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The Prime Minister is alone in the international community among leaders of significant countries in
Column 275opposing sanctions. This weekend her press secretary, Mr. Bernard Ingham, talking about the Prime Minister's isolation, said : "The truth is the Prime Minister is in command in this situation. She is leading the world."
Leading the world sounds all very grand, but what was ever achieved by a procession of one? To be alone in the world and right is to be heroic, but to be alone in the world and wrong is futile and destructive. That is the position in which the Prime Minister has placed herself and this country.
For years, at every conceivable international meeting, the Prime Minister and her Government have striven to block sanctions. The episodes stand out : at Nassau in 1985, making a space of half an inch with her fingers, and boasting that she had moved just "a tiny little bit" ; at Vancouver in 1987, ordering her press secretary deliberately to distort the Canadian record on sanctions ; at Brussels in 1988, ordering her then Foreign Secretary to block a joint declaration by the European Community warning of punitive action if the Sharpeville Six were executed ; at Kuala Lumpur in 1989, allowing her then poor novice Foreign Secretary to sign a declaration in good faith, and within an hour betraying him and the Commonwealth by issuing a separate declaration--and now, rushing headlong into taking unilateral action in consequence of the recent developments in South Africa.
The Prime Minister's actions have been surrounded by great confusion. There was the episode of the rebel cricket tour of South Africa--now sensibly called off, as we sensibly demanded. Mr. Gatting seems to have learnt more about the facts of South Africa in three weeks than the Prime Minister has learnt in 11 years in Downing street. But then, Mr. Gatting has a clear advantage over the Prime Minister. He admits that he knows nothing about the realities of South African politics. Questioned in the House, the Prime Minister said that the Gatting tour was
"not contrary to the Gleneagles agreement".--[ Official Report, 23 January 1990 ; Vol. 165, c. 735.]
But the Gleneagles agreement--to which the Prime Minister is, in her words, "signed up"--calls on participating Governments to take every practical step to discourage contacts or competition by their nations with sporting organisations, teams or sportsmen from South Africa. The Gatting tour, contrary to the Prime Minister's statement, is a clear breach of the Gleneagles agreement.
At the time of the Moscow Olympic games, the Prime Minister personally wrote to the chairman of the British Olympic Association urging the British Olympic team not to go to Moscow. Why did she not write to Gatting and Graveney in the same way? The answer is that she did not care whether or not that team went to South Africa. Then there was the press conference that never was. Recently, the Prime Minister has taken to turning Downing street--fortress Downing street as it has become, since the barricades were erected to keep out the populace--into an equivalent of the White House lawns. On Sunday, journalists were kept waiting for one hour in the rain there before the ubiquitous Mr. Ingham came out to see them. Incidentally, I was touched to learn that Mr. Ingham was briefing the press against me last night. I am honoured to join the company of the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), the deputy Prime Minister, and a cast of thousands.
Mr. Ingham told the soaked journalists, "She is not coming down. She does not think she has anything further
Column 276to say." The Prime Minister with nothing further to say? I bet that the Cabinet would not have minded being soaked to the skin in exchange for such an unprecedented bonus.
Confusion extends to the Prime Minister's view of the sanctions' legal status. She has scrapped one sanction already. On Sunday, she announced that she has lifted the ban on artistic and cultural contacts with South Africa. That is a harsh decision. Exposing innocent South Africans to the plays of Jeffrey Archer and to the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber is a form of punitive sanction in itself.
Then we come to the sanction on new investment, which the Prime Minister also said on Sunday she wanted to lift. Is this a voluntary sanction which we are free to lift, without the agreement of the European Community? Yesterday, I contacted the Foreign Secretary's office and asked for a definitive ruling. After some delay, the right hon. Gentleman's staff courteously telephoned my office with their reply. They offered no guidance other than to refer me to what the Prime Minister had said in the House at Question Time. It is no wonder that the Sunday Telegraph said last Sunday :
"The Prime Minister's good relations with her new Foreign Secretary have caused some surprise."--
said a Minister.
"He accepts rebukes and he isn't operating an independent Foreign Office policy."
In the House yesterday, the Prime Minister was unclear. She said that this sanction was voluntary, but she did not say whether it could be lifted unilaterally. My advice is that it cannot. The decision of the ministerial council of 27 October 1986 says : "Member states shall take the necessary measures to ensure that new direct investments in the Republic of South Africa by natural or legal persons resident within the Community are suspended." We
"shall take the necessary measures."
That seems pretty binding to me, and it is especially binding for the United Kingdom because of the circumstances in which the decision was made.
The document containing the decision on the ban on new investment in South Africa concludes :
"Done at Luxembourg, 27 October 1986."
It was signed "The President G. Howe".
The circumstances under which sanctions may be relaxed are strictly laid down in agreements to which the Government are a signatory party. The United Nations declaration of December 1989 demands the release of all political prisoners and detainees, removal of all troops from the townships, the end of the state of emergency and the repeal of the Internal Security Act. None of those conditions has been fulfilled. By seeking to drop sanctions now, the Prime Minister is seeking to breach a united declaration which she has signed.
Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East) : Does my right hon. Friend accept that, underlying the points that he has correctly made about the isolation of the Prime Minister on the question of sanctions, is the fact that Britain is the largest single investor in South Africa, with £12,000 million-worth of investments? Consolidated Gold Fields has regularly made more than £100 million a year profit out of the blood and bones of black miners. That is why the Prime Minister is such a friend of the white regime in South Africa.
Column 277Mr. Kaufman : When I was in South Africa last July as a guest of the South African Council of Churches, I visited the people who had been sacked by the subsidiary of a British company--BTR Sarmcol. They were thrown out of work, on to the scrap heap, with no job, no wages and nothing to live on. That is the way in which British investors are taking advantage of conditions in South Africa.
Several Hon. Members rose --
"justification for sanctions against South Africa was to abolish apartheid by bringing Pretoria to the negotiating table and keeping it there until that change was irreversibly secured." That change has not been irreversibly secured. By seeking to drop sanctions now, the Prime Minister is seeking to breach a Commonwealth statement which she signed. It was a part of the statement that she assented to, and did not disclaim. The statement of partial disclaimer, issued separately at Kuala Lumpur by the Prime Miniser and the Foreign Secretary, clearly states "the necessary steps" under which
"it would be right to lift some of the measures imposed by the international community."
Those steps--listed in a statement issued by the Prime Minister as her personal policy--include lifting the state of emergency. But the state of emergency has not been lifted. In seeking to drop sanctions now, the Prime Minister is trying to breach a personal statement that she herself drafted and signed. It is impossible to imagine anything more unprincipled.
The fact is that the Prime Minister has never wanted any sanctions to be imposed on South Africa at any time. She is now falling over herself at what she regards as a golden opportunity to get rid of them. She is trying desperately to wriggle out of commitments on sanctions that she made apparently in honour.
In the House yesterday the Prime Minister said, again creating confusion :
"The sanctions are totally voluntary".
But there are several sanctions that, as the Foreign Secretary must know, are absolutely binding on us in international law. The Prime Minister is wrong about that. She also said in the House yesterday that the sanctions imposed by the United Kingdom were
"some very minor gesture sanctions".--[ Official Report, 13 February 1990 ; Vol. 167, c. 136-38.]
At other times she has warned of the dire effect of sanctions and their capacity to cause economic damage to South Africa. Most notable, of course, is the ban on new investment presided over in Luxembourg by the deputy Prime Minister in 1986.
The Prime Minister is confused about every aspect of sanctions except one. The point that she is clear about is that she wants to lift them. Why? There is no doubt of the damaging affects of the ban on new investment : the Trust bank of South Africa calculates that the country has lost $14 billion in loans and direct investments over the past five years, and that 280 foreign companies have abandoned it since 1984.
A few months ago, the South African Finance Minister spoke of the "economic onslaught", the "beleaguered community", the
Column 278"need to break the isolation imposed on us the elementary but remorseless truth for both the economic and the political policymakers that no country can stand alone."
The South African Law and Order Minister has also admitted the effect of sanctions on his country :
"Our ability to make decisions is limited. If sanctions are introduced against us we can do nothing We do not live alone in the world."
There is no doubt that sanctions have worked ; there is no doubt that they are working. Nor is there any doubt that that is why the Prime Minister wants to get rid of them. She wants to rescue the very regime that sanctions are helping to bring down : she is the world's best friend of apartheid.
The most sickening aspect of the Prime Minister's opposition to effective sanctions is the argument against them that she has offered. She says that they would put hundreds of thousands of black South Africans out of work, and would cause deprivation and starvation. When did the Prime Minister ever care about unemployment? When did she ever care about poverty? It is true that South Africa contains unemployment and poverty on a horrendous scale, by any standards in the world ; that unemployment and that poverty, however, are caused not by sanctions but by the system--the very system which the Prime Minister wants to prop up.
Let us be clear that apartheid is not racial oppression for its own sake ; apartheid is racial oppression to make possible the use of the cheap slave labour of millions of blacks to provide a luxurious standard of living for the minority of whites.
I do not accuse the Prime Minister of condoning the racialism of apartheid, but I do say that, shorn of its racialism, the economic objective of the South African Government is Thatcherism in its ultimate form : the poor financing the high living standards of the rich. That is what exists in South Africa, and that is what the Prime Minister, given the chance, wants to bring about in this country too.
Speaking in Soweto yesterday, Mr. Nelson Mandela said : "South Africa is a wealthy country. It is the labour of black workers which has built the roads and factories that we see Our people need proper houses, not ghettos like Soweto."
Mr. Mandela said :
the black people of South Africa--
"cannot be excluded from that wealth."
This great man, his mind crystal clear after 27 years of incarceration and suffering, states the position in its starkest terms. Mr. Mandela explains the situation and the product and the objective of apartheid in South Africa. He explains why the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is so wrong. He explains why sanctions must stay. He explains why this House should vote for this motion tonight.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During exchanges before this debate started, you said that you hoped that an apology might be given during the speech of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). No such apology has been given. Perhaps that was an oversight. Could you, Mr. Speaker, invite the right hon. Gentleman to give that apology?
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"salutes Nelson Mandela on his release and welcomes the constructive actions taken by President de Klerk to create an atmosphere conducive to negotiations with all parties in South Africa towards a non-racial constitution enjoying the support of a majority of South Africans ; and believes these steps deserve a positive and practical response from the international community."
It is always difficult to know how to qualify a speech such as that which the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has just delivered. Fortuntely, he has come to my help on this occasion. In his book, "How to be a Minister" he gives this advice : "Your final paragraph should be grandiloquent, even if almost meaningless."
The right hon. Gentleman is certainly consistent. Indeed, he has expanded on his own advice by covering in that way not only the final paragraph but the whole speech.
I am glad that the Opposition chose this matter for debate because it enables me to set out, in what I hope will be a coherent way, the approach and reasoning behind Her Majesty's Government's policy towards South Africa. I am glad to be able to do that as, up to now, I have not had the opportunity.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, the world had seen remarkable changes in recent months, but few have been more remarkable, or more welcome, than the transformation being wrought in South African politics--a transformation symbolised by the scenes that we saw last Sunday and thereafter. I congratulate Mr. Mandela on his release. Even those who, like myself, have been able to watch only snatches of the events that have followed the release must have been impressed by the overwhelming warmth of the welcome that Mr. Mandela has received and by the dignity with which he met it. It has been a formidable welcome--this is a serious point--bringing with it a formidable responsibility for one man to carry, and we wish him well as he begins to shoulder that responsibility.
Contrary to the thrust of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, the Government's policy towards South Africa has always been based on our rejection of apartheid. It is wrong ; it does not work ; the sooner it is ended the better. If the right hon. Gentleman had heard my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister speaking as forcefully in private as in public about apartheid, he simply would not have made the misleading and perverse remarks that he did about my right hon. Friend. What we have done in the past and what we are doing now is designed to speed up the end of apartheid.
Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East) : Will the right hon. Gentleman be kind enough to inform the House whether, before the Prime Minister decided to abandon certain of these sanctions, she bothered to consult her Foreign Secretary or even that amiable dumb-bell, the deputy Prime Minister?
Mr. Hurd : I do not wish to contradict you, Mr. Speaker, but I thought that the contribution from the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) was rather above the level that we have had so far from the Opposition. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is yes. What has been said and what is being done is part of a measured response, worked out well in advance, to the kind of actions that we hoped the President of South Africa would take and that he is now taking.
Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch) : I should like my right hon. Friend to clarify one point. There are different ways of interpreting different events. I understand that the Government's interpretation of the situation is that it would help Mr. de Klerk if we began to lower the sanctions barriers. Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is also the opposite argument : that at the moment Mr. de Klerk's main problem is the white Fascists in South Africa, not the African National Congress? If sanctions are lowered, Mr. de Klerk faces the possibility of the white Fascists saying, "We are doing quite well out of what the Government have already done." Since Mr. Mandela's release, has Mr. de Klerk specifically asked the British Government to do anything about sanctions?
Mr. Hurd : President de Klerk made it clear in our contacts with him throughout that he very much hoped that if he began to move down the path that we and others--but eminently we--have been urging, there would be some response. That seems to be an entirely reasonable point. It is highly desirable that he should have that response to be able to reply to his critics on the Right who are pressing him fairly hard and who have been pressing him even harder since he made his speech on 2 February. We want to help to bring about in South Africa the peaceful replacement of apartheid by a non-racial, representative system of government that is fair and acceptable to the people of South Africa as a whole.
To this end, the Government have maintained a consistent policy towards the South African Government of pressure and encouragement. We want to bring about an environment in which the negotiations that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned--on an end to apartheid--can take place. We believe that that requires encouragement.
We believe in encouragement when steps have been taken in the right direction and pressure when they have not--a combination of encouragement and pressure. That is why we supported the mission to South Africa in 1986 of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group. The
Column 281group developed a negotiating concept. That, in our view, represented the most feasible basis on which to get the negotiations under way.
Mr. Hurd : The core of the EPG concept was one of matching and reciprocal commitments by both sides in South Africa. It is worth recalling what it asked them to do. The EPG called on the South African Government to unban the ANC and the Pan-Africanist Congress, to release Mr. Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners and detainees, to remove troops from the townships, to provide for freedom of assembly and discussion and to suspend detention without trial ; in short, to normalise political activity in South Africa. It called on the ANC and others, for their part, to suspend violence and enter negotiations.
The negotiating concept of the Eminent Persons Group had wide international support. The whole House should be glad that President de Klerk has now gone so far towards meeting the EPG's conditions for dialogue. We urge the ANC and other opposition groups to make an equivalent response by suspending their campaign of violence. Mr. Nellist rose --
Mr. Hurd : Let me justify what I have just said. President de Klerk came to office on 21 September last year. In October he released from long years of imprisonment eight black leaders, including Walter Sisulu, the former general secretary of the African National Congress. In November he announced the dismantling of the national security management system. He began an investigation into serious allegations of covert activities by the South African security forces against anti-apartheid activists, an investigation which has since been raised to the level of a full judicial inquiry. In the same month he opened South Africa's remaining segregated beaches to all races and promised that the Separate Amenities Act, which permits segregation of other facilities, would be repealed.
Those in themselves were major steps, but they were overshadowed by the further steps announced in President de Klerk's speech on 2 February. Before he made his speech in Parliament on 2 February, we urged him to release Mr. Nelson Mandela unconditionally, to unban the ANC, the PAC and the South African Communist party, and to lift the state of emergency. We expressed the hope that the South African Government would look again at the law on capital punishment and think in terms of protection for minority rather than "group" rights. President de Klerk has taken many of the steps we urged on him and which the Prime Minister urged on him when she saw him in London last June. We have exerted our influence to the full in that direction in South Africa, and we have been able to do so more directly and more successfully than most other countries.
Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West) rose--
Mr. Hurd : Every one of those steps is therefore something for which Britain has repeatedly called and pressed over the years. Now they have been taken, it is absurd to say--as the Opposition do in their motion--that we should behave as though nothing had happened. To propose, as the Opposition do, that sanctions should be maintained in all their forms merely reveals the irresponsibility of their policy. Talk of intensified, comprehensive sanctions, in which the Opposition still dabble from time to time, now clearly belongs to another world.
The Leader of the Opposition suggests that we should do as Mr. Mandela asks and maintain all sanctions. That is not our analysis. To do that would be to shirk our responsibility. The ANC is a key participant in negotiations about the future of South Africa but, as has already been pointed out, it is the only one. It is the job of a British Government not to favour one party or another, but to try to do what we can to contribute to a peaceful, democratic solution in South Africa.
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn) : It is precisely the point of a peaceful and democratic achievement that I want to raise with the Secretary of State. If sanctions are lifted, the tragic fact is that the only force for change remaining in South Africa will be mass action, with all the risks of tension and upheaval that come with it. In the knowledge that that is the case, and that if sanctions are lifted, the ANC and the other forces striving for the abolition of apartheid are left to their own internal devices, is he prepared to reconsider any of his current views on sanctions?
Mr. Hurd : The right hon. Gentleman is making the same mistake as I think he made yesterday, although I was not in the House. He is assuming that we propose the abolition of all sanctions, but we are not doing that. We propose a step-by-step, measured response. The President of South Africa has taken a large number of the measures which we, with the support of the House, have urged upon him. That response, which is a courageous one on his part, requires a response from us if he is to be taken seriously. He has not gone the full way, and we are not proposing to go the full way. Surely the right hon. Gentleman realises that if someone has started a process that we have urged upon him, it is sensible that we should respond by some encouragement so that he can proceed. If we give him no encouragement and say that nothing that he has done is worthy or deserves any response or relaxation, we are throwing him away and discouraging him from taking any further action. If the right hon. Gentleman does not understand that basic point, he is not looking at it through straight eyes.
Mr. Kinnock : I apologise to the Secretary of State for intervening again, but it is a fundamental point. First, the right hon. Gentleman is representing a Prime Minister who has shown that she is antagonistic to sanctions in principle. Secondly, she has described the sanctions that she installed as gesture sanctions. What real case can he build for suggesting that by the withdrawal of sanctions on which the Government put no value he can exert an influence over or offer a reward to President de Klerk?
Column 283I return to my main point--that we have to encourage the process that is under way. It does not make sense to take punitive actions when the South African Government are doing all the wrong things and to maintain all those punitive measures when the South African Government, at long last, are doing many of the right things. There is an obvious need to encourage the South African Government to take further steps, including the complete lifting of the state of emergency. That is where the right hon. Gentleman has got it wrong. We are not rushing to lift all sanctions. Ours is a measured response. Mandatory sanctions, including the arms embargo which is crucial, remain. We stand by the Gleneagles agreement, to the disappointment of some of my hon. Friends. There is no question of reviewing the arms embargo or associated military sanctions until there is a full democratic constitution in South Africa. We are giving a measured but positive response to President de Klerk's bold moves.
I now deal with the European Community, on which the right hon. Member for Gorton spent some time. In 1986, the Foreign Ministers of the European Community agreed to impose restrictive measures on South Africa in response to the actions of the South African Government. The European Community imposed those measures to send a signal to the South African Government that they should take steps to open the road to dialogue. In particular, it mentioned the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, and the lifting of the ban on the ANC, the PAC and other political parties. Community Ministers also called for the ending of the state of emergency, and on 10 February President de Klerk made it clear that that could take place within weeks if there was no upsurge of violence.
We propose a logical, step-by-step response ; not to lift all our measures, but to consult our Community partners about lifting those measures adopted in 1986, starting with the Community ban on new investment which was always voluntary in our case.
The right hon. Member for Gorton may not know that our approach has been endorsed by a letter to a number of Community Foreign Ministers from Helen Suzman, who is one of the leading veteran opponents of apartheid in South Africa, asking the Community to revise the policy of sanctions against South Africa to fortify President de Klerk's ability to combat white fears and resistance, and to enable the South African economy to grow to provide education, social services and employment opportunities to all South Africans in a non-racial society.
Mr. Hurd : Before I give way to the right hon. Gentleman, it is worth remembering that the population of South Africa will grow by nearly 1 million people a year over the next 10 years. There are 7 million children at school today in South Africa. By the turn of the century there will be 12 million people needing education. If we were to inflict the serious economic damage on South Africa that the right hon. Gentleman favours, we would leave any future South African Government with a hopeless task.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the ban on new investment made under the presidency of the deputy Prime
Column 284Minister as a "voluntary" measure. It is certainly a voluntary measure for the companies, because the decision states that the provision
"may be complied with by the issue of guidance to natural and legal persons."
Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear whether the Government's advice is that they can get rid of this ban on new investment unilaterally, or whether that can be done only by another decision of the European Community?