Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1987 Oct 22 Th
Margaret Thatcher

HC Stmnt: [Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Vancouver)]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons Statement
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [120/919-30]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1530-1603.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 6465
Themes: Agriculture, Civil liberties, Commonwealth (general), Commonwealth (South Africa), Education, Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Labour Party & socialism, Media, Terrorism, British policy towards South Africa
[column 919]

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Vancouver)

3.30 pm

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Vancouver which I attended, accompanied by my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. Texts of the statements issued at the meeting have been placed in the Library of the House.

The discussions covered two main issues: Fiji and South Africa. The resignation of the Governor-General of Fiji was announced during the meeting. Heads of Government agreed a statement in which they acknowledged that, by Commonwealth convention, Fiji's membership of the Commonwealth lapsed with the emergence of a republic. They went on to express their sadness at developments there and to call for a resolution by the people of Fiji themselves of the island's problems. They offered the Commonwealth's good offices towards such a resolution. They made it clear that they would be willing to consider an application from the republic of Fiji to renew its membership of the Commonwealth, if circumstances so warrant.

In my speech at the opening ceremony of the meeting, I had set out our belief that the Commonwealth should not turn its back on Fiji in its moment of greatest need. We worked hard at the meeting to find a way to keep open the option of Commonwealth membership for Fiji. The outcome is therefore a satisfactory one. I hope that acceptable arrangements will be found in Fiji which preserve that country's tradition of democracy and enable it to make a successful application for renewed Commonwealth membership in due course.

Heads of Government also agreed a statement on South Africa. This reiterated the Commonwealth's determination to work for the total elimination of apartheid and confirmed our commitment to see this goal achieved by negotiation against the background of a suspension of violence on all sides.

Most Heads of Government repeated their support for sanctions against South Africa, and agreed a number of procedural steps, including a study to examine South Africa's relationship with the international financial system and the establishment of a Committee of Foreign Ministers. However, no specific additional measures or sanctions against South Africa were adopted.

The statement also underlined the importance of continued aid to black South Africans, as well as to the front-line states in order to reduce the latter's dependence upon South Africa. In both these respects, Britain's record is outstanding.

The statement represents no significant change from the position reached at the Commonwealth meetings in Nassau in 1985 and in London last year, although there is a growing realisation on the part of many Commonwealth countries, first that the change in South Africa will be a slow and long-drawn-out process and, secondly, that the momentum for change must come from within South Africa itself.

Britain, for its part, has faithfully implemented the limited measures to which we agreed at earlier meetings, as a signal to South Africa. We shall continue to do so. But [column 920]where we disagree with other Commonwealth Governments is on the most effective means to get rid of apartheid.

We believe that sanctions only harden attitudes, as the recent elections in South Africa have shown. Moreover, so far as they do have an effect, the first to suffer are the black people of South Africa whose jobs and livelihoods would be put at risk, without any social security to fall back upon. They would also be very damaging to the front-line states which have themselves come to understand more fully the difficulty of applying sanctions.

I would draw the House's attention to three further measures discussed at the meeting. First, as regards trade, Heads of Government put their names to an important pledge to promote the liberalisation of trade. The unanimous support by all members of the Commonwealth—both developed and developing countries—for a strong and effective GATT and a positive outcome to the Uraguay round should significantly enhance the prospects for those negotiations.

Secondly, we discussed the special problems of the poorest and most heavily indebted countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. The Commonwealth has declared itself firmly in support of Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor of the Exchequer's initiative to help relieve the burden of debt in these countries.

Thirdly, the Commonwealth has decided to embark upon an imaginative and valuable project to help meet the educational needs of member countries. We agreed to create a Commonwealth institution to promote co-operation in distance education. There is much detailed work still to be done, but we in Britain have much to contribute with our experience of the Open university and the Open college.

It was agreed that the next meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government will be in Kuala Lumpur in 1989. I am grateful to the Canadian Government and particularly to Prime Minister Mulroney, who chaired the meeting, for the useful and productive work which was done.

The Commonwealth tolerates many points of view. The genuine differences within it over the best way to help get rid of apartheid should not obscure the very valuable contribution which the organisation continues to make to the well-being of its members.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

May I first associate myself with the Heads of Government statement on Fiji and the view that was expressed this afternoon by the Prime Minister about the hope for the return of that country to democracy and the Commonwealth.

With regard to Southern Africa, the Prime Minister set store by the aid to the front-line states as a means of reducing their dependence on South Africa. Will she therefore tell us why bilateral aid to those countries has been cut by more than 40 per cent. by her Government since 1980? Does the Prime Minister's press conference statement about the African National Congress mean that she will forbid further contact between the Government and the ANC? Will she tell us why and when she changed policy and whether she told the Foreign Secretary and his Minister of State of that change?

The Prime Minister has rightly imposed sanctions against countries because of their aggression against others or because they sponsor terrorism. On that basis, why does she not strengthen sanctions against South [column 921]Africa? Could it be that in her view the South African attacks on the front-line states and the South African sponsorship of attacks on Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe do not count? The South African Government's gaoling, torture and killing of children in South Africa do not count as terrorism in her peculiar view.

Following the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, is the Prime Minister aware that the white South African politicians and press see her as an ally of apartheid? And they are right. Does not the Prime Minister realise that it is now impossible to believe her declarations against apartheid when she systematically uses all her political power to protect it?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman quoted bilateral aid. An increasing amount of our aid goes through multilateral channels, through Europe, the World Bank and the special agencies. That fact must also be taken into account.

With regard to the fundamental issue of apartheid, Chief Buthelezi, the head of the largest black nation in South Africa, said on 5 September 1987:

“It is we Blacks who are paying the price for sanctions and disinvestment which have not had the effect they were designed to have.”

Mrs. Helen Suzman said:

“The imposition of sanctions and other punitive measures such as disinvestment have not only been ineffective but actually counter-productive.”

Mr. Alan Paton, author of “Cry, the Beloved Country” , said:

“A second and lesser reason for the recent election results in South Africa” —

the first being security concerns—

“was the ill-advised sanctions campaign of the West.”

Our policy—that we wish to get rid of apartheid as soon as possible—is the best one. The application of sanctions would increase oppression and delay the dismantlement of apartheid. The greatest dismantlement of apartheid is coming through industries there that are operating the very best codes of practice and constantly training more and more people to do more skilled jobs and managerial jobs.

With regard to the ANC, the right hon. Gentleman will recall that when Mr. Tambo attended a press conference in the House some time ago he said:

“We are going to step up the struggle. It is going to accelerate … The ANC embraces violence. We are going to intensify the struggle.”

On a TV-am Sunday programme he said that the ANC would go to “every conceivable length” to destroy the apartheid system. He said:

“the escalated armed struggle cannot avoid the use of guns.”

We disapprove of the use of violence to solve this problem. It will not go away, as my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary said very vehemently to the ANC when, in his capacity as President of the European Economic Community—only in that capacity—he saw the ANC.

I make it clear that the right hon. Gentleman, by the use of sanctions, wants us to throw as many black South Africans out of work as we possibly can, knowing full well that there is no social security and that they would go to deprivation and starvation. I do not regard such a policy as a barometer of social conscience.

Mr. David Howell (Guildford)

Was not my right hon. Friend at Vancouver entirely right to condemn and [column 922]criticise the role of the African National Congress? Was not the ANC an organisation which notably failed to condemn the monstrous atrocity of necklace burning? Would not the Opposition and others who want to see the apartheid problem defeated and overcome do better to listen to the voice of the Inkatha movement which represents millions of black South Africans who want more prosperity and more investment rather than sanctions and lectures?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I believe that the way we are going is the way that will get rid of apartheid fastest. I agree with my right hon. Friend that violence is not the way to solve this problem and we condemn it wherever it occurs on all sides. When there are incursions into other states, we are the first to condemn them. We help the front-line states with their security measures. We condemn violence and we want genuine—

Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham)

What about Botha 's violence?

Mr. Speaker

Order. it is no good shouting across the Chamber like that.

The Prime Minister

We condemn violence. We help the front-line states with their security against any incursions. We approve of the negotiating concept by the Eminent Persons Group which involves genuine negotiations against the background of the suspension of violence. I notice that Opposition Members approve the violence practised by the ANC and others.

Mr. David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

In her statement, the Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth tolerates many different points of view. Does she accept that they find it difficult to tolerate her rejection of the findings of the Eminent Persons Group which she herself helped to appoint? Does she accept that they find it difficult to accept the offence she gave not only to the new Commonwealth countries but to our old Commonwealth friends, Australia and New Zealand and specially her host, Canada, whose trade figures she disgracefully abused by not quoting the up to date figures?

Does the right hon. Lady also accept that she also caused offence by the use of the Downing street press machine to give distorted briefings on what was going on in the meeting? Is she aware that she left the clear impression that if she were left to organise the coffee break, as a matter of principle it would be 48 coffees and one tea?

Does the right hon. Lady also recognise that this meeting represented a defeat for British diplomacy, a defeat for what her Ministers have been doing in dialogue with the ANC, and, above all, the abandonment of British leadership in the Commonwealth?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman did not observe that I endorsed the negotiating concept defined by the Eminent Persons Group. The negotiating concept was genuine negotiations with people of all views and opinion from all ethnic races and colour in South Africa, against a background of the suspension of violence. That was specifically endorsed by me a moment or two ago.

The trade figures to which attention was drawn were published by the International Monetary Fund.

Mr. Steel

They were not for 1987.

[column 923]

The Prime Minister

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that we do not yet have the figures for 1987 because the year is not over? Of course we do not have those figures. The figures which we had were not British figures—they were published by the International Monetary Fund. Some people could not stand the fact that they were accurate.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that many of the countries that criticised our attitude to South Africa have been criticised for their internal policies by Amnesty International? Did my right hon. Friend discuss with her colleagues the role of British aid and compare it with the role of Russian aid in Africa?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is right. The Commonwealth contains many different kinds of countries, not all of them famed for human rights. As my hon. Friend knows, there are four military Governments in the Commonwealth. Amnesty International has sharply criticised some of those countries.

It is noticeable that even those countries which said that they believed in sanctions did not impose a single extra sanction. They were aware—although they refused to acknowledge it in the communiqué—of the considerable British help given to the front-line states in respect of security matters and aid and to places not in the Commonwealth, such as Mozambique, where we help to alleviate food problems. Those countries were aware also, because this was mentioned during the debate, that Britain gives aid to projects such as the Limpopo and the Nkala railway lines so that the front-line states have an alternative route to the sea and do not have to transport goods through South Africa. Those countries were aware of those facts but refused to acknowledge them in the communiqué.

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

Were the Canadian trade figures which caused such offence to the Canadian Prime Minister issued directly on her authority? Does not the right hon. Lady think that it would be better to save such methods for internal use in this country rather than to take them across the Atlantic? Does the right hon. Lady claim that her views on violence coincide with those stated by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office—the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker)—following her meeting directly with the representatives of the ANC?

The Prime Minister

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman objects so strongly to straightforward IMF trade figures. I was prepared to have our figures published in that way, but there is no earthly reason—[Hon. Members: “Out of date.” ] They are not out of date. There were 1984, 1985 and 1986 figures, but the 1987 figures are not yet available, for obvious reasons. The first Commonwealth meeting on sanctions was at Nassau in 1985 and the second was in London in 1986. I have made perfectly clear the way in which my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary saw the ANC. I have made it perfectly clear that we condemn an organisation which practises the violence practised by the ANC.

Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that she enjoys massive support throughout the country from those who are not only strenuous opponents of apartheid but friends of South Africa. Can my right [column 924]hon. Friend explain why so many of the heads of the Commonwealth who met in Vancouver do not seem to recognise that the battleground has changed and that it is no longer a controversy over the merits of apartheid, which are defended only by a lunatic fringe, but a controversy over how that system can be usefully, properly and constructively removed from South Africa without causing immense damage to the economy, which must survive that process?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. The only way of getting higher standards of living, education and housing for all the people of South Africa is by improving the industries and commerce there. There is no way in which one can do that by creating an economic wasteland in South Africa. Some Labour Members would like to create an economic wasteland and cause unemployment among black South Africans by sanctions. That is not our way and not our policy.

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

The Prime Minister has said that she sees these very limited measures as a signal to South Africa. Will she specify what further action she is signalling to South Africa, so that the South Africans are in no doubt about the signals that she is sending?

The Prime Minister

The word “signal” was the one used in the communiqué issued after the Nassau conference, and they were signals. The right hon. Gentleman will have seen that a number of people in South Africa, including Mrs. Helen Suzman, I believe, and Chief Buthelezi, believe that the sanctions have not gone further to meet their objective but have actually been counter-productive.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me what further signals this country gives. First, there is the help that we give to train the armed forces of Zimbabwe, through the British armed forces there. Secondly, there is the help that we give to train some of the Mozambican forces in the same way. Thirdly, there is the £15 million we have allocated to Mozambique which is greatly in need of help in its own country. I note that the Soviet Union tends to send arms, whereas we tend to send food. Fourthly, there is the aid that we give other front-line states, and, fifthly, the aid that we are giving specifically to build alternative railway lines so that there are other transport routes that the front-line states can use, which means that they do not have to get their imports and exports through South Africa. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for letting me make that clear.

Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

Could my right hon. Friend again reiterate that her views on sanctions against South Africa coincide with those of Mrs. Helen Suzman? Is it not important to take on board the views of Mrs. Helen Suzman, who has done more to oppose apartheid in South Africa than any hon. Member in any of the opposition parties?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Mr. Speaker. Mrs. Suzman and a number of others—indeed, many others—have been fighting apartheid in South Africa for a very long time. When Chief Buthelezi, Mrs. Suzman and Mr. Paton are saying the same thing—that sanctions against South Africa are counter-productive—I think that we should take note of their views.

[column 925]

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

rose—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mr. Maclennan

On the subject of the 1986 figures for trade with South Africa, does not the Prime Minister recognise that Britain's trade with South Africa constituted only 26 per cent. of our trade with Africa as a whole and that it might be wise to bear in mind, for British interests, views on sanctions of other African countries with which we trade? Does the Prime Minister envisage—and would she welcome—an increase in Britain's trade with South Africa, to take the place of any diminution in trade that flows from the extension of sanctions by other countries?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman asks me to take note of the views of other African countries on sanctions. May I ask him to take note of the fact that, in spite of those views, none of the countries has seen fit to impose any extra sanctions as a result of the meeting? It was a talking communiqué. Even the countries that believed in sanctions have not imposed them—for the very understandable reason, which those countries were the first to admit, that sanctions would damage the people in their own countries. We understood that, and I would ask them to understand our views on sanctions.

Let me deal with another point concerning the people from those countries. Certainly, we have good civil trade with South Africa. The fact is that South Africa has the best-run and most prosperous economy in the whole of Africa. On its economic results—[Hon. Members: “Disgraceful” .] On its results, it is the best economy in Africa—a fact which is recognised by many black Africans, of whom 1 million—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

The Prime Minister

That fact is recognised by many other black Africans, of whom 1 million go to South Africa for jobs—which are better, and better paid—and remit the money to keep their families in other south African countries.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Conservative Members welcome the less publicised parts of her statement, particularly the Commonwealth stand against a return to protectionism? Will she say a little more about the ideas that she and her Commonwealth partners have to see that this scourge does not affect agriculture and non-tariff barriers any more than it already does?

The Prime Minister

We have issued a whole separate part of the communiqué on that matter. My hon. Friend is quite right: agriculture played a considerable part in the discussions. People in Commonwealth countries can often export only food to pay for other imports. They were grateful for our stand in the European Economic Community when some countries wanted to put a tax on oils and fats, which would have been devastating to exports from some Commonwealth countries. They very much support President Reagan 's initiative in the Uruguay round that all subsidies on agriculture should be reduced to nothing over a period of 10 years. I do not think that that is possible, but I believe that we have steadily to reduce subsidies on agriculture so that supply and demand become more interbalanced. It was very much a discussion based on agriculture and the future of subsidies.

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Mr. Bernie Grant

The Prime Minister claims to condemn violence on all sides. As she has mentioned the ANC, will she condemn here and now the violence perpetrated by the Botha Government against black men, women and children in South Africa, Angola and Mozambique?

The Prime Minister

We have never failed to condemn such violence and I gladly reiterate that in response to the hon. Member.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Is it not a fact that, following the tightening of mandatory sanctions against South Africa by the United States, the Botha regime was swept back into power, the opposition party became even more reactionary, legislation to dismantle apartheid stopped and there have been even more arrests without trial?

The Prime Minister

My hon. and learned Friend is correct. That is what has led a number of people in South Africa to say that sanctions and other punitive measures such as disinvestment have been not only ineffective but actually counter-productive. Before that, a number of changes were being made, including abolition of the pass laws and the repeal of the Mixed Marriages Act. The influx laws and enforced removals were abandoned. There were many moves in the right direction, including that of no apartheid in sport. If one wants further progress in the right direction, towards the dismantling of apartheid, one must welcome changes which achieve that. One must encourage further moves in that direction and not try to put on further punitive sanctions which would hit those whom we are trying to help.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eccles)

Is the Prime Minister aware that many people here and abroad will be astounded and appalled that she has spent no time at all at the Dispatch Box condemning the violence and the murder and torture of large numbers of children by the South African regime? May I remind the Prime Minister, who is so proud of her stance as the only person against sanctions, that before the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference in Lusaka and before the Lancaster house discussions which gave way to the independence of Zimbabwe she stood alone in supporting the racist proposals of Bishop Muzorewa and at the 11th hour was forced by the rest of the Commonwealth to change her mind? Does she not believe that she will also have to think again about sanctions?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that the hon. Lady can have been listening to some of the answers given to questions. Yes, I wholeheartedly condemn violence against children and against other people. I whole-heartedly condemn any violence. We wholeheartedly condemn any excursions by South Africa into other states and we have tried to help defend those states against the incursions. We are prepared to condemn violence and we do so wherever it occurs. Why does the hon. Lady not also condemn the violence of the ANC and the horrible device of the necklace?

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that Conservative Members consider that she was splendid in isolation? Will she also accept that the British people are angry that a British Prime Minister should be so insulted and pilloried by a bunch of Third world leaders who cannot tell us anything about the basis of human rights? Since such leaders are in receipt of [column 927]substantial amounts of taxpayers' money, would it not be a good idea to take aid from them and to give it to the black South Africans whom they purport to represent?

The Prime Minister

British aid to southern Africa has been about £750 million over the previous five years. We shall continue to give aid. We give it to countries such as Zimbabwe—of course we do; it would not be a free independent country without the action that was taken by the Government right at the beginning. I hope that some people will recognise that fact. We continue to give aid to Mozambique, and we continue to give much of the aid that I have already mentioned. Yes, I find it a little difficult—not the argument or the debate—when they refuse to put into a communiqué an acknowledgement of what they know to be considerable aid, although many of them came up to me afterwards and thanked me for it.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Is the Prime Minister at all aware of the feelings of many people in this country who, for many years, have genuinely been opposed to apartheid? They regard her performance in Canada as wretched and humiliating. It reminds one of Chamberlain's performance at Munich. Will the Prime Minister explain to the House the precise role of her chief press secretary? If Mr. Ingham is only a civil servant why, time and again, as at the Commonwealth conference, does he behave like some kind of bullying deputy Prime Minister? Is it not time that Mr. Ingham behaved as a civil servant, and should he not be told so by the Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister

With regard to Bernard Inghamthe hon. Gentleman's latter point, the briefings that are given by the press office are excellent. It was because of their excellence that some people objected to them.

With regard to what the hon. Gentleman said about apartheid, the hon. Gentleman, like many other Opposition Members, made a fundamental mistake. He said that if one is against apartheid, one must be for sanctions. That is a totally false link. If one is for sanctions, one will prolong apartheid. That is perfectly clear from what has happened. We are against apartheid. We are against sanctions. We believe that we, and not the hon. Gentleman, are going the right way for the faster dismantlement of apartheid.

The hon. Gentleman condemned a number of matters. I wonder why he does not condemn what was said in Vancouver by Mr. Makatini of the ANC. When talking about ANC violence, he said:

“The violence could include attacks on British and other Western companies refusing to disengage and hasten the collapse of the apartheid system.”

Does the hon. Gentleman approve of that?

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

In regard to sanctions, does my right hon. Friend find it astonishing that, in view of the universal condemnation of apartheid, hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money was spent by the previous Labour Government on promoting trade with South Africa, without a peep from any Opposition Member?

The Prime Minister

Yes, that is correct. The previous Labour Government refused to impose anything like comprehensive sanctions because of the damage and harm they would do to employment in this country.

[column 928]

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

The Prime Minister has argued that sanctions against South Africa would harden attitudes and would be counter-productive. Will she tell us whether the imposition of sanctions against Libya was counter-productive? Did encouragement of the boycott of the Moscow olympics harden attitudes in the Soviet Union? What is the difference? Is the real difference that sanctions against South Africa would harm the Prime Minister's business friends' purses?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that sanctions worked in any of those cases, any more than they worked in Rhodesia. With regard to hardening opinion in South Africa, I gave the evidence, and shall do so again, of Chief Buthelezi, who is chief of the 6 million Zulus, and the evidence of Mrs. Helen Suzman, that they actually harden attitudes, which is the reverse of what is intended.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

The very strength of the Prime Minister's denunciation of sanctions has led many people to suppose that she supports the South African Government and all that they stand for. That is not true, is it? Will my right hon. Friend go to South Africa and tell them that they must change?

The Prime Minister

It is because I held the view that apartheid is a detestable and repugnant system that I asked my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary, along with some heads of Government, to go on our behalf to South Africa to make these things clear. Apartheid is utterly detestable and repugnant and must go as soon as we can do anything which will have that effect, and I do not believe that sanctions would. My hon. Friend asks me to go to South Africa. I do not think that it would be productive for me to go at the moment. If the time comes when I think that a visit would help to dismantle apartheid, I shall go.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

With what object in mind and for what conceivable purpose did Mr. Bernard Ingham give such briefings, excellent or selective, to the press? Why did he do so, other than to discredit the Canadian Government, the Prime Minister's hosts? What was the purpose of doing it?

The Prime Minister

Mr. Ingham would have held briefings on what was going on at the Commonwealth meetings. They are perfectly customary. He would have been responding to questions and giving information on the matter of sanctions. There is nothing wrong in giving appropriate facts.

Several Hon. Members

rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have a busy day ahead of us, with business questions and an important debate. I shall allow questions to continue for a further five minutes. I ask hon. Members not to repeat questions which have previously been dealt with.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

Further to my right hon. Friend's correct points about the horrible crime of necklacing, which we all admit is dreadful, there have been few cases of necklacing, in comparison with the large number of people who have been killed by the South African authorities since 1976 and during the emergency in the past two years. I fully agree with my right hon. Friend that sanctions are unworkable and bring about counter-productive effects, but, if we do not have them, [column 929]how are we politically to get the South African Government to change and to negotiate around the table with all the parties concerned?

The Prime Minister

I agree that getting negotiation, against the background of the suspension of violence, is the acid test of how to get the dismantlement of apartheid. I do not think that there is any doubt as to what is the right formula—genuine negotiations with people genuinely representing all the peoples of South Africa. I do not speak for them, but I understand that the South African Government insist, for reasons which I understand, on the suspension of violence—that is reasonable—to get all parties together. Therefore, we fully support the negotiating concept which was defined by the Eminent Persons Group, and which I still believe is the right one.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)

Although the Prime Minister says that she continues to condemn apartheid, will she accept that many people are appalled by her dictatorial and arrogant attitude, which tends, rightly or wrongly, to give the impression that she still supports the South African Government? Will she accept that she is out of step with the Commonwealth, the Economic Community and her own Foreign Secretary? Will she clearly state that she recognises that, to achieve any peaceful solution to the problem in South Africa, the ANC must be involved in discussions and that Nelson Mandela must be released at the earliest possible date?

The Prime Minister

I make our approach perfectly clear. We believe that apartheid is totally and utterly repugnant and detestable. We, along with many other people who have fought apartheid in South Africa for a long time, believe that sanctions would be not only ineffective but counter-productive. Yes, we believe that there must be negotiations. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we called for the release of Nelson Mandela. There will have to be the unbanning of the ANC, together with a suspension of violence. I believe that that is the difficult part.

Mr. Andrew McKay (Berkshire, East)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that those who support sanctions are naive because sanctions have never worked before, and that they have a callous indifference to the black people of South Africa who will be the first to be hurt?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Mr. Speaker. Those who talk about more sanctions do not necessarily consider their effect in South Africa. If they worked at all, such sanctions would work by turning hundreds of thousands of black South Africans out of work, with no social security to fall [column 930]back on, and would commit them to deprivation and many to starvation. That is not the right way to proceed. The only way to achieve opportunity for more and more black South Africans is to have an expanding and flourishing economy.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

About ten minutes ago the Prime Minister said that the South African economy was in good shape. In view of the fact that she is a stickler for figures and wants them to be up to date, does she recall that only last year that same South African economy was $21 billion in debt, that South Africa was one of the leading African countries to be in debt, that it was rescued by 32 international banks and that National Westminster bank, Barclays bank and Standard Chartered bank from this country took part in that rescue? As a result of that rescue and the writing off of those bad debts the Government whom the right hon. Lady heads allowed those banks, via the Inland Revenue, to have a rake-off from the taxpayer.

The Prime Minister

I said that the South African economy is the most flourishing economy in Africa, which it is, and 1 million black Africans agree with me because they go to South Africa to work. However, the hon. Gentleman seems to prefer a wasteland economy and many black South Africans being out of work, deprived and starving. That is what his policy would lead to and we reject it.

Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)

While unreservedly applauding my right hon. Friend for the stand that she took in Vancouver, I ask her to consider this. She rightly stresses that a fair and just solution will emerge from within South Africa. If that is the case—I believe that it is—surely a platform should be provided for those black moderate leaders, from among whose ranks will come the first black president of South Africa so that more attention could be given to them, to men like Gatsha Buthelezi; and Lucas Mangope who for some reason incur the wrath of Opposition Members. Those men should be encouraged rather than the men of violence, the extremists and the murderers.

The Prime Minister

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that the way in which Chief Buthelezi and the Zulus have rejected violence should find a response from the South African Government, as should Mr. M'busa, the head of the black South African Swazis. Their stance has commanded support from us all and that is one reason why we are constantly encouraging the negotiating concept. However, that demands the rejection of violence by the ANC.