Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd August 1978.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Edward Du Cann Mr Edward Du Cann , Taunton 12:00 am, 2nd August 1978

I am sure that the House will not expect a serious comment on that intervention.

The prospects for peace in Rhodesia and the prospects for agreement between the leaders of the new Zimbabwe will improve in direct proportion as each East German, as each Cuban and as each Russian leaves Africa for home, and as each missile rots in the sun.

Currently, and increasingly, as the Foreign Secretary said, there is an imbalance of power in favour of force. That must be adjusted if peace is to come on terms that allow Mr. Nkomo—that remarkable man—to play a significant role in the future. That should be the first aim of policy. It is a legitimate diplomatic objective. Because I believe that the Foreign Secretary, for all his qualities and the work that he is doing, is not pursuing this course actively and competently enough, I shall go into the Division Lobby tonight.

The British and the Western Powers have much to answer for, not only because we have neither opposed nor countered Soviet influence. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) was right to speak of weeks rather than months or years. Sanctions could have been effected more quickly.

Oil was always the key. It still is. It is a matter of fact, not of argument, that oil has fuelled and is fuelling the Rhodesian economy. It is right that there should be an inquiry into oil supplies past and present. I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on having established the inquiry. I remind the House that I I have an interest in this matter. However, I have a higher duty—to speak my mind. I hope that we shall have the Bingham report soon. I hope that it will be published, because there is now great public interest in the matter. I hope that there will be no cover-up and no whitewash. Let us have the facts.

Those of us who read Count Tolstoy's book know about the appalling business involved in the return of the refugees to the USSR after the war. We know too from that how expert the Foreign Office can be at covering up.

But the past is over. What matters is now. The United States and United Kingdom Governments should exercise all their authority to stop oil supplies to Rhodesia at once.

The sight of the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary first saying, rightly, that it is essential to bring the several leaders to the conference table and then wringing his hands metaphorically because he cannot find ways to accomplish this is as unattractive as it is feeble. British policy is not credible. The reason why certain African leaders look to the East for support is that they have no confidence that we have the strength and authority, and will use it, to bring about a settlement. That feebleness is matched only by the pathetic journeys to and fro of Messrs. Graham and Low, to which the Foreign Secretary referred. If one speaks to anyone to whom they have talked, one is told that they offer nothing. They negotiate nothing. It is all politeness and tea-table talk—fiddling while the huts go up in flames and the stench of death in Rhodesia is sickening.

In the meantime the Anglo-American proposals, which I support, which now have lain on the table for a long time, are a mixture of good and extremely bad, are meaningless because they have no chance of being put into effect. That is a tragedy, because they offer the best opportunity for a settlement.

Is the Foreign Secretary really satisfied that he has pursued every conceivable route towards a settlement? Is he certain that he has consulted everyone who can help in every capacity? This is an emergency. It is a time for the imaginative and the radical, not necessarily only the trammelled routes of the Foreign Office.

Have we so soon forgotten, this once proud nation of ours, how to use power? Do we no longer understand realpolitik? I am not talking of the military. Perhaps in extremes that cannot be ruled out, perhaps by agreement or a token force. But I do not want the military on the scene. We might need a British presence to monitor the transitional regime. My right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) has consistently asked for that. That is a different matter. I agree that it is shocking that that has been neither available nor offered.

We must exercise the sovereignty and authority that we have assumed in more subtle but powerful ways. We must lead. We all know the lack of political leadership in the United States at present. It is the tragedy of the Western world that the leadership is in the hands of a cipher in the United States.

One way that we should exert pressure is through economic aid. Before 1974 it appeared that Rhodesia was an economic miracle. Its gross domestic product was up 83 per cent., the cost of living was increasing at a mere 3½ per cent. per annum, and African employment was going up at 30,000 a year. But the last four years have shown a different picture. There have been three devaluations in the last three years, two of them last year. Whole areas are now closed to the central authority. A total of 60 primary schools have been destroyed and 700 closed down

By saying that we must exercise authority, I mean that there must be massive injections of finance with strings attached. Why do we give so much aid to the world without asking for anything in return? There should be strings attached in this case, involving guarantees for free elections and a genuine multi-racial society.

Success is there to be gained. We can save Rhodesia from incipient disaster. Take away the oil on the one hand, take away the advisers, the guns and the missiles on the other, and surely there must be a negotiation and we shall compel all concerned to come to the table.

The prizes are vast. There could be a prosperous Rhodesia and the potential, at last, for a richer Zambia, brilliantly led by Kenneth Kaunda. There could be a prosperous Rhodesia, a bulwark against further Soviet encroachment in Africa. Rhodesia could be a political example to her southern neighbours. Above all, our chief responsibility is to honour our commitment to the African in Rhodesia that he and his children may live in peace and freedom all their lives. We have a last chance. I pray that we shall take it before we meet again.