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Volume 21: debated on Wednesday 31 March 1982

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the latest proposals of the contact States relating to elections in Namibia.


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on any consultations that Her Majesty's Government have had concerning the holding of elections in Namibia.

Most of the constitutional principles have been agreed by all concerned, but agreement has not yet been reached on the Five's proposals concerning the electoral system for the constituent Assembly. These proposals are fair to all parties and groups. The Five hope to resolve this question as soon as possible, with the co-operation of those directly involved, and to move on to phase 2 of the negotiations without further delay.

Is the Minister aware that the South Africans have frustrated a settlement in Namibia for nearly a decade and a half? Does he agree that the propositions advanced by the contact States about the electoral process are enormously complicated, especially for an unsophisticated electorate that is unused to elections? Does he agree that that is a sign that the contact States are preparing to appease South Africa because of that Government's obstruction?

It is an exaggeration to say that the system now being discussed is enormously complicated. Not only in Europe, but in African countries, there are a variety of systems in which a number of votes are allowed for. We are here working towards a mixed system of proportional representation and single-member constituencies, although we are now working through the contact group to see whether there are further ways of simplifying the system. We are in close touch with all the parties concerned.

Is the Minister aware that the proposal to appoint Mr. Mishra, an Indian diplomat, as United Nations ambassador for Namibia is reported to have been opposed by Britain and other Western States, as being likely to delay Namibian independence? Will he deny that report, because if it is true it must surely mean further appeasement of the South African regime by the contact States?

No, what the hon. Gentleman says is absolutely the case. The Government do not believe that filling the post of United Nations commissioner to Namibia is helpful to the current negotiations. Neither the United Nations Commission nor the United Nations Council for Namibia has a role to play in the present negotiations. We do not believe that the present position is helpful when we already have a United Nations representative to play a role in the transition and when the Five are working extremely hard to achieve a settlement.

Does the Minister accept that many Conservative Members agree with his reply to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, West (Mr. Brown)? Does he agree that it is SWAPO which is now holding up progress towards the independence of Namibia, as it does not accept the election proposals advanced by the contact group? Does he further agree that it is important that the United Nations should remain impartial if there is to be any meaningful and constructive settlement?

On my hon. Friend's latter point, as I said to the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Davis), it is essential when we reach phase 2 to discuss the impartiality of the United Nations. That is an important factor in a successful transition.

On my hon. Friend's first point, SWAPO has expressed anxiety about the election method. We are discussing that with SWAPO and the front-line States. I do not believe that the procedures are complex. It is possible to find a simple procedure and we are working on that now

Is the Minister aware that the whole basis of the negotiations is a resolution that was passed unanimously by the Security Council in 1976? How can he claim that the United Nations has no role in the matter? Will he acknowledge that the dual system of voting is widely regarded as a trick to exclude the majority of the African population in Namibia from real power in an independent State?

The hon. Gentleman cannot have listened to my earlier answer about the United Nations commissioner. That is quite different. The Government fully support Security Council resolution No. 435, which allows the United Nations to play a key role in the transitional phase. However, we opposed the appointment of a United Nations commissioner this week. That is a different matter and we believe that it further complicates the process. That should be made clear.