§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Before dealing with the Bill, I should like to ask the indulgence of the House. Some time ago—before Parliamentary business was fixed—it was arranged that I should lead the British delegation to the Sierra Leone independence celebrations which are starting tomorrow. In consequence, I have to be in my aeroplane in about a couple of hours' time, so I hope very much that the House will excuse my absence during the later stages of the debate.
On 31st May, two things of importance will happen; the Union of South Africa will become a Republic, and she will cease to be a member of the Commonwealth. The first will be effected by an Act of the South African Parliament; the second is the result of the decision of the Union Government, and requires no legislation. Both these changes are outside the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, and they are not dependent upon legislation in this House. On the other hand, they will have repercussions of various kinds on the application of numerous laws of the United Kingdom and of British Colonies.
Last month, we had a full debate on the circumstances that led to the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth and I do not, therefore, propose this evening to discuss those wider issues. I shall confine my remarks to the Bill that is now before the House, and explain why it is needed and what its effect will be.
Legislation of some kind would, of course, have been necessary in any case in consequence of the transition of South Africa from a monarchy within Her Majesty's Dominions to a Republic which no longer owes allegiance to the Crown. We have had a similar constitutional changes in India, Pakistan and Ghana, and there are now well-established precedents for regularising 102 the position, but the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth has faced us with a number of new issues which call for the most careful consideration. All that, as the House will appreciate, will inevitably take a little time.
The need for this Bill arises from the fact that unless we take legislative action, a considerable number of existing United Kingdom and colonial laws will cease to have effect in relation to South Africa after 31st May. The reason is that these laws are worded in such a way that they apply only to countries which form part of Her Majesty's Dominions or—in other cases—to members of the Commonwealth. These laws are concerned with a whole lot of miscellaneous matters and effect a wide variety of interests, and the House may like to have some examples of these laws.
Among others, there is the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, which, amongst other things, governs the issue of competency certificates to masters, mates or engineers on board ship. At present, certificates issued in South Africa are interchangeable with those issued in the United Kingdom. Under this Act, no ship can be called British unless it is wholly owned by British subjects or by companies established under the law of a part of Her Majesty's Dominions. Therefore, a ship owned by a company incorporated in South Africa would lose its status as a British ship on 31st May unless legislative action was taken to prevent it.
Then there is the Colonial Probates Act, 1892. This provides for the recognition in the United Kingdom of probate and letters of administration granted in South Africa. We need to consider very carefully what changes, if any should be made. The plain withdrawal of recognition would clearly create many complications and hardships. Another of the laws affected is the Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement) Act, 1920, which at present enables maintenance orders made in South Africa to be enforced here, and vice versa.
Then there are laws such as the Medical Act, 1956, and the Dentists Act, 1957, which make distinctions between professional qualifications obtained in Commonwealth countries and those obtained in 103 foreign countries. Similarly, the Solicitors Act, 1957, confers advantages on South African solicitors who wish to be admitted in England. There are many other Acts which will be similarly affected, such as the Evidence by Commission Act, 1859, the Colonial Marriages Act, 1865, the Naval Prize (Procedure) Act, 1916, the Companies Act, 1948—and even the Finance Act of last year. The House, will, I am sure, not wish me to go into all these, but I think that the examples I have quoted will give hon. Members a good idea of the kind of problems that will arise on 31st May, and which we need time to consider.
Some of the issues of policy involved are reasonably straightforward; others are purely legal, and should not be too difficult to resolve. But there are yet others which present quite difficult human and political problems which will, I think, require a good deal of careful thought. These matters will not only need to be studied here in London, but will have to be fully discussed with the Government of the Union. Colonial Governments will also be affected, and will need to be consulted.
I hope that I have said enough to convince the House that it will be quite impossible to settle all these questions between now and 31st May. A standstill arrangement is clearly necessary to hold things as they are while study and discussion are going on, and that is the sole purpose of the Bill. The Bill's effect is to ensure that all Acts that would otherwise cease to apply to South Africa will continue to apply to her for a period of not more than one year after 31st May. I understand that a similar standstill Measure will shortly be presented to the South African Parliament.
This does not, of course, imply that we necessarily mean to let things run on for a whole year—that is the maximum period. I shall be surprised if we are not able to sort things out a good deal more quickly than that, but I think that the House will realise that to allow for the possibility of unforeseen difficulties, or congestion in our Parliamentary programme, it is, perhaps, wise to specify a period of twelve months.
I have given the House some examples of the miscellaneous assortment of laws 104 that will be retained in force in relation to South Africa by this Bill. As the House will see, these do not include some of the more important aspects of our relationship with South Africa. The reason is that either these are not based upon legislation, or that the legislation on which they are based was not worded in such a way that it will be automatically affected by South Africa's constitutional change. For example, South Africa's participation in the sterling area is not affected by her becoming a Republic or by her withdrawal from the Commonwealth. We welcome Dr. Verwoerd's statement that the Union wishes this relationship to continue unaltered.
Similarly, South Africa's constitutional change has no legal effect upon bilateral agreements between us, as, for example, our agreements on trade and defence, although all these arrangements will naturally 'have to be reviewed. Nor will South Africa's altered status affect the international relationship between the High Commission Territories and the Union. We shall continue to be responsible for the High Commission Territories as at present, and the pledges that we have given, of course, stand unaltered.
At Question Time last week, I was asked whether the seat of administration of Bechuanaland would continue to be situated across the border, at Mafeking. I am not yet in a position to make any statement on this point. I was also asked whether the representative of the British Government in the Union would continue to be responsible for the Government of the territories, and this, again, is one of the questions which we are at present considering.
It is, of course, not a matter which will require legislation, but I assure the House that I shall make a separate statement on this matter as soon as a decision is reached. Until then the existing arrangement will continue, though in his diplomatic capacity the British representative in South Africa will, from 31st May, have the title and status of ambassador. I am not saying in advance what decision may be reached, but he will, for the time being, at any rate, have a dual status, that is to say, the status of ambassador in his diplomatic capacity, and High Commissioner in his capacity as Governor of the territories.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
Does that mean that the decision is not likely to be reached until after 31st May?
§ Mr. Sandys
It means that no decision has been reached today. I cannot say exactly what decision will be reached on this matter. All these matters are, to a large extent, linked with one another, and although one may have a fairly good idea what the decison will be, it may be wise to wait until we have reviewed the whole field—I am talking about the High Commission Territories—before announcing piecemeal decisions.
There is also one important matter which, al though it is governed by Statute, does not require to be brought within the scope of the Bill. That is the important question of nationality and citizenship. This is defined by the British Nationality Acts, 1948 and 1958. These Acts confer upon South African citizens the status of British subjects. It is not, of course, our intention to leave unaltered the rights in respect of British nationality now enjoyed by South African citizens. But this is a matter which requires most careful thought and on which it would be wrong to try to reach hurried conclusions.
The permanent legislation which we shall introduce before the end of the standstill period will embrace not only amendments to the laws covered by this Bill, but also other matters which require legislative action. Changes of an administrative kind, in particular those relating to the High Commission Territories, will, as I have just said, be announced as and when decisions are reached. As I said in our recent debate:We must be careful not to destroy the value of Commonwealth membership by giving to those who are not members all the privileges of those who are."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1961; Vol. 637, c.527.]We have no thought of doing that.
At the same time, we have had an intimate and many-sided association with South Africa for more than a century. Our affairs have become closely interwoven in numerous ways, and we have developed between one another valuable connections in trade and other spheres. The relationships between Britain and South Africa will, of course, not be the same as they were before, but I should like to emphasise that we have no desire needlessly to destroy links which are of mutual benefit to both our peoples.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. H. A. Marquand (Middlesbrough, East)
We, of course, readily grant to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State the indulgence for which he asked on going to Sierra Leone. I am not sure whether he has been there before, but I have, and I know that he will enjoy the experience. We wish him well, and, once more, let me say how much we wish Sierra Leone a very happy future as an independent country.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us today that we must consider not the cause of South Africa leaving the Commonwealth, but the consequences. Unfortunately, although he gave us a long list of legislation which will at some time become necessary, he did not go very deeply into the consequences. We on this side of the House feel that this is an opportunity to consider the principles that should guide us in this new relationship with the Union of South Africa, and perhaps it will be helpful to the right hon. Gentleman—I hope that it will—when he is working out all the large number of decisions to which he has referred, and when he is drafting the large number of Statutes which may be necessary, to know what is in the mind of the House of Commons about the way in which this relationship should in future be carried on.
I myself think that two principles should guide us. The first, surely, should be that the actions which we take in formulating the new relationship with the Union of South Africa do not in any way appear to condone apartheid. The Prime Minister referred in the debate on 22nd March to a…tragically misguided and perverse philosophy which lies at the root of apartheid;…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1961; Vol. 637, c.449.]Since then the United Kingdom has voted, we are very glad to know, in the United Nations for a Resolution condemning apartheid and requesting all States "to consider taking such separate or collective action as is open to them in conformity with the United Nations Charter to bring about the abandonment of such policies." We are committed to taking collective action to ensure this.
Our relationship with South Africa is now, or will be very soon, that which applies to foreign countries. Surely, our 107 sheet anchor of policy in determining our relationship with South Africa in future, as with every foreign country, should be the maintenance of the United Nations and its authority. If this is right in the Congo, it must be right in South Africa. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I said that deliberately, because I think that it will be very interesting to see what hon. Members opposite think about this.
In particular, we should take note immediately, and bear it very much in mind in any negotiations which go on with the Union Government within the period of standstill, of the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations on 7th April, on South-West Africa, a Resolution in which the General Assembly took noteof reports of the terrorisation of, and armed action against, the indigenous inhabitants, and calls upon the Government of the Union of South Africa to desist from such acts; and requests the Committee on South-West Africa to submit to the General Assembly, at its sixteenth Session, a report on the implementation of Resolution 1568 (xv) as well as the present Resolution.These actions must go on. As a member of the United Nations, we must do our duty in these respects, and we must do all in our power to help the United Nations Committee on South-West Africa to carry out that mandate which it has been given by the United Nations—all in our power, after 31st May, to see that that Resolution is carried out as it was intended to be.
We accepted the need for a Bill with temporary provisions governing our relations with South Africa before the final negotiations could be worked out. But we were surprised when the Bill actually appeared and we saw that it contained provisions for a standstill for as long as twelve months. The right hon. Gentleman has given various reasons this evening, which we have carefully to consider later, as to why he thinks that the necessary negotiations should occupy twelve months. He has assured the House that he intends to bring all this to a conclusion well within the period of twelve months, and I hope that he will do so.
The House must have regard to the effects upon public opinion outside of any decision here to preserve the status quo for such a long period. We must 108 ask ourselves what sort of effect it would have upon African opinion in particular. Will it appear to the peoples of Africa that Great Britain, in accepting the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth, did not take the attitude which the right hon. Gentleman himself took in our last debate; that, having used these grave words, he is now trying to keep things as they were? I know he is not, but when we consider this twelve months' period it is very important to consider whether we might be misunderstood.
I hope that a message will go out from the House tonight that will make it quite clear that our attitude to apartheid, to the United Nations Resolution on apartheid and on South-West Africa which I have just quoted, and to the many questions which must arise, is unmistakably what it should be, that we detest this principle of government under which South Africa is at the moment carried on and that we are going to do nothing which will in any way condone it or enable it to carry out that system more easily.
The Johannesburg Star of 15th April contained an article by its London correspondent, stating that…direct negotiations are not likely to get under way before September or October.Is that really true? Presumably that newspaper's correspondent in London has access, as such correspondents normally do, to authoritative information. Surely the right hon. Gentleman has no such intention in his mind. Surely he intends to begin the negotiations long before September. Indeed, if he is to fulfil the undertaking which he gave just now, that he will try to complete all these negotiations well within the year, he must be intending to start before September. I hope that when the Joint Under-Secretary of State replies to the debate, he will be able to deny this story that there is no intention to begin negotiations until September.
I said that there were two principles which should guide our action in this present interim period. One was that we should not in any way condone apartheid, which we have denounced, and which the Prime Minister has denounced in words which I have quoted. The other was the pledge given by the right hon. Gentleman in the earlier debate, 109 that leaving the Commonwealth must make a difference, that we could not allow it to be thought that leaving the Commonwealth made no difference. I am very glad indeed that he repeated that assurance tonight and, as I say, we hope that it will be duly noted outside.
I think that when we come to the Committee stage of the Bill we may need further and more detailed information to enable us to judge whether this period of twelve months is really necessary, whether, if all that has to be done can be done within twelve months, it could not be done within a shorter period. We may also wish to discuss subsection (3) of the Bill concerning the application of this legislation to Colonial Territories.
I want this evening to confine my attention to more general considerations. I want to allude for a moment to trade. What new sort of arrangements are we to work towards in these negotiations in regard to trade with the Union of South Africa? I think that it is obvious that trade between two nations is of benefit to both. If it were not, it would not take place. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has already said, in the debate of 22nd March, we do not take the standpoint that all trade should cease. We do not advocate a complete trade boycott with South Africa. [Laughter.] This may amuse some hon. Members opposite. Perhaps they do not know that some of the other Commonwealth countries have already imposed a complete boycott.
Our position is not that. The Resolution before the United Nations, that there should be a complete boycott—in short, that economic sanctions should be used to enforce the resolution of the United Nations condemning the policies of South Africa—did not obtain the necessary two-thirds majority, so we are not now bound in that way.
We say that trade must and should go on to mutual advantage, and we think that an agreement ought to be negotiated to that effect as we would negotiate an agreement with some other foreign country whose policies we did not like—say, Spain, with whom I have no doubt we have a trade agreement. I certainly made one, when I was Secretary for Overseas Trade, with Franco-Spain, because it was to our advantage to undertake such a negotiation. Nevertheless, we think that in future trade 110 agreements with South Africa, because she will no longer be a member of the Commonwealth after 31st May, Commonwealth preferences will be totally inappropriate.
Let there be a trade agreement which is worked out in the ordinary way by negotiating around a table so that we obtain from it a fair advantage to suit the interests of our industry and our exporters, but do not let there appear to be any form of special preference. This would obviously be a gross breach of the right hon. Gentleman's own pledge, that leaving the Commonwealth must not leave things unchanged. It mut not appear that those who leave the Commonwealth will always get all the advantages of Commonwealth membership.
I am reminded of the provisions of the arrangement on trade hitherto within the South African Customs Union. The three High Commission Territories are comprised, with the Union of South Africa, in one Customs Union.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to give the House the view of the Opposition on these two questions? First, would they desire trade between this country and South Africa to increase, or decrease? Secondly, if it were to be to the benefit of our export trade that there should be some continued preferential arrangements with South Africa, would he then wish to continue them, or discontinue them merely to mark the fact that South Africa was not now in the Commonwealth?
§ Mr. Marquand
We want advantageous trade to increase—all trade which results in an improvement in our balance of payments. That goes without question. The second question seemed to have no meaning. The word "preferential" can be used in one or two senses. I am trying to say that there should be no preference such as that which applies to other Commonwealth countries. One can say no more than that and one would have to consider individual instances as they arose when negotiating trade agreements.
Are the High Commission Territories within the Customs Union entitled to a fixed percentage of the revenue of the Customs Union by agreement, or is there 111 some legislation which enshrines the principle? What is the value in sterling of the shares of the trade now going to each of the three territories? Is South African currency to be used in the territories in future, or what is to be done about that problem?
The terms on which these arrangements can continue—whatever they may be in detail, and I have asked for some illumination upon that, because I do not know exactly what they are—must be part of a total trade bargain with the Union of South Africa. We must ask ourselves how much each of the percentages of the total trade of the Customs Union is worth. If we encounter a possible threat to discontinue these arrangements, we ought to know the annual value and, whatever that annual value may be, we must be prepared, if the worst comes to the worst in the trade negotiations, to make up the loss from this country's own resources.
Linked with the problem of trade with the Customs Union is that of the employment of High Commission Territory manpower within the Union and the easy passage of workers to and from Basutoland or Swaziland, or whatever it may be, into and out of the Union. This right of passage was enshrined in the South Africa Act, 1909, but we know only too well that many things enshrined in that Act have now gone by the board, like the franchise in the Cape Province for persons of colour.
We must seek hard to defend the right of the peoples of the High Commission Territories, so long as they need to do so, to pass freely between the territories and the Union in their pursuit of employment. We must do all we can to ensure that when they are in employment it is on fair terms and that they receive fair treatment within the Union. There have been many cases, of which I and others have informed the right hon. Gentleman and his Department, of disgraceful brutality in the treatment of citizens of the High Commission Territories within the Union since the Sharpe-ville affair, and we must be zealous in the new circumstances about looking after the interests of our citizens there.
We were glad to have the unqualified reassurance of the right hon. Gentleman that these territories are the response- 112 bility of the United Kingdom and that the people who live in them remain British subjects, in the sense of being, with us, subjects of the United Kingdom and Colonies. We want to be sure that the duty of looking after them under the new arrangements, whatever they are, is satisfactorily discharged.
The responsibility will fall upon an ambassador once it is absolutely clear, beyond peradventure, that South Africa is a foreign country. The right hon. Gentleman told us that there would have to be an ambassador and that, for some time at any rate, the ambassador to the Union would also be responsible for the administration of the High Commission Territories.
Experience in this matter has not been very happy. There have been many complaints by those discharging duties within the High Commission Territories that the administration is inevitably cumbersome when it is in the hands of a High Commissioner whose main job is diplomatic and who is attached to the Government of South Africa, whether at Cape Town or Pretoria—dependent upon the time of year—when communication with him is at long range, as it were, and when decisions of major importance taken within the territories themselves have to be referred to him at Cape Town or Pretoria. We have been told again and again that delays result and that the administration is cumbersome.
More serious than that, when those responsible for the administration of the High Commission Territories live and move in circles within South African life which, by and large, uphold the policies of apartheid—taking the white South African point of view of race relations—to some degree their attitude of mind must be affected by those constant contacts. Even if that is not the case, many people in the territories suspect that that is so and that their interests are no represented as adequately and thoroughly as they should be. We have felt that for a long time and we have felt that the diplomatic representation should be separate from the detailed administration of the territories.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that no decision had yet been reached and I urge him seriously to consider the type of person working in the territories and 113 who is able to administer them sympathetically and with an African point of view, and who has had experience of working in African territories elsewhere. Such a person would be best suited to conduct the day-to-day administration and development of the territories. However, such a person is by no means necessarily the best suited to undertake the diplomatic representation.
I am not convinced that it is necessary, when we have an ambassador to the Union, to make him the administrator of the territories. Indeed, it would be extremely difficult to do so. As an ambassador, he would be employed by the Foreign Office, and no one would seriously suggest that the Foreign Office ought to run the High Commission Territories. That would not be wise. I know that for some time the Foreign Office ran the Sudan Political Service, which was a good service containing many brilliant men who worked very hard in the interests of the people of the Sudan. But that service has been broken up.
However, coming from our Colonial Territories are many men, experienced in administration and in all kinds of activities in African territories, who are now at a loose end. It might be better to recruit such men to administer the High Commission Territories, even if there were some difficulty in Whitehall because of the ambassador working for the Foreign Office and so responsible to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the men working in the territories being responsible to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Surely the necessary co-ordination could be most effectively achieved in Whitehall, and there could be an African Committee of the Cabinet.
§ Mr. Sandys
I must correct the right hon. Gentleman on this point. The decision to give our representative in South Africa the title and status of ambassador does not in itself imply any decision about which Department here in Whitehall will be responsible for continuing the relations between Britain and South Africa. There are various exceptions, as in the case of Ireland, but no decision has yet been reached on that point.
§ Mr. Marquand
I fully appreciate that no decision has been reached and 114 that is precisely why I was trying to influence that decision and saying that the direct diplomatic representation should be separate from administrative responsibility for the High Commission Territories.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House attach enormous importance, in the immediate future of our relations with South Africa, to the development of the High Commission Territories. I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to give us some encouraging news about the development of those territories when he winds up the debate. Are the recommendations of the Morse Report, published a year ago, now fully and entirely accepted by the Government?
§ Mr. Speaker
I have great difficulty in seeing how that explanation could be given, consistently with the rules of order. After all, the purpose of the Bill is the rather narrow purpose of a standstill in relation to our own law in the matter.
§ Mr. Marquand
I am sorry that I am not able to pursue that topic at any length. It seemed to me that it was an important part of our relationship with South Africa and that, as one of the territories was entirely within the territory of the Union, the extent to which it could be developed and the extent to which new employment opportunities could be created for the people within it, thus reducing the necessity for them to cross the border into the Union, were closely associated with the subject of the Bill. We hope that all that can be done by way of economic development to reduce the necessity for the passage of these citizens from what is their territory and ours jointly into the territory of the Union will be done. Not to risk provoking your wrath, Mr. Speaker, I shall not attempt to pursue that aspect of the problem any further.
The right hon. Gentleman said, rightly, in my opinion, that United Kingdom and colonial nationality, whatever it is called, should not continue to be retained by South African citizens after the end of the period of standstill, and that there should be separate South African nationality and that South African citizens would have to become foreigners and, under our law, would be treated like the citizens of 115 any other independent foreign country. We accept that that must be so. What about the interim period?
§ Mr. Sandys
I must ask the right hon. Gentleman not to rehash all the things I have said in different terms. I chose my words extremely carefully and I did not wish to prejudge a number of these issues. The right hon. Gentleman is now putting a rather precise interpretation on certain matters which I deliberately passed over rather vaguely.
§ Mr. Marquand
I am perfectly willing for the right hon. Gentleman to make quite clear what he said. It is asking rather a lot of me to expect that I should have taken down every word he used. I am bound to stand on my own account of What he said and what it appeared to me he said. I cannot take it all down in shorthand and then repeat it. In any case, that would be extremely boring and I would not try to do so.
I will ask a serious question. What happens in the interim period? Will South African citizens now in this country have the right to opt for our citizenship? There are many South African citizens in this country at present, some of them on rather short permits of stay. Have they the right to ask, if they think fit—I do not say that they will ask, for I have never asked those whom I have met—to be allowed to apply for British citizenship and, if they apply, will it be granted to them? I hope that during the temporary period, however long it may be, this right to opt for citizenship of this country which has been open to South African citizens will remain open and that those who wish to become British citizens in the full sense of the word and to continue as such will be allowed to do so.
One consequence of South Africa's new status will presumably be an agreement about defence. I was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to this important subject. His High Commissioner in the Union at present has four air and military advisers and assistant advisers listed in the Commonwealth Relations Office Book. If they are important enough to be listed in that book, they are evidently discharging important functions. When this matter was discussed in the House on 22nd March the 116 right hon. Gentleman told us that defence agreements about the joint defence of the Middle East had already been abandoned. What other defence agreements are involved? Are they to be part of the discussions which take place during this interim period?
As with trade matters, nobody seeks to suggest that a defence agreement which was to the advantage of both parties would be a mistake, but I should like to know what will happen in the interim period about the sale of arms from this country to the Union of South Africa.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the right hon. Member, but I find it difficult to relate that question to the Bill.
§ Mr. Marquand
We are trying to elucidate what kind of negotiations the right hon. Gentleman may be entering into in the interim period. He has given us a list of certain legislation and has told us that there is a great deal more. He has also told us that other matters will be negotiated during this long period. We hoped that it would not be too far outside the scope of the Bill to ask the question which I asked: taking account of the fact that the Defence Minister in the Union of South Africa has recently announced that the purpose of his defence forces will be internal and that they will be concentrated on internal matters, shall we tolerate any continuance of the supply of arms to South Africa for those internal purposes?
Let me make it clear that we on this side of the House strongly object to any such supply. We regretted very much at the time of Sharpeville that armoured cars manufactured in this country had been used to shoot down those citizens. Since then we have been given an assurance that there have been no supplies of that kind since 1957. I realise that I am in some jeopardy in asking the question, but I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able, within the rules of order, to give us an assurance. We should regret it bitterly if any further supply were made in these new circumstances.
We are approaching a new relationship with the Union of South Africa and we want it to be a relationship which 117 will win for this country the confidence and affection of millions of Africans living in the Union and many more living outside the Union. We must make it seem in all our actions that we not merely refuse to condone the practice and policy of apartheid but that we sympathise with the people forced to live under that evil rule, that we shall do what we can to help them in the new circumstances and that we shall do nothing by the sale of arms or in any other way to strengthen the power which oppresses them.
This must be our attitude. That is what we say about both trade and arms—that there must be no preference for South Africa and no attempt to strengthen that Government in fulfilling the very policies because of which she left the Commonwealth.
Fortunately, despite all these evils, there are already signs here and there of some change of heart. There was a multi-racial convention recently in Pietermaritzburg in Natal uniting Whites, Asians and Africans, and it demanded major franchise reforms, the ending of the industrial colour bar, the ending of segregation, and the integration of education. These are all things which we warmly welcome. This is the sort of régime which we want to see develop within the Union. If and when it did, we should be glad to welcome the Union back again to the Commonwealth.
It is to encourage that kind of person, the African, the Asian and the European who is non-racial, and who stands for moderation in race relations, and it is to the end of winning their confidence and of giving them confidence that we should direct all our policies not only within this interim period, which we hope will not be too long, but, also, later, when we enter a new relationship with the Union.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
If that is what the right hon. Member thinks, why should he try to break the Commonwealth Preference which benefits the very people he seeks to protect?
§ Mr. Marquand
The answer has been given by the Secretary of State. It must be clearly seen that those who leave the Commonwealth do not enjoy the special advantages enjoyed by those who remain in it.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. E. H. C. Leather (Somerset, North)
I disagreed with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in only one remark which he made, and that was when he said that we already had had a full debate on the circumstances and events which led to this unhappy Bill. It was a very short debate indeed, and many on these benches, and I am sure on the opposite benches, had not the good fortune, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to catch your eye during it. They therefore had no chance to discuss the background to the Bill.
I am sure that we all very much regret the need for the Bill. I certainly regret it as much as do any of my hon. Friends. The Bill precipitates a situation in which many decisions will have to be taken. I therefore hope that I shall not go wide of the rules of order in the very few minutes for which I intend to address the House in dealing briefly with the principles which it seem to me ought to guide us in taking the decisions which are precipitated by the Bill.
I am sure that everyone wishes us to be as generous, helpful and kindly to our many friends in South Africa as we can. Hon. Members have referred to the question of Preference; no doubt that was in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) who sits behind me. Of course, cutting off our noses to spite our faces would be not only ungracious but very foolish, and no one suggests that we should do that. On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to be guided too much by the principles of kindliness and trying to be helpful and generous, we shall be in a position of ourselves discounting the Commonwealth. This is the grave risk which we must bear in mind. While we wish to reach the most favourable agreement we can, if we go too far in that direction then the House and the Government will be saying, "The Commonwealth does not matter. We will treat you exactly the same whether you are in it or out of it." We must think very carefully before we allow ourselves to take that attitude.
No one forced South Africa out of the Commonwealth. The newspaper headlines were to the effect that she was "chucked out". In fact, South Africa freely and voluntarily decided to withdraw her application as a result of a 119 situation which she deliberately precipitated, and of which she had had due warning over many years from many of her friends, including many of us in the House.
It is said by some that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference handled this matter badly. I strenuously disagree with that. I think that it was handled remarkably well, and I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, because it seemed to me that in that Prime Ministers' Conference there was another possibility, another danger far greater than this—the possibility that the Commonwealth would split, with all the whites on one side and all the coloureds on the other. That was the danger which that conference faced. Had that happened, the Bill which we are debating tonight would not have been concerned only with South Africa; it would have been concerned with the entire Commonwealth, because I do not believe for a moment that the Commonwealth could have stood that split.
It is said, too, that in some way we have infringed the sacred principle of not interfering in the domestic rights of another country. Some of my hon. Friends hold that view very strongly. I should like to explain why I believe, just as strongly and just as sincerely, that that argument will not stand up to reason. No civilised country in the world gives one the right to do everything one wants to do in one's own home, beyond a certain point. No man in his own home has the right to beat and maltreat his children. No man in his own home has the right to carry out chemical experiments and to pour nauseous and corrosive fumes over the homes of his neighbours. No man has the right in his own home to store explosives which can menace the lives of children playing in the garden next door. No civilised State could ever admit those rights.
It seems to me that the Nationalist Government of South Africa and their doctrine of apartheid had long since gone beyond the point at which what they were doing remained their own private business. This doctrine, this policy which has been stubbornly applied for ten years, has been a cancer in the Commonwealth. 120 It has bedevilled and embarrassed every member of the Commonwealth. It has inflamed passions and nourished hatred throughout the whole of Africa. It has many times called into doubt the good faith of Her Majesty's Government itself with the other 70 per cent. of the people who are citizens of the Commonwealth and who have coloured skins. I therefore believe that the decision which brought about this Bill was inevitable and right, from our point of view.
It is said, too, that having infringed this principle of non-interference, this can now apply to other members of the Commonwealth, and that a step has been taken which will lead to further damage. Some of my hon. Friends sincerely hold that view. I do not believe that there is any possible parallel.
The only heading under which this argument can be maintained in any other nation in the Commonwealth is that of immigration. Of course, there are other countries in the Commonwealth which restrict immigration. We in this country restrict immigration very severely. Frenchmen, Belgians, Italians or any other Western Europeans are not free to come to settle in this country when they like, but no one thinks of taking the matter to the United Nations. Our coloured friends in the West Indies impose restrictions even against each other.
But these are not issues on which any great principle is at stake. They are domestic affairs. The important fact is that in all these countries the coloured citizens who are already there have the full rights of the law. They have the vote. None of these countries has ever suggested any doctrine of second-class citizenship. In Australia and Canada, which are the two typical examples which some of my hon. Friends have used, there are many coloured citizens who were there before these policies of immigration control were introduced. They have full rights in the eyes of the law. They have full citizenship in both countries. They stand for and are elected to Parliament. South Africans, alas, put themselves in a completely different category on both these counts.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell) rose—121
§ Mr. Leather
I cannot give way, since I have undertaken not to take too long.
The decisions which have to be taken under the Bill in the next twelve months apply not only to government but to many voluntary organisations. I am a member of the executives of a number of these, as I am sure other hon. Members are. I have had the privilege of representing Canada on the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League for ten years. Here we have to deal with the membership only of South Africans who fought and suffered with us in two world wars. In terms of human value and human anguish, I doubt whether there is a more difficult case where their membership has to be reviewed than that.
I believe that, unless we are guided in all these matters by a rigorous application of the principle of the importance of the Commonwealth, we will find our kindness and generosity leading us into a position in which we will have the worst of all possible worlds. There is a real risk that this could happen. The fact that South Africa has left the Commonwealth is not a happy one for any of us, but to suffer that and then to offend everybody else as well by trying to pretend that it does not matter would be courting disaster in every possible direction. It is the doctrine and stubborn application of apartheid which have brought us to the situation in which Her Majesty's Government have had to introduce this Bill. We must bear that in mind in all the decisions that we have to take as a result of the Bill.
Discrimination against a man because of his skin, or the shape of his nose, or his beliefs, is contrary to everything that this House stands for. It is destructive of the whole doctrine of liberty and of Parliamentary democracy. There surely can be no possible compromise between what this House stands for on the one hand, and the doctrine and stubborn application of racial prejudice on the other, and, much as I regret this situation, I believe the air is cleaner now that we have given up trying to pretend that there can be.
This is a sad landmark in the history of the Commonwealth, but it is not of our choosing, and I believe that great good can come out of this evil. I deplore the need for the Bill, but I shall support it and I shall support a rigorous appli- 122 cation of Commonwealth standards in the decisions that we have to take, because I deplore much more the explosive, arrogant and evil doctrine of racial prejudice which has made this Bill necessary.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Will my hon. Friend kindly explain how immigration which affects two or more countries is a domestic affair and how a racial policy within a country is not a domestic affair?
§ Mr. Leather
In the few minutes available to me, I tried to answer that in the first part of my speech. No doubt because my arguments were not welcome to my hon. Friend, he ignored to listen to them. If he will do me the honour tomorrow morning of reading what I said, he will find the answer.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
Like the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather), I deprecate the need for the introduction of this Measure. Nevertheless, the situation being what it is, I am glad that the Government have introduced it. In a sense it is only an enabling Measure. We shall consider the vital matters which are at issue in another Bill later in this Session, or in the new. Then we shall have to look in detail at the proposals that are made.
No doubt the next Bill will be very complicated, containing the results of agreements which have been made. The only question I wish to put to the Joint Under-Secretary of State on it is this. As much of what will be in that Bill will have been already negotiated with the South African Government, will the House, in spite of that, have an opportunity to amend or to delete parts of it if, in its view, that is necessary?
Like other hon. Members, I have a great affection for South Africa. I have many friends there and have received much hospitality from its people. All of us, I am sure, regret that we are debating this Bill today and that on 31st May South Africa will leave the Commonwealth. Some of us remember 1906, when the then Liberal Government made a very generous gesture to a defeated enemy which was unique. It was a tragedy that it did not help the two countries concerned to come wholeheartedly together. Normally, 123 when a gesture of that kind is made, it heals wounds, not opens them further.
Looking back, I cannot charge this country with having done anything wrong as a result of that 1906 settlement. We have had a number of Prime Ministers in South Africa since then and every one of them has been of Afrikaans nationality. There was Botha, then Smuts, then Malan, and now Verwoerd. None of them has been of British descent. It cannot be said by anyone in South Africa that the British have attempted at any time to superiority, or to run the country.
The referendum which led to the present situation was carried by a very narrow majority. In it, 1,600,000 people voted and the majority was not more than 55,000. However, 165,000 people did not vote. We should remember that narrow majority when we consider our future relations with South Africa.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) spoke of South Africa becoming a foreign country from 31st May. I should like to feel that we shall not look on her in that light. After all, there are many hundreds of thousands of people of British descent there. Many of them voted against a Republic. A large number of them are as bitterly opposed to apartheid and all that it stands for as we are in this country.
Although it is essential, for the reasons given by the hon. Member for Somerset, North, that we have to show that once a country leaves the Commonwealth it cannot enjoy all the privileges which go with membership, nevertheless South Africa will be in a different position from what one might describe as an ordinary foreign country. We must do all we can to continue friendly relations with her in the hope that the present situation will not last for ever.
The present Government of South Africa must come to the end of its mandate at some time and one day a different feeling will arise in that country. I hope that when that time comes South Africa will want to come back into the Commonwealth. If we, during that period, do nothing to alienate her still further, it will be all to the good. I therefore welcome the Bill and the speech made by the Secretary of State 124 for Commonwealth Relations. I hope that when we get the definitive legislation which is to follow it will be such as will keep the door open and will help eventually to bring South Africa back—which I am sure we all desire—into the Commonwealth of which every one of us is so justly proud.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
My hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) made, I felt, a somewhat odd speech. I am sorry that he is not here at the moment, but he obviously had to go out. He practically fell over himself to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations on the way in which this issue has been handled. Moreover, he appeared to me to say that the important thing about any country within the Commonwealth was that it should be a democracy. He said that everybody should have a vote, that the only country in the Commonwealth where everybody has not got a vote is South Africa; and that, therefore, because of apartheid, and because everybody has not got a vote, South Africa must be got rid of.
I wish that my hon. Friend had not seen fit to withdraw so hastily. I am quite certain that Mr. Speaker does not give any warning of who is to speak next, and that my hon. Friend could not even have guessed that I was to speak next.
Is the Commonwealth based on so fragile a thing as—
§ Mr. Fell
Yes, democracy, as it is understood by some of the youthful nations of the world.
Does my hon. Friend believe that the vote matters tuppence in Ghana? Does my hon. Friend believe that the Tamils, in Ceylon, think that Ceylon is a democracy? This is nonsense. This Bill does not arise because South Africa has apartheid. It arises because South Africa has apartheid one way—white against black. If South Africa were a mixture of black and black and there were apartheid of one race of blacks against another race of blacks—there would be no Bill. If India practised apartheid against the whites, there would be no Bill. There would be 125 no getting rid of India from the Commonwealth. If some nations of the British Commonwealth no longer allow or refuse to permit immigrants into their countries, do we do anything about it? Of course not, and quite rightly so. We are right in our attitude towards Ceylon, we are right in our attitude towards India, and towards Canada, but we are wrong—that is, the Commonwealth is wrong—in its attitude towards South Africa.
It is very easy for hon. Members such as my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North to wash their hands, like Pontius Pilate, and say that we have no responsibility for this. What do they say? They say that South Africa and Dr. Verwoerd have brought all this on themselves and that it had nothing to do with us. We played no part in it, and we must be happy, delighted, smug and content with this miserable little Bill. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North wept crocodile tears and said that he regretted the Bill, but I believe the tears that were more honestly and deeply felt were those of the hon. Member who followed him—the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall). It is not enough for us to weep crocodile tears over this affair.
It is not enough to sit smugly here and accept what is happening now. I hope and pray that I shall be in order—[Interruption.] Well, at least after the mammoth boredom created by the speech of the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) and the very sober and uninspired speech of my right hon. Friend, it is possible that it is not a bad thing for somebody to try to wake up the House.
Here we are discussing for the first time ever a Bill of this nature. Here we are discussing a tragic event, and how many hon. Members are present on either side of the House? [Laughter.] Of course, it is easy to laugh, because we are so powerful, because we have now got India and Pakistan on our side. We have now got Diefenbaker on our side, after coming hotfoot from President Kennedy to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference and after being in bad odour with Kennedy over Cuba. Of course, we know that we are all right now, because we happen to be in a 126 great majority on the winning side. "Down with apartheid" and "Down with South Africa"—that is the reason for this Bill.
I should like to look for a moment at what has led up to the Bill. Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to intervene?
§ Mr. Marquand
The hon. Member has referred to the reason for the Bill, but he does not seem to have read it. It is to maintain the status quo.
§ Mr. Fell
Of course, I immediately gave way to the right hon. Gentleman, because of his great wisdom. He will be delighted to know that he is, in fact, quite right. It is to maintain the status quo for one year, but the whole tenor of his speech was that it should be cut down to less than one year.
I should like to see every conceivable reason advanced for keeping it going longer than one year and for trying to make it less severe. It could conceivably happen that if it were kept going longer than one year, something might happen to enable the breach to be healed. How has the Government of this country, the centre of the British Commonwealth for generations, the centre of something which, in the history of the world, has never been built on such proportions or on such a basis, the centre of something that gives mankind hope, the centre of the only base for enabling the small nations to keep their independence, got itself into this mess? How is it that we have arrived at this situation?
First, we have not had any Commonwealth policy. We have dithered, we have chased round Europe and across the Atlantic to the United States, but we have never had a policy for the Commonwealth. We hear of interdependence, and we are told that we must get into Europe. For what? Surely, even this Government should begin to wonder, since yesterday, whether it is urgent for Britain, and so safe, to get into Europe.
§ Mr. Fell
I humbly apologise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for going so wide of order. If I may, I shall try to get within order by relating my grounds for saying that this is an unprecedented Bill.
127 There is no precedent for this Bill in our House of Commons. This is the first time that a country of the British Commonwealth of Nations has left the British Commonwealth. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There are certain reasons for this. I should be most grateful if I may, as carefully as possible and relating it as much to the Bill as I can—very shortly, because I do not want to speak for too long—give the reasons leading up to the bringing in of the Bill.
The tragedy of the whole situation is not that we have become a nation of Little Englanders, but that we have a Cabinet composed of Little Englanders. We have a Prime Minister who, when he came back from his tour of the British Commonwealth—his first grand tour as Prime Minister—came back full of surprise at the greatness of this thing called the British Commonwealth. I was not surprised. Anyone who knows anything about the British Commonwealth is not surprised at the greatness of it, but our Prime Minister was. Then, because of difficulties in Europe and difficulties in America, he became so immersed in interdependence and European affairs that the Commonwealth was promptly forgotten. That is the reason for the Bill. The Commonwealth Relations Secretary may think this is funny, but I do not think it is very funny. I remember him advocating world police forces. I notice that he has not advocated them for some time, but I wonder if his mind has really changed. That hardly goes hand in hand with the great British Commonwealth.
It is not only the British Prime Minister who has helped to lead to the necessity for the Bill, by, for instance, his lack of leadership at the Prime Minister's Conference, which has just ended. One can hardly lead a conference if one has taken practically no interest in the Commonwealth for the period of years in which the Government have been in power. The present Minister for Education said only two or three years ago that it was impossible for us any more to expand Commonwealth trade and that, therefore, we must get into Europe. That is one of the contributory factors to the Bill. If the British Commonwealth is so ill-led 128 by this country, which must provide the leadership for the Commonwealth, that it no longer has any faith that we are to lead it, quite frankly anything can happen.
What, perhaps, gives me more faith than anything at the moment is that in the end, when we get a Prime Minister who is really a Commonwealth Prime Minister, these sort of breaches will be healed and we shall start to rebuild this organisation upon which the future peace of the world, apart from anything else, depends. What gives me hope is that I firmly believe that the British people are 100 per cent. behind the British Commonwealth. If, in addition to South Africa or any other country in connection with this Bill, I mention Lord Beaverbrook, or the Daily Express, people will sneer. Members of the Cabinet, some of my hon. Friends—not all of them, thank heaven, but some of them—will sneer at Lord Beaverbrook.
Let this be said, that however much they may sneer, the Daily Express happens to have the biggest circulation, apart from the Daily Mirror—and it does not do it on strip cartoons. Not only that, but it has had a consistent, straight pro-Commonwealth policy for years and years and it is the only newspaper in Britain that has.
The Daily Express is not a newspaper to sneer at. Although there are many things that appear in it with which one may disagree, it has done one thing for Britain which is great. It has been the one journal with a large circulation in this country which, through thick and thin, has backed the British Commonwealth and brought sense to bear on all these great problems. I have been drawn into that by my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North. Our trouble, as I see it, and what will lead to more Bills, is that the nation is being misled. It would be even worse misled by hon. Members opposite, I agree, but the nation is being misled until we are becoming, first Little Englanders, secondly, pro-Europeans, and thirdly, American satellites. This I believe to be the truth.
§ Mr. Fell
I hope and pray that it will be the other way round.
129 Unless we can pull ourselves together and realise our own strength, this will be the tragedy. I wonder how many of the Cabinet really believe in the strength of the Commonwealth. Do they believe that here we have the responsibility of being the centre and the leaders of the greatest organisation of nations the world has ever seen? I am delighted to see my right hon. Friend nodding agreement. Then there will never be any necessity, if the right road is taken, for him ever again to talk about police forces under the domination of the United Nations.
The only chance for the future success of mankind, the only chance for us to pull through these terrible days, when nuclear weapons do not matter but what does matter is the breakdown all over the world of law and order, is that of having faith in ourselves and doing the job which is really necessary. The job which is really necessary is to strengthen, not to loosen or break up, by all means possible, even though it means great sacrifices for the people of this country, which they will willingly accept if they are led, this fabulous organisation of which we are the centre and on which the world depends.
If we do that then we can have an easy conscience, carry out our duties, and conceivably do the job which the United States is in no way fitted to do.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
A greater wit than I can ever hope to be once said, "The hon. Gentleman engenders more heat than light." I listened with care to the speech of the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), but at the end of it I find myself at a loss to know what exactly he is complaining of and who exactly he is "going for"—
§ Mr. Fell rose—
§ Mrs. Castle
No—the hon. Gentleman has made his speech. He must allow me a little more than thirty seconds before trying to make a second one.
The hon. Gentleman complained that we had this Bill because we had never had a Commonwealth policy. I should have thought exactly the opposite, that we have this Bill because at last we have a Commonwealth policy. South Africa has left the Commonwealth because, for the first time, the Commonwealth has 130 developed a coherent philosophy. That is a great step forward, and I am surprised that the hon. Member for Yarmouth, who claims to be such a protagonist of the Commonwealth, should not have realised it.
I assure him that one of the best pro-Commonwealth speeches that I have ever heard from the other side of the House was made this afternoon by his hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather). I wish that that speech had been made by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations when introducing this Bill. I think it quite inadequate that a Bill of this kind should be introduced as though it were a pure technicality. We were told there would be a few new enactments, a few legislative consequences—like a merchant shipping Bill or a few medical Bills—and that really was all that was involved. In the perfunctory manner which he has brought to such high professional pitch in his Parliamentary presentations, the right hon. Gentleman tried to brush aside all debate. He even tried to influence the Chair by inferring that anyone who tried to look at the wider issues would find himself out of order.
In fact, there is a doubt whether the House will be willing to pass this Bill. It should by no means be taken for granted. There are some hon. Members on this side who have considered opposing it because of the undue length of time which the Government wish to take in maintaining the status quo. That is a factor of no small consequence where it is considered against the background of the whole of the discussion on this subject.
It is an open secret that hon. Members opposite have always been divided upon this question. The hon. Member for Somerset, North was a lone voice crying in the wilderness on this issue. The hon. Member for Yarmouth objected to the fact that his hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North left the Chamber so soon after completing his speech. But the hon. Member for Yarmouth has himself left the Chamber even more precipitately than his hon. Friend, and I am left even more in "mid-air". The hon. Member for Yarmouth has done one of the quickest vanishing acts in the history of the House of Commons. But I shall continue to address him undeterred.
131 Were the hon. Member for Yarmouth present, I should say to him that in fact the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North was a much more pro-Commonwealth speech than his, because it recognised that the Commonwealth faced the fact that the policies of South Africa were a challenge to its whole existence. Most hon. Members on this side of the House have no doubt at all how the Commonwealth should answer that challenge if it is to survive. But we know that hon. Members opposite had many doubts. The Prime Minister did his utmost to keep South Africa and her abhorrent policies inside the Commonwealth. It was only the stubborn resistance from other Commonwealth Prime Ministers which finally led Dr. Verwoerd to face the necessity for his exclusion from the Commonwealth.
It is against that background that we are discussing this standstill Measure tonight. We must, therefore, look at it in the light of the principles with which we each approach this situation because they will govern our attitude towards the powers for which the Government are asking.
I approach this categorically and clearly. I want South Africa back in the Commonwealth as soon as possible. I am second to none, certainly not to the hon. Member for Yarmouth, in my belief in the Commonwealth; in my belief in the exciting nature of this multi-racial voluntary association of peoples of all colours, classes, creeds and beliefs. I want it to be strengthened and to become a great balancing power in the world.
I want South Africa back, but that means that I want the final and total destruction of apartheid in South Africa, because that is the only basis on which South Africa can come back into the Commonwealth. It is from that point of view that I look at the Bill as part of the consequential decisions we have to make following Dr. Verwoerd's exit from the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.
In the light of that, I am extremely anxious about the tone of the speech of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. I am deeply concerned about some of the mysterious hints he dropped. It is not good enough that on this occasion we should be fobbed off with a list 132 of minor legislative consequences which we all know are not the real substance of the matter. We all know that the consequences we have to face are the top-line vital ones of our economic, citizenship and defence relationships with South Africa, the position of the High Commission Territories, and so on.
It may be said that those do not exactly arise in legislative form, but some of them do. Certainly the citizenship issue arises, yet we are tonight being asked to approve a twelve-month standstill without any indication of the purpose for which the Government propose to use that period. Will they use it to soften the impact of the severance of the Commonwealth relationship? The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) hopes so, and I know that many hon. Gentlemen opposite hope so too, but I hope that we shall use this period to increase the pressure on South Africa and so complete the work which was started at the Prime Ministers' Conference.
I rejoice at every sign that the people of South Africa have been shocked and dismayed by their exit from the Commonwealth. It shows that the Commonwealth means something, and it shows that there are influences which we can bring to bear on South Africa to abolish the evil policy of apartheid without expecting the downtrodden African peoples to rise in revolt and try to accomplish by their own—perhaps futile—bloodshed what world opinion ought to be achieving for them.
Because I want to get rid of apartheid in South Africa without more Sharpe-villes and without more black martyrs to the cause of human equality, I am dismayed that the Government Front Bench have not used this opportunity to warn South Africa that we do not intend to rob our fellow Commonwealth Prime Ministers of the fruits of their decision at Lancaster House by smuggling in new preference agreements or continuing existing ones.
It is an intolerable infringement of Commonwealth solidarity even to suggest or hint that trade should continue on the same basis as before. It cannot. It should not. We know, for instance, that under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement South Africa is getting preferential treatment of the same kind 133 as Australia and the West Indies. She is getting a guaranteed market here for 158,000 tons of sugar at a preferential price per ton well above the free market price. It would be intolerable for the rest of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, who have all sat in judgment upon her and said, "Your policies are a disgrace to everything the Commonwealth stands for," if we then said, "Of course, it will make no difference. You will get the same treatment as Australia or the West Indies." I suggest that that is the way in which to destroy the Commonwealth.
I want to know what is to happen over the citizenship question. I do not think that it is very satisfactory for the Secretary of State to make such an obscure speech that my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) had to try to interpret it to the House and then, when he did so, for the Secretary of State to get up and say, "Do not put words into my mouth," and to explain he did not mean this or that or the other. What did he mean? What did he mean by saying that South Africans would not become aliens? If the British Nationality Act is repealed, they will; and, if it is not, what alternative have the Government in mind?
We must realise that here there is a relationship between us and South Africa which is not reciprocal. We give to the citizens of South Africa more than they give to us. It is impossible for us, just because there is not that reciprocity, to continue, in the new situation, favoured relationships for South African citizens which they are not prepared to give to the other citizens of the Commonwealth. We cannot adopt the Eire solution, because South Africa will not have an open door policy for citizens of the Commonwealth as Eire does. Therefore, we have to face this citizenship question.
I should have thought it fairly simple. I should have thought that we ought to have made the position clear very quickly. Let us not forget that the South Africa United Front, which represents, among others, the African South Africans, has asked for no special concession. They are part of the world war on apartheid, and they do not ask for anything which would blunt the edge of world animosity towards the South 134 African Government. They say, "Repeal the British Nationality Act, and the quicker the better, so as to increase the realisation in South Africa that she is isolated and that her present Government is repugnant to all civilised peoples in the world."
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
Will the hon. Lady please face the consequences of what she is saying, in that those who will suffer by the sanctions she proposes as regards trade and as regards citizenship are, in the first place, the lowest-placed Africans in South Africa and, secondly, the white European, English settlers who have done everything they possibly can to obvert the policies of Dr. Verwoerd?
§ Mrs. Castle
I had not completed my remarks on citizenship. If the noble Lord had waited he would have heard that I was proceeding to point out that, although the South Africa United Front, which represents those very people of whom the noble Lord has spoken, has asked for no tempering of the wind to their dangerous situation, I believe we could and should do better than that for reasons which the noble Lord has mentioned.
I believe that, having severed the present citizenship relationships with South Africa, we should in their place declare that we will offer British citizenship to any immigrant from South Africa, whether he be one of our English brothers who does not wish to live under the Nationalist Republic, or whether he be an African South African, or any other South African, who comes to this country and who asks for British citizenship. We should declare that he should be given the right to have that citizenship, on condition that he surrenders his own. This, I believe, is the only way in which this problem can be solved. What stands between us and the solution is not a great technical difficulty, but simply a question of our political approach.
Do not let us under-estimate, in any negotiations that may take place over the High Commission Territories or over any other aspect of the new relationships, the strength of our bargaining power. Even taking into account South Africa's gold sales, that country still runs a deficit on her balance of payments which is met by the net inflow of capital. What is frightening the people of South 135 Africa at the moment even more than the moral issue is that the world's investors have got cold feet about the racialist policies of South Africa.
Harry Oppenheimer said recently that South Africa has lost £100 million of capital due to the moral opprobrium of the world towards her racialist policy. Some hon. Members may have read an interesting series of articles in the Guardian last September by Professor O. P. F. Horwood, of Natal University, and a fellow South African, on the consequences to South Africa of leaving the Commonwealth. He wrote:The effect of South Africa's leaving the Commonwealth on the inflow of investment capital is seen to be wholly adverse on both the availability and the price of loans. The Union has already become less popular field for international investment, and it would certainly become a still less attractive proposition if divorced from the Commonwealth family. Commonwealth membership does confer undoubted international status on a country, and gives considerable assurance of political and economic maturity and responsibility of the potential investor.When I was in Johannesburg covering the treason trial two or three years ago a Nationalist supporter spoke to me. He talked freely and frankly and said that he feared that the country was being ruined by the "Nats". He pointed out that capital inflow was drying up. We ought to encourage that. Britain's aim should be to bring this kind of pressure to bear on the South African Government, because we distinguish between Government and people. We in Britain are out to help those who are fighting this evil South African Government, and we should not use this breathing space, this space of twelve months which is totally unnecessary, to find ways of protecting this evil Government from the consequences of their own policy. We should, instead, be using this period to increase the economic and moral pressures, so that we can keep our Commonwealth together on the basis of a new Commonwealth policy and, in that way, help to bring about the destruction of apartheid.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) said that she wants South Africa back. I, too, want South Africa back and, like the hon. Lady, I want to see the present policy of the 136 South African Government altered. But I believe, also, that if we seek to impose our will from outside upon the South African Government—and the hon. Lady spoke of moral and economic pressures—and we make the sort of speeches to which the House have just listened, we will strengthen the support which Dr. Verwoerd now enjoys in that country. I believe that the South African whites, who are proud people, will be the more inclined to rally behind the Nationalist Government though many of them, like the Nationalist with whom the hon. Lady talked in Johannesburg, have grave misgivings about the destiny of their country and under the policy now being pursued.
It has been said that we learn from history only that nobody ever learns from history. Spain has been mentioned from the Opposition Front Bench. There was the demand for sanctions against the Spain of General Franco. Spain was ostracised by the international community and the result was that the dictatorship of General Franco was consolidated. If we try to proceed by way of boycott and economic sanctions all we shall do, as my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) has pointed out, will be to make the difficult life of the poorest section of the population more difficult.
If a young Member of the House may be allowed to say it, I liked very much what was said by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall). Like all of us who have seen South Africa and realised what a very great country it could become, he felt a deep affection for South Africa and, therefore, a poignant regret at the necessity for the Bill for which the House has been asked to give a Second Reading. I thought that the speech of the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) was of a different order. It was long, and its tone was mild and moderate, but its whole import was vindictive.
We on this side of the House deeply regret the departure of South Africa from the Commonwealth, but the right hon. Gentleman seemed glad of it. He wanted to widen the breach and did not want to seek any way of healing it. I agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in two things. Like him, I have been in Sierra Leone in peace and in war and have fallen a little under its spell. I should like to echo the good wishes 137 which the right hon. Gentleman extended to its people on attaining sovereign status within the Commonwealth. The second point with which I fully agreed was his welcome to the non-racial and inter-racial tendencies now appearing within the Union of South Africa.
I deplore the necessity for the Bill, but I support it on the understanding that it is to be a temporary scaffolding for a more lasting structure of close co-operation between the United Kingdom, and the Union of South Africa, of close co-operation in the practical working of the sterling area, and of cooperation within the spirit of the sterling area, and a co-operation within the spirit of the 1955 Defence Agreement for the use of Simonstown and other facilities. Whatever the difficulties which now will appear, a common defence is necessary in Southern Africa. It is necessary to the Commonwealth, including those members who under the shield of others can pursue a policy of neutrality. Common defence is necessary in Southern Africa against aggression, against Communism and against subversion and disruption.
This Bill is the consequence of a flagrant failure of Commonwealth statesmanship. Since London is the traditional scene of Commonwealth conferences, and our Government are the hosts to the Prime Ministers from overseas, and our Prime Minister is the chairman at these conferences, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom must accept a heavy burden of responsibility for the melancholy breach which it is the purpose of this Bill to start to mend. I suppose that this will be an arid and technical Bill, but even my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations—with his calm, inflexible, almost demi-godlike demeanour—spoke of "human problems".
I think of constituents and of close relatives of mine devoted to the Commonwealth connection whom Parliament should seek to save from being severed from the bond of common citizenship. This Bill aims to deal with the departure of a fellow member—and a founder member—of the Commonwealth. It is not just a question of getting rid of Dr. Verwoerd, but a question of the departure of South Africa.
138 The very same conference that enacted this tragedy welcomed the Republic of Cyprus; perhaps a rather odd exchange—Cyprus for South Africa. That very same conference welcomed the Republic of Cyprus, where there is a constitutional entrenchment of separatism between communities, and where there is a constitutional establishment of separate municipalities for Greeks and for Turks. But, of course, we did not welcome Archbishop Makarios, but the whole people of Cyprus—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I think that this is getting rather a long way from the provisions of the Bill.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I apologise for mentioning the Republic of Cyprus in connection with the Commonwealth Conference, the result of which has necessitated the Bill, but perhaps I am in order in saying something about the background to that, as have other hon. Members on both sides already.
We have had this exchange. In a sense, we have connived at another Great Trek of the Afrikaners. The Afrikaners are like the British. They have faults. But, for all their faults and narrowness, they are a brave people and an honourable people. They are making another Great Trek away from hostile outland influences, but also—and this is what I regret—away from the more genial and moderating influences of their Commonwealth partners.
The hon. Member for Blackburn rightly spoke of distinguishing between Governments and peoples. We are not just parting company with the Republicans of South Africa, but with the Monarchists, too; not only with the Afrikaners, but with the English-speaking Africans; not merely with the Europeans, but with the Asians, the Coloureds and the Bantu; not just those who advocate the policy of apartheid, but those who seek a better way.
Constructive minds are appearing in the ranks of the Nationalists themselves—there is Japie Basson—there are many in the United Party, and there are leaders of the Dutch Reformed Church who are looking for a better way. We are parting company with those and others who, over the years, have fought through 139 generations, for the idea of Rhodes—for the Rhodesian ideal—of equal rights for all civilised men.
We lose the sons and survivors of the South African Infantry Brigade, whose deeds have been recorded by a former Member of this House, the father-in-law of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir). Three times that brigade was annihilated; three times it was raised again; three times, by its sacrifice, it saved the British front. About one-third of that brigade were Afrikaners. Most of them had fought against Britain in the Anglo-Boer War. Many of them had long resisted the Peace of Vereeniging and refused the oath of allegiance.
The first Lord Tweedsmuir wrote:History has seen many fine stocks brought within the pale of our Empire, but none stronger and finer than this one which turned defeat into victory and led captivity captive.On 22nd March, when we had our earlier debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) spoke of his services alongside Dan Pienaar's 1st South African Division, in the Second World War. That formation gave gallant service when the lifelines of the Commonwealth in the Middle East were well-nigh cut.
Mention has been made of the High Commission Territories. What of Swaziland and Basutoland, completely surrounded by South African territory?—Basutoland, in particular, relies on imports of mealies from the Union and on its export market in the Union for its wool and mohair. The Basutos depend for jobs in the mines of the Rand. The High Commission Territories are as dependent on the Union as Nyasaland is on the economy of the Central African Federation. But for its Customs Union with South Africa, whereby Basutoland shares in the receipts of the Customs but pays nothing towards their collection, Basutoland would be in extreme economic difficulties.
The first Lord Tweedsmuir spoke of turning defeat into victory when he was speaking of the Afrikaners who served the Crown in the First World War. I am afraid that this legislation has now become necessary because victory has been turned into defeat and the impatience and the intolerance of the Com- 140 monwealth as a whole has enabled Krugerism to triumph for longer than, in my view, was really necessary.
It all goes back to when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister discovered Africa. He made a series of speeches. He went on a lecture tour of Commonwealth capitals in Africa and ended up in Capetown on 3rd February, 1960. I think that my right hon. Friend showed undue humility, because he must have underestimated the effect of his speech to both Houses of the South African Parliament. For Africa is not Britain, Africa is not Europe, and when a British Prime Minister spoke, as he did, of the undoubted wind of change blowing through Africa, it appeared to many almost as an incitement to see that the wind blew even harder and rose to hurricane force. It looked, in that fatal year of 1960, as though the fertile plant of civilisation might have been blown right out of South Africa to the Antarctic.
Then came Sharpeville. Everyone remembers Sharpeville, but very few remember Cato Manor. Understandable emotion swept the Western world and erupted in Trafalgar Square, outside Africa House. I can remember the mood in this House at the time, and how hon. Members opposite disliked my plea that we might wait until the result of the judicial inquiry before we pronounced our judgment on the affair at Sharpeville. Since then the House of Commons has spent more time on Sharpeville and regretting, as I regret, the carnage there, than it has on all the atrocities in the Congo and the atrocities in Angola which, if I may borrow words from Mr. Kenneth Kaunda, of Northern Rhodesia, "make Sharpeville look like a children's picnic."
When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made his famous "wind of change" speech it was received with great politeness by his hosts. I wonder how he would have got on if he had made a speech about the white Australia policy in Canberra, bearing in mind that Mr. Menzies said in Australia recently—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member again, but this is a Bill, a standstill Measure, designed to maintain unchanged the laws governing the relationship between the United Kingdom 141 and South Africa for a period of one year. I hope that the hon. Member will keep his speech directed to the Bill.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I was trying to explain how the necessity for this Bill, arose, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was tracing the antecedents of the Bill to the Capetown speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
I think that it is quite clear that this Bill would never have arisen, that South Africa would never have had to withdraw an application to continue in the Commonwealth, because no such application would have been necessary, had there been no referendum. I believe that, unfortunately, the referendum decided against the Monarchy and for the Republic very largely because of the intemperate criticism which has been made of the Nationalist Government in South Africa.
I remember meeting English-speaking South Africans doing a job in the Copper-belt, in Northern Rhodesia. They told me that they would vote Republican because they were sick and tired of being told their business by the United Kingdom. This Bill is consequential on the failure of Her Majesty's Government to maintain the fundamental principles which were common both to the Commonwealth and to the United Nations to which the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East referred.
I am as much a believer as anyone else in the multi-racial Commonwealth. I am perhaps the only hon. Member of this House to have served in India before, and Pakistan after, independence. My first chief was an Indian. Since I entered politics I have always refused to be drawn, usually by Conservative audiences, into criticisms of Ceylon, or Ghana, or India.
I admire so much what Mr. Nehru once said about the Commonwealth. He said that the Commonwealth brought a touch of healing. This Bill, however, is part of a drastic and dangerous surgical operation. Human flesh is being cut from a growing organism, and a deep and grievous wound inflicted on this expanding Commonwealth which Smuts once described as "always going forward to new destinies".
The Commonwealth method of cooperation is that the independent nations 142 should use their sovereign powers to work together for the common good and for "mutual benefit". "Mutual benefit" is one of Mr. Nehru's principles, the Panch Shila. Another of them is "non-interference in the internal affairs of an economic, political or ideological character". We are party to those principles because our Government was one of the Governments which supported their embodiment in a Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations passed in December, 1957, with the sole abstention of Nationalist China.
The principle of non-interference in internal affairs of an economic, political or ideological character was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, and until now it used to be one of the fundamental principles of the Commonwealth. The United Kingdom was much attacked and Her Majesty's Government were much criticised by the party opposite, because sometimes they were almost alone in standing up for the Charter and for that principle. But it is sometimes more important to be right than in a majority, and I very much regret that our flight from principle is now being exposed.
I met Dr. Verwoerd when he was in London and I do not think that he is a liar. Many things can be said about him, but not that he tells lies. He told the House of Assembly, in Capetown, that it was not correct that he had agreed to a discussion of South Africa's racial policies at the recent Prime Ministers' Conference. He said that he had been induced to do so. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will explain whether Dr. Verwoerd is right or wrong. If he was induced to do this thing, who induced him?
I understand from reports from the Union that the South African Prime Minister said that his position at the Conference was that South Africa's continued membership should be disposed of before there was a debate on Africa at the Conference. When he was told that some member countries would discuss South Africa's racial policies, his reaction had been that if that was done he would have something to say about Ghana's policies. However, when the constitutional questions were discussed, there was an immediate attack on South Africa. He could then have objected because, under the terms of the arrangement, that discussion could not have taken place until 143 the following day, but, and I quote from a leading South African newspaper:The chairman, Mr. Macmillan, intimated to him that it would perhaps be better to let the discussion proceed.To this, Dr. Verwoerd reluctantly agreed. We have heard very little of what really happened in the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, and perhaps we may have some enlightenment from the Government Front Bench before the debate is over.
I was struck by the courtesy, the constancy, the courage and the obstinacy of Dr. Verwoerd. He believes that apartheid is right. He believes that it can prevail. We must prove him wrong. The best way we can do that is to make a success of our policy of non-racialism, of partnership, in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
I hope that when we put the flesh on the bare bones which have been presented to us today we shall see to it that we have common citizenship arrangements—and I do not give tuppence for the legalisms of the Front Bench opposite. We should see to it that our relations are as close as with the people of Eire. We should see that the trade preferences are maintained. When it was in power, the Labour Party maintained them with Burma when Burma left the Commonwealth. We should see, for our own British interests, that our defence arrangements are continued. We should sometimes recall the South African infantry brigade in the First World War and the South African Division in the Second World War. We should sometimes remember them and not always be thinking of Mr. Louw and Dr. Verwoerd. Let us see to it that we keep our friendships in repair.
The other day I came across something which General Smuts said long ago. Speaking in the days before a Liberal Government abandoned British responsibility for the coloured people and the black people and the Asians in South Africa, in what for the Afrikaners who fought against us, was a terrible time, he said:We stood alone in the world, almost friendless among the peoples, the smallest nation ranged against the mightest Empire on earth. And then one small hand, the hand of a woman, was stretched out to us. Strangest of all, she was an Englishwoman.144 There is another Queen on the Throne today. I hope and believe that long before her reign is over South Africa will be back within the Commonwealth and that we shall forge new bonds of friendship and common interest.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
If I thought that the object of the Bill were to maintain relations between our two countries on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), I should vote against it. Now that South Africa has left the Commonwealth, I do not believe that we should maintain the facilities and the advantages of Commonwealth relationship, and the hon. Member for Chigwell seemed to want those advantages to continue.
I was glad that in a speech earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) a note of reality was brought into the debate. We are not discussing a static situation. This is not merely an administrative Measure to put the laws in order. This is something which affects the future well-being of millions of people. They are looking to see what we intend to do to bring home to the Government of Dr. Verwoerd how we regard his policy.
I believe that it is thoroughly consistent of the House, in passing the Measure and also preparing for a new, and I hope a totally different, relationship with the Union to say again that we condemn apartheid and that we condemn Dr. Verwoerd's policies. This is consistent with the attitude which the House has taken in the past. In particular, a year ago a Motion was passed unanimously by the House, with which I believe all hon. Members of the House still agree, with the possible exception of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon), who has left the Chamber. That Motion condemned apartheid and called upon the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference of a year ago to examine the position. It also said—and these are significant words—that a solution to the problem in South Africa can be arrived at only on the basis of complete equality. That means one man, one vote. It means equal rights for all men, and not the curious distinctions and 145 slogans which were thrown out by the hon. Member for Chigwell, such as "Equal rights for all civilised men," and slogans of that description, which mean nothing.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I happen not to agree with it because it leads to a number of questions all subject to different interpretations. I believe in absolute equality, and I believe that the Commonwealth must be based on this concept; it must be based on it in Rhodesia, and also in the Union of South Africa if that country is to come back into the Commonwealth relationship. I agree with all those who said that they hope that the Commonwealth will again accept South Africa into the Commonwealth, but it must be on the basis of a complete change in the policies which are adopted in that territory.
As this House voted against the policies of apartheid, I assume that we therefore hope either that Dr. Verwoerd will change his policies or that the Government of Dr. Verwoerd will fall. Surely that is the assumption. The House will therefore not want to encourage a relationship with South Africa which will bolster up the policies of apartheid and continue to give encouragement to Dr. Verwoerd in his oppression and in his aggression against the overwhelming mass of people who live there.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) in hoping that a message will go out from the House to the South African Government in no uncertain terms, and I am disappointed that the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations gave us such a vague and misleading speech in introducing the Bill. He admitted that he meant to be vague. This is not good enough. We are examining the future relationship of this country with the Union of South Africa. We expected clear answers to questions which the Secretary of State knows are already in our minds.
Indeed, last week he indicated during Questions that he would be able to give us an answer today to the question of the future administration of the High 146 Commission Territories and the administrative capital of Bechuanaland. Although we expected an answer today to those questions, we have had no answer. May I ask the Under-Secretary of State, who has been left holding the brief, to give us an answer to some of these points when he replies to the debate. When are we to expect a statement about the future administration of the High Commission Territories? When are we to expect a statement on the implementation of the Morse proposals for the economic development of the Protectorates?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I restrained the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand), because I thought that those questions were outside the permissibility of order on this Measure. I may have been wrong, but I cannot allow the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) to ask these questions when I did not allow the right hon. Gentleman to ask them.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
We are discussing the relationship between this country and the Union which will exist for the next twelve months. The relationship with the Protectorates of Swaziland, Basutoland and Bechuanaland, for which we are directly responsible, is very much concerned with our relationship with Dr. Verwoerd's Government. I submit with respect that we cannot discuss our relationship with the Union of South Africa without discussing how we are to administer the Protectorates. These Protectorates depend, as the hon. Member for Chigwell has already indicated, on the receipts from a Customs Union. There is already a large export of labour from the three Territories in particular from Basutoland, and I believe that we cannot discuss the relationship which we must have with the Union without discussing what we shall do about the Protectorates.
I therefore hope that the Government will give us a clear answer about the administration of these three territories. Shall we have a separate administration? The Secretary of State made a very curious intervention during my right hon. Friend's speech. Are we to understand from his intervention that the Commonwealth Relations Department may continue to be responsible for our relations with Dr. Verwoerd? Are we 147 not entitled to a clear answer about that today? We shall expect an ambassador to be responsible for our relations, and these would be under the Foreign Office and would not be conducted by the Commonwealth Relations Department. We expect a separate Commissioner to be appointed for the administration of the Protectorates, and we hope that enough money will be made available on the lines of the Morse Committee's Report to ensure the economic development of the Protectorates.
I believe that it is wrong for us to encourage British-protected persons from these Protectorates to go in large numbers to work within the Union and that we must supply alternative means of employment for them. We have all condemned the situation in the Union. We condemn apartheid. We condemn the slavery which exists there. How can we expect British protected persons to go to live under that regime? I therefore hope that we will have a positive indication of the measures to be taken to improve the economic situation in the three Protectorates and to provide increasing opportunities for employment. We should not continue to condone the slavery and the employment of migrants on the present lines.
I should like elucidation of one point made by the Secretary of State. He said that he welcomed Dr. Verwoerd's statement that South Africa will remain in the sterling area. I hope that we do not agree to that. I hope that South Africa will not be given facilities in the sterling area and that preferences will not be allowed to her. I hope that we will make it quite clear that these benefits can no longer be extended. I should like to know what consideration the Government have given to South Africa remaining within the sterling area and how this affects the continuation of the preferences.
Britain should also make quite clear in the United Nations what our position is concerning the mandate on Southwest Africa and should vote for that mandate being returned to the United Nations and, if necessary, Britain should take over responsibility for administering the mandate. It may be that South Africa is entitled to pursue internal policies of which we do not approve, but the Government of South Africa are not entitled to pursue such policies in a 148 mandated territory for which they are not independently responsible. They must return their reports to the United Nations and the United Nations should have the opportunity of withdrawing the mandate from the Union.
I wish to ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State about a comment which has been canvassed elsewhere of the mandate being extended, not to the Government of the Union of South Africa, but to the Queen, which will enable Great Britain to step in to take over responsibility for it in the name of the monarchy. Is not this the case and are not we entitled to say to the Union of South Africa that, in view of the changing status of the Union, of the change to a Republic and of South Africa leaving the Commonwealth, we expect the South-West African mandate to be transferred to us?
Let us in this House remember that we are discussing, not merely the future administrative arrangements between two countries, but the future of millions of people. What have they just said through a convention which met at Pietermaritzburg? On Saturday, 25th March, a meeting of 1,400 delegates representing 145 organisations took place. They said that the Government had refused to meet the just grievances of the people andthinks only in terms of brute force".This representative assembly stated:If the Nationalist government refuses to call this conventionwhich would draw up a constitution for all the peoples of South Africa,we call upon the African people to refuse to co-operate with such a Republic or with any form of government which rests on force and suppression.The fact is that these people are agitating against a dictatorship, against a form of Nazism and Fascism. We cannot fail to hear their plea and I hope that through the United Nations we will continue to make our position clear. If the United Nations calls on the nations of the world to operate a trade boycott against the Union of South Africa, we must enter into that trade boycott and use trade pressures in order to bring the Government of the Union of South Africa to their senses.
There are far too many parallels between the situation in South Africa and 149 the situation in Algeria. Unless the people in South Africa who are now in political control can be brought to their sense and made to realise that their policies must be changed, there may indeed be a vary great danger of civil war breaking out in South Africa and, possibly, outside countries playing a part through intervention, and, indeed, the whole matter exploding into an international civil war, on the lines of the present situation in Algeria.
I therefore hope that the Government will follow through the policies already declared from the Dispatch Box and will not hide behind evasive phrases and sanctimonious words. Let there be a consistent policy declared from that Box, and let it be a policy which will help to improve the situation in South Africa and help to bring an end to the policies which have been pursued there.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
I content myself with remarking, about the speech of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse), that I was not at all sure whether he was more anxious to bring down the South African Government, which he dislikes, or to help the South African peoples of all races who are living under that Government at the present time. It certainly seemed to me that he was more anxious to be the first than the second.
During the debate, hon. Members have spoken from both sides of the House with such obvious conviction and very strong views that, unless one clarifies one's position to begin with, one is almost placed in a position in which if one regrets the departure of South Africa from the Commonwealth one is accused of being pro-apartheid, and if, on the other hand, one expresses joy, one is thought to be anti-apartheid. Let me say first that that is a completely nonsensical interpretation. In fact, there are just as many people who regret the departure of South Africa from the Commonwealth but who are as firmly anti-apartheid as anybody else.
I can say in all humility that in every speech which I have made and in every activity in my political life outside, I have shown my firm conviction that there is no justification at all for discrimination based on the colour of one's skin. Indeed, one could go a little bit 150 further than that and say that all over the Commonwealth at the moment the common aim is that we are trying to subscribe to the doctrine, as my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) said earlier, of considering our fellow-men without regard to the colour of their skin or the shape of their noses.
Having said that, one is, and I am, wholeheartedly against apartheid, I would add that I am against it for two reasons. The first is that, as my hon. Friend made clear, it is utterly immoral, and, secondly, as practised in the Union of South Africa, it is futile and doomed to failure, for a whole series of reasons with which it would be wearisome to trouble the House tonight.
I am not only anti-apartheid, but I am also singularly anti-humbug, and to some extent, I feel that tonight we have been treataed to a good dose of humbug. I am told that there are two reasons why we should rejoice that South Africa is leaving the Commonwealth. The first is because she practises racial discrimination. I have already declared my position on that, and I think that a majority of the House agrees with my hon. Friend in deploring racial discrimination, as I do. My hon. Friend said that he did not Chink it applied anywhere else in the Commonwealth—discrimination on the colour of the skin or the shape of the nose. My hon. Friend springs from Canada, where there is a policy of racial discrimination against the entry of citizens of the Commonwealth. Yet Canada bases her policy on precisely these two things—the colour of the skin and the shape of the nose. Anybody who has been on the frontier of Canada and has seen people from the West Indies trying to get into Canada knows that what I am saying is perfectly correct.
§ Mr. Leather
As my hon. Friend has attacked me, may I interrupt him? Perhaps I did not make the distinction perfectly clear, but in fact I did not say what my hon. Friend says I said. I pointed out that there were immigration regulations but in no country in the Commonwealth but South Africa was it the law that those with coloured skins were second-class citizens and had not the right to vote. That statement is unarguable.
§ Mr. Bennett
I am sorry if my hon. Friend thinks it was an attack on him 151 because in any case I was agreeing with much, but not all, of what he said. To say that it is more moral to want to keep out people of the wrong colour than to treat them differently when they are inside, however, shows that he has a different interpretation of morals than I have. If we move elsewhere in the Commonwealth we find an openly declared policy in Australia called "Keep Australia White". I suppose my hon. Friend would say that that is perfectly moral provided coloured people are not allowed to get in first. I am afraid I cannot go along with him in his interpretation.
It is not only in those two countries within the Commonwealth that we find this sort of thing, but very recently in an African Kingdom it was decided on race reasons alone that because the brother of a certain reigning African monarch had married a white girl he would be dispossessed for ever of the hereditary throne in that country. That warranted only about two small lines in The Times, but imagine what would have happened if it had been the other way round in any other territory.
It is not only necessary to be anti-humbug but also to be anti-smug. We in this country cannot regard ourselves as standing in a white sheet in this matter. There are hon. Members on both sides of the House—I do not happen to belong to them—who are pressing the Government of the day to introduce restrictions which, whatever the overt reason given, are based on race and race alone. Therefore, do not let us have humbug and be smug when others have racial stresses infinitely greater than those which have caused certain hon. Members here to take an extremely strong line on racial lines.
Another reason that I have heard why we should discriminate specifically against South Africa and not other countries is lack of democracy and lack of the "one man, one vote" principle there. I do not know whether the word "hooey" would be permitted as a Parliamentary word, but that is the language which should be used in this context. How much of democracy as we understand it is being practised in Ghana today, or in Ceylon where we have seen a free Press banished altogether and discrimination practised 152 against one racial element? How much democracy as we know it is there in a country for which I have great affection, Pakistan, today? I do not happen to think that all these criticisms I have made—and I am quite prepared to admit that there are some self-criticisms we ought to make—are a justification for interfering with the Commonwealth membership of those countries. All I am submitting is that we should not only be anti-humbug and not too smug, but we should be a little logical as well.
You, Mr. Speaker, might ask then why I support this Measure which is before the House in view of what I have said, although it would in my view be logical to assume that I do support it. I support it perhaps for a different reason from the reasons why some hon. Members support it. I think that it will do something to minimise the damage which flowed from what happened a short time ago. No so long ago right hon. Members on the Government Front Bench were openly hoping that the outcome of the Prime Ministers' Conference would be that South Africa would be able to stay in the Commonwealth for almost exactly the reasons I have stated—that it is not our business to lay down what rules and what form of Government a Commonwealth country should have. Since then, there has been what I regard as a regrettable tendency to say that this is the best of all worlds and that this is the best result. I think it is better to speak honestly and to say that we worked very hard to try to keep South Africa in but we failed. It is a matter for regret that this Measure has to be put before us to minimise the damage which flowed from a failure of declared British policy which was to try to keep South Africa in.
I repeat that I am saying all this in the context of my earlier remarks. I yield to no one in my dislike of certain practices obtaining in South Africa at present, as I also yield to no one in my dislike of certain practices obtaining in other parts of the Commonwealth. It has been said—I think this a little coy as well—that we are sorry that all this has happened, but as soon as South Africa changes her policy we shall be pleased to have her back. Do we realise what we are really saying? Let us assume that there is a change in the Government of South Africa; that 153 a Government is returned with a totally different policy and one which we could accept. Let us assume that there is a certain amount of racial integration and a certain amount of multiracial political rule, and so we welcome South Africa back into the Commonwealth. Then there is another election and the Nationalists are returned. Shall we call another conference and throw South Africa out of the Commonwealth again? And then, in another nine years, after another election which has gone the other way, shall we ask her to come back? And shall we do this with all the other countries of the Commonwealth which happen to depart meanwhile from the high standards we choose to set for others but possibly ignore ourselves?
When we make these criticisms; when we say we want to punish South Africa; when, in the words of the hon. Member for Wednesbury, we want to bring the Government to their knees, whom are we trying to help, and in what fashion? It is easy to salve one's conscience, because one disagrees with a Government, by passing critical Motions and then to go away thinking that one has cleansed one's own soul by being critical about other people. But I am not sure whom it is we are trying to help. Who will be the first people to suffer as a result of boycotts and economic sanctions? It will not be the administrative services and the Government, but the coloured people who happen to support the view held by many hon. Members here. They will be the first people to suffer. I am not sure that hon. Members, who claim that the way to achieve our purpose is to introduce more and more forceful sanctions against South Africa, are not keener to justify their own political viewpoint than to help the people whom they think we should help.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Surely the hon. Member has completely misunderstood the position? He must know that the people in South Africa have asked us to take this action because they prefer temporary starvation to permanent slavery.
§ Mr. Bennett
The hon. Gentleman made that point in his speech. He must have met different South Africans from those whom I met. The leader of the United Party who came here made clear 154 that he did not want this action to be taken. The spokesman of the Progressive Party who came here—if hon. Members opposite do not think that the United Party is right according to their views—in a series of speeches also made clear that he did not want South Africa to leave the Commonwealth. The hon. Member may have been approached by some who prefer temporary starvation. To me that comes under the heading of smugness—that we in this House should decide how long a period of temporary starvation should last.
I say with complete conviction and considerable feeling that I am glad to welcome this Measure because, whomever else suffers as a result of what I regard as a breakdown of British policy which occurred a short while ago, I desire that the people of this country in South Africa, who bitterly regret they are now outside the Commonwealth, should not be made to suffer.
Earlier on the question of Spain was mentioned. It is not only a question of Spain. In every country where outside attacks are made against the Government the effect is always the opposite to that which is intended. The core of those people who rally round the Government—whether for patriotic reasons or any other reason—is always strengthened by attacks from outside.
The proof is there. In the last few days there have been a couple of by-elections in South Africa and Dr. Verwoerd received a higher percentage of votes than he received not only at the last election, but at the time of the plebiscite on whether there should be a monarchy or a republic. There are already signs not of a slackening of the policies we deplore, but of an intensification of them, for the reasons mentioned by hon. Members on this side, that to attack is the surest way to make people who are in doubt rally round their Government.
I end as I began. I deplore apartheid. I also pray that in this House at least we shall not yield to humbug, illogicality or smugness. So I support the Measure, because it gives us a breathing space to minimise the damage flowing from what I shall always regard as a tragic decision affecting the future of the Commonwealth.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
I ask the hon. Member for Torqual (Mr. F. M. Bennett) to excuse me if I begin by referring to another matter. I assure him that I shall deal with the points he made, because I regard them as fundamental when dealing with this Measure.
I want, if I may, to have the close attention of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations when putting an issue which I regard as the most significant of all those made during the debate. In his speech, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations made it clear that the Bill was necessary because it is important that we should face the fact that when the Union of South Africa leaves the Commonwealth she will be in a different position from what she was when she was a member. The hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) made the same point.
I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will give importance to this when he replies. The Minister said that there must be a difference in the relationship between South Africa and this country when she leaves the Commonwealth; but he also said that when we appoint our ambassador to the Union of South Africa that ambassador will not necessarily be attached to the Foreign Office. That was an extraordinary statement.
Is there any other country outside the Commonwealth which has an ambassador who is not attached to the Foreign Office? What have the Government in mind? Do they propose to give the Government of the Union of South Africa the status of a country not in the Commonwealth but different from any Government outside the Commonwealth? Do they think that when they appoint an ambassador to represent this country in the Union—and South Africa is outside the Commonwealth—the ambassador is to have some relationship which is different from the relationship of the ambassador of any other country outside the Commonwealth? It is of tremendous importance that the hon. Gentleman should make a clear utterance on this matter if the uncertainty is to be cleared up.
I come now to the fundamental points made by the hon. Member for Torquay. 156 I raise them because they reflect difficulties which have been urgent in my own mind.
Here we are saying that the Union of South Africa has been excluded from the Commonwealth because it practises apartheid and yet we know that race discrimination has been practised in this country, in British territories in the Commonwealth, in the Empire. We know that it has been in Kenya. It is now in the Rhodesias. We know that it is reflected in the white policy of Australia in immigration. We know it is reflected in Canadian policy towards the West Indies.
When all this is true, have we any right to say that the Union of South Africa should not be in the Commonwealth because it practises discrimination? I agree with the hon. Member for Torquay that we have to be clear on this point if we are not to be guilty of smugness, self-righteousness and hypocrisy.
I put it to the hon. Gentleman, however, that there is one great distinction between the Union of South Africa, on the one hand, and this country, Kenya, the Rhodesias, Australia and Canada, on the other, one great distinction between South Africa and all these territories, and it is this: that in these other territories we are ashamed of the racial discrimination which we are practising. There is no one in this House who will defend the principle of racial discrimination.
§ Mr. Speaker
Is there not another distinction conceivably, that the Bill is about South Africa but none of the others? I allowed the hon. Member to go on because he was talking about smugness, which might relate to almost any matter before the House, but I think that there is a difficulty about order.
§ Mr. Brockway
All right, Mr. Speaker. I will be very brief about it and use it as an illustration.
The hon. Member was saying that we must not be guilty of smugness, and I am answering by saying that when discrimination is practised in other countries we are ashamed of it; but in South Africa it is their root philosophy, it is their religion, it is the whole basis of their life. It is fundamental to their whole system of civilisation. It is because of that that we have the right to say there is a difference between the 157 Union of South Africa and the other countries to which the hon. Member referred.
The second point which I want to mention is the argument of the hon. Gentleman that we have no right to urge policies which will affect the people of the Union of South Africa, that will hurt them, and that, if we do, again we shall be guilty of humbug. When my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonebouse) rose and said that the people of South Africa themselves had asked that these policies should be applied against the Union Government, the hon. Member answered that he had spoken to the leader of the United Party, that he had spoken to a member of the Progressive Party, and that they had both denied this fact.
Does the hon. Member really believe that the leader of the United Party, that a member of the Progressive Party, represent those people in South Africa who will suffer most by these kinds of policies? Of course not. Those who will suffer most are the Africans, the Asians and the Coloureds, and it is their representatives, in organisations which are now becoming strong in the Union of South Africa, who are saying, "Our opposition to the humiliation of slavery and apartheid is so great that we would prefer to suffer as the result of your policy than to have our Government maintained in office by kindness and ease towards them". That is the answer to the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), who is muttering in his corner opposite.
§ Mr. Brockway
We have no right to urge policies which mean suffering on others, unless those people themselves say to us, "We want those policies carried out because we believe that they are the best way of destroying apartheid." But that is what they are doing.
§ Mr. Bennett
Since the hon. Gentleman has several times referred to me, may I tell him that my silence is due to restraint, and not because I am convinced by his counter-argument.
§ Mr. Brockway
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that statement.
158 The Union of South Africa and this country have had a very close policy in relation to defence and the Minister, in opening the debate, made some reference to that. I therefore want to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what is to happen to defence agreements? What will happen to the agreements that were reached in the exchange of letters in 1955? There is another agreement under which we trained paratroops from South Africa in this country. Are they to act against their own people? And what about the Saracens and other armaments which have been used against the people of the Union?
I am asking the Government not merely to be satisfied with the standstill arrangements for twelve months—which I consider to be much too long for these negotiations—but to make it perfectly clear that when South Africa is excluded from the Commonwealth we will pursue policies which will make clear to the Union Government the hatred of the system of apartheid Which is felt by every hon. Member in the House.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
One of the things that is so fascinating about speeches made in the House is that many of them are not remembered by their colleagues for more than five minutes after they are made.
I was fortunate the other day to be called to speak in the South Africa debate and I am glad today to be able to reiterate to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) a flat contradiction to his claim that people in South Africa who are passing resolutions and imploring the rest of the world to put down sanctions against their country are willing to suffer the consequences of that action.
The leaders of the Cape Coloured community on, I believe, 19th October, 1960, when I was sitting with them, asked me to go back to this country and tell the leaders of the Labour Party, and people like the hon. Member for Eton and Slough, that it was they and their like who were suffering from the consequences of the trade boycott organised last year. If the hon. Member can produce the evidence of other associations of people and give it to us some time or 159 place it in the Library of the House we will the more readily believe his rhetorical claims.
§ Mr. Brockway
Is the noble Lord unaware that the South African National Congress and the South African Asian Congress both endorse this view?
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Proceedings on the Republic of South Africa (Temporary Provisions) Bill exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House), for One Hour after Ten o'clock.—[Mr. Maclay.]
§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
If I may be allowed to say one or two words about the past—and I think that on a Bill like this it is not very attractive to go over old ground and think of what might have been; we have to look forward to the future—I ventured to suggest to the people of South Africa, in an interview that I gave in South Africa last year, that much their best policy for remaining in the Commonwealth was to stay put and sit it out and make no application for renewed membership on their becoming a Republic.
The mistake that Dr. Verwoerd made was that he was too zealous and too eager to be good. He sent messages to this country about that time, and followed them up with his presence here at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, eagerly beseeching this country to stand up in its power and its winning way and do the necessary thing for him. He thought that the Prime Minister could work a magic. This country has been thinking for a very long time that anything the Prime Minister does works a magic. It did not happen on this occasion, and Dr. Verwoerd was disappointed.
If South Africa had simply become a Republic, and stayed put, it would have necessitated the organisation of a Commonwealth conference to chuck her out. That conference could never have been organised and South Africa today, if she had acted in that way, could quite happily still be a Republic and a member of the Commonwealth. There 160 is a precedent for that. It is not exactly on the line of race relations, but it is on the line of democracy, and I would tell my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) that not being a democracy is just as good a reason as discriminatory race relations for censure inside the Commonwealth.
I think that it was in October, 1958, that Pakistan abrogated its democratic constitution and declared for a military dictatorship. Was a Commonwealth conference of Prime Ministers summoned for this one? It was a fairly wretched thing to do, one would have thought, to go against the British concept of democracy, public representation, fair play and the redress of grievances and to suppress the franchise entirely. There was not the slightest attempt to call a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference for this event, and when the Prime Ministers did assemble, in 1960, not one word was said of censure or even of question of the action of General Ayub Khan in having suspended the Pakistan Constitution.
I think that if he had not been quite so zealous and quite such a good boy and quite so keen to observe the niceties of the game and play his rôle in a proper manner, if he had been more ruthless and more harsh than he was, Dr. Verwoerd might have consulted this precedent. And how much more sensible it might have been for him if he had desisted from coming to Britain and had obliged some of these censorious Prime Ministers from different parts of the world to come together and turn him out.
That is all I want to say about the past. The past is past. Enough is enough. As my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) said in a fine speech this evening, a great injury has been done to the unity of the Commonwealth. I say again that I believe that the Prime Minister has failed the Commonwealth on this occasion through ineptitude, through lack of foresight, through lack of percipient planning and through lack of energy, and I am sure that he regrets the situation into which we have now fallen just as profoundly as the House does.
I welcome the terms of the Bill. Contrary to what has been said from the other side of the House, I hope that it 161 will be allowed to remain law for just as long as is necessary to keep our relations with South Africa as happy and as well regulated as they can be. I do not think that this Measure should be done away with within a short time, and followed, as hon. Members opposite have suggested, by other, direr measures to institute punishments and retribution for South Africa, but that, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State indicated today, it will be made law and will be used for the time necessary to get the regulations made for the easement of our trade, the easement of the rights of citizens, and so on.
On the subject of the High Commissioner's office, I gather from my right hon. Friend that the intention is to have two persons in one; that is to say, Sir John Maud as ambassador to South Africa and Sir John Maud as High Commissioner of the High Commission Territories. My right hon. Friend perhaps did not go as far as that—he put it in more general terms—but I take it that that is the Government's trend of thinking. If that is what is to transpire, I welcome it. It will divide the personality, but it will not weaken the structure. If Sir John Maud is capable of looking after these two great problems now, he can continue to look after them although one of his names has been changed.
I should like finally to try to explore again with the House one of the thoughts I let slip in the concluding parts of my speech on our previous debate on this great subject of South Africa. These High Commission Territories are exceedingly important to the salvation of South Africa; they are also exceedingly dangerous to Britain. There they are—or two of them—implanted, embedded inside South African territory.
The genius of Britain should rise to this opportunity. Those Territories can be used as a catalyst to work a political result. If we handle the thing cleverly, if we retain control over them as we have in the past and yet invite South African capital into them, and try to marry, not the vicious repressive ideas of apartheid but the positive ideas to our position in these Territories, I think that we shall achieve something that will redound to the credit of our two countries.
162 We are told that Dr. Verwoerd is to spend £15 million a year on industrialising the Native Reserves. That is the good side of his policy of apartheid. It is a tremendously complicated scheme. When one listens to him describing it, as I was privileged to do last October, and goes over it with maps and plans and drawings on great sheets of white paper, one finds its almost incredible economic nonsense—I do not hesitate to say that—but it could be made to work if South African capital of this order—far surpassing anything the poor British taxpayer is able to put into those High Commission territories—were to be lodged there, and used to develop the way of life of the citizens of those High Commission Territories.
I hope that the Government will not now simply resile from their opportunities and their duties in South Africa and sit back and say, "They have never had it so bad". I hope that the Prime Minister will take it upon himself to overcome the disadvantages of the course upon which he has been set and that he will think positively and constructively about the future harmony of our relationship with South Africa.
Where does the Commonwealth go? It is wonderful to feel that new nations are aspiring to membership, but that is a change in its structure. It is not growth. It is not expansion. It is a successful change. We all welcome it. But to see a great territory leave it—If a Clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse…. And, therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.When a great territory leaves the Commonwealth because of the ineptitude of its members, the feeling that they cannot rise to the occasion, cannot forgive the sins sufficiently to keep the Commonwealth together, then those sins that they cannot forgive in one are transmitted to others and the doctrine of frangibility is erected.
I hope that my right hon. Friends will struggle with all their power to invent new theories for reattaching South Africa to the Commonwealth and, in the process, bring peace to this great territory in which we are the leading nation and advance the prosperity and the civilisation of the depressed Africans who are now under the yoke of the apartheid policy.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
I think that there was a certain symbolism in the fact that the Secretary of State was unable to stay with us tonight to finish off this first stage in South Africa's withdrawal from the Commonwealth because he had to fly off to welcome Sierra Leone as the latest black African member of the Commonwealth. We on this side of the House particularly wish him a good journey on that mission, and we gladly excuse his absence from the House for that purpose, but we do not in the least excuse the perfunctory way in which he introduced this very important and, indeed, historic Bill to the House this evening.
The hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) complained, in a very vicious attack on the Secretary of State, that he did not in the least understand what the Commonwealth was all about, because he had once proposed a world police force. I do not think that the hon. Member for Yarmouth could have studied the communiqué on world disarmament, which was one of the most notable achievements of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, because that communiqué was urging on behalf of 600 million people from all races of the world precisely that we ought to move towards some form of world authority following the ideas put forward by the Secretary of State. I must confess that the thought occurred to me that if the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth relations had come into the House to announce the achievement of his goal of a world police force, he would have done it in ten minutes and have said that it presented some interesting legalistic problems but he could not tell the House very much more about it for a very long time yet.
His approach to these problems did less than justice to the desire that is shared on both sides of the House for information on this complicated matter. As the House will have realised by this time, we on this side are prepared to accept the need for a standstill period between South Africa and ourselves while these complex consequences of the Union's withdrawal from the Commonwealth are worked out. But, as the speeches of many of my hon. Friends will have shown, we approach the period 164 of a year with a good deal of reluctance and caution. It seems to us to be an unduly long period, and we are afraid that the continuance of the status quo for too many months may blunt the sharp edge, and I think the healthy edge, of the international impact made by South Africa's exclusion from the Commonwealth.
I must say that our caution about this period of a year deepens at times into suspicion, and even distrust, as we listen to the kind of speeches that we have heard tonight from the back bench Members of the Conservative Party. They were speeches that were similar to those that were made in the earlier debate on this subject on 22nd March. The hon. Member for Yarmouth was quite typical of the attitude of many back bench Conservative Members when he called this a miserable little Bill. These speeches were a sharp reminder to us, and I have no doubt an equally sharp reminder to the Secretary of State and the Joint Under-Secretary, that in fact the majority opinion in this Parliament on how to deal with these very fateful issues of Africa consists of the Opposition in this House, of the Government Front Bench and perhaps half of their own supporters if there were a free vote on this issue.
Indeed, if one were to judge by the speeches which were made, the overwhelming majority of the Conservative Members are, in fact, against the Government. Out of about nine speeches from the Government benches which to varying degrees have been against the kind of policies that the Government have pursued on the issue of South Africa, only one speech—a remarkable and I would say a very good speech, that of the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather)—was in support of the Government. So they will understand our suspicions about this matter.
We have no wish to act in any sort of vindictive manner towards South Africa in facing these problems, and I must say that I thought the attack which was made by the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) for being vindictive in his speech was singularly misplaced. Anybody who has attended our debates on Commonwealth affairs over the past few years will know that nobody in this House 165 according to his own lights has struggled harder to try to change South Africa's policies and opinions in such a way that will allow South Africa to go on as a full member of the Commonwealth.
We are anxious to act in such a way that we will encourage an anti-apartheid majority, because the majority of people in South Africa are against apartheid in their struggles for justice. We are anxious to see the Government's policies carried out in such a way that they will press the South African Government to change their attitude on these matters. When the majority opinion in the Union of South Africa has finally won, as win it will one day, we want it to be easy for a changed South African Government to return to the Commonwealth.
We agree with the views expressed by the Secretary of State at the beginning of this debate that he is, in fact, expressing the view of the majority in the Union of South Africa against apartheid when he states that it must be made clear to the world at large that when a country leaves the commonwealth its position is changed in relation to the members of the Commonwealth. We hope that in the negotiations and discussions about this matter in the months ahead the Secretary of State will stick firmly to that point of view. We hope that he will resist the pressures of his own back benchers with the same unbending obstinacy with which we became so familiar when he was steering the steel denationalisation Measure through the House.
Dr. Verwoerd's tactics seem to us to be to try to pretend that nothing has really changed between South Africa and the white members of the Commonwealth, despite the decision of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. Dr. Verwoerd appears to want to try to say that, although he may have been forced formally to leave the new, multiracial Commonwealth, he still hopes informally and quietly and on an ad hoc basis to recreate the old white Commonwealth. It is clear that that enjoys a good deal of influential support in the Conservative Party, but Britain cannot afford to be a party to any such tactics, and the Government know that perfectly well.
We must not only have a different relationship with South Africa in future, 166 but be seen to have a different relationship. It was because South Africa's domestic policies of apartheid became a great international issue that she had to leave the Commonwealth, and for that very reason it is important that Britain should be seen by the rest of the Commonwealth and the world, as by the people of South Africa, to stand in a different relation to her now that her Government have placed her outside the Commonwealth and also in the unique and pathetic position of isolation from the rest of the civilised world. There is a common concern for those of all races in South Africa who do not share the views of the present ruling group, and it is no service to those people in South Africa to play Dr. Verwoerd's game.
What the British Government do here will strongly influence the other members of the Commonwealth, and I ask the Under-Secretary to tell the House whether there has been consultation with other members of the Commonwealth about the period of twelve months laid down in the Bill. I want him to give an assurance to the House that there will be close consultation with the other members of the Commonwealth about the course of negotiations with the Union of South Africa during the standstill period, however long it may last—and we hope that it will be as short as possible.
The matters to be negotiated between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Union of South Africa are many and complicated, and some of them are singularly obscure. Will the Government try to assist the House and the country in forming opinions about the way in which the problems ought to be handled by setting out in a White Paper the factual position of the various matters which lie between us and the Union of South Africa. The present network of agreements is singularly difficult to trace for the ordinary layman.
One of the most important aspects of these problems, as many hon. Members have said, is that of our responsibilities for the High Commission Territories. The consequences of South Africa's exclusion from the Commonwealth would be a lot simpler and more clear-cut if there were no Protectorates, and it would be a good deal easier for us to bring effective pressure on the South 167 African Government to change its own policies if we did not have to bear those responsibilities in mind. As the hon. Baronet told us, Basutoland, for instance, in effect is a little West Berlin in the middle of South African territory.
§ Mr. Thomson
As the noble Lord said, Basutoland is an island in the middle of South African territory. Indeed, in some ways its position is worse than that of West Berlin, because a very large proportion of its working population has to go out of Basutoland into the Union in order to seek a livelihood. According to the Morse Report, last year 43 per cent. of the able-bodied men in Basutoland abtained their employment in the Union.
On the other hand, South Africa needs these Basuto workers very much, and it is worth remembering that South Africa's departure from the Commonwealth makes Britain a great deal freer to give the interests of the High Commission Territories absolute priority instead of subordinating them, as we have so often done, to the need to be nice to Dr. Verwoerd and to try to keep him in the Commonwealth. In any case, the most important thing which we can do for these Territories requires no negotiation with the Union of South Africa at all; it is the implementation of the recommendations of the Morse Report. The noble Lord said that the South African Government proposed to spend £15 million a year in their native reserves. It is a disgrace that this country has taken more than a year and still has not reached a decision whether we ought to spend rather less than £7 million over ten years on carrying out the recommendations of the Morse Report.
There is a great deal of ignorance in this country of the tremendous economic, social and educational needs of these High Commission Territories, and we can take no pride in our record there in social welfare, compared with what has been done by the Union Government. In passing, I suggest that the Government should consider, in this very difficult period, when there must be much anxiety in the High Commission Territories, whether the House of Commons 168 should send a Parliamentary delegation to these Territories to study these matters at first hand and to help to inform opinion in the House on the best way to deal with these difficult problems during our future relationship with the Union of South Africa.
As a number of hon. Members have pointed out, this raises what we are to do about what is at present the High Commission Office in the Union of South Africa. We were astonished by the Secretary of State's remark that the fact that the High Commissioner was to become, in his diplomatic aspects, an ambassador did not necessarily mean that he was to be responsible to the Foreign Office and not to the Commonwealth Relations Office. I hope that in his reply the Under-Secretary of State will clear this up here and now, because it would lead to world-wide misunderstanding if the High Commissioner were simply to be given another label but were still to operate under the Commonwealth Relations Office after South Africa had left the Commonwealth.
Turning to the administration of the High Commission Territories and their economic development, there is a good deal of evidence that, apart from other objections to it, the High Commission Office in the Union of South Africa has been a very cumbersome fifth wheel to the coach. There is a great deal to be said for handing over the High Commission Territories to the responsibility of the Colonial Office and for having individual Colonial Governors in each of these High Commission Territories and then for exercising co-ordination between territories which are very different in their character through some sort of establishment similar to the East African High Commission. I put that to the Government in their consideration of these problems in the months that lie ahead.
A wide range of issues require to be dealt with during the standstill period, including defence, trade and nationality; and all these have been dealt with by one hon. Member or another. The hon. Member for Chigwell laid great emphasis on his belief that we should continue unchanged our defence arrangements with the Union of South Africa. I press on the Government that in reconsidering our defence arrangements we should avoid in future 169 giving to the South African Government any of the kinds of arms or training facilities which are more likely to be used against the civil population than to be part of any collective defence arrangements against external aggression. It would be disastrous to our reputation if our arms were used in some future Sharpeville, which we hope will not occur but which may easily be provoked by the race policies of the South African Government.
On the nationality question, I endorse the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) that we should make arrangements that South African citizens coming to this country or coming into our Colonial Territories and wishing to become citizens of Britain should be free to do so on the surrender of their South African citizenship. It is very important that in the months ahead, which may see a great deal of political persecution, we should make proper arrangements to offer not only asylum but citizenship to those from the Union of South Africa who seek our help. On many of the issues that the Government will have to negotiate about they may find that it is easier to come to a written agreement on things which the Union of South Africa is wanting than on the kind of assurances we shall be seeking about the future safety and welfare of the High Commission Territories.
I urge on the Government that any commitments they may consider making should be as flexible as possible to make it easier for them to be changed in the light of the way in which the policies of the South African Government develop. I have in mind that before the Prime Ministers' Conference the South African Government dropped their censorship Bill in order, I think, partly to give a more pleasing picture of themselves to the world. It might very well be that the South African Government may behave rather differently and better during the period when they are in negotiation with Her Majesty's Government than when the negotiations have concluded.
We do not object to the Bill in principle, but we have doubts about the time factor and we feel that we need more information on the facts. Our attitude to its intentions and our attitude in Committee next week are bound to 170 depend on the kind of answers we have from the Minister tonight. I have deliberately left him a great deal of time so that he will have no reason for not giving very full answers to the many questions which have been raised.
I ask him to bear in mind in his general approach to this problem that although this is a complicated legal problem it is a great deal more than that. In the way in which the Government handle this matter, and in the wisdom which the Government bring to bear positive pressure on the Union of South Africa in the years ahead, lies the possibility, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn said, of bringing about peaceful change in the Union of South Africa and creating a non-racial society without terrible incidents like Sharpeville. Great responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Government in going into these negotiations. I hope that when the Under-Secretary replies we shall get much more than the kind of legalistic introduction we had, regrettably, from the Secretary of State.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Bernard Braine)
In one sense this debate has been unique. Apart from the views expressed by more than one speaker on the length of the stand-still period, almost everything said in the course of the debate lies outside the scope of the Bill. I make no complaint on that score, because it is only natural that deep-felt anxieties about our future relations with South Africa should find expression, that some impatience should be sounded and certain assurances sought.
Nevertheless, it is not only our relations with the Union of South Africa that we have to consider. As the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) reminded us, we have very great responsibilities for the three High Commission Territories and, since they are linked economically with the Union, we have to be very careful indeed to see that their interests are safeguarded in every way. Because of this and because we stand at the beginning and not at the middle or the end of discussion of the many complex problems involved with the Union Government—and with our Commonwealth partners, 171 too—I am sure that the House will not expect me to answer in detail all the points which have been raised. Some hon. Members have been urging me to make the right speech in the wrong debate, but I must resist their blandishments. I shall do my best, however, to answer as many of the points which have been raised as I can.
The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) wondered why so long a period as twelve months was being provided for in the Bill. The hon. Member for Dundee, East thought that it was an unduly long period. As my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary made plain, we need time in which to work out the future pattern of our relationships with South Africa, to hold discussions on many complex subjects with the Union Government and to take the necessary legislative or other action. We judge twelve months to be adequate for this purpose. I am sure that, on reflection, the whole House would agree that it would be foolish if, by fixing a shorter standstill period than we had thought necessary, we found ourselves, at the end of it, having to introduce further legislation to provide for its extension. In this context, we should do well to remember Tennyson's warning againstraw haste, half-sister to delay.On the other hand, as my right hon. Friend said, the Bill does not prevent us from taking early action if we are ready to do so. The twelve-month period is the maximum. The House may be assured that we shall move as quickly as circumstances and the safeguarding of our essential interests permits. The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East referred to Press reports that discussions with the Union Government would not begin until September. That is not so. Negotiations will be conducted through the usual diplomatic channels, and as soon as we decide our policy here on the many questions involved the matter will be discussed with the South Africans, either through our Ambassador in Capetown, or through the South African Ambassador here in London. Some of these questions will be ripe for discussion long before September, and others will take a little longer.
172 The right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) asked whether the House would have an opportunity to discuss what is ultimately decided in regard to the future pattern of relationships. Since all the matters covered by the Bill are governed by United Kingdom legislation, any amendment will be debated by Parliament, and any other matters in the nature of agreements between ourselves and the South African Government will be dealt with in the normal way. The House, consequently, will be given an opportunity of considering these matters at the appropriate time.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman realises the point I was trying to make: that once an agreement has been reached with another Government it is very difficult to upset it. Although I gathered that it would be possible for this House to discuss it, the argument would be that after long negotiations we had come to that settlement, and we must not touch it.
§ Mr. Braine
I understand the point. But there is no difference between this situation and any other international agreement into which Her Majesty's Government may enter.
I understand that parallel action is being taken by the South Africans. Their Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Louw, told the Union Parliament on 17th April that his Government were contemplating similar action to the Bill before this House.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East asked about consultations with other Commonwealth countries. Commonwealth Governments affected by South Africa leaving the Commonwealth will be making their own arrangements. Each will decide for itself how it will treat South Africa once that country is outside the Commonwealth. There could be no question of a uniform approach since the nature and extent of the existing relations between Commonwealth countries and South Africa varies widely. Some have closer relations than others. We, of course, have the closest and most complex relations of all. I have no doubt that the various Commonwealth Governments will consider their position, although, as with ourselves, they will need time to reach 173 their conclusions. In regard to matters of mutual interest and concern, the ordinary processes of Commonwealth consultation will certainly be used.
The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) asked how the Bill affected the future of the High Commission Territories. Neither the Bill nor South Africa's withdrawal from the Commonwealth will affect our relations with the High Commission Territories and our responsibilities to the people who live there, whose loyalty and devotion to the Crown are well known.
I am not sure who implied this, but it is not correct that the interests of the territories have been subordinated by the Government to the maintaining of good relations with the Union. We shall further the interests of the territories in the future as we have done in the past.
Two interesting views were expressed about the decision that our High Commissioner should become an ambassador. On the one hand, the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) was filled with great alarm. On the other hand, my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), who paid a well-deserved tribute to our distinguished High Commissioner, thought that as the latter had worn two hats so efficiently for so long he should go on doing so. This is a matter on which we have not reached a final conclusion. It is one which we will have to consider carefully. For the time being the two offices will be held by the same person.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
Can the hon. Gentleman make this clear? When the High Commissioner becomes an ambassador, as we understand he will shortly, will he then be responsible to the Foreign Office, or to the Commonwealth Relations Office?
§ Mr. Braine
I would have thought to the Commonwealth Relations Office, but I would prefer not to add anything to what I have already said. In fact, he becomes ambassador under these arrangements on 31st May of this year, but the Bill provides for a standstill period up to 31st May, 1962. There is plenty of time to enter into an arrangement which will effectively safeguard our interests and make for good adminis- 174 tration in the territory. I do not think that heavy weather need be made of this. The views expressed on this subject, as on others, have been carefully noted, and I do not think that I can go further tonight.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East suggested that Ministerial responsibility for the High Commission Territories might with advantage be transferred to the Colonial Office. I understand the reason why he makes that suggestion. It is one which we shall consider, but in the months ahead we need to examine the best arrangements which can be made in the interests of the territories and in the interests of the people who live there. In the same way as responsibility for the conduct of relations with South Africa will remain with my right hon. Friend, so will his responsibility for the High Commission Territories. My right hon. Friend has asked me to say that he will let the House know what arrangements we propose when a decision has been taken on this subject.
The question of the administrative arrangements in regard to the capital of the Bechuanaland Protectorate—as the House knows, Mafeking is outside the Protectorate—is a matter which is exercising our thoughts, but it is not one which can be swiftly or easily resolved. It is not a matter of moving an administrative headquarters from one town to another. It is a question of building a new town and making the necessary provision for houses, offices, attendant services, and, most important in a dry and arid country, for water.
I was pressed to say something about the Morse Report. This is going wide of the Bill, but I fully appreciate the views which have been expressed. All I can say here is that we have our responsibilities for the economic development of the territories, whether South Africa is in the Commonwealth or outside it, or whether the Bill becomes law or not. As hon. Members know, we are actively considering what needs to be done and are taking full account of the recommendations of the Morse Report.
I should like to turn now to the question of economic links now and in the future. A number of hon. Members referred to this. We are closely linked to South Africa by trade. We share 175 preferential advantages. We are both members of the same currency area. None of these arrangements are affected by the Bill.
The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), speaking with great fire and passion, told us that she wished to increase the economic pressures on South Africa. I gather from that that she would not mind if preferential arrangements ceased, and if trade between our two countries diminished. All I can say is that I prefer the wise guidance of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who, speaking to the South African Parliament on 3rd February, 1960, said:I certainly do not believe in refusing to trade with people because you may happen to dislike the way in which they manage their internal affairs at home.There is great wisdom in that.
I was very glad to note, as, I am sure, most hon. Members were, that the Leader of the Opposition, speaking in the debate on 22nd March, made it quite plain that he was not in favour of economic sanctions being applied. I was very glad, also, to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, East declare his support today for that sensible view.
I should like to go into this question of preferences. It should be said—it appears to have been forgotten by some—that preferences are reciprocal, and that about half South Africa's exports to the United Kingdom, other than gold and uranium, enjoy preferences in this country and most of them are guaranteed under the bilateral agreement concluded after the Ottawa Conference in 1932. About 20 per cent. of our exports enjoy preferences guaranteed under the same Agreement. It should also be said, in this context that we share preferences with countries outside the Commonwealth. We should not lightly cast aside advantages of this kind. But what precise form these arrangements may take in the future is a matter for negotiation.
§ Mr. Marquand
Are there any South African products which enjoy the privilege of free entry into this country? Are there any United Kindom products which enjoy the privilege of free entry into South Africa?
§ Mr. Braine
I cannot answer that "off the cuff", although there are, of course, 176 a number of South African products which do enter this country duty free.
But there are advantages on both sides, and I am certain that the interests of our two countries are not served by severing or weakening established trade ties. This does not concern only Governments. This concerns ordinary people. As has been so rightly said in the debate by some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, many of the people whom hon. Members on that side are so anxious to help would be disadvantaged, perhaps injured; their whole future prospects might be adversely affected by such a course. I am not saying for one moment—and the House must not read anything to the contrary in what I say—that these arrangements will necessarily continue in their present form for all time. All I am saying is that we have carefully to consider the balance of advantage and disadvantage; we have to consider carefully the position we want in the future. This is another reason why we should not be precipitate in our decisions.
§ Mrs. Castle
Is it not a matter which should be discussed with other members of the Commonwealth, who are vitally linked in this whole question of Commonwealth Preference?
§ Mr. Braine
These are bilateral arrangements between our two countries. Other members of the Commonwealth have their own arrangements with South Africa, and no doubt will be considering in the months ahead what they propose to do about them, and there will be close consultation between all the Governments concerned.
The hon. Lady made reference to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. The matter was not quite so simple as, I think, she suggested. This Agreement is a commercial contract between the United Kingdom Government and the sugar industries in certain Commonwealth countries, and the South African Sugar Association is a party to the Agreement, and exports an agreed quota to our market at a negotiated price.
Swaziland also produces sugar but is not a party to the Agreement and has not a separate quota of her own. At the moment, however, there are arrangements under which Swaziland sugar up to a certain ceiling in quantity can be 177 sold to the South African market where it receives a proportionate benefit from the export price. We are considering, therefore, what effect the departure from the Commonwealth of South Africa has upon her membership of the Agreement. I do not feel able to say anything more about this at the moment, but I can assure the House that in considering what has to be done we shall pay full regard to the interests of Swaziland, which remains in the Commonwealth, and the sugar producers there.
The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East asked whether the Customs Agreement of 1910 was much affected by the Bill, and also asked what benefits it had conferred on the High Commission Territories. It is not affected in any way by South Africa becoming a Republic or leaving the Commonwealth, nor is it affected by the Bill. It is an agreement by which the three territories and South Africa have, for the last fifty years, formed a single Customs Union, and by which the territories gain a share of Customs duties, which makes a very substantial contribution to their revenues—
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
But will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that that share appears to vary between 0.1 per cent. and 0.8 per cent., depending on the territory, and that the Agreement does not appear to have been revised since 1910? In the interests of the territories, will he make sure that, as part of the negotiations, the Agreement is revised?
§ Mr. Braine
I will bear very much in mind what the hon. Gentleman says, but one can, of course, use figures to prove almost anything. I repeat that, at the moment, the three territories derive substantial benefit from the existence of the Customs Union, and if the Agreement did not exist the effect would be that each territory would have to maintain its own Customs services over very long land frontiers. There are obvious disadvantages in this, but it is clear that in the months ahead we shall have to examine the whole situation.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about two further important matters—defence and citizenship. He asked what defence agreements were in existence, and what was to happen. I would remind him of the Simonstown Agreement of June, 1955, which provided that the facilities 178 of the Simonstown naval base would be available to the Royal Navy in peace and to the Royal Navy and to our Allies' navies in any war in which the United Kingdom was involved. This Agreement is not legally affected by the Union leaving the Commonwealth, but we shall consider it, along with other agreements with South Africa, in deciding whether our interests, that is, British interests, require us to propose any alteration.
The hon. Member for Eton and Slough referred to the training of paratroopers. Certain training is provided, of course, in Britain for members of the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth and some foreign countries. That has long been the practice. It may include training in parachute techniques, and in the past this has been done for small numbers of men from the Union. If requests for facilities of this kind are received in future from South Africa, they will have to be considered very carefully in the light of prevailing circumstances.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked about citizenship during the interim period. By Section 6 (1) of the British Nationality Act, 1948, any South African citizen is entitled to be registered as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies on satisfying my right hon. Friend that he is ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom and has been so resident during the twelve months preceding his application.
The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn thought that the Bill itself was concerned with the issue of citizenship and nationality. I must make it absolutely plain that this issue is not affected by the Bill. All that the Bill does is to preserve the position for twelve months under Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament which make provision in relation to Her Majesty's Dominions, or describe South Africa by reference to membership of the Commonwealth and which, but for the Bill, would cease to have any application to South Africa after 31st May next.
The relevant United Kingdom statutes governing the question of nationality are the British Nationality Acts of 1948 and 1958. The first of these laid down a new legal definition of the status of British subject. Section 1 (1) of the 1948 Act states that every 179 person who is a citizen of a country named in the following subsection is a British subject. This subsection simply contains a list of the countries in question, including South Africa, without, however, any reference to membership of the Commonwealth. This will remain the position, even though South Africa leaves the Commonwealth on 31st May, unless and until the Nationality Acts are amended.
Clearly, the matter cannot be left there, and that is what the right hon. Gentleman had in mind. But how we dealt with it obviously requires our most careful thought. The Government feel, and I hope that the House feels too, that it would be quite wrong for us to come to any hurried conclusions about something which is of such deep, personal and intimate concern to so many people. It is precisely because human considerations are involved here that we are considering these issues as thoroughly and as quickly as we possibly can.
There were, of course, criticisms about our attitude in the United Nations. My hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) thought that it was all our fault. All I can say is that my hon. Friend's conception of what the Commonwealth is or should be is not mine and that it would have been very much better if he had read the speeches made by the Prime Ministers of Canada and New Zealand to their people on their return from the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, those of the Prime Ministers of India, Ceylon and Malaya, and of the Presidents of Ghana and Pakistan. He might then have come to the conclusion that if all those are wrong there is not any Commonwealth left for him to defend.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) criticised our votes in the United Nations on the ground that they were incompatible with the stand which we had always taken on Article 2 (7) of the Charter. 180 He made an interesting speech which I followed closely, but there is really no incompatibility. What the critics do not recognise is that the world has changed and circumstances have altered and what may have been sensible and practicable to have done yesterday is not necessarily so today. Our view on this was put with considerable clarity by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Smithers), our representative in the Fourth Committee of the United Nations during the apartheid debate, and I would strongly recommend my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell to read the whole of his speech, because it makes perfectly plain our attitude on this question.
I come finally to the central purpose of the Bill. One simply cannot end a 50-year association overnight or in a few weeks. Indeed, in a very real sense the association is longer because for parts of the Union and for a substantial section of her population it goes back well over a hundred years. I was moved, as I am sure were all hon. Members, by the reference made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell to the South African brigade in the First World War. One cannot view South Africa's departure except with sorrow, but it has happened and now we must make the best we can of the situation. A new relationship must take the place of the old. That is why we feel it right to look at the whole complex pattern of our relations with the people of South Africa before we reach final decisions. The views expressed in the debate will be borne in mind. The Bill will give us time to make such a comprehensive survey and to conclude all the necessary arrangements.
§ I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Peel.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.