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Southern Africa

Volume 84: debated on Wednesday 23 October 1985

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I have to inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

I have a long list of speakers. It is only a half-day debate and I have no authority to control the length of speeches, but I hope that Back Benchers will take no more than 10 minutes. Perhaps Front-Bench speakers will help by shortening their speeches, because there are two Front-Bench speeches at the beginning and two to wind up the debate.

3.46 pm

I beg to move,

That this House regrets that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government over sanctions against apartheid in South Africa has isolated Britain in the Commonwealth, the EEC and the United Nations.
First, I should congratulate the Foreign Secretary on his safe return from Nassau after what must have been wearying negotiations with the Prime Minister.

Just three months have passed since the House last debated these issues. At the time I said that the wind of change in southern Africa had become a hurricane. Since then the hurricane has doubled and redoubled in fury. Over 6,000 people have been arrested since the troubles began some 14 months ago, 760 have been killed, of whom 500 were blacks killed by President Botha's stormtroopers. Despite appeals from all over the world, including an appeal from Her Majesty's Government, the apartheid regime has hung the black poet Benjamin Moloise.

It is highly significant that the violence in South Africa has now spread far beyond the black townships to which it has been confined for most of the time since the second world war. The middle class coloured population in Athlone are now in revolt against the shooting the other day of three students aged 12, 16 and 19. The delay in burying them, caused by the South African Government, has sparked off a wave of revolutionary religious fundamentalism among the devout Moslems of the area. Violence is now creeping into the white residential areas. We read of whites arming themselves to shoot blacks if they feel it necessary. I fear that we are on the verge of a new and horrifying turn in this tragic cycle of events. The blacks have now found a new and effective weapon in boycotts, which are already affecting more than 60 towns, mainly in the eastern Cape.

South Africa was once regarded in more senses than one as a gold mine for foreign investment; it is now a quagmire. It has become the first debtor nation in the world to default unilaterally on its debts. It is now reestablishing exchange control to prevent foreign companies from repatriating their profits. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will listen to the words of Chief Buthelezi whom they often quote as a black leader they respect. He said on television last night that Britain and the Western world must not permit the private banks to reschedule South African debts without first exacting a price from the South African Government in the form of a dialogue with the leaders of black opinion there.

Wiser firms involved in finance and commerce in South Africa are already pulling out. American and British banks and businesses are beginning to close or reduce their operations in South Africa. Only the other day, 10 of the biggest American multinational corporations, led by General Motors and IBM, banded together to work for the end of apartheid, and Sainsbury's has now followed the Co-op in beginning to cut out South African goods from its shops.

Those private sanctions, as the Foreign Secretary admitted in a recent article in The Sunday Times, have already had a powerful and direct impact on white opinion in South Africa. Afrikaans as well as English-speaking business men are not just calling for an end to apartheid, they are engaged in talks with the African National Congress. They have visited Zambia for such talks several times in recent weeks.

The reality of the new situation was well and forcefully set out by probably the most prominent of Afrikaner business men, Dr. Anton Rupert, who said recently:
"Apartheid is dead, but the corpse stinks and it must be buried, not embalmed."
Perhaps the most startling transformation of all in South Africa is that taking place in the Dutch Reform Church, which was once the seedbed of the theology of apartheid but which is now planning to send a mission to talk to the ANC leaders.

Only two people still refuse to talk to the ANC—the President of South Africa and the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The British Prime Minister has become the only apologist Dr. Botha can now count on in the outside world. When, in August, President Botha demonstrated that he had led our Prime Minister up the garden path, and the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office criticised his speech, the Foreign Office news department was compelled to retract her views.

Time and time again, the Government have committed themselves to the hollow sham that they call constructive engagement, although President Botha has broken every promise he has made to the British Government over recent years. Just over a year ago, the Prime Minister met President Botha at Chequers. When she reported to the House on his visit, she said:
"On Namibia, we agreed that early independence for Namibia was desirable and should be achieved as soon as possible under peaceful conditions. We also agreed that all foreign forces should be withdrawn from the countries in southern Africa so that their peoples can settle their destinies without outside interference. The withdrawal of South African forces from Angola is an important first step in this process."—[Official Report, 5 June 1984; Vol. 61, c. 157.]
The Prime Minister described her talks with President Botha as leading to an agreement on the issues that I have just mentioned, but what has happened since? President Botha has broken every agreement to which she then referred in the House. He has set up a puppet Government in Namibia at Windhoek, contrary to the undertakings that he has given to the British Government and the contact group in Europe. He has invaded the independent sovereign state of Botswana with the raid on Gaborone. South Africa has repeatedly invaded Angola to help the rebel forces there and on one occasion recently attacked American oil installations at Cabinda. South Africa has broken the Nkomati accord with Mozambique by giving armed help to the rebels there, and it has boasted in public that it has broken all those agreements with the British Prime Minister. Incidentally, South Africa has also broken an agreement endorsed when one of its diplomats stood bail for two South African agents who were due for trial for offences against British law. On no occasion have the British Government even referred to those breaches of agreement, still less taken action to punish the South African Government for their behaviour.

The Foreign Secretary told the Conservative party conference the other day:
"No one has spoken more forcefully and more directly to South African leaders about the need for real change than Margaret Thatcher. I know because I was there when she gave them a piece of her mind."
That is a gift which I would be very cautious in accepting.

Despite all the events to which I have referred, the Prime Minister is sticking to constructive engagement, although, according to a report in The Times today—I was unable to obtain confirmation from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office — the final communiqué from Nassau yesterday stated:
"President Reagan's policy of 'constructive engagements' had failed to end South Africa's intransigence over Namibia as well as over apartheid."
What we need now, and what the whole world is asking for, is a policy of constructive disengagement from South Africa. Yet when the Community Foreign Ministers met a few weeks ago and proposed the withdrawal of defence attachés from Pretoria, the Minister of State refused to accept the proposal. The Community press agency reports him as justifying his refusal by saying that
"the presence of military attachés"
was useful
"in particular to convey information about possible South African intervention in neighbouring countries."
He does not seem to have taken the slightest notice when the interventions were blazoned on the front pages of every newspaper and boasted about by President Botha in the South African parliament. I gather that it took 10 days of knockdown, drag-out argument between the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister to get the Prime Minister finally to bring Britain into line.

I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister disavowed the arguments of the Minister of State, but I wish to ask the Foreign Secretary this: if he believes it light to withdraw our military attachés from South Africa, why does he allow South African military attaches to continue serving in London? Is it so that they can inform the South African Government about our possible intervention in neighbouring countries? If not, what is it? I hope that the Foreign Secretary will answer that question?

The Prime Minister has just gone to the Commonwealth conference in Nassau in her most "Rhoda-the-Rhino" mood; perhaps it would be more up to date to describe her as "Rambona". Once again. as on Rhodesia, on Hong Kong and during talks with the Government of Eire, she has painted herself into a corner and relied on the Foreign Secretary to carry her out—a heavy burden for him to carry. In Canada the other day, I noticed that her faithful St. Bernard — the Prime Minister's official press spokesman at Nassau—told the press there:
"We're used to being shot at. We're riddled with the bullets of isolation. We survive and enjoy it."
He is a true servant of his mistress.

According to the newspapers in Nassau, the Prime Minister again trotted out all the arguments that were drafted by Pretoria to justify opposition to sanctions against South Africa. They include the argument that sanctions would drive the South African Government into the laager. Has she not noticed that President Botha is in the laager, that the South African Government are firing from behind the wagons there, and that there are 800 people dead to prove this point?

The Prime Minister says that sanctions will hurt the blacks more than the whites, although everywhere in South Africa a majority of blacks, according to polls carried out not only by The Sunday Times but by a South African Government-sponsored institution, support the sanctions. Sanctions are supported by all the black trade unions in South Africa for which the Government attempt to claim some credit. They are supported by Bishop Tutu and even more so by the front-line states which may well suffer when sanctions are applied. I should like to quote in this respect a most eloquent letter from President Kaunda of Zambia to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in which he said:
"Yes, we will be hurt by these sanctions but we will suffer more if economic sanctions as a peaceful weapon for change are not applied. The result of the explosion will be far more destructive than the injury that economic sanctions can cause to us."
The British Government's attempt to speak for the black majority in South Africa is really a reversion to old colonial habits when we thought that we had the right to speak for the inhabitants of all colonies. Thank God the people of South Africa now have some institutions through which they can speak for themselves. The overwhelming majority have called upon the outside world to apply sanctions.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman would not intentionally wish to mislead the House. He is correct in his reporting of the last opinion poll in The Sunday Times, in which only 400 urban blacks were asked their opinion. Certainly, about 70 per cent. said that they favoured sanctions, but the right hon. Gentleman omitted to tell the House that previous opinion polls, including that taken from the Schlemmer report, said just the opposite. He has not yet mentioned the opinion of Chief Buthelezi who is in London and who represents 5 million Zulus. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, Chief Buthelezi is very much against sanctions. Will not the right hon. Gentleman see both sides of the story?

Of course I accept that Chief Buthelezi opposes sanctions—he said so last night. He also said last night that the West should use the difficulty that the South Africans have over rescheduling their debts to bargain with the South African Government for an improvement in the political situation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that fact.

Of course I did not claim that every single black in South Africa supported sanctions. I said that the great majority do support sanctions and I referred to the organisations that have spoken for them. Incidentally, I include Bishop Tutu who was quoted in our debate in another direction in April by the Minister of State and I have just quoted the words of President Kaunda.

I shall give way regularly because I enjoy interventions and enjoy even more replying to them. However, Mr. Speaker, you have asked me not to waste time, so I shall continue.

We are told that President Botha himself last night used the argument that sanctions could lead to the West losing valuable minerals, but there are no minerals that South Africa currently supplies that could not be replaced by other sources, often by very much more worthy producers such as Zimbabwe and Brazil. We are told that sanctions would cause unemployment in Britain but the fact is that. if we cannot produce a change in the South African Government's position by peaceful means, the resulting violence would cost Britain everything that it now possesses in South Africa. Even now, we have more trade with black Africa than with South Africa.

You have asked me, Mr. Speaker, to confine my remarks to the subject, so I shall continue. I am grateful for the support from my lofty friend the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark).

Finally we are told that sanctions will not work, and yet they have worked. We have the Foreign Secretary's word for it in his article the other day in The Sunday Times. He said:
"Market forces are already exerting lasting testing pressure on South Africa."

Oh, so what the American banks have done and the disinvestment by companies in Britain and throughout the rest of the world are not sanctions. The Government's attitude reminds me very much of their attitude to the other great African prohlcm—they rely upon and applaud private action to help the starving in Africa but reject Government action to serve the same purpose, although that action is desperately needed.

In the end, the Prime Minister was compelled to give way to the rest of the Commonwealth. No doubt, the Foreign Secretary played a useful role in persuading her to change her mind because otherwise the rest of the Commonwealth would have gone ahead without her. As The Times today points out, she ruined the effect of her concessions by describing the sanctions as "signals"—she used to like the word "measures" better but she now calls them "signals". She said that they were minute and said, in her best Lady Bracknell voice, that she had moved only "a tiny little bit". She said that it was worth paying a small price to keep the Commonwealth together. The Prime Minister has an unfailing flair for choosing the most helpful word or phrase to describe any situation in which she is involved.

There is no question that the article in The Times was right, as I am sure that many Conservative Members would agree, when it stated:
"she has the … failing of sometimes not appearing to think at all about the requirements of tomorrow. These requirements are simple. Never gloat over a diplomatic victory. Never mock the mediators. Mrs. Thatcher broke both of these rules this week."
Thinking of the difficulty that the Prime Minister has caused for herself and Britain by her behaviour on this issue I am not surprised that not a single African thinks better of her, but, rather, thinks worse of her and, alas, of her Government as a result. The other day Bishop Tutu said when leaving his talks with her that she had persuaded him that she thought "You blacks are expendable" —I quote his words. Yesterday there was a moving account in the Financial Times about the reaction to her behaviour of the coloured population in Athlone.

The Prime Minister has infuriated blacks and whites alike by her behaviour. How typical of her that she should now be in New York to lecture President Reagan on how to make friends and influence people. Her graceless behaviour in Nassau has given her only six months' grace. The Commonwealth will meet in six months to take the next step of sanctions. The Commonwealth countries have listed the sanctions that they hope to take. The Australian Prime Minister has already announced that he plans unilaterally to take such steps next year. The Daily Telegraph today is right to say that there is not the slightest chance that South Africa will begin progress to reform itself within this period.

It stated:
"It will not be easy to step off the escalator in six months' time if Dr. Botha is deemed unresponsive to 'dialogue' and the trigger list of much more deadly sanctions … is invoked.
Mrs. Thatcher may have had an escape clause written into the contract but it could be hard to explain why she wants to use it, and harder still if a third stage is reached where more and tougher sanctions are called for."
The Minister of State put his finger on the nub of the problem when he spoke as a Back Bencher, not a Minister, on 8 December 1978. He said:
"I do not believe that one can have selective sanctions"—
which is what the Commonwealth has just imposed. He continued:
"If it is simply a cosmetic operation,"—
as everyone now says it is—
"it will not be effective. It would not lead to the ending of apartheid, or persuade the South African Government to see the error of their ways and demolish the existing political and social system. It will simply be a cosmetic exercise which will be increasingly ignored and which will inevitably lead to further demands for more comprehensive economic sanctions, which the Government and other Western Governments could not in logic resist once they had accepted the principle itself." [Official Report, 8 December 1978; Vol. 959, c. 1743.]
The Minister of State, not for the first time, was quite right. His words were prophetic, because without effective and real pressure, exerted above all by Britain, as one of the leading experts at Witwatersrand pointed out yesterday, the combination of unrest among the blacks, the troubles and concern among the white business men and the private pressure applied by the market will not be sufficient to bring about a dialogue in time. Only a dialogue between the Government and the African National Congress has any hope of bringing this tragedy to an end.

Mr. Shultz made this point in a recent speech in the United States. He said that the choice is between dialogue and revolution and I beg the Government to face this fact in the knowledge that their self-imposed isolation on this issue is a source of great shame to the great majority of the British people. Unless in six months' time the Government join the rest of the world in effective action against apartheid, they will not only compound that shame but will carry a great responsibility for the bloodshed and anarchy that will inevitably engulf the whole of South Africa.

4.11 pm

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:

"welcomes the Commonwealth accord on South Africa and especially the call to initiate, in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides, a process of dialogue across lines of colour, politics and religion, with a view to establishing a non-racial and representative government."
Having heard the closing section of the speech made by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), it is difficult to believe that he recognises the terms of the accord arrived at in Nassau. calling for precisely the kind of dialogue that he recommended. It is also difficult for us to believe that those matters were the subject of unanimous agreement at Nassau between all the members of the Commonwealth.

However, I can agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the rightness of the House debating South Africa today. I agree that the issues before the House are of crucial importance for the future of Africa and for the Commonwealth, and of direct and real significance for the people of this country. Nobody who has seen the continuing tragic pattern of violence in South Africa which, night after night, has been visible on television screens around the world, can be in any doubt about that.

The Government share with the House, as with our partners in the Commonwealth and the Community, total abhorrence and loathing of apartheid. We all wish to see fundamental peaceful change in South Africa at the earliest possible date. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made that clear, as she has done on many earlier occasions, at this week's Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. The right hon. Gentleman sought to present my right hon. Friend as the only apologist for the apartheid regime, but nothing could be further from the truth than that. All my right hon. Friend's colleagues at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting were deeply impressed by the strength and sincerity of her presentation of the case against apartheid.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East quoted the words of Chief Buthelezi. He said that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was right, that he fully supported her, and that her approach was the more humane. I invite the House to consider this topic on that basis, because it is undoubtedly right. There is no division in the House about the ends that we seek—the division is over the means.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has quotes Chief Buthelezi, but why has he not also quoted Mrs. Winnie Mandela who today made it plain that she and those for whom she speaks object to and resent the Prime Minister's claim to speak for blacks in South Africa?

It is not my function to quote each and every spokesman for South Africa. I invite the hon. Gentleman to accept, because it is foolish not to do so, that there is no division between the two sides of the House about the objective that we seek. Apartheid is a system that we cannot seek to uphold, and one that the Prime Minister, together with all her colleagues in government, wishes to see come to an end.

I was struck by another feature of the speech made by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East. Judging by the closing sections of his speech, on means as well there is now widespread agreement about what the next step should be. The first and most important task is to promote within South Africa a political dialogue—I agree that we need dialogue, not revolution, in South Africa — between the South African Government and representatives of the black community. That is the way to open the road to full and equal participation by South Africa's blacks in the government of their country.

If that dialogue is to succeed, there needs also to be an end to violence by all sides in South Africa. We have always regarded it, in the Community and in the Commonwealth, as a prime requirement to secure a clear endorsement of the need for that dialogue to take place in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides. That applies both to the law enforcement techniques of the South African Government and to the activities of the ANC. Let me say today to the ANC that a declaration on its part of willingness to suspend violence to help create an atmosphere in which the dialogue called for by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East can succeed would be well received by the international community. I urge it to make such a declaration and to suspend violence so that we can give peace a chance.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has, interestingly, been urging the ANC, and offering it advice. Will he meet its representatives personally in London, or elsewhere, to put those points of view to them?

I have been urging them, as we urge other such groups, to suspend violence because in those circumstances the possibility of a meeting becomes realistic. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I have answered the question plainly. We do not engage in contacts with organisations that engaging in violence. It is for that reason that I am urging the ANC today to make a declaration suspending its policy of violence.

I shall not give way because, like the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, I have to conclude my speech in a reasonable time.

It has been our consistent aim to strengthen and support the process of peaceful change. We cannot force this change on South Africa from outside. Only the South African Government can take the necessary further steps towards establishing a democratic, non-racial, truly representative system of government in that country. We cannot dictate to them. They are more likely to be willing to take such steps if we on our side are willing to acknowledge what they have done so far.

Important steps have already been taken. The Mixed Marriages Act, the Political Interference Act and section 16 of the Immorality Act have been repealed. Almost all job reservations have been removed and forced removals have been suspended. Abolition of influx control and the pass laws have been recommended to the President by his advisory council. Leasehold and freehold rights are to be extended to urban blacks and common citizenship for all South Africans is to be restored. The South African Government have stated their willingness to share decision-making with all communities and to negotiate with black political leaders. Therefore, it makes no sense for Labour Members to shout and bay as though those changes had not taken place.

It may be said that these changes are not before time and that more needs to be done, and I agree with that. However, I should like to hear the Labour party agreeing with us in recognising the significance of the moves that are already taking place. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East spoke about the concept of constructive disengagement. Nothing could be less constructive than disengagement in the present situation in South Africa.

Has the right hon. Gentleman not noticed the changes that have taken place in South Africa, and why is he not willing to give credit where credit is due?

I repeat that it is the South African Government whose attitude and ideas we must influence. It is for precisely that reason that we reject external economic or trade boycotts. So far from supporting and encouraging the process of peaceful change, such boycotts would encourage the South African Government to retreat from reform and to entrench themselves behind the ramparts of apartheid. We cannot tell the South Africans as the right hon. Gentleman seems to imply, to co-operate with us, or else. Their capacity for responding to that "or else" is all too clear.

There is a distinction which the right hon. Gentleman fails to identify between the impact of external pressures dictated in a mandatory fashion from outside, and the impact of market forces. There is no doubt that changes are taking place in South Africa as a result of the impact on that country of economic judgments being made in the world outside. Those judgments are recognised as something to which the South African Government have to respond because they are a consequence of the policies of the South African Government. They are not judgments imposed by force and coercion. That is the distinction between mandatory economic sanctions and sanctions of the kind implicit in the judgment of the market place.

That is the case that we have been getting across with increasing success. Governments within the European Community and the Commonwealth have increasingly come to recognise that what is needed is not punitive sanctions, but plain political signals, properly spelt out. It is on the basis of that approach, an approach which has served to consolidate a united position within the European Community, that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at Nassau. The Prime Minister will, of course, make a full report of that meeting in due course, but I should like now to say something about the conclusions reached at that meeting on the matter of South Africa.

Two points were clear in our discussions from the outset. First, the Commonwealth was united in its wish to see a fundamental peaceful change in South Africa at the earliest possible date. Secondly, we all wanted to find practical ways in which the Commonwealth could help to achieve that goal. Of course, there was some tough talking at Nassau about the best way forward towards that goal. There were widely differing positions to be reconciled. Some thought that full economic and trade boycotts should be applied, but others shared our firm view that that was not the way to encourage the process of peaceful change that we all want to see.

An important point to emerge from that conference was that all sides wished and were ready to reach a common position. So far from being isolated, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was one of the architects of the agreement that was reached during an intensive series of weekend discussions. That is the reality which the right hon. Gentleman seems to have brushed aside.

That united position is set out in the Commonwealth accord on southern Africa, published on the evening of 20 October 1985, and I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Library. I emphasise that that accord has been endorsed and welcomed by every country in the Commonwealth. A united Commonwealth has sent a clear political signal to South Africa. That represents a substantial achievement by the Commonwealth, and a substantial achievement by this Government. None of that would have been possible without the vision, courage and steady perseverance of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Like it or not, the Prime Minister's role at that conference was rightly applauded by other Heads of Government at the conclusion of the weekend discussions and the House should be ready to acknowledge that today.

If that is so, why was the Prime Minister so dismissively contemptuous about the movements that she had made to bring that about?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was not dismissively contemptuous. She acknowledged the very hard work done by all Heads of Government to reach an agreement, and the other Heads of Government have acknowledged her role in the same manner.

I shall tell the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) how the accord is constructed. The first key point of the accord is a plain condemnation of apartheid, of South Africa's illegal occupation of Namibia, and of its continuing raids into neighbouring states.

The accord has three positive features. The first is an agreement on the need to end the violence, the second an agreement on a plan to promote dialogue, and the third an agreement on measures that will send an effective signal to Pretoria.

The accord calls on the South African Government to take action to dismantle apartheid, to end the state of emergency and to release Nelson Mandela and others in detention. All those are steps which we have strongly urged on the South African Government. The accord calls also for political freedom and an end to the ban on the African National Congress and other political parties, but the accord places that firmly in the context of the renunciation of violence by all sides. I want to emphasise that point very strongly. As I said earlier, that has been one of our prime requirements.

The agreement reached at Nassau is based firmly in the context of the renunciation of violence by all sides and reflects the Government's whole approach to dialogue in South Africa. Without an end to the turbulence and repression which we have seen in South Africa, there is no chance of successful dialogue.

The Foreign Secretary is confusing us. As I read the communiqué, there is a sharp distinction between the point which calls specifically for a lifting of the existing ban on the ANC and the next point, which calls for the initiation of a process of dialogue within the context of a suspension of violence. The lifting of the ban on the ANC is quite separate from the other point. Is the Foreign Secretary deliberately confusing the House?

The right hon. Lady must acknowledge that the accord sets out quite clearly as one of its most important components the fact that all those recommendations should be set firmly in the context of the renunciation of violence by all sides. If there is no end to the turbulence and the repression that we have seen in South Africa, there is no chance for successful dialogue.

The second key point in the accord is the decision to set up a group of eminent Commonwealth persons with the task of encouraging and carrying forward that dialogue. A number of Commonwealth leaders will oversee that important initiative. The Prime Minister will for this purpose join President Kaunda and her colleagues Prime Ministers Hawke, Pindling, Mulroney, Gandhi and Mugabe and will consult our partners about the composition of the proposed group. The House will be informed as soon as decisions have been taken.

I stress that the Commonwealth is not prescribing the form of political settlement in South Africa. That is for the peoples of South Africa as a whole to determine.

The third key point in the accord is the programme of common action in agreed measures to underline a clear political message. I remind the House that before the Nassau meeting we had reached an agreement with our European partners on a list of measures which consolidated and added to the action that we were already taking. The list in the Commonwealth accord adds only two new measures—no further imports of krugerrands, and no Government funding for trade missions, fairs and exhibitions to South Africa. The cost of the action on krugerrands is very limited and we do not expect the withdrawal of financial support for trade missions and participation in fairs to result in a significant loss in new business in the context of our overall trade.

British exporters remain free to exercise their commercial judgment on trade with South Africa, and many do so with taxpayers' support. These measures are not economic and trade sanctions which would affect that freedom. They are a very long way from mandatory sanctions, to which we remain firmly opposed. As the hon. Member for Merthr Tydfyl and Rhymmney (Mr. Rowlands) rightly told the House on 28 June 1978 when he was a member of the previous Administration:

"any wide-ranging economic sanctions against South Africa could have important and serious consequences for the United Kingdom economy."— [Official Report, 28 June 1978; Vol. 952, c. 554.]
The important fact about the measures agreed at Nassau is that, taken together, this comprehensive Commonwealth package gives South Africa the clearest possible signal of the need for rapid change. Let me again remind the House that the South African Government have acknowledged the need for changes. Our common aim at Nassau was therefore to get more movement.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend acknowledge that the trade in krugerrands is small because when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer he imposed VAT on trade in gold coins? Therefore, no one in his right mind would buy krugerrands at this moment. My right hon. and learned Friend is making a compelling case for the partial, as opposed to the full, imposition of sanctions. but those of us who have serious misgivings about the effectiveness or wisdom of any form of sanctions deserve a guarantee that there will be no further sanctions imposed, nor any full imposition of sanctions, on any review of these matters in six months' time. Only in that way will some of us be able to go along with what I regard as a regrettable precedent in breaking the principle that we have adopted on the imposition of sanctions.

I think that my hon. Friend will have to make an extended contribution to the debate if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate his tribute to the effect of the imposition of value added tax. That reinforces my argument that the implications of the change in respect of krugerrands will be limited.

As for the more general matters which my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) has raised, I was describing the set of measures on whih agreement was reached at Nassau. It consists in large part of measures positive and restrictive which have been in place for a long time, supplemented by those taken and agreed on in Luxembourg earlier this year. We are not committed to taking any further steps of that sort. Our approach is firmly in the context of the distinctions that I am making. There are distinctions betwen mandatory, economic and trade sanctions and boycotts—

—some of which have precisely the effects that are not intended— [Interruption.] Six months from now—

I say again that the South African Government have acknowledged the need for change. Our common aim at Nassau, which is reflected in the agreement that we reached, was to get more movement. I make it equally plain that we are not extending an ultimatum to the South African Government. Nor are we washing our hands of the problem and leaving it at that. We want to see launched the dialogue of which the right hon. Member for Leeds, East spoke. We want to see it sustained, and we want to see it succeed. Six months from now there will be another meeting. Britain, Australia, the Bahamas, Canada, India, Zambia and Zimbabwe will then review the situation. If adequate progress has not been made by that time, some Governments have stated that they will consider the adoption of further measures.

It is our earnest hope that at that meeting we shall be able to take note of significant progress in South Africa. But whatever the conclusions of the meeting, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minster has made it clear that Britain is not committed to any of the further steps which other Governments have agreed to consider.

The conclusions of the Nassau conference, which I have tried to summarise, should commend themselves to the entire House. They are entirely consistent with the approach that the Government have adopted over a long period.

The conclusions are designed to promote the fundamental changes which we all regard as necessary in South Africa to bring apartheid to an end. They are designed, not as a punishment, nor as a threat, but as an earnest signal of the need for change and of the Commonwealth's determination to help bring that about.

The Opposition began the debate by arguing that the Government were isolated in their approach to the problem of South Africa. The provisions of the Commonwealth accord make it plain that that allegation is palpably false. The approach that I have described is the one on which the 60 nations of the Commonwealth and the Community are at one with the Government. It is the one which we shall continue to pursue, and I commend it to the House.

Order. I repeat my request for short contributions. I hope that speeches will not be longer than 10 minutes.

4.34 pm

I returned 10 days ago from taking part in a panel composed of what I hesitate to say were eminent persons, which seems to be a popular term at present. It directed itself to transnational corporations, South Africa and Namibia. The setting up of the panel had been agreed by the General Assembly of the United Nations, and its report will shortly be going before that body. I am certain that the Foreign Secretary is already familiar with it. It is in that context that I want to examine what has been proposed in the Bahamas, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech this afternoon.

I have never heard the Foreign Secretary make a speech of such low quality. It showed inadequate understanding and a deep lack of concern about the problem that we are discussing. I have often praised the right hon. and learned Gentleman when I thought that he had done rather better than the Prime Minister, but on this occasion I cannot do so. In an intervention I quoted from the Commonwealth communiqué and it seems — I am sure that this was inadvertent—that he has misled the House in dealing with some of the matters contained within it. He has argued that market forces are the factor that will count. In these days of interrelated world economies it is inevitable that market forces will involve Governments. The consequence of that understanding is something that the Government will have to appreciate sooner or later.

The panel of which I was a member was chaired by Malcolm Fraser, the former Prime Minister of Australia. It heard evidence for four days from bodies such as the International chamber of commerce and the South African chamber of commerce. The South African chamber presented a view which I would regard as distinctly more enlightened than that set out by the Foreign Secretary.

It knows on which side its bread is buttered.

Exactly. It knows the way that things are going. South Africa's long term interests can lie only in achieving a multiracial and equal society. As the commercial companies in South Africa realise, there is no future in trying to sustain the system of apartheid. Therefore, South African business wants an end to apartheid.

Does the right hon. Lady recognise the massive extent to which she is underlining the very argument that I was advancing? If South Africa is faced with the judgment of the world economy, and not with an armoury of sanctions that have been imposed politically, South Africa's business interests will be the foremost advocates of the change which both she and I want. The position will be reversed if mandatory sanctions are in place.

I take the Foreign Secretary's point. He leads me on to my next argument, which is that the most immediate factor that can have a real influence on the South African economy and, therefore, on the greater readiness of the South African Government to change their policy, is the financial sector. I refer to the roll-over and rescheduling of debts. The recent refusal to take that course sent the rand plummeting. This has had serious and dramatic consequences on opinion among the white community in South Africa, the South African chamber of commerce, South African companies and our own transnational corporations.

The Bahamas Commonwealth communiqué includes the following statement:
"a ban on all government loans to the Government of South Africa and its agencies"
The crucial factor is not what the Government do directly. We have little direct involvement in loans to South Africa, but we have a close involvement with the Bank of England, which we are supposed to own, although one doubts that from time to time. We are much involved in any discussions that take place between the central banks. Talks are taking place now under the aegis of the International Bank of Settlements. Discussions are, I believe, going on in London today with the private banks. It is that, together with the Government's influence on the private banking sector and their readiness or unwillingness to be involved in what the IMF decides to do—because Governments, as members -of the governing body of the IMF, influence and determine what it does—that will decide whether those South African debts are rolled over, rescheduled, or not.

The Foreign Secretary is quite right to emphasise the importance of market forces. Indeed, he may care to regard as a little cleverer than himself the opinion of Chase Manhattan and Citibank, which have got out, and which refused to roll over. They have detached themselves—disinvested — from South Africa. If the Foreign Secretary regards market forces as important, he may just care to lend an ear occasionally to what the most important elements in the market forces are themselves saying and doing.

The crucial factor is the financial sector, and the British Government are necessarily involved in what happens, within the context of market forces, to the rolling over and the rescheduling of those loans. They cannot avoid that. Either they will turn a blind eye, or they will say, as the United States Congress has recommended to the United States Government, that the IMF should not involve itself at all in any financial assistance to South Africa at present.

The right hon. Lady is advocating a principle which, as I understand it, the IMF has steadfastly refused to follow in its relationship with any country at any time since its foundation. It makes its decisions dependent on financial criteria alone and refuses to consider political criteria, because once it started doing so it would be not only South Africa but about 90 member countries of the United Nations whose political regimes would quickly bring them into disrepute with the IMF.

I knew that I should not have given way, because the subject that the hon. Gentleman has raised could keep the House for half an hour—the supposed political impartiality of the IMF.

Our panel in New York was quite clear that the special facility that South Africa is asking from the IMF would require an examination of the spending of the South African Government. This conditionality could very well include the fact that it is spending rather too much on military and police activity and not enough on the things that would assist its own economy. Were the IMF to apply its normal conditionality to the request from South Africa for special assistance, that conditionality would rule out such assistance on all the criteria which have been applied to Tanzania, Nicaragua and the other countries which the IMF has not helped.

And Argentina, indeed.

We recommended—again this is touched on in the report from the Bahamas—a ban on the sale and export of computer equipment capable of use by South Africa's military, police or security forces. The point that came to our attention was that it is not so much the sale and trade in these things that is sustaining apartheid, as the activities of the transnational corporations within South Africa, by manufacturing within South. Africa the vehicles and the computer equipment and the dual use equipment. These transnational corporations have their headquarters in various countries: 142 of them are in Germany, 406 are in the United States and 364 are in the United Kingdom.

At the same time, the transnational corporations — here we have the Foreign Secretary's market forces again — within South Africa have by law to abide by the apartheid laws of that country, including the key point legislation — legislation which commits them, if they obey it, to the worst kind of oppressive measures adopted under apartheid. What our panel has recommended—I do not know what the General Assembly will do with our report—is that if a company's activities in South Africa. particularly in terms of computers, motor vehicles, oil, coal and, in the case of Namibia, all the other things that relate so desperately to that country, mean that, in order to keep the law, a company has to conform to regulations and laws which inherently sustain apartheid, it should seek to dissociate itself from those laws. If it cannot, it should get out. Otherwise, transnational corporations are positively, actively, every day sustaining apartheid There is no way of avoiding that very simple fact. We recommend that in the end, after a year or so, if TNCs cannot do any of this, there should be sanctions, but that is a stage further on.

It must be noted—here again we have market forces for the Foreign Secretary — that 25 transnational corporations in the United Kingdom have already disinvested, together with 18 from the United States. I know that the Prime Minister is deeply concerned, and understandably from her own rather narrow point of view, about the effect, she says, on British industry and British employment if there were to be any imposition of direct sanctions against South Africa. I have already said that this is a very shortsighted and rather naive view, because the long-term interest of British industry lies in prosperity in a multiracial South Africa.

That, apart, there is another point of view on this issue—another way of looking at it. If the Prime Minister believes that our employment will be so deeply affected, clearly she must be concerned about what the transnational corporations see as being in their own interests, yet I doubt very much whether the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister—apart from talking to her husband perhaps—have really discussed this issue with the transnational corporations. I doubt whether either she or the Foreign Secretary has enlisted the assistance of the Treasury direct in holding a dialogue with the Bank of England and the banks in Britain. They rely on market forces, but do they ever bother to talk to market forces?

No, I am sorry, I am not giving way again.

If they were to talk to market forces, they would discover that the business community here, like the business community in South Africa itself, is a great deal more enlightened and looking much more to the long term than they are themselves. If dialogue is in the air, there should be a pretty open dialogue with the market forces in Britain to find out what they say about it.

At the same time, if the transnational corporations are to respect this sui generis situation in South Africa—quite different from all other human rights abuses in the rest of the world, partly because they are the subject now of international law — it is impossible for them to perceive their self-interest without realising their own responsibility for the situation in South Africa.

There is much more going on in the United States. It is not only that Chase Manhatten and Citibank have disinvested; it is also that disinvestment is going apace. Mayor Koch of New York gave evidence to our panel. We asked him what his advice would be to the shareholders of the transnational corporations in South Africa. He said, "I would tell them to get out now before there's nothing left to take out." The Foreign Secretary may care to talk to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about that.

There is a real responsibility also on individuals in this country, because divestment—that is to say taking one's investments in shares out of companies which engage in the support of apartheid in South Africa — is a very dynamic factor indeed. The Conservative council at Oxford decided recently to divest its pension funds and everything else from companies engaged in South Africa. Universities, city councils and ordinary people can take such action.

One argument often used by people with less historical awareness than some others is that there is no use imposing sanctions because they do not work. Such people say, "Look what happened when the United States tried to impose sanctions on China; look what happened when the United States tried to impose technological sanctions on the Soviet Union; look what happened when the world tried to impose sanctions on Rhodesia."

Clearly, sanctions will not work if they are bilateral — one country to another, seeking to whip up the support of its friends. I was the Minister in charge during the year when we were trying to impose sanctions on Rhodesia, and I know that many factors were involved. A number came out in the Bingham report, but the key factor was that oil and other goods could get into Rhodesia through South Africa and Portuguese Angola and Mozambique. All the routes into Rhodesia were protected by, in effect, Fascist Governments.

The situation is different now. Only the sea routes could save South Africa, though the transport routes of the frontline states would need some support and development. I am not suggesting that things will come to that. I merely wish to dispose of the spurious argument that because sanctions did not work in Rhodesia they will not work in South Africa.

The Foreign Secretary disappointed the House. We expected a little more from him. Perhaps his speech was not a surprise. Perhaps he can do no more than follow in the steps of his leader. I wish that he would escape from the eagle eye of the Prime Minister and ask his officials to examine the matter. We will take action. I do not say that we will be forced into it by other Commonwealth Governments, but our own long-term enlightened self-interest lies in ending apartheid in South Africa by measures that are considerably stronger than those that came out of the meetings in the Bahamas.

4.52 pm

I wish that I could be as sure and confident as the right hon. Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) is on every position that she takes, just as I wish that there was a Conservative council in Oxford, but there is not. I also wish that I could share the confidence of some of my hon. Friends on these matters.

I spent part of my childhood in South Africa, and I have recently revisited Namibia with the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). We are not debating an abstract matter of foreign affairs. We are talking about human beings, immensely complicated problems and the citizens of southern Africa, whether black, white or coloured. They are all South Africans. and this is not a colonial situation.

We have some responsibility. We were involved in the creation of the South African labyrinth and in the creation of the republic, which was regarded as the greatest liberal action in which the young Winston Churchill was involved. We were also much involved in the creation of Boer nationalism, the Afrikaans language movement and the recreation of the Dutch Reform Church. Our forefathers unwittingly helped to create apartheid, which is not a policy, but a religion, a faith, a belief.

It is ironic that Smuts, who was one of the leading creators of the League of Nations and the United Nations, and was a good friend of our country—we remember him with gratitude— unwittingly helped to create the tragedy that faces the world, this country, and, above all, the whole of southern Africa.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary referred briefly to Namibia. At least there is no substantial difference between the two sides of the House over Namibia. We support United Nations resolution 435 and regard the South African occupation as illegal. I think that the best thing that could be done in the short term to improve relations between the Government of South Africa and the Western world would be to renew the Contact Group and to renew negotiations on the basis of resolution 435. I believe that that could be possible. There is one difference between us: the Labour party recognises SWAPO as the one party, and we take the view, under the resolution, that there should be a genuinely free election.

No one can go to the war zone in northern Namibia and go back to South Africa without being haunted by the vast, looming tragedy.

I strongly oppose the imposition of economic sanctions. I cannot accept that they would be helpful except to those who wish to have revolution in southern Africa. I do not see sanctions helping a society which is already going through a desperate economic and social revolution. Sanctions are part of the politics of negativism and I will have nothing to do with them.

However, I wish to impress on the Government the fact that we have an economic lever through our massive investment in South Africa. We have far greater influence and respect in all communities than we often realise. Perhaps we should use that positively to assist and encourage peaceful change—a development about which there is no division among those who are seriously concerned about the problems of South Africa.

We cannot ignore the mounting tragedy. We must do what we can to assist and encourage peaceful and progressive change. I hope that the debate will send a message to the moderate and peaceful people in South Africa who want moderate and peaceful change. Let us tell them, "We are prepared to assist you and to be on your side." That does not mean economic sanctions. It does not mean—[HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] It means using our economic position and our political position. [HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] That can be done and it has been done by some companies. That, rather than the politics of war and negativism which is preached by some, is the way forward.

5 pm

The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) spoke with knowledge and experience of South Africa and with sympathy for the problems of South Africa, but he left us with a dilemma, because at the end of his speech he pointed to the extent of British economic involvement and interest in South Africa and the potential that lies there to operate a lever. But a lever is not a lever if it cannot be pulled. The hon. Member posed himself a question. He imparted to us his thinking at what I hope was an intermediate stage, because if he reflects further he will be forced in the end to the conclusion that some measures will have to be taken which will bring real pressure to bear and which actually force that lever.

There are many brutal regimes and many police states in the world. South Africa has many fellows in the club of police states, and some of them do not enjoy some of the things that South Africa still enjoys, such as an independent judiciary. There are many more brutal regimes even than the South African Government, who have inflicted so much death and destruction upon so many of their own citizens in recent weeks.

There are, however, aspects which single out South Africa for the attention of the House. Some of them were mentioned by the hon. Member for Cambridge, such as the long and traditional links, the personal and family links, which exist between this country and South Africa. There are the economic links between the two countries. Above all there is the nature of the regime which South Africa tries to operate and the extraordinary way in which that policy is defended on the pretence that it has something to do with Western values and interests. Fundamental to the regime in South Africa is the division of men and women on the basis of their race and the denial of political power on the basis of race. That is the one thing a man cannot change. He cannot pretend, as he can in a one-party state, to conform to the ideology of the party so that he can at least work his way into the political system and fight for change from within. He cannot claim to shift his allegiance to whichever side he needs to belong to in some repressive countries in order to gain political standing and power. There is no way in which a man can pretend away his racial origin, and it is that which categorises him in the South African system.

No, I wish to develop my arguments. The South African regime operates that system of racial discrimination and racial denial of power, while at the same time pretending that it is in some way defending Western values, and it consistently seeks to regard itself as part of the West, as a friend of the Western democracies. By doing so it invites a degree of attention to its appalling abuses of human rights which it then finds surprising. South Africa should not be surprised to find that if it seeks to act or speak in our name it earns our criticism.

I want to develop my argument, but I shall give way to hon. Members later.

Any black South African and any white progressive South African who wants to see a change in that system, a change which virtually everybody in this House professes he wishes to see, has, over the years, faced three options. One is the option of the exercise of violence, which is a frightening option to undertake; the second is the option of hoping that external pressure including economic sanctions, will force the pace of change; and the third is the option of waiting and hoping that things will get better. Many people in South Africa exercised the third option—they waited and hoped. That option has now run out and the number of people prepared simply to wait and hope is now tiny. That option is no longer available to us.

There have always been powerful reasons to be sceptical about the effectiveness of economic sanctions, particularly if they are not accepted and enforced by the whole community of nations, or virtually the whole community of nations. That is why I was sympathetic to the attempt at the Nassau conference to reach agreement, to arrive at a consensus, supported by all states. It was worth the hours of late night negotiations to try to obtain, as indeed was obtained at the end of the day, a package which, whatever its limitations, was an agreed package supported by all the states that took part.

Sanctions which might satisfy the conscience of an individual or of an individual country, which may be more far-reaching, are far less effective than sanctions which are agreed collectively by the community of nations. Our experience in this field should teach us that, but our wider scepticism—I shared in it, as many others have done—about the value of economic sanctions, has been changed by what has happened in recent months in South Africa. There has appeared in the South African economy and in the South African political system a degree of vulnerability far greater than we have seen for many years, and far more likely to be responsive to economic sanctions over a shorter period.

If that had not happened, our discussion of economic sanctions, which I should still none the less have supported, would have been about a long period of probably rather ineffective measures which for much of the time would have done more for our own conscience than to change what was going on in South Africa. That situation has changed drastically. It has changed because of sanctions dictated primarily by commercial considerations. It has changed because of sanctions exercised by banks and international commercial organisations making a judgment about what would happen in South Africa. That was a judgment about the politics of South Africa and about race relations and violence, but it was essentially a commercial judgment, and it has had a powerful effect, not least upon the South African business community. That effect must be sustained, and measures by Governments can help to sustain it.

It is just conceivable that the South African Government might be able to persuade some of those who have made a commercial judgment to impose sanctions on South Africa to do otherwise. It is just conceivable that the South African Government, by tightening the screw of repression, and by involving the military as well as the police increasingly in holding down violence, might manage to convince, I think wrongly, a few of those involved in international commerce that they can hold the lid on it to such an extent that the commercial pressure for sanctions might relax for a while. In those circumstances, it is important that Governments move in and make it clear that the pressure is both commercial and political. Both elements have to be sustained in order to keep up that pressure which has already begun to have a powerful effect within South Africa.

The South African Government believe that they still have a card to play. They believe that they have a friend in the British Prime Minister and the British Government and they are presented day after day with evidence for that. If that were not so, if they did not have some justification for that belief, the picture would have been different. The Government should have gone to Nassau with specific proposals reflecting perhaps the Government's scepticism about comprehensive sanctions, but with specific proposals for measures which would have an immediate effect. We should have been taking the lead at that conference in advocating those measures, and we should have been seeking more than that.

We should also have sought to gather together the Commonwealth leaders to work out measures to assist the front-line states, because that is a burden which the Commonwealth needs to share. With or without sanctions, the states that border upon South Africa will face increasing difficulty in the coming months and years. That is a responsibility which Britain cannot shoulder alone. Other Commonwealth nations ought to share in it, and are ready to do so. If we had gone to Nassau with a package of proposals combining measures which could be effective in the short term, together with measures to help the frontline states, we would have found ready backing and a ready audience of Commonwealth leaders. That was not so.

However, let us accept at face value what the Foreign Secretary said. Let us accept for the purposes of this discussion that at least the outcome of all these exchanges and late night discussions, and all the pressure put on our own Prime Minister, was in the Government's view, a worthwhile package of measures. The outcome was worth while. It was a step forward, in that all the states in the Commonwealth agreed upon this package. But what happened then? The Prime Minister came home and gave radio and television interviews in which she said that the movement she had made was "absolutely minute". What could have been more dismissive or more insulting to those with whom she was engaged in this task?

At least when President Reagan was forced by Congress to accept economic measures and economic sanctions against South Africa he had the wit to pretend it was his idea in the first place. Indeed, he went about claiming that the Administration had not changed its policy but had simply embraced this new development in policy. We all laughed a little at the time, but at least he saw that if the measure was to be worth while he had to embrace it and give it his support, whatever his initial reluctance.

The Prime Minister did the precise opposite. She is haunted by the fear of a U-turn. She is haunted by her experiences in past battles with the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). She is still trying to prove she is not like him. I wish that she would not do that. The right hon. Gentleman has many commendable features, one of which is the ability to see when he is wrong and change his mind. I do not see why the Prime Minister should be so determined to prove that she is unlike the right hon. Gentleman. Even if she is, frankly, it is a secondary consideration when compared to the need to build Commonwealth unity on an issue such as this.

If these measures are to be interpreted as the Prime Minister herself wishes to interpret them, as a signal to South Africa, the right hon. Lady has totally destroyed the signal. What sort of signal was it to say, "We have agreed on a package of measures, but for Britain the movement we have made is absolutely minute."? The significance is destroyed completely. That was no kind of statesmanship. It was seriously damaging to the Commonwealth. By the actions of the right hon. Lady, Britain is throwing away any pretence to leadership in the Commonwealth. Indeed, leadership has been handed to some notable figures who took part in those discussions. What happened was damaging to long-term British interests. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said, it will cost British jobs in the long term as more and more Commonwealth countries which have been friendly to us and closely associated with us despair of the attitude that we have taken.

The hon. Gentleman has taken up the point made by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), who made a threat to the Prime Minister that if she did not concede to the demands of the rest of the Commonwealth, jobs would be lost in this country through lost orders from Commonwealth countries because of our so-called isolated position. The hon. Gentleman obviously endorses that view. Can he spell out to the House which jobs would be lost, which countries would stop trading with us, and whether the trade that they do with us is to the benefit of this country? In many cases, they build up nothing more than debt in the trade that we do with them.

The hon. Gentleman would have difficulty in convincing my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) that the manufacture of helicopters is anything other than beneficial to our economy, and that is one of many industries in which we seek contracts with Commonwealth countries. To isolate Britain would be severely damaging to long-term interests in the Commonwealth and in much of the rest of the world. If the hon. Gentleman cannot see that, he is being very shortsighted. The Prime Minister was characteristically shortsighted when she isolated Britain to such an extent.

This is probably the last opportunity that this Prime Minister will have to bring about change in South Africa; it will be her last opportunity to play some part in it. More than that, I fear that it may be the last time that any of us will have an opportunity to help to bring about peaceful change in South Africa. The option of waiting and hoping is gone. Violence is mounting. It ought to be common ground to most of us that there comes a stage when limited concessions of the kind which might mark the progress which the Foreign Secretary hopes to see within six months will do nothing to alleviate the increase in violence. Once the cycle of violence begins, only the ultimate grant of full political rights can bring it to an end. Even that might not do so. If South Africa is launched into violence and internal conflict, of the prospect for a peaceful democratic South Africa in the future is threatened. The time is now, but this Government manifestly lack any sense of timing.

5.12 pm

I regret that Opposition Members are so often reluctant to acknowledge the common ground that exists between us on this subject. Historically the ideals and aspirations of Afrikanerdom are tainted with Fascism. In practice, the implementation of Afrikanerdom stinks with Fascism. It is unacceptable. That realisation should provide common ground in our debate. I hope that Opposition Members will one day acknowledge that this side of the House matches in rhetoric and sincerity its dislike and hatred of apartheid.

The last time the House debated South African affairs was on 24 July when the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey)—I regret that he is not in his seat—posed a question:
"Is there anything which we can do which may slow down or divert this accelerating race to catastrophe in South Africa …"—[Official Report, 24 July 1985; Vol. 83, c. 1166.]
It would be wise to bear that question in mind. Is there indeed anything that from this distance, in the light of our global influence, we can do to influence the course of events in South Africa? I do not claim to have the knowledge or experience of South Africa of many of my hon. Friends or of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East but I believe that in July, just as earlier this afternoon, the right hon. Gentleman posed the right question but gave the wrong answer.

The question demands this reasoning. To know what we ought to do first demands knowing what we wish to achieve. Time and again the Government have reiterated that they seek a two fold policy towards South Africa: to seek the overthrow of apartheid and in its place to seek the creation of a form of government acceptable to all races in South Africa. It is not for us to specify what the form of government should be. To do so would be to demand of South Africa what does not exist elsewhere in the African continent where tribalism and persecution of ethnic minorities are the stuff of everyday.

Government policy also avoids the sham and the mockery of supporting the "one man, one vote" cry, to which Nelson Madela pays lip service, which is prostituted throughout the rest of the African continent. The end of apartheid and the creation of a form of government acceptable to all should be our objective, and I welcome the fact that it is the objective of the Government.

To return to the question posed by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, is there indeed anything we can do to slow down or divert the accelerating race to catastrophe?

I am trying to follow my hon. Friend's logic. In using the phrase "acceptable to all" does he draw any parallel between the great difficulties we experience in developing a system of government acceptable to all in Northern Ireland or in Ireland as a whole and his assumption that somehow a system of government acceptable to all can be found in South Africa? Does that give him cause for thought or for concern?

One must beware of making absolutes. Forms of government are developed round the world according to the social needs and the historical trends and tendencies of different societies. There are no absolutes anywhere.

To return to the question posed by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, there is both a positive and negative answer. Negatively we should do nothing which will promote and encourage unrest and disorder in South Africa. That is precisely what the imposition of sanctions and a strategy of disinvestment would achieve. The arguments have been heard in the House before and are well known to hon. Members.

If Opposition Members believe that unemployment causes unrest—I suspect they will be arguing that in a later debate—they must acknowledge that it is true of South Africa just as they will argue that it is true of this country. Disinvestment of 20 per cent. in South Africa would result, I am told, in the loss of approximately 90,000 jobs currently held by white people and 350,000 jobs held by black people. Those who would suffer first and most would be those whom we claim we wish to help. There is evidence that the very first to suffer would be the 1 million black foreign workers in South Africa. Nor should we forget the neighbouring black African countries whose economies depend so much on close economic ties with a prosperous South Africa.

For good or bad, we must not forget either that disinvestment and sanctions threaten some 200,000 jobs in this country. If Opposition Members wish to impose sanctions against South Africa, let them have the courage to go back to their constituencies and point out that the implementation of that policy would result in the loss of the best part of a quarter of a million jobs in this country.

Of paramount importance, economic sanctions imposed against South Africa would create further unrest, disorder and violence, and there is enough of that at the moment. Sanctions should not be imposed if we wish to slow down or divert the accelerating race to catastrophe.

Changes are taking place in South Africa. We see this in the labour laws, the marriage laws, the pass law s and the conducting and practising of sports. Above all, there have been constitutional changes. Changes have come. It is true that they have come slowly, but they are happening—they are not cosmetic, but nor do they go to the heart of the matter. However it is important to acknowledge that, apart from the absolute Afrikaner diehards within the laager of their ox carts, the overwhelming majority of all races, not least whites, in South Africa want change and they want it quickly. The forces of evolution, as opposed to revolution, in South Africa will respond to outside encouragement, but they will not respond to outside pressure. To encourage revolution is to encourage anarchy, barbarity and murder. I am not prepared to do that.

Is the hon. Member seriously suggesting that these changes have come about irrespective of any outside pressure?

The changes have come from an awareness among white South Africans that the position inherited from the early 1960s was morally and economically untenable. It is impossible to analyse what led people to change their minds. There has been a programme of change in South Africa for at least 10 years.

I welcome and applaud the agreement reached a few days ago by the Commonwealth leaders. The Prime Minister gave a little ground but the sanctions package lacks the teeth to do real harm to the South African economy. I applaud that. The seriousness of intent and concern behind the package cannot be doubted. It will encourage change rather than deter change and promote chaos.

My hon. Friends can speak for themselves. For my part, I hate apartheid. On 10 July, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) declared:
"We want to rid South Africa of 20th century slavery". —[Official Report, 10 July 1985; Vol. 82, c. 1093.]
So do we—but slavery takes many forms. The slavery of any racial or tribal group is equally unacceptable. In Africa, slavery all too often takes the form of persecution of an ethnic minority by an ethnic majority. The stakes are too high in South Africa to back revolution. That is why our policy should seek to accelerate evolution rather than encourage revolution. The forces of evolution are represented by many people of many racial groups in South Africa. They need friends, not enemies. Rather than apologise for it, I am proud to declare myself one of their friends.

5.23 pm

When discussing apartheid, we are discussing not simply a person's rights, but a system that aims to devalue the dignity of man. It aims to defame humanity and to attack, as did the anti-Semitism of the 1930s, the spirit and dignity of man himself. Time is no longer on our side, and we are slipping towards a holocaust. What worries me is that, 40 years ago, another British Prime Minister came back waving a scrap of paper as a diplomatic victory and said that if we talked and talked everything would be all right. The situation is now beyond leaving it to talk alone.

It is quite true that members of the Commonwealth went along with the Prime Minister. The right hon. Lady certainly prefers to think that they went along with her. Britain is no longer the leader of the Commonwealth, and it is clear that this Commonwealth agreement was the last attempt to make Britain an equal partner in an association of equals. Britain needs the Commonwealth far more than the Commonwealth needs Britain. It asked our help because it recognised that, when a Labour Government imposed sanctions on Rhodesia, Ian Smith could avoid them because he had a sympathetic industrial and political base in Britain that would undermine the Government's intentions. Only when it was made clear that Britain as a whole recognised that the situation to which Ian Smith was dragging us would involve the interests of Britain and the rest of the world did we achieve what should have happened years before—representation of the people in Zimbabwe.

We are members of the Commonwealth. Of course sanctions will cost jobs — here and in South Africa. There is a great deal of difference, however, between enduring unemployment for a principle in South Africa and enduring it here because of an unacceptable political dogma.


We must distinguish between the two. When we went to war over the Falklands—a decision that ran contrary to all my beliefs—the Government argued that no cost was too much for a principle. Do they now recognise that the abolition of apartheid is a principle? It is not simply a system of government. It draws a distinction between one man and another simply because of the colour of his skin. It runs counter to my political convictions and counter to my Christian principles.

We are asking the Government to recognise that Britain is perhaps as much on trial as South Africa. We are in no position to lead the Commonwealth, but we must decide whether we stand by the principles which the House, the country and our society have valued or whether we stand back, excuse and dodge until the holocaust comes. What I suggest will cost us all, but what economic value do we put on one of the 800 lives that have already been destroyed in South Africa? Do we value humanity? Are we prepared to say that there are certain principles which the House and the British people reject? It is on that basis that we must decide our actions, and approach the present situation.

5.30 pm

By his caring and thoughtful speech my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) has shown that to be in favour of peaceful change in South Africa and of a system which does not impose widespread sanctions — an approach that is the result of greater experience of the real situation in South Africa than many hon. Members have—does not make one an apologist for apartheid.

I bitterly resent the accusations that are levelled against anybody who dares to stand up and speak in favour of some of the good things that are happening in South Africa —and good things are happening there. Also, I bitterly resent, as a constituent said to me only last weekend, being lectured upon human rights by those who purport to support human rights. Their names have been mentioned this afternoon. They are said to be the people to whom this Government must turn if an agreement is to be reached in six months' time. Where were the protests from the Opposition and from other people who are ready to use South Africa as the whipping boy for all the world's problems when 10 dissidents were executed in Zimbabwe? We heard not a murmur.

Does my hon. Friend agree that if sanctions have to be discussed today, the House should be discussing sanctions against black African countries whose anti-democratic and antihuman rights records lead South Africa almost to look down on them? The whole of black Africa is full of such examples. To discuss the imposition of sanctions only against South Africa is hypocritical.

My hon. Friend is right to draw the attention of the House to the fact that our attitude towards the abandonment of human rights by other countries must not be selective. Nor must our condemnation of violence be selective. We must not condone violence in South Africa because it is directed against apartheid, which we abhor. We also abhor other forms of violence. We cannot give political respectability to violence. To do so would be to condone what is happening in many parts of this country. I do not believe that we should.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge referred to the respect held in South Africa for the views of people in this country. He referred eloquently to the changes that have taken place. Human rights need progressively to be improved in South Africa so that stability can be achieved, and people must play a full part in achieving that stability. The stick followed by the stick and by yet more stick is not the way to bring about stability. The changes that are taking place must be the result of an acceptance and a growing belief among South Africans of all races that change must come about. Acceptance is being accelerated by the displeasure that is being shown by many countries. My hon. Friend said that it is impossible to quantify how much effect that displeasure will have, but its effect is undeniable. There have been major and significant changes. Many elements of both grand and petty apartheid are disappearing from South Africa.

We must ask ourselves whether we want this country to use its influence to accelerate the rate of change to an unacceptable level. Do we want the process of political change, which depends on the art of the possible, to result in a backlash, which will mean that the President of South Africa is unable to pursue reform?

Reference has been made this afternoon to the hard line Afrikaners. There is an organisation called the Broederbond. A member of that organisation could hardly be thought, by those who believe that Afrikanerdom is wholly committed to the maintenance of apartheid, to have participated in what I consider to be a major reform document that was published in 1980. In 1980 Professor de Lange produced a report on education. I had the privilege of talking to him at Witwatersrand university about its implications, which were staggering for white South Africans. It involved a massive shift of resources away from white education into black and coloured education. These are the people who represent moderate, sensible, reforming opinion in South Africa. We must encourage them and not slap them down at every step of the way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge referred to the historical perspective. It is important to keep it in our minds and not to ask for a pace of change in South Africa which cannot be achieved. If we try to cram everything into too tight a time frame, there will be an explosion. An explosion in South Africa is not in the interests of the blacks, the coloureds, the Asians or the whites, and it is not in the interests of those who believe that southern Africa needs stability. A reformed South Africa, which is prepared to move in the direction of change, could play a fundamental role in achieving stability.

5.39 pm

Several Conservative Members have referred to the difficulties facing South Africa and suggested that if certain action is taken the country will slip into disorder and chaos and there will be loss of life. They do not seem to realise what is happening in South Africa. If they do not realise that the Nassau crisis was the result of agitation about what is happening in South Africa, they understand nothing at all.

I have very mixed feelings about the Nassau agreement. I want to believe that the Nassau accord means that there will be progress. I want to believe that the Prime Minister has conceded ground, that the Government are serious about trying to get rid of apartheid and that the dialogue with South Africa will succeed. Yet experience teaches me that it will not.

It was in 1977 that we set up the Contact Group of five Western nations that were supposed to conduct negotiations with South Africa to bring Namibia to independence. We are now much further from achieving that independence that we were in 1977. It is clear that the South African Government have established this new multi-party or puppet Government in an attempt to bypass negotiations and freedom for Namibia.

I have mixed feelings because the Government have apparently given their wholehearted consent to some of the matters that I and many others have advocated for many years. I have been to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office several times to demand certain action—stopping the sale of krugerrands, withdrawing our military attaché in South Africa, sending back its military attaché here, and ending new investment. All those requests have been firmly refused by the Minister of State. Therefore, I can do nothing but welcome some of the proposals.

This is the second time in the past 12 months — possibly the past six months—that the Government have shifted their ground. The Prime Minister and the Minister of State said that they would not accept the EEC package of measures against South Africa, but they did accept it.

The hon. Gentleman must get his facts right. When the EEC package was being considered I, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, said that at that moment we could not indicate our acceptance because we wished to give consideration to the implications of that package. We gave the package consideration and, in a very short period, we accepted it.

The Minister has confirmed exactly what I said. He said the Government could not at that time implement those measures but, after consideration, they decided to apply them. When the Prime Minister went to Nassau, she said much the same thing. She was not going to implement sanctions against South Africa; now she is applying not sanctions, but signals. One man's sanctions are another man's signals. The effect is intended to be the same. The truth is that the principle of sanctions, pressure. leverage or signals has been conceded.

We have heard the argument against sanctions from both the Foreign Secretary and others on the Government Benches. One of the points of the argument has been that if we impose sanctions they will hurt most the black Africans. The British Government's position is exposed on the front page of the Anti-Apartheid News. There is a picture of the British Prime Minister facing P. W. Botha. The Prime Minister is saying, "We are opposed to sanctions because they will hurt most the people we want to help." P. W. Botha replies, "Thanks." Many of us believe that the Government are much more concerned about protecting British investments than about the eradication of apartheid.

Another aspect of the Government's argument is that sanctions are ineffective. Central to that theme is that the use of sanctions on Rhodesia was a failure. I concede that the sanctions on Rhodesia were not as effective as I should have liked because of the situation in South Africa, because of Portugal, Angola and Mozambique and because some senior members of the then Labour Government were not keen enthusiasts of sanctions. I accept that, but if we had not had sanctions on Rhodesia, the Lancaster House settlement would have taken place at a much later date. If we had given diplomatic recognition to the Smith UDI, if it had free access to world banking, to arms and to communications, there is no doubt that the liberation war in Rhodesia would have gone on for much longer and many lives would have been lost.

The Minister of State and I have had discussions on several occasions, and he has partly conceded my case about sanctions having some effect while he still denies the role that they have played. He also says that I know perfectly well that the real reason for Lancaster House was the activity of the liberation movement—the liberation armies of ZIPRA and ZANLA. I agree with him. The liberation struggle brought about independence for Zimbabwe. When the hon. Gentleman accepts the role of the liberation movement, the cynicism and the hypocrisy of the Government's case is exposed. They are saying to black South Africans that we shall not help them to achieve liberation by applying sanctions, but at the same time we are denying them the only alternative method to sanctions — the right to fight for their freedom. That is condemned as violence.

It is in no one's interests to have a full-scale civil war in South Africa. The African National Congress makes that point. It does not want to inherit South Africa with its economy destroyed or with the machinery scrapped because of the civil war. Those people want to inherit a situation in which they can advocate the political system that they want and a truly multiracial society. If we stand back now, not for the first time, and say that we shall not come to the assistance of black South Africans, of Indian South Africans, of coloured South Africans and of white South Africans too—because they are all involved—the end that they fear, chaos, destruction and loss of life on an even more massive scale than now will come into being.

We must seriously ask the Government what they want. Did the Government mean what they said when they signed the Nassau agreement? It is difficult to take the Government's word for their assent to the major part of the Nassau agreement because the Prime Minister poured scorn on it. "Minute little changes," "very little concessions," she said. She poured so much scorn on it that she denigrated her own word. One should not be surprised at that. I do not believe that the Prime Minister or many hon. Members understand the qualitative change in psychology and opinion that has taken place in South Africa. The change has come about partly by economic circumstances. We know the South African economy is in very serious trouble. It has come about mainly because people have seen, perhaps for the first time in their lives, the sustained ferocity of the police and of the army in the past 12 months against the majority of the population.

I have spoken to people, who do not share my point of view on South Africa, who say that they had a feeling of revulsion when they saw on their television screens the South African railway truck with crates on it driving through a township and suddenly soldiers come out of it shooting indiscriminately. That has caused much revulsion, not only outside South Africa but inside the country, although people in South Africa have not seen on their television screens the full impact of what has happened.

That change has come about also because the South African Government have shown that they cannot tolerate any democratic freedom of expression. The trial has now started of the United Democratic Front leaders who are charged with treason because they dared to advocate that apartheid was wrong. They dared to advocate that the tri-cameral system was a disgrace.

The qualitative change is so great that even I found it difficult to believe. I listened to about six different radio broadcasts before I could believe what my ears were hearing — that white South African business men had asked to meet the African National Congress in Zambia. They not only asked to go, but they went, and they returned with a high opinion of the leaders of the ANC. I am glad that happened. The leader of the Progressive Federal Party, Mr. van Slabbert, and others have been to see the ANC. He also recognised that there can be no future discussion or negotiation of any sort about the future of South Africa unless the ANC is brought into the dialogue.

Afrikaner students wanted to see the youth wing of the ANC, but they were prevented from doing so because the South African Government withdrew their passports. There are many other organisations—I do not wish to give away any secrets because many of them do not want it known in case they are stopped from going—within South Africa and business interests in the City that want to discuss the future with the ANC. Only the British Government stand aside and say that they are not prepared to meet the ANC.

Why will the Government not meet the ANC? Why will the Prime Minister not do as she did with Bishop Tutu and invite Oliver Tambo to 10 Downing street?

I hear the answer from the Conservative Benches. Sometimes the Foreign Secretary calls Oliver Tambo's organisation terrorists and says that the ANC must renounce violence. It is strange, because we are told that we must not be selective, but the Government have had face-to-face talks with SWAPO of Namibia. I do not class that as a terrorist organisation, but it has not renounced violence. The Government are prepared to meet it. Although perhaps not in the same league in terms of personality and stature, nevertheless, the Government have been prepared to have discussions with Jonas Savimbi of UNITA. I would say that he carries out a terrorist campaign, although others might regard it differently. Jonas Savimbi has set out, with the help of South Africa, to bring down the legitimate Government of Angola. Yet the Government are prepared to have discussions with him. If the Government have any sense and wish to show that they are a force in negotiations and determining the future, the first thing they should do is to invite Oliver Tambo and others to 10 Downing street.

The South African Government have open access to the British Government in all sorts of ways. The South African Government will not renounce violence against their people. The British Government will do nothing to compel change. By their failure to act decisively, the British Government have placed themselves firmly on the side of P. W. Botha. They must take their share of the responsibility for the blood that has been shed.

I seldom quarrel with my right hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart), but I quarrel with her when she says that she was disappointed by the Foreign Secretary's speech. I was disappointed at its contents, but, frankly, it lived up to my expectations because it failed to measure up to the serious position that we are in.

What the Foreign Secretary said at the end was significant. He made it clear that if the mission to South Africa fails, and in the next six months there are no significant changes, no acceleration in the progress of reform and no moves towards dialogue, the Government intend to thwart any further initiative within the Commonwealth and stop any meaningful economic sanctions.

By their failure to respond to the serious problem and their failure to defend freedom and to realise that someone must stand up and speak out for those who are being killed daily, the Government have shown themselves to be an affront to human decency—and they should resign.

5.54 pm

I have had the privilege of addressing the House on this subject several times and I shall therefore keep my comments brief and related to the Nassau agreement in which the House is interested.

I am delighted that the amendment has been selected, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and that it makes no mention of sanctions. That encourages me to vote for the Government tonight.

There was no doubt in anyone's mind that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was in a virtual "no-win" position when she went to Nassau. The Opposition would criticise her for whatever stance she took. However isolated she was, she stood up for a principle that she has demonstrated in the House and outside many times. She understood the fears of many Conservative Members, and that if more sanctions were imposed she would lose the support and encouragement of many of her Back Benchers.

What the Prime Minister said has been generally criticised throughout Africa. Only this morning, we heard Mrs. Winnie Mandela the self-appointed spokesman for the so-called black majority in South Africa, criticising the Prime Minister and calling her a racist. Those were disgraceful remarks, and they do not do Mrs. Mandela's case any good on the international scene.

The Prime Minister stuck to her assessment of how to keep the Commonwealth together and achieved a concordat with which— let no one forget—everyone agreed. Many of us question the wisdom of Commonwealth conferences having to reach a unanimous conclusion. Why did she not choose on this occasion to put in a minority report? Most of us agree with the package with which she has returned. I agree with the words of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, reinforced by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), that we must give political dialogue an opportunity to work. We should have no truck with any sanctions that might be imposed after the six-month time limit.

I must express my misgivings about the fact that we seem to have got on this "escalator", as The Times put it, of sanctions, by having submitted to a form of blackmail from other Commonwealth countries to reach agreement. We are on a slippery slope of further sanctions being demanded of the Government. If that were the case, the Government would lose the support of many members of the party and of many of their Back Benchers.

The tragedy of the Commonwealth conference was that 46 countries, represented by their Heads of Government — a unique occasion — saw fit to spend their time criticising a country over which they have little control and in which many of them have little interest.

With all the problems that the Commonwealth faces—economic, social, crime and financial—it is a tragedy that the leaders spent all their time in those rather luxurious surroundings criticising the South African Government and trying to bring about some change there by the imposition of sanctions.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr. Lloyd) said on a point of order, who are we to criticise another Government and the internal affairs of that country? We may express an opinion, but that conference provided a unique opportunity to discuss the various problems that Commonwealth countries face. All we have achieved is an addendum to the main business of the conference about the awful problem of drugs. Most of the Commonwealth leaders should be ashamed of that.

I should like to take up three small aspects of the concordat. The communiqué refers continually to the explosive situation and the violent conflict going on in South Africa. No one denies that there are serious and dangerous problems in some areas of South Africa but it would not be right to assume that the country is in flames, that the people are rioting or that those who are causing the problems have the massive support of the majority. It has already been explained, although only in part and grudgingly by Opposition Members, that some of the trouble has been caused by blacks turning on blacks. Some of the most horrific crimes, including assassination, have been inter-tribal. South Africa is not in flames. I believe the position to be slightly better now than it was.

We do not minimise our abhorrence and condemnation of the violence, but it is unfortunate that the communiqué is couched in terms of violent conflict and explosive confrontation. That is not the case in South Africa. Apart from trying to protect the minority view, the security forces have taken measures that any Government would have to take against those who break the law.

My second point arising from the communiqué relates to the seven wise men—or eminent people as they have been referred to — who have been chosen to oversee progress during the next six months. I should like to ask the Minister how those seven members were chosen. If they are necessary at least our country will be represented. It seems somewhat ironic that the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe is one of those who will observe the democratic changes taking place in South Africa. Mention has been made of the Lancaster house agreement and many hon. Members are familiar with the position in Zimbabwe. I fail to see how Mr. Robert Mugabe can make any judgment on the democracy of his next-door neighbour when he has committed his country to a one-party state at the earliest opportunity. What force will those seven members have? If they ask the South African Government whether they can visit the country, which I sincerely hope that they do, will they go with an open mind?

The third aspect of the communiqué that worries me is the reference to adequate progress within six months. However, it does not spell out what that progress might be. That is the dilemma and the heart of the question. In our anxiety to move towards equal representation and equal francise we must ask exactly what we mean by progress. The measures that have been taken by the South African Government may seem small to us, but they are massive to them. There are measures in the pipeline and measures to which they are committed. I fail to understand how we in Britain and the seven eminent politicians can judge the rate of progress. It is dangerous to specify a length of time in the communiqué.

Of course we are impatient for change, but we must consider changes in an African context and on the basis that democracy takes a long time to work out. If the Opposition's desire for one man, one vote were followed tomorrow, no form of democracy would exist in South Africa.

If P. W. Botha wanted to please the rest of the world and move towards a democratic system, it would be easy for him to declare one man, one vote tomorrow. His Parliament might agree to the measure if he went along the same lines as other African countries such as Kenya, Malawi, the Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zambia and declared that there would be no opposition parties at the forthcoming election. Prime Minister Botha could go down that road easily and the howls of protest from the Opposition would be justified in such a case. South Africa is moving towards an attempt to work out equal franchise for all its citizens, but experience of Africa has taught them, and should teach us, that to go down that road as far as some people would advocate could lead to disaster.

In conclusion, I should like to express my agreement with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James), who spoke so well and so sensibly on the matter. Even the Opposition grudgingly accept that full economic sanctions or even part economic sanctions would bring economic disaster to South Africa. We cannot expect reform and change under those economic conditions. It was the same in the America of the 1930s when the negro tried to establish political rights that he did not enjoy at that time. At times of economic disaster the negro made little progress. After the war, when the economic prosperity of America began to advance, change and equal franchise were achieved.

Under prosperous conditions there is some hope of reform. We should encourage that reform and encouragement will come from the South African Government. There is a danger, now that the gun is held at South Africa's head and sticks are used rather than carrots, that the South African Government will react by saying, "A plague on all your houses," and will want to sort out their problems in their own way. One cannot blame them. That reaction would be a tragedy for the world and South Africa. That is why I welcome the amendment and the small steps taken towards encouraging peaceful dialogue between our two countries.

6.5 pm

The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) is the foremost apologist for the South African regime. Time and again the hon. Member expresses a point of view which is basically that of the South African authorities. But, in his favour at least, the hon. Gentleman's speeches articulate the feelings of many Conservative Back-Bench Members who are perhaps more reluctant to speak out. Their views are clearly expressed by the hon. Gentleman.

Several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Luton, North, asked why we should interfere in the internal affairs of an independent country. Indeed, that was the subject of a point of order today before the debate began. It is interesting to note the remarks of a former Tory Member for Bristol, West from 1928 onwards in a debate in 1938 following the Munich settlement. Referring to Labour Members, he said:
"They do not like the form of Government which the German people are today enjoying … At any rate, it is not for hon. Gentlemen opposite to discuss the domestic affairs of Germany."—[Official Report, 3 October 1938; Vol. 339, c. 108.]
The attitude of fellow travelling with Right-wing dictatorship and of finding reasons why we should not protest against pre-war Fascism or the tyranny now in South Africa comes as no surprise to Labour Members. Nor should we be surprised at events in South Africa during the past four or five months, which have been the inevitable result of policies pursued by a Government determined to deny the majority of their people their political human rights. The hon. Member for Luton, North made what I believe to be an incorrect historical reference to the position of blacks in America. We all know of the problems that existed there, but we are discussing a country where a large majority of people are denied their basic human rights.

The Government try to find excuses and claim that there have been some changes. I make two points about that. First, change in South Africa has come about only as a result of maximum pressure from outside that country. No one believes that the South African authorities would have moved towards even those small changes without intense pressure.

My second point was well summed up in the "Panorama" programme on South Africa on Monday. A black South African said that the changes that have come about did not give him the right to vote or the right to be represented in the Government of his country. The changes that have taken place in South Africa do not satisfy those people. It is mischief-making — I will repeat this outside the House if need be—to compare the position in South Africa with the position in this country. There is no possible comparison, because, whatever the difficulties facing a number of people in Britain, which will be the subject of the following debate, the majority of people in South Africa are denied their political and human rights. Moreover, the legislation in South Africa is determined to enshrine, not to overcome, racist discrimination.

During the past 20 years the South African regime has become increasingly isolated. Conservative Members say that South Africa is not the only country in which human rights are denied. Who has ever suggested otherwise? It is not part of our argument that there is not injustice in other countries, including in parts of Africa, or that only South Africa denies human rights. We say, however, that South Africa is the only country that discriminates for one reason—the colour of a person's skin.

Will the hon. Gentleman concede that discrimination occurs in many African regimes where one-party states are based on tribe and political rights are denied to people on the basis of tribe? Does the hon. Gentleman claim that the position in South Africa differs substantially from that?

There is no comparison between the point that the hon. Gentleman is trying to make and what is happening in South Africa. One of the unfortunate aspects of this debate is that Conservative Members do not recognise what is recognised by the Opposition, the majority of the British people and the world community at large. People understandably compare South Africa with Nazi Germany, for reasons that must be obvious.

Because of the isolation of South Africa it is sad that Conservative Governments—previous Governments and, even more so, the present Administration—seem to take the side of the South African authorities. At the Commonwealth conference and on previous occasions the Prime Minister has been seen as a person who wants to stop effective action being taken against the South African regime. It is understandable that Britain is isolated in this matter.

It was perhaps right that the other Heads of Government at the Commonwealth conference concluded that, in order to get the approval of the British Prime Minister, a limited agreement should be reached. I should, of course, have liked more effective action to be taken, but perhaps in all the circumstances it was better to bring the British Government in rather than to take action without British agreement.

What will happen after six months? The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has told us, in effect, that, no matter what the circumstances may be, the British Government will not accept sanctions. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was echoing the views of the Prime Minister. He wants to deny the African National Congress the right to fight for freedom. It is understandable, in a country where there is no constitutional road to progress, that force has been used by the ANC, which came into being in 1911 or 1912, although it said for years that it did not want to be involved in violence. It was only after the events of 1960 that the ANC concluded that there was no alternative. I do not apologise for saying that, though I do not like violnce any more than anyone else. I am not, however, a pacifist. I believe that people who are denied human and political rights are entitled to fight for their freedom. I would be the first to defend the ANC for concluding that there was no other way to go. But who are we to sit in judgment?

The world community and the British Government should be placing maximum pressure on the South African authorities. The South African Government are faced with many problems, not the least of which are debt difficulties. The International Monetary Fund and British and American bankers should make it extremely difficult for South Africans to get out of their present economic difficulties. That is the least that should be done in these circumstances.

The most effective measures possible should be taken to ensure that progess occurs in South Africa. The Prime Minister says that sanctions will cause unemployment in South Africa, but it is difficult to imagine her weeping over what will happen there. She has shown little concern for the majority in South Africa during her political career. She has been reluctant to take measures against the regime. If the South African people and their representative organisations decide that added hardship, because of sanctions, is necessary, I do not believe that we have any right to say that sanctions should not be imposed because they may create unemployment or further difficulties. The black Africans and the coloured community recognise that hardship will occur. We must realise what is already happening in South Africa to understand why they favour sanctions.

There are many complex issues in this world. I do not believe that South Africa is one. Like slavery and pre-war Fascism, so with apartheid. At the end of the day there is a relatively simple issue: are we for, or against, apartheid? The Conservatives say that they are against apartheid, but it is not enough to say that. We must decide what action will be taken by the British Government to undermine apartheid, destroy this evil and allow South Africa to have a system in which discrimination is a thing of the past. The British Government pay only lip service to opposition to apartheid. Last year the Prime Minister wined and dined the South African President. Like my colleagues, I believe that it is now necessary to apply far stricter measures and to impose economic sanctions. Above all, it is necessary that Britain should no longer be isolated from the world community over this important issue.

6.16 pm

It is wrong for the Opposition to question the sincerity of Conservative Members about their detestation of apartheid when we are genuinely concerned about the best way of achieving rapid political progress in South Africa. That questioning is immoral because it gives out false signals. When the word "signals" was mentioned earlier I thought of the false signals that would arise from the posturing that does nothing to provide the just solution that the black majority in South Africa deserve. The poorest and most oppressed members of the black majority community say, "We have suffered so much already that we are prepared to suffer more. We favour further sanctions." However, the blacks who still have jobs say, "Don't do that, because jobs will suffer." It is easy to say that only one conclusion can he drawn, but the matter is much more complex.

Following the exhortations of my colleagues who claim to know something about South Africa, I recently visited South Africa for the first time. I may have been slightly too pragmatic. I went there wondering what all the fuss was about. I thought, "Of course apartheid must be wrong, but what is all the fuss about?" I returned from that awful country profoundly depressed and utterly aghast at a totally monstrous system of politics which I believe must be swept away as quickly as possible.

In so far as the international community has a role to play—at the margin only—I welcome as a first step what the Commonwealth conference has agreed in Nassau, subject to review in six months, when further steps may be decided. But 98 per cent. of that situation will be based on the political change that occurs inside South Africa. That is an unavoidable conclusion. Do the white Ministers in South Africa have the wisdom and intelligence to make the essential moves, following the South African President's suggestions? Those Ministers have been very vague. Little has happened by way of improvements and reforms. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary cited the good example of the Mixed Marriages Act, but the awful vast panoply of apartheid legislation remains basically intact still.

My wife and I met many members of all the communities in South Africa. My colleagues and I insisted on such meetings although the South African Government prefer people just to see the more pleasant aspects and the collaborators with the apartheid regime—the so-called Uncle Toms who are themselves in a tragic personal situation because of increasing pressures and the ominous revolutionary developments that are occurring because of the myopia of the South African Government and their agents.

We sat in on the surgeries of the very brave and robust middle-class ladies who run the Black Sash movement and heard the tearful despair of the blacks, dispossesed from their land, unable to pursue proper educational opportunities and worst of all having to pay for education, although their incomes are much lower, while white education is free. These are some of the iniquities of a grotesque system that must go quickly, without any further delay.

It is all very well for some of my hon. Friends to say that we must give South Africa time because such changes need a long time to effect. This is 1985, the age of mass communications, of television all over the world. More and more, people are demanding their political rights. We saw the blacks of the United Democratic Front who themselves are mostly moderate and middle-class. One of them has now been indicted on the first day of the high treason trial. She is a 67-year-old lady, middle-class and moderate, who up till now has completely rejected violence, and whose other main interest is flower arranging. She is treated as a dangerous opponent of the apartheid Government who assume that she must be convicted. Thank God that the judiciary is to some extent still separate from the Executive.

Such people are radicalised into being ineluctable revolutionaries, when they do not want to be. The South African Government govern such a depressing country. One apologises if one is being naive—I do not think that I am particularly naive—but I found South Africa one of the most depressing countries in the world, aside from what goes on behind the iron curtain. It is amazing that that Government have not grasped the essential message of what they must do — bring justice and equality to all citizens, whatever the specific constitutional structure. It could be the federation idea or the geographical federation idea proposed by the Progressive Federal party—many of whose members are extremely courageous and are trying to do their bit for the majority black community, the coloureds and the Indians. It could be a mixture of those and some other things or, what is now coming—as a result of the stupidity of the national Government — the one-man, one-vote single unitary state, if the ANC wins what is rapidly turning into a civil war.

I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Carlisle) when he says that there are few incidents in South Africa. The situation is ghastly, and I think that the number of people killed exceeds the official figures. It is probably over 1,000 and many people have also disappeared. There is no justice there.

Overwhelmingly, the impression that we got from our recent visit was that the blacks have had enough. They are seething with anger, rage and resentment and will not wait any longer for false promises, delayed assurances of better times coming and the bright horizon at the end of a very long tunnel. They want action now and they do not want to wait any longer.

It is interesting that the business community, courageously and with great imagination, has taken forward the frontiers of politics and is pressing constantly for political reform. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) spoke about the business community visiting the ANC. I was slightly amused by a couple of the ANC suggestions at the end of its long catalogue of things needed for political reform to avoid a violent upheaval—its members are still saying that. One was to change the flag, which although a minor measure might be a good thing, and the other was to have English as the official language instead of Afrikaans. Although that would offend many Afrikaners, it is a significant thing in political terms too.

There are members of the Afrikaner tribe, that white tribe, who wisely see the need for change not gradually or slowly—all that is in the past, because it is too late—but rapidly. They are doing their best, again through the business community and so on, to press for rapid reform.

There are still white people in South Africa who could, if they so chose, spend a comfortable life on the basis of seeing no black people at all. My wife was taken to a country club, an extremely sybaritic institution. A very wealthy lady asked my wife, "Where is Soweto and what is it like?" after the visit that my wife made to that township. In a neighbouring township, our group saw unbelievably disgusting housing conditions for black people, which would have been unimaginable in the worst slums of Britain before the war. All that adds up to a picture that the House is, I think, at one in condemning, as we condemn one of the worst systems of politics in the world. It is an unfair system, which leaves one with a feeling of nausea again and again. It is difficult for us to imagine that this system still exists in 1985.

Do not let us allow Labour Members to undermine or doubt the complete sincerity of the vast majority of Conservative Members in their detestation and condemnation of the system just because we feel that there are other ways for the international community to try to get the essential political changes in South Africa.

6.24 pm

The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Dykes) made a refreshing speech and one which some of his hon. Friends ignore not so much at their peril as at the peril of millions of people in South Africa, who do not have the facility to express their views, but whose opinions should be taken into account during our debate.

At the start of the recess my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), several of my hon. Friends, the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) and myself visited Botswana and Swaziland. We visited Gaberone and the scene of the crime, for it was a crime. It was where the South African commandos had visited a housing estate, blown up houses and shot a number of people. We saw the spot where a four-year-old boy had been shot and we saw the line of bullets that had followed the little boy as he ran across the bedroom.

The Foreign Secretary asked us to enter into a dialogue. We are all for dialogue, but it is difficult to enter into one with a country with people who operate such standards. Moreover, it is not simply a question of sanctions, although they are very important. If not in some of the speeches that we have heard today, certainly in some of the Government's actions we are offering succour to the regime in South Africa, at the expense of liberty and achievement for its people.

I draw the attention of the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State, who I understand will reply to the debate, to an article that appeared in The Guardian today. I invite a response to this article, which is headed:
"Pretoria gets UK arms despite UN trade embargo".
It says:
"Mrs. Thatcher's assertion at Nassau that Britain operates effective military sanctions against South Africa conceals a multitude of flaws that has left the British arms embargo open to continuous and widescale abuse.
British Buccaneers and the Rolls-Royce powered Impala fighters of the South African air force fly with ground guidance from British radar systems in support of forces which use British Land Rovers, British ICL police computers and small arms, and artillery supplied through British firms. Some of this is legal trade, the rest is smuggled, but the sum total means that the British sanction is weakly-drawn, riddled with loopholes, and unenthusiastically enforced."
If only half of that is true it is an outrage, and the Foreign Secretary and the Government should be doing something about it.

Even with sanctions, which I fully support, we cannot deal with the problem in South Africa. Despite what some Conservative Members have said today, a revolution is already on its way. They may not know it, but we are seeing it on television every night. The choice is between sanctions and revolution. The British people do not like the South African system, and every Commonwealth country despises it. Therefore, is it not appalling that this Parliament, because of some Conservative Members, is seen as apologist for such a system?

South Africa's record, extending to its attitude on Namibia and Angola, leaves a great many questions unanswered and invites a great deal of pressure. The tragedy is that we cannot deal with many of these problems. The United Nations is seriously considering these patterns because of the human rights issue, which obviously has the greatest priority in that country and is therefore the outstanding issue in this debate.

Yesterday, as I understand it, in the precincts of the Palace of Westminster we had the biggest lobby ever. That lobby was on the subject of overseas aid and development. Splendid though that lobby was in its own right, many of my constituents told me that the tragedy of the Commonwealth conference was that the Heads of State did not have time to deal with those vital issues because of our own Prime Minister's intransigence and because the other Commonwealth leaders were so kind and so willing to find the kind of agreement that ought to have been available from the start of that conference.

I shall not give way as time is not on my side and the hon. Gentleman has already spoken.

It seems that those involved in the struggle in South Africa are fighting for freedom and are involved in actions which we might deplore but which in many ways are the only avenue open to them. We would welcome democracy if that would give the people the chance to express their views. The demands of Nelson Mandela are very simple and were clearly stated in a brilliant interview in The Times of 24 July 1985. He demanded three conditions which I think are eminently reasonable: a unified South Africa with no artificial homelands, black representation in the central Parliament and, finally, one man, one vote.

At the Commonwealth conference a commission was set up to seek change. Notwithstanding the views expressed today about the ANC, terrorists and the rest, that commission includes distinguished statesmen. It includes the Prime Minister of India, whose grandfather served a prison term because he was fighting for independence and that was the only way to do it, and Mr. Mugabe, who has had a similar experience.

We have heard a great deal about history today. 'The lesson of history is that if we deny democratic expression, people will find other ways to pursue their views. Is there not a compelling obligation upon us, as the Mother of Parliaments and as a country which has such standing in the Commonwealth and the world, to show that we mean what we say when we talk about universal progress in democracy and of human rights?

It is a matter of great regret and concern that, in view of the problems which my right hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) mentioned — the debt crisis, recycling, world poverty and the rest—we are not able to make progress in trying to solve these outstanding issues. People make all kinds of excuses for the absence of human rights in South Africa. I believe that the world and certainly the front-line states are telling us that they have waited far too long to see freedom and liberty prevail. If the House has not heard that message tonight, it has not heard anything at all.

6.33 pm

When I was asked in South Africa what I thought about a reform programme for apartheid I said, "You cannot reform it, you cannot humanise it—all you can do is abolish it, and the sooner the better." However great one's intellectual conviction against the system, when one sees it on the ground and talks to those who suffer under it every day, when one sees the endless pin-pricking humiliations and the anger that anyone on the receiving end of it must feel, it is hard to imagine how people do not boil over.

There is then the problem of actually defining apartheid. People say that it should be abolished by dismantling everything back to 1948, but that still does not get to the heart of it. The Land Acts of 1936 and 1913 were produced out of a society and the underlying attitudes must be changed. That is one of the great difficulties faced by the South African Government. In rescinding certain measures recently, they have been doing the right thing in some areas but even when they are doing the right things there is the problem of the method by which those things are done. It is no longer a time when the white man, even when he is doing right, can graciously hand things down. The black man will no longer accept that attitude, and it must go.

Part of the problem for the South African Government is that they do not see any recognition from the outside world for what they have done to dismantle apartheid, because the outside world is unwilling to see merit in dismantling a structure that should never have been put in place. The question for us is how we can help South Africa and all her peoples. We certainly ought to do so, because many of the problems in South Africa were of our making. In saying that, I refer specifically to British Parliaments and British Governments. If Zululand had been made a separate Crown colony, it would now be an independent state along with Lesotho and Swaziland.

One does not have to scratch an Afrikaner very hard to be reminded of the British concentration camps and of the attempts to anglicise the Afrikaners and to destroy their culture and language. Then there was the division of the Tswana nation into two separate parts. One part was taken into British Bechuanaland while the other, by our decision, was taken into the Cape Colony. Now half the Tswana are in Botswana while the other half are in Bophuthatswana, which the rest of the world does not recognise because it is seen as a child of apartheid. But Chief Mangope and those who negotiated with Pretoria have succeeded in getting 1,500,000 of their people out from under the heel of apartheid and in their position I—and, I suspect, many other hon. Members—would have done exactly the same.

A little humility would not come amiss from all British politicians when discussing this problem. We do not have a lot to be proud of in our record in South Africa. We should consider carefully what has happened to the colonies that we ran until recently and to which we then gave independence and think carefully before we start prescribing what other people should do. The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) especially may take this amiss, but it is clear that all too often when Afrikaners are preached at by British politicians they hear not our present dulcet tones but the voices of Joe Chamberlain and Lord Cromer.

Yes, I am grateful to my hon. Friend. In addressing the problems all those factors must be borne in mind.

Having visited South Africa, I am convinced that sanctions are entirely the wrong road. Apartheid has been undermined by a growing economy necessitating blacks taking an increasing number of managerial jobs. Therefore, one wants the economy to grow, not to be bankrupted. Many people have spoken of the disbenefits of sanctions. Another would be that business would become more independent on Government intervention and therefore less able to bring pressure to bear on the South African Government for reform.

We spoke to various people in South Africa about the situation in the townships and about all the talk of revolution. Having visited the townships, what remains in my memory is the statement of one black leader that all that talk was nonsense, that, horrendous though it might seem, the security forces had not even shown their teeth and that if such a situation arose there would be massacre and bloodshed on an unimaginable scale. So anyone who talks in those terms or in any way encourages such a situation bears a very heavy burden indeed. There is a suspicion among many whites in South Africa that some police officers use inordinate force because they disagree with the South African Government's policy of reform. There is suspicion that they are deliberately trying to wreck the steps that have been taken already.

How can we help? The Americans have recently set up education scholarships for the educating of South African blacks in the United States, which is an example worth emulating. Let us by aid change the education system in South Africa. Let us by aid build the economy of South Africa and the whole of southern Africa. That building might have to be on a vast scale. It is important that more parliamentarians and politicians from Britain visit South Africa to talk to all South Africans. We must try to understand the many complexities. The problems of the peoples of the First and Third worlds living cheek by jowl pose enormous strains on any society. We must try to help in the evolution of a South African settlement that is acceptable to all their peoples instead of prescribing a British or European solution. That is not a dramatic or revolutionary approach.

What is the alternative? Are we to encourage black and white to embark on a fratricidal war, with the survivors living in a semi-desert? That is not a solution with which I wish to be associated. It is a cruel jest of history that the Afrikaners are now seen as the last white oppressors in Africa when they, as the only white Africans, are better qualified and better placed than anyone else to help the black Africans move into the modern world.

6.42 pm

The hon. Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Knowles), in a thoughtful speech, made a cogent point about training. The lack of training for the blacks is one of the tragedies of South Africa. If, after Sharpeville in 1960 and Soweto in 1970, the South African Government, in co-operation with the world community, had set about training their black majority, and had they been willing in 1960 to embark on a process of negotiation with the black majority, how different the position would now be in South Africa, and how much more real would be the prospect of ordered change, rather than that of revolutionary change, which, sadly, for both blacks and whites in South Africa, is now yawning.

No one is interested in the destruction of South Africa's infrastructure. Everyone, both black and white, in the tragically confused country of South Africa has an interest in orderly transition, but change and fundamental change will come, and the real question is whether the whites will have the capacity to move with the times, or whether they will have that power snatched from them.

We are speaking against a background of escalating violence in South Africa. We learn daily of detentions, repression and deaths as we watch our television screens. We are speaking against a background, sadly, of increasing polarisation between black and white in that country.

When the State President talks about adding blacks to his advisory council, what blacks who have any sort of credibility would dare now to enter into a dialogue with him? We are speaking, too, against a background of escalating sanctions both by international Governments and by the international finance and business community. Both sectors inter-react in that respect and with the mounting violence within the townships. In the knowledge that the real battle is being fought in South Africa itself, surely both business and governmental sanctions can only push along the process that we are witnessing. That must be the effect of the small changes which have latterly been taking place within South Africa.

We fear that the laid-back speech of the Foreign Secretary does not rise to the measure of the violence in South Africa and the rapidly changing situation in southern Africa, but it is at least consistent with the Government's craven attitude to South Africa over the past year and more. It was on 2 June 1984 that the Prime Minister welcomed President Botha to Chequers. We then had the Government accept with hardly a protest the ratting by the South African Government on their solemn pledge to the British courts on the bail conditions of the Coventry Four. Latterly, we have had the EC and the Commonwealth meetings. There have been the developments in Namibia, and surely even the Foreign Secretary, fine advocate as he is, cannot claim that a constructive engagement in respect of Namibia has in any way delivered the goods.

On 17 June there was inaugurated the puppet Government at Windhoek. Apparently that puppet Government are seeking to establish quasi-diplomatic missions in the West, including London. I hope that we shall have an undertaking from the Minister of State that the Government will do nothing by means of contacts or otherwise to give any form of legitimacy or credibility to the diplomatic mission that will be established in London.

The motion refers to the isolation of Her Majesty's Government. Bearing in mind what took place on 9 September at Luxembourg, and that which took place at Nassau, who can seriously argue that the Government are not isolated over South Africa? At the time of the EEC meeting at Luxembourg, nine of the 10 existing members and the two Iberian countries were aligned on one side and the Minister of State, with what he now describes as his reservation, was on the other. What other definition but isolation can there be of the Government's lonely position at Luxembourg?

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) talked about the South African Government's military attaches, which we still have in London. As we cannot export arms to South Africa or import arms from that country, and as, so far as I am aware, we have no wish to invade neighbouring countries, perhaps the Minister of State will indicate the role of the South African military attaches in Britain. What possible reason can there still be, consistent with the agreement reached at Luxembourg, for still allowing the South African Government to have military attachés in this country?

It seems that on any basis the Prime Minister was the only person who was not in step at Nassau. I have a certain sympathy with the hapless Foreign Secretary, whose task it is to follow the Prime Minister around the world endeavouring to pick up the pieces in this area of policy as in others. The heavy Foreign Office briefing that continued to the 11th hour at Nassau was to the effect that the Prime Minister was not for turning and that there would be no economic sanctions. Be they called sanctions, measures or signals, something of significance was yielded by the Prime Minister at Nassau.

On any definition of "economic", can anyone argue seriously that the ban on the sale of krugerrands and the ban on Government loans do not amount to economic sanctions? It is surely an example of No. 10-speak to claim that these measures are not economic sanctions. It is significant that the Prime Minister has ceded her objection in principle to economic sanctions. She has started along that road and she can no longer claim that she is against economic sanctions in principle. Hence the new Foreign Office line is that we are against major economic sanctions but not economic sanctions, again as defined by the Foreign Office.

The Nassau communiqué calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Nelson Mandela. Can the Minister of State seriously argue, in the spirit of that agreement, that we are calling on the South African Government immediately, unconditionally, with no question of violence, to release Nelson Mandela? How can we claim that and yet still refuse point blank at either ministerial or official level to meet representatives of the ANC? How consistent is that stand of the Government's with the well-known position that the Government are prepared to meet representatives of the other liberation movement, SWAPO, in Namibia?

In an interview with the New York Times some two weeks ago the Secretary of State, Mr. Shultz said of apartheid that it was "finished", "over" — a very different tune from that which he was playing but six months ago. He went on to say, however, that unless the South African authorities were prepared to come to terms with their majority, to accommodate themselves to the black majority, there would be revolution, and that time was not on their side.

The Nassau agreement has called for fundamental change. Does the Minister seriously believe that the current pace, the current response of President Botha in his speeches to his own party conference, give any confidence at all that there is that recognition of the need for fundamental change within the republic?

No one has an interest in violent change. We on the Opposition Benches believe that there must be a range of pressures on South Africa, allied with those who are fighting the fight internally, in townships, in the trade unions, politically and so on. But it is only by the intensification of sanctions that positive change can come. In all the relevant world forums, in the EEC, in the Commonwealth and in the United Nations, Britain has become increasingly isolated. To our shame we are now perceived by the world as the best friend of South African apartheid.

6.51 pm

During this short debate, powerful and eloquent speeches on both sides have demonstrated the deep division in the House on the best way of combating the evil of apartheid. The speeches have also demonstrated the unanimity with which the House speaks to the Government and people of South Africa with regard to the system of apartheid and the urgent need for it to be dismantled.

It may disappoint the hon. Member, but it is the case.

I pay tribute to the moving speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) to the very powerful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) and to others of my hon. Friends who have made it abundantly clear that apartheid is a system which is repugnant and abhorrent. Not one hon. Member on either side of the House has given any support whatsoever in this debate to either the principle or the practice of apartheid. That is of great importance. The House unanimously believes apartheid to be repugnant to modern civilisation and wishes to see it disappear.

But there is a unanimity of view between Government and Opposition that, in addition to diplomatic pressure and diplomatic representations, it has been accepted for several years that there is a case to be made for additional measures; we have supported the arms embargo against South Africa, we have refused nuclear collaboration with South Africa and a number of other measures of that kind have been imposed by successive Governments over a period. This is because we have drawn in the past and draw at present a clear distinction between those pressures, sanctions, measures—call them what one will—which will damage apartheid and bring pressure on the South African Government, on the one hand, and that which we are not prepared to support—measures designed to do the maximum damage to the South African economy without regard to the consequences for the people of South Africa and for that country's future economy.

This is a vital distinction because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Knowles) rightly pointed out, one of the clear indications of recent years is how the very development and industrialisation of South Africa has been one of the prime causes for the growing realisation among the white people of that country that apartheid is a system without a future. We know perfectly well that in a primitive, rurally based economy it is at least physically possible to divide the races on the grounds of their colour, but that, once we have a modern industrialised system, then, quite apart from the moral considerations, it is impossible to contemplate a society that does not take account of the need to integrate all the economic benefits which that modern society can provide. That is the overwhelming reason why it is indeed the business community of South Africa that has been in the forefront of this process of reform, and why one can say with absolute conviction that capitalism and apartheid are mutually incompatible, for reasons which the business community in South Africa has clearly demonstrated.

When we say that we are against economic sanctions that are designed to destroy the South African economy, we say so for various reasons, all of which are powerful and convincing. We must learn from the lessons of history. We know perfectly well that economic sanctions, including comprehensive mandatory sanctions, have never had the effect desired.

The right hon. Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) pointed to the example of Rhodesia. I lived there for two years. I worked at the university of Rhodesia in Salisbury when comprehensive and mandatory economic sanctions were being applied in theory by the whole world. She pointed to the evasion of the sanctions by South Africa and by Portugal. Of course, she was right. What she did not point out but what I can tell her, as can many others, is that during that very period, if one lived in Salisbury, one could buy any car one wanted from a number of countries which I shall not mention, any consumer item imported from various parts of the world——

The right hon. Lady says that that was happening because they were coming through South Africa. Let us assume that the world imposed comprehensive sanctions against South Africa. a country that is not a small, landlocked territory but has a vast coastline, a powerful navy and the money to pay for what it needs. Is it seriously suggested that the United Nations, the Commonwealth or anyone else could impose an embargo on South Africa to prevent access to those goods? If that is not the case, it demonstrates the absurdity of the argument.

The Minister clearly fails to appreciate that, since goods could not go into South Africa by land routes no company supplying such goods would be likely to risk sanctions-breaking by trying to mount a pirate operation.

The right hon. Lady should not let herself in for that sort of statement. She will be the first to admit that people will try to get goods to South Africa if the price to be paid is worth their while; and if the South African Government are determined to bust sanctions then, with their long coastline and powerful navy, they will be perfectly able to do so.

There is an additional reason. As was eloquently demonstrated by a number of my hon. Friends, insofar as sanctions did damage or destroy the South African economy, the people who would suffer most would not be the wealthiest or the strongest but the weakest members of the community. It is true that many black South Africans have said that they are prepared to see sanctions if that will lead to the demolition of apartheid—and, of course, if it could be shown that sanctions would lead to the disappearance of apartheid in the next six, 12 or 18 months, many would be prepared to make that sacrifice. But the history of the world shows that that is not what would happen and that the effect would be the opposite if comprehensive and mandatory economic sanctions were applied.

I heard last night that the right hon. Leader of the Opposition had said—I believe that he was quoted on television — that right across the whole spectrum in South Africa and in the front line states there had been a persistent demand for the past 25 years for tight, effective sanctions to promote the prospects of peaceful change. It so happens that over those 25 years many people have quite sincerely called for mandatory economic sanctions. In that period, there were at least 11 years of Labour Government. During that period when, according to the Leader of the Opposition, the world as a whole was calling for mandatory economic sanctions, the Labour Government did not believe in them, implement them or even advocate them.

If that point is disputed by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who was a very senior member of those Labour Governments, I will happily give way to him if he wishes. The right hon. Gentleman is unusually shy at the moment. Perhaps I can help to refresh his memory. I cannot quote what he said, because he was careful not to be in a position in the Government that would have exposed him, but the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands), who was Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, said:
"Economic sanctions would have grave consequences for ordinary people here and throughout South Africa. We want to use our links with the Republic to promote peaceful change while there is still time."—[Official Report, 7 December 1977; Vol. 940, c. 770.]

After the long experience that we have had of trying to make changes, it is clear that that sort of pressure does not work. In Namibia we repeatedly thought that it might achieve some success, but we did not succeed. I now no longer believe that we can succeed unless we apply additional pressures and cross the barrier of effective sanctions. That is a perfectly reasonable case.

That was a valiant attempt by the hon. Gentleman, but so far I have quoted only one of the things that he said. He was courageous enough to speak again on the issue in 1978, when he said of comprehensive mandatory sanctions:

"We have voted against, together with France, West Germany, the USA and some other Western countries, because we do not agree that the far-reaching economic measures which the resolution calls for would produce the changes in South Africa which we all wish to see." — [Official Report, 16 January 1978; Vol. 942, c. 9.]
The Opposition ask us to vote for a motion which regrets the isolation of the United Kingdom in the Commonwealth, the EEC and the United Nations. However, far from being isolated in the United Nations in opposing mandatory economic sanctions—the sanctions for which the Leader of the Opposition has called—we are in the company of the whole of western Europe, the United States and the rest of the western industrialised world. Far from being isolated in the Commonwealth—the motion must have been written before the conclusion of the Commonwealth conference — we have agreed a communiqué which was unanimously endorsed by all the Commonwealth Heads of Government. Finally, saying that we are isolated in the EEC overlooks the fact that mandatory sanctions are opposed by all member states of the European Community, including those with Socialist Governments.

It is not the Government who are isolated in the western world but the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition is the only senior political leader in western Europe—the only major Government or Opposition figure—to call for comprehensive, mandatory economic sanctions against South Africa. On that basis, I invite the House to reject his motion.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 194, Noes 302.

Division No. 297]

[7.03 pm


Abse, LeoBarnett, Guy
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Beckett, Mrs Margaret
Alton, DavidBeith, A. J.
Anderson, DonaldBell, Stuart
Archer, Rt Hon PeterBenn, Tony
Ashdown, PaddyBermingham, Gerald
Ashley, Rt Hon JackBidwell, Sydney
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)Boothroyd, Miss Betty
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Boyes, Roland
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Bray, Dr Jeremy

Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)Janner, Hon Greville
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)John, Brynmor
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)Johnston, Sir Russell
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Bruce. MalcolmKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Buchan, NormanKennedy, Charles
Caborn, RichardKilroy-Silk, Robert
Callaghan, Rt Hon J.Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)Kirkwood, Archy
Campbell, IanLambie, David
Campbell-Savours, DaleLamond, James
Canavan, DennisLeadbitter, Ted
Cartwright, JohnLeighton, Ronald
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Clarke, ThomasLivsey, Richard
Clay, RobertLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnLofthouse, Geoffrey
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)Loyden, Edward
Cohen, HarryMcDonald, Dr Oonagh
Coleman, DonaldMcKay, Allen (Penistone)
Conlan, BernardMcKelvey, William
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Corbett, RobinMaclennan, Robert
Corbyn, JeremyMcNamara, Kevin
Cox, Thomas (Tooting)McTaggart, Robert
Craigen, J. M.McWilliam, John
Crowther, StanMadden, Max
Cunliffe, LawrenceMarek, Dr John
Cunningham, Dr JohnMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Dalyell, TamMartin, Michael
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)Maynard, Miss Joan
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)Meacher, Michael
Deakins, EricMeadowcroft, Michael
Dobson, FrankMichie, William
Dormand, JackMillan, Rt Hon Bruce
Dubs, AlfredMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Eadie, AlexMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Eastham, KenMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)Nellist, David
Ellis, RaymondOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Evans, John (St. Helens N)O'Brien, William
Ewing, HarryPark, George
Fatchett, DerekPavitt, Laurie
Faulds, AndrewPendry, Tom
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)Penhaligon, David
Fisher, MarkPike, Peter
Flannery, MartinPowell, Raymond (Ognore)
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelPrescott, John
Foster, DerekRedmond, M.
Foulkes, GeorgeRichardson, Ms Jo
Fraser, J. (Norwood)Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldRobertson, George
Freud, ClementRobinson, G. (Coventry NW)
George, BruceRogers, Allan
Godman, Dr NormanRooker, J. W.
Golding, JohnRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Gould, BryanRowlands, Ted
Gourlay, HarrySedgemore, Brian
Hamilton, James (M'well N)Sheerman, Barry
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Hancock, Mr. MichaelShore, Rt Hon Peter
Hardy, PeterShort, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Harman, Ms HarrietSilkin, Rt Hon J.
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterSkinner, Dennis
Hart, Rt Hon Dame JudithSmith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoySnape, Peter
Haynes, FrankSoley, Clive
Healey, Rt Hon DenisSpearing, Nigel
Heffer, Eric S.Steel, Rt Hon David
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)Stott, Roger
Home Robertson, JohnStrang, Gavin
Howells, GeraintStraw, Jack
Hoyle, DouglasThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Thomas, Dr R, (Carmarthen)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East)Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Thorne, Stan (Preston)

Tinn, JamesWilliams, Rt Hon A.
Torney, TomWilson, Gordon
Wallace, JamesWinnick, David
Wardell, Gareth (Gower)Woodall, Alec
Wareing, RobertYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Weetch, Ken
Welsh, MichaelTellers for the Ayes:
White, JamesMr. Sean Hughes and Mr. Don Dixon.
Wigley, Dafydd


Aitken, JonathanDunn, Robert
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelDykes, Hugh
Amess, DavidEdwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Ancram, MichaelEggar, Tim
Aspinwall, JackEmery, Sir Peter
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)Evennett, David
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Eyre, Sir Reginald
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)Fallon, Michael
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Farr, Sir John
Baldry, TonyFavell, Anthony
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Batiste, SpencerFinsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyFletcher, Alexander
Beggs, RoyFookes, Miss Janet
Bellingham, HenryForman, Nigel
Bendall, VivianForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bennett, Rt Hon Sir FredericForth, Eric
Best, KeithFowler, Rt Hon Norman
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnFox, Marcus
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnFraser, Peter (Angus East)
Blackburn, JohnFreeman, Roger
Bonsor, Sir NicholasFry, Peter
Boscawen, Hon RobertGale, Roger
Bottomley, PeterGarel-Jones, Tristan
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Gower, Sir Raymond
Boyson, Dr RhodesGreenway, Harry
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardGriffiths, Sir Eldon
Brandon-Bravo, MartinGrist, Ian
Brinton, TimGround, Patrick
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonGrylls, Michael
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Gummer, Rt Hon John S
Bruinvels, PeterHamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Buck, Sir AntonyHampson, Dr Keith
Budgen, NickHanley, Jeremy
Bulmer, EsmondHannam, John
Burt, AlistairHaselhurst, Alan
Butcher, JohnHawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Butler, Hon AdamHayhoe, Rt Hon Barney
Butterfill, JohnHenderson, Barry
Carlisle, John (N Luton)Hickmet, Richard
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hicks, Robert
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Carttiss, MichaelHirst, Michael
Cash, WilliamHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHolland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Channon, Rt Hon PaulHolt, Richard
Chapman, SydneyHordern, Sir Peter
Chope, ChristopherHowarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Cockeram, EricHowell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Colvin, MichaelHunt, David (Wirral)
Conway, DerekHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Coombs, SimonHunter, Andrew
Cope, JohnHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Cormack, PatrickIrving, Charles
Corrie, JohnJackson, Robert
Couchman, JamesJenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Critchley, JulianJessel, Toby
Crouch, DavidJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Currie, Mrs EdwinaJones, Robert (W Herts)
Dickens, GeoffreyJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dicks, TerryKey, Robert
Dorrell, StephenKing, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Dover, DenKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
du Cann, Rt Hon Sir EdwardKnowles, Michael

Knox, DavidRenton, Tim
Lamont, NormanRhodes James, Robert
Lang, IanRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Latham, MichaelRidley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lawrence, IvanRifkind, Malcolm
Lawson, Rt Hon NigelRippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Lester, JimRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)Roe, Mrs Marion
Lightbown, DavidRossi, Sir Hugh
Lilley, PeterRost, Peter
Lloyd, Ian (Havant)Rowe, Andrew
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Lord, MichaelRyder, Richard
Lyell, NicholasSackville, Hon Thomas
McCrindle, RobertSainsbury, Hon Timothy
McCurley, Mrs AnnaSt. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnSayeed, Jonathan
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Maclean, David JohnShelton, William (Streatham)
McQuarrie, AlbertShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Major, JohnShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Malins, HumfreyShersby, Michael
Malone, GeraldSilvester, Fred
Maples, JohnSims, Roger
Marland, PaulSkeet, T. H. H.
Marlow, AntonySmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mather, CarolSmyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)
Maude, Hon FrancisSoames, Hon Nicholas
Mawhinney, Dr BrianSpeller, Tony
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinSpence, John
Mayhew, Sir PatrickSpencer, Derek
Mellor, DavidSpicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Merchant, PiersSquire, Robin
Meyer, Sir AnthonyStanbrook, Ivor
Miller, Hal (B'grove)Stanley, John
Mills, Iain (Meriden)Steen, Anthony
Miscampbell, NormanStern, Michael
Mitchell, David (NW Hants)Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Moate, RogerStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon JamesStewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Monro, Sir HectorStewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Montgomery, Sir FergusStradling Thomas, Sir John
Moore, JohnSumberg, David
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)Tapsell, Sir Peter
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)Taylor, John (Solihull)
Moynihan, Hon C.Temple-Morris, Peter
Mudd, DavidThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Murphy, ChristopherThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Neale, GerrardThompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Needham, RichardThorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Nelson, AnthonyThornton, Malcolm
Neubert, MichaelThurnham, Peter
Newton, TonyTownend, John (Bridlington)
Nicholls, PatrickTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Norris, StevenTrippier, David
Onslow, CranleyTrotter, Neville
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Ottaway, RichardVaughan, Sir Gerard
Page, Sir John (Harrow W)Viggers, Peter
Page, Richard (Herts SW)Waddington, David
Parris, MatthewWakeham, Rt Hon John
Patten, Christopher (Bath)Waldegrave, Hon William
Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn)Walden, George
Pattie, GeoffreyWalker, Bill (T'side N)
Pawsey, JamesWalker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Percival, Rt Hon Sir IanWalters, Dennis
Pollock, AlexanderWard, John
Porter, BarryWardle, C. (Bexhill)
Portillo, MichaelWarren, Kenneth
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)Watson, John
Powell, William (Corby)Watts, John
Powley, JohnWells, Bowen (Hertford)
Price, Sir DavidWells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Proctor, K. HarveyWheeler, John
Pym, Rt Hon FrancisWhitfield, John
Raffan, KeithWhitney, Raymond
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyWinterton, Mrs Ann
Rathbone, TimWolfson, Mark
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)Wood, Timothy

Woodcock, Michael
Yeo, TimTellers for the Noes:
Young, Sir George(Acton)Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd and Mr. Tony Durant
Younger, Rt Hon George

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Questions on amendments) agreed to.


That this House welcomes the Commonwealth accord on South Africa and especially the call to initiate, in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides, a process of dialogue across lines of colour, politics and religion, with a view to establishing a non-racial and representative government.