§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
Behind the matter we are to discuss today lies one of the central problems of our generation, which will certainly be with us throughout this generation, namely, the question of colour and of racial relations. In many parts of the world colour conflict has transcended class division as the motive force of politics and history. I think that the claim of the Soviet Union to be able to solve problems of colour is now much more potent than her claim to solve social and economic problems in the world.
774 Britain, because of its position in Central and East Africa, will have a most important role to play in the solution of this extremely grave problem of colour and racial relations. We shall have to contribute to the solution of this problem as we did to the solution of the problem of nationalism in India and as we are doing to the problem of nationalism in West Africa. But the problem of multiracial societies such as those with which we are dealing this afternoon is really much more crucial than the problem of nationalism that we had to deal with in Asia.
We are dealing with communities that are different in almost every way except that they are resident, settled and permanent communities in the area in which they live. We must start on the basis that all these communities are African communities, that there are white Africans as well as black Africans, and that they not only have to learn to live together but—what is really more difficult—they have to live together during this transition period of adjustment from an automatic European superiority to one of real partnership and equality between the races.
I hope that none of us in this debate will be arrogant and assume that the solutions that we advocate are obviously and automatically the right ones. We are in the sort of position in which any decision that we take as a country and as a House—and, indeed, if we take no decision at all—will have very grave and serious consequences. What we have to do is to find the best, on balance, of the solutions that will open out the best prospects of a settlement of this problem.
I have always been in favour of federation for Central Africa. I think that, in the situation with which we are faced there, it opens the way for the best solution. It is in the interest both of our own country and of the African countries. I should like to mention one or two reasons why I hold that view.
First, there is the economic one, into the details of which I do not propose to go, and which is that there must be development and capital investment. I want to deal with the point that is sometimes made that capital investment can be equally easily done without federation. I do not think that is a true proposition, because I think that the investors from 775 whom the capital has to come certainly pay attention to the stability and political unity of the country in which they invest. Without federation, there would not be political stability and certainty in this area.
Secondly, it is essential, if the resources of this area are to be properly developed, that they should be under a single political authority, and that is particularly true of the copper of the Copper Belt and the coal of Wankie. It is everywhere admitted that these two great resources which must be exploited can never be well run under two separate Governments, and that we shall never solve the problem of getting the coal to the Copper Belt unless a single political authority controls both.
This is a matter in which our own interests and the interests of the Africans coincide. It is clearly in our own interests, to get rid of dollar dependence and so forth, that the capital resources of the area should be developed, and it is equally in the Africans' interests that they should be developed, because there cannot be progress and social welfare unless the wealth of the territories is exploited.
I think there are very good social reasons too, because the social development of all the communities, including the African, cannot be separated from the problem of scale. I want here to refer to the problem of higher education for Africa. Some people have taken the view that it is wrong that this should be included in the list of federal powers, but, as I see it, it is not possible to develop higher education for Africans unless it is done on a federal scale. One of the important arguments in favour of federation is that it will permit of the proper development of institutions for the higher education of Africans which cannot be possible in any other way.
It came as a great shock to me to discover that, if an African in any of our territories in Africa—the Colonies, the High Commission Territories and Southern Rhodesia—wanted higher education, he had to go to the Union of South Africa. This was brought home very forcibly to me and to my right hon. Friend when 'South Africa placed a ban upon the entry of Africans from outside territories to her schools and universities, and this 776 caused very great concern and great alarm among Africans in all our territories in South Africa.
However, South Africa reconsidered this ban and lifted it. At the time, I was making a tour of the High Commission Territories, and was able to announce that the South African Government had lifted the ban, and the effect was very impressive. The same people, whom I had met at great assemblies, and who were urging very strongly that we must in no circumstances transfer the territories to the Union, welcomed and cheered the announcement that the Union Government had lifted the ban on Africans from outside. That brought home to me very gravely and sharply the problem which we had to face. The ban has been lifted for only three years by the Union Government, and, if it were re-imposed, we should be in the position of having to find alternative means of providing higher education for Africans in our territories.
When I was there I was greatly discouraged to see that we had not managed to develop in Central Africa institutions for higher education for Africans, and I came back determined to do what I could to see that we got institutions for the higher education of Africans in Central Africa. It cannot be done by any one of these territories by itself. It is one of the things that can be done only by the pooling of resources—tax resources, and all the rest—and it certainly is important for the social and political advancement of Africans that there should be proper provision for higher education.
Thirdly, there are very good political reasons in favour of the principle of federation. We must not assume that the British connection in Central Africa is permanent, inviolable or divinely ordained. The simple fact is that our influence in Central Africa is in potential danger, and if we do nothing about it it will come into increasing danger.
The essence of the trouble is not, as is sometimes said, the question of immigration from the south, which is very important and can only be dealt with on the basis of federation, but the question of the future of Southern Rhodesia. Some people say that Southern Rhodesia has tried to threaten or blackmail us, when there is a simple explanation about it.
777 Southern Rhodesia is not strong enough to stand alone. It must, in the end, go north or south. There is no third alternative against Southern Rhodesia in the end going north or south, if left to stand on its own. This might happen quickly if there were an economic crisis; if not, the development might be long postponed, but, in the end, I think one can say from the start that Southern Rhodesia must go either north or south, and that, if it does not go north, it will go south.
Some people say that that will make no real difference, that there is no real difference between native policy in Southern Rhodesia and native policy in the Union, but this is a situation which we must frankly face. To those who say that, I would put two points. One is that they should ask any African in Southern Rhodesia if he is indifferent on the question whether Southern Rhodesia becomes part of the Union or not, because, if there is no difference in the native policy of the two countries, it makes no difference whether they are united or not. I asked many Africans, both collectively and individually, who had strong views on federation, and every one said that he was by no means indifferent, on grounds of either politics or history, to the country being incorporated in the Union of South Africa.
The second point is that I ask my hon. Friends who take this view to consider what would happen if the border of South Africa were to extend to the Zambesi. It would have a very great effect on the fate of British Central Africa and bring the whole of our influence in this area into jeopardy. I take the view that the maintenance of British influence in Central Africa is just as much in the interests of the Africans as it is in our own interests.
Certainly, one fact that is beyond dispute is that all Africans in the territories concerned are in favour of maintaining the British connection. That was made clear in the communiqué that was issued after the Victoria Falls Conference, when the whole Conference, including the Africans, asserted the importance of maintaining the British connection. Indeed, the objections made by Africans in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to federation have been made on the ground of the need to preserve 778 the British connection, and there is no question about the Africans being in favour of maintaining it.
However, it is not enough to say that we are in favour of maintaining it; in the circumstances, it is necessary to do what is required to preserve it. That is really the fundamental reason why I am in favour of federation. I do not think we can preserve the British connection without federation, for Southern Rhodesia cannot stand alone, but must go either north or south.
Then we come to two rather difficult problems, one concerning the constitution, which is described in the White Paper, and the other concerned with African opinion about these proposals. On the constitutional issue, my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) hopes to make a few observations later and to express our views on this matter, to which we attach very great importance. I will therefore leave that question to him, and I want to make only one or two points.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to turn to page 23 of the White Paper, paragraph 5 (1). There are two points I want to put to him. Both are about the African Affairs Board. How far is it intended that the African Affairs Board should play a positive and constructive rôle and not merely have negative and restrictive functions? The word used is "representations," which certainly could mean constructive as well as purely negative functions. On the other hand, it could have a rather negative meaning. I am sure it is intended that the Board should have constructive functions, and I hope that will be made clear in any document which is finally produced.
I turn to the more important point of the question of their influence upon executive action. The paragraph reads:It will be the general function of the Board to make … such representations in relation to any matter within the legislative or executive authority of the Federation.But when I read the rest of the Paper, I find no mechanism by which they can operate at all in the executive field. There is a good deal of detail about what they can do in the legislative field, but no mention at all of how they would operate in the executive field. I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman could give some information about that—whether 779 and how, for instance, the Board would have pre-knowledge of executive action, because without some pre-knowledge it is obviously impossible to exercise the functions in the field of the executive.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would now turn to page 25, paragraph 5 (4, a). This is a point to which I attach great importance. It says that the Governor-General may in his simple discretion over-ride the recommendation of the African Affairs Board. I quite see that in certain emergencies that may have to be done temporarily, and provision is made for that in another clause, but here it says that he can ignore the African Affairs Board if he is satisfied that the Measure is not a differentiating Measure. After all the elaborate procedure set up, the Governor-General can, in his own discretion, simply ignore the recommendations of the Board. That would bring into doubt the whole of the elaborate apparatus set up to enable the Board to protect African interests.
The Board is, after all, a responsible body appointed by the Governors and the Governor-General, and it must be assumed that it will not make frivolous recommendations; but that can be the only possible assumption underlying this clause. It seems to me that this is something which must be altered, because, if it is not, everybody will have doubt about the powers of the Board, if they can be overturned by the Governor-General in his own discretion. Incidentally, I am not quite clear whether that discretion would be used on the advice of Ministers of on his own motion. I hope the situation will not arise, because I hope the provision will be changed.
We come to an even graver matter—the question of the provision for amendment to the constitution. Here we are in a very difficult position. On the one hand, we all agree that we want the constitution to prevent undesirable amendments which would change federation into amalgamation or change the guaranteed Protectorate status of the Northern Territories or change the land rights of the Africans. We are all agreed that we want to make it impossible to introduce such undesirable changes, and from that point of view the provisions are very good, because they make it extremely difficult, and cer- 780 tainly impossible without our consent, to make that sort of change.
At the same time, of course, it makes it impossible to introduce desirable changes. Here we are in a dilemma. We do not wish to make it impossible to make some desirable changes, especially some to which I and my right hon. Friends attach very great importance, and there must not be, as a result of any action we take here, a shutting down of the scope and hope of African political advancement. There must be African political advancement as a result of what we are doing if the word "partnership" is not to be just a word but is to have some meaning.
There is the further point to which I attach much importance—that it would be wrong if, as a result of this constitution, we brought to an end all chance of the initiative coming from the United Kingdom Government in the affairs of this area. This is a developing problem in its whole essence and it cannot be solved in a minute. We must therefore not petrify it, as I think the constitution does by its provision for amendment.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that one way out of this problem—because we certainly do not want to make it easy to make undesirable amendments—might be to provide in the constitution for a review of the constitution within five or 10 years, or some suitable time. I do not think it should be an exact time, but should be some sort of time like that, and it should be a review in which all Governments, including Her Majesty's Government, take a full part in the discussion. We can take the initiative and the possibilities of further advance and political development in the federal constitution can then be examined.
There is another question on amendments. I am also worried about the prospects of a political advance of Africans in the federal field. By maintaining the Protectorate status, we have provided that their advance in the territorial field, in the two Northern Territories, shall continue and that the right hon. Gentleman and his successors will be responsible for it. But it is also very important that there should be political development and advance for Africans in the Federal field.
If the right hon. Gentleman will turn to pages 14 and 15 he will find, as he knows 781 already, of course, that the Federal Assembly and nobody else has complete control over all matters of election to the Federal Assembly. He will find, further, on page 15 that any amendment or change in the qualification or disqualification for voters needs a two-thirds majority of the Federal Assembly—that is, a two-thirds majority of all the members of the Assembly, not just a two-thirds majority of those present. That is the most difficult form of two-thirds majority which one can have.
It is not very likely that this Federal Assembly will allow any rapid or considerable political advance, if any advance at all, for Africans in the elections to the Assembly, and I urge the right hon. Gentleman very strongly that the control over the methods of election—who should vote and things of that sort—should be transferred from the Federal Assembly to the territories so that Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia should each be responsible for determining who votes and what the qualifications are. There can then be a steady advance, certainly in the territories for which the Colonial Office will remain responsible, of Africans in full participation in elections, which will then be reflected in the Federal Assembly. That, of course, is the model of the United States, which is a classic of a written constitution of this sort. There, the centre determines the numbers who shall be returned from each State, but each State determines the electoral method—and there is a great variety of electoral methods.
Incidentally, from page 16, paragraph 5 (1) I understand that Nyasaland could keep this power if they merely failed to make an appointed day. The power of controlling methods of election and qualifications to vote starts in the Legislative Council of Nyasaland, and until they themselves appoint a day for that transfer to the Federal Assembly the power will remain with them; and by failing to appoint a day, Nyasaland could keep the power. Thus we already could have one territory out of the three having this power in its own hands. I think it would be a very good idea if Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia were given the same power, which they need not transfer to the Federal Assembly unless they make an appointed day.
782 I come to the question of African opinion, which is the crux of the whole matter. Some of us do not like federation, but nearly all agree with it in principle, and those who agree in principle have to face the problem of African opinion. Our objective is, of course, to seek federation with African consent. That can be our only objective.
It is not only morally right and all the rest, but it is of course necessary to the working of the constitution that there shall be full co-operation of all the communities concerned, and not only the African. This objective of seeking federation with African consent is one to which we attach the very greatest importance. It is of the utmost importance to win African consent to the general principle and, indeed, the details of federation, and I must say that the Government have shown themselves to be very clumsy in the handling of these matters as regards the impact upon African opinion. They have not done things that will make it more likely that Africans will consent, but have done a number of things that will make it less likely.
That is one of the complaints against the Government—the failure to follow up the partnership talks in Northern Rhodesia after the conference is a case in point. There was certainly some slowing up of the plan which I and my right hon. Friend left behind us at the Victoria Falls Conference. Care is taken to keep the thing within the limits of propriety, but there is not equal care about urgency. There was here in London or elsewhere a slowing up of plans.
Then there was the change of date of the next conference without consulting all the parties to the earlier conference, which we criticised at the time. That is the change from July back to April. It is bound to give an impression of rush and hurry and of disregard of African susceptibilities, and it shows an ignorance of the very important psychological factors involved.
We are not only dealing with economic and constitutional factors but with psychological factors of great importance—fears, doubts, some of them irrational but nevertheless very real. All these psychological factors have to be borne in mind. I stress them all the more because I urge the Government to make 783 one more great effort to win African consent to federation.
In that connection, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us something of the time-table which the Government have in mind, because it is in terms of the timetable that in the past the Government seem to have been rather clumsy in their actions. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us that it has been decided to slow up the time-table somewhat and to put off the conference in October about which he told us earlier in the House. There has been a big debate on the matter in another place and the Government have bad plenty of time to consider the very strong representations made for delay on all sides during that debate. I hope that the Minister can announce a substantial postponement of the date of the proposed October conference.
It will give more time to consult African opinion and to do something to correct the impression which the Government have created by over-rushing. I also suggest to the Secretary of State that he should go out and consult the opinion of all communities on the spot. We are very glad that the Minister of State is going out. He will be able to report to his colleagues. But this is so important for the area concerned and for our country that it is essential that the Secretary of State and the Minister of State should go out to see things on the spot and make up their minds, to consult all the communities there and to obtain an impression of the real situation.
We have a very great deal at stake, and it would show a proper regard for the issues if the Secretary of State went out. I think that it is a necessary step, and I urge that both Ministers should go. I also ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us an absolute guarantee that we will have another debate in the House before Parliament is committed to any final action on this question. Parliament is the final authority. We have not yet got all the facts before us. African opinion is now being consulted, and it is right that at this stage we should postpone a decision. But we can only agree to postpone the decision if we have an absolute and categorical assurance that there will be no commitment of the House of Commons before we have another debate on 784 this matter. We regard that as of the utmost importance.
We all want to secure federation with the consent of all communities, including, of course, the Africans. I urge upon the Government to subordinate all their plans and all their measures and all the things they say and do to that end. I urge them to remember that it is not enough to get the policy right and that the attitude and approach matters a great deal in this connection.
We are dealing with fears and suspicions, and fears and suspicions take account of gestures and attitudes as well as and perhaps more than policies and constitutional proposals. We regard this project of Central African federation as one of the greatest possible importance, and I urge the Government to tell us that they are going to make one further great effort to obtain the consent which is necessary to make this project work.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)
This debate on the vexed subject of Central African federation differs somewhat from the other two which we have had recently because, for the first time, we have the draft constitution in front of us. I do not want to detain the Committee for very long, but I want to try and answer the points which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) has raised in a very cogent speech.
Those questions are, first, with regard to the time-table and, secondly, with regard to a debate in the House. Then I should like to discuss shortly the points where the draft constitution differs from the officials' scheme. When I am discussing the differences I shall be able to take up the points which the right hon. Gentleman raised about the constitution.
The date of the conference has been under discussion for some weeks and telegrams have been passing between the other Governments who will be attending. Bradshaw and the A.B.C., so to speak, are unfortunately a large part of any such discussions, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, and it has been difficult to find a date that did not conflict with the commitments of Ministers here, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia and the Governors and political leaders 785 of the territories. But I think the outcome of this exchange will be agreeable to the right hon. Gentleman, as it is to this side of the Committee, because we have decided to hold the conference in January instead of in October.
This has been settled not only because of the logistical difficulties, if I may so call them, but also because of the reports of the three commissions on finance, the judiciary and the public service which, as Lord Hailey said in another place, cover very vital matters and will require a very long period of study. I hope that the commissions will be able to report in September. It is clear that it would not have left long enough time for consideration of the reports if the conference had been held in the first week of October. Be that as it may, I think that the change of date will be agreeable to the right hon. Gentleman.
I must turn aside for one moment to the only critical remarks which the right hon. Gentleman made, which were to the effect of how clumsy the Government have been in handling African opinion. These charges are entirely unfounded. What has happened? The final communiqué of the Victoria Falls Conference said that it was hoped that a conference would take place about the middle of next year—that is this year. That would mean to most people about June of this year, and that was to have been, as I read the matter, the decisive conference.
What we have done is to have two conferences—one which took place in April this year at which for the first time there was put in front of African opinion a document on which they could pass judgment; and then, seven months later, we are going to have a final conference to decide whether action should be taken or not. I suggest, with great deference to the right hon. Gentleman, that the charges of precipitateness and clumsiness fall to the ground.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I do not want to discuss this matter further, but our complaint relates not to the question of changing the dates of the conference, but doing it without consulting the Africans and the people concerned.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
That is another question. Both of these charges, in any fair review of the matter, fall to the ground. In the first place, to delay the final conference by seven months hardly justifies 786 a charge of haste. That is seven months after the date specified by the previous Government. I should think the right hon. Gentleman would also agree that it is wise to consult African opinion on something that is known, rather than on something that is not known. That destroys the charge of clumsiness. I will give way if the right hon. Gentleman wants to try to reverse these propositions.
I shall now come to the assurance which the right hon. Gentleman asked from me, that there would be an opportunity for a further debate before any final decision was made after the conference. I will give that assurance in unequivocal terms. Such an opportunity will be afforded. So much for the timetable and the debate in the House.
The right hon. Gentleman raised a number of points on the constitutional instrument itself which, as I said, was before the House for the first time. I want to discuss quite shortly those respects—two of them are major respects—in which the new draft differs from the scheme formulated by the officials. But before I get to that point I must say a word about African opinion. I hope I shall not be guilty of saying that there is no such thing as African opinion. Of course there is. But it is not always easy to ascertain it, and any out-of-hand summary of African opinion at any one time must be subject to a great many reservations.
In this country, even with universal suffrage and a high degree of literacy, public opinion can be obtained, or so we think, once every two, three or four years; but even then it is the custom—nay, it is the traditional weapon of the Opposition a few weeks after a General Election—to say that the electorate did not know what they were voting about or whom they were voting for. This particular argument may not impress hardened politicians, among whom I number myself, but we know that it is the traditional weapon of the Opposition in the party battle across the Floor of the House. It does not seem long ago when I heard some hon. Members opposite adumbrating this particular argument.
If with our electoral system, with universal suffrage and with nearly universal literacy, it is often urged that mere figures do not represent the 787 mercurial nature of public opinion, how much more dangerous it is to pronounce these generalisations in the most dogmatic terms, and not infrequently in the House, such as "African opinion is solidly opposed to this or that, or the other."
One or two reports have come in on African opinion since the draft constitution was announced, to which I must refer. They come from the Government officials who have been told to explain the matter and obtain opinion. Not surprisingly to most of us, they report that large numbers of the population are completely disinterested in the question altogether. They simply say that they are not concerned. Other Africans say that they would be content if the Colonial Office told them straight out what they thought was best for them and they would then follow it with confidence. It is, on the other hand, true that such African opinion as has so far been given to the officially representive bodies is opposed to federation.
I want to deal with the matter perfectly fairly. Our information is that a number of individual Africans are not opposed to the scheme but are not prepared to say so. There is evidence that Congress and other anti-federation leaders have until recently been doing their utmost to prevent Africans from even studying the proposals and would like administrative officers—there has been propaganda about this—to be prevented from explaining. We are not satisfied—I use these words with every sense of responsibility—that there has not even been considerable intimidation.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I said that with a due sense of responsibility. That statement is based upon reports which I have had from high officials in those territories.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman is saying that with a due sense of responsibility, but is it not serious to imply that there has been intimidation, without giving evidence? Surely that is a very serious matter.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I do not want to quote from telegrams or lay them on the Table. I think the hon. Member must be 788 satisfied when I say that we are not satisfied that there has been no intimidation.
§ Mr. Griffiths
—but the Minister is going to Africa shortly. I have been there too. This is a very difficult human problem. This is an allegation of intimidation, and it is very important that we should have some evidence of it.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I think the right hon. Gentleman may be a little more satisfied when I have finished my remarks on this point, but the Committee can take it from me that I have received some evidence which leads me to suppose that there has been some intimidation. There are reasons, which obviously hon. Members will respect, why it would be very embarrassing for me to place a confidential report like that upon the Table, and I do not propose to do so. I simply ask hon. Members to take my word that I have some evidence to this effect. Later reports—and this, perhaps, is where the right hon. Gentleman will become less heated—show some change.
A telegram has been passed to me which may interest the right hon. Gentleman. I will read it because it may help. This is a telegram from the Governor of Nyasaland, and it says:Individuals in the Southern Province have said that they dare not voice support of federation for fear of being killed. Allegations of Congress campaign of intimidation in the Southern and Central Provinces are widespread, and one African member of the Legislative Council has confidentially voiced to the Secretary for African Affairs his fear of the Congress.I have couched my statement in the most moderate terms that I can. Later reports, however, show some change, and state that Congress leaders are now calling upon Africans to study the scheme. There is no reason to think that this means a change of view, but it is a change of some kind, and it is for the better. I hope all Africans will study the scheme and will come to see what I believe to be its real advantages for them.
The point I now want to come to, following the general line of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, is that the period 789 between today and the next conference—a period of five months—is to be used to explain the nature of these proposals, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is going there next Tuesday to get a picture of the state of African opinion at the moment.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
Could the right hon. Gentleman tell the Committee what has been the attitude of the two Africans from Southern Rhodesia since they returned to their country?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I am not informed of that accurately, and I do not propose to deal with what they may have said. I saw them when they were here. I am sorry, but I do not happen to have in my mind what they may have recently said. Perhaps my hon. Friend from the Commonwealth Relations Office will bear the point in mind when he winds up.
African opinion is certainly changing. I do not claim that at the moment it is swinging over violently towards federation, but at least it is changing, because many of the grounds upon which federation was originally opposed have now been altered and—this will appeal to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway)—some of the ammunition fired, figuratively speaking, by local opponents of federation comes from no local arsenal or magazine but from sources in this country. The very phraseology can often be traced in some cases. I do not complain particularly about that, but I want to register my opinion at this moment that phrases like, "African opinion is solidly against the scheme" are far too definite or dogmatic to be accepted, nor will they find general acceptance among those who are more closely in touch with African conditions.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
While I am perfectly willing to admit that it may be difficult to ascertain African opinion, if it is ascertained that African opinion is against the proposal, am I right in thinking that at this stage the Government are not committed to impose federation?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The right hon. Gentleman has had that assurance time and time again. I have said that this is not the moment for decision. There is to be another conference, and five months are to elapse before that conference takes 790 place. We are trying to persuade African opinion, and the House will be given another opportunity to debate the matter before any step is taken. I did not think that the right hon. Gentleman would intervene in regard to something on which I have already assured him. I hope that his next intervention will be on something more specific.
The period we have allowed is to be used to try to persuade African opinion, if it is possible, that this scheme is to their advantage. One of the reasons it has been difficult for African opinion to form itself is that the Africans have not had a definite scheme before them. We could hardly have expected them to accept anything in those circumstances. Since only broad proposals, subject to wide variation, had been formulated. African opinion took counsel of its fears.
Those fears were concerned mainly with Protectorate status, with matters of land tenure and with their political aspirations. I suggest that if they study the scheme now they will see that we have done everything possible to allay those anxieties, and that these subjects are not being removed from the responsibility of the Territorial Governments. Our object must be first to explain and then—as the right hon. Gentleman has stressed—try to form African opinion, or large sections of it, in favour of the scheme.
I shall devote one or two moments to the contention of some controversialists in this matter that it is improper to use Government servants to explain to the native population the advantages of the scheme. I must say straight away that I cannot accept this contention in any respect. A large part of the life of every district officer in Colonial Territories is naturally and properly concerned with explaining the plans of the Government of his Territory and how those plans affect the local population. I am very glad to see the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) nodding his head. It seems to me to be quite a natural course that the district officer should also be expected to explain a scheme in which his Government are taking part, and a scheme to the draft of which his Government have attached their signature.
There seems to be no breach with ordinary tradition in these matters for these people to explain, for example, that 791 all matters concerned with land and land tenure are to remain within the competence of the Territorial Legislatures and that federation will have no effect in those respects. To say that no district officer should be used to explain or to persuade the population of the benefits of the scheme is nonsense to me. One might just as well say that it would be improper for the Minister of Agriculture to use an agricultural officer in this country to explain to farmers that the slaughter policy was the best one in the case of foot-and-mouth disease.
Part of the duty of Colonial Service officers, not only here but all over the world, in small matters as well as big, is to explain the nature of the policy and the reasons which actuate it. The Civil Service in these countries are going to use the time available between now and the next conference to explain, expound and underline the advantages of the scheme.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
Will they also underline some of the disadvantages of the scheme and put it perfectly clearly before the Africans that there are some disadvantages?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I have made it quite clear that the Government believe in the scheme of federation and it is natural that the Civil Service will take the documents and expound the scheme as it is, explaining the advantages. At the same time as they do this, it is their duty to keep us continually informed of the state of African opinion as the information comes in. I have already mentioned the results of our inquiries—and apparently they were distasteful to one or two hon. Members—but up to date it is quite a small trickle of information because the procedure is only just beginning.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
The right hon. Gentleman said that he had received reports with regard to the change in African opinion; but I gather he has not received reports with regard to the opinions expressed by the two Africans who attended with him at the conference. Has not the right hon. Gentleman received from Southern Rhodesia a copy of the "Rhodesian Herald" of 23rd June, 1952, referring to the statement made by one of the Africans who were at that conference?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I have not in mind exactly what was said. My hon. and learned Friend will deal with the point when he winds up.
With regard to the draft constitution and the differences between it and the original scheme, I will try to pick up the right hon. Gentleman's points as I go along. There are two main differences. The first relates to the African Affairs Board, and the most important change is the disappearance of the Minister for African Interests and the substitution of an independent chairman. I think that will improve the Board. The members of the Board will be elected from outside the legislatures of any of the territories concerned.
I am not going into the question of the first duty of the Board, which is to certify where, in their opinion, measures are differentiated against Africans, because that is very clear from the White Paper; but I think it is necessary to quote the definition of differentiation as set out in the draft document:differentiating measure' means a Bill or a subordinate law by which Africans are subjected or made liable to any conditions, restrictions or disabilities disadvantageous to them to which Europeans are not also subjected or made liable, or which might in its practical application have a like effect.and so forth. The argument is sometimes advanced—and the right hon. Gentleman was on this point—that the new African Affairs Board appears to have powers only of delay and reference. They are not in at the beginning; they are not able to influence legislation in infancy, but only when it is adolescent. The right hon. Gentleman did not advance that argument himself; he referred to it.
I do not think that that argument is quite sound. I draw the Committee's attention to the constructive aspect of the African Affairs Board. It will be the general function of the Board to make to the Prime Minister representations in relation to any matter within the legislative or executive authority of the federation. I do not want to be too long in developing the point, but the African Affairs Board as such cannot have executive functions other than those given to them by the Legislature, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman is in some confusion between these two points. They have the statutory opportunity of suggesting measures which they think would 793 be to the advantage of the African population.
So this paragraph is not concerned with powers of delay or reference, but places on the Board the constructive duty to refer measures to the Prime Minister for the promotion of African interest. This paragraph very largely demolishes the argument of those who say that the Board are only a reference Board and have only power of delay. If they do their duty, they will have the right to propose measures to the Prime Minister in just the same way as a Minister for African Affairs in a Cabinet might have.
I must say at this point why we have torn up the officials' proposals on this particular point. I ask the Committee how they think it possible to carry on a Cabinet Government when one Minister would not share fully the collective responsibility of his colleagues—a Minister who may be dismissed when the Cabinet remains or who may remain when the Cabinet departs. I think that since these proposals were originally made their strained nature has been widely recognised.
I always like to quote from some source which is not in political harmony with my party or the present Government, so on this occasion I choose the Fabian Colonial Bureau pamphlet of September, 1951 [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I do not know whether those cheers are meant to show that the Fabian Bureau are coming round to my way of thinking. They sayIf this Minister"—that is, the Minister under the officials' scheme—carried out his duties fully, it would be at least difficult for the Cabinet to work on the principle of collective responsibility.The remarks of the Fabian Bureau on this matter appear to me to be axiomatic. It would be impossible, too, for the Minister to carry out his duties. The only result of what is colloquially but rather inelegantly called the "Cuckoo Minister" would be to hamstring the Cabinet and to underline rather than to compose differences between Ministers and make discussion in the Cabinet difficult and no one would be able to tell what stresses would be set up.
Civil servants, in my experience, rarely err on the side of the eccentric or exotic, 794 but I think that both these epithets might be applied to the scheme originally put forward in the report. Had we adopted it, we should have been flying in the face of experience and adopting a device which I think would be unprecedented in any Cabinet system or in any democratic system relying upon Parliamentary or representative institutions.
Finally, I want to say a word about the composition of the Board. Under the old system there were to be 10 members, which included only three Africans. Under the new Board there are six members and a chairman three of the six members must be Africans and the chairman must only exercise his casting vote in favour of keeping the subject under discussion. Therefore, I should like to say, before leaving this part of the argument, that it is my sincere and profound conviction that the new Board is workable, which the old one was not, and that it gives true instead of false safeguards to African interests.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
No doubt, very regrettably, the right hon. Gentleman does not share that view. However, I am going to give my view, and no doubt we shall have the advantage of hearing his a little later.
I now turn to the major change made in the draft constitutional instrument, and perhaps it would be worth while if I gave a little of the background. Some of the members of the African delegation who attended the conference, and with whom I had long private conversations, expressed fears about the strength or validity of what they called "entrenched clauses" where the Government of the day wished to alter them. Frankly, I think that many of the analogies to which they drew attention were false. But here is a point which I then thought and still think must be made.
As the Committee know, under the draft constitution, any change in the constitution can only be made by a two-thirds majority in the Federal Parliament. If no objection is raised the resolution cannot be assented to by the Governor-General, but has to be remitted here for Her Majesty's pleasure upon the advice of the Secretary of State. But if objection is raised either by the African Affairs Board or by any of the three Legislatures, 795 then the negative procedure in this country is, so to speak, set in motion.
The proposed alteration has to lie on the Table of both Houses for 40 days, and, of course, can be prayed against. In other words, if objection is raised by any of the four bodies concerned, then the alteration could only go through after full Parliamentary discussion and approval in the House and in another place.
I have up to now stated my sincere belief—and I repeat it—that the new African Affairs Board is a stronger instrument for forwarding and protecting African interests than the one formerly proposed, and I add to that by saying that the check upon constitutional change, which is an entirely new feature of the present scheme, makes the safeguards considered desirable impregnable.
I now want to turn to meet the questions raised by the right hon. Gentleman on the discretionary powers of the Governor-General. He referred to this particular power on page 25. The Governor-General may in his discretion assent to the Bill if he is satisfied that it is not differentiating. At this stage, I only want to state quite simply the reason this forms part of the present document.
At the Conference we considered—and it may be it was a far-fetched consideration—that there might be an obdurate conflict between the African Affairs Board and the Government of the day. Such a thing would not be impossible, and the Board might certify every Measure advanced by the Government of the day, irrespective of its nature, as a differentiating one. In other words, and in our terminology, dilatory powers would be handed over without any check whatever, which would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the Government to govern.
But the right hon. Gentleman—by a mistake, I think—omitted to say that, supposing the Governor-General did use his power, he would have to report fully to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State would have the ability to disallow such legislation if his opinion were different from that of the Governor-General. That is another very great safeguard. Nor can I really be expected to accept an argument which would endow this potential Governor-General with a complete lack of political experience, 796 knowledge or integrity. I say quite frankly that I do not think any Governor-General would exercise such a power without the most overwhelming reasons, of which those I have given seem to be the only ones. There is the further safeguard if his judgment is seen to be faulty. His decision can be reversed by reference to the Secretary of State.
The next argument, and I think it is one which everyone in the Committee must respect, is that the safeguards about changes in the constitution freeze or photograph the composition of the House in perpetuity. This is one of the inherent disadvantages which attend the safeguards, and I admit it, but I do not see how it is avoidable. But I ask the Committee to look at a much wider picture. The more one makes it impossible to change the constitution except by long process, the more one intends to fix the present provisions for a long time. I do not see how that is avoidable consistent with our duties to provide these safeguards.
As I say, I ask the Committee to look at a much wider picture. The future of the constitution depends on an ever-growing sense of partnership, and, as education and enlightenment spread, upon a wider franchise and upon more Africans becoming members of Legislative Council. It cannot stand without it.
I turn to emphasise one argument which I left out but which I think is worth making. It is complete nonsense to set promises about federation made by Her Majesty's Government as absolutely naught, as some African opinion appears to do while attaching unbounded faith in Her Majesty's Government's word if the territories are to remain solely under the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office. Those two arguments are mutually destructive.
If it were any part of the policy of Her Majesty's Government to work towards complete European domination, no federal instrument would be required to do so. It would be far simpler to put those reactionary ideas into force through the existing machinery. No such ideas exist in Her Majesty's Government or in any of her likely successors, or, for that matter, in the mind of the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia.
The communiqué at the end of the Victoria Falls conference referred to the three fears, upon which I have already 797 touched, harboured by the African population. Is Protectorate status to be preserved? It is. Are land and land settlement questions to be the responsibility of the territorial rather than of the federal Government? They are. Thirdly, is the political advancement of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, both in local and territorial government, to remain as at present? They do so continue. I hope that I have dealt with all the points.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
One point with which the right hon. Gentleman could deal is whether control over the method of election could be transferred from local to territorial government.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I shall leave my hon. Friend to develop that point. I shall not detain the Committee much longer.
Hon. Gentlemen must take stock of the responsibility which rests upon our shoulders. All colonial administration would be immensely simplified, and the position of the Secretary of State would become a mere sinecure, if all he had to do was to follow one simple rule, and that was that no measure should be considered or favoured that was unpopular with any large section of any community. There is unfortunately no escape from the responsibility. There would be no excuse if we deliberately and prematurely imposed measures which led to strife and confusion merely because the majority of the House thought that those measures were beneficent.
Our responsibility does not end there at all. If it be true—and I believe it to be so—that these three territories are weak by themselves, and if in the course of time native policies which are inimical to Africans, and for that matter inimical to the views of this House, should be in the ascendant, we shall not be excused in the eyes of history for having shirked or deferred our duty because of some opposition until it was too late to reverse those tendencies.
The time of decision is not now. It will come later. I have already assured the Committee that they will have further opportunity of debating the matter before any irrevocable step was taken. I hope that hon. Gentlemen in every part of the Committee will support this draft constitution, which I believe will enjoy an ever-widening measure of agreement.
798 The communiqué issued after the Victoria Falls conference used these words:The Conference was gravely concerned at the dangers which would flow from any weakening or dilution of the. British connection and British traditions and principles in the three territories and agreed that they should so be strengthened as to ensure that they should continue to prevail.In the debate on 4th March, the right hon. Member for Smethwick, following up that part of the communiqué, used this language:I certainly agree with the principle of federation.He has re-affirmed it again this afternoon. He went on:The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that this is quite clear from the Victoria Falls communiqué to which I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly put our names.Later, he went on to say:It seems to me that, in the context with which we are dealing, the maintenance of the British connection, traditions and principles is absolutely essential to the success of the policy towards Africans in which we believe.Finally he said:I do not believe—and this is what convinces me that federation is right in principle—that we can permanently maintain the British connection and traditions in the whole of this area without federation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 313 and 314.]I do not think I can better those words.
I conclude by saying again that no constitution will survive if the aim of one of the two main races in Central Africa were to dominate the other. It is not our aim to see Central Africa dominated entirely by Europeans. It would be against the trend of the century in which we live, and the policy would fall by its own weight. There is no future in the other idea of Central Africa exclusively dominated by Africans. Get rid of the Europeans, and you get rid of the objective progress which we all desire. It is quite easy to see the truth of this by taking an aeroplane. You can see the territories in Africa from which European influence has disappeared or been excessively diluted and can contrast them with the areas in which the European has been allowed to make his contribution. We can all agree that the ever-wider horizon for these territories lies in true partnership.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
I shall not go over the ground covered by the two previous speakers. I shall try to deal with some of the larger aspects of this subject and not with such details as the draft constitution. We are dealing with the future of Central Africa. That future has to be dealt with by somebody. It cannot be left to drift.
I suggest that Central Africa has no future worth speaking about unless this system of federation is carried out. The economic future of the territories is bound up with their coming together economically. Years ago I had something to do with the Newfoundland business. Parochial people in Newfoundland wanted to remain a Dominion and be independent of the vast Union of Canada. Common sense at last prevailed, and they entered the Union of Canada. Since then, the position of Labrador and Newfoundland has been radically altered. Now those vast territories can be developed properly. Some people in Newfoundland have lost the chance of becoming Prime Minister of Newfoundland, but the territories have benefited enormously from federation with Canada.
The three African territories have no political future unless they come into a federation. It has been stated that even Southern Rhodesia, the richest of the three, is not able to stand alone, financially or otherwise. I think that is true. Those people who want to advance towards self-government must first establish some sort of financial independence, and it can only be done in these three territories by federation. Those who are opposing federation are opposing the rapid advance to self-government which all the people in these three territories desire.
I am proud of the fact that when my party was in office we initiated this great scheme which affects not merely the three territories concerned but a great part of the world. The French in North Africa have exactly the same problem. There a minority of Frenchmen have built up the territories where the majority consists of another race. The French are struggling with that problem today, and it will again be the privilege of Britain to show how this multi-racial problem can be settled, for we shall settle 800 it if people will examine it objectively on its merits instead of indulging in shoddy propaganda.
It so happens that under the constitution of these territories the final word rests with the Government of Great Britain. Therefore, we have a right to discuss this problem and to criticise the people in those territories, just as they have the right to criticise us. Yet in Southern Rhodesia public men sometimes resent criticism made by some of us in this country.
Some of the propaganda put out in Southern Rhodesia is childish. For instance, their Prime Minister said, I think in that legislature, that my party took their orders from the Red Master. I presume he meant the Red Master of the Kremlin. In case my words can carry to the backwoods of Southern Rhodesia, I want to quote what Lenin, who was a Red Master, said about our party since it may be enlightening. Talking about the British Labour Party, Lenin said that he would support it as the rope supports the man who is about to be hanged. Lenin knew more about the British Labour Party than some of those myopic people in Southern Rhodesia. He knew the real enemy to the designs of Soviet Imperialism to be the social democratic parties of the world. Since that time the chief abuse about "Fascist beasts" has been reserved for the Social Democrats of the world, including ourselves.
As we have to settle this problem, we shall have to ask the people of Southern Rhodesia and in the two Protectorates the following question, "If you oppose this scheme, what are your alternatives?" If they want to remain as they are, we shall know what they mean. If they say they want a change, they must tell us what change, instead of abusing us for our ignorance of what goes on in the territories. The whole matter is now sub judice. The Southern Rhodesians are considering amendments to the draft scheme and so are the Protectorates. They must put before us an alternative. If not, the only thing we can do is to come to a decision without consulting them, which is the last thing we want to do.
An alternative suggestion has been voiced by the President of the African 801 Congress in Northern Rhodesia, Mr. Nkumbula. This is what he said:This is our country. There is no mistake about that. The best government for the black people is a government fully manned and run by the black people themselves.There is the colour bar in excelsis—the government is to be run and manned by the black people.
If my words carry to that gentleman, I suggest that if he thinks a single Member of the Labour Party in Great Britain stands for that, he is simply indulging in pipe dreams, because not one member of the Labour Party would stand up and say he was in favour of that policy. We are in favour of partnership. We are in favour of the government of the country being run by the representatives of all the races in their country. That is the policy of the Labour Party—
§ Mr. Reid
The right hon. Gentleman says that it is the policy of the Government, and with that we agree. Colour bar rule is insanity and madness, it is bombast at its worst. People who say such things to their unfortunate, ignorant followers are leading them along the road to destruction, and there are those in this country who are advocating the same thing—I am not, of course, referring to hon. Members.
There is no future for black government in those territories, and there is no future for white domination in Southern Rhodesia. The sooner the people in Southern and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland learn that simple fact, the better. If they are left alone and not led astray by misguided people, before long they will themselves come to see that federation means an immense advance for them politically, economically and socially.
Judging by the statement of the President of the African Federation, he is living in the jungle. He does not seem to realise the elementary fact that the world is inter-dependent today as never before. When he talks about setting up a black Government manned by blacks, I ask: what about the defence of the country? Does he not realise that his country would be overrun by Communist imperialism in a short time if it were not for the democracies of the West who are 802 protecting its liberty? Is he not willing to demand that the Western democracies should provide the enormous capital required to develop those countries? If he thinks that enormous capital will flow into Northern Rhodesia or Nyasaland manned exclusively by a black government which has removed the whites, he is living in cloud cuckoo land.
This is the kind of fantastic propaganda which is being spread in those territories. The people are being told that if there is federation their land will be taken away, though the scheme provides that the land in question in the two Northern Territories would be under the complete control of the Secretary of State here and of the Protectorates' own Governments, not the Federal Government.
For a long time I have dealt with people of other races than my own. I have found from experience that they despise people who are afraid to tell them the truth. I have spoken as freely in the East as I am speaking here today, and I have never yet found a single native taking offence at being told the truth by a friend. I say now to some of those black leaders that they are responsible for trying to lead their people to disaster.
When the gentleman I have mentioned says, "This is our country," I presume he implies that they will own the land there. The land belongs to those who acquired it legally and have occupied it for a long time and have prescriptive rights. I tell this gentleman again, with my compliments, that if he thinks the Europeans and the Indians who have lawfully acquired property there, land or otherwise, will be intimidated by threats, he is wrong. Because he went on to say that, if federation were to be introduced, the lot of the Europeans would become intolerable.
I do not know whether the gentleman is serious or what he means, but that sort of attack is trying to kill federation, and it is used because there are no valid arguments against it. There are 200,000 whites in those three territories. They are a sturdy, well-educated race. They have made their homesteads there. This is not the Gold Coast where white men are merely birds of passage, but a country where white men can live, make their homesteads, breed, do manual work, bring up their children. They intend to 803 stay and will not be pushed out, and it is wicked and immoral and foolish of such people to try to push them out. Those white men and Indians who have come into these territories have as much right to live in the country as the Bantu or anyone else—
§ Mr. Reid
Of course, on equal terms. I am totally opposed to what that gentleman has recommended. They have a perfect right to remain there, especially since it has been due largely to their brains and energy, backed up by African labour, that these territories have been lifted up from dire poverty and backwardness into comparative prosperity. The Labour Party stand for partnership, and the people who advocate black rule and domination, or white rule and domination, will not get support from a single Member of the Labour Party in the House.
I say also from experience that when new, far reaching proposals like this are placed before natives, especially before those who have not had the responsibility, unfortunately, of ruling themselves, they look askance at them and are terrified and frightened. Time and time again, in assemblies or committees, I have seen that the moment a new proposal was made, there was universal opposition to it from the native people. But afterwards, they sit down and talk around the table, more meetings are held, and finally the proposals, when the people come to understand them, are unanimously adopted.
I predict that when the scheme is properly and correctly explained by the district officers—they are the only people who can do so where there are no great political parties—the majority of the African leaders and of the African people will in the long run accept the scheme. I predict also that when it is implemented, as I am certain it will be, no trouble will arise.
That is not merely my own opinion. I have taken pains to find out from people who know the country and who have lived there for years that we need not anticipate any violence. What is happening at present is all froth and bombast. So far, the Africans have not considered the thing seriously. Today, 804 the Colonial Secretary tells us that at last there is a change and that they are beginning to consider it. That is the beginning of the end of the process. The scheme is inherently sound, and it is so good for all the parties concerned, and especially for the natives, in the countries affected, that in the end reason and common sense are bound to prevail.
Changes may be needed in the draft scheme, but I will not go into them now. If it is proved that changes are needed they can be made. I am very glad that the Colonial Secretary today, without the slightest reluctance, has agreed that before any final decision is made here, there will be another debate in the House.
I hope that whichever Ministers go out, they will, if possible, in whatever districts they visit, meet Europeans, natives and Indians together. All that these people need is to have confidence in us and to feel that we are telling them the truth and are not trying to fool them in any way. I predict that in time they will come round to our way of thinking.
I am pleased also that the right hon. Gentleman is not pushing the scheme too fast. In these countries it takes six years to adopt a new idea which in the West would be adopted in six months. Kipling has told the story of the man who tried to hustle the East and whose grave is marked by a great white stone. The moral of the story is equally true of Africa. We must treat these people with patience and sympathy, and we must persuade and convince them that the scheme will work for their good. As a result, they will adopt this magnificent scheme. I wish it all success, and I hope that before long it will be implemented.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
I am sure that all hon. Members, on both sides of the Committee, will find themselves in very substantial agreement with everything that the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) has said. Those of us who have been in the House since the war are used to hearing very good sense talked by him on these problems, in which he has had so much practical experience, which, alas, is sometimes lacking in others of us. I am not so sure that I entirely support the hon. Member in his history of social democracy in Europe and where it is leading, but apart from that I am in agreement with him.
805 All of us welcome this debate before the House rises. This is a tremendous problem, and the successful solution of the problem of federation in Central Africa will have a far wider effect than in merely the three territories which are included in the scheme. It will, we believe, give a lead in race relations, not only in Central Africa, but in Africa as a whole and in the free world beyond.
I shall not say anything to raise the temperature of the debate. Last week I had the opportunity of paying tribute to what the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) did in giving a lead in East Africa. At the time, I hoped that he would give a similar lead in Central Africa by coming out more firmly in support of the proposals that were laid just over a year ago, as he has, in fact, now done. I will say no more than that if he had given such a lead 15 months ago, I believe that a great deal of the misunderstanding that has since arisen might have been avoided.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
Yes, but it would have been better had the right hon. Gentleman supported the practical proposals and said that in principle he believed they were right.
I myself have confidence in the good will of the overwhelming majority of the people in these territories. It is rather tedious at times in the House to listen to some of the things that are said about those who make their lives in the territories overseas—not merely the settlers, but members of the Colonial Service, missionaries, members of the Churches, and so on. All these people—those in the Colonial Service and the Churches in particular—are dedicated to this work and will do their utmost to see that no harm is done to the Africans or, equally, to the Europeans, all of whom have made their life in these territories.
In so far as there is criticism in the House, I would point out that it is the Europeans who are living out there who will suffer most if we cannot all, including themselves, find a settlement to these problems. From what I have seen of the Europeans, I believe that they are determined to find a solution which will lead to peace and happiness in the territories. If they do not find such a solu- 806 tion, it is their children who will suffer most, not ours.
Constitution-mongering is necessarily a specialist activity. Those who have studied the points which are put forward hi pages 11 to 13 of the draft scheme will, I think, agree that is a very fair division of activities between the central and the territorial Governments. We have heard the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) say that in principle he, too, speaking for his party, is agreed on this division and on the draft scheme, and that what we are trying to counteract most of all is the fear of the Africans.
Again, the safeguards which the scheme contains are, as my right hon. Friend has stressed, pretty conclusive. They include the provision for a two-thirds majority, the negative procedure, with a Prayer, and the African Affairs Board. Under the latter, paragraph 6 (1) on page 25 of the scheme, relating to appeals to the Governor-General, states thatthe Governor-General shall send the notice of objection together with the Prime Minister's comments to a Secretary of State.It has been suggested to me that there might be some change by which this appeal might go to the Court of Appeal in Central Africa and then to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. At this stage I do not want to ask my right hon. Friend who is to reply for too many answers to these detailed suggestions, but I should like to leave that suggestion on the record so that when any points are looked at after the debate that might possibly be considered.
Another point which I think might be significant in the future is that throughout this document the term "Governor-General" is used. As I see it, in the state of transition in which we live and in the development of constitutions overseas, the powers of the Governor are being split up. We are finding speakers, clerks at the table and other high officials being appointed and the full "19th century" functions of a Governor-General in administration are tending to become less. But the whole time he remains the representative of the Sovereign.
I do not know the exact moment—technically, I suppose when there is an unofficial majority in a territory—but the moment will arise when the Governor-General will be no longer technically an 807 executive administrator, but primarily a representative of the Crown. I think the right hon. Gentleman will support me in believing, from his visit to Africa last year, that the Crown still means a tremendous amount in these territories overseas. Possibly when the time comes and a final scheme is laid before the House, it may meet the wishes of those concerned if, instead of "Governor-General," the term to be used could be "Viceroy," with all the implications that great title carries.
I hope that when those who oppose this scheme carefully examine their objections, they will bear in mind the following points. Just a year ago an all-party delegation went from this House to Central Africa. I suggest with respect that they were four practical men who had a previous background of knowledge. They went out and studied the problem in detail in situ, came back and put forward, to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, a unanimous Report. I submit that when such a Report is put forward unanimously we have, in this draft scheme which follows the report, something really well worth supporting.
Secondly, to those who oppose this scheme I would put the point that, although it may not be a perfect one—very few constitutions I have ever studied are perfect—yet it is up to them, as the hon. Member for Swindon said, to put constructive alternatives forward and not just advocate further delay. If they do not like the present scheme, they should put something which is workable in its place. So far as I can see, that has not been done.
Again, supposing this federal scheme did not go through, have the opponents thought that there are 2,500,000 Africans in Southern Rhodesia who will be deprived of certain undoubted advances put forward for them under this scheme? I hope that the Minister of State will have a most successful trip to Africa when he goes out at the end of the month. There is no one I would rather see going out to put the case fairly and squarely to get the reactions of the Europeans and the Africans and all concerned in that part of Central Africa. I believe he will find great good will there towards the attempt that is being made.
808 From the information I have, there is now a definite swing towards practical consideration of the scheme and I am quite certain that when the time comes all who live there will find that this proposal will work for the health, wealth and happiness of the greatest number of those who make their homes in Central Africa.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
It is all to the good that we have had this debate before we adjourn for the Recess next week, if only because of the fact that the Secretary of State has made two very important pronouncements today. There was a two-day debate in another place on this matter recently and the definite statement made by the Secretary of State today was not made there.
The first statement which we welcome is that before any final step is taken—I take it that by that any definite step is meant—the matter will be brought before the House for full debate. That is vital. The second point—and I wish this had been stated more clearly before—is that Her Majesty's Government consider it quite right that, however good the scheme may be, however advantageous it may be, however right economically or politically it may be, it would be wrong to force it upon an unwilling people. That again is a great advance. Speaking personally, I am grateful that that statement has been made.
This is not merely an economic problem, or even a political problem, it is a great human problem as well, for we are considering today a scheme which will he concerned with the fate of at least 6 million people. There are more than 6 million Africans and some 160,000 Europeans.
§ Mr. Davies
Some 180,000 Europeans now. This scheme concerns their future for a considerable time. I wish there had been a larger attendance listening to the Secretary of State making those two statements. The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), in the course of his speech, accused the present Government of clumsy handling of this matter and apparently meant that since 809 they have been in office they have mishandled the matter in a way in which the previous Government did not mishandle it. It seems to me a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
The real mistake began with the late Government. Quite rightly, the right hon. Gentleman says today, "I am definitely in favour of federation; I have been all along in favour of federation, and I thought it was the right thing to do." In that respect he was speaking not only on his own behalf but on behalf of his colleague the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and, indeed, for the late Government.
Having made up their minds that that was good, they issued a document which had been prepared for them by those splendid civil servants who are in these three territories, and then said, "We feel this is right. Of course, we are not going to force this upon you. But our powers of persuasion are so splendid and it is so good in itself that we are coming out to Africa and we are quite sure that you will accept it."
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I did not say anything of the kind. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is presuming to state something which my right hon. Friend and I said. Where did he get that from?
§ Mr. Griffiths
No. What we have said about this was said in the House of Commons and is on record. I would therefore ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman not to paraphrase in his own words or to misrepresent what I have said, but at least to quote what I have said.
§ Mr. Davies
I am entitled to state what I conclude is the way in which this has been put before the Africans. It was put before them when they went to Victoria Falls as a scheme for federation which met with the approval of the Government in the fond hope that the Africans would also agree to accept it. They went out there, but unfortunately they found that the Africans would not agree. The Africans would not come to Victoria Falls. Some of them came, but many stayed away. Thereupon that Government was succeeded by the present 810 Government, who again said, "We also like federation."
I think that the better way to have approached this would have been to have gone to Victoria Falls with an open mind and to have said, "We have come out to consult you and to see what you, both European and African, think is the best way of dealing with this." Unfortunately, as the Africans have time and again pointed out, that very excellent report prepared by those civil servants which recommended federation was prepared without consulting African opinion directly. Of course, they knew about the conditions, but the Africans were no party to it at all. That undoubtedly is a psychological difficulty which has arisen because of the way in which this matter has been handled.
§ Mr. Griffiths
May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman a question? He is complaining about the way we handled this. Will he explain why he never had occasion to protest about the way we handled it and why he voted against the way this Government handled it last March?
§ Mr. Davies
If the right hon. Gentleman will do me the honour of lookng up my speeches on this matter, he will find that all along I have taken the same line. I say there has been mishandling of this matter throughout; I am clearly on record with regard to that. This was not the way to do it. The right way would have been to invite opinion before making the recommendation.
Anyway, it has been done, and both Europeans and Africans are faced with the situation that the present Government are strongly recommending federation pretty nearly in the same form as the late Government recommended it, but with improvements which have been made as a result of further consideration.
§ Mr. Davies
I wish to know one thing, why is it that all along it has been suggested that this matter is extremely urgent? What is the hurry? Why is it that we cannot wait for this? What is the peril which is feared? I have never yet heard the full explanation of what is feared.
811 I understand, of course, that at present not one of these three territories is strong enough to supply its own needs. One has some assets which the other two have not. That applies to each one. One has coal which the other two have not; one has metal which the other two have not; one has surplus labour which the other two have not, and all that kind of thing. But surely, that could be arranged whether federation is to go through or not. What is it which all the time is put forward as the reason this is a matter of extreme urgency which will not brook any further delay of any kind?
It seems to me that what is happening here is what is happening throughout the world—everyone is moved by fear. Fear seems to be the dominating factor in almost every country in the world. Look at it in this case. Here are 160,000 Europeans who, it would appear to me, are saying, "We fear there may be tremendous African domination." Undoubtedly the Africans themselves, the 6 million of them, are fearing that there will be domination exercised over them by the minority of Europeans who are there.
It is never wise to allow ourselves to be guided merely by fear. It is a bad line. Federation must at all times connote willing agreement, and in that I gather I am now echoing the sentiments expressed so well by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. There must be a free, conscious consent by all parties to federation. If one party is forced into a new step, or a new form of government, then it is not federation, it is domination by—
§ Mr. Lyttelton
If I may be allowed to interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I would say that I prefer to stand on the words I have used, rather than on the echo which the right hon. and learned Gentleman may be making of them.
§ Mr. Davies
Very well, they will both stand and be on record. But may I put this to the right hon. Gentleman? An agreement made under duress is no agreement. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will accept that? Anyway, we seem to be all agreed now. One cannot have federation unless one secures agreement by all parties.
We should remember also that we are trustees for Northern Rhodesia and 812 Nyasaland—so far as Northern Rhodesia is concerned, under a Treaty of Alliance made between the Barotse people and Her late Majesty Queen Victoria in 1900. In the same way we took Nyasaland under our protection as a Protectorate as long ago as 1891. So we owe a duty to them, not only to protect them but, unless they wish anything to the contrary, to preserve their identity and not to merge it against their will with anything else. Therefore, it is vital and essential that there should be conscious and full agreement.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain to me, from a practical point of view, just how he proposes to get a clear understanding of the opinion of all the Africans in Central Africa, bearing in mind the representation they can command, as to whether they are for or against?
§ Mr. Davies
One has to do the best one possibly can in those circumstances. I do not suppose we could do it by taking a complete referendum. But there is an African opinion; it may be that it is divided, as the right hon. Gentleman has said—but there is an African opinion, he agrees.
§ Mr. Harris indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I remember that, in the debates regarding India, it used to be said often by hon. Members opposite that there was no such thing as Indian opinion—would they say that today?—and that it was impossible to find out what Indian opinion was.
That there is such an African opinion we certainly do know, and it is accepted by the right hon. Gentleman. May I also say that that is the view of two noble Lords who spoke the other day and who have very long experience of Africa; Lord Hailey, and, still more, Lord Hemingford, who has been out there so long as a teacher and a missionary, and who is the son of a very respected former Member of this House who at one time was Chairman of Ways and Means.
Surely it cannot be said that we can push on one side an expression of view that we now know has been given to us by the missionaries of the Church of England and the Nonconformists. They 813 have sent to this country the views which they have collected from the people with whom they are in daily contact. As a result the Church of England—I forget the name of the actual body—and the Nonconformist bodies have met and passed resolutions about this matter.
That there is an opinion and that it can be found seems to me to be absolutely clear. There is undoubtedly an opinion strongly against this. How far it goes, I do not know. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman knows, but that there is a strong opinion against it is undoubted. It was expressed before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly went to Victoria Falls. He went to Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. He tried to persuade them to go to Victoria Falls and many of them refused.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
As a matter of fact, none refused. Those who were invited came to the Conference.
§ Mr. Griffiths
No. Let us get this clear. We invited African members to come to Victoria Falls from the Protectorate Council and the African Council in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. We invited three from each and they came.
§ Mr. Davies
I was speaking from memory. I thought that from Nyasaland they failed to come and that from Rhodesia they came, or vice versa. At any rate, there was strong opposition then. It was an opposition which was voiced afterwards in this country.
Their fear is, first, a fear of domination. That is their main fear. Let us look at the figures. In 1938 there were 76,000 Europeans in these three territories. By 1950 the number had grown to 169,000. In 1938 there were 4,300,000 Africans. By 1950 the number had grown to 6 million.
What is proposed in this area which is to be federated? It is proposed that there shall be 26 elected members and seven elected members for African interests, but they need not be Africans and the chances are that they will not be. It is proposed that two shall be appointed 814 for African interests. Again, they need not necessarily be Africans and, again, the chances are that they will not be.
That is the constitution of the new federation which is about to be set up, and it appears to have so much to commend it that it cannot be changed day by day as we can change matters here in Parliament by a bare majority. It can be changed only by a two-thirds majority. It is a rigid constitution which will be in the hands of the Europeans who will remain there. Therefore, there can only come a change if the Europeans in the Assembly, of their own free will and accord, decide to bring about a change.
What chance is there of that? It is pertinent that we should ask. I have here a report of the debate. I wish that we had the Official Report. There was a debate in the Parliament of Southern Rhodesia on Thursday, 26th June. In "The Chronicle" published in Bulawayo there appears to be a full report of what was stated there, especially by the Minister for Internal Affairs and the Minister of Justice. He was one of the representatives of Southern Rhodesia who came here and took part in the Conference. It is only right that the Committee should hear what he had to say. The report says:The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. R. O. Stockwell) had expressed fear that the 14 ordinary elected representatives from Southern Rhodesia would all become African. While one conceived that on the constitution as drafted that was theoretically possible, the fears were unjustifiable, as it would fall to the Federal Government to lay down its own franchise laws, and in the very first steps would be taken to deal with the franchise position.That does not give much encouragement to the African, does it? Where does he come in? The report continues:The constitution clearly contemplated that there would be a European majority in the House, and it seemed the federal constitution could be altered as circumstances required in order to ensure the position was not reached where Africans had a majority in the House at any time.With a statement of that kind, is it to be wondered that the 6 million Africans fear domination? There is a man who was brought over here with the Prime Minister trying to persuade his own people, "Now you are all right. We will see that there will always be in this Federal Parliament a majority of Europeans, whatever be the change of circumstances and 815 whatever be the education that we are able to give to the Africans." Does anyone deny that they have real ground for fearing domination?
What next? They fear losing their land. Have they not had some justification for that? I am again speaking from recollection, but I think that in Southern Rhodesia 37 million acres have been left to the Africans and 48 million acres have been handed over to the Europeans.
Thirdly, they have no faith in entrenched clauses or paper constitutions. Are they wrong, when one looks just across the border to the example of South Africa? Are they wrong in fearing what might happen to them when they can already see what has happened in Southern Rhodesia itself, where one sees discrimination between the African and the European? If we are to see Africa occupied by African races and races of European origin—and I think that both have the right to be there—then Africa can develop only—and I emphasise the word "only"—if there is mutual respect, understanding, tolerance and sympathy. There must be confidence and trust.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman read page 33, which deals with amendments to the constitution and the new safeguards which were not put in by the Liberal Government which set up the Act of Union in South Africa?
§ Mr. Davies
I have read all that. It is an improvement to put in the African Board as a protection for the African. Has the hon. Gentleman seen what Mr. Greenfield had to say about it? He was the man—
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman read about the negative Prayers and the other safeguards?
§ Mr. Davies
That may be. Mr. Greenfield is the man who took part in the conference and then went back home and said, according to "The Chronicle":This federal scheme, being novel, was fraught with a certain amount of uncertainty. But in broad outline it might be made to work, depending on the human factor. Mr. Greenfield said he was doubtful whether the human factor would rise to the necessary heights, and his doubts were engendered by the proposed African Affairs Board.816 That is the Board put in to protect the Africans.He proposed to join in the attack on this proposal. He regarded this Board as quite an unnecessary institution.What are we to say? An attack is made upon the Africans about their opinion and their objection, and then we see what is said by the Europeans on the spot about what the present Government and the late Government consider is necessary for the protection of the African.
I would only remind the Committee again of the words used by the Prime Minister when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies. Let these words set the standard for us all:There is only one ideal. There should be no barrier of race, colour or creed to prevent any man of merit from reaching any station if he is fit for it.That being so, I come to the point raised by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Reid) and repeated by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker).
What would I have proposed if federation was not acceptable? It may be that federation will bring about economic benefits, and it is ultimately possible that there may be political benefits, although it is difficult to follow that, in view of the statements that have been made, and in view of the fact that we shall not get a change at all unless it is by the initiative of and is carried out by a two-thirds majority in that small Parliament. I know that the Government intend that this scheme shall not be forced upon these people unless they are willing. What is then to happen? Are we merely to stand still? I do not think so at all.
I should have preferred evolution rather than this revolutionary change. I should have preferred to initiate and educate them in the matters mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. There is plenty of scope for that in primary, secondary and college education. I should have liked to give them what they have already asked for in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland—more responsibility in local government—so that they can learn these matters and acquire experience, and then be able to take even greater responsibility.
I should have liked to give them some responsibility in the administration of justice. They have it in the north, but not in the south. What I should have 817 liked to see better still would have been a beginning being made by the abolition of this humiliating discrimination between races, a discrimination both in schools and in hospitals and which I believe even goes as far as the cemeteries.
That, I should have thought, would have been the better approach. If that approach had been made at the outset, I think we would have gone much further than we have succeeded in going. At any rate, one knows that, now that the Minister of State is going out there, there will be no forcing of this scheme on these people. There will be an effort at persuading them, which is quite right, and, if everybody agrees, all will be well, but, if there is one standing out, then this matter will not be forced upon them, but will be brought before the House of Commons before a final decision is made.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Reading, North)
Listening to the beginning of the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) I had a somewhat lingering feeling that, despite his previous speeches, he was in favour of federation in principle. I must admit that I now find my doubts entirely dispelled. It seems that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is against federation, and, on reading his speech tomorrow, if he does not come to that conclusion himself, I think that any other hon. Members who read it will be certain to do so. Much as I would like the exercise of commenting on his speech point by point, and seeking in some instances to correct them, I am afraid that it would take more time than I can devote to it in the short contribution that I wish to make.
I have, however, one or two small points to make at this stage on his speech. Firstly, I do not myself accept the interpretation of the remarks and assurances of the Secretary of State which the right hon. and learned Gentleman made. I shall not go further, except to say that I leave the hon. and learned Gentleman who is to reply to the debate to make that point clear himself later on.
Secondly, there is his criticism on the alleged mishandling of this scheme, first of all, by the last Government, and then by the present Government. I am sure that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will not expect me to spring to their 818 defence, which is something they are indeed well able to do for themselves, but I certainly do not accept that there has been any mishandling by the present Government. In this case, I have some sympathy with the occupants of both front benches who have had to deal with this problem, because the right hon. and learned Gentleman is almost unique in the House in being able to criticise the handling of our national affairs by both this Government and the last without any immediate fear of having to assume those responsibilities himself.
Then there is the question of his very misleading comparisons of figures of the black and white populations, respectively, in the territories concerned. I believe that anybody who has any practical experience of these countries, no matter on which side of the Committee they sit, but particularly those hon. Gentlemen opposite who went out there with the Mission, would agree that, in the present state of civilisation of Africans, the mere counting of heads as a basis for the responsibility of Government is completely unfeasible. The whole point of our aim there should be to raise, by education, health and otherwise, the ability of the African population to take part in these responsibilities. To say now that, because there are six million Africans and about 180,000 Europeans, therefore all Government representation should be proportionate to numbers, quite irrespective of ability or capacity, verges on the ridiculous.
Lastly, and this point was made in another debate we had on this subject, when I had the good fortune to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, although only for two minutes before the Secretary of State was due to reply. On that occasion, the right hon. and learned Gentleman read out a rather dramatic statement made by a gentleman in Southern Rhodesia which was given considerable publicity the next day. It referred to the "White Settlers Federation," and the statement was certainly couched in very Malan-like terms.
I felt that it was rather unfortunate that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should give such wide publicity to a statement which had been sent to him without checking up on what sort of authority it rested. I have taken the trouble to write to friends in Southern Rhodesia to find out what backing this 819 statement had, and I have discovered that the White Settlers Federation consists of one leader and one follower, so that I hope—
§ Mr. C. Davies
I told the House at the time I did not know who sent it to me from Southern Rhodesia but, if I have given publicity to that, I have given equal publicity to statements of the Minister of Justice which were expressed in the same language.
§ Mr. Bennett
I do not think that is really an answer. I was not criticising the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving publicity to a statement but for giving publicity to it before he had found out whether there was any backing for it or not.
§ Mr. Dugdale
Is it not strange that the hon. Gentleman was able to find this out, because I asked first at the Colonial Office and later, when I was referred there, at the Commonwealth Relations Office, but they had not got it, nor have they got it yet to the best of my knowledge?
§ Mr. Bennett
All I can say is that I am perfectly prepared to place at the disposal of the right hon. Gentleman the facts which I have obtained. Secondly, I would ask him to take it from me because I have lived there and know the individual concerned; also I know a little bit about the way in which this publicity comes about.
It seems to me that one must practically admit that there are certainly grounds for saying that such articulate African opinion as there is does seem in the main to be hostile at this stage to the scheme of federation. It is a fact, and it is necessary to take note of it, although I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State say today that there was evidence of a different trend, as the people are beginning to learn the true facts. I have done my best to try to find out how this state of affairs has arisen. The first possible assumption is that they are genuine. As I say, I do not agree with that, but it is an assumption which we must fairly consider, particularly if, as the right hon. Gentleman and others have said, there are fears of Malan-like domination of the white spreading from Southern Rhodesia.
820 It is impossible for me, in the short time available, to talk in detail about the differences between the racial situation in Southern Rhodesia and that in South Africa. I can assure everyone that there are very substantial differences. The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) made a very good point about that when he spoke of his interviews with Southern Rhodesian Africans and explained that they themselves thought there were very substantial differences. One outstanding difference is that there is a common roll in Southern Rhodesia, admittedly with qualifications, which is quite unheard of in the Union. Out of a total electorate of 105,000, about 5,000 Africans could vote if they wanted—and surely that is an outstanding difference between the two countries.
Another point which indicates that the fears are not general is that objections to federation, because of fears of domination, come almost equally from Europeans and Africans. Admittedly that is a negative form of proof, but it is not a bad test of the fairness of a scheme which is trying to hold a balance between two people when, if they do not agree with it, at any rate they both think it unfair to them and more fair to the other side.
Another possible ground for African fears which are being expressed, and which is a logical ground, arises from those Africans who want an all-Black solution on the Gold Coast model. I frankly admit that if they want an all-African State in that part of the world, and if Europeans are to be thrown out or are to leave the country, then federation and partnership are obstacles in their course, but from what I have gathered from previous speeches, practically no hon. Member would favour a system other than that of partnership in those territories, and no one here favours the all-African solution any more than the all-European solution. I think we can therefore dismiss that from our counsels today.
A third possible interpretation of these anxieties which are being expressed by the Africans is ignorance of the real implications and contents of the proposals, both those put forward by the last Government and those contained in this White Paper. That ignorance can clearly arise either from a sheer negative ignorance—not being able to understand or 821 not yet having had the opportunity to understand the proposals or it can be induced by malicious and false propaganda. I believe there is a good deal of evidence that a lot of the wild talk against these proposals, I do not know anything about intimidation, but certainly much fear, arises from sources which are none too creditable and which are deliberately working up opinion against federation amongst the African population.
The solution to the problem of ignorance—whether it is genuine or due to propaganda—is for tuition about the scheme to be introduced, and I was delighted to hear the steps which are being taken by the Secretary of State to use the machinery at his disposal out there in order to put this scheme clearly before the Africans.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
Both the hon. Gentleman and the Minister have talked a good deal about African opinion. Since the hon. Gentleman has lived in the territory, would he care to tell us about white settler opinion—whether they are for or against the constitution, and why?
§ Mr. Bennett
I thought I had dealt with that by suggesting that it was a point in favour of the fairness of the scheme that the white population are certainly nervous of it. I do not agree with the use of the word settler; many of these people have been there for as many generations as have the Africans, but let us not quarrel over whether it should be "white settler" or "white European inhabitant." I think their nervousness is also due to a large extent to ignorance and also to propaganda which is leading them, equally, to think that they will lose their opportunities of livelihood and their children's livelihoods in their own country and will have to disappear from the territories thus destroying the European position in Southern Rhodesia. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) may not accept that, but I assure him that in my view that is the way in which these fears have arisen. He and I had a short exchange in identical terms in a recent debate.
I will revert to the main argument. From a number of Africans to whom I have spoken and from letters which I have received from that part of the world, I have formed the impression—and here 822 I am summarising—that nearly all of them say, "We are not in favour of federation because we think that it will mean that we shall lose our land and, secondly, because we do not want to lose our Protectorate status." That indicates the sort of ignorance which exists, because neither the proposals of the last Government nor these proposals have in any way suggested that those things can take place. Indeed, the constitution specially guarantees that land tenure shall remain entirely with the territorial government. Secondly, the Protectorate status is guaranteed by Her Majesty's Government and will remain quite unaltered.
Having studied the constitution fairly carefully, I have three specific suggestions to which I want to draw the attention of the Minister of State. He might possibly find them valuable for consideration either here or when he goes out to Africa. Some fears are being expressed about higher education for Africans, and there is some nervousness that higher education comes solely within the province of the federal government. The reason why it is not so far in the province of the territorial government is easy to see: it is because of the obvious expense of building universities, which would be outside the means of any of the three territories.
Nevertheless, if there is a fear that the federal government will hold back in education, it might not be a bad idea to consider transferring higher education for Africans from the federal list to the concurrent list. I feel that might meet the situation. As the Committee knows, there are two lists—the concurrent list and the solely federal list. If we put higher education for the Africans in the concurrent list, it would mean that if the federal government did not take steps to deal with higher education, it would be possible for the territories at least to try to take some steps of their own.
A more important suggestion arises from the criticisms of the freezing of the constitution. I thought there was a certain amount of validity about this criticism. I do not take so poor a view of our countrymen overseas as to believe that they will not advance on the road to partnership, but that is nevertheless a possible eventuality, and I believe the Africans have some fears on this point. 823 An intermittent review of the constitution would be a difficult matter because it would not lead to a stable constitution. We should find Southern Rhodesia, in particular, unwilling to accept the theory that, just when the constitution has settled down, it should all go back into the cockpit here to be discussed again. I wonder whether it would be possible, if we want to get the constitution accepted as smoothly as possible, to introduce some proviso for a fixed review in 10 years' time, if, say, two of the three territories made representation to that effect—and not otherwise.
Thirdly, I would make a small point which was only made to me at lunch time and which I have not had time to check. There is no mention at all of any Asian representation in the federation. There are not many Asians in that part of the world, but the Minister of State might find it worthwhile to look into the matter. I am quoting purely from memory, but I believe the Asians have some limited representation in the Nyasaland Government, and it may be possible to develop it federally, either directly or indirectly, if they desire it and if the Government feel it to be the right course.
Having seen these three territories at first hand, I am particularly an ardent advocate of federation. I make no apologies for it. I advocate it primarily, not for economic reasons, though I see those, nor for local political reasons, nor for any other immediate material ones. I advocate it because I believe that, taking the matter right out of the arena of the day-to-day conduct of our Empire, we have a magnificent chance here to do something quite new in the history of British Commonwealth development. That is the establishment of a multi-racial partnership form of Government.
Here we have races which are making a valuable contribution and living together. I have never yet seen any alternative suggestion to federation put forward which will give them such a chance. Indeed, it will be more than a chance. It will be an impetus to racial harmony, in the best sense of the word, so that this British Government will be the very first, as far as I know, to institute a system of genuine partnership in multi-racial government which will 824 guarantee that opportunities for all to get on, in the economic, social and political field, not depending in any way upon colour but depending only upon individual capacity to make a valuable contribution.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Coldrick (Bristol, North-East)
I hope that the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett) will forgive me if I do not follow him, though I agree in substance with some of the points he has made. I think that we all agree that we are debating a matter of profound importance not merely to the people of Africa but to the people of the world. We should recognise that grave responsibility rests upon us as trustees for these territories to see that we develop them as efficiently as possible to increase supplies of raw materials and foodstuffs and, at the same time, that we do everything possible to raise the standard of living of all the people there.
Whatever our differences of opinion may be—and they are marked on both sides of the Committee—we all agree in principle on the desirability of federation. We only differ when it comes to the means to be employed. I speak with due modesty because I have spent only a few weeks in these territories in discussing the matter with many people, but I am encouraged to contribute to this debate because I find that people with even less knowledge than myself speak with great authority upon the subject.
We are all agreed, first of all, upon the need for federation. We are likewise agreed that our fundamental task is to promote the education, health and happiness of the people in the territories. I believe that as trustees for these territories we can only do that if we develop their economic resources. It is plainly Utopian to talk about education, health, and happiness, unless one provides the means to support them. To promote political democracy throughout these territories without at the same time providing the means to sustain it is to invite an inevitable dictatorship. Let us be under no illusion that if we condemn people permanently to poverty because of failure to develop those resources, dictatorship will find ample scope fox development within the territories.
825 I hope that in discussing this matter we shall endeavour at least to consider how best we can promote federation itself. We come then to the vexed question of how it is to be brought about—whether it is to be imposed or secured with consent. I am afraid that the question is not always posed very wisely, because the assumption is that if one is in favour of its imposition then one is inclined to become a diabolical dictator, but if one is against imposition one is angelic in one's belief in democracy.
The fact of the matter is that in practice we are imposing upon the people of these territories things which they resent as strongly as federation. If one discusses with African people some of the things we are putting into operation in their territories, one finds that they are more bitter against them in the concrete than they are against the federation proposals themselves. By way of illustration, I might mention that during all the talks which I had with African people—and they were not official talks—I found, even in territories under the administration of the Colonial Office, that there was great resentment against what we call de-stocking.
In our estimation many small-holdings are carrying far too much stock and consequently destroying the soil. In the name of good husbandry we are compelled to insist that the farmers should get rid of that stock and we have to impose that requirement. Therefore, it is not always a question of whether people consent to something. A reasonable justification for that action is that we are doing it for the good of the Africans themselves. The same thing applies to many of the irrigation schemes. Surely nobody here would suggest that when we provide irrigation in order to develop resources we are doing something inimical to African interests.
When I spoke to one African I asked him whether he would prefer to drink water from a brook or to drink water supplied by us from a pipe. He—and I understand it from his tradition—believed that it was far better to drink water from the brook, though all our health authorities know perfectly well that that is a sure means of spreading disease. We are compelled, therefore, to do things which we believe to be in the interests of the Africans though they resent them 826 It is true that a great body of African opinion is opposed to federation. Let there be no illusions about that. It is due to many reasons. I am speaking from what experience we had in those territories. When we arrived there, we knew very little about the original proposals at that stage because they had just been formulated. When we discussed these matters at our first meeting, there was readiness to enter into open discussion and not a great deal of opposition was shown; but after about a week or so there was a change, for some reason or another.
Anybody with experience in organisation could only suspect that a deliberate attempt was being made to close those people's minds against the proposals. It was so much the case that when we came to the last meeting at Nyasaland, instead of coming forward, as invariably they did previously, to present their memorandum to each one of us and then to read it, the people were adamant in their refusal to discuss the matter at all. I cannot imagine that people should have changed so markedly from one stage to another unless there had been an elaborate form of organisation.
We ourselves would not propagate any proposals. I can say conscientiously that we never endeavoured to get these people to accept them. It was fairly obvious that some people were interested in ensuring that these proposals should never be discussed. I think that is primarily due to the fact that from the time when this matter was first considered by the Bledisloe Commission and the idea of amalgamation was turned down, there has been a constant agitation among the African people themselves to oppose this proposal.
The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) wanted to know what is the urgency. My view, for what it is worth, is that unless federation is brought about within a very short space of time, there will be no hope of federation in the future. If these people are successful in resisting federation today, they will never be in favour of federation tomorrow.
Do not let us imagine that the evil is all on one side or the other. The Minister quoted extensively from statements by Mr. Stockwell and one or two others. 827 Some of the statements made by Sir Godfrey Huggins himself are not calculated to create an atmosphere in which it is possible to discuss these matters impartially. I should have thought that a man of his experience and status would be a little more cautious in his utterances.
Of course, it is true that some of these people oppose federation and some of them want white domination; but, believe me, there are people in this country who want domination. One has only to visit a hospital in Southern Rhodesia or some such place and witness the laving care and devotion given to the nursing of Africans, to realise that they are not all animated by some evil desire. On the other hand, do not let us have any illusion about this. There are people sowing discord among the Africans and who do not believe in partnership. They are convinced that if they can prevent federation, in the course of time it will be possible for them to gain the ascendancy by virtue of their numbers, and once they have acquired the ascendancy, instead of being a subject class they will become the ruling class in the territories.
If we believe in partnership and not domination, we have to consider how best that partnership can be promoted. I believe it can only be done along the lines of federation. A lot of people seem to have the impression that within a territory under our protection there is no colour bar and that democracy exists, but in fact the colour bar is just as marked in Northern Rhodesia as in Southern Rhodesia. It is true that Northern Rhodesia is held up as an example in some ways, but if we go to a post office in Northern Rhodesia we find that there is one entrance for the white people and another entrance for black people. The same thing happens on the buses. That sort of thing is operating today.
If anybody suggests that we should take upon ourselves the complete responsibility for those territories, let us also deny the right of self-government to the white people themselves in those territories and let us govern them completely from here. Otherwise, what are we doing? Under our aegis we are making it possible for a limited number of people, in the Copper Belt for example, to form a trade union of white people and to deny Africans the 828 opportunity of obtaining a higher standard of living. This is happening in our territories.
I must be perfectly candid and impartial in this matter. Some of those practices are in operation in Southern Rhodesia, but I am confident that, as a result of experiments carried out there, in the long run political democracy will develop there more rapidly than in many other cases. I know a little place not 20 miles from Salisbury where African people are being educated—not only the ordinary sort of education, but they are also being trained as builders, carpenters and in handicrafts. They were building their own houses in that territory, and the class of house was such that any middle-class person in this country would be proud to live in one.
Does anybody imagine that we can create these circumstances without transforming the mental outlook of those people? Once people become conscious that they are indispensable to the functioning of an economic system, no power on earth will stop them acquiring political democracy. I know that I am likely to hear the retort that in South Africa there has been a certain amount of economic advancement and that the people there have not enjoyed political freedom. But I am confident that unless the South African Government take note of what is happening, nothing but a revolution can ensue.
If we are talking in terms of national evolution, I am sure that with economic development we shall find a reflection of it in a more enlightened political outlook of the Africans, and when they acquire that they will feel in no sense inferior to the white man. It is because I believe that through federation it will be possible to develop those economic resources which will produce the skill and the learning which will make it possible for those people to enjoy this political power, that I have spoken.
I trust that in a matter of such great Importance as this, we shall at least lift it above mere political party strife. So much is involved in it; and I hope that our attitude will not be determined by some particular word here or there in the constitution, and that we shall not argue, as they apparently argued in another place, about whether it should be "differential" or "detrimental" or whether it 829 should be "representation" of "recommendation." These important matters are seen out of all perspective if those are the sort of things upon which we concentrate.
In so far as we are all anxious to do the best we can for these people, whether they be white or black or an intermediate colour—and there are plenty of those—I should like to see a commission of Ministers from both sides of the House—people with a high sense of their responsibility—go to meet representatives from these other territories. I should like to see them take these proposals, examine them together, and see whether they could not come to an agreement which it would be possible for the African people to accept in the belief that we were interested, not merely in promoting either their exploitation or the interests of this country, but in the welfare of the people throughout the Territories that are now under discussion.
For those reasons, I sincerely hope that we shall at least recognise that in our respective parties we are all sincere, whatever may be our differences in approach.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs (Mr. Henry Hopkinson)
It was very fortunate that the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Coldrick) succeeded in catching the eye of the Chair this afternoon. It enabled us to listen to a well-informed and helpful speech from someone who knows the conditions on the spot.
I am intervening in this debate only for one reason. I am leaving on Tuesday for an official visit to Central Africa and I should like to touch on one or two considerations which I have particularly in mind. My hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations will be replying to the various points made in the debate and it is quite right that that should be so, for we must remember—and in the welter of arguments about the interests of Africans in the two Northern Territories it is sometimes forgotten—that in Southern Rhodesia, too, there is opposition to this scheme.
Here again, as in the Northern Territories, I believe this opposition to be very largely and very often due to misconception and, indeed, ignorance; but 830 the fact remains that in Southern Rhodesia opposition is based on the fact that the scheme gives too much and not too little to the African.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway
The right hon. Gentleman says that he thinks that a good deal of this opposition is due to ignorance of the scheme. How, then, can he explain the fact that the two African representatives from Southern Rhodesia, having gone to the Conference and heard and learned all about the scheme, went back to Southern Rhodesia and there became its leading opponents?
§ Mr. Hopkinson
The hon. Member has missed my point. My point was that the white opposition in Southern Rhodesia was based on misconception and ignorance in the same way as was the African opposition in the Northern Territories. It is the fact—as one of my hon. Friends mentioned—that extremists in both communities are dissatisfied that leads me to believe that we might have hit upon a happy medium.
The object of my mission to Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland is twofold. First, I want to test the opinion of all the communities—including the Asians—to try to find out how much is true of the things that have been said and written in this country about the state of opinion in Central Africa. My right hon. Friend has pointed out that he has indications that opinion is already changing. I want to learn in what terms it is changing and how much it is changing. I hope that when we next debate this matter I shall be in a position to give the House my personal, first-hand impressions of the state of mind of the Africans in those two Northern Territories, after they have had the time to study the White Paper in greater detail.
My second duty is to make it clear to all concerned that Her Majesty's Government consider the introduction of a federal scheme to be of the highest importance at the present time. In that respect I want to accelerate the change of opinion among the Africans. If the grave doubts which have been referred to tonight really exist among the Africans—and, of course, we know that to a certain extent they do—my purpose is to try to convince them how solid and far-reaching are the safeguards provided by this scheme.
831 I propose to deal with only one aspect of the matter tonight. Whatever views may be held about the anxieties of the African community in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in relation to political development and the dangers of white domination, I believe that in the case of the overwhelming majority their preponderating fear centres upon the possibility of the loss of their land. As the hon. Member for Eton and Slough said in the debate on colonial affairs last week: "Among Africans, land is life." I thought that was a very telling phrase.
Ninety-five per cent. of the population of Northern Rhodesia is purely agricultural and in Nyasaland 2 million out of a total African population of 2,400,000 are entirely dependent upon agriculture. A threat to their land outrages their spiritual beliefs and also touches the heart of their very existence. That is why the distorted and mischievous propaganda that their land is threatened under this scheme has done so much damage and has made the Africans so apprehensive.
For these reasons, I should like to emphasise here and now—and I shall do so again at every possible opportunity when I meet the Africans—that under this scheme they need have no fear for their land. Their rights are fully secure. That has been made clear in the House and elsewhere on many occasions. My right hon. Friend stressed it in the statement which he made very soon after he took office. The draft scheme contains the most explicit provisions in chapter II—provisions which carry out the pledge given at Victoria Falls.
I have heard it argued that if the vast majority of the Africans in the two territories are largely interested in this issue only in so far as it affects their land, it is because they are educationally and politically backward. It may be said: "You must wait until they are further developed, when they will know enough to be able to say whether or not this is a good scheme." If that is the argument, surely it cannot be said at the same time that the overwhelming mass of opinion in the Northern Territories of Central Africa today is against the scheme.
Now I turn to the question which has given rise to doubts in the minds of many people and which has formed the subject of correspondence in the Press and of several speeches today. In view 832 of the apparent reluctance of the Africans in the two Northern Territories to come into the scheme, it has been asked whether it would not be better to wait or abandon the scheme altogether.
I believe the answer to both those arguments is the same. If this scheme, or something very like it, fails to materialise now, I doubt whether any form of federation will succeed in the future. On the other hand, if the proposal for a federation is not the answer to the problem in Central Africa, what is the alternative? No one who has spoken in this debate in criticism of the scheme, and no one who has written to the papers attacking it, has, so far as I know, put forward any plan which covers the whole of the problem and which would meet the dangers which would flow from a failure to federate now.
Let us consider for a moment what would be the effect, in the three territories, of a breakdown now. In Southern Rhodesia, in the frustration and disappointment resulting from a breakdown, the eyes of those who are now looking towards Britain for leadership would inevitably be turned in other directions. Where will that lead us in the long run? Is that in the interests of the 2 million-odd Africans living in Southern Rhodesia? Is that what we want? Again, who can tell what effect it may ultimately have on the position of Northern Rhodesia.
In that territory many hopes have been placed on the achievement of federation and on putting into effect the idea of partnership in European and African affairs. The abandonment of federation, with its resultant discouragement to all those who are working for partnership between the races, would bring nothing but frustration and bitterness with disastrous consequences for all concerned. Even in Nyasaland, I believe, those effects will be felt.
Quite recently, a missionary with 40 years' experience of Northern Rhodesia stated that in his opinion the dangers of not establishing federation were far greater than if it were put into effect. Then, of course, the economic arguments for federation, into which I cannot enter, have taken on a note of urgency in that evidence is accumulating every day that much-needed economic development is already being hampered by the 833 present uncertainty, particularly in regard to the provision of capital.
In all these proposals it is essential to keep sight of the realities of the situation. We are not framing an ideal constitution in a vacuum. We are called upon to decide what we can best do for the Central Africa of today; how best to organise its resources for the material and spiritual welfare of all its inhabitants, taking into account their habits and prejudices, not necessarily as we should like them to be, but as they are. Our minds are certainly not closed to any suggestions for improvements in this scheme. We have put forward these proposals as the best practical solution to the problems of Central Africa as they now confront us.
In the course of my trip over the next months, I shall have the views which have been expressed by hon. Members this evening very fully in my mind, and here I would like to say how much we welcome the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is going to find it possible to take part of his holiday in Central Africa. I can assure him that he will be given every facility to see every-things he wants to see and to meet everybody he wants to meet in these territories. I shall start with the belief that, in the absence of any alternative hopeful outcome, we must surely proceed with this great plan initiated by the Labour Government, supported and elaborated by Her Majesty's present advisers and accepted by the Governments of all four territories.
If we carry out the present scheme with this great weight of support behind it, and, we hope, supported by all sections of opinion in the territories themselves, we shall, I believe, start a new era of what I think the right hon. Gentleman referred to as political, social and economic advance in those territories. But if we allow it to fail now, this opportunity may slip through our fingers and be lost for ever. It is in this firm conviction that I am approaching my forthcoming task in Central Africa, and I hope that in so doing I shall take with me the support and good will of most hon. Members.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
May I start by saying that we on these benches wish the Minister of State a pleasant and an educative trip to Central Africa, and 834 that we hope he will not only look at the things that some people want him to look at, but will look at the things he ought to see, and will not allow himself in his enthusiasm for this scheme to be carried away by other people's emotions.
I rise at this rather late hour only to make it clear that I am representing a point of view within this party which is considerably different from that expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North (Mr. Coldrick) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid). I take the point of view which I think commands greater support in my party and which is expressed by those of us holding it with as much sincerity as the point of view held and expressed by other hon. Members.
The unanimity we have had today shows that everybody is agreed that the principal thing that attracts us to Central African federation is that it is to bring opportunities of political, social and economic advancement to the African people. Of course, it is also to improve the whole economic life of the country. It is to produce better conditions for the Europeans as well, but every hon. Member who has spoken this afternoon has stressed the fact that the prime purpose of Central African federation is to see to it that the African people themselves are to have these opportunities for the development of their political, social and economic ambitions and rights.
I am sure that if he were here the Secretary of State for the Colonies would not mind me quoting from HANSARD of 4th March this year, when he quoted with evident approval these words from Command 8233:The ultimate objective of all three Governments is broadly the same, namely, the economic, social and political advancement of the Africans in partnership with the Europeans."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 242.]The Minister of State himself, as reported in "The Times" on Monday last, during a speech he made over the week-end, used the following words:Much of the criticism levelled against the proposals so far had been based on the assumption that they were designed to secure the permanent domination of the European minority in these territories. This was a conception which Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of the three Central African territories had all firmly repudiated. All four 835 Governments firmly believed that only on a basis of partnership between the races could these territories progress.These are noble and significant words. The right hon. Gentleman went on:Until the change of Government in this country, the Africans had been given no lead in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to accept federation. In his forthcoming visit … it must be his duty to help to give the Africans the lead for which they have been waiting and to explain why Her Majesty's Government saw in the scheme something which would give an opportunity of social, economic and political advancement which they could get in no other way.Unfortunately, there is not complete unity on the part of those who support the idea of Central African federation as to what the attitude should be towards the African demand for social, economic and political advancement. The London Committee of the United Central Africa Association, a body which presses for the imposition in Central Africa of federation on the Africans, publishes a pamphlet called "Central African Federation—The Only Way to Partnership Between the Races." That pamphlet says:The leading feature of the present federation proposal is such as to guarantee that no right, privilege or opportunity which the Africans now enjoy will be abated or circumscribed in any way.The operative words are:which the Africans now enjoy.There is no suggestion here that the underlying purpose of Central African federation is the social, political and economic advancement of the African people. Of course, the Government are not to be held responsible for those words, but we must not accept them as coming from a body of no importance. We cannot ignore this body as a mere propaganda organisation of no importance, save to spend someone else's money. It is a serious organisation set up in this country by vested interests to influence people on the question of federation, and not one word is mentioned in their propaganda that the underlying differences to the African people are those which have been described.
This statement denies the words of Sir Gilbert Rennie, a great administrator, who never ceased to advance the claims 836 of partnership between the peoples. He said:A partnership implies gradual and steady progress on all fronts until in due course they (the Africans) can take their full part with the other sections of the community in the economic and political life of the territory. Partnership implies proper provisions to both Europeans and Africans and proper safeguards for their rights and interests.Even my hon. Friends with whom I do not agree support that point of view.
What then is going wrong? Why is it that the African people, through their representatives, having got these declarations of the intentions of Central African federation, oppose it? The statement has been made that there is no such thing as Central African opinion, but that argument will not wash. We cannot, on one occasion, praise the experience, intelligence and selfless devotion of Africans when they support us, and on another occasion say that they represent no opinion when they oppose us. That is exactly what is taking place.
A meeting took place on 22nd June of this year and is reported in the "Rhodesia Herald." It was addressed by Mr. J. Z. Savanhu and Mr. J. M. Nkomo, the two Southern Rhodesian African representatives who came to this country for the Lancaster House Conference, the two gentlemen who were praised in the debate in the House on 29th April by the former Colonial Secretary for coming to this country and giving their experience and their advice.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Foster)
Is the hon. Member answering the question as to who said there was no African opinion?
§ Sir L. Plummer
The Secretary of State for the Colonies this afternoon said that there was no such thing as Central African opinion.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
On the contrary. My right hon. Friend said exactly the contrary. He said that it was a view which he could not accept for a moment.
§ Sir L. Plummer
My interpretation was that he made it quite clear that from his point of view African opinion was something that he did not accept as being the representative view of those three countries. It was a view that was 837 shared by certain of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee. Let us see what the Africans say. This point as to African opinion is very important. Mr. Nkomo said at this meeting that the present proposals for federation were only for the Europeans. He said:We appreciate the great economic advantages that federation will bring, but because of the present situation in Southern Rhodesia I doubt whether these benefits will come to Africans as well as Europeans. … Apart from discriminatory legislation, there was an unwritten law that assumed that Africans were inferior to Europeans.Those are the words.
What has gone wrong? Why is it that these people who were wise, experienced fellows on 29th April, 1952, are non-representative of African opinion on 22nd June? What has taken place? What has brought about this change? We have had it suggested that it is because of distorted propaganda of some wicked red organisation like the Fabian Colonial Bureau which is pumping out phrases like "informed African opinion" to such a degree that the Africans are now transformed. It is not so. The seeds of opposition against Central African federation are being planted in the minds of the African people by the protagonists of Central African federation themselves. I propose to give an example.
African workers in industry in both Northern and Southern Rhodesia believe that their advancement must come partly through the activities of their trade unions. It is a view which is held by white workers in Northern and Southern Rhodesia, who themselves are banded together—those who work on the railway—in the Rhodesian Railway Workers' Union—this covers white railway workers in Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia alike. In Northern Rhodesia the African railway workers have a union of their own, the North Rhodesian African Railway Workers' Trade Union. It is right and proper that we should pay tribute to the liberal policy of Northern Rhodesia and to the advanced view compared with other territories, of the Northern Rhodesian employers in helping the African people to establish a trade union which is fully recognised as competent and quite militant.
838 In Southern Rhodesia the position is almost completely opposite. The African railwaymen, too, have a union, the Rhodesian Railways African Employees' Association, which may be described in vulgar language as a "company" or "stooge" union. It does not have the support of the majority of the African workers, and they do not like it. They have been forming branches of the Northern Rhodesian Railways Workers' Union in Southern Rhodesia, in protest against the conditions under which they are living. The organisers of the Northern Rhodesian Railway union decided that what they wanted to do was to go to Southern Rhodesia and discuss with the newly formed branches the future plan of operations.
For that purpose, Mr. John Sichalwe, the General Secretary of the union, and Mr. Dixon Konkola, the President of the union, went to the District Commissioner in Northern Rhodesia and asked for permission to go. The Commissioner said it was quite legitimate business and gave them a permit, and off they went. They arrived at Victoria Falls on 22nd June last. As soon as they stepped into Southern Rhodesia they were detained by the immigration officer, although they were going on perfectly normal, legitimate business in propagating their trade union.
They were taken to a camp and kept there for three days. They were not allowed to move without the presence of an African detective. At the end of the third day, or at the beginning of the fourth, they were given 12 hours' notice to quit, and they were expelled. Why? Because they went down into Southern Rhodesia to say to the Southern Rhodesians, "You are entitled to exactly the same privileges and rights as railwaymen as the railwaymen in Northern Rhodesia."
This is the sort of thing that makes Africans doubt when people say, "There is partnership here for you. There is economic, social and political advantage for you in this federation." The people who were arrested and deported when they left one country to go into another are the very people who are being asked by the Government to accept the virtues and the values of Central African federation. The Northern Rhodesian district officer who gave them permission to go 839 to Southern Rhodesia, and at the same time informed the immigration officer in Southern Rhodesia that they were coming, is probably the very man deputed to explain the advantages of Central African federation to these people. This is not alien propaganda that is making people say: "This is not good enough"; the very repressive and retrogressive acts of people in Southern Rhodesia are responsible for it.
We ought to look very carefully indeed at the way in which these people are behaving. It gives very considerable support to the argument that we are advancing, these proposals for an African Affairs Board which should be very strongly supported by an independent chairman appointed with the consent of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He should have considerable powers to see that this discrimination is not continued.
The idea has been promulgated that the Southern Rhodesian workers do not want to be transferred to the rule of South Africa. I think that is right. But the Northern Rhodesian Africans do not want to be transferred under the rule of Southern Rhodesia either. There are degrees of racial discrimination, and the Northern Rhodesian African considers himself to be much better off than the Southern Rhodesian.
What is going on in Northern Rhodesia in relation to the attitude to the African people through the labour administration? Why is it that a decision is being taken to transfer the labour adviser from Broken Hill to Lusaka? Why is the successor of Mr. Comrie to be centred on Lusaka instead of looking after the job on the spot in Broken Hill?
What is happening is causing a hardening of the attitude of Northern Rhodesia towards the labour unions which are still very young movements and which cannot face the veiled hostility of the Government? Why is it that labour officers are being appointed who have no experience of the trade union movement? Is it that the Northern Rhodesian Government have come to the conclusion that they are to have federation imposed upon them and that therefore they are soon to be placed under the Southern Rhodesian labour administration which is far more restrictive?
840 Is it that, or is it that already a psychological change has taken place in the attitude of the Government of Northern Rhodesia as a result of the change of Government at Westminster, and that they are responding to the well-known Tory reaction against trade unionism wherever it is? Why is it that a generous, bold, intelligent attitude towards labour unions which has been encouraged since 1945 now looks as though it has been reversed? These questions have to be answered because, until they are, there will be nothing but suspicion in the minds of the Africans, put there not by agitators but by the activities of the white people in the territories.
Finally, what is the hurry about federation? What is the busting rush about it? Why have we now to get into a situation where we have declared our determination to go on whether for good or ill? Conditions may alter, nevertheless, men may be forced, with their backs against the wall, to defend an attitude of mind which is outmoded and outdated. At whose behest are we rushing on with it?
The position is that, with the suspicion there is in the minds of the Africans, with the doubt there is in the minds of a considerable portion of the European population, this will not work. Well, put it off for a few years. These African people are better off under the control of the Colonial Office in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland than they may well be under federation. There is no hurry.
Our responsibility is to see to it that the political, social and economic advancement of the African people is not an empty phrase but a pledge that we propose to fulfil. Let us satisfy the Africans that that is what we intend to do. Let us, for example, see to it that they will not be let down in the end. Let us do that and perhaps in a few years time their minds will come round to the conception of a federation which is acceptable to them. Anything short of that is a betrayal of our responsibility and of our trust.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)
The hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) said that he did not think that the Northern Rhodesian Africans would wish to go to Southern Rhodesia. That 841 is not the information I have been given, and I think there would be considerable doubt as to that view. In fact, many of the Nyasaland Africans often go to Southern Rhodesia via Northern Rhodesia.
Reference was made by the hon. Member to the complex question of African opinion, and the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) also referred to it in considerable detail. I am not sure how accurately we can decide what eventually African opinion will be. If, as I gathered the right hon. and learned Member said, African opinion might eventually come down fully against the scheme and then federation would not take place, would he go so far as to be certain that we should have to accept the African opinion so expressed, since, by so doing, many people would be put at a considerable disadvantage? It is extremely difficult to decide whether African representation and African opinion is not being led along the wrong road by mischievous propaganda which may have the ultimate effect of ruining the great beneficial scheme of federation.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I am sure the hon. Gentleman heard this afternoon the statement made that the civil servants are busy expounding and recommending this scheme, as is right. If that be so, is there anything untoward or illegitimate if others try to point out the defects in this scheme?
§ Mr. Harris
That would depend entirely on the motives. Of course, I fully support what the Minister said about the way this propaganda is being put over. What perturbs me is that in travelling through the territories of Africa one must recognise that many Africans cannot know the day-to-day circumstances of a scheme of this kind.
The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery certainly conveyed to me that if African opinion comes down against this scheme, federation will not go forward. Therefore, every hon. Member must recognise that it is vitally important that all African opinion should be truly representative of the whole body of Africans who will eventually have to consider this scheme. That worries me very much in trying to visualise the future of Central Africa. I, too, am pleased that the Minister of State has taken part in this debate and we all welcome his forth- 842 coming visit to Central Africa. I am certain that much of what is being said today will help him in his deliberations there.
It has been asked why there is any need for urgency. I think most people in Central Africa recognise that a scheme such as this has been mooted for the better part of 20 years, so there is no truth in the suggestion that we are treating it as extremely urgent. We have now reached the stage where the scheme will succeed or not, and any suggestion that we can put this off for a few more years must mean that we ourselves are in doubt as to its real benefits and hesitate to put it into operation. Federation is the soundest and almost the only way of safeguarding British connection with Central Africa and of maintaining and promoting a working partnership between the blacks and the whites which will enable the Africans to improve their own capacities and skills.
I think we all recognise that the fundamental problem in Central Africa is that of racial relations. Many Britons and Europeans have made this region of Central Africa their home and many have been born there. They have invested their labour, their skill and their savings in developing that part of the continent, with the help, I fully agree, of the Africans themselves. It should, therefore, be remembered that before the advent of the Europeans some half century ago, the Africans had to scratch up a poor subsistence from the soil without any hope or idea of progress towards the standards of Western civilisation as we know it.
As the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) has said, there are today great areas remote from European enterprise in which the population still live at bare subsistence level. It is the European who has provided, and still provides, the urge, the capital, the technical ability and the powers of organisation. In short, the European has provided the leadership idea which has raised this region in Central Africa from barbarism to the beginnings of economic and social advancement and which has enabled a transformation to take place in local standards of life.
At the same time, Central Africa contributes very largely in copper, chrome, asbestos, lead, zinc, tobacco and many 843 other dollar-saving commodies to the benefit of the sterling area. This remarkable achievement has produced wealth which is now enabling the African to take a fuller share of profits and privileges from our civilisation.
British tradition demands that this broad road of opportunity should remain open to all Africans as they advance from their tribal life up to the same level of civilisation as ours. The aim and policy of racial segregation to the south is, of course, to close that road. It is a policy which is, I feel, inspired by the white man's fear of being swamped by the great African majority and by his anxiety lest black competition should in due course drag down his livelihood and standards. The European in Central Africa also has fears, but he is willing to attempt to arrive at a more hopeful solution in this policy of federation or partnership.
But partnership must overcome two considerable obstacles if it is to succeed. First, it has to overcome the white settler's fear of domination by the African majority; and secondly, it has to overcome the African's backwardness and his fear also of white domination. Only a sustained economic development can surmount these formidable obstacles without full partnership.
Sufficient wealth must be produced to raise the African's level of living and his standards of health and education without, at the same time, lowering the standard of life that is required for maintaining the white civilisation. This can be achieved only by continued wise investment of large sums of money, which in turn demands a confidence in the Central African Territories. That confidence must be obtained by going forward with our general federation proposals.
§ Mr. J. Johnson
A fair comment upon what the hon. Member is saying is that one of the main objects of federation is to provide political stability and to induce large sums of capital investment. Where is the money to come from? Is it American capital that the hon. Member envisages?
§ Mr. Harris
It would be a good thing if eventually some American capital also were able to go to Central Africa. That 844 could only be for the ultimate good of the territories.
§ Mr. Harris
I agree that a certain amount has already gone there. All I am saying is that we must ensure the future security of the Central African Territories in the form of this combined federation and that we must cast no doubts about the future of Central Africa if we expect this increased capital to be placed in those territories. Only that kind of guarantee and racial harmony can be the basis for the success of our federation proposals.
The idea of lowering European standards to the African level, instead of raising African standards to the European level, are, of course, reactionary and impracticable; but without the Europeans and their dynamic progressive forces, the economic development would undoubtedly be destroyed, and with it ultimately the hopes of the African's progress and prosperity.
Central Africa must be recognised as the rightful home of all its present inhabitants, whether white or black. British opinion should, therefore, realise its imperial trust in Central Africa as one of providing security and incentives to the white community equally with ensuring the same safeguards and opportunity for the Africans.
Federation will remove the first obstacle to partnership by giving to the white Rhodesians the sense of security and responsibility which will ensure continued co-operation in the advancement of the Africans. I am certain also that the rejection of our federation proposals would harden their attitude and would eventually convince them that they were more than ever in danger.
The white Northern Rhodesians now feel justified, as a great contribution to progress, in asking for a further gesture of confidence and a still greater share of self-government by the establishment of a federal Government with common services for the three territories, in which already the self-governing people of Southern Rhodesia have a bigger contribution to make to their less developed neighbours. Federation is the gesture of confidence which is able not only to answer Northern Rhodesian aspirations, 845 but also to remove the fear of, and to encourage the attitude towards, partnership amongst the European population.
Nyasaland also is vitally concerned, not only from the standpoint of safeguarding agriculture but for the other industries established by European initiative and capital. If Nyasaland were not included in the federation, undoubtedly the finance for industrial development would be much more difficult to find.
We must give more than a gesture towards Central African federation. We must get down to it and must recognise our responsibility, and be prepared to see it through. There must be the strongest guarantees in the federal constitution that the ideal of partnership is to be preserved and pursued after federation has been brought about. To me it is evident that the present federation proposals offer security to the Africans as well as to the Europeans, and thus provide the political conditions which ultimately will be most favourable to inter-racial partnership.
Federation can also do much to encourage the prerequisite economic conditions for partnership. The acceptance of our proposals will undoubtedly speed the economic development of the region, upon which the ultimate successful partnership and progress of the Africans and the Europeans alike depend.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
I think that today we have a very important function to perform. We have to prepare the way for the conference which we now understand is to take place next January. I should say there are two main subjects to which we have to direct our attention. One is African opinion on this matter, because it has been discussed very much in this country as to how that opinion is to be gauged, as to how far we are to take it into account and how far it should be decisive in any decision we ourselves may ultimately reach.
The other task is to examine the proposals in the White Paper and see how far we can honestly and honourably support them. I hope very much that none of us here will feel that because we have said something at some time we are bound to stick to it actually to the letter. This is far too important, if we have fresh proposals put before us, to allow any 846 question of pride, or personal reputation, or anything of that kind, or even of party reputation, to stand in the way. We are discussing something today which, in its way, is quite as important—or perhaps one degree removed in importance—for the peace and wellbeing of mankind as our discussions on N A T.O. re-armament and so forth.
With those considerations in mind, I should like to say one or two words on this matter of African opinion. It is quite true that it is not easy in a state of society where one does not have a direct franchise to have a reliable method of gauging African opinion. On the other hand, there are representative institutions in the territories which are employed for public purposes, and it seems to me that if we have such machinery we should make proper use of it and should accord to the results a validity which is of considerable importance. Having gauged that opinion, we must decide to what degree it is to be effective in reaching cur decision.
I should like to put this point, if I may have the attention of the Under-Secretary of State, because he seems very much tied to his brief—
§ Mr. J. Foster
Not at all. I can repeat what the hon. Lady has said. She has just said that we ought to take notice of established measures of public opinion—
§ Mrs. White
I can remember my own speech, thank you very much. I am glad to notice that the hon. and learned Gentleman can do two things at once.
I wish to put this very important point to him, as it concerns his own Department. If in this very difficult situation in Central Africa Her Majesty's Government decide that, in spite of a very strong expression of African opinion to the contrary, they will nevertheless proceed with federal proposals, would not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that he might be setting a very dangerous precedent if we were asked at some future stage what we are to do if the Government of the Union of South Africa asked for the return of Protectorate Territories? I hope very much that that point will be borne in mind in any action taken by Her Majesty's Government, because one might very easily cut the ground from under 847 one's feet by taking a decision in those circumstances which might be very contrary to what we might wish to do in other circumstances in territories not so very far away.
I would not disagree for a moment that there has been some ill-informed and some irresponsible propaganda in the territories on this matter. I was glad to hear from the Secretary of State that the leaders of public opinion in the territories are urging their followers to study the proposals in the White Paper. I have been much impressed with some of the criticisms of federation already made by the leaders in Southern Rhodesia of whom my hon. Friend has spoken. They noticed, for example, that one of the advantages of federation for this country would be its possible effect on the dollar gap. That did not escape them. They asked whether the economic advantages they could see might accrue would necessarily be of such benefit to the Africans as was sometimes maintained.
Members of the Legislative Council in Northern Rhodesia over here pointed out their primary objections to federation at this time is that they feel it is being put upon them at a time when they are just beginning—and only just beginning—to find their own way politically. They say, "It is too soon, we are only just gaining our own political confidence. Here, when we are just emerging, you at once put upon us a constitution in which we have no guarantees that we shall be able to take any further steps beyond the ones actually inshrined in the constitution for immediate application."
That brings me to the proposed constitution. One of the reasons why African opinion—I am speaking now of responsible, informed African opinion—is so much disturbed is that they are aware of the comments being made on these proposals by the European politicians in Southern and Northern Rhodesia, by the leader writers in European journals in those countries and in the neighbouring territory of the Union of South Africa. These educated and well-informed Africans in the territories are not unaware of what is being said concerning these proposals, and it is because of these comments—I know from correspondence that I am receiving myself—that they have very serious doubts 848 as to the true strength of the safeguards which are to be enshrined in the constitution.
The Minister of State said that he is going out and will explain the solid strength of the safeguards—I believe that was the phrase he used. I would accept the Minister as a person of intellectual honesty. If he looks at the proposed safeguards and reads the comments made upon them, first by persons in this country of the standing and experience of Lord Hailey—there are very few people now alive who have had more experience in the actual working of constitutions and experience of complex states—and if, on the other hand, he reads the kind of comments in leading articles in newspapers in the territories, written by persons with first-hand knowledge, not, I may say, by long-haired Fabians, surely he must have some doubts as to the real value of the safeguards in that constitution.
I am not saying this in any unfriendly spirit, because I fully realise that a great deal of work and thought has been put into these proposals and, within a certain framework, with some of the improvements which have been mentioned by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, they are probably as reasonable as one could obtain in the present state of affairs in these territories.
I shall not spend too much time on this, but will mention briefly the main safeguards which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to explain during his visit. Is he really satisfied that there will be an adequate safeguard where the major interests of the Africans are concerned? I know it is perfectly true that land legislation is to be kept within the territorial ambit, but there are other very important subjects with which I do not wish to take time to deal in detail. I will quote the opinion of Sir Stewart Gore-Brown, who was until recently the member representing African interests and has life-long experience of the territories. He says:One cannot help doubting whether, judging by past history, the well-worn device of prescribing 'reserved subjects' is even likely to work in the way intended by those who propose it. For as soon as the safeguards are sufficiently effective to become irksome to the people in power, the latter will assuredly find some means of getting rid of them.When we consider the veto which will be reserved in certain circumstances to 849 Her Majesty's Government, what is likely to be the experience? In minor matters no doubt there will be modifications after correspondence with the appropriate Departments in this country, but in major matters, as Lord Hailey pointed out so clearly, if there was a really strong European opinion in the government which had an overwhelming European majority; if that government threatened to resign; if there were such a narrow basis to political life in the territories—as there would be for many years—that no alternative Government could be found; is it not perfectly obvious that the European majority would be in a position to blackmail any future Secretary of State, and that no Secretary of State would risk the hiatus which might then ensue?
§ Mr. Hopkinson indicated dissent.
§ Mrs. White
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I repeat that I am not quoting from my limited experience, but from the greater experience of persons who have fuller knowledge than I in this matter.
Again we have the African Affairs Board, which is the most positive of the safeguards, because most of the others are completely negative safeguards. They will ensure that things do not get any worse, but they do not ensure that they will get any better. The African Affairs Board has some positive possibilities. But surely it is significant that it is precisely against the establishment of the African Affairs Board that the strongest criticism has been made, most particularly in Southern Rhodesia.
I think hon. Members opposite have been as much shocked as I was to find that the very strongest criticism of this safeguard for African interests has been made in Southern Rhodesia, actually by the Minister responsible for Native Affairs in Southern Rhodesia. I ask hon. Members who are urging that we should hurry with these federation proposals, what would be their attitude, what confidence would they have in these proposals, when all round them they heard this kind of criticism from persons who will be in fact, according to this constitution, very much in the majority for any forseeable period?
§ Mr. J. Foster
Why does the hon. Member say that the Minister responsible for Native Affairs said this?
§ Mrs. White
I quote from "The Times" of 28th June on the debate in the Southern Rhodesian Parliament, which took place between 23rd June and 27th June—I have not the exact date on which the Minister for Native Affairs spoke—in which he said that the African Affairs Board was the only reason why a referendum might go against federation. He thought the conference in October should nullify this proposal and meet Southern Rhodesian wishes.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
Would not the hon. Member welcome the existence of an African Affairs Board which would safeguard the interests of the Africans in Southern Rhodesia as well, and which does not exist today?
§ Mrs. White
I would welcome it, if I thought it would be effective and if I were certain it would remain an effective body in the Government. But surely the very fact that a person in this position in the existing Government of Southern Rhodesia makes this kind of criticism—apart from the most illuminating remarks of Sir Godfrey Huggins in this matter—makes one a little dubious of the part which this African Affairs Board is likely to be allowed to play in any future federal government. Anyone with experience of administrative bodies knows that there are ways and means of putting them into a back-water if they prove inconvenient to the elected body. It seems to me, therefore, that there are good grounds for the doubts and suspicions of Africans as to the adequacy and efficacy of the safeguards on which the Minister of State seems to place so much reliance.
I emphasise the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), that we on this side feel very strongly indeed that there should be provided some way whereby there could be some review of this constitution at some future time. I was interested in the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett), that one might possibly say, if two out of the three territories wished to have a review within a certain period, that that might be one way of including in the constitution something which might not be repugnant 851 to opinion in the Central African Territories. But I am certain we cannot hope to have African adherence to proposals whereby under the existing suggestion a European majority can, perfectly legally and effectively, place an absolute barrier against any further advance of Africans in the federation government. That is the constitutional position as suggested in the White Paper.
The most that we in the House can do is to safeguard the existing six to eight African representatives out of the 35. That we can do. But if we agree to the constitution as proposed today, we shall be absolutely powerless to do more than that at any future stage to keep pace with the advance of the Africans politically. I think some safeguard of that kind is absolutely vital if Her Majesty's Government hope to have any support from the majority of hon. Members on this side of the House.
The other point raised by my right hon. Friend, of placing the conditions for the franchise for the federation elections in the hands of the territories and not in the hands of the federation government, is one well worthy of consideration. Because once again we have the fear in African minds that the predominant European members in that federation government would ensure that the qualifications for electing members was such that their chances of advance would be very greatly limited.
I hope that the Government will consider very carefully what they are doing in this matter, and that they will not hasten forward for any reason of prestige, or even necessarily of consistency. Certainly there are times when one might do harm by failing to take resolute and early action. I do realise that there have been incidents, even in this sphere, in which the late Government might have taken action earlier and more decisively, and achieved better results. But the contrary is sometimes true. It is sometimes better to hasten slowly. I believe that this is one of those cases in which it would be better to wait until the Africans, who are only just beginning their political life, have reached a point where they have a little more confidence.
It is a very difficult position. If we now put into the constitution what will really satisfy African aspirations, and be 852 appropriate to their position 10 years hence, we shall never get it accepted by the European settlers. That is the dilemma. If we do not put that in, then we shall not get the support of the Africans and there may well be very severe racial tension in those territories which would go a long way to negate any confidence which purveyors of capital might feel in their future.
So one is on the horns of a dilemma. It is extremely difficult at this point of time to fashion a constitution which is acceptable both to European opinion and just to the Africans. Therefore I suggest we would be more likely to reach a point where that dilemma might be overcome if we waited, not necessarily for very long, but until the Africans had more confidence in their own political advance in their own territories.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)
I start by apologising for being unable to be present for the greater part of this debate because of other business. I am sure that the Committee will realise that it was because of the somewhat tense situation in one of the Standing Committees that I was unable to be here. Equally, I must apologise to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) for not hearing the whole of his remarks, though I heard most of the earlier part of his speech.
He was making a powerful case for the federation project. I should like to elaborate the three points which he seemed to regard as the most prominent. They were, first, the economic value of federation to the three territories concerned. It has been clear for a long time that there are immense advantages in any circumstances in increasing the sphere available for an economic national unit.
This was expressed most clearly by Colonel S. Gore-Brown in a pamphlet which he wrote for the Fabian Colonial Bureau in 1944. He said:In the first place it is now generally recognised that modern conditions call for large rather than small units of government. In the world today it is intolerable that small isolated communities should be in a position to check the development of transport, for instance.Then he gave an instance from his own extensive experience in that part of the world. He said:The Salisbury—Lusaka road some years ago provided an illustration of this point— 853 the Southern Rhodesian portion of the road was admirable in every way, but after it crossed the Zambesi and entered Northern Rhodesia the road became almost impassable.That is a practical example, in his submission, of the economic value to the territories which federation would bring about. I am certain that of all the things that Africa need—leaving aside capital investment, which is essential—better communications, improved power supplies and water supplies are the key to the future of Africa. As I see the position, federation will assist to provide these for the three territories concerned. I do not think that there is any real division in the Committee on the great economic advantages of federation in Central Africa.
The right hon. Gentleman turned to another point, which was the equally important one of African training facilities which would be available as a result of federation. It was clear that as a result of his visit, if this larger governmental administration and economic unit came into being it would no longer be necessary for the Africans of Southern Rhodesia, Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia to go elsewhere for their higher training. I am sure that we agree that training and higher education in their various forms are of the most vital interest to African progress. If federation is to contribute to it, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said that it will, that is another strong argument in its favour.
§ Mrs. White
There is an important point here. The hon. Gentleman will realise that, for example, in East Africa there is Makerere, which would serve the same kind of purpose as we have at heart without federation. Therefore, it is not absolutely essential for unified higher education to have federation.
§ Mr. Alport
That may be true. Makerere has become effective only as a result of the closer union under the High Commission. Closer union in itself is essential. I will come back to the question of the idea of a High Commission for Central Africa later.
The third argument is the political argument. I do not want to elaborate it, but I should have thought that it was obvious to anyone who surveys the political scene in Africa south of the Sahara that there was great advantage in having a new centre of political gravity 854 in Central Africa. There is undoubtedly great political weakness covering the whole of the country from the north of the Union up to the Abyssinian border. There is no strong centre of attraction, no political centre, able to balance the very considerable influence of the Union.
If there are—as indeed there are—aspects of Union policy with which we are not in agreement, then it is in the interests of Africa as a whole, not least in the interest of the idea of British policy for Africa, that we should have a powerful, strong economic and political centre of gravity elsewhere. Therefore, on that major argument in favour of federation there would be no great disagreement on either side of the Committee.
I turn to some of the points in the other speeches which I have heard. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) on many occasions arguments to the effect that one of the most important ways in which we can prevent the spread of Communism throughout the world and maintain the integrity of the British Commonwealth of nations is to improve the conditions of life of the people in the backward countries. I think that the hon. Baronet the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) would agree with that.
If the economic arguments and cultural arguments are so strongly in favour of federation, it is essential that we should all bend our energies, imaginations and skill to try to evolve as soon as is possible some method of closer union which will bring those economic and cultural advantages to this part of Africa. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Llanelly is not present at the moment. I am surprised that he showed such suspicion of this project put forward at the last two conferences. I am sure that he will agree that if the argument is strong in favour of the economic advantages of federation, they follow precisely the sort of arguments that he has put most eloquently on numerous occasions. If those economic advantages are so great, what, we are entitled to ask, are the advantages to the three territories if federation does not take place?
I suggest that the best example of the effect of federation failing can be taken by considering the future of Nyasaland.
855 The position of Nyasaland is that it is primarily a reservoir of labour for the territories which surround it. In 1950, 147,000 Africans out of a population of only 2,500,000 left Nyasaland to obtain work elsewhere. That happens year by year. It has been happening for 50 years and more. The native of Nyasaland is a great traveller, a wanderer. But it is not wanderlust which takes him away: it is the desire for higher wages and a better standard of living which he can obtain by working in Northern or Southern Rhodesia or in the Union itself.
I go further and say that the reason there is a lack of school teachers in Nyasaland is that Nyasa-trained school teachers go to Southern Rhodesia or Northern Rhodesia to get the higher salaries available there. What will be the position of Nyasaland? It has no real economic resources of its own. There is a small amount of coal in the northern part of the territory but it has no large economic resources. What will be its future if federation fails?
I think it is summed up and admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick that, if federation does not take place, there is a very great danger of Southern Rhodesia being drawn into the orbit of the Union of South Africa. If Southern Rhodesia goes that way, the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is perfectly logical, and indeed inevitable, that Northern Rhodesia will do the same.
Therefore, what is to be the position of Nyasaland in that case? It is to be a sort of new High Commission Territory, isolated from the sea and isolated from any communications with other parts of British East Africa, except the very tenuous route to the North. It is to be simply a reservoir of African labour which is to go, year by year, to work in territories over the native policies of which it has no control whatever, and, if I may go further than that, very likely, sooner or later, over which the Government in the United Kingdom will have no control whatever, either? Frankly, from the African point of view, Nyasaland is the biggest problem, because it has the biggest African population, and I believe very strongly that the policy of federation without Nyasaland would be absolutely disastrous.
856 We may ask ourselves, therefore, why it is that in Nyasaland, of all the three territories, the opposition is so great, and I frankly admit that I cannot give an answer quickly. All I can say is that it has been my experience of Africa that there has always been a good deal of jealousy between the administrations of one territory and another. I know quite well, and I am not exaggerating, that in the East African Territories, before the High Commission project came into operation, there was constant feeling and friction between Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya. Indeed, the whole project of the High Commission was bitterly opposed in the early days, because it was felt that it would take away from the dignity of one territory or another, or would interfere with their interests, economic or otherwise.
My impression is that, at the root of this opposition, which is so strong in Nyasaland, is a feeling on the part of the administration, at any rate up to very recent days indeed—though I am sure they were quite loyal and straightforward in their point of view—that it was not in the interests of their territory, or in line with the policy which has been pursued in the last 50 years or so, to be associated with these other much more important, more powerful and more wealthy territories, which would form the rest of the federation.
Therefore, I do not think that we should assume entirely that the formation of African opinion in Nyasaland is a result of the work of Africans inside or of agitators from outside. I think it is very likely that it comes as a result of the reactions of a small isolated administration in an African territory which felt that being drawn into the orbit of a bigger federation would result in the loss of some of their influence, and that they would see some of their ideas submerged in policies with which they did not entirely agree. I hope very much that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, when he goes out there, will make quite certain that the administration realises that it is the stated policy of the Government that federation is in the best interests of that territory, as of the others.
I said that I would refer to the alternative to the federation proposal, and I must keep my promise. I do not think 857 there is any doubt on any side of the Committee that closer union in some form is desirable, but it is only right that, when one group of opinion puts forward one proposal which is heavily criticised, as this one has been, the group that criticised it should put forward an alternative. I have been looking for the alternative, and the only one that has come my way has been one which was put forward by Lord Farringdon in a letter to "The Times" written on behalf of the Fabian Colonial Bureau.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway
May I help the hon. Gentleman on that point? The objection is not to the principle of federation. The objection is to the fact that the Federal Parliament would be under the control of the European majority, with insignificant African representation. Give the Africans representation, and there is no objection to the principle of federation.
§ Mr. Alport
That is an advance on the point of view taken by the noble Lord in his letter to "The Times" when he was writing on behalf of the Fabian Colonial Bureau, because he was opposed to federation, and favoured the High Commission system, which has been working in East Africa, as an alternative.
What I want to say about that is that I think we should be very wrong to suppose that we could apply the experiment which has been applied in East Africa to Central Africa at the present time. The truth of the matter is that the existence in Central Africa of a self-governing Colony, as is Southern Rhodesia, makes the relationship and harmonious working of a rather loosely knit and largely advisory body—although it has certain executive functions—such as the Central Legislative Council in East Africa, impossible. Indeed, we have had experience of this, and the Committee know very well that there was a Central African Council, and that, in fact, it proved a failure. Therefore, I do not think that the alternative of the High Commission system would work in Central Africa.
If I may now turn to another point made by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), she spoke about the safeguards, and her arguments were repeated by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway). 858 Both suggested that the safeguards which exist in the present proposals are insufficient. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly, if he had had to put forward his proposals, would have proposed something different from the safeguards which exist at the present time, but we should be very interested to hear what he would have proposed.
The right hon. Gentleman said—and my own feeling is that it bears a very close resemblance to what would have been proposed had the Opposition been in power—that the rights with which the Africans were concerned were not political rights, but the rights of land tenure, and that these were adequately safeguarded under the undertakings which both the former Government and the present Government have given.
I am quite certain that the right hon. Gentleman will be satisfied that the statement made by the present Colonial Secretary fully endorses the undertaking which he gave when he was in that office. Therefore, I think that regarding the major point with which the Africans are concerned, the land rights of Africans, there is no doubt that adequate safeguards already exist. We have heard from both sides of the Committee that these safeguards, in fact, exist at the present time.
The next question is whether the political safeguards exist. Frankly, I do not think that these safeguards are simply a matter of political machinery. When we were last discussing this subject, I remember asking the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly whether he had taken action in order to make representations to the European unions in Northern Rhodesia in order to modify in some degree their very exclusive attitude on the subject of the colour bar. I do not know whether he has had any success as a result of those representations, but quite clearly that type of action, if it is successful, is far more likely to give confidence to the Africans than is any safeguard which can be provided in a constitution.
Action is necessary, and I have every hope and every belief that, whatever may be the extravagances of individuals in Central Africa, in Southern Rhodesia itself, there is a growing good will and understanding that actions in these 859 matters speak louder than words and that the confidence of the African towards the European and of the European towards the African is the essential basis and safeguard of the interests of both parties.
I want to elaborate a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker). I believe that the judicial safeguard is more effective and more acceptable to the minority than is the political safeguard. It has always been my view that the interpretation of whether an Act is ultra vires under the constitution should be decided by the judiciary rather than by any political figure. Under the present proposal, as the right hon. Member for Smethwick has pointed out, the Governor-General may assent to a Bill which has been objected to by the African Affairs Board if he is satisfied that it is not a differentiating Measure. It is very difficult for the constitutional head of a Government to make a political decision of that sort. Indeed, in many ways it is very difficult even for the Colonial Secretary here to make a decision in this context.
As has been the experience and example with all federal constitutions as far as I know, it is best that the decision on a matter of this sort, as to whether a piece of legislation which is objected to by the African Affairs Board is ultra vires or not, should be made in the first case as the result of an appeal to the Federal Supreme Court and, if necessary, as the result of further appeal from the Supreme Court to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Hon. Members opposite may tell me that the example of what has happened recently in South Africa would not give to the African any confidence in such an arrangement, but in my view the example of recent events in South Africa should give him the greatest confidence, because it has shown that, in fact, the Supreme Court provides a safeguard after all the political safeguards have disappeared. Further, the end of the story has not been reached in South Africa; we have still to see what will happen during the next few years. Finally on this line of argument, if the judicial safeguard goes, we can be quite sure that the political safeguard will have gone as well and that we shall have lost the accepted basis of the constitution, founded upon proper 860 balance, safeguards and all our normal ideas of the rule of law.
The proposals in the draft scheme have not been made final. I hope that when my right hon. Friend the Minister of State goes to Africa he will have an opportunity to consider some of these other suggestions. I equally hope that these proposals will not be attacked without due thought by their critics on the other side of the Committee, because I believe they are constructive proposals which can and should give the Africans confidence in the safeguards for their interests existing in the new scheme.
It is fair to emphasise one other thing—that we must be equally certain that the safeguards for the interests of other racial communities in the three Territories are adequate. One of the reasons for the criticism of the present draft scheme is the belief that the safeguards for the Africans are more than adequate whereas those for the interests of the Asians and Europeans are inadequate. I should like to see this Board regarded not simply as an African Board but as a race relations board, because it is only through a race relations board that we can assure the great majority of Africans that their interests are properly protected, as well as those of the minority communities, who, although they may appear to have preponderant powers at present, in time may quite easily find themselves in need of protection against political domination by other communities. As we envisage it, and as I am sure it is envisaged by hon. Members opposite, the present position will develop in time so that the balance of power between the European community and the African community will be adjusted as the African community becomes more capable and trained in the exercise of political power.
The hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) assumed that there is all virtue in the Colonial Office form of rule and all vice in the Southern Rhodesian form of rule. Let me quote from a very experienced person—a statement made by Colonel Gore-Browne, again from a Fabian Colonial Bureau publication. Colonel Gore-Browne, as he was then, said:No honest observer could deny that a great deal is done for the general welfare of Africans in Southern Rhodesia, and much more contemplated for the future.861 He was writing in 1944. He continued:In many respects Southern Rhodesia is ahead of Northern Rhodesia in social work on behalf of the natives. Indeed, the present writer argued in his maiden speech seven years ago in the Legislative Council that the deplorable state of the social services for natives in Northern Rhodesia was proof that belief in a 'Colonial Office policy' and the acceptance of the doctrine of trusteeship were by themselves no guarantee of fitness to rule a subject race.Those are very strong words, and whether or not they are merited is not for me to say, but I think we must be fair in this matter and realise that those who live and work in Africa, and have the future of themselves and their families to think of in Africa, realise as clearly as we do that it is in their own interests to work with and for the African members of the community of which they are part and to which they are determined, in their different ways, to make their contribution. Therefore in Southern Rhodesia we have an example of progress which until very recently has not been competed with in any way in the other two territories.
I believe that we in this country, and in the House of Commons in particular, have a very grave responsibility indeed. I believe that if we fail to make a decision which we believe to be in the interests of the African, if we fail to take the opportunity which exists at present, if we continue to throw cold water on a great political design, we shall be condemning Africans in Central Africa to a very uncertain and perhaps very unhappy future. I hope that all hon. and right hon. Members opposite, when approaching this subject, will think of it not simply from any doctrinaire point of view but as perhaps the greatest act of statesmanship that can be taken in Africa since the passing of the 1910 Act
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)
I shall not take a disproportionate share of the time left for this debate because I think that we are all anxious to hear the ex-Secretary of State for the Colonies, my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). I shall confine myself to three minutes. I could not possibly attempt to do justice to the speech of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) in that time. It would require at least the 35 minutes which he himself took. Perhaps on another occasion some of us who have been unfor- 862 tunate may be a little higher up in the queue and may be called, for instance, like my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid).
We all agree that federation—even the scheme of federation which has been put forward—has, or may have, certain economic advantages. But that does not mean that therefore it must be imposed upon a people to whom may pass a certain amount of those advantages. The essential distinction between many hon. Members opposite and some on this side of the Committee and others, is that some of us do not deny that federation may have certain economic and political advantages, but we say that there is a moral and spiritual fact which must not be ignored. That fact is the inherent rights of the people themselves. Once we go away from that we shall find ourselves in a position where we are justifying Nazism, Fascism, and Communism, and all other forms of economy or of polity which are to us so reprehensible.
When we eulogise partnership—and that has been done on both sides of the Committee today—we must define what we mean by it. There is block partnership as between one community and another, and there is personal partnership. There is the partnership between the small, wealthy class in this country on the one hand, with equal representation in the House of Commons, and the rest of the community—the kind of partnership we are now repudiating. The only kind of partnership that is valid is democratic partnership, which means that we must aim at a central African federation based upon the inherent rights of individuals, whether white or black. The time for that to be achieved may be remote, but at least we must be guaranteed that that is the ultimate goal and that it must be achieved.
Unless we can win the peoples of Central Africa into a real appreciation of our intentions and motives and assurances, then we owe it to these fellow human beings, even when we have the desire to do good to them, not to impose our will upon them. I say that because one cannot take Central Africa out of the context of the whole of Africa. Right or wrong, the people of Africa are watching what is taking place in Central Africa. There is in the arena of Africa a conflict between two ideas—the idea of democracy 863 and the idea of domination. We have to take our side in that conflict.
Because I believe that the whole hope of mankind in Africa and elsewhere is a guarantee that we shall work towards an ultimate democracy, I hope that whatever may be said in eulogy of this particular scheme we shall not endeavour to impose it upon the people of Africa at any time; because the only way in which we can secure real co-operation between ourselves and the people of Africa is by winning their confidence and good will.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
In less than an hour's time the dreaded Guillotine will fall, and I shall, therefore, try to divide the time available fairly between myself and the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations who is to reply. I do not wish to take up too much time, since we have three Ministers to speak from the Government Front Bench, and I hope, therefore, to confine my remarks to half an hour at the most.
I am going to get straight down to discussing major points to which I wish to refer and not to repeat what I have said so often about federation and its advantages. First of all, we are very glad that the Colonial Secretary has made two statements, and I want to repeat them so that they are completely on the record. First, the conference is postponed until January; that gives us more time. Secondly, no irrevocable step will be taken before Parliament has a further opportunity of debating the matter and then coming to a decision. In the meantime, we have a draft scheme before us, and I want to discuss that scheme. It is right that we should discuss it in as much detail as time allows.
I want to make comments, criticisms and suggestions. We are entitled to make criticisms and suggestions because it is quite clear that, whenever the conference is called—and it is now going to be in January—there will be criticisms and suggestions from Southern Rhodesia, and it may be from other places too, who were represented at the conference and agreed to this scheme. It is quite clear that at the next conference they will try to make a further amendment.
Let me examine the draft scheme, and, in particular, compare it with the original 864 scheme. Whilst it is clear that from the beginning neither I nor my hon. Friends nor the Government were committed to any details of the original scheme, I am going to compare the two because I have come to the conclusion after careful thought, for reasons which I will put before the Committee as fully as I can, that in many respects the new scheme which we have before us is weaker in its protection of African interests and is, in my view, in many respects not so good as the scheme which was originally proposed.
In order to examine it in detail, let me set out the criteria by which I examine the scheme, or indeed any scheme, and by which we shall examine any other scheme which comes before us for our decision. There are three criteria which we have to lay down. The first is that any scheme must contain sufficient safeguards of African interests, and among those safeguards must be one to ensure the continuation and development of the policy to which we are all committed; namely, to secure their economic and political advancement as part of our declared Colonial policy, which is shared by all parties in the House. It is our desire to guide the people of the Colonial Territories to responsible self-government within the Commonwealth.
The second criterion is this: does the scheme provide adequate and effective powers for Her Majesty's Government to fulfil her obligations and her special responsibilities towards these territories as Protectorates? It is common to both schemes that the Protectorate status of the two Northern Territories is to be preserved and enshrined in the constitution. That means, therefore, that there will continue to be Protectorates with the right to look to us for protection, and we have no right, as a Government or as a Parliament or as a country, to take responsibilities unless we have power to fufil them.
The third criterion is: does the scheme give the prospect of secure federation by consent and agreement? Let me state the third test in words in which the officials set out this problem in their Report. Paragraph 35 of the Report says:We have constantly borne in mind that whatever is proposed must be designed not only to promote the well-being of the territories and their inhabitants"—865 I ask the Committee to note these words—but also to be acceptable to the inhabitants and to the Governments of the Legislatures concerned.Those are the three tests which I propose to apply in examining this scheme.
Now I come to the major changes to which the Colonial Secretary referred in his speech earlier in the day. As far as procedure is concerned, the safeguards in the original scheme were embodied in two proposals. First, there should be a Minister for African Interests, appointed by the Governor-General after consultation with the Secretary of State, and answerable to the Secretary of State through the Governor-General. That Minister could not be dismissed except by the Governor-General, with the consent of the Secretary of State.
That proposal is abandoned. It is quite clear from the report that the officials regarded that proposal as one of the main safeguards. I can understand why. Let us face up to this, because it is a problem for us all. We have to realise that in Africa in these days procedural safeguards are a debased currency. In a grave matter of this kind one should speak with frankness. Being frank is part of the duty of being responsible. I do not think that anybody in this Committee would deny that our faith in purely procedural safeguards has been shaken to the roots by what is happening today in the Union of South Africa.
I want to put this question perfectly fairly before the Committee. Can we now go to the peoples of these three Territories and tell them to rely upon the kind of safeguards which have been swept away with one stroke of the hand in the Union? It is quite clear that there must be a safeguard which is something more than procedural, a safeguard personified by the appointment of someone in the Cabinet. I know all the constitutional arguments against that. The Colonial Secretary described him as a cuckoo in the nest. It is said that it would destroy Cabinet responsibility.
If I may quote "The Times," this is a proposal for a federation of unequals in territories that we propose, in the scheme, to keep unequal. If we assume that federation were to start next Monday, on Tuesday Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland would be Protectorates, under 866 the protection of Her Majesty's Government. This proposal to abandon the Minister means that the Secretary of State, or whoever else it might be, cannot hold anyone in the Cabinet responsible for taking all the steps that are required to safeguard African interests.
I raised this point when the Colonial Secretary referred to this subject, and I raise it again now. In every colonial constitution and in every constitution which affects a Colony it is becoming an essential part of our organisation and machinery that there should be a member in the executive to represent the Africans—a person responsible to the Governor—and, through the Governor, to the Secretary of State—for protecting African interests because, as Lord Hailey pointed out in the other House, the actions which affect African interests most are not legislative but executive and administrative. If we are to protect African interests against executive and administrative action that might adversely affect them, we must do so at a point in the Cabinet.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The noble Lord also said that the present scheme gaye far greater safeguards than the old one.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I do not share his view. I was only quoting what he said was his experience. It is quite clear that it is essential for us to have in the Cabinet some Minister who will be responsible to the Secretary of State. That Minister has gone. There is no one whom the Secretary of State can hold responsible in this federal structure.
I was asked for an alternative. If it is held to be constitutionally impossible to have a Minister of this kind—I express my own view I prefer it—then let me make a suggestion. There will be nine African representatives out of a total of 35 in the Legislature. Has it been considered whether there should be an African in the Cabinet? If there are going to be nine Africans out of 35 representatives on the Legislative Council—that is roughly one-fourth—what proportion of Africans are to have a seat in the Cabinet?
If we consider it essential to ensure the Constitution that there should be at least nine Africans in the Legislature, is it not logical and right also to ensure that there shall be some Africans in the 867 Cabinet? That, surely, is a sound proposal, and that would be my alternative. I hope it will be considered.
I now turn to the second problem, the African Affairs Board. My view is that it has been weakened in two respects compared with the proposal in the original scheme. The first weakness, of course, is the abandonment of the Minister for African interests. He was to be the Chairman of the African Affairs Board with power to deal with legislation and he was to be a Minister in the Cabinet with power to veto executive action if he thought that necessary. There we had a complete safeguard against executive and administrative action which was to have been embodied in a single person whose final appointment and dismissal would vest in the authority of the Secretary of State.
That Minister has now gone, and, therefore, some other chairman will come in. That chairman must not be appointed from among those who are not members of the Federal Legislature or of the Territorial Legislature. In other words, he is to be chosen from among laymen who must have no connection at all with political life. Does anyone suggest that strengthens the safeguards?
The second change is that in connection with the composition of the African Affairs Board. In the original proposal it was suggested that the Board should consist of nine members; one African from each territory, one elected member from the Europeans in each territory, and the remainder were to be the three Secretaries for Native Affairs from the territories.
That proposal has now been dropped. Why? We must remember that these territories are Protectorates, and that in each of them the Secretary for Native Affairs is the officer directly responsible in the Executive Council of the territory for safeguarding African interests. It is now made impossible for him to sit on the Board. I say, therefore, that the proposed new Board is a much weaker instrument of protection for the Africans than was the old Board.
But, in addition to that, there is another change. This is a change of words, but a change which has real significance and which applies to executive, administrative 868 and legislative action. In the officials' proposals the Minister would have the right to object to administrative and executive action if, in his view, it would be detrimental to African interests. Under the original proposals, the African Affairs Board was entitled to hold up and to refer for consideration by Her Majesty's Government any legislation which in their opinion was detrimental to African interests. The word "detrimental" has been deleted, and the word "differential" has been substituted. But it is possible to have legislation which would be detrimental to African interest without being differential. Therefore, I say that the change of wording from "detrimental" to "differential" is a narrowing of the powers of the Board in all three fields: executive, administrative and legislative.
The Minister of State is going to meet these people. I wish him "Bon voyage." I am sure he is going to enjoy it. He is going to consult the African people, and I know he is going to try to consult the opinions of Africans who are representative. I wish him a safe return from a voyage which I enjoyed myself. I am sure that he will enjoy it. He thinks he is going to find widespread support. I would be dishonest with myself if I told him that I shared his view. These safeguards are not as solid as the old ones. I say that quite frankly.
I would make two suggestions. The first is the suggestion I have made already about representatives of the Africans in the Executive and in the Cabinet. The second is that I ask the Minister to reconsider introducing the word "detrimental" and dropping this lot of words about "differential," through which carts and horses can be driven.
In their report, the officials said that they made no recommendation as to the amendment of the constitution. Whilst they made no recommendation, they suggested that it might run for five years and at some period after be reviewed. Now we have a provision there for the amendment of the constitution. The Federal Legislature, by a two-thirds majority, are to have the power not only to amend the constitution in the draft scheme but also—no notice has been taken of this in the debate today—to set up a second chamber. In other words, they can alter this constitution fundamentally. They can create another House 869 of Parliament in addition to the one that we make and they can do that by a two-thirds majority, subject to these safeguards.
The real point that I want to urge, because it is the most important of all, is that there is no provision here by which the political advancement of the Africans in the Federal Legislature can be ensured except by the will and the initiative of the European elected members in the federation. I say, and I measure my words, that if we accept that, it is the surrender of our Protectorate responsibilities. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is. Remember that these are not Colonies. These are Protectorates, in which our responsibilities are defined in contractual agreements. There is no time now to discuss it, but when we come to discuss it in January that will be one of the problems.
Do we have to amend the contractual obligations in the light of these proposals? They are contractual obligations signed by Her Majesty and the Chiefs. There is no doubt about it. We have undertaken to protect them until they are strong enough to stand on their own feet, and indeed to encourage their development. That is our policy. Therefore the position is now this: within the territories themselves and within the territorial government the power of the Secretary of State for the Colonies will remain. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me. In the future, at some time—
§ Mr. Alport rose—
§ Mr. Griffiths
I cannot give way. The hon. Gentleman took 35 minutes, and I want to give the hon. and learned Gentleman on the Government Front Bench an opportunity to reply. As I said, we have undertaken in all these territories to help them to democratic self-government. The Secretary of State knows perfectly well that in due course, both in Nyasaland and in Northern Rhodesia, the number of Africans in the Legislative Council will increase. The balance will be changed between the Europeans and the Africans, and I can see a position in a few years time where the African representation in the territories will have increased in strength but cannot be reflected in the Federal Legislature unless the 22 Europeans agree. The Secretary of State and his successors 870 can arrange for the political advancement of Africans in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia but cannot promote their advancement in the Federal Legislature.
It cannot begin to be discussed until they pass a two-third resolution. I say quite frankly that any scheme which contains that is not a scheme which I could bring myself to support. It is better to be frank now while there is time to discuss the whole matter. In my view, it would be a departure from the policy not only of the present Secretary of State but of what I myself, my predecessors and his successors do when we take office: we affirm our colonial policy in practically identical words—we may change a word here or a sentence there. What will remain if we give up the right to initiate a change and to carry it out?
I want to be perfectly fair. In these proposals we surrender the right to do this. That is the view of Sir Godfrey Huggins of what was settled at the conference. Let me quote from "The Observer" of 13th July from the speech he made:There is no reason why there should be any more Africans until the Federal Parliament amends the law. The Parliament can go black only when the whites in that Parliament increase it. They will not have any more Africans in until the Europeans in that Parliament are satisfied they ought to have more in.He comments at the end:By that stage we shall have grown so much that we shall have a bigger Parliament.At Victoria Falls we signed a Declaration that the only policy likely to succeed in Central Africa was one of partnership between Europeans and Africans. We all signed that—Sir Godfrey Huggins, myself, my right hon. Friend, the representatives of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland—at Victoria Falls. But we all agreed that the only policy which could succeed in the circumstances of Central Africa was one of partnership. This is not partnership. This is a barrier to partnership. This will stop partnership developing. In the circumstances of today in this territory, as in many other territories, the partnership between Europeans and Africans must be a senior and junior partnership. It will not always be so. It is now. Whilst it is a senior and junior partnership, we have the responsibility which we have no right to surrender to anyone else, to look after the junior partner until that junior partner can stand 871 equal with the other, not to dominate but to be equal.
I say, therefore, that with regard to these major changes in the draft scheme as compared with the old one, I could not honestly commend them to the people in Central Africa or to hon. Members of the House for acceptance. If I may be allowed to make one last quotation—no, I will dispense with the quotation and say it myself.
Here in Central Africa, here in East Africa, we have this problem: the problem that there are communities of different races, of different colours, at different levels of civilisation. It is a difficult problem; it is an important one.
In the 20 months during which I was privileged to be Secretary of State for the Colonies, it so happens that the only two territories I visited in Africa were the territories where we have this problem in this setting. In East Africa, there are Tanganyika and Kenya. In Central Africa, there are these three territories.
I reject white domination. I equally reject black domination. I want them to work together on the basis of partnership for the future, and on the foundation of racial unity and racial co-operation. I strove within my lights to pursue that policy. I strove to pursue it in Kenya. I said to them, "I do not want to impose a settlement upon you. I ask you to sit down and take your time about it." I gave them four years. "Work out your future constitution in agreement."
The same offer was made to Tanganyika, and I praised the people in Tanganyika—Europeans, Africans and Asians—for having arrived at a unanimous settlement as to the next stage to move towards in their constitution, by which they have agreed that the next stage will contain equal representation of the three races.
I make a suggestion to the Minister of State. He is certainly entitled to go, and I wish him well in going to explain to the Africans, to consult with the Africans, to seek their views and their comments and suggestions, and to consult with the other representatives upon the draft scheme; and to recommend the draft scheme to them and to urge them to accept it. He is perfectly entitled to do that if he believes it is a scheme that he should commend to them.
872 May I suggest that the Minister does something else? I believe—I hope not—that he will find this difficulty: the difficulty of getting the African people in particular to discuss this, because of other things that are the background; for let us face it that when we talk of partnership, they point to the existing evidences of what can be described as anything but partnership.
The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) asked me about the situation in the Copper Belt. Through my own trade union I am interested in them. I saw matters there in a setting that I understand, and I say here what I said to the European miners: "As one miner to another, you cannot keep these Africans down there for long. I am a collier too, and I know that one of these days their skill will develop and their knowledge will increase. They will want to be paid the same as I am paid for doing the same kind of work and exercising the same kind of skill. I praise you for training them." I paid them my meed of praise.
Realising that, I say to all the Europeans all over Africa. "I know that all of you have made a great contribution to Africa. Please remember that your children and your grandchildren will live with Africans 50 years hence. They will not be the Africans of the Bush, but the Africans of the colleges in this country, the same colleges as our sons and daughters are attending, in which they are studying the same subjects, passing the same examinations and developing the same skills. Those children will have to live together in 50 years' time, and I do not want their relationship to each other in 50 years to be destroyed by the bitter memories of what is happening now."
I say, therefore, to all the Europeans, with my full tribute of praise for all they have done: "Invest in the future. Your security and that of the African depends in the end not on any kind of safeguards. It depends on the goodwill that you build up now. Come together." I use frank words. "End some of these stupid colour bars." And I say to the mining areas also, "End some of them."
I ask the Minister when he goes out to seize what, I believe, is the great chance we missed. I say this, no matter who was responsible. When my right 873 hon. Friend and I left Victoria Falls there was the offer from the Africans of Northern Rhodesia to sit down and discuss a programme to implement partnership. The offer was not taken. The offer was missed. Seek to recover it. Discuss not only federation but bring them together to discuss all these problems. If they settle one thing in agreement, such as the colour bar, they are on the road to partnership.
Here we have the last chance in Africa—it may be the last in the world—of showing that we can build a decent democracy on the basis of men of different colours and at different stages of civilisation working together as partners towards a common end. It may be the last chance; I hope we shall not miss it.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Foster)
When I had prepared my opening words, I was going to say that there was a large measure of agreement on both sides of the Committee in favour of putting this scheme for federation before public opinion in Africa, both Europeans and Africans.
I am sorry to say, after listening to the eloquent speech of the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), that it does appear that there is no such agreement on the other side of the Committee and, I gather, no agreement between the Members of the Labour Party themselves. The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) and the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Coldrick) put one point of view and the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), when he made his opening speech, certainly did not make it on the premise that this scheme was unacceptable for the reasons given by the right hon. Member for Llanelly.
The right hon. Gentleman asked how the African Affairs Board would work and pointed out another thing with regard to the African Affairs Board, but obviously on the assumption that he accepted the principle of the African Affairs Board. The right hon. Member for Llanelly does not accept that. He does not think, as he has told the Committee just now, that the present scheme for federation ought to be acceptable by this Committee and ought to be recommended to the people in Africa
§ Mr. Foster
For the reasons he has given. Let us turn for a moment to his criticism about the Minister for African Affairs. Even there among those of the Labour Party who object to this scheme I believe the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) is in general agreement with his right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly on his objection to this scheme. I believe that if he had spoken in this debate he would have repeated the sentiments of the right hon Member for Llanelly—
§ Mr. J. Dugdale indicated assent.
§ Mr. Foster
—and said, "I would not recommend this scheme to the people of Africa." He is nodding, and I suppose he agrees. He knows perfectly well that one of the main reasons why the right hon. Member for Llanelly objects is on the question of a Minister for African Affairs, but the right hon. Member for West Bromwich has thought the previous scheme unacceptable because it would have a Minister for African Affairs. The right hon. Member is frowning. I will allow him to interrupt if that is not true.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I certainly agree that I said the idea of having one Minister of African Affairs was a weak safeguard, but the present safeguards are even weaker.
§ Mr. Foster
That is the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman. What he said was:Whatever Minister in any Cabinet could possibly survive under those conditions? He will have a dual loyalty, a loyalty to the people who appointed him and a loyalty to the Secretary of State in this country to whom he will be responsible. It is an intolerable position, and goes beyond the system of collective responsibility. Indeed, it goes quite against it, and I consider that it is so unworkable that the Minister would himself before very long disappear because his position would he quite untenable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 255.]If the Committee think that is an expression of view of what is rather a weak safeguard, I leave the right hon. Gentleman to try to give that impression to the Committee. I prefer to rest on the understanding of people's common sense as to what that means.
The right hon. Gentleman objects on the ground of a Minister for African 875 Affairs. But he found also that the Fabian Colonial Bureau was against him. If the Committee would like the quotation, they say:The position of the African Affairs Board as outlined in the Official Report was distinctly dubious.Then, when they mentioned the Minister for African Affairs, they say:If this Minister carried out his duties fully it would be at least difficult for the Cabinet to work on the principle of collective responsibility,Thus echoing the objections of the right hon. Member for West Bromwich.
What is really the position? The right hon. Member objects to this scheme of federation on the premise which is shared by the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) and also the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) that this proposal for federation will not create conditions in which a partnership can be developed; and therefore we cannot hand over to the federation the task of the junior partner being allowed to grow up to become an equal partner. That is the criticism.
Of course, people may change their minds. But if somebody had adopted a scheme which would be open to some objections—as I hope to show the Committee in a minute clearly the official scheme was—and if he changes his mind when in opposition, it is a legitimate point to say that one doubts whether in his heart of hearts he is really convinced of the accuracy of it, and whether he is not misled by the fact that it is no longer his scheme.
The officials' report, if one looks at it, is open to some objection. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to me to try to give the impression to the Committee that the new scheme was open to the objection that there were not positive proposals by which the United Kingdom could control the progress of the Africans at the centre, but that the official scheme did contain such proposals. If the Committee will look at the official scheme they will see that that is not so. The right hon. Gentleman said that the official report was a constructive approach—he probably remembers using those words in introducing it to the House. He ought to have added, "But I cannot recommend this scheme to the people of Africa. It is a scheme 876 which would not be in the interests of the people of Africa, because it does not contain any proposal by which the United Kingdom keeps control of this progress of partnership."
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Did not the officials suggest that there should be a review, I think it was five years after the adoption of the scheme?
§ Mr. Foster
The right hon. Gentleman, quite rightly on his own premises, when opening the debate today, said that in his view there ought to be a review in five or 10 years. But obviously if he is advocating a review he is in favour of the scheme as it is on broad lines. He cannot be asking for a review of something to which he is opposed—[HoN. MEMBERS: "No."] I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite always say "No" and sit down without interrupting when they do not like an argument.
But if somebody says that he wishes a scheme to be reviewed in 10 years, would any hon. Member of this Committee guess that he was opposed to it and that he thought it would not be right for the Africans? Of course not. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman was only repeating what he said in opening, that in five or 10 years it ought to be reviewed.
But that does not meet the opinion of the right hon. Member for Llanelly, who says that this scheme is unacceptable because it had no provisions for reviewing it in 10 years. That is his argument—
§ Mr. Griffiths
I said it was unacceptable. I made a truncated speech, but I thought I gave my reasons clearly. One is that there is no provision by which we can review these matters.
§ Mr. Foster
That is one subsidiary reason, but there is the more fundamental reason, that he had said the provisions which I mentioned—the removal of the Minister for African Affairs and the 877 making of an African Affairs Board—those things were so fundamental that, were he the Minister of State for the Colonies instead of my right hon. Friend, he would have to go out to Africa and tell the Africans, "Do not take this."
§ Mr. Foster
As I am trying to show, the right hon. Gentleman ought to have said to the House at the time when he was introducing the officials' report not, "I regard it as a constructive approach," but, "This scheme is unacceptable to the Africans. They must not accept it. I will go out and tell them that they must not." Exactly the same criticism can be applied to the officials' report as to this one.
§ Mr. Foster
We will try to prove it. Let us agree that if I can prove it I shall be right and that if I cannot prove it I shall be wrong. The Committee will appreciate that one has to speak fast because of the short time available and to speak dogmatically for the sake of brevity. The Committee will also appreciate that I have to put the case off the cuff.
Paragraph 48 of the officials' report refers to the safeguards of the African interests. It says:In the federal sphere the Government and Legislature of British Central Africa would have full responsibility with a Cabinet system of government subject, however, to the safeguards described in the following paragraphs.The safeguards are the Minister for African Affairs and—adopting the argument just for this purpose—what the right hon. Gentleman calls the strengthened African Affairs Board.
Neither of these safeguards provide for what he says is lacking in the new scheme—for the development of partnership at the centre by the control of the United Kingdom. So we can leave out the safeguards. They do not contain these positive provisions. I submit that the provision of a complete system of cabinet government at the centre includes amendments of the constitution. I cannot imagine a system of government with full cabinet responsibility where amendments of the constitution come from outside.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Would the hon. and learned Member please remember all the time that we have all agreed that these two Northern Territories will remain Protectorates?
§ Mr. Foster
Exactly. They remain Protectorates under the present scheme. I say that the two schemes are identical on the point on which the right hon. Gentleman said that he would not accept the new scheme. Both the territories remain Protectorates under the scheme. They were both Protectorates under the old scheme. The safeguards under the new scheme are not the same. According to his argument, this scheme does not provide the positive growth of partnership by the control of the United Kingdom.
Therefore, the only place where it can be found is in the provision made for constitutional advancement. That must be according to the cabinet. I cannot imagine, and neither I am sure can hon. Members if they look at the matter fairly, any system of cabinet government with complete responsibility at the centre, subject to the safeguards, where the amendment of the constitution would be introduced by a body outside the cabinet government.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)
The hon. and learned Gentleman seems to be arguing that the provision for review, which was in the former scheme and is not in this one, is only of subsidiary importance. If he regards it as of main importance, then the whole attack on my right hon. Friend falls down, because here is a vital difference. If he regards it as of only subsidiary importance, will he agree to put a provision for review into this scheme?
§ Mr. Stewart
As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, the conditions for review were referred to by my right hon. Friend—
§ Mr. Griffiths
Will my hon. Friend permit me? Paragraph 100 of the officials' report states:In our sketch of the federal constitution for the associated territories, we have included no specific provision for its amendment. We do not, of course, regard the structure as one which should be immutable. … At some stage thereafter"—They say there should be a change after five years—the detailed working of the scheme might require review, but we suggest that the Governments should not commit themselves to any specific time for this.Therefore, it was quite clear that there was to be consideration of a periodic review.
§ Mr. Foster
The right hon. Gentleman said "probably." It was not embodied in the scheme. But the objection of the right hon. Gentleman was that in the scheme itself there was no provision for control from the United Kingdom. Obviously, in this scheme, it is open to the four Governments to review it when they want to by agreement, and nobody can stop them. There are the three parties involved because they are federated, and the United Kingdom is involved because of the power of reserved legislation and so on.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Do I gather from that interpretation that the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying that, if this constitution comes into operation and Her Majesty's Government want to increase the number of African representatives from Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, they could take the initiative?
§ Mr. Foster
No, I am saying that these four Governments can amend the constitution if they want to. Under the officials' scheme, the United Kingdom could not have done anything without the consent of the others. They have not got the initiative. Therefore, I submit to the Committee that it is quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman has changed his mind on this point, because there was no provision for unilateral review by the United Kingdom under the old scheme and there is no such provision under the present scheme. The United Kingdom is involved just as it was before.
880 I must now pass on from that point to the point which the right hon. Gentleman made about the use of the words "differentiating" and "detrimental." For the benefit of those hon. Members who were not present when the right hon. Gentleman made his speech, may I say that his argument was that, in the new scheme, the word "detrimental" had been omitted, and the word "differentiating" put in. I think that, while omitting the word in the new scheme, we have defined "differentiating," and the right hon. Gentleman will find that a differentiating measure is one which is disadvantageous, and there is no difference between detrimental and disadvantageous..
In other words, in the new scheme, the definition of "differentiating" involves the use of the word "disadvantageous," which is the same as detrimental, so that it comes to exactly the same thing, or near enough not to make his point a valid one.'Differentiating measure' means a Bill or a subordinate law by which Africans are subjected or made liable to any conditions, restrictions or disabilities which are disadvantageous to them to which Europeans are not also subjected or made liable.I appeal to the Committee whether there is anything in what the right hon. Gentleman says about the terrible omission of this word, which makes him say that he would tell the Africans, "You must not accept it, because the word 'detrimental' has been omitted," when, in fact, the definition of "differentiating" is that it is disadvantageous. He says he would tell the Africans not to accept it, because of this horrible word "disadvantageous," instead of "detrimental." I really cannot think that that is a sound point.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman propose to say to the Africans that the word "disadvantageous" has the full meaning of "detrimental," and that if they thought that a differential measure was detrimental to African interests, they could object to it?
§ Mr. Foster
I did not have the opportunity. In my view it is slightly wider. It is, of course, more correctly drafted, 881 because the other scheme was drafted only on wide terms—and I am not complaining about that. I have not had an opportunity of saying so because I did not expect that such a weak point, if I may use that adjective, would be made. It never occurred to me that somebody would say, "I will tell the Africans to reject the scheme because the word 'detrimental' is different from disadvantageous'." That is what it amounts to.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick rightly asked me to deal with a point which my right hon. Friend said I would deal with—namely, that about whether the franchise should be a territorial matter or a federal matter. That is a point which might be considered at the forthcoming conference. I would only say this about it. It might work to the disadvantage of the Africans, and I wonder whether he has considered that possibility. I am sure he did not wish to record a point which might work that way. If we have a territorial rule about federal franchise it means that any territory can restrict the African franchise for the federal legislature.
§ Mr. Foster
But it would make it possible for any territory to restrict the African franchise, which I should have thought was a point to be taken into account when discussing whether we should have a territorial franchise or a federal franchise. I feel that if the right hon. Gentleman had borne that point in mind he would not have spoken so strongly in favour of the territorial franchise. I agree that it is a debateable point and one which ought, perhaps, to be considered at the conference.
I expect that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) would like me to deal with a point which he interjected about the two Africans from Southern Rhodesia. He may have thought that, because of the short time left, I was evading the point. All I would say is this: whatever they may have said afterwards, they expressed their agreement with the federal scheme when they were in London. Apparently the Government cannot do right, because at the time we mentioned the matter and said how independent minded they were, there was a cry of "stooges" from, I 882 think, the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen)—
§ Mr. Sorensen indicated dissent—
§ Mr. Foster
The hon. Member for Leyton says that it was not the case, but it was certainly the case with the hon. Member for Eton and Slough. He said, "stooges," and I imagine that he will now withdraw the remark.
§ Mr. Brockway
I am delighted to do so. I am always ready to admit that I am mistaken when it has clearly been shown that I am.
§ Mr. Foster
I think it is quite a small triumph to have got the hon. Member to do so. I appreciate that hon. Members on all sides, and including the right hon. Member for Llanelly, have made valuable contributions to the debate and have put forward points which ought to have our earnest consideration and the consideration of the other Governments. As I say, the right hon. Member for Llanelly was a little too narrow in his interpretation of the scheme—but this is where we differ.
I think it is an act of statesmanship on the part of the Labour Party not to divide on this occasion but to let the plan go forward, with the good wishes of the two right hon. Gentlemen opposite for my right hon. Friend as he goes on his journey. I hope that not too much will be made of isolated excerpts from people's speeches. For instance, I think the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East was misled by a newspaper cutting. The Native Affairs Minister did not say "nullify"; he said "modify." I hope that the good wishes of all will go with my right hon. Friend on his journey.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Grimston (Westbury)
I am afraid there is scarcely time for me to develop a point of view which I wished to put, but I must say that I was somewhat distressed by the attitude and speech of the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in so far as they affect the white population in the territories, because what he was saying to them, in effect, was "We cannot trust you to carry the torch of liberty and advancement in which we all believe." That is resented because—
§ It being half-past Nine o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 16 (Business of Supply) to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote then under consideration.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ The CHAIRMAN then proceeded forthwith to put severally the Questions:
§ That the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the several Classes of the Civil Estimates, including a Revised Estimate and Supplementary Estimates, and the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the Revenue Departments and the Ministry of Defence Estimates, and in the Navy, the Army, and the Air Estimates, including Revised Estimates, be granted for the Services defined in those Classes and Estimates.