South Africa (Sale of Arms)
Dr Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
Before the debate begins—and it begins an hour late—I make no complaint about that, it is a matter for the House—may I announce to the House that 44 hon. and right hon. Members wish to take part in the debate in addition to those on the Front Bench. They include seven new hon. Members, five ex-Ministers and six who wish to make maiden speeches. It will be impossible for me to call in this important debate all who wish to make maiden speeches. If those who are trying to do so will come to see me I will give an indication of whether there is any likelihood of their being called.
Mr Michael Maitland Stewart (Fulham)
I beg to move,
That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to abandon its present intention to authorise the sale of arms to South Africa contrary to the United Nations resolution, since this would threaten the survival of the Commonwealth as a multi-racial community and inflict grave damage on the political, economic and strategic interests of this country.
The Motion asks the Government to abandon their present intention, or perhaps one might say their policy, if policy is not too definite a word to use in view of what we have heard recently about it. We must admit at once that it is not yet absolutely certain what the Government's intention or policy is, and one of the things we shall want to know in the debate is exactly what is their intention and what is their policy.
None the less, there are certain pointers to what the Government have in mind. First, we have the statement by the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary on Monday last. If he will forgive my saying so, the statement was not quite as lucid as the importance of the subject would require, and some of us felt that he might have done a little better if he had provided himself with a driving mirror in which he could have observed the facial reactions of the Prime Minister to the statements which he was making. I have read the statement very carefully more than once, and I think it is fair to say that what it means is that the Government want to sell certain arms to South Africa, but that they have not yet taken a firm decision to do so, and that that decision will be in part influenced by the consultations which they are having with Commonwealth countries. I hope at least that is right because, if the right hon. Gentleman did not mean that, it is very difficult to see what he did mean.
The second pointer is the letter sent by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to the Prime Ministers of other Commonwealth countries. I think we need no longer be as coy as the Prime Minister was about the confidentiality of the exact text of that letter. Now that an American news agency has distributed it and we can all read it in this morning's Daily Telegraph, we need not bother about the Prime Minister's claim that it would be a breach of confidence to reveal what was in it.
Here again, what it means is still not quite clear. The Daily Telegraph, whose commitment to the Conservative cause is surely unimpeachable, interprets it as follows: that the Prime Minister's letter made it clear that the Government intend a resumption of a limited commitment to sell arms to South Africa. Is that the right interpretation of the Prime Minister's letter? If it is, and if the letter made it clear that the Government intend a resumption, that is not in line with what the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary led us to suppose on Monday.
The third pointer is the statement by Mr. Vorster of South Africa. He tells us more robustly and more plainly than either the Prime Minister or the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary that he has been assured by the present Government, both privately and officially, that they will sell certain arms to South Africa, and
he goes on to say that he is sure they will do it because they are honourable men. There is a slight ring of Mark Antony's oration about that last phrase.
So are they all; all honourable men.
Their difficulty is how to be honourable in both directions. If they have not made a firm decision to sell certain arms to South Africa they have been deceiving Mr. Vorster unless Mr. Vorster is not telling the truth, and if that is the Government's view perhaps they will say so. If, on the other hand, they have firmly resolved already to sell arms to South Africa, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary was less than frank with the House on Monday, and the so-called consultations with the Commonwealth countries are plainly bogus.
There is one other matter on which we are not quite clear. I think we got it right on Monday that the Government might reach their decision—if they have not already privately done so in defiance of their obligation to the House—privately in their own breasts during the recess, but we were assured that, although they might possibly communicate such a decision privately to South Africa and other Commonwealth countries, there would be no public announcement of such a decision before it was made in this House. This was what we understood on Monday. But only yesterday in another place the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said:
I would not be prepared to say that decisions would not be taken and not announced while Parliament is not sitting."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 21st July, 1970; Vol. 311, c. 835.]
Does what Lord Carrington said mean that we may find that the decision is not only made and privately communicated but is announced to the public while the House is not sitting? If the answer to that question is "Yes, that could happen", that is a breach of what we were given to understand on Monday. If the answer to that question is "No, that could not happen", then Lord Carrington has got it wrong. The first thing that we must do is to discover what the Government's policy is. Have they already taken a firm decision, as Mr. Vorster believes, or have they not, as they told us on Monday? What is the position about any public announcement of a decision during the recess?
We make the charitable assumption that the Government were telling us the truth on Monday and that, therefore, they could still be persuaded to abandon this intention. In the motion, that is what we hope to persuade them to do. Why do we seek to do that? I would put first the United Nations aspect of this matter. The history of that is as follows: in 1963 there was a Motion before the Security Council recommending nations not to sell arms to South Africa. The British Government could have prevented that motion passing. They could have vetoed it. They did not. They agreed to it and let it pass.
I regard the use of the veto as a very serious matter, only to be undertaken in the gravest circumstances. But I believe that it is better, if the British Government are firmly convinced that they cannot and will not carry out a Resolution, to veto it rather than let it pass with no intention of carrying it out. It is not to the point to say that this was not a mandatory resolution, because the resolution recommended us, among others, not to sell arms to South Africa. If Britain intended to sell arms to South Africa she could not, without chicanery, let a motion go through the Security Council that recommended her not to do so.
I know that the stock answer to this is that the Government made a reservation that this was to apply only to arms that might be used for repression, and not to arms for defence. I know very well that it is not uncommon in the United Nations, as in other bodies, in general to assent to a proposition but to make certain reservations of detail. Reservations of detail—yes; but what the Government claim to have done in this case was to say, "We accept this resolution on the assumption that it does not mean what it says and on the assumption that it does not mean what everybody else believes it to mean." That is stretching the process of reservation too far.
To what extent can one stand on the technical question of the difference between arms that could be used for repression and arms for external naval defence? If we want the answer on such a technical defence question who better could be go to then, again, the noble Lord, the Minister of Defence, who
said some time ago when this issue was first raised in 1963:
The Government cannot guarantee that no weapons could ever in any circumstances be used for this purpose. Even naval weapons could at a pinch be used to bombard a land target.
The Minister of Defence in this Government does not believe that this distinction can be maintained. Of course, remembering what happened to Ministers of Defence in former Tory Governments, we do not know what proportion of the limited time allotted to this Government may remain to him. But if he will go on making candid and plain statements of this kind we wish him—within the total span allotted by the fates to the Tory Government—as long a tenure of office as possible.
But there is another piece of advice about the technicalities. In the debate that we had on the matter, in December, 1967, the present Prime Minister expressed as his view that among the arms that we could properly sell to South Africa would be Shackletons, Nimrods and Buccaneers. Is he still of that view? Are the Government as a whole still of that view? Are they prepared to say that none of these instruments of war could be used for the purpose of internal repression? If they are, they will find very few people informed on defence matters who are prepared to agree with them.
It was in the light of this that the Labour Government decided in 1964 and confirmed in 1967 that they would act in accordance with the Security Council resolution. I accept at once that in accordance with the usual practice it was understood that commitments that we had already entered into—and specifically those under the Simonstown Agreement, to which I shall refer later—would be completed and that those would involve, on a limited scale, certain replacements. Those have already been completed, and that procsss is now at an end. So it is not open to the Government to say that the last Government, after their decision in 1964, continued to supply certain arms to South Africa, because that was done in pursuance of agreements made before the Security Council resolution, and no more. Also, every such delivery was public knowledge and was already in the discussion when we debated this matter in December, 1967.
In the exchanges and Questions that we have had on this matter, some hon. Members have argued that the previous Government's position was not logical, the Security Council resolution was not logical, and that if we refuse to sell arms to South Africa, why do we have the Simonstown Agreement at all, and if we refuse to sell arms to South Africa, why do we engage in peaceful trade? But surely we have to pay attention, first, to the importance of the rule of law in international affairs. Law, whether national or international, is not always 100 per cent. in line with logic. If a man in this country is convicted of ill-treating a dog, we do not allow him to escape the penalty by pleading that the law is illogical since it still permits cruelty to hares and foxes.
We take the view, quite rightly, that at any given moment, because of conflicting currents of opinion, the law may be illogical; that in time we are going to make it more just and logical, but in the meantime it is right to hold on to and enforce what law we have. If we take that view, as we rightly do, on domestic law, still more important is it to take that view on the more fragile plant of the body of international law that grows up out of the United Nations. To say that because decisions taken at any particular moment can be attacked as incomplete or illogical they can be set aside is to destroy any hope of asserting the rule of law in international affairs.
The first point that I want to make on this whole question is that the Government's action calls in question their whole respect for the rule of law and for the United Nations.
Mr Michael Maitland Stewart (Fulham)
Yes, we do. But we do not draw the conclusions from it that some hon. Members were trying to draw—I believe mistakenly—the other day. In the course of the debate some hon. Members will wish to raise the question of South-West Africa, but I must point out that we are concerned here with the sale of arms, which does not arise in the case of South-West Africa. We are concerned here with a Security Council resolution to which this country assented, and there is no getting away from that.
The Government's major excuse for their uncertainty—because they still will not tell us exactly what their policy is, though they may do so before the end of today—has been to plead the Simonstown Agreement. In almost every approach to the problem they have begun by talking about that Agreement. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), if he is able towards the end of the debate to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, will develop more fully the defence aspects, but meanwhile I would make two points.
The first point is that the Simonstown Agreement commits this country to certain specific sales of arms to South Africa which were completed long ago. There is no further commitment of any kind on this country to sell arms to South Africa arising from the Simonstown Agreement. It is noteworthy that when the Labour Government took their decision in 1964, and again in 1967, when there were discussions with South Africa on certain modifications of the Agreement, on neither occasion was it contended by the South African Government that our decision was a breach of the Simonstown Agreement. Only very recently have they suggested that it was, as they put it, a breach of the spirit of the Agreement. The Agreement is a public document: anyone can read it. It is quite clear that we are not committed, beyond what has already been completed, to any sale of arms to South Africa by virtue of the Simonstown Agreement. That argument is not open to the Government.
The other, rather broader, argument the Government use is that the Simonstown Agreement, and an implied sale of arms to South Africa, is necessary for the national interests of this country in view of increasing Soviet naval presence. As I say, my right hon. Friend has something further to say on defence matters. At the moment, I will simply say that if the object of the Government's policy is either to contain or to rival Soviet naval presence in the southern hemisphere that will involve a gigantic effort in money and manpower which will be totally inconsistent with everything they have said about reduction of public expenditure. And the proposal for, apparently—and it must be if they are to keep their word—a very limited sale of arms to South Africa, is a triviality in the face of the problem of Soviet naval presence in the southern hemisphere. It cannot be maintained that the two have any relevance, the one to the other.
This further thing I should say on the Simonstown Agreement. We are told—and, again, we are left without any clear information from the Government—that the South African Government are seeking renegotiation of the Agreement, and some people surmise that what they are seeking is a form of agreement that would bind this country permanently, whatever a future Parliament or Government might think, to the sale of arms to South Africa. If there is any truth in those reports, I had better make one thing quite clear. Under our Constitution, one Parliament cannot bind its successor. Any agreement entered into by this Government to sell arms to South Africa in contravention of the United Nations resolution would be an agreement that they made knowing that they did so with the entire dissent of the Opposition, and if they tried to misrepresent that fact to the South African Government they would be deceiving that Government.
Since the real defence importance of the very limited arms which, on their own definition, they could sell to South Africa is so small, what is the real issue? Why is it that the Government and the South African Government have shown the eagerness for this? The amount, of its nature, cannot make a major contribution to the defence either of this country or of South Africa. I feel that the real issue is that the South African Government want to see the Government of the United Kingdom politically committed to the policy of South Africa. This is what the South African Government want, and what right hon. Gentlemen opposite certainly want is a quiet time from some of their more ferocious back benchers. Will it be worth their defying the United Nations, setting aside the international rule of law, estranging us from so many countries, for something the defence aspect of which is trivial?
Some other arguments have been thrown into the scale. When the Labour Government took their decision we were told, "This will destroy our hope of peaceful trade with South Africa." This argument was repeated again and again, undeterred by the fact that no solid evidence could ever be produced in its favour. But if the Government are saying to themselves that one reason for selling arms to South Africa is that it will be good for our general trading position they should notice that for every £5 million of exports from this country to South Africa, £7 million of exports goes to the rest of Africa. If the Government are to be so restrictive and careful about what arms they will sell to South Africa, the trading advantage will be precious little, and for this they will have endangered the possibility of trade throughout the Commonwealth and beyond, and will have endangered not only trade but good will.
Let us, in this connection, look at another of those subjects about which the Prime Minister is so unwilling to inform us, though we can all collect it from other sources—the reactions of Commonwealth countries. If any comments that I make about the reactions of Commonwealth countries are, to the Government's certain knowledge, untrue, I hope that they will say so in the debate, but this is what I believe to be the case.
Tanzania has made it quite clear that if the Government proceed in their intention she will leave the Commonwealth. I assume that Tanzania, like the rest of us, is now studying Monday's statement and trying to make up her mind what the Government's policy actually is. I hope, therefore, that Tanzania will be willing to hold her hand and use all her powers of persuasion to push this Government—which seems, to use Dr. Johnson's phrase, to be "wiggle-waggle" on the issue—over to the right side. But we know, at any rate, that if the Government come down on the wrong side, Tanzania has told them that she will leave the Commonwealth.
Zambia has spoken of retaliation. Kenya has said that she would be prepared to take the lead in the organisation of Commonwealth opinion against the British Government's policy. India's comment has been hostile. And if the Government are concerned about naval problems in the southern hemisphere, they had better think of what India's attitude to their whole policy is.
Will the Government deny also—lest anyone should think that the answers I have quoted so far might be moved by racial prejudice—that Canada's reply has been equally hostile; and that probably the amount of support in the Commonwealth and in the world that the Government have for this policy is about what they had for Suez? And it is not only the Commonwealth. I do not think the Government can deny that the United States regard this as a very ill-advised move, and that the great majority of our N.A.T.O. partners take the same view.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary told us that the South Atlantic is not in the N.A.T.O. area. We are aware of that, but surely the vital defence of this country is bound up with the efficiency of N.A.T.O. and the degree of trust which the members of N.A.T.O. have for each other? We must ask again: is it worthwhile for what, on the Government's own showing, can only be a slender supply of arms to South Africa to engage in a policy which not only creates bitter resentment throughout the Commonwealth, but is distrusted and disliked by nearly all our allies as well?
Mr Michael Maitland Stewart (Fulham)
What I am hoping the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell me is whether my estimate of the attitude of the Commonwealth and the N.A.T.O. countries in the main to this action by us is right or not. I do not think it can be denied.
I have stressed in what I have been saying recently on trade, on defence, and on our standing in the Commonwealth and the world the immediate arguments concerned with the immediate interests of this country. I have done that because that is the ground which the Government themselves chose. They said, "We are going to look after British interests", but I think it is clear that even on the narrowest and most short-term definition that is exactly what they are not doing.
But there is something much greater than that at stake. There are great world questions with which are bound up not shorter term interests of defence, trade and immediate calculations, but the long-term vital interests of this country of being on the right side on one of the greatest questions now rending the world apart. When I spoke on foreign affairs during the debate on the Queen's Speech I suggested that there were three great things in foreign policy to which attention was given. The first was conciliation between East and West, which lies outside the scope of our present debate. The second was reconciliation between the white and coloured sections of mankind. The third was the importance of building up rather than discouraging the authority of the United Nations. The debate today is concerned with those two last questions, and on both of them the Government are making the wrong decision.
Mr John Wilkinson (Bradford West)
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that any of those objectives were furthered by the building in South Africa under licence of Aermacchi MB 326s for the whole of the period of the Labour Administration? I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is aware that they were powered by British engines, albeit manufactured under licence. This aircraft is an ideal counter-insurgency or "repression" aircraft.
Mr Michael Maitland Stewart (Fulham)
What the hon. Gentleman has not grasped—I do not think he has been following the argument at all—is that we are concerned with the attitude of Great Britain towards a Security Council resolution and towards the avowed policy of the Government of resuming the sale of arms to South Africa. I am saying that to do those two things endangers our long-term interests and our whole standing in the world, and does it for such pathetically little reward. No one can seriously say that our defence against any possible Soviet threat is seriously improved by what it is proposed to do, even if the Government know exactly what it is they propose to do. Nobody can say, in the light of the trading balances between us and South Africa, and us and black Africa, that there is any reward in trade.
I know—any Foreign Secretary must know—that the Government can sometimes face an extremely difficult question where the great long-term moral and political considerations point one way and pressing and grave immediate considerations of national interest point the other, and if the Government are ever in that position they deserve sympathy, but with this Government, and on this issue, all the considerations point in the same direction—our immediate interests, our long-term interests, and the great world moral question.
The Government are spoiling their record in the world for no return. There is an old medieval proverb that the devil is an ass, and the devil is a cheat. If one follows his counsel the reward for doing so is paid in cheques which will be dishonoured, and his worldly wisdom will turn out to be the most asinine folly. That is the course on which the Government, however timidly, are trying to embark. We urge them to abandon it before it is too late.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
As the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said, we have been deprived of about one hour of our debate, and therefore I shall try to respond to his speech as succinctly as I can.
I do not propose to refer to the letter in today's newspaper which the right hon. Gentleman quoted, and only for one reason. Whether that letter is authentic or not is of no account. Once there is this kind of suggestion from the right hon. Gentleman that official letters should be quoted, that official messages from every Prime Minister should be quoted, there is no basis for Commonwealth relations, or, indeed, international relations. Such letters must be exchanged in trust and good faith.
I intend to respond to the right hon. Gentleman's speech in two parts. First, the constitutional and all the Parliamentary aspects of the matter, with which we were concerned at Question Time on Monday. Second, the substance of the Government's case, and the support 0' the Government's case, and the intention which we have expressed ever since 1955 when the Simonstown Agreement was signed that arms should be sold to South Africa in a particular context.
We have not taken a decision on this finally, but it is useless for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that we have taken a decision in a hurry. We operated this policy from 1955 to 1964. Every year in Opposition we confirmed it, and so this intention has been plain to both sides of the House for many years. The intention to consider the sale of certain limited categories of arms has also been understood. Having dealt with those subjects, I shall then turn, if I may, to consider the policy in relation to the United Nations, in relation to the Commonwealth, and in relation to the strategic interests of Britain.
This Government—any Government—must be free to take decisions at the time of their own choosing and announce decisions at any time that seems to be appropriate. This Government—and any Government—could never agree to be fettered in their right to act at any time of their own choosing. They can be fettered in that respect only by Parliament. In this case of the intention to take a decision—a decision not yet finally taken—about supplying arms to South Africa, I told the House that no decision would be implemented and no Government action taken, such as licensing an arms deal, before a further statement was made to the House. I hope that that is, quite clear.
That is a proper course because we are indulging in and are engaged in discussion and consultation. The weeks ahead will enable the Government to ascertain what clarifications in the Simonstown Agreement are required by the South African Government and to continue and to complete our discussions within the Commonwealth. Many Commonwealth countries want further information about what the British Government's intention may be.
Sir John Morris (Aberavon)
Would the right hon. Gentleman clarify one point which was not dealt with on Monday? Would salesmen go from this country to South Africa with the blessing of the Minister of Defence before a decision was announced to the House, and would any long-lead items be ordered before the House was told?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
No one could possibly say what private individuals might do. What I am saying is that no Government action will be taken before a statement is made to the House.
It is perhaps as well, after the speech of the right hon. Member for Fulham, to remind ourselves of the arms policy of all British Governments, which was more actively pursued by the last Government than any other because they appointed an arms salesman. The policy of all Governments is to sell arms to any country unless that country is a declared enemy and, if need be, to attach limitations to the nature of the weapons to be sold. This has been done in relation to a number of other countries. The policy has lately been applied in, for example, Libya, Israel and Nigeria. In the case of the possible sale of arms to South Africa the definition would be of such a nature that those arms could not be used to promote apartheid and would be, within the bounds of maritime defence, related to the free passage of the sea routes.
Mr Denis Healey (Leeds East)
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to certain negotiations carried out with other Governments in the past. He will no doubt be aware that in one of those cases Her Majesty's Government planned to make it a condition of sale that the country which was to buy the weapons should give a formal undertaking that it would not use them for purposes of which Her Majesty's Government did not approve. Would it be her Majesty's Government's intention to seek such an undertaking from the South African Government, because without such an undertaking, as the Minister of Defence has stated, there can be no guarantee whatever that even maritime weapons will not be used for internal security?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
This is perfectly possible in a negotiation, in a discussion, with the South African Government. All that I was doing was giving the general arms policy of all Governments, and all Governments make conditions. In another case the condition was made that the weapons should not be used in the event of internal strife. This is a condition which could possibly be applied—
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will wait for the final decision to be announced. If we are able to come to a final decision and agreement with South Africa, I will tell him the answer.
Mr Harold Wilson (Huyton)
The right hon. Gentleman is covering some of the ground we covered on Monday. He talks about a final decision being announced. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) made clear, Mr. Vorster was reported yesterday as having said that Her Majesty's Government have intimated to him privately but officially that the Government are going to resume arms sales to South Africa and that he intends to hold them to that pledge. Was he speaking the truth or lying?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
Mr. Vorster has understood, as indeed everybody else in this country has understood except possibly the right hon. Gentleman, that it was the intention, and has been the intention all the time, of the Conservative Party, if returned to office, to honour the Simonstown Agreement and to consider the sale of certain categories of arms.
Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
I wish naturally to deal with the substance of the issue. If the Leader of the Opposition will keep quiet, I shall later comment on some of the things which he has said in the past. I will give way at that point if he wishes me to do so, but I hope that he will allow me to continue with the speech that I intend to make.
In recent years I have often found myself in direct conflict with the Leader of the Opposition on important matters of military strategy. I shall remind him of two matters which are pertinent to the argument on which we are engaged today.
The first was in relation to Britain's possession and control of the nuclear weapons in our independent deterrent. He described them—our Polaris submarine and our strike aircraft—as a pea on the top of a mountain. He said that Britain should get rid of it and that we should shed control of it. [Interruption.] If right hon. and hon. Members opposite listen, they will hear why I am entitled to remind the Leader of the Opposition of this matter. On a very important strategic matter the right hon. Gentleman's judgment was, by his own confession, wrong, and it will be the more wrong if Europe is called upon to provide more of her own defence.
The second occasion was Aden—
Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)
Order. I hope that hon. Members will behave in a parliamentary manner. Whatever they may think about the views of the Government, there is a proper way to behave, and I look to the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) to lead the way.
Mr James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
On a point of order. Is it in order for the Foreign Secretary to deal so extensively with the question of nuclear arms? Is he intimating that nuclear arms are also on the South African Government's shopping list?
Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)
The Foreign Secretary is entitled to make his speech in the way in which he thinks fit and the proper thing for the House to do is to listen to him.
Mr Denis Healey (Leeds East)
Mr Harold Wilson (Huyton)
Further to that point of order. I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will reconsider what you said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) if so early in this Parliament you want to win the confidence of the House. Secondly, and this is a point of order—[An HON. MEMBER: "That is a change."]—you will no doubt have read the Motion on the Order Paper. It has been made quite clear by the Foreign Secretary—about the only thing he has made clear—that what the Government propose—I shall respond later to the right hon. Gentleman's invitation to repeat my question to him. It has been made clear that the Government's intention is very limited and does not include nuclear arms. Will you kindly rule whether, in the terms of the Motion we are debating, the Foreign Secretary is in order in talking about nuclear potentialities in Europe?
Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)
We are in order only as long as we stay on the terms of the Motion. We must stay on the terms of the Motion. But I always deprecate any idea of raising points of order which are known by right hon. and hon. Members who know the rules of the House very well strictly speaking not to be points of order. I considered that what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said was not strictly a point of order. If I did the right hon. Gentleman an injustice—[HON. MEMBERS: "You did."]—I am sorry for that. I stand by my Ruling. Sir Alec Douglas-Home.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
If the Opposition will allow me to deploy my argument it is perfectly proper to say—and this is my firm belief—that in a matter of the first strategic importance the judgment of the Leader of the Opposition was wrong. I shall suggest that he has carried this a great deal further.
The second matter on which I have often differed with him is that he evacuated Aden. It was clear to us, and has been clear to me for a number of years, that there are two areas in which the balance of power can be changed to the detriment of the West, and indeed of all free countries. One is the Middle East and the other is the Gulf. In relation to the latter, Aden was the key point of first strategic importance. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends got out and the Russians are going to move in. In the foreseeable future—[Interruption.] If hon. Members would consider this matter they would see that it has a serious military future.
In the foreseeable future the balance of power is not likely to change very much either in respect of nuclear armoury or on the ground in Europe. So long as the political will of N.A.T.O. holds, we shall be secure so far as a land attack is concerned, but where the balance is changing—and hon. Members must face this—is at sea. There is a case for saying that it has changed to the detriment of the West very much in the last few years. I will repeat the figures I gave to the House a fortnight ago. The Soviet submarine fleet now numbers 373. The submarine fleets of the N.A.T.O. allies, France, ourselves and the United States, number 200. The Soviet fleet is the most modern fleet now and it is having eight modern submarines added to this number every year. Britain's security, therefore—this is why with great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I said right hon. Gentlemen did not at first understand the argument I was using—[An HON. MEMBER: "They still do not"] The hon. Member will in a moment. Britain's security depends just as much on maritime defence as on the defence of the frontiers of the N.A.T.O. allies. There is no doubt—
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
There is no doubt at all that the Soviet Union has two particular strategic targets. It wishes to exercise a dominating influence in the Middle East and in the Gulf, as Mr. George Brown pointed out to us from these benches so graphically only a few years ago. The Soviet Union wants to penetrate in strength and deeply into the Indian Ocean. Both the Communist countries, the Soviet Union and China, are operating in the Middle East, in the Gulf and in Somalia and, as I believe everyone knows, the Chinese are supplying the total armament now of Tanzania. The Soviet Union and the Chinese are penetrating right through this area and it is the intention unquestionably of the Soviet Union to penetrate the Indian Ocean. The truth is this—
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
Hon Members must recognise the truth of this. Where Britain and the Allies have stepped out in these vital strategic areas one or other of the Communist countries has stepped in. I should not like us to be an East African country, for example, if the Indian Ocean became a completely Communist-dominated sea. Nor is there any dispute, I take it, that through the Indian Ocean runs the trade route which in the most accurate sense of the word, is vital to Britain and Western Europe. That route carries a quarter of our trade and carries a third of Europe's Oil.
What puzzles me, and I hope the right hon. Member for Leeds, East will say something about this when he speaks later this evening, is that when the Russians appeared in greater strength in the Mediterranean the right hon. Gentleman used to come to the House and tell us with pride that he had strengthened the conventional forces of N.A.T.O. by adding British naval units. For the North Sea, the Atlantic, the Pacific, the contingency plans are there. The conventional naval forces are deployed against any interference with British or allied shipping.
Therefore the right hon. Member for Leeds, East has to answer this question. If conventional naval dispositions are to be questioned in one part of the oceans, and that one of the most vital of all, why not question them in all? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will come to this. He has said that the routes around Africa might be at some time a N.A.T.O. concern, but, today they are not. I have often thought that this route is so important to the rest of Europe that it ought at some future date to be N.A.T.O.'s concern, but it is not now.
For the present, unless N.A.T.O. changes its policy there is only one way in which the sea routes in that area can be adequately policed and that is by the British and the South African navies together—not by the British alone, not by
the South Africans alone, but by the two navies together. This was recognised explicitly by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East when he said on 14th February, 1968:
… Her Majesty's Government and the South African Government share responsibilities for maritime security in the South African area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th February, 1968; Vol. 758, c. 1316.]
Presumably the "share" has a meaning, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will explain that meaning later. The Under-Secretary of State said this on 8th February, 1967:
… the Chief of the South African Navy will take greater responsibility for the South African area in times of war"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1968; Vol. 740, c. 1619.]
under the British Admiral who is Commander-in-Chief of the Western Fleet. And that was the act of the right hon. Gentleman.
So the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, will exercise with the South African fleet; he will advocate an integrated command with the South African fleet; he will do all the contingency planning against the war, but only if the ships supplied to South Africa are supplied by countries other than Britain.
I return to the serious military question: when conventional naval weapons are said to be necessary and are deployed in every sea except this, why in this context is there to be no naval deployment at all, because the right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that the British Navy cannot do this by itself? It is possible only if it shares it, in his own words, with the South African Navy.
The other day the right hon. Gentleman said something which again needs examination. He suggested that the Russians might sink a tanker and that in that case the N.A.T.O. Alliance would operate. Things do not happen necessarily at sea in this way. This is not the way trouble begins. I remind him of the Cuba experience. There the Soviet Union suffered the most humiliating experience. It came into an area where there was a dominant Power and it had to retreat. I remind him of the Pueblo incident, of the number of cases in which ships have been restrained at sea. It is against that kind of thing that one has to guard.
It should not be forgotten that if the Soviet Union were to be in command in effect and to have a base at Aden and were to convert its new fishing fleet services in Mauritius into a naval base, it could dominate the Indian Ocean and it could be that no other naval forces could effectively be there. Then British and African interests could indeed be very seriously affected. Already Australia is worried about the policing of the Indian Ocean and thinking about moving her Navy to the Cockburn Sound and offering facilities to others. Already Singapore and Malaysia are worried. Some day perhaps in the future some African country will have the strength to contribute to the defence of this area and the defence of these sea routes, but not yet.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
No. The right hon. Member will later have a completely clear run. I must complete my speech. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen may not like this argument, but it is a serious argument. They must recognise it as such. Now the only military protection that can be given is Britain operating from Simonstown, plus the South African Navy equipped for naval patrol. It is possible to ensure that the sales to South Africa would be confined to the equipment necessary for naval patrolling.
I come now to that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which dealt with the morality of the matter.
Mr Harold Wilson (Huyton)
The Secretary of State graciously said that he would give way to me when he had deployed the two points where he thought my argument was fallacious. We have been considering the deterrent in Europe, Aden, the North Sea, and the lot. Will the right hon. Gentleman now answer the question I put to him and which he felt unable to answer before?
Remembering his right hon. Friend's promises in the Tory manifesto to deal directly with Parliament, the Press and the public, I now invite him to do it. Will he now answer this question which I put to him before? He will have read in yesterday's Daily Mail—[Interruption.]—the right hon. Gentleman should not show his distaste for the paper which has helped him so much. He will have read a report yesterday attributed directly to Dr. Vorster who said that Her Majesty's Government had given him an assurance, privately but officially, that they had decided to supply arms to South Africa and that he intended to hold Her Majesty's Government to that phrase. Since the right hon. Genteman on Monday and today—[Interruption.]—I know hon. Gentlemen do not like this. The right hon. Gentleman could have answered the question the first time. I must now tell him why he must answer the question.
Mr Stephen Hastings (Mid Bedfordshire)
On a point of order. Before you took the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we were reminded several times by Mr. Speaker that a great deal of time has been wasted already in this debate. Many of us want to hear an important speech from the Foreign Secretary. Do we have to put up with this sort of thing?
Mr Harold Wilson (Huyton)
After that further waste of time, Mr. Deputy Speaker, all of which could have been avoided if we had had a straight answer the first time I put the question, I will now repeat the question.
Since Dr. Vorster was reported as saying that Her Majesty's Government have given him an undertaking, privately but officially, to which he held them, about supplying arms to South Africa, since a decision has been taken, and since we were told on Monday and again today that no decision has been taken, will the Foreign Secretary say whether Dr. Vorster is telling the truth or lying, or whether he is misleading the House?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
Yes, I will certainly answer, but I do not intend to be lectured by the Leader of the Opposition and least of all about straight answering. Now I will answer his question. Dr. Vorster has known of our intention—[Interruption.] If the House wants to hear the answer, I must have a chance to give it. Dr. Vorster has known about our intention to sell arms to South Africa. He has known as well that there has been no final decision. That is the straight answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question.
Mr Michael Maitland Stewart (Fulham)
That is not quite the point. The point is that Mr. Vorster has made quite clear that he believes that the Government have committed themselves to sell arms to him and that it is not a question still awaiting consultation. That, evidently, is what Mr. Vorster believes. Is he right or not?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
We have told Mr. Vorster, just as we have told everybody else—and we have told him for years past—that it is our intention to sell arms under the Simonstown Agreement; but we have taken no final decision about that. That is the answer.
I come now to that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he dealt with the morality of the matter, a question to which the House should give its attention. On what, in relation to South Africa, do both sides of the House agree? We agree that it is abhorrent to build a society on colour discrimination. We agree, however, that force cannot be used to change the policies of apartheid. Both parties reject an embargo on trade. In fact, under the last Government our trade with South Africa increased very largely. [Interruption.] Hon. Members must face this. There are £1,000 million investments by this country in South Africa, and there is £300 million of trade each way.
The question I put to right hon. Gentlemen opposite is this. Do they think that that does not strengthen South Africa? Of course increasing trade with South Africa strengthens South Africa. One of the arguments against the sale of arms to South Africa is that it strengthens the South African nation, giving them more power against their neighbours. But all the time this has been happening through increased trade, and right hon. and hon. Members opposite have welcomed it. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman went further than any Conservative Government in this direction. He authorised the Atomic Energy Authority to place a plant in South-West Africa for the manufacture of uranium. Did he tell the United Nations? Did he tell his back benchers that he had put in a uranium plant? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] When one of his hon. Friends on the back benches raised this question yesterday and asked whether it was not very immoral to place that plant in South-West Africa, when I replied that it had been done by the authority of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, the right hon. Gentleman sat down as though he had been pricked by a pin.
I have in the past day or two sometimes misnamed the Leader of the Opposition. I shall not do it now. I shall say that in this respect, when the Leader of the Opposition puts on a white sheet and says that South Africa is untouchable, he is the prime humbug of all time. In the wake of the General Election, his hon. Friends on the back benches might like to know the original definition of a humbug. It is in pincer—[Interruption.]—I am sure that they will wish to hear what the original definition was. [Interruption.] I shall wait a bit and then give it. They will be interested, I am sure. The original definition of a humbug is
a pincer used to lead cattle by the nose to the slaughterhouse".
I come to the question of the United Nations and of the Commonwealth. As regards the United Nations, to supply such arms to South Africa as those proposed to be sold is not a breach of the Security Council resolutions. Those resolutions were not mandatory. They were recommendations, and at the time a specific reservation was made by our permanent representative at the United Nations on behalf of the British Government that we should feel free to provide arms for the external defence of South Africa, something allowed under the Charter. The present definition is intended to be slightly narrower than that.
As regards the Commonwealth, I hope that the right hon. Member for Fulham at least will exercise his influence in this direction: I hope that Commonwealth countries will realise that, when there is a dispute or a difference of opinion between one Commonwealth member and another, one partner and another, or even some members of the Commonwealth and one other, it is not the answer to break the Commonwealth.
There was deep anxiety when Pakistan and India went to war. Nobody broke the Commonwealth. The Pakistanis made an agreement with China which almost everyone disliked. Nobody broke the Commonwealth. Tanzania, as we have said, consulted nobody and took her own defence decisions. I do not complain of that for one moment, but no Commonwealth country was consulted. No Commonwealth country was told in advance when Mauritius concluded an agreement with the Soviet Union for facilities for her fishing fleet. All these happenings were of concern to other members of the Commonwealth, but the answer was not to break up the Commonwealth.
Britain values the Commonwealth association, but we must ask that we be treated as an equal member and equal partner having the same right to judge in our own cause as any other member of this association. Otherwise, a double standard will operate, and a double standard operating in that respect would break the Commonwealth wide open.
In this matter of arms in relation to the Simonstown Agreement, we have taken into account, and will take into account, some of the genuine fears of the Commonwealth countries. But the decision, at the end of the day, must be a decision of the British Government, and nobody else can make it for us.
I understand very well the philosophy of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). He would boycott, and a number of his hon. Friends would boycott. They would apply sanctions against South Africa. They would not co-operate with any South African Government unless it reformed its ways. They would certainly not, for example, have put a uranium plant in South-West Africa. I can recognise that.
Mr Tony Benn (Bristol South East)
As the right hon. Gentleman has made two references to uranium, may I put the record straight? Uranium is not manufactured. Uranium is mined. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The Atomic Energy Authority is not putting up a plant in South-West Africa. The Atomic Energy Authority signed a contract with Rio Tinto Zinc, an international company which supplies uranium, and has for many years, from both Canada and South Africa. It has absolutely no bearing on the issue we are discussing.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
I do not need the right hon. Gentleman to tell me that uranium is mined. But after that it is manufactured, and eventually gets into—but we need not pursue that.
Mr John Mendelson (Penistone)
As the right hon. Gentleman has referred to the views that some of us hold, would he answer this topical question? A resolution has been introduced in the United Nations this morning calling upon all the members, particularly the members of the Security Council, the major Powers, not to supply arms to South Africa. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to instruct the British delegate to vote for the resolution and then still feel free to supply arms to South Africa?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
These things take a considerable number of days to put into final form. It is at present in the context of a breach of the peace, and a number of countries are working to get the wording as they wish it.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
I have tried to answer the hon. Gentleman, but no doubt he cannot hear the answer. I am saying that the resolution is in nothing like final form. A number of countries are trying to put it into its final shape. I do not know what the final shape will be, so I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman whether we shall vote against it, veto it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—or abstain. It is impossible to say.
I can recognise very well the position of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, and others who take the line that the boycott is right, that to apply sanctions against South Africa is right, and that not to co-operate with South Africa is right. I can recognise that as a moral stance, and indeed I think that I can recognise boycott as perhaps a Christian attitude. It is possible to say that something is so evil that you will have nothing to do with it. I can recognise that.
If force is ruled out, however—and war will not solve the problem of apartheid—there is another and I suggest just as moral and just as Christian way—
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
—by contact, to convince by example. There is strong evidence to show that the trouble with South Africa is because South Africa is so isolated from every other country in the world, and the greater the isolation the more stubborn her doctrine of apartheid becomes. It is not without interest that it is under the impact of modern industrial organisation that the rigid rules of apartheid are found impossible to sustain.
I therefore uphold the proposition on moral grounds that South Africa should not be ostracised and put in Coventry but that her territory should be opened up to the civilising influences of the outside world. It is one or the other—[Interruption.]—the Leader of the Opposition continues to mutter.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
This is a serious argument between two moral propositions. It will come to a choice. It will be one or the other. It will either end by boycott, sanctions and probably inevitably by war, or it will end by contact, by example and reconciliation between the white populations of Africa have ruled successfully ever since.
I find, therefore, the policy of the boycotters credible but wrong, but I see nothing to be said for the pretence of the Socialist Front Bench as they have conducted their policy with South Africa during the past six years. I will not be lectured by the right hon. Gentleman about colour. I remind him of the first two contacts I had with right hon. Gentlemen opposite and the Socialist Party on colour.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
They had kept Seretse Khama exiled in Brighton for years, and that continued to be his only prospect. By some hideous kind of inverted colour snobbery, they thought that he could not go back to rule his country because he had a white wife. As Commonwealth Secretary I sent them both back to Bechuanaland, where they have ruled successfully ever since.
The next occasion was when the Federation of Southern Rhodesia, Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia looked like breaking up. I begged right hon. Gentlemen opposite to take an all-Party approach to the problem in the Monckton Commission. Mr. Gaitskell could not do so because there was considerable opposition from the Left wing of his party. Many Africans served on the Commission. If the Socialists had served on an all-party Commission at that time we would probably not have had the Rhodesian problem that we now face.
I hope that the British Government and British people can help the process of reconciliation between Europeans and Africans. Because I find the policy of right hon. Gentlemen opposite over the past six years quite incredible, because they mismanaged the problems that faced them in South Africa, and because during those years they were ready to co-operate and to go a very long way with the South African Government, but not to say so, when my hon. Friend the Minister of State winds up the debate this evening he will advise the House to reject the Motion.
Dr Gavin Strang (Edinburgh East)
I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this important debate. As the Member for Edinburgh, East, I succeed George Willis, who represented my constituency for 13 years. He played an important rôle in the House, and he will be well remembered by many right hon. and hon. Members. Before representing Edinburgh, East, he represented Edinburgh, North for five years. He also played an important rôle in Government, and he will be remembered as Minister of State, Scottish Office, for his contribution to the Highlands and Islands Development Board and his work in creating the Countryside Commission. He will also be remembered for the great work he did in his constituency. As someone who has lived in the constituency for a number of years, I take pleasure in putting that on record.
It is traditional in a maiden speech to refer at length to the problems of one's constituency, but because of the importance of this debate I am sure that hon. Members will not expect me to do so. The problems of my constituency are important, but I shall raise them later.
However, there is one reference to it which I should like to make. Last Thursday, I went to my constituency to watch the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. One could not ask for a more poignant illustration of what the Commonwealth means. No one who believes in multi-racialism could fail to be impressed by all the athletes from 41 different countries parading before the stands and by the tremendous spirit of friendliness which pervaded the whole arena.
I was very conscious of the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland was present, and I could not but also be conscious of the fact that at that very time we were watching this magnificent display the Government were taking part in discussions which might well lead to the complete break-up of the Commonwealth. That is one of the crucial issues. It is indicative of the Foreign Secretary's record on Commonwealth affairs that he spent only five minutes referring to Commonwealth countries and most of that time lecturing them on past failings. Why did he not say anything about the great concern felt by countries such as Zambia and Tanzania?
All hon. Members are agreed that the central objective of all politicians is the creation of a world where all people will live together in peace, where there are no weapons of mass destruction, where the differences between nations and groups of nations are settled amicably in an organisation such as the United Nations, where there is no colonialism or other major form of exploitation, where the different races have mutual respect and where all races regard each other as of equal value.
The Government's decision to sell arms to South Africa will be a blow to the United Nations. It will encourage the exploitation of cheap black labour by the owners of South African capital. It will be a victory for racialism. There is now a possibility that in the years ahead we shall see a major confrontation between the rich white countries and the poorer coloured countries. Britain has a crucial role to play in avoiding this confrontation, a crucial rôle because of our history, because of our proud record in giving colonial countries their freedom and creating the Commonwealth.
If we are to play that crucial rôle, we must be absolutely resolute in our opposition to racialism, and that does not mean just opposing racial discrimination in places such as Smethwick and Wolverhampton. It means being unequivocal in our opposition to apartheid in South Africa. We cannot be neutral in this issue. We must align ourselves with those countries which are opposed to the racialist policies of South Africa. All the ingredients are in South Africa for a major and bloody conflagration.
I should like to refer to the reaction of Commonwealth African countries. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said, Tanzania appears to have indicated that it will immediately leave the Commonwealth if we start to sell arms to South Africa. Kenya's Foreign Minister has spoken about Britain presiding over the dissolution of the Commonwealth, and Zambia, for which this is the most serious problem, has spoken of how she may retaliate economically against Britain. Zambia has not forgotten that Mr. Vorster has gone on record as saying that the South Africans may hit Zambia so hard that she will never forget it—that was said in 1967. The Government must not claim to be surprised by the reaction of Commonwealth African countries. It was made plain last year by the Deputy Secretary General of the organisation for African Unity. Patrick Keatley reported in The Guardian of 30th October, 1969 that the Assistant Secretary-General of the O.A.U. said:
Any decision by a future Conservative administration in Britain to go back on the U.N. Security Council resolution—a measure that has been rigidly observed by Canada and the U.S.—is something so serious that it would inevitably invite action of some kind by the independent governments of Africa.
It would be political folly to suppose that the government of the day in Britain could inflict such a grave blow against black Africa and the U.N. without there being some resultant reaction from governments whose interests would be so directly affected. The 41 member states of the O.A.U. would certainly confer immediately such a thing happened, and would have to consider at summit level what action to take.
There can be no question but that the Government know full well what they are doing and what are the implications for the Commonwealth.
There is a saying that a country gets the government it deserves. God forbid that this country should deserve this Government! God forbid that this country should deserve a Government which is to align itself with racialist South Africa. But if the country does deserve this Government, this country no longer deserves to belong to the Commonwealth.
Not only must the Government be fully aware of the Commonwealth's reaction or likely reaction to this proposal, but they must be completely aware of the overriding objectives of South Africa's defence strategy. As long ago as 1963 the then South African Defence Minister said:
The first task of the defence forces is to help the police maintain law and order".
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster himself said on his return from his recent visit to South Africa that South Africa was obsessed with the racial issue. Of course it is. Its whole defence strategy is concerned with the race issue, with the preservation of apartheid.
Why does South Africa want arms from Britain? I very much doubt if South Africa is all that anxious to buy particular arms from us. We do not have a record that can guarantee continuity of supply. It is conceivable that a Labour Government in a few years' time would reverse any action in this matter. It is even conceivable that the next Labour Government might refuse to supply spares. I do not think South Africa cares whether she buys arms from Britain or from France. Indeed, there are very good reasons why she might prefer to buy them from France.
South Africa is concerned about its isolation, an isolation that is a consequence of its apartheid policies, an isolation which it deserves. South Africa wants to be an ally of Britain in the Western defence system. South Africa wants respectability. It was this respect to which Mr. Botha, the South African Defence Minister, was referring earlier this month when he said:
The Simonstown Agreement can only be of real practical value if it is carried out in a spirit of mutual co-operation between
self-respecting countries in the interests of the whole free world.
The Foreign Secretary is on record as having said in South Africa that he wanted to discuss with the South African leaders his plan to put the defence of the vital Cape sea route under the protective wing of N.A.T.O. In view of that statement, I was surprised by his reaction on Monday to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) that the N.A.T.O. writ did not run in this area. He refused to discuss whether or not he had consulted N.A.T.O. Allies. Perhaps he would tell the House whether he has given up his plans for involving South Africa in N.A.T.O. If he has, is it because Mr. Vorster does not like the idea, or because our N.A.T.O. Allies would not have anything to do with it?
South Africa resents the existence of the Commonwealth. The break-up of the Commonwealth would be a major victory for South Africa's foreign policy. Why are the Government about to change this policy? Why are they about to defy the United Nations embargo? The Foreign Secretary has argued that he believes we should defend the Cape sea route and must not take risks with our lives. I am not competent to dwell at length on the implications of the Simonstown Agreement or on the Foreign Secretary's attitude to strategy, but I still have to hear him face up to what I should have thought would be a central issue if he believes this argument. The issue is in what circumstances should Britain exert its military strength on the Cape sea route. In what circumstances are we to attack the Russian fleet? Are we to do it on our own with South Africa in an operation perhaps similar to Suez, or are we to involve the Western Alliance and N.A.T.O.? If we are to do it in such circumstances, does the Foreign Secretary seriously believe that this will be a major consideration in defending this country?
Maybe the Foreign Secretary believes these things. Perhaps he genuinely feels that it is necessary for Britain's defence. But many of his colleagues have a more personal interest in this matter. I refer of course to the tic-up between the Tory Party and industrialists with interests in South Africa. It is a fact that of the top 12 Tory firms that contribute most to the Tory Party to help them win elections, involving sums of over £250,000, no fewer than five have major interests in South Africa. Perhaps I should name the firms so that the House may see to what I am referring. I am referring, to Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds, Rank, Plessey, Whitbread, Dunlop and Hill Samuel, which has important connections in that area. If we look at the smaller firms and their interests in South Africa the tie-up becomes even stronger.
The matter does not even stop there. We know that many hon. Members have important interests in these firms. Some have resigned directorships to take up jobs in Government. The worst excesses of this degrading alliance were manifested in January, 1968, when Tory M.P.s and industrialists visited South Africa to advise them to hold back on orders for arms until the return of a Tory Government. I should like to quote the Observer of 21st January, 1968:
Leading British Conservatives and industrialists are trying energetically to persuade the South African Government to postpone committing itself to arms purchases from France or other Continental countries. … The Conservative campaign is taking the form of visits and letters by M.P.s and industrialists. The South African Foundation, a Government-orientated organisation of businessmen, is co-operating, and Mr. Vorster's Cabinet is lending a receptive ear.
It is right to make the point that it is British investments in South Africa which are the matter for concern. It is not a question of exports or imports or the effect on our balance of payments. It has been made quite clear by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham that our trade with black Africa is much more important in its effect on our balance of payments than is our trade with South Africa.
I should like to refer to the visit by the Foreign Secretary to South Africa in February, 1968. Immediately on his arrival, he stated that a Conservative Government would operate the same system as it always had with South Africa, selling arms to her for defence. It would not be restricted by the United Nations' embargo. We have heard about the distinction between arms for internal repression and arms for external defence. I thought that the "Insight" team of the Sunday Times completely demolished this hypocritical and phoney distinction.
I should like to make one further quotation from the Foreign Secretary, according to The Star, Johannesburg, in reply to a question about this distinction:
Questioned in Durban on the meaning of the Tory definition of 'arms for external defence', Sir Alec replied that he was confident that South Africa would only wish to buy from Britain bigger weapons needed for external defence, as smaller weapons for internal security were already manufactured in the Republic.
Of course, we all remember the conversation and discussions which our Foreign Secretary had with Vorster. We remember very well that at that time the M.C.C. had written to the Cricketing Association of South Africa and asked them not to lay down any conditions for the selection of their team and had asked that D'Oliveira would be acceptable. The Foreign Secretary came back and persuaded the M.C.C., after his discussions, not to pursue this line, not to insist on a reply from the South Africans.
I said that we did not deserve to have a Government committing this country to this policy of support for South Africa, and I certainly do not believe that this country deserves a Foreign Secretary who seems to be destined to go down in history as one of Vorster's leading British henchmen. One cannot but be appalled by the contradictory replies he made to the questions from the Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham on Monday. One has only to read HANSARD to be sure of the contradiction. The Foreign Secretary should remember that he is not dealing with the M.C.C. now: that there is a lot more than a game of cricket at stake here.
The central issue is whether this Government are going to align us with South Africa or whether they will stand up for multi-racialism and support and strengthen the Commonwealth. We on this side can only expose the folly of the Government's policy. We can try to let the world know that this Government do not speak on this issue for the great mass of the people in Britain. When I speak of the great mass of the people, I do not mean just the informed groups or the young people: I mean the great majority of British people. They do not support the Government on this issue.
We cannot change the Government's mind, but I pay tribute to those hon. Members opposite who signed their Motion on this subject last week. They have the power to stop the Government taking this stupid and disgraceful decision. I hope that, when it comes to the Division tonight, they will not be found wanting.
Sir Alan Haselhurst (Middleton and Prestwich)
I am grateful for this opportunity to make my maiden speech, and I recognise that there are many conventions surrounding maiden speeches in this House. The first is to seek the indulgence of the House, which I do most earnestly—the more so since I realise the subject matter which the House is debating. I assure the House that I am not deliberately trying to find shelter behind the courtesies normally shown a maiden speaker in order to make speaking on a controversial subject more easy. I speak from a genuine and close interest in these matters, which goes back many years and to which many of my hon. Friends and at least one right hon. Member on the Opposition Front Bench can testify.
Another convention of the House is to pay some words of respect and tribute to one's predecessor, and for me this is no formalistic ritual. Denis Coe was, I believe, a valued Member of the House and a great respecter of it. He took considerable interest in the workings of the House and was tireless in his efforts to improve the conditions of hon. Members—a subject in which his successor also takes an interest. He was also highly regarded in his constituency. On all sides he was found to be friendly, helpful and hard-working, and he was a very active and conscientious constituency Member, with an enviable reputation. I have before me a formidable standard, I frankly own, by which to judge my own efforts and to be judged.
The third convention is to say something of one's constituency. Its name is not an adequate description, because, apart from the boroughs of Middleton and Prestwich, it also contains the urban district of Whitefield. Although all three towns lie in Lancashire, I can speak of them with pride and affection, even though I am a Yorkshireman—although it is not unkown in this House for a Yorkshireman to represent a Lancashire seat. I should like to say more about these towns, but, following the last speaker, it would be improper of me, in view of the time allowed for this debate, to go into detail. I would just add that I am stimulated by the thought of representing their needs in this Parliament. If I am found wanting, there are at least four of my constituents in the House to see that I come up to standard, which is unusual for a constituency so far from London.
The convention that I have difficulty in following is to link the subject matter of the debate with my constituency, but all I can say is that my constituents' interest in overseas matters is very much alive, and I have had a great deal of correspondence on this question. Much as I have reservations on the general question of arms sales to South Africa, I cannot agree with the terms or spirit of the Opposition Motion.
The yardstick commonly used in discussion of arms sales is how far British actions are propping up a Government whose policies, based on race, are universally detested, and how far we are thought to be doing that. Just as a distinction can be made between trade in general and trade in arms, so I believe a distinction—I admit that it is more difficult—can be made between arms for internal purposes and those for external defence. It is not reasonable to make that distinction on what a weapon is theortically capable of: one should question the true purpose of the weapon, for which it is intended and for which it is reasonably certain to be used.
I do not believe, but it is only a judgment, that South Africa, whatever her faults, intends to wage an aggressive war or is likely to be involved in the foreseeable future in a defensive intra-continental struggle for which marine armaments would be a factor. If one is prepared to stretch the theories to the opposite judgment that I have made, then of course ordinary trade can be seen to bolster the South African Government—and right hon. Members opposite do not call for a cessation of all trade.
The policies which are being operated by the whole world in arms and other things towards South Africa are aimed at isolating that country. Their effects should be considered carefully. I cannot see one respect in which the system of apartheid has been eased in the time that these pressures have been applied. Rather, it has become more rigidly enforced. The traditional rift between the Dutch- and the English-descended South Africans, which used to carry over into party divisions, has been overcome significantly, and, as the pressure on South Africa mounted, the English-speaking people, for patriotic motives which seemed honourable to them, rallied to the Nationalist Government. The task for liberal or progressive critics such as Mrs. Suzmann has been made more difficult, because talk against the system has become, instead of just unfashionable, unpatriotic.
I must question what this policy of less contact and no arms for external defence has achieved. What is to be the consequence of this policy of isolation of South Africa if carried to its ultimate conclusion? The people who support its maintenance or intensification should consider what conclusion it will lead to.
I fear, knowing on the one hand the laager-type mentality of the Afrikaaner and on the other the relentlessness of many anti-racialists, that the conclusion will be violent. It may be that apartheid can only be overcome by a wave of bloodshed. That would be a dreadful conclusion to which to reconcile oneself.
South Africa is not a country of a few thousand whites or with a primitive industrial economy. A violent upheaval in South Africa would have appalling consequences. However senseless and immoral I might consider apartheid to be—and I so regard it—I would like to think that there is another way of its coming to an end.
I believe that there is another way through economic pressures. They are remorselessly and inevitably building up, and I suggest that they are no more slow in achieving a result than might be the processes leading towards violent revolution. They are more likely to take effect if some countries will deal with South Africa on a less restrictive basis.
Sensing that they are under attack, South African leaders feel more nervous and act more repressively. The natural economic forces and progressive political thought would stand more chance of doing their work if South Africa had a wider political relationship with the outside world. I know that it may not be in vogue to say this, but I believe it to be true, and I would wish at all costs to avoid the violent alternative which seems to be the other likely course.
I believe that we must say to our Commonwealth friends—because it is true—that we are resolutely against racialism and that the Government's intention in no way implies support of racialism. We have a right to be believed in this respect. Our desire to see the passing of the apartheid system is as sincere as that of other members of the Commonwealth. It is because I do not think that the statement by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was founded in either racialism or hypocrisy that I shall vote against the Opposition Motion.
Mrs Judith Hart (Lanark)
It is my very pleasant task to say to our two maiden speakers—my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) and the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst)—one on each side of the House, how very much we have enjoyed their contributions. The House will agree that they suffer a slight disadvantage in following two predecessors for whom the House has the very greatest respect—George Willis from Edinburgh, East, who had been with us for a very long time, and Denis Coe from Middleton and Prestwich, whom we had known less long but whom the whole House had grown to respect. Both maiden speakers, therefore, have a difficult task in following their predecessors. Having heard both of them today and the confident and intelligent contributions they have made to the debate—one of them conventional in observing all the procedures of the House and the other splendidly unconventional, but both of which the House enormously enjoyed—we shall look forward very much to hearing them again.
As I listened to the speech of the Foreign Secretary, I felt that I had never heard him so uneasy in a speech in this House. I thought that that was, perhaps, a good sign. When towards the end of his speech he went on to refer to the decision which has to be made at the end of the day, I felt that this was, perhaps, one of those infrequent debates in the House which may have a possibility of influencing events. The Government cannot be unimpressed by the difficulties which they are meeting in their efforts to pursue a policy which was, perhaps, arrived at somewhat rashly without the full knowledge of what the repercussions of that policy would be if it were carried into action. Certainly, I felt that the Foreign Secretary was uneasy and that there was a possibility that in the meetings of Cabinet committees which will take place before eventually a decision is made, wisdom may prevail. It is on that assumption that I want to make my remarks this afternoon.
The whole House would be right to regard it as essential, as does the Opposition's Motion, that the correct definition of what is in the interests of Britain should take priority in our decisions on this matter. What matters, however, is how we define the interests of Britain in the situation in which we find ourselves at the centre of one of the gravest issues that the world has faced.
If we seek to do that and to look at the position in terms of the United Nations, the Commonwealth, black Africa, trade and our responsibility to our own people in Britain, I believe that the only answer can be that the Government, and the Foreign Secretary in particular, are misinterpreting and wrongly defining what are the interests of Britain in this situation.
Can it be at any point in the interests of Britain to flout a resolution of the Security Council, or more than one resolution, as would probably be the case, or even, as the Foreign Secretary indicated, go to the length of either abstaining or using the veto against a new resolution of the Security Council seeking to strengthen the existing arms embargo? Can it be in our interest to take that kind of action at the United Nations in the full knowledge that, in doing so, we would be standing together with, perhaps, Portugal and South Africa? What a familiar ring that has to it.
I remember throughout the 1950s and the early 1960s, when the party opposite were in power, time and time again one was ashamed of hearing reports from the United Nations that on a given resolution there were two or three abstentions—Britain, South Africa and Portugal. Are we moving back into a period when Britain is to be shamefully isolated with the most reactionary nations of the world on issues of this kind?
The Security Council resolution is supported and on all these issues of race the present policy of the United Nations is supported by our European friends, by the Soviet Union, the United States of America and the whole black third world. Therefore, in seeking on a matter of this kind and of this degree of moral importance to oppose the whole of the rest of the world and then to say that this is in the interests of Britain is nonsense. It cannot be in the interests of Britain. Nor can it be in the interests of Britain to put at risk, as the Foreign Secretary is apparenty prepared to do, continued co-operation within the Commonwealth.
The Government must not think solely in terms of whether Tanzania will leave the Commonwealth or whether Zambia or Uganda and Kenya will leave the Commonwealth. They must think in terms of the possibility that it may be mooted among many of the countries of the Commonwealth that it is Britain's membership of the Commonwealth which should be suspended if we take this attitude. Tragic as that would be, I am not at all sure whether I would not prefer that the Commonwealth remained an integrated whole with the temporary absence of a Britain which had taken leave of its senses, than that we should risk the total disintegration of the Commonwealth.
Hon. Members opposite had better take seriously the consequences of their intention, because as my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said, we know what the reactions of many of the Commonwealth countries have been. One could add other countries. From what we hear, Malaysia seems to have grave doubts. New Zealand has said that she would in no circumstances propose to supply arms to South Africa. We can be quite certain of the strength of the line that Canada will have taken So I think on this question of the Commonwealth that either the Government take the Commonwealth seriously or they do not, and to judge by the Foreign Secretary's speech this afternoon, they do not. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East very rightly said, the right hon. Gentleman spent two or three minutes delivering a lecture to the Commonwealth nations on how they had better think twice before they seek to set their will against that of Britain.
I believe that here again the right hon. Gentleman and the Government are at risk of totally misunderstanding what the Commonwealth is all about, and perhaps this is at the heart of the Foreign Secretary's own dilemma, because I do not think he does understand this point; the Foreign Secretary does not appreciate that the concept of non-racialism is the very heart of the meaning of commonwealth and that, without that, the Commonwealth is as nothing. If we have the one who, until now, has been the leading partner in the Commonwealth—although we are now one of many equal nations in it—if we have Britain for one moment allying itself so clearly, as the black Commonwealth would think, with a racialist, apartheid, fascist—and I shall come to that point in a moment—South Africa, against all the meaning, as they believe, of what the Commonwealth stands for, then possibly irrecoverable harm will be done to the whole concept of Commonwealth. I hope that this will be thoroughly understood, and that the realisation of this, which is dawning, which must be dawning, steadily upon the minds of the members of the Government as they receive the replies to their letter on consultation, may indeed have some effect on them and may affect the course of their decision.
It is right that we should look to the future and to where we believe our British interests lie in relation to South Africa, to black Africa, and to the struggle between racialism and non-racialism, because I believe that we may now have reached the point—of course, hon. Gentlemen opposite can jeer about the fact that we still trade with South Africa; of course they can—at which we have to make new decisions, to re-examine exactly what our own relationship with South Africa should be in this situation which now dominates the whole of Africa, because otherwise I fear that what we shall be doing will be creating for ourselves and our own future a Vietnam in Africa. Therefore I think we must look very closely at whether we believe that we can co-operate further with, and offer further help, further manifestations of sympathy and identification to, a country which persecutes, which is oppressive, which is racialist, which does torture, which does imprison without trial, which is, in fact, the most vivid embodiment of fascism that we know in the world today.
The Foreign Secretary can talk about his hope that by contact, by the opening up of South Africa, we may change the minds of white South Africans, but what we see happening much more is decent South Africans escaping to Britain and a greater closing of minds. It may well be that, with all this, we have to face the fact that it is not appropriate any longer for a Britain which believes in the principle of non-racialism to be the country which, above all others, is offering succour and support to South Africa.
I will give the House one other reason why it is not in the interests of Britain to resume arms sales and to offer the kind of moral support which that involves. The House will remember that I was one of those in the Government who was concerned with the policy of sanctions against Rhodesia, the policy of sanctions which was supported by hon. Gentlemen opposite—
Mrs Judith Hart (Lanark)
Indeed, there were a few, shamefully a few, who did not, but the majority of the party opposite did. When we considered the problem of making sanctions against Rhodesia successful, what was the main obstacle which frustrated those attempts? The main obstacle was South Africa. Why could we not introduce sanctions on imports into Rhodesia? Because it was the easiest thing in the world for such sanctions to be frustrated by South Africa. Why was it that the proposed telecommunications ban had difficulties? Because it would be frustrated by South Africa.
Not only do hon. Members opposite seek to make what we fear—though we hope we are wrong—will be a dishonourable settlement with the regime in Rhodesia, but they also propose to intensify co-operation with the country which frustrated this country's policy in relation to the illegal regime.
Mr Norman St John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
I am following the right hon. Lady's argument closely, but is not the logical end of her argument that if she is right about South Africa and Rhodesia, the Government of which she was such a distinguished member should have imposed sanctions on South Africa?
Mrs Judith Hart (Lanark)
Wait a minute. No. I have just said that I believe the time may have arrived when Britain can no longer consider further development and co-operation with South Africa for the reasons which I have given, but what is quite clear—and surely this is clear to the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), because he is a very intelligent hon. Gentleman—is that any effort to preserve trade with South Africa should certainly not be unilateral; it would have to be a multilateral effort; it would have to be an international effort. I do not think it is totally impossible for all time, but I think it is certainly a question which can be developed only as a result of international consideration, international proposals, in which we would have a part: but not unilaterally.
Lord Balniel (Hertford)
Would the right hon. Lady also explain why the late Administration not only continued to trade with South Africa but continued the preferential access which South Africa has to our markets and fought very fiercely against pressure to remove it?
Mrs Judith Hart (Lanark)
I would say to the noble Lord that, on all these questions of trade, what he is seeking to do—let us be quite blunt about it—is to evade the moral responsibility of the party opposite by turning from the question of the supply of arms, which is what we are discussing today—
Mrs Judith Hart (Lanark)
—into more generalised questions of trade. But let me say to the noble Lord that if we are to discuss trade I would refer back to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham said, that again, of course, if we are concerned with what is in the interest of Britain, we are bound to be concerned with the fact that we trade more with black Africa than we do with white Africa, where we have three million white Africans with whom we are dealing at the moment, compared with a potential trade with 300 million black Africans, many of them living in countries which have an actual or potential rate of economic growth of anything between 5 per cent. and 7 per cent. If we are looking to British interests, this is where they lie. Let us be clear, therefore, that on trading matters, as on all other aspects of this matter, what the Government are proposing is directly opposed to every definition of what British interest is.
Let me conclude, because there are many hon. Members who are wishing to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, in this debate, by saying that when the Foreign Secretary takes us into his local tour of defence strategy—and I know that my right hon. Friend will be dealing with this very fully when he winds up for our side—he frightens me, because the dangerous aspect of what he says takes one straight back to the John Foster Dulles containment policy. It is as though the Foreign Secretary has stood still since 1963, or even before then; he has not moved in his thinking and has not caught up with the world we are living in.
If we are concerned with what is in British interests, it is certainly in our interests that the Government of Britain should not cynically offend the most decent instincts of the people of Britain as they now propose to do. The Government know perfectly well that in the recent General Election the British electorate did not go to the polls with enthusiasm for South African racialism or with a passionate desire to end the Commonwealth. The Government will have to choose—and I hope that they will choose wisely and responsibly—during the next month or two, between their responsibilities to Britain, to the Commonwealth and to the whole world outside this country which cares so passionately about the issues of race. I hope that, given time, there is still a chance that the decision will come out right.
Mr Stephen Hastings (Mid Bedfordshire)
The right hon. Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) has generated a great deal of emotion, and this is to be expected. It was perhaps not lost on the House that her time for a change of policy towards South Africa has coincided with her change from one side of the House to the other. I join her in appreciation of the maiden speakers, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwick (Mr. Haselhurst). I am sure the House enjoyed them both and will look forward to hearing them again.
I wish that the hon. Lady had not gone quite as far as she did in condemnation. Any argument is spoilt by over-doing it. She described South Africa as "the worst and most vivid embodiment of fascism in the world". Surely, common sense apart, she as a senior Minister must have read the South African Press from time to time and she must know the Press is free. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] This is the trouble with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They always forget there are numbers of people in South Africa who are fighting hard to modify the policies of the South African Government and who are discouraged by the sort of pronouncements she makes. When she spoke of the "decent South Africans who came over to this country" perhaps she had in mind Master Peter Hain. The Daily News, the Opposition paper in South Africa, had this to say after the cancellation of the South African cricket tour:
… it is one of the tragedies of the whole messy affair that so many British liberal opponents of the tour have been too busy establishing their own credentials of piety to take note of the fact that their behaviour was likely to have anything but the effect they
desired on the system that produces apartheid teams. They have a great deal to answer for.
Yes, they have a great deal to answer for, and among them is the right hon. Lady.
Of all the utterances of the new Government since they came to power the one that gave me most pleasure and satisfaction was in the speech of the Prime Minister during the debate on the Address when he said clearly and categorically that British foreign policy from now on would be guided by the British interest. It is remarkable that it should be necessary to advance such a proposition in the House. Why is it necessary? It is necessary because for the last five and a half years foreign policy has not been a policy at all. It has been a system of posturing and posing on the stage for the benefit of the audience, sometimes the Parliamentary Labour Party, sometimes the electorate, depending on the circumstances; and according to the notes of the orchestra, the orchestra being whatever resolutions of the United Nations or the O.A.U. it seemed to be fashionable to follow at the time. That has been foreign policy under the Labour Government. There is a change now. British interests are at stake, and we should all know it. I take this as read. There are two particular interests at stake.
There is defence, which the Foreign Secretary dealt with at some length, and economics, which one or two hon. Members have touched on. On defence, anyone who thinks that with the Russians moving into Aden and Mauritius there is no threat to the Western world which is concerned in the Indian Ocean needs to take another look at the map! It is said by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), and I dare say we shall hear more about it later if he catches your eye, that this is no concern to N.A.T.O. If it is no concern to N.A.T.O., it is about time it was.
Mr Denis Healey (Leeds East)
I did not say it was of no concern to N.A.T.O. I said that N.A.T.O. does not share the assessment of military risk which is made uniquely in the United Kingdom so far as I know by the Foreign Secretary and the hon. Gentleman who has just given way.
Mr Stephen Hastings (Mid Bedfordshire)
That is perhaps rather a prettier way of saying precisely the same thing. It is time that N.A.T.O. woke up to the fact that if the Russians think it important to be in Mauritius and Aden it is time the alliance paid attention to it.
On economies, the importance of South Africa to the balance of payments in this country goes without saying, but there is one other question on which I do not think anyone has touched. We have inherited an unhealthy level of unemployment from the previous Government. I hope that when right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are exercising their consciences in this matter, particularly when it comes to large orders for ships, heavy goods, machine tools and the rest, they will put the facts to their constituents so far as they are affected, in the factories and yards where the orders will go particularly where jobs may be in question or where there are no jobs at all.
I take these British interests as proved and will go no further into them. But I will turn to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State in his original statement on the supply of arms. He said firmly, and he said more or less the same this afternoon, that the matter of race in the world is one of the two questions which assails him most, the other being the Communist threat. With this I would wholly agree. For the few minutes in which I will take up the time of the House, I want to try to deal with this. I know it is very thin ice, but it is not a part of the skating rink which I am unused to trying to skate on, and I have some experience of Southern Africa. I ask the House at least to accept that, whereas our opinions differ on what should be done about these questions, they can be just as sincere from this side of the House and from my point of view as they can from the other side of the House and the other point of view.
We are concerned today with the effect of the supply of arms, and of putting our relations with South Africa on a different basis, on three separate relationships: the relationship between ourselves and Commonwealth countries, particularly certain African Commonwealth countries; the relationship between the various races of Southern Africa internally; and the relationship between the nations of developing black Africa north of the Zambesi and the countries south of the Zambesi. I will take these three relationships in turn.
To take first our relationship with the Commonwealth, I hope I do not exaggerate, but it seems to me that the case of hon. Gentlemen opposite and of many people in this country who are voluble anti-apartheid exponents—and no blame to them for that—rests on two propositions which, boiled down and analysed, come to this. First, that "all men are equal", and secondly, that "the majority is always right". It may seem heinous to say so, but I do not accept either of these propositions. All men are not equal. They are each different even among those of the same skin, but in the context of Southern Africa as I know it, and I know it well, the difference between races is frighteningly profound. That is a fact. It is God's work, not ours. It may be nothing to be pleased about, but it is so.
Mr Alex Lyon (City of York)
The hon. Member says that it is a fact that there are profound differences between the races—not between people at different cultural levels but between races. He says that this a God-given fact. First of all, his theology is bad. Secondly, has he never looked at the U.N.E.S.C.O. studies into the whole of the question of racial differences? Is he aware that they have found no difference between the races that can be substantiated by scientific evidence?
Mr Stephen Hastings (Mid Bedfordshire)
If the hon. Member will allow me to continue I shall quote one or two authorities. It is a different thing to say that I perceive profound differences from saying that anybody is inferior to anybody else. I hope that the hon. Member will accept that.
The second proposition with which I was concerned was that the majority is always right. Perhaps that is a rather crude way of implying that the resolutions and opinions put out by the Committees of the United Nations and by organisations like that of African Union or of the Non-Aligned, and the rest, are too readily accepted. I see no reason for doubting that a country with our experience should necessarily be less well informed or less well able to make a sound judgment of affairs than the organisations that I have referred to.
Friendship between individuals or between nations depends, rather than on those two propositions, upon these. First, it rests upon a mutual recognition of reality, which is another word for truth, and, secondly, upon a recoginition of respective interests. That is how trust grows, and it is my complaint that in recent years in the Commonwealth we have actually encouraged a sense of unreality. We have done it over Rhodesia again and again and again. Furthermore, we have subordinated our own national interests to such an extent that to assert them now appears arbitrary and unreasonable. That is the effect of lack of clear policy over the last few years.
I now want to turn to the question of the relationship between the races themselves in Southern Africa. Here I come to the point made by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon): of course, this is a delicate matter, but I have asserted difference—not superiority or inferiority; heaven knows, no, but difference, yes. I call in aid here such authorities as one of the most sensitive and, I believe, important books upon the African scene in recent years, "The Primal Vision" by John Taylor, the General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society who has an enormous experience of Africa. Then I wish that some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen had had the benefit that I had of listening to men like Dr. Mike Gelphand of University College, Salisbury, and also of reading his work on Shona Ritual and Belief, or thirdly, to talk to the Principal of the University of Zululand, Professor Maré, who speaks five African languages more or less perfectly and is an absolute authority on the impact of Western learning upon the African mind—a thing that all too many of us, in our arrogance, fail to analyse or appreciate. All those three and many others would concur in what I have just said.
To assert that differences exist is not a crime. It is the truth. How to cope with it in Southern Africa is an appalling problem. But let us at least begin to study the problem rationally and sensibly in this House. To realise that a problem exists, is a step at least.
Mr Robert Hughes (Aberdeen North)
Does the hon. Member agree that in South Africa today any trace of skin colour automatically means that a person is non-white and is therefore inferior, and that every possible opportunity has been taken, since the Statute of Westminster, to remove voting rights from Africans and coloured people? How can the hon. Member square his argument with the fact that any progress towards equality of person should be based upon ability, intellect and not upon differences in colour? Differences of colour do not necessarily mean differences in inferiority and superiority?
Mr Stephen Hastings (Mid Bedfordshire)
I gave way to the hon. Member because he is a new Member. It is a lesson to me that one should not do so. I am coming to that point. I said that there was a problem and I asked the House to come with me to the extent of agreeing that this problem exists.
Separate development, say its apologists, is a means of trying to cope with this appalling problem. There is a distinction here that I want to advance in all sincerity. Where separate development is based on a sympathetic understanding of the problem of transition it is by no means necessarily wrong; indeed, we can find examples, for instance, in the Transkei, where power is indisputably passing into African hands over large parts of the Continent of Africa. In this respect, it can be said that there is an improvement and an advance. But where separate development is based on the assertion of the superiority in every way of one race, it is evil, false and doomed to erosion and failure. That is the distinction that has to be made.
It can be argued that the white races in Southern Africa are superior economically and in terms of power. It can equally be argued by anyone who has studied these matters that the Bantu people, in terms of their attitude to their elderly relatives, are vastly superior to us here. These are differences. I seek to put to the House that this is a distinction of the greatest importance to anyone who wants to take a rational view of these matters.
I come finally to the case of the relationship between the countries of what is termed black Africa, north of the Zambesi, and countries to the south. This is the most difficult, intractable and, in a sense, most important problem, because all concerned must live together on the African continent. The tragedy is, quite understandably, that these relationships are poisoned by a sense of outrage in the North at what they interpret as a view about race—the superiority and the rest that I dwelt on only a few moments ago. But it is incumbent upon anyone who wishes to help solve this problem to take a practical view. It is no good making pious noises and false promises from thousands of miles away. We have had too much of that ever since this problem first raised its head. The only way in which the Government or this country, or any of us as individuals, can make a contribution—since we cannot resolve the problem by force of arms or any of the other ways that have been discarded, and rightly, for so many reasons in this House—is to encourage contacts between the South and Central Africa and the North by any legitimate means—mutual aid, trade, any way that we can think of. For instance, there is the "good neighbour" policy of South Africa. There has been a real change in this respect in recent years. I suspect the contacts to which I have referred are far more widespread than is ever admitted in the Press. Everybody knows about Malawi, but it does not end there. Of course the shouts of disapproval and hatred are understandably still evident, but underneath the contacts are growing, even between Rhodesia and the North. Where they exist a contribution towards a solution of the problem of racialism and all that we dislike in the House is taking place.
There may be those in the House—there are certainly people in the country—who think that apartheid can be broken in the end by violence internally or by some form of invasion from the North. Let us discount any thought that action of the kind envisaged by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon will make it more likely that the Communists have been doing everything they can over the years to increase their penetration in this part of the world. Everybody who is familiar with the area knows that that is true.
I happen to have been there, and from my own absolute conviction I say that there is no threat at this time in the Caprivi strip or the Zambesi Valley. I spent some time there the year before last. It is not practical. There is too much power and organisation in the south, and it is quite capable of resisting it. It will not end that way. It can only end gradually, through encouraging the sort of contacts of which I have spoken, instead of actively discouraging them, between the South and Central Africa, and by the gradual economic advances of the Africans. Of course, that economic advance of the African has gone further in South Africa than anywhere else in the whole Continent.
How, otherwise, does one account for the sort of experience I had in Laurenço Marques not so long ago. "It is a splendid city. There is absolutely no colour feeling of any kind—in fact, less than we find in many of our own cities." I said to a South African taxi driver there—a black man, "It must be a relief to you to be here and away from Johannesburg." He replied, "I cannot wait to get back." I was amazed, as anyone would be. I asked him why. He answered, "There are opportunities to get on in South Africa, but we cannot do so here."
It is not easy to explain, and I know that one example like that does not prove much, but as economic power flows into the hands of the African and to other peoples besides the white in South Africa so the rigidity of apartheid will inevitably begin to fade, as it will fade through mutual inter-dependence—
Mr Stephen Hastings (Mid Bedfordshire)
These are the only two practical ways—gradual interdependence of nations and people growing across the Zambesi Valley and economic advancement—by which the things we all dislike will begin to fade. To encourage that process by any means is our duty and the duty of this Government, and the supply of arms has precious little to do with that effect. By refusing them arms, we should only drive the South Africans further into their laager, which would do the greatest damage.
I hope—I can only hope—that these reflections, such as they are, will have been of some interest to the House. At least they stem from some study over a number of years. Indeed, my experience of this part of the world in a sense goes back to my childhood. I hope, finally, that they will serve to show at least that those who, like me, will continue to work ceaselessly for a return to normal relations between the United Kingdom and our Government and people on the one hand and South Africa, Rhodesia and the Portuguese territories on the other—in the interests of all the races of Africa, as I see it—are not motivated by greed or imperial ambition but by some understanding and some commonsense.
Mr Phillip Whitehead (Derby North)
I trust that the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) will forgive me if I do not follow him into his excursions into racial theory and the rationale of events now taking place in the Zambesi Valley and elsewhere in Southern Africa. If I were to do so, I would strain beyond measure the tradition of non-controversy which I believe is expected of a maiden speaker.
Indeed, hon. Members may wonder, as they may have done in the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) and the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haslehurst) why I have chosen to speak in a debate in which, inevitably, passions run high and controversy is present. My excuse for doing so is that these matters relate directly to the debate about moral issues and their relation to politics which should be and I believe is taking place in all the constituencies.
This was certainly so in my constituency during the election, and although I hope at a later date to speak on matters more directly relating to my constituency, such as transport and advanced technology and so on, and to those matters in which I have some small store of specialised knowledge—broadcasting subjects—on this occasion I should like to deal with the issues raised in this debate. They are, as I said, not unknown to the town of Derby and to many of my predecessors, independent-minded men who have sat for Derby before me.
It is in this context that I should like to pay a tribute to my immediate predecessor, Niall MacDermot. He was, I know, immensely respected in Derby, and he had many friends, as I am discovering every day, in this House. He won a famous by-election in Lewisham in 1957, giving there the first push to that ever-increasing pendulum of by-election gains and losses which may very soon, I fear, shake right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in their turn. He has now, in the prime of life, gone on to a new career, and I am sure that the House will join me in wishing him well in that.
Niall MacDermot, of course, was just the latest in a long tradition of independent-minded Members for Derby. They go back to Samuel Plimsoll, 100 years ago, who, we are told, after a debate in which he was enraged beyond measure by the attitude of the Government Front Bench, shook his fist under Mr. Speaker's nose and had to be forcibly restrained and removed from the House. I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that that is not a precedent that I intend to follow. At a later stage, Mr. Plimsoll gave up his seat to a member of the then Government in the hopes that this grandiloquent gesture would persuade the Administration to urge on the processes of reform. I feel that I must also assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that, although I hope to persuade them of the error of their ways, this is a sacrifice that I have no intention of making.
Perhaps the most distinguished recent Member for the town of Derby, who will be referred to, I am sure, at greater length by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Walter Johnson), is Philip Noel-Baker, who also left this House recently. He entered the House after another celebrated by-election, fought entirely on one specific issue of morality applied to international politics—in that case, the application of sanctions to Italy. It is because of the interest shown then and since in international matters by my constituency that I feel bold enough to rise to speak today. I am particularly emboldened by the knowledge that, if Philip Noel-Baker were still here, he, too, would rise to speak on this subject.
It is astonishing that the Foreign Secretary entered into his general comments on South Africa in such ignorance of the depth of feeling raised on this issue, not merely in the House and in the country—the House will remember I am sure that we are now ourselves a multi-racial community—but also in the United Nations and in the rest of the world. The questions which are asked of me in my constituency and by my friends are simple and straightforward, but they have not, I regret to say, either in the right hon. Gentleman's previous statements or in this debate, received straightforward answers.
The questions are roughly these. Why is it that the right hon. Gentleman places such reliance on this Russian naval threat around the Cape? Where are the many submarines, no doubt with snow on their periscopes, which are at this moment surfacing in the waters of the Cape? It is surprising that the United States, a world power seriously concerned with a Soviet naval threat wherever it may appear, remains relatively unconcerned in this case if we take the decision to lift the arms embargo as a relative quotient of concern—ours against theirs.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he was concerned about Tanzania and Chinese arms. I was not clear whether Chinese submarines are also surfacing in the waters of the Cape, but does he think that a decision to sell arms to South Africa would make any less likely the possibility that Tanzania, or Tanganyika, as he called it, any less ready to receive assistance from China? Can we blame the countries of black Africa if in this matter they take the line that their enemy's enemy is their friend?
Why does the right hon. Gentleman feel that adequate consultations with the Commonwealth are still possible in this matter, when already he appears to have taken a decision in principle, judging from his quoted statements in South Africa, on a prior commitment at least to the sale of some arms. Why does he feel that the Commonwealth can now take him seriously, when there is, as we know, a desire by the South African Government to re-negotiate the Simonstown Agreement, to seek a marriage con tract before the consummation of this somewhat unusual special relationship in which he may enter can take place?
Why does the right hon. Gentleman feel that we can set aside the United Nations resolutions of 1963 and 1964 for which this country voted, in spite of the reservations expressed at that time by Sir Patrick Dean, during the time of his administration? Why, above all else, does he feel that we can salve our consciences on the issue of arms to South Africa—and that is what I believed the debate was about when I came into the Chamber, and not the wide-ranging global surveys of dubious relevance which we have heard from some hon. Gentlemen opposite—by saying that it is possible to draw a valid distinction between those arms which will be used for external defence only and those which may be used for internal repression? Can the right hon. Gentleman honestly say that the Nimrod and Buccaneer aeroplanes could not be used overland, and has not the latter already been used in counter insurgency operations? Who will stop ships any ships—being used to defend the coastal waters of South-West Africa as well as the Republic.
The right hon. Gentleman may not have been aware of the South Africans' own estimates as revealed in the Defence White Paper of 1969. He may not have been aware of their estimates of the use to which some of these sophisticated aircraft can be put. I want to read to the House just one passage from the South African Defence White Paper of 1969:
The contribution of the South African Air Force to landward defence consists of: Ground support and reconnaissance for Land Forces. In this rôle bombers, ground support aircraft and specialist aircraft are available. Some of these are, however, becoming obsolete and will, in due course, have to be replaced. Steps have already been taken to procure additional ground support aircraft.
Is it so absolutely clear that none of the things on the South African shopping list which are now being entertained by Her Majesty's Government could not be used in that sort of rôle?
It is clear that the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Defence, if we look at his remarks in another place in 1963, and again today, has some reservations. In 1963 he said in answer to a Question:
No one believes for one single moment that the South African Government are buying Buccaneers, extremely expensive aircraft,
for enforcing a policy of apartheid."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, December, 1963; Vol. 254, c. 249.]
I am not so sure that the noble Lord would say that with such certainty today. I am not so sure that the Buccaneer aircraft has not been used and will not be used again and could not be used in the future for insurgency repression in South Africa and South-West Africa.
The fact—and I am sure that my hon. Friends will agree with this—is that it is the totality a apartheid as a system to which we are opposed, and it is here that our impact on the rest of the world will be considered. It is rightly said that to govern is to choose both our options and our friends. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are set upon a course which could be gravely misguided, a course which could lead to the alienation of this country from opinion in the United Nations, and in the specific departures of many members from the Commonwealth.
I do not believe that the policy of what we may call sell-a-gun-boat is any more relevant or desirable than the policy of send-a-gun-boat used to be. I do not think that one can sell or give firearms to a homicidal person. We should not do this. There should be a total ban on the supply of arms to the Republic of South Africa. I cannot stress too much what the consequences of this action will be seen to be. Actions are what they appear to be to the rest of the world, and it is no good saying to the rest of the world, as the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire did, that we hope that we shall go on to influence the Republic of South Africa by maintaining a closer contact between ourselves and them. All these contacts have been maintained over 20 or 25 years, and successive United Kingdom Governments have gone further and further in their attempts to maintain normal links with the Republic of South Africa, but the system of that country has become more entrenched, and in all respects worse. Smuts has given way to Malan, to Strijdom, to Verwoerd, to Vorster. I do not believe that the policy of closer contact has any effect on the Government of South Africa. I believe that the results of the recent election in the Republic bear out the fact that the policy of quarantining and isolating South Africa may have had some effect, and the nervous reaction of the South African electorate to the more extreme Afrikaaner Party may be an indication that they are worried at the growing isolation of the régime.
I apologise if I have strayed into controversy. I know that many hon. Gentlemen opposite, including the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich whom I have known for many years since we were undergraduates together, have reservations about the policy with which the Government are now flirting. I acknowledge the genuine doubts, and I bring them to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman if he has not noticed them.
I am deeply conscious of my youth and inexperience in the House. I was born in the year in which the right hon. Gentleman first entered the service of the State as P.P.S. to Neville Chamberlain. I should like to say to him that, like other new Members, I respect him as a symbolic link with those times, as a link with the traditions of Parliament going back for many years, but, like other new Members, I would prefer that connection with the past to remain symbolic and not literal. I hope, and I should like to believe, that over the years we have learned something. I should like to believe that we have learned that one cannot do business deals with regimes like that in South Africa on precisely the same terms as one deals with everyone else. I had hoped that we would have had some new thoughts on global strategy since 1950, but there was no real indication of that today.
There is a fine sentence in a novel by L. P. Hartley, with which hon. Members may be familiar. It is called "The Go-Between". It is not, I fear, about the right hon. Gentleman and his visit to Pretoria, but it begins like this:
The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.
I regret to say that it is as a citizen of the past that the Foreign Secretary has come before the House today. I think that that was shown by his reference to Tanganyika, rather than Tanzania. I beg him to accept the realities of the present. We do things differently now. We do things differently because we have to, and I urge the Government not to follow a policy which will be dangerous, divisive and deluded.
Mr Robert Taylor (Croydon North West)
Like other new Members I rise today with more than the usual amount of anxiety of one who is making a maiden speech because, like them, I realise that it is contrary to convention for maiden speakers to talk on controversial subjects, and if there is one point of agreement in the debate, it must surely be that this is a controversial debate. I am, however, fortified by the certainty that my opening remarks at least will meet with approval from hon. Members on both sides, because I wish to pay a tribute, and whilst it must of necessity be brief, it is nonetheless sincere for that, to my predecessor. Mr. Frederic Harris was a Member of this House for 22 years and entered originally at a memorable by-election which will long be remembered by the Conservatives of Croydon, but which I am sure was quickly forgotten by our opponents there.
During that long period of 22 years Mr. Frederic Harris created a unique position for himself in Croydon, one of wide respect from members of all parties, and it is perhaps a tribute to him and also to our democratic institutions that during the recent General Election both my opponents interrupted their campaigns to pay him a personal tribute of thanks for his work for the people of Croydon and to wish him well because of the serious illness with which he is now beset.
It was also a singular pleasure for him, in the last weeks of the last Parliament, to be admitted a Freeman of the Borough of Croydon. I believe that this was the first occasion upon which a sitting Member had been so honoured by that Borough. Now aged 55, an early age to retire from public life, Mr. Harris is very ill, and I am sure that I shall be conveying the thoughts of hon. Members on both sides of the House if I wish him well and a speedy return to full health.
My qualification for intervening in this debate is that during the last 27 months I have made five visits to South Africa. Hon. Members opposite have poured scorn on those who have business interests in South Africa, so let me make it quite clear that I have to thank hon. Members opposite, and particularly those who were our predecessors in Government, for the fact that when I went to South Africa I responded to their exhortations to export and, indeed, to their inducements, when they offered a 50 per cent. concession on the fare and on my hotel bill and hotel expenses.
The part of this Motion to which I wish to refer is that which states that the present intention of the Government will threaten
… the political, economic and strategic interests of this country.
It is not my party, nor is it the Government, which has introduced the question of economic or of political interests. Others more experienced than I have dealt with the strategic questions, but surely the political interests of the country can be damaged only if we fail to fulfil either our legal or our moral obligations.
I understand that it is the case of hon. Members opposite, and of those who pontificate on the subject outside, that this country, and in particular this Government, has a moral duty to continue the embargo imposed by our predecessors. What type of morality is it which says to British Servicemen, which says to those who serve in the Royal Navy, "You can share the same naval base as men of the South African Navy; you can share the same barracks, and the same facilities—indeed, you can share the same risks, but those with whom you share those risks are not to be trusted with arms with which to defend themselves"? That, to me, is no morality. It is the situation when people are trying to face in both directions at the same time, or, if not that, it is a question of appeasement of those in another part who shout more loudly than do our friends.
Britain's long-term political interests are not and never have been served on a basis of facing two ways at the same time. They are served only by decisions which are made in the light of the country's needs, and by fulfilling obligations which have been freely entered into. We share the naval base with South Africa. We share a duty, by mutual necessity, to protect the Cape route. We therefore have a moral obligation to supply South Africa with the means to enable her to play her part under the Treaty of Simonstown.
What is the grave economic damage to which the Motion refers? We have heard much lately of the possibility that the supply even of marine arms will have repercussions on trade with other African countries north of the Zambesi. What is that trade at the moment? It appears from the document sent to all hon. Members by the Africa Bureau that at the present time our exports to countries north of the Zambesi are worth £359 million but that our imports from those countries are worth £515 million. Who is threatening whom? Surely this attitude shows the folly of mixing politics with trade. There was no question of trade with other countries, about our trade relationships with other countries, before our predecessors introduced the embargo.
What is the other effect? Suppose that supplying arms to South Africa were to influence our trading figures with countries north of the Zambesi. What about our trade with South Africa? I have heard much in this House, and I have read much in the newspapers, to the effect that our trade has not been affected by the embargo, and that point has been made again today in this debate. That conclusion is arrived at by looking at statistics.
I can tell hon. Members opposite, as one who has carried samples of British building materials in every centre in South Africa—Pretoria, Johannesburg, Pietermaritburg, Port Elizabeth, East London, Cape Town—that this embargo has had an effect on our trade, and whilst it is not part of the Government's case that this should influence our decision, this point has been introduced into this Motion by the Opposition and it should, therefore, be answered. It is extremely difficult for a salesman in South Africa today to answer the question: "You have a good product, but why should we buy that, when you will not even supply us with arms with which to defend ourselves?"
There is a great fund of goodwill existing between South Africa and Great Britain. This is natural, because so many of that nation are of British extraction. The right hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) has said that, as she put it, many good white South Africans were emigrating from that country to this. I do not have those statistics, but I have them for emigration from this country to South Africa. They are certainly sub stantial. In 1965 there were 12,012 emigrants; in 1966, 12,233; 1967, 11,636; 1968, 14,589, and in 1969, 18,812. In other words, in the last five years very nearly 70,000 British subjects have emigrated to South Africa. South Africa should certainly he an expanding market for this country, and hon. Members opposite who refer only to statistics to prove that trade has not been affected by the embargo are deluding themselves.
I have been a Member for only two or three weeks, but during that time I have heard a word which I think is particularly unfortunate and particularly derogatory. It has been used in this Chamber today, and was used in a supplementary question last week on this issue. The word is "Munich". It is a word that seems to come very freely from the other side when talking about arms for South Africa. But, in my opinion, if that derogatory word is apt in any way today it is apt only when applied to those who would deny our kith and kin the weapons they need with which to defend themselves—and the emphasis must be on the word "defend." All I can say of the word that seems to come so freely from the lips of hon. Members opposite is, "Let the cap be worn by him whom it fits".
Mr David Steel (Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire)
I am sure that the whole House will agree that we have just listened to two remarkably effective maiden speeches by the hon. Members for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and Croydon, North-West (Mr. Robert Taylor). They both followed illustrious predecessors and, judging by their contributions today, I am sure that both are destined to make contributions equally as effective as those of their predecessors.
It will not surprise the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West if I say that although I admire the effectiveness of his speech, I disagree with it, and it will not surprise the hon. Member for Derby, North when I tell him that I agree with very much of what he said. Indeed, I consider that he has already done a service to the debate by eliminating many of my remarks, which would have covered the same territory.
I say to those who have personal experience and knowledge of South Africa, as have the hon. Members for Croydon, North-West and for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings), that I wish that when they went to South Africa they had taken the opportunity, if it were afforded them, to visit, for example, the resettlement areas about which we have heard from the Black Sash Movement and the churches in South Africa, and to visit those whose families have been torn apart because of the policy of apartheid. If they would go and visit those places where people are expected to eke out a living without homes or sanitation or employment, they could bring back a more realistic picture than the one they usually present to the House.
If we are looking back to the time about which both maiden speakers spoke when we engaged in hostilities, we can remember that in 1938 the present Prime Minister of South Africa had to be locked up by General Smuts because of his sympathies with Hitler's theories. That particular leopard has not changed his spots. He is following a policy of cruelty and repression of the great majority of the people in his country.
I want to indicate briefly why the Leader of the Liberal Party, my other colleagues and I, will support this Motion in the Lobby. When the Kennedy Administration came to power in the United States it did so amid a great deal of suspicion in the uncommitted world. There was suspicion because it was a rich and powerful nation, potentially agressive, which had an Administration possibly based on a level of greed and prosperity unknown to those other nations. One Of the great achievements of the Kennedy Administration was that very early in its life it managed to dispel this image of the United States among the uncommitted countries and to convey the impression that they had an interest in equal rights. They had a motivation somewhat higher than the 100 per cent. interest of the United States right round the world. That was a success story in great contrast to the early days of this Administration in Britain because already in the first few weeks they have created an atmosphere of mistrust, suspicion and anxiety right round the world.
I disagreed with only one thing said by the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), and perhaps he did not mean it in the way in which it came across in his speech. He seemed to sug gest that the East-West conflict was one major topic which was not involved in this question. I should have thought that Africa south of the Sahara is an area where the cold war confrontation is not yet present. My great fear, and one of the fears of my party as a result of the policy decision which may be taken by the present Government, is that they may succeed in bringing the cold war confrontation into Africa. They may succeed in doing so because the strategic conception which the Foreign Secretary gave was based on no consideration of what is happening in the African continent itself.
If we look at what was said by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) about the Caprivi Strip and the Zambesi Valley we find that he was looking at that area through the eyes of South Africa. Looking at it from the other side, I remember talking with President Kaunda in Lusaka. We see that the Zambians and Tanzanians feel a real threat of aggression from the south. They are justified in feeling that when they look to the Caprivi Strip and at the air forays made from South Africa in support of Rhodesia and on the frontiers of these countries.
It is important to recognise that these are legitimate fears. Perhaps the meeting today of President Kaunda, President Milton Obote and President Julius Nyerere may turn out to be an historic meeting. I want to take my argument on the level submitted from the Government of the interests of this country. Even taking that yardstick, the Government are profoundly wrong in their judgment. What will be the strategic gain if we claim that we shall be able to protect the sea routes round the Cape if one consequence is that the hitherto nonaligned countries then find it necessary to protect themselves and take that protection from where it is offered and we suddenly find Russian naval and military bases on the East and West Coasts of Africa? I believe this is a disastrous development. I hope that even at this stage the Government will be persuaded to think again.
I turn to a particular question about the Simonstown Agreement because this was raised in Question Time the other other day and the Foreign Secretary indicated that he would make some inquiries. One of the terms of the Agreement between this country and South Africa is that there will be no racialist policies in the installations at Simonstown. Yet already we find there is not equal pay for the races and that racial discrimination is operating there contrary to the written Agreement which South Africa has signed. I should like to know what steps the Government are to take if they are to participate in a re-negotiation of the Agreement and if, as they appear to believe, the arms sales policy is part of the Agreement. If we accept the sincerity of their detestation of apartheid, what steps will they take to see that this term in the Agreement is properly recognised?
I had the good fortune to spend some years in my 'teens in Africa. I visited two or three of the countries there again two years ago. It is my profound belief that it is extremely important that we should maintain the belief of the Western Christian Civilisation in the principle of the equality of man and should stand up and be counted against racial oppression wherever it is found. We have to understand that in many countries apparent support for the strategic position of South Africa appears to be a denial of that. I say "appears to be"; I do not say that it is, but it appears to be. That must be clearly understood by the Government.
We are faced with a situation in which many Communist powers will be able, following this policy decision, to go round Africa say, "It is only we who believe in the equality of man and we are willing to help you." We are turning our backs on much of the pioneering work which was done by people from this country in the early colonial era, particularly in East and Central Africa. I appeal to the Foreign Secretary, because he, too, came from the County of Lanark. He knows that Julius Nyerere was a graduate of Edinburgh University and that Kenneth Kaunda was brought up under the wing of one of David Livingstone's colleagues.
This mistake is being made at the time when a dividing line is being drawn right through the place where the statue of David Livingstone stands, unfortunately perhaps but symbolically with his back towards Rhodesia and looking across the Victoria Falls to Zambia and the North. I hope that the Government will not create the impression that they wish symbolically to tear down that statue and to put in it place a great plastic £-note, but that we shall follow the ideals which we followed in Africa before. I hope that this debate will appear in the history books as merely a non-event. I hope that the Government will change their mind and not go ahead with sales of arms to South Africa. I hope that they will heed representations by the United States, Canada and the Commonwealth, and will recognise in weighing up the gains and losses of this policy that the losses are very substantial indeed. I hope that at the end of the day we shall be able to put this sorry chapter of our political history down simply as one example of instant government which did not come off.
Mr Simon Digby (West Dorset)
The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) will not expect me to express agreement with many of the things that he said.
I cannot come to the main burden of my speech without referring to the two excellent maiden speeches we have heard from the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Robert Taylor). I am sure that the whole reached before long, if only because, as House is sorry to hear that Mr. Frederic Harris, for whom we had much affection, is not well.
I believe that the time has come when the indecision on this matter should end. Therefore, I hope that a decision will be I understand it, the needs of the South African Navy are urgent, particularly for three frigates. Our shipyards are short of work. Although this may be the wrong consideration, it would be a great help to them to obtain the orders for such frigates, whether the orders go through Vosper Thorneycroft or to Scotland at Yarrows. If a decision is not taken soon, I imagine that it will be necessary for the South African Navy to place further orders in France. Those of us who have visited South Africa recently know that there have been considerable difficulties about the ordering of the French submarines. There is the language difficulty and the fact that special flats had to be hired in Toulon to get the French crews ready to take over these boats.
Mr Simon Digby (West Dorset)
I am saying that all our shipyards desperately need it. Surely the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that many of our shipyards build warships as well as merchant ships. It would be of the greatest assistance to Cammell Laird, for example, to have orders for these ships, if they were to go there, although I agree that the orders are likely to go elsewhere.
My reason for intervening in the debate is not only that I went out to the Cape last January and went round the Simonstown base but that I had some part in the negotiations which led up to the Simonstown Agreement. Indeed, I was very nearly the Minister who had to go out there to hand the base over.
Therefore, I was very interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles about the condition of the Cape coloureds. My recollection of my part in those negotiations is that I was constantly making proposals to the South African authorities to ensure that the position of the Cape coloureds was no worse after the takeover than it was before, because before the takeover they were my responsibility. Until the hon. Gentleman spoke today I had no evidence whatever that those conditions were not carried out faithfully. It makes it all the sadder, in my view, that the British Government are the ones who appear to have defaulted at any rate on the spirit of the Agreement with regard to the supply of warships. Those negotiations were carried out in a spirit of co-operation. Few of us at that time envisaged the kind of situation which has arisen.
There is a tendency to exaggerate the importance of Simonstown as a Naval base. The berthing facilities are not very adequate. Even with the new basin, they will not be. There is a fairly good graving dock there, but it will take only a light fleet carrier. When we handed over the base to the South African Government, the total civilian labour force was only 500.
The great value of the base is its position, the fact that between Gibraltar and Australia or Bombay or Singapore there are no proper naval bases apart from Simonstown and Salisbury Island at Durban. It is to the defence question that the House should be addressing itself. I realise how strongly hon. Members opposite feel on many of the moral issues involved. This makes it difficult to understand why they did not make alternative arrangements to the Simonstown Agreement, perhaps to create a new naval base or come to some new alliance in the area.
With the new balance of power in the Mediterranean, with the arrival of the new Soviet units, with their extremely up-to-date weapons systems, the southern flank of N.A.T.O. has been extended from the Mediterranean to the Cape to an area which is not covered by N.A.T.O., which is not covered by CENTO, and which is not covered by S.E.A.T.O. If hon. Members opposite felt so strongly on the issue of co-operation with the South African Government, they should have thought about alternative arrangements.
The Soviet Navy is divided into four different fleets. The extent to which it has built up in recent years is astounding. When the Russians laid down the Sverdlovsk class cruisers everybody in Britain tended to think that they did not know what they were doing. They were embarking on a completely new policy of extending their naval power. They have carried it to a very considerable extent so that with their navy divided into four fleets they can still send an astounding number of modern units around the Cape and into the Indian Ocean. This is the extent to which the defence considerations have altered beyond anything foreseen at the time of the Simonstown Agreement.
A second factor which was not foreseen in those discussions was the closing of the Suez Canal. It would have seemed incredible in those days that the Suez Canal would be permanently closed and even more incredible that merchant shippers should get into the habit of thinking of it as being normal to go all that extra mileage round the Cape. This is now so. Even if the Suez Canal were opened tomorrow, which it could not be, it would never re-establish itself with the same importance as it had before.
We cannot blink the fact that our lines of communication to Australia, to the East and to the Persian Gulf are dangerously exposed and are a wide-open invitation to any troublemakers there may be. I would not speculate on the motives of the Soviets in detaching these units to this area and in showing so much interest in it, but it is a factor that must be taken into account. It is a factor that should be taken into account by the black States in the North which are bound to be affected by it in the long run. Indeed, the latest news from Mauritius is not welcome.
There is this enormous gap in dockyard facilities between Gibraltar and Australia. I cannot believe that the time will not come when that shipping may need protection. When one goes to the Cape one sees the number of merchant ships that stand off outside Capetown Harbour and the number of ships that pass by without bunkering there at all, because many of them bunker in other ports. This makes one realise the extent to which our lifelines are being exposed.
Another factor which has changed since the rather loosely drawn Simonstown Agreement has been that a system of apartheid which hardly anyone in the House would defend has been fastened more and more firmly on South Africa. Indeed, I believe that even if the United Party had won the last election unexpectedly it would have found it extremely difficult to have reversed this system. The system is there to stay. It is not a system that we like, but that does not absolve us from facing up to the very real defence threat to the Western world.
If we are not prepared to work more closely with the South African Navy, we should arrange some other commitment with other Powers, perhaps N.A.T.O. Powers, to look after this area. At the moment we are getting the closest possible co-operation from the South African Navy and undertaking manoeuvres with it, yet we are forcing it to use obsolete weapons and ships, for example with Italian fire control systems. This is absurd.
It was said in an article in the Sunday Times that only two Soviet hunter-killer submarines were in the area, but hunter-killer submarines, nuclear-powered, are formidable vessels compared with old-fashioned frigates. The truth of the matter is that we are simply not in a position to meet any form of conventional challenge, however, surreptitious, in that area.
I very much hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will come to an early decision and that he will agree, at least for maritime defence purposes, to supply arms to South Africa. I am not much impressed by the argument that these three frigates, or whatever it may be, could be used for internal suppression. That is highly unlikely. I suppose that the matter is more arguable in the case of aircraft, but, if we are to continue calling on the South African Navy to bear the brunt of this defence, we should do more about it ourselves.
Under the Simonstown Agreement, it was envisaged, and it was so written in the Agreement, that there would be two British frigates remaining based on Simonstown. This is no longer done. When I was there in January, not one was there. So we have thrown the whole of this effort on to the South African Navy. We must face the issue squarely. We cannot build another base in the area immediately, and it would, I imagine, take a long time to bring other allies in for the defence of that place. If we look upon it, as I believe we should, as the new southern flank of N.A.T.O., we must do something about it.
Miss Betty Harvie Anderson (Renfrewshire East)
I make one final appeal that hon. Members be generous and brief, for it might then still be possible to call a considerable number of those who have waited all day.
Sir John Morris (Aberavon)
In view of the time, I shall not follow the speech of the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby). He spoke of the need to preserve our lifelines. One suspected that, like his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, he wants Britain to revert to the rôle of world policeman. In 1970 that is just not on. I join with the hon. Gentleman, however, in the tributes which he paid to the two maiden speakers, my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Robert Taylor). We welcomed their observations and, in particular, the tributes which they paid to their predecessors. Perhaps people outside do not always realise that in this House respect does not stay on one side only, and we wish well to their two predecessors, Niall MacDermot and Frederic Harris.
Over the last two years, as Minister under my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), I had responsibility for the implementation of our arms sales policy. I tried to approach this difficult task with what, I hope, was humility, being conscious of our rôle and our responsibility to preserve world peace. Decisions in these matters are not easy. I sympathise with the Government. The two easy courses are either to refuse all arms or to allow all arms. The middle path is fraught with difficulty. One has to look at countries, at intentions, and at weapon systems.
All I can say is that we took our responsibilities very seriously, and I am not ashamed of what we did when we were stewards in this sphere. But I am ashamed of the path which the Government are now treading. They were irresponsible in opposition. In opposition, the Foreign Secretary made categorical statements of the Conservatives' intention, if they came back to power, to revert to the rôle of arms salesmen to South Africa. When he made his tour of South Africa in March, as chairman of the Conservative Party, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that the Conservatives would revert to their former policy, and on this matter he said, "The South African Minister of Defence and I are at one". Tonight, the chickens are coming home to roost.
It was odd that on 23rd June all the Fleet Street editors, one after another, proclaimed to the outside world that the Government were about to sell arms to South Africa. This, apparently, was the clear and bold policy of the resolute Government we now have. It was odd that they all announced it on one day. On Monday, I detected in the speech of the Foreign Secretary, at his foggiest, some difference in approach. Perhaps the most charitable interpretation I can give to what he said is that he was covering his tracks, or, at worst, trying to evade a decision, trying to avoid announcing to the House before it went into recess what the Government's real intentions were.
To this moment, even after the exchange earlier this afternoon, I cannot understand the difference in semantics between, first, the intention of the Government and, second, the statement that no final decision has been taken. I hope that whoever is to wind up will resolve the matter once and for all, explaining to the House in simple terms what is the difference between intention, on the one hand, and the fact that no decision has been taken on the other.
Will the Government tell us what instructions have been given to the head of defence sales in the Ministry of Defence? How many salesmen have gone to South Africa with the blessing of the Ministry of Defence? Whoever goes there, whether from a private company or a Government establishment, must be able to give an assurance that the Royal Navy will yield permission if there is any security embargo or that any question of rights of research and development would be looked at sympathetically. May we be told before the end of the debate, whoever may have gone there or will go there, that nothing will be done in these respects before the House is given specific information.
We are now in 1970, a very different time from 1955 when the Simonstown Agreement was negotiated. There is a world of difference in the measure of provocation which either policy will create between resuming arms sales after a break and merely continuing them.
When we asked the Foreign Secretary on Monday what the Government's attitude would be if the matter once again came before the United Nations and it was sought to make the Security Council resolution mandatory, he said that no British Government could tell the House in advance what their policy would be on the question of the veto. There must be dozens of cases on which 90 per cent. of hon. Members would be able to say categorically what their view would be, and there must be others on which there would be doubt. But in this case there should be no doubt. The Government ought to have thought out their policy and determined what their view would be when the matter came up, as inevitably it would, for further discussion and resolution at the United Nations.
Hon. Members have sought to distinguish between arms which would be used for maritime defence and arms used for internal repression. One cannot nowadays distinguish arms in that way and put labels on them. It can be said that the Nimrod comes under the maritime defence formula enunciated by the Foreign Secretary. I concede at once that the primary rôle of that great aircraft is maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine missions using torpedos and depth charges. But conventional bombs also can be carried, and so can missiles. The bomb bay can be brought into use as a freight bay, and seating can be provided so that as many as 54 troops can be carried. With the immense amount of technology in that aircraft, what a wonderful command centre it could be for a far larger number of other aircraft used to contain subversion.
Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles (Winchester)
The right hon. Gentleman is making a case which does not stand up to close examination. Driving the case as far as he is now driving it, even the lorries, buses and motor cars freely sold to the South African Government by his Administration could be used for moving troops for internal security operations.
Sir John Morris (Aberavon)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman will not divert me from my speech, which deals solely with arms. The whole issue of trade is a matter which will have to be settled in the comity of nations.
The Government are seeking to fly in the face of the resolution, of world opinion, and to take part in a trade that the previous Governments denied themselves. It is useless to say that the frigates could not be used for other than maritime purposes. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows from his own experience, frigates could be used to bombard, to blockade. South Africa is in a state of siege. It may well want to use those weapons if it is to maintain the status quo.
Sir John Morris (Aberavon)
Not at this hour.
The South African defence forces are prepared for both conventional and un
conventional attacks. They do not mean exactly what we mean by "conventional" and "unconventional". Their Defence White Paper of 1969 says:
Although an unconventional threat already exists in the form of terrorism, the possibility of a conventional attack is not excluded. The organisation, training and equipment programmes of both the Army and the Air Force are accordingly guided and developed alone those lines.
When someone tries to distinguish between arms for defence and arms for repression, he should bear in mind what the White Paper says. It continues:
The Army, in particular, indeed already has considerable ability to counter both a conventional and an unconventional attack. The diversity in training and the flexibility in organisational set-up are such that a changeover from the conventional to the unconventional role, and vice versa, can easily be carried out.
That is the policy of the South African Government contained in their last Defence White Paper.
South Africa today is trying to bring us into as close a political association with it as possible. The Government have tried to frighten us today with references to 300 Russian submarines and more. That has been done since the time of Macmillan. Is it the considered view of the military strategists that we could have the resources to engage in war, albeit a defensive war, right around the coast of Africa? This is the philosophy of an earlier age, a philosophy of the pre-nuclear age. It is more akin to gunboats and the thin red line. It is exemplified perhaps by the recent words of the Foreign Secretary on the need to show the flag in the traditional way of a great naval Power.
Sir John Morris (Aberavon)
I am sorry if I did the right hon. Gentleman an injustice. Judging from his love of trying to revert to the rôle of world policemen, I thought that that was in accordance with his expressions today.
South Africa today is in a state of siege, trying to hold back not the Russians but black Africa. South Africa is rearming. In the decade since 1960–61 the permanent force has gone up by 65 per cent. and the citizens' force has increased six-fold. The commando establishment has gone up 18 per cent. Fully mobilised, their forces number 85,000 troops. The only coloured element that I can find is the coloured corps of 622 people and an unknown number of sailors.
Everyone who has worked with the military knows the importance military men attach to having the latest and most sophisticated weapons. If the South Africans are to continue their policy of rearming and recruiting they must ensure that their troops have a change from the less sophisticated tasks of repression. That is one of the real reasons why they want to give their troops some of the best weapons developed in the world today.
We have had talk today about the need to honour the Simonstown Agreement. This country did carry it out, and there is no suggestion today of any breach of that agreement. The ships that were supposed to be built under it were completed by the end of 1963. What the South African Prime Minister is talking about today is not any breach by this country of the agreement but the need to revise it so that his future needs can be catered for. The reality of the problem is not that there is a distinction between repressive and non-repressive weapons, or that there are any breaches of the letter or spirit of the agreement, or even the threat of Russian submarines. The real issue is whether Great Britain is to aid and abet, in the face of world opinion, the massive machinery of a repressive State. South Africa is a vast tinderbox. It is in a state of seige.
Mr Evelyn King (South Dorset)
I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman with sympathy. But once it is assumed that we are to have a base in South African waters, surely the moral encouragement already exists and whether in addition we supply a ship or two is irrelevant. We have the base.
Sir John Morris (Aberavon)
It is highly relevant when world opinion in the United Nations has passed a resolution that no country should continue arms sales to South Africa. This country, in the face of world opinion, is about to revert to its former policy. That is what we are talking about. What South Africa seeks to do is to bring us by our coat-tails as near as possible to its policy.
South Africa is fighting for survival, and I am as sure as I am standing here today that, difficult as it may be to visualise, sooner rather than later there will be conflict in South Africa. It will be our responsibility to ensure that our hands are clean, that we have done nothing to further apartheid in South Africa today. If we do, we shall run the grave risk of breaking up the free Commonwealth of nations, created from an empire, of which we are so proud.
Mr Ian Lloyd (Portsmouth Langstone)
I hope that the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) will forgive me if I do not follow too closely the points he made. I intend to deal with his case in general terms rather than particular.
There is general concern about the spectacle of frigates lobbing shells at Africa. I recall the remark of a diarist travelling back from India 150 years ago whose ship passed a French frigate doing exactly that, and he reflected in his diary on the utter futility of a frigate assaulting a continent.
This is a serious matter. Before I move on to the points to which I wish to draw attention, I should like to refer to one exchange this afternoon, on the question of uranium, because it seemed to me that there was some confusion about the matter. First, uranium is found in the greatest quantities on the Witwatersrand and it is produced by refining the tailings produced after gold has been refined. Special plants and special and expensive processes are required for this. The House should not lose sight of the fact that South Africa is one of the world's largest sources of uranium. As a strategic supplier of uranium I believe that it has no equal.
The former Defence Secretary, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said this afternoon that N.A.T.O. thought that this was very unimportant. I find that very difficult to reconcile with one fact. Not only is Southern Africa probably the world's major source of uranium, but it is probably the source of the world's major supplies of most strategic minerals. How can we ignore this in considering the question before us?
No one is more conscious than I am that the questions raised are fundamental. Part of me stands within the House constitutionally and properly defending the interests of my constituents and representing their views. At the end of the day, as many hon. Members have argued, it is the views of Great Britain that must prevail. But part of me inevitably and inescapably, as I spent much of my life in South Africa, stands this evening at the Bar of the House. I am a product of that inescapable and compelling influence that has had so much effect on all who have lived in Africa and have tried in some way to come to terms with the uniquely difficult problems of that sub-continent.
At the Bar I stand, as so many hon. Members do, embarrassed and defensive, sharing the disapproval common to us all and yet unable to condemn in the extreme terms so popular in this day and age. I can well understand the reluctance of many hon. Members to endorse a policy which seems to them to have so many complicating factors, but we must also clear our perspective in this matter, because our perspective may be dangerously short.
As I understand the situation, Britain and South Africa share a fundamental common interest. This common interest has survived—and this may not be unimportant—the Boer War, the First World War, the Second World War, the onset of apartheid, which we all dislike, and South Africa's withdrawal from the Commonwealth. I do not think that our interests are merely interests of investment and trade. I believe that our fundamental interest arises from this inescapable fact, that in South Africa there are nearly two million people who share a common stock in this country, and many who were born here.
It is not bases or defence, vitally important though these are, but this key matter which concerns us, for a total and final failure in South Africa would be a catastrophe of extraordinary proportions and the repercussions of such a failure would travel around the world, as did those from Sarajevo and Danzig. I do not think that the House, the country, or Western Europe, can take towards Southern Africa, as many hon. Members would have us take, the attitude of Pontius Pilate.
The dilemma is that we all hope for a modification of what is happening there, but we cannot interfere. We all understand why external threats occur, but we cannot condone the use of force, either externally or internally. We all appreciate that Southern Africa is probably the most vulnerable pressure point in the Western world, but ideologies pass on. With new vision and new leadership—and who is to say that these will never occur in South Africa—South Africa could yet confound its critics.
If we supply strategic arms, we make a great act of faith. We shall certainly further our narrow interests, and none of us would deny this. We shall certainly discourage the assumption, which some Powers may be tempted to make, that the Cape of Good Hope and Simonstown—and, after all, it is all the ports of South Africa rather than just Simonstown which are at the centre of this—will fall into their laps like a ripe plum, and that discouragement is worth giving.
Most important, we would be making an investment in hope. We are making an investment in hope that doctrines will wither on the branch, that power will ultimately be diffused, that economic opportunity will broaden, that the economic powerhouse which is South Africa will ultimately develop and share its full potential in the service of all the peoples of Africa and that it will not remain the exclusive possession, which it may now be thought to be, of the present South African Administration.
I understand the doubts of hon. Members and the belief that we cannot attain a clear and a defensible objective. This is true, but unavoidable. The real issue is the future of not merely three million, but 20 million people of South Africa and many to the north who perhaps ought to depend more on South Africa because of the special circumstances which exist.
If this problem is to be resolved, it must be the hope of the House that it will be resolved neither under the auspices of apartheid nor under the auspices of Communism. It should be our aim to drive resolutely through the middle of this Scylla and Charybdis. It must be our hope that progress on the sub-continent will be free from the domination of either Communism or apartheid.
I turn to the subject of the use of strategic weapons in defence of South Africa. Here we meet one of the most plausible and at the same time one of the mast fallacious arguments. I give an illustration which I hope will convince the House. What would be the Communist propaganda to describe the invasion of United Kingdom? Would it be described as an invasion of the territorial integrity of this country? I very much doubt it. It is more likely to be described as the unleashing of the people's army on revanchist bourgeois Conservatism. That is the sort of propaganda which is used. If we were to use Buccaneers in the defence of the territorial integrity of this country, we should be defending a monstrous social structure of bourgeois society. These are the semantics of international controversy.
In that sense only could strategic arms be used to defend apartheid. To say that they could be so used is a gross oversimplification, a semantic confusion of a major order. All States are imperfect in the eyes of their ideological opponents, some more imperfect than others, and South Africa is no exception. It is no more possible to defend South Africa without defending apartheid than it is possible to defend the United Kingdom without at the same time defending the British Communist Party.
I do not believe that we should look solely at this scenario, because many hon. Members in the debate have argued that they are concerned about the scenario of internal revolt and revolution, believing that there must be internal failure supressed by strategic weapons. This argument is wholly untenable, because its premise is that apartheid is some physical citadel rather like the Bavarian redoubt to which Hitler was supposed to retreat at the end of the Second World War. Nothing could be further from the truth. Its bastions exist in the minds of men. It is a wasteland of social neuroses, it is an amalgam of political, social and economic custom created over three centuries and given legislative form only in the year 1947.
It has an enormous Achilles heel, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) pointed out in a brilliant speech. Its Achilles heel is that of economic interdependence which will ultimately prove to be its downfall. Its enforcement has produced some of the more undesirable features of the police State and no one disputes this, but doctrines exist in the minds of men and that is where they can and must be destroyed, there and nowhere else.
The arguments, which will be profound and deep, may strain civil order, but it will not be strategic weapons but small arms and discipline which will restore order, for one side or the other. Any South African Government which used Buccaneers—never mind about naval vessels, because they are irrelevant—or Mirages—and I remind the House that there are several squadrons of Mirages in South Africa already—to restore internal order would be as likely to survive, even within the limited democratic system of that country, as a British Government which used Buccaneers in Belfast.
What are the essential facts? They are that integration and interdependence of the African and European in industry, in agriculture, in transport, in mining, in distribution, and even in the police are fundamental in South Africa. That is the reason why the whole doctrine, policy and philosophy of apartheid collapse when subjected to rigorous analysis. It ignores the facts.
What then happens? The right hand of economic reality must be allowed to function without knowing or caring too much about what the left hand of politics in South Africa is doing. Many would recognise that that is a situation not unknown in other countries. If the left hand here used a bayonet, the right hand would be impaled. It would be a classic case of a self-defeating philosophy.
Let us for a moment accept the premise of internal revolt. Let us assume that some profound disturbance produced a complete polarisation along lines of colour, as happened to some extent on lines of religion in India in 1947. As I see it, in those circumstances, the most extreme that can be envisaged, the European in South Africa would face three alternatives. First, integration on the terms of the majority; second, retreat into some form of enclave; and third some form of emigration—a situation not all that different from Algeria. All would involve the complete destruction of apartheid and the loss of the South African State.
If the Europeans were to accept the first alternative, there would hardly be any point in using strategic arms to destroy life or property. Retreat to an enclave would presumably follow revolt in which arms used would depend on arms in the hands of the revolutionaries, and the Europeans would fall back to the cities. Only in the third case, the most extreme of extreme solutions, do I see a possibility that strategic arms, or anthing approaching them, would be used.
Even in these circumstances, would South Africa depend on Western arms? Only, I suggest, if internal revolt were inspired and aided by massive external intervention. I do not believe that this last extremity of the most extreme case could occur unless something of the order of 30 modern, sophisticated divisions were ranged against South Africa, which as we all know, is most unlikely to happen.
Let us consider South Africa's present availability of arms, which is considerable; her industrial potential, which should be well known in this House because we have considerable knowledge about it; and her scientific skill. Yesterday's Press contained an announcement of a new process involving the extraction of enriched uranium in South Africa. Possibly the report is not true, but the chances are that it is true. The House would be wise to assume this scientific skill and it must be remembered that Sir Basil Schonland, former Director of Harwell, was a South African. South Africa has not depended on the outside world for small arms of the type that would have been involved in civil problems since the end of the First World War.
I turn to the external scene. There are two very important questions. First, does a threat to the trade routes exist? Second, will the reinforcement of South African arms do more harm than good to British interests as broadly defined?
Three arguments are used which I should like to consider. The first is that no limited war is likely. This argument was developed with great skill by a noble Lord in another place. He said that the threat would only arise if there were a major confrontation with N.A.T.O. I do not accept this. I do not believe that the Communist world is so foolish. The Communist world has demonstrated in the last few years that it is the master of Salami tactics or the SAM 3 system. This involves a few missiles, ships or submarines in the right place at the right time.
The Communist world is not likely to force the West into a position where it is forced to retreat or escalate. I do not believe that this is likely to happen in the South Atlantic. The Communist world recognises and will exploit the embarrassment of the free world which it senses and well understands in its relations with South Africa. The Communist world will exacerbate that embarrassment if given an opportunity to do so, and this is a consideration we cannot neglect.
It has been said that our present policy suffers from an excess of pre-nuclear fantasy. I wonder what this means. The noble Lord who used that phrase in another place made a categorical assertion that the next war will not be a naval war in the South Atlantic and that the supply of strategic arms would be pointless. How does he know? How do I know? I am not privy to the secret plans of the Russian chiefs of staff. But I would make the assumption that if I were able to see the naval and military assessments made by our own chiefs of staff I would be very surprised if one of their conclusions was that there was no likelihood whatever of a limited war of naval attrition in the South Atlantic in particular circumstances.
Let us deal with the tactical argument that Simonstown is useful but not essential. It is not just Simonstown but all the ports in southern Africa which would be vital to us in time of war. Perhaps the House would reflect on this point. If a serious confrontation broke out and if the Panama Canal were blocked, trade between Britain, Western Europe and Australasia, the Far East and the Middle East would have to go via the Horn. [Interruption.] I would gladly give way to any hon. Gentleman who suggests that this is not the case.
Then there is the "adding insult to injury" argument, that we offend Africa and Asia and endanger the Commonwealth and British trade if we make this decision. The policy, we are told—the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said this—reveals where Britain stands in the great confrontation between rich and poor, between white and coloured, between the oppressors and the oppressed. There is always the implication, and it is a very interesting one, that there is a complete overlap between those three groups, that the rich and the white and the oppressors on the one hand and the poor and the coloured and the oppressed on the other are the same groups of people.
I do not believe this, and the evidence which comes in one's daily newspaper every day of one's life provides ample evidence that this overlap is far from complete or true. But I reject utterly the view that by this one criterion the long and proud record of British foreign policy stands or falls. This cannot be sustained.
In any case, will these consequences flow? Will the non-aligned world reject British aid hereafter? Will it spurn British goods if they are cheaper and better value than any others? Will it refuse British loans when no others are being granted? Will it condemn the whole British way of life because we have partly aligned ourselves for specific purposes with those whose way of life is generally disapproved? I do not believe that this case can be sustained, but even if they did, I believe that we should pay this price rather than jeopardise the vital security of the West. If this final option is closed, no other options remain open.
My conclusions are these. We must be much franker and less conscience-stricken in this House. The world is littered with the debris of civilisations which have failed to live up to their own ideals. If we are now to be asked to live up to the ideals imposed on us by others, the mortality rate of civilisations and of countries will certainly rise. Certainly, South Africa may today be beyond the pale, but criteria change. Who will be beyond the pale tomorrow? I have heard it suggested tonight that we ourselves may be beyond the pale. The criteria by which this is said should be carefully criticised.
I would make two constructive suggestions. One is to the Foreign Secretary and one to the South African Government. My first suggestion is based on personal experience of co-operation between the Royal and South African Air Forces during the Second World War. If the contingency against which we are now planning should occur, we could have to do it again. Why not establish joint South African Air Force-R.A.F. maritime reconnaissance squadrons answerable to a new organisation, a South Atlantic Treaty Organisation, controlled by a joint British-South African staff? The United Kingdom would then in effect have a veto over any remote possibility of misuse.
I cannot see that there would be any difficulty about defining precisely the conditions under which such arms should be used. To the South African Government, I would say, "Do not misinterpret the proposal: it is not an attempt to assert a form of vestigial imperial authority in South Africa."
But my second suggestion is more important. It is high time that the people and present Government of South Africa produced some great act of political imagination. There is a long-standing confusion between political pretence and reality, which is deep and damaging, not merely to them but to the whole West. Time is not on her side or on ours. The credit for real achievement in that part of the world sinks beneath the weight of opprobrium created by the obstinate profession of inept doctrine.
There is a greater commonwealth, within which the United Kingdom must strive to remain, as so many hon. Members have stressed. There is a greater commonwealth to which South Africa must strive to return. That commonwealth was described by a very great man, a member of the Milner Kindergarten, Lionel Curtis, in his great book, "Civitas Dei". It is time that South Africa allowed herself once again to be influenced and guided by a vision and a sense of obligation comparable to that possessed by that great South African, the father of the League of Nations, who stands, looking into the future, in Parliament Square.
Mr Maurice Foley (West Bromwich)
I have no intention of following the hon. Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd) in his directions and perambulations. His opinion of the Commonwealth and mine are completely different and his verdict and mine are equally different, perhaps because I spent more time in black Africa and he spent more time with his friends in Rhodesia and South Africa.
The central problem facing any Government is to try to get the balance between one's principles and serving the interests of one's country, what is desirable and what is right. When we talk about policies on southern Africa, I believe that we have endeavoured to maintain this balance there. Equally, I believe that if the Government proceed with their proposed action, they will create a dangerous imbalance.
Three sets of interests seem to me to be involved. Great play has been made about the defence of the realm. I shall not enter into detail on this, because time is short and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), in winding up the debate from this side of the House will do so, save to mention one thing. If the Cape route is of such tremendous importance, one is entitled to ask why during the last six years when the Government were in Opposition they never chose a Supply Day to debate this, what is now to them, vital issue. Certainly, we had the annual debate on the Navy Estimates and right hon. and hon. Members raised this issue, but I cannot recall one Supply Day asked for by the then Opposition during those six years to debate this vital question which is suddenly so important to them. I am sure that when my right hon. Friend speaks, he will deal with these strategic considerations.
The second area of interest is the economic field. Whatever may be said about our decisions to refuse to supply arms, our trade with South Africa and her trade with us has not decreased but has increased over the last four or five years. Equally, on the other side of the coin our trade with the rest of Africa is much greater than with South Africa and is increasing. Any adverse decision could well place in greater jeopardy our trade with Africa other than South Africa.
The third dimension of consideration is our political interests. I happen to believe that Britain can play, and has played, an effective rôle as a bridge over the race barrier and over the poverty barrier. I happen to believe that no other country of the West can do this. It still remains true that many countries in Africa and in Asia, whether they were former British Colonies or not, still regard Britain as essentially decent, honest and tolerant. That regard is not expressed in terms of Russia, the United States or France. A decision to sell arms to South Africa could squander that reputation.
It is no surprise to me that the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, in speaking from the Box this afternoon, complained that the answer was not to break up the Commonwealth. This is the crux of the decisions which have to be taken by the Government, and they may well be surprised at the way in which there has been reaction from Commonwealth countries. If the reaction has been strong, it is because the feeling of being let down is so great. It is because there are people who believe that Britain values the Commonwealth and would, therefore, not do anything to take away from the Commonwealth its uniqueness.
One must refer here to a fact which was seen in 1961, and those who were around at the time will be aware of it. The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary was intimately concerned with it. I refer to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, where South Africa discovered that its policies were incompatible with its membership of the Commonwealth. That was when one saw clearly and vividly the views expressed by Nyerere and others that the question of race and racism was something that the Commonwealth would need to deal with and that the nations of the world would need to stand up and be counted. We should not be surprised, therefore, if there is a speedy, immediate response, possibly emotional, from those who feel that this is an act by this Government which is endangering the very essence of the Commonwealth. This is why they have reacted in the way in which they have done.
This feeling may well be expressed not merely in terms of concern or apprehension. They may well be willing to make the major sacrifice of reducing their economic links with this country. There are areas of black Africa which are part of this equation, which the Government have still to conclude; there are areas of black Africa and North Africa where our economic interests are considerable. I take Nigeria and Libya in terms of oil, Zambia in terms of copper; we can take many other countries in terms of their primary produce. Of course it will cost them, but it is a cost which they may well be willing to pay for what to them is a non-negotiable principle.
From my last two years as a Minister in the Government and dealing with Africa, I can testify to the depth of feeling and intensity of feeling on this subject. For Africa this is the most important international question, and if the Government in doing their calculations fail to give weight to this feeling they will be reversing the whole policy of this nation and its rôle in the world.
Africa has itself tried to grapple with the problems of southern Africa. African countries have produced a set of solutions to the problems, and anybody acquainted with them would conclude them to be wise and objective. I refer to the Lusaka Manifesto subscribed to by all African leaders and endorsed at the United Nations without formal dissent. The House should remember, too, that what the African nations of the Commonwealth are asking for is not a boycott of South Africa. They are not asking for armed intervention in South Africa. They are simply asking the British Government not to sell to South Africa weapons which can be used against their countries or against the African majority in South Africa. This is a reasonable request to a country which takes pride in being a leading member of a multiracial commonwealth of nations.
In conclusion, I would say that I just do not understand why it was necessary to introduce these proposals in such haste. In the first instance, there is no reference in the Conservative manifesto to this question. Over the last three weeks Ministers have been saying, "We need time to look at things, to consider and to report." I understand that; it is part of the game; one does need time. So why rush in in an issue like this? Why aggravate one's friends? Why, then, react when they react emotionally?
I would urge the Government to look again at their policy, to heed and to try to quantify the importance of the Commonwealth, to understand what this looks like in the eyes of African leaders in relation to the problems of race, to consider which side we are on, and to look to the great potential there is for this country in giving a lead to the world in overcoming the barriers of race and the barriers of poverty. I hope that, in doing so, they will heed our Motion. They may ignore it this evening, but let it be part of the reflections which they will make. No one will be more delighted than I if they come back and say, "We have decided to accede to the Commonwealth, to the United Nations, and to stay in the world of those who have their self-respect."
Mr Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
As the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) knows, I respect him very much and his invaluable personal contacts and friendships in black Africa. I would dearly love to follow him in his speech, with much of which I agree, but I must not because the winding-up speeches must start at 9 o'clock. I had intended to say something about trade, which has been a good deal discussed today, but, to shorten my speech, I think it is probably fair to say that I do not think the real argument is about trade.
Our balance of trade with South Africa is slightly in her favour and our trade with black Africa is as great as, and growing faster than, our trade with South Africa. I do not think that the argument is even about apartheid. We all dislike that system intensely, and no one is suggesting that we should sell to South Africa arms which could be used against the African people. I think that the argument today is essentially about defence—perhaps more on my side of the House—and the effect on the new Commonwealth of our defence policy, and it is this theme which I wish to pursue.
There is a good deal to be said for the Government's defence policy as a maritime defence policy per se; it has been well said by my hon. Friends and I will not repeat it. It was well said in an article in the Sunday Telegraph by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish). I agree with the paints he made, but there were some omissions in the argument. A naval base in Simonstown is very important to us for our Far East strategy, but so are over-flying rights in central Africa, and these might be seriously prejudiced if we sell arms to South Africa. That was one omission from an otherwise good analysis.
Even more serious are the political and defence risks of souring the African States north of the Zambesi to the point where they might allow Russia or China to establish bases in their countries. Tanzania and Zambia are already accepting Chinese help in building the Tan-Zam railway. I thought that the last Government were very short-sighted in failing to organise a Western consortium to build this much-needed and much-wanted rail link to the sea.
We must realise that African States, and Zambia especially, have very real fears for their national security from South Africa. I believe that these fears are groundless, but they are certainly genuine. We think and talk, naturally and rightly, of our security and we should not blame these countries for thinking of of their security. I think that many hon. Members do not fully appreciate that President Kaunda has long believed that a racial war in Africa is almost inevitable in the long term, not perhaps in his lifetime but certainly in his children's lifetime. He has often told me this. I hope that he is wrong, but he believes it. And if African leaders believe that that is the likely outcome, and if they see Britain supplying to South Africa arms which they fear may in future be used against their own countries, we should not be altogether surprised that they think this would align us on what, from their point of view, is the wrong side, the side of white South Africa, against the rest of Africa south of the Sahara. We should not be surprised in those circumstances if they turn elsewhere for help, perhaps to the Eastern bloc.
There are grave dangers too that first Tanzania, then Zambia, then perhaps Uganda and Kenya, and possibly even India and Ceylon, might decide to leave the Commonwealth. I think that they would be quite wrong to do so, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said in his speech: but they might make that decision. I know that a few of my hon. Friends would shed no tears if that happened. They regard the new Commonwealth countries as at best unreliable friends, at worst almost as enemies. I do not take that view. I think it would be a sad day and a betrayal of our fine record of de-colonisation and in evolving a Commonwealth out of an empire if the Tory Party of all parties were to preside over the dissolution of the Commonwealth. That would indeed be a sad way to pay tribute to Iain Macleod, whose Colonial Secretaryship was perhaps the most important and significant achievement of Mr. Macmillan's Government. Rather than even risk that I would sooner not supply arms to South Africa at all.
But I do not think that it need come to that. Our policy is, after all, only the same policy that we pursued up to 1964. I fully acknowledge that it is one thing to continue an existing policy and another to resuscitate a policy that was abandoned six years ago. The world changes, and world opinion changes. But provided we supply only frigates and submarines; provided we give the policy time to evolve and take the time and trouble—it is a great mistake to try to do this in a hurry—to explain our policy to our Commonwealth partners, they may accept it in the same good faith with which I am sure we are pursuing it—simply as a measure of defence for our own maritime security, which is the only point of the policy from our point of view.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend is taking time to consult the Commonwealth because we cannot force this policy on the Commonwealth without risking destroying the Commonwealth in the process. We must win acceptance for the policy. The right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) accused my right hon. Friend of semantics, and asked what was the difference between our "intention", which we have never disguised, and our "final decision", which has not yet been taken. I must not speak for my right hon. Friend; he can speak for himself. But Commonwealth consultation, and the outcome of that consultation, is the difference between intention and final decision. At any rate, I hope so.
If that is so, it is an important difference, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend is right to make it, if that is what he meant by it. If, after the Division tonight, hon. and right hon. Members opposite will accept the fact of our policy, we have the task of explaining to the African Commonwealth that our policy is not aimed at supporting apartheid or supporting South Africa against black Africa—the task of explaining to them that it is aimed simply and solely at securing our own sea lanes round the Cape. We must explain this because we are entitled to decide our own policy in relation to our own defence needs, and I believe that this is acknowledged in the Commonwealth. We must explain it, because if we do not, there is a real danger of the break-up of the new Commonwealth.
But we should not submit to a form of blackmail. After all, we fought the General Election a month ago on the policy of supplying strategic arms to South Africa. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite did not agree with it. They thought that it was a terrible policy with which to fight an election. But we fought the election on that policy and we should not now be expected to change it. But many of us can and do ask my right hon. Friend to interpret the policy in the most restrained and statesmanlike way, and give himself plenty of time to work it out. I have complete faith in my right hon. Friend's ability to do so, and for that reason I shall not hesitate to vote in the Government Lobby tonight.
Mr Denis Healey (Leeds East)
In the main this has been a very serious debate, in which the quality of the contribution by hon. Members on both sides of the House has been very high, none higher than that of the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) with 80 per cent.—he will not be surprised about the missing 20 per cent.—of whose speech I wholly agreed. I shall return to one or two of his points later.
The debate was also distinguished by four exceptionally well-informed and thoughtful maiden speeches, to one or two of which I shall also refer later.
There is no doubt that this question of the possible supply of arms to South Africa arouses deep and sincere feelings on both sides, and inevitably, on occasions during the debate, this has led to a slightly higher decibel rating than is normal. I shall try to keep the temperature down, because I take seriously, and I hope that I interpreted it rightly, what was said by the Foreign Secretary on Monday and by the Prime Minister again yesterday; namely, that whatever they may have said or done in the recent past, today we are discussing an intention and not a decision, and that the present intention of the Government can be changed or deflected by argument—argument with the Commonwealth, is what the Foreign Secretary said on Monday, but I would hope that the arguments put in the House today could also have some effect on the Government's final decision.
I should like, if I may, to concentrate the first part of my speech on the strategic arguments on which the Government undoubtedly—I do not think that I am falsifying their position—base their case for changing the policy of the previous Administration, and I will try in the course of it to deal with some of the questions asked earlier in the debate by the Foreign Secretary.
First of all, let me say a word or two on the importance of the Simonstown base. It is not, in fact, important any more to Britain as a base, as one hon. Member opposite pointed out earlier. We have certain facilities in Simonstown which are useful, but not vital. They include a communication facility for keeping in touch with our ships in the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean; refuelling facilities for our ships, with the possibility of refitting if that is ever necessary, and some rest and recreation facilities which are very welcome to sailors, particularly those on leave from the Beira Patrol.
But none of those facilities can conceivably be described as vital to Britain, and their utility is steadily diminishing with the decrease of British military activities in the Indian Ocean east of Suez—a decrease which, as I understand it, whatever they do in the Gulf and in South-East Asia, the present Government propose to continue, because they have said very clearly that they do not propose to maintain anything like the present number of forces in Singapore-Malaysia.
The communications facility will almost totally lose its relevance to Britain with the introduction of the Skynet satellite communications system launched a few months ago. Incidentally, the House should know that this system will also affect the utility of the communications facility in Mauritius, which has been grossly overplayed in some recent Press articles.
These facilities in South Africa are useful to Britain, and as Secretary of State for Defence I have often said so, but they are not vital and are of diminishing utility and, as the hon. Member for Surbiton very rightly pointed out, they are, broadly speaking, no more important to us than the very important facilities which we have in the African States North of the Zambesi. If I may say so, I have flown on more than one occasion across black Africa, staging at Nairobi and Mauritius, to Australia and the Far East, but I have never found it necessary to go through South Africa—
Mr Denis Healey (Leeds East)
With respect, no. I must proceed a little further before I start giving way.
In return for these facilities, Britain accepted certain obligations in the Simonstown Agreement, all of which she has fulfilled, and which she was recognised as having fulfilled by the South African Government when the last Administration decided to maintain a total embargo on arms supplies. The first hint that there might be something in what was called the spirit of the Simonstown Agreement which was not being fulfilled came in one or two speeches by South African Ministers last year, and I understand that the same point has recently been made to the present Administration. The South African Government cannot claim—and I cannot recall them ever having claimed—that there is anything in the letter of the Simonstown Agreement which has not been fulfilled.
The limited and useful defence relationship between Britain and South Africa was accepted as reasonable not only by the South African Government, but by the black African countries, too. Indeed, it is important to notice that when Dr. Mungai, the Kenya Defence Minister, made a violent attack on the present Government's proposals, as he thought, to resume arms supplies to South Africa a few days ago he specifically said that the sort of defence relationship which the previous Government had had was recognised as reasonable as a British interest in the circumstances.
That relationship included, as we have always said to the House, the supply of practice ammunition, certain spares, and, very occasionally, naval exercises on a very small scale, which again have been described to the House. Indeed, the current naval exercise was described in a letter published in The Guardian only a few months ago. There has never been any secrecy about this. We have had certain facilities of limited value, and we have paid for them by certain types of co-operation.
What is now being proposed by the new Government is a complete reversal of the policy of the previous Government and the delivery of a range of military equipment which is held by the world, and was held by the previous Government to be barred specifically by the United Nations resolution. Here again I agree with the hon. Member for Surbiton. Continuing a policy is one thing. Reversing a policy is another, and the world has changed a great deal in the six years since the Conservative Party was last in power.
The reason given for reversing the policy is that there is an urgent and growing threat to the security of the sea routes round the Cape. This is what was stressed by the Foreign Secretary in what I found to be rather disturbing parts of his speech this afternoon, because the sort of fears, indeed nightmares, described by the right hon. Gentleman have never been put to me by my military advisers. They are not fears and nightmares shared by any of our allies whose interest in the security of these routes is as great as our own. Indeed, I think that they represent an extremely unbalanced and, if I may say so, ill-informed view of the facts.
But even if it were true that there was an imminent and growing threat to security of the route round the Cape, the conclusion that this is best met by the supply of military equipment to South Africa is the opposite of the case as I shall seek now to show. First, on the question of the threat, there is no doubt about an increase of Soviet naval activity in the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. The best assessment which I have been able to make is that this is related partly to the Soviet interest in the Chinese threat in Southern Asia, but there is no doubt—and this is a universal view among defence experts in the Western world—that the main Soviet interest in this activity is political and not military. It is to show the flag, in the same way as the British Fleet has so often shown the flag in the past—[Interruption.]—I know that some hon. Gentlemen opposite will disagree with me, but I think that I have not only the right, but the duty, to draw on my experience as a Defence Minister for the last six years to give what I believe to be the military facts of the situation.
If there were a military threat, if the nightmares of the Foreign Secretary were justified and these 300 submarines of the Soviet Union concentrated round the Cape and began to sink shipping, that would be a problem which could not conceivably be met either by South Africa alone or by South Africa in combination with the United Kingdom. Nobody has begun to explain how it would be possible.
In any case, why should it be, because only 10 per cent. of the shipping which goes around the Cape is British, and only 5 per cent. of British shipping in dry goods goes around the Cape, although, as long as the Suez Canal is closed, and even after, now that we have developed big tankers, there will be a substantial part of European and British oil going that way. But if there were this type of interference with shipping, this would be and would have to be a matter for the whole of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and none of them, of course, shares the Foreign Secretary's view on this.
But if N.A.T.O. did worry about the threat and took it seriously, there is no reason to believe that it would meet it by deploying ships around the Cape Why should it? Indeed, with great respect, I hope that the Foreign Secretary will consult his colleague the Secretary of State for Defence on this. The idea that, if it makes sense to build up one's naval forces in the Mediterranean, one should therefore build them up in every part of the oceans of the world is utter nonsense. If there were this type of threat to Western shipping around the Cape, probably the right way to meet it would be in the Baltic, in the North Atlantic and in the Mediterranean, and not in the Cape area at all.
I am sure that the Foreign Secretary is as well aware as I am that, in building up a very large Soviet mercantile marine, the Soviet Union has provided the West with a hostage which is a very strong disincentive to any Soviet interference of this nature with Western shipping, except in total war. But in total war, what happened around the Cape would be totally irrelevant. This problem would be met by different means altogether.
Mr Peter Trew (Dartford)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in the Second World War, when we had this global confrontation that he is envisaging, of 5,150 Allied merchant ships sunk, 559 were sunk in the South Atlantic or the Indian Ocean—one ship in nine—and that if such a threat arose again, it would be vital to deploy naval forces in the South Atlantic?
Mr Denis Healey (Leeds East)
With great respect to the hon. Member, that may be his view, but it is a view which was abandoned by the British Navy under the last Conservative Government. The idea of another Battle of the Atlantic is ruled out by all the N.A.T.O. navies, including the British Navy, for reasons which I should be delighted to explain on another occasion but have not time to explain now.
This is not the problem at all. It may be, although we have no evidence one way or another, that Soviet intentions towards the West in the Indian Ocean area are hostile, but if there is a threat, it is a political one and not a military one, and the targets are the minds of men. The targets are not strips of concrete, docks and harbour installations, although these might follow if the Russians were to win the first battle for the minds of men. With great respect to the Foreign Secretary, it is his total inability to comprehend this simple fact which disqualifies him for the office he holds in 1970.
When we are talking about the minds of men, which are the only rational targets for Soviet activity in this part of the world, we must try to understand the minds of the men who are the targets. If one thing has been demonstrated again and again in the last 20 years, it is that racial discrimination, and particularly the very vicious and obscene form of it represented by apartheid, is regarded by most coloured peoples throughout the world as a greater evil than Communism. For that reason, for the West or a Western country to appear to align itself with racial discrimination, as my right hon. Friend the Lord Caradon said in another place the other day, is to hand victory in the war that matters to the Communists on a plate.
The Foreign Secretary this afternoon claimed that Malaysia was worried about the Soviet naval build-up in the Indian Ocean. This may be so. I do not know. She was not worried about it in my time. But Malaysia has sent a most direct reply to the Foreign Secretary's telegram, which she has released to the Press, saying that on no account should Britain deliver arms to South Africa. If there is such a threat it is not the view of the Malaysian Government and people that it should be met in this particular way.
Why is this view held universally by the coloured members of the Commonwealth, black, yellow or brown? First, it is because they do not accept that it is possible to establish a distinction between arms for internal and external use. Such a distinction, as I know from my dealings in the Ministry of Defence, is very difficult to draw. One of the most remarkable remarks made by the Secretary of State for Defence in another place the other day was that he could not imagine a frigate being used for internal security. I can tell him and the Minister of State for Defence, who is to wind up this debate, that he will be very lucky if on no occasion in the next 12 months he does not have to use a frigate for an internal security situation in a dependent territory in the Caribbean, because we have had to do it three or four times this year. [Laughter.] In laughing at that hon. Members opposite show their total incapacity to understand the real issues in the world.
Miss Betty Harvie Anderson (Renfrewshire East)
The hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) knows very well that if the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, he must resume his seat.
Mr Denis Healey (Leeds East)
I must say to the Foreign Secretary, and I make this point to him most seriously, that if he wishes to persuade the Commonwealth countries of the sincerity of his view that these weapons are to be sold only for external purposes he must make it a condition of sale formally accepted by the South African Government that they will not be used for any purpose of which the British Government do not approve. We on this side of the House were very disturbed at his unwillingness to give that pledge this afternoon.
Miss Betty Harvie Anderson (Renfrewshire East)
Order. The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) knows equally well that if the right hon. Gentleman at the Box does not give way, he must resume his seat.
Mr Denis Healey (Leeds East)
Perhaps it would help right hon. Members opposite if I warned them that any time taken off my period in this debate by interruption will be added to it at half-past nine.
As the hon. Member for Surbiton said, and I ask hon. Members to accept this as a fact, right or wrong many of the Governments north of the Zambesi believe that South African military power is a direct threat to them. That they believe it is a fact, and it is a fact of very great importance in taking a decision on the matter we are now discussing. I am glad to see that the Foreign Secretary agrees with me on that.
Mr Denis Healey (Leeds East)
What will happen if the Foreign Secretary insists on increasing South African military force in this way is that he will propel the black African countries into what would be a pitiful arms race, but they would look not to Britain but to China and the Soviet Union for their arms. Do not let us ignore this possibility, because it has happened in Tanzania and it has happened up to a point in Nigeria. I give the right hon. Gentleman credit for supporting the policy of the former Administration on this matter and preserving a foothold of military influence for Britain in that most important African State. The plain fact is—
Dr Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
Order. The mere repetition of standing up will not necessarily make the right hon. Gentleman give way. We have had an orderly debate on a serious subject. We must keep it that way.
Mr Stephen Hastings (Mid Bedfordshire)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave way again and again in conditions far worse than those obtaining in the debate now. The right hon. Gentleman has not had the guts to give way once.
Mr Denis Healey (Leeds East)
With respect, I have given way once and the Foreign Secretary was not limited by time in the way that I am limited now.
The fact is that if this policy were persisted in we should risk finding the Soviet Union established with military bases in West Africa and East Africa. How the advantages of a build-up in the South African armed forces could possibly outweigh those disadvantages I defy the Foreign Secretary or anybody else to tell me.
So far, I have been talking only about the strategic risks. The economic risks were discussed by my right hon. Friend. We stand to lose more in other parts of Africa and Asia than we could con ceivably gain in South Africa. Whether India would consider buying naval equipment from Britain if Britain were selling naval equipment to South Africa I would like the Minister of State to tell us when he replies, because he may well have some information on this matter. Again, I do not know what would happen over the supply of copper from Zambia to Britain. There is no doubt that we should run risks there.
The biggest risk of all is a chain reaction which would bring the Commonwealth as a multi-racial organisation crashing in ruins round our heads. No hon. Member opposite can deny that this is a risk. I do not know how real the risk it. It could conceivably be, as the hon. Member for Surbiton said, that very cautious handling of this matter over a period could diminish or reduce or even remove this risk, but if there were a decision in the immediate future by Her Majesty's Government in the sense which they now intend. I think that the risk of bringing the Commonwealth down in ruins is one which no responsible British Government should be prepared to take.
On top of that, there is another risk with which I was frequently faced when I was Secretary of State for Defence. That is the risk to British lives and property in the rest of Africa if this matter continued to be as badly handled as it has been in the last fortnight and there were a massive mob reaction to the situation there.
As I understand it, it is not yet too late to change. The Foreign Secretary confirmed this when I started speaking. I do not know how keen South Africa would be on buying arms from Britain if the Foreign Secretary does as I think he should and imposes as a condition of sale that those arms should not be used for purposes of which Her Majesty's Government do not approve. I do not know how far the South African Government would be prepared to commit themselves without a revision of the Simonstown Agreement.
As my right hon. Friend made very clear this afternoon, no future British Government, certainly not one formed by this party, could consider themselves bound by arrangements which were contrary to our obligations under the United Nations. Yesterday, the Prime Minister
said this of the Commonwealth countries:
… if they wish to adopt other methods I am quite prepared to consider them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1970; Vol. 804, c. 233.]
The reference there is to other methods of consultation. I put it to the Foreign Secretary that there is a clear and obvious method of consultation which should be used, and that is the Prime Ministers' Conference which is planned for next January. If that opportunity is not used, it is very doubtful whether there will be a Prime Ministers' Conference at all.
I do not ask the Government to commit themselves necessarily on this tonight, but I ask them to agree with our Commonwealth friends and partners that this is a matter of such importance to the survival of the Commonwealth as an institution that no decision on it should be taken by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom until that proposal or intention has been fully discussed at a meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers.
If this debate—and, certainly, the representations from our Commonwealth partners and from our allies—were to lead Her Majesty's Government to such a conclusion, we could regard this debate as having been of critical value to the United Kingdom, to the Commonwealth and to peace in Afro-Asia. But the debate has been useful already as a warning in the whole field of foreign affairs. I do not imagine that the Foreign Secretary is very proud of his speech today or of his speech on Monday. I do not believe that he can be proud of his diplomatic handling of this issue. Whether we agree with his objectives or not, most of us have always respected his experience and his ability in handling international issues, but we cannot respect his handling of this one.
It started with a Press briefing to the effect that a decision had already been taken to supply arms to South Africa, although the matter had not then been discussed by the Cabinet. Indeed, it looked very much like an attempt to bounce his Cabinet colleagues into a decision before the matter could be fully considered. As a result, the South African Government were told of a decision to supply arms, as Mr. Vorster made clear yesterday. If we are to take seriously the Associated Press report of the message which was sent to Commonwealth Governments, they were informed of a decision to supply; there was no suggestion that their comments were invited or that they were being consulted.
Then the sky fell on the right hon. Gentleman. One member of the Commonwealth after another reared up in outrage. He found himself with scarcely a friend in the world. So now a decision is turned into an intention, and an agreement to inform is turned into an agreement to consult. We can all be profoundly grateful for this progress.
What went wrong was that the Foreign Secretary showed a total failure to enter into the mind of the Afro-Asian members of the Commonwealth with whom he was dealing. He made the same mistake as his Government and party made 14 years ago when they showed a total failure to enter into the mind of the Arab countries in the Middle East. What the Conservative Party did in 1956 destroyed in ten days a British position in the Middle East which it had taken 50 years to build, and it created a breach in our relations with members of our alliance in the Western world which took months, and in one case years, to mend. If the right hon. Gentleman persists in the course on which he is presently moving, he will destroy a position for Britain in Africa and Asia which it has taken a century to build.
If the Foreign Secretary personally will not budge, his colleagues must overrule him. Britain is facing a crisis now as serious as the crisis in 1956. There are still people in the Government today—the Prime Minister is one of them—who failed, either through weakness or through loyalty in 1956, to prevent a sick man tormented by obsessive nightmares from dragging Britain into the humiliation of defeat. I hope that they have learned enough in the intervening years not to make the same mistake again.
Lord Balniel (Hertford)
I feel that in one sense I am in more than usually good company, in that this evening four hon. Members have made their maiden speeches, all of which had one thing in common—not a single one of them was non-controversial. The speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) was vigorous and extremely unconventional, but worth listening to. There was the speech of my hon. Friend—a very old friend—the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst), whom I have heard speak many times before, and who made a speech of quite exceptional calibre this evening. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Robert Taylor) was based upon considerable experience of five recent visits to South Africa and was the kind of speech of experience which the House appreciates. There was also the speech of the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) showing a wide-ranging understanding of the issues before us. We welcome them all to our debates.
I say that this is good company, because, whilst I do not wish in any way to claim the same indulgence as that to which those hon. Members are entitled, this is my maiden speech from the Government Dispatch Box and also my first speech on a great issue of defence. It is a formidable responsibility for anyone to speak in the House on defence issues on behalf of any British Government of any political persuasion. Although I suspect that neither tonight nor perhaps on other occasions will I be able to command the full support of right hon. and hon. Members, I will always try to fulfil this responsibility to the best of my ability.
In a debate like this we expect arguments to be deployed with considerable vehemence, and this has proved to be the case. Sometimes the rational case which could have been developed has been almost overwhelmed by emotion. I in no way denigrate speeches because they are made with emotion. This is a subject on which strong opinions are held, and, in so far as the debate is concerned with racial policies, I suspect that my own emotional distaste for racialist policies is as strong as that of any hon. Member. It is based on one's concept of society and what is ethical, let alone what is wise or politically or economically sensible. This is not just a personal expression of view, but is a view expressed by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and by the Secretary of State
for Defence in another place only the other day, when he said:
We do not condone, nor will we ever condone, racialist policies. On the contrary, we condemn them.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 14th July, 1970; Vol. 311, c. 588.]
But the heart of the debate is not about racialism; it is about defence. I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Nigel Fisher) that it is of the greatest importance that we explain the issue to all interested Governments. The debate is about the safety of this country, and its safety is involved as much by events in the Middle East, the war in Vietnam or the appearance of a Soviet fleet amongst our shipping routes in the Indian Ocean. We cannot be indifferent to these distant events, which are at least as important as events close to our own shores. Not least of the services rendered by my right hon. Friend today is that he has called attention to a feature of strategy neglected for so long by the late Administration—the situation which pertains in the Indian Ocean.
Of course, our attitudes to apartheid are relevant, and I shall say something about that later on. The views of other countries are also relevant, and must be and are taken into account. But decisions on Britain's defence interests are for the British Government to take, and my first duty is to do what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) did in his speech, namely, to try to bring the debate back from the realms of strong emotion to the hard facts of the defence interests of this country.
Our defence interest that we are considering in this debate lies in the free passage of ships in the Indian Ocean and around Southern Africa into the South Atlantic. This is an essential security requirement for Britain, recognised by both the last Administration and by Her Majesty's Government. Some hon. Members have described phrases such as "sea routes around the Cape" or "freedom of the high seas" as anachronistic. Certainly if one is flying in peace from one continent to another phrases of this kind seem to belong to another age. But this makes it all the more important to sweep away any illusions that there may be in this country or in the world about the importance of the shipping routes around the Cape.
The importance of this shipping route has greatly increased in the last few years since the closing of the Suez Canal. The right hon. Gentleman's figures were out of date. It now handles more than one-quarter by value of all the United Kingdom's sea-borne trade. Apart from the very short shipping routes from Britain to the Continent of Europe, the route around the Cape is by far our busiest traffic artery, and a large part of this trade is oil.
On average, about six fully-laden oil tankers sail round the Cape every day bound for ports not in the United States but in this country and in Western Europe. As an indication of the scale of this shipping, more than 1,000 British merchant ships are using South African ports every year. For instance, the port of Durban in a few years' time will be handling more traffic than the port of Liverpool handles at the moment. [Laughter.] I accept that that statement is platitudinous in present circumstances. The figure underlines the importance of this route. Even if the Suez Canal were reopened, much of this traffic now would be completely unaffected. Many of the ships are too large to use the Canal and they would continue to sail along the Cape route.
It is, therefore, a route which is not only important for our trade but a lifeline which connects this country with our fuel resources, and there must be general agreement in the House about the recognition of the importance of this trade route. What has not been recognised by the Opposition is that not only do we rely on South Africa for the base facilities for our own naval ships which we use in defending these routes for fuelling, maintenance, repairs and communications, but we rely on South Africa's naval partnership for protecting the areas in a war in which both countries were involved.
In practice, the last Administration made considerable use of South Africa's facilities. For instance, naval forces passing to and from the Far East made considerable use of these facilities. The Beira Patrols could not have been sustained had it not been for the naval base of Simonstown. Last year alone 69 British warships visited South African ports. Last year alone, as in previous years—and not much publicity was given to this—joint British and South African naval exercises were carried out. Next month there will be a further joint exercise.
Mr Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
On a point of order. Is it not utterly shameful that a Government Minister when making a quite deliberate criticism of the previous Government's naval policy will not give way to the previous Minister for the Navy?
Dr David Owen (Plymouth, Sutton)
The Minister said that it was impossible to retain the Beira Naval Patrol without the full facilities of Simonstown. That is untrue. It would be inconvenient and there are difficulties, but relying on afloat support it would be possible to retain the Beira Patrol without the Simonstown bases. The Minister ought to know enough about the situation to realise that those are the true facts.
Lord Balniel (Hertford)
The hon. Gentleman has made his point. It is not a point with which I find myself in agreement. Next month further joint naval exercises are planned between the British Navy and the South African Navy. They were planned not by the present Administration but by the previous Government. This fact alone explains the joint responsibility that we share with South Africa for maritime security.
The strategic policy which backs it up was made quite clear by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East when he said
Under the Simonstown Agreement, Her Majesty's Government and the South African Government share responsibilities for maritime security in the South Africa area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th February, 1968; Vol. 758, c. 1316.]
It seems to me to be to some extent illogical, and perhaps even hypocritical, to expect South Africa to gear herself to Western, and particularly to British, de-defence interests to help to defend our maritime interests and to refuse her the arms to carry out her share of the responsibility.
It is more illogical, and also more dangerous, because of two developments which have occurred in recent years and to which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has referred. The first is that the former Administration deliberately re-negotiated the arrangements under the Simonstown Agreement so as to place a greater responsibility for maritime security on the shoulders of the South African Government. We share responsibility, but the major share rests now on South Africa's shoulders.
When this Agreement was re-negotiated in 1967 the Under-Secretary of State for the Navy explained it as follows:
One important change … is a change in the command structure" …
Later he went on
As part of this arrangement, the proposal is that the Chief of the South African Navy will take greater responsibility for the South African area in times of war".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1970; Vol. 740, c. 1619.]
In other words, South Africa has now a more important part in the command structure of the Southern Atlantic defence than when we were last in office. The position is that the previous Administration deliberately negotiated with South Africa to take over these defence responsibilities to ease the burden on our own shoulders and then later, in December 1967, refused to allow South Africa to buy from this country the equipment that it needed to carry out these responsibilities. Of course, one result was that they bought elsewhere.
Soon, French-built submarines will be joining the South African Navy.
A number of speakers in the debate opposing the Government's intention to give effect to the Simonstown Agreement said that they understood the basic fact that, were there a decision to sell arms, there would be no sales of arms for enforcement of a policy of apartheid, but then went on to say that they wondered whom the South Africans were expected to defend themselves against. This was the tenor of the right hon. Member's speech. Any arms which would be supplied would be for joint external defence. Their purpose is to provide a general defence capability against any enemy which threatens the sea routes which, as I have explained, are vital to Britain and to Western Europe. This is the overall defensive purpose of the South Atlantic Command, and it brings me to the second development of recent years, the appearance of a Soviet fleet in the Indian Ocean.
We have watched for years Russia's expansionist maritime policy in many areas of the world and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, there is often nothing wrong with this: Soviet ships have as much right to sail the high seas as those of any other country, and there is no doubt that they have many reasons which are entirely pacific, or at any rate no more objectionable than showing the flag and influencing countries and people in various areas.
To an extent, they are gaining influence where our military and naval influence has waned. There is much to be said for balancing forces, continuing to show themselves widely across the world to counter these demonstrations. But the expansion of Russian naval activity is not necessarily entirely pacific. N.A.T.O. and the last Administration were deeply concerned that Russia's expansionist policy could prove a serious threat to Western countries which depend on sea communications, because it carries with it, whatever their present intentions, the potential of hostile action.
I am not suggesting for one moment that there is an immediate threat, but it is a matter of common sense to guard against it. Surely one of the principles on which defence should be based is that one should not give a potentially hostile power a soft option. Any power which is building up its naval forces has a number of options to take at various levels short of war, from minor harassment upwards. It might engage in such activities as my right hon. Friend mentioned, such as the "Pueblo" incident, or it might probe our reactions or try to "raise the ante" in a period of tension. One can certainly in military terms envisage a protracted war at sea when there is no attack on land in the N.A.T.O. area.
Whatever the nature of any action which could be taken, one surely does not want to be faced with a choice of doing nothing or reacting far more violently than the situation warrants. The right hon. Gentleman the former Secretary of State for Defence accepts this principle in a N.A.T.O. context. He has spoken very persuasively in the House about the doctrines of flexible response, but this principle is as applicable in other military fields.
As I have said, we do not regard a Soviet attack of any kind as a serious imminent risk, and it will not be a risk as long as we are properly prepared, but it would be idle to pretend that the penetration of the Soviet Navy into the Mediterranean did not cause considerable concern to N.A.T.O. The allies instantly looked to their defences in the Mediterranean. The right hon. Gentleman said that he could blow the Russian Fleet out of the seas in two minutes. The previous Administration restored some of the cuts which they had planned.
The Soviet influence has grown not only in the Mediterranean but in the Middle East and in the Red Sea and has crept around the southern flank of N.A.T.O. The right hon. Gentleman said that N.A.T.O. was not worried. I believe that they will become increasingly worried and will give more attention to this in future. We now have the appearance of Russian naval vessels in the Indian Ocean and their use in the island of Socotra, now administered by the People's Republic of South Yemen.
The level of Russian naval forces varies. It is frequently a cruiser, two destroyers, two submarines and associated vessels. This force is situated right at the heart of Britain's main shipping route from the Gulf and from the Far East. Theoretically, we could seek to do without South African help and without using the facilities of South Africa, but the task would be very difficult indeed. The strategic position is very simple: if South Africa does not provide modern ships and equipment, we should have to provide more.
One strand of the argument which has been used in the debate—this was reiterated by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East—is that any weapons can be used for suppressing internal disturbance. I must accept that, theoretically, there is an element of truth in this. Even missile-firing submarines can be used for such purposes. There is a kind of grey area where weapons could be used for a variety of circumstances and purposes.
Were we to decide to sell arms, strict controls would have to be imposed by our licensing arrangements, but in practice it is in the highest degree improbable that the kind of equipment which we might be asked to supply to honour the Simonstown Agreement would be used for purposes for which it is not designed, if only for the reason that the South Africans already have very full supplies of equipment which is infinitely more suitable. They possess a large number of Canadian-built fighter-fighter-bombers. They possess French Mirages as well as the Italian-designed Macchi Impala.
It is possible that we might be asked to supply anti-submarine helicopters. Like all other items of equipment, this would have to be looked at on its merits. If, however, South Africa wishes to use helicopters, she need look no further than the 60 Alouette helicopters recently bought from France.
The strategic arguments for ensuring that South Africa can fulfil her share of responsibility for maritime defence seems very strong to me. We have listened to many arguments about morality and I agree that principle and policy should go hand-in-hand, but I fail to see the principle which says that we should trade with them, invest in their country, make money out of their trade, rely on their products, undertake joint naval exercises with them and give them a greater share in the command structure of the Southern Atlantic but refuse to sell them maritime equipment.
The last Administration tried to stimulate British investment in South Africa. It now amounts to £1,000 million, greater than the combined investment of all the other countries of the world put together. South Africa is our fourth biggest customer. We buy one-third of her exports. She was given preferential access to Britain's markets and the Labour Government firmly resisted any pressure to end that preferential access to our markets. Also, as my right hon. Friend mentioned, when the Labour Party were in office, they authorised contracts which would enable our Atomic Energy Authority to buy South-West African uranium ore to the value of £40 million.
I can understand the morality of an argument which says that all this contributes to the overall strength of South Africa and, therefore, one should have nothing to do with it. I can understand the genuine worries, although I believe them to be groundless, which exist in this country and in Africa north of the Zambesi. What I cannot understand is the morality which says that we should trade and invest, we should use their naval facilities, we should rely on them to defend the area but we should try to deprive them of the equipment for marti-time defence.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East was asked by the Leader of the Opposition, for fully understandable reasons, to wind up the debate. There is a certain irony in this because, judging by all the newspaper reports towards the end of 1967, it was the right hon. Gentleman and quite a number of his right hon. Friends who are now occupying the Opposition Front Bench, including a number of his former senior Cabinet colleagues, who were prepared to conclude a major arms deal with South Africa. Here are the headlines in the papers—
Brown and Healey split Cabinet".
That was the Daily Mail.
Arms ban row splits Cabinet".
That was the Daily Telegraph.
Cabinet splits over arms to South Africa".
That was The Guardian. And the interesting thing is that the name which features in all the articles and all the national headlines about the arguments and voting for an arms deal with South Africa is the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, East. No wonder the Leader of the Opposition is not here.
Can they really look squarely into each other's eyes?
I have tried to deploy to the best of my ability our defence interests in this part of the world. They are very considerable. We have, however, been careful to point out that we have taken no decision yet about supplying arms to South Africa. What I have made clear is that we do not intend to pursue the equivocal attitude of the previous Administration, who were at pains to show all the outward signs of non-co-operation with the South African Government but quietly continued to engage in naval exercises with them and quietly continued to supply them with certain types of military equipment, including spares for aircraft.
As my right hon. Friends have said, we are now engaged in consultation with Commonwealth Governments. Some of them have not yet replied. Others have asked for further information. To act before the process of consultation is complete would be to contradict the purpose of the process. Also, the South African Government themselves wish to see clarification of the way in which the Simonstown Agreement is interpreted. Decisions have not been reached. Consultations have not been concluded.
I have the impression that the Opposition are anxious to vote. Just as they went in for instant government, so they are going in for instant opposition, but just before they vote I will say this to them. Their purpose has got nothing to do with the sale to South Africa of arms which could be used for the enforcement of the policy of apartheid or internal repression. It is clear beyond a scintilla of doubt from the statement by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that their vote tonight has got nothing to do with the racial policies of the South African Government. Her Majesty's Government have made their disagreement with these racial policies abundantly clear. Their vote tonight, in so far as one can rationalise it, is simply a vote on whether or not, after full consideration, the Government should or should not be allowed to decide where Britain's defence interests lies. We will give mature consideration to the views of all Commonwealth Governments and of the United Nations, but the ultimate decision on Britain's defence policy rests with the British Government.
|Division No. 9.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Edelman, Maurice||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Albu, Austen||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Leonard, Dick|
|Allen, Scholefield||Eilis, Tom||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||English, Michael||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Evans, Fred||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Ashley, Jack||Faulds, Andrew||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Ashton, Joe||Fernyhough, E.||Lipton, Marcus|
|Atkinson, Norman||Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, L'wood)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Barnes, Michael||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Barnett, Joel||Fletcher, Raymond (llkeston)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Baxter, William||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Beaney, Alan||Foley, Maurice||McCartney, Hugh|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Foot, Michael||MacColl, James|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow Bridgeton)||Ford, Ben||McElhone, Frank|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Forrester, John||McGuire, Michael|
|Bishop, E. S.||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Freeson, Reginald||Mackie, John|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Garrett, W. E.||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Booth, Albert||Gilbert, Dr. John||MacLennan, Robert|
|Ginsberg, David||McManus, Frank|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Golding, John||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Bradley, Tom||Gourlay, Harry||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Grant, John D. (Islington, East)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E).|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Marquand, David|
|Buchan, Norman||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Buchanan, Richard (Gl'gow, Sp'burn)||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Meacher, Michael|
|Campbell, Ian (Dunbartonshire, West)||Hamling, William||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Cant, R. B.||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Mendelson, John|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hardy, Peter||Mikardo, Ian|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Millan, Bruce|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hattersley, Roy||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Cocks, Michael||Heffer, Eric S.||Molloy, William|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hilton, W. S.||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Horam, John||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hughes, Rt. Hn Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, Central)||Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)||Moyle, Roland|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, North)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Cronin, John||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Murray, Hn. Ronald King|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Hunter, Adam||Ogden, Eric|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill>||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.)||Janner, Greville||O'Malley, Brian|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Oram, Bert|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jeger, George (Goole)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St.P'cras, S.)||Orme, Stanley|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||John, Brynmor||Padley, Walter|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham. S.)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydfil)||Johnson, James (K'ston-upon-Hull, W.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, Central)||Johnson, Walter (Derby, South)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Dempsey, James||Jones, Barry (Flint, East)||Pentland, Norman|
|Doig, Peter||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Judd, Frank||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Kaufman, Gerald||Prescott, John|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Kelley, Richard||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Driberg, Tom||Kerr, Russell||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Kinnock, Neil||Probert, Arthur|
|Dunn, James A.||Lamond, James||Rankin, John|
|Dunnett, Jack||Latham, Arthur||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lawson, George||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Rhodes, Geoffrey||Stallard, A. W.||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Richard, Ivor||Steel, David||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)||Wallace, George|
|Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)||Watkins, David|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Stoddart, David (Swindon)||Weitzman, David|
|Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||Wellbeloved, James|
|Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)||Strang, Gavin||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Roper, John||Strauss, Rt, Hn. G. R.||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Rose, Paul B.||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Swain, Thomas||Whitlock, William|
|Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)||Taverne, Dick||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, West)|
|Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle on Tyne)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George (Dundee, E.)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Tinn, James||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Silverman, Julius||Tomney, Frank||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Skeffington, Arthur||Torney, Thomas||Woof, Robert|
|Skinner, Dennis||Tuck, Raphael|
|Small, William||Urwin, T. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Smith, John (Lanarkshire, North)||Varley, Eric G.||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Spearing, Nigel||Wainwright, Edwin||Mr. Donald Coleman.|
|Adley, Robert||Critchley, Julian||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Crouch, David||Hannam, John (Exeter)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Crowder, F. P.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Curran, Charles||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere|
|Astor, John||Dance, James||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Davies, John (Knutsford)||Hastings, Stephen|
|Awdry, Daniel||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Havers, Michael|
|Baker, W. H. K.||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack||Hawkins, Paul|
|Balniel, Lord||Dean, Paul||Hay, John|
|Batsford, Brian||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton,||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Bell, Ronald||Dixon, Piers||Heseltine, Michael|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Hicks, Robert|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Benyon, W.||Drayson, G. B.||Hiley, Joseph|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Hill, J. E. B. (Norfolk, S.)|
|Biffen, John||Dykes, Hugh||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Eden, Sir John||Holland, Philip|
|Blaker, Peter||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Holt, Miss Mary|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hordern, Peter|
|Body, Richard||Emery, Peter||Hornby, Richard|
|Boscawen, R. T.||Eyre, Reginald||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Farr, John||Howe, Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fell, Anthony||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, North)|
|Braine, Bernard||Fidler, Michael||Hunt, John|
|Bray, Ronald||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Brewis, John||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Fookes, Miss Janet||James, David|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Fortescue, Tim||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Foster, Sir John||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Bryan, Paul||Fowler, Norman||Jessel, Toby|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Fox, J. Marcus||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Buck, Anthony||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Fry, Peter||Jopling, Michael|
|Burden, F. A.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G.||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Gardner, Edward||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn)||Gibson-Watt, David||Kellett, Mrs. Elaine|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Glyn, Dr. Alan||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Channon, Paul||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Kilfedder, James|
|Chapman, Sydney||Goodhart, Philip||Kimball, Marcus|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Goodhew, Victor||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Gorst, John||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Gower, Raymond||Kinsey, Joseph|
|Clark, William (Surrey, East)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Kirk, Peter|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Gray, Hamish||Kitson, Timothy|
|Clegg, Walter||Green, Alan||Knox, David|
|Cockeram, Eric||Grieve, Percy||Lambton, Antony|
|Cooke, Robert||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Lane, David|
|Coombs, Derek||Grylls, Michael||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Cooper, A. E.||Gummer, Selwyn||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Cordle, John||Gurden, Harold||Le Marchant, Spencer|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Cormack, P.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'n C'dfield)|
|Costain, A. P.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Owen, Idris (Stockport, North)||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Loveridge, John||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Stokes, John|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Peel, John||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|MacArthur, Ian||Percival, Ian||Sutcliffe, John|
|McCrindle, R. A.||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John||Tapsell, Peter|
|McLaren, Martin||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Pink, R. Bonner||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow Cathcart)|
|McMaster, Stanley||Pounder, Rafton||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)|
|McNair-Wilson, Michael (W'stow, E.)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Tebbit, Norman|
|McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.||Temple, John M.|
|Madel, David||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|Maginnis, John E.||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Marten, Neil||Raison, Timothy||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Mather, Carol||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Tilney, John|
|Maude, Angus||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Redmond, Robert||Trew, Peter|
|Mawby, Ray||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Rees, Hn. Peter (Dover)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Waddington, David|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Ridsdale, Julian||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, North)||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Moate, Roger||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Wall, Patrick|
|Molyneaux, James||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Walters, Dennis|
|Money, Ernle||Rost, Peter||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Monks, Mrs. Connie||Royle, Anthony||Warren, Kenneth|
|Monro, Hector||Russell, Sir Ronald||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Montgomery, Fergus||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Scott-Hopkins, James||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Sharples, Richard||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Mudd, David||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Wilkinson, John|
|Murton, Oscar||Shelton, William (Clapham)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Simeons, Charles||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Neave, Airey||Sinclair, Sir George||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Skeet, T. H. H.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Normanton, Tom||Soref, Harold||Younger, Hn. George|
|Nott, John||Speed, Keith|
|Onslow, Cranley||Spence, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Sproat, Iain||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Stainton, Keith||Mr. Jasper More.|
|Osborn, John||Stanbrook, Ivor|