Tag Archives: Audio file with transcript

House of Commons Speech following visit to South Africa 1990

Whole recording:


Extract 1:

“It is important to understand the complexity of South African society. Few of those who have not visited the country can appreciate it. I had only a slight taste of it in a few weeks, but I know that it is an extremely complex situation.

At the moment, South Africa is very volatile. It is not unlike a boiling pot, because to take off the lid suddenly without turning down the fire would be to risk the escape of a cloud of steam that would scald all those people—of whatever colour—who are gathered around it. The task that faces Mr. Mandela is to turn down that fire so that successful negotiations can ensue. It is precarious and challenging, and such an undertaking needs the full understanding of hon. Members here.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the Mr. Mandela whom I was privileged to meet is equal to that task. He exudes a strength, calmness and authority that is remarkable in a man who has been incarcerated for 27 years. He is astonishingly without bitterness, but remains standing full square behind the principles for which he has sacrificed so much—the principles of a non-racial and democratic South Africa, in which black and white people alike can share equally. It is clear from what he has said since his release that he is a responsible and wise statesperson, who is now ready to play his part in steering South Africa into the future, and who knows full well how perilous and inflammable the scenerio is.”


Extract 2:

“Neither must we rush to destabilise the position, as the Prime Minister has done, by pressing for the removal of sanctions. The demand worldwide is that sanctions should stay until the pillars of apartheid are removed. To remove sanctions now would be the height of irresponsibility. It would strengthen the hand of the South African Government against the mass of the people who have already given so much to reach this position, and who are already at a disadvantage in any future negotiations.

If the British Government really want to find a way forward, they should be helping to ensure parity in the capability of both sides to negotiate. It seems that the Prime Minister wishes to see the mass democratic movement going naked into the negotiating chamber. Mr. Mandela and the mass democratic movement are already at a gross disadvantage. They do not have the backing of a vast army of civil servants or all the paraphernalia of diplomacy that the South African Government clearly have. They have few resources. Their key personnel are scattered throughout the world, subsisting in impoverished exiled communities.

Our Government should therefore compare their attitude to South Africa with their attitude to the restoration of democracy in eastern Europe. There, they have given £25 million to assist the process of democracy. They should therefore come to the House with similar proposals for funding the democratic forces in South Africa.

Britain has done enough damage in South Africa. Let it now be bold and positive. Let us put our money behind all that we have mouthed about supporting the oppressed people in South Africa. The soundest investment that we can make is to ensure that, when there are future negotiations, those people are properly prepared to play their full part.”

BBC Open to Question

Whole recording:


Extract 1:

(Question – “I live in Hackney which is a neighbouring borough to Tottenham. The general feeling among youth of my age of all racial backgrounds is that police harassment in that area is very out of line. Do you think that there is anything that can be done about this?

“If I had a magic answer we would have improved the relationship. Unfortunately I think that to some extent the Metropolitan Police almost fight against any effort to try to improve the relationship between young people and the Police. Recently in Tottenham – and I know the Hackney situation and I know Trevor Monerville and all the people who have suffered in Hackney as a result of Police action – recently in Tottenham we have tried to establish links with the Police. We actually set up a good relationship with local Police officers and young people but this was broken because they transferred the local Chief Superintendent out of the area. So it is almost as if someone is working against trying to have a good relationship. But I think that the way forward is by having the young people meeting directly with Police Officers, the Chief Police Officers not subordinates, not the people on the beat but the Chief Police Officer on a regular basis and ironing out things. Also by Police accountability….these are very serious questions and I don’t want people to get the wrong impression. I think the way in which we can improve Police relationship, not just with young people but the community, is by making Police accountable so at a regular meeting between the Police and people of the community, people can tell the Police what are their priorities. The Police have their own priorities and people have theirs which are different, and I think you need to bring them closer together.”


Extract 2:

“The immigration issue is difficult because we are not clear as to the facts and figures. What I am sure about is that immigration laws are class laws because I have never heard of any rich black person, for instance, having any difficulty coming into Britain. It is only when you are poor that people begin to ask questions at the ports and so on. I believe reluctantly that there has to be some measure of control, but I think there are a number of things that need to be done apart from looking at the whole question of racism in controls we need to look at why people are coming to Britain. The reason why people have virtually exploited the natural resources of those countries. So that when we look at the question of trade, look at the question of aid and make sure that those countries have enough resources so that people could stay there.
I am sure people would rather stay in the sun, thank you very much, than to come to a cold windy climate. For them to come here, there must be some extraordinary circumstances. So perhaps we should be looking at relieving those circumstances so when we talk about immigration we talk about it in terms of the whole question of the third world and the whole question of black countries”

BBC2 Programme on Reparations. July 1995.

Complete programme:


Two extracts:

“We are talking about a systematic system which deliberately took black people, no other people, black people from Africa to the Caribbean and exploited them there, and as a result of that a lot of things that we know today stem from this and that has to be corrected”


“(One last question… to Bernie Grant as one of the founders of ARM [African Reparations Movement]. Why is this the most important thing to be dealt with by black people given all the other things we have heard about in the last few weeks; unemployment, police and so forth)

I think that it is important for us to make sure that our history is correct. I think that our ancestors demand that the truth be written about what happened in the Middle Passage and what happened during colonisation and enslavement – number one. Number two – I think it is important for our young people to be able to understand where they fit in the scheme of things in this country and the rest of the world.

(Is it more important at this present time than their inability to get jobs, their treatment by Police and so forth)

I think it is as important as that and I think that at the background of these problems lie the relationship between Africa and what happened in enslavement and colonisation and Europe and Britain in particular. And I think if we are unable to crack that particular nut all these other things; Joy Gardner, Condon’s statements etc, none of these things will be solved unless we are able to solve that fundamental difference”


House of Commons Prime Minister’s Question Time 24 November 1999

Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham): Has my right hon. Friend had the opportunity to see the recent Channel 4 documentaries on slavery, in which it was stated that one in five white people in Britain have the blood of African slaves running through their veins? Similarly, people from the Caribbean have white blood running through their veins. I do not want to worry him, but my mother’s maiden name was Blair. Perhaps I should refer to him as my right honourable relative.

My question relates to the past 1,000 years, 400 of which were taken up by enslavement and 200 by colonisation. There has been no acknowledgement of the contribution made to the wealth of Britain, Europe and America by millions of African people. The Guildhall and other places in London have monuments to the slavers, not the enslaved. Will my right hon. Friend set the historic record straight? Will he apologise to people of African origin, living and dead, for the part that Britain played in the transatlantic slave trade?

The Prime Minister: I am happy to acknowledge the pain and suffering of people who were enslaved in times gone by. I was in Hull recently, in the constituency of the Deputy Prime Minister, which was once represented by William Wilberforce. Many radical politicians in this country fought against the slave trade. I should like in particular to acknowledge the massive contribution made by Afro-Caribbean and black people in this country today, and to say how much we value and treasure it. One of the great things that has happened in politics in the past few years is that every political party in this country is now committed to a multiracial, multicultural society. We owe an awful lot to the pain and suffering of those people who went before us.”