Orders of the Day — South Africa Bill [Lords]

– in the House of Commons at 4:24 pm on 9th March 1995.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 4:28 pm, 9th March 1995

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

More than 30 years ago, Hendrik Verwoerd took South Africa out of the Commonwealth—exited before being pushed—because of the apartheid policies of the then South Africa; so the return of South Africa to the Commonwealth last year is a cause for celebration in all Commonwealth countries.

The intervening 34 years were dark years for South Africa—years of isolation. It was isolated from the west because it offended human and democratic values, and isolated in Africa because of its treatment of Africans and others. But South Africa was not forgotten; we knew that change must come. Change has come, and there has been a special sense of joy throughout the Commonwealth at South Africa's decision to return to the family of the Commonwealth.

The main purpose of the Bill is to modify existing legislation to place South Africa on an equal footing with other Commonwealth countries. It involves purely technical amendments to a number of Acts in order to apply them to South Africa; those amendments are set out in detail in the schedule to the Bill. The immigration and electoral implications of South Africa's return to the Commonwealth have been dealt with separately by an Order in Council made in June last year, which added South Africa to the list of Commonwealth countries included in schedule 3 to the British Nationality Act 1981.

We are determined to do all we can to support the reconstruction of post-apartheid South Africa. Immediately after the South African elections last year, Britain committed a total of £100 million of aid to South Africa. We gave support to the reconstruction and development programme—support welcomed by South Africa.

Welcoming my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to South Africa last year, President Mandela made it clear that

we in South Africa, and I refer both to my government and the people as a whole, are particularly thankful for the commitment shown by your government to help us deal comprehensively with the legacy of apartheid". The Prime Minister and President Mandela have agreed the areas of focus for our bilateral aid. They are in education, health, supporting good governance, including local government, encouraging the development of business and enterprise, and support for agriculture. Our assistance to South Africa is driven by the needs of the South African people.

We have offered help with the arrangements for the local elections in October this year, and with the regional integration of the South African police service. We have also offered co-operation in the fight against drug trafficking. About a third of our aid funds for South Africa are currently spent on education. Our assistance is intended to increase access for disadvantaged South Africans to education and training opportunities. We have a clear commitment to supporting South Africa through our aid budget.

To succeed, however, South Africa needs more than aid; it needs investment and trade. The United Kingdom is the largest overseas investor in South Africa: our investments have an estimated book value of £2 billion, and a market value estimated at between £8 billion and £10 billion. In July last year, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade led a party of British business men to South Africa, and launched a trade and investment campaign called "Opportunity South Africa"—a campaign to include seminars, trade fairs and further high-level missions to promote investment in South Africa.

Funds will come from both private and public sectors. There will be support for small businesses, and exchanges between UK industry and South African postgraduate students. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade announced that an additional £1 billion would be available in ECGD cover.

My right hon. Friend also announced a British investment promotion scheme to encourage more small and medium-sized UK companies to invest in South Africa by providing grants towards the cost of pre-investment feasibility studies and the training of local employees. One part of the campaign, for example, is the Soweto skills initiative. Young entrepreneurs from Soweto will come to Britain to gain management experience with British companies. Forty trainees are coming to Britain this year; six have already arrived.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, on his visit to South Africa last September, took with him a further team of senior business men. During his visit, he and President Mandela signed an investment promotion and protection agreement, which is aimed at encouraging investment by British companies in South Africa.

In January, a full-scale trade promotion campaign for this year was launched, called "Britain means business". The campaign will include two high-profile commercial events in South Africa during the year. First, immediately following Her Majesty the Queen's state visit later this month, a series of seminars will be held in Cape Town: they will cover invisibles, education and health care. At the same time, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade will be in South Africa, accompanied by a team of senior United Kingdom business people, to meet South African Ministers and business people to discuss urban regeneration, airport development, and electricity distribution to ensure a guaranteed supply of electricity to the townships.

The transition to a democratic society which is no longer based on the principle of racial discrimination requires a sound economic and financial basis. We are determined to do all we can to support investment in projects and people in South Africa.

There is a steady strengthening of relations between Britain and South Africa, and that is warmly welcomed on both sides. At the end of next week, Her Majesty the Queen, the Head of the Commonwealth, will pay a state visit to South Africa, the first such visit for nearly 50 years. That visit, which I know is eagerly awaited in South Africa, will set the seal on the revival of an old and mutually beneficial friendship between our two countries. South Africa and its people have triumphed over division and racial injustice. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister concluded in his speech to Parliament in Cape Town:

South Africa has come out of the storm and into the calm, out of isolation into fellowship, out of division into unity". South Africa is forging a single, non-racial, democratic nation at peace with itself. That is a formidable challenge for the years ahead. The road ahead will have dangers, but South Africans have already travelled the greater distance on their journey. They have the full support of the British Government and the British people as they work towards the goal they have set themselves of regeneration and reconstruction. South Africa's re-entry to the Commonwealth, her coming home to where she belongs, should also provide a stimulus for the Commonwealth family of one third of the world's nations.

The emergence of the new South Africa is a particular cause for rejoicing here and across the Commonwealth. I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd , Cynon Valley 4:36 pm, 9th March 1995

I confess that it is quite a novel experience for me to support without hesitation the Second Reading of a Government Bill whose brief text reflects a historic event—the return of a multiracial South Africa to the family of the Commonwealth.

On 20 July last year at a service in Westminster Abbey, South Africa was welcomed back into the Commonwealth. It was fitting that on a day of such celebration the congregation was addressed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a man who somehow managed to endure the darkest days of apartheid without losing either his spirit or his smile.

Archbishop Tutu compared the event with the tale of the prodigal son. He said that South Africa had left the Commonwealth in 1961 and had squandered her riches during the years of apartheid, but that the international struggle and the pressure of her people had finally brought the country back to its senses. He added:

like a prodigal she has returned home". The Commonwealth which South Africa left consisted of only 11 nations. Now its 51st member, South Africa, can look forward to a range of benefits, including wider trading opportunities, which will benefit South Africa and other countries. Nigeria, Malaysia and India are among those countries which have sent trade delegations to South Africa in the past year, and they have all had an increase in trade.

South Africa's emphasis on regional co-operation as part of its foreign policy is in marked contrast to the policies that were pursued under apartheid. It will certainly assist in bringing stability to southern Africa as a whole, thus benefiting its Commonwealth neighbours in the region. On the level of co-operation between peoples, we shall now have the pleasure of South Africa's participation in the Commonwealth games, which are traditionally known as the friendly games.

For those reasons among many others we rejoice in South Africa's return to the Commonwealth. That means, of course, that there is no longer an ambassador at South Africa house. The new high commissioner, Mendi Msimang, is the former African National Congress representative in the United Kingdom. He has spent a considerable amount of his time over the years standing in the street outside South Africa house in the company of thousands of other people. I am sure that all hon. Members will wish to welcome him to his new position.

In May, just three months before that service at Westminster Abbey, I had the privilege to witness, along with other hon. Members, the first free election in South Africa's history. That was a truly remarkable event. It was a tremendous experience to be there. We watched in awe as long queues of patient voters waited for hours, often in hot and cramped conditions, without any opportunity even to have a drink of water, and determined to express their collective relief, enthusiasm and expectation at the end of apartheid. That was a defining moment in South Africa's history.

That was my second visit to South Africa. My first, as a journalist, was in 1975. The country I then visited was different. I witnessed hatred, intolerance and immorality. I saw poverty of staggering proportions in what is still one of the richest countries in the world. I talked to black people in the homelands who watched their children die from measles because they could not afford the vaccine to treat the measles. I saw hospitals in which the surgeon had to send instruments 30 miles down the road to be sterilised. I saw women scratching a living from the soil, forcibly parted from their husbands, who had to stay in the towns. That was the reality of homeland life in South Africa.

At the same time, however, I saw courage and fortitude. I visited the Kwazulu legislative assembly, where black person after black person went to the microphone to declare that they were prepared to die for their freedom. That courage, as well as the humanity and extraordinary lack of bitterness among so many black South Africans, are the key to the changes taking place in South Africa today.

It is just five years since President Nelson Mandela was released from prison. The intervening years have brought changes so vast and so irreversible that the South Africa of old seems to belong to a different age. Despite the centuries of oppression, and against the expectations of even the most optimistic forecasts, a sense of unity and progress has emerged among enemies to transform our ideas of what is possible in politics.

We salute the forbearance and vision of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Thabo Mbeki and their colleagues. We pay tribute to Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani, Joe Slovo and others, including the many thousands of nameless South Africans of all colours who helped to fight the evils of racism.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

While the hon. Lady is giving congratulations and salutations to those people, would she find room—which she may have planned to do later in her speech—to salute the courage of F.W. de Klerk, who, in some cases, has stood out almost as a pariah in his own community? He took a step that was alien to many members of his party and the white community. He should perhaps be equally congratulated by the hon. Lady as she gives her salutations.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd , Cynon Valley

I am pleased to add my congratulations to President de Klerk. The reality that he recognised was the mark of a true statesman. I wish that the hon. Gentleman had played such an honourable part in the many debates that have taken place in the House over the years. We remember his role during the years when so many other people were pointing out the evils of apartheid and fighting those evils in the House.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Lady perhaps impugns or, indeed, questions my honour in this place. In criticising the honour of another hon. Member, was she was within parliamentary procedure on the conduct of debates? She did mention the word "honour" in relation to my attitude to debates.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

As I heard the hon. Lady, she did not say that the hon. Gentleman was dishonourable. She questioned the contribution that he had made. On balance, there has probably been a fair debate, but I hope that no comment of an adverse nature to any hon. Member will be made. Hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber hold strong views. The Bill has clearly united all hon. Members. I hope that the debate can continue in that context.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd , Cynon Valley

We are all encouraged by wider developments in the region. The past year has seen successful democratic elections in Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Botswana, together with the restoration of democracy in Lesotho and the signing of the Angolan peace agreement. Those events give us cause for optimism that real progress will be made in South Africa. At the same time, the fragility of the peace in Angola serves as a reminder that we must also be wary.

Labour Members are proud of the role that we played in the campaign to isolate the apartheid regime. My hon. Friends the Members for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) and for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) took positions of leadership in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, which mobilised thousands of committed people in that struggle. My hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor) also took an active role in that campaign. I should also like to pay tribute to the role of Bishop Trevor Huddlestone.

The Commonwealth played a proud part. The apartheid regime engaged in the systematic use of armed forces and economic destabilisation against majority-ruled states in southern Africa. It backed terrorism elsewhere, yet the Commonwealth Heads of Government remained steadfast in their support for the liberation forces in South Africa.

In 1986, the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group produced a report supporting sanctions against the apartheid regime. Membership of that group included a former Conservative Prime Minister of Australia and a former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, who had considerable economic interests in South Africa as chairman of the Standard Chartered bank.

Unfortunately, our Government ignored that report. For a long time, they refused contact with members of the African National Congress, whom they regarded as terrorists. Despite the intransigence of Baroness Thatcher's Government, the Commonwealth continued to play an active role in the ending of apartheid, right up until the final days of that hated regime.

All hon. Members will rejoice in the ending of apartheid, but let us not suppose for a moment that the fight is over. South Africa still has massive problems to overcome in terms of economic, social and political development. The country has unique problems. According to some indicators, it has a relatively developed economy, but we know that the vast majority of its people live in conditions that are comparable with those in developing nations.

The national average for infant mortality among black South Africans is higher than the average in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. According to United Nations Children's Fund data from the period 1980 to 1991, among the 10 neighbouring Southern African Development Community states, only Tanzania had a higher percentage of underweight children than the rural areas of South Africa.

Thirty per cent. of the black adult population of South Africa is illiterate, and a further 30 per cent. are considered to be functionally illiterate. That compares with adult illiteracy rates of 9 per cent. in Tanzania, 26 per cent. in Botswana, 27 per cent. in Zambia and 33 per cent. in Zimbabwe. The World bank believes that half the black work force is without formal sector employment. By any estimate, the number is probably over 6 million.

Although the number of black senior managers has doubled in the past few years, they still make up less than 4 per cent. of the total. In the interests of peaceful change, for the present, affirmative action has been downplayed. Of about 40 million people, 17 million probably live below the minimum subsistence level. We are talking about a country in which, during the last decade, one sixth of the population earned two thirds of the income.

As blacks were merely temporary urban residents under apartheid, housing was deliberately neglected. Soweto, which, not long ago, was a new township, is now a city of 5 million. Just a few hundred migrant workers' hostels house up to 1 million people. There are over 200,000 squatters in the Pretoria and Johannesburg area alone and the population of the region is expected to rise by 80 per cent. by the year 2010.

A disproportionate number of households in poverty are headed by women and World bank research makes the point—we have made it time and again in the House—that investing in women's education probably provides the highest return on any investment in developing countries.

The skewed provision of health care was perhaps one of the cruellest effects of segregation. A black baby was 10 times more likely to die in infancy than a white baby. Lack of clean water, the constant struggle for food and the overcrowded housing all exacerbated a polarised system that had health care as fine as anywhere in the world for the few and a life expectancy worse than much of sub-Saharan Africa for the majority.

The problems facing South Africa emphasise the scale of the commitment needed from the rest of the world. The economy has been facing inwards for so long that it will be a slow and difficult process to restructure it. The campaign to disinvest from South Africa was a necessary support for the end to apartheid, but now we need to reverse that flow of capital while ensuring that it will help positive change rather than strengthen existing inequalities.

The reconstruction and development programme, known as the RDP, is the cornerstone of the new Government's policy to eradicate those problems. Its first priority is to attack poverty and deprivation. As the Minister mentioned, specific proposals include employment creation, redistribution of land, building over 1 million new homes, providing clean water and sanitation to all and providing universal access to health care. It also seeks education and training from the cradle to the grave, together with the modernisation of industry. Above all, it wishes to extend and to deepen democracy. I think that we all agree that that last point is essential to meet the challenges facing South Africa.

Later this year, the first local government elections will be held in South Africa. Unfortunately, voter registration for those elections is dangerously low. It is vital that the people register if the important elections are to be given democratic legitimacy. Of course, the elections are extremely important for the complete democratic transformation of South Africa.

I welcome the technical support provided for the elections by the Commonwealth and the Overseas Development Administration. The United Kingdom and the wider international community have a duty to respond positively to requests for assistance. In particular, British local government can play a role in helping the new non-racial local government structures after the election.

We must welcome the decision of the Inkatha Freedom party to end its two-week-old boycott of Parliament last weekend. Whatever the rights and wrongs of its case, the issue of regional autonomy in Kwazulu Natal continues to threaten the future of the Government of national unity.

For all those reasons, while rejoicing in the progress made in South Africa, we must not assume that its problems are yesterday's problems and that our task is complete. There are a number of ways in which the United Kingdom could help South Africa to overcome the devastating legacy of apartheid. Our voice in the United Nations, including the Security Council and the key specialised agencies, as well as in the European Union and the Commonwealth, puts us in a unique position of influence in all those forums. This month the EU will be sending a fact-finding mission to investigate industrial co-operation. It will probably highlight the opportunities awaiting closer co-operation.

British investment accounts for 40 per cent. of the total foreign investment. Britain is South Africa's second most important trading partner after the United States. I acknowledge the United Kingdom's aid commitment to South Africa, which totals £100 million over three years. However, I am disappointed that that is less than half the cost of the unwanted Pergau dam, or about the same as the bonuses promised to a handful of top executives at Barings.

We could also offer vital assistance if we were to support South Africa's inclusion in the Lom éconvention, but in a way which benefits South Africa and does not harm the wider regional interests. The fourth Lome convention is an aid and trade agreement between members of the European Union and 70 ACP—African, Caribbean and Pacific—countries. In fact, 95 per cent. of the ACP's population live in sub-Saharan Africa. At present, South Africa is not covered by the convention.

Lomé IV lasts for 10 years, from 1990 to the year 2000. A joint mid-term review must be completed by the end of this month. Among other things, the review is re-examining national contributions to the European Development Fund which finances Lomé. The United Kingdom is the third largest contributor after Germany and France, but the Government have given notice that they intend to cut their contribution to that funding by 30 per cent. I should like the Minister to explain the rationale behind that proposal because the Commission proposed that the budget should increase from 11 billion ecu to 14 billion ecu for 1995-2000.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Order. I am having some difficulty relating the hon. Lady's comments to the Bill.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd , Cynon Valley

When the Bill was discussed in another place, there was a fairly wide-ranging discussion on South Africa.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Order. All sorts of Bills are discussed in all sorts of places in all sorts of ways. I am purely responsible for the debate in this Chamber. I have made my point and I hope that the hon. Lady will respect that.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd , Cynon Valley

We are talking about the contribution that this country can make to the future of South Africa. One of the ways we are doing that is, hopefully, by passing this Bill.

It is disgraceful that Britain is the only country that has called for a considerable reduction in its cash contribution to Lomé. Once again, we are the odd man out in Europe. I think that the point is sufficiently made.

President Mandela made it clear in his opening address to the South African Parliament last month that South Africa has no desire to detract from the efforts to help poorer countries within the ACP. Whether South Africa should be granted full membership or a looser form of association is open to discussion, but what is important is that a substantial relationship with the European Union is being sought by the South African Government as a matter of urgency and this country has considerable influence in that. Those matters can and will be pursued on other occasions, perhaps when the Conservative Whip is absent.

On behalf of the Labour party, I greatly welcome the return of South Africa to the international community and the Commonwealth. We fully support the Bill.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford 4:59 pm, 9th March 1995

This Second Reading debate is a good opportunity to welcome, on a bipartisan or, indeed, on a tripartisan basis, the arrival of South Africa in the Commonwealth. I know that it joined last year, but we are tidying the legislative requirements arising from that. This is also an opportunity to comment briefly on the entirely new and changed South Africa that is emerging and on the changed Commonwealth, something to which the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) referred.

This debate also enables us to comment on the changed policies which the United Kingdom has been developing, is developing and will need to develop to respond to the circumstances being legislated for in the Bill.

We have all watched, sometimes with sadness and sometimes with high hopes, the ups and downs of South Africa as it has emerged from its horrific past and the prospects that have now opened up for all its people. About four years ago, the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs visited South Africa and expressed the hope that this day would soon come and that the British Government would realise that a completely new set of policies and approaches were required on aid, training, assistance and, especially, on development.

We have begun to learn that aid, or the amount of that aid, does not necessarily equal development. The whole world now recognises that other motivations and mechanisms are at work which are possibly more effective in boosting development, especially in a country such as South Africa which has a vast infrastructure already in place and where there is a curious mixture that is often commented on: it is a first-world economy sitting in the middle of third-world economies.

We very much hope that South Africa's politics will work as a result of the courageous actions of a number of people who have already been mentioned in this debate. I hope in particular that South Africa's new leaders have the skill, not only to be adaptable in their economic policies—they have given some signs that they are in realising that private, inward investment will be the driving force of the new South Africa for which we are legislating—but to approach their governmental tasks in a way that allows some decentralisation and some autonomous rule. I hope that that will enable the views of Zulu and Kwazulu people to be accommodated. It appears that the leaders are just about managing to do that although there have been some tense developments, especially during the elections in April last year.

The new South Africa is full of opportunities and also full of needs that we have to meet in the most imaginative and lively way that we can. South Africa is joining a new Commonwealth whose membership, far from diminishing, is growing. It is striking that the new atmosphere in the Commonwealth—an atmosphere that will be reinforced by South Africa's full integration—is very different from that which prevailed in this country towards the Commonwealth and even in the Commonwealth gatherings of past years.

To be brutally frank, many people admired the good works of the Commonwealth but regarded it as a talking shop and a forum that was not fruitful when it came to advancing the interests of South Africa, the United Kingdom or any other of its members. That mood has gone. A signal that it has gone is that other countries are trying to join. They would not want to join a club if it were only a talking shop, and South Africa would not be wanting to join under the Bill if it regarded it as such.

As usual, the planners and grand strategists did not foresee what was happening. They wrote off the Commonwealth. They said that it was an interesting gathering of various worthy organisations but not part of the new global economic and geopolitical order. Their view is rapidly turning out to be wholly wrong. Something remarkable is happening.

The exciting new markets of the world, which will include South Africa if it gets its politics right, coincide increasingly with those of the Commonwealth countries. They are South Africa, parts of India, or certainly places such as Bombay and Bangalore, and Oceania countries–Australia and New Zealand, which is one of the sparkiest economies in the world. They include Singapore and, dare I say, Hong Kong and even Malaysia. I hope that, as a full member of the Commonwealth, South Africa will be one of the new and expanding markets where the opportunities for British trade and interests will be so valuable.

The Bill marks not only an important step in the history of South Africa but an important moment in the history of the Commonwealth. Another great, and potentially very great, economy is coming back into the global system. I cannot resist mentioning the fact that we have well under half our interests in the European Union and considerably more than half, in terms of our total overseas earnings, outside the European Union in the booming markets of Asia and, I hope, increasingly, South Africa. We should take note of the great change in the trend of world trade, which is relevant to South Africa and its membership of the Commonwealth.

As the Minister and the hon. Member for Cynon Valley said, it is not only a matter of trade. It has been said that the United Kingdom's investment in South Africa amounts to some £8 billion to £10 billion, although the figure that I have is £10 billion. Investment is beginning to flow back into South Africa. That is crucial, especially when it involves people in South Africa putting their own money back into the country. It is a sign that the situation is turning around.

We can consider our own interests when passing this legislation and we need to consider not only our overseas trade and earnings but our overseas assets. The majority—80 per cent.—of our earning assets overseas are in South Africa and the booming Asian economies, on the Indian subcontinent and in Latin America. Up to 60 or 70 per cent. of our colossal invisible income comes from outside Europe, from the new markets.

I have long argued that, although we must get our relations right with the European Union, it is, as the Bill reminds us, to the new markets where we already have much of our investment, that we should address our foreign policy interests and around which we should adjust our aid, development, training and human resource policies to ensure that our country's interests are enlarged as well as those of South Africa, as it joins the Commonwealth.

I do not think that it is necessary for me to do so—I believe that it is fully understood—but I plead with the Government to bear in mind the fact that we are considering Britain's interests. We are not considering Europe alone; in bringing South Africa into the Commonwealth, we can also promote our own interests.

The Prime Minister had a very successful trip to South Africa last September, when he mentioned many of those issues and saluted the welcome arrival of South Africa in the Commonwealth. He was also able to emphasise a new aspect of our relationship with South Africa—one that would be enhanced once it was fully in the Commonwealth. That is relevant to the schedules in the Bill, which deal with some military aspects, albeit at one remove.

The Prime Minister surprised many people, as he said that we would be able to contribute to South Africa not merely by providing products—on those we have good and bad performance—or managerial skills, which are needed, but also by providing training for public administration, the military and the police and many other forms of human resource service of a type with which those of us considering categories of trade and investment are not usually familiar. He was touching on a very important new role for this country in markets such as South Africa, southern Africa and the other Commonwealth countries that I described, which were written off and have suddenly turned out to be the booming opportunities of the future.

The British military advisory training team is operating in South Africa in just the way that the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs hoped that it would four years ago, and in the way that it operates in a number of southern African countries. Suddenly, the world is anxious to purchase our skills in military training and in integrating the different military groups that were fighting each other in and around the edges of South Africa.

Countries are anxious to purchase our skills in providing good public administration, local government, and police administration, as well as legal and consultancy—a range of skills at which this country happens to be extremely good, in ways that we perhaps do not always appreciate. If we move into the new markets, like that provided by this new member of the Commonwealth, we can successfully deliver such a service—to the benefit of the recipient and of our own affairs.

The Bill is a very valuable opportunity to ensure that we turn our policy away from—dare I say it—too much of an obsession with local affairs in Europe and Eurocentricity and towards our old friends, who have become our friends again in the Commonwealth structure, such as South Africa.

We have the opportunity to develop the resource exports and earnings that I described with South Africa and other countries in a way that we have not done in the past. We have the opportunity to ensure that South Africa has access to the European Union, of which we are a member. The hon. Member for Cynon Valley said that the European Union was interested in various aspects of aid to South Africa. She even suggested that the Lomé convention should somehow embrace that country. We want to make very sure that the European Union is open to South African goods, which it by no means is, and that our friends in the Commonwealth countries that are seeking to be booming markets—I hope that South Africa will he one—have an opportunity to market their goods in European markets.

We want to ensure that our aid and development policies are not entirely hijacked by countries with different priorities. As a global power, with global friends and markets, and long historical links with countries like South Africa, we must ensure that we are able to use our aid and development as much as we can to further those interests—to put it bluntly—rather than the different interests and priorities of other countries, which may want to use their aid and development as they wish. They should leave us to use our aid and development as we wish and to use it in our interests.

This is an important moment for the House, for South Africa and for southern Africa around it, which will, I hope, benefit from that country's increasing stability and economic prosperity. This is also an important moment for those of us who are interested in ensuring that our island and country has a strong place in the completely new global order that is emerging as we move into the next millennium.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale 5:14 pm, 9th March 1995

This is indeed a very happy occasion and I readily join members of others parties in welcoming the Bill and in welcoming South Africa back into the Commonwealth.

The Minister began by reminding us that Dr. Verwoerd led South Africa out of the Commonwealth more than 30 years ago, in anticipation of its expulsion. The Sharpeville massacre in 1960 was the single event that, more than any other, triggered the expulsion. As a student at Edinburgh university at the time, I remember my reaction as someone who had been at school in east Africa and I remember the deep sense of shock that went around the world. I signed up as a member of the new Anti-Apartheid Movement, little realising that later, when I came to the House, I would serve as its president for four years in the late 1960s.

I must also pay tribute to the many people who did not live to see the transition that we are celebrating today. I remember some of the people I worked with at the time, who were exiles from South Africa in London. One thinks of Ruth First, who was later blown up by a bomb. When I met her husband, Joe Slovo, at a very tricky point during the CODESA, Convention for a Democratic South Africa, negotiations in South Africa a couple of years ago, just after AWB—Afrikaanse Werstandsbeweging—thugs had driven through the wall of the convention building, he was in an extraordinarily optimistic mood. When I expressed great concern about the slowness and stickiness of the negotiations, he was bubbling away, saying, "No, no, have confidence. It's all going to work. We're going to get through these negotiations and see the transition." Before his death, he served for a tragically short time as the Minister of Housing in the new Government.

I think of people like Albie Sachs, who was also blown up by a bomb and remains severely injured to this day. I also think of people from the liberation organisations, who used to visit us in London when they were in exile—people like Oliver Tambo and Sam Nujoma, who is now the president of Namibia—and of the meetings that we used to have in those days. They were either small meetings here in the House or great rallies across the road in Methodist Central hall. On an occasion like this, it is right that we pause and remember those people.

I recall my first visit to South Africa in 1972 and the horrible conditions in which one had to meet people who opposed the Government. A pew in the Anglican cathedral was the only place that I was allowed to meet Helen Joseph, because she was under a banning order. I remember the brave women of the Black Sash movement, who did such practical work to alleviate the awful effects of the pass laws on individual citizens. I also remember the sports boycott campaign and later the sanctions campaign.

I also think of two people I knew in the Liberal party in South Africa. That party dissolved rather than accept the imposition of racism on political parties. Alan Paton and his party ceased to exist as a political movement, but other people formed the Progressive Federal party, which later became the Democratic party. Notwithstanding the racist nature of politics and the political set-up, they believed that they should try, however inadequately, to mount some kind of opposition within the parliamentary system.

The great Helen Suzman was outstanding among those people and was, for so many years, alone. Even though, in later years, I disagreed with her over sanctions, I remain an intense admirer of the skills with which she battled alone in Parliament, and we have remained very good friends. I also remember Colin Eglin, whose role as her successor and leader of that small party was far greater in the negotiations and transition than the electoral strength of the party would have suggested. All those people deserve to be honoured on an occasion like this.

The British Government always had a somewhat ambivalent posture, to put it mildly—I do not want to be controversial on a day like this—towards the South African Government. I went to South Africa again in 1986 as party leader. Although the British Government would not meet anyone from the African National Congress, they were happy to arrange for me to be hosted by our high commissioner in Lusaka, where the ANC had its offices in exile, and for me to meet Oliver Tambo and Thabo Mbeki in the drawing room of the British high commission. I could never quite get over the distinctions that the Foreign Office drew between contact and non-contact. It was a very positive discussion.

On that occasion, if the House will forgive one further reminiscence, I had my first meeting with Pik Botha. He took the wind out of my sails. It was a tense meeting because I had been refused permission to meet the current President Mandela—then of course prisoner Mandela—and I was naturally angry about that. I visited Foreign Minister Pik Botha, and he spent the first 10 minutes of a long meeting trying to persuade me that he was really a liberal and that, unfortunately, all those other people in the Government were preventing him from doing the things that he would like to do.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale

Perhaps later he justified some of that reputation.

I looked up some of the notes of the meeting the other day. I remember one amusing exchange when he said, "You people who come from London pay far too much attention to the person of Nelson Mandela. After all, the chap has had no experience of Government. He has hardly ever made a speech; he has never held a press conference." As he obviously saw my jaw dropping, he added, "I don't suppose that was really his fault"—which, in retrospect, was the understatement of the year.

Anyway, those are past days, and now we glory in the transition that has taken place. Like the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), I had the great pleasure and privilege of participating in the South African elections and in helping the supervision and monitoring process in Natal Province during that election. What a heart-warming and emotional experience that was. President de Klerk deserves thanks and congratulations for the imagination that he showed in leading his country, and especially his party, away from the past and on to the process of transition that is taking place.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley quoted part of Desmond Tutu's sermon in that great service that we had in Westminster Abbey. I remember that when he finished his analogy with the parable of the prodigal son and South Africa returning home, he finished by saying, "and so we are having a party"—this in Westminster Abbey—and it was a great party. The country is about to have another party with the state visit of Her Majesty the Queen, which I am sure will be greatly appreciated by all races in South Africa. I trust that that visit will prove the seal on the act that we are performing today in passing the legislation.

I want to say three things about the future, because there is a danger of endless repetition of the same themes. Our future relations with South Africa are extremely important at the moment, especially in the investment sector. I listened to the list that the Minister gave of the aspects in which we were hoping to help in the public sector and in the private sector. I trust that it was only inadvertence that he missed out one important aspect—housing.

I believe that one of the great political problems that confronts the South African Government in its five-year period of transition and, perhaps more important, when they reach the end of that transition, is the failure to meet unreal expectations among the population. It is inevitable.

There was great excitement in the mass of population; apartheid was ending and President Mandela was being installed. There is a natural feeling among uneducated masses that jam will come tomorrow—but jam will not come tomorrow.

We can make fairly rapid progress in trying to improve housing conditions and, in so doing, we can produce some immediate employment. I hope that every effort will be made in the public and private sectors to increase investment in housing fairly immediately and dramatically.

Secondly, I believe that the regional role of South Africa is most important. I gladly follow the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in that theme. Since South Africa left the Commonwealth, the surrounding picture in Africa has changed out of all recognition for the better. Almost every one of South Africa's neighbours to the north, to the east and to the west are now democratic. The only one over which a question mark continues to hang is Angola. The change is there and it is real. It has been one of the most encouraging political developments in a globe that is not always full of good news, that the countries of southern, central and eastern Africa are becoming more democratic and are beginning to follow the norms of good governance.

South Africa itself is in such a dominant position economically that she needs to be the power house of the regeneration of the whole region. With the single exception of South Africa, I have noticed that there has been a tendency, in British and international political discussion, to write off Africa in recent times. That is why I was rather cheered by the speech of the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) to which we have just listened.

I hope that attention is returning to the needs of Africa, and that South Africa will be regarded as the pivotal power in that region, not as an isolated country.

Thirdly, I want to sound a word of caution. During the period of sanctions, it was inevitable, I suppose, that South Africa would build up an arms industry of its own. I know that there is intense discussion in the present Government about the future of Armscor. I hope very much that, whatever else happens in South Africa, it will not continue to be one of the arms-exporting industries countries of the world. As recently as about 18 months ago, it was discovered that the South African arms industry had been supplying both sides in the Rwanda civil war. That is not a record of which the new South Africa should be proud, and I hope very much that the arms industry will not play a major part in the future economy of South Africa.

I conclude by joining, as I started, in congratulating all the people of South Africa who have made that transition possible, and welcoming them back into the Commonwealth. The people of South Africa have triumphed. They are at the moment in a mood of optimism, and it is up to us in the outside community to do our best to sustain that.

Photo of Mr Peter Temple-Morris Mr Peter Temple-Morris , Leominster 5:25 pm, 9th March 1995

I welcome the chance to make a brief contribution, and to follow the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel). I agree with a great deal of what he said. He took us very eloquently down the lanes of our recent memories. He mentioned several people, in South Africa and in this country, who are familiar to all of us, and we know of his long-standing interest, and indeed family background, in that part of world.

Without mentioning any further names, let me say something that emphasises what the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale said. I visited South Africa about 18 months ago, when we were discussing the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association contribution to the elections. I had on my right-hand side, at the then embassy, someone who had done 12 years in Robben Island, who now is a distinguished political servant of the present Government, and on my left-hand side a similar servant of the present Government, who had done 10 years. At that time, when one would have thought that the atmosphere would be becoming tense and the elections were approaching—and those people were then but African National Congress servants—I was unable to determine, throughout the dinner, an iota of enmity towards those who had oppressed them.

That is one of the best things that the new Government have in their favour. There are many other dangers, but the spirit of enmity—the spirit of revenge—was definitely not there. The balance that that peculiar island appears to have given to so many people who are now outstanding servants of a new country is remarkable. Goodness knows, we all wish it well.

In that spirit, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as you have given a wide licence to the debate because the Bill is very limited, I say that I very much welcome the readmission of South Africa to the Commonwealth. I do so on behalf especially of the British South Africa all-party parliamentary group, which I have the honour to chair.

The rivalries and divisions in South Africa, as with so many other things, were mirrored in the House. It is no exaggeration to say that one of the most acrimonious meetings that I have attended in the House took place in 1987, when we created the then British Southern Africa all-party parliamentary group as an alternative to the then British South Africa parliamentary group. Well in excess of 100 colleagues from both sides of the House were present. The meeting was bitter and divided. I was standing for a certain office. Other hon. Friends were standing for other offices.

I am not talking about the past. The old British South Africa parliamentary group is now a welcome part of our new British South Africa group. Indeed, only a few moments ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner), the last chairman of the old British Southern Africa group, was sitting next to me.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

He was the secretary.

Photo of Mr Peter Temple-Morris Mr Peter Temple-Morris , Leominster

And my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) was its chairman. Forgive me for getting the offices wrong. The important point is that, if that can be done in South Africa, we can do it at Westminster. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association will be mentioned a little later by my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd). It, too, has an important role to play, as does the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

What has happened in South Africa is remarkable and I emphasise that the Bill can help in the process. The United Kingdom has much to do by way of training schemes—the police and the military have already been mentioned. We can also contribute by helping in local elections.

May I make just one point to my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell)? I do not mean it in an unduly debating way, because this is not that type of debate. I agree that we must support British interests and concentrate on new friends and markets, but we must not forget that, although South Africa is interested in this country, what is paramount is its access to the European market. My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford mentioned that. When British people talk about going out to South Africa, we must bear in mind what we can do for that country. We have much to give and can also help in the European context.

That leads me to the most substantive point that I wish to make: the need to develop the South African economy. Such development is vital for the successful future of a country whose honeymoon period is virtually over. This is our first opportunity in the House to salute what has been happening, many hon. Members having had a little to do with it.

As we progress, we must recognise that South Africa is entering more difficult periods, which is why the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale mentioned the need for housing in developing South Africa's economy. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford said, we are effectively dealing with two countries: a first division country and a developing country. When such a sudden transition takes place, triumphant though it is, there is a danger that it will be taken too rapidly. We must not encourage South Africa to get too carried away with it. It must keep its feet on the ground.

Through certain personal experiences, I have a horror of the extremes of export capitalism, if I may call it such. One has seen whole societies in developing countries taken apart, their whole way of life grievously disturbed and corrupted, which has led to revolution. I am sure that other hon. Members have had the same experience. A real danger exists in that respect for South Africa. The good news is that there are probably enough people in South Africa to steady the Buffs and bring the necessary reality into the picture. It is not for us to race at development. We must realise that when we go to South Africa and take from it, we must also give to it. That is the sort of society that we have and why we can contribute.

Last, but not least, is the all-important question of access to the European market. We are members of the European Union so, nationally, we can do only so much. South Africa wants access to Europe and we should recognise that we can help in that respect. It is difficult to say that South Africa will become a member of Lome, because of the diversity within the country. Perhaps we should accelerate either the process of membership or association with Lome or some special bilateral agreement between the European Union and South Africa, so that South Africa knows where it stands with regard to access to European Union markets.

The main message is that we should act soon, and act above all for the benefit of South Africa.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Halton 5:34 pm, 9th March 1995

I contribute to this debate largely because, as the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) said, although the Bill is technical, this debate is our first opportunity to devote ourselves exclusively to the momentous events that occurred last year in South Africa. Those events were beyond our wildest dreams.

For the past three years, I have been a member of the executive committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, representing this country and the Mediterranean part of the Commonwealth. Throughout that period and before it, there was not a conference or meeting at which South Africa was not the focus of attention of the whole Commonwealth. Great fears were expressed by Sonny Ramphal, the previous Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. We seriously discussed what the Commonwealth would do to aid the small African countries surrounding South Africa if a bloodbath were to occur and how we would help them with refugees and by giving aid. Thank God that nothing remotely like that happened.

I pay tribute to two people, above all, who have brought the current position about—one black and one white. Incidentally, they both came out of a prison to do that. The black one is President Nelson Mandela, who suffered the indignity, disgrace and discomfiture of being imprisoned for most of his adult life, not for a crime which the rest of the world believed in but for his beliefs, his desire to improve the lot of his own people and his desire for democracy and the values that we all share in the House, whatever our party.

The white prisoner is Mr. de Klerk. South Africa would not be where it is today without Mr. de Klerk. He was a prisoner of a system—a cultural system of racism institutionalised by apartheid. He must have made many enemies within the National party and South Africa because he had the foresight to recognise that such a system could not continue in the modern world. He had the foresight to create the opportunity to bring Nelson Mandela out of prison, hold democratic elections, albeit supervised, and step down as president and allow a black man who had been in prison for most of his life to succeed him as president of South Africa. I therefore pay tribute to them both as they are both responsible for the present democratic state of South Africa.

Another reason why I speak in this debate is that, like the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd), I am honoured to be a governor of the Commonwealth Institute, which is the first institution named in the schedule to the Bill. It has a considerable part to play in helping this country and Europe to understand South Africa and what it means to bring that country back into the Commonwealth of nations.

The South African economy has been mentioned. The right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), who has temporarily left the Chamber, rightly said that many European institutions do not recognise the momentous events that have occurred, and South African goods are still banned from those countries. Even in this country, not everyone has caught up with the developments. We have long been accustomed, because of apartheid, not to drink South African wine, eat South African fruits or visit South Africa.

We must wake up to the fact that things have changed and organisations like the Commonwealth Institute can play a role in reminding people in this country that South Africa is now a democratic country that desperately needs exports and tourism. The institute and the Commonwealth officers must get the message across not only in this country but to the United States of America and to those European nations that have not caught up with the pace of events. That will be our welcome to South Africa as a new member of the Commonwealth.

I think that the institute can play an important role in that process. It was created from the old Imperial Institute by the House in 1958 and, as many hon. Members know, it has premises in Kensington. The institute will do its best to perform this additional duty in respect of South Africa, although it has recently suffered a considerable setback at the hands of the Government.

Despite an excellent Government report in its favour, the institute stands to lose 66 per cent. of its grant next year and 20 per cent. thereafter. Its Government grant will cease entirely in 1998-99. That is no way to treat an institution whose importance the Government recognise in the Bill by placing it first in the list of institutions that can help in welcoming South Africa back to the Commonwealth.

The institute is fighting hack. Last year, it received more than £500,000 from various organisations; it is not sitting back and relying on Government funding or lying down to die because the Government grant is to disappear. It is fighting back, and it will win that fight. It will provide many new attractions, including exhibitions, seminars, conferences, displays and educational material about the newest member of the Commonwealth.

Tourism will be most important to South Africa. South Africa has sunshine—something that we in Europe need so badly—during our winter. We are geographically closer to South Africa than to India, Australia, or Thailand. It is very expensive to travel there at the moment, but I hope that tourism firms in this country will recognise South Africa's enormous tourist potential.

As well as the sunshine, South Africa has some of the best beaches in the world, game parks and great cities. It has a tourist infrastructure unequalled by most other African countries, with hotels, restaurants and caravan and camping grounds. It is a paradise for the tourist. Most important of all, South Africa has that hallmark of true civilisation: people drive on the left-hand side of the road. That will certainly prove to be a big attraction for British tourists.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane , Rotherham

Would it not be a good idea for the Parliament to travel to South Africa in January or February for a joint session with the South African Parliament to discuss matters of common interest?

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Halton

I think that that is a superb idea. I would not inflict the rigours of a British winter on the new South African Parliament by inviting its members to this Chamber. I think that it is a great idea, although my hon. Friend's suggestion is made tongue in cheek.

I agree with the hon. Member for Leominster, who referred to our role in Europe. We can play an important transitional or bridging role in South Africa's development as the link between that new member of the Commonwealth and the whole of Europe. I do not believe that one cannot be a passionate supporter of Europe and a supporter of the Commonwealth. There is nothing alien about that. I emphasise that Britain can play an important role in bridging the gap between Europe and the Commonwealth. Tourists from this country, Germany, Scandinavia, Holland, and so on would flock to the South African sunshine if the tourist industry were to get its act together and provide holiday opportunities.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

I agree completely with the right hon. Gentleman. Does he think that there should be more public pressure on the South African and the British airlines to increase passenger capacity on flights to South Africa? It is almost impossible to book a seat on a plane to South Africa from about November to February. That shows that the prices are too high and the passenger capacity is too small.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Halton

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. I hope that private enterprise will take the lead—as it did in the case of Spain—and that some of the smaller companies will break the ring of airline prices by offering cheap fares and package tours.

Tourism is one of the few industries today that is labour intensive. It generates many jobs of all sorts—not just high-powered ones, but jobs for waiters, chamber maids and chefs—in the country that is the tourist destination. I hope that the Commonwealth Institute will urge the tourist industry to hold a seminar for educational purposes. It will be performing a valuable task not only for this country but for the Commonwealth as a whole.

Every member of the House—and certainly every member of the Commonwealth—warmly welcomes the return of South Africa to the Commonwealth of nations as a democratic country. As the hon. Member for Leominster and my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) said, South Africa will experience great difficulties. After the euphoria of gaining the vote, people will expect to secure jobs and own houses immediately. That will not occur within a year—it may not occur for a decade.

President Mandela and the Government of South Africa face an uphill battle. They have inveterate enemies within South Africa who want to see them fail. There is a tremendous groundswell of demand from the people of South Africa who have waited all their lives for the economic freedom that they do not yet enjoy. They will not have that freedom until the South African Government have sufficient resources to provide the necessary infrastructure, jobs, educational places, and so on.

This country—with our close historical bonds, our investments in and our love of South Africa—should take the lead in helping the South African Government to provide the economic liberty that the people of South Africa quite rightly demand.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North 5:47 pm, 9th March 1995

It is a personal pleasure for me to address my remarks to the House in a somewhat calmer atmosphere than that which has greeted my comments on the somewhat thorny subject of South Africa in the past. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) said, in the spirit of "no revenge", I shall not try to wreak any on Opposition Members or upon my hon. Friends.

In the context of the South Africa Bill, I would like to lay to rest two old chestnuts that the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) tried to revive. [Interruption.] I beg the hon. Lady's pardon if I have mispronounced the name of her constituency but, following the defeat at Murrayfield on Saturday, I have forgotten everything that might be supportive of her adopted country.

I totally refute the claim that I ever supported the system of apartheid. I said on many occasions on the Floor of the House that I considered it to be a gross violation of human rights. I worked to end apartheid. The difference between the hon. Lady and some of her friends and me is that we went about it differently. The hon. Lady and her friends and other opponents of the South African Government sought to end apartheid by chucking stones at a glasshouse. I respect their opinion and the way in which they waged their campaign. I felt—as my Government did to a certain extent—that contact with South Africa was necessary to ensure that change occurred from within that country.

In that context, the almost total castigation of all South African politicians who were members of that Government, and in some cases possibly of the then Opposition, was totally wrong, because many politicians in South Africa—the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) mentioned one of the most prominent ones—were totally against the system of apartheid and were working even within the National party, let alone on the liberal side, to have that system abolished. Mr. de Klerk, not at the time the greatest liberal of them all, had the courage to see that the system was not only unworkable but unacceptable to the rest of the world.

My second point is that I said in the House, even before South Africa had a change of Government, that I was looking forward to the day that it would rejoin the Commonwealth. It was a great sadness to many of us when in 1961 it voluntarily withdrew from the Commonwealth, with all the problems that it faced from that time onwards. I hope that we will welcome the Bill in a spirit of reconciliation and looking to the future; I certainly would like to do so.

In some cases, the effect of sanctions had some political advantages in changing the then South African Government's mind; but they also had, as I think members of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and others must recognise, a devastating effect on the lives of many South Africans. I found it strange that the hon. Member for Cynon Valley came to my constituency and, with great relish, in front of the press photographers poured bottles of South African red wine down the drain under some banner outside one of my public houses. I still have the photograph, if the hon. Lady would like to see it. That wine was produced in the Cape, mainly by those of non-white origin. Had the hon. Lady visited South Africa, as I did at the time, and spoken to the workers at those wine farms and in those factories, she would have appreciated that it was very easy, from the lush pastures of Westminster, to cry foul and support sanctions when they had a devastating effect on jobs, and realised the full implications of that policy on the people at that time.

This is not the place to argue about whether sanctions were correct or whether they had the effect that some would claim for them, but they brought enormous misery to many people and were not totally supported throughout South Africa.

I shall confine the remainder of my remarks to welcoming the resumption of sporting relationships throughout the Commonwealth and other bodies. As the House will know, that has been the force of my campaign ever since I entered Parliament in 1979.

I salute the leaders of the African National Congress and in particular President Mandela, who as soon as he began to have some political influence, even before he became president after the election last April, said that sports sanctions should be lifted. He surprised many observers, as that was a political weapon which he could so easily have used to beat not only the white politicians, who at that time still held power within South Africa, but those outside who did not wish South Africa particularly well. Almost as soon as he was released from prison, he instructed that the ANC should co-operate in terms of the bringing international supporting relations back to South Africa. I congratulate and salute him for that, although at the time it was a surprise to me and the rest of the sporting word.

It is one area in which contact was continued, in some cases in difficult and unfortunate circumstances. It meant that the aspirations of some South Africans, black and white, were to a limited extent still met in a system that was not acceptable to everybody: but, because many courageous sports administrators wanted to maintain and encourage sporting contacts with the rest of the world, in the early 1980s the then South African Government said that discrimination in sport was put on one side and apartheid laws such as pass laws did not exist for sporting purposes.

We welcome South Africa back into the Commonwealth. We welcome the fact that sportsmen and women are playing on international fields. They played a marvellous game in Auckland in the centenary test against the New Zealanders. We look forward to English participation—and possibly Welsh participation, in honour of the hon. Member for Cynon Valley—in the World cup in South Africa, and in particular the visit by the Lords and Commons IX in September to fly the parliamentary flag so well flown in this place by the hon. Member for Leominster and the right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes). I know that many hon. Members are very much looking forward to that trip. As the hon. Member for Cynon Valley said, the Commonwealth games, or the friendly games, are the place where South Africans have a chance to meet fellow sports men and women throughout the world, and the spirit of those games has improved over the past few years.

I take the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford that the Commonwealth now has higher standing than before. That is possibly because the thorny question of South Africa has now gone off the agenda. As the right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) said, Sonny Ramphal, in his time as the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, seemed to spend most of his time berating the South Africans or trying to help those countries surrounding South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman was absolutely right to say that some of his worst fears were never actually realised. Perhaps the politicians in Pretoria were not quite the ogres they were originally thought to be.

The Commonwealth now has a chance to improve its image and, indeed, to become a greater power in a competitive international world. In business terms, South Africa will need an enormous amount of investment, and there are still those who are hung up on the old system. It is the duty of the House, and partly the purpose of the Bill, to ensure all the old adages and thoughts about South Africa are now swept on one side on the basis that it is a country that can give enormous impetus to the business economy in that part of the world. If it does so through trading within the Commonwealth, so be it; that obviously is to its advantage.

We can ill afford to ignore the part that South Africa has played, certainly in economic terms, over the past few years. I would say to the hon. Member for Cynon Valley that, even before the change of Government, South Africa was trading with some 49 out of 51 African countries, and in some cases helping them with their economies. The prospects are very good. The shadow over South Africa is its own internal problems, over which we have little control. They involve the tribal system, which is rife throughout the whole of South Africa and which is a proud tradition not only in the black population but in the white population. That, to a certain extent, is for South Africa to sort out, with our assistance, guidance and help.

I welcome the Bill. It is a joy for me to see South Africa back on an agenda to be talked about with pleasure, and back in the family of the Commonwealth. I salute the visit of Her Majesty the Queen within the next few weeks or so. It obviously will be an enormous boost to that country and I wish the Bill Godspeed through this place.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley , City of York 5:58 pm, 9th March 1995

Like every other right hon. and hon. Member in the Chamber, I welcome the Bill. It is perhaps a tribute to Nelson Mandela that he has created circumstances in which a Bill can be brought before the House that Members of all parties so warmly commend.

One of the reasons why Britain's relationship with South Africa is so important is that, because of the country's recent history, so many members of the present South Africa Government spent many years in Britain. I am sure that I am not alone in numbering as close personal friends a few members of the present South Africa Government. When I was a student, I was lobbied on things South African by Aziz Pahed, who then worked in the ANC office in London and was deputed to lobby students. As deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in South Africa, he now fulfils the same role as the Under-Secretary of State.

I remember Nkozozana Dlamini-Zuma, now Minister for Health, who came to Britain after the Soweto disturbance to complete her medical training. When I was at York university, a fellow student in the centre for southern African studies was Alex Erwin, who is now deputy Finance Minister.

Our country and South Africa have a unique opportunity to forge close links built on this mutual understanding and friendship. It is in the interest of our country as much as of South Africa to ensure that country's economy develops successfully and vibrantly to the benefit of all people in South Africa. That could also act as a catalyst for development throughout Africa.

Of all the continents, Africa has the furthest to go in terms of development. It is the continent of greatest poverty, where more people become poor in real terms every year. It is important to aid the southern African economy to grow in every way that we can, so that it may act as a catalyst and powerhouse for development throughout Africa.

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth

Is my hon. Friend aware that good relationships with South Africa are essential for certain British industries? In engineering, for example, some additives to steel that make it suitable for particular purposes are found principally in South Africa and Namibia. It is in our economic interests that the relationships to which my hon. Friend referred are fostered.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley , City of York

No, I did not know that—but as southern Africa is so mineral-rich, I wholly accept my hon. Friend's point, which emphasises my argument.

I was one of several hon. Members present in the Chamber who were fortunate to be asked last April by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to visit South Africa as election observers. On the final day that the votes were counted, there were not enough tickets for observers, so to do something useful I spent the day finding out about health care in South Africa, which is an interest of mine in terms of domestic policy.

I visited the Alexandra health centre in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg and Baragwaneth hospital, which serves Soweto. The doctors at Alexandra said that as there had been no census of black people in South Africa, they had undertaken a survey of social conditions. They identified 36 per cent. unemployment and 37 per cent. homelessness, with people living in self-built shacks.

Only 19 per cent. of Alexandra's population had running water in their homes and only 12 per cent. had toilets. Fewer than one person in 10 out of a population of hundreds of thousands was over the age of 40. That emphasises that although political apartheid has gone, the legacy of apartheid still runs deep. We have humanitarian obligations to address that legacy and those inequalities.

I was told at Baragwaneth hospital that the World Bank had reported that 53 per cent. of all children aged two to four in South Africa have stunted growth because of malnutrition. South Africa has half a million people infected with HIV, and another 500 cases are reported each day. It is expected that in 15 years, between 18 per cent. and 24 per cent. of South Africa's population will be infected.

If a rich and developed country such as Britain faced that burden of disease, its economic development, viability and social stability would be tremendously compromised and threatened. When a poorer country such as South Africa is under such a burden, although we wish it well, that places many rocks on the path to its economic development.

I agree with the Minister that South Africa's development will need investment and trade as well as aid. Investment and trade will be driven by market forces. I urge the Minister to guarantee that the Government will the UK aid for South Africa's reconstruction to further the principles of social justice and erase the legacy of apartheid. That would be wholly consistent with the Government priority of targeting aid at the poor—since the poor were the victims of apartheid.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I have no difficulty giving the hon. Gentleman that undertaking.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley , City of York

I am delighted to hear that, and I will make one further bid.

The problems of social disadvantage in South Africa will be dealt with largely by local authorities rather than the national Government. The Minister mentioned the elections in October. The Local Government International Bureau says that a number of British local authorities have expressed interest in playing a part in assisting the development of South African social policy through technical co-operation.

The local authority technical link scheme for eastern Europe could perhaps provide a model for the exchange or provision of expertise. That scheme was recently evaluated, and although improvements were proposed, it was found generally to provide good value for money. Perhaps the Minister will reflect on whether a similar scheme could be launched for southern Africa as part of Britain's development programme.

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford 6:07 pm, 9th March 1995

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for York (Mr. Bayley), who was in South Africa during the course of the elections as a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association outbound delegation.

I join the general felicitations for South Africa's return to the Commonwealth which gives rise to today's debate. Tonight in the Palace of Westminster, for the first time since 1961, we have the presence of a member of South Africa's national Parliament as a delegate to the 44th Westminster parliamentary seminar, co-hosted by the UK branch and international secretariat of the CPA, of which I have the honour to be chairman of the executive committee. It is a nice coincidence that both occasions are running in parallel tonight.

Some years ago, we resolved to reach out beyond the CPA's natural remit to countries outside the Commonwealth, because we felt it appropriate, where there was a historical connection, to draw them back in by whatever means. The right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) and I served for a number of years on the international executive committee, and worked together to that end in respect of South Africa. One of my first pleasures on assuming the office that I continue to hold was to lead a mission to South Africa in November 1993. It was the exciting time when the transitional constitution was being finally drafted. The purpose was to restate the invitation of Commonwealth parliamentarians to return to—I must be careful these days—the brotherhood of the Commonwealth. We must be politically correct.

During the mission, we talked to all the leaderships of the political parties that would have Members of Parliament. We talked to all the agencies that would be involved in running elections. We talked also to those in the voluntary sector—the Churches, for example. We found what I can only describe as a hunger for shared experience. As parliamentarians, we have our experience to share.

The people to whom we talked were interested in the workings of elections. How were voters to be educated? How was the electoral mechanism to operate? Hovering on the scene was wonderment at what would happen after the forthcoming election. There was no doubt among those to whom we talked that the election would take place, but they were interested in what would happen after that. As soon as the election took place, we restated our invitation to South Africa to engage in Commonwealth parliamentary affairs.

It was a great pleasure to have observers at the African regional conference in May 1994 at Nairobi in the shape of two Clerks of the South African Parliament. In September, the two Houses of the National Assembly passed resolutions to join the CPA. We had for the first time, under the leadership of Senator Govan Mbeki, a full delegation at the plenary conference at Alberta. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister enjoyed the bilateral meetings that he had with that delegation, as I did, under the senator's remarkable leadershi.

Many tributes have been paid to personalities during the debate, and it is singular that Senator Mbeki has not been mentioned so far. I want to rectify the omission.

He is a magnificent gentleman who spent 25 years incarcerated on Robben island. He has a serenity and tranquillity about him the like of which I have never come across before, anywhere. I asked him how he survived 25 years of incarceration without becoming bitter, and how he had developed such inner strength. He replied, "Well, I realised that there was another way. I spent my time in prison teaching the incoming youngsters that there was another way." The transitional process reflects the fruits of Senator Mbeki's work, along with that of Nelson Mandela, who also has inner tranquillity and the awareness that there is another way. That is why we now have stability.

One of the common threads of the CPA's discussions is the need to shorten the learning curve of parliamentary expertise. The young lady who escorted me through the parliamentary buildings at Cape Town in August was, as it were, a pointer. She was of indian extraction. I asked how she found things. She replied, "It is extraordinary. I passed here for 20 years as a schoolgirl and student, and it meant nothing to me. Now I am part of it. It is me." She has been engaged in the learning curve. She realised how much there was to learn about working the institution. That common thread has come through all my subsequent discussions.

In the remarks of my hon. Friend the Minister, and implicit in his brief, is the recognition that priority must be given to the concept of good governance. That has already been said about local government. Good governance is not only the good administration of government: it also involves the understanding of parliamentarians of those who have been elected to various institutions. We can make a contribution as parliamentarians. When I talk about parliamentarians, I mean the broadest spectrum of membership of the CPA.

We believe in this place that we have much to offer, but we are not alone. There is a tremendous wealth of experience among 11,000 parliamentary Members from all forms and structures of democracy in the Commonwealth. The strength of the CPA is that we can draw together the key people who are needed to match a workshop to the needs of the moment and the agenda for it. It is a unique and powerful asset.

In South Africa, there is a National Assembly with two Houses. There are also nine provincial Parliaments. Most of the Members of the provincial Parliaments have never sat before in any instrument of government, or instrument of legislation. That is where one of our great tasks lies.

I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to think about investing some of his aid budget, in conjunction with Baroness Chalker as Minister with responsibilities for overseas development, in parliamentary workshops. A multiplicity of workshops is required within the terms of a good-value-for-money operation. It will not be good enough to set up one workshop and leave. I envisage a programme that will continue over many years. Constant attention must be given to meeting the need.

We must pull together as well the political and parliamentary expertise in surrounding countries, all of which are welcoming the concept of seminars or workshops. I prefer in this context to talk about workshops. We shall be setting up one in Botswana in May-June. We set up one recently in Malawi. One was established recently in Lesotho.

We must maintain the pressure on a wider basis, so that parliamentarians get to know one another, talk to one another and understand and share experiences. Shared experience will lead to a set of circumstances that stops electioneering on the basis of unnaturally heightened expectations. Electioneering must be based on deliverable promises and an understanding of how to deliver those promises. These understandings are so important if there is to be sustained credibility in the concept of democratic elections and government.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

If my hon. Friend has ideas that he would like to bring forward, it goes without saying that my right hon. Friend Baroness Chalker and I would give them constructive consideration.

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. Having drawn his intervention, I shall move on to my final remarks.

To put on a different hat, we are doing our bit in gener-ating trade between the United Kingdom and South Africa. One of the greatest pleasures that I have had as Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Catering was to say on the day after South Africa rejoined the Common-wealth, "Let there be South African wines for sale in the Dining Room." The House is doing its bit.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane , Rotherham 6:19 pm, 9th March 1995

I join all hon. Members in welcoming South Africa back to the Commonwealth, and have very much enjoyed the contributions to the debate. I have one small interest to declare, in that I spent a lot of time in South Africa in the 1980s. I was arrested by the South African police.

Perhaps, unlike the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), who is no longer in his place, I saw a different side to South Africa on my visits down there. I wrote a book—now long remaindered and forgotten—about the black trade union movement, "Black workers, their unions and the struggle for freedom in South Africa". If any hon. Member really cannot fall asleep tonight, I would be happy to provide a copy.

I welcome the Bill and pay tribute—many tributes have been paid this afternoon—to the people who have not been mentioned: those in the black trade union movement in South Africa, who, in the 1970s and 1980s, were the school of democracy, out of which the black majority in South Africa grew into a democratic maturity, which enabled them, with the help of the ANC and of overseas support, to form a movement of ideas and pressures such that it obliged President de Klerk—I salute his recognition of what was happening—to recognise reality.

The Minister referred to the help for entrepreneurs that the Government are providing. I would like him in his closing remarks to address the question of what help he will be providing the trade union movement in South Africa, via the Trades Union Congress and the Commonwealth Trades Union Council, which is linked to the Commonwealth Institute.

I know that our ambassador in South Africa has a discretionary fund of some £50,000, which is used to help the several million trade unionists, and the Overseas Development Administration as a whole provides a little under £200,000 for trade union help throughout the entire world. I compare that with the Netherlands, a much smaller country than Britain, which provides some £6 million for that kind of work. The United Kingdom currently gives the smallest help of any industrial country supporting the trade union movement in South Africa. I draw the House's attention to that singular lapse in Government policy towards South Africa.

During the 1970s, Britain had a good record. The British consular department and British diplomats in South Africa were extremely helpful to the burgeoning black independent trade union movement. That was snuffed out dramatically in the 1980s, when the British embassy and British official offices in South Africa became no-go areas for the black trade union movement, at a time when other major countries, such as the United States, Germany, Sweden—even Japan—were giving help and support to the independent black trade union movement in South Africa.

American companies—the Minister referred to the role of British business—responded to the call of black South Africans by withdrawing from activity in South Africa. BMW and Mercedes, those giant German companies, formally signed legally binding social charter-type agreements with the black trade union movement in South Africa, while British companies, notably BTR and Shell, victimised trade unionists, repressed them, tried to break their unions and fired many thousands of workers after they had gone on strike.

We have turned a page, and that is good, but let this House record simply that the 1980s were a page of shame for British policy towards the South African people. I hope that, in his reply, the Minister might be prepared to pay tribute to the Trades Union Congress and to the Commonwealth Trades Union Congress, to express, perhaps, a word for the unknown trade unionists—if I had time, I would list the many names—who were killed in the struggle to form independent and democratic trade unions in South Africa.

South Africa has managed its return to democracy, and has done so in large part because of the great experience in democratic organisation of the trade union movement. When parliamentary procedures were denied to the black majority, it was in the trade union movement that they could develop the art of argument, compromise and give and take. That black independent trade union movement was the great school of South African democracy.

I hope that we can encourage British companies as they increase their investment in South Africa—and I wish them so to do—to enter into a partnership with the black independent trade union movement in South Africa, because the sphere of economic development, the need for social stability as South Africa tries to handle the problem of the expectations of the mass of its people, is so important for its future harmonious development.

I welcome the Bill. I welcome South Africa's return to the Commonwealth. I rejoice in the fact that I can now go back there freely, and not have to face harassment by the police. I welcome the fact that I can drink South African wine—and wonderful wines they are. I long to take my family on holiday to South Africa, because the air fares will become cheap and the tourist industry will develop.

But the British Government should learn lessons from their mishandling of working people in South Africa. They should step up aid, via the TUC and the Commonwealth Trades Union Council. They should also learn the lessons that, in many other parts of the world, it is the working people, whether in Indonesia or China, who are forming independent unions, which are the schools of democracy for those nations as they seek the path not just to development or economic growth but to a democratic participation in the international comity of nations.

Photo of Mr Peter Griffiths Mr Peter Griffiths , Portsmouth North 6:28 pm, 9th March 1995

I rise to express my sincere support for the Bill. I am sure that it also has the sincere support of my constituents. Although it is a rather narrow Bill, which deals with administrative frameworks, under your generous chairmanship, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the debate has ranged rather more widely.

The important fact, of course, is that legislative frameworks can never create the results for which the legislation was prepared. The result arises from the actions of individuals, many thousands of them, carrying out actions as a result of the legislative changes. As far as our relationship with South Africa is concerned, it is not the changes in the law that will re-create the bonds we had in the past, and those which we hope to build in future, but the personal relationships between those who live in this country and those who live in South Africa itself. I particularly wish to speak about the schedule, because it makes reference to the armed forces of the Republic of South Africa and also the United Kingdom, and about the relationship between those armed forces when there are reciprocal visits. I suppose that it is unlikely that we will ever again have the situation that arose in the second world war, when hundreds of thousands of British service men entered Cape Town on their way to the battle fronts in the far east and the middle east.

My own father was one of those who went into that city, and he was struck by the amazing welcome given to service men by ordinary families in South Africa at that time. We shall never have that scale of interchange of service personnel again.

I represent Portsmouth, which is a great naval base. In that city are those who have family links with South Africa, and they have always prayed for the coming of the situation that we have today, when they can feel free and happy in their associations with that country. They can once again see it as a friendly nation and a good place for their family to live.

I hope that the legislation will facilitate the interchange of naval forces between the United Kingdom and the Republic of South Africa. In the past, there were many links between the two navies; many of my constituents who have retired from the naval service remember the days when they exercised with the South African navy in the south Atlantic from the Simonstown naval base. Many of them say that they were some of the best days they remember, and that it would be marvellous if we could return to such an association.

I trust that young sailors from South Africa will come to our great ports, such as Portsmouth, for training in naval skills. We can offer that to many countries, but on this occasion specifically to South Africa.

I hope that once again our vessels will be sailing to the south Atlantic, to Simonstown, because there is a great security need for a joint naval presence in that part of the world. This afternoon is no time to refer to the conflict in the south Atlantic, when South Africa was not part of the Commonwealth. What a difference it would have made had we had naval facilities then that could have been utilised for the assistance of our armed forces.

The indication in the Bill that we will be welcoming to the armed forces of South Africa as members of Commonwealth visiting forces here will not only mean that we shall welcome them to the United Kingdom but that we shall ensure that our armed forces are represented at joint exercises in South Africa and the south Atlantic.

The Bill is one more step towards the rebuilding of the traditional family friendship which exists between all people in Britain and all the races in South Africa.

Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson Shadow Solicitor General 6:31 pm, 9th March 1995

The hon. Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) is right to draw attention to the family relationship—so many of us have family in South Africa, my own from the time of the Boer war; I have a cousin who must be the only Myfanwy Roberts in South Africa—and the reservoir of good will which has resulted from the way in which our history has grown up.

It is a great pleasure to follow so many distinguished hon. Members who have spoken with great personal knowledge of South Africa during the past decades, and a joyful surprise to he involved in a debate on South Africa where I am not crossing swords with the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle). I recall that he had a hot line to the old regime and I am glad that he is now reconciled to the new regime—

even the ranks of Tuscany". It is grand that, if there is such wonderful evidence of reconciliation in South Africa, the least we can do in the House is to share some of that same reconciliation. I recall a remarkable Afrikaner whom I met recently who told me that in South Africa they talked about the liberation of the black man, but that his experience as an Afrikaner and a white man was that it was he who was now liberated in his own country. Therefore, a mutual sense of liberation is part of the prospects, the encouragement, for the new South Africa.

All who have spoken have drawn attention to the fact that this is a technical Bill, but it gives us one of those rare opportunities to debate South Africa. Like many hon. Members I am genuinely excited about the developments in South Africa—

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive". I was a diplomat in 1962 when South Africa left the Commonwealth. The in joke at the time was that the South African representative had said with surprise that so much would South Africa welcome members from the Commonwealth, black and yellow members of the Commonwealth, that they would build a special hotel for them. That was perhaps the last straw which preceded the departure of South Africa from the Commonwealth.

There then followed almost three decades of missed opportunities, political short-sightedness and oppression of some of the brightest and best people in South Africa. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd) and others have drawn attention to that reconciliation, that forgiveness, which is now so much part of the black experience in South Africa. My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), who has just left the Chamber, drew attention to the importance of the trade unions in South Africa for education, maturity of approach and moderation.

I want to pay tribute to another group in South Africa whose praises are not sung so much but who so helped to bridge the divide. Future historians will ask why, despite the Bantu Education Act and the oppression of the black man over those decades, when South Africa became liberated there were so many black people with the political maturity to move into positions of responsibility. That is partly due to the trade union movement, to which I pay tribute, but also to the churches which allowed black people to move as far as their talents would take them. One thinks of Archbishop Tutu, not only a wonderful man but a symbol of what churches were doing. Dr. Beyers Naude of the South African Council of Churches and the Reverend Frank Chikane are just two of the people who might feel rather like the first stage of a rocket; they have played their role and can now return to the church.

In the middle and late 1980s, many white South Africans were reading Alistair Horne's book "Algeria. The Savage War of Peace" and wondering whether white people in South Africa would be fleeing the country with only a flimsy piece of luggage as many of the whites in Algeria had done. Having visited the country more than 20 times during the past years, in my judgment one of the fundamental reasons why that did not happen was the influence of the church and the fact that there were grand Christians on both side of what might have been a barricade. That gave an education to both sides. It allowed people to obtain a moderate view and training in administration. The reconciling role of the Church has been fundamental in recent South African history.

I had the privilege to speak on South Africa for the Opposition for nine years. I recall my first visit to South Africa in the early 1980s. I telephoned the man who was then the number two at the South African embassy because I did not want to waste money on my air fair only to be banned on arrival in Johannesburg. That man said that he would not ban me. It is again a happy symbol that that man is now the director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in South Africa—another example of that happy reconciling process in South Africa.

Concurrently, I became senior vice-president of the Association of West European Parliamentarians for Action Against Apartheid—AWEPAA—which tried to show, even in the darkest days when the army was in the townships and despair was all around, that there was a progressive view in Britain and Europe in respect of the South African situation.

There was also the great role of the Commonwealth. Many in South Africa knew that there were Europeans on their side, but they also knew that the Commonwealth, the reconciling, multi-racial, unique Commonwealth—this is the essential part of the Bill—was fighting their corner.

No one has mentioned, for example, the role of Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the current Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. I understand that he wrote a substantial part of the seminal report of the Eminent Persons Group, produced in 1986—or acted as scribe—and, through considerable personal diplomacy in the region, has helped to build bridges to the new South Africa.

It should be borne in mind that the sub-region is essentially a Commonwealth region: virtually all the countries included in it belong to the Commonwealth. The exceptions arc Mozambique—which currently has what that same Secretary-General calls a cousinly relationship with the Commonwealth, whatever that may be, and wants to join—and Angola. The Commonwealth has played, is playing and will continue to play a major role. It is thus hardly surprising that, even in the darkest days, everyone said that once fundamental change had taken place in South Africa one of the first things that they wanted to do was rejoin the Commonwealth. The Bill adds some of the nuts and bolts.

It could all have gone very wrong; but if we believe in miracles in politics, here indeed was a miracle. If there is still scope for joy in politics, here was joy on all sides. A number of us attended the elections last April. I was in Port Elizabeth, and for me the great symbolic time was the moment when I saw a queue of people in the sunshine waiting to vote. The white employer stood with the black servant; black, white, white and black all stood patiently in line—and each vote had the same value. For me, that was part of the great symbolism of reconciliation.

I remain confident about the future. I shall not speak at length about the role of the Commonwealth, because the hon. Member for Hereford—a distinguished former chairman of our United Kingdom Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and now the international president—has already said a good deal about it. We know, however, that both the international CPA, which welcomed South Africa back to the family at Banff in October—no legislation was necessary for that return—and our national CPA, along with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, have played a major role.

What can we in the United Kingdom do now to help the process? We can, for instance, try to ensure that South Africa does not slip off the screen; despite all the past interest in Namibia, it—alas—has almost done that. We can try to ensure that South Africa remains high on the international agenda.

Training has been mentioned. Even before the fundamental change in South Africa, the Commonwealth commissioned a report on human resources in the new South Africa: that was an important step. Moreover, training can work both ways: just as we can train South Africa's army, police, educationists and provincial government, South Africa can come and train us, helping to teach us how to play cricket and rugby.

The United Kingdom can play a unique role as an advocate for South Africa in the various international forums of which we are part. The UK, indeed, has a unique role in the world because of our membership of so many of those forums.

Let me say a little about the European Union and the Lome convention. This is probably the main current issue. Much has been said about aid, but it is a relatively small though valuable part of the equation. What South Africa wants most is access to an open European market. Along with those of our European Union partners who do not see the Union as a closed circle, we should act as an advocate for South Africa and others, recognising that in fighting for South Africa's cause we are fighting the cause of the region. South Africa is the region's main motor: in energy matters, for instance, ESKOM has played and will play a major part.

South Africa has recently sought what is described as "alignment" of its future relations with the European Union through the Lome convention. The word "alignment" has been used because the South Africans recognise, realistically, that they cannot hope to become full members of the Lome convention framework: as many hon. Members have pointed out, South Africa is unique in belonging to both the first world and the third world, and the two are very close together there.

What interests South Africa most are the trade provisions relating to market access, cumulation and the right to tender for European development fund projects. The European Commission, however, has ruled out the prospect of the Lome trade provisions being applied to South Africa. It proposes a two-tier approach—effectively an agreement between the European Union and South Africa on trade and co-operation and a protocol to the Lome convention, covering the terms and conditions of the South African accession to the convention.

The Commission argues that there would otherwise be trade diversion, that South Africa's position would be in breach of the general agreement on tariffs and trade and that a number of GATT countries would object to it. Which are those countries? For example, given its record, the United States is hardly likely to take the blame for the blocking of South Africa's access to Lomé.

If South Africa cannot diversify and expand its export base, it will be unable to restructure its economy and to bring about the necessary social and economic change. That is likely to endanger the democratic transition which has taken place as people see their living standards falling as the appalling legacy of apartheid takes its toll. That is the challenge to us in the United Kingdom, and to the European Union. After all those brave words—all those resolutions in the 1970s and 1980s—when it comes to the hard fact of market access, will we allow South African goods to enter our market? If we do not, we shall certainly endanger the democratic process.

We can hold as many seminars and workshops on good governance as we like—of course those are important—but if the economic substructure fails, the great South African experiment will fail. That is the challenge that I present to the Minister in respect of our country, as an advocate for the new South Africa.

I believe that it is in the United Kingdom's national interests to act as such an advocate—not only because of our great historical ties, the large number of British people who live in South Africa and our investments there, but for sheer human and moral reasons: because of the way in which we have acted in the past, colluding with the apartheid regime in some ways. Along, I am sure, with the rest of the House, I welcome South Africa unreservedly as an old friend—a prodigal who now returns. The Commonwealth has played a vital and historic role in the past, particularly in the period of transition; I believe that it is now ready to play, at every level, an important and unique role that no other institution can perform.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham 6:49 pm, 9th March 1995

Tribute has rightly been paid to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy for their practical help during the year or so of South Africa's transition. Tribute has also rightly been paid to individuals and institutions which have helped in the fight against white supremacy over the past 20 to 30 years. Many of those people have been named.

I agree with the tributes that have been paid to the South African Council of Churches and especially to Beyers Naude and his successors. Anyone who had the opportunity to listen to him during the years when he was under a banning order and one normally had to meet him in a church, would have been impressed by the way that one of the leading theologians and seminarians provided a spark which was equivalent to that provided by the young man who returned to South Africa to refuse to wear his army uniform.

When one sees the brightest and best willing not only to speak up but to sacrifice their future position and reputation for what they believe to be right, one appreciates the struggles carried out not only by the prominent examples but, as the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) said, by the countless numbers of people who tried to work in the trade union movement and in other civic organisations.

In looking forward I hope that people will support the work that will lead to local elections. I have a specific association with the Educational Trust for Civic Responsibility in South Africa. One of its leading lights is Mildred Neville, who for many years worked with the Catholic Institute for International Relations providing unbiased briefings and information links with people in this country.

One of the people who worked with Mildred Neville, Tim Sheehy, managed to return to South Africa to work in connection with the European Community aid effort, having had various other roles in the South African Development Co-ordination Conference and in Zimbabwe.

When I was elected to the House nineteen and a half years ago, the then Leader of the Opposition, now the Baroness Thatcher, asked me what I was interested in and I said that I was interested in trying to persuade the white supremacists in South Africa and in the Conservative party that they were morally wrong and militarily losers. The positive side was to say that others could benefit from the democracy and the flexible economic system that we have built, which we protect, and from which we benefit. We have one person, one vote, and British Governments do not control as much of the economy as, sadly, the South African Government did.

The schedule deals with visiting forces. Some of the actions by South African Government forces during the years of apartheid were disgraceful and should have been more widely condemned. I draw the attention of foreign Governments to what I think are called the Whitehall guidelines, which are available in the Library. The protocol department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office took the opportunity to express to embassies and high commissions assurances that they would receive the highest consideration. They were also told, "By the way, do not in this country go in for the bully-boy tactics that you use in other countries."

Some of the bombings, assassinations and intimidation were carried out by agents of BOSS, the Bureau of State Security. South Africa was not the only country guilty of such actions but it was more guilty more often, and the Government should have exerted more pressure to eliminate such activity.

Father Trevor Huddleston has been mentioned. Not just in this country but in Africa, people generally owe him a great deal. I link with Father Huddleston the name of Mrs. Jill Thompson who has worked with him over most of the past 30 years. I hope that Father Huddleston will enjoy his time in South Africa. What a blessing it is that he has lived to see his life's work reach a successful culmination. He was helped by the late Tony Rampton and Mrs. Rampton. People like that, prophets who preach often to an apparent wilderness, need support. I hope that many whose names have not been mentioned will be able to share in the tributes that have been paid by hon. Members.

Another clergyman who deserves recognition is Bishop Timothy Bavin, the Bishop of Portsmouth. He gave up his position in South Africa so that Desmond Tutu could rise in the Church and carry on his work more prominently. I hope that Bishop Timothy Bavin will accept the congratulations of hon. Members. They are well deserved.

People have faced many difficulties, some of them arising from ignorance in the general community. Many young people in this country have been sensitised to world affairs by some of the struggles against apartheid. I fear that the Government are making a mistake in reducing funding to the Council for Education in World Citizenship. Work such as that carried out by the council, which provides material encouragement and holds conferences for children in schools throughout the country, has helped to make people more aware that people in other countries cannot take for granted that which we in Britain take for granted.

I plead with the Government to reconsider their decision to cut severely the funding for the CEWC because that would be a mistake. It is even more of a mistake than the severe cutting of funds for the Commonwealth Institute, although that institute brings home to children what it is like to grow up in the world and not just in one part of it.

My final point is about family and personal connections. In this short debate and in others over the years, it has been quite clear that hon. Members have benefited from the opportunity to visit South Africa and the front-line states. It is a mistake to believe that we can he world citizens without travelling. One way or another we should add to the opportunities to go on Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegations. We should also take the opportunities that are occasionally offered by airlines or by other countries. We should be able to decide for ourselves whether to go on visits.

Most of my visits to Africa as an individual have been very productive because I have been able to move around and meet, as it were, non-legal people—those who work in townships or even in the more affluent suburbs of Johannesburg. One can also meet people in churches and sometimes in prison. Such opportunities are valuable. We cannot do our job properly in encouraging the Government or in speaking up as British Members of Parliament in other countries if we cannot travel with reasonable independence.

Even if the cost means cutting the number of Members of Parliament, we should provide a reasonable travel allowance to be used at one's own discretion. Those who use it for freeloading and holidays would be discovered, but those who would use it for detailed investigative work of the kind that I have mentioned deserve the opportunity to do that.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Wells.]

Bill immediately considered in Committee; reported, without amendment; read the Third time, and passed, without amendment.