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South Africa

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1986.

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Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton 12:00 am, 5th February 1986

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further action is to be taken by the Council of Ministers to seek to secure an end to apartheid in South Africa.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

The Council of Ministers agreed in Luxembourg on 10 September last year on a programme of positive and restrictive measures in relation to South Africa. At the meeting between the Twelve and the front-line states on 3 and 4 February, which I attended, these measures were endorsed. The meeting endorsed also the initiative of the Commonwealth eminent persons group.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I welcome yesterday's communiqué by the EEC Foreign Ministers and the front-line states, although I do not think that it goes far enough. I note that the communiqué states—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] Of course, I am reading from the communiqué.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Member must summarise.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

The communiqué states that the EEC should consider further restrictive measures against Pretoria if the current limited EEC sanctions do not have the desired results. What is the timetable in which those desired results will be achieved? If those measures are not achieved, when will the restrictive measures be put in place? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman reveal what those restrictive measures will be?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I cannot give — [HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] I give notice that I am not reading, Mr. Speaker. The Commonwealth Heads of Government communiqué issued in Nassau stated that, at the conclusion of a period after the establishment of the eminent persons group, further consideration would be given to the position. A similar statement was made in the Luxembourg statement from the Six, but without any limitation of time. The communiqué issued from Lusaka yesterday adds nothing to those two statements. The position therefore remains open.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, in the light of the speech at the opening of the South African Parliament by the State President of the Republic of South Africa, the Council of Ministers should now give full encouragement to the South African Government, who are pledged to remove apartheid from their country, especially in view of the reforms announced by the State President with respect to education, influx control and property rights, and the Government's determination to involve all population groups in the Government?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

My hon. Friend has drawn attention, as he is entitled to do, to the positive aspects of the President's speech, which we certainly welcome. We noted the commitment in the President's speech and the reference to the goal of parity in the provision of education. The important thing is to ensure that these measures are implemented and carried forward at a pace that carries conviction in South Africa. It is important also that we should do everything that we can to open the way to dialogue between the South African Government and the representatives of the African people in that country. It is in that spirit that we made our comments in yesterday's Lusaka communiqué.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn , Sheffield Central

Further to what my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) said about the Lusaka communiqué—embodied in that is the reference to the genuine representatives of the black people in South Africa—will the right hon. and learned Gentleman prevail on the South African authorities to start negotiations with the ANC?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

It is not for us, in respect of South Africa or any other situation, to make the choice as to who are the true representatives of the people concerned. However, it is certainly right that they should take part in the negotiations. We are encouraging the prospect of dialogue between the South African Government and the true representatives of the black people of South Africa. That is one of the objectives of the Commonwealth eminent persons group. It was welcomed by the meeting yesterday in Lusaka. We must hope that it will help to pave the way forward.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

Is my right hon and learned Friend convinced of the legitimacy of the basis on which the Council of Ministers seeks to interfere in the internal affairs of another country? When did the South African Government last seek to advise and interfere in the internal affairs of the European Economic Community?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I do not think that the examples are exactly comparable. I have no doubt that on many occasions Governments offer advice to others of such a sort. I do not think that the Community has ever been lacking in advice from other quarters. My hon. Friend must acknowledge the importance to the future peace and stability of the whole of southern Africa that attaches to the progress that can be made in removing apartheid from South Africa. That is a matter on which the Commonwealth and the Community, as well as the overwhelming majority of Members of this place, take a common view.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Will the Foreign Secretary stand by the words of the communiqué rather than distance himself, as the Prime Minister appeared to do when she returned from Nassau, from the possibility of any further restrictive measures being taken? Is it not important to underline to South Africa that such measures might be taken, lest it think that it is safe from any external pressure so long as the present British Government remain in office?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

The communiqué issued from Nassau, in language a little more specific than that which came from Luxembourg in the preceding month, makes it plain that at the conclusion of the work of the eminent person's group the countries represented on that group will then consider the position. We are not committed to any further measures after that point, but consideration whether to take them will certainly arise at that stage.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

We on the Opposition Benches share the disappointment expressed by the Foreign Secretary in Lusaka at the failure of Mr. Botha in his recent speech to offer any increase in political power to the great black majority in South Africa. Secondly, we welcome the right hon. and learned Gentleman's decision to allow his officials to contact leaders of the African National Congress in Lusaka. May I take it that he will extend the same right to his officials to contact the ANC in London? Thirdly, will he explain to the House why, as reported, he vetoed any criticism of the United States Administration's red carpet reception for Jonas Savimbi in Washington, when Mr. Savimbi is involved in an armed uprising against a Government with whom we have diplomatic relations and who were represented at the meeting? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that Mr. Savimbi is using terrorism and hostage-taking as major weapons in his struggle?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I did not veto any comment of the sort to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in the third part of his supplementary question. The issue was not raised in the preparation of the communiqué. It was clear that the Governments assembled took a different view of the matter from the United States Administration, but that was not so stated in the communiqué. I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman says about the decision to have contact at official level with the African National Congress. We took the view that it was important at this critical time to get across the case against violence and that for general dialogue. We wanted also to get across the role of the Commonwealth eminent persons group, which was recognised by the representatives of the ANC. Contact with the ANC in London will be decided in the context of the decision that has already been taken.