§ 3.53 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Bernard Braine)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the proposals for the revision of the Constitution of Southern Rhodesia set out in Command Papers Nos. 1399 and 1400.Southern Rhodesia has enjoyed a considerable measure of responsible government for nearly forty years. The Constitution granted in 1923 was designed to confer upon her inhabitants, if I may borrow the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), in his historic despatch on the subject,full and satisfactory control of their government and administration, subject only to the reservations which the peculiar history of the country imposed.Under the provisions of that Constitution the country has enjoyed a long period of internal peace and stable government, a modern economy has been 1697 established, and a high rate of growth sustained. But Constitutions are made for men, not the other way round, and for some time past it has been apparent that Southern Rhodesia's growth and development and the greater maturity of its people call for constitutional change.
The principal features of the 1923 Constitution were that Southern Rhodesia was given responsible government in internal affairs, subject to certain powers reserved to the Secretary of State, whilst the United Kingdom remained responsible for external affairs. What were the powers reserved to the United Kingdom? There was, first, a general power of disallowance of any Act of the Southern Rhodesian Legislature within a year of its passage. That is a feature common to all colonial Constitutions. But in the case of Southern Rhodesia it has never been exercised.
Then there were the reserved powers specifically designed to meet the circumstances of Southern Rhodesia. The Legislature could not legislate on a specific, defined range of subjects without the Act in each case being reserved by the Governor for the Royal Assent, which, in practice, meant that it had to secure the approval of the Government in London.
What were the subjects on which legislation had to be reserved? First, there were laws which discriminated against Africans. Here, the reserve power was supplemented by a provision that no subsidiary legislation should discriminate against Africans without the prior consent of the Secretary of State, unless it was governed by specific authority in a principal Act. Secondly, there were laws to repeal or amend those parts of the Constitution which were repealable or amendable by the Southern Rhodesian Legislature. Thirdly, there was any law or provision to set up a Legislative Council, that is to say, a Second Chamber. That is an academic question, because no Second Chamber has ever been set up.
Fourthly, after the Land Apportionment Act was passed in 1930, it was provided that any law amending it would require the Secretary of State's approval. To present what I have to say in an orderly fashion, I should like to refer to land later in more detail. Finally, it was provided that the key provisions of the Constitution, some of which I have already mentioned, could be amended 1698 only by Order in Council in London. That is to say, they were put beyond the reach of the Southern Rhodesian Legislature.
Those were the main powers reserved to the British Government in London. My right hon. Friend described them the other day as a "blunt instrument". That is a very apt description. There were certain other provisions—for example, the Government was required to reserve certain categories of Bills, such as those affecting treaty obligations.
Nearly forty years have elapsed since the 1923 Constitution was granted. In that period, as we all know, conditions have changed greatly. The European population has advanced in experience of modern methods of government and in understanding of the claims which a multiracial society makes in terms of social welfare and economic development. In that period, too, the African population has grown in numbers. They have advanced in education. They have developed a lively political awareness.
It is not surprising that Africans should now be claiming a greater share in the conduct of their country's affairs. It is only natural that Europeans, whose energy, initiative and savings have helped to create a flourishing economy, should feel that the time has come when the responsibilities which appropriately were kept reserved in London at a much earlier stage of development should now be transferred to Salisbury.
So it was that, in 1959, Sir Edgar Whitehead suggested to Her Majesty's Government that the time was ripe for a review of the Constitution. It was recognised all round that there was need for a change. There followed long and detailed discussions with the Southern Rhodesian Government, culminating in the Constitutional Conference at which all interested parties were represented, which was held in Salisbury last February and presided over by my right hon. Friend.
It would have been possible to have confined the Constitutional Conference to the single issue of Her Majesty's Government relinquishing the reserved powers and replacing them with effective safeguards written into the Constitution. I say that it would have been possible, but it would hardly have been wise. I think that the whole House will agree that if, in the future, the races in that 1699 country are to live and to work and to prosper together, as they must, a wider representation for Africans has to be provided and, accordingly, the Southern Rhodesian Government recognised that it was desirable to consider the questions of franchise and representation.
Naturally, in these discussions, there were differences of opinion. That was not remarkable; it was to be expected. What was remarkable was the very large measure of agreement secured over a very wide field. Of course, neither the Report of the conference, nor my right hon. Friend, when he addressed us on the subject later, has implied that the National Democratic Party—or any other party, for that matter—was completely satisfied with the proposals for the franchise and representation.
On the contrary, paragraph 18 of the Report specifically states that having regard to these widely varying views and aspirations,it was not surprising that no group was able to secure the agreement of the conference to the particular system it favoured.It adds thatNevertheless, while maintaining their respective positions, all groups (with the exception of the representatives of the Dominion Party) considered that the scheme outlined below should be introduced.We have not departed from the Report of the conference. The proposals outlined in that Report are set out in much greater detail in the two White Papers, together with details of those provisions which the Salisbury Conference accepted in principle but left to the two Governments to work out in detail. Hon. Members will, of course, now have had the opportunity of studying the White Papers, and will have observed that, while some features of the old Constitution are maintained, very important and significant changes have been introduced.
Broadly speaking, the most important of these fall under two heads. First, there is the composition of the Legislature itself, and the franchise. Secondly, there is the replacement of the reserved powers now held in London by new safeguards written into the Constitution in the form of a Declaration of Rights, a Constitutional Council, new arrangements in respect of land and amendments to the Constitution. I should like to deal with each of these in turn, and 1700 I propose to do so by showing what the position is under the present Constitution, and how it will be affected by the changes we propose.
First, there is the franchise. At present, there is a common roll with two methods of entry; by ordinary qualifications, and by lower qualifications, and the details of what that means precisely are set out in Appendix 1 of Cmd. 1399. There are, at the moment, about 84,000 registered voters on this roll. Of those, 4,500 are Africans, 1,000 are Asian, 1,000 are Coloured, and the rest are Europeans.
Voters with the lower qualifications, however, are in a minority—this is the present position—and there is a limit to the number of them who can register. Even so, I think that it is true to say that, while no precise figures are available, it is generally believed that the number of persons who could qualify for the lower qualification would considerably increase the number of African voters on the roll if they registered.
The new proposals envisage two separate rolls, and the details of these are set out in Appendix 2 of Cmd. 1399. First there is an "A" roll, with qualifications similar to the existing ordinary qualification, to which have been added chiefs and headmen; and, secondly, a "B" roll, designed to bring in a much broader section of the population than the existing lower qualifications have so far succeeded in doing. This "B" roll—and this is a most important feature—will have no limit on numbers. The income qualifications are eased and broadened considerably, and there is special provision for bringing in people over the age of 30 with somewhat lower means and educational qualifications.
We propose that these new and broader qualifications should be entrenched in the Constitution in such a way as to permit more people to be given the vote in the future, but prevent it ever being taken away from those entitled to it under those provisions; except, I had better add, by the rigorous procedure laid down for amendment of the basic clauses of the Constitution, which means that it would have to be referred to each of the four groups. One can see, therefore, that this is a very effective safeguard, indeed, against anyone having the vote taken from them in the future.
1701 How will the franchise operate? There will be a set of 50 constituencies, covering the whole country. There will also be a set of 15 electoral districts, covering the whole country. One member will be returned for each constituency, and one member for each electoral district, making 65 members in all. The "A" roll and "B" roll electors will vote in both the constituency and the electoral district in which they reside. In the constituencies, the "B" roll vote, if it exceeds 25 per cent. of the "A" roll vote, will be scaled down to 25 per cent. Conversely, in the electoral districts, the "A" roll votes will be scaled down to 25 per cent. of the "B" roll votes. In addition—I know that this is somewhat complicated, and I will try to explain it in as simple terms as I can—there is provision for a voter to indicate a second choice of candidate if he wishes to do so.
There are two further points that could be made about the franchise proposals. First, there is no limit to the number of Africans who can be added to the upper, or "A" roll, and as education spreads and economic standards advance we can expect that more Africans will do so. But these, of course, are the very conditions that make for that sense of responsibility which it is the purpose of this Constitution to preserve.
The second point about the franchise is that the system of cross voting and devaluation sounds complicated, I readily admit, but, in its essence, it is simple enough, because its purpose is to reduce the tendency to vote on purely racial lines. I think, in fact I am certain, that it will succeed in this, since candidates who hope to get elected will need to pay regard to the interests and views of voters on both rolls.
At present, the Legislative Assembly in Southern Rhodesia has only 30 seats, and there are no African members. It had already been recognised in Southern Rhodesia that there was a need for African representation and, accordingly, a law was passed last year to enlarge the Assembly from 30 seats to 50 seats at the next General Election, in the hope that by creating a larger number of smaller constituencies there would be some constituencies in which the African vote would predominate and African members would stand a much better chance of election.
1702 Those proposals have been overtaken by the proposals we are now discussing. Our proposals now will increase the number of seats to 65. Of these, it seems likely that at least the 15 electoral districts will be controlled by African voters, and probably more, and I should like to emphasise here that this is a very substantial advance on the present position.
I turn now to the second group of changes which arise from the replacement of reserved powers held in London by local safeguards. Her Majesty's Government have made it plain in the House that their alibity to accept a scheme which would reduce or withdraw the powers vested in the Secretary of State would depend on whether arrangements could be devised which would provide effective alternative safeguards, particularly in respect of discriminatory legislation and land rights, and in respect of the amendment of the Constitution. We believe that the safeguards devised are not only as effective but, in fact, will be more effective, than the reserved powers which they will replace.
Hon. Members will recall that the Monckton Commission proposed that a Bill of Rights and a Council of State should be introduced into the Southern Rhodesia Constitution. Our proposals follow this recommendation. Broadly speaking, the proposed Declaration of Rights is acceptable to all races in Southern Rhodesia, and this is hardly surprising, for two reasons; because, first, it stems from a draft unanimously endorsed by all the parties at the Constitutional Conference, except the Dominion Party, and, secondly, it is based in its essentials on the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which was ratified by the then United Kingdom Government on 8th March, 1951, and is similar to the Bills of Rights written into the new Constitutions of Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
The object of the Declaration of Rights is twofold. First, to codify and enshrine in the Constitution the basic human rights required of a modern democratic society, and, secondly, to provide fully effective alternative safeguards for the present requirement that discriminatory legislation be reserved for approval by the British Government. The crux of the Declaration of Rights is 1703 to be found in Clauses 11 and 12 in Part II of the White Paper (Cmnd. 1400), which lay down that no person shall be subjected to a condition, restriction or disability on account of race or accorded a privilege or advantage denied to others because of race.
Here is an important distinction: existing reserved powers protect Africans only. The Declaration of Rights extends its protection to all persons, regardless of race. It provides therefore, a new but essential element in the task of ridding Southern Rhodesia of the fear that one racial group may act unfairly towards another and building a mutual confidence between the races. It will play a major role, in our view, in creating a climate of opinion unfavourable to racial discrimination.
Hon. Members may have observed that these provisions will not apply to laws that are in force on the appointed day.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I was wondering when the hon. Gentleman was coming to that.
§ Mr. Braine
If the hon. Gentleman will have patience, I am coming to that and I shall deal with it in considerable detail.
I intended to say that many hon. Members may wonder whether this does not detract from the value of the Declaration. The Declaration of Rights is a safeguard of very great value to every person in Southern Rhodesia. It will be for the courts to decide whether any new law or part of a law is inconsistent with the Declaration of Rights.
But for the Constitution to have made the Declaration apply to all laws immediately would have thrown into a state of uncertainty some laws which, at this stage, cannot be held to be harmful. Accordingly, we have provided—in paragraph 32 of Part I—that the Constitutional Council may draw the attention of the legislature to any existing laws or subsidiary legislation which, in their opinion, is consistent with the Declaration.
What about future legislation? The Declaration of Rights, enforcible as it is by the courts is, as I have said, a safeguard of great value to every person in Southern Rhodesia since the Legis- 1704 lative Assembly will have to take into account the possibility of laws being ruled invalid by the courts. From the High Court of Southern Rhodesia an appeal lies to the Supreme Court of the Federation and provision is to be made for a right of appeal from that court to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
§ Mr. Braine
No. It does not make provision for existing laws. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to deal with that point as we go along.
§ Mr. Braine
Because, for instance, in the case of land, it would be to strip away from Africans at the present time a safeguard of the utmost value.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is insufferably difficult if hon. Members, while remaining seated, maintain a loud commentary simultaneously with the Minister.
§ Mr. Braine
If the hon. Member for Cardiff, South East (Mr. Callaghan) will allow me to continue, he will find that I shall try to deal with this subject in a logical sequence and to meet the anxieties which are in his mind.
§ Mr. Callaghan
As the hon. Gentleman has said, this is of grave importance. It is, of course, of considerable value to have a right of appeal to the High Court in Southern Rhodesia, and, finally, to the Privy Council in respect of future laws that may be discriminatory. But would the hon. Gentleman explain why the same right of appeal should not apply in the case of existing laws? I am not saying that they should all be swept away, but that the courts should be in the same position in relation to existing laws as they will be to laws to be passed in the future.
§ Mr. Braine
We are, this afternoon, dealing with a new Constitution and new provisions. Under the present law, there is no appeal from the Supreme Court to the Judicial Committee of the 1705 Privy Council except by special leave. In view of the great importance of the Declaration of Rights as a safeguard, it seemed essential that a litigant should have the right to take any question of the interpretation of the Declaration of Rights to the highest judicial tribunal in the Commonwealth.
Of course, it would be much better to ensure that unfair legislation does not reach the Statute Book. This is the primary function of the Constitutional Council. This body is similar to the Council of State recommended by the Monckton Commission, though not identical. It will not have a veto. Its functions will be advisory. But it will have delaying powers on principal legislation and, on subsidiary legislation, an adverse report will have the effect of making it void, unless it is confirmed by the Assembly within 21 sitting days. Thus, the authority vested in the Constitutional Council will be considerable and its influence on the changing pattern of the country undoubted.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, as is so often the case, is firmly rooted in the past. We are here considering proposals which will bring great changes and great benefits, perhaps not as great and as extensive as the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends would wish, but this is a forward move and we have no power at the moment to initiate any legislation to repeal laws already on the Southern Rhodesia Statute Book.
The new Constitution provides for the Constitutional Council to examine existing legislation and to report to the Assembly if it considers it to be inconsistent with the Declaration of Rights. This has been generally accepted in Southern Rhodesia to mean that the Whole purpose of this Constitution is to get away from racial discrimination.
The primary function of the Constitutional Council will be this examination. We have tried to arrange for the Council to be constituted in a way which will demonstrate its impartiality and inspire the confidence of all races. We do not feel that it should be composed only of lawyers, but that it should have a legal element. We do not feel that its racial composition should be rigidly specified, but we think that there should be a minimum representation from the four racial 1706 groups. For the election of the first Council, a special body will be convened composed of the judges of the High Court and the president of the Council of Chiefs, with the Chief Justice of Southern Rhodesia acting as Chairman.
Hon. Members will have observed from paragraph 28 of Part I that if the Southern Rhodesia Government consider a Bill exceptionally urgent they have the right to issue a Certificate of Urgency. In such a case, the Bill may be submitted to the Governor for Assent without waiting for clearance from the Constitutional Council. The Council will subsequently consider the law. I mention this because hon. Members may very well wonder what guarantee there is against the Southern Rhodesia Government using a Certificate of Urgency to circumvent the safeguards.
The answer is that the Certificate of Urgency, while exempting a Bill from immediate scrutiny by the Council, will not exempt it from challenge in the courts. In this connection, an interesting and, I think, important innovation, which may appeal to hon. Members, is that the Constitutional Council will have power to issue certificates entitling litigants in suitable test cases to be helped financially.
I come now to the important matter of land. It was agreed in principle at the Constitutional Conference that the powers of the United Kingdom Government in matters of land should be eliminated, provided that fully effective safeguards could be devised. May I just mention again what are the existing powers reserved to the Secretary of State. There are the Native Reserves safeguarded under the existing Constitution. There can be no reduction in the amount of native reserve land available for Africans except by Order in Council. Then there is the Land Apportionment Act, which allocates the rest of Southern Rhodesia between the races. Under the present Constitution, amendments to this Act are reserved and adjustments between European and African land require the Secretary of State's approval.
Under the proposed new arrangements, the African land in the reserves and land which under the Land Apportionment Act is allocated to Africans on a basis of communal tenure will be amalgamated into a new category of Tribal Trust Land. 1707 We are convinced that this will make for much more efficient administration. The Board of Trustees has been enlarged to include African representation and to include qualified experts. Its terms of reference are much more clearly defined than was the case before.
As regards the Land Apportionment Act, it has been said, and no doubt will be said again today, that the Constitutional Conference ignored the real land problem by leaving land restricted on a racial basis. This was what lay behind the intervention a little earlier. This, of course, was not the business of the Constitutional Conference, nor could anyone in his senses suggest that the present racial divisions could be swept away overnight without causing chaos and distress, especially to Africans. What the new Constitution has done is to ensure that the Land Apportionment Act cannot be altered in a retrograde sense, that is to say, that the area allotted to a particular race can only be reduced and not increased. Or, indeed, the Land Apportionment Act can be repealed altogether when the time for that is considered ripe.
In addition to these new arrangements and safeguards, which we believe will be fully effective, two new features of the constitutional provisions for land pave the way towards a much more progressive and flexible land policy. They are the arrangements for the use of outside capital for irrigation schemes and the permitting of conversion from communal tenure to freehold ownership. More effective and efficient use of land is an urgent requirement everywhere in Africa today. We believe that these changes will be of great benefit, especially to African farmers.
The House may feel that the provisions for amendment to the Constitution do not call for special comment, but I think that it would be appropriate for me to say that Southern Rhodesia would be free to amend any section of its Constitution by a two-thirds majority of its total membership, with the exception of amendments affecting the position of the Queen and the Governor and international obligations and Southern Rhodesia's own obligations under the Colonial Stock Acts. Southern Rhodesia will be free to do this except in regard to certain basic clauses in the Consti- 1708 tution. These relate to the Declaration of Rights, appeals to the Privy Council, the Constitutional Council, the judiciary and the provisions governing the amendment of the Constitution itself.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
Will the hon. Gentleman say why there has been a departure from the suggestion of the Monckton Commission that there should be a three-quarters majority? Why was it reduced to two-thirds? Was there hard bargaining about that in the constitutional discussions? These are entrenched clauses, and I should have thought that there would not be any diminution from the requirement of a three-quarters majority.
§ Mr. Braine
I think that the answer is that a very much more effective safeguard has been devised in the sense that in order to amend these basic clauses to which I have just referred it will be necessary to obtain a majority of each of the racial groups voting separately. It will be necessary to obtain the support of each racial group before any amendment of these basic clauses is possible. I am sure that the House will agree that that is a much more effective safeguard.
Hon. Members may have noted that there is to be an alternative procedure whereby the Legislative Assembly will be able to seek United Kingdom approval instead of holding a referendum. The British Government will be able to decline to decide the matter if they consider that a referendum would be more appropriate in the circumstances. That has been inserted to enable minor and uncontroversial amendments to be made without recourse to the expensive and elaborate procedure of a referendum.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
One matter has been troubling me throughout the hon. Gentleman's speech. Ls this House to have any other opportunity of discussing the detail of these constitutional changes which are proposed?
As I understand, there will in due course have to be an Order in Council, but what concerns me is whether any subsequent legislation which will be called for from this House will enable us to discuss the detail of these constitutional proposals, or whether that contemplated legislation will consist 1709 merely of a general Bill empowering the Southern Rhodesia Parliament to introduce the new Constitution.
I ask that question because it may well affect the course of this debate and the detailed consideration which may have to be given to these most interesting detailed constitutional suggestions.
§ Mr. Braine
I am very grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for asking that question. There will, of course, be a Bill enabling the Queen to bring in an Order in Council. That, I should have thought, would be debatable. Perhaps I might reflect on the matter. There certainly will be a further opportunity for discussion.
§ Mr. H. A. Marquand (Middlesbrough, East)
In recent independence legislation—Sierra Leone was the last example—we had before us an Order in Council. It was true that it was possible to debate it in a sort of Second Reading debate, but there was no opportunity to propose amendments to any part of it. Will that be possible in this case?
§ Mr. Braine
The right hon. Gentleman should be clear about this. The purpose of this debate is to discuss these matters. The debate has scarcely got off the ground yet. Full opportunity will be given for the House to express its views on these matters today. Let us see how we get on.
§ Mr. Marquand
I am perfectly well aware that we shall have a full opportunity to discuss all the principles of this Constitution today. What we are anxious about at this moment is whether, at a later stage of the proceedings, any amendment to the proposed Constitution will be possible in this House.
§ Mr. Braine
I think that the right hon. Gentleman is making heavy weather of this. It is not the practice to subject Constitutions to a series of debates. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is devaluing the views which undoubtedly will be expressed and to which due weight will be given.
I wish to emphasise that the really important point is that, to amend the basic clauses of the Constitution, it will be necessary to obtain the agreement of the majority of each of the four principal racial communities voting separately. I cannot think of a more effective safe- 1710 guard in the present circumstances of Southern Rhodesia than that, and I believe that it is a much more effective safeguard than any other which has been suggested.
The Opposition's Amendment suggests that these proposals were formulated without consultation with the Africans of Southern Rhodesia. I reject that suggestion entirely. I should like to make the position clear. From the beginning, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has left the House in no doubt that the interests of Africans would be given full weight in the event of any change being made in the Constitution of Southern Rhodesia. We were quite sure that we had to give Africans full opportunity to express their views, and we have done so. The Constitutional Conference provided an opportunity for the expression of all shades of opinion in the country. For example, the views of the National Democratic Party were heard and they certainly subscribed to the conclusions set out in the Report. My right hon. Friend explained in the debate on 23rd March the circumstances in which they did so.
Hon. Members may have noticed that in paragraph 39 of the Report of the Constitutional Conference the two Governments concerned were charged with the task of working outthe details of a new draft Constitution, in consultation where necessary with those who attended the Conference".This meant, in effect, consultation about such fundamental matters as the definition of discrimination in the Declaration of Rights, the composition of the Constitutional Council, the arrangements for electing its members, and, for Africans, the fundamental matter of the provisions which would have to be made in regard to land.
Sir Edgar Whitehead carried out his obligations in the matter. He convened a meeting of all the parties concerned in order to discuss these important matters, the details of which had been left over and had not been worked out at the conference itself. The National Democratic Party decided to walk out. Had it chosen not to do so, it would have had an opportunity, like the other parties, of expressing views and of helping to shape the detailed provisions of the Constitution.
1711 Even further opportunities for consultation were provided. When my right hon. Friend went to Salisbury for a further round of talks with the parties—and very helpful those talks were—the National Democratic Party, while it courteously accepted his invitation to see him, declined to express any views on the points that he put to them. It therefore cannot be said that we did not consult the National Democratic Party. The opportunity for consultation was offered. It was not accepted.
§ Mr. Peter Tapsell (Nottingham, West)
While I fully recognise that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made every possible effort to persuade the National Democratic Party to enter into these consultations, is it not a fact that the reason why it refused to do so was that the Southern Rhodesian Government refused to discuss the whole of the Land Apportionment Act with it? Is it not a pity that the Southern Rhodesian Government refused to do so?
§ Mr. Braine
On the contrary. I think that my hon. Friend is wholly misinformed about that.
I was about to say—and I think that the point must be made—that the National Democratic Party does not speak for all Africans in Southern Rhodesia. There were other distinguished Africans present at the Constitutional Conference, representative of the hereditary chiefs of the country, and also representatives of other political parties who do not share the National Democratic Party's political beliefs and do not approve of its tactics.
§ Mr. Callaghan
If the Joint Under-Secretary of State believes that his hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. Tapsell) is misinformed, can he give us the reasons why the representatives of the party refused to meet the Commonwealth Secretary?
§ Mr. Braine
No, Sir. That is no part of my purpose this afternoon. If the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) manages to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, he will have an opportunity of developing the point.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Let us be fair about this. The Joint Under-Secretary of State, who has been good at giving way, is not being fair. He is making it part of his 1712 case that the Africans had the opportunity of meeting the Secretary of State far Commonwealth Relations but that they refused to do so. If he wishes to rest on that case, is it not germane to it that he should tell us the reasons why they refused to meet him? The hon. Member for Nottingham, West has advanced one reason. Is not another reason that they were refused permission to organise or to hold meetings in the territories?
§ Mr. Braine
The hon. Gentleman piles one error on another. There has been no ban on meetings in the areas outside the native reserves and within the native reserves there has been a ban only on meetings in which more than 12 persons were concerned. If the purpose of the National Democratic Party was to consult responsible and leading Africans in the reserves, it was perfectly free to do so, but the fact of the matter is that in the reserves there is already a well-established hierarchy. There are native councils representative of and elected by the people. The chiefs were brought into consultation by Sir Edgar Whitehead. They elected a representative number to go into these very details and they found no fault with what had been decided in respect of them.
§ Mr. Braine
Whatever the detailed criticisms may be, none can deny that these new proposals represent a very substantial advance on the present position. At the Constitutional Conference they commanded the general support of moderate Europeans and Africans.
Of course, there are some in Central Africa—there may be some in this country—who think that the proposals do not go far enough. There are some who think that they go too far. In Southern Rhodesia, there are extremists of both races who, if I may borrow Burke's famous dictum, view moderation as a sort of treason. We cannot satisfy everyone. We have to find the point of balance in the situation and then choose a course which will command the support of the majority in the country, the moderates, which will preserve stability, encourage responsibility and provide a secure basis for further advance. I believe that we have done this and I commend these proposals to the House.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mr. H. A. Marquand (Middlesbrough, East)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question to add:but cannot assent to proposals involving the abandonment of powers at present reserved to the United Kingdom for the protection of the African people of Southern Rhodesia, which have been formulated without their consent and which fail to provide for them a representation in the legislature sufficient to safeguard their liberties".This is the second debate that we have had on the proposed Constitution for Southern Rhodesia. Unfortunately, much of what we have heard from the Joint Under-Secretary of State this afternoon we have heard before. There has been no substantial or satisfactory change in these proposals since we debated them in outline in March. Very little notice, if any, has been taken of the criticisms and suggestions that we put forward then. The hon. Member then told us that it would have been open to the Government to hold a discussion with the Southern Rhodesian Government solely on the question of the surrender of the reserved powers and the obtaining, in return for that surrender, of same compensation by way of other safeguards. He said that they did not do this because there were wider considerations. There were indeed! In view of all that had happened in Africa in the last two years it would have been completely impossible to have done anything of the kind.
It would have been unthinkable to discuss with Southern Rhodesia merely the substitution of some alternative safeguards for the reserved powers which the United Kingdom has. The decisions which this Parliament may take about the Southern Rhodesian Constitution may affect the future of the whale of Africa. We must consider those proposals in the light of all that has gone before, and not merely in the light of the inquiry of the Monckton Commission and the excellent Report which it presented. We must consider them in the light of what has happened in Africa generally.
In West Africa, we have helped in the creation of a number of independent States, based on democracy, in which people of all races can and do live together with equal political rights and equal rights before the law, with no question of discrimination. Now the Secretary of State for the Colonies is 1714 seeking to do the same in East and Central Africa. It is more difficult there because of the existence of immigrant populations, which have wished to settle permanently. Those settlers have been given a large share of power. But, in spite of those difficulties, in other parts of East and Central Africa great advances have been made.
As we all know, and as I hope we all rejoice, by December Tanganyika will be independent. Indeed, it already has an African Prime Minister and a Legislature with a substantial African majority, and nothing has prevented the co-operation of the immigrant races in the new future. They are all behind it and taking part in it. Their representatives are in London at the moment, as we know. White men, Africans and Asians are working together in harmony, on the basis of the Constitution. It does not need to allocate a tiny majority of seats to the majority of people. There is the election of a majority Government in the ordinary way of democracy.
A similar Constitution, which does not go quite so far but which is intended without doubt to do so very soon, has been established in Kenya, with an African leader of Government business and an African majority in the Legislature. Nobody proposes that there should be special safeguards beyond those of the law and of the Declaration of Rights. In Nyasaland, right within what we call Central Africa, and within what is still the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, we have the Constitution of Nyasaland, which is a democratic Constitution allowing the people to elect their own Legislature and providing, before long, for the carrying on of all Government business there by elected African people.
These changes have been carried out readily and properly, with our warm approval, by the present Government. If something less than this is proposed for the Rhodesias, Northern or Southern, we must ask why the pattern is to be different. If we do not ask it the Africans most certainly will. The African in Southern Rhodesia will ask, "What is the difference between me and a citizen of Kenya? What is the difference between me and a citizen of Nyasaland? Do you mean to tell me that after all these years of living side by 1715 side with the white people of Southern Rhodesia we are less civilised than the people of Kenya or Tanganyika? Why should this tiny measure of participation in our own Government now be proposed, which contrasts so sharply to what has been done elsewhere?"
If we cannot now secure the good will of the great majority of the people of the Rhodesias, this effort to create racial harmony, a peaceful living together, and the total avoidance of apartheid in Africa—which we have heard hon. Members on both sides agree with on so many occasions—will fail. We want the effort to succeed. We want men of all races to be able to live together in harmony. We want a settlement that is fair to all. It is for that reason that we want a fair deal for those who, hitherto, have had less than justice. The system hitherto prevailing in Southern Rhodesia has been less than justice. It has been condemned by the Monckton Commission and, more recently, by the Roman Catholic bishops in Southern Rhodesia.
It is against this background that we must judge the Constitution now put forward and test the validity of the proposal that we should surrender the reserved powers enshrined in the 1923 Constitution and Letters Patent. The purpose of enshrining these reserved powers in the Constitution was to safeguard the rights and liberties of the African majority, because by that same Constitution of 1923 political power was given to the European minority.
From this, a clear principle emerges. These powers should not be surrendered by this House unless it is absolutely sure that the rights of those for whom it is trustee are completely safeguarded. It will not do to say that we are satisfied that some improvement has been made in the constitutional provisions. It certainly will not be sufficient to say that a certain party in Southern Rhodesia may be satisfied if this is done, and will not reject it.
It is we, in the House of Commons, who are trustees; it is we who hold a sacred trust in charge, and who must consider now whether we will surrender our powers. Hon. Members on this side of the House would regard it as a breach of trust on the part of this nation if it 1716 were to surrender these powers for anything less than a complete and absolute safeguard that the interests of these people will always be protected under the Constitution given to them.
Unfortunately, we know that even when we have another debate, even after today's discussion, we will have no opportunity of amending in any way what is proposed. If this is not the case I hope that I shall be corrected, but I understand that when the Bill comes before us it will be in the form of that for Sierra Leone—a Bill empowering Her Majesty to surrender the reserved powers and relating to certain questions of naturalisation and the like.
§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
I would not like the House to be under any misapprehension in this debate. The position is more or less as the right hon. Member describes it. There will be an enabling Bill which will empower Her Majesty, by Order in Council, to bring in a new Constitution. I did not want the whole debate to take place on the assumption that there would be a further debate in which it would be possible to amend these provisions in detail.
§ Mr. Marquand
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for confirming what I said. It is contained in the introduction to the Constitutional proposals.
If the Bill is passed an Order in Council with a new Constitution annexed will be promulgated. The Order in Council will be debatable in general. It will be possible to vote for it or against it, but it will not be possible to amend it. That is regular constitutional form. We have to take these proposals as they are now put before us. No one can amend them. It is a case of accepting or rejecting them. There can be no question of having second thoughts and saying that this or that should have been put in, because it will be too late.
We have to decide whether it is wholly satisfactory that we as the trustees of the safety, liberties and prosperity of the African people should voluntarily give them up in exchange for this document. In some respects, of course, the Constitution and the other proposals for a new system of Government in Southern Rhodesia are an improvement on what 1717 has gone before. When I first read the draft Constitution I thought that it implied that there was no change in the allocation of the land between the races, although it clearly provided for the way in which the tribal lands were to be administered. I was mistaken. I am grateful to Sir Edgar Whitehead for his courtesy in drawing my attention to this mistake and for sending me a copy of the amending Bill to the Land Apportionment Act, which is now before the Southern Rhodesian Legislature.
If that amending Bill is passed, it will free from reservation 5 million acres of land. Some of the land taken from land at present reserved to Africans and some land at present reserved to Europeans will, put together, be open for purchase by an citizens, irrespective of their race or colour. But, of course, it will still be true that the area of land reserved to one-tenth of the population of Southern Rhodesia will be wholly out of proportion to that available for the nine-tenths, and of that land, the vast amount of which will be reserved for European occupation only, it is well-known that considerable quantities are still unoccupied. That is a situation very different from that which was freely agreed in negotiations between the races in Kenya, which was confronted with a similar problem of reserved land when the new constitutional difficulties were considered. I freely admit, and I am glad, that there has been a step forward here. But I do not honestly think that we can say that these proposals for the revision of land apportionment amount to the sweeping changes to which we were encouraged to look forward.
The Monckton Commission referred in its Report to the possibility of drastic changes in the system of land apportionment. The Secretary of State used the phrase "sweeping changes" in our last debate. I wonder if we can really say that these changes, although welcome, constitute "sweeping changes", or the drastic changes which the Monckton Commission appeared to think were necessary. The Constitution itself is an improvement on what went before.
§ Mr. Marquand
I have the reference here; I do not think I have made a mis- 1718 take. I think that the right hon. Gentleman there referred to the revision of the Land Apportionment Act which he anticipated would be made.
The Constitution is itself an improvement on what went before. At present there are no Africans in the Legislative Council. There is no other country in Africa, except the Union of South Africa—not even, I think, including the Portuguese territories—in which that is so. Under this proposal there is to be at least some sharing of power in the Legislative authority. There may be fifteen seats for Africans. It is not certain that there will be. I do not want to enter into the complicated details of the voting provisions in the franchise. I think that all hon. Members present today know them very well indeed, and that they must agree that it is doubtful whether there will in fact be as many as 15 seats. Africans who have been to see me certainly doubt it. At best, there will be 15 seats.
§ Mr. Marquand
It is a matter of opinion how the voting will work out. What is quite clear, in the difference of opinion between us, is that there is no firm agreement that there will be one-third of the Legislature in the hands of the Africans. What matters most is whether or not Africans have or have not at least one-third of the Legislature. Fifteen seats, or it may be as many as 18 seats, are to go to the representatives of nine-tenths of the inhabitants, and 50 seats, or perhaps 46 seats, to the representatives of one-tenth of the inhabitants. How strikingly different this is from what has been found necessary and desirable in Nyasaland and Kenya! Allowing for what went on in the past there are some doubts whether this will really succeed in Central Africa now after all the water that has flowed under the bridge.
Then there is the Declaration of Human Rights. It contains an admirable Preamble which everyone here can admire and would like to see accepted by everyone in Southern Rhodesia. There are many Clauses beyond criticism, since they are, as the hon. Member reminded us, modelled on the United Nations Charter of Constitutional 1719 Rights, and they also appertain to Sierra Leone and other Dominions, or rather sovereign members of the Commonwealth. This Declaration is proposed as the alternative to the reserved powers. This is what we are to accept, in the main, in exchange for giving up the trusteeship, as I have called it, which we hold. Yet Clause 14 of the Declaration itself, which is to be found on pages 41 to 42, says that nothing, in the admirable Declaration of Liberties in the first twelve Clauses, shall be held to be in contravention of any of the provisions of any existing law.
This means that the Law and Order Maintenance Act, the outrageous provisions which caused the resignation of the Chief Justice of Southern Rhodesia, will still remain valid if this is put on the Statute Book. So will the Vagrancy Act under which many Africans, who spoke for their people, are still in prison without trial. The Vagrancy Act will still be law and untouched.
Clause 11, which purports to protect from racial discrimination, lays it down that regard must be had to the circumstances of the case, includingthe stage of social or economic development for the time being reached by the various descriptions of persons affected; and the state for the time being of the economy of Southern Rhodesia";where, in the light of these considerations, a discriminatory law isreasonably justifiable…in the interests of Southern Rhodesia as a whole",these are the requirements which must be borne in mind by the court.
Think of them carefully. "Circumstances of the case", includingthe stage of social or economic development for the time being reached by the various descriptions of persons affected".What can that mean? It can only mean the question whether Africans are yet sufficiently well paid, are yet sufficiently well educated. That is all that that can possibly mean.
Then there is having regard to "the economy of Southern Rhodesia". Put these two things together, the state of evolution, the state of economic wellbeing, the state of economic advancement of the Africans, and the interests of the 1720 whole of Southern Rhodesia. Surely this could mean—I do not see what else it could mean, but if it does not mean this I shall be happy—that the prohibition of trade union activities by Africans would be unlawful.
Could it mean that forced labour would be used? Could it mean, if the prohibition of trade union action by Africans were introduced by Law and passed, that it would be found under the clause not to be contrary to the Declaration of Rights? Could it mean, if forced labour were imposed by the Legislature in Southern Rhodesia, that it could be found by the court not to be contrary to the Declaration of Rights?
I would prefer to keep the power, to disallow such a law, in our own hands rather than to leave it to a protecting clause of that description.
There is a Constitutional Council charged with the duty of enforcing the Declaration, but, as we have already been told this afternoon by the Under-Secretary of State, all it can do about existing legislation, the Law and Order Maintenance Act, the Vagrancy Act, and statutes of that kind which are now in force in Southern Rhodesia, is to report to the Legislative Council, a Council not likely in the near future to be made up so very differently from the Legislative Council which passed those laws. It is to report to the Legislative Council and leave it to that Council—to leave it to lie on the table if it feels so inclined.
§ Mr. Braine
I do not think that what the right hon. Gentleman has just said can be allowed to pass. He has said that the composition of the new Legislative Council under this Constitution would not be so very different from what it was before. This is wholly untrue, because the composition will be that there will be at least 15—I repeat, at least 15—Africans. There may well be more. But everybody, every member of the Legislature, will have owed his seat to the voters.
§ Mr. Marquand
Well, we will consider that in a moment. We will consider the composition of the Legislature after referring also, for the sake of tidiness, to the powers of the Constitutional Council to examine future legislation 1721 and to draw the attention of the Legislative Council to anything in future legislation it regards as discriminatory and as contravening the Declaration of Human Rights. It can do this, but what the hon. Gentleman has fairly enough told us is that, after all, these representations of the Constitutional Council can be rendered null and void if there is a certificate of urgency attaching to the Bill concerned; or if the Legislature itself has decided—this is terribly important—by a two-thirds majority to reject the representations and to continue it in force. That Bill will still continue in force in spite of the protests of the Constitutional Council. And, if it cannot command a two-thirds majority, all it has to do is to wait six months and pass a Bill by a simple majority. That is the position.
It is true, of course, that there is an individual right of appeal to the courts and to the Privy Council, and we were glad to hear from the hon. Gentleman this afteroon that, in circumstances where a certificate is issued by the Constitutional Council, the expenses of litigants will be paid, but this applies, if I am not mistaken, only to future legislation, not to the legislation passed before the appointed day, so that it does not constitute any safeguard beyond what exists at the moment—which is totally inadequate to this discriminatory legislation now on the statute book.
Thus, the proportion of votes in the Legislative Council becomes one of the main guarantees of the principle of non-discrimination. Everything centres in the end on the power of the Legislative Council, to which the Constitutional Council can report existing legislation which conflicts with the Declaration of Human Rights. It is the Legislative Council which will have the power to pass new legislation. It is the Legislative Council which will have the power to disregard, if it sees fit, by a two-thirds majority, or after six months by a simple majority, a recommendation of the Constitutional Council. Therefore, the Legislative Council at the end of the day is the main guarantee proposed; for which we are asked to exchange our reserve powers.
And in the Legislative Council, as has been said, nobody—I do not believe even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton)— 1722 expects the Africans to have one-third of the seats which alone could guarantee them the opportunity to protect their liberties against being overridden by the white majority. Two hundred thousand people will be represented by between 45 and 50 members, conceding so many to the right hon. Gentleman; 2 million by 15, 16, 17. This is utterly out of line, as I have said, with what has been done elsewhere. And this very situation, in the way I have tried to explain it, renders unacceptable the safeguards which are proposed for our acceptance as an alternative to our own reserved powers.
In the previous debate and in this one there has been some reference to the extent to which the African leaders had or had not accepted the major constitutional proposals, reserving only—it was agreed in our last debate that they did—to themselves the right to campaign for a better franchise. Well they might! They were well advised to make this reservation. They were right to say, "This is what matters most. We reserve the right to campaign for a better franchise. We do not accept these proposals."
Now the hon. Gentleman told us this afternoon that they had been able if they wished to have meetings of not more than 12 in the reserves. I know they asked—Africans have told me so themselves, some of the leaders—that they wanted to go into the reserves and explain the proposals and explain their opinion and their attitude to their people. The right hon. Gentleman will not deny this because he claimed it was so in our last debate. At that time they did show a certain degree of support for these proposals. What can we expect if after that, having gone some way to meet him, as they undoubtedly did, they were then denied the opportunity of explaining to their own people in the reserves, at meetings of reasonable size, meetings by which they could get all round the reserves and speak to substantial numbers of Africans? What are we to expect?
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the Chiefs were wholly against having political meetings in the reserves, but that they were allowed in the native purchase areas adjacent?
§ Mr. Marquand
That does not in any way alter the situation. The Chiefs 1723 were against meetings, because they are appointed by the Government.
Whatever was done in February, there is no doubt, of course, that they have rejected it since. There is no doubt about that at all.
Last weekend the National Democratic Party held its Congress and decided to reject the proposals in toto. There is no question about that, and there is no question that that party represents a substantial volume of African opinion. If it did not the Minister would not have consulted it. When he was framing his constitutional proposals he recognised its representative capacity. The only other African party that I know of is far to the left of the National Democratic Party.
It seems to us that these African leaders have suffered from their own moderation. That is a very sad and dreadful thing to have happened. They have sent a letter to the Prime Minister asking whether he will see them. They see in him the embodiment and the chief representative of the sovereign to whom under the Constitution of 1923 the protection of their liberties was entrusted. They see in him the supreme authority in the United Kingdom. They met the Minister and negotiated with him, and they came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that they should not negotiate with him any more.
They now say at this last crucial moment, "Will the Leader of the United Kingdom Government, the head who advises Her Majesty on all great matters of State, see us?" I hope that he will and that even now some attempt will be made to see these African leaders and discuss with them, even at this last eleventh hour, whether there is some way to improve this proposed Constitution and whether even now the Southern Rhodesian Government cannot be persuaded, or this Parliament cannot use its inalienable right to legislate for Southern Rhodesia for this purpose.
We have that inalienable right, and the right hon. Gentleman has used those words himself. Let us see whether at this eleventh hour we cannot give some assurance of better representation in the proposed Council so that the Africans can feel some confidence in that Council 1724 as something which they can recommend, if they are so allowed, to their followers.
The Africans of Southern Rhodesia are not racialists. In talking to them I have found no hatred in their hearts. They have been in the past, and should be allowed to continue to be in the future, the best friends among Africans of the whole idea of Federation. Do not let us give cause for hatred to grow. Do not let us allow them to be led to think that their trust has been betrayed. Let us try to learn the lessons of the past and of the history of too little being done too late in Ireland, India, Cyprus and elsewhere. Let us think again. Let us take the opportunity of this debate, and let the right hon. Gentleman in speaking tonight accept the Amendment, or its spirit, and let us try again to find a decent solution.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) is a moderate man, holding moderate views, but in my view he has not done a good service to the Federation today, and he has made an unrealistic speech. We often forget that here in the House when we differ on these matters one represents one shade of opinion and another represents the other, but the opinions that we put forward are the moderate views in the Federation.
There is no mention of the extremist view held by the Dominion Party in Rhodesia. I have never heard that expressed in the House, but we should take it as a fact and take into consideration that the United Federal Party, under the territorial Constitution at the moment, holds a majority so slender and the substantial minority is the Dominion Party. Equally, it should be remembered that there is an extremist view which I have never heard hon. and right hon. Members opposite represent. There is the extreme wing of the National Democratic Party, which is subsidised by Communist funds and which wants to smash the Federation and drive Europeans out of Africa. I have never heard that view represented by hon. and right hon. Members opposite, but it should be remembered that if one goes out to Africa one finds that that view exists.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The right hon. Gentleman has made very serious allegations about Communist funds being used to finance a political party. Would he like to substantiate those allegations before he proceeds further?
§ Mr. Turton
I did not realise that the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) was actually speaking for the extreme wing of the National Democratic Party, but there is abundant evidence. If the hon. Member likes to read the articles and essays published in Rhodesia on that subject, he will find ample confirmation.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
In reply to that innuendo, I do speak in the House not for any wing but for my own conscience and what I think to be best for all Rhodesians. If the right hon. Gentleman is to come to the House and make a prepared speech with allegations of the type he has just uttered he must give the House more satisfactory facts than apparently he possesses.
§ Mr. Turton
I did not realise that the hon. Member was so interested in this Communist point. We are here to put forward moderate points of view and, therefore, it is incumbent upon us that we do not by the action we take or the views we express encourage the extremists on either side in Africa today.
I have found when I have been in the Federation that, generally, the mass of the people, European and African, people of all occupations and the people one meets socially there, are very close together in their views. The ordinary people want to live happily together. They want this Federation and partnership to succeed, and that is the attitude which the House should be expressing today in debating these White Papers.
The test for the White Papers is that very remarkable gathering that took place last year, the Indaba, which was drawn not from politicians but from ordinary men in the street of all races in Rhodesia. They examined this problem. Hon. Members will find if they read the report of that National Convention presided over by Sir John Kennedy the view that disparity of representation and racial discrimination should go and that we should try to build the Constitution on a firm foundation.
1726 In trying to judge these White Papers and the negotiations which preceded them, in view of what has happened I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way in which he has conducted the negotiations and the success which has attended his efforts. He has shown pertinacity, tact and great human understanding. The negotiations have brought him into contact with men of varying views, and he has brought them to agreement even though it was not possible for that agreement to continue when they were outside the spell of his personality. That is how I interpret some of the things which have happened, but I still feel that the valuable thing that we have got is that there was a great measure of agreement on these proposals.
I want to judge these proposals in relation to two criteria. First, are they likely to make federation a success? Secondly, are they likely to attract responsible people to take responsibility in government? I feel that the success of what we are trying to do in Central Africa depends very much on those criteria. Those of us who have been in Rhodesia have been worried by the fact that there were too few responsible Africans having the vote. We have been worried by the pinpricks of racial discrimination, a subject which is far more important in the minds of most Africans than even the question of the vote. We want to ensure that these changes are brought about as quickly as possible.
The first thing we have to ascertain is how much the new alteration in the franchise will achieve. We should remember that the fact that the members of the Legislative Assembly are there only if they have the substantial backing of both races is in accord with the views expressed previously by those who have gone into the question.
I would remind the House of the Tredgold Franchise Report. The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East mentioned Sir Robert Tredgold, who, having been given the remit to ascertain how the franchise should be broadened, said that he and his Committee came to the conclusion that at present it was right to confine the franchise to those inhabitants who were capable of exercising it with reason, judgment and public 1727 spirit. I believe that that is the right way to advance the franchise in the interests of Central Africa at the present time.
§ Mr. Marquand
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will have noticed the qualifications for franchise which are proposed when any referendum is held to review the Constitution. Would it not, in his view, be sensible to adopt now for the Legislature the same franchise as is proposed when there is a referendum for review of the Constitution itself?
§ Mr. Turton
I was coming to that on a later problem. I am at the moment dealing with the whole question of the Constitution and the franchise point.
What I am saying is that this is in line with the Tredgold franchise proposals. That commends it to me, because it was on that Report that the whole of the Federation Constitution was founded. That surely should be the test of democracy—how far responsibility is being granted to responsible people. If one hands out responsibility too fast, and it goes into irresponsible hands, one destroys democracy. I believe that that has been avoided in this case.
I will try to answer some of the right hon. Gentleman's points about the Constitutional Council. Here, I start with the National Convention. There, we had 170 Africans and Europeans, not politicians but men of good will trying to find out what should be the right Constitution for their country. It is stated on page 27 of the Report thatthe majority of the Convention agreed that there should be a standing body composed of all races with the function of reviewing discriminatory legislation, both proposed and enactedand thatsuch a body should advise the Government on the repeal of legislation which has become useless or out of date.What was being recommended—let us be absolutely clear about this—was that the Constitutional Council should be looking at prospective and existing legislation and should make recommendations to the Assembly.
What has happened here, if I am right—I hope that I shall be corrected if I am wrong—is that the Secretary of State has suggested a Constitutional Council which will have the power to veto 1728 prospective legislation by process to the courts whereas, under the National Convention Report, it would have the power to make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly. Therefore, the Constitutional Council is given more power than that recommended by the Indaba.
I now refer to paragraphs 242 and 250 of the Monckton Report, where we find the same recommendation as in the White Papers. Paragraph 250 says that the function isto consider existing legislation and subsidiary legislation, and, if this was found in any respect to be unfairly discriminatory, to report to the Government and the Legislature.There, the Monckton Commission was making a similar recommendation, whereas in the White Papers we have in addition the power of veto and, under the Bill of Rights, appeal to the Privy Council. In my judgment, that is a perfectly satisfactory way of working this. It is in line with the Council of State in Kenya and the recent legislation in Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East would have this not operate and would try to rely on the reserved powers. Those reserved powers have never been used. The right hon. Gentleman complains of discriminatory legislation in Rhodesia; yet what he suggests as a safeguard has never been used. It is far better to treat the Federation as other countries have been treated and to give it a Constitutional Council and a Bill of Rights.
I appeal to the people of Rhodesia to vote for the referendum on 26th July. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to talk as they do, as if everything were easy and the referendum were bound to go through. But there will be many people agitating for the Constitution to be voted down on 26th July and it is most important that we should send out a message to the ordinary inhabitants of Southern Rhodesia, not so much the politicians as the ordinary men and women who are to vote, of our good wishes for the success of this referendum. I know that we have our differences about this matter, but they are no more than shades of opinion.
It is extremely unfortunate that right hon. and hon. Members opposite are not taking the opportunity to present the united view of the House. They have on 1729 their shoulders a great responsibility in this matter. It would be very unfortunate if a message should go from the House to suggest that there is half-hearted support for the Constitution. This Constitution is a great advance and I hope that right hon. and hon. Members opposite will think long before they vote against the Motion or try to amend it. Among the extremists in the Federation, on both sides, and among the moderate people it may be believed that the Labour Party does not like this Constitution.
§ Mr. Turton
The hon. Member has said it. The result will be to drive the moderate people into the views of the extremists of one side or the other. The Labour Party will be failing the country.
But if the Labour Party has responsibilities, so have Her Majesty's Government. If we are to introduce this Constitution because we believe in multiracial partnership and believe that this is a step forward, the Government should take active steps to see that multi-racial partnership is a success and not merely a White Paper. If we are to have that pace of advance in Central Africa, there will have to be far more houses for the Africans and more schools. For far too long there has been uncertainty about the constitutional future. While there is uncertainty, there is a lack of confidence, which makes it harder to raise the necessary money.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
Would the right hon. Gentleman send a special message to those persons who, less than a week ago, put up thousands of notices on almost every tree around Salisbury saying, "Vote no or go"—ex-members of the Conservative Party, British capital advocating the breakdown of this referendum?
§ Mr. Turton
I am grateful for that interjection, I am convinced that the House must send to Central Africa a message to secure the passing of the referendum. However, I was dealing with another matter.
Never before in history have the Federal Government asked for help from Her Majesty's Government, for the necessary financial backing for the housing and educational programmes. Now they 1730 have and I am distressed that there has not been an early response to that application. India and Kenya have asked for loans and have been granted them. The motor car industry and the Cunard Shipping Company have asked for and received help. These loyal people are now anxious to try to spread the advance of Africans in Central Africa, but they have not had a quick answer. I beg the Government to think again and to think quickly and to reply with financial help during the period of uncertainty. The Federation does not ask for charity, but that during this period of uncertainty the Government will back it. The Government should not hesitate about their answer.
But that is not all; this Constitution is based on the Tredgold Report definition of franchise and the Lennox-Boyd 1958 Constitution for Northern Rhodesia. The Northern Rhodesian Constitution is now under review. I believe that it is vital for the future of the Federation that the Northern Rhodesian Constitution should be parallel with this and based on the Tredgold franchise Report and the Lennox-Boyd 1958 principles. In case there is any doubt, I remind the House that those were, first, that the Constitution should be durable, and not subject to drastic change every few years secondly, that the vote should be given to those contributing to the wealth and welfare of the country and capable of exercising it with judgment and public spirit; and, thirdly, that politics should be developed on party rather than racial lines.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
My right hon. Friend called in aid the recommendations of the Monckton Commission when he referred to the franchise in Southern Rhodesia. Would he care to call in aid the recommendations of the Monckton Commission about the franchise in Northern Rhodesia?
§ Mr. Turton
No, I would not. I regard the recommendations of the Monckton Commission on Northern Rhodesia as outside the scope of its remit. I believe that those recommendations have caused more trouble in Central Africa than any other part of the Monckton Report. The Monckton Commission was not charged with making that recommendation and took no 1731 real evidence on it. It was a great tragedy that the Commission made it.
During the last few days there have been certain rumours. I agree that we should not pay too much attention to what is in the newspapers, but the rumours have been accumulating and have been to the effect that, because there have been threats of violence and a general strike, Her Majesty's Government are likely to change their policies towards Northern Rhodesia. It should be made quite clear that if that were so, by so doing the Government would be wrecking the whole Federation. I believe that if the Government think that the Constitution on which they are agreeing is in line with their principles they should go through with it and not be intimidated by threats of violence or by threat of a general strike.
It would be a very grave position it the Government were really to abdicate from responsibility because of threats of violence made by some political leaders in any part of the Federation. Such a capitulation would betray the trust and loyalty of many loyal and friendly people in Southern Rhodesia, and such a capitulation would also make these White Papers waste papers.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Molton (Mr. Turton) asked for unity on this matter. I find it difficult to imagine that he really believes that this could be possible because, while we respect his convictions and we know that he is sincere, we also have very strong convictions indeed which are diametrically opposed to his. It is therefore quite impossible to imagine that one can have unity on this of all subjects.
I believe, and I weigh my words very carefully, that this Constitution is not only bad but that it is positively a fraud. It is a fraud for reasons which I will explain as I go along. What is its aim? It has one aim and one only, to remove the reserve powers now exercised by Her Majesty's Government. Anything given in this Constitution is given as a quid pro quo for that. We must judge it on whether it replaces those reserve powers satisfactorily. If it does, all right, but there is grave reason to believe that it does not.
1732 We are told that the reserve powers were never used. I think the Secretary of State would agree that reserve powers do not necessarily have to be used. The fact that they are available prevents people taking certain action which they might take if the powers were not there. It has constantly made that difference. It certainly made it during the time of the Labour Government, and, no doubt, also during the time of the Conservative Government.
The powers are of great value, and Sir Edgar Whitehead knows that they are of great value. Why is he so exercised about them? Why does he give this concession to relatively large numbers of Africans in the Legislative Council compared with the numbers before if it is not to persuade us to give up these powers? He is giving a new representation to Africans. How is that representation going to be brought about? I am very glad that it is not going to be brought about on grounds of race. It is going to be brought about on grounds of education and of property. I am proud to say that the franchise in this country is not based on education or property.
§ Mr. Dugdale
My hon. Friend is quite right.
Such increases in the franchise as there have been have, generally, been brought about by Liberal rather than Conservative votes. I only mention that because the noble Lord has got very involved in the British franchise. We certainly do not base our franchise today, nor have we done so for a considerable time, on property and education. That is the proposal that is now in this Constitution.
Africans, we are told, are not civilised. It may be that some are less educated—and it is not their fault either—than many people here. That is perfectly 1733 true. Then why not let us take a primary education test? Suppose we were to say that each African who passed a primary education test might have a vote? Why could not that be done? That is not, in fact, being done, and it is not being done because, if it were, too many Africans would qualify. If too many Africans qualified it would upset the whole idea of Sir Edgar Whitehead's Constitution, and therefore it must not happen.
The result is that only post-primary people are to qualify, except in certain cases. How many post-primary people are there? At the moment, 4,700 are enrolled in post-primary schools. That is not a very large number when we compare it with the millions whom we are considering in the whole territory. Those and others who have been enrolled before—naturally that is not the total figure—those who had a primary education before, will be entitled to vote. The African vote is estimated to be approximately 20,000. That, I think, is the estimate of the United Federal Party. The National Democratic Party says 15,000. It is somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000—not a very large figure when we consider that it is one which is going to be fixed for a considerable number of years.
The curious thing about the Constitution—I suppose it is not so curious when one considers that it has been produced by two Conservative Governments—is that the only people who have not a very high education and who may vote are those with property. If a person has more property he needs less education. The whole thing is based on how much property or how much education a person has. The more property, the less education is needed. It is one way of governing our affairs, but it does not appeal to hon. Members on this side of the House.
How can an African have property? It is very difficult for him to acquire it. Take the native reserve land. An overwhelming amount of it is communal land, and, therefore, an African cannot buy property on it. Take the purchase areas. I believe that a few hundred Africans can have property in those areas. I would hope that many could, but I believe that only a few hundred can, in fact, have property there.
1734 In the urban areas the position is now improving slightly because houses are being built for Africans, but the houses are being built at a lower value than would entitle their owners to a vote. The value has been set higher than the value of the houses. In fact, in the Legislature, 15 out of 65 will probably be Africans and as far as any of us can see—I hope that I may be wrong—it looks like being 15 out of 65 for a very considerable time.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
On the right hon. Gentleman's own argument, will not the franchise increase by 4,000 each year minus those who leave the register? If there are now registered at the schools 4,000 of the grades which would qualify them for a vote, will not there he 4,000 each succeeding year?
§ Mr. Dugdale
First of all, they have to remain at school for some considerable time. Secondly, they are only thousands, and we are thinking in terms of millions. The population is millions, not thousands.
§ Mr. Turton
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how he counts the population in terms of millions and not thousands?
§ Mr. Dugdale
I may be wrong but I have always been given to understand that the population of Rhodesia was more than a few thousand. [An HON. MEMBER: "There are 2½ million Africans."] There may not be many millions, but it is certainly millions and not thousands. I am sure that the Government would be delighted if they were to find that a new law had been passed in this country under which the Tory Party was for ever going to have a majority of three to one. That would be very satisfactory for them, and perhaps they hope for such a situation. But these fortunate white people in Southern Rhodesia are to be given it permanently, without elections and without trouble, and that will be very nice for them.
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
The right hon. Gentleman has made the point two or three times that this Constitution, once enacted, will last for a long time. May I take it that he will support the Constitution, once enacted, being kept in being for a long time, despite any propositions made against it?
§ Mr. Dugdale
I did not say that, but the Constitution is to be drawn up by the Southern Rhodesian Government, and we understand that this House will have little say in the matter. If it is ever to be altered, it will be altered primarily by the Southern Rhodesian Government, and I cannot see the European population of Southern Rhodesia altering a Constitution such as this in a very short time.
There is also another very curious thing. It is recognised, very sensibly, by the Southern Rhodesians—they have always recognised it—that incomes rise and money values change, and that people may suddenly find that they have larger incomes because of that change. So they have carefully inserted a provision that, as the value of money rises, so people will have to have more money in order to have a vote. One cannot just have more money and obtain a vote that way. They will alter the whole basis of the vote in order to deal with the falling value of money. If money falls in value, then there will have to be a different system for voting.
This is the same sort of thing that we on this side of the House have suggested that Her Majesty's Government might do for old-age pensioners, but it is not being done. But in order to prevent many people from qualifying for a vote, which they might do if money values change, the Southern Rhodesian Government are adopting this system.
The safeguards are very important. If they are all right, then perhaps we need not worry so much about the position in the Legislative Assembly. But what are they? My right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) dealt with them, and I only say that, as far as I can see, the powers that are to be given to the Constitutional Council will make the powers of the House of Lords seem enormous. I have always thought that the House of Lords did not have very great powers, but they are infinitely greater than those to be given to the Constitutional Council. The White Paper says:Where a Bill has been referred to the Constitutional Council, it must be accompanied by a Certificate from the Sneaker that…the Constitutional Council has reported adversely on the Bill but the Bill has been subsequently passed by a two-thirds majority of the Assembly; or1736 that it has been passedby a simple majority of the Assembly after a period exceeding six months…What could be easier? They either wait for six months for a simple majority or the Bill can be passed immediately with a two-thirds majority. As there is a two-thirds majority built into the Legislative Assembly, obviously any safeguard suggested by the Constitutional Council can be ruled out of order at once. All the legislative Assembly has to do, as far as I can see—and I hope that the Secretary of State will contradict me if I am wrong—is to overrule the Constitutional Council either at once by a two-thirds majority or in six months by a simple majority.
What matters is not what I think about the safeguards but what Her Majesty's Government think about them, however. This is very interesting. If the safeguards are good, why is there a special clause to protect stockholders? This is a curious thing. The only people who are to be protected are stockholders. Africans do not matter—they need not be protected—but we must protect stockholders. They are to have special protection because Her Majesty's Government cannot rely on the forms of protection explained in the White Paper.
I want to consider the way in which the present rulers rule Southern Rhodesia. We had an interesting insight into the sort of people they are recently from a report of a statement made by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Salisbury and the Bishops of Gwelo, Bulawayo and Umtali, who cannot be described as Red revolutionaries. Dealing with Africans' living standards, they said:…wages are inadequate, housing conditions in many instances are unworthy of human beings, and terms of employment are such that husbands are separated for long periods from their wives.Such a state of affairs cries to heaven for vengeance and even in the natural order can only breed crime and chaos.Need we wonder if men are incited to subversive activity when there is such obvious disparity in the quantity and quality of land occupied by the two major racial groups in the country?These are the kind of conditions which are thought right by the European minority, but they are not thought right by the Roman Catholic bishops.
§ Mr. Farey-Jones (Watford)
The right hon. Gentleman should not quote statements out of their context. He should consider the enormous improvements, carried out by the white citizens in seven years in Southern Rhodesia, in the coloured people's lot. Why does he not put that forward?
§ Mr. Dugdale
I do not mind reading the whole Report. I will read another paragraph. The Report went on:They said there was no moral justification for denying on racial grounds enfranchisement to those capable of exercising it…
§ Mr. Dugdale
Certainly. But there has been substituted for this racial type of enfranchisement a bad, though admittedly not so bad, system of property and education enfranchisement. The bishops have condemned the people who are now ruling Southern Rhodesia in no uncertain terms, just as Sir Robert Tredgold condemned them.
Sir Robert said that the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act outraged almost every basic human right. What is the good of having a Bill of Rights, or this wonderful declaration of human rights, when a Government can do what Sir Robert has described they did quite recently? I see no value in such declarations whatever. This one will be of singularly little value, as we shall find as time goes on.
In 1910 we made a great mistake. We gave to the white population of South Africa almost complete control over the black population, and that has proved to be a terrible mistake, as everybody on both sides of the House will agree. It seems now that it is proposed that we should do exactly the same thing to the population of Southern Rhodesia. The safeguards that are being brought in are no better in many ways than the safeguards brought in in the case of the Union. They will disappear, and I fear that they will disappear in a much shorter time than they did in South Africa. If this Bill becomes an Act, Southern Rhodesia will go the way of the Union—and this Government will send it there.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
The temptation to counter the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) in almost everything he has 1738 said is nearly overwhelming. As he knows from previous occasions when I have followed him in debate, that I do not do so is not due to any lack of readiness to enter into controversy with him but because a number of other hon. Members want to speak, and the more equitable and more balanced view of the situation we get, the better. I do not want to stand in the way of any one of them. The second reason is that the less attention given to mischievous speeches which can only achieve an end which none of us wants the better.
I will, therefore, make only two brief points. First, about electoral qualifications. The right hon. Gentleman is not quite as ingenuous as all that. He referred to there being millions of potential votes. If one accepts a total population figure of 2½ million, unless he is proposing not only one man one vote, but one baby one vote, in no situation could it amount to millions.
It is not a matter of going back to the Middle Ages to find the situation he described. Until the 1920s in this country at least one half of the population, represented now by hon. Ladies on both sides of the House, was not enfranchised and other than ratepayers could not vote. From reading the political documents of the Opposition as well as our own, one sees that it has been generally accepted that in primitive African societies one man one vote is not a feasible proposition.
If it is said that it is unfair to judge on property, all I can say that if one takes into account property, education, and income, it is almost impossible to work out any other system for qualifying for the franchise. The right hon. Gentleman found the same difficulty when his party was in power and had to deal with this problem.
Where the principle of one man one vote has been introduced in primitive societies, it has not led to the continuance of democracy. It has led with great rapidity to dictatorial regimes far more ruthless than the outgoing colonial Power. Africa today is littered with countries which set off with the theory of one man one vote, but where the people no longer enjoy that.
§ Mr. Bennett
I will not give way again if it means having to listen to remarks like that. I said that Africa was littered with countries where there is no longer any question of one man one vote. Picking out one or two exceptions does not contradict the point that I was making.
Dealing with the insufficiency of safeguards, it was noticeable that the right hon. Gentleman was saying—