§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
Having the opportunity of the Adjournment at this early hour, I wish to say that my object is to call attention to an epoch-making event on the West Coast of Africa. History is being made tomorrow at Accra by the opening of the Gold Coast Assembly where, for the first time in the history of the British Empire, we shall see a majority of black Ministers elected to the Executive Council. No fewer than eight members of the Executive Council will be black African members, directly elected in the first place to the. Legislative Council by their fellow citizens. These elections were carried out in an exemplary manner.
I cannot begin in a better way than by quoting my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies when, in opening the annual debate on the Colonial Estimates on 12th July last year, he said that the aim and purpose of United Kingdom colonial policy was:to guide the Colonial Territories to responsible self-government within the Commonwealth, and, to that end, to assist them to the utmost of our capacity and resources to establish those economic and social conditions upon which alone self-government could be soundly based."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th July, 1950; Vol. 477, c. 1368.]Since 1945, there has been intense political ferment on the West Coast of Africa. There has been great tension in respect both of the trade unions and the political parties and, to cap all, the newspapers have been irresponsible and sometimes scurrilous in feeding the flames of dissension, since there were genuine grievances. The upshot was continuous 918 and predominant agitation culminating in the disastrous outbreaks of 1948, when 29 persons were killed and 257 injured in five towns.
A change of Legislature after this was inevitable. The Native African Committee, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Justice Coussey, was set up. This talented Committee did an able job and most of its proposals were accepted by the Minister. In the autumn of last year, an intensive publicity campaign was carried on to educate the black people for the forthcoming elections which were held this month. "The Times" leader of 7th February said:The General Election now proceeding on the Gold Coast is a bold, perhaps hazardous, experiment.Be that as it may, the election was held under the most exemplary conditions and was in itself a lesson to democracy. The rural and primary elections were held to elect the district electorial colleges which, in their turn, elected some 33 Members of the Legislature. These delegates held palavers which were so well behaved and respectable as to be almost like local Labour Party gatherings in this country. The Nationalist Convention People's Party had a walk-over both in the rural and town elections. The popular vote was all on their side while their leader Kwame Nkrumah was still in gaol in Accra. A deputation met the Governor, Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, to discuss the question of the release of Kwame Nkrumah, for they said that without him they were "headless in the Chamber."
Now there is a new spirit abroad on the Gold Coast. I would merely add, because I am quoting second-hand, that this is due to the exemplary behaviour of the people at the elections and since. The release of Kwame Nkrumah made the victory complete and indisputable. Let me give the figures. In four town elections, the party vote was 58,866 by direct ballot and 5,500 for all other parties. No fewer than 34 non-C.P.P. candidates lost their £50 deposits.
Kwame Nkrumah stated his policy on 13th February when he said that he would accept office in the new Executive Council on certain conditions. He would give the Constitution a fair trial. He would give it a fair testing as a stepping stone to full self-government as a Dominion within the British Commonwealth. He said that if he could not 919 work the Constitution he would resign and go into opposition to the Government or to the party which took his place. I want to quote, in case there is any misapprehension, what Kwame Nkrumah actually said after his release from gaol, because I think that he is perhaps a somewhat maligned man. He said:I want to make it absolutely clear that I am a friend of Britain. I desire for the Gold Coast Dominion status within the Commonwealth. I am a Marxian Socialist and undenominational Christian. The only places I know in Europe are London and Paris. I am no Communist and have never been one. I come out of jail and into the Assembly without the slightest feeling of bitterness to Britain. I stand for no racialism, no discrimination against any race or individual, but I am unalterably opposed to Imperialism in any form.Therefore, the test of the constitution will be whether the Permanent Secretaries are prepared to co-operate with him and his fellow Ministers, and secondly—and this is fearfully important—the attitude of the Governor in the use of his reserved powers.
I suggest that there is now a much happier spirit on the West Coast of Africa and that the Secretary of State for the Colonies might suggest to His Majesty's Government that they employ a personage of high eminence to attend the formal ceremonial opening of the new Assembly on the Gold Coast. That may occur next month—I am not sure about the date—but I am informed that tomorrow there is to be an informal opening of the Assembly by the Governor himself. I recall that the Duke of Edinburgh went to Gibraltar, and I would suggest that some Minister of His Majesty's Government might go to the Gold Coast, or, failing that, someone like Lord Louis Mountbatten, who is well known to coloured peoples everywhere for his sympathy and understanding of their difficulties. The Assembly will be opened tomorrow by the Governor, Sir Richard Arden-Clarke. I understand that this is only an informal opening, but I should like the House, if it is at all possible, to send its good wishes to the new Assembly. Perhaps the Minister will consider this before he answers the debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), in his usual inimitable fashion, last week went round collecting signatures from Labour Members for a cable to be sent to Kwame Nkrumah.
920 Some of us signed that cablegram, but I wish that it had been possible for it to have been signed by all Members of the House, because such gestures as this are needed on behalf of this country if only to counter-balance the effects—I will add no adjectives—of such iniquitous speeches as that by Lord Hailey in Cape Town a short time ago, when he said that the British people, except for some Socialists and some old-fashioned Liberals, were not critical of the native policy of the Malan Government.
A Question was asked in the House about this speech, and the Prime Minister told us that Lord Hailey had spoken in a purely personal capacity. I am speaking tonight purely in the capacity of a back bencher when I say that the vast majority of the people in this country will disown such statements, and that we are not merely sympathetic but will do all we can to help the coloured peoples in Africa as they falteringly make their steps towards nationalism. If I may be allowed to be a little mischievous, I would point out that Lord Hailey did not mention the Tories as being in this category—perhaps he did not deem them worthy of mention.
As the black people of Africa are marching to nationhood, they must be made to feel that this nation, and particularly this Labour Government, means what it says and is only too anxious to guide and help them as they make their way, if only in a stumbling fashion, towards self-government. Let us, then, send to the people of the Gold Coast one of His Majesty's Ministers, or perhaps Lord Mountbatten, which would fire their imagination, and let him be accompanied by an all-party delegation as a further token of our esteem and good will.
This election has been termed one of the boldest episodes in the history of this old Empire of ours. Some people may compare Nkrumah to Bustamente, but I hope that Nkrumah may become for West Africa another Pandit Nehru. I am sure that we all wish him and his party God-speed in their great venture. Nkrumah can be a beacon to black people everywhere and the means of guiding the native peoples of this great Continent to a far better future.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Peart (Workington)
I should like to compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) or having raised this very important subject and to support the remarks he has made. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to convey to the people of the Gold Coast the best wishes of His Majesty's Government, and also the best wishes of the House, for their venture in self-government. As my hon. Friend has said, events on the Gold Coast are epoch-making. I am very glad that he referred to the recent remarks of Lord Hailey and has stressed that those views do not represent the views of the progressive people of this country.
The elections of the Gold Coast have been successfully held. It was reported in "The Times," which has already been referred to, that they would be of a hazardous nature. Examination of the conduct of the people in this connection has shown that it has been exemplary. I think that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) will agree that the elections have been much better conducted than those in other parts of the world where we have a much longer tradition of self-government. I am referring to Northern Ireland. I only wish that the Northern Ireland Tories would conduct themselves as well as these people have done at their elections.
All of us wish the people on the Gold Coast success in their new venture. It has been the policy of the Government, since 1945, deliberately to follow a policy of trying to give the peoples of the Colonial Empire an opportunity to march forward towards self-government.
It is interesting to read the speeches of members of the National Convention People's Party whose leader was imprisoned. Their leader, Kwame Nkrumah, since his success in the election, has shown no signs of bitterness. He made a remarkable speech in which, despite the past, he showed that he wished to be friendly with our country. He made some important remarks on future colonial policy, with which Members will agree, saying that Africa needs technicians, engineers, geologists and agriculturists, and not the lawyers and schoolmasters they have been having in the past—men who can really develop the economic life of the country.
922 That has always been the policy of the Government since 1945. We have always tried to develop the resources of the Colonial Empire so that a better atmosphere could be created for proper political understanding. We all agree that bad economics make bad politics.
It has been the task of the Government in the field of colonial development since 1945 to develop the resources of the Empire and to give the people opportunities to conquer poverty and insecurity_ Parallel with that there has been the progress towards self-government. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to make the gesture that has been asked for. I hope it will be possible for the House to wish the new Assembly well, and that we shall be able to send a distinguished representative on a formal occasion to complete the good wishes sent on behalf of the British people.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Braine (Billericay)
I was somewhat disappointed to find that the subject of this debate had been changed. It was to have been on Lord Hailey's speech and any speech from such an eminent authority on African affairs as Lord Hailey is of great interest. I was wondering what sort of comment the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) would make upon the speech he had in mind. I am not accusing the hon. Member of discourtesy, but I think that he might have given the House some explanation of why the subject for this debate was changed so hurriedly.
§ Mr. J. Johnson
There is nothing sinister behind this. The Minister is in South Africa, the Under-Secretary is in the House of Lords, and it seemed to me much more appropriate that we should defer the subject originally selected, until the return of the Minister concerned.
§ Mr. Braine
I am not satisfied, and I am sure that my hon. Friends on this side of the. House are equally dissatisfied. After all, in the course of his speech the hon. Member referred to the speech of Lord Hailey in South Africa as "iniquitous." If it earned that description from the hon. Member, one would have thought that it was of sufficient importance for him to continue with this subject for debate tonight. On the contrary, without giving the House anyexplanation, the subject was changed.
§ Mr. Peart
I think the hon. Member is doing my colleague an injustice. Adjournment time belongs to Private Members and, my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) could raise any subject he wished. I do not think there has been any complaint. Certainly I have not heard any hon. Member on the other side complain about what another hon. Member has brought up on an Adjournment. Surely it is a matter between himself and the Minister.
§ Mr. Braine
Surely the hon. Member for Rugby owes some duty to this House. All hon. Members are informed in due time of the subject of Adjournment debates. Here, suddenly, without any warning and without any explanation the subject was changed. However, it may be that the hon. Member, like myself, is unaccustomed to the practices of this honourable House, and that had he thought about this in advance he would have afforded us some explanation at the outset of his speech. Having said that, and having listened to the hon. Member for Rugby, I suggest that it would have been better if he had raised this subject without the implication which seems to run through so many speeches from hon. Members opposite—the implication that we on this side are not really interested in the constitutional advance of Colonial peoples, and that ony those on the opposite side of the House are interested in these matters.
It was Edmund Burke, I think speaking in connection with India, who first laid down the principle that the welfare of the governed was the first duty of the governors. Ever since that day the idea of trusteeship has laid hold of successive British Governments. What has happened in the Gold Coast, what is happening in the West Indies, what is happening throughout the dependent Empire is the result of an evolutionary process towards the dependent peoples managing their own affairs which started a long time before the Labour Party was even thought of. Therefore, it would have been better on this occasion, when we are considering whether or not some gesture should be made to the new Gold Coast government, if such an impression had not been left on the House by the hon. Member for Rugby.
I cannot understand why the hon. Member should have to suggest that a message should go from this House. I speak with- 924 out any knowledge of what has happened previously, but this, after all, is the Mother of Parliaments. The great gift which the British people have given to the world is this unique method of government. I should have thought it was almost automatic that some sort of message should be sent to new young Parliaments in the Commonwealth when they come into being.
Precisely because I object to the way in which the hon. Member for Rugby made his observations, I want to say that we on this side of the House wish the new experiment, hazardous as it may be, all success. Certainly a new chapter has opened in the history of the African peoples and upon the success of this experiment a great deal will depend. It is rather like the ripples going out from the middle of a pond after a stone has been dropped into it. What happens in the Gold Coast in the next year or so will affect the whole Colonial Empire. Of that I have not the slightest doubt. Therefore, all of us in this House extend from the bottom of our hearts our very best wishes for the success of this new constitutional advance in the Gold Coast.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
However little one may have agreed with what the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) said in his opening remarks, the whole House can at least agree with what he said in his concluding sentences. Therefore, I cannot see how the hon. Member can possibly object to a change of subject. This is the eve of the first meeting of the first Parliament of Africans for Africans. It would have been inappropriate if the House had not chosen this opportunity to discuss it, rather than to discuss what is a more domestic affair, the remarks of one or other Minister.
Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies will consider whether it would not be possible or appropriate that we should put on the Order Paper for tomorrow a formal message of goodwill so that there might be a message sent by Mr. Speaker to the Assembly of the Gold Coast when it meets for the first time tomorrow. I do not think it would be right if we were to leave this subject —and I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree with me—without paying a small tribute to the work of my right hon.
925 Friend's predecessor, Mr. Creech Jones, to whom a great deal of this constitutional development is due.
As the hon. Member for Billericay said, we shall be largely judged in Africa by what happens in the Gold Coast. And by one of those curious factors of history the Gold Coast, of all parts of Africa, is the most international. It was on the Gold Coast that the Portuguese, the Danes, even the Prussians, when they were still called the Brandenburghers, had ports. There were Swedish ports, and the Gold Coast is one of the few places where the Swiss maintain a consul because of the number of Swiss engaged in trading there. As well as that, from the Near East and so on there are many Lebanese, Indian, and other traders making up the international community, so that the Gold Coast is known generally in the world.
But there is more to it than that, because between ourselves and the Gold Coast there has been perhaps the longest and most intimate connection between this country and the really African civilisation. Even at the end of the 18th century the first African ever to be ordained into the English Church was ordained in the Gold Coast and became a missionary there. All through the 19th century a number of leading Africans were co-operating and working with the administration in the Gold Coast. Here is an area where there is a high percentage of literacy, probably as high as 10 per cent., as compared with the much lower percentage in Nigeria; here is an area where we have a chance to see how this constitutional experiment will work out.
Those of us who have studied the Constitution see in it one or two admirable features and one or two possible difficulties. I know that hon. Members on this side of the House will commend the provision by which only a simple majority is required to elect a Government, but apparently a two-thirds majority is needed to turn it out. Whether or not such a provision would work effectively I am not quite certain, and I hope that when my right hon. Friend replies he will deal in a little more detail with what may be some of the constitutional difficulties in the administration of the Gold Coast Constitution.
As I understand it, the Executive Council is composed of 11 members of whom 926 three, the Chief Secretary, the Attorney-General and the Financial Secretary, are members ex officio. As I understand it, they are irremovable, but they are bound to follow the policy of the Executive Council as a whole, which is determined by a majority of that Council, of whom eight are members responsible to the Assembly. When this system of irremovable members was tried in the Canadian Constitution at one time, and at a later stage in the Malta Constitution, it gave rise to a great many difficulties, and to the permanent members attempting to pursue an independent policy quite apart from that of the Executive Council as a whole.
It is necessary that we should emphasise that we desire to see this Constitution a real Constitution and not in any sense a sham, pretending that there is democracy when it does not exist. I believe that the Constitution can be made to work, but obviously this is one of the difficulties which may have to be faced—the position of the irremovable and, in a sense, irresponsible permanent members. That seems to be the crucial constitutional difficulty which may arise.
Before we pass to discuss the policies of the political parties of the Gold Coast I should like to say one word of congratulation to the Governor of the Gold Coast who, by his recent handling of these events, has shown himself to be a statesman of a high order. He ought to know that he has behind him the support of Members in all parts of the House. It is quite clear that if there is to be a responsible Government, it will be the Government of the Convention of People's Party, Mr. Nkrumah's party. It is important that we should realise the sort of difficulty and the sort of policy to which the C.P.P. look forward.
They talk very often of Dominion status now, but there is the reality, which is the determination of many people that Africans, particularly on the Gold Coast, should command their own future. I think it would be agreed by hon. Members that Mr. Nkrumah's party, certainly those members of it to whom I have talked of these problems on the Gold Coast, recognise two very important things. The first is the importance of the Gold Coast remaining within the sterling 927 area. The second is the essential importance of the Gold Coast having a planned economy, including the maintenance of marketing boards, bulk buying and bulk selling. What they object to is the intrusion in Africa of the extraterritorial companies, whose profits go outside Africa. This is the difficulty which Africa is up against, that the profits of those enterprises are not available for development within the area in which the profits were laid.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedfordshire)
That may or may not be true, but is it not the fact that private enterprise in West Africa is making profits while Government enterprise in East Africa is losing millions of money?
§ Mr. Bing
The hon. Gentleman and I have rather a different balance sheet. We approach this thing in a different way. We on this side think that a nationalised undertaking which is well placed in a colonial area is a gain and not a loss. On whatever side the hon. Member may write his figures, we think that profits taken from a country and exported to another country are a loss to that country.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that the private companies have conferred no benefits upon the Gold Coast at all?
§ Mr. Bing
I am not suggesting so at all. The United Trading Company was originally a missionary concern. It was an organisation of Swiss missionaries and it conferred great benefits upon the area by way of education and medical services and the like. In the days of the early development the extra-territorial companies did perform a very useful service, but we must ask ourselves now whether those great monopolies, dominated as they are by Lever Bros., are working in the best interests of the African people.
I should like to make one other point. Both the Government of the Gold Coast and the Government of Nigeria can be much complimented upon their elimination of racialism, or any form of colour discrimination. I think there still exist some traces of it in the Gold Coast. There is a European Club to which it is not permissible to bring an African guest. It seems that the Europeans have much 928 less good manners than the Africans, for there exists also an African Club where there is no objection to an African bringing a European guest. There is no reason why there should not be Irish clubs, Scottish clubs or any other sort of club, limited to members of one race or one particular interest, but it is very important that in official matters there should not be purely pin-pricking things of this sort.
§ Mr. Braine
Would the hon. Member permit me to point out that one of the earliest decisions taken by Mr. Nkrumah and his friends since the election, no doubt with the best intentions in the world, is not to maintain any private social contacts with the European officials with whom they are to work?
§ Mr. Bing
That is exactly one of the difficulties. It shows the importance of things which might otherwise seem to be quite trivial. It is absolutely essential that we should get away from all these very difficult ideas and difficult conceptions, for example the expatriation allowance by which the African staff and the European staff are treated on different terms. It is such things which present difficulties in the way of securing an even social life between the Europeans and the Africans. I think I shall be backed by hon. Members who have had experience in Nigeria and the Gold Coast in saying that the plan has been more successfully achieved in Nigeria than in the Gold Coast.
I am sure that we all welcome most sincerely this experiment and that from the whole House the warmest feelings go out to the people of Africa. We express the greatest hopes for the constitutional success of their great experiment.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Alport (Colchester)
I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) introduced in the last part of his remarks the question of racialism. I should have thought that this was not the occasion to do that, and that it would have been better to follow the example of Mr. Nkrumah, who showed rather more responsibility.
I have listened with the greatest interest to the speeches which have been made. I admit that I came here expecting to hear a debate on certain statements made 929 by Lord Hailey. The speeches that have been made in this Adjournment debate have something very much in common. It is only about 40 years ago that hon. Members belonging to the Government party and those belonging to the party which sits below the Gangway were welcoming the constitutional experiment—a very generous Liberal experiment it was —for the new constitution of South Africa. Yet today, 40 years afterwards, which is not so long over the arches of history, they are beginning to look upon that experiment with a certain amount of distaste. I would remind—
§ Mr. Bing
The hon. Gentleman has accused us on this side of the House of introducing racialism. Surely everyone in the House is agreed that it is absolutely pernicious to deprive people, because of their colour, of voting or taking part in their own affairs, and that is why there is considerable criticism of South Africa.
§ Mr. Alport
That has been clear to me for some time. I was saying, before the hon. and learned Gentleman interrupted me, that 40 years afterwards, they are looking upon the results of their constitutional experiments with a great deal of distaste. Let us not merely congratulate and wish God-speed to a new experiment in Africa, but let us also do so with a certain amount of responsibility on our part, realising that by setting up a Constitution such as has been set up in the Gold Coast we are not necessarily ensuring its success. After all, one of the reasons the South African Government are at the present moment the object of such considerable criticism is that they are reputed to have shown—rightly or wrongly, I do not know—certain of the tendencies which were attributed to Fascism and dictatorship in the past.
It is easy for those of us who have followed the experiment in the Gold Coast and the statements which, prior to the election, were made by Mr. Nkrumah and the Convention People's Party to see traces—I would say a threat, if only a small one—of similar developments there should this experiment not prove successful in the eyes of those who are supposed to be carrying it out. There is a danger that we shall be able to look forward in this new experiment in African self-government towards a strengthening, not of the democratic forces but of those 930 forces which are opposed to everything for which we stand and everything we have tried to set up in Africa over the years. It was because we regarded that experiment as a gamble, and a very great gamble, that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House asked the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary and his advisers to be very careful how quickly they tried to advance so-called constitutional reform in Africa.
By all means let us wish well to this experiment in African self-government, but let us not allow our prejudices—there were many examples of prejudices, particularly in the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch—to run away with our judgment. We should remember that we are still responsible for the 'welfare, not only of a political party or of politicians in Africa or anywhere else but of the great mass of people to whom politics, in those countries at any rate, mean very little indeed.
I want to refer to one point in the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson). He was to have raised on the Adjournment the subject of Lord Hailey's speech, and it is worth making one point on that—
§ Mr. J. Johnson
I have already said why I changed the subject that I selected for the Adjournment. I should like to add that last Friday I went to the Speaker's Office and got permission to change it, and I should have thought that at least by today, hon. Members would have known what the title of the Adjournment debate was. Hon. Members on this side of the House did. It amazes me to find hon. Members coming into the Chamber saying that they did not know what the debate was about.
§ Mr. Alport
I am not chiding the hon. Member for changing the title, but am merely explaining why I am introducing this point into my speech, which so far has been concerned primarily with political problems on the Gold Coast. Before hon. Members opposite go too far in criticising Lord Hailey or those African experts—they are experts who have spent many years of their lives in Africa—for the ideas that they put forward, they should remember that before the Select Committee in 1930 Miss Perham and Lord Lugard both gave as their view that in a plural society, some form of separation 931 policy was advisable if all races were to reach their eventual goals. Therefore, there is a possibility, which I think may have confused hon. Members opposite, that when an expert like Lord Hailey is talking in favour of a racial separate policy, he is talking in terms of that advice which, as hon. Members will agree, was given by liberal thinkers on the subject 20 years ago, rather than in terms of the application of the policy by the Malan Government at the present time, which is quite a different matter.
My reason for introducing that point is—I hope hon. Members opposite will bear with me in this—that I can see many dangers arising from loose and prejudiced thinking and speaking on the whole question of Africa and the racialism within it, probably from all political parties but certainly from the party opposite. If we could ensure that, before the criticisms were made, a deeper study of what is a most intricate and difficult problem was made by all of us, I am sure we should avoid creating much of the trouble which will in the end lead to great distress here and overseas. Finally, whereas we on this side of the House send our good wishes for this experiment, we should not accompany those good wishes by sending a member of the present Administration.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
If the debate has done nothing else, it has gone a long way to refute statements made by Lord Hailey in Cape Town the other day suggesting that the people in Britain were not very interested in African racial problems. The House, the country and the Commonwealth—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
As this is no longer a debate on Lord Hailey's statement, as the noble Lord, as far as I know, is not in England at the moment, as we have not had a full report of what he said, and as these matters are capable of the most dangerous misrepresentation, would the hon. Gentleman, in fairness, confine the debate to the new subject chosen by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson)?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) has been here throughout the whole of the debate—
§ Mr. Fletcher
I have no doubt that it was not his fault that he was occupied elsewhere when the debate began, but as I have been here the whole time perhaps I might inform him that the debate has taken a very curious course. It has covered both the subjects selected by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson), namely the remarks of Lord Hailey in Cape Town, and the situation produced by the recent elections in the Gold Coast. In view of the speeches which have been made in the debate, in view of the references which have been made on both sides of the Chamber not only to the Gold Coast situation but to Lord Hailey and the situation in South Africa, in view of the abundant time which, most fortunately, we have this evening to discuss these very important matters, and as the Minister is here to reply—I have no doubt that he was prepared to reply to a full debate on all matters—I hope I shall not be ruled out of order if I try to follow some of the subjects which have been discussed by speaker after speaker on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way to me again. The Minister is not here. Lord Hailey's observations were directed to matters that fall within the province of the Department of Commonwealth Relations and not of the Colonal Office. We have the pleasure of the presence of the Colonial Secretary. The hon. Member for Rugby himself said that the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is in Africa. The Minister is not here. Therefore, would it not be better to wait until he is?
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. James Griffiths)
Perhaps I might intervene with advantage at this point. This question of the statement alleged to have been made by Lord Hailey in South Africa was raised in the form of a Question on Thursday, 8th February, to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I want to make it perfectly clear that if this matter is raised again tonight—that is not a question for me, but for you, Mr. Speaker, and for the Members of the House—all I could do in reply would be to refer hon. Members to the answer given last week by the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am sure that the House is very grateful to my right hon. Friend for his intervention, because he has put the matter entirely in its right perspective. Obviously, if this debate were limited to the question of remarks made by Lord Hailey we should not have the Colonial Secretary here to reply to the debate. Although I think that that subject is relevant to the debate as it has been conducted up to the present, chief interest lies in the Gold Coast election; but I am sure that it will be agreed that it would be quite wrong to rule out of order any reference to the situation in South Africa. This is a subject of profound importance at present, not only in the Gold Coast and in this country but in South Africa, and while I want to say a word or two in a moment in support of the very useful and constructive suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby, I also want to remind the House of the very important repercussion which the Gold Coast elections have had and are likely to have in South Africa. That is why it is very relevant to this whole matter to refer to Lord Hailey's remarks.
I have here yesterday's issue of the "Sunday Times" and the heading on one of the principal articles in that number is this: "South Africa's concern over Gold Coast vote." I propose in a moment to trouble the House with one or two quotations made by the South African correspondent of the "Sunday Times" and also to indicate to the House the effect which these developments in the Gold Coast have had on other African Colonies.
I come back to my original remark, that if this debate has done nothing else it has, at any rate, refuted the suggestion which Lord Hailey made in Cape Town, only a few days ago, that the British public were very little interested in African affairs. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people of this country at this moment, and, indeed, at all times, are very concerned about African affairs. I think we can congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby for having had the luck to select an evening for his Adjournment debate when there is plenty of time to discuss the matter; and, secondly, to congratulate him on 934 having the forethought to widen the subject of this debate in order to deal with this subject generally.
§ Mr. Fletcher
With regard to what was said by the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine), supported to some extent by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport), I hope it will not be assumed that no one has the right to change the subject once he has obtained Mr. Speaker's permission to do so. Everybody on this side of the House knew perfectly well that we were to have an opportunity of talking about the Gold Coast.
§ Mr. Braine
We do not question the right of any hon. Member, least of all the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson), to change the subject for the Adjournment debate. The point that I was endeavouring to make was that both the first subject for the Adjournment and the subject chosen now are of such importance that hon. Members should have been properly apprised of the change. Speaking for myself, I was not given that information, nor do I think were hon. Members on this side of the House.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I came to the House this afternoon, as did everybody else on this side, knowing perfectly well that as soon as the Adjournment was reached—and we all knew that it would be reached early—there would be a debate on the Gold Coast. I am not responsible for the way in which Members of the party opposite organise their affairs, nor do I know whether they know what the subject is going to be before they come down. I can well believe that the majority of Members opposite have not the faintest idea of what we are to debate, but never before have I heard such a blatant confession by Members of the House that they come here without informing themselves of what is to be the subject for debate. That, it seems to me, is a confession not only of the greatest incompetence, but of the greatest lack of interest in our Parliamentary affairs.
§ Mr. Alport
The hon. Member is getting very excited about very little indeed. I am sure that it would have been the wish of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) that both sides of the House should have an opportunity of taking part in this Adjournment debate, and, if necessary, as indeed has been the case, of joining with him in the good wishes he wished to send. For some reason the change in the subject was not conveyed to Members on this side of the House.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
The hon. Gentleman is now making a criticism and a charge against my hon. Friend, implying that to some extent he was at fault in not notifying the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport).
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
No one would be happier to leave the whole matter there, but I thought it necessary to answer the criticism made of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby.
I was about to say that I personally wish to associate myself with the proposal made by my hon. Friend that the House should take whatever steps are open to it to send some expression of cordiality and good will to the new Legislature in the Gold Coast, which is embarking on its career tomorrow. I do not know the precise form in which it would be possible for us to send such a message. A suggestion was made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing) that a notice might appear on tomorrow's Order Paper. If that is possible under the rules of the House, I hope that it will be done. Virtually, we have achieved our object by the debate itself, in letting the Legislature, the Executive Council and the people of the Gold Coast know with what sympathy and interest we are watching the experiment which starts tomorrow and how much we hope that that experiment will prosper.
§ Mr. J. Johnson
Would my right hon. Friend allow me to inform the House that, whatever hon. Members opposite may or may not know about this subject, 936 at least the newspapers in the Gold Coast this evening will be carrying some of tonight's Adjournment debate?
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I gave way only to allow my hon. Friend to make his intervention.
This experiment which is starting tomorrow is one in which we on these benches have taken a long and continued interest—
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
It arises from the Report by Mr. Aiken Watson, K.C., who, with his associates, went out to make an inquiry after the disturbances in 1948. That Report, which was approved by the House, made certain recommendations for a new Constitution. This is not the time to comment on the details of the Constitution. The House has had abundant experience in the framing of Constitutions of one kind or another in various parts of the Commonwealth. As my hon. Friend did, I also should like to pay a tribute both to the present Colonial Secretary and to his predecessor, Mr. Creech Jones, for the way in which during the last few years the problems of the Gold Coast have been handled. It is particularly gratifying to find this new Legislature and new Executive Council in which, for the first time, the majority are coloured people, responsible to their own Legislature. We all hope that the experiment will have a long life and much success.
I promised to say a word about the repercussions which the Gold Coast elections are having in other parts of the Commonwealth. In a sense they are even more important, because they cover a larger sphere and may affect our relations with another branch—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I must remind the hon. Member that Mr. Speaker deprecates the introduction into an Adjournment debate of a subject other than that of which notice has been given, especially in the absence of the responsible Minister; and that secondly, if, as I gather, the hon. Member is about to refer to one of the Dominions, then our Government, of course, has no responsibility in regard thereto.
§ Hon. Members: Hear, hear.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
On a point of order. As I hope to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may I say that remarks have been made from the other side which should be replied to, about the whole policy of Malan in South Africa. Those same people are now cheering your Ruling that no one should be allowed to reply to them. Surely, the effect in Africa is vital. I submit, Sir, that when on a long Adjournment debate we have the good fortune to have the Colonial Secretary present, and when many of us have been waiting a long time to make observations on colonial affairs, there should not on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House be too close a limitation on the ambit of the original discussion.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I fully agree with the hon. Member, and I have endeavoured to give latitude to both sides of the House, but if detailed remarks are to be made about these matters—matters for which another Government is responsible—then, clearly, those remarks are not in order.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
I certainly, as always, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would wish to bow to your ruling and, with great respect, observe your remark that one ought not to say anything which entrenches upon the domestic concerns of the Union of South Africa.
I ought to have said that the elections in the Gold Coast will have their repercussions, not only on the Union of South Africa, but on the whole continent of Africa, for large parts of which we, of course, are still responsible. They will also have their repercussions upon the very troublesome questions of the Protectorate of South-West Africa, for which we are still responsible, and which may, but I hope will not, lead to friction—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Member is most inaccurate. We are not responsible for the Protectorate of South-West Africa. I take it that the hon. Member is referring to the three High Commission territories in Africa, for which we are responsible. I think that the Minister responsible for those territories is at present in those parts of Africa, and this is another reason why we feel that we ought not to discuss them tonight.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
I am obliged to the hon. Member. I intended to say, the three 938 High Commission territories in Africa, for which we are responsible.
I shall content myself with saying that in considering our responsibilities for those High Commission territories, and in considering our relations with the Union of South Africa, which are most important not only to South Africa and to this country, but to all parts of the Common wealth, I have no doubt that the appropriate significance will be given to the recent elections in the Gold Coast, which have been the immediate occasion of this Adjournment debate.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
I yield to nobody in my good wishes to the Gold Coast, in which I have spent some enjoyable weeks, and we on this side wish every success to the new Government and to the new Assembly in the Gold Coast, the foundations of which were laid by Mr. Oliver Stanley, whose death a few weeks ago we so much lament. The reason why I rise now, however, is to comment upon something which was said by the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), who suggested that the profits made by British capital in the Gold Coast ought to be left there.
That suggestion is unreasonable and not at all in the interests of the people of the Gold Coast. Tens of millions of British capital have been invested in the Gold Coast, in mining, in timber, and in industry. Obviously, that capital would never have been invested if no dividends could be paid to the people who put up that money. By all means encourage such local capital as there is to invest in local industry, but no greater injury could be done to the Gold Coast than to say that no more profits from British capital should be remitted home. There is not the slightest doubt that the British money that has been poured out in the Gold Coast has raised the standard of living of its whole people. The new Government would not, I think, be so foolish as the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch in suggesting that no more dividends should be remitted to England. The labourer is worthy of his hire, and the capitalist is worthy of his dividend.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I want to say only a few words about the speech to which we have just listened. I urge my right hon. Friend, in view of 939 some of the remarks made tonight, that one of the most useful things he could do for the whole of Africa would be to have an independent inquiry into the operation of some of the mining companies and as to whether they are really raising the standard of living; into the figures, which have been publicised so many times, which show the gross disparity between black and white employees regarding wages—a disparity that is quite appalling—and into the fantastically high proportion of the gross takings of those companies which comes back here in the form of profits. In my view, nothing has done more harm to our relations in Africa than the operation of these companies, some of whose figures have been publicised. It might be very useful if my right hon. Friend would consider examining their operations with a view to instituting an inquiry into their future.
§ Mr. Angus Maude (Ealing, South)
When dealing with this question I hope the hon. Gentleman will not forget that His Majesty's Government have been doing precisely the same thing in the case of cocoa and other projects, in which there is just as much discontent, if not more.
§ Mr. Keeling
Has the hon. Gentleman ever been in the Gold Coast? Whether he has or has not, is he aware that the quarters, food, medical attention and living conditions of the African employees of the British mining companies there are far superior to anything provided anywhere else in the Gold Coast, even by the Government themselves?
§ Mr. Hale
I have not been to the Gold Coast. I have not even been to Africa, except en route to Australia at my own expense. The reason is that I am a bad boy and have never been invited to participate in any official delegation which has gone there, and if I am a Member of Parliament for another 25 years it is very unlikely that I shall be. But I 940 believe, as the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) said, that we ought to familiarise ourselves with all these subjects, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will always make every effort to do so, as I do. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) has visited there many times in the last year or two. [HON. MEMBERS: "A good boy."] He is not a good boy at all. At least he can congratulate himself that certain persons who voted in these elections would not have been there to vote but for his efforts as an advocate in the Gold Coast. Certainly he has made a very considerable study of conditions there.
I want to associate myself with all the hopes that have been expressed by previous speakers. At the outset of this great experiment we all wish it well. We must view it not without a little anxiety too, for every new experiment is fraught with difficulty in its earlier years. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) again misquoted John Bright. This House is not the Mother of Parliaments, and never has been. Britain is the Mother of Parliaments, and her democratic example has produced so many systems that she has earned that title. But this House has no right to call itself a very old legislative assembly at all; there are many much olden We have tried to evolve new forms of democracy to meet new circumstances.
With regard to the interjection of the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, or is it South Bedfordshire?
§ Mr. Hale
That sounds a somewhat uncomfortable situation. He said quite fairly that we each have our different balance sheets. He was referring to it in the course of one of those interjections which widen the debate. We have different balance sheets, and in connection with the Gold Coast, Africa and depressed territories all over the world it is fundamental to consider this question. I know that people hold different views, and I am very glad to see the work that the new Governor has done. I believe that since he has been there matters have greatly improved. I am glad also to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend's predecessor, Mr. Creech Jones, and to his predecessor, the former right hon. Member for Bristol, West, Mr. Oliver Stanley, 941 whose loss we all deplore, not only as a great parliamentarian but as a great gentleman and one who, over a period, gave very distinguished service at the Colonial Office.
The balance sheet here is not bound up with the question of whether or not a profit is made. The balance sheet is that in the world every year 25 million people die unnecessarily. It is no use hon. Members opposite continuing to say, "We have always taken a great interest in this matter and are always animated by the best of motives," in face of this appalling figure. Today 200,000 children were born, of whom about 120.000 are coloured, of whom two-thirds are doomed to premature death due to malnutrition and disease, to intestinal disorders, without education, without chance, without hope.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
We are dealing with the Gold Coast, and does the hon. Gentleman not realise that the annual report on the Gold Coast shows from year to year the wonderful results of the disinterested service that has been given by British people over the last century?
§ Mr. Hale
No one doubts that there have been great experiments, which, however, offset only a small portion of the population, but I ask the hon. Gentleman to look at the Nuffield Survey on Nigeria, which gives some really recent information about the standard of living. I understand that in Nigeria the figure for pay is about £5 a year for peasants. Parts of the Gold Coast are not much better. It is only around Accra and in the commercial centres that there is a higher standard of living.
§ Mr. Hale
The hon. Member says "rubbish." I have no doubt he wishes to lull himself into a sense of unconsciousness. This is the fundamental problem of the world, and the effort we are talking about tonight is one which only begins to meet the problem. I know it is a very 942 small matter. It may have been a matter of very great difficulty to my right hon. Friend and from his point of view it is a substantial achievement in relation to the Gold Coast. However, it still does not attempt to touch the problem, and to say "rubbish" while our comrades all over the world are dying is really quite unnecessary. The hon. Member smiles. In India at the moment the rice ration is down to nine ounces a day—
§ Mr. Keeling
I am smiling because I think that if the people in the Gold Coast heard the hon. Gentleman they would be smiling. I have been in the Gold Coast, and I know that the people of the Gold Coast are the jolliest and happiest people in Africa.
§ Mr. Hale
The hon. Gentleman is now making a very substantial contribution to our Parliamentary proceedings and history. We have just spent two days talking about Russia and the whole of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—their policy, their army, their submarines, their navy and so on; all by people who have never been there, and no one objected to that last Wednesday and Thursday, although I still object to some of the observations made. We in this House are responsible for these territories. We are responsible for administering them. There was a time when the Tories ruled, when these territories were represented by a constituency in Kent. We have a mass of information coming out for those who want to study it and to try to assimilate the facts. I wish more did so, for with that statistical information we can make better contributions here.
The whole object of this debate tonight is to welcome the experiment in democracy which is now being made in the Gold Coast. Although it is not perhaps as extensive an experiment as we would like, it is a substantial contribution. It is something new. They will now have a form of representation. Although I have never been to the Gold Coast the people of the Gold Coast have heard of me, because until my hon. Friend 943 the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) came into the House in 1950, I suspect that I probably had the largest post bag from Africa of any back bench Member in this House. I therefore make no apology for making these comments.
The subject which my hon. Friend has raised in miniature tonight is one of the fundamental problems of the world. It is a fundamental problem in more ways than one, for it is a matter concerning our future too. Some years ago we were warned by Lord Boyd Orr that unless we doubled the food production of the world by 1965 many millions of people would be faced with starvation all over the world, not least in Africa. Since then very little has been done to deal with this problem. Indeed, we see the wastage of war in the rice fields of the Far East contributing greatly to the burdens and sufferings of mankind. I was greatly encouraged some months ago by an observation of one of my right hon. Friends in the course of an Adjournment debate, when he said that His Majesty's Government were hoping to plan on the desired lines to face the vital problem of Africa, which still remains to be faced.
I do not wish to go too far outside the ambit of this Debate, but I say seriously that all Members who have not seen a book which was published last week, called "Into the Desert," by Mr. Ritchie Calder, should do so. It recalls the work he has been doing on behalf of U.N.E.S.C.O., and it is a challenge to the ingenuity of this House. He was dealing much more with the wide desert areas to the north of Africa, and with the whole vast problem of that third of the world's land surface which is wholly undeveloped —either desert or scrub or impenetrable forest, as so much of the hinterland of the Gold Coast is. He instanced vast areas like Cyrenaica with a population of one person per square mile. He shows what has been done in the way of reclamation. A few days ago I had the opportunity of discussing this project with Mr. Roben, the leader of the French Peasants Organisation, who has had great experience of that development in Morocco and who was keenly interested.
We are speaking on the Adjournment, and I do not want to abuse that privilege, but it seems relevant to consider what 944 the economic implications of what is taking place in the Gold Coast might very well be—
§ Mr. Alport
Does not the hon. Member think that the economic implications might well be the drying up of overseas investment in the Gold Coast, and, therefore, the opportunities for the development of the resources and food supplies of the Gold Coast becoming more remote?
§ Mr. Hale
I am very glad that the hon. Member has returned. He made his speech some time ago and left the House. The whole tenor of his speech was "Orthodoxy is my doxy and heterodoxy is your doxy." If he referred to any institutions of which he approved, he was speaking in a simple spirit of humble patriotism and decency; if my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing), criticised any such institution he was a mass of prejudice and was using his inherent prejudices to attack the bulwarks of the Empire. That is an argument with which we are familiar, and no doubt it goes down quite well in some of the remote villages around Colchester. I am sorry to hear it once more in this House. I am sorry that I have been drawn, as a result of interjections, away from the limited scope of what I had intended to say. I rose to express wholehearted support of this the new experiment—
§ Brigadier Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
Does the hon. Member realise that the speech he has just been making is the same speech as that which the Minister of Food made in Portsmouth last week to justify the shortage of food in this country—that the reason why we could not feed whites and blacks was the reason why we could not get food?
§ Mr. Hale
I cannot explain it by telepathy. I have only just delivered my speech, and I have not read the speech of the Minister of Food. It is not unlikely, however, that two people approaching world affairs from a humanitarian and Socialist point of view should come to the same conclusions. The speech is not really mine nor is it the speech of the Minister of Food. It was made by President Truman in the Fourth Point of his Inaugural Address. It was really made at Bethlehem as recorded in the 79th Verse of the First Chapter of St. Luke.
945 It is a question of bringing light to them that dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death and of guiding our feet into the way of peace. It applies in this matter as in matters of world importance. The time has come when some of us should realise it and try to co-operate a little more in an endeavour to bring it to pass.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale) came into the House, as I did, a little late, at the time when the subject for debate on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House was being changed. I admit that I am not certain what are the exact terms of the subject at this moment.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I listened to the hon. and learned Member speaking for 20 minutes and could not follow what he was changing. I now know where I am.
If the hon. and learned Member had seen the face of the Secretary of State for the Colonies he might have realised that some of the remarks which he obviously intended to be critical of those on this side of the House and of the past which, in his estimation, was always bad, reflected to a certain extent on what has been happening in the last six years. I agree with much of what he said as to the importance in West Africa, and in the Gold Coast in particular, of seeing that when an advance, as we wish to see advance, is made in local self-government, and in the management by the people there of their own affairs, it does not lead to economic damage to the people not only in those territories but also outside.
This is not the time to deal in detail with Burma, but one of the great problems in South-East Asia today is that there is a shortage of three or four million tons of rice which used to come from Burma. Without going into the rights and wrongs of the Government there, that fact had led to a deterioration of the economic conditions in that part of the world. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is due to the war."] No. It is due to the failure to restore the war damage there, and bad political conditions, etc., in the whole of Burma.
946 I wish to support the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling), which is in line with the point I have put in the past to the Colonial Secretary and his predecessor. The time has come for an impartial inquiry into the question of the capital in there territories—overseas capital from this country or other countries, the International Monetary Fund or any other organisation, and the part it plays in the development of those territories. Unless there is a certain degree of political stability that capital will dry up, and that will lead to deterioration in those territories. If one has seen, as Members on both sides of the House have seen, what has been done say in the Gold Coast by the mining companies—the healthy conditions of the living quarters, etc.—one knows that they have done a tremendous amount and set the standard for other people working there.
I am not critical of the local administration. They have done their best with the funds at their disposal. At the same time, the standards are very often set in those territories by the private capital which has been attracted, a great deal of which has been spent in improving the health and happiness of the people who work in those territories. I hope that that may be another reason for encouraging the Colonial Secretary to consider whether the time has not come to have a frank and open discussion of the place of capital, whether from public or private sources, in those territories, and explain it to the people there, many of whom understand more clearly than do many hon. Members opposite, the importance of attracting capital.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The great constitutional change which is now taking place in the Gold Coast deserves a better fate than the melancholy speeches which have fallen from the lips of hon. Members opposite. Their speeches have been full of dismay, gloom, fears and prognostications unworthy of a great occasion. I am sure the rest of the House, certainly those of us on this side of the House, will agree that this is a great occasion not only for the people of the Gold Coast but also for the rest of the Empire and indeed of the British Commonwealth of Nations, of which the Gold Coast hopes eventually to form part.
947 These craven fears are characteristic of Tory philosophy in these matters, and have delayed progress in the past, hindered the development of the British Commonwealth of Nations and Empire for many years and divided black from white. They are the negation of brotherhood and the negation of that unity which is so much preached and so little practised by His Majesty's Opposition when they are both in opposition and in power. They preach so much and practise so little that unity and brotherhood in the Commonwealth and Empire for which we on this side of the House stand.
Since this Government came into power a different philosophy and different ideas and ideals have been applied, with the result that the British Commonwealth of Nations stands higher and is greater in population and area than ever it was. Four years ago the British Commonwealth consisted of seven Dominions comprising 60 million people: today the British Commonwealth consists of 10 Dominions and 460 million people. I mention that, though perhaps I may be slightly out of order, for the purpose of indicating the difference between the philosophical line of consideration which has been applied from this side of the House against those considerations applied by hon. Members on the other side of the House.
The line taken by hon. Members opposite is characteristic of them. It is, "We congratulate the Gold Coast on what is taking place, but—," there is always a "but" in every speech. There is damnation with faint praise. I think this is an occasion for unqualified congratulation. His Majesty's Government deserve congratulation for the courage, confidence, and skill with which they have met and dealt with the popular demand for representative Government in the Gold Coast. The people of the Gold Coast deserve congratulation for their steadiness and moderation in what was to them the novel situation of a general election. Mr. Kwame Nkrumah deserves congratulation for the combination of idealism and good sense which has characterised his recent leadership and utterances.
The line taken by His Majesty's Government in this matter recalls the principle which was enunciated by the Prime 948 Minister as far back as March, 1946, when he said sheherself must choose what will be her future Constitution; what will be her position in the world. I hope that the people may elect to remain in the Commonwealth. I am certain she will find great advantages in doing so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1946; Vol. 420, c. 1421.]When those weighty, dignified, altruistic expressions fell from the lips of the Prime Minister they were in contrast with the foolish, unworthy and jingoistic rhodomontade of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) on the same occasion, when he said that the granting of representative government would result in "scuttle and shameful flight," and in "ruin and disaster." Both the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Woodford were speaking not then of the Gold Coast, but of the granting of self-government to India. If the right hon. Member for Woodford had had this way in that matter we should have been at war—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. We cannot go into that matter for which the Colonial Secretary has no responsibility.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
With respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I know he has no responsibility for war and I am not suggesting that he has. What I am dealing with is the principle which the Government applied. May I say that if the principle enunciated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford had been applied we would have been at war with India; we would have been holding India down by the throat, we would have been weak and a prey to any aggressor—and with that I leave that point.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Instead of the considerations to which I have just been referring, what have we today in the Gold Coast? The Gold Coast is freely stepping forward to representative government as the first African coloured people to emerge into representative government. That cannot fail to have a very important effect upon the other peoples in Africa. If this "experiment," as it has been called, is a success it cannot fail to give leadership to the other peoples in Africa; and-therefore I am sure that the wishes and hopes 949 of this House will go out that this experiment will be a success, and that the Gold Coast Government will prove itself to be a model government.
Their leader is a man of their own people. He has prepared for his great task by studying in British and American universities. He knows his aims and he knows his methods. He has expressed them clearly. He is reported to have said that his aim is dominion status within the British Commonwealth of Nations. His reported words were:We are not even thinking of a republic.He regards his present constitution as too limited, but he is willing to give it a trial and hopes to go to something higher and broader. He says he wants teachers, scientists and technicians from Britain and from all the world. These are aims which must commend themselves to this House. He says:We are definitely not anti-British. We are against racialism. We are fighting against a system, and not races.The House will regard these as worthy aims and worthy methods. No doubt Mr. Kwame Nkrumah has, by his long years of study, his travel and his experience, learned all the gradations from colonial status to dominion status. Now he has a representative government; he has his status enhanced; he has his people behind him; the opportunity of developing his own people, nation and Government and of seeking by legitimate means to achieve that dominion status which is his aim.
The suggestion of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) is an excellent one; that the opening of the new Parliament should be of a spectacular character, and that some notable personage should be sent to take part in it. It should be made a great occasion. I am sure that we in this House hope it will result in added strength and happiness, not only to the people of the Gold Coast, but to the whole of the Empire and Commonwealth of Nations of which they are part.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedfordshire)
I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) was moved entirely by generous and proper motives in raising this subject on 950 the Adjournment tonight. It is no fault of his if the debate has ranged rather more widely than he originally intended, or if subjects of the fiercest controversy, wholly unrelated to the Gold Coast, have been introduced by his hon. Friends.
It would be very tempting to follow up some of those observations, and in particular some of the remarks which fell from the lips of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken, on matters of mathematics and history. I hope his professional qualifications at the Bar entitle him to the title of "learned," for on the two other subjects which I have mentioned, some of his remarks were certainly very wide of the mark. I do not intend to follow these various observations, because it is quite certain that the remarks made in this House will be fully reported in the Gold Coast, in African and other papers, and I do not wish in any way to enter into controversies and problems which have nothing to do with the very definite and quite formidable problem with which the people of the Gold Coast are now confronted.
The Gold Coast and Great Britain have had a long and honourable association together. We in this country have nothing of which to be ashamed in the task we have discharged and are discharging upon the Gold Coast; and any changes, constitutional or economic, which may happen in the Gold Coast are very close to the hearts and interests of the British people. I associate the Conservative Party with a message of goodwill to the people of the Gold Coast, in the lively hope that their political leaders will rise to the great responsibilities with which they are now confronted. On the way in which the African politicians on the Gold Coast discharge their duty in the months that lie ahead, many great issues will turn. We shall be watching with the closest and most sympathetic interest the way in which they meet these formidable responsibilities.
We express a hope that they will lose no chance, whether administrative or social, of keeping in the closest touch with the many British people of goodwill who want to help them along this difficult road. Suggestions that they might live some isolated life of their own removed from the normal friendly contacts with people of goodwill, will not augur well 951 for the happy and prosperous time to which people in both countries look forward. I understand that the hon. Gentleman proposed that some sort of message should go out from this House. That is, of course, a matter that, no doubt in proper time if it was thought desirable, would be proposed by the Government. We should have to look at the Motion and consider it on its merits.
I should like at this stage to sound a note of caution. In the British Commonwealth from day to day continuous constitutional changes and developments take place. It is most difficult at any one moment in any one Colony to say precisely at what point self-government within the Empire has been reached. It would be very dangerous if we were to start sending messages from this House in one particular case without relating them to the many other Colonies and colonial problems which are of equal importance to us and to the people themselves.
We must beware of assuming that gradual evolutions that have received a great deal of publicity in the Press are necessarily more important, looking at the Empire as a whole, than the steady changes which are happening all the time in other parts of our widespread Commonwealth. This is not to mean that we do not wish God-speed and every success to this Constitution. I hope that His Excellency the Governor and the many British officials who have laboured so hard in previous years may be there to see the success of these changes. I hope that they realise how much the good wishes of the British people are with them in the much more difficult task with which they are now faced. I am glad that the hon. Member for Rugby has given us an opportunity of expressing those sentiments tonight.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
This debate has ranged far and wide and has tended to include within its orbit every country in the British Commonwealth; but despite the far-ranging character of the speeches, the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale) was right to introduce into the debate the general question of the increase in indigenous populations and the increase in famine 952 over the world. I do not think that that was specially related to the Gold Coast, because the problem is not so acute there as it is in Kenya, where in 15 years' time unless something drastic is done, there will be famine on the Indian scale. But I think that it has some relevance to the Gold Coast in that, as the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) said, the British have nothing, or at the worst very little, to be ashamed of in their contribution to the development of the Gold Coast in particular and West Africa as a whole.
We are still very much in the dark about the rising populations in these countries, because we do not know exactly what the populations are. However, we know that they are rising; that there is a formidable birth rate and a formidable infant mortality rate. We know that the disease rate as a whole is steadily decreasing and that, as we have developed West Africa, so we have introduced in medical treatment new drugs and new facilities which have resulted in a considerable all-round reduction in the death rate. It will be of immeasurable benefit to the people of Africa if we can keep pace with that medical development so that food is also produced and the people allowed to live proper lives. It is no use reducing the death rate, and thus increasing the population, unless other steps are taken to ensure that nutrition and proper living standards are brought into relationship.
I agree with the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire that this is a case for rejoicing and not particularly a moment when we should start to slander ourselves and suggest that we have not done what we ought to have done. On the whole, we have done nothing in these territories except raise the general level of the economy in the interests equally of the Africans and of the Europeans. On the political side, we are now congratulating the Gold Coast on being one of the first of our Colonial Territories to reach this stage in self-government. That is a matter for unqualified rejoicing. It is the policy of the Government, as I understand it, that we should tend towards self-government for all our Colonial Territories.
There may be quarrels between one side of the House and the other about the speed of such developments, but I doubt whether even on the other side of 953 the House, there is any desire to impede in any final and permanent way the progress of the Colonies towards self-government. I think, too, that we can congratulate the people of the Gold Coast on having reached this stage of development and Mr. Nkrumah on the dramatic victory that he has achieved at the poll. Nkrumah, in his speeches since his release, has matched the speed and the magnanimity of the Government with statements that show that he may reach heights of statesmanship which his opponents would never have suspected a few weeks ago. That is the way with great revolutions in Britain and the British Commonwealth. People who have been bitterly opposed and who have been condemned by their political opponents, suddenly find, on their accession to power, that those who bitterly opposed them help them on their way in their task.
One would be forgiven if one viewed the future of the Gold Coast not only with sympathy but with some little concern and anxiety. It is a commonplace in colonial discussions today to say that welfare must go hand in hand with development. That truism is profound. Unless the peoples realise that economic development must provide the means for welfare and that there is no other way, too great hopes are bound to suffer because they cannot be fulfilled.
The Gold Coast is faced with a particularly perilous economic problem. The problem of swollen shoot is not something that can be overcome by any form of self-government. Self-government may help, but it would not necessarily assist in the efforts to overcome the swollen shoot problem. The swollen shoot disease is a dire threat to the whole economy of the Gold Coast. Unless the new Government rise to their responsibilities in that respect then the future of the Gold Coast in 10 or 15 years' time will be dark and doubtful.
I was interested in the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) about capital, and I endorse another hon. Member's suggestion that there might be some kind of impartial inquiry into the capitalisation of development in the West Coast of Africa and in the Colonies generally. There probably is no subject about which more nonsense is talked than the subject of the capital development of the Colonies. It is non- 954 sense which has come much more from the other side of the House than from this. There have been several remarks from hon. Members opposite to the effect that in East Africa, in the groundnuts scheme, a great deal of capital has been sunk and a great deal of capital has been lost. I do not think that at this stage in the history of the groundnuts scheme anybody will deny that, but was not a great deal of capital sunk in the Gold Coast and in Nigeria, and lost, not by the Government but by free, unfettered private enterprise?
§ Mr. McAllister
Free private enterprise went into the Gold Coast and Nigeria, spent millions of money and suffered losses, which, as the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire points out, were not suffered by the taxpayers of Great Britain, but by the shareholders who invested their money. Does that make any great difference? The capital has gone out from the United Kingdom, from the basic capital resources of the United Kingdom, created by the only people who create capital in the United Kingdom—the people of Great Britain—and it does not really matter very much whether it was invested by private enterprise or by the Government.
§ Mr. McAllister
I am sure that the hon. Lady thinks that it does or she would not sit on that side of the House.
§ Miss Ward
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? Since he stimulates me to intervene, for which I am much obliged, may I say that I do not think that old age pensioners are particularly pleased to read of large losses on the groundnuts scheme. Therefore, I think that there is a distinction to be drawn between the two expenditures.
§ Mr. Speaker
We are getting on to dangerous ground. Tomorrow we shall have a Bill dealing with groundnuts, which we shall be discussing. We are now getting very near to discussing legislation on the Motion for the Adjournment.
§ Mr. McAllister
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I want to make the general point that, in the development of 955 a continent such as Africa and a Colony such as the Gold Coast, whoever invests the initial money would be pretty likely to suffer a loss, and that it is to the credit and not the disgrace of the private investors who invested money in the Gold Coast, took a risk for so long and have now built up the Gold Coast territory to a position in which it is an economic unit of great value to the people of the Gold Coast and to the people of the whole Commonwealth.
The Gold Coast, however, has formidable difficulties to face. It also has enormous possibilities of development for good. The timber development which has been taking place in recent years is of the utmost importance both to them and to us. I should like to see the Government giving encouragement to co-operative consumers' movements all over the Gold Coast. There is one in Accra at the moment. It is a small beginning, but I hope that that small beginning will result in many other similar societies in other parts of the territory. I should like to see building societies and housing societies on the model of those here but developed from African capital, because it is entirely mistaken to assume that the Gold Coast has no wealthy Africans or that there is not a great deal of capital on the Gold Coast, in the possession of ordinary people, that could be pooled together on the model of the British co-operative movement in order to produce developments of great benefit to their own people and the world.
In a final word, I should like to say that all hon. Members join in congratulating the Gold Coast on the status it has now reached. We join in congratulating the Governor on the wisdom and speed which he has shown in the last critical 10 days, and we look forward to some indication in a more formal way of the manner in which the good wishes of this House may be conveyed to the people in this Colony.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Squadron Leader Kinghorn (Yarmouth)
The last time I spoke in this House was during a colonial debate, and I think that mention was made at that time of the name of Mr. Nkrumah. My one regret about the developments in the Gold Coast is that we in this House have 956 not had the opportunity of meeting some of the people who are now going to be leading political figures in the future in this new part of our democratic set-up in the Commonwealth.
Mr. Nkrumah, who is now in a position of some importance, is a man who was recently in gaol for being an agitator. Luckily, he will shortly be installed in a new Assembly as the leader of an almost new nation, and I hope that very soon we shall find him over here as a visitor through our Parliamentary Commonwealth Association. It is a pity that we could not have done that before, because I am sure that the easy way in which they seem to have merged into this new process shows that there has been a demand that we should help them to recreate our democratic system out there.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
We have had a great many visiting delegations from the Gold Coast and also from the West African Colonies in the past, and I think we have even had Mr. Nkrumah.
§ Squadron Leader Kinghorn
I am well aware of that; it is perfectly true. I am not suggesting that we never had these things; I am just pointing out that it is a great pity we did not have this gentleman, who was in gaol only a short time ago. I think that it shows great credit on our administration that he is no longer a gaol bird, but one who fights in the same spirit as we do here.
There has been an absence of serious incidents in the election, but, if anything, it was well conducted. I was talking the other day to a friend who was giving an account of incidents in the election campaign, from which it seemed that, if a representative of the British Press was seen in the audience, there was a signal from the platform that he must be brought up to the platform, not to report the proceedings, but to sit next to the principal speaker. So much was the respect they had for our Press and their admiration for the way in which their cause would be reported.
That is all very good, and I would join with all other hon. Members in desiring to send our very best wishes to these new workers in a democratic community in the Gold Coast. I listened with great respect, as I always do, to the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) and I agree with him 957 that we must be cautious in sending these congratulatory messages, as there are or have been other constitutional changes taking place in the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, I hope that the hon. Member or some of his representatives will get together with the Minister and devise some way in which we can send our sincere good wishes to this newest democratic outpost in Africa.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Sir Harold Roper (Cornwall, North)
I very much regret that circumstances prevented me from attending the greater part of this debate, but I should like to associate myself wholeheartedly with the suggested message of good wishes which hon. Members on both sides of the House have proposed this afternoon.
While I am full of hope that what has happened in the Gold Coast will result in progress until ultimate success is reached, I feel that I must recall one incident in my own experience in a country which I know, and which I think has a close bearing on the speeches we have heard today. I want to record an incident which occurred while I was sitting on a committee in Burma which was discussing the set-up of the education system in that country on the conclusion of hostilities. There were mainly Burmans on that committee and one or two Europeans, of whom I was privileged to be one. The subject we were discussing was whether or not after the war we should go back to the old system of having European professors in Rangoon University. The senior Burman present—an ardent Nationalist—was protesting that public opinon would not stand for a return to that system.
I wish to put on record a most courageous utterance delivered by a junior Burman on that committee in opposition to the point put forward by his senior colleague with regard to public opinion. His words were almost identically as follows: "I cannot sit here any longer and listen to what Mr. So-and-so"—I will omit his name—"keeps calling 'public opinion.' In the course of my duties as Registrar of this University, I interview the parents of many hundreds of students and would-be students every year, and I am convinced that what the people of this country want is not self-government, but a good education for their children. I also believe that what this gentleman 958 refers to as 'public opinion' is not public opinion at all, but the view of a minority of politically-minded people with the backing of the local Press."
That was a courageous statement, and I think it very appropriate to this debate as indicating that we must view with caution the events now taking place in the Gold Coast. We all hope most sincerely that they will turn out for the best, but we must have the closest regard, not only for the few individuals who are taking such a prominent part in its development, but for the welfare of its people. It is that that is of the greatest importance.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Wigg (Dudley)
We must all feel a deep sense of personal loss on this occasion and I am sure we all wish that the late Mr. Oliver Stanley could have been here this evening to speak the words used by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). Mr. Oliver Stanley believed in self-government. Indeed, it was he, I think, who during the Coalition laid it down that the object of British colonial policy was self-government inside the British Commonwealth.
What happened in the Gold Coast last week was a step forward along the road of self-government for that Colony. I believe that democracy is on trial there, and that, if it breaks down, it will not be because Mr. Nkrumah or the Convention People's Party have failed, but because democracy itself has failed. If we want to succeed in our battle against totalitarian ideas, we must prove that democracy will work in the backward areas of the world. We do not yet know that it will; we are only now trying it out.
I am sure this House is serving the best interests, not only of our own country but also of the Gold Coast, when it sends its good wishes, not only to Mr. Nkrumah and the Convention People's Party, but to all the people of the Gold Coast. Last week, when I saw that the Convention People's Party had won by an overwhelming majority, I went to a number of my hon. Friends on this side of the House and asked them to join with me in sending Mr. Nkrumah a message of congratulation. In that message, I expressed the hope, on behalf of my hon. Friends and myself, that Mr. Nkrumah would have the wisdom to guide the 959 people of the Gold Coast along the path of freedom, justice and democracy. In reply, Mr. Nkrumah thanked the Labour signatories of that congratulatory message but then went on to say that he "wished Britain would recognise our claim to self-government."
Let us consider for a moment why it was that Mr. Nkrumah secured such an overwhelming majority in the elections last week. During the debate on colonial affairs last July, I asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies to release Mr. Nkrumah from prison. My words, apparently, had no effect, because I do not think that in his reply my right hon. Friend even referred to what I said. I pointed out to him that even if he did not release him from prison then, he would release him eventually. I believe it would have been better for the success of democracy in the Gold Coast if my right hon. Friend—
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I would point out to my hon. Friend that I opened that debate; I did not reply to it.
§ Mr. Wigg
I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon. I take back what I said about him and pass it on to my hon. Friend the Minister of State. Nevertheless, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State did not do anything about it; he left Mr. Nkrumah in prison from July last until now. After Mr. Nkrumah has won the election, he lets him out. [An HON. MEMBER: "It was the Governor who released him."] I agree that it was the Governor and not my right hon. Friend, but I cannot visualise the Governor doing that unless he thought my right hon. Friend would approve.
My point is clear. We have to make the best of what has happened. I confess that Mr. Nkrumah has shown a friendliness which surprises me. He has expressed his intention to try to make the Constitution work. I am no more optimistic about the matter than the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper), and I am certainly not going to throw my hat in the air and say that I am sure that everything in the garden is now going to be lovely, because it is perfectly clear that the Convention People's Party have, at most, a very limited programme. It seems to me that their programme consists of the two 960 words "self-government," and that, I am afraid, will not indefinitely satisfy all the people of the Gold Coast.
But the fact is that we have achieved something. We have carried through the elections in an atmosphere of good will, and we have shown the Convention People's Party that we intend to do our best to make the new Constitution work. One can only hope that in the light of experience we and the Convention People's Party will learn to trust each other, and that when difficulties arise, as they certainly will, both sides—the officials and the Convention People's Party—will realise that they are not merely trying to make something new work in the Gold Coast but they are trying out an experiment in democracy. If, in fact, we for our part can show that it is possible for a dominant Power to transfer its authority to what only a few years ago was a backward people, then I suggest we shall provide one of the answers which will enable us to combat Communism in other parts of the world.
I know that there is a theory that if Imperialism ceases to have its run, Communism must take its place. I do not believe that is true. I do not believe Imperialism has any part to play in the modern world, and if a Government attempts to administer backward areas by imperialist methods, it is providing a recruiting agency for the Communists. I also believe it is possible for an experiment like the one that is being made in the Gold Coast to succeed. If that happens, then indeed we can show that backward peoples, aided by the Government in power, can build up their economic and political institutions until the time is reached when they can stand on their own feet.
I am not one of those who believe that Western Europe is the testing place in the struggle between Communism and democracy. Taking the long view, I believe that Africa and India are infinitely more important in the struggle between Communism and democracy than is Europe, because India has yet to complete democratisation; and in the years that lie ahead the struggle that will arise with rapid industrialisation and the difficulties of feeding the people of India may provide a recruiting ground for Communism which will lead to the redress of power in favour of the Soviet Union.
961 The stage which has been reached in India will also occur in Africa.
I believe that not only will the eyes of other West African and East African Colonies be on the Gold Coast, but that all over the world we shall be judged by whether we can provide an answer to Communism that will satisfy the peoples of the backward areas of the world. It is for that reason that I join with other hon. Gentlemen in congratulating the people of the Gold Coast, Convention People's Party and Mr. Nkrumah and in hoping that they will join with us as equal partners in working for the well-being of the Gold Coast. I certainly hope from the bottom of my heart that the experiment will be a success.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. James Griffiths)
I am certain that every hon. Member in the House will congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) upon the very interesting debate he has initiated. It is indeed a piece of good fortune that he had the Adjournment for this evening and that he changed the subject to be debated. I should like to commend him for doing that, because it would have been a pity in many ways if this great event in the Gold Coast taking place to-morrow had happened without an opportunity of saying a word about it today.
This indeed is an epoch-making event, and I am sure that all of us, whatever our differences, are agreed that we want to preserve democratic Government and Parliamentary democracy. Parliamentary democracy and representative Government have grown up in the old continent of Europe and in our own country, and this Parliament has played a distinctive part in the growth of representative Government not only in this country but in Europe and all over the world. How cheering it is in a period in which we have seen the old democracies of Europe overwhelmed and destroyed, that this evening we are all of us thinking of a new democracy that is being born. It is to the credit of this country, and, if I may say so, to the credit of the Government to which I am privileged to belong that perhaps the best answer to those who accuse us of being imperialists is that at this moment this Government is creating 962 new democracies in Africa and setting them on the road to self-government.
What has happened in the Gold Coast and what will be symbolised by the new Assembly to-morrow is epoch-making in every possible respect. To begin with, the Constitution under which the elections were held was the work of a committee which by its composition marked a new epoch in colonial affairs. It was a constitution built out of the Report of the Coussey Committee which was composed entirely of Africans so that, for the first time, we had a committee composed entirely of the people of the region considering what their future constitutional advance should be. That Constitution came to be considered. Eventually it was adopted and the next step was to prepare for the elections.
It is a difficult job to prepare for elections in our own country, and all of us who have had experience of them know that it is indeed a formidable job to provide the machinery and organisation. We have had experience for many years, and the whole machinery of parties and of national and local government is now so well-established and well-ordered that we take it for granted. One of the most significant successes of this constitution-making in the Gold Coast is the remarkable smoothness and efficiency with which the elections have been conducted.
Indeed, there were hon. Members on both sides of this House who, at varying times, expressed concern as to how the elections would be conducted, as to whether there would be fair play and whether what was described as "the mob" would affect the elections. The Governor and his officers have given their very best from the beginning to create and establish electoral machinery that would enable these elections to be the authentic voice of the people of the Gold Coast. I want to pay my tribute to the Governor and his officers for the thought and the work they have put into this matter. At the end of the elections I received a report from the Governor which showed that that work had been crowned with success.
Perhaps the House will be interested in a very short report on these very important elections, so pregnant with meaning for the future of Africa and elsewhere. First, we had to register the electors and 963 I am glad to say, having regard to all the circumstances, the percentage of electors registered was very satisfactory. It was 47 per cent. The Governor has reported to me that no serious incidents of any kind occurred during the elections. They passed off smoothly and efficiently. In fact everywhere there was a quiet and a seriousness which impressed him and his officers and as hon. Members will have seen, impressed the Press of very many countries who were keenly interested in the elections and who sent special representatives to the Gold Coast. I should like to thank the Press for the very responsible way in which they have reported all these events.
The Governor reports to me that there was only one arrest for personation during the whole election. I think that is a very great tribute indeed and an indication that everyone had worked very well. He pays tribute to the police arrangements and to the way in which they handled the situation. I should like to join him in that tribute. I am also very glad to join him in the particular tribute he pays to the leaders of the C.P.P. for the way they co-operated with the officers in making the elections a success.
Now that the elections have taken place we face the next step. Tomorrow the Assembly will meet. Their first task will be to elect a Speaker and in that they will be keeping the tradition of this House. The meeting tomorrow is informal and it has been arranged that later on, towards the end of March, when the Assembly will meet and will be considering the major business of the Budget, that meeting will be regarded as the real formal opening of the new Assembly. If messages are to be sent it seems to me that the appropriate occasion upon which to send them will be on what is regarded as that formal opening of the Assembly at the end of March.
Some interesting suggestions have been made. One is that we might send a resolution from this House, and that some representative from the Government or representatives of political parties or some eminent personage outside this House should visit the Gold Coast and carry our message of good will on the occasion of the formal opening at the end of March. I can only tell hon. Members who made those suggestions that they will be carefully considered. There is time 964 for us to give consideration to all the suggestions between now and the end of March when the formal opening will take place, and I can assure hon. Members that I shall consult with my colleagues and that in some tangible way, by personal visit or in some other way, we shall symbolise our good will. That will be given fullest consideration.
This debate inevitably and naturally—I welcome it—has covered a very wide field. I do not propose now to discuss at any length many of the problems that have been raised, except to say this. First I should like to send my personal good will to the new Assembly tomorrow and to the people of the Gold Coast. We are doing something which—I do not know whether I should say it—has never been attempted before, but if attempted before it never succeeded.
What we are doing is to transform an Empire into a Commonwealth. This is one stage, in the Gold Coast. Others are following, and we have seen in the last few years the culmination of this process in what took place in India, Pakistan, and Ceylon—an Empire that is being transformed into a Commonwealth, not as a result of revolution, bloodshed and riot but as a result of a partnership between ourselves and the peoples in those territories. We all hope it will succeed.
The Governor is now having consultation with the leaders of the party, for there is a responsibility upon him to submit as soon as practicable the list of Ministers, eight of whom will be Africans, to the Assembly for their approval. Then the new Government will start its work. I would say this to the leaders of the Convention People's Party and other parties and all those in the Assembly: Here is your chance; take it with both hands. Here is your opportunity to make this Constitution work. You may think that the Constitution which you have now is not all you desire it to be, but it gives you a greater authority, greater power, greater responsibility, a greater chance and a greater challenge than has ever before come to peoples in a Colony like yours in Africa. I would say this further to them: Democratic government is perhaps the most difficult to work. It is because it is most difficult that in the end its gains are most substantial and more permanent, and its advantages are 965 greater. They will have great responsibilities and opportunities. They certainly have my best wishes, and I think those of everybody in the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I agree with what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and others. In our day and generation the most important problem of all is in what direction this new emerging sense of nationhood in Africa, Asia and elsewhere will march—this reaching out of people in what in the past we have called the backward areas. They are now reaching out to the future. They want to reach out towards the government of their own country. They are beginning to develop their democracy. They are conscious, as we are conscious, that in these days, democracy—and it is one of the contributions which this Government has made—has come to be symbolised in the Welfare State, so that when people think, speak and work and ask for democracy they not only ask for the right to vote but for a better standard of life, the chance to work and a better future. That can only come about if social and economic development walk together hand in hand with constitutional advance.
The Gold Coast begins this new chapter tomorrow. They begin it with our good will. Mr. Nkrumah said in the speech to which reference has been made that he is a friend of Britain. May I say to Mr. Nkrumah and all his people, "We in Britain are your friends. We wish you well and we want in partnership with you, in beginning this new chapter tomorrow, to carry it on in such a way that eventually you, too, will join this Commonwealth as full partners."