§ Order for Second Reading read. —[Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Lord John Hope)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This is a historic day. The result of the passage of this Bill through Parliament, should it be passed, will be that we shall hail the first of the British dependent territories in tropical Africa to attain full self-government as a sovereign and independent nation.
The introduction of the Bill marks the last stage in a process which started over a century ago. Up to the early part of the nineteenth century, English trade with the Gold Coast was conducted by a series of companies chartered by the King or set up by Acts of Parliament. From 1806 until 1900 there occurred the Ashanti wars, and it was during this period that the government of the settlements in the Gold Coast was vested in various ways in the Crown. After the last Ashanti war Britain assumed full responsibility for the government of the Gold Coast and its hinterland, and, in 1901, Orders in Council were made regularising the situation and bringing together into one unit the Colony, Ashanti and the Northern Territories.
The first step towards self-government may be said to have been taken in 1925. In that year a new Constitution was made which reconstituted the Legislative Council so as to include elected members. At that stage, however, the Council retained an ex officio majority and its authority was limited to the Colony. In 1946, a further advance was made when a second constitutional change introduced a non-official majority for the first time in an African colonial legislature. Representation was broadened to include Ashanti and subsequently Southern Togoland. In 1951, the third and most fundamental constitutional change was made when a large degree of internal self-government was granted.
230 The 1951 Constitution set up an Executive Council consisting of three ex officio members and eight representative Ministers approved by the Legislative Assembly on the recommendation of the Governor. The authority of the Legislative Assembly was extended to cover the whole of the country, including the Northern Territories and the whole of the Trust Territory of Togoland under United Kingdom administration. Its membership was increased to 84, of whom 75 were elected by various forms of popular franchise to represent the chiefs and peoples. Provision was made for each Minister to be responsible for a number of Government Departments.
Early in 1952 the Constitution was further amended to provide for the appointment of a Prime Minister, Dr. Nkrumah being the first to hold this office. In 1954, a Constitution was introduced which granted virtually full internal self-government. It provided for a Legislative Assembly of 104 members chosen by direct election on the basis of universal adult suffrage. The posts of three ex officio Ministers in the previous Constitution were abolished, and the Cabinet, consisting of no fewer than eight members of the Assembly appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, became the principal instrument of policy. Responsibility for defence, external affairs, and certain matters concerned with the police were specifically reserved to the Governor, acting in his discretion, while he also retained general reserved powers.
The 1954 Constitution marked the last stage before the assumption by the Gold Coast of full responsibility for its own affairs. As the Secretary of State for the Colonies informed the House in his statement on 11th May:The grant of such responsibility is a matter for the United Kingdom Government and Parliament and it always has been the wish of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom that the Gold Coast should achieve its independence within the Commonwealth."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1956; Vol. 552, c. 1557.]The House will recall that in his statement of 11th May my right hon. Friend undertook, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, that if a General Election were held in the Gold Coast Her Majesty's Government would be ready to accept a motion calling 231 for independence within the Commonwealth passed by a reasonable majority in a newly-elected legislature and then to declare a firm date for independence.
A General Election was held in the Gold Coast on 12th July and 17th July, 1956. It was observed by six Members of Parliament drawn from both sides of the House of Commons. As a result of the Election, Dr. Nkruma's party, the Convention Peoples' Party, was returned to power with only a slightly reduced majority, and it now holds 72 of the 104 seats in the Legislative Assembly, and it won 57 per cent. of the votes cast throughout the country.
The new Legislative Assembly was opened on 31st July, and on 3rd August the Government introduced their expected motion calling for independence within the Commonwealth. The Opposition Members had absented themselves from the debate and the motion was passed by 72 votes to none. The motion was conveyed to my right hon. Friend by the Governor in a despatch dated 23rd August. On 18th September my right hon. Friend published his reply, which informed the Governor that Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom would, at the first available opportunity, introduce into the United Kingdom Parliament a Bill to accord independence to the Gold Coast, and that, subject to Parliamentary approval, the Government intended that independence should come about on 6th March, 1957.
The Ghana Independence Bill is introduced to give effect to the undertaking by the Government in that despatch published on 18th September. It provides for the attainment by the Gold Coast of fully responsible status within the British Commonwealth, sometimes colloquially known as "Statute of Westminster powers"
I should, in particular, state that the Colonial Secretary has it in command from Her Majesty to acquaint the House that she has placed her Prerogative and interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament.
Before going any further I should like to explain the relationship between the Bill and the Constitution which the Gold Coast will inherit on the attainment of independence. The Bill does not deal with details of the Constitution of the 232 Gold Coast. Its main purpose is to confer on the new State of Ghana the basic powers necessary to give it the status of an independent country within the Commonwealth. The Bill also makes the necessary consequential amendments in the law of the United Kingdom and of Ghana.
As is usual, the Constitution at present in force in the Gold Coast is contained in a series of Orders in Council. After the Royal Assent has been given to the Ghana Independence Bill, and before it comes into force, it will be necessary to issue a further Order in Council, to come into force on Independence Day, which will bring the existing Constitution into conformity with the new status of Ghana. The final responsibility for the Order in Council rests with the United Kingdom Ministers, but the fullest account will, naturally, be taken of the Gold Coast Government's proposals regarding the Constitution.
The House will know that the Gold Coast Government have recently held discussions about the Constitution with the Parliamentary Opposition and with the Territorial Councils, and that, following these discussions, they have prepared revised constitutional proposals published in a White Paper, of which copies have been placed in the Library of this House.
The final proposals of the Gold Coast Government have only recently been received and are now receiving detailed study and legal scrutiny. It is, therefore, too early to say precisely what advice will be given to Her Majesty about the detailed terms of the Order in Council. In this connection, my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary has asked me to say that he will take very careful note of any points about the Constitution which hon. Members may wish to raise in the debate.
The National Liberation Movement, the Northern People's Party, and the Asanteman Council have recently sent formal resolutions to my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary asking for separate independence to be awarded to Ashanti and the Northern Territories and for the appointment of a Partition Commission to divide up the assets and liabilities of the Gold Coast. The Bill which we are discussing today is in itself evidence of the intention of Her Majesty's Government 233 to proceed with the grant of independence to the country as a whole.
The House will wish to know that a formal reply has now been sent to these resolutions in the following terms:Her Majesty's Government do not consider that the partition of the Gold Coast is in the interests of the Gold Coast as a whole or of any of its component parts, and cannot abandon their established policy which is directed towards the grant of independence to the Gold Coast as a whole. Her Majesty's Government are now proceeding with the preparation of the necessary constitutional instruments, having regard to the circumstances of the Gold Coast, and the efforts which were made to reach agreement locally. The grant of independence to the Gold Coast is an act of goodwill which Her Majesty's Government trust will be received by the people of the Gold Coast in a spirit of responsibility which will command the respect of the world.It is our view that the partition of the Gold Coast would not be in the interests of the country as a whole, or indeed of any of the component parts which during the past half-century have grown steadily and strongly into a single nation.
Hon. Members will be aware that the different parts of the country are interdependent both politically and economically. Indeed, the North and the South are complementary to one another. To sever would be to cripple. The partition of the country at this stage in its history, moreover, would not only inhibit further development and progress, but would mean a serious falling back in the standards of life which the country has done so much to achieve during the past few years.
I come to the main provisions of the Bill. Without wishing to go into more detail than I need, there are some points to which I must draw the attention of the House. First, there is the name "Ghana." This has been conferred on the new country in accordance with local wishes. It was the name of an ancient kingdom, in what is now French territory south of the Sahara, which has acquired great historic significance in the Gold Coast.
Next to call for special mention is the first proviso to Clause 1. This explains that the Bill will not applyin relation to Togoland under United Kingdom Trusteeship until Her Majesty so provides by Order in Council, which shall be made as soon as practicable after provision has been made for the termination of the Trusteeship Agreement for that territory upon its union with an independent Gold Coast. …234 For more than thirty years Her Majesty's Government have administered the Trust—formerly Mandated—Territory of British Togoland as an integral part of the Gold Coast, as it was entitled to do under the terms of the Trusteeship Agreement.
Two years ago, Her Majesty's Government informed the United Nations that, after the attainment of independence by the Gold Coast, this arrangement would no longer be constitutionally possible; and the United Nations accordingly agreed last year that a plebiscite should be held to ascertain the view of the inhabitants on the future status of the Trust Territory. This plebiscite, which was held under United Nations auspices in May, 1956, resulted in a clear majority vote in favour of the union of the territory with an independent Gold Coast, and in July of this year the Trusteeship Council passed a resolution noting that the will of the majority of the inhabitants was for union with an independent Gold Coast and recommending… that appropriate steps be taken in consultation with the Administering Authority for the termination of the Trusteeship Agreement for the territory to become effective upon the attainment of independence by the Gold Coast.This recommendation was approved by the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly on 5th December, and it is expected that it will be endorsed by the General Assembly during its present session, and before 6th March, 1957.
I come now to the provisions about nationality, in Clause 2. These are consequential upon the grant of independence. In this instance, however, there is no parallel with the Ceylon Independence Act, 1947. That Ceylon Act was enacted at a time when anyone born within the Sovereign's dominions was a British subject, and the new system of each independent Commonwealth country having its own citizenship law was not then in force. In 1948, as the House will know, the British Nationality Act was passed, which created the status of a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Each Commonwealth country has enacted its own citizenship law in most cases on similar though not identical lines. Our Act provided that citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and those of other Commonwealth countries 235 should be known as British subjects or Commonwealth citizens, and provisions to a similar effect are contained in most of the Acts of other Commonwealth countries.
The Gold Coast consists at present of a Colony, a Protectorate and a Trust Territory. Under Clause 1, all these areas are together to become Ghana, as a part of Her Majesty's dominions, after the date of independence. The published intention of the Gold Coast Government is to introduce a Ghana citizenship law applicable to all parts of the new country without distinction. But this cannot happen till after independence. We have to consider what the position will be in the meanwhile.
Clause 2, therefore, sets out to achieve two things. First, in this nationality field, as in all others, Ghana must be treated as fully independent, and we must avoid prolonging colonial implications into the period after independence takes effect. This is achieved by Clause 2 (a), the effect of which is to include Ghana in the list of Commonwealth countries in the relevant Section 1 (3) of the British Nationality Act. This means that, when Ghana enacts its own citizenship law, its citizens will be recognised in United Kingdom law as British subjects.
The second object to be attained is to make a purely transitional arrangement to bridge the period between independence day and the enactment by the Parliament of Ghana of a Ghana citizenship law, and to prevent large numbers of people from becoming stateless. Accordingly, the proviso to Clause 2 secures that people who were British protected persons before independence by virtue of their connection with either the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast or the Trust Territory of Togoland will retain that status until they become citizens of Ghana.
Owing to the way the British Nationality Act operates, the same result is achieved automatically without fresh legal provision in the case of people who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies by virtue of their connection with the Gold Coast Colony or Ashanti. Thus, both citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and British protected persons who possess their respective 236 status because of their connection with any part of the Gold Coast will temporarily retain their national status after independence.
As I have explained, this is intended simply as a transitional arrangement until Ghana has created her own citizenship. The Gold Coast Government have agreed to it. We have explained to the Gold Coast Government that this transitional arrangement does not imply or carry with it any continued responsibility for the people concerned or any continued protection over them by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom after Ghana has become independent.
Now I come to Clause 3. The provisions in the Clause about the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts must, of course, be specially mentioned. Subsections (1) and (2) provide that no further schemes shall be made for Ghana under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts, 1950–55. As the House is aware, the assistance given under those Acts is far dependent territories, and I am sure that there will be general agreement with the view that Colonial Development and Welfare Funds should not be expended on Ghana after it has become an independent country within the Commonwealth.
Subsection (3) of the same Clause has been inserted to remove any possible doubt about the future of the West African regional research organisations which are partly supported by C.D. and W. Funds. We hope that Ghana will continue to be associated with these bodies, from which great benefit can be derived by all the West African territories, irrespective of their political status. It would be wrong to exclude her from participating as a paying member, simply because there will continue to be an element of C.D. and W. assistance to these regional schemes on account of Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the Gambia.
There is one further point that I must mention in the C.D. and W. context. The Kumasi College of Technology helps to serve the vital and growing needs of Ghana in the field of higher technical education. The sum of £350,000 of C.D. and W. money had been earmarked as a contribution towards the college's capital expansion programme, but no scheme has yet been made, and there is 237 not enough time now to arrange for the money to be spent before Ghana ceases to be eligible for CD. and W. aid.
It would have a deplorable effect on the efforts which are being made to improve the standard of technical education in the territory if this long promised aid were no longer to be available to the college. It is, therefore, proposed, subject to Parliamentary approval, that the college should receive a special grant of £350,000 from the Commonwealth Services Vote towards the cost of suitable projects in its building programme. I have taken note of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) during the debate on the Address, but I am advised that there is no need for special legislation to give effect to this proposal.
The provisions about the Colonial Development Corporation similarly call for special explanation. Clause 3 (4) defines the position of the Colonial Development Corporation. Under the Overseas Resources Development Acts, the C.D.C., as it is called, is able to operate in Colonial Territories; that is, territories to which the Colonial Welfare Acts applied in 1948. This subsection provides that, after independence Ghana will no longer be covered by the Overseas Resources Development Acts and will not, therefore, be within the scope of the C.D.C. itself. Special provision is made, however, for the continuance by the C.D.C. of projects commenced in Ghana before independence.
The purpose of the Colonial Development Corporation is to assist in the economic development of Colonial Territories for whose welfare and policy the United Kingdom is directly responsible. It would be contrary to this purpose for the Corporation to serve as an instrument of development in independent Commonwealth countries. The Government intend, therefore, that, whilst the Corporation should be able to carry on with existing activities, it should not undertake any new projects after a territory attains independence. Accordingly, this policy is being applied in the Bill to the Gold Coast.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
While it is true that under the Corporation's regulations this assistance cannot be given, have the Government 238 paid attention to the Resolution, unanimously adopted by the House within the last ten days, urging that a fund for Commonwealth development should be available for these purposes?
§ Lord John Hope
The Resolution urged special machinery. If the hon. Gentleman will listen to what I now have to say I think he will find that that has not been forgotten. I was about to say that I did not propose to leave this part of the Bill quite there.
Her Majesty's Government most certainly recognise that there may well be a period, after the emergence of a new nation to independence, during which it cannot have as ready an appeal for investment purposes as it will have when it has found its feet and proved itself. Our minds are engaged on the examination of this problem now. In particular, we are to get into touch with the other members of the Commonwealth on the basis of some constructive suggestions made in this context in the debate in this House last Friday week. The suggestions were to the effect that there might be some joint Commonwealth approach to the problem.
I think that the House will like to know, also, that the Commonwealth Development Finance Corporation is already in contact with the authorities in Ghana. This Corporation has, as well as funds at its disposal, an advisory service which is most highly thought of. Further, it is safe to say that the Corporation's decisions have a very definite influence on the market here.
I should draw the attention of the House to Clause 5 of the Bill, which provides for the Gold Coast to become independent within the Commonwealth on 6th March, 1957, unless, before 6th March, special steps are taken by Order in Council to appoint some other day as the date of independence. The date 6th March has been selected in accordance with local wishes. It is a date of local historical significance, being the anniversary of the signing of the Bond of 1844 from which British jurisdiction generally derives.
We cannot, however, ignore the possibility that last-minute unforeseen circumstances—for example, the illness of one of the principal participants—might make it necessary to alter a date fixed several months ahead. If this 239 should happen it would be very inconvenient, and perhaps impossible in the time, to go through the whole process of passing an amending Act of Parliament just to change the date. For this reason, powers are taken in the Bill to enable Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to name an alternative date without resorting to further legislation.
For constitutional reasons, Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom must retain the final responsibility for advising Her Majesty on the terms of any Order in Council varying the appointed day. I wish, however, to place it on record that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government that the date of 6th March, 1957, will only be varied if unforeseen and compelling circumstances should arise which necessitate such a change and then only after consultation with the Government of the Gold Coast.
I must say a word, as I draw to an end what I have to say, on the question of Ghana becoming a member of the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
The Minister has made no reference at all to Clause 4. I have a particular interest in the position of British forces which will serve in Ghana. I should have thought that he could have paid some attention to that very important question.
§ Lord John Hope
I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but perhaps he will make up for it as best he can by catching Mr. Speaker's eye during the debate. I know that my right hon. Friend will be anxious to hear the hon. Member if he has any point which he wishes to raise.
I now come to the question of Ghana becoming a member of the Commonwealth. There is, of course, a clear distinction between the grant of responsible self-government within the Commonwealth and full membership of the Commonwealth. The first is a matter for the United Kingdom and the country concerned, and for them alone, and the second is a matter for all members of the Commonwealth. We are looking forward to Ghana becoming a full member of the Commonwealth and at the request of the present Gold Coast Government we intend to approach the other members on 240 the subject in the very near future. We have every hope that Ghana will become a full member on the same day as she becomes independent, namely, 6th March.
When that day comes, yet another stage will have been achieved in the journey of this great Commonwealth of Nations towards its destiny. Meanwhile, we are confident that the leaders and people of the Gold Coast will rise to the opportunities which lie before them, in full awareness of the responsibilities which they are now to shoulder. We pledge to them our friendship and our support. We wish them well.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
As the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations has said, we in the House of Commons are privileged to take part this afternoon in making history, for the Gold Coast is the first of our African Colonies to achieve democratic independence within the Commonwealth. I join with the Under-Secretary in expressing the hope that the House will not only give a unanimous Second Reading to the Bill, but that that unanimous Second Reading will carry with it the best wishes of all of us for the future of Ghana.
I have recently read one of the latest books on the African scene, of which there are so many, one of John Gunther's books, "Inside Africa". In his first chapter he describes how he found everywhere in Africa the sense that the African people were on the march, rapidly marching towards Western standards, although often uncertain about where it would take them. Among other things, we are indicating today that our colonial policy leads towards democratic independence. We are giving a direction to this march of the Africans and proving to them that this is the best road by which to attain their independence.
For all those reasons, I welcome the Bill on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Subject to the time which we shall require to consider it in detail in Committee, we shall do all we can to expedite the Bill and get it on the Statute Book as quickly as possible. Before dealing in detail with one or two of the provisions of the Bill, I want to say that none of us can escape the fact that at present there is in the Gold Coast controversy about what the Constitution should be after independence day.
241 It is my fervent hope that the people in the Gold Coast will rise to the historic opportunity which presents itself to them. I was very glad indeed to find that the Prime Minister of the Gold Coast, whom many of us in the House are privileged to count as a personal friend, in his speech presenting the constitutional proposals to the Gold Coast Assembly recently, was fully conscious of the fact that in future the Gold Coast will have responsibility not only for itself, but in a way for all the African people. I should like to quote his words which deserve quoting and deserve enshrining in the HANSARD of our own Parliament.
Speaking to his Parliament and, through his Parliament, to his people, the Prime Minister of the Gold Coast said:History has entrusted us with a duty and upon how we carry out that duty will depend not only the fate of this country but the fate of many other peoples throughout the whole of Africa. We must show that it is possible for Africans to rule themselves, to establish a progressive State and to preserve their national unity.I hope that all the people of the Gold Coast will show that national unity which is required to make a success of this venture. It is inevitable that there should be strains and stresses when a country reaches that important stage in its constitutional advancement which the Gold Coast has now reached. After all, we ourselves did not attain our present constitutional stage without many strains and stresses and conflicts. We hope that the people of the Gold Coast will be able to avoid conflicts and that they will bend themselves to that and learn from our experience.
I want to say a few words to the Government and Opposition in the Gold Coast. I want the Government there to realise that it is our desire that they should do all they can to allay the fears in the Gold Coast and I want the Opposition to realise that they will carry a grave responsibility if, by their action, they prevent this very great venture from coming into operation and being a success.
It would not be wise for the House to enter into detailed controversial discussion of the detailed points about which there is not complete agreement, but there are some things which the Government can do and one or two in particular 242 which I want to indicate. I was very interested to note that in the speech to which I have referred the Prime Minister spoke of the steps which the Gold Coast Government would take to ensure that in the new Parliament the Opposition would have their full rights guaranteed within that Parliament. He was right to do that, because, rightly or wrongly, justified or unjustified, there have been fears that after independence day the Opposition would not have those rights which are a part of our democratic process.
I was glad to note that, speaking for his Government, he proposed to ensure that there will be guaranteed opportunities for the Opposition to raise matters in the House, to challenge the Government and to initiate debates. He proposed to enshrine that in the Constitution in one form or another.
He also proposed to ensure that the Opposition will have a guaranteed proportion of membership of Standing Committees and Select Committees. I was interested to note, further, that he said that he hoped also to establish a tradition in the Gold Coast—this is interesting in the light of recent events—by which the Prime Minister of the country will have consultations with the Leader of the Opposition on matters of grave national importance to secure, if possible, a concerted national policy. Other Prime Ministers please note!
I should like to make some suggestions to the Government and the Secretary of State to indicate in what way he thinks that we can help in this direction. The Government of the Gold Coast have said that when they frame their Constitution after independence day they propose to enshrine in it those provisions about fundamental rights which are incorporated in the Constitution of India. I have a copy of the Indian Constitution in my hand, Part III of which is related to human rights. Of course, there will have to be obvious changes and adaptations to meet the peculiar circumstances of Ghana, but if those provisions for fundamental rights which are embodied in the Indian Constitution are enshrined in the Gold Coast's Constitution, that should go a very long way towards removing many of the fears now expressed by the Opposition in Ghana.
243 Can any steps be taken by the Gold Coast Government in advance of independence day? I take the point at once that any legislation now passed by the Gold Coast Government in the present form, as a colonial Government, may not be valid after independence day and may have to be re-enacted. In present circumstances, I would put this suggestion to the Government of the Gold Coast, and I hope that the Secretary of State will give it some consideration. Cannot these provisions for fundamental rights, which the Government have already said they will accept, be embodied either in a Bill, or, if that is constitutionally impossible, in a White Paper and be debated in the Legislative Assembly and carried by a resolution which would indicate that they proposed to enshrine them in the Constitution after independence day? If that were done, it would go a very long way. I believe, towards meeting the fears which are being expressed.
The second problem to which I want to refer concerns the discussion in the Gold Coast about regional devolution. Speaking for myself and, I believe, for all my right hon. and hon. Friends, may I say that we are in full agreement with, and give our fullest support to, the decision of the Government—which I think they have bed wise to make plain today—that secession is not on the agenda. I beg all our friends in the Gold Coast to realise that if they now start partitioning their country they will be rendering a grave disservice to their people. The Gold Coast is only a small country of 5 million people. As the Under-Secretary of State has said, each part is supplementary and complementary to the other because of access to the sea and to communications.
To divide this small country would be a grave disservice to their own people and they would carry a very grave responsibility if, by an action of this kind, they made it impossible for the Gold Coast to survive and to become a viable State; and a grave disservice to the people in Africa and all over the world. I join with the Government in saying that we share their view and support their decision, which they have officially conveyed in the note read to us by the Under-Secretary of State, that they do not propose to accept 244 the proposal put forward for the partitioning of the Gold Coast and the acceptance or recognition of Ashanti or any other part of it as an independent State.
That leaves the problem of regional devolution. As I understand, the argument has been as to what power shall be vested in the regional authorities that are to be created. The Government have suggested that the regional authorities shall have the same kind of authority as is now vested in the London County Council and other county councils in this country—in other words, that there shall be a form of local government—whereas, if I understand it aright, their Opposition were thinking of powers in terms of Northern Ireland. I have myself come to the view that the Government are right. There is, I think, the strongest possible argument for regional devolution. There is no argument for the creation of separate Parliaments within this small territory. All the energies of the Government and of the Opposition should be directed to discovering ways and means by which these regional authorities can be made really effective bodies.
First, what powers are to be given to the regional authorities and, secondly, what powers should be given particularly for the raising of finance. I do not think that any of us ought to pronounce finally about that. I see that there is a strong case for considering ways by which these regional bodies, if they are to be effective, shall have some finances of their own. We all know that in our own local authorities part of their prestige and influence is that they have available some funds which they can spend themselves, although they have to spend them on objects decided and determined by the central Government.
Surely the same method could be adopted if only—and I make this as a suggestion—there could be included in the provisions that will be made by the legislature for the setting up of regional authorities means by which there will be guaranteed grants to them from the central Government and consideration given as to whether they can in some form or another raise some of their own funds. If we do that and provide for regional devolution by giving them some funds of their own and an effective part to play in the life of the country, I think that the Government, if they accept that 245 view and make provisions of that kind, will have gone as far as they are entitled to be asked to go by any Opposition. I hope, therefore, that full consideration will be given to these two suggestions.
A third suggestion has been made to me which I should like to convey to the Secretary of State. Some fears have been expressed—and I think that we had better face them—about the courts. It appears that it is intended that the present judges should continue in office. The fear has been expressed that after independence day the judges will be dismissed and that there will be political appointments. I hope that something can be done by the Government between now and 6th March. either by announcing in advance that the present judges are to continue until the time of their retirement or that if there are to be any changes—and it is not for us to decide whether changes are desirable or not—the names of the judges will be announced before independence day, thereby going some way, I hope, towards allaying those fears.
We are all very glad to note that they are to retain the provision by which there is the right of appeal to the Privy Council, and it has been suggested to me by one of my legal friends that it would be an appropriate occasion on which to appoint an African judge to the Privy Council. That would not only be a gesture; I am told that it would be of very great value and perhaps essential to the Privy Council in future, when considering appeals from the Gold Coast, that there should be an African judge on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. I hope that it will be possible for the Government to consider those suggestions.
I think it is vitally important that the Government should adopt some such measures as I have suggested, or some other way by which it can be shown beyond a peradventure that it is their firm intention to incorporate in the Constitution a provision for fundamental rights and stand by it.
I propose to deal with only one Clause of the Bill itself this afternoon. I have no comment at this stage—I may have in Committee—to make on some of the other provisions in the Bill. We welcome the decision of the United Nations on Togoland, and we join in 246 welcoming Togoland, in which we have responsibility as trustees, as a member of Ghana.
I come now to Clause 3. During the debate on the Address, I asked the Secretary of State whether he would consider telling the House, before we had this Bill before us, what provisions the Government intended to make for the territories after independence day which would be excluded, as I understand, from the provisions of the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts and, indeed, from the possible operations of the Colonial Development Corporation. I was anxious that that should be done because we have to realise, as I am sure we do, that within the next few years we shall see a succession of Colonies becoming independent. Now it is the Gold Coast; next year it will be Malaya; and in 1958 there will be the Caribbean Federation.
We are now at a very important turning point, and I think that it is essential that the House should consider what provisions we are to make so that our skill, knowledge and resources shall be available to them. Let us begin by saying that after independence day it is for them to decide what kind of help they require and determine in what way they want that help. We shall be making a grave mistake if we do not now begin to give serious thought to this problem. We should begin by making it clear that when Ghana becomes independent it is not our desire that we shall wash our hands of it thereafter. We cannot; it is we who are responsible for conferring this independent status upon the Gold Coast.
This is a tremendous venture. A democratic form of government is not the easiest form to establish or to sustain. In these days democratic government has become synonymous with a welfare State. I say that with some pride, because that is one of the contributions made by the Government of which I had the honour to be a member. We know that in setting up a democratic form of government the Gold Coast and many other similar States will have to face very great difficulties.
We have a special responsibility. In the main, the economies of all these Colonies have been shaped and patterned by us. I have no desire to raise old 247 controversies, but I must say that they have been shaped and patterned to meet not their needs, but our interests. When I became Secretary of State for the Colonies I went out to the Colonies and I found myself considering the same economic problem as that which used to face South Wales. The economy of my part of the world was designed not to meet the needs of South Wales, but to meet the country's need for coal. Its economy was on too narrow a base, and, when that went, down came the whole structure.
In the main, the economies of our Colonies are based upon primary products, and upon very narrow foundations. That of the Gold Coast is based particularly upon cocoa and gold. In recent months, with the price of cocoa falling, we have seen the really serious consequences to the people of the Gold Coast. One of the greatest contributions that we can make towards ensuring the economic viability and success of these territories is to establish a system by which we can guarantee the price at which we buy their primary products. Stability of prices of primary products is one of the essentials for their success for many years to come. It will take many years to develop a diversified economy.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend make this point about the stability of prices, because he has on his side the authority of McMahon Ball, who says of South-East Asia that the stability of prices would be worth many Colombo Plans if we could find a formula for it.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
Does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) agree that what we really want is stability of agricultural income throughout the farming community rather than stability of prices?
§ Mr. Griffiths
When I referred to the stability of prices of primary products I realised that the standard of life and everything else depended upon that.
In the political situation of the 1950s we simply cannot afford to go back to the economic catastrophe of the 1930s, with all its consequences upon our Colonies, all of whom are primary producers. We cannot allow that to happen 248 when all these dynamic political forces are at work in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. It is, therefore, of vital importance that there should be a form of association between us and all the other Commonwealth countries and the primary producers. Now that the Gold Coast is to become independent, I hope that that factor will be taken into consideration.
The Gold Coast has meant a great deal to us ever since the Second World War. I speak as a member of a Government that held office for some years during that period, and I am now speaking to our temporary successors. I make the point, only in passing, that no representative of the Treasury is here. In our debates on most Bills—certainly, of this kind—it used to be a tradition of the House that a representative from the Treasury was present. This very old Parliamentary tradition seems to be falling into disuse. Gold Coast dollars have been very valuable to us; so have Malayan dollars. We could not have survived the dollar crisis without the help of the Colonies. That is the plain fact. It is not we who have been helping the Colonies since 1945; it is the Colonies who have been helping us. We have to realise what would be the effect if any of them decided to leave the sterling area, as they would be entitled to.
This is a matter upon which our future security depends. It is very important that we should say to Ghana, "We are conferring democratic independence upon you, with the good will of all. We are glad that you are staying inside the Commonwealth and that you are adding the rich diversity of your life to the great diversity of the Commonwealth, the greatest multiracial community the world has ever known. It is our greatest desire that this democratic dependence which we are pleased and privileged to agree that you should have shall succeed." If it is to succeed, we must help the Gold Coast.
I was glad to hear what the Under-Secretary of State said about the provisions which are already being made and which will be continued under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts. They have formed one of the best instruments we have devised to assist the economic and social interests of the people in the dependent territories. The Under-Secretary of State said that it was now 249 possible to do that without legislation. Am I entitled to infer that it will now be possible, without legislation, to continue the grants, from other funds, for the same kind of purposes for which the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts were used?
§ Lord John Hope indicated assent.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I hope that the Secretary of State himself will say more about that.
The Bill provides that after 6th March, 1957, the Gold Coast will not rank for grants under the Acts. There are many fields in which these grants are of vital importance. Technical education has been mentioned. Another is university education and, in particular, there is adult education. Hon. Members will know what an important part adult education has played in building our democracy. I owe very much to adult education. It has done so much to train people to hold responsible posts in our democratic life and it is of immense importance. There will be very great danger unless provision is made for the expansion of adult education in the Gold Coast. There are other objects, such as research. I gather from the Under-Secretary of State that it will be possible for us to make grants of that kind without legislation.
The purpose of the Resolution for which we all voted the other day was that we wanted a collective Commonwealth effort, as well as a United Nations effort, to help each other. I have just returned from the Caribbean. I hope that there will be a Colombo Plan for the Caribbean in which Canada will participate, as well as help being given from the United Nations agencies. Then there is the Colonial Development Corporation. Clause 3 says that the Corporation will be enabled to maintain its interest and continue its operations in established schemes, but will be prevented from entering into further commitments.
I believe that this is the wrong way to deal with this problem. That is why, during our debate on the Gracious Speech, I pressed the Minister to consider the problem as a whole. In March, 1957, we shall cut off the Gold Coast from the Colonial Development Corporation. Some time later, in 1957, we shall cut 250 off Malaya, in which we have a much bigger interest; in 1958, we shall cut off the Caribbean Federation; and in 1959 somebody else. There is a long list on the way. This is killing the Corporation by stages. It is the wrong way to do it.
In the debate we had the other day, the point was made with real force that the effect will be that the Corporation will lose its best personnel, and its morale, and we shall be wasting public money by handling this problem in that way.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
I certainly do not disagree with the right hon. Gentleman's main theme upon the whole question of economic co-operation in the Commonwealth. It is a fact, however, that when the Corporation goes out of these territories they will be able to obtain benefits flowing from the colonial development and welfare funds.
§ Mr. Griffiths
All I am sure about for the moment is that the Government should make up their minds now whether there is to be an instrument by and through which Government aid for economic development will be available in this country. If so, is it possible to use the C.D.C. or some other instrument? Let us make that decision rather than have this "death by a thousand cuts"— if I may so put it—which will have a disastrous effect on everyone concerned. I hope that consideration will be given to that problem.
There are three of us here this afternoon—my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), the Colonial Secretary and myself—whom the House will permit to have some personal pride in this matter. At various stages we have all three had the privilege of taking part in and offering our aid during this journey towards the independence of the Gold Coast. This Bill represents journey's end. I should like to join in paying tribute to all those who have helped. I wish to pay tribute to the Colonial Service, to the people who have had to work in this transition period. In a sense they are working themselves out of a job, and it is a very great tribute to them to say that in this penultimate stage their experience and knowledge has been given so freely.
In particular, I wish to place on record my deep appreciation of the work of the 251 Governor, Sir Charles Arden Clarke. He is a great statesman. I was in office when the 1951 Constitution came into operation and I would pay tribute to Dr. Nkrumah, the Prime Minister of the Gold Coast. He came out of prison to become Prime Minister. He had to make the big decision which has had to be made in all the territories, but which has not always been made so wisely as he made it. The party had captured power within the limits of a Constitution which they did not altogether like. They would have preferred a Constitution more democratic and nearer to freedom.
There were two voices within the party; there were those who said, "We have won power. Let us use our power now to get our freedom at once and not (have this half-way house." Dr. Nkrumah used his great personal prestige and influence—it was great then, and it is still great—on the side of using the limited powers of that Constitution and working their passage towards full independence by showing their responsibility. Throughout the whole period Sir Charles Arden Clarke has well served this country and the Commonwealth, and indeed the world, and I should like to pay my sincere tribute to him.
I believe that all hon. Members will vote for the Second Reading of this Bill with a sense of pride and privilege. I shall do so. I join in sending to the Prime Minister, to the Government, to the Opposition—for the members of the Opposition have a part to play, which I hope they will play with a true sense of responsibility—and to all the people of Ghana, a message that this afternoon we look forward to 6th March not only as the day on which they will become independent within a democracy, but the day on which they will join as equal partners in the Commonwealth of Nations.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
I do not often agree with the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) but this afternoon I accept almost entirely what he has said, though I believe that my right hon. and hon. Friends will remain in office very much longer than he thinks.
We welcome this great experiment and rejoice that the Bill granting indepen- 252 dence to Ghana is introduced by a Conservative Administration. At the time when there are so many taunts about imperialistic colonialism, especially against the Conservatives, it is splendid that a Bill of this kind should be introduced, and that the first African Dominion should be sponsored by Her Majesty's present Government. It has been possible to introduce this Measure largely because of the great responsibility shown by the present leaders in the Gold Coast Government. With many other hon. Gentlemen in this House, I am lucky enough to have a great many Ghananian friends, and I hope they will forgive me if I am a little critical of one or two statements which have been made by some of their politicians.
The election was rightly fought on the unity of the Gold Coast. Economically it would be madness to divide the Gold Coast and to have four separate constitutions, but I must quote from one or two of the statements made by the Opposition. They say that the British Government are irresponsible and have betrayed the Gold Coast, and may cause bloodshed and suffering by not allowing a federation. They say that if they do not get their way, the Ashanti, the Northern Territories and Togoland will have no alternative but to take the standpoint that they are independent but separate entities. I deplore that statement, but I understand it, and I only hope that the great statesmanship which has, so far, been shown by Dr. Nkrumah may, in the coming months, so bring both sides together that a reasonable compromise may be achieved.
I understand that the Opposition fears that, with the two-thirds majority the Convention People's Party have in the Assembly, the constitution, although written in various Orders in Council for all the world to see, may be swept away in the coming years. Though I agree with the right hon. Member for Llanelly that the different regional assemblies should have the power to raise a portion of their own revenue, as well as that given to them by the central Government, I should like to make a plea for a second Chamber representing the different regional assemblies, and given the power to deal with constitutional matters only. Were there a second Chamber of that kind, surely it could then deal with minor matters of 253 agreement quite easily; and if there were disagreement, it would ensure that an election would have to ensue, and that a Constitutional Bill would have to be passed in two successive Parliaments. This would be a real safeguard for the Gold Coast minority.
§ Mr. W. T. Williams (Barons Court)
The hon. Gentleman says he thinks that there ought to be a second Chamber. Has he any ideas to offer about from where the membership of a second Chamber is to be drawn? The suggestion has been made from the Opposition that it should be a regional council of chiefs. The hon. Gentleman may feel the same objection to that as I do, but can he suggest from what other sources the membership of such a Chamber could be drawn without disaster?
§ Mr. Tilney
I should like it taken from the different regional assemblies. But it should be limited, and the members, senators—call them what we will—given the power to deal with constitutional matters only and not the power to deal with finance or general day-to-day administration. I believe that would be a good safeguard for the minority in the Gold Coast.
I wish to turn to the question of trade. The British went to the Gold Coast to trade, and will remain to trade long after their political power has been handed over. I think that I ought to declare a minor interest, as I am a director of a company which operates throughout West Africa. I still maintain that it is vital to the Gold Coast and to this country to have the greatest amount of trade, for our mutual benefit.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly was quite right to be worried about the present price of cocoa and about what may happen in the coming years to a newly-founded country that runs out of money. In the last decade the Gold Coast has been a great bulwark to the Sterling Area. It has produced about 25 per cent. of the net dollar earnings of the Colonial Commonwealth. I only hope that we can be imaginative and can hive off the Bank of England, partly into a Bank of the United Kingdom dealing with our own affairs and partly into a great Commonwealth Bank and head of the Sterling Area, on the Board of which representatives of the Gold Coast and Malaya can find a seat.
254 Now I would refer to the great scheme of the Volta. Many hon. Members have a copy of the splendid booklet about this imaginative scheme, made much more difficult now by the activities of President Nasser. If we are to extend our Commonwealth trade and the Western way of life throughout the free world it is vital that we should help under-developed territories such as Ghana. Here I put in a plea for Her Majesty's Overseas Service which up to now has done a splendid job of work but whose financial plateau of compensation has been frozen until 1959, when it will then start to descend.
I am frightened that just at the time when ideas and help are needed, many of these people may leave Ghana, unless some arrangement that they can be kept is made by treaty between the independent Government of Ghana and the United Kingdom.
I put in a plea also—not solely to the Colonial Development Corporation or to the Colonial Development and Welfare organisation, but to the Treasury—that private enterprise should be induced, either by Overseas Trade Corporation registration or in some other way, to go in and develop further these African territories. I note that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already offered to help organisations such as the Pioneer Industries. But many other companies are already there and it is of mutual interest that they should stay there and expand.
This great experiment will be watched by the whole world and it must be made to succeed. If it does not, the outlook indeed is dark. If it does, we can look forward to a period of expansion and to a world that will not be divided into camps of different colours.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)
I am in some sympathy with the fears which have been expressed by the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), particularly regarding the power of the Prime Minister of Ghana and, secondly, regarding the economy of that country. I rise with some trepidation, because this is the first time I have attempted to speak in a colonial affairs debate. One of my reasons for doing so is the fact that I was a member of the Parliamentary delegation which visited the Gold Coast during the last General Election.
255 I will come straight to the point. It may surprise hon. Members that on my trip out there I was amazed that such a Colony should be on the verge of independence in its present state. I am convinced that Ghana, following independence day, will at least stand still, particularly in the Northern Territories. That opinion may be due to the fact that I spent a lot of my time in the Northern Territories, in Ashanti, and not sufficient time in the more progressive areas of the south.
The country has a fragile economy, mainly dependent upon its cocoa crop. The trend in world prices of cocoa were unfavourable to the Gold Coast in 1955, and I do not think there will be any prospect of a return to the 1954 abnormal levels. This fact is bound to prove one of the most worrying features of the situation. In the Northern Territories, the only other industry of note is agriculture, but the surface of this has hardly been scratched in teaching the northerners a progressive method of farming. There is an appalling shortage of competent Africans to run the agricultural stations.
Ghana is still a very much underdeveloped State. The Government are certainly investing in public services like transport and education, but there is not sufficient Government or private investment in industrial expansion. This fact may also tend to upset the economy.
I took particular note of what the right hon. Gentleman said in opening the debate, which was that Ghana will have to prove itself before investment starts to pour in. In view of the unrest which seems to prevail at this time, so shortly before independence day, it may be some time before investors are likely to pour cash in, particularly upon industrial projects. However, we must recognise that the pace has been set. I realise, of course, the feeling in the minds of Gold Coast people. Their speed of advancement and tempo is such that independence cannot even be delayed.
The Colonial Secretary's statement that a firm date for independence would be given following a reasonable majority in a newly-elected Legislative Assembly has been honoured. This must be recognised at all costs. If the Colonial Secretary went back on his word we would face another Cyprus. The Colonial 256 Secretary's intervention has given independence to them two years earlier than was expected. Those two years would have proved invaluable in cementing relations between the present factions and also in putting the Government and the development of the Northern Territories on a firmer basis. This is a very badly neglected area. It is still regarded by many people solely as a reservoir of labour for the south.
The Colonial Secretary is bound to be in somewhat of a dilemma. First of all, he has granted independence. If he had not done so, an ugly situation might have arisen. Secondly, independence has been granted although the country is by no means ready as a whole to receive it. In view of this situation, I would draw the attention of the Colonial Secretary to a few points arising out of the last General Election, and to my observations on the future of Ghana.
The General Election was held on two days, 12th and 17th July. The reasons were mainly a shortage of troops and police in the whole country, and secondly, the lack of experienced Africans and shortage of Europeans to man the polling booths and counting centres and to act as returning officers. This situation is bound now to deteriorate. Already many Europeans are planning to leave the country. It might be very helpful when the Colonial Secretary replies if he could give us an indication how many Europeans have notified that they are leaving and how that trend may develop.
Those who are in the age 40 group, realising that they still have a chance elsewhere, are going now. As the tendency towards Africanisation develops, the number of Europeans will be whittled down to insignificance. Even at its present strength the staff available has been grossly overworked, particularly in trying to register the electorate and to organise the election. The weakness of the election was undoubtedly registration.
I recognise that it is a very difficult job to deal with people who are totally illiterate. They cannot read or write, and in many cases they have the same Christian or surnames, were born on the same day, have the same occupation and come from the same village. When they appear to register their names on the burgess roll, they can only pronounce 257 their names. Registering people, many of whom have the same name, the same occupation and the same village, is almost an insurmountable task.
In arty forthcoming General Election this task, without European assistance, will prove formidable, to say the least. There were more disturbances on polling day over this difficulty than over anything else. Many were turning up to vote not having registered and others, having registered, found they had not a vote because someone had voted in their name. The frustration and deep mistrust which follows in the mind of an illiterate person can result in undermining completely the effectiveness of an election and to some extent may ridicule the results. This matter is worthy of serious consideration by the Colonial Secretary before independence day.
Secondly, there have been no local government actions during the past three years and the whole system of local government is in jeopardy. Elected representatives are out of touch with their electors, few meetings are taking place and, in some instances, councillors have left their electoral districts. I am sorry about this for two reasons. First, it shows a dangerous tendency for the Prime Minister to act in a dictatorial manner in so far as he has been primarily responsible for the postponement of those elections. Secondly, valuable opportunities have slipped by which would have proved very important for training Africans in registration and organisation of elections.
I therefore urge the Colonial Secretary to sec that steps are taken to encourage developments of the local government system. I also urge Dr. Nkrumah to strengthen the broad base of the pyramid of his democracy. This is an essential for a true Parliamentary democracy. I hope this House and our nation are going to be proud of the Gold Coast following March next year. I honestly and sincerely hope so, but I have my fears which I feel I must express.
First, there have been no local government elections in the last three years, which does not augur well for the future of Ghana. Dr. Nkrumah is life chairman of the Central People's Party and is feeling joyously powerful following the General Election in which it gained 71 of the 104 seats. The National Liberation Movement, which is really the heart 258 of the Opposition and is not devoid of intelligence, has been subjected to a humiliating defeat in view of the fact that it anticipated doing very well and better than in the last election. In fact, it is the third party in strength, not even an alternative to the Government, the Northern People's Party having that pride of place. The Ashanti has been weakened and, indeed, split. The C.P.P. has captured the Brong area and had 43 per cent. of the poll in Ashanti.
Another factor which is of great importance is the growth of frustration which will be inevitable—although no one knows to what degree. There is a very large percentage of illiterates in the Gold Coast—probably 70 per cent. to 80 per cent. throughout the territories and at least 95 per cent. in the Northern Territories. They imagine freedom and independence to mean many things—that the police will wink an eye at all they do, that police are no longer needed because they are now independent. Small shopkeepers think that now they will receive loans from the Prime Minister to build big stores and so on. Frustration is hound to develop after independence day. It is understandable that the quick change of name from "The Gold Coast of West Africa" to "Ghana of the Commonwealth" will not as rapidly bring about the much needed advances in agriculture, education and industry which are so urgently desirable.
Those frustrations may well be canalised by the National Liberation Movement into active opposition against the Government. The real danger then will be whether the Prime Minister will follow a pattern which has been adopted before with his local government elections and—sensing this growing opposition—postpone the Parliamentary election also. I hope not, but we may well have seen the last General Election in the Gold Coast. I think that is a very real danger.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
If the Gold Coast Government and Parliament enshrine these fundamental rights in their constitution, will not that be a guarantee?
§ Mr. Mason
I think my right hon. Friend is correct, but there is still the danger—I would not put it higher than that, and perhaps not even as badly as that—that the two-thirds majority of the 259 Legislative Assembly can change any of the constitutional amendments we want to put in between now and independence day. Dr. Nkrumah can get that any time he requires. In view of the fact that a two-thirds majority can amend the constitution—sensing the growing opposition particularly in the district of Ashanti and so on from the Northern People's Party—Nkrumah might amend the constitution and postpone the Parliamentary election.
The National Liberation Movement and the Northern People's Party are not pure innocents in this matter either. As a supposedly responsible Parliamentary Opposition, they have acted in a very childlike fashion by walking out and boycotting important discussions and debates—all dealing with their country's future—no fewer than seven times. They also must act in a more responsible and statesmanlike manner if a true Parliamentary democracy is to emerge. Probably, however, they have sensed a trend towards dictatorship, particularly when one of the outstanding points of difference still remains between them and the Government—that the police force should be regionalised as a check against possible dictatorship. The leaders of the Opposition, including Professor Busia, have publicly declared, also, that if there is no agreement on the constitution by independence day, Ashanti and the Northern Territories may secede from the Gold Coast. This is a most serious threat, and it too is a dictatorial attitude.
Much yet remains to be done and, in view of these observations, fearing civil strife, and possible dictatorship, I ask the Colonial Secretary to make a visit to the Gold Coast before independence day and, out of his vast experience of colonial affairs, to help the Government and the Opposition to work out a solution of agreement, a solution which might iron out many of the differences which remain. We want a truly democratic State to emerge, one of which this nation can be proud. I urge the Colonial Secretary to act on this and to act now.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Pannell (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
I must confess that I view this Bill with mixed feelings. I associate myself entirely with the expressions of 260 good will that have been voiced by other hon. Members who have spoken, but I cannot repress certain misgivings about the future of the Gold Coast.
I do not think my misgivings are so deep as those expressed by the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), but they are sincerly held. I want to emphasise that I voice them with no sense of criticism, but only in the hope that by ventilating them in this debate the cause of those misgivings might be overcome.
I am not without some experience of the Gold Coast territory. I spent fifteen years on the West Coast of Africa prior to 1946 and have visited the Gold Coast twice in the last six months. Therefore, I have been able to assess the progress which has been made, both economically and politically, in the last ten years. I admit that it has been impressive, but it is quite clear that political advancement has outstripped economic progress. I think it would be over-optimistic to assert that in the short space of ten years the Gold Coast has emerged from a state of complete dependence on Whitehall to a position in which she can be entirely self-reliant and independent. That could not be so when she has still to rely on the services of senior British officials in every sphere of activity.
I was very pleased that the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) voiced a tribute to the British Civil Service. The very fact that we are today granting independence to the Gold Coast is surely proof of the magnificent work which has been done by generations of British officials in bringing the country from a primitive state to its present position. That tribute does not mean that their task is at an end. For some time yet the Gold Coast will have to rely on British officials for administration and for good order and development in the country.
Africanisation has made great progress in recent years, but it is not possible for these senior men to be replaced by Africans in the short term. Nobody who has knowledge of the territory would dispute that if there were a sudden and considerable exodus of British officials within the next year or so, there would be a virtual collapse of the economy and a breakdown of law and order. It is, therefore, very important that a nucleus should remain.
261 Unfortunately, many of them are leaving. Compensation terms have been offered by the Gold Coast Government and have been frozen until 1959, but despite that, senior officials are leaving. The guarantees are not sufficient for them to remain. The House will remember that some time ago a White Paper was introduced providing a special list to which British overseas officials could transfer if they were working in those Colonies which were moving towards independence. This would give them an umbrella of protection by the Colonial Office in order that they could be assured of continuity of career. That White Paper did not apply to the Gold Coast, which had already reached a stage of self-government which excluded it from the scope of the proposals.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
The Gold Coast could, of course, be added to that list. There is nothing to prevent that.
§ Mr. Pannell
I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for that statement. I will not pursue the matter further if I have an assurance that the possibility of the list being extended to the Gold Coast is being considered.
Hon. Members have mentioned the internal dissensions in the Gold Coast. I agree that it is of the utmost importance that before independence the parties should get together and settle these differences, but I urge that we cannot do a Pontius Pilate act in this matter; we cannot dissociate ourselves from all responsibility. Her Majesty's Government have responsibility for this Colony until 6th March, and it is the Government's duty to do everything possible to ensure that when that day comes, Ghana shall not be riven by internal strife which might even lead to bloodshed.
I believe that the Government should offer their good services to bring together the parties in this dispute to see whether some final solution can be reached. I do not think the differences are as great as has been suggested. From my contacts with the Opposition in the Gold Coast—and I wish in no sense to take sides in this matter—I do not think that its attitude is as intransigent as it may seem. A gesture is needed, and if Her Majesty's Government could bring the 262 parties together it would be an excellent thing.
The Government have declared their intention of incorporating in the Order in Council, which has yet to be introduced, provisions relating to regional Assemblies. That, I think, is an exception. There is no intention to incorporate many constitutional provisions in the Order in Council, but I think it would help to allay the fears of the Opposition in the Gold Coast if the agreement finally reached on this matter were incorporated in the Order in Council.
We must go further than that. Under the proposed constitution of the Gold Coast, the Government can amend the constitution any time by the decision of a two-thirds majority of the Assembly. Since the Government parties already enjoy a two-thirds majority, the constitution can be changed at any moment. I honestly hold the view that there should be a delaying Clause. If there were a second Chamber, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) has suggested, it would perhaps provide a solution, but I think there will be difficulty about the formation of a second Chamber, and if it cannot be formed, I suggest that at least there should be some provision in the constitution providing that any amendment of the constitution shall not be effective unless it is confirmed by the next General Election. Such a provision could be confined to matters of radical importance and need not include minor points.
If Her Majesty's Government, within the limits of their responsibility, were to put these provisions into the Order in Council so that the Opposition in the Gold Coast know, not only that what has been agreed has been incorporated in an Order in Council but also that there is a delaying Clause to prevent the constitution from being brusquely overturned on the attainment of independence, that would be all to the good. We know, of course, that after 6th March, the State of Ghana will be in a position to do what it likes with the constitution. It can tear up the old constitution and provide a new constitution. That is what the Bill says. Nevertheless, it would have a great moral effect if the various Orders in Council incorporated such provisions 263 which had been accepted by the Gold Coast Government. I think they would have great reluctance about brusquely introducing new provisions contrary to them immediately after achieving their independence.
I should like to deal with the question of investment of overseas capital in the Gold Coast. It has been suggested that C.D.C. funds should continue to be employed. In my view, the test of independence is the ability of a country to promote its own development and to attract such capital from outside as it needs. The attraction of outside capital depends on the atmosphere of confidence created by the country concerned, and no one would say, so far, that there is supreme confidence in the stability or the security of capital which may be invested in the Gold Coast in the future. There is a hope, but there can be no more than a hope until experience has proved that the State of Ghana can give security for capital investment.
Everybody hopes that that will happen, but several years must pass before that situation arises, and it is essential that the Gold Coast should give the greatest possible guarantees for capital investment in the territory. That may be of supreme importance in the River Volta scheme, which many consider essential for the future development of the Gold Coast and which far outweighs any consideration of the use of C.D.C. funds.
According to the Gold Coast Government's constitutional proposals, as they already appear in the Order in Council No. 36A of 1955, in the case of compulsory appropriation of property by the Government—I suppose that is a euphemism for nationalisation—there is to be adequate compensation and recourse on appeal to the Supreme Court of the Gold Coast. It is proposed to retain recourse to the Privy Council. After recourse to the Supreme Court in the Gold Coast, a dissatisfied claimant will have recourse to the Privy Council. Doubt remains whether he will have such recourse only on a point of law or on the amount of compensation, and it would be interesting if that point could be clarified.
Here, again, any firm that thinks of investing money in the Gold Coast will look also at the constitution, and will observe this ability of a two-thirds majority 264 to amend it. This reinforces the advisability of including a delaying clause in the constitution and in the Orders in Council that will be issued up to 6th March.
I have so far spoken of money being invested in the Gold Coast in the future, but I think there is an obligation on Her Majesty's Government in relation to the money already invested there. Such firms as the gold mining companies have sunk millions of pounds in the Gold Coast, and invested it in circumstances which gave a reasonable assurance of continued British protection. I do not think that the British Government can callously abandon such enterprises to the caprice of the successor Government. That is why I advise the Government to use what influence they can bring to bear, and to see that the safeguards are incorporated in the Orders in Council which may be issued, and which may later be honoured by an independent Ghana.
Self-government for the Gold Coast marks the end of an aim and the beginning of a challenge. In itself, it will achieve nothing unless the new régime is as efficient as the old. I hope that the Coast Coast will face this challenge with courage and resolution, so that the new independent State of Ghana may, in due course, occupy a worthy and honoured place in the comity of nations and in the British Commonwealth.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I am grateful for the opportunity of being able to show my complete concurrence with what has been said by the Colonial Secretary and the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). This is another day added to the memorable days for which this House is famous. On such occasions, we cannot help but recall a few of those past memorable days.
There was the great day when this House decided that the responsibility for its own Government should be handed over to Canada. There was the day when it decided that self-government should be handed over to the then separate States which now form the Commonwealth of Australia. Another occasion was when it was decided that the responsibility for its government should be restored to the Transvaal and to the Orange Free State, which later led to the formation of South Africa. Much more recently, there have 265 been the cases of India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma. Now we are passing the responsibility for its own government to the Gold Coast.
The step we are now taking is even more remarkable, because it starts what I am convinced is a new era in Africa. It has been said that this event will be noted outside of Africa, but, in particular, it will be noted in Africa itself. The eyes of all Africans will be upon this new independent country, watching the way in which it develops. Very rightly, one desires to congratulate the Government, and especially the Secretary of State on the part he has played. One congratulates all those who have gradually led the Gold Coast to this point, and especially whose splendid public servants, the members of the Colonial Service, either here at home or actually serving in the Colony.
Having said that, let us also praise the people of this country. It is a wonderful thing that they have done. Only fifty years ago the idea of self-government, of democracy, was not only unknown, but unheard of in the Gold Coast. In my young days, at the beginning or just before the beginning of this century, the only book one could read about this area was one called "Through Darkest Africa", written by Henry Morton Stanley, who afterwards became a Member of this House. Yet, in half a century, this nation has had such an influence on these people—through its Government, through the officials it sent out, through its traders, its missionaries and its teachers —that they not only desire self-government but self-government in the form which has been passed on from this country. It is a wonderful tribute to our people.
I do not think it right that we should in any way criticise what has been happening fairly recently. Many of the things which have been mentioned were not very unfamiliar in this country only fifty years ago. The responsibility now passes to those people, and I am quite sure that they will undertake it and will be able to surmount the difficulties which are bound to beset them at this early stage. The less we interfere, the better —even with advice. It is best that they should find their own way of dealing with these things.
266 I was fortunate enough to spend some considerable time on the Gold Coast in 1938 and 1939. Like other hon. Members, I formed a great regard for the people of Ashanti and of the Northern Territories. I can well understand their present ambitions. I have every sympathy with their desire to follow their own customs. They have a different tradition, a different origin, and all the rest. Nevertheless, I think that at this moment the decision is right that they should all combine together for the general common good. I am also quite sure that, as development takes place, more and more their own local councils will have to deal with their own local conditions. But this is a vulnerable new State and, therefore, the more closely they can work together the better it will be.
Will they realise that in getting their independence, throwing away any idea of colonialism, the people of the Gold Coast are now joining that family as equal partners? That is the great thing. That being so, they can look to the other members of the family for any assistance they may require. Let us also extend to them just the same kind of privileges which we expect for ourselves.
Reference has very rightly been made to that wonderful link there is between us which is to be found in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. These people have such confidence in us and in the administration of justice that they bring their cases here to that final tribunal. But let that tribunal also be strengthened by bringing one of their learned judges to sit with our own judges, to the advantage of the whole tribunal.
Having spoken my words of congratulation, I finish on this note. We all wish these people well. They bear responsibility to their own country but a great responsibility also to all the other Africans, wherever they may be, throughout that great continent.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
I intervene very briefly, because I also had the privilege of being a member of the Parliamentary delegation which acted as observers during the General Election—a delegation, if I may say so, which was very ably led by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson).
267 I am not quite as pessimistic as my two colleagues, and I should like to say two things which make me more optimistic than they appear to be. I was very greatly impressed by the general good-natured tolerance of the people of the Gold Coast. I think that that is really a fundamental part of democracy. I was also very impressed by the ability and integrity of many of the politicians I met, members of both the C.P.P. and the N.L.M. I believe that it is upon the integrity and the ability of the politicians that the Gold Coast experiment must depend. I was impressed by the feeling that, whatever the difficulties, they will make a serious and genuine attempt to make this experiment work.
I should like also to join with those hon. Members who have expressed appreciation of the European Administration. I should like to give an illustration of an expression of the confidence in that Administration. I spent a good deal of my time in Kumasi, where occasionally things were quite rough and troublesome. I cannot, however, claim to have suffered any personal danger, because the advice that I was given was that at night I should turn on the lights inside my car. If I was seen to be white, I was absolutely at no risk at all. I can think of no greater tribute to the Administration, when there was overtly and patently ill-feeling and rowdyism, that in displaying oneself as a white man one was absolutely safe. This is certainly a great tribute to the white Administration.
At the same time, I should not like to take a discouraging view of the Africanisation of the service. It has been carried out at a very rapid rate, but by and large I think it has been very successful.
§ Mr. N. Pannell
I do not take a pessimistic view of it. I say that it is just not possible to produce in five years administrators with twenty years experience.
§ Mr. Willey
I could not agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is not possible. I appreciate the difficulties, but the success so far attained shows that it would be wrong to describe it as unattainable and impossible. On the whole, I am heartened by the progress which has been made.
268 I do not want to say much about the difficulties which will inevitably face the Gold Coast Government. In passing, however, I would say that the difficulties of providing for a multi-racial community have been demonstrated. A multi-racial community does not only mean a community which is divided by colour. Here we have a country which has got no ethnological basis. It was created by the division of Africa by the European Powers. I am sure that we all concede now that this country must remain, but the fact that it was so created presents enormous difficulties for any Government.
I take the view that if we believe in self-determination, in spite of the difficulties, we must entrust the solution of the difficulties to the new Government and afford it Statute of Westminster powers. We have got to hope that the ability so far displayed by the Gold Coast politicians will enable them successfully to tackle the difficult constitutional problems facing the Government.
There must obviously be some devolution. I would express, again in passing, my opinion that politically I am more sympathetic to the London County Council than I am to the constitution of the Government in Northern Ireland, which again, if I may say so, was an attempt to meet the difficulty of providing constitutions for a multi-racial community but I think we have learned a lot since the division, of Ireland. I hope, as other hon. Members have said, that there will be a genuine effort to allay fears by trying to reach a sensible workable scheme of devolution.
As I have said, these are not matters for us to determine. But in the light of our present experiences and difficulties now facing us with regard to the Gold Coast, I think there is something to be said for our own Government considering a constitutional way of adopting, as part of our constitution, the European Convention of Human Rights. I know that constitutional lawyers will argue till kingdom come on the advantages of a written and unwritten constitution, but as we are going to have a succession of these problems facing us as we recognise further Colonies establishing the right to self-government, I think we should realistically face the problem and see whether it 269 would be better for us to have, as part of our constitution, a declaration of rights so that we could make it quite clear that this was our view of the rights of the individual which help to bind us together in the Commonwealth.
However difficult these constitutional problems may be—and they are inherent in the situation on the Gold Coast—we must recognise the right of the Government of the Gold Coast to try to seek the best solution they can to these problems. We can do no more than proffer them such helpful advice as they may seek.
May I say a word or two about the economic difficulties? I think we all recognise that there is a danger of political development always outrunning economic development. I think it is correct to say that there is a connection between the welfare side of society and democracy. Again this necessarily places very real difficulties upon the new Gold Coast Government because great expectations will follow self-determination.
We should realise, too, that this will make a heavy economic toll upon us. Just as politically we must realise that it is our conception of human rights and human dignity which binds us together, so in the Commonwealth we must recognise that there is a common duty on the different members of the Commonwealth to improve the standards of life of everyone in the Commonwealth. That is a difficult matter, and perhaps it is impossible for us to tackle alone. That is why I welcome what the Under-Secretary of State said.
As a Commonwealth, we have to consider this problem. I am sure we are all obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) for the proposals he has put forward. I think it is better to regard them, as I believe the Under-Secretary did, in the light of the Colombo Plan, and to say perhaps that we want a new and revised conception of the economic responsibilities of all members of the Commonwealth and the best machinery which we can formulate and fashion to ensure that aid is given where it is most required.
I do not think, however, that we need be too pessimistic about the Gold Coast. Difficulties are arising connected with the main crop, cocoa, but, on the other hand, there are real possibilities for economic development in the Gold Coast. If we 270 can get a joint Commonwealth approach to such problems as arise, for instance, in the Volta River scheme, I think investment in that country will certainly pay for itself.
It so happens in the nature of things in the Gold Coast that the new Government, on achieving self-determination, will face very teal and difficult problems both politically and economically. We have got to trust the Gold Coast to do its best to tackle and solve those problems, and a Commonwealth formula must be found in order to provide the utmost aid to enable the Gold Coast to seek a solution to these difficulties. Out of this joint endeavour we may maintain and vindicate the British Commonwealth of nations which is perhaps the most important factor in world peace today.
We have said very hard things about recent events in Suez during the past few weeks. I do not wish to stir up old troubles, but I think it is fortunate that today we can, on both sides of the House, show our belief in the future of the Commonwealth. We believe that this new emergent black Dominion has an important part to play. We can agree, undivided by partisanship, and show our confidence in the British Commonwealth, a Commonwealth now being enriched by a new Dominion, and which has still a vitally important part to play in world history.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
I echo the concluding words of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) in saying that this is one of the occasions, only too rare in the last few weeks, when there has been a great deal of agreement and accord between both sides of the House. I should like also to refer to the words of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) in drawing attention to the tremendous progress made over the last fifty years in the advance towards self-government and independence in the Colonial Territories for which we have responsibility.
In the Gold Coast, the progress has been really quite astounding. Since the 1946 Burns Constitution—which provided for the first time for an elected majority of Africans on the Legislative Council—up to 6th March next year, independence day, there is a space of a little less than eleven years. Even when one takes into 271 account the part which Africans themselves played in their own Government in the years prior to 1946— and the name of Sir Ofori Atta should be particularly remembered in that respect—it is a very short time indeed for so much to have happened, especially when we remember the hundreds of years taken by us in building up our still very imperfect democracy.
As the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery said, it speaks a great deal for British democracy and the British form of government that so many countries have taken it as a model, and that now the State of Ghana should wish to follow it herself. I remember one of the sayings attributed to my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill)—which I shall probably misquote—that, "Of all forms of government democracy is the worst, except any other form of government." That is very true. The fact that we have arrived at the point when we are about to see a Colonial Territory emerge into self-government is a tremendous credit to all those who have been concerned with it over the years.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) paid a tribute to certain people who had been responsible, and I should like to add my word of praise, if I might be allowed to do so, in all humility. The work of the late Oliver Stanley should not be forgotten. The draft constitution which he approved in 1945, which was brought in by the Labour Government in 1946, laid the foundation for the rapid development of self-government we are now witnessing.
Lord Chandos, who was at one time Colonial Secretary in this House, did great work; it was Lord Chandos who appointed Dr. Nkrumah as the Prime Minister after he came out of gaol to take that appointment. Furthermore, we must not forget the work of my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, whose patience and understanding during the negotiations which have gone on over the last year or two, culminating in the events we are now discussing, we should not under-rate.
I am happy also to add my tribute to that already expressed on both sides to the loyalty and devotion shown by the 272 British Colonial Civil Service, the members of which have served the State of Ghana faithfully over the years, very often receiving too little credit for doing so. Their services must have been appreciated, if the efforts of the Gold Coast people to retain them in their service now are any guide at all.
It is sometimes said that Britain acquired a colonial empire in a fit of absent-mindedness. So far as the Gold Coast is concerned, it is true to say that our prime interest there was trade; we did not want to take over the responsibility of government. When we did take it up, we accepted the responsibilities, I think we can fairly claim, to the best of our ability, and the Gold Coast would have been poorer socially and economically if we had not played our part in its administration.
The Gold Coast is now to disappear and the State of Ghana is to emerge. I must confess that I am a little sorry to lose the name "Gold Coast". It has certain romantic associations which particularly appealed to me when I was young. It has an association also with the actual word "gold", which has almost passed into the far distance as far as most of us are concerned. It has, however, at least two links with the new State of Ghana.
The two links which my researches have shown are these. First, the wealth of the old State of Ghana was built upon gold; indeed, I believe it was the custom for the nuggets of gold—which were very plentiful in the area at that time—to belong to the king and for the gold dust to belong to the people. That was, I believe, a custom which remained in Ashanti for very many years, until the British Administration took over. The other link is found in ancient history, which tells us that Ghana was first ruled by "white kings" who were then succeeded by negro kings—a point of some similarity, perhaps, in the history of Ghana and the Gold Coast. I can only hope that this rebirth of an old name will help the birth of a new nation.
As many hon. Members have said, there are many problems ahead for the Gold Coast Government. As we have heard, they have not succeeded altogether in persuading Ashanti and a large part of the Northern Territories and Togoland 273 that their future and traditions are safe in the hands of Dr. Nkrumah and the majority People's Party. There have been charges of corruption, bribery and nepotism, and allegations that public funds have been used for election purposes, which have soured the atmosphere. But we must, I think, remember that these things are not taken quite so seriously in the Gold Coast area as they might be over here. People are more accustomed there to a different standard of political morality from the one we have set for ourselves over several hundred years of development.
It has been said, and I very much regret it, that the Ashanti will secede as an independent State under the Asantehene. I hope it is not true; I hope that wiser counsels will prevail. I hope it is not true that, while Accra celebrates independence day on 6th March, the Kumasi will completely boycott the celebrations. I know that the Northern Territories, despite the fact that the C.P.P. won 11 out of the 26 seats, are still uneasy about their future under the new constitution. Togoland, if the representations made by her delegates to the United Nations Trusteeship Council are anything to go by, is uneasy too at joining a State whose constitution is still a little uncertain.
The uneasiness, as we know, revolves around this question of devolution of power and of safeguards for the constitution. I do not want to discuss the regional assemblies and the question of how much power they should or should not have. I should, however, like to dwell for a few moments on the constitutional safeguard against an abrupt change in the constitution after 6th March.
It is true to say that, at the moment, it would be possible for the Ghana Government, after 6th March, possessing already, as the majority party, the necessary two-thirds majority, to change the constitution within a matter of days, perhaps even overnight. This leads to a fear in the minds of the Ashanti, the Northern Territories and the Togoland peoples, and a suspicion that that is perhaps what might in fact happen.
I wonder whether it might be possible to provide a check upon any sudden changes by having a safeguard which would impose the necessity for a two-thirds majority in each of the regional assemblies, making, it necessary for any 274 change in the Constitution to go through the regional assemblies and he passed in the same manner there as in the national Parliament. I merely throw that out as an idea. In my view, we must find some way to ensure that the Constitution can not be abruptly changed; there should be plenty of opportunity for reflection and consultation with regional opinion in the country.
From what I can understand from the reading I have done, it seems to me that Dr. Nkrumah, the Prime Minister, has done his best to meet many of the Opposition points. I do not think that the Opposition have altogether helped by following the example of Hector, sulking in their tents and boycotting the various conferences, boycotting even the House itself.
I do not believe that it is necessarily right or wise to write into a constitution all the safeguards which one thinks are necessary. As Dr. Nkrumah, I notice, began his speech, which I understand lasted three and a half hours, with a quotation from Edmund Burke, perhaps I might quote from the same authority. Edmund Burke once said thata constitution is a vestment which accommodates itself to the body.That is a very good definition indeed, but it must be vestment and not a straitjacket. The Government must show the utmost good faith in dealing with the Opposition. But the Opposition also has its responsibilities, because a democracy cannot flourish and be healthy without a strong, well-supported Opposition capable of forming an alternative government if called upon to do so.
It may well be that without the greatest efforts on everybody's part, the events after 6th March may, although we pray they will not, lead to bloodshed. The Ashanti are a proud and virile race. If they feel that they are not to be given what they regard as a reasonable share in the government of the country, there might conceivably be trouble. I would beg Dr. Nkrumah not to put too much faith in majorities. I should like to remind the House of a quotation from one of the late Dr. Inge's works, in which he said:The seventeenth century, in the person of lames I and Louis XIV, taught that the king can do no wrong, and their successors lost their heads. Hegel and his disciples in Germany taught that the State can do no wrong, and 275 plunged the world into war. Our doctrinaire democrats teach that the majority can do no wrong, and they bid fair to wreck our civilisation completely.
§ Mr. Hall
I am dealing with Ghana. I should be very happy to address any remarks that the hon. Member requires to Jamaica when we are debating Jamaica.
One possible consequence of any disturbances which might arise following differences of opinion on the constitution is the question of what is to happen to the police and the army in Ghana. There are at present in Ghana. I believe, some 400 British officers and N.C.O.s. It may well be that if there are disturbances, the first thing to happen would be that the police, in many cases officered by British officers, would be called upon to deal with those riots. That in itself would be serious enough, but what would be much worse would be if the army was called upon to deal with riots and had to conduct operations against the Ashanti or any other part of the population of Ghana, officered by British officers and N.C.O.s. That would be deplorable.
What is the position of those officers and N.C.O.s? I understand that they are seconded from the British Army to the Gold Coast.
§ Mr. Wigg
If the hon. Member looks back at Questions which I have asked, he will see that the Secretary of State for War has mentioned secondment of the officer commanding but has talked about British officers and N.C.O.s being on contracts. I entirely agree that we ought to be told by the Government today what form these contracts take.
§ Mr. Hall
I thank the hon. Member for making that part of my speech for me. That is precisely the question I was going to ask my hon. Friend. We would like to know what is the form of these contracts and whether, if those officers and N.C.O.s so wish, they can bring them to an end and what will be their future. Are they able to return to the British Army, or what will happen to them?
I had intended to talk at some little length on the economy of the Gold Coast 276 after independence day, but in view of the many things which have been said already about it I will confine my remarks to drawing attention to one factor. At the moment, it is Whitehall that decides whether the Gold Coast should draw upon dollars for dollar expenditure. After 6th March, that will no longer apply and the Gold Coast will tend to buy in the cheapest market and in the market which gives the quickest delivery. As far as I can see, it will become virtually a hard currency country.
Although a great opportunity is provided for enterprising and industrial undertakings, we cannot rely too much upon our traditional associations with that country. We must compete with many people against whom we have in the past been partly protected. On the other hand, the Gold Coast, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) pointed out, requires capital investment, which it can attract only if it shows to investors that it will provide a stable, sound and honest Government based on the rule of law. I should like to think that the Public Service Corn-mission and the Judicial Service Commission will be completely free from any form of political interference. It may well be that they are, but assurances on that point would be welcome.
I do not want to weary the House any further about the many problems and opportunities which are likely to be open to Ghana after 6th March—they are well known to us. If I may adapt the words used by nearly every hon. and right hon. Member who has spoken, we are today writing the first page of a new chapter of the history of our Commonwealth, a page which will affect not only our own territory, but developing Colonial Territories both in and outside the British Commonwealth. Whether the succeeding pages of that history will be bright and glowing with the success of that act of faith or will be dark and sombre and tinged with the blood of riots, insurrections and wars, depends entirely upon the statesmanship of all men of authority in Ghana today.
With that, I will just add my own good wishes to those that have been expressed by hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House and say that we must, all of us, wish all those men in authority and the new State of Ghana God-speed.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)
A notable feature of this debate is that there has not been a dissenting note to the chorus of welcome with which we contemplate the prospective emergence of the State of Ghana. Therefore, amidst all our forebodings and regrets at what has been happening in recent weeks, we should at least take to heart, in contrast with what has been happening in Hungary, where a nation is struggling to get free but cannot do so because of violent repression, the fact that we have in Africa a nation which is not only struggling to get free, but is being encouraged to get free and is being welcomed into this splendid institution, the British Commonwealth. That in itself is highly significant.
We may have our difference of opinion, as we have had serious differences regarding incidents in another part of Africa, but against that can be set the great fact that today we welcome the emergence of an independent African nation within the Commonwealth. That in itself is bound to have tremendous progressive repercussions through the whole of Africa and even further afield.
I should like to emphasise that fact again, because I do not believe it has been mentioned before. At this very moment—dramatically, so to speak, this very day—we hear the sombre, tragic reports of what is happening in Hungary in the midst of this ancient civilisation of Europe; we are depressed and saddened by it. Let us hearten ourselves by the fact that in Africa, which used to be thought of as full of darkness and backwardness, we have the emergence of an African State based upon democratic principles and welcomed by, surely, the whole of the free world.
This, however, imposes a very great responsibility on the prospective State of Ghana itself. I hope that there will be many in Ghana, on both the Government side and in the Opposition, who will take to heart what has been said here this afternoon about the measure of responsibility that they must not only display, but must exercise. We do not say that in any condescending way. We say it as brethren within the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, we do say, and say with all earnestness, that if Ghana in the few years immediately ahead breaks down politically and 278 economically a most serious blow will be struck at the very ideals with which, I am sure, those who have led Ghana towards its present stage began their pilgrimage some years ago.
I beg of the Opposition in that country to appreciate that while we understand their fears and forebodings, while we can understand why it is the Ashanti people should feel they are not an integral part of the country which is about to become Ghana. nevertheless, in the interests of Africa as a whole they should try to transcend their fears and, while quite naturally and validly seeking every guarantee they can, feel that it will serve their own interests best if they accept that they, with the other African peoples, now have the tremendous obligation of working out a constitution which will triumphantly withstand the oncoming strains.
I do not now intend to speak tonight for as long as I had wished, partly because others coming earlier can always expand the case more easily than those who cone later in the queue, but I am grateful for this opportunity to add these few words. I would emphasise what others have said when they have urged that there should be no penalising of Ghana economically because she is now about to become an independent member of the Commonwealth. I can understand why it is that for technical reasons she can no longer receive the benefits which she has been receiving through the agency of colonial and welfare development, but I earnestly hope that a means will be found speedily to ensure that she lacks none of the fulfilment of those needs which are hers, without which fulfilment she may be a free political democracy but will languish because of an unsound economic foundation.
I would say also with others to the people of Ghana that they have got rid of imperialism and they are no longer merely subordinate people working on an imperial estate. Now they are free and equal, or about to be free and equal, with all the other partners in the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, they should appreciate that they will still need a great deal from Europe, and from this country in particular. They have got rid of imperialism and colonialism but they still need our technology, they still need our 279 administrative experience, they still need our medical knowledge, and, above all—and I say this in no presumptuous way—they still need, I believe, our administrative integrity.
Wherever I have been in any part of the world I have been made aware of the fact that, whatever criticisms may be applied to this country, there is everywhere a profound admiration for the integrity of our Colonial and Civil Service. It is quite true that we were at one time tainted with some of the weakness which, it is alleged, affects so many peoples overseas at the present time, and by no means merely African. It is true we have moved out of that. Heaven forbid that we must anticipate as long a time for the people of Ghana to move out of whatever may be their present weaknesses as it took us to move out of our weaknesses in bygone times. They can learn from our experience, and we, out of our long experience, can do much to enable them to avoid some prolonged misfortunes which otherwise would be theirs.
What every country needs most is the establishment of the principle of absolutely incorruptible integrity. There are many reports which lead one to believe that in some parts of Africa and elsewhere all is not as it should be. I repeat, I do not say that in any condescending way. I know full well they have to learn. I know full well our traditions are very old. I know full well there are great temptations. Nevertheless, I say again for the sake of African freedom in the days to come that I hope that the Government and Opposition parties in Ghana will unite to eradicate corruption and nepotism ruthlessly so that they can build their new constitution on a firm and enduring basis.
I believe that Ghana has this great responsibility, and that it is a responsibility which we should do our best to assist them to fulfil; and a responsibility also to prove, in Africa of all places, that, while down there in the south of Africa African peoples are still looked upon as inferior citizens, in Ghana African peoples are first-class citizens. That is why I particularly welcome the statement by the Government that they are to move that Ghana be admitted to the high status of membership of the Commonwealth. I welcome that most heartily. Nothing I 280 have heard from the Government Front Bench has encouraged me more than what was said about that today.
If that is done then we shall have within the Commonwealth—the Commonwealth in which I profoundly believe—not only the great coloured nations of Ceylon, India, Pakistan, not only the great white nations of New Zealand, Australia and Canada, not only the rather unfortunate nation of South Africa, but this little country—little, but of great significance, because it is an African State in the Commonwealth. Thus the Commonwealth has a chance of becoming an even greater reality than it is or has been in in the past. I believe in the Commonwealth. Though I have done what I could to liquidate imperialism, whatever I have done I have done because I hoped the whole House would do its best to realise a far nobler concept, and that is the concept of the Commonwealth.
I trust that no discordant or disturbing note will go out from here to either the Government or the Opposition in Ghana. We say to the Government and the Opposition alike, "Go forward on your great mission, not only for yourselves but for the Commonwealth and for the world. Go forward with this great adventure. Do not fail. The whole free world wants and expects you to succeed."
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
With the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) I, too, shall welcome the introduction of Ghana as a Commonwealth nation. I hope that its status as such will be established on 6th March next. I believe that there are many points in the relationship which we foresee between Ghana and the Commonwealth at which there will be stronger links than those between some of the present members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
As several hon. Members have said, this is an historical occasion, the introduction of this Bill to lead to the independence of the Gold Coast. It is not only an historical but, to some of us, it is also an emotional occasion, for we have known the main characters, the main actors in the dramatic events of the past ten or eleven years which have led to this Bill. We have seen their political careers develop. Through personal acquaintance with them, we have known their fears and their 281 ambitions. Thank heaven, today it is not a party matter in this House. We can all join in wishing this new Commonwealth nation well as it comes into being.
Many hon. Members have contributed to this debate from their own experiences, which, I am sure, is the best contribution that one can offer in a non-partisan debate. I am not alone among hon. Members in having seen great works of development start and come to fruition in the Gold Coast. I have seen them in embryo on an office desk in London and I have seen them become imaginary lines on a plan. Then one has had the thrill and excitement of going to the Gold Coast and seeing these things built there—Takoradi Harbour, Tema Harbour, the railways—all these great civil engineering constructional works, starting in embryo in this country and coming into being there.
Now, as Ghana achieves independence, the West African has to take on that responsibility and, of course, we wonder whether he is capable of doing it. Can he manage to take command of that sort of development for which we have taken the responsibility up to the present? I am extremely optimistic that he can. The West Africans, the men of the Gold Coast, can take on that responsibility and are capable of taking command now of these kinds of developments.
But if they are to do so, there must be constitutional stability within this new nation, because without that Ghana will never obtain the skill and the finance which it needs to seek abroad. It has not entirely the skill and the finance to develop as it is capable of doing, and it will never obtain that finance if there is a doubt about its political future. I do not mean its party political future, but its constitutional future.
I am sure that both the Government and the Opposition in the Gold Coast realise this very fully, and I think that the country itself is embarking upon independence with a full sense of responsibility. If I am wrong, we are obviously heading for a great disaster. If I am right, we are heading for a tremendous future for the Gold Coast. There are, of course, differences between Government and Opposition there. We would not expect it to be otherwise.
282 I do not take seriously the threat of secession. It is true that resolutions have been sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies and have been published, but I cannot feel that there is more than a very small number who would wish to take that step. I am not inclined to take seriously, either, the threats of possible violence. I am sure that the Opposition there has realised, over the past year, that even its passive non-co-operation has not brought very much success and that it can achieve far more by co-operation with the Government party.
If the Opposition there will realise that the Government represent the majority, and if the Government, on their side, will realise that the Opposition represent minorities and that in a young State the minorities need certain constitutional protection, there is a possibility of Teaching a settlement. The Government party there, of course, may in time be only too pleased that at an early stage it introduced constitutional protection, because it might need it itself one day. When one is producing a Constitution for a young State it is right to put in certain fundamental rights and, as the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said, perhaps the Secretary of State could give a lead on this in the next few months and in the necessary Order in Council.
If constitutional protection, by means of fundamental rights written into the Constitution, is necessary, then the rule of law is absolutely essential, and if the rule of law is essential then an independent judiciary is essential. I see the picture in this way. First, there is the economic problem of physical, material developments in civil engineering, and so on, dependent upon the political problem of a stable Government, which, in turn, is buttressed by the constitutional point of fundamental rights, which, in turn, are safeguarded by an independent judiciary. Therefore, I see an independent judiciary as the base of the whole structure, and a base which must be really sound.
West Africa has produced some very fine judges in the past, but not enough to fill its whole judicial bench. It can continue to do so, provided that the Government set their face firmly against political appointments. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) said that he hoped that the Judicial Service Commission will remain entirely 283 independent. I repeat that hope, and I hope that the appointments of judges will be based on advice from the Judicial Service Commission and will be entirely independent of politics. This sort of thing seems so fundamental to us in this country that it may seem to some hon. Members unimportant, because we do not think of our judges as anything else but independent of politics. But there must be a temptation in a new, young State of this sort to seek a politically subservient bench.
The standard of the judiciary must, of course, depend upon the profession from which it is drawn. Only a few months ago I discussed with Dr. Nkrumah the division of the profession there. At present, it is fused. There is no separation between the solicitors' branch and the barristers. Every lawyer endeavours to be an advocate and an office worker and that does not make for proficiency in either occupation. I believe that a division of the profession would give a far better basis for an efficient, independent judiciary of entire integrity.
I join with the right hon. Member for Llanelly and the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) in their plea for strengthening the link which Dr. Nkrumah has already said that he desires to keep with the Privy Council. The right hon. Member for Llanelly said that one of his legal friends has suggested to him the appointment of a West African judge to the Privy Council. Perhaps he had read an Adjournment debate which I initiated in the House, six months ago, in which I made that proposal.
§ Mr. Page
I am obliged. I have urged it ever since. This link between the courts in West Africa and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is very important. Up to the present, our Commonwealth nations have been drifting away from that. Here we have an example of a new State wishing to retain that link with the Privy Council and, incidentally, saying, as has been said in the debate in the Legislative Assembly in the Gold Coast, "We want to retain that link, but we should like to strengthen it by a West African judge being appointed 284 periodically to sit on their Lordships' Board of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council." I am sure that several hon. Members here know at least two judges from West Africa who would serve the Judicial Committee very well. I believe that such an appointment would be a contribution not only to the benefit of Ghana but to the benefit of the whole Commonwealth, to which we hope to welcome Ghana as a member.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
All hon. Members who have addressed the House today have spoken with a full sense of the importance of the occasion. The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) was no exception. Here we are assisting at the birth of the first all-African Dominion. wherein we hope there will be no grades of citizens, unlike that sad Dominion far to the South in the great African Continent which is so full of forebodings for relations between the races. In Ghana things ought to go very well, provided we make no mistakes in the initial stages, because hon. Members on both sides of the House and, as far as I am aware, everybody in the Gold Coast itself want independence for Ghana.
The trouble lies in the fact that in the house of independence there are many mansions, and it is quite possible to imagine a form of independence which might mean the very opposite of independence for a large minority of any country. My submission is that it is the duty of the governing Power to see that independence is real before it is granted nominally.
For excellent reasons and with the best intentions, we have placed ourselves in a position whereby independence has to be granted on a certain date. The reasons the date has been fixed are very well understood. I think almost everybody agrees that it is desirable to fix a date. We understand how it came about. The fact is that a date has been fixed. I blame nobody at all for this, because I welcome it. Nevertheless, I say that it is our duty in the days which lie between now and that date to do our utmost to see that the independence which we are granting to the Gold Coast, and which they so richly deserve, is real.
The Secretary of State previously said that, subject to an election which would 285 take place in July. 1955, this date should be fixed. That election took place and the date has been fixed as 6th March. 1956, with, as we have been told, 57 per cent. of the votes going to the Convention People's Party and 43 per cent. to the Opposition. Even if we assume—which I do for the sake of this argument—that everything in the election was perfect. that there was no gerrymandering, no intimidation, no corruption and no improper practice of any sort which would vitiate the result, this minority of 43 per cent. is surely an extremely sizeable minority to which we should certainly pay the most serious attention. When we remember that the National Liberation Movement had a majority of votes in Ashanti and the North. surely this is reinforced.
Unfortunately—and we need not 20 into the merits of the matter—members of that large minority fear that they will not be properly treated after independence has been granted. If they had consented to the form in which independence is to be given, they would now have nobody to blame but themselves if they did not get a fair deal afterwards; but they have not consented to the form of the independence. They consented, of course, to independence; in fact, all four diverse regions of the territory of the Gold Coast were calling —one might even say screaming—for independence. When independence became imminent, doubts began to be expressed; and it was realised that nobody had said precisely what was meant by independence.
This seems to me to be a serious matter. It is not, in my submission, enough for the governing Power to say. "There has been a majority in favour of independence and therefore we can wash our hands of the whole situation." Let us remember what happened in the Sudetenland. Hitler wanted to annex the Sudetenland. It was perfectly easy for him to argue that he had a majority in a plebiscite—a plebiscite which was taken not only in the Sudetenland but also in the greater Reich. In the two added together there was, of course, a majority in favour of the Sudetenland joining the Reich. Is it not precisely the same in Ireland, where some argue that because a majority of the people of Ireland want to take the North into the South, therefore the North should be taken into the South? Is not the 286 essence of the matter whether a majority of the people in the part affected, in the North of Ireland, want to go to the South? Is not that the crucial matter?
So it is, in my submission, with the Gold Coast. I feel that very great importance must be attached to the views of so large a minority. In my submission it is our plain duty to see that the minority have their rights, and to do our best to see, as far as we are able to use any persuasion at all upon them, that they realise their duties, too. Dr. Nkrumah is a most remarkable man, as anybody knows who has met him for even as short a time as I. He is a most remarkable man of great charm and great ability. I believe that he realises as much an anybody the need to obtain consent for this independence in the fullest sense of the word "consent"—consent not only to the actual fact of independence but, as far as it is humanly possible to obtain it, consent to the form of that independence. I believe he realises that there has to be an Opposition and that an Opposition is not something to be put out of sight but something to which one must pay attention if one wishes to make democracy work.
I believe that he would welcome a move from this country in the direction of having these matters settled amicably. It is difficult to say precisely what one should do. In my submission, however, it would possibly be welcomed by him if we made even the gesture of sending a Parliamentary delegation to see whether it could not mediate and obtain the consents without which at the best there will be friction and at the worst there will be bloodshed. That is a very small suggestion to make. Doubtless Dr. Nkrumah has extremists in his own party who are difficult to control. He might find it easier to control them if the Secretary of State were prepared to make a suggestion to him on those lines.
I ask that this suggestion and others which have been mentioned already in the debate—other suggestions intended to try to overcome the difficulties which at present the Government of the Gold Coast and the Opposition feel to be separating them—should be seriously considered by the Secretary of State before 6th March so that we may ensure that this independence, which we all wish Ghana to have, will be real and secure.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
As has been said in every quarter of the House, this is certainly a day of the greatest importance to ourselves, Ghana and the whole Commonwealth. Those of us who, for many years, have taken an interest in the affairs, more particularly of West Africa, feel it important beyond words, important far beyond some of the other issues, great as they are, with which the House has been dealing in recent days and in recent weeks.
This is the birth of a State, the first of the really modern self-governing States of Africa and a State which will represent an altogether new departure in the history of that Continent. It is twenty-seven years since first I went ashore on the Gold Coast with the surf boats of that time. I have had the opportunity of visiting it for shorter or longer periods since then. For a period of two years I had the honour of being head of the Commission on Higher Education in West Africa and in this current year I had the honour of leading a Parliamentary delegation which visited, among other Colonies, the Gold Coast, actually at the time when tension was very high because of the impending constitutional changes. All of us in each of those delegations looked forward to this day which we are now enjoying.
We said in the concluding paragraphs of our report on higher education that in ten or twenty years—what is that in the life of a nation?—a new State would arise in Africa, that it would be powerful as well as new and that its voice would be heard in the New World as well as in the Old World. Now that prophecy comes to pass. As has been said by hon. Members on both sides, particularly by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), this is a day upon which to congratulate ourselves, because it is a day of great achievement for the Commonwealth as a whole and, more particularly, for the peoples of the United Kingdom and the Gold Coast, or Ghana, as it is now to be called.
There are, of course, certain factors which will make it difficult for the new State, which we should frankly recognise. One of them is the fact that in West Africa the belts of climate and vegetation run transversely. The coastal 288 belt, the forest belt, the desert belt run across the Continent for 1,000, 2,000 and 3,000 miles, while the political divisions run north and south; partly because that is the way in which the European Powers drew the boundaries, and partly because that corresponds to a real economic link. the link of the coastal area, the ports, the access to the sea, with the great forest rainfall belt and that links, in turn, with the drier regions of the hinterland running up to the desert of Sahara.
Consequently, as has been mentioned by several hon. Members, we get a diversity in the communities in the State which, partly by the action of the House, is now being brought into existence. We should not shut our eyes to that fact. It is not exactly true to say that Ghana is a nation. It is not yet a nation. It has the hope and power of becoming a nation, a group of peoples who are themselves willing and anxious to pull together for their future. The process is not yet complete and a heavy responsibility still lies on the House in the hand-over which is taking place.
The difficulties arise out of the right and proper steps which have been taken. steps we have always desired to take, to make this a self-governing and independent territory in the fullest sense of the word—independent according to the Statute of Westminster, which is as full independence as exists anywhere in the world. They also arise from the fact that we have, rightly, had to fix a date. Without a fixed date, people never will believe that the events will actually happen. They think that it is a case of this year, next year, sometime, never. Unless a date is fixed, nobody is ever brought up against the realities of the case, and the realities of the case are certainly beginning now to emerge.
The different communities which we are here uniting are very different indeed. The coastal belt, throughout the history of Africa, has been separate from the hinterland. This is the problem which my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary has encountered in other West African Colonies. It occurs in reverse in Sierra Leone, where the coastal people fear domination by the hinterland. Our constitution-making in Sierra Leone has had to take that into account. The coastal people there feel that the hinterland, which is more heavily populated, 289 will swamp their way of life, just as the people of the Northern Territory of Ghana fear that the more highly populous and economically more powerful territories of the coast will swamp and steamroller their way of life, to which they still rightly attach a great and traditional importance.
Even in Nigeria, the great constitutional skill of the then Oliver Lyttelton, now Lord Chandos, had to be directed to holding together portions which might otherwise have tended to fall apart—the Moslem territories of Northern Nigeria with the well-watered fertile lands of Eastern and Western Nigeria to the south. It is, therefore, in no way detracting from the achievement which has been already secured, or the hopes which we most passionately hold for the future, to recognise these facts and to say that both sides, what is called the Government and the Opposition, or the coastal territories and the hinterland ought to recognise the facts of life and realise that they will have to come and go a great deal with each other if this new experiment is to succeed.
Dr. Nkrumah has a Parliamentary majority and. as Parliamentarians, we must, naturally, attach the greatest importance to that. He secured it not merely in one, but in two elections. By the rules of Parliament, he is thus entitled to pass almost any legislation he wishes. However, he has also to bring along with him the other communities, powerful communities with traditions of their own which require, so to speak, to be ridden on the snaffle rather than the curb, if they are to be brought in as willing partners to the new synthesis of people which we are forming.
This is not a matter of regimenting and pushing these people together. It is a matter of getting their good will and co-operation, and that is the task to which both this Parliament and the Gold Coast peoples must bend their minds. After all, it is almost within a lifetime, and, certainly, only a short historical time, since the Ashanti were marching to the coast and besieging the coastal towns. Their national motto, "Kill a thousand, and a thousand will come," is the motto of a very stubborn and persistent people. The Northern Territories have only newly been brought into this grouping at all.
290 An hon. Member opposite mentioned eminent judges who would certainly be an addition to any judicial bench anywhere in the world. I would certainly include Judge Coussey among that number, and there are other judges, too. When I discussed these matters with him, he told me that in the first all-African Committee of Inquiry witnesses from the Northern Territory said all the things which Africans usually say about Europeans, but with redoubled vigour, and about the Africans of the more cultivated territories.
He said, "They told us quite bluntly that they regarded us as exploiters and employers of sweated labour. There were all the usual complaints that sources of labour are wont to launch against the more settled areas which use their labour seasonally and then return it again to the source from which it came."
So, in the midst of our rejoicing—and this is a day of rejoicing—let us not confine ourselves solely to rejoicing because, if we do, then we neglect the duty of this House, which is to foresee dangers and to discuss them quite frankly with those on whom those dangers will impinge, much more heavily than they will upon us in this House.
The Under-Secretary of State, in opening the debate, pointed out that this Bill is fundamentally a Bill to establish an Order in Council. Really, the gist of it will be the Order in Council transferring the powers which this House exercises, and the powers which, as the Under-Secretary of State gave us to understand, are being transferred from the Sovereign to the new Assembly which is being set up. This is an instrument of enormous and irrevocable power, and I venture to make this suggestion, that the Secretary of State might find it possible to allow a little more consideration of this instrument than is normally given in the case of an Order in Council which is brought forward under a Bill.
The Bill itself, if it passes, is highly-technical and it will, as I say, beget an Order in Council. I would have suggested that, had the time been available, some other Parliamentary procedure might well have been adopted for the examination of the Bill in Committee and possibly of the steps which could be taken 291 as a result of it; but I think that we are held so tightly within the limits of time—the Minister and myself know what it means to find that we are beginning to run right up against the unbending limits of the Parliamentary calendar—that there is no time for further detailed examination under this Bill.
We have the debate today and a day for the Committee stage, but I do not think that it will be possible for far-reaching Amendments to be debated, or, if debated, to be adopted, because the danger of a breach of faith might arise with the Gold Coast Government, which is the last thing that any of us desire. But I think that it might be possible for the Secretary of State, instead of publishing in draft the Order in Council—we know that this is technically impossible, because we cannot have a draft Order in Council— to publish a White Paper giving the gist of the Order in Council which it is hoped to introduce.
I would even go further. I hope that it may be that a formal or informal council of Parliament may examine this, possibly in concert with those who can speak both for the Government and the Opposition in the new territories to which it is to apply. Some review might be made, because one of the difficulties which arise under the Statute of Westminster is the enormous power of revoking which a sovereign Assembly possesses.
The Minister has already spoken of the two-thirds majority, but I think that if, in some way or another, a further entrenchment could be agreed to—I think that it could only be done by agreement —then many of the doubts and fears of these powerful territories, minorities within the whole area, but majorities within their own territories, might be allayed. Points which have been discussed tonight in the House, such as the position of the Judicial Commission, of the position of the Civil Service Commission, and even points as to the possibility of regional devolution, which might well be further explored in the tentative and informal way which is all that can be done now under the limits of time. This might do a very great deal to melt away the difficulties which still exist.
It might well be that the powerful and sympathetic personality of the Secretary 292 of State himself could come into play. I am sure that the personality of a previous Secretary of State, Oliver Lyttelton, played a great part in holding together the great Nigerian Provinces when they were showing signs of flying apart. I am sure that the personality, sympathy, and enormous industry of the present Secretary of State, also, might well come in in a task like this. Because what we want is not only energy but enthusiasm.
The new State will have the greatest trouble in surmounting its problems, and unless it is not merely acquiescent but enthusiastic about it, I think it will have very great difficulty indeed. The C.P.P. has enthusiasm and vigour. It is our task, and the task of all men of good will, to see that this enthusiasm is also evoked in the other African communities which are to form part of the new nation. Because, here, the whole future of the African race for half a century or a century ahead is at stake. A failure here is not merely a failure in the Gold Coast or in West Africa; it is a failure in Africa and all the hostile critics of Africa and the Africans will be only too ready to rush forward and say, "There you are we told you so." That is a danger that we want to avert, and, therefore, we require to take every possible step that can be taken, by conference, by discussion, and by evoking good will and enthusiasm, to avert that kind of difficulty.
The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery said that it was desirable that the new Dominion should be accepted as a full member of the Commonwealth. I am sure that that is true. After all, it was our own poet, Shakespeare, who said these magnificent words:Mislike me not for my complexion,The shadow'd livery of the burnish'd sun.To whom I am a neighbour, and near bred."The shadow'd livery of the burnish'd sun"—what a glorious phrase it is. If we are to regard our new companions in the Commonwealth as bearing the shadow'd livery of the burnish'd sun—to whom they are near neighbours—and not as any kind of second-rate or number two citizens, but citizens with a message of their own to bring towards our many-coloured Commonwealth, we shall have done great work not only for ourselves but for the whole world.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
I am sure that when the long history of this country comes to be written one of the most important things that it will show to have been developed in this country and given to the world is the English language. The last quotation of the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) was an indication of the power and greatness of our language. Perhaps the other great thing which we have been able to give the world is the parliamentary system, which we have developed over a very long time.
At this late hour in the debate hon. Members have to keep their speeches as short as possible and, therefore, if I do not deal with the economic future of the Gold Coast, which was to have been the principal part of my speech, it will only be because I am going to concentrate, not upon the English language, but upon the parliamentary future of Ghana.
We have a great deal to give to the Gold Coast. We cannot just hand over a copy of Erskine May, however well bound, and a mace, however well designed, and expect a country to run a complicated system of Government which has taken us centuries to develop. It is obvious that not every aspect can be taught. But there are some. And the Gold Coast is not ashamed to realise that. For some weeks past the Clerk of the Gold Coast Assembly, Mr. Ayensu, has been working here with the Clerks of this Parliament, so that he may be fortified in his task as Clerk in Accra. He will remain here for some weeks to come.
There is something for us to teach, but we have also something to learn. It is important to recognise that as the years pass and other Parliaments develop upon our model we may well have to learn from them. For instance, the Order Paper in the Gold Coast House of Assembly is a far more sensible document than that which we use as a so-called agenda for our proceedings. It is infinitely simpler, and is not a mass of items which are irrelevant to the day's proceedings.
As time passes, practices and procedures more suitable to the local conditions in Ghana are bound to grow up. These grow not only out of the temperature but out of the temperament of the people who debate. A few years ago the Clerk of this 294 House wrote, in the journal of the Hansard Society, that a Member of Parliament in Ceylon had pointed to certain differences between their procedure and ours and had said that theCeylonese like their speeches Like they liked their curry—hot and in great plenty.Our liking for cold mutton and watery brussels sprouts is not to everyone's taste.
§ Mr. de Freitas
But there are many people in this country who like them.
If hot curry has influenced the procedures and practices of the Ceylon House I am certain that we cannot expect, in a country where ground nut chop is a great delicacy, that they will not change their procedures to adapt them to that atmosphere. But, at heart, their Parliamentary system will be based upon our system of democracy, and they are bound to look to us—there is no evidence that they will be too proud to do so—for guidance from time to time over the years. It will be the task of organisations like the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Hansard Society to give that guidance on Parliamentary government when they are asked for it.
Our chief duty in this Parliament is to continue to set the right example. We understand the role of vigorous parliamentary opposition, but it is not so well understood in the Gold Coast. I was sorry to see, in my visits to the Gold Coast Assembly, how few Members of the Opposition parties were present. I have read reports of important debates upon constitutional and financial matters when no Opposition Members were present. We must always set this example and show that the chief role of the Opposition is to criticise. It is more important than legislation. When new Parliaments are starting off the idea that if a law is made a problem is solved is overstressed. The principal job of Members of Parliament is to keep the Government of the day on their toes with criticism.
Further, we must show that the majority party respects the minority. I do not know how the problem of regional differences in Ghana will be solved, but I am sure that it will be. This is a case where we may be able to help. We have 295 solved the difficult problem of Scotland. We have been able to maintain Great Britain as a unitary State without a federal structure, or even the device of Northern Ireland. Yet there is considerable administrative devolution in the affairs of Scotland. Some development of that sort may solve the regional problem in Ghana.
Incidentally, I am sure that hon. Members have nothing to teach the Gold Coast politicians in the field of charm, good humour and the general conduct of political discussion.
As to the future which is worrying so many hon. Members, we must remember that the Government of Ghana will know that the eyes of the world are upon them, and that there are many people—most of us regret that such people exist—who believe that the white man alone is endowed by nature with the capacity to rule. Those people will be watching every step which is made by the Government or Parliament in Ghana to prove them right and to bring discredit upon African rule. On the other hand, the Government and Parliament of Ghana know that there are millions of white people throughout the world who believe that all the African needs is to be given the opportunity to show that he can rule. These people, too, will be watching for signs that they are right in their judgment.
I am convinced that a country which, in the political sphere, has already thrown up such outstanding men as the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, is bound to have a strong and vigorous Parliamentary future. I am confident that the Parliamentary system will flourish in Ghana, that the rights of minorities will be respected, and that the gloomy prophets will be disappointed.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Fort (Clitheroe)
The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) made one very wise remark, which we would do well to remind ourselves of often, namely, that to make a law does not solve a problem. This evening we are making a law which, while it is an important step forward, will not solve all the problems of Ghana. All hon. Members who have spoken have indicated that fact with varying degrees of emphasis.
296 I want to make only two or three short points. The first is a word to our friends in Ghana. One of the great problems with which they, like us all, are confronted at the present time is a shortage of capital. I suppose that, together with technically trained staff, the world is shorter of capital than anything else. All of us may think of tremendous schemes which require vast quantities of capital—in other words, of other people's savings. But the savings just do not exist in proportion to the calls upon them.
I hope that the Government of Ghana, and those responsible for the Ghanese economy, will remember this shortage of capital in the world; and that, in acquiring what capital is available for their country, they will find that they are more likely to get it happily, and on better terms, by following the ordinary commercial practices, built up over the years and well understood right through the civilised world—whether in Europe, North America or in Asia—than by trying in some way to play off the free world against the Communists in the manner of Nasser and suchlike people.
The other point I wish to develop is the fact of the very sad political divisions in Ghana. Goodness knows, those of us, like myself, who have only been there for a few days, should be modest in what we say. But I consider that the whole difficulties were set out extraordinarily well in the speech of the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason); and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), who has such great experience of these West African problems, felt down below the obvious constitutional problems which are now the subject of such violent discussions.
There are two groups of people, the coastal people and the Ashanti, and during the time I was there it seemed to me that the current constitutional struggle merely reflected the historical conscience of these two groups. The coastal people never forget that the Ashanti are the inland people who, before the Europeans, and particularly ourselves, intervened, were constantly increasing their holding and building up the Ashanti frontiers nearer to the coast. The Ashanti, in turn, remember that they were a great military tribe with a long history of conquests. With that historical background, it is obvious that it will be difficult to 297 overcome these problems. Yet both peoples have an advantage over most other parts of Africa. They both have considerable cultural unity; they speak the same type of language and both are people of the Akan.
I feel that if my right hon. Friend could find time, even with his enormous range of duties, to go to the Gold Coast himself, perhaps he alone—I do not believe that a Committee front this house could do it —with his authority, could work out the delaying clauses in the Constitution to which my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) referred. He might find a solution which would meet the views of the Ashanti, and persuade the Government how necessary it is—not only in the long-run, but in the immediate short-run—to have a Constitution which gives a feeling of security to the inland people, to the Ashanti and those associated with them. I am sure that Premier Nkrumah and the C.P.P. wish to set up a suitable State as an example to the whole of Africa and to the world.
Having said that to our friends in Ghana, I would say that we here have a duty. We have welcomed this Bill with varying degrees of enthusiasm. As time goes on, difficulties will undoubtedly rise in Ghana, and I hope, when that happens, that we shall not sit around criticising ceaselessly, and saying, "We told you so". I hope that we shall not "nark" —if I may use that common or garden phrase—but will remember that things will be done in Ghana which are not in keeping with our traditions. The traditions of the Ghanese are different from ours. Assuming that we see nothing which is outrageous, such as an attack on personal liberty—that we should always condemn—I hope that we shall manage to restrain ourselves when we find things being done which are more in keeping with the traditions of Ghana than those of Great Britain.
I should like to join with other hon. Members in saying that the Bill is yet another answer to the ceaseless and unfair charge against this country, that we are interested only in colonialism. We have plenty of examples from the past to prove that false, and we shall have some more in the future. This process for helping the Constitution of countries such as Ghana and of bringing them 298 along the road of development may not be the ideal one. There may be better ways. But the one we have chosen conforms with the long British tradition which dates back to the Minute of Macaulay on the future of India, which he wrote over a hundred years ago when he was Permanent Under-Secretary at the India Office. We are bound to follow that tradition, because it is ours.
We should all be proud to think that in this new country, which will be a member of the Commonwealth, we shall have seen, in the course of its history and ours, a relationship moving from that of master and slave to that of free man, and finally, in the happy phrase of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove, companions in the Commonwealth.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I have been listening to speeches for four hours, and I have come to the conclusion that I am cursed with a good memory. I remember when Mr. Kwame Nkrumah was imprisoned, five years ago, and was released on winning the Election in the Gold Coast. I remember sending him a telegram which was signed by a number of people who were friends of mine and hon. Members of this House. Some of them are still hon. Members. Others, like Sir Richard Arland and Mr. Tom Driberg, have fallen by the wayside. We said to Mr. Nkrumah that as he had won the Election, we trusted that he would lead his country along the road of democracy and freedom to self-government.
The attacks that were levied on us for this simple act of faith still burn in my memory. In the Wolverhampton Express and Star I was charged with an attempt to sabotage the defences of this country, and I was forced to bring a libel action to put the matter right. I remember that, subsequently, when Mr. Nkrumah first came to this country—when he was not quite so popular—I invited him to dine at the Palace of Westminster. Again, I was subjected to the most vicious attacks. I also remember the articles which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on the subject of the Gold Coast. I remember the speeches and writings of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Sir D. Gammans).
I am glad that all these things are memories and I pray that they will 299 remain way back in the past. I mention them because I am a friend of the Gold Coast. I never had the good fortune to go there on a Parliamentary mission—I never shall have that good fortune. I just happen to have served there in rather less comfortable circumstances. I have memories of service in Tamule, Kumasi and Takoradi, and those memories made me wish the Gold Coast people well; and I wish them well now. It has given me an interest in the doings of the Army and the doings of the Colonial Office which leave me with no great admiration for either the Colonial Office or the present Secretary of State.
If I had to award any marks for great work in bringing the Gold Coast from the point of rioting, with Kwame Nkrumah in prison, to the position in which he is mentioned in this debate almost in terms of veneration, I should give them to one man—Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, who has done great service for this country, after the attacks by the Conservative Party on the conception which Mr. Nkrumah sought to follow. Sir Charles Arden-Clarke has done a wonderful job and deserves well of us all. The right hon. Gentleman will understand what I mean when I say that I wish Sir Charles were Secretary of State for the Colonies.
I am not an admirer of the colonial picture which faces us tonight. Indeed. I am full of apprehension about what will happen in the weeks and months which lie ahead. Five years ago I welcomed the prospect of self-government for Ghana. Now I believe that if the truth were told by the Secretary of State, by Mr. Nkrumah and throughout the Gold Coast, if it were politically possible, the advent of self-government would be halted.
We are rapidly moving into a position which might result in violence and bloodshed. I hope that that will not happen, I hope that wiser counsels will prevail, I hope that minority opinion will be respected by Dr. Nkrumah and equally I hope that the minority will respect the rights of the majority; but I should have been failing in my duty if I had not remained here for several hours to say what I want to say.
Whether there will be bloodshed or not, the effective Government in the Gold 300 Coast will not depend upon resolutions in this House; it will depend upon the police force and such armed forces as are there. Whether they are effective or not I do not know, but I am aware of their Constitution.
Here, again, I have the curse of my memory, for my mind goes back to the first defence debate we had in 1946. If hon. Members have a taste for sardonic humour, let them read the speeches made then by the present Prime Minister and the present Leader of the House. They painted grandiose pictures of a future Colonial Army, of the vast Colonial Force which would be raised and which would come to Britain's aid.
How well I remember all through those years from 1946 to 1951, particularly when we had a majority in the House of only about six, how the present Minister of Defence and others, in debate after debate, denounced what they described as the incompetence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) and the slowness. obtuseness and worse, of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey). Vast numbers of troops were to be raised, the defence Bill was to be cut, and only the wicked incompetence of a Socialist Government, they said, was standing between Britain and the realisation of her imperial destiny.
Again, this memory of mine takes me back to the first debate on the Army Estimates after the new Conservative Government had come straight from the polls. The Secretary of State for War stood at the Box and said, by way of an afterthought, "I must say something about colonial defence. It costs too much and it is not 'on'."
The story is not yet finished. In 1953, there was produced at Lagos a Colonial Paper, No. 304, the Report of the West African Forces Conference from 20th to 24th April, 1953. I congratulate right hon. Gentlemen opposite on producing that Paper. I have congratulated them many times before, and I have done what I can, with my limited influence, to try to influence hon. Members on this side of the House to understand what a great contribution to Imperial and Commonwealth stability it would make if the ideas in that Colonial Paper were put into operation. But nothing has happened —not a single thing.
301 The question of the Africanisation of West African and East African Forces depends upon the ability to recruit and retain the right material and to turn out sufficient officers and warrant officers. A proposal of the first importance is put forward in this Paper—that a Colonial and Commonwealth Sandhurst should be established. It was realised that it would be impossible for Sandhurst to train and turn out enough officers for the West African and East African Forces and thus such a proposal was essential.
What has happened about that proposal, after three years? Nothing has been done. All that has happened is the retrograde step of introducing the effendi class in the East African Forces. We have made a cut between the warrant officer and the white officers serving in the King's African Rifles. One proposal only —and it has cost nothing either of thought or of money—has been implemented; that has been the setting up of the West African Army Advisory Council.
Again, my memory and my interest serve me well. I watched for the first meeting of this Council. On 4th November last year the first meeting was held. I will not trouble hon. Members by reading extracts from the report, although I should have done so had I been fortunate enough to be called earlier. On 15th November last year I put a Question to the Secretary of State for War, asking him whether he wouldmake a statement on the future of the West Africa Command.He replied,Not yet, Sir."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1955; Vol. 546, c. 196.]This was an astonishing reply because a very full report had appeared in the Press, both in this country and in West Africa, of the conclusions reached at the West African Council.
Being of a patient nature, I waited to see what would happen. It is true that I had a private and confidential letter from the then Secretary of State for War. I was sorry to receive it, because it confirmed me in what I already knew but prevented me then and now from repeating it. It is a lesson learned; I do not rush to receive any more confidential letters of that character.
I waited until 7th February, and then I asked the Secretary of State for War 302whether he will now make a statement on the future of West Africa Command.Four months had passed and the meeting had taken place which was to work out what would happen to the Army in view of the development of constitutional changes such as that which we are now discussing. Again, the reply which I received was,Not yet, sir."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th Feb. 1956; Vol. 548, c. 1481.]I had to wait until the debate on the Army Estimates on 15th March. In that debate I went over the whole position again, and I received a reply from the Under-Secretary of State for War. Apparently the proposal for a Commonwealth Sandhurst had been dropped. It was clear that there were to be three independent commands. But what worried me then, and what worried me from the time of the first meeting of the Advisory Council and the inability of the Secretary of State for War to give an answer about the troops for which he was responsible, was this: what would happen when the constitutional safeguard of the responsibility of the Governor in the Gold Coast to the Secretary of State was cut? What would happen if British troops were to remain in the Gold Coast?
I gave an example of what would happen if Dr. Nkrumah became Field Marshal Nkrumah and entered the field at the head of the West African forces. Were British officers and N.C.O.s to be expected to obey orders in those circumstances? I got absolutely no change at all. We had to wait until 29th June, when a statement was made setting out the future of the military commands in West Africa.
We had, of course, known before that the West Africa Command was to be wound up, but what I did not know then, and what we have never found out from November, 1955, to the present day, is what is to be the exact position of the units in West Africa. Let me repeat that the grandiose idea of a vast West African Force, something like the 82nd West African Division which did so well in the war, has gone. I can now tell the House what forces we have in West Africa. There is one British unit, a Royal Signals unit, of two British officers and 31 other ranks. When the Government spokesman replies to the debate I should 303 like to know whether that Signals unit it to remain in Ghana after 6th March, and what its relationship will be, first to the Governor, and, secondly, to the Gold Coast Government.
In addition to that Royal Signals unit, there are three infantry battalions of the old West African Frontier Force, now the Gold Coast Regiment, a field battery, Royal Artillery, and supporting units, a total of 184 British officers and 222 British other ranks. On subsequent occasions I questioned the Secretary of State for War to try to find out from him whether, in fact, among those officers, warrant officers, N.C.O.s and, presumably, some other ranks, there were any National Service men I should have thought that the House had a duty to find out whether there will be any National Service men serving on the Gold Coast.
The next thing that I should like to know is whether those officers, warrant officers and N.C.O.s have been seconded. Are they volunteers, or have they been ordered there? I would remind the Secretary of State that, when I was a young soldier, when we wanted to serve in the Colonies, we volunteered. We were taken off British rates of pay, brought on to a contract, and our responsibility was to the Colonial Office. But there was this big difference. Before the war, there was an Inspector-General of West African Forces, who saw to it that the conditions under which we were serving were acceptable to the War Office.
So far as I understand, there is no such safeguard now. What is to happen is that one senior officer is to be seconded —and here, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman will pardon me if I refer to a letter which he sent to me last September. I was enabled to see a Mr. Campbell, a senior civil servant at the Colonial Office, and, subsequently the Colonial Secretary wrote to tell me that so far as the Government of the Gold Coast was concerned.… the Governor-General would act on the advice of his Ministers. It is not, however, possible to say yet what arrangements will commend themselves to the Gold Coast Government after independence.As you no doubt know, the actual command of the Gold Coast military forces is in the hands of a British Army officer on secondment, and there is every expectation that he or a similar officer will remain for a considerable period after the Gold Coast 304 achieves independence. During the period between the assumption by the Gold Coast of responsibility for their own forces (which they took over on the 1st July this year) and the achievement of self-government, the Governor, acting in his discretion as part of his responsibility for defence, is ultimately in control of the Gold Coast forces. Those forces are, of course, now paid for and administered by the Gold Coast Government, and War Office control has come to an end.When the Under-Secretary was introducing the Bill I was astonished that he did not say anything about the position of these forces from 1st July to 6th March next, and then from 6th March onwards. I hope very much that the Secretary of State will tell not only me but the British troops now serving there and the British troops which may be called upon to serve there in the future, what the actual constitutional safeguards are to be, so that no doubt at all will remain that British troops are not to be used haphazard in what are, after all, essential duties in aid of the civil power, at a time when Her Majesty's Government have surrendered, and rightly surrendered, political control to the Ghana Government.
While, I join in wishing this experiment well, I have certain doubts, which I hope will not become realities. If, of course, the Secretary of State rules out the possibility of those forces having any function other than the purely decorative, he can dismiss what I say. If, on the other hand, there is any possibility at all of internal security forces ever being used for the purpose for which they are provided, he has a duty to the country and to the Army to say exactly where we stand on this issue.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, memories come back to me; memories of service in that country, and of friends who are still there. I wish this experiment well, and I agree with everything that has been said about it. It is an experiment not only for Ghana and for Britain, but for Africa and the whole world. If it fails, a great deal more than Ghana will suffer. If it succeeds, it may be a step towards making amends for the appalling happenings of the last four or five weeks.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)
My excuse for intervening is not that I have been libelled and have received great damages for being said to have said 305 something about Ashanti, nor that I have a long memory and a long list of Questions which I have put down and have not had answered. It is rather that I have a colleague who comes from Ashanti, whose uncle is a chief of the Ashanti, and my knowledge is derived from friendly conversations with him.
The position of the so-called minorities is that there are these four regions, each proud, each looking forward to an independence which, although they believe they are fit for it, has not been offered to each. The answer, of course, is very clear: that perhaps none of those territories is itself viable and able to live alone. It has been necessary, therefore, to group them and to give this new Dominion a chance of a successful life. My friend does not greatly fear that there is likely to be violence because independence has not been granted to one particular province. He says that whatever may be the deep feelings of the people, there is a substantial chance of Ashanti and the Northern Territories giving this constitution a fair run.
It is quite clear, however, that this is something very new in the way of granting Dominion status. It is different from the Dominion status granted to the States of Australia, which were free to combine. We know what savagery and bitterness the question of the right to secede by individual States led to in the United States, and how it is not really quite sufficient to put States together, thinking that there is not some danger of their breaking away and of there being violence.
The moral to be drawn by us is that, having, I think properly, offered independence, not individually but to a group, we are in a special sense beholden to the individual parts to secure such guarantees for their minority rights as are possible. It is very easy to talk about guarantees and about writing things into constitutions, but when we face realism we know that those guarantees and constitutions can be broken by powerful and unscrupulous minorities. They are really nothing more than expressions of hope and faith. It was, I think, Walter Bagehot who said that the secret of successful banking was not in the banking system but in the bankers, and the secret of a successful constitution is not really in the constitution or in the guarantees but in the people themselves.
306 I listened with somewhat cynical humour to our own back-slapping about the British constitution—how fair, equitable and well advanced we are, and I thought to myself that it was not really so long ago when we were having political trials, when we were persecuting people and when we had bribery and corruption. This new Dominion will not have 400 years in which to reach the state that we have reached. We expect it to grow up almost overnight. It is a very difficult business. I do not know how one could describe what an enormous burden it is. They have got to get their independence and avoid any of the big mistakes which we made.
Of course, they have the advantage of history. They have seen how they will delay freedom if they are too greedy about it. I am not sure that anything can be done in these circumstances except to give them trust. I should like to think that there was an opportunity for the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs to have one more round-table conference before March to allay some of the fears of the minorities and to bring them a little closer into touch with the majorities from whom they have been rather distant in the past.
I am not going to make the usual peroration about the young nation and the good wishes with which we favour it—that has been done so much better by abler orators—but I am proud on this occasion to associate myself with the good wishes which have been expressed.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield)
We have had a most interesting debate, and many valuable suggestions have been made in the hope of finding some way through our present difficulties. I sincerely hope the Secretary of State for the Colonies will give us an assurance that these suggestions will be carefully studied between now and the declaration of independence.
It has been pointed out that this is an historic occasion in the sense that the subject before us is one of great significance and importance in the development of the Commonwealth, for this is really the first African State which is reaching responsible self-government and independence. I think all of us welcome the assurance given by the Under-Secretary that, with the declaration of independence 307 on 6th March, there will be a corresponding declaration that Ghana comes into the Commonwealth as a full member.
We have heard a great deal today about the differences in the Gold Coast, and undoubtedly they are very real, but I think it can be said that at the moment the parties there have abandoned the idea of federation, are prepared to discuss the establishment of a unitary State, and all parties are agreed on the importance of independence and that there should be no postponement of the date. Therefore, I think all of us extend our good wishes to Ghana in the sincere hope that, whatever difficulties there are may, in the next few months, be diminished and removed altogether.
I personally am glad to be able to take some part in these discussions because of my own personal interest over a long period in the development of political democracy in the Gold Coast. I had something to do with the initiation of the Burns Constitution, with the establishment of the Watson Commission, with the setting up of the Coussey Committee and also with the appointment of Sir Charles Arden-Clarke. Therefore, because of that close association over the years with the Gold Coast, I am naturally anxious that this great experiment should succeed.
The advance has been very rapid, and those of us who have cared about political advancement have also been concerned that social and economic developments should keep pace with the political concessions that are made, because obviously it is of little use to make political concessions unless those concessions can be sustained by economic development and by social improvement of the people.
In the Gold Coast, as previous speakers have pointed out, we are confronted with a territory whose people are at different stages of social and economic development, and therefore when dealing with a backward people in the Northern territories, with people who have a great desire for tradition in Ashanti, with the people in the south who have been brought into close contact with another civilisation over a number of centuries, it is not easy to weld them into a system in which modern political democracy can flourish.
308 I think, however, that we had no alternative but to pursue the course we took. I well remember some of the stern criticism which was made of some of us who were anxious that political development should proceed to that as smoothly as possible. It was felt that the pace of progress was much too fast. Yet there was no alternative at all to the concessions which were demanded.
Either we repressed and engaged in violence, which was not particularly true to the phlegm of the British people; or we made advances to try to create political institutions of a representative and responsible character and try to build up a Ministerial system and establish the foundations of a political democracy, all the time remembering the traditional structures of the Gold Coast, and hoping that somehow in that advance in the building of political democracy, we could reconcile the traditional structures with it. So we went ahead, trying to create a genuine knowledge and understanding of the ideas of political democracy in the territory.
As is well known, our policy as a nation has not been merely to establish self-government but for that self-government to come to fruition in terms of political democracy. But if independence is to be established in the Gold Coast, it depends upon a number of fundamental principles. First of all, it cannot flourish unless there is efficient administration. I would emphasise what has already been said, that it is for us to offer and for the Gold Coast not to reject the administrative assistance, the technical aid, which has been so freely offered by the British Government.
It would be fatal—and some of us saw it only a few months ago in the Gold Coast—if a policy were pursued by the new Government of the Gold Coast which was calculated to drive out from this important work those who had the skill and the knowledge in our Colonial service, and indeed, it should be recognised in the Gold Coast that as yet there is not the experience and the trained staff to secure that standard of efficient administration which the Gold Coast so badly needs.
In the second place, if there is to be a sound political democracy, it must have the resources which make for economic viability. Very remarkable 309 progress has been made in the Gold Coast over the last few years, but when all is said and done, the economy is not on a very firm basis. These big extensions of public works, of utilities of all kinds, the building of hospitals, universities and so forth, involve the Territory in recurrent charges. It is, therefore, vital that there should be revenue adequate to meet existing and future charges, and that the economy should be re-adjusted so that it is a mixed economy and not one resting chiefly on revenues secured from cocoa.
It is because I have in mind the economic problems of the Gold Coast that I very much regret that the Secretary of State has not so far put forward some constructive proposals for meeting them There will, for instance, be great liabilities in respect of the Northern Territories. How are the Northern Territories to be developed? We must remember that these are Protectorates for which we carry a responsibility, a responsibility entered into as far back as 1893, for the promotion of the welfare and happiness of the people. There are commitments already in regard to education, public health, and communications, so that the burden is now likely to become a very heavy one for the Gold Coast Government.
I have always felt some anxiety about the transference of Protectorates to Governments which are inexperienced in the administration of backward peoples. We have just seen what has happened in the South Sudan, and we know of other instances when we have not had sufficient regard to the Protectorate status of the people we were transferring to the control of alien governments. The same considerations will apply to the case of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast. In addition, the Gold Coast Government will have heavy liabilities in regard to the development of Togoland.
There is room for some proposals to meet the heavy liabilities which will fall on the Gold Coast Government when independence comes. After all, as has been said, the Gold Coast has made in the past, and still does make, an enormous contribution to the sterling health of our country. The peoples of the Gold Coast have in the past few years, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) pointed out, helped to steer us through a 310 period of very great financial difficulty by the contribution which they have been able to make in dollars and by their willing sacrifice in diminishing their consumption of dollar commodities.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly pointed out, before long there will be other territories emerging to independence. This means that there will have to be some serious, constructive thinking on the part of the Government about the problems which will present themselves. With the withdrawal of the support of the Imperial power, there is likely to be great economic difficulty and, possibly, economic confusion. It will then become all the more important that we should not witness the disintegration of all the work that has been put into these territories in the past. We want them to survive and to go forward, not fall into chaos.
The international Agencies have something to offer in this respect. There are organisations already which make some contribution towards assisting backward areas, but I should like to see the British Government initiating some organisation to co-ordinate the resources which can be made available to territories which are emerging, as the Gold Coast is, to independence and which will face very great practical difficulties in the days ahead.
I feel some anxiety about the problems which will arise in running a system of political democracy in the Gold Coast. We all appreciate that the pace of political advance has been fast. Moreover, democracy is an extraordinarily complex system to introduce to a people just passing out of tribal organisation. They have had no time to learn, and little time to experiment. Let us remember that there have been many grave casualties of democracy during the last forty or fifty years, because of the difficulty of working it. It is being introduced here in a background hitherto untried, in a tropical area, where the circumstances are completely different.
We must, therefore, be prepared for disappointments, for lapses from the high standards which we have set as a result of our own long and continuous progress. We shall see many of the values which we regard as essential to the working of democracy forgotten in the days to come. largely because of inexperience and the lack of opportunity to experiment and 311 learn. One hopes that in the Gold Coast there will be not merely a faithful copy of the Westminster Constitution. After all, our institutions and procedures have been established as a result of trial and error and experiment over a long period, whereas in the Gold Coast something has to be evolved which has relation to the traditional needs of the people, which must be developed against their background and in the light of the economic circumstances in which it will have to operate.
We express with great sincerity our desire that, in the working of that political system, there shall be tolerance, that minority rights shall be respected, that civil rights shall be observed, and that everything possible will be done to eliminate corruption and nepotism from the political scene. One can only hope that this experiment will result in the establishment of a high set of standards which will be observed by not only the Government but all those who are privileged to carry forward this great political enterprise in the new united nation.
I turn now to consider the present difficulties confronting the Gold Coast in the conflict and grave misunderstandings which have arisen because the respective regions do not yet feel satisfied that the constitution is one which gives them complete confidence. There is the danger that, directly the props of the Imperial system are removed, there will be a tendency towards disintegration. We had hoped, of course, that the conference between the Opposition and the Government since the General Election would produce results which would heal some of the wounds and get a closer cooperation in the political life of the territory. Unfortunately, however, to judge from the reports coming to hand from Ghana, there is not at the moment a disposition to work the constitution as it will be conceded to the Gold Coast when independence is declared.
So far as I understand the situation, these difficulties arise from a lack of confidence in the Government by the Opposition. Perhaps it is a lack of confidence due in part to the fears that the tendency on the part of the central Government will be dictatorial, and to the feeling on the part of more liberally- 312 minded people that there will be a struggle for the preservation of some of the traditional features in the Gold Coast which are alien to democratic working.
Be that as it may, we have to face the fact that Ashanti and the Northern Territories are profoundly disturbed in regard to the proposed constitution and that it cannot be said that there is at the moment general acceptance by people in certain regions of the Gold Coast of the proposals which will be enacted before 6th March.
I should like to make a suggestion to the Secretary of State. My right hon. Friend has already suggested how the matter of the constitution might be handled. One of the two main problems is the devolution of responsibility into the regions. The other is the writing of safeguards, of checks and balances, into the constitution, arising from the feeling that the constitution can be immediately upset by the central Government with very little pretext because of the extremely simple manner in which the constitution can be amended.
As I read Dr. Nkrumah's speech, I gather that there are quite a number of Amendments which the Opposition would desire if the United Kingdom Government would agree. In his recent speech, Dr. Nkrumah quoted the Secretary of State's letter to the Governor. The British Government, I understand, say that certain Amendments which are wanted can be secured after indepedence, but not before and that it is the intention of the Government to limit the drafting of the constitution to the existing constituion with a few minor Amendments but that such things as entrenchment clauses and the Declaration of Human Rights must be left until after independence has been proclaimed.
I should like to ask the Secretary of State whether in these matters of agreement it is not possible to insert in the Constitution now being prepared these important principles and items to which the Opposition attaches so much importance. I go further and urge that before the Order in Council is issued, a White Paper, including a précis of the constitution, could be issued to Members of this House so that we may be informed of what the Order in Council is likely to contain. I appreciate that it would probably be an infringement of the Royal 313 Prerogative to submit the Order in Council to this House, but because of the great importance of the matter and our desire that the constitution should have a good start, I consider it important that this House should be informed of what the Order in Council is likely to contain.
Dr. Nkrumah has agreed, for instance, that there should be included, even before independence, the Declaration of Human Rights, and there are other things which he has mentioned in his speech. Why not put these things in the new constitution now? They would have a tremendously reassuring effect with the Opposition.
I and all other Members of the House welcome this great step forward which we are taking today. We as a nation are withdrawing from the tutelage which we have given the Colonies. We are withdrawing from what some people describe by the ugly word "colonialism". As a leading colonial Power, we are adjusting ourselves to relationships that fit the facts of the modern world. Ghana will join Liberia and Abyssinia, and I hope that the integrity, character and equipment of the Gold Coast will give leadership to the African Continent in the days ahead.
As has already been said, the territory owes very much to those who in the past have devoted their service to it. I pay tribute to leaders such as Guggisberg, Burns, Korsah, Coussey, Nkrumah and Arden-Clarke and to a succession of Secretaries of State who have encouraged the political, social and economic advancement of the territory. I pay great tribute also to the Colonial Service for the great contribution it has made.
We all hope that the present difficulties will be overcome and that the Gold Coast democracy will be activated by the highest principles of which I have spoken and will become a State renowned for its tolerance and sense of social justice, demonstrating to the Blimps and the cynics of the world that a black people is no less able than any other people to contribute to the civilisation of the world and add to the dignity of mankind.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
I am, I think, the eighty-fourth Secretary of State for 314 the Colonies, and it is a very great pleasure to have had speeches in this debate from the eighty-first and the eighty-second holders of that high office.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If so, the age of miracles is indeed not past. I was also very glad to hear the tribute paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) to the memory of Oliver Stanley, whose contribution also to the evolution of the Gold Coast was a very considerable one.
I join with the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in congratulating all those who by long and generous service have played a part in bringing about this consummation. I know that the thanks of the whole House and of millions of people throughout the world will be with Sir Charles Arden-Clarke for his imaginative leadership. I have also been particularly glad to hear the tributes that have been paid to Her Majesty's Overseas Colonial Service. I know from first-hand experience, as do so many others, in this House and outside, of the unselfish devotion to duty that they have shown.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kirk-dale (Mr. N. Pannell) mentioned the possibility of the application of the special list procedure for the Gold Coast. Consideration could certainly be given to the application to them of the special list, or, perhaps, what is more likely in their particular circumstances, of the other leg of the policy, the central pool.
I, too, should like to give my hest wishes, and the best wishes of my colleagues, to the Prime Minister of the Gold Coast, of Ghana, Dr. Nkrumah, and his colleagues, and to the leaders of the Opposition in Ghana and to the chiefs and people of the Territory, and I share the prayer of all hon. Members that we shall have cause to be proud of this historic step and of the independent country within the Commonwealth which is thereby emerging. They will, as has been repeatedly pointed out, need our help in many ways.
The hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) made a very impressive but short speech, and in the course of it he dwelt on certain thoughts he had formed from the journey he made there some little time ago. He asked me about the present 315 situation of the withdrawal of the British officers whom one has now to call the expatriate officers, though that is not the sort of word which really suits them and the romantic and devoted work which they have achieved.
The situation is roughly as follows. When the compensation terms came into operation on 31st July, 1955, there were about 1,400 expatriate civil servants. Of those, 142 elected to retire at once, and have now gone. About another 150 were then expected to go before independence, that is, before next March, making some 300 in all out of the 1,400. In fact, the average for the last three months of nine expatriate officers leaving monthly is about the expectation. The monthly average is expected to increase between now and March. I cannot give the House any firm estimate of what will happen thereafter. It will very largely depend on the action of the responsible leaders in the Gold Coast itself.
Help will be needed not only in the form of trusted and devoted service but in other ways as well. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly, in his interesting speech, dwelt on the need to have, as far as we can in this difficult world, economic stabilization, more stable prices for prime commodities like cocoa. Certainly a glance at the figures shows the quite astonishing importance of cocoa in the economy of the Gold Coast. I think I am right in saying that the proportion of the revenue of the Gold Coast that is drawn from the export duty on cocoa reached at one time the high figure of over 60 per cent. In the present year, 1955 to 1956, £20 million is raised from the export duty on cocoa, but that is only 38 per cent. of the revenue. The estimate for next year is that it will have fallen to 29 per cent.—from 60 per cent. some years ago to 29 per cent. next year.
The right hon. Gentleman was quite right in saying that these are the things that really matter: and they matter very much indeed. Throughout this debate there has, I think, been a most refreshing realisation in all parts of the House of the real importance of economic advance if political and social progress is to have any basic reality.
The United Kingdom, of course, consumes only a part of the Gold Coast production of cocoa. We cannot by our- 316 selves, however much we may wish we could, alter the cocoa prices, and we can hardly buy above the world price. I do not think anybody would suggest that we should. There must be international control. A Cocoa Study Group has recently been set up. and has held its first meeting, to see how far, if at all, production is exceeding demand. The meeting was in Brussels. The next meeting, I am glad to see, is to be in the Western Region of Nigeria. I put this in the forefront of my observations, because I want to underline the belief common to us all in the real importance of economic stability as far as it can be achieved.
So much of this debate has turned, as it was bound to do, on the unhappy differences of opinion that exist in the Gold Coast, so shortly to be the new State of Ghana. and it would. I think, as everyone has recognised, be both very foolish and unworthy if we pretended that those differences do not exist: but we all also recognise that very genuine and vigorous efforts have been made to try to resolve those differences. I have been acutely disturbed by them ever since I had the honour of being appointed to my office over two years ago.
I was very glad when in December last year it was possible for Sir Frederick Bourne to go out to the Gold Coast as independent constitutional adviser. I was sorry at the time—I shall not go into all the reasons, for I would not be thought unjust to the Opposition—but I was very sorry that at the time they decided not to meet him officially, although I know that a number of them met him personally and privately. As the House knows, Sir Frederick, with his great experience, came down firmly against a federal constitution.
I do not propose tonight to talk much about the federal solution, because no hon. Member in the House has advocated it. I hope that that fact will be noted by our friends in Ghana. We are all anxious for a happy solution and a wise one and a statesmanlike one, but no voice at all has been raised in this House in favour of a federal solution because we know the facts of life, the size of the country, the geography of the country, the consequent development of the transport of the country, and the difficulties of manning a series of Parliaments. 317 Problems of that kind would make that a very poor solution.
After Sir Frederick's visit and his report we had the Achimota Conference to discuss it. This was held in February of this year. Once more, I am sorry to say, it was boycotted. Minor modifications were introduced into Sir Frederick's report. Then the Gold Coast Government's proposals, which were a blend of Sir Frederick Bourne's Report and of the Achimota recommendations were published in April this year. Shortly after that I had the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Botsio to London, and thereafter I made a statement in the House, and gave a pledge on 11th May, saying what Her Majesty's Government would do if an election were held and resulted in a majority, and if thereafter a motion were introduced in the Assembly. A motion was introduced on 3rd August, and was passed. Then another attempt was made. The Governor saw the Northern Territories Council and asked for a list of safeguards which would help them. Then in September the National Liberation Movement representatives and the Northern People's Party and the Togo-land Congress representatives came over and saw me, and saw also the Secretary of State for War who was then Minister of State in the Colonial Office.
Then I came to this conclusion, which, I am glad to know, has received the support of everybody, I think, in this House, not least that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), that the best way really to bring the parties together and to bring things to a head was to announce a firm date for independence, which I did on 18th September, and the date is 6th March next. Then Dr. Nkrumah, who had previously declined to meet the Opposition leaders together, changed that view and had talks with the Opposition and with the Territorial Councils. Then revised constitutional proposals were made, and these we are now giving the very closest examination.
I recognise, as does everybody in the House, that the Opposition leaders have their many anxieties. They have suggested, for example, a Council of State, to be formed of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Attorney-General, and the heads of the four traditional Regions. The purpose of this 318 Council of State would be to advise the Governor-General on the exercise of his prerogative powers, and on the public service and judicial appointments, and to act as a final court of appeal in local constitutional matters.
The Gold Coast Government take the view—and I think there is some substance in this—that it is not very wise to make some of the Governor-General's functions exercisable on the advice of a body responsible neither to the Government nor to the National Assembly. They hold that a body containing political representatives is an unsuitable body to be an appeal court.
The Opposition has also suggested a Second Chamber. The view that the Gold Coast Government have taken has been that the function of reviewing legislation could be carried out better through their own proposals for Regional Assemblies and Regional Houses of Chiefs, which would be given the opportunity to examine legislation before it is introduced into the National Assembly. So the view has been that they reject the Second Chamber unless the majority of the Territorial Councils will say that they want it as a substitute for Regional Houses of Chiefs. I hope that discussion on this and other matters can still continue.
Another point raised by the Opposition was the question of the powers of the Regional Assemblies and whether they should be Northern Ireland powers or London County Council powers. I do not want to keep the House long, and I will not therefore develop that argument very much, except to say that from the recent White Paper of the Gold Coast Government it looks as if their view is not quite the same as that of Sir Frederick Bourne regarding the form of regional power in the field of finance. It may well be that, given goodwill on both sides, further progress in that field may be brought about.
The Opposition bas also asked for regional control of the police. This is the only one of the nine constitutional safeguards desired by the Northern Territories, which the Gold Coast Government have not been willing to grant. The Opposition fears misuse of the police and the Government argue that a unitary force is likely to be more efficient and to attract a better type of recruit. I 319 mention these facts to show that there have been vigorous and statesmanlike attempts to bridge the gulf. It is not yet bridged, but I will do all I can to see that it is bridged before irrevocable decisions are taken.
A number of hon. Members have referred to the question whether or not the Regional Councils should be enshrined in the Order in Council and whether they would follow the proposals of the Gold Coast Government on page 6 of their White Paper. The final conclusion as to what will be in the Order in Council must be for Her Majesty's Government to decide, though it would be unwise, and very unfair, not to pay the highest possible regard to the views of the Gold Coast Government, so recently elected by a substantial majority. But it might be desirable to define the scope and continuance of these regional bodies a little more precisely.
A number of hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe, have raised the question of security and of the police force and armed forces in the Gold Coast. It is quite right that they should expect some answer from me. On one or two aspects of military establishments I may not he able to give all the details now, but I will see the hon. Member for Dudley is provided with the information at the earliest possible date.
The forces available for internal security are the Gold Coast police of about 5,500 and military forces of about the same size, including the three infantry battalions. Under the present constitution, both police and military forces are under the ultimate control of the Governor. As the hon. Member for Dudley said in his very sprightly speech, the War Office relinquished control of the military forces on 1st July this year, and this will remain the situation until independence. I do not mean that the War Office will then take control but that the ultimate control of the Governor will remain until independence.
As to the territorial composition of these forces, I would ask the House to bear with me whilst I give a few statistics, because they are very interesting and in some ways very enlightening. If we look at the armed forces or the police and take 320 a glimpse at the total proportion which each part of the Gold Coast produces, we may get rather an illusion as to the effective combatant contribution of the various parts. In the Army, the Colony produces 45 per cent. of all the other ranks, the Northern Territories produce 45 per cent., and Ashanti 5 per cent., but if we break that up between combatants and noncombatants in other ranks. the Colony produces 34 per cent., Ashanti 4 per cent. and the Northern Territories 62 per cent. It must be noted, however, that a large but unknown proportion of the 62 per cent. may be from French West Africa. It is impossible, even in order to please the hon. Member for Dudley, to be more precise than that, but these are very interesting conclusions and it is worth having them on record. As to the police, the Colony produces 45 per cent., the Northern Territories 25 per cent., Ashanti 10 per cent., and the balance probably come from French territory.
In answer to one or two of the more detailed questions which the hon. Member for Dudley asked, there is a signal unit of two British officers and 31 other ranks in the Gold Coast. This is the only British Army unit in the Gold Coast. It is quite separate from the Gold Coast military forces, and it is not at the disposal of the Gold Coast Government for internal security duties.
As to the military forces other than that signal unit, the facts are that there are 184 British officers in the Army in the Gold Coast, and 220 non-commissioned officers on secondment, a total of about 90 per cent. of the commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers being drawn from overseas. As to the locally-recruited officers in the Army, 26 come from the Colony, 1 comes from Ashanti, and I from the Northern Territory. I do not doubt that these proportions will rise as the chances of education, for example, in the Northern Territories, improve.
I feel sure that the forces will continue their existing tradition of impartial and loyal service to the State, and I am equally sure that Ministers will use their authority wisely and not put an unreasonable strain on the loyalty of any part of these forces. The General Officer Commanding is a British seconded major-general, and the British seconded officers will be subject, as they are now, to the United Kingdom Army Act. The ultimate 321 directives for the use of the forces would come from the Gold Coast Government after independence, and it would not be constitutionally possible for the forces to be responsible after independence to the Governor-General as they are now to the Governor.
A number of hon. Members have asked what would happen if there should be real difficulties and if bloodshed arose. If I deal with that, I hope that it will not be thought that I imagine that such an unhappy development is at all likely. I join in the declaration made so eloquently by both right hon. Members opposite that the future of the whole democratic experiment in Africa is at the moment in the hands of the people of the Gold Coast.
Under the terms by which their secondment is arranged. Her Majesty's Government reserve the right to withdraw British personnel from service in the Gold Coast if conditions should arise where it would be considered that such action should be necessary. I am glad to say that there has been a useful and happy development dealing with the political control of the armed forces. The Gold Coast Ministers have recently advised that an Armed Forces Council should be set up before independence on the pattern of the British Army Council. Authority would be vested in a board at the top, of which the Minister would be chairman and the General Officer Commanding would be a member. The Council would not be concerned with operational matters but with promotion and discipline. It is hoped that it would succeed, at any rate to a large extent, in keeping those important matters away from political influence.
I have dealt with a number of the points which have been raised. If the House will bear with me a little longer, I will try to deal with one or two more.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
They have all been seconded. As to whether they are, strictly speaking, volunteers, the hon. Gentleman served in the Army and I served in the Navy. and we probably both 322 have our own views as to what the best answer to that question may be.
I should now like to make brief reference to one or two very important matters to which I and Her Majesty's Government attach the very greatest importance —the independence of the Civil Service and the judiciary and the position of the Attorney-General. The right hon. Member for Llanelly asked about the judges. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe asked about the independence of the Civil Service and the judiciary.
There are already a Public Service Commission and a Judicial Service Commission, which are independent bodies. advising the Government. The Gold Coast Government proposed last April that these should continue, but in their November White Paper they put the final control of appointments in the hands of the Governor-General acting, on the advice of his Ministers. It seems to me and to my colleagues in the United Kingdom Government that, except for the Chief Justice and a few of the most senior Civil Service posts, the final authority after independence should lie with the respective Commissions, the Public Service Commission and the Judicial Service Commission. I very much hope that this view will be shared on reflection by the Government of the Gold Coast.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly asked me specifically about the present judges. The April White Paper of the Gold Coast Government says that it is proposed that, on independence, judges shall be given the option—it refers to existing judges—of continuing in office. on the terms applicable to judges appointed since 4th May, 1954—that is the present terms—or of retiring on the expiration of their present tour of duty or one year after the date of independence, whichever shall be earlier. Those who elect to retire will be entitled to compensation, but those who choose to continue on the terms which have operated since 4th May, 1954, will remain on those terms. I hope that that deals with the point and sets at rest any doubt in the right hon. Gentleman's mind.
As to the Attorney-General, the Gold Coast Government have agreed that his should remain an official appointment at least as long as the present British Attorney-General holds the office, instead 323 of becoming a political appointment. It certainly is my view that this is very wise indeed in a country which is embarking on this great experiment without being sure—as we are broadly, though our debates may sometimes suggest something else—of mutual confidence between the political parties. I am very glad that the Government of the Gold Coast have taken that view.
I was asked a number of questions about the amendment of the constitution by the hon. Member for Barnsley, my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) and one or two other hon. Friends of mine. As the House knows, there has been a change in regard to the Gold Coast Government's proposals for the amendment of the constitution. They originally suggested that constitutional changes should take place with the consent of two-thirds of the members present and voting. The new proposal is that a two-thirds majority of all members is required.
I have listened with the very greatest interest to the speeches which have been made on this subject from both sides of the House. I recognise that the Opposition parties and people are not likely to regard the two-thirds majority criterion as being of exceptional value when the Government in the Gold Coast at the moment, at the birth of the new constitution, already have a two-thirds majority of their own. I recognise the strong feelings that have been expressed that there should be some other additional safeguards. One hon. Member said that a two-thirds majority should be required in two successive Parliaments. Other hon. Members have privately suggested to me that the regional bodies ought to be brought in and should have a function in regard to revision of the constitution.
We must, I think, beware of suggesting anything which would make the constitution too rigid. On the other hand, I understand the anxieties of hon. Members. I am sure that the Government of the Gold Coast, which has shown such statesmanship in so many fields, will ponder on this debate and read with interest all the speeches which have been made and profit from them.
Finally, on this subject, the right hon. Member for Llanelly referred to funda 324 mental rights and quoted my statement to the Gold Coast Government that I felt that that and other things would not appropriately be included in the Order in Council. As hon. Members know, these fundamental rights—freedom from arrest, freedom of association, and things of that kind—are already implicit in the common law which extends throughout the Gold Coast, and their enunciation in the constitution would not add materially to that.
Nonetheless, I have listened with sympathy and understanding to the arguments which have been used. I recognise that it may be that this ought to be looked at again. I will give an undertaking that I will certainly look at it again. I would emphasise that it would be unreasonable and impracticable not to take very full account also of the views of the Gold Coast Government on all these matters, though on this particular matter it is true that both the Gold Coast Government and the Opposition at one time were in agreement that this should be done.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) also asked me about Parliamentary control in the concluding stages of the hand-over of authority to the Gold Coast. I listened with very great interest to what he had to say. It is true that the Order in Council, which would be under the terms of the British Settlements Act, must be laid on the Table of this House immediately after it has been made, but there is no provision at all for an affirmative or negative procedure. I recognise that that is a considerable hardship to hon. Members and may prevent our united wisdom being brought to bear on what I recognise to be a matter of fundamental importance, the Order in Council which will shortly be prepared.
Therefore, I should be ready to discuss with my colleagues—this involves Ministers other than myself, and not least the Leader of the House—the possibility of putting the Order in Council's constitutional proposals into a White Paper to be laid before the House. Then, after hon. Members have had time to read it carefully, we could debate it and I would listen to any comments which may be made. I would then discuss matters with the Gold Coast Government to ascertain to what extent we could meet 325 the comments which were made. I need hardly say that throughout this procedure I should always be at the service of right hon. and hon. Members on either side of the House to listen to any comment or suggestion that they might care to make in order to ensure that this shall be, as far as it possibly can be, an agreed Measure.
Several other points were raised. One was a very big one, and that is the role of the Colonial Development Corporation in the Gold Coast and elsewhere. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of hon. Members if I dealt with this at some length on the Committee stage of the Bill, because there is a great deal that I should like to say and I should hate to do it in a hurried way, which speaking at this hour might well involve.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I cordially agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I hope that carries with it the undertaking that we shall have reasonable and adequate time for the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
As I have already taken some rather firm decisions about the future Parliamentary timetable, I had better say that I will pass that to the proper quarters and say that my colleagues will not lose sight of it.
There are two other points want to raise. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) referred to the possibility of a Gold Coast judge being appointed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Judicial Committee Amendment Act, 1895, enables provision to be extended by Order in Council to any judge of any other superior court in Her Majesty's Dominions, and I will see that my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor is 326 acquainted with the strength of the feeling on this matter on both sides of the House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kirk-dale asked about the security of British and other capital in the Gold Coast in the event of the Gold Coast Government in its own discretion deciding—as it would be entitled to do—to nationalise industries in the Gold Coast. The White Paper which the Gold Coast Government produced makes it clear in paragraph 27 that the existing powers of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to entertain appeals from the Gold Coast would be retained. Other provisions of the White Paper make it clear that although nationalisation as such could not be contested, those affected would have a constitutional right to adequate compensation and access to the courts to determine their rights, including the amount of compensation. I think that that meets the point that my hon. Friend raised.
I should not like the debate to end on a note of suspicion and uncertainty. I do not believe that these things are likely, that people will find that capital in the Gold Coast is in peril, or that British officers in the Army or police force will be confronted with a choice of loyalties. I am myself a believer in this great experiment. It is an experiment, but it will be helped if we enter into it. without shutting our eyes, but in high hopes that this great and romantic conception will justify the faith which so many people have put into bringing it about.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Bryan.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.