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Volume 885: debated on Wednesday 29 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement about the progress made in securing a constitutional settlement in Rhodesia.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on moves by Her Majesty's Government towards a settlement in Rhodesia.

My right hon. Friend has sent messages to Mr. Smith and Bishop Muzorewa. Mr. Smith's reply says that a proposed visit to Salisbury by British officials would not be helpful at this stage. The ANC has not yet replied. My right hon. Friend remains in consultation with the African leaders principally concerned.

While there will be widespread disappointment that the Foreign Secretary's offer to send an official to Salisbury has been turned down, may I ask the Minister whether he accepts that the somewhat ill-tempered and ham-fisted remark of the Foreign Secretary about comparing Rhodesian leaders to men stuck in an ice floe may well have contributed to this decision? What steps will the British Government now take to keep the tempo of negotiations going? Will the Government at one and the same time urge the African leaders to bring an effective end to terrorism and urge Mr. Smith to recommend the release of detainees?

Perhaps I should deal first with the serious part of that question. I think it is a disappointment. I think it is only a temporary setback. We cannot assume that there will not be an opportunity for exchanges with Mr. Smith. He has certainly not closed the door. I also agree that it is of great importance that the agreement reached in Lusaka should in every respect be carried through by all the parties concerned. I have no doubt that the African presidents are using their influence. I hope that Mr. Vorster will continue to use his influence. I think we would want to wish well to the talks which have begun between Mr. Smith's representatives and the African National Council. When my right hon. Friend made his statement in the House, he said that a constitutional conference could result only from these talks in Rhodesia. We would want to wish them well.

As for the non-serious part of the supplementary question, the hon. Gentleman is fooling himself. My right hon. Friend said that Rhodesia was in a serious situation and facing serious problems. If the hon. Gentleman doubts that he must be alone in doing so.

Does my right hon. Friend accept two facts of life, as I have done for some years? The first is that since 1922, when Southern Rhodesia, as she then was, opted not to become the sixth State of the Union, Her Majesty's Government have had little if any constitutional status in Salisbury. Secondly, nowhere in Africa, outside the former colonies such as Kenya, has any white settler population voluntarily handed over power to the black masses. In the light of those two facts of history, does not my right hon. Friend think that we ought to leave it to Kenneth Kaunda and the other black leaders, because sooner or later there will be conflict in the territory such as that in Angola and Mozambique?

I think my hon. Friend recognises—if he does not, perhaps I can mention it—that Presidents Kaunda, Nyerere and Seretse Khama have been extremely anxious and have made it clear to my right hon. Friend that he should play as active a part as he can. The question is, how active a part? Clearly, although we have legal constitutional responsibility for what is still constitutionally a British dependent territory, our influence is not such that we can directly intervene. I think it is quite right, therefore, that my right hon. Friend should indicate his willingness to convene a conference at such time as the situation leads one to believe that it can succeed.

Is it not clear that a major factor in opening up even the possibility of a settlement has been the determination of the British Government, of both parties, to keep the illegal régime isolated in the international community? Have the Government considered what further negotiations may be useful in this very fluid situation? Will they keep in mind that a settlement must include reliable safeguards not only for the African majority but also for the European minority in Rhodesia?

Concerning the last part of the question, I think my right hon. Friend told the House on 14th January that if he were present at a constitutional conference he would certainly do his best to ensure that there were guarantees for the minority. That is one of the basic Six Principles.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the decision, of both sides of the House—though many Opposition Members did not agree—to sustain sanctions and not to recognise the Smith régime, was a perfectly proper measure and was paving the way for this situation. As for further initiatives, my right hon. Friend is in close contact with the Africa presidents and with Mr. Vorster. We await also to see not only the reply from the ANC but such later replies as we hope to receive from Mr. Smith.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that all past records show that there is absolutely no possibility of constructive dealings with Smith and that until he is removed there is no possible way forward?

I cannot accept that conclusion. It is too early to say what the outcome of the present negotiations will be. We must accept that representatives of the Smith régime accepted certain principles in Lusaka. They, together with others, declared their intention to carry them through, and it is our wish to see that agreement fully respected by all concerned.

The Minister of State will remember that the Foreign Secretary wisely overcame his initial reluctance to meet Mr. Vorster. Would the Foreign Secretary be prepared in appropriate circumstances to meet Mr. Smith?

It depends on what those appropriate circumstances are, but there would have to be a great deal of change before that became possible.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will take into account, in considering any settlement of the Rhodesia question, the need to restore the rights and homeland which have been illegally taken away from the Tangwena tribe.

I hope that any settlement of the Rhodesia question will lead to a satisfactory resolution of many problems including those of the Tangwena people.

I thank my right hon. Friend warmly for that reply, even though it does not contain any commitment. I ask him to bear in mind when these matters are being considered that the Tangwena were brutally evicted from their ancestral homeland in 1968; that the Supreme Court in Rhodesia, even under UDI, declared that eviction to be unconstitutional and was overruled only by Mr. Dupont, who usurped the powers of the Governor; and that the land is occupied by a ranching company most of whose proprietors are English or Irish. Will my right hon. Friend please ensure that when the constitutional talks start this point, perhaps small in relation to some others but large in relation to justice, is not overlooked?

I have deep sympathy with the point of view presented by my hon. Friend and with the conditions, the problems and the history of the Tangwena people. I agree that it is essential that the problem should be resolved. I know that part of the problem is that parents have been separated from their children. I have heard that parents are now free to take their children away from their present position, which is a welcome advance. Certainly this is one problem that must be solved as part of the settlement in Rhodesia that we hope to achieve.

Would not British influence in all these important matters be strengthened if Her Majesty's Government had a representative in this territory for which the Government claim responsibility? Despite the present difficulties with Mr. Smith will the Government pursue that matter?

Maybe the hon. Gentleman was not in the House when I answered an earlier Question—

when I said that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had suggested to Mr. Smith that there should be a visit from officials to discuss the situation and the state of the negotiations, and that Mr. Smith said that the time was not opportune. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting a way in which there should be diplomatic recognition by the back door, the answer is positively "No".