Alec Douglas-Home – 1972 Statement on Rhodesia

The statement made by Alec Douglas-Home, the then Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 19 January 1972.

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement.

Since I last spoke in this House on Rhodesia, hon. and right hon. Members will have been concerned at the reports of violence from different parts of that country, especially in the Gwelo district.

It is in the Government’s view essential that the Pearce Commission should be enabled to carry out its task of testing Rhodesian opinion in conditions free of intimidation and violence, in which normal political activities are possible.

Against this background, the House will have been concerned, too, to have received the news of the arrest of Mr. Garfield Todd, his daughter and three others. On hearing the reports last night I immediately sent a personal message to Mr. Smith seeking to establish the facts behind these arrests.

In his reply Mr. Smith has said that they are cases of preventive detention arising from the internal security situation that has developed in the midlands area of Rhodesia during the last fortnight, under the 1970 Emergency Powers Regulations.

He has said that the reasons for detaining Mr. Todd and his daughter were not based on their publicly stated opposition to the settlement proposals, but that the decision was, on the contrary, taken solely on the grounds of security and the need to maintain law and order in Rhodesia, without which, as recent events in Gwelo have shown, it is not possible for the Pearce Commission to carry out its task.

It is, of course, for the Commission, which has the advantage of being on the spot, to satisfy itself that normal political activities are being permitted in Rhodesia, provided, as the proposals for a settlement make clear, that they are conducted in a peaceful and democratic manner. Lord Pearce, who has himself issued a statement in Salisbury expressing deep concern at these detentions, and has asked the Rhodesian Government for their reasons, will no doubt be considering the position in the light of Mr. Smith’s reply and other information available to him in Salisbury.

I am arranging to send to Salisbury tonight the Head of the Rhodesia Department in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that he can, in consultation with our liaison officer there, and after discussion with all concerned, let me have an up-to-date assessment of the situation in the light of the recent events which have caused general concern.

In a matter of such importance I am sure that hon. Members will appreciate that it would not be right for me to say more about these arrests until I have received further full information from Rhodesia. I will keep the House informed.