§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I beg to move,That this House is of opinion that addresses to Her Majesty's Government and Mr. Speaker and the Lord Chancellor from chiefs and other representatives of the African populations in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia against the proposed scheme of federation of these territories and Southern Rhodesia should be referred to a Select Committee of this House, and that representatives of the signatories to the addresses be afforded an opportunity of appearing before that Select Committee.We are nearing the final stages of the constitutional processes of bringing the scheme of Central African Federation into operation, and it might be of advantage to us in this debate if I set out very briefly what has occurred in Central Africa since we debated this matter in the House some time ago.
In Southern Rhodesia a plebiscite of electors on the electoral rolls has been held, and that plebiscite has approved of the scheme for federation by 25,570 38 votes to 14,729. The Legislative Councils in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland have had the matter under consideration and, after debate, approved the scheme by a majority. There remain in this House and the other place in this Parliament two other stages before these constitutional procedures are completed. First of all, there is an enabling Bill to which we are being asked to give a Second Reading on Wednesday of this week. Thereafter, if the House should give that Bill its assent, there will be an Order in Council embodying the constitution of the new Federation to which both Houses must give their approval by affirmative Resolution.
It is important, and relevant to this Motion, to examine more closely what has happened in Central Africa. It should be appreciated that the plebiscite in Southern Rhodesia was confined to those who are entitled to have their names on the electoral roll and, apart from about 400 or 500 Africans, they are all Europeans. It is therefore true to say that only a few hundred out of the many hundreds of thousands of Africans have had an opportunity of taking part in that plebiscite.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)
Nearly 5,000 are entitled to be on the electoral roll, but only a few hundred have elected to make use of their right.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I do not think we are in disagreement about that. At any rate, only about 500 Africans were entitled to take part in the plebiscite because only that number had their names on the electoral roll. I know that there is some question about those who were eligible but who did not apply.
In the Legislative Council of Northern Rhodesia the scheme was approved by a majority. There was a minority of four members on that Council, composed of the two African members and the two European members nominated by the Governor, with the approval of the Secretary of State, to represent African interests. The two men who were appointed by the Governor are the Reverend E. G. Nightingale, a distinguished missionary, and Mr. John Moffat.
39 When the debate took place in Nyasa-land the two African members who serve on the Legislative Council refused to take part in the vote, on the grounds that the decision was a foregone conclusion and that they were a small minority who could not affect it. They walked out in protest. In so far as the voice of the Africans has been heard, either through their own representatives on the Legislative Council or through those nominated to speak for them, it is quite clear that their opposition has been virtually unanimous. It is because of that, and of something else to which I will come in a moment, that we believe it to be important to have this debate at this stage.
As Houses of Parliament we have been petitioned—through you, Mr. Speaker, and the Lord Chancellor—by chiefs and other representatives of the Africans in the two Protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, praying that their representatives be afforded an opportunity of appearing at the Bar of this House to present their Petition in person or, alternatively, of appearing before a Select Committee of this House or a Joint Select Committee of both Houses.
As you advised me when I asked you a question last Wednesday, Mr. Speaker, such a Petition could be considered in the normal way on its being presented by an hon. Member of this House on behalf of the chiefs and representatives of the African people in these two Territories and, if it were so presented, you indicated that it could be then dealt with in the way in which Petitions are normally dealt with. In a matter of this kind, when a Petition raised a matter of high policy, you said that if it were addressed to you as, this was, you would transfer it to the responsible Minister for a reply, and when I asked you a further question you undertook to see that a reply would be made, since the Petition was addressed to you as representing the whole House of Commons.
The Second Reading of the enabling Bill is to be taken this Wednesday, and we therefore came to the conclusion that to follow the normal procedure of presenting a Petition by a Member and giving it the normal consideration would mean that it could not be considered 40 before the Second Reading of the enabling Bill was taken, and the matter might not be concluded before the final stage, when the affirmative Resolutions were taken. We thought it raised matters of such great importance that it was desirable that the House should consider it before next Wednesday, and that is why we placed this Motion on the Order Paper.
Let me make it clear that, so far as this debate is concerned, the question of these Petitions is the issue before the House today. I do not propose to discuss the scheme for Central African Federation. We have discussed that before and we shall have two other opportunities of discussing it—not only in regard to the general principle and the structure of the scheme but also in regard to the details— when we consider the enabling Bill on Second Reading and Committee stage and deal with the affirmative Resolutions. There will, therefore, be ample time for this House to consider the scheme in all its details.
What we have to decide today is what reply we should make to the Petition addressed to this House. A similar Petition has been addressed to the other House. Whatever reply is made will be made to a Petition which has been addressed to us, and we thought we should therefore have an opportunity of deciding, as a House of Commons, what that reply should be. I understand that Petitions from the chiefs and other representatives of the Africans in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland have been addressed to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Lord Chanceller, and by you transferred to the Government.
I am informed that the Petition from Northern Rhodesia has been signed by 120 chiefs, including two paramount Chiefs who occupy positions of very great importance in Northern Rhodesia, one of them being the Paramount Chief of the Bemba tribe and the other the Paramount Chief of the Angoni tribe. They have petitioned us in exactly the same terms as those which are contained in the Petition from Nyasaland, with which I shall now deal in rather more detail. The Petition from Nyasaland has been signed by chiefs and other representatives. A copy has been sent to me and I would ask for your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, and for the indulgence of the House if I 41 quote what seem to me to be its salient paragraphs. It is essential that when we come to decide what reply should be given the salient points of the Petition should have been put fully and frankly before right hon. and hon. Members of this House. This Petition is addressed to the Speaker of the House of Commons and to the Lord Chancellor. It is signed by the chiefs of Nyasaland and I understand it was despatched from Lilongwe, Nyasaland, on 12th April, 1953.
§ Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)
On a point of order. I raise this point to try to assist the debate. The right hon. Gentleman is about to read extracts from a Petition which back benchers, at any rate, have not received. The right hon. Gentleman also wants to move that a reply be sent. How can those hon. Members who have not received or seen the Petition be expected to answer one way or the other?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is in order for the right hon. Gentleman to proceed to read the document. It is part of the Motion.
§ Mr. Griffiths
This is the first paragraph which I desire to read to the House:We, the undersigned Chiefs and representatives of the African people of the Central African Protectorate of Nyasaland administered by the United Kingdom, declare that our lands and people were entrusted by agreement with our forebears to the protection of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. Among the signatories included in the left-hand column [of this Petition] are Chiefs who are the direct descendants and, according to our law and custom, legal successors of those Chiefs who were the original signatories of those treaties with Britain whereby our territories were entrusted to Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom.There is a note indicating that copies of those agreements have been attached to the Petition. I quote from a further paragraph in the Petition:While we acknowledge the jurisdiction of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom as lawful protector of our lands and people through the local administration of Nyasaland, we declare that we cannot consent to the transfer of any of the powers of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to a federal government such as that proposed in the Federal Scheme. We declare that Her Majesty's Government, by relinquishing any of the powers freely entrusted to it and assumed by it, would violate justice and equity and the treaties and agreements entered into with our Chiefs as representatives of their people.42 I want to read one further paragraph before coming to the final paragraph in which they pray that we shall refer the matter to Select Committees or permit them to appear before the Bar of the House.We believe that if the proposed Federal Scheme for Central Africa were imposed on us the powers and responsibilities of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom towards us and our economic, social and political interests and aspirations would be vitally and adversely affected, as indeed would be the mutual good faith that has existed between Britain and the African people of Nyasaland. It would also be prejudicial to good relations between ourselves and those in Central Africa who seek to bring about this federation despite our declared wishes, and whilst claiming us as their ' partners ' in it, relegate us to a position of subordination to themselves.Finally, the Petition ends with these words:Recalling the advice of Her Majesty's Secretary of State that it was impossible for our deputation of Chiefs to be seen by Her Majesty at the time they visited Britain, we hereby appeal to Her Majesty's House of Lords and Commons to grant us a hearing at the Bar of the House, or by a Select Committee thereof, or by a Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament, and we respectfully request you, Sir, to allow this to be done before any legislation is brought before Parliament to enable Federation to be imposed upon us against our will. We believe that the grounds of our appeal are those of right and justice, and the principle cherished and taught by Britain of government by consent of the governed.Those are the salient paragraphs in this Petition.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am prepared to lay a copy of the document, but I understood from an interchange with you last week, Mr. Speaker—
§ Mr. Griffiths
I think this is without dispute at all: these Petitions have been received by Mr. Speaker and the Lord Chancellor and have been transferred to the appropriate Minister—the Secretary of State; and therefore it is for the Secretary of State and the Government to lay these Petitions.
Running right through the Petition from which I have read and the other Petitions which have been sent is fear by 43 these African people for their land, for their Protectorate status, for their political advancement, for their future. The dominant note is one of fear. It is those fears and anxieties which they desire to put before us.
First, may I say a word about those who have signed these Petitions—these chiefs. I have had the privilege of meeting some of them in Central Africa and in this country, and I know that the Secretary of State has had the privilege of meeting some of them. The Petition from Nyasaland is signed, first of all, by Chief Amazi. I had the privilege of meeting him and discussing this question with him when I was in Central Africa in 1951. He was a delegate of the Africans to the Victoria Falls Conference and I believe that it is generally acknowledged that Chief Mwasi is one of the ablest and most co-operative chiefs the Administration have in Nyasaland. Everyone recognises him as a man of great ability and great character and a man of great influence amongst his people in Nyasaland.
In controversy of this kind, I know, it has been said—and it is quite true—that wild statements are made by people from both sides. I think it is of the utmost importance for us to realise that the men who have signed these Petitions are men of very great responsibility, men who have won a position of distinction for themselves not only amongst their own people as Africans but also amongst the administrators in these Territories. The same is true of the signatories to the Petition from Northern Rhodesia and particularly of the paramount chiefs of these two great tribes who number between them a very important proportion of (he people of Northern Rhodesia.
It is, therefore, of the utmost importance for us to realise that these are men of substance. They are leaders amongst their people, they are men who have co-operated with the Administration. I urge this upon the House as being very important: when this scheme is passed, there will still be territorial Governments in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and those who are familiar with colonial administration and those who have had an opportunity of visiting the Colonies know perfectly well that the Administration cannot be carried out exclusively by 44 the comparatively small number of European civil servant administrators who Tender very great service in these Territories, but that the active co-operation of all these represented people is essential in carrying out colonial administration.
§ Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)
I notice that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Bemba and the Angoni Paramount Chiefs as having signed the Northern Rhodesia Petition. Was it signed by the Paramount Chief of the Barotse? Is it not true that our position in Northern Rhodesia is primarily based on the Barotse concession and that therefore that biggest tribe of all is most important?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I was speaking for the moment of Chief Mwasi. He is a man of very great influence, as are the two other Paramount Chiefs in Northern Rhodesia. I come now to the Paramount Chief of the Barotse. It is reported that he has communicated to the Administration in Northern Rhodesia and to Her Majesty's Government that he does not propose to oppose federation, but he has laid down conditions, as the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) knows. The conditions are that the special place and special safeguards for his territory, Barotseland, shall be preserved and shall be enshrined in the new Federal Constitution. This is not in the scheme. There is no reference to a special place to preserve and safeguard the position of the paramount chief and of his country and of the agreements made with his great forebear, Lewanika. There is no reference to that in the scheme before us.
I therefore take it that, since the scheme was debated in this House, and before coming to the final stages, there have been negotiations between the Governor of Northern Rhodesia and the Paramount Chief of Barotseland. I cannot imagine that negotiations would have been conducted with anyone less than the Paramount Chief. I imagine, because of this Petition, negotiations have taken place. Perhaps later today, or on Wednesday, if it should be more appropriate, we can have a clear statement as to what are the safeguards that have been agreed to with the Paramount Chief of Barotseland. I hope we can be given them in precise terms. I understand, if the Press reports are correct, that they are to be 45 enshrined in the Federal Constitution. I hope, therefore, we shall have them before us.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The right hon. Gentleman will find the answer to the question he is asking in Chapter IX, Part 1, General Provisions, of Cmd. 8754, "The Federal Scheme."
§ Mr. Griffiths
Does that contain what is reported in the Press, the assurances given to the Paramount Chief in specific terms, and the other assurances that they are to be enshrined in the Federal Constitution?
§ Mr. Griffiths
It says:To preserve the rights reserved under the Lewanika concessions the Federal Constitution will contain a provision similar to section 41 of the Northern Rhodesia Order in Council, 1924—I am thankful to the right hon. Gentleman, but I should like to ask him a further question. I should like to know whether, as has been reported in the Press in the last week or two, there have been any discussions with the Paramount Chief since our last debate, because when the matter was debated before the Paramount Chief had not declared his view one way or the other about federation. I see it is reported in the Press that he has been given in specific terms a promise of safeguards to be enshrined in the Constitution. [Interruption.] Let us get this clear. Do we gather that he has not been promised anything beyond what is set out in Chapter IX of the White Paper, and that there have been no discussions with him since?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I cannot say off hand what has passed in the last five weeks or so. I understand the right hon. Gentleman is talking about what has passed in the last five weeks. I shall be glad to supply the information.
§ Mr. Griffiths
That may be of considerable relevance, because it may turn out that specific pledges and assurances are to be enshrined in the Constitution and given to the Paramount Chief. They may be of very great concern indeed. That is why I raised the matter.
Apart from this, it is quite clear that the chief representatives of the Africans there are all opposed to the scheme, and 46 that is the position with which we have to deal. They express these fears. It may be argued—and I can quite see the force of the argument—that these fears are unfounded, that their land is adequately preserved and safeguarded under the new Constitution, that Protectorate status is preserved and will be enshrined in the new Constitution, and that, therefore, all these fears are groundless.
I want to make two quotations to the House because it is so essential that we should seek to understand the fears and anxieties expressed in these Petitions, not only in relation to the specific terms of the new Constitution, but in relation to the setting of Central Africa, and particularly against the background of and the atmosphere created by speeches made by responsible people in the past few weeks. Unless we see these fears against that background and seek to understand that atmosphere, I do not think we shall be able fully to understand the Africans' fears, which, though we may think them groundless, are deeply felt—more deeply felt now than at any time.
For these reasons, I feel it is my duty to quote to the House from speeches which, I am sure, have had their influence in deepening the fears and adding to the mistrust that is felt among Africans and expressed through these Petitions. Remember, we have to relate these quotations that I am going to make to the fears expressed by the Africans that they may lose their land, fears that they may lose their Protectorate status, fears that their political advancement may be retarded, fears that these things will happen to them despite the assurances that we have been given—and I am not going to argue that to-day—that these matters are preserved and protected in the new Constitution.
Here is a speech reported to have been made by Mr. van Eeden, a member of the Legislative Council in Northern Rhodesia, who was a delegate at the conference which drew up the scheme, and who has been speaking in both Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia, during the plebiscite in Southern Rhodesia and during consideration of the matter by the Legislative Councils. In his speech Mr. van Eeden urged the people in the Rhodesias, and in particular the Afrikaans, to support the scheme for these three reasons: first, that it would bring 47 Central Africa closer to the Union; second, that it would make a country almost a third of the size of the Union available for European settlement; and third, that it was necessary in order to deliver Northern Rhodesia from the power of the Colonial Office.
Those are sentiments that have been expressed. I am sure that everyone who has been to Africa, been to our Colonies there, and in particular to those Protectorates, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, will at least appreciate how a statement of that kind, made by a responsible member of the Legislative Council, deepens the Africans' fears and arouses their mistrust. I put this to the Secretary of State. One of the misfortunes in all this controversy is that, so far as I know, no one has repudiated that statement. It is of the utmost importance that it should be repudiated.
Is this the message to be sent out to the Africans, that these are the three things we hope to obtain by this scheme? I ask hon. Members to consider the atmosphere in which the statement was made and in which the Petitions have been made. It is not the atmosphere in which we debate these matters in this House. It is in the atmosphere of controversy and of the plebiscite in which statements of this kind have been made and gone unrepudiated.
I have one other quotation from a speech by Sir Godfrey Huggins reported in the "Rhodesia Herald" of 3rd April, 1953, with reference in particular to the Protectorate status which we are all pledged to preserve and to enshrine in the Federal Constitution. He is reported thus:Some people could not understand how the Federal State could become a Dominion when some of the daughter States were still protected. It did not matter what the constitutions of the daughter States were so long as there were no reservations in the Federal Constitution. He said he had no doubt it would be quite easy to get rid of the reservations which the Federal Constitution would have.Much wilder things have been said by people on both sides.
I think we all of us agree that the only policy that can succeed in Central Africa is a policy of developing partnership between blacks and whites, Europeans and Africans, and if we are to develop partnership there it is important that we 48 should carry the partners along with us —both partners. Here, speaking of the scheme, in the printed word and in debates, we say that their land is safe, that the Africans' Protectorate status is to be preserved, that their political advancement is to be preserved. Yet they hear other views, not of irresponsible people, but of people who, I have no doubt, will probably be members of the Federal Legislative Council, who may indeed be members of the Federal Government. Here, therefore, are people to whom the Africans' future will be entrusted, who speak in this way. All this deepens enormously the fears of the Africans.
The position is that here are these fears still held, very deeply held, and they are causing anxiety. Many voices have been raised in this country and in Central Africa, pleading with Her Majesty's Government and with the Governments in Central Africa to do something of a positive character to remove the fears and the distrust before this crucial step is taken. Many suggestions have been made. There is a suggestion that a forthright statement should be made now that the new university which it is proposed to establish in Central Africa shall be a multi-racial one: in West Africa it is multi-racial, as is that in East Africa. It has been urged very strongly that such a statement should be made.
It has been urged very strongly that in Northern Rhodesia the Governor and the Government should carry further the statement on partnership that was made last year, and upon which apparently no further action of any kind has since been taken. Many other suggestions have been made, for there is deep anxiety. If with the present racial feelings, we go on, with the issue having been decided on clear-cut racial lines, if a new State is inaugurated on that basis, it will be the worst possible innovation and it cannot possibly succeed.
The Motion suggests the reply which we, as a House of Commons, should make to the Petitions which we have received from Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, from people who have the right to look to us. I believe that by the British Nationality Act, 1948, they are fellow-citizens in the full sense of the term. They appeal to us "Pray let us be heard," before we come to a final decision; and ours is the final decision—we shall have 49 to make it on the enabling Bill and on the Order in Council when a Motion to approve it comes before us.
We believe that the best way to reply to this appeal would be to refer these Petitions to a Select Committee of this House: I do not rule out a Select Committee of both Houses. It has been suggested that the best way of finding out what is behind and beneath these fears, and how best they can be allayed, is not to ask representatives of the African chiefs and peoples to come to this country and put their case before a Select Committee, but to go to them in Africa. I do not believe that it would be a bad suggestion, if the matter went to a Select Committee, to suggest to that Committee that members of it might go to Africa.
I know that this would delay for a short while the consideration of the final instrument, the Motion approving the Order in Council; that is all that would be lost. This House preserves its right to come to its own conclusion, to vote, as it has already voted, to approve this scheme and to bring it into operation. I am sure, however, that whichever way we have voted and will vote upon that issue, all of us are concerned about the fact that there are these anxieties and these fears. Surely a few months' delay is not too much of a price to pay to accede to this request.
Suppose we turn it down; suppose that the reply we give is that, having received these Petitions through you, Mr. Speaker, and the Lord Chancellor, having considered them in this House of Commons, we propose to proceed to the next, to the final, to the irrevocable step, without hearing the representatives of those who have sent these Petitions? I make this appeal to Members in this House who take different views upon federation, upon the scheme and upon what we ought to do about it. I should like—I say this seriously to the Secretary of State—to see the House accept this Motion unanimously, and so say to the petitioners "Before we come to a decision we will listen to the pleas you make, we will give you an opportunity of appearing before our Select Committee, we will give that Select Committee an opportunity of reporting to the House, and, if they think it desirable "—as I would—" the Select 50 Committee will consent to meet in Africa."
This is a reasonable request. I am positive that if the request which we have before us today, and to which I have confined myself without going into the larger question, were put to the people of this country—the fair-minded people of this country, whatever party they belong to—if we had a plebiscite on whether, before we cast the final die, we should listen to those who have submitted these Petitions, it would be the desire of the people of this country that we should vote in favour of doing so. I say as a fact that people in this country who have interests in Africa—churches, missionaries—some of whom support federation and some of whom oppose it, desire that we should vote that this request be heard.
It is for these reasons that we have tabled the Motion in these terms. For these reasons, I have moved it with what I hope is a reasonable plea to the House, without seeking to arouse controversy, that before we come to debate, discuss and decide this issue, we should accede to this plea from the chiefs and the peoples of Africa to be heard in their own case. I fervently hope that the House of Commons will accept the Motion.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)
I hope that the House will not take it amiss if I deal with the Motion in terms of the utmost frankness. I assure hon. Members that if I have some hard things to say they are not intended in any offensive spirit. I am greatly surprised that this Motion should be sponsored by the Leader of the Opposition and some of the more responsible other leaders of the party opposite. It appears to me to be a most unhappy piece of Parliamentary tactics and Parliamentary procedure. I am prepared to discuss it on those lines, but before doing so I want to dispose of the formal aspects of the matter. I do not wish to stand particularly on the formalities, but the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), in the course of his speech, kept on referring to Petitions which were before the House.
There is no Petition before the House because, as everyone knows, by the 51 ancient usage of the House, a Petition can be presented only by an hon. Member. I make this point, though I do not intend to rest on it particularly—it is a formal point—that if the procedure in the Motion were adopted, it would have the effect of setting aside the rule by which Petitions are presented here. All the speech of the right hon. Gentleman confirmed that opinion. He could not get out of his mind that this was a Petition to the House and that all that would have to be done would be to describe the Petition as an Address and pass it to the Speaker or the Lord Chancellor.
I do not wish further to labour the point, but the argument might run that we should agree to regard these addresses —that is what they are now described as —as different from any other. These are the arguments being advanced—that they should be regarded as different from any other because, first Her Majesty's Government have refused to listen to representations—[Interruption.]—oh, yes; and, secondly, that those who addressed the Petitions were in a different position from any other subject of the Crown.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
At any rate, I propose for the benefit of the House to go over the processes which have been gone through by Her Majesty's Government after getting the views of the various African bodies.
First, I would remind the House that I invited the African Protectorate Council in Nyasaland and the African representatives of the Legislative Council in Northern Rhodesia to come and see me to discuss federation or any other matters which might arise during the conference. At the same time, I invited them to stay on and attend the conference. All these things have a direct relationship to this matter of a Select Committee. I saw them and they refused to go to the conference. The Nyasaland delegation asked if they could go as observers and, after consultation, I agreed that they could. They then declined to do so.
52 The Northern Rhodesian delegation were then asked whether they wished to go as observers and they also declined. These things have relevance to the setting up of a Select Committee. At the same time, an unofficial delegation of chiefs came over from Northern Rhodesia. As they were an entirely unofficial body, I declined to see them, but extended to the two paramount chiefs—Chief Chitimukulu and Chief Musokotwane— invitations to call on me or the Minister of State in their capacity as chiefs. They declined to do so. This has a bearing on the question of the setting up of a Select Committee.
The Minister of State had many discussions with many chiefs during his tour of the Northern Territories in August to September, 1952. In December, the African Protectorate Council in Nyasaland and the African Members of the Legislative Council in Northern Rhodesia were invited to attend or to send delegations to the January conference. It was made clear to them that their attendance would not in any way commit them to the acceptance of federation in principle or in detail. They declined to come. That has a bearing on the setting up a Select Committee.
In January, however, a party of Nyasaland chiefs accompanied by Members of Congress and Dr. Hastings Banda came to see me. I have a copy of the note of this meeting and of the memorial or address which they handed in.
I want to turn aside at this point, because I do not think it will be out of place, to give to the House some explanation why I found it my duty not to advise Her Majesty to see this delegation. This is not a point which the right hon. Gentleman raised, but it has been widely raised elsewhere, and I think it worth while to refer to it. There were two reasons and two reasons only. First of all, these chiefs came unsponsored by their Government and they were not of a standing which in the ordinary way would have justified me in asking Her Majesty to receive them. Moreover, they had left Nyasaland without making any request that Her Majesty should receive them and, I think, on that ground alone no responsible Minister could have advised Her Majesty to receive them. That was one reason.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
Let me develop my point. The second reason is this. It would have been constitutionally improper for a Secretary of State to advise Her Majesty to see them on any political grounds. I thought at the time that it was quite possible that they would wish to involve Her Majesty in a discussion of political questions, and my fears, so far from being dispelled, were in fact enhanced by what subsequently happened.
I saw the Nyasaland chiefs, together with Dr. Hastings Banda, who acted, I think, as their adviser in these matters, although I believe Dr. Banda had not been in Africa for more than 20 years. They presented to me a memorial or an address which proposed wide constitutional changes. They presented me with a synopsis which I have in front of me.
When the House hears what some of this memorial contains, I think that they will agree that it would have been impossible for me to advise Her Majesty to receive them. One section of the thing which they proposed under paragraph E was:Replacement of high officials by new ones; Governor to be replaced; chief secretary to be replaced; Secretary for African Affairs to be replaced; provincial commissioners to be replaced; otherwise co-operation between Government and Africans in Nyasaland very difficult now.
§ Mr. Dugdale
The right hon. Gentleman said that they were not of the right standing to be received. I should like to know what standing chiefs would have to have in order for him to advise Her Majesty to receive them
§ Mr. Lyttelton
That question depends on each case. I think that there are two grounds, but this is a matter of opinion and the right hon. Gentleman may think otherwise. I think that the first ground is that they were unsponsored by any Government and that they did not ask whether Her Majesty would receive them before leaving Nyasaland and, on this political point, I did not advise Her Majesty to receive them. I can dispose very shortly of the second reason why the procedure proposed in this Motion should be rejected.
I said that there were two reasons. The House will remember that I said the second argument may be that the treaty 54 relations of the Queen to these Protectorates were such as to put these chiefs in a special position, that is to say a position not enjoyed by any other citizen of outside countries covered by such treaties. That could not be sustained for a moment. The opponents of federation tried to create the impression that there was something in the federal scheme contrary to the obligations which Her Majesty's Government assumed under these treaties.
These are some of the arguments advanced against federation: that because these Territories were acquired by treaty and agreement, no change can be made in—so some opponents of federation say—their constitutional status without the consent of their chiefs; and thirdly that these treaties were in the nature of a social contract whereby Her Majesty's Government are obliged to hand back the administration to the inhabitants as soon as they were able to administer it themselves.
I think that the House should know, as they are short documents, what is the form of treaty into which these Protectorates enter. There are other treaties. The treaty which now governs our relations with Barotseland is a detailed negotiable treaty, but the other treaties are of a much shorter description. This is a specimen:That there shall be peace between the subjects of the Queen of England and our subjects. That British subjects shall have free access to all parts of our country and shall have the right to build houses and possess property according to the laws in force in this country; that they shall have full liberty to carry on such trade or manufacture as may be approved by Her Majesty; and should any difference or dispute arise between the aforesaid British subjects and us the said Chiefs as to any matter, that the dispute shall be referred to a duly authorised representative of Her Majesty, whose decision in the matter shall be binding and final. That we said the Chiefs will at no time whatever cede any of our territory to any other Power, or enter into any Agreement, Treaty or arrangement with any foreign Government except through and with the consent of the Government of Her Majesty the Queen of England.I say that there is nothing in the federal scheme that conflicts with any of the obligations which Her Majesty's Government assumes under these treaties.
I said earlier that the Motion was an unhappy piece of Parliamentary tactics. I am going to confine my remarks to this aspect of the question and, like the right 55 hon. Gentleman, I do not propose to anticipate what I have to say upon the general subject of federation next Wednesday.
I said that these were unhappy Parliamentary tactics. They are the latest and may even be the last attempts of the opponents of federation to create a diversion. It is, to say the least of it, a Parliamentary curiosity that this device should have been advocated to he House by distinguished Members of the House, and by one who was the author and architect of federation such a short time ago.
There have been four occasions when hon. Members had the opportunity of making Second Reading speeches upon the subject. It was raised by the Opposition on 4th March, 1952, and on 29th April, 1952—and, I must say, very inopportunely, because the conference was actually sitting when hon. Gentlemen opposite raised that debate, and it was extremely embarrassing that they should have done so.
It was debated on 24th July, 1952, when the House for the first time had a draft Constitution before it, and it was debated on 24th March, 1953, a few weeks ago, when the policy, both in general and in detail, was endorsed by the House by a decisive majority, considering the state of the parties, of 44. It will be debated on Wednesday next, the day after tomorrow, on the enabling Bill, a fact of which the Opposition were well aware when they put the Motion on the Order Paper. It is an unhappy piece of Parliamentary tactics. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because there is nothing in what the right hon. Gentleman has said which would have been out of order or out of course during ordinary Parliamentary discussion on the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I thought I had made it clear that the Petition before us requested that they be heard before the House proceeded to a decision. It was because we were to take the Second Reading of the Bill on Wednesday that we thought it desirable that the Petition should be discussed before Wednesday.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I shall come to the point about the Select Committee a little later on if the right hon. Gentleman will show a little patience.
56 I repeat that the Motion was put on the Order Paper after it was known to the Opposition that we should be debating these matters on Wednesday. What would be the position if the House assented to the Select Committee? What can the Select Committee discuss other than the policy of federation? What would be the position if, as we expect, the House passes the Bill on Wednesday? The Select Committee would be considering policy which had been confirmed again and again by majorities in this House. Or would it be suggested that I should no longer be able to move the Second Reading of the Bill the day after tomorrow?
Are these manoeuvres now shown up in their true light, as an attempt to gain delay? It is an unhappy piece of Parliamentary practice because it is done —this is my first reason—only two days before the enabling Bill is to be discussed on the Floor of the House. Secondly, a Motion of this kind is manifestly out of tune with the gravity and importance of the issues of federation. All hon. Members are aware that there are some elements in those countries, and particularly those led by Mr. Michael Scott, who are trying to delay the fulfilment of the will of the Legislatures and of the House, and I hope that the House and those who hold our Parliamentary institutions in respect will not lend themselves to these tactics.
Thirdly, the Motion can only add, especially in the minds of those Africans who are untutored in the ways of our Parliamentary Government, to any disquiet or spirit of resistance which the opening days of federation may engender. Naturally, I shall be the first to acquit right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have put their names to this Motion of any intention to embarrass the Governor-General and the four Legislatures, if federation is passed, during the birth pangs of federation, but if I do so it is necessary for me to state with great plainness that their action may have the effect which I have described; it cannot help and may well hinder the smooth working of federation in its early days.
Next, I think that this is an ill-considered Motion because it introduces an innovation when dealing with high matters of policy of this kind. I have searched in the time available to me and 57 have consulted such authorities as I can, but I cannot discover any precedent where a matter of high policy decided by the properly constituted Government of the day has been referred to a Select Committee. Matters are examined by outside committees before policy is formed, but this would be a complete innovation.
But the case in point is far stronger than that. Not only is it the declared policy of Her Majesty's Government, but it has been endorsed in principle and in detail no fewer than four times by the House of Commons. It is also to be debated on Wednesday. On the last occasion the majority by which it was carried was a far larger number of votes than the balance of the parties would have indicated; at any rate, on that occasion the Division did not produce the standard result which is expected and hoped for in some quarters.
The device which the Motion proposes is an exotic one. It is an imitation of the American method of congressional or senate committees on high matters of policy. We all know why the American system exists. It exists because the legislature and the executive in the United States are in an entirely different relation to one another to what they are under our Parliamentary system. The object of congressional and senate inquiries is to bridge the gap, to complement the constitutional system. In the United States the executive cannot be replaced by the legislature, and that is why the system of committees exists to bridge the gap. To introduce such a device here would be to be entirely blind to the lessons of our own history and would vitally impair the relations which we have built up over centuries by which the executive is dependent day by day upon the votes of the Legislature which supports it and which can at any moment dismiss it.
Next, if the Motion was assented to it would create a precedent which would paralyse action and would give Petitioners —even if, as in this case, their Petitions were irregularly presented—pressure groups, trade associations and so on—a precedent which would enable them to claim the setting up of a Select Committee to examine their representations on each and any action taken by the Government. Hon. Members can imagine what would happen if such procedure were applied to a Finance Bill. It would 58 at once impair the proper responsibilities of the legislature for financial measures.
Lastly—and I do not want to be unnecessarily rude—it appears to me as a hostile critic of the Motion—and let me confess that I am hostile to the Motion —to be a creaking device to cajole or coax into the Opposition Lobby those Members of the party opposite who abstained for reasons of conscience from opposing federation during the last debate. It seeks to promote the false assumption that representations from African bodies have not been considered. Admittedly, they have been rejected, not because they have not been considered but because Her Majesty's present Government took the same view as its predecessors, that these measures are for the benefit of all races in the three Territories concerned. We consider that we have a duty laid upon our shoulders as trustees, and if these duties mean anything, they mean that on occasions one must go forward even when some of the beneficiaries of the trust are not in accordance with one's views.
I can think of very few matters of policy which have been more widely ventilated over longer periods of time than this one. For two years and more this great issue has been before public opinion and this House, and to expect that at this eleventh hour, after all these consultations, and two days before the enabling Bill is to be debated, new arguments and a new point of view could be produced is to be ignorant of the whole background against which we have discussed these affairs.
This is a creaking device. It seems to say, "If we cannot get unity in opposing the scheme which we, the Opposition, originally sponsored, let us at least try to get unity by the backdoor. If we are asked to kill our own child, let us find some pretext on which all our supporters can vote with us, and let that pretext be that full regard has not been paid to the representations made by African bodies. If we have to kill our own child, let it not be on the ground that we do not like the child but on the ground that we think that some other people may not like the child."
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
The Secretary of State for the Colonies seems to have missed the main point behind the Motion, which is the question 59 of the consent of the overwhelming majority of the peoples in the areas concerned.
It is not true that in this case the Opposition is killing its own child. It is true that the federation scheme was originally put forward by the then Labour Government, but at all times the Labour Party have stood by the principle of gaining the consent of the African peoples in order to make a success of the scheme. What the right hon. Gentleman ignores is that, at bottom, federation is not an economic problem but a racial problem and that the economic benefits that one hopes to get from federation will not be gained unless one can get racial co-operation and racial friendship. Since racial co-operation is so important to the success of the federation scheme, it is very essential that we make an attempt in this House to meet the spokesmen of the Africans in those Territories.
I am speaking this afternoon because of the widespread concern over the federation scheme and its imposition on unwilling peoples that has been expressed in particular throughout Scotland. This concern is not a party matter, and I say that in all sincerity. It is something which far overflows mere party boundaries. In particular the concern has been expressed very widely in the Church of Scotland.
I was deeply disappointed in our last debate on this subject when I listened to speeches by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay). Both spoke on the subject and gave no indication in their speeches of the very widespread disquiet that exists throughout Scotland about this federation scheme. There has been no political issue on which the Church of Scotland has been more deeply stirred than this and. as hon. Members on both sides of the House who come from Scotland will know, the Church of Scotland does not enter easily into the political arena.
I am sure that all hon. Members for Scottish constituencies have had many letters from congregations and other citizens in their constituencies wondering whether it is the right sort of thing to do, 60 and wondering whether the imposition of this scheme will create in Central Africa something like the tragic situation we already have in existence in Kenya. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) and I have had the experience of receiving large numbers of letters from congregations in Dundee and a unanimous resolution from the presbytery of all the churches in Dundee expressing opposition to the imposition of this scheme.
It might be said that in this case the Church of Scotland, like other religious bodies, is acting from high ideals but perhaps in a rather unrealistic and unworldly manner. I do not think that it can be said that the Scottish Church in this particular instance is doing so, because there is no body in the United Kingdom that has a better right to talk with authority on Central Africa.
In a certain sense it was the Scottish Church and the missionaries of the Scottish Church who discovered Central Africa. One sometimes hears it said that trade follows the flag. In fact, what happened in Africa was that the Bible went there first and trade followed the Bible, the flag coming some distance behind. The Scottish Church has had a long and intimate association with the problems of Central Africa. Today I understand that 90 per cent. of the education activities in that area are done by various church bodies with, of course, financial assistance from the Government. Therefore, when they talk about this subject they know what they are talking about.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove, in a previous speech on this subject, seemed to suggest that this agitation against the scheme in Central Africa was mainly the work of a handful of well-educated African agitators. One almost got the impression from his and other speeches that there was something wrong about an African being well educated. If we are going to create the kind of multi-racial community we all want to see in Central Africa and in other areas of the Commonwealth, then it can only be done by the co-operation and the friendship of the educated minority of the African peoples there.
61 But there is strong evidence that in Central Africa it is not merely a small minority of the Africans who are articulate and expressing views on this subject. For instance, the Church of Scotland Mission Council had evidence about this matter, but doubts were cast upon it by Her Majesty's Government. The Council sent back a report repeating that it had no reason to revise its original opinion that the African peoples were opposed to the scheme. In the "Nyasaland Times" the following resolution of the Church of Scotland Mission Council appeared:The Council is concerned that the Minister of State on his visit to Nyasaland expressed the opinion that the African opposition to federation is not as solid as this Council has represented in statements that reached him from Edinburgh. Since his visit members of Council have verified the facts and see no reason to modify in any way their former statements. It is a complete misapprehension to suppose that the opposition is confined to a politically minded minority. As missionaries we are surprised at the knowledge of the issues involved in federation shown by ordinary Africans. Their opposition is not to details of the scheme, but to the whole principle, and it is for this reason that they refuse to discuss details.The Bishop of Nyasaland expressed a similar view when he wrote in "East and West" in January, 1953:Personally I have never known Africans so strong upon a subject as on this, and that at all levels. I have discussed with ' intelligentsia," clergy, village chiefs, headmen and ordinary villages—and I have met no one who is in favour, though I would not of course say that there is none such.That is weighty evidence, and in view of this very strong and general feeling amongst the African peoples concerned, I submit that even at this late stage we ought to take an opportunity to meet the spokesmen of the Africans and to hear their views, as is suggested in the Motion before the House today.
The right hon. Gentleman said bluntly, as he had every right to do, that we were merely trying to delay matters, as if this were a heinous sin. We are indeed trying to delay matters. On this side of the House we feel that very grave consequences may follow from pressing this thing through, and if we can get some delay so that further consideration can be given and if we can get the support of the African people, then it will be a delay which will have been very well worth while indeed.
62 At bottom the federation problem is not an economic one; it is a racial one, and this point has been emphasised and re-emphasised again and again by very many influential people. Leaders of all the Churches in the United Kingdom have written to "The Times" putting the point of view that there is much more hope of making a success of the federation scheme if racial discrimination and racial inequality, which are at the root of the opposition to the scheme, can be tackled.
In Southern Rhodesia, for instance, there is a background of racial discrimination with a colour bar for employment. There is a particularly vicious colour bar about entry to the skilled trades through apprenticeship, and there is no recognition of the African trade unions. The franchise is heavily weighted on the side of property. A person must have an income of £240 a year before voting. I hesitate to think how many of my supporters in my constituency might find themselves disfranchised if we had a similar qualification operating in this country.
There is similar colour prejudice in the other areas of the Central African Territories. The special corespondent in South Africa of the "Scotsman," a very reputable Scottish journal, as hon. Members will know, and not a Labour organ, reported on 7th November, last year about conditions in Northern Rhodesia and he said:Colour prejudice in Northern Rhodesia is not the worst in the world, but it is probably the worst in any British Colony.He went on to report on the visit of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to Northern Rhodesia a short time before, saying thatThe Indian community, when it gave an official reception the other day to Mr. Attlee, Leader of the Opposition in Britain, had to have recourse to a covered-in structure of iron girders on a vacant plot. Leaders of African opinion can be met only in a couple of dingy wooden huts three miles out of town.He describes elsewhere in his report various kinds of discrimination against Africans in regard to shopping facilities, pointing out that an educated African cannot go to the cinema except by using separate facilities. I beg Her Majesty's Government to delay this scheme and to seize the advantage of delay by trying to tackle the roots of the opposition to the scheme felt by African people.
63 I noticed a report in "The Times" of 2nd May to the effect that the President of the Northern Rhodesia African Congress, Mr. Nkumbula, declared that the Northern Rhodesia African Congress would co-operate wholeheartedly in working a constitution that was not based on a supposition of racial superiority. I suggest that this is the heart of the matter.
The opposition that has grown up to the present Central African scheme since it was first initiated has been considerable. The right hon. Gentleman made a great deal of the number of times that the House of Commons has discussed this matter, but each time there has been fresh evidence before us of new opposition from authoritative and influential and non-partisan quarters.
I well remember sitting through the last debate in this House on the subject and being moved by the quotation made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) from Mr. Moffat's views on the situation in Central Africa. Mr. Moffat was speaking as one of the European representatives of the Africans in the Northern Rhodesia Parliament. I also remember the Secretary of State for the Colonies and other hon. Members opposite calling into question the right of my right hon. Friend to make that quotation, and suggesting that the opposition of Mr. Moffat to federation had vanished in the interim.
Since we had that debate the views of Mr. Moffat have again been put on record, and he and his fellow European representative of native interests in Northern Rhodesia have courageously given their votes against the imposition of the federal scheme.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The hon. Gentleman has mentioned me by name in connection with Mr. Moffat. My impression, and that of my colleagues, was that Mr. Moffat left London entirely satisfied. At least he participated in every meeting of the conference and left without making any further expressions of dissent, and I thought all his points had been met. It is quite true that he voted against federation, and he may have had second thoughts, but he certainly left London, according to our impression, satisfied on all points.
§ Mr. Thomson
I understand that Mr. Moffat was challenged in the Northern Rhodesian Parliament on very much the same point as the right hon. Gentleman has made. He indicated that he did not feel that he was committed in any way by the conversations he had in London and that he was careful to secure guarantees before he went to London. Mr. Moffat is reported in the Northern Rhodesia Parliament as saying that he was voting against the scheme because he believed that with its imposition race relations were likely to show increased bitterness. Mr. Moffat is a distinguished member of the Northern Rhodesia Parliament, having been appointed to his present position by successive Secretaries of State, including the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I submit that his views on this subject must carry great weight with Her Majesty's Government and they present a strong reason for delay and a further effort to get at the root of the African opposition.
There is widespread concern in Scotland over this problem. I understand that tomorrow a Petition is to be presented from the Scottish people to Her Majesty the Queen asking for delay and fresh consideration of this matter. The Petition will carry 27,000 Scottish signatures, the greater number of them from people associated with various congregations of the Scottish Church. The Petition is not in any sense partisan and it is not in any sense mixed up with what the right hon. Gentleman chooses to regard as political tactics from this side of the House.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
While the hon. Gentleman is no doubt entitled to say that this Petition is sent in no partisan spirit, surely he will agree that a Petition signed by 27,000 people is not a Petition from all the people of Scotland?
§ Mr. Thomson
But 27,000 citizens of Scotland represent a fairly large number, and I was about to make the point that there is an historic reason for the Petition in that one of the causes of the foundation of the Protectorate of Nyasaland in the first place was a Petition from Scottish people to Her Majesty Queen Victoria asking that she give her protection to the Africans in Nyasaland. That Petition was signed by only 11,006 people 65 of Scotland and it was considered an influential one.
The sponsors of this Petition are people whose opinions are not to be taken lightly. Amongst those sponsoring it is a distinguished former Member of this House, Lord Boyd-Orr, and Sir Gordon Lethem, who is a prominent member of the Liberal Party as well as a distinguished colonial administrator. There are also signatures of other people prominent in the various religious organisations in Scotland. I suggest that this is evidence to which Her Majesty's Government should give consideration.
I also submit that the fact that the original Protectorates were started with the consent of the chiefs in those areas raises important legal questions as, for instance, whether this new scheme of government is legally in order without the full consent of the chiefs in those areas. So there is a strong case for some delay in this matter.
I know that Her Majesty's Government are well aware of the concern in Scotland. I understand that the Minister of State himself paid a visit to Scotland recently and had interviews in various parts of the country with a view to allaying disquiet. With great respect, as far as I can see he has not been successful. Shortly after he was followed by the Undersecretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs, whom we were able to welcome to the Scottish Unionist Conference. We are always very glad to welcome Ministers of the Government at the Unionist Conference in Scotland, but my impression is that it was an unusual occurrence.
I have been a regular attender at Unionist conferences—strictly in the capacity of a professional observer—but I have no recollection of a Minister of the Crown who was not connected with Scottish affairs making a special trip for the Scottish Unionist Conference. The reason on this occasion, I understand, was that within the Conservative Party in Scotland this expression of disquiet had made itself felt and that there was a resolution, which was defeated, expressing criticism of the federal scheme. The Government know, however, of the genuineness of the concern about this scheme and of the dangers that it brings for the future of British interests and the future of a real multi-racial community in that part of Africa.
66 I suggest, therefore, that in the cause of furthering racial harmony, we ought first to invite the spokesmen of these African organisations and tribes to come and put their case before the House. Whatever the rights and wrongs of it, there is undoubtedly strong feeling within Central Africa and within the African groups that the various conferences and the arrangements about this federal scheme have taken place without them being adequately consulted.
If only we could see taking place in Central Africa the same sort of consultation and equal participation as has gone into the federation scheme for the West Indies, neither side of the House would have any concern or anxiety. But such consultation has not taken place, and the very act of allowing the African representatives to come here and state their case to us, and the very fact that we would be delaying the imposition of the scheme in order to hear their case, would by itself have a helpful effect in improving the atmosphere out there.
Secondly, I plead that we would use the delay to make an effort to get at the roots of racial equality in that area, so that we can, as the various church leaders have suggested, create that more hopeful soil in which a healthy new Constitution could grow. What happens in Central Africa is one of the most fateful developments going on anywhere in the world today. We have a heavy responsibility in this House in particular, where our constituents are not merely those who vote for us at election time, but are all those millions of people in Africa who have no votes of their own. I beg that we do not proceed further with this scheme in the face of all the opposition that it has aroused without one further sincere effort to try to get at the roots of the opposition and to try to get a scheme which will go forward on a basis of agreement founded on equality.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
In his closing remarks, the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) suggested that we ought to invite the representatives of the Africans to put their views before the House. My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary rather disposed of that argument when he pointed out that opportunities have already been 67 available for these views to be put, not before the House, it is true, but before the responsible Minister. The true purpose of the hon. Member's suggestion was shown by his second recommendation, that we should use the delay to create a more hopeful atmosphere in Central Africa. In other words, the true purpose is to cause this delay, and the hon. Member believes that during that period it may be possible to create a more hopeful atmosphere.
I take a very contrary view. I do not see how delay could possibly be of advantage at the present time. Even in the White Paper presented last January it is said that we have now reached the moment of decision. In two days' time the Bill is to be introduced. Hon. Members opposite would like to have the Bill postponed for some time, but surely the result of that postponement would only be to foster uncertainty and to foment doubt. I see no other purpose or result.
In any case, is it to be supposed that those who hold strong views in Scotland, of whom there are many, I quite agree, and for whom the hon. Member for Dundee, East was speaking, will in the meantime change their views? I do not believe it. The hon. Member chided my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut-Colonel Elliot) with not having voiced the grave doubts that are felt in Scotland. I dare say all Scottish Members have seen representations from some body or other in Scotland on this account. It would be difficult to say whether there is a majority in the Scottish churches who are opposed to the scheme, but even if there were a majority the hon. Member surely would not expect my right hon. and gallant Friend to take his views from that majority or to receive instructions on how he should vote and speak in the House for the churches of Scotland?
§ Mr. Thomson
I do not wish to be misunderstood in my references to the viewpoint of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). I should not respect him if he took his views from pressure by his constituents. I did expect, however, that in making plain his own views on Central Africa, he would, as a distinguished Scotsman and as, I understand, an office 68 bearer of a congregation in Scotland, have given some indication that he had met with considerable opposition and very different views from many others who had talked to him about it in Scotland.
§ Mr. Macpherson
Surely, we are here to express our own conclusions and to form our own judgments. In a case like this, it is in the long run a question of judgment and of conscience as to how we should interpret our duty here.
I can understand that many members of the churches in Scotland should feel as they do. They have seen the evils that can rise from racial antagonism and the clash of racial interests. I can understand their anxiety lest the same things might occur in Nyasaland. I can understand that they are, perhaps, opposed to industrialisation of these Territories and do not want it to happen. They think that it will have an evil effect on the population, and they fear the effects of industrilisation and the evils that may come from it.
But are we to hold at bay modern developments? Are we to prevent the Commonwealth as a whole being developed economically when, without economic development, we shall not have social progress either? Are we to prevent that merely because there are some who feel that they do not like the thought of growing industrialisation over Central Africa? We have a duty here, and those who are responsible for African affairs have a duty, not only to have regard to the affairs of their homeland, but to have regard to the affairs of the Commonwealth as a whole.
After all, the frontiers of these territories are artificial. Even their names have been coined in recent times. There is no reason why these frontiers should remain for ever. We recognise, however, that in the meantime, owing to the development of the last 50 years, differences in social structure and in legislation of one kind and another which have arisen must be taken into account. It is for that reason that under the federal scheme the Territories themselves are left with full power over social matters, for example education, health and political advancement. There is no dispute about that. They are left with full powers over the protection of land.
69 The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said that there were deep fears among many Africans, and no doubt that is true. Some of us have heard Africans giving expression to those fears and have pointed out to them that there was no basis in the Federation for those fears. The right hon. Gentleman read a passage from a speech made in Southern Rhodesia. I wonder if he has the whole quotation. I thought he stopped rather abruptly with that quotation. I wonder if the whole quotation is available.
I wonder very much whether Sir Godfrey Huggins does not realise fully that while it might be quite easy—I will have a word to say about that in a moment—subsequently to alter the terms of the proposed Federal Constitution to the detriment of the Africans, to do so would be politically impossible and would be disastrous to the white races in Central Africa. Of that I am convinced. After all, in the long run if there is to be partnership of any kind at all in Central Africa—and that is what we are aiming at—it must be a case of the two races working out their salvation together. For one of the two races with such a meagre minority—it is less than one in 30—to expect that they can forever dictate to the other race would be to abrogate the basis of the Constitution on which the partnership is to be established and, surely, would be to spell calamity for the white races in Central Africa. I do not believe such a thing could be countenanced or could come about.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member a second time, but surely that is exactly what we are doing. We, as a small white minority, are dictating to the vast African majority, and that has the very dangers which the hon. Member has mentioned.
§ Mr. Macpherson
With great respect, I submit that what we are doing is setting up an initial Constitution which can be the basis of gradual expansion to partnership in Central Africa. We are establishing the foundations of the Constitution. They had to be made somewhere, and we are doing it here. I would add that under the terms of the Constitution itself it would not be as easy as all that to change it. If proposed legislation 70 differentiates against the Africans, it has to be reserved for the consent of Her Majesty's Government in this country. That is the great safeguard, and I am quite convinced that neither side of the House is in any way disposed not to uphold their full responsibilities in the meantime.
Supposing that a Select Committee were established and that Select Committee heard the chiefs—it would not stop there—it would open the way to a long and difficult inquiry. Supposing they reached agreement. It is difficult to see, considering the position taken up by the party opposite, how agreement could be reached, but supposing they did reach agreement, the matter would still have to come back to this House. Then the whole of the federal scheme, if there were any change recommended, would have to be negotiated again from the beginning.
These negotiations have gone on for a long time and many interests have had to be met. A conclusion has been reached and it is not possible for the parties to negotiations to go back and say they want such and such an alteration now without causing the entire scheme to be re-negotiated. If that were to occur, I do not believe we would ever see federation—and I am afraid that that is exactly what many hon. Members opposite desire. Yet the recommendation in the White Paper is quite clear, that it is essential for the economic and social development of the Territories concerned—and I repeat "and social"— that federation should come about.
Reference has been made to the vote of Mr. Moffat. I believe Mr. Moffat was placed in a very difficult position. Here in this country he was no doubt convinced of the determination of the Government of this country to stand by what they had said. He went back to Northern Rhodesia and, no doubt, he found a considerable body of African opinion still opposed to federation. He, as the African representative in the Northern Rhodesian Legislative Council, was placed in a difficult and unenviable position. If he believed that at present there was a majority of Africans opposed to the scheme, I can well understand that he felt it his duty to vote against it. But I do not think we in this country should 71 be unduly influenced by the fact that he felt obliged to change his opinion and give his vote in the way he did.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
Would the hon. Member tell us on what his views of Mr. Moffat's opinions are based other than his public utterances in the recent debate? The hon. Member said that Mr. Moffat was convinced here and went back and was put in a very awkward position. Has he any further evidence than the speech of Mr. Moffat in the recent debate?
§ Mr. Macpherson
The other evidence, if I recall correctly, was given in the debate in this House on the last occasion, and I dare say that if necessary it can be amplified tonight.
Last July Lord Hailey delivered a broadcast in which he said that economic and political partnership must comply with two requirements. The first was that those who were invited to become partners—I invite hon. Members opposite to listen to this—must be satisfied that they will from the outset have some real measure of responsibility in the direction of policy. There are two points there. The first is that they will have some real measure of responsibility in the direction of policy. It cannot be doubted that under the federation scheme they have such a measure of responsibility. The second is that they should be satisfied. Now surely it is our duty in this House, realising that they will have that real measure of responsibility, to seek to convince them that they will have it.
We shall not necessarily do so until after the Federal Constitution has been set up, but I believe that the practical working of the Constitution will be the best proof of that and people will be convinced in due course. I appeal to hon. Members opposite not to do anything to cast any doubt on that fact of which they must themselves be absolutely convinced from a reading of the Federal Constitution. That being so, I suggest that it is part of their duty to attempt to convince the Africans that it is so and to go on attempting to do that. I suggest that by giving their support to an invitation of this character—for the publicity for which this debate has been promoted in the House of Commons—when they know from the reading of the Federal 72 Constitution that though there may be fears, those fears are unreal, is not the best way of serving the interests of the Commonwealth.
The second point Lord Hailey made was that Africans must be assured that the terms provide that those who at the start have only a minor part in the undertaking may expect to take in time a share which will be comparable with that of those who start as major partners. It is my belief that this Constitution provides for that possibility. It is further my belief that unless the major partners at the present time go into this new era with the determination to make partnership work, then their days in Africa will indeed be limited. I believe that they do realise that. They have made their homes in Africa, and I believe that they will make a success of partnership in Africa. It is for that reason that I believe we should press on as quickly as possible with federation, and that we should not indulge in the delay, which this Motion seeks to promote.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. H. A. Marquand (Middlesbrough, East)
I have never before this ventured to enter a debate on colonial affairs. I do not claim to any great expertise upon the whole of it, but I speak on this occasion because I have had the advantage of visiting at least two of the Territories we are discussing this afternoon. I have never been to Nyasaland, but I have been in both Northern and Southern Rhodesia, and I have visited the adjacent and surrounding Territories; I have been in Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda, and I have been in the South Africa Union several times, so perhaps I may be permitted to make a short intervention among the numerous other hon. Members who frequently speak on this subject.
My task when I visited Central and East Africa was to survey for the then Government some of the potentialities of economic development, and I saw and found many of them in these Central African Territories. I must say I was very much impressed at that time by what I saw of the work of the Central African Council. I thought that the economic cooperation between the Territories which that Council was bringing about was valuable, and undoubtedly contributed greatly to the expansion of the economic potential of those areas, and, therefore, to the 73 raising of the standard of living of their people.
Therefore, when it was suggested that this co-operation could become closer, more effective and more rapid by a process of political federation, naturally I was prepared to accept that opinion too. But I do not base my belief that some federation would be an advantage only upon the case for its economic advantages. Even more powerful than that would be the value of having in the centre of Africa a federation which exemplified the idea of partnership, which would be such an invaluable gift to the political future of Africa if we could only bring it about.
So much for my general approach to the question. That is to say, one is not opposed to federation as such, any more than my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who was Colonial Secretary at that time, is opposed to federation as such. What worries me is the spectacle of federation being hurried forward, and the obvious failure to secure the good will of the mass of the population of those Territories for that policy. I thought that this afternoon my right hon. Friend spoke, not only with eloquence and sincerity, as he always does, but, I would have hoped, with great persuasiveness.
I know my right hon. Friend very well indeed. I have known him for 25 years or so, and have had numerous opportunities of seeing him in all sorts of environments and circumstances. I know him so well that I am absolutely sure that he would not be a partner in coming forward at this moment and raising this issue purely as a matter of political tactics. I do not believe for a moment that he has done so. I am certain, indeed, that he has not, because I know something of the arrangements which led finally to placing this Motion on the Order Paper. I should like to assure the Colonial Secretary, if only he were here— I will assure his representative, the Undersecretary of State for Commonwealth Relations—that that is not so; it was not a shady manoeuvre that resulted in placing this Motion on the Order Paper.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Foster)
Could the right hon. Gentleman say what were the arrangements as he knows them?
§ Mr. Marquand
Well, the arrangement grew out of discussion in another part of this House among hon. Members interested in this subject as to whether there were any means of enabling African chiefs who had expressed the wish to see Her Majesty The Queen and been denied it—I do not say improperly at all—to achieve their natural desire of an opportunity of talking to the Government in Great Britain. This was thought of for that reason and that reason only, with no thought in our minds as to how anybody might vote. I have not the least idea now how anybody on this side of the House may vote on this subject tonight.
When I saw the Colonial Secretary making his speech, I felt that he had obviously made up his mind before he heard my right hon. Friend. He had, what we call in Parliamentary courtesy, copious notes. I wish he had listened to my right hon. Friend and then thrown them away. Surely he could at that stage have advantageously asked my right hon. Friend some more questions and then given himself a little time to consider what hon. Members on this side of the House would have to say, what new arguments might be advanced. I thought it was a great pity that he persisted in using the notes which he had already prepared. He had made up his mind beforehand that this was a discreditable manoeuvre and he was not prepared to change it.
The Colonial Secretary said continually throughout his speech that opportunities had been given time and again for these African chiefs to come over to this country to take part in a conference, to act as observers, and so on—to be consulted, in short—and he reiterated more than once the phrase, "They did not come." True enough; they did not come; and that, I would agree with him, is a pity and a great disadvantage. But now that there is an indication that they would be willing to come, now they have themselves asked that they might come, and now that the way of enabling them to come has been suggested from these benches, would it not be desirable to give them that opportunity to come? Why not let them come now, after all, even if they refused before, mistakenly, to come? Surely we would not reject an opportunity of that kind if it was right to ask them before. Surely we would not 75 reject it now merely on a technicality that a Petition can be presented to this House only by hon. Members of this House.
It would create a precedent, we were told. Well, why not create that precedent for once? Why rely too heavily on our precedents in unprecedented circumstances? Why not say, "Well, these circumstances are so unusual that we will adopt a new precedent which, nevertheless, would be entirely in line with the spirit of our constitution"? Do not let us pay too much attention to the letter, but let us think for once of the spirit of the constitution, and, if necessary, create a precedent in the way that has been suggested.
As the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) said, we are proceeding to set up a new State. Let us think of the precedents established when some of the other new States were set up among peoples who had formerly been governed from London. There was the precedent of war in the United States of America; civil war in Ireland; strikes, imprisonment, demonstrations and the rest of it in India. With the best will in the world, it has not been easy for this country to set up new States without conflict and friction, and sometimes bloodshed. Those are the precedents, and I should have thought that at this time the right thing to do would be to search out every possible means whereby this great change might be effected without friction.
It is asked, what could a Select Committee do? It could make a gesture of courtesy, as it were to men whose standing might not be so great that they have the rightful expectation to see Her Majesty the Queen—and I do not dispute that may be so. But it would be a gesture of courtesy to men whose standing is very considerable in their own land, who have participated in the Legislative Councils and taken a leading part in the governing of their own people.
I am speaking now entirely for myself and without consultation with my right hon. Friends. Indeed, that is one reason why I am speaking from a position on the back benches and not from my usual place on the Front Bench. Speaking personally, without any authority from anyone else, it is my opinion that such a Select Committee would have to start with the principle of federation taken for granted, 76 guaranteed, because by that time I presume this House would have voted for the principle. But having met the chiefs in this courteous way, the Select Committee could discuss with them exhaustively and inquire carefully into their feelings about the details of the Constitution it is proposed to set up.
The Select Committee could go into the objections and misgivings and the fears of the chiefs and. above all, of course the question of protection, the continuance of the Protectorate status, to which these people attach very great importance. It might be possible to persuade the chiefs that their misgivings were justified. It might be possible thereby to accelerate the process and avoid friction and maybe worse than that. At any rate I would appeal, even at this late hour, to the Government to consider the suggestion honestly and sincerely put forward from these benches. It is not put forward as a mere attack, or in order to delay the implementation of the scheme which the Government want, though I admit it would involve delay in putting it into practice.
It is my plea, which is put forward sincerely, that the Government should harken to the views expressed from this side of the House by hon. Members whose main objective is to try to secure that the great changes undoubtedly necessary eventually in Africa should be carried through without undue friction and hostility between the races.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)
When we consider the undoubted advantages which have accrued to the paramount chiefs, chiefs and the tribesmen by, I will not say federation, but by amalgamation and the advantage they have taken of their partnership with their English-speaking fellow subjects—I am referring of course to Scotland and Wales —it seems slightly illogical that the representatives of the Celtic fringe should be objecting to the Africans having the advantages which they themselves derived by a closer union, about which they certainly felt considerable suspicion at the time.
The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) suggested it would be a good thing, after the principle of federation is accepted by this House, that the chiefs should have the opportunity to discuss the details of the 77 Constitutional proposals with a Select Committee. That is what he was suggesting, if I understood him aright. It seems to me a curious suggestion. The chiefs have been given opportunity after opportunity of discussing the details of the Constitution with the executive of one of the parties concerned, that is to say with Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and at the different conferences which have taken place with representatives of Her Majesty's Government in Southern Rhodesia. They have not availed themselves of those opportunities, and it would be somewhat illogical if they were to discuss matters of detail and the practical application of a Constitution with a Select Committee which, by definition, could not possibly represent Her Majesty's Government, either in this country or in Southern Rhodesia.
I, and I think most hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, acquired a great respect for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) at the time when he was Colonial Secretary when the party opposite were in power. I hope he will forgive me therefore if I say frankly that we have watched with great regret the line he pursued in this matter of Central African Federation. I have been reading again over the weekend some of the things he said on that subject when he was in power, and the two or three remarkable articles written by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition after he had fallen from power and when he came back from his visit to Central Africa.
I think the suggestion is groundless that the right hon. Gentleman has been seeking to buttress his impregnable position on the Right of his party by getting some support from the Left-Wing fringe. I do not suggest that. But we cannot escape the conclusion that there has at any rate been a strong tendency to try to use this matter of Central African Federation as a means of healing the breach in the party opposite.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
On a point of order. We are dealing with a matter which affects the whole Commonwealth. Has not it always been out of order to attribute to hon. Members that they are advocating certain policies for motives—indirect motives— other than the motives which they themselves advance?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I did not understand that any motive was being advanced.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The last observation of the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Amery) is a classic instance of what I am objecting to in the point of order I raised. It is a flagrant imputation to me of motives and actions which I have never felt or indulged in.
§ Mr. Amery
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has said that this is a grave matter affecting the whole Commonwealth, and indeed it is. But every speech we have heard from hon. Members opposite so far, and I admit that we have heard only three, show that the manoeuvre—I use the word deliberately —to which we have been subjected today is only an attempt to bring another Central African Federation debate before the House through the back door. After the debate we had in March I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues would have said, "There it is. We fought our fight on this and it has not gone very well"—it certainly did not go very well from the point of view of the party opposite—"therefore let us call off the game."
They have done the opposite. They have doubled the stakes on a losing game.
§ Mr. Amery
I hope the hon. Member will bear with me: I have borne with him pretty often. If the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends really wanted to double stakes on a losing game, and there are times when that is not a bad policy, they would have been wiser to have put out a three-line Whip. They had a bad result when we last debated the subject. I do not think that they will get a very good one tonight, or that their position will be improved as the Bill goes forward to Second Reading and Committee stage.
The debate has ranged fairly wide, and I hope I may be forgiven if I do not keep to the narrow point of the Select Committee. Mention has been made of the 79 fear and anxiety with which some African leaders regard these Federation proposals. I appreciate the depth and extent of that anxiety. It is generally appreciated on both sides. We should make a very great mistake if we tried to minimise or underestimate it. We should, however, also make a great mistake if we exaggerated it.
Reference has been made to the Paramount Chief of Angoni. It is nearly two years since I was in that part of the world. At that time the Paramount Chief was inclined to take a rather different view from that mentioned. This matter is not cut and dried. We saw an example the other day. A strike was called in Northern Rhodesia when the referendum had gone through in Southern Rhodesia and the debate had taken place here. Response to that strike was not impressive. It certainly did not suggest that there was really bitter feeling. I do not say that there may not be serious trouble, but it would be as wrong to overestimate the anxiety of the Africans as it would be to underestimate it.
§ Mr. Amery
We have been considering that question. The matter has been debated four times in this House so far. There have been conferences at Ministerial level and a Parliamentary delegation has gone out. The decision taken, taken by a democratic majority of this House—and it was a larger majority than usual—has been to go forward with the scheme despite the anxieties expressed.
There is only one possible ground for the Motion of the Opposition. The only possible ground on which it could be presented is that by going ahead with federation we should be causing a breach of the Protectorate Agreements entered into with the different chiefs. That is the only ground for the Motion. It was mentioned by the chiefs themselves in a remarkable letter which they wrote to "The Times," which was followed by some correspondence. I should like to say something about that.
I have had a look, as no doubt other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have looked, at a number of the treaties concluded. The Secretary of State read out a sample. All those that I have seen 80 make over rights to Her Majesty's Government, usually in very wide terms, or rather they make them over to Her Majesty through her Ministers in the United Kingdom. It is argued that federation is a step towards dominion status and that these rights made over to Her Majesty are now to be exercised in part or in whole by Her Majesty's new Ministers in the Federal Government.
Of course, that is not at all the case. It has been made perfectly clear time and again that all the rights that concern the different Protectorate Agreements will continue to be vested in the Secretary of State here at home. So long as the constitutional development of Central Africa is short of Dominion status, so long as there are reserve powers here, those rights will be absolutely preserved.
§ Mr. Amery
Most extensive reservations have been made. I have not got the full text of the Constitution in my hand. It would take some time to read out the reservations, which include such matters as land tenure and the administrators to be appointed.
To take the argument further, the House ought to be careful to safeguard and to recognise that the principle of protection is maintained, for two reasons. Those reasons have a bearing on what might happen in the Union of South Africa and what might happen in Central Africa if some of the fears of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were to materialise. Let us look at the South African situation. Full Dominion status was accorded to the Dominion of South Africa, but the Protectorates there continued to be under the United Kingdom administration and their rights were never made away. I do not see that the position of Barotseland differs in any respect from that of these other Protectorates.
It is important for hon. Members opposite who are anxious about what Central African Federation may involve to recognise that the Protectorate status 81 is maintained, that there is no breach of the agreement and that the rights of the Protectorates are protected against all eventualities.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
This is an interesting argument, but is not there a fundamental difference? When the Act of Union was passed the Protectorates to which the hon. Gentleman refers were specifically excluded from the Union, whereas these Protectorates are absorbed in the Federation.
§ Mr. Amery
I take the right hon. Gentleman's point. Surely the difference is that the Act of Union was the conferment of Dominion status? This is not. This is merely a new form of the delegation of power—not a cession or transfer of power. As long as we are dealing only with the question of the delegation of power, there is no need for such specific exclusion as occurred in the Act of Union.
The point I was trying to make was that people who are anxious about how Central African Federation may develop should be the first to insist on the important place given in the federation proposals to these Protectorate rights. They should recognise that they are maintained and that as long as there is no transfer of power at the centre the Protectorate position is not endangered in any way. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that there is some substance in that argument.
Now for what lies ahead. In spite of the debate today and the opposition which no doubt will be sustained on Wednesday and thereafter, there is little doubt that Central African Federation will become a reality. It is important that we should recognise this and should do all that we can and use all the influence we have to see that it develops on the right lines. We should do nothing to stir up faction and strife out there either on the European or on the African side.
There are great hopes of partnership, but whether they ripen may depend on the mood in which federation begins. If it begins against a background of sharp strife and disagreement in this country, which is after all still the mother country for Central Africa, that will not help. The Government of the United Kingdom will still have great power—power which 82 may be held again one day by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite—and it is most important that we should give as good a start to this development as we can.
I hope that the responsibility which we on this side will accept will be accepted too in Central Africa. I hope that the plan for a multi-racial university will go forward and that steps will be taken as soon as possible to implement the Dalgleish Report. I hope that we shall see all these developments as the first fruits of federation. But let us not forget that, if these things are to come soon, as I hope they will, then we in London must also play our part.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
The hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr J. Amery) and the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary have both suggested that those of us who are supporting this Motion are doing so for some party political reason. Indeed, the hon. Member for Preston, North put forward singularly opposed arguments, first that the Motion was put forward in order somehow to bring about unity in the party, and second, that the fact that it was put forward would demonstrate the lack of unity in the party. I am not quite sure which horse the hon. Member is trying to ride. We are perfectly well aware that there are a few of our colleagues who do not share the opinions of the rest of us, and that it might be politically disadvantageous in those circumstances to ask for an extra debate on this subject.
§ Mrs. White
I will not delay the House by pursuing a rather petty point of that kind.
This Motion, if accepted, would naturally have a delaying effect, but there is nothing to be ashamed of in that. If we believe that something is being brought about which we consider to be misguided, to be unwise, to be ill-judged, to be inopportune, is there anything shameful or disgraceful in doing what we can by constitutional means to delay 83 it? If we believe that wiser counsels might yet prevail, if not in the enterprise as a whole, certainly in some aspects of it, if there were to be consultations with those concerned, should we not want to provide at least the means whereby the further consultations might be held? It seems to me that we are dealing with something which is quite different in its nature from most of the subjects which we debate in this House.
The Colonial Secretary objected to the proposal for a Select Committee, and said it was an innovation for matters of this kind to be referred to a Select Committee. The right hon. Gentleman made a peculiar comparison with the Congressional Committees in the United States, which seems to me to be a quite invalid analogy for this reason. Surely, in dealing with a question of this fundamental importance, we should be very careful how we proceed, and if there is any possibility of associating people on both sides of the House with the negotiations, surely it is wiser so to do.
We have had complaints from the other side that we have not been pursuing a bipartisan policy in this matter, which they believe is the correct procedure in colonial affairs. The Select Committee would at least have the effect of bringing hon. Members from all parts of the House together—indeed, Members of both Houses—in consultation with the people concerned, and I suppose that that in itself would have some advantage. However, the right hon. Gentleman does not think so, and he has dismissed the whole idea in the most perfunctory way. He said there is no justification for the Select Committee procedure, and he went on to say that there would be pressure from Chambers of Commerce and so forth if it were adopted in this case.
I submit that dealing with people who have no representation, either in this House or directly in their own Legislatures, puts the matter on a completely different footing, and that we have a quite different kind of responsibility towards these persons from the responsibility which we have even to our own constituents in this country, because, after all, if the electors in the United Kingdom happen to dislike what a certain Government have done, they can turn out that Government at the following election. 84 We have topical instances in which policies adopted by one Government have been reversed by the next. In this matter, which is of profound constitutional importance, there is no such way open to the people concerned. Unfortunately, they cannot turn out the Government in this House, nor can they turn out the Governments in their own Territories.
Therefore, they have not the usual channels of redress or of reversing policies which are open to the electors in this country, and, as we have a considerable measure of responsibility for their future welfare, surely to say that this proposal was not suitable in the circumstances in this country is not a valid argument against the suggestion that something of this kind should be considered by a Committee drawn from all parts of the House.
§ Mr. C. E. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I have been following the hon. Lady's argument closely. Could I put this point to her? When the late Government were bringing in legislation to give independence to India, did they consider setting up a Select Committee to inquire into what protection was given to the Indian Princes, who also enjoyed treaty rights?
§ Mrs. White
I was not a Member of the House when the matter was discussed, but, so far as I know, there was not the same kind of opposition in India then as there is now in Central Africa to the proposal we are discussing.
I should like to turn now to another point, and that is the expediency of having some further consideration of the matter. It is perfectly clear that the Government have not been able to secure the confidence of a very large number of leading persons in Central Africa. It is perfectly true that one of the Paramount Chiefs in Northern Rhodesia—in Barotse-land—said that he will not oppose federation, and the reason is not far to seek. In his case and in this Territory there is a great comprehensive treaty on which he can base his claim. It is perfectly true that there are analogous conditions in the Protectorates in South Africa—because, historically, Bechuana-land with the great Khama and Barotse-land with Lewanika had chiefs of such importance and strength and capability that they carried very great weight and came to comprehensive agreement with H.M. Government.
85 But why should Africans in other parts of these Territories be at a disadvantage because they do not happen to be the descendants of persons who were, at that time, the subjects of peculiarly powerful chiefs? Surely, although their legal rights may be less well founded than those of the Paramount Chief of Barotse-land, they have just as much moral claim to consideration as the people in Barotse-land, and even though they may not have such historically well-founded claims, surely there is all the more, and not less, reason for meeting them in every possible way to discuss their difficulties and their apprehensions?
§ Mrs. White
Why should Barotseland be specifically included in the federation scheme? I am asking why, because of historical circumstances 60 or 70 years ago, certain persons in Northern Rhodesia enjoy special status which will not be enjoyed by people in other parts of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, whose forebears were not in the same position as those people in the present Territory of Barotseland. If there was no difference between them, but only a distinction without a difference, why should we give a special position in the federation arrangements to Barotseland, as I understand is to be the case?
§ Mrs. White
I am not denying for one moment that Barotseland has special rights. All I am saying is that we have a particular duty towards those not covered by such specific treaty rights as the people of Barotseland happen to enjoy. Therefore, it appears to me that we have a special moral obligation to see that the representations of the lesser chiefs in the other Territories are treated with some consideration. As I say, it seems to me that there would be considerable value in discussing the situation with them before a committee consisting of persons belonging to all parties in this House. It is clear that the Government are not going to gain 86 their confidence, whereas it is possible that we might help in so doing.
The right hon. Gentleman laughs. He seems to derive great amusement from these debates, and seems to regard it as being in some way reprehensible that we should be raising these points at all. If some people had thought a little more clearly in 1909 when they were discussing the future of South Africa, some of the tragedies might have been avoided.
In dealing with the people of these Territories one has to remember that owing to their experience in the past they have considerable ground for their present suspicions regarding what may happen to them. It has been a very short history. After all, it is really only a matter of some 60 years since they first had contact with Europeans, and it is an even lesser period of time since they came directly under the administration of Europeans. They have had a good many ups and downs.
I have been refreshing my admittedly scanty knowledge of the history of these Territories, and if one looks at the land rights question—on which we are giving them the most fervid assurances—it is not surprising that they have doubts, misgivings and apprehensions. I am perfectly certain that anybody who had lived during the past 40 years in Nyasaland—which is regarded as the more peaceful of the two Territories—could hardly help sharing the apprehensions of the Africans. They may be irrational apprehensions, but they are based on experience still vividly in the minds of many who have been through this difficulty themselves.
It is only very recently that the land question in Northern Rhodesia has, from the point of view of the Africans, been put on a more satisfactory footing. Therefore, it is not surprising that they are not completely convinced that there is no danger for them in these proposals.
I will quote someone who has already been quoted this afternoon, namely, Mr. Moffat. It rather surprises me that hon. Members opposite, who regard themselves as so well instructed in the opinions of Africans, appear to be unable to discover the opinions of someone like Mr. Moffat. In a recent speech in the Legislature of Northern Rhodesia, Mr. Moffat appealed to the Europeans there to realise that 87 federation, which did so much to remove the burden of fear from their shoulders, had added tremendously to the apprehensions of their African fellow men.
It seems to me that because of that we on this side of the House are quite right in asking that yet one more effort should be made both to understand and to meet the very real apprehensions of the people of these two Territories. After all, the Government have obtained a vote in this House and the referendum is now over in Southern Rhodesia. Therefore, so far as that is concerned, they do not have to think in terms of political tactics, which might have been some reason for refusing a Motion of this sort a few months ago. That is now a matter of constitutional fact. Southern Rhodesia has by a fairly considerable European majority accepted these proposals. There is, therefore, no reason for not agreeing to delay on that score. Having secured that, which from their point of view is a very valuable safeguard, I cannot see what objection there can be to meeting the chiefs who have asked to be seen.
Very often in these Territories there is some division of opinion between the traditional rulers and the politicians; but the situation in these two Territories is that as time has gone on, far from having such a division of opinion, the traditional rulers and the politicians appear to have come closer together. On the ground of expediency alone, I should have thought it worth while for the Government to pay attention to the request of the chiefs to be heard.
It seems to me that, from every point of view, whatever can be done to allay apprehensions among the leaders of opinion in these Territories would be very well worth while. It has been suggested that this delay would be unpalatable to certain people, but if one is dealing with the whole future of several millions of people, then surely it is far better to do everything possible, even though some may not think it worth while, to meet the legitimate anxieties of these people.
I feel that we on this side of the House need make no apology for supporting this Motion. We feel that the gravity of this constitutional innovation is such that it is our duty to do everything possible to see that the Africans concerned are fully 88 acquainted by both sides of the House with the true implications of the scheme as proposed. Therefore, I very much hope that the Motion will be accepted.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
I have not been very long in this House, and I sometimes find it rather difficult to understand when some of the Motions debated are in order or out of order. But I must say that I never had any doubt that this Motion was inapposite to the problem.
I am not one who believes that two wrongs make a right, but I cannot help being reminded of what my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) said about the almost casual way in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite overrode the treaty rights of the Indian Princes in the very difficult years of 1946 and 1947 when, by general agreement on all sides of the House, we advanced the status of India to self-government within the Commonwealth. But these are problems on which, if I attempted to go into them in any detail on this Motion, I should probably be ruled out of order.
I put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite that this is a constitutional point of some importance and that the reasons and methods which they put forward for dealing with it are not very good. Hon. Gentlemen opposite astound me. They seem to think that the Secretary of State for the Colonies has a direct administrative responsibility for all the 42 territories overseas. They seem to forget the immense strides that have been taken in constitutional development, not only in the last eight years since the war, but in the last 300 years. Some of the constitutions in the West Indies are as old as any written constitutions in the world, or older.
It is not within the competence of the Secretary of State to take the detailed action that hon. Gentlemen often propose. All these territories of which we are talking have their duly constituted Governments, and the Governors, appointed on the recommendation of right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench, who were then Members of the Government, which recommended the King, as the Sovereign then was, to appoint these individuals.
89 Despite what has been said in this House and elsewhere, these men are responsible and honourable, and their first object in life is to forward the well-being and happiness of the millions of people entrusted to their care. They are the duly constituted heads of State and they have with them their Legislative Councils, in which great advances were made in the last few years since the war. Possibly one of the greatest constitutional steps was made in Northern Rhodesia, when Mr. Creech Jones, as Colonial Secretary, established an "unofficial" majority in Northern Rhodesia—and it was a very right and proper step. That probably removed more power from the Secretary of State to influence control over a local legislature than any other action that has been proposed under federation. That was a big hurdle.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I have been listening with great attention to the hon. Gentleman's argument. I would ask him, if what he says is the case, what becomes of the alleged safeguards for the Protectorates embodied in the federal scheme which we were assured that the British colonial Administration would be able to control and administer?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I am making my point, which is that under the last Government much former control was in effect taken away. I believe it was a right and proper step. I still believe it is possible to maintain influence through members of the Legislative Council, in whom I have confidence. In spite of what hon. Gentlemen opposite say, I believe that these men are doing their utmost for the inhabitants of Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland and Southern Rhodesia. Those are the people who are duly constituted the Governments of the Territories and who, within the federal authority, will carry out, as local Governments, the duty of protecting the individuals who live in those Territories.
I have suggested that these great changes were made by general agreement, after the private consultations that we used to have on these great constitutional changes. One of the greatest of all was in Nigeria, where immense changes were made in the local status without, so far as I know, even a debate in this House. There was an Order in Council and I think there was general agreement by all of us that it was a good 90 thing. We did not propose to set up a Select Committee then, but went ahead and did what we could.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) talked about fear, and certainly fear is the greatest difficulty that we have to face. If I may misquote some very famous words, "The greatest thing we have to fear is Fear itself." The right hon. Member for Llanelly and the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) have probably done as much to create fear in Africa as any two other hon. Members in this House put together. The right hon. Member for Llanelly shakes his head. I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition is here. Let him remember that his right hon. Friend was on the platform at a meeting in February to appeal for money to support civil disobedience in a Dominion which is a Member of the Commonwealth.
What effect does the Leader of the Opposition think an episode of that sort might have, if he were ever to form a Government of this country again, on the relations between the Socialists and South Africa? I hope that somebody has informed him of it privately. Whatever hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite may feel, it is that sort of thing which has influenced the elections in South Africa, whether the right hon. Gentleman approves or disapproves of the result thereof.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I went to that meeting after very full consideration. What would the hon. Gentleman advise Africans to do who are deprived of the franchise and are living under a Government that disregards completely the entrenched Clauses inserted by this House? Would he not think that in those circumstances there was moral justification for passive resistance?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I still think it was unwise of a Member of this House, and unconstitutional for a Privy Councillor, to appear on the platform.
§ Mr. Griffiths
On a point of order. The hon. Member has made a charge that it is unconstitutional for a Privy Councillor to appear in this matter. On what authority does he say that?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I am not a constitutional lawyer, but I believe it is morally wrong for a Privy Councillor to appear on a platform for that purpose.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Has the hon. Gentleman considered that if he is right in his present argument the United States would never have come into existenece at all?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
That has little to do with the question I am on at the moment. I would still like the Leader of the Opposition to say at the end of the debate whether he could answer some of these points, not necessarily the ones I have raised, but put his views on Central Africa. He had the benefit of a trip out there, in which all individuals did their utmost to put their case to him, and he did, as my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Amery) said, write some interesting articles after his return home. Rather than hear the late Solicitor-General, who I presume, because of his knowledge of constitutional law is proposing to wind up, many of us would welcome it if the Leader of the Opposition could put his views before the House on a practical subject of this sort.
I believe that the Motion is down on the Order Paper to delay—as the constitutional Opposition are in order in doing— the furtherance of Central African Federation, after four debates here, in each of which the Motion put forward by the Opposition has been defeated. I would hope and believe that, as Mr. Moffat advises the Africans in Northern Rhodesia, once the decision was taken— as it was six weeks ago in this House— all here would appeal to the people in these Territories to work together to make a success of Central African Federation.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
This is a very limited discussion on a limited point and I do not intend to make my remarks very long. I am sorry that the Colonial Secretary is not in his place. I think his speech was thoroughly irresponsible.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I am not complaining, but I would rather say this in front of him than in his absence. It was irresponsible because it was a speech which will have a profoundly disturbing effect upon those chiefs whose case we are considering today. What did the right hon. Gentleman mean about 92 "unhappy tactics"? Five times he referred to the unhappy tactics that had been used in this discussion. He referred to them as an innovation which he said was embarrassing. I know that an innovation does not appeal to the Conservative mind but we on this side rather like innovations. I cannot see how this one is embarrassing, except to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It may be embarrassing for him. It is certainly not for anybody else.
With reference to the appeal to Her Majesty the right hon. Gentleman said that the chiefs did not have the correct standing. When I asked him what he meant by that he was totally unable to explain what chiefs would have the correct standing to make that approach and what chiefs would not have it. What, then, does he mean? Further, the right hon. Gentleman said that their requests were political. What does he expect them to be? Does he expect them to be gastronomic? Obviously they would be political.
What would happen? I can only suppose that if such a deputation waited on Her Majesty she would refer the matter to the responsible Secretary of State. There is no suggestion that she would have to make a decision, but those chiefs would have had the inestimable benefit of having known that they had come and put their case to Her Majesty. Let us not forget that their case is based on treaties made by their ancestors many years ago expressly with the Queen. They were treaties made between the chiefs and Her Majesty Queen Victoria. That is a point on which the chiefs today feel very strongly indeed.
I have looked at many of those treaties. They do not contain much upon which a lawyer can bite. They might be called unconditional surrender, but I would prefer to call them unconditional trusts. The chiefs trusted the British people and gave them certain powers without any quid pro quo. They trusted a great nation and, in particular, trusted certain aspects of a great nation. I do not think that it was Cecil Rhodes and the merchant adventurers who went with him that they trusted so much as David Livingstone and the missionaries who went with him. Their descendants today still trust the missionaries who are with 93 them. It is for that reason that the missionaries in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia feel deeply about this subject. They feel that their trust has been betrayed. They feel that these people, who placed their trust in this nation because of the work which the missionaries have done, have been betrayed today.
Not only for the sake of the chiefs themselves, not only for the sake of the people of Northern Rhodesia, but even more for the sake of these missionaries, the people who went out at great sacrifice and who toiled and suffered for their convictions, I would ask that these chiefs might be allowed to come here to appeal to the highest court in the land so that their case may be heard and they can go away at least knowing that it has been heard.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Archer Baldwin (Leominster)
I did not intend to speak on this subject today, but there seems to be a paucity of speakers on this side of the House, and, that being so, I have decided to try, if possible, to fill the gap. Various hon. Members opposite have not taken sufficient notice of the report which was made by the very eminent people who took part in the conference of the body which was set up by the former Colonial Secretary. Among these taking part were Sir Andrew Cohen, the present Governor of Uganda, whose work has received as much approbation from the opposite side of the House as from this side, and the Ministers for Native Affairs from each of the territories.
They were a very eminent body of men. They gave very great consideration to the problem of federation and at the end issued a Report. Among other things the Report states:We do not, of course, regard the structure as one which should be immutable, but when the time comes—as we hope it shortly will— for establishing the federal Government we consider that Governments should indicate their intention that no major change in the constitution should be made in the first five years of its existence.It is very important to remember that this body of men who gave a great deal of time to examining many documents and examining many people stressed that they hoped that federation would come quickly.
They stressed it again when they said in the Report: 94We would emphasise once more our very real sense of urgency in this problem of bringing the Central African territories into an effective form of closer association.That was the opinion, not of people who have never been to Central Africa at all, not of people who might be biased by political views, but of an independent body of Government officials set up by the Socialist Government to examine this question of federation which they themselves believed to be right. For some reason or other the party opposite seem to have altered their views since.
If I may bring in a personal touch, I would remind the House that four hon. Members, two from each side of the House, went out to Africa two years ago to endeavour to form an opinion on the benefit or otherwise of federation. After an extensive tour lasting some five weeks an agreed Report was issued and one hon. Member opposite—I am sure that he will not mind my saying so—although describing himself as a Fabian signed the Report and agreed that federation as soon as possible was the right policy.
A great point has been made in this debate that we are forcing federation on the African people without their having an opportunity of making up their minds. I repeat what has been said on many occasions in these debates on federation —that there is no African mind. During our visit to Northern Rhodesia we met representatives of the churches, the professions, the farmers, the business community, European and African trade unions, African chiefs, the African Congress and the Indian and Coloured communities.
In Nyasaland we met the representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, the Convention of Associations, the African Women's Society, the African Medical Association, the Indian community, the African trade unions and Members of Congress, and the African Urban Advisory Committee. It would be fair to say that we, as a delegation, worked rather hard from very early morning until late at night and we had an opportunity of obtaining the views of every single representative body of people in these Territories. It was only after giving the matter full consideration that we drew up and issued our agreed Report.
It has been said that church opinion is against federation, but I should like to 95 remind the House of what some of the churches have said on this matter. The Bishop of Mashonaland said:I would venture my opinion, based on personal and intimate experience, that here in Southern Rhodesia, wrongs have been righted, and other wrongs are on the way to being righted, in a far shorter period of time than it has taken Britain to right its injustices and its failures to fulfil the Charter of Human Rights—a Charter which has been in existence far longer than the United Nations.The Bishop is one of the representatives of the Church which has no doubt as to whether Federation is right or not.
The following appeal has been issued by the leaders of the churches in Southern Rhodesia:We, the undersigned, would appeal to Christian people throughout Southern Rhodesia, individually, and as congregations in our Churches, to pray on Sunday, March 29th (Palm Sunday) that a Christian spirit may prevail in preparation for the referendum on Central African Federation …That appeal was signed by the Anglican Bishop of Mashonaland, the Roman Catholic Bishop, Aston Chichester, the Rev. Herbert Carter, a Methodist, Dr. J. Kennedy Grant, a Presbyterian, the Rev. J. D. de B. Joubert, of the Dutch Reformed Church, Colonel Holbrook, of the Salvation Army, and the Reverend Guyton Thomas, a Baptist.
The question has been raised from time to time whether the interests of the Africans have been protected or not. Let me again turn to the Report of the Conference on Closer Association. In Chapter 4 they say:In the constitutional sphere we have had to consider how, without infringing Southern Rhodesia's self-governing status, to provide for His Majesty's Government's "—as it then was—special responsibility for the two northern territories and, in particular, for African welfare and advancement.That Conference believed that they had suggested something like federation which would safeguard the rights of the African people, and that is the view of hon. Members on this side of the House who support federation. We believe that the rights of the Africans are fully protected in the proposals which are now put forward. We should not allow ourselves to be manoeuvred out of the position that we on this side of the House have taken in this matter, and I am very glad that 96 my right hon. Friend has made it clear that he does not intend to accept the suggestions which are now being made that the chiefs who are petitioning to be heard at the Bar of the House or before a Select Committee should be permitted to do so.
We met many of those chiefs when we were in Africa. They had no very decided opinion about the matter. Some of them were inclined to see what federation meant before coming to any decision. Let us be quite clear that the chiefs who are now petitioning to come to this country are being made tools of the African Congress leaders and, I am sorry to say, of some leaders in this country as well. The leaders of the African Congress want one thing only, and that is domination by the black people in these three Territories. This is what some of them have said.
The President of the African Congress, Mr. Harry Nkumbula, said this only last year:I cannot help thinking and convincing myself that after my experience in political life (five years) I have come to the conclusion that the best Government for the black people is a Government fully manned and run by the black people of Africa.Those are the words of the leader of the Congress Party, who are sponsoring the visit of the chiefs to this country so that they can put their views before a Select Committee.
Dr. Hastings Banda, an African doctor in London, who has not been back to Africa for the last 15 or 20 years—I think he is the power behind the throne— says:Unless they impose federation now, five, six or 10 years hence we shall have a government in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia not far from that of the Gold Coast today. We mean to have it.That is what they are working for. Let us face the fact. These delaying tactics mean that the longer we delay Federation the more influence the extremists will have in Central Africa, and there may arise another Mau Mau movement similar to that in Kenya.
§ Mrs. White
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that Sir Stewart Gore-Brown, for example, has for some time advocated the possible partition of these areas which would result in having all-African 97 Governments in parts, leaving the Europeans dominant in other parts? I am not suggesting that that is a wise solution. I am only saying that the people he has quoted are not the only ones who have put forward proposals.
§ Mr. Baldwin
I am glad that the hon. Lady does not favour that suggestion, because that is the policy of Dr. Malan in South Africa. We who want to see the advancement of all Africans say that we could not agree with such a policy of separation. Our policy is partnership and that is supported by the liberal-minded settlers in Africa. Anyone who does not believe that ought to go out to Africa and find out for himself.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Sheffield, Neepsend)
The hon. Gentleman claims to be acquainted with African opinion. We have given the names of scores of persons who are representative Africans and who oppose Federation. Can the hon. Gentleman name a single representative African who has publicly spoken in favour of the Federation plan, and, if so, can he say when he spoke and what he said?
§ Sir F. Soskice
I do not want to divert the hon. Gentleman from his argument, but is his answer just a plain "No"?
§ Mr. Baldwin
The Paramount Chief of Barotse is a man whom I have met and he says that he is in favour of Federation. We met some chiefs who were inclined to be in favour of Federation, but as soon as the bush telegraph got to work and the African Congress knew that these chiefs were favourable, they got busy and put the pressure on.
§ Sir F. Soskice
Apart from the very doubtful exception of the Chief of the Barotse, who is not really an exception, is the answer to my question a plain "No"?
§ Mr. Baldwin
My answer is a plain no; there were no African chiefs at that time who had much of a view of what Federation really meant. They are now being got hold of by the African Congress people who have one object only—Africa for the Africans. "Africa for the Africans" means Africa for the leaders 98 of the African Congress. The other people merely become their tools.
Let me quote from the Report of the African Congress held in London, in 1952:There must be no Federation until we are capable of safeguarding our own rights, until we have set up Governments in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in the hands of Africans.Those words were uttered by Mr. Mtepuka. I could give many more quotations.
To say that the African chiefs who wish to come over here have an opinion of their own is not correct. They are being used by the leaders of the African Congress who are looking to the future for themselves, and for themselves only. If they are put into power over their fellow countrymen, I say "God help their fellow countrymen." I have had some experience of this, and I feel that it will be a very bad day for the Africans in those three Territories if we do not at once give Federation.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said that we must not impose Federation until the Africans have made up their minds about it. With his experience of Africa, he must know that if we do not impose Federation now it will never come, and within 10 years we may have the same slaughter going on in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland as is happening in Kenya now. It is because of the weak policy of the Colonial Office in not dealing with the trouble in Kenya when they saw it rising that he have now got this bloodshed. It is not the people responsible whose blood has been shed; the bloodshed has been among the primitive people who have been led up the garden path, who have been encouraged by the extremists and who have reverted to primitive savagery.
That same condition can apply in Rhodesia. One has only to go a few yards off the highway to find oneself in an African reserve, where the people are living as they have done for 1,000 years. They are quite happy. The hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Coldrick) went into one of those reserves and he came upon youngsters who were laughing and looking very happy. He said, "Are they not a happy lot?" I said, "Yes. Did you expect that they would be coming after you with spears?" In these 99 reserves they live in their huts with no furniture and with chickens and pigs run-ing through. They are living in an absolutely primitive state.
They are the people who will get into trouble if the African leaders have their way. They are the people who will be killed—not the African leaders, some of whom will be stuck here in London, in safety. I hope that we shall not be led aside by the statements which have been made about African opinion, because African opinion does not exist.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) has made our blood run cold at the thought of what will happen to some of these simple African people if they are left to the further mercies of the agitators who are seeking to influence them. If he be right about the fearful consequences that he visualises he has no guarantee—he has certainly given no guarantee to us—that if Central African Federation is rushed through with the added resentment which now exists—
§ Mr. Hudson
The hon. Member shakes his head. He practically admitted it in his speech. He told us that at one time some African chiefs were half inclined to be in favour of federation but now, with the exception of one about whom he has been asked, the whole opinion has gone against what he would like the African chiefs to accept.
If it be true that dire consequences await us in Africa if we do not bring about federation, it is also true that if federation stimulates the resentment of the people he most fears the awful things that he visualises are just as likely, or even more likely, to happen if federation comes about. At one point in his speech the hon. Gentleman referred to the possibility of a new Mau Mau in this area. It is because there is an old Mau Mau in a neighbouring area that I advise caution before going any further with the proposals which are now before us.
Even if it is true, as the Colonial Secretary has said, that this House has on four occasions taken a decision in the direction of federation, we must remember that on each side of the area involved—in Kenya in the north-east and in the Dominion of South Africa in the 100 south—the most dreadful difficulties are being faced by white people who have any sort of liberal views regarding the Africans. It is because we see that happening increasingly, as a result of the South African elections, on the one hand, and the long-drawn-out conflict in Kenya, on the other, that we ask the House, if there be a means of avoiding a situation that may have dread consequences in Central Africa, to let those Africans who are strongly moved against the proposal for federation be allowed to put their case to a Select Committee or, if necessary, to the Bar of the House of Commons.
They should certainly be allowed to do what the Government have not yet allowed them to do—put their case to the one whom they regard as their great Queen Mother. The other day we were told that in the minds of the African chiefs there is a special relationship with the Queen which has existed ever since the days of Queen Victoria. The unwillingness of the Government to allow the Africans to put their case to the Queen is in itself a good reason for accepting the idea of this Select Committee as an alternative, for the time being.
Many attempts have been made to prove not only that some Africans might be glad of federation but, particularly in the other place, that there is a great body of opinion in this country in favour of federation. The facts are gradually proving to be entirely the opposite.
I am glad I have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, because I was very anxious to put right something that has been said about the Society of Friends in relation to this question. The hon. Member for Leominster has been quoting what has been said by members of various Churches, but in the list he gave he did not include the Society of Friends.
§ Mr. Baldwin
My information is that there is no branch of the Society of Friends in Central Africa.
§ Mr. Hudson
The hon. Member will be glad to know what the leader of the Government in another place had to say about this matter. Lord Salisbury said:I would remind your Lordships … that the Quakers have an unsurpassed record in the service of backward peoples."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 2nd April, 1953; Vol. 181, c. 651.]101 After praising them he went on to state the view of the Quakers in Rhodesia. That statement occupies nearly a page in the OFFICIAL REPORT of another place. I shall not read it, but it is intended to show that the Quakers of Southern Rhodesia believe that federation would be justified in spite of opposition and deny quite frankly the existence of what we claim exists—opposition among the African people.
§ Mr. Baldwin
I accept what the hon. Member says. I apologise if I was wrong about the Society of Friends. I said what I did because, in spite of the fact that we met all the bodies I have mentioned, the Quakers obviously did not want to put their views in front of us. That is why I said they did not exist. I thought that every body in Africa, from the Girl Guides to the Women's Institutes, took the opportunity of putting their views before us.
§ Mr. Hudson
I am not censuring the hon. Gentleman for not having obtained the views of the Quakers, because he had every reason not to do so. In view of what I took to be the tremendous importance of what Lord Salisbury had said on this subject I have been in touch on the telephone with the head office of the Society of Friends in London in connection with this matter, and they tell me that at their national executive meeting, which is known as the Meeting for Suffering, they were much disturbed by the report that had been given in another place as to the attitude of the Quakers. They asked me, if I were fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, to say that they are not opposed to federation; but theyare clear that the imposition of any scheme of federation without the consent of Africans cannot be morally right.That is their view as expressed last Friday in the national committee, a very largely attended body that meets monthly in London.
We have been hearing the views of other Churches. One of my hon. Friends has drawn attention to the Presbyterians in Scotland, where 27,000 people have signed a Petition against the immediate acceptance of federation; and a Scottish Member, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson), who is, I am sure, better able to judge on the matter than 102 I am, was anxious to show that 27,000 Presbyterians did not represent all Scotland. I should be very proud if I could point to 27,000 members of the Society of Friends, and I should think that Lord Salisbury would have been very proud had he been speaking about 27,000.
But how many members is it imagined that the Society of Friends have in Southern Rhodesia? There is what is called an "allowed meeting" of the Society of Friends, with a membership of nine persons—there are a few children who are not counted in that membership—and the man who wrote the letter that appeared in the "Rhodesian Herald" turns out to be not a member of the Society of Friends. On the basis of this evidence of the view of the gentleman writing in the "Rhodesian Herald," Lord Salisbury made this tremendous case in discussing the views of the Churches. It had been pointed out to him that many Churches were opposed to going on with the scheme, but in order to prove that he need not follow all the other Churches he reminded himself and their Lordships' House that the Friendshave an unsurpassed record in the service of backward peoples.I must speak with great respect for those nine Friends in Salisbury. I admire their courage in speaking out for the Society of Friends. I think they were a little mistaken in their discretion. In fact, I am told today by the official body of the Society, through their recording clerk, that the only way in which they could have expressed themselves so as to speak for the Society of Friends was to send a minute of their views to what is called their monthly meeting, which is in the Transvaal.
This gives a picture of the tremendous area that is covered by the organisation of the Society of Friends in trying to deal with their difficulties. That minute should have gone to the Transvaal. It never went there. Instead, a letter was written in the "Rhodesian Herald" by a man who has every right to have an opinion, and whose opinion I certainly respect, but it was not the opinion of the Society of Friends that was represented in another place.
I quote that as an example of the rushing tactics of the Government to put across an opinion about federation which. 103 when the facts are examined in detail, cannot be supported. Although I should give regard to what these Friends, even though they are only nine in number, think about the matter, I do not think that the House of Commons or the House of Lords should be misled into judgments upon this matter in the way that they have been.
I have a letter which has been sent to me by a leading member of the London meeting of the Society of Friends, Mr. James Strachan, in which he says that whileadmitting the possibility of federation being in itself a good thing, provided it is accompanied by the abolition of the colour bar and the opening of the same opportunities in education, in industry and in the professions, to all races equally, and carries with it an equitable franchise, none of which advantages are secured by the present proposal …the Society of Friends would be willing to consider giving their support to the scheme.
But, then, so would we. We are entirely of that view. It is because the country has been rigged into the supporting of this scheme of federation, when adequate attention has not been given to the very large scale of resentment that is being expressed in liberal quarters and in church quarters against the continuance of the scheme, that I should have thought the Colonial Secretary would have been glad, and not resentful, as he was, to accept the proposal of my right hon. Friend.
I am certain that if given the opportunity of a Select Committee with an ultimate right itself to go to Africa and meet the Africans themselves, as well as the people about whose opinions there is now so much uncertainty amongst the white settlers, we could probably arrive at a much truer and much better settlement than the one into which we are now rushing.
I only say—I certainly have no right to speak for the Society of Friends unless I base my case on this—that if there be any opening anywhere in Africa for the processes of reconciliation rather than of enforcement, those are the methods that we ought to adopt. I say that for Kenya. I should like to see Kenya being persuaded to give up some of its advantages, on which new co-operative experiments 104 could be backed and tried, out of which the Africans might get a better life.
I say to people in South Africa, followers of Dr. Malan, living as they do in a panic about the increasing size of the black populations amidst which they live, that I would listen to their contentions with regard to this matter; and yet still I should ask for reconciliation, and for an attempt on the part of those who have the power to look at the case of those who have no power. I say the same thing now for this vast proposal that confronts us in Central Africa.
A little further time spent in consideration may be well worth while as we think of the alternatives with which Africa everywhere is faced. It is because of the proposal that my right hon. Friend has made that I still plead with the Government to reconsider the matter and to make some effort to hold up this thing until further discussion can take place with the leaders of African opinion.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Braine (Billericay)
I had no intention of intervening in this debate until I heard the impassioned plea of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson). I always listen to him, as I know everyone else in the House does, with great respect for his beliefs and faith, but in this particular instance I feel that he has a misguided conception of things. If I understood the case that he was advancing, it was that the Government had been precipitate in this matter, and that, whatever the case might be for federation, they were rushing ahead too fast without taking account of the fears, doubts, susceptibilities of the great mass of the African population who will be affected. That I understood to be the gravamen of his case.
Of course, it is right for this House, so long as it is responsible for the 70 million of human beings who live in the colonial territories, to be solicitous for their well-being, and to be sure before we take any step likely to affect their future. The step we are taking in this case will affect their future profoundly, and it is right that we should be careful what we say and what we do, but the House has had numerous opportunities of deciding this matter. It has been argued almost ad nauseam. Indeed, when it came before the House the last 105 time hon. and right hon. Gentlemen over there who happened to know something about Africa, far from joining with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ealing, North and those who hold his views, abstained from voting, and the Government's majority on that occasion, if I remember aright, was 44.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Does the hon. Gentleman not see what the point here is? It is precisely that the House of Commons has several times decided to go forward with this scheme without hearing African opinion that has given rise to this Petition and to this Motion. What they are saying is, ''Do not go further without giving us, the Africans, the right to be heard ourselves, before you assent."
§ Mr. Braine
The answer to that, as I think the hon. Gentleman knows full well, is that opportunity was given to the responsible leaders of African opinion to come to London and to join in consultations.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not talking about all that matter. That has been dealt with time and again. I am dealing now with the point that six million Africans desire through their chiefs to be heard by us; not in a conference with somebody else, but by the House of Commons, either at the Bar or by a Select Committee. That is the point.
§ Mr. Braine
Maybe, but the trouble is that they who framed the Motion are not aware of the facts, but only of some of them. For example, the Paramount Chief of the Barotse and his native council have announced that they are not opposed to federation—
§ Mr. Braine
I cannot give way again. I have given way on numerous occasions. The Barotse, as the hon. Gentleman should know—
§ Mr. Braine
It is not possible for the hon. Gentleman to say that I am misleading the House at least until I have 106 finished my argument, and he would be wiser to withhold his judgment until then. I am saying that the charge which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Come (Mr. S. Silverman) has just made is that we have ignored the feelings and views of six million Africans.
§ Mr. Braine
I am pointing out that in the case of the Barotse, the most important, the most numerous tribe in Southern Rhodesia—
§ Mr. Braine
—Northern Rhodesia. I think such slips are permissible when there are so many interruptions by hon. Gentlemen opposite who are not concerned with establishing the truth of the matter, but only with pursuing—
§ Mr. Hale
On a point of order. The hon. Gentleman says, pointing to me, that hon. Gentlemen on this side are not concerned with establishing the truth of the matter. The Secretary of State himself has denied every fact that the hon. Member is making. He did that in his opening speech which the hon. Gentleman was not here to hear. I did seek to try to correct him, to try to help him.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think that that carries any imputation of falsehood. I think it is probably allowable. I am sure the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) would withdraw any imputation.
§ Mr. Braine
With great respect and humility, I do not think I have anything to withdraw. The charge was made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne that the wishes and desires of six million Africans in this matter were not being taken into account. My reply to that 107 was that the Paramount Chief of the Barotse, one of the most powerful and numerous communities in Central Africa, has made it crystal clear that he and his tribe, for whom he was speaking, are not opposed to federation, which makes complete nonsense of the assertion of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne.
§ Mr. Hale
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because the right hon. Gentleman made perfectly crystal clear in his opening speech that the Paramount Chief of the Barotse, who are in Northern Rhodesia, and in respect of whom in the Lewanika Agreement there is a practical agreement made with the chieftainship as such, provided they will guarantee him certain specific and special rights, would withdraw his opposition. That is the position. Does the hon. Gentleman want to deny that fact now?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) has misquoted what he calls a charge I made. I was not concerned, and I think he knows I was not concerned, with whether the Africans had been given an opportunity to be heard elsewhere or not. I was concerned with the particular Motion before the House now, which is about their application to be heard by this House, and it is that opportunity which the Government are now denying.
§ Mr. Braine
We are travelling over ground that has already been well trampled on before. The opportunity has existed before; advantage was not taken of it. This House has had numerous opportunities to discuss the matter. It has discussed it. It has decided what shall be done. I suggest that this Motion makes a mockery of Parliament. Parliament has made its decision in this matter.
I turn now to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ealing, North. I respect his motives. He wishes to delay because he believes it is our Christian duty to do so. But I am surely entitled to point out that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) writing in "The Times" on 27th February, 1953, disagreeing with Miss Perham, a distinguished writer on the subject, said:I completely disagree with her plea that Central African Federation should be delayed. I think it is imperative that federation should now go through for the following reasons.108 This is what the right hon. Gentleman, who is, after all, a responsible figure, and who has held responsible office, said:First and foremost because it is best for the Africans. I should not, therefore, oppose federation even though there are points about the present scheme which are obviously open to improvement. It will be disastrous for the Africans if it does not go through.Now either the right hon. Gentleman is right and his hon. Friends are wrong, or vice versa. I am inclined to believe that the right hon. Gentleman is right. And Parliament has decided that he is right.
Why is it important that federation should go through? The main concern of all of us in this House is to see that the living standards of the great mass of people in Africa are raised. That is the whole object of federation. How can living standards be raised unless there is a quite massive economic development? I do not want to go over the arguments advanced in successive debates in this House, but anybody who knows the Central African territories knows at once that economically they are interdependent.
All three are landlocked; all three depend upon the same lines of communication to the sea. The copper of Northern Rhodesia cannot be worked without the coal of Southern Rhodesia; the minerals and the agriculture of the two Rhodesias cannot be developed without Nyasaland labour. Federation is a logical outcome. It is absolutely essential if there is to be the economic development which would ensure the production of that wealth which will enable living standards, social services and educational opportunity, which all of us on both sides of the House desire for the great mass of the African population.
The Northern Territories will benefit. Whatever may be said about the conditions of Africans in all three Territories, in Southern Rhodesia twice as much money is spent per head on the African population as is spent in the two Protectorates. If you like, it is an indictment of Colonial Office rule that insufficient money has been found in these Territories compared with what has been found in Southern Rhodesia for the education of Africans.
But the plain fact of the matter is that we are here dealing with societies at vastly different levels of developments; we are dealing with a people the great mass of 109 whom did not know in their youth that the spoken word could be written down, that there were such simple aids to living as the wheel, the loom, or the plough. How can we ensure social and political advance, how can we ensure the standards of living to which we feel these people are entitled without that economic development which can come about only as a result of the economic integration of these three Territories? I say economic integration because the scheme which this House was asked to accept lays down quite clearly political safeguards for the Africans in the Northern Territories.
I had no intention of taking up so much time of the House, and I shall now resume my seat. But I feel that, Parliament having discussed this subject repeatedly, opportunity having been given in the past for African interests to be consulted—opportunity which was not taken because African leaders were, I believe, wrongly advised by people who had ulterior motives; and I say that deliberately—it is making a mockery of Parliament for the House to give ear to the Motion put down on the Order Paper. For that reason, I join those who ask for it to be rejected.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)
My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) moved us to laughter when he described how slender a foundation there was behind Lord Salisbury's invocation of the Society of Friends in support of the Government's policy, but I am sure, as he knew, and as we all realise, there was something very much more in what he said than a laughing matter, although we all laughed at the time. It was a very striking indication of the lack of care on the part of the Government in its presentation to Parliament of the case for federation.
I have not had the advantage of many who have spoken in these debates, of having travelled to these Territories and having got to know them by intimate personal knowledge. I have therefore listened to much of the several debates that we have had on the subject, anxious to try to find out what the real facts were, and when I come across an episode like that related by my hon. Friend, the 110 question I am obliged to ask myself is this.
Here is a matter on which it was perfectly easy for the Government to inform themselves of the view of the Society of Friends on this question of federation. The Government apparently take no steps to inform themselves of that, but rush into a long and emphatic statement in one of the Houses of Parliament based on completely inaccurate evidence. If that is what they will do about a matter which five minutes research could have put right, what reliance are those of us who do not know these Territories from first-hand knowledge to place in their assertions that Africans think this, that and the other?
The real point of our debate today, as I understand it, is to satisfy ourselves beyond doubt of the state of African opinion. There is no doubt at all that we shall shortly be asked in a Bill to approve a scheme of federation which is certainly opposed by a considerable number of Africans of considerable standing. I will put it no higher than that. What I have noticed is that the advocates of federation have not been advancing the argument that there is any substantial body of vocal African opinion in favour of federation.
I readily concede two points at once. First, it would be quite unreasonable to say, "We will not proceed with the plan unless every section of African opinion agrees with it." Nobody would wish to give any single section of African opinion a complete veto on any proposal. I concede, too, that it is often by no means easy to find out what is the real opinion of the people in these Territories. But even when we have conceded those two points, the fact remains that it is not merely one or two sections of African opinion that are opposed to this. It is nearly every section of African opinion.
The difficulty of those who advocate federation has been to produce any considable section of African opinion in support of it. If it is suggested that, after all, those Africans who can think of coming to stand at the Bar of this House or to address a Select Committee are not representative of the toiling, primitive people who make up so large a section of the population of those Territories— they cannot, of course, be completely 111 representative of them—I would point out that in the past the British Administration in these Territories has tried to devise ways of finding out what African opinion was, as far as that could be done. It has appointed particular people and particular authorities for that very purpose. Now we find it is through those very channels that we get answers hostile to federation.
It does not seem to me, as a matter of common sense, that we can say that particular people or particular councils, who in the past have been used by the British Administration as a way of finding out what African opinion was, can be brushed aside the moment they begin to express an opinion which is not welcome to the British Government of the day.
The difficulty of hon. Members like myself, who do not claim expert personal knowledge of this matter, but who are trying to judge it, as I think every hon. Member ought, as a very solemn matter of conscience, is that there seems to be no doubt that, so far as African opinion can be ascertained at all, there is a very substantial body of African opinion which is strongly opposed to this plan, and it has been very difficult to find African opinion in favour of it.
This matter is something which the House must treat very differently from the domestic issues on which we spend so much time. If we offend public opinion or go against the wishes of constituents on domestic matters, our constituents are in a position to hit back at the next election. We are now dealing with the fortunes of people who cannot elect whether any of us shall go on sitting in this House or not, and whose resentment, if we chose wrongly, may be visited ultimately on a subsequent generation but will not be visited on us. That adds much more to the burden of conscience we beat in trying to make up our minds.
I should have thought that in this circumstance, since this is a matter which we ought to weigh carefully and since there is obviously a serious weight of African opinion against it, it is not unreasonable to take the step of allowing representative Africans to speak directly to this House as a whole, either, as the Motion suggests, through a Select Committee, or, as has been suggested, at the 112 Bar of the House. Another suggestion was that they should make a personal appeal to Her Majesty.
I notice that the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), advocating the advantages of African Federation, quoted as an analogy the Union of England and Scotland. I do not know how serious he was, but if he will study the picture in St. Stephen's Hall he will find that the representatives of the Kingdom of Scotland on that occasion were considered people of sufficient standing to be received by Her then Majesty.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Would the hon. Gentleman complete the historical picture? In the case of Wales, they only came into the Union when they were presented with the Prince who knew no English.
§ Mr. Stewart
It seems to me that there are several ways in which African opinion might present itself to this House and to the people of this country. It ought not to be for us who want that to be done to have to make a case for it. In view of the gravity of the matter and the undoubted opposition of considerable sections of African opinion, surely the burden of proof should be on the other side? We ought, I think, to accept what is argued in this Motion unless overwhelming reasons for turning down the proposal should in fact be advanced.
There is another matter on which I hope, without going too wide of the immediate subject of debate, I may be allowed to touch. If I understand this Constitution as it is likely to work out in practice, we shall be faced with this position. When federation first starts to work, of necessity the great bulk of political power will be in white hands. No one seriously complains of that; it is quite an inevitable circumstance at the present time. But we are living in a world which is changing very rapidly, and no constitution for any part of Africa will succeed unless we can be certain that as time goes on there is progressively greater opportunity for Africans to come in and take a share in political power. A constitution for an African community has to be, above all things, flexible to allow increased participation as African capacity for political activity increases.
I believe that we shall find, when we study this proposed Constitution, and if we imagine in the light of historical 113 knowledge and experience how it is likely to work, that if we approve the scheme as it now is, this House will have parted with any power of determining in the future what part the African shall play in the Government of the proposed new federation. We shall, in fact, for all practical purposes, have left it in the hands of the white minority, who must necessarily govern at the beginning, to determine when any future advance of the African community to political power shall be made.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wishes to be fair, by making reference to the fact that the working of the Constitution will be under review after the first seven years.
§ Mr. Stewart
I recognise that point. I wonder, however, if the right hon. Gentleman really feels certain that at the end of seven years, if this Constitution has been working for those seven years, it would be practical politics for the Government of this country to say to the white minority in the Federation, "You are going to admit the African community to share in Government."
This is a matter of opinion. I do not believe, looking at the Constitution and knowing how human institutions work out, we should in fact be able to do that. What I am afraid of—and I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is a possible danger; I believe it to be a very probable and almost certain one— is that we are handing over completely now, if we accept this scheme of federation, our responsibility for the future development of the Africans to the white minority in the federation.
Since there is. as I think, almost certainty of that, and as everyone must agree at least the possibility of it, it seems to me that is yet another reason for stopping and thinking again before we take an inevitable step of that kind. I do suggest, both on the argument I have just advanced and on the argument on which I have spoken previously, that the burden of proof is on those who want to defeat this Motion. Can they advance any overwhelming reasons why this further opportunity for African opinion to express itself directly to the House should not be granted? I do not think that the reasons so far advanced have been conclusive. We have been told that the Africans had 114 been given the opportunity to come along and state their case and they would not take it. Now we turn round and say, "He who will not when he may when he will shall have nay."
That is the smart answer, but it is not the spirit in which a great question of this kind ought to be approached. Even if one took the view that the Africans were totally ill-advised not to take the opportunity previously open to them, is it wise for us to try to score off them now? The issues are too grave to be dealt with in that manner.
Then it is suggested that if there is delay the opportunity for federation will be lost. I have heard that argument advanced many times, and I am bound to say that it has never carried conviction with me. Is it suggested that if we do not put this plan into operation as soon as we can get the Bill through the House opinion in the Territories concerned will swing irretrievably against us? Will white opinion swing irretrievably against us? I do not think so. Is it suggested that African opinion will become more hostile to us than it is now? If those whose believe in this scheme really believe in it, have they not sufficient faith in it to hope that given further time for argument and consideration African opinion would begin to swing in their direction.
The hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) argued that the chief of Barotseland was in favour or, at least, not opposed to a scheme of federation. If we have a Select Committee might it not be possible for that representative of African opinion to put his view before the Select Committee? Might not that carry weight with hon. Members like myself who have striven to see what is the just solution. I find it very difficult to be impressed or convinced when I am told that it is highly inadvisable that African opinion should have an opportunity of addressing this House.
§ Mr. Braine
I have been following the hon. Gentleman's observations with great interest. I can see how sincere he is about all this. The peculiar thing is that all this concern which is being evinced now by the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends was not evinced at an earlier stage. African opinion was not consulted 115 by the Labour Government at the Victoria Falls conference in 1951. No steps were taken in the earlier stages through the medium of the district officers to advise the tribual leaders to help African opinion understand the advantages of federation. If the wrong foot was put forward as regards consulting African opinion as to federation, it was put forward then.
§ Mr. Stewart
I think that the hon. Gentleman might have made observations of that length when he previously had the ear of the House. What the hon. Member has said is very far from accurate. At the Victoria Falls Conference my right hon. Friend gave considerable opportunity for African opinion to be expressed and made it clear throughout that he would not be a party to imposing the scheme against the whole weight of African opinion. With the exception of a few hon. Friends of mine who took a different view, as they are entitled to do, there has never been any difference among the Labour Party at any time that a federation scheme of any kind ought not to be imposed against the great weight of African opinion. Shortly after the present Government came into power, my right hon. Friend made it clear that in opposition he was still of the same opinion as he had been in office.
Even if everything which the hon. Member for Billericay is charging us with were correct, even if it were true that we have failed to consult African opinion—which I do not admit—is there any reason why that error should now be persisted in? It really will not do.
§ Mr. Stewart
I cannot give way again. One other argument against delay was advanced by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin). He drew a grim picture of a Mau Mau terror spreading into these Territories if the House decided to allow African opinion to be heard at the Bar of the House or before a Select Committee. I defer to his intimate knowledge of the Territories, but I was struck by two considerations while he was saying that. Terrible events like those which have been happening in Kenya do not emerge without a previous period of preparation on the part of the Terrorists. I wonder if the Secretary of State agreed with the hon. 116 Member for Leominster. Does he take the view that if we delay any more over federation there will be an outbreak of Mau Mau-like activities in the Central African Territories? If he does think so, what steps is his office taking to deal with it?
The answer is that this is a mere bogy conjured up by the hon. Member for Leominster. There has not been a single occasion in history when rioting, violence and barbarism have resulted because Governments have been willing to hear what subject-people have had to say. The whole history of our Empire is punctuated by occasions when violence, disturbance and terrible cruelties on both sides have occurred because there was no patience, slowness and consultation but instead arrogance, refusal to listen and precipitate and reckless action.
Another analogy was quoted by the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe). He asked if it was suggested that there should be a Select Committee when the Indian Princes were concerned about their rights. As far as I know, it was not, but if it had occurred to any hon. Members opposite to make such a suggestion, and if the Indian Princes themselves had expressed a desire for any such thing, I for one should have regarded it as a request to be considered very carefully indeed. I believe that if such a request had been made, we should not have retorted cheaply that it was a party manoeuvre on the part of the Conservatives, which is the sort of suggestion that some hon. Members have made about the Motion.
I really do not feel that the case against the Motion has been made. It really is for those who say "Do not give Africans this opportunity" to prove their case, and I do not believe that they have done so.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Morecambe and Lonsdale)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) started this movement, and he was going well ahead with it. and I have no doubt that he intended to bring it to a conclusion before this. Now he is devising methods of delay. Anyone who heard him on the wireless the other night will no doubt believe that he has sincere feelings in the matter, but why has he completely turned a somersault?
§ Sir I. Fraser
It was the right hon. Gentleman who was pressing the matter forward, he went to Africa to meet the people and to discuss it with them, he started the whole thing going; and the present scheme is almost identical with that which he approved. Of course, he and his hon. Friends say, "There is this difference and that difference" as if it were really an important difference, but no one who honestly looks at the scheme as he left it and as it is now before the peoples could say that there is any real difference.
§ Sir I. Fraser
I do not think the Minister claims that. One side or the other may say that the differences are important for the sake of political argument, but there is really not very much difference between the two schemes.
It is said that the scheme should not be carried forward even at this late date because the beneficiaries do not agree with it. For the purpose of my argument I accept that they do not agree with it. I will not traverse the ground as to the degree of understanding among them or the progress towards civilisation which has been taking place among them or among some of them. I will accept that the beneficiaries do not agree with it. That does not take away from the trustee the obligation to carry out his responsibility, and we are the trustees at the present time. If, therefore, we think it right, the objection of the beneficiaries —though I will not say that it is immaterial—does not absolve us from our responsibilities. The majority of this House has more than once said that the scheme is right, a majority which includes a substantial number of hon. Members opposite, and only 18 months ago the right hon. Gentlemen now in the Opposition Front Bench would have been on our side in this matter.
§ Sir I. Fraser
They would have been. I affirm that all that has happened is simply that they have changed sides in the House and that has made them present the matter differently.
§ Sir I. Fraser
That will be a matter of opinion. I affirm that the real essential difference is that they have changed sides in the House and that has made them change sides in their opinion. I will give it to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that they believe the matter has altered all that much. Many of them, especially the right hon. Member for Llanelly, are most emotional persons who very often believe what they say and very often say what they believe. I do not say that in any critical sense but only to try to understand their attitude. Believing now that the scheme has changed, moved to that belief by their own change of position, they are now setting up every conceivable argument and device to hold in check a scheme which is almost identical with the one which they were pressing. That vitiates to a very large extent many of the arguments that they have been making today which, superficially, appear to be so powerful.
It is not denied in any part of the House that economic advantage will flow from federation, that the territories require economic help very badly and that they can more readily produce more wealth for all the people living in them if they are integrated and work together. What is said by the Opposition is that a sufficient degree of elasticity in political development is not allowed by the scheme. Apart from the argument that it is the same scheme which the right hon. Gentleman approved and that it gives exactly the same opportunities to the Africans of coming into political rights, we have got to face the fact that from this small island we cannot for ever manage all the interests of all the peoples in the Commonwealth without calling on the help of men of our race and culture who have gone out to settle in these places.
It is quite clear to me—the House knows that I have some knowledge of these peoples—that the white people out there are going to stay, and without their help the management of these territories and countries is quite impossible. Moreover, I do not accept the view that directly an Englishman, a Scotsman, a Welshman or an Irishman, who are acceptable here at home, go to these territories they become less worthy and less 119 decent. They are our people. My relations—and I dare say the relations of many on both sides of the House—are helping to manage these places, and we cannot do without them.
The view which they take in these matters must surely weigh with us. We cannot for ever bear the burden and carry the responsibility of the economic and political development of these various territories from the Colonial Office thousands of miles from the countries concerned. We must, as did the Liberal Government of 1906, give to the local settlers the opportunity to rule and gradually to make their countries independent. That was what the Liberals did in 1906 in South Africa, and that policy was supported by the Labour Party in its early days. It was a policy of letting the civilised, capable European peoples in South Africa become the Government. They became the de jure Government, and then gradually the de facto Government.
That same process must go on, and we are taking a further step in that direction, which seems to me to be an inevitable one. We must share the burden with the local Europeans who live in these places, who have a strong local interest in them, whose home is there, and who understand how to live in the climate and amongst the native peoples. It is a development which gradually takes place over the decades or over the centuries, and it will be guided by the local Europeans themselves. Surely that is inevitable; and if it is inevitable, then it is quite unrealistic for us not to recognise it.
There was the referendum in Southern Rhodesia. Was not that recognised as part of the whole proceedings of one of the partners to this enterprise, and which the right hon. Gentleman himself approved? Did he or did he not approve of the referendum? Did he not think it a good thing that Southern Rhodesia should enter into it? Did he not know when it was going to be done? Did he not time the time-table to take that into account, and now that the vote has gone against himself he wants to change the rules of the game?
I submit the right hon. Gentleman has changed his position and that that 120 change is coincidental with moving from this side of the House to the other. He has no logic to support it. It is too late for him to come along and cry that this matter should again be talked over, that these people should be asked to come here and say what they have to say all over again. Millions of people who do not know what it is and cannot even write cannot really be heard; that is something which everybody on both sides of the House knows perfectly well.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) made the point that because these African representatives had of their own volition stayed out of the Colonial Secretary's Conference they ought not to be denied the right to come to this House. But some of them did speak to Members of both parties, and if they were not at the Colonial Secretary's Conference they were in conference with hon. Members of all parties. They would have nothing new or fresh to say even if they did come. This seems to me to be a device to enable the right hon. Gentleman to escape from his former position now that he has no longer any responsibility in the matter.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)
The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) did a great injustice to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), because he should know that, although my right hon. Friend did endeavour to press forward with a scheme for federation, he made it perfectly clear that, however desirable that scheme was, it must not be imposed against the consent of the people in the locality. The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale completely ignored that factor, and tried to make out that our attitude was due entirely to the fact that we have crossed from one side of the Chamber to the other.
§ Sir I. Fraser
Surely the right hon. Gentleman was going to impose his scheme, and that is precisely what objection is taken to.
§ Mr. Sorensen
There is not the slightest evidence of that. Can the hon. Gentleman quote a single occasion when my right hon. Friend suggested that it should be imposed? He knows, or he ought to know, that there is not one single 121 occasion, and therefore I suggest to him as an honourable man that he ought to withdraw the unworthy imputation on my right hon. Friend. If he does not withdraw these unworthy imputations, then I will leave it to the House to judge the issue.
It has been made quite clear all the time in the Labour Party that although federation in principle may be quite sound, as indeed it is in the case of the Caribbean Islands, as it may be elsewhere and as it may be in this case, we hold to the principle that, unless there was not only consultation but consent on the part of the majority of the human beings in the areas affected, then it should not be imposed.
I understand those who say that we must exercise our responsibility, and in spite of any resistance we must impose the scheme against any resistance, but while appreciating that I warn hon. Members that that view includes one of the elements in the Communist case. One of the elements in the Communist case is that the great mass of the people, especially those who are ill-educated, cannot know what is best for them. They will take a long time to be educated, and even then they may not be educated in the best way. Therefore, what is right and necessary must be imposed upon them as good for them. That was the reasoning when the Bolshevik Revolution took place, because its leaders held that their conception of a new social order should be imposed on the people of Russia in the belief that in the course of time they could be indoctrinated and educated to appreciate that what had been in the first case imposed upon them even against their wills was far their good.
I am not disputing the sincerity of those who hold the view that this scheme should be imposed in Central Africa, but what I am saying is that such an idea supports the case of Communism for imposing something despite the disinclination of the majority to accept it. It also supports the case of Dr. Malan in the Union of South Africa, where we know the great majority of the people are disfranchised and where he desires to take away the franchise from another large section of human beings. It also makes a strong case for Dr. Malan's demand that Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Swaziland 122 should be transferred to the Union. So this policy of imposing federation is a dangerous one.
On the other hand, I am prepared to admit the case put forward more than once by the other side of the House, as well as by some hon. Members on this side, that federation would have powerful economic advantages. That may be so, though I do not admit that such advantages could not have been secured in another way. Assuming, however, that it is true, it is not the real issue. The real issue is whether, even granted economic advantages, we must impose this scheme of federation against the wishes of the majority of the human beings in that locality.
The same could have been said of the forcible union of Eire with this country. From the economic point of view it is probable that Eire has suffered. It is also possible that other areas more closely associated with us in the past than they are now have also suffered. Yet we did not hold that up as a reason for refusing self-government to Eire. It must be recognised that, on the grounds of expediency at least, if not of morality, it is wise to put on one side the economic argument and recognise either the necessity of granting self-government or, on the other hand, the pre-eminence of the moral and democratic argument.
I ask the House to realise that many of the arguments used today and in previous debates against the acceptance of the overwhelming opinion of the people in those areas could have been advanced with regard to India. I have not been to Central Africa myself but I am sure that the majority of the black human beings living in Central Africa do not fully understand the details of federation. Just as I was sure when I went to India that the majority did not fully understand all the implications of independence.
If the House does not mind a personal illustration, I remember being in a rather lonely village talking with a number of assembled Indians, some Moslems, some Sikhs, some Hindus. I asked as a test question whether they knew anything about Gandhi or about Jinnah. I did not ask them about independence because I thought it might be too ambiguous and too detailed. I found their replies amusing. One said, "Oh, yes, we have heard 123 about Gandhi, he is a good man." Another said, "He will give us more to cat." All the answers were simple and naive, showing little understanding of all that was politically involved in Indian independence.
Because of that, however, we did not say, "We know what is best for you. Despite the fact that a minority are clamouring for independence, we say that the majority do not understand it and therefore, on economic as well as on other grounds, we insist that you maintain this close connection with the British Government and the British Crown." What happened was that hon. Members on both sides of the House said that, whatever were our personal opinions, we must recognise that independence must be granted to India even though it might be to the economic disadvantage of its people.
Many of the arguments put forward by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen do not stand the test, which is as follows. Firstly we must recognise that our case is not that federation is unsound or without benefit but that federation should not be imposed against the consent of the majority. Secondly, the arguments that have been put forward could just as well have been made against the granting of independence to India or to Eire. Thirdly, although it may be economically advantageous, that is not the real issue.
Once or twice today we have heard references to the fact that there is no African mind. It may be the majority have little political understanding but at least there is a minority who have, and some of us have met the representatives of that minority. What is more, there are Englishmen of repute, such as Mr. Moffat, who, though they may be in favour of federation as a principle, are nevertheless now advising us against imposing it contrary to the wishes of the people. Even a moderate like Miss Margery Perham says practically the same thing. There are also two members of my own party who have been out to Africa who have returned with a different point of view. Of course, the views of all these people must be taken into consideration.
I am not impressed by the arguments put forward by some who say they have lived there for a long time and know the country. It is not acquaintance with 124 a country that should determine our judgment, but our political or ethical principles. I am not impressed, therefore, by the fact that some people have bone out to Africa and seen for themselves, because others have gone out and translated what they saw in quite a different manner. Yet they all saw the same facts. What is the explanation for the different conclusions which they reached? I say that the explanation is surely due to the fact that a different criterion of judgment exists, a different perspective and a different perception of how things should work and what we should do.
I do not deny that this plea for the democratic will has its dangers and difficulties. I know full well that criticism made by the critics, whether of the right or the left, of democracy and of the alleged superficial nature of the mass mind, is very substantial. My constituency is one of the most enlightened in the country.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Yes, I have. I have been a Member of Parliament for an aggregate of over 20 years and I have been in the district for 40 years, as well. I think that is fair evidence, plus the fact, as one of my hon. Friends said— I would not have said it myself, being too modest—that they have returned me several times. I know full well that a number of people, because they work long hours and because they may not have had the necessary opportunity or background of education, are not acquainted with all the details of the many Bills which we bring before the House. I am quite certain that if I asked the average member of my constituency to give details of the Transport Bill or the Steel Bill, they could not, and I question very much whether many hon. Members would be able to give the answer.
But that does not alter the fact that there is a real understanding of the main principles in my constituency. That is also true in Central Africa. We met these Africans when they came to this country. Some of them I was pleased to show round my own constituency, without any political bias, showing them 125 what our democracy could do; and I would have been happy to have taken them over other districts, too. I should have welcomed other hon. Members doing the same thing. I am quite certain that those representatives who came to my constituency could put a case as soundly as most in this House for the things in which we believe.
They are the representatives of the people just as Nehru, Gandhi and Jinnah were the representatives of the great masses, the illiterate people, in India; just as today it is also true of Mr. Nkrumah in the Gold Coast. Does one assume that the great mass of the people in the Gold Coast or Nigeria understand all the political implications of democracy? Of course not. They simply know the broad issues and they look up to certain representatives who are their spokesmen.
Perhaps I may quote these sentences from William Morris, a great townsman of mine, who should be respected by all in this House, a great craftsman and artist, a great Socialist:Yea, the voiceless wrath of the wretchedAnd the unlearned discontent—We must give it voice and wisdom'Till the waiting tide be spent.He meant by those words, 50 or 60 years ago, that time and again there would come a great flood of discontent, easy to dissipate.
There have been many great movements in history which have spent their force but there have also been the few who led them, canalised their discontent and became their voices. Those men who came from Africa and those who want to come here, either to the Bar of the House or to a Select Committee, are the voices of the great incoherent masses they represent. If we deny them their right to represent those people, we deny the right of large numbers in this House to represent the multitude who sent them here.
If those leaders in Central Africa had professed themselves in favour of federation, I am quite certain there would have been no criticism in the House suggesting that they were not representative. In fact, there is a suspicious eagerness on the part of some hon. Members to seize hold of anybody who expresses an opinion in favour of federation and to regard him as being truly representative of the African people. The Chief of the Barotse 126 has been quoted and there has been that amusing but rather unfortunate episode about the Society of Friends.
Perhaps I may say, in passing, that the noble Lord in another place, and all those who used the argument that the Society of Friends has supported federation, have been using it in a rather slick way. They must have known, or should have known, that those nine people were not representative, but they did not bother to inquire, and I suggest that is not entirely scrupulous political warfare.
§ Mr. J. Foster
The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) made the intervention. The noble Lord said the Society of Friends in Southern Rhodesia had done something. I think it has been assumed by the hon. Member for Ealing, North and the hon. Gentleman that the noble Lord had said it was the Society of Friends as a whole, and the last sentence of the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) bears that out.
§ Mr. Sorensen
If that is so, naturally, I apologise. I want to be quite scrupulous. But even if the noble Lord simply referred to the Society of Friends in Rhodesia he did not take the trouble to ask what was the strength of the Society there.
§ Sir I. Fraser
The number of Friends in the hon. Gentleman's constituency is about the same as in Southern Rhodesia.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Again I do not see the point, because I would not argue that the Society of Friends in my constituency, which numbers very many more, is necessarily representative of the Society of Friends in this country. I would not speak as if the local meeting, of which both my daughter and son-in-law are members, represented the Society of Friends as a whole. I should make it quite clear that if they gave an opinion at all it was simply the opinion of that meeting and I should make inquiries as to what was the strength of the meeting and what significance was to be attached to it before I issued a letter to the Press. That is the scrupulous thing to do, and what I was arguing was that the noble Lord, an elder statesman representative of the Upper House, even though he may have referred to the Rhodesian Society 127 of Friends, should have inquired more scrupulously and carefully, if he wished to quote that source, about the numerical strength of the opinion supporting federation.
The point arose out of my other argument—that the eagerness of hon. Members in this House and of others supporting federation to seize anyone, African or otherwise, in order to show how public opinion is on the side of federation, is proof of the other argument which I used: that if the African leaders, who today are being told they are not truly representative, had been supporting federation, there would have been no sign in this House or anywhere else that they would not have been accepted in that capacity.
The impression is therefore left on the Central African—and I know this is so from conversations I had with them when they were here and from correspondence —that we assured them that federation would not be established without their being consulted and without their consent. Although there is a difference between consultation and consent, they did not take it that way. They thought that consultation meant we should not only confer with them but in the end would secure their agreement. That is how they took it. I agree that they should not have been so general in their interpretation, but I suggest any of us who had been assured we should be consulted before something was established might well have interpreted the word "consultation" in much the same way.
In the course of time they found we did not mean that but that we would consult them and hear what they had to say and, in spite of what they had to say, if they disagreed, we should impose it against their will. That has left a most unfortunate impression upon many Africans not merely in Central Africa but elsewhere. Many say, "When you start talking with the English people, be very careful. When they use words, we think the words mean one thing but they think they mean another." I am not saying they are justified. I know full well that people often use words in a slip-shod way, but we have an obligation to give a precise meaning to words. We should appreciate how easy it is for those who may not be as precise in grammar and diction as we are, to suffer from a mis- 128 understanding. We want to remove that misunderstanding.
I know the suggestion that they should come to the Bar of the House or to a Select Committee may sound rather extravagant or perhaps even melodramatic, but it is precisely that sort of thing which has a great psychological and symbolical effect. I do not want to see the Africans drawn into what are called unconstitutional ways, and I will not encourage that for a single moment. The reverse is true. But one hon. Member earlier, who in a rather patronising way, was lecturing my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) quite ignored the fact that when it suited their purpose many Members of the Conservative Party were quite prepared to take unconstitutional action in Ulster.
From time to time most people have been involved in unconstitutional action. Outside there is a statue to Oliver Cromwell and further up the road there is another statue to Charles I, both of whom, from different standpoints, could be accused of unconstitutional action. I say that in order that we may get this thing in proper balance, for when it suits our purpose everybody is inclined to say, "We cannot get our way by argument and by reason; we will smash our way through." I do not support such a policy and I will do all in my power to persuade my African friends not to-engage in unconstitutional action.
In order to deal with the position and to dissolve the bitterness which they possess at the present time, in order to restore the goodwill which did exist and which I believe can exist again, we must take an imaginative action. Therefore, in spite of all that is said about their weakness or error in not coming to-take part in discussions here, do not let us use that against them. They are now pleading that they should put their case before Parliament itself. I believe the psychological and symbolical value of that would go a long way to remove the ill feeling and bitterness which unfortunately reigns today.
For that reason I ask the House not to accept a number of debating points nor to stand on their dignity and, above all, not to fall back on the belief that we know what is best. We may know what is best for large numbers in the world, but that day has gone. Either we 129 respect democracy and try to work it when it is difficult and dangerous, or we play into the hands of Communists and others who despise political democracy and use the same argument as has been advanced today. For these reasons, I trust that the imaginative proposals in the Motion will be accepted by the House.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)
I am sure that the House appreciates the modesty of the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), but we on this side have some reason to take exception to the claim, which was implicit in one passage of his speech, that ethical right in this matter belongs to hon. Members opposite and, presumably, never to those on this side of the House.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Let me make it clear that I made no such claim whatever. I did not impute false motives to the other side.
§ Mr. Alport
If, then, I follow the rest of his argument, the whole thing seems to make absolute nonsense of our Trusteeship position as recognised in Africa. If we are not to make a decision on behalf of those to whom responsibilities have been entrusted by treaty, then in fact the chance of our carrying out the reforms and improvements to which we are pledged in Africa as a whole becomes completely nullified. It is on record that there was a considerable opposition to the progress of European education among Africans in the early days. There has been in many parts of Africa strong opposition to the introduction of European medical methods.
According to the argument of the hon. Member, we should never—as indeed we do today in both cases—impose our European system of education and our European system of medicine, but should have left it to the decision and spokesmen, if they existed at that time, or exist now, of the African peoples as a whole. If we go further back to the great social institution of all Africa, which is slavery, 60 years ago I am quite certain that those who claimed to speak for the great majority of Africans at the time would have supported a continuation of a social institution which had been known in Africa for 2,000 years. I cannot accept 130 for a moment the logic of the hon. Member's arguments.
We have come to argue as to the present position of African opinion with regard to federation. I should like to go back to a point which has been bandied about from one side to the other throughout most of this debate, and that is the position of the Paramount Chief of the Barotse in these matters and precisely what he said. The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), when he made a point earlier in the debate, was very careful to refer to the Bemba and the Angoni tribes, but the position of the Barotse in this matter is probably more important.
What did the Paramount Chief of the Barotse say? Here is a record of his message which, for the sake of the record, I will read:If Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom decide to proceed with the federation of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland the Paramount Chief and Council of Barotseland will raise no objection so far as Barotseland is concerned, provided, firstly, that the rights reserved under the Lewanika concessions are preserved by the appropriate provision in the Federal Constitution, as set forth in paragraph 139 of the federal scheme, and, secondly, that that part of Northern Rhodesia known as Barotseland is declared or styled by Order in Council, the Barotseland Protectorate.Those two provisions to which the Paramount Chief has referred are in fact already included in the White Paper issued as a result of the last Conference. Therefore, the provisions that he desires are already met and the truth is that this very important leader and spokesman of African opinion has declared himself in favour of federation.
But the matter does not end there. The hon. Member for Leyton said that we were apt to conjure up one name and then another to prove our case. After all. we are just as entitled to quote views on our side as hon. Members are entitled to quote them on their side. Therefore, I would draw attention to a letter written not long ago to Bulawayo Council by an African minister of the Methodist Church. He said:It is not correct to say that all Africans in this country"—that is Southern Rhodesia—are opposed to federation. It would be true to say that some vocal African leaders are influencing the uninformed African masses to 131 respect federation in toto… Even among the vocal leaders very few of them would refuse to stand as candidates for the Federal Parliament…. On the day of the referendum I voted "yes" for federation. Now is the time to look forward, we cannot live in isolation.The hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart) asked for evidence in support of the claim we made that in fact there is now a very definite trend of opinion among Africans voiced by their leaders in favour of federation. If when the right hon. Member for Llanelly was Colonial Secretary he had made more vigorous efforts, as we claim on this side of the House should have been made, to ensure that the full meaning of federation should be understood by Africans generally, that might have happened. But the right hon. Member—I am sure with the best motives in the world—decided that how he would put the case was to instruct the administrative officers to put both sides and then decline to take sides.
The truth is that over the long history of our association with these African Territories, the Africans, particularly the chiefs, have been accustomed to the administrative officers, their political advisers, guides philosophers and friends, to give their opinion as to the rights and wrongs of any particular issue affecting the lives of the Africans. Therefore we on this side of the House claim, although I do not make a great point of it, that the right hon. Member delayed the support which is now coming from the Africans for federation by not taking the traditional step in colonial policy which has been taken over the previous 50 years or more.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I said in this House on more than one occasion, and I repeat it again, I took that decision after careful thought and consideration, and I stand by it. May I point out to the hon. Member that I was able to secure that the Africans of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia came to discuss the matter where they could put their case, at the Conference at Victoria Falls? All the efforts made since by everyone, including the district officers, failed to prevail on the Africans to come to a subsequent conference.
§ Mr. Alport
I quite understand the right hon. Gentleman's using that argument. The truth of the matter is that by 132 that time the tide had swung against federation among the Africans, and therefore it took some time to recreate confidence in the Administration's point of view; and most particularly—and here I come to the main point of the debate—it was because of the strong and vigorous opposition to the whole idea of federation which had been raised in this country under the leadership of Members of the party opposite.
What is the basis of this debate? I can understand hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I do not think I am wrong in saying—and I am not meaning to be more provocative than I must—that the party opposite as a whole have given the impression to Africans throughout Central Africa that not only are they opposed to federation but they are prepared to see the opposition of the Africans against federation through. They have given the Africans who have opposed federation the impression that the party opposite can prevent federation from coming into force.
They have found not only that the Government are determined to carry on with what we believe to be in the interests of the Africans, but hon. Gentlemen opposite have found that a substantial number of influential Members of their party are in favour of federation. Not only that, but they are finding that whereas they voted against us saying that Church opinion was against federation, there is now a substantial and ever-increasing number of leading figures in the Church who have come out in favour of federation.
The reason why these people did not do it earlier was simply that the majority of members, ministers and priests of all denominations trying to keep as clear of controversial politics as they can. That is the right point of view. They are very anxious not to be implicated in the dust of the controversy that takes place in debates of this sort. Though they were, in the majority of cases as missionaries, in favour of federation, they did not feel called upon, or feel that it was right for them, to step into the arena and argue the case out. It was left to a comparatively small number of those who had a different view of their religious duties and positions as leaders in the Church to appear to express Church opinion and denominational opinion on this subject.
133 Now the thing is gradually adjusting itself. The determination of the Government, and their leadership—the object of putting a Government into power is that it shall give leadership in such matters —are gradually beginning to consolidate behind them, and behind the whole issue of federation, support in many quarters which previously were unknown to be in support of federation. There is nothing extraordinary or strange in the fact that today we are able to claim and to give evidence that federation is, not only in this country but also in Africa itself, and not only among Europeans but among Africans as well, receiving an increasing volume of support.
Why? The reason is very simple and has been argued in this House on many occasions. It is that there are great economic and social advantages behind the closer union of these three Territories. As the African minister I quoted a few minutes ago said, "We cannot, in Southern Rhodesia, live in isolation." How perfectly true; nor for that matter can they in Northern Rhodesia or in Nyasa-Iand, in this modern world. What we are doing—
§ Mr. J. Hynd
The hon. Gentleman has been arguing very strongly that over recent weeks, and presumably months, the Government have been consolidating behind themselves a greater and greater measure of support for federation, and that as time goes on the support is increasing still more. Is not that, therefore, a case for the Motion that we are putting forward and for further delay, in order that we can still further consolidate that opinion? That is all that the Opposition want.
§ Mr. Alport
The reason why that opinion has been consolidating behind the Government—let us look at it fairly and squarely—is because there has been a definite lead from the Government. If we were to show ourselves uncertain of the way in which we were to give a lead to these African Territories, if we were to fumble now, the whole situation might change again. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that unless we in this country can give this sort of leadership in Africa now, anything may happen. I hope the hon. Gentleman believes I am sincere in saying it. The reversion of Africa to a state which nobody, either on that side or on this, wishes to see is not only not 134 beyond the bounds of possibility but is even likely. I have said often enough that we have a moral responsibility, and not only a right, to make decisions here in this House.
In the last debate, we made that decision. What seems to me to be tragic, and a tragic thing also for the right hon. Member for Llanelly, is that he must know that he has in fact led up the garden path those who believed that his opposition to federation could prevent federation from happening. He has produced a disappointment in their hopes, with the result that the confidence that many Africans sincerely had in the party opposite—we think it was for the wrong reasons—has begun to abandon them. We will find more and more of those who previously looked to that party to provide them with leadership, information and interpretation of events, will be lacking in the future.
There is another point that I must take up with the right hon. Gentleman. He said the division in this House, if I understood him correctly—no, it was not "in this House"—was between those who were for a white Africa and those who were for a black Africa.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I did not say anything of the kind. I think this is about the third time that words have been put in my mouth which I did not use. I do not know whether the hon. Member accorded me the courtesy of listening to my speech.
§ Mr. Alport
Not only did I hear the speech but I put down the words that struck me when they came from the right hon. Gentleman's mouth, which he will find in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The hon. Member said that I stated that there was a division in this House between those who wanted a white Africa and those who wanted a black Africa. I used no such words.
§ Mr. Alport
I did not say, "in this House." I said that the right hon. Gentleman said there was a division—not in this House—and a controversy between those who wished to see a white Africa and those who wished to see a black Africa.
§ Mr. Griffiths
In its context, I said in my speech that there were in Central Africa extremists on both sides—those 135 who want a white Africa, and surely the hon. Member knows that, and those who want a black Africa. The hon. Member has misquoted what I said. Speaking of those who have Petitioned, I said that they were not extremists, that they were responsible men and chiefs who should be given a hearing.
§ Mr. Alport
I am perfectly willing to accept the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation, but I will take him up on that point. He has claimed that those who wish to come here to present a Petition are not those who wish for a black Africa on the Gold Coast model. What evidence has the right hon. Gentleman of that? We have known for a long time that there have been those who forcefully believe in a white Africa and equally those who forcefully believe that for Central Africa there should be something on the Gold Coast model, where one has black instead of white domination.
We disagree with both sides, and we believe that we carry the right hon. Gentleman with us on that point. But what evidence has the right hon. Gentleman that those behind the Petition are not in fact hoping that as a result of the defeat of the federation project, or delay as a result of this Petition, they will not have another opportunity for dominating on the basis of race, with the race being black instead of white?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I quoted the name of the person at the head of the Petition from Nyasaland, Chief Mwasi. Does the hon. Member put him on that level?
§ Mr. Alport
I am not going into the question of individuals. I have had no opportunity of seeing the signatures, but unless this Petition is very limited, and confined perhaps to the Chief himself, I cannot see for one moment that the right hon. Gentleman has the evidence which he claims.
I should like to turn again to the letter of the African preacher and his words that Southern Rhodesia cannot live in isolation and must look to the future. I am sure that hon. Members have at heart the future of Central Africa. The House should turn its attention now to ensuring that to the best of our ability federation works in the interest of both races. This project will start with great 136 difficulty and will require all the encouragement and support that we can give to all races.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly referred to the university of Central Africa. That is something which I and, I think, the whole House hope will come into being in a very short time. We should like to see that university providing, as it has not been possible to provide up to the present in Central Africa, higher training and education for Africans. We think it wrong that Africans should have to go to the Union for these facilities. We look forward to these facilities as being among the first fruits of the economic, social and cultural progress as a result of federation.
I appeal to all hon. Members not to apply themselves to destructive policy, to trying to put a spoke in the wheel of federation, and to trying to prevent something from happening which the elected Parliament of this country has approved. I make the plea that we should turn ourselves instead to trying to ensure that this experiment to which we are committed has the best chance of being successful in the interests of all concerned.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
It is rather odd that in the conclusion of the speech of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) I found something with which I agree, when he pleaded for the setting up of a university in Central Africa. I should like the Undersecretary of State for Commonwealth Relations when he replies to tell us what has happened to the Report of the Commission which was set up in connection with the establishment of a Central African University College.
It is common knowledge that the Government have had this Report for a long time and that they have been sitting on it. I have always suspected that they have sat on this Report because it is politically inexpedient for them for the Report to be published and for their decisions to be known until African Federation is out of the way.
I would regard it as an earnest of a new approach to Central African problems if the hon. and learned Gentleman were to tell us tonight that there will be in Central Africa within a reasonable 137 time a multi-racial college—not with the black people stuck away in a corner and getting the worst of the deal, but a multi-racial establishment with the best buildings, the best equipment and teachers that this country and other countries of the Commonwealth can provide. I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will satisfy his hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, as he will certainly satisfy me, by making such an announcement tonight.
There are one or two fallacies in connection with these debates on Central African Federation which, even at the eleventh hour, must be pinned down. We heard an example tonight from the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) who, as I understand it, is one of the Conservative Party's many experts on colonial affairs. He trotted out the kind of arguments which I have heard many times from the benches opposite and, to my regret and shame, from some hon. Members on this side of the House. His argument is that the African is so backward that he is incapable of reading and writing and is also incapable of understanding modern methods, that it is only about 50 years that he has had knowledge of the wheel and that he is quite incapable of running his own affairs.
I can understand some of my hon. Friends saying that, because of the 16 who abstained when the party opposite carried the Motion for Federation, only two know anything about Africa at all, and the other 14 for some reason which I do not understand, have been led away; hence their views are not based upon knowledge. The hon. Members for Billericay and Colchester have served with African troops, and the hon. Member for Colchester knows better the truth, even if his stupid colleague from Billericay does not.
The argument about the educational backwardness of Africa is a piece of absolute nonsense when it is not humbug. Anyone who served five minutes with African troops during the war, as I had the honour to do, knows only too well that the so-called backward African can be put into uniform and in a comparatively short time, with modern methods, he can be taught to handle up-to-date equipment. One of the things that the party opposite do not understand, and a number of my hon. Friends 138 do not understand, is that while it is still true that the African is comparatively backward, he is nevertheless capable of learning at a great pace if he is given the chance.
Furthermore, we have got to this stage in the political development of Africa that, while the African is unaware and inexperienced in the practice of democratic institutions, it is quite impossible to rule without him. The proof of that exists in the African situation at the present time, and it will become more evident as the days go by.
We hear speeches, many of them quite sincere and knowledgeable, which, oddly enough, leave out of account any of the reactions of the African as a whole. Some hon. Members speak as if federation were being imposed for the African's good whether he likes it or not. If that is done, do hon. Members opposite think there will be no reactions in other parts of Africa? Of course whatever is done in Central Africa produces a chain reaction through the treatment. One of the consequences of raising large numbers of African troops and sending them to Burma, to East Africa and to the Middle East, and then bringing them back again is that those hundreds of thousands of men are not prepared to return to the economic and political standards which they knew before the war broke out. If they were essential to the British cause to win the war, they are also essential to the stability of the British Commonwealth in winning the peace.
That is what hon. Members opposite do not understand. They will have to learn the lesson the hard way. Africa is on the march. Africa is in a ferment. I know that one cannot generalise from experience in the Gold Coast, but I can say what I said before, when I was in a minority of one and was attacking my own Front Bench and demanding the release of Mr. Nkrumah from prison, just after my right hon. Friend had become Secretary of State. I said, "You can either let him out now or when he has won the election, but you will have to let him out because if you do not there is nobody else who enjoys the confidence of the people of the Gold Coast."
One of our great problems is to find people who have the confidence of the indigenous populations. When we find 139 them they will not necessarily be acceptable. They will not have gone to the right public schools or universities, because there were no public schools or universities to which they could go, and they will not speak with the polished accents which we should like them to have, but the facts are that either we talk with the leaders whom the Africans trust or we do not talk with the Africans at all. One of the consequences of federation, however economically desirable it may be, is that it will bring political disaster in its train, not only in Central Africa but in other parts of Africa.
The hon. Member for Colchester counted on the fingers of his hand those who supported federation. He mentioned a letter published in the "Bulawayo Times" by a Methodist minister, who said that this problem could not be treated in isolation. The hon. Member then said that some members of the Churches had been converted to the idea of federation, and he explained at some length why that had happened. Earlier we heard my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), who dealt with the point which had been made by Lord Salisbury in another place and blew sky-high the claim that the Society of Friends approved federation.
Those three points having been made about the shift of opinion, let me draw the attention of the House to the other side of the balance sheet.
§ Mr. Wigg
I beg his pardon. We have the Methodist minister writing a letter to the "Bulawayo Times," then the Chief of the Barotse, then the claim that there has been a shift of opinion among members of the Churches, then the nine members of the Society of Friends and then the gentleman who was not a member of the Society of Friends but who wrote a letter to the "Rhodesian Herald." On the other side of the balance sheet must be put the fact that in Nigeria—the largest of the British Colonies, which is one-third the size of Europe and has a population of 30 million—in the last few weeks 140 there has been a breakdown of the Constitution at the centre.
I submit that one of the reasons for this is the lack of confidence which exists between moderate opinion and the Government in Nigeria. That breakdown is just the shadow of other and more sinister things to come. The forcing through of this scheme, regardless of its impact on native opinion and its political consequences, will bring political disaster. It will make it impossible for moderate men in any of our Colonies to talk to the white man. Confidence throughout Africa has been lowered by this ill-judged action.
This indeed is the eleventh hour. After this debate tonight, we shall have only a few more months and then federation will be put into effect. It will, I suppose, be regarded as another part of the edifice which has been erected by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies. We have seen him in operation in other parts of Africa. The better part of a British brigade has gone to Kenya to buttress up the policies of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not quite know where the next reserves are to come from. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman himself knows?
I should have thought that before he considers any more estimates for any more brigades, the Secretary of State would ask himself whether it would not be wiser to start spending a few hundred thousand pounds upon the university college for which I have pleaded tonight. Therefore, I close where I began. If the right hon. Gentleman really wants a new deal, if he wants to make a fresh start and if he wants to prove us wrong, now is the chance to do so, and not after these debates are over. I plead with the right hon. Gentleman that he will tell us tonight that he will take that first step and thus engender a little confidence into a situation from which confidence has completely vanished.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Sheffield, Neepsend)
We have had one more debate on this all-important topic. It is a debate which ranges round a very narrow point. Hitherto our debates have ranged over the whole question, whether federation was right or wrong and whether the Government's latest version of the scheme 141 should be changed or should be accepted in its entirety. The Motion which we have put down today, however, raises simply the question whether, before the final and irrevocable step is taken, an opportunity should be afforded to the Africans to state their case.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have, naturally, and in some respects necessarily, travelled a little outside that narrow point, but before the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations replies, I should like to bring the debate back to what I conceive to be the real point at issue.
On 24th March we discussed the whole subject. Hon. Members will, I think, agree that the real point at issue between the two sides of the House was twofold. The first question which emerged as the main point during the debate was whether, with the Government's present scheme, African interests were adequately safeguarded. Most of my hon. Friends on this side of the House took the view that those interests were not adequately safeguarded; hon. Members opposite said that they were. But that was only one of the two main issues in the debate, and it is an issue upon which hon. Members could make up their minds by looking at the scheme, considering it, reading its actual wording, and considering its machinery.
Then there was the second point, which is the one that gives rise to the Motion. Our second main reason for opposing the Government's scheme during the last debate was that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has said from the very beginning, since the question was first mooted, we on this side, with, I admit, certain exceptions, feel that the scheme, in whatever form it is put forward, ought not to be imposed upon an unwilling African opinion.
In that last debate we went on to deploy before the House the evidence which convinced us that the opposition to the scheme was universal and deep rooted. Hon. Members opposite, and particularly right hon. and hon. Members on the Front Bench, scouted that view. In reply to our assertion that the opposition really was deep rooted and universal, spreading virtually over the whole of the African population, they said that it was something which was 142 artificially generated by Congress, that it was partly inspired by terrorist activities, and that it was an opposition that would disappear when closer acquaintance was had with the working of the scheme. That was the question that really divided the House, and it was on that question that we were acutely divided.
Our object in putting down this Motion is to give the House the opportunity of deciding who is right, hon. Members opposite in their view that the opposition really does not exist, or hon. Members on my own side of the House who share the view which the majority of us expressed in that debate that the opposition is, as I have said, deep rooted and something which will not disappear.
We have put down this Motion, the Petitions mentioned in which the House is aware of, they having been presented to the Lord Chancellor and to you, Mr. Speaker, because we think that they afford an excellent opportunity to enable the House to acquaint itself as to the real facts, to enable itself to gather evidence so as to be in a position to decide what is the nature of the opposition, what is its strength, and so come to a conclusion, when it has evaluated the evidence, whether or not it is wise to seek to try to impose a scheme of federation on Africans at this moment.
That is why we put down this Motion. That was the question that divided the House. It was on that issue we could not agree. There was evidence which we thought was convincing; hon. Members opposite thought that it was not. That being the issue, and it obviously being essential, if we are really going to try to take a wise decision in this matter, to resolve that difference of fact and to try to collate the material in order to enable us to arrive at a decision upon it, what better proceeding could be devised than this, to refer the Africans who desire to be heard to a Select Committee of this House, or possibly a Joint Select Committee of the two Houses of Parliament, in order that they may actually hear those Africans who claim to be representative of their own people, and who desire and urge that they be allowed to come either to the Bar of this House or to a Select Committee in order to be able to place before it their objections?
143 Hon. Members opposite may say, and they may say it perfectly rightly, "We know what the objections are. They have been canvassed in the Press. They have been stated over and over again. There is no particular advantage in having the objections, as objections, restated or reformulated." That may be perfectly right; but what we say in support of this Motion is this. Hon. Members opposite said that the opposition really is more or less illusory. All right. Then let the Africans come before the Select Committee. Let them appear, let them subject themselves in the ordinary way to questioning by Members of the Committee. Among the first questions that would be put obviously to those Africans who appear would be what claim they have to represent African opinion generally.
One of his main objections to the proceeding, the Secretary of State said in the last debate—he did not repeat it in this debate, because he addressed us on rather a different note, a little more brusquely—was that it was terrorism that really inspired this apparent opposition. We can ask the African chiefs who come before the Select Committee how far they are free to express their opinion, how far they have been subjected to pressure, the questions, no doubt, being put tactfully, but so as to elicit answers fearlessly. Then, when the Committee has had the evidence, when there has been the ordinary process of reasonable cross-examination of those coming before it, this House will have the report, such report as is made, and we then can make up our minds.
Is not that a reasonable proposal? Is that a proposal which merits to be dubbed by the Secretary of State as a "creaking device"? I think he said "creaking," or "creeping." "Creaking" I think was the word he finally chose. A "creaking device" or manoeuvre, to "kill one's own baby," I think he added. When we put down this Motion, I can assure hon. Members opposite, we did so in all sincerity. The Secretary of State smiles rather cynically. I do not question his motives or his sincerity, and he really might take it from us that we were equally sincere in putting down this Motion; that we equally are speaking 144 with the same sincerity as he employs himself. We put it down in order to give the House the opportunity of informing itself.
The Secretary of State said that, after all, he had given Africans the chance of appearing before the various conferences at which the scheme was worked out; he gave us examples of the invitations he had extended, and we accept that he did so. But the mere fact that the Africans did not accept those invitations is no reason now, when they do ask to be heard, for denying them the opportunity of appearing before a Select Committee. Let them appear. Let it be conceded that it was a great pity they did not appear before. In fact, at the Victoria Falls Conference, when my right hon. Friends were present, Africans from Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland did appear. During the May, 1952, Conference, Africans appeared representing Southern Rhodesia.
But, apart from those two conferences out of many during which this scheme was forged out, at which its various details were discussed, and particularly during the conference in January, 1953, when its final form was worked out, there was no African representation at all. That is a fact on which we cannot be in dispute. It cannot therefore be in dispute that, in substance, never mind whose fault it was, the Africans have not been heard.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The right hon. and learned Gentleman must make a distinction between consultations and not being represented at a conference. It is quite a different thing. As a matter of fact, a great deal of conversations have taken place between various deputations and myself on this point; a great many. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must be fair.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I do not want to use the same kind of language that the Secretary of State has thought proper to use to us during the course of this debate, but I am bound to say that if he read to the Africans who came to consultations with him the same kind of hectoring lecture that he read to us, it is hardly very surprising that they did not come to the conferences.
The Secretary of State has shown a genius for being able to present himself 145 and his own case in a wrong light. He has developed into a kind of modern Mr. Squeers, determined to force down the throats of the Africans a medicine that he thinks is good for them. It may not matter if he addresses us in that way because we know how to take him at his face value, but I hope he will accept a little advice from me. It is not the best way to treat Africans, whose minds are not so instinctively attuned to ideas of natural leadership as is his own. [Interruption.] Would the Secretary of State mind not muttering, but let me get on with my argument.
I do not gainsay that he invited Africans to consultation with him. I do not gainsay that at two conferences they were present. I suppose two Africans or three Africans, whatever there were, were present at the conferences round a large table around which a large number of white people were sitting, many of whose utterances—two of which have been quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly—were hardly utterances calculated to give the Africans confidence, and it may well have been that they thought they were at a disadvantage, outweighed, and possibly out-argued at those conferences, that if they attended more of such conferences they would remain out-argued and outweighed, and for good reasons or bad reasons— whether because of the tone of the invitations or because of their own natural reluctance and hesitation about it—they did not attend at the other conferences.
I was simply saying to the Secretary of State that it seemed to me that it could not be disputed that they had not appeared at most of the conferences, and that accordingly, apart from these private conversations with the Secretary of State, they had not had a hearing; and what we seek to obtain for them by this Motion is a hearing before a Select Committee of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Baldwin
I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants to be fair in this matter. I hope he is aware that there were two Africans from Southern Rhodesia who did attend the conferences and made useful contributions at those conferences. They went away and did not agree with federation, but they were there and were useful members of the conference.
§ Sir F. Soskice
That is exactly what I have just said. The hon. Member's intervention reminds me of a remark which he made during the course of his speech, that African opinion does not exist. That is woefully, deplorably and dangerously untrue as a statement. If that is the attitude which is going to be adopted in the approach to this attempt to impose federation on the Africans, it will certainly end in disaster, and it is because we desire to avoid that depth of disaster and because we deplore the attitude of mind which the hon. Gentleman evinces that we are making this last minute endeavour to see to it that some opportunity is afforded, even at the eleventh hour, of representative African spokesmen putting their defence before a Select Committee of this House or a Joint Select Committee of the two Houses of Parliament.
I put it to the Secretary of State for the Colonies and to the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, in all seriousness, that it is one thing to he present at a conference—as I say sitting round a table with a large number of white people highly skilled in argument, fully-primed with information and so on, when they may well have a feeling that they are at a disadvantage—and it is a very different thing, particularly when they have asked themselves that it should take place, to have their evidence taken by a Select Committee of this House, when they can deploy what they wish to say and reply to the questions of those who form the Select Committee, and for that Select Committee then to report to this House, the most public forum for discussion in the whole world.
If that is done, then all Africans will know that at least they have been heard. It may be that this House will decide, whatever they may say before such a Select Committee, nevertheless to proceed with the scheme of federation so long as this Government is in office. I do not know whether they will remain in office long enough, but if they remain in office probably the scheme will be imposed. That we shall have to wait and see. But at least, if they have been heard, the fact that the opportunity has been given to them to advance their objections before this public forum will, I put it to the House, go a long way—I do no say the whole way—to dispel both the feeling of injustice and resentment 147 which is felt among Africans at the way in which this scheme has been gradually developed—developed, as I have said, from the form in which it was first recommended by the London experts until now it has assumed a wholly different form and one which, in the view which we take on this side of the House—I know that some of my hon. Friends do not agree, but in the view of the majority of us—does not contain the minimum safeguards which were regarded as necessary by the London experts when they originally formulated the scheme.
I can well imagine the Government saying this: Since we approved the scheme, since this House decided that the scheme was to be implemented on 24th March last, there has been some change. There has been some lessening of tension, some indication of a readiness to accept it. That is not the case at all. Let me remind the House of the position as it was when we debated the matter on 24th March and the situation as it appears today.
When we debated the matter on 24th March we on this side of the House deployed before the Government—and we invited their spokesman to reply to it—the evidence which satisfied us that there was this universal and embittered opposition to the proposal for African federation. We referred to the statement of the Blantyre Mission Council. We pointed to the fact that the African Representative Council in Northern Rhodesia and the Protectorate Council in Nyasaland had both expressed themselves as in opposition to the scheme. We referred also to the fact that the Secretary of State himself in an earlier speech in an earlier debate had accepted both of these Councils as completely representative of the opinion in the two Territories.
We referred to many other representative organs of African opinion which had, virtually, with one voice opposed the scheme. There was the Congress in Northern Rhodesia, the Congress in Nyasaland, the Congress in Southern Rhodesia, the Supreme Council of Southern Rhodesia, the African Mineworkers Union, and with one voice they were all against the scheme.
The Minister of State replied at the end of the debate, and he endeavoured to meet that case. We all feel the greatest sympathy with him, and I want to be 148 most careful to cite quite fairly from what he said. He told us in the course of his speech that during his inquiries he had met people and various organisations who had on one occasion or another expressed themselves as in favour of the scheme. His conclusion was that:… at that time a very large proportion of the population—I put it as high as 90 per cent. —had never heard of federation at all. Of the remaining 10 per cent., the majority were opposed to it. They were the literate, vocal Africans, and I agree that the majority of them were opposed to the scheme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1953; Vol. 513, c. 789-90.]I do not wish to quote just one sentence out of the right hon. Gentleman's speech because he referred to other meetings in the course of which other opinions had been expressed. But that was the broad, overall conclusion that he had reached, and that was the situation when we debated the matter on 24th March last.
What has happened since to alter the situation? Can the Government point to any lessening of tension, any indication that African opinion is now conciliated in favour of the federal scheme? Absolutely nothing of the sort has taken place. I have listened carefully to the many speeches which have been made during the course of the debate. As far as I can remember, one African parson was cited as having written a letter to a newspaper saying that he was in favour of the scheme, but no single representative African, with the possible exception of the Chief of the Barotse tribe, has been referred to as having in any way modified the opposition to the scheme which was previously evinced, and he is a rather doubtful exception because all he said was that he was prepared to accept the scheme subject to very stringent conditions, his situation and the situation of his people having been specially safeguarded by a clause in the federation scheme in its final form.
Now, as against that, we have the Petitions. We have one Petition signed by 120 chiefs from Northern Rhodesia. Another Petition from Nyasaland, signed by a large number of chiefs, is forwarded by Chief Mwasi, who is accepted on all sides of the House as a highly influential African chief and one who has always endeavoured to be co-operative in assisting the government of these Territories and falling in, in so far as he properly thought he could, with the existing system of government.
149 When debating the matter last we also referred to a meeting which had taken place in Lilongwe in November of last year at which some 100 chiefs had been present. Another meeting has taken place since then, and again African opposition has been reasserted. The opposition now is just as unfavourable as it was when we last debated the matter. There is no change for the better. The position is exactly the same except that African opinion has now been crystallised in the two Petitions which have been forwarded to Mr. Speaker and the Lord Chancellor.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly said, what answer is this House to send back to the two Petitions? If we send back the answer that the Africans can be heard, that they may send such persons as they think representative of them, that they may come to this country and that they may be given an opportunity to state the objections that they feel to a Select Committee, what will have been lost? What harm can possibly be done by it? I hope the Under-Secre-tary of State will give an answer to that question when he comes to wind up. In what way can anyone be disadvantaged? Possibly the Government feel that it would mean their scheme would have to be adjourned. We certainly hope it will and that even at the eleventh hour they will think again and not go ahead so impetuously, as we think they are doing, with the imposition of their scheme.
But even if they do not postpone, as we hope they will, the Second Reading of the Enabling Bill, the Select Committee can take place whilst further consideration of that Bill is in process. Even when the Bill has become an Act an Order has got to be made under its terms imposing federation. All that is bound to take time, but long before the time comes for the final stage of the proceedings the Select Committee can have been brought to a complete and full conclusion, and this House fully placed in possession of all the necessary evidence and information it requires to resolve the vexed issue between the two sides of the House, namely, are we right in saying that there is universal opposition to the scheme, or is the Colonial Secretary right in saying that there is very little evidence of it, or whatever phrase he likes to use?
The Government say that it might be a dangerous precedent if we allowed these 150 chiefs to appear before a Select Committee, and that when the Finance Bill came to be considered in principle we could not but allow a trade federation to appear also. That is a little bit thin. We are not talking here of trade federations; we are talking of persons who claim to represent a population of some six million Africans whose future is in question and who are acutely concerned about it, and who oppose the Government's plans to deal with them. The Secretary of State's argument about the trade federation is scarcely worthy even of the arguments he has deployed to us.
By contrast, if we refuse to assent to the Prayer of this Petition, a great deal of harm can be done. Hon. Members on both sides of the House are, I am sure, aware of how easily a misapprehension can get around among Africans. They can understand the simple fact that 100 of their representative chiefs in one territory and 30 in another have asked in the most formal way by Petition to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Lord Chancellor, for permission to be heard. That is a clear fact which not only the local intellectuals, whom the Government have referred to, can comprehend, but it is a fact which can enter the consciousness of millions of Africans. If that Prayer is rejected, it requires very little imagination to realise the very great harm that can be done to the relationship between the Africans and this country not only now but in the future and, indeed, in all parts of Africa.
If this simple Prayer, which can easily be acceded to, is rejected, then the Africans throughout the Continent of Africa will sincerely and profoundly think that the rejection is to be followed by the imposition of a scheme which they dislike without their being heard. And I warn the Government that many people, not only among the Africans but among people in other parts of the world, will think that the real reason why the Government will not afford the African chiefs this opportunity is that they are afraid of what the result of the inquiry will be. Will the Under-Secretary answer that when he gets up to speak?
Is it not obvious—and the Under-Secretary will agree, I am sure—that this is not a simple issue confined to these three Territories nor confined to the African Continent? It is an issue which spreads 151 far and wide amongst all coloured people all over the face of the earth. They are all watching to see how we can treat the Africans on this occasion and how we discharge the terms of the trust that we have undertaken towards them. They will understand, and they will pay attention to the question whether or not the British Government impose this scheme upon the Africans when the Africans have been unheard. It was simply to prevent the Government committing that serious error that we put down this Motion. We want to try to rescue them from the effect of the hastiness of the Secretary of State by giving them this last opportunity to retrieve their fault.
That is the simple case for this Motion. We think that, when the reasons for it are deployed, the Secretary of State will feel a little ashamed of himself for having belaboured us with abuse for having tried to do what we have done. I repeat—belaboured us with abuse; accusing us of embarking upon what he described in possibly slightly infelicitous language as a creaking manoeuvre— whatever that may be and however it may differ from an ordinary manoeuvre. That is abusing -us. At heart we feel that it is hardly intended as a compliment—I see that the right hon. Gentleman accepts that, at least, and I am glad that we can agree on one point.
Then he went on to say that my right hon. Friend had done great harm unwittingly, as he generously conceded—
§ Sir F. Soskice
He nods. I ask him to take this thought into account: what about his own speech? We asked for a hearing of the Africans. We met with a volley of unmeasured abuse. If the terms of a speech of that sort came to the knowledge, as they will undoubtedly come to the knowledge—because the right hon. Gentleman speaks before the world when he makes such speeches; if a speech of that sort is read and considered by those who are already acutely anxious as to what will happen to them in the future, is that going to do harm or is that going to do good?
This Motion of ours might have done a tremendous amount of good. The Government had the opportunity of taking a big step towards alleviating the feeling 152 of distress and resentment which exists at present. The Secretary of State, by one of the most irresponsible speeches that have been heard from a person in his position, has thrown away that opportunity.
I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will accede to one other invitation that was extended to the Government Front Bench and which was not acceded to by the Secretary of State. My right hon. Friend read from two speeches, one made by Mr. Van Eeden and the other by Sir Godfrey Huggins. I should have thought that the Secretary of State might have felt it wise to accede to the invitation extended to him by my right hon. Friend to disavow on behalf of the Government the sentiments contained in those speeches.
In case he overlooked the invitation, may I now formally extend it to the Under-Secretary of State? I am sure he will not forget it by the time he gets up to speak, having been reminded of it by me. [Laughter.] This is a serious topic. Even if hon. Members opposite guffaw about subjects of this kind, I hope that when the Undersecretary replies he will realise that in asking him to disavow that type of sentiment, we really mean to elicit from him an answer which will reassure Africans, in the African Continent and will satisfy them that the British Government does not associate itself with the kind of speech which has been made and which was quoted by my right hon. Friend.
That is the case that we make for the Motion. I assure hon. Members opposite that we simply do it, not to have another Second Reading debate—[Interruption.] Perhaps I may wait until the conference is finished. [Interruption.] As a courtesy, I am giving the two Ministers an opportunity to confer, and I hope that the House will not mind waiting for a moment.
§ Sir F. Soskice
If the right hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations are considering some point that they wish to make in reply, I do not wish to inconvenience them. I say simply that that is the case that we make for the Motion.
We ask the Government, at the eleventh hour, not to regard this in any sense as 153 an attempt by us to defeat their intentions, but simply as an attempt to enable them to take a step which, if they are going to impose the scheme—we hope that they will not—will at least bring Africans to think that they have not been treated so monstrously and unfairly as they at present think they have been.
I hope that when the Under-Secretary of State replies, he will say that he thinks there is some substance in the arguments that we have used. Without throwing out the Government's timetable or plan, we simply ask them to afford this opportunity to representative chiefs to come to this country, to state their objection, and to submit themselves to examination as to whether they have been subjected to some kind of pressure and as to their claims to represent African opinion.
This House can then consider the report, and we will have achieved the twofold object, first, of knowing who is right with regard to the nature of the opposition, and second, of having gone some way to give to the Africans the impression that the sense of unfairness under which they labour should not weigh upon them as it does, in that the Government will have gone some way, at any rate, to see that their views are properly ventilated in this House.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Foster)
It is very often a fault that when lawyers are speaking in the House they think they are in a court and they address Mr. Speaker as "My Lord" and Members of the House as "Members of the jury." Very often there is a good deal of laughter on both sides when lawyers fall into that error. Before I answer the right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice), I ought to draw the attention of the House to the embellishments which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has put into his speech which are appeals to a jury and which are on the level of appeals to a jury.
§ Mr. Foster
If hon. Members opposite will listen, I will tell them why I think that those embellishments are not worthy of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
In the first place, when starting his speech the right hon. and learned 154 Gentleman alluded to the words "creaking device" and said—[Interruption.] The right hon. and learned Gentleman objected to my right hon. Friend interrupting him during his speech. Will he now practise what he preaches? If he wants to interrupt, let him get up. Does he want to do so?
§ Mr. Foster
It is quite easy for hon. Members opposite, by making noise all the time, to shut out the arguments that I want to make. I am pointing out, first, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman furnished his speech with embellishments of the lowest kind of appeals to a jury.
§ Mr. Foster
It has not got under my skin. Hon. Members opposite may not like this, but I am determined to point it out to them. If right hon. and hon. Members on the other side would not mind letting me do it, I should get on a little quicker.
First, the right hon. and learned Gentleman alluded to the words "creaking device" and said, "'Creep' or 'creaking'—I do not know what word the right hon. Gentleman finally ended up with." There was no question of my right hon. Friend ending up with anything. He had spoken the words "creaking device" and that was the phrase that he used. Simply because the right hon. and learned Gentleman mishears the word, it is no good pretending that my right hon. Friend was fluffing about and not able to choose the right word.
A few minutes later the right lion, and learned Member worked up a great atmosphere of anger because he said my right hon. Friend was questioning the sincerity of hon. Members opposite. My right hon. Friend never said so. There was not a word that passed the lips of my right hon. Friend questioning the sincerity of hon. Members opposite; but that sort of thing gets up an atmosphere and gets the jury excited and gets off the main point—
§ Sir F. Soskice
The hon. and learned Gentleman very kindly gives way, and he invited me to rise a moment ago. Does 155 he not agree that the speech of the Secretary of State was about as offensive as it could be and challenged our sincerity, and that on the contrary, I said I did not challenge his?
§ Mr. Foster
I do not agree with that for a moment.
The next thing when addressing a jury and trying to build up a case out of nothing is that one must impute to the other side a view which does not exist. So the right hon. and learned Member said that we on this side of the House have maintained that the opposition was illusory, and he built up a mass of argument on that basis. It is quite untrue, quite a misconception. We never maintained that the opposition was illusory, but we said that it was not so great as hon. Members opposite said it was and it could be divided into various aspects of opposition.
We quite agree that there is a substantial opposition. We have always said there is, but we have said that some of the opposition comes from people who maintain that there should be a Gold Coast type of Government, some from people who do not understand federation but have been misled by their leaders about imposing federation, and some from people who are genuinely worried about the outcome of federation. It is quite untrue for the right hon. and learned Member to say that we ever maintained that the opposition was illusory. Our point was that, in spite of the opposition which existed, we, as trustees and guardians, had come to the conclusion that it was our duty to go through with the scheme for federation and that it would have been a breach of our duty as trustees and guardians if we had not gone on with the scheme for federation.
I think the House should know how lawyers embellish their speeches so that they may test my speech against exactly the same criterion as that of the right hon. and learned Member. I do not want any other treatment from them than that which the House ought to accord to the right hon. and learned Member. The right hon. and learned Member went on to say, "The Under-Secretary fully realises this"; "he must agree with that" —but he must not agree with anything which the right hon. and learned Gentleman says. The right hon. and learned 156 Gentleman went on to paint a picture which was entirely devoid of the truth as I understand it, and to put words into my mouth.
If I may turn to the subject of the Motion, it is that certain chiefs should be allowed to come to the Bar of the House or before a Select Committee and put certain views before us. The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) painted a very vivid picture in his peroration—his purple passage—of these chiefs who had not been allowed a single opportunity of putting forward their views.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I did not say anything of the kind. I did not say they had not a single opportunity. As a matter of fact they had an opportunity at Victoria Falls, and I know they have had other opportunities. I wish the hon. and learned Gentleman would not put words in my mouth.
§ Mr. Foster
Let us just see for a moment what the situation is. Let us examine it. If these people came before a Select Committee, what would they be saying? We know what they would be saying because we looked at their Petition. Their objections would be divided under three main headings.
The first objection is that the proposals for African Federation are against the treaties. As I understand it, the vast majority of hon. Gentlemen who spoke from the other side of the House did not mention that point. One hon. Member did not quite come down to saying it. He said words to the effect: "If it was so and so," and "If it might be something else." I assume that the majority of hon. Members on that side of the House do not take that point, and that the point falls. Therefore, we should have the African chiefs coming before the Select Committee and saying that federation was against treaties which had been signed and entered into between the chiefs and the Government of the day, an objection which is obviously ill-founded.
The second objection was not even mentioned by any hon. Gentleman here, although it figures very largely in their Petition. They say that federation would be against the Charter of the United Nations and that they would be entitled to object on the ground that it was a violation of the Charter. As neither the 157 right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), nor the right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend mentioned this point, I think I can fairly assume that there is nothing in it, and that therefore two of the main headings under which the chiefs would come and object before the Select Committee would be entirely misfounded.
The third objection is that federation would retard their progress, and they are afraid it would lead to their being unable to function as they are now. They say, in the paragraph which the right hon. and learned Gentleman read, that it would not be fulfilling the responsibilities of the United Kingdom and that therefore the proposals for federation must be resisted by them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman throughout his speech was saying that we differed about the amount of imposition, so "Let us have the whole thing thrashed out before a Select Committee, and then we can decide."
He said at one moment, "We can ask these chiefs seriously whether they have been oppressed or threatened." There is no doubt that these chiefs are all against federation. They have no constructive proposals to make. All they have is an unswerving and intransigent opposition to make to federation. That is their only point. It is no good asking them if they have been threatened or intimidated in connection with federation, because they come from the class of people who have done the threatening and intimidation. It is the persons who are in favour of federation who have been intimidated and threatened and not the ones who are against it.
After some rhetorical questions, the right hon. and learned Gentleman asked what better tribunal there could be to decide this question as to what the extent of the opposition was. I cannot imagine a worse tribunal. The people who would appear before the tribunal or the Select Committee would be Africans who have signed a Petition saying that they will not have anything to do with federation. That has been the trouble with this vocal section of Africans who are opposed to federation. During the long negotiations and debates which have taken place in this House and in Central Africa, the attitude of the Africans who have come over here has been to say that they will not have anything to do with federation. 158 They will not discuss it. What advantage does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think it would be to have these admitted opponents of federation appear before the Select Committee just to say a non possumus "We will not have anything to do with it"? The point of view of these Africans—
§ Mr. Dugdale
May I ask one question about which I am not clear? The hon. and learned Gentleman has been giving us a lecture on how legal matters are conducted. Is it not a fact that the prosecution usually know what the defence will be? Is that a reason for not having a trial?
§ Mr. Foster
Obviously there is no question of a trial here. The right hon. Gentleman would have been on sounder grounds if he had asked whether there has been an opportunity of finding out what was the African point of view; and it has been argued by hon. and right hon. Members opposite that the point of view of the Africans has not been ascertained. Of course it has been ascertained again and again, and we know what these people will say and what they have said. There has been a great deal of consultation in Central African Territories. The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs has seen literally thousands of Africans. He held over 70 meetings. The points of view of the pro-federation African, the anti-federation African and the undecided African have been fully canvassed. That is why my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary put forward the view that one would have to cast further back to find the reasons for this Motion.
The Africans who would come before the Select Committee, as I have said, would be repeating the point of view of those who came to see my right hon. Friend in London both before the April, 1952, conference and before the January, 1953, conference. I do not believe for a moment that one can really think that if one had all the 122 chiefs come before the Select Committee, saying "We will not have anything to do with federation" that would help federation or the cause of Central African Government, which both sides of the House—and I give them credit for it—have at heart.
If we looked in the first place at what this Motion would be designed to achieve, if it succeeded, we would find that there 159 would be a Select Committee at which some hundreds of African chiefs who had signed a Petition would come forward and say, "We will have nothing to do with federation." But hon. Members opposite have presented their point of view and have said everything that can be said on that subject, and have said it probably better than could the Africans, and nothing new would be said before the Select Committee.
The terms of the Motion refer to Addresses to the Lord Chancellor and to Mr. Speaker. These Addresses, or Petitions as they were called previously, emanate from convinced opponents of federation. The argument which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Neepsend deployed goes on to say that there is such a great deal of opposition that we must ascertain how great it is. How does he imagine that a Select Committee, referring back to a Territory in which there are six million Africans, should proceed? Will the Committee call evidence from the Territories and from villages as to what people have been intimidated? Are the people to be brought over here or will there be commissions of inquiry? Is the Select Committee to go round Central African Territories to find out what is happening?
§ Mr. Griffiths
Why is it impracticable? The Minister of State for the Colonies— with whom we greatly sympathise in the reason for his absence today—attended 70 meetings. How long did it take him? Three weeks. Is it really suggested that three weeks taken to consult Africans is a time we might not well afford if by that we give them the satisfaction of our having listened to their case?
§ Mr. Foster
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman can be allowed to say that, because the machinery of the Select Committee is not apt for that purpose. Are the Committee going to stay together or are they going to different places? [Interruption.] Hon. Members can test my speech by the same criteria as I tested the right hon. and learned Gentleman's. It is a good criterion to dis- 160 entagle the good, logical, objective arguments from the tricks of oratory. It is always very necessary to do that.
Let me come to the extent of the opposition. The right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend summarised the point which had been made in a previous debate about the extent of the opposition. He turned his mind to the strike called in those Territories, where the railways remained completely unaffected, where only one mine in Northern Rhodesia was thrown out of operation by this strike, and where, I think, 150—
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman will not mind me interrupting. What he says is quite true, but he ought to say that the union leaders deserve commendation. The leaders of the African Miners' Union advised their members not to come out on strike. I refer to the African leaders.
§ Mr. Foster
Yes, and other African leaders advised them to come out. Some of the leaders deserve praise for their action; but this does show the lack of responsibility on the part of those leaders who advised the men to come out on strike, and it also shows the source of the opposition. One of the points that we have always made is that the main leaders of the opposition are the extremists who want to kick the settlers out.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I have known these African miners. I do not want any unwitting false impression to go out. The fact that they advised the miners in the Copper Belt not to come out on strike does not mean that they support federation. They advised against striking because they felt deeply that they ought not to take industrial action in what they regard as a political matter.
§ Mr. Foster
I agree that it shows a sense of responsibility which was not shown by the leaders of the African opposition to federation. I think the right hon. Gentleman must agree that the leaders of the African opposition to federation showed themselves, on the right hon. Gentleman's own admission, completely irresponsible because they were trying to get the miners in Northern Rhodesia to come out on strike. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the fact that the miners' leaders advised against coming out on strike 161 shows that they were all against federation. We can leave that as a matter of opinion.
§ Mr. Griffiths
These leaders of the African Miners' Union are carrying very big responsibilities—bigger responsibilities than I carried. The leader of the African Miners' Union who advised his men not to come out on strike was one of the deputation who saw the Secretary of State and opposed federation in this country. It is important that the position should be made clear. Although he opposes federation, he is not a party to using industrial action to further his opposition.
§ Mr. Foster
He is not a party to supporting the irresponsibility of the other African leaders. The leaders of the African opposition to federation have shown themselves to be irresponsible. There is no trick about that; it is a statement of fact. One mine in Northern Rhodesia came out on strike. It shows that among the followers of the miners' leaders there was no great urge against federation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It does. If hon. Members opposite object, I will pass on. What about the fact that only 150 civil servants out of some 10,000 came out on strike?
§ Mr. M. Stewart
Is the hon. Gentleman really arguing that an opposition cannot be regarded as sincere and determined unless it takes the form of industrial action?
§ Mr. Stewart
That is what he is saying. He is arguing that because these men did not engage in industrial action we can discount their opposition to federation. Will he either agree that these men are deeply and sincerely opposed to federation or will he say that he will not pay any attention to opposition to federation unless it takes the form of industrial action?
§ Mr. Foster
I am not going to say either of those things. I imagine that the miners have the same proportion of people who do not agree and who have been mislead and intimidated as the rest of the population. With regard to industrial strife, I still want to rub it into hon. Members opposite that the leaders 162 of the African opposition called for industrial action, which was an irresponsible act.
§ Mr. Foster
The hon. Gentleman does not do me the credit of following what I am saying. I know he does not like agreeing that the African leaders against federation showed irresponsibility in asking for industrial action.
Going back to the argument raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I submit that to discuss this Petition— which is not a Petition and whose signatories have already put forward this point of view and who have no constructive proposals at all but just apply this unreasonable opposition to federation—is not a procedure by which any advance can be made.
One cannot help thinking, too, that when one looks at the question in the light of the four previous debates which have taken place in this House—in which the point of view of the African has been eloquently put forward by right hon. and hon. Members opposite; in which only as recently as March of this year, after a far-reaching and lively debate, the House came to its conclusion with a powerful if not very numerous section of the party opposite abstaining from the vote—it would not serve any purpose, two days before the enabling Bill is put in, to bring in a procedure which is not justified by precedent and which could not ascertain any further facts in this controversy.
The Africans who oppose this scheme have made their position clear. Those who have been intimidated have not had a full opportunity of understanding the point. The right hon. and learned Gentleman challenged us to produce the name of a single prominent African who had spoken in favour of federation. The case of the Paramount Chief of Barotseland has been cited, and he is in favour of federation. I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman could have heard what my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) said.
§ Mr. Foster
If he did I cannot understand why he kept saying that the Paramount Chief of Barotseland was exacting 163 certain stiff conditions. He was not exacting any stiff conditions. The conditions upon which the Paramount Chief of Barotseland was relying were conditions which are already in the scheme and have already been agreed. It is entirely wrong for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to tell the House that the Paramount Chief of Barotseland was asking for something extra or something not yet agreed. [HON. MEMBERS: "He did not say that."] The right hon. and learned Gentleman did say that, as will be within the recollection of the House; he said that the support of the Paramount Chief of Barotseland did not count because he was asking for certain stringent conditions. The conditions are not stringent; they are already embodied in the scheme and the fact is that the Paramount Chief of Barotseland has come out in favour of federation.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
We shall debate the matter again. May I ask this question: it is true that there are provisions in the White Paper about Barotseland, but have there or have there not been conversations between the Governor and representatives of the Government and the Paramount Chief of Barotseland since the White Paper was published and debated in the House? If so, may we be told what the conversations were and what further assurances, if any, were given to the Paramount Chief?
§ Mr. Foster
I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman is not criticising the fact that there were conversations.
§ Mr. Foster
Obviously it is the duty of the Governor and the administrators of Northern Rhodesia to try to do their best to get African support for federation. I imagine nobody will object to that.
Having regard to the time, the answer is too long for me to make now.
§ [Laughter.] It is no good hon. Members roaring with laughter; let them look at the time. Perhaps I may summarise the statement of the address to the Legislative Council by the Governor on 16th April, 1953, in which he said that he had had discussions with the Paramount Chief and Council of Barotseland and that at the end of the discussions they agreed "on the following statement"; and that is the statement read by the hon. Member for Colchester.
§ In conclusion, I ask the House to reject the Motion.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. and learned Gentleman should now deal with something serious. He has been going on for a long time.
§ Mr. Foster
I think that is very unfair. Perhaps I may tell the right hon. Gentleman what Sir Godfrey Huggins said. He said:I accept partnership as meaning that all races will work together to promote the prosperity of the federal state, in which all the inhabitants will have a stake and each, according to their worth, will receive, share and participate in that happiness which is the reward of work well done, and in which no racial section will try to dominate another. Leadership does not mean domination. In the end the people will take their place according to their worth and standard of civilisation, not according to the colour of their skin.That shows the views of Sir Godfrey Huggins and answers the point made by the right hon. Gentleman.
I ask the House to reject this Motion because it is ill-conceived and ill-founded and has been supported by a very tenuous argument. The right hon. and learned Gentleman could bolster up his argument only by a very deplorable attack on my right hon. Friend.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes 197. Noes 222.167
|Division No. 165.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Beswick, F.||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.|
|Adams, Richard||Bing, G. H. C.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)|
|Albu, A. H.||Blackburn, F.||Burke, W. A.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Blenkinsop, A.||Burton, Miss F. E.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Boardman, H.||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)|
|Baton, Miss Alice||Bowden, H. W.||Callaghan, L. J.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Bowen, E. R.||Castle, Mrs. B. A.|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Bowles, F. G.||Champion, A. J.|
|Benson, G.||Brockway, A. F.||Chapman, W. D.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Collick, P. H.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Keenan, W.||Ross, William|
|Cove, W. G.||Kenyon, C.||Royle, C.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||King, Dr. H. M.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Kinley, J.||Short, E. W.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Deer, G.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lewis, Arthur||Slater, J. (Darham, Sedgefield)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lindgren, G. S.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Lipton, Lt. -Col. M.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Logan, D. G.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Dugdale, Rt, Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||MacColl, J. E.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McGhee, H. G.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McLeavy, F.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Fienburgh, W.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thomson, George (Dundae, E.)|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Thorneycroft Harry (Clayton)|
|Foot, M. M.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Thornton, E.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mason, Roy||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Mayhew, C. P.||Tomney, F.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mellish, R. J.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Glenville, James||Messer, F.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mikardo, Ian||Viant, S. P.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mitchison, G. R.||Wade, D. W.|
|Grey, C. F.||Monslow, W.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Moody, A. S||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Morley, R.||Weitzman, D.|
|Grimond, J.||Moyle, A.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Hale, Leslie||Mulley, F. W.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Murray, J. D.||West, D. G.|
|Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Nally, W.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||white, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Hargreaves, A.||Oldfield, W. H.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Hastings, S.||Oliver, G. H||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Orbach, M.||Wigg, George|
|Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Padley, W. E.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Paget, R. T.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Holman, P.||Paling, Will T, (Dewsbury)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Pannell, Charles||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Hoy, J. H.||Pargiter, G. A.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Parker, J.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Paton, J.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Popplewell, E.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Porter, G.||Yates, V. F.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K|
|Janner, B.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Proctor, W. T.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Arthur Allen.|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Richards, R.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Brooman-White, R. C.||Donner, P. W.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Bullard, D. G.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Burden, F. F. A.||Drewe, C.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Campbell, Sir David||Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Cary, Sir Robert||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Channon, H.||Fell, A.|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Finlay, Graeme|
|Baldook, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Fisher, Nigel|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Cole, Norman||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F|
|Banks, Col. C.||Colegate, W. A.||Fletcher-Cooks, C.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Ford, Mrs. Patricia|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Cranborne, Viscount||Foster, John|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Crouch, R. F.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell|
|Birch, Nigel||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Cuthbert, W. N.||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Daedes, W. F.||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd|
|Braine, B. R.||Digby, S. Wingfield||Godber, J. B.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Gough, C. F. H.|
|Gower, H. R.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||McKibbin, A. J.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Gridley, Sir Arnold||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Russell, R. S.|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maclean, Filzroy||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Macleod, Rt. Hon. lain (Enfield, W.)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Scott, R. Donald|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Shepherd, William|
|Harvey, Air Cdr. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Markham, Major S. F.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Hay, John||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Heald, Sir Lionel||Marples, A. E.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Heath, Edward||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton)||Stevens, G. P.|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Maude, Angus||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Storey, S.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Mellor, Sir John||Summers, G. S.|
|Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Molson, A. H. E.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Hope, Lord John||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Horobin, I. M.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Nutting, Anthony||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Oakshott, H. D.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Turton, R. H.|
|Keeling, Sir Edward||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Kerr, H. W.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Lambton, Viscount||Osborne, C.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G||Partridge, E.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Law. Rt. Hon. R. K.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Lindsay, Martin||Powell, J. Enoch||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Profumo, J. D.||Wellwood, W.|
|Longden, Gilbert||Raikes, Sir Victor||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Low, A. R. W.||Rayner, Brig. R.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Redmayne, M.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Remnant, Hon. P.||Wills, G.|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Renton, D. L. M.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Robson-Brown, W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Studholme and Mr. Kaberry.|
Question put, and agreed to.