§ 12.57 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
I wish to express thanks to you, Mr. Speaker, and to those concerned in making it possible for us to have a discussion of political problems, particularly in relation to Northern Rhodesia. I also wish to thank particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley) who so kindly withdrew his Adjournment subject from the list and enabled this one to be discussed.
I wish to refer briefly to the five countries which were to be discussed. We have a responsibility in this House for some 24 million people who live in Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. It would be a 1816 terrible thing if we were to go on holiday for three months without referring to some of the problems which those people face. I want to refer briefly to four of these countries because the main object of this debate is to draw attention to the constitutional proposals for Northern Rhodesia and the serious danger that the Colonial Secretary will impose constitutional changes during the Recess before Parliament has had a chance really to consider them.
I wish to say a word on our general responsibility to these colonial countries. In regard to all of them we are committed to assist them towards democratic self-determination, but I feel the Colonial Secretary has neglected to guide the dynamic towards democratic self-determination. In Kenya, for instance, he has refused the request of three out of four communities represented in the Legislative Council for a constitutional conference. Three communities representing 99 per cent. of the population have asked for a constitutional conference together with the support of one European, Mr. Cooke. The Colonial Secretary refused that request. In Uganda he has failed to establish conditions for advancement towards democracy throughout the Protectorate and as a result there is a certain amount of tacit encouragement to the conflict between the aristocratic groups around the Buganda Lukiko and the rest of the Protectorate in Uganda. In Tanganyika, branches of T.A.N.U. have been banned in an election year making it very difficult indeed for the election to be fought successfully. We shall reserve comments on Nyasaland because we hope the Colonial Secretary will produce something in regard to that country which is acceptable to us.
I turn to Northern Rhodesia, which is the main subject with which we wish to deal. In answer to a Question of mine last Tuesday, the Colonial Secretary indicated that he would produce proposals for certain changes in the franchise qualifications during the Recess and that the arrangements would be made for the Election to go ahead under the present constitutional instruments.
I submit that we should consider very seriously any constitutional changes before they are imposed. Sir Arthur Benson himself, in the debate in Northern Rhodesia, referred to the fact that the 1817 measures which they were then discussing should have full consideration in Parliament before they were implemented, and yet now we have it from the Colonial Secretary that the main proposals will be brought forward while Parliament is in Recess. There could be only one good reason for his doing that, and that would be that all the communities in Northern Rhodesia were united about the proposals which the Colonial Secretary was bringing forward. However, that, of course, is not the case.
In Northern Rhodesia all the representatives of all the groups are against the proposals in the White Paper. The United Federal Party and the Dominion Party, which represent the tiny white minority in that country, have expressed opposition to the White Paper proposals; the Congress organisation, which represents millions of people, has expressed its opposition also. In these circumstances, it would be morally and criminally wrong for the Colonial Secretary to impose his decisions before this Parliament has had an opportunity of discussing them.
If we look at the White Paper proposals we can see how dangerous they can be if they are applied even in part. The White Paper proposals are an excuse for European domination, European domination which is masquerading in the clothes of inter-racial democracy. A lot of liberal phrases are used in connection with the proposals, but those phrases are hypocritical in the extreme, for on other occasions the speakers concerned have spoken frankly and have revealed that their intention is to maintain European domination.
The White Paper proposals are so complicated that one needs energy of mind greater than that required to solve The Times crossword puzzle to understand them. Certainly only a few people in this country would understand our Elections if they were fought on such a constitution.
The arrangements of the rolls is such that it guarantees Europeans in Northern Rhodesia a majority of the elective seats. There will be two rolls, one called an ordinary roll, which will be mainly, almost wholly, European, numbering some 20,000. There is a special roll with a qualification of £150 of income a year or income plus certain educational qualifications, which, according to the White 1818 Paper, would allow 24,000 people to qualify.
This figure is disputed not only in Northern Rhodesia itself but in this House. The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations used the figure of 21,000. Mr. Greenfield, in the Federal Assembly, used the figure of 18,000. An independent survey by two European researchers employed by the Rhodesian Selection Trust indicates probably more accurately that the number on this special roll will be about 10,000. That figure is ludicrously small. To allow only 10,000 Africans to participate in this Special roll is absolutely ridiculous and quite unjust.
Even though the number is to be so small the arrangement of the constituencies is such that the Europeans will be guaranteed 12 constituencies and 12 seats. Furthermore, there will be two Europeans guaranteed to be elected from the rural parts of the country. So the Europeans are in fact being guaranteed 14 seats. On the other hand, those candidates standing on the special roll will have only six constituencies with two Africans reserved from the ordinary constituencies, making eight altogether. That is a relationship of 14 Europeans to eight.
If we look at the proportions in the population we can see what a ridiculous state of affairs this is. The 3 per cent. of the population which is European will have 14 elected members. The 97 per cent. of the population which is African will have only eight. That means that 5,000 Europeans will have one representative, but it will take 262,000 Africans to have one. That is a ridiculous proportion and it is quite unfair and quite undemocratic.
Not only will this arrangement of constituencies make sure that the Europeans have a majority but there is an ingenious arrangement to make sure that the Africans who are elected come from the rural areas and do not represent the more vocal and developed Africans who live in the townships. The rural candidates, furthermore, will require to have two-thirds of the chiefs in their area to vouch for them before they can stand. In effect, these candidates will be stooges. There is no doubt about that. If the chiefs have to approve their candidature, they will undoubtedly be favourable to the hereditary chiefs.
1819 Not only that, but there is the arrangement that the Europeans to be elected from the rural areas will be elected by the ordinary and special rolls together, but as the number of voters on the special roll is so large the number is to be devalued to one-third of the ordinary votes used in the election. That means that in the western rural area, for instance, as there are only 300 European electors, 3,300 on the special roll will have their votes devalued, to be worth only 100 votes. This is absolutely unjust.
I want to emphasise to the Colonial Secretary that we are unable in such a short debate as this to analyse all the proposals which have been brought forward. We do not even know what he has in mind. We do not want him to use this debate as an excuse for imposing his constitutional changes during the Recess.
I anticipate one point he will make, and that is that we must trust our kinsfolk in Rhodesia. After the history of the Union, I am quite sure that most people in Britain would not accept that advice, because the European minority in the Union of South Africa have ensured their domination of the majority. This very day a treason trial is taking place in Pretoria and the rule of law is being twisted in order that the doctrine of white supremacy may be imposed. That can happen in Northern Rhodesia if we give the whites their chance to impose their domination on the rest.
We have been fortunate in the last week in having in Britain some of the leaders of the white political parties in Northern Rhodesia. I say "fortunate" because we have been able to hear at first hand some of their opinions on these proposals for constitutional change. These are men who are supposed to be the moderates, and yet these are opinions they have. Mr. John Roberts, for instance, before he left London Airport said, according to the Manchester Guardian, that political power has to be retained in the hands of the Europeans and that democracy can advance only by degrees.
We also have another character from this charade of a political party, Mr. Rodney Malcolmson, who has come here, and who says that he does not believe in the principle of one man, one vote in any country. He comes to this country 1820 and attacks one of the basic concepts of our democracy, and expects us to pay attention to what he has to say. In a statement which was published in The Times a few days ago, he said that if we allowed the extremists to go ahead in Northern Rhodesia it would mean that it would become a happy hunting ground for Communism. The reverse is true. If we do not pay attention to the legitimate demands of the African majority in that country, we shall certainly pave the way for dangerous extremism, but the demands now being made by Mr. Harry Nkumbula and the Congress are about as extreme as were the demands of the Chartists in this country. That is called dangerous extremism. Those who are frightened are only those who have a vested interest to maintain.
We have not got the time in this debate today to talk about these proposals in detail, and we do not know what the Colonial Secretary is proposing himself. In view of this, we must at least ask for a delay in the election in Northern Rhodesia and for an adequate opportunity for Parliament to discuss these proposals when we return from the Recess.
§ 1.12 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
There are a very large number of colonial questions, particularly in relation to Central and East Africa, which I and a number of my hon. Friends would have liked to have raised. In fact, we made an approach to the Government a long time ago and asked for time to do this. It is a measure of the shock which we had last Tuesday when the Colonial Secretary said that during the Parliamentary Recess he was going to start implementing profound constitutional changes in Northern Rhodesia that we have, in fact, abandoned a number of the points which we wanted to raise and have instead concentrated, quite narrowly and specifically, on this one point of the constitutional crisis that may face us in Northern Rhodesia unless the Colonial Secretary changes his mind.
I want to emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) has just said. We are not debating in detail these constitutional proposals in the brief time that is available to us today. It would be impossible for us to do so, because we do not know 1821 whether they have been approved. Indeed, as my hon. Friend has said, we have not even had, before the Parliamentary Recess, a statement from the Colonial Secretary as to his intentions, though I must say that the Chief Secretary of Northern Rhodesia gave the game away in a letter to The Times the other day, when he said in fact that the discussions were nearing agreement. The Chief Secretary can be expected to be the mouthpiece of the Colonial Office in these matters, and I am afraid that this means that this matter is, in fact, "sewn up" already, although this House of Commons has not yet had an official statement placed before it before rising for the Summer Recess.
All we have time to do today is not to exercise our undoubted right, as the British House of Commons responsible for this Protectorate, to examine these proposals; all we have time to do is to emphasise the very grave danger to the whole democratic idea which the Colonial Secretary is creating by bringing up this threat to impose constitutional changes of this magnitude during the Recess. We know one thing clearly and indisputably: all the Africans in Northern Rhodesia are opposed to the proposals which have been made to the Colonial Secretary, to which we very much fear he will give his approval. I repeat the phrase "all the Africans"; not only the "wild men," as they are described, of the African National Congress, the people led by Mr. Harry Nkumbula, against whom I was warned by Europeans when I was in Northern Rhodesia recently.
They told me that the people I should listen to were the members of the African Representative Council, because they are the people who are selected by a very carefully constituted chain of democracy, leading up from the district and urban advisory councils, through the provincial councils, to the African Representative Council as the apex of African democracy and African thought. But the African Representative Council is standing shoulder to shoulder with the African National Congress in its opposition to these proposals. It is true that they differ on some details, but they do not differ on this. They do not differ in believing that these proposals are unacceptable, and, in particular, that section of the proposals which it is the Colonial Secretary's intention to introduce while our 1822 backs are turned, namely, the proposals on the franchise. They are united in denouncing them, and these are the people whom, it was explained to me when I was in Northern Rhodesia, are truly representative of the African people.
Here we have a situation in which all the Africans there and all their representative institutions in a British Protectorate are opposing the proposed new constitution. Therefore, and quite rightly, they want to appeal to the one body to which they, as a Protectorate, can appeal. They want to appeal to their protector, and their protector is not only the Colonial Secretary but, in the ultimate resort, the British House of Commons, and it is to this House that they want the opportunity to appeal. Yet, when they want to do that, we find that the Colonial Secretary comes quite casually to the House of Commons, as he did on Tuesday last, and does not even take the trouble to make a special statement, or to get up and apologise and say that the situation was so urgent that he deeply regretted that he would have to proceed during the Parliamentary Recess, and without consulting us, to introduce certain constitutional changes.
It was not until one of my hon. Friends put down a Question from this side of the House asking the right hon. Gentleman to make a statement on this matter and, in a supplementary question, asked for an assurance that these proposals would not be introduced until Parliament had discussed them, that the Colonial Secretary told us as casually as he did that it was very unfortunate but he would have to introduce these changes before we even discussed them. That was his answer to an outcry from this side of the House that the House has had no opportunity of discussing these constitutional proposals.
It was quite clear from the Colonial Secretary's answer that he was relying on one thing—on his automatic majority in this House to railroad these proposals through anyway. He knows he can do it, and he will do it, just as he railroaded the proposal about the federal franchise, ignoring the objections of the African Affairs Board. The right hon. Gentleman has treated the British House of Commons with the same contempt as he did the African Affairs Board, and we know that he has his automatic Conservative 1823 majority behind him to support him. What he has been saying, in fact, is: "I am going to decide this without listening to what the Opposition says, and without listening to any arguments."
Therefore, quite obviously, he has made up his mind, and it is with a closed and arrogant mind that he comes to the House of Commons to tell us that he is going to carry this out without even listening to a single proposal or considering a single Amendment which we might propose from this side of the House. I ask him in all sincerity what sort of a lesson in democracy does he think he is giving to the emergent Africans? Does he not realise the peril which is facing democracy throughout the world?
Does he not know that we, all the time, are holding up the British system to the Africans as a system in which men can argue, discuss, amend and compromise, and telling them that this system is infinitely superior to intransigent violence? Yet he gives no proof that in his heart of hearts he really accepts that version of democracy. He comes before us with a form of power politics. If I were an African in Central or East Africa I should be learning power politics at the feet of the right hon. Gentleman. He would give me a very excellent lesson or two. The whole of these proposals, which we have not the time to discuss, are bristling with the mockeries of democracy.
I give one example in passing, and that is the provision for the devaluation of these special or African votes in the ordinary or European constituencies. My hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) has explained that there will be two rolls, the ordinary roll with a very high level of qualifications, which we all know in our heart of hearts will be mainly a European roll, and a special roll with lower qualifications, intended to see that some Africans, at any rate, can get a look in. But as my hon. Friend has explained, in those constituencies designated ordinary constituencies the special votes can never count for more than one-third of the ordinary votes. Therefore, however many Africans may qualify in those constituencies, they will not be able to influence the voting beyond one-third of the ordinary or, broadly speaking, European votes.
1824 What are we saying to the African when we are putting forward a scheme like this and giving him lessons in democracy? We are saying, "If you Africans are good boys and play the democratic game and you co-operate and enrol on the special roll and vote, then, when the ballot is being declared, we will open the ballot boxes and take out your votes and tear up any African votes that exceed in number one-third of the European votes." How on earth can we imagine that the African will believe in democracy?
We have told him to forget the idea of one man, one vote; I think it was Mr. Malcolmson who said the other day that this was a rather ridiculous principle anyhow. But we are not only going to tell the African to forget the principle of one man, one vote, but to forget the principle of one specially qualified African, one vote. It is not enough to say that this is superior to the Federal franchise.
§ Mrs. Castle
I am sorry, but I cannot give way now. Many hon. Members want to take part in the debate, and I would remind the hon. Member that this is our only chance.
It is not good enough to say that this is all right because the same thing would happen the other way round and this is better than the Federal franchise because of the criss-cross principle which Mr. John Roberts has praised so highly. This, of course, is an improvement on the Federal franchise to that extent, and it is better to have it working the other way round as well, that is to say, for the ordinary or European votes in special constituencies. But I would say to the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) that he is overlooking one thing. In the complexity of these proposals one thing is linked with another, and because of the way in which the constituencies are drawn up, it will be found that the value of the criss-cross principle is very largely undermined.
The Europeans can always get back in some other way. Because of the way in which European constituencies have been drawn up, nearly all the Africans who would qualify even on the special roll will find themselves in the ordinary 1825 or European constituencies, and there will be very few Europeans in the special or African constituencies, the rural areas which are predominantly African. Therefore, on the criss-cross principle, nearly all the votes that will be torn up will be African and not European.
Here is another example of the way in which we are teaching the African democracy. The proposals provide that although at the outset we are to have this special roll with its lower qualifications, in addition to the ordinary roll, yet within ten years the special roll will be wiped out. The qualifications are to be progressively raised over ten years, so that at the end the special roll will have disappeared. In some cases that means that, unless the African is progressively to fall behind, some Africans will have to quadruple their income or standard of life. It is an assumption of a rise in the standard of life at a rate which no one thinks will be a reality.
How did democracy develop in this country? It was by widening the franchise until increasingly every person, whatever his income and whatever his literacy, was included, but in the Colonies it is the other way round. Democracy is to narrow upwards, and the qualifications are to become steeper and narrower, not easier and broader. The African is bound to say that democracy has two faces, one for the colonial peoples and another, and a very different face, for Europeans. A hundred and one details of these qualifications need examination. In the Legislative Council debates in Northern Rhodesia, an African amendment that a voter should be entitled to fill in an application for a vote in a vernacular language, in his own language, was defeated by Europeans. Even literacy is being defined in terms of the white man's language. How arrogant can one get? How can we wonder that among Africans the idea is beginning to grow that European democracy is merely a device for perpetuating white supremacy and the white man's rule?
The Colonial Secretary is giving another evil lesson to the Africans on how false is our concept of democracy. Why is there so much hurry? Why does the right hon. Gentleman once again have to make the African disbelieve in our democratic protestations? Why has he to do this so gratuitously? I know perfectly well that, under the present 1826 constitutional instruments, Northern Rhodesia is due for an election next January. At any rate the Legislative Council must be dissolved. The five-year life of the Legislative Council ends on 19th January next, and three months thereafter an election must be held, and it will take some time to get the enrolment procedure going. I know all that, but we can adapt these procedures when it suits our white purpose. Why, therefore, does the right hon. Gentleman not introduce an Order in Council to extend the life of the Legislative Council in Northern Rhodesia and to enable the protectorate duties of the British House of Commons to be exercised and thereby inspire African faith in us?
The right hon. Gentleman should not tell us that this is a very elaborate procedure. The right hon. Gentleman, or his predecessor in office, has done this before for Northern Rhodesia. Has he forgotten that in June, 1953, the Government introduced an Order in Council giving the Governor of Northern Rhodesia power to extend the life of Northern Rhodesia's Legislative Council from five years to five years and nine months in order that the Federal elections for the newly created Central African Federation should be held before the Northern Rhodesia elections? The Federal elections were due in December, and therefore the life of the Northern Rhodesia legislative Council was extended by nine months in order that the Northern Rhodesia elections need not take place until January, 1954. If the Minister did it then to suit white purposes, why cannot he do it now to give a little of the African's rights back to him?
I warn the Colonial Secretary that all he is doing by once again steamrollering something through against 100 per cent. African opposition is to breed profound suspicion in the African mind about the concept of federation. The African believes it is all sewn up, and all sewn up against him, and that the British House of Commons is being treated by the Colonial Office in the same contemptuous way as the African Affairs Board was treated.
One by one African safeguards are being undermined and devalued, and the African is even losing his faith in the Colonial Office as his protector. I beg 1827 the Colonial Secretary in all sincerity to realise the damage he is likely to do, and even at this late hour to stand at the Dispatch Box and promise to introduce an Order in Council to prolong the life of the Legislative Council of Northern Rhodesia and to turn the searchlight of the British House of Commons on these proposals before they are approved.
§ 1.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) has pointed out that time is short and that a large number of hon. Members want to speak. Therefore, I hope, she will forgive me if I do not follow all her points. I must say, however, that hon. Gentlemen opposite are doing a disservice to the Commonwealth when they tend to compare the Federation of Northern Rhodesia with South Africa. Very few hon. Members on this side of the House agree with apartheid, but since South Africa is an independent Commonwealth country we can do nothing directly to influence the Union.
However, the Federation is founded on a different concept, one completely opposed to apartheid, the principle of partnership. I recognise that there is division between both sides of the House on how to implement partnership—whether there should be junior or senior partners or whether both should be equal—but I think hon. Gentlemen opposite are doing a great disservice if they imply that what is going on in the Federation or in Northern Rhodesia is comparable in any way with what has happened in South Africa. I am sure that all hon. Gentlemen opposite who have visited Northern Rhodesia agree with the effort now being made in all these new constitutions to make the division one of political parties rather than one of colour. They must know that, whatever criticism they may have of Salisbury, the colour bar does not operate in Lusaka or anywhere in Northern Rhodesia.
The proposals in the White Paper issued by the Northern Rhodesia Government, which we are mainly discussing this afternoon, are not agreed by the members of the Legislature in the Territory. They all have different views, so it would be surprising if the House of Commons agreed with the document. Yet we can agree with its basic provision, 1828 which is to cut across racial representation.
We can also agree with the proposal to enfranchise the British protected persons for the first time. I believe I am right in saying that the present number of Africans on the Northern Rhodesia roll is infinitesimal, about 10 or certainly less than 100. Perhaps my right hon. Friend can give me the exact figures and say how many Africans will get a vote under the new proposals. If the House can have an approximate figure, it will be seen that Africans will wield a far greater political power after the proposals become law than they did before. Also, of course, their proportion of representatives in the House will be increased from four to six. There may be doubt on both sides of the House whether that proposal has gone far enough. Personally, I would prefer to see eight Africans, but presumably that is still a matter for discussion.
The basic error of hon. Gentlemen opposite is in trying to compare conditions in the Federation, or anywhere in Africa, with what happens in this country. Two things that are totally dissimilar cannot be compared. If one thinks of the franchise in British or other African Colonial Territories, and compares these with the franchise enjoyed in this country, it will be realised that the conditions are quite different. It must be remembered that in Northern Rhodesia there was no civilisation, as we know it today, seventy or eighty years ago. At that time there was no culture such as existed and developed in India, Ghana or Nigeria, so it must always be borne in mind that we are legislating for a franchise against that background and in those conditions, and not those enjoyed in the United Kingdom.
Therefore, even though one does not pretend that these proposals are perfect, they have great advantages. They increase the number of Africans who will get the vote and, therefore, increase their political power. They increase the number of African representatives and, what is most important of all, give the African a direct say in the election of his representative, which does not happen in Northern Rhodesia today. At present, the Governor appoints the representative after consultation with African organisations, so it will at least be an advantage 1829 to have a form of common roll and direct elections by Africans.
At the moment the money qualification for the African voter is £200 a year, which is to be reduced to either £150 or £120 for a person who has a two-year secondary education. I understand that this sum includes the money that would be spent by his employer in giving him free housing and free food. The House will know that it is normal in Northern Rhodesia for the employer to provide these things. Assuming that housing costs £52 a year the money qualification is really far less than would appear. In fact, the new franchise would include the African who earns just above the average of Africans in the territory, and this should put a large number of Africans on the special roll.
There is one other point on the franchise proposals that I wish to refer to, and that is the much criticised question of two-thirds of the chiefs in the candidate's area having to approve his nomination. That has been criticised as being against democratic principles. On the face of it, there is validity in this criticism, but I understand that it is not the chiefs themselves, but the chiefs in council, who sign the nomination papers. It is, therefore, an attempt to try to link the native authority, the chief and the council, with the nomination of the political candidate in order to try to link the traditional chiefly system with modern democratic ideas of elected government. From that point of view, therefore, this proposal is perhaps not as bad as it would appear at first sight. If I am wrong, I hope that my right hon. Friend will correct me, because it is an important point.
My final point concerns the position of the African National Congress in Northern Rhodesia. Is it or is it not a political party?
§ Mr. Wall
The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) and I had an argument about this the other day. I hope he is right.
I want to see the congress represented on the Legislature, but at present it is more a movement than a political party. The hon. Gentleman may say that the Congress has not had a chance to get 1830 members elected to the Legislature. That is so, but I am given to understand that unless the leaders of the Congress, in the near future, comply with a provision which registers them as a political party they are not a political party and, presumably, cannot take part in elections. This is a vital matter, and I wonder whether my right hon. Friend will deal with it when he replies to the debate.
I want to put on record that I believe that the African National Congress represents a large section of the African point of view in Northern Rhodesia and in the rest of the Federation and that it should be recognised as a political party and elect candidates to seats in a future Legislature. I would rather see the Congress go about it in that way than by the method of intimidation and other subversive action throughout the Federation which have been led by some—I emphasise some—members of Congress.
Finally, hon. Members will agree that the Governor of Northern Rhodesia has a reputation of being very advanced and a very progressive Governor wishing to bring Africans into the Government and so far as possible to associate them with the Government of that territory. Contrary to what has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite, I believe that the leader of the European elected members, Mr. Roberts, has also done everything he can to lead European opinion towards a fuller share of partnership with Africans.
Obviously, this partnership cannot be equal at present. We all hope that the Africans will show that they have advanced so rapidly that it can be much more equal in the future. However, nobody who studies the problem objectively and against the present background of Northern Rhodesia will deny that partnership cannot be equal at present.
In those circumstances, the suggestion of dividing the Bill into two parts, one of which can be passed while the House is in Recess so that the Government can continue the work of the electoral roll and of registration is sensible. It is very important that a message should go from the House asking Africans to register, something which they have not done in the Federation or in Kenya, and which could be a disaster since they have been given a chance to influence 1831 political devolopments in their own country and have not taken it.
The second part of the Bill, which will be the controversial part, will deal with some of the problems which cannot be raised today because of the lack of time. Presumably, that will be debated in the House after the Recess. That is fair and reasonable and seems to me to be the best way to get the effective partnership which we all want to see working not only in Northern Rhodesia, but throughout Central and East Africa.
§ 1.43 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) has made an interesting speech, interesting not in content but in form. He reminded me not so much of a back bencher on the Government side of the House as a "feed" man for the leading actor in a play. All of his questions were carefully phrased and I hope that they will all be answered by the right hon. Gentleman, whose replies will, no doubt, be most helpful.
The debate was opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) in a fluent and meaty speech. He set the pattern for the debate. I echo his comment that hon. Members on both sides of the House must remember that many overseas peoples are disfranchised. They do not have members in the House of Commons or in their own Legislative Assemblies, and it is, therefore, our duty to speak on their behalf.
On this side of the House, we are sometimes "fed up" with being chided by hon. Members opposite and others with a lack of patriotism. I should like some of those in the Federation who say that to come here and to find out what the House of Commons climate is and what we think about conditions in Africa. Sir Roy Welensky, after our last official Labour Party statement, made an ill-judged and, to use his own terms about us, "half-baked statement."
It is a pity that he should have spoken in that manner, since he hopes, in 1960, to be the leader of the quasi-Dominion. He will hold high office and it does not help for him to make those comments about debates in the House of Commons. We all speak sincerely and do the best we can for people overseas.
1832 The situation would be much happier if Mr. Macintyre, the Minister of Finance, and Mr. Owen and others holding high office who have not been to London for many years came here to see us, or discussed matters of common interest with a mission sent there. They could then make more helpful speeches in the Federation, instead of scolding us, and if they were to come here they could discover what people in the United Kingdom think about their problems.
§ Mr. Johnson
I can only say that when these gentlemen come to visit us, they must have a very narrow circle of acquaintanceship. It would be a big help if they would do what Mr. John Roberts and his colleagues have done, come here to give us their views so that we could talk in an informal, sincere and, I hope, helpful atmosphere. That would be most helpful, because in many cases some people there have only that information which they get from the newspapers, some of it presented in the most tendentious fashion.
I hope that the Secretary of State will regard this debate as a curtain raiser and that much more will come in November and December when he issues the second part of his proposals. I hope that this is just the beginning and that we shall look upon it as the start of a sustained campaign for the Africans in Africa—the black Africans as opposed to the white ones—the Africans who do not have much to say about their own affairs in Central Africa.
Central Africa is the linch-pin of the Commonwealth. We all hope that people of different colours will live there together and we therefore want this partnership to succeed, so that we can show that people can live together, whether they are Asians, Africans or Europeans.
We have to establish some confidence on both sides before we can reach the stocktaking in 1960. I have been blunt and candid in speaking out there about both sides, and I will do the same here, since we must be honest about these matters. When we reach this fateful watershed of 1960, we will have to make an effort, Europeans and Africans, to come together.
1833 In this context, I want to consider the constitutional proposals of Sir Arthur Benson. What is to be the future of this plural society? I hope that the Secretary of State will say what he thinks we are heading for. We have had only vague statements in the past. We on this side of the House have said that we believe in a certain democratic society, but the Secretary of State has never made that kind of statement. He has never said whether he would be willing to accept a majority of Africans in the two Northern Legislative Councils as a result of elections in the 1960s.
We must visualise that by the 1960s there will be a black African elected majority in both Zomba and Lusaka. If we do not believe in that, the present proposals are nonsense, because they will not lead to that form of democratic society which we say must come in this plural community in Central Africa.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury that the proposals are most complex in their mechanics and most subtle in their philosophy. I do not know how the Africans will appreciate the subtleties. They do not understand them at present and I must emphasise that all parties, whatever their colour, in Central Africa reject the proposals. The right hon. Gentleman may say that there is some merit in that, and that if neither side accepts them they must be somewhere in the middle.
However, the right hon. Gentleman must remember what happened when he received the official deputation led by the Governor. What were the recommendations which were then made? It appears to us that Mr. John Roberts and his colleagues do not visualise, as we visualise, that in the 1960s there will be a black majority in this Northern Parliament. The deputation submitted a statement to the right hon. Gentleman saying:The U.F.P. plan ensures a good measure of responsible government and the opening of the door to full self-government.—by a European majority?
I understand that one recommendation was:That the delegation proceeds to London next week to be authorised to make recommendations to the Secretary of State for the Colonies with a view to the Territories being granted an increased measure of responsible government and for entrusting to the Legis- 1834 lature and Government of Northern Rhodesia sole responsibility for certain subjects.The recommendations went on to refer to… legislative and executive action which should no longer be subject to questions in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.We are trying to give confidence to both sides in these negotiations and yet the deputation is asking that responsibility for a Protectorate should be taken out of the hands of the House of Commons and the Secretary of State, a responsibility for Africans which we in this House have had for a long time.
That is not good enough. How we can expect the Africans to maintain confidence and not to become suspicious of these negotiations—as they are becoming suspicious—I do not know. We must be open and forthcoming about these matters, because we all want to see a proper settlement of the problems of Central Africa. No one wants to see anything sensational, such as what has happened in Kenya since 1952. Unfortunately, in 1960, if the Africans do not get what some of them would like to have—a fuller measure of say in their own affairs—there will be some hotheads and others who will be mischievous and who will cause us an enormous amount of trouble.
When I consider the composition of the Legislative Council and the conditions for voting and remember what I saw of the recommendations of Chief Justice Tredgold about qualification for voting and about the Africans taking a fuller share of responsibility for their own affairs, I am bound to say that the whole thing is hypocrisy.
The two-tier system of "ordinary" and "special" voters makes no sense at all. If people are in favour of a criss-cross system of voting, why can there not be seats where white and black have the same qualifications for voting; and where there is not a double-tier system? Such a system would have geographical constituencies with almost equal numbers of black and white voters, and with double or multiple member seats where electors would vote for a man irrespective of his colour.
Representatives would thus be jointly responsible for the geographical area and also be accountable to different races—if one must think in those terms. That would be preferable to this complex and 1835 Machiavellian effort where 2,000 or 20,000 votes from Africans may go into the voting box only to be torn up, so that only one-thirtieth of the total African vote can be counted to match the one-third of the number of the Europeans.
The present proposals are hypocritical and a mockery to the people out there when we are attempting to get them to live together. This White Paper is a test of the future and a signpost to where these people will go in the next five or ten years. No wonder we are sceptical and the Africans even more sceptical about the proposals.
It is scandalous that African candidates should have to be vetted and finally nominated by a council of chiefs or elders. Why should that be done when Europeans do not have such a procedure? Why should the black people do it if the white do not do it? We are supposed to have a society of "partnership." Why single out one colour and say that people of that colour must go before a panel, so to speak, before being allowed to stand for election in their own country and on behalf of their own people? I do not understand it and neither do they.
Why do we want a qualitative franchise for Africans voting for Africans? We had this system in Nyasaland. I warn the Minister that a qualitative franchise for communal seats will throw up people with chips on their shoulders and even more anti-white or anti-European than would be the case with an all-African franchise at this time, when the Colonial Secretary is saying that what we want are moderate, sensible and thoughtful African leaders.
Then, when we apply educational qualifications, we tend to got people who have been educated in missionary schools, have mixed with Europeans, and have experienced social slights. We tend to find people voting who have been warped by their past social contacts and, particularly among the people of Nyasaland, we get leaders thrown who are bitter about their conditions and feel bitter towards the Europeans in their territory.
If the right hon. Gentleman followed the policy I advocate he would get Africans who had a more social outlook than some of those whom he has attacked in the past because of their narrow and 1836 anti-European behaviour. In a communal division I do not see why Africans must be singled out for vetting if they are candidates, or checked as voters, when they are speaking for their own people and talking about their own affairs.
There has been a fatal tendency for Africans to boycott these elections and constitutions simply because we propose them. That is a mistake. My advice to Mr. Harry Nkumbula is to follow the example set by Mr. Tom Mboya of Kenya. Africans do not like these constitutions, but they must work them. Harry Nkumbula is not seen by the Colonial Secretary because he is not a leader of an official political party. He should become a member of the M.L.C., and lead his party in the Legislative Council. Then he could go to the Minister or the Governor and put his people's point of view.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
I agree with the hon. Gentleman's advice, but I did see Mr. Nkumbula when I was in Northern Rhodesia. The reason that I have not seen him this time is that on this occasion I asked for delegates from the Legislative Council, and I saw them. It would have been quite wrong, and it would have become very confusing, if I had not regarded them as speaking for the Legislative Council. Nevertheless, I endorse the advice given by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Johnson
Finally, I plead with the Minister to tell us what is the Government's policy in Central Africa. Do the Government think, as we do, in terms of a democratic society, where, by means of a liberalisation of the franchise, Africans will have a majority in these legislative councils? The Africans comprise the overwhelming majority of the people, and sooner or later we must accept the fact that they must govern themselves and be the dominating and dominant factor in these plural societies.
§ 1.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich)
The fact that at this late hour of the Session we should be debating this topic illustrates the difficulty in which we find ourselves in raising colonial matters in this House. There are very many subject which ought to be fully debated, but the time is inadequate.
1837 Before referring to Northern Rhodesia, I want to mention one other matter. I want to inform the Under-Secretary of State that when the House reassembles some of us hope to raise the general question of freedom of movement within the Commonwealth. It is much too large a question to canvass today, but in recent months many of us have watched with increasing concern the policy of the Central African Government and of the various East African Governments in the matter of immigration and the issue of passports.
Two things are becoming increasingly evident. First, persons are being declared prohibited immigrants not on any genuine security grounds, but because their political views happen to be distasteful to the authorities in the territory concerned. I have in mind the action of the Central African Government in refusing entry to Commander Fox-Pitt. Secondly, once a man is black-listed by one Government for reasons which he has no means of knowing or answering, he is liable to be black-listed by them all. That raises a very large issue of principle, to which we shall return during the next Session.
I now come to the question of Northern Rhodesia. Here we are in an extraordinary position. We are told that while Parliament is in recess the Colonial Office must proceed to make constitutional arrangements affecting over 2 million people. We have not been told why this haste is necessary, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will answer the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). Why should not it be possible, by Order in Council, to extend by a few months the life of the Legislative Council of Northern Rhodesia, so that these matters can be fully considered by the House of Commons before any irrevocable action is taken?
We are given no inkling of the views of the Secretary of State, or of the matters which are being discussed between him and the Governor of Northern Rhodesia. The only indication as to the subject of discussion is the Supplement to the Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council, of Friday, 18th July, 1958, which has already been referred to by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson). I do not propose to go into details, but there are three points to which I would 1838 venture to call attention. First, in paragraph (i) it is proposedthat all prospective voters shall be required to make a solemn declaration of allegiance to the Queen.That is an astonishing proposition. These people of Northern Rhodesia are not British subjects; they are British protected persons. They owe no duty of allegiance. Allegiance exists only between the Sovereign and his or her subjects, and the Colonial Secretary will remember that we decided this point when we were conducting the Buganda negotiations which ended in the return of the Kabaka.
Then there is the provision that prospective voters must satisfy the registering officer that they are able to complete in English, without assistance, the form of application to be registered as a voter. That follows the Federal model, and it is a literacy test. I put now the question which I put in the debate on 18th February of this year. Why do we seek to impose in an African territory a test which we have never imposed in this country in the whole of our Parliamentary history? When the electors of Westminster sent Charles James Fox to this House, or when Middlesex voted for Wilkes, the great majority of voters were illiterate. Nevertheless, they made a very great contribution to our Parliamentary history.
Quite apart from any property qualifications, I have never heard any convincing defence why we should impose a literacy test in Central Africa, when nobody has endeavoured to do so in Ghana or Nigeria, where democratic institutions are in full swing.
Another matter to which the hon. Member so rightly referred is the quite extraordinary demand that in future the Legislative Council of Northern Rhodesia shall be entitled to take legislative and executive action which will no longer be subject to question in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. That can be described only as an impertinent demand, and whatever else the right hon. Gentleman may say in his reply, I hope that he will make it quite clear that that proposition will not be entertained for a single moment. We, as Members of this House, have our responsibility to these people, and it is a responsibility which we certainly cannot delegate to anybody else.
1839 A matter of even greater importance concerns the Preamble to the Federal Constitution. The right hon. Gentleman is very familiar with its terms. One of its provisions says:And whereas Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland should continue under the special protection of Her Majesty, to enjoy separate Governments for so long as their respective peoples so desire. … And whereas the association of the Colony and territories aforesaid in a Federation under Her Majesty's sovereignty enjoying responsible government in accordance with this Constitution, would conduce to the security, advancement and welfare of all their inhabitants, and in particular would foster partnership and co-operation between their inhabitants and enable the Federation, when those inhabitants so desire, to go forward with confidence towards the attainment of full membership of the Commonwealth.The test is the same in each case. The continuance of each of the territorial Governments in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and the attainment of full membership of the Commonwealth by the Federation, is made to depend in each case upon what the peoples of inhabitants desire. The questions which I do not suppose will be answered today, but which will have to be answered at some later stage are: how will those desires be ascertained? Who will be consulted, and in what manner? Will there be a plebiscite? If so, is it to be on a basis of universal suffrage?
This matter has a very close bearing on the subject of our debate. It could happen that the views expressed by the Legislative Council would be taken as being the views of the inhabitants of the territories. In other words, the inhabitants may find themselves being committed to Dominion status, that is to say, to a transfer of sovereignty by an unrepresentative body in the choice of which most of them had no opportunity of participating.
It may be said that these are unworthy suspicions, but in Central and East Africa today we have an almost universal atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust. I shall not go into the merits of the dispute of a few years ago, but nobody can deny that Federation was imposed upon the African population. We all know that only a few months ago the views of the African Affairs Board were overridden by this House. I ask for an assurance, if not today at any rate in the not too distant future, that when we 1840 have to ascertain the desires of the inhabitants of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in regard to the maintenance of colonial rule and the attainment of Dominion status, the right hon. Gentleman will not be content with the views expressed merely by Legislative Councils, but will find other means of discovering what the people really want.
§ 2.8 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
We have been discussing the most important issue in the whole sphere of the British Commonwealth and Empire. What happens now in Northern Rhodesia will largely determine what happens in Central Africa, and what happens in Central Africa will determine whether there is to be racial co-operation or racial conflict in the Continent.
I am a little reluctant to turn to other subjects, but I do so because there are three issues within the Commonwealth which are of very great importance, and because the team of speakers that we have had, comprising my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse), my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot) have put the case so convincingly this afternoon. Nothing has made me prouder of belonging to the Labour Party than the effective way in which the voice of Africa is being represented from these benches today.
The three critical issues to which I wish to refer are all economic. The first is the situation in Sierra Leone. I am going to ask questions rather than make a case. A year ago the Financial Secretary in Sierra Leone said that the financial situation in that Colony had never been better in all its history. Yet today, very hurriedly, the Governor and five members of the Legislature came to see the Minister about a financial crisis. Apparently, there is even a shortage of liquid cash with which to meet the costs of the public services.
I hope that when he replies the Secretary of State for the Colonies will be able to give some explanation of that situation, because we are hoping that Sierra Leone will advance as Ghana has advanced and as Nigeria is advancing towards self-government. It will be 1841 unable to do so if it remains in these economic difficulties.
The two other areas to which I want to refer are Malta and British Guiana. I think we generally welcomed the statement which the Secretary of State gave to the House yesterday regarding Malta. But there are certain points arising from that statement which I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman. The proposals can be divided, broadly, into two sections, one economic and the other political.
Malta has become the victim of our changed defence policy. It was almost entirely dependent upon the naval dockyard, upon airstrips, upon troops in transit and, more recently, the Mediterranean headquarters of N.A.T.O. The indication that the naval dockyard is not to be fully utilised after 1960—indeed, that it may be closed down altogether—brought the widespread fear of unemployment.
We welcome the fact that arrangements are now being made for the dockyard to be used for civilian purposes. I was very sincere yesterday when I paid my tribute to the Governor for the negotiations on this matter in which he has been engaged over recent weeks. I very much hope that no one in Malta will have thought that because the Governor has spent this period in London he has not been contributing to the future happiness and welfare of Malta.
The particular questions which I want to put to the Secretary of State are these. How far will the civil dockyards provide employment in comparison with the employment hitherto provided in the naval dockyard? When the right hon. Gentleman spoke in his statement yesterday of efforts to establish varied industries to supplement the dockyards, of what was he thinking? Was he thinking that Malta should be approached in a way similar to that in which we have approached the depressed areas of this country, as Development Areas?
I was in Malta three weeks ago, and it occurred to me that it might be an admirable site for a trading estate such as have been established in our depressed areas here. When the right hon. Gentleman is thinking of those new and varied industries, could the matter be approached in that big and imaginative way?
1842 I want to make one proposal which goes beyond the statement of the Secretary of State. This island fortress in the Mediterranean has been of great service not only to Britain, a service which was uniquely recognised at the end of the war by the presentation of the George Cross to the whole population. It has been of service to the entire Commonwealth, and, indeed, it has been of service to all the Western allies.
When we are turning the activities of Malta from the naval and military spheres to civilian spheres, it would surely be a very happy recognition of that service if not only Great Britain, but the countries of the Commonwealth, and, indeed, if the United States made some contribution towards the transformation of the island. I very much hope that some voice will be raised asking Australia, Canada, New Zealand and countries in Western Europe and the United States, all to make their contribution in recognition of the great service that Malta has rendered to them and to liberty in the past.
I turn from those economic aspects to the political aspects. I plead with the right hon. Gentleman not to allow the talks with the representatives of the Maltese parties to hang over until November. I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman will be engaged during September in important conversations with Nigerian representatives, but I would suggest to him that he has very able colleagues at the Colonial Office. He has Lord Perth as his Minister of State. Sitting beside him now is the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to have an exaggerated sense of the importance of his own attendance when these discussions are taking place. Even if he himself is heavily engaged in September in the Nigerian discussions, there is no reason why colleagues of his at the Colonial Office should not be in consultation with the representatives of Malta so that the discussions need not be so long delayed.
The second point I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman on the political side is in relation to the emergency regulations. I put the question to him in the House yesterday, and he replied that the Governor had gone back to Malta and would consider immediately whether 1843 these emergency regulations should be withdrawn. Three months have now passed without any disturbances in Malta, and yet regulations still continue under which ten persons are not permitted to meet together in public.
I visited the prison in Malta where over 50 men and women were serving sentences. The only crime when they had committed was that they had been in a meeting of ten persons. If the right hon. Gentleman is to create in Malta an atmosphere which will enable a solution to be reached, he should immediately end these regulations.
My third point is this. During my visit to Malta I was disturbed by what I saw of the judicial system and of the police administration. I visited in prison a man who four months ago was the Minister of Health and a woman who four months ago, was Minister of Education. Everyone in Malta, including political opponents—one can say the Governor, the Deputy-Governor and the Archbishop—all paid tribute to the work which those two Ministers did in the spheres of health and education. One had only to see the organisation of the health and education services, the schools and the technical college, the college for industrial training, arising as a result of their work, to understand the constructive contribution they made. Yet there they were in prison. Their offence was that during the strike they had been guilty of intimidation.
In what other country in the world outside those with Communist totalitarian Governments would two people on their first offence have been sentenced to imprisonment without even the option of a fine, particularly when they had rendered such service to the country as those two ex-Ministers have done?
I was also concerned about the administration of the police. It is important to realise that the conflict which arose between the Colonial Office and the Labour Prime Minister of Malta turned as much upon the issue of police administration as it did on the economic side.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
May I say that that is not true? There is not a scrap of evidence of that. I could not let that statement pass, I am afraid.
§ Mr. Brockway
I am in the difficulty that I could quote to the right hon. Gentleman statements by officials whom he completely trusts, and not only from the Labour side. That is why I made that statement. I was informed that there was every indication of a settlement on the economic issue, but that conflict arose regarding the control of the police and that this brought the final crisis between the Labour Prime Minister of Malta and the Colonial Secretary.
The further point which I would put to the right hon. Gentleman is that there should be an early general election. If the boundaries of the constituencies are to be reconsidered, it should be done by a commission the impartiality of which is beyond doubt. We earnestly hope that this may lead to an election in Malta which will enable the people of Malta to make their own decision about the future of the Island.
We should not regard the proposals now being put forward as a final solution, but must work towards a new constitution. I hoped that Malta might become integrated with this country and that we should have Maltese Members in this House of Commons. I still have that hope. Meanwhile, I would urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that a temporary solution could be found by granting to Malta all the powers that it would have had under the integration scheme except actual representation in Parliament.
No one could have visited these happy people without being aware of the background of unique service which Malta has given to this country and to other countries, without desiring a solution of their problem, or without welcoming what the Secretary of State said yesterday. I hope that he will add to it today the proposals which I have ventured to suggest this afternoon.
Of British Guiana I have now, alas, no time to speak.
§ 2.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield)
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) will forgive me if I do not follow him in respect of certain of the points which he has raised about the problems of Malta. Because of the general anxiety felt by a large number of Members, I want to 1845 emphasise the plea which has been made to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in regard to the Northern Rhodesian Constitution.
We have urged that the problems of Northern Rhodesia should be discussed. We are desperately anxious that Parliament should have an opportunity of discussing the proposals of the Secretary of State on the future constitution before those proposals are put into Part I of the Order in Council which the right hon. Gentleman proposes should be drafted. Because of the anxiety of Africans and of all liberal opinion and because of the anxiety among Members of Parliament here, there should be the fullest opportunity in this country of considering any proposals which the Secretary of State may make.
We are fully aware that the right hon. Gentleman has had before him the proposals of the Governor and of the Northern Rhodesian Government, and that he has had an opportunity of discussing with representatives of Northern Rhodesia the proposals which the Northern Rhodesian Government have submitted. None the less, the grave responsibility now falls to the right hon. Gentleman of putting forward proposals in the light of those discussions. We sincerely hope that Parliament will have the opportunity of discussing these proposals before they are put into the Order in Council.
Surely it is not outside the bounds of possibility—indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) has made this quite clear and so have other hon. Members—that by Order in Council the Secretary of State may extend the life of the existing Legislative Council. We would ask him seriously to consider that course before he commits himself to the Order in Council. We should also have a White Paper on his proposals, so that Parliament may have the opportunity of knowing what the right hon. Gentleman suggests should be done.
We are profoundly dissatisfied with the proposals which have been submitted to us from the Northern Rhodesian Government. We gather that they have been received in a spirit of criticism by all parties in the Northern Rhodesian Legislative Council. In any case, we feel that these proposals, which the right hon. Gentleman is asked to consider, are couched in terms which are completely 1846 illiberal and are unworthy of consideration as a balanced submission of what the country needs in the immediate future. Let me again emphasise what has been emphasised on this side of the House before, that the problems of political development in Northern Rhodesia cannot be separated altogether from the issues of the Federation itself. I would remind the Secretary of State that a solemn obligation rests on this country in regard to Northern Rhodesia as well as Nyasaland.
What has infiltrated into the constitution of the Federation is the declaration of the continued protected status of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. It may be that, by federation, to some extent the protected status of Northern Rhodesia has been diminished. But none the less the duty and responsibility of this country as the protecting Power, and the duty and responsibility of the Secretary of State, is strong and emphatic, even under present conditions. Therefore, I urge that it would be altogether wrong for a political system to be endorsed in which the major predominant interest in that Government is European and not the great majority of the Africans.
I wish again to repeat what I have often said, that when the European entered Northern Rhodesia he was fully conscious of the status of that territory and the position of the Government, particularly of the position of the Government in this country. He was aware that we had solemn obligations to the African people which are not under any circumstances to be transferred to a European minority, many of whom are merely temporary sojourners in the territory, but who, under this proposal, would receive political power.
The right hon. Gentleman should also remember that in recent times there has been an intensification of the feeling of bitterness among the African population because of the manner in which federation was imposed. In the eyes of the African Affairs Board prejudice has been done to them. There has been the continued practice of discrimination. There have been all too few signs of partnership; with the result that Africans are very much more politically-minded than they were, and, through their organisations, are insisting that they should take 1847 an adequate share in political responsibility, and that the machinery created should be such as to give them justice and fair dealing.
It is suggested that in 1960 a conference should be held on the future of federation. The Federation Constitution will be brought into review. I urge that the Constitutions of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia should be so amended that the African voice can be adequately heard; that instead of European speaking on behalf of those two Governments, at least fair representation will be conceded to the Africans so that these territories, with a considerable African majority in their populations, may be able to speak as they think and feel regarding the future of federation.
I wish to say a word about the submissions to the Secretary of State by the Northern Rhodesia Governor. Of course, the submission is laudable in every respect. For does not the Governor suggest that what he wants is a system of government which will give confidence, which will rest on consent, which will not imply domination of any one race over another and which in the light of events will prove durable? He declares that he wishes to move away from communal representation because, in his judgment, politics ought not to cut across race. With all these sentiments we would sincerely agree.
The difficulty is that his proposals do none of these things. They do not inspire confidence, hence the African agitation. They do not, and will not, rest on consent, because the vast majority of the African population will not be represented in government. They perpetuate European domination, and the system is not likely to be durable if it involves considerable racial conflict and a great deal of racial trouble in the days ahead. Therefore, there is far too much double-talk in the proposals submitted to the Secretary of State.
All they amount to is a Legislative Council dominated by the European; an Executive Council dominated by the European and a franchise which, again, is heavily weighted in favour of the Europeans. I say that such proposals would consolidate and perpetuate race division. Moreover, the Governor, in the language of the eighteenth century, 1848 almost certainly in the language of the time before political democracy was established in this country, says:The vote should be given to those who gave the country its wealth and welfare and can exercise the vote with judgment and public spirit.If we apply any test we like to the proposals of the Governor, the test is entirely a property test and a test of race.
It is just humbug to put forward proposals of this kind. Does not the African miner or the African agricultural worker contribute to the wealth and welfare of the territory? Why, therefore, should he be banned? We know that he is banned merely because his wages will be insufficient and because he has a black skin. Yet the drunk and desolute European is alleged to have the qualities of judgment and of public spirit. He can go on the franchise roll, but not the man whose colour is black and who happens to belong to the African race. I say that proposals of that kind are completely outrageous.
I ask the Secretary of State to note the reasons for our opposition to these proposals. In the first place, we want a balanced Legislative Council. After all, the Legislative Council of Northern Rhodesia is concerned primarily with African affairs, and, therefore, the majority of the population should be adequately and properly represented on that council. Moreover, I feel that morally it would be utterly wrong for the Secretary of State to transfer his own responsibility to that of a minority in the country.
Let me also point out that it is most unfortunate that a great body of Africans have begun to lose confidence in our officials in Northern Rhodesia. It would appear that the Secretary of State himself has agreed with the Prime Minister of the Federation that in future these officials shall look not to him, but to the Prime Minister of the Federation; and those officials will be urged to implement the policy of the Federation. I think it a most unfortunate condition for the Administration to have got itself into.
Why is it that it is suggested that there should be only one African on the Governor's Executive Council? After all, that Council is concerned with political policy, and in is important that the African voice should be heard. If an African puts a point of view which happens to 1849 be contrary to the European viewpoint, there is no one to support him or to endorse the view which he is trying to maintain. It is a pity that the Secretary of State, if he endorses these proposals, will be transferring some of his authority for the ultimate responsibility in Northern Rhodesia to an executive which is primarily African, but on which the Africans have only one voice out of five.
We protested against the Federation franchise. The idea of a two-tier system, a first-class and second-class voter, is one which we should most strenuously oppose. My hon. Friends have already expressed the difficulties and the objections to the form which the franchise is taking. But I wish to emphasise that even if we allow that an African has the essential income and property to get on the franchise roll, if he cannot fill up his form in English he cannot exercise the vote. Though he can fill up the form in his own language—he may be literate in his own language—as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot) pointed out, merely because, in his own country, he does not know English, he cannot exercise the vote. To all those who are telling us that no fewer than 10,000 Africans can get on the special register I say that if this literacy test is applied experience will show that very many fewer than 10,000 will get on to the register, even though the Africans are prepared to register.
I should have liked to have said something about the constituencies and their construction and how it exposes the whole system of gerrymandering. I should have liked to have spoken about the selection of candidates, and so on, but my hon. Friends have already referred to these things and I will not continue the argument. I urge the Secretary of State to bring a liberal mind to bear on the submissions which have been made to him. I urge him to defer the issue of Part I of the Order in Council, so that Parliament may have an opportunity of examining the proposals which he has to make in place of the proposals which the Governor has submitted. That is the purpose of my intervention in this debate, to urge, on behalf of myself and all my hon. Friends, the Secretary of State to take this course of action.
§ 2.40 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
A number of hon. Members have addressed themselves to the details of the White Paper. First the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) and then the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot) and now the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones). Of course, it is not this White Paper, important though it is, which is being debated today in detail as a definite proposition for the House to reject or endorse. That is not the position. I will attempt to deal with the various suggestions which have been made as to how the drill which I outlined two days ago may be improved on.
The fact that this White Paper, presented to the Northern Rhodesian Legislative Council was debated recently in Lusaka, is well known to hon. Members. A series of clauses or sections were presented, as will be remembered by hon. Members who have read the debate. A long list of them was presented to the Council by the Chief Secretary. and at an appropriate moment during the eight-day "marathon", while this was being discussed, votes were taken on each of these sections. A great number were approved, but not all, and one or two important views clearly emerged.
Then the Governor and the Chief Secretary and a party representing the political parties in the Legislative Council came to London to meet me. It is perhaps no secret to say that I had hoped to go there that was my intention. I always regret any loss chance of re-visiting Central or East Africa or any other part of that great Continent, but events elsewhere made it impossible for me to be away from London last week, and so I had to ask them to come here.
We discussed this White Paper very carefully, but it would not be possible for me, as I am sure hon. and right hon. Members realise, at this stage to say to what conclusions my mind is moving, for I have not yet finally made up my mind on a number of very important points. I am afraid, therefore, I am not in a position to answer questions, whether from hon. Members opposite or my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall). on the 1851 number who might qualify, or whatever the point may be, because that turns on the final recommendations I may make, I say recommendations because, although they will be my decisions, they will be enshrined in Orders in Council for submission to Her Majesty.
The fact that I am not in a position to go in detail into the various points which have been made will not be regarded, I hope, by the hon. Member for Blackburn as further evidence of what she called my closed and arrogant mind. I thought that rather a distressing point on which to break up if she regards my mental apparatus in that way, and I hope that during the Recess she will come to more charitable conclusions. All that hon. Members have said will help me in my thinking, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) who quite appropriately described this as a curtain raiser. I repeat that no irrevocable decisions will be arrived at until the House, if it thinks fit, has exercised its right to discuss the proposals I shall make.
May I go over the reasons why the particular drill I outlined a few days ago seemed wise and prudent? We have to bear three considerations in mind. First, final decisions on the advice tendered to Her Majesty on constitutional changes could not be reached before the House rose. Hon Members will realise that and will also recognise that the talks have only just concluded. They will also recognise that under Command Paper 8753 the discussions leading to federation—there has been no disguising the fact, it is there for all to see—have been laid down. As to amendments on the territorial constitutions, the existing machinery and responsibility of Her Majesty's Ministers in the United Kingdom remain unchanged, but Her Majesty's Ministers would naturally seek the advice of federal Governments before advising Her Majesty. That is another reason why it is impossible for me at this stage to tell the House much about my views on the operation of the White Paper.
That is the first consideration I have had to bear in mind, that final decisions cannot be reached before the House rises. The second consideration I have had to remember is that the life of the present Legislative Council expires on 19th 1852 January next year. The third is that under the present law there must be a new election in Northern Rhodesia within three months of that date, that is, before 19th April, 1959. Because of those three considerations, there are three courses I can follow. The first would be to let the law take its course and have new elections in Northern Rhodesia under the existing law. I think we all recognise that that is really unthinkable. So I take it we dismiss that suggestion. The second would be to introduce the constitutional changes by Order in Council, but the Opposition, for reasons I fully understand, dislikes that because hon. Members opposite believe that in some way that might prevent them having a proper chance of debate. The third course would be to prolong the life of the Legislative Council for three months.
I propose to meet the difficulties in which we all find ourselves by introducing the changes in two stages. The first would involve making the Order in Council during the Recess to enable the Government of Northern Rhodesia to proceed, firstly, with the registration of voters and with the delineating of constituencies. It would be wrong to give the impression that nothing controversial will be in this first order. It will include provision for the registration of electors, for the qualification of electors and provision for delineation of constituencies. It is not purely a matter of mechanics. I recognise that it raises controversial matters, but it will also include a provision to the effect that it will itself be tied with the second order which will not come into operation unless and until the House has had a debate if it is the wish of the House to do so.
Perhaps that would be rather complicated. That is the first stage, and the second would cover the making of a second Order in Council which would make the remaining provisions, including the actual provisions for holding elections. That second Order in Council would not be made until Parliament sits again. There will be plenty of time to enable hon. Members during the Recess to master the subject. In the meantime, I would publish a White Paper setting out the whole scheme of constitutional change, and hon. Members would have time to consider the whole scheme and to decide whether to press for a debate soon 1853 after Parliament reassembles before the second Order in Council is made. The debate, of course, would take place on both stages of the Order in Council which had been made and the second Order in Council, which at that point would not have been made.
§ Mr. Creech Jones rose—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Probably, if I am left alone for three minutes, I may answer the question which the right hon. Member apparently wishes to put. There are objections to this sort of drill. The Opposition feels that no far-reaching constitutional changes should be made without proper discussion, and hon. Members opposite feel that this may in some way imperil such discussion but it would not. The plan would ensure that effect could not be given to the changes at all until there had been an opportunity for debate but, on the other hand, there is the very considerable advantage that if Parliament does decide that this is a good plan and should go forward precious time in the summer would not have been wasted. It would then be possible to proceed with the introduction of the changes without them having been unnecessarily delayed. If, on the other hand, Parliament does not think this is a good plan, the only harm which will have been done will be that a great deal of work by busy people in Northern Rhodesia will have been wasted.
I think it essential for the good government of Northern Rhodesia that I should be able to have the preliminary work undertaken on the assumption that the House will approve the proposals which have been worked out over two years and in full consultation with representatives of all sections. If the House does not approve no harm will have been done, except great harm to Northern Rhodesia, and Parliament will not have lost any control; the whole plan will lapse and have to be looked at again.
§ Mrs. Castle
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is overlooking one thing, that once the Order in Council is made setting up the franchise and the boundaries of the constituencies, Parliament, presumably, could only accept or reject the Order in Council and could not amend it. The whole point is that we want the right hon. Gentleman to listen to complaints before introducing the Order in Council, because once it is introduced it is anything or nothing. It 1854 is the possibility of amending the proposals, that we want.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
As the hon. Lady knows, Orders in Council are not subject to Parliamentary approval, neither affirmative or negative procedure. That has nothing to do with me, it springs from the parent Act which gives reasons why some orders are subject to approval and some are not. If this comes to the House, as no doubt it should, it will be brought deliberately by the Government to the House, although there is no obligation to do so.
§ Mr. Creech Jones rose—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I have only five minutes in which to conclude. I want to finish my argument. I have sat here from the moment the debate started, and everyone knew that it could last only two hours. The third suggestion—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I have a very important point to make, and then the right hon. Member may interrupt me. The third possible course of action would be by prolonging the life of the Legislative Council for three months. A number of hon. Members have asked about this, and I must be sure that I have answered that particular suggestion. In the view of the Government, it is quite unnecessary and to no one's advantage. The sole purpose of doing so would be to enable there to be a chance of debate before irrevocable action was taken, but that chance will be provided now by the suggestion I have made. The second answer is that the Legislative Council has been pressing since December, 1956, to get on with the work and I have been constantly urged in the House to do so. I cannot hold out all the necessary preliminary work merely because the House of Commons is going into Summer Recess.
The hon. Member for Blackburn asked me about the previous opinion, in 1953, when there was a prolongation. I am quite ready to give her the reason why there is a complete distinction between then and now. The reasons are quite clear, and they were in the interests of Northern Rhodesia. The right hon. Member for Wakefield, however, wishes to put a point to me and I will give way to him.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I regarded it as an act of discourtesy when you refused to give way in the middle of your statement. The whole point is that this House wishes to have the opportunity of influencing your judgment in the decisions you are going to make in regard to your proposal. Once they are embodied in Part I of the Order in Council there will be no opportunity whatsoever, except possibly by a "yes" or "no" later on when you issue the White Paper.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must call the attention of the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) to the fact that they are not my proposals and it is not my White Paper.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
No, but it will be. I wish to emphasise how very important it is from the point of view of the Opposition that we should have the opportunity of discussing this matter before the proposals are finalised in an Order in Council.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I can see the force of that, but on the other hand it would not be fair to see the next two or three months pass with no preliminary action being taken. I am quite prepared to say that if the Opposition produces arguments which commend themselves to the House as a whole and which seem overwhelming to me, the Order in Council would be replaced. It cannot be amended, but it could be replaced by a successor.
Perhaps in the interests of other hon. Members the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn will allow me to tell her privately afterwards the difference between the position in 1958 and that of 1953 or, as the House is rising today, I will write to her.
The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) asked a number of important questions on economic matters. I share with him the belief that this is about the most important matter concerned. I am deeply concerned about the future needs of the Colonial Territories for assistance in development of their economies. As I announced, we are considering questions 1856 of colonial development after 31st March, 1960. I added that I hoped it would be possible to introduce the necessary legislation during the 1958–59 Session and, in accordance with precedents, there should be an overlap between the new and the existing Colonial Development and Welfare Acts. I cannot add to that statement, except to say that Colonial Governments have been told that they may proceed on the assumption that the £220 million provided under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts, 1940 and 1955, may be extended beyond 31st March, 1960.
The hon. Member asked about Sierra Leone. There is in this country a delegation of very welcome visitors from Sierra Leone. It is headed by the Governor and is having talks about financial needs of the territory. We have their problems very much in mind, but I know the House will understand if at the start of these talks I do not say more than that. I share with the hon. Member a great regard for the people of Sierra Leone and their long record of honourable association with the United Kingdom. We will certainly look at anything suggested by them with sympathy and understanding.
The hon. Member for Eton and Slough said he was going to refer to British Guiana. I do not think he did in detail, for the obvious reason that time was short.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Some time we shall have, I hope, a chance to discuss the talks I had with Dr. Jagan and the Governor, and I shall be very ready then to listen to anything the House may have to say.
I welcomed also what the hon. Gentleman said about Malta and the generous welcome which, on the whole, he gave to the statement which I made yesterday, and also the well-deserved tribute which he paid to the zeal and devotion of the Governor, Sir Robert Laycock.
I can do little to add to what I have said about employment prospects, but I think I should be justified in giving this sort of general undertaking. With the work at the naval base that Bailey's will have commercially and for the Admiralty, with the help we intend to 1857 give, involving, as we know it will, sums of money over and above the dockyard conversion which will cost over £4 million from this country, with the help we intend to give for diversification and in which excellent work has already been done by the Labour Government of Malta on the trading estate, which will play a very significant part, I think it is fair to say that the spectre of widespread unemployment which I know has haunted the minds of many people in Malta in recent months, will now be laid. I think we are entitled to say that. I hope that that will be the message which will go from this House to our friends and fellow members of the Commonwealth in Malta.
The hon. Member for Wednesbury asked me a number of questions about Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, and perhaps I can very briefly answer them.
He asked about a round table conference in Kenya. I did attempt to hold such a thing when I was there last November. I can see no evidence whatever that we should make any more progress than we did then when certain people came to the conference table not prepared to discuss anything unless certain things were conceded in advance. I made then an award which seemed to me to be right and fair. It commanded a wide measure of support in this House as a whole, and, indeed, a number of friendly things were said about it from the Opposition benches. I do not believe that a full-scale constitutional conference would be a good thing now. I have had many talks with the Governor, Sir Evelyn Baring, when he was recently here. There are certain helpful suggestions which could be studied within the ambit of the present constitutional arrangements, and I should be at all times ready to discuss with the Governor what forms those best could take.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about events in Uganda and deplored, I think, the current controversy over the relations of the Kingdom of Buganda with the rest of the Protectorate. Much of the trouble has been brought about by imprudent talk—not here, but there—in recent months. I think the best thing for me to do today is to limit myself to saying that I can reaffirm that the intention of the Government here is to promote self-government and united government in which a strong central government and 1858 legislature will command the confidence of all their citizens.
With regard to the banning of branches, of T.A.N.U. in Tanganyika, my hon. Friend and I have for many weeks now answered Questions on this subject. I do not think that any action taken and necessarily taken in the interests of law and order need have any prejudicial effect on elections in Tanganyika.
I am sure the House would like to wish to the new Governor of Tanganyika, who has just arrived to replace Sir Edward Twining, every possible success. I am sure, too, that the House will rejoice that Her Majesty has been pleased to confer a life peerage on Sir Edward Twining, who has given a lifetime of service in Africa and elsewhere. There have been far too few from the Colonial Territories who have been honoured in this way, and I am very glad that the choice should have fallen on Sir Edward Twining.
Finally, I thank hon. Members for the courtesy which they have shown throughout this debate, and, indeed, for many months past.