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Mr. Oakes: I think that that is a superb idea. I would not inflict the rigours of a British winter on the new South African Parliament by inviting its members to this Chamber. I think that it is a great idea, although my hon. Friend's suggestion is made tongue in cheek. I agree with the hon. Member for Leominster, who referred to our role in Europe. We can play an important transitional or bridging role in South Africa's development as the link between that new member of the Commonwealth and the whole of Europe. I do not believe that one cannot be a passionate supporter of Europe and a supporter of the Commonwealth. There is nothing alien about that. I emphasise that Britain can play an important role in bridging the gap between Europe and the Commonwealth. Tourists from this country, Germany, Scandinavia, Holland, and so on would flock to the South African sunshine if the tourist industry were to get its act together and provide holiday opportunities.
Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham): I agree completely with the right hon. Gentleman. Does he think that there should be more public pressure on the South African and the British airlines to increase passenger capacity on flights to South Africa? It is almost impossible to book a seat on a plane to South Africa from about November to February. That shows that the prices are too high and the passenger capacity is too small.
Mr. Oakes: I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. I hope that private enterprise will take the lead--as it did in the case of Spain--and that some of the smaller companies will break the ring of airline prices by offering cheap fares and package tours. Tourism is one of the few industries today that is labour intensive. It generates many jobs of all sorts--not just high-powered ones, but jobs for waiters, chamber maids and chefs--in the country that is the tourist destination. I hope that the Commonwealth Institute will urge the tourist industry to hold a seminar for educational purposes. It will be performing a valuable task not only for this country but for the Commonwealth as a whole.
Every member of the House--and certainly every member of the Commonwealth-- warmly welcomes the return of South Africa to the Commonwealth of nations as a democratic country. As the hon. Member for Leominster and my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) said, South Africa will experience great difficulties. After the euphoria of gaining the vote, people will expect to secure jobs and own houses immediately. That will not occur within a year--it may not occur for a decade.
President Mandela and the Government of South Africa face an uphill battle. They have inveterate enemies within South Africa who want to see them fail. There is a tremendous groundswell of demand from the people of South Africa who have waited all their lives for the economic freedom that they do not yet enjoy. They will
Column 500not have that freedom until the South African Government have sufficient resources to provide the necessary infrastructure, jobs, educational places, and so on.
This country--with our close historical bonds, our investments in and our love of South Africa--should take the lead in helping the South African Government to provide the economic liberty that the people of South Africa quite rightly demand.
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North): It is a personal pleasure for me to address my remarks to the House in a somewhat calmer atmosphere than that which has greeted my comments on the somewhat thorny subject of South Africa in the past. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple -Morris) said, in the spirit of "no revenge", I shall not try to wreak any on Opposition Members or upon my hon. Friends.
In the context of the South Africa Bill, I would like to lay to rest two old chestnuts that the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) tried to revive. [Interruption.] I beg the hon. Lady's pardon if I have mispronounced the name of her constituency but, following the defeat at Murrayfield on Saturday, I have forgotten everything that might be supportive of her adopted country. I totally refute the claim that I ever supported the system of apartheid. I said on many occasions on the Floor of the House that I considered it to be a gross violation of human rights. I worked to end apartheid. The difference between the hon. Lady and some of her friends and me is that we went about it differently. The hon. Lady and her friends and other opponents of the South African Government sought to end apartheid by chucking stones at a glasshouse. I respect their opinion and the way in which they waged their campaign. I felt--as my Government did to a certain extent--that contact with South Africa was necessary to ensure that change occurred from within that country.
In that context, the almost total castigation of all South African politicians who were members of that Government, and in some cases possibly of the then Opposition, was totally wrong, because many politicians in South Africa--the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) mentioned one of the most prominent ones--were totally against the system of apartheid and were working even within the National party, let alone on the liberal side, to have that system abolished. Mr. de Klerk, not at the time the greatest liberal of them all, had the courage to see that the system was not only unworkable but unacceptable to the rest of the world. My second point is that I said in the House, even before South Africa had a change of Government, that I was looking forward to the day that it would rejoin the Commonwealth. It was a great sadness to many of us when in 1961 it voluntarily withdrew from the Commonwealth, with all the problems that it faced from that time onwards. I hope that we will welcome the Bill in a spirit of reconciliation and looking to the future; I certainly would like to do so.
In some cases, the effect of sanctions had some political advantages in changing the then South African Government's mind; but they also had, as I think members of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and others must recognise, a devastating effect on the lives of many South Africans.
Column 501I found it strange that the hon. Member for Cynon Valley came to my constituency and, with great relish, in front of the press photographers poured bottles of South African red wine down the drain under some banner outside one of my public houses. I still have the photograph, if the hon. Lady would like to see it. That wine was produced in the Cape, mainly by those of non-white origin. Had the hon. Lady visited South Africa, as I did at the time, and spoken to the workers at those wine farms and in those factories, she would have appreciated that it was very easy, from the lush pastures of Westminster, to cry foul and support sanctions when they had a devastating effect on jobs, and realised the full implications of that policy on the people at that time.
This is not the place to argue about whether sanctions were correct or whether they had the effect that some would claim for them, but they brought enormous misery to many people and were not totally supported throughout South Africa.
I shall confine the remainder of my remarks to welcoming the resumption of sporting relationships throughout the Commonwealth and other bodies. As the House will know, that has been the force of my campaign ever since I entered Parliament in 1979.
I salute the leaders of the African National Congress and in particular President Mandela, who as soon as he began to have some political influence, even before he became president after the election last April, said that sports sanctions should be lifted. He surprised many observers, as that was a political weapon which he could so easily have used to beat not only the white politicians, who at that time still held power within South Africa, but those outside who did not wish South Africa particularly well. Almost as soon as he was released from prison, he instructed that the ANC should co-operate in terms of the bringing international supporting relations back to South Africa. I congratulate and salute him for that, although at the time it was a surprise to me and the rest of the sporting word.
It is one area in which contact was continued, in some cases in difficult and unfortunate circumstances. It meant that the aspirations of some South Africans, black and white, were to a limited extent still met in a system that was not acceptable to everybody: but, because many courageous sports administrators wanted to maintain and encourage sporting contacts with the rest of the world, in the early 1980s the then South African Government said that discrimination in sport was put on one side and apartheid laws such as pass laws did not exist for sporting purposes.
We welcome South Africa back into the Commonwealth. We welcome the fact that sportsmen and women are playing on international fields. They played a marvellous game in Auckland in the centenary test against the New Zealanders. We look forward to English
participation--and possibly Welsh participation, in honour of the hon. Member for Cynon Valley--in the World cup in South Africa, and in particular the visit by the Lords and Commons IX in September to fly the parliamentary flag so well flown in this place by the hon. Member for Leominster and the right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes). I know that many hon. Members are very much looking forward to that trip. As the hon. Member for Cynon Valley said, the Commonwealth
Column 502games, or the friendly games, are the place where South Africans have a chance to meet fellow sports men and women throughout the world, and the spirit of those games has improved over the past few years.
I take the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford that the Commonwealth now has higher standing than before. That is possibly because the thorny question of South Africa has now gone off the agenda. As the right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) said, Sonny Ramphal, in his time as the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, seemed to spend most of his time berating the South Africans or trying to help those countries surrounding South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman was absolutely right to say that some of his worst fears were never actually realised. Perhaps the politicians in Pretoria were not quite the ogres they were originally thought to be.
The Commonwealth now has a chance to improve its image and, indeed, to become a greater power in a competitive international world. In business terms, South Africa will need an enormous amount of investment, and there are still those who are hung up on the old system. It is the duty of the House, and partly the purpose of the Bill, to ensure all the old adages and thoughts about South Africa are now swept on one side on the basis that it is a country that can give enormous impetus to the business economy in that part of the world. If it does so through trading within the Commonwealth, so be it; that obviously is to its advantage.
We can ill afford to ignore the part that South Africa has played, certainly in economic terms, over the past few years. I would say to the hon. Member for Cynon Valley that, even before the change of Government, South Africa was trading with some 49 out of 51 African countries, and in some cases helping them with their economies. The prospects are very good. The shadow over South Africa is its own internal problems, over which we have little control. They involve the tribal system, which is rife throughout the whole of South Africa and which is a proud tradition not only in the black population but in the white population. That, to a certain extent, is for South Africa to sort out, with our assistance, guidance and help. I welcome the Bill. It is a joy for me to see South Africa back on an agenda to be talked about with pleasure, and back in the family of the Commonwealth. I salute the visit of Her Majesty the Queen within the next few weeks or so. It obviously will be an enormous boost to that country and I wish the Bill Godspeed through this place. 5.58 pm
Mr. Hugh Bayley (York): Like every other right hon. and hon. Member in the Chamber, I welcome the Bill. It is perhaps a tribute to Nelson Mandela that he has created circumstances in which a Bill can be brought before the House that Members of all parties so warmly commend.
One of the reasons why Britain's relationship with South Africa is so important is that, because of the country's recent history, so many members of the present South Africa Government spent many years in Britain. I am sure that I am not alone in numbering as close personal friends a few members of the present South Africa Government.
Column 503When I was a student, I was lobbied on things South African by Aziz Pahed, who then worked in the ANC office in London and was deputed to lobby students. As deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in South Africa, he now fulfils the same role as the Under- Secretary of State. I remember Nkozozana Dlamini-Zuma, now Minister for Health, who came to Britain after the Soweto disturbance to complete her medical training. When I was at York university, a fellow student in the centre for southern African studies was Alex Erwin, who is now deputy Finance Minister.
Our country and South Africa have a unique opportunity to forge close links built on this mutual understanding and friendship. It is in the interest of our country as much as of South Africa to ensure that country's economy develops successfully and vibrantly to the benefit of all people in South Africa. That could also act as a catalyst for development throughout Africa.
Of all the continents, Africa has the furthest to go in terms of development. It is the continent of greatest poverty, where more people become poor in real terms every year. It is important to aid the southern African economy to grow in every way that we can, so that it may act as a catalyst and powerhouse for development throughout Africa.
Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth): Is my hon. Friend aware that good relationships with South Africa are essential for certain British industries? In engineering, for example, some additives to steel that make it suitable for particular purposes are found principally in South Africa and Namibia. It is in our economic interests that the relationships to which my hon. Friend referred are fostered.
I was one of several hon. Members present in the Chamber who were fortunate to be asked last April by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to visit South Africa as election observers. On the final day that the votes were counted, there were not enough tickets for observers, so to do something useful I spent the day finding out about health care in South Africa, which is an interest of mine in terms of domestic policy.
I visited the Alexandra health centre in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg and Baragwaneth hospital, which serves Soweto. The doctors at Alexandra said that as there had been no census of black people in South Africa, they had undertaken a survey of social conditions. They identified 36 per cent. unemployment and 37 per cent. homelessness, with people living in self-built shacks. Only 19 per cent. of Alexandra's population had running water in their homes and only 12 per cent. had toilets. Fewer than one person in 10 out of a population of hundreds of thousands was over the age of 40. That emphasises that although political apartheid has gone, the legacy of apartheid still runs deep. We have humanitarian obligations to address that legacy and those inequalities. I was told at Baragwaneth hospital that the World Bank had reported that 53 per cent. of all children aged two to four in South Africa have stunted growth because of malnutrition. South Africa has half a million people infected with HIV, and another 500 cases are reported
Column 504each day. It is expected that in 15 years, between 18 per cent. and 24 per cent. of South Africa's population will be infected. If a rich and developed country such as Britain faced that burden of disease, its economic development, viability and social stability would be tremendously compromised and threatened. When a poorer country such as South Africa is under such a burden, although we wish it well, that places many rocks on the path to its economic development.
I agree with the Minister that South Africa's development will need investment and trade as well as aid. Investment and trade will be driven by market forces. I urge the Minister to guarantee that the Government will the UK aid for South Africa's reconstruction to further the principles of social justice and erase the legacy of apartheid. That would be wholly consistent with the Government priority of targeting aid at the poor--since the poor were the victims of apartheid.
The problems of social disadvantage in South Africa will be dealt with largely by local authorities rather than the national Government. The Minister mentioned the elections in October. The Local Government International Bureau says that a number of British local authorities have expressed interest in playing a part in assisting the development of South African social policy through technical co-operation.
The local authority technical link scheme for eastern Europe could perhaps provide a model for the exchange or provision of expertise. That scheme was recently evaluated, and although improvements were proposed, it was found generally to provide good value for money. Perhaps the Minister will reflect on whether a similar scheme could be launched for southern Africa as part of Britain's development programme.
Mr. Colin Shepherd (Hereford): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for York (Mr. Bayley), who was in South Africa during the course of the elections as a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association outbound delegation.
I join the general felicitations for South Africa's return to the Commonwealth which gives rise to today's debate. Tonight in the Palace of Westminster, for the first time since 1961, we have the presence of a member of South Africa's national Parliament as a delegate to the 44th Westminster parliamentary seminar, co-hosted by the UK branch and international secretariat of the CPA, of which I have the honour to be chairman of the executive committee. It is a nice coincidence that both occasions are running in parallel tonight.
Some years ago, we resolved to reach out beyond the CPA's natural remit to countries outside the Commonwealth, because we felt it appropriate, where there was a historical connection, to draw them back in by whatever means. The right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) and I served for a number of years on the international executive committee, and worked together to that end in respect of South Africa.
Column 505One of my first pleasures on assuming the office that I continue to hold was to lead a mission to South Africa in November 1993. It was the exciting time when the transitional constitution was being finally drafted. The purpose was to restate the invitation of Commonwealth parliamentarians to return to--I must be careful these days-- the brotherhood of the Commonwealth. We must be politically correct.
During the mission, we talked to all the leaderships of the political parties that would have Members of Parliament. We talked to all the agencies that would be involved in running elections. We talked also to those in the voluntary sector--the Churches, for example. We found what I can only describe as a hunger for shared experience. As parliamentarians, we have our experience to share. The people to whom we talked were interested in the workings of elections. How were voters to be educated? How was the electoral mechanism to operate? Hovering on the scene was wonderment at what would happen after the forthcoming election. There was no doubt among those to whom we talked that the election would take place, but they were interested in what would happen after that. As soon as the election took place, we restated our invitation to South Africa to engage in Commonwealth parliamentary affairs.
It was a great pleasure to have observers at the African regional conference in May 1994 at Nairobi in the shape of two Clerks of the South African Parliament. In September, the two Houses of the National Assembly passed resolutions to join the CPA. We had for the first time, under the leadership of Senator Govan Mbeki, a full delegation at the plenary conference at Alberta. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister enjoyed the bilateral meetings that he had with that delegation, as I did, under the senator's remarkable leadershi. Many tributes have been paid to personalities during the debate, and it is singular that Senator Mbeki has not been mentioned so far. I want to rectify the omission.
He is a magnificent gentleman who spent 25 years incarcerated on Robben island. He has a serenity and tranquillity about him the like of which I have never come across before, anywhere. I asked him how he survived 25 years of incarceration without becoming bitter, and how he had developed such inner strength. He replied, "Well, I realised that there was another way. I spent my time in prison teaching the incoming youngsters that there was another way." The transitional process reflects the fruits of Senator Mbeki's work, along with that of Nelson Mandela, who also has inner tranquillity and the awareness that there is another way. That is why we now have stability.
One of the common threads of the CPA's discussions is the need to shorten the learning curve of parliamentary expertise. The young lady who escorted me through the parliamentary buildings at Cape Town in August was, as it were, a pointer. She was of indian extraction. I asked how she found things. She replied, "It is extraordinary. I passed here for 20 years as a schoolgirl and student, and it meant nothing to me. Now I am part of it. It is me." She has been engaged in the learning curve. She realised how much there was to learn about working the institution. That common thread has come through all my subsequent discussions.
Column 506In the remarks of my hon. Friend the Minister, and implicit in his brief, is the recognition that priority must be given to the concept of good governance. That has already been said about local government. Good governance is not only the good administration of government: it also involves the understanding of parliamentarians of those who have been elected to various institutions. We can make a contribution as parliamentarians. When I talk about parliamentarians, I mean the broadest spectrum of membership of the CPA.
We believe in this place that we have much to offer, but we are not alone. There is a tremendous wealth of experience among 11,000 parliamentary Members from all forms and structures of democracy in the Commonwealth. The strength of the CPA is that we can draw together the key people who are needed to match a workshop to the needs of the moment and the agenda for it. It is a unique and powerful asset.
In South Africa, there is a National Assembly with two Houses. There are also nine provincial Parliaments. Most of the Members of the provincial Parliaments have never sat before in any instrument of government, or instrument of legislation. That is where one of our great tasks lies.
I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to think about investing some of his aid budget, in conjunction with Baroness Chalker as Minister with responsibilities for overseas development, in parliamentary workshops. A multiplicity of workshops is required within the terms of a good-value-for- money operation. It will not be good enough to set up one workshop and leave. I envisage a programme that will continue over many years. Constant attention must be given to meeting the need.
We must pull together as well the political and parliamentary expertise in surrounding countries, all of which are welcoming the concept of seminars or workshops. I prefer in this context to talk about workshops. We shall be setting up one in Botswana in May-June. We set up one recently in Malawi. One was established recently in Lesotho.
We must maintain the pressure on a wider basis, so that parliamentarians get to know one another, talk to one another and understand and share experiences. Shared experience will lead to a set of circumstances that stops electioneering on the basis of unnaturally heightened expectations. Electioneering must be based on deliverable promises and an understanding of how to deliver those promises. These understandings are so important if there is to be sustained credibility in the concept of democratic elections and government.
To put on a different hat, we are doing our bit in generating trade between the United Kingdom and South Africa. One of the greatest pleasures that I have had as Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Catering was to say on the day after South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth, "Let there be South African wines for sale in the Dining Room." The House is doing its bit.
Column 5076.19 pm
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham): I join all hon. Members in welcoming South Africa back to the Commonwealth, and have very much enjoyed the contributions to the debate. I have one small interest to declare, in that I spent a lot of time in South Africa in the 1980s. I was arrested by the South African police.
Perhaps, unlike the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), who is no longer in his place, I saw a different side to South Africa on my visits down there. I wrote a book--now long remaindered and forgotten--about the black trade union movement, "Black workers, their unions and the struggle for freedom in South Africa". If any hon. Member really cannot fall asleep tonight, I would be happy to provide a copy.
I welcome the Bill and pay tribute--many tributes have been paid this afternoon--to the people who have not been mentioned: those in the black trade union movement in South Africa, who, in the 1970s and 1980s, were the school of democracy, out of which the black majority in South Africa grew into a democratic maturity, which enabled them, with the help of the ANC and of overseas support, to form a movement of ideas and pressures such that it obliged President de Klerk--I salute his recognition of what was happening--to recognise reality. The Minister referred to the help for entrepreneurs that the Government are providing. I would like him in his closing remarks to address the question of what help he will be providing the trade union movement in South Africa, via the Trades Union Congress and the Commonwealth Trades Union Council, which is linked to the Commonwealth Institute.
I know that our ambassador in South Africa has a discretionary fund of some £50,000, which is used to help the several million trade unionists, and the Overseas Development Administration as a whole provides a little under £200,000 for trade union help throughout the entire world. I compare that with the Netherlands, a much smaller country than Britain, which provides some £6 million for that kind of work. The United Kingdom currently gives the smallest help of any industrial country supporting the trade union movement in South Africa. I draw the House's attention to that singular lapse in Government policy towards South Africa.
During the 1970s, Britain had a good record. The British consular department and British diplomats in South Africa were extremely helpful to the burgeoning black independent trade union movement. That was snuffed out dramatically in the 1980s, when the British embassy and British official offices in South Africa became no-go areas for the black trade union movement, at a time when other major countries, such as the United States, Germany, Sweden--even Japan--were giving help and support to the independent black trade union movement in South Africa.
American companies--the Minister referred to the role of British business-- responded to the call of black South Africans by withdrawing from activity in South Africa. BMW and Mercedes, those giant German companies, formally signed legally binding social charter-type agreements with the black trade union movement in South Africa, while British companies, notably BTR and Shell, victimised trade unionists, repressed them, tried to break their unions and fired many thousands of workers after they had gone on strike.
Column 508We have turned a page, and that is good, but let this House record simply that the 1980s were a page of shame for British policy towards the South African people. I hope that, in his reply, the Minister might be prepared to pay tribute to the Trades Union Congress and to the Commonwealth Trades Union Congress, to express, perhaps, a word for the unknown trade unionists--if I had time, I would list the many names --who were killed in the struggle to form independent and democratic trade unions in South Africa.
South Africa has managed its return to democracy, and has done so in large part because of the great experience in democratic organisation of the trade union movement. When parliamentary procedures were denied to the black majority, it was in the trade union movement that they could develop the art of argument, compromise and give and take. That black independent trade union movement was the great school of South African democracy. I hope that we can encourage British companies as they increase their investment in South Africa--and I wish them so to do--to enter into a partnership with the black independent trade union movement in South Africa, because the sphere of economic development, the need for social stability as South Africa tries to handle the problem of the expectations of the mass of its people, is so important for its future harmonious development.
I welcome the Bill. I welcome South Africa's return to the Commonwealth. I rejoice in the fact that I can now go back there freely, and not have to face harassment by the police. I welcome the fact that I can drink South African wine--and wonderful wines they are. I long to take my family on holiday to South Africa, because the air fares will become cheap and the tourist industry will develop. But the British Government should learn lessons from their mishandling of working people in South Africa. They should step up aid, via the TUC and the Commonwealth Trades Union Council. They should also learn the lessons that, in many other parts of the world, it is the working people, whether in Indonesia or China, who are forming independent unions, which are the schools of democracy for those nations as they seek the path not just to development or economic growth but to a democratic participation in the international comity of nations.
Mr. Peter Griffiths (Portsmouth, North): I rise to express my sincere support for the Bill. I am sure that it also has the sincere support of my constituents. Although it is a rather narrow Bill, which deals with administrative frameworks, under your generous chairmanship, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the debate has ranged rather more widely.
The important fact, of course, is that legislative frameworks can never create the results for which the legislation was prepared. The result arises from the actions of individuals, many thousands of them, carrying out actions as a result of the legislative changes. As far as our relationship with South Africa is concerned, it is not the changes in the law that will re-create the bonds we had in the past, and those which we hope to build in future, but the personal relationships between those who live in this country and those who live in South Africa itself.
Column 509I particularly wish to speak about the schedule, because it makes reference to the armed forces of the Republic of South Africa and also the United Kingdom, and about the relationship between those armed forces when there are reciprocal visits. I suppose that it is unlikely that we will ever again have the situation that arose in the second world war, when hundreds of thousands of British service men entered Cape Town on their way to the battle fronts in the far east and the middle east.
My own father was one of those who went into that city, and he was struck by the amazing welcome given to service men by ordinary families in South Africa at that time. We shall never have that scale of interchange of service personnel again.
I represent Portsmouth, which is a great naval base. In that city are those who have family links with South Africa, and they have always prayed for the coming of the situation that we have today, when they can feel free and happy in their associations with that country. They can once again see it as a friendly nation and a good place for their family to live.
I hope that the legislation will facilitate the interchange of naval forces between the United Kingdom and the Republic of South Africa. In the past, there were many links between the two navies; many of my constituents who have retired from the naval service remember the days when they exercised with the South African navy in the south Atlantic from the Simonstown naval base. Many of them say that they were some of the best days they remember, and that it would be marvellous if we could return to such an association.
I trust that young sailors from South Africa will come to our great ports, such as Portsmouth, for training in naval skills. We can offer that to many countries, but on this occasion specifically to South Africa.
I hope that once again our vessels will be sailing to the south Atlantic, to Simonstown, because there is a great security need for a joint naval presence in that part of the world. This afternoon is no time to refer to the conflict in the south Atlantic, when South Africa was not part of the Commonwealth. What a difference it would have made had we had naval facilities then that could have been utilised for the assistance of our armed forces.
The indication in the Bill that we will be welcoming to the armed forces of South Africa as members of Commonwealth visiting forces here will not only mean that we shall welcome them to the United Kingdom but that we shall ensure that our armed forces are represented at joint exercises in South Africa and the south Atlantic.
The Bill is one more step towards the rebuilding of the traditional family friendship which exists between all people in Britain and all the races in South Africa.
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): The hon. Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) is right to draw attention to the family relationship --so many of us have family in South Africa, my own from the time of the Boer war; I have a cousin who must be the only Myfanwy Roberts in South Africa--and the reservoir of good will which has resulted from the way in which our history has grown up.
Column 510It is a great pleasure to follow so many distinguished hon. Members who have spoken with great personal knowledge of South Africa during the past decades, and a joyful surprise to be involved in a debate on South Africa where I am not crossing swords with the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle). I recall that he had a hot line to the old regime and I am glad that he is now reconciled to the new regime--
"even the ranks of Tuscany".
It is grand that, if there is such wonderful evidence of reconciliation in South Africa, the least we can do in the House is to share some of that same reconciliation. I recall a remarkable Afrikaner whom I met recently who told me that in South Africa they talked about the liberation of the black man, but that his experience as an Afrikaner and a white man was that it was he who was now liberated in his own country. Therefore, a mutual sense of liberation is part of the prospects, the encouragement, for the new South Africa.
All who have spoken have drawn attention to the fact that this is a technical Bill, but it gives us one of those rare opportunities to debate South Africa. Like many hon. Members I am genuinely excited about the developments in South Africa--
"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive".
I was a diplomat in 1962 when South Africa left the Commonwealth. The in joke at the time was that the South African representative had said with surprise that so much would South Africa welcome members from the Commonwealth, black and yellow members of the Commonwealth, that they would build a special hotel for them. That was perhaps the last straw which preceded the departure of South Africa from the Commonwealth.
There then followed almost three decades of missed opportunities, political short-sightedness and oppression of some of the brightest and best people in South Africa. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd) and others have drawn attention to that reconciliation, that forgiveness, which is now so much part of the black experience in South Africa. My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), who has just left the Chamber, drew attention to the importance of the trade unions in South Africa for education, maturity of approach and moderation.
I want to pay tribute to another group in South Africa whose praises are not sung so much but who so helped to bridge the divide. Future historians will ask why, despite the Bantu Education Act and the oppression of the black man over those decades, when South Africa became liberated there were so many black people with the political maturity to move into positions of responsibility. That is partly due to the trade union movement, to which I pay tribute, but also to the churches which allowed black people to move as far as their talents would take them. One thinks of Archbishop Tutu, not only a wonderful man but a symbol of what churches were doing. Dr. Beyers Naude of the South African Council of Churches and the Reverend Frank Chikane are just two of the people who might feel rather like the first stage of a rocket; they have played their role and can now return to the church.
In the middle and late 1980s, many white South Africans were reading Alistair Horne's book "Algeria. The Savage War of Peace" and wondering whether white people in South Africa would be fleeing the country with only a flimsy piece of luggage as many of the whites in Algeria had done. Having visited the country more than
Column 51120 times during the past years, in my judgment one of the fundamental reasons why that did not happen was the influence of the church and the fact that there were grand Christians on both side of what might have been a barricade. That gave an education to both sides. It allowed people to obtain a moderate view and training in administration. The reconciling role of the Church has been fundamental in recent South African history.
I had the privilege to speak on South Africa for the Opposition for nine years. I recall my first visit to South Africa in the early 1980s. I telephoned the man who was then the number two at the South African embassy because I did not want to waste money on my air fair only to be banned on arrival in Johannesburg. That man said that he would not ban me. It is again a happy symbol that that man is now the director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in South Africa--another example of that happy reconciling process in South Africa.
Concurrently, I became senior vice-president of the Association of West European Parliamentarians for Action Against
Apartheid--AWEPAA--which tried to show, even in the darkest days when the army was in the townships and despair was all around, that there was a progressive view in Britain and Europe in respect of the South African situation.
There was also the great role of the Commonwealth. Many in South Africa knew that there were Europeans on their side, but they also knew that the Commonwealth, the reconciling, multi-racial, unique Commonwealth--this is the essential part of the Bill--was fighting their corner.
No one has mentioned, for example, the role of Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the current Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. I understand that he wrote a substantial part of the seminal report of the Eminent Persons Group, produced in 1986--or acted as scribe--and, through considerable personal diplomacy in the region, has helped to build bridges to the new South Africa.
It should be borne in mind that the sub-region is essentially a Commonwealth region: virtually all the countries included in it belong to the Commonwealth. The exceptions are Mozambique--which currently has what that same Secretary-General calls a cousinly relationship with the Commonwealth, whatever that may be, and wants to join--and Angola. The Commonwealth has played, is playing and will continue to play a major role. It is thus hardly surprising that, even in the darkest days, everyone said that once fundamental change had taken place in South Africa one of the first things that they wanted to do was rejoin the Commonwealth. The Bill adds some of the nuts and bolts.
It could all have gone very wrong; but if we believe in miracles in politics, here indeed was a miracle. If there is still scope for joy in politics, here was joy on all sides. A number of us attended the elections last April. I was in Port Elizabeth, and for me the great symbolic time was the moment when I saw a queue of people in the sunshine waiting to vote. The white employer stood with the black servant; black, white, white and black all stood patiently in line--and each vote had the same value. For me, that was part of the great symbolism of reconciliation.
I remain confident about the future. I shall not speak at length about the role of the Commonwealth, because the hon. Member for Hereford--a distinguished former chairman of our United Kingdom Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and now the international president--has already said a good deal about it. We
Column 512know, however, that both the international CPA, which welcomed South Africa back to the family at Banff in October--no legislation was necessary for that return--and our national CPA, along with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, have played a major role.
What can we in the United Kingdom do now to help the process? We can, for instance, try to ensure that South Africa does not slip off the screen; despite all the past interest in Namibia, it--alas--has almost done that. We can try to ensure that South Africa remains high on the international agenda.
Training has been mentioned. Even before the fundamental change in South Africa, the Commonwealth commissioned a report on human resources in the new South Africa: that was an important step. Moreover, training can work both ways: just as we can train South Africa's army, police, educationists and provincial government, South Africa can come and train us, helping to teach us how to play cricket and rugby.
The United Kingdom can play a unique role as an advocate for South Africa in the various international forums of which we are part. The UK, indeed, has a unique role in the world because of our membership of so many of those forums.
Let me say a little about the European Union and the Lome convention. This is probably the main current issue. Much has been said about aid, but it is a relatively small though valuable part of the equation. What South Africa wants most is access to an open European market. Along with those of our European Union partners who do not see the Union as a closed circle, we should act as an advocate for South Africa and others, recognising that in fighting for South Africa's cause we are fighting the cause of the region. South Africa is the region's main motor: in energy matters, for instance, ESKOM has played and will play a major part.
South Africa has recently sought what is described as "alignment" of its future relations with the European Union through the Lome convention. The word "alignment" has been used because the South Africans recognise, realistically, that they cannot hope to become full members of the Lome convention framework: as many hon. Members have pointed out, South Africa is unique in belonging to both the first world and the third world, and the two are very close together there.
What interests South Africa most are the trade provisions relating to market access, cumulation and the right to tender for European development fund projects. The European Commission, however, has ruled out the prospect of the Lome trade provisions being applied to South Africa. It proposes a two-tier approach--effectively an agreement between the European Union and South Africa on trade and co-operation and a protocol to the Lome convention, covering the terms and conditions of the South African accession to the convention.
The Commission argues that there would otherwise be trade diversion, that South Africa's position would be in breach of the general agreement on tariffs and trade and that a number of GATT countries would object to it. Which are those countries? For example, given its record, the United States is hardly likely to take the blame for the blocking of South Africa's access to Lome .
If South Africa cannot diversify and expand its export base, it will be unable to restructure its economy and to bring about the necessary social and economic change.