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Sharpeville Six

Volume 130: debated on Wednesday 30 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of South Africa concerning the case of the Sharpeville Six.

Along with many other Western Governments, we have repeatedly urged the South African Government to exercise clemency in the case of the Sharpeville Six.

The Minister's answer does not completely clarify matters. What representations have been made since the postponement of sentence on the Sharpeville Six? Will she confirm that there has been no change in the South African Government's murderous intention towards them and that this Government will seek, through every avenue available in the remaining time, to ensure that they are saved from the South African Government's rope?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have made our position absolutely clear. We and other Western Governments have repeatedly urged the South African Government to exercise clemency. Those appeals for clemency remain. On both 16 and 17 March, when I answered private notice questions from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), I made it absolutely clear that as the Pretoria Supreme Court had agreed a stay of execution, we would not only continue to follow proceedings closely and with concern, but would do whatever must be done when news is received. No further news has been received at this point.

Has my hon. Friend made a list of all the judicial systems throughout the world of which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office approves or disapproves? Does she monitor the extent to which different countries adhere to their judicial processes? Does she agree that the South Africans have adhered strictly to their judicial processes in the trial of the Sharpeville Six? Why, therefore, is it any of our business?

In no way is it a responsibility of the Government to monitor all the judicial systems of the world. However, when human rights issues come to the fore, such as with the Sharpeville Six — and as I clearly explained on 16 and 17 March — I believe that the Government's stance on appealing for clemency is fully justified, and we shall maintain that.

The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) asked, in effect, "Why pick on South Africa?" Is not the answer that the British Government should exercise their influence in South Africa because the British actually underpin the South African economy? When will the Government stop being miserable apologists for apartheid South Africa and start doing something? If the Sharpville Six are judicially murdered there will be no reason to prevent the Government from imposing full sanctions against South Africa. The only thing that that country understands is force. The Government have not delivered the goods on ending apartheid, and it is about time that they stopped being apologists and took effective sanctions against South Africa.

Not for the first time, and no doubt not for the last, the hon. Gentleman has misrepresented the Government's stance. The Government are wholly and totally opposed to apartheid. We find it repugnant and we want it ended as soon as possible. However, we shall not achieve that by measures that can only make worse an already disastrous state for many black people in South Africa. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, there is no way that we can speed the end of apartheid by repressive economic measures.