Southern Africa

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th July 1979.

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Photo of Mr David Ennals Mr David Ennals , Norwich North 12:00 am, 25th July 1979

There was very much of what the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) said with which I profoundly disagreed. However, I warmly welcomed what he said about the speeches from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Both of their speeches were of great importance. If it does not embarrass the Prime Minister, I should like to congratulate her on the openness of her approach today and in the period leading up to Lusaka. I also congratulate the right hon. Lady on having taken so long today to listen to speeches from both sides of the House when she has many other preoccupations.

I had expected to say something different from what I am now saying to the right hon. Lady, because I have been deeply concerned by the statement—it seems that it was an off-the-cuff statement—which was made in Canberra. It seemed to me that at that time—I think that it would have been so—if that policy had been pursued, and we were indicating in advance that sanctions would not be carried in November, our country would have had two distinct policies. One would have been that set out by Lord Carrington in another place on 10 July, and a separate policy.

I am extremely grateful to the right hon. Lady. I know that she has come in for some criticism from the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and some of his colleagues. However, she must have recognised that any policy that announces in advance that sanctions will not be continued in November has two immediate consequences. First, it is virtually the same as a recognition now of the Muzorewa regime, which I know some of the Prime Minister's hon. Friend's wish to see. Secondly, however, it would remove one of the main levers of power and influence that we have in the changes. Together with others of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I believe in the constitution that has now been carried through.

I am sure, also, that the right hon. Lady will have recognised that a "go-it-alone" policy, which is what would have been the case if we had stood by our policy of no sanctions from November, come what may, would have brought great political difficulties for Britain. It would have created for us a crisis in our relationship with the United States. It would have been very damaging to our relationship with our European colleagues. I give credit to the former Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), for having brought along the countries of the EEC in the policy that Britain has pursued in Europe. It would have caused for the right hon. Lady, and all who care about Zimbabwe, grave embarrassment in the Commonwealth as well as in other countries of Africa.

I believe that it would have caused grave economic damage. Following the point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham, I believe that it is not a question of whether we agree with threats that may or may not have been made by the Nigerian Government and the difficulties which British firms are or are not facing in securing important contracts in Nigeria. However, what hardly anyone in the House would doubt is that if we were to pursue a policy that was not the result of consultations with our colleagues we would find that the economic prospects for us would be damaged not merely in Africa but in many other parts of the world—and our economy can ill afford that. Very often it would be our friends, in a sense—the Germans, the Japanese and the United States—who would be quickly in to seize the economic opportunities that would be presented. There would be grave economic consequences.

Lifting sanctions has, in a sense, more symbolism attached to it than it has economic content. What Africa wants, and what Zimbabwe wants, more than the lifting of sanctions is the ending of the war, positive measures to end injustice and discrimination, and the achievement of international recognition. However, there is no doubt that sanctions have a crucial symbolic value and are an absolutely essential element in the pressure that needs to be brought upon the Muzorewa regime.

There are many parts of the present constitution about which I believe the Bishop himself has doubts. Certainly many would find objectionable the guarantees that all key posts in the army, the police, the public services and the judiciary should be held for at least five years by white Rhodesians. The main task that the Government have in the negotiations that have been undertaken by Lord Harlech and by officials is to seek to secure the fulfilment of the fifth principle, because, whatever is said by the Lord Privy Seal, this Parliament has not yet satisfied itself that the majority of all Rhodesians are substantially in favour of this constitution. That was not a question put to them in the elections that took place. The black population have not been consulted about the new constitution, and eventually this Parliament must be consulted as well.

I know that the Prime Minister has already come in for some criticism from her own Right-wing Members, who, after all, supported Mr. Smith through thick and thin during long years of this illegal regime. Whether they were on the Oppo- sition Benches or on the Government Benches, they were prepared to advocate policies that would have given greater recognition to Mr. Smith at the time when he was saying clearly that he did not believe that majority rule would come in his lifetime and that he did not want to see majority rule. Therefore, they are now giving to the right hon. Lady advice which at that time was unacceptable to successive Governments.

I hope that the right hon. Lady will stand firm. It was encouraging that she took the open position that she did today. It has greatly improved the reception that she will have in Lusaka.

I for one stand by the objectives set out by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. I believe that to carry the Commonwealth along with the Prime Minister will be a task that all of us in Britain, of whatever party, would warmly support. I say to those right hon. and hon. Members who are the Prime Minister's critics on the Right of her party—they who have been so friendly with Mr. Smith over the years—that the best contribution that they could make now would be to advise Mr. Smith and Mr. van der Byl that while there must be Europeans in a multi-racial Government and a multiracial Parliament, the names and the reputations of both these men are doing such damage to the credibility of Bishop Muzorewa's reputation and his Government as to make it very difficult for him to fulfil his task.

I believe, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bottomley), that Bishop Abel Muzorewa, whom I have met on many occasions, is a man of integrity and honesty, who wants to carry his country forward but who finds himself in difficulties beyond his control. The trouble is that he is controlled by others.

The greatest contribution that the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion could make would be to persuade Mr. Smith and Mr. van der Byl that the time had come for them to step aside. All of us who care for peace, independence and genuine majority rule in Zimbabwe would wish success to the Prime Minister in her mission and to the Commonwealth conference in the contribution that it may be able to make.