Mr Jeremy Thorpe (North Devon)
How credible a partnership is this internal settlement if the whole question of the right and desirability of pre-emptive strikes by the security forces is within the hands of Mr. Smith's existing white military commanders-in-chief, without any elected or appointed representatives there to monitor them? It seems to me that it is a situation in which there is even more power to the white minority, and certainly there is no sharing of decisions.
Likewise, we have a situation in which there is a judiciary which is wholly composed of people who recognise the 1966 illegal regime, and have administered and still administer the Law and Order Main- tenance Act. There is one black magistrate among the entire judiciary in Rhodesia. When Mr. Byron Hove, to whom reference has been made, said that white domination, in both the judiciary and the police, must be corrected, Mr. Hilary Squires commented that this was a gross departure from the spirit of the agreement of 3rd March—not, I would have thought, a very hopeful indication of the genuineness of the partnership that Mr. Smith wishes to bring about.
I welcome the fact that some 700 detainees have been released, but I would be very surprised if the figure of those who are still detained for political offences under the Law and Order Maintenance Act is not still double that figure. Indeed, there are lists of people who have been detained whom the authorities have not admitted are detained and whose whereabouts can only be guessed. They are very well documented.
I believe that that again is not an indication that the internal settlement is working as it should. As has been pointed out, there have been no moves towards land tenure reform. There has not even been a beginning towards scrapping the Land Apportionment Act. There has not even been a major declaration that this will happen.
I say to right hon. and hon. Members on the Conservative Benches that British recognition of the internal settlement is not needed in order to make the internal settlement work. It is possible to get on with it without recognition. There is in Rhodesia an independent public services board, and my advice would be that this is the moment—it may already be too late—for it to appoint distinguished Africans to the bench and to the bench of magistrates, to senior positions in the army, the air force and the police, and to academic and administrative posts. That would have made people realise that those in Rhodesia really meant business with the internal settlement.
Frankly, I am not surprised that the internal settlement has not worked. I received the testimony of a responsible civil servant who, some weeks ago, attended a meeting of civil servants addressed by Mr. Smith. The Foreign Secretary has also had an opportunity to verify and evaluate the recollection of this man of what happened at that meeting. I cannot say what the Foreign Secretary's judgment was, but I certainly had no reason to doubt the bona fides of the man in question. He occupies a position of some responsibility in one of the Rhodesian Ministries. He said that Mr. Smith, at a predominantly white meeting, had said quite clearly to his audience "You do not need to worry. There are not going to be elections by 31st December. That was a date which was selected for general convenience, and my African colleagues know that. You have nothing to worry about. Security, in terms of the police and army, is still in our hands and nothing has changed."
This man's wife, who also holds a public position of some responsibility in the same province, and who, in the course of her duties, goes into the protected villages and many other areas, so that she has a wide spectrum of opinion expressed to her, indicated that the Government spokesman who had addressed her and her colleagues had spoken in very much the same terms as those alleged of Mr. Smith.
Therefore, I believe that if anyone had hoped to get recognition—or even support, to use the right hon. Gentleman's word—for the internal settlement, the settlement would have had to be seen to be working first. In my view it has not gone very far along the road to achieving anything very much. It has not given confidence to the European population. It has not brought about a ceasefire to any appreciable degree.
Yet this is the moment when some right hon. and hon. Members say that we should lift sanctions. That would be the one disastrous thing to do. There is very little pressure that we have, but sanctions are having an effect—otherwise right hon. and hon. Members on the Conservative Benches would not be crying so stridently for them to be lifted. Is it any wonder that, faced with this apparent lack of movement on the internal settlement, the Patriotic Front is not interested in taking part in discussions on this basis?
One hon. Member asked what was the advantage of the Anglo-American proposals. In my view, they are these. There is a possibility of the integration of the fighting forces of both sides—a difficult and technical operation, but the only chance of averting a civil war based upon the private armies of Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo and the army of the internal settlement, all fighting as they have been in Angola. There is the possibility of security being in some way integrated. There are certainly firm transitional provisions which will involve a resident governor, United Nations guarantees and a considerable number of United Nations troops on the ground.
It may be that there will be no agreement. If there is no agreement, there will be an appalling war or appalling wars. There will certainly be a war between the Patriotic Front and the internal Government. Thereafter, there might be a war between the two wings of the Patriotic Front. I accept that as a possibility.
The only way is to try to avert that by getting talks going. The internal Government has had five months in which to deliver the goods and it has so far delivered virtually nothing. The life of the average African has altered hardly one jot or tittle. I believe that if the Government acted now to generate activity towards genuine partnership it would begin to astonish not only the world but, particularly, the African population of Rhodesia.
Against that background, it should attend talks with the Patriotic Front, either in London, in Lusaka or in Francistown and if necessary, if the Foreign Secretary cannot take the chair, or if it would be preferable for a leading Commonwealth citizen like Prime Minister Trudeau to do so, the Commonwealth should not be excluded. But it is vital that we go right to the end of the road to try to get those talks going.
If then there is total breakdown and there is a civil war, the international community will have an appalling burden of responsibility. But if, in that situation, the internal Government has really moved on partnership and has negotiated with its opponents right up to the last minute—I believe that the responsibility rests on it to do both—then and only then, if Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo reject a peaceful solution, the world will know where its duties lie.