Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

HC Stmnt: [Hague European Council]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [100/823-34]
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 6437
Themes: Agriculture, Employment, Monetary policy, Public spending & borrowing, Trade, Energy, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (International organizations), Commonwealth (general), Commonwealth (South Africa), European Union (general), European Union Single Market, Civil liberties, Labour Party & socialism, British policy towards South Africa, British relations with France, British relations with Italy, British relations with Netherlands, British relations with the Federal Republic of Germany
[column 823]

European Council

3.30 pm

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the European Council of 26–27 June, which I attended together with my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. The conclusions of the Council have been placed in the Library of the House.

The Council concentrated on five main issues: the situation in South Africa; the creation of jobs within the Community; the completion of the Common Market; the international aspects of agriculture; and concerted action in the light of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl.

On South Africa the European Council expressed its grave concern at the imposition of censorship and the reimposition of the state of emergency by the South African Government and, more generally, at the deteriorating situation in the country at large. It reaffirmed that the goal of the Twelve is the total abolition of apartheid. It also agreed on a concerted programme of financial and material assistance from the Community and member Governments to the victims of apartheid, in particular those affected by the disturbances in Crossroads, and to political prisoners, including those arrested under the recent state of emergency.

In our own case we shall be making available a further £15 million over five years, mainly for education and training of non-white South Africans, and additional help for transport projects in neighbouring states. This is in addition to the £22 million which we are already giving.

The Council called for the opening without delay of negotiations between the South African Government and leaders of the black people in South Africa. To make such a dialogue possible, it called on the South African Government unconditionally to release Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners and to lift the ban on the African National Congress and other political parties. The Council also agreed that the Community should in the next three months enter into consultations with other industrialised countries on further measures which might be needed, covering a ban on new investment, and the import of coal, iron, steel and gold coins from South Africa.

Finally, the Council asked my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, in his capacity as President of the Foreign Ministers of the Twelve from today, to visit southern Africa in a further effort to establish conditions in which the necessary negotiations can commence.

On job creation, the European Council welcomed the programme put forward by the United Kingdom and some other member states for creating the conditions for employment growth. This calls for the job-creating capacity of small businesses to be maximised by reducing the burden of unnecessary regulations; for improved training; and for measures to help the long-term unemployed back into work. We want to see greater attention given to those matters within the Community and priority given to them in the operation of the social fund. This will be of particular value to the United Kingdom. Our proposals were clearly reflected in the Council's conclusions. We shall concentrate of implementing them during the United Kingdom's Presidency. [column 824]

On the Common Market, the European Council urged more rapid decisions if the timetable of completing removal of the barriers to a genuine single market in the Community by 1992 is to be achieved. This will be another priority for the United Kingdom presidency because of the contribution which completion of the Market can make to creating jobs.

The Council selected some areas for early progress which are of particular interest to the United Kingdom, such as liberalisation of transport and of capital movements. On agriculture, the European Council recognised, as had the economic summit Seven in Tokyo, the need to look at agricultural subsidies and protectionism on a worldwide basis. It agreed that the problem of agricultural trade must be dealt with in the forthcoming round of international trade negotiations; that agricultural production in the European Community should be better adjusted to the market situation so that the share of public expenditure claimed by agriculture can be reduced; and that there should be bilateral discussions with other major agricultural suppliers to try to eliminate the problems of chronic surpluses and competitive subsidies.

The Council discussed the lessons to be learned from the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. It agreed on the need for better international collaboration on nuclear safety under the aegis of the International Atomic Energy Agency. It called for general contamination tolerance levels for the Community to be established quickly on a scientific basis. The Council recognised that nuclear power would continue to have a vital role in meeting energy needs in the Community in future.

The Council also called for rapid progress on the easing of restrictions on passenger traffic across Community frontiers; on mutual recognition of professional qualifications; and on the action programme against cancer. It welcomed the intention of the British presidency to hold a conference of Interior Ministers in the autumn to discuss ways of improving the Community's defences against terrorism, drug trafficking and illegal immigration. This European Council set useful priorities for the United Kingdom's presidency of the European Community over the next six months, particularly in the creation of jobs.

The Council adopted a positive and constructive approach to the bitterly difficult problem of South Africa. We are well aware of the magnitude of the task facing my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary in the mission on which he embarks, but all who genuinely want a peaceful solution will wish him well.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

I can at least endorse the Prime Minister's last sentence. We wish the Foreign Secretary well and regret that the actions of the Prime Minister herself have added hugely to the magnitude of the Foreign Secretary's task. Is it not shamefully obvious that in The Hague last week the Prime Minister was continuing her Nassau habit of first participating in an agreement at a Heads of Government conference and then using the first press conference to rat on that agreement?

Does the Prime Minister recall that the Eminent Persons Group, including her nominee, Lord Barber, gave the clear view that

“the Botha regime is not prepared to negotiate fundamental change” .


“moved consciously away from any realistic negotiating process”

[column 825]and has been

“moving in the opposite direction”

from lifting bans on political organisations?

Does the Prime Minister not further recognise that the members of the EPG concluded that they could not

“see merit in further discussions”

and said:

“the Government of South Africa made it impossible for us to proceed further” ?

In the mere four weeks since the EPG wrote that, what has changed in South Africa other than the passing of two further Acts of tyrannical legislation, the imposition of totalitarian controls on reporting, thousands more detentions and disappearances, and at least 100 more violent deaths?

Against that background, why does the Prime Minister believe that the Foreign Secretary can succeed with pleading where so many others have signally failed over the past few years? Can she not recognise, as the EPG recognised, that the absence of sanctions measures defers change and accelerates the descent into violence? Does she not recognise that her resistance to action does not reduce violence but makes it even more certain, both inside South Africa and against South Africa's neighbouring states? Is she aware that the mission of the Foreign Secretary might be more credible if she did not have a record as the appeaser of apartheid? By her record she has ensured that she, and the Foreign Secretary are seen as nothing more than glove puppets without even the weapon of sanctions to back up the views of the EEC?

I must ask the Prime Minister a question which is in the minds of many people, of all colours, in many countries: if the atrocities of apartheid were committed by a black minority against a white majority, would she respond to that horror and injustice with obstruction and evasion as she is at present? In these matters, those who stand aside, like the Prime Minister, stand condemned.

The Prime Minister

The decision taken at The Hague last week was a decision of 12 nations of the Community. They were united on the position. Our approach remains to promote peaceful change in South Africa. The mission of my right hon. and learned Friend has that objective. It was supported by all 12 nations of the Community and it should be supported by every hon. Member.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about sanctions. The last Labour Government in power were against sanctions. The present responsible Governments of all 12 nations are also against sanctions. The deputy leader of the Labour party is against sanctions. Sanctions have never been known to bring about internal change. Sanctions in Rhodesia did not bring about internal change. The matter had to be resolved by negotiation. My Sir Geoffrey Howeright hon. and learned Friend will try to help to resolve the matter by negotiation. All people of good will will wish him well.

Sir Peter Tapsell (East Lindsey)

In view of Britain's unique position in being, simultaneously, a member of the Security Council, the General Assembly, the EEC, the Commonwealth, and the Anglo-American alliance, is it not clear that my right hon. Friend is particularly well placed to play a constructive role in advising southern Africa on her affairs, and that she is wise to continue as she has in this long historical process—to retain her room for manoeuvre and negotiation at this stage rather than to indulge in the empty posturings of some right hon. Gentlemen opposite?

[column 826]

The Prime Minister

Yes, I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Mandatory sanctions were imposed on Rhodesia for nearly 15 years. They did not bring about internal change. They have never been known to bring about internal change.

Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)

What did?

The Prime Minister

The matter of Rhodesia had to be resolved by negotiations. How much better it would be to try to embark on negotiations now and to bend one's efforts to persuading the South African Government that that would be the wise course.

Dr. David Owen(Plymouth, Devonport)

Does not the Prime Minister accept that there is a widespread view in the Commonwealth and in the other western industrialised countries that some sanctions need to be applied; the question is, what sanctions? Since the Prime Minister believes in negotiating from strength with the Soviet Union, why does she believe in negotiating from weakness with President Botha?

The Prime Minister

I do not believe that we are negotiating from weakness in any way. Certain measures have been taken against South Africa. Certain contingency plans outlined in the communiqué are being made. We are not negotiating from weakness. We are negotiating in a way which we believe will have the best chance of success. We do not think that threatening further sanctions immediately or automatically will help to bring about the negotiations that we desire between the South African Government and the representatives of the black South African people?

Mr. Michael Grylls(Surrey, North-West)

My right hon. Friend spent a lot of time, rightly, in the summit considering the question of creating new jobs in the Community and reducing unemployment. Has it occurred to her that if she had allowed the Community to take trade and industrial sanctions, they would have reduced jobs in Britain as well as jobs for moderate blacks in South Africa? That would be the arch-hypocritical position to follow. Will my right hon. Friend keep up her good work, maintain her stand, and do everything she can to encourage the South African Government to keep up the momentum of internal reform which they have already started?

The Prime Minister

We shall follow my hon. Friend's advice. If there were ever any question of going for total economic sanctions, such measures would cause much more unemployment here and in South Africa as well as other fundamental strategic problems, putting the supply of raw materials into the hands of the Soviet Union and causing strategic defence problems. It would not bring about the change which we all wish to see.

Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)

As the right hon. Lady clearly regards economic sanctions as almost totally ineffective in putting pressure on the South African regime, why does she not recommend the use of force?

The Prime Minister

I do not recommend the use of force. I recommend the use of negotiation. Is the use of force now the policy of the Labour party?

Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant)

Did the Council at any stage in the Brussels discussions attempt to define precisely what it meant by the abolition of apartheid? Did it mean merely the abolition of the appalling legislation to which the [column 827]Leader of the Opposition referred and the legislation which has appeared on the statute book since 1948, or did the definition imply that the standard of living—social, economic and political—of 20 million people should be raised in a short time to that of 5 million people? If it was the latter, surely it is a resource-intensive problem, unprecedented in scale, which will require billions, not millions, of pounds in aid? Is the West prepared to put its money where its mouth is?

The Prime Minister

In wanting to get rid of apartheid, we wish to get rid of the appalling difficulties which the black South Africans are made to suffer by virtue of the colour of their skin. The results of negotiations on a new constitution for South Africa would, of course, be a matter for those who took part in them. We should like to see those negotiations start. We should like them to succeed against a background of keeping the economic success of South Africa which exists now.

Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Is the right hon. Lady failing or refusing to see the obvious parallels between the South African regime today and the regime in Germany in the mid-1930s, with its belief in no democracy, no free speech, a super-race, inferior citizens and police repression? Will the right hon. Lady recognise that her appeasement—that is what it is—which is using almost precisely the same excuses as were used in 1938 and 1939, will be received with the same amused contempt in Pretoria as Chamberlain's appeasement was in Germany?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that many of us find a parallel in that. The right hon. Gentleman seems to be pursuing the previous question and wanting us to embark on force against South Africa. That might be the new Labour policy; it is not ours.

Sir John Farr (Harborough)

Despite all the pressure which my right hon. Friend will be under in the coming weeks to apply sanctions against South Africa, will she bear in mind that sanctions not only did not work in Rhodesia but, during that time, strengthened that country's economy?

The Prime Minister

I believe that that is so. There could be no way in which economic sanctions would work in South Africa, with its enormous coastline and with considerable numbers of countries and people who would bend all their efforts to conducting trade with South Africa which other countries would forgo. We should be embarking upon the whole thing for nothing. We should have more unemployment here, only to see the jobs picked up elsewhere. It would damage the cause of black South Africans, the economy of South Africa and the prospect of a peaceful South Africa finally emerging.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

The Prime Minister has announced that the Secretary of State must make two specific demands: first, the freedom of Nelson Mandela and, secondly, the legitimisation of the African National Congress. Will that be the Foreign Secretary's remit when he goes to South Africa?

The Prime Minister

Yes, of course, in accordance with the communiqué which states:

“In this context the European Council calls on the South African government:

— to unconditionally release Nelson Mandela and the other political prisoners;
[column 828]

— to lift the ban on the African National Congress, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and other political parties.

In the meantime in the next three months the Community will enter into consultations” .
That was clearly and explicitly set out in the communiqué. Many of us believe that that is the key to getting negotiations started, which is what most of us desire.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite the criticism that is frequently levelled against her for her uncaring attitude to peoples of the world and especially people of this country, in this instance she is showing an understanding of the reality of the position in southern Africa which should be appreciated by many other countries in the world? Would she sustain her opposition to sanctions, which will help nobody in this country or in South Africa? Will she use her ability to negotiate and consult, which the Opposition so often advise Her Majesty's Government to use when dealing with the Soviet Union and other such countries, as the basis of progress in what can be achieved towards the reform that we require in the Republic of South Africa?

The Prime Minister

We shall maintain our opposition to general economic sanctions on the basis that they would not produce the changes in South Africa that we would like to see. We shall maintain our efforts to get negotiations going because we believe that they would produce the results, if they could be got going, that we too want to see in abolishing apartheid and having a strong economy in South Africa.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

The Prime Minister referred to the liberalisation of capital movements. Will she tell the House what she and the Council had in mind?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that from this country we have liberalisation of capital movements. That is not so with regard to some other countries in the European Economic Community, some of which still maintain controls on their foreign exchange movements. A number of us do not and we wish to have free movement of capital throughout the Community.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

Would my right hon. Friend accept that any peaceful solution in South Africa must, in the end, be acceptable to those in power? If so, why does she support proposals that offer no protection whatsoever to the white or coloured minorities rather than proposals for a universal franchise based on cantonal power that would offer protection to the minorities, and therefore be acceptable to those in power and have at least a chance of a peaceful solution?

The Prime Minister

May I make our view clear? It was a view also accepted by the Commonwealth at Nassau. It is not for us or anyone else to say what arrangements would come out of those negotiations for the protection of minorities and what would result from a wider constitutional convention. The arrangements will not be decided until the negotiations start. We believe that we may be able to help in promoting those negotiations. That was the view the Commonwealth took. Once they are promoted, it will be for all the people of South Africa—the black South Africans, the white South Africans, the Indians and the Cape coloureds—to decide on the future constitution they would like.

Mr. A.J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Why is it that the Prime Minister answers all the questions about [column 829]sanctions with a condemnation of general or total sanctions without reference to specific sanctions? Is that an accidental confusion on her part or is she preserving her room for manoeuvre so that she can support specific economic sanctions if they are recommended by the Foreign Secretary on his return?

The Prime Minister

Ah—so the hon. Gentleman is against general economic sanctions as well. We are getting somewhere. The hon. Gentleman is against general economic sanctions, but he may be in favour of selective sanctions. A number of selective and particular sanctions are already in place, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, through the action of the Community. [Interruption.] I hear the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) interrupting. When the right hon. Gentleman was in the Labour Government he wanted to sell defence weapons to South Africa.

Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

No! Absolute nonsense!

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will call the right hon. Gentleman at the end.

The Prime Minister

Perhaps I may finish. The Crossman diaries, in dealing with whether armaments should be sold to South Africa, which I understand Harold Wilsonthe then Prime Minister was very much against, said:

“George Brown began the attack saying that though he realized it was very painful one couldn't really go on being so unrealistic about the sale of arms. He was then supported by Denis Healey, who said one must surely make a distinction between arms which could be used for suppressing insurrection … and strategic arms—That is to say, the Air Force and the Navy which are needed for our own Commonwealth interests. He said we need the Simonstown base to be kept going by South Africa in our own interest and therefore we should sell South Africa maritime arms but not arms for domestic use.”

If the right hon. Member for Leeds, East denies that, I will be happy to accept his denial.

Hon. Members


Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)

Will my right hon. Friend agree that, while we all abhor the situation in South Africa——

Ms. Clare Short

No, you do not.

Mr. McLoughlin

—in relation to apartheid in South Africa, many people in this country believe—I hope that the Council of Ministers considered this—that we should not forget the abuses of human rights in other countries, such as the Soviet Union, which has invaded Afghanistan? Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister bear that point in mind when she considers these issues abroad?

The Prime Minister

We are very much aware of the abuses of human rights and of the problems elsewhere in the Commonwealth. We still wish to be instrumental in trying to bring about the end of apartheid in South Africa and to bring about negotiations which will maintain the economic success of South Africa, to the benefit of the people there and to the rest of Southern Africa, which benefits tremendously from the success of the South African economy. That is the view which we will continue to pursue.

Mr. Willie W. Hamilton (Fyfe, Central)

How does the Prime Minister explain the fact that the great majority of [column 830]the British people and almost all members of the Commonwealth believe that she is the greatest friend in the West of the barbaric Government in South Africa? How does she hope to persuade the Commonwealth in August that she is on the right course?

The Prime Minister

As I said, the mission which my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs undertakes when he travels to South Africa in an attempt to establish conditions under which negotiations can be brought about, is in a way a continuation of the Nassau mission which was very nearly successful. The Eminent Persons Group made much progress and it is the wish of the 12 countries of the Community that our Foreign Secretary should go to South Africa to represent them. I would have thought that that should be a matter of pride for this country.

Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

Will my right hon. Friend agree that, while personalities and parties are significant in these matters, the dismantling of apartheid really calls for the removal of the Group Areas Act and the inclusion of representative black Africans in the political process? Will my right hon. Friend ask her right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to concentrate on those two principles rather than on personalities and parties?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my right hon. Friend about the removal of the Group Areas Act. That is absolutely crucial. I also agree that black South Africans should take part in the process of government. Sir Geoffrey HoweMy right hon. and learned Friend's task was defined in paragraph 6 of the Communiqué.

“The European Council decided to ask the UK Presidency Foreign Minister to visit southern Africa, in a further effort to establish conditions in which the necessary dialogue can commence.”

That is my right hon. and learned Friend's particular role, not to specify what should happen when negotiations commence.

Mr. Gordon Brown (Dunfermline, East)

Will the Prime Minister confirm that, like her hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, she personally supports one person, one vote, black majority rule in South Africa?

The Prime Minister

I have already said—[Hon. Members: “Yes or no?” ]—that what comes out of the negotiations is not for us to determine. We will attempt to bring about the negotiations which we believe will lead to a system of government in South Africa that is acceptable to all people of whatever background.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

Should not my right hon. Friend's brave initiative and the lifeline that she has now offered to all South African people be welcomed by Conservative Members, the public, and in particular by those in South Africa? Do they not contrast sharply with the words of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who is deliberately stirring up violence and racial hatred in South Africa through his comments? Will she advise my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to look for more positive measures and that if progress is slow, the gun should not be held at the head of the South African Government by saying that economic sanctions will be imposed at the end of the day?

[column 831]

The Prime Minister

I have already outlined the role of my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary. I agree that the Opposition are behaving disgracefully in trying to undermine his mission.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Does the Prime Minister not understand that Governments who wish to negotiate with their own people do not imprison every leader with whom they could talk, and do not impose public order Acts, making it impossible for anyone to speak on behalf of any section of the black community? Does she not understand that her hypocrisy is totally unacceptable to many people in this country?

The Prime Minister

The decision to which I have referred was a decision made by 12 countries of the Community. They recognised in the communiqué that a dialogue cannot take place as long as recognised leaders of the black community are detained and their organisations are proscribed. That is why the communiqué went on to make statements about the release of Nelson Mandela and about lifting the ban on the African National Congress as being the view of 12 Community countries. There are, of course, many black leaders in addition to those who are detained. but if a dialogue is to take place, those who are detained should also be released and could take part in the negotiations. I had hoped that the hon. Lady might think that the views of 12 countries were worthy of consideration and of following up.

Mr. Michael Alison (Selby)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I distinctly heard the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), use the word “hypocrisy” about my right hon. friend the Prime Minister. May I suggest that you ask her to withdraw it?

Mr. Speaker

I did not hear that, but the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) is a respected parliamentarian, and if she used that word, I am sure that she would wish to withdraw it.

Mrs. Dunwoody

My respect for you, Mr. Speaker, is very great; I withdraw the word “hypocrisy” and substitute for it “a total lack of standards” .

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I must bear in mind that there is another statement this afternoon, followed by a tenminute Bill, an application under Standing Order No. 10 and an important debate. Accordingly, I shall allow questions on this statement to continue for a further eight minutes. We must then move on.

Mr. Henry Bellingham(Norfolk, North-West)

When my right hon. Friend was in the Hague, did she have a chance to consider the recent poll of blacks in South Africa, which showed that 76 per cent. of them were against the present violence? Does she agree that the Shadow Foreign Secretary's failure to meet Chief Buthelezi, who is the representative of many millions of blacks in South Africa, was a grave omission, and indicative of his bias and narrow mindedness?

The Prime Minister

It was because we were anxious to avoid a further escalation of violence that the 12 countries wished negotiations to be entered into. That is why they asked my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary to go. I am sure that most people in South Africa are overwhelming against violence. They want to see change brought about peacefully, with a successful [column 832]economy in South Africa. I agree about the importance of talking to Chief Buthelezi, who represents the largest group of black South Africans—about 7 million Zulus.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Chief Buthelezi represents a very significant section of black opinion in South Africa? If so, in the difficult weeks ahead, will she bear in mind his speech last weekend, when he said that it was not in the interests of South Africa or of black people in that country to introduce mandatory sanctions?

The Prime Minister

I believe that that is the view held by many, and probably by the majority of, South Africans, when they realise just how much poverty and hardship sanctions would cause to almost all people in South Africa. It would be a very retrograde step, that would bring hardship there and here. It is not a moral but an immoral solution.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Has the Prime Minister any idea how much she has disgraced and humiliated the reputation and honour of this country by her appalling behaviour over South Africa? Is it any wonder that she is held in such great respect by the South African authorities, when they know that on every occasion she can be relied on in western Europe to resist measures to upset and undermine their tyranny? Is it any wonder that some people compare her with one of her predecessors, who could always be relied on in the 1930s to do anything to comfort Nazism, and who was known as the most notorious appeaser of his time?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is trying hard, but he is uttering the sternest of strictures against Socialist Governments in Europe, who wholeheartedly agree with the conclusion that we have just reached. Socialist Governments in power, even Socialist Governments in Britain, have also come out against mandatory economic sanctions. As the deputy Leader of the Opposition said when he was in a position of responsibility—which I hope he will never be again—

“I do not believe that a policy of general economic sanctions would be in the interests either of the British people or of South Africa.” —[Official Report, 7 July 1976; Vol. 914, c. 1354.]

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

When the Prime Minister is searching for effective selective sanctions, will she bear in mind an instance when such sanctions were effective? I refer to the fact that the Americans were prepared to use sanctions against Britain at the time of Suez, and that that led, within days, to a reversal of our policy.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will be the first to realise that South Africa's position is totally and utterly different. South Africa has enormous internal resources of agricultural products and materials, and could go on maintaining itself. It could sell its raw materials and finished products through third countries while still maintaining quite a good bit of trade.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

As everyone knows that my right hon. Friend hates apartheid and wants to see it brought to an early end, and as everyone understands her view that economic sanctions may not prove effective, is there not an even greater duty on her and the British Government to propose positive alternative steps in order to bring that evil doctrine and detestable regime to an early end?

[column 833]

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend will be aware that we proposed positive steps to help the black South Africans. The sum of £22 million is already being disbursed in South Africa and in the front-line states in order to help black South Africans with education and to supply alternative transport routes. We are adding to that about £15 million as a positive way of helping those whom we wish to help most.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

At the Council meeting, did the Prime Minister take the opportunity to contrast her approval of the South African regime by not imposing sanctions against it, with her refusal to condemn the United States for its act of war against the people of Nicaragua? Are not the utmost double standards at work if she is prepared to support apartheid but not to do anything to prevent the democratic Government of Nicaragua from being overthrown?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are trying to help to bring apartheid to an end in South Africa through negotiation. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman was in favour of peaceful change and would have noticed that there have been some movements that deserve his applause. I refer, for example, to bringing to an end forced resettlements and getting rid of the morality laws. The hon. Gentleman goes on about Nicaragua, but he knows that the Nicaraguan Government have decided to implement the existing state of emergency more severely, and have just closed the main independent newspaper.—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am listening to the questions, not to what is going on below the Gangway.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

Will my right hon. Friend provide some balance and try to show that a vast number of matters other than South Africa are debated and dealt with at The Hague? Will she assure the House that, during the six months of Britain's presidency, we shall massively [column 834]pursue the need to attempt to establish international standards for nuclear energy safety, both by the establishment of nuclear energy plants and by the reporting of nuclear energy accidents? This is of major importance for the whole world.

The Prime Minister

We discussed the Chernobyl accident and decided to pursue our efforts to improve the safety of nuclear installations through the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the only authority that has the requisite power to deal with the safety of nuclear installations. As to the safety of those who work in nuclear installations, we shall pursue that matter through the Community, under article 3 of the Euratom treaty.

Dr. Oonagh McDonald (Thurrock)

Will not the Prime Minister accept that, by her actions at The Hague, she has bought time for herself, not for South Africa? Will she not futher accept that, as a first step towards full economic sanctions, financial sanctions on a debtor country such as South Africa will push Pretoria to negotiate and ultimately bring about democracy in that country.

The Prime Minister

I am not at all sure what, precisely, the hon. Lady is proposing. The retaliation on the resources that belong to other countries inside South Africa that would result from the hon. Lady's proposal could give an enormous financial benefit to South Africa.

Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I shall take the points of order at the end, in the usual place.

Mr. Roberts

It will be too late then.

Mr. Speaker

Order. the hon. Gentleman will have to wait.

Mr. Roberts

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker