HC Deb 03 June 1960 vol 624 cc1815-40

12.32 p.m.

Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)

When the House turns its attention to the affairs of Central Africa, it is usually concerned with the experiment in federation and the problems which come from that, or more directly with the affairs of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland which, because they are Protectorates, are the direct responsibility of the United Kingdom. We in this House do not often speak about the problems of Southern Rhodesia, and the impression may have been created that this territory is in no way responsible to the United Kingdom or to this House. That, of course, is wrong. We have a direct responsibility in regard to the Constitution of Southern Rhodesia.

I should like to quote the relevant clauses in the Southern Rhodesian Constitution which cover this point. Clause 28 provides that no law in Southern Rhodesia shall become law unless such Law shall contain a clause suspending the operation thereof until the signification in the Colony of Our pleasure thereupon, the Governor shall reserve (a) any Law, save in respect of the supply of arms, ammunition or liquor to natives, whereby natives may be subject or made liable to any conditions, disabilities or restrictions to which persons of European descent are not also subjected or made liable. Clause 30 provides: No Law passed by the Legislature shall take effect until either the Governor shall have assented thereto in Our name and on Our behalf, and shall have signed the same in token of such assent, or until We shall have given Our assent thereto by Our Order in Our Privy Council. Clause 31 states: It shall be lawful for Us, Our heirs and successors, to disallow any Law within one year from the date of the Governor's assent thereto, and such disallowance, on being made known by the Governor by Speech or Message to the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly, or by Proclamation in the Gazette shall annul the Law from the date when the disallowance is so made known. I have quoted those clauses so that they may be on the record. I know that they are well known to hon. Members opposite who have had the advantage of reading a book by the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations in which he made specific reference to these clauses and to the responsibility of the United Kingdom in relation to Southern Rhodesia.

There is a provision in the Constitution concerning amendment of the Constitution. But no amendment can be made without the approval of the United Kingdom. It is clear from clause 26 (2) that a law passed by the Legislature may repeal or alter any of these provisions, but not any of them relating to the protected clauses, and, according to Clause 26 (3): Any law made in contravention of these provisions shall to the extent of such contravention but not otherwise be and remain absolutely void and inoperative. Quite clearly, Southern Rhodesia is not an independent country. It is subject to the legislation of this House and to the scrutiny of the Government of the United Kingdom.

It is true that the powers in the Constitution have not been used since 1923, when Southern Rhodsia became a self-governing Colony. Some people tend to make out that because of this the powers have lapsed. That, of course, is wishful thinking. The powers are still in the Constitution and the United Kingdom Government can still use them. Although the powers have not been used, they have had a very great influence on the policies pursued by the Government of Southern Rhodesia since 1923. During the period of the Labour Administration after the Second World War, all legislation to be introduced into the Southern Rhodesian Legislature was referred to the Secretary of State in the United Kingdom for his scrutiny. At least on one occasion, namely, with regard to the changes proposed by the Government of Southern Rhodesia concerning the franchise, representations have been made ensuring amendments in the proposals then being put forward by Sir Godfrey Huggins, now Lord Malvern, who was then Prime Minister. These powers have had an influence. Apart from the influence that they have had, they are now recognised by Africans in Southern Rhodesia as of great significance. That is a fact which none of us can ignore.

Today, Southern Rhodesia is a dictatorship. It is a dictatorship of the minority over the majority. It may, in some Members' eyes, be a paternal dictatorship, but I would dispute that. To the Africans, it is a very harsh and repressive dictatorship. This is because only a minority of the population has the vote, and the Government, therefore, represent only that minority which is almost wholly European and legislates for the whole population, which is, of course, nine-tenths of non-European race.

To the Africans the Government is a dictatorship and they regard the Native Affairs Department as the arm of that dictatorship. The Africans feel it to be a dictatorship because they are subject to some of the harsh legislation which has been passed since 1923. They are subject, for instance, to the Land Apportionments Act which allocates 53 per cent. of the land area in Southern Rhodesia to the European minority which, numbering just over 200,000, is less than one-tenth of the population.

Africans have no rights on over half the land area in their own country which has been allocated to Europeans. Certainly the 80,000 Africans who were forcibly removed from the land area which they had occupied for a long time would regard the Government as very repressive, and those Africans in the towns who are subject to the pass law regulations which flow from the operation of that Act also are aware in their everyday lives of the repressive character of the Government in Southern Rhodesia.

In the towns of Salisbury, Bulawayo and Umtali—in fact, all the towns in Southern Rhodesia—the Africans are denied the rights which are open to the European population. As the Minister knows, in Salisbury itself no African is allowed to own or occupy property in what is the European designated area, which includes all the commercial centre and the suburb stretching out of the city for some way. No African is allowed to practise a profession in the towns. He must follow his profession in the rather remote African townships. There is one exception to this—an African barrister, Mr. Herbert Chitepo, for whom special provision was made to enable him to occupy an office in Salisbury, and in order that he could have this permission a special amendment to the Land Apportionments Act had to be passed.

Then there are the laws which have recently been passed. There are the Preventive Detention Act, which enables the Government to look up anyone for five years without trial; the Unlawful Organisations Act, which banned almost all the African political organisations which existed in Southern Rhodesia, and also the organisations of Africans in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia; and the Native Affairs Amendment Act, a Section of which I should like to read because it demonstrates beyond any shadow of doubt how repressive the Government of Southern Rhodesia is.

Section 52 reads: Any native who makes any statement or does any act or thing whatsoever which is likely to undermine the authority of any officer of the Government of the Colony or of the Federation or of any chief or headman or of any head of kraal in authority over him or to bring such officer or any such Government department or any chief or headman or head of kraal into disrepute or contempt shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months. That is an example of repressive legislation which is regarded by the Africans themselves as the action of a dictatorship.

Furthermore, Africans are not allowed to attend or organise meetings of twelve or more people. They are subject to a fine of £100 or to imprisonment for a period of twelve months if they organise such meetings without obtaining prior permission from a Government official. Even the chiefs have been put in an impossible position. They no longer represent their own people. They are civil servants subject to the dictates of the Government. In a recent case Chief Mangwende was deposed because he took a favourable interest in the activities of the local African Congress.

I wish I had time to describe the discrimination from which Africans suffer in Southern Rhodesia—discrimination in education, in the towns and in the allocation of skilled jobs. There are many ways in which they suffer from discrimination in their everyday lives. There have been several developments in the last few years to break down certain aspects of this discrimination, and, no doubt, hon. Members opposite will refer to those examples. But I ask them to consider whether it would have been possible for those very minor amendments in colour bar discrimination to have been introduced if the Government of Southern Rhodesia had not been liable to scrutiny and to some, if remote, control from the Government of the United Kingdom.

Above all, the Africans resent the fact that they are almost wholly without votes in Southern Rhodesia. Votes are given only to those with certain high qualifications, which ensures that the control of the Parliament of Southern Rhodesia is in white hands. Of course, all the thirty members of that Parliament have been and are white. The Africans themselves have no direct representation. On 8th April last this House unanimously condemned apartheid and racial discrimination in South Africa. I think that the House, having condemned these practices in South Africa, should equally condemn them in Southern Rhodesia. I am sure that the country as a whole would share our condemnation of the racialist practices pursued.

The policies pursued in Southern Rhodesia and in the Union of South Africa are very similar. But there is the protection in the Southern Rhodesian Constitution which, so far as the Africans are concerned, is of very great significance indeed. The Africans value the protective provisions to which I have referred, and if they were arbitrarily removed from the Constitution it would put the Africans in a position identical with that of the Africans in the Union of South Africa, and it would be a matter of utter despair for them.

We have recently had a visit to this country by the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, Sir Edgar Whitehead. He came to see the Secretary of State to ask that the protective clauses in the Constitution should be removed. He failed in his mission. He did not succeed in persuading the Secretary of State to agree to the deletion of these clauses. I congratulate the Secretary of State on the way in which he handled this very delicate situation. I am also glad that he received a delegation from the National Democratic Party representing the Africans of Southern Rhodesia and I thank him for the sympathy and good will which he showed them.

Whom did the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia represent? He refused to have in his own deputation a representative from the opposition Dominion Party, which asked that the leader of the opposition should be allowed to join with him in the representations which were being made to the United Kingdom Government. Sir Edgar Whitehead refused. He chose to come on his own to the United Kingdom, and therefore he represented not the people of Southern Rhodesia but only the United Federal Party.

The United Federal Party cannot be said to represent even the majority of the white settlers in Southern Rhodesia because at the last territorial election in Southern Rhodesia the United Federal Party had less than half of the first preference votes which were passed. The Dominion party, in fact, received a greater proportion of the first preference votes. Therefore, Sir Edgar Whitehead in visiting this country represented a minority of a minority.

Before he came he did not consult the other political parties. He certainly did not consult the Africans who are protected by the clauses which he was asking the United Kingdom Government to delete. His approach to this question has been party political throughout. He hoped to gain electoral advantage from his discussions with the United Kingdom Government to help him in the next territorial election.

There are those in this country, and I believe even in the ranks of the party opposite, who suggest that despite all the constitutional objections, we should negotiate with Sir Edgar Whitehead because he is a moderate. They also put forward the point that if federation had not been imposed in 1953, Southern Rhodesia would have been an independent country anyway. That is an academic question. It is, indeed, questionable whether Southern Rhodesia would have gained her independence on the basis of White minority domination. But apart from that point, the fact is that we have to deal with the situation as it is in 1960.

There are objections on three grounds to the United Kingdom negotiating with Sir Edgar Whitehead and the United Federal Party. In the first place, I dispute the suggestion that he is a moderate. He has pursued some most repressive policies since he became Prime Minister, and I should doubt very much whether anybody who has been affected by the recent repressive Acts which have been put through under Sir Edgar Whitehead's guidance would believe him to be a moderate. In fact, he is a prisoner of his own Cabinet colleagues—the very same men who stabbed Garfield Todd in the back when he attempted to be a liberal Prime Minister and who brought in Sir Edgar Whitehead in place of Garfield Todd. Those men still have great powers in the Southern Rhodesian Cabinet.

The next Government, however, is more likely to be that of the Dominion Party than of the United Federal Party. Those who claim that the United Federal Party is a liberal party in Southern Rhodesia will have to recognise that the Dominion Party will be in power after the next election, and that the policies of the United Federal Party are not likely to be pursued even if it is a liberal party, which is disputable.

The second objection to negotiations with Sir Edgar Whitehead is that safeguards introduced into the Southern Rhodesian Constitution to replace protective clauses which are deleted are likely to be utterly worthless. I ask the House to consider what has happened to the protective clauses and safeguards in the Federal Constitution. The African Affairs Board, which was given as a great example of what safeguards could be introduced, has been shown to be worthless. All of us lament the fact that in South Africa over the last half-century all the protective and entrenched clauses in the Constitution have been torn up. No safeguards in a constitution can be useful when the government concerned wish to override them and have the support of the electorate in so doing. The only safeguard for the Constitution of Southern Rhodesia is to give the Africans the vote, so that they themselves can share in the effective power.

The third ground of objection is that the Africans were at no point consulted about the changes in the Constitution.

The Constitution now gives a direct relationship between the United Kingdom and the Africans in Southern Rhodesia. We are the protecting Power and the relationship is similar to the protection which we give to Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, although not an exact parallel.

The Prime Minister himself has said that we will not withdraw from our responsibilities for the two Northern Protectorates, except with the agreement of the protected. If we are prepared to do that for the two Northern Protectorates, if it is right and just that we should consult the Africans of the two Northern Protectorates before withdrawing from our responsibilities for that area, it is right and just that we should consult the Africans of Southern Rhodesia who enjoy protection from the United Kingdom.

If the protective power were withdrawn without consulting them, it would be a matter of utter despair to those concerned. Such an action is likely to provoke unrest in the Colony and to make matters very serious. Certainly it is not likely to improve race relations and it would make it much more difficult to achieve a settlement of the political problems of the Territory.

Because we have put these arguments from this side of the House, we are sometimes accused of being anti-European, and we are sometimes told that we are interfering. The politicians of Southern Rhodesia ask, "Are we not qualified, being on the spot, to take care of our own affairs?". The answer to that is that they are qualified to take care of their own affairs, but not qualified to look after the affairs of the majority of the population, the nine-tenths of the population, which is non-European.

To allow complete independence to Southern Rhodesia on the basis of white control would be to invite the whites to pursue policies which would be to the great disadvantage of the overwhelming majority—as has happened in the Union of South Africa. In our approach to the subject, we are just as interested in the future welfare of the Europeans in Southern Rhodesia as we are in the future welfare of the Africans. We say that it is just as much in the interests of the white settlers that there should be a peaceful and agreed solution to these political problems, and that it would put the Europeans in an impossible position in the context of Africa today if the Government were to do what Sir Edgar Whitehead has asked them to do.

In all these Territories in Africa, there must eventually be complete political equality. That is the warning of the winds of change, and it would be in the best interests of the European settlers in Southern Rhodesia to recognise that that is coming. Most white settlers in Southern Rhodesia are decent hardworking people who are not interested in the intricacies of politics. They should feel the winds of change on their cheeks and give short shrift to the politicians who, for selfish reasons, want to cling to political power and prevent the emergence of Africans as a political force in the Territory.

Among the white settlers there is a minority which is courageous enough to come out and say bluntly that it believes in African emergence in Southern Rhodesia. I admire such people and I am privileged to number some among my friends. In fact, only this morning I heard from one of them in Salisbury. They are among the minority who work for and preach African advance and they are the people to whom the other white settlers of Southern Rhodesia should listen.

They can look across the border to Tanganyika where only a few years ago reactionary white politicians were forecasting all sort of terrors if the Africans had political advance. That forecast has proved absolutely wrong, because political advance for Africans in that Territory has meant better race relations and better hope and confidence in that Territory. The future of white settlers in Tanganyika is secure, as it has never been secure, as the result of allowing African political advance.

There are major lessons in that for the settlers of Southern Rhodesia and we ask them to look at the example of Tanganyika and learn from it. I am not trying to gloss over the real difficulties in Southern Rhodesia as these adjustments in the attitude of the white settlers come to be made, but those adjustments must happen, particularly as the result of the influence of independence in the Congo, which is coming within a month, and, of course, the emergence of African territories over the whole Continent. The lesson in Africa is that the Africans can no longer be suppressed. The white settlers in Southern Rhodesia must come to terms with that situation.

In those circumstances the influence of the United Kingdom is absolutely vital. We cannot discard our responsibilities. The question we have to ask is how can we best discharge them. What reply can we give to Sir Edgar Whitehead? We cannot say that the Constitution needs no amendment—clearly it does, for it is out of date and it needs to be changed—nor can we impose a solution.

We should, therefore, call a constitutional conference at which would be represented all the political parties of Southern Rhodesia and the Africans themselves. The recent deputation of the National Democratic Party, which made such a fine impression on all of us who met it, showed that the Africans themselves, through their responsible political leadership, are prepared to negotiate.

We should respond to that example and call a constitutional conference in the United Kingdom at which suggestions about the future constitution of Southern Rhodesia could be put forward and explored. That approach to the problem of the future constitution of Southern Rhodesia is much more likely to secure goodwill and peaceful relations between the races in Southern Rhodesia which, I am sure, it is the wish of the whole House to secure.

1.5 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

The House will be grateful to the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) for raising the subject of the Constitution of Southern Rhodesia, as it has given an opportunity for the anti-Rhodesia propaganda, which is being propagated in this country, to be answered. In spite of the very reasonable terms of the end of the hon. Member's speech, the burden of his speech was a direct attack on the Southern Rhodesian Government. He said that it was a dictatorship and he compared it with the Union of South Africa and implied that it showed a constantly increasing indulgence in discrimination against Africans. I want the House for a few moments to examine the facts.

When we deal with Southern Rhodesia, we are dealing not with a country like Northern. Rhodesia or Nyasaland, a country emerging from colonial status, but with a country which has been internally self-governing for 37 years—we are dealing far more with equals than we are when we deal with Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia, or other Colonial Territories in Africa.

Mr. Stonehouse

I am sure that the hon. Member will agree that the Africans regard themselves as in a position similar to that of the Africans in the two Northern Protectorates and feel that they, too, are emerging from colonialism and suppression.

Mr. Wall

I am dealing with the subject of Government, because the burden of the hon. Member's speech was an attack upon the Government of Southern Rhodesia. I was saying that when we deal with the Government of Southern Rhodesia we are dealing with a Government with a status virtually equal to our own.

On 9th May, the hon. Member asked a Question about the number of Bills in Southern Rhodesia which had been referred to Her Majesty's Ministers in the United Kingdom as discriminatory. The answer was twelve. Those not in tune with African affairs may be surprised that such a large number of Bills were brought to Her Majesty's Ministers in this country for approval or rejection.

The reason is that any Bill which contains a technicality of discrimination is referred to this country. The hon. Member mentioned the Land Apportionment Act, but the original reason for that Act was to prevent richer Europeans from buying and exploiting African land. The reason for discrimination against Africans in the liquor laws is that in the old days there was a trade in gin and other intoxicating spirits which was exceedingly dangerous and had unpleasant effects on uneducated Africans. Such discriminatory measures stem from history, but I agree with the hon. Member that to some extent they have now become out of date.

However, there are other instances. The adoption system for Africans is entirely different from the adoption system in this country and if there is legislation to cater for native custom, there is bound to be discrimination in some form.

The hon. Member mentioned the emergency regulations and said that they were dictatorial and unpleasant. That may be, but they saved Southern Rhodesia from an emergency. We had trouble in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, but none in Southern Rhodesia, so at least those regulations seem to have been justified by events.

I may be wrong about these figures, but I believe that only 54 Africans are still imprisoned under the emergency regulations. I used the word "imprisoned", but I should explain that 40 are restricted, while 14 are in prison. I think that those figures are correct, but if the hon. Member disagrees with them, no doubt he will correct them later.

I agree that there is still discrimination in Southern Rhodesia and I am at one with the hon. Gentleman in wanting to see it ended as soon as possible. I believe that this is also the desire and the policy of the Southern Rhodesian Government. The Land Apportionment Act should be modified and, if possible, abolished. The pass laws should also be modified, but they exist to prevent an influx of Africans into the towns which would create unemployment and housing problems, similar to those we are now seeing develop in Nairobi.

The difficulties in Southern Rhodesia are not necessarily due to differences between black and white. Rather are they difficulties of differing standards. Southern Rhodesia is now passing through an industrial revolution such as this country passed through some 150 years ago. Just as society has become more equal in this country, so it will become more equal in Southern Rhodesia, irrespective of colour.

The hon. Member attempted to compare Southern Rhodesia with the Union of South Africa. The whole House rejects the concept of apartheid, and I do not think that this comparison is in any way fair. I refer the hon. Member to an excellent booklet, The Race Relations Journal, where he will find, on pages 20–21 a survey of discrimination, comparing the Union of South Africa with the two chief towns in Southern Rhodesia, Bulawayo and Salisbury. The person who compiled this survey worked out a points system; no separation or no discrimination—no points; partial separation, one point; complete separation, two points; and separation by law, three points. Using that technique, he came to the conclusion that in 1958–59 the Union of South Africa rated 83 points of segregation, whereas Southern Rhodesia moved from 64 points in 1958 to 50 points in 1959.

Since the survey was completed, the Union of South Africa—and I exclude the emergency regulations—has moved in a more restrictive direction, whereas the Southern Rhodesia Government has moved in exactly the opposite direction. Since the survey, segregation in Southern Rhodesia has been abolished in the Post Office, the hotels and the trains. The Civil Service has been opened up and the Industrial Conciliation Act has been applied to Africans and Europeans alike. The liquor laws against the Africans have been reduced, and apprenticeships for both races now exist.

The point I want to make is that the Union has moved one way—a way of which the House disapproves—whereas southern Rhodesia is moving in the opposite direction. Many of us possibly wish that Southern Rhodesia would move faster in that direction, but we must recognise that the Government, with a majority of two in Parliament, are doing the best they can in the present circumstances.

An African in Salisbury a few weeks ago said to me, "We recognise that race relations here are reasonably good but the structure of the pass laws and of the Land Apportionment Acts exists in this country, as in South Africa. We recognise that it is not applied in the same way here and, therefore, we have not the same objection to it as exists in the Union, but the Government here could change, and we therefore want to see the law changed." I would go a long way with that view, and I believe that the Southern Rhodesian Government would, too, certainly if they had a larger majority in their own Parliament.

I turn to the constitution. The hon. Member for Wednesbury makes the point that there is no African in the Southern Rhodesia Parliament. He did not, however, point out that Southern Rhodesia is the only territory in the Federation which has a true common roll. In other words, the people, irrespective of their colour, when they are qualified for the common roll, vote for any Member of Parliament, whereas in the other territories there is an A roll and a B roll, and those on the B roll, mainly Africans, vote only for certain Members. This common roll is a basis of democracy and a basis which will eventually ensure that the majority view in Southern Rhodesia prevails. In 1957 the Government in Southern Rhodesia reduced the qualifications for voting on this roll to £240 and literacy or £120 and a two-year secondary education so as to bring in more Africans.

An extremely important point for consideration is how many Africans could vote in Southern Rhodesia under the existing constitution and franchise and how many do actually vote. I have checked the number of those who could vote and it is 17,550. When I mentioned such a figure previously, hon. Members opposite were inclined to scoff and to say, "Anybody can produce figures". In case they feel that way today, I will give them the breakdown of the figures. Africans earning more than £20 a month total 8,000 of the total; teachers, 5,500; British South African police, 350; Africans in the Southern Rhodesia Civil Service, higher grades, 300; Purchase Area farmers, 800; Eastern District irrigation plot-holders, 200; other civil servants, 400; farmers in the Reserves 2,000. That is how the figure is arrived at. But the number who actually exercised the right to the franchise was not 17,550 but only 2,159.

Mr. Stonehouse

The hon. Member will agree that the special roll is limited to 20 per cent. of the ordinary roll and sealed off at that point.

Mr. Wall

I was coming to that. There is a cut-off at 20 per cent. When 20 per cent. of the Africans qualify under the two lower qualifications I have mentioned these qualifications are automatically cut off. When that law was made, however, it was made clear that it was extremely unlikely ever to operate, for, as African education improved, they would qualify for the higher-range qualifications either on grounds of finance or education and the number allowed under the lower qualifications would therefore automatically increase. But I again remind hon. Members that out of 17,000 Africans who could vote, only 2,000-odd have bothered to do so, and I suggest to the hon. Member opposite and to the Africans that they would have a far stronger case if they exercised in full the rights which they now have in Southern Rhodesia.

In parenthesis, I would say that on the Federal roll the figures are much higher. I am told that 29,000 Africans could vote in Southern Rhodesia in Federal elections, and the number registered is 2,186. We have again the same story. I suggest, therefore, that there is no case to extend the franchise at present.

The hon. Member for Wednesbury said that the Southern Rhodesia Government should consult all bodies of opinion, and he mentioned the National Democratic Party. I echo his words about the very good impression which they made in this country, but he implied that they were the only representatives of African opinion in Southern Rhodesia. I remind him that the United Federal Party has Africans in it, as has the Dominion Party, and that nearly 50 per cent. of the Central African Party are Africans. I suggest that these may well outweigh the numbers who belong to the National Democratic Party. Let us not forget that in the Federal House there is already one African Minister and eight Members of Parliament who are Africans sitting as United Federal Party Members in that House.

Mr. Stonehouse

Mostly elected by Europeans.

Mr. Wall

The whole policy is to try to see that all Members of Parliament are elected by both races. Only then shall we have a multi-racial community. That is what we are trying to do, to create truly multi-racial parties. The hon. Member spoke of the fear of the Africans. I can only suggest that he examine the pledge given by the Prime Minister in the House on more than one occasion. The last time was on 14th April, when my right hon. Friend repeated what he had said on 18th February: in the event of any change being made in the Constitution of Southern Rhodesia, the interests of Africans would of course be given full weight."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th April, 1960; Vol. 621, c. 1470.] Conservatives want to see the ending of discrimination just as much as do the Socialists. Moreover, I suggest that we approach this matter in a much more logical way. We realise that these things take time. We have to look at things as they are in Africa, not as we want them to be. I should like to quote from a recent Conservative pamphlet. "Wind of Change", which puts this point of view very clearly. To the Africans in Southern Rhodesia I would quote this paragraph: Until the African peoples come to share the same degree of respect for individual and minority rights, their independence will make but a hollow sham of liberal democracy. It would be a dereliction of duty for Britain to abandon responsibility for those multi-racial communities which are under her ultimate authority until she is satisfied that this respect for minority rights exists. To the Europeans of Southern Rhodesia I would quote the following paragraph: There is a second principle, however—the guardianship of the heritage of the African majority. That is made clear by the British Government's commitments which have been repeatedly reaffirmed and which cannot be repudiated. The House must also bear in mind this final quotation, which deals with all multi-racial states in either Central or East Africa: We must therefore reconcile ourselves to the fact that multi-racial states may take much longer to become capable of sovereignty or internal self-government than homogeneous states. The basic difference of interpretation between hon. Members opposite and we on this side of the House is one of speed. They want to go fast, we wish to go more slowly. I think that that difference stems from the fact that they see the problem in the context of black and white. We see it in the context of different standards—I have already quoted the parallel of our own industrial revolution. We are against discrimination. We believe that the Southern Rhodesia Government is also against discrimination. We believe that their record shows this over the past years. We believe that Southern Rhodesia is taking the middle course between the repression of the Union of South Africa and the irresponsibility of the Congo, where the Belgians are leaving the country before any central Government has been established. We believe that the moderate centre course taken in Southern Rhodesia may well prove the right course for Central Africa. If that were so, it would sound the death knell of apartheid in the Union.

1.18 p.m.

Mr. H. A. Marquand (Middlesbrough, East)

There is little time left and I must obviously give the Parliamentary Secretary an opportunity to reply. I therefore do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) in his discussion of the present conditions in Southern Rhodesia. I prefer to bring the debate back to a question very much before the House—that, as a result of a statement made by the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations on Monday, 9th May, it is clear that a request has been made to us to consider alterations in the powers which are vested, through Her Majesty, in the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to exercise some supervision of any discriminatory legislation which may be introduced by the Southern Rhodesia Government.

I think that all agree that this is a most important question immediately in front of us, and my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) has done a very useful service to the House in raising the matter today. If the House is asked to modify in any way—and so far the way has not been specified—the powers which are reserved to the United Kingdom Government in this respect, the House must be alert and vigilant, and it certainly must indicate as clearly as it can to the Southern Rhodesia Government the kind of conditions under which it will consent to anything of that kind.

As we know, Southern Rhodesia is part of the Central African Federation. Within that Federation there are three territories, each with a different type of con- stitution. Since the Federation was established, one of the Constitutions, that of Northern Rhodesia, has been modified. Very shortly the Constitution of Nyasaland will be modified, and arrangements are going ahead for that to be done. In order that it may be done with the prospect of success, it is to be modified after the holding of a constitutional conference. It is therefore recognised that the present Constitution of Nyasaland is out of date and unsuitable to the times, and it is recognised that before it is modified the wise and sensible thing is to hold a constitutional conference.

Southern Rhodesia, in effect, is asking for a review of its Constitution, particularly that part of it which reserves powers to the Secretary of State in this country. This is also an indication that the Southern Rhodesia Government regard their Constitution as inappropriate. Moreover, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia has indicated that he wants this constitutional review to take place, just as the Nyasaland review is taking place, before the review of the Federal Constitution takes place. The positions of Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland are, therefore, on all fours; in both cases it is recognised that there is a need for a review of the Constitution before the review of the Federal Constitution takes place.

My hon. Friend and the rest of us on this side of the House are arguing that these two Constitutions are identical and that the procedures to be followed in each case should also be identical—in other words, that if a constitutional conference is the appropriate vehicle for ascertaining the practicability of constitutional change in Nyasaland, so it is in Southern Rhodesia.

The hon. Member for Haltemprice reminded us that Southern Rhodesia has for a long time been a self-governing Colony, but surely that is no obstacle in the way of Her Majesty's Government, if they so wish, modifying the Constitution. There are examples in the past where this has been done. Southern Rhodesia is not the only self-governing Colony in the British Commonwealth. Recently the Bahamas had its Constitution reviewed, though it has been self-governing for very much longer than has Southern Rhodesia. In that case, Her Majesty's Government had to use their ultimate authority to change the Constitution of a self-governing Colony. For various reasons, which I have not time to discuss, the ruling group in that Colony resisted any change for a very long time—resisted it very bitterly and with very violent speeches in the Legislature. But the right hon. Member for Bedford, Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), who was then Colonial Secretary, nevertheless went ahead and brought about a valuable change in the Constitution of that country, so that although it has not yet votes for women, it has at any rate advanced a very long way along the road to democracy.

A change having been asked for in this case by the self-governing Colony of Southern Rhodesia, the case for a review and for the exercise of Her Majesty's Government's ultimate powers is obviously complete. In view of the history which I have outlined, nobody can suggest that there should not now be a thorough review of the present Constitution of Southern Rhodesia, as there has to be one in respect of Nyasaland and as there has been one for the self-governing Colony of the Bahamas.

We are, of course—I hope that it is not necessary to repeat this; the hon. Member for Haltemprice at one moment seemed to deny it, but I do not think he really denies it in view of his latter remarks—not hostile to the white population of Southern Rhodesia. We hope very much that it will be possible to find ways and means for black and white men to continue to live side by side in the Federation or in whatever modification of federation comes about in Central Africa generally. We have always said this, and it is still our view. We want to seek ways and means of enabling the races to live there in harmony. In our debate on the Central African Federation, I expressed myself strongly in favour of that Federation, because, in my belief, it could produce a real partnership between the races; but I was against the imposition of federation, as were the vast majority of my colleagues on this side of the House, because I was afraid that imposition would destroy the possibility of harmony and partnership between the races.

Without going into all the details, what has been done in recent years in Southern Rhodesia gives us little certainty that we could get a satisfactory degree of change in that Constitution merely by discussion between the United Kingdom Government and the Southern Rhodesian Government.

In the light of all that has gone before, remembering all the discriminatory laws which have been passed—even the hon. Member for Haltemprice admitted that twelve of them had to be submitted to the Secretary of State for consideration; remembering all that my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury has recited about the working of these laws and the discontent they have caused, the fact that there might be potentially an increase in the number of Southern Rhodesian black voters who might vote at some future election is surely not enough to allow us to give anything like a blank cheque to the present Government of Southern Rhodesia for the modification of its Constitution.

What we want to avoid, for the sake of preserving peace and harmony in Central Africa, is a repetition of the mistakes that have been made in the past. Too often, Her Majesty's present Government have conceded too little too late. When the hon. Member for Haltemprice says that there is a difference between the two sides of the House on the question of speed, it is there that the difference lies. We want this time to ensure that it is not a grudging concession of too little too late, but that what we shall have is an imaginative recognition of the right of the African people to determine their own future and to take part with the white people already living in Southern Rhodesia in the formulation of the conditions in which a new Constitution can be born.

That is why we say that if Her Majesty's Government are to admit at all the case of Sir Edgar Whitehead, they must say, "Let there be a constitutional conference similar to that which has been called in Nyasaland, and let us find ways and means of ensuring that Africans who come to that conference are truly representative of all shades of opinion among the African people, so that we can make a real advance, make it in time and make it on a sufficient scale to enable us to believe that it may endure". There must be consultation with the African peoples before any changes whatever in the delegation of power from this country to any African State are made. The best method of consultation is not merely to talk to one or two tribal chiefs or one or two leaders who happen to sit in Parliament, or one or two eminent persons who have made a specially satisfactory personal career in those countries. The only way to make consultation effective, and to be sure that it means something and that there can be advance as a result, is to have consultation through representative organisations assembled together in conference. I hope we shall hear today that that is Her Majesty's Government's policy.

1.32 p.m.

Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)

I had not intended to intervene in this debate and so I will be brief. I had hoped that the whole of the debate could be purely on the constructive side of discussing ways to solve what is one of the most difficult multi-racial problems in Africa. My reason for describing it as one of the most difficult is that we have there a form of colonial power which is in nearly the same category as a Commonwealth nation and yet, at the same time, there is an emerging African population. Together, this presents one of the most difficult of the multi-racial problems.

My reason for intervening is that I do not believe that some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) do any good whatever in finding a solution. When somebody gets up and begins to talk about the Government of Southern Rhodesia as a dictatorship and refers to the members running that Government as selfish politicians or suggests that the Government here are completely suppressing all the Africans, that must do harm, as I believe it will, to the white population and to the African. It will not achieve what I want to see achieved by this sort of debate. Therefore, we must be extremely careful when dealing with this matter to realise that many of the Members of Parliament in Southern Rhodesia are ahead of, and not behind, much of the white Southern Rhodesian public opinion. They are leading and not being led. Any attack that is made on them is much more likely to strengthen the Dominion Party than to achieve what the hon. Member for Wednesbury sets out to achieve. That is the reason for my intervention.

When we begin casting doubts on what the Native Affairs Department is able to do and casting doubts upon the African Affairs Board, we are hindering, not helping. I should like here, in the House of Commons, to pay tribute to those two bodies for the great work that they achieve.

I should like to see an extension of the African franchise in Southern Rhodesia as soon as possible. I would also like to see, not only the extension of the franchise, but Africans as Members of Parliament; but it must be in co-operation. It must not be instead of; it must be a working together. That is why it is no use whatever any Member of this House getting up and attacking directly the Government of Southern Rhodesia, because the result may well prove to be more reactionary than progressive, and heaven preserve us from that.

1.35 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Richard Thompson)

It often happens that on a Friday before a public holiday, we have some of our most useful debates at a time when not many people are present. That is what has happened today. The title of this debate was a "Constitutional conference for Southern Rhodesia". Certainly, that is what I propose to talk about in the few minutes at my disposal. One would not have guessed that title from the first 30 minutes of the speech of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse). It was only in the last minute and a half that he come to the subject of the debate. I make no complaint of that, however. I have no doubt that he was marshalling his arguments in the earlier part of what he said.

The theme of a constitutional conference for Southern Rhodesia was taken up more fully by the right hon. Member for Middlesborough, East (Mr. Marquand), whose view it was that this was the most appropriate means of ascertaining African wishes in Southern Rhodesia on any proposals that might come in future on constitutional progress.

The interest in this matter has been stimulated greatly by the recent visits to London of Sir Edgar Whitehead, Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, who has been consulting the Secretary of State, and several Parliamentary Questions have been answered in this House on the progress of those consultations. What I have to say this afternoon will not add greatly to the sum of human knowledge in that connection, but after the debate it might be useful if I restate the position to date.

First, I want to emphasise that no decisions on constitutional matters have been taken. Last November, and again as recently as April, Sir Edgar Whitehead put his ideas to us. Discussion ensued and we undertook to study what he had said. For his part he undertook to consider the position with his colleagues and we agreed to meet once again later in the year for further exchanges.

The date of the next meeting has not been decided. Frankly, I cannot at this stage say whether any proposals will result, or, if so, what form they may take. But I wish to say once again, in spite of the emphasis which has been given to this repeatedly in the House in earlier statements and replies to Questions, that in these matters the interests of the Africans will be given full weight.

The hon. Member for Wednesbury will recall that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, answering him in February, used that very form of words and, on 9th May, so did my hon. Friend the Minister of State. I wish to emphasise that point because, from the general tenor of some of the speeches which have been made, it might have been inferred that perhaps in some way we had been prevaricating on that assurance.

In addition to all that, as the right hon. Gentleman will recall, my hon. Friend the Minister of State categorically reaffirmed the Government's view on 9th May. I do not want to weary the House by quoting what he said, but it is very germane in view of the anxieties that have been expressed. He said: The United Kingdom Government stated that their ability to accept a scheme which would reduce or withdraw the powers vested in the Secretary of State in relation to the Southern Rhodesia Constitution would depend on whether arrangements could be devised and agreed by both Governments which would provide effective alternative safeguards, particularly in respect of discriminatory legislation and land rights, and in respect of amendment of the Constitution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1960; Vol. 623. c. 31.] We stand by that assurance. That, I think, is the short answer—and, I hope, a satisfactory one—to the references in the right hon. Gentleman's speech to the possibility of some blank cheque being issued by Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Marquand

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that assurance. When he speaks of "full weight", can we take it he means that the Government are bearing in mind that the Africans are the majority, even in Southern Rhodesia? When he speaks of effective safeguards, is he thinking of something like a Bill of Rights, supported by a convention?

Mr. Thompson

It is a little too early for me to define what effective safeguards might be, because that is still the subject of discussion. But, of course, nobody can ignore the fact of the substantial numerical African majority in Southern Rhodesia. We certainly do not.

The second question which is germane to our debate is: by what means, under present arrangements, can African opinion on any proposed changes be ascertained? There has been reference to that in supplementary questions in the House. It is premature to speculate until, first of all, we know whether any proposals at all are to come forward—we do not even know that yet—and, if so, what their form is to be. But we stand by our assurance that the views of Africans will be given due weight if any changes result.

If there were to be any constitutional changes they would have to be debated in this House. While, in replying specifically to the right hon. Gentleman, I do not rule out that some form of conference might be appropriate in these circumstances, it is too early for us to say what form this could take or by what means the parties to it could he selected. We must wait and see whether proposals arise or not and, if so, what they may be, keeping firmly in our minds that it is our intention that full consideration should be given to African opinion if and when the time arises.

In saying all that, I have done little more than restate what has already been said in the House, but I think that those are two points with which hon. Members were mainly concerned. I listened with the greatest of interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall). It was an excellent speech, and he put in very much better perspective some of the facts about the present Government of Southern Rhodesia. If we relied entirely on the hon. Member for Wednesbury for our information, it could only have the effect of distorting very much both the practice and the philosophy of that Government at the present time.

I was also grateful for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Emery). I am certain that he was right to emphasise that in all our debates in this House we should bear in mind what we are trying to achieve in Africa —a just multi-racial society. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East picked up that point and I was glad to have his assurance that his side of the House—and the hon. Member for Wednesbury also made this point was not hostile to the white population of Rhodesia. It would be very tragic and regrettable if that were not so.

We must be realistic in this matter. If we are to have a multi-racial society, all races have a part to play. We know that these new countries will be urgently in need of development capital, which depends on the confidence and the willingness of people outside to venture

there. If it went out from this House that the Europeans of Southern Rhodesia were, so to speak, almost criminals, how would we achieve that confidence, without which no country, whatever its future status may be, can possibly prosper? I was therefore very glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's assurance on that point.

Nor do I think that we should criticise Sir Edgar Whitehead for embarking on these discussions now. It is entirely appropriate that the Prime Minister of the legal Government of a country which has enjoyed a very high degree of internal self-government for thirty-seven years should be free to discuss further constitutional measures with the United Kingdom at any time. Certainly it would not he in our mouths to discourage him in any way.

In conclusion, I would say that we are all in this House very conscious of the need to make constitutional progress in Southern Rhodesia. So, I am convinced, are the Southern Rhodesian Government, but, as I have said, it is too early yet to decide what, if any, action should be taken if and when further constitutional proposals are put forward. The assurances repeatedly given about African consultation and effective safeguards for Africans, alternative to those already written into the Constitution, remain completely valid. Finally there is what is the most important safeguard—that any new arrangement would have to be debated and approved by Parliament.