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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I have it in Command from the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place Her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
The House has had ample occasion to discuss Rhodesia in recent weeks. I made a further statement yesterday. I do not intend in this debate to go over again the events leading up to the constitutional conference at Lancaster House.
I shall, however, summarise briefly the points agreed at the conference and the various steps taken—or shortly to be taken—to implement them. This will enable the House to consider the Bill, which will be the final legislative step in the implementation of a settlement, against the background of all other legislation dealing with Rhodesia.
In mid-October the conference agreed the summary of the independence constitution, which provides for genuine majority rule while giving effective safeguards to the minority community. This was subsequently laid before the House as a Command Paper, No. 7758. The full text of the constitution has since been prepared, taking the summary as drafting instructions. An Order in Council providing for the constitution was made on 6 December and laid before the House the following day. Copies have been made available to hon. Members through the Vote Office.
The conference subsequently discussed arrangements for implementing the independence constitution. It was agreed that there should be elections supervised under the British Government's authority and that a British Governor should administer Southern Rhodesia during the period leading up to independence. The Southern Rhodesia Act 1979 gave the Government powers to appoint a Governor and bring parts of the independence constitution into effect before independence to allow elections to be held. The Southern Rhodesia Constitution (Interim Provisions) Order 1979, made under that Act on 4 December, created the office of Governor and established his powers. A further order under the Southern Rhodesia Act to provide for the holding of elections will be laid before Her Majesty in Council this evening and the House will have an opportunity to debate this at a later stage.
The conference then moved on to discuss a ceasefire. Both sides agreed to the Government's proposals for a ceasefire on 5 December, leaving only certain details of the implementation to be settled. The discusisons on this are still going on. The Government have tabled the fuller proposals which I mentioned to the House yesterday. We believe that they meet all the Patriotic Front's main concerns. As soon as the remaining points are resolved—and I hope it will be very soon—a formal ceasefire agreement will be signed, and the ceasefire will come into effect in a matter of days.
I informed the House yesterday of the Government's decision, against the background of agreement on all the major issues at the conference and the danger of losing the momentum towards a settlement, to send the Governor to Salisbury. With the Governor's arrival today, legality has been restored and remaining sanctions will be lifted. An order to revoke orders made under the United Nations Act will be laid before Her Majesty in Council this evening, and further necessary action will be taken by the Treasury and the Department of Trade in respect of exchange control and the import and export orders.
I apologise for inflicting on the House this rather lengthy catalogue of measures, but I hope it will have proved helpful. It is important that the complex process of restoring legality, unwinding the measures taken in response to UDI and bringing into effect the agreements reached at the constitutional conference should be clear.
The Zimbabwe Bill now before the House is the last major legislative step in this process. I regret that it has been necessary to compress the parliamentary timetable for its consideration and am grateful to right hon. Gentlemen opposite for their understanding in this matter. But passage of the Bill is, for the parties to the conference, a crucial test of the Government's good faith. We have been able to persuade them—both sides—to make concessions, in many cases very difficult concessions, by assuring them that the end result will be independence. We have come a long way and we must take the appropriate steps to implement our part of the bargain, as we shall expect others to implement their part. It would be undesirable in the Government's view to leave the issue in doubt during the interim period. It is also important that the arrangements to be made on independence should be known well in advance to those, particularly individuals, likely to be affected by them.
I turn now to the principal particular provisions of the Bill. Clause 1 of the Bill provides for the establishment of the independent Republic of Zimbabwe—this being the name agreed between all the parties at the constitutional conference. It follows that on independence the Parliament and Government of the United Kingdom will no longer have responsibility for Southern Rhodesia, and the clause so provides. The remaining provisions of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965, which deal with Britain's jurisdiction over Rhodesia, will cease to have effect.
The date of Rhodesia's independence will be fixed by Order in Council, which will be laid before Parliament after being made. It is not feasible to set a precise date now as would be normal in an independence Bill. We shall look to the Governor to make a recommendation in due course after consulting the parties. But, as the House will be aware, it was agreed at the conference that independence would follow elections, and the Governor's main task will be to make arrangements for these. Once elections have been held, the Governor will take the steps necessary under the constitution to appoint a Prime Minister and set in train the arrangements for the election of a President. Independence will follow.
As we do not know exactly when the elections will take place—we assume that they will be held some time early in the new year—would the right hon. Gentleman say that the Bill was being brought forward today for reasons of parliamentary time and not for any other reason?
No. The Bill is being debated now not just for that reason but for reasons that I have been trying to set out. It is important that everyone in Rhodesia should know that we are fulfilling our part of the bargain and that the individuals concerned should know how they stand. It is right that the departure—or the arrival now—of the Governor and the consideration of the Bill should take place more or less in conjunction.
I should like to make a general point concerning Rhodesia's position vis-a-vis the Commonwealth, which affects clauses 2 and 5 of the Bill and most of schedules 1 and 2.
I think that I shall carry on for a bit.
The normal procedure in a dependent territory approaching independence is for the elected Government to be consulted on whether it wishes to seek Commonwealth membership. If it does, Her Majesty's Government inform the Commonwealth Secretariat, which in turn seeks the views of Commonwealth members. In the particular circumstances of Rhodesia, there will be no satisfactory means of establishing the wishes of the people of the territory on this point before independence. The decision is not one which it would be right for the British Government to take by proxy. I think it must be for the Government and Parliament of independent Zimbabwe to reach a decision. I am glad that hon. Gentlemen agree with me. As the House knows, there will of course be Commonwealth observers present during the elections.
The issue of Commonwealth membership must therefore be left for resolution after independence, and the Bill envisages that Rhodesia will attain independence outside the Commonwealth. I should add, however, that if the future Government of Zimbabwe, chosen in elections held under our authority, applied to join the Commonwealth, I have no doubt that the British Government would give the application their full support.
The right hon. Gentleman knows more about this matter than I. If he thinks that, I should be glad to accept his opinion. I think that he is correct. However, I shall confirm that. It would be an agreeable precedent to set. I am not quite certain about it, but I shall make some inquiries and give a definitive answer to the right hon. Gentleman later in the debate.
Did not the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) describe the situation correctly? There is absolutely nothing wrong with this procedure. Indeed, it is in every way to be welcomed.
I think that that is correct. However, I shall confirm that later.
The Government have thought it right to make a number of transitional provisions in the independence Bill to minimise the consequences for individuals flowing from the fact that Rhodesians will cease to be Commonwealth citizens, or British subjects—the expressions are interchangeable—on independence. I shall deal with these more fully in due course.
Clause 2 of the Bill deals with nationality and citizenship. The subject is complex and I ask the House to bear with me while I try to deal with it.
Exceptionally for a dependent territory, Rhodesia has had its own citizenship since 1949 and is listed in section 1(3) of the British Nationality Act 1948 as a country whose citizens are Commonwealth citizens. For the reasons which I explained earlier, Rhodesian citizens will cease to be Commonwealth citizens on independence—though this may revert to being so later. An amendment is thus needed to the British Nationality Act, and clause 2 deals with this.
The Government are concerned to minimise any disruption to the lives of individuals. Provision is therefore made in schedules 1 and 2 to the Bill to continue in force certain nationality and immigration provisions affecting Rhodesian citizens. Those Rhodesians ordinarily resident in this country who would be entitled, as Commonwealth citizens, to registration as citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies under sections 5A(1) or 6(1), as modified, of the British Nationality Act 1948, by reason of their residence here, will be able to apply for registration as though they were still Commonwealth citizens for a transitional period of one year from the date of independence.
Schedule 1 to the Bill also continues for one year after independence section 12(6) of the British Nationality Act 1948, as amended by section 3(1) of the British Nationality Act 1958. I apologise to the House for these very complicated measures, but it will be appreciated that nationality law is something of a palimpsest or labyrinth of successive Acts. It is not easy to wend one's way through the matter or to decipher it, whichever method is used.
Under this provision, which is discretionary, a citizen of Rhodesia will be qualified to apply for citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies for himself, and any of his minor children, if he was a British subject before 1 January 1949, is descended in the male line from a person born or naturalised in the United Kingdom and colonies, has close connections with this country and intends to settle here. I emphasise that in both cases these are a continuation of existing provisions, which the Government believe will help individuals whose position might otherwise be affected by the abrupt loss of Commonwealth status.
To leave the House in no doubt, I should like to make two points quite clear. First, there are a substantial number of Rhodesians who are citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies, not because of their connection with Rhodesia but because they or their fathers were born in this country. Their position will not be affected in any way on independence. They will retain their citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies. Because the independence constitution agreed at the constitutional conference permits dual citizenship in Rhodesia's law, there is no question of their having to make a choice.
Secondly, the independence Bill does not create any new citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies. Nor will it lead—and I wish to emphasise this point—to any new immigration commitment, apart from the people whom I mentioned.
Is there not a provision to retain the power of a Commonwealth citizen who is not a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies but who is patrial under section 2 of the Act? Does not that mean that 50,000 white Rhodesians will retain the right to come to this country after independence, although the effect of the original drafting of the Bill was to withdraw that right?
That depends entirely on whether they have patriality. They are in the same position as people from Britain who settle in other parts of the world. The Bill does not affect their position.
Clause 3 of the Bill provides for an amnesty in the law of the United Kingdom for certain acts.
Throughout the constitutional conference the Government have urged the need for reconciliation and a fresh start. Only if all parties in Rhodesia succeed in putting the past behind them will a new sense of national unity be created and all Rhodesians be able to work together for the construction of a peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe.
There will be no less a need for reconciliation in our own relations with Rhodesia. We must get to know each other again. Contacts which have been broken for 14 years must be re-established. I do not underestimate the difficulties. But with agreement at last on the issues which have divided our countries there will be no place for recrimination or retribution. We must wipe the slate clean.
Am I right in thinking that clause 3, unlike some clauses, comes into force immediately Royal Assent is given—that is, perhaps within hours and certainly within a day or two? If so, is there a possibility that the Patriotic Front will get its amnesty long before it has agreed, or at least finally agreed, to a ceasefire?
That is true. But my hon. and learned Friend will appreciate that we are talking about an amnesty in this country under English, not Rhodesian, law. That was dealt with in the Bill passed by the House last month. Under that legislation, an order will have to be made by the Governor.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in hoping that there will be no recrimination. Does he agree that the comparatively successful situation that we have now reached is partly due to the action of past Governments in imposing and maintaining sanctions up till now?
I think that I must press on. I do not want to depress the House, but I still have a long way to go.
This need has been recognised in earlier proposals for a settlement in Rhodesia, including the Anglo-American proposals prepared by our predecessors. I am confident, therefore, that the House as a whole will accept, with the return to legality, the need to draw a line under the past and to wipe out the bitter memories of those years.
The Bill therefore provides for an amnesty in the law of the United Kingdom for acts arising out of the political situation in Rhodesia since UDI. The details of the acts covered by the amnesty, both those committed in furtherance of UDI and those committed in resistance to it, are set out in subsection (2) of clause 3.
The practical effects of this amnesty will be to prevent the prosecution in the United Kingdom of those who may be held to have committed such acts before the date of the Governor's arrival and similarly to prevent the bringing of proceedings in tort in respect of such acts. Any civil or criminal proceedings which are pending on that date will cease, and any civil judgment already given in such proceedings will cease to be enforceable.
The amnesty proposed in the Bill applies only in the law of the United Kingdom. Any amnesty promulgated by the Governor comes under another Act My right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary has undertaken to inform Parliament before any such amnesty is granted, and a statement will be made in due course.
The remaining clauses of the Bill are of a more technical nature. Clause 4 enables provision to be made by Order in Council to deal with the consequences of Rhodesia becoming independent and not being part of Her Majesty's dominions or a member of the Commonwealth. We are confident that most of the changes which are needed are already covered by schedules 2 and 3 to the Bill, but there may be points which have been overlooked and which will need to be remedied later.
The clause also enables Orders in Council to be made for regulating claims against assets of the Government of Zimbabwe in the United Kingdom. The failure of the Rhodesian authorities to make payments for interest on and the redemption of Rhodesian stock over the past 14 years makes it necessary to take power, in the interests of equitable satisfaction of creditors, to deal with the situation when payments from Salisbury are resumed. Orders under this clause can be made retrospective to independence day, laid in draft, and are subject to affirmative resolution. I should add that the Government have left the parties to the conference in no doubt that an acknowledgment of pre-UDI debts and liabilities is an essential aspect of a settlement.
Clause 5 deals with the situation which would arise if Zimbabwe were to become a member of the Commonwealth after independence. The process of adapting the laws of the United Kingdom for which this Bill provides would then have to be reversed. The Government would be empowered to make the necessary changes by Order in Council which would be laid in draft and be subject to affirmative resolution. The House may think it odd to provide for the effects of Rhodesia not being a member of the Commonwealth on independence in clause 2 and then to provide for the possibility of its rejoining in clause 5. But, as I have already explained, this is a necessary provision because it must be for the future independent Government of the country to decide whether they want to join.
Clause 6 provides for detailed amendments to other existing United Kingdom laws, in some cases only for a transitional period, which are necessitated by the main provisions of the Bill. For the most part, these are set out in schedules 2 and 3.
Schedule 2 deals more extensively with the consequences of Zimbabwe ceasing to be a part of Her Majesty's dominions and not becoming a member of the Commonwealth. The provisions of a number of Acts which require that the holders of certain offices—for instance, civil servants—be British subjects will not apply to citizens of Zimbabwe for a period of one year after independence. These people will also be allowed to remain members of local authorities until their term of office expires. They will remain eligible to vote at national and local government elections during the validity of any register on which they have been included while they were British subjects and be exempt from the liability to deportation in certain cases for a period of one year, plus any additional period during which their application for citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies is being processed.
The transitional period of 12 months from the date of independence during which these savings, as well as those affecting citizenship, will have effect gives reasonable time for the Government of Zimbabwe to reach a decision on Commonwealth membership and for an application to be dealt with by the Commonwealth, as well as for individuals to make any necessary adjustments to their private affairs.
Schedule 2 also continues in force provisions for the registration of colonial probates and for maintenance orders and those relating to a dominions register of companies. Southern Rhodesians presently registered on a Commonwealth list under the Dentists Act and the Veterinary Surgeons Act will continue to be so registered.
Schedule 3 provides for repeal of a number of measures relating to Southern Rhodesia which will no longer apply after independence and for the deletion from various measures of certain references to Southern Rhodesia and to matters and persons connected with Southern Rhodesia.
The independence constitution which provides for genuine majority rule has been enacted. Rhodesia has now returned to legal status. It is agreed that elections should be held under the provisions of the new constitution and under our supervision. The basic causes of the conflict in Rhodesia have been removed. With the basic political issues solved, there is no reason for delay.
With the passage of this Bill, the way ahead to independence will be clearly mapped out. The Government have no illusions about the difficulties which lie along the road. The Governor's task is formidable. It is to organise fair elections while supervising a ceasefire. He must ensure impartial administration in a country which has for so long been at war, He must try to create a basis for reconciliation so that independence is not a signal for fresh divisions in the country. His powers and his ability to achieve these aims will rest crucially on the consent and co-operation of the parties and of the people of Rhodesia.
Regarding the difficulties that the Governor undoubtedly faces, now that he has arrived, is it not a fact that any armed incursion across Rhodesia's borders by the men of the Patriotic Front will constitute not only an illegal act but a direct threat to Her Majesty's Government? Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the Governor has the power and will be able to deal with it as such?
It is true that the Patriotic Front has always contended—rightly, before—that it has been fighting an illegal Government. Any armed force now would be against a legal authority, but I am confident that a final agreement on a ceasefire will shortly be reached, and therefore I trust that my hon. Friend's question will become academic within a matter of days.
It is important to make clear that the sending of the Governor and the passage of the independence Bill are clearly associated actions. They are part and parcel of an irreversible process towards independence. We have undertaken to discharge our responsibility to bring Rhodesia to legal independence. We have restored legality today. In the next weeks we shall, I am sure, be able to bring Rhodesia to legal independence in conditions which will enjoy wide international support. There can be no question of Britain's taking on an open-ended responsibility. The Governor will be there for only a matter of weeks.
I hope that the Opposition will not complain that we are going about things in the wrong manner. I recall that they had some criticisms of our previous Bill, and I hope that they will now agree that as things turned out we were right on that occasion.
Furthermore, the risks—and I accept that there are risks—must be presented in the context of the alternatives. The Government do not believe that a settlement which will allow Rhodesia to take its rightful place in the international community can be achieved without a British involvement to supervise elections. Had the uncertainty of the past few months been allowed to drag on indefinitely, with continuing infiltration over the border and increasing retaliation against Rhodesia's neighbours, all prospect of a settlement would have been lost. That was the real risk—that all that had been agreed at the conference would slip again from our grasp. There will not be another opportunity if we let this one slip. For 14 years, successive Governments have used their best efforts in trying to solve the problem of Rhodesia. We now have within our grasp a settlement which genuinely meets the requirements of majority rule, which will enable the people of Zimbabwe themselves to decide their future in free elections, and which merits the support of the international community. We hope that the final details of the implementation of a ceasefire will be agreed very shortly and allow us to put the final seal on a settlement. I hope that hon. Members will bear this in mind and consider very carefully the effects of their remarks on these final negotiations.
During the difficult period ahead, the prospect of legal independence and international acceptance at the end of the day will be the most powerful incentive to all concerned to observe the agreements reached at the constitutional conference, to abide by the Governor's decisions and to accept the results of the elections when they are held. This Bill will be the prize.
In this debate we should look forward, not back. Rhodesia has today returned to legality. Independence will follow within a relatively short time. By passing the Bill, the House will be expressing the British people's desire for reconciliation with—and within—Rhodesia and will be fulfilling its obligation to both parties to the conference who have negotiated with us in good faith an agreed constitution in respect of that independence. Many hon. Members on both sides have shared that aim. Whatever the outcome of the elections which will be held in Rhodesia, I am confident that there will be a general desire in the House and in the country to work with the Government of the new independent Zimbabwe.
I hope, therefore, that this Bill will receive the support of all sides of the House.
This is a Bill which, to quote from the opening sentence of the Bill, is designed to
Make provision for, and in connection with, the attainment by Zimbabwe of fully responsible status as a Republic".
Since 1947, when independence was granted to the Indian sub-continent and Britain voluntarily surrendered that jewel in the crown, numerous Bills conferring independence upon subject terrorities have been presented and discussed in the House of Commons, but none has been preceded by such difficult, dangerous and protracted events as have occurred in the past 14 years in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.
The special history of Rhodesia is manifest in two major particulars of the Bill. The Bill contains no settled or predetermined date for the actual granting of independence. This reflects the simple fact that between the enactment of this measure and the granting of independence there still lies a period of unknown difficulty and hazard of uncertain length. I shall have something further to say at a later stage in our proceedings about that as it affects parliamentary procedures that apply before the making of an Order in Council to appoint an independence day.
Secondly, the Bill contains a series of provisions which have no precedent in other previous independence measures. I refer to the termination of sanctions in clause 1, the amnesty provisions in clause 3, and the regulation of claims against Rhodesia's assets frozen by the United Kingdom Government, which appears in clause 4. All these provisions reflect the troubled history of Rhodesia from 1965 to 1979, the period of UDI and of rebellion against the United Kingdom which the Salisbury Parliament formally resolved to end only last night.
We shall, of course, have something to to say and amendments to move on the various provisions of the Bill, but I can say now, in response to the Lord Privy Seal's implicit plea, that the Bill and the granting of independence in it constitute an occasion which we welcome, to which we have looked forward for many years, and which successive Governments since 1964 have worked hard to achieve. If, as we devoutly hope, all goes well between today's proceedings and the post-election independence day, there will be delight and relief on both sides of the House and in the country, too.
We have had some disagreements with the Government on the handling and timing of events in the period since the Lusaka conference. But the area of agreement between us and through the greater part of the House has been very wide. In July we stated our basic position. We wanted and pressed then for a new initiative at Lusaka designed to secure a new constitution, political agreement between the contending parties, support from the international community for a resulting settlement, a ceasefire and a new election.
Since Lusaka these have clearly been the Government's objectives, too. In the 14 weeks of difficult negotiations at Lancaster House they have come within an ace of agreement. As I am sure the Government will acknowledge, many have contributed to what has already been achieved. The Commonwealth Secretariat and the front-line Presidents have given continued assistance, and there has been a remarkable willingness—and I say this because I am fully aware of the bitterness of the civil war—to compromise by the leaders of the parties to the conflict. I include the substantial concessions made by Bishop Muzorewa and his delegation, as well as those made by Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe. Now we rely upon them to make the final effort to agree the ceasefire and to seal the whole settlement. Let this be done soon.
The Governor, Lord Soames, now in Salisbury, has a task of formidable difficulty in any event without the extra hazard that will inevitably exist before the ceasefire is announced. We wish him success, not just for his own sake but for the sake of Zimbabwe and of this country.
This is an occasion not only for scrutiny and analysis of the Bill, which was presented to us with such commendable clarity by the Lord Privy Seal, but for some reflection on the whole chapter of Rhodesian history which this Bill is about to bring to an end.
Reflecting on the past 15 years, it is natural that we should ask ourselves why it has proved to be so difficult to achieve acceptable independence for the territory of Rhodesia. I can think of two obvious reasons. First, unlike other British colonial territories, with the partial exception of Kenya, Rhodesia, in the period of decolonisation, had already attracted substantial British settlement. Whereas independence in most other colonial territories had direct implications only for those British subjects who manned the State apparatus—the judiciary, the civil authority, the armed forces and the police—and who, for the most part, expected to return to this country at the end of their working lives, in Rhodesia farming, commerce and a small but rapidly developing manufacturing sector were in the hands of settlers whose permanent home was Rhodesia, where they had sunk their roots.
The second reason, surely, goes back to 1923, when, unlike other British colonies, Rhodesia was granted virtual autonomy, a position very close to that of the old dominions, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. It is important sometimes that other countries and critics of Britain should understand that British authority did not run in Rhodesia after 1923 in anything like the same way as it did in other British colonial and Imperial territories.
When, therefore, the winds of change began to sweep through Africa in the late 1950s and the early 1960s, those who held power in Salisbury had a substantial interest, a substantial European minority community and an effectively independent State apparatus with which to withstand, at least temporarily, the momentum and the forces for change. It is this that encouraged and enabled Mr. Ian Smith to defy the United Kingdom Government and to declare UDI in 1965.
Looking back over the years that have followed, one is struck by the tragedy of it all. Successive British Governments tried to reach an accommodation with the Salisbury regime that would have allowed it a more gradual transition to political equality than, in the event, this year it has been forced to concede. For nearly 14 years, certainly for the first 12, all proposals were rejected. Those who held authority in Salisbury were driven to reject the political heritage of their own nation, to renounce and deny that commitment to universal suffrage that has been the leading achievement of British political democracy for the past 100 years.
It is difficult, so close to these events, to see them in perspective. It is particularly difficult, given the savagery and the butchery of the civil war, to judge the role of the Patriotic Front. But it is fair and right to point out that, for the first seven years of Mr. Smith's regime, armed resistance was negligible. It was only his continued intransigence, the failure to offer even the glimmer of light that political progress might be made, and the endless insistence that black majority rule could not be contemplated, first for a century, then in the course of his lifetime, that hardened the will of his opponents. It was, of course, the collapse of the Portuguese empire in 1974, above all in neighbouring Mozambique, that opened up to his African opponents the possiblity of sustained guerrilla warfare.
There are lessons to be learnt from these events. In our time, European minorities cannot impose their will on black majorities. That is a lesson that has implications for the whole of Southern Africa. It is, indeed, one of the ironies of politics in Southern Africa that the European minorities are faced by opponents whose leaders derive so much support from the strong political ideas that Europeans themselves have exported to the rest of the world.
National independence, political equality and universal suffrage—these are the major political doctrines of democracy in the West. The irony is that it is the Europeans in Southern Africa who feel impelled to reject them while the African majority strive, however imperfectly, to achieve them.
I turn now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, directly, but briefly, to the clauses in the Bill—
The right hon. Gentleman did not quite say, but gave the impression, that he was approving a view widely held that it was the Patriotic Front that had created the conditions under which we are now moving to independence. Would he concede that it was the very radical, in some ways pro-Soviet, views of the Patriotic Front that drove men such as Bishop Muzorewa and Mr. Sit hole to make terms with the whites in an attempt to preserve Western democratic values to which they were attached?
I certainly would not award the laurels to any particular African grouping in Rhodesia at the present time. My real point was a different one. In their different ways, Bishop Muzorewa and his ANC and the Patriotic Front have contributed to the change inside Rhodesia that has defeated what was clearly white minority rule and has brought about the change that, in the end, will establish effective black majority rule in that country.
While my right hon. Friend is rightly voicing general reflections, will he also agree that the story of the last six months is a real success for the Commonwealth? The Lusaka conference was the decisive turning point, and a number of other Commonwealth countries have given considerable help.
I did refer to the role of the Commonwealth Secretariat. But my right hon. Friend is right that the collective role of the Commonwealth at Lusaka was absolutely essential. It was a kind of launching pad for the success of the whole enterprise.
I want to turn briefly to the clauses in the Bill. Clause 1 is the heart of the Bill since it gives power to confer independence on the new republic of Zimbabwe. Of course, that power could have been exercised at any time in recent years. But independence has been rightly withheld because successive British Governments have insisted that certainprinciples—the six principles—should be met before independence was granted. Now that the new constitution has been agreed—a constitution that genuinely transfers power to the majority of the people—white minority rule has been brought to an end. But there remains, as we know, a crucial requirement that has to be met. Free and fair elections have still to be held to legitimise the new Government of Zimbabwe.
In all our minds, the question today is whether the conditions for holding free and fair elections can be secured. In recent days, we have concentrated heavily, and properly, on the need for an effective ceasefire. People must not be coerced into voting. Until and unless armed men are brought into their camps and bases and their movements are then effectively monitored, it will be virtually impossible to have free and fair elections. But that is only one condition that has to be met. No less important will be the arrangements made to give equality of treatment or access to the rival contenders for political power. It is extremely important that the media, and most important the radio, should be impartially controlled and made equally available to the political groupings from now until polling day. I hope that we do not merely export our ghastly practice of party political sharing of time. I mean a genuine sharing of control. I am sure that the BBC would be of considerable assistance to the radio authorities in Salisbury.
It is crucially important, too, that the arrangements for voting should be administered by impartial and competent authorities. I know that this is the intention. There should be no doubt in the minds of the still inexperienced voters of Rhodesia that the ballot is indeed secret, not only at the time the vote is cast but afterwards.
The Governor will have many important matters to decide and agree to in respect of the elections, but none of us can say at this stage that the conditions for free and fair elections will, in the event, be achieved. We devoutly hope so, but we cannot just assume it. That is why we do not think that it is good enough for the Government in clause 1 to have the power irrespective of events that take place between now and polling day—which will obviously be difficult and important—and without any provision to report to the House, simply to declare independence through the procedures embodied in subsection (3). After all these years, and with such a crucial period lying immediately ahead, the House cannot from tonight wash its hands of Rhodesian affairs.
Clause 2 was explained so lucidly by the Lord Privy Seal that I shall not comment on it but will leave that to my hon. Friends. I believe that the Government are right to enact, particularly in clause 3, a wide-ranging amnesty in respect of events inside Rhodesia since UDI. I stress "inside Rhodesia" because I do not believe that an amnesty should embrace those in the United Kingdom who have broken United Kingdom law, including that relating to sanctions.
If a new chapter is to be opened on polling day plus one, there must be reconciliation, and I do not believe that reconciliation would be possible if unlawful and criminal acts committed during the period of UDI were to be the subject of proceedings in United Kingdom courts.
I remember well the tonic effect of a broadly similar decision in India on the eve of the independence discussions in 1946 when those who had been lured and deceived into joining the Indian national army under Japanese control were brought to trial but were pardoned by the Viceroy. No one can measure the effects of that decision, but I believe that it was wholly helpful in creating a new and more hopeful climate in India at that time. I hope that the effect of the amnesty provided for in the Bill and the further amnesty to be granted by the Governor will be as helpful in Zimbabwe.
I have only one more comment on the clauses. I am glad that the Commonwealth option for Zimbabwe is maintained in clause 5. It is, of course, a matter for the new Zimbabwe Government to decide, but it may be that, like a number of their neighbour States, they will find it beneficial to join the Commonwealth association.
I conclude by saying that my hon. Friends and I hope that within the next three months we shall be able to support the conferring of independence upon Zimbabwe, that a properly elected Government will then be in power in Salisbury, that the peace established in the ceasefire will continue and grow stronger and that Rhodesia and her neighbouring States will be able to look forward to a period of sustained peace and increasing prosperity.
Like the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore), I welcome the Bill and I congratulate the Government on introducing it. At the time of UDI we would have found it almost inconceivable to imagine that on the Second Reading of a Bill to confer independence on a new Zimbabwe, we should have such a small attendance and that the Bill should be so uncontroversial. That is a measure of my right hon. Friend's success.
The Government are doing precisely what some of us have wished them to do and it would be churlish of me not to congratulate them. My hon. Friend the Member for New Forest (Mr. McNair-Wilson) and I wrote a letter to The Times on 28 July last year setting out a number of proposals that accord closely with what the Government have done in their peace-making at Lancaster House and have incorporated in the Bill. We recommended that Mr. Ian Smith should
be invited to end 'UDI' and to return to his former loyalty to his Sovereign.
We also recommended
That a High Commissioner be sent out to be the head of government in Rhodesia".
I do not quarrel with the description "Governor" rather than High Commissioner. We also suggested that the
Rhodesian armed forces should return to their former loyalties. I assume that from today the Salisbury forces have done just that. We hope that the Patriotic Front forces will do the same.
My hon. Friend and I said in our letter that
the economic sanctions would cease automatically because Rhodesia would no longer be in rebellion against the Crown.
That has happened since last night. We added:
That the timetable of the internal settlement would be maintained but the arrangements for the elections would come under the High Commissioner and…would be properly supervised.
Those are essential points in the Lancaster House agreement. We recommended:
That an amnesty be offered to all".
That is in line with clause 5 of the Bill. We said that
on the establishment of the new government after the general election the High Commissioner would return home immediately, his mission having been fulfilled.
I should like an assurance from my right hon. Friend that Lord Soames, whom we wish well, will return as soon as the elections are over, his mission having been fulfilled.
It is not often that two Opposition Back Benchers—as my hon. Friend and I were when we wrote our letter—can put forward proposals and find that they are implemented in precise detail by an incoming Government. I congratulate my right hon. Friends.
Our concluding remarks in the letter were:
The choice of High Commissioner would be vital. We would propose that he should be a very senior and experienced statesman rather than a soldier.
I congratulate the Government on their choice.
As an ordinary, humble Back Bencher, albeit at present on the Government side, I do not often find myself in such total accord with the Government of the day. I hope that that happy relationship will continue throughout this Parliament.
In ordinary circumstances, the Bill would be widely welcomed by both sides of the House, but in view of the absence of a ceasefire, at least at the moment, it is understandable that there remains the widest concern in the country and, I believe, in the House about Britain's role in Rhodesia.
Last Sunday's raids, which should not be overlooked in our debate, showed the attitude of the military and political authorities in Salisbury. Those raids against Zambia could have resulted in the Lancaster House talks being wrecked, and they were the height of irresponsibility.
With the exception of one or two Conservative Members, no one would deny that UDI was a senseless folly. The Rhodesian Front leadership is responsible for the civil war. I understand from the press that when Mr. Smith was here recently there were references to his being a wise leader. He was patted on the shoulder and called "Good old Smithy". But it was Smith and his cronies in the leadership of the Rhodesian Front who ensured the bloody civil war.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) rightly said that there was no bloodshed in the first six or seven years after UDI. It was when the blacks, despite all their tribal and political differences, recognised that Smith would never concede genuine majority rule that armed force started. The result has been, as it is in any civil war, bloodshed, massacres and actions that no one wishes to justify.
The Rhodesian Front leadership is also responsible for deceiving the European community in Rhodesia, which was led to believe that the tide of post-war history could be reversed.
But what was the attitude of the blacks in Rhodesia? Leaving aside South Africa, they could see, certainly where previous British colonies were concerned, that Africans were getting their independence. However, the Rhodesian Front said, in effect, "Not only are we determined to retain white supremacy; we will ensure that it is strengthened". Some hon. Members will remember the election that gave the Rhodesian Front victory in December 1962, three years before UDI. The responsibility for the civil war is clear in the minds of most.
I must say, though it may be somewhat controversial, that the responsibility for the continuation of UDI rests to a certain extent with Conservative Members. Following the declaration of UDI, a number of Conservative Members have given aid and comfort to the Rhodesian Front and to those who were in rebellion against the Crown. Some Tory Members voted against sanctions. They visited South Africa and Rhodesia and gave the impression that the majority of British people were behind UDI. Tory Members led certain politicians in Salisbury to believe that if a Tory Government were elected it would mean that UDI—in one form or another—would be recognised by the United Kingdom. They bear a heavy responsibility. They are, in some respects, also responsible for the continuation of the war and the bloodletting in Rhodesia.
That is the background to the debate. What now? The greatest danger for Britain is if Lord Soames is installed, as he is, and no ceasefire takes place. The impression has been given that a ceasefire will be agreed, probably by the end of this week. We all hope for that. We all hope that there will be a permanent ceasefire and that the bloodshed will come to an end. If, by some mischance, there is no ceasefire, and if, because of certain events that could possibly take place, agreement is not reached at Lancaster House, we will be holding the responsibility without the power. It is understandable that concern should be expressed at having a British Governor in Rhodesia who holds responsibility in so many ways and yet the fighting continues.
It is important to bear in mind that the military leaders in Rhodesia—those who were responsible for the raids last Sunday—have always backed UDI. They have never expressed the slightest wish to dissociate themselves from the happenings of November 1965. That is the current position in Salisbury.
If a ceasefire is agreed, as we all hope, there still remains much danger, and the greatest danger is if the ceasefire does not hold. Incidents could be staged which would result in the ceasefire being broken, and the British Governor and the British troops in Rhodesia could be involved in a mini-Vietnam. That danger was referred to in previous debate. If the ceasefire is broken and the British troops are in Rhodesia—with South African troops and police possibly being involved—we could find ourselves in the most difficult of all possible positions. Some hon. Members may say that that is not likely to occur, and that may be true.
No one wishes anything but a permanent end to the conflict in Rhodesia. Following UDI, we argued that there should be genuine majority rule and a return to legality. It is only right and proper that those who have such concern, and undoubtedly such concern exists within Britain, should express that concern today in the debate. The Rhodesian situation following UDI has been a sorry one. We had hoped that, at the end of the war, decolonisation would take place without too much difficulty. That was far from the position in Rhodesia.
I end my speech on a more optimistic note. I hope that there will be, by the end of the week, a ceasefire and that that ceasefire will hold. If British troops are sent to Rhodesia, I hope that, once the elections are completed, we will withdraw from the new independent country as quickly as possible.
If the new arrangements in Rhodesia are to succeed, it will be because they are informed by a spirit antithetical to that which animated the peevish speech of the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). I have great hope and confidence that they will be so informed.
At this stage of the proceedings I have little to say. The first thing that I want to say is that I regret the change of name. Apparently it has been agreed by all parties, and so it will take place. In considering Rhodesia, with its splendid towns, its industries, its commerce, its agriculture, which is the best in the whole of Africa, and the relations between its different communities, also the best in the whole of Africa, we are bound to reflect that it was only in 1890 that a party of British people planted the Union Jack on land that is now Cecil Square, Salisbury. All of what followed is owed to Cecil Rhodes and to his countrymen. It is a strange ingratitude that we join today in wiping off the map the name of one of the greatest, and certainly the most devoted, of our sons. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) would, of course, find that funny. That is why he and I disagree on so many matters.
I profoundly hope that all goes well in Rhodesia. A great deal of value has been attached to what has been called international acceptance of the arrangements, which may not be without its significance. But what really matters is whether the arrangements will work in Rhodesia. More attention, on all sides, should have been given to that issue.
I gravely doubt whether those who have been fighting against the present rule of Rhodesia—the Patriotic Front, Russia, East Germany and Cuba—are animated by a devotion to universal adult suffrage. I should like to think so, but I do not. I doubt greatly whether the Westminster system of universal adult suffrage will work anywhere in Africa in this generation. One day it may, but it is not working anywhere in Africa at present. The faith that has been demonstrated by so many in recent months, that Rhodesia will be the one shining exception, is a faith that slightly worries me.
Nevertheless, because of the unusually favourable conditions in Rhodesia—its maturity, the moderation of its communities and the excellent relations between those of different races which have persisted since 1923–my feeling is that the bargain and arrangement that have been made will work long enough for the people of Rhodesia to evolve their own, rather different, prescription for self-government.
This is not the time for long speeches. I bring my remarks to a conclusion by saying that in my opinion British Governments have been wrong all the way along. Rhodesia should have been given its independence on the break-up of the federation in 1964 on the 1961 constitution. Nkomo told me three or four years after UDI that he would have been happy to accept that as the basis of Rhodesian independence.
Rhodesia did what no other British territory ever did and what no British Government ever did: it evolved a multiracial society. There was a single common roll for all electors, with qualifications. After all, that is the system that we operated for about 750 years. It was in 1951 that we reached flat universal adult suffrage, and, as Harold Macmillan once said, it has yet to be seen whether it will work in Britain. The idea that we can impose it by sanctions and other means on a Central African country with a population that is mainly two generations from the Stone Age is, to my mind, the triumph of hope over experience. We have done it to please a number of African countries that would not touch that system with the end of a 24 ft. long bargepole.
I congratulate my right hon. Friends. They took over a situation that had been bedevilled by no fewer than four preceding Administrations, two from each side of the House. They had to untie that knot. They have done it with great skill. In spite of the attitude that I have taken all the way through of believing that we were wrong and that Rhodesians, both black and white, had a sounder instinct for the pace at which they should move forward, and in spite of all the dangers, I still think that the proposal will work. It is a devil of a risk. We have gone to the very edge of the ability to hold fair elections. We have allowed the Patriotic Front to run it along a bit too long. However, I think that it will work. Somewhat reluctantly, and against all my past, I support the proposals in the Bill and I shall support the Bill tonight.
I begin my remarks by quoting a letter that appeared in The Times this morning. I am rather surprised that no one has referred to it. In many respects Lord Caradon's letter deserves being read into the record in its entirety. He wrote:
I remember the story I heard years ago in Nigeria about the Governor's visit to a remote Nigerian town. The banners were out to welcome him. The first said God save the Queen. Farther along, the second said God bless the Governor. Farther on, the third said God help the District Officer.
Now in Rhodesia, if they hang out the banners to welcome Lord Soames, they might well be:
God save the Queen
God bless the Foreign Minister
God help the Governor.
I suggest that there are too many wise guys telling the world about the obvious dangers. I trust that there are far more ordinary people wishing the Governor well and praying for his success in the interests of everyone, all Africa most of all.
There are plenty of timid commentators telling us the risks. No one disputes that they are indeed dreadful, but no risk, I feel sure, would have been greater than the risk of doing nothing.
There is a little more, but I think that I have quoted enough. It is a splendid letter. It should be the text of today's debate.
There is a serious risk. That was made clear yesterday when the House heard the statement made by the Lord Privy Seal and questioned him upon it. It could place us in an enormously difficult and dangerous position if Lord Soames's assumption of the governorship before the final ceasefire is tied up proves a mistake and things go wrong. Having thought hard about the issue since the announcement yesterday, my conclusion is that the one thing missing thus far, missing since and including UDI in 1965, is the willingness of the British to take a risk. We all know now that there is a risk.
We know why we did nothing when UDI was declared. It was not because we had faith in the swift efficacy of sanctions, which were imposed at the time by the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson). It was because we were afraid that any attempt to reassert the power of the Crown by military means might fail. Military advice was that if it failed we lacked the follow-up capacity to try again. As a country still posturing its world physical power, we would have been revealed as impotent before the world.
If we accept, as I do and as Liberals do, that Britain has a responsibility in what is still Southern Rhodesia, we must reject, first, the views expressed, as so often cogently and equally so often mistakenly, by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). When the House was discussing the enabling measure, the right hon. Gentleman said:
In 1965Southern Rhodesia ceased to be part of Her Majesty's dominions as surely as the American colonies ceased to be part of His Majesty's dominions when that fact was recognised by the Treaty of Paris and the legislation by Parliament that applied the consequences for the law of this country.
I do not accept that for a minute. However, if we face that acceptance we must do so by a real earnest of intention, a real earnest of commitment. That means that we must be willing to repair our unwillingness to take a risk to safeguard a settlement by military means—that was true in 1965–by taking a risk for peace, which is what the Government are now doing.
Whatever the warts that Lord Soames has—I do not think it is entirely without dispute that Lord Soames is in possession of some warts—and whatever his indiscretions in the past, some of which have been revealed on the radio, I wish him well and I pray for his success.
Obviously there is much that I could say in criticism of the content of the agreement, and perhaps in criticism of some of the tactics in the negotiations. However, all that is dwarfed by the fact of an agreement, by the fact of its having been reached, and by the possibility—it is an enormously exciting one—of reconciliation in a situation which entrenched positions and bloody conflict for so many years seemed wholly to exclude.
We talk often enough in the House of racial problems in Britain. We discuss divisions that arise because of disparities of wealth. Our problems in these regards are puny by comparison with those faced by the people of Zimbabwe. When the enabling measure was before the House I said:
It is easier for us to show restraint than it is for those engaged in negotiations Our lives and future are not at stake—as are theirs."—[Official Report, 8 November 1979; Vol. 973, c. 690–700.]
Irrespective of our views of the gentlemen involved in the negotiations and irrespective of what we have said about any one of them in the past, and without prejudice to what we may say about them in future, it is only right on this occasion to salute Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Nkomo, Bishop Muzorewa and Mr. Smith. It is a good thing that they have done together. Despite the problems within the Conservative Party, which were reflected to some degree by the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell), the Government have none the less tenaciously pursued those negotiations to the edge of a conclusion. The Lord Privy Seal stands at the edge and is prepared to take a risk in order to achieve final success.
Do not imagine that it is easy for a Liberal to say such things, because it is not. We have bitterly condemned Government policies since the days of the ill-fated concept of the Central African Federation and we have been equally bitter in our condemnation of Mr. Smith. That is on record. But now there is a chance to move away from the past and to build something better and fairer. I want to encourage that. We have always been a multi-racial party, whose energies and policies are directed to reforming historical patterns of ownership and wealth in order to achieve a fairer society. In Zimbabwe, it will be enormously more difficult to achieve that.
The Bill takes the issue entirely out of our hands. It will no longer be a matter of decision for Parliament, although it may be a matter for our opinion. However, our responsibility to use our good office—whatever good office we may have—does not end.
Despite our own problems, we should render direct assistance to the front-line States, which, despite enormous and understandable political difficulties, played a most positive part in the negotiations. I would like the Minister, in reply, to indicate his thinking on that point. There is no doubt of the serious economic situation that exists in Zambia and Tanzania in particular.
We should render such assistance as may be necessary to the new republic of Zimbabwe. Although it is difficult to define that assistance in advance, the Government should give some assurances.
As for the white minority, I accept the importance of the proposals concerning citizens contained in the Bill, to which the Lord Privy Seal made particular reference. It is an important element of the agreement to encourage those who are technically advanced to stay. That implies that they will have to accept that the position of privilege that they formerly enjoyed will now be open to democratic reform. Those assurances are important. Perhaps it is not desirable for the Government, at this juncture, to say whether they have had any further thoughts on recompense in the event of unilateral dispossession. I do not say that because it is necessarily moral, but it is a practical point.
We have a clear responsibility to render considerable technical and financial aid to the new republic, when it comes into being.
On the interim arrangements, the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) has already referred to two important points. First, the role of the media during the election is very important, because at the moment that media is fully controlled. I would welcome some comment on that.
Secondly, I am sure that the Government will ensure that the amnesty will be brought into effect within the existing borders of Rhodesia. However, I hope that the Government have assurances from the Patriotic Front that prisoners in Mozambique and Zambia will be released as that is now proper and right.
The old imperialist powers in Europe, not surprisingly, have often mishandled the deposition of colonial powers and the transition to independent Administrations. For example, Britain did not leave a structure capable of sustaining democracy effectively in Uganda, and there are many other examples. In Zimbabwe there is a chance to build a just and prosperous society. Zimbabwe is indubitably one of those countries with the greatest potential for prosperity in that part of Africa.
On behalf of the Liberal Party, I express happiness—it is the right word—that despite all the harshness and violence of the past we have managed to reach this moment. The right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar, in his very good speech, reflected on the crucial impact of the existence of a substantial minority element in Rhodesia. Algeria provides the only other real African comparison. It is an enormous achievement that we have avoided a repetition of Algeria in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. So far there has been no flood of people out of Rhodesia, and I pray that there will not be such a flood.
As the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar also said, Rhodesia's lesson has a clear implication for South Africa.
This is a moment of historical importance, and I hope that the spirit of reconciliation that has made the agreement possible, and in which the Government have played a crucial part, will live on after independence.
At the beginning of his remarks the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) spoke about the risks involved. I agree that the gravest risk would have been for the Government to do nothing. I tried to make it clear some time ago that the risk would have been even less had the Government brought themselves to recognise Bishop Muzorewa's Government after they had fulfilled the six principles and been seen to conduct free and fair elections—at least, that was the report of Lord Home and Lord Boyd. The danger would be much less today if the Government had seen fit to do that.
But the hon. Member for Inverness tended to minimise the risks and suggested that they were being exaggerated. It is better to face reality in these debates than to minimise the risks. The House must face the reality during the extremely edgy and dangerous period before the election in Rhodesia. However, like the hon. Member for Inverness, I wish the Governor every good fortune. He will need it. He is an old friend of mine, and in many ways it is an appalling task that he faces. If anyone can pull it off, I am sure that he will.
Of course, I welcome the Bill. I have taken as much interest in this subject, and have been as saddened as any hon. Member, because of my own long connection with Rhodesia. It is a great event that such a Bill should at last be brought before the House. However, it is only the instrument of independence, and much may happen to frustrate its effectiveness before the election takes place. I hope that my right hon. Friend was right when he said that he thought my earlier question during his speech was academic. From what the Patriotic Front is saying, I fear that this will not prove to be the case. A degree of euphoria is understandable both inside and outside the House, but it is better to face reality.
At this stage I simply wish to make two points. This Bill would not be before us today if it were not for the fact that the Salisbury delegation has acceded to every condition of the British proposals and has made every important concession that was required of it. That cannot be said of the Patriotic Front. It has used every trick to delay the negotiations and has used the time gained to infiltrate its men across the borders. That is well known. Indeed, I think that my right hon. Friend has previously referred to it.
The Patriotic Front is still talking of escalating the war, even of murdering the Governor. In part, at least, its leaders are Marxist—armed, financed, trained and encouraged by the USSR and its surrogates, East Germany and Cuba. I acknowledge what was said about Bishop Muzorewa this afternoon by the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore), but if the public were left to judge by what the Opposition said yesterday it might well be led to suppose that they supported the Patriotic Front and no one else—indeed, that they would seek its victory in these elections by any means possible. I hope that that is not their position, but that is certainly the impression that they gave yesterday.
Secondly, will the Government make sure that this House is kept fully informed of events, however dangerous, difficult and unpleasant the report may have to be? We can expect plenty of false information to be disseminated from Salisbury from now on. But we want to know the truth, and it is the duty of the Government to make sure that this House does know the truth.
For example, it is no secret that vast funds and assistance are available from the Communist Powers to the Patriotic Front. [Interruption.] I do not know whether the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. Dobson) will find my next remark so funny. I am informed that fly sheets are presently being distributed in Matabeleland which assure the people that if they vote for the Patriotic Front they will immediately be given free land and double wages; that if they do not vote for the Patriotic Front the war will be immediately escalated; and, most sinister of all, that the Patriotic Front will have the means of knowing for whom the people voted anyway, and that the voters will have to take the consequences of that.
Those fly sheets were printed in very large numbers in East Berlin. What is the extent of the Cuban and East German involvement? It should be exposed, and I hope that the Government will take steps to ensure that it is. Are we aware of the Patriotic Front's plans to continue the war if it should lose the election, which I personally pray that it will? Do we know of its plans to intimidate? What is the extent of the real authority of the Patriotic Front leaders over their men? Do they control them? Have they any means of communication by which they can pass on whatever they agree in respect of the ceasefire, if they do agree?
For example, there is now a strong report that many of Mugabe's guerrillas owe allegiance to Tongagara, the self-styled general whose view may not be at all the same. Will he agree? In a number of areas, the leaders inside Rhodesia have really degenerated to the status of war lords, or even bandits. Will they agree? Will they join the ceasefire arrangements?
There is nothing very strange about this sort of doubt. At the end of the last war I had experience of trying to lead guerrillas in Europe to give up their arms. That occurred in Italy, and they were on our side. We were not particularly successful. The task of collecting the armed men of the Patriotic Front at the present time almost defies imagination.
If, as I suspect, every evil trick of intimidation, with the use of naked force, is to be used by the Patriotic Front during the election, we shall want to know about it. We shall want to be reassured as time goes on that the Governor is in a position to deal with this and that if the provisions of the ceasefire are violated the party responsible will be proscribed. I shall be grateful if the Minister can say a word about that when he replies. No one wants the Government's cause to succeed more than I, but it would be folly to go ahead in ignorance of, or deliberately to turn our backs on, the very real risks that attend the Governor's task from now on.
The Lord Privy Seal implored us not to look back, yet most of the speeches have done so in varying degrees of nostalgia, ranging from the predictable ones in regard to Cecil Rhodes—in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell)—to the somewhat surprising Palmerstonian overtones from my own Front Bench.
I do not intend to look back, because looking back fills me with considerable sadness. The lost opportunities, the abuse of principle and the evasions of successive Governments about what they did about Rhodesia have led ultimately to thousands of deaths of whites and blacks alike. None of us can look back over the last 14 years with any great pride.
I am concerned about the future. Contrary to the conviction of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), I am concerned that we have not yet reached an agreement. The details of the way in which to implement the ceasefire are still outstanding.
I think that yesterday the Lord Privy Seal suggested that some of us ought to think more carefully about what we had said when the previous Bill was before the House and that we would see that we were wrong. All I can say is that there has been a certain change of attitude on behalf of the Government at Lancaster House since then, and I hope that the discussion on the previous Bill was part of the inducement to change that attitude. However, a serious issue still prevails at Lancaster House, and unless it is resolved satisfactorily there will not be an agreement. If there is not an agreement, all the consequences that were foreseen by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday might flow. None of us confidently expects that to happen. The implications seem to be that there will be an agreement, and I accept it on that basis. But an agreement can come about only through a degree of flexibility that allows a reasonable settlement to be reached.
Contrary to the view expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield yesterday, the Patriotic Front has not delayed simply in order to have an election in the middle of the rainy season. The hon. and learned Gentleman may not know it, despite his great knowledge of Rhodesia, but the rainy season lasts from January to March. The Patriotic Front has been fighting throughout the last few weeks of the negotiations for a six-month delay before the election. That would take us well outside the rainy season.
What the Patriotic Front has been concerned about is that it should have an adequate chance of forming an election machine and presenting its case to the people of Rhodesia in order to have a free and fair election. I hope that that may yet take place. In doing so, there must be some delay, but that delay is not enough within the context of the timetable ordained by the British Government. Two months may be enough time for the campaigning, but that is two months only after there has been a total resumption of stability within Rhodesia. Therefore, there is something to be said for reconsidering the time that will elapse until the ceasefire.
The ceasefire raises practical issues that I hope the Lord Privy Seal and the Foreign Secretary will take into consideration. What has been impressed upon me is that during the first two stages of the negotiations—the independence constitution and the transitional arrangements—the discussion was about issues on which the Patriotic Front could give assurances that if it made an agreement the agreement would carry. On this issue, the Patriotic Front must give assurances that all its troops will honour the proposals that have been agreed at Lancaster House. In doing that, it will be telling its people on the ground that they must put themselves into a position which is admittedly one of insecurity and that they must maintain that position for the period during which the election takes place. Anyone who volunteers to go into that situation must be as sure as can be that his own personal security will be respected.
That, as much as anything, is causing the difficulty in the final stages of the negotiations. It is not something that can be pooh-poohed as being indicative of a desire for delay by the Patriotic Front. Unless the ceasefire carries, there will not be a free and fair election, and the negotiations will fall to bits.
I urge the House—particularly the Government—to consider the serious objections to the suggestion that the ceasefire should take place seven days after the signing of the agreement. It takes a guerrilla about six weeks to walk across Rhodesia in the course of the activities in which he has been engaged for the last seven years. That gives some idea of how long it will take to get people to the rendezvous points where they will be picked up before they go to the assembly points. Seven days is far too inadequate.
Once the people arrive at the rendezvous points, it is not clear how they will make the transition to the new assembly points. Indeed, "assembly point" is a fancy name for what, in effect, will be a detention camp. It will be a temporary structure in an area in which there is no habitation and which is related in no way to the fighting zones. The people will have to remain there for about two months, with no sure knowledge of what will happen to them in that time. It is true that their leaders and their arms will remain with them in that time, but there is bound to be an air of insecurity about what will happen to them. That is particularly so when the conduct of the existing security forces is taken into account. It is a factor of major concern.
If there is to be equality between the two forces in the period before the election, they must be treated absolutely equally. In relation to representation on the military commissions, they are treated absolutely equally. However, they are not being treated equally on the ground. The Patriotic Front forces are being asked to go into the 15 or 16 assembly zones. Once there, they are supposed to be in the same position as the security forces in barracks. If the Government will give a clear assurance that the security forces will be kept in barracks—as the Patriotic Front forces will be kept in their assembly points—there will be equality. Nevertheless, the Patriotic Front is worried about the way in which the security forces' bases surround the assembly points to which the Patriotic Front has been allocated.
What remains at issue is whether the security forces will be kept in base or will be allowed to come out for specific purposes, which will be decided by the Governor or even by the security forces' commanders. If it is suggested that the security forces should be called out to deal with a breach of the peace by the Patriotic Front forces, there will be a serious risk of inflaming both sides, and that might lead to a resumption of fighting. Therefore, it is vital to have an assurance that the Patriotic Front forces will keep order within their forces. Any of their number who gets out of line will be dealt with by them.
The security forces should be used to keep order within their number. If there is any outburst by their people, they will deal with that. If that course is followed, it is conceivable that this highly difficult and delicate period before the election will pass peacefully. However, if it is intended that the security forces alone will control the Patriotic Front forces, that, clearly, will be unacceptable to the Patriotic Front. I hope that some thought will be given to that point in the final round of negotiations.
A number of issues in the Bill will be dealt with in Committee. It is strange that after tonight we shall not be consulted again before Rhodesia goes into independence. By allowing the Bill to pass, we have given our blessing to a scheme that will lead allegedly to a free and fair election. Yet we do not know that the election will be free and fair until it has taken place. Therefore, it cannot be said that everything will be carried out according to the intention of the agreement. We can be sure of that only if, after it is all over, some independent people or even some hon. Members from this place can say that, having looked into the matter, they have concluded that the election was free and fair and that the House should give a fair wind to an independence Bill. Something must be done along the lines of the amendments in order to ensure that that takes place.
On the outcome of nationality, why is it necessary for the new Zimbabwe suddenly not to be a member of the Commonwealth? Why can it not be allowed to remain in the Commonwealth unless or until its new Government want to take it out? That happened with Pakistan, South Africa and Ireland. The precedent has been to keep a country in until it decides to opt out. If that were done, the nationality provision would be unnecessary. In relation to the recent independence of some of the West Indian islands, people who were settled here from those islands were stripped of their citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies and made citizens of the newly independent State. Suddenly, those people found that they had lost their British passports. On the other hand, in the case of Rhodesia, we are taking steps not only to see that citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies retain their citizenship but that the Commonwealth citizen who is patrial at the moment, because he is a Southern Rhodesian citizen, will be allowed to keep his patriality. I hope that the Under-Secretary will explain that anomaly.
The patriality provision of the Immigration Act 1971 was the most obnoxious part of that Act. The 50,000 white Rhodesians in Southern Rhodesia have that patriality only by that provision. They are not citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies, but they are Commonwealth citizens. If Rhodesia becomes independent, I see no reason why the people should not become citizens of the new Zimbabwe and take whatever befalls them. I see no reason why they should be given a further 12 months to decide to opt out when they have had a look at the colour of the new Government. They should be part of the organisation of the new country. There is no reason why this country should take another 50,000white people just because they happen to be white.
We can deal with the areas of difficulty in the amendments. I hope that the negotiations will continue in good spirit and that there will be a happy outcome. Unless there is flexibility on the points that I have raised, I do not see a happy outcome. However, on the overall question of the conduct of the Government in the negotiations, if, at the end of the day, Rhodesia goes into full independence on a free and fair election—whoever wins the election—no one will be happier than I. I have fought the battle for many years for the rights of black people in Rhodesia.
If that day comes, I shall be the first to congratulate the Foreign Secretary and the Lord Privy Seal. My suspicions arise from too many disappointments in the past, not only in this Government but in previous Governments. I still have a lurking suspicion about the agreement on the independence constitution and the transitional arrangements, but I hope that there will be a happy outcome.
I think that this Bill is not actually about the details of the ceasefire, although, clearly, it is very important to the independence of Southern Rhodesia, which I hope will come about fairly shortly.
I must say that had I been one of the Patriotic Front leaders I should have been far happier to have the Governor in post for a few days before I got there, because I should be worried about returning to Salisbury or to other parts of Rhodesia, given the past. In the same way, I think that that applies to many who have been in Rhodesia throughout the 14 years of UDI.
I look forward to a new question in a Christmas quiz in our newspapers, or by whoever entertains over the Christmas period by asking questions which are virtually impossible to answer, provoked, perhaps, by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who asked whether there had been a precedent for a country joining the Commonwealth after becoming independent. I think that we ought to have a competition to find out how many countries have been colonies which never joined the Commonwealth in the first place. I think that there would be a slightly surprising answer to that. I hope that Rhodesia will follow the precedent suggested by the right hon. Member for Down, South.
This is not the time for euphoria or recrimination. What I should like to do is to mention the names of three people who, generally, are not mentioned when the question of the constitutional conference and the independence constitution are mentioned. One is Reginald Maudling, who, when he was Shadow spokesman for foreign affairs, helped to keep the relatively bipartisan approach that we had when I became a Member of this House. I think that the way in which the present Shadow foreign affairs spokesman has spoken today is equally responsible. I think, too, that the House has a great deal of which to be proud in the way in which it has avoided fighting as much in this Chamber as has happened in Rhodesia.
Together with Reginald Maudling, I should like to mention John Davies, because when he returned from Rhodesia a couple of years ago he brought a greater understanding of the realities there, which had not been appreciated by some, such as myself, who had not had the opportunity of visiting Rhodesia.
I know that when people have been out to Salisbury they have returned with differing impressions, which is only natural. I think that when John Davies came back the things that he said were important. He put them across in a way which has, I think, had some effect on Conservative policy, and I welcome the effect which I believe that had.
We all make mistakes. Many of the things that I have said about Rhodesia have been proved to be wrong, and I suspect that many of the things that I say in the future about Rhodesia will be equally wrong. What is worth noting is that the differences of view within people in any party, whether in this country or in Zimbabwe, are important differences to express. I think that the dangers of having a monolithic approach would have made it far less easy to reach the stage that we have now reached, when it is possible that there will be a relatively peaceful transition to independence and a decrease in conflict in Rhodesia in the months ahead.
It is not only in this country, of course, that people have contributed to the present situation. The United States Senate deserves congratulations on drawing back from the brink, where the Americans were in the spring of this year, of forcing the United States Administration to lift sanctions on Rhodesia. I have no doubt whatever that had the United States Administration lifted sanctions the British Government would have done the same. That would have meant not the present position, where perhaps 20,000 lives have been lost during the last 14 years but with the prospect of peace ahead, but that many more lives would have continued to be lost as the civil war continued, as it inevitably would have done if there had not been the Lusaka conference and the opportunity to maintain sanctions until the restoration of legality.
Therefore, we should not think of congratulating only ourselves. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal and my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary will forgive me if I do not start slinging praise at them. I have no doubt that that will come, and it has already come, from others. It is worth trying to remember that this has been an international problem.
Going back into the past, very briefly, I have no doubt that mistakes were made in 1923 and in 1961. They were certainly made in 1965. In the years since then, perhaps opportunities were missed. What is worth remembering—I do not necessarily claim that this is a majority view—is that until the people of Rhodesia were in a position to solve this problem for themselves—which they were not when there was only minority suffrage, or effectively minority suffrage—and until the chance that Britain had of helping them out of the mess into which they had slipped in the years between 1923 and 1965, it would have been wrong for Britain to have withdrawn from her position of responsibility, however residual that responsibility may have been at any time during the last 55 years.
I look forward to seeing the first clause of the Bill enacted. The time when the United Kingdom has no more responsibility for the government of Zimbabwe is something for which I have been longing for many years—but not the giving up of that responsibility in any circumstances. I think that the circumstances now are far better than they have been for many years. I am a pessimist. I did not believe that it was possible to resolve the problems of Rhodesia, and I am still not certain that it is. I do not think that it is for us in this House to say who we believe should win, or even to say who we believe will win. I think that we have reached that rather chancy position where a settlement is coming because both sides think that they may win, and that is a useful democratic hope for them to live by. I hope that they will live equally hopefully with the result, whichever way it goes and whatever sorts of coalitions and fragmentations are likely to occur.
Therefore, echoing the words of my right hon. Friend, I say "Look forward", but I also utter the caution "Watch out".
I am rather inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) that this Bill is a heavy gamble. That is not necessarily wrong. In all politics, risks must be taken. I am of the opinion that some of the risks being taken this time are not necessary risks and could have been reduced by a somewhat different attitude in certain respects.
It has fallen to the present Government to introduce two rather strange and controversial independence Bills—the Kiribati Bill, which caused a great deal of bitterness on both sides of the House, and the Bill before us, the Zimbabwe Bill, which has been introduced in the strangest circumstances of any independence Bill since the Second World War. I shall list some of those circumstances, because I want to devote my time not to the past but to the present and the immediate future.
The circumstances are that, first, we have martial law in force in the territory to which we are purporting to give independence—at least, I assume that we have it. If we have not, perhaps the Minister will explain whether the martial law provisions have disappeared with the dissolution of the Muzorewa regime or whether the Governor has inherited them.
This is very important, because under martial law kangaroo courts have been operating and sentencing people to death. If that martial law has disappeared, some sort of proclamation or statement should be made by the Government to indicate clearly that such courts as were operating under martial law now have no validity and no jurisdiction, and that anyone who purports to take action under the martial law is acting illegally and has no authority from the Government. That is an important point.
Secondly, we are purporting to give independence to a country that is in a state of civil war. I have never heard of that proposition coming before this House previously. Until the ceasefire is agreed—it is not yet agreed—the civil war will continue, and we are talking solemnly of independence for a territory for which we have responsibility in which civil war is still raging.
Thirdly, we are giving independence to a country that has no legislature. The legislature has dissolved and vanished. There is a colonial Government, with a Governor with full powers to issue orders, decrees and edicts, but there is no legislature.
We did not recognise the elections held by the Smith-Muzorewa coalition. Neither this Government nor the previous Administration recognised them. We are purporting to pass an independence Bill for a territory that has not held elections to determine the structure and form of its Government.
There is, alas, no accepted national leader in Zimbabwe. That is the peculiar tragedy of that territory. Unlike Zambia, with President Kaunda; Tanzania, with President Nyerere; Ghana, with its former president, Nkruma; Cyprus, with President Makarios; and India, in former times, with Gandhi and Nehru, for some reason there has never emerged a national leader of sufficient stature to command the undoubted allegiance of the majority population in Rhodesia. That is not the fault of this country or of this House. No leader in Rhodesia has commanded the support of the people as does President Nyerere, or as did the late President Makarios. That is a tragedy for which we are not responsible, but I believe that it will make the future independence and good government of Zimbabwe that much more difficult.
There is also the threat that the territory to which we are granting independence under the Bill is still under the interdict of the international sanctions authorised by the United Nations. The Government may say that sanctions have ceased to exist now that the Governor is there, but sanctions cannot disappear by fiat of the Government. Sanctions were imposed by the international community under the Charter of the United Nations, to which we are a party.
Sanctions continue until the Security Council, in its wisdom, rescinds the resolution under which they were imposed. It is simplistic of the Government to say that sanctions have been removed. I suppose that they will be removed by the United Kingdom, but if we lift sanctions unilaterally we are in breach of our obligations under the United Nations Charter.
The hon. Gentleman has not got it right. The resolution of the United Nations imposing sanctions on the then regime in Rhodesia was passed because that regime was illegal. Sanctions were not imposed on the colony of Southern Rhodesia. As a result of measures put through this House and actions taken in Salisbury, that territory has now returned to its former loyalty and there is now no illegal regime in Rhodesia. There is simply the colony of Southern Rhodesia, and there are no United Nations sanctions on that colony.
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. Sanctions were imposed because the Security Council decided that there was a threat to peace in that part of the world. So far as I am aware, that threat is not yet deemed by the United Nations to have ceased to exist. Until such time as the United Nations says that the threat is over, sanctions remain. It cannot be argued, in any circumstances, that we, a single member of the United Nations, can by our own fiat say that sanctions no longer exist.
We are purporting to give independence to a territory under martial law, which has had no elections, no parliament and no accepted national leader, and which is still under the interdict of the international community. Those facts should cause us to reflect on what we are about to do.
The future obstacles to the successful outcome—I hope that it will be successful—of the process set in train at Lusaka are four. First, there is the issue of free and fair elections. That issue has been spelt out to some extent in the amendments to the Bill which the House will discuss later. I believe that it would have helped to ensure free and fair elections—which the world must acknowledge as free and fair—if the supervisory or peacekeeping forces had been more powerful and more broadly based. If the Governor would like a more powerful monitoring force, will it be within his power to ask for one? Will the Government be disposed to arrange for such a force if they feel that it will assist in securing a satisfactory electoral process in Zimbabwe?
This is important. It will be remembered that in the debate on the Kiribati Bill forceful representations were made by the Opposition that a peacekeeping force was an essential component for success during a transitional period. I believe that the Government have gone some way to accepting that argument. What is now proposed is an advance on the somewhat limited exercise originally envisaged.
However, considering the size of the territory, the general conflict and the numerous private armies, I doubt whether a force of 1,000 men is sufficient. I should like an assurance that if the Governor were to cable London saying that he would find it easier to carry out his duties if he had a stronger force, with a wider composition, the Government would respond rapidly and positively to his request.
The third obstacle to the success of this enterprise is the possibility that the international community—including, perhaps, the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity—will withhold recognition if it is not satisfied that the elections have been free and fair and conducted reasonably. This House cannot demand that the world grants recognition to a territory on which we have conferred legal independence under our own constitution. If, as a result of events during the next few months, there is any reason that might give rise to the fear by African countries, or by the majority of the United Nations or the Commonwealth, that matters have not been conducted properly in Rhodesia, international recognition will not be granted. Thus, a great deal of progress will have been destroyed. That is an important issue, upon which the House should reflect.
The final obstacle to the success of this enterprise is the attitude of South Africa. We are entitled to ask the Government, once again, whether they have an absolute, unequivocal and unconditional statement from Pretoria that, whatever the outcome of the election and the transitional process, South Africa will not interfere, militarily or politically, in the affairs of an independent Zimbabwe. I am deeply suspicous, and I fear that if the Government who emerge in Zimbabwe are not satisfactory to and do not accord with the political wishes and foreign policy of the South African Government, pressure of one kind or another—military, economic or diplomatic—will be brought to bear to force a different conclusion upon Zimbabwe.
I have no intention of voting against the Bill, but before we enact it we are entitled to ask the Government whether a firm and unqualified assurance has been made by Pretoria. We are entitled to demand that if any attempt is made by the South African Government to interfere with the outcome of what happens in the next few months we shall warn South Africa that the rigour of international sanctions will be imposed against it.
I hope that we are now discussing the end of the long UDI disaster. I hope that the electoral process will prove to be fair and practicable. I hope that at the end of it all there will be a Government who can effectively rule Zimbabwe with the agreement of all its peoples. The risk that we are taking is real. The risk could, in some respects, have been minimised. However, at this stage I am convinced that it is a risk that the House should take.
I declare an interest in Rhodesia, since I have property there. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal and my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary on their efforts, which have been so painstaking and which have attracted admiration from both sides of the House. I sincerely congratulate my right hon. and noble Friend on the outcome of his negotiations.
I regret the change of name. I am sorry that the Bill is not called the "Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Bill". The Rhodesia that I know is a civilised and highly structured modern society. It is that because of the influence and hard work of Cecil Rhodes, its founder, and of the many generations of Europeans who turned a wilderness of bush covered with jungle elephant tracks into a modern State. It would have been nice to give it a name which recognised that.
I congratulate the Government on bringing an end to sanctions. Sanctions ended with the arrival of the Governor in Rhodesia today. On both sides of the House hon. Members will be relieved to know that his arrival coincided with an end to the laborious charade of annually debating Rhodesian sanctions orders.
Now that sanctions no longer apply, I hope that some of our business men and manufacturers are already flying out to pick up some of the threads of trade which Britain used to monopolise in Rhodesia before the declaration of UDI. Before UDI, British firms were involved in 90 to 95 per cent. of Rhodesia's import and export business. During UDI British manufacturers and British firms recognised the United Nations sanctions and certainly did not overtly trade with Rhodesia. Many other countries did. The streets of Rhodesia are full of goods from Japan, France, and Eastern and other Western. European countries. Many countries have engaged in sanctions busting, and we have a long way to catch up.
I hope that the new Zimbabwe will remain in the Commonwealth. I cannot understand why it is not set out in the Bill, as it normally is in independence Bills, that Zimbabwe will remain in the Commonwealth unless it decides to opt out. Zimbabwe will be regarded as being ouside the Commonwealth until it makes a formal application to join. Whoever wins the election, we hope that the new and infant Government of Zimbabwe will make an early application to join.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) said that he hoped that there would be no South African influence or interference in the affairs of the new Zimbabwe. We echo that wish. Similarly, we do not wish to see any influence over the internal affairs of Zimbabwe from any quarter, whether it is from South Africa, Mozambique or any other frontline States.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the South African Prime Minister has said that South Africa will not tolerate a Marxist Government in Salisbury. He meant the Patriotic Front. He said that he would not accept such a Government even if they were elected. Does the hon. Gentleman condemn that point of view?
I certainly condemn any external interference in the affairs of the new Zimbabwe by any country. The sooner threats from South Africa or from any of the front-line States are ended, the sooner we shall have a chance of peaceful coexistence.
I hope that the new Zimbabwe, in or out of the Commonwealth—I hope in—will have a democratic form of government. That would almost be unique in any part of Africa, but let us hope that that happens. I have great hopes for Zimbabwe, because its people have special characteristics. They are not extremists or racists in any way. The European and the African in Rhodesia have always got on together a good deal better than they have elsewhere in Africa. I have great hopes that the new Zimbabwe will remain a country in which democracy flourishes.
It is vital to the stability of the whole of Africa—and certainly to Southern Africa—that the example that we leave behind in Zimbabwe flourishes. Perhaps it will serve to blaze a trail for other countries in that part of the world.
It has been a long and difficult road. A great deal of patience has been shown by successive Governments. I regret that the new country of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, as it would have been, was not granted independence at the time that the six principles were known to have been satisfied. Independence is now forthcoming. It is better late than never, and I wish the new Zimbabwe well.
There is a great deal of irony in today's debate, in that the Conservative Party, which has long been associated with promoting colonies and supporting the colonial principle, welcomes the moves to bring the colonial status of Rhodesia to an end, and the Labour Party has expressed many doubts although it has had the historic role of promoting decolonisation.
A further irony is that while some of my hon. Friends who have been most closely associated with the promotion of what they saw to be the interests of the African population in Rhodesia have attacked the policies of successive Governments as being too weak, some Members of the Conservative Party who, over the years, have attempted to promote the interests of the whites in Rhodesia have shown most interest in the future of Rhodesia. Both those groups are clearly more concerned about the future of Rhodesia than is either of the Front Benches. That is probably because, with the close interest in the past and the present in Rhodesia, the two groups that have spent the most time thinking and talking about Rhodesia are well aware of the problems facing that country.
I cannot associate myself with the air of self-congratulation that has characterised some of the speeches today. There is nothing for Britain, or successive British Governments, to be self-congratulatory about when one considers the history of Rhodesia since 1965. Since that time Rhodesia's history has been a national disgrace. Our approach to the problems of Rhodesia over that period has probably lowered our reputation in the eyes of the rest of the world more than any other feature of our foreign policy. We have performed pathetically. We have achieved nothing that we set out to achieve in 1965, and we have been unable to get the international community to do much better.
I was trying to think of those whose characteristics best exemplified what Britain has done during this 14-year period. Seen through the eyes of a poor inhabitant of Rhodesia today, it might be thought that this country started off in 1965 like Ethelred the Unready and, with the haste of the last few months, has become more like Pontius Pilate than any other figure in world history. There is a clear desire by the Government Front Bench and many on the Opposition Benches to wash their hands of Rhodesia as quickly as possible.
The way that Britain has failed to carry out its intentions and to bring the previous rebel regime to heel is quite disgraceful. It is disgraceful that other major countries, such as the United States of America, the Soviet Union and France, have joined in the international conspiracy to allow Rhodesia to continue on its merry way.
International relations were brought into further disrepute when a group of about 2,000 whites were able to defy the rest of the world. The only reason why that group of people have been able to do that is that the rest of the world—including successive British Governments—has not been serious in its intention to bring the rebellion to an end.
The organisation that has been most successful in bringing Rhodesia to a point where negotiations have been conducted is the Patriotic Front. It was not British sanctions or the international community that brought the white Rhodesians to heel and to the conference table. The armies of the Patriotic Front have driven the white Rhodesians into a corner from which they eventually had to turn towards legality and Britain to solve their problems.
Rather than denounce the Governments of Zambia and Mozambique and the people of those territories, we should pay tribute to them for all that they have willingly suffered in the cause of ensuring that the Rhodesian rebellion was brought to an end. I am sure that the House will not agree with that, but I believe that those countries and peoples deserve a great deal of credit.
One reason why the Patriotic Front felt it necessary to accept the onerous terms of settlement to which it has agreed is that it recognised the pressures that its presence brought upon Mozambique and Zambia and the damage that the Salisbury regime had wreaked on the economy of those countries and their general capacity to survive. It is to the credit of the Patriotic Front that it is now responding to the problems of its hosts so that it can, in a sense, help Rhodesia as well as itself.
I do not look forward with any hope to the settlement that is before the House today. There is much more danger and threat in this settlement than in anything else. We are faced with a settlement that provides a ridiculously short time during which to achieve a real ceasefire and establish the groundwork for free and fair elections.
Anyone who wants to consider and get into perspective the problems that will face Lord Soames—or, indeed, anyone else—when organising free and fair elections in a country that has been torn by civil war for years needs only to consider how long it took the Home Office—and the stumbling way in which it did it—to establish the electoral machinery for a European Assembly. As an outside observer of the process, I thought that it took Whitehall and many town halls a great deal of time to organise it—and that is in a country where we are used to free and fair elections, where we have an electoral register and are used to the electoral process. In Rhodesia they do not have this tradition, and there will be immense problems.
I cannot understand why the Government are unwilling to accept the advice of the Patriotic Front about an independent force that would be capable of securing the situation in Rhodesia should order break down. We have established Lord Soames in that country as the British Governor, but he is in an untenable position. If order breaks down in Rhodesia while he is Governor, there is nothing that he can do without restarting the civil war. He has no independent troops to whom he can turn. There is no body of troops whose activities and presence would be acceptable to both sides. If there is a breakdown of order in Rhodesia, that situation will continue. The Governor will be unable to turn to anyone acceptable to the opposing side to re-establish order.
It was foolish of the British Government not to accept the conditions of the Patriotic Front for an independent force promoted by either the United Nations or the Commonwealth. In the absence of such a force, only a fool would expect a peaceful electoral process in Rhodesia. That may happen, but if it does it will suggest that the people of Rhodesia, and particularly the leadership of the Patriotic Front, have an infinitely greater political maturity than any other people on earth. I hope that that proves to be the case, but I do not think that we can expect it to be so.
There is another objection that I take to the independence as promoted by the British Government. I believe that the constitution which the Patriotic Front has accepted under duress and in the knowledge that its people are being killed—and that brings great pressure to bear on any party in a negotiation—will so limit the intentions and desires of any reasonable party committed to the redistribution of wealth in Rhodesia that those aims will be unworkable, even if that party gets a majority. Therefore, once again Britain is in the wrong. We would have got a better and quicker settlement at Lancaster House had we accepted the eminently reasonable views of the Patriotic Front.
Basically, the future of Rhodesia is grim. Its past and its present have been characterised by strife and civil war. This may come to an end, but, as has happened in Northern Ireland, Rhodesian society will have become accustomed to death and violence. It is extremely difficult for any society that is accustomed to civil war or general mayhem and terrorism—and I regard the activities of the Salisbury Government as terrorism in this case—to draw itself out of the feeling that death and violence are part of the political norm in that society. I believe that it will be a great struggle for the Rhodesians to free themselves from their inheritance of the spavined, lunatic, and lousy incompetence of successive British Governments.
Also, we must remember that the grim State of South Africa will continue to border Rhodesia, whatever the outcome of the ceasefire and whatever the outcome of the elections. That last bastion of racism bodes no good for the people of Rhodesia or the blacks in South Africa itself. It is to be expected that South Africa will attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of the republic of Zimbabwe when it is established, and the South African intentions will not be good.
For that reason, I cannot in any way welcome the settlement that the British Government have put to the House in the past few weeks. In all conscience, I cannot see myself voting for an independence Bill which attempts to launch the benighted people of Rhodesia to independence under such circumstances.
Finally, because I have not developed the esprit de corps which apparently characterises many issues in this House, I repeat that the responsibility for the deaths, injuries and violence that have occurred in Rhodesia since 1965, and the responsibility for any that occur in the future, will lie primarly with the Front Benches on both sides of the House. Successive British Governments have brought us to national disgrace and put the people of Rhodesia in a terrible position. I hope that the Rhodesians will be able to shake themselves free of everything that Britain has imposed on them in the past 14 years. If they do, they will be a credit to humanity, and certainly no one could say that about British Governments in relation to Rhodesia.
By this stage the whole House might have concluded that this was an occasion for magnanimity, generosity and optimism. Those of us who have tried to express magnanimity and generosity have been in tune with the mood of the House. Therefore, I deplore the remarks of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. Dobson) because he introduced a note of pessimism. He is entitled to do so, but history will pass judgment on our judgment. It will be the hope of all hon. Members that in the course of time—and it may be a long time—the hon. Member will be proved most devastatingly and hopelessly wrong.
If one were to pass general judgments on so many of the important and significant debates on Rhodesia which have taken place in the past 14 years, one of those judgments would be that possibly both sides of the House—and the House has been fragmented in many ways on this issue—have suffered from stereotyped thinking, arguments and concepts. Labour Members have always talked about "regimes". I noticed that one hon. Member today even talked about "the successor legal regime". That shows how accustomed we have become to using these epithets to reinforce or qualify our judgments.
My purpose this evening is simple. I wish to convey to my right hon. Friend my best wishes for this Bill and for the success of its objectives. I believe that this is an occasion when the House of Commons—possibly not Labour Members, but I invite them to do so—might pay tribute to those who have died in Rhodesia in the service of their beliefs. I do not speak only of those who serve what Labour Members call "the regime". I believe that, of those who died in the service of the so-called regime, many believed—perhaps wrongly in the opinion of some people—that they, too, were in the front line of Western civilisation and its defence. I pay my tribute to them, and I hope that the House will join me in that.
I have always used the word "patriotic" in inverted commas, thereby confessing my own adherence to stereotype, but on this occasion I should like to pay tribute to members of the Patriotic Front who have died as well. Many have died because their view of the future of Rhodesia has been grossly and grotesquely distorted, in my view, by a concept of the world which many outside Rhodesia seek to propagate inside it for their own purposes. That is as far as I shall go.
There has been great tragedy. Men, women and children on both sides have given their lives for their beliefs. Let us now pay our tribute to them, recognising their idealism. While we have argued, they have fought and died for their beliefs. The time has come to say "No more". That is why I pleaded the other day that in the period before the ceasefire became effective some steps should be taken to ensure that those who carried arms should carry them unloaded. Perhaps it was impractical and perhaps feelings were too strong. Perhaps military men on both sides would refuse to take risks of that kind. I can understand that.
But surely the time has now come when an appeal must go forth from this House, this country, from every part of Africa and the civilised world to "stop as soon as you can without being given orders." We should urge both sides to stop immediately because legitimacy has been restored to Rhodesia and hope has been returned. With that prospect, there is now only one course of action for reasonable men, and they must take it.
With one or two exceptions, in this evening's debate there is an air of dangerous reality. Listening to some of the speeches, one could imagine that this independence Bill discussion was taking place post-transition period, post-agreement on the ceasefire, and post-elections. The view seems to be taken that it is all over, that all is agreed at Lancaster House, and that everything will be all right on the ground. I hope that people are not in for a rude awakening, although that might very well be the case.
If all goes well—I certainly hope that it does—and the Bill is enacted, there will be rejoicing that power has been transferred to the majority of the people of Zimbabwe. Along with many of my Opposition colleagues, I espoused the cause of freedom for the people of Zimbabwe over many years and I shall certainly be amongst those rejoicing. I accept that for the people of Zimbabwe this marks the end of one period of their history. However, it will begin another, perhaps more difficult, chapter in the history of Zimbabwe.
Decolonisation does not end with the constitutional transfer of power. That is only the starting point. There are problems which abound and which must be resolved. They have, of course, been compounded by the unilateral declaration of independence in the bitter struggle that took place these past 14 years. I wish the people of Zimbabwe well; I wish them peace; I wish them stability. I trust that the opportunities open to them with majority rule will be used to the full benefit of all of them.
If the enactment of this Bill opens the door of hope for the people of Zimbabwe, it closes another door. Several hon. Members have congratulated Government Front-Bench Members. They have expressed a feeling of euphoria that one of the central issues of our times has been resolved. However, I do not think that we can be blind to the fact that the Bill, when enacted, will mean the end of one of the sorriest and most despicable periods of our history in terms of foreign policy—a period of abject abrogation of our responsibilities to the people of Zimbabwe, first by failing to act immediately upon UDI and then by Government attempts to seek a dishonourable settlement on HMS "Tiger" and HMS "Fearless". I do not absolve any Conservative Government from stricture. The Douglas-Home proposals of 1971 were an attempt to betray the interests of the majority of the people of Zimbabwe. That attempt was blocked by the people of Zimbabwe. When the Pearce Commission visited that country in 1972, it concluded that the Douglas-Home proposals did not meet with the approval of the people of Zimbabwe as a whole. Yet the Conservative Government of the day did nothing to ensure progress in the matter. They failed entirely to compel the illegal Smith regime to transfer power.
Then we had the period when Parliament was deliberately and seriously misled over oil supplies to Rhodesia. History has a way of catching up on us, especially when we are specific. However, I doubt whether at any period in our history there have been such clear-cut examples of Government collusion and deceit to frustrate the will of Parliament to end the illegal Smith regime.
The fact of the matter is—it is as well to record it—that since UDI there has been the loss of thousands of innocent lives because of the failure of successive Governments to accept their responsibilities. We should say quite clearly that it was the abject betrayal of our responsibilities that compelled African nationalists, with a long history of using such constitutional methods as were open to them, to try to obtain majority rule. It was the abject betrayal that compelled those African nationalists to take up arms to fight for their freedom. It is one of the greatest ironies of all time that the Lord Privy Seal should say from the Dispatch Box that we cannot, by proxy, make the decision whether the people of Zimbabwe should or should not be part of the Commonwealth. It is precisely because we tried to take decisions by proxy for the people of Zimbabwe that we landed at the stage of the bitter struggle of the liberation war.
At present we still hover on the edge of a breakthrough in the Lancaster House discussions. We are in negotiation for a transfer of power at Lancaster House. That is due, in the first and perhaps only instance, to the guerrilla struggle that was pursued over long years.
The fact that we are still in the negotiations after 13 long weeks at Lancaster House reflects great credit on the Patriotic Front, the members of which have conducted themselves in an extremely responsible manner. All that the Salisbury delegation has done is to say "Yes" to every proposal. It was not concerned about what came out of Lancaster House. All it wanted was a method by which it might be legitimised.
The members of the Patriotic Front have been concerned to reach a settlement that would succeed. It would have been quite easy to reach a settlement. If they had said "Yes, yes, yes" to the British proposals at the beginning, we should have had a paper agreement but not necessarily one that would have led to a successful conclusion. The Patriotic Front seeks conditions in a settlement for Zimbabwe that will work on the ground and provide the possibility of a stable future.
We still have a long way to go before final agreement is reached. As I said earlier—I really mean this—I trust that such an agreement will be reached. Neither Members of Parliament nor the members of the Patriotic Front want to see the war continued one day longer than necessary. However, we should not be surprised that there are difficulties in settling the ceasefire deails. All who have followed events in Rhodesia over the years must accept that there was bound to have been a considerable amount of distrust—which persists until this day.
The House will remember that Conservative Members of Parliament declined to support the sanctions order on the previous occasion. The right hon. Lady—now the Prime Minister—sacked her defence spokesman, the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill). That was not done so much for voting against the sanctions order as for not doing what Mummy told him. We should remember the attitude of Government supporters in the present great euphoria about the way in which the Government are dealing with this matter.
The Patriotic Front recognised from the beginning that the ceasefire would be extremely difficult to negotiate. When discussions started at Lancaster House, it wanted to discuss the ceasefire proposals first. Its members said "Let us look at the difficult areas first and then we can reach agreement, probably quite quickly, on the transitional arrangements and the constitutional proposals." However, the Patriotic Front was persuaded to accept a different agenda. The difficulties cannot be discounted, even though there were contingent agreements on the transition period and the constitution.
The House is, and has been, in some difficulty over a period of time. In his past two, three or four statements on Lancaster House, the Lord Privy Seal steadfastly refused to answer any point of detail about the conference. He said that he could not answer points of detail because the Government could not conduct negotiations outside Lancaster House across the Floor of the House of Commons. I understand that point of view. I can almost sympathise with it. Nevertheless, as the Bill stands, the House is being asked to approve the final act in the process of conferring legal independence on Zimbabwe—before agreement is reached at Lancaster House, before the transitional period and, indeed, before any election takes place. There is still no agreement, but I hope that there will be one soon.
There are serious problems about the ceasefire details. My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) went into those in some detail. I certainly shall not go over them in any great detail in view of that, especially as we may return to some of these points when we deal with the amendments in Committee.
How can we expect the Patriotic Front, after years of fighting, to assemble its supporters at 16 different places where they will remain during the transition and election periods? In the latest proposals, tabled yesterday, two points are made. First, the Government say that they cannot guarantee a ceasefire, that the 1,200 men who will go to Rhodesia are only to monitor what happens, and that it is not within their capability to guard the forces of either side.
The second proposal is that the Rhodesian security forces will return to the vicinity of their bases—not go back to their bases, but return to the vicinity of their bases. Then, provided that the Patriotic Front does not break the ceasefire, there will be no need for the Governor to deploy those forces.
In those circumstances, we require a great deal of clarification on how there is to be equal treatment. In the early stages of the transition arrangements—I think this was the phrase used—there should be reciprocity of treatment for both sides. There does not seem to be much by way of reciprocity, unless it is some peculiarity of the English language which is yet to be defined. If we are to have a ceasefire, there must be some guarantee that the Rhodesian security forces will be held in check.
There was great euphoria in the House, the country, the world at large and in Rhodesia when agreement was reached on the ceasefire principles. But hardly was the ink dry on the newspapers that were run off the presses in Salisbury than the Rhodesian forces were attacking Zambia and Mozambique again. I understand that the people attacked were assembling to come back into Rhodesia to take part in the elections. They were assembling to return home. Having been bombed before beginning to get back into the country, can we blame them for fearing that they will be bombed when they come back? The Government must tell us more about the way in which people outside Rhodesia are to return to take part in the elections.
As far as I know, there are no postal votes. There may be 250,000 voters in the refugee camps. There are more refugees than that, but about 250,000–I should be glad if the Government could give the figure—would be entitled to vote. If voting is on the list system, 250,000 votes could sway the election in one district or another. Therefore, we need to know that the forces of the Patriotic Front who may still be outside Rhodesia will be allowed to return home to play a proper part in the elections.
My hon. Friend also underestimates the problem of the many thousands of Rhodesian Africans living in this country who want to take part in the elections. If they want to go back to Rhodesia after the Bill is passed, they will lose their citizenship and will not be able to come back to this country. Therefore, it is not simply a question of going back on holiday to vote. Surely, something should be done about postal voting for those people.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that matter. I should be glad of enlightenment. As far as I know, there are no arrangements for people to vote other than in person. I do not think that a postal vote is being organised. I agree that arrangements should be made for people in this country to be able to record their votes. I appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend. Some of those people may not be able to go back, even if they wish to do so, because of different responsibilities, but they will want to play a part in determining the government of their country. That matter will have to be gone into in considerable detail when we discuss the citizenship clause. It would be wrong if people were refused the right to return home to vote on the basis that if they did they would lose any chance of citizenship in this country.
I turn now to the grave risk that the Government are taking in sending the Governor to Zimbabwe at this stage. I need not traverse all the arguments. Control of the Rhodesian security forces seems somewhat vicarious. The Lord Privy Seal would not answer my question yesterday whether the raids into Mozambique and Zambia last Sunday were on the direct orders of General Walls or with his authority and knowledge. If neither of those propositions is correct, does it mean that the Rhodesian security forces are already out of the control of General Walls? If so, how can they be expected to give true allegiance to a newly arrived Governor?
We are still unhappy about the guarantees that there will be no interference by South Africa. I am not satisfied with these arrangements.
The risks of passing the Bill in its totality before an election are great, because it may not stick. As the Bill stands, Parliament will not have an opportunity to discuss whether or not the Order in Council should go ahead. We may be left with an Order in Council that we either accept or reject. I hope that the Government will assure us that if the arrangements do not stick they will not proceed to grant independence to Zimbabwe under this Act, as it will be, if there are not free and fair elections.
In the various proposals there are arrangements for Commonwealth observers. There is nothing to say how the Commonwealth observers will decide whether the elections have been free and fair or whether they are satisfied with the arrangements. There must be some way—unless they are simply there as window dressing—for the Commonwealth observers to report back to the House that they are satisfied that it will be safe to grant legal independence to Zimbabwe. I hope that there will be free and fair elections. I hope that they will be held, but only time will tell.
Many hon. Members have criticised the negotiating tactics of Lord Carrington. If they work out, no one will be more pleased than I. But if they fail, even at this late stage, I hope that the noble Lord will realise the tremendous responsibility which will have fallen upon us.
I remain optimistic about the future of Zimbabwe. Speaking to those who represent the Patriotic Front, one is amazed at their tolerance. There is no racialism. They are attacking the whites in Rhodesia not because they are whites but because they represent a system of oppression, which they could no longer tolerate, of being driven underground, being put in detention without trial and being condemned for all kinds of acts. As I said, I remain optimistic. I hope that the settlement will work. If we can make progress in Rhodesia—I shall celebrate independence in Zimbabwe—we shall turn our attention to the problems of Namibia and South Africa and shall not rest until they are solved as well.
I should not wish Second Reading of the Bill to pass without adding my support for it and expressing my sincere congratulations, on behalf of my constituents, to my right hon. and hon. Friends who have worked so hard in recent months to bring the settlement to fruition and this legislation before the House.
There can be no doubt that the past decade or more has been a tragic and difficult period for Rhodesia, but the successive apologies which have been expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House for the attitude of the British Government towards Rhodesia have been a little one-sided. In retrospect, I believe that UDI was a great tragedy for Rhodesia and that much of the blame must rest on those who perpetrated that act.
It is remarkable that the bipartisan approach to Rhodesia and its return to legality subsisted for so long. Despite the fact that there have been factions on the wings of both major political parties in this country who have sought quick solutions of a quite different kind, a broad body of opinion with both major parties supported a policy of sanctions against Rhodesia, condemned the unilateral declaration of independence and sought a peaceful settlement under both Labour and Conservative Governments.
I cannot help but feel that some of the pessimism which attaches to the latest comments and contributions of Labour Members smacks more of sour grapes than of genuine concern. We are all entitled to seek reassurance from the Minister about the various points that concern us.
I am concerned about two matters. Clause 3 provides for a measure of immunity under United Kingdom law for any acts of tort and reparation. But there is concern about the position of individuals in Rhodesia after independence has been granted under the Order in Council and the election has taken place. Will reprisals be taken by the successor regime against individuals whose actions before the declaration of independence were found objectionable?
If, as some hon. Members in the past have asked for and may now even wish, Mr. Smith and Mr. van der Byl are strung up, are we to stand idly by and allow that to happen? Some may feel that they should be brought before courts for acts of immorality. Some might feel that certain leaders of the Patriotic Front deserve the same measure of justice.
However, we are entitled to seek some assurance that, as I hope very much, given the tenor of this settlement and the granting of independence, the past will be regarded as the past and that the new Zimbabwe will make the best of what it has, looking to the future and not seeking to take reprisals against those who have led different factions in the past. If my hon. Friend the Minister can give any assurance of those matters of concern to many people both in Rhodesia and Britain, it will be most welcome.
My second point concerns the development fund that was spoken of previously when a settlement was sought. Although the Bill in no way refers directly to the fund, I think that the Second Reading debate is the appropriate occasion on which to seek some general reassurance about the position that will apply after the granting of independence.
My major concern at the time when President Carter had a real prospect of obtaining the agreement of Congress to put money into a major international fund to provide for the development of Rhodesia was that it would be used as a means of underwriting the sequestration of white property.
I strongly believe that there is a case for a substantial and generous international development fund for the new Zimbabwe. It is a relatively highly developed country in terms of education, utilities and health. The Africans in Rhodesia enjoy far higher standards than they enjoy in almost any other African country, but there is still much to be done. It is a vast country. If we are to give those Africans who have trained and have developed some livelihood and opportunity for themselves in the tribal trust land areas a greater opportunity for the future, that will cost money. Those of us who have had a historical association with the country have, I believe, an obligation to assist them in their future.
My greatest concern, however, is that, if a fund is set aside to compensate white farmers or white property owners for their loss of property, that will act as an indirect encouragement to a new regime to carry out the sequestration of that property. It is one thing to provide funds to be put into agriculture, new industry and social infrastructure. It is quite another to provide a development fund which will be used as an underwriting agency for the sequestration and confiscation of white property. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to take that point on board and, in so far as they have any influence with the Americans and in any future funding of the development of Zimbabwe, in no way to lend themselves to any fund that will encourage such a trend.
It is perhaps the view of many that Bishop Muzorewa's achievement in the recent elections indicates that he is the hot favourite in any elections that may take place. But history often serves to remind us that the opposite may be true. The elections in Britain after the last war are an example of that. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) quoted another in St. Lucia, where independence granted earlier this year was followed by a major election reversal for the Government of the day, perhaps against expectations.
So it may mean, for all I know, that in Rhodesia the elections will result in a new Government who are not led by Bishop Muzorewa. To my mind, that would be a great disappointment since that man has shown both stability and great promise for his country in the short time that he has led his Government.
My reservations are, therefore, about the possibility of reprisals and about the development fund. Having voiced them, I give the Bill a warm welcome on behalf of my constituents, and certainly on behalf of the many Rhodesians I have met who have visited my constituency and have expressed their grave concern about the continuing lack of a settlement which offers real peace and opportunity.
My right hon. and hon. Friends are to be congratulated. I hope that the Governor will keep up the efforts that he has started today in taking the country to independence, and I hope that the relationship between this country and Rhodesia, which has soured in the last 10 years but which has been a proud one for this country, will continue in a different form which will nevertheless be helpful for the peoples of both countries in the future.
A few moments ago an hon. Member paid tribute to all those who have died in Rhodesia, on whichever side, because, he said, they had fought for what they believed in. However, when history looks back at what has happened in the past 14 years, one of the many questions that will be asked is whether many of those deaths could have been avoided and whether they achieved very much. The question will also arise whether many of the people who fought because they believed that UDI was correct and because they had been told that never in a thousand years would majority rule come to Rhodesia would have done the same had they known that it would arrive in 14 years.
When I was in the Foreign Office—I might say at the height of my political career—I took part in the drawing up of an independence constitution. It was a time of rejoicing and joyousness. The people from the country concerned left the negotiations convinced that whatever happened afterwards they would be left with the basis for proper organisation, independence based on majority rule and the rights of minorities safeguarded. There was no mistrust and suspicion on anybody's part.
One reason why some Conservatives think that we in the Labour Party are being a little churlish—that has been said about some of my hon. Friends today—stems from our attitude to the fact that throughout the negotiations the fears of the Patriotic Front have not been voiced by the Government. The Government have given the impression from the beginning when we had the first Bill that everyone agreed that we were only a short way from total agreement, with only one or two minor matters to be tidied up. That just is not true. It would have been much better if the Government had spelt out the desperate worries of the Patriotic Front about the different points.
I repeat that I am delighted with the negotiations that have taken place and that they have got so far, but I constantly find myself in the position of having to ask "What about this issue or that matter"? This is not a question of being unduly pessimistic or saying that one does not want to see success. What is important, particularly for the future, is that the fears of those people whose lives are at stake should be voiced. Why is there mistrust and suspicion? There are many reasons, apart from the history of Southern Rhodesia.
The visit of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to Lusaka for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference was preceded by a statement that gave every indication that the Government were poised to recognise the Muzorewa regime. The right hon. Lady said in the House that there was no need for the fighting to go on one moment longer. I can produce quote after quote referring to fair and free elections in Southern Rhodesia at that time. There is so much evidence that I do not believe it is necessary for me to read long screeds to the House.
It is absolutely true that, as time went on, the position of the Government in relation to the Muzorewa regime changed. The emphasis had changed before the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary went to Lusaka. Until the agreement at Lusaka to hold the Lancaster House conference, the Patriotic Front was under the distinct impression that we had agreed that the elections were fair and free and that the whole issue was on the point of being settled. There is no way in which that can be denied.
The Prime Minister said that there was no need for the fighting to go on any longer. In that situation—although no one was more delighted than I that the outcome of Lusaka was the Lancaster House conference—it is understandable that people are suspicious and nervous. That has accounted for the atmosphere in the negotiations.
I shall not give way now. I will do so later if the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene. I wish to reiterate one or two points about how people vote and who will vote. This is important if we are to achieve an atmosphere of trust at the time of the elections.
I received a recent parliamentary reply from the Lord Privy Seal on the question of refugees. A day or so later I received a letter, for which I was most grateful, which said
On reflection, I think I should have said a little about the position of the refugees in relation to voting and how they will be resettled.
There is great concern about the fact that all sorts of people, as well as refugees, will have to be accommodated on the question of voting. How will arrangements be made for voting by the guerrillas? There is also the question of people in this country and their part in the voting.
The question has been raised about the breaking of the ceasefire after we understood that it had been accepted by the Muzorewa Government. We were told that raids were taking place on Mozambique and Zambia because guerrillas were infiltrating—I think that was the word—into Rhodesia. If that sort of atmosphere exists, we are a long way from persuading the Patriotic Front that all is well. When all is said and done, the people infiltrating into Rhodesia are infiltrating their own country. It seems emotive language to say that these guerrillas are infiltrating.
We need to know when it will be safe for those who have been conducting a war to return to Rhodesia and to take part in the arrangements for the elections that are about to take place. These matters have caused grave mistrust among the Patriotic Front. I find alarming the fact that the Government do not voice these concerns or explain how the problems are to be overcome. Reference has been made to a statement by South Africa about the consequences if a Marxist Government emerge from the elections in Rhodesia. The word "Marxist" is used loosely in British politics. One has only to say that there are two classes in society and one is labelled a Marxist without being given any further explanation. But that statement has been made, and the Patriotic Front is naturally concerned.
The Patriotic Front fears that if it is regarded as Marxist and if the British Government fail to repudiate the statement, or fail to say what they will do, there is danger of the Patriotic Front not being allowed to participate in the result of a democratic election. All these matters have to be cleared up.
At what point is Zimbabwe free and independent? It is being returned to legality. But we want to be satisfied that the elections are conducted in circumstances that take into account all the matters I have mentioned. We want to be satisfied of the right to participate for all the groups whose participation is very much in question. We want the elections to be conducted in a way that is fair and free. Only when that point has been satisfied can we say that Zimbabwe is independent and grant independence. If that point is not satisfied and elections have not been fair and free, how can those who feel that they have not been free and fair come back to the British Government saying "It has not happened as you said. Things went drastically wrong"? That question must be answered.
I want to refer the hon. Lady to 1961, when Sir Edgar Whitehead, as Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, as it then was, and part of the federation, produced a constitution that was bound in time to bring the black Africans to power on the basis of their education and their financial situation. Mr. Joshua Nkomo welcomed that proposal with great gratitude and then went off to see Mr. Nkrumah of Ghana. Many other countries had taken an interest in the situation. Mr. Nkomo was told to go back and demand nothing less than "one man, one vote." But if Mr. Nkomo had accepted that 1961 constitution we would not have been in the present situation. There would have been a black African Government long ago. Does not the hon. Lady think that some of her own hon. Friends might have encouraged Mr. Nkomo to listen to hon. Members in this House instead of the people in Africa?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman was not apportioning blame, going back to 1961, for today's situation. I happen to believe that one man and one woman with one vote each is the best possible basis for independence in any country. I do not intend to go back to what Joshua Nkomo was advised long ago. I am concerned with the here and the now and the situation 14 years after UDI was declared.
I want the independence of Zimbabwe to take place. I want the elections to be successful. Like many of my hon. Friends who have played a part in these matters for so long, I am as concerned as anyone that they should succeed. I ask, however, that the Lord Privy Seal should give answers to questions about arrangements on the ceasefire, the return of people to their own country, wherever they may be, the arrangements for voting and the position of South Africa. All these matters have to be cleared up before I can give a welcome to the Bill. Another question that has to be answered is at what point Zimbabwe is independent. Will that be after we are satisfied that elections have been free and fair or immediately they have taken place?
The long saga of events since 1964 has involved a number of renewals of the sanctions order and various other debates. Those of us who have taken part in those debates are pleased that we have a Bill that we hope will lead to fair and free elections and that for the first time Zimbabwe is to have a Government who truly represent all the people.
It is a little early to pay tribute to any successes, although the Government have played an important part in getting a settlement. I am reminded of the situation in France and its problems with Algeria. The French people returned de Gaulle to power thinking that the situation would not change, but he immediately set about giving independence to Algeria.
I think that the Smith regime was holding out in the hope that a Conservative Government would be returned to power in this country. Some Conservative Members—not a majority—would have liked a settlement with Smith many years ago. They objected to Labour Governments insisting on sanctions and seeking a constitution that would be recognised not enabling Bill was brought forward before only by the people of Zimbabwe but throughout the world.
It has been worth waiting for this moment. We are to see the election of a Government in Zimbabwe who, unlike the illegal regime that could never find one other Government to recognise it, will be recognised in the Commonwealth and the United Nations.
The hon. Gentleman is talking about Mr. Nkrumah, who passed away at least 15 years ago. We must recognise that Joshua Nkomo and the other leaders of the Patriotic Front have taken a stand in the belief that certain principles are important. We must pay tribute to those men, who will emerge as leaders of Zimbabwe. Under the Smith regime they spent decades in prison. I believe that their suffering has been made worth while by what has been achieved.
In Opposition, the Conservative Party implied that there would be a sell-out on Rhodesia, but the Heath and Home Governments did not sell out to the illegal regime, and that is to their credit. We have waited 14 years to get the correct decision. Let us make sure that it is right. Do not let us fall at the final hurdle. We must be patient. The Patriotic Front has been fighting for liberty and its leaders are trying to get guarantees of fair and free elections. We have to be patient in discussing the problems.
For years after the war with Japan ended there were still people fighting on the islands in the South Pacific. They had not even heard that the war was over. Of course, communications have improved since then, but those fighting the guerrilla war in Zimbabwe are cut off from the media, and we must allow enough time to ensure that the fighting has stopped.
It is to the credit of the Government that they want a just solution and to allow the people of Zimbabwe to vote in free and fair elections, but do not let us rush it. I did not understand why the the negotiations had reached a conclusion. Of course, the Government had a problem with some of their Back Benchers on the sanctions order, and that is why the Opposition agreed to the enabling Bill going through.
The Bill before us has been brought forward even though there is still no ceasefire in Zimbabwe. I hope that nothing untoward happens, but for the Governor to go to Salisbury when a civil war is still being fought is fraught with danger.
I hope that we shall guarantee that the various political parties that are to fight the election will have equal access to the broadcasting media. It is vital that justice is not only done but is seen to be done and that political liberty is not only given but is seen to be given. Whatever part may have been played by any person in previous Rhodesian Governments or in the struggle for freedom, all parties must be given equal access to the media.
Why did the illegal regime last for so long? I believe that it was not because economic sanctions were wrong but because they were not applied as they should have been. There are those in this country who have flouted the will of the people as expressed by the House. That is in the past, but we must recognise that the reason why we could not bring the illegal regime back to legality was that the main saboteurs were South Africa and the former Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique.
When Angola and Mozambique became independent, the Rhodesian regime was sustained by South Africa. There have been reports that South African troops have poured over the border into Zimbabwe. We must insist that the South African troops get out of Zimbabwe. We cannot have fair elections unless those troops are withdrawn. We need copper-bottomed guarantees that they are no longer in Zimbabwe.
As I mentioned earlier, it is difficult for the Patriotic Front to meet the conditions of the ceasefire, and further time must be allowed for that to happen. It is all very well to say that it should come to rendezvous points and move to assembly points, but the Patriotic Front is kept in confined areas. We have to give it guarantees that it will not be treated differently from the existing forces of the Rhodesian regime.
I have certain reservations about giving the Bill a Second Reading, but I hope that all goes well and that before long there will be elections. We must be assured that the elections will be free and fair. It has been a long struggle to ensure that the majority in Rhodesia are able to determine their destiny. I hope that it will not be long before they have real independence and we welcome Rhodesia into the Commonwealth, and that Rhodesia will then play an active part in the United Nations.
This ought to be a major moment in the parliamentary history of the issues governing Rhodesia. After 14 years, during which passions have raged in the many debates that have taken place in a packed House, we come to the significant moment of bringing Zimbabwe to independence, yet from the beginning of the debate the House has been empty. That is an astonishing comment. Perhaps the House is empty because passions have been spent during the annual debates on sanctions orders. I am trying to claim a personal world record of having wound up more debates on these orders than any Minister in the past 14 years.
The Bill represents an important and major step in the processes that should bring to a conclusion the 14-year saga of Rhodesia. Many of my hon. Friends have been right continually to remind the House that, whatever we may say about the present position, it is sad and tragic that it has been war—the gun and the bomb—that has brought us to the point at which we can look forward to an independent Zimbabwe and freedom for more than 5 million black Africans. Thousands of young people were forced to take to the gun to try to ensure the rights that we have enjoyed for so long.
Anyone who has been involved in the problems of trying to achieve a settlement in Rhodesia should have learnt a degree of humility. Even at this last moment, Ministers must have their fingers crossed. They must be touching wood and devoutly praying—as we all are—that nothing will jeopardise a successful conclusion to the Lancaster House talks, followed by a ceasefire and free and fair elections that will establish a truly independent Zimbabwe.
The issue has been important and significant for the past 14 years because it has involved the freedom, the rights and the opportunities of more than 5 million black Africans. They have not enjoyed those rights because of the decision made in 1965 by Mr. Smith to declare illegal independence and establish a racial Government, without rights for the majority.
Anyone who has been involved in the Rhodesian problem will know that it has been a major test of the willingness of successive British Governments to stand up for the rights and freedoms of black Africans. African countries in the Commonwealth have considered that a major test. During my travels through Africa, often a long way from Southern Africa and Rhodesia, I have been stopped at airports by journalists and questioned by Ministers in many other parts of Africa about our stand and been made aware of the deep distrust, the sense of suspician and the feeling that we would not live up to the principles which the House had laid down but which successive British Governments had failed to implement.
The achievement of a settlement is one of the great prizes for the freedom of 5 million people and for Britain's relationships with Africa and the Commonwealth. Though many of my hon. Friends have been critical and expressed reservations, we wish and hope that the Bill will lead to an independent Zimbabwe.
Equally, Opposition Members are right to question the position in which the House finds itself in debating the Bill. Hon Member after hon Member has said that it is curious to bring forward a Bill to give independence before a constitutional conference has been completed, before agreements have been reached, before a ceasefire has been achieved and before a transitional process for free and fair elections has taken place. There is no precedent for that.
Rhodesia has presented many unprecedented situations—we understand that—and we are entitled to ask: is it so necessary to do this at this moment? It is regrettable that the Government could not ensure that a consensus would be achieved in the House. That could still happen if the Government were prepared to listen to some of the propositions that we shall put forward this evening. We find ourselves in an odd position. If we pass the Bill, it will be the final act. There is no other legislative act that will bring Rhodesia to independence. If we pass the Bill, in all its stages, there is only one process left, and that is an Order in Council. If the Bill remains unamended, it will not even be subject to parliamentary approval and debate.
We are right to say—and we shall be saying it in greater detail in Committee—that that is wrong. It is not sensible, and we feel that the House should not be treated in such a way. It is not sensible because, after 14 years of pretending to have power and responsibility over Rhodesia—that has been an illusion—we have assumed proper and full responsibility and power for the government and administration of Rhodesia. We cannot sign off—as we should be doing if the Bill were passed without amendment—and say that there is nothing more for the House to do by way of further legislative acts.
The principle of the Bill is accepted. We wish and hope that the ceasefire will be agreed. That wish is unanimous. We hope that the transitional arrangements will work and will lead to free and fair elections. However, we are entitled to say—as we have been saying during the debate—that there should be one further and final stage before the date of independence is announced. The House should resolve and make that decision itself. It is the fundamental difference remaining between us. We have been put in an almost impossible position because there is no constitutional conference report—althtough there have been a number of documents that one could read to work out the pattern—as there has been for other independence discussions, constitutions and procedures.
I have been involved in no fewer than five sets of independence discussions, admittedly involving mini-States, but the plan was always to bring a constitutional report before the House and then move forward with appropriate legislation. We are reversing that procedure, and that is why extra transitional provisions are needed in the Bill to ensure that the House does not sign off and wash its hands, legislatively, of the remaining stages of independence.
As many of my hon. Friends have said, there have not yet been free and fair elections. Commonwealth observation will be an intrinsic part of the transitional period. Parliament should have an observer team. There should be a parliamentary Committee there. It seems that everyone else will be observing the elections. The House, which has responsibility for deciding whether the fifth principle has been fully met, should have the opportunity to observe.
The value of the House observing the elections and of having the process of Commonwealth observation is that that would authenticate what took place. If that is done, it will be possible at the end of the transitional period to say "The elections were free and fair. Therefore, we should name independence day." However, if the Bill is enacted unamended, as is proposed, that process will not take place. That means that the House will not have the opportunity to say that the elections were free and fair. In those circumstances, it will not be possible for the House to accept, or otherwise, an order that provides the date of independence.
The Opposition believe that this is the last legislative moment in the whole process. That being so, I must ask certain questions about the interim transitional arrangements. What is the Government's thinking about the length of the transition? There were heated debates when we considered the Southern Rhodesia Act 1979. Our arguments were central and germane to the Lancaster House negotiations. The relevance of those arguments to the Bill turns on the appointed day for independence.
Are we talking about two months from today, or from the day when the Governor sets foot on Salisbury soil for the first time? Are we talking about X months after the completion of the discussions? If agreement is reached by the weekend, the ceasefire arrangements are agreed and the Lancaster House conference comes to a successful conclusion, what will be the time scale? I do not seek to pin the Under-Secretary of State down to a minute, an hour or a day; I am merely asking for an idea of the time scale before we are confronted with the vital issue of the appointed day.
Many of my hon. Friends have referred to the position of the South African Government, and especially South African troops. At present there are regulars and irregulars inside Rhodesia. As from today, Rhodesia is a Crown colony. That is the position de facto as well as theoretically. What are the Governor's instructions in that regard in the vital weeks ahead?
Once we have approved the Bill, we have finished legislatively. We shall have completed our parliamentary responsibilities. However, I devoutly hope and pray that in the spirit of amity that now exists the Lord Privy Seal, or the Under-Secretary of State, will be able to say that the Government are willing to accept at least one significant change to the Bill to ensure that there will be a final parliamentary legislative change in the form of a debate on one of the orders after free and fair elections have taken place.
In Committee we shall wish to consider two or three major issues that the Bill raises. The Lord Privy Seal had a tough task explaining in layman's language the nationality provisions. My sympathy for him was considerable. Anyone who has wandered into the labyrinth of international law finds that he goes quickly or slightly insane, or loses his way. However, the provisions are profoundly serious. We must bear in mind the nationality problems that surrounded the Kenya Asians and arose also in dealing with a host of other Bills. Many questions remain unanswered about the position of certain groups of citizens within each and every society because of the complications of the relevant provisions. These issues are crucial, and they often emerge two or three years later as major problems to confront various groups in position of certain groups of citizens withdrawn in constitutional and political terms. We need answers that are comprehensible and couched in layman's language.
Who are the exceptional people referred to in schedule 1? There are those who are described in paragraph 3 as "subject to limited exceptions". The Minister should not merely refer to various subsections of nationality law. Who are these people? What sort of persons are we talking about? Are they white or are they black? Who are those with close connections with Britain who will be able to qualify under the special provisions of the schedule? Obviously we cannot discuss the detail on Second Reading, but it will be helpful if, in general terms, the Under-Secretary of State will allay our worries and concerns about the nationality provisions.
We shall wish to discuss the amnesty provisions. It is not what is in the Bill but what is not in it that is of the greatest concern to my right hon. and hon. Friends. What is the position of sanctions busters who are now under investigation by the Director of Public Prosecutions? I understand that clause 3 does not exempt or free British companies, for example, which have deceitfully or cynically evaded or broken sanctions law. I understand that the clause does not extend the amnesty to them.
When the Bill has been enacted, we do not want to have a hole-in-the-corner statement or a written answer by the Attorney-General that indemnifies existing sanctions busters. I am sure that I should not be suspicious, but a few days ago there were hints that a statement would be made. Following that, there were rumours that there would be no statement. The Under-Secretary of State should clarify the issue.
There is a difference in principle between indemnifying individuals in Rhodesia under United Kingdom law—that includes a Governor's order in Rhodesia, applying to both sides, despite their involvement in illegal acts during the past 14 years—and indemnifying firms that have cynically broken United Kingdom laws in the past few years by breaking sanctions. If the slate is wiped clean for the second category, that is very different from taking the same attitude towards and action against those who, as the Opposition understand it, have been involved in activities covered by clause 3. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will tell us clearly and unequivocally the position of those who are suspected of or under investigation for having broken sanctions.
The Bill is about the granting of freedom and independence to over 5 million people, the majority of whom have been deprived of freedom, rights and opportunities for generations. They have suffered racial and political persecution. Their interests have been the preoccupation of hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber since 1965, and even before that. I hope and pray that the Bill will usher in freedom, opportunities and a multi-racial society, a society with complete racial harmony within Rhodesia. I hope that we shall be able to put behind us the past miserable 14 years, during which successive Governments have failed to repay a debt of honour that successive Governments and both parties have accepted.
I hope that we can start talking about Rhodesia without the bitterness and the passions of the past. I hope that we shall no longer have to talk about sanctions, deprivation, persecution, killings, bombings, guerrillas and illegality. I hope that we can concentrate on peaceful development in a land that is capable of offering a prosperous and harmonious society.
The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) and I have been on opposite sides on many occasions when debating Rhodesia. I think that we would both agree that this occasion is a historic and important one for the future of Rhodesia—shortly to be called Zimbabwe. I welcome the general spirit demonstrated during the debate and the desire expressed on all sides to see the Bill succeed, to see Rhodesia proceed as quickly as possible to independence and to see an end to the war.
I have noticed some unwillingness to accept the progress that has recently been made by the Government and by all the parties involved in Rhodesia. During the last six months we have had extensive consultations with representatives from many parts of Africa and the Western world, and, of course, we attended the important Commonwealth conference at Lusaka. We are now in our fourteenth week at Lancaster House, and the constitution, pre-independence arrangements and proposals for a ceasefire have been agreed. Agreement has been reached on all outstanding political issues. All the problems that previously stood in the way of legal independence have now been removed.
Successive Governments have struggled with this problem since the early 1960s. Many Governments, in many parts of the world, urged us, month after month and year after year during the 1960s and 1970s, to exercise our responsibilities towards Rhodesia. The British Government are now prepared to take on those responsibilities, however difficult. Anyone who denies that the task will be difficult is very green indeed. Our desire to exercise those responsibilities has been demonstrated by the arrival in Salisbury this afternoon of Lord Soames as Governor. We have achieved what successive Labour and Conservative Governments failed to achieve for over 14 years. We can now return Rhodesia to legality.
To achieve that stage has required patience in negotiation, boldness, decisiveness and a willingness to take risks. That balance has been demonstrated by my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State and by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal during the negotiations of the last three months. The Governor has arrived, and momentum towards a final peace will be maintained. The Governor's presence will help to stabilise the country and normalise relations with neighbouring countries. He will also be able to prepare plans for the implementation of the ceasefire. It is now easier for the Patriotic Front to come in, as it will be reassured by the presence of the Governor and by the fact that the Rhodesian forces have pledged their loyalty and are accountable to the Governor.
It was agreed at the Lancaster House conference that on the arrival of the Governor all Rhodesian forces would be accountable to him. That is the case as from today.
Whatever we do involves risks and dangers. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) made that point effectively. It would have been more dangerous had we delayed and not sent a Governor. The hon. Member for Inverness quoted from a letter that appeared in The Times of today from Lord Caradon, who wrote:
no risk I feel sure, would have been greater than the risk of doing nothing
That is true, and it is important. If one does not take the plunge or take risks, the chances of progress are that much less.
The introduction of the independence Bill is seen against that background. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal carefully explained the purposes of the Bill, and I shall not labour the points concerning citizenship again, as there will be a debate later during the Committee stage. However, we can now see the basis on which independence will be granted. The constitution provides for genuine majority rule and the country will return to legality through free and fair elections under British supervision. That is our responsibility. There will be a British election commission, British supervisors and Commonwealth as well as British observers.
The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil wanted to know why the Bill was being introduced now, and as other hon. Members have also raised that question I must comment on it. As the hon. Member said, we face a unique situation and we must demonstrate to the parties concerned in Rhodesia that we will fulfil our obligations. By passing this legislation we shall make that clear to them. We want to show them that we mean business, that we will fulfil our side of the undertaking, and that we wish to maintain the momentum of the last three months. If that momentum is not maintained, the fragility of the exercise will increase.
It is important to give to Rhodesian citizens as much advance warning as possible of the Bill's implications, particularly about the citizenship and amnesty provisions. It is exceedingly important, therefore, to persuade the House to put the Bill on the statute book by Christmas. I am in a dilemma, and my options depend upon the mood of the House. Many wide-ranging points have been raised during the debate, and I therefore suggest that I answer as many as I can, as quickly as possible.
I hope that the House will accept that as there will be a debate in Committee on citizenship I should answer those questions in more detail then, as there are many other points to cover.
The hon. Gentleman raised that question previously, as did several other hon. Members. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) asked whether there were any other precedents for a country attaining independence without being a member of the Commonwealth and then applying to join it. The answer is that there are. Precedents have been set in Cyprus, Western Samoa and Bangladesh. The case of Rhodesia will not be unique. However, a salient point made by several hon. Members concerned the question why we could not have made an assumption that Rhodesia—or Zimbabwe, when independence is gained—would wish to be in the Commonwealth, and that it would be for that country to opt out if it so wished.
My right hon. Friend and I would have much preferred that, and we see the force of those arguments. On the other hand, we think that it is wrong to pre-empt the views of the people of Rhodesia and their future leaders who are elected under free and fair elections. Secondly, in order to achieve membership of the Commonwealth, any country must obtain the acceptance of the Commonwealth as a whole, as I am sure the House knows. That has not been obtained. For those two main reasons, it is right that we approach the matter in this way.
I move on to a point that was raised by the hon. Member for Inverness and my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) about economic assistance. The hon. Member for Inverness asked about economic assistance to neighbouring States, particularly Zambia. As he knows, a great deal of economic assistance is already given to Zambia. I think that he mentioned Tanzania as well. Both countries already receive assistance. I am sure that the whole House would agree that if the fighting comes to an end, as we hope it will shortly, and there is peace and stability in Rhodesia, the prospects for the neighbouring countries to improve their own standards of living and prosperity are much greater.
Even today, on the arrival of the Governor, he has decided to resume the supplies of maize to Zambia. That is another example of the kind of positive measure that the arrival of the Governor can provide. Of course, it will be for us, in terms of our bilateral relations with countries such as Zambia, to review the situation once the settlement in Rhodesia is completed. As I said, a great deal of assistance is already given to Zambia.
I turn to the question of assistance to Rhodesia. If, after independence, the new Government wish to enter into negotiations with us about the provision of economic assistance, we have already made it plain at Lancaster House, as well as in this House, that we shall consider any requests very carefully. I should say to my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester that such economic assistance cannot be used directly for the provision of compensation for land that is expropriated. Of course, it can be used—we have offered it already—for the purpose of assisting any future Government in Rhodesia in a land resettlement policy. But that is something rather different from providing aid for compensation for expropriated land. I hope that that goes some way towards answering my hon. Friend's point.
Many hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore), raised the question of the media. The position is quite clear, and we have made it quite clear at Lancaster House. It is the duty of the Governor and the British election commission to ensure that all parties have a fair and equal opportunity and access to the media and that there will have to be editorial balance by the broadcasting authority. The House may like to know that the Governor took with him a special adviser on radio and television matters from the Central Office of Information who will be at his disposal. However, we would also wish to take into account the views that have been expressed in the House with regard to the advice that is available to the Governor in relation to the media.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I think that that is a matter for the Governor. He will now be in a position in which he can make a judgment on the question whether it might be helpful to have further advice from this country. We certainly take that point on board, and I am sure that the Governor does as well.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price) made an encouraging indication that he felt that if the Government continued on their present course he would be prepared to continue to support them throughout this Parliament. We are most grateful to him for that offer.
It was qualified. I should like to reassure him on the point that he raised about the procedure for the Governor's departure. We have been rather preoccupied with questions arising from the Governor's arrival. However, the Governor will depart on the day of independence. By that I mean that elections will take place. Arrangements will then have to be made for the election of a Senate, and arising from that there will have to be the election of a president. At that stage, after the formation of a Government and the election of a president, the Governor will be able to hand over and independence will take place. I hope that that clarifies that point.
Many hon. Members raised the questions about the ceasefire, including the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and my hon. Friend the Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd). Without going into the details of the discussions at Lancaster House, I think that it will suffice to say that the success of this whole exercise—the ceasefire and the pre-independence arrangements—dependson the will of all the parties to fulfil the Lancaster House agreement. If that will is not maintained—although I have every faith in its being maintained—whatever party infringes that agreement must be held accountable for so doing. At the end of the day, this exercise will succeed only if that will is maintained until independence day.
A number of questions were posed about the problem relating to the assembly points for the Patriotic Front. I do not want to go into too much detail about that, because it is still being discussed at Lancaster House and we have put forward the detailed implementation of our proposals. However, I should like to take up one point raised by the hon. Member for York, who suggested that the assembly points would be detention camps. That is very far from the truth and very far from the Government's intention.
The whole purpose of this exercise is to give a greater degree of stability and security during the course of the ceasefire. As the hon. Gentleman acknowledged, these assembly points, which will be located in various parts of Rhodesia, will have their own arms and commanders. They will be well distanced from Rhodesian force bases and company locations. They will not be adjacent to them. Of course, there will be monitors under British command who will be available at the assembly points. I appreciate that there is anxiety on all sides, but I hope that the House will agree that our proposals go a long way towards allaying those fears.
We discussed this issue many times before during the proceedings on the Southern Rhodesia Bill. At the end of the day, all the forces are responsible to the Governor. As we have already explained many times, the civil police will have the primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order. It will be their job primarily to deal with such incidents. At the end of the day, both the Patriotic Front and the Rhodesian security forces are at the disposal of the Governor. In addition, of course, the ceasefire commission and the monitors will deal with incidents as and when they arise.
Are there not two matters that are important in this regard? First, the assembly points are around the periphery of Rhodesia, whereas a great deal of Patriotic Front support is in the central area. Therefore, the people are being asked to move out from their areas of strength. Secondly, by virtue of being within the camps, the people are in fixed locations, whereas the forces of the existing Administration will remain mobile. Surely, those two matters are of some concern to the Patriotic Front.
With regard to the location of the assembly points, the difficulty—as it always is with discussions in the House—is that, while it is important to have as much information as possible, the final details will be discussed between the parties at Lancaster House. We have made clear in our detailed proposals that there will be a process of reciprocal disengagement. All the forces will withdraw to their respective locations. The final details of those proposals are in the hands of the Patriotic Front. We hope that it will accept the reassurances that we have made about such matters as the hon. Gentleman has raised.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) raised an important point about keeping the House informed of developments in Rhodesia over the coming weeks. I give him an absolute assurance that we will do our best to keep the House informed at every stage when we believe that there has been an important development about which the House has a right to know.
A number of comments were made about the amnesty proposals by my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester and others. The proposals in clause 3 of the Bill deal with an amnesty in United Kingdom law. The Southern Rhodesia Act 1979 enables the British Governor in Rhodesia to deal with an amnesty within Rhodesia itself. My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State has promised that he will shortly make a statement about the proposals to deal with an amnesty in Rhodesia. It can be dealt with by means of an ordinance in Rhodesia. I hope that that answers my hon. Friend's point. It would become law during the pre-independence period and after independence.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) asked many questions, and I hope that he will forgive me if I do not answer them all. There was an exchange between the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh about the responsibility for ending sanctions. Successive Labour and Conservative Governments have made clear that the imposition of sanctions depended on whether or not legality existed in Rhodesia. As we have now proceeded to legality as from today, there is no justification, in our view, for the continuation of sanctions. Against that background, our permanent representative at the United Nations has informed the President of the Security Council that we are lifting sanctions from today.
Now that sanctions are lifted, what happens if, after the elections, the Rhodesian security forces do not like the elected Government and a coup takes place? How will the Government reimpose sanctions?
There are so many "ifs" in life that we could go on for ever anticipating a situation. We are concerned that all the requirements for which we have been asking for years and years—provision of a constitution and for genuine majority rule, adequate arrangements agreed with all the parties to lead to free and fair elections, and then independence—will be agreed at Lancaster House. It is that that concerns us and it is that that has led us to send a Governor to lead Rhodesia to a situation of legality.
I am trying to gauge the view of the House on the question whether I should go on answering points. I shall briefly take up two or three more points and then I shall seek to wind up.
The hon. Member for Heeley asked about the size of the monitoring force. The House will be aware that many discussions have been held on the matter.
Has the hon. Gentleman finished answering questions about sanctions, or will he deal with the position of those people who face prosecution or who are under investigation for busting sanctions?
If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, that matter will be discussed in the course of the discussion on the amendment on the subject of the amnesty. It is a major issue. My right hon. and noble Friend will make a statement on the wider question of an amnesty and sanctions in due course.
As the House knows, there has been a considerable amount of discussion at Lancaster House about the size of the monitoring force. Our original proposal was for a force of 500 or 600. As a result of discussions at Lancaster House, we have now agreed that the size of the force should be 1,200. Of course, it is at the discretion of the Governor, if he decides that he needs to increase the force, but in our judgment—and there is a British military adviser there, General Acland, at the Governor's disposal—the size of the force is adequate to deal with the job. We have responded to representations that have been made to us on this subject.
Many hon. Members raised questions about foreign intervention, including the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil. I should like to reiterate a point that has been made already by my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State. During the pre-independence period and after the presence, therefore, of the Governor in Salisbury, there can be and will be no foreign involvement.
What happens after independence is not something that Great Britain can anticipate or deal with. We could ask ourselves any number of questions as to which country is likely to invade which other country and what we are prepared to do about it. After that, the country is independent and any country that seeks to invade the country of Rhodesia would bear very heavy responsibilities indeed for taking such action. I think that that is as far as I can go on that point.
The martial law courts will be suspended today, on the Governor's arrival. It has been agreed by all the parties at Lancaster House that once the ceasefire has been finally agreed and implemented, martial law will be removed altogether.
The final answer that I should like to give is to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and concerns the timetable, about which there were exchanges earlier. The position is still as I described previously. That is that once the ceasefire is implemented—by that, I do not mean the time the agreement at Lancaster House is finalised—implemented and brought into force, the period between then and the date of the election will be about two months. As the hon. Gentleman rightly anticipated, I cannot give him a precise date, because we are still reaching final agreement this week at Lancaster House. The position, therefore, remains the same.
I hope that the House will have borne with me as I have been trying to answer the many questions raised during the debate.
No one should underestimate the importance of this Bill, let alone the other measures that we are taking, to the people of Rhodesia, to the neighbouring countries around Rhodesia, to Britain and to the Western world, because we are here and in our other measures creating conditions that give us a chance to bring peace to that country. I put it no higher than that, but I believe that there is a very good chance indeed of bringing an end to the tragic loss of life, the loss of limbs, and the destruction of property and of a beautiful country. To bring about conditions such as these requires courage and decisiveness. We get nowhere in life unless, occasionally, we take the plunge. As Franklin Roosevelt once said, there is nothing to fear but fear itself. In this situation we must bear that in mind.
Quite apart from creating the right conditions to give a prospect of bringing about peace, it is essential to see that two other factors exist. One is the spirit of reconciliation and compromise. I must tell the House that I believe that that has existed at Lancaster House. If it can exist there, it can exist in the country of Rhodesia in the next few months, proceeding to independence.
Secondly, there must be a spirit of trust. At the end of the day, however many bits of paper we exchange, there must be trust in the British Government that we have every intention of fulfilling those obligations to which we have agreed at Lusaka and at Lancaster House. I think it only right, therefore, that we should invite the black and white people of Rhodesia to put their trust in us. We realise how great our responsibility is and that the onus rests on us.
Let us leave it not to this House but to historians to judge who is to blame for the tragic story of Rhodesia over the last 15 years. Tonight let us concentrate our minds on how we can create the right conditions for bringing about peace. I believe that the Bill contributes to that aim. If we can concentrate our minds on bringing about peace, I hope that the House will unite in supporting the Bill on Second Reading.