in Rhodesia so long as Smith remains a part of any interim Government?

Dr. Owen

My hon. Friend is quite right that international opinion is a major factor that must be considered. Indeed, it is in the interests of Zimbabwe that it should be considered, because, unless we are able to find a situation in which a settlement is freely and fairly negotiated, there is little doubt that the international community will neither recognise it nor lift sanctions, and that will damage Zimbabwe's future. My hon. Friend is perfectly correct that we should do all that we can to ensure that a settlement is achieved that will be acceptable to the international community, and that is what I am trying to do.

Mr. John Davies

May I return to the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler)? Does the Foreign Secretary accept that a major step was taken only yesterday by the setting up of the Executive Council? Does he not now agree that in order to keep properly informed of the developments of the work within Rhodesia and of the activities of the Executive Council, and in order properly to guide the actions of Her Majesty's Government, the need to set up a mission becomes absolutely paramount?

Dr. Owen

As I have indicated to the right hon. Gentleman, the setting up of a mission is not a decision to be taken by the British Government alone. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] The question is whether it is acceptable to the illegal regime. They happen to be able to control whether people stay in the country. That is a fact that has to be taken into account. There are conditions that they might wish to apply but which I would not be prepared to accept.