Rhodesia

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st January 1972.

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Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire 12:00 am, 31st January 1972

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement.

As the House will be aware, I have been in touch with Mr. Smith about arrangements for Members of Parliament to observe the operation of the Pearce Commission. [Interruption.] I have made clear in this House my view that it is wrong for us to transfer our political differences to Rhodesia or for British political parties to propagate their views on the proposals for a settlement in that country while the Test of Acceptability is being conducted. [Interruption.] Nevertheless, the Government accept that this House might wish to observe the operation of the Pearce Commission—

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman , Manchester Ardwick

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Hon. Members on this side are very anxious to listen to what the Foreign Secretary has to say, but we cannot do so because of the noise coming from below the Gangway on the Government benches.

Photo of Mr Raphael Tuck Mr Raphael Tuck , Watford

We on this side have not heard a word. May I ask the Foreign Secretary to be so good as to start again?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

With permission, Mr. Speaker, if no one has heard I will start again.

As the House will be aware, I have been in touch with Mr. Smith about arrangements for Members of Parliament to observe the operation of the Pearce Commission. I have made clear in this House my view that it is wrong for us to transfer our political differences to Rhodesia or for British political parties to propagate their views on the proposals for a settlement in that country while the Test of Acceptability is being conducted. Nevertheless, the Government accept that this House might wish to observe the operation of the Pearce Commission, and I have expressed my view that an all-party delegation would be the most appropriate arrangement.

The Labour Party, for its part, has preferred to propose a single-party delegation, representing the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. If this could be arranged, it was also prepared to take part in the all-party delegation. At its request, therefore, I forwarded a proposal on its behalf to Mr. Smith. The Liberal Party made a similar request, and I took similar action.

In his reply Mr. Smith has said that he is prepared to receive a limited number of individual M.P.s or groups of M.P.s, provided they go in the capacity of observers of the Pearce Commission's work and not to propagate support for or objection to the terms of the settlement. He has added that he would not be prepared to admit persons who were on record as having aided or encouraged terrorist activities there.

After consulting the right honourable Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and the honourable Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), I was able to assure Mr. Smith that both the Labour and Liberal Party delegations were ready to undertake that they would not engage in any propaganda while in Rhodesia. I have now received a message from Mr. Smith, and he has made the substance of it

public, declining to admit the Labour and Liberal Party delegations as constituted, on the grounds that some of the proposed Members have encouraged or actively supported terrorist movements in Africa.

I am satisfied that the legitimate purpose of observing on behalf of this House the operation of the Pearce Commission can be satisfactorily fulfilled by an all-party delegation. Indeed a privately-organised bi-party delegation has just been in Rhodesia for this purpose. The all-party delegation can be pursued through the usual channels.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that this side of the House regards it as intolerable that the leader of a rebellion against the Crown who is seeking recognition by the United Kingdom should ban visits to British territory by public figures and Members of this House to observe the way in which one of the conditions for recognition is being fulfilled?

Second, did not Mr. Smith a few days ago agree to accept party delegations provided that they were not proposing to indulge in propaganda—an assurance which had been given some time ago—and did not his public statement in Salisbury, according to the newspapers, cite Labour Party conference resolutions in 1970 and 1971 as a reason for refusing the whole of the Labour Party delegation?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there was no party conference resolution on Rhodesia in 1970 and that the resolution in 1971 said nothing about terrorism but expressed sentiments which I hope the right hon. Gentleman would share; namely, that the Parliamentary Labour Party should do all in its power to ensure that sanctions are being vigorously enforced and that no deals which do not recognise the six principles are made with the rebel régime. In the light of Mr. Smith's statement in Salisbury, can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether it is Mr. Smith's intention to refuse all Labour Members of Parliament, and, indeed, all members of the Labour Party, entry to Rhodesia at this time? Further, does the Foreign Secretary agree that Mr. Smith's behaviour on his undertaking to him last Thursday throws an interesting light on other undertakings he is giving in the context of the proposals for a settlement?

What does the Foreign Secretary propose to do about it? Will he let Mr. Smith wipe his feet on him again? Will he recognise that no self-respecting political organisation in the United Kingdom could allow a rebel to dictate the composition and procedure of a body whose purpose was to ensure that British obligations were observed? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that Mr. Smith's decision regarding the Liberal and Labour Party delegations will make it very difficult, if not impossible—certainly for the Labour Party—to participate in an all-party delegation?

To enable the Labour Party in Parliament to make up its mind on an all-party delegation, will the right hon. Gentleman answer two questions? First, has he a firm assurance from Mr. Smith that the Parliamentary Labour Party will be free, through the usual channels, to choose whomsoever it likes as the members of such a delegation, if it decides to participate? Second, will the delegation be free to decide its procedure, its programme and its itinerary in Rhodesia as it wishes, without vetoes and interdictions by the Smith régime?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

My desire, obviously, is to try to serve the House in this matter if the House wishes to observe the Pearce Commission in action. My position—I have made no doubt about it—is that I think this ought to be done, if at all, by an all-party delegation. I have no doubt that this could be arranged.

I come now to the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman. He asks whether there is a ban on all Labour politicians. The obvious answer is, "No". The hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) has been there, and the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), who is an opponent of the Smith régime, is there at this moment. So the answer is, "No". But what Mr. Smith has told me is that he is not prepared to have as part of an all-party delegation or as part of a party delegation people who have advocated violence in Africa. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who."] It is not for me to interpret statements made by hon. Members in the past or to interpret resolutions passed by the National Executive of the Labour Party, when, for example, it approved the distribution of moneys in Africa for guerrilla purposes. It is not for me to judge that. They have done it. Mr. Smith objects to that, and he will not, so I understand, have members of the National Executive who have voted for such a resolution.

Photo of Mr Stephen Hastings Mr Stephen Hastings , Mid Bedfordshire

Are we not supposed to be concerned with the views on the proposed agreement of the Rhodesian people of all races rather than with the extension of our controversies in this House into Rhodesia? If that be so, would it not be a good deal better if all right hon. and hon. Members stayed here and let the Pearce Commission get on with its work?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

The Pearce Commission is to interpret opinion of all Rhodesians on the proposed settlement, not to interpret our opinions. But if the House wishes to send a delegation to observe the Pearce Commission I think it reasonable that it should be able to do so; and the obvious way to do this, the way we should have done it in any other case, is by an all-party delegation.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. Would the right hon. Gentleman allow the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) to ask a question at this point?

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire

Will the Foreign Secretary clarify one or two points on the messages from Mr. Smith? Is it a fact that after he had first given the names of the two delegations Mr. Smith appeared to accept the delegations and then later changed his mind? Second, did the right hon. Gentleman pass on the assurance which I gave on behalf of the Liberal delegation that we would not make propaganda against the settlement while we were in Rhodesia? Third could the Foreign Secretary answer the question already asked by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) about whether the parties are free to choose their representatives, and whether they are free to choose their own representatives on his proposed all-party delegation, without veto by Mr. Smith? Finally, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance, with his own particular authority, that terrorist raids across the Border ceased over 200 years ago and there is no intention to start again?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

I passed on the hon. Gentleman's assurance that he would not indulge in any propaganda and neither would those he took with him. I cannot, as I say, be responsible for putting any interpretation whatever upon what the hon. Gentleman may have said in the past about Rhodesia, but I did hand on faithfully to Mr. Smith what he said. I repeat that the way to organise this is through an all-party delegation. Of course, if they wish to go separately, the parties can choose their own representatives. I cannot guarantee that all those named would necessarily be accepted in Rhodesia.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Since the right hon. Gentleman cannot be satisfied with his obsequious attitude to Mr. Smith, will he say, in view of the words he has just used about right hon. and hon. Members making statements which he will not interpret, whether he agrees with Mr. Smith that my right hon. and hon. Friends and the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) have, in fact, made statements in relation to Mr. Smith which he is not prepared to defend? Further, will the right hon. Gentleman now answer the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) about his proposals for a parliamentary delegation? Will he agree that if there is to be a parliamentary delegation he must be responsible for it, the names from the Conservative side will be nominated by the Prime Minister and from this side by this Front Bench, and that he will allow no censorship by Mr. Smith as to who goes?

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that, although he says that he has no responsibility in this matter, he has signed an agreement with Mr. Smith which he is going to excessive lengths to try to promote in this House and in Rhodesia, and will he now tell Mr. Smith that if we cannot decide from this House who visits a country administered by an illegal régime he will tear up the agreement?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

I do not for a moment defend Mr. Smith's decision. I think it is better that Members of Parliament should be able to go to Rhodesia to observe, though I am bound to say that it was the right hon. Gentleman's party which made the complication. I proposed an all-party delegation, and the right hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman will just keep quiet for a moment, I shall tell him. I proposed an all-party delegation. The right hon. Gentleman said that he and his right hon. Friends wished to pursue their party delegation as well as the all-party delegation.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

I do not believe that it was ever contemplated by a single Member of the House when the right hon. Gentleman or I were talking about the fifth principle that we should fight out our party-political battles on Rhodesian soil. I repeat that I am at the service of the House in this matter, and I want to help if I possibly can. So I shall certainly see whether we can arrange an all-party delegation, though I cannot make myself responsible for interpreting statements made or resolutions passed by the National Executive of the Labour Party.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

There is one thing upon which we can all agree on both sides of the House—namely, the desire to achieve a just and fair settlement in Rhodesia—and in order to ascertain whether this is possible, the Pearce Commission must be allowed to carry out its job without fear or favour. That being said, is it not reasonable, traditional and customary for Members of the House, who will have to take the ultimate decision, to wish to support the idea of a parliamentary delegation? Will my right hon. Friend take it that many of us feel that an all-party delegation, selected in the customary manner, may well be the answer, and one which would satisfy both sides of the House?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

I have complete trust in the Pearce Commission, and I do not know why we should want to observe it at work. But a number of hon. Members have gone, and I have no doubt that a great number more can go if they wish. If the House desires to send an all-party delegation, I shall try to organise it, but certain people have in the past made very violent statements about Rhodesia and Africa, and I cannot guarantee any Member getting in.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

If the right hon. Gentleman does not see any need for anyone to observe the Pearce Commission, does he see any need for hon. Members to have the same rights as he had when he was on this Front Bench to go and observe other activities and the arrest of leading statesmen in Rhodesia? Is it wrong that hon. Members can go and see that? If the right hon. Gentleman is trying still to advocate an all-party delegation, though he may not have had the last word from Mr. Smith on that, has not he just used words to make it clear that no member of the Labour Party National Executive will be allowed to enter Rhodesia in view of its collective responsibility for statements that the right hon. Gentleman seems unable to construe? In those circumstances, if we are to consider the possibility of an all-party delegation, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that anyone nominated through the usual channels from this side of the House will get into Rhodesia?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

It is not wrong for Members of Parliament to go to Rhodesia. I have already told the right hon. Gentleman that his hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich has been there—

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

The right hon. Gentleman asked his question in his own way, and I shall answer it in mine. He asked me whether it was wrong for Members of Parliament to go to Rhodesia. I have said "No", because patently it is not wrong.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

The hon. Members for West Bromwich and York are there, and there has been no trouble.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

When the right hon. Gentleman says, sitting down shouting questions at me, as he usually does, "Any Member?", the answer is that neither he nor I in these circumstances can guarantee that any Member can go if that Member has advocated violence, but that is not for me to interpret.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Mr. Biggs-Davison—

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered any of the questions. Will he now answer the following question? If he is sponsoring an all-party delegation, will he undertake that anyone nominated through the usual channels will be backed by Her Majesty's Government as a representative of this House? If not, will he make it clear to Mr. Smith that this destroys the agreement, because if Mr. Smith behaves like this now how would he behave if he got a settlement?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

I think that the proper way to deal with an all-party delegation would be through the usual channels—

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

That is what I said.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

—and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman would not sponsor those who have advocated violence. As to destroying the agreement, I do not believe that on reconsideration the right hon. Gentleman would repeat what he said about that, because he told me the other day that he wished the Commission to stay in Rhodesia.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The right hon. Gentleman—

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The right hon. Gentleman, recalling perhaps that it was Mr. Smith, not my hon. Friends, who shot 15 Rhodesian citizens, has now challenged me as to the names. Since Mr. Smith has rejected my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East and my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that if their names were part of a parliamentary delegation he would support and insist on their admission?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong, as I understand it. I do not think that Mr. Smith has rejected his right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East. I have said that my desire is to serve the reasonable requirements of the House. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman, I think, has the worst manners I have ever seen of anyone in Parliament. I would certainly say—[Interruption.]—if the right hon. Gentleman will control himself—but, of course, knowing the right hon. Member for Leeds, East as I do, I accept his assurance, and I told Mr. Smith that he had given me the most absolute assurance that he would do nothing but observe the Commission. Therefore, when he asks whether I will support the names of any Members he gives me, my reply is that I will certainly, of course, represent to Mr. Smith—[An HON. MEMBER: "Stop wriggling."] The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that it is impossible to insist, but I will do everything I can, as the House would wish.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

The right hon. Gentleman does not know whether he is on his belly or his knees. No guts.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

While the Labour Party is financing terrorist movements operating in Southern Africa, would it not be more tactful for its National Executive, the Parliamentary Labour Party and the whole shooting match to stay at home?

Photo of Mr Raphael Tuck Mr Raphael Tuck , Watford

Is not the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary putting the same misplaced confidence in Mr. Smith in Rhodesia as he did some years ago in Herr Hitler at Munich? Is it not a fact that what Mr. Smith is saying is, "Those people I favour I shall have over, but those I do not favour are taboo"? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether Sir Dingle Foot advocated violence in Rhodesia?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

I do not think that what the hon. Gentleman says about Mr. Smith can be true, because the hon. Member for York is in Rhodesia now.

Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester

In the present very difficult situation in Rhodesia, would it not be helpful if both sides of the House used temperate language and avoided, for instance, calling the man de facto responsible for security in Rhodesia a rebel against the Crown?

Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester

While the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) uses language like that, is it surprising that he finds difficulty in obtaining access to Rhodesia from the man who would be responsible for his safety while he was out there?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

There seem to me to be two ways of dealing with the matter; either we can set up an all-party delegation or the different parties can go ahead with their own arrangements. If they want to do that, there is no objection from me. All I have to say is that it may be that some indivividuals will not be accepted.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

May I on behalf of the Liberal Party—

Photo of Mr Raphael Tuck Mr Raphael Tuck , Watford

The right hon. Gentleman cannot go.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

—remind the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary that he accepted the good faith of both the Labour and the Liberal proposed delegations in saying that they would go merely as observers and would not indulge in any political activity? Since I have no possible cause to accept that my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) has been actively encouraging or supporting terrorism, which I understand is the unsupported allegation, may I as a matter of good manners give advance notice to the right hon. Gentleman that I hope he would not allow any censorship to be placed upon us from Salisbury in the selection of the all-party delegation, and that our nomination would be my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

As long as the right hon. Gentleman understands that I cannot insist. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I do not want to go on insisting on what I said before, but it is true. [Interruption.] In a matter of life or death the right hon. Gentleman had no chance whatever of saving those about to be hanged in Rhodesia.

Photo of Peter Tapsell Peter Tapsell , Horncastle

While recognising that the complexity of the Rhodesian situation is plain to all and that the statesmanship and restraint with which it has been handled by my right hon. Friend has been generally admired, may I ask whether we must not also in this House have some regard to its dignity? Would it not be wrong to establish the principle that if an all-party delegation were to be chosen in our traditional fashion anyone outside this country should have any control over its membership?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

Yes, Sir. If there was censorship of an all-party delegation, the all-party delegation obviously could not go.

Photo of Mr Arthur Bottomley Mr Arthur Bottomley , Middlesbrough East

Is it not a fact that Rhodesia is in a state of rebellion and that any right hon. or hon. Member of this House has the right to visit that territory if he or she so wishes? In these circumstances, if the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) decides to go to Rhodesia, what protection will Her Majesty's Government afford him?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

The Members of this House who have in very recent days been to Rhodesia have received, of course, all the facilities that our very limited representation in that country can give them. Everything has been put at their disposal—arrangements for their programmes, and the rest. I cannot insist, however, much as I should like to, because I know that the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley) is a most harmless fellow.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

Is not this another illustration of where power actually lies and that, whether we like it or not, legally or illegally Rhodesia has been independent since 1965?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I am sorry to press still further the same point, but it has been very difficult to get a real answer from the Foreign Secretary about the position of an all-party delegation. He is recommending an all-party delegation of the House. But it must be apparent to him—it seems to be from his last answer—that this House could not accept the insult of having its delegation vetoed by Mr. Smith. Before he recommended to the House an all-party delegation, what steps did the right hon. Gentleman take to ensure that Mr. Smith would accept such Members as the House thought fit to choose?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that this matter was complicated by the fact that a right hon. Gentleman opposite had to tell me that the Opposition could not be members of an all-party delegation unless a Labour Party delegation went as well. That is where the complication began. Mr. Smith has always said that he could not accept into Rhodesia people who had publicly advocated violence.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Barking

Since the right hon. Gentleman has repeated that phrase, would he indicate which Members of this House have publicly advocated violence—have not merely sympathised with the African cause in Rhodesia, but publicly advocated violence and have definitely said it again and again—and will he give the date on which the National Executive of the Labour Party ever passed any such resolution?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

No, Sir; I cannot. That would be putting me in the position of recalling hon. Members' speeches or interpreting them, and it would be quite improper that I should try to do so.