§ Order for Second Reading read. [Queen's Consent signified.]
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Central African Federation is a great theme, and great themes never grow stale. However many variations there may be upon them, the themes should always seem fresh and dominant. Unfortunately, those who have to announce great themes do become stale and may well grow dull. Lord Balfour, when he was Mr. Arthur Balfour, to whose advice and help I was commended by my father and which he gave me in full measure, once said in this House, "All that the hon. Gentleman said which was true was trite, and everything which he said which wasn't trite wasn't true." I find that adage haunting, this afternoon. This is no less than the sixth time that Central African Federation has been debated. The ringer moves on; the panorama of political events does not halt, but continues to unroll.
Before we come to discuss the Bill in detail, there are one or two things which, I think, add new colours to the background against which we are discussing these grave and important matters. I feel with the deepest sincerity that federation may—and nobody but the most rosy optimist could say about any human affairs that certain results will flow from certain actions—be the solution to the great problems, most of them inter-racial, with which the Continent of Africa is unquestionably faced in 1953. Those who have been in those tropical countries sometimes see the colours of the landscape being picked out by the rising sun as the mists roll back. That. I think is happening over Federation.
The three subjects to which I wish to address myself before going on to the details of the Bill are: first of all, the subject of a university which will be open to all races upon equal terms and with the same curriculum; secondly, the colour bar in the Northern Rhodesia 408 copper belt; thirdly, the vexed subject of African opposition to federation. I turn to the subject of the university.
I must draw the attention of the House to the fact that higher education under the Federation scheme is a federal subject on the exclusive list. Therefore, the House cannot expect any Minister in this House, or indeed any Minister in the Rhodesias or Nyasaland, to make statements which would bind a Government not yet in existence, and whose very birth depends on what I should describe as the successful outcome of our debate this afternoon and the processes which follow.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) touched upon this subject of a university no longer ago than last Monday, but Her Majesty's Government and the right hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends are by no means the only ones who have drawn attention to this subject, which is one of greatest importance against this background. Many other persons of consequence, including many well-wishers of federation, have stressed the importance of higher education as a test of the reality of partnership, and have suggested that there should be some declaration before federation comes about that the future university of Central Africa will be established and will be open to men of all races upon equal terms. My colleagues and I heartily endorse the feeling behind this suggestion.
I must repeat that under federation higher education will be the responsibility of the Federal Government. It is item No. 30 on the exclusive list, and no declaration made now could bind that Government and their policy on that matter. I am glad to be able to inform the House, however, that Sir Godfrey Huggins has told my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations that it is his personal opinion that there must be a Central African University providing university education of a sufficiently high standard to enable undergraduates to qualify locally at levels equal to those obtainable at United Kingdom universities, and that the university should be multi-racial, undergraduates of any race sharing the same teaching and undertaking the same courses on a foundation of academic equality.
409 Sir Godfrey Huggins rightly emphasises that university standards must not be reduced below a certain level, since that would be unfair alike to Europeans and Africans who are educationally qualified to take courses up to the standard of a university. Sir Godfrey Huggins has also informed my noble Friend that his views on this matter are shared by the chairman of the inaugural board set up last year in Southern Rhodesia to administer funds collected in Central Africa for the institution on a modest scale of a university college in Salisbury, the need for which had been felt before federation became a live issue. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is not in his place, because this is a matter which he raised earlier. He seems to have been caught by another engagement.
It is not possible for Sir Godfrey Huggins, any more than it is for United Kingdom Ministers, to state categorically what a Government not yet in existence will do. Support from the Federal Government will I have no doubt be necessary for the successful launching of any university in Central Africa. If the personal views of Sir Godfrey Huggins find acceptance, as I think they must, in every quarter of the House, I am sure that the House will agree that the university which will be established will not only have a great contribution to make to the promotion of co-operation and partnership between the races in Central Africa, but will also be worthy of the practical support of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. I hope I am not pitching it too high when I say that this statement of Sir Godfrey Huggins, who can hardly fail to be the leader of the new Federation, is one of the first fruits of this projected Federation.
I now turn to the second matter, the colour bar in the Northern Rhodesian Copper Belt. Those who were here for the general debate in the House last Friday may remember a phrase I used when talking about this matter. I said:I think it is far from unlikely that it will be the employers who will take the first step to breaking down what we all recognise in this House to be an unhappy state of affairs which cannot endure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1953; Vol. 514, c. 2590.]The House will, I hope, accept my assurance that I did not know at that time what specific action was being taken. I was, of course, aware—it is my duty to 410 be—of the general attitude of some of the employers in Northern Rhodesia on this subject.
Since I spoke those words, the text has been published of a letter which the general managers of the Mufulira and Roan Antelope Copper Mines have addressed to the members of the Northern Rhodesia Mineworkers' Union, which represents the European workers and employees in the mines. These mines were responsible for 52 per cent. of the copper production in the year before last and 48 per cent. last year.
The letter proposes joint consideration, at an early date, of the question of the advancement of African labour in the mining industry. This letter at first sight, for those who are not in touch with this question day by day, might appear of less importance than it is. It is. in fact, a move by the employers—I should describe it as a most enlightened move— to try to get out of the deadlock which has existed for so long between the African employees, represented by their union, and the European employees represented by theirs.
As I said last Friday, the dispute is not between employers and employed, but between one union and another. Obviously, any employer who tries to liberalise the terms of employment so as to give Africans greater opportunities of advance is, so to speak putting himself into the lions' den. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] If the hon. Member who asks "Why?" wishes more specific terms to be used, they are that such an employer runs the very great danger of having a strike at his mine. This proposal to liberalise African employment may well lead—and I trust that it will not—to what may be regarded as the most retrograde step of the European union's taking its members out on strike. That is the point of which the hon. Member should be aware, and that is the reason which led me to use the phrase, "putting themselves into the lions' den."
I do not think that any hon. Member would do other than applaud the action which the companies have taken. It may well lead to trouble for them, but they are aware of that. They sought an answer to this problem, and I am not overstating the issue when I say that upon the answer—and I choose my words very carefully—depends the very future of 411 the Rhodesian copper mines, their "to be or not to be." I think we are entitled to say on this occasion that the employers have decided to take up arms against the sea of trouble, and, by opposing, end them.
Again I claim and, I hope, not without justice, that this move is, too, one of the first fruits of federation. I apologise to the hon. Member for Dudley. We have got rather out of the usual course of events, and I have already dealt with the subject which I promised him I would mention.
I now turn to my third subject, the vexed question of African opposition. In his speech of the day before yesterday, the right hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) credited us, or rather I should say debited us, with statements that we have never made. He said that we have said there was no African opposition, or that it was negligible, and that his proposed Select Committee would decide who was right. I do not impute any blame to the right hon. and learned Gentleman; he has come very new to these affairs.
We have, of course, always admitted that there was a vocal opposition, that it represented, no doubt, the greater part of educated and influential African opinion. We said, equally, that the great bulk of the population were unaware of the issues, and at least the vast majority of people could not be described as being opposed to federation. Most of them— as I hasten to say would be the case in almost any country—if they had heard of the subject, would not be able to grasp the niceties of constitutional balance in law which federation involves.
I think that this afternoon some hon. Members were getting considerably out of their depths, and I probably well out of mine, on questions of constitutional matters across the Floor of the House, and to expect a largely illiterate population to be able to understand all these niceties is really asking too much. Nor can they understand the massive safeguards which are enshrined in the document.
But the phrases employed by the opponents of federation are very different. Specimens are, "The overwhelming weight of African opinion," 412 "The virtually universal opposition of African opinion." Both phrases, used, I think, in another place by opponents of federation, are really a travesty of what has happened. I think that even among the influential Africans—and there are many—who are opposed to federation, there is a greater sense of responsibility than to describe the opposition of their fellow countrymen in these unmeasured terms.
Let me, and I hope in entirely objective language, recount some recent events. At a meeting in Lusaka on 22nd March, six weeks ago, Mr. Henry Nkumbula, President of the Northern Rhodesia African Congress, made a speech to about 800 Africans, who included a small number of chiefs, and called upon Africans to demonstrate against federation. He urged that the 1st and 2nd April should be set aside and observed as days of mourning during which no work should be performed. Copies of the Federation White Papers were publicly burned, and the Congress leaders—and I would remind the House that Congress in this context represents a political party, and a small one at that —sat under a red banner bearing the words, "Self-government the only ultimate object." I interpolate here that "Self-government the only ultimate object" means, in this sense, a Government consisting only of Africans.
Messrs. Katilungu and Nkoloma, the leaders of the Mineworkers' Union, said, according to my information, that whatever their personal feelings—and I do not think they disguise them; they are certainly opposed to federation—they would not see the union's machinery put into use to bring out the workers. I do not want to go too far into this matter, because I want to praise rather than impute blame.
The right hon. Gentleman, on Monday, praised the sense of responsibility which had been shown, which, he said, was because they were unwilling to use industrial action on a political matter. I take this opportunity of adding my praise to his on the action which they took and which is, I think, a good augury for the future. Unfortunately, at the same time, the Secretary of the General Workers' Union issued a circular advising members not to work. Since I have been 413 checking this statement, I want to be exactly accurate, and I am not suggesting that he necessarily used what might be called the union machinery, though he certainly issued a circular advising workers not to work. Mr. Konkola, the President of the Railway Workers, instructed the railway employees not to work. African civil servants were urged by the Congress Party to join the general strike.
In the event, these incitements were largely ignored, and the performance in response to them was generally summed up as a fiasco. On the Copper Belt there was a full attendance by Africans at Kikwe. Chingola, Luanshya and Ndola. The only mine affected was Mufalira. There were no strikes at Broken Hill, and Livingstone reported a normal attendance. The Chilanga Cement Works suffered a 90 per cent. strike, and in shops and some industrial premises in Lusaka only about one in five turned up for work. On the other hand, the railways were fully staffed and services functioned normally. Nearly all African civil servants reported for work except the daily paid staff. I must point out— and, again, I do not blame the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Neepsend for not being aware of the facts—that the intimidation to which we referred is not intimidation of the anti-Federalists; the intimidation is against those in favour of Federation by those not in favour of it.
During the course of the debate, the hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart), who is not present, asked, when these matters were touched upon, whether only direct action would be effective in persuading Her Majesty's Government that there was deep-seated opposition. Nothing could be further from our thoughts, but the hon. Member, as is not at all unusual with those participating in these debates for the first time, or nearly the first time, entirely missed the point.
It is that the leaders called for direct action, which everyone would deplore, upon a political matter, but that the response to their incitements to direct action found a negligible response in the African population to whom they were addressed. So that that, again, I think, is a subject upon which we in this House 414 can congratulate ourselves—that the people incited had sufficient sense of responsibility not to do the things that they were incited to do.
In speaking of these events, I have no wish, nor has any other supporter of federation, to pitch the case too high. There is unquestionably a very hard core of African opposition. Nobody denies it, and no Select Committee is required to find that out. At the same time, the violent speeches which have been made by some African leaders, and which have even found some echo in this House, paint a picture of a volcano which is about to erupt.
Such speeches might make it erupt, but I think we are entitled to say—and that the Africans are entitled to expect us to say—that looking back upon recent events since the passing of the referendum in Southern Rhodesia even those Africans who are opposed to federation are taking a responsible view, and that the majority of Africans are waiting to see the effects before they are wiling to consider direct action.
The three subjects upon which I have touched should do something to restore their confidence—and the confidence of everybody—in the good faith of those who hope to see federation become an accomplished fact. Of those thre subjects, perhaps Sir Godfrey Huggin's statement in support of a multi-racial university will strike a particular note in the hearts of all hon. Members taking part in this debate.
At this point—and I hope I am following the wishes of the House—I do not wish to recapitulate the well-founded case for federation. As I have already said, this is the sixth time that the subject has been debated in the House, and it seems to me that to go either into the matter of the economic advantages of federation or the massive safeguards which are enshrined in the Constitution for African interests might even lead me to be called to order on the ground of tedious repetition. I made a long speech on 24th March on this subject and the Government case rests, and rests squarely, on what I said then.
Particularly bearing in mind that the House had to listen to me on the colour bar last Friday, on Central African Federation on Monday, again today at 415 Question time, and now on this debate— and also that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) has to listen to me tonight on the Adjournment—I trust that the House will acquit me of any dereliction of duty or discourtesy if I now turn to discuss the Bill in detail.
The Bill is, by nature, an enabling Bill. It is short, but it can hardly be said to provide that light reading and sustenance for the layman which we should all like. There are some legal labyrinths through which I must try to conduct the laity with as much lucidity as I, myself a layman, can command. This is my attempt to do so. Clause 1 (1) provides the necessary powers to give effect to the federal scheme contained in Command 8754. Paragraph (a), by sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii), provides for the setting up of the necessary Federal authorities and for conferring the necessary powers upon them. All straightforward. So far, so good.
Now I come to rather more complicated matters. Sub-paragraph (iii) gives express authority for the interference with the Royal Prerogative which is involved in paragraph 134 (b) of the federal scheme. I believe that the position is that in the Colonial Territories neither unsuccessful litigants nor persons who have been convicted by the local legislature are normally allowed, by Her Majesty in Council, to appeal to the Privy Council—by rulings of the Privy Council —unless they have, in fact, exhausted all the remedies which exist and are open to them in their Colony.
If there is an appellate court in the country in which they have lost their suit or have been convicted, the Privy Council do not give leave to appeal unless all those sources have been previously exhausted. That is a short and perhaps not wholly incomprehensible statement of the position. This Bill seeks to codify the practice which is generally followed, and that is the main reason why the Queen's Consent to the Bill is required. Upon this subject I wish to inform the House that I have it in command from Her Majesty to acquaint the House that Her Majesty places her Prerogative and interests, so far as concerns the matters dealt with by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament.
416 Paragraph (b) of Clause 1 (1) authorises the making of the amendments of the Constitution of the Territories, which will be necessitated be the transfer of powers from the Territories to the Federation—that is to say, the powers of executive jurisdiction in certain matters. Paragraph (c) authorises the making of incidental, consequential or transitional provisions. It authorises the adaptation of Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament and Instruments made under them, to take account of the establishment of the Federation.
Speaking generally, we shall have to provide for any such Acts or Instruments which apply to all or any of the individual territories before federation, to apply after federation in a like manner, and in most cases concurrently to the Federation as a whole. I see many hon. and learned Gentlemen in the House, and it might be worth while mentioning that there are numerous precedents for authorising the amendment of the United Kingdom Acts by Order in Council in circumstances similar to those which attend this Bill. I might cite, for example, the Ceylon Independence Act, the Mandated and Trust Territories Act, the Palestine Act and the India (Consequential Provisions) Act.
The House may therefore be assured that there is nothing new in this provision, still less anything dangerous, and that having regard to the provision in subsection (4), which lays it down that a draft of any Order in Council under the Bill shall require the approval of Parliament, the House may safely agree to the inclusion of such an authority in this Bill.
I apologise to the House for going into these rather technical matters. I shall be as short as I can, and I hope that in trying to compress them I shall not offend in the cause of accuracy and be picked up by hon. Members below the Gangway. Subsection (2) of Clause 1 is designed to meet two different cases. First, the main bulk of the Order in Council made under the Bill will constitute the Federal Constitution and, as agreed by the Conference, that Constitution will be amendable only by the Federal Legislature in accordance with paragraphs 144 and 145 of the federal scheme or by an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament. There will, for instance, be no power to amend the provision of the Federal Constitution by 417 Order in Council. I want to underline that, because it is a matter of great importance.
Secondly, the Order in Council made under the Bill will also make certain adaptations in Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament and in Instruments made thereunder. It may be necessary to make amendments or additions to those adaptations and it would be wholly inappropriate for the Federal Legislature to make them. It is therefore desirable that the Order in Council should be able to authorise amendments to these adaptations by some simpler procedure than an amendment of the Constitution.
I need not go into subsection (3) because I think I can safely say that it is a super-precaution against an eventuality which is most unlikely to occur. Finally, subsection (4) requires a draft of the Order in Council establishing the Federation to be laid before Parliament and to be approved by both Houses.
I now want to make a very earnest request to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition—who, we are very glad to hear, is to speak upon this matter—which I hope he will consider in the spirit in which it is made. I want to state the differences between us, as I see them, with strict fairness. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite would not, I hope, dissent from me when I say that the main difference is whether we should proceed in the face of opposition from many vocal and influential Africans. While some of the methods employed in the scheme may well be open to difference— which we might be able to iron out—I do not think that we are divided upon the principle or advantages of federation if it can be successfully launched.
Let me add this—that I believe there is, quite wrongly, a widespread feeling amongst Africans that the Labour Party are opposed to any scheme of federation as such—there is no justification for such an opinion being held by Africans but, nevertheless, I believe they hold it—and not opposed, as I believe they are, only to federation being proceeded with in the face of the opposition which I have already mentioned.
The responsibility for proceeding—and I make no bones about my belief that it is a very heavy one—rests squarely upon 418 my own shoulders and that of my colleagues in the Government. We on these benches must, whatever we do, absolve hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite from the consequences of taking action now. We must do so. I add in parenthesis, and I trust that hon. Members will not think I am making an unnecessary point, that we could not absolve them from the consequences of preventing us from taking action. The dangers of not taking action are not widely referred to or widely understood.
The Leader of the Opposition will remember that in an article in the "Daily Herald" he said:We are confronted with a dilemma.He would solve it in one way, we in another. He said:It is dangerous to carry through federation against the weight of African opinion. On the other hand"—and this is what I am saying, the very point I am on—the results of abandoning it may be serious and may injuriously affect racial relations.I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman, whose name, we all know, is held in high regard in these Territories, whether, if we assume this responsibility for proceeding now and this House proceeds through the various stages of federation and it is carried through, he and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly will do all they can to make federation prosper, when they have absolved themselves of responsibility for proceeding with it now, such responsibility being on our shoulders and not upon theirs. I urge those who, perhaps unwittingly, have been opposed to federation, to combine to build it up in those circumstances.
My colleagues and I have derived some encouragement from what Mr. Stockhill has said. He has, throughout the discussions, been an opponent of federation, and not upon the grounds of timing or mistiming. He has been against it for much wider reasons, for what to him is a matter of principle. I agree with none of his reasons. He maintained a campaign all through the referendum against federation. But now that he regards the referendum as having set the machinery in motion, now that he regards federation as likely to come into force, he has urged his supporters to co-operate in making it a success.
419 I repeat, in conclusion, what I said at the beginning, and what I have said on many occasions. This is a political issue of the greatest gravity and importance. In my sincere opinion federation may mark a turning point in the history of the African Continent, but, whatever it is, it represents a British solution of the racial problems of which we are all so conscious at the turn of the half century. We have witnessed in the last 50 or 60 years an almost unbelievable advancement in the material prosperity, the spiritual enlightenment and the political responsibilities of the Africans, and these are the fruits of the British colonial system as we have applied it in modern times.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are entitled to take their full share of any credit that we have in the development of this colonial system. This is something in which we all share. If a society is to be founded in which all races can live together and in which the true spirit of partnership can reign, then we on these benches believe, and we believe it profoundly and sincerely, that it is upon these lines upon which we ask the House to pronounce today that this future must largely rest.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
I am quite sure that we all give the right hon. Gentleman credit for believing that this is the right way to deal with this very difficult problem, but I should like him also to give credit to those on this side who believe that this is a dangerous experiment, and who, in particular, believe that this experiment, to go forward successfully, needs to be approached with greater caution and with some measure of delay.
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken in moderate terms today, very different, I am glad to say, from the speech that he made on Monday. Frankly, it was a speech which accused the Opposition, for no apparent reason, of taking a line purely for some kind of strange political manoeuvre. There was no manoeuvre about it at all. It illustrated, perhaps, a certain insensibility the right hon. Gentleman has on these matters, because I do not think he understood, he certainly did not respond to, the very sincere and moderate statement made by my right 420 hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths).
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman understands today the feeling that the Africans may have that they have not had the opportunity of putting their case fully. I know the whole of this story. I know of the opportunities they have had. I know that they have refused to come. Perhaps they might have come. However, in these matters, where one is dealing with the future of another people, one has to show an infinite amount of patience, and really the time has not been very long, when we consider the long time it took to bring forward reforms in India. We look back over countless occasions on which we all hoped for cooperation, and we got non-co-operation. Again and again we had to persist, and really the time spent over this African federation is, in these matters, comparatively short.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the subject of Central African Federation has been a subject of discussion since 1929?
§ Mr. Attlee
I do not think it has been anywhere nearly so prominent as it is now for so long. I think I am right in saying that amalgamation was suggested; it was then turned down; and the matter was not really raised again, I think, until quite recently.
I am speaking for the first time in these debates, and I claim no special knowledge. I did have a short visit to Northern Rhodesia at the invitation of the unofficial members, and a still shorter visit to Southern Rhodesia, but I have not seen Nyasaland at all. Obviously, in such a short visit any knowledge acquired is entirely superficial. I met out there the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, and I should like to express our very deep sympathy with him in the tragic loss that he has sustained, and our regret that he cannot be here, and the reason for it, because I know he did take very great pains to try to find out the rights and wrongs of this matter.
However, although I had a very short time out there, I did endeavour to see as many people as I could. I think personal contacts are valuable. They give one, more or less, the climate of opinion. Also I think that a knowledge of the physical 421 background is useful. When one is considering constitutional problems one wants to get some kind of idea of the space, the distances, the look of the place. When I went out I tried to go out with an open mind. It was not a matter to which I had ever applied any very great attention before, and I wanted to find out what the real position was so far as I could. When I returned, I wrote some articles in which I endeavoured to put, as fairly as I could, the fact that this was a debatable question and that there was much to be said on both sides.
Since then, we have all had to make up our minds. Some of my colleagues have taken one view and the majority have taken another view. Certain things emerged from my visit. First of all it was quite clear that it was generally recognised that there were economic advantages in federation and, secondly, one recognised that there were extremists on both sides—extremist Africans and extremist Europeans. But we all realise that we must never judge just by extremists or make the excuse of the foolish things that extremists say for disregarding the thoughts and ideas of the masses.
I would never judge the settlers in Rhodesia by some of the extremely foolish things said by some of the extreme white dominant people. I talked to many people—many are personal friends of mine—who believe in federation. In the same way, there are Africans who talk of African dominance. We get people like that. There again it is unfair to judge the whole of the Africans by them or even the educated Africans by them.
We did come away with this broad impression, and that was, that, by and large, the Africans were not in favour of federation. I am putting it at its lowest, first of all. We may say that that is only due to the fact of their inate conservatism; they oppose anything. I tried to look into that, and talked with people, and I must say that I was particularly impressed by what was said to me by Dr. Moffat. He said that of course there was the expression which is only given by a limited number of educated people, but, he said, there was no doubt that through all classes there was a genuine fear of federation.
422 I think that the Minister of State, in a debate in this House, said that he had that same impression that it was a fear, rightly or wrongly, of the domination in the federation of the South Rhodesian idea. Since then one has tried to watch and see how opinion has moved. I am bound to say that I do not think there has been any sign that there has been any large body of opinion that has come over in favour of federation.
The right hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out that the mine workers did very wisely to decide not to use industrial power for political ends. But that is negative. It does not give rise to any idea of support. I am bound to say that my impression when I was out there was that a good many of the chiefs were rather naturally hesitant and that since then the general opinion of the chiefs has hardened against federation. Let me say that there may be some cases of intimidation. It is quite possible, but I think the general impression left in my mind is that opinion has hardened. I think there are certain reasons for that.
We rather pleaded for delay. I think we were right. What we have actually seen is a hardening of opposition, and I think we have seen in the development of the scheme a weakening, in our view, of the safeguards for the Africans. It is not my intention to go over the arguments again. I have heard the argument put on both sides. I have heard it put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly, by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) and by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas), and the impression left on my mind was that there had been a weakening of the safeguards.
That is very important, because I found one of the difficulties in talking with Africans was their distrust of paper safeguards, and the reason for that was what the Malan Government were doing with regard to the Entrenched Clauses. This brings us to the point that we all realise. We are dealing here with a problem not merely of certain parts of Africa but the broad African problem in relation to the African people and the Europeans.
I cannot stress too much the importance of what has been done in South Africa, because this does carry, as everybody knows, right throughout the 423 Continent. That may be the difficulty of talking of safeguards, because they say, "What is the good of safeguards if they can be disregarded?" There is, I think, another unfortunate circumstance arising out of the course of events. If we look at it from the point of view of the Africans, there is a great contrast between the African whose opinion is not taken and the European whose opinion is taken in a plebiscite.
We say that there was express provision for the one, and the other might be very difficult, and so on. The person looking at it, standing apart from that, sees that those in the one case say, "We are to accept what we are told," and, in the other, they are asked what is their view. The Government having declared themselves in favour of a scheme of federation, the leaders of federation in Africa did not have to apply their minds to dealing with Africans—their job was to get a majority among the Europeans.
Almost inevitably—and I think this is borne out by a good number of speeches —they ended to minimise the safeguards. They said, "Once we have got federation this thing will not really come." I think that has had a serious effect on the African mind. I do not want to quote, but we all know that there have been these cases. Therefore, we still consider that there is a strong case for delay. I was very much impressed by two articles, which I expect most people have read, in "The Times" of yesterday and today. I would quote from one part of them. The articles were headed "Africa Emergent." It said:The future of Africa will now depend more and more on the political sagacity and common sense of its inhabitants rather than on policies directed from Britain. Except in 'backward' territories which still enjoy Crown Colony government, negative action in the sense of ' putting on the brake' is becoming increasingly difficult. That is the inescapable conclusion of the granting of transitional constitutions in the post-war years, whether they deal out power to black or white. A process of this kind, once started, cannot easily be arrested. It can only be guided.I think we all agree.The deciding factors will really be threefold. The first is whether African politicians quickly learn what is needed in the true interests of their countries and, having done so, can retain enough hold over their supporters to do what is necessary even when it is unpopular.424The second is whether the European settlers can realise that it is to a large extent their refusal to recognise realities which has made the success of a movement like Mau Mau possible and will henceforth listen to their more enlightened readers. The importance of Central African Federation is that it gives them one more chance to do this.The article states that the third is the extent to which the administrators and technicians can establish a new relationship with the semi-emancipated peoples.
I want to deal with those two points. It is our duty to try to the utmost extent to get that sense of responsibility in African leaders; a good deal has been done in that context, but we do not want to give a pretext for irresponsibility. As to whether European settlers can realise the position, I know some of them do, but just as there is a tendency for the African to play up to his extremists, so there is the danger of the European playing up to his extremists. Therefore, this experiment, which, if it is to be a success, must be based on good will and trust and on the conception of partnership, is starting under bad auspices. I am afraid that is the stage that we have reached. That is why we were very insistent that every possible opportunity should be given for Africans to state their points of view and feel that their points of view had been attended to.
The right hon. Gentleman today gave us two very important pieces of information with regard to the universities and the colour bar in the mines. I very much welcome what he said, because that is exactly what I want done. I know Sir Godfrey Huggins very well, and I also know Mr. Welensky, and I believe they are both liberal-minded men; but what is demanded from them is high statesmanship. If we demand statesmanship from the Africans it is also demanded from the Europeans. That is why I should like there to be an interval in which actual tangible proof could be given of a new relationship. There are many matters relating to the colour bar which can perfectly well be broken down here and now and new starts made. I believe that that would be the only way in which we could get acceptance, and if we got it broken down, perhaps the specific provisions which we shall have to examine later will be more easily dealt with.
Everything depends on whether we can start this as a matter of real partnership. 425 I have spoken to Africans about this and they have said "Partnership? But we will be such a junior partner." We have realised for a long time that they must be at first a junior partner. Nevertheless, we must have the beginning of partnership, and that is why we are unable to agree to the Second Reading. We believe that the matter is still being rushed, and the importance of the experiment to the whole of Africa is so immense that we dread going into it under bad auspices and with bad feelings.
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that if this becomes the law of the land it is the duty of all of us to try to make it work to the best of our ability, but even at this eleventh hour I urge that it is worth while delaying so that we may get some tangible proof of a new relationship which will bring the Africans into harmony with the scheme.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
We are trying this afternoon to do one of the most difficult things—perhaps the most difficult thing— in the world, to produce a solution of Government which will not only be fair to black and white, but will commend itself to both races. The speeches which have been made show that the House is rising to the height of the great occasion with which it is confronted. I am sure that all of my hon. and right hon. Friends would wish to welcome the return of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, restored to health and to his accustomed lucidity of reasoning, because none but he could have made so powerful a special contribution at this stage to the debates which are now drawing to a close.
It is inevitable that in these great discussions there has been friction. The sparks have flown. That is because both here and in Africa everyone is deeply convinced of the momentous nature of the happenings which are now taking place. The Leader of the Opposition referred to two remarkable articles in "The Times" yesterday and today. There was about them a sense of fate, of urgency; one might almost say that there was a sense of doom about them, doom which might be averted but a doom which would fall if positive steps were not taken. That is the atmosphere and the 426 background against which we are debating these great questions.
The difficulty which we are in is that many of us do not have special knowledge of these Territories and peoples. Many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have great and special knowledge of them, but for the majority of us it must be a matter of a more or less superficial acquaintance. Like the Leader of the Opposition, I claim no special knowledge of the Territories in East Africa. I claim a little more knowledge of the Territories in West Africa, having spent some two years there as chairman of a commission on higher education, a point to which I shall refer later.
It is because we are trying to govern half a continent at arm's length that we are faced with so many problems. That is a task which it is impossible for us to continue under modern conditions. The Leader of the Opposition referred to our experiences in India. As we all remember, he himself took a very prominent part in the Royal Commission which did so much to work out the relations between the peoples there, and to lay the constitutional foundations for those great changes. However, the right hon. Gentleman would not deny that the pace of the world has speeded up incalculably since those days. The progress by discussion, lasting over decades, in the case of the Government of India has been compressed nowadays into a space almost of months. That is a fact which all our arguments have to take into account.
It is for that reason that I rather distrust the argument for delay which the right hon. Gentleman, though speaking with great authority and with great responsibility, placed once more before the House. I do not feel that we are in a situation where delay as such will be of advantage to the solution of the problem.By their fruits ye shall know them.''We must plant the tree in order to see what the fruits are going to be. It is mere speculation to continue to talk about what the fruits of this tree are going to be. I believe it is said amongst the Jews that there must never be mention of the name "Jehovah," because once that name is mentioned things are never the same again. Once we mention 427 the word "self-government" and once there is a grant, as "The Times" article said, even of these quasi-constitutions, things are never the same again. The time comes for a test by the touchstone of deeds; no longer to continue the process of argument.
The problems are great enough, and none of us can be certain they will be solved by the enterprise on which we are embarking this afternoon. Self-government has not solved the problem in other places. Would any of us say that the problems between the black and the white people have been solved in South Africa? Neither has Colonial administration always solved the problem. Can any of us say that the problem of the relations between black and white has been solved in Kenya? [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Uganda."] In Uganda, as the hon. Member well knows, there does not exist this problem of a multi-racial society which we are discussing. We are discussing the intensely difficult problem of two societies very different from each other living in very close proximity, interdigitated with one another. That is what makes the problem.
It is no use saying "Uganda," for I might reply by saying "West Africa." The Gold Coast and Nigeria, with which I am not unacquainted, have a totally different problem to the problem we are discussing now. The problem of a multiracial society is one which has puzzled and baffled many Governments over many centuries and in many parts of the world.
§ Mr. M. Follick (Loughborough)
Would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that the inter-racial and multiracial problem has been entirely settled in Brazil?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I am not altogether unacquainted with Brazil. It has not been settled there, but what has been done is that Brazil has been made into a homogeneous State.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
That may be, but that is not the advance which either black or white people are contemplating at the moment. In Brazil there has been 428 enormous inter-breeding which has gone on for a long time in that country, but it should be remembered that neither the Africans nor the Europeans are the native people. The true native population there, in numbers and in status, is an entirely different proposition to the native population which we are discussing here. It has never been suggested that self-government should be given to the Brazilian Indians alone. That exemplifies the fact that the problem we are considering here is a different problem. In some ways it is a unique problem, because the contact between the two peoples is so very new and so very raw, while the rate at which we have to go to handle it is so very great.
I say that we have now come to a time for a decision. The right hon. Gentleman himself said that the Africans distrust paper safeguards. Then what is the use of multiplying the paper safeguards? The fruits of the tree will be the proof, and not the number of forms which are being filled up and sent to the agricultural department asking for permission to plant the trees.
My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary this afternoon gave us two pieces of information which are of the greatest moment and, if I may say so, afford us the greatest hope. He spoke of two problems, that of higher education and that of the colour bar, more particularly the industrial colour bar. It should be remembered that the acquisition of a skill which is a thing which cannot be taken back. That is not a paper safeguard. When a man has learned how to work a drill, use modern machinery, operate the complicated engines upon which our civilisation rests, he has learned something which cannot be withdrawn from him. Similarly, when he masters the technique of higher education he possesses something which cannot be withdrawn from him. These are very different from Clauses in a Bill passed by Parliament.
My right hon. Friend said in the case of the colour bar that the great companies had taken the decisive step of asking the unions to come into conference with them on the question of the advancement of African labour. I know as well as any one in this House the state of uneasiness among the great industrial unions regarding the whole problem of what they call 429 dilution. It is the danger which they feel of lower grade labour being used by the employer to do the work at a lower cost both in conditions and pay. The uneasiness is not merely that they are being called into conference to discuss the removal of the colour bar, but also that they are being called into conference to discuss the conditions of labour and the repercussions from dilution by African labour.
This is one of the things which greatly disturbs the ordinary trade unionist and the skilled industrial worker. Not only them, indeed, but the skilled professional worker also. All of us know something of the illiberal attitude taken up by some of the professional unions in the medical profession, to which I myself belong, with regard to the admission of refugees from Central Europe to full practising rights in this country. Sensitiveness about professional skill is not confined to one stratum of society. But that this should be embarked upon at all is a fact which we ought to take into account as of a good omen when considering the problems which we have before us today.
The next point which my right hon. Friend mentioned and which I think was of fundamental importance was the setting up at an early date of a university. About this, Sir Godfrey Huggins has said that it is hoped that students of all races will be admitted on equal terms, working to full university standards. I had the honour, as I have said, of being appointed chairman of a commission on higher education which visited West Africa and surveyed exactly that problem. There had not been set up any university college in West Africa working up to the recognised standards in all the many years with which we have been in contact with that part of the Continent.
Such a scheme was regarded by West African opinion as a touchstone. So great was their interest that when the scheme was decided upon the peasant farmers of West Africa contributed hundreds of thousands of pounds towards the endowment of these two university colleges. The one at Accra obtained an endowment of over £1 million from local farmers, and the university college at Ibadan also received a very great endowment of money from the farmers from the West African Produce Marketing Boards.
430 Those of us who have tried to obtain funds for higher education in this country, and still more those of us who have approached agriculturists with the object of obtaining hundreds of thousands of pounds for the endowment of university education can conceive of the achievement brought about in West Africa when those endowments were made by the Africans themselves. They regarded it as of fundamental importance, and on that they actually put down their money. Now this progress is to go ahead in Central Africa.
This was a matter of discussion in the previous debate. A declaration was asked for. Here is the declaration. I think that my right hon. Friend was well advised not merely to welcome the declaration but to indicate that it would receive practical support, which I interpret as actual financial assistance, from the United Kingdom as well. That is the sort of step which might well be considered as vital by Central African opinion.
I certainly do not wish to take up the time of the House, especially in view of impending events, but I say that the Africans will do well to take note of these two declarations as some of the most hopeful signs which have taken place with regard to the coming into force of federation.