§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.10 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Iain Macleod)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I have it in Command from Her Majesty to acquaint the House that She has been graciously pleased to place Her prerogative and interests, so far as concerns the matters dealt with by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament.
When I referred briefly yesterday to this Bill, I said that the progress of the great country of Nigeria towards independence was a model, a model that made its impact at a particularly telling time in the destinies of Africa. For the whole House, today is a thoroughly happy occasion. From 1st October, Nigeria will he fully independent.
That country, which is, I remind the House again, the most populous State in the continent of Africa, is, of course, extraordinarily diverse in race, religion and in social and economic development. Therefore, it is not in the least surprising that the political development it has chosen is that of a Federation in three regions, with each region self-governing in its own concerns.
Naturally, the Federal Government will have responsibility for defence, security, external affairs and matters affecting the whole country, including, of course, the federal territory of the capital, Lagos. Each region will have its own judiciary, and this will reflect differences of custom and practice in different parts of the country, but there will still be preserved the right of appeal to the Federal Supreme Court and beyond that—I am sure the House will be glad to know this—to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Another important bond of unity will be the existence of a code of fundamental human rights embodied in the Federal and Regional Constitutions. It was very much the desire of the Nigerian leaders themselves that there should be such a code. As the House knows, it was hammered out at great length, particularly at the 1958 Conference, and it has been extremely useful because it has proved a 1794 model for many of the conferences over which I have presided since. I have found people from many countries ready to accept as, for example, the delegates from Kenya and Sierra Leone did, the Nigerian proposals as a model for the future.
The Constitution, of course, will not be a rigid one and each Government will be able to amend those matters which are of purely internal concern. On fundamental matters, however—I am sure that Nigeria is right again in this—there will be a rather more elaborate procedure for what are called the entrenched clauses. For these clauses, there will be a two-thirds majority required of all members of both Houses of the Federal Parliament and the concurrence, although by a bare majority in this case, of both Houses of at least two of the regions. Thus, although change can take place, there is and there will be a considerable degree of firmness and stability in the foundations on which the independence of Nigeria is built. In my view, this is all the better since it has not been imposed in any way, and I frankly tell the House what I am putting before it today is primarily a work of Nigerians themselves.
The Constitution, to which I have referred only briefly, is not, of course, set out in the Bill. It will be contained in an Order in Council to be made fairly soon, probably in September, after the Bill has passed into law. At the same time, regional constitutions also will be embodied in the same Order in Council, I think, and final details in regard to those matters are being settled now in Nigeria.
Turning from the Constitution, one of the matters which will enable Nigeria to face the problems of development after independence with confidence will be, in my view, the maintenance of a strong and effective Administration and Civil Service. The Nigerian Government have made very great progress indeed in the training of their own Civil Service, and we are glad to see that they are following the practice of this country, which is, I am sure the practice of all wise countries, of insulating the Civil Service from politics by establishing executive public service commissions. I am sure that hon. Members who have had the experience, as I 1795 have had, of meeting many Nigerian civil servants will have been very impressed, as I have been, by the high quality of the men and women they have met.
Although it has been our policy to give every assistance to Nigeria to help in this process, it is true, also, that the need will exist for very substantial numbers of overseas officers to continue to give the devoted service which they have rendered to Nigeria over the years. This, again, is a matter which has been discussed at all the conferences, and arrangements have been agreed for such matters as compensation and conditions of future employment.
In the statement I made to the House last May, after the talks with Nigerian Ministers over which I presided, I referred to co-operation in defence, and the statement I made at those talks was reproduced in a White Paper. I can say that all the Nigerian Governments, and this includes members of the Opposition as well, and ourselves, are agreed that there would be advantage in our two countries entering into an agreement, but this agreement will come into force only after independence and after it has been subject to debate and acceptance in the Federal Nigerian Legislature. The only other thing I need say about the agreement, which has not yet been published but, no doubt, will be fairly soon—the heads of agreement, at any rate—is that it is a complete reflection of the good will and mutual trust which exists between the two countries. As we said yesterday in another and very different context, good will is the true basis of any defence agreement.
I propose to refer only very briefly to the Clauses of the Bill. Clause 1 contains what are generally called the Statute of Westminster powers, and subsection (2) provides explicitly thatNo Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed on or after the appointed day shall extend … to Nigeria … and Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom shall have no responsibility for the government of Nigeria or any part thereofWhatever people may say about the complexities of Parliamentary drafts-menship, that is clear enough. The First Schedule sets out, less clearly perhaps, certain detailed aspects of this independent condition.
1796 Clause 2 deals with citizenship. The House will notice that it is a great deal simpler than the one we were discussing yesterday in relation to Cyprus. This is not just because there is not the complication of sovereign base areas here but because we know, happily, exactly what the future of Nigeria is to be. She has said that she wishes to become an independent member of the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, meeting together a short time ago in London, as the House knows, welcomed that very much and gave an assurance that she would be welcome as a full member of the Commonwealth as soon as the necessary preliminary arrangements has been made. One of those preliminary arrangements, of course, is the passing of this Bill.
At this point, I should like to say how much I welcome the appointment as High Commissioner of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head). It is a clear indication of the importance we attach to this post that someone who has been a senior member of the British Cabinet should be appointed to it. As one who has worked for some years with my right hon. Friend, and has admired so much the acuteness and understanding of his mind, I am convinced that he will be a great success in this post, and I am sure that we all wish him well in it.
The only other Clause to which I would refer briefly is Clause 4. The Opposition will not mind my saying that it has been suggested to me that, as a gesture of sympathy, for the next few months there should be no Clause 4 in any Bill produced by the Government, and I apologise for having to refer to it. The House will remember that in 1958 we passed an Overseas Service Act to make provision for the appointment of officers to public services overseas, and there was a small complication in relation to Special List B, affecting no more than half a dozen people then serving in the naval forces of Nigeria. Clause 4 enables them to enjoy the benefits of membership of the Special List. Incidentally, the Money Resolution before the House is directed solely to that point.
I am sure that the House would wish me to say a word about perhaps the most difficult matter outstanding—although it is not directly concerned with the Bill— 1797 namely, the question of the Cameroons. Hon. Members will recall that the former German colony of the Kamerun was conquered by French and British troops in the 1914–18 War and was thereafter divided between Britain and France. The parts allocated to each country were placed under mandate by the League of Nations. Subsequently, when the United Nations was formed, the mandate became a Trusteeship. In due course the United Nations wished to consider what should be the future of what had become the Trust Territory, and the intention was that a plebiscite should be held both in the Northern and Southern sectors, at which the people should have an opportunity of determining their future.
Such a plebiscite was held in the Northern Cameroons last November, when the choice before the people was between becoming a part of Nigeria and deciding their future at a later date. The mission of the United Nations was so confident of the result, that is to say, that the people wanted to join Nigeria, that it said that no plebiscite would be necessary. I was less confident. It seems to me that there is an element of procrastination in us all, and that if, on an important matter, we are asked whether we should take a decision now or wait a bit, there is a strong human impulse to wait a bit. I am bound to say that the result of the plebiscite did not surprise me very much. It was, perhaps, not a very wise question that we put before the people there.
Anyway, the position now is that the Northern Cameroons have to be separated, from 1st October, and administered directly by us until a plebiscite can be held again, in February, 1961. This is inconvenient and extremely expensive for us, among other things. In February, 1961, the choice will be a straight one between joining Nigeria or joining the newly independent Republic of the Cameroon.
In the Southern Cameroons, which is to have a status in Nigeria somewhat similar to that of a region, there was considerable disagreement as to what the question should be, but during a meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations last year it was agreed that the same questions should be asked as were asked in respect of the North, and in a plebiscite at the same time; indeed, I believe it is on the same date. 1798 Once again, we have to separate the Southern Cameroons and establish a temporary administration, as effective as we can possibly make it. I would add that Nigerian Ministers have promised that if the people of the Southern Cameroons should decide to return to Nigeria the territory will have the status of a separate region.
I have one more point to make about the Cameroons. Hon. Members will be well aware of the insecure situation which has existed for some time along the border. This has been largely contained by the use of Nigerian troops, but the Government of Nigeria, naturally, do not wish their troops to remain in the Cameroons after that territory has been separated from Nigeria. That is understandable, but it creates a difficulty for us. We have undertaken that we will send British troops to the territory if the situation requires, but I want to make it quite clear that the purpose of these troops is for the security of the territory, in the interests of the inhabitants. No British interest is involved, and there is no truth whatever in the suggestion that is sometimes made that we have ambitions to set up a base there. We are merely fulfilling a task which had been fulfilled largely by Nigerian troops before the situation arose.
In a way, what I have been saying—although it has been necessary to say it, partly for the record and partly in explanation of the Bill—is secondary to our main purpose today, which is simply to wish Nigeria well and to speed her on her way to independence. I am sure that we can say that we do so with utter confidence in Nigeria. I have a great admiration for that magnificent country and its noble people, and I have many friends amongst her leaders. I presided over a conference, to which I have referred, which summarised its conclusions in Command 1063 and which ended in the words one can so rarely use:The Conference concluded … with complete agreement on all points.If the House will allow me one personal reflection, I remember how very proud I was, a short time ago, on Nigeria Day at the Royal Tournament, when Nigerian Ministers—a number of whom were over here—invited me to be with 1799 them in the Royal Box and to take the salute throughout the evening. It was a great delight to see that the centrepiece of the Royal Tournament was a magnificent display by a Nigerian contingent. I should like to pay a special tribute to the wise leadership of Sir Abubakar, who has led his country with splendid ability and integrity through the years.
There is one thing that we would all wish to say to Nigeria. She must not misinterpret the fact that this debate today will be a short debate. This House of Commons is rather like the Press, in a way; it is the things that go wrong upon which we concentrate, rather than the things which go right. It is the divorces, and not the happy marriages, that make news. I am sure that the Nigerian people know that the sympathies of every Member of this House will be with them in the future.
I would make a special reference to the part played in this matter by my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). Over and over again, when I met Nigerian Ministers they paid tribute to what my right hon. Friend had done for their country. I think that nothing in his long tenure of office—and I believe that he filled that office longer than anybody except Joseph Chamberlain; the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) would get place money in this competition—gave my right hon. Friend more delight than the work he did of which the Bill is, in part, a fulfilment. I also pay tribute to his predecessors, including the right hon. Member for Wakefield.
I have moved the Second Reading of the Bill in confidence that every hon. Member will support it. As I said to the Nigerian Ministers at the conference that we had here, I am convinced that the world will be a better place for the emergence of Nigeria in its own sovereign right as a country. I rejoice to think that this great country, in complete friendship with ourselves, is now to take its place on the stage of world affairs.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Mr. H. A. Marquand (Middlesbrough, East)
On behalf of all my right hon. and hon. Friends, I, too, should like to 1800 extend a very warm welcome to the Bill and to extend the warmest possible good wishes to the people of Nigeria on becoming independent.
The Colonial Secretary said that he hoped our Nigerian friends would not misunderstand us if we had a short debate on this Bill. I hope, too, that they will not misunderstand us if they see that this Front Bench is rather thinly populated this morning. This is entirely and solely due to the fact that the Welsh people have chosen this morning for their national mourning for my dear friend the late Aneurin Bevan.
Nigeria enters on a new status, not after commotion and strife, as some other Colonial Territories have done, but after practical experience of the federal system which she has decided to adopt and with general agreement to maintain it. The Bill is the result of the unanimous request of both Houses of the Federal Legislature and it will certainly get, I am sure, unanimous agreement from this House today. They have not only requested independence, but they have requested unanimously membership of the Commonwealth. We are pleased that they have done this. We are very glad that the Prime Ministers' Conference, last May, accepted that request with equal unanimity.
Nigeria wishes to be independent, but she wishes also to be democratic. She not only willingly accepted a Parliamentary system with reasonable and natural adaptations to her own traditions, but she has decided to call her Federal Legislature a Parliament. We can be very pleased about that. She has also cheerfully accepted what we all regard—I know that the Colonial Secretary so regards it, because he said so on a previous occasion—as an essential part of Parliamentary democracy that there should be a vigorous Opposition, freely and fully entitled to express their point of view and to criticise Ministers.
I should like, therefore, to take this brief opportunity of congratulating not only the Premier of the new Federation of Nigeria, who, as the Colonial Secretary said, has impressed all who have met him by his great ability and his high sense of public duty, but also to extend my good wishes—perhaps I may do it more appropriately than the Colonial Secretary—to Chief Awolowo, who has 1801 taken on the job of Leader of the Opposition. He, too, has an important job to do. He too, doubtless will from time to time incur difficulties in leading an Opposition, because an Opposition, being somewhat more irresponsible than the Government, often find it more difficult to make up their mind. We are delighted at the general spirit of good will with which Chief Awolowo has undertaken this task and with which everybody in Nigeria accepts that it is his right and duty to do so.
I should like to echo what the Colonial Secretary said about the decision of Nigeria to incorporate into her Constitution a carefully drawn up Bill of Rights. I am glad that Nigeria, having established a Bill of Rights in her Constitution, still wishes to retain an appeal to the Privy Council. I am not speaking now as a member of that "trade union", because I never attend the meetings of its Judicial Committee, but I think that Nigeria is wise and I wish that some other territories were equally wise in realising that when they have a Bill of Rights incorporated in their Constitution it is an advantage to have access to some outside and more impartial body who can from time to time pronounce upon the rights of individuals within the State to protect themselves from any possible abuse.
I hope that Nigeria, having done this, will be an earnest advocate of the further study within the Commonwealth of the possibility of establishing as a more permanent Commonwealth institution some sort of declaration or convention of human rights. I am supported in that hope by the pleasure with which I read what Lord Justice Denning said recently on this subject.
It fits in well with all these developments that there is to be free choice by plebiscite for the people of the Cameroons as to their future. I realise, and the Colonial Secretary has reminded us, that there were difficulties about this, but we can all be glad that whatever decision is made by the people of the Cameroons, it will be their free decision. For that reason, whatever the decision may be, we can rely on it being carried out without any commotion, tension or civil strife.
The Commonwealth will be greatly strengthened by the free accession of a 1802 State which has the largest population of any State in Africa and which contains within its borders nearly one-sixth of the whole of the people of that continent. I hope and believe that when Nigeria begins to play her full independent rôle she will exercise a stabilising influence throughout the whole of that great continent.
Successive Secretaries of State have played important and constructive parts in bringing about this development. Although from time to time the right hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) has been severely criticised from this side of the House, we entirely endorse what the Secretary of State has just said about his part in the development of Nigeria. He is not the only Secretary of State who has played a part in that constructive work. Right hon. Friends of my own have done the same and we want to pay tribute to all they have done and to all that has been done by various able Governors who have presided over the affairs of the regions in past years.
I should like to refer particularly to Sir James Robertson, who, as Governor-General of the new Federation, has played a particularly noteworthy and distinguished part in this development during the last very decisive years. His valuable experience in the Sudan and his consequent understanding of the Muslim way of life were, obviously, of great service in gaining the acceptance by the Northern Region of the new system and the new democratic process.
I would say, in passing, if I may venture to do this without appearing to interfere in matters which are really none of my concern, that now that this great Muslim territory has joined the Federation, and is playing such a conspicuous part in it, I hope she will go on to study how other Muslim countries have adapted themselves to democratic methods and will consider seriously before long whether women ought not to be allowed to vote.
Passing from that subject, and before I leave mention of the work done by Sir James Robertson, I should like also to express the hope that his years of service for the United Kingdom are not yet over. I hope that it may be possible to find for him, because he is still a vigorous man, a further opportunity of 1803 serving the country which he has served so well and an opportunity of taking advantage of his immense knowledge of affairs in Africa, from the extreme north right down through the continent almost to the south.
Most of all, I am sure that the success of all this experiment in the creation of a Western-type democracy in an African country is due to the Nigerian people themselves. Their zeal for education is well known and they have taken great advantage of the opportunities before them of learning about institutions of this modern twentieth-century type while not abandoning their own traditions. We have greatly admired their zeal for education, the way in which such large numbers of Nigerians have constantly come to this country and gone to other European countries to learn the practice of public administration and the practice of democratic self-government.
No modern twentieth-century democracy can be stable and peaceful and democratic without good administration. As the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech, administration has been well built up in Nigeria and the Nigerian people have themselves set to work to build up a cadre of well-trained, well informed expert administrators. But, nevertheless, outside aid is still needed in this matter of administration.
The Sardauna of Sokoto himself said, at a Press Conference which he gave not long ago in London—I am quoting from a report in the Northern Nigeria News issued from Nigeria House, of June, 1960—The Premier laid emphasis on Northern Nigeria's need of assistance by means of loans, grants, investments, educationists, engineers, doctors and agriculturists. 'To achieve our objective we need assistance both financial and in the form of trained manpower and in the first instance we look to our known and well- tried friends in Britain'.This need for expert assistance is recognised also in paragraph 10 of the White Paper, which speaks of the intention to provide technical assistance after independence. But what about the expert administrators already there? What about the British-trained administrators who have worked in Nigeria for years and do know and understand the country? Every African leader appears to wish that those expert administrators, 1804 many of them, should stay on after independence.
Because of that it was disturbing to see —I feel I must at least make a passing reference to this—the letter to Members of Parliament which was sent to all of us by the Association of Senior Civil Servants of the Federation of Nigeria. There will, no doubt, be other opportunities to discuss this matter. Indeed, to some extent it was discussed in the Adjournment debate last Monday night, raised very valuably by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine). All I would say now is that we note with interest that the Under-Secretary then gave a qualified assurance about this and said that further study was being given to it. We shall certainly take any opportunity we may get later to follow this up and ask what the result of the further study is to be.
Nigeria is, as we all know, one of the richer countries in Africa, but it is still poor and under-developed by Western standards. The standard of living is increasing, but slowly—only by 10s. a head a year. Let me quote in illustration just one example taken from a highly official source. The Colonial Office List for 1960 tells us—making, I think, the best of what it had to say—that there are over 1,000 dispensaries and approximately 13,000 hospital beds in Nigeria. It is making the best of ft to say that there are over 1,000 dispensaries; it is making the best of it to say there are 13,000 hospital beds; because the country has a population of 35 million people; and those figures, compared with the numbers of hospital beds in this country, with its 50 million people, and with our number of health centres, dispensaries, maternity and child welfare clinics, and all the rest of it that we have here, are deplorably, regrettably small.
I am not blaming anybody for this. I am just putting the facts to show that there still remains a great deal to be done. The Nigerian peoples are very willing to help themselves, as we have seen already. They are already experts in political development, and the same is true of economic development. They are a hard working, assiduous people, but they cannot break through to a self-sustaining economy, however diligently they apply themselves, without a great deal more aid from outside. I think that 1805 the establishment of the new Federation will be the means of attracting a greater volume of investment, because here is a strong, stable Government well able to guarantee any interest payment on loans which they may negotiate.
Nevertheless, there still remains an immense need for Government aid. We have voted, through colonial development and welfare funds for 1955–60, about £13½ million. Now there is to be a Commonwealth loan of £12 million. If I may just make one more quotation from the Sardauna of Sokoto, he said recently:Loans are invaluable, but there is a limit to the amounts which we can service.There are limits to the outside investments requiring interest payments and to Commonwealth loans requiring interest and repayment. They cannot be enough in these circumstances for this new State, and I must say that I was glad to read in The Times, on 13th February, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs who said, what is very true, that we need greater help from and through the United Nations in these territories.
The total resources of the richer members of the Commonwealth, do what we may, are insufficient to carry out the necessary programmes of economic development which are needed for the 500 million or 600 million peoples of the Commonwealth. We have not, in Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Australia together, enough to meet the needs of this vast Commonwealth. I am glad indeed to read the assurance of the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs that we are now to seek more aid through the United Nations. Let us, too, play our part in the additional contributions which are required by the United Nations agencies like the Special Fund, let us then seek a fair share of these international funds, and then use them for the benefit of territories like Nigeria and others in Africa.
I conclude as I began, wishing to the newly independent, self-governing people of Nigeria every possible success in the years which lie ahead.
§ 11.48 a.m.
§ Mr. Norman Pannell (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
Despite the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I very much regret and, indeed, deplore that a debate of this importance is 1806 relegated to a Friday morning. I fully appreciate that it is the contentious matters, the very often unhappy matters, which receive the greater attention of the House, and that some happy events go with little comment, but we must remember that this is the greatest transfer of responsibility within the British Commonwealth and Empire since the independence of India, thirteen years ago.
It is not only that the matter is worthy of greater time and attention of the House, but on a Friday it is very often difficult for provincial Members, especially, to attend the House, and I am asked to express to the House the regrets and apologies of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) for his inability to be here this morning, especially as he has taken such a great interest in West African affairs since he has been a Member of the House.
It is well over twenty years since I first made contact with Nigeria and over fifteen years since I was for a brief period a member of the Nigerian Legislative Council. I never thought, in 1945, that the transfer from a position of complete dependence on Whitehall to independence could possibly have proceeded at the pace it has. We are entitled to make a comparison with the Congo today and to congratulate ourselves on the situation that we find in Nigeria. This is a great tribute to the thousands of Britons who have served that country over the last few generations. The Governors I have known there, beginning with Sir Arthur Richards, now Lord Milverton, a great Governor who was succeeded by Sir John Macpherson, whose distinguished career was crowned with a period at the Colonial Office, and now the present Governor-General, Sir James Robertson—all have contributed significantly to the advance of Nigeria towards independence.
I should like to pay tribute, also, to the many hundreds and thousands of those in the lower ranks who served Nigeria faithfully in the face of great difficulty and who, during the last twenty years, have been consistently and diligently digging the graves of their own careers by training Africans to replace them. Speaking from my slight knowledge of the country—for it is a vast 1807 country to get to know well—it is a remarkable thing that those disparate elements in the North and the Yorubas and the Ibos in the South, nations in themselves, have come together in a Federation. It is largely due to my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) who, at a crucial moment at the 1957 Conference, induced by his wards this spirit of co-operation. He brought the three Premiers together and induced that spirit which his later actions further encouraged.
The three Prime Ministers, the Sardauna of Sokoto in the North, Chief Owolowo in the West, and Dr. Azikiwe in the East, the same doctor who, in my day, was the stormy petrel of Nigerian politics and who, today, is the respected President of the Senate, with perhaps even greater prospects before him—to all those I would equally pay tribute. But I should also like to join the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) in expressing my own sense of appreciation of the Prime Minister of the Federation, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who is one of the outstanding statesmen of the day, whether in Africa or elsewhere. I feel certain that under his guidance the future of Nigeria can be well assured.
In the context of this debate it would be unfitting for me to make a long speech. I shall, therefore, content myself with one point which was touched upon by the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East. Independence in Nigeria does not mean independence in the full sense, in that the country will not have trained sufficient of its nationals to ensure an efficient Civil Service. It will still need the help of many hundreds of British expatriate officers until the Africans can be trained to assume those responsibilities, and that is more the case in Northern Nigeria than in the rest of the country.
I, with the right hon. Member, was perturbed when I received the pamphlet from the Association of Senior Civil Servants in the Federation of Nigeria. It would not be right for me to go into the pros and cons of the differences between that association and the Colonial Office at the moment but, if I can, I 1808 want to secure the acceptance of a principle, or at least sow in my right hon. Friend's mind the seeds of such a principle. The Nigerian Government and other Governments who retain the services of British expatriates are often in a difficult position. British officials are expensive, highly trained men, worthy of good salaries. They are more expensive than Africans, for the sole reason that they have responsibilities in this country as well as in Africa. The Nigerian Government may feel that they cannot be as generous with them as they would like, for fear of creating a precedent for the Africans who succeed them and thus imposing too great a burden on the Federation's finances.
However that may be, I consider it of the first importance that not only should these officials who are required or are asked to stay by the Nigerian Government should stay, but that they should be happy and contented in so doing. This is why I make a suggestion for filling the gap between what the Nigerian Federation can afford to pay these men and what in equity they should receive. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will fill the gap and pay the difference, provided that they can do so without any affront to the independence of Nigeria. In my opinion, there will be no such affront and such help will be willingly accepted.
We are entering a new phase today when better developed countries accept the obligation to help less developed countries, and that must not exclude the countries now achieving independence. It has been recognised recently in Somaliland, in Cyprus, and in the golden handshake of £7½ million offered to Sierra Leone. On the basis that the population of Sierra Leone is 2¼ million and that of Nigeria is 35 million, if Nigeria received a sum in proportion to its population it would amount to over £100 million. I am not suggesting that any such sum should be paid. A fraction of that would satisfy the legitimate demands of British expatriate officers.
Extending that argument a little further, it would enable the Government to pay the expatriate difference to any new recruits that may be required in the services in Nigeria. I put that before my right hon. Friend, because I think that it is of prime importance. It is in the 1809 interest of Nigeria no less than in the interest of this country. If we are to give aid, we can do it in no better way than through the British expatriates who remain to serve that country.
I conclude by wishing the independent country of Nigeria a prosperous future in friendship and co-operation with the United Kingdom with which it will be an equal partner in the Commonwealth of Nations.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
I should like to join other hon. Members in welcoming the Bill and expressing my congratulations and good wishes to the people of Nigeria on their forthcoming independence. This is an important step in the evolution of the British Commonwealth. I rejoice, as others have done, in the fact that the negotiations have been carried on in such a friendly atmosphere. I also welcome the decision to incorporate a declaration of human rights in the new Constitution.
I do not want, on this occasion, to say anything which may seem to be out of harmony with the general expressions of good will. Anything I have to say is said only because I wish Nigeria to prosper. The Minister has referred to the points of unity between Great Britain and Nigeria, and there are just two comments that I wish to make on that theme.
I hope that Britain will do all that is possible to provide educational links between Nigeria and this country. I have not had the privilege of visiting the University of Ibadan, but I hear very good reports about it. As hon. Members know, the university was set up under the auspices of the United Kingdom Inter-University Council. I believe that it would be greatly to the benefit of the Northern and Eastern Regions if similar university colleges could be set up there. I hope that independence will not in any way prevent that from coming to pass. I am convinced that these educational links between Britain and Nigeria can be of advantage to Nigeria.
Secondly, with regard to administration, I wish Britain had been rather more farsighted in considering the problem of the British civil servants in Nigeria. It is not enough to provide financial aid. The provision of personnel 1810 who will remain there after independence is as important as the provision of financial aid in the stricter sense.
I have also read the address which was given by the Premier of Northern Nigeria, reported in the Northern Nigerian News of June, 1960. He referred to the need for capital investment and went on to say:Where are we to look for this assistance after 1st October? We hope that the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries as equal partners in the Commonwealth will provide a large share of our requirements. You are our friends, and we are used to you. But I fear that our gigantic needs will not be fully appreciated and the United Kingdom often seems to me more generous to those who abuse her than to those who are friendly towards herI will not argue about that last remark. The point that I wish to make—I think that it was recognised by the Premier of Northern Nigeria—is that it is not only capital investment which is required. It is personnel, in particular, I would say, for Northern Nigeria.
I was disturbed, as other hon. Members have been disturbed, by the letter which has been sent to all Members of Parliament by the Association of Senior Civil Servants of the Federation of Nigeria. There is a great need for technicians and civil servants, and we should do all that is possible to encourage them to stay. That body expresses the view that Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service has been let down. It recognises the difficulties of the Federal and Regional Governments of Nigeria. It says:We have always understood the political social and other considerations that have prevented Nigerian Ministers from increasing our emoluments to the world market level, and we have no quarrel with them. Their dealings with us have been marked by candour, and we appreciate their difficulties. Those of us who have remained at our posts have, there for, not done so for mercenary reasons, but, until recently, we did hope that the Secretary of State would somehow find ways to meet the reasonable financial obligations of Her Majesty's Government towards its Overseas Civil Service.I hope that something will be done to put that right.
With those few words, I welcome the Bill. Anything that I have said about failure—I feel that there has been a failure—to encourage civil servants to remain there is in no way in depreciation of the objects of the Bill, but merely 1811 springs from my desire for good fortune in the future for this great and friendly country, which we shall welcome as an independent member of the British Commonwealth.
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ Sir Roland Robinson (Blackpool, South)
Like all hon. Members who have spoken this morning, I rise for a dual purpose: first, to give approval to the Bill; and, secondly, to wish well to what we all believe will be a fine new independent State in Africa.
The Bill is a short one, but it is worth saying, at the same time, that this short Bill represents years of preparation both in this country and in Nigeria. Successive Governments here and successive Secretaries of State have played their part. We remember not many years ago Lord Chandos—Oliver Lyttelton, as he then was—who, as Secretary of State for the Colonies, helped Nigeria along in a big way. Then my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) became Secretary of State. He probably did more to secure a united Nigeria and to create good will within that country than any Secretary of State had done previously. Many of my friends in Nigeria have said that they owe a great debt of gratitude to him for what he did
I feel that we in this House have the same sense of gratitude and also a feeling of pleasure that one of us should have played so important a part in creating the great new nation. Now we offer our congratulations to my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State. We rejoice that he has had a part in concluding the work which has led to the creation of this new nation.
I think that at this time it is worth referring to a very interesting leading article which appeared in The Times yesterday, entitled, "The Backbone" The Times was considering the problems which have arisen in the Congo and also the problems of the overseas Civil Service. Early in the article The Times very sensibly pointed out.that the granting of independence in Africa is not possible merely through a political act. The colonial ruler cannot just wave a wand and declare 'Let there be independence'. The technique of preparing a country is long and complicated, requiring painstaking effort and application1812 That is what I believe has happened in the case of Nigeria. It is because of that adequate preparation that we can have confidence in the future of that country.
This is perhaps different from the policy of many other countries. We should point out, and point out very firmly, that it has for a long time been British policy to prepare the people of these countries for responsibility. It has been a particular joy to us that the Nigerians themselves have really welcomed the idea of responsibility. I think that they have understood that it is hard work, and not merely slogans, that brings about a successful and independent nation. We have all seen the preparation which the Nigerians have done.
We are happy, too, that the Nigerians themselves really want to try to make work a real Parliamentary democracy. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) and I have had a great deal to do with the course on Parliamentary democracy organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. One of the most interesting things is that over the last few years there have been so many members of the various Houses in Nigeria who have desired to come here and get all the training that they could in Parliamentary democracy.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that when they have gone home we have been left with the impression that they were worthy students who were welt fitted to play a part in the leadership of their country. They have tried to follow through to the end the working of Parliament; not merely the job of an hon. Member, but also how the Clerk of the Table should work, and the functions of Mr. Speaker as well. It is encouraging that they have had as their Speaker in the Federal House one who served so long at our Table here. With that kind of background one feels that in Nigeria they will make a success of Parliamentary democracy, and we wish them well.
We should refer to the devoted work of the British administrators and technicians in Nigeria. They have not only been steadily helping the people of Nigeria, they have been training their successors. Many of those administrators may stay. I believe that Nigeria 1813 will want them to, and I hope that if the opportunity to stay presents itself those administrators will accept.
I agree with what has been said on both sides of the House, that it is our duty to see that these members of the British Overseas Service are properly looked after, and are adequately rewarded for the great work that they are doing in building up new nations in the Commonwealth.
The third thing that has done so much for Nigeria is the good sense and moderation of the Nigerian political leaders. Sir Abubakar and all those around him, and the leaders in the various regions, have all played their part, and now, as they become a new nation, we know that they will be received with respect and honour wherever they choose to go in the world.
I think that, together, we have done a great thing in that we have created a nation from a diversity of tribes and peoples. Some time ago it was often said that Nigeria was a geographical expression. We can say with confidence that Nigeria is now a nation, and will remain so. We are confident that the unity of the Federation will increase as the years ago by. It is a unity which will give them great strength. The economic unity will be of great benefit to the country because when the three regions are together they have a diversity of production—cocoa, groundnuts, palm oil, kernels, cotton, timber, hides, and now, even oil.
That economic unity will provide the basis for a sound economy and, I think that that diversity will give them strength when they go into the money markets of the world. It will give them strength, too, when they go beyond us, as inevitably they will need to, and when they talk to the World Bank and ask for additional funds.
We in this country should always support them in their efforts. If we help this Federation which has a population of nearly 35 million people we will have a strong nation whose leaders will be able to speak in the councils of the world with far greater authority than they would be able to if they were in diversified units. With this leadership in Nigeria today this new nation will be able to exercise a great and beneficial influence over the affairs of Africa as a whole.
When Independence Day comes, it will not be, as has been the case elsewhere, 1814 a day of fear and uncertainty. It will be a day of joy and rejoicing and we will be able to look with pride and satisfaction at what is happening. We wish them well, and hope that they will play a full part as a free member of our great Commonwealth of Nations.
§ 12.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield)
We all agree that the passage of this Bill is an occasion in the history of the Commonwealth. I should like first to congratulate Ministers, Governors, and African leaders, all of whom have played an important part in achieving the progress we are recording today. I think that we are all particularly happy that this great stop forward has been achieved smoothly and in an orderly way and not by a course quite as devious as the one we were discussing in the House of Commons only last night respecting Cyprus.
I am anxious to say a few words about the Bill because of my interest in Nigeria, first as a back bencher, for about twenty-five years. I think that I enjoy the rather unique distinction of having been elected an honorary Chief of the Yoruba Tribe in Nigeria. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I felt very proud when that recognition was given for the slight services I had been able to render to the people of Nigeria.
I feel that the Bill is a fitting conclusion to the work which was begun by Lugard. I had the privilege of knowing that great man in his later years, and I think that today we should remember with gratitude the work that he did in Nigeria in protecting the peoples of that country against privilege; in preserving the land of that country for the people; in his tolerance in the treatment of religion, and in his preservation of the civil rights of the people. We shall have the opportunity of reading his biography by Miss Margery Perham, I hope in the course of a few months, but it is fitting that today some tribute should be paid to the foundation work he did in this great country whose final liberation we are recording today.
When I was at the Colonial Office in the years immediately following the war, we used to think that when we dealt with the problem of Nigeria we virtually had eternity to play with. No one was really conscious of the pace at which 1815 political development would go on. If we talked about Nigeria we were told of the permanence of the traditional structures of the North and we were told of the political immaturity of the people of Eastern and Western regions. If one pointed to the agitation for self-government which was growing up, one was reminded that we need not take too seriously into account the small cliques in the towns which were pressing for political change.
All that has altered over the years. The war released those extraordinary influences which have profoundly affected mankind generally and brought to Africa many of those practical aids which have done so much to revolutionise living and change many aspects of life. To the astonishment of almost everyone, during the last fifteen years Africa has been precipitated into the modern world, and Imperialism, or the remnants of it, is now beating a hasty retreat from the Continent.
The Bill records the culmination of a tremendously difficult and complex exercise in constitution-making. It is a Constitution of great delicacy where various interests have had to be reconciled, and a Constitution which, only a few years ago, many of us thought would be impossible to achieve.
As the Secretary of State has reminded us, it is a Constitution which to a great extent has been made by the Africans themselves. Therefore, it should enjoy a much greater measure of stability than constitutions imposed from outside. Although there are these important and extraordinary features in the Constitution with regard to human rights, I hope that in the working out of their constitutional procedures and political institutions there will be not too slavish a regard to the Westminster model. I hope that Nigerians will fashion their institutions in the light of their own needs, traditions, experience, economic background and temperament. At the same time, I think we all feel gratified that the Nigerians have been able to learn a great deal about political ideals and principles from the working of democratic institutions in this country.
We should recognise that, after all, this is a fulfilment of enlightened British purpose. It may be that there are a few 1816 persons still who fear that the Secretary of State is going a bit too fast and being a bit reckless with regard to European interests in other parts of Africa. But I think we may pay tribute to him for his humanity and his sense of realism. I would remind him that less than ten years ago I was charged with playing too vital a part in dismembering and giving away the Empire. Too many of my critics were completely oblivious to the fact that what we were trying to do was to transform an Empire into a Commonwealth. I think that what is happening today is an indication of the success which that policy has achieved.
These are rather startling and historic days in the continent of Africa. But for some of us the developments going on stimulate a degree of anxiety and apprehension as well as of satisfaction; apprehension, because without adequate preparation and experience certain countries are achieving their freedom and finding, as a result, anarchy and conflict. This is happening today in the Congo. In a few other countries, because of the theory of European ascendancy, repression is being practised at the expense of the black population. That is the situation in the Union of South Africa. We ourselves must be on our guard, because there are great problems ahead for us regarding parts of Africa where, as yet, political freedom is to be won by the African population. Central Africa poses a big query for this House in the months ahead. Let us hope that we shall find a solution which is as democratic and as liberal, as the Constitution in this Bill for the freedom and liberation of Nigeria.
If there is apprehension there is also a degree of satisfaction. My own personal satisfaction comes from the fact that we are witnessing the crumbling away of the old imperial systems in the Continent of Africa and that Britain is more and more recognising the importance of democracy and of liberal change. That in itself is a gratifying feature for our nation has played a great part in the imperial history of the world during the last few centuries. In Nigeria it has been a peaceful and orderly progress, and perhaps we could argue that the British method—the British system of administration and policy—has some superior quality above the systems exer- 1817 cised by other nations in the administration of their territories in the African Continent.
At least we have brought indirect rule through to local government and regional autonomy through to a structure of political democracy, and we all pray hat it will work. We have seen government through the Chiefs transformed into genuine government by the people. By our policies we have also seen a system of laissez faire regarding social and economic development transformed into positive and constructive development. I am not arguing that on looking back on our own record we need be too complacent about it.
I remember that from time to time I have made my protest in this House against the degree of human exploitation which one has discovered in some of our territories. I have protested from time to time against the seizure of native land which ought to remain with the people. I have complained against forced labour which was practised even in Nigeria in the period of the war. So we need not be too complacent regarding our own policies. But at least we can say that, looking at British administration in the broad, the result has achieved a singular success in the degree of freedom it has brought to the people concerned. Therefore I should like, as other hon. Members have already done, to pay my tribute to those who have brought about this extraordinary development in so brief a time.
I have referred to Lugard and I should like to refer also to Sir Donald Cameron and to Sir Alan Burns, secretary to Lugard for many years. Their work in establishing British administration in Nigeria contributed greatly to its constitutional structure. I should like to recognise today the work of Sir Bernard Bourdillon in arguing with the British Government that there should be not a policy of laissez faire but in its place constructive and positive development in the territory. Incidentally, he made a substantial contribution to our thought about Colonial Development and Welfare. I should like also to extend my congratulations to Ministers and Governors who in the past have contributed to building up the Constitution as we know it today.
In this discussion the name of Oliver Stanley has been forgotten. He had a 1818 part in the initiation of the modern Constitution in Nigeria and I would add the names of Lord Milverton and Sir John MacPherson who worked with me on constitutional development when I was at the Colonial Office.
I should also recognise the work done by African leaders. I remember some of the old pioneers of Nigerian independence, such as Macaulay, who for years agitated for change, and also one who has been referred to as a stormy petrel, Dr. Azikiwe. Perhaps in the earlier days he was a little irresponsible in his manner, but he was a very great, magnetic leader and he made a considerable impact on the thought of Nigerians for the liberation from aliens of the political life of his country. I couple with these names the Prime Minister of the Federation, the late Prime Minister of Western Nigeria and the Prime Minister of Northern Nigeria, all of whom have played a prudent and patient part in the achievement we are recording today.
Although nationhood and independent statehood have been reached in Nigeria, there are still very difficult tasks ahead for the Nigerian people. I am conscious that the African leaders in Nigeria are alive to the difficulties which they have to face. Some of them have been referred to today. First, there is the great problem of how to weld into unity for great national purposes three great divisions of peoples with different traditions and different languages and religions.
Secondly, there is the problem of how to get the Constitution to work if it is to have some regard to the variety of peoples, their tribal differences and different traditions and structures. Trying to discover how to get strong central government, and to distribute the functions and powers to regions in order that they may feel they have reasonable autonomy, has been one of the great tasks done, but it will be one of the great difficulties which will have to be worked out further in the days ahead.
Above all, there is the great difficulty of working democracy itself. It is all very well for us to think that because of our own traditions and experience with this method of government it is comparatively easy to work; but, when we are dealing with a country such as Nigeria 1819 with its tropical and non-industrial background, where large numbers of people are illiterate and immature in political experience, there is a tremendous task in trying to shape political institutions which can give democratic results. The learning of tolerance and of resistance to corruption, vital elements in the working of democracy, are also factors which have to be reckoned with when new States are born.
Reference has also been made to the fact that Nigeria enters on her independence with an administrative framework which, perhaps, is not as adequate and experienced as we would wish. I agree with all that has been said and I am aware that the Secretary of State is himself conscious of this grave defect which arises when nations are emerging to independence. I can only hope that in the new statement he is working on he will have full Treasury approval, and that there will be an underwriting of a genuine Overseas Service which can be used in a developing country like Nigeria. Obviously, the development of unity in a country depends on the administrative framework erected in it. I therefore hope that this question will receive, not only the attention of the new Nigerian Federal Government, but also the assistance of London.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) made reference to the problem of the economic viability of Nigeria in the days to come. It may be that in certain respects it has wealth. It has oil, it has tin, groundnuts, rubber and palm products, but obviously the standards of living are still low. Industry has scarcely been established and the nation still needs to be equipped for the great tasks which it now has to discharge. I think that British policy was sound in the creation of the commodity schemes and stabilisation funds which have been used to such great advantage in the economy of the country. I hope that the Nigerian Governments will still recognise that the purposes for which those funds were created should still be observed in the days to come, although in some cases inroads have been made in them for development purposes. I also urge on the attention of Her Majesty's Government the great importance of discovering in what ways more practical and tech- 1820 nical assistance can be given to emerging States.
We have had discussions in this House on the position of Colonial Development and Welfare funds and the position of the Colonial Development Corporation when a State emerges to independence. I hope it will be seen that, in these critical years immediately following independence—in these years when more than at any time outside aid is required, when it is important that the great work of our administration should not be undone by the deficiencies which become obvious when a State obtains independence—aid should be forthcoming, not merely by way of loans and facilities for capital, but in a thousand practical ways which are open to us.
Finally, there is the problem of educational advance. It was my privilege to be the vice-chairman of the Commission which looked into the whole problem of higher education in West Africa. I rejoice that it fell to me to recommend that the money necessary for the foundation of Ibadan University College should be granted and I had the privilege of cutting the first sod for the building of the Ibadan University. I have always taken a great interest in educational development. One of the pleasing things about the people of Nigeria is their passion for the extension of educational facilities.
In referring to economic viability, I urge the Government, when we are asked for practical assistance to the new State, to keep in mind the enormity of the social tasks which lie ahead, both in federal and regional development. In education the task is enormous. The demand is there as it is also in public health and hospital provision. I recognise that by university provision and by some of the extension work for education, much useful work is being done. I recognise that not only the Nigerian people but the African leaders themselves are conscious of the importance of all this. Dr. Azikiwe is anxious not only to burst through the illiteracy and mass ignorance of the territory of which he was Premier but also to found there a new university. Already the first steps towards the establishment of that university have been taken. The means of extending education in all fields are required.
1821 There is one last thought which I should like to leave with the Secretary of State. States are emerging to independence and other territories will be clamouring for independence. Are we quite sure that our work of preparation for independence is as thorough, sound and adequate as it might be? Ought we not to put a little more emphasis, even while the territories remain dependent, on the extension of education, on steps to make the economic foundation of the territories a little more secure, on building up local government and on creating greater facilities for training the people who will take over the administration? I suggest that in the territories which are moving to independence, at least in our policy and methods of administration, greater attention should be paid to the defects which have been brought out by our experience in recent years. We have found that some States have become independent inadequately equipped for the task which political necessity is imposing on them.
Nigeria has become a new independent State. I believe it is destined to play a very great part in the life of Africa and the Commonwealth. Perhaps something of the colour and pageantry of the country is disappearing. Indeed, as a result of the impact of Western influences, the country is vastly changing. It is trying to equip itself for the great task of statehood, nationhood and independence. It is trying to build up a life of its own, and, I think, a life which will be of incalculable advantage to the people of Africa and of the world.
We are tied in bonds of great friendship with Nigeria and we therefore congratulate all those who have brought us to the present point at which we can declare her independent. All of us wish this new independent State all success, all progress and the greatest happiness for its people.
§ 12.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Humphry Berkeley (Lancaster)
Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell), whose speech I greatly enjoyed, my experience of Nigeria does not go back twenty years but is based on two very brief visits. Nevertheless, my pleasure in supporting the Bill is, I am sure, as great as his or that of any other hon. Member.
1822 The Bill marks the culmination of the efforts of generations of devoted British servants in this large territory. We can take a solid measure of comfort from the fact that for ten years in Nigeria there has been working a ministerial form of Government and that in each of three regions self-government has come in an orderly and responsible pattern. But there is one word of warning which I want to throw into the debate.
We are sometimes a little too inclined to forget that we cease to govern a country the minute that we hand it over to independence and we are sometimes a little too prone to criticise our former dependent territories if the precise pattern of government which they subsequently choose to follow does not immediately correspond with our own system which we have evolved here.
If we can say that British rule has left a legacy of free elections, an independent judiciary, an independent police force and the rule of law, we need not be all that worried if, in certain respects, departures are made, as they probably will be made, from the strict pattern of the Westminster traditions.
There are three points which I want to put to the Colonial Secretary in respect of this forthcoming independence, to which we all look forward so much. My knowledge of West Africa is by no means vast, but in the various territories in West Africa which I have visited I have been very impressed by the great significance attached to symbols in the mind of the Africans. I have seen it in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
We are all glad to see that Nigeria is to retain her allegiance to the Crown. After 1st October there will remain in Nigeria a Governor-General, although it remains to be seen whether he is a European or a Nigerian. I am certain that after the celebrations are over many Nigerians will ask themselves what independence means as long as a Governor-General remains. Unlike the position in Ghana in 1957, for example, the present executive head of Government is already a Governor-General. I wonder whether there is not something to be said for altering the name of Her Majesty's representative in those territories which desire to retain their allegiance to the Crown.
Secondly, the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) raised the question of Nigeria's decision, 1823 which we all welcome, to retain the appeal to the Privy Council. One point which emerged in the debate on Ghana independence about three-and-a-half years ago—I looked up the report of the debate the other day—was that Ghana had then decided to retain the appeal to the Privy Council, and it was pointed out several times in the debate that no African judge had ever been appointed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Various undertakings were given by the Ministers in charge of that Bill that the attention of the appropriate authorities would be drawn to this omission.
Since that time, three-and-a-half years have passed. Ghana, as it happened, decided to terminate the appeal to the Privy Council. It is, however, no secret that Ghana would have retained that appeal, despite her republican status, had she felt that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was more comprehensive and contained African representation. I very much hope that the Colonial Secretary will be more emphatic than his predecessor in drawing to the attention of the appropriate authorities what I believe to be a very important point. I am certain that if some representation of this kind can be given, then Nigeria will keep her desire to retain this appeal.
My third point is in connection with the needs of the Nigerian Government to retain the services of expatriates, either in the Administration or in the form of technical aid. I have always been very attracted to the conception of a Commonwealth Civil Service, which has been much discussed in the past few months, but I can readily understand the difficulties, which have been extremely well explained on a number of occasions by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations. But I have never seen what objections there are to a process of straight secondment from United Kingdom Government Departments to the Government Departments of our former dependent territories. I believe that this could be examined with profit and could possibly develop and flower.
After all, to take but one example, the B.B.C. has a most excellent record in this respect. It supplies on secondment directors of broadcasting to a 1824 number of our overseas Commonwealth and Colonial Territories. The B.B.C. supplies not only directors of broadcasting, but also officials and technicians at a lower level. Subsequently, they are received back into the B.B.C. in London when they return.
That principle could be applied in other fields. It could certainly be applied in the railways. It might be applied in the electricity authorities. It could be extended to cover Government Departments. I hope that our Government will look at this, because all of us would like to feel that the first place to which Nigeria or any other newly independent Commonwealth country will turn for help will be the United Kingdom and our Government here.
I want to say, finally, how tremendously encouraged I have been—I know that many other hon. Members on both sides have been—by the appointment which was announced of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) as United Kingdom High Commissioner in Nigeria. From my perhaps rather limited experience of travelling in Commonwealth Territories, I have not always been favourably impressed by the type and calibre of some of our representatives at our High Commissions. It is most encouraging that the Commonwealth Relations Office has woken up to the real need to provide someone of first-class calibre, not only to represent the United Kingdom in Nigeria, but also to see that Nigeria's needs are adequately known here and that the very close relationship and friendship which has grown up between our two peoples in the past is fully maintained in the future.
§ 12.53 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
Like the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell), I very much regret that this historic Bill is being considered on a Friday morning. This is an utterly inadequate occasion for reflecting the decision of the House of Commons to recognise the right of the people of Nigeria to independence.
This is really a moment of very great history. Today we are deciding that half the population in the British Empire shall have the right of self-government and independence. If I had been speaking thirteen years ago, before the right 1825 of India to independence was recognised, I would have had to say that there were over 500 million people in the British Empire without the right to self-government and independence. Today that number has been reduced to 70 million, and on this occasion by carrying this Bill we shall be reducing the number to 35 million.
It is a moment of tremendous significance, not only for Africa and the Commonwealth, but for this country. Therefore, I cannot help deploring the fact that when we are taking this great step the Government should have put this Measure down for a morning when inevitably the attendance of the House is small. I beg our friends in Nigeria not to think, because of this, that the Members of this House do not appreciate the importance of this Measure.
I want very heartily to congratulate the Secretary of State on the distinction of being the presiding Minister when independence should be extended to Nigeria. I want to extend that congratulation to his predecessor, with whom I quarrelled on very many occasions, but whose contribution in the negotiations about Nigeria, difficult and long, was always constructive.
We should remember today the service which was given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) when he was Secretary of State in this country, and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) when he followed in his footsteps. I should like to wish well to the new High Commissioner and to the Deputy-Commissioners whose names have been announced today. I should like to express appreciation to all those who have been in the British Colonial Service, both those of high status, mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield, and those at the roots, to whom the hon. Member for Kirkdale paid tribute earlier on.
We should recognise, however, that the greatest tribute should be paid and the greatest gratitude expressed to the people of Nigeria themselves and their leaders. Those leaders have shown very great statesmanship. One rejoices that a man of such breadth and tolerance should now be the Prime Minister of the Federation. One rejoices in the character and the contribution of the Sardauna 1826 of Sokoto. But I cannot help thinking today back to the Constitutional Conference of 1953, when it was the statesmanship of Chief Awolowo of Western Nigeria and of Dr. Azikiwe of Eastern Nigeria that enabled this Bill to be introduced today.
Southern Nigeria, with its Eastern and Western Regions more advanced than the North, could have had its independence seven years ago, but the great wisdom and statesmanship of the leaders of the East and West led them to say, "We will postpone our own independence in order that the unity of Nigeria may be preserved", in the hope that the example which they would give of internal self-government in their regions, together with the progress of democracy in Northern Nigeria itself, would reach 'the point where the independence of the whole territory could be secured. Today is the moment of their triumph, and it is the duty of this House to recognise 'the very great contribution which they made. It is appropriate that, when independence is gained, the Prime Minister should be a representative of the Northern Region, which has advanced in the way foreseen at those moments.
I should like to pay my very special tribute to Dr. Azikiwe, because he has been the champion throughout the years of the conception of Nigerian unity and Nigerian democracy. In Lagos a fortnight ago, I heard that he might be appointed Governor-General of the new independent Nigeria. If that happens, it will be a worthy recognition of his contribution, though I hope very much that in that exalted position, he will not be less influential in the political contribution which he can make to the advance of his country.
This week, one cannot but think of the contrast between the advance of Nigeria to its independence and what is occurring in the Congo. I want to pay my tribute to the fact that over the years the British administration, in the Civil Service, in the Colonial Service and in the medical and educational services, has contributed towards the technical advance of Africans in Nigeria so that they would be in a position to carry out the new responsibilities which they have under independence, and to contrast that with the absence of the preparation, not 1827 only in the Belgian Congo, but in the Portuguese territories of Africa. I join with my hon. Friends who have been pleading today that the members of our services in Africa should now have the most generous recognition of what they have done.
I would suggest, however, that we must not be too self-righteous in this respect. If Nigeria is now moving towards independence more satisfactorily and more rapidly than many parts of Africa, it is due to its fortunate position in two respects. The first is the fact that it has not had large immigrant settler communities from Europe and from Asia. It has remained an African society. It is because of that fact that Nigeria, Ghana and other West African territories are proceeding in their independence so speedily. I endorse what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield—and I know that the Secretary of State for the Colonies appreciates this himself—that there will be much more difficult problems when the question of the advance of East and Central Africa has to be settled in the coming months.
The second reason why Nigeria and the West African Territories have preceded to independence more rapidly is that they have had the good fortune of not being in such a position on the map of the world that they were regarded as of strategic military importance in the conflict between the two great Power groups. We discussed yesterday the tragic story of the past five years in Cyprus which had the misfortune to be regarded as of military importance. West Africa, Ghana and now Nigeria are in the happy position that they are not the pawns and playthings of the two great Power blocs in their competition in the world.
I want to endorse very strongly everything that has been said, particularly from the benches on this side of the House, regarding the need for continued economic aid, and indeed extended economic aid, for Nigeria. There is not merely the need for the development of the Northern Territory. There is the need in its health service and in its education service. While we congratulate ourselves on the advance in the territory, quite honestly, if we look at the figures in regard to education and health, we have a little to be ashamed 1828 of as well. I want to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, to act not merely in his own capacity as Secretary of State for the Colonies, but to use his influence with the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, with the Treasury and with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to see that not only this country but the world, through the United Nations, makes a far more generous contribution towards lifting poverty and disease from these territories than it has done so far.
I want to say a brief word or two about some of the Clauses in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman should not have apologised for having Clause 4 in the Bill; he should have apologised if he had not got Clause 4 in the Constitution! We may say to the right hon. Gentleman that we appreciate the spirit in which he teased Members on this side on that particular subject.
My one regret about this Bill is that the women of the Northern Region are not enfranchised. In the East, yes; in the West, yes; in the North, not yet, because they are a Muslim country. Other Muslim countries have developed now to the point of the equal enfranchisement of women and men, and my great appeal would be to the people of Northern Nigeria to recognise human equality as well as the equality expressed in their independence.
I cannot say how deeply I welcome the inclusion in the Constitution of the Declaration of Human Rights. The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I say that it was only a few years ago that we appealed in vain from this side of the House for Constitutions of the new territories embodying the Declaration. I rejoice that it is planned for Kenya and for Sierra Leone. I rejoice that it is now being done in Nigeria. There is only one comment I want to make. I noticed that in the case of Sierra Leone the declaration of the rights of property was included in the body of the Constitution, while human rights were included only in an appendix. I suggest that when the detailed Constitution is prepared for Nigeria, the provisions for human rights should be a part of the actual Constitution. They are, indeed, more important than the rights of property, and they ought to occupy a 1829 more important position in the Constitution.
I welcome the fact that Nigeria is a Federation. It is not one nation but many—many races, many religions—yet they have all found their unity in this Federation. I hope and pray at this moment that the model of Nigeria may be regarded by those who are to be responsible for the independence of the Republic of the Congo. I hope that the principle of federation that is being adopted for Nigeria may be extended over other African countries, that we may be saved from the balkanisation of Africa, that we may have units that are economically viable, and that the increasing sense of African solidarity that is growing in that continent may find its expression in wider and wider federation.
If that proves to be the case, this Bill is not only of significance to Nigeria and to Great Britain but it will prove to be significant to the whole development of the Continent of Africa—that emerging liberation that will make such an impact upon the world of our time.
§ 1.13 p.m.
§ Sir Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
I never eat breakfast, so I hope that I shall not speak for long, but I make no kind of promise. I had meant to speak only on one comparatively small point, but almost all the large words which most provoke my subconscious to rise to the surface and utter, have been used, and I do not promise that they will not have some effect.
Unlike, I think, everyone else who has spoken, I am not an expert. I have some slight advantage in that I am not in this matter—whatever may be the case in others—tempted to the complacency or self-righteousness which the last two Members from the other side so impressively warned us against.
This is a great occasion. Looking round, it is very difficult to remind oneself of it. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and one or two other hon. Members, who regretted that this has happened on a Friday, but I do not blame the usual channels. I quite see their difficulties.
I must say that I am one who never comes here on a Friday normally, but I did this time, and I am bound to 1830 say that I have seen these benches crowded on a Friday for other matters. If we were discussing stag hunting, or Members' pay——
§ Sir K. Pickthorn
Or Sunday observance, I dare say the benches would have been crowded, and I do not think that it is any use our complacently putting the blame on the Whips for chosing this day. There should have been far more hon. Members here
I speak here, not that I think that I can raise the scale of the occasion. Indeed, it is extremely difficult—it is like swimming in a swimming-bath with only half an inch of water left in it—to speak at this stage on a Friday debate, and especially at a quarter-past one, when one has not eaten anything since half-past eight the night before. I do not think that I can add any greatness to the occasion, but I think that I can indicate one reason why it is a great occasion that has not been indicated here, though, I am sure, many hon. Members must be conscious of it. Then I want, on a point to which I shall return in a moment, to make it clear that everyone who has spoken—I think that there has been no exception, apart from my right hon. Friend—is unanimous on one question, and everyone on this side has been vocally unanimous.
The first thing I want to say is this. I cannot define "empire," and I cannot define "commonwealth"—still less can I define "imperialism." I find it very difficult nowadays to define "democracy." We know that a people's democracy is quite a different thing. But whatever be used for rule, especially for rule overseas, and to some extent over persons of different race and civilisation, whatever word be used for it, I think that we should remember on this occasion that the risk of doing harm may well be greater—and, certainly, the consciousness of responsibility should be greater—at the moment of cessation of protection and sovereignty than it was at any earlier moment.
There certainly have been parts of the world where the ending of some kind of dominium or imperium from overseas has produced greater countable material evils than have been produced in the whole process of acquiring the dominium, 1831 and exercising it. That is certainly true, and it is a very sombre thought that should never be forgotten by those who do not wish to be complacent.
This is a great occasion. I have as much hope for Nigeria and, I think, as much good will for Nigeria as anyone who has spoken here; but we must remember the difficulties. We must remember both sides of what happens upon occasions like this. Perhaps we should remember that democracy is not traditional in this country as, I think, almost every other speaker has assumed. It is a very modern, new thing in this country even. It has disappeared over most of the rest of the globe's surface, where it has ever existed before in any shape or form. It has disappeared over half of Europe, Russia, and so on. It is not to be taken for granted.
And I am not at all so sure about "human rights." I do not know enough about Nigeria and the Nigerian Constitution to know its special case, but I did not want it to be thought that silence meant that every one here present is sure that declarations of human rights are great things. I suppose that human rights have been better defined and better protected in the history of the world, so far as any of us know, by the two great legal systems; by the Roman law and common law. They did not—and much less did the common law even than Roman law—go in for definitions of human rights. On this occasion it may be a very good thing, but I would not have it thought that we all of us assume that declarations of human rights are always a very good thing.
Naturally, I do not feel so sure about planned economy as some hon. Members opposite; but not altogether for the reasons which they might suppose. As a kind of West Indian, when I think of the benefits conferred on West Africa by the planned taking of cocoa there, I can remember what happened to Grenada, too, at the other end. Even at the West African end, there have been cocoa growers who have thought that the planned economy enabled the Government to squeeze out of them what ought to have been their profits to an extent to which private enterprise has never squeezed any agricultural producers. 1832 They may have been right or wrong, but certainly a great many cocoa producers felt that. Do no let us take these things for granted and do not let us at this stage give the impression to people outside this House that we do take them for granted.
Then, about aid for what are called under-developed territories. I am not sure what that term "under-developed" means. All the best things in life, as we have the highest authority for expecting, are indirectly produced. I am not at all certain that by direct attempts at aid, either we or the Americans have during the last fifteen years done more than would have been done by indirect means, nor am I at all persuaded that in the next two generations the inhabitants of tropical territories will be more economically benefited by what is called planned aid than they were during the last two generations, or, for that matter, the last four or eight generations, by the operations of commerce. I do not feel certain about this.
There is one sense in which we can all agree upon aid for under-developed territories. This brings me to the point on which everybody who has spoken on this side has expressed the same opinion and on which almost every hon. Member opposite has indicated agreement and which, unless I remember wrongly—and I had to go out for one minute during his speech—my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary is the only speaker so far not to have mentioned.
If we want to help under-developed territories, the one thing that it seems fairly safe to do without risking doing more harm than good is to make it possible for British persons, British-trained, to live not conscious of grievance or hardship or injustice upon territories now independent. My language was a little clumsy, but I hope that the proposition was plain and that everybody agrees about that sentence.
If we all agree about that, I do not want to argue over the pamphlet which we have had from the senior civil servants of the Federation of Nigeria. I do not feel well enough briefed to argue their case. All I say is that I feel quite certain that British senior civil servants in Nigeria—and, indeed, in every tropical part of the world where there are any—are not unreasonably suspicious and jealous of the way they have been, 1833 are being and will be treated. In particular, that is true of senior civil servants in Nigeria. I was not sure when I came into the Chamber whether all this was in order on the Bill, but I think it is. Everybody has talked about it and everybody has talked about it at greater length than I so far have.
What seems plain on the face of the pamphlet is that the men to whom it relates—plainly, what is now happening must be a great and unpredictable turning point in their careers and lives and those of their wives and families—is that they have offered to abide by arbitration and by actuarial calculations and that there has not been any indication of tendency to accept any such offer. That raises a presumption that their case is the stronger of the two.
What I should like to hope is that the representative of the Colonial Office, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, or whoever replies to the debate, will assure us that Her Majesty's advisers are not complacent or self-righteous about what is so far known concerning the immediate and the future treatment of civil servants in Nigeria and in other tropical territories and that Her Majesty's advisers have actively under consideration doing, and making sure that they are seen to do, whatever can be done to mollify feelings about this, at least, highly debatable part of the operation.
§ 1.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Edwards (Bilston)
I have agreed with every speech that has been made in this debate, with the exception of the last one. I am greatly tempted to take up the points raised by the hon. Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn). I should like to make just one or two comments, however, on his reference to planning, human rights and democracy, because if the hon. Member's speech goes unanswered it would suggest that we accept some of the contentions which he has submitted in this debate on Nigerian independence.
How does a country build a dam in an under-developed area without economic planning? How are roads or schools built without economic planning?
§ Mr. Edwards
The hon. Member argued about the evils of economic 1834 planning. I just do not know how private enterprise or private initiative can build huge dams. Nigeria has a very substantial economic development plan—indeed, the greatest economic plan ever to be devised for the Continent of Africa—which, ultimately, will involve an expenditure of nearly £1,000 million. I do not know how all that money is to be collected. How does a Government decide what are the priorities, when to spend it and how to get the revenue, without accepting the simple principle of economic planning?
We have had some sarcastic remarks about human rights. Surely, it is vitally important that we write into new constitutions what rights people have.
§ Sir K. Pickthorn
Will the hon. Member give way? I am delighted that he should say anything he likes about me or my argument, but his description is mistaken. Possibly, the fault was mine. I was not being sarcastic about human rights. I am as willing to bleed in defence of human rights as any man. I was being dubious about the effectiveness of them as a paper declaration. I was careful to say that on this occasion, which is a very special occasion, I hope, indeed, that they are, and will be, effective, and that it is right to use them; but the words had been used as if written human rights had been commendatory words and were effective in themselves, a sort of sacred cow. I did not want it to go by that there was no single hon. Member in the House who doubted that.
§ Mr. Edwards
When human rights are discussed, they are discussed in conference. Having discussed them, one writes them down for everybody to read and know. However, I must not take up the points which were made by the hon. Gentleman, because there are other hon. Members who wish to make their contributions to the debate.
We have all agreed that this is a historic occasion for Africa and for this country. The greatest nation of Africa is about to be founded, a nation full of variety, different languages, different experiences, different tribes and different religions, where all the people have come together in a mighty Federation and agreed upon a Constitution. They have discussed their problems here in the Metropolis of a great Empire and Commonwealth, and we have agreed that 1835 Nigeria shall have its freedom without having to win it on the barricades, without the civil war and bloody revolution which many people envisaged as the only way the Africans could win their freedom from this Parliament. It is, indeed, a historic occasion.
I remember that the first public meeting I ever attended was at the Sun Hall, in Liverpool. I was only a boy of seven at the time, and I went there with my father. The meeting was addressed by E. D. Morel. He spoke about the dreadful condition of Africans in the Congo, about the despotic rule of Leopold and the dreadful exploitation and slavery among Africans working in the rubber plantations. Keir Hardie, the founder of the Labour movement, spoke at that meeting, but the speech which impressed me was the speech of E. D. Morel. Though I was so young at the time, I can still remember the flaming spirit of that man and his indignation in his campaign against the tyranny which existed in the Congo.
It is well, I think, that we should make this reference today when we are discussing the Nigerian Independence Bill. Here is a lesson to be learned in the great social and political changes which are taking place in Africa, the great revolution which is sweeping across the continent like a prairie fire. We have to make our peace with this revolution. We have to accept it and help it along peacefully and constructively. What we do today will be written into the history of this country and into the history of Africa as a majestic achievement which will long be remembered. The Colonial Secretary will be remembered in that history, and rightly so, for the patient work that he has put into the negotiations.
In looking up the figures of Nigeria's trade, I noticed that, although this country dominated that trade, during the last ten years our percentage of Nigeria's total trade has dropped by 9 per cent. and Nigeria is now expanding her trade with the Europe of the Six. Indeed, each year the European Economic Community of the Six imports about £30 million worth of goods from Nigeria. That represents a very important slice of the economy of this new and independent African nation. We have, therefore, some responsibility lest, because of our isola- 1836 tionism and our failure to come to agreement with the European Economic Community, we do great economic harm to this new independent African State.
There is a need for new machinery to enable this country and our very experienced economists to continue to advise emergent nations on economic questions as complex as the one I have just mentioned, that is to say, trade with Western Germany, Holland, Italy and the other members of the Six, which will, in a few months, put up considerable restrictions against the flow of trade outside the Six.
I come now to the relationship of the British Cameroons with this country and Nigeria. I was very pleased to hear, in reply to a series of questions I put on the plebiscite, that the women of the Northern and Southern Territories of the British Cameroons are, for the first time, included in the electoral register. I hope that this will encourage the Nigerians in the Northern Territory to do likewise and include their very intelligent, active and cultured Muslim women in their electoral register so that they may take their full part in the running of their country. I am happy to know that we have agreed—at least, I think this is true—to include all the women in the electoral register for the plebiscite in February next year.
I regret very much that the plebiscite is confined to two questions only, the question of federation between Nigeria and the North and South Cameroons or federation with the Cameroons Republic The situation in the Cameroons is very dangerous and delicate. There is a civil war going on in the French Cameroons, the Cameroons Republic. This is not the atmosphere in which to conduct a plebiscite in the North and South Cameroons. I wish that there had been a third question so that the North and South Cameroons might have an opportunity of voting just for independence for the time being.
I am quite certain that there will be a deadlock in the plebiscite. A large proportion of the voters in the Cameroons would at this moment prefer to await the development of the situation in Nigeria and in the Cameroons Republic before deciding their future. However. I understand that this was a United Nations decision and the matter was out of our hands. I should have hoped that. 1837 from our point of view, we might have pressed this third approach, because it is a very important one.
I beg the Colonial Secretary to make it clear in the months preceding the plebiscite that we as a nation are completely impartial. I hope that we shall not create martyrs in the Cameroons. I hope that there will be no persecution of the party which is alleged to be to the Left, that is to say, the One Cameroon Party. I am quite certain that it is not a Communist party. We shall make martyrs of the leaders of this party if we keep on arresting and detaining them for months at a time, removing them from normal political activities. The three parties in the Southern and Northern Cameroons should be allowed to function without any interference from the British Administration.
We now have British troops in the Cameroons—and rightly so. With the independence of Nigeria there was a vacuum, and the fact that we had British troops there has nothing to do with the Congo; this matter was decided many months ago. The fact that we have British troops there, with great power, also indicates how delicate the situation may become. We should not create a situation that may undermine all the fine work that we have done for Nigeria. I make a plea for a broadminded approach towards the three political parties operating in the Cameroons. We must not be prejudiced in favour of the Government or the Opposition party, or biased against the One Cameroon Party. We should allow democracy to operate.
Like all other speakers, I very much welcome the Bill, and I am sure that Nigeria, with its great responsibilities, will lay the foundation of a new kind of African State, where human freedom is guaranteed, and that this new African State will act as a beacon light and an example to every other emerging State throughout the world.
§ 1.42 p.m.
§ Sir John Vaughan-Morgan (Reigate)
We are all engaged in congratulating Nigeria on achieving her independence, and at this stage of the debate there is little new to be said. I shall be brief—indeed, I shall be laudably brief in comparison with some hon. Members who have spoken—and shall not indulge in 1838 personal reminiscences or historical and philosophical disquisitions, however wise, or contentious criticisms and comparisons with other countries. I want to confine myself to a subject to which the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. R. Edwards) briefly referred, namely, trade between ourselves and Nigeria, but before I do so there are a few congratulations which I should like to add.
Among all the founders of Nigeria who have been praised this morning—and they are many—I would single out Sir James Robertson, who was my good and kindly host for most of my whirlwind tour of the country. I do not think that any of us would underestimate the contribution that he has made in steering Nigeria through this difficult transition period. His wit, good humour and wisdom have been among the greatest factors in the achievement that we are celebrating today.
I also extend congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head). He now has imposed upon him a task in which his great abilities will be fully exercised. The United Kingdom High Commissioner in Nigeria, both in person and in office, will be a great factor in seeing the Federation through the storms and stresses which will inevitably attack it during its first few years of independence.
One thing that I take some credit for is the fact that the High Commissioner will have a residence worthy of the post. When I was there two years ago, I discovered that the Nigerian Government had given a site for the High Commissioner's residence, as well as a sum of money for the building of that residence. That fact should be placed on record today. Those who know Lagos will recognise it as the finest and most magnificent site in the whole city. For every ship, as it steams into the harbour, almost the first sight of Lagos will be the residence of the High Commissioner. When my hon. Friend replies to the debate I hope that he will be able to confirm what I have said, and express our gratitude for the generosity of the present Government.
I am glad to see the other appointments to the regions. When I went to Nigeria I found that we had a Trade 1839 Commissioner and a Trade Commissioner's office in Lagos, and that that organisation was expected to cover the whole of that vast country. It did a difficult job very well, but I am glad to see that the exigencies of geography have overcome any slight stinginess there might be on the part of the Treasury, and that each region will have an adequate staff. There will be a Deputy High Commissioner and a Deputy Trade Commissioner, as well as the ancillary staff, and they will play a very important part not only in the representation of the United Kingdom, but in the political and economic advice they will be able to give, which will be willingly sought by the Nigerian Government and the Regional Governments.
I now turn to our trade relations with Nigeria. As the hon. Member for Bilston said, over the years our percentage of the Nigerian import and export trade has declined. It has increased in volume, as the wealth of both countries has increased, but we cannot view with complacency the fact that our share is declining. Nigeria has been able to diversify her exports and, equally, she has diversified her imports, at our cost. The reasons are not far to seek. We can no longer compete with some of the consumer goods which play an important part in Nigeria's economy.
But I want to talk about the more general aspect of trade. At present, Nigeria enjoys free entry into this country for her goods, as a member of the Commonwealth. I hope that she will long continue to do so. But we have no Imperial Preference in Nigeria, because of the Congo Basin Treaty. There was a chance to change that before the war and, without going into the merits or otherwise of the proposal, we should now consider the matter again. As an imperial Power, before the war we may not have felt it right to make a change, but henceforth we shall be negotiating with an independent Government, and both this Government and the Nigerian Government should consider the matter again.
Nigeria gains considerable benefit from her preferences in our market, and it would be unfair to those other nations who also benefit from free entry here and who, per contra, give us preference 1840 in their markets, if one country, and one country only, did not also reciprocate. I should like to see a free and independent Nigeria extending preference to us as she raises her tariffs. Whether that would be in accordance with G.A.T.T. I do not know, but I see no reason why we should not at least seek an alteration. If that is so, then in the years to come I feel that the channels of trade between us and Nigeria will continue to flow as they have done before.
Most, if not all, hon. Members who have spoken have referred to the riches in Nigeria. I think that its potentialities are enormous. When I was there I was able to go and see where the oil prospecting was taking place. No one was prepared to say whether they had really found oil or not. I rejoice in the fact that it was a British company that discovered the oil and that certain other rival companies took their concessions to other parts of the country where, alas, oil has not so far been found.
Nigeria has enormous riches and raw materials, and she is to try to industrialise herself. She is to build up her industries, and we have a great part to play in supplying the capital and the skill required in that process. One of the factories which I visited when I was there was a cotton mill which bore the name of a very famous Lancashire firm. Most of the foremen and managerial staff were from Lancashire. That is just one of the initial steps that Nigeria has taken towards her industrialisation.
I came away from Nigeria more cheered than I have ever been in any other part of the Commonwealth. It has for us perhaps tremendous significance, because whenever one goes anywhere else in the Commonwealth one occasionally has slight misgivings about the mistakes which we have made in the past. I came away from Nigeria thinking that we had not made a single mistake and had not put a foot wrong. It is for that reason that we have such great good will from all the people of Nigeria.
I think that the next few years in this Federation will be difficult and perhaps crucial. Every Federation—it seems almost in the nature of things—gets into a trough of difficulties, but I am certain 1841 that this country will survive all those difficulties and will emerge as a dominant nation in Africa.
§ 1.53 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
I wish to speak for a few moments, and I do so without apology because I confess straight away that, in common with other hon. Members who have spoken today, Nigeria has a special place in my heart.
Yesterday, in another debate, I expressed some hesitancy about the role of the territory which we were then discussing vis-à-vis the Commonwealth. I am very glad today that I have no such reservations at all, and I heartily welcome the thought of Nigeria becoming a full Commonwealth member.
Many tributes have been paid to the high qualities of the Nigerians, both collectively and personally. I would stress only two of them from my experience while travelling there and meeting them here. First, one finds probably as strongly in Nigeria as anywhere else in Africa a rare political maturity and sense of dignity which are not always to be found elsewhere. There are no chips on any shoulders, racially or otherwise, in Nigeria. That is one of the first features that one finds so pleasant when visiting that country.
Another factor to which we should pay tribute is that in Nigeria, although there is respect for good government and law and order, there are no signs at all of any of the autocratic trends which have distressed some of us in other places. Last year, it was my privilege to attend the celebrations of Northern Nigerian independence. I recall one small incident which illustrates why I have a special feeling for the Nigerians. I was driving back from Kaduna to Kano at three o'clock one morning when the car in which I was being driven ran out of petrol miles from anywhere in the bush, somewhere short of Kano. I was in a state of despair. There was very little traffic about and I knew that my aeroplane, the only one for a week, was leaving in an hour or two.
Out of the blue—or perhaps I should say out of the black—there arrived a small Volkswagen, packed to the brim with Nigerians returning from the celebrations with their luggage, which was 1842 substantial. There were six of them in the car. They expressed an immediate wish to help me, but it was obvious that it was physically impossible for me to get into their car. Two of them volunteered to get out and find their own way back—at that hour of the morning. I was bundled in and taken to the airport just in time to catch my plane. They were not rich men, but although I tried to give them some payment they refused, saying that that was the way that Nigerians always tried to behave to guests in their country.
I apologise for inflicting that story on the House, but I think that it shows better than any other way why so many of us feel affection for Nigeria and join in wishing so especially well to a great part of the Commonwealth.
§ 1.56 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Richard Thompson)
The interesting and harmonious debate that we have had on the Nigeria Independence Bill today reflects the smooth, constructive and cooperative way in which the discussions leading up to the actual fact of independence have been conducted.
As many hon. Members have pointed out during the debate, at a time when events in other parts of Africa are disturbing and deeply disheartening, we are entitled to a sense not only of relief but of deep pride and satisfaction that the evolution of Nigeria to full nationhood has proceeded so smoothly and promises so well.
We are now at the final stages of this process. Within a few weeks Nigeria will take her place among the nations free and independent—well endowed with the qualities and resources necessary to independent nationhood, with a strong sense of patriotism founded on a long tradition of self-government, with careful preparation over a period of years for the assumption of all the tasks and burdens of responsible self-government. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said, in addition to that, Nigeria has "a strong and effective Civil Service administration." Add to all this great natural resources and an able and experienced team of Ministers, and one has a picture of a country with the will, the means and now the occasion to 1843 make her own independent contribution to the community of nations.
Nor ought we to forget—nor are we likely to forget—the remarkable contribution to this constitutional progress of the Governor-General, Sir James Robertson, and all his regional governors and their predecessors. I should like to associate my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary with what I am saying. I warmly endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan Morgan), the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) and other hon. Members have said about these great men. Theirs has been an example of enlightened colonial administration at its best, and I think that we here and the new Nigeria owe a great debt of gratitude to what these devoted people between them over the years have been able to achieve.
One or two themes emerged during the debate, and I ought to say just a word or two about them. First, the question of the memorandum of the Association of Civil Servants was raised by a number of hon. Members. I want to assure my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn) that there is no tendency to complacency and self-righteousness here. As he wisely recognised, this is an exceptionally technical and long-drawn-out argument.
I will simply say that my right hon. Friend is very well aware indeed of the views of the association, as, indeed, was his predecessor, that he has gone into these matters personally and most carefully, and that he really is satisfied that, having regard to all the circumstances and to the purpose of Special List B and the substantial cash benefits con ferred, the Government have done all that it is reasonably possible to ensure that officers stay, and he hopes that, despite the views expressed by the association, a large number will, in fact, opt to do so. I may add that he regrets that, despite the prolonged discussions which have taken place with the association, it has not felt able to accept his decision, but he feels sure that their real interest lies in accepting this situation.
Now I want to say a word about technical assistance, to which some reference has been made in the debate. We are very well aware of the great and continuing need for this. At the meeting 1844 with Nigerian Ministers, on 16th May, my right hon. and noble Friend discussed this matter with the Prime Minister of the Federation and the Premiers of the regions. The Nigerian Ministers welcomed the proposal for a technical assistance scheme. The details were subsequently discussed between Nigerian and United Kingdom officials. As under the United Kingdom's technical assistance arrangements with other countries, for instance, the Colombo Plan, the arrangements with Nigeria will probably cover the provision by the United Kingdom of experts and consultancy services, equipment for technical and training purposes, and technical training facilities for Nigerians in the United Kingdom, and the Nigerian authorities have been invited to make requests for technical assistance on or after 1st October in any of these forms, and I can say that some requests have already been received.
Reference was made in the debate to the continuing importance of education if this new country is to be capable of discharging the great tasks and responsibilities which it is now taking on. I want to say to the House that at present a commission comprising outstanding educationists from Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, under the chairmanship of Sir Eric Ashby, is looking into the whole pattern of post-secondary and higher education in Nigeria.
We very much appreciate the great educational needs here which were so clearly stated by her Commissioner in this country at the Conference on the Supply of Teachers which was called in Church House by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education in February of this year. I may say that he is lending very valuable support to the efforts to create a climate of opinion favourable to increasing the supply of teachers from this country to the overseas Commonwealth, in which, of course, Nigeria is included.
I assure the House that the independence of Nigeria will not separate that country from the benefits of Commonwealth co-operation in education. Its Government is participating fully in the existing scheme, and we hope to see further schemes developed as time goes on. The United Kingdom this year 1845 will welcome to training institutions nearly 100 bursars from Nigeria under the Commonwealth teacher training schemes, and we hope that we shall be able to find a number of teachers for Nigeria under the Commonwealth scheme for the supply of teachers. We hope, too, that among the awards recommended under the Commonwealth scholarship scheme there will be included scholars from Nigeria who will come to this country.
The hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. R. Edwards) raised one particular point with which I should like to deal. He regretted somewhat that under the forthcoming plebiscite in the Cameroons a third choice to do nothing and to await events was not being offered. Perhaps I could deal with that shortly, and, I hope, sensibly. First, as he rightly recognised, the United Nations have settled what the questions are. They settled this at their last General Assembly. I do not think there is any chance at all of their reconsidering that point. That is a material reason. Of course, it would be administratively exceedingly difficult if the questions were changed now.
The second point, I think, is this, that a third choice does involve the possibility that, whichever choice receives the most votes, it may in fact have a minority of the total. One can very well get a majority of votes for one particular course of action which would not be an overall majority, and in a very crucial matter like this for the future of a country I do not think that that is a very desirable situation.
Finally, there is the practical consideration which we can never overlook. I do not really believe that the territory is economically viable, and if it were to choose a separate form of existence it would require very substantial outside economic assistance. So, on the whole, I think that we must accept that the two choices which the United Nations have laid down are probably appropriate in these circumstances.
Several hon. Members have said that this is a solemn occasion when this House is setting the seal of its approval on the independence of 35 million people, the largest State in Africa. But it is also a very happy occasion. We are particularly delighted that Nigeria 1846 should have decided to add to her own independence the additional benefits of Commonwealth membership. The request to do so was received with particular pleasure at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting. It is naturally, a source of special satisfaction to us here, and of equal advantage to all other members of the Commonwealth, to have the counsel and the comradeship of this great new nation in West Africa. It is, of course, the wish of every hon. Member of this House that Nigerian independence should be the start of a new era of peace and prosperity for her, and we are deeply proud in this country of the contribution we have been able to make over the years to that end.
This is the culmination of our work. We believe that it has been well done, and we look to Nigeria to provide a shining example to a divided world of the way in which the manifold problems of a new, emergent country can be tackled without bloodshed or rancour, and with forbearance on all sides, and brought to a triumphant conclusion. I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House. —[Mr. Whitelaw.]
§ Committee on Monday next.