Oral Answers to Questions — Rhodesia

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th April 1967.

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Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth West 12:00 am, 13th April 1967

asked the Prime Minister what Commonwealth consultations there have been to ensure speeding joint action in the event of a breakdown of law and order in Rhodesia, following the impact of economic sanctions, and to ensure joint action for economic and social reconstruction in Rhodesia following the fall of the illegal Smith régime.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

As the House knows, the object of sanctions is not to cause a breakdown of law and order in Rhodesia but to bring about a return to constitutional rule. As to the economic measures which would be taken to assist Rhodesia once she returns to legality, I would refer my hon. Friend to the Statement I made to this House on 25th January, 1966. As to consultation with the Commonwealth, it is not the practice to give information about this and I cannot, therefore, comment on this point.—[Vol. 723, c. 39.]

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth West

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Would he not agree that detailed planning for any possible aftermath of sanctions will help to add to their credibility and effectiveness?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I think that this is well understood in Rhodesia.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

As Mr. Smith and the Rhodesian Government may remain in power for the next decade, would not it be wise if the right hon. Gentleman were to make another effort to reach agreement?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

We made an effort in December, and a very fair offer was made. It was turned down because the Rhodesian regime, or those who control Mr. Smith, attached more importance to their so-called independence than to getting a settlement, and even this week the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), having proposed what I think most hon. Members would consider to be a totally unacceptable proposal, has been slapped down hard by the Rhodesian regime who have even, to my surprise, questioned his motive in what he did, and have even suggested that he did it for internal party reasons and reasons of political advancement.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is expecting any breakdown of law and order in Rhodesia?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Not currently, and I think we all hope and trust that that will not happen, but when there is a regime fortified by the most massive system of censorship, and by terrorism of the African population, and agents provocateurs—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]—when there is in every African village a member of Mr. Smith's secret police informing on them—hon. Gentlemen opposite did not say "Nonsense" about that, and I am glad that they did not because Mr. Smith confirmed it at our meeting on H.M.S. "Tiger"—when there is all that, one is running the risk of very serious developments. Our purpose is to secure a return to constitutional rule, not a breakdown of law and order.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Portsmouth Langstone

When will the Prime Minister recognise the realities of the situation in Rhodesia and accept that the gravest threat to law and order there comes not from internal conditions, but from unwarranted and prejudiced meddling by outsiders who do not understand the situation?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I think I have shown that I do understand the realities in Rhodesia. I described them a moment ago. The sanctions are necessary and, I should have thought, would be supported by all hon. Members who cannot condone an act of rebellion, an act of illegality. Many hon. Members would criticise me for having negotiated with the rebel in the way I did on H.M.S. "Tiger" and offered him reasonable terms, but at any rate we at least know that these terms were not acceptable, despite the fact that hon. Gentlemen opposite supported the regime in rejecting them.

Photo of Mr Stephen Hastings Mr Stephen Hastings , Mid Bedfordshire

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make a statement on the latest developments with regard to Rhodesia.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I have at present nothing to add to the Answers I have given to the many recent similar questions on this subject.

Photo of Mr Stephen Hastings Mr Stephen Hastings , Mid Bedfordshire

Does the Prime Minister not realise that unless he takes some initiative Rhodesia and all her peoples will drift inevitably towards the South African orbit? Can he not see that his policy is seen to lie in ruins? Is it not time that he swallowed his pride and undertook some negotiations and told us what are the views of the Governor and Sir Hugh Beadle at this juncture?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

With regard to policies lying in ruins, I would commend the hon. Member—who has all along supported the rebels in Rhodesia in an unqualified sense—to consider the statements now being made by so-called Rhodesian Ministers about the effects on their economy of sanctions, and of the situation now arising. We did not want to see this go on for a period of nearly 18 months, with a worsening of the economic situation, we wanted to end the rebellion and to get back to a situation in which there could be constitutional negotiations. But, as I have already said, I took the initiative, whether rightly or wrongly, in seeking to end this by quite unprecedented action, by dealing with someone who was in a state of rebellion against the Crown, but it was clear that they were not prepared—or Mr. Smith was not allowed—to come to any conclusion involving the surrender of independence which no other country in the world even recognised.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the basis of the policy of the British Government and of the Commonwealth is that independence should now only be agreed to for Southern Rhodesia on the basis of majority rule?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Yes, Sir. That is what I said on 20th December, and it is the position of Her Majesty's Government. Mr. Smith had every opportunity—for which I had to fight very hard at the Commonwealth Conference—to get a situation of independence which could have been ahead of majority rule provided we were able to give effect to the conditions and principles which have been laid down with great tenacity by the previous British Government and by ourselves?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I should like to press the point raised in the very serious supplementary question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings). Is the Prime Minister considering possible ways of breaking the present deadlock, or is he content to see the present unhappy situation continue?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

We are not content to see the present unhappy situation continue. The right hon. Gentleman himself—who, if I may say so, made a very statesmanlike contribution on this in the television debate—[Interruption.]—this is not a personal attack on the right hon. Gentleman; he voted with the rest of hon. Members in support of the régime, but had the decency to go on television to retract the arguments that had been used to support that vote. The right hon. Gentleman recognises, because he has been out there, the strength of the view of the regime that independence is all that matters to them. It is not, in my view, all that matters to Rhodesia. They can, tomorrow, end the position. Mr. Smith could then become the legal Prime Minister of Rhodesia by returning to the 1961 Constitution. I feel that we have done everything that is in our power to get a settlement. It is now for them to return to constitutional rule, and I would hope that any constitutionalist opposite would support of that view.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

Leaving aside the Prime Minister's kind references to myself, do I take it that his answers mean he intends not to try to find a way of solving this problem?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The way is open, but it takes two sides to reach it. I made the kind of initiative I thought appropriate—this unusual initiative in December. Where others have stepped in with well-meant initiatives such as the suggestion by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys)—who, I am sorry, is not here now—he has received a black eye from the régime for even suggesting something which would have recognised their illegal independence, something which we are not prepared to do.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that all possible measures have been taken to assist Zambia in lessening her dependence on the Rhodesian economy? Can he say how long it will be before Zambia copper exports can be diverted from the Rhodesian Railways?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I think that we have given all the help we can in the situation. There was, of course, a long delay in signing the agreement because of the view that was taken by Zambia after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. They are receiving now more freedom to export their copper and to get in essential requirements by routes which do not involve the Rhodesian Railways, with loss to herself. I am very worried about the long-term consequences on Rhodesia of these efforts by Zambia to make herself independent of Rhodesia.