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Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport) : The hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) made a remarkable speech, as did the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant). The Front-Bench spokesmen on both sides of the House would be well advised not to call a Division. The mood of today's speeches has reflected the complexity of the issues that face us all, but especially South Africans, both black and white. Hon. Members' conduct yesterday was a disgrace, given the gravity of the position and the incredible opportunity with which South Africa is now confronted. If we spend our time engaging in a petty little squabble about what has or has not been done in the past, we shall be unable to contribute as much as we might to the resolution of those difficult problems.
Profound changes are taking place in South Africa, and there is no doubt in my mind that things are already moving far faster than most of us realise. President de Klerk and Nelson Mandela have an understanding about how such matters should be dealt with. I believe that the ANC's role in applying pressure to secure the cancellation of the extremely ill-advised Gatting cricket tour is a sign of that : it was realised that such events can provide a focus for the kind of unrest that would make a repeal of the state of emergency very difficult.
The state of emergency is the main impediment to the relaxation of sanctions. The Prime Minister recognised that in her statement in Kuala Lumpur. Lifting sanctions would be absurd, and it will not happen : the Council of Foreign Ministers, which is to meet in Dublin, would not dream of relaxing them while the state of emergency continues. That is a sine qua non, as the Foreign Secretary knows. He also knows that he and the Government are not entitled to say that they no longer wish people not to make new investments. He quoted from the resolution, passed under the chairmanship of the deputy Prime Minister, to "rescind". Action cannot be taken on a single decision made by a member state ; we are bound by that 1986 resolution. We are also bound by something far more important, and that is honour.
For the past decade or more, the Prime Minister has waxed eloquent against unilateral nuclear disarmament
Column 306--rightly, in my view--and unilateralism cannot be criticised at one moment and embraced at the next. For 20 years or more, this country has acted in the deepest concert with the United States, and often with France, on the question of sanctions against South Africa. We have not once been split on that issue, which has not been easy, because of the tactics aimed at dividing us.
It would be entirely irresponsible for the British Government to abandon the sanction on new investment unilaterally, knowing full well that President Bush has not the freedom to do the same because of the legislation by which he is bound. It is obvious to us all that Anglo- American relations are going through a difficult period, but the improvement that we all want--the Foreign Secretary must want it, too--will not be possible if Britain acts unilaterally. We must act in concert, as we have done in the past.
I still believe that, properly applied, external pressure can be constructive. Let us face it : the biggest problem is President de Klerk. He represents the minority, but the minority happen to be in power. Under the apartheid system--wrongly--South Africa has all the violent structures of minority power which must be dismantled progressively over the next few years. We know that there will be considerable resistance. Of course, President de Klerk must be encouraged, but he must be encouraged in a manner that ensures that there can be no going back. Having conversed with him, I think that he understands that perfectly. International agreement on a serious reduction of sanctions will be very difficult until negotiatons have started : that should be the threshold.
It would be mad--crazy--for the two main parties to do anything to damage South Africa's future economy once the talks have begun. I say "the two main parties", meaning the National party and the ANC, but I believe strongly that agreement should be widened to include Inkatha, and the PAC is perfectly entitled to make its case in the talks, as is the Conservative party. There is no doubt that if the negotiations break down and anyone is shown to have entered into them in bad faith, the world will make a judgment. If it should happen to be the South African Government who entered into them in bad faith, the result will be the reimposition of economic sanctions that will really hurt.
In 1985, for the first time, we discovered a really effective economic sanction, when banks such as the Chase Manhattan refused to roll forward credits. By 1988 it was really biting : the Prime Minister need only read the South African newspapers to discover that. The overriding of President Reagan's veto by the American Congress, on a bipartisan basis, was the biggest single reverse of the Reagan presidency. From that moment South Africa knew that there would be no comfort from Washington, and that Republicans and Democrats were determined to combine to put pressure on South Africa to end apartheid.
That bipartisanship still exists in Congress, and it will not be broken. I believe that an agreement will be reached, and that President Bush will respond : he has already urged the parties to come together. Would it not be marvellous if the British Prime Minister occasionally came to the House and said that she would like to try to secure agreement here about the pace at which sanctions should be removed? Then the Foreign Secretary would be asked to conduct a dialogue with his opposite number and with
Column 307the other parties to try to reach a measure of understanding, so that we could act in concert with our European partners, the United States and the world.
Let us try to restore the kind of recognition that the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford described. We have an important foreign policy responsibility. We want South Africa to develop quickly the unity of purpose that will lead to a common electoral roll--one man, one vote--and proportional representation, which will provide significant minority safeguards : no constitutional change will then be possible without, say, 80 per cent. agreement. Namibia has shown the way with a Bill of Rights, providing for proportional representation and one of the best constitutions, which will be enacted on 21 March.
Massive change is taking place in South Africa, but we spent our time yesterday in the House hurling insults at each other. Such behaviour is below the level merited by such events. It is time that the Prime Minister recognised that she is not entitled to act unilaterally--that there must be international agreement. I hope that when the Foreign Secretary goes to Dublin on Tuesday he will be able to say, "We want to give President de Klerk a significant response : we want to encourage him to move forward."
I do not mind giving the House some idea of the criteria that should be applied. Let us remind ourselves of the provisions of the American Congressional legislation--the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act 1986 :
"The bill provides that the sanctions contained in the bill shall terminate automatically if the South African Government meets five conditions specified in the bill. These conditions related to (1) the release of Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners"--
negotiations on who the political prisoners are have already begun--
"(2) the repeal of the State of Emergency and all detainees"-- I expect that to happen in a matters of weeks--
"(3) the unbanning of political parties"--
that has already happened--
"(4) the repeal of the Group Areas and Population Registration Acts"--
it will be hard to repeal the Group Areas Act immediately, but if the Government start to sign on for definite progress there is no reason why the Population Registration Act should not go as well-- "and (5) agreeing to enter into good faith negotiations with truly representative members of the black majority without preconditions." That last criterion has virtually been fulfilled : President de Klerk is clear that there are to be no preconditions, and I believe that he will respond, as will all parties to the negotiations. It never ceases to amaze me that liberation fighters throughout the world, and black Africans in particular, can demonstrate a spirit of reconciliation at a time of transition, and can forget the oppression that they have experienced in the past. Jomo Kenyatta is a classic example of that ; it was seen from the late President Machel ; it has been experienced by Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe ; it is now being demonstrated by Sam Nujoma ; and it has been seen from Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. I am glad that the role of Oliver Tambo has been mentioned. I hope that that will not be forgotten, because in the past 30 years Mr. Tambo has shown remarkable courage in relation to the ANC outside the country. The Foreign Secretary understands these issues.
I hope that the Foreign Secretary will ignore the vote tonight and that he will take the spirit of the House with him into the chamber of the Council of Ministers in Dublin on Tuesday.
Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant) : I know that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) will not consider me in any sense discourteous if I do not follow him closely, though I undoubtedly agree with some of his very interesting speech. I wish to refer to something that was said by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) who accused the Prime Minister of collaborating and colluding with apartheid.
It was my privilege, in August, to carry a message from the Prime Minister to my old school in Natal. There I addressed a very large audience--about 1,500 people. The Prime Minister's message contained the most unequivocal and total condemnation of apartheid that anyone could expect. The chief justice of the Republic of South Africa was in the audience, and there was no doubt whatever about the message that the Prime Minister was conveying or about the message that I was conveying. All the nonsense about the Prime Minister really supporting apartheid must be demolished. I have no doubt whatever that there is an argument about sanctions, about the means of achieving the end, but I do not think that the first proposition can be sustained.
I wish also to refer to the very interesting speech made by the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant). On occasion, the hon. Member has roused my ire, but this time he did not. He made a profoundly interesting and moving speech, and in his analysis of the major problem of the South African security forces being almost uncontrollable or out of control he put his finger on the central problem of manipulating change in that very difficult country. I welcome what he said about the vast complexities in South Africa. His remarks--if I may say so without being in any sense
patronising--indicated great progress on his part.
The speech of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was a very different proposition. The right hon. Gentleman is a kind of one -man antiques road show. He comes to the House with his little brown paper parcels, filled with prejudice, half-truths and all sorts of other things. When he opens them--one of his favourites is the one that he likes to open when we debate South Africa--one gets a very strong whiff of smear gas. We know what is happening when the right hon. Gentleman speaks. He has absolutely no sympathy for, and very little understanding of, this question. I wish to confess three mistakes that I have made--I believe that humility is the order of the day. Had I been asked 35 or 40 years ago whether an Afrikaner-dominated Government, a nationalist Government, would be proposing what Mr. de Klerk has proposed I should have said, "Not a chance--never." Had I been asked whether an Afrikaner leader of the stature of Mr. de Klerk would emerge and would lead that movement, I should have said the odds were 1,000 to one against. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. de Klerk when he was in London last June and I am happy to admit to the House that my assessment of him was totally mistaken. We now have a situation which opens up great hope and great possibilities.
Column 309I made those confessions because it is easy to be pessimistic about South Africa, as I myself was and as other hon. Members have been today. It is all too easy to underestimate the idealism, the political skill and the judgment of great Afrikaners such as Smuts. Smuts was one of the founding fathers of the League of Nations and one of the architects of the United Nations, so let no smear on him come from the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist). In this context I should also mention Louis Botha, the first prime minister of South Africa, as well as people such as Helen Suzman, Hofmeyr and, most recently, President de Klerk.
Perhaps we can inject some humility into this debate. I have read most of the speeches made in this House and most of the early-day motions on this subject in the past 25 years. What comes through most of them is an astonishing certainty, conviction and, above all, condemnation. As the hon. Member for Tottenham has realised, however, South Africa is probably the most ethnically complex society on earth. Most hon. Members' knowledge is derived largely from television programmes, articles--usually hostile--and 10-day visits, or perhaps even shorter visits such as the one that the right hon. Member for Gorton made recently. Nevertheless, they propound solutions and give prolific advice to all concerned about the problems in South Africa--problems which defeated Smuts and Hofmeyr. They are problems which also defeated Helen Suzman, a great battler for the cause of freedom in South Africa, and, indeed, defeated my late and lamented great personal friend, Patrick Duncan, who probably fought as courageous a campaign against apartheid as anyone mentioned in the debate so far.
We have exhibited an overpowering urge to condemn--an urge against which the great Goethe warned many years ago when he said that people should be suspicious whenever they met anyone with an overpowering urge to condemn. No one disputes the fact that such condemnation has been fully earned by apartheid, but--this is the principal point that I wish to make--the condemnation has assumed a somewhat less defensible form and is in some subtle way becoming a form of anti-South-Africanism which shares the bigotry, the vindictiveness and the viciousness of anti-semitism. I see this emerging in a number of ways and, regrettably, in a number of places. A basic distinction lies at the heart of this debate--the distinction between apartheid and South Africa. There is no defence for apartheid and no one in this House would attempt to make such a defence. South Africa, however, for all its faults and for all the grave situations that have rightly been described, is the nearest thing to an economic miracle in Africa south of the Sahara, and that fact lies at the heart of the debate.
The House had a similar debate about 40 years ago, when it was suggested that Germany, which had introduced possibly the most appalling doctrine that the western world had ever known--the Herrenvolk concept--should be not only defeated but totally destroyed. That was a great debate and a great argument, and it is one that is mirrored in, and in some senses at the heart of, this debate. I do not believe in total destruction. Nor did the West. To save western civilisation, and to save Europe, after Germany had been virtually destroyed, the Marshall
Column 310plan had to be brought in. The purpose was to reconstruct Germany, and to enable its great economic engine to serve the purpose which in western Europe only it could serve.
I therefore have three fundamental objections to apartheid. The first relates to economic change. I do not think that it is arguable that sanctions have not been an important factor, but neither do I think that any hon. Member, on either side of the House, can prove that it has, or has not, been the factor that some hon. Members would like to think that it has been in the change of heart that has taken place. I do not believe that it is so. I believe that that argument ignores the character of the Afrikaner, who seldom makes the kind of cringing response that Opposition Members might expect him to make to pressure from outside. I remind the House that there are 2 million of us out there. When I say "us" I refer to English- speaking South Africans. There are 2 million English-speaking South Africans, whose connection with this country is close and often continuous. As every hon. Member knows, we do not like to be pushed around, and we are talking to "us". When in this House or in this country we use the wrong methods in our attempts to influence people we know what reaction we get. The reaction out there will be exacly the same. My second objection is to the blunderbuss character of all sanctions. They are indiscriminate. They affect doctors and nurses and hospitals. They affect teachers and schools. One of South Africa's most distinguished physicists, Professor Serette at Fort Hare, in the most recent issue of New Scientist, stated unequivocally his condemnation of and opposition to sanctions because of the damage that they have done to black education at his university. Opposition Members suggest that all South Africans agree with them, but Professor Serette's remarks give the complete lie to that suggestion.
Does the existence of racial discrimination or ethnic violence justify sanctions anywhere? If so, where does it stop? Who comes next? With whom do we not trade or communicate when this problem has been solved? Not many members of the United Nations would qualify, according to the conditions that we are trying to impose on South Africa.
There are two phrases in the Opposition motion with which I cannot agree. They are "the dismantling of apartheid" and
"the basic structure of apartheid remains intact."
In 1947, there was a most offensive legal institutionalisation of segregation and discrimination, which caused everything that has happened since. South Africa was then one of many countries with segregation ; it was endemic in an imperfect world. Between 1939 and 1945, this very imperfect world lost 20 million to 30 million people, and 30,000 of those who died were South Africans who wanted to defeat the Herrenvolk concept. The people who introduced apartheid in 1947 grotesquely underestimated the reaction of the civilised world to what they were doing.
By definition, therefore, all the legislation that has been passed since 1947 should be dismantled. I wholly share that view, but the ANC is asking for the repeal of all legislation passed since 1910. That may be desirable, but it is a very different proposition. It is like asking Mr. Gorbachev to atone for history by dismantling the USSR
Column 311and all that has happened there since 1917. Both are utterly impractical and both are beyond possibility. It is an unrealistic, naive and fatuous policy which implies that we have a right to sit in judgment. I do not think that we have.
Therefore, I wholly and fully support the Government's policy. I also support the first three lines of the Opposition's amendment, which have very much in common with the Government's policy. I hope that all my hon. Friends will go into the Lobby tonight and give the fullest possible support to the Government.
Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) : I want to refer briefly to three themes that are uppermost in the minds of the public as they consider the recent events in South Africa : jubilation, expectation and apprehension.
If last weekend's events are the fruits of anything, they are the fruits of years of unsung, unselfish campaigning by ordinary people, black and white, through picketing, collecting signatures and lobbying Members of Parliament. I know many people, black and white, who have dedicated their lives to a free South Africa. If the release of Nelson Mandela is a tribute to anything, it is a tribute to all those campaigners, black and white, in Britain and throughout the world. His release has created jubilation among them.
There is also a sense of jubilation among many young black people in Britain. They are often told who their heroes should be, but for many young black people their supreme hero is Nelson Mandela, because of the example that he has set of fortitude, courage, bravery and commitment. He has shown young people what it is to be a black man in the 1990s. Above all, there is a feeling of jubilation among ordinary black people in South Africa, who for generations have borne the brunt of the brutality of apartheid.
There is a sense of expectation, because a free and democratic South Africa might lead to hope for the whole continent. A free and democratic South Africa, with its huge natural resources and its level of industralisation, could help to raise economic standards throughout the continent. There is expectation, too, among many hon. Members and those outside the House that we shall live to see Nelson Mandela as head of state in a free, democratic and non-racial South Africa.
There is also apprehension, due to a tiny Fascist element among the white population in South Africa. They will fight as fearlessly and ruthlessly as the Algerian settlers fought, but to as little purpose. However, they will cause enormous disruption and there might be great bloodshed. One wonders whether the police and the army are really under the control of the state.
Although there has been much talk about fear of a white backlash, I urge the Secretary of State to look northwards to Zimbabwe. I had the privilege of visiting Zimbabwe two years ago. After one of the most bitter civil wars, it is a tribute to the essential humanity of African people that both black and white people live side by side in peace in Zimbabwe. Ian Smith can walk the streets without a police guard. We should not, therefore, be too carried away by talk of threats to the white minority.
There are many different groupings and many different tribes. The possibility therefore exists of upheaval, of the exploitation of tribalism and of the policy of divide and
Column 312rule. If Ministers accuse the Opposition of irresponsibility in supporting sanctions and of wishing the armed struggle to continue, what do they say to President Bush, who has stated that sanctions cannot yet be removed?
The overwhelming feeling in the hearts and minds of us all when we saw Nelson Mandela walk out of prison after 27 years was jubilation. It proved to the Opposition that there is no power on earth that can keep down a people who are determined to be free.
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) : During the last few months, we have savoured sweet moments of history. The Berlin wall is down ; the Brandenburg gate is open. Now the most important political prisoner of our day has been liberated. Who can forget, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) has just said, the joy of seeing Mr. Mandela step that grand step into freedom? He can play a unique role in the transition from the old to the new South Africa. His royal progress culminated in yesterday's rally and triumphant homecoming in Soweto. His appeal for discipline and dignity was echoed by the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) and other contributors to the debate. The historic grandeur of that moment of joy was not matched by the British Government's response. After her ritual expression of pleasure, the Prime Minister, true to form, rushed into a call for the easing of sanctions. She had already abandoned unilaterally some of the sanctions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) mentioned the new investment. That cannot be justified legally. The sanctions relating to scientific and cultural exchanges that have already been abandoned ought properly, had we been true partners, to have been taken to the Commonwealth and the European Economic Community.
I remind the Foreign Secretary of the preface to the 1986 Commonwealth Nassau statement on scientific and cultural exchanges : "For our part, we have, as an earnest of our opposition to apartheid, reached accord on a programme of common action as follows :".
That is very different from a unilateral abandonment of sanctions. Similarly, the preface, agreed with our EC partners, on the discouragement of scientific and cultural exchanges says : "the Ten and Spain and Portugal have decided to harmonize their attitudes on the following measures".
Again, that would be working in partnership with our colleagues. The tragedy for Britain of the unilateral enunciation is not only that it spurns our colleagues, but it gives a clear and wrong signal to white and black in South Africa. To the white reactionary element, it says effectively that we are ready to yield at an early stage. To the blacks, it only underlines what they have known all along--that the Prime Minister is ever ready to protect the reactionary element against the wrath of world opinion. The Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State must know in their hearts as they speak to our people in South Africa just what damage is being done to our work among the black community, which will be the South Africa of the future, by the image which the Prime Minister gives.
We know that policy on South Africa comes from No. 10 and that the Foreign Office is increasingly marginalised.
Column 313The Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State know the damage being done by the attitude of the Prime Minister. It has confirmed the view in South Africa that her passions are stonger against sanctions than against apartheid. Indeed, she fails to recognise that apartheid itself amounts to sanctions against the majority in South Africa.
When Mr. Mandela, as a black South African, stepped out into freedom, it was in many ways the unfreedom of all black people in South Africa. Sanctions must be maintained, as a continued pressure for change and as an indication of the international resolve to end apartheid, until we are further down the road, when the momentum to negotiate is well under way. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said : "I do not think that sanctions have achieved anything".--[ Official Report, 13 February 1990 ; Vol. 1967, c. 140.]
Let her tell that to the business community, the Anglos and others in South Africa, and see how they respond.
The Prime Minister does not recognise that she is on her own, not only in Europe, but in respect of President Bush. Worse, in regard to our international stance, she is gratuitously using up our international goodwill, as, sadly, she has done in another sphere in her response to German unification, again by gratuitously irritating our allies in Europe and in the German Federal Republic. It cannot be good for British foreign policy to be thus isolated. Gareth Evans, the Australian Foreign Minister, said it all when he said that the Prime Minister is "isolated and irrelevant".
Already, in December 1989, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said, we had entered reservations in what was otherwise a consensus resolution at the United Nations. That is why I believe that I speak on behalf not only of the official Opposition but of the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), who spoke for the Liberal party and who has played such a distinguished role in the fight against apartheid, when I say that it cannot be good for Britain that we are now seen by those who have struggled over the years for freedom in South Africa as the major protectors of a system which has done so much damage to them.
In that context, given the past protection of the white minority, and given the fact that the Government have refused to meet ANC leaders and that the Prime Minister has called the ANC "just another terrorist organisation", with her real passion coming from attacks on the ANC, is it not clear that the Prime Minister's invitation to Mr. Mandela to visit this country is both naive and impertinent? The purpose of the debate is not just to expose the Prime Minister and to show that we are alone, but to take the opportunity to affirm to the world that there is a different view from that of the Prime Minister, as we have seen from the courageous speeches of the hon. Members for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), Hertford and Stortford and others. We want to reaffirm to the world that the majority here are progressive and concerned, and rejoice with the underprivileged majority in South Africa at the liberation of their great leader. We know, as they do, that it would be wrong to lift sanctions, because sanctions have been one of the key factors which have led to change. Events since 2 February have raised hope that the bloodbath which the Eminent Persons Group of the Commonwealth foresaw in 1986 may not come to pass.
Column 314That, in part, is the result of the vision of President de Klerk and the integrity to which Mr. Mandela himself paid tribute. Indeed, those two men can play a key role in history, President de Klerk as, hopefully, the last white President of South Africa and Mr. Mandela as, hopefully, the first black President of that country. In passing, if the whites in South Africa have apprehensions, let them look over the border to Namibia and remember the dire predictions about the whites fleeing from Namibia and about the economy collapsing. What do we see now? A democratic constitution was agreed last week as a prelude to independence, which will take place on 21 March. There is major investment by the international community in that country. In our judgment, it is a model for what can happen across the border in South Africa if only we have men of vision able to carry forward the dialogue to the new South Africa.
Having spent many weeks in South Africa over the years, I never fail to be amazed at the capacity of the blacks to forgive, as we have seen in Zimbabwe. For that I have great respect. Part of the tragedy of British foreign policy in past weeks has been that the Government, in the shape of the Prime Minister, have identified us with the old regime at a time of rapid change. The Prime Minister takes the reluctant Foreign Office with her. By contrast, we identify with the new, and with those who seek fundamental reforms in South Africa, who seek an end to apartheid and who want to use the vast potential of that country for the benefit of all its citizens. 6.47 pm
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave) : It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for SwanseaEast (Mr. Anderson) who, if we remove the obligatory rude remarks about the Prime Minister which have to decorate every Opposition speech, made many points with which I can agree.
I shall start with a secondary issue raised by the Leader of the Opposition --the question of isolation. It is a secondary issue because, if we could win the argument that the action that we are taking is right, it does not matter that we are alone. A radical party such as the Labour party should be wary of saying that we always have to move in total consensus. A radical party would find itself in an odd position if it believed that that was so. The argument is about whether we are right. As the Leader of the Opposition asked what will happen if we are isolated in the European Community, let me make matters clear, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State did. Of course, we are obliged, and willingly accept the obligation, to consult our partners in the European Community, which is what we will do on 20 February. If we fail to reach agreement, the Government must reserve the right to act on their own, if necessary. That is the legal position.
The much more fundamental argument that goes to the root of whether we are doing the right thing has been mentioned on all sides, and it was raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) and for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd). There is a profound sense in which we are not isolated. No one doubts for a moment that it has been the policy of the ANC to argue for comprehensive sanctions ; it is unclear whether the Labour party is still arguing for comprehensive mandatory sanctions. But that is a legitimate argument.
Column 315Many people in South Africa and elsewhere who have perfectly good credentials to argue against apartheid take a different view. It was quite fair for my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate to refer to opinion polls among the blacks in South Africa, and it is fair to refer to the views of Chief Buthelezi.
It is obvious that Mr. Mandela will be a key player. Many take the same view as the hon. Member for Swansea, East that he will be the key player, but he is one voice among many in a complex situation, rightly defined in a formidable speech by the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) and an excellent short speech by the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott). We often oversimplify such issues, and one of the dangerous
oversimplifications is to say that the ANC is the only voice of South Africa.
As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made perfectly clear, we are not arguing for the abolition of all sanctions. No one is arguing that we should abolish the sanctions on arms sales, for example. As the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said, until the end of the speech by the hon. Member for Swansea, East, no one on the Opposition Front Bench tried to deal with the issue at the centre of our case. Is it not right to try to make some response to the steps that Mr. de Klerk has taken? My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley), in an intervention, at least produced an argument--the first that I had heard against doing that-- which was taken up by the Leader of the Opposition. He said that we might strengthen the hand of the Right wing by doing so. I agree with the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington that we should not make too much of the white backlash, although comparisons with settlers in Rhodesia who always knew their status and the Boers in South Africa are a little dangerous. However, while President de Klerk has the present constitution, he must show his own constituents that it is worth their while following him.
The Leader of the Opposition asked whether there have been any requests from South Africa. The South African Government have made it clear that they desperately hope for some response to the steps that they have taken. They are not unrealistic ; they do not believe that they will get very much, but they want some response so that they can demonstrate to their own constituents that it is worth continuing down that road. Surely that argument is at least worth considering. Our emotional commitments against apartheid should not make us doubt our role. It is better that it be done by consensus, but that is not always possible. We have to find a policy, not simply an emotional response, and our policy is to push, press and argue that negotiations are the way forward.
Column 316Foreign Secretary. I shall ask the Minister the same question as I would have asked the Secretary of State. How can the Government ask the ANC to make concessions, following Mr. de Klerk's announcement and the release of Nelson Mandela, when the largely cosmetic changes that were made about segregation do not belie the fact that the Group Areas Act and the Labour Relations Act are still in force in a country where some people do not have a vote? Most important from my point of view, as I represent the interests of trade unionists internationally, there is still a system in which poverty wages down the pits, in the factories and in the townships mean that millions of people live in misery. Until those problems are solved, how the hell can the Government ask the ANC to make any more concessions?
Mr. Waldegrave : The hon. Gentleman's points were dealt with in the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), which I shall turn to next, paying tribute in passing to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). I am sure that my right hon. Friend is right that the background of world politics has contributed to changing the attitudes of both sides in South Africa. No one is immune from the spirit of the possibility of peace and negotiation that is sweeping the world. The attitude of the Communist party in Russia to its connected parties in South Africa has been very important.
Like the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North asked how we could take such a step before the pillars of apartheid had been destroyed. That shows a complete misunderstanding of the European Community sanctions. I beg the hon. Gentleman to read once again the preamble to the 1986 decisions which were designed to bring about national dialogue across the racial barriers. As Mr. Mandela, among others, says, we are now approaching that-- [Interruption.] I quoted it yesterday and my right hon. Friend quoted it earlier. As usual, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) comments from a sedentary position. If he still does not know the truth, I shall send it to him and he can learn it by heart.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North said that what has happened is all cosmetic--the words of the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East--because the really big things such as the dismantling of apartheid are not up for negotiation. That is where he and I disagree. Perhaps he and Mr. Mandela divide on this issue, because when Mr. Mandela talks about integrity, he is surely saying that he trusts President de Klerk to negotiate those issues. Mr. de Klerk's spokesman, the Minister of Constitutional Development, reiterated the points of agreement with Mr. Mandela and said that they now have a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement. Mr. Viljoen made those points, and President de Klerk agreed with him again today that they reject any system of white or black domination--or any domination of one group over another. On the two most fundamental issues of all they say that the remains of apartheid--although some of us believe that the most important parts of the structure still remain--must be removed. Whether they are remains or pillars of apartheid, they must be removed. Even the South African
Column 317Government Minister believes so, and that will be included in the negotiations. Finally, Mr. Viljoen said that they were aiming for universal suffrage in a united democratic South Africa, and President de Klerk reaffirmed that in television interviews today.
If that is not putting the pillars of apartheid on the table for negotiation--if I can be excused a mixed metaphor--I do not know what is. The South African Government are making it clear that the door is open for talks ; they are welcoming everybody, including the ANC, to those talks ; they are not making unnecessary difficulties about the background of anyone to whom they wish to talk ; and they are moving towards accepting the olive branch that has been offered by Mr. Mandela in terms of talking about defensive action. That is very close to the principle that we have espoused in the House of mutually winding down on both sides. The South African Government are cutting their defence forces.
Against that background, with the talks ready to begin and the South African Government making it clear that what the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North calls the pillars of apartheid are the subject of negotiations, should we still behave as though nothing has changed? The British Government consider that a response should be made, as my right hon. Friend made perfectly clear, without sweeping away the existing pressures which are not fundamentally caused by the actions of any Government. We all know that what really shook South Africa was not the sanctions or any act of Government, but the actions of the commercial banks in their credit negotiations. Those banks and investors know very well that, unless South Africa moves, there will be conflict. That is why people will not invest there. It is not because the Twelve, the 24 or the Commonwealth tell them not to invest there ; it is because they can see the truth. Now that there is a chance of movement and the hope that those investments will return, whatever anyone says, it is perfectly legitimate for us to say that it is pointless to discourage them. In the new climate it would be wrong to discourage them. We should look for some response to the steps that have been taken.
For many years, the Labour party told us that the Government had caused a dreadful block because there were no sanctions. Labour Members cannot now argue that the fundamental changes have been brought about by sanctions which they have repeatedly argued in the House have no more than symbolic power. They try to have the argument both ways, but logically they cannot.
I hope that the powerful speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) and for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) laid to rest any claims that the concerns about apartheid are felt by only one side of the House. There is no Member of the House who is not committed to the destruction of apartheid. The arguments are entirely about the tactics and how to make the transition without the revolutionary destruction of the economy and potential of South Africa that could all too easily come about. That is why I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for the Government amendment. Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question :--
The House divided : Ayes 214, Noes 278.
Column 318Division No. 74] [7 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane
Archer, Rt Hon Peter
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Beith, A. J.
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Buckley, George J.
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Cunningham, Dr John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Godman, Dr Norman A.
Golding, Mrs Llin
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Harman, Ms Harriet
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Heffer, Eric S.
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Home Robertson, John
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Johnston, Sir Russell
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Mo n)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Macdonald, Calum A.
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marek, Dr John