Oral Answers to Questions — Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th February 1972.

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Photo of Mr Clinton Davis Mr Clinton Davis , Hackney Central

Is the Prime Minister aware that I am distinctly surprised at the rejection of my most moderate request? Is it not absolutely pathetic that the Foreign Secretary should simply have grovelled at the feet of Smith over the detention of the Todds and other African leaders? Should he not speak out for the cause of democracy as far as this country is concerned?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's statement. I should have thought that this was a serious matter which ought to be given full consideration. The hon. Gentleman knows, as well as the whole of his party, that his right hon. Friend, when Prime Minister, was unable to insist on anything in Rhodesia. He could not stop the execution of Rhodesian Africans in 1968, he could not stop the expulsion from Rhodesia of Labour Members of this House in 1966, and he could not stop the Rhodesian authorities banning British journalists in 1966. Therefore, I think that there must be a recognition of the limitations on the power of any Government in this country.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Is it not a fact that no one in public life in this country is more widely respected and trusted than the Foreign Secretary?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I think that that is the case.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Agreeing with the right lion. Gentleman that Rhodesia, like Northern Ireland, is a serious matter, and therefore not a subject for cheap jibes by him, will he now answer this question: has he received any explanation satisfactory to him from Mr. Ian Smith of the arrest and solitary confinement of Mr. Garfield Todd?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has told the House that the answer is "No"—and nor have I. I have no more power to insist on it than had the right hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Since the right hon. Gentleman has repeated what the Foreign Secretary said about the executions, is he aware that at this moment of time he is in a special relationship with Mr. Smith on the ground that they are jointly commending an agreement about which there may be disagreement in this country or in Rhodesia? Will he at least insist that the undertakings given of normal political activities should be honoured by Mr. Smith? The right hon. Gentleman is in a position, which in 1966 no one in this country was in. Will he therefore insist on this and make it clear to Mr. Smith that if he behaves in this way and insists on police state conditions when the Pearce Commission is operating, this House must judge that we cannot trust him to carry out that agreement when he is no longer on his best behaviour?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Lord Pearce and his Commission are the judges of whether conditions exist in which they can carry out their work. That remains the position, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has told the House before. Lord Pearce is of the opinion that he and his Commission can carry on their work, and that is for them to decide.

Photo of Peter Tapsell Peter Tapsell , Horncastle

While fully recognising the limitation of our power in Rhodesia, would it not now be appropriate, in the light of Lord Pearce's latest statement about the detention of Mr. Todd and Miss Todd, that we should formally ask Mr. Smith at least to release them should they wish to return to this country?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I do not think that there has been any indication that they wish to return to this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] Her Majesty's Government cannot insist that Mr. Garfield Todd or Miss Todd should wish to come back to this country. Therefore, what Lord Pearce has made clear is that he has to make his own judgment on the detention of Mr. Todd and Miss Todd.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to publish to the House all his exchanges with Mr. Smith on this and all other aspects of the negotiations, as I did in November, 1965, and again following the talks on H.M.S. "Tiger"? Will he now published what he has said to Mr. Smith on this incident and what reply he has had?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

The right hon. Gentleman always published his documents after negotiations had broken down. At the moment, the Pearce Commission is carrying out the testing under the fifth principle. We must await the Pearce Commission's report.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

Is the Prime Minister aware that some of us do not go as far as the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) in calling for the Foreign Secretary's resignation? We believe it should be a question of all or nothing? Would the right hon. Gentleman accept that those of us who have a very great affection for the Foreign Secretary do not exactly regard Rhodesia as being his finest hour? Therefore, I ask the Prime Minister about two matters. As the Prime Minister would, I am sure, he the first to accept, on the question of Rhodesia at least my loyalty to the Crown in the face of a rebellion has never been in doubt. My first question—[Interruption.]—if the tribal instincts of the right hon. Gentleman's back benchers can be temporarily controlled—is what has happened to the proposed all-party delegation which the Foreign Secretary favoured? Second, in view of Mr. Smith's clear statement on 25th November last year in the Rhodesian Parliament that if the package were rejected the 1969 Amendment would continue, and so would sanctions, may we take it that it is likewise the view of Her Majesty's Government that in the event of the settlement being accepted —[HON. MEMBERS: "Rejected."]—this Parliament would continue with sanctions?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is in communication with Mr. Smith about the all-party delegation, and I understand that there have been talks on this issue with hon. Members of this House. My right hon. Friend remains of the view that it is desirable for the all-party delegation to go there. On the question about what happens if the settlement is agreed, obviously action will have to follow in respect of sanctions. That would be a matter not only for us but also for the United Nations. The mandatory sanctions were imposed by the United Nations and it is obviously a matter which concerns them. As for the right hon. Gentleman's position, we know also that he did not achieve his finest hour over Rhodesia and that he will not be contented until he can bomb both black and white alike.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

As the Prime Minister has made the rather grave allegation that a Member of this House—now or at any previous time—advocated a measure which would have resulted in the death or the likelihood of death of any black or white citizen in Rhodesia, would he be kind enough to tell the House how he thinks that the destruction of a railway line in the middle of a deserted desert, where there was no population within 300 miles, is likely to achieve that objective?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Quite apart from the right hon. Gentleman's own purposes—and I do not accept that the results would have been as he described——

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

—there have been a number of hon. Members who have urged the use of force and conquest in Rhodesia.

Hon. Members:

Withdraw.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, as there were 13 deaths recently in Northern Ireland, which he regards as a subject for jokes in the House this afternoon——

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

indicated dissent.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

—and as there were 14 deaths last month in Rhodesia, which he regards as an occasion for cheap party points against the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party, whether he will now withdraw the allegations lie has just made? Second, will he now answer a serious question in a serious way? As he referred to the all-party delegation and as our members of the delegation have been known to the Government for 10 days, will he say when we shall hear that the delegation will be received in Rhodesia and when it will leave for Rhodesia?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I have told the House that my right lion. Friend the Foreign Secretary is in communication with Salisbury about the parliamentary delegation. As soon as he receives the reply, all parties in the House will be told. That is a perfectly clear position. Concerning the right hon. Gentleman's other remarks, I have never at any time made jokes or jibes about deaths in Northern Ireland or in Rhodesia. What I am saying is that the right lion. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party wanted to bomb part of Rhodesia to get a settlement, and that I cannot accept. The right hon. Gentleman's distortions are such that he is quite unfit to be even Leader of the Opposition.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

On a point of order. In the course of the last five minutes the Prime Minister has made two totally separate allegations. The second allegation was that one Member of this House was prepared to bomb certain sections of Rhodesia, which, in my case, I totally accept. The first allegation, to which I take the strongest possible exception, is that the Prime Minister suggested that one Member of this House, namely myself, was prepared to take action to kill white or black Rhodesians. I totally reject that. I suggest, as a matter of order, that it is an outrageous allegation to make, and if the Prime Minister, who has already amended his first allegation by making a second, will now come clean, I challenge him to withdraw.

Hon. Members:

Withdraw.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. That is not a matter of order.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

Further to that point of order. May I ask——

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I have already ruled to the right hon. Gentleman that it is not a matter of order for me.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

On a fresh point of order. I hope that whatever may be the outcome, you, Mr. Speaker, will be the decider of this, and not the chorus opposite. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to rule whether it is in order for one hon. Member of this House to accuse another hon. Member of advocating policies to kill Her Majesty's subjects?

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I am advised that this is not a matter of order. Right hon. and hon. Members must carry responsibility for their statements. There is no matter of order here. Mr. Harold Lever.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

On a point of order. If that is not a point of order, Mr. Speaker, could you explain to the House what is?

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I will not have the slightest hesitation in Ruling the hon. and gallant Member out of order if I think it appropriate.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

On a point of order. May I ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on an entirely different point? Is there a way in which the House can be protected from garrulous and repetitive interventions by the Leader of the Opposition, who was called no fewer than four times on Question No. Q4, when many hon. Members on both sides sought unsuccessfully to catch your eye?

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I have just been asked to rule what is in order. I have no hesitation in Ruling that what the hon. Member has just raised is not a matter of order.