Power to Bring Particular Provisions of New Constitution into Force Before Apointed Day

Clause 2 – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 12th November 1979.

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Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York 9:30 pm, 12th November 1979

I beg to move amendment No. 20, in page 2, line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except paragraph B1 of Command Paper No. 7758.'.

The First Deputy Chairman:

With this amendment it will be convenient to take the following amendments:

No. 21, in page 2, line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except paragraph B.6b of Command Paper No. 7758.'.

No. 22, in line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except paragraph V(1) of Command Paper No. 7758'.

No. 23, in line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except paragraph V(3) of Command Paper No. 7758'.

No. 24, in line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except any part of section D(i) and (ii) of Command Paper No. 7758.'.

No. 25, in line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except section D(iii) of Command Paper No. 7758.'.

No. 26, in line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except section D(iv) of Command Paper No. 7758 '.

No. 27, in page 2, line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except that any Electoral Supervisory Commission established under paragraph E 3 of Command Paper No. 7758 shall have only officials from Great Britain and other independent Commonwealth countries as members.'.

No. 28, in line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except that paragraph E 4 of Command Paper No. 7758 will not be used as the basis of any electoral representation but there shall be constituencies for all voters'.

No. 29, in line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except that paragraph E 5 of Command Paper No. 7758 will not be used as the basis of the franchise for any election but there will be registration of all voters on common rolls'.

No. 30, in line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except that there shall be no election for a senate composed in accordance with paragraph E 6 of Command Paper No. 7758 and that all members will be elected on common rolls of all voters'.

No. 31, in line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except that there shall be no election for a House of Assembly composed in accordance with paragraph E 10 of Command Paper No. 7758 but that all members will be elected on common rolls of all voters'.

No. 32, in line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except that the executive power of Zimbabwe shall be vested in the President and not as in paragraph D 6 of Command Paper No. 7758'.

No. 33, in line 8, after 'constitution', insert: 'except that no judges shall be appointed under section F of Command Paper No. 7758 who have exercised judicial functions during the period of illegal government since 1965'.

No. 34, in line 8, after 'constitution' insert 'save that no part of section D of Command Paper No. 7758 will be brought into force until there has been a reconstruction of the Defence Forces based on the present illegal force and the guerrillas of the Patriotic Front with unacceptable elements of each excluded'.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

This group of amendments was originally intended to probe the whole of the constitution. Had the Government continued with their headstrong idea of pushing the Bill through in one sitting it would have taken a long time. I hope that it will not be necessary to take much time on this matter tonight. Most of the issues that arise on these amendments are related to the document published as a White Paper, which is the constitution, and which is the subject of qualified agreement by all the parties.

At this stage I would not want to go into much depth on this matter, with the exception of one issue. It arises out of paragraph 5 on page 6 of the White Paper, which is the subject of amendment No. 22 relating to compensation for land. This springs from the so-called declaration of rights contained in the constitution. It reads: Every person will be protected from having his property compulsorily acquired except when the acquisition is in the interests of defence and so on. It also says that that would not be done without proper compensation. That provision is unamendable for 10 years after independence unless there is a unanimous vote of the House of Assembly.

In our own circumstances it is impossible to understand the deep feelings about land in Africa. The whole argument about independence is an attempt by the black people in Rhodesia to get equality with the whites—not only in terms of status and effectiveness of vote, but in terms of the control of the assets of their own country and of the power that goes with the wealth of their own country. That equality must relate to land in the circumstances of a largely agrarian society.

In Africa, the land is paramount. In Rhodesia at present—this obtains even after the changes that have taken place since May—African farmers have 53 per cent. of the land on which 80 per cent. of the population lives. European farmers have 47 per cent. of the land on which 20 per cent. of the population lives. It is impossible to have a sense of economic as well as political independence if that imbalance is to remain. One does not have to be the Marxist Mr. Mugabe—one could also be the Christian Bishop Muzorewa—but one could not continue to assert to one's people that they had won independence if that situation were to continue. It is actually worse than it appears from those bald figures, because the black population is growing much faster than the white population. The birth rate is higher, and the black population does not have the same emigration rate as the white.

Inevitably, the black population feels the sense of land hunger much more than does the white population. In the areas in which they are consigned to live and have land, they do not have the right to own farms to anything like the extent that the whites do. The tribal trust lands are held in common by all the people living there. There are no farms of an independent nature such as is the case in the white areas. The African-purchased land, which is designed to be an interim stage between those two systems, occupies a very small section of the total land of Rhodesia.

Therefore, when the Patriotic Front argued that this provision—cementing for 10 years the present unequal division of land—was totally unacceptable, it was not a specifically Left-wing stance. It merely reflected the deep feelings of most of the black people in Rhodesia. Anyone who has heard the response that comes from a crowd of Africans in Salisbury, Bulawayo or the tribal trust lands about the future division of land can be under no illusion about how crucial is this point.

The Government may say "Well, there has been a provisional agreement. Moreover, the present Muzorewa regime has accepted it". All I can say is that the present Muzorewa regime would not be able to sell this land for 10 years. Given that 100 per cent. of the Assembly has to vote for any change, and that 20 per cent. of the seats will be allocated to whites, it is inconceivable that there will be a change within 10 years that does not depend upon compensation for the land.

We do not nationalise without compensation, and we may say that it is uncivilised—that was the word used by the Foreign Secretary in the negotiations—to take over land without compensation. I only ask the committee to consider how the whites got the land in the first place, and where the ownership of the land resided before they took it over. I also ask the Committee to consider the present position, when farms have been vacated by whites over a large area of Rhodesia. They have been vacated because blacks have fought and shed their blood to occupy that land.

It is inconceivable that the land should be handed back to the owners who have gone to a foreign territory and that they should then receive compensation. The blacks who died to occupy that land would have died in vain. It is impossible to put such a proposition to a black elector and hope to be able to contain his frustration and apprehension. Even though this part of the constitution was accepted to that degree, I ask the Government to consider whether Bishop Muzorewa intended this position to be congealed for 10 years.

The proposition advanced by the Government, that the new Zimbabwe Government must raise the resources with which to compensate whites for the land of which they will be dispossessed, is, on the face of it, ludicrous. It means that an emerging developing country, with real problems of hard currency abroad, must use its depleted reserves to pay out expatriates for land, which is the vital reason for economic independence, rather than use the money for the development needs of the country.

On occasion I advance some difficult propositions to my electorate. I am not unusued to advancing propositions that I know are unpopular. However, I doubt whether I would want to be an African politician in the independent Zimbabwe who had to say to his electorate "No, we cannot do this, partly because we had to agree to a constitution which said that we must compensate landowners. We cannot change it for 10 years. We do not have the money with which to pay compensation. If we use up our money we cannot provide the people with the nursery schools and health clinics that we want to provide. You must decide."

That was not the situation in Kenya. The Conservative Government of the time had a wiser insight into the significance of the land problem. They made funds available to pay the whites, so that if they wanted to leave their land it would revert to Kenya and be split up among the blacks. However, in these negotiations the British Government said that they would not do that.

One of the key features of the beginning of the Kissinger initiative in South Africa was that the United Kingdom and American Governments would provide a sum of £1½ billion for the development of Rhodesia after independence. Inevitably that sum was to be used to buy land from the whites. That was the main initiative. The proposition cannot, therefore, be so remote from reality. It was put forward by Kissinger and was repeated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) in the Anglo-American agree- ments. Therefore, it was part of the dialogue. That fact has not been sufficiently put into perspective by the British Government in their announcement to the British public for us to be sure that it can be relied upon by whoever wins the election after independence. If the Government intend that the announcement should be relied on, the money must come from outside the Government.

I accept that the Government would not provide £1½ billion in the near future with which to buy out the whites in Rhodesia. I would not support them if they did. However, they should make a sizeable contribution. Given the approach that was made earlier, I believe that the United States Government would be prepared to pay a considerable slice of that money to ensure that the resources came from outside.

Therefore, I am raising this issue at this stage not necessarily to ask the Government to go back on what has been agreed on the constution—although I have my reservations about it—but to ensure that they say publicly from the Dispatch Box what they intend should happen about compensation from outside resources for the land. It is inconceivable that any African Government, of whatever complexion, could honour the constitution and yet honour their commitments for economic independence for their people. That clash would mean an early breach of the constitution if the British Government are not prepared to play their part in financing the operation.

9.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant and Waterloo

The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) has raised the very important question of expropriation of land.

The constitutional provisions in the document are important and carefully considered, and they provide that there should not be expropriation without appropriate compensation—although, as I have implied earlier, when a Government can plead the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health and, finally, town and country planning, as a basis for any measures which they seek in pursuing the objective of changing the ownership of land on a drastic scale, I should not have thought that anyone of the political calibre of those likely to be in office in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia in several months' time would find very much difficulty in finding an excuse.

However, there is a rather more fundamental principle involved here. The hon. Member for York has implied—it is an important argument—that the Africans have fought for their land. Of course, he injects all the emotive arguments that are deep in the Socialist philosophy behind the ownership of land and behind the ownership of land which might in some circumstances have been expropriated from those who once owned it. But the land that was in Rhodesia at the beginning of this century—the land which was developed by the European settlers—was for the most part totally undeveloped bush with no one on it. It produced absolutely nothing.

We must not forget that, because the implication is that productive farms were seized from Africans who were creating wealth from them. The truth is exactly the opposite. It is exactly the opposite even to what the hon. Member for York has asserted recently, with the implication that the only people who are concerned with the defence of their property rights are the Africans.

I should like to read something that was published a matter of weeks ago about a town called Karoi in Rhodesia: There are about 460 white men, women and children in the village and 360 farms in the Karori area with another 65 or so in the neighbouring Tengwe block. Nearly every farm (and some small mines still left working) is a frontier fortress.Labour compounds have been burnt out, sheds and tobacco barns destroyed, homesteads attacked and sometimes gutted.One border homestead recently was hit by at least 600 bullets. Rockets 'took out' another. A store was attacked three times. But the homesteads are being rebuilt and the farmers are carrying on, despite ambushes, land-mines and almost weekly incidents.Some like one Scots-born farmer, his wife and two children, have been 'taken out' twice.But they simply moved into the village temporarily and are rebuilding their homestead with the help of neighbours and friends.The farmer told us last week: 'We are not leaving, that's for sure', and then went back to his police reserve duties in the control room at Karoi police headquarters, The simple question I put to the Committee is this: why on earth should people such as that suffer expropriation without compensation? What possible justification for it can there be? If any productive wealth is being created on the farms of Rhodesia—and we know that Zambia is dependent on Rhodesian maize—the productive farms are those essentially controlled by people such as those in Karoi, and I see no reason why they should give them up.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant and Waterloo

No, I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. He has spoken a great deal.

I see no reason why they should give them up. I certainly see no reason why they should be expropriated without compensation.

It is disgraceful that we should be advocating expropriation without compensation.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

I think that I am entitled to speak again, so I shall answer the question that the hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd) would not allow me to answer in an intervention.

The fact is that 60 per cent. of European farms are so unproductive that they fail to provide any income tax returns. Their production is too low to qualify for taxation. Seven per cent. of European farms account for 50 per cent. of European land. The great bulk of European farms are unproductive. The land could be better used if it were divided among the blacks. The productive farms represent a very small number of very large land owners. The hon. Gentleman's emotive description of the man defending his shack is just as capable of being repeated in terms of the blacks who have suffered in this day. I hope that the Government will not be too unduly worried about the attack that has been made by the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) has focused attention on amendment No. 22 relating to the important question of land. I hope that I understood him aright when he said that it would not be right for the Government—certainly I take this view—to reopen questions on the constitution which have been agreed at Lancaster House. I think that is what the hon. Gentleman said and that is certainly my view and that of the Government. After six weeks of painstaking work at Lancaster House, with agreement on a constitution which required compromise on all sides, it would be absolutely wrong to reopen constitutional issues. I acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman has touched on an issue of supreme importance to black and white Africans or the people of the African continent—having served in Africa, I realise this is an important issue—but it would not make sense for us to revive it because all the parties have agreed.

There is one aspect regarding land on which I might help the hon. Gentleman and the Committee. As he said, the independence constitution will make it possible to acquire under-utilised land compulsorily provided that adequate compensation is paid. We have made it clear that we recognise that the future Government of Zimbabwe, whatever their political complexion, will wish to extend land ownership. We recognise the importance of this issue and will be prepared to help within the limits imposed by our financial resources. For instance, we would be ready to provide technical assistance for settlement schemes and capital aid for agricultural development projects and infrastructure. If an agricultural development bank or some equivalent institution were set up to promote agricultural development, including land settlement schemes, we would be prepared to contribute to the initial capital.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

The hon. Gentleman knows that that does not go far enough. Is he prepared, either through this Government's resources or an international fund, to finance a scheme such as obtained in Kenya after independence? If not, why not?

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

We are talking about a completely different situation. The Rhodesian problem is quite different from that of Kenya. I am setting the background outside the agreement to the constitution to the kind of assistance that Britain and the United States and, we hope, other Western Governments will be prepared to give towards land resettlement and helping black and white people in Rhodesia to improve agricultural productivity.

I thought it right, as the hon. Gentleman raised the important issue of land, to set the scene and the background. It Britain can set the lead, the United States and, we hope, other Governments will follow. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that it is totally inappropriate to reopen issues which have already been agreed. However, I hope that what I have said about the assistance that we are prepared to give will be of some help.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

The Minister has not told us how much the Government are prepared to pay; therefore I will not persist. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Renfrewshire West

I beg to move amendment No. 36, in page 2, line 9, leave out 'with or without modifications'.

The main effect of the amendment is to ensure that any bringing in of the provisions of the constitution would be done without modifications. This is in the nature of a probing amendment. Subsection (1) gives the power to bring in particular provisions even before the appointed day, and that is then heavily qualified by subsection (2) which relates to modifications ceasing to have effect. That seems to me to be an insufficient safeguard precisely because subsection (1) emphasises that the reason that the Government want to bring in provisions in advance of the appointed day is, above all, to enable elections to be held.

The difficulty is in allowing provisions—we now have a summary of them—which have been accepted and agreed by definition to be brought in unchallenged with modifications during the preliminary period leading up to an election.

It is of interest to notice some of the matters which are covered, such as freedom of assembly and association. It seems to me highly dangerous that parts of this can be brought in or modifications made in an agreed constitution on subjects such as those. On the matter of freedom of movement, there is the authorisation of a court to impose restrictions on any person's movements if he is not a citizen or permanently resident in Zimbabwe, and so on. Where amendments existed, they could have a serious implication for the fair and just operation of the election.

Page 22 of the summary of the provisions refers to the registration of voters in elections and points out that the conduct of the elections will be under the supervision and direction of an electoral supervisory commission. The modifications could be of crucial importance exactly when it matters, and that is in the transitional period preparatory to the election. Finally, there is the section on the judiciary.

By definition, we shall have an agreed constitution. It is perfectly appropriate that parts of it should be brought in to facilitate the transitional period and help in the election, but it is very dangerous to do this by means of modifications which we alone will be passing here by Order in Council and which are not subject to agreement.

I should be grateful to have the Minister's comments on these points.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Chesham and Amersham

I hope that I can set at rest the hon. Gentleman's fears. The modifications that we seek here are purely in accordance with the agreement that we hope to reach on the interim arrangements. For example, the independence constitution refers to the President, who will be the Head of the new State, whereas under the interim arrangements the Governor will be in charge.

Similarly, with regard to elections, we do not propose to have the registration of voters at this election because of the time factor. Only such matters will be modified. There is nothing radical or grandiose in mind, such as the hon. Gentleman appears to fear. He will also have noticed that any order made under the clause is subject to an affirmative resolution. If it does not meet with the wishes of the House, it will be cancelled.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Renfrewshire West

The Minister has been helpful so far. I understand that it must be agreed in this House. But it does not provide for any shift agreed afterwards by the parties at Lancaster House. This is what worries me. The Lord Privy Seal has now said, I understand, that the sense of any modifications, rather than being incorporated into the constitution, will be the subject of discussion during the process of agreement and that it will therefore in one sense be part of the interim—

It being ten o'clock THE CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress.


That the Southern Rhodesia Bill may be proceeded with at this day's sitting, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Waddington.]