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

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Photo of Mr George Rodgers Mr George Rodgers , Chorley 12:00 am, 2nd August 1978

Despite the claims made from the Tory Benches it is quite apparent that the internal agreement is fraudulent. Certainly Ian Smith has demonstrated over the years that he is a very slippery customer. The fact that he has moved a few inches in recent months is not enough. Obviously there are many yards, if not miles, for him to move before anyone could begin to recognise the internal agreement as valid.

The news of recent atrocities in Rhodesia, especially the massacre of the missionaries and children, has been received in this country with a feeling of revulsion and horror. I do not intend to direct blame upon one force or another. I do not know who is responsible. Surely the tragedy is that such an event should take place at all. That is what should concern us.

It is inevitable that when a war is under way terrible crimes will be committed on either side. We had recent evidence of this in Vietnam, where the American forces utilised saturation bombing against a small peasant nation. Crops were poisoned and vegetation destroyed, while men, women and children were killed wholesale. This is an inevitable consequence.

War is not glamorous. There is nothing gallant about war. It is a gruesome and ghastly business. This is evidenced by a speech made to the United Nations Security Council as recently as 30th June, when Marcelino Dos Santos, the Minister of Development and Economic Planning in Mozambique, said that since his country had begun strictly to apply Security Council sanctions against Southern Rhodesia 1,432 people had been murdered by the army of Smith; a total of four villages in Mozambique had been completely levelled; many localities had been left without hospitals, schools, stores and water reservoirs; homes had been burned and destroyed, factories and bridges demolished, and thousands of head of cattle slaughtered. This was before the recent incursions and the use of sophisticated weapons and aircraft against the people of that country.

Unfortunately, the British press does not give a balanced account of these events, and while attention was understandably focused on the dreadful atrocities in Rhodesia little attention was paid to the events in Mozambique. This is the reality of war. A dreadful civil war is currently taking place in Rhodesia. This is inevitable, given the continuation in office of an illicit Government who should have disintegrated long ago. That Government is the cause of the atrocities. That Government would not be in office had we managed successfully to apply sanctions upon firms and individuals who flouted the law by supplying the vital oil to the Rhodesian regime.

The simple truth is that the economy would have collapsed without such supplies if sanctions had been effectively applied. Those who supplied succour to the Rhodesian regime presumably did so in pursuit of profit—because I can think of no other reason why sanctions should be breached, unless we look at the larger possibility, that the international oil companies have decided to enter the political arena and have further decided that they prefer the regime of Ian Smith to a democratically elected Government. It is either to do with profit or it is a case of political intervention by the oil companies.

It must have been apparent way back in 1966 that sanction busting was taking place on a massive scale, yet it was only in April 1977 that an official inquiry under Mr. Bingham was put in hand. Even then there appeared to be no great urgency about the situation, because 11 weeks went by before the committee started work, and even now the sanction-breaching continues to take place. There is a suspicion that the inquiry is being used as a reason for not taking action to halt the flagrant abuses of the law by international companies, presumably on the ground that we must not prejudge the findings of the inquiry.

There is abundant evidence of wholesale evasion. In 1976 "The Oil Conspiracy" by an American Church group, was published. It exposed the situation and revealed that the international oil companies were well aware of the destination of the oil provided by their subsidiaries in South Africa. The New York Times investigated the claims and was clearly impressed and could not dispute the findings. Capitalist shareholders in Mobil Oil in America apparently have greater conscience than have some capitalists over here. They have insisted that guarantees be given that the oil from their company will not be sold or transferred to a secondary country without their approval.

An elaborate system has been set up to conceal sanction breaking. The South African Government have set up an agency entitled Freight Services, and another agency, set up by the Rhodesian Government, is called "Genta", which is an anagram of agent. The Rhodesians apparently go in for this James Bond stuff on a grand scale. There has also been a paper-chase, which has enabled several minor companies to be set up simply to act as letter boxes for invoices to conceal the destination and payment for oil.

I think that a tribute should be paid to the Hazlemere group and the antiapartheid movement, which have done a magnificent job in investigating and exposing the activities of the international oil companies which have kept the Smith regime in office and allowed the slaughter in Mozambique and Rhodesia to continue. Two journalists, Bernard Rivers and Martin Bailey, have shown great courage and tenacity in bringing this matter into the open, but surely it should have been brought into the open a long time ago by the British Government.

I am particularly concerned about the involvement of BP and Shell, which have close connections with the British Government and the British community—in fact the Government are a majority shareholder in BP. We must dismiss the silly evasive comment of the oil companies that they have no jurisdiction over their subsidiaries in South Africa. What sort of parent company has no jurisdiction over its subsidiaries?

I deplore the excuse that these companies dare not breach South African internal law. I do so, first, because sanctions have a higher priority than South African law and should have been obeyed as a first priority; secondly, because South Africa is more dependent upon the oil companies than are the oil companies upon South Africa. The fact is that 85 per cent. of South African oil is refined by the major oil companies, which gives them tremendous economic power, and it is extremely unlikely that South Africa would be prepared to endanger its own existence to assist the suvival of the Smith regime.

All the African Commonwealth nations have expressed bitter resentment at the failure of the United Kingdom to deal effectively with sanction breaking, and certainly Canada has also expressed dismay at our failure in this direction. The Soviet Union has secured an abundance of support among the African nations because it has condemned outright the Smith regime and the South African minority Government.

That comment applies also to China. It might come as a shock to the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) to know that China has condemned the Rhodesian regime, and we shall fail to win friends and influence people in South Africa unless our policies cease to lean towards the international oil companies and the disgusting apartheid States that exist in South Africa.

The Foreign Secretary today made an excellent and powerful speech, and one that was conciliatory, but we must remember that he represents a Socialist democratic nation. We carry no brief for the oil lobby's operations.

Time is running short—probably desperately short—but I still believe that if we are prepared to act democratically and decisively, it may be late, but it is not too late to prevent a bloodstained catastrophe in Africa.