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Opposition Day

Volume 167: debated on Wednesday 14 February 1990

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[7TH ALLOTTED DAY]

South Africa

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. I repeat what I said in reply to the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Mr. Thompson): a voluntary restraint of 10 minutes or even less would he extremely helpful this afternoon.

3.51 pm

I beg to move,

That this House salutes Nelson Mandela on his release after more than twenty-seven years of wrongful imprisonment; welcomes the constructive actions taken by President de Klerk to create an atmosphere conducive to negotiations with the African National Congress on the future of South Africa; notes that the basic structure of apartheid remains intact and that the world community, including the European Community, has imposed sanctions in order to secure the dismantling of apartheid; and calls upon the European Community at its Ministerial meeting next Tuesday to reject the untimely call of the United Kingdom Government for the abandonment of key sanctions.
During the past two weeks, the world has witnessed historic events in South Africa. First, there was the dramatic speech by President de Klerk announcing the unbanning of the African National Congress and other organisations; the suspension of capital sentences; the freeing of certain political prisoners, and the decision to release Nelson Mandela. That was a courageous speech, on which we congratulate President de Klerk.

Then, last Sunday, came the release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years in prison, a sentence mostly served in brutal conditions, and a sentence which he should never have served. I note that, although the Government amendment to our motion
"salutes Nelson Mandela on his release",
it does not include our phraseology that Mr. Mandela was wrongfully imprisoned. Opposition members salute this great man on his regaining the freedom which he should never have lost.

Let us be clear that, although the measures taken by Mr. de Klerk are welcome, they do not affect apartheid's basic structure. The Group Areas Act continues, the Land Act continues, detention without trial continues, the state of emergency continues, censorship of the media continues and the police state continues.

Nelson Mandela is free within South Africa, but South Africa is not free. Nelson Mandela is out of prison, but South Africa continues to be a prison, stunting the lives of all in it who, under its racialist laws, are not classified as white. Mandela and his fellow black Africans do not have a vote. They live in poor housing in racially segregated townships. Nelson Mandela, on returning home, returned to a dwelling in one of those townships.

How is South Africa to become free? We are told that negotiations are to begin—negotiations which we in the Labour party believe can end acceptably only with a South African democracy that gives the vote to every man and woman on a common role. What hon. Members from both sides of the House demand for the countries of eastern Europe, we must also demand for the people of South Africa.

What is the balance of power in the negotiations that we hope will soon begin between the African National Congress and the South African Government? On the one hand there is the South African Government, buttressed by the laws made by their stooge Parliament, the army, the police, the prison, and the gallows, which still remain. On the other hand, there is the non-white majority with nothing but its courage, its readiness to suffer and endure, and whatever pressure the international community can exert through sanctions.

Nelson Mandela asks for sanctions to continue. He said that clearly on his release from prison on Sunday, in the historic speech that he made from the balcony in Cape Town. He said:
"To lift sanctions now would be to run the risk of aborting the process towards the complete eradication of apartheid."

I shall certainly give way to any hon. Member who calls me his right hon. Friend.

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. As the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested that it would be a useful gesture to relax sanctions, and President Kaunda has called on the African National Congress to give up the armed struggle, would not the Labour party find itself in good company if it made a gesture of that nature to celebrate the feeedom of Nelson Mandela?

The hon. Gentleman has ingeniously managed to combine Nos. 3 and 11 of the interventions that the Foreign Office suggested, in a circular, should be made in my speech.[Laughter.]

It cannot be a point of order. I think that the hon. Gentleman did not like the answer.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have not had an answer, and I combined nothing. This House would do itself a great service in South Africa if it tore up the Gleneagles agreement and allowed sportsmen—

Order. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to outline that matter later on.

Order. Many hon. Members have a great interest in the debate, and interventions take up time.

I am selective about my friends, Mr. Speaker. But if the hon. Gentleman would, from a sedentary position, care to call out the number of his intervention, I shall do my best to deal with it as I proceed.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman has twice referred to a list produced by I know not whom. Am I to understand that, if any Conservative Member wishes to raise a matter that he genuinely feels to be important, it can be dismissed just because it happens to be on somebody else's list as well?

I have no knowledge of any list. If anyone has one, perhaps I could have a look at it.

I quoted Mr. Mandela, and most of the international community agrees with him—the United States, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the European Community. Mr. Manuel Marin, the European Commissioner for developing countries, said on Monday that sanctions should continue until the situation is sufficiently clear to accept that the end of apartheid is a reality. Against that near-unanimity in the international community that sanctions against South Africa are essential, only one significant country stands out—the United Kingdom, and especially the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is not only completely isolated on this issue: she glories in her isolation. She has turned being alone into a political way of life—in NATO, in the European Community and, above all, on this issue of sanctions. Her retort to the rest of the international community is, "Don't try to confuse me with the facts of apartheid."

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, because his question will have been supplied not by the Foreign Office but by the South African embassy.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who, as usual, is giving misinformation to the House. The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that Mr. Mandela has called for sanctions to be continued, but will he give an assessment of other voices within South Africa, which represent far more people? Mr. Mandela represents the Xhosa tribe, with 3 million members, but Chief Buthelezi, who represents 7 million people, is against sanctions, at least 2 million coloureds are against sanctions, 1 million Indians are against sanctions and 4·5 million whites are against sanctions. The right hon. Gentleman is fond of quoting numbers from Britain and the rest of Europe, but will he consider the matter from a South African perspective rather than choosing Mr. Mandela as a reason for continuing sanctions?

To take one of the hon. Gentleman's examples, Chief Buthelezi has already announced that he would like to enter into association with the ANC in the negotiations to take place with the South African Government. The South African Government have released Mr. Mandela and unbanned the ANC because they are the people with whom the South Africans wish to negotiate. Therefore, it is especially appropriate to pay heed to what they say.

No, not at this stage.

The Prime Minister is alone in the international community among leaders of significant countries in opposing sanctions. This weekend her press secretary, Mr. Bernard Ingham, talking about the Prime Minister's isolation, said:
"The truth is the Prime Minister is in command in this situation. She is leading the world."
Leading the world sounds all very grand, but what was ever achieved by a procession of one? To be alone in the world and right is to be heroic, but to be alone in the world and wrong is futile and destructive. That is the position in which the Prime Minister has placed herself and this country.

For years, at every conceivable international meeting, the Prime Minister and her Government have striven to block sanctions. The episodes stand out: at Nassau in 1985, making a space of half an inch with her fingers, and boasting that she had moved just "a tiny little bit"; at Vancouver in 1987, ordering her press secretary deliberately to distort the Canadian record on sanctions; at Brussels in 1988, ordering her then Foreign Secretary to block a joint declaration by the European Community warning of punitive action if the Sharpeville Six were executed; at Kuala Lumpur in 1989, allowing her then poor novice Foreign Secretary to sign a declaration in good faith, and within an hour betraying him and the Commonwealth by issuing a separate declaration—and now, rushing headlong into taking unilateral action in consequence of the recent developments in South Africa.

The Prime Minister's actions have been surrounded by great confusion. There was the episode of the rebel cricket tour of South Africa—now sensibly called off, as we sensibly demanded. Mr. Gatting seems to have learnt more about the facts of South Africa in three weeks than the Prime Minister has learnt in 11 years in Downing street. But then, Mr. Gatting has a clear advantage over the Prime Minister. He admits that he knows nothing about the realities of South African politics. Questioned in the House, the Prime Minister said that the Gatting tour was
"not contrary to the Gleneagles agreement".—[Official Report, 23 January 1990; Vol. 165, c. 735.]
But the Gleneagles agreement—to which the Prime Minister is, in her words, "signed up"—calls on participating Governments to take every practical step to discourage contacts or competition by their nations with sporting organisations, teams or sportsmen from South Africa. The Gatting tour, contrary to the Prime Minister's statement, is a clear breach of the Gleneagles agreement.

At the time of the Moscow Olympic games, the Prime Minister personally wrote to the chairman of the British Olympic Association urging the British Olympic team not to go to Moscow. Why did she not write to Gatting and Graveney in the same way? The answer is that she did not care whether or not that team went to South Africa.

Then there was the press conference that never was. Recently, the Prime Minister has taken to turning Downing street—fortress Downing street as it has become, since the barricades were erected to keep out the populace—into an equivalent of the White House lawns. On Sunday, journalists were kept waiting for one hour in the rain there before the ubiquitous Mr. Ingham came out to see them. Incidentally, I was touched to learn that Mr. Ingham was briefing the press against me last night. I am honoured to join the company of the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), the deputy Prime Minister, and a cast of thousands.

Mr. Ingham told the soaked journalists, "She is not coming down. She does not think she has anything further to say." The Prime Minister with nothing further to say? I bet that the Cabinet would not have minded being soaked to the skin in exchange for such an unprecedented bonus.

Confusion extends to the Prime Minister's view of the sanctions' legal status. She has scrapped one sanction already. On Sunday, she announced that she has lifted the ban on artistic and cultural contacts with South Africa. That is a harsh decision. Exposing innocent South Africans to the plays of Jeffrey Archer and to the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber is a form of punitive sanction in itself.

Then we come to the sanction on new investment, which the Prime Minister also said on Sunday she wanted to lift. Is this a voluntary sanction which we are free to lift, without the agreement of the European Community? Yesterday, I contacted the Foreign Secretary's office and asked for a definitive ruling. After some delay, the right hon. Gentleman's staff courteously telephoned my office with their reply. They offered no guidance other than to refer me to what the Prime Minister had said in the House at Question Time. It is no wonder that the Sunday Telegraph said last Sunday:
"The Prime Minister's good relations with her new Foreign Secretary have caused some surprise."—
said a Minister.
"He accepts rebukes and he isn't operating an independent Foreign Office policy."
In the House yesterday, the Prime Minister was unclear. She said that this sanction was voluntary, but she did not say whether it could be lifted unilaterally. My advice is that it cannot. The decision of the ministerial council of 27 October 1986 says:
"Member states shall take the necessary measures to ensure that new direct investments in the Republic of South Africa by natural or legal persons resident within the Community are suspended."
We
"shall take the necessary measures."
That seems pretty binding to me, and it is especially binding for the United Kingdom because of the circumstances in which the decision was made.

The document containing the decision on the ban on new investment in South Africa concludes:
"Done at Luxembourg, 27 October 1986."
It was signed "The President G. Howe".
The circumstances under which sanctions may be relaxed are strictly laid down in agreements to which the Government are a signatory party. The United Nations declaration of December 1989 demands the release of all political prisoners and detainees, removal of all troops from the townships, the end of the state of emergency and the repeal of the Internal Security Act. None of those conditions has been fulfilled. By seeking to drop sanctions now, the Prime Minister is seeking to breach a united declaration which she has signed.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that, underlying the points that he has correctly made about the isolation of the Prime Minister on the question of sanctions, is the fact that Britain is the largest single investor in South Africa, with £12,000 million-worth of investments? Consolidated Gold Fields has regularly made more than £100 million a year profit out of the blood and bones of black miners. That is why the Prime Minister is such a friend.

When I was in South Africa last July as a guest of the South African Council of Churches, I visited the people who had been sacked by the subsidiary of a British company—BTR Sarmcol. They were thrown out of work, on to the scrap heap, with no job, no wages and nothing to live on. That is the way in which British investors are taking advantage of conditions in South Africa.

The statement by the Commonwealth Heads of Government at Kuala Lumpur last October declares that the

"justification for sanctions against South Africa … was … to abolish apartheid by bringing Pretoria to the negotiating table and keeping it there until that change was irreversibly secured."
That change has not been irreversibly secured. By seeking to drop sanctions now, the Prime Minister is seeking to breach a Commonwealth statement which she signed. It was a part of the statement that she assented to, and did not disclaim. The statement of partial disclaimer, issued separately at Kuala Lumpur by the Prime Miniser and the Foreign Secretary, clearly states "the necessary steps" under which
"it would be right to lift some of the measures imposed by the international community."
Those steps—listed in a statement issued by the Prime Minister as her personal policy—include lifting the state of emergency. But the state of emergency has not been lifted. In seeking to drop sanctions now, the Prime Minister is trying to breach a personal statement that she herself drafted and signed. It is impossible to imagine anything more unprincipled.

The fact is that the Prime Minister has never wanted any sanctions to be imposed on South Africa at any time. She is now falling over herself at what she regards as a golden opportunity to get rid of them. She is trying desperately to wriggle out of commitments on sanctions that she made apparently in honour.

In the House yesterday the Prime Minister said, again creating confusion:
"The sanctions … are totally voluntary".
But there are several sanctions that, as the Foreign Secretary must know, are absolutely binding on us in international law. The Prime Minister is wrong about that. She also said in the House yesterday that the sanctions imposed by the United Kingdom were
"some very minor gesture sanctions".—[Official Report, 13 February 1990; Vol. 167, c. 136–38.]
At other times she has warned of the dire effect of sanctions and their capacity to cause economic damage to South Africa. Most notable, of course, is the ban on new investment presided over in Luxembourg by the deputy Prime Minister in 1986.

The Prime Minister is confused about every aspect of sanctions except one. The point that she is clear about is that she wants to lift them. Why? There is no doubt of the damaging affects of the ban on new investment: the Trust bank of South Africa calculates that the country has lost $14 billion in loans and direct investments over the past five years, and that 280 foreign companies have abandoned it since 1984.

A few months ago, the South African Finance Minister spoke of the "economic onslaught", the "beleaguered community", the
"need to break the isolation imposed on us … the elementary but remorseless truth … for both the economic and the political policymakers that no country can stand alone."
The South African Law and Order Minister has also admitted the effect of sanctions on his country:
"Our ability to make decisions is limited. If sanctions are introduced against us we can do nothing … We do not live alone in the world."
There is no doubt that sanctions have worked; there is no doubt that they are working. Nor is there any doubt that that is why the Prime Minister wants to get rid of them. She wants to rescue the very regime that sanctions are helping to bring down: she is the world's best friend of apartheid.

The most sickening aspect of the Prime Minister's opposition to effective sanctions is the argument against them that she has offered. She says that they would put hundreds of thousands of black South Africans out of work, and would cause deprivation and starvation. When did the Prime Minister ever care about unemployment? When did she ever care about poverty? It is true that South Africa contains unemployment and poverty on a horrendous scale, by any standards in the world; that unemployment and that poverty, however, are caused not by sanctions but by the system—the very system which the Prime Minister wants to prop up.

Let us be clear that apartheid is not racial oppression for its own sake; apartheid is racial oppression to make possible the use of the cheap slave labour of millions of blacks to provide a luxurious standard of living for the minority of whites.

I do not accuse the Prime Minister of condoning the racialism of apartheid, but I do say that, shorn of its racialism, the economic objective of the South African Government is Thatcherism in its ultimate form: the poor financing the high living standards of the rich. That is what exists in South Africa, and that is what the Prime Minister, given the chance, wants to bring about in this country too.

Speaking in Soweto yesterday, Mr. Nelson Mandela said:
"South Africa is a wealthy country. It is the labour of black workers which has built the roads and factories that we see … Our people need proper houses, not ghettos like Soweto."
Mr. Mandela said:
"They"—
the black people of South Africa—
"cannot be excluded from that wealth."
This great man, his mind crystal clear after 27 years of incarceration and suffering, states the position in its starkest terms. Mr. Mandela explains the situation and the product and the objective of apartheid in South Africa. He explains why the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is so wrong. He explains why sanctions must stay. He explains why this House should vote for this motion tonight.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During exchanges before this debate started, you said that you hoped that an apology might he given during the speech of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). No such apology has been given. Perhaps that was an oversight. Could you, Mr. Speaker, invite the right hon. Gentleman to give that apology?

4.22 pm

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

"salutes Nelson Mandela on his release and welcomes the constructive actions taken by President de Klerk to create an atmosphere conducive to negotiations with all parties in South Africa towards a non-racial constitution enjoying the support of a majority of South Africans; and believes these steps deserve a positive and practical response from the international community."
It is always difficult to know how to qualify a speech such as that which the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has just delivered. Fortuntely, he has come to my help on this occasion. In his book, "How to be a Minister" he gives this advice:
"Your final paragraph should be grandiloquent, even if almost meaningless."
The right hon. Gentleman is certainly consistent. Indeed, he has expanded on his own advice by covering in that way not only the final paragraph but the whole speech.

I am glad that the Opposition chose this matter for debate because it enables me to set out, in what I hope will be a coherent way, the approach and reasoning behind Her Majesty's Government's policy towards South Africa. I am glad to be able to do that as, up to now, I have not had the opportunity.

As the right hon. Gentleman said, the world had seen remarkable changes in recent months, but few have been more remarkable, or more welcome, than the transformation being wrought in South African politics—a transformation symbolised by the scenes that we saw last Sunday and thereafter. I congratulate Mr. Mandela on his release. Even those who, like myself, have been able to watch only snatches of the events that have followed the release must have been impressed by the overwhelming warmth of the welcome that Mr. Mandela has received and by the dignity with which he met it. It has been a formidable welcome—this is a serious point—bringing with it a formidable responsibility for one man to carry, and we wish him well as he begins to shoulder that responsibility.

Contrary to the thrust of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, the Government's policy towards South Africa has always been based on our rejection of apartheid. It is wrong; it does not work; the sooner it is ended the better. If the right hon. Gentleman had heard my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister speaking as forcefully in private as in public about apartheid, he simply would not have made the misleading and perverse remarks that he did about my right hon. Friend. What we have done in the past and what we are doing now is designed to speed up the end of apartheid.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be kind enough to inform the House whether, before the Prime Minister decided to abandon certain of these sanctions, she bothered to consult her Foreign Secretary or even that amiable dumb-bell, the deputy Prime Minister?

Order. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was here yesterday, but I do not think that remarks of that kind add any quality to our debates.

On reconsideration, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw that. I have considerable regard for the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I am only sorry for I he suffering that he has to put up with.

I do not wish to contradict you, Mr. Speaker, but I thought that the contribution from the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) was rather above the level that we have had so far from the Opposition. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is yes. What has been said and what is being done is part of a measured response, worked out well in advance, to the kind of actions that we hoped the President of South Africa would take and that he is now taking.

I should like my right hon. Friend to clarify one point. There are different ways of interpreting different events. I understand that the Government's interpretation of the situation is that it would help Mr. de Klerk if we began to lower the sanctions barriers. Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is also the opposite argument: that at the moment Mr. de Klerk's main problem is the white Fascists in South Africa, not the African National Congress? If sanctions are lowered, Mr. de Klerk faces the possibility of the white Fascists saying, "We are doing quite well out of what the Government have already done." Since Mr. Mandela's release, has Mr. de Klerk specifically asked the British Government to do anything about sanctions?

President de Klerk made it clear in our contacts with him throughout that he very much hoped that if he began to move down the path that we and others—but eminently we—have been urging, there would be some response. That seems to be an entirely reasonable point. It is highly desirable that he should have that response to be able to reply to his critics on the Right who are pressing him fairly hard and who have been pressing him even harder since he made his speech on 2 February. We want to help to bring about in South Africa the peaceful replacement of apartheid by a non-racial, representative system of government that is fair and acceptable to the people of South Africa as a whole.

No, I must get on with my speech.

To this end, the Government have maintained a consistent policy towards the South African Government of pressure and encouragement. We want to bring about an environment in which the negotiations that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned—on an end to apartheid—can take place. We believe that that requires encouragement.

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman a little later, if he persists, but I must make some progress with my speech because many hon. Members wish to speak.

We believe in encouragement when steps have been taken in the right direction and pressure when they have not—a combination of encouragement and pressure. That is why we supported the mission to South Africa in 1986 of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group. The group developed a negotiating concept. That, in our view, represented the most feasible basis on which to get the negotiations under way.

Order. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) is, I believe, one of those who wishes to participate in the debate. Perhaps he could leave his point until then.

The core of the EPG concept was one of matching and reciprocal commitments by both sides in South Africa. It is worth recalling what it asked them to do. The EPG called on the South African Government to unban the ANC and the Pan-Africanist Congress, to release Mr. Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners and detainees, to remove troops from the townships, to provide for freedom of assembly and discussion and to suspend detention without trial; in short, to normalise political activity in South Africa. It called on the ANC and others, for their part, to suspend violence and enter negotiations.

The negotiating concept of the Eminent Persons Group had wide international support. The whole House should be glad that President de Klerk has now gone so far towards meeting the EPG's conditions for dialogue. We urge the ANC and other opposition groups to make an equivalent response by suspending their campaign of violence.

Let me justify what I have just said. President de Klerk came to office on 21 September last year. In October he released from long years of imprisonment eight black leaders, including Walter Sisulu, the former general secretary of the African National Congress. In November he announced the dismantling of the national security management system. He began an investigation into serious allegations of covert activities by the South African security forces against anti-apartheid activists, an investigation which has since been raised to the level of a full judicial inquiry. In the same month he opened South Africa's remaining segregated beaches to all races and promised that the Separate Amenities Act, which permits segregation of other facilities, would be repealed.

Those in themselves were major steps, but they were overshadowed by the further steps announced in President de Klerk's speech on 2 February. Before he made his speech in Parliament on 2 February, we urged him to release Mr. Nelson Mandela unconditionally, to unban the ANC, the PAC and the South African Communist party, and to lift the state of emergency. We expressed the hope that the South African Government would look again at the law on capital punishment and think in terms of protection for minority rather than "group" rights. President de Klerk has taken many of the steps we urged on him and which the Prime Minister urged on him when she saw him in London last June. We have exerted our influence to the full in that direction in South Africa, and we have been able to do so more directly and more successfully than most other countries.

Every one of those steps is therefore something for which Britain has repeatedly called and pressed over the years. Now they have been taken, it is absurd to say—as the Opposition do in their motion—that we should behave as though nothing had happened. To propose, as the Opposition do, that sanctions should be maintained in all their forms merely reveals the irresponsibility of their policy. Talk of intensified, comprehensive sanctions, in which the Opposition still dabble from time to time, now clearly belongs to another world.

The Leader of the Opposition suggests that we should do as Mr. Mandela asks and maintain all sanctions. That is not our analysis. To do that would be to shirk our responsibility. The ANC is a key participant in negotiations about the future of South Africa but, as has already been pointed out, it is the only one. It is the job of a British Government not to favour one party or another, but to try to do what we can to contribute to a peaceful, democratic solution in South Africa.

It is precisely the point of a peaceful and democratic achievement that I want to raise with the Secretary of State. If sanctions are lifted, the tragic fact is that the only force for change remaining in South Africa will be mass action, with all the risks of tension and upheaval that come with it. In the knowledge that that is the case, and that if sanctions are lifted, the ANC and the other forces striving for the abolition of apartheid are left to their own internal devices, is he prepared to reconsider any of his current views on sanctions?

The right hon. Gentleman is making the same mistake as I think he made yesterday, although I was not in the House. He is assuming that we propose the abolition of all sanctions, but we are not doing that. We propose a step-by-step, measured response. The President of South Africa has taken a large number of the measures which we, with the support of the House, have urged upon him. That response, which is a courageous one on his part, requires a response from us if he is to be taken seriously. He has not gone the full way, and we are not proposing to go the full way. Surely the right hon. Gentleman realises that if someone has started a process that we have urged upon him, it is sensible that we should respond by some encouragement so that he can proceed. If we give him no encouragement and say that nothing that he has done is worthy or deserves any response or relaxation, we are throwing him away and discouraging him from taking any further action. If the right hon. Gentleman does not understand that basic point, he is not looking at it through straight eyes.

I apologise to the Secretary of State for intervening again, but it is a fundamental point. First, the right hon. Gentleman is representing a Prime Minister who has shown that she is antagonistic to sanctions in principle. Secondly, she has described the sanctions that she installed as gesture sanctions. What real case can he build for suggesting that by the withdrawal of sanctions on which the Government put no value he can exert an influence over or offer a reward to President de Klerk?

Perhaps I can answer the right hon. Gentleman by continuing my speech and dealing with the sanctions in question.

I return to my main point—that we have to encourage the process that is under way. It does not make sense to take punitive actions when the South African Government are doing all the wrong things and to maintain all those punitive measures when the South African Government, at long last, are doing many of the right things. There is an obvious need to encourage the South African Government to take further steps, including the complete lifting of the state of emergency. That is where the right hon. Gentleman has got it wrong. We are not rushing to lift all sanctions. Ours is a measured response. Mandatory sanctions, including the arms embargo which is crucial, remain. We stand by the Gleneagles agreement, to the disappointment of some of my hon. Friends. There is no question of reviewing the arms embargo or associated military sanctions until there is a full democratic constitution in South Africa. We are giving a measured but positive response to President de Klerk's bold moves.

I now deal with the European Community, on which the right hon. Member for Gorton spent some time. In 1986, the Foreign Ministers of the European Community agreed to impose restrictive measures on South Africa in response to the actions of the South African Government. The European Community imposed those measures to send a signal to the South African Government that they should take steps to open the road to dialogue. In particular, it mentioned the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, and the lifting of the ban on the ANC, the PAC and other political parties. Community Ministers also called for the ending of the state of emergency, and on 10 February President de Klerk made it clear that that could take place within weeks if there was no upsurge of violence.

We propose a logical, step-by-step response; not to lift all our measures, but to consult our Community partners about lifting those measures adopted in 1986, starting with the Community ban on new investment which was always voluntary in our case.

The right hon. Member for Gorton may not know that our approach has been endorsed by a letter to a number of Community Foreign Ministers from Helen Suzman, who is one of the leading veteran opponents of apartheid in South Africa, asking the Community to revise the policy of sanctions against South Africa to fortify President de Klerk's ability to combat white fears and resistance, and to enable the South African economy to grow to provide education, social services and employment opportunities to all South Africans in a non-racial society.

Before I give way to the right hon. Gentleman, it is worth remembering that the population of South Africa will grow by nearly 1 million people a year over the next 10 years. There are 7 million children at school today in South Africa. By the turn of the century there will be 12 million people needing education. If we were to inflict the serious economic damage on South Africa that the right hon. Gentleman favours, we would leave any future South African Government with a hopeless task.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to clear up a matter which his office, with all the good will in the world, was unable to clear up yesterday?

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the ban on new investment made under the presidency of the deputy Prime Minister as a "voluntary" measure. It is certainly a voluntary measure for the companies, because the decision states that the provision
"may be complied with by the issue of guidance to natural and legal persons."
Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear whether the Government's advice is that they can get rid of this ban on new investment unilaterally, or whether that can be done only by another decision of the European Community?

I shall gladly elucidate. The decisions made in September 1986 were to place bans on new investment, imports of iron and steel and imports of certain gold coins. The bans on those imports were implemented through Community legislation, but the ban on new investment was not—it was a separate decision by member states outside the framework of the treaties. Its implementation was left to the decision of individual member countries. We have no capital controls in this country, and therefore we could only discourage companies from new investment. That was done in a written answer by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The last paragraph of that written answer stated:

"Meanwhile, if the South African Government were to take those steps for which we and our partners have called, in order to establish a process of dialogue across racial lines, we have made clear in the Commonwealth communiqué that we stand ready to review and, if appropriate, to rescind the measures we have adopted."—[Official Report, 30 October 1986; Vol. 103, c. 220.]
We seek to lay before our Community partners—I shall do this in Dublin next week—a reasoned case, to consult them on our proposals and to explain why we think there is no logic in the continuance in present circumstances of this voluntary ban on new investment.

I have answered. We are pursuing the correct policy. We are consulting our European Community partners and making it clear that we see no sense in continuing the ban.

I think that I should continue. Perhaps I can clarify the matter further. We shall not, of course, instruct companies to invest in South Africa, because Governments do not direct such decisions. We would simply say to the companies, "Make your judgment on straightforward commercial grounds in either direction, free from politically motivated pressures." Companies will look to South Africa's long-term prospects as a stable and prosperous country. South Africa will have to satisfy that requirement, which will remain a powerful incentive for all South Africans to make further progress. South Africa needs to restore its valued place in development if it is to satisfy the aspirations of all its citizens. It will need help from abroad. That is what led the Commonwealth at Kuala Lumpur to call on international financial institutions, particularly the International Monetary Fund, to examine how resources might be mobilised once there is evidence of clear and irreversible change. 'That evidence is now before us.

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered clearly the question that I put to him. Can he take the action that he has described—withdrawing the guidance to the companies unilaterally—or can he do that only if he secures agreement in Dublin next Tuesday?

We are doing what I am advised we need to do—consulting our partners. There is no written answer and no statement rescinding that decision. We will point out that the logic of the voluntary ban on investment has run out. In the light of the September 1986 decisions, there is no further purpose in carrying on with that.

At the same time, we remain fully engaged on the ground in South Africa. Part of the trouble in these debates is that they are all about sanctions, whereas sanctions are only part of the answer. We are continuing our bilateral aid programme and are thereby proving in a thoroughly practical way our commitment to help ease the transition to a post-apartheid society.

I should like to give the facts. The right hon. Member for Gorton has visited some of these projects and knows how important they are. Together with our contribution to the European Community programme, we expect to spend about £40 million in the period 1987 to 1992. Most of this will be spent on supporting education and training. By the end of this year, we shall be funding more than 1,000 scholarships for South African students. We are supporting education projects throughout South Africa. Last year, we played a leading role in helping to set up a scheme run by the Urban Foundation which will enable 40,000 South African families, who would not otherwise have the chance, to buy their own homes. We are contributing to hundreds of community projects that will help to improve standards of health care, education, community support and so on.

Will the Secretary of State now give way? He has given way to several Members, so will he now give way to me?

I have given way extensively. I gave way to the hon. Gentleman the last time we had questions on South Africa, and I shall not do so today.

It is true that mitigating the hardships caused by apartheid is no substitute for working for its abolition—we must do both—but I hope that the persistence of apartheid will not be used as an excuse for not getting involved. Through our focus on education at all levels, we are helping to prepare the generation that we hope will inherit the post-apartheid South Africa.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way? He said 15 minutes ago that he would.

Order. The hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) wishes to participate in this debate. It will not improve his chances if he does not listen to the Foreign Secretary and delays proceedings.

I have given way extensively, and I shall not give way again. Hon. Members who are seeking to interrupt me will be able to make their own speeches, if they catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.

Some people argue that when the Securitate starts to crumble, one should not make concessions to it. That is a false and over-simple analogy. There are lessons for South Africa in eastern Europe, as President de Klerk has acknowledged, but anyone who thinks—this view was apparent in some of the comments of the right hon. Member for Gorton—that the South African Government are about to surrender power for fear of having it wrested from them is deluding himself about the real position. No one who really cares about the future of South Africa would advocate a policy that would set back reform and lead to bloodshed. It is very easy for people to warm themselves with their rhetoric on this subject, but we do not intend to do that. We shall continue to take measured steps to contribute to a peaceful solution inside South Africa.

Of course, it is true that apartheid has not yet been abolished and that the Group Areas Act, the Land Acts and the Population Registration Act remain in place. The South Africans are not yet at the end of the road, but they have taken the first steps upon it. The South African Government have made it clear that all the so-called "pillars of apartheid" are open for negotiation. They are setting no limits on the agenda. By any reasonable standard, it is now for their opponents to respond.

The hon. Gentleman will have a chance to join the debate by making his own speech.

If there is no response from the international community of the kind that we have suggested, there will be—as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said the day before yesterday—a danger of a Right-wing reaction, even though those opposing President de Klerk can offer South Africa nothing but increasing strife in a hopelessly divided society.

If we wanted to snuff out the present process of reform, condemn the black majority to greater poverty than the right hon. Gentleman described, and condemn the white minority to extremist white Government, we would follow the right hon. Gentleman's advice and make no response to President de Klerk's initiative. But we do not intend to do that. That is the wrong way around.

It is reasonable to look to the many opposition groups in South Africa to take this opportunity. A chance now exists to bring about genuine change through peaceful negotiation, involving not only the ANC but the PAC, the black consciousness movement, the Inkatha movement, which has already been referred to, and all the other political organisations that have struggled against apartheid for so long. They should take up the challenge and heed the many calls, most recently from President Kaunda, to suspend violence and enter negotiations.

In his speech on 2 February, President de Klerk called on his opponents to walk through the open door and take their place at the negotiating table. I was heartened by that, and I am heartened by Mr. Mandela's belief that the negotiations will begin very soon. I sincerely hope that that is the case. That is the way to speed the end of apartheid. The prize of a free, democratic and prosperous South Africa is one for which we have worked for a long time.

4.50 pm

The whole House will feel some sympathy for the Foreign Secretary because he had to make that speech today. I remain one of those who are convinced that we would not have had this debate had it not been for the Prime Minister's maladroit remarks over the weekend in response to President de Klerk's press conference and Nelson Mandela's release. One could almost hear the tearing of hair in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the time. That explains why the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was so uncomfortable at the Dispatch Box on Monday.

I do not dispute for a second that the Prime Minister is opposed to apartheid, but we all know—more important, the people of South Africa know—that her denunciation of apartheid has always been ritual, while her denunciation of sanctions has always been passionate. That has always been the impression gained by people in South Africa. My party would not object to the Foreign Secretary laying down a reasonable programme of looking ahead to the lifting of pressures and sanctions. Of course that is sensible in response to the changes that will come about in South Africa, but we object to that being done prematurely and not in concert with our European and Commonwealth partners.

I noticed that the Foreign Secretary did not pray in aid this afternoon, as the Prime Minister attempted to do yesterday, President Bush, the Archbishop of Canterbury or anybody else. They, too, have made it quite clear that they are talking about a future programme of lifting sanctions, not about prematurely lifting sanctions.

I again quote to the Foreign Secretary the words to which the Government are committed. At the Council of Ministers meeting on 10 September 1985 it was agreed that the objective of European Community measures was
"the complete abolition of apartheid as a whole and not just certain components of the system."
That is an important recollection to which the Government are wholly committed.

At the Commonwealth conference at Kuala Lumpur, the Government entered many reservations about the communiqué, but there was no reservation about paragraph 7. It was one of the paragraphs to which the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister assented. The communiqué states that the Heads of Government
"agreed that the only justification for sanctions against South Africa was the pressure they created for fundamental political change. The purpose was not punitive, but to abolish apartheid by bringing Pretoria to the negotiating table"—
I stress this—
"and keeping it there until that change was irreversibly secured. In this respect Heads of Government noted that leading personalities in the South African Government had themselves acknowledged the increasing pressure on the South African economy, and that those pressures would not be diminished until fundamental political change had taken place."
That is in the Commonwealth communique to which the previous Foreign Secretary assented.

Looking fairly at the situation in South Africa, does the right hon. Gentleman accept that while apartheid still remained there had been fundamental political changes?

I agree with the Foreign Secretary that there is the foreshadowing of fundamental political change, but the whole apartheid system is still in place.

I have been to South Africa since President de Klerk came to office. There is no doubt that there is a major change in attitude, mentality and objective between the de Klerk Government and the previous Government. That is not in dispute. It was put to me time and again, particularly by sections of the black population, that once Nelson Mandela was released and the state of emergency was lifted, the country would just be back to had normality—the apartheid system would still exist. That is the position that we face today. Of course we must look forward and hope for the best, but the change has not yet happened, and it will take a little time.

Moreover, those who doubted, including the Prime Minister, whether sanctions would be effective should look at what was said in the National party manifesto in the elections in the autumn. It states:
"boycotts, sanctions and disinvestment, have strained the economy of the country and of every business and household."
We do not rejoice because that has happened, but it is an open acknowledgment of what many of us knew was happening—that the pressure inside the National party and inside the business community led to the removal of President P. W. Botha and his replacement by President de Klerk. There is no question but that they played a major part.

Hon. Members know that Mr. Speaker has called for brief speeches. I have given way once already.

Is not one of the problems vis-a-vis the majority of the population that, although President de Klerk is an enormous improvement on the previous state President, there is still anxiety? Botha originally promised a great deal of reform, but he did nothing about abolishing the Population Registration Act, the Land Acts and the Group Areas Act.

I made that point in response to the Minister's statement the other day. We must make sure that there is pressure for their abolition and maintain it.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister quoted the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has been forced to elaborate on what he said in Bangladesh. In his press release this morning, he said:
"But the hardest work—and the hardest tests—lie ahead. When those tests—such as the legislation that enforces apartheid—are tackled, the government of South Africa will need encouragement so that they can show their electorate that the dismantling of the system is good for all the people of South Africa. That, after all, is the whole point of the existing sanctions."
The archbishop concluded:
"We should applaud President de Klerk for taking the essential first steps and be ready at the right time to respond with the easing of sanctions. I pray that time may not be long delayed."
That is precisely my party's position also. I do not believe that the Government are right to rush unilaterally ahead of our allies in taking unjustified steps.

I will not give way again. I shall conclude my remarks in just a couple of minutes.

In November, when I was last in South Africa, it was quite clear that every section of white opinion—even those who, slightly to my surprise, did not agree with the imposition of sanctions, including colleagues and friends in the Democratic party who have always disagreed with us on this issue—acknowledged that international pressures had played their part in bringing about the change. Equally, I could find nobody of any particular persuasion in the black community who believed that the Prime Minister had done anything but hinder change. In a sense, that is rather unfair. The Foreign Secretary and I know that her private pressures have been helpful. The work being done by our embassy in Pretoria and by our consulate in Johannesburg on the ground and the projects to which the Foreign Secretary referred are wholly admirable. The trouble is that we have been doing good by stealth. The overall impression among the black population of South Africa is overlaid by the Prime Minister's repeated and isolated antagonism to bring effective pressure to bear.

I welcome President Mandela's first speech—[Interruption.] I am moving too far ahead. I welcome Mr. Mandela's speech on the balcony in Cape Town, when he paid tribute to the sections of the white population who had played their part in the struggle. He mentioned the black sash movement and the National Union of Students in South Africa. He could have mentioned others also. All the churches have played a significant role.

I should not like the chance to go by without paying tribute to our colleagues in our sister Democratic party in opposition within the South African Parliament. I refer to Helen Suzman, Colin Eglin, van Zyl Slabbert and others who have a record, admittedly within a limited white parliamentary system, of trying to mitigate the effects of apartheid.

The challenge facing Nelson Mandela is difficult, but he is the one person who can reunite the black movements. It is essential that Inkatha—Chief Buthelezi's movement—be brought back into a reconciliation with the ANC and the other movements, and Mr. Mandela is the only man who can do that.

In November I had the extraordinary experience of talking with Walter Sisulu at his home in Soweto. I was deeply impressed and moved by the fact that a man who had spent a quarter of a century in gaol could talk for an hour calmly, reasonably, realistically and with no bitterness about how it would take time for the changes to come about in South Africa and about how they would be under pressure from younger people with rising expectations of instant change. That is a frustration with which the ANC leadership and others will have to deal. In the meantime, while that is happening, there should be no let-up from the outside world in keeping the pressure going.

5 pm

I should at the outset declare an interest. I have been associated for many years with the Anglo-American Corporation of South Africa. I have no reason to regret that. Indeed, I have some reason to be proud of it, as it has pressed for many years for dialogue between the South African Government and the different African organisations. Indeed, the present chairman of the corporation undertook a journey to Lusaka to talk to the ANC leaders some months ago.

We must, however, face the fact that until the last year there was no basis for dialogue. Under the Brezhnev regime in the Soviet Union, central and southern Africa were turned into a major theatre of the cold war. Cuban troops were sent to Angola, and SWAPO and ANC forces were equipped and encouraged to attempt to overthrow South African rule by force. Only in the last year has western diplomacy, and American diplomacy above all, succeeded in convincing Mr. Gorbachev that he was on to a no-win situation in central and southern Africa and that there was no possibility of overthrowing by force the white regime in the South African Republic.

Only in the last 12 months have we got agreement for the withdrawal of Cubans from Angola, for SWAPO being prepared to come in peacefully in the South-West African—Namibian—elections. Only in the last few months has the ANC leadership, including the Communist leader, Mr. Joe Slovo, accepted the idea that they could make progress only by negotiation and no longer by violent force. That has been a tremendous change, and it has created a situation in which dialogue should be possible. It has gradually sunk in on the black and white sides.

I join in saluting Mr. Mandela on his release and for showing great dignity since then. I praise Mr. de Klerk because he has taken a tremendous risk, in domestic and global politics. He has opened a gate and he cannot be sure whether, at the end of the day, there will or will not be fruitful negotiations. He deserves our congratulations.

I regret that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) is not in his place, because I intend to be rather harsh towards him. I have attended and taken part in many debates in the House under what might be described as the broad heading of decolonisation. Although we no longer have dominant influence, we have some influence as we deal with the future of 25 million people. This is not the occasion for a cheap solicitous speech, which is what we heard from the right hon. Member for Gorton. Had the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) been here, he would have raised the level well above that.

Because we are dealing with the future of so many people, this is not an occasion for scoring cheap debating points about whether a particular sanction was or was not an international commitment. There is a case to be made, although I do not hold with it, for retaining sanctions, and there is a case for lifting them, but the issue should be dealt with in a more measured and statesmanlike way than we heard from the right hon. Member for Gorton.

The right hon. Gentleman's remarks left me with the impression that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was absolutely right in her stricture about him yesterday, which a leading article in The Times this morning tended to confirm. Analogies are always dangerous, but it seemed as if the Labour party was committing itself to the point where its South African policy would be dictated by the ANC.

That happened before, in Mr. Attlee's time, with the Indian Congress party. The result was the partition of India, first into two and later into three, with 2 million dead and with chaotic consequences visible still in Kashmir and Karachi. It is dangerous for a great party such as the Labour party to commit itself to one particular faction in another country. Luckily, its influence—indeed the influence of the Government—is limited today.

It is equally important to remember that, while the ANC is an important factor in the equation, it is not the only one. There are other important black African factors. There are also the Indians and coloureds, together about 3 million people; and at the end of the day, whatever negotiations are achieved, the conclusions will have to be submitted to the white electorate, whose views we must also have in mind.

I am not sure that sanctions have played a great part in leading up to Mr. de Klerk's speech—the withdrawal of Soviet support from the revolutionary elements has been far more important—but I would not deny that sanctions have had an important symbolic effect, because they have made the South African whites feel isolated. It is important, if we are to carry them in the general movement for reform, that they should realise that sanctions will be lifted and that they will be less isolated, as already they are, as they move towards reform.

It is important to remember that President de Klerk has already been received by several African heads of state, that trade between South Africa and black Africa has increased by leaps and bounds, and that even relations with the Soviet Union are progressing. No wonder, since they are both gold and diamond producers and both are benefiting from cheap labour.

We should have made some gestures in the time of President Botha, because he started the reform process. Let us not under-estimate what he did. It was regarded as revolutionary at the time in white South Africa, and what is happening now goes a long way forward from those steps.

We must always have in mind the wider objective of our policy in southern Africa. The dismantlement of apartheid is no doubt a worthy goal, but it is not in itself a great objective of British policy. We are really concerned with reviving the economy of southern and central Africa as a whole.

The report of the World bank shows that this area of Africa is dying, and there are many reasons why that is the case. It is clear that we shall not be able to revive it—to rescue it from its present decline—without co-operation from South Africa, which is the only modern industrial country in that part of the world.

Until now South Africa's stance has inhibited its co-operation with its neighbours. The real reason why I should like to see apartheid dismantled is to enable South Africa to fulfil what should be its right purpose—to develop and bring forward the economies of its neighbouring countries.

We want to see progress towards democracy but, as we keep saying about eastern Europe, it must be based on a market economy and private enterprise. The ANC has not yet come round to that view. I hope that it will. It is clear that, unless it does, it will not only bring destruction to what is still a prosperous economy in South Africa but will abort the possibility of the constructive work which the South African Republic could bring about in southern or central Africa.

5.10 pm

I have just returned from South Africa. South Africa is a beautiful country, full of resources, but it is a tragic country. One gets the feeling when one goes there that the situation is extremely tense and that unless something of substance happens reasonably quickly there could be an almighty bloodbath.

I was a member of Rev. Jesse Jackson's party invited by the South African Council of Churches and the ANC to South Africa. On our way, we visited Zambia, where we were the guests of President Kaunda. In Zambia, we had meetings with the ANC leadership in exile. We then went on to Johannesburg and Cape Town, where we met various people, including the South African Council of Churches, clergy from all the South African churches, including the Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist and African independent Churches.

We also met the Pan-Africanist Congress, the United Democratic Front, Soweto People's Committee, Soweto teachers, NACTU, the Azanian People's Organisation and representatives of the British Council, lecturers in the university of the Western Cape, the National Sports Congress, the Western Cape Traders Association, several ANC and Church leaders such as Oscar Mpetha, the Rev. Allan Boesak, Archbishop Tutu and Mr. Frank Chicane. We also met the mayor of Cape Town and, of course, Mr. Nelson Mandela.

All those people, except the British consul officer—I did not ask him for his opinion—agreed that sanctions had to be maintained and asked me to take that message back to the United Kingdom.

I saw the oppressors at first hand. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] Last Saturday at Crossroads, just outside Cape Town, we held a peaceful rally attended by some 2,000 to 3,000 people. As soon as our party got into our vehicles, vigilantes started shooting at the crowd. The police then started shooting. The Kitzkonstabel, the paramilitary police, who are given three weeks' training and then given rifles and shotguns, surrounded our vans as we were assisting into a lorry a man who had been shot in the stomach. I have spoken about the Kitzkonstabel before in the House. As they pointed their guns at us, I could not help hoping that they had not read Hansard.

Several people were injured and I witnessed a perfectly peaceful rally being fired on by the security forces. The whole incident was witnessed by the television cameras and a dossier has been submitted to the Minister of Justice for his investigation.

I was told by the British consul officer that the day before a peaceful crowd had gathered outside the British consul to protest at the Gatting cricket tour. They had been refused permission to demonstrate outside the Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg. The deputy consul-general himself had agreed with the police that the protesters could remain, but as soon as his back was turned the police immediately baton-charged the crowd. Several injuries resulted. One got the impression that, as soon as anyone of any substance turned his or her back on a peaceful situation, the security forces immediately went in to deal with the people who were doing nothing but enjoying themselves peacefully.

The continuing state of emergency in South Africa allows such atrocities to take place because it empowers the police and security forces to act without any accountability whatever. That is why the ANC and other liberation movements have called for the cancellation of the state of emergency as one of the prerequisites for talks.

I have listened with sadness to the hon. Gentleman's account of what happened in that demonstration, and I have no reason to doubt his word. As he was an eye-witness to that incident and is well aware of other incidents, would it not have been sensible for him to seek a meeting and discussions with members of the security forces and, indeed, members of the South African Government? He gave us a list of the people to whom he spoke when he was in South Africa, but, if I ascertained it aright, there was not one Minister or Government official. Would it not have been prudent to have the other point of view put to him? He may not have liked it, but at least he could have come back to the House better informed.

We submitted a dossier to the Justice Minister. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was the head of the delegation, tried to have a meeting with him, but he was out of town. On the day that I returned to Britain, meetings had been set up with Mr. de Klerk, Mr. Pik Botha and Mr. Viljoen, who are senior members of the Cabinet. Those meetings took place. I am here to give an account of what transpired at those meetings. It was clear that our party intended to meet as many people as possible. It also intended to meet representatives of the Dutch Reformed Church and Mr. Gatsha Buthelezi and other people.

The situation in South Africa is complex and new. The state has been maintained on the basis of violent and evil oppression of black people by a minority white population. Now we have a chance to do something about creating democracy in that country.

It is important to understand how South Africa has reached this point and what worldwide pressures have prevailed on both the Government and the democratic forces. There can be no doubt that sanctions and the armed struggle have had a major part to play. In just one example of the armed struggle, at the battle of Cuita Cuanavale, the combined forces of the Angolans and the Cubans forced the South Africans and the forces of Savimbi into retreat, to such an extent that now, for the first time after decades of struggle, we have a newly-emerging independent Namibia. The battle of Cuita Cuanavale also assisted the South African Government in changing their mind.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the battle of Cuita Cuanavale makes the case for sanctions? Because of the arms embargo, the aged Mirage of the South African Government was out-gunned by the MIGs of the Angolan Government.

My hon. Friend is correct. It was clear during those battles that the South Africans could not match the firepower of the Cubans and Angolans.

It is important to understand the complexity of South African society. Few of those who have not visited the country can appreciate it. I had only a slight taste of it in a few weeks, but I know that it is an extremely complex situation.

At the moment, South Africa is very volatile. It is not unlike a boiling pot, because to take off the lid suddenly without turning down the fire would be to risk the escape of a cloud of steam that would scald all those people—of whatever colour—who are gathered around it. The task that faces Mr. Mandela is to turn down that fire so that successful negotiations can ensue. It is precarious and challenging, and such an undertaking needs the full understanding of hon. Members here.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the Mr. Mandela whom I was privileged to meet is equal to that task. He exudes a strength, calmness and authority that is remarkable in a man who has been incarcerated for 27 years. He is astonishingly without bitterness, but remains standing full square behind the principles for which he has sacrificed so much—the principles of a non-racial and democratic South Africa, in which black and white people alike can share equally. It is clear from what he has said since his release that he is a responsible and wise statesperson, who is now ready to play his part in steering South Africa into the future, and who knows full well how perilous and inflammable the scenerio is.

What, then, should be our role in Britain if we genuinely wish to see a peaceful transition towards democracy in South Africa? I believe that we should see ourselves as outsiders—as outsiders with a grave responsibility, given the sorry contribution that this country has made to prolong the system of apartheid, but as outsiders nevertheless. We should not seek to inflame the situation by raising red herrings about the danger of a white backlash or by raising the bogey of the armed struggle.

If there is danger of such a backlash, Mr. de Klerk is well aware of it, and it is something that he is well able to handle. Mr. de Klerk does not seem to have been surprised by the ANC's continuing commitment to the armed struggle, and nor should the British Government. It is a weapon that the ANC must hold in reserve in the negotiations that lie ahead in the event of there being no movement to dismantle the institutions of apartheid, which have themselves perpetrated so much violence against the mass of South African people.

The Prime Minister seeks to make petty distinctions between different kinds of sanctions. She talks, for example, about voluntary sanctions, but to the man or the woman on the omnibus in Soweto or on the train going into Johannesburg, those distinctions do not mean very much. To them, the fact that the British Prime Minister talks about the removal of sanctions is a matter of great anxiety and grief. They are not concerned about, and they are not aware of, the ramifications of discussions with the Commonwealth leaders or the European Community. Frankly, they could not care less, but they are concerned when they see what they believe to be a sell-out by Britain.

Nor must we rush to destabilise the position, as the Prime Minister has done, by pressing for the removal of sanctions. The demand worldwide is that sanctions should stay until the pillars of apartheid are removed. To remove sanctions now would be the height of irresponsibility. It would strengthen the hand of the South African Government against the mass of the people who have already given so much to reach this position, and who are already at a disadvantage in any future negotiations.

If the British Government really want to find a way forward, they should be helping to ensure parity in the capability of both sides to negotiate. It seems that the Prime Minister wishes to see the mass democratic movement going naked into the negotiating chamber. Mr. Mandela and the mass democratic movement are already at a gross disadvantage. They do not have the backing of a vast army of civil servants or all the paraphernalia of diplomacy that the South African Government clearly have. They have few resources. Their key personnel are scattered throughout the world, subsisting in impoverished exiled communities.

Our Government should therefore compare their attitude to South Africa with their attitude to the restoration of democracy in eastern Europe. There, they have given £25 million to assist the process of democracy. They should therefore come to the House with similar proposals for funding the democratic forces in South Africa.

Britain has done enough damage in South Africa. Let it now be bold and positive. Let us put our money behind all that we have mouthed about supporting the oppressed people in South Africa. The soundest investment that we can make is to ensure that, when there are future negotiations, those people are properly prepared to play their full part.

5.25 pm

The tragedy of today's debate is that it has arisen out of such a negative Opposition motion. After paying their tribute to Nelson Mandela, which is hardly a matter of dissent in the House, and after some rather grudging acknowledgments to the moves that President de Klerk has made, the motion concentrates almost entirely on sanctions policy which, I submit, is irrelevant to the opportunities opening up in South Africa for dismantling the apartheid system.

Sanctions pressure has never been particularly welcome to the black population of South Africa. I have made many visits to South Africa, including a couple last year, and have always taken all the opportunities presented of talking to leading blacks. I have never found them pleading with me to urge my Government to impose more sanctions.

I have never been asked to urge others to cease buying the products that provide those people in South Africa with their livelihoods. I have never been urged to ask British industrialists to disinvest and to sell their companies' equity in South Africa to white South African groupings.

However, they have talked about and urged the need for improvements in their schools-[HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."]

They have pleaded with me and talked about increasing investment in their schools—

Would it not have been more correct, in terms of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if the hon. Gentleman, who has admitted correctly that he has been to South Africa twice, had at least shared with the rest of us what it has just taken us a few seconds to look up in the Register of Members' Interests? He was paid on one occasion by the South African coal industry and on the second by the International Freedom Foundation.

I should have thought that the whole point of that was served by the declaration made in the register. I return to the point that I was making before that bogus point of order.

When speaking to blacks in South Africa and to the leaders of their communities there, I have not found them speaking on the matters that Opposition Members seem to expect. Their concern has been about investment in their schools and clinics and, above all, in jobs for themselves and their families. Of course they have always said that they wanted to see the release of Nelson Mandela, not necessarily because they share all the objectives of the ANC but because they saw him as a symbol of the black condition in South Africa. Of course, they looked forward to having a vote in the future towards the government of their country, but they do not want that on an empty belly.

We have heard the arguments today, and on earlier occasions in this House, between Conservative Members who think that our opposition to a sanctions policy has helped to speed the process of reform in South Africa. We have heard the arguments advanced by the Opposition who claim that sanctions policy has achieved that. That is an argument of historical interest but, quite honestly, it has become arcane. It reminds me of the arguments that I witnessed when I was a student in the 1950s, when undergraduates debated among themselves which side they would have supported in the Spanish civil war if they had been alive at the time. History has left such questions way behind.

I make one concession to the Opposition on sanctions. There is no doubt that sanctions have had some effect. When I was in South Africa in February I paid a return visit to Mamelodi, a well run black township to the north of Pretoria. I spoke to the mayor of Mamelodi, a gentleman whom I met previously, and asked him what effect sanctions had had on his area. He said, "Well, Mr. Gardiner, I can only put it this way—last year in this town we had an unemployment rate of 9 per cent. This year we have 22 per cent." That has been the outcome of the sanctions policy.

If sanctions have had any effect, they have impoverished the black population. Evidence of that is crystal clear if one looks at the opinion polls, conducted by a range of independent organisations, of black opinion in South Africa. They have found that between 70 and 80 per cent. of the black population do not want to see further sanctions imposed against them.

Does my hon. Friend agree that in the light of the evidence that he has just adduced, and the other evidence available to us, it is inconceivably two-faced and duplicitous—if that is not an unparliamentary expression—for the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) to allege in his speech that it is disgraceful that British companies create unemployment in South Africa and, two seconds later, urge divestment by British companies and speak in favour of sanctions?

If I heard the hon. Gentleman correctly, he said that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was duplicitous.

If the hon. Gentleman says things that reflect on the integrity and character of a right hon. Member, he should withdraw his remarks.

I withdraw my remarks entirely. They were intended as a reflection on the internal logic of the right hon. Gentleman's speech.

I assume that the hon. Gentleman is making an unqualified withdrawal.

I agree entirely with the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies).

When it comes to discussing sanctions and whether they should be continued, I refer to the words uttered by Chief Buthelezi at the end of last week:
"Blacks see the international community being brutally unconcerned about both the wishes and the well-being of the victims of apartheid."
I can only hope that those words are heeded by the Ministers who will be congregating in Dublin next week.

All hon. Members welcome the process that has been begun by President de Klerk. It is a challenge to the whites in South Africa, to the blacks, to the African National Congress to make a suitable response to that initiative by dropping its arguments in favour of an arms struggle, and to other groups. I referred to Chief Buthelezi and the lnkatha movement, and there are others. It presents a challenge to us to do all that we can to encourage negotiated reforms and to help secure the wellbeing of blacks in the process.

As the reform process became stalled under the previous president, blacks managed to obtain and build up for themselves an economic clout in the fast expanding informal sector of the economy. One has only to go to South Africa to see the black taxis, which we would call mini buses, and which are the fastest growing industry in the country. Provision shops are being run from back rooms of houses, and building materials are being supplied from back yards. There is no lack of enterprise among the black community.

I am interested in what my hon. Friend says. Does he agree that tourism would be a good way of encouraging the sort of developments that he has mentioned, and would provide employment? Am I right in thinking that tourism is one of the sanctions that still operates and is quite effective? Does he agree that there is something not quite right about hon. Members, particularly Opposition Members, being tourists and going on jaunts to South Africa and then deciding that the rest of us should not be able to do so?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The Government accepted a voluntary discouragement of tourism. I am glad to say that it has not had a great deal of effect because tourism provides a great number of jobs for the black community in South Africa.

What South Africa needs above all else to coincide with negotiations on its constitutional future is investment in industries large and small, with all the spin-offs in the townships and the informal sector. I am glad that the British Government have seen the need for that and are raising the voluntary curbs on investment. I applaud that.

I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to switch much more into the positive vein and go all out to encourage investment to help South Africa along the way. That will provide a foundation for the new vision that is opening up in that country. It will ensure that when all Africans get the vote, as I am sure they will, they will inherit a meaningful economic foundation to enable them to use their vote in the most responsible way.

5.36 pm

It is extremely difficult in this short but welcome debate to know where to start, where to finish and what to put in the middle. It would be a good idea to start with the Government's amendment. In their speeches, Government Members seek to make us accept that their intentions are bona fide, that we are all working for the same objectives, and that there are no real differences between us or about what the end product should be, but minor differences about how we get there.

The Government's amendment says that they welcome the move towards a non-racial constitution. That jars with what the Government did at the United Nations General Assembly last December. They gave their assent to a wider-ranging document suggesting what the conditions for negotiations should be and what the new South Africa should be like. No sooner had they signed it—a most dangerous thing—than they entered a reservation. Britain was the only country in the United Nations to enter a reservation that it was against the possibility of a new constitution for South Africa based on a non-racial voters roll. What hypocrisy there is in their amendment that they welcome the moves towards a non-racial democracy, after having entered such a reservation at the United Nations. It is hardly surprising that we find it difficult to accept that we are all working on the same side and that it is only a matter of differences of approach.

The second best starting point for my speech is last Sunday, at 2.05 pm, on that historic occasion when Nelson Mandela walked out of prison. It is difficult to describe the excitement, interest, exuberance and near euphoria felt when he came out of prison. He has not walked into freedom, because the pillars of apartheid remain. He does not have a vote, he cannot live where he likes and there are a number of things that he cannot do. The state of emergency remains and there are still many political prisoners yet to be released. Paradoxically, Nelson Mandela is a much freer man than President de Klerk.

I fully accept that President de Klerk has made significant moves. He went much further on 2 February than I had expected, and I welcome that. I welcome the unbanning of the ANC, the Pan-Africanist Congress and the South African Communist party. I welcome the unbanning of all the other organisations previously restricted.

The prospect of negotiations, or a real dialogue to freedom, is a wonderful thing. The sad thing is that it did not happen 20 or 30 years ago. The suffering during that time has been enormous. What a different country South Africa would be today if only the white Government of South Africa had recognised that they had to negotiate and bring about a peaceful transition. Many tragedies could have been avoided if there had been decisive action.

We are told that we should look not to the past but to the future. We all have a tremendous hope for the future, but the lessons that we have learnt from the past must govern and guide our future actions. I remember, and I am sure that it is in the memory of most hon. Members, the long process of the independence of Namibia. It is 12 to 15 years since the South African Government accepted the principles of UN resolution 435 and the principle of negotiation along the lines of the United Nations plan for that independence to come about, as it will do on 21 March. The South African Government used every dilatory and delaying tactic in the book, but South Africa does not have a time scale of 12, 15 or 20 years to make some real progress.

We have sometimes spoken in the past, perhaps too glibly, about the last chance and the last window of opportunity. But if this chance is allowed to slip away, the future of South Africa will be too dreadful to contemplate. That is why we must keep up the pressure. That is why we must ensure that, until the process of change has really become irreversible, the pressure cannot be lifted.

I accept that there is a genuine difference of opinion about sanctions, although not all my hon. Friends agree. When the sanctions argument started, there was a great deal of discussion on the Left, never mind between the Left and the Right or between both sides of the House, about whether imposing sanctions was the right policy.

We must remember that the call for sanctions came first from the people of South Africa, who said that, if we could not help them in any other way, we should help them through sanctions. I am not saying that sanctions have been fully effective or that sanctions alone have brought President de Klerk to his present position. I am not saying that at all. I have too much respect for the people of South Africa, who have fought in many different ways.

I say quite frankly that I have too much respect for the members of Umkhonto we Siswe and for those who have fought apartheid through passive resistance to make that claim for sanctions. But they have had an effect. The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) quoted President de Klerk's election manifesto. He could have quoted what he said on 2 February, when he made it clear that South Africa could not stand alone, that it had to be part of the world community and work together with other countries.

What annoys me intensely about the Prime Minister is that she refuses even to give a nod or to genuflect in the slightest way, not just to the effects of sanctions but to the struggle of the people of South Africa. I do not like to personalise things, but the Prime Minister's egocentricity casts her in the role of the wicked fairy in Snow White, asking, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the cleverest of them all?" Given her hostility to anyone who disagrees with her, it is not surprising that we charge her, as I charge her, with colluding in and collaborating with the oppression of the people of South Africa. Why could the Prime Minister not have waited? Why could she not at least have allowed more time to pass before rushing in?

President de Klerk has made many moves, but we should never forget that, when he was elected, he said,
"Do not expect me to negotiate myself out of power."
Yet the negotiations must be precisely about the transfer of power from the minority to all the people of South Africa irrespective of their race, creed or colour. That is a noble vision, which Nelson Madela restated after his release. He restated the steadfast principle which our Prime Minister, for some reason unknown to any of us, cannot stomach.

Many conditions were laid down during the United Nations special session, yet the Government have admitted that not all the conditions have been met. The state of emergency has not been lifted, the Internal Security Act remains in place.

No, I cannot. This is a short debate and many hon. Members wish to speak.

None of the pillars of apartheid have really been tackled, and President de Klerk has said nothing at all about his vision for the new South Africa, beyond the fact that he wants to see some sort of negotiation and dialogue. We would do well to listen to the people of South Africa, who are saying clearly that they do not want sanctions lifted until the process has become irreversible. It is not yet irreversible. We wish it well, but if we take the pressure off now the temptation will be to delay and delay in the hope that somehow, sooner or later, the white Government of South Africa will not have to take the major step and make the major change that is necessary.

I have no doubt that we shall soon see a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and united South Africa. But what Nelson Mandela has described as the long road to freedom is not yet over. The suffering along that road has been immense and more suffering may yet have to be faced by the people of South Africa before they get their freedom. It has not been in vain in the past and it will not be in vain in the future.

Many people have stood proudly, shoulder to shoulder, with the people of South Africa in their struggle. It is surely not too much to ask even of this Government at this stage to do something positive to end apartheid. We live in historic times. I regret to say that the Government have so far not lived up to their responsibilities. But if we and the Government all act with a sense of history and on the side of freedom, there will be something that we can all enjoy and celebrate.

5.46 pm

I confess that I am mystified by the Government's policy on South Africa and I cannot, in all conscience, support it.

One would think from the innocuous words of the Government's amendment to the motion that there was little that was contentious in South Africa apart from some constitutional issues. But the harsh reality of apartheid is ignored. The oppression of 80 per cent. of the population and their deprivation of civil rights is passed over. The internal violence and the destabilisation of the economies of the surrounding countries is completely passed over.

Nelson Mandela is saluted, but there is no recognition of the fact that his emergence on the scene is the one new factor that gives us all the best chance of solving the big problems and bringing peace, stability and reconciliation to this important but unhappy country.

Discussing South Africa without discussing apartheid is completely unrealistic. Apartheid is an evil and wicked doctrine, used by unworthy people to justify the retention of power by the minority, a minority which uses whips and dogs upon those who protest against it. which deprives the majority of the vote and even of the right to live where they choose in their own country—all in the name of racial superiority. It is contemptible. I would have expected better from the Government in condemning it in an amendment of this kind.

I accept that the British Government are sincere when they say that they want to get rid of apartheid, but if so, they conceal their intentions well. They applied what few sanctions there are timidly and half-heartedly when under pressure to do so, and they now seek to withdraw them at the first sign that they are working.

The present willingness of the South African Government to come to terms with its African majority has been prompted by a combination of internal and external pressures. Our reluctance to add to that pressure, and even to seek to abate it, may have helped to keep open the lines of communication between Downing street and Cape Town, but it cannot have brought about the South African Government's change of policy. My right hon. and hon. Friends in government are made to look foolish by asserting otherwise. I am not convinced by all the intellectual arguments addressed to us by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in the House this evening.

I am concerned most about the apparent disregard of our Government for the possibility of establishing friendly relations with a future predominantly African Government of South Africa. Our interests surely lie in being a good friend and an ally of the predominantly black democratic Government that will eventually emerge. In practice, we seem to be writing ourselves out of any role in South Africa's future.

The present South African regime is on its last legs. Nelson Mandela's release has acted as a catalyst, and things will never be the same again. Pray to God that his life will be preserved. As with eastern Europe, the move towards democracy in South Africa is unstoppable. We British have no interest to serve in propping up a doomed regime—only in so far as we can assist in ensuring a peaceful transition to democracy.

Tribalism is a curse in Africa and in South Africa as elsewhere.

In Ireland also, as my hon. Friend says—but it is a particular problem of government in South Africa.

South Africa is fortunate in that there is now someone on the scene who commands loyalty and allegiance across tribal boundaries, with some chance of achieving reconciliation and being able to negotiate on behalf of the majority of Africans in South Africa. Mr. Mandela will, I believe, be able to command the overwhelming support of the people of South Africa once it has the smallest chance of becoming a democracy.

We must welcome President de Klerk's initiative, but we should put our money on Nelson Mandela and give him all the help that he needs to bring peace, reconciliation and democracy to a great African country.

5.52 pm

I echo the comments already made in welcoming the release of Nelson Mandela as the most significant development in South Africa for many years. I welcome, too, the speech of the state President to the South African Parliament on 2 February. Conservative Members suggested that President de Klerk took a great risk in making that speech. Although I acknowledge that it was a courageous speech, involving some risk, if President de Klerk had chosen not to take that line, there would have been an even greater risk to his Government and the consequences for South Africa might have been so disastrous as to make problems in other parts of the world appear insignificant.

Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress and other organisations have a role to play in achieving a peaceful solution and a free South Africa where all races are equal. One of Nelson Mandela's most significant statements in his speech earlier this week was that he does not want to replace white domination by black domination. Such statements guarantee a role for him in future negotiations.

I had a motion on the Order Paper for Monday that was not reached which concerned the conditions under which the Prime Minister should undertake an official visit to South Africa. The necessity for such a debate was strengthened by the right hon. Lady's recent comments on sanctions and investment. Because of those statements, our country is regarded by blacks and whites in South Africa as the strongest supporter of apartheid outside their country. I have visited South Africa twice and Namibia, and all their peoples, black and white, consider the British Prime Minister and Government as apartheid's strongest supporters. The Prime Minister's statements since President de Klerk's announcement tend to support that view.

The Foreign Secretary and the Government should take due note of the role that Britain must play in South Africa which is of great importance for a number of reasons. We are an important member of the Commonwealth and of the European Community, and we have a special relationship with America and, whether we like it or not, this country's investments and commercial interests in South Africa are also significant. All those factors mean that, when our Prime Minister speaks about South Africa, she does so from a position of greater stature than almost anyone else outside South Africa itself.

Although President de Klerk has opened the door, one can never be too sure what lies behind it. At this stage, President de Klerk has not given any indication, or taken any action, to suggest that apartheid will positively be ended in South Africa. Although our policy on relaxing sanctions and investment restrictions should be kept constantly under review, it would be premature to take any action before receiving from the South African Government a positive sign of their intention to abolish apartheid. The country's racial registration legislation must be repealed, as it underpins the whole basis of apartheid. The Land Act, the Group Areas Act and other statutes must also be abolished.

A few years ago, the Prime Minister made the important statement that she believed that the form of South Africa's future Government was a matter for the people of South Africa to determine. I share that view, provided that one is talking of all the people of South Africa, including the 80 per cent. who happen to be black. I once asked the Prime Minister whether that statement meant that she accepted a future black majority Government for South Africa, but she weaved and dodged and did not answer. The following day, The Daily Telegraph commented that that was an unanswerable question for the Prime Minister, because although she really wanted to say no, she could not—but she could not say yes either.

At the end of the day, the Prime Minister must recognise that if we want universal suffrage and freedom in South Africa, it will mean a black majority Government. However, that does not mean that we wish to replace white domination by black domination—to use the words of Nelson Mandela. He wants a free South Africa that can use its tremendous benefits to the advantage of all its people.

I recognise that when apartheid ends in South Africa there will be major problems. It will be difficult to ensure that the blacks have opportunities for education, health treatment and many other things. The South African economy may be the strongest in the continent, but it will be unable to bear the burden alone. One positive step that the British Government could take would be to say now that if steps are taken to end apartheid and to give freedom to all the people of South Africa, we will assist the country to tackle the problems of the 80 per cent. of their people who are deprived at present.

At this time it would be wrong for the Prime Minister to make an official visit to South Africa, and it is wrong for us to talk of investment and of ending sanctions. We need more positive signs, and we should encourage President de Klerk for the moves that he has made.

Ultimately, I hope that there will be genuine talks around a table—talks that will include Nelson Mandela and other people who are genuinely selected to represent the different races in that country. I hope that we will see a day when apartheid ends, and we can welcome South Africa back into the Commonwealth.

6.1 pm

I had planned to say how disappointed I had been by the reactions of the House at Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday, and by the approach of the leader of the Government and of the Leader of the Opposition to the difficult question of South Africa. It seems that the two leading parties are more concerned with fighting about their domestic differences in the House, and in this country, than raising their sights, showing that they have vision and recognising the momentous events that have taken place in South Africa.

The main event has been the release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years of wrongful imprisonment for his political views. That is the vision, and the clue. Through Nelson Mandela we may find a way through the serious difficulties which face the South African people.

Let me demonstrate that. Back-Bench Members have demonstrated more vision than the leadership. They understand. The hon. Members for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) and for Burnley (Mr. Pike), and my hon. Friends the Members for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) and for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) showed that understanding in their speeches.

We are concerned with the difficulties that South Africa and its people face—both white and black, with all their many differences. How do we bring the country away from the state of military oppression and racial oppression, from the denial of basic human rights, towards education for black children and jobs for young black men and women, who are denied the professional qualifications that might help them to progress within society? The community is becoming more and more violent as it objects to the violence of the state and the apartheid system. How do we bring the community from violence to a peaceful, democratic and racially equal society?

We have a responsibility, and the sort of behaviour that we saw in the House yesterday at Question Time from both sides of the House, and again today at the beginning of this debate, is unhelpful, insensitive and entirely counter-productive to bringing about a peaceful solution to these difficult problems.

At the age of 70, after 27 years in gaol, Nelson Mandela has to face the problem of trying to bring about a democratic, non-racial society. He still wants to bring about all the things that he said he believed in in the wonderful speech that he made from the dock 27 years ago. His conviction, his authority and the degree to which he has suffered make him the bridge.

To argue about sanctions—whether we should take them off or not, whether they are voluntary or not—is totally irrelevant to the argument. We should be embracing Nelson Mandela's hope for the future, and helping him to bring about the reconciliation that is required in South Africa, but what are we doing? We do not encourage meetings of the African National Congress here. When Mr. Oliver Tambo had to be treated in hospital in Stockholm, the ANC meeting took place in Stockholm, not in London, because the Foreign and Commonwealth Office gave it no encouragement to do so. The FCO has ignored Mr. Tambo, the leader of the ANC, and his wife who lives in Camden and does an important job as a nurse, living in humble surroundings to keep the family together. Reconciliation and meetings should be encouraged to take place in London.

Why do we not respond generously to Nelson Mandela? Why does the Prime Minister not phone him, as President Bush did, and invite him to come here? To my knowledge, the Prime Minister has not rung him. She sent an official from the British Embassy to see him in Cape Town. That does not show any warmth or understanding of the problems, nor does it demonstrate the support that we should be giving Mr. Mandela and all those who seek peace—people on all sides.

We should remember the white community, which is extremely frightened. Its members do not know how they can continue to live under an African majority Government. They have many reasons to be frightened—because of their treatment of black people for so many years, and because of the example that has been set in the north of South Africa and in most African countries. They are not successful communities, and they cannot be described as respecters of human rights or as democracies. White people have serious misgivings and fears. Mr. Mandela recognises that, he has said so, and we should respond to that.

Of course, the white Government and Mr. de Klerk should be congratulated on the release of Mr. Mandela. As a lifelong opponent of sanctions, I say that we should lift them as soon as it is practically possible. Surely Britain should say, "Come here and discuss it." We should say that we will reinforce the elements within South African society—black or white—to encourage them to form the bridge and to keep the peace.

A prosperous society, in which there would be new investment, and a reduction of unemployment among the black population are more likely to put the pieces together and to go through a peaceful transformation. This is no time to talk about loosening sanctions. It is a time for encouraging and meeting everyone in South Africa who wants peace and the evolution to democracy and equality. That is what I expect the Government to do.

6.8 pm

The hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) made a remarkable speech, as did the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant). The Front-Bench spokesmen on both sides of the House would be well advised not to call a Division.

The mood of today's speeches has reflected the complexity of the issues that face us all, but especially South Africans, both black and white. Hon. Members' conduct yesterday was a disgrace, given the gravity of the position and the incredible opportunity with which South Africa is now confronted. If we spend our time engaging in a petty little squabble about what has or has not been done in the past, we shall be unable to contribute as much as we might to the resolution of those difficult problems.

Profound changes are taking place in South Africa, and there is no doubt in my mind that things are already moving far faster than most of us realise. President de Klerk and Nelson Mandela have an understanding about how such matters should be dealt with. I believe that the ANC's role in applying pressure to secure the cancellation of the extremely ill-advised Gatting cricket tour is a sign of that: it was realised that such events can provide a focus for the kind of unrest that would make a repeal of the state of emergency very difficult.

The state of emergency is the main impediment to the relaxation of sanctions. The Prime Minister recognised that in her statement in Kuala Lumpur. Lifting sanctions would be absurd, and it will not happen: the Council of Foreign Ministers, which is to meet in Dublin, would not dream of relaxing them while the state of emergency continues. That is a sine qua non, as the Foreign Secretary knows. He also knows that he and the Government are not entitled to say that they no longer wish people not to make new investments. He quoted from the resolution, passed under the chairmanship of the deputy Prime Minister, to "rescind". Action cannot be taken on a single decision made by a member state; we are bound by that 1986 resolution. We are also bound by something far more important, and that is honour.

For the past decade or more, the Prime Minister has waxed eloquent against unilateral nuclear disarmament —rightly, in my view—and unilateralism cannot be criticised at one moment and embraced at the next. For 20 years or more, this country has acted in the deepest concert with the United States, and often with France, on the question of sanctions against South Africa. We have not once been split on that issue, which has not been easy, because of the tactics aimed at dividing us.

It would be entirely irresponsible for the British Government to abandon the sanction on new investment unilaterally, knowing full well that President Bush has not the freedom to do the same because of the legislation by which he is bound. It is obvious to us all that Anglo-American relations are going through a difficult period, but the improvement that we all want—the Foreign Secretary must want it, too—will not be possible if Britain acts unilaterally. We must act in concert, as we have done in the past.

I still believe that, properly applied, external pressure can be constructive. Let us face it: the biggest problem is President de Klerk. He represents the minority, but the minority happen to be in power. Under the apartheid system—wrongly—South Africa has all the violent structures of minority power which must be dismantled progressively over the next few years. We know that there will be considerable resistance. Of course, President de Klerk must be encouraged, but he must be encouraged in a manner that ensures that there can be no going back. Having conversed with him, I think that he understands that perfectly. International agreement on a serious reduction of sanctions will be very difficult until negotiatons have started: that should be the threshold.

It would be mad—crazy—for the two main parties to do anything to damage South Africa's future economy once the talks have begun. I say "the two main parties", meaning the National party and the ANC, but I believe strongly that agreement should be widened to include Inkatha, and the PAC is perfectly entitled to make its case in the talks, as is the Conservative party. There is no doubt that if the negotiations break down and anyone is shown to have entered into them in bad faith, the world will make a judgment. If it should happen to be the South African Government who entered into them in bad faith, the result will he the reimposition of economic sanctions that will really hurt.

In 1985, for the first time, we discovered a really effective economic sanction, when banks such as the Chase Manhattan refused to roll forward credits. By 1988 it was really biting: the Prime Minister need only read the South African newspapers to discover that. The overriding of President Reagan's veto by the American Congress, on a bipartisan basis, was the biggest single reverse of the Reagan presidency. From that moment South Africa knew that there would be no comfort from Washington, and that Republicans and Democrats were determined to combine to put pressure on South Africa to end apartheid.

That bipartisanship still exists in Congress, and it will not be broken. I believe that an agreement will be reached, and that President Bush will respond: he has already urged the parties to come together. Would it not be marvellous if the British Prime Minister occasionally came to the House and said that she would like to try to secure agreement here about the pace at which sanctions should be removed? Then the Foreign Secretary would be asked to conduct a dialogue with his opposite number and with the other parties to try to reach a measure of understanding, so that we could. act in concert with our European partners, the United States and the world.

Let us try to restore the kind of recognition that the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford described. We have an important foreign policy responsibility. We want South Africa to develop quickly the unity of purpose that will lead to a common electoral roll—one man, one vote—and proportional representation, which will provide significant minority safeguards: no constitutional change will then be possible without, say, 80 per cent. agreement. Namibia has shown the way with a Bill of Rights, providing for proportional representation and one of the best constitutions, which will be enacted on 21 March.

Massive change is taking place in South Africa, but we spent our time yesterday in the House hurling insults at each other. Such behaviour is below the level merited by such events. It is time that the Prime Minister recognised that she is not entitled to act unilaterally—that there must be international agreement. I hope that when the Foreign Secretary goes to Dublin on Tuesday he will be able to say, "We want to give President de Klerk a significant response: we want to encourage him to move forward."

I do not mind giving the House some idea of the criteria that should be applied. Let us remind ourselves of the provisions of the American Congressional legislation—the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act 1986:
"The bill provides that the sanctions contained in the bill shall terminate automatically if the South African Government meets five conditions specified in the bill. These conditions related to (1) the release of Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners"—
negotiations on who the political prisoners are have already begun—
"(2) the repeal of the State of Emergency and all detainees"—
I expect that to happen in a matters of weeks—
"(3) the unhanning of political parties"—
that has already happened—
"(4) the repeal of the Group Areas and Population Registration Acts"—
it will be hard to repeal the Group Areas Act immediately, but if the Government start to sign on for definite progress there is no reason why the Population Registration Act should not go as well—
"and (5) agreeing to enter into good faith negotiations with truly representative members of the black majority without preconditions."
That last criterion has virtually been fulfilled: President de Klerk is clear that there are to be no preconditions, and I believe that he will respond, as will all parties to the negotiations.

It never ceases to amaze me that liberation fighters throughout the world, and black Africans in particular, can demonstrate a spirit of reconciliation at a time of transition, and can forget the oppression that they have experienced in the past. Jomo Kenyatta is a classic example of that; it was seen from the late President Machel; it has been experienced by Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe; it is now being demonstrated by Sam Nujoma; and it has been seen from Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. I am glad that the role of Oliver Tambo has been mentioned. I hope that that will not be forgotten, because in the past 30 years Mr. Tambo has shown remarkable courage in relation to the ANC outside the country. The Foreign Secretary understands these issues.

I cannot give way. Time is limited.

I hope that the Foreign Secretary will ignore the vote tonight and that he will take the spirit of the House with him into the chamber of the Council of Ministers in Dublin on Tuesday.

6.21 pm

I know that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) will not consider me in any sense discourteous if I do not follow him closely, though I undoubtedly agree with some of his very interesting speech. I wish to refer to something that was said by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) who accused the Prime Minister of collaborating and colluding with apartheid.

It was my privilege, in August, to carry a message from the Prime Minister to my old school in Natal. There I addressed a very large audience—about 1,500 people. The Prime Minister's message contained the most unequivocal and total condemnation of apartheid that anyone could expect. The chief justice of the Republic of South Africa was in the audience, and there was no doubt whatever about the message that the Prime Minister was conveying or about the message that I was conveying. All the nonsense about the Prime Minister really supporting apartheid must be demolished. I have no doubt whatever that there is an argument about sanctions, about the means of achieving the end, but I do not think that the first proposition can be sustained.

I wish also to refer to the very interesting speech made by the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant). On occasion, the hon. Member has roused my ire, but this time he did not. He made a profoundly interesting and moving speech, and in his analysis of the major problem of the South African security forces being almost uncontrollable or out of control he put his finger on the central problem of manipulating change in that very difficult country. I welcome what he said about the vast complexities in South Africa. His remarks—if I may say so without being in any sense patronising—indicated great progress on his part.

The speech of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was a very different proposition. The right hon. Gentleman is a kind of one-man antiques road show. He comes to the House with his little brown paper parcels, filled with prejudice, half-truths and all sorts of other things. When he opens them—one of his favourites is the one that he likes to open when we debate South Africa—one gets a very strong whiff of smear gas. We know what is happening when the right hon. Gentleman speaks. He has absolutely no sympathy for, and very little understanding of, this question.

I wish to confess three mistakes that I have made—I believe that humility is the order of the day. Had I been asked 35 or 40 years ago whether an Afrikaner-dominated Government, a nationalist Government, would be proposing what Mr. de Klerk has proposed I should have said, "Not a chance—never." Had I been asked whether an Afrikaner leader of the stature of Mr. de Klerk would emerge and would lead that movement, I should have said the odds were 1,000 to one against. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. de Klerk when he was in London last June and I am happy to admit to the House that my assessment of him was totally mistaken. We now have a situation which opens up great hope and great possibilities.

I made those confessions because it is easy to be pessimistic about South Africa, as I myself was and as other hon. Members have been today. It is all too easy to underestimate the idealism, the political skill and the judgment of great Afrikaners such as Smuts. Smuts was one of the founding fathers of the League of Nations and one of the architects of the United Nations, so let no smear on him come from the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist). In this context I should also mention Louis Botha, the first prime minister of South Africa, as well as people such as Helen Suzman, Hofmeyr and, most recently, President de Klerk.

Perhaps we can inject some humility into this debate. I have read most of the speeches made in this House and most of the early-day motions on this subject in the past 25 years. What comes through most of them is an astonishing certainty, conviction and, above all, condemnation. As the hon. Member for Tottenham has realised, however, South Africa is probably the most ethnically complex society on earth. Most hon. Members' knowledge is derived largely from television programmes, articles—usually hostile—and 10-day visits, or perhaps even shorter visits such as the one that the right hon. Member for Gorton made recently. Nevertheless, they propound solutions and give prolific advice to all concerned about the problems in South Africa—problems which defeated Smuts and Hofmeyr. They are problems which also defeated Helen Suzman, a great battler for the cause of freedom in South Africa, and, indeed, defeated my late and lamented great personal friend, Patrick Duncan, who probably fought as courageous a campaign against apartheid as anyone mentioned in the debate so far.

We have exhibited an overpowering urge to condemn—an urge against which the great Goethe warned many years ago when he said that people should be suspicious whenever they met anyone with an overpowering urge to condemn. No one disputes the fact that such condemnation has been fully earned by apartheid, but—this is the principal point that I wish to make—the condemnation has assumed a somewhat less defensible form and is in some subtle way becoming a form of anti-South-Africanism which shares the bigotry, the vindictiveness and the viciousness of anti-semitism. I see this emerging in a number of ways and, regrettably, in a number of places. A basic distinction lies at the heart of this debate—the distinction between apartheid and South Africa. There is no defence for apartheid and no one in this House would attempt to make such a defence. South Africa, however, for all its faults and for all the grave situations that have rightly been described, is the nearest thing to an economic miracle in Africa south of the Sahara, and that fact lies at the heart of the debate.

The House had a similar debate about 40 years ago, when it was suggested that Germany, which had introduced possibly the most appalling doctrine that the western world had ever known—the Herrenvolk concept—should be not only defeated but totally destroyed. That was a great debate and a great argument, and it is one that is mirrored in, and in some senses at the heart of, this debate. I do not believe in total destruction. Nor did the West. To save western civilisation, and to save Europe, after Germany had been virtually destroyed, the Marshall plan had to be brought in. The purpose was to reconstruct Germany, and to enable its great economic engine to serve the purpose which in western Europe only it could serve.

I therefore have three fundamental objections to apartheid. The first relates to economic change. I do not think that it is arguable that sanctions have not been an important factor, but neither do I think that any hon. Member, on either side of the House, can prove that it has, or has not, been the factor that some hon. Members would like to think that it has been in the change of heart that has taken place. I do not believe that it is so. I believe that that argument ignores the character of the Afrikaner, who seldom makes the kind of cringing response that Opposition Members might expect him to make to pressure from outside. I remind the House that there are 2 million of us out there. When I say "us" I refer to English-speaking South Africans. There are 2 million English-speaking South Africans, whose connection with this country is close and often continuous. As every hon. Member knows, we do not like to be pushed around, and we are talking to "us". When in this House or in this country we use the wrong methods in our attempts to influence people we know what reaction we get. The reaction out there will be exacly the same.

My second objection is to the blunderbuss character of all sanctions. They are indiscriminate. They affect doctors and nurses and hospitals. They affect teachers and schools. One of South Africa's most distinguished physicists, Professor Serette at Fort Hare, in the most recent issue of New Scientist, stated unequivocally his condemnation of and opposition to sanctions because of the damage that they have done to black education at his university. Opposition Members suggest that all South Africans agree with them, but Professor Serette's remarks give the complete lie to that suggestion.

No. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but there is no time for me to give way to him.

Does the existence of racial discrimination or ethnic violence justify sanctions anywhere? If so, where does it stop? Who comes next? With whom do we not trade or communicate when this problem has been solved? Not many members of the United Nations would qualify, according to the conditions that we are trying to impose on South Africa.

There are two phrases in the Opposition motion with which I cannot agree. They are "the dismantling of apartheid" and
"the basic structure of apartheid remains intact."
In 1947, there was a most offensive legal institutionalisation of segregation and discrimination, which caused everything that has happened since. South Africa was then one of many countries with segregation; it was endemic in an imperfect world. Between 1939 and 1945, this very imperfect world lost 20 million to 30 million people, and 30,000 of those who died were South Africans who wanted to defeat the Herrenvolk concept. The people who introduced apartheid in 1947 grotesquely underestimated the reaction of the civilised world to what they were doing.

By definition, therefore, all the legislation that has been passed since 1947 should be dismantled. I wholly share that view, but the ANC is asking for the repeal of all legislation passed since 1910. That may be desirable, but it is a very different proposition. It is like asking Mr. Gorbachev to atone for history by dismantling the USSR and all that has happened there since 1917. Both are utterly impractical and both are beyond possibility. It is an unrealistic, naive and fatuous policy which implies that we have a right to sit in judgment. I do not think that we have.

Therefore, I wholly and fully support the Government's policy. I also support the first three lines of the Opposition's amendment, which have very much in common with the Government's policy. I hope that all my hon. Friends will go into the Lobby tonight and give the fullest possible support to the Government.

6.32 pm

I want to refer briefly to three themes that are uppermost in the minds of the public as they consider the recent events in South Africa: jubilation, expectation and apprehension.

If last weekend's events are the fruits of anything, they are the fruits of years of unsung, unselfish campaigning by ordinary people, black and white, through picketing, collecting signatures and lobbying Members of Parliament. I know many people, black and white, who have dedicated their lives to a free South Africa. If the release of Nelson Mandela is a tribute to anything, it is a tribute to all those campaigners, black and white, in Britain and throughout the world. His release has created jubilation among them.

There is also a sense of jubilation among many young black people in Britain. They are often told who their heroes should be, but for many young black people their supreme hero is Nelson Mandela, because of the example that he has set of fortitude, courage, bravery and commitment. He has shown young people what it is to be a black man in the 1990s. Above all, there is a feeling of jubilation among ordinary black people in South Africa, who for generations have borne the brunt of the brutality of apartheid.

There is a sense of expectation, because a free and democratic South Africa might lead to hope for the whole continent. A free and democratic South Africa, with its huge natural resources and its level of industralisation, could help to raise economic standards throughout the continent. There is expectation, too, among many hon. Members and those outside the House that we shall live to see Nelson Mandela as head of state in a free, democratic and non-racial South Africa.

There is also apprehension, due to a tiny Fascist element among the white population in South Africa. They will fight as fearlessly and ruthlessly as the Algerian settlers fought, but to as little purpose. However, they will cause enormous disruption and there might be great bloodshed. One wonders whether the police and the army are really under the control of the state.

Although there has been much talk about fear of a white backlash, I urge the Secretary of State to look northwards to Zimbabwe. I had the privilege of visiting Zimbabwe two years ago. After one of the most bitter civil wars, it is a tribute to the essential humanity of African people that both black and white people live side by side in peace in Zimbabwe. Ian Smith can walk the streets without a police guard. We should not, therefore, be too carried away by talk of threats to the white minority.

There are many different groupings and many different tribes. The possibility therefore exists of upheaval, of the exploitation of tribalism and of the policy of divide and rule. If Ministers accuse the Opposition of irresponsibility in supporting sanctions and of wishing the armed struggle to continue, what do they say to President Bush, who has stated that sanctions cannot yet be removed?

The overwhelming feeling in the hearts and minds of us all when we saw Nelson Mandela walk out of prison after 27 years was jubilation. It proved to the Opposition that there is no power on earth that can keep down a people who are determined to be free.

6.36 pm

During the last few months, we have savoured sweet moments of history. The Berlin wall is down; the Brandenburg gate is open. Now the most important political prisoner of our day has been liberated. Who can forget, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) has just said, the joy of seeing Mr. Mandela step that grand step into freedom? He can play a unique role in the transition from the old to the new South Africa. His royal progress culminated in yesterday's rally and triumphant homecoming in Soweto. His appeal for discipline and dignity was echoed by the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) and other contributors to the debate.

The historic grandeur of that moment of joy was not matched by the British Government's response. After her ritual expression of pleasure, the Prime Minister, true to form, rushed into a call for the easing of sanctions. She had already abandoned unilaterally some of the sanctions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) mentioned the new investment. That cannot be justified legally. The sanctions relating to scientific and cultural exchanges that have already been abandoned ought properly, had we been true partners, to have been taken to the Commonwealth and the European Economic Community.

I remind the Foreign Secretary of the preface to the 1986 Commonwealth Nassau statement on scientific and cultural exchanges:
"For our part, we have, as an earnest of our opposition to apartheid, reached accord on a programme of common action as follows:
That is very different from a unilateral abandonment of sanctions. Similarly, the preface, agreed with our EC partners, on the discouragement of scientific and cultural exchanges says:
"the Ten and Spain and Portugal have decided to harmonize their attitudes on the following measures".
Again, that would be working in partnership with our colleagues.

The tragedy for Britain of the unilateral enunciation is not only that it spurns our colleagues, but it gives a clear and wrong signal to white and black in South Africa. To the white reactionary element, it says effectively that we are ready to yield at an early stage. To the blacks, it only underlines what they have known all along—that the Prime Minister is ever ready to protect the reactionary element against the wrath of world opinion. The Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State must know in their hearts as they speak to our people in South Africa just what damage is being done to our work among the black community, which will be the South Africa of the future, by the image which the Prime Minister gives.

We know that policy on South Africa comes from No. 10 and that the Foreign Office is increasingly marginalised. The Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State know the damage being done by the attitude of the Prime Minister. It has confirmed the view in South Africa that her passions are stonger against sanctions than against apartheid. Indeed, she fails to recognise that apartheid itself amounts to sanctions against the majority in South Africa.

When Mr. Mandela, as a black South African, stepped out into freedom, it was in many ways the unfreedom of all black people in South Africa. Sanctions must be maintained, as a continued pressure for change and as an indication of the international resolve to end apartheid, until we are further down the road, when the momentum to negotiate is well under way. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said:
"I do not think that sanctions have achieved anything".—[Official Report, 13 February 1990; Vol. 1967, c. 140.]
Let her tell that to the business community, the Anglos and others in South Africa, and see how they respond.

The Prime Minister does not recognise that she is on her own, not only in Europe, but in respect of President Bush. Worse, in regard to our international stance, she is gratuitously using up our international goodwill, as, sadly, she has done in another sphere in her response to German unification, again by gratuitously irritating our allies in Europe and in the German Federal Republic. It cannot be good for British foreign policy to be thus isolated. Gareth Evans, the Australian Foreign Minister, said it all when he said that the Prime Minister is "isolated and irrelevant".

Already, in December 1989, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said, we had entered reservations in what was otherwise a consensus resolution at the United Nations. That is why I believe that I speak on behalf not only of the official Opposition but of the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), who spoke for the Liberal party and who has played such a distinguished role in the fight against apartheid, when I say that it cannot be good for Britain that we are now seen by those who have struggled over the years for freedom in South Africa as the major protectors of a system which has done so much damage to them.

In that context, given the past protection of the white minority, and given the fact that the Government have refused to meet ANC leaders and that the Prime Minister has called the ANC "just another terrorist organisation", with her real passion coming from attacks on the ANC, is it not clear that the Prime Minister's invitation to Mr. Mandela to visit this country is both naive and impertinent?

The purpose of the debate is not just to expose the Prime Minister and to show that we are alone, but to take the opportunity to affirm to the world that there is a different view from that of the Prime Minister, as we have seen from the courageous speeches of the hon. Members for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), Hertford and Stortford and others. We want to reaffirm to the world that the majority here are progressive and concerned, and rejoice with the underprivileged majority in South Africa at the liberation of their great leader. We know, as they do, that it would be wrong to lift sanctions, because sanctions have been one of the key factors which have led to change.

Events since 2 February have raised hope that the bloodbath which the Eminent Persons Group of the Commonwealth foresaw in 1986 may not come to pass. That, in part, is the result of the vision of President de Klerk and the integrity to which Mr. Mandela himself paid tribute. Indeed, those two men can play a key role in history, President de Klerk as, hopefully, the last white President of South Africa and Mr. Mandela as, hopefully, the first black President of that country.

In passing, if the whites in South Africa have apprehensions, let them look over the border to Namibia and remember the dire predictions about the whites fleeing from Namibia and about the economy collapsing. What do we see now? A democratic constitution was agreed last week as a prelude to independence, which will take place on 21 March. There is major investment by the international community in that country. In our judgment, it is a model for what can happen across the border in South Africa if only we have men of vision able to carry forward the dialogue to the new South Africa.

Having spent many weeks in South Africa over the years, I never fail to be amazed at the capacity of the blacks to forgive, as we have seen in Zimbabwe. For that I have great respect. Part of the tragedy of British foreign policy in past weeks has been that the Government, in the shape of the Prime Minister, have identified us with the old regime at a time of rapid change. The Prime Minister takes the reluctant Foreign Office with her. By contrast, we identify with the new, and with those who seek fundamental reforms in South Africa, who seek an end to apartheid and who want to use the vast potential of that country for the benefit of all its citizens.

6.47 pm

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) who, if we remove the obligatory rude remarks about the Prime Minister which have to decorate every Opposition speech, made many points with which I can agree.

I shall start with a secondary issue raised by the Leader of the Opposition—the question of isolation. It is a secondary issue because, if we could win the argument that the action that we are taking is right, it does not matter that we are alone. A radical party such as the Labour party should be wary of saying that we always have to move in total consensus. A radical party would find itself in an odd position if it believed that that was so. The argument is about whether we are right. As the Leader of the Opposition asked what will happen if we are isolated in the European Community, let me make matters clear, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State did. Of course, we are obliged, and willingly accept the obligation, to consult our partners in the European Community, which is what we will do on 20 February. If we fail to reach agreement, the Government must reserve the right to act on their own, if necessary. That is the legal position.

The much more fundamental argument that goes to the root of whether we are doing the right thing has been mentioned on all sides, and it was raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) and for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd). There is a profound sense in which we are not isolated. No one doubts for a moment that it has been the policy of the ANC to argue for comprehensive sanctions; it is unclear whether the Labour party is still arguing for comprehensive mandatory sanctions. But that is a legitimate argument.

Many people in South Africa and elsewhere who have perfectly good credentials to argue against apartheid take a different view. It was quite fair for my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate to refer to opinion polls among the blacks in South Africa, and it is fair to refer to the views of Chief Buthelezi.

It is obvious that Mr. Mandela will be a key player. Many take the same view as the hon. Member for Swansea, East that he will be the key player, but he is one voice among many in a complex situation, rightly defined in a formidable speech by the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) and an excellent short speech by the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott). We often oversimplify such issues, and one of the dangerous oversimplifications is to say that the ANC is the only voice of South Africa.

As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made perfectly clear, we are not arguing for the abolition of all sanctions. No one is arguing that we should abolish the sanctions on arms sales, for example. As the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said, until the end of the speech by the hon. Member for Swansea, East, no one on the Opposition Front Bench tried to deal with the issue at the centre of our case. Is it not right to try to make some response to the steps that Mr. de Klerk has taken? My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley), in an intervention, at least produced an argument—the first that I had heard against doing that—which was taken up by the Leader of the Opposition. He said that we might strengthen the hand of the Right wing by doing so. I agree with the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington that we should not make too much of the white backlash, although comparisons with settlers in Rhodesia who always knew their status and the Boers in South Africa are a little dangerous. However, while President de Klerk has the present constitution, he must show his own constituents that it is worth their while following him.

The Leader of the Opposition asked whether there have been any requests from South Africa. The South African Government have made it clear that they desperately hope for some response to the steps that they have taken. They are not unrealistic; they do not believe that they will get very much, but they want some response so that they can demonstrate to their own constituents that it is worth continuing down that road. Surely that argument is at least worth considering. Our emotional commitments against apartheid should not make us doubt our role. It is better that it be done by consensus, but that is not always possible. We have to find a policy, not simply an emotional response, and our policy is to push, press and argue that negotiations are the way forward.

The hon. Gentleman did not give way. I shall respond to his important speech in a moment. I have only 12 minutes left to speak.

I shall give way to the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) who did not get in earlier.

As I have now been reselected, perhaps I can turn up some dangerous ground. I knew that I would be in a better position with the Minister than I was with the Foreign Secretary. I shall ask the Minister the same question as I would have asked the Secretary of State. How can the Government ask the ANC to make concessions, following Mr. de Klerk's announcement and the release of Nelson Mandela, when the largely cosmetic changes that were made about segregation do not belie the fact that the Group Areas Act and the Labour Relations Act are still in force in a country where some people do not have a vote? Most important from my point of view, as I represent the interests of trade unionists internationally, there is still a system in which poverty wages down the pits, in the factories and in the townships mean that millions of people live in misery. Until those problems are solved, how the hell can the Government ask the ANC to make any more concessions?

The hon. Gentleman's points were dealt with in the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), which I shall turn to next, paying tribute in passing to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). I am sure that my right hon. Friend is right that the background of world politics has contributed to changing the attitudes of both sides in South Africa. No one is immune from the spirit of the possibility of peace and negotiation that is sweeping the world. The attitude of the Communist party in Russia to its connected parties in South Africa has been very important.

I shall not give way as I must deal with the speech by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North.

Like the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North asked how we could take such a step before the pillars of apartheid had been destroyed. That shows a complete misunderstanding of the European Community sanctions. I beg the hon. Gentleman to read once again the preamble to the 1986 decisions which were designed to bring about national dialogue across the racial barriers. As Mr. Mandela, among others, says, we are now approaching that—[Interruption.] I quoted it yesterday and my right hon. Friend quoted it earlier. As usual, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) comments from a sedentary position. If he still does not know the truth, I shall send it to him and he can learn it by heart.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North said that what has happened is all cosmetic—the words of the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East—because the really big things such as the dismantling of apartheid are not up for negotiation. That is where he and I disagree. Perhaps he and Mr. Mandela divide on this issue, because when Mr. Mandela talks about integrity, he is surely saying that he trusts President de Klerk to negotiate those issues. Mr. de Klerk's spokesman, the Minister of Constitutional Development, reiterated the points of agreement with Mr. Mandela and said that they now have a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement. Mr. Viljoen made those points, and President de Klerk agreed with him again today that they reject any system of white or black domination—or any domination of one group over another. On the two most fundamental issues of all they say that the remains of apartheid—although some of us believe that the most important parts of the structure still remain—must be removed. Whether they are remains or pillars of apartheid, they must be removed. Even the South African Government Minister believes so, and that will be included in the negotiations. Finally, Mr. Viljoen said that they were aiming for universal suffrage in a united democratic South Africa, and President de Klerk reaffirmed that in television interviews today.

If that is not putting the pillars of apartheid on the table for negotiation—if I can be excused a mixed metaphor—I do not know what is. The South African Government are making it clear that the door is open for talks; they are welcoming everybody, including the ANC, to those talks; they are not making unnecessary difficulties about the background of anyone to whom they wish to talk; and they are moving towards accepting the olive branch that has been offered by Mr. Mandela in terms of talking about defensive action. That is very close to the principle that we have espoused in the House of mutually winding down on both sides. The South African Government are cutting their defence forces.

Against that background, with the talks ready to begin and the South African Government making it clear that what the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North calls the pillars of apartheid are the subject of negotiations, should we still behave as though nothing has changed? The British Government consider that a response should be made, as my right hon. Friend made perfectly clear, without sweeping away the existing pressures which are not fundamentally caused by the actions of any Government. We all know that what really shook South Africa was not the sanctions or any act of Government, but the actions of the commercial banks in their credit negotiations. Those banks and investors know very well that, unless South Africa moves, there will be conflict. That is why people will not invest there. It is not because the Twelve, the 24 or the Commonwealth tell them not to invest there; it is because they can see the truth. Now that there is a chance of movement and the hope that those investments will return, whatever anyone says, it is perfectly legitimate for us to say that it is pointless to discourage them. In the new climate it would be wrong to discourage them. We should look for some response to the steps that have been taken.

For many years, the Labour party told us that the Government had caused a dreadful block because there were no sanctions. Labour Members cannot now argue that the fundamental changes have been brought about by sanctions which they have repeatedly argued in the House have no more than symbolic power. They try to have the argument both ways, but logically they cannot.

I hope that the powerful speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) and for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) laid to rest any claims that the concerns about apartheid are felt by only one side of the House. There is no Member of the House who is not committed to the destruction of apartheid. The arguments are entirely about the tactics and how to make the transition without the revolutionary destruction of the economy and potential of South Africa that could all too easily come about. That is why I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for the Government amendment.

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

The House divided: Ayes 214, Noes 278.

Division No. 74]

[7 pm

AYES

Abbott, Ms DianeGarrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Allen, GrahamGodman, Dr Norman A.
Alton, DavidGolding, Mrs Llin
Anderson, DonaldGordon, Mildred
Archer, Rt Hon PeterGould, Bryan
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyGraham, Thomas
Ashley, Rt Hon JackGrant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Ashton, JoeGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Grocott, Bruce
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Hardy, Peter
Barron, KevinHarman, Ms Harriet
Battle, JohnHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Beckett, MargaretHaynes, Frank
Beith, A. J.Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Bell, StuartHeffer, Eric S.
Benn, Rt Hon TonyHenderson, Doug
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Hinchliffe, David
Bermingham, GeraldHoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Blunkett, DavidHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Boateng, PaulHome Robertson, John
Boyes, RolandHood, Jimmy
Bradley, KeithHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Bray, Dr JeremyHowells, Geraint
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Hoyle, Doug
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Buchan, NormanHughes, Roy (Newport E)
Buckley, George J.Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Caborn, RichardIllsley, Eric
Callaghan, JimJanner, Greville
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Johnston, Sir Russell
Canavan, DennisJones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Clay, BobKennedy, Charles
Clelland, DavidKinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Cohen, HarryKirkwood, Archy
Coleman, DonaldLambie, David
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Lamond, James
Corbett, RobinLeadbitter, Ted
Corbyn, JeremyLeighton, Ron
Cousins, JimLestor, Joan (Eccles)
Crowther, StanLewis, Terry
Cryer, BobLitherland, Robert
Cummings, JohnLivingstone, Ken
Cunliffe, LawrenceLivsey, Richard
Cunningham, Dr JohnLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dalyell, TarnLofthouse, Geoffrey
Darling, AlistairLoyden, Eddie
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)McAllion, John
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)McAvoy, Thomas
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)Macdonald, Calum A.
Dewar, DonaldMcFall, John
Dixon, DonMcKelvey, William
Dobson, FrankMcLeish, Henry
Doran, FrankMaclennan, Robert
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethMcWilliam, John
Eadie, AlexanderMadden, Max
Eastham, KenMahon, Mrs Alice
Evans, John (St Helens N)Marek, Dr John
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Faulds, AndrewMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Fearn, RonaldMartin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Maxton, John
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Meacher, Michael
Fisher, MarkMeale, Alan
Flannery, MartinMichael, Alun
Flynn, PaulMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMichie, Mrs Ray (Arg'I & Bute)
Foster, DerekMitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Foulkes, GeorgeMorgan, Rhodri
Fraser, JohnMorley, Elliot
Fyfe, MariaMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Galloway, GeorgeMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Garrett, John (Norwich South)Mullin, Chris

Murphy, PaulSnape, Peter
Nellist, DaveSoley, Clive
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonSpearing, Nigel
O'Brien, WilliamSteel, Rt Hon Sir David
O'Neill, MartinSteinberg, Gerry
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyStrang, Gavin
Patchett, TerryStraw, Jack
Pendry, TomTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Pike, Peter L.Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Prescott, JohnTurner, Dennis
Primarolo, DawnVaz, Keith
Quin, Ms JoyceWall, Pat
Radice, GilesWallace, James
Randall, StuartWalley, Joan
Redmond, MartinWareing, Robert N.
Richardson, JoWatson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Robinson, GeoffreyWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Rowlands, TedWigley, Dafydd
Ruddock, JoanWilliams, Rt Hon Alan
Salmond, AlexWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Sedgemore, BrianWilson, Brian
Sheerman, BarryWinnick, David
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertWise, Mrs Audrey
Shore, Rt Hon PeterWorthington, Tony
Short, ClareWray, Jimmy
Sillars, Jim
Skinner, DennisTellers for the Ayes:
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie and Mr. Allen McKay.
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)

NOES

Adley, RobertCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Aitken, JonathanCarrington, Matthew
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelCarttiss, Michael
Amery, Rt Hon JulianChalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Amess, DavidChannon, Rt Hon Paul
Amos, AlanChapman, Sydney
Arbuthnot, JamesChope, Christopher
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Churchill, Mr
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Ashby, DavidClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Aspinwall, JackClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Atkins, RobertClarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Atkinson, DavidColvin, Michael
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Conway, Derek
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Batiste, SpencerCoombs, Simon (Swindon)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyCormack, Patrick
Bellingham, HenryCouchman, James
Bendall, VivianCran, James
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Critchley, Julian
Benyon, W.Currie, Mrs Edwina
Bevan, David GilroyCurry, David
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnDavies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterDavis, David (Boothferry)
Body, Sir RichardDay, Stephen
Boscawen, Hon RobertDevlin, Tim
Boswell, TimDorrell, Stephen
Bottomley, PeterDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Dover, Den
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Dunn, Bob
Bowis, JohnDurant, Tony
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesDykes, Hugh
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardEggar, Tim
Brandon-Bravo, MartinEvans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Brazier, JulianEvennett, David
Bright, GrahamFairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterFallon, Michael
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Favell, Tony
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Fenner, Dame Peggy
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Budgen, NicholasFinsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Burns, SimonFishburn, John Dudley
Burt, AlistairFookes, Dame Janet
Butler, ChrisForman, Nigel
Butterfill, JohnForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Forth, Eric

Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
Fox, Sir MarcusMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Freeman, RogerMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
French, DouglasMiller, Sir Hal
Gale, RogerMills, lain
Gardiner, GeorgeMiscampbell, Norman
Garel-Jones, TristanMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Gill, ChristopherMitchell, Sir David
Glyn, Dr Sir AlanMonro, Sir Hector
Goodhart, Sir PhilipMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Goodlad, AlastairMorris, M (N'hampton S)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMorrison, Sir Charles
Gorman, Mrs TeresaMoss, Malcolm
Gow, IanMoynihan, Hon Colin
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)Mudd, David
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Neale, Gerrard
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')Needham, Richard
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Grist, IanNicholls, Patrick
Grylls, MichaelNicholson, David (Taunton)
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynNicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hague, WilliamNorris, Steve
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hampson, Dr KeithPage, Richard
Hanley, JeremyPaice, James
Hannam, JohnParkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
Harris, DavidPatten, Rt Hon John
Haselhurst, AlanPawsey, James
Hawkins, ChristopherPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hayes, JerryPorter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyPorter, David (Waveney)
Hayward, RobertPowell, William (Corby)
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidPrice, Sir David
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Rathbone, Tim
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)Redwood, John
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Hill, JamesRhodes James, Robert
Hind, KennethRidley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Holt, RichardRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Hordern, Sir PeterRoe, Mrs Marion
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Rossi, Sir Hugh
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyRost, Peter
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)Rowe, Andrew
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Sackville, Hon Tom
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)Shaw, David (Dover)
Hunter, AndrewShaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Irvine, MichaelShelton, Sir William
Irving, Sir CharlesShephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Jack, MichaelShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Janman, TimShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Jessel, TobySims, Roger
Jones, Robert B (Herts W)Skeet, Sir Trevor
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineSmith. Tim (Beaconsfield)
Key, RobertSoames, Hon Nicholas
Kilfedder, JamesSpeller, Tony
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)Squire, Robin
Knapman, RogerStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Knight, Greg (Derby North)Steen, Anthony
Knox, DavidStevens, Lewis
Lee, John (Pendle)Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Lightbown, DavidStewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Lilley, PeterSumberg, David
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Summerson, Hugo
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Lord, MichaelTaylor, John M (Solihull)
McCrindle, RobertTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)Temple-Morris, Peter
McLoughlin, PatrickThatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Madel, DavidThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mans, KeithThompson, Patrick (Norwich N;
Maples, JohnThorne, Neil
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Thornton, Malcolm

Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)Whitney, Ray
Tredinnick, DavidWiddecombe, Ann
Trippier, DavidWiggin, Jerry
Trotter, NevilleWilkinson, John
Twinn, Dr IanWilshire, David
Vaughan, Sir GerardWinterton, Mrs Ann
Viggers, PeterWinterton, Nicholas
Wakeham, Rt Hon JohnWolfson, Mark
Waldegrave, Rt Hon WilliamWood, Timothy
Walker, Bill (T'side North)Yeo, Tim
Waller, GaryYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Watts, JohnTellers for the Noes:
Wells, BowenMr. Nicholas Baker and Mr. Irvine Patnick.
Wheeler, Sir John

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House salutes Nelson Mandela on his release and welcomes the constructive actions taken by President de Klerk to create an atmosphere conducive to negotiations with all parties in South Africa towards a non-racial constitution enjoying the support of a majority of South Africans; and believes these steps deserve a positive and practical response from the international community.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Given the total lack of regard in the previous debate for the real reason why the white Government in South Africa have retreated—namely, the heroic role of the black working class and the youth of that country—I give notice that I shall seek to prolong the debate by using the mechanism of the Adjournment debate.

That matter has nothing to do with the Chair. All that I can say to the hon. Member is that I wish him the best of British luck.

Rail Fares And Services

I advise the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister.

7.13 pm

I beg to move,

That this House condemns the Government's approach to British Rail and London Underground that has produced the poorest quality rail and tube services and the highest fares in Western Europe, and has left Britain's transport system unable to cope with the challenges posed by the Channel Tunnel and the Single European Market; believes that Britain's transport crisis is now so severe that it is doing severe economic and environmental damage to the whole nation; deplores the low pay and long hours which typify the average working period of railway workers; recognises the need to set tougher quality of service standards to ensure that real passengers enjoy a safer, more reliable and efficient service at a fairer price and have greater powers to demand redress when those standards are not met; believes that compared to the railway systems of other developed nations, British Rail deserves greater financial support from public funds; and resolves that these problems can only be solved by adopting a co-ordinated approach to transport policy, increasing the level of public service obligation and other grants paid to British Rail and London Regional Transport, and adopting a new approach to investment to ensure that all plans are judged on a common basis, taking full account of environmental, economic and social benefits for both users and non-users.
This is the first proper transport debate since the new Secretary of State's appointment. Today, the Opposition will express the anger of millions of passengers who, after 10 years of cuts in subsidy and moves towards privatisation, are fed up with paying the highest fares in Europe for a dirty, unreliable and overcrowded railway service. The amendment paints a picture that is a million miles from the daily experience of millions of people who travel on our railway system today. The Government fail to understand that transport has become a major political issue, not only because the Opposition have chosen to make it so but because people feel helpless and frustrated at the scale of our transport crisis.

The facts of a poor quality service are well documented and are available for all hon. Members to see in the various reports. A dossier of shame has been compiled. It shows that one in six InterCity trains—that is, more than 300 trains per day—are at least 10 minutes late, that 112 trains on Network SouthEast are cancelled every day because of staff shortages, and that more than 800 trains on Network SouthEast are more than five minutes late every day. The position on provincial services is even worse.

Despite the fact that the number of passengers has increased by 10 per cent.—almost 70 million passengers—since 1983, there are 676 fewer carriages, which is about 50,000 seats, and 2,500 fewer locomotives in the railway system. With the increasing number of passengers on our rail system and with less seating capacity, it is hardly surprising that overcrowding has become so bad on Network SouthEast that on journeys lasting more than 20 minutes there must be at least one third of passengers standing before British Rail will put on an extra train—provided, of course, that there is one available and there are staff to man it.

On London Underground, one in three escalators are out of order on any given day. Also, 551 tube stations were closed for all or part of a day in the past six months because there were not enough staff to keep them open. An increasing number of stations are being closed at certain times because of dangerous overcrowding on platforms.

The question for the House and for the country is why that has happened. Instead of having arguments about policy differences, it is fair to draw a comparison with the European experience. Other European countries have transport systems which move millions of people around, they have trains and buses, and it is fair to see how their Governments manage to provide a far better system. That is why many people in this country are increasingly angry. They go abroad and see the systems there, and they know that there is no need for the standard of service that they get in Britain to continue.

Undoubtedly, one of the key differences is the financial framework. The level of Government grant in European countries is far higher and it maintains a better quality system. Almost uniquely in Europe, the present British Government have pursued a policy of reducing public subsidy. In 1983 it was more than £1 billion, but it has been reduced to £560 million this year and there is to be a further cut of £340 million by 1992. The Treasury has saved nearly £2 billion compared with the 1983 levels of support. British Rail now receives only one third to one half of average European financial support.

The only way in which British Rail could compensate for such a massive loss of income is to pursue a policy of massive redundancies with the loss of more than 40,000 jobs, which has affected the quality of service. British Rail has also had to sell off assets—some very cheaply, as we recently saw in the British Rail Engineering Ltd. case about the sale of land, which is quite usual in privatisation programmes. Fares have risen by 24 per cent. in real terms in the past 10 years. That makes our fares the most expensive in Europe. An average 10 km journey costs twice as much in London as in other capital cities in Europe. That problem can be solved only by a very different policy.

The Secretary of State inherited a major problem, and it was hoped by many that his different approach might produce an entirely different policy. Opposition Members believe that a different policy is needed. As I shadowed the right hon. Gentleman on energy matters, I am bound to say that I did not believe that there would be any change in policy. He is a great man for explaining why things ought to be working and giving out the message, "It's the way I tell them."

That is not good enough because the Government's policies are wrong. They are going in for presentation. That is always the Tory approach to problems. They regularly argue that there is nothing wrong with their policies, simply that the presentation is wrong. In this case, the Secretary of State, who has earned himself a name for presenting matters in a better way than his predecessor, has done his best to go in for better presentation.

When the right hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) was replaced by the present Secretary of State—known as the Prime Minister's trouble shooter—I thought that a fresh mind was being brought to the urgent problems of the railways and that, as the right hon. Gentleman is good at PR, he might recognise, on studying the problems, that presentation and PR are not enough on this occasion. I regret to say that the right hon. Gentleman was brought in not to solve Britain's transport crisis but to improve the presentation and interpretation of Tory policies.

When Sir Bob Reid said that his job was not to run a service that was desirable but to run one that was profitable—he was talking about the Channel tunnel services—the Secretary of State explained to the House that he had been misunderstood. When Sir Bob warned that Britain's future as the transport hub of Europe was threatened by a lack of investment, the Secretary of State claimed that his speech had been widely misinterpreted.

When I warned in a statement on rail fares that the downturn in the economy, with the slump in the property market, meant that British Rail would have to cut its investment programme by up to £500 million, the Secretary of State told "The World At One" that there had been a misunderstanding of the figures. His office asked for a copy of my press release, which highlighted the figures and he must have studied them in detail. The right hon. Gentleman with his background as an accountant presumably understands figures better than most, although that is not obvious from the presentation of his policies.

Does the right hon. Gentleman deny, as I predicted a couple of weeks ago in regard to the corporate review and the Government's financial statement, that we shall be underfunded in the proposed £3·7 billion investment programme? I predicted cuts. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny the story in The Guardian this morning that trains are to be shortened and services scrapped? Is that another misunderstanding? I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will deal with that when he speaks in the debate.

Such cuts have been happening throughout the system for a long time. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that the electrification of the King's Lynn and Uckfield lines has been delayed, that station modernisation schemes have been shelved and that park 'n' ride schemes have been scrapped? Does he appreciate that British Rail's investment programme assumes a rate of economic growth that is twice the Treasury's prediction?

The Secretary of State has assumed that the programme of investment will be protected and will not be cut. He said that in an interview that he gave to The Financial Times. If that is so, how is it to be financed? If the programme is to be maintained and not cut, who will pay for it? Can passengers expect a higher level of fares, or will more jobs on the railways be lost? Will the Government sell more railway assets? Or are the Government prepared to protect the railway system and provide more financial support?

If the Government genuinely wish to support the railways—not claim that there has been another misunderstanding or misinterpretation—they will have to review the corporate plan that has just been announced by British Rail and the financial framework that has been announced to Parliament. I call on the Secretary of State to review that corporate plan. If he is to provide the investment that he and we wish to see in the British Rail system, that is vital.

The Secretary of State claimed in an article in the Financial Times that the problem with me—and, I assume, many others—was that I did not understand the figures.
"It's not my fault John's not an accountant",
he said. That is true, though I have met many creative accountants who have been paid to present different positions on the same figures. The Secretary of State is a past master at doing that.

The right hon. Gentleman's knowledge of accountancy did not do him much good when it came to electricity privatisation because he constantly said in the House that there would not be any price increases. That claim was blown apart with the statement in the House last week, and particularly with what has happened over electricity privatisation and nuclear plants.

I gather that the right hon. Gentleman disagrees with me. The record proves the correctness of what I say, including statements made by the right hon. Gentleman to the House and on television. I shall be only too pleased to provide him with the details of that record. His reputation on figures was not good in that respect, which is no doubt why he moved to the Department of Transport.

Does the hon. Gentleman have an opinion about creative returns to the Customs and Excise by people coming through with cameras accompanied by false receipts.

I shall not enter into that issue. I would be prepared to discuss it with the hon. Lady, and I assure her that I felt as aggrieved as anybody else about that matter. Hon. Members will accept my reputation as one who has never entered into personal slights, and I regret that the hon. Lady has done so on this occasion. She will find that the House does not admire Members who get involved in that kind of slagging, on either side of the Chamber. Professional politicians are better occupied dealing with the substances of politics.

I had better get on with the transport matters with which we are dealing.

Order. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is not giving way. If that is the case, the hon. Lady must resume her seat.

The country has not gained in the past from interventions by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie). I cannot see that anything would be gained by my giving way to her now.

In the White Paper on London traffic we were again challenged on the figures—

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Surely it is not in order for an Opposition Front Bench spokesman to be so rude and personal about Members on the Government side when we simply wish to ask questions about the railway service and know the views of Opposition Members on that subject. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to refuse to give way on that basis? If so, it is thoroughly bad manners on his part.

Order. There are no Standing Orders to that effect. The hon. Gentleman made it clear that he was not giving way to the hon. Lady, so I cannot allow her at this stage to intervene.

No doubt the hon. Lady feels that she has said her television piece. People in glasshouses should not throw eggs.

When it comes to judging estimates relating to prices, the Secretary of State does not have a good reputation. The House may recall an exchange that took place about the London road assessment figures and the judgement that rail prices would increase by 40 per cent. in real terms. That was contested by the Secretary of State at the time, supported by other Conservative Members.

I have now seen the correspondence between the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) and it is clear that the right hon. Gentleman has had to concede that, judged in terms of GNP or price increases, our predictions are right. I have since checked my facts with the Library, and if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to deal with that in his speech, I shall be delighted.

The Secretary of State's judgment is so faulty that he is making fundamental mistakes in his transport policy. Not only is there a fundamental difference between the two sides of the House about how we should approach the whole issue of transport, but there is that difference between all parties in the Opposition vis-a-vis the views of the Secretary of State.

When discussing these issues with the Council of Ministers in Europe, the right hon. Gentleman must find himself isolated in the policy that he is pursuing. As we heard on Monday, the right hon. Gentleman is fond of talking about the situation in eastern Europe, especially on matters of intervention, integration and co-ordination. Every other country in Europe is pursuing policies different from his.

The only crumb of comfort he seemed to gather was that the subsidies being put into their transport system by the Germans did not meet with his approval. But whether or not the right hon. Gentleman is proud of what is happening in Germany, the Germans have a far superior system to ours. That is the crux of the matter, especially as in Germany they are not talking about reducing their subsidies.

The British Government are isolated in their transport policy. If it is a question of disagreement between the two sides of the House, I call in aid—to show that it goes deeper than just disagreement—some of the editorials that are now appearing in the press about the Government's policy in general and the Secretary of State in particular. For example, readers of The Daily Telegraph were told to be "wary of misunderstandings" and that the Secretary of State was taking
"A pitifully myopic approach to our desperate transport problems."
Presumably the writer meant to say that he was doing a wonderful job. The same newspaper claimed that the
"luckless Transport Secretary" was in
"possibly his last Cabinet post."
The right hon. Gentleman no doubt interpreted that to mean that he was heading for the top—[Interruption.] Conservative Back Benchers need have no fear because I am now coming to them, and in particular to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark). After all, Back Benchers travel on the trains. I extended to the hon. Member for Selly Oak the courtesy of informing him that I would be referring to him. He said:
"You get the feeling that Mr. Parkinson wants the Tories to lose the next election".
He said that to tell inter-city commuters that they are getting travel too cheap was bizarre nonsense and that the Secretary of State was living in cloud-cuckoo-land. I am sure that the Secretary of State will say that, on careful reading of his hon. Friend's remarks, he is sure that he was widely misunderstood. I do not take that view. It is a clear and categorical statement about the Conservative party's policy on transport, particularly with regard to fares. As I have been told to keep to transport, I shall say that as an influential Back Bencher—[HON. MEMBERS: "Senior."]—yes, a senior Back Bencher or Front Back Bencher, whatever the hon. Gentleman's position is called, he made a trenchant criticism of the Government's transport policy.

The Secretary of State is finding out that all the clever messages and nice images are not the way to solve major problems. I shall tell him why his message will have no effect on the electorate. The daily experience of British people is so bad—they know what they are experiencing—that they will not listen to such blandishments and messages. We could all give many examples, but I shall give the Secretary of State my experience on the railway yesterday.

I had to go to Manchester to address a CLES conference on the future of British Rail. I joined one of BR's flagships, the Manchester pullman, at 8 am. The toilets did not work, the brakes were faulty, a boiler had failed and there were staff shortages. The train stopped and I looked out of the window and saw that we had been connected to the other British Rail flagship, the 7.50 Liverpool pullman, and were pushing it into Nuneaton. We arrived 40 minutes late.

I returned on the 3 pm train, which had worn-out shabby coaches and brake problems and was an hour late arriving in London. I then joined the London Underground Victoria line system, but we were informed that it would not be stopping at Victoria. I bailed out at Green Park and got on to the Jubilee line, which the Secretary of State intends to abolish in one of his new proposals for cross-London links, but found that the escalators were not working. I managed to arrive at Charing Cross on the good old Northern line—as soon as the doors open, one always faces a wall of bodies through which one has to fight one's way on to the train—and took the Circle line to Westminster and was informed that there would be delays and cancellations because of shortages of staff.

That tragedy of a journey was by no means exceptional. It is the daily experience of many people in Britain. We know that the Secretary of State"s experiences are somewhat limited. He told the Daily Mail when he took the job:
"When all the fuss dies down I must get myself on a bus or train, I haven't been on either for years."
In another interview we were told that he intends to travel incognito on the trains and tubes. I do not blame him for that. If he is recognised while travelling on a train or Underground, he will be in trouble. If he had been on the InterCity trains yesterday to and from Manchester and people had seen him, he would certainly have been in trouble. Actually, of course, they did see him—on the front of the InterCity propaganda magazine which stated:
"Parkinson's mission is to produce a balanced alternative."
I wish that he had been on the train yesterday to explain the balanced alternative to interested commuters. I agreed that I would pass on their message. I would never use strong language, but I think that the Secretary of State gets my meaning.

If the policy is wrong, what needs to be done? If we are to learn anything from the European experience, it is that the transport system needs more money. Whatever the argument—politicians cannot buck this—the Government must find more resources for the British Rail system. They cannot sack more people, sell more assets or put the fares up any more. More money has to be found. That is the reality and none of us can duck it.

Whether it is expressed as a proportion of GDP or in the amounts of money involved, we give only a fraction of what other European countries give to their rail systems. The problems cannot be solved by real fare increases. The Secretary of State puts up the argument that long distance passengers are subsidised and should pay a great deal more. The answer to that argument came strongly from his hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak, as I said earlier.

The Confederation of British Industry estimates that road congestion costs us £20 billion. Not many years ago social costing justified putting more money into the railway system. What is so terrible in this country is that we do not judge rail and road investment in the same way. We make rail investment require an 8 per cent. return. For roads, we estimate how many accidents are likely to happen and the time that can be saved and justify millions of pounds of expenditure. A social cost approach for rail is essential.

The Secretary of State shakes his head. In a letter to The Guardian his hon. Friend the Minister said that there was no difference between the assessment for road and rail investment. I was surprised to hear that remark. It has always been generally accepted that there is a difference. I heard a speech in Manchester. Major-General Lennox Napier, the chairman of TCCC, the passenger consultative body, has always made it clear that the cuts in the public service obligation have affected the quality of services. That is what the passengers say and what the body set up to make the judgment says. He went on to make another point on cost-benefit analysis. He said:

"I find myself an inspector of public enquiries on roads."
He does both things:
"I find myself presented with a cost-benefit analysis for road building which measures all the costs and all the benefits which accrue to society at large as a result of public investment over a 30-year period."
I am surprised that until now no equivalent cost-benefit analysis has been applied to rail investment. The cost-benefit analysis system should be applied in determining investment and investments should be made in British Rail.

I should like the Secretary of State to tell us who is right in that argument. Are his hon. Friends right? Is there a difference? If there is a difference, as most of us believe and most of the authorities have always said, would he reconsider his position so that we can have a fair comparison when judging the investment criteria of the two Departments?

No, I have a problem with time. In the last debate I took an awfully long time.

On subsidies, it is clear that there is a link between subsidies and the quality of service. I have given the authority for saying that and quoted my own direct experience. The Secretary of State argues, "Why should we subsidise services that are overcrowded?" We have a pricing policy which seems to be geared to driving people off the trains and on to our congested roads. We know the consequences and cost to the economy of congestion. We know the environmental cost of exhaust emissions of more people going by car. It must be desirable to subsidise rail services. Network South East will soon be the only urban rail network in Europe and North America which operates without any public subsidy.

The hon. Gentleman says, "Hear, hear." I note that he is from a midlands constituency. There is not much hear-hearing from people in the Network South East area.

It is generally accepted that our fares are too high. In railway transportation it is not possible to secure all the operating and investment costs from the fare box and it is nonsense to attempt to do so. No other country has achieved that. Investment is absolutely crucial. There has been chronic underfunding throughout the 1980s. In both Labour and Tory Governments the Treasury's influence was such that the Government took a short-term view of long-term investment.

So the hon. Gentleman accepts that.

I have said it constantly. The Minister should look at the record. The last bulge in investment was in 1955. In various Governments, the Treasury has taken the view that investment could be put off and trains could be made to last longer. Now we have the bunching of investment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Investment is crucial and necessary but it means that we did not have a sustained level of investment in British Rail over a long period. [Interruption.] Yes, it is bunching. We are investing today because of a bunching of investment requirements. I cannot argue with the fact that there is an investment programme. I fully accept it. It is hard to deny that a £3·5 billion investment programme is going on. [Interruption.] Of course there is investment. The engines and coaches are 25 and 30 years old. They cannot go any longer. Investment has to be made. Before Conservative Members start cheering I shall tell them the problem with the programme. Does any Conservative Member know of any industry that tries to cover a 30-year replacement programme in a few years and obtain all the money from the fare box? It is nonsense. It is not done anywhere. It puts the penalties on the passengers.

France, Germany and Holland are investing far more in the railway revolution that is sweeping through Europe.

Throughout the 1980s, the French have invested heavily in developing the TGV and suburban networks. Some 30 per cent. of the cost of TGV and electrification schemes are met by Government grants. The Governments give capital as well as revenue grants to the railway system. We should recognise that the same is critical for our system.

If we are to have a railway system that is modern and meets the freight requirements of our industry and travelling public we shall have to find more investment for it—and larger sums than those available at present.

Does the hon. Gentleman talk to his hon. Friends in the Labour finance team?

Yes, I do.

There are different ways and different priorities in financing such measures. We would not follow the crazy road programme that the Government have embarked upon—[Interruption.] Yes, it is crazy because all that it has done is to transfer the money that has been saved from the public service obligation for railways across to the road programme. The Government have doubled the road programme at the expense of the rail passengers at the very time when we want people to come out of their cars and to use the railway system. That is the craziness of the Government's policy.

At the same time, the Government have ignored passenger accountability. Passengers feel helpless and the quality of the service is declining. I note that the Secretary of State is talking about a "passenger service charter". I am glad to see that he is pinching some of the ideas of the Labour policy document that we sent to the Secretary of State. That is not the first idea that he has pinched from Labour's transport programme and it will not be the last. However, we welcome that because it means an improvement.

If the Secretary of State really wants to help the passengers he will have to do something about the fares and about greater public financial support for the railways. I give him another bit of advice—he should establish an independent body so that passengers can complain about what is happening. We shall set one up under the auspices of a public interest commissioner, who will have the Power to investigate British Rail independently, allow passengers to make complaints, award compensation against British Rail for its failures, and give passengers a real chance to exercise their grievances.

A modern railway system needs additional public financial support, and such a system is absolutely crucial if we are to relieve the congestion that is a major cost to our economy and to do anything about environmental problems. That is not an eastern European solution. It is a good, sensible solution that has been adopted by most western European countries, which have far better transport systems than we have.

7.41 pm

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

'congratulates the Government on developing a balanced transport policy which recognises the economic importance to the United Kingdom of its rail, road and air network; welcomes the biggest programme of investment in British Rail for 25 years and the massive increase in investment in London Underground which will relieve congestion and meet the increased demand which is the result of the economic success of the United Kingdom; welcomes the demanding quality of service objectives set by the Government; welcomes the £1 billion which will be spent to ensure Britain's rail infrastructure is in place to service the Channel Tunnel when it opens in 1993; applauds the high priority that the Government gives to all matters of safety on transport; and welcomes its recognition of the importance of the environment in transport policy.'.
We heard the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, (Mr. Prescott) at his characteristic worst, full of bluster and wild promises. He may not have read the speech made yesterday by his hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in which she said that the Opposition were determined to avoid any commitments to any major public expenditure programmes. She subsequently said that transport was one of a number of priorities—I repeat, "one of".

In the past 24 hours, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has promised to repeal section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987, and has said that a Labour Government would underwrite the cross-Channel link. I hope that he cleared that with Sam McCluskie, who will find out today that his favourite son is planning to subsidise the competitors of the ferries and hovercraft on which his members depend for their living—[Interruption.] As I said, I hope that the hon. Gentleman cleared that with his friend Sam; otherwise, he might find tomorrow that he is no longer sponsored, which would be a terrible, terrible shock. The hon. Gentleman also made a series of wild remarks, implying that the subsidy under Labour is bound to increase enormously and that it will be centrally funded.

Over and over again, we hear the hon. Gentleman whingeing. It is not for nothing that he is called the prince of whingers in his time. It is not for nothing that he is universally distrusted and, if I may say so, fairly widely disliked. It is not for nothing that neither we nor the country take him seriously.

The hon. Gentleman made a modest claim tonight. He said that it was as a result of the Labour party's efforts that transport has suddenly become an important subject. I shall tell him why transport is an important subject—

The hon. Gentleman should check Hansard.

Transport has become an important subject because, under a Conservative Government, this country has enjoyed 10 years of substantial economic growth. On the personal level, the net result is that 5 million more motor cars are now on the roads; two thirds of families in this country now own a family car, and 20 per cent. own more than one.

There has been a huge increase in economic activity, which has resulted in a great increase in the movement of freight and commercial traffic around our country. In London alone, there has been a 30 per cent. increase in the use of light commercial vans. I do not know of any plans—even by the hon. Gentleman—for getting light commercial vehicles on to buses, which seems to be the hon. Gentleman's answer to pretty well everything else. There has also been a huge increase in the number of people travelling by rail, air and road as the country has become more prosperous.

Another factor is that the Government have been determined to avoid the mistakes of their predecessors, who set out on ambitious programmes that they could not sustain, running the country into an economic mess and subsequently slashing all the capital investment programmes on which they had embarked. We were determined that that would not happen. As the country has become more prosperous, so the investment programmes, right across the whole spectrum of the infrastructure, have been improved.

The Secretary of State has made great play of the importance of those economic benefits to the whole community. Will he therefore tell me why there is such deep concern in my part of the country, where there is no clear investment programme on either the roads or the railways that would ensure that we in the north-east and in the highlands and islands of Scotland can benefit from 1992? What are his Government's direct plans for Scotland to ensure that we have the road and rail network that we merit?

As the hon. Lady knows, roads in Scotland are the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. However, the train system in Scotland is my responsibility and a substantial investment programme is planned for ScotRail. A huge subsidy is being spent to maintain the rail system. The Government accept the need to maintain that system—

Will the Secretary of State give way?

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment, but I want to get on—

No, I want to get on with my speech.

As a result of the country's increased prosperity—I am glad that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, started to admit that—there has been a huge increase in investment across the whole spectrum of our infrastructure. Our road programmes are running at a high level. Investment in the Underground, at £400 million per year, is at twice the level when the Labour party controlled it through the Greater London council. Next year, that figure will increase to 3·5 times the amount that was spent in 1984–85. We are also investing the highest amount for over 25 years on the rail network. The investment programme for the past three years represents a 26 per cent. increase over the previous three years and, as I have said, 1989–90 represents a record level of investment in British Rail.

Is the Secretary of State aware that, in spite of active representations from an all-party delegation, which included his hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), his right hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), several of my hon. Friends, and hon. Members representing constituencies in Northern Ireland, British Rail is to go ahead with cutting the last sleeper service between Northern Ireland and south-west Scotland and Euston?

That has tremendous political implications for Northern Ireland and south-west Scotland. The local authorities have come up with some resources to advertise and promote the service, and there is a great possibility that it will be made economic. Will the Secretary of State intervene personally, look at the case, and talk to the chairman of British Rail to see whether that vital service can be saved? If he does, he will gain a great deal of good will from hon. Members of all parties.

I am aware of that problem, and the hon. Gentleman knows that the service was withdrawn because it was under-used. That is an operational day-to-day matter for British Rail.

I am so glad that InterCity is profitable. However, should it remove one of the last rail links between London and Ireland just because it is the least profitable of British Rail services? British Rail has a duty to keep the main InterCity routes going.

The service was withdrawn because it was not being used. I have never known what benefit it is to the public to keep a service going when the public do not want to use it. Running empty trains up and down the railway may give some people satisfaction, but I cannot see what good it does the public or the railways.

The Government's policy on transport is straightforward and clear. It is to develop a balanced policy to improve all aspects of our transport arrangements. We have steadily built up two substantial programmes across the spectrum. For example, as a result of the "Roads for Prosperity" White Paper, the Government have recognised the need to improve the national road system. In spite of predictions from the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East and others about our lack of success in negotiations with the Treasury, this year we won a roads programme of £5·7 billion over the next three years—a 50 per cent. increase in real terms, which gives us a major programme.

Hon. Members talk about the Channel tunnel and getting freight on to rail, but the Channel tunnel will be capable of handling only about 3 per cent. of our exports—97 per cent. of our exports will still have to leave this country by the traditional routes of ports and airports. The road system connecting those ports is a vital part of maintaining Britain's prosperity.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has at last admitted that the Government have approved the biggest ever investment programme for British Rail—£3·7 billion over the next three years—and £2·2 billion for the Underground. Other major public transport investment will be made. We have a record programme for the improvement of airports. Our air traffic control system will have £600 million invested in it to improve the capacity of our airways.

Right across the spectrum, the Government are showing, in a controlled and sensible way, that they recognise the nation's transport problems and are making the investment to deal with them. We differ from the Opposition because we do not believe that strategic planners, drawing up strategic transport plans, are the people to determine the future of our transport system. They have an almost unenviable record of getting it consistently wrong. If the transport system is modernised, the public will be capable of making the choice about which transport method best suits it.

As my right hon. Friend has discussed road and rail, I shall continue the Scottish symphony. When there were bad floods in Inverness a year or so ago—

Let us not discuss the weather in Scotland.

When there were floods a year ago and the Inverness rail bridge was washed away, the damage done to the roads in that area was paid for by the taxpayer. However, British Rail was expected to pay from its own revenue for the repair of the railway bridge. Is that a fair and equal comparison between road and rail?

I shall not give way, because the hon. Gentleman will have the chance to make his own usual boring say towards the end of the debate. I do not see why I should make way for him now.

I shall deal with the argument about the lack of public contribution to investment. ScotRail receives a subsidy that represents more than 70 per cent. of the costs. The passengers on ScotRail contribute less than 30 per cent. Therefore, the taxpayer is making a substantial contribution to ScotRail.

I have just given the answer, but the hon. Lady did not understand it.

Opposition Members have been making great play about the level of this year's fare increases. The fare increases on British Rail are 8 to 8·5 per cent. and on London Regional Transport they are just over 9 per cent. There is one record that no Government will wrest from the Labour party. In 1975, the Labour Government increased fares by 50 per cent. in a single year. In no year under the Labour Government was any fares increase less than double figures—except, for some reason, the one that took place two months before the 1979 general election. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has suddently become the great friend of the long-distance commuter, who pays about 40 per cent. of the standard fare to travel at peak hours. He pays less than the cheapest off-peak fare. That was regarded as unsatisfactory by British Rail, and last year it proposed that, over a three-year period, the discount should be reduced—not eliminated—from about 60 to 40 per cent.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because it is unfair to the rest of the travelling public to have heavily subsidised fares for people travelling in peak hours.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, in his normal wide-awake fashion, cottoned on to this two years late. It was announced two years ago, but it took him by surprise when the second stage was announced this week.

The long-distance commuter, of whom there are 18,000, will still receive a substantial discount, but it will be smaller. His fares increase this year will be about 13·75 per cent. Another advantage for long-distance commuters is that they can choose when to pay the increase. Most of them, having more sense than the hon. Gentleman, trade in their season tickets a day before the fares go up, and travel for an extra year at the lower rate. If the hon. Gentleman has no group to worry about than that one, he is a lucky man.

Through the whole of the hon. Gentleman's argument runs the theme that fares should not have gone up. That would have meant that British Rail's losses would be increased, because it does not make a profit. If the fares had not gone up but the expenses had, the losses would have gone up, and therefore the taxpayers' contribution would have gone up because there are only two sources of revenue. The hon. Gentleman backs every wage claim that is made. and wages represent 60 per cent. of the expenditure.

I shall quote a remark made by a more enlightened Labour Transport Secretary who had some experience of Government and running an organisation. The following statement was issued by the Labour Government in a Command Paper in 1977:
"subsidies transfer the cost of a service from the traveller to the taxpayer or the ratepayer, and the traveller is often a taxpayer or ratepayer himself. To use subsidies to disguise from people the cost of the services they are paying for is pointless, and to subsidise richer people at the expense of poorer is perverse."