§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I want to explain at the beginning why we have thought it desirable to initiate another debate on the question of Central African Federation, notwithstanding the fact that recently we had a full day's debate upon this question and notwithstanding the fact that, whilst we are debating it, a Conference is in session in London discussing this thorny and difficult problem.
I do not propose to traverse the ground which I covered in a statement, which I am afraid was rather long, in the recent debate. I outlined fairly fully then the reasons why I thought that federation in principle was desirable, and I set out what I thought were the undoubted economic and political advantages which would derive from federation. I do not want to add to or subtract from anything I said on that aspect of the matter in the recent debate.
What I am concerned to do today is to direct attention to the position that has now been reached in the consideration of this matter, and to concentrate on what emerged from the statements made, in reply to Questions and supplementary questions, by the Minister of State last Wednesday, and upon what we gather is taking place at the Conference at this 1234 moment, and what is likely to take place when the Conference has concluded its consideration.
The statement of the Minister last week revealed four facts to which I wish to direct attention and upon which I want to comment. We learnt officially, first, that the African representatives from Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland had refused the invitation to attend the Conference; secondly, that it had been arranged that the delegates from those two Protectorates should return to their own countries while the Conference was still in session; thirdly, that it had been decided by Her Majesty's Government, by the Central African Governments and by the delegations at the Conference to proceed with the Conference in the absence of the African representatives from those two Protectorates; and fourthly, to quote the actual words used by the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs in reply to a supplementary question when, speaking for Her Majesty's Government, he said:It is our intention to proceed with the Conference and to come to some recommendations. These recommendations will then be submitted to the three territories, and we hope that the sense of the recommendations and the good will of the majority of the House will combine together to secure acceptance of them in the three territories."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd April, 1952; Vol. 499, c. 408.]I now turn to the first matter, the refusal of the delegates representing the Africans in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to attend the Conference. As I have already said, I do not want to go over what I said in the last debate, but the Colonial Secretary will remember that I expressed the fear that one of the consequences of bringing forward the Conference from July, which was the tentative date arranged last August, to April might be to induce the African representatives to change their minds, and that whereas they had last August agreed to come to the adjourned Conference, they would not come to this Conference.
However, they were invited to come here. I say at once that I personally regret their decision to absent themselves from the Conference. I did my very best last August to persuade them—let me confess that it took some persuading—to come to the Victoria Falls Conference. Eventually they came on the understanding that their presence at the Conference and their participation in it would not be taken either by myself or by His Majesty's 1235 Government, as it was then, or by any of the other representatives as implying any acceptance of federation either in principle or in detail. We accepted that condition and they attended on that understanding.
I thought it was very desirable that they should attend, and I myself gave them a personal undertaking that their attendance at the Conference would not be interpreted either by myself or, as far as I could secure, anyone else as involving any acceptance of federation in principle or in detail. I understand that in the discussions, when they took place, it was made known to them by the Colonial Secretary that it would be possible for them to attend the present Conference, at any rate as observers, without committing themselves—
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)
I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. I think it would be more convenient if I did not demur to any points that he makes while he is actually making them. I propose to leave it until later on. I hope he will not take my silence on these points as acceptance of what he says.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I quite understand. Perhaps it would be better if we did not interrupt each other.
I understand that it would have been possible for the representatives, on the invitation of the Secretary of State, to have attended the Conference as observers, if not as full delegates, without committing themselves to acceptance of any plan that might emerge. Perhaps the Colonial Secretary will, in the course of his reply, tell us about the discussions that he had, because it is very desirable that, while the African representatives are still in this country, we should be clear about the discussions which took place about their attendance at the Conference and the conditions which it might have been thought desirable should accompany that attendance.
I want to make one other thing clear. I have had the opportunity of meeting the representatives of the Africans and of discussing the problem in its existing context. I think this ought to be said in fairness to them for it might be interpreted that they came over here, having 1236 accepted an invitation to attend the Conference, and then refused to attend it when they arrived. That is a possible implication, and in fairness to them the position ought to be made clear.
I questioned them about this, and I understood from them that they made it clear before they left their homes that they would be very pleased to come to London and to enter into conversations and have discussions with the Secretary of State, the Colonial Office and Her Majesty's Government about federation, and that they would be glad of the opportunity of stating their views quite fully and frankly, including their resolute opposition to federation even in principle. But they also made it clear from the beginning that they did not intend to be present at the Conference and would not accept an invitation to attend as delegates.
I gathered that one of the delegations had been authorised by those who selected them and for whom they spoke that, if they thought it was desirable, and if provision could be made for them, to attend as observers, they would attend as observers. I gathered that what happened was that they put this forward to the Secretary of State at one interview. The Secretary of State was not able to accept that offer on the day it was made, and asked for time to consider it, and the next day when he was ready to accede to that—I should like the Colonial Secretary to explain this—the Africans then refused to do so.
In this, as indeed in every other matter, when the African representatives come to any conclusion it is of the utmost importance that we should do our very best to seek to understand why they have arrived at their decision. I have, therefore, sought to gather from them why they refused the invitation to come to the Conference this time, putting forward my view that it would have been better for them and for their people if they had been there on the definite understanding which I mentioned earlier.
I think there are two reasons why they refused to attend the Conference in the end, even as observers. The first is that they are still very apprehensive lest attendance at the Conference should be taken to imply that they accept federation even in principle. They tell me, and they have told my colleagues who have met them 1237 with me—I believe they have met representatives of all parties in the House—that all their people in both Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland are now resolutely opposed to federation or to even discussing federation, even in principle. Indeed, it seems to me, from the discussions that I have had with them, that they now take a much harder and firmer line than they did last August.
At that time the Nyasaland delegates were as firm as they are now, rejecting it in principle and refusing to consider it. However, the Northern Rhodesian delegates at the Victoria Falls Conference, through one of their representatives—the other two representatives concurring in the statement that was made in the presence of my right hon. Friend and myself—indicated that they would be prepared to consider federation if, prior to that stage being reached, there could be discussions in Northern Rhodesia between the Europeans, the Africans and the Government to seek to arrive at an agreed definition of partnership and a programme for implementing it; and if they could get satisfaction about a definition and a programme for its implementation, they would then be prepared to consider federation. That statement was made by them and on their behalf at the Conference at Victoria Falls, and indeed that statement is incorporated in the final communiqué issued at the end of the Conference.
Before I left Central Africa, I urged on everybody concerned to seek the earliest possible opportunity of bringing the Europeans and the Africans together in the same room to discuss the suggestion put forward on behalf of the Northern Rhodesia African delegation at the Victoria Falls Conference. It seemed to me to be an offer of very great importance. It seemed to me that it was the kind of offer which ought to have been accepted and acted upon at once. However, no action took place. I deeply regret it.
My right hon. Friend and I came back to this country and to the middle of the Election, and following the Election, there was a change of Government. During the whole of those months my right hon. Friend and I made no reference at all in public to this question of Central African federation. We were very anxious indeed about what we thought was the most hopeful thing which had 1238 emerged from the Victoria Falls Conference, federation by consent, and that these talks should take place. I speak quite frankly when I say that I think a very grave mistake was made by whoever was responsible in not taking steps immediately to convene the Conference.
Before I conclude my remarks, I shall return to that problem of the partnership and, even more, to the question of how very essential it is that no one shall turn down any offer made by anyone to bring the two peoples together to discuss their problems in Africa. However, there it is; they refused to attend the Conference and now, apparently, they are more firm in their decision and more adamant in their rejection, and even the movement of last August, which I have indicated, has now been lost. Who knows what the loss will mean in the end—the loss of those few months, the failure to take the initiative, which I can only say I very deeply regret?
I am using my own words and am not putting words in their mouths; I am trying to interpret the reasons as they explained them to us. The second reason why they refused to attend the Conference was that they feared that Her Majesty's Government have already decided—indeed, had already decided before the Conference assembled in London—to go through with and to enforce any scheme of federation that might emerge from the Conference and to enforce it notwithstanding their unanimous opposition as a people or what they claim and state to be their unanimous opposition.
Those two reasons together strengthen their opposition. The second strengthens the first. They say, "If we go into the Conference we shall be committed if a decision is made"—as they fear it will be made and enforced. "For those reasons," they say, "because we are so definitely opposed, we think that we ought to stay outside and not be parties to it and liable to be misunderstood and perhaps be taken to have committed ourselves to it." Those are the reasons, and it is very important that we should understand them.
In the light of those reasons, I turn to the second matter, on which I asked some supplementary questions. Perhaps I showed some heat. If so, perhaps I might explain in a calmer mood why I 1239 showed some heat—which was modified by the Minister and I am grateful to him—in asking the Africans to return home, indeed to make arrangements for them to return home, while the Conference is in session. I am going to make a suggestion and explain why I was frightened by that proposal.
I have done my best to keep in touch with events in Central Africa since my visit last August. Quite recently I took a step of which I informed the Minister and which I discussed quite fully with him. It was to do what I could with my own trade union, the National Union of Mineworkers, to establish contact, as a very important and responsible trade union, with European and African miners' trade unions. I made a request to them and they readily agreed to use their good offices and influence, as members of one of the largest mining organisations in the world, with the important sections of the miners' international trade union movement and of the International Federation of Free Trade Unions to bring the two trade unions, white and black, together to discuss their mutual problems, their relationships and, in particular, to discuss and seek to arrive at an agreement on the very difficult but very important and, it may be some day, very urgent problem of the advancement of the Africans of the Copper Belt.
The news I had was that, because they had the fear that a decision had been made to enforce federation, there were discussions, there were conferences and there were committees of action, and the whole atmosphere was one of possible industrial action and of possible action of other kinds which might lead, in present circumstances in Central Africa, to a very dangerous situation. It is in that setting that I speak, and I repeat that I was frightened of the African delegation being asked to go back, leaving the governors here, the European representatives, and to report just that in this tense moment. I have seen them and I have ventured to advise them in private, and I venture to make public what I advised them in private.
I advised them, not only as a Member of Parliament and one who was privileged to serve for a short time as Colonial Secretary, but as one miner to other miners, with some experience of industrial 1240 relations, some experience of industrial action and some memories of strikes and lock-outs and their consequences. I urged them very strongly not to be led into taking the kind of precipitate action that has been talked about, and I told them that they would not serve their own people best nor their cause best by taking such action.
If we are to prevail upon them, as I have endeavoured to do and as I shall continue to do—and, I am sure I shall get all the support of hon. Members and of my own trade union outside—to influence them in this direction, how very important it is at the same time to make clear to them—this is relevant to some suggestions I shall make later—that they have other opportunities of expressing their view and making it known to us so that we are fully aware how they feel and what they feel when we make our decisions.
I am expressing their feeling as I understand it, for they feel, or fear—it is a combination of fear and feeling—that this is to be imposed upon them. Their feeling is this: "In the absence of adequate political opportunity of expressing our view, what else can we do except take action, even though the consequences may be disastrous?"
For all those reasons, I have formed the view that it would be bad, and it might indeed have serious consequences, if in that atmosphere they went back to Central Africa. The Minister, very kindly, arranged that the time of their departure, which had been fixed for last Friday or Saturday, should be extended so that they would have an opportunity of meeting Members of Parliament on all sides of the House and members of other organisations. I want to carry that a stage further and make another suggestion to the Secretary of State.
I suggest to the Secretary of State that he should invite the representatives of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to stay in this country until the Conference has concluded, and beyond it. They are not coming to the Conference; we discussed that. I make the suggestion that when the Conference has ended and come to its conclusions, the Secretary of State should see them, explain to them what the Conference has decided, listen to them, answer their questions and make the Conference clear to them. I believe 1241 that would be a far wiser course than asking them to go back now and eventually learn about the Conference in the newspapers, perhaps without full explanations or full reports. I hope that the Secretary of State will make that statement today, but if not today, and if he accepts my suggestion that they should be invited to stay, that he will soon make that statement to them.
I suggest that between now and the next conference in July, which we understand will be the final conference, the Secretary of State should go to Central Africa himself. There are many reasons for that, and I will give one of some importance. There are some who hold the view that the delegations from Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland now in this country do not represent their peoples, or at least that they represent only a minority. I have heard that view expressed many times. I heard it when I was occupying the Front Bench opposite and answering questions. It is said that they represent an educated minority, and, though we should not disparage educated minorities, it is said that they are only a fringe of the people; that the delegations do not represent the mass of the people, or the chiefs, or others in authority.
I speak as one who, in a crowded three weeks, endeavoured to meet all sections of the community in Central Africa, and particularly the Africans. I formed the opinion, so far as it is possible to ascertain African opinion, that these delegates, in what they said to me then and what they said at the Victoria Falls Conference, did represent African opinion. I put this to the Secretary of State because it is very important. In the development of our colonial administration, we have set up organisations and councils of Africans which are the effective source of communication between the Africans and the Administration.
We have the district councils, the provincial councils, and the Protectorate Council, representing the whole territory. Everyone knows that Whitehall administration within the Colonial territories, if I may use that phrase would be completely impossible were it not for the local government organisations which we have built up. We rely on them each one of them, the provincial council, the Protectorate Council which is presided over by the Provincial Commissioner and on the national scale by the Secretary for 1242 Native Affairs. These are the bodies which the Secretary of State would meet if he went to Africa. We cannot use these as the normal administrative organisations of Government in the Colonies, and treat them as representative and responsible, and then reject their opinion. We cannot have it both ways.
I beg hon. Members who have been interested in these matters for longer than I have, and who are more familiar with this problem of colonial administration, to realise how important it is that we do not send out a message from the House that we regard these bodies as being so unrepresentative of African opinion that we do not regard their views as being of any merit. If we said that, we should be doing great damage to the whole structure of colonial administration.
I have formed my own conclusion which I have made known to the House and which I do not ask anybody to accept. It is very important that there should be no question at all that, before we come to a final decision, we should make every endeavour to find out whether these Africans who tell us they are opposed to federation are, or are not, speaking for their people. It would be a grave mistake for the House to make a decision on this matter on the assumption that they did not speak for their people and then find out afterwards that they did. I suggest that the Colonial Secretary should himself go to Africa, as my right hon. Friend and I did, and meet these people, and then form his own conclusions.
I do not want to discuss what will emerge from the Conference. I assume that when it is concluded a statement will be made. But from Press reports and communiqués it seems as though the plan which will emerge from this Conference will differ in some respects from the plan incorporated in the officials' report which we discussed before. We are pledged to consult them about any proposals which may emerge, and these may be new proposals, which is another reason why it is desirable that the Secretary of State should himself indicate that he wishes and proposes to go to Central Africa to hold consultations.
I do not want to say any more about the decision to proceed with the Conference in the absence of the Africans. Before saying what I wish to put before 1243 the Colonial Secretary and the Committee, may I say that I do not expect a final answer today. I ask that it be considered. We do not propose to divide the Committee. We are putting forward these things before the Conference concludes because we think it desirable to do so, for reasons which are already apparent and which will be more apparent after my next suggestion. If in our view the reply is not the reply which we consider the circumstances merit, we can return to this again.
As I understand it, the position which has been reached at the Conference—and the Colonial Secretary will correct me if I am wrong—is that they are considering a draft constitution for a federal Government and Parliament. This draft constitution will be submitted to the territories and to this House. We should make it quite clear that the final word rests with Her Majesty's Government, and with the House of Commons. Let that be understood everywhere. This cannot come into operation except on our decision as a House of Commons.
Two Protectorates are involved. I do not wish to enter into the legal argument, but obviously to some extent—I speak as a layman—federation, or any kind of constitution, even a constitution acceptable to the Africans, would affect the Protectorate status. All of us know how attached are the Africans to the Protectorate status and the agreements embodied in it. Therefore, it is clear that the final word in this matter cannot come from anywhere except from the House and by the act of this House. It is important that that should go out clearly today, because when it is realised that the House will have the last word, that will have a very steadying effect upon opinion in Central Africa.
I ask the Colonial Secretary whether it is the intention of the Government, through their representatives at the Conference and the delegations from the other territories in Central Africa, to arrive at a decision which will be binding? In other words, at the end of the Conference, when the draft constitution has been agreed, do the Government propose to bind themselves to accept that constitution?
Do the representatives of the Southern Rhodesian Government, and the representatives of the Governments and 1244 peoples of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, who are present at this conference, look upon the Conference in the same way; in other words, are its decisions to be binding? If they are, and if, at the end of the Conference, those who attended it are committed to what emerges from it, I think we ought to see what is going to follow. This is one of the reasons we thought we ought to have a debate today, and I want at least to put this to the Colonial Secretary. I do not ask that he should reply now, but I should like the matter to be considered and a reply given later.
I want to put this proposition to the right hon. Gentleman very carefully. Suppose that, at this Conference, all the people there bind themselves to the decisions taken. As I understand, what that will mean will be that the Southern Rhodesian delegates will take the draft constitution back to their own country, where they are committed to the holding of a plebiscite. Are they to hold the plebiscite between the end of the present Conference and the opening of the next Conference in July? Are they to hold a referendum, and, if that referendum shows a majority in favour, does that commit them to it?
In the other two territories, the matter is to go back to them. Go back to whom? To the Legislative Council, of course; but does the draft plan go back to the African representative councils, the provincial councils, or to whom will it go back?
Let me come to a still more important problem. If we are committed to it now, I can see us, I will not say drifting, but coming inevitably to a position which I think we ought to use every effort to avoid. I can see us coming to a position in which a proposal for federation and a draft constitution comes before the House and also before the people concerned in Central Africa when, as far as we can ascertain at the moment, the Africans are unanimously opposed to it.
I have already made known my views as to the advantages, from the economic as well as the political standpoint, which make it desirable to have federation, but the last thing that I want to do—and I hope it is also the last thing that any hon. Member wants to do—is to have a debate in which the central issue is not 1245 whether federation is desirable or not, but whether it shall be imposed on the Africans.
I am expressing only my own view, but I think it is our bounden duty to avoid that, and I therefore ask the Government to consult with the other Governments and delegations at the Conference, and consider seriously whether all that should emerge from the Conference should be recommendations which do not finally hind either Her Majesty's Government or the other parties.
If there is a final binding decision at this Conference, what will be the issue to come before us? It will be either a scheme of federation which we must impose on the Africans, or the abandoment of federation altogether, both of which possibilities we should seek to avoid. Not only that, but, if we sought to impose federation on the Africans, we know perfectly well—and let us face it quite frankly—that public opinion would not support us. The churches are expressing their view about this matter, and so are others. I believe it would be a disaster if we allowed ourselves to get into that position.
Closer association is so essential for these territories that we must not bang the door on some other possible form of closer association if this one should fail. If we now put this matter up for final decision, and if, eventually, it is either turned down or becomes impossible of successful administration because of the relationships that have been created in Central Africa, we shall not only have destroyed any hope of federation now, but shall have destroyed all hope of federation for a generation or more. My view is that we ought to seek to avoid that situation.
I should like to conclude on this note. Twenty months is a very short time, and perhaps it is presumptuous to say that in 20 months one learned some things with deep conviction: but when I left the Colonial Office I left it with many things to encourage. Perhaps I might be allowed to say that I had comparatively few worries about West Africa. They will have their problems and difficulties, and they will probably make mistakes, but I have no worries about them.
What did worry me, and what I think worries the present Secretary of State, is 1246 something which takes one form in Malaya. There, we have a country with a population of five million, two and a half million Malays, two million Chinese and half a million Indians, living like separate communities, speaking different languages and holding deeply differing religious convictions, but all living together in the same country. The problem is how to get them all together, and how to get those races and the Europeans together. Whatever may be the controversy about General Templer and his policy in Malaya, all of us, I am sure, endorse the words he used the other day about trying to get the peoples together and to understand each other.
In Kenya, last May, when I went there, I discussed this matter with the representatives of the three major communities—Europeans, Africans and Asians. They came to me to put before me their separate views about the future constitution and progress of that Colony, and they were as wide apart as the poles. On the last day before I left, I asked them all to come to see me. Again, I met the Europeans, the Asians and the Africans, and I told them that I had certain proposals to make, but that facing me was this enormous gap in their own views.
I told them, "There are two courses open to me. I can go home, consider this matter as Secretary of State with my colleagues in the Government, arrive at a decision, and impose it. I do not want to do that. I am convinced that, if I did, it would be the wrong thing to do at this stage, unless every other possibility had been exhausted. What I am prepared to do"—I told them on that last morning—"is to invite you to agree with me now that you will go back as representatives of the three major races and discuss this matter and seek to arrive at an agreement between you."
I said that with the advice, help and concurrence of the Governor, Sir Philip Mitchell, who is shortly to retire after having rendered magnificent services in colonial administration. I was told afterwards that that statement eased the tension, and that the delegations agreed to sit down together and try to work out a common solution.
It is the only way, and it is because of that experience, more than anything else, 1247 that I have made some of the suggestions which I have put forward today. This problem of racial relationships between Africans, between black and white, is the most difficult and urgent and the most worrying problem of all the problems in colonial administration for the future of our relationships with the Colonies and the relationships of the colonial peoples with each other.
There are three alternatives which have been put forward. First, there is that of white domination, which we reject. Then there is that of black domination, and we reject that, too, because we do not want domination at all. The third alternative is partnership, and the problem for us is whether we can work out that partnership.
I close with the wisest words upon this problem which I have read for some time. They were used in a broadcast by a young negro, Peter Abrahams. I had not the privilege of listening to it. One of the things denied to Members of Parliament is the opportunity of listening very often to broadcasts. I read this in the "Listener," and I commend it to all Members who are interested in this problem. I make this quotation from the words of this young negro:In my fight against the system of South Africa or against South African whites, since the two are interlocked at times, I may so change myself that I too become diseased by the virus I fight against.In the struggle to be free many negroes have arrived at the position where they would counter the white bigot's race hatred with a race hatred against whites. Large numbers of negroes today counterpoise a black humanity against a white humanity.In the kind of situation about which he used those words, all of us may become diseased by the virus we fight against. I believe that in the situation in which on the one side there are people who counterpoise a white humanity against a black humanity and others who counterpoise a black humanity against a white humanity it is our duty, which I am sure all of us want to discharge, to do everything we possibly can to avoid either of those two alternatives, and to bring the races together round a table to seek to work out common agreements and to build their countries on the basis of racial unity and eventually racial equality.
1248 Because we believe that some of the suggestions I have made at this stage ought to be given at least consideration by the Colonial Secretary and Her Majesty's Government—I say so with respect to the representatives of the other Central African territories who are at this Conference—we have initiated this debate, and I put forward these suggestions. I say again that I fervently hope that the Colonial Secretary will assure us that at any rate these will be given consideration, for I am convinced that they all deserve to be considered and acted upon at this juncture in the consideration of this matter.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)
The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has couched his remarks this afternoon in the least controversial manner possible, having regard to his point of view on this subject. I should like to say from this Box that during the six years we were in Opposition we tried to keep colonial matters of this kind and others out of the general turmoil of party politics, as far as possible, under the leadership of my late right hon. Friend, Mr. Oliver Stanley.
I am very anxious to try to do the same, and I shall do all I can, I hope, to secure the same end. I freely acknowledge that during the six months that I have held this office I have had much help from individual members of the party opposite in trying to carry the responsibility. I repeat that I will go a long way to try to enlist their sympathy and help in colonial matters. I must, however, be quite frank and say that in mounting this debate this afternoon the Opposition have done something during the course of the Conference which frankly I find rather embarrassing.
I do not understand exactly why the debate has been initiated. I shall endeavour to deal in the course of my remarks with a number of points which the right hon. Gentleman has raised. He will forgive me for saying that one or two of them, in fact the only ones which have substance in them, could have been cleared up in five minutes by a telephone conversation or by a Parliamentary Question. I do not labour that point. The Opposition saw fit to raise this matter, and I do not think it particularly appropriate for me to criticise them for doing so, but it is embarrassing.
1249 Time and again, in the case of debates on colonial and foreign affairs, interchanges, for instance, between the two sides of the House are, as the Committee well knows, postponed either in view of an impending conference or during its progress, or when it has concluded and its results have not been made public. It would be very unfortunate if this kind of precedent were torn up and it became the practice to initiate debates on what I think are rather unsubstantial grounds while a conference is actually sitting.
It is all the more unfortunate because, as every Member who is interested in colonial affairs knows, the present Conference being held at Lancaster House—I think this question has been asked again by the right hon. Gentleman—is not one to reach decisions. I do not know how often I have to say it before hon. Members will accept it. As it has been asked again—I do not know how many times it has previously been asked—the Committee will forgive me if I give the same answer again. It is not a conference to reach decisions but one to make a draft document upon which public opinion can be formed.
I shall try to deal with all the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman, and not wait for further consideration of them, because they have all been considered. I do not know whether this is the point where I should turn aside to discuss the question which has been raised as to whether these discussions are binding. They are binding only to the extent that we should not expect any of the parties to the Conference to withdraw from a position they have taken up except by agreement or except as a result of hearing new opinions that come from outside. Otherwise the sands would always be shifting. If an agreement upon a particular matter is reached by the Conference, we do not expect a unilateral decision to withdraw. That does not in any way preclude discussion and second thoughts that may occur, but we should try to get this draft document into as final a form as is consistent with what I have just stated.
There is no suggestion that, whatever people say, the document will on no account be altered, but I do not want to see a Government tear up what they have said today and put forward something else. Otherwise we shall never get an 1250 end of discussion. I hope that gives the right hon. Gentleman the assurance he wanted.
I must stress again that one of the difficulties in advancing or promulgating the cause of federation in Central Africa, to which the right hon. Gentleman has again given his powerful support, is that there has been no definite scheme. Hon. Members will have noticed in a letter in "The Times" today, signed by the members of the two African delegations, with two exceptions—I do not know why that is, I do not dilate on it—they specifically reject the possibility of safeguards being acceptable to them. These safeguards are still under discussion; they are really the central point of the whole Conference. It is of great importance to determine exactly what is to be written into the constitution by way of safeguards. That only reinforces my argument—I am not particularly criticising the letter—that it is impossible to advance the cause of federation, which most of us have at heart, without having a definite document for discussion.
For example, if the Africans now say that no safeguards given by Her Majesty's Government would satisfy them, they appear to me to be advancing into an untenable position—to be putting forward an untenable argument. If there was any validity in it, they must see no inconsistency between their faith in the protection and word of Her Majesty's Government under the present régime and their utter disbelief in it under federation.
The two arguments are mutually destructive. They are only put forward in "The Times" this morning because they have not had an opportunity of seeing what are the safeguards which we propose—in fact, they are not formed—and how they are going to be written into the constitution. Of course, these are vital to the whole question. Many things can be altered by administrative acts, but when they become enshrined in the constitution, then the safeguards become to that extent more substantial. Will what we write into the constitution give enough safeguards to the Africans? That is a matter upon which they must form their opinion, but they can only form it if there is a draft document not binding on the Government but from which the Government, in the absence of anything else, will not be expected to withdraw.
1251 I should like at this point to reiterate what I said on 4th March, that Her Majesty's Government have not gone back in any way upon the subject of safeguards for African interests. The matter now under discussion is how they are to be carried out. It has always seemed to me to be a very simple proposition that before one agrees to support an opinion, whether African or European, in a matter of this kind, it is necessary to ask for that support over a definite scheme and not over something which admittedly is still only in embryo state.
I must give some account to the Committee before I go any further of what happened over the African representation at the Conference.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
If I may interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, I gathered he said that the Government have not gone back on safeguards for African interests. I have already said that I do not want today to discuss the question of what may emerge from this Conference, and what are the proposals, but I think the right hon. Gentleman will have noticed in an editorial in "The Times" today—and there have been references in other newspapers—that there has been one change. I do not know whether he would like to comment upon that. It is that the proposal for a Minister for African interests has been dropped. I did not refer to it at all because I thought the right hon. Gentleman would be giving us a full statement.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I admit that there have been mentioned at the Conference differences from the official scheme as to how the safeguards are going to be carried out, but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we have not departed from our position that African safeguards are one of the primary matters to be discussed at this Conference. How we carry that out satisfactorily is another question which will emerge when the findings of the Conference are made known.
I want to give some account of what happened over the question of African representation at the Conference, because there have been mis-statements. I extended an invitation to the two representative bodies—the African Protectorate Council in Nyasaland and the African 1252 Representative Council in Northern Rhodesia—to come and see me and discuss any matters concerning federation or any other matters that they might wish to discuss before the Conference. At the same time, I extended an invitation to them to stay on and attend the Conference. There is, therefore, a mistake in the letter which was signed by several Africans, members of the delegation, in "The Times" this morning. They used the phrase:We were not invited to come to England to the Conference but for informal talks with the Secretary of State for the Colonies.That is an inaccuracy, because they were asked to do both. The one is not conditional upon the other. I think it is worth while to clear that up. In the event, the invitation to the private talks was accepted and the invitation to the Conference was deferred for answer when they arrived.
§ Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)
Do I understand that in Africa, the African delegation made it clear that, while they were prepared to come here to discuss matters with the Secretary of State, they were not prepared to discuss the question of federation?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I think it is true of one delegation but not the other. I see in the minutes of the African Protectorate Council that it was decided that representatives should go to London and that, if they were invited to attend the Conference, it was agreed that they should do so. I think it is true that the Northern Rhodesian delegation said they would not attend the Conference but, in spite of my advancing years, I still retain a certain sanguine disposition and no doubt put too high a store upon my powers of persuasion, if not at this Box, at least around the table. So I hoped that I should get them here. I failed, and these sanguine hopes have been dashed.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
Are we right in supposing that the invitation to attend the Conference was dependent upon the acceptance of the principle of federation in advance?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I hope the hon. Lady will be satisfied with what I am going to say. I think it would be better if I were allowed to continue and clear up this matter. When both deputations arrived—that is, to the private conversations— 1253 I made it clear on several occasions—and this is the point which was raised by the hon. Gentleman—that their attendance at the Conference would commit them to nothing, not even to the principle of federation. I went further; I went so far as to say that if they so wished, I would put this guarantee or undertaking in writing. I do not think that I could have done more. However, the Northern Rhodesian delegation declined to come to the Conference and the Nyasaland delegation declined to come as delegates.
A little after, they asked whether they could come as observers. I said I wanted a little time to consider that, and, after talking with the delegation, I replied the next day that we should be glad to receive them as observers. A similar invitation was also extended to the Northern Rhodesian delegation. So they both had invitations to come as observers, at the suggestion of the Nyasaland delegation.
When I said that we accepted that, the Nyasaland delegation withdrew from that position on grounds which I must say frankly seemed to me to be extremely flimsy and insufficient, namely, that the Press were not going to be present throughout the plenary session of the Conference. I only state the facts, and perhaps I had better say no more than that I consider those are unsubstantial grounds upon which to refuse an invitation to attend as observers.
I am coming on to the point, because it has some reference to one of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, whether these gentlemen should stay here until the Conference is over. It had not occurred to me until he made the suggestion that it was up to me to extend an invitation to those who had refused my invitation to come as observers, when they not only would have heard the result of the Conference but would have heard the whole of the debate taking place on these matters of safeguards and the constitution. If they now advance the wish to stay here until the Conference is over, I shall be perfectly prepared to recommend that course to the two Governors of the two Governments.
But I must also say that this puts me in some difficulty, because it is a very considerable concession from my point of view. I do not want to make it easy for people to refuse to come to the conference 1254 as observers and then to remain here indefinitely when perhaps they will engage in propaganda, in vacuo so to speak, until the results of the Conference are known. Nevertheless, I think the course of wisdom would be, if they so wish, to recommend to the two Governors that that should be so.
There is another difficulty on this point. It is implicit in this invitation to remain that only the Secretary of State or the Colonial Office are capable of explaining the nature of the conclusions of the Conference to the African deputations. One might think that when they returned to Africa there was no Governor who could understand the matter and who was capable of explaining it. I am sure that was not the right hon. Gentleman's intention.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
Nevertheless, it is an unsubstantial point to say that explanations are absolutely necessary and that the Governors are not perfectly competent to explain the conclusions of the Conference in all their details to the delegations. I think that has answered one of the right hon. Gentleman's points. Indeed, I think they were only three eventually. That was the point I mentioned that could have been settled in a few minutes' conversation, and I rather regret taking up the time of the Committee upon it.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I think we have been perfectly justified in having this discussion. What we hear now and what we will hear in the course of the debate might have been very interesting as a telephone conversation between the right hon. Gentleman and myself, but let us look at it in the context that the Africans are going back while the Conference is still going on. It is better that this should be said in public.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I do not want to labour the point, but the right hon. Gentleman could have asked an ordinary Parliamentary Question or a Private Notice Question on the subject. I make this point in no nasty spirit, but, really, to raise this debate in the middle of the Conference is highly embarrassing. After listening to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I find nothing but minor points which could have been cleared up by a Question in the House. He may not agree 1255 with me, but I am entitled to my point of view.
I now want to come to the matter of this visit. Am I going to Central Africa before the next conference? There is one point which, I think, will help to clarify this. It is that the right hon. Gentleman, in every phrase he used connected with this matter, kept on referring to the July conference. I have not discussed this matter with either the Governor or the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia. I have had some informal conversations about it, but, in my opinion, there is no possibility of a further conference being held as early as July.
I will tell the Committee one of the reasons. The Financial Commission which has the difficult task of determining the revenue collected cannot possibly be expected to give a report of nearly a definite enough nature under a much longer time than would be involved in having a conference by July. This, perhaps, allows me to appear again in a white sheet before the Committee, because I was criticised for my proposal to have two conferences instead of one. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman on a previous occasion divided the House on that proposal. I have never been able to understand why it is an unwise and precipitate action to have two conferences whereas it is wise to have only one.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The right hon. Gentleman must be fair in what he says over my dividing the House. The reason was that in my view Her Majesty's Government and the Colonial Secretary were making a very serious mistake in bringing forward the conference to April without discussing the matter with the Africans. I asked him not to hold it in April because I regarded it as a breach of the understanding at which we arrived last August. It was not merely a question of holding two conferences instead of one; the change of date was the major issue on which we divided the House.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
If that is the only explanation which the right hon. Gentleman has of the matter, then it appears to me to be a very flimsy and unsubstantial reason. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am entitled to my opinion, and I am not expressing it at all in an offensive manner. I am only saying that that is 1256 my view. What is undeniable is that great harm was done by that Division which was, on the right hon. Gentleman's own submission, taken on a procedural matter. As I say, great harm was done by it, but I do not want to labour the point.
Regarding the holding of a conference in July, I believe that any of the Governments concerned or their representatives would dissent from such a suggestion. July is quite an impossible date for the holding of the next conference. My right hon. Friend and I have already been in discussion as to which of us should go to Central Africa before the next conference and when, so I think that ought to meet the right hon. Gentleman's second point. I think we have much more elbow room now, and, again, by holding the two conferences it makes such conversations and such a visit possible.
I am not sure whether I have answered all the right hon. Gentleman's points, but I think there is one on which I ought to say something more. I think the phrase he used was "other opportunities of discussion after this conference is over." The idea—and I repeat it again—is, of course, to produce a draft document upon which public opinion can be focused in the whole of the time that elapses. I cannot say for the moment how long a time will elapse between now and the next conference, but anybody is free to have a tilt at what has been said and to try to get his view incorporated in the document.
Equally, it is quite possible for those who believe in other forms of closer association to put forward their proposals. That is not up to Her Majesty's Government, because they, like their predecessors, have come to the conclusion that the federation desired is that which will best serve the interests of both populations. Therefore, it is not up to us to produce other schemes of closer association, but, as I say, there is nothing whatever to prevent anybody, as far as I know, from producing such a scheme and getting it considered.
§ Mr. Griffiths
What I was urging was that if at the end of this conference we find ourselves in agreement—I refer particularly to Central Africa and Rhodesia—that might close the door to other suggestions that come forward. 1257 We agree at once that such suggestions ought, and, indeed, might, come forward, but let us not shut the door on the possibility of some other suggestion coming forward. I gather that if any suggestion is made, it will be open for consideration.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
That gives me the opportunity of saying that, as I see it, there is no question of any referendum before the next conference. The whole idea of this intervening period is to have a definite document from which it would be unseemly for any Government to withdraw unilaterally. That is the extent to which it is binding in the ordinary way, and there would then be a period, which I cannot specify, during which the whole matter would be open to the inquest of public opinion. There will be another conference, and after that will come the decision and referendum.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
That is correct. There is no question of any referendum in Southern Rhodesia until after the next conference.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
Does that mean that the referendum will be in connection with definite proposals put forward by Her Majesty's Government in conjunction with the other parties concerned?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
We can only have a referendum in Southern Rhodesia on a definite scheme. That is what may happen after the conference.
§ Mr. Thomas
I do not want the Minister to belittle the question I put to him. What I am trying to get at is whether it is intended that the referendum shall take the form of a final indication of those concerned on any proposals put forward by the Government, and that, as a result of such referendum, if the proposals are adopted, they will immediately be put into operation even in opposition to the views of the native population.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The discussion has got to be tripartite, but the Southern Rhodesian Government are under an obligation to hold a plebiscite on this matter, and only the assent of that plebiscite is a condition precedent to the other two 1258 territories coming in. But a plebiscite in one territory does not bind the other two territories to come in.
I do not at all take my responsibilities lightheartedly in these matters. I conceive those responsibilities as, first of all, to produce a draft comprehensive scheme upon which public opinion can fasten and to which public opinion and particular bodies, representative or otherwise, can make modifications. I have done everything I can—and I think it has been acknowledged by the Committee—to bring the two African delegations to the conference table. I make no excuse whatever for continuing the conference, because otherwise we would be giving to any dissenting opinion a veto far stronger than that ever held by Mr. Vyshinsky.
It is quite intolerable to suggest that we should not proceed with the Conference because two of the three territories were not represented by African delegates. That would go far further than a veto on a decision. It would be a veto on discussion. If I had been in disagreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly and had walked out of the Chamber, then under this system the Committee would have been forced to adjourn. No one would support such an intolerable situation.
I repeat that the Conference is not to make a decision; it is to make a draft document. The right hon. Gentleman criticised Her Majesty's present advisers for not taking action on partnership. They took immediate action and it was the Northern Rhodesia Africans' unwillingness to sit round the table and discuss a partnership at that time that caused the delay.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
We left Victoria Falls on the 15th or 16th or some such date in September. In the course of that week, this proposal was put forward and I should like to have this clear, because it is rather important. I expressed the view to those concerned at the time that steps should be taken to convene this Conference and hold these discussions forthwith. As I understand it, no step was taken until December. My own view is that what happened during the loss of those three months was that there were still further discussions and during discussions the Africans repudiated proposals put forward at Victoria Falls by Mr. 1259 Moffat, who was one of their chosen representatives at the Victoria Falls Conference. To allow these three months between September and December to go without initiating discussion was a great mistake.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I find myself in sharp disagreement with the right hon. Gentleman. I apologise for not having brought the information with me, but we may resume this controversy later. I am in sharp disagreement with the right hon. Gentleman on a matter of fact, but I cannot carry it further because I have not brought the facts with me. My view is that there was no delay, other than that inherent in a General Election in this country, in convening this Conference on partnership, and the delay was entirely due to the unwillingness of Northern Rhodesia Africans to take part.
§ Mr. Coldrick (Bristol, North-East)
In the event of a draft agreement being reached, are the Government considering proposals to see that that agreement is clearly understood not merely in Central Africa but in this country? On the basis of what we have seen so far, there is a great deal of misunderstanding here.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I am very much obliged to the hon. Member, for he not only reminds me of a point I had wished to make but has given me the opportunity of making it before I finally sit down. It was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly. The intention is that, as soon as it can be drafted, a White Paper shall be produced on this matter which will put the scheme beyond peradventure and which can be discussed at a suitable moment in the House and which will, I hope, not only do much to explain the nature of the safeguards but do much to reassure all African opinion. I am hopeful of that and I should be very grateful for any help hon. Members opposite can give in this matter, which is of vital importance to the people of Africa.
There is no future in self-government by Africans alone or in self-government by Europeans alone. The solution will lie in partnership. We both have great contributions to make and unless they are made together there is a grave possibility that Africa may sink back and lose much of the advance she has made in recent years.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)
I am very glad that this debate is taking place in such a calm atmosphere. I promise to try not to raise the temperature. It is very important that colonial affairs should not be the football of party political conflict in the House of Commons, and I say that for one very good reason. It seems to me that if Parliamentary democracy in this country is to survive, almost inevitably there will be a transference of political power from time to time; and if Colonial policy is to change with every transference of political power in the United Kingdom there is no hope.
Therefore, I think that if there is one thing upon which we should seek to achieve a bi-partisan policy it is this. There is no virtue in unanimity in the wrong causes, but I do not think there is so much between the parties over this matter as to warrant marching into separate Division Lobbies.
I take part in this debate as one who was the leader of the Parliamentary delegation which visited the two Rhodesias and Nyasaland last August. We talked to, and were talked at by, every shade of opinion in those territories, black, white and coloured. We talked to hundreds of Africans. Indeed, we talked and listened to anyone who wanted to make representations. After five weeks we returned to this country and proceeded to draw up a report which was subsequently printed and circulated by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
I hope very much that those who feel they may need just a little more knowledge on this subject will obtain a copy of that report from the Association, because although they may not accept the conclusion arrived at there is in the report at any rate a mine of information on the subject. My colleagues and I came to the unanimous conclusion, after a good deal of thought and study, that, while everything should be done to safeguard African interests, African opposition should not be allowed to prevent federation if that were the only obstacle to federation coming to pass.
That is the view I and my colleagues arrived at; and it is the view that I, and I think they, stand by now. This is a very tricky business. We are 1261 all called upon to make a decision which in some ways will be painful no matter which way we decide. There is no two-headed penny in this matter. Whatever decision is arrived at, somebody will be upset. I regret that, but it seems to me inevitable.
I think it would be very dangerous to try to judge this matter in isolation. There are other very important conditioning factors. In the first place, it seems clear to me personally that if federation does not come to pass, inevitably, and without too much loss of time, Southern Rhodesia will become the fifth province of the Union of South Africa. How would that help the Africans? It seems to me that present tendencies in South Africa are of a most authoritarian character. It seems that some people out there are fighting the Boer War all over again. I am not sure that they are not winning it.
But I am certain that if that development came to pass—if Southern Rhodesia became the fifth province of the Union of South Africa—it would be a very bad day for the African population. This is an aspect of the matter which should be taken into very careful consideration. Why do I think that Southern Rhodesia will become part of the Union if federation does not come to pass? First of all, I do not think there is any doubt that substantial subsidised Afrikaaner infiltration into Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia is going on at present.
I am of the opinion that if this matter were raised by way of a plebiscite in five years we might well find that it was too late. It may well be that within five years, on taking a plebiscite in Southern Rhodesia on this matter of federation, it would be revealed that it was too late and that the Afrikaaner element was, in fact, by that time in charge. Furthermore, the territories concerned cannot make the most of themselves—cannot create conditions in which advancement can be accelerated—in isolation.
It is just as illogical for these three territories to remain apart today as it would have been for England, Scotland and Wales to fail to make the United Kingdom. I think the parallel is a fair one and I think it is exact. I do not think these territories can exploit their resources in isolation. Vast capital investment is necessary in these parts. I estimate it as £350 million in the next 10 years.
1262 Negotiations with the Portuguese Government to obtain concessions are urgently needed. The port and rail facilities at Beira are quite inadequate to the developing traffic in and out of the Rhodesias. There can be no doubt that a double line railway is wanted from Umtali to Beira. Hydro-electric schemes on the Zambesi, and the Shire barrage scheme to electrify and irrigate the rich Southern Nyasaland Province are urgent necessities. All these things want tackling and they are bigger jobs than any one of the territories can tackle in isolation.
African advancement can only come as the result of economic development. Some of the criticism of our own kith and kin, in Southern Rhodesia in particular, has caused very deep resentment. It is very important to be objective in this matter. It is very easy to become so indignant with the indignities of human existence as to be less than fair to our own people. My colleagues and I were immensely impressed by the great care that is now being taken of the African's education, health and housing. Ill-health and illiteracy are on the decline. Schools and hospitals are increasing in number.
Far from being ashamed of their stewardship our British kith and kin in the Rhodesias can hold their heads as high as the Himalayas; but the pace of this African advancement which we all want to see will inevitably depend on the pace of economic development. Let us make no mistake about that. It is, therefore, in the African interest that federation should be brought to pass at the earliest practicable moment. In the Rhodesias I talked to hundreds of Africans. I was talking to Africans last night, arguing with them and begging them to take the opportunity that these negotiations present to discuss the question of federation; but I am bound to say that our African friends appear to have brought a closed mind to London.
I think we ought to be quite fair about the extent of the representation that these gentlemen can claim. Ninety-five percent, of the Africans in these territories lack political consciousness. They lack any powers of organisation. In every way they are just about where the ancient Britons were when the Roman legions landed on the shores of Kent. They are nice people. I like them. I talked to them. We talked the same language. I 1263 had no difficulty at all in talking to them. But the plain fact of the matter is that 95 per cent. of the Africans in these territories do not know the first thing about federation—and they care still less.
What they are concerned with is freedom from hunger, ignorance and disease, and to the extent that these federation proposals promise to accelerate the pace at which those things can be achieved I support them. I could not accept the contention that a handful of politically ambitious Africans—
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I think this is important. My hon. Friend went to Central Africa; I went there, too. He brought back certain views; I brought back different views. We both had the opportunity of meeting members of the provincial councils and the Protectorate councils, representative chiefs and other representatives of the Africans. Who are we to say that the Africans who spoke to us did not speak for and represent their own people? They have their village councils, their village meetings, their provincial meetings. I do not want to take their word for granted, but I must say, speaking for myself—and here I am in conflict with my hon. Friend—that, having taken very great care to meet them all, as he did, and to find out the position, I came to the conclusion that I should be wrong if I did not say that, in my view, the people who spoke to me did represent African opinion and that we consulted for this purpose the African organisations which were appropriate.
§ Mr. Evans
I would not for one moment challenge the contention of my right hon. Friend that the Africans at present in this country represent the opinion, and give force to the opinion, of the organisations with which they are connected. But I must repeat what I said earlier—that 95 per cent. of the Africans 1264 in these territories have no political consciousness whatever.
§ Mr. Evans
I think it is important that the British and Southern Rhodesian Governments should proclaim to the world their acceptance of Rhodes' dictum, which is so well known, with the added proviso that there should be greater opportunities for all men to become civilised. I start from this assumption—that it would be foolish to believe that a handful of Europeans can hold down Africa indefinitely. I do not think they can do it, and I think it would be very wrong for them to wish to do it. The true path of wisdom, therefore, lies in evolving a federal constitution which will demonstrably provide greater opportunities and, indeed, greater responsibilities for Africans. I hope very much that all concerned with these negotiations will bear that in mind.
I want to turn to another aspect of the matter which is not generally discussed. I do not know whether, like sex and sewage, it is considered improper, but it seems to me to be very relevant to this discussion. In this country where we British have three meals a day and full employment, our ability to remain strong and free in a very dangerous world is bound up with this subject which we are discussing this afternoon. There are those who talk about casting off the tow rope which binds us to America so that we can act as a bridge between East and West.
Those gentlemen must face the logic of their own argument, because there is no alternative to all-out development of the resources of these countries of which we are speaking this afternoon, and the other parts of the Commonwealth, except permanent and abject dependence on American charity. There are in these territories practically everything which is necessary to modern life. There is gold, cotton, copper, chrome, tea—there are 24 of the world's principal minerals; and it is only by the development of these resources that the twin objectives can be gained—our own economic independence and financial self-respect and an accelerated pace of African development.
I want, therefore, to say this to my colleagues who are very anxious about 1265 the position in which this country finds itself—a situation in which our foreign policy, our standards of life, our very employment is dependent on American policies, whims and internal pressures. That is the situation we are in. If I may give just one example, look what is happening now when we are pushing up our sales of cycles and motor cycles in the United States. There is pressure inside the U.S.A. for American tariffs to be increased. Even if they take our exports, what is the position? The demand for dollar raw materials is so great that up goes the price, and we have to deny ourselves more and more of the things which we should like at home in order to pay for an ever-diminishing amount of American raw materials. If we push up our sales we are shut out; if they accept our imports, enabling us to narrow this dollar gap, American raw material prices are forced up to such an extent that, in the end, the dollar problem is found to be insoluble.
The only way to escape from this dilemma is by a speedy and complete development of all the resources of the Commonwealth, and, in particular, of these three territories. I say to my colleagues, therefore, "Life is not easy; we very often have to make unpleasant decisions." As I said earlier, there is no double-headed penny.
I find myself in the same dilemma as did one who is well known to this House when he was writing recently about Iraq. Kingsley Martin, writing in the "New Statesman and Nation" about Iraq, said:As for the British, they are, as always, in a dilemma. We look after our interests. We are kind, helpful, and genuinely anxious for reform, but the job cannot be done by those who are merely kind and well-intentioned and fair-minded.What Kingsley Martin was saying really was this: that authority cannot always wait on the consent of the governed. The circumstances of the time have to be taken into account. I personally admire the political perspicacity of Mr. Kingsley Martin on this occasion. A nation can become so preoccupied with philanthropy and benevolence as to lose its capacity to determine and protect its own interests.
That was the fate of the Romans, and when the Roman Empire broke up it was not followed by something better. It was followed by something much worse—the Dark Ages. Therefore, we all have—and 1266 I know we all recognised it—a very serious responsibility in this matter. I am just as anxious for African advancement as any Member of this House, but I have to ask myself how that advancement can best be achieved, and it is precisely because I think that the true road to African advancement is through federation that I must support it, come what may.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Archer Baldwin (Leominster)
I happen to be the fourth member of the team which went to Africa, and I can only hope to put forward my views as well as other hon. Members have done. The leader of the delegation, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) has just spoken. He and I do not agree on many things. Although we did try during five weeks to work to get some agreement on agriculture, we entirely failed; but the whole trip was compensated for by the fact that we did agree on this particular problem.
The position today is a very serious one for Africa. What we have to face is that federation must come in Africa; and the position facing us today is that the federated lands will either be part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, or go elsewhere. Federation has been the history of the world, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wednesbury said—my hon. Friend, as I like to call him. It has been the history of this country; it has been the history of the United States of America and Australia; and, after federation, prosperity came to those countries. Unless Africa has federation it cannot develop as otherwise it may.
As the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wednesbury rightly said, Africa today has got the greatest mineral wealth in the world—even as great as the United States, except for oil. That vast mineral wealth is lying there awaiting development, and we have to decide who is to develop it, and who is to get the benefit of that development. The great necessity for development in Africa is a huge sum of money. I recently heard the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia say that they wanted immediately £100 million. I believe that the amount needed is probably hundreds of millions of pounds to develop that country. I am one of those 1267 who would like to see the development in that country not only of primary industries, but of secondary industries. My opinion is that the wealth of the country should be used for the benefit of that country, and I should like to see some of our industries going out to Central Africa to proceed to manufacture the mineral wealth on the spot, so that the Africans and the Europeans in Africa should get the benefit of that development.
We have a responsibility towards the African nations. We have taken on the job of civilisation. They have gone a long way in 60 years. Some parts of Africa are, as it were, at that stage of development of a boy or girl leaving a secondary school—coming to adolescent development; and it was never more necessary than now for us to give them a hand to help them along the road. We have done great things in the world in the way of colonisation, handing over, eventually, self-government to the peoples for whom we have cared. We must not be afraid to do the same in Africa. I am firmly convinced myself that the time for federation is now.
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wednesbury in saying that the so-called African opinion does not exist. As he rightly said, we travelled many thousands of miles in Africa. We met all shades of opinion. Some days we met representatives from as many as seven or eight different associations, including women's institutes—African women's societies, and so on. I claim, therefore, that everything we four members of the delegation have said has been the result of personal contacts and of what we have been able to see for ourselves. We are not speaking from theory which we have obtained from a book. We have obtained a practical knowledge from what we have actually seen.
We met many members of the African Congress in different parts of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland, and the opinion that we formed—certainly, the opinion I formed—was that the objections raised by the representatives we met came from the same brief; and, if I may make a guess, that brief originated in London. It is quite impossible to get the opinion of Africans. 1268 On many occasions when we attempted to argue with them we were met with a forthright refusal to entertain the idea of federation. On one or two occasions they made the claim, "No universal suffrage, no federation." I think we are bound to admit that the objection that is being put up by the so-called representatives of the Africans is put up in the wish and the hope that eventually there will be a Gold Coast in Central Africa. I think it is only fair that we should make it plain to them that that day will never come.
§ Mr. Baldwin
Why not? There must be no handing over of Africa back to the Dark Ages. We have taken on a responsibility, and we have a duty towards the Europeans in Africa just as much as towards the African natives.
§ Mr. Sorensen
The phrase the hon. Gentleman used just now was that there could be no Gold Coast in Central Africa. Does he mean by that that at no time may the inhabitants of Central Africa form a majority in the Legislature?
§ Mr. Baldwin
It will be many years before we get to that stage. It would not be fair to the Africans. We have a duty to the Africans. We have a duty to the Europeans who live in Africa, who have just as much right in Africa as the African natives. We are both conquering races, if it comes to that.
§ Mr. M. Follick (Loughborough)
The hon. Gentleman has just said that we do not want any return to the Dark Ages. He also spoke of the Gold Coast. Does he mean by that that in the Gold Coast the self-government we have given them is putting them back into the Dark Ages?
§ Mr. Baldwin
Nothing of the sort. The two sets of circumstances are entirely different. What is right for the Gold Coast is entirely wrong for Central Africa.
§ Mr. Baldwin
No, I cannot give way again, for I have only a limited time.
1269 What we have to do in Africa today is to teach the African native how to work, to give him some ambition, and let him help himself. By doing that we shall bring him along the road along which we want him tocome. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), the former Colonial Secretary, said that three courses were open in Africa—white domination, black domination, or partnership; and he rightly said that no one in this House or in Africa wants either of the first two.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I did not say in Africa. Unfortunately, there are people in Africa who want white domination. I said no one in this House.
§ Mr. Baldwin
Well, the right hon. Gentleman said there were three courses open—black domination, white domination and partnership, and that we wanted partnership. Southern Rhodesia has been criticised in this House on many occasions for her attitude towards the Africans. I want, therefore, to quote from an article written by Sir Godfrey Huggins, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, that very point. This is what he said in his article in the "Sunday Times":An exact definition of partnership is difficult if not dangerous, but at least it can be said that it is based on the total rejection of racial domination or suppression by either black or white inhabitants of this country. It is sincerely accepted that both races are indispensable to one another and that each must by its conduct individually and collectively earn the confidence and good will of the other.That is a statement of fact by the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, which is accepted by the overwhelming majority of Europeans living in Southern Rhodesia. I protest at the statements being made in this House, and at a statement made by an African doctor living in London, who has not been to, or lived in, Africa for some 15 years, whom I heard say at a lecture that the Europeans in Africa wanted to keep the African as a hewer of wood and drawer of water.
§ Mr. Baldwin
The hon. Gentleman should go to Southern Rhodesia with an open mind and see for himself what we have seen. If the Southern Rhodesians want to keep the African as a hewer of wood and a drawer of water, why are they spending the money they are spending on education, hospitals, and so on?
§ Mr. Sorensen
Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that in Southern Rhodesia no unions are allowed? Is not that an indication that at the present time many Southern Rhodesians want the African to remain a hewer of wood and a drawer of water?
§ Mr. Baldwin
That is completely untrue. If Southern Rhodesia is such a terrible place, why do the inhabitants of Nyasaland go there to earn their livelihood?
§ Mr. Baldwin
The condition of the African in Southern Rhodesia is a pattern for the races of Africa. There is only one difference between what Southern Rhodesia believes in and what the other parts of Africa believe in, and that is that there should be economic advance for the African before political advance. What is wrong is that we are teaching the African politics before we have taught him economics.
I have seen in Southern Rhodesia hospitals which are capable of comparison with any hospital in this country, with devoted white men and women waiting on and serving the African to the best of their ability. I have seen technical training schools, and been in our African reserves where white officers are giving the Africans technical training and teaching them how to manage their land. I went to the Sabi Valley where hundreds of Africans get the benefit of a great scheme for the irrigation of their land. That is a great scheme for the African farmers.
Those are the things that are happening in Southern Rhodesia, and it is completely wrong, on the evidence of what can be seen in Southern Rhodesia, to say that the Southern Rhodesians do not wish well by their Africans. They realise, as most of the people in the other parts of Africa realise, that the one is completely dependent upon the other, and that it is only by working together in good will that Africa can survive.
Another reason why we should develop Central Africa is from a defensive point of view. I want to see not only our textile industries going there but some of our armaments industries going there and developing on the spot, 1271 as far as possible away from the atom bomb. Incidentally, I should like to see an East-West railway. That would help a great deal if ever the time came when we were denied use of the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal.
I beg those in this country who claim to represent the Africans, and also the Africans themselves, seriously to consider the position today and not to stand aside from the Conference on federation. I beg them to go to this Conference and to try to help to make the eventual result a good one. We are all prepared to endorse any safeguard necessary for the African. All we want to see is that he gets a square deal, and we will give him all the support we can. If we do not give confidence to the Europeans in Africa to develop the mineral wealth of that country the result will be that that mineral wealth will be exploited and used, the land handed back to the Africans, and the country will again become "Dark Africa."
That is what faces Africa unless we use this opportunity to bring about federation. I know enough of the European in Africa to say that he can manage his own affairs a great deal better than we can manage ours, and the time has come when we should give him the opportunity of doing so, not only in Central Africa but in East Africa as well.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
The Secretary of State thought that it was rather embarrassing to have a debate while the Conference was in progress. I suggest that those of us who have listened to the debate so far will feel that it must be useful for those who are taking part in the Conference to have some impression of the way in which their affairs are discussed in the House, because, as my right hon. Friend emphasised, the ultimate decision rests with the House.
We have at least elicited some useful information this afternoon. In particular, I think the Secretary of State has come to the conclusion that it will take a great deal longer than from now until July to settle the thorny problem of federation. Many of us on this side of the House feel that it may take a very long time before reaching the point of 1272 actual political federation of these territories.
We can all see the advantages which would accrue from a united Central African territory. We can see the economic and technical advantages, some of which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans). A number of those advantages could, nevertheless, be attained by concerted action without necessarily full political integration. For example, what is there to prevent concerted action in the field of transport development? It has already been done to some extent. We have an item in the Estimates this year for the Rhodesian Railways—a joint enterprise. It can also be done for hydroelectric development.
Various large-scale developments can perfectly well be carried out by concerted action without necessarily having full political integration. The only serious disadvantage I can see on the economic side is that it is undoubtedly more difficult to raise capital on the money market for a smaller territory than it might be for a larger, and possibly better balanced, territory. But that is surely something which can be overcome by action of Her Majesty's Government in this country, as is being done for the railways and for large enterprises of public importance in this area.
On the political side, clearly it would be advantageous to have a stable united territory in Central Africa—possibly even at some time the idea of Capricornia, though I think it is far distant; that is something which must be reached slowly and carefully. It has been suggested that if we do not federate at once Southern Rhodesia will immediately fall into the lap of the Union. I should have said that in Southern Rhodesia, as at present constituted and populated, that would be unlikely at a moment when Natal is discussing secession.
For the future, I agree that if there is a considerable deliberate Afrikaaner invasion of the Rhodesias, possibly subsidised, it might create a very serious political situation. I cannot see why, if this is to be prevented, it cannot be done by the two Rhodesias, acting again possibly in a concerted manner, to take steps against such immigration. It is not unknown for steps to be taken in different countries in the Commonwealth to 1273 regulate the entry of other members of the Commonwealth, and it seems to me that could be done in this case.
We have had a good deal of discussion as to the true state of African opinion, and also as to whether the delegations or representatives who are over here at the present time properly represent what might be called the majority opinion in the territories concerned. Doubts have been expressed upon that. I would like to put against the opinion of two of my colleagues who have spoken on the basis of a fairly brief visit there last summer, the opinion published in the "Scotsman" last week, on 22nd April, in a letter from the Rev. Andrew B. Doig, a member of the Legislative Council of Nyasaland and the Secretary of the Blantyre Mission Council, which is a Mission of the Church of Scotland, in which he says that in Nyasaland the Africans are absolutely united:Any attempt to suggest that only a few hotheads are stirring up all the trouble or that African opinion is divided, or that they say 'No' without understanding is sheer folly. I listened to the debate of the African Protectorate Council here, and was impressed by the speeches of the chiefs, commoners and so-called intelligentsia which all added up to the same opposition. I have walked in villages remote from towns and spoken to anyone I happened to meet, and found the same unhesitating opposition expressed in their own way.I would also remind hon. Members of an article in "The Times"—I think it was on 8th October, which was rather a busy period for most of us as we were just beginning our Election campaign—in which the special correspondent of "The Times" gave an interesting account of the steps taken to obtain a fair account of African opinion. Those of us who have had the opportunity of meeting the Africans who are over here at the present time feel, I should say quite certainly and emphatically, that so far as Nyasaland is concerned there has been very full discussion indeed. The impression I personally have of Northern Rhodesia is not perhaps so complete, hut, nevertheless, as my right hon. Friend has said, persons are here who come from representative organisations. If they are not fully representative, whose fault is it that we have not built up adequate representative organisations by this time?
It has been said by African writers in "The Times" today that they do not believe that any safeguards which would 1274 satisfy them can be written into any proposed scheme. I think that if one tries to put oneself in the position of an African in these territories, one can see what they mean. They have all seen what has happened to previous constitutional safeguards. There is a perfect practical example at present in the Union of South Africa. Therefore, can they be expected to have much confidence in written guarantees? I believe that is the crucial difficulty at the moment in dealing with African opinion.
We have had some discussion on partnership and as to the discussions which may have taken place on partnership. If I may say so with respect, I think that my right hon. Friend was not quite correct in the suggestion that he made that action had been taken several months ago in Northern Rhodesia on this question of partnership. I understand that it was early in November that the Legislative Council were asked to consider this matter, and that a week previously there had been some repudiation of Mr. Moffat's suggestions at the Victoria Falls Conference that partnership was acceptable in some shape or form.
I would remind the Committee that the damage had been done before that. It was done, I would suggest, by the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia within a fortnight of the ending of the Victoria Falls Conference, because it was on 5th October at Umtali that Sir Godfrey Huggins made a speech which, I think, shocked many people in this House. In that speech not only did he make the most insulting and derogatory remarks about my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State, but also about the Africans who had attended the Conference.
The difficulty is surely that the Africans are without faith in a written guarantee because they have seen what has happened to previous written guarantees—guaranteed just as much by this House as any which may be written into any federal constitution. They have that on the one hand, and, on the other hand, having had talks of partnership, they have then had to face the kind of remarks which were made in Southern Rhodesia within a few days of the ending of that Conference by very responsible people, including the Prime Minister of Southern 1275 Rhodesia, in which he talked about the Victoria Falls Conference having been no more than a mothers' meeting and things like that. There are less responsible people who have made even more insulting remarks.
Someone in Southern Rhodesia sent me a periodical published there regularly, in which it was suggested that for the Southern Rhodesian delegates at Victoria Falls to be photographed with the African delegates from the other territories was an insult to Southern Rhodesia. When one hears that kind of remark being made in public, it is very difficult to persuade Africans that partnership in any sense that would satisfy them is a reality in the minds of the people who sat at the conference table.
We all know that Sir Stewart Gore-Browne, in the "Manchester Guardian," drew attention to the fact that at the Victoria Falls Conference, European civil servants refused to sleep under the same roof as the African delegates to that Conference. What is the use of quoting Cecil Rhodes and talking about the rights of civilised man when we have, not just any African, but the chosen leaders of Africans, people of some education, scoffed at, and when we have Europeans refusing to sleep under the same roof as those persons? How can we expect them to believe what we say when we talk about partnership? So we have, it seems to me, a very difficult situation in which to convince Africans that there is a genuine desire for partnership in any sense of the word which would satisfy them.
I believe that it will be extraordinarily difficult to obtain federation in its full sense, whatever one may be able to do in the way of concerted action or closer association in the meantime, until one can show in the territories concerned not merely a written clause in a constitution but can give to the Africans concerned sufficient standing politically for them to feel they will be in a position to defend their own interests.
What is the present situation? In Northern Rhodesia we have on the Legislative Council two Africans and two Europeans, representing African interests. On the Executive Council we have no Africans at all. I would say, in passing, 1276 that I met the two African members of the Legislative Council who pointed out how extremely difficult it was for them with a constituency of nearly one million Africans each to be able to give guidance to their people on these complicated matters. Most of us have as much as we can do with some 50,000 constituents.
It is to me perfectly clear that unless one can give, not just promises in the future, not just pie in the sky, but quite emphatic political advance in the shape of increased representation of Africans on political institutions, so that they feel that they would have some power to defend themselves, we will not obtain their consent to political federation.
If it is said that those who are over here are politically ambitious or are political adventurers, as it was implied, I would quote again from "The Times," in which "The Times" correspondent said:Unless it is proposed to maintain a paternal system of Government ad infinitum, the only means of ensuring that the African masses are not run away with by a handful of demagogues is to see that political thought, activity and responsibility are spread outward and downwards as quickly and as effectively ….as possible. There is the key to the solution.
I do not believe that we will get African consent to widespread measures unless the Africans feel that they are themselves in a position to have an effective voice in what transpires subsequently. If we were in their position, we would feel very much the same. It seems that we serve no useful purpose by hiding these feelings from ourselves. On the other hand, I say to our African friends, one hopes that they will use intelligence, good sense and moderation and will not allow themselves to be swayed by very natural emotions and prejudices.
In one of our discussions in the last few days, a most illuminating remark was made by one of the African delegates, in which he said that it was difficult for him to distinguish between shades of white. If that is so, it is very unfortunate that after all our good intentions, those of us who hold what we might call briefly the British point of view, have not sufficiently impressed the difference between ourselves and those who hold what we consider to be very different points of view.
1277 I suggest to our African friends that there are, in fact, different shades of white and that it behoves them to try as far as possible to distinguish between them and to work as far as they can with those Europeans who truly have their interests at heart.
§ Mrs. White
He may have been thinking of pink, but "white" is what he said.
I am aware that the Africans themselves will not reach the standard of living which we hope for them, and which they hope for themselves, without considerable European help, and they must recognise this. I am equally certain, however, that European economic development is not possible without the friendly co-operation of the Africans, otherwise we might arrive at a period of industrial strife which might be disastrous to both races. For those reasons, I trust that we shall continue the discussions, which are valuable, but that we shall not do anything too precipitate which would lead to the kind of political strife that all of us would deplore.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
On a point of order. Is it in order for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to walk in towards the end of a debate, not having listened to any of the earlier speeches, and to claim his right as a Privy Councillor to speak?
§ Mr. Clement Davies
I was about to apologise to the House. I remained here as long as I could for the earlier part, but another public duty which I had to perform, and which could not possibly be postponed, kept me away until I got back. I have devoted as much attention as I could to these matters, as the hon. Member knows, and I think, therefore, it is right that if I am fortunate enough in catching your eye, Mr. Hubbard. I should take advantage of that opportunity.
1278 The most interesting part of the debate that I heard was the early part of the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman who was formerly the Secretary of State, that he was at the outset—and, think, he is today—in favour of a federation of the three territories: that he thinks it would be of advantage to that area and to its peoples but that he recognises that that federation cannot, and should not, be carried out unless it is with the assent of the Africans.
That explains what, to my mind, has been the approach to this matter and that it has been a wrong approach and if it had not been approached in that way, I do not think we should be face to face with the difficulties that confront us today. What has happened? For something like about 25 years this idea of federation or amalgamation has been mooted. Although in 1938 a Royal Commission under Lord Bledisloe considered this very matter, they came to the conclusion that it was inopportune and ought not to be followed at that time and there the matter seems to have dropped.
§ Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)
Did not the Royal Commission direct their attention to a very different subject—the amalgamation of the three territories—and is it not true that in the Report the question of federation was hardly discussed?
§ Mr. Davies
They were considering how best the three areas could be worked together. I agree that the question uppermost in their minds was that of amalgamation. Again, it was considered by the next Commission, who thought that amalgamation was wrong but that federation was right. But even in 1938, it was made perfectly clear that the Africans were against bringing these areas together, whether by amalgamation or by anything else. The matter was dropped, apparently, after that Commission had reported.
§ Mr. Davies
Maybe it was because of the war, but it was dropped. It was only revived again in 1950, and by the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia—the White Paper says so. [Interruption.] It is all very well for the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) to mutter, but that is exactly—
§ Mr. Alport
It was revived by the Leader of the unofficial leader in Northern Rhodesia, Mr. Roy Welensky. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should treat the House to accurate facts.
§ Mr. Davies
If I am inaccurate, it is only because that it what the White Paper says. The White Paper has made it clear—the right hon. Gentleman cited it in his statement to the House—that this matter was raised by the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia. If there has been any misleading, it was the right hon. Gentleman who misled the House when making his statement, but I prefer his words to those of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Alport
May I say that the original conference at Victoria Falls of unofficial members was, I am quite certain, started as a result of the initiative taken by Mr. Welensky?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The fact is that since 1945 there has been a form of association between the three territories through the Central African Council for Economic Co-ordination. It was during the discussions of the future of that Council that the proposal came, and it came from Sir Godfrey Huggins.
§ Mr. Davies
If the hon. Member for Colchester troubles to read Command Paper No. 8233, which is the report made by the officials of these areas, he will see that it begins with the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, as follows:His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have, after careful consideration, formed the conclusion that it is desirable that there should be a fresh examination of the problem, and they have accepted the suggestion of the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia that a Conference of officials of the three Central African Governments, of the Central African Council and the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office shall be held in London for this purpose.It was, therefore, upon the suggestion or initiative of the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia that the Conference took place. Also, it is to be noted, it was to be a conference of the officials in those areas and the officials of the Colonial Office, meeting here in London. I emphasise that because the suggestion was not that the Africans should be consulted or brought in, but that this should be limited to very high-minded men who were on the spot and engaged in this office.
They then made this very able report and they came to the conclusion that 1280 federation was the best thing for it, although they admitted that the Africans were against federation. They also set out the advantages that would be derived from this scheme. I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), that the chances are that when boundaries are extended it is to the economic advantage of the territory because trade would be moving freely within the territories which would be assisting one another and there would not be that interference with trade which boundaries create. It may very well be that it was that point which influenced the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and his colleagues in favour of this scheme.
Then what did they do? They said that they would hold the matter back until they had an opportunity of going out to Africa and consulting with the Africans. This Conference was to be of an exploratory nature. The decision was to be come to later. I think it would have been better if the then Government had never published that report and if they had regarded it as a report for their guidance. They could then have gone to the Africans and have said, "What do you think is the right thing to do?" Instead, they said, "This is what has been suggested and it is federation. We are now going to hold a conference at Victoria Falls to consider what your attitude is and we would like you to be present and take part in it."
They formed too much of an optimistic view of their powers of persuasion over the Africans. The moment they arrived the Africans said, "We are against federation." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly has told us that he did his very best to persuade them to attend and that they required a good deal of persuasion. It is rather interesting to note that in Nyasaland they made up their minds that they would not attend but, ultimately, two of them did and got into trouble for so doing, although they made it perfectly clear that they were against federation in any kind of form.
The whole of Northern Rhodesia was of the same mind, so we can see that African opinion has not wavered in the slightest degree. Why? Because there is a genuine fear that the Africans' position will be worsened under federation than is the case now. That fear cannot 1281 be brushed on one side. It is general and the Africans have expressed that view since the Commission of 1938 made their inquiries and that they have not wavered in their opinion.
There is this point of substance which has to be considered. Southern Rhodesia is very nearly a fully self-governing Dominion and, therefore, it has expressed its view. Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland are both Protectorates. They have both put themselves under the protection of this country and of the Throne and this country promised that they would act as trustees for them. The African people have implicit faith that we will carry out that promise. How can we, therefore, suggest that we are entitled under that trust to hand over their destinies to something outside that trust and which was not considered at the time the trust was taken up? As I have already said, there is a real point in that.
Let me turn to whether there is real ground for this fear. It is genuine and it is there, and I should have thought that the Government could have no doubt about it. Let us look at Southern Rhodesia, almost a self-governing Dominion. What have we got there? There are 129,000 Europeans and they form the Legislative Council. They have a full franchise, but for the two million Africans the franchise is limited to those who can show that they have an annual income of £250 a year. We are back again on the old property classification rather than the personal classification; what we have abolished in this country, the property qualification, is more important there.
What has happened? On 31st December, 1950, according to the White Paper from which I get all these figures, only 420 Africans out of the two million had shown themselves entitled to the vote. That, to start with, gives one food for thought. The Africans and the Europeans in Southern Rhodesia are segregated into different areas of land. No less than 48 million acres are reserved for the Europeans or for 129,000 people, but there are only 37 million acres reserved for the two million Africans.
Let any of us put ourselves in the position of the Africans today. Do we think that they are being fairly treated? Is that the idea of partnership when we get 129,000 people in possession of 48 1282 million acres, while only 37 million acres are reserved for the indigenous people who number over two million? If any of us were faced with such a situation as that, would we agree to enter into a partnership based on such proposals without a protest and without any fear?
Let us look at another aspect of the matter. No African in Southern Rhodesia may own any land near a town or even then remain there unless he is a servant of a European. No skilled work may be done by an African in an urban area. They say we are educating them.
§ Mr. Davies
Not even that, for the hewing of wood and the drawing of water require skill. They are not to be raised to the standard where they can improve themselves. So a distinction is drawn between the two peoples. A European can rise to any height, but not the African. We solemnly signed the Charter of Human Rights, binding on successive Governments, saying that these people are all equal. But what is happening within their own country? The African has to have a pass. A European—no.
Let us look now at the other territories. In Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, though there is separation of races, no law establishes or recognises it. In Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland there is the difference in approach which was emphasised by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin). He had the idea that the method of approach in Southern Rhodesia was the right one because it was right to teach economics first and politics afterwards. Would this House of Commons ever have come into existence if that principle had been applied to us? How many of us studied economics before we knew a great deal about politics? That applies even more to hon. Gentlemen on the Government benches.
In Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland the Africans are under the guidance of the men whom we have sent out and whom the Africans trust, the Civil Service. We are told that the right thing to do is for us to give the Africans responsibility as soon as possible. These territories trust them and allow them to run their own courts and local administration, 1283 even in regard to taxation and matters of that kind. They will learn and we shall see that they will be able to take their part in the bigger legislative functions. Not a single African is now in the Legislative Council in Southern Rhodesia. What is more, we have been told that it will take at least 25 years before one of them will reach the Legislative Council. In Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland they are nominated, but the names from the African Protectorate Council are put to the Governor.
I have already mentioned the difficulty in regard to the courts. In Southern Rhodesia, civil matters only are considered by Africans. In the two Northern Territories extensive powers in civil and criminal matters have been conceded. In Southern Rhodesia a trade union cannot be registered, while in Northern Rhodesia and in Nyasaland African trade unions are legally recognised. In Nyasaland, there is no colour bar of any description and no pass laws.
I have said enough, without going through any more details, to show what is confronting Africans in the two Northern Territories when they look at what has already happened in Southern Rhodesia. Is it surprising that they say: "We are afraid about what will happen. There are six million of us and only some 170,000 Europeans, but all the power is being exercised by them. Our position causes us alarm when we look at what has happened in Southern Rhodesia and in South Africa."
The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) very rightly pointed out that while we shall put these protective clauses into the new constitution, similar protected clauses, called "entrenched clauses" from which there was no retreat, were put in South Africa. What attention is being paid to them today? If a court decides that the entrenched clauses cannot be done away with except by a majority of both Houses and a two-thirds majority, the Government say: "We do not mind that. We shall create a court that will find that what we do is legal. If they will not do it, we shall"—
§ The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
This matter is of such importance that it ought 1284 to be dealt with immediately. There is no question here of a procedure similar to the South Africa Act. In the proposed federation, certain powers will not be transferred at all to the Federal Council, but will remain a territorial responsibility. They could not be transferred without an alteration of the instrument creating the constitution, a wholly different situation. I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) nodding in agreement with me.
§ Mr. Davies
I am glad to hear it. It means that the power is reserved here. Ordinarily, when we set up a new constitution we do exactly what was done in regard to South Africa. We can see what has happened in one part of the area which is supposed to come within the federation. I have only one or two more things to say.
§ Mr. Davies
That does not surprise me in the slightest degree. Hon. Members opposite have always been against free speech. We have had to fight for that.
There is a document which has been sent out and which would increase our fears in regard to these matters. It is sent by a body calling itself the "White Rhodesia Council," from Southern Rhodesia. I do not know who these people are. It is signed by a man called Charles Olley, as "President of the White Rhodesia Council." In this document is a phrase which shows the attitude of mind which makes Africans afraid. This is the phrase:It is respectfully submitted that the policy of the Colonial Office has virtually ruined Northern Rhodesia in relation to the black proletariat. So much so, in fact, that the natives are well out of hand and arrogant to a degree.I suppose arrogance is a monopoly which would be kept by these white men who are settlers out there.
What do the Government propose to do? They are going on with this Conference, which will arrive at certain decisions. I have already heard an hon. Member saying what they propose to do and propose to reserve. Having done that, what do they intend to do? Whether the Africans agree or not, are the Government going to force this upon them? 1285 If they do, the Government will be causing disaster not only in this part of Africa but elsewhere. It is absolutely impossible, when there is knowledge of the Charter of Human Rights and when these people are in the same position and have the same dignity, to force something upon them against their will. If this is being done, or is even proposed, I shall fight it as hard as I possibly can.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Reading, North)
I am delighted to have a few minutes in which to speak at the end of this debate since, as some hon. Members know, I have lived in these territories. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) has used up so much of the available time for free speech, which he complained our side does not support, that I am not bothering on this occasion to take up many of his remarks, although I should be delighted to take up the controversy on another occasion. There was however one misleading thing which the right hon. and learned Gentleman said and which I mentioned when last I spoke on Central Africa. It is about the number of native Africans who are entitled to vote in Southern Rhodesia.
I suggest that the right hon. and learned Gentleman checks up this point, because the dissemination of the isolated figure 420 is misleading. There is a property qualification in that country. I do not deny it; but it is by no means limited to that country. As a matter of fact, from memory, there are about 5,000 native Africans or so who are entitled to vote in Southern Rhodesia. The figure 420 is only of those who have bothered to go and register, although the others are entitled to do so. Before the recent property qualification was altered, when the value of money was lowered after the war, the original figure was about 8,000. However, there was a reservation put in the Act which raised the property qualification, a clause to prevent retrospective effect, operating against those already entitled to vote; but of these only a fraction bothered to register and take advantage of it.
§ Mr. Bennett
I am sorry, I cannot give way in view of the limited time before 1286 my right hon. Friend replies. I have only two other brief points. The first concerns the application of the epithet "stooges" to two African representatives of Southern Rhodesia. It would be a pity if the debate terminated without a formal rebuttal of that. It is ridiculous that because two native Africans have the intelligence and goodwill to come to a conference and put their point of view without being bound to the conception of federation, they should be called stooges. If they are stooges, so are all the other native Africans who went to the Victoria Falls Conference, because they went there on exactly the same terms.
My second point concerns representation. The Press and certain speeches—not so many in this House this afternoon fortunately—have given the impression that the governors who have come here, the official representatives from the two Northern territories, are representatives only of the settlers. I have seen the phrase in a well-known national newspaper that only representatives of settlers are here. That is nonsense, because governors are as much representative of the native interests as of the settler interests.
Finally, I have no wish deliberately to be controversial, but I must again say how clearly events have shown the Division at the end of the previous debate to have been misguided. There is no doubt that native opinion has been hardened largely because of that misguided Division.
§ Mr. Bennett
No, I will not. I have not interrupted one hon. Member and I will not give way now. That is my opinion. I say it did great harm. There is no better way of hardening African opinion against federation on the one hand and of giving assistance to those extremist minorities amongst the whites out there than by letting party politics come in and having Divisions on the most flimsy reasons. The same applies to ill-informed criticism here of the motives and actions of our kith and kin in Africa. On the one hand, African opinion is hardened and, on the other, any extremist European minority is encouraged in its outlook.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett), has just said in the inevitably tragically brief speech he has made. We are all glad that there is to be no Division this evening. This has been a sensible and moderate debate. I hope he will forgive me, but I must exclude from that tribute part of the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). Had he been able to spend longer here this afternoon he might have come to different conclusions based on some of the advice given from both sides of the Committee.
I am particularly sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman felt it necessary to give to the wide public that follow this debate extracts from some silly documents he had received from Rhodesia, without even trying to inquire, either from the Colonial Office or the Dominions Office or anywhere else, about the qualifications and the right to speak in that language of the people who composed that document. A more wholly unrepresentative point of view of all that is best in Southern Rhodesia it would be hard to find, and I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman, after his years of experience and the great service he has rendered to the State, might have taken a little more care before he made mischievous observations of that kind.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
As a matter of interest, has the right hon. Gentleman any idea of how many people are represented by that organisation?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If the right hon. Gentleman cares to put that question down to my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, and if it is in order, I am sure a reply could be given.
As we have a debate this afternoon in midstream of the Conference, it is a good thing to say a word of welcome to the many people taking part in it. I should like to give a welcome to the men of our own race, the British race, from the three territories who are here engaged in the Conference. Without their pioneer work, their capital, their efforts and their teaching we should not now be discussing 1288 whether Africans ought to be represented at the Conference or not. On the work of these devoted people the future development of Africa and the welfare of the Africans themselves largely depends.
I should like to say how glad we are to welcome Sir Godfrey Huggins and his associates from Southern Rhodesia and to pay public tribute to the remarkable story of the development in Southern Rhodesia. We welcome also the officials and the settlers from Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and we are delighted to have them here.
While we deeply regret that the Conference is being conducted without African representation from Nyasaland or Northern Rhodesia, as I have been present throughout the Conference I should like to pay a special tribute to the two African representatives from Southern Rhodesia. Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Savanhu, for the invaluable contributions they are making to our discussions.
I do not think there is any need at this hour to stress the arguments in favour of federation. No alternative has yet been advanced to it, and the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), who asked whether economic co-operation could not be achieved without confederation, in one part of her observations showed that she herself had doubts on that score. There are overwhelming arguments, which will emerge when a concrete proposal is ready, whereby the capital development of these three territories can most effectively be carried out by achieving political federation as well.
I have read with great interest, as hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will have done, the recent book by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), called "In Place of Fear." In one part he was writing of the Orient, but it is equally true of Africa. I should like to commend the following words to the Committee, and not least to the right hon. Gentleman himself:If democratic institutions are to be helped to take root, it can be done not by sending professors to teach the virtues of democratic constitution, but by sending the means to raise their material standards. Man must live before he can live abundantly.Those observations were shown also in the admirable speech from the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans), who made it quite plain that the spiritual 1289 and constitutional progress in Central Africa depends largely on economic development.
I am quite prepared to agree that economic development cannot be justified by itself unless it leads to the richer and fuller life that we are all anxious to see. I would certainly make it one of the tests of federation—when we can look back, as I hope we shall, in future years on a successful federation—to be able to ask ourselves: has this Federation helped to meet the hunger and the disease in Central Africa? Has it given wider chances of education for the ordinary African? Has it given him the chance also to become a skilled worker and break down some of the difficulties which now prevent that happy development?
To listen to some of the speeches in the House, not least the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, one would think that there was no alternative to the words of the letter recently published in the public Press,the idea of an Imperial Trusteeship fighting an inevitably losing battle against the settler interestsin Central Africa. We deny that is so. We believe that there is an alternative, and we are now doing our best to work out such an alternative.
This debate was really occasioned by an exchange at Question time between myself and the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) a few days ago on the question of the continuance of the Conference in the absence of representative Africans from Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery appeared to criticise the first official Conference because it was a conference of officials and Africans were not represented. This is no charge against Her Majesty's present Government; it was set up by the right hon. Member for Llanelly. We agree with him that it was right at that time to limit it to officials. As he said in the House, there were not at this stage Africans with qualifications necessary to take part in it.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
There was, of course, another reason. From the very beginning, it was understood between all the Governments that this would be a technical committee to examine the problem, and none of the Governments concerned desired to commit themselves 1290 in advance to anything which it might produce.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I will come to this question of the absence of leadership in regard to these proposals. I believe that so many of our difficulties are due to that.
Then came the Victoria Falls Conference. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that if Africans had not attended that Conference he would not have gone on with it.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Since the Minister has asked this question—I have not referred to it—I would say that on the second day of the Conference some of the representatives of one of the countries asked that the Africans should leave. I said, "If they leave, I leave, too."
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am not dealing with what would have happened if in mid-Conference the Africans had withdrawn, particularly if they had done so after some bitter exchange of words at the Conference. I am dealing with whether the right hon. Gentleman would not have attended the Conference and secured further discussion if there had not been African representation at the start.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Since the Minister raises this point, I would say that I made it perfectly clear that I would not have attended the Conference in the absence of African representation. I should not have stayed if they had not stayed. It was perfectly clear to all the other countries concerned.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I must of course accept the word of the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps the chance will arise a little later of carrying that point further if time allows.
The January talks here were not a conference. They were an exchange of views, provided for in the annexe to the Victoria Falls communiqué, which resulted in the date of the July Conference being antedated to April. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to suggest today that if the Conference had not been held until July, as was originally intended, the Africans would have attended that Conference. There is no indication whatever of that. The letter in "The Times" today, signed by 1291 six of the African representatives, in which it is stated that whatever the safeguards they would not be satisfied, carries further my point that there is no evidence whatever of that kind.
I now come to the present Conference. The Secretary of State for the Colonies has gone into considerable detail about the efforts which he and the Government have made to persuade African representatives from the northern territories to attend. We told them that they would not be committed to the principle of federation in general or to any proposal in particular; they could walk out in the middle of the Conference if they wished; they need not sign anything; we would give them written word to the effect that they came subject to those limitations. We told the representatives of Northern Rhodesia that if they had any other idea which they would like discussed as well we were quite prepared to submit that to our colleagues at the Conference.
Then came the offer by the Nyasaland representatives to attend as observers. Other Governments were involved, and we had to consult them. The next day we told those representatives that we should be glad to have them. They then decided not to come. The reason they gave for that, and I must accept it, is that the Press would not be present. There was never any idea of the Press being present at a Conference of this kind. The Press was not present at Victoria Falls.
I have been reading lately an account of Victoria Falls in a leading weekly. I do not agree with all the details of it, but it says:What exactly transpired at Victoria Falls, that abortive Conference that was so mercifully ended by the news of the General Election"—in England—will never be known. The Press was excluded, and the official communiqué shed a very misty light on the proceedings.Perhaps the chance will arise of developing a little further the point that we have just passed.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I will quote to the House from the record of the 12th meeting of the African Protectorate Council, 1292 at which the right hon. Member for Llanelly said:I told the House of Commons in June of my anxiety, which the House fully shared, that not only the Governments of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia should be represented at the Conference, but also the African and European people of the two Protectorates. I am grateful to His Excellency the Governor for making arrangements to give effect to this and for inviting the African Protectorate Council to choose representatives. It will be my duty, which I shall fully carry out, to convey to the Conference the views which you have conveyed to me. But, in doing this, I should be reinforced if you were with me to express them personally.The only possible argument from that is that it would be his duty to convey them anyhow but he hoped that they would be present to enable him to be reinforced when presenting their views.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Will the Minister agree to publish the whole of this correspondence? Let me carry the matter a stage further. At that first meeting they decided that they would not send delegates. I intimated to them that I would not go in their absence. They reconsidered the matter and finally decided to attend. That was the first meeting. I was pleading with them to attend and put their point of view. They rejected that suggestion at first and then accepted it.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
We are both entitled to our view. I have been quoting from the record of the 12th meeting of the African Protectorate Council, which is already available. It is in the House, but we will see that further copies are made available.
To our regret, the Nyasaland Africans withdrew their own suggestion about coming as observers and said that the reason was that the Press was not to be represented. We very much hope that they had not also been persuaded, against their better judgment, from coming as observers, because if that should be so I think that while we are all naturally anxious to encourage the further association of Africans with the Government of their own affairs, we have to remember and they must remember, that a readiness to take unpopular decisions, a readiness to do something that may be misunderstood, is essential if people are to take a creative part in political affairs.
I said that one of the reasons why the Africans are not at the Conference now 1293 is, I think, the absence of a lead by the late Government in the United Kingdom on this vital question of federation. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery said that the late Government over-rated, he thought, their powers of persuasion. Our argument is that they did not use their powers of persuasion. We have been terribly handicapped in this matter by the absence of a recognised scheme upon which informed criticism can be brought to bear.
It was the purpose of this Conference to prepare such a scheme, to get the informed criticism and comment, but we have also been very much handicapped by the failure of the last Government to say clearly that they hoped the Africans would accept this scheme. To quote the Secretary for Native Affairs in Nyasaland, speaking at the February meeting of the Protectorate Council:We return, you see, to the closed mind.He used exactly the same words as the hon. Member for Wednesbury. Then he used these words:I must say quite frankly, and it is time that I said it, that I think that the attitude of the Nyasaland Africans of simply holding up their hands and just refusing to have anything to do with it because they do not like it is based on a misunderstanding. I know very well"—these are the words to which I wish to draw the attention of the House—that you have been subjected to intense propaganda and you have been told on no account to discuss these things, nor to go into detail and to have nothing to do with it. Government has stood back to let you form your own opinion of the report.I do not agree with those who say, "Why did you ask the Africans at all?" But I do agree with those who say, "Why did you ask them without saying what you as their leader and trustee hoped they would agree to do?" I was reading lately a comment on a conversation of an old man in Nyasaland who said—I believe to a district officer—"For 30 years when the British Government have wanted me to do something which they thought was to my good they have said it was a good thing. When they were speaking about federation they said, 'We cannot tell you whether it is a good or a bad thing, it is a thing and you must make up your mind.' That being so," he said, "it is probably a bad thing and I am against federation."
§ Mr. Griffiths
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has a copy of the White Paper in which I made the statement on 8th November, 1950. We said first we would not be committed in advance, and then I said we would publish the Report. Then I said this would include consultation with African opinion in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in accordance with His Majesty's Government's statement in the House of Commons, that full account would be taken of it before African opinion could be considered, and we agreed to consult them before arriving at a decision.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
It is our opinion that it is the duty of a trustee while consulting them also to make it perfectly plain what we think ought to be done. We know that a great deal of misunderstanding has been caused, at any rate in Nyasaland, due to the opposition of one man, one of whose documents in London was actually prepared and printed before the official recommendations were even published.
We know what anxieties and difficulties there are, because of the absence of a lead, in the minds of Africans, and we are doing all we can to dispel them. Their land will remain their territory, native courts will remain and development of self-government within the territories will also remain a territorial subject. Immigration will be easier to handle with a wider federation. Incidentally it will be easier also to bring in immigrants from the British Isles to a federation. In regard to the misunderstandings over immigration, I would remind the right hon. Gentleman of what he said again to the Nyasaland Council, that immigration was proposed as a federal subject which was to make it easier to keep people out of Central Africa whom they did not want and not to make it easier to bring them in.
It is due, also, I know, to some of the misunderstandings and genuine difficulties created by different forms of administration in Southern Rhodesia. I do not propose at this moment to go into the problems of the Industrial Conciliation Act and the Pass Laws, but I would ask hon. Members particularly interested to read again the Report of Major Sir Granville Orde Brown, late of the Colonial Office, who with every sympathy went into the problem in Southern Rhodesia and some of the conclusions to which he came.
1295 The Industrial Conciliation Act leads me to a further observation. We believe that much of the difficulty has been due to a feeling that the policy of partnership will not be honourably invoked and honourably worked out.
The right hon. Member has once more criticised Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Northern Rhodesia for delay in coming to conclusions in regard to partnership.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The right hon. Gentleman must not misinterpret. I did not complain about delay in coming to conclusions, but in initiating the discussions on partnership.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will therefore listen very patiently to what I have to say. The final communiqué of the Victoria Falls Conference was issued on the 21st September. This explained that Africans in Northern Rhodesia would be willing to consider federation after the policy of partnership in Northern Rhodesia had been defined, and as so defined put into progressive operation. Two days later, on 23rd September, Mr. Moffatt, the European representative of African interests in the Legislative Council and delegate with two African councillors—I have no need to dilate on Mr. Moffatt's contribution to solving the problem—explained the communiqué paragraph by paragraph to the African leaders. Similar meetings were held in the Copper Belt in that and the following week, and the reception for about a week was favourable.
On 8th October, a fortnight after, Mr. Moffatt and the officials held five informal meetings at which Mr. Sokota and Mr. Yamba were present, when they put the case for an agreed definition with vigour, as we knew they would do. One meeting was held at Broken Hill and another at Lusaka. At these meetings preliminary definitions of partnership were discussed.
A few days later there was a conference of African Urban Advisory Council members from Copper Belt towns and at this, on 28th October, they denounced the policy of partnership and the Victoria Falls communiqué and refused to associate themselves with any further discussion of the matter. Therefore, it became 1296 a matter for the Government. A special meeting of the African Representative Council was held at Lusaka and an effort made to try to persuade them once more to come into the talks. But they only agreed if the words in the Victoria Falls communiqué, "would be willing to consider" were amended to "might consider." The Council did, however, agree to consider a definition of partnership if the Government prepared one.
The Governor and Executive Council, in the last few months, have been evolving a draft statement and it was issued on 8th April. All hon. Members will have read it with interest, and I would commend it to those who want to see what partnership in Africa can be. Representation on township councils and in framing legislation in which an ever growing number of Africans can take part are provided for in this communiqué.
§ Mr. Griffiths
That was issued on 8th April. From September to 8th April those responsible for the Government took no steps to bring Europeans and Africans together to discuss the matter.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If that were true, the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for the Government until 25th October, that is six or seven weeks. But it is not true, and I have been at pains almost week by week to give a summary so that the right hon. Gentleman would be convinced.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The proposal which I discussed with the Governor and officials was that they should convene a conference of the European representatives and the Africans. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me when, if at all, any conference of that kind was called?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that to have a conference people have to agree to turn up, and that is one of the difficulties we are considering now. On 8th October informal meetings were held and a number of difficulties were discussed. But, between the 8th and the 28th—and it is a large territory where a great deal of communications are necessary—in those 20 days, the African representatives changed their minds and refused to come in on this joint discussion.
The right hon. Gentleman knows a great deal more than I do of the real 1297 difficulties of getting a working system of partnership going in Northern Rhodesia. He has had a long and honourable association with the National Union of Mineworkers and is anxious to find a way out of this difficulty. The only desire of the European miner in Northern Rhodesia is to protect his standard of living and the desire of us all is to see that Africans are filling a growing number of skilled jobs.
All I can say of value at the moment to our European friends, is that history shows that the relations of advanced and backward labour are much more complementary than they are competitive. The increased employment of Africans will increase the number of supervisory, responsible and specially skilled jobs by Europeans and the more the African earns, the more the African will need and European employment can also be advanced in that way. That is a very important problem. It is one to which I think hon. Members of the party opposite could well address themselves and use all the influence they have to try to find a way out of this great difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman certainly had, and I know we can look for every help from other hon. Members.
The fear in the minds of many Africans, after the long delay and the absence of a lead, is that this is only the thin end of the wedge of amalgamation, or that something of that kind may follow. In the Bantu language anyway, I believe that there is no word to distinguish between amalgamation and federation. As one of the members of the African Council in Nyasaland said, they have trusted Her Majesty's Government today, but times change and men change, and assurances may in the course of time be weakened.
1298 The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, suggested that the only entrenched clauses we were determined to insert in the federation plan would be similar to those in the South African plan. I was not myself old enough to play a prominent part at the time of those deliberations, but it is quite untrue in this particular case, as I made plain in an interruption. The powers most closely affecting African interests will remain in the hands of the territories, and cannot be taken from them without their consent, without a constitutional amendment and the process of invoking Her Majesty's pleasure and the necessary Orders in Council.
If it is true that there is a fear among Africans that no reliance can be placed upon the entrenched clauses because of what is happening in Southern Africa, I would draw the attention of all with powers of persuasion of Africans to this very vital difference. This is a provision on which we are now arguing. We would, I think, have reached the point of discussing amendments to the constitution actually today at the Conference if we had not had this debate. It will be our duty to return to the Conference tomorrow and tackle the difficult problem of amending the constitution.
I hope that we shall have, as a result of this debate, a measure of good will from both sides of the House. I ask those who approach this problem in the right spirit of trying to find a solution which will help Africa and Britain in our hour of need—an hour that may not be unduly prolonged—to give us not only their prayers but their support in this House and outside.
§ Chairman to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.—[Brigadier Mackeson.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.