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I beg to move,
That this House reaffirms its support for the Commonwealth; is conscious of the benefits which membership of the Commonwealth confers upon the United Kingdom; regards with sympathy and understanding the efforts of poorer members of the Commonwealth to raise standards of life, liberty and government for all their citizens; pledges its support for a high level of trade and economic aid, within the Commonwealth; regrets that the United Kingdom appears to be out of step with all other members of the Commonwealth on the subject of sanctions against South Africa; condemns the continued application by the South African Government of policies based on the evil doctrine of apartheid, the cause of incalculable suffering, cruelty and bloodshed among the non-white population of South Africa and the source of violence and instability elsewhere in Southern Africa; welcomes the constructive contribution towards a solution of this problem made by the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group whose conclusions if adopted could prevent a greater tragedy; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government, in consultation with the Commonwealth and the European Community, to take such measures, in addition to the economic and other sanctions already in force, as will be effective in persuading the South African Government to initiate, in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides, a process of dialogue across the lines of colour, politics and religion, with a view to the early establishment of a non-racial and representative government.
The Commonwealth was born out of the British empire. How that empire evolved is a matter of history, but I believe that, when the history of the British people in the 20th century is written, the transformation of a mighty colonial empire into a free association of 49 independent sovereign states will be regarded as their finest achievement. That transformation came about after two world wars, in which the United Kingdom was supported loyally by its colonies and former colonies. Some joined our cause voluntarily, others automatically at our behest; but all were staunch allies throughout the conflict. They sacrificed their blood and treasure, as we did ours, for a common, righteous cause.
That common origin explains a great deal, but future historians will find it hard to understand why hundreds of millions of people in an empire that straddled the globe, speaking many different languages and practising different religions and cultures, should still want to be associated together internationally on a level different from that of the United Nations and to call one person their head after they were independent.
The reason, I believe, is partly due to the way in which the empire was administered. The relationship between rulers and the ruled was singularly amicable. The British empire was governed by consent, not by force. There were never enough soldiers to rule by force. In Nigeria alone—a country then of about 30 million people—we never had more than 300 administrators and, comparatively, a handful of soldiers. We relied on the co-operation of the local chiefs. We could never have held it by force. We always knew that self-government and democracy would come and that one day we should have to leave. We had no choice. We taught the Nigerians to expect self-government. We trained them in the best system of government that we knew — democracy. It was inevitable, therefore, that one day they would want to operate it themselves.
The result was a quite different relationship with Africans from that which applied, and still applies, in
South Africa. At the independence day celebrations, held in Lagos on 1 October 1960, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the new Prime Minister, said:
The British came as conquerors. They stayed as masters, then as teachers and finally as partners, but always as friends.
That was the spirit of the British empire. In this motion I am asking the House to proclaim its faith in its child, the Commonwealth, to restate our objectives in belonging to it and to examine the biggest problem that it now faces.
The Commonwealth sometimes needs to be explained, even to politicians who cast doubt on its value and who should know better. There are many links in Britain with Commonwealth countries. Here, in this House, we have our own link, in the shape of the United Kingdom branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. It enables us, as parliamentarians, to keep in direct contact with our colleagues in Commonwealth legislative assemblies, to visit them occasionally and to act as hosts to them when they visit Britain to enjoy our common heritage. Unfortunately, however, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding and prejudice on both sides, much of it deriving from press reports about the meetings of Commonwealth leaders.
By its nature, the Commonwealth is not a homogeneous institution. Its versatility is its strength. The other 48 independent states of the Commonwealth are at different stages of social, economic and political development. Some are as advanced in all these ways as we are. Some—such as the old dominions—are almost as British in character as we are, even if, like us, they have recently absorbed many immigrants from overseas. Some, unlike us, are poor in terms of natural resources and are handicapped by climatic and physical features that make it difficult to provide a satisfactory standard of living for all their people. Some—such as India which is rich in human and economic resources, with its own traditions of government that have been enhanced by contact with British administrators — contend, as we do, with problems of inequality, tribalism, corrupt or incompetent politicians and natural disasters. Some—such as those in Africa, without our traditions of long-established democratic government but accepting and profiting from our example—strive towards the democratic ideal with intermittent success. The Commonwealth includes them all.
We are not entitled, we have no right, to blame any of them for not yet having reached those standards of life, liberty and government that we in Britain take for granted, but what we are entitled to offer and what they have a right to demand is sympathy and understanding in their efforts to solve their problems—the more so as we, having been responsible for so much of their history and having benefited from our past association with them, cannot now stand aside and refuse to give them the help and advice that they need.
I speak from a background of personal experience—initially as a colonial administrator in Africa — but I believe that my conclusions apply equally to elsewhere in the Commonwealth. In the past 40 years Africa has undergone a rapid transition. Not long ago, the whole of the continent was colonised except for two countries—Ethiopia and Liberia. Now, everywhere in Africa, except in South Africa and Namibia, Africans are governing themselves and learning from their mistakes. They are adjusting the European model of democracy to suit their own local conditions—conditions of poverty, ignorance, disease, corruption and the misuse of power on a scale far greater than the evils with which we contend.
If there are grounds for complaint about human rights, at least we should take that background into account. There can be no excuse for Europeans in either Europe or South Africa, who have a long tradition of civilised government, behaving badly towards their fellow men. We all learn by experience. The experience of African-elected politicians began, comparatively speaking, only yesterday.
The evil in Africa and elsewhere in the Commonwealth is tribalism. We in Britain suffer from it—in the antics of the Scottish and Welsh nationalists and most tragically in Northern Ireland. In Africa it is the biggest handicap of good government. Tribalism must be overcome before the benefits of unity, peace and order can be enjoyed. Tribalism hinders progress everywhere. It contributes to famine in Ethiopia and the Sudan, it led to civil war in Nigeria, and it is the cause of the violence in Sri Lanka, Uganda and elsewhere. It hinders progress in Zimbabwe and it has forced Fiji out of the Commonwealth. In Africa it is positively encouraged by the multi-party system that we think is a necessary part of democracy.
In Zimbabwe, things are balanced on a knife edge. In my opinion, Robert Mugabe is right to seek a one-party system, embracing both the Ndebele and the Shona, as a means of achieving national unity. The Westminster system, with Government and Opposition parties ready, willing and able to form an alternative Government, is the product of our long experience. It is not the only badge of a democratic society.
Nigeria suffered so much from tribal politics that its 1979 constitution permitted only those political parties that could show substantial support in all three main regions. They still had a plethora of parties and the old evils reappeared. That system collapsed in 1983. Now it is proposed that only two parties should be allowed to provide Government and Opposition. Africa is working out its own solutions to problems that have bedevilled Europe for centuries. We should encourage them, not disparage their efforts to find systems of democratic government that suit them.
We can help developing countries to break out of this cycle. We can provide them with aid, technical advice, professional co-operation and the training of their students to raise standards. Students are the vital factor. In 1979 the Government made one of their biggest mistakes when they decided to deprive Commonwealth students in Britain of the privileged status that they formerly enjoyed with their college fees. At a stroke we cut off the supply of British-trained recruits to their intelllengentsia, to leading members of Government and society and to the ranks of our overseas friends. Relations with Britain—especially Malaysia, which was hardest hit—have suffered ever since.
If some of my hon. Friends insist on a return on our undoubtedly generous aid to the developing countries of the Commonwealth, such as those that were abused during the Vancouver conference, I would say here it is. Investment in Commonwealth students in Britain will produce a huge profit, to the advantage of British industry and commerce, in years to come when these students become the rulers of their countries, or leaders of their professions, as our more generous past policy has proved.
At the time of the Vancouver conference, the British press indulged in one of its hate-the-Commonwealth moods. The use of statistics to discredit Canada over sanctions was pretty deplorable and unworthy of the British Government. But given that signal from the Prime Minister's office, the British press went in for a campaign of lies and exaggerations about other members of the Commonwealth, which must have done us great damage. For example, completely untrue things were said about Nigeria—a case about which I have personal knowledge and can testify to — about the numbers who were executed after the change of power.
With regard to Canada, I rest on the complaint that I have just made, but in relation to others, especially the Commonwealth countries of Africa, downright lies and distortions were told.
The point about the statistics is that they were accurate but they were 1986 statistics. Everybody knew that the 1987 statistics were dramatically different.
No, I must continue.
I strongly deplore the tendency of some of my colleagues to suggest that the Commonwealth is of no value to us and that we should not allow ourselves to be pilloried regularly by other members for shortcomings when they themselves do not come up to scratch. That is a blind, foolish argument, which we may hear echoed in the debate. It ignores the golden opportunity that we have, because of our history, to influence the way in which one quarter of the world is governed. Millions of people in the Commonwealth look to Britain for an example of what is best in many sectors. It would be contemptible if we were to throw that goodwill away, yet we are in danger of doing so by the way that we treat the Commonwealth.
My hon. Friend has made a valid point.
I have already referred to Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the first leader of independent Nigeria. He, like that most magnanimous of Nigerian statesmen, General Yakubu Gowon, never doubted British sincerity and integrity.
It is noteworthy that it was Abubakar Tafawa Balewa who, as Nigeria's representative at the Commonwealth conference of 1961, said that South Africa's continued membership of the Commonwealth was incompatible with its principles. The biggest and most powerful independent African state could not be a member of a club which included one that kept its African citizens in a state of permanent economic and political subservience.
In 1959 the British Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Macmillan, went to Cape Town and told the South Africans that they should heed the wind of change. Twenty eight years later no significant change has occurred. There has been a change to what a former South African ambassador to Britain once called, "classic apartheid". It is now of a different sort, but apartheid, by whatever name it is called, is still the basis of the policies of the South African Government towards the African people. Apartheid, by whatever name, is an insult to the integrity of every self-respecting African. It has not been removed and they still refuse to give the African population the right of elected representation. They still refuse to allow Africans to live and work where they choose. They still refuse to devote to them the share of national resources that the number of Africans justifies. Most despicable of all, they claim to justify this treatment by a theory of relationship between human beings that implies the inferiority of one race to another.
At a personal level, the theory of racial superiority can be innocuous. Racial prejudice exists everywhere in the world, including Britain, but here we legislate against it. In South Africa it is enthroned as an offical legal justification for discrimination, which is why it is so vicious. In South Africa a man's rights depend on the colour of his skin. No wonder the relationship between the South African police and the African population is characterised by cruelty and brutality. The young Afrikaner policeman has been brought up in a system that teaches him that all African and coloured people are inferior. Is it any wonder that he thinks that he can treat them in a way that he would never dream of treating his own people?
Like many Conservatives, despite my acquaintance with Africa, I was prepared for many years to believe that all South Africa needed was time. I thought that South African Governments were doing their best to make the system humane and responsive to the needs of the vast majority of their subjects. I was wrong. I realised that I was wrong when Steve Biko was murdered while he was in police custody after he had been subjected to appalling and inhumane treatment. Nobody concerned in that affair should have been allowed to escape justice, yet no one was found responsible or punished. Even the police doctors concerned were exonerated, until one courageous doctor insisted that they be arraigned before their own professional tribunal for having betrayed their oaths. That case made my blood boil. I and I dare say many other Britons gave up hope for the South African Government after that.
Apart from that appalling incident, does my hon. Friend agree that since the latest emergency began in 1985 many thousands of people have been killed by the South African security forces in the name of this detested regime? Many people, including children, are still detained. Many have been ill-treated. Steve Biko stands out as a particular name and beacon for the future. None the less, we have to focus on those many unknown people, try to get them out of incarceration and bring to justice the criminals who committed those acts.
I agree that things have got worse. That case illustrates perfectly that the South African Government have no intention of conceding any of their power on a democratic basis to the African popultion.
For years, Commonwealth countries, especially those with borders abutting South Africa, have tried to persuade us to bring pressure to bear on South Africa to stop its hateful ways. As my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) has pointed out, the internal situation has steadily grown worse, but has been kept under control by the use of draconian emergency powers. South Africa's neighbours hate it, but they can do virtually nothing because South Africa dominates their economies. Of course they are unwilling to apply effective trade sanctions if the biggest trading blocs do not apply them. The efforts of individual groups based outside South Africa are promoted unofficially with sympathy by those Governments, but they are countered by vicious raids across the frontier by South African troups or by surrogates of the South African Government posing as freedom fighters in Mozambique.
Within South Africa the African National Congress tried for many years to act the role of a constitutional opposition but was driven out. I am glad to read in today's press that representatives of the ANC are seeing Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials today. ANC representatives have previously seen my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, no matter in what capacity he saw them—he saw them all right. They also saw my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, who saw them in her own capacity. Despite what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said about terrorism, if no constitutional opposition is permitted, how can we avoid the emergence of violent opposition? How can we condemn it?
The point about the resemblance between the ANC and the IRA is of fundamental importance. Those of us who believe that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is ill-advised to receive the ANC take the view that in their methods, objectives and justification of violence by "state violence" — a very convenient phrase — they are exactly identical to the IRA in every respect. We do ourselves no good by negotiating with them.
That is untrue. The IRA has an opportunity to carry out constitutional opposition to the British Government. The IRA has the ballot box and the ballot box alone. The IRA chooses not to use it. It could. Instead it uses violence against peaceful men and women in Northern Ireland who want only to live in peace and get on with their jobs. The difference is fundamental.
In South Africa the legitimate representatives of the African people have been oppressed and driven out. They are not able to make their voices heard in South Africa. We know about that every day from every news report from South Africa. There is no possibility of constitutional opposition by Africans within South Africa. Fortunately for us, that opposition is being carried on constitutionally by the white parties. Nevertheless, there is no opportunity for an African to express his opposition to the white rulers of South Africa.
I shall not give way again.
The white rulers of South Africa are determined to maintain their racial supremacy and control of South Africa. That is the difference. The ANC has been driven to violence. Who can condemn the ANC for that in those circumstances? If my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd) does not understand the strength of that distinction, he does not understand anything.
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. This is a matter of profound importance. My hon. Friend argues that there is a fundamental distinction between the position of the ANC in South Africa as it is today and the position of the IRA in Northern Ireland as it is today. I accept from my hon. Friend the qualification that the opportunities of the ANC, or of any African political organisation, to present its views in South Africa are not as ideal as any hon. Member in the Chamber might assume — [Laughter.] This is not a matter for mirth. Is my hon. Friend seriously arguing that a man of the character of Chief Buthelezi and many other Africans in similar positions have no opportunity to speak their minds? That is not true. I concede that their opportunities should be much greater, but it is wrong to say that they have no opportunities.
I am sure that my hon. Friend wishes that I would, too. Will my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) allow me to remind the House that the difference between the IRA and the ANC is clearly understood by anyone who understands the problems of people who are not allowed to live in the land of their choice, to live in the part of the country they choose, to vote or to stand for election? Until recently, the coatpeg next to mine downstairs in the Members' Cloakroom was taken up by the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Adams) who has not taken his seat. That is the difference between the IRA, which has opportunities to carry out democratic opposition in the United Kingdom, and the ANC, which has been driven to utter despair after 75 years.
I agree with my hon. Friend. The African people of South Africa are the vast majority of its population. For them to be without democratic rights and any system of representative government — even Chief Buthelezi does not have the right to vote—is a human rights problem transcending all the others about which complaints have been made in the rest of Africa.
Sanctions of one sort or another are inescapable. I disagree with those who say that economic sanctions do not work or that they did not work in Rhodesia. Too many Members of Parliament, including Front Benchers, are fond of saying that about Rhodesia. It is not true. Sanctions may not have been the decisive factor in Rhodesia, but they were effective in damaging its economy, as the governor of the Central bank told my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) and me when we visited Salisbury in 1978.
It was internal violence more than, and in addition to, economic sanctions that caused the manager of Edgars, the department store in Salisbury, to spend 20 days in every month away in the bush doing his duty as an auxiliary policeman. It was internal violence that brought Rhodesia to its knees.
Universally applied, economic sanctions would certainly be effective. The only tenable objection to them is that voiced by the Prime Minister, who argues that they would do more harm than good to the Africans' cause if they seriously damaged the South African economy. That argument implies that they would be effective, but we should have to take the risk of causing a serious economic collapse, perhaps with worldwide ramifications. We should also remember—and Ministers should remember—that some economic sanctions are already applied.
The question is, what sort of sanctions—other than those which would be too costly—could we apply which would be effective in forcing the South African Government to come to terms with their African population? The last two meetings of Commonwealth Heads of Government have seen the strongest attempts yet made to use the Commonwealth as a means of bringing pressure to bear upon South Africa to change its policy. Most other Governments — indeed all other Governments, including those of Australia, Canada and New Zealand at Vancouver—now believe that economic sanctions would be justified. The Prime Minister maintained her position at Vancouver but she cannot be pleased with the sight of the whole Commonwealth arrayed against us on a question of international relations. That sort of posture may pay dividends in the European Community when everyone is fighting for a bigger share of the cake but it is destructive of the spirit that animates, or used to animate, the Commonwealth. The trouble with the Prime Minister's stance over South Africa is that she appears to damn sanctions more than she damns apartheid. The question that my right hon. Friend has to face is this: if economic sanctions will not bring about change in South Africa, what will? We need an answer to that question. One option was tried at Nassau.
My hon. Friend says "More investment", but if we adopt a policy purely and simply of increased investment in South Africa the rest of the world will think that we have gone mad. We shall have stood the sanctions policy on its head and we shall have told the whole world that we are hypocrites and do not really mean what we say when we condemn the policy of the South African Government.
At Nassau the Commonwealth leaders agreed to send a mission to South Africa. It was unfortunate in its title, but its members were people of distinction.
My hon. Friend said that if sanctions were applied rigidly conditions would deteriorate dramatically, and he referred to economic devastation. Does he agree that the changes that would come out of such conditions would not be desirable to the rest of the world? Is he really saying that South Africa has to burn if there is to be any change? My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) suggested further investment to improve economic conditions. Would not that, rather than the economic disaster that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister fears, create the best conditions for change?
My hon. Friend was not listening carefully enough to what I was saying. I was not approving of comprehensive economic sanctions that would damage the South African economy and perhaps affect the world economy. Of course I would not advocate that. However, something must be done. We are already indulging in economic sanctions and the degree to which we apply them may be important. However, there are many other things that we must do if we are to prove the sincerity of our abhorrence of the South African Government's policy.
The Eminent Persons Group went to South Africa and reported to the review conference in London in 1986. It was rebuffed by the South Africans. No one who reads its careful, sober conclusions can be in any doubt that without further, more drastic measures against them the South African Government will not budge arid the sickening spiral of violence will continue.
We should consider carefully the option of positive measures as suggested in the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in 1985. That report considered the option of greater investment—the policy advocated by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner). The Committee came to the conclusion that that could not be done without a great many conditions and restraints to ensure that the benefit of such investment was restricted to the African population. How one could achieve that without insulting the integrity of a sovereign state beggars the imagination. I am sure that any such assistance would soon find itself strengthening the economy operated by the South African Government.
I admit that I did not originally approve of the Gleneagles agreement because I thought that the more people who went to South Africa to tell the South Africans that they were wrong, the better. However, the Gleneagles agreement is proving worth while and effective because it brings home to white South Africans, some of whom care more for sport than for the economy, the opinions of the rest of the world. That is why I approve the sporting boycott of South Africa. We could do more to show white South Africans that the world detests their Government's policies.
Unfortunately, we cannot reasonably expect the valiant efforts of Chief Buthelezi in Natal to bring about reconciliation and constitutional progress to have much success. The fatal factor of tribalism is at work there, too. If the communal violence does not destroy the chief's noble experiment, the South African Government will not let it succeed.
The people of South Africa, black, brown and white, yearn for the peace and order without which they cannot prosper. Apartheid and the consequent treatment of non-whites constitute an affront to everyone. How can the African countries restrain their young men from enlisting in secret armies to fight the common enemy? Would we not do the same in similar circumstances?
South Africa has brought the violence on itself. It may already be too late to end the agony without a most appalling tragedy. The South African Government must talk to genuinely representative Africans about a settlement soon, and we must insist on their doing so. Otherwise, Britain, which has immense prestige and influence in both camps, will bear responsibility for the consequences.
The election of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) to this House caused me very particular anguish. I remember vividly that I was in the BBC studios in 1970 when the result was announced and my old friend and colleague, Eric Lubbock, the Liberal Whip at the time, was defeated. Therefore, it gives me special pleasure to say that I thought that the motion presented by the hon. Member for Orpington was constructive and careful—as indeed one must be in these matters if one is serious about progress—and liberal as well, although I am aware that the hon. Gentleman's liberalism is not comprehensive. Indeed, his speech was fair, positive and brave.
I want to concentrate upon South Africa and the Commonwealth response and the effect that finding a response is having upon the Commonwealth. It is inevitable, as the hon. Gentleman said so lucidly, that a multiracial organisation such as the Commonwealth should respond with a special detestation of the institutionalised racism of apartheid. That strikes at the very core of its justification. Inevitably since the empire has changed into Commonwealth, we have had more disputes about race than about anything else. Those disputes have ranged from the departure of South Africa from the Commonwealth in 1961 to the whole issue of UDI in Rhodesia — and I remembr with pleasure attending the Rhodesian elections that gave birth to Zimbabwe in the company of the hon. Member for Orpington and I learnt a lot about his experience in the colonial administration of Nigeria. I believe that that experience quite clearly shone through in the informed humanity that characterised his contribution today.
I want to concentrate on more recent events. More recently the meeting was held in Nassau and an agreement was reached in response to the then deteriorating situation in South Africa. It would be valuable to remind the House what the Commonwealth accord sought South Africa to do in Nassau in 1985. Five brief points were made:
the system of apartheid will be dismantled and specific and meaningful action taken in fulfilment of that intent.
Terminate the existing state of emergency.
Release … Nelson Mandela and all others.
Establish political freedom and specifically lift the existing ban on the ANC"—
That was a specific point to which we agreed and it is all the more extraordinary that the Prime Minister should state in Vancouver that the ANC is a terrorist organisation with which one can have no dialogue. The last point stated:
Initiate, in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides, a process of dialogue across lines of colour, politics and religion, with a view to establishing a non-racial and representative government.
In effect, that was a stick and carrot approach. The stick represented the fact that there was a threat of a series of measures to show the earnestness of the Commonwealth opposition to apartheid and the carrot was the establishment of the Eminent Persons Group which proceeded to visit South Africa.
The Prime Minister acceded to those points although she preferred to use the word "signals" rather than "sanctions". I remember that the Prime Minister of New Zealand remarked:
One woman's signals is another man's sanctions.
Whatever word one uses, there was no doubt even then that the Prime Minister was very reluctant in her approach. I wondered at the time what distinction could be made between that approach towards sanctions with all the difficulties — and I do not deny those — and the approach towards sanctions against the Argentine. To a large extent, I suppose that they were signals rather than any immediately effective action although we demanded a lot from the Italians then. Indeed, I wonder what the difference is between that and sanctions against Poland.
And indeed the Soviet Union.
The Eminent Persons Group was accepted by Pretoria because of the background threat of sanctions at the time. As the hon. Member for Orpington said, the group produced an excellent report which clearly exposed the paucity of the policy of constructive engagement and pointed to the need for further international pressure. It was an unparalleled diplomatic exercise. Credit must go to the South African Government, who agreed to allow the Eminent Persons Group to have such extended meetings as they had even with Nelson Mandela. The negotiating concept which the Eminent Persons Group formulated remains valid and represents a positive and potentially unique contribution to ending apartheid.
It was particularly significant that Lord Barber, formerly a Conservative Cabinet Minister, who at that time was chairman of Standard Chartered, the largest British bank operating in South Africa, felt driven by his experience to endorse the group's findings despite the considerable personal difficulties that that undoubtedly created for him.
The Nassau meeting in 1985 was followed by the London review meeting in August 1986. That considered the Eminent Person Group report and accepted its logic. It accepted, in the absence of negotiation and conciliation, that there was a need for increased pressure through the imposition of additional measures. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister, while she ostensibly accepted the report, showed no signs of appreciating its analysis and long-term effect. At that time, Britain stood out from its six partners in refusing to accept the package of proposed sanctions. However, I remind the House that we did agree to three further "signals"—if I may use that word:
a voluntary ban on new investment in South Africa … a voluntary ban on the promotion of tourism to South Africa, and accept and implement any EEC decision to ban the import of coal, iron, and steel and of gold coins from South Africa.
It is fair to say that the Commonwealth action had a very important trigger effect in producing results from the American Congress and the Nordic countries.
Most recently, there was the meeting in Vancouver. The hon. Member for Orpington rightly criticised the British press for the picture that it conveyed to the British people of the meeting. It was a meeting that was largely free of acrimony. It would be best if I quoted from a speech delivered by Sir Shridath Ramphal, the Commonwealth Secretary-General. On 10 November he delivered the Montague Burton lecture in international relations at the university of Leeds. He said:
What is more, despite some media suggestions to the contrary, the agreement to disagree with Britain on those six points was, on the part of the majority adopting the Statement, free of contention and hostility. Other Commonwealth leaders were so sure of the way forward at Vancouver that they did not find it difficult to agree to disagree with Britain. They felt that Britain was wrong. They were sad about this; but, as 48 of the 49 Commonwealth leaders saw it—and as President Kaunda later said to the press—they had to accept 'Britain's right to be wrong'.
Such contentions as arose were to do with media briefings, responses to media projections and responses to what many regarded as highly distorted media presentations.
Indeed, those presentations caused great offence, as the hon. Member for Orpington has said. In the end, they produced an outcome which was a diplomatic defeat for the United Kingdom. I should remind the House that Canada has a Conservative Government; it no longer has a Liberal Government. Very particular offence was taken in Canada to the issue of the trade statistics for 1986. All my contacts have told me that Mr. Bernard Ingham was both aggressive and rude. The British press is perhaps getting used to that, and certainly they reacted in an extraordinarily supine way. However, the Commonwealth press was appalled and officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office saw much of their good, hard work dissipated.
We were given the impression that the Prime Minister had orchestrated everything, but the opposite was true. Perhaps tired of isolating herself only in the European Community, she was determined to do the same in the Commonwealth. The outcome was entirely the wrong message to Pretoria. The Toronto Star correspondent in Johannesburg wrote:
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is the toast of South Africa for blocking further Commonwealth sanctions against the Pretoria government.
Newspapers nationwide hailed Thatcher as the Iron Lady who scorned 47 nations at the Vancouver summit … with headlines such as 'Maggie Foils the Club' and 'Alone Again' …
Johannesburg's pro-government daily, the Citizen, devoted an entire editorial page column to Thatcher's stand, and applauded her for publicly labelling the African National Congress—the main guerrilla group fighting Pretoria's rule—a 'terrorist organisation'.
An editorial in The Toronto Star stated:
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, steel spine and condescending manner firmly in place, is right in one respect. The Commonwealth conference that ended Saturday in Vancouver produced not one additional sanction against South Africa. But don't blame Prime Minister Brian Mulroney or the other 46 government leaders whose search for ways to end apartheid in South Africa preoccupied them during six days of meetings …
Thanks to Thatcher's intransigence, Commonwealth leaders made no progress on putting further pressure on Pretoria.
That is not good for us at all. I accept, although this is not the majority view of the Liberal party, that there are
considerable practical difficulties about sanctions and their efficacy, but I entirely support the approach of the hon. Member for Orpington that the selective sanctions being proposed can be made to work and produce the kind of political pressure that the Government themselves regarded as appropriate and necessary in relation to Argentina, Poland and the USSR.
With regard to the distaste expressed by Mr. Mulroney at the way in which the facts were presented to the Canadian press, I remind the House that when sanctions were imposed by the free world against the USSR at the time of the Afghanistan invasion Canada joined other grain-producing countries in imposing sanctions but within minutes of the agreement being signed by President Carter and other western nations the Canadians were selling wheat to Russia and in that year increased their trade beyond all previous levels. One might therefore view with some suspicion the protest that the facts were distorted and offensive to Canada, given that Canada was the first to break sanctions against Moscow.
The fact that something happens once does not mean that it will happen a second time. The statistics were used in an extraordinary way. The British delegation had just arrived and had not even gone through the usual diplomatic niceties. The first real intimation of the delegation's arrival received by its hosts was the presentation of those adverse critical statistics which, as I pointed out when I intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Orpington, were extremely unfair in the way in which they were produced.
The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) is concerned about sanctions against Russia in relation to the war against Afghanistan—a war which I entirely oppose — yet in relation to South Africa he not only opposes sanctions but uses every possible opportunity to put the South African Government's point of view.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. That is a most logical point. I suspect, however, that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would wish us to leave Afghanistan at this stage.
The second point to which the Minister must respond with clarity and perhaps at some length is the Prime Minister's dismissal of the African National Congress as a terrorist group with which we could have no dialogue. In this respect, I cannot improve on the clarity of the comments of the hon. Member for Orpington, especially in his exchange with the hon. Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd). That grave statement by the Prime Minister was apparently almost carelessly made. As the hon. Member for Orpington has said, the Foreign Secretary has met Oliver Tambo. I was unaware that officials of the ANC were meeting the Foreign Office today, but if that is true it is a good thing and we shall be anxious to hear more about it. However, it does not tie in with the Prime Minister's statement. That must be clarified. Turning away from the ANC means turning away from any hope of peace. Refusing to speak with anyone in the leadership will merely bring in the next level of leadership in the townships—much harder men, who will be armed from the east—so all the arguments deployed by Right-wing Conservatives about the strategic importance of South Africa will come back in their faces.
Those two aspects overshadow and are in direct contradiction with the constructive attempts to help the front-line states. Where is the logic in training Zimbabwean soldiers or improving the Mozambique infrastructure while almost consciously distancing oneself from any attempt to prevent South Africa's campaign of destabilisation in the southern part of the continent?
Two developments emerged from Vancouver which are bad for the Commonwealth in the long term. Both can be laid at the door of the United Kingdom and perhaps of the Prime Minister personally. We excluded ourselves from the standing committee of Foreign Ministers. I understand that the Prime Minister referred to this dismissively as "Not another committee." For the first time ever, Britain has not involved itself in a committee set up by the Commonwealth. That is a very bad precedent.
Secondly, due to the multiracial and multilingual nature so accurately described by the hon. Member for Orpington, the Commonwealth has had to operate on the basis of consensus. There is really no other way. In 1986, consensus failed for the first time. It failed again in 1987. It is always easier to fail a second time. The Prime Minister must take direct responsibility for that extremely depressing development. She claims to be acting in defence of United Kingdom interests, but I do not believe that that is so. I believe that she is wasting our good will for no return. Unlike the hon. Member for Orpington, I believe that the same is happening in the European Community. That is sad and bad for Britain.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Orpington for giving us the opportunity to debate these matters on the basis of his very constructive motion.
First, I must apologise to the House and especially to my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) if I cannot remain for the whole of the debate as I have a constituency engagement later.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington on the selection of his motion, but my congratulations are somewhat tempered by the consideration that the compass of the motion is too great. There are two extremely important issues involved—there is the question of the Commonwealth itself and this country's relationship with it. There is also the vast, worrying, deeply difficult problem of South Africa and what the United Kingdom does about it. In my brief remarks, I hope to separate the issues and talk first about the Commonwealth.
As someone who has spent much of his professional life seeking to play at least a small part and make a small contribution to the furtherance of good international relations, I hope that I may claim to have total loyalty to any instrument that improves the conduct of such relations and fosters amity between nations. If one is in such a profession, one quickly becomes aware of the self-interest, the grinding of personal axes, the hypocrisy and all the rest—in any organisation with which one has to deal. The Commonwealth is not exempt from that malaise. Nevertheless, I set out as someone who wishes and hopes that the Commonwealth works, and works well. There is no doubt at all that it is an extraordinary phenomenon. My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington, with his deep knowledge based on his Nigerian experience, has dealt with that.
Many parliamentarians who have experience of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association are aware of the links of culture, education and language. Sometimes one is tempted to include the links of sport, but, sadly, sport tends to embitter relations. That is not exclusive to the Commonwealth. We all wish the Commonwealth to work. We all recognise that the evolution from the empire into the Commonwealth is remarkable.
It is important that, as a nation, we do not allow emotion to cloud our clear thinking about reality. I would be the last person to say that emotion is not an important factor in politics and international relations, but it cannot be the only factor. As someone who has been quite directly involved in many aspects of the Commonwealth, I sometimes find it depressing to consider the regard that other Commonwealth Governments have had for the British Government. I am not talking about the latest debate on, and differences of opinion about, South Africa. It is a phenomenon of many years' standing. Again, I am not talking about relations at the personal, individual level. We all know about them. I am talking about Government-to-Government relations.
I wish that, in many Commonwealth capital cities, the British high commissioner stood rather higher in the diplomatic pecking order than he does and has done for many years. In Ottawa, Canberra, New Delhi or wherever, other countries, and not only the superpowers, often tend to come first. In a way, we should not complain about that because countries have national interests. Governments have a duty and a right to pursue their national interests, and we must have regard to that. That is an element in Commonwealth relations which some of us in this country—particularly those of us in the House and, perhaps, even on Conservative Benches—seem to forget. The old instinctive, altogether admirable Commonwealth emotion floods through and overtakes important political, economic and strategic realities. I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington and others who speak and think as he does to bring such insight to the Commonwealth.
When we talk about the political developments and problems in Commonwealth countries—my hon. Friend is the last person to intend this—there is a danger in implying double standards and, indeed, being patronising about the achievements or lack of achievements of democratic systems and failures to overcome tribalism, racialism and all the other problems. We have had 900 years' experience in this country. We must be conscious of our advantages, but we must not allow double standards in regard to the defence and exculpation of failure to prevent us from achieving the highest possible standards of other Commonwealth countries. That is an important point. We must not talk down to the Commonwealth. We must not allow Commonwealth countries to discriminate against us in many ways. Put in that light, we would do no service to our Commonwealth friends.
We often hear about education of overseas students and what benefits are returned to this country. I would be the first person to urge the Government to continue to allow Commonwealth students — indeed nationals of many other countries—to study in this country. Let us not fool ourselves about the commercial spin-off. My hon. Friend was careful to add that they could learn English here, and, who knows, it could lead to contracts for British companies. There is no statistical evidence to justify that statement. We should examine the increase of exports to Nigeria, the country of which my hon. Friend has had much experience. I have not looked at the figures recently, but I should be surprised if they have changed. The rate of increase of exports from France and Germany to Nigeria is much greater. Of course, ours started very low. It started years ago. It is a natural development. Countries make purchases and strategic and political decisions on the basis of hard reality.
I would be the last person to seek to defend Dr. Mahathir on the "Buy British Last" policy. I ask my hon. Friend to study the facts. It is an example of emotion. Although we can start off with a basic willingness to want people to study in Britain and carry away with them a good feeling for this country, we must understand that the reality is that there is no direct correlation between that happy phenomenon and a great splurge of buying British, nor indeed should there be. I hope that there will be, but it does not happen. There is no consequential relationship, and all the statistics prove entirely the opposite.
Yes, there are. I do not wish to be rude to the hon. Gentleman, but had he been listening, he would know that there are. If we examine the Nigerian statistics and the rate of increase, we will find that the rate of increase of Germany and France is out of sight above ours. I agree that it is from a different base, but they are statistics. There are not many statistics in this respect, but such as there are, to put it mildly, go in the opposite direction.
My hon. Friend made my point for me. In reality, African Governments have a far greater say in the economy than do European Governments. Decisions about Government contracts are made by Ministers. For the most part, they are politically inspired. Therefore, Ministers who arrange the placing of contracts have political considerations in mind when they do so. That is why we have lost trade with Nigeria and elsewhere.
My hon. Friend has changed his ground. Earlier, we heard that a great cultural swirl of goodwill was allowing contracts to be placed. Now we are told that a small handful of politically motivated gentlemen, to coin a phrase, are placing contracts. My hon. Friend cannot have it both ways. I do not object to either course. I have always asked for a degree of clarity and slightly less emotion to be brought to the issue of Commonwealth relations.
I turn now to the extraordinary and horrifying issue of apartheid. I have visited South Africa twice. The first time was in 1978 when I was horrified to see the "Whites only" notices as I left Jan Smuts airport. That was a most disturbing experience. I remember a sign on the beach at Port Elizabeth that stated:
This beach reserved for whites only".
It was signed by the town clerk, whose name was Mr. Human. It was strange to find one homo sapiens saying to another. "You cannot come on our beach."
I hope that the debate—and indeed that between Conservative Members — deals with the argument of how best we can ensure that the change comes and that the move that had started continues. There was movement, and some of the sanctions have been effective but the worry is how much?
In exchanges with my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington left me confused about what he was seeking. He accepts that this country, along with our European and Commonwealth partners and the Americans, has imposed sanctions, unlike the Soviet bloc which is increasing its trade with South Africa. My hon. Friend wants us to impose more sanctions, but not too many because he rightly recognises the evil effect that would result if the South African economy collapsed. However, he did not make it clear where that mythical point is of "not too little and not too much, but just right", as the Erasmic advertisement used to put it. We are beyond that point and do not wish to pursue it further.
I turn now to the economic effects. When I was in South Africa in 1978 I was there on behalf of a major British international company to seek to ensure that the European code of conduct was being applied, but applied to the power of two, as it were. That was to apply to all the leading international companies that were operating in South Africa. From that extremely dark situation, I brought back one glimmer of hope that an African class was emerging that had a commitment to the prosperity of the country. It was being trained in leadership and had a sense of responsibility. I am talking not about politics and being Left or Right wing, but about genuine African people who understood the situation and had training and confidence. I saw some hope in that. although not a lot because of all the other political issues. However, such co-operation at a commercial level in economic development was good.
I remember one old man who was a black driver. He was delighted that his son had been to university and was now a junior executive for a multinational company. The terrible thing is that such progress has been checked and is probably being reversed for two or three reasons. The first is the black on black terror such as necklacing and all the other horrors that we have seen. Although I do not know, I suspect that that man's son would no longer be involved in that company because he would be terrorised by other blacks.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the main reason why progress is being set back is that the South Arican Government show no intention of relinquishing any of their primacy or of negotiating, in any political terms, for a modern, reformed South Africa? I know that I have probably interrupted the other things that my hon. Friend was going to say, but is he aware that the segregation to which he referred earlier still exists in full effect? My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) and I sat on a South African railway station for three hours watching all the trains that were going in and out. Not a single train was desegregated, although the South African Government say that they now are.
I do not want to delay the House and shall come to that in a moment because it is obviously important.
The economic effect of the slowing down and probable reversal of the integration and development of that level of black society is a disaster. As international companies have checked and even withdrawn their business from South Africa, that has been another deep blow to the economic development of black South Africans. I do not deny that those economic effects are slow-acting. Indeed, they were slow-acting in Rhodesia, but the fact is that no economy can withstand total sanctions. It must be remembered that in many respects South Africa is a Third world economy, with a young and rapidly rising black population. Although it has its strengths, of which everyone is aware, it also has fragilities. There is a danger that it could crack and, if it did, the already great suffering of the black South Africans would be worsened.
I should like to refer briefly to an article by the leader of the Progressive Federal party, Mr. Colin Eglin, who wrote in November 1986:
I have yet to hear anyone advance a valid argument for why economic recession, combined with social instability leading to black/white conflict, should cause a beleaguered white group to move in the direction of reform. Damaging the South African economy will not bring down the Botha Government but it will retard the process of fundamental change and, with this, weaken the economic muscle blacks are starting to use.
That is a real danger and we must have regard for that concern. We must ask where we stop and that is something at which the Commonwealth is not looking. We have created an economic and political polarisation that is much worse than it was before. It is now the Conservative party in South Africa — I mean that in South African terms — that is the major opposition party. That demonstrates the effect of the sanctions and international attitudes that South Africa has directed against itself.
I have a long list of reforms that the South African Government have put into practice since 1978——
As my hon. Friend says, some of those reforms have been put on the statute book but do not exist in practice. They must be put into practice and more must be put on the statute book. At the moment the effect of the international pressures of the past three or four years has been a political and economic polarisation and that way lies disaster. The House and the Commonwealth should recognise that.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) on raising this subject because it is most important. I know from the wording of his motion that he holds strong views, is deeply concerned about the problems of South Africa and wishes to see a positive end to the policy of apartheid.
I speak as one of three hon. Members who visited South Africa in May and early June last year, having been sponsored by the churches to see exactly what the situation was. Since that date I have maintained close contact with a number of people in that country, from all communities, who wish to see an end to apartheid. For security reasons I cannot name some of those people. Some of the contacts must be made indirectly because direct mail from some of those people would not reach me in the normal way. At times writing back to those people has to be by indirect methods.
Immediately after I left South Africa last year, the state of emergency increased, as did the censorship of the press. No steps can be taken to end apartheid by incresing the state of emergency, the censorship or the control of that system within the country. Those are not positive steps. One welcome sign has been the stance taken by the Dutch Reform Church, but it has split and it remains to be seen what emerges.
When I visited South Africa a general election was expected there; it was eventually held earlier this year. The result gave no hope of achieving a political solution to the problems there. As the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) rightly said, instead of the Opposition being opposed to the policy of apartheid, they believe that the Government's policies have gone too far and they would like to regress. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) is absolutely correct in saying that in recent years the South African Government's claims to progress have been token rather than real. They claim to have ended segregation on trains, but when I was there, although there were certain carriages in which anyone could travel, there remained carriages which only whites could use. Therefore, the Government have not ended segregation on trains.
As the trains run to and from segregated areas, that is in any case a pointless exercise. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that language is important and that when he uses phrases such as general election in relation to South Africa, Hansard should be invited to put those words in inverted commas?
That, too, is an important point and what the hon. Gentleman says is true.
People in South Africa who hoped for positive political steps to end apartheid increasingly tell me that Parliament does not control South Africa and that even President P.W. Botha is no longer worried about Parliament. The military and security forces increasingly have the power to say what is done there. Many people in South Africa have told me that if the so-called general election had resulted in a Government who were willing to negotiate a settlement, there might well have been a military coup.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the leading members of the military and security forces continue to hold strong Fascist views akin to those held in the Third Reich and, indeed, that they moved in to scupper the Eminent Persons Group inquiry just as it was on the verge of creating the concept of negotiation, because they were so alarmed that there might be a surrender by the so-called democratic Government?
The hon. Gentleman is certainly near the mark. When the hon. Member for Orpington said that the Eminent Persons Group had been rebuffed, I thought that he had perhaps understated the case. It was torpedoed, as the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) described. Efforts were made to ensure that, whatever the group's conclusions and however constructive its suggestions, they would be destroyed before they could be considered and implemented.
It must be remembered that in the tricameral Parliament the system ensures that the president's council, which is all white, exercises complete power. Therefore, the other racial groups which have their so-called Parliaments and elected representatives are not much better off than the blacks who have no Parliament. We wish to see some genuine progress there.
The United Kingdom has a major role to play because of our place in the Commonwealth and the EEC, and because of our relationship with America. We are an important trading partner with South Africa, despite the application of limited sanctions, and we continue to have the biggest foreign investment in South Africa. For those reasons we are vital to the South African economy.
Time after time the Prime Minister condemns apartheid and declares her complete opposition to it, but even if we believed her for one moment—I must say that I have my doubts—and gave her the benefit of the doubt, how do the blacks in South Africa see her position? Clearly, they see our Prime Minister as the strongest supporter of the apartheid system and the greatest ally of P. W. Botha. I see the Minister shaking her head, but the whites in South Africa also see the Prime Minister as his greatest ally. Because she has that relationship with the president, whether we like it or not, she has a role to play and can use her influence positively and to a greater extent. Indeed, she must use it.
If there is not a negotiated settlement, if those concerned do not sit round a table and sort out the problems and if a solution is achieved through bloodshed, the Prime Minister, the Government and this country must accept their fair share of responsibility for not using their influence to force negotiations. Mandela must be included in any negotiations; the South African Government cannot determine who should be the elected representatives for the blacks during negotiations.
The Prime Minister condemns all violence and believes that President Botha is right to expect the ANC and Mandela to renounce all violence before he is released, but the United Kingdom has not condemned violence on all occasions. I detest and deplore violence and wish to live in a world where violence is not necessary, but I am sure that the House does not condemn the violence of the French Resistance during the second world war. There are parallels there with South Africa. The overwhelming majority of the South African population are black and have no voice in the Government. For them, it must be like living in an occupied country where a small minority have power.
It is essential that Mandela is released at the earliest possible date, together with other political detainees. The South African Government must stop their violence against interned children, women and men. There is clear proof of that violence and if hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), who defend the South African Government, do not believe that that is true, they are kidding themselves. There is clear evidence to show that that violence exists. It must be condemned and should not exist in any civilised society.
Many hon. Members wish to speak, so I will bring my remarks to a close. The Government and the Prime Minister must use their influence. We must have sanctions because only sanctions can bring pressure to bear. Mandela must be released. We must have talks and we must move as speedily as possible. Once negotiations start and there are signs that apartheid will end, all countries must make it clear that they will help South Africa to overcome its problems when apartheid ends. There will be major problems in raising the health, housing and, most important, educational standards of blacks. The United Kingdom and other western countries have a major role to play, because even when apartheid is ended those problems must be resolved. We must act positively and make it clear to those who are genuinely seeking to end apartheid that once it is ended we shall help solve those important problems.
I shall speak briefly about a country in southern Africa where many of the problems found in South Africa no longer exist, and whose citizens were once members of the Commonwealth. It is a country that never decided to leave the Commonwealth but is now excluded from it, and could point the way to the resolution of many of the problems in South Africa. Yet it is Commonwealth countries more than any others which are preventing that happening.
There can be no consideration of the problems of South Africa outside the wider context of Africa. We must remember that many of those problems were created by colonial administration. The United Kingdom was the largest colonial power and created many problems. We must also remember that many African countries are now military dictatorships. It is a continent where the majority of countries are one-party states and political opposition is often not tolerated. Presidents are appointed and some presidents and Prime Ministers come to power through the gun and not through the ballot box. They tend to hold office for life and racial prejudice is rife. Eastern bloc countries are increasingly active, and many countries base their political systems on undemocratic ideas and pursue economic policies which seem to ignore economic realities.
South Africa is surrounded by several of those countries — Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania and Zambia — but I speak of a country in southern Africa that offers a stark contrast to them. That country has a black Government, and there is almost complete racial harmony. There is a black President and a Government supported by white Ministers. The Government are violently anti-Marxist and support free enterprise. It is a country that has a largely Christian population and where democracy is practised in a way that is unusual in the rest of Africa. Elections are free and fair and opposition parties and candidates take part in them. Indeed, the opposition party gained ground in the recent general election there.
I will indeed. There is a first-class multiracial university. It is a country where free speech is encouraged and which sent thousands of troops to help us in the second world war. There is still respect and admiration for British values and British justice. It is a country where the standards of discipline, behaviour and religious instruction in schools would be the envy of many British parents. That country is Bophuthatswana.
That is exactly the point. In four weeks it celebrates its 10th anniversary. It was formerly part of South Africa, and lies within the borders of that country. There are 100 Members of Parliament and an executive President. It has a population of 1·75 million, two thirds of whom are Tswana. The Tswana live in the region to the north of southern Africa which was formerly British Bechuanaland and the Bechuanaland Protectorate. Through a political decision made by the United Kingdom, and largely because of the presence of gold and diamonds, the Tswana found themselves one third in Botswana and two thirds in South Africa. Another artificial line was drawn by a colonial power. Ten years ago, South Africa offered independence to the two thirds of Tswanas who live in what was then northern South Africa, and the republic gratefully took its independence.
Since then, it has made fantastic progress in industrial development and has become self-supportive in basic foods. It has set up the first comprehensive scheme in southern Africa for retirement pensions, accident compensation and medical care. It has acted, and could act, as a catalyst for change in South Africa by demonstrating that aparthied is not necessary. It is a country which South Africans now visit to escape from apartheid.
I recently visited Bophuthatswana and I also visited Sun City. I met President Mangope and most of the senior Ministers. There are both black and white senior Ministers. I was impressed by their obvious belief in democracy and by their economic realism.
I went there with an open mind and made my own decisions about what I saw.
I visited the largest industrial employer there—the Impala platinum mine which employs 40,000 people. Although the senior management are white, there seems to be complete racial harmony and industrial relations which would be the envy of the British mining industry. I visited a hospital where standards of equipment and care were equal to those found in many hospitals in the United Kingdom. I visited irrigation and agricultural schemes to turn the desert into fertile land. I visited what I considered an excellent university where students are encouraged to discuss political issues freely and openly. I visited a high school in the capital where the standards of discipline, dress, politeness and enthusiasm among the children were far above anything I have seen in schools in the United Kingdom. It was a real pleasure to join in morning assembly at 7.30 with children who start their journeys to school as early as 4.30 or 5 am. I visited a school in a rural area that was closed for a public holiday, but the classrooms were full of children who had come into school voluntarily to help each other learn without the aid of teachers.
The record of the country speaks for itself and I was impressed by what I saw. Whether the hon. Gentleman likes it or not, what I saw represented a small light burning in the darkness which represents much of Africa today.
In the midst of so much injustice and instability in Africa, would we not expect the nations of the Commonwealth to have welcomed the emergence of that nation, and the hand of friendship it offered, and supported the development of a friendly nation? That country asks only that Commonwealth countries, and the United Kingdom in particular — which created the problem in the first place — now recognise this new nation.
Recognition would enable Governments to send expatriates to help. It would secure investment from international corporations and it would open up Bophuthatswana to air travel and tourism. Instead, Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth steadfastly refuse to recognise that country. We refuse to accord diplomatic status to its representatives in the United Kingdom. By refusing to recognise that country we deprive it of United Nations development aid.
At the same time we recognise dictatorships throughout Africa, give aid to countries which are Marxist, and recognise Governments who come to power through violence and terrorism. We show little obvious concern for Communist influence and build-up in countries to the north of South Africa. The Tswana people cannot understand how a country for which they hold such respect and which professes to support the same democratic principles can turn its back on them.
Even if we are not prepared to recognise that country, the Commonwealth should be developing trade relations with it. Trade is the best way to help any developing country. It would help Bophuthatswana and it would help the Commonwealth. Britain, by its encouragement of disinvestment in South Africa, is helping to create disaster for the people of Bophuthatswana. In the words of President Mangope:
Nothing is more unkind to us, it is cruel.
The Commonwealth is depriving the people of that country of vital investment, and that is fuelling unemployment.
What are the reasons for the Commonwealth rejecting Bophuthatswana? The only reason that I can discover is that it offers, in part, a solution to the problems of southern Africa. It is claimed that that country is a product of apartheid. Indeed, some hon. Members would say that it supports the South African system and that it undermines the efforts of the front-line states. However, in reality it is a sensible solution to part of the problems of southern Africa. It is certainly a more sensible solution than the policies pursued by many of the surrounding states.
Why do we refuse to support Bophuthatswana when that country stands for the values that we profess to support? Are we afraid to stand up to the front-line states? The tragedy for the country is, perhaps, that it achieved its independence by negotiation and peaceful means. Had a few hundred whites been murdered in a bid to gain independence, it would have been recognised immediately by the Commonwealth and it would now be receiving aid.
Since the demise of Britain's role in the world, this House has become, quite rightly, more and more occupied with domestic issues. Perhaps, 20 or 30 years ago, hon. Members took a greater interest in foreign affairs. However, today that is not the case and it is easy to forget that many of the political problems in Africa are the result of past policies of United Kingdom Governments. It is also easy to forget that many of those countries still look to the United Kingdom for help and support. It is easy to criticise some of the events in southern Africa—indeed, it is fashionable to do so. It is a great deal more difficult to try to understand southern Africa and to support those initiatives that will genuinely help towards a resolution of the problems.
The United Kingdom Government are taking a pragmatic approach to southern Africa, but not to Bophuthatswana. It is time that they took that country seriously. We should recognise that it is in the interests of southern Africa and the free world to support a country that upholds our values and is one of our true friends in Africa.
I ask the Government to do what is right and not what is simply politically convenient. I want them to look on Bophuthatswana as an example of what can be achieved in southern Africa. That would be much more important than the rhetoric of front-line states. It would be much more important than imposing sanctions that simply would not work. The people of Bophuthatswana were Commonwealth citizens. It was not their decision to leave the Commonwealth. It was simply that when South Africa left the Commonwealth the citizens of Bophuthatswana ceased to be members. It could be argued that they never left the Commonwealth; it could be argued that they should be readmitted. After all, they have much better credentials than many other African countries that are members.
The United Kingdom Government have been bold in resisting Commonwealth pressures to impose sanctions on South Africa. I want them to he equally bold in taking the lead in recognising Bophuthatswana and influencing other Commonwealth countries to do the same.
The officials who invited the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Woocock) to Bophuthatswana must now be satisfied that they made a wise decision.
I wish to apologise to the House and to the Front Bench spokesmen because, due to a long-standing engagement, I will not be here for the reply to the debate. I am glad that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) initiated the debate. Both sides of the House recognise him as an independent-minded Member who holds strong views on a number of subjects, not least on South Africa. I hope that my comment will not do him too much harm.
These days, no Conservative Member actually defends apartheid. No matter how much they argue against sanctions or any steps being taken against South Africa, to my knowledge no Tory Member actually stands up and says that the apartheid system is justified. Indeed, all hon. Members pay lip service to opposition to the South African system. The real question is: what is to be done by both Britain and the international community to undermine and help to end the apartheid system in South Africa, and thus bring about a fundamental change in that country? As the hon. Member for Orpington said, that is the crucial issue.
Just as no hon. Member defends apartheid, there are now fewer hon. Members—although I cannot say no Conservative Members—who argue that we should not interfere in the internal affairs of South Africa. The Opposition have held the view for 40 years or more that the internal affairs of South Africa are of worldwide concern. Fortunately, most countries take that attitude. Even the British Government, if somewhat reluctantly, accept that the racial tyranny that excludes the majority of people playing any part in the central administration of their own country cannot he dismissed as of no interest to the outside world. Hence the role played by the Commonwealth and the EEC in debating what should be done about this long-standing problem.
The report of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group last year clearly spelt out the meaning of apartheid. The seven leading personalities saw for themselves what was happening in South Africa, and their report said about apartheid:
it is awesome in its cruelty. It is achieved and sustained only through force, creating human misery and deprivation and blighting the lives of millions.
That echoes the views that Labour Members and the British Labour movement have held for so long about the racial tyranny in South Africa.
Some Conservative Members—although not the hon. Member for Orpington—argue that important changes are taking place in South Africa. If the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, no doubt he will tell us about some of the changes that he believes have taken place. However, much of what has occurred is cosmetic, and even the minor changes that have taken place during the past two or three years have come about only as a result of international pressure.
There are those who argue that there is no need for sanctions on the ground, that because of the changes that have already taken place and to which Conservative Members give far more importance than I do there will be other changes that will undermine apartheid. Those hon. Members should remember that President Botha said only this week, when addressing a party rally, that no major changes were intended; that apartheid would be reformed, not ended, and that it would be reformed after his own fashion. I think that we have a pretty good idea of what he meant by that.
It should be recognised that President Botha and his party are constantly concerned about the even greater extremists who are accusing his Government of selling out the whites. Of course, it is the whites, and only the whites, who, in essence, have the vote in South Africa. So clearly is President Botha concerned about the white backlash and his party losing out to even greater extremists it is one reason, among others, for the pace of change being so slow. It is why the Opposition have no real optimism that there will be any fundamental change without sanctions.
It comes as no surprise, I am sure, that Opposition Members favour comprehensive economic sanctions against South Africa. It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister is the most determined opponent of such a policy towards South Africa. That came out clearly at the recent Heads of Commonwealth meeting in Vancouver. The British Government played a most dishonourable role in Vancouver. They did their utmost to smear the other Commonwealth countries and were far more concerned about that than about combating apartheid in South Africa.
I believe it was my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) who questioned whether the Prime Minister opposed apartheid. I do not know the answer to that question, but I am willing to accept that she probably does but is not willing to do anything about it. It is difficult to imagine that the right hon. Lady feels so passionately about the subject or that she puts it at the top of her agenda. I may be wrong, but before she became Prime Minister I do not remember her making any remarks on this subject. I doubt whether she made any remarks to her constituency party or on any other occasion on this subject.
Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend. I have a copy of a book entitled "In Defence of Freedom: Speeches on Britain's Relations with the World 1976–1986", which is written by somebody called Margaret Thatcher. Characteristically, it shows her standing to the right of President Reagan with Churchill in the background. In this paeon of praise, there is no mention of the Commonwealth.
That is very interesting, and it confirms my view that, if the Prime Minister opposes apartheid, she hardly considers it to be a matter of the utmost concern. No Conservative Member would claim that she is passionately concerned about what we believe to be an awful racial tyranny which, in so many ways, is founded on the same principles as Nazi Germany. As shown in Vancouver, the right hon. Lady is playing a squalid role in these matters.
The Eminent Persons Group report pointed out that, if the South African authorities concluded that South Africa would always remain protected against effective economic measures, the process of change was unlikely to increase in momentum. It warned of massive violence that would increase without any major changes in that country.
The Prime Minister closes the doors on economic sanctions. I hope that it will do no harm to her when I say that we have a great deal of respect for the Minister of State, but, on this occasion, although we support the views of the right hon. Lady, they are not likely to be heard too much in today's debate. She will obviously echo the Government's official line. If the right hon. Lady were making a speech from the Back Benches, it would differ, I would imagine, from what we shall hear later on.
I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. It is interesting to note that, despite the Prime Minister's remarks that the ANC is a typical terrorist organisation, officials of the ANC are, quite rightly, meeting Foreign Office officials today. There is an obvious contradiction between what the Prime Minister said and what she did to smear that organisation and today's meeting. She is playing directly into the hands of President Botha and she knows what she is about by denouncing the ANC.
The hon. Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd) made the false comparison between the IRA and the ANC. There is no comparison at all. The only people who get any satisfaction out of such a comparison are those in the IRA. In Northern Ireland the IRA is quite capable of putting forward its views through the Provisional Sinn Fein in a constitutional way. No one in Northern Ireland is denied the right to vote because of their religious or political views. There is no justification for the outrages which take place in Northern Ireland. We know that is so but, in South Africa, all representative organisations of black people, such as the ANC and the PAC, are outlawed. It simply cannot be argued that there is a comparison. No one can deny that the overwhelming majority of black people in South Africa are denied the right to vote and to play any role in the government of their country. It is hardly surprising, considering the massive violence of the South African authorities and events in Sharpeville in 1960, that the ANC turned to violence. The comparison made by the Prime Minister was dishonourable.
There is a considerable comparison to be drawn between the ANC and the IRA. The ANC would not be a banned organisation in South Africa if it renounced violence, and Nelson Mandela would be free today if it were prepared to do that. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the ANC is a typical terrorist organisation because much of its violence is directed not at the state apparatus in South Africa, but against other blacks? The bestial killings through the necklace method could not be supported, even by the hon. Gentleman.
I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman is among those who are keen for fundamental changes in South Africa, but I will answer his point directly and quote from the Eminent Persons Group report. The ANC came into existence in 1912, and has just celebrated its 75th anniversary. For most of that time, including the period after 1948 when the nationalists came to power, it pursued a policy of non-violence. It is interesting to note that, despite all the restrictions, it has pursued that policy. It came to a different conclusion as a result of what happened in 1960. The report says:
By 1960 it was plain that the apartheid state was determined to put down by violent means peaceful protest of any kind and to clamp down on any organization which sought to mobilize black opinion. It is against this background of total repression, in which all avenues for legitimate protest and non-violent opposition were denied, that the decision of the ANC and the PAC finally to turn to armed resistance must be viewed. At a time when blacks in the United States were able to achieve equality through asserting rights already guaranteed to them in their Constitution, blacks in South Africa were being systematically denuded of any such rights and the opportunity to seek them".
That is the most effective answer that I can give to the hon. Gentleman.
I do not know whether that will persuade those who are so fundamentally opposed to the ANC. The hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) is hardly known as someone who wishes to see fundamental changes in South Africa, but he said that there was a good deal of violence between blacks.
I shall not give way because other hon. Members wish to speak.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of violence between blacks, and I deplore that. Like the hon. Member for Orpington, I would be the last person to justify or act as an apologist for the necklace killings. I am not in that group, and, like any other hon. Member, I would not wish to defend such crimes.
Why should Africans, particularly black youths, not want change and some say in the running of their country? If they are denied political leadership, their organisations, the ANC and the PAC, are outlawed, and Nelson Mandela is held in prison, it is hardly surprising that violence occurs in view of the violence used by the authorities in South Africa and those who are allied to them it is a fact that such violence and such deaths have occurred as mentioned by the hon. Member for Tatton. What has happened demonstrates once again how essential it is for the ANC to be allowed to operate legitimately and lawfully. Above all, it is essential that Nelson Mandela be released. I am not in any way boasting, but when he was sentenced for the last time in 1964, I was one of the many in this country who protested outside the South African embassy. Some years ealier the local authority of which I was a member boycotted goods from South Africa. Labour's stand against the tyranny in South Africa is of long standing.
I am worried too at the apparent close and continuing collaboration between the intelligence services of South Africa and Britain. I hope that the Minister will deal with that because it is causing the utmost concern that, despite the attitudes struck by the British Government in opposing apartheid, there is apparently active collaboration between the two security services. That should be brought to an end.
I understand that the ANC officials meeting Foreign Office officials today are worried about their safety in this country. Reports have appeared in the press to the effect that, apart from the recent court case, South Africa is willing to hire contract killers to take terrorist action against leading ANC personalities. I hope that Ministers will ensure effective security and protection for the ANC people. There is no reason why we should allow the South African security service to carry out illegal and indeed terrorist actions on the streets of Britain.
We shall have no doubt many more debates on South Africa. It is essential that the British Government drop their hypocritical attitude. They say that they are against apartheid, so let them take action. The most effective action would be to impose economic sanctions against a regime which is recognised throughout the world as one in which millions of people are excluded for reasons of colour alone. Such a regime should be destroyed at the earliest opportunity.
I am happy to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) on choosing this subject for debate. The topic deserves to be aired. I have no quarrel with the eloquent testament that my hon. Friend made for the Commonwealth ideal, although many countries fall short of it.
I agree with the final part of my hon. Friend's motion which states that we are looking for
a process of dialogue across the lines of colour, politics and religion, with a view to the early establishment of a non-racial and representative government.
However, elsewhere in the motion my hon. Friend goes badly wrong. Although he seems to express some doubt
about the degree of sanctions that he would like imposed, he undoubtedly calls for further sanctions or disinvestment. That is the kernel of the debate.
I hope to show that the British Government are right to resist the further application of sanctions, since they are totally counter-productive in ending apartheid. The motion criticises the Government for being out of step with the remaider of the Commonwealth. There is nothing wrong with being out of step when the march is in such a self-defeating direction.
My hon. Friend referred to the close family ties between Britain and many Commonwealth countries. There are some strong personal ties between this country and the Republic of South Africa too, and a unique trading relationship has been built up over the years. We have a right to point to our great experience and, indeed, to the direct personal experience which many of our citizens have of South Africa's problems.
We should acknowledge the hypocrisy in the claims of many Commonwealth leaders. I shall not dwell on the contradictory policies applied by certain Commonwealth states in Africa itself, but let us consider the Australian Government's support for sanctions. They argue for sanctions against South Africa's fruit and wine, as well as coal, but one must remember that Australia has a special self-interest in such sanctions being applied.
What have sanctions achieved so far? I can assess it only on the basis of my experience gained from visits to South Africa. My first visit was in 1979 when the reformist sentiment was stirring, but it was evident that it had a long way to go. What a change I noticed on my next visit at the beginning of 1985 when I spent three weeks in South Africa. Enthusiasm for reform was evident on all sides. We hear reference to the wind of change and in 1985 it was blowing all around.
I certainly do not regard black business men or leaders of the black townships as members of the establishment, and my hon. Friend would agree if he talked to them.
The setting up of the tricameral legislature was the first great breach in white political supremacy. However, an obvious weakness was that there was no political representation for blacks. But that was then part of the strategy.
Doctor Van de Merwe brought to my attention the statement in an official pamphlet called, "Constitution '83 in a Nutshell". That official document stated:
The problem of political rights for Blacks and their economic and social position is much greater and more complex…For this reason it is important to implement the new dispensation for Coloureds and Indians as soon as possible so that all our attention and energies may be devoted to the greater problem.
Dr. Van de Merwe drew a lesson from that. According to the official report of the South African Parliament for 9 May 1986 he said:
That was a clear declaration of intent to give immediate attention to the question of the political rights of Blacks as soon as the dispensation which includes Coloureds and Indians had been implemented.
Then—in early 1985—that was part of the strategy. At the same time, all manner of reforms were being talked about and promised. Some Cabinet Ministers I spoke to even envisaged a reform of the Group Areas Act.
Sure enough, the reforms rolled forward through 1985 and into 1986. City business districts were opened to all races. The Immorality Acts of 1950 and 1957 and the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act were repealed. Forced removals relating to the old homelands policy were ended; freehold land ownership rights were extended to urban blacks; the Government publicly committed themselves to power sharing, and indicated their willingness to negotiate with black leaders.
My hon. Friend has listed all those magnanimous gestures. But can he understand the feeling of non-whites in South Africa who are told that even the amendment—if I may use my hon. Friend's word—or, indeed, the abolition of the Group Areas Act would be a monumental achievement? Unless and until the Population Registration Act, which segregates people by law, is removed from the statute book, non-white people will not even begin to feel that they have a fair share in their own country.
I was outlining the steps that were then being taken, with increasing rapidity, to remove many of the onerous aspects of the apartheid policy. Of course, the effort was by no means complete.
In 1986, the influx control of blacks moving into urban areas was ended; provincial councils were reinstituted as multi-racial councils; and, most symbolic of all, the hated pass laws were scrapped. What remained of apartheid—I agree that it was a significant remainder—were the final bastions: no political representation for blacks in the governing of their country, and, of course, the Group Areas Act. Yet the rest of the world turned a blind eye. It did not even want to know.
While that great reform programme was under way, the ANC seized the chance to institute a reign of terror in the townships, egged on by leaders such as Winnie Mandela, who actively gave encouragement to the vile crime of necklacing. As one ANC leader put it:
We aim to make the deaths of collaborators so grotesque that no one will risk such behaviour.
The second development that came to a head in 1986 was the international sanctions pressure—through the Commonwealth, the EEC and, most significantly, the disinvestment programme in the United States. It certainly had its effect. When I visited South Africa again for two weeks in September 1986, I saw a very different picture from the enthusiasm for reform that I had seen earlier.
Is it not a fact that the South African Government paid for the hon. Gentleman's various visits to that country? Is it not true that he and others go there quite often, and that the Government pay for their visits? Does the hon. Gentleman not realise the logic of the racialism that he is clearly defending? Hitler was a racialist, and many of us had to put down what we were doing to deal with him. South Africa attacks the nations around it, and the only concessions that it has ever made have been due to the pressures, internal and external, imposed by others who—unlike the hon. Gentleman—fight against racialism.
I resent the hon. Gentleman's assertion that I am not concerned in the fight against racialism; I certainly am. But let me answer his first point about how I get to South Africa. Not all of my visits have been paid for by the South African Government. In one instance, I paid my own fare out there, and the South Africa Foundation then arranged the interviews for which I had asked before I went. I see nothing wrong with accepting the offer of a foreign Government to visit their country. If I were offered the same by Zambia or Zimbabwe, I would take it up, because visiting a country increases one's knowledge of it. This debate would be a good deal better if some of those who lecture us from the Opposition Benches on what is happening in South Africa had taken the trouble to go there and investigate for themselves.
When I was in South Africa in September 1986, when all the sanctions pressure was being mooted, I saw a very different picture. The reform programme had almost been shelved, and the question asked everywhere was, "How will we survive sanctions?" The South African business men who had been the instigators of reform in previous years were forced back into defending their very existence. Meanwhile, President Botha was having to look over his shoulder at the growing strength of the Conservative party, a more Right wing-party in South Africa than the Nationalist party, and at the undoubted and growing white backlash.
I have no doubt that the achievement of sanctions has been to kill off that momentum of reform, and to put back the whole process for at least five years. Let us look at the process more closely. The first effect of sanctions pressure was to incite violence; there is no doubt about that. Blacks in the townships had been offered the mirage of a quick solution to their problems. Many saw their protest and their sacrifice as something essentially short-term—the last heave, perhaps, that was needed to gain what they wanted. How else can we explain the folly of the school strikes and the assertion that political change must come before education, when education of the blacks is essential if they are to take over more of the running of their country?
In response, the Government took emergency powers, many of which were distasteful to many of us. It must be said, however, that no Government in the world would sit back without acting against what was clearly an attempt at revolution. As Elliot Mgwena, an unemployed black dock worker from Guguleti near Cape Town, said in the Washington Times in December 1986:
We have been duped by the priests and the politicians. Tutu and Bosac made it sound like the Government would fall down as soon as there was disinvestment and sanctions. If that had happened, I would have said sanctions and disinvestment were good, but they failed to change things. All they are bringing is more suffering for us blacks.
That false hope of emancipation through violence was the most cruel deception of the South African blacks, and the sanctions lobby must take a great deal of the blame for it.
I remember the pleas of blacks and coloureds on my visit for me to exercise what little influence I have as a Member of Parliament against the sanctions policy. I remember the pleas from black leaders who had managed to keep their townships running despite death threats; from parents who had managed to organise patrols to get their children through to school; from black business men in Soweto and from Incata, which has 1,300,000 black members; and, indeed, from the agricultural workers in the Cape. The Cape contains about 250,000 people who are dependent on the fruit industry. Every time I go out to buy South African sherry and wine — not only because it is a good buy—I am very conscious that I am helping those coloured workers in the Cape, against the sanctions lobby and others in the world who seek to drive them into starvation.
Another achievement of sanctions and disinvestment has been to encourage political extremes in South Africa. On the black side, they have lent credibility to the ANC, and they have put moderates such as Chief Buthelezi on the defensive.
On the white side, they have caused a growing swing to the parties of the far Right. Many white South Africans ask, "What is the point of reform when the rest of the world still tries to drive us into extinction?" Sanctions have almost destroyed the middle ground in South African politics. However, it is only by negotiation among moderates that peace and universal suffrage will come to South Africa.
My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington said that we should not disparage the efforts of Commonwealth countries to achieve a form of democratic government suitable to them. I understand his point. I hope that he will extend the same tolerance to those in South Africa who are seeking to work out a democratic, power-sharing solution that is appropriate to South Africa.
We have to consider also the effect of sanctions on the outcome of the elections on 6 May. The National party stayed in much the same position, but the Liberal PFP went right down the drain and the Right-wing Conservative party became the official opposition. What a credit, what an achievement for sanctions that has been. It has obliterated the party in South Africa that was campaigning most vigorously for reform and increased support for the party that resists reform. If the sanctions and the disinvestment lobby increases its impact, I shudder to think what will happen in the next elections in South Africa.
The only way to secure black advancement is by more and better education in South Africa. There must also be better housing and better health provision. That can be brought about only by an expanding economy. It is important to encourage, not to lessen, investment in South Africa. That would help to bring about more speedily the end of apartheid. I hope that this Government will soon scrap the sanctions against investment in South Africa, because they work contrary to our Government's own goals.
There are hopeful signs in South Africa. Those of us who want black advancement to continue are encouraged by the fact that its growth rate is recovering. We have the example of the Kwa Natal Indaba, which is one of the most encouraging developments in South Africa. White and black leaders have come together to work out a multiracial state within South Africa.
It has not been rejected. I was in South Africa before the election on 6 May. I dare say that I did what the hon. Gentleman has never done. I attended a rally of the National party addressed by President Botha. I had to sit through a speech of which 80 per cent. was delivered in Afrikaans, but from what he said in English he made it clear that he was not against the indaba procedure, which would be considered after the election.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Woodcock) referred to the encouraging signs from Bophuthatswana where a Government, dominated by blacks, are governing without apartheid within a free enterprise economy and are delivering the goods to their people. There is not a great deal that we can do to help the moderates in South Africa, but we should give whatever encouragement we can to Chief Buthelezi and to President Mangope, who must be part of the final moderate solution that is negotiated in South Africa.
I do not criticse my right hon. Friend the Minister for her contacts with the African National Congress. It is wise to keep a line open to an organisation that plays a part in the process even though it is such a negative part. If the Broederbond can keep open a line to the ANC, I would not deny it to my right hon. Friend the Minister. If, however, on this day of all days, the ANC has been invited to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I think that it displays a remarkable degree of insensitivity.
I hope that when my right hon. Friend replies she will be able to tell the House a little more about that. I hope that she will say that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is to renew contacts with Chief Buthelezi and other moderate leaders when they come to this country. We must throw all our weight behind those who believe in peaceful change in South Africa. As the South Africans resume the path of reform, we must encourage them to return to the council chambers and the sports arenas of the world. If the British Government refuse to go down the destructive sanctions path, history will prove that they were both politically and morally right.
The House owes the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) a debt of gratitude for tabling this motion. It is a call to conscience, but there have been many calls to conscience in relation to South Africa—all with too little effect. Moreover, it is a call to action, and it is to be welcomed as being a call to action that is based on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group. It is a widely-based group that commands respect across both international and political boundaries and we should do well to listen to it.
That group went to South Africa with an open mind. It listened and it talked. Unlike the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner), it did not quaff large amounts of South African sherry as a gesture of support for those who oppose sanctions.
We have heard of toy boys. Today Conservative Members have fallen over themselves in wishing to tell the House about how often they have visited South Africa. We have heard about frequent visits and about ticket boys. The hon. Member for Reigate is a new breed of ticket boy. Not only is he a ticket boy; he is a bottle boy. We should recognise the remarkably distinctive contribution that he makes to the debate, but I hope that hon. Members will not emulate it because it would lead to disastrous results, as the quality and nature of his contribution showed.
I shall not bother to answer the hon. Gentleman's charge about bottle boys, but has he ever been to Zambia, been entertained at a state banquet and discovered that one was being served generously with South African wine?
No, I have not; but I have been to Zambia and I shall come to that point in due course.
There is a call to action that is based on the recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group. The House should heed that call, because effective economic sanctions against South Africa represent for the House, the world and South Africa the last hope for a peaceful settlement of the problems that are tearing it apart. They threaten not only South Africa and Namibia but the stability and peace of the region. It is the last non-violent option. We cannot afford to disregard it, mock it or declare it to be irrelevant.
Conservative Members found difficulty with the motion of the hon. Member for Orpington because he did not specify the level of economic sanctions that should be taken against the Pretoria regime. It is true that the Eminent Persons Group, which, like the hon. Member for Orpington, has acted with great responsibility, declined to make a specific recommendation about the level of sanctions. It recognised the importance of flexibility in the response to events in South Africa. However, one matter on which we can all be united is that those sanctions should be more than the teeny-weeny level of sanctions that the Prime Minister held up to the world as being our solution to South Africa's problems when she last addressed her mind to the issue. In that one gesture—when she held up her hand — she brought the reputation of the House and Britain down to an all-time low in international relations, and that should be deprecated. No hon. Member, despite our different approaches and solutions to this problem, should take any joy out of that one teeny-weeny piece of action by the Prime Minister.
When examining this issue, we must look within South Africa and Namibia to find the glimmer of hope, the opportunity or seed for the creation of a non-racial South Africa in which it is possible for white and black to live side by side. We must look for that seed and glimmer of hope, but where shall we find them? We shall find them in the churches, where men and women, young and old and of different colours, come together to pray and worship. They come together to work for a South Africa in which men and women, black and white, can live, work and pray together in peace and harmony.
The churches hold out that hope. They present the opportunity to create a non-racial state in a multitude of ways. We have heard from Conservative Members about the importance of health care and education. Who in South Africa is holding the torch for non-racial health care and non-racial education? It is the churches; they are doing it on the ground. They, black and white together, are showing that there is a way to make a non-racial contribution to the development of that country.
What do the churches say to us about the creation of a non-racial South Africa? What do they have to say about the way forward for that land? They tell us, as they told the Eminent Persons Group, that sanctions present the last non-violent solution. They do not pretend for one moment that there will not be suffering by or damage caused to blacks as well as whites and the Pretoria regime by sanctions. They recognise that; but they recognise also that sanctions hold out a hope for peaceful change. Despite the difficult position of the churches in southern Africa, they call upon us to take that action. Theirs is a moral call—a call for black and white together. We cannot simply turn our backs on it. Honourable Members must listen and lead. Day in, day out, church members face the risk of arrest, harassment and attack for taking a stand on a non-racial South Africa. They must be heard here and in the world.
We hear the responses of the Prime Minister and some Conservative Members ruling out sanctions. This is accompanied by oft-stated concern about the importance of education in South Africa. I am sorry that the Minister of State is not here to hear me speak specifically about education, but I am sure that my remarks will be reported to her.
If the Government are to continue their obduracy on sanctions, we are entitled to ask them, "What positive and creative action are you taking to address these issues? You say that you believe that education is important and that it is important to promote in South Africa a large number of people within the majority population with the skills and qualifications to contribute to the creation of a non-racial South Africa and to bringing about a peaceful transformation in that society which you maintain you support. What are you doing practically to assist in the education of those people?"
What is the attitude of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and of the Department of Education and Science to the issue of grants to students from South Africa? What special provision is made in terms of the activities of the British Council and other agencies to enable students from townships to be educated? Conservative Members who seem almost to apologise at times for the South African regime talk a lot about the suffering in the townships. Let us talk about that and see what we can do in the House. What are we doing to bring people from the townships and rural areas here so that they can obtain educational qualifications in a non-racial setting?
My hon. Friend makes an important point, not least since the British Council has three offices in South Africa whereas it does not have even one in the Caribbean. There is absolutely no excuse for the actions mentioned by my hon. Friend. Is my hon. Friend aware that another aspect of the poll tax is that it will be a further burden on and further disincentive to overseas students coming to this country?
We are entitled to an answer to that question.
It is right that we should be aware of the work of organisations such as the Canon Collins trust, which are starved of resources. Such organisations seek to build up the group of young people who so desperately need these qualifications to contribute to the creation of a non-racial South Africa. The Canon Collins trust and the defence and aid fund receive direct assistance from numerous Governments in Europe to enable them to do their important work in educating young people from southern Africa. We are entitled to ask Her Majesty's Government likewise to give assistance to the Canon Collins trust. Will the right hon. Lady meet a delegation from the trust and the churches to discuss how we may contribute practically to the development of a non-racial southern Africa?
If the Prime Minister and her Government adhere to their present line and continue to refuse to pursue a policy of sanctions. Opposition Members must and will continue to urge the Prime Minister to change her mind while at the same time demanding evidence that they are actively pursuing alternative and supplementary ways forward. When we hear an answer and see signs that the Government are, indeed, taking the issue seriously and giving it the attention that it deserves, we shall at last see a way forward to a time when this House, after years of wringing its hands and showing its conscience to all and sundry, will take positive measures to bring peace and justice to southern Africa.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) whose approach to the debate was moderate and balanced. Let me join, too, in the congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) on bringing the matter before us and in the manner in which he introduced the subject. He did so in the best traditions of this House. He stated his views clearly and unequivocally and. although some of my hon. Friends may not have agreed with him, there was no varnish on anything that he said. He was clear and positive.
My hon. Friend's subject is the Commonwealth and South Africa, and for me the two are inevitably intertwined. I first went to South Africa on my way to the Commonwealth conference in 1976. I am glad to say that although I went on the Commonwealth ticket the South African Federation took me round. I suspect that I was the first parliamentarian to go into Soweto after the riots of 1976, to see the devastation in the township and understand something about apartheid. What stayed with me was not petty apartheid but the way in which I million people—it is now 3 million—were kept in Soweto for use in Johannesburg. There was a system of transportation to move them to Johannesburg to work but they were denied a transport system in Soweto itself. The South African Government wanted the money earned by those in Soweto to be spent in Johannesburg and so blacks were allowed to spend their money in shops in Johannesburg on certain days. However, there was no shopping centre or development in Soweto through which blacks could generate and develop their economy. That is the fundamental point. It is the way in which people are used. They are switched on like gas or electricity. They are wanted at one moment and not wanted at the next. That is the root objection to apartheid and all that it stands for.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) said that we should be objective, clear-thinking and without emotion when discussing the Commonwealth. I agree that we should try to do that with South Africa, too. The Commonwealth is a unique international institution. Apart from the United Nations, it is the only international group which brings together in a genuinely non-racial spirit representatives of the developed and developing nations in a forum for the discussion of major world issues. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth is bigger than the issue of apartheid. Even though we as a nation may be isolated as a minority of one at the moment, the family is big enough, strong enough and responsible enough to conduct this debate to a more positive conclusion.
If we think clearly about the Commonwealth, it is interesting to note that Commonwealth countries still collectively account for a substantial proportion of Britain's overseas trade. For instance, in 1984, Commonwealth countries took 39 per cent. of net new outward investment by United Kingdom companies and contributed 38 per cent. of total United Kingdom earnings from outward direct investment. The comparable figures for South Africa were 2 per cent. and 5 per cent. respectively. In 1985, trade with the Commonwealth represented about 10 per cent. of total United Kingdom external trade and the figure for South Africa was I per cent. The United Kingdom also runs a substantial trade surplus with Commonwealth countries of £1·1 billion according to 1985 figures. When we think clearly and unemotionally about the Commonwealth, we must recognise those facts.
While I object to any suggestion that Her Majesty's representatives in Commonwealth countries are not given their proper due and position, it is important to accept that the Commonwealth is so much stronger and deeper than just Heads of State contact. From my point of view, the Commonwealth represents millions of valuable contacts over the years at all levels. It represents a common understanding. I would like to recount a small anecdote involving my recent visit to Ethiopia. I visited Dire Dawa in southern Ethiopia looking at a refugee problem. The representative of the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees from Gambia said that they wanted to have a Commonwealth occasion. He invited me to what he described as a "Commonwealth party" in Ethiopia. He invited the Nigerian representative and other representatives of different United Nations and non-governmental organisations to a very moving and worthwhile small gathering in the outskirts of Dire Dawa. He saw that as a Commonwealth occasion. That is a sign of what the Commonwealth stands for.
I want to consider the whole question of sanctions and South Africa and the effect of those sanctions. I was lucky enough to be a member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs during the last parliamentary Session. One of the most valuable things that we were able to achieve on the issue was to take evidence from virtually every shade of opinion possible from South Africa. We took evidence from the ANC, from Oliver Tambo. He came before the Committee even before my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, made her contact. His evidence is there for all to see. We also talked to business men and to the Opposition and in particular we spoke twice to Chief Buthelezi. We spoke to representatives of all shades of opinion within South Africa. A former Member of the South African Parliament, Dr. Denis Worrall, who sadly was not elected in the last parliamentary elections, also gave very persuasive evidence on behalf of the South African Government.
On the basis of that evidence, there is much in the Select Committee report for my colleagues to trawl if they were not fortunate enough to be members of the Select Committee. I suggest that those who have not read the evidence in the report should do so. The Select Committee must make its findings based on the evidence.
We found that there was no disagreement about objectives or about the Government's policy and objectives. No Opposition Member would disagree with that. The Government's statement reads:
We seek an end to repression; the lifting of the state of emergency; the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners; full negotiations with acknowledged black South African leaders and with leaders of the other communities. We have impressed upon the South African Government the urgent need for fundamental reform to remove discrimination and to prepare the way for the establishment of a system of government which commands the support of the people of South Africa as a whole.
No one would disagree with that Government policy statement.
I have travelled frequently in South Africa, especially in black Africa, and I have found the whole issue of sanctions particularly confusing. The perceived view of the Government's policy is that there is no sanctions policy. However, that view is wrong. Some 14 sanctions are in place, some of which have existed since 1963. Whether we should have a sanctions policy is not a new argument. We have such a policy. The argument is whether we can extend that to a general economic blockade.
Both the Select Committee and the Eminent Persons Group considered this carefully and objectively and, for the same reasons, reached the conclusion that if an extension of sanctions was thought to be effective and possible we should back it, but that on the evidence it would be impossible to implement and would thus be no more than an empty moral gesture which would not have the effect that we sought. Both bodies sought to say that if anyone could find additional sanctions that would work and be effective in bringing about the transformation that we sought, we should support it and advise the Government to support it.
One must consider the purpose of sanctions. The evidence is clear that for the ANC the purpose is not to destroy the South African economy physically but to bring it to its knees and then bring about the necessary political change. In the view of the ANC, if that does not happen, violent change will physically destroy the South African economy by fire. The options are very narrow between those two. As the hon. Member for Brent, South has said, the view of the churches coincide with that.
It is therefore incumbent upon us to consider the issue of sanctions clearly and non-emotionally. The idea that they are automatically right or wrong is not the way forward. We must consider which sanctions will have an effect on public opinion in South Africa and thus bring about the change that we seek. In that sense, the Gleneagles sanction, which cost nothing, probably had a greater effect than anything else.
Since 1976, when I began to take an interest in these matters, I have seen a major change in attitude among the South African population. When I first went to South Africa, one could not mention apartheid at the university. The subject was simply not on the table. Now, I understand, it is discussed constantly by everyone in South Africa. That is a big move forward. I am told by a moderate nationalist Member of Parliament that a convention took place in the Orange Free State at which members of his party were entitled to put their views. It was not the familiar set piece convention with all parties. Each member was with a small group so that people could express their views. He said that the overwhelming view was in favour of negotiation with the black community towards a non-racial South Africa. To me, the key to that change lies in supporting those reasonable, moderate Members of Parliament. I should have liked Denis Worrall to be able to lead a new party and take away the focus from the Right-wing, reactionary element and from the President himself. Until we achieve a breakthrough in the existing Parliament, even though we disagree with its basis for being there, the move toward a non-racial South Africa will not take place.
I accept that there has been a major change of opinion among many people in South Africa, but it is regrettable that people like Graham McIntosh should lose their seats and that Wynand Malan is very much on the fringe. How does the hon. Gentleman envisage a breakthrough in the political situation, given the change of opinion among many people and the vital role of the churches to which my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) referred?
I believe that maximising contacts between Members of this House and those people in South Africa would be a marvellous step forward. We have no direct way of changing the position in South Africa. It must be changed from within. As the evidence of the ANC showed—this has been widely misunderstood—nobody wants to drive the whites out of South Africa. Their essential role and legitimate place in South African society is recognised. Moderate Members of Parliament in South Africa must feel lonely and beleagured in their current predicament. Members on both sides of this House should make it clear that we understand the situation and wish to give those parliamentary colleagues support in their struggle. That is one way in which to make the breakthrough.
The hon. Member for Brent, South talked about positive measures. The Select Committee came down on the side of positive and negative measures. We have put foward a major programme of training awards for non-white South Africans to enable them to study in Britain. Total expenditure was nearly £1 million in 1985–86, and another £15 million has been made available for the next five years to help the non-white community. I hope that the churches in South Africa will take advantage of the funds to do the things that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. In addition, there is a new Commonwealth fellowship scheme for non-white South Africans, to which scheme the Government will give £500,000 a year. The EEC declaration is designed to achieve exactly the same purpose. We are also trying to sponsor visits by South African politicians to Europe. We should like them to appear before the House and the Select Committee, test their views against the wider world and break down the laager mentality.
We wish to go further. We wish to see something like the Marshall plan in place. There is a massive requirement to improve everything to do with the black community. It is beyond the South African economy to do that now, even if South Africa wished to spend money to do so. If we could adopt the Marshall plan in a positive sense — subject only to a condition to which some of my colleagues would not agree — we would see political change and representation of the black community within South Africa, although not necessarily one man, one vote. The ANC has told the Committee that it wants to see a South African solution that is supported by all South Africans; white, coloured and black. It is up to them to have a conference and decide what sort of constitution they want. Until such a constitutional conference takes place, all we can do is promise the sort of assistance that should come from the developed world.
I certainly would not turn my face in any way against increased sanctions, provided I am satisfied that they will be effective. I want also to expand the positive aspect. In terms of human contact and concern, the only way to prevent the ultimate disaster that all of us fear and feel hopeless to prevent is by doing the maximum that we can in the immediate years ahead. We must get the clear, unemotional thinking to which I referred.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington on bringing the matter before the House at this time. I hope that the quality of the debate and the reasoned way in which hon. Members have expressed their opinions will be heard in South Africa. I am sorry to say that it probably will not be, but it is good to think that it could be.
I am delighted to follow the wise words of the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), who is one of the most respected internationalists in the House. I join him in congratulating the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) on his wisdom and political courage in bringing forward the motion. He has shown an appreciation of the value of the Commonwealth and a willingness to call apartheid what it is — an evil doctrine. It has caused much suffering within the republic and in the front-line states. He pointed to a way forward in a formula which echoes that in the conclusions of the Eminent Persons Group. The alternative — a bloodbath worse than any since world war 2—is set out starkly in the Eminent Persons Group report.
The House of Commons has not debated South Africa since July 1986. Much has happened since that time. There has been the state of emergency and, as a result of censorship, South Africa has been removed from our headlines. To that extent, the State President has succeeded. He has a breathing space and an opportunity. I pose this question to those Conservative Members who are ever ready to act as apologists for the State President: do they seriously think that on his record he has the wisdom or the capacity to use that breathing space costructively; or, as many of my friends from both sides of the political divide in South Africa say, is he a man who is, effectively, played out? They have no confidence that any of his potential successors has the wisdom or the foresight to look beyond the narrow prejudices of the white electorate that they represent.
We have heard from Conservative Members a litany of the changes that have taken place. However, they must concede that the twin pillars of apartheid — the Population Registration Act and the Group Areas Act — remain. If hon. Members of all parties call for changes in education and housing, they must recognise the difficulties. In housing, for example, a recent survey by estate agents in South Africa showed that many thousands of houses are empty. However, in spite of the housing crisis in South Africa, those houses cannot be used because they happen to be in white only areas. Africaner friends have pointed out to me that many school buildings are empty in spite of the education problems in South Africa and they cannot be used because they too are in white areas. Therefore, the essentials of the apartheid system—the Group Areas Act and population registration — continue, despite what has been said about the State President and his political initiatives. His idea of the National Council changes in concept. Even a moderate like Buthelezi will not play until Mandela is released. So far as the Kwa Natal-Zulu option is concerned, we know that the Natal National party president and President Botha immediately rejected it. The State President has not said anything of substance to suggest that he is likely to make any serious move in that direction.
Since the hon. Gentleman's intervention in my speech on this point, I have looked at the documents that I have with me. Will he accept that it was on 13 August that President Botha asked for additional comments from the Kwa Natal Indaba before his Government made their views known?
That Government, in the shape of the National party leader in Natal, made their rejection known immediately. If the hon. Gentleman were to read the speech of the State President at the opening of Parliament, he would see that no welcome was given to those proposals.
Essentially all the projected reforms are based on ethnicicity. This week the State President said that there is no black majority in South Africa because he thinks of the black people as a series of tribes. The object of the game is to preserve white power while repression and suffering continue.
I hope that I have read transcripts of all the Prime Minister's press conferences on this issue. She spits out the word "necklacing". We all abhor that practice and, indeed, the African National Congress has distanced itself from it. I hope that the Prime Minister will make a similar condemnation of, for example, the torture of children and of the kitskonstabels—"instant constables"—vigilantes who have been armed by the South African Government, who have three weeks training and who have powers of arrest and immunity from prosecution. They are unleashed on the townships and are responsible for much of the torture. Much of the so-called black on black violence arises from the so-called kitkonstabels, who are tools of the apartheid system and who seek to preserve the white power structure.
Against that repression, the Prime Minister's attitude is an economic version of constructive engagement. Conservative Members have said, "Let there be more investment." The editor of The Round Table calls that the "hormone weed" theory of development — in other words, the weed of apartheid will destroy itself by its own growth: the exclusive role of the whites will diminish, blacks will get into business and find top jobs and, in the fullness of time, political developments will follow. First, that has a certain neo-Marxist overtone in that as the sub-structure and economy develops, so political developments will inevitably follow investments in South Africa. But in Vancouver the Prime Minister said, en passant, that if she were an investment manager, she would certainly not advise people to invest in South Africa.
Secondly, the hormone weed theory of development does not accord with historical evidence. During the 1970s, which was a boom period for the South African economy, political reform was put on the shelf. Therefore, the idea that there is a direct relationship between economic development and political reform is simply not borne out by historical experience. Indeed, the clamps were tightened during the 1970s.
Thirdly, the idea of the inevitability of political change following economic change does not have time on its side, if only for demographic reasons. At present whites comprise one in six of the population and by the end of the century they will comprise one in eight. There will be 49 million people in the republic by the year 2000 and 79 million by the year 2020, of whom 66 million will be black. Can we seriously think that those 66 million blacks will be content wholly to be kept out of the political system? That is the position that President Botha and his friends are prepared to countenance when they talk airily about their National Council.
I regularly meet business men who have interests in South Africa. Even those who in the past have been willing to tell me, "Just wait for the next speech; things will change", are now extremely pessimistic about the capacity of President Botha, or any potential successor, to initiate meaningful change or even to consider it.
Earlier I mentioned the Prime Minister's complete disregard for the Commonwealth, shown in a series of speeches over the past decade. She seems to want to marginalise the Commonwealth, at least in her mind. Yet today's motion starts by referring to the value of the Commonwealth as a unique body bridging some of the great divides in today's world. I commend to the House Aristotle's maxim that friendship must be kept in good repair. I ask hon. Members to bear that in mind when they consider that the Prime Minister went to the Commonwealth conference in Vancouver, not with the presumption of friendship, which is the essence of the Commonwealth ideal, but determined to savage her host, the Canadian Government, by producing statistics which, although not bogus, related to a period which she knew was irrelevant because it was before Canada began to implement sanctions. She was effectively questioning the bona fides or good faith of the Canadian Government. No wonder the rest of the Commonwealth are at odds with us, as the motion states.
After Nassau two years ago, the Prime Minister insulted other members of the Commonwealth by saying that the sanctions agreed were tiny. Last year in London she said over the table to President Kaunda of Zambia, "Kenneth, how can you say that, when we give you so much aid?" Throughout, there has been an attitude of coldness and hostility towards the Commonwealth. The Government have put a ball and chain on effective sanctions by the Commonwealth, the EEC and the United Nations. They have done the minimum possible.
The Government have not sought to monitor the compliance of British business men with the voluntary investment ban; they have simply drawn the attention of the British business community to it. Indeed, they are laying out the red carpet in South Africa for the UKSATA trade visit this month. I invite the Minister to come with me to No. 1 Victoria street, the overseas division of the Department of Trade and Industry, where we would be advised on how to sell computer technology to the research arm of the South African military, how to set up joint ventures for the Mossel gas to petrol project—the whole object of which is to evade the oil embargo—and how to take advantage of USA reluctance to sell security equipment to South Africa.
But the Government, of course, want to end apartheid. They have repeatedly failed to prosecute clear breaches of the arms embargo, contrary to paragraph 6 of the Nassau agreement. For example, there was a discovery of howitzer spare parts smuggled from this country to South Africa in February 1986, but no prosecution followed. Yet the Government want to end apartheid. There was the belated and very minimal ban on the importation of Krugerrands some eight months after Nassau and the voluntary ban on tourist promotion, when the Government simply wrote two letters — one to ABTA and the other to the advertisers. When, in April, the Department of Employment was asked about non-compliance, it said:
We are not monitoring it. If the ban is now being broken, it would be disappointing.
Britain allowed the South African military attaché, Colonel Rob Crowther, to remain in this country against the spirit of our agreements with the Commonwealth and the EEC. The Minister and the South African Government have tried to claim that, when Colonel Crowther left the country shortly after 9 July, there was no connection between that and the arrest of Mr. Larsen; it was "simply the end of a tour of duty." We know that the close proximity of those two events and the link with the South Africans in the kidnap attempt must have had a decisive effect and the Government told Crowther that he had to go. He has now been promoted to a very senior position in the South African security establishment. Yet the Government want to end apartheid.
Is my hon. Friend aware of an organisation calling itself the Office of the South African Coal Industry, which established itself in London on 23 September? Apparently, it is to present a comprehensive insight into all the issues relating to the South African coal industry. It aims to counter the anti-apartheid movement's stand on importing coal. Is he further aware that the organisation is a slap in the face to the countries that have decided to take sanctions against South Africa, especially on coal?
It is a piece of special pleading on behalf of a South African industry that is desperately trying to avoid sanctions because it knows that they could harm the industry and bring pressure on the Government.
The Minister must be aware that a unique position occurred at Vancouver in that, for the first time, senior Commonwealth leaders held a press conference, away from Britain. to denounce the British Government's attitude. It involved Prime Minister Hawke, Prime Minister Mugabe, President Kaunda and Prime Minister Gandhi. The toadying British press repeated the Prime Minister's official line that Vancouver was, for her, "a great triumph". The Prime Minister's press conferences are peppered with references to "they" and "them" — that undistinguished, undifferentiated mass which lacks the intellect, courage or foresight to reconise that she alone is right. I remind the Prime Minister of the views of another puritan from East Anglia who told Scottish Ministers,
in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.
Even Cromwell, from time to time, admitted that he was wrong, whereas our Prime Minister is always right even when the rest of the world is against her.
The Prime Minister capped it all at Vancouver by describing the ANC as "a typically terrorist organisation". She claimed that the Foreign Secretary had seen ANC representatives only in that capacity. In July 1986 the Minister wrote:
The decision to meet Mr. Tambo was not taken lightly… The Government decided in favour because we firmly believe that dialogue between the South African Government and geniune leaders of the black community is essential if progress is to be made towards a settlement of South Africa's problems…the ANC undeniably represents an important focus for black opinion in South Africa… the need for dialogue between the opposing sides in South Africa has never been greater".
Since then the Foreign Office has been trying to rewrite history and to bring together the unbridgeable — the views of the Prime Minister and those of the Foreign Office, which, over the years, has been trying to build bridges between all sections of opinion in South Africa.
After the Prime Minister's postures at Vancouver, the United Democratic Front, which is dedicated to non-violent opposition, said in terms that it would not meet the British Government. Our officials have been trying constructively to build up relationships, but their attempts are being shattered by the Prime Minister's remarks.
When the news department at the Foreign Office was asked yesterday about the apparent contradiction between the Prime Minister's views and those of the Minister of State, having scurried to rewrite history, it could state only that the Prime Minister's statement represented Government policy. Perhaps the Minister could say to what extent the Government have been able to rebuild the bridges with the ANC now that Humpty Dumpty has shattered them to bits by those intemperate and immoderate remarks in Vancouver.
In her reply to me during the debate on South Africa in June last year the Minister of State said:
we believe that the measures taken must be effective.
In the light of the record, can the Minister say that the Government arc serious about making the measures effective?
In the same debate the Minister continued:
The Eminent Persons Group called for concerted and effective Commonwealth action … We shall not ignore that call.
How can the Minister reconcile that with the Prime Minister's conduct in London in August last year and in Vancouver this October?
The Minister also said:
With regard to majority rule, we cannot support a society that does not give a democratic vote to each and every one of its people."—[Official Report, 17 June 1986; Vol 99, c. 993–94.]
I warn her that if she continues like that she will suffer the fate of Comrade Boris Yeltsin.
By their acts of commission and omission, what are the Government doing? The current line is to divert attention from the lack of policy on South Africa by saying, "Aren't we good to the front-line states?" The Government say that we are increasing our aid to the front-line states but between 1980 and 1986 our aid to them fell even further than our overseas aid generally. That surely is only one side of the coin. How can we seek to put money into the front-line states and ignore that major state, South Africa, which is doing so much to destabilise the front-line states, and to destroy the very economies that we are trying to build up? It does not make sense. The two are different sides of the same coin.
Perhaps the Minister will rewrite some parts of her speech. She tries to throw dust in our eyes—to pretend that we can have a coherent policy towards South Africa and the front-line states while ignoring the great destabiliser which has cost South Africa more than $10 billion. She cannot have it both ways.
The Prime Minister made her points, Pretoria was delighted, and we have seen what followed. But let me ask two key questions: how much is the Prime Minister opposed to apartheid, and is she prepared to do anything about it? I would say that she is against apartheid only in the way that President Botha says that he is against it. Certainly her conduct has given aid and comfort to the friends of apartheid, both in South Africa and outside it. However, I shall concede for the sake of argument that she goes further than verbal condemnation, and wants to do something about apartheid.
The Prime Minister has a record of being in favour of sanctions against the Soviets following their occupation of Afghanistan, and against Nicaragua and Poland, but of rejecting sanctions against South Africa. But, even if there is agreement on the aim of destroying apartheid, there are honest differences about the means that are sought. The aim of sanctions is not to destroy an economy, but to bring pressure on those who can have a say, internally, in the construction of the new South Africa.
The Government's arguments appear to amount to this: sanctions do not work. That is like saying that medicine does not work when the Government prescribe only one teaspoonful, and, by their own actions, have diluted even that small teaspoonful. They have never been serious about sanctions, as the Prime Minister showed by her attempted humiliation of the Commonwealth after the Nassau summit.
I refer the Minister to the remarks made by Prime Minister Seaga of Jamaica at the Vancouver summit, where he—Harvard Business School educated, not one of the radicals in the Commonwealth — set out the current effectiveness of sanctions so far: for example, the apartheid premium that the South Africans must pay for their imports. He ended by saying that the general object had been in part achieved. There had been an effect on the standards of living. Sanctions had not brought down the South African economy, but they were doing precisely what had been hoped by at least causing the captains of industry and finance to think deeply, and to put internal pressure on the political leaders. One effect of that has been meetings between South African business men and the ANC, the "terrorist organisation" about which the Prime Minister feels so strongly.
I have tried to fathom the Prime Minister's motives, but I find her record puzzling. Paradoxically, her conduct puts her in a uniquely strong position to prevent the bloodbath predicted by the Eminent Persons Group in its report. In June 1984, she welcomed President Botha to Chequers. In August 1985, she did not hesitate to embarrass the predecessor of the Minister of State, Lady Young, following the 15 August speech of the State President—which had been so much trailed and heralded. Lady Young condemned the failure to release Nelson Mandela and expressed the disappointment of Her Majesty's Government. Immediately there was a telephone call to Lady Young from the Prime Minister's holiday retreat in Austria. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office had to revise dramatically its view. The line that was then taken was that Britain had discerned a number of positive features in the speech. South Africa had embarked on the process of reform. The Prime Minister did not mind about embarrassing Lady Young.
In July 1986 the Foreign Secretary forlornly set out on his mission impossible to South Africa. His aim was to rescue something from the sabotage of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group. It had been torpedoed by the bombing on 19 May of the front-line states. The Prime Minister had no hesitation in sabotaging the Foreign Secretary's visit by saying that it was a pity that South Africa was no longer a member of the Commonwealth. The ANC then refused to meet the Foreign Secretary in his capacity as a representative of the EEC. By an exchange of letters it agreed to see him only as a leader of Britain, but now the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Prime Minister are trying to rewrite history by claiming that the Foreign Secretary met the ANC only in his Foreign and Commonwealth Office capacity.
I have spoken to individuals in South Africa who saw at first hand President Botha's reaction to the Prime Minister's conduct at Vancouver. I am told that he was absolutely beaming at her conduct and that he said that she was one of the greatest statesmen in the world. The white citizens of South Africa do not trust the United States. They regard the Prime Minister as perhaps their only influential friend in the world. After Vancouver, there was talk of making the Prime Minister an honorary citizen of South Africa.
However, the Prime Minister's conduct has provided her with an opportunity to play a positive role in South Africa. She has leverage. She is perceived as relating exclusively to the whites and they to her. When Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister he assured for himself a place in world history by going to Capetown in 1961, where, in a prophetic and courageous speech, he told the South African establishment about the facts of life. The Prime Minister has a similarly unique opportunity to demonstrate that our economic stake in South Africa does not place us on the side of the status quo. Nobody is better qualified than the Prime Minister to tell the South African establishment about the facts of life today.
There are few parts of the world where Britain can play a decisive role, but surely this is one of them. The Prime Minister has leverage, but is she prepared to use it constructively? If she rejects economic sanctions, she should use other means of shock therapy to tell the whites that they must not continue with their present policies. However, the Prime Minister's signals thus far have been all one way. She has signalled to the whites that she is on their side.
It is 25 years since South Africa left the Commonwealth. Why is the no-visa agreement between this country and South Africa still in existence? The ending of the no-visa agreement would not be costly and it would be a positive signal to the white minority in South Africa. The Prime Minister could assure herself a decisive place in history if she grasped this opportunity.
An old order is dying in South Africa. A great Conservative statesman of the past, Edmund Burke, showed that he had the vision and sensitivity to see beyond the issues of the moment. I shall paraphrase what he said about France 200 years ago. Is the Prime Minister so dazzled by the plumage, the Randgold, the strength of the military and security apparatus, the short-term business and trade advantages, that she forgets the dying and rotten bird?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) for the opportunity to discuss this all-important subject. We have heard many interesting speeches, and may I commend in particular the wise words of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), from whom we heard a few moments ago. Sadly, the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) repeated much Labour party mythology, which is not based on fact or reason.
I shall start this important subject, as my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington did, by talking about the Commonwealth. It is a vital part of the coming together of views across the world. I restate the British Government's full support for the Commonwealth and remind the House of the objectives of our Commonwealth membership: the maintenance and reinforcement of the continuing strong links at all levels between member states and their peoples; the continued support for the Commonwealth as an organisation that can play a constructive and stabilising role in world affairs, notably in promoting democratic principles, international under-standing and world peace; the development of the Commonwealth as a unique challenge for encouraging co-operation and understanding between the industrialised and developing countries; and the maximisation of the political and economic benefits of our Commonwealth membership. None of us would disagree with those objectives that were set out in the House by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in July 1986.
I remind the House of the nature of the Commonwealth. It is a deliberative not an executive organisation. That is best demonstrated by quoting the 1971 Singapore declaration of principles, which said:
A voluntary association of independent sovereign states, each responsible for its own policies, consulting and cooperating in the common interests of their peoples and in the promotion of international understanding and world peace.
The Commonwealth is an organisation of great diversity. That diversity, as you and I know from Commonwealth parliamentary conferences, Madam Deputy Speaker, is one of its great strengths. It does not and cannot tell its members what to do. Countries do not join the Commonwealth because they agree with everything that it says or does, but come together to try to find common solutions, although they accept that on some occasions there may not be any. They join together because it is a worthwhile framework in which to co-operate. As the Commonwealth Secretary-General once said, it
cannot negotiate for the world, but it can help the world to negotiate.
It is in that spirit that we should approach the matter.
The Government believe that the Commonwealth is an effective and practical organisation. We do not seek to direct or lead it, but we aim to play an active role in it and participate fully in its activities.
Let us examine the Commonwealth meetings in which we have recently played a most active part. In the past few months, in addition to the Heads of Government meeting in Vancouver, which was attended by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, we have had three major events. The noble Baroness, the Lady Hooper, attended the Commonwealth Education Ministers' meeting in Nairobi. I shall return to the results of that meeting when I talk about the Vancouver conference. My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mrs. Rumbold) led the British team at the meeting of Ministers for Women's Affairs in Harare. I was honoured to lead the British delegation to the Commonwealth parliamentary conference in Kuala Lumpur in September. There are many other Commonwealth Parliamentary Association functions, and, as I said at its annual general meeting this week, they all have full Government support.
We shall continue to support the Commonwealth in practical and financial ways. The United Kingdom remains the largest single contributor to the budgets of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation—£2·5 million in the current financial year. We are glad to provide accommodation for the secretariat and the foundation at Marlborough house in London and nearby. With Canada, Britain provides the greater part of the budget for the Commonwealth fund for technical co-operation. When the Secretary-General told us earlier this year that he was having difficulty in persuading some member countries to meet their pledges, we were glad to promise £7·5 million, as against the usual formula of 30 per cent. of total contributions, to encourage others to follow our lead.
We fund the Commonwealth Institute—some £2·7 million this year—which is a unique showcase in central London for all the Commonwealth. That valued centre for Commonwealth activity draws on inputs from a wide range of countries. It is a good example of the informal Commonwealth co-operation that goes on at many different levels.
Seventy-five per cent. of the total United Kingdom expenditure on scholarships for overseas students—some £60 million in the last financial year—goes to students from Commonwealth countries. I shall return later to the point made by the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) about education. We are pledged to increase this sum. I cannot overstate the value of shared education at school or university. I benefited from having friends of different nationalities in my school. I know that it forges common bonds and encourages an instinctive turning to British methods, products and services when those students become leaders in their countries.
What makes the Commonwealth special is its spirit. It is more than a set of multilateral institutions. There are four ways in which the Commonwealth continues to occupy a unique position. First, it forges links between peoples. The network of societies, organisations and institutions with a Commonwealth label must be the widest in the world. Societies and organisations which choose to co-operate in the Commonwealth framework also enjoy shared common traditions, especially in the education sector and in the approach to voluntary organisations. Together they build a web of personal contacts around the world.
The range is almost infinite. Last year we were glad to welcome the Commonwealth parliamentarians to London for their 75th anniversary meeting. This year surveyors — the Commonwealth Association of Surveying and Land Economy — met in London to pool their experience across five continents. In September, the Prince of Wales opened the new headquarters for the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux International in Wallingford — a Commonwealth institution based in Britain but providing expertise worldwide.
Secondly, the Commonwealth is a stabilising influence in a troubled world. It is a unique mixture of nations, members and races from all continents of the globe and it covers the full spectrum of humanity. I have no doubt of the value of the Commonwealth's contribution in alleviating some of the world's most pressing problems. The Commonwealth has rightly focused attention in its meetings on problems of security, both economic and political, of small states. Over half our Commonwealth members have a population of less than 1 million, so the Commonwealth is uniquely well placed to examine the problems of those small states. The Commonwealth also helped in a stabilising way at the difficult time of the change to independence in Zimbabwe. The Commonwealth Observer Group was there to see fair play, acceptable to all the parties involved. In the current negotiations in Geneva on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade the Commonwealth has a small team to provide help to ensure that the interests of the smaller countries are not overlooked by the big battalions.
The third way in which the Commonwealth is so valuable is in its link between the developing and the developed world. For evidence we need look no further than the broad agreement and the unity of purpose between the developed and the developing nations at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. Together, small and large countries, developing and developed, poured out ideas and suggestions to solve common problems.
The Commonwealth also provides the major framework for the United Kingdom aid programme. About 75 per cent. of United Kingdom bilateral aid—some £700 million in 1986 — goes to Commonwealth countries and that is supported by 30 per cent. of multilateral aid. The Commonwealth fund for technical co-operation is another unique development agency. It finds experts to fill gaps at short notice. Often experts from one Commonwealth developing country go to work in another—the Indian ophthalmologist in Guyana and the public health officer from Bangladesh working in St. Vincent. Those experts are helping one another with their first-hand experience of the problems of the developing countries.
The fourth way in which the Commonwealth is effective is in its support for national policies. Thus there was total endorsement of the British position on Afghanistan and Cambodia at the Vancouver meeting. The Commonwealth countries together made clear the unacceptability of the Soviet presence in Afghanistan and the Vietnamese presence in Cambodia. The Commonwealth countries welcomed progress in the Geneva talks on reducing intermediate-range nuclear weapons—the essential next stage in reducing tensions between East and West. The countries are completely united in trying to achieve a better world. I am proud that over the years the Commonwealth countries have made decisions that have helped each other and I am especially grateful for Commonwealth support over the independence of Zimbabwe and over Belize. That is what the Commonwealth is all about. It is special in that it forges links between people of every creed, colour and race and brings a stabilising influence into a troubled world as well as forming links between the developing and the developed world. Thank goodness that the Commonwealth countries are mutually supportive.
We have heard much during the debate about the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Vancouver. It was a successful meeting. Some hon. Members have focused on the differences, and that is only to be expected. However, the areas of agreement were much more extensive than the areas of disagreement. The conference witnessed some real achievements and I agree with the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) who quoted the words of the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Sir Sonny Ramphal, on this point. In Vancouver there was an important declaration on world trade. The Commonwealth demonstrated its united opposition to protectionism and its commitment to an open, multilateral trading system, and to the reform of world agriculture policies. There was a valuable expression of commitment to the GATT and to progress in the current Uruguay round. The Commonwealth sent a helpful political signal to the GATT negotiators in Geneva that developed and developing countries can find common ground on an issue such as this. We shall work with other members to ensure that the commitment is turned into reality because it should significantly enhance the prospects for the outcome of the Uruguay round.
The Commonwealth decisions on distance learning were also significant. I referred earlier to the noble Baroness who led the Commonwealth Education Ministers' conference in Nairobi. Distance learning is an imaginative and valuable project to help meet the educational needs of member countries. Several hon. Members including my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) placed great emphasise on that. I pay tribute to the Commonwealth secretariat and Lord Briggs and his committee for the impetus that they gave to distance learning. Much detailed work remains to be done and with our wide experience of the Open University and the Open College we in Britain have much to contribute.
A third feature of the Vancouver meeting which has received very little press attention is endorsement of the initiative of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on sub-Saharan African debt, which my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe considers to be a fundamental necessity in helping the developing nations. We have suggested the writing-off of outstanding official debt for the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa. The United Kingdom has already written off £100 million. It has also been suggested that the repayment and grace periods should be extended and that interest rates should be reduced on debts rescheduled through the Paris club, which includes most creditor countries. That is one of the most vital steps ever taken to assist the economies of developing nations and I hope that it will be welcomed by the Commonwealth and worldwide.
I now want to consider the one issue that worries us more than any other—South Africa. The major political agenda item at Vancouver was bound to be southern Africa. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister outlined the result of the meeting in her statement to the House on 22 October. I want first to deal with the vexed and terrible problem of apartheid.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear in Vancouver, apartheid is a repulsive and detestable system. It must go and it must go as soon as possible. I am aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington and his hon. Friends worry about double standards. I understand their worries and am not oblivious to what they have said. However, I can state that South Africa is not the only country in which there is racial discrimination. Of course there are others. However, the difference is that South Africa regards itself, and wishes to be regarded, as forming part of Western society and upholding civilised values. Yet South Africa is unique in institutionalising racial discrimination at almost every level of society and government. Despite the reforms of recent years—which of course we welcome—the basic structures of apartheid remain intact. The whole international community, including the United Kingdom and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, rightly find that abhorrent.
Let no one doubt the sincerity of our determination to see apartheid ended. We oppose apartheid root and branch, just as we oppose abuses of human rights wherever they occur. Apartheid must go and it must be replaced by a non-racial, representative system of government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington's motion refers to Britain being out of step with the rest of the Commonwealth. I understand my hon. Friend's frustration and I understand what he is trying to say. However, I must argue about his interpretation. We are totally opposed to apartheid. At Vancouver there were broad areas of unanimity on a common approach to this appalling problem. Everyone at Vancouver agreed that apartheid is repugnant and must be ended and replaced by a non-racial representative system of government. Everyone agreed that fundamental change should be brought about by peaceful means through negotiation between the South African Government and freely chosen leaders of the black community. Everyone agreed on the need for outsiders to do what they can to help to bring the parties in South Africa to the negotiating table and all endorsed the approach outlined by the Eminent Persons Group of the Commonwealth in its negotiating concept—that the parties in South Africa, but principally the South African Government, should take a series of steps designed to create a climate for dialogue in the context of a suspension of violence on all sides. Everyone also agreed on the vital importance of assistance to the victims of apartheid in South Africa and on an enhanced programme of Commonwealth aid for the neighbouring countries within the region in order to reduce their economic and transport dependence on South Africa.
In all these areas, Britain has taken a leading role for positive change within the Commonwealth, bilaterally and in other fora. Again and again the British role is acknowledged and was acknowledged by a large number of Commonwealth Heads of Government in Vancouver and in bilateral meetings. They know that we want positive change in South Africa and are determined to help try to bring that about. We shall continue to put these measures at the forefront in all our international efforts to promote peaceful change in southern Africa. That is what we are determined to see and that is what we are working for.
Is the Minister seriously contending that Britain was not at odds with all other members of the Commonwealth? Has she not read the communiqué? It is peppered with statements such as:
With the exception of Britain, we believe that economic and other sanctions have had a significant effect
with the exception of Britain
the conference believed that
genuine efforts should be made to secure the universal adoption of the measures".
Is she unaware that, with the exception of Britain, the conference set up a standing committee of eight Commonwealth Ministers?
If the hon. Gentleman had waited a couple of minutes he would have heard my comments on those issues. Let me tell him here and now that there was no difference of opinion about the ends. Yes, we disagreed on the means, but there was no disagreement about the ends. In all my talks with leaders of African countries in nearly two years, I have never had a disagreement about the ends, only about the means. The views of those leaders are interesting and are, indeed, changing as a result of experience.
On the vexed subject of sanctions, of course there are differences and no one seeks to hide them. I was glad that the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber accepted that there are practical problems of implementing measures, whatever those measures may be. The reasons why the United Kingdom Government oppose punitive economic sanctions are well known. What happened at Vancouver was that the Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed to disagree. That was to be expected. No one with any knowledge of what was going on in the Commonwealth in the preceding weeks and months could have predicted otherwise. I regret very much that so much media attention has been directed at that aspect, to the exclusion of the positive achievements which achieve so much more for Commonwealth citizens. That is why I have sought to spell out those achievements at length today.
The Government accept that the majority of the Commonwealth, although by no means all other members of it, continue to favour the principle of punitive economic sanctions. We do not question the sincerity of those Governments' beliefs. Nor do we seek to prevent them from pursuing such a policy, although we regard it as a cul de sac and possibly a dangerous one for those countries.
The House should note that we have been scrupulous in implementing all the restrictive measures which have been agreed in the Commonwealth, the Twelve and the United Nations. If there is any validity in what the hon. Member for Swansea, East has said, I shall take action on it, but I do not believe that there is. Our measures have been designed to send a political signal to the South African Government, not to destroy the South African economy. I believe that this House will agree with all those black South Africans who say that they have no wish to inherit an economic desert. That is what we seek to avoid, at the same time as bringing about an end to apartheid.
The House should also note that while there was majority agreement at Vancouver to seek to tighten and extend the application of existing measures, not one Commonwealth country gave any undertaking for further measures. I believe that that reflects the growing awareness of the complexities of the issue and the changing appreciation of what has been going on.
If we respect the sincerity of others' views on sanctions, as we do, we ask them to respect the sincerity of ours. I wish to nail once and for all a pernicious myth that has been fostered by those who disagree with, or fail to understand, the Government's policy. It is a totally false equation to argue that to oppose apartheid means that one must support punitive economic sanctions and that opposition to sanctions amounts to support for apartheid. Sanctions are only one means by which some people believe that apartheid can peacefully be ended. It is far more complicated than that.
The Government do not agree with the comments on sanctions, but our views are just as deeply held as those of countries which espouse the cause of punitive economic sanctions. Our views are shared by many leading South African opponents of apartheid. We all know the views of Helen Susman, Alan Paton, Chief Buthelezi, and many others besides. The evidence that we have seen over the past year, which is causing a change of mind, is clear.
The implementation by some countries of punitive economic sanctions has been ineffective. Attitudes in South Africa towards genuine negotiations have changed; they have hardened. We need only to look at the result of the 6 May whites-only election to see that. It is also clear that punitive sanctions would hurt those whom they are intended to help. There is a growing understanding in the Commonwealth and elsewhere of the implications of such punitive sanctions for the black population in South Africa. I shall give two or three examples.
In the deciduous fruit industry, as a result of the United States' sanctions, about 30,000 seasonal contract labourers in the pear, grape and apple industries were not called up this year. Such job losses affect an estimated 150,000 dependants. In the hard rock lobster industry, again the United States' prohibition on the importation of food has affected 75 per cent. of South Africa's lobster exports and 50 per cent. of the industry's sales. What has that done? It has cut back opportunities in the market and affected the poorly educated and the geographically isolated black fishermen in the industry whose income levels have been severely cut and who have no alternative employment.
I can go on and give examples in the fish processing and coal industries in which such measures are affecting black and white alike. They are doing nothing for the economic future of South Africa, which black people will indeed govern. That is why I feel strongly about the matter. I shall say the same thing to the hon. Member for Swansea, East from the Opposition Back Benches as I say from the Government Dispatch Box today. Punitive sanctions would make for economic stagnation, not economic collapse, in South Africa. It is important to recognise that fact. Such conditions would not be conducive to peaceful change. On the contrary, in modern economic conditions, economic development and the consequent expansion of black influence will bring an inevitable erosion of apartheid. Many black leaders recognise that fact. I have told the House before that, in July 1986, Oliver Tambo himself told me that the ANC had no wish to inherit an economic wasteland. The front-line states are increasingly aware of the difficulties of applying sanctions. They know that they would not be in the interests of the people of the region. I hear that again and again in my travels. I do not deny that the United Kingdom, unlike many proponents of sanctions, has significant national interests in southern Africa. It is true that sanctions would damage them. But what sort of Government would damage national interests in pursuit of a misconceived policy? That is what I believe it would be.
Indeed, a Labour Government.
That is not the reason to oppose punitive economic sanctions. The reason for opposing them is the unremitting harm that they would do to black people all over southern Africa, and, indeed, white people.
We have heard much in the debate about British strategy. The Government have sought a vital and constructive alternative strategy. We believe that it is the one that is best calculated to advance the cause of change. We are dedicated to advancing the cause of change. We must all accept, with the deepest regret, that change will be a long haul. It will not happen tomorrow. South Africa is not on the brink of cataclysm. Violence will not work and I believe that the violent path will prove longer than the peaceful one. Peaceful change can come only when all parties in South Africa are working for it. For progress, both sides must see the need for negotiation in their own and the common interest. That is what we must achieve, but that point has not yet been reached. To that extent, it may not be too late for negotiation as some would say, but it may, sadly, be too early.
Another point that is vital to South Africa's future is that outsiders cannot impose the solution. Yes, outsiders have a duty to take a pragmatic and realistic view and to do what they can to encourage improvements in South Africa. However, we must be patient about the way in which we do that. There are many brave people of all colours and creeds in South Africa who are leading the way on both sides. I am thinking of the importance of the Dakar meeting between the representatives of IDASA and the ANC, which I heard about from President Diouf when I was in Senegal. I think too of the brave work done over many years by Helen Suzman. There are many more examples.
I turn now to the vexed question of contacts with the African National Congress, which I know troubles some of my hon. Friends. When she spoke in the House on 22 October my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it quite clear that we take strong exception to the sorts of threats that were issued against British firms at Vancouver. We said then, we have always said, and we shall continue to say, that we condemn all acts of violence in South Africa and in southern Africa from whatever quarter they may come. That means that violence, whether by the ANC or other black people and organisations, hardens attitudes. There is no doubt that violence by the ANC hardens white attitudes and delays dialogue and peaceful settlement. That is why we do not believe that it is in the ANC's interest to become identified with other three-letter organisations such as the IRA or ETA.
We understand how people have come to think that they have no option other than violence. However, we must advise them that violence will not bring closer the end of apartheid.
Of course, we oppose violence from the South African defence forces or from any other body. I have said that on many occasions in the House. Our opposition to the use of violence by the South African Government inside South Africa and cross-border violence by the South African defence forces is well known outside the House. However, I am glad to repeat it now. In fact, that would have been my next sentence when my hon. Friend intervened. We shall continue to make that clear to the South African Government.
We understand that the African National Congress undoubtedly enjoys considerable support from many black people in South Africa. We continue to call for it to be unbanned. However, we also say that the ANC is by no means the sole representative of black opinion. Many black leaders in South Africa, including Chief Buthelezi, and the United Democratic Front support the principle of peaceful change. In our efforts to achieve peaceful change, we believe that dialogue is vital. That has been one of our reasons for having contacts with the ANC. We sought to persuade it that violence is not the right approach. At the same time, we have argued consistently that the ANC should be unbanned and that Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners should be set free to create a climate for dialogue in the context of the suspension of violence from all sides. Those were the objectives of the Nassau communiqué of 1985, which was re-endorsed at the Marlborough house meeting in August last year and again at the Vancouver Heads of Government meetings.
I understand why some of my hon. Friends are anxious about ANC meetings and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate for his comments. But I believe that it is right that officials continue from time to time, as may be necessary, to meet ANC representatives. The question of further meetings with Ministers at present is entirely hypothetical. They would require careful consideration at the time and in the light of the circumstances. I assure the House that none of these decisions is taken lightly.
Meetings happen as and when necessary. This morning's meeting was at the request of the ANC. The request was made before it was known that my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington had been successful in the ballot and that we would have this debate today. We simply kept to the arrangements made. I understand that the ANC wished to express its anxiety about security in the light of the charges being dropped in the so-called ANC kidnap case, which my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General covered in the House in his statement on 23 October.
We use every such occasion to urge the ANC to forswear violence and we shall continue to do so, but we understand black frustrations. Violence, however, only makes dialogue and change more difficult by hardening white attitudes. This morning's meeting was low key and courteous. I understand that the ANC did not raise the outcome of the Vancouver conference, nor the Prime Minister's criticism of it, nor sanctions, nor Her Majesty's Government's overall policy. Working meetings can help us towards better understanding and that is why they take place.
The question of Ministers meeting the ANC is purely hypothetical at present. If and when requests are made we shall consider the facts at the time. Obviously when my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary was President of the Council of the European Community he met Mr. Tambo. I met him in the summer of 1986 and other leaders have also had meetings. That is purely because we wish to pursue dialogue to bring about peaceful change in South Africa. That is what it is all about.
Apart from seeking to bring about dialogue, there are other steps that we can and should take. That is why the United Kingdom has continued to try to help bring about change positively and practically. We are not prepared to stand aloof from what is happening in South Africa. We see change there, but we see that it needs a great deal of encouragement because it is happening too slowly. Some South Africans are, indeed, showing themselves more receptive to new ideas. That means that we must talk to all sides and not cut off links. We must encourage the men of peace among the opposition and support the neo-liberals in the new Afrikaaner generation — they are there, but they need to be helped to have a positive influence.
We shall continue to put pressure on the South African Government for fundamental change, but it is often most effective when we bring pressure to bear in private. We shall work both in public and in private. We shall continue to carry out scrupulously the limited measures against South Africa which we previously agreed to take as a signal of our serious desire for progress. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear at Vancouver, we shall continue to give our support to the negotiating concept, first suggested by the Eminent Persons Group, which we regard as the most effective way to promote the dialogue needed for fundamental change by peaceful means. We shall continue to press for the release of Nelson Mandela and political prisoners, and for an end to the ban on the ANC and other political parties in the context of the suspension of violence on all sides. We shall continue to make representations for detainees, particularly children, for whose detention there is no excuse. We shall continue to use our influence to encourage the South African Government to continue the process of legislative reform.
In order to promote internal forces for change in South Africa we shall continue to give practical assistance to black South Africans. Here I turn to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Brent, South, but I shall write to him more fully about the issues that I cannot cover in the debate today.
Since 1979, we have been offering training for a future in which all South Africans will have their rightful share. In July last year we announced an expanded training programme of assistance. Over five years, some £12 million will cover 80 undergraduate scholarships each year for study in Britain and for training and other activities in South Africa. This year we are sponsoring 280 non-white South African students, and next year the figure will rise to 400. We have begun, and intend to continue, that process. Under the 1987 European Community budget, £14·5 million has been allocated to aid black South Africans, and Britain's share of that is £2·9 million.
Our programme of economic and security allowance to South Africa's neighbours is also substantial, and it is part of the whole. We shall continue to support the efforts of the South African Development Co-ordination Conference to reduce the economic and transport dependence of front-line states on South Africa. That is why since SADCC was formed we have contributed £819 million in bilateral aid to SADCC states, £35 million to SADCC projects for vital transport and research; a bilateral training programme under which 1,300 people from the region are currently studying in Britain. In addition, £103 million is being given to SADCC and its members between last year and 1990 through the European Community, plus a fifth of the cost of EEC food aid to the region. That is how Britain is showing its seriousness in trying to bring about change in South Africa, and it is valued by the recipients. It does not, in itself, constitute a policy for ending apartheid, but it is an important plank in a broad platform of pressure, advocacy, aid and assistance. The aid to the front-line states gives a strong message to the South African Government, when they see the economic independence of their neighbours increasing all the time.
The fact that there is change in South Africa is welcome, but it is slow and difficult. There is some hope, I am glad to say, but we need, on all sides, to be realistic. We need realism among white South Africans, among black South Africans and among outsiders. It is no good having some hypothetical way of proceeding; it must be a practical and a step-by-step progression towards ending apartheid. We must work together for what is attainable. This Government intend to do just that. To concentrate on the differences of approach benefits only those who would not wish to see that change come about. Britain wants change, the Commonwealth wants change. We want the end of apartheid just as soon as we can help South Africans to achieve it. But it will only be by achieving it within South Africa that it will be effective, and we shall only be effective, as my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington wishes, if we can persuade the South African Government to initiate and carry through a process of dialogue to establish a non-racial representative system of government. That is our aim, and all that we do is to that end.
Order. We have very little time remaining and a number of hon. Members are trying to catch my eye. I appeal to hon. Members to be generous with each other and take only a few minutes. In that way, I can call everyone.
I am indebted to the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) for bringing this good motion before the House. It is a pity that there are not more hon. Members, from both sides of the House, in the Chamber, either to take part in the debate or to listen to it. I am particularly pleased with the words in the motion stating that the House
regards with sympathy and understanding the efforts of poorer members of the Commonwealth to raise standards of life, liberty and government for all their citizens; pledges its
support for a high level of trade and economic aid, within the Commonwealth; regrets that the United Kingdom appears to be out of step with all other members of the Commonwealth on the subject of sanctions against South Africa.
The motion's expressions of sympathy for the problems facing poorer members of the Commonwealth are particularly relevant.
The tendency among Government Members is to blame black people and black nations for their plight. I do not think that black people can be blamed. I believe that the way in which the western world has dealt with black Commonwealth nations caused the problem. It is wrong for Government Members to blame the victims.
I am entitled to speak on behalf of black people in the United Kingdom and in the rest of the world, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), but I do not think that the Prime Minister is entitled to speak on behalf of black people, as she attempts to do. I do not believe that the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) is entitled to do that either. References to kith and kin in South Africa are disgraceful, particularly since that was a major issue at the time of the Rhodesian troubles. Government Members should be careful about how they approach the issues.
The Minister said that more areas of agreement than disagreement emerged from Vancouver. That is true, but the one area of disagreement was so large and so profound that it totally obliterated the areas of agreement.
The problems for southern Africa, and South Africa in particular, are of such magnitude that I need to hear more than I have heard today to ease my fears. The Minister said that apartheid was repulsive and detestable and that it had to go — soon. I am in no position to judge whether people's intentions are honourable. I do not know whether the Prime Minister is really against apartheid. I am not prepared to get involved in that argument. All that I can do is to look at the facts.
First, there seems to be a problem about freeing black people in South Africa. Tremendous strides have been taken in combating racism all over the world. That is true in the United States of America where, among other things, there are now in Congress about 30 black men and women. Tremendous strides have been taken in the United Kingdom. We now have four black Members of Parliament. However, there is not a single elected black person in South Africa. The Minister nods in agreement. It is a major problem.
Black people in South Africa and throughout the world are not prepared to sit back and wait until white people decide that the time is right for them to vote in a free South Africa. That is no longer palatable to black people. The Minister says that change takes time, but the majority of black people are not prepared to accept that. The Minister described sanctions as a cul-de-sac and talked about the sincerity of the Government's policy. She said that blacks suffered under sanctions. Black people, through their legitimate organisations—those that are allowed to exist in South Africa—have said consistently that they are prepared to sacrifice their jobs, or make other sacrifices, to ensure that they get their rights. The Minister quoted Oliver Tambo as saying that he did not want to inherit a bankrupt South Africa, or words to that effect. What she did not tell us was that he also said that he supported sanctions as a means of bringing the Government to heel, and ensuring that the economy was not ruined.
I was pleased to hear the Minister condemn violence by the South African Government and defence forces. I asked the Prime Minister about that. It is a pity that she does not come to the House and say what the Minister has said. Why cannot she do that? Why will she not? As far as I am aware, the Prime Minister has never condemned the violence of the Botha regime by name. She has never said, "I condemn the Botha Government for their violence towards black men, women and children in South Africa, Namibia and the rest of southern Africa", and I believe that she never will. However, I challenge her to make such a statement to the House in due course, and I give her fair warning that I shall return to the matter constantly.
I thank my hon. Friend for his support.
As a new Member, I am sometimes rather confused. The Government say that they are against sanctions. Then the Minister this morning says, in a very liberal way, that people can choose their own paths; if some countries wish to apply sanctions, so be it, we will not interfere. But the Government's record is different. Things do not seem to match.
I am on the Standing Committee considering the Local Government Bill, clauses 17 and 18 of which will force local authorities that have refused for the past 27 years to have anything to do with firms that have links with South Africa to accept its goods and services, and to give contracts to South African companies and firms with major links with that country. Local government throughout the land—Labour, Conservative and alliance — all have policies of refusing to use South African goods and products. Indeed, I was told that in the answer to a question that I put in the House. Those two clauses, however, will change the position.
Let me briefly refer to a matter that causes me grave concern. The Secretary of State for the Environment has attempted to justify taking away the powers of local government in the following words:
already more than 40 authorities impose contract conditions relating to links with South Africa. Too many councillors seem to find it more fun to play at national politics at their ratepayers' expense than to deal with the real local challenges and problems.
That is crass ignorance, and it is an insult to local authorities. The Secretary of State is saying that, by not buying South African goods, we are playing politics and making fun of people.
Local authorities do not use South African goods because they have been produced by the blood, sweat and tears of black men, women and children. When British companies bring huge profits back to Britain, they do so on the basis of black people having spilled their blood for slave labour wages and of black people being moved around the country at the whim of their employers and the Government. Because they are humanitarian, local authorities are not prepared to use those products. They realise that for those products to be on our tables, black people have suffered. The hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) boasts that he drinks South African sherry. That is an insult to the House, but it is even more of an insult to those who have been killed and maimed by producing such goods.
This has been a fairly low key debate. A number of hon. Members believe that this subject is being dealt with too lightly. We must be realistic. We must deal with the problems in the system.
The Government have said nothing so far about the mini war that took place recently in Angola. The South African Government stated publicly that they sent their forces into Angola to fight alongside UNITA against the forces of the Angolan Government. In an editorial today, The Guardian mentions the episode and condemns the South African Government for their role in that war. It says that the military situation in South Africa is growing worse, and continues:
it can only be a matter of time before the balance tilts and the MPLA becomes the first front-line government in southern Africa to give Pretoria a bloody nose for its constant destabilisation of the region in forward defence of apartheid. It is the only language Pretoria can be made to understand so long as it believes might is right.The Guardian is a moderate newspaper, and those words are relevant. We can talk calmly, without the fear of violence, but that is not so in South Africa.
South Africa is referred to a great deal, but we hear little about Namibia, even though the situation in Namibia is worse than it is in South Africa. Namibia is illegally occupied by 100,000 South African troops. There are tales of rape, torture, mutilation and looting by the South African forces. British firms have exploited for years the mineral wealth of Namibia. They have used the forces of the South African Botha racist regime to ensure their profits through the exploitation and the blood of the Namibian people.
United Nations resolution 435 calls for the removal of the South Africans from Namibia. I understand that Britain refuses to adopt a serious stance on this issue.
The hon. Gentleman must retract that remark. The United Kingdom has fully supported United Nations resolution 435 ever since it was debated, and we continue to believe that it should be implemented without any preconditions. We fully agree that external forces, wherever they come from, should withdraw from Namibia and Angola, but resolution 435 is on the United Nations resolution list with our full support.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that clarification.
Regardless of what I or Conservative Members think, the position in Namibia and South Africa must change. The forces of history will ensure that that change occurs.
I want to be as positive as I can about this desperate situation. The way forward is through discussion with the ANC and other groups. I note that business people have decided that the way forward is to speak to the ANC and to bring it into discussions. I was pleased that the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) mentioned that the ANC wants a democratic South Africa that is free from racism and where black and white people can live together in harmony. We all support that aim, but the problem is in achieving it. We should not kow-tow to the South African Government or give them an easy time. We must ensure that serious, hard sanctions are implemented so that that regime can be brought swiftly to an end.
The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) made a characteristically robust speech, which we have all come to expect from him. The picture that he painted of South Africa and southern Africa belies the truth. He may have fuelled a few flames that have at last begun to die down in this rather sorry place.
As to the hon. Gentleman's comment about local government and contracts—I am aware that he is on the Standing Committee on the Local Government Bill—I was surprised by his boast that Labour councils did all that they could to avoid buying South African goods. He was upset that a clause prohibiting such action may be inserted in the Bill. Perhaps he will enlighten me on what he thinks about the Labour-controlled Watford borough council developing the centre of that fine town—I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) for this information—in partnership with. I am told, massive South African investment. That money was borrowed freely on the market money—resulting, in the words of the hon. Member for Tottenham, from the blood, sweat and tears of the black people in South Africa. But that Labour council unashamedly borrowed that cash and invested it in the centre of Watford.
I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman because he did not give way to me. I was in Watford not long ago. I am delighted for that fine town and for my hon. Friend the Member for Watford, who will obviously benefit from the investment in his town. I am delighted at the council's foresight and pay tribute to it for borrowing the money on the most competitive market.
Like my colleagues, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) on his choice of subject, but the wording of his motion was somewhat unfortunate. We have the greatest respect for his great knowledge and experience of African affairs, especially of Nigeria. I admire my hon. Friend for his "courage", as the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) described it, in bringing this subject before the House. We should discuss it but the motion was inaccurate. It fell into the
same trap into which the hon. Member for Tottenham fell in assuming that South Africa is in flames. My hon. Friend's motion talks of
incalculable suffering, cruelty and bloodshed among the non-white population of South Africa".
That is not strictly true. Before I am accused of being economical with the truth when I say "strictly", I must point out that the position in South Africa was beginning to deteriorate some two years ago, requiring the South African Government to declare a state of emergency to restore order. I think that most Governments faced with such problems would have done exactly as the South African Government did. The position in South Africa is now much calmer, as my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) knows. I know it because I was recently there, and I declare that interest before the Opposition question me about it. I am a frequent visitor to South Africa. I found peace and calm in the townships. That was only because of the state of emergency.
The British Government, in continuing to support their earlier resolution on the release of Nelson Mandela and the lifting of the state of emergency, must understand that, if the state of emergency is lifted and the police are withdrawn, there will be anarchy in the townships. South Africa will again face the terrible problems it had two years ago and the position will deteriorate quickly.
This morning, on the "Today" programme, my hon. Friend said that the South African record of human rights was not blameless—from him, that was a substantial admission — but nor was our own. That struck me as a grotesque insult to the police and services in Britain. Can my hon. Friend tell me which police authority in Britain has a store of sjamboks and whether he thinks that they are likely to be used?
Perhaps unwittingly, my hon. Friend has taken my remarks a little out of context. Perhaps at that early hour of the morning, he did not hear me say that the Amnesty International report, which was published last October, catalogued violations of human rights throughout the world, including Britain. Amnesty International's accusations concerned Ulster. We were not blameless in the Amnesty International report, nor was South Africa and other countries.
The motion refers to the Commonwealth—we should discuss it — but not to the malaise in some member countries. Human rights are violated in some Commonwealth countries in the same way as in South Africa and sometimes conditions are much worse. My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington would have had the sympathy of his colleagues if he had referred to that malaise and catalogued some of those violations of human rights. If he had done so, we would perhaps have been a little more sympathetic towards his argument.
I am a little disturbed that my hon. Friend should propose to commit further resources to the Commonwealth at the British taxpayer's expense without asking it to take some responsibility in return. It is rather disturbing to think that the British taxpayer is asked for, and willingly gives, large sums to members of the Commonwealth without receiving a response and without having any say in how the money is spent. Therefore, my hon. Friend should have called in his motion for additional responsibility from the Commonwealth as well as additional resources for it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) said that the last point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington was the only part of his speech with which he could agree. However, I take issue with it. I cannot agree that there is a simple solution, as is implied in the motion. This debate alone should have taught us that there is no simple solution to this incredibly complex problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington said that the problem of tribalism exists throughout Africa. South Africa is part of Africa — a fact which some people tend to forget—and African values have to be considered there. The Western system of democracy enjoyed in this country and passed on by us to countries throughout the Commonwealth is not necessarily the right system for Africa. The one-party system—dare one say, the dictatorships—prevalent in black Africa may well be the only system by which those countries can be governed. If one accepts that, one must accept, too, that the system of apartheid in South Africa has worked in terms of government. I am not supporting it, but if we work on the basis that what is right for one might not be right for another, we should perhaps have some respect for those who believe that the system represents the only way of continuing to govern South Africa. I do not support that view, but it is widely held in South Africa.
My hon. Friend has raised an important point with which my right hon. Friend the Minister did not deal in her reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Woodcock). Can we not see in Bophuthatswana a perfect example of how the system could work on a non-racist basis? Bophuthatswana has its own army and its own education system and is completely independent of South Africa. Is not that the basis on which Africa and southern Africa should proceed?
I agree with my hon. Friend. The House will understand that what may be right for one country may not be right for another. The experiment in Bophuthatswana is working well and we hope that it will be encouraged in other states in that part of the world.
We should concentrate a little more on the Commonwealth. One is bound to ask the question asked often in the popular press, whether we need the Commonwealth. In a week in which we remember our dead — I am glad that this has been mentioned — we must remember the part that the Commonwealth played in the last two wars, and especially the part played by South Africa. There was great respect for the Commonwealth for coming to our help. However, those of us who are upset at the antics of some Commonwealth leaders fear that they are losing the respect and dignity in which they were held because of their extremely good war record.
It has been said that the Commonwealth is a happy family, but I wonder how happy it is. It seems to be happy in its almost paranoid attention to South Africa but in other respects it may not be as happy as it makes out. It is almost a toothless dog. It is not a great political animal; indeed it tries to fight shy of politics. It has no real collective economic strength, and in world defence, which is perhaps the most important consideration, it has virtually no standing.
Having said that, I believe that we should continue to support the Commonwealth. There must be respect between one member and another. The sight of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister being castigated by the likes of President Kaunda, Prime Minister Gandhi and Prime Minister Mugabe for standing up for something in which she, the British Government and the majority of people in this country believe is detestable. It is deplorable that the Prime Minister's stand should be so castigated by members of the Commonwealth who, in many cases, depend on this country for an economic lifeline. Indeed, they are almost going for the mother country rather like the fledglings who, having fled the nest, return to foul it.
I believe that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister should be congratulated on her stand. It is regrettable that some Commonwealth leaders have taken the view that they have and insulted her and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary when he visited Zambia.
Most of us are upset by the Commonwealth's fixation with the South African issue. What a tragedy at a time when there are so many problems involving poverty and the world economy that the Vancouver conference should be dominated by the South Africa issue. I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. It was not inevitable that southern Africa should be discussed by the Commonwealth. The 49 countries of the Commonwealth should have far better things to do than talk about something over which they have very little control. They can control the economies, poverty, hunger and despair within their countries. However, quite unashamedly, they chose to spend most of their time castigating a country about which most of them know very little and, in the majority of cases, are prepared to do very little, if anything. No one is more guilty of that than the Commonwealth secretariat.
Every time I pass the rather nice windows of the Commonwealth secretariat in that nice area of London, I am appalled at the displays of propaganda which have nothing to do with helping the Commonwealth. The displays make that window an anti-apartheid propaganda display. They have nothing to do with the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mr. Sonny Ramphal, is an emphatic figure who seems to buzz around the world with great aplomb and a certain amount of dignity. However, in his speeches, literature and the propaganda that he puts out he never fails to take every opportunity to have a go at South Africa. Is that really the role for the secretary-general of 49 different countries, which my right hon. Friend the Minister states enjoy 30 per cent. running support from this country? No wonder we are cross. No wonder we believe that the efforts of those Commonwealth countries should be directed in other directions within the organisation where they can help themselves.
I certainly will not give way.
I do not want to refer to the effect of sanctions, because most hon. Members understand what sanctions would mean for those whom they are intended to benefit. That point was eloquently made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. We must consider the effectiveness of sanctions. Would they make any difference? The limited, tiny sanctions that have been applied—which I deplore because I do not believe that we should have sanctions—have had a reverse effect.
A headline appeared in the Johannesburg Star the other day warning its readers of sanction euphoria. It states that because sanctions were being imposed and some companies were beginning to leave South Africa, that was generating a new prosperity among South African business men which they had not enjoyed before. It is remarkable that companies like Barclays bank, IBM and General Motors which have left South Africa and sold their assets for nothing to South African management have now lost their influence. That is the tragedy of sanctions. They never have the intended effect.
It is remarkable how the resilience of the South Africans and others in a similar position has turned the South African economy around. It is now much stronger and the South Africans look forward to the future with great optimism. Under those conditions there is a chance for change. I repeat what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington. If we are looking for change in a country, surely the conditions for that change are far better when the economy is flourishing, when everyone has a chance of a job and when reform can take place within a peaceful context.
I am sorry to have taken the additional time, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I had little choice towards the end. The motion rightly refers to dialogue, which means that we should discuss these matters in the House and in and around South Africa. If we are to have any influence on the South African Government and people, it must be on the basis of trading with them, visiting them and having contact with them. That is dialogue, and that is the way to change. That dialogue is the way to peaceful reform and to encouraging the South African Government in the direction in which we want them to go. Without that dialogue, we are lost. Sanctions imposed as they are intended would cut that dialogue——
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I put it to you that the last participant in the debate has shown incredible disrespect both to the Chair and to the House. As so many hon. Members wished to take part, if only for a few minutes, you asked for short speeches. The last participant rose at 2.12 pm and took all the remaining time. That was in direct contravention of your wishes. He thus showed disrespect for you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and for the House. In my view, it is quite wrong that an apologist for the South African racist regime should treat the House in that way. Is there anything that we can do to pay back, as it were, the disrespect that has been shown to you, Madam Deputy Speaker?
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern. I consider the matter to which he has referred no disrespect to the Chair. My real concern is for hon. Members who sit here for a very long time and have a contribution to make. I only wish that they would take just five or six minutes each so that, whatever their views, the House and the country can hear them. To my great sorrow, it has not been possible today to hear all those points of view.