§ 12.32 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
I beg to move,That this House, deploring the present racialist policies now being pursued by the South African Government, under which non-Europeans are consistently denied normal human and political rights, including the right of campaigning for a peaceful change in the laws under which they live, and the recent declaration of a state of emergency and the many arbitrary arrests, fearing that a continuation of this repression is threatening the security and welfare of all races living in the Union of South Africa and good relations between members of the Commonwealth, urges Her Majesty's Government to take the opportunity at the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference to bring home to the South African Government the strong feelings of British people on this question; and restates its firm belief that peace and tranquility in South Africa can only be secured in the long run on the basis of freedom and equality and a full respect for the inherent dignity and humanity of all men.On 21st March, some 5,000 African men, women and children collected outside the Police Commissioner's building in Sharpeville. Their purpose in going there was not to create a riot but by a peaceful demonstration to show their absolute abhorrence and opposition to the harsh pass law regulations under which they have to live. It has been suggested that those Africans were armed. It 'has been suggested that they fired shots at the police. All the accounts show that most unlikely to have been the case.
I should like to quote from a report which appeared in the Observer by one of the white men present at that tragedy. Mr. Humphrey Tyler wrote that he as a white man was quite unmolested when he was in Sharpeville on 21st March. Women and children were making friendly gestures to the armoured cars as they arrived on the scene. Mr. Tyler strongly denies that the demonstrators were carrying arms, and he says:I never saw any such weapons, yet I looked very closely and with great attention. There were no weapons to be seen in the photographs taken of the tragic places. I merely saw a few shoes, some hats and a few bicycles scattered among the dead.Since that awful massacre at Sharpeville we have seen daily reports of still further shootings and brutalities. We 775 have heard also the attempts made by the police to round up people who have now refused to go to work as their protest against the pass laws. Only a few minutes ago, coming through on the tape from Johannesburg, we heard of still more arrests which have been carried out. Over one hundred people, including whites and Africans, have been arrested in Witwatersrand and Durban.
The Government in South Africa have imposed a state of emergency. They have arrested hundreds of people who are of moderate views. They seem to be intent on going ahead with imposing their evil policy of apartheid on three quarters of the population of that country and against almost 11 million people who are opposed to the implementation of that policy.
How has this situation come about? It has come about because of the attempt made over the last fifty years to impose and implement the doctrine of white superiority over the African and non-white people living in the Union of South Africa, and, more particularly, by the use of force by the Nationalist Government in the past few years to impose its evil doctrine of apartheid, which is the apotheosis of the doctrine of race superiority. It is in fact an attempt to impose permanent subjection upon the non-white people of that territory. The non-whites have been stripped of almost all human rights. They have suffered the most abject degradation in their every day lives and the economic system has, I think, rightly been described as thinly disguised slavery.
The pass system is for the African people a badge of absolute subjection. It is against that pass system that they particularly have been demonstrating in the past few weeks. Every African over the age of 16 must hold a pass. Without that pass he cannot move into the towns, he cannot obtain employment, and, indeed, without that pass he is denied all freedom. If he is discovered by the police without his pass in his possession he is liable to a £10 fine or a month's imprisonment. As an alternative to that conviction, many hundreds, indeed, hundreds of thousands, of Africans have been sent to farms to work, without any real reward being paid to them, in what is virtually a slave system.
776 The South African farmers co-operating in this system have themselves built prisons to accommodate more of these African slaves. The land system also discriminates against the African population. Less than 15 per cent. of the land area in the Union of South Africa is allocated to the three-quarters of the population which is African. Over 85 per cent. is allocated to the white minority of 3 million. No African can hold freehold land anywhere in the Union of South Africa, even in the reserves.
I wish to quote one example—and only one—of the penalties which Africans suffer, and Indians as well, if they attempt to break the apartheid laws. Any African or non-white sitting on a public bench reserved for a white man in a public park can be fined £300, or given three years imprisonment, or whipped ten times. This is a shocking system. It has been condemned in every country in the world, yet the South African Government under Dr. Verwoerd seem intent on enforcing it against millions of people who happen to be non-white.
In proposing this Motion, neither I nor any of my hon. Friends adopt a holier-than-thou approach. We recognise that people in all parties and in none are appalled by the awful events in South Africa. We recognise that there are differences of opinion on the way in which this problem should be dealt with and in regard to the ultimate solution of the race question. We recognise that practically every person in this country is united in condemning these evil practices.
We in this House must accept some of the responsibility for the events of the last fifty years, because it was in this House that fifty years ago the South Africa Act was passed without a Division, which brought into being the white-dominated Government in the Union of South Africa which, over the years, has developed this doctrine of race superiority.
At that time, Mr. Asquith told the House that he believed there were adequate safeguards to prevent the native suffrage in Cape Colony being abolished. He was wrong. Mr. Balfour said in his speech that he thoughtthe only glimmer of hope of dealing successfully with the real race problem in South Africa, is not to attempt to meddle with it 777 ourselves, nut, having made this Union Parliament, to trust the man of a like way of thinking a; ourselves to rise to the occasion which will most undoubtedly come forward, and to the best of their ability to meet this new problem with which they are face to face, with all the courage, and, above all, with all the humanity and all the sympathy which is possible, unhampered by interference from this island, which, however well meant, may perhaps be ignorant, and whether it be ignorant or whether it be not, will undoubtedly be resented by those who may endeavour to control it.Mr. Balfour also was wrong. In the same debate there was a prophetic speech by Keir Hardie on 16th August, 1909, in which he said that the:declared intention of a very large section of opinion in South Africa is to prevent the natives coming into serious competition with the white man either in the learned professions or as property owners or in any sphere except that of a low paid worker in connection with industry—the one interest it has in the coloured peoples there is to reduce them to the position of a landless proletariat where they will be compelled to accept wages at anything that is offered to them in order to maintain body and soul togetherPerhaps the most prophetic speech of all in that debate was made by Mr. Byles, the Liberal Member for Salford, South. He said:None of us want another racial war. What we do is instead of encouraging them to qualify by their behaviour and education for political, social and civilised society and life among white men, we are setting them against us We are driving them; we are telling them to take their own methods. Every effort they make to advance in civilisation they knock up against this colour bar.He went on to say.A gulf, a widening and dangerous gulf, is being fixed between black and white. Some day they will hear the call of their blood."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th August, 1909; Vol. 9, c. 991, 1008 and 1033]Mr. Byles was right. Fifty years later they have heard that call and responded to that call with a demonstration the like of which very few of us anticipated, but now that demonstration has started there is no stopping it and the whites in South Africa must come to terms with it.
The Prime Minister, when in Cape Town, used a very eloquent phrase in his speech, which I applauded when I heard of it and which I applaud now. He talked about the "winds of change". The Africans in South Africa have felt those winds of change. In some parts of the continent they are blowing like a hurricane, through Nigeria, which becomes independent shortly, through 778 the Belgian Congo, which will become completely independent on 1st July. Those winds, blowing like a gale, do not stop at the Zambesi or the Limpopo. They are being felt blowing round the Cape of Good Hope. So it is that the Africans in South Africa now want the same rights and liberties as their African brothers and cousins elsewhere in the continent.
There has been published in Tribune a most remarkable document. I wish to quote from it because it demonstrates the feeling of Africans in South Africa. It is by Mr. Mangaliso Sobukwe, the President of the Pan Africanist Congress, which has since been banned. He writes:Sons and daughters of the soil, on Monday, March 21, 1960, we launch our Positive Decisive Action against the Pass Laws….At this stage of our struggle we have a choice before us. Are we still prepared to be half-human beings in our fatherland or are we prepared to be citizens—men and women in a democratic non-racial South Africa? How long shall we be called Bantu, Native. Non-European, Non-white or black stinking Kaffir in our fatherland?…Our overall fight is against imperialism, Colonialism and domination. I want to be properly understood here. Let the world take note that we are not fighting Dr. Verwoerd, simply because he is Dr. Verwoerd; we are not fighting against the Nationalist Party or the United Party. We are not fighting against Europeans or Indians or Chinese. In short, we are fighting against nobody. Our energies and forces are directed against a set-up, against a conception and a myth. This myth: others call it racial superiority, others call it herren-volkism, others white leadership with justice or white supremacy. We are fighting against the Calvinistic doctrine that a certain nation was specially chosen by God to lead, guide and protect other nations. That is our fight.He goes on in his appeal to make quite clear that his instructions are that the campaign shall be absolutely nonviolent. That is an illustration of the feeling in South Africa, and it is now felt by millions. It appears that the South African Government and many with it, though not all of them, many whites in South Africa, are not aware of the need to come to terms with this situation.
I hope a message will go from this House today appealing to all Europeans in South Africa to recognise the insanity of apartheid and the need to come to terms with the situation in South Africa by being prepared to 779 negotiate with the African leaders—not to lock them up—and to recognise that African leaders like Chief Luthuli are not anti-European as such but they want Europeans to live in their country as friends and fellow-citizens without having any special racial rights over themselves. We beg Europeans in South Africa to come to terms with this situation before it is too late, and not to go on with this insane military dictatorship in an attempt to suppress 11 million people. They are inviting disaster and will be inviting very widespread violence.
We hope that as a result of this Motion and of the feeling which is being expressed up and down the country, the Prime Minister will take the initiative to put this problem of race relations in South Africa on the agenda of the forthcoming Prime Ministers' Conference. It is not for us to say exactly how the Prime Ministers will approach this question. We hope that they will bear in mind the unanimous viewpoint of all countries in the Commonwealth against the evil policies now being pursued in South Africa. We hope that they will take a constructive course.
In this connection, I want to press again the point which was put yesterday in a Question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand), urging the setting up of a Commonwealth Convention of Human Rights. This has been put forward by Colonel Draper in a letter in The Times in which he said that prominent among the "values and principles" of the Commonwealthis the maintenance and furtherance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.How right he is. It is one of the reasons for the continued existence of the Commonwealth.
We must show that the Commonwealth has a constructive purpose. One of the ways to strengthen the Commonwealth is to follow the example of the European Convention of Human Rights and to have our own Commonwealth Convention. As well as condemning the present policies being conducted in the Union, let us try to get something constructive which will stand the test of time not only in South Africa but also in other countries of the Commonwealth.
780 The opinion of other Commonwealth countries has been expressed. In the Indian Parliament Mr. Nehru said that the picture in South Africa isa picture of people who are practically prisoners".The Indian Parliament on 28th March expressed itsdeep sympathyfor the Africans whohave suffered from the firing and from the policy of racial discrimination and the suppression of the African peoples in their own homeland.Mr. Nehru said thatthe racial policies of the Nazi régime, under which the Nazis claimed the right not only to suppress but to exterminate a race they considered sub-human, are being adopted and openly proclaimed in South Africa".The Prime Minister of Canada has deplored the situation and has said that he is aware of a profound anxiety about the methods used by the South African Government to quell African demonstrations. Mr. Nash, Prime Minister of New Zealand, has asked for this matter to be placed on the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference agenda.
Nigeria has severed trade relations with South Africa. In Malaya the Prime Minister has expressed indignation and concern. The representative of Ceylon at the Security Council said that the conscience of the world had been troubled by the atrocities perpetrated in the name of apartheid. Ghana, through its spokesman at the Security Council, asked that, if the Union Government failed to respond to the appeals of the Security Council, the United Nations should take economic and diplomatic sanctions. The Indian representative and Prince Aly Khan, on behalf of Pakistan, also expressed their Government's absolute abhorrence of the policies pursued in South Africa.
World opinion has been expressed, too. The New York Herald Tribune of 24th March commented:The massacres of defenceless and downtrodden human beings must stand strongly condemned by international opinion.The New York Times of the same day commented:The policy of apartheid is leading South Africa to isolation and unending strife.These opinions are shared by an overwhelming number of people in this country. The Gallup Poll has just 781 reported that 80 per cent.—one of the highest figures ever recorded in a Gallup Poll—of the British people are appalled by apartheid. Incidentally, it is significant to note in that poll that the smallest number of "Don't knows" was recorded—6 per cent. The British people are very much aware of this problem, and they have indicated their feeling not only through the Gallup Poll but through attending demonstrations and meetings called by the Labour Party and other organisations in large numbers—much larger than many of us thought possible in view of the so-called apathy about political affairs.
There have also been comments in the Press. There has been correspondence. The Bishop of Woolwich, writing in The Times, accused the Government of hypocrisy because they would not use a positive vote at the United Nations. He wrote:I trust that this is the last time we in Britain shall have to submit to this national humiliation.Papers of all sorts and sizes have been condemning apartheid. The Scottish Co-operator, for instance, wrote last week:The events … at Sharpeville and Langa were the direct outcome of the inhuman policies of Dr. Verwoerd and his party in stripping the native African of all human dignity and rights. Unless the policies and methods of Apartheid are quickly changed Africa will become the scene of a terrible upheaval and racial war which will finally drive the whites out of the continent.The Times also has added its comment. It has condemned apartheid, called it a suicidal policy and asked that it should be damned. We therefore ask the House to add its condemnation in no uncertain terms of the race policies being pursued in the Union. We ask that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers should take a positive and constructive line. We have drawn up this Motion in such a way that it would unite the House rather than divide it. We want a message to go out from a united House of Commons. This is not a party political question. This is a question which unites all men of decency. We want a united voice to go out from the House today to demonstrate to the South African Government and the whites living in the Union of South Africa that they must come to terms with this situation, otherwise they are inviting disaster.
§ 12.58 p.m.
§ Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I salute the sincerity of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse). His aims are my aims. I accept the expression of his aims embodied in the Motion. We differ slightly in our approach, as I shall try to show in the course of my speech, but I wish to make it quite clear from the start that there is no political, no party difference of opinion in the House as to the aims which we hope will be attained in Africa generally. I welcome the bipartisan approach in the hon. Member's last few sentences. It is high time that Africa was taken out of the sphere of party politics. I think that the hon. Member has rendered a distinct service in that direction today.
I welcome, in particular, his reference to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.
I wish to stress that this is primarily a family affair. There is great value in keeping it as a family affair. In a family, as we all know, if one member falls short of the standards set by the rest of the family the door is not closed to him. It is always open, and by remonstrance, advice, and moral suasion, all efforts are made to bring the sinning member back on to the right course. I hope that we shall never let it be forgotten that this is primarily a family affair.
I hope, too, that no one will talk lightly of breaking up the Commonwealth. It has taken many centuries to construct. We hope that, by the grace of God, it will survive for many more centuries, for the benefit of mankind and humanity in general. We, at this date and time, are merely tenants for life. Let us not be the ones at whose doors shall be laid the charge that we lightly destroyed the Commonwealth.
The forthcoming Conference is almost our last chance. I regard it as essential that Dr. Verwoerd, the Union Prime Minister, shall attend that Conference. I hope that, when he does, he will be received in this country with the courtesy which hosts should always extend to their guests. It should not be forgotten that it will be the first occasion upon which he has left his own country. Let him see that we in this country not only preach but practise the liberal principles which we would 783 have him follow. At that remarkable ceremony yesterday in Westminster Hall I thought, "I would that Dr. Verwoerd were here. He would understand something of our mentality."
If he comes to the Conference, if, for example, he dines with Her Majesty at Windsor Castle, as the Prime Ministers will, if he meets statesmen of other political persuasions, if he sees the people of this country—ordinary, good, decent people—carrying out in their lives the principles which we preach, I hope that it will have a beneficial and educational effect on him and that he will take a somewhat larger view of his responsibilities. Let him see that we are decent people, and let us behave decently to him.
I come to the Motion. As I have already said, I agree fully with its terms; but what does it seek to achieve? Is it just a restatement of views which are universally held in this country, and are known so to be held? Is it just a fresh condemnation of human folly, a fresh expression of sorrow at human tragedy? I hope that it goes further than that. I hope that in the House of Commons we shall never content ourselves with protests and restatements of belief. I hope that every action undertaken by the House will aim at achieving something definite. I hope that our debate today may conduce to a change of policy, and a change of heart, in South Africa
. Here I am afraid that I part company somewhat from the hon. Member for Wednesbury. I feel that he is using a bludgeon when the finest precision tools are needed. I hold very strongly that salvation for Africa cannot come from without. It cannot come from outside Africa. It must come from within. It must come from a change of heart from within. There is a time when it is our right and duty to condemn actions, to condemn policies, and to point to the consequences, although it is always much easier to provide solutions for problems which we have not got ourselves. An old farmer neighbour of mine used to say, "You must remember the proverb, 'Them as a's'nt got the kicking mare can always manage her best'". There is much in that, but, as I have already said, there is a time when actions should be 784 condemned, and we are always free to do so.
But I ask the assent of the House to the proposition that never is it right to condemn men. How can we be quite certain that in another man's place we should not have acted in the same way as he has? For example, we know here that we are the heirs of a glorious inheritance of toleration, kindliness, and democracy. We do not claim credit for it. We are too sensible to do that. We know that, in the words of the Psalmist:The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.If we do not claim credit, either personally or nationally, for the great gifts and qualities that we have inherited, should we not by the same analogy refrain from blaming people because they are acting out of the consequences of a background that we have fortunately not had to share? Consider the background of South Africa. What a contrast it is to our background, and to the atmosphere in which we have been brought up! It is not a broad metropolitan outlook such as we have. We in the House deal with vast questions affecting the whole of humanity. They do not do that in South Africa. Theirs is not a broad outlook. It is a narrow outlook.
Consider, too, the background of the rigid Calvinist creed. Every Calvinist in South Africa has been taught from his youth up that he is a member of a chosen race and that those of another colour are helots fit only for the hewing of wood and drawing of water. The doctrine of race superiority amongst the Dutch in South Africa is not a political doctrine. It is a religious doctrine which has been instilled into them from their infancy.
They, the Dutch in South Africa, are an independent-minded people of conquest, who have hewn out their homes from the comparatively empty wilderness and have lived and survived by the sword. They are a race of pioneers and fighters who trekked away from what they considered to be tyranny and founded their own Republics.
We should consider, above all, the background of subconscious fear—the knowledge that a day of reckoning must come some time. I do not think that we in this country can possibly, by the 785 greatest effort of imagination put ourselves in the place of a white minority in a coloured sea. It may be deplorable; it may be regrettable; it may be blameworthy, but it is a fact.
I hope that the House will not think that I am being flippant, but we should consider, finally, the fact that they are a race Without a sense of humour. A sense of humour is a sense of proportion. They are a rigid, narrow, hidebound race without much sense of proportion. Therefore, we should think of these fellow-citizens of ours within the Commonwealth as narrow and bigoted, perhaps, but as independent and brave. Further, I strongly suspect that if we knew them in their own homes, we would find them just as fond of their wives and children as we are. I understand that Dr. Verwoerd is a kindly and charming man.
I think that we should spare no effort to put ourselves in the places of people who have been brought up with this unfortunate heritage. Their lines have not fallen "in pleasant places". They have not "a goodly heritage". Can any one of us, even the most freedom-loving Member of the House, put his hand on his heart and say, with certainty, that, if he had had the same ancestry, the same descent, and the same environment, he would not have fallen into the same trap?
These are fundamental questions which I think we should ask ourselves. It is not evil intent which I detect in South Africa, but folly; not wickedness, but failure to move with the times and see that human thinking has progressed. They are the prisoners and victims of their own rigid and narrow environment and outlook. Hence the tragedies to which the hon. Member for Wednesbury referred so eloquently. Hence the even greater tragedies which may very well ensue.
But in spite of what I have already said and in spite of the need for heart-searching on our part in an effort to put ourselves in other people's places, the fact remains that, unless the leaders of South Africa accept the need for evolution into a multi-racial society, utter catastrophe may result. The question I ask myself today—I suggest humbly that all hon. Members should ask themselves the same question—is what we can do 786 in general, and particularly in the House of Commons today, to help that situation.
I have already given one answer. Nothing that we say or do must damage the prospects of success for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. Nothing that we say or do when that Conference takes place must lead Dr. Verwoerd to think that our minds are irrevocably made up and no talks can lead to anything. He must be treated courteously and politely.
Secondly, we must recognise that everyone in South Africa is unhappy. Can we imagine that Dr. Verwoerd himself is happy at this time? Can we imagine that any manner of man can be happy at this history of shooting and tyranny? Probably only a minority support Dr. Verwoerd now, but more will support him if South Africa is "sent to Coventry". I have spoken of the Commonwealth as a family, and I do not think that that is a far-flung expression. But even more, the people in the Union of South Africa are a family, and members of a family have a way of rallying to the support of each other when they are attacked from outside. There is grave danger that if South Africa is driven into a corner and sent to Coventry much more support will rally to Dr. Verwoerd and his friends.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
Will the hon. Member bear in mind that the great majority of the South African family are black Africans?
§ Sir G. Nicholson
I have not overlooked that point, but I am speaking and directing my words to the Nationalist Party in South Africa. I do not think that that intervention was necessary.
I repeat that salvation in South Africa can come only from within and that there comes a point in time when the continual exertion of pressure from outside can only defeat its own object.
Thirdly—and I think this is of the greatest importance and significance—we must remember that the worst way of helping the native inhabitants of Africa is to drive South Africa out of the Commonwealth. I did not always think that, I freely confess, but I have come to the conclusion that I was wrong, and that we shall lose the last chance of helping the Africans if we break the Commonwealth link.
787 My mood is not so much one of anger. It is one of sorrow and pity for the folly of mankind. Gibbon spoke of history as the record of the follies and vices of mankind. I think he was wrong. It is much more a record of the follies of mankind, and of the ghastly tragedies that ensue. That is my mood today but it is also one of hope. Unless a final breach is made, either by us or by the Nationalists in South Africa, there is room for hope. I have a fundamental belief in the basic reasonableness of mankind and in the goodness of human nature, and I do not think that human nature south of the Equator is necessarily very different from human nature north of the Equator.
In the course of our long history we have faced and conquered many dangers and difficulties. We have done so by never losing faith either in ourselves or in our principles. We have done so by courage. Above all, we have done so by our inherited wisdom and an understanding of other people's points of view and difficulties. Here in the racial problem of Africa is a problem no less, but no more, intractable than many we have overcome, and no less worthy of our steel. But it cannot be solved by fanning the flames of discord. All the world, including South Africa, knows where we unanimously stand in this House and the country. We condemn apartheid root and branch.
Outside pressure has done its part. Salvation must now come from within. Africa, which stands so sorely in need of love, is deluged with hatred. I hope that nothing we say in the House today will add to that flood.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) on his Motion and on the speech with which he moved it. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) say, as I knew he would, that he entirely approved of its sentiments. There are few people in the House, if any, who would not approve of its sentiments.
I felt that perhaps the analogy made by the hon. Member for Farnham with the family led him to take too tolerant a view of the situation. This is surely 788 not a case in which a member of a family is committing some private sin. To continue the analogy, this is a case of children of a family being ill-used by the stronger members of that family. In that situation I do not think that some expression of disapproval is by any means out of place, nor indeed would some action be if it could be effective, whether by members of the family or others.
From the Prime Minister's speech to the enormous demonstrations in this country and the results of a Gallup Poll, it has been made absolutely clear that British opinion is opposed to apartheid. It is not necessary to go over the reasons for that or to argue about it. I believe that something happened at Sharpeville which has made a dividing line in history such as we sometimes see. I do not think that things will ever be quite the same again.
Let us be quite clear that the situation in South Africa is due to the insistence by a small part of South African opinion on a doctrine of race superiority. There are no doubt many black Africans who are now in a desperate frame of mind. We may well be faced with riots in Africa, with intimidation and with an even more tragic situation. Some people may say then that some blame attaches to the Africans. We are bound to make clear that the prime cause of all this is the attempt to impose a wholly unworkable and repugnant system—a system of race superiority.
I greatly fear that if the situation is not changed the leadership of black Africans will pass out of the hands of moderates and into the hands of extremists. It is notable that so far non-. violence has been widely accepted in South Africa. Indeed, Africans, deserve a good deal of praise for their attempt to get their legitimate ends by this means, but if oppression goes on we can only expect those who advocate nonviolence to lose influence over the Africans which may pass to those who advocate more extreme measures.
It can be argued, and by those whose sincerity in opposing white supremacy is unchallenged, that we may do more harm than good by too violent expressions of opinion about the situation in South Africa. It may also be argued, as I 789 think it was by the hon. Member for Farnham, that there may be something hypocritical in our resentment. It is true that we have had a history of repression in our Colonies. When we ask Ministers to make representations about British citizens arrested in South Africa we cannot help reflecting that we have people detained without trial in Central Africa.
It is true, too, that we have never faced in this country the difficulties of a multi-racial society. Anyone who has not lived in such a society, as I have not, should be particularly careful not to under-estimated those difficulties. Every nation that has experienced them has found no satisfactory solution. But racial intolerance itself is clearly no solution.
Having said that, I must say to the hon. Member for Farnham that I do not share his view that because these difficulties exist, because people in different parts of the world have been forced to live their lives in more dangerous or more evil circumstances than we have done, therefore we should keep silent about the sort of thing which has gone on in South Africa. I know that the hon. Gentleman would not say that we would have been right to keep silent about Hitler and the persecution of the Jews, even though it could well be argued that the Germans had gone through times which we had never had to face. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not argue that we should have kept silent—
§ Mr. Grimond
I am sorry if I have misinterpreted the hon. Gentleman but at times in his speech I thought he was saying that, because we had not had to face these difficulties, we should be careful—I will put it that way—not to condemn them too much. I believe that there are times in the world when, although we may be well aware of the historical reasons for tyranny, for ill-treatment, for cruelty, we must nevertheless speak out against them violently.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree, to use his own phrase, that to condemn anyone with too much violence must, by the very form of words 790 one is using, be wrong? Otherwise, there is not too much violence.
§ Mr. Grimond
I do not accept that. Some great men in history have used pretty violent words about cruelty.
It is also argued, with some force, that we should beware of taking too much notice of the mote in the eye of South Africa while we have to tolerate the beam in the eye of the Communist part of the world. I have sometimes thought that we are less concerned about oppression behind the Iron Curtain than we ought to be. I accept that, but for my part I have tried in a small way to protest against it when occasion arises.
I say that the situation in South Africa is slightly different. To begin with, we feel a certain responsibility for that country which we do not feel about all countries in the world. South Africa is a member of the Commonwealth.
Secondly, I think it is a compliment to South Africa that we also feel that an expression of opinion by this country, if it is not wholly hostile, wholly destructive, may have some effect. It is creditable to South Africa that we believe that an expression of opinion here in this House and in this country and by our Prime Minister may have some effect on their thinking. We may have some influence upon it.
I also believe that although it is difficult to see exactly how it works, there is a considerable strength in world opinion. Only this last week or so we have read that Tibor Dery has been released in Hungary. Hungary perhaps is not very open to the play of world opinion, but it is generally believed that pressure of opinion throughout the world has helped over his release and that in the long run it has an effect even upon Communist Governments, and that it is not without the bounds of possibility, at least, that it will have an effect upon the Government of South Africa.
What can we do? I will make some suggestions, although I do not pretend that they will all be accepted. I do not ask the Government to answer them all in this debate. First, I believe that our own example is extremely important and that we should press on with political advance in Central Africa, and also that we should press on with the education and with the economic advancement of the Africans under our own 791 control. I believe that one of the most striking features in Africa is the failure of what might be called the colonial powers to educate the Africans.
Secondly, I think there is some hope in the economic ties of Africa with the rest of the world. African businessmen know very well the effect of these happenings throughout the world and from my experience, I know that many are liberally-minded men. I believe, therefore, that this is a possible door for getting into touch with more liberal and acceptable opinion in South Africa.
On the question of asylum, I do not blame the Minister of State for being guarded about what could or could not be done. But I hope he will do a great deal. I was a little puzzled about whether this was entirely a matter for the courts or whether we were going to accept the traditional British view that political refugees are entitled to asylum. Candidly I do not know how the courts come into it. This week a member of the Chinese Embassy asked for political asylum. Did he come before any court?
On the question of the pass laws there seems to be a genuine difficulty in that South Africa attracts a great deal of labour from outside its boundaries. I believe that here the South Africans have a certain case against us, since a native labourer apparently finds it more satisfactory to work in the Union than he does in some of the Protectorates of Britain. I have no doubt that this raises a problem. In this respect is it not possible for the Government to get together with the South African Government in order to remove, to some extent, the one reasonable excuse or justifiable reason for pass laws and certificates? I think they are an intolerable mark of inferiority as they exist at present, but we should try to deal with what is partly the underlying problem which the South Africa High Commissioner mentions in his letter to The Times this morning. This means better pay for Africans in our Colonies.
There is then the question of South-West Africa and the standing of the British Government as a protector of those territories. This brings me to the difficult matter of the United Nations. I do not despise legal arguments and I do not pretend that there is not a legal 792 case for saying that this is an internal matter for South Africa over which the Security Council has no jurisdiction, but there is at least legal doubt about this. Behind the legal reasoning lies the indisputable fact in the modern world that national sovereignty is dead. Garden walls exist no longer round each country and the internal problems of one country, as they are called, repercuss all over the world.
I was in Kuwait this January. It is no use saying to the Kuwaitians that what happens in Algeria is an internal matter for the French and the Algerians. It has a profound effect on our status in Kuwait. We must face this reality. It was dramatically brought to our notice when a Minister of British Guiana was stopped by our police because he was believed to be demonstrating about the affairs in South Africa in London. So I think there is value in having these matters discussed at the United Nations because of the effect, in the long run, of world opinion.
I would ask the Government to protest though I do not necessarily ask them to do it publicly—I have no doubt they will do so—against the arrest of people in South Africa who have taken no part in the rioting, but who are being arrested simply because they hold certain views which traditionally have been respected throughout the British Commonwealth. I refer to members of various political parties, including the Liberal Party. I would further ask the Government whether the time has not come to split the office of High Commissioner. It seems to me that we shall get into great difficulties if the man who is our representative with the South African Government is also responsible for the Protectorate.
Lastly, I would say that, like the hon. Member for Farnham and I think the hon. Member for Wednesbury, I do not believe that we should drive South Africa out of the Commonwealth. On the other hand, I do not think we should compromise about the underlying nature of the Commonwealth so as to keep South Africa in. The Commonwealth is a society of different nations, different religions and different colours. It is that or it is nothing. This is its main feature in the modern world, and the only link between these different nationalities. It has not much strength in the military 793 sense or even in the economic sense, but it has great political strength in being a living demonstration of the possibility of people of different colours living together. This is the biggest problem that faces us today, except for that of the hydrogen bomb. I believe that in the face of this problem, squabbles about our Budget are pretty small. A real breakdown of relations between the white and coloured races would be a disaster from which the world would not recover.
This is a great opportunity for the British Commonwealth, which combines these colours and many other colours as well, to show that they can live together. Therefore, I am not in favour of driving South Africa out. I think it would be an abdication of our responsibilities to the black Africans, but I do not believe that we should compromise this fundamental quality of the Commonwealth. I hope that when the Prime Ministers' Conference takes place, it will be found that we can make some impression upon South Africa. This is a very rigid Government which believes that God created the Boers a superior people. That is all the more reason for speaking frankly and firmly. I believe that, if that is done, there is still some chance of avoiding the worst consequences of these tragic events.
§ 1.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
Of all the points made by the Leader of the Liberal Party, the one which I should like to pass on to my hon. Friend the Minister of State for his consideration is the suggestion that the office of High Commissioner might be split.
A month ago, I was discussing this problem with the Bishop of Johannesburg in Johannesburg—a reasonable, sensible and very well-informed man— and of all the suggestions he made to me this was the most important one. Without any disrespect to the qualities, the abilities and the hard work of the present High Commissioner in Cape Town, the Bishop felt that the responsibility was so great that there ought to be another High Commissioner for the other territories.
I support the spirit and the ideals behind this Motion, but I should like to ask the House to look at what it 794 asks the Government to do. It urges the Government—to take the opportunity at the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference to bring home to the South African Government the strong feelings of British people on this question.How best can that be done? That is the problem. I am certain that everyone in this House will agree that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will not lose any opportunity of doing what he is urged to do in this matter. I would implore hon. Members to say nothing in this House and to do nothing outside the House that would drive the South African Government out of the Commonwealth, for that I should regard as an absolute tragedy for them and for us.
My six weeks' experience in Africa causes me to say this. I would beg for restraint to be exercised in what is said in this House, because it is so often reproduced in newspapers from Kenya down to Cape Town, and could have effects that some of us would not wish when making those statements.
Last Friday, I returned from a six weeks' visit to South Africa, having travelled from Kenya to the Rhodesias, up to the Copper Belt, Nyasaland, and then to Johannesburg and down to Cape Town. I endeavoured to contact all shades of opinion, in addition to doing the business for which I went there. I saw the coloured men, the politicians and businessmen, the Church leaders and the ordinary people wherever I could, and I was received with the utmost kindness and consideration by everyone I met. I came home saddened, bewildered and perplexed, for the problems of Africa seem to me so vast and so difficult as to be almost insoluble.
It seems to me that there is no single simple solution to Africa's vast problem. I was quite well aware of this in the various places to which I went. I agree that what happens in one part of this vast continent will affect the people in other parts, and the solution, when it is eventually reached, will affect them. The Prime Minister rightly said that the wind of change was blowing. It is blowing pretty fiercely, more fiercely in some places than in others. I have no great claim to be an expert on these matters. Indeed, I have been in this House for fifteen years and this is the 795 first time I have spoken on colonial and Dominion affairs. Therefore, I do so with great diffidence and, indeed, humility.
It seems to me that Africa is going through a revolutionary period, and in an age of revolution it is always difficult for men of moderate opinion to express their points of view. Therefore, I beg for a reasonable approach to this problem in this House. I hope I can say, without offence to hon. Members opposite, that in our desire to help to improve the position of the coloured people in Africa, we should not forget sometimes the difficult position of the white people there. In some parts, they feel it intensely, and only those who have lived through the troubles can know the immensity of their problem.
I ask what can we do in this House and in this country to achieve what this Motion asks us to do, and to see that the Prime Minister of South Africa, when he comes here, is made well aware how we feel about his policy, which we abhor so deeply. There are three things which I hope we will not do. First of all, in this morning's newspapers there is an interview by the Rev. David Sheppard, a very fine man and an almost finer cricketer, who has declared that he will not play cricket against the South Africans. I deplore that.
I hope that there will be no demonstration against these good South African sportsmen who come here to play cricket. It would be a tragedy to have crowds either on or around the ground demonstrating against these men. After all, they may very well abhor apartheid as much as we do. No one in his senses would attack his own Government when out of his own country, no matter how deeply he felt about it. It would be a great tragedy if what we say in this House encouraged the Rev. David Sheppard in deciding not to play against the South Africans, and I appeal to him to change his mind.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
All of us who love cricket do not want politics brought into cricket, but it is not the Rev. David Sheppard who brought politics into cricket. It is the policy of the South African Government and of the South African Cricket Association, which does not allow any 796 coloured person, whatever may be his merits, to play in a South African team. In these circumstances, I think it is quite reasonable that there should be from a Christian cricketer and other people in this country some protest against that decision of the South African Cricket Association.
§ Mr. Osborne
I am much obliged for that intervention, and I recognise the great knowledge and deep sincerity of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) who made it, but these men who come here to play cricket may not even sympathise with that policy. We put them on the spot and in a difficult position if we demonstrate against them. I make the most earnest plea to all the sportsmen in this country who love cricket not to demonstrate against the South African cricketers but to welcome them as we hope our men will be welcomed when they go to South Africa.
Secondly—these are practical points in regard to what we can do—yesterday Question No. 40 asked the Prime Minister whether he would cancel the remainder of the Royal Ballet tour in South Africa. Three weeks or a month ago I was in Johannesburg, and the Mayor of Johannesburg gave a garden party to the Royal Ballet. The members of the Royal Ballet were welcomed and congratulated and thanked for the work that they had done, not only for art but in the interests of understanding and co-operation between the white people and the coloured people in South Africa. To bring the Royal Ballet back at this moment would be a tragedy. It is against what I would call this over-enthusiasm for a good cause that I am making my plea. I was very pleased to hear it said in the House that the Government would not accede to the request that was made yesterday.
The third matter to which I wish to refer is the question: will the Motion encourage a further boycott of South African goods? I hope it will not. I think the boycott was a great mistake. While I was in South Africa and other parts of Africa I was tempted by many newspaper people to make a comment on it, but, although this is very unusual for a Member of Parliament out there, I said nothing about it but reserved my comments until I came home. I think the boycott was a great mistake. I 797 believe the whole boycott policy was wrong.
What the boycott policy tends to do— I discussed this with many businessmen in South Africa—is to drive the moderate people, who are looking for a way out of the evil policy of apartheid, to support a Government which they dislike. The idea is right but the policy is wrong. Therefore, I hope that what we are doing and saying today will not encourage other people to conduct a further boycott of South African goods.
Above all things, I hope that the Motion will not encourage people outside to demonstrate against the Prime Minister of South Africa when he comes here for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. It would be a tragedy to do that. I hope that he will be treated as we would normally like him to be treated. My hon. Friend was absolutely right when he said that a change from the policy of apartheid must come from within South Africa and not from this House.
While I was in Cape Town I saw members of all the parties—the three parties and Mr. Japie Basson. I saw Mr. Basson alone; he is now almost a party by himself. Talking to those Members of Parliament out there, it seemed to me that they were all very anxious to find a way out of the present policy. I left just before the recent tragedy. Those Members of Parliament were desperately anxious to find a way out of the problem. They are worried and sorry about it, and they recognise that it will not work. That is true except for a very tiny minority. I believe that the present South African Government is a small minority within the Nationalist Party just as the Nationalist Party represents not a majority of all whites but only a tiny core.
That is the problem. What is the alternative? I believe that "One man, one vote" is not an alternative policy even to apartheid. Indeed, it would make things worse at the present time. It was clear to me that that policy, which is so often advocated, is opposed as much by the English-speaking people as by the Afrikaaners. The decision to which I came while I was out there was that the first thing we should do is to urge our industrialists and the commercial interests in the City of London 798 to do something about the economic situation in Africa.
I believe that the answer to the problem of both South and Central Africa relates to the poverty there. It is not politics but poverty which worries the Africans mostly. The African wages were so appallingly low that I could hardly believe it when I was told about them. I should like us, through the City of London and our commercial interests, to urge that the lowest African wages should be doubled or trebled almost overnight. There is no hope of any real solution in Africa until the Africans are better housed, better clothed, better fed and better looked after. It is no good giving them votes while leaving them in their poverty and ignorance.
I discussed this problem with one of the biggest contractors in South Africa, and he said that if one had an English worker and an African worker working side by side the African would always break down much earlier than the Englishman for the simple reason that the African was under-fed. One cannot expect the African to keep up with a man who is better fed. The human machine is just like any other machine; unless it is properly fuelled it will not work. The first thing we ought to do is to do our best through our own connections to ensure that the Africans are better paid for the work they do.
Another thing that I urged upon those to whom I spoke in South Africa—this is a practical side of the Motion—was that if they would only allow the African people to have a higher standard of living they would provide an enormous consumption market. I tried to drive home to them the lesson which Henry Ford taught the Americans fifty years ago, that it is no good mass-producing unless one has mass-consumption. Even within the Nationalist Party there are business and professional men who see this clearly and are looking for a way to get a new Prime Minister, but if we drive and nag them continuously from here we shall be preventing them from doing exactly what they want to do and what we want them to do.
There is another point which should be made in fairness to the South African Government and people, who are. I think, at times unreasonably abused. The 799 Bantu Wage and Productivity Association gave me a copy of its report. It estimates that an African worker with three children—a family of five—should have an average wage of £23 per month. Incidentally, the Bishop of Johannesburg has put the figure at £27 per month. The Bantu Wage and Productivity Association feels that £23 per month should be the irreducible minimum for such a family. The I.L.O. year book gives the following figures for average wages on the basis of 100 per cent. as the desirable minimum: South Africa 55 per cent.; French Equatorial Africa 40 per cent.; Belgium Congo 38 per cent.; Ghana 31 per cent.—Ghana is throwing stones at South Africa but, economically, it has a long way to go before it catches up with the South African average wage —Southern Rhodesia 26 per cent.; Kenya 26 per cent.; and Tanganyika 22 per cent.
Consequently, the South African Government have good grounds for saying that they have looked after their African people better than the African people have been looked after anywhere else in the Continent, for they are better educated, better housed and better paid, but what the South African Government have not learned is, as the Bishop of Johannesburg said to me, that one can no longer do good for the Africans but has to do good with them and that the age of paternalism, even in economic affairs, is over.
I conclude with the plea that when we make our protests we should make them in a reasonable way. We should not vilify the Afrikaners, for they are not all bad people. I assure the House of that. Those who hold views hold them with intense sincerity. There was a cartoon in one of the South African newspapers which showed the Prime Minister with a telephone leading straight to the Almighty. That may be an exaggeration but it represents a good deal of truth. They feel that they are doing a job.
§ Mr. Grimond
I am not disagreeing with the hon. Member's argument, but he should put it in perspective and admit that we have not been vilifying the South Africans. From this country, on the whole, there has not been a stream of abuse going out to South Africa. 800 They do a certain amount of vilifying themselves.
§ Mr. Osborne
I am dealing with the position now. I have admitted that people here have not been doing that over the years. But what would the hon. Gentleman do if he were abused at this moment? The newspapers I saw in Africa seemed to show that the white people there were being vilified by various people in this country.
§ Mr. Grimond
Perhaps that is true because of recent events. But South Africa has been going for some time, and I do not think it is true that there has been gross interference with it over the years. If they wanted to bring in reforms and have a new policy, I do not think that they could say that this country had built up antagonism in Africa against that happening.
§ Mr. Osborne
I will agree that we have not nagged as much as I thought. I will give the hon. Gentleman that. I am pleading for moderation, for temperance, because I am convinced that inside the Nationalist Party in South Africa there is a group of young men and women trying to find a way out of this beastly policy. If we nag at them too much and continuously, we shall discourage them, whereas if we state our case temperately and reasonably and not too often, there is a chance that they may find a way out to the salvation which we all want and which I think is possible.
§ 1.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I earnestly hope that the House will pass this Motion unanimously. I do not suppose that there is any difference of opinion on the view that a policy of racial supremacy, whether pursued in South Africa or elsewhere, is a wrong policy. There have been some differences about methods, as was brought out by the speech of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne), about the way in which we should express our belief that racial supremacy is wrong, and about the extent or vehemence with which we should express it, but I believe that we have in this Motion a form of words 801 so carefully chosen that it should be possible to bridge those differences.
The hon. Member for Louth expressed certain views on the boycott and on the action of the Rev. David Sheppard. If I refer to them, it is only because he did so and because it is not unreasonable to say a word about why some people take a different view.
I understand that the hon. Member for Louth and many others consider that although the policy of the South African Government is wrong, the boycott is an unwise way of reacting to it. I fully accept that Members who say and think that did not come to that conclusion out of lack of heart, but out of prudence and judgment, but they must also accept that those of us who support the boycott have not come to that conclusion out of recklessness but also out of judgment; that the view that it could be a good thing to do and helpful towards the objective we have in mind is a view that is held by a great many South Africans, both black and white; and that it was not a policy adopted without careful consideration and without much support in the Union as well as in this country. I will not say more on that issue because I want to stress what we have in common rather than our differences.
I turn now to the action of the Rev. David Sheppard and the possible action of citizens of this country towards the visiting team. There are many people who believe, as I do, that the Rev. David Sheppard's action was a right one, but I ask those who feel, like the hon. Member for Louth, that it was not, and that they should not themselves encourage any overt demonstration towards the team, whether they consider that it might be desirable, when the team is here, to write privately to its members expressing regret that it is constructed on a principle which excludes people from it, not according to prowess in the game, but according to colour of skin. He and others like him might consider whether, if they cannot accept one method, the other might not be worth pursuing.
One other point has been raised by some hon. Members, and I think I should make some mention of it. It is only too true that the tyranny in South Africa is not the only tyranny existing in the 802 world. We are sometimes asked why, if we protest against one, we do not protest against the others, but many of us on both sides of the House have taken the -opportunities to protest against the cruel tyrannies practised east of the Iron Curtain.
Hon. Members of my own party took the opportunity to do so when Mr. Khrushchev visited this country. It is not perhaps so well known that that episode was followed by the release of a limited number of political prisoners in some of the Communist countries. Even though it produced only that small result, I think that that alone was justification for it. Similarly, Earl Attlee took the opportunity of a visit to China to express his view about the imprisonment of certain people and some of them were subsequently released.
Whenever we are faced with tyranny in a country not our own there is always the question of method and prudence and how one is to handle it. As I have said, we do not all take the same view as to how we should approach the tyranny in South Africa, but we are bound in one sense to feel about it more strongly than about tyranny in a country which is completely foreign to us.
This tyranny is being practised in the supposed interests of white people and by it, therefore, the whole white section of mankind is shamed. It is being practised in a country which is a member of the Commonwealth and by it, therefore, the Commonwealth is shamed. It is being practised in a country which has at any rate the forms of Parliamentary democracy and by it, therefore, the Parliamentary democratic form of government may be shamed. What happens there could be used as argument in the world by those who say that Parliamentary democracy is everywhere a sham.
These are special reasons why we have both a duty and a right to consider rather more narrowly what is happening in the Union than some acts of equal cruelty and terror that are practised in some other parts of the world. The hon. Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson)—and I think I am quoting him rightly—thought that while we should condemn policies we should not condemn men. It is sometimes a little difficult to carry that doctrine the whole 803 way. It was difficult to carry it out about Hitler and his associates. After all, if we were to say that we would never condemn anyone because we do not know that if we were placed in the same position we would not do as they do, there are many cases where we should have to be silent all the time.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
Surely the hon. Member sees two things. Firstly, one can hope to change people's policy if one makes clear the distinction between one's condemnation of what one considers to be the sin and whom one considers to be the sinner. Secondly, it may well be true that one can never put oneself in anybody else's place, which anyway is never really a safe thing to do.
§ Mr. Stewart
I do follow what the hon. Gentleman has in mind, but I draw his attention to the fact that the Motion is very careful to observe the rule that he has laid down—
§ Mr. Stewart
—and speaks all the time of policies.
The Motion asks us as a House of Commons to put a request before the Government on the eve of the forthcoming Prime Ministers' Conference. No one can suggest that it is not a proper and reasonable thing for the House of Commons to consider a grave matter and to say to the Government, "This Conference is about to be held; this is our belief and this is one of the matters which you should consider at it." The Motion urges the Government to bring home to the South African Government the strong feelings of the British people on this question.
No one can doubt that the Govern-men ought to do that at the forthcoming Conference. It would be difficult for the South African Government to be in any doubt about the feelings of British people, but it would not be desirable for Dr. Verwoerd to be able to go home and report to his country and his own Cabinet colleagues that throughout the whole of the Prime Ministers' Conference the United Kingdom Government never said anything to him about the feeling in Britain against the policy of his Government.
804 The hon. Member for Farnham said that this Conference was perhaps our last chance. The Motion is a request to the Government to see that, at any rate so far as they are concerned, that chance is not lost.
I do not under-rate the difficulty of turning a society in which one race has dominated the other into a society based on racial equality. That is a long and difficult process.
Next year will mark the one hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the American Civil War, in which it was decided that, whatever else was to be done about the racial question, it was not to be dealt with on the basis of slavery. That was a hundred years ago, and yet even today the United States has not yet reached a full solution of how people of different races can live together on a basis of complete equality of citizenship.
However, there is an important point to notice about that country and I think that it justified the American Government in taking the attitude which it adopted after Sharpeville. When I visited the United States some time ago, I naturally took the opportunity to discuss the racial question with a number of negroes in prominent positions. All the time, I was impressed by the fact that, although they felt that they still had many grievances and that many things needed to be put right, they always spoke with the assured confidence of people who knew that they were winning, even if complete victory was still some distance ahead. They did not feel it necessary to appeal to the people of other countries to take any action or make any demonstration on their behalf, because they felt that, although the problem was still there and was still difficult, its solution was in their hands.
The terrible difficulty in South Africa is that at present the policy of the South African Government is to bolt, lock and bar the door against any conceivable solution of this problem by the joint constructive action of the two races. That is what the complete denial of political rights in that country means. It is believed, and I must accept sincerely believed, by some of the supporters of apartheid in South Africa that it is a policy intended to give as much benefit to the black as to the white, but the 805 devastating answer to that contention is that the black population of South Africa is never to be allowed by vote to express its judgment on the question of whether the policy of apartheid is in its interests as much as in that of the white.
Here we are not faced with the problem which we have in some of our own Colonies where we can say that at present it is difficult to gain that equality of rights, because there are differences of education and culture, but that at least we are, of deliberate set policy, trying to move towards equality. The special feature of South Africa is that, of deliberate set policy, it is against equality.
That, in the perspective of world politics, is what is so deadly about it, because we cannot maintain freedom in what we call the free world on the one hand and assert the doctrine of racial discrimination on the other. Any nation in any way connected by association with what we call the free world which tries to operate doctrines of racial supremacy injures the whole cause of world freedom, and unless we express our disagreement with that policy, however moderately, sensibly and cautiously, we jeopardise the whole cause of what is called the free world before mankind.
I believe, therefore, that the action which the House is asked to take is the least it can do in the circumstances, and I earnestly hope that we shall take it unanimously.
§ 2.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
I must apologise to the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) for being late in attending the debate. It was because I did not realise that the earlier debate would be finished so soon.
I welcome the opportunity which the hon. Member has taken to move a moderately worded Motion and to try to unify the House of Commons on this extremely important matter. I gladly support the Motion and the whole tenor of the debate from both sides of the House. That has been easier in the comparatively placid waters of a Friday afternoon than it is in the more heated atmosphere of Question Time in midweek. I welcome the change which we have seen today.
806 I have been frankly horrified by recent events in South Africa, and I am sure that that is the feeling of all hon. Members. Although we have no responsibility for those events, we have a great interest and anxiety about them. The repercussions of the Union Government's policy are a matter of tremendous concern to us not only on humanitarian grounds, but on material grounds, because they are bound to have very serious consequences in other parts of the African Continent for which we still have a responsibility.
In this matter, two conflicting problems arise. The first is that, as leaders of the Commonwealth, we are responsible for initiating and developing common policies for the Commonwealth, as best we can. Those policies must have their roots in certain basic principles of which apartheid cannot con-ceivably be one. That is the first fact which we must face.
The second and opposing consideration is also a matter of principle, that of non-interference by any nation in the domestic affairs of another, especially when that nation happens to be a fellow member of the Commonwealth club. How can we reconcile those two conflicting responsibilities of Commonwealth leadership?
Both here and in the Union itself, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made our own attitude perfectly clear. He has declared his own view that South Africa is making a grave error in the handling of her racial problems. The Foreign Secretary said much the same thing in Cheshire over the weekend when he said that apartheid was wrong in principle and unworkable in practice. All of us of all parties, both inside and outside the House of Commons, believe that different races can and should live together in partnership and harmony. That is the essence of our colonial and Commonwealth policy under any Government.
How can we best influence South Africa to conform to that sort of approach? Not, in my view, by harsh words or trade boycotts, or even by ballet or cricket boycotts. There is nothing to be gained by public condemnation. There is everything to be gained by private counsel. Experience has shown that public criticism tends 807 merely to harden opinion in the person or country publicly condemned. That is only human nature.
And that was one of the main reasons why we did not condemn the Union in the United Nations a week or so ago. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Wednesbury for not including a reference to the United Nations vote in his Motion, because any critical reference to that might have embarrassed my hon. Friends and made it difficult for us to go the whole way with him today. The moderate, reasonable and constructive way in which he put his Motion forward, and the speeches that have been made on both sides and the general tenor of this debate, enable us to accept what the hon. Gentleman has put on the Order Paper. On the other hand, while I say that I would not wish to see South Africa condemned in the United Nations, I certainly would have thought it quite inconceivable had we supported, or appeared to support, South Africa on that occasion, because such an action would have been widely misunderstood both in Britain and in the Commonwealth. I therefore believe that in all the circumstances we were right to abstain.
I agree with the hon. Member for Wednesbury that the proper place to raise this matter is in the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. Behind the closed doors of that Conference we should speak our minds. It is both our opportunity and our duty to do so. Outside the Conference, in our different ways, we must try to show South Africa by our example that a multi-racial society can be made to work. We have good examples of that. The West Indies, from which I have just returned from a political visit, is a good example of a multi-racial society that works extremely well. Although I have never been there, the Federation of Malaya is, I believe, another. We must hope—because that is the basis of our whole policy—to evolve further examples of this nearer home, in East Africa. Europeans living there must learn to make accommodation with African aspirations. It is vital that they do so, because this issue of race relations is one of the biggest issues facing the world in this half of the twentieth century, and it is for us, as leaders of the Commonwealth, to take a leading part in its solution.
808 Morally we ought to take a leading part. Materially we are equally bound to do so. By the end of this century —in forty years' time—statisticians tell us that 70 per cent. of the world's population will be Afro-Asian. That is a solemn thought. Now, during the next decade, which will witness the emergence of the African Continent, this great drama of race relations is beginning to unfold, especially in South Africa.
What are the prospects for a saner approach, a more moderate policy, and indeed a change of heart in the Union? I think that the Union Government has made the most tremendous mistake in proscribing both the main African political organisations—the moderate African National Congress as well as the more extreme Pan-African organisation. The ordinary African now has no leaders. This is a bad state of affairs because the Union Government have to deal with a mass of people instead of dealing with a few leaders of recognised political organisations. That must make it more difficult for that Government and must inevitably lead to greater repression. But repression cannot be the ultimate answer to this problem. One cannot rule indefinitely by force.
In the long term, a policy of terrorism cannot possibly succeed. For a time one may try to "fight it out", but one cannot for very long rule 11 million people with that sort of approach; 11 million people whose labour and good will are urgently needed. Politically, it is unrealistic even to attempt to do so. Apartheid, in my view, and in the view of hon. Members on both sides of the House, is not, and cannot possibly be, the high road to the future for South Africa. At best it can be only a political cul-de-sac.
What I am afraid of is this: the greater the repression the greater the reaction. All that the Africans now want is a fair deal. Very soon they will demand much more. This situation, which denies to Africans the very basis of human dignity, could be disastrous for the Europeans as well as for the Africans. It could lead to revolution and to a blood bath for both races in South Africa.
The white people in South Africa have made the country, economically. I think we would all admit that. They live there. It is their only home, yet now they are deliberately ruining their own 809 creation, both politically and racially, and ruining it for themselves as well as for the Africans.
Is there then any hope for the Union? Is there any gleam of light in this dark forbidding sky? I think there may be. Sir De Villiers Graaf, the leader of the United Party, has suggested a:… fundamental change in South Africa's attitude to race relations, to encourage an era of inter-racial co-operation.He seems to recognise that it is vital to make contact with African opinion. It was reported yesterday that South African businessmen and industrialists were also asking for immediate consultation between the Union Government and moderate African leaders, and for the abolition of the pass system.
If they are correctly reported, those are helpful signs. It is our task, above all the Prime Minister's task and the task of the other leaders of the Commonwealth assembled in London for the Conference, to persuade the Prime Minister of the Union to a similar change of heart.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but what he has just said seemed to imply that this was a change of heart by Sir De Villiers Graaf also. I do not think that is true. He has always held such views.
§ Mr. Fisher
I do not know him. He has not given public expression, which I have seen reported, until this week, of any great opposition to the policy of apartheid. It was purely in that sense that I referred to him.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
Would it not be a good thing if the nation generally suggested to the present Prime Minister of South Africa that he might make way for someone else? Would not that help to consolidate the newer view and better spirit?
§ Mr. Fisher
That is a matter for the electorate of South Africa rather than for the House of Commons. I do not think that we should seem to be taking political sides between one party and another in South African politics. We can make clear as individuals what we think of their policy of restrictions, but I would not care to be thought to be taking sides in South African politics.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne). 810 We ought not to insult, or seek in any way to insult, the Prime Minister of the Union when he comes here. We should try instead to influence him. That would be a more constructive approach. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was correct when he spoke in the House the other day of the horror of the British people at the news from South Africa. Where the Opposition is sometimes not so wise is when it presses my right hon. Friends for a public undertaking to put pressure on the South African Prime Minister when he comes here. That is an error; just as it was an error before my right hon. Friend went to South Africa to ask him in advance to promise to make a speech in the Union or, alternatively, not to go to the Union at all. It is not wise to make public pronouncements of that kind in advance.
Hon. Members on the back benches are free to say what they like and what they feel as individuals, but it would be wrong for our Government—of whichever party—to attack the Union Government in public. We do not create a very good atmosphere for private influence by public rebukes in advance. We merely harden opinion, and perhaps even prevent the very change of heart which we are all anxious to see come about.
By coincidence, I made that very mistake myself in a speech on another subject which I made outside the House two days ago, and I thought afterwards how very foolish I had been. If hon. Members opposite would understand that that is a fact of human nature, there would be very little between us on these issues. The difference lies only in our approach; it is not what we have in our hearts and minds that parts us. There is extremely little between us on these matters—much less than appears on the surface and from Press reports. That is one reason why I am especially grateful to the hon. Member for Wednes-bury for so initiating the debate and so wording his Motion as to make it possible to bring out the points that unite us rather than those that divide up in this matter.
There is another element of hope in this situation. The Africans themselves would certainly prefer a peaceful solution of these grave problems. I do not believe that they want revolution; it is 811 being forced upon them. If we can persuade the Union Government to negotiate instead of to repress I believe that the Africans will yet respond. But time is getting very short, and we in Britain and throughout the Commonwealth are vitally concerned in the outcome. What happens in South Africa today may well affect what happens in the rest of Africa tomorrow. We in Britain are engaged on the tremendous undertaking of evolving an Empire into a Commonwealth. What is happening in South Africa affronts the conscience and, indeed, the very concept of a multi-racial Commonwealth. It affronts the whole policy and philosophy of successive Governments of Great Britain, of both parties.
Our responsibility is very great; our opportunity is tremendous. I pray—and I believe—that we shall seize it with both hands, at what may be the most important Prime Ministers' Conference that has ever been held within the Commonwealth.
§ 2.23 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
The debate which has followed the introduction of this Motion has provided the greatest justification of the action of my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) in bringing it before the House. I have heard every speech except that of my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). I regret that I missed it. I am sure that it was a good speech.
§ Mr. Brockway
The marked feature of the debate has been that every speaker, on both sides of the House, has condemned the system of apartheid in the Union of South Africa. I am glad that the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) is in his place, although I am sorry that the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) is temporarily absent, because I want to deal with points they made in their speeches.
The hon. Member for Farnham, in a very sincere speech, expressed the view that we should be muted in our criticism of the leaders of South Africa, because if we had been in their place, with their background and their experience, we might have acted in exactly the same 812 way as they have done. That is the philosophy of, "There, but for the grace of God, go I".
I accept that philosophy. It is very wrong if any of us who are angry against policies which have been pursued translate it into anger against individuals who may pursue those policies. But I would remind the hon. Member for Farnham that while the founder of the Christian religion expressed that ethic, on appropriate occasions when he found it necessary he condemned in the most extreme terms classes in the community who were proceeding with policies which were a challenge to the basic conceptions of his teaching. His denouncement of the Pharisees and Sadducees is stronger than any denouncement we have made of the Government of South Africa.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
We can swop texts ad infinitum, but the one that seems to me to be the most vital text in the whole of the New Testament is:Judge not, that ye be not judged.
§ Mr. Brockway
I accept that, to the extent that it refers to individuals, and all the environmental atmosphere of the situation which has created an individual. Nevertheless, it is the duty of anyone at any time to denounce in the strongest way the social forces of one's time which are outraging the fundamental principles of a just society.
Some speeches to which we have listened, from the hon. Member and from others, are very similar to those which were delivered in this House in respect of Nazism and Herr Hitler before the last war. If it is true that we must not denounce political philosophies and the public persons who are the political embodiment of them, we ought to have been silent about Hitler, because, fundamentally, the philosophy of Nazism in Germany was the same as that of those who are now leading the Government of the Union of South Africa. We cannot possibly be muted in our condemnation of that political philosophy.
There is one other reason, which the hon. Member did not mention, why we must refrain from self-righteousness and smugness on this issue. We all know that there is a great deal of colour prejudice in this country. We all know that this Parliament has so far declined to put through any legislation making colour 813 prejudice illegal even in public places and public institutions. We have not the right to adopt a self-righteous attitude towards the Government of the Union of South Africa unless we put that matter right in our own community.
But I go beyond that. We must be a little cautious in our condemnation of the Government of South Africa because in our Colonial Territories we ourselves practise the policy of race discrimination and segregation. Many Africans in Central Africa will say, "We would rather be in the Union of South Africa than in the Rhodesian territories, where the whole life of the community is also dominated by racial segregation and discrimination".
One can even go from our own territories in Central Africa to the Protectorates in South Africa. I hope to have a later opportunity to raise this matter and, therefore, I will put it in only one sentence. I was absolutely shocked to hear from the Minister last week that in our own British Protectorates in South Africa there is racial segregation in education.
What right have we to be adopting an attitude of great superiority to the Government of the Union of South Africa unless we at least remove from our own territory here at home and in the territories for which we are responsible in Africa the race discrimination practised there?
I want to deal particularly with the problems of the Commonwealth in relation to this subject. I am one of those who take very great pride in the Commonwealth. I take pride in it because it is an inter-racial organisation. I take pride in its development. It began as a British Commonwealth, a community of those of one race, of those with kith and kin in this country, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We no longer refer to it as the British Commonwealth. It represents more coloured persons than white persons. It represents India, Ceylon, Pakistan, Malaya, Ghana, and this year it will be representing Nigeria. I believe that a Commonwealth which is inter-racial in all those ways can contribute tremendously to the solution of the kind of problems which we have been discussing today.
I am not one of those who want to see us expel the Union of South Africa from 814 the Commonwealth. I take that view because I believe that the effect of so doing might be disastrous not only to the Africans in the Union but particularly to the Africans who are living in the British Protectorates in South Africa. On the other hand, while I think that it would be a mistake to expel the Union of South Africa from the Commonwealth, I think that the Commonwealth itself should assert certain principles of human relationships on which the Union of South Africa could judge whether it desired to remain a member.
The Commonwealth is, in a sense, an illogical association of Governments in the present world. It has Governments of different political parties. It has Governments that pursue different foreign policies. It has Governments that are very different in their fundamental conceptions, as exampled by the Union of South Africa and this country. If that community in the Commonwealth is to remain together it will have to find a basis of unity which is adjusted to the kind of world into which we are now moving.
The Commonwealth has associated with it India and other countries, because previously they were in the British Empire. They became partners in the Commonwealth which followed that Empire. It has certain economic advantages, but even those economic advantages are now tending to disappear. One is finding that the newly liberated territories in Africa must seek capital investment wherever they can obtain it. Increasingly, they are taking it from spheres outside the Commonwealth. Incidentally, I suggest to the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations that, in view of what is happening in Europe at the present time, in the new European Common Market, it may become very important indeed that at the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference there should be some discussion of economic co-ordination between our territories.
The point that I wish to emphasise most strongly is that, when we have that illogical community in our present society, unless there is some binding influence within it that Commonwealth is not likely to continue. Where can that binding principle be found? I 815 believe that it is to be found in the speeches which the Prime Minister delivered on his return from his tour of the Commonwealth, when he used the phrase that the Commonwealth is a community of those who believe in personal liberties, political liberties and in democracy. If that is to be the basic principle of the Commonwealth then the contrary principle now being pursued in the policies of the Union of South Africa at once becomes evident.
The Minister is probably more fully aware than we are that this issue may not only make the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference more important than any Commonwealth Conference there has been before, but that it may even determine whether the Commonwealth itself continues and includes the territories which now belong to it. It is that consideration which leads me to put very strongly to the Minister this point of view. I do not believe that it is now possible to maintain the Commonwealth just by the kind of phrase that the Prime Minister has used; I believe that if it is to continue usefully in the world, its belief in political liberties and in democracy must be expressed in a convention of human rights reflecting the Commonwealth, in exactly the same way that the European community, at the Council of Europe at Strasbourg, has adopted a Convention of Human Rights.
The United Nations has its Declaration of Human Rights. The Commonwealth should, if it is to contribute to the policies of our time, have a convention which embodies that United Nations Declaration. If we had a basis of that character for the Commonwealth, composed of all races and all colours and believing in those principles of personal liberties and democracy, the contribution which Britain and the Commonwealth could make to the world would be infinitely more precious and greater than any that have been made in all our history.
If the Commonwealth can proceed upon those lines, not by expelling the Union of South Africa but by saying "These are the principles for which we stand," then it would be for the Union of South Africa to say whether it could adjust itself to those principles and those policies.
816 I had intended to devote my speech, in part, to a criticism of events in the Union of South Africa, but there has been such general unity in the House today upon that matter that there is, perhaps, no need to do so. I feel that it was more important to make a constructive speech about the Commonwealth rather than to concentrate upon those matters. I hope that as a result of this debate we may approach the Conference of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers in that spirit.
§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) has on his own confession gone so much wider than the terms of the Motion that I do not wish to follow him on his much more general thesis. That is not in any way necessarily to be regarded as a criticism of what he said, but simply that he did say he was going rather further than the terms of the Motion.
§ Mr. Bennett
The hon. Gentleman said that he had originally intended to talk about affairs in South Africa with which this Motion deals; but, because of the general co-ordination of views in the House, he felt impelled to make suggestions of a much wider character. I do not think that there is any real point of difference between us. I merely said that I intend to stick more strictly to the terms of the Motion.
I wish to make only one comment about the code of constitutional conduct both as regards personal liberty and types of government which he suggested the Commonwealth might like to adopt. I can foresee serious difficulties about that. If we are to maintain in the structure of a free club, but if we try, too, to lay down the sort of government that members of the Commonwealth would have to adopt, there would obviously be cases which might occur from time to time when member countries would not accord with our strict form of democracy in this country. Surely we could not have and keep a Commonwealth in which from time to time we might find ourselves in the difficult position of electing a country as a member and then kicking it out because its 817 government did not accord with forms of democracy, as accepted by us.
In this country and in this House we are in an appalling dilemma. I believe that there is virtually a unanimous condemnation of what is going on in South Africa, and rightly so. No one but a few crazy extremists would fail to agree with that. As we have opened our newspapers day by day and read the sorry tale of the events in South Africa, it has become more and more repellent to us. Nevertheless, in the dilemma in which we find ourselves, whatever feelings we may have, it seems to me that we must be guided by what we think is a course of conduct most likely to help the situation as opposed to giving expression to our feelings.
In those circumstances, we have to take into account not only what might be the effect on the island Protectorates which Britain has in South Africa at present if relations with the Union worsened, but what will be the practical effect on the Africans in the Union itself. Presumably it is to them that our hearts are going out at the moment. So we have this over-riding duty of not doing or saying anything in this House which might make things worse for them. It is in that spirit that I have tried to judge the present situation and to consider what steps we should take at the present time.
All precedents go to show that when one seeks to interfere in the internal affairs of another country the result is that resistance is stiffened not only among those whom one condemns but in a wider circle of the population. At present it is easy, pleasant and nicer for our consciences to give voice to our feelings which are feelings of wholesale condemnation of what is going on. But I repeat, and I do not apologise for doing so, that we must have clearly in our minds the consequences of such actions upon the people whom we are purporting to help. All the records of history go to show that over and over again external interference when it appears to be forthcoming does more harm than good.
There is only one theoretical exception, and that is if one is in a position to follow up words with constructive deeds, to make sure that more moderate policies are adopted. No hon. Member really 818 believes that we are prepared to take forceful action to compel another Government within the Commonwealth to change their policies. Therefore, we ought not to fool ourselves or those we are trying to help. Today we are giving expression to our feelings and not what we intend to do about their acceptance.
I remember the great feeling of sadness which I experienced when there occurred the even more tragic happenings at the time of the occupation of Hungary by the Soviet Union, when here in this House and in the country we made protests about what was going on. The Hungarians went on fighting and dying, saying to the outside world, "Your sympathy is appreciated, but when are you going to do something about it?" We all knew that we should not do anything effective about what was happening.
There was a similar occasion when the workers rioted in East Germany. Expressions of sympathy were voiced which did not help the people who were being maltreated in East Germany. Therefore, again I have the uneasy feeling that unless we are prepared, as clearly we are not prepared, to follow up words with deeds we should not mistake the former for the latter. We should contemplate whether any Motion passed in this House or anything we say publicly in our constituencies might not have the effect of causing even more difficulties for the unhappy Africans in the Union of South Africa.
That does not mean that one can oppose outright the terms of this Motion as such, provided that one interprets it as a request to the Government to make representations to the Union of South Africa privately. As the Prime Minister has said, and as I believe the Leader of the Opposition has agreed, that would be the only way in which it could properly be done; and if the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) has that in mind when he asks the Government to make representations to the Union, if he is talking only in terms of making private representations, it would be difficult for anyone to oppose this Motion. Certainly, I support it on that understanding and no other.
I wish to say a word about the degree of interference which is practicable or desirable in the internal affairs of 819 another country either in this House or in the United Nations. The other day, when it was agreed by our Government that we should discuss the subject of the Union tragedy in the Security Council. I felt that we ought to have voted against this, which procedurally would not have acted as a veto. The limited action which we took in agreeing to debate was in my opinion a mistake. I hope that hon. Members will not think for a moment that I say that because I have any sympathy with what is going on in South Africa. I say it because, unless we are prepared to follow words with actions, it is not the function of the United Nations at all in such matters as this. It is surely better to say from the start that we shall adopt a certain position and that interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country is not a proper matter for the concern of the United Nations. In fact, exactly what I and some of my hon. Friends feared would happen did happen. A Resolution was put forward which in the end we were unable to support. We agreed to accept a discussion on something which once more we were unable to follow to its logical conclusion.
I am glad that at least we did not go further in what I consider a wrong course of action at the United Nations. We have been through these sort of difficulties before where the internal affairs of other countries have been affected. If we are to change our policy and support the use of the United Nations or the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers as a public forum for airing our views about what goes on in other countries, I can visualise endless difficulties and causes for friction. I do not wish to broaden the area of possible controversy within the Commonwealth, but let us face the fact that only a short while ago there were serious racial riots in Ceylon; there have been serious riots in India in which more people were shot than have been shot in South Africa. There are certain practices being adopted in Ghana at present of which no hon. Member would approve. There is the case of Kashmir where millions of people have been waiting for the right to vote on their future for a long time but where this is still being denied to those who have been promised such a vote for over a decade.
820 If we say that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference or the United Nations are occasions when these are proper subjects for open discussion and for the adoption of critical resolutions, I can visualise not a strengthening but a weakening of the Commonwealth and the United Nations and all the other international institutions in which we believe. I sum up, therefore, by saying that it is with great trepidation and with a sense of uncertainty about whether we are doing the right thing today in passing this Motion that I reluctantly support it. I am acting on the assumption that what is meant by the Motion is nothing more than an expression of our view that the Government should raise this matter privately when the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers takes place next month. If this is so, because of all our feelings about what is going on in the Union, I cannot do other than suggest that it would probably be wrong on balance to prevent the adoption of this Motion.
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Mr. H. A. Marquand (Middlesbrough, East)
I join with all hon. Members who have spoken in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Wednes-bury (Mr. Stonehouse) on his good fortune in the Ballot and on his introduction of a Motion today which has attracted such widespread support from both sides of the House. I hope that I shall not intervene too long and be accused in any way of restricting the debate which naturally is mainly confined to back benchers.
I want to say something, however, in this debate, if it is only for the personal reason that I have visited South Africa twice. I first went there as long ago as 1925 as a member of a debating team of which the right hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) was also a member. We travelled all through South Africa at that time. There was hardly any part of the Union which we did not visit. We certainly visited all its major towns and we had opportunities then of talking to all sorts and kinds of people holding various views. We met members of the Labour Party and members of the Nationalist Party.
§ Mr. Marquand
We had all those many opportunities, and one well remembers, because one was young at the time, how pleasant it was to travel around that very beautiful country, how attractive and satisfying it was to meet all those different kinds and types of people, how pleasant it was to take part in the student life of that country for a short time. It left one, as an original experience, with a pleasant memory in many ways of an extremely beautiful country with a wonderful climate.
I went there again in 1948 and again visited many parts of the Union. When I came back in 1925, I was asked by my friends, "Would you like to live there?" I remember saying: "It is one of the most beautiful countries one could imagine. There are some very charming and very nice people there. There is an immensely warm hospitality given in whatever household one likes to go, whether the inhabitants are of English or Dutch descent. But I should hate to live there because it is an unnatural society." That was what I said in 1925. When I went back in 1948 and had the opportunity again of visiting the great cities of South Africa and meeting on that occasion, on a rather different level, important personalities, I came back with the feeling that my worst forebodings of 1925 had come to pass—that things had gone much further along the road that I feared they might go when I visited there in 1925.
The sad fact is that during these last years successive Governments in the Union of South Africa have been putting the clock back, and putting it back deliberately. When I was in South Africa in Cape Province, the Africans, natives as they are called out there, had the franchise on a limited common roll with white people. Coloured persons had the franchise and their own representatives in Parliament. These franchises were enshrined in the Act of Union which created the Union of South Africa. In 1936, by the vote of 822 a two-thirds majority in Parliament, they were abolished. The coloured population of Cape Province were also deprived of the right to have their own direct representatives in Parliament. This year even those white people who have been allowed to represent and who have very valiantly indeed carried on the duty of representing African opinion in the Union Parliament are to go.
Similarly, one could think of the universities which I visited in 1925. At that time, and until quite recently, two of the great universities of South Africa, at Cape Town and at Witwatersrand, were open to men and women of all races without discrimination. Now the doors have been compulsorily closed to them in both those universities. The protest which was sent by many hon. and right hon. Members of this House, and many even more distinguished persons in another place, to Dr. Verwoerd about the closing of those universities was almost ignored. All that we received in response to our protest was a curt letter informing us that this was an internal affair of the Union of South Africa. Similarly one could go on.
The pass laws, which have existed for a very long time, have been intensified as the years have passed, making it more and more difficult for any African person to carry on a normal human life in the society in which he lives. Although the white South Africans impressed upon us all those years ago, in 1925, that what they wanted was a separation of the races, so that each race could live its own life in its own manner, the white man was never willing to do without the work of the Africans. He had said, as was reported by the Transvaal Local Government Commission in 1921:The native should be allowed to enter urban areas, which are essentially the white man's creation, only when he is willing to enter and minister to the needs of the white man, and should depart therefrom when he ceases so to minister.Increasingly, as the years went on, he wanted more and more "ministration" to the needs of the white man. He could not have built all the great flourishing industries which Africa has today without that labour. The white man needed the African, but at the same time he wanted to keep him out of all civilised intercourse with members of other races. I shall 823 not develop this story because the House knows it very well.
The result was not merely to maintain but to intensify the discrimination of the pass laws and to make the administration of those laws harsher and harsher as time has gone on. Other measures have been piling on top of those—the Riotous Assemblies Act, Suppression of Communism Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act, all designed one after the other, each more severe than the last as time went on, not merely to maintain the discrimination implied in the word apartheid, but to prevent the emergence of leadership among those people. That was the purpose of those Acts which had been passed—to deprive them, wherever leadership made its appearance, of leaders so that they could be kept as a subservient race of second-class citizens.
We must remember today—we have been reminded of it in one or two speeches which have been made, and I am glad they have been made—that among the white population as well as among the coloured population there have been very many friends of the black people, very many sympathisers with the African in his desire to educate himself, to get if only he can be given the opportunity a university education, to raise himself in his economic levels, to raise himself in his cultural levels, so that he can become like other men in the world and live as a cultivated, civilised human being.
Many white people have sympathised with him in this struggle. Many others have sympathised with the coloured people in their struggle against discrimination. I well remember meeting Miss Attlee when I was in Cape Town in 1948 and going to see the work she was doing in her mission station for coloured people. I recognise, although I never met her, the valuable work done by Miss Stanton, who is now in gaol. There are numerous other such people, many of them friends of mine, in South Africa. I shall not retail their names, for it might get them into trouble if I said this afternoon that they were my friends. We must not forget that there are such people in South Africa, that there are civilised, liberal-minded, humanely educated men and women who hold the same sort of opinions as have 824 been expressed this afternoon in this House.
What we have to recognise, however, is that there has been a systematic effort, of which the arrest of a lady like Miss Stanton is only the disastrous culmination, to prevent these people exercising their rights of freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of action, if ever they look like leading the African people towards some sort of political emancipation. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) was right to draw our attention to the danger that the leadership of the African people in the present situation might slip out of the hands of moderate-minded men. It can hardly do other if the moderately-minded men and women embodying the liberal traditions of Christian civilisation are put in prison because they believe in these things, and for no other offence.
§ Sir Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
I ask this purely for information—probably I should know. What is the general attitude of the newspapers in South Africa? Do they run to one line? Is there an understanding of the breadth of the problem, or are they all extremists?
§ Mr. Marquand
The hon. Member expresses an ignorance of newspapers which we find really hard to believe, but I know what he means. Of course, there are also newspapers which embrace liberal viewpoints. Far from denying that, I am glad there still are such papers. What I am saying is that the situation grows daily more dangerous because of the tightening of the screw of oppression, because of this putting back the clock every time. Every time a new danger arises, instead of relaxing the limit and recognising that the previous oppression might have been too harsh, the present South African Government tighten the screw and put the clock back one more hour.
Because we on this side of the House wished to do all we possibly could to encourage in African people an attitude of non-violence and a belief that through the use of non-violent and passive methods of resistance they might be able to gain their rights, we supported the boycott at their request. It was for that reason only. Increasingly as time passes the Nationalist Government seem to find themselves sitting on a powder 825 keg and the only policy they can think of in that situation is to sit all the harder, to make their repression tighter, tighter and tighter, make their discrimination more and more evil, and, in the end, to imprison persons on no charge whatever except that they are in sympathy with the under-dog in that country.
I thought the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) was absolutely right when he warned the South African Government that they cannot live forever by force, that time is terribly short and that they should not dare, unless they wish to risk an explosion, to continue to sit on that powder keg and endeavour to put back the clock when the whole of the forces of history are against them. If you walk against the great tide of humanity, it is bound to engulf you in the end.
There has been general agreement this afternoon that we ought not to seek to drive South Africa out of the Commonwealth. I am sure that that is right. Yet we must protest about and regret the discrimination which renders 10 million people into second-class citizens, which denies them all rights of representation in Parliament directly by their vote, all right to any sort of franchise, and which discriminates against the coloured people to the extent that a European couple, of whom we have all heard, many of us having seen them on television not long ago, were told that if they wished to adopt a coloured boy they must leave the country.
When discrimination of that nature is practised against the 10 million Africans, 1½ million coloured and 500,000 persons of Asian descent who live in the Union of South Africa, I am sure that it would be wrong to turn our backs on them and to say that the very people who are suffering must be flung out of the Commonwealth and must be told that they are no longer British citizens, that they are citizens of an alien country and that we no longer have anything to do with them. In my view that would certainly be wrong.
But if we accept this and all agree, as evidently we do—it may be sometimes for slightly differing reasons—that we do not want to turn our backs on the people of South Africa and that we want them to remain in the Commonwealth and to retain our right, limited though 826 it be, at least to speak about their situation and to try to help them if we can, then, as the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said, we must not compromise the fundamental principles of the Commonwealth.
Indeed, we could not do so even if we wanted to. If we said with one voice that we wanted South Africa to remain in the Commonwealth and then with another voice set about changing the fundamental principles of the Commonwealth, we should destroy the Commonwealth itself, because the remainder of the Commonwealth would not have it. The great remainder of the Commonwealth, the overwhelming majority of whom have coloured skins and have expressed in various ways their sympathy for the sufferings of the vast majority of the South Africans, would not stand for it. We should destroy the Commonwealth if we tried to compromise on its most fundamental principle—that it is a society of equal nations containing within it an infinite variety of colours of skin and an almost infinite variety of religious beliefs.
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland was also justified in saying that the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson), in some of the things he said and in the general tenor of his speech, was too kindly in his anxiety not to provoke the South African Government. I can see the reason. Other hon. Members have expressed a similar point of view. They feel that if we say things which might irritate and hurt the South African Government greatly, they might provoke that Government to do the very thing we do not want to happen.
I see that point of view, but will not hon. Members opposite see that we have been restraining ourselves for a generation? If I may be personal again for a moment, it was in 1925 that I perceived that this was an unnatural society, and it was in 1948 that I saw that my worst forebodings had come true. Most of us had been keeping silent all this time.
The dreadful inevitability of what has happened is the most shocking feature of the developments in South Africa. It could be foreseen as long ago as 1925. I do not claim that I as a young fellow at the time fully foresaw the future. Of course not. However, there were many South Africans then who did. There 827 were South Africans—I met them in the University of the Witwatersrand particularly, in 1948—who foresaw it all too clearly and forecast to me at that time that as this process went on—they did not see how they could stop it—it would end in a blood bath.
We have refrained for so long from criticising that we must make criticism and speak out now, lest it be too late. After all, we cannot say, "Let us leave it to South Africa to work out its own salvation," because the people of South Africa have no right to work out their own salvation. They are deprived of the vote. They are deprived of the opportunity to come together in public meetings and make their protests. Their potential leaders are thrown into prison as soon as they appear. They cannot work out their own salvation. There is nobody to speak for them at this moment.
Therefore, it is all the more important that we should speak now and say to the Nationalist Government of South Africa, "Get off that powder keg on which you are sitting. For God's sake, heed the message of the winds of change. Hearken to the voice of the world expressed recently by the United Nations in its Resolution." I do not want to say too much about that, because I know that, in view of certain discussions which have gone on, this afternoon one is treading a little on delicate ground when one broaches a United Nations matter.
However, I for one am glad—I am entitled to say this—that the United Nations has spoken out. I am glad that the United Nations has expressed the conscience of mankind at this time. We are all too conscious at the moment of the echo in our own minds of what happened in the 'thirties. That has been mentioned once or twice. We do not want to feel again that we refrained too long from criticism in the hope that somehow or other things would come right. This is no time for delicacy. It is a time for declaration. It is no time for protocol. It is a time for protest.
I am very glad indeed to think that the Motion, which is such a firm statement of our beliefs, is to be passed this afternoon by the House of Commons. It is right that we should make this declaration now. It is right that it 828 should go, as I hope that it will go— through the Press, through the television, through any organs of public opinion which exist—to the whole world from the Mother of Parliaments. I only hope that it will be listened to by the Government of South Africa.
§ 3.13 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. C. J. M. Alport)
I hope the House will consider it convenient that I should intervene briefly in the debate at this point. I am sure the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) will agree with me that we have had a most valuable debate on the subject raised by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse). We hope that the terms of the speeches which have been delivered will be studied, not only by those who are not with us in the House today, but also over a much broader area in this country, in Africa, and in the Commonwealth.
I found the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) and Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) and of the hon. Members for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) extremely valuable for the study and consideration of this problem. They, and other hon. Members, asked certain questions and put forward certain ideas. The ideas will all be studied, as they should be.
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland asked me some points about a legal problem with which we have been wrestling over recent days. I hope to be able to clarify the position a little further in due course, but in the meantime if I can help the hon. Gentleman I will willingly do so. Perhaps we can have a word together afterwards.
§ Mr. Alport
As soon as possible, I hope next week, certainly before the House rises for Easter.
I wish to deal with the point which was raised about the position of the High Commissioner to the Union of South Africa and for the two Protectorates and Basutoland. I realise the feeling about the fact that these dual responsibilities are held by one official. 829 At the same time, we have given careful consideration to any alternative system. We have found that the difficulties inherent in any alternative at present make us anxious to continue with the present one. Our experience in the last few days has shown that there are very great advantages in the present system, particularly when it is in the hands of someone with the imagination and feeling of the present High Commissioner, Sir John Maud.
It is sometimes not realised outside our country that one of the principal purposes of the House of Commons is to provide a forum for the expressions of the opinion of its individual Members on the pressing problems of the times. It is not merely a legislative machine or a mere counterpoise to the influence and pretensions of the Executive, as it is in some countries. It has always been the duty of Ministers over the years to come to the House to give the views of the Government of the day upon the subjects raised by Members which may be under discussion at any particular time. What opinion the House may decide in its wisdom to express after the discussion has proceeded is a matter for the House itself. It is in accordance with our Parliamentary practice that opinions expressed on such occasions should be carefully considered by the Government, who in the long run must be responsible for the action which is taken.
Now the action which the Motion urges on the Government is… to take the opportunity at the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference to bring home to the South African Government the strong feelings of British peopleon the question of the racial policies which that Government is pursuing. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have already made it clear to the House that there will be an opportunity of discussing the problems posed for us all by the present situation in the Union during the course of the informal discussions which have been one of the most important features of Commonwealth conferences in the past. His colleagues will thus be able to hear the views which may be expressed by the South African Prime Minister about the situation in South Africa and in turn give him the benefit of their views and experience. There- 830 fore, the action which the Motion urges upon the Government is already an inherent part of the normal procedure of the Prime Ministers' Conference.
The secret of the success which has attended these conferences in the past, indeed the mystery—to use the word in its old English sense—of Commonwealth relations lies in the informality of its methods combined with a respect for certain principles which, with the exception perhaps of the Statute of Westminster, are not contained in any formal document. This situation has not come about as the deliberate policy of the United Kingdom. Some people think that the present methods by which the Commonwealth relationship is conducted were designed by Great Britain, but that is not the case. Over many years the relationship has evolved as a result of the pressures and aspirations of the independent countries of the Commonwealth other than Great Britain. It has come about by mutual agreement and more often than not it has been our task here in the United Kingdom to find an accommodation between our views and those strongly held by other independent member countries.
Now it is perfectly natural that from the point of view of the House, in this debate and on this day. the immediate considerations relating to the emergency in South Africa should be of the very gravest concern and that our thoughts and anxieties should be concentrated particularly on them. I think it right that I should remind the House that there is an historic principle at stake with relation to the Prime Ministers' Conference; indeed, to future Prime Ministers' Conferences, and, further, to the future relationships of the independent countries of the Commonwealth as a whole. We must not forget that there are few Commonwealth countries whose policies have not at some time or another aroused controversy in one or more of the others.
If a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference became an occasion at which any Prime Minister might have the domestic policies of his Government criticised and arraigned by his colleagues, I have little doubt that such conferences would cease to be acceptable to Commonwealth Prime Ministers generally. Mr. Menzies made this point in a recent 831 exchange in the Australian Parliament, when he said:It would be the end of the Commonwealth if at a Prime Ministers' Conference we all began to list and discuss matters which related to the domestic policies of other member-nations, because that would mean that Prime Ministers would be sitting in judgment one on another. I cannot imagine a more rapid process by which to dissolve the Commonwealth.I am sure that both sides of the House —because we have had a great deal of agreement during the course of this debate—will recognise the importance of this principle to all the members of the independent Commonwealth, and the fact that it is an essential feature of the conduct of our relationship, not only on a special occasion like this, but at all times and in all circumstances. In our view, the Commonwealth cannot survive on a basis of tu quoque, just as it cannot survive if our relationships are conducted by the methods of diplomatic jingoism, involving formal protests, strongly worded notes and public, intergovernmental recrimination based upon Press reports, however great may be the strains and difficulties of any situation with which we may be faced.
This applies to all the Commonwealth, but it applies even more directly to the United Kingdom. We in this country are, on the whole, blessed with a short political memory. We forget that independence for even the oldest of the fully independent members of the Commonwealth is little more than a generation old. An attempt by the United Kingdom to intervene directly in the domestic affairs of any Commonwealth member might appear not only to that country, but to other independent members of the Commonwealth, as an attempt, conscious or unconscious, to reassert the old dominance of the United Kingdom which the achievement of independence has removed.
§ Mr. Marquand
Is the hon. Gentleman going on to say that, though he would not wish to see any interference in domestic affairs, he recognises a very different situation in racial policies which might inflame the whole of Africa?
§ Mr. Alport
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will wait and hear what I do go on to say. I suggest to the House 832 that it is most important that whatever the expression of opinion may be, whether it is the collective opinion of the House or the opinion of hon. Members, who, after all, are speaking for large sections of the community here in the United Kingdom, it must be remembered that this central principle of independence within the Commonwealth is one to be safeguarded as long as we have hopes that the Commonwealth is to be an effective institution in the world of today and in the future.
With regard to the policies of the Government of the Union, and here I come to a point which the right hon. Gentleman raised, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already expressed the Government's view in his speech in Cape Town. I think it would be right if I reminded the House of at any rate some of the passages which are drawn from that speech. He said this:Our judgment of right and wrong and of justice is rooted in the same soil as yours— in Christianity and in the rule of law as the basis of a free society.This experience of our own explains why it has been our aim, in the countries for which we have borne responsibility, not only to raise the material standards of life, but to create a society which respects the rights of individuals—a society in which men are given the opportunity of an increasing share in political power and responsibility; a society finally in which individual merit, and individual merit alone, is the criterion for a man's advancement, whether political or economic.Finally, in countries inhabited by several different races, it has been our aim to find means by which the community can become more of a community and fellowship can be fostered between its various parts.My right hon. Friend went on to say: "… there are some aspects of your policies which make it impossible for us to do this "—
that is, to support them—without being false to our own deep convictions about the political destinies of free men to which in our own territories we are trying to give effect.I think nothing could be more eloquent, and certainly nothing could be clearer or more forceful, of the point of view of the Government on the problems and the situation in the Union of South Africa today. It was made, as hon. Members know, in a way which I believe must have had the greatest effect; that is, in the presence of and face to face with those against whom any criticisms contained in it were levelled.
833 I do not think anyone can doubt our concern at the events which have been occurring in the Union, or the causes which led up to them. It is our wish as a Government to use our influence in a constructive and helpful way, and to carry out the special responsibilities which we have in British territories in Southern Africa and for all the peoples of all races who dwell in them; and the House must, as indeed it has done in part already, consider how this influence can best be exercised.
No one who has lived or worked in Africa or has shared the hopes and expectations of seeing there the spread of order, tolerance and freedom can fail to be heart-broken by the events which have occurred there during these last weeks. The antidote is to seek the best way which lies within our power to help to set these things right, and to prevent a situation arising in which South Africa finds itself in one of the cul-de-sacs of history from which there can be no escape except through violence and tragedy. I believe that it is in that spirit that this Motion has been considered by the House today, and if it is accepted, I hope that it will be in that spirit that the Government and people of the Union will understand it.
Finally, I should like to remind the House of the answer to a supplementary question which the Prime Minister gave on Tuesday last. He said:The British Commonwealth has, I think, a great task. I believe it to have the possibilities of a great future. It will outlast the particular people who preside over the fortunes of any country at any given time. I think that we must remember not lightly to throw away or to injure what I am certain in the years ahead will be a great instrument for good."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1960; Vol. 621, c. 192.]We have heard many views expressed upon the central principles of the Commonwealth. It will, we believe, be an instrument for good. It is, we believe, at the present time a symbol of hope, hope not for people of one race only but hope for people of many races, black and white, in Africa. I remember Mr. Michael Scott saying to me some time ago that as long as one can keep hope going, even though one cannot produce all the results that one would wish, there are chances for the future, but once hope is extinguished there is bound to be trouble. The Commonwealth can, I 834 believe, in the present situation in Africa continue to bring hope to all the people, and it is our duty here not to take any action which we may feel would extinguish that hope for them.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)
We have had such an admirable debate and so many splendid speeches that I feel that at this late stage there is not a great deal that I can usefully add. However, I was very glad indeed that no attempt was made to confuse the issue by trying to show, as has been done earlier, that our abstention at the United Nations on the vexed question of South Africa's racial policies connoted in some way approval either by the Government or by my hon. Friends who support the Government of those policies.
Obviously, any Government must have regard to the provisions of the Charter, which explicitly lays down that there shall be no intervention by the United Nations in the internal affairs of its members. That was as well understood by the Labour Government as it is by my right hon. and hon. Friends. When Lord Attlee was Prime Minister in 1947 he refused to accede to a request that our delegation at the United Nations should vote in favour of a resolution drawing attention to the disabilities which Indians suffered in the Union, and he did so on the very proper ground that that would be an infringement of the Charter.
In the following year, the Malan Government swept into power in South Africa and nationalist race policies began to be put into effect. Yet in the autumn of 1950 when for the fourth time the United Nations was required to vote on this issue the Labour Government again declined, on the very proper ground of the wording of the Charter, to instruct the British delegation to vote for the resolution, and in consequence it abstained.
If it is wrong to oppress the Bantu population of South Africa, it cannot be right to oppress the Indian minority in that country, and if it was right for the Labour Government of those days to take this attitude on the question on the basis of the requirements of the Charter, it cannot be wrong for a Conservative Government to take a similar attitude now.
835 I mention this because, frankly, an attempt has been made in recent months to suggest that, because the Government have taken this line at the United Nations, we on this side of the House approve the policies of South Africa. That is not the case. It is very far from being the case. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has made the position clear. I do not apologise to the House for reading his words again because the Prime Minister thought it fit to repeat them in his frank, courageous and inspiring speech to the South African Parliament in February of this year.
What my right hon. and learned Friend told the United Nations General Assembly in September, in discussing our special responsibilities towards the people of the dependent territories under British administration, was this:In those Territories where different races or tribes live side by side, the task is to ensure that all the people may enjoy security and freedom and the chance to contribute as individuals to the progress and well-being of these countries. We reject the idea of any inherent superiority of one race over another. Our policy, therefore, is non-racial; it offers a future in which Africans, Europeans, Asians, the peoples of the Pacific and others with whom we are concerned, will all play their full part as citizens in the countries where they live, and in which feelings of race will be submerged in loyalty to new nations.This debate, which began with a notable speech from the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse)—a speech that was clear, concise and eloquent, and which commanded the approval of Hon. Members on all sides of the House—has made it clear that not one of us approves of the policies which those who, for the time being, are in power in South Africa see fit to follow. Indeed, speaking for myself, the policies of apartheid fill me with revulsion and their stupidity and short-sightedness appal me.
What is puzzling, however, is the belief that still lingers in some quarters that in some way this is a new attitude by the people of this country. When the Liberal Government granted responsible government to the Transvaal in 1906, and again when they granted full responsibility and Dominion status to the four South African Territories in 1909, they knew perfectly well that outside Cape Colony there was no European element 836 in South Africa willing to accord equality of political rights to the non-European races.
It was for that reason that it was decided there and then not to transfer the three British Protectorates to the new Union. Though it is quite clear from a study of Sections 150 and 151 of the Act of Union, and of the Schedule to the South African Constitution, that it was hoped that effective transfer of these Territories would be made just as soon as the conditions laid down in the Schedule were fulfilled by the Union Government, that transfer has never taken place, and as the years have gone on the chances of its being made have grown more and more remote.
This, surely, is clearly an indication that no British Government since 1910 have ever believed that the Union's racial policies were such that we could, in safety, justice and honour, transfer an African people under our jurisdiction and protection to the control of the Union.
The great question in this debate is whether, in holding these views, we should seek to drive South Africa out of the Commonwealth, and the universal answer is that this would be wrong, would serve no useful purpose, and would damage the interests of those whom we seek to serve. But we cannot burke the issue as to whether what is going on in South Africa is consistent with the spirit and letter of the Commonwealth relationship. That is why I agree with those Members who have said that however we approach this problem we cannot be silent about it. We must speak out and speak as we feel. We owe this duty not only to ourselves but to the peoples of the Commonwealth, and not least to those of South Africa.
§ Mr. E. Partridge (Battersea, South)
We have the right to speak up, but we have not the right to nag at them all the time every day in this House.
§ Mr. Braine
Perhaps my hon. Friend would permit me to deploy my arguments and then he will see that I approach this problem not in any spirit of anger but rather in a mood of sorrow and, at the same time, if I may recall the words of my hon. Friend the Minister of State, in a spirit of hope, because 837 I do not believe even now that the situation is irretrievable and that the problem is insoluble. But there are certain issues here which we cannot burke, and the sooner we face them the better.
It is true, of course, that there is no member nation of the Commonwealth which is free from criticism. One reason why I would not be in favour of having wholesale discussions about the internal affairs of member nations at the United Nations is that all kinds of issues would become the subject of debate and acrimony. Several hon. Members have mentioned the behaviour of India over Kashmir or in the Naga Hills. There are other instances we could call to mind.
However, there is no Government in the whole Commonwealth other than South Africa which has so deliberately, flagrantly and brutally flouted human rights. Independence was conceded to the various parts of the Commonwealth by the United Kingdom on two basic assumptions. The first was that those governing the new States would have some regard to the interests of all their inhabitants and would rule them justly and with regard to human rights and dignity. The second was that the new States would so conduct themselves that, on balance, they would contribute to the well-being and happiness of the whole system.
That does not imply that Commonwealth Governments must blindly follow the policies of the United Kingdom and, of course, they do not. There is no common foreign policy and sometimes there is not even a common economic policy. Nevertheless, it is true that our hopes in these respects have not been disappointed. Some Commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand have become models of democratic and enlightened government and some, like India and Pakistan, have moved us to admiration for their efforts to raise their peoples out of the rut of poverty. As a result of their Commonwealth membership, almost all of them have exercised a profound and constructive influence on world events.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge) will not regard it as nagging if I say that South Africa has been, and remains, the odd man out. Here we are faced with an acute dilemma. We cannot 838 force South Africa to give up policies which are repugnant to us and also, let it be said, to many South Africans. All we can do is to persuade her. The reason that the Commonwealth exists at all is that by some magic alchemy, which I cannot describe, we have been successful in finding the means of retaining the willingness to co-operate long after the power to compel has been relinquished. That is the secret of the Commonwealth and its strength.
If, therefore, we cannot force those whose policies we dislike to follow the line we consider desirable, how can we best persuade them? The debate has been extremely useful for giving an indication of how the course of persuasion might be followed. Unhappily, some people like using bludgeons. Before the Prime Minister went to South Africa, there were those who wanted him to take up a rigid attitude about apartheid. Had he done so, he would never have made his speech to the South African Parliament. He would never have been put into a position in which he could have made that speech. On the contrary, he was able to make a speech which, judging from the correspondence which I have received from people who ought to know, had a most profound effect on all sections of South African opinion.
"The wind of change" was a striking phrase, but the Prime Minister himself sent a great gust of new thought and new hope throughout the Union. But that was because he used a rapier rather than a bludgeon. That speech had a far more devastating effect in Cape Town than if he had made it in this House.
It has been suggested that there should be an economic boycott. For the life of me I cannot see the logic of that. An economic boycott would have a damaging effect on the interests of many people who are innocent parties in this matter. Quite apart from the effect on those who do not support the policy of the South African Government, and quite apart from the effect on coloured workers employed in industries engaged principally on exports to this country, it seems utterly illogical that we should organise a boycott in this country against South Africa because we dislike the policies of that Government.
839 The butchering of young democrats in Hungary was not considered to be a matter about which there should be demonstrations outside the Soviet Embassy or a cutting off of trade with the Soviet Union. On the contrary the argument is advanced from the benches opposite that, although we do not approve of Communism, let us maintain our contact with the Communist bloc countries since trade is a civilising weapon, enabling us to establish some sort of useful contact. Here the reverse argument is advanced in respect of South Africa.
There is a further illogicality about this. Apartheid is doomed anyway. It is bound to break upon the rock of economic development. The Tomlinson Commission made it clear that since complete apartheid was not possible, that is to say, the complete division of South Africa into two economies was not possible, even partial apartheid was impracticable, because the economic integration taking place in industry in South Africa was moving at such a pace that by 1981 there would be more Bantu workers in the so-called white areas than there were now.
Therefore, one could argue that, to the extent that economic development in South Africa could be accelerated by trade and development, apartheid must go. In fact most leading Nationalist intellectuals, and nearly every South African business man with whom I have had contact, hold the view that these racial policies must be modified to prevent South Africa going to economic ruin.
Mr. Harry Oppenheimer, who has given his support to the new Progressive Party in South Africa, which stands for giving the non-European population of the country a share in the Government, said recently thatthe biggest growth factor in South Africa is not the remaining mineral resources or agricultural resources, great though they are, but the very fact that there is this large African population capable of doing much better and more effective work than it does or is allowed to do now, capable of consuming more, and capable of contributing to all spheres of life in a way in which they are not able to contribute today.Thus, apartheid is not only immoral, it is suicidal. It is doomed anyway. What is the best thing we can do, then, to help our friends in South Africa? 840 Most of them are our friends. Although there are some members in the present South African Government who sympathised with the Nazis during the war, I prefer to remember the South Africans who fought with us and who, to my mind, represent the true South Africa. What can we do? Let us recognise that there are many signs in the South African picture of growing awareness of the dangers. There are the misgivings of the Nationalist intellectuals, the university professors. There is the emergence of the new Progressive Party which stands for a completely new approach to the whole problem of political development in South Africa. There is the thoughtful and constructive contribution of Professor Cowen of Cape Town University who has worked out an alternative to apartheid.
We should not lump all South Africans together. We make the gravest possible mistake if we persist in nagging South Africans as a whole. Many of them have grave misgivings about the leadership that they are getting from Dr. Verwoerd. Why strengthen his position by assuming that the whole white population of South Africa is engaged in a wicked and vile conspiracy against their non-European brothers? Let us make it plain that we make a distinction, and that we recognise the difficulties which progressives and business men in South Africa are now facing.
Let us discuss these problems, as we have done today, in a constructive and helpful atmosphere. By all means let us do so in a way that will bring home to the people of South Africa the fact that at the moment they are isolated in the Commonwealth, and that their Government have drawn down upon themselves the condemnation of people of all races, in the Commonwealth and outside it. But do not let us, by our actions and by ill-considered words, force the whole white population of South Africa into a second Blood River laager, because that is the way to complete and irretrievable disaster.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations was right in saying that there is still hope. South Africa is the one country in Africa where, if the will exists, a truly multi-racial society could be created—not quickly, or easily, but in the end. It is the richest 841 country in Africa. It has the resources to enable a fair deal to be given to the non-European population. Only I per cent. of the African population south of the Sahara has had a secondary school education, and of that number one half are in the Union.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
It is not the one country in Africa. We are helping to create a multi-racial society in the Central African Federation.
§ Mr. Braine
That is so, but I do not wish to be drawn into a discussion of that point.
What I am saying is that South Africa possesses the resources to enable a just, decent and progressive multi-racial society to be embarked upon and made a success. Let us hope, therefore, that the message which this House sends out today will have the effect that we all desire. We have spoken here not in anger but in sorrow. We hope that those who govern South Africa will yet see the course in which wisdom lies, recognising in time that if they persist in the policy of dividing their people into first and second-class citizens they can expect from the latter only second-class loyalties—and a State based upon second-class loyalties is surely doomed.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
Having returned from South Africa last night, I should like to say how much I welcome this debate and the tone in which it has been conducted. I disagree with some of the things that have been said, especially by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), but it is not the purpose of our discussion to add to our disagreement; it is our purpose to see how united we can be.
One thing is very important: some people have said that if we protest we shall be upsetting the whole of the white people of South Africa. I do not believe that is so. I met many people in South Africa—many very fine people—who had the same liberal-minded views as those which have been expressed in the House today. I know that as far as they are concerned a Motion of this character would be of the greatest possible help. I speak in particular of Bishop Reeves, whom I saw only a day or two before he had to flee the country.
842 What was the crime of Bishop Reeves? It was that he was the chairman of a body of people, representing both white and black, who met together to try to get some kind of peace and to do something to solve the problems of South Africa. That was his crime. Yet, as one of the leaders of the African movement put it to me—a man who was in such danger that I could only speak to him in secret whilst making sure that no police were near—it is men like Bishop Reeves in South Africa who have stopped this position from becoming the head-on racial conflict that it would otherwise be.
Because of that, I think it is important that we should send out this message not only to the Africans but also to them. There is no doubt that, whatever some hon. Members may think— and some, perhaps, doubt it—South Africa today is a police State. There is every sign of it. It is impossible to telephone to anyone. If one does, and if the person one is telephoning is not there, one hears a voice saying that he has gone on holiday. That means that he has gone to prison, but no one dare say so.
As one of the leaders of the liberal whites in South Africa said to me, the rule of law today is dead. We cannot pretend otherwise. It is a great tragedy. The dictatorship in South Africa today is, indeed, an inefficient dictatorship. That is the only good thing about it. But it is a dictatorship for all that. It is our duty today to send out a message to the people who are fighting against it and who are fighting to maintain a decent way of life for this most unfortunate country.
What can we do? We are told that we must not offend the South Africans. As I have said, I do not think that it would offend the best people in South Africa if we sent such a message. We have been told that they are a family. Certainly they are a family, but not all families are united. I am glad to say tht not all the whites are united. That is the structure on which we have to build today. I hope that we shall do our best to help them and that we shall be able to send out the message which they want to hear.
We all feel very strongly the need for action to be taken to stem this tide flowing further and further towards all 843 that we dislike most, towards apartheid and towards racial hatred. I hope that this debate with its wide measure of agreement—and there has been a remarkably wide measure of agreement —will contribute in some small measure, let us hope, in greater measure, to the ending of this terrible tragedy which all of us so passionately desire. If we can do that, I think that this day in the House of Commons will have been of real value to us all—a day of greater value than many when our debates have been on more controversial subjects.
I know that the people of South Africa will not hear all of it because their newspapers are censored, but I hope that they will hear enough to realise that the House of Commons feels very strongly that it is our duty not to keep silent but to do all that we can to help our friends in South Africa to help themselves and to put an end to this terrible tragedy which has overcome their land.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House, deploring the present racialist policies now being pursued by the South African Government, under which non-Europeans are consistently denied normal human and political rights, including the right of campaigning for a peaceful change in the laws under which they live, and the recent declaration of a state of emergency and the many arbitrary arrests, fearing that a continuation of this repression is threatening the security and welfare of all races living in the Union of South Africa and good relations between members of the Commonwealth, urges Her Majesty's Government to take the opportunity at the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference to bring home to the South African Government the strong feelings of British people on this question; and restates its firm belief that peace and tranquillity in South Africa can only be secured in the long run on the basis of freedom and equality and a full respect for the inherent dignity and humanity of all men.