Rhodesia

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th November 1975.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North 12:00 am, 26th November 1975

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about recent contacts with the illegal régime in Rhodesia.

Photo of Mr David Ennals Mr David Ennals , Norwich North

In recent months there has been no direct contact with the illegal régime in Rhodesia.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

Have Her Majesty's Government been informed of the eight-point agreement supposedly reached—and leaked in the newspapers—between Mr. Joshua Nkomo and the Smith Government? If so, can he tell us whether the agreement was based upon the principle of majority rule in Rhodesia to an agreed timetable? What other consultations have taken place with neighbouring African presidents and Mr. Vorster in South Africa? If we are to have a re-run of the Victoria Falls conference in the near future, will my right hon. Friend use his good offices to ensure that other leaders of African opinion within the ANC are not excluded, for, if we are to have the peaceful settlement for which we all hope and pray, it will need to be endorsed by the widest possible section of opinion of Africans in Rhodesia?

Photo of Mr David Ennals Mr David Ennals , Norwich North

I think that my hon. Friend may be jumping ahead. Certainly there seems to be a pretty broad measure of agreement about the procedure for future talks. As far as I know, there has been no agreement about the content of those talks and the procedure is very much on the lines discussed at the Victoria Falls Bridge conference.

Turning to the consultations with other African presidents, I point out that we are closely in touch with the four Governments concerned and with South Africa. On the talks that seem to be about to begin in Rhodesia, I do not think that we should take sides as between the different groups in the ANC. However, it is important that if the talks begin the ANC delegation should be broadly representative and that on the other side Mr. Smith should be prepared to make concessions that are clearly necessary if majority rule is to be achieved.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that a resolution has been recently passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations calling for no independence before majority rule. By implication, it would in certain circumstances condone the use of force in Rhodesia. What is the Government's attitude towards that resolution and what stand did they take in the United Nations?

Photo of Mr David Ennals Mr David Ennals , Norwich North

We were very glad to join the Fourth Committee consensus on this general resolution—not on the sanctions resolution—because it was the first time that the draft had not criticised Her Majesty's Government's policy or made unreasonable demands upon us. However, in joining the consensus our delegation made it plain that we could not accept an unconditional commitment to no independence before majority rule to the extent that this might inhibit the outcome of negotiations between the parties in Rhodesia. We could not condone the use of force to solve the Rhodesia problem and we did not interpret the resolution as calling for the use of force. Incidentally, it was the first time in the past 10 years that there had been a united consensus supported by Britain on a resolution in the General Assembly concerning this subject.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

I welcome the Government's acceptance of that resolution, even with the reservations expressed by my right hon. Friend today. Will he understand that the House and the country expect the Government to accept the logic of that resolution that there can be no independence in Rhodesia until there is majority rule? Notwithstanding the Government's reliance on the South African Government's intervention to try to get a peaceful settlement in Rhodesia, will he not allow the South Africans to run riot in Angola and go forward with imperialistic expansion there?

Photo of Mr David Ennals Mr David Ennals , Norwich North

There are two questions here. If we were to say that no independence before majority rule was the only basis, we should inhibit the talks which are about to proceed. As a result of the negotiations, there could well be some transitional phase. If that were acceptable to African opinion, it would be absurd for the Government to say that it was not acceptable to us. In any case, such a decision would finally have to come before the House of Commons.

My hon. Friend referred to the situation in Angola and the presence there of South African troops. I deeply regret the presence of forces and of arms and equipment which are pouring into Angola from many other parts of the world. If we are to condemn foreign intervention, as I do, we must condemn it all. There is a grave danger that a tragic civil war in Angola will be turned into a war which will deeply divide the continent of Africa and in which we shall see great Powers and smaller Powers edging for power in Angola. That would be a tragedy from whatever source the intervention came.