§ 11.14 a.m.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
I beg to move,That this House, recognising that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that they are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood, declares its opposition to all discriminatory practices based upon colour throughout the British colonies, protectorates and trusteeship territories and urges Her Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to introduce legislation with a view to the progressive elimination of the colour bar in all these lands.I suppose that in world affairs today there are three supremely important issues. One is peace or war; the second is planned world food production or the inevitable starvation of millions; the third is racial equality or racial discrimination and segregation—the colour bar. While the first and second issues may be more immediately urgent, the third is the most fundamental and enduring. Unless the equality of all peoples, whatever their colour, race or creed, is recognised there can be no harmony, no world co-operation and no peace.
This Motion starts by quoting from the terms of the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations which this House has endorsed. I suggest that the principle on which we are arguing today, the recognition of racial equality and legislation to give it effect, is as grave an issue today as was the abolition of slavery 120 years ago. I very much regret to have in my hands, dated Friday, 1st May, 1953, a notice signed by four leading Members of the Colonial Group of the Conservative Party in this House. It reads:Private Member's Motion.Under the next sentence there are three lines:Your attendance is most particularly requested at 3 p.m. on Friday, 1st May, to vote against Mr. Fenner Brockway's Motion on the Abolition of the Colour Bar.I think it appalling, and I hope it will be noted not only by supporters of our party but by a large number of people in the country who accept the Christian 2506 ethic of human equality and the humanitarian ethic of racial equality. I hope they will note that Members of the party opposite, prominent in the Colonial Group of that party, have issued such a three-line whip to their Members today.
- Mr. A. D. Dodds-Parker.
- Sir Edward Keeling,
- Mr. Alport,
- Mr. Beresford Craddock."
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
Might I explain that the intention of that notice was, as the hon. Gentleman must know, to ask our colleagues to support the Amendment in our names, to leave out from the first "to," after "Government," to the end of the Motion, and to add instead thereof:continue to promote the progressive elimination of the colour bar in ail these lands.
§ Mr. Craddock
I have been in this House for only three and a half years, but I should have thought that our intention was perfectly plain.
§ Mr. Brockway
I satisfy myself by pointing out that the notice asks that there shall be a vote against my Motion.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Banbury) rose—
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I rise to a point of order. As the hon. Member has named me, may I say that what my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) has pointed out is correct? We have an Amendment on the Order Paper, but, owing to the fact that the hon. Member did not put his Motion down until very late, it was not possible for my hon. Friend to put the Amendment down until late. If there was any misunderstanding over the wording of the whip, I apologise, but I agree with the point made by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Brockway
I am quite satisfied with raising the point. It is perfectly clear that this three-line whip issued by the hon. Members to whom I have referred is an invitation to the Members of the party opposite to vote against my Motion on the abolition of the colour bar. Before I conclude my speech, I shall argue against the Amendment which they have put on the Order Paper, which accepts the principle, I agree, but does only lip service to it and declines any action, 2507 which means that that principle will not be carried out.
I suppose that, in the great continent of Africa, the Union of South Africa is regarded as the country where the colour bar is operated in its most extreme form. That is a self-governing Dominion, and, therefore, I do not propose to discuss it, but I have the feeling that, sometimes, when the colour bar in the Union of South Africa is denounced, those of us who are citizens of this country are a little too self-righteous. Why should we behold the mote in the eye of South Africa and not consider the beam in our own? I would certainly say that, if we draw attention to the beam in the eye of South Africa, we should recognise, at least, that there is a mote in our own.
When one is considering how one can influence the Union of South Africa, I believe that the most effective way to do so would be to give an example of racial equality in our own Territories, and the most effective examples could be given in the Protectorates, two of which are actually within the territory of the Union of South Africa and one of which is on the frontier between South Africa, Southern Rhodesia and South-West Africa. Unhappily, we are not giving an example of racial equality in these Territories. The name of Seretse Khama has become the symbol of the colour bar through the whole continent of Africa, and, because he is not permitted, though he is desired by the Bamangwato tribe in Bechuanaland to be its chief, to return to that Protectorate, not only is the colour bar maintained, but all social, educational and economic advance in that Territory is being held up.
I want to refer to one matter very carefully. I shall choose my words and speak with reserve; I shall not speak in a tone of controversy. I want to make a plea, particularly to the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, to whom I have given notice that I intended to raise this matter. I believe the whole House would deplore the use of the name of Her Majesty the Queen in issues of this kind, and I therefore want to draw the attention of the House to, and plead with the Minister for the withdrawal of, the document from which I am now going to quote.
2508 I have in my hand a letter which has been issued by Mr. P. G. Batho, the District Commissioner and Native Authority of Serowe on 2nd April, which includes these words:The great Khama, of his own will, yielded his sovereignty to the Queen, just as" lesser chiefs have, from time to time, yielded their sovereignty to Khama and his successors as Chief of the Bamangwato. Just as Khama, in accordance with your custom, intervened when disputes arose in connection with the chieftainship of lesser tribes, so has the Queen authority to intervene in your own dispute. The Queen has ordered that neither Seretse nor any child of his shall be eligible to be Chief of the Bamangwato. That order is the law of the Bamangwato.I understand full well that there is a particular association between the Sovereign and the population of a Protectorate, but I want to suggest to the Minister, indeed, to plead with him, to be very careful how the name of Her Majesty is used in this business. It will be a very unfortunate situation if the name of Her Majesty, which is kept above political issues in this country, is placed right in the centre of the issue of the colour bar in the continent of Africa.
When the chiefs of the Bamangwato tribe came to this country and wanted to see the Queen, that permission was refused, and, quite rightly in my view, we adopted the course that their correct approach was to the Ministry of Commonwealth Relations and the Government. The Chiefs of Nyasaland have now petitioned to see the Queen, and I am glad that the Front Bench of the Labour Party has suggested that the petition should go before a Select Committee of this House.
I am pleading that the name of Her Majesty should not be used in these internal conflicts in Africa, because the people of Africa, from the south to the north and from the east to the west, regard the issue of Seretse Khama, and also the issue of Central African Federation, as an issue of the status of the African people, and a very great disservice will be done by Her Majesty's Government if they identify Her Majesty the Queen with either side in that conflict.
I want to pass from the Protectorates on the borders of the Union of South Africa to a great undecided area in the continent of Africa stretching over Central Africa and to East Africa. The opposition of the African population to Central African Federation is not to the 2509 principle of federation. It is to the fact that they are treated, in the two Rhodesias, as unequal and below the white standard of life.
In the two Rhodesias, an African woman who wants to shop is still not permitted in the shop and must still buy her goods through a hatch in the wall. In the two Rhodesias, even in many of the post offices the African must enter by a different door from Europeans and must be served at another counter. In the two Rhodesias, the whole African population are denied the opportunity of becoming skilled workers and craftsmen. While these differentiations exist, is it surprising that the African population should resist the proposal that they should be dominated by a Parliament in which there are to be 29 Europeans and only six Africans?
I now turn from the areas of Central Africa to East Africa, and particularly to Kenya. I say without any doubt that it is the practice of the colour bar in Kenya which is largely responsible for the bitterness which has now turned into the vicious movement of Mau Mau. One may suffer a social or an economic affront, but there is nothing which so pierces the personality as the humiliation of being treated as a lesser human being by another human being.
I have described before in this House how in Nairobi I was with the African representative of the United Nations and the First Secretary from the Indian High Commissioner's Office, one a doctor of philosophy of Columbia University, New York and the other a Balliol degree man of Oxford, both much more cultured than I—because I never had the opportunity to go to a university—and how we searched Nairobi for an hour in an endeavour to find a restaurant or a hotel where we could sit down to a meal together. Everywhere the order was "Europeans only."
I have a much more recent example of this. When my very great friend, in whom I always have confidence, ex-Chief Koinange was charged with murder, it was arranged that Mr. Dingle Foot should go to Nairobi to defend him. He was met at the airport by an English solicitor and by Mr. Awori, an African Member of the Legislative Council. A room had been booked for Mr. Foot at 2510 a leading hotel in Nairobi. When Mr. Awori carried Mr. Foot's bag into the lobby of that hotel, he was immediately thrust out of the building, and Mr. Foot's reservation in that hotel was cancelled. The Leader of the Liberal Party, and the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), reminds me that Mr. Dingle Foot is not only an ex-Member of this House, but is actually an ex-Minister of this House.
While such practices are carried out in Kenya, is there any reason to be surprised at the present state of affairs? When my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) and I were in Kenya last November we did our utmost to see every representative body, the Minister and all sections of the community. On one occasion we met an influential group of white settlers. The most terrifying thing I heard during the whole time I was in Kenya was said by the chairman of those white settlers, a Mrs. Bernard, who is a very distinguished farmer.
Without any passion, quite coolly and with deep conviction, she said, "Mr. Hale and Mr. Brockway, how can you really ask us to regard the African peoples as our equals? No African is honest, every African is a liar, every African is lazy. They have not a word in their vocabulary for love, loyalty or gratitude." Immediately we left that interview, I asked the first Kikuyu I met to write down the words for love, gratitude and loyalty in his language. In a flash he wrote down "Wendo" for love, "Ngatha" for gratitude, and "Wathikeri" for loyalty. With such a mental attitude on the part of Europeans, can we really anticipate that the Africans of Kenya are likely to be unaffected by the superiority so blatantly expressed by, I hope, the minority of the white settlers' population?
What disturbed me perhaps still more was when I returned to this country and read a book by Bishop Walter Carey, and found him saying exactly the same things that were said by Mrs. Bernard in Nairobi. I am glad that the Executive of the Church Missionary Society have officially repudiated any association with the views of Bishop Carey.
I pass now to what is the issue between the Motion and the Amendment. It is 2511 the deletion of our proposal that there should be legislation, and the suggestion is made that we shouldcontinue to promote the progressive elimination of the colour bar in all these lands.I will only remark that if the progressive elimination of the colour bar is to be continued as at present, taking no account of the psychology of the African people, it may lead to the desperate position of a race war.
I was reading last night the reports of the discussions in this House when the abolition of slavery was proposed. I was very interested to find that exactly the same arguments against legislation for the abolition of slavery were made by the reactionary circles in this country at that time as are now being made by the Conservative Party against the elimination of the colour bar. It was argued that slavery was inherent in human relations. There was one beautiful phrase which ran:The drive to obtain freedom from drudgery by the possession of and absolute control over one or more of one's fellow beings appears to be inherent in the nature of man.That argument is now being urged against legislation for the elimination of the colour bar—that it is instinctive and inherent in man's mind, and, therefore, one must not move too rapidly or introduce legislation. Had that argument been listened to 120 years ago, we should never have had the Emancipation Act of 1833 which ended slavery.
On this matter of legislation, I want to put some questions to hon. Members opposite. There is not merely the Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. A convention is now being worked out to apply it. Does the opposition of the party opposite to legislation dealing with the colour bar mean that they would reject the ratification of the convention if it were adopted by the United Nations? The Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg has adopted a Convention of Human Rights applying to European nations. Are we not to endorse that, and to apply it after endorsement, by introducing legislation which will see that it is put into effect?
I propose that we should make a definite beginning with legislation to end 2512 the colour bar in five respects. The first is that all differentiation of colour should be removed from political and civil rights in the Protectorates, Dependencies and Trustee Territories. If there is to be a basis of enfranchisement which is educational, let that basis be open to the African and Asian populations equally with any white population in those territories.
Secondly, I suggest that we should begin immediately with the application of equal pay in the public services to men and women of all races. In the British Colonies, men may be doing exactly the same work and, after allowance has been made for the European's being away from home, the Asian will receive two-thirds the salary of the European and the African will receive only two-thirds the salary of the Asian.
Thirdly, I suggest that we should begin the progressive elimination of the colour bar in our Bill on human rights with a declaration that the African people must have the opportunity to go forward to skilled employments and crafts. Fourthly, we ought to lay it down that the African and Asian populations should have the opportunity of entering all public places such as restaurants and hotels, which are open to Europeans. Finally, I urge that education should be on a non-racial basis.
In Nairobi last November, we found one instance and one only of racial intermixing. It was the queue to the children's cinema on Saturday morning. There, European, Asian and African children stood side by side, eagerly anticipating and discussing the film "Robin Hood" which they were to see that morning. Those same children cannot go to school together. There are European schools, Asian schools and African schools, the European school better than the Asian, and the Asian school better than the African. If we are desirous of building up a democratic inter-racial community in those territories we should begin by allowing the people to be educated together, whatever their colour and race may be. If once they are taught together, they may learn to work and to live together, and even to vote together.
Hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House tell me that we should not 2513 introduce legislation but should be content with education on this matter. I reply that it means the education of a small, white minority while millions of Africans continue to suffer indignity until enlightenment has come to them. May I suggest a parallel? About 150 years ago there was a class bar in this country almost equal to the colour bar which is now imposed on the African. It was only by the pressure and the influence of the ancestors of hon. Members who sit on this side of the House now—the struggle of the Radicals, of our Labour Movement, of the Chartist Movement find of the trade union movement, and the beginning of our Labour Party and Socialist Movement, that legislation resulted by which the class bar has been modified.
It has not entirely departed yet but we are now moving towards human equality in this country, where no man because he is rich and because of his birth dare regard himself as better than a miner, a railwayman or a docker. That change has only come as the result of a whole series of legislative Measures which have been carried in this House of Commons. Just as we have had legislation which has aided us in that advance, so we shall have to move towards legislation to deal with the colour bar in our Colonies.
We are hoping now that we are coming to the end of the cold war, but I warn this House that unless human equality is recognised in our Colonies and in Asia and Africa, we may begin to move towards a colour war. I and those who support the Motion believe profoundly that it is not the pigment of the skin which is sacred but the human personality within the physical form. We are putting forward the Motion because we believe it to be an expression of the declaration that the personality is sacred, whatever the colour.
§ 11.48 a.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I beg to second the Motion.
It is typical of my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) that he has moved his Motion with studied moderation and conspicuous ability. I have had the privilege of going twice to Africa with him and of seeing the contribution that he is genuinely trying to make to racial understanding and racial co-operation. 2514 He is trying to treat himself as a member for the Commonwealth of Nations and to deal with the problems of our great Commonwealth. I am very glad to have had the privilege of being associated with him in a very small way in some of this work. For I know he is the salt of the earth.
Many of us, when we heard in August, 1941, the quiet tones of the Leader of the Opposition announcing the Declarations of the Atlantic Charter, began to hope that out of the evils of the time something new was emerging. We heard that magnificent statement, which reads so differently now, with its reference to the freedom of the seas—in these days of McCarran—and freedom from the burden of armaments, in these days of vastly increasing armaments expenditure. There were references to freedom from fear and want and freedom of faith and speech which suggested man's advance to a newer and higher conception of the dignity of mankind. Most of us then found a new inspiration in political life and new hope for the future. I have often heard my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) refer to a fifth freedom—freedom from contempt. Sometimes I think that the most important of the five freedoms; the one that causes most of the difficulties, antagonisms and humiliations from which mankind is suffering.
I think that we could spend a moment or two at least in just looking at the situation now and in wondering what is the measure of our tesponsibility. One of the curiosities of our modern life is that we spend a lot of time examining the pulse of other people, in criticising the Russians with their legacy, of slavery which lasted until a generation ago, for their lack of respect for liberty, and in not realising how great a measure of the burden rests on this Assembly, which was looked upon in those years that followed the war as the hope of the world and the one Assembly capable of supplying the moral inspiration to the world.
We call ourselves the Parliament of the Commonwealth and there is no coloured Member in it. I think that there is no coloured member on the staff. Many occupations in this country are almost wholly barred to coloured people, if not 2515 by regulation then by practice. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary is wrinkling a puzzled brow but I do not know how many coloured policemen, for instance, he has seen in the streets of London in the course of the last few months.
In the Courts at Windsor, in which the tradition is to look for the leadership and the supreme sovereignty of this great Commonwealth, there are very few coloured people employed in any position of advisory responsibility. One of the steps which should be taken is to break down the colour bar here at the centre and see that people have more trust; because they can trust an Assembly which at least admits their own people to take part in an interchange of views, to have access, and rights, and positions of authority and responsibility.
As far as I can, I want to try to follow the example set by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough and not enter into matters of bitter polemics, because I do not think that that will help. But I must make one further reference to Kenya, which arises from a news paragraph in "The Times" of yesterday. This is not a report of an isolated, irresponsible utterance. It is the report of the first meeting in Kenya's Legislative Assembly organised by the newly formed political party, the Kenya Empire Party, which seeks to dominate the Government of Kenya and represents the European settler point of view.
"The Times" reports that Colonel Ewart Grogan, one of the European pioneers in Eastern and Central Africa,… pleaded for the abolition of 'the present constitutional set-up,' and added: 'We Europeans have to go on ruling this country and rule it with iron discipline tempered by our own hearts.'He said that the East coast of Africa was in the front line of any future strife and that a great battle was bound to flare up sooner or later 'with the hordes of the east rising up.' The only answer to Mau Mau was to teach the whole Kikuyu tribe a lesson—by providing a 'psychic shock.' This could be done by using the power contained in the Native land trust ordinance providing that in ease of rebellion or treason the land should revert to the Crown. 'If the whole of the Kikuyu land unit is reverted to the Crown, then every Kikuyu would know that our little Queen was a great Bwana'.It did not end there. It ended with a reference by the speaker to the Legislative Assembly of Kenya, consisting as 2516 it does of many Europeans and some few Asian and African members, asa Parliamentary Whipsnade.
§ Mr. Hale
Yes, a zoo with curious animals in it. And "The Times" reports that the comment was received with laughter.
That is the spirit that is rising there today. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough mentioned Mr. Dingle Foot who was not only at one time a Member of this House but was one of the most distinguished delegates to the United Nations, whose work was spoken of with great approval. But he did not add that Mr. Foot sought and found lavish hospitality in the same Indian house that housed my hon. Friend and myself when we stayed in Nairobi and knew of no European willing to give hospitality or accommodation.
When we left Nairobi we visited Uganda, and in Kampala we attended a reception at a leading hotel given by the African Congress of Uganda and our host was the leader of the African Co-operative Farmers, Ignatius Musazi. There were present distinguished Europeans responsible for the great reforms of the Owen Falls Scheme and the European representatives of many organisations. The Kabaka of Buganda, who was in this country a year or so ago, was there. Asians, Africans and Europeans sat there exchanging hospitality and information in perfect amity and understanding. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Why not? That is the difference in the atmosphere where there is not a wealthy European settler class.
Those conditions prevail in all areas where there is not a European settler class. European civil servants have done a magnificent job on the whole and have shown great spirit of self-sacrifice and understanding in Africa, but where one has a wealthy land-owning class farming 12,000 and more acres one begins to have a situation where complete tolerance and understanding becomes difficult and almost impossible. Having mentioned Uganda, I could not fail to refer to the part played by the very distinguished and enlightened Governor of Uganda, Sir Andrew Cohen, 2517 who has shown genuine tolerance, understanding and forbearance and a desire to promote tolerance, partnership and better economic standards.
But one wishes one could say that of other parts of the world. I said a few moments ago that I would call attention to what is the real position today, in spite of the advances, in spite of the magnificent work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), the former Colonial Secretary, and in spite of the news from the West Indies on which I congratulate the present Colonial Secretary. I am sure that we would all wish to congratulate him and that we hope that when we see the documents we shall see the chance of a federal constitution coming into being in the West Indies.
But in spite of all that, no one could say today that the world has not gone back. In the European part of the world the lights of liberty are going out. When Sir Edward Grey said that the lights were being put out and might never be re-lit in our time he was right. Many have never been re-lumed. The warnings of Lord Boyd-Orr have shown that the future of the coloured races is a future which is dark indeed. We live in a world in which two-thirds of the population are doomed to poverty, misery, disease and premature death.
It is the common lot. It is a lot which of course we can cure today. We now know that the world has vast resources and that the one-third of the world's surface that lies fallow could gradually be brought under the plough by land reclamation and irrigation schemes, such as the plan in detail for the mud-flats of the Nile and the Owen Falls scheme itself. All this could be done if we voted the money, but a little misunderstanding, a little hatred and all mankind resorts to armaments and wasteful expenditure and the appeals of the blind, the moans of the diseased, and the cries of the starving are heard all over the world and are neglected and unregarded.
This Motion was deliberately drafted in terms that one would have thought were not controversial, and one really would have thought that a simple statement of Christian religion in a House which has prayers every day would have been accepted without Amendment. One would have thought that a mere urging 2518 of Her Majesty's Government to try to eliminate a few of the most glaring monstrosities of the colour bar would not have been regarded as a party attack. One would not have thought it was necessary to send out a three line Whip to vote against a simple enunciation of the principles of human rights and the principles of the Atlantic Charter.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
This is really quite unfair. I object to the implication that I am not a Christian, and I feel it is essential to put on record that we on this side of the House agree with much that has been said, as we shall later show in our speeches, but that we do not believe that this approach is the right one. That is the only reason that the Whip was sent out. The hon. Gentleman is not being fair.
§ Mr. Hale
I would not suggest for a moment that the hon. Gentleman is not a Christian. I am not a Christian myself, so I could not in any event make a suggestion of that kind. I try to live up to the Christian ethic and I consistently fail; I suppose in that way I am not an unusual character. When the articles of Bishop Carey were published in a London newspaper, I wrote a very brief letter to ask on what parallel of latitude he drew his particular colour bar, and whether it was north or south of Nazareth, but the letter was not published.
The matter that is raised in this Motion is, in my view, one of the most important that could come before the House. It raises implicitly the question of whether we are going to accept the fundamental belief in the brotherhood of man and the fundamental desire to advance it, or whether we are going to revert to the old theory of white domination which we know still exists in many quarters, and in some quarters of this House.
We have got to accept that the coloured races of the world must look at us now with distrust and suspicion. We have brought out an incredible number of declamatory documents asserting our intentions; there are the Devonshire Declaration, the Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of the United Nations, the Atlantic Charter and so on, and when we ask for a single legislative procedure to implement them in some 2519 degree, we have a three-line whip saying that we must not go as far as that, even after all these years.
I believe that we could restore confidence. I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies on Wednesday make a statement which I pleaded with him to withdraw at once, and I am sorry that he did not withdraw it. He said that he had not been able to find a single African or Asian in all the distinguished community in Kenya to serve on this emergency committee—
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to be unfair. I am sure he does not want to take the matter beyond a certain point. This emergency committee is solely an advisory committee upon operational matters connected with the police and the troops.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I do not want the hon. Member to go too far in recognising my point of view. It is not a chiefs of staff committee. That would be going further than I intended to convey. It is an operational committee whose tasks are chiefly concerned with co-ordination between the police and the military.
§ Mr. Hale
I accept the correction at once. No one wants to contribute to misunderstandings in Kenya at the moment. At the same time, this exemplifies the great difference that exists on both sides on some of these matters. One would have thought that an operational emergency committee would not limit its functions to suppression but would endeavour to bring back to this war-torn territory the possibility of peace and understanding. We heard on Wednesday the melancholy story of the 80,000 people who have been screened, of the hundreds who have been killed, and other tragedies which have occurred.
2520 Unless we seek by genuine co-operation by legislative measures, and by measures of economic and political advancement, to win back the confidence of the people, no one can say that these tragedies will not spread. That is why this Motion is important, and that is why the House should accept it. That is why I implore hon. Members opposite to forget their whip, so that we can record unanimously our determination to implement it in the spirit and in the letter.
§ 12.7 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Foster)
If I may intervene for a moment on the limited point which the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) has raised, I should like to say that I agree that it would be no ones intention for Her Majesty's Government to bring the Queen personally into this matter in the sense which he deprecated. I assure him that in the letter which he read out, the references to the Queen were very natural in ordinary dealings with the Bamangwato tribe and with primitive Africans in the territories of Her Majesty's Government.
The Africans are used to a system of chieftainship and of personal relationship. The references to the Queen were made in order to make the matter simpler for these people to understand. The passage that he read out says that the Queen has ordered this and that to be done, in the same way as we refer to the Queen's Order in Council. I assure the hon. Gentleman that it is not intended to bring the Queen personally into politics, and it would not have that result.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway
What the hon. and learned Gentleman has said has emphasised the danger which I have in mind. If the African people regard their relationship with Her Majesty in this personal way, then they will regard letters of the kind which I have quoted as a direct approach from Her Majesty and an intervention in their affairs. I am only asking the hon. and learned Gentleman to be very careful when Her Majesty's name is used in that way, and to make it quite clear that this policy is not the personal policy of Her Majesty but is the policy of the Government and that another Government could, and I hope will, change that policy.
§ Mr. Foster
I do not think there is much between the hon. Member and myself. Obviously one has to be careful. On the other hand, one has to explain the policy of Her Majesty's Government in terms they will understand. I quite agree that one has to steer a moderate and careful course in doing that. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that even in the United Kingdom we personify the Queen's Rule in many respects. We have got into the habit of talking about "Her Majesty's Government." In law we still personify Her Majesty. If anybody is prosecuted in the courts the case is referred to as "The Queen against X," but nobody thinks that the Queen is personally prosecuting somebody.
§ Mr. Foster
No. They are used to a personal relationship and one must therefore explain to them that the acts of the Government are, as they understand it, the Queen's, and that the Queen's Government are doing the acts in question. The hon. Member probably remembers the words of Moshesh of Basutoland, when he established a Treaty with Queen Victoria. He said, "Now my people can be happy. They are the lice on the great Queen's blanket." By "blanket" he meant the covering which the Africans wear.
The danger which the hon. Gentleman thinks exists does not exist. They understand that the District Commissioner, who is dealing with them, is the Queen's man, just as we, with our finer constitutional distinction, would call him the man of Her Majesty's Government. I agree that one has to be careful, but I submit that the letter to which the hon. Member has referred is not susceptible of the danger which he has adumbrated.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think the House will agree that this, though an interesting topic, is an eddy in the main current of this debate.
§ 12.12 p.m.
§ Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)
I beg to move, to leave out from the first "to," after "Government," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:continue to promote the progressive elimination of the colour bar in all these lands.In moving this Amendment our first object is to show that we, no less than 2522 hon. Members opposite, are conscious of the grave problems created by colour discrimination, not only in British territories overseas but, as the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) has mentioned, in this country and other countries. As I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) I felt that for somebody who had come here to discuss a problem which depends so much upon good will and good faith he did very scant justice to the attitude which he knows to be held by hon. Members on this side of the House with regard to the colour bar. He knows quite well that we realise, as distinctly as he does, the dangers, difficulties and injustices which derive from it and he must know —as our Amendment shows perfectly well—that our point of difference with him and his hon. Friends is the way in which we approach the solution to the problem.
I should like to make one other comment with regard to his speech. We have considered this as a question between two races, based upon the right relationship between two groups of human beings, but in his speech and, to some extent, in the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, West, a different factor seemed to have arisen. They seemed to be considering the problem not so much as a question of colour and a conflict of different historic and cultural backgrounds but as a question of class.
I noticed the way in which the hon. Member for Oldham, West made special reference to the wealthy land-owning class in Kenya and castigated them for their alleged ill-feeling on the colour question, but I noticed, equally, that he —and, with a very small exception, the hon. Member for Eton and Slough— made practically no reference to the very much more severe and difficult problems arising from the economic and industrial colour bar produced by the unions of European workers. If we are to deal with this problem with integrity we must not load the dice of our argument to suit our own political points of view. We must try to deal with this whole subject, which affects not merely one colony, one community or one class but nations and communities all over the world—
§ Mr. Alport
I am glad to have that assurance from the hon. Gentleman. Hon. Members on this side of the House, arguing in a debate of this sort, can only take up the argument in the speeches of hon. Members opposite who immediately precede us.
Our second reason for moving the Amendment is to emphasise that we think that the course of action which the hon. Member for Eton and Slough suggests, so far from solving the problem which we wish to see solved will merely stoke the fires of racial prejudice and intolerance and increase still further the fears by which race hatred is fed. I do not believe that the passing of an Act of Parliament such as the hon. Member has in mind will help by one iota to bridge the wider differences in cultural progress and economic status which separate so many of the white community in Africa from so many of the black.
None of the points made by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough made any practical or material contribution to the solution of the problem. If the hon. Member had said that in order to remove the colour bar legislation should be passed to add to the funds of the Colonial Welfare and Development Act, so as to provide increased opportunities for African education, I should have agreed with him. If he had said that he would like to see legislation passed which would provide a material opportunity for improving the standards of education and living of African women, I should have agreed with him. If he had said that he would like to see special support given by this House to the development of the Christian effort throughout Africa, I should have supported him whole-heartedly. As far as Africa is concerned I believe that upon those three things depends the progress towards the removal of the colour bar and the removal of the racial ill-feeling which exists.
2524 If we pass an Act such as the hon. Gentleman has in mind, is it going to take that look of contempt out of the eyes of Europeans which too often appears in their relations with the black people? Not a bit. It will merely add to the fear which Europeans have and, as a result, increase their lack of understanding and decrease their desire to reach a position of partnership with the other races with whom they live. Secondly, will it remove from the heart of the African—to whom that attitude of contempt so often causes such grave hurt—the feeling of covetousness or inert complacency which too often characterises the African? As I see it, this is not a legislative problem. It is true that it is an economic and material problem, but it is also a cultural and, above all, a spiritual one. Unless the House is prepared to tackle it on that basis we shall make no real contribution to its solution.
I want to return to the first point I made with regard to contributions to the improvement of African education. Africans know very well, and have seen many examples of it during the last few months and years, that in some ways the key to the difference which exists between their position in the world and in their community and that enjoyed by the white people depends on the difference in educational opportunities.
If we were in this House today to say that all education in Africa was to be equal for Europeans and for Africans we would have made no progress, because hon. Gentlemen on the other side know perfectly well that the resources do not exist in the Colonies at the present time to provide precisely the same educational opportunities for the large numbers of children of all races who require it.
I hope that when the time comes for my right hon. Friend to announce the next stage in the Colonial Welfare and Development Act a special part of the funds that are available will be applied directly to the provision of improved facilities for primary and secondary education in Africa. I believe that we can make a far greater contribution to the removal of the differences which exist between the communities in that way than by anything else that we are likely to do.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
Will the hon. Member get up in this House now and say that he is in favour of some measure of mixed education between Africans and Europeans at least at secondary school level?
§ Mr. Alport
I believe in it, certainly. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members must wait a moment. I was asked a question, and I want to give an honest answer and, therefore, presumably I should be given time to think out my answer. Certainly I should like to see a gradual coalescence of social and educational contacts among the races. What I do say is that it cannot be done out of hand by Act of Parliament. Quite clearly in the process of time we will get the sort of solution which the hon. Gentleman has in mind.
There is no doubt that in Africa and in many other parts of the world we have been dealing with those who have lagged behind in the race towards progress, culture, education and, indeed, civilisation itself. We have already held out to them the prospects of enjoying the sort of advantages which we enjoy. We have said to them, "You take advantage of our education, of our industrial technique, of our culture and of our religion and it will be to your advantage." But the great mistake and the great tragedy has been that, when as individuals they have accomplished these things and have then presented themselves, we have failed to accept them as our partners.
That is the greatest of all the difficulties that confronts us in Africa and that above all requires a change of mental attitude. It is a crime to turn our backs on those who have reached the standard of accomplishment which we have urged them to attain, and who have assimilated all the ideals and values in which we in this country believe. But that is very different from the point of view expressed by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough. He said that regardless of whether they have made the effort and reached that position in society—I use that word in the normal political sense and not in the narrow sense—that we have laid down for them, they should be on equal terms with Europeans. Frankly, I do not think that is practicable at all. I believe it will come over a period of time, but not in that way.
2526 I should like to take up one point mentioned by the hon. Member. He referred to the controversy over the slave trade. I thought he did a grave injustice to hon. Members on this side of the House, because it was a Tory who was the leader of the whole movement. However, I am not going to discuss that, but I should like to say that the reason why the abolition of slavery in the British Empire was a success was because the vast majority of the people in the Empire accepted its abolition. Public opinion over a long period of time had changed its attitude to slavery, and when the moment came to abolish it it was accepted.
It was not, however, accepted by everybody in the Empire. There were those which were not prepared to agree to it, and one part of the Empire was not prepared for it. That was South Africa, and we know what the result of that was. It resulted in the movement of the Dutch out of Cape Province, so that we had a great heightening of racial tension, and the whole grim, sad history of racial discrimination and the attitude of the Dutch in South Africa has followed. That is only one example of the dangers of legislation in a matter of this sort.
But there is another example at which we might look. Take the history of the American Civil War. That was a definite attempt by one section of the community to lay down by legislation the end of a system before it had been possible to prepare the minds of the people in the South for it. It may have solved the problem, but all I can say is that in the Civil War one million people were killed and we have had a prolongation of racial hatred in the Southern States of America which has prevented the Northern or Federal authorities from effecting a progressive and more enlightened attitude to the colour question generally.
It is not only the end which we have in mind. We are all agreed about the end to be accomplished, but we on this side of the House think it right to be desperately careful to ensure that the methods which we use in trying to achieve our ends do not create greater evils than those to which we are trying to put an end.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West referred to the Christian attitude. That 2527 is, in my view, of vital importance. As I have said on other occasions, I regard the extension of Christianity in Africa as being, in fact, the greatest antidote to colour discrimination and ignorance from which colour discrimination so often arises. It also enables the African to have a place in this modern world. But I should like to make it quite clear that I do not regard the attitude of some of those who cite themselves as leaders of Christian thought, like men like Mr. Scott, as being the correct interpreters of Christian standards.
§ Mr. Alport
I do not think that if that were to be accepted as the real attitude of Christianity it would do anything in the long run to remove racial bitterness. As we have seen, its effect has been to increase that bitterness between the races. Not long ago I received a challenge for Mr. Scott from a man who is a far better Christian than I would ever claim to be. He puts what seems to me to be the right point of view, and if the House will allow me, I should like to quote from his letter.
He says:To be pro-African does not mean that one has to be anti-European, anti-administration or anti-Government. To adopt such an attitude would be anti-Christian …. To provoke people to rebel against those laws is a grave offence against that country, even for good motives. St. Paul, in writing to the Romans, enjoined them, 'Render therefore to all their due; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.' To the servants in Ephesus he wrote (and you know that to be a servant in Ephesus meant that one was a slave), 'Be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ'.He goes on:You have come out from England to lead the people of this land—where? I am gravely, gravely disturbed, for if you do not lead them in this Christian way, you will lead them into the wilderness, and there they will perish. You cannot expect God to go with you if you do not go His way …We have to teach submission to pass laws, racial discrimination, colour prejudice and all those hideous evils that the coloured peoples have to endure, for in the very act of submission, the grace of Christ comes into the life, and the elimination of these evils becomes His concern.We must remember that we were a subject people for over four hundred years, and while 2528 the great St. Augustine, a coloured man, was holding sway in North Africa, people of our pigment were being sold in the markets of Rome.That is from a private Christian man, not a minister of the Church. It represents to me the accurate approach to this problem from the Christian point of view.
It is fundamentally a change of moral outlook that is required. The whole question of colour is a moral challenge to Europeans, to Africans and to Indians, in all parts of the world where we come up against it. But we cannot solve that moral problem by passing an Act of Parliament in this House. That would be an easy solution and a good sop, perhaps, to the consciences of hon. Members here, but would we in that way really be contributing to a solution to that bitterness, fear and envy, and the legacy of the centuries as left to us and to the African? I do not believe that we should be doing so.
That is why we on this side of the House have moved the Amendment. We do so in the full knowledge that there will be malicious minds who will misrepresent our motives, but we ourselves are perfectly clear in our intention. Our intention is to continue, with the help of time and with the help of spiritual powers that are, perhaps outside our understanding, to wrestle with a grave problem and to find a solution, not by legislation, but by an appeal and a change in the hearts of men.
§ 12.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
I beg to second the Amendment.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport), who has moved this Amendment so ably and in such generous terms, I should at the outset like to make a passing reference to the speeches from the hon. Members for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) and Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). The hon. Member for Eton and Slough knows that I and many of my colleagues do not agree with many of his views on this important problem, but we all respect his sincerity. It is one of our characteristics that we admire a man, although we do not agree with him, who has strong views and who does not hesitate to stand up for them.
2529 I felt, however, that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough departed to a certain extent from his usual fairness in reference to the document, which has now become almost famous, about the three-line whip in connection with the vote this afternoon. I hope that he now accepts our assurance that its object and purpose was to ask our colleagues on this side of the House to support us in our views as expressed in the Amendment.
When I think of the speech from the seconder of the Motion, the hon. Member for Oldham, West, I am bound to say that I did not think he was at his best. During the three and a half years that I have been in the House I have come to admire the facile way in which he intervenes in the debates, his flow of language, and his knowledge. Today, however, to say the least of it, I found him somewhat irritating in his approach to the problem. There are some situations that one handles with a velvet glove and others to which one is inclined to use a sledge hammer. I should like today to use a sledge hammer to the hon. Member for Oldham, West, but I will spare his feelings and say only that I feel he was not at his best because he does not have sufficient knowledge and first-hand experience of this most important problem.
I should like to make a few general and one or two personal observations so that I may indicate quite clearly my approach to this problem. We all agree that it is a problem of tremendous importance, but it is also a very difficult and, indeed, a delicate problem. We all agree that it is a problem that is fundamental to the future of the British Empire and Commonwealth.
Since the 1914–18 war, I have had the privilege of living in most parts of the Empire and Commonwealth, in the old Dominions, in most of the Colonies, and in other parts of the world. Like many other hon. Members, I have seen this problem close at hand. It is no new problem, and I too have given it very careful and serious thought and consideration.
Every fair-minded, sensible person will agree that the attitude of some of the Europeans towards some of the coloured peoples throughout the world leaves much to be desired. I remember an incident during a visit to one of the jute mills north of Calcutta when I was in 2530 business. I was going round the mill with the manager. One of the indian workers came up to him and said somethings, quite respectfully, but instead of giving the Indian a courteous reply, the manager "hit him for six." I was horrified, and told the manager so. I lost the order that I had gone there to get. But when I sent my weekly report to my directors in London, and told them that I had lost the business and the reason, to their everlasting credit they agreed and said that while it was a matter for regret, nevertheless taking the long view they felt that one's attitude in that instance was right and proper.
Another thing that I detest and which horrified me was when in East Africa I heard Europeans referring to the Africans contemptuously and using the expression "Wogs." I know that many of my hon. Friends who have not had that experience would not hesitate to condemn it as I do. Happily, however, that kind of thing is confined to a very few people, and my experience is that it is not the general attitude of the British people towards the other races throughout the world.
One has seen this problem at first hand in India, Burma and Malaya, even in the international settlements in China, and in the West Indies and, of course, in the United States of America; but as the mover and seconder of the Motion concentrated their remarks mostly on the problem of East and Central Africa, I shall confine myself to that area, where I spent some six and a half years.
During that time I decided that the only way to approach the problem was to try to get to know the Africans, to understand their mentality and their psychology. I hope I am not boasting when I make these personal references, but they are important in a way. My wife and I made a practice of having Africans of all classes to our house for tea. In Uganda we had ordinary Africans to tea in our home with the one desire of getting to know them and trying to understand them.
I shall never forget one incident which stands out very clearly in my mind. An African boy, who was one of our garden boys, lived a mile or two away and built himself a new house of his own—a little hut of mud and wattle with a thatched roof. This boy asked my wife and me 2531 if we would go to see his house. We arrived there. It was a hut of mud and wattle, divided into two by a sack. The only piece of real building was the door, which was made of bits of wood nailed together. On the door was a brass handle, shining like the noonday sun. We were invited inside and, on a wooden packing case, was a white tablecloth, with the table set for tea for my wife and myself. It is incidents such as that which stir the hearts and minds of men. I could go on giving these illustrations but I hope I have said sufficient to show the House my approach to this most important problem.
I come now to the points of difference between the hon. Members for Eton and Slough and Oldham, West and myself. The first point I would make is this: I hope I am not being unfair but today, as indeed on past occasions, they both gave me the impression that they put all the blame for racial discrimination on the European. Let us take East and Central Africa, where there are nearly 250,000 Asiatics, 90 per cent. of whom are Indians, as distinct from Pakistinis and Arabs. I would remind hon. Members of the attitude of the Indian towards this problem. I do not want to make a great point of it but, when hon. Members are trying to blame the British and the European almost entirely for this state of affairs, it is only right and proper that the world should be reminded of the attitude of other races so that they may see that we are not solely the culprits.
§ Mr. Craddock
With respect, there are Indians as well in the legislature in Kenya. Furthermore, it is not a question only of Governments but it is a question also of the residents in the territory. This situation cannot be changed by Governments, as I shall hope to show in a moment. In dealing with the attitude of the Indians towards this problem, let me quote from a report in "The Times" of 20th April this year. It is headed "Demand for removal of untouchability". 2532 The second heading is "Complaints in Indian Parliament". The date line is "Delhi, April 19th", and the report reads:The deputy Home Minister said in the House of the People that he hoped that the Indian Government would bring forward legislation this year concerning the removal of 'untouchability'. He was speaking on a private member's resolution urging enactment of comprehensive legislation to provide punishment for the practice of untoucbability. Many of the speeches were bitter, particularly from those of members of the House who are from the scheduled castes, and therefore have personal experience of how untouchables fare in India today. One such member observed: 'Mr. Nehru speaks frequently of the condition of Indians in South Africa. But you find South Africa in every village and every nook and corner in India'. Another member said that untouchability was more prevalent in India today than ever before, and he described how he himself had been subjected to humiliation when a hotel-keeper threw away the glass from which he had drunk. After several members had complained that untouchability, 'practised in India against 70 or 80 million people', had been abolished only on paper and not in practice, the House passed a resolution moved by another member asking that a comprehensive law be enacted soon to ensure the immediate abolition of the practice of untouchability.I agree that the question of untouchability could well be tackled by legislation, but that is not the problem here, and I quoted that report because, as I have said, we all know that there is a large Indian population in East and Central Africa, and I am bound to say that their attitude towards Africans, from my experience, in many cases—not all, but many cases—leaves much to be desired. I want to take this opportunity of repudiating the suggestion which is made so often by hon. Members opposite that this problem arises solely from the European attitude.
May I come to the second point where I differ from the hon. Member for Eton and Slough? I believe that the phrase "colour bar" is a misnomer. I do not believe that the average, decent European condemns a man because of the colour of his skin, because he is black or yellow or brown. I do not believe that at all. Here I have to talk very frankly and perhaps say some unpleasant things, but it is important to get a proper appreciation of the problem. This discrimination and this so-called colour bar arises from differences in outlook, in psychology and in habits and not, in my view, because of the colour of the skin.
2533 I will give one or two examples. We hear cases quoted of segregation of the Africans, of Africans having to go through a different door in a Post Office to get their stamps or to a different part of a department store to buy their goods. That has sprung up not because they are black but—let us face it, for it is right and proper that we should be honest and face these things—but because of many things: first of all, because of the habits of a large number of Africans in those territories. Let us remember that 95 per cent. of them are primitive people. One of the reasons why they are not generally accepted into hotels is because their sanitary habits are not all that could be desired.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I follow the point the hon. Gentleman makes, but is he not ignoring the fact that it does not matter how educated an African is, he is still treated in the same way?
§ Mr. Craddock
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I hope I am not being unfair. What I am trying to say is this—perhaps not with great success but I am doing my best; all this has not arisen because of the colour of a man's skin. There is a reasonable explanation. We think there should be an improvement. I hope to show, as my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester has shown, how we think that improvement should be brought about. It all arises not from an inherent evil in a European, in the fact that he hates colour; it arises from a number of things. What about disease? It is well known that a large number of Africans in East and Central Africa are riddled with a disease of a very unfortunate kind. It is not unnatural, therefore, I put it, that Europeans may say, "We do not want to get into close contact because of the danger of infection."
There is another reason why this has come about, and here I am treading on delicate ground. But I feel it is essential that we should appreciate the attitude of the African towards sex problems, his biological attitude. I will not dwell on that very delicate subject, but I think that hon. Members who have experience will agree that the attitude of the African towards women and sexual matters is entirely different from the attitude of the general run of Europeans.
§ Mr. Sorensen rose—
§ Mr. Craddock
I cannot give way. If my wife had had a family while we were in East Africa I would certainly not have allowed those children to be in charge of an African nurse because—and here I am going to be brutally frank, because I think these things should be appreciated—it is a common practice among Africans to put children to sleep by the excitation of their uro-genital organs. These are statements of fact and are the sort of things which bring about this situation.
The effect of alcohol upon an African is remarkable. I admit that sometimes alcohol has a remarkable effect on Europeans. But, speaking generally, alcohol seems to bring out all the evil instincts in the African in the most astonishing way. I mention all these points to give the other side of the picture and to show that it is not just stupidity on the part of Europeans which has brought about a colour bar and racial discrimination.
§ Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)
We have followed with great interest what the hon. Member said and we admire his courage in saying these things. But does he mean to infer that all these characteristics of the coloured people are inherent in those people, or would he admit that they are the outcome of economic and social conditions for which, to a great extent, we still have a responsibility?
§ Mr. Craddock
I entirely agree that they are not inherent in the African as such. But I would not agree that it is due to poverty and so on. I have difficulty in giving a brief explanation of what are the causes. But these views and practices are due to the psychological make-up of those primitive people from time immemorial. It is gradually improving, but I am trying to illustrate to the House that there is another side to the picture which must be taken into account when we are dealing with this problem.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
The hon. Member has mentioned problems arising from the difference in sexual practice between Europeans and Africans. Would he not admit that while there are millions of people of mixed race the coloured people were brought into this world by the exploitation of 2535 African women by white men and not by the exploitation of white women by African men?
§ Mr. Craddock
I agree that many children have been born as the result of unions between white and black, and that is a matter I condemn, although I may be wrong. Although I feel it is something which is to be deplored, I do not despise those people. After all, it may well be that in the course of time we may come to a position where we may encourage such unions. But I must admit that I do not like it at the moment. On the other hand there are the Singalese who are the product of a mixed race and who are a very fine people indeed, but the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not pursue that very interesting and wide subject.
I come to my final point. How are we to tackle this problem and improve it? I agree whole-heartedly with my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester that it cannot be done by legislation. Only by improving the economic conditions of the country and by improving and expanding the social services can we bring the Africans up to the level of European standards. That is my attitude to this vital question.
I shall never forget an occasion in Nairobi in the 1930's when H.H. The Aga Khan paid a visit to his followers there. I am not quoting him exactly, but this is the gist of what he said. He told them, "You can only expect to be treated as Europeans by Europeans when you make up your minds to accept the highest European standards as practised by the best Europeans. When you accept those standards and act up to them you will be entitled to regard yourselves as being in the same class." I think that is wise and proper advice.
Many of my hon. Friends know of my love of this country and the people in the British Empire and Commonwealth. They sometimes laugh at me because of my vehemence in these matters. But I am not ashamed to say that I am proud to be British. I believe in our people. I believe that we in this country through 2536 the British Empire and Commonwealth have made a great contribution to the scheme of things in the world, and that is something we should be proud of. I believe the best chance for the welfare of the African peoples, materially, morally and spiritually, will come from their continued protection by the strong arm of Britain and if they remain under our strong shield.
But it is not enough just to say that. It is for the British people, and particularly those in Eastern and Central Africa, to show to the Africans that we mean what we say. I believe that the most important contribution to this problem must come from the Europeans in East and Central Africa, by their precept and example.
§ 1.0 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I have listened with keen interest to the preceding speeches which have been more moving and much better informed than any speech which I am able to make. I have not had the experience of the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock), nor have I made the contribution which I believe he may have made to a solution of the problem we are discussing. But I think that any one of us is entitled to give an opinion on the matter before the House as a broad matter of human relations.
I would ask the hon. Member for Spelthorne to consider whether he is really convinced that the colour bar as it exists depends primarily upon the habits of the coloured people. He will probably agree that it is a very deep, primitive and barbaric instinct. He and I both belong to the same nation, the Scotch, and there was a time when there used to be a strong prejudice against the Scotch in this country. If we read the history of that time we find that some things similar was said about them. They were not very clean; they were not very nice people; they were rather corrupt. What untruths!
We must be very careful as white people about complaining about the habits of those with different skins. I suggest without being dramatic that no coloured race in the world have behaved as the white people have behaved—Belsen; the treatment of the Jews in Europe; the conduct of the wars in Europe during the last 100 years. No 2537 primitive people, whatever their sanitary habits may be, have come near to those happenings. I know that the hon. Member for Spelthorne would agree with me.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
I should like to make it clear that I was not condemning the African people. I was trying to show how in my view racial discrimination sprung up throughout the ages. It is not so simple as some hon. Gentlemen opposite make out.
§ Mr. Grimond
I appreciate that, but I do not believe that the solution is to continue the position. I do not believe that the solution is to ostracise the Germans because of their anti-Jewish activities, and I do not believe that the solution is, on grounds of superiority, colour and different race, to draw a bar between one nation and another.
The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) said that we could not cure these things by Act of Parliament. I agree, but I ask him to consider that though it may be true that the great reforms in this country were brought about by a gradual process, by the action of religion, by the awakening of conscience and by the gradual movement of opinion, nevertheless the work in this House of men of his own party, such as Lord Shaftesbury and Wilberforce, has been of the greatest importance in moulding that opinion. What goes out from this House is still of importance. It will still give a lead, and it will be doubly important if it comes from the Conservative Party.
I think that we have a creditable record in India. Not a little of that credit is due to the Conservative Party for taking the lead and to men like Lord Halifax for recording in this House their conviction against the principles of many of their leaders, and against the instincts of their supporters, that they were bound to go forward to self-government in India. Personally, I do not think that it will be by any means ineffective if it goes out from this House this afternoon, and if it goes out with the consent of the Conservative Party, that we profoundly disapprove now and immediately of the colour bar.
§ Mr. Alport
The hon. Gentleman will agree that the Motion, as amended, meets precisely the point that he is making.
§ Mr. Grimond
I doubt that. It is very easy to say that it will be a gradual process and that it will take time. Many of the greatest reforms in the world would never have come about if people had never taken a risk, if they had not taken time by the forelock and pressed them through perhaps a little in advance of general opinion.
In some respects the colour bar is an act of State. The hon. Member for Colchester spoke of education. If money is to be spent on education, is it to be expended equally between the races? This is not only a question of finding more money, which I agree is very important, it is also a question of expending it equally between children of any colour. If the hon. Member for Colchester will read the recent pamphlet published by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway), he will find that in many parts of the territories for which we are responsible there are serious discrepancies between the amount we spend on education on white and coloured children.
There are other acts of State which are our responsibility. The hon. Member spoke of the acts of the trade unions and of differentiation in wages. Wages are a matter upon which the Government have a right to intervene. Is the hon. Member prepared to see them intervene to guarantee equality of pay, as the hon. Member for Eton and Slough asked? There are these concrete matters. I would say to him that time is short. There may be only a short time for the white people, with their Western civilisation and their Christian ideals, to convince the neutrals of the world whether they are sincere and whether they really have something to offer better than what is offered by Communism.
It is a practical matter. It is also a personal matter. It is a personal matter in which one must be very careful. I certainly lay claim to no virtue. I suffer from the ordinary inhibitions, the ordinary reactions, of most human beings. One must be very careful if one has never lived in these countries and experienced the difficulties, and I have never done that.
I must confess that I am quite incapable of pretending that I could solve this problem on a basis of Christianity. I call 2539 myself a Christian. I am conscious, however, that I find it a terrifying religion and that I find the parable of the Good Samaritan a terrifying parable. I very much doubt whether war in any circumstances can be reconciled with Christianity, but I am prepared to go to war and, therefore, I do not approach the matter from that point of view except to say that if I were a practising Christian in the true sense I should not have the slightest doubt. It is one of the very few points on which I should have no doubt whatever that Christianity is irrevocably opposed to the colour bar now and always and everywhere.
But I do not approach it from that point of view. I approach it from the much lower point of view, that I believe that common decency is against it, that I believe that it is one of the aims of civilisation to try to get past the primitive reactions of mankind against people who are different to them. It is one of the things one is brought up not to do. One does not laugh at men because they squint. One does not make fun of people because they have some physical difference from oneself. On common grounds of decency and on common grounds of happiness, there is everything to be said against the colour bar on both sides. I do not believe that it makes for the happiness of white or black. I do not think that in America it has made for the happiness of either race, and I believe that it should be abolished as quickly as possible.
It is sometimes said, "Are you prepared to put your belief into practice?" The usual test is, "If your daughter proposed to marry a black man would you allow it?" It is very difficult to judge in these matters until one is faced with them but, as far as I know, I should not object providing that he was a decent man and kind to his father-in-law. I do not think that I should object, indeed I should very much object to her marrying many white men.
But let us suppose that in certain circumstances one would object. I am bound to notice that there is a profound difference in the reaction of the white races to the Aga Khan and the lascar dockers. I am bound to remember that even in my lifetime I have been told by most kindly and admirable people that 2540 it is no use whatever building good houses for the poor because they will only keep coal in the bath. I wonder whether this prejudice is not partly a deep-rooted psychological instinct which is not civilised, and partly because the black races tend to be poorer and have rather worse habits and spit in the streets.
I suffer from the ordinary inhibitions. I have many times seen a party of Jews having an expensive meal in a restaurant and I have felt in myself the reactions which I suppose led to the persecution of the Jews in Germany. But one fights against that. One does not propose to follow the example of those who oppress the Jews. There is something of the same in one's attitude to black people. Every time one feels any prejudice against them one is in fact being led astray by exactly the sort of propaganda which we have seen so often in Europe not only against the black races but against the French, against the Jews, against anyone who was a convenient scapegoat for our sins and our shortcomings.
It is said that the black people are mentally inferior. I am advised that, medically, that is quite untrue. I can quite appreciate that, in certain circumstances, they may need education. I can quite imagine, for instance, that we cannot transfer this extraordinary form of Parliamentary Government in which we indulge into any other part of the world and expect it work off-hand. But that is quite different to my rooted objection to the colour bar. That objection is to the idea that we must treat other people as in all ways our inferiors, and it is that that I want to see removed and removed now.
I have no objection to the fact that I am not allowed in the Carlton Club. I do not regard that as an unsocial slur, but, if I was not allowed in the Carlton Club because I had only one leg, I should object very much indeed. Again, it is said, that if we allow the colour bar to go, we shall have a mixed race. It is by no means certain that a mixed race may not be a good one. I think the Brazilians are a very mixed race, and I therefore do not accept that argument.
I do not accept the argument that, to do good to these people, we must maintain an attitude of superiority. I do not 2541 believe that any race has a divine mission to govern—nor indeed any party, even the Liberal Party. I think it is a very dangerous attitude of mind to be in, and I think it is just as dangerous an idea that any particular party has such a mission to govern. I do believe in the British Commonwealth of Nations, and I am unashamedly Imperialist, in the sense in which the hon. Member for Spelthorne is. I believe that the party opposite are Imperialists today, but in a very different sense to what they were before.
If I may say so to my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway), if I may call him my hon. Friend, and we are all very friendly today, I think it is perfectly reasonable for the party opposite, if they accept the principle in the Amendment, to muster their forces and vote down this Motion. Parliamentary, they are entitled to do so. But, I hope that, if they believe in the British Commonwealth, and, as I am sure they do, if they believe in the importance of this Parliament—and that what goes out from here to these nations is of the greatest importance—then I suggest to them that while we shall not remove the colour bar by Act of Parliament, an immense effect upon the Empire may be made by what is said on both sides of this House.
I wonder if hon. Gentlemen opposite realise that, if they proceed with the Amendment, it will undoubtedly be interpreted, whether they like it or not, as a gesture against the Motion, and, again, whether they like it or not, as a gesture that they are identifying themselves with the people who still think that, if we build new houses for the poor, they will use them to put coal in the bath. It will not be true. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite are no less humane than I am, not even the Undersecretary, who is a very humane man, but I wonder what the effect will be.
I honestly believe that the effect will be greater if what goes out from this House is the view stated in the terms of the Motion—that we are unalterably opposed to the colour bar as ordinary, civilised, decent people, that we want nothing more than happiness in the world, that we think the colour bar is a primitive instinct, that it destroys the relation of man to man, and that, if we 2542 want to have tea, as the hon. Member for Spelthorne said, with men of different colour, and want to see them, as I do, in the streets, in the hotels and in all the ordinary social meeting places of the world, we must get rid of this primitive, barbaric, and, to me, rather horrible, instinct that people of a different colour are therefore inferior to us.
§ 1.16 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)
Up to now, I am quite sure that the whole House has been gratified with the measure of similar opinion which has been expressed from both sides of the House. Certainly, it is a great gain to know that our friends on the other side of the House can put down an Amendment to the original Motion which goes a long way towards accepting the contents of that Motion. That is certainly a very great advance, and I should like to express my appreciation of it.
At the same time, I very much regret, as previous speakers have done, that hon. Gentlemen opposite have not seen their way to accept the original Motion. Speaking for myself, I cannot see why, because the last words of the Motion arewith a view to the progressive elimination of the colour bar in all these lands.What possible objection can there be to introducing legislation to deal with the elimination of the colour bar progressively by stages? It is up to the Government to decide exactly what these stages should be. It may be that the first stage would be a modest one. but surely there can be no valid objection to the basis that is laid down, and to which hon. Gentlemen opposite are already agreed, that we should promote and apply that policy by progressive stages.
I entirely agree with the previous speaker, that it would be regrettable if this Motion was rejected and the Amendment carried, with the effect of leaving the impression everywhere that a section of this House was against the abolition of the colour bar. I put it to hon. Members opposite that one way in which they could avoid giving that unfortunate impression would be to withdraw the Amendment and vote for the Motion, in view of the very modest and reserved qualifications that are placed in the latter part of that Motion.
2543 If I may now turn to the Motion itself, although I wholeheartedly agree with its content and purpose, I do not altogether agree with one part of the argument. I do not believe that we are born free and equal. On the contrary, I think that we are born in chains that we struggle to become free, and that it takes a long time for us to divest ourselves of the fetters and manacles that are our natural inheritance.
This may be a small point, but I mention it because it is not fully recognised that a difference of philosophic approach accounts in some measure for the difference of opinion registered here today. In spite of the fact that we are not born free and equal, but are born in chains and subordinate to a variety of instincts, I would further add, because of that, I believe there is a great deal of purely instinctive justification for the colour bar and other means of classifying the human race.
After all, colour discrimination is only one aspect of this discrimination. We are not all born equal, but are born very unequal, and those who have better endowments than others instinctively tend not merely to maintain that classification, but even to take advantage of it. It is perfectly natural to exploit each other, for the powerful to take advantage of the weak, and we see it in nature every day, although it is morally wrong. As we are children of nature, we have inherited all the impulses and tendencies of nature, but this is, of course, only one aspect of discrimination. Another is seen even in religion, and, in fact, there is a whole variety of forms of discrimination, which are part of our natural inheritance.
Further, this is not peculiar, in its essence, to the white people. The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) described his experience of the caste system in India. I am glad to know that legislation has been passed that will prohibit it. At the same time, it is equally true that the social practices cannot be wholly eliminated by legislation. We can do much to prevent their worst application, but they still exist inside individuals. There is still mental obedience to instinct, prejudice and tradition, and those can remain even if their outward expression be expunged.
It is not only in this country and Europe that we have this unfortunate 2544 heritage. I remember being in Africa some time ago and being somewhat shocked when at a certain place I saw, as no doubt others have seen, a number of Africans abasing themselves full length on the ground before the particular authority they met. That, to me, struck a very jarring note. One can understand the ordinary expressions of courtesy, and why in Africa that form of courtesy still exists, but one cannot understand why there should still be the assumption in certain African areas that some people are so inferior to others that they must of necessity prostrate themselves on the ground before any further contact can be had with them.
§ Sir Harold Roper (Cornwall, North)
Was this gesture due to any question of fear or to a great respect for the Europeans? There is a very important difference there.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I was not referring to abasement before Europeans, but before other Africans. The hon. Gentleman asks whether it is due to fear. Perhaps partly so, but in all these cases there is no single cause; there are multiple causes.
To come back to my earlier argument, I suggest that the real cause of the colour bar and of other forms of discrimination, together with arrogance and subordination, are due to the deep, profound instincts that are born in man and which man takes some time to eliminate. Christianity, I believe, represents a tremendous advance—and gave great enlightenment—not of man's origin, but of his fulfilment, for we must judge man not by what he has been, but by what he can become.
I suggest to the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) that it is very dangerous to try to adopt Paul as an authority on these matters. If one does that it means that one would perfectly logically have to endorse today a great deal of what we wholeheartedly repudiate, including the Paul-line attitude towards women.
§ Mr. Alport
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will realise that the object of my argument was to show that the point of view of this correspondent was closer to the Christian concept than was the policy of civil disobedience.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I entirely appreciate the motives of the hon. Gentleman, and I do not question his sincerity. I am merely trying to point out the danger of his argument. For instance, when reference is made to Christianity, he must remember that for the greater portion of Christian history not a single word was said in condemnation of slavery. The great majority of Christian theologians, moralists and scholars, including the early Fathers, accepted slavery as the will of God himself. It is not so long ago that people used the same Christian arguments to enforce the subjugation of the working classes as they used to justify slavery.
That being so, we have to discriminate between different kinds of Christianity, between the Christianity that repudiates slavery and that which may endorse not only slavery, but also the colour bar, the sort of Christianity that we find in the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. How can we say that the scholars and theologians of the Dutch Reformed Church, who say that the colour bar is divinely ordained and want to apply it to apartheid, are not correct? I believe they are wrong, but they say it is from the Christian point of view that they advocate apartheid.
Today, whether we be Christians or non-Christians, we share in spiritual enlightenment, and from that standpoint we begin to see the inner implication of the Christian faith. I am quite sure that the colour bar, accepted and endorsed by many Christians, and which can be rationalised accordingly, is, nevertheless, an offence against the mature and ultimate man, against the full spiritual fulfilment of man. On that ground, whether we be Christians or non-Christians, we can all agree, as happily we do agree today and as we would not have done some years ago, in recognising that the colour bar and other similar forms of discrimination, whether they occur in Africa as between Africans and Africans, in India as between Indians and Indians or as between whites and blacks, are a moral and spiritual offence against human fulfilment and the race which we wish to see arise in the future.
Naturally, when we consider the power and significance of colour discrimination in many parts of the world, we all try to get down to the truth and to understand 2546 what it really is. I suggest that one reason for it is simply the natural vanity of man in assuming that his own qualifications and characteristics, because they are his, are therefore superior to those of others. That is a natural primitive conceit on the part of mankind.
It is equally true to say that sometimes the economic factor is bound up with it. There is, of course, also a pseudo-scientific argument to which some allusion has already been made. It is that, however estimable Africans or other people may be individually, if there is a loosening of the colour bar or even some contact at high levels between educated people, it would not stop there, but would, in the end, involve us in intermarriage which would bring about undesirable results.
Those holding this view point to the parts of the world where there have been alleged regrettable results owing to intermarriage between the various races. But they do not point to other parts of the world where that has taken place with good results, to New Zealand, for instance, where the Maoris are, of course, a coloured people and where there has been a certain amount of inter-marriage with no bad results. They do not point to South America, nor do they refer to the fact that when white people first went to South Africa they found no objection to sexual cohabitation with the indigenous natives there, whether they were Bantu or otherwise. The progeny of their association remains to this day. The coloured people of South Africa are only one instance.
On the purely scientific ground, there is no evidence one way or the other that inter-marriage brings abont degeneration of human stock. On the contrary, I am inclined to believe that a certain amount of inter-marriage may improve human stock. There is no biologist, ethnologist or anthropologist who would say that inter-marriage carries with it some biological danger which brings about the degradation and the degeneration of the human race.
Therefore, I say that it is not on scientific grounds that the colour bar has existed and still persists. It is not on any philosophical grounds, for we have evidence even in London of hotels refusing to allow not only our own 2547 colonial people to occupy rooms for the night but even a coloured American medical officer, as has happened in the last 10 days. It is sheer prejudice, based on assumed instinct but rationalised by people who thus try to make it seem more plausible. We can always find reasons for our prejudices, sometimes by way of intellectual explanation, sometimes on grounds of pseudo-science, sometimes on the ground of religion itself. There is not a single prejudice that cannot be veneered over by idealisation of some kind.
What is the real basis of our attitude? To answer that we must ask ourselves the meaning and purpose of the human race. What is the ultimate meaning of man? When we have the answer to that question, we can go on to the realisation that man must cast aside his prejudices, stupidity and arrogance if he is to reach his coming-of-age. The colour bar is one of the things that must go because it frustrates that purpose and bars his spiritual maturity.
Very often in these matters men act on what are not high moral principles. Therefore, apart from the application of religious or ethical principles, let us look at the world as it is today from the standpoint of sheer expediency, and there can be no doubt whatever that on the one hand to condone the continuance of the colour bar is dangerous to world peace and on the other hand that to remove it will have a tremendous beneficial effect on the future relationship between the coloured peoples of the world and ourselves.
Surely we should realise that the great majority of the people of the world are coloured, whether they be in India, China, Africa, or elsewhere. We, who call ourselves "white" use a very misleading description, for we might as well call ourselves "pasty-faced" or "pale faced." In any case we are in the minority, and there is a great danger in these days that international wars may be supplemented by inter-racial wars. We do not want it to happen, but it is no use waiting until the avalanche is upon us.
There is bitterness and hatred in certain sections of the coloured races. They charge us with arrogance and gross exploitation, and a great deal of the charge is true. It is not wholly true, and they 2548 themselves often exploit and dominate each other. That does not alter the fact that a great deal of their discontent, their feeling of inferiority, their bitterness and resentment is becoming more and more directed to the European white race who, they say, have been their overlords for too long.
We must transform or eliminate those feelings if we can. We cannot do it by slow, tortoise-like paces, but by an imaginative gesture. The Motion we are discussing is one means by which we can do it. I sometimes think that our Friends on the opposite side of the House underestimate the effect of what we do in this House on the imagination of people outside. I understand why some hon. Gentlemen wish to proceed slowly and cautiously. That is appropriate to the Conservative outlook. A large number of people are born Conservative and temperamently always will be Conservative, but we have reached a stage in the history of the world where whatever may have been the significance or value of Conservatism at one or any time is irrelevant now. There are dangers and perils facing us unless we use political imagination, moral adventure and enterprise by which we can reach out to the coloured people of the world in a way that will impress them with our sincerity.
We have been learning a lesson which should enable us to say to the world earnestly and with sincerity that colour to us is purely secondary and insignificant, and because of that we are trying to demonstrate it symbolically by passing this Motion calling for legislation to introduce progressive stages towards the elimination of this unworthy heritage of the past. I trust that hon. Gentlemen will not take it as a reflection on their sincerity if I appeal to them in the interest of our country and of harmonious relations with the greater part of the would, to withdraw their Amendment and support the Motion and thus, in a symbolic and practical manner, do justice to ourselves and to mankind.
§ 1.36 p.m.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
I am sure that many hon. Members on this side of the House will have followed with sympathy what has been said by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen). There is, in this Motion, something that the great liberal spirit and 2549 tradition of this country welcomes. That liberalism is not confined to the hearts and feelings of hon. Gentlemen who sit on the second bench below the Gangway on the Opposition side of the House. We recognise that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and are endowed with reason and conscience. They should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
I cannot understand why the hon. Member for Leyton thinks that when we say we are opposed to all discriminatory practices based on colour, people in any part of the Commonwealth can put any but one meaning into those words. It is as well that we should avoid acrimony in a discussion of this kind. It is easy to inflame passions, not only in this country but in Africa and elsewhere.
I rejoice that there is no colour bar in this country, in West Africa, the West Indies or in many other parts of the Commonwealth. I am glad that I have had the privilege of having been a city councillor in my city of Liverpool, representing in microcosm a multi-racial community, where sailors of every race and colour mix freely in the hostels, where children play in schools and streets irrespective of the colour they were born.
Is it not possible that colour prejudice is confused with economic and social differences? Many an African lacks the power of concentration and a sense of responsibility, but some Englishmen lack a sense of responsibility too. Many Africans work better if they are together under European supervision. We are lucky in this country. We have had many a century of technical skill handed down from father to son. We have been lucky in having a culture whereas many parts of Africa were unknown to the rest of the world only 100 years ago.
We should all like to see the economic output increase so that welfare for the African can be expanded in the form of greater education, better schools and better hospitals and so on. If that economic output is to be increased, it must be increased by technical skill. Often that technical skill can be found only be the help of expatriates. There are not enough technicians in Africa today. They are in short supply even in this country; but if they are to be taken away from their home country and asked to help the indigenous people to improve production, 2550 surely they must be paid a high wage and offered special terms by way of good housing and other amenities. The technicians who are so badly wanted will not otherwise be obtained.
To say this is not to be an Imperialist, because I believe that the old idea of empire, of one nation being dominant over another, has altered into the new conception of trusteeship, of leading a nation that is not yet of age to improve its welfare and production so that when it comes of age it will receive as a beneficiary a much greater estate. But there are areas in Africa which before the coming of the white races were merely an empty waste, such as the highlands of Kenya. The white races arrived in Cape Province long before the Bantus. Many white people have been born in these areas and have made them their home. They have no other.
I remember an occasion when I stayed with some tenant farmers—not rich landlords with thousands of acres—between Gilgil and Thompson's Falls. When we went to the top of the Aberdare Mountains we had to go four miles out of our way so that my host's young daughter could be placed in the hands of another farmer. This happened two years ago. I mention it only because my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) has referred to the sex problem. My friends put their daughter in the care of another farmer because of the belief of Africans in that part of the world that anyone suffering from venereal disease will be cured if he goes with a white woman of any age. There was an incident of that kind in that area a few weeks before I was there. One has to remember that background when the white people of Kenya ask that their hotels and clubs should be places where they can mingle with their own kith.
I have a letter from Kenya which states:As Kenya develops, so must racial discrimination fade. Today the colony is not ready for equality. For example, to show you how clearly coloured peoples themselves realise it, five big hotels are Indian owned and are closed to all but Europeans. Three leading European hotels are not closed to Asians or Africans, but it is very, very seldom they are visited by either race. In fact in 10 years in Kenya I personally have never seen an African, or an Indian in them.
§ Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Rochester and Chatham)
I think that the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) made a good speech, particularly when he emphasised that when Africans are educated and given good social conditions which bring them up to Western standards there should be association. The hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) referred to the fact that white people have their own clubs and said that they should have them. It is unlikely that a coloured man suffering from venereal disease would try to get into a club. The Africans who would try to get into a club would be the educated ones, and the trouble is created by the fact that a colour bar is placed on them.
§ Mr. Tilney
I suspect that I would not be allowed to be a member of the West African Students' Union. There are clubs in this country which would be delighted to welcome many an Indian or African of culture, but surely a club is the premises of private individuals, and they should be allowed to decide with whom to relax. That seems to me common sense. I would oppose the segregation of races in bus queues, in railway stations and in post offices. I believe that to be wrong; but I do not see why clubs should not be open only to those people whom the members wish to invite there as guests or as fellow-members.
There is a second bar which this House should consider. It is a bar on full social and economic equality. In some places it is the result of lack of integrity. Nothing frightens Western capital, which the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) and I want to see invested in a large measure all over Africa, more than lack of integrity. A friend writes to me:My company has been desperately attempting to find suitable Africans to whom responsibility can be given, both as members of the managerial staff and as directors of subsidiary and associate companies; in both cases our efforts have been attended by abysmal failure.By appointing an African manager this man lost for his company £50,000 only last year.
I believe that in the wider sphere the actions of Dr. Mossadeq in Persia have done more harm to the development of undeveloped areas in the Middle East and Africa than have the actions of any man living or dead. But in a smaller and narrower way the action of that 2552 African manager has put back what we would all like to see—the further Africanisation of much of the trade and production of the Colonies which we own in Africa. One has seen the results of some Africanisation in the reduction in output in the Nigerian Railways, to which the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) has frequently referred. That is why we need so badly the partnership of European technicians and African workers, and why one rejoices that in places like West Africa there is that partnership to some extent.
When he is treated with firmness, fairness and respect the African proves a loyal and good worker. Incidents between Europeans and Africans are often magnified in the Press, and people get to hear about them and magnify what are minor incidents into a major racial difficulty. These incidents are bound to occur. To give prominence to them is not to anyone's interest.
I hope that the many British men and women who leave this country to work in Africa realise that they are diplomats for this country, and that it is up to them to see that their behaviour is in keeping with our highest traditions. Many deplore the attitude of the white unions in Northern Rhodesia, and elsewhere one hears the complaint that the British worker-trainer is too often inclined to stand back and supervise instead of getting down to work with the African, as the French and Italian so often does. The African admires and respects someone who will work with him.
Is it not really the social life that is so often the real problem? A few Africans are sufficiently cultured to mix freely and at ease in European society, but so often their wives, through lack of education and particularly through possessing only one native tongue, find it extremely difficult to follow their husbands and mix with them socially. I hope we shall see that the women throughout our Commonwealth receive more education not only to bring up their families in clean and good homes but also to enable them to mix more freely with people of other colours.
We have our backward thinkers, too. I know of some landladies in this country who refuse to accept African students. I know some wives abroad who are too keen on playing canasta and too little 2553 inclined to go out and help the African to help himself or herself. Many of those people are doing splendid work, but there are still some who do not fully realise the great responsibility that they owe to this country in being the upholders of our great British liberal tradition
We can help in giving an opportunity for some Africans to be apprenticed and articled in this country and at times to find jobs here. We are the home of the great professions. I am thinking particularly of accountancy, architecture and engineering.
§ Mr. Tilney
I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman could have followed me. The Society of Incorporated Accountants do allowed coloured people to be articled, and I have seen many an African accountant not only in this country but throughout West Africa who has been articled to a firm in London. I am hoping—and this is my plea, though the hon. and learned Member forestalled me—that these great professional bodies can see their way to liberalise their professions, but it means that their clients also must agree to their books being looked at by people of a different colour.
This requires a very liberal outlook, and the trouble so often is that it is impossible to know the background in Africa or the standard of rectitude of a man who wishes so to be articled. He must, therefore, spend a considerable time in Africa in order to be tested before he is brought here. My plea is that those great professional bodies, whether out there or in this country, and the universities, may somehow produce a scheme whereby the African does not feel that he is shut out of bodies which have contributed such fine service to British standards of business for so many decades. I realise that the difficulties are considerable, but I believe they could be surmounted.
It is in sport—in cricket, racing and so forth—where the races can intermingle 2554 easily and with great pleasure, too intent on what is going on in the field or on the course to bother about any difference of colour between them. It is in that sort of way that we can get together so much more easily.
There is, of course, the colour bar in reverse at times. Remember that no white man is allowed to buy land in Nigeria or on the Gold Coast, except in very small areas. Remember, too, that the Briton going to the Gold Coast has to pay quite a lot of money and fill up quite a lot of forms in order to get in, whereas the Gold Coaster is quite free to come here. It is a minor matter, but it is not all on one side. The Commonwealth is one of infinite variety. There are countries that are very backward. There are others, such as the Gold Coast, which have been in touch with civilisation for 500 years—five times longer than Nigeria—and whose Ministers have shown great responsibility and good sense in working the new Constitution.
Too often I believe agitation against colour has been an excuse for nationalism. The "Daily Service" of Lagos has been running a campaign against "the Syrian Menace." It is odd that when the Western nations are moving fairly quickly away from nationalism into a partnership in the Atlantic community, in Africa there are so many areas where nationalism is upsurgent. If only we whites can realise that not every African stems from the jungle, if only the Africans can realise that not every white man is an aristocrat—I use the word "aristocrat" in the Greek sense—then I think we really can found a world-wide oceanic community in which there is no colour prejudice at all.
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
When I came here this morning I had no intention of speaking but, after hearing the speeches which have already been made, I feel very moved to speak on this great problem of the colour bar.
The hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) could almost have convinced me, had I not seen on which side of this Chamber he sits, that he was in many respects arguing for the Motion. The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) 2555 said that this problem was one of a cultural and spiritual outlook. We all agree that this problem of the colour bar involves both cultural and spiritual questions, but I submit that we must apply our ideals and our beliefs in a practical measure.
The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) made the point that he was looking at this problem from a Christian attitude. I suggest that the leader of the Christian point of view said very emphatically that we must go out and do good to other people; that we must put into practice the things for which we stand. The only way in which we can approach this problem is by introducing—perhaps gradually, but nevertheless definitely—legislative measures which will at any rate lay down standards upon which we can build up better human relations between the peoples in different countries.
The Amendment which has been put down accepts most of the Motion with regard to breaking down the colour bar, but it perpetuates the outlook which has been established over many years towards this problem. One hon. Member referred to the problem of educational opportunity and, when questioned by another hon. Member, immediately began to lay down the barriers to which we are objecting in this Motion. He admitted that he did not want to see schools established in which white and black children could be educated together.
I am reminded that much the same arguments were used in this country when we were fighting for increased educational opportunities for working children. It was said that working children were unable to benefit by being given a full opportunity to be educated, and the same kind of argument is being put forward now in the case of the coloured people. If we are to break down the colour bar and develop the integrity which we have been told the Africans lack we must begin right at the very bottom and, by means of giving them a full and equal opportunity, not only build up a possibility of giving to the Africans their chance to become educated but also of making them feel that we mean what we are saying.
It is no good paying lip service to great organisations like the World Health 2556 Organisation, or saying that technical aid should be given them, or allocating more money to free the Africans from disease, unless at the same time we admit in our own minds and show by our own actions that every human being, no matter where he lives or what is his colour, has at least the elementary rights of human association and human relations.
I have spent a great deal of my life in the Co-operative movement, and I am very proud of that. The Co-operative movement's motto is, "Each for all and all for each" and it has endeavoured to set up co-operative societies of all kinds in which white and coloured people meet on equal terms. It has laid down the fundamental co-operative principals to be applied not only to people in this country but to those in other countries in which co-operative societies are formed. It is through the success of co-operative organisations in Africa and other parts of the world that we have seen that it is practical for people to meet on equal terms and do jobs which will give them an opportunity to lead a fuller and wider life.
It is through such organisations that we have proved it possible for democracy to be appreciated and to be put into operation by black people as well as white. As a woman, I am deeply concerned about the way in which womenfolk are treated in many parts of Africa today. This week we have discussed the question of increased maternity benefits for the women of this country, but for a long time we have denied to the African women the right to have even elementary maternity care and benefits.
The Co-operative movement in Nigeria has established its own co-operative maternity hospital. Why?—because we have denied the Nigerians the right to establish those maternity hospitals for which we have fought and have established here. The womenfolk in Africa are mothers, just as we are. Cannot we imagine that when they see their children separated from white children, and when they themselves are prevented from meeting and shopping in the same places as white people, those womenfolk begin to feel that every white man is against them? We are living in a quickly changing world, and we must 2557 develop a quickly changing outlook to this question of the colour bar.
I think we all realise that we are living on the edge of a potential new war. Because of the problems which have arisen, not just during the last few months, but because of our approach over a long number of years to these people, we are facing another difficulty. We may be solving the problem of war in one part of the world, but we may be preparing for war in another part, and perhaps that war will bring greater devastation, fear and trouble than anything in the past.
If we give to these people a new faith in our approach to their interests and if we are to break down the prejudices, superstition and fears that have been built up over a long period, then I sincerely believe we must do it in a bold way. It is not a bold way to be passive about it, as the Amendment suggests, but rather by introducing legislative Measures which will, at any rate, set a standard of living superior to anything that has been attained in these territories in the past. Do not let us forget that in this country over 100 years ago we had to pass legislation in order to set better standards of health and life in our own factories for our own people.
We should not agree to the Amendment, but should go all out for the Motion so that these people who are looking to us for a lead—and I believe they are—will get a better standard of British justice and by a 20th century approach to these matters.
§ 2.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent. North (Mrs. Slater) did not disclose to the House when she rose that this was her maiden speech, nor did she ask for the indulgence of the House. I think, therefore, it is all the more admirable that she should have come down to this debate unprepared and should have made such an excellent contribution. It is not just in the normal formality of this House that I say I hope she will continue to take an interest in this sort of subject and make as good a contribution as she has today.
It is perhaps apposite that she should have chosen to intervene in this debate because her predecessor, Mr. Edward 2558 Davies, was one of the great supporters of interest in colonial affairs. It was a matter of great distress to all of us on both sides of the House when he laid down his life—as one can very truly say —in the service of colonial affairs, because the House will remember that he died when on a trip to the West Indies. Like myself he came into this House in 1945, and I think one can say that he made colonial affairs the major interests of his career here. We all hope that the hon. Lady will contribute as much as he did to this interesting subject in the years which lie ahead.
The reason why my hon. Friends and I put down this Amendment has become more apparent as the debate has proceeded. I take full responsibility for asking my hon. Friends to be here to amend the Motion in the way that is set out on the Order Paper, and which was so admirably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) and seconded by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock). I have already explained to the House about the whip, and I should like to explain again why I issued it. I take sole responsibility for it. The wording of the Motion was only put down on Wednesday, and with all the things going on in this House I issued that whip in a hurry. I have made my explanation to the House, and I have been here sufficiently long to believe that hon. Members on both sides will accept it. If any hon. Member is not prepared to accept it I shall regret it, but in general I am prepared to leave the explanation where it is.
As the debate has proceeded all of us have agreed that there has been a very general measure of agreement on what is contained in the first seven lines of the Motion before the House. It is a pious declaration of aims, which, has been set forth from Rousseau to the United Nations; I believe myself, despite what has been said, that very great progress has been made during the course of the last century and a half in carrying out these aspirations. To suggest these can be generally enforced by legislation is like trying to pass a law that everybody should be honest, good or even goodlooking, and as far as I know even the Socialist Government did not attempt to do any of t hose things.
2559 During the discussion this morning we have heard very few concrete suggestions as to how to tackle this problem. The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) made certain concrete suggestions on equal pay, but that does not go very far. I do not think I heard a concrete suggestion made in this debate, which would not in the long run do at least as much harm as it would do good, in a way in which I will come to in a moment.
It is this question of legislation that worries me. We can legislate in general in this House and to a certain extent we can, I suppose, legislate for the Colonial Empire. But let us remember that we are today in a transitional period. Rightly, in my opinion, we are transferring legislative authority from this House to Legislative Councils and Legislative Assemblies overseas. Therefore, it is increasingly difficult for this House to pass general legislation which will be in force in the overseas territories. These territories have themselves done much in the respect of increasing interest in this subject.
Before I come to specific points I should like to follow up the intervention made by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) on secondary education. I think the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) said that this general topic is one of the greatest interest which we should be discussing at the present moment. It is fundamental to our modern world. The hon. Member for Rugby talked about secondary education, and I believe that the roots of this colour trouble go very deep. We have got to start thinking of how to deal with this colour problem, and if at that level of education we can start the right approach then we are going to be saved a lot of trouble later on.
§ Mr. J. Johnson
I would put the specific question to the hon. Member which I put to his hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport). Is he in favour of introducing at this moment into East Africa and other territories legislation for secondary schools for all races, Europeans. Africans and Asians?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I am not trying to avoid the issue, but I do not believe it is for this House to introduce legislation 2560 of that kind. It is for the people of East Africa of all races—and I have a good many friends there among all races—to introduce legislation of that sort if they so see fit. If they do so I will be very glad, but I am not prepared to try to force legislation on them if they cannot reach agreement among themselves.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
Yes, I said that before, but when it comes to this point of legislation I believe it would be an impertinence in the transitional period to force legislation on the peoples of the Colonial Empire when we are practically giving them control over these things. If I may follow that up, at both my secondary school and at the university I made a large number of coloured friends, and they have remained my friends throughout the whole of my life. Before going to work in Africa before the war, one had, if one may be privileged enough to say so, possibly got rid of certain inhibitions. Therefore, anything that anybody can do on those lines is obviously to be welcomed.
What worries me on the question of legislation is what may happen if there is discrimination over land tenure. Supposing that we pass a law that there should be no colour or racial discrimination on land tenure. Have hon. Members opposite thought out what this would mean? As far as I can see, it would mean the removal of all restrictions in all territories in the Colonial Empire on the purchase of land by non—originally indigenous races. It would mean that in West Africa and Uganda, to mention only two examples, not simply the British, but both Asians and Europeans, would be free to purchase or own land in the same way as the African owners. If what hon. Members opposite have said in the past few years really holds good, I do not believe that this is the moment to throw open land tenure in some of these territories to all races and colours. That is the sort of danger that is inherent if this House tries to set down standards to cover the whole of the 42 overseas Colonial Territories.
I may be old-fashioned in this regard, but after all that we used to say about muskets and "square face" I do not believe it is a good thing to remove all 2561 restriction on the sale of gin and firearms to people of all races and colours throughout these territories. That does not mean that as time goes on the more civilised 5 per cent., or whatever may be quoted as the right figure, must not be allowed to buy these things in the same way as those of us who went to work in these territories.
I cannot believe that at this moment it would be a good thing to legislate, however good it might be, for the export trade in the free sale of European types of alcohol and firearms, to all people, regardless of race and colour. I am not trying to avoid everybody getting it, but simply trying to avoid some of the extremes which might arise. That, I think, is one of the reasons why the Motion was not tabled during the six and a half years of Socialist rule. In the years when the party opposite had an enormous majority it might have been put through. I cannot but believe that some of the right hon. Gentlemen who normally occupy the Opposition Front Bench are absent today because they know that this legislation is not a practical proposition as far as the Government here or in the Colonial Territories is concerned.
I should like to follow a point made by the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North about women and what other Members have said about their education. In so much of what is going on in the world, the education of women will be a key to the future. I say this in no disrespect to my Arab friends, to whom I am devoted, or to my black friends, if I may differentiate their skin pigmentation in. I hope, a not invidious way.
I do not believe that many years of British intervention have yet substantially altered their attitude towards women, although in the past few years there are signs of a change in the education of women. In one type of community of which I am thinking, the women out in the fresh air and the countryside are just as free as the men, but of course the attitude of the men towards many of them is that they are slightly below a decent riding animal and that they are a beast of burden in themselves. Yet when the men tend to become more educated, the women go into "purdah" and pass through a period 2562 of confinement until their husbands agree to them coming out of purdah. It seems a pity that in this day and age there should be this intervening period of a generation or two of putting the women into purdah and bringing them out again.
Just at this moment no legislation which I can think of would do more than probably provoke some sort of religious riot if it was suggested that this kind of purdah should be removed by legislation. It is only by joint education of the husbands and of the wives and a refusal to be put into purdah that will stop this sort of discrimination. That is one of the fundamentals of our approach to this whole matter. When the women are in purdah, they are not allowed to meet any hon. Member of this House. We know, of course, that that is nothing personal; it is merely that they are not allowed to meet any men.
Men of certain racial, colour or religious groups who make that approach towards their own wives cannot expect 100 per cent. equality with other peoples unless they are prepared to treat their own wives as the other—in this case, white—races are prepared to do. This problem is immensely complicated and its roots go extremely deep. It is at the level of secondary education and, above all, the education of women that we must work.
We have heard a certain amount of abuse and misrepresentation of certain people, as, unfortunately, is often the case in this House. We never hear enough of the immense good work that has been done by all sorts of people— educators, religious bodies, doctors, missionaries, and so on—to remove the base roots of these troubles. I believe, therefore, that it is along these lines that we will find success in abolishing the great disadvantages of colour bar rather than by any legislation which either this House or a local legislature could pass under orders at it were, from this House.
§ 2.27 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)
The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) made a very interesting speech, in part of which he quoted, and adopted the quotation as his own, a letter from an author, whose name he did not disclose, stating that what he thought to be a Christian doctrine of submission was the 2563 right attitude to be adopted by all the coloured people to their white superiors at the present time. That is what I judged to be the course of the hon. Member's argument.
The hon. Member for Colchester is, of course, vice-chairman of the Conservative Party's Imperial Committee. The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker), who has just addressed the House, is, I think, its chairman, and he did not dissociate himself from that interesting quotation and doctrine. I do not know whether we can now take it as being the view of the Imperial Committee of the Conservative Party.
The hon. Member for Colchester also insisted that the whole question of colour bar was in the main a spiritual problem. With that I broadly agree. Its ultimate solution depends in the last resort more upon a change of heart and better understanding than upon anything else. But when hon. Members go on from there to argue that we can or should leave a matter of this kind wholly and solely to the influence of spiritual change and spiritual improvement, that argument is extremely reminiscent of the past to a large number of hon. Members who sit on this side of the House and who look back over social history.
It was, surely, an argument of exactly the same kind that was used about the Factories Acts. It is perfectly right to say that the improvement in, for example, the safety and cleanliness standards, and so on, of factories that has taken place over the last 150 years has been overwhelmingly due to moral or spiritual forces. The standards of what people think is fit and decent have improved, and that has been the main factor bringing it about.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
It has been mentioned during the debate, but I think it should be emphasised that Lord Shaftesbury, who led the attack on factory conditions, was a Tory.
§ Sir R. Acland
I am quite prepared to accept that fact and to deplore the attitude of those radical Liberals of that day who were the leading exponents of the philosophy which the Conservative Party has since adopted—that everybody 2564 should look after their own self-interests and that the community should not intervene in the interests of those hardly able to protect themselves.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)
Since the argument has developed, would not my hon. Friend agree that Lord Shaftesbury was only following a trail which had been blazed by the Socialist Robert Owen and that Robert Owen, when he found that he could not get proper factory conditions with the consent of the employers, was obliged to approach the Government of the day about legislation?
§ Sir R. Acland
I think we are reaching the conclusion, from various quarters of the House, that spiritual forces need to be reinforced by legislation, which usually administers some sort of effective shock to those whose own spiritual consciences are, at the particular moment, too weak to move them in the direction which is required. It is that which it seems to me the House should attempt to do—by legislation to administer this shock to people whose spiritual consciences do not move them fast enough in the direction which is peremptorily required by this revolutionary stage which we have now reached in world history.
I think that the moral and spiritual arguments are paramount, but they can be reinforced by some harshly practical arguments about the position of this country in world affairs. In the next half-century, this country will depend absolutely on the emergence and development of ever-increasing racial harmony between coloured and white people. Countries like the Scandinavian countries might be able to get by relatively unscathed even if the maximum forms of racial disharmony were to break out all over the face of the earth. Perhaps the United States might be able to get by relatively unscathed in such a situation. This country could not.
We, as representing 50 million white people in this country, a Legislature responsible for their moral and spiritual welfare but also for their practical existence, have a right to say that the white races must not be let down by the far smaller numbers who happen to live in other parts of the world where this situation is most acute.
2565 I am moved to refer to some correspondence which I have received in recent months from Rhodesian sources. I should like to explain to the House how the correspondence came to my attention. Lord Salisbury, speaking elsewhere about 18 months ago, expressed the view that the relations between the races in Southern Rhodesia were warm and cordial. A lady from Southern Rhodesia wrote a letter to that very admirable periodical called "Venture," published by the Fabian Colonial Bureau, in which she said this was not so. I saw the letter and I wrote to say that I should be grateful if she would send me more details of the sort of thing she had in mind.
In reply, she wrote me a long letter. I should not dream of quoting a letter coming from such a source if that were all I had to show. This, of course, might have been from one person holding extreme views. Having those anxieties about it, I took the opportunity of showing it to a Southern Rhodesian missionary who at that time was on leave in this country. I asked his views and I admit, at once, that there were one or two points upon which he corrected the impressions conveyed in the first letter.
For example, whereas the letter from the lady who had written to the Fabian Colonial Bureau referred to the White Rhodesia Council as if it were typical of the whites in Rhodesia, the missionary said that it is a neo-Fascist minority which must not be taken as typical. I will, therefore, refer only to points on which my correspondent and the missionary are in agreement or are not in disagreement. They seem to illustrate very forcibly an attitude of mind.
The first point arises out of a charge made some time ago that white Scouts from Rhodesia would not take part in a photograph with a black Scout from the Gold Coast at an international jamboree in Britain. This gave rise to a contradiction issued by Southern Rhodesia—and I quote from the letter:… saying this must be a mistake, as the relations between black and white scouts in the Colony are 'Brotherly and friendly.' This is absolutely untrue. I have lived here for four years, and I can assure you that there is absolutely nothing brotherly or friendly between the White and the Black Scouts.2566 On that point the missionary comments:The fact re Scouts in Rhodesia is that, as in other respects, black and white are quite separate. As scouts they do not meet.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
I happen to have been a Scout commissioner in East Africa and I know that, speaking generally, that is not the case. I know of the situation in Central Africa, too.
§ Sir R. Acland
The letter also contains this quotation:I discovered a native boy of about 18, standing stiffly to attention and not attempting to defend himself, while a white boy of about 14 struck him over the face repeatedly …. I immediately went up to the pair of them, and addressed the white boy …. 'That native could finish you if he so wished, but he has to take it from you because the law forbids him to do otherwise'.I am bound to say that when I read that I felt that it was either some mistake or else a highly isolated attitude, but my missionary commented on it:Could and probably has happened many times.The next extract I will read from the letter is to me one of the most tragic I have ever heard. It reads:We have on many occasions"—"we" being the author and her husband—had our servants ill, and we always take them to the hospital in our own car. We live about four miles out and on each occasion my husband has asked the medical officer to ring him when the servant is fit to come out and he will be picked up. These natives are turned out before they are well and strong, as there is a pressing need for beds, so it is nothing short of cruelty to force them to walk … but never has my husband received a telephone message. It is obviously just not done here! One man, who was supposed to have had meningitis, arrived back at our house so done that he could hardly speak.On that, the missionary made no comment.
§ Mr. Archer Baldwin (Leominster)
I must protest at this. I myself have been in the hospitals of Southern Rhodesia and seen the devoted work which is being done by white doctors and nurses for the black people. I have been in a maternity hospital where black babies were placed in an oxygen tent in order to keep them alive. It is absolutely wrong and criminal that these statements should be made in an attempt to prove that this state of affairs is representative of Southern Rhodesia, when it certainly is not so.
§ Sir R. Acland
If I could spare the time to go through this long letter I could find the point at which this lady says that indeed there are one or two hospitals in Southern Rhodesia which are show places of that kind. But nothing I think detracts from what is said here that in a hospital which is just one—
§ Sir R. Acland
I am prepared to allow any hon. Member who is interested in the subject to see the whole of the correspondence and to know the name of the author. I think that is fair enough but I do not feel that it is something which should be published in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Mr. Bernard Braine (Billericay)
May I ask the hon. Member why, after receiving that letter, he has taken no steps to bring it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
§ Sir R. Acland
I have not done so because, quite frankly, when I have brought other matters to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman—such as the fact that the child of a mixed marriage between European and Arabian parents in Kenya cannot get into a decent school—the right hon. Gentleman wrote me a letter in which he deplored the fact; but from which it was perfectly evident that he could not do much about it. I think that in regard to these things, too, it would not be profitable to bring them to his notice, even though he would probably wish as an individual to see things improved.
I am not surprised that hon. Members should protest and attempt to refute this when particular cases are brought to their notice to show just how big is this problem. Here is one other point both from the letter I originally received and from the missionary's comments on it. The letter states:They seem to have forgotten the meaning of the word 'Christianity' and they would not dream of allowing a black man to kneel in a church to worship his God in company with his white brothers.The missionary says, and to some extent agrees with the interjections made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that that is not so.
2568 He writes:The churches are not fairly reported. It is not true that they would not dream of allowing a black man to kneel in church with a white man. At a confirmation service in Bulawayo, Africans, coloured and white, were confirmed together. A leading European layman resigned because his daughter drank from the chalice after Africans!Then he adds these tragic four words:Normally they worship apart.I would almost like to invite the comments of His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury on such a statement as this, which must have been perfectly well known to him when he recently gave his support to Central African Federation.
I would ask how much longer must the purely spiritual forces be allowed to work and operate before we see an improvement in a situation of that kind which is commensurate with the urgent moral and spiritual needs of the world situation. It seems to me that legislation to administer, so to speak, the same kind of shock as did the factory legislation, would be the right method for this House to adopt in order to contribute to the required improvement.
§ 2.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Wakefield (Derbyshire. West)
I am desperately disappointed in the speech which we have just heard.
§ Mr. Wakefield
It was utterly unworthy of the religion which the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) professes.
§ Mr. Wakefield
It does not mean that I do not like it, but whereas I have lived among Africans and Asiatics for 20 years, the hon. Member has merely talked about the colour bar. It is perhaps because I have lived among Africans and Asiatics for so long that I find this problem so difficult and so complex. It is not simple. Even biologically it is not simple. The human race is biologically one. Men and women, however extremely white or extremely black they may be, if they inter-marry, produce issue and progeny who themselves are fruitful and that is at least an indication that nature regards the human race as being a single species.
2569 When we come to sub-divide the human race further, biologists tell us that there is no real division between the races of mankind on the basis of colour. The only rational division is according to the quality of their hair. The Caucasians have wavy hair; the Mongols have straight hair and the Negroid races have woolly hair. So far as I know there is no racial prejudice in regard to the colour or quality of a person's hair.
On the whole we think of the nations of the world as being divided into the black races, the brown, the yellow and the white—the coloured races and the white races; or, as an Indian ruler used to say to me when he was trying to be offensive, "the coloured races and the discoloured races." It seems to me that we have to get to the root of the problem. What puzzles me is to know how the House can determine whether a problem is to be solved by legislation or not until they understand the nature of the problem.
I am concerned to know whether colour consciousness—and the kind of colour prejudice which arises from it— is something which is natural and instinctive, or whether it arises as a result of the domination of darker skinned races by the fairer skinned races. If we can decide that definitely one way or the other we can then decide how to deal with the phenomenon of the colour bar which we all deplore. I do not know the answer.
Twice in my life I have visited communities who had never before seen a white man. Once it was in the Western Tibetan Province of Gnari Khorsum. There the Tibetans did not appear particularly interested in my colour, though they were interested in the things I carried with me, such as my rifle and field glasses, and they were interested in the kind of food I ate. I took it from this that at least they were unconscious of any difference in my colour from their own. I must qualify that statement, however, for the colour of a Tibetan is not immediately visible since he does not wash; and my own colour was not immediately visible as I had not had my clothes off for three months. Also, the lower half of my face was covered by a red beard while the rest of my face, from my nose up, had turned a bright 2570 scarlet from the ravages of wind and sun. So that test was not conclusive.
On another occasion I visited a community in the West of Rewa State, in the heart of Central India. The inhabitants of that area are primitive races whose religion antedates even Hinduism. Those men, Bhils, Ghonds and Bhagars, are Animists. They are dark featured and still hunt with bows and arrows. They had never seen a white man. Again, I do not know whether they were conscious of any colour difference. But as I sat outside my tent in the evening great crowds would come to look at me. If I moved or tried to speak to them they recoiled as if they were frightened of this rather strange monster and I was not able to make any contact with them, even through an interpreter. So that experience also left me without an answer to the question whether the consciousness of colour arises naturally or from the conjunction of two races—the fair race dominating, the darker race subjugated.
But in India the caste system, which advanced and moderate Indians themselves so deplore, is almost certainly due to the domination of the dark-skinned southerners by successive waves of fair skinned invaders from the north. When I went to India in 1927 I had read a great deal about the colour problem and I expected it to arise in an acute form. And indeed it did, but not at all in the form which I expected. Shortly after I had arrived in India I had to go away on a long journey. I was not taking my North Indian servant with me, but I did not want to dismiss him. Therefore, I arranged with my successor from Southern India to take him over. I thought that this was perhaps a sensible and proper thing to do. But when I told my servant of this arrangement he said, "Muaf kijiye, huzoor. Main kala admi ki naukari nahin kar sakta hun"— "Excuse me, sir, but I cannot serve a black man."
That was the first rather shocking intimation to me that between two colours, in which there was very little variation to my Western eye, there was this snobbery and prejudice. Again, when the wife of one of our Indian servants had a child, my wife went in to see the mother and congratulated her on the beauty of the baby which was, indeed, a fine little fellow. "Oh, not a bit," cried 2571 the mother, "he is black." That was puzzling. Obviously the baby was black; but the mother hoped to avert the evil eye by saying something discreditable about the baby; and, of course, those of us in this House who have travelled in foreign countries know how common is the fear of calling something which one loves by a good name in case it might attract the evil eye.
I believe that in Ireland if one praises the baby of an Irish peasant woman she will cross her fingers to avert the evil eye. Certainly many foreign people would hesitate to adopt the bold attitude of the British who call their daughters by such names as Joy, Grace, or Chastity. Their feeling would be that a child named after such a virtue would pursue an opposite course.
If it is not irrelevent, I should like to mention a story told to me by Miss Freya Stark who has travelled widely among the Arab peoples. The wife of her motor driver had a child and she asked her what it was to be called. The woman said that she did not know but the husband would decide. Miss Stark then asked the husband what the child's name was to be, and he replied, "Punsha." She said, "That is a queer name. It is not Arabic, is it?" He replied that it was not. Then she discovered that the word he intended to use was "puncture." To a chauffeur that was the worst disaster that could happen and by giving the child that name he hoped for ever to avert the evil eye.
I would commend to the attention of hon. Members, and especially to the attention of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough, a book which I read with immense interest which is called, "The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian" by M. K. Chowdhri. He is a Bengali who has never been to England. His passionate love of British ideas of liberty and humanity and of the English countryside is derived from reading the English authors and poets.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway
May I say that not only have I read the book but that I did something to help in its publication?
§ Mr. Wakefield
Then I hope that the hon. Gentleman will correct me if anything I say subsequently misrepresents the views of that gentleman. Mr. Chowdhri had an equally passionate 2572 hatred of the British representatives of the merchanting class whom he met in Calcutta. What interested me so much about this book was his absolute candour when discussing the question of colour. To him, proud of his own fair skin, it was a source of irritation that the British invader of his country should have an even fairer skin; and so, to bring discredit on what would otherwise be a creditable feature of the British, the story was invented that they were lepers.
He explained that, though a fair Bengali might marry a girl who was darker than himself, he would never allow his daughter to marry a man who was darker than herself. That custom is something which, as other Members will know, is common in the Sudan where an Arab of noble race from the north has no hesitation in marrying a woman with negroid blood but will never give his daughter in marriage to a man who is darker than herself. This question of race prejudice exists not only between the pure white and the pure black. It is something which runs through almost all strata of society within the brown, the white and the black races.
Not only does it extend widely through the different races, but I believe that it has existed for thousands of years. I was reading only the other day an account of the Trojan War which took place over 3,000 years ago. Homer's story of the siege of Troy tells of the occasion when the fair skinned Achæans from the north overcame the resistance of the darker-visaged Mediterranean races to the south. That was more than 3,000 years ago. Two thousand years ago Virgil told us the story of two shepherd boys in love with the same girl. One of them was dark—"niger" is the word he used—the other was fair. He gives certain advice to the one who is fair. That advice was "Nimium ne crede colori"—"Do not trust too much to the colour of your skin."
I infer from this that even then there was some advantage to the man who had a fair skin. That is why I say to hon. Members that the problem is not so simple that it can be solved by passing one or two laws. I have the feeling that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough does perhaps, in his heart of hearts, realise that. In the course of his remarks, he said something which is profoundly 2573 true. He said that what matters is the attitude of the white man to people of differently coloured skins. That really is what matters most.
I will end my brief contribution to this discussion by quoting from a letter written in 1812 by a man who was, in my opinion, the greatest Briton who ever went to govern India—Warren Hastings. I am going to remind the House of something which they already know, and tell them something which perhaps they do not know. That great Englishman, as a result of a vote in this House, was impeached before the House of Peers, and was only acquitted after seven miserable, agonising years. That is the way the British people treated one of their greatest representatives in the East.
The House knows that; what it does not know, perhaps, is this. There are today Indian mothers and nurses dangling dark-skinned babies on their knees singing to them nursery rhymes about Warren Hastings. Why do they still revere him? The reason why his memory has been green for something like 150 years is, I think, indicated by the sentiments expressed in these paragraphs from a letter which I will now read. This is what Warren Hastings wrote in 1812 in a letter addressed to the Marquess of Hastings who had recently been appointed Governor-General of India:Among the natives of India, there are men of as strong an intellect, as sound an integrity and as honourable feelings as any of this Kingdom. I regret that they are not sufficiently noticed, sufficiently employed nor respected so much as they deserve to be. Be it your Lordships care to lessen this distance; be their especial Patron, friend and protector, and by your example make it the fashion among our countrymen to treat them with courtesy and as participators in the same equal rights of society with themselves.That was writen in 1812; and the sentiments expressed then by that great man remain, in my view, as valid today as they were then.
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)
In listening to the debate—and I have heard it all, except that, during the luncheon hour, I unfortunately missed part of the speech of the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen)—I have been very much struck, firstly, by the broad and humane way in which the subject has been approached. 2574 Secondly, on this side of the House, we were all very glad to hear the admirable maiden speech by the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater), who has been recently elected to the House, and who spoke with such great sincerity. I hope we shall have an opportunity of hearing the hon. Lady again on this kind of subject.
Thirdly, the outstanding feature of the debate was that my hon. Friends behind me brought a wealth of practical experience to bear on the questions which we have been discussing. From the Sudan, East Africa and Central Africa came hon. Members who recounted actual experiences and who contributed greatly to the value of the debate. I really must pause for a moment to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. E. Wakefield) on one of the most fascinating contributions to which I have had the opportunity of listening for a long time.
It is not every day, or even every Friday, that I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway), but the general sentiments which he expresses in the opening part of this Motion are shared and endorsed by Her Majesty's Government and by hon. Members on this side of the House. I do not think there is anything in the opening phrases with which any hon. Gentleman present would wish to disagree. I am sorry, however, that a certain amount of prejudice and poison was later introduced in the course of the debate. The hon. Member for Eton and Slough introduced—in this case, not poison—one of the most astonishing excursions into history to which I have ever listened, and allowed himself a very great overdraft upon his imagination, but I will not pursue that.
First of all, on the matter of the colour bar, I feel that the most effective way of banishing it from these territories is by positive measures to increase the co-operation between the races and to try to create, every day that passes, more and more things in which they have a common interest and a common purpose. That is what I might call the positive approach to the matter. That is not to say that the elimination of the colour bar by itself would not help this co-operation. Of course it would. But I 2575 think we should place rather more emphasis upon the need for fashioning common society and building up common interest in which the colour bar would naturally disappear than in banishing the colour bar in order to make a common society. Both, of course, are important, but I suggest to the House that the first is the more important of the two.
There is some tendency in these debates to suggest that the difficulties over the colour bar are one of the great tidal influences which are affecting the whole life of these territories. I admit that they have a great effect upon them, but I think that we in this House and in this country should never approach this question without remembering some of the contributions which our fellow countrymen have made towards the enlightenment and advancement of these territories. I shall have something to say on that a little later.
I think I might make my contribution to this discussion by suggesting that the subject of the colour bar should be discussed mainly under two headings, first, in its relation to such matters as employment, whether in commerce, industry or the public services; and, secondly, as it is evidenced in social or private life. If the problems of the colour bar related solely to the matter of employment in the public services, we should already have gone a long way towards meeting the last part of the hon. Gentleman's Motion which calls for legislation. We are seeking to legislate in that direction wherever the opportunity occurs and wherever Her Majesty's Government have, so to speak, the necessary status.
I would draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the recent Federal scheme for Central Africa. Concerning eligibility for employment in the service of the Federal Government, it says:No person domiciled within the Federation who is a subject of Her Majesty or a person under her protection will on grounds of race only be ineligible for employment in the service of the Federal Government. In appointing or recommending persons for such employment regard will be had only to their competence, experience and suitability ….As far as I am concerned. I am quite willing to give any pledge that may be called for that I will try to promote such legislation whenever there is the oppor- 2576 tunity. I think it was the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) who talked about what has become known as the three-fifths rule. I make no party point about it. That rule was recommended by the Holmes Commission on the Civil Services of Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda and Zanzibar in their 1947–48 Report, during the tenure of office of the party opposite.
On 16th December, I expressed myself in this House as being against this rule, which I do not like. The Report is an objective one, and I make no charge that that rule has been applied. But I dislike the system and hope to see it abolished, so I think I might dispose of that matter at once. So far as employment in the public service is concerned, I can say that wherever opportunities arise—and they keep on arising—we shall try to promote legislation which will give equal opportunities to everybody, irrespective of race or creed.
Of course, even this legislation, which is on the narrow field, can be frustrated, and we have to recognise that even in this field the wisest legislation may be frustrated if the spirit, the will and the tolerance to make it work are not present. I am a Cantab. If I were upon an appointments board and I wished to discriminate in favour of an applicant, I could always say that I chose a black applicant because he was a Cantab and rejected a white man because he was an Oxonian. There are many grounds which could be found for discriminating in that way.
I do not think any hon. Member can imagine that British people, who are really impartial, would, if they were faced by a clause in the constitution of the country in which they were working, endeavour to distort the intentions of this House and of the Legislature under which they were operating, by trying to discriminate on false grounds. It is easy to say that the qualifications of one university in a particular field are better than another, but as far as we can legislate we have legislated. I feel sure that the Public Commission, and similar bodies in these territories, will carry out their duties with the impartiality to which I have referred without reference to what we may call the "colour bar" in this field.
2577 So far, I have accepted the obligation to legislate on such matters. I do not know whether this is the right moment for me to mention this matter, but the Amendment moved by my hon. Friends is not, as hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to think, discarding legislation where that is proper. All it says is that provision is to be made wherever possible, so that it does not preclude legislation where such is applicable. It covers the very much wider field that several hon. Gentlemen opposite touched upon, which legislation cannot touch and which can be touched by the right spirit of tolerance.
There are other aspects at which we must look. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been silent on several of them. There is a very natural move, which is particularly strong in some of the West African Territories, to speed up what is called "Africanisation of the public service." Many advocates of this policy, many responsible politicians and even Ministers in those countries, say that they want Africans to be advanced far more quickly than their qualifications would permit if they were judged objectively. That is a very natural aspiration, but it is the colour bar operating the other way round and saying that because somebody is an African he should be appointed to a position with less qualifications than a European or an Englishman.
At this stage of the discussion, an important aspect of the colour bar ought to be mentioned. I do not think it would be fitting for a Minister of the Crown to speak upon this subject without reference to the industrial colour bar in Northern Rhodesia. Among all the complicated and tangled patterns of the colour bar this one naturally rises to our mind. Every hon. Member knows that the Northern Rhodesian Mineworkers' Union has so far resisted every penetration of the skilled and semi-skilled trades by Africans.
I have a very long experience, derived only partly from the war, of the problems presented to trade unions representing skilled workers, when it becomes desirable, or is thought desirable, to dilute the skilled workers with what the Civil Service used inadequately to describe as "dilutees." Most trade unions would regard as part of their duty—I 2578 certainly should if I represented them— to try to protect the skilled man who may have served a long and expensive period of apprenticeship from the competition of far less highly trained men. The subject bristles with difficulty. Unfortunately it is not enough to say that there must be equal pay for equal work. In fact, it is often worth less than nothing.
I do not know whether this point is too far from the subject—I do not think it is —but I must mention in passing that there are two aspects of this demand for equal pay for equal work. If, for instance, one introduced equal pay for equal work in the electric lamp industry one would drive all the women out of it. The women's union in that industry will not have equal pay for equal work on any account. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) will be very familiar with this problem, and I see that he nods his head in agreement. Another point is that there are many industrial operations which can be as well performed by semi-skilled as by skilled men, yet it is desirable to pay the skilled man higher wages because in him one has a workman who is capable of being transferred to other work and has, so to speak, a latent skill.
I mention these things because we do not want to plunge into matters of the colour bar and differentiation between the skilled and the unskilled without remembering what hon. Members opposite who are connected with the trade union movement know to be the facts.
§ Mr. Grimond
I know that this is something of a red herring and I do not want to pursue it too far, but if the women do not want equal pay in the electric lamp industry, surely the implication is that their work is not equal.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I do not want to be drawn off the main subject but the word "equal" covers all kinds of things and I was merely touching upon the subject. One of the reasons why one pays more to a skilled man operating a machine which might have to be stopped is because there may be something in the plant which makes it desirable to move a man who has served an apprenticeship to another part of the factory on some skilled work, whereas a woman employed to operate the machine could not be so transferred. One cannot talk about equality without fully understanding the 2579 implications. I do not want to be drawn into discussion on the subject, although I can claim to be something of an expert.
Be that as it may, the colour bar maintained by the Northern Rhodesia Mine-workers' Union goes beyond this limit and, therefore, we must look for progress in that field, and speedily. I have digressed merely to illustrate to hon. Members that we cannot go splashing about in this subject without knowing where we are going. I have to say to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough that it would not be within the competence of, nor desirable for, Her Majesty's Government to legislate in such a matter and to impose these things on a Colonial Territory. We must leave it to the Government of the territory concerned to handle the matter as best they can.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway
I am all in favour of Colonial Territories having self-government, but if they are to have self-government it must be representative of the African people as well as of the European people. These Governments are not representative of the African people now. When they have self-government in that sense there would be no need for this House to legislate.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
That is really not quite relevant to this matter. [An HON. MEMBER: "Very relevant."] The hon. Member for Eton and Slough is merely disclosing something which frequently comes from below the Gangway opposite—continual demands, to which I am particularly sympathetic, that there should be increasing responsibility by these people for the management of their own affairs. Yet every day I am asked to intervene in very small matters of administration. In other words, it is asked at one and the same time that these countries should have self-government on the one hand, and, on the other, that Her Majesty's Government should adopt increasingly what is rather vulgarly called a "school-marm" attitude. It is desirable that in this matter of the Northern Rhodesian colour bar the Government of the Territory should handle the problem as best they can. It is a very delicate subject.
We deplore in this country—I certainly do—the Government trying to intervene, except in the last resort, in the machinery 2580 of negotiation between employer and employee. Our system of negotiating machinery, representing what I think is wrongly called the "two sides of industry," is at once the envy of, and a model for, the rest of the world. If we start to intervene before we are obliged to, we shall break down voluntary agreements. That is not to say that I think that we should accept the colour bar in the Copper Belt in any way. I was only issuing a warning about the difficulty of the subject.
The problem does not arise from the relations between employers and employees. It arises from the relations between the European union and the African union, and I think it is far from unlikely that it will be the employers who will take the first step to breaking down what we all recognise in this House to be an unhappy state of affairs which cannot endure.
Up to now I have been dealing with the colour bar in industry, commerce and the public service. I have described how it is comparatively easy to legislate regarding the public service but rather more difficult and sometimes impossible to legislate effectively in industry without doing more damage than good, and how in both these cases the most wisely drawn legislation can be frustrated if the opportunity to make it work equitably is not there.
§ Mr. J. Johnson
If what the right hon. Gentleman says is correct, if he, the Secretary of State, cannot initiate legislation in the Colonies, does he not agree that this makes a mockery of Questions in this House?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
Perhaps I did not express myself properly, but the hon. Gentleman is going further than I would dream of going. Our ultimate responsibility remains unchanged. I was only referring to a tendency, which is particularly noticeable below the Gangway, and which I have noticed very much not only in Parliamentary Questions but in correspondence, asking us to intervene in the dismissal of a postal clerk for some disciplinary misdemeanour and such things which are everyday occurrences. There is a tendency to believe that we should say "We do not think that the self-government which we have set up in those countries is capable of solving 2581 even the simplest administrative problem."
If it is suggested that in a matter like the Northern Rhodesia colour bar the Colonial Office wishes to wash its hands of all responsibility, I must say that I do not think so at all. I think that we are very much ultimately responsible. We must try to let them work this matter out for themselves, and I have been trying to show the great dangers that exist in a too early intervention, especially in matters concerning relations between employers and employed. Before I touch on the last point, I should like to say that the Amendment does not exclude legislation where it is appropriate, but I think it is an honest Amendment because it draws attention to the fact that in many of these cases legislation will not really help.
The next matter is the colour bar in social and private life. The Motion urges that human beingsshould act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood, …Of course I agree, but that has little relation to the colour bar as such. It is a general thing. If tomorrow, in a moment of leisure, the hon. Member for Eton and Slough turns back the pages of history of the human race or, for that matter, even if he reads the daily papers tomorrow, he will see that the spirit of brotherhood has not been achieved after many centuries, even between people of the same colour.
The implication that in some way or other the spirit of brotherhood has been retarded by British action could hardly sustain serious argument. Tribal warfare, or civil war, was one of the principal industries and occupations of Africans for countless ages until European rule started to banish it. If the spirit of brotherhood is not to be found in all its perfection in Africa, the contention can hardly be supported that that is the result of the colour bar, as is suggested in the Motion, although I do not think the hon. Gentleman seriously intends to suggest it. The spirit of brotherhood was hardly strikingly exemplified for us in 1939 in the cradle of civilisation.
Now I come to the question of the colour bar in social and private life. Legislation cannot touch that problem, 2582 but we must try to promote the right spirit. I strongly support my hon. Friend's Amendment. It does not preclude legislation in the fields where it is likely to be effective, but it does not hold out the false promise that legislation over the whole field could be effective. As the Amendment would commit us to almost everything except unconditional legislation, I must make one proviso in going so far as I have, and I hope the hon. Member for Eton and Slough will take it in the spirit in which I offer it.
The Motion asks the House to declareits opposition to all discriminatory practices based upon colour throughout the British colonies, protectorates and trusteeship territories. …There is not one hon. Member in this House who has not some idea of what is in the hon. Member's mind, but if we were to accept those words without making a proviso it would entirely frustrate what the hon. Member seeks to achieve. I think he means that the colour bar in these cases should be removed only where it acts to the detriment of an indigenous people, but his Motion really asks that all the African reserves should be thrown open to European purchase or settlement.
It is sometimes forgotten that the colour bar often affords safeguards to the indigenous people by Her Majesty or by Her Majesty's Government, in enabling large areas to be reserved for Africans. What about the 271,000 square miles of native reserves in Northern Rhodesia? Why were they reserved? They were reserved because the colour bar prevents Europeans getting in there. This is a matter which I am sure the hon. Member will recognise is not meant by his Motion but is expressed there, so while I accept very much of it I must do so with the proviso that he makes the reservation I have mentioned. If the hon. Member has learned some of the terribly difficult arts of Parliamentary draftsmanship this afternoon he will be none the worse for it.
I have one word to say about my own experience of inter-racial clubs—a matter upon which I feel very strongly. I believe in them, but I also believe that many inter-racial clubs are trying to do two things at once. They are trying to bring together not only men of different races and different colours but, very 2583 often, of entirely different economic strata and with quite different political views.
I make no bones about it that I should not feel myself at all comfortable in a Fabian club, or very happy at the bar of the Anti-Colonial League, if they have one. I think my face is as white is that of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough; at any rate it was before lunch! I do not think the hon. Member would find himself particularly happy if, by some change in the kaleidoscope of chance, he became an honorary member of the Carlton Club. It is difficult to mix people of widely different social and political opinions, but I have seen interracial clubs not only trying to mix people of two races, but people who have nothing in common either in the political or the economic field. I think that is a pity.
I hope that the House will not think it necessary to divide upon this matter. We accept the greater part of this Motion, and I hope the hon. Member for Eton and Slough will recognise that the Amendment is not a hostile but a realistic one. It does not prevent legislation; on the contrary, it encourages legislation on the colour bar where it is likely to be appropriate and effective. But we think, that in leading public opinion to a greater enlightenment on these subjects we should rely upon something other than unenforceable laws, which are more likely to exacerbate feelings in these matters than to alleviate them.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
I do not wish to follow the right hon. Gentleman into the examples that he has given of the possibility of his visit to a Fabian bar or that of my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) to the Carlton Club bar. But I would say this, if I might follow the parallel, my hon. Friend who moved this Motion and the right hon. Gentleman might have to answer at the bar of history.
The justification for this Motion is that it touches on one of the most important problems, if not the most important problem of today. My hon. Friend moved the Motion because he thought it was right, and although a great deal of what 2584 has been said today in the course of this debate quite understandably has been concerned with what is practicable, I hope the House will never so forget its traditions that it eliminates from its considerations questions of right and wrong. When I heard the Reverend Michael Scott accused as being nothing more than a creator of disturbance, I remembered that some of the best and brightest things that have ever been done in history have been done because of a certain amount of disturbance.
I might begin my speech by saying to many hon. Members opposite, who have far more experience of these things than I have, that in the course of the war I spent a year in Southern Rhodesia. I will never forget one evening visiting a native hospital in Salisbury, and to be quite fair I believe it has now been destroyed. In that hospital there were beds without mattresses and with few blankets but no sheets. Men who were thought to be dangerous because of their mental state were chained to the beds to prevent them doing damage. Under the beds men slept because there were not enough beds for all the patients. There were no bandages available so that the trained nurses had to bring their own bandages. Only a few yards away was a beautiful, modern European hospital with every facility. I do not mind putting it to the House that, although I do not propose to deduce anything from it, the shock of the colour bar in action left a very real scar on my mind.
I also recall an African, who was kicked by a colleague of mine for spilling his beer in the N.A.A.F.I. canteen, turning round and saying—I do not know where he got the words from—from Rousseau, "Man is born free and everywhere is in chains." That left a very deep impression upon me.
We should not forget the moral element in this Motion. It has been accepted by hon. Members on the opposite side of the House that it is of very great importance. Most of the argument today has been about whether my hon. Friend's proposals are practicable, and curiously enough very little has been said about whether the force of history is on our side or on the other side. There are three reasons for the Motion, its rightness, its necessity and its inevitability. I am surprised that there has not been greater 2585 emphasis on the fact that this century may not be remembered for the two great German wars nor even for the cold war, but it may be remembered rather as the century of the coloured man and the inevitability of changes. One of the greatest steps we could take is a more active approach to the whole colour problem.
We have not heard today, nor did we expect to hear, any argument as to whether the white race were basically superior to the coloured race or not. There is much medical evidence today which proves that there is very little to choose between them whether biologically or mentally. I did detect, however, in some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) the suggestion that we were, as a race, superior socially and in social habits. I hope I am not doing him an injustice in saying that, because it would be the last thing I would want to do in trying to deploy my arguments.
When the hon. Member for Spelthorne spoke of the habits of the African particularly, I was gravely offended—I interrupted him at the time—by his suggestion that our own sexual standards were higher than those of the African, especially when one thinks both of the United States and of the Union of South Africa and of these millions of unhappy people of mixed blood, who, as I said then and I repeat now, are the product of weak and low standards of behaviour on the part of the early white settlers in those territories. To cite that, as he did, as an example, is not to do justice to the problem.
It is one of the most commonly said things in the Southern States of America that the main opposition to the negroes is because of their sexual behaviour. If, however, one looks at the statistics for rape, for example, in the United States, whereas the negro races may have higher figures for other criminality, the figures for that one offence are curiously similar throughout the three races: negroes, native-born Americans, and foreign immigrants who have come into the United States. We must be very careful on that point.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
What I was trying to show was that I believe the present European standard in these matters—the best standard—is very much 2586 higher than the general standard of, say, the Africans. I hope that ultimately the Africans will agree to accept our best standards in that, because I think they are the best.
§ Mr. Benn
I want to return later to the importance of that idea in the whole question of the colour bar.
I should like to say a word to the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) on the question of the spiritual consideration on the colour bar. I find it very difficult to believe that the Christian doctrine of submission which he described so clearly and forcibly has any relevance to those who seek an answer to the problem, "What should we do about it politically?" It may well be true that a man who endures pain and suffering has a greater opportunity to serve the religion of which the hon. Member was speaking, but I do not think that the doctrine of submission if advanced to a political assembly is a fair argument, because it suggests that it is almost our duty to give them the opportunity to suffer so that they may save themselves in another world.
§ Mr. Alport
I was drawing the contrast as far as the Christian approach was concerned with what I conceive to be a closer and clearer explanation of the Christian approach, as outlined in my correspondence, as compared with the civil disobedience policy of Mr. Scott, which is bound in the long run to lead to violence and has already done so.
§ Mr. Benn
Unfortunately, the hon. Member was out of the Chamber when I referred to Mr. Scott a moment ago. What I said about him was that it would be a sad day for a Christian pursuing what he believed to be his principles if he was frightened to make a disturbance because that might lead to some sort of strife.
§ Mr. Benn
Possibly the hon. Member should say that it is unwise to do so, but to equate no disturbance with the practice of Christianity is not something that would stand the test of examination from the history either of this country or of the rest of the world.
2587 We have long since got away I hope from the writings of, say, the Reverend J. C. Haskell, who wrote only 55 years ago that the difference between the white man and the negro was that the white man had a soul and was immortal and the negro had no soul. That was only 50-odd years ago, and there might be those in the union of South Africa who hold that view today. Even Thomas Jefferson, the great Liberal, said that it would be hard to find a negro who could comprehend the investigations of Euclid. When one thinks of Dr. Ralph Bunche and other distinguished negroes one realises that eveything moves and that nothing then said about the two races has any relevance today.
The difference between the Motion and the Amendment is essentially one of practicality. Hon. Members opposite have said with great force, and from the benefit of great experience, that what we are asking is impracticable, whereas we, on the other hand, are arguing that ours is the only way in which we can approach the problem. I want to devote the rest of my remarks to this problem because a great deal might well have been said about American experience in this matter which has not yet been brought into the debate.
First of all, I am never ashamed or embarrassed by being called an idealist. I believe there is a place for stating one's principles even if one is quite frankly unable to live up to them. The Charter of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations, is frankly an idealistic document. It is part of my argument to show that no society can go in the right direction if it does not keep its profession or its faith way ahead of its practice. I therefore make no apology for the fact that this is an idealistic Motion. Frankly it is.
It is necessary that we should keep ahead of our practice and of what is possible practice because in the Continent of Africa there is now a life and death struggle between two quite different conceptions of human society. No hon. Member opposite—and it has not surprised me—has stood up and defended the philosophy of Apartheid as practised by Dr. Malan. We must be discreet in what we say, I suppose, but 2588 at any rate there is no hon. Member who would support that policy which seeks to divide the races and seeks not only to divide them but to put one race permanently in control of the other.
When we are considering British policies in Africa, which are now in the areas of indecision, it is vital that we should see that our ultimate position is clearly stated so that there shall be no drift towards the policy of Apartheid, because the real menace of what is going on in the Union of South Africa today is not just that South Africa itself is involved—far from it—but that the suspicion and hatred which are brought by oppression and the division of races know no boundaries. Those clouds drifting over the whole of Africa cannot be controlled in any way within our power except by a clear statement on our behalf that we believe in racial equality. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman's statement of his belief in colour equality will go a long way, if it is properly reported, as it should be, to provide some sort of alternative to the menace of Apartheid in the Continent of Africa.
The first occasion on which we come up against the difference between the Amendment and the Motion is on a consideration of whether time is on our side or whether it is not. It is part of my submission that, with the menace of Apartheid in South Africa, time is against us and that if we do not make a statement now, and a statement with some teeth in it, there is a danger that we shall lose this battle. It is, I believe, essential that we should start creating the conditions, even if only in the minds of people in the Continent of Africa, which will enable them to move forward when the time comes to a much fuller racial harmony and co-operation.
The real problem arises only in those territories where there are white settlers—and I make no criticism of the white settlers for this, but it is, of course, obvious that in a part of the world such as India or, now, in West Africa, where, on the whole, white people do not settle in any great numbers, the racial problem is not as great as it is in areas where they do. I believe that the white settler himself, in drawing so many benefits from living in African territories, must accept a great number of responsibilities which go with those benefits.
2589 The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) regretted that the discussion from this side of the House had included the element of the class struggle in considering racial relations. He said it was a question of colour and that if we introduced any idea of a class struggle we should be perverting the matter and unleashing dangerous forces. Only a few moments later he said that this is primarily an economic problem.
So far as we on this side of the House are concerned it is the economic nature of the problem which makes it much more acute. If the hon. Member for Colchester does not like the expression "class struggle"; if Marx even as a philosopher is not yet respectable, let him think of it in terms of a conflict between employers and employees or as the stress between them or, as in the case of Northern Rhodesia, the stress between the skilled white workers and the unskilled native workers.
However we look at it, we shall make nonsense of the debate if we do not face up to the fact that it is the imposition of a colour structure on top of a class structure which creates a situation from which we have so much to fear. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough devotes so much of his time and attention to trying to get economic improvements launched, in Kenya for example, because he believes that otherwise it will be impossible to create conditions in which any degree of political equality may take place.
Two or three weeks ago I went to speak on Africa at a day school at Tiverton, which is still a fairly feudal part of the country. One of the people who came to the school read from the Exeter paper an editorial written at the time of the passing of the Great Reform Bill. When he had read that and statements of the case against the Reform Bill made 120 years ago he said, "My friends, we as the proletariat of this country, are the people who have something in common with the African working man in Kenya."
Whether or not there is any justification for what he said it is from a basis of understanding of similar interests and similar things that the struggle by the races of the world for real unity is borne. I have heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) 2590 address Africans who came to this country. I remember on one occasion hearing him speak in moving tones of the difficulties he had faced as a union leader in fighting for the rights of his union members. When he spoke those words he was putting himself on a par with those people, because they had the same problems—
§ Mr. Alport
The point which the hon. Member is making is very interesting. But surely the fallacy of his argument is borne out by the fact that the nearer the economic status of white and black in Africa the greater the colour prejudice. There is far more acute colour prejudice between the poor whites and the blacks than between those who are in a better economic condition and the blacks.
§ Mr. Benn
The hon. Member for Colchester may be making a case to show why the middle-class in Britain ought to vote Labour. That is what I have argued for many years. But it is no use him telling the poor whites in Africa that their interests lie with the Africans, because they do not accept that. I suggest that if one looks at it in terms of economy or as a conflict between skilled and unskilled workers or employers and employees, it is not the colour line we should consider today but the whole structure of the rural or. in some cases, the semi-industrial community.
Now we come to the psychological problem. I shall make no apology for quoting, as I intend to, from American experience in this matter. One American writer has said that "the problem of colour is not the colour of the black man's skin but of the white man's mind," and, of course, that really is the key to our difficulty—
§ Mr. Braine
The argument is whether this problem can be dealt with by legislation. The hon. Gentleman knows, as do all of us, that there has been discrimination by mine workers in this 2591 country against Italians and Poles, whatever may be the reason. Does he really think that the answer to that problem would be to introduce legislation?
§ Mr. Benn
I share the hon. Member's disappointment that he was not called, but he must be patient with me. My next point is the question of legislation. If we argue with somebody, especially with somebody in a multi-racial community, about the colour problem—and one meets this in most peculiar places: I had it in Ilfracombe recently—one meets the question, "Would you like your daughter to marry a negro?" That is a question I like answering, because the implication of the questioner is that if his daughter saw too much of a negro she would want to marry him, and that is not a thing they very often like to admit.
It is true that the sexual fear and taboo which is part of our own primitive heritage is at the root of the problem. It is coupled in America and South Africa with the guilt complex and comes from the knowledge—and here I come back to the hon. Member for Spelthorne—of having created these mixed races which feel at home neither with the blacks nor the whites from which they came. It is no use considering the colour question unless we consider it in terms, first, of economic conflict, and, secondly, in terms of the psychological difficulties which arise from the peculiar nature of the circumstances.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
Will the hon. Gentleman agree that this is not confined to the whites? For example, the Indians in India despise the product of the mixed unions, as indeed do the Africans in Africa, just as much as we do.
§ Mr. Benn
I am trying to be fair. The hon. Gentleman must not assume that because I speak of colour in Colonies where white people are in control I am concerned to attack the white people. I am only too conscious of the fact that the racial problem is one in which each race is suspicious of the other. Dr. Malan has made good use of that in building up feeling against the Indians, by working up Africans against the Indian traders and working up the Indians against the Africans. Playing one race against the other is one of the oldest tricks in a multi-racial community.
2592 I come to the question of discrimination which is of some interest. It is not an original idea. It comes from the works of Professor Gunnar Myrdal who wrote of "The American Dilemma" on the negro problem. If we look at racial discrimination through the eyes of a white man and then through the eyes of a black man we find that the various details of discrimination are absolutely reversed. Let me explain this theory which fits in with everything I know of this problem.
The thing that a white settler abhors more than anything else is inter-marriage. The second thing he thinks of is social activities—dances, bathing, eating together—because he fears that that will move towards inter-marriage. Then we come to discrimination on public facilities—transport, schools and hospitals; then to political rights and, down below that, to the status of man before the law. Last, we come to jobs and employment.
But if we look at the negro, he does not put it in that order at all. The first thing he cares about is jobs and employment. The second is status before the law; third, political rights; then buses and transport, and perhaps, later on, eating in a restaurant; and, if he thinks about inter-marriage at all, it really is not very much in the forefront of his mind at the moment. So there really is scope for arriving at some detailed programme of legislation to deal with the things which matter most to the coloured man which in the scale of psychological priorities matter least to the white man.
It is to this that I wish to draw attention. Is there nothing we can do, if we look at these things which are first in the mind of the coloured man and last in the mind of the white man? They are things on which legislation is suitable. We do not legislate for intermarriage except perhaps to make it legal, but jobs and employment and the status of a man before the law can be altered by legislation, and, if we like, also his political rights. There is space for legislation there, and it is the American experience that, inevitably, legislation is necessary to do the trick. It is the old argument of the chicken and the egg, and I come down quite definitely on the side of the chicken on that point. If a man always sees a black man doing dirty jobs, then the black man is to him the kind of man next to whom he would 2593 not like to sit on a bus, and so it is that the white man has always asserted his superior position.
President Truman set up a Civil Rights Commission, which produced a report in 1947. It was by expert people in colour problems, and they said that the first thing was to get legislation to deal with lynching, employment practices and so on, and the history of the development of multi-racial harmony in America can be shown to be the history of a nation anxious to keep its legislation ahead of its practice. It is absolute humbug to talk about civil rights for everybody when it is well known that, on the Mississippi, the blacks do not enjoy the same rights as the whites, but we must put up with that, and leave it to education to catch up with legislation. It is for education to get the support of the masses of the people for the laws which have already been passed, and, if one keeps the matter in that proportion, then legislation can be seen to play a very important part.
But there is more in it than that. I do not believe myself that we could ever finish a debate on the colour bar or racial discrimination satisfactorily if we all go home with a comfortable feeling. That is why I do not like the Amendment, because it really enables everybody to go away saying, "We have had a wonderful debate on the colour bar, and now that is all right; we are going to do what we can." The problem of colour is so critical in the world today that we have no right to dodge our responsibilities, and we must
§ be prepared to pass and call for measures to deal with this problem. I believe that it cannot be solved alone by legislation, but I do believe that we, as members of the white races of the world, as members of a Commonwealth, the majority of members of which are neither white nor Christian nor European, and which has a majority which is Asiatic, non-Christian and coloured—we should always remember that—have to accept the fact that the colour problem will be solved, to a large extent, at the cost of the white people of the world, because we have enjoyed the benefits of our position and we were thrown into a position of unparalleled power by virtue of the great industrial machine, which came to support and prop up Western civilisation.
§ I put it to the House this afternoon that we must accept that challenge by voting for the Motion which my hon. Friend moved with such skill. I put it to the House that we, as a House, will be doing less than justice to this problem of the twentieth century if we get out of it by accepting an Amendment which enables us to forget the colour bar until we read the next reports from Kenya or the Gold Coast or wherever it happens to be. So I commend the Motion to the House.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 65: Noes, 82.2595
|Division No. 164.]||AYES||[4.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Gibson, C. W.||Pannell, Charles|
|Albu, A. H.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)||Parker, J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Grimond, J.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bonn, Hon. Wedgwood||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Beswick, F.||Hamilton, W. W.||Royle, C.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hastings, S.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hobson, C. R.||Sorensen, R, W.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Holt, A. F.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Deer, G.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Viant, S. P.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||King, Dr. H. M.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Lewis, Arthur||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McLeavy, F.||Wigg, George|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Willey, F. T.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsdon)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Messer, F.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Follick, M.||Mitchison, G. R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Sir Leslie Plummet and Mrs. Slater|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Padley, W. E.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Fatter, John||Nugent, G. R. H|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Gough, C. F. H.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Partridge, E.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Heald, Sir Lionel||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Kaberry, D.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Keeling, Sir Edward||Russell, R. S.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Leather, E. H. C.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Braine, B. R.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Low, A. R. W.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Channon, H.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Tilney, John|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Mr. Beresford Craddock and|
|Duthie, W. S.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Mr. Alport.|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being after Four o'clock the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
On a point of order. I seek your ruling, Mr. Speaker. Does the adjournment of this debate mean that those who sponsored the Amendment did not wish to come to a decision on the matter?