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Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 13 February 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the progress of the election campaign in Rhodesia.

The problem of intimidation of voters in the rural areas, the scope of which has now been confirmed to the Governor by the British election supervisors, continues to cause great concern. The Governor has enacted an ordinance enabling him to suspend elections in any area where systematic intimidation makes it impossible for a fair election to be held. He has also listed a number of areas where intimidation is particularly severe. This should warn those of whatever party who seek to deprive others of the right to campaign freely and peacefully of the possible consequences of their actions.

The Government will also be taking positive measures to strengthen supervision of the elections by sending a large number of additional personnel from the United Kingdom to be present in polling stations in rural areas, to ensure that the arrangements for voting are scrupulously fair.

As the House will be aware, there has been a further deplorable attack upon Mr. Mugabe. Investigations are being pursued. The Governor will continue to take firm measures to deal with intimidation, violence and breaches of the ceasefire from whatever quarter. Despite the serious problems that exist, the Government are determined to carry the election through to a successful conclusion and to ensure that it is conducted as fairly and as freely as possible.

First, I thank the Lord Privy Seal for that statement. In particular, I welcome the fact that additional British personnel will be in Rhodesia to help supervise the electoral polling day arrangements, as I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say. I also strongly associate myself with his remarks about the second attempt to assassinate Mr. Mugabe. We are all conscious that intimidation, breaches of the ceasefire and assassination attempts are a great danger in the remaining two or three weeks of the Rhodesian elections.

We accept that the Governor and his small British staff are doing their best in difficult circumstances, but is the Lord Privy Seal aware that in all that they do they have not only to be fair but to be seen to be fair? That is not so easy. Is he also aware of the growing concern that the advice and information that the Governor and his British staff receive from the Rhodesian military and civil authorities is strongly biased? That is a major problem. How can the Government accept the treatment of the former Prime Minister, Mr. Garfield Todd? Surely, control of prosecutions is one of the powers vested in the Governor? Therefore, why does he not arrange for a noble prosequi, instead of allowing the case against Mr. Todd to proceed?

On the question of the powers for disenfranchising electors in the various districts, the question arises, who will give the Governor advice about the areas where intimidation is said to be most intense? What use is being made of the Commonwealth observer team? It is a pretty high-powered group of experienced people who have been sent to assist in precisely this and other tasks. On the question of publicly accepting the Lancaster House agreement and the outcome of the elections—to which we all attach enormous importance—will the Lord Privy Seal extend an invitation to Mr. Ian Smith to join the other party leaders in publicly reaffirming his commitment to the outcome of procedures at Lancaster House, thereby withdrawing his remarks of yesterday about not accepting the election results if they go the way that he dislikes?

Will the Lord Privy Seal make a major new effort to activate the part of the Lancaster House agreement which, in the absence of any third force for securing peace and the ceasefire arrangements, places the major responsibility for dealing with breaches of the ceasefire on the three Army commanders who are directly concerned?

The penultimate question of the right hon. Gentleman is a matter for my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State. I shall draw his attention to the remarks and we shall try to find out whether or not Mr. Smith has been properly reported.

I am grateful to the right hon Gentleman for his earlier remarks. There is no doubt that the Governor and his staff have done a remarkable job—they are still doing so. They have been unfairly traduced in many quarters. I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's implications that they are acting on biased advice. He will appreciate from my statement that the advice upon which the Governor was acting when he promulgated his ordinance came from the British election supervisors, who are clear about what they have seen going on in the areas that they visited.

Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman and the House that Mr. Garfield Todd called on the Rhodesian Attorney-General yesterday and made a statement that brought to light circumstances that he had not previously disclosed to the police. In the light of that statement, the Rhodesian Attorney-General is considering whether or not the prosecution should proceed.

Order. I remind hon. Members that the main business of the day is covered by a timetable motion. The present matter will take time away from that. There is also a Ten-Minute Bill and there has been an extention of Question Time. Therefore, I propose to limit the number of speakers on this matter to three from either side.

Since the Mugabe faction has threatened to carry on the war if it loses the election, and since it is presumably in breach of the Lancaster House agreement as a result of violations of the ceasefire, will my right hon. Friend assure the Governor of full support should he find it necessary to ban those who prefer intimidation to democracy?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is a serious problem of intimidation. As I have already said, that is why the British election supervisors have given such advice to the Governor. Intimidation is rife throughout the eastern part of the country. It remains impossible for political leaders, including Mr. Nkomo and Bishop Muzorewa, to hold public meetings in those areas.

How can there be a free election in Rhodesia if a substantial percentage of voters are refused the possibility of going to the polls? How can such action be seen as free and fair by the rest of the world? Will Mr. Mugabe have to be killed before something is done about the auxiliaries?

I can only say that the hon. Gentleman is maintaining his usual form. Unless he knows better, we have no reason to believe that the auxiliaries are guilty of such deplorable attacks on Mr. Mugabe. Of course, we do not want to ban anyone from voting in the election. However, even the hon. Gentleman should be concerned at the intimidation that might make such action necessary.

Will my right hon. Friend announce the composition and terms of reference of the delegation from the House that is to be sent to observe the election? Can he further explain why no attempt appears to have been made to notify members of the Boyd Commission? Does my right hon. Friend not agree that it is useful to have someone there who has already seen the process of election?

I am not sure whether the composition of the parliamentary delegation has been announced. However, its composition can be communicated to my right hon. Friend. It does not have any terms of reference. It is going to observe the election. One member of the Boyd Commission is already in Rhodesia. I do not know whether the other members wish to go. If they do, we can no doubt draw the Governor's attention to that fact.

Will not the open partisanship of the Governor—noted by the foreign and British press—the possible banning of Mugabe candidates and the declaring invalid of election results in that part of Southern Rhodesia be seen as an attempt by Britain to right the election on behalf of Mr. Smith.

That is a fairly disgraceful question. It is quite outrageous to suggest that the Government is partisan. The hon. Gentleman said that this had been noted by the foreign press. The foreign press take up much that is said in this House. People such as the hon. Gentleman are largely responsible for what is written abroad.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we have a responsibility not to undermine the confidence and authority of the Governor when he is carrying out important responsibilities? Does he also agree that there is no alternative to the Government's present information system. To try to move away from that system at short notice would inflame the situation rather than improve the present degree of violation.

I agree with my hon. Friend that no one should wish to undermine the confidence of the country or the impartiality of the Governor. I am sure that that view is shared by every responsible hon. Member.

In view of the widespread and worrying nature of the intimidation, is the Lord Privy Seal sure that the Commonwealth monitoring force is of an adequate size? Is there not a genuine argument for increasing it? As the greatest barrier to intimidation is absolute confidence in the secrecy of the ballot, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that that confidence exists and that the secrecy of the ballot will be protected?

The hon. Gentleman will be able to determine the issue on the spot. However, I think that he betrayed a slight misunderstanding of the duties of the monitoring force. However many monitors there are, they will not be able to prevent intimidation. Those who do not speak the language cannot detect guerrillas in a tribal village. Therefore, the problem would not be helped by an increase in the monitoring force. Such an increase would be impractical at this stage.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not wish to delay the House unduly, but there are at least four or five questions on the Order Paper, starting with Question 12, that directly concern the Lord Privy Seal's statement. Surely those questions should have been given some prefernce in the calling of—

Order. It is grossly unfair to suggest that I should call only those who have a question on the Order Paper when there is a private notice question. There is much wider interest in the House.