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Column 486All 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
Column 487priority 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 Lome convention, 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.
Lome 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 Lome . The United Kingdom is the third largest contributor after Germany
Column 488and 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.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: 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.
It is disgraceful that Britain is the only country that has called for a considerable reduction in its cash contribution to Lome . 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.
Mr. David Howell (Guildford): 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
Column 489Government 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
Column 490one 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
Column 491South 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 Lome 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 be 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.
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Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale): 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.
Column 493The 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.
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
Column 494are 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.
Column 495As 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. 5.25 pm
Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster): 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.
Column 496I 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.
Mr. Temple-Morris: 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.
Column 497We 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.
Mr. Gordon Oakes (Halton): 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.
Column 498Another 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 back. 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
Column 499civilisation: people drive on the left-hand side of the road. That will certainly prove to be a big attraction for British tourists.
Mr. 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?