HC Deb 13 December 1950 vol 482 cc1167-71
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. James Griffiths)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about Colonial Territories in East Africa.

As the House will be aware from my speech in the Colonial debate in July, I have been much exercised about the position in East Africa. Recently it has appeared to me that there has been a growing uncertainty throughout the area. I have, during the last few months, been considering the matter in consultation with my advisers and with the Governors who have been over here on leave or on visits, and have had the advantage of the views of the Minister of State, who has recently visited East Africa. I have come to the conclusion that it will be best to pursue the matter, for the time being at any rate, separately in each territory rather than on a general East African basis.

In Uganda there have very recently been constitutional changes which have increased the African membership of the Legislature from four to eight and which have provided for a measure of popular selection of those representatives. I feel that Uganda should develop in its own way, for its circumstances differ much from those both in Kenya and Tanganyika.

In Tanganyika a local committee is consulting all shades of opinion before making proposals for constitutional advance. I am sure the House will agree that the process of local consultation should be carried through before constitutional changes are made.

As regards Kenya, the Governor will, following on his discussions here, shortly be consulting with local opinion on the next steps. When he has carried out that consultation he will be in a position to put forward proposals and I hope then to be able to make a further statement to the House.

In the meantime it may be useful if I make clear certain basic principles of policy which must be observed:—

(i) As has been repeatedly stated by His Majesty's Government with the assent of all parties, our objective is self-government within the Commonwealth.

(ii) Self-government must include proper provision for all the main communities which have made their home in East Africa, but in the long run their security and well-being must rest on their good relations with each other. Good relations cannot flourish while there is fear and suspicion between the communities; it must therefore be our task to create conditions where that fear and suspicion disappear. In any constitutional changes in the direction of self-government, care must be taken to safeguard the proper rights and interests of all the different communities. Future policy must be worked out in full consultation with those who belong to the territories.

(iii) By our presence in these territories and by the assistance which we have given them in developing their resources we have set Africans on the path of political, social and economic progress and it is our task to help them forward in that development, so that they may take their full part, with the other sections of the community, in the political and economic life of the territories.

(iv) When Africans have reached that stage and the other communities feel secure as regards their future in East Africa, we can hope for a state of mutual confidence and harmony; that will be a sound basis for a Government in which all sections participate. It will be some time before that stage is reached and meanwhile it is essential that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom should continue to exercise their ultimate control in the East African territories. It is their firm intention to do so, while encouraging all reasonable freedom of action by the local Governments.

I would conclude by expressing the hope of His Majesty's Government—a hope in which I am sure the House will join—that all persons who are concerned with the future of these territories will work together towards that goal of true partnership on which, and on which alone, the future prosperity and happiness of all in East Africa must depend.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

While, of course, we must retain our freedom to consider this statement very carefully affecting, as it does, the future welfare of millions of our fellow-subjects in the British Empire, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he realises that one of the most important parts of his statement was that proper provision must be made for all the main communities which have made their homes in East Africa? Does he realise that high in importance among these communities is the large British community which have made their homes in Kenya and Tanganyika and in future years are anxious to do so for their families as well, and without whom no development of that territory is likely in the future?

Mr. Griffiths

My statement was intended to cover that community. I would again express the hope that all communities in East Africa will realise that it depends upon developing true partnership together.

Mr. Fenner Brockway

Can my right hon. Friend indicate to the House when it is likely that, following upon his statement, the new proposals will be announced?

Mr. Griffiths

I should not like to set a date. In Kenya the proposals have to come forward in such time as to make it possible to apply them in 1952. In Tanganyika the committee are now touring the country consulting local opinion. I could not set a date when they will be able to report.

Sir Peter Macdonald

Will these constitutional changes mean holding up any co-ordination of the services of the three Colonies, or will they proceed as previously intended?

Mr. Griffiths

The statement refers to the conditions in each individual territory and not to the co-ordinating work of the High Commission.

Colonel Ropner

I am surprised that the Minister says nothing about the unity of Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya. Are the Government of this country or the Minister himself not going to give any lead with regard to this most important matter, which, so far as I know, is giving rise to more uncertainty about the future than any other matter?

Mr. Griffiths

The hon. and gallant Gentleman will know that there is a good deal of co-ordination between them through the East Africa Commission and they have a large number of common services. This statement does not refer to that. For the moment, from the point of view of political and constitutional development, I have come to the conclusion, for reasons I have set out in the statement, that at present it is best to proceed separately in each of the three countries.

Mr. Alport

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that it is practical and realistic to make a statement of the sort we have just heard without any reference whatever to the High Commission and apparently without taking into consideration the effects of constitutional developments in the various Colonies upon the High Commission? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider dealing with this aspect at an early date?

Mr. Griffiths

This statement was made after consultations which I had with the Governors concerned, about future constitutional advance, as I indicated in the statement. I thought it was necessary to make the statement at the present time because I hope it will help to create the necessary feeling of co-operation and harmony in which the next steps can be discussed between all concerned.

Mr. John Hynd

Will my right hon. Friend inform the House whether, in considering the future of the three territories, he has also taken into consideration the future status of Zanzibar and our Treaty with that territory?

Mr. Griffiths

This statement refers to the three territories I have mentioned.

Sir Ralph Glyn

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that one object of his statement is to assure people that no hasty action will be taken in regard to pressing forward unduly with these schemes?

Mr. Griffiths

The statement is intended to create the atmosphere in which constitutional advance can proceed on the basis of inter-racial harmony and co-operation.

Mr. Brockway

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very strong opposition of the Africans in Uganda and many other of the East African countries to any political unity of those countries?

Mr. Baldwin

Is the Minister aware that, if we are to have the concord and harmony which he so much desires, the best way to achieve it is for people in this country who have no knowledge of these affairs to leave them very much to the people of those countries who do know?

Mr. Griffiths

That harmony depends upon what is done and what is said by people both here and in East Africa.

Mr. J. Hynd

Will the Minister look into the question of Zanzibar in this connection, in view of the fact that part of the territories with which he was concerned in his statement is involved with our Treaty with Zanzibar?

Mr. Griffiths

I will look at it again, as my hon. Friend desires.