HC Deb 18 December 1956 vol 562 cc1105-38

3.37 p.m.

The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs (Mr. John Maclay)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 23, to leave out paragraph (i).

On 13th December the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the recommendation of the Fourth Committee approving the termination of the Trusteeship Agreement for Togoland, to become effective on the attainment of independence of the Gold Coast. As a consequence, the first proviso of Clause 1 of the Bill is no longer necessary.

Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield)

I think that the Committee should place on record the fact that this is the first Trusteeship Agreement which has come to an end. Togoland will now pass into the Gold Coast Territory, the new independent State of Ghana. I think that we are right in paying a tribute to those who have administered the territory with such skill while it has been a Trusteeship Territory, and in feeling gratified that this territory has earned the good will and the approval of the United Nations during the whole series of sittings which have taken place.

By this action we are putting a very heavy financial liability on the Gold Coast Government. We were under the necessity, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, of building up the good life of the territory. If that work is to continue, in the days to come the Gold Coast Government will be required to find from its resources very considerable expenditure. I hope, therefore, that when we come to other Amendments in the Bill, we shall give very careful attention to the financial situation of the Gold Coast as a result of the passing of this Measure and the declaration of independence.

I also want to ask a question about the Ewe tribe. There has been considerable agitation. There have been many discussions at the United Nations about the future of the tribe. As the French part of the tribe is still in French territory, may we be assured, now that the British part in our mandated territory comes within the Gold Coast, that we are not likely to have to face complications arising out of this matter in future?

We welcome the transformation which is now taking place as a result of the decision of the United Nations that Togo-land may now form part of the new Ghana independent State.

Mr. Maclay

On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I would associate myself with the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) in appreciation of the services of those who have worked in the Trust Territory throughout the years and have administered it extremely well. I have just had the privilege of attending the United Nations Fourth Committee. While, as the right hon. Gentleman said, there was a certain amount of discussion, there were numerous tributes to the work done in administering the territory, and it was very satisfactory to hear them.

As to the Ewe tribe, one cannot, of course, tell what will happen in the future, but I hope that it will be a satisfactory, permanent settlement.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made and Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

I want to call attention to Clause 1 (b), which says that as from the appointed day, Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom shall have no responsibility for the government of Ghana or any part thereof … I am still worried about the position of local government in the Gold Coast. The Colonial Secretary gave no answer to the queries which I raised on Second Reading. I should like to know whether there is any danger of the local government system in the Gold Coast crumbling, and whether the right hon. Gentleman is contemplating advising Dr. Nkrumah to set in motion machinery for local government elections. The matter is worthy of far more consideration. I appeal to the Minister of State and the Prime Minister of the Gold Coast to encourage the development of the local government organisation. I should like to be assured that serious consideration is being given to the matter.

As to the last four words of the paragraph which I have quoted, "or any part thereof", I want to draw attention to the fact that on Second Reading the Northern Territories were not mentioned very much. This is the most backward area of the Gold Coast, and I am extremely worried about its future. The Minister may give us some information when he replies to queries arising out of Clause 3. I mention this only in passing because I do not want to prejudice the case which will be put by my right hon. and hon. Friends, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is keeping in mind the backwardness of that area. Investment is required there. Any assistance which the right hon. Gentleman can give by extending the scope of the Colonial Development Corporation or the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts, or by encouraging a survey of the Northern Territories to see what investment would be useful, would be appreciated.

3.45 p.m.

I should also like to know what consideration the Colonial Secretary has given to the suggestion made on Second Reading by the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) and myself, when we asked whether he would be willing to go to the territory before independence day, or the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu), who suggested a further Parliamentary delegation to try to smooth out the differences which still exist. I do not wish to lean towards any party in particular. The C.P.P. has given me cause for concern because of its repeatedly postponing local government elections. The N.P.P. and the N.L.M. have appalled me because of their obvious indifference towards atending constitutional conference and assembly debates.

With this short survey of affairs, I appeal to the principal leaders of the three parties concerned, pointing out that the eyes of the whole world are upon them. I think that they have a great chance at hand, and I want them to grasp it graciously and responsibly. I hope that their actions will be statesmanlike and that all the fears about the future which I have expressed may be allayed.

Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

I am glad to be able to follow the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason). I hope that my right hon. Friend will have listened to the many remarks which were made during Second Reading, particularly about the powers which are to be granted to the regional assemblies. I fully understand that it will not be possible to have any form of federal government in the Gold Coast. We all agree that it is essential to have a unitary constitution, both economically and politically.

However, what I am frightened about is that a block grant made by a central Government will so give power to Accra over Ashanti that those in Ashanti and the Northern Territories will have to do what the central Government want. I hope that the powers will not be those of Ulster, which, in our own history, has been known to say "Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right", but will be those of a county council, which is able to have its own revenue, however small it may be, but is not given power to raise Income Tax from mines or public companies which cannot be controlled by the central Government.

I have heard an argument adduced against any form of second Chamber. What worries many of us is that there may be some form of civil war ultimately in Ghana. It is said that the expense of a second Chamber is too great. However, if there are to be regional assemblies, surely it is possible to take a selected number from each regional assembly and form a second Chamber which would deal only with constitutional matters, so that any change in the Constitution, under the provisions for a two-thirds majority, must take place in two successive Parliaments. Surely any extra expense that that caused would be less than that of a civil war.

Further, I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider having a representative of the Governor-General in Kumasi and Tamale so that those who may at times disagree with the central authority may have a chance of putting their view to the representative of the Governor-General, who will act in the same way as Her Majesty's lords-lieutenant in our counties.

Finally, I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider an agreement with the independent Government of Ghana over the Special List. If trade is to flourish to the mutual benefit of Great Britain and the present Gold Coast, we must provide the maximum of help and know-how that we can. I am given to understand that, unless we are extremely careful, there will be a wholesale exodus of our advisers from Ghana. I hope that my right hon. Friend will seriously consider adding Ghana to the Special List, as has already been done in the case of Nigeria.

Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

Like many hon. Members who spoke during the Second Reading debate, I add my welcome to the new Constitution and to the new proposals for a free state of Ghana. I have, however, certain misgivings, if only for the reason that Ghana is trying to do something which has never been done before, which is to set up a completely free democracy in Africa. As this is such a very difficult task, I think that it is no disrespect to Dr. Nkrumah—for whom, indeed, I have a very great respect—if I say that we should like to see him helped in every possible way by the Constitution which he will have when he takes over.

In particular, I hope that it will be possible to have a charter of human rights written into the Constitution. It has been done before, notably in the case of Ceylon. If I may, I should like to remind hon. Members what the Ceylon Constitution says. It reads that, subject to certain provisions: …Parliament shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Island. No such law shall…prohibit or restrict the free exercise of any religion;… make persons of any community or religion liable to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of other communities or religions are not made liable;…confer on persons of any community or religion any privilege or advantage which is not conferred on persons of other communities or religions … I could read out more, but I think that that is enough to show the gist of it. I hope that the Colonial Secretary will ask Dr. Nkrumah to consider the advisability of including some such charter of human rights in the new Constitution of Ghana.

I have said that I welcome this Bill, and that Ghana has a very difficult task to undertake. We want the people there to succeed—we desperately want them to succeed. I imagine that there are only two people who would really like them to fail. One is Mr. Khrushchev and the other is Dr. Strydom. Both of those gentlemen would like to see the people of Ghana fail, because, strange though it may seem, they have very much in common. Both intensely dislike democracy, and Dr. Strydom, in particular, would be distressed at the idea of an African democracy being set up and working successfully. I hope that we shall make it work successfully.

For that reason I hope that we shall put in the safeguards which I have suggested. They are in no way a derogation of the power of the Ghana Government, but are intended solely to help them to that success which we think they should have.

Mr. Norman Pannell (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

I should like to support the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) for a delaying clause which will prevent a brusque change in the Constitution. As I read the Bill, it is not possible to include in any Orders in Council entrenched clauses because, after 6th March, 1957, the Gold Coast Government will have the absolute right to devise what Constitution they desire, irrespective of anything that has preceded. I think that the Committee in general would agree that to introduce into the Orders in Council certain delaying clauses would have a great moral effect, and would prevent the independent State of Ghana from simply overriding any of those provisions once they had the right to do so.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

Would the hon. Gentleman please tell us in more specific terms what he means by "delaying clauses"?

Mr. Pannell

According to the constitutional proposals, the Constitution can be amended by a two-thirds majority of the Assembly. That would give the Assembly the right to amend it at any time, because the Government have at present a two-thirds majority. The delaying clause I have in mind is to the effect that it shall not be possible, on Ghana gaining its independence, for the Government brusquely to introduce a radical change in the Constitution. There should be, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree has suggested, a provision that such a proposal should be passed in two successive Parliaments before it becomes law.

Most of the time I spent in West Africa was spent in commerce. Commerce has played its part in the development of our Colonies. Trade was the first impulse given to their development, and the Government followed trade. I believe that the Government cannot be unmindful of their responsibilities to those industries and enterprises which have been established there in circumstances which gave a reasonable assurance of continued British protection.

The millions of pounds sunk in those Colonies, and in the Gold Coast in particular, by such enterprises as the gold mining companies, deserve some protection from Her Majesty's Government. I do not believe that Her Majesty's Government can say, "We wash our hands of this. The responsibility for such matters is now in the hands of the Gold Coast Government, and we cannot impose any safeguards in favour of those companies which have been responsible, in a very large degree, for the development of these Colonies."

That is why I particularly urge that there should be this delaying clause—which, I think, is now clearly understood—to prevent a sudden change in the Constitution. Otherwise, the companies there would be subject to nationalisation and, because the present conditions could be altered, they could be nationalised without compensation, if the Gold Coast Government so decided after 6th March. I am quite aware, as I say, that any such clause put into the Orders in Council would not be entrenched, but I think that it would have a very strong moral effect, and I urge its inclusion.

Referring to a point which I raised during the Second Reading debate, I should like it to be made perfectly clear that, in the event of nationalisation, the claimant for compensation shall have ultimate recourse to the Privy Council. Article 36A of the Order in Council of 1955 provides that a claimant may have recourse to the Gold Coast Supreme Court, and the constitutional proposals of the Gold Coast Government themselves provide for ultimate recourse to the Privy Council. I should like it to be made perfectly clear that any company threatened with nationalisation shall have recourse to the Privy Council, not only on questions of law but on the amount of compensation which may be granted by the Supreme Court of the Gold Coast.

It is extremely important that these safeguards should be provided now. We do not want to regard the motives of the new Gold Coast Government as suspect; we do not want to cast a slur on them, but that Government have to prove themselves in these matters. While they are on trial it is very important that, in these initial years, safeguards should be incorporated in the Constitution, so as to encourage the investment of capital in what will then be the independent State of Ghana.

There are many Colonies moving towards independence. Most of them are backward. They are in great need of capital investment, the greater part of which must come from outside the Colonies themselves. If there are no safeguards in the Gold Coast Constitution, there will be an adverse reaction on all other Colonies in the Commonwealth which are moving towards independence. It will deprive companies which would otherwise invest in the Colonies of the reassurance which they need.

I urge that in this experimental Measure, which grants to the Colony of the Gold Coast independence as the first African Colony of its kind to achieve such status, it is immensely important that the new State of Ghana shall get off to a good start.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether these safeguards were incorporated in the India Act respecting the independence of India?

Mr. Pannell

I do not think that they were, but I do not wish to make comparisons. Whether they were or not, I still consider it to be the right thing to do for the Gold Coast. If I were to make a comparison, without being invidious, I could say that the Gold Coast has not reached a stage of evolution and has not the same background that India had when she achieved independence.

This Measure is experimental in every sense. The Gold Coast was a primitive country fifty years ago, whereas India had a civilisation which could compare with ours when we first went there. Such was not the case in the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast has had far more difficulty in adapting itself to Western customs than such a country as India. It is most important to incorporate these safeguards, not only in the interests of the industries established there, not only in the interests of the State of Ghana itself, but in the interests of all other Colonies which are moving in the same direction towards independence.

Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)

I cannot claim anything like the experience in the Gold Coast which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) has, but I differ from him in a matter of opinion. I do not agree that the Gold Coast Government cannot be trusted to run their country when they have independence.

As I say, it is a matter of opinion, but I am convinced that when they know that the eyes of the world are upon them, and they are being regarded as a test case as to whether an African country like this can run itself, there will be reasonable and fair treatment for people who have invested there. I ask the hon. Member to look at the assurances which have been given on more than one occasion by the Prime Minister and other Ministers of the Gold Coast.

Mr. N. Pannell

Does not the hon. Member agree that if those intentions have been stated orally, and in certain published declarations, there is no reason why they should not be incorporated in the Constitution? Would that not give an additional safeguard to any capital which anyone wishes to invest?

Mr. de Freitas

I am in some difficulty. This is the Committee stage of the Bill and I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is suggesting an Amendment. It is hard to conduct a debate on this point unless an Amendment is put down to this effect, so that we can see it and discuss it. That, surely, is the whole reason for a Committee stage. We are trying now to judge what will be the effect if this Clause stands part of the Bill.

Mr. Pannell

With respect, may I, for the purpose of clarification, say that the Bill does refer to the First Schedule, and the First Schedule specifically refers to certain Orders in Council which will later be introduced in regard to the Constitution.

Mr. de Freitas

I will not pursue this further; it is a rather sterile discussion. I did not notice that the hon. Gentleman was seeking to amend the Schedule in any way. We are in Committee, after all, when we should be going into the details and considering them.

However, I most emphatically agree with the hon. Member for Kirkdale—and I am glad that he stated it in the terms he did—about the need for capital investment which must come from outside, especially for the most backward parts of the colonial Commonwealth. This applies with particular force in the most backward part of Ghana—the North.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) referred to the Northern Territories. It is clear from the HANSARD report of the Second Reading that the Northern Territories were not referred to as much as they should have been. The dilemma is surely this—and it affects the whole future of Ghana after independence—that the Northern Territories are by far the poorest part of the country and they have had added to them the northern part of Togoland, which also is a poor country.

The area needs special consideration when independence is achieved. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley referred to the activities of the N.P.P. and C.P.P. in the Northern Territories. In the spring I saw representatives of both those parties travelling round in a jeep in Togoland, working together to persuade the people of the area to vote for inclusion in the Northern Territories of Ghana. But what they several times told me was, "We wish we could promise that a certain amount of money would be sent each year from Accra, for the development of the area, because that would be a most telling argument". But they were frank, and said to the people, "How can we promise a certain sum of money each year when the basis of our economy is a dollar cash crop, namely, cocoa, the price of which can go down very rapidly?"

I am, therefore, suggesting that we must, in considering what is to happen after independence, take account of the poverty of the Northern Territories, the impossibility of the Gold Coast Government allocating a definite large sum to that area for capital development, and the enormous costs which the development of roads, bridges, and so on, in the Northern Territories will involve. For instance, cement is twice the price it is on the coast. Therefore, I say definitely that we in this country must consider making a special contribution to the Northern Territories.

It may be said that such a course is out of the question because the country of Ghana will be independent and we must not give money or make grants or loans directed to a certain part of an independent territory. But I wonder whether it would be turned down if we put it forward. I believe that it would contribute to what we want, namely, the stability of Ghana. The special considerations affecting the Ashanti have been discussed at greater length, but I believe that not many hon. Members realise the dangers there are in the Northern Territories.

Not only must we all work towards securing the stability of Ghana, but we must recognise that if there is instability, and if the country appears not to be going as well as the people had hoped, there will be great pressure to break away from some of their traditional ties. One of those traditional ties is the link with us in the sterling area. Let us remember that next door there is Liberia, which, since the beginning of the war, has become tied to the dollar area and which, through the development of rubber probably has an era of prosperity ahead.

If it is said that we should not offer the taxpayers' money as a contribution towards the development of this backward part of Ghana, I would ask that the argument be carefully followed as to whether, even if we were to look at it from our own self-interest, it would not be worth while. The sterling area means much to us. On this Clause I must not go too far into the economic side of the question, but surely we all recognise the great dollar earning assets which the Gold Coast economy possesses.

If we could say to this sister sovereign, independent State within the Common- wealth that we would give so much a year for the next ten years, not tied with any development Act but for the development of the Northern Territories, I do not know how it would be received, but it would be a gesture which is right morally. For it must be remembered that much of the Gold Coast's economy has been turned to the growing of cocoa, to the advantage of the sterling area. We have a duty to consider that aspect as well.

Therefore, it is in the interests of the Northern Territories, of Ghana, of the United Kingdom and of the whole sterling area when the Gold Coast becomes independent that we should not stand strictly on the letter of the law and say that it has nothing to do with us. It is perfectly true that in law it may be nothing to do with us, but I wonder whether politically, economically and morally it does not have a lot to do with us.

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

This is not the time for long speeches. They can be made in Accra after March next year, after Ghana is independent. I am, however, moved to say that this debate sounds something like a hangover from the last one. I am a little disturbed at what I might term the pessimistic opening by two, if not more, of the five speeches we have had so far, and I want to be a little more optimistic.

I am disturbed by the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), on this side of the Committee, has been talking and the way in which the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), on the benches opposite, has spoken. This year, both of those hon. Members were members of official delegations to the Gold Coast. In fact, as far as I can see, this Chamber is full of Gold Coast expatriates, particularly on this side. I was in the Gold Coast on a one-man delegation earlier this year. I went to Kumasi and over the coast territory, and I am much more optimistic about the future.

I beg hon. Members to realise that this is a delicate, difficult and dangerous experiment. We are the only Empire to have attempted this sort of devolution. One can never imagine Portuguese Mozambique hiving off like the Gold Coast; or even the Belgian Congo, never mind Portuguese Guinea. This is a wonderful thing that we are attempting to do in Africa, so let us hold our heads up a little more, rather than have all these forebodings and misgivings about the Northern Territories.

Why are we so worried about the Northern Territories? This kind of experience is happening all over Africa. There is the fight of the coastal belt peoples against those of the bush interior; the conflict of the young, educated men against the older, feudal, tribal chiefs, the emergence into power of the politicos, the younger men and politicians against the older traditional elements. Liberia has been mentioned. I was there before I went to the Gold Coast. The same thing is happening in Liberia, with the same belt of educated coastal people pushing against the older indigenous elements in the interior. This is endemic in Africa. We do not need to be too anxious or worried about it, because it is there. People like Dr. Nkrumah and his party are facing up to these questions as much as we are. They know what is happening and will face up to it.

Why do I consider it so dangerous to harp upon these difficulties of Ghana? I do not think that it is our place to discuss too much the domestic details of the Gold Coast. It is not just a matter in which, constitutionally, we attempt to put a Clause into the Bill and tell the Ghanains what their life shall be after March, 1957. What is even more important is that we are the Metropolitan Parliament and the Mother of Parliaments, and it is highly dangerous for politicians in Kumasi or elsewhere to pick up statements by this or that hon. Member here and to bandy them about in the coming months. We ought in speech to be careful how far we go in this matter.

The Africans whom I have met in London and over there want frankness. We here are accustomed to speaking our minds—we did so last week and hon. Members will do so again today. Hence, I should like to know what the Secretary of State has done to allay this anxiety of the people of the interior; of the Ashanti and of the Northern Territories. The right hon. Gentleman has been asked, both today and last week, about putting into the Constitution, as in the case of Ceylon, safeguards about human rights. I was puzzled about this, although in a way I am heartened by what I find in page 12 of the Gold Coast publication entitled, "The Government's Revised Constitutional Proposals for Gold Coast Independence." I find in this document something which should hearten hon. Members who are doubtful about the good will, tolerance, honesty, integrity and fibre of the Conventional People's Party and of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his colleagues.

The Appendix in page 12 of the document is headed, Part II—Notes on Individual Government Proposals and deals with the fundamental rights guaranteeing personal liberty and the right of political and industrial association, together with freedom of speech and of the press. It states: The Government had much sympathy with this idea, and in particular, like the Opposition, wished to include in the Constitution fundamental rights … Since the Secretary of State and Her Majesty's Government did not, however, take that view, those in the Gold Coast got together and, says the document: The Government, the Opposition and the four Territorial Councils are agreed that in the circumstances this is the best course to follow. I would have thought that it would give us some good cheer to know that there is co-operation out there in these affairs. There is not quite the impasse or the very difficult position which some people fear.

4.15 p.m.

I have been told, outside this Chamber, that there is a likelihood of civil war in Ashanti. That is a sad and sombre thought. Our weekend papers have conveyed this impression and made comments about the people in the North having armies, and wanting flags. As I said a moment ago, however, there are portents and hopes that would lead one to be less suspicious or pessimistic than these people appear to be. What we want is good will and tolerance out there, in the manner which we have shown here in our debates in this Chamber. If, at the other end of the constitutional pipeline, we can get on the Gold Coast as much tolerance as we have had in this Chamber, the people there will he set for a fair future.

I listened to two speeches last week by the right hon. Member for Kelvin-grove (Mr. Elliot), a distinguished and well-known figure in the Gold Coast and West Africa, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), both of whom mentioned that awful word "corruption". People are more than a little anxious about "corruption", or that time-honoured word "dash", in the West Coast of Africa. Let us put this in perspective. "Dash" is a quite well-known feature of the African economy and the Africans must be allowed to work it out of their own systems themselves, with a little less of the good-natured, sometimes bad-natured, grandmotherly lecturing that one finds at this end of the pipeline.

We are too apt to judge Africans by standards which are met only in the United Kingdom, in Scandinavia and, perhaps, in Holland. Outside this northwestern part of Europe, with our standards of local government and our parliamentary standards, not being present the whole time in the Gold Coast and Nigeria, these high levels are not met with. One need not go into unsavoury details of Jim Prendergast, of Kansas City, or Parisian activities in French political circles; but only add that the people in Africa are learning fast. There have been most encouraging happenings indeed, particularly in the Gold Coast and in the bank inquiry, in Nigeria; and they are most helpful and heartening. I beg some of my hon. Friends not to be so hypercritical about this. Let these people work it out of their own systems, as I am sure they will.

Seats were bought and sold in the House of Commons here not so many years ago, in the last century. We got it out of our system and I hope that the Africans will do the same. The job of this House of Commons, as I see it, both unofficially and, of course, officially too, is to persuade the Government and the Opposition—

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

My hon. Friend may as well come up to date. He says that seats were bought and sold in this House of Commons in the last century. Seats were brought in the other place within the last twenty-five or thirty years.

Mr. Johnson

I defer to my hon. Friend, who is an authority on these constitutional matters, and I will agree with him. All I am saying is that at this time—

Mr. J. Griffiths

I would not call it "buying". I hope, however, that my hon. Friend will note the arrangements made in these days to avoid the Government having to stand up to their Suez policy in the by-election in Carmarthen.

Mr. Johnson

Quite so. My hon. Friends are doing an enormous amount of constitutional research for me.

Our job is to endeavour, by all the means we can, in all the speeches we make, to get the Opposition and the Government in Ghana to agree to lie down together. I hope that we shall send a message to our friends in the Gold Coast, many of whom are our personal friends, that their job is to beat each other at elections and not by fighting in the field.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I did not intend to intervene, but I so very much agree with the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) that I thought I must support him. I share his optimism over this tremendous experiment. I do not believe that there will be any civil war, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) fears, or that there will be any large-scale nationalisation of undertakings on the Gold Coast.

Mr. Tilney

I said that we all hope that there will not be civil war, but it would be unrealistic not to suppose that there is a danger of it, and if we can possibly avoid it by some form of compromise, surely it is a good thing to get that compromise.

Mr. Page

I agree entirely, and I will come to that point as soon as possible, if I am allowed to develop it.

There is bound to be partnership in future between African enterprises there—not necessarily nationalisation of whole concerns, but a joining together to work the commercial enterprises. I understand that, before independence, there will be an Order in Council. I agree that if we could include some of the points mentioned in an Order in Council, points which are already agreed between the parties, it would prevent the temptation to make a rapid change afterwards.

I think that the feeling which came out of the Second Reading debate was that the quotation which the hon. Member for Rugby has made from the document. "The Government's Revised Constitutional Proposals for Gold Coast Independence" was not quite what the House wanted. The quotation reads: The British Government, however, took the view that these were matters"— The matters which we are talking about, that is, safeguards and the entrenchment of certain provisions— which should be put into the Constitution after Independence and after the British Parliament had conferred full sovereignty on the Parliament of Ghana. The Government, the Opposition and the four Territorial Councils are agreed that in the circumstances this is the best course to follow. I believe that the general feeling in the House on Second Reading was that it was not entirely the right course to follow and that if we could put in an Order in Council beforehand some of the things which we in the House and the Government Party and Opposition in the Gold Coast felt to be of the greatest importance and to be agreed upon, we should give a certain amount of stability. This is what I should like to urge upon the Colonial Secretary.

Mr. Creech Jones

This has been quoted several times, but I gather that the Opposition in the Gold Coast are not in agreement with the statement that the best course to follow is for an Amendment to provide for a declaration of rights to be incorporated in the Constitution after independence. I understand that this statement was objected to by the Opposition and, also, that when this record appeared the Opposition immediately launched a protest on the ground that this was an inaccurate statement.

Mr. Page

That is so, as I understand. The sort of rights that I want to see included are not general statements about freedom of speech and the liberty of the subject, but specific points about regional assemblies and the bounds of their powers, the independent judiciary and the fact that judges should be chosen by the Judicial Service Commission, and the question of the maintenance of the Civil Service. These are the sort of specific things that I have in mind. I do not think that general statements about the freedom of the subject would help. We should have these specific points inserted in the Order in Council as agreed subjects. We should then have some stability at the outset of the Ghana Constitution.

Mr. Sorensen

First, I express my regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) appeared to suggest that we should connive at what is happening in many parts of the world, including, possibly, in the Gold Coast. I know that we must not adopt a condescending moral attitude towards our friends who are about to enjoy independence, but I deprecate strongly any suggestion that bribery and corruption are something that we can smile at because they have happened in our history. It is perfectly true that they have happened, but we have got them out of our system. Although other countries may be involved in them, I do not she why we should not say to our friends that they should put their minds against corruption resolutely from the beginning. I know that was in the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby, but he did not say it.

Mr. J. Johnson

I think that that stab in the back, if I may so describe it, coming as it did from an hon. Friend sitting immediately behind me, is undeserved. I said that these things are happening, but that we should not be too grandmotherly about them and that we should put them in perspective. I said that we got them out of our system a long time ago and that, therefore, we should help our friends and not get worried about these matters.

Mr. Sorensen

I agree, but I think that it is not in a grandmotherly spirit but in a maternal spirit that we ought to say what we think is best for our good friends in the Gold Coast.

I share the fears of many hon. Members about the economic and political instability which is at least possible in the new State of Ghana. As for economic stability, one of the greatest disservices that we can render to Ghana is to talk in the way one hon. Member opposite talked this afternoon, because that is how we would spread discredit and suspicion when we want to throw the emphasis in the opposite direction.

Does it not occur to hon. Members opposite that as soon as Ghana is on its feet it will go out of its way to establish credit and trust? It is not likely to go out of its way to encourage wild-cat schemes or to advocate projects whose economic and financial repercussions would be felt throughout the world. Ghana is much too far along the road to independence to require it to be said at this juncture that all kinds of safeguards must be incorporated in the Bill. I am all in favour of Orders in Council including these safeguards. Possibly, by free discussion among our friends in the Gold Coast, we can have them incorporated in the case of Ghana. We have reached the stage when we want to declare that Ghana shall be independent, and the best way that we can encourage reciprocity and cooperation is to see that this essential Clause is passed forthwith.

Mr. Frederick Wiley (Sunderland, North)

I support the plea that if we grant self-determination we must, at the same time, grant full responsibility. We cannot grant self-determination with partial responsibility, because there is no worse political formula. In addition, we cannot grant "practically self-determination." There is nothing worse. There is the example recently of the Irish Republic. One cannot have a worse relationship than "practically, almost self-determination." We must recognise that if the Gold Coast has reached the stage where it is entitled to self-determination it must be granted full political responsibility. That is why it is entirely misconceived to suggest that these qualifications can be made at this stage, and it is unfortunate that hon. Members in all quarters of the Committee should suggest them now.

4.30 p.m.

I support the Secretary of State. I believe that he has taken a courageous action. The right hon. Gentleman has decided that the Gold Coast is entitled to self-determination and, in doing that, he must necessarily decide that the Gold Coast is entitled to full self-determination without qualifications. Again, it is ludicrous to think that if there is any risk of civil war the risk can be minimised by any constitutional safeguard in writing. We have had far too many examples to the contrary. We have to make up our minds about it: if there is a risk of civil war, that risk will not be affected by any paper Constitution.

The Committee may as well recognise that what it is saying is that it mistrusts some of the politicians in the Gold Coast. It must be saying that, if it is saying that there is a case for incorporating written safeguards. Of all legislatures, we are the last to call for written safeguards. We can say, in the light of our history, that we have evaded trouble more often than not because we have not had written safeguards in our Constitution.

As I have said, I welcome the step taken by the Secretary of State but, in taking that step, the right hon. Gentleman must trust the politicians on both sides in the Gold Coast. He has to depend on their sense of tolerance, on their being sufficiently good democrats to recognise differences of opinion in settling what, in the nature of affairs, as I said on the Second Reading, are very difficult constitutional problems.

Of all constitutional problems, perhaps the most difficult is the question of the devolution of political power. There are one or two Scottish Members here and they know this as well as we do. I will make only one suggestion to the Secretary of State, which I do not think has been made hitherto. The right hon. Gentleman has been inundated with suggestions of Parliamentary delegations to the Gold Coast. I suggest that there might be a case for a delegation of people highly qualified in local government. The London County Council has been mentioned. Perhaps one or two of its people could go to the Gold Coast to discuss such questions as, for example, the block grant.

If these technicalities could be discussed in that way it might be helpful, but it would only be helpful in affording to Dr. Nkrumah and the Government party and the Opposition leaders technical advice. In essence, we must rely upon their political wisdom, upon their political sense of fair play. As one of those who was privileged to attend the General Election there, I think that we can expect that; and, what is equally important, we can expect it not only from the politicians but from the people, too.

I therefore hope that from our debates will go out to the people in the Gold Coast not a feeling of qualified trust but of absolute confidence and backing for the Secretary of State in what he is doing.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

I am in the unusual position today of wishing heartily and very sincerely to congratulate the Secretary of State for the Colonies upon the introduction of this Bill. It is a great historic occasion. It is an historic occasion because this is the first African territory in the British sphere which has moved towards independence.

I believe that this will be tremendously important not only for the people of Ghana but for the people of the whole of Africa who are looking to the example set by Ghana. It will be important to our own Commonwealth, which will be extended from representation of the white races of Britain and the Dominions and the brown races of Asia to the black races of Africa. It will be important to the United Nations, into which we hope Ghana will enter as a pioneer of other territories in Africa in the British sphere.

I agree with those who have contributed already to this debate and who have urged that we should not approach this great development with pessimism. The first ground for optimism is the story in Ghana itself during the last four years, during which time there has been internal self-government. Those of us who have visited the territory during this period must have felt a dynamic enthusiasm for social change, for development, for the emancipation of the people physically, mentally and nationally, which will have stirred us all.

We have been impressed by the amazing advance made in education during this period, by the extraordinary advance made in the health services, in the building of hospitals and dispensaries even in distant villages, by the new roads which have been built, by the new great clock town that is being constructed and, perhaps most of all, by the enthusiasm in the voluntary mass education movement. One goes to the most distant villages and sees that mass education movement, not merely in teaching adults who had previously been illiterate, but in voluntary efforts of roadmaking and all kinds of social development. When one sees this spirit at work in Ghana, even before independence has been gained, one has little doubt about its development in the future.

While making reference to that, may I pay my tribute to the British officials who have been working in Ghana during these last four years? They have obviously had an enthusiasm for their task. I heard the head of one great Department say that he has had the privilege of doing more constructive work in the last four years than he had done in the previous twelve years. That shows the dynamic constructive spirit in the territory.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. R. Mason), who spoke of the Northern Territories, is not now in the Chamber, because I would include in grounds for optimism what can be found in those territories. One would go there to a tiny, isolated village and would speak to the common people there, to the women. When asked why they had faith in the new self-government which was even then operating internally in Ghana, they pointed to a water tap in the centre of the village.

The women said that, four years ago, they had to walk three miles for water. They had to pay 4d. for a petrol tin full of water and had to carry the tin on their shoulders. Now the tap had brought fresh water right into their village. It is because those changes have taken place even in the distant Northern Territories that the people are enthusiastic for what they have been able to achieve under self-government.

However, I do not want to give only a rosy picture. I was there not at the beginning but in the early stages of the conflict which has arisen between the Ashanti and the Government of Accra. I did my best during that visit, in discussions with both sides, to find a basis of, shall I say, peaceful co-existence between them. The House of Commons should remember, however, when adopting and passing this Bill, that even in the Northern Territories and among the Ashanti, the majority against the Government was very small indeed, so small that one might say that 50 per cent. of the population were upon the one side or the other.

Therefore, we must recognise that even in those territories there is this very great degree of support for the Government. Nevertheless, I hope that before 6th March, when Ghana obtains its independence, renewed efforts will be made to secure agreement between the Opposition and the Government. I think that one of the ways in which that could be done is contained in the proposal which has been made in Accra that before 6th March, a Bill of Rights should be introduced which would embody the safeguards which have been demanded in the Northern Territories and by the Ashanti.

Surely it is entirely a matter for the people of Ghana to decide what their Constitution shall be. I hope that it will include the principles of the Declaration of Human Rights. I would say only that we have no right to insist upon that because we have failed to apply the Declaration of Human Rights to our own Colonies.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. George Thomas)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I am in a little difficulty because I have not been in the Chamber all the time. I should have thought it possible to keep the discussion closer to the Clause as amended and less near to a Second Reading speech.

Mr. Brockway

Thank you, Mr. Thomas. I must acknowledge that I had gathered from earlier speeches that a very broad discussion was being allowed, but I will try to keep within your direction. Indeed, I was about to conclude.

I have friends both in the Opposition and in the Government. Dr. Nkrumah I knew when he was a student in London, and, on the other side, Joseph Appiah, who is married to a daughter of the late Sir Stafford Cripps. I would make an appeal from this House of Commons both to the Government and to the Opposition in Ghana to appreciate, at this great historical moment, that if Ghana is to set the example to the whole of Africa which we desire, they must find a way of agreement and a way of reconciliation. For the sake of Ghana, for the sake of its example to Africa, I make that appeal from these benches.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

As you rightly pointed out to the Committee a little while ago, Mr. Thomas, this debate has almost taken on the character of a Second Reading, and, in fact, I began to wonder whether I was here on the right day. Perhaps I may be forgiven for dealing with one or two points that might be considered to go a little wide.

Some hon. Members opposite have inferred that hon. Members on this side and, indeed, on the other side who have uttered one or two words of warning as to what might happen under certain circumstances after 6th March were a little pessimistic. I do not take that view. I join with hon. Members on both sides of the House in welcoming the Bill. I am delighted to know that it is under my right hon. Friend that this African territory is to be the first self-governing African territory within the Commonwealth. I think that is a milestone in the history of the development of the British Commonwealth on which the Government are to be very much congratulated.

In saying that, we cannot overlook the fact that until the eve of 6th March this country is responsible for the territory of the Gold Coast and for doing its best to ensure that from 6th March onwards the new State of Ghana is launched under the best possible auspices with the best chances of avoiding conflict or anything which may cause bloodshed or riots or disrupt the economic or social life of that country.

I think that it is not out of the way to point to one or two of the dangers, and to suggest at least one way in which these dangers could be avoided. I do not want to go through all the points brought out on Second Reading about the possibility of trouble. We know the reasons which exist and which might lead in that direction. I would, however, make one suggestion. Like hon. Members on both sides of the House, I do not think that putting matters into the written Constitution is of any great value. I do not think that it is what is in the Constitution that matters; I think that it is the good will of the people and of the Government of the country which decides whether the constitution will work or not.

What I think we can do is to put in the first Order to be made under the Bill some form of delaying clause. The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) asked my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) what was meant by a delaying clause. Various suggestions have been made. I would suggest that in addition to any change in the Constitution having to be passed by a two-thirds majority of the Assembly it should also go through the regional assemblies. Whatever form of delaying clause we impose or suggest, we ought, I think, to give time for consideration and reflection within the State of Ghana before any radical change in the Constitution is made.

I am quite willing to trust the new State of Ghana and its Government. I have a great opinion of Dr. Nkrumah. I think that he is a very able and, indeed, outstanding figure, but he has his enthusiastic and perhaps impetuous back benchers—we have them in this House on occasion on both sides—and he may be pushed into doing things, in the first flush of gaining independence, perhaps against his will, into taking certain actions to produce changes in the Constitution, which he has every right to do under the Bill, but which might not be to the best advantage of the country as a whole. For that reason, I urge that we consider some method of giving time for thought and reflection before it is possible to give effect to any change in the Constitution.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. J. Hall) reverted to the suggestion that was made earlier by one of his colleagues that we should give some thought to the idea of a delaying clause in the Bill. I suggest that if that idea had any widespread support on the other side of the Committee it might have appeared in written form at this stage of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman said that until the eve of 6th March we are still responsible for this proposed new State. Of course that is perfectly true, but our responsibility assumes a more delicate shade and between now and 6th March we require to be very careful regarding what we do and say. When making that suggestion the hon. Member should look at the Title of the Bill, which says that our purpose is to make provision for, and in connection with, the attainment by the Gold Coast of fully responsible status within the British Commonwealth of nations. It is difficult to have that in a Bill which will become effective on 6th March and, at the same time, give the impression that we are thinking about a delaying clause—a clause which might destroy the atmosphere in which we want to see the Bill introduced.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) pointed out, paragraph (b) states: as from the appointed day, Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom shall have no responsibility for the government of Ghana. It would look as though after Second Reading, when the House unanimously approved the Bill, second thoughts have been gathering in certain quarters of the House.

Mr. Page

All these points were put on Second Reading. There have been no second thoughts since then; they have merely been elaborated.

Mr. Rankin

It is as well, Mr. Thomas, that you were not in the Chair on Second Reading because then we might not have been permitted the emphasis which has taken place today.

Mr. Page

Not emphasis, but elaboration.

Mr. Rankin

Nevertheless, I accept the explanation that hon. Members have taken advantage of this occasion to re-emphasise the fears which they previously expressed about the Bill. I still regard it as wrong. Having approved of the principle of fully responsible government for Ghana, we ought to honour it not only by our words but by our attitude.

I congratulate the Secretary of State upon taking this step of creating the new State and upon giving it full and responsible government. If those words mean anything, they mean that this new State must also be fully responsible for its own Constitution. Therefore, that Constitution must embody the things which they want and not the things which we want. I would also suggest that this is not an experiment, because an experiment is something which having been started can also be stopped. This step, having been embarked upon, cannot be stopped, and it is therefore not an experiment. It is a decision. I, at least, believe that it is a decision which will work for good and is one which the House will never regret. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on taking it.

Having said that, I think we might expect that between now and 6th March, Dr. Nkrumah and those who are to be responsible for the government of this new member of the Commonwealth will keep in close touch with the Secretary of State for the Colonies in order that they may be able to benefit in the launching of their new State from the guidance which I am perfectly sure he will be willing to give if that guidance is sought from him, as I hope it will be.

Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I am glad to support the Clause in the form in which it now stands. I think it is a pity that on an occasion such as this, which is in the nature of a ceremonial blessing of the new State, some hon. Members have thought fit to drag in a note of pessimism. Indeed, I criticise those hon. Members on the grounds that they are late with their criticism, that they have tabled no Amendment and that they have given only one side of the case in support of their pessimism. May I say a word or two upon the other side of that case?

Doubts have been expressed about the possible success or otherwise of this step, which has been very properly called an experiment. I have no doubt whatever about its potential success, for reasons which I shall adduce, but at the outset I would ask those pessimists who are critical of the Bill to regard it against the background of the recent history of the Gold Coast, or Ghana, as it will be called.

Mr. John Hall

The hon. and learned Member should not suggest that hon. Members on this side of the Committee, or indeed on either side, are critical of the Bill. We all welcome the Bill very much. We were merely drawing attention to one or two possible dangers in the hope that we may be able to avoid them and make sure that the State of Ghana starts under the best possible conditions.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Member is under a misapprehension when he thinks that I am criticising hon. Members opposite. I am criticising hon. Members on both sides of the Committee in this matter. This should not be regarded as a party matter; it is too great and noble an enterprise to be regarded as a party matter. What I am saying is that those who have criticised the Clause today have done so, first, too late; secondly, without tabling any Amendment; and, thirdly, without giving any facts in support of their argument. I propose to indicate that the recent history of Ghana shows that we may regard this noble enterprise with optimism rather than pessimism.

My right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) suggested that certain guarantees should be put into the Bill. That was a very important suggestion on his part and merits examination.

Mr. Dugdale

I said nothing of the sort. I said "into the Constitution", which is a different thing.

Mr. Hughes

I accept that at once; it is quite a different thing. If my hon. Friend were suggesting that amendments should be made to the Constitution, I would remind him that we are today discussing the Bill and not the Constitution, and in particular that we are discussing Clause 1. I propose myself to keep in order by confining my remarks to Clause 1.

I will make a third attempt to adduce a quotation which is in favour of the optimism which I stand for in this short debate. I remind the House of the recent history of Ghana. Dr. Nkrumah himself has made clear the liberal spirit in which he proposes to embark upon this great experiment. I have here a copy of the speech which he made in his Assembly on 12th November last, in which he said: … a tremendous responsibility rests on us. So far we have acquitted ourselves well in our march towards independence. It is rare for a Colonial country to achieve freedom without revolution and bloodshed. That we are doing so reflects credit not only upon Great Britain, the imperial Power, but upon the people of this country. In particular, it reflects credit upon the control and self-restraint of the Convention People's Party. Dr. Nkrumah was very explicit in his guarantees for the future. He went on: When I first became Prime Minister I determined that I would compromise, if necessary, on every issue except one—the Independence of this country. In consequence I have had from time to time, to give way on this or that point and even to persuade my Party to accept half-measures which we all knew in our hearts were basically unsatisfactory.

5.0 p.m.

The Temporary Chairman

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Member's quotation, but earlier he drew my attention to the fact that we are discussing the Clause, and I should be very grateful if he would confine himself to that.

Mr. Hughes

I am, of course, not anxious to infringe the rules of order, and I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Thomas, but I am dealing with the objections to the Clause. It was suggested that guarantees should be written into it, that it should be amended, although no Amendment has been tabled, and I pointed out that in his speech Dr. Nkrumah gave the guarantees which some hon. Members think should now be put into the Clause. I continue with my quotation: When I first became Prime Minister I determined that I would compromise, if necessary, on every issue except one—the Independence of this country. In consequence I have had from time to time, to give way on this or that point and even to persuade my Party to accept half-measures"—

The Temporary Chairman

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Member again. I do not want to argue with him or to disagree with him, but I must ask him to bear in mind my request.

Mr. Hughes

I am endeavouring to bear it in mind, Mr. Thomas. My quotation is very brief, and I shall show that it is relevant, if you will allow me to finish it.

The Temporary Chairman

The hon. and learned Member must realise that it was the quotation to which I was drawing his attention. He attempted to read it all over again when I sat down, and that was scarcely bearing in mind what I had asked him.

Mr. Hughes

The object of my quotation and the object of my argument is to indicate that I am against anything which would derogate from the independence or dignity of Ghana in embarking upon this great experiment. It would be a mistake for us not to treat it as an act of faith, for us to embark upon it in a pessimistic mood, to take with one hand what we give with the other.

I therefore welcome the Clause as it stands. I am glad that the Government have amended it by leaving out paragraph (i) of the proviso. Events in Togoland show that it is no longer necessary or desirable and that deletion is a further step towards the complete integrity of Ghana which all of its well-wishers seek. On Second Reading some doubts were expressed, such as those doubts which were expressed here today, but it is significant that none of the doubters tabled any Amendment embodying those doubts.

In my considered opinion, such doubts have not been justified. Experience is against them. The Clause is based upon an idea which has succeeded elsewhere in the British Commonwealth, and no persuasive argument has been advanced against it. The Clause has ample and recent precedent behind it. It does what was done in the cases of other British Colonies emerging into independence. Following those sound precedents, it does a number of simple but necessary things. First, it declares that a number of territories hitherto known as the Gold Coast shall achieve independence under the ancient name of Ghana. Secondly, it indicates that United Kingdom legislation shall no longer extend to Ghana without her request or consent. Thirdly, it divests the United Kingdom of all responsibility for Ghana.

Those are badges and symbols of independence and freedom for Ghana. Those are noble gestures consistent with the last ten years of British constitutional policy. That policy has in that time converted the British Commonwealth from one consisting of seven Dominions comprising about 80 million people into a Commonwealth of ten Realms comprising about 600 million people. That policy was a success in those other cases, and there is no persuasive reason why it should not be a success in the case of Ghana. That policy has converted other Colonies rightly struggling to be free into brothers in international co-operation. As Lord Balfour said in the case of the Boers, law without loyalty cannot strengthen the bonds of Empire, nor can we co-operate in handcuffs.

The Clause exemplifies a policy which symbolises constitutional greatness. With its emphasis on the unity of Ghana and its release from legislative tutelage, its freedom from United Kingdom control and its international independence, the Clause augers well for the future of the country. Only recently a leading article on finance in the Manchester Guardian asked: Can Britain afford to be free? The Bill is one answer to that. The answer is, "Yes, so long as Britain behaves with the faith, courage and love of freedom of which the Ghana Independence Bill is a fine example." This is true greatness. Its essence is embodied in this key Clause, which I support in the form in which it now stands.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)

I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I do not answer at very great length the many interesting and important issues raised in the course of this somewhat lengthy discussion. As the Committee will remember, only a few days ago we had an exceedingly good debate on Second Reading, a debate which was very well attended on both sides of the House. By that large attendance, the interest of Parliament in the affairs of the Gold Coast, or Ghana, was made abundantly clear. Today a number of those issues have been raised again, and I can repeat what I then said, that every single point brought forward from either side of the House is being most urgently examined both by me in the Colonial Office and in consultation with the Governor of the Gold Coast, who, of course, is in constant daily touch with the Gold Coast Ministers.

I say "every point", and I do not exclude that some help might be given if I paid a visit to the Gold Coast. As the Committee will recognise, my plans are such that it is sometimes difficult to manage to fit in everything. I came back only yesterday from Turkey and Greece, and on Thursday week I leave for an extended tour of Central Africa, a tour of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which has already been once postponed. I have taken note of everything that has been said, and I can assure the Committee that no action which will be helpful will be neglected. Today's debate has served to underline some of the suggestions which have been made.

I have taken note of a number of points which have arisen from the discussions, including what the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) said about local government.

The backwardness and relative poverty of the Northern Territories has also been mentioned. As the Committee knows, the main commodities of the Gold Coast—cocoa, gold, manganese, timber and diamonds—are not found in appreciable quantities in the Northern Territories as yet. That has been one of the reasons, among many, why the federal solution has not appeared to be an appropriate one for the Gold Coast. But there is a great obligation on the part of the Gold Coast Government to forward the economic development of the Northern Territories, and I have every reason to know, as has been amplified in the last day or so, that the Prime Minister and the Government of the Gold Coast are fully conscious of that obligation.

A number of other points have been re-emphasised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) and other hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, dealing with the powers of the regions in the forthcoming independence of Ghana within the Commonwealth. My hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree asked me to say something about heads of the various regions. It would be inconsistent with the unitary State, which this House and the people of Ghana have accepted as suitable, that in each region there should be a deputy Governor-General, or whatever he might be called, but there will be some centre of authority in each region.

I know that the Gold Coast Government are giving serious consideration to the matter. It might well be that the heads of the regions should in most cases be chosen by the House of Chiefs. In the case of Ashanti the particular status of the Asantehene picks him out as the natural head of the region. I do not want to anticipate any decision in this matter, but attention is being given to what should be pledged in relation to the institution of a head in each region. Anything like the power of a Governor-General would not be appropriate in the unitary State that we are now thinking up.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree also raised the question of the Oversea Civil Service. That point is under urgent investigation. The right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) talked about the Charter of Human Rights. I dealt with that point at some length in my speech during the Second Reading debate, and I have nothing to add to what I said then, any more than I have in answer to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale in regard to further checks upon sudden constitutional change and the protection of investment capital from overseas.

I join hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, including the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson), the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) in striking a note of confidence at this moment when we recognise that our hopes can be fulfilled only if the people of the Gold Coast act up to the high standard that we expect of them, and which we believe they will be capable of showing. In asking the Committee to accept the Clause I can only repeat that the eyes of the whole world are upon this great experiment, and that the fortunes of millions of people, not in the Gold Coast alone, will depend upon how it goes.

Mr. J. Griffiths

The Committee is now ready to give its unanimous acceptance to the Clause. This is the operative Clause under which the Gold Coast will become independent. We want to spend most of our time in discussing other problems which will arise in connection with certain Amendments to be called later, but it is important for us to realise that the honour of the Government, the House and the country is pledged to this independent State. That must be made very clear. There can be no going back upon it.

The Gold Coast Government wanted to have an independence day fixed at the time of the election before the last one, but the British Government said, quite rightly, that they should not be called upon to fix independence day until there had been another election. I and some of my hon. Friends urged them very strongly to accept the Secretary of State's suggestion that another election should first be held. They accepted that view and held the other election, the Secretary of State having made a pledge that if it were held and a reasonable majority were obtained Her Majesty's Government would fix a target date for independence day. A reasonable majority was obtained, and the whole honour of our country is now involved in keeping our pledge and fixing independence day.

5.15 p.m.

If that is made clear, I join in making an appeal to the Opposition both in Ashanti and in the Northern Territories to realise what a grave disservice they will do to their people and to the whole of Africa if the suggestion of secession is continued. I hope that they will now agree amongst themselves to abandon that claim. If they do so, the whole atmosphere will be changed. I join in asking the Gold Coast Government and Opposition to work together to find whether further safeguards can be enshrined in the Constitution when it comes into operation.

The problems of regional devolution and of the powers of the regions have already been discussed, and I do not want to discuss them again. They are all capable of solution. Mr. Nkrumah has agreed that he will enshrine the Charter of Human Rights, as it is enshrined in the Indian Constitution, in the future constitution of Ghana.

I hope that we shall agree to the Clause. I join with many of my hon. Friends in hoping that we shall not merely agree reluctantly. Do not let us hedge our agreement about with all kinds of qualifications. Believe me, we shall be doing a very great thing for this country, for our Commonwealth, and not least for Africa, when we take this step. This will he an historic day for Africa and for the Commonwealth. I welcome the Clause, as I welcomed the Bill during the Second Reading debate, and I hope that it will be given an enthusiastic Third Reading. This is the right thing to do, and in doing if we are showing this country at its best.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.