§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I wish to utilise the opportunity given by the Third Reading of this Bill to discuss certain matters affecting the British Dominions overseas. The subject covers a very wide range of matters, and it would be possible, were I so minded, to take up a great deal of time and go through a very large quantity of detail. I am sure that that would be undesirable, and I propose instead to make a general survey and to deal with the matters involved in broad outline. No doubt other right hon. and hon. Members will want to discuss those matters more fully. If I keep my speech very short that will give more opportunity to others to take part in the discussion; but I hope that if I do that for the convenience of the House it will not be charged against me that I am in any way perfunctory regarding these large matters about which we are all so deeply concerned.
The first question which the House has long awaited an opportunity of discussing is the Imperial Conference which took place this year immediately after the Coronation ceremonies. I do not want to speak disrespectfully of the gathering of such eminent statesmen on that occasion. I have no doubt that many valuable consequences followed from the personal contacts which were obtained through the meeting of that Conference. Yet I scarcely think that there will be any serious disagreement with the statement that the Conference was for the most part a marking-time Conference, and that so far as concrete results arising from it are concerned, they were exiguous. There were no decisions of any outstanding importance, no far-reaching conclusions reached on world problems, no approach to a settlement of the questions between our common British race and the larger world interests, and nothing on questions between the white people of our 3360 race and coloured subjects. In fact in general the Conference did not produce any results that will make it live in the annals of the British Empire.
As I said just now, it arrived at no valuable results with regard to the relations of the white and the coloured races. Shortly after the Conference was over, when General Hertzog returned home, he made certain observations, to the subject matter of which I shall refer later, with regard to the South African protectorates. It is quite clear that neither the Conference itself nor the personal conversations which I understand the Secretary of State for the Dominions had with the Prime Minister of the South African Union, convinced that gentleman that the subject was settled for the moment in any decisive fashion. One of the criticisms of the Imperial Conference, therefore, is not so much for its sins of commission as for its sins of omission and for what it has failed to do.
The first question of supreme importance is the increase of world trade, and I notice that that question was raised on more than one occasion by several statesmen who came to take part in the Conference. It was spoken of by Mr. Mackenzie King, there was a reference to it by Mr. Lyons, and I have no doubt there were private conversations resulting from the views of those right hon. Gentlemen, but nothing of importance emerged, so far as I can see, along those lines. I do not want to take up the time of the House by discussing the question of the Ottawa Agreements—we have had other opportunities for doing that—but it is of prime importance that these questions of internal and Imperial trade should not block out from our vision the much larger question of the necessity for a world advance and for freeing the world from economic barriers between the different countries.
The answer of the Government so far has been that they have empowered M. Van Zeeland to make inquiries with a view to seeing what can be done in breaking down trade barriers between the nations of the world. So far, so good, but we in this House know quite well that there are many inquiries which take place that are used, not for the purpose of really promoting the question at issue, but for procrastinating and preventing a decision being reached. The first question, therefore, that I want to put to the 3361 right hon. Gentleman is this: Is the mission of M. Van Zeeland a cloak for inaction, or is it a spearhead for a new drive for a world advance? If he says the latter, then we shall want to know at an early date in what direction the investigations of M. Van Zeeland are going to bear fruit, in order that some really deep change may take place in the cramping of international trade which has been steadily going on for several years past.
The next question which arises is the matter of the League of Nations. From what I can see of the speeches of the statesmen who came here, they were very insistent that the League of Nations should not fade out of the purview of the Government in their dealings with international affairs, and there were several speeches which showed quite clearly how keenly they felt on the matter. In fact, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that many of them took much more the view which is taken by Members on this side of the House, and perhaps by some Members in other parts of the House, than the view which His Majesty's Government are tending to take towards the League. Neither do I think it is any exaggeration to say that the only foreign policy which can really unite this country and the Governments of all the Dominions is the policy of collective security. Without that central guiding feature, the foreign policy of the various parts of the British Empire tends to fall into disunity, but if that essential factor of collective security forms the basis of our attitude towards these matters, then, and then only, I believe, can the Governments of the various Dominions unite with the Government of this country in prosecuting a harmonious and common foreign policy. We shall look to the right hon. Gentleman to-night to tell us whether the views of the Dominions on this matter are really reflected, or will be more reflected in the future in our Government than they have been in the past.
I come further to the question of the attitude that was taken by Mr. Savage, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Of course, I am not going to dilate in general on those points on which his Government is in line with the views of the party for which I speak, but there is a matter, I believe, which is of general significance to which, I think, the right hon. Gentleman should pay attention. Mr. Savage holds—and I think he has explained it 3362 on many occasions here, and probably he explained it inside the Imperial Conference—that as he sees it there can be no real increase of world trade of an effective character unless the standard of life of the people in each country be raised, and within his own Dominion Mr. Savage and his Government have worked insistently to raise the spending power of his own people. I believe that even up to the present considerable progress has been made in that direction, and I urge upon the right hon. Gentleman and upon the Government that they should realise that the increase of the standard of life and of the spending power of our own people, is the biggest contribution that we in this country can make, not only to our own development and the development of the British Empire, but to the development and improvement of the relations of world trade and of the world in general.
Having dealt with the Imperial Conference I am brought now to the question of Newfoundland, and I am brought there by the last words that I used with regard to Mr. Savage, because it is quite clear that the position in Newfoundland at the present time is very far from satisfactory. I think that even the right hon. Gentleman will not disagree with that. When the commission that the Government appointed first went to that country there were considerable hopes that something was going to be done, and the people were willing to wait and to give this new commission an opportunity to see what it could do. In the first year there were signs that some progress was being made, and even in the second year there was a hope that something would result, but with the third year and with the failure to achieve anything really effective, the people of the Dominion of Newfoundland are becoming profoundly dissatisfied.
I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will attempt to answer me by saying that the Budgetary position is better, but the Budgetary position is not the final criterion of advance in that unfortunate country. The prosperity of the people is the only ultimate criterion, and, so far as I can learn, there is no sign whatever that the position of the people of Newfoundland has really substantially improved as compared with what it was three years ago. The poverty of the people is appalling, the conditions there 3363 are a disgrace to the British Empire, and what we want to know is whether this commission has been appointed for the purpose of improving the value of the holdings of certain financial houses and of vested interests that are concerned with Newfoundland, or whether it is doing the much larger, perhaps more difficult, but far more important task of really restoring some measure of prosperity to a country which has been suffering most grievously during recent years. I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that from the point of view of the people of that country the situation at present is regarded as desperate. While at first they were willing and anxious that something should be done by this country as against the Government which they had before, they are now taking a different view, and there is a very large measure of feeling arising there that King Stork is worse than King Log.
Another matter arising directly out of the Imperial Conference—and again a sin of omission—is the failure of the Government to deal adequately with the question of nationality, and in particular with the question of the nationality of married women. I remember Debates in this House on this subject when I first came here 14 years ago. It was not very long after the termination of the War, and there was a very large number of Members of this House who realised how exceedingly unsatisfactory were our laws with regard to the nationality of married women, owing to their experience as members of the legal profession, of cases of British women who had married German and other foreign husbands. It was felt at that time, and there was a very wide expression of it in this House, that it was entirely unsatisfactory that a British woman who married a foreigner, but whose thought was for the interests of the land of her nativity, should be treated as an alien because she had married a foreigner, whereas some wholly undesirable foreign woman, because she had gone through a process of marriage with a British citizen, was regarded as a British national and freed from the investigation which was desirable in the case of a person with strong foreign leanings whose interests were not connected with this country at all.
At that time the Government took the view that we should not be pioneers in 3364 this country, and that if we were to try to do that, we should have difficulties in two ways. First of all, inside the British Empire, we should be putting our laws in a different position from those in other parts of the British Empire, and, in the second place, we should come to loggerheads with foreign countries where the old laws with regard to the nationality of married women prevailed. A great deal of water has flowed under the bridges in this connection since I first came into this House. In the first place, we have had a great change in the American law, and also changes in the laws of some of our Dominions, but, as far as I can gather, the British Government are still standing pat on this important matter. Surely it is now time that the British Government were prepared to take a bold step and to take the action which other important countries inside and outside the British Empire are taking, to give to women a status because of themselves and not because of the real or artificial unions which they may form with persons of another nationality.
I pass to another question, which is also closely related to the Imperial Conference and that is the matter of Ireland, because the right hon. Gentleman, at any rate, will not forget that the Irish Government were not represented there. This quarrel between this country and Ireland, or, should I say, between the Government of this country and the Government of the Irish Free State, still continues. It has often seemed to me that the quarrel is like a quarrel between a husband and a wife. The Government of this country may be able to prove conclusively that they have been logically correct all through and that all the fault is on the side of our Irish neighbours, but the fact that they can prove that to their own satisfaction is completely unavailing. It is no good for the husband to show his wife that he has been above reproach and that everything has been correct. It does not heal the quarrel and does not enable them to live happily ever after. It only creates further trouble and difficulty. The real fact is that the Government and the right hon. Gentleman have to get above that kind of husband-like attitude and have to take a sensible, sound line to try to heal the breach.
I am not going over again all the old ground of how this quarrel arose. It did not arise some half a dozen years ago 3365 when the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman came into conflict with the Government of the Irish Free State. If you want the origin of this quarrel, you have to go back centuries and take into account all the wrongs that have been done—I will not say by one side, although a great many have been admittedly done by Governments of this country in times past, but by both sides. It will be no good trying to rake up any particular point and saying that we ought to stick to some plan that is vital. What is needed is a real token of reconciliation. The right hon. Gentleman is a young man if he will permit me to say so, and he comes into this office with his future to make, I am sure, with the good wishes of all sides in the House. Nothing will redound more to his credit in future years than if he can heal this centuries old breach between the people of this island and the people of the island on the other side of the Irish Sea. It is not a matter of legal arguments or of formal rights and contracts, and all the rest of it. It is a matter of good will. Individually as between Englishmen, Scotsmen and Irishmen there are always the most friendly feelings, but there persists this vendetta between the Governments of the two countries and it will ruin the relations of both if it is allowed to go on. One of the Members of the Government—the Foreign Secretary, I think—said recently that he did not know any English word for what is known abroad as a vendetta, but whether we have that word or not, it remains true that between the Government of this country and the Government of Ireland there has been something in the nature of a vendetta for a very long time. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that at the outset of his career in this important office he cannot do anything better than by generous action and by a gesture help to bring this vendetta finally to an end.
I will pass to another question of a wide and far-reaching character which concerns the right hon. Gentleman's office. I refer to the large issues of the natives in Africa. There are the questions of the Rhodesias and of the Protectorates. Southern Rhodesia, being a Dominion, though not with the full rights of some of the Dominions, is the special province of the right hon. Gentleman. Northern Rhodesia, which is, of course, strictly a colony, is the province of his colleague the Secretary of State for the 3366 Colonies. Therefore, one of the main questions which is exercising the minds of people of Northern and Southern Rhodesia is the joint ground of the two right hon. Gentlemen. I refer to the question of whether there should be at an early date an amalgamation of the two Rhodesias under a common government. In 1931 a declaration was made which had the approval of all parties in this House that the time then had not come for this amalgamation. I venture to suggest, and I think I shall have a large measure of support for my view that the time which had not come then has certainly not arrived now. The main reason is that the development of Northern Rhodesia has certainly not proceeded sufficiently far to justify any such change. There is a great deal yet to be done before there can be any real justification for joining Northern and Southern Rhodesia in a common Dominion Government.
There are one or two other matters relating to Southern Rhodesia which I ought not to pass by in silence. The British Government in this country possesses the right of non-allowance of certain Dominion legislation in Southern Rhodesia, this being legislation which affects the interests of the natives. There has been agitation inside the Dominion to get rid of that restriction which is imposed on their freedom of action. I am not saying that the time may not come when that will be justified, but I desire with all the force I have—and I am sure I am supported by my colleagues—to press on the right hon. Gentleman that the time has certainly not come now. It has not come because we are not at all satisfied with what is going on. It is not so much a matter of criticism of the Southern Rhodesian Government, but the whole question of native policy is in flux at the present time. Therefore, I think it would be undesirable for the right hon. Gentleman to make that change. I would urge him to use his power with great discretion but, still, not to abrogate his power, either directly or inferentially, by allowing legislation in that country which is contrary to the spirit which this House and Governments of all parties have consistently shown to the question of the natives in Africa.
Some of the pass and registration laws have given rise to a great deal of discussion and results have arisen which are 3367 most undesirable. We have, for instance, native doctors going out to attend their patients, and they are confronted either with leaving their patients to suffer or with breaking one of the laws of the country with regard to passes. That, of course, only affects a very few persons. But I saw the figures the other day—and I hesitate to reproduce them in the House, for they are almost astronomical in magnitude—of the number of persons who have been arrested and, I think, imprisoned for offences against the pass laws. They run into five figures for a single year. It is a serious thing if people are brought into contact with difficulties and get into trouble with the law because of what are technical offences. I agree that the subject is a difficult one, but it is one which the right hon. Gentleman should take carefully into account
With regard to the Protectorates what I have to say in the first place also affects Northern Rhodesia. I refer to the question of migration. The policy which has prevailed, both in the Protectorates and in Northern Rhodesia has not only allowed and encouraged, but has compelled, a large proportion of the adult male population to go out to work away from their colony. It must be evident that if a large proportion of the native male population are driven by economic circumstances to leave their homes, a great strain is placed on the tribal system. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to take steps, so far as it comes within his purview, to prevent this excessive migration taking place in future.
There are two general matters which the right hon. Gentleman has to watch. The first is a negative one. He has given grounds for thinking that he is watching it. I refer to the desire of the South African Union to induce His Majesty's Government to hand over the Protectorates to it at an early date. The pledges of Governments in the past have been clear in this matter; the first is, that it should not be done without the consultation of the natives concerned, and the second that the previous approval of this House should be obtained. I will not press the right hon. Gentleman too hard for the precise meaning of the word "consultation," because I think it is clear that it would be a travesty of the idea of consultation if it were suggested that it merely meant that you ask the natives, and that 3368 when they with a tremendous voice are against any particular proposal, you say that your duty has been fulfilled by consulting them and that now you are going to do the thing with which they expressly disagree. Although the right hon. Gentleman in the past has refused to qualify the word "consultation," I assume we may take it that if there is a strong feeling in the Protectorates against being handed over to the Union, that feeling will be respected. That is the negative duty of the right hon. Gentleman.
But he has also a positive duty in the need for a development of these Protectorates on a much broader scale than has gone on in times past. We need to see that these countries, which are a trust of the British Government, are not allowed to go from bad to worse economically. The Government must bestir themselves to see that they are really developed, and developed in a way which is justified by modern conditions. They will need a certain amount of financial assistance, and they will need advice, control and help in their marketing arrangements. I think it will be found that that can best be done if their resources are developed on a communal or co-operative basis. I am not using the words in the sense which is a red rag to a bull to many hon. Gentlemen opposite; I mean them in the larger sense of the co-operation of tribal people who are used to operating together for their common interests. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do everything in his power to promote that development. I cannot say that I think it has taken place up to now. There have been certain small efforts, but they have not been comprehensive enough or vigorous enough, and I certainly do not think they have succeeded in lifting the people of the Protectorates from their poor economic position into a position which can win the respect of the other parts of South Africa for British rule in those Protectorates.
I cannot conclude what I have to say without putting in a few words of a rather more general character with regard to the whole problem of the white and black races in Africa, and in particular in the southern part of that great Continent. I beg of the Government not to take a short view of this important question. When the history of the world comes to be written in years to come I do not think the white races will feel very proud of the 3369 chapters dealing with the treatment of the black races in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We cannot unwrite those chapters, but in the twentieth century it is for us to write something which our descendants can be proud of in years to come. I think it is recognised in this House that there is a certain conflict of ideas between our brothers and cousins in South Africa and ourselves here. I shall certainly not say anything on this matter which would aggravate that difference or estrange our kindred from us, but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the South African view is regarded with some suspicion in this country and that South Africa looks upon our view as academic and sentimental.
The South African policy boils down to this: segregation of the native when he is at home, and making him a beast of burden when he is taken from his home to work in those parts of Africa where he is only an immigrant. With regard to that policy I will only say that political considerations in South Africa make genuine segregation, with adequate land, unworked, if not unworkable, and I do not believe that we can keep the South African native a mere beast of burden for ever. Our policy is trusteeship in theory, but I am not at all sure that it is not stagnation in practice. The neglect of these Protectorates has been an outstanding disgrace to this country and not worthy of the great British Empire. This is not merely a question of to-day or of 10 or 20 years hence, but a question of 50 or 100 years hence, and it is one of supreme importance. Hon. Members in this House and men and women outside may regret that the black race was ever brought into contact with the white race, and may wish that the black race had remained sheltered and shut off. Whether that view is sound or not I do not know; but we cannot go back on what has happened. There are no means of putting the chicken back into the egg.
For better or worse the black man has come into contact with the white man and has to that extent discarded his old civilisation, and we cannot reimpose upon him his old tribal customs. We cannot refuse him the education which modern civilisation makes possible. We cannot deny to the black race the prospects of advancement, and we must provide opportunities for this great Bantu people to share in the advance of civilisation. 3370 If we fail to do that, if we think we can keep the black man permanently as a beast of burden for the white man, we shall build up a sense of injustice of immense magnitude, and one day that sense of injustice will burst out and will engulf Africa in a conflict the end of which none of us can foresee.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I desire to take the opportunity of saying a word, first, about the great importance and value of the Conference of the Empire Parliamentary Association attended by delegates from the legislatures of the Empire, which was held in Westminster Hall in the weeks preceding the Coronation and preceding the Imperial Conference itself. I believe it was the first time there has been such a juxtaposition of the two bodies, the unofficial body meeting just before the official body, and I think it was of great advantage. The unofficial conference dealt with very much the same subjects as the other, although in an unofficial manner. The Ministers who attended the latter conference were present, and at the Empire Parliamentary Conference we had the advantage of the presence not only of the supporters of the Government but of the Opposition, and every point of view in the Dominion legislatures was represented, so that the Ministers were able to go on later to the Imperial Conference with a full knowledge of the general attitude of the legislatures of the Dominions towards the important questions which were to be discussed.
It is interesting to note who were actually present at the Empire Parliamentary Conference, because there was from every country a statesman who was also attending the Imperial Conference. Quite a number of British Ministers took part in the proceedings—the present Prime Minister, the present Home Secretary, the Dominions Secretary and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. For Canada there was the Hon. E. Lapointe, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, leader of the Delegation and delegate to the Imperial Conference. For Australia there was the Hon. Sir R. Archdale Parkhill, Minister for Defence, leader of the Delegation and delegate to the Imperial Conference. For New Zealand there was the Hon. Walter Nash, Minister of Finance, delegate to the Imperial Conference. For the Union 3371 of South Africa there was Senator the Hon. C. F. Clarkson, Minister of Posts, Telegraphs and Public Works, leader of the Delegation and delegate to the Imperial Conference. As representing the Indian Central Legislature there was the Hon. Sir Muhammud Zafrullah Kahn, member for railways and commerce in the Viceroy's Council, and delegate to the Imperial Conference. We also had the great advantage at the earlier conference of the presence of the Prime Ministers of all the State Parliaments of Australia, which was of great importance in view of the powers they exercise over immigration. Further, it is interesting to note that although the Irish Free State was not represented at the Imperial Conference, the Empire Parliamentary Association can congratulate itself on having brought in, unofficially at any rate, the Irish Free State, because no fewer than three representatives were present. I think this Conference, organised so ably and successfully by Sir Howard d'Egville, was a gathering of real importance and usefulness, and has set a precedent which should be followed at future gatherings of the Imperial Conference.
I desire now to turn to the Report of the Imperial Conference and to statements there made on foreign affairs. One cannot help seeing that the proceedings were profoundly influenced, as they were bound to be, by the attitude and policy of His Majesty's Government in Great Britain. It is not possible for the Dominion Governments, any more than for the Governments of foreign States, to take up an attitude in foreign policy different from that of the Government of Great Britain, or where there is no leadership from the Government of this country. I can trace in the report of the proceedings the same tendency which one has noticed for some years past in the policy of the Government to serve the League of Nations with their lips but not with their lives—a tendency for the loosening of our obligations, a tendency towards an interpretation of them which seems to let us out from what was previously understood to be our contracts, and in particular a loosening of our obligations under Article 16. As an example of what I mean I quote the following passage from page 14 of the report:In their view,"—3372 that is the view of the Imperial Conference—the settlement of differences that may arise between nations and the adjustment of national needs should be sought by methods of co-operation and joint inquiry and conciliation. It is in such methods, and not in recourse to the use of force between nation and nation, that the surest guarantee will be found for the improvement of international relations and respect for mutual obligations.We all agree about the general tendency towards conciliation, but unless we are prepared to have in the background the machinery of force all efforts at conciliation will, in the long run, prove to be futile. On page 15 they are found declaring that their respective armaments:will never be used for purposes of aggression or any purposes inconsistent with the Covenant of the League of Nations or the Pact of Paris.We all agree with that, but what we want to know, and what the whole world wants to know, is whether those same armaments are in the affirmative going to be used in accordance with League obligations in resistance to an aggressor wherever he may arise, and particularly in Europe? That is an unanswered question which is keeping the whole world in a state of uncertainty. I was interested and gratified, to some extent, by a footnote to page 14 which said:It was understood and agreed that nothing in this statement should be held to diminish the right of His Majesty's Governments in the United Kingdom, Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa, and the Government of India, to advocate and support their statements of policy as submitted to the Assembly of the League of Nations in September, 1936.It is interesting to recall what those words mean. I shall quote a few of the paragraphs of the statement of policy sent in by the New Zealand Government. There were 21 paragraphs, but I shall read only a few, though they are very important and I think they will bear reading in this House and reproduction outside. They say there:We are prepared"—this is a Dominion Government speaking—to take our collective share in the application against any future aggressor, of the full economic sanctions contemplated to Article 16, and we are prepared, to the extent of our power, to join in the collective application of force against any future aggressor.3373 Would that it were Great Britain from whom those words had come. In paragraph 7, they said:We believe that the sanctions contemplated by the present Covenant will be ineffective in the future as they have been in the past unless they are made immediate and automatic, unless economic sanctions take the form of the complete boycott contemplated by Article 16, and unless any sections that may be applied are supported by the certainty that the Members of the League applying the sanctions are able and, if necessary, prepared to use force against force.Number 8 of New Zealand's proposals was:It is our belief that the Covenant as it is, or in a strengthened form, would in itself be sufficient to prevent war if the world realised that the nations undertaking to apply the Covenant actually would do so in fact.The last paragraph 1 shall read is paragraph 9, which says:We are prepared to agree to the institution of an international force under the control of the League or to the allocation to the League of a definite proportion of the armed forces of its Members to the extent, if desired, of the whole of those forces—land, sea and air.It is very refreshing to find a member of the British Commonwealth and of the League of Nations using realistic, firm, courageous language of that kind, and I hope that New Zealand has given a lead which will be followed by the other units in general and by the British Government in particular. There is an interesting passage on page 16 at the end of the Report of the Foreign Affairs Section of the Summary of Proceedings. It says:Finally the Members of the Conference, while themselves firmly attached to the principles of democracy and to parliamentary forms of Government, decided to register their view that differences of political creed should be no obstacle to friendly relations between Governments and countries, and that nothing would be more damaging to the hopes of international appeasement than the division, real or apparent, of the world into opposing groups.Naturally we are all in agreement with that, but the point surely is not what is the internal policy or structure of the countries of the world, but what is their foreign policy. Where you have a dictatorship' country with a foreign policy of peace and conciliation, there is no difficulty in co-operating with it, but where you have a dictatorship State, as you do, whose foreign policy is one of non-cooperation and of using power and force 3374 to obtain their own wishes regardless of the will of the rest of mankind, I think it is true to say that there is an obstacle to friendly relations between those Governments and other countries.
I would venture to call attention to another aspect of the matter, referred to on the pages dealing with Defence. I cannot help regretting that while very great attention was very properly paid to the question of close co-operation between the Defence forces of different parts of the Empire and the action they might have to take in common in certain eventualities, no attention was apparently paid to the further obligation for joint action which, as members of the British Commonwealth, they share with other members of the League of Nations. I would quote one passage from page 20 of the report, where there is a reference toa common system of organisation and training.It declares:each of them would thus be enabled to ensure more effectively its own security and, if it be so desired, to co-operate with other countries of the Commonwealth with the least possible delay.I think the further subject which should have been considered was the possibility of co-operating effectively not only with other members of the Commonwealth but with other members of the League of Nations. If you are to make the collective system a reality something of that kind is absolutely essential; otherwise the whole idea is a mockery.
I believe that the British Government at the present time have, not in terms but in practice, wholly abandoned any idea of relying upon the collective system of the League of Nations. I am rather surprised to learn from a question which was put the other day that the Government did not think it worth while to draw the attention of the Dominions to the situation that has arisen in Spain and the grave dangers that might come out of a threat to our Imperial communications. I asked whether this subject has been upon the agenda and discussed, and I was told "No." I asked whether it was not an important question, and the reply was: "Surely it may be left to the Dominions to bring up any matter to which they attach importance." We are not concerned here with the Dominions but with the British Government, and I 3375 say that it is the duty of the British Government in a matter of vital importance to the British Empire to bring it up themselves and to explain the situation to the Dominions, and to take them into consultation as to the best way of dealing with it. I very much regret that there has, from this report, been a tendency towards failure to rally to the collective system. I entirely agree that the future of the British Empire depends upon the continued existence of the League of Nations in an effective form. It is the one rallying point which can keep us all together. If it is now allowed to fade out of the picture and disappear I believe it will be impossible to maintain in existence that magnificent structure, the British Empire, as one of the examples of the British genius for self-government.
What are some of the things that we have done as example to the world in respect of peace? Between these Dominions war is absolutely unthinkable. No one ever discusses it as a possible eventuality and no expenditure ever takes place upon the provision of armaments inter se. If we were the only people in the world, no armaments would exist because we would realise that they could river be used. Judicial or conciliatory methods are always used to settle any dispute. We have further evolved this system to the point that, in the event of any attack upon the smallest island in the possession of the British Empire there would be brought into existence at once overwhelming, automatic sanctions, economic and military, on sea, land and air. No discussion whether it is a suitable case; it is done as a matter of course. That is the reason why Abyssinia was chosen when Signor Mussolini was looking round in Africa for some colony. He selected Abyssinia instead of Kenya. He took the chance that nothing would happen in the former case, because he knew that if he touched the latter something very definite would happen. There is no better working model for the League than the functioning of the British Empire itself.
I am going to make a suggestion upon the subject of the Protectorates in South Africa which, I hope, will be seriously considered. It is a difficult question, and liable to lead to misunderstanding and ill-feeling between the two Governments. Would it be practicable to consider, in due 3376 course and at the proper time, placing the Protectorates under some form of mandate, not necessarily the form of international mandate that exists at the present time? I cannot help feeling that if the possibility of that method were explored it might be possible to create machinery to get over the difficulties existing between the two Governments at the present time.
Now a word about trade relations, which subject was also touched upon on page 21, where it states:It had been agreed that questions arising out of the Ottawa Agreements could best be dealt with as occasion offered in separate discussions.What a flood of light that throws on the Ottawa Conference itself. It indicates what everyone knows to be true, that the Government were not prepared to go through the gruelling process of another Ottawa Conference. They had had enough of it, and they hoped that that would be the last. They were not going to have that over again. They indicated that it was far better to have individual conferences between the different Dominions and in that way to avoid the free fighting, so to speak, that arose at Ottawa.
The Ottawa Conference has had very satisfactory results, not only from our point of view but from that of the Dominions.
§ Mr. Mander
I am glad to know that the hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks so. With regard to the question of economic agreements between the Empire and the nations of Europe, I hope that we may hear something of the progress of those negotiations. I understand that various Dominion Governments are prepared, so far as they can, to make the necessary adjustments, painful though they may be, to carry out such a scheme. The proposal which has recently been made by His Majesty the King of the Belgians is an interesting one and deserves careful study. One ought to think about it a little carefully, because we want to avoid the erection of some new academic machinery which would mean long conferences on economic problems and nothing definite being done. We had the experience of the economic conference which was held in 1926, when most admirable recommendations were made and nothing was done. We should not be too hasty to set up in the world a new and expensive organisation when 3377 we have a very admirable one working in the League of Nations at the present time. I think it will be agreed that, whatever failure there has been in the League of Nations in some respects, it has done fine work for reconstruction in the world. Its financial and economic staff work has been wholly admirable and deserves every support.
In conclusion, I would say that the Imperial Conference links up with a very stirring event in our national history, the Coronation. One may look at the Coronation from many points of view; I should like to regard it not only as the Crowning of the King of this country and the Dominions, but as the Crowning of the King of seven independent State Members of the League of Nations. I hope that we shall in due course be able to feel the same emotional loyalty towards the head of not only this seven but of all 58 members of the League, and surround them and him completely with some appropriate symbolism. When we have reached that stage—we have a long way to go—peace will reign throughout the world as securely as it reigns in the British Empire at the present time.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Grigg
I am very glad that an occasion has been found to enable the House to discuss the report of the Imperial Conference before the Summer Adjournment. At the present moment the Prime Ministers of the various Dominions either have reported, or are reporting, or are about to report, to their various Parliaments on what took place here, and I think it would not have been at all desirable that we should have broken up without discussing the proceedings and the report of the Conference and showing that we appreciate the work that it did. I am bound to say that, when I first read the report, I felt very much as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) felt. I felt that it was not a very impressive report, that it showed a certain shyness about realities, and that it was marked by no important resolutions or decisions of any kind. On reflection, however, I very much modified that view. My present feeling is that the Conference was on the whole an extremely satisfactory and encouraging Conference, and I think it is important that we should not depreciate its work in this country at the present time.
3378 In the first place, of course, one must realise that the Conference dealt with some very delicate matters in regard to defence and in regard to foreign policy, and that, while the Report may be exceedingly reticent on these matters, it is quite reasonable to assume that the discussions in the Conference itself went much nearer to reality than the Report would suggest, and were robust in every way. Indeed, if certain reports which have leaked out are true, there was a quality about many of the discussions in the Conference which we should all welcome and approve. Personally, I am all for plain speaking in these conferences. In that connection I might perhaps say a word with regard to what was said by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) about the example of New Zealand. I very much appreciate the line that was taken by the New Zealand Government, but one really has to reflect that the contribution made by New Zealand to a policy of that kind is not so great that it can offer to give a lead to the rest of the Empire at the present time. I say that without disparagement in any way of the New Zealand people, among whom I have relations and to whom I have been devoted all my life, but it is perfectly obvious that a Government like that of New Zealand cannot set a lead in regard to foreign policy, and no one knows that better than the New Zealand Government itself.
In the second place, it is very important to realise that the Imperial Conference cannot bind Governments, and that for that reason it is probably unwise for it to arrive at very definite decisions of any kind. It exists, I think, as the Prime Minister himself said in winding up the Conference, rather for the exchange of views, and the policy which is to result from the exchange of views is a matter for the individual Governments and Parliaments of the Commonwealth. I think it is a mistake to expect binding decisions from the Imperial Conference. It is most important to emphasise the fact that Governments come to it free, that they leave it free, and that the decisions rest with the Governments and Parliaments of individual Dominions. The moment you get away from that conception of the Imperial Conference, you do a real disservice to our Imperial relations and to the Conference itself.
3379 I think one must also realise that the Conference exists, and has existed since it first came into being, much rather to register the states of mind of the different peoples of the Empire than to elaborate policies of any kind. It has been a most invaluable barometer of the way in which opinion is moving in different parts of the Commonwealth, and we should always value it as such. The movements of opinion which make the history of the Empire are almost tidal in character, and the Governments which come to the Imperiol Conference are, after all, creatures of that opinion. All that they can do is to register the movement of opinion, and certainly never, when they are present here, go one inch beyond what opinion in their own country will support. That limitation is very strong upon them. But if the course of the Empire in any crisis that may be hanging over the world is to be accurately foreseen, I think the important thing is, not to look for results from the Imperial Conference, but rather to watch the movement of the tide throughout the Empire, and as regards that aspect I think this Conference registers a very important change in the state of mind of the Empire.
Everybody knows that the tide of Imperial unity has been ebbing pretty steadily ever since a year or two after the War. There were strains evident in the Peace Conference at Paris. The last effective action which the Empire took as a unit, with all its members acting together, was at the Washington Conference, when the agreement for the limitation of naval armaments was arrived at—a most valuable achievement, but one which was not repeated afterwards, although as a matter of fact the Dominions participated in a less effective way in the London Naval Conference of 1930. From the Washington Conference onwards, over a series of years, it is perfectly plain that the force which has shown such immense power and influence in the world elsewhere—I mean the force of nationalism, of separatist nationalism—took hold of the British Empire and reduced its power of co-operation, reduced even the interest in its existence as a unit for a considerable time. There is a preoccupation with internal status developed to a great height by two or three Dominions, and, in consequence, much 3380 less interest in the relations of the Empire as a whole with the rest of the world. The nationalist movement of opinion came to a climax in the Conference of 1930, which laid the foundations of the Statute of Westminster. The Statute of Westminster registered the conception, the consummation of that movement. I am certainly not going to quarrel with the movement of nationalism in the British Empire. It is no good quarrelling with it; you might just as well talk disrespectfully of the Equator, or quarrel with the force of gravitation. It is one of the greatest forces in the world, and nothing in the world will arrest it.
I believe that the history of our time, both political and economic, is being made very largely by two great political forces. One of these is nationalism, and the other is equalitarianism—the desire that all mankind should have a better opportunity in the world and a larger share of the good things of life. It is no use quarrelling with nationalism in the world or in the British Commonwealth in these days. I would in any case be the last to quarrel with it, because I regard patriotism, which, after all, is nationalism in its broader and better sense, as the basis of all good citizenship, and I believe that patriotism in our country and in the British Commonwealth is essential for the maintenance of our standards, of our ideals, of our freedom, and of all our institutions. Furthermore, although nationalism, as everybody knows, is immensely dangerous when it is carried to extremes, we must recollect that we, who are at the centre of affairs and are dealing with democracies at a great distance from the nerve centres of the world, must face the fact that nationalism is never to be modified by constraint from without. We in the British Empire at least have always given nationalism full play, and our recognition of the rights of nationalism is, I believe, our greatest contribution to the organisation of human society and to the development of freedom in the world.
For all these reasons I would be the last to quarrel with the movements which have emanated from the force of nationalism in the British Empire during recent years. But it is desirable that modification should come, and that it should come from within, that is to say, from the only source from which it ever can 3381 come effectively. I do think that at this Conference there were signs that the extremes of nationalism are being modified throughout the Commonwealth, and I think that that change is arising from a sense of the dangers of isolation which was not felt before. External pressure always tells, and external pressure is working at the present time. But I think it also arises from something more, from a growing realisation that, by combination with other nations inside the Commonwealth, every member of the Commonwealth may do more not only for its own security, but for the peace and progress of the world. I believe that that broad idea is growing upon the Commonwealth at the present time.
This Conference, I think, registers that movement. For that reason I am very glad indeed that it has happened, and I should be very sorry if we minimised its work or its results. In proof of that, I would ask the House to consider three significant signs. What has marked the ebbing of the tide of Imperial unity during the last 10 or 15 years? I should say that the first thing was the preoccupation with internal rights and internal status of which I have already spoken. I do not want to go into that. The second was a growing weakness in trade co-operation up to 1932, largely owing to the fact that this country would play no part in bringing the Empire together in matters of commerce and trade.
The third feature of these years was the determination to let the Empire become disarmed, almost without consciousness of what was going on in the rest of the world. It is an astonishing thing that, even in 1930, there should have been such a complete lack of realisation of what might be expected in the near future, with the world as it was at that date. Indeed, the 1930 Conference, at the end of its report, expressed regret that the great pressure of work in connection with inter-Imperial relations and economic questions rendered it impossible to arrange any plenary discussions on Imperial defence. The only thing that the Conference succeeded in doing was to pass a resolution in favour of discontinuing for a period of five years all expenditure on the Singapore base. That was towards the end of the summer of 1930. Look at what happened in that part of the world in 1931 and 1932. It is, therefore, worth 3382 remembering the extent to which complete unconsciousness of the dangers that were threatening the world was carried in the Imperial Conference, and among the democracies of the Commonwealth in quite recent times.
How has the state of mind of the Empire on this question changed now, first in regard to this question of national status. I think everyone would agree that the terrible crisis regarding the succession to the Crown, through which the Empire passed only a few months ago, showed that the Statute of Westminster and the whole movement of which it was the culmination has in no way impaired the fundamental unity of our people. All the Governments were free to decide upon that matter as they pleased. There was nothing to bind them in any way. Had they decided differently, the unity of the Commonwealth would quite necessarily have been destroyed, but without prompting they took the same course and they were approved by all the people. I think the Imperial Conference has shown the effect of that movement towards unity when it came to discuss the very vital question of British citizenship and the status of a British subject. I attach enormous importance to that question, because I believe it will be found more and more that the development of the Empire will not turn upon the relations of Governments to Governments, but rather on the status of the individual and will deal with the fealty that he owes to his own local Government and the wider fealty which he owes as a British subject to His Majesty. The fealty of the individual throughout the Commonwealth to the King is the constitutional expression of what Monarchy means in the Commonwealth at present, and it is very important that the Imperial Conference used language upon this matter which was much clearer and more decisive than it used on any other subject. It says:In the course of the discussions at the present Conference it was in no way suggested that any change should be made in the existing position regarding the common status based on the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act of the United Kingdom and the corresponding enactments in other parts of the British Commonwealth. This common status is described by the term 'British subject'. The term does not, of course, mean a subject of Great Britain. It is one of long standing as denoting generally all subjects of His Majesty to whatever part of the British Commonwealth they belong.3383 It is extremely important that this Conference should have registered no desire to weaken or impair that common status in any way.
I come to the second feature which has marked the ebb of the tide during recent years, and that is the failure of trade co-operation. Of course the main change in that respect was made by the Economic Conference at Ottawa in 1932. There has been criticism of the Ottawa Agreements—we heard a little of it from the Front Bench opposite a little while ago—criticism which always takes the same form. But I think one thing is clear. While it is quite proper that the discussion, extension or modification in any way of the Ottawa Agreements should now take the form of bi-lateral discussion between Governments, there is no disposition in this country or elsewhere in the Empire to weaken those agreements in any way. The agreements are there, they represent the great majority of opinion throughout the Commonwealth and they govern the situation at present. Hon. Members opposite may talk as if they wish to modify them and do away with them, but they will continue to stand. Their importance at present may be illustrated by the influence that they are bound to exert on commercial negotiations with the United States. I am all for a commercial understanding with the United States, but it must be perfectly clear that the character of that understanding will be governed by the Ottawa Agreements and by the obligations of the different parts of the Empire to each other. Fortunately, that is made perfectly clear by the character of the Ottawa Agreements themselves. Nothing can be done that is inconsistent with them. I am glad that that is the case.
I come to the third feature of the ebbing tide, and that was the blind movement towards complete disarmament. If one thing is absolutely clear in the report of this Conference, studied and moderate though its language may be, it is that the whole Empire realises the dangers of the present time. Nothing could stand out more clearly from the printed words. It would have been quite impossible in this year 1937 for the Imperial Conference to do what it did only seven years ago and say it had no time to discuss Imperial defence. The report does not say very much about the actual discussions that 3384 took place. It could hardly do so. But is is perfectly clear that the Dominions do fully realise the importance of doing what they can in their own sphere and of making co-operation easier if their Governments and Parliaments should decide on co-operation at any time. If one thing also is clear, it is that the world has taken note of that fact. When you are inclined to minimise the importance of this Imperial Conference, do not forget that the attitude that it adopted in regard to Imperial Defence, so different from the attitude that it adopted seven years ago, has had a marked impression upon the situation in Europe at present.
So much for the achievements of the Conference. I cannot sit down, however, without expressing one very great regret. I have said that the Conference cannot bind Governments. We could not ask from it decisions of that kind. But, nevertheless, it has made declarations in some respects of a very important type. The hon. Member why preceded me referred to declarations on foreign policy. I attach particular importance to the declaration which laid down that members of the Commonwealth would not take sides, or join any particular group in the European system at present. But I regret very much that there was no resolution of that kind on the very important matter of the merchant navy and shipping. The Conference did nothing except reaffirm the Resolution of 1923, which in itself only said that the members of the Commonwealth should consult together if its commercial shipping were threatened in any way. I am astonished that, under the leadership of our Government, it should have dealt so perfunctorily with a vital question of that kind. The strength and welfare of the merchant navy are absolutely vital to our existence and to the existence of every Dominion. It is almost as important as the Royal Navy itself. And here is the Imperial Conference doing no more than reaffirm a perfectly empty Resolution on the subject which it passed 14 years ago. I regard that as a great blemish on the record of a Conference which did well in other ways, and I hope very much that my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us that he did something more effective in regard to our great shipping interests than appears from The report.
I regret one other thing. I regret that there was, apparently, no discussion of 3385 the subject of future economic development. We spend a great deal of time in this House, quite rightly, talking about freeing world trade. I am all for it. Let us do our best, but let us recognise that the forces of economic nationalism are still very strong, and that even with the support, if we can get it, of the United States, even with the measures that have been suggested, progress in this is inevitably going to be very slow. Again and again the Governments of Europe have resolved that there shall be a freeing of economic barriers which hamper trade. Again and again practically nothing has been done. It is a most difficult subject and progress in dealing with it, though I hope it will be made, is bound to be very slow. But in the old days when we were building up our industries we did not rely on getting a share of the markets that existed. We built up new markets by investment and enterprise, and the markets that were perhaps of the greatest value to us were those that we ourselves made. The day for that has not passed. Capital is piling up and is not being used. Surely the time has come when this great Empire should discuss, if need be with the encouragement of the Government, which must be given, the use of capital for building up new markets and for helping to increase employment and to maintain our standard here. Let us remember that money invested for this purpose in the Empire itself is much safer than money invested elsewhere. Practically the whole world has repudiated international debts, but I do not think there is a single debt which has not been paid to the full within the British Commonwealth, and that is a fact that has some importance at present.
The development of the Dominions is absolutely vital to our own prosperity, and I do not believe that there are great prospects of doing that by the development of agriculture. I believe we have to encourage secondary industries. They are going to have that, anyhow. Let us use our capital to help them in getting it, but let us see, while we do so, that the arrangements for the development of industry there are complementary and that, while they develop on those lines, they leave us the command of certain other lines. It is in that way that trade can now best be expanded between the Dominions and ourselves. I most deeply regret that that matter was not dealt with 3386 in any way by the Imperial Conference, but I hope very much that it is being studied by our own Government. The initiative, obviously, must come from us, because we command these great reserves of capital. In the United States and in this country are the only great reserves of capital in the world at present, and they should most certainly be used to the full. Apart from these questions, on which I feel very deeply, I congratulate His Majesty's Government upon the work which was done by the last Imperial Conference. I believe that it was well conducted on our side, and that it exercised a quiet and most invaluable influence upon the peace of Europe and of the world in the present summer and in the months that are to come. I hope that we shall be meeting again at an interval much shorter than has passed between recent conferences to discuss cooperation once more for the purpose of preserving our freedom and the peace of the world.
§ 5.46 p.m.
Mr. Creech Jones
We have few opportunities in this House of discussing the work of the Dominions Office, and much as I would like to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) in a discussion of the work of the Imperial Conference, I feel that my time would be better used this afternoon by directing attention to a number of problems which are of special interest to hon. Members on these benches. I want to talk about certain tendencies in connection with native policy in Africa, and, while I am conscious that in this House we are very remote from those great places where difficult problems have to be tackled, nevertheless, we have very real responsibilities, which are a form of trust which this House cannot very lightly let go. Much of the criticism is interpreted in our Dominions as unfair, but I would say that we are not unmindful of the complexity and the difficulties of these racial questions. We do not, when we pass criticism, suggest that those who have to tackle these problems are in any way less human or less humane than ourselves. The responsibility is with us, and while it is with us we have to take it seriously. The aim of Rhodes, in his historic phrase, was to secure equal rights for all civilised men south of the Zambesi. That is where we on these benches, and, 3387 I am sure, Members in all parts of the House, stand. Unfortunately, recent legislation in Southern Rhodesia has worsened the status and security of the native people, and I regret that our Dominions Office has given that reactionary legislation its approval.
I would urge upon the Dominions Secretary that he should, as far as the future is concerned anyway, exercise his powers with the utmost discretion and not join in this general retreat from the great Liberal principles of Colonial policy which have been declared from time to time by great statesmen of our own country, and which are in the records of our own Colonial policy. There is a danger that the powers of reservation in Downing Street are likely to be challenged. In any case, one suspects that before long a demand will be forthcoming, and certainly will be vocal in Southern Rhodesia, that the Colony itself should be the complete master in its own house. I hope that no Government in Southern Rhodesia will ask that these powers of reservation should be withdrawn, and that they will appreciate the importance that we in this House attach to our own solemn obligations, certainly in respect to native policy. We have the example already where these powers of reservation are destroyed that a very unhappy reactionary policy in regard to the natives can be pursued, as it is being pursued at the moment in the Union of South Africa.
As far as Southern Rhodesia is concerned, I believe that, from the statements that have been made by representative people, and certainly by the statement of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia, there is the possibility that before long we shall be confronted with a demand that the native franchise shall be abolished altogether. The creation of local native councils is no substitute for the native franchise. The franchise is the hallmark of citizenship, equality and freedom. It may be fashionable at the moment for those who are interested in Colonial administration to speak of the creation of parallel institutions, but we have to be careful that these parallel institutions do not spell the servitude of the native people. At least as far as Rhodesia is concerned one would hope that they will keep in mind the ideal of Rhodes himself, 3388 of equal rights for all civilised men, irrespective of colour, south of the Zambesi.
My right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) referred to the question of amalgamation in Northern and Southern Rhodesia. I would ask the Minister what really has transpired as a result of the discussions between the two Governments during the Imperial Conference? Is there any approach towards a common policy as between the two Governments? Is there any possibility of a redrafting of the frontiers between the two Colonies? What exactly is going on? Shall we before long be confronted with something already agreed upon to merge the two Colonies? One would like to know precisely where we stand, because this House ought to have the opportunity of declaring itself before so important a step is taken.
I turn for a few moments to the question of the Protectorates. I recognise at once that each of the Protectorates is a separate problem. It has its separate history and its own distinct relationships, and I am also conscious that the economic prosperity and future of the Protectorates to a degree are tied up with the Union of South Africa itself. At the same time, there is too easy an assumption that inevitably these territories must pass into the Union, and I want to offer some observations in respect of this matter. When the Act of Union was passed the question of transfer was tied up with the whole question of native policy. It was partly because we could get no satisfaction in the negotiations at the time of the Convention and subsequently, that reservations were made in the Act both in respect to South Africa itself as well as to the Protectorates. Lord De Villiers said at the time that Great Britain regarded itself in a special sense as the guardian and trustee of the natives of South Africa, and that if a settlement of the native franchise question was regarded by us as unsatisfactory, the Protectorates would not he considered for transfer. A little later Lord Selborne said that the obligations of His Majesty's Government to the tribes inhabiting the Basutoland and Bechuanaland Protectorates were obligations of honour of the greatest possible weight, and that in respect of Swaziland the obligations were only different in degree. It was partly 3389 because of this disagreement that the Schedule was made to the Union Act. It was made permissive and so strong was the feeling in this House at the time, in regard to the possibility of transfer, that the Government spokesman, when the Bill was going through this House, declared that it did not bring transfer an hour nearer; in fact it made it more difficult. Since the passing of the Act, conditions have changed.
We have heard this afternoon about the Statute of Westminster, and whatever reservations were possible in 1909 owing to the passing of the Statute of Westminster, such reservations would become inoperative if these territories were transferred to the Union. The Schedule requirements, therefore, of the Union Act cannot be safeguarded, and if the transfer occurred it would mean that these native peoples would be subject to the native policy in respect to the African people. I suggest that without reservation or some alternative safeguard we cannot reverse the policy and principles which prevented the transfer of these territories in 1906 and 1909. I go further and point out that in the Union the situation in reference to the Rhodesias is even worse than is the case with the Protectorates. No one to-day would suggest for a moment that Southern Rhodesia should throw in her lot with the Union, or that the Union has any right or power to compel the transfer of Southern Rhodesia into the Union itself. Whatever may be in the Schedule, at least conditions have changed and this problem has to be looked at afresh.
There is the third consideration, and that is, What is the nature of our position in these Protectorates? These people would never ask or accept the protection of either the White or Dutch colonists in South Africa. They constantly asked for the protection of the British Crown, and they did not, when we afforded our help and co-operation, surrender their territories. What they did allow us to do was to co-operate and assist them in the management and control of their own government. That position is made perfectly clear in Section 151 of the Act of the Union, which points out that it is not the territories which may be transferred but the government of these territories. Therefore, if it is not the land that may be transferred into the Union, and if we are there at the request of the natives themselves to assist them in government 3390 and to protect them, obviously, before any transfer can be conceded we have not only to consult them, but we have also to secure their consent. Therefore, I want to put it to the right hon. Gentleman that the feeling on these benches is very definitely that we cannot endorse transfer without the consent of the natives who are concerned.
Why is it that this immediate demand is presented to us? I suggest that it arises in part from the policy that has been pursued by the Union Government in relation to their own African people. First, it seems obvious that the Union Government want a great source of labour supply for their farms, their towns and mines, and the Protectorates offer a considerable labour reservoir which can be drawn upon, and is being drawn upon in some respects to a degree which has very severe social consequences in the Protectorates. It is obvious that in the days to come the Rand will call for more and more labour and that the transfer of the Protectorates to the Union would bring these reservoirs of labour completely under Union control.
It is unfortunate that a great deal of this Protectorate labour when it enters the Union is used to depress the wage standards of the native people belonging to the Union. It seems to me that the Union is pressing its claim partly because of the results of its own native policy. That policy has been vigorously pursued in the Union and there is a great demand for land by the natives, a demand which cannot be satisfied, and the only hope of satisfying that demand is by incorporating the Protectorates and putting more natives on to the land in the Protectorates. I wonder whether another factor in the claim of the Union for transfer of the Protectorates may be the suspicion that there is mineral wealth in certain lands of the Protectorates which cannot be alienated. The natives themselves and the protectorates are definitely opposed to transfer. Only two years ago they rejected an offer of the Prime Minister of the Union of a grant which was designed to help in the development of their economic resources. Obviously, the natives much prefer the easy-going British administration and the freedom they enjoy in the Protectorates to the restraint and re- 3391 striction which would be imposed upon them by the Union's native policy.
In the Union, the enshrined policy is the Transvaal policy laid down in Article 9 of the late Transvaal Constitution, of no equality between black and white in Church or State. There has been a range of recent repressive legislation at the expense of the native people—pass laws, land laws, labour laws and a whole series of laws of a definitely restrictive character, and one can appreciate, therefore, why the natives in the Protectorates refuse to be transferred to the Union. If we want any further proof we have the Statement of Mr. Pirow in the "Daily Telegraph" last month, in which he declared that the existing policy of the Union definitely, once and for all time, denies social and political equality for Africans. He goes on to say that today the African white population, with very few exceptions, repudiates the idea of equality between black and white. If that is the policy of the Union one can appreciate the reluctance of the people in the Protectorates to come under that kind of control. Certainly, it is not a very attractive doctrine to offer to the heroic Basutos and the other tribes whose record and history are very notable.
I do not think we can leave the matter where it is, particularly in view of considerable criticism in which the South African Press has indulged recently in regard to the character and nature of our own administration in these Protectorates. Sir Alan Pim, in his report, and there are other reports, presents to us a very terrible picture of the conditions which result from the neglect of our own administration. I would suggest that indirect rule should not mean stagnation. Certainly, the principles of indirect rule ought to operate in much the same direction as that in which we have made them operate in West Africa. I agree that latterly there have been signs of change, but even yet our administration is not half vigorous enough. From the Colonial Development Fund I see that there have been grants to the extent of £83,000 to the three Protectorates, and in the past 10 years nearly £700,000 have also been paid.
I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman what is the present policy 3392 of His Majesty's Government in relation to the development of the economic resources of these Protectorates. I know that two of them are a liability, but it is possible to make them valuable assets from the point of view of the native and from the point of view of trade with other parts of Africa as well as with our own country. Let me repeat that native consent must be obtained before transfer is contemplated. The South African Union must provide considerable safeguards and give confidence in the justice of their own native policy before this House consents to the transfer of the Protectorates. Moreover, we must pursue a much more vigorous policy in our development of the Protectorates before we are asked to contemplate their transfer. May I ask a final question in regard to these territories? What is the nature of the new instruction which will be issued to our British officials in these territories? We cannot agree to anything in the nature of coercion. If the natives desire to go of their own free will, well and good, but I should like to hear along what lines of policy His Majesty's Government are developing, in regard to the instructions for the future to our own administrators on the spot, and whether it will involve any undue pressure for transfer from this side.
The final matter to which I should like to direct the attention of the Dominions Secretary is the position of Newfoundland. Newfoundland shed herself of self-government in 1933 until such time as she might become self-supporting again. That was a very big leap in the dark. The three years have gone and the Dominions Secretary now informs us that it is premature to consider any change. The budget of Newfoundland remains unbalanced. They want £700,000 this year in order to pay their way. We have already granted £1,350,000 towards the expenses of administration, and from the Colonial Development Fund we have paid out £670,000. Still, it is fair to say, not less than 20 to 25 per cent. of the population of Newfoundland are on relief and there is appalling poverty. The children are under-nourished and illiterate. Twenty-two per cent. of them are without schooling. There is a considerable infantile mortality, the medical services are starved and the island still suffers from poor communications. There is still room 3393 for a very considerable economic drive if the standards are to be improved.
The "Times" recently told us that there was returning prosperity in the island, and the Dominions Secretary told us that there will be a long-term programme worked out in connection with the island. That is all to the good, but I suggest that so far progress has been slow and the kind of problem that the Commission Government has had to meet is precisely the same sort of problem that the democratic government itself had to face. The abdication was conceived in something of a financial panic in the island and also in this country. Other governments before now have defaulted, have been extravagant, inefficient, and possibly careless about their own internal resources, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it is a bad test as to whether democratic status is to be preserved, if that test is whether the State is financially solvent or not. Newfoundland to-day is supported largely because this country happens to be her milch cow. The Commission has not been able to get over the difficulties which confronted the democratic government. Those difficulties were partly due to an excessive war patriotism. They spent more than they could afford. It was due also to the effects of the world slump, to the vagaries of markets, to high tariffs and to the insecurity of certain of their markets, due to changes in European politics.
Now, we have virtually a dictatorship in control. It is usual to plead the merits of dictatorship on the grounds of its efficiency. While there may be some compensation for a highly efficient autocratic government, there are also very great disadvantages. People tend to lose their self-respect and to lose their technique in the art and work of government. It would be stupid to say that you improve democratic government by abolishing it altogether. My right hon. Friend has drawn the attention of the Minister to the fact that there is a growing restlessness in Newfoundland. That is natural enough when one thinks of their long tradition in democratic government. Let us also remember that in the development of our Colonial Empire we have ourselves met disaster because we have had not too great respect for the principle, that taxation should carry with it some form of 3394 representation. While there is very little local government in the Island it is unfortunate that criticism is not permitted to the degree that is desirable. There is an attempt at times to suppress criticism of the administration itself. If people want to go to hell I think they should go in their own way.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if he cannot restore democratic government to Newfoundland at the present stage, there should at least be some modification of the present form of Commission government, and I should like to ask him to give more attention to the type of commissioner who is appointed. Ex-civil servants and men with that type of mind are excellent in their way, but this is also a political problem, and we want people who are widely versed in the handling of people and public affairs to play a part in the work of the Commission. In the second place, I would also ask, in view of the appalling poverty, that a more vigorous policy of economic development should be pursued and, thirdly, that in some way or other some sense of civic responsibility should be built up in the Island. At the present time there is no channel of self-expression at all except in the newspapers. I should like to see the right hon. Gentleman considering whether it is not possible to set up an advisory representative assembly, with certain limited powers, which might act as an advisory body to the Commission. I bring these matters to the notice of the Secretary of State in the hope that he will approach this problem with a little more sympathy and more of his own democratic fervour than is at present obvious when he declares that no change can be considered because the economic changes have not gone far enough.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I desire to refer to one subject which has been mentioned by almost every speaker and particularly by the right hon. Gentleman who began the Debate and by his follower who has just sat down. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate did us the justice to refer to the tenderness felt in all parts of the House on questions of native welfare, and he was particularly careful to say nothing which might from the South African point of view appear to partake of that unctuous rectitude of 3395 which Mr. Cecil Rhodes once complained, or of any sort of tendency to be hypercritical about people who actually have to live and work with black men and arrange for their government. The right hon. Gentleman was very careful indeed in this respect, and although I have no wish to be controversial I do not think the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) was quite so careful. He spoke, as he was quite entitled to do of the special interest his party took in them, and at some considerable length attributed motives to the Union Government and implied a superiority of the part of the British Government.
For the purpose of my argument it does not matter at all whether this attribution of motives to the Union Government is right or not, or whether we here have really any great superiority in the matter of treating native races. The real question is not there. It is not whether we do or would treat them better. Nor can I take so much comfort as most hon. Members seem to do in the word "trustee," which I think raises almost as many questions as it answers. After all, the British Government must be first of all a trustee for the people of Britain, and, therefore, to say that we are trustees for Africans does not get us much further if there is any clash of interests between the two. I believe that in the long range interests of this country there can be nothing which is not in the honest judgment of this Government in the interests of the natives for whom we are responsible.
The Protectorates which are inside Union territory are in this matter strategic points of an importance which can hardly be exaggerated. Whether or not it is true that our own economic management of them has not been very good, and for all I have to say to the contrary it may be true, and I endorse the request made that we should be more active, more generous and more provident in these economic matters in the future, whatever view may be taken of these matters does not really affect my argument, which is that in the literal and moral strategy of the Empire it is essential that faith should be kept and should be evidently seen to be kept with the inhabitants of these territories. I am perhaps repeating what has been said by hon. Members opposite, 3396 but I think it is worth while to take a little time to say it again it only because it should be said from this side of the House.
But I say it with some slight difference. The hon. Member for Shipley, having more or less reached the point which I reached a moment ago, went on to argue that there ought now to be a pledge that natives would not he handed over to the Union Government without their own consent. I should be sorry to take the responsibility of pressing on the Government the view that no Swazi or Basuto should be transferred to Union control without his consent. I should be slow to press that view because I think you might get into serious difficulties of interpretation, of what is meant, for instance, by the word "consent." There is an instance of this sort of difficulty in the White Paper on Palestine, where the Government speak of an "effective measure of consent on the part of the communities concerned." That choice of words itself makes it clear how difficult it is when you are dealing with Palestine, and it may be more difficult when you are dealing with South Africa to be quite certain what is the community and what are the units, and how the question can be put, and in what sense it can be clear that consent has been gained. On that ground I think the Government might hesitate to say that there must be consent.
I think it might obviously hesitate on other grounds. On the ground that in the long run the best chance for the three parties, English, Bantus and South Africans, is a minimum of irritation, and that to put up the bar now higher than it was in 1909 would irritate Afrikander statesmen and would really be to nobody's interest. The Government might hesitate on that ground, though it may well remember that General Hertzog in his speech in 1925 said:Unless these people are prepared and desirous to come I am not going to insist upon having them.To press for stiffer conditions than we have yet laid down is a responsibility which I think no private Member can undertake. But I do not think it can be too clearly laid down that the pledges which have been given stand. Promises of consultation have been made and, therefore, this House can never be satis- 3397 fied with anything that even looks in the least like a betrayal of those promises. It cannot be made too clear that no British Government would in any circumstances hand over these territories without consulting the inhabitants or without consulting Parliament on the result of the consultations.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Riley
I am somewhat puzzled as to the distinction which the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) seemed to draw between consent of the inhabitants and some other obligations to which this country is committed. I want to ask the Secretary of State to make crystal clear the intentions of the Government with regard to the future of the three Protectorates, Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland. Those who have been following the course of events in South Africa recently must have seen blowing up in our South African Dominion a first-class problem as to what is going to be the attitude of this Government in relation to its repeated declarations of policy as to the treatment of the native populations. I accept the explanation which was given us that so far as this country is concerned, and as far as the Government is concerned, there is no kind of existing undertaking to the South African Dominion that these Protectorates would be transferred, but one cannot escape the fact that in South Africa itself, and particularly on the part of the Prime Minister, there is a strong impression that there is a definite undertaking which has to be implemented sooner or later. I have here the report of a speech delivered by General Hertzog on 6th July, in which he said:It is inconceivable for me to accept that there can be much further delay in the transfer of the territories or that the Union Government should be compelled to have recourse to the South Africa Act, to request the King, by means of a decision of Parliament, to accede to the transfer.He went on to say:It is clear to me that in British circles the question of the transfer is being played with in a manner which does not keep adequate count of the right of the Union to demand that the transfer shall not be delayed any longer.In view of those statements, it is clear that whatever may be the view and the position of our own Government, in South Africa there is, on the part of the Government there, a deep-rooted opinion that 3398 they are entitled to have the transfer. I accept definitely the explanation given on 9th July by the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs that no such undertaking has been given, but although I accept that, I confess that I am disturbed by the words of his predecessor in what is known as the Aide-Memoire of 15th May, 1935. In a document sent to the South African Government, His Majesty's Government recommended:That the policy of both Governments for the next few years should be directed to bringing about such a situation in which, if transfer were to become a matter of practical politics, it could be effected with the full acquiescence of the people concerned.The document went on to say:With this end in view, it was proposed that the closest possible co-operation should be established between the Union Government and the administration of the territories.I wish to ask the Minister what is the situation to which the Government referred in which they would regard it as desirable to recommend that transfer should take place? What is the kind of co-operation that they have in mind in the reference in the aid-memoire? To my mind that is a disturbing element in the situation. Does it mean that the Government are committed to a policy of promoting co-operation between the official administration of the Union of South Africa and the official administrations of the territories? Does it mean that the two elements, the official administrators in the Union and those in the territories, shall co-operate, or are the native elements to be brought into co-operation? I can well realise that in those circumstances there may be very naturally a sort of impression conveyed, a kind of opinion built up as a result of that co-operation, which would lead the Union Government to consider that they have a perfect right, as expressed in General Hertzog's speech, to have these territories transferred.
I will go a step further, and say that it seems to me that, even assuming that one could secure such co-operation between the administrators of the South African Government and those of the territories concerned as would bring about a situation in which it was regarded as desirable that transfer should be promoted, there is another consideration which ought to weigh with the House and the Government. We are committed to recognising that in all these territories the welfare of the inhabitants, not only of to-day but of 3399 the future, is a sacred trust. We have to consider not simply whether consent could be obtained to transfer, but whether, in the views of this House, that transfer would be in the best interests of the natives, knowing the circumstances which would obtain when the transfer had taken place. On that point I wish to quote some very wise words spoken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) at the Imperial Conference in 1921. Speaking on the question of the policy of this country towards Colonial territories and the inhabitants of those territories, he used these words:I think there is only one ideal that the British Empire can set before it, that is, there should be no barriers of race, colour or creed which should prevent any man by merit from reaching any station if he is fitted for it.Is there any party in the House which does not subscribe to that? Is there any hon. Member who can say that that principle is embodied in the administration of the South African Dominion towards its native inhabitants? No one can say that it is acknowledged. We have to visualise, if the policy of encouragement of transfer goes on, whether in the transfer these principles to which we subscribe would be protected and safeguarded. We know, of course, that that is not the case. We know well that in the South African Dominion the native inhabitant has none of these rights. In the Union of South Africa, with a total population of 8,000,000, there are no less than 6,000,000 natives. They have not the right to elect a single Member to Parliament. No native has a right to sit in the South African Parliament. Every kind of distinction is drawn by law against the 6,000,000 natives. They have not the right to engage in the same kind of trades, they may not work along with white people, and they are subjected to all sorts of segregation, placed in compounds, labelled and docketed by all kinds of conditions and pass laws. In the Union of South Africa, they are treated to-day as the hewers of wood and the drawers of water for the small white population. Surely we have to weigh those things when we consider whether we will consent to be a party to transfer without some definite legal powers by this House to secure the rights of equal citizenship for the masses 3400 of the native inhabitants who might be transferred.
May I draw the attention of the House to the present position? At the present time, in the Protectorates, what are known as the pass laws do not obtain, but in Southern Rhodesia, where there is now a Dominion form of Government, as in South Africa, the pass laws are now universal. I will remind the Committee of what takes place under those laws, which apply right through South Africa, and to which the native inhabitants, if they were transferred, would naturally be subjected. If a native stops in a town over night, he must go to a hostel; he must be in half an hour before sunset, he must not leave until half an hour after sunrise; he must carry his pass and certificate in a book wherever he goes, and he is guilty of an offence if he does not carry the book with him.
The result of this system has been a great increase in the number of convictions. In Southern Rhodesia, in 1927, there were 8,940 convictions under the pass laws. In 1935, in the same Dominion, there were 19,773 convictions. In the Union of South Africa, there were 42,000 convictions in 1936. That is what the native would be subjected to if he were transferred from the Protectorates where he now lives, either to the Union Government or to the Rhodesian Government as the case might be. The question arises as to what is the attitude of the natives. There is a strong feeling on the part of the natives in the Protectorates, who are there as our trust, who came to us and placed themselves under our authority with confidence, that this danger is very imminent. I notice that on the same day that General Hertzog made his speech at Bloemfontein, the representative of the "Cape Times" interviewed one of the chiefs of Basutoland, and the chief is reported to have said that opinion in Basutoland is bitterly opposed to the Union having the Protectorates. The report of the newspaper reads:'It would be a tragedy,' he says. He admits that there is something to be said against the rule of the present Paramount Chief, but the people would sooner have their present lot than he under the Union. 'They feel they are free under the British Government, and wish to remain so.'No wonder the natives are suspicious of the offers of financial assistance which are made to them. No wonder they turn that 3401 assistance down, for they know it is offered for the purpose of weaning away their independence and of making them amenable to possible transfer as time goes on. For these reasons, I urge the House to realise that the question is becoming serious, both for this country and for the South African people, and I ask the Minister to give a clear declaration that, as far as this House is concerned, we shall stand by the right of equal citizenship for all classes in our territories.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr
I hope the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) will forgive me if I do not take up some of the points he raised in his thoughtful speech. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), who opened the Debate, prefaced his remarks by referring to the Imperial Conference. He claimed that that Conference had failed to achieve any material results. It is often very difficult to set down in black and white the actual results of such Conferences, but the opportunities which they provide for strengthening those intangible ties which Burke in a much-quoted phrase described as "light as air and strong as iron" are unique. It is probably far more important that, instead of passing numberless resolutions, these Conferences should help people in all parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations to maintain the same ideas of justice and personal liberty, and laugh at the same jokes in "Punch."
Apart from these great Conferences, which take place at stated intervals, we have adopted the definite idea of consulting the Dominions before embarking on any major issue of policy, and that idea of consultation does not merely imply consulting Governments. It must, in the long run, imply consulting public opinion in the Dominions. I fear that most people in this country are more often than not ignorant of public opinion in the Dominions. The average Englishman may get accurate news about the result of a test match, but frequently events nearer home, such as the capture of Bilbao or one of Mussolini's speeches, engage his attention.
How much does the average Englishman realise that the average Canadian, whether he lives on the sea coast in the 3402 Quebec Province, or in the vast plains round Winnipeg, or on the shores of British Columbia, thinks himself happily far removed from the troubles of an unpleasant world? The Canadian on one side sees 3,000 miles across the Atlantic the distant shores of Europe, and on the other side, 4,000 miles away, the coast of Asia. On his Southern border he sees the great United States of America. Every evening on the wireless he hears American views on world policy. It is an open secret that America is extremely isolationist in spirit at the present moment, and the Canadian, although he regards himself primarily as a member of the British Commonwealth, likewise regards himself as belonging to a North American Power. When we consider our policy, we must take into account the fact that Canada would be very reluctant to support any policy which tended towards meddlesome interference in Europe. I have heard certain Canadian jurists go as far as to say that in the event of a future war, they might claim the right to be neutral. I do not think it is profitable to stress differences, but we should recognise these facts.
How much, likewise, does the average Englishman know about public opinion in Australia? For the most part he looks on Australia as a vast continent with a population only equal to that of London, whose immense spaces he regards as providing marvellous opportunities for making fortunes in sheep fanning. Does he realise that Australia in the future must concentrate her efforts on secondary industries, and that the men she will require will not be sheep farmers, but mechanics and technicians to act as key men? How much also does the average Englishman know of the problems of South Africa? To him it is a great country which possesses a marvellous climate, a vast open veldt, and a country where gold and diamonds are found. But does he realise the grave problems which arise when white men work alongside black men. There is a certain danger in this lack of knowledge in the separate parts of the Dominions.
The experience of Chanak in 1922 taught us a valuable lesson, and its repercussions were so wide that it would be foolish to ignore them. Hon. Members will recall that Mustafa Kemal had then just arisen as the new dictator of Turkey. Having crushed the Greek 3403 army at the battle of Afium-Karahistar, he had chased the dispirited and broken horde across the plains of Anatolia into the sea. Smyrna had been burned and its inhabitants massacred. But across the Aegean a new Greek army was massing in Thrace ready to strike again at Turkey. Mustafa Kemal determined to overwhelm that army, but across his path lay a British army at Chanak under the command of Sir Charles Harington. The Government sent appeals to the Dominions to support them, because they thought war was inevitable, but the Dominions refused their support. As a result, a plenipotentiary in the person of M. Franklin Bouillon was sent, while the two armies faced each other across the barbed wire. He agreed to the most humiliating terms. The Greek army in Thrace was disbanded, and we evacuated Constantinople and Turkey.
§ Sir E. Grigg
I am sure the hon. Member would not wish to give a mistaken account of the history of this matter. The Dominions never went so far as to refuse their help. They asked for certain information which showed that they were not keen about it, but it is going very far to say that they refused their help.
§ Mr. Kerr
The change of Government may have altered the circumstances, but we had to evacuate Turkey and remove our army from Constantinople. However, I only take that as an illustration of this country acting in advance of popular opinion in the Dominions. It seems to me that the main problem is to try to educate the Dominions and the separate parts of the Commonwealth to understand each other. I know that the Empire Press Union performs valuable services, but it concerns itself mainly with technical details such as the lowering of cable rates. I have to put forward a modest suggestion. In each Empire capital committees should be formed with 3404 the principal committee in London. On those committees should sit the High Commissioners and representative members of the Press, who, from their expert knowledge could advise, on the best ways of placing information. Let us say, for example, that it is decided that an article on Australia's position in the Pacific is desirable. The Press experts would be able to say that such an article would find a place in certain journals and that it should take a certain form and be so many words in length. On those committees, also, should sit representatives of the cinema industry and of Broadcasting House.
Popular opinion is only too willing to be informed. Three years ago I was in a cinema in Toronto, and, when an excellent film was shown of the architectural beauties and historical associations of Windsor Castle, the interest of the audience was immediate and obvious. I believe that a willingness on the part of the Dominions to learn about each other is present, and that it should be exploited. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), referring to Lord Jellicoe and the Grand Fleet in the last War, said that Lord Jellicoe was the only man who could have lost the War in an afternoon. Had the German Fleet been victorious, not only would our coasts have lain open to invasion, but no American troops would ever have reached France. What was true in a strategic sense of the Grand Fleet on that occasion is true in the political sense to-day of Empire solidarity. Empire solidarity is the best political counter which we possess. To adopt a French technical term, we must keep our masse de manoeuvre intact. I hope that my hon. Friend, than whom there is no more excellent champion of Dominion solidarity, will sympathetically consider this modest suggestion.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
I intervene in this Debate only to deal with two topics. I was very glad to hear the tributes which came from above the Gangway to the British flag in Africa. They were tributes such as we do not, perhaps, always hear from that quarter. The tone of the speeches to-day has certainly been very friendly, and I am glad to find that there is so much common ground on these matters between Members in different parts of the House. 3405 Speaking as one who has had close contacts with our Empire in Africa I can say how delighted all British citizens in that part of the world will be at the tone of this Debate. On the question of the Protectorates there is, I think, considerable agreement among those who have addressed the House. Without going into detail I would say that we are probably all agreed that, whatever happens, we must be very strict in regard to our honourable undertakings to the Protectorates.
If I may presume to do so I would congratulate the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) on his remarks in that connection. There was hardly anything which he said on that subject with which I found myself in disagreement. At the same time one has to realise that it is not helpful to a solution of the problem to criticise in this House the administration of native affairs in the Union of South Africa. For better or worse this House parted with its power to govern, and, indeed, with its power of criticism in the case of the Union, and it is unfortunate if we, who do not know these problems as they are understood in the Union should, because we are thinking of other problems, criticise severely the Union Government's policy with regard to native legislation. That does not alter the fact that the House is probably unanimous, as I believe the country is unanimous, that, unless we are convinced that it is for the well-being of the people of the Protectorates that they should be transferred, and unless there is a general desire among the people themselves to be transferred to the Union, we should see that they retain the protection of the British flag referred to so eloquently by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley).
With regard to Imperial policy as a whole, I would point out that while we are rising to-morrow for a prolonged and well-deserved holiday, the major affairs of the British Empire have hardly been discussed at all in this House during the past year. We have been concentrating on exciting matters which have no direct concern with this country, although the principles involved may, it is true, affect the opinions of people in this House and rouse them to great passion. But the mightly organism of the British Empire has received from this House very little constructive help during the past year, although we have had criticisms thrown 3406 at this or that policy adopted, in one or other of its parts. I had the honour of tabling a Motion on the subject of Empire settlement about a month ago. It was supported by 250 Members—a large majority of the back-benchers. The higher orders, the mandarins were not even approached and asked to sign that notice of Motion, and, of course, if they had been asked, they would have refused, because they must keep themselves detached from ordinary mortals whether above or below the Gangway. The fact remains that a considerable number of Members of this House signed that notice of Motion, and I think many hon. Members above the Gangway would also have signed it but we had not time to approach them.
That remarkable degree of assent showed that a large body in this House is anxious that His Majesty's Government should reopen with the Dominions the question of Empire settlement and development, and give a lead to the Dominions upon it. I am not going to weary the House with a repetition of speeches which have been heard on this subject again and again. We are all agreed that the day when the Dominions open their gates once more to immigration from this country will be a good day both for this country and for the Dominions themselves. We must all be convinced as we look round the world that increase of population will give the greatest security and the greatest power of development for which the Dominions can hope. Are we not unwise then to niggle about questions of fifty-fifty, and so forth, in any plans which may be brought forward? I doubt if the Dominions at this moment have even yet sufficiently recovered from the depression to put up much money to meet development schemes, but who can doubt, who has made any study of this question, that there are great possibilities for development in the Empire, using British capital linked up with the transfer of British labour to help in that development?
Can anyone doubt that it would be for the ultimate advantage of the island continent of Australia if the great railway running right along her Southern frontier were turned into a unified gauge instead of there being different gauges? It must come some day. Is that not a case where we might go to the Commonwealth Government of Australia and ask them to put 3407 the matter before the States as to whether we should not assist in that great and obviously desirable work? We should advance money at the lowest rate of interest, and it may well be that the work would be done on the condition that the labour and material employed should be fifty-fifty British and Australian. There are great roads in various parts of the Empire which might be extended, requiring a great deal of labour, which themselves would bring industry, settlement and development with them. There is one in Vancouver Island which, I am sure, would bring a great number of settlers and tourists into that country if the work were done. Who can deny that it is astounding that we have done nothing to link up the Peace River district either through British Columbia or Alberta, or both?
This is a policy which should be carried out. Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was greatly criticised when he in this House as Colonial Secretary advocated the extension of railways through at least a dozen different territories of the British Empire. Everybody said that they would be a burden, but in every case they helped to lift these Colonies on to a paying basis. It is with these ideas that I ask the right hon. Gentleman to concern himself. Has not the time come when we should have a forward Imperial policy? The Government in their great major policies—if they will take it from one who has criticised them—have had a triumphant success. Have they a policy for carrying on that work? I cannot believe that they have, and at the present time you want to give this people something further to work for. Nothing would appeal to the youth of the country more than the knowledge that he is going to be a good landlord and see the whole of his territories as far as possible developed. If you can help with the finance, which this country has a great surplus to dispose of and to assist with, trade and agriculture will inevitably follow that finance and population will follow agriculture and trade. If we can link up these ideas we shall do something to carry this country one step further forward in the progress which we have seen so rapidly advanced in the last five years.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
If I return again to the vexed and anxious question 3408 of the transfer of the Protectorates, I can assure the House that I shall endeavour to refrain from repeating any of the arguments and opinions which have already been advanced. I wish to call attention to the ambiguity and lack of precision in the language employed by this and preceding Governments in their statements and so-called pledges on this subject, because although I am entirely opposed to the transfer of these Protectorates while the legislation of the Union Government in regard to natives is so reactionary in character and so opposed to our own traditions on the subject, yet I feel that the Union Government have certain legitimate grounds of complaint in the ambiguity and lack of clarity in the language used by our Government in their statements on this subject. Certain arguments in favour of transfer have been put forward this afternoon. I am very much afraid that this question of transfer is becoming a matter of prestige in the Union of South Africa, and that the prestige argument will be increasingly used and non-transfer become considered as a stigma. That will be a very unfortunate development, and likely to lead to bad blood.
While the Act of 1909 did contemplate the possibility of a transfer of Protectorates, it equally contemplated the possibility of transfer of Southern and Northern Rhodesia, and every argument which can be put forward in favour of the transfer of the three Protectorates may equally be advanced in regard to the transfer of Southern and Northern Rhodesia. A previous speaker referred to the fact that the natives of the three Protectorates are attached to our Sovereign and would regard transfer as a breach of faith. In view of the facts which have been quoted about the backwardness of the development and administration of these territories there is something rather pathetic that the natives should still have this faith and trust in us.
I know that it is rather unpopular on the benches opposite to make any reference to the Covenant of the League of Nations, because the National Government have most effectively taken this country out of the League for all practical purposes. But the fact remains that by the League Covenant we are as a signatory bound to the statement that 3409 "the well-being and development of such peoples forms a sacred trust of civilisation." We are pledged to that by our signature to the Covenant. I notice in this connection that a Bishop has written to the "Times" to say that the Basutos are a very engaging and carefree people. That seems to me to be what British administration should aim at, but the Bishop denied their right to be happy, and said that they must be efficient instead. Really, in this distracting hag-ridden and perplexing world we should gaze enviously on any people who are fortunate enough to be happy and carefree and not envy them their good luck and be anxious to convert them into being efficient with all the cares and neurasthenia that efficiency seems to involve.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I think that that arises on another Vote and I will deal with it when I have the appropriate Minister opposite me to fire at. It has been quoted to-day that Mr. Thomas when in office said that the inhabitants, natives as well as Europeans, must be consulted before transfer, and that Parliament must be given an opportunity of expressing its views. He also said at that time, in 1935, that he did not think the time was ripe for consulting the natives but he gave no indication when the time would be ripe or how time becomes ripe, or what was likely to make it ripe. He said that information showed that the natives were opposed at that time to transfer. He went on to say that both governments "for the next few years" should endeavour to bring about.a situation in which if transfer were to be a matter of practical politics it should he effected with the full acquiescence of the population concerned.What has been done since that time to implement that statement? What has this Government or the South African Government been doing during the years subsequent to 1935 to bring about this desired situation? The Memorandum from which I am quoting also said that "with this end in view"—the end being acquiescence—the closest possible co-operation should be established between the Union Government and the administration of the territories,3410 but the following sentence says that our Government wouldconsider sympathetically any proposal which the Union Government would make for promoting co-operation on these lines in the administration of these territories.There is a great deal of difference between "in" and "between." Which is intended? Is the Union Government to discuss with the administrations concerned, or is it to begin to take a share in the administrations concerned? What is meant? Is it "in" or is it "between"? It is matters like these, it is this typical muddled drafting of Government Memoranda, which inevitably lead to misunderstanding and bad feeling. The so-called pledges endeavour to give the idea that the natives will not be transferred against their will. If anybody believes that there is any such pledge I can only say that there is no such pledge. Our only pledge is to consult, and there is no pledge that there will be no transfer if after consultation the natives show themselves unwilling. By the terms of this pledge or statement the Government may transfer against the will of the natives if only they can show that some form of consultation has taken place. Again it seems to me that the word "acquiescence" has been almost deliberately employed in order to mislead. It certainly has misled some very great experts on this subject who in the Press have said that they believe that acquiescence is necessary before transfer can take place. When you analyse all this verbiage it shows that all that has been said is that if it becomes "practical politics"—the phrase used—it should be done with "acquiescence." That is to say, it is agreed that it is desirable that transfer should take place with acquiescence, but there is nothing to say that it will not be done without acquiescence.
If the Government really wanted to make a clear and simple statement on the subject, why could they not say that transfer can never be considered practical politics unless there is acquiescence? That would be a statement about which there could be no ambiguity whatsoever. These phrases seem to me to have been used deliberately to make the Union Government think that everything was all right and that they were going to get the Protectorate, and also to make those people and bodies in this country who defend 3411 the interests of the natives think that no transfer would take place without consent. Really this ambiguity has had the effect of deceiving both sides, and I feel that that is contemptible, because it has excited the indignation of the Union and the contempt of those who, as I say, befriend the natives in this country. Although the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) is not in his place, let me say here, with reference to something that he said, that we recognise that those who endeavour to befriend the natives and to look after the obligations of this country towards them are drawn from all parties in this House, and I know that my friends on these benches would claim no special virtue in that respect.
Then, again, this statement says:if transfer were to become practical politics.What sort of a term is "practical politics" to put into a State paper? What does it mean exactly? Does it mean anything, or does it mean nothing? What are the conditions of so-called "practical politics" which must be fulfilled before transference can be effected? It is a delightful term that appeals to the self-styled practical business man, of course, but when you come to work it out in terms of what is actually meant by "practical politics," what does it refer to, and why cannot we get a straight answer to the question put in this House the other day as to what is to happen if these so-called "practical politics" allow a transfer, but the "acquiescence" of the natives to transfer is not obtained? It is obvious that there will be no progress in this matter between ourselves and the Union Government until these phrases about "practical politics," "the time being ripe," and "the next few years" and so on, are cleared up and given definite and precise meanings, and I think the Union Government have a perfect right to ask for and to expect definite and precise language on these points instead of such muddled, if not deliberately evasive, drafting.
If such ambiguity is the excuse for General Hertzog's recent rather angry outburst, I think that that outburst also emphasises the stupidity of the recent conversations with General Hertzog not having been reduced to writing by the 3412 Secretary of State for the Dominions and agreed by General Hertzog before he went back to South Africa. May I also call attention to one or two fairly recent statements of General Hertzog? He has said the Union Government would not wish to incorporate the Territoriesuntil the inhabitant s are prepared and desire to come in.Can he point to any evidence whatsoever that they "are prepared and desire to come in" at this moment? If not, on his own showing, what right has he to demand the immediate transfer of the Protectorate? Again, he has said that there wasno agreement that transfer should take place within any specified time.That is his own statement, so why is he now complaining of delays in the matter? He makes complaints about instructions to British officials. What exactly is it that he complains of in this respect? Instead of making these complaints, which are at variance with his own past statements, General Hertzog would be better advised to tell us what he has done to win that confidence and good will of the native populations in South Africa, which are or should be essential conditions of transfer. I do not think the acquiescence of the natives is likely to be gained any the quicker by the spectacle of the two Governments concerned squabbling in this way, nor do I think that the prospects will be improved by threats in the "Cape Times" that the Protectorate natives are at the mercy of the Union Government, who could reduce them to starvation by preventing them passing the Union frontier. I do not think statements of that sort are calculated to gain the good will of the native population.
Again, General Hertzog said that it wasessential for the success of the policy that it should not be hurried,but now he says thattransfer must be no longer delayed.What has occurred between these two statements to produce this change of mind? I should like very much to ask that right hon. Gentleman whether one could have an answer about two or three of General Hertzog's statements. Is it true that in 1926 the General was asked to postpone discussion of this question 3413 because of the imminence of a General Election? He has said so. Is it true that no instructions have been sent to the British officials in the Protectorate, as he says was promised in 1935? Is it true, as he says, that the fact that the time for transfer had already expired was conceded two years ago? If that statement is true, by whom was it conceded two years ago that the time for transfer had already expired? Those are two or three points that I think General Hertzog would be well advised to clear up before making some of his angry statements.
There are other South African views which have been expressed besides those of General Hertzog. There is the statement of Mr. Pirow this year, thatthe white man must be able to base his attitude towards the native on the idea that the needs of a white civilisation must be considered first at all times.Such a statement conflicts directly with our policy of trusteeship, but I wish to compare that statement at this moment with a statement of Government policy recently made in another place, the maker of which said that there was not the slightest deviation from it intended. The statement was that the policy of His Majesty's Government isgovernment of the indigenous races in their own interests and with a view to their elevation in the scale of civilisation, rather than any idea of exploitation in the interests of the immigrant community.There is a perfectly head-on collision between the policy enunciated by Mr. Pirow and the policy of the Government enunciated the other day in another place. The hon. Member for Cambridge University was not very enthusiastic about what is called trusteeship, but the Government's policy on that question was laid down by a former Colonial Secretary, the Duke of Devonshire, so that there is an hereditary interest in the present Government seeing that that policy is maintained. The principle of trusteeship is that of facing up to the dual interests of the white and black communities and reconciling them, and that policy is completely in conflict with the Union policy of segregation. The fact is that in this matter we are called upon to make a choice, and the choice is a very clear and plain one, which there is no evading. We have to make our choice between a policy in regard to the native races which is grounded in a Statute of the old Boer Republic: 3414There shall be no equality between black and white, either in Church or State,and the words of the Charter of 1833:There shall be no discrimination on account of colour or race.We hear a great deal in this House, in Debates on foreign affairs, by way of criticism of certain countries, for instance, Germany and Poland and even of the United States of America because of racial discrimination. There are some who will not hear of the return of any Colonies to Germany or the granting of a Mandate to Germany, because, it is said, we could not be satisfied with what the German treatment of the native races would be. We should remember these arguments about racial discrimination, because they apply equally in regard to this question of the transfer of the Protectorate as long as the legislation of the Union Government in regard to natives remains what it is. We have to make our choice between two diametrically conflicting policies, and I can only say that I hope that the country of Wilberforce, the country which abolished slavery, which Lord Rosebery spoke of as one of the rare, if not unique, examples of disinterested statesmanship, will stand up to this issue and stand by our tradition of trusteeship for the coloured races.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) has asked a certain number of pertinent questions, but the matter is rather more complicated than he seemed to think, and I feel he has fallen into the same kind of error as General Hertzog in dealing with this question. It is unfortunate that General Hertzog should have raised the question at all, so soon after the issue of the White Paper on 15th May, 1935. The natives are no more anxious to-day, I think it will be agreed on all hands, and indeed, they are probably less anxious, to come under the Union than they were when the White Paper was issued. Nor do I think the hon. and gallant Member is right when he says that the White Paper is obscure. It seems to me to be easy enough to understand the sense of the White Paper. There are, after all, no strategic or economic reasons why the Protectorates should not be handed over. They can only be approached through Union territory and I do not believe that there can or should be any question of 3415 prestige between one portion of the British Empire and another. To the Union the whole native question is a constant and daily factor; I would go so far as to say that it is an overshadowing problem. We regard it with a detachment they cannot share. The Union is a white oligarchy depending for its labour on a black proletariat, and I would remind hon. Members opposite that a colour bar was introduced and made legal in South Africa only after a Labour victory in that country. It is the skilled labourer who is more hard on the black man than are the people higher up in the social scale.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) said that he thought we should not discuss questions of native policy in the Union, but I do not think we can altogether avoid them because if we do ignore their policy we will find it much more difficult to deal with the question of the Protectorates. After all what is done in the Union is bound to affect public opinion within the Protectorates. The abolition of the Cape coloured franchise is a reactionary measure. It goes against the whole policy of the old Cape Parliaments before the Union, and as the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) said, it reverses the policy laid down by Cecil Rhodes that there should be "equal rights for all civilised men south of the Zambesi." The House should realise when we are discussing the question of Protectorates that the division in the Union is not between the British and the Dutch, because the line cuts across both races; it is largely a division between north and south, between the Transvaal and Natal, an entirely English Province, on the one hand, and the Cape on the other. On the question of the policy of the Cape coloured franchise, it was Mr. Hofmeyr, who is a member of General Hertzog's administration, and the holder of a great South African name, who led the opposition to and voted against the policy of abolishing the coloured franchise.
It is important that the House should realise these aspects of the question, because by many of the speeches to-day the impression may be created that there is no opposition in South Africa to the native policy which is being adopted. It 3416 is a small minority, but it is an important minority, which should not be ignored in this Debate. In the Protectorates natives live under native rule with a certain amount of British supervision. As the hon. Member for Shipley said, the Protectorates should be treated as three separate problems. It is no use regarding Basutoland in the same light as we do Swaziland. Basutoland is a country in which a white man may not own property or carry on trade without a licence. Swaziland belongs to a large extent to white men and there is no kind of restriction on commerce. The economic conditions in Basutoland are not alluring, but the natives have great compensations in the far different social and political conditions they enjoy in their own territory. When a native crosses the border of the Union into one of the Protectorates he feels that he is a free and independent man. These are aspects of the question which we must bear in mind when considering this question.
There are strong geographical and economic reasons for the transference. In fact, there can be no doubt in anyone's mind in regard to this point. South Africa is an economic and geographical unit, but there are over-riding and, I should say, overwhelming reasons against the immediate transfer or against this matter being in any way hurried. That does not mean that we should be obstructive. The Union is, I believe, only too well aware of the great disadvantages of forcing unwilling populations under its jurisdiction. It also realises that we cannot and will not break the pledges we have made. Recent events in South Africa have tended to make transference further away rather than to bring it closer. The native policy of the Union Government has not been helpful or reassuring, and I do not think it is any good for General Hertzog or anyone else to pull up the plant and examine the roots every two years. If he wants to hurry on a decision he will make a fatal mistake for it would really only retard agreement rather than help it forward. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the minor Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) with regard to trusteeship, so far as native races are concerned. I do not believe that he meant to pour scorn on such an ideal; I think he merely objected to the phrase. It is undoubtedly the settled line of British 3417 policy in the Protectorates elsewhere in Africa. It is the only way in which we can deal with this great problem.
The Government have, as far as I can see, acted in every way with regard to this question in a proper manner. There is no reason to suppose that they have gone back on the White Paper issued in May, 1935. What the reasons for General Hertzog's sudden outburst were I do not know, and I do not think it wise for any of us to attribute some of the motives that have been attributed to him. We cannot in the long run keep up a division in South Africa so far as the question of the native races is concerned. It is a problem which will grow with the years, and it is essential, if a solution is to be found, that we should co-operate as closely as possible with the South African Government in an endeavour to find a way through our difficulties. It will require much patience and understanding on both sides.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Ammon
I think the House will agree that in the speech to which we have just listened, coming as it did from one who speaks with undoubted authority on such questions and who enjoys and deserves a reputation on the other side in these matters, there was an indication of a definite non-party plea on questions such as we are discussing. He has given an indication of breadth of mind and thought which showed that he is not following on what one would call the narrow jingoistic line. I agree with him that what happens in the Union of South Africa with regard to the treatment of natives is bound to have reactions throughout all the coloured peoples within the range of the British Empire. It is, therefore, a far-reaching matter which does not concern only that country. I wish I could feel as sure that he seemed to feel when he said that we cannot and will not break the pledges we have made with regard to our trusteeship of the coloured people. I hope that the Minister will give an assurance on that point, because up to now it is lacking.
One of the troubles with which this House and perhaps South Africa are concerned is that we have had had nothing definite from the Government with regard to the position they take up on this question of the proposed transfer of the Protectorates. I want to deal with one 3418 or two of the points that have been raised in the discussion, although one of the disadvantages of the last speaker in a Debate is that he sits and hears all the points which he has carefully prepared taken by preceding speakers so that there is little left for him in the way of fresh material. I want to join with the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) who, in a very interesting speech, indicated that there was an ebb tide with regard to the relationship between the home country and the Dominions. I agree with him that the report of the Imperial Conference indicates a coming together and a better understanding in that connection. I congratulate him on the real effort he made to try and find something in the report of the Imperial Conference. Most of us have been puzzled to find anything. The report has been padded out with a number of names that do not matter, in order presumably to cover up the paucity of the work that was done in the Conference. The hon. Member, I think, will agree that with all one's endeavour to find something in the report, there is very little light and leading to be got from it.
I agree with him that the right line must be to break down the economic barriers and all those things which serve to separate people. In some way or other we must find a means of bringing into closer economic co-operation the peoples of the Empire, whether they are coloured or white. I am bound to say that, after all, the report was a mountain in labour and that the mouse it has brought forth is a tiny one. I join issue with the hon. Member for Altrincham when he says it is no good quarrelling with nationalism. Nationalism is a strong sentiment which we cannot express in concrete terms. We all know what it is, and whatever party label we bear, we all feel it. I rather think that in his presentation of it the hon. Member seems to express the idea that nationalism, so far as South Africa or anywhere where there is a coloured indigenous population is concerned, is a matter that concerns the usurping of white peoples. Surely there is a nationalism which these native peoples have a right to express and which is expressed in their opposition to the proposal to transfer the Protectorates to the Union Government. I hope that I am not misinterpreting the hon. Gentleman and that he recognises that the spirit of nationalism is something 3419 that is not only resident in the white peoples, but that the coloured people have it also and have a right to express it and defend it; and that, as far as we have entered into a position of trusteeship in that respect, it is our duty as far as we can to preserve it.
§ Sir E. Grigg
The hon. Member interprets me correctly except in this respect. I do not deny that the African people have sentiments about themselves and their rights as strong as the white people. The only difference I would make is that nationalism as applied to civilised people is mixed up with a long record of literature, institutions and things of that kind. It is a deeper and broader nationalism than that which exists among uncivilised races. It is in many stages in different parts of the world and no one can doubt that it is growing among the African people.
§ Mr. Ammon
I appreciate what the hon. Member means. He refers to what in a sentence might be described as the cultural inheritance of the civilized peoples, but we have to recognise that there are tribal customs and things of that kind which must play a part with the natives in their expression of nationalism and which have to be considered. The only comment I would make upon the hon. Member's interesting speech is that when he drew a comparison between 1930 and 1937 he was not comparing like with like, because in 1930 Hitler had not arisen and there was an entirely different world. Our Government were to a large extent responsible for the emergence of the present temper by keeping Germany in such an inferior position that there was a revolution which brought about a position that has upset the balance of the world. I certainly do not agree with him—and I imagine those who are better qualified to speak upon finance than I am would support me—that at the moment capital in this country is piling up and cannot find uses. There are plenty of uses for it—it is finding its way into armament firms, for instance, though I wish it were being used more freely in other directions.
I will not spend time on the speech of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) because the hon. Member who preceded me dealt with the particular point in it which I had noted when he commented on the very excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for 3420 Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones). He said that trusteeship means something more than a recognition of our own particular rights and that we must have regard to those who have some claim upon us. In reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) and his somewhat patronising observation that he was glad to see that we on these benches show some interest in the Empire, I would say that we have never conceded that interest in the Empire is the prerogative of the Tory party. Certainly we take some interest in it, although our views with regard to its government and development may not accord with those of other people.
There are two particular questions which have been dwelt upon by almost every speaker, on which I wish to put one or two fresh points of view. I refer to the restrictive native laws in South Africa and the question of the transfer of the Protectorates. In connection with the first a serious position is arising in South Africa and a volume of criticism is growing up against the number of new offences created by legislation directed against the natives. Even a paper like the "Buluwayo Chronicle," which certainly could not be described as a negrophile organ, has expressed itself in fairly strong terms about some of these ordinances. In a recent article it said that a citizen of Southern Rhodesia could commit any one of more than 800 statutory offences and remarked:While such a state of affairs is bad enough for the European, who might be expected to understand, if not to appreciate, the vagaries of those who exercise the power of government, it is a thousand times worse for the native, who must find himself sorely perplexed.That is from a paper which hon. Members who know the Union will readily agree is not always given to expressing itself on the side of the natives. A leading article in the "Manchester Guardian" some time ago also drew attention to the difficulties arising in this connection. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who is to follow me still pays some regard, as in the old days, to the "Manchester Guardian" and has not wholly gone over to the "Morning Post." The "Manchester Guardian" pointed out that no fewer than 62,241 cases were brought in the courts of first instance against natives for the infringement of a number of laws in the course of a single year. Other figures which I have are still more 3421 startling. The House would do well to take note of the various offences that the natives can commit under the Native Taxation Act, the Possession of Native Liquor Ordinance, the Urban Areas Act, the municipal regulations and the iniquitous pass laws. In 1930 there were no fewer than 174,600 convictions of natives for offences, but in 1935 that number had risen to 243,890—that is, in a single year.
This state of affairs is having repercussions of an economic character, affecting shopkeepers in towns near the native reservations. The "Ghelo Times" of Friday, 18th June, has a report of a demonstration in the Selukwe Drill Hall there to protest against these native restrictions and ordinances. The chairman of that demonstration said he wondered whether the Government had anticipated what the immediate effect of them would be on trading stores in the small towns which were the centres of the native trade of the surrounding districts. He stated that some 300 natives or more used to come in daily for the lawful purpose of trading, but that natives now hestitated to come in because of the embarrassment caused by waiting at the offices for passes. Selukwe is a small town, and its experiences could be multiplied in the case of the larger towns. In that way there is a problem arising which we cannot afford to ignore, and the discontent will go on simmering and creating a sense of grievance among natives. As a recent writer in the Press has said, there is rather a tendency for a handful of Europeans in the midst of a vast mass of Africans to regard themselves as a Dominion rather than to have regard for the great indigenous population surrounding them.
The Minister has not denied that he was led to give his consent to the recent Registration Act partly, at least, by the failure of those on the other side to supply him with accurate information. In answer to a question which I addressed to him he admitted that, though it was not done with any serious intention, wrong information had been supplied to him, and that he had given an inaccurate answer when he said there had been no opposition to these laws in South Africa. There is strong evidence that there has been considerable opposition in Southern Rhodesia, and the Bishop of the diocese there has stated: 3422Most unfortunately the Secretary for the Dominions in England stated in the English House of Commons that there had been no objections to this Bill in this country. This statement must have been made upon inaccurate information supplied to him. There was and there still is very considerable criticism of this Act in this country to-day.Seeing that the consent of the Home Government was obtained in such circumstances, there is every reason why there should be a review of the situation.
I turn from that subject to the position with regard to the Protectorates—Basutoland, Swaziland and Bechuanaland. The view of Mr. Pirow has been referred to by more than one speaker. I need not say more than that there is a very big gap between the views of that gentleman and the views of other prominent people in South Africa on the question of the paramountcy of native interests. There are two schools of thought in South Africa, as there probably are in this country, with regard to this matter. There is the school of assimilation and the school of differentiation. The school of assimilation has the idea that we should gradually lead the native peoples of Africa to a better appreciation and understanding of civilisation, so that they may play a very much larger part in the control and government of their own land. The differentiation school simply looks upon them as people who must be kept in an inferior position, who must be for ever hewers of wood and drawers of water, and have no right to take any very large part in the direction of affairs in their own country. We ought to give our whole-hearted support to the first school and endeavour to lead the natives towards a larger share in their own Government. It is emphatically laid down in Mr. Pirow's speech that the native should have no social or political equality with the white races. That is the sort of thing which makes it difficult to maintain good relationships with the natives, and to make them feel that we are quite sincere in all our professions and are dealing with them in a spirit of trusteeship.
I noticed in the "Manchester Guardian" a short time ago, I think it was on the 20th of this month, that the president of the Institute of the London Missionary Society wrote a letter pointing out the large measure of our responsibility for the position that has arisen about the 3423 Protectorates. He stated that we had failed to give a definite lead as we ought to have done, that we had not given the support which we ought to have done to the weaker tribes, such as those in Swaziland and Basutoland, and that we therefore had a large measure of responsibility for the position in which we found ourselves. He pointed out, as did Professor MacMillan in a recent letter to the "New Statesman," that we have very distinct moral obligations towards those people which we ought to discharge, and that we have no right, on account of the agreement that has been entered into, to allow those people to be absorbed without being given every opportunity of expressing their wishes as to whether they would be absorbed by South Africa or would remain under the direct control of the Colonial Office in this country.
The position of Bechuanaland is very much stronger than that of the other States. They were an unconquered people, and very definite pledges were given to the chief as to the independence of his people being maintained by this Government. As other speakers have said, there is every reason why the Government should declare a very definite policy with respect to the natives, both upon the regulations and the ordinances that are made in the Union with regard to the Protectorates.
So far as has been ascertained, the natives are solidly against incorporation, and they maintain that even though they are poor they would rather maintain the freedom that they have. They look upon this country as the country which will protect them. I do not want to trouble hon. Members with too much detail, but I would remind them of the conversation which took place between the chiefs of Bechuanaland and the British representative a good many years ago, when he was Commissioner there, or held some responsibility as representing the British Government. It was made quite plain by Bechuanaland that they were not prepared, and did not want, to treat with the South African Government. They wanted to treat with the Great White Queen and with the British Government particularly. Such pledges have been given, and though they are not set down in black and white they are morally binding, and everything should be done to maintain the integrity of those people
3424 Speaking in another place recently, Lord Strathcona gave three pledges which he said had been recognised by successive Governments; first, that Parliament would be given an opportunity of discussing and, if it wished, of disapproving, any proposals for transfer; secondly, that His Majesty's Government would not make any decision until both native and white populations had had full opportunity of expressing their views; and, thirdly, that His Majesty's Government could not support any proposal for transfer if it involved any impairment of such safeguards for natives as the Schedule of the South African Act was designed to secure. We therefore have the right to ask the Government for definite assurances that those pledges represent the declared policy and intention of the Government, and that they will not depart from them in any circumstances.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)
A discussion in this House of the affairs which come within the purview of the Dominions Office is somewhat rare. I do not flatter myself that the reason for that is that hon. Members could not find any points on which to criticise my own conduct of the office; it is due, I think, to the fact that relations among the nations in the British Commonwealth, by their own nature, and, if you will, despite Dominion Secretaries, conduct themselves without crisis and work, on the whole, smoothly, peacefully and successfully. So far as the United Kingdom is concerned, credit for that comparatively happy state of affairs belongs to all parties in the House. Satisfaction at it is shared by all parties. It is something above our ordinary party warfare. One might compare the relations among the nations of the British Commonwealth to the calm waters of a lake, in comparison with the somewhat turbulent sea of international relations. Nevertheless, the calm waters are ruffled from time to time; sometimes even some ill political wind blows and whips them into waves. Hon. Members opposite have pointed this afternoon to some of those areas of disturbance within the Commonwealth.
The Debate has ranged over a very large number of subjects concerning a large number of countries, and I do not think hon. Members will expect me to follow them upon every one of the points 3425 which they raised. If I were to do so, they would never get on to the discussion of those Post Office matters which the Opposition are anxious to raise. I would say a few sentences about a number of the questions raised and asked. For instance the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) mentioned relations with the Irish Free State and expressed the very strong desire that there might be a settlement of the points in dispute between the two countries. I can assure him that that desire is fully shared on this side of the House. I might say that so far as we are concerned, we are not disposed to be too rigid in our consideration of those questions. Other hon. Members raised matters associated with Southern Rhodesia. The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) referred to discussions which have taken place relating to amalgamation between Southern and Northern Rhodesia, and he asked me what the position was. The position is that the matter is governed by the declaration of policy which was made on the subject in 1932. Before it was made, that declaration was the subject of consultation among all parties in the House. I do not think it would be proper to make any alteration in the attitude described there until consultation has taken place between the parties. As hon. Members know, Mr. Huggins, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, had discussions, when he was over here recently, with my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary and myself upon the question of amalgamation or closer association. All I can say is that we are giving careful consideration, to the points which he raised, but I am not in a position to make a further statement on the matter at the present time. Another hon. Member referred to recent native legislation in Southern Rhodesia, and in particular to the recent legislation upon native passes. He used some strong language to describe it, and said that it was reactionary and had worsened the status of the natives. Those descriptions are quite unjustified. That reactionary legislation was merely a consolidating Act, a re-enactment of legislation which has been in force in that Colony for a great many years. It is true that certain modifications of the existing legislation and practice were made, but they were not in the direction of reaction but of 3426 relaxation of the law; concerning, for instance, trespass. I hope that one of the results of the new legislation will be a reduction in the number of convictions under these laws in Southern Rhodesia.
A number of Members spoke about the discussions at the Imperial Conference. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh commented on the discussion upon the nationality of married women, and he criticised His Majesty's Government for not having legislated by now in order to put women upon an absolute equality with men in this respect. Discussions on that matter took place during the Imperial Conference in London, and I can only say that the Government adopted exactly the same line as did the Labour Government during the Imperial Conference of 1930. We attach great importance to maintaining as much uniformity as possible in the law inside the Commonwealth governing what is called the common status. We stand on the position which we occupy to-day because the existing arrangements are those which preserve the greatest amount of uniformity among the laws of the nations in the British commonwealth.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
Does not the right hon. Gentleman admit that there have been considerable changes in the world since 1930, and will he say whether they were taken into account?
§ Mr. MacDonald
All sorts of things were taken into account during the discussions at the Conference. The Government were ruled by the principle which ruled the Labour Government in 1930 that we must maintain uniformity in this matter. Nothing has happened which would justify any alteration of that principle. Then my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) expressed his disappointment that the Resolution with regard to shipping had not gone further, or had not gone very much further, than the Resolution on the subject which had been passed in 1923. Although we did not succeed in getting what might be called a stronger Resolution on the subject, His Majesty's Government do, of course, attach the very greatest importance to this question of British shipping, and we are continuing our consultation with Dominion Governments on the matter, with a view in 3427 practice to helping shipping as much as we possibly can.
I come now to the questions which have taken up the greater part of the Debate. The first is the question of government in Newfoundland. The people of Newfoundland boast that their Island is the oldest British Colony, and it is right that Members of this House should show a very keen sympathy with the affairs of that Island. We have been reminded that, when the Island was faced with extreme financial difficulties a few years ago, the Parliament in St. John's petitioned that the Dominion Constitution of the Island should be suspended, and to-day its Government is in the hands of the Governor and six appointed Commissioners. It is sometimes suggested at Question Time in this House, and it has been suggested again to-day, that these Commissioners are showing incompetence. It is sometimes suggested that conditions in the Island are worse than they were. [Interruption.] That has been suggested several times from below the Gangway, and sometimes by hon. Members above the Gangway. It is suggested that conditions are actually worse than they were when the Commissioners started their work four years ago. This afternoon it has been implied that the position in the Island has not greatly improved in these four years. I have not time to go into the matter in a comprehensive way, but I should like to try to say sufficient to remove from impartial minds that wholly wrong impression.
I think we are all aware that, when the commission went out to Newfoundland, the Island was facing a very precarious economic and financial position. The first work of the commission had to be a work of salvage, to stop collapse and to start to build up a greater prosperity in the Island again. I would claim that the Commissioners, with the sort of new model Civil Service which they have created, have performed that first work of salvage. Let me give one or two examples of the improvement which has taken place during these four years, despite what the right hon. Gentleman has said. Let me take first of all the example of revenue. Under the commission, taxation has been reduced; customs duties, for instance, have been considerably re- 3428 duced; and yet, despite that reduction in taxation, year after year, under commission government, there has been an increase in the revenue. In the year before the commission took over, the revenue amounted to something just over 8,000,000 dollars. Last year, despite the reductions in taxation, that revenue of just over 8,000,000 dollars had swollen to something just under 11,000,000 dollars. There has been an increase of nearly 3,000,000 dollars, or 35 per cent., in four years.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not attach very great importance to these revenue figures. He asks, what have the commission done with regard to improving the actual well-being of the Islanders concerned, with regard to increasing their standard of life? Under commission government, the standard of living of the people of Newfoundland has been gradually raised. Let me take the example of the poorest people in the Island, those families who, during the winter at any rate, and, unfortunately, many of them, even now in the summer, are in receipt of relief. I am not going to pretend that the standard of living of these families on relief is high; I am certainly not going to say that we would not like to see a higher standard of living; but, if we are to pass a just judgment on what the commission has been able to do, we must compare their achievement or their lack of achievement with the hard facts of the situation which they discovered when they arrived there four years ago, and not compare what they have done with some ideal standard of living which may be floating in the imaginations of hon. Members living in this much more comfortable island. The fact is that during the last three years the Commissioners have been paying those thousands of families on relief a higher rate of relief than they have ever been paid before. In the city of St. John's, for instance, the higher rate amounts to an increase of 25 per cent. on anything that they received before.
§ Mr. MacDonald
I admit that it does not represent as high a standard of living as we would like to see, but it is something higher than they have ever known before in the history of the Island, and that is a measure of improvement which the hon. Member and others are apt to deny has 3429 taken place under this commission government.
§ Mr. MacDonald
I do not want to be drawn into too great detail, but it has been suggested from the other side of the House that no improvement in the standard of living has taken place, and I say that, whatever the figures are—and it is difficult to give figures, because most of the payments are in kind, as hon. Members know—whatever the standard is, it is 25 per cent. higher than it was before. To take another example of the improvement which has taken place, there has been a certain improvement in industry and in employment in the Island under the Commission of Government. The ships and men are going to the fishing this year with greater confidence; in the forests there has been a steady increase in the number of men at work, both logging and in the paper mills; while, so far as the mines are concerned, they are working to absolute capacity, and the miners are being paid higher wages under Commission government than they have ever been paid before.
Let me give an impression of the change that has taken place in these four years by quoting the figures of those who were on relief in June of the year before the Commissioners' Government came into office and the figures after four years of that government. In June, 1933, there were on relief in the Island 73,738 men, women and children. By June, 1937, that figure had sunk to 42,992. I am not going to suggest that the Commissioners are complacent about the improvement, but it cannot be denied that considerable improvement has taken place, whether it is world recovery or whatever it may be, and I do not think any impartial person would deny that the Commission of Government have a good deal of responsibility for this improvement. I do not think the Island would have enjoyed anything like it if the old form of government had continued without intervention by the Commissioners. The Commissioners recognise that this is only a beginning. They have got over the stage of salvage. During these first three or four years they have been studying the problem and working out a long-term policy which might be applied in every department of activity in the Island so as to reinvigorate the 3430 whole community and set it really on its feet again. An outline of that policy was given in a speech by the Finance Commissioner, Mr. Penson, a fortnight ago. That speech is now in the Library of the House of Commons and I commend it to the study of Members who, quite properly, recognise our responsibility in this matter of making Newfoundland a self-supporting country again.
I should like to pass to the question of the South African Territories. Again, hon. Members have offered certain criticism of our charge in those Territories. It has been suggested that we have pursued a policy of stagnation, that we are somewhat indifferent to the plight of these comparatively poor countries and that we have neglected them. I should like to say a few things in an endeavour to show that that charge, whether made here or in South Africa or elsewhere is really unjustified. I am not going to pretend that there are not very great economic difficulties in those Territories. During the last decade they have faced some grim years. They are not the happy possessors of any considerable mineral wealth to buttress their well-being. They are primary producers on a comparatively modest scale. Their markets are limited. They have been hit as hard by the economic depression as any country has been and, in addition, they have had other scourges. They have had drought, they have had locusts, and they have had foot-and-mouth disease amongst their cattle. If we had pursued a policy of stagnation and neglect, their plight to-day would indeed have been hopeless, but we have not pursued that policy. The taxpayer in this country has stood by these three comparatively poor Territories, and has come to their rescue and assisted them consistently through this period.
In order to refute those who suggest that there has been neglect, I should like to quote the very considerable figures of the financial assistance that has been given in recent years to two of those Territories. Basutoland is a country with happier natural conditions than the other two. It has been able to keep self-supporting, with balanced budgets, during the years of depression, and there have been no grants-in-aid of Basutoland from this country. Swaziland has had a deficit for the last eight years and has been 3431 in receipt of a grant-in-aid from the Treasury during those years. The total sum that has been given is £307,000. Bechuanaland has been in receipt of a grant-in-aid for the last five years. The total moneys that have gone to Bechuanaland in that way amount to £385,000. Again, in the current year we have put into the Estimates a sum of something over £100,000 for those two Territories. But that is not the whole of the story. Hon. Members opposite have suggested, quite rightly—I entirely agree with them—that we ought not to be content with simply keeping the noses so to speak of these countries above water. We ought to be pursuing a development policy. The Government have been pursuing for the last few years an active policy of development in all three Territories with a view to trying to give them a better foundation on which to build security and prosperity. We started by sending Sir Alan Pim on a series of journeys through the territories to survey the whole field and make recommendations. He has made many recommendations for development works, and his proposals are being carried out steadily. In the case of Basutoland he found that its well-being was being undermined by soil erosion. He proposed an ambitious scheme for combating that soil erosion, and we are carrying it out at a cost of £160,000.
§ Mr. MacDonald
I do not want to quarrel about comparatively ancient history. I am saying that for some years past we have been pursuing, and are pursuing to-day, a policy of active and comprehensive development in all three Territories. Sir Alan Pim made it clear that a very serious situation was arising in Bechuanaland owing to inadequate water supplies, and he made proposals which are being carried out at a cost of £140,000. In addition to the enormous sums which we have paid out in grants-in-aid, there has been approved by the Colonial Development Fund Committee an expenditure of £566,330 on development works in the three Territories.
3432 That is not all that the Government are doing with regard to development in these Territories. I can only give examples of the kind of work which we are doing, but we should do this, for instance. We should see that the administrations have not only adequate funds for carrying out the works which are necessary, but also that they are staffed with officers who are capable, and who have qualities and are able to perform a great work of government. With regard to that, we have made certain new arrangements comparatively recently. Men in these Territories ought to be as good as any men in our Colonial Services, and with a view to that we have increased salary rates, pension rates and passage moneys for officers in these Territories, and, in addition, vacancies which occur—and which have occurred for some time—are now being filled by officers of our Colonial administration services, either transferred from elsewhere or else appointed by the recruitment officer at the Colonial Office and the Colonial Appointments Committee. We do not plead guilty to the charge of neglecting these Territories. We have done our duty by the Territories, and we shall go on doing our duty as long as we are responsible for the government of the Territories.
That brings me to say a few words on the question of the possible transfer of the government of the Territories, or of one or other of the Territories, from the United Kingdom to the Union of South Africa. That question has raised a great deal of discussion and of controversy, and I should like to try to set the problem in its true perspective. First, do not let us forget what has been done by this House in the past. In 1909 Parliament passed the South Africa Act, and there is contained in that Act a certain Section—Section 151—which refers to these three Territories. I will read the Section:The King, with the advice of the Privy Council, may, on addresses from the Houses of Parliament of the Union, transfer to the Union the government of any territories, other than the territories administeréd by the British South Africa Company, belonging to or under the protection of His Majesty, and inhabited wholly or in part by natives, and upon such transfer the Governor-General in Council may undertake the government of such territory upon the terms and conditions embodied in the Schedule to this Act.The Schedule is a very long document, and contains important provisions regarding the administration of, and legislation 3433 for, the territories if transfer should take place. That Section 151 and its Schedule remain a part of the Act.
§ Mr. MacDonald
It has a bearing on certain parts of the Schedule, and I certainly agree that, if transfer were contemplated, the general scheme of the Schedule should be observed, and anything which is in the Schedule and which is not appropriate to the present constitutional position should be a matter for discussion, so that some other appropriate safeguards with regard to these matters could be substituted. All I say is that that Section and the Schedule attached to it remain a part of the South Africa Act. They have not been repealed; they are not going to be repealed. [Interruption.] I did not interrupt hon. Members. Really, this is a matter which, as I say, has aroused discussion and controversy, but I do think that there is some value in laying before the House what, I hope, is a perfectly detached and impartial statement of the important aspects of this question. We must not forget that Section. We must attach proper importance to it. We have to recognise, if I may quote from a speech made by General Hertzog in 1935, that that Section has a meaning and intention. We have to recognise that the suggestion which is being made by the South African authorities, that transfer should take place, rests, in the first place, on that Section of the Act passed by the United Kingdom Parliament.
The second consideration is that that Section was passed upon a perfectly clear understanding regarding certain other matters. There were discussions on the question while the Bill was passing through Parliament, and during those discussions the responsible Minister gave two very important undertakings—first of all, that transfer would not take place until the wishes of the local populations had been very carefully considered; secondly, that transfer would not take place until Parliament had had the fullest opportunity of expressing its views. These pledges have been repeated from time to time, and the Government regard them 3434 as most solemn pledges. We abide by them without any qualification at all. I was pressed the other day, at question time, and one or two hon. Members have tried to press me again to-day, to interpret what is meant by the phrase about "consulting the local populations, European and native." I was pressed that I should state that that pledge meant that transfer could not take place unless the native populations consented to it. It would be improper for me to endeavour to use language regarding that pledge which would either contract the pledge or expand it. I do not think that the House need feel in the least dissatisfied with the position as it is left by these pledges. May I remind the House that there is an indication in the White Paper of two years ago, in the aide memoire, of the spirit in which this aspect of the matter is regarded not only in this country, but in the Union also. That aide memoire was approved by General Hertzog, and it says that we, the United Kingdom Government, believe that the Union Government would not wish transfer to take place unless the inhabitants of the territories, native as well as European—and then there is the quotation from General Hertzog himself—"are prepared and desire to come in."
Quite apart from that indication, the House can rest satisfied in the position, because of the second pledge which says that transfer cannot take place except after Parliament has had the fullest opportunity of expressing its views. If I were asked to suggest a sort of time-table it would work like this. If transfer were contemplated of a territory or territories, first of all consultation would take place with the local inhabitants. After that Parliament would have its opportunity of expressing its views, and it would really rest with the Government and Parliament to say whether the result of the consultation had been such as to justify transfer taking place.
Since Section 151 of the Act and these pledges were first given in the House a great deal of history has attached to this question. This is not the time to go into that history. I come straight to the Agreement of two years ago, which governs the situation to-day, and I claim that the agreement which was reached between my predecessor and General Hertzog was conceived in the spirit of Section 151, plus the pledges 3435 associated with it. The White Paper says:The policy of both Governments for the next few years should be directed to bringing about a situation in which if transfer were to become a matter of practical politics it could be effected with the full acquiescence of the populations concerned.The Government are bound by that policy. The Government are in honour bound to play their part in carrying that policy out. We have been anxious, and we are anxious, to do everything that we properly can to implement that policy.
Certain suggestions have been made, and suggestions have been made in South African newspapers which have come to me in the last day or two, to the effect that the United Kingdom Government have not been wholehearted in implementing that policy during the last two years, that we failed to do something that we promised to do or that we ought to have done, in order to implement that policy. I cannot accept that view. I could go into it in detail. I could tell the House in detail what we have done—it is public property—in the last two years, and I believe that I could convince the House that we have carried out our part of the policy loyally; but I do not propose to do that. I cannot imagine anything more calculated to create unnecessary difficulties in this matter than if I were to stir up a public, long-range controversy as to what has been happening in the past.
General Hertzog and I agreed that I should communicate with him on the whole question, explaining the position of His Majesty's Government, in an endeavour to see what further steps were practicable for the carrying out of the 1935 policy to the full. We are not contemplating any new policy. We contemplate a further implementing of the existing agreed policy. That communication is now being drafted, and will be sent to General Hertzog very shortly. It will, no doubt, be followed by discussions between the two Governments, and there, I think, we should allow the matter to remain at the moment. I should only like to say this in conclusion, that neither in this country nor in the Union are these Territories regarded simply as pawns in some game between the Union of South Africa and the United Kingdom. We must consider not simply the interests of the Union or the interests of the United Kingdom. We have to consider in this 3436 matter very seriously indeed the interests of the population, both European and native, in the Territories concerned.
I am afraid that I have spoken at considerable length, and there are other questions which were raised on which I should like to say something, but I will conclude by saying this. We have lived through an historic Imperial year. Their Majesty's Coronation was attended by representatives of their peoples from every quarter of the globe. It was followed immediately by the Imperial Conference. I had intended to say something about the Imperial Conference, but I will not detain the House at this late hour. Perhaps what I might have said has been rendered unnecessary by the admirable speech which was delivered on the Imperial Conference by the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg). I agree with almost every word he said as to the significance and the value of the Imperial Conference of 1937. I believe that we can all feel satisfied that inside the British Commonwealth of Nations we are demonstrating that friendly co-operation between free and equal nations, and the peaceful settlement of any differences which may arise between them are not empty ideals, but can, in fact, be attained by mankind.