§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
I wish to raise the subject of the Report of the Southern Rhodesia Constitutional Conference, contained in Command Paper 1291.
In view of the very grave and serious events which have been taking place both north and south of Southern Rhodesia, it is important that the Government should have an opportunity to find out the views of the House on this agreement. In some respects the agreement contained in this White Paper marks a considerable advance. When Sir Edgar Whitehead first raised the matter with Her Majesty's Government he was seeking simply the removal of the reserve clauses in the Southern Rhodesian Constitution, on the ground that the people on the spot in Salisbury knew a great deal better than Her Majesty's Government in London what was the right thing to do in Southern Rhodesia.
Sir Edgar Whitehead has retreated a long way from that decision, and that is a very good thing. The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is entitled to his share of credit for the shift in Sir Edgar Whitehead's position. The right hon. Gentleman called the White Paper a miracle, in the sense that it was a miracle to get both Sir Edgar and Mr. Nkomo, the leader of the National Democratic Party, to subscribe to the same document. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman was a little too much of a miracle worker in this connection and worked a little too swiftly, for miracles sometimes look a little different the morning after.
When Mr. Nkomo and the National Democratic Party began to express some of their reservations about this document, we began to see that to solve the many and difficult problems in Southern Rhodesia we would need not one miracle but several, struggled for painfully and patiently over a considerable time.
Some hon. Members opposite who have taken an interest in these matters have not performed any notable service by presenting the findings in the White Paper as though they were a model constitutional agreement, nor by seeking to 706 use them as an argument in the constitutional discussions now going on in connection with Northern Rhodesia. What is politically possible in one Central African territory at any time is not necessarily politically possible in another. These matters have to be dealt within the light of the conditions existing in the territory or area concerned. The question which the House must decide is whether the provisions of the White Paper justify Her Majesty's Government giving up their reserve powers in respect of Southern Rhodesia.
It may be true that the possible use of these reserve powers has been somewhat academic during their whole existence. They have never been used since they were first written into the Constitution, in 1923. Indeed, one could adopt a rather cynical attitude towards the legal superstructure of discrimination erected with great deliberation in Southern Rhodesia without any use being made by a British Government of the reserve powers to prevent this taking place.
Nevertheless some of the enactments in Southern Rhodesia over the years might have been a good deal worse if there had not been a knowledge on the part of successive Southern Rhodesian Governments that these reserve powers existed. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) had been here tonight he might have been able, from his own experience as a former Secretary of State, to indicate occasions on which the Southern Rhodesian Government made it quite plain that in shaping their policies they were very conscious of the fact that there were limits over which they could not step because of the existence of the reserve powers.
We must remember that the whole atmosphere in Africa has changed out of all recognition during recent years, with the revolutionary events that have taken place there. Although the reserve powers have not been used in the past, in the new situation which exists they have a new potency. I am, therefore, very glad to see that according to the terms of the White Paper, Her Majesty's Government will still be able to legislate for Southern Rhodesia, and that the British Government's position is reserved in the matter. I presume that this means that Her Majesty's Government would 707 still be able to impose a new Constitution on Southern Rhodesia if final agreement could not be reached. I say that in order to underline the importance of the reserve powers.
There is a paradox in the situation that has arisen. Sir Edgar Whitehead raised this matter because he was primarily seeking freedom from any semblance of political control from London, but by the very act of raising the matter he has given the British Government a much greater chance to influence constitutional developments in Southern Rhodesia than previously existed, in practice. Hon. Members on this side of the House plead with the Government to make the maximum use of the opportunity now being offered. The Government cannot surrender these reserve powers except on conditions which are agreed by the African majority.
It may be said that this indicates a partiality on the part of the Government, but in the circumstances there is a great deal to be said for the British Government's showing a partiality towards an under-privileged majority. We also have a tremendous responsibility for the European minority in Southern Rhodesia. In present circumstances they face appalling dilemmas, which would cause any sensitive person to sympathise with them.
Southern Rhodesia has been the home of many of these people for generations. Their contribution to a prosperous Southern Rhodesia in the years that lie ahead is vital to that country. But I am convinced that the best help Her Majesty's Government can give to the European minority in Southern Rhodesia is to use all our influence to create a more just society there and one more in line with the realities of the world as we know it. I think that sometimes the European settlers in Southern Rhodesia are not the best judges of the realities of the world in which they have to live and in which we have to try to solve difficult problems.
Does this White Paper fulfil the conditions under which the British Government would be justified in surrendering these reserve powers? These conditions are spelt out fairly clearly by the National Democratic Party in a conference which it has been holding in the last few days. It has indicated some of the conditions which must be fulfilled 708 before it can participate in the campaign for the referendum and the operation of a new Constitution when that is finally arrived at.
I wish to say a word about these conditions. The first is that those at present detained in Southern Rhodesia without trial should be released and that the National Democratic Party should have freedom to conduct political meetings in areas of the country where it is at present prohibited from so doing. I should have thought that an elementary condition for participation by any political party in a campaign for a new Constitution. I hope we shall hear from the Secretary of State that the Government fully accept that as a basic condition of any protest in this matter.
Secondly, the National Democratic Party laid down as a condition that there should be much more information than is at present available about membership of the proposed Constitutional Council, and we should be grateful for some expression of opinion about this matter. I will refer at the moment merely to one aspect of this problem. In paragraph 10 of the White Paper it is suggested that one of the duties of the Constitutional Council will be to declare whether Bills are unfairly discriminatory. I am puzzled by the use of the word "unfairly" in front of "discriminatory". Surely a Bill is discriminatory or it is not. Does this qualification mean that it is intended that the Constitutional Council should act only if something is flagrantly a Bill involving discrimination, and should we not operate a rigid test on this obsolutely vital question?
The third condition of the National Democratic Party, and by far the most important, is that it must have some guarantee about the line of policies to be pursued in the future if it is to feel confident in good co-operation in connection with the new Constitution. It is stated, in paragraph 33 of the White Paper, that in the time available the conference was not able to consider provisions in the present situation dealing with native reserves and the Land Apportionment Act. However, it was agreed in principle that the powers of the United Kingdom Government in relation to these matters should be eliminated provided that fully effective safeguards could be devised.
709 I think that in some ways this is the most important responsibility which rests on the Government in dealing with this problem. I should have thought it eminently reasonable that the National Democratic Party in its discussions on this matter should insist that the repeal of the Land Apportionment Act, which is at the basis of the discrimination practised in Southern Rhodesia should be written into the proposed Constitution. I hope we shall find that the British Government will use all their influence in that direction.
This question of the repeal of the Land Apportionment Act raises the more general question whether the human rights provisions in the proposed Constitution are to be made retrospective. At the moment, the Southern Rhodesian Government enjoys, I should have thought, some of the most widespread and some of the most indefensible powers in regard to the life and liberty of the subject. If, in fact, they are to go on enjoying those powers, without a declaration of rights operating backwards as well as forwards, it is not a situation which can enjoy very much support or give much substantial meaning to this Declaration of Rights.
As far as I can make out, the proposals are merely that the Declaration of Rights should operate in connection only with legislation passed after the enactment of the new Constitution. I do not see myself that that is at all satisfactory, and I hope that the Secretary of State can give us further enlightenment on that point.
There are two other matters that I should like to raise with the Government on the operation of the general rights provisions. First, I notice that money Bills are to be exempted completely from the consideration of the Constitutional Council, yet it is well known from past experience that the allocation of public funds may be one of the most powerful instruments of discriminatory policy. What is to happen if the Southern Rhodesian Parliament has money Bills in which they are operating discriminatory policies? Are they to be exempt from consideration by the Constitutional Council?
The other point I want to put to the Government is that one of the most important safeguards is the final right of 710 appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. This is bound to be a very long and expensive process. At the moment, there are the most limited provisions for legal aid in Southern Rhodesia, and to give reality to these safeguards I hope there will be a provision that if there is a council certificate that a citizen is justified in taking a matter through the courts on the question of these discriminatory bills, he will be entitled to full, free legal aid, allowing him to exercise his constitutional rights.
Finally, we come to the franchise proposals in the White Paper, and these, of course, are the very heart of the problem. I think that it would be a tragedy if Europeans in Southern Rhodesia were to regard these franchise proposals as long-term proposals. I think that it would equally be a tragedy if the Africans in Southern Rhodesia were to regard them as not worth taking un at all. That would be the way to racial bitterness which can in the end benefit no one at all.
Mr. Nkomo, the leader of the National Democratic Party, is bound to go on campaign for universal suffrage, but he might be wise to regard a block of N.D.P. Members of Parliament in the Legislative Council as an important means to moving towards a fully democratic Southern Rhodesia in due course. In working out the very many details that still require to be filled in in the proposed Constitution, the Europeans would be very wise indeed to be as generously minded as they possibly can be when considering these matters, because, in the long run, if steady and peaceful progress can somehow be maintained in Southern Rhodesia, the Declaration of Rights and the provisions that go with it will be more important to Europeans in Southern Rhodesia than they will to the African community there. The fact that the African national leaders have been prepared, with all their reservations, to accept these provisions means that they are ready to extend to the European minority the protection which the Africans themselves are still struggling to obtain for themselves.
I think that this is a very notable advance indeed, and that it is along that way that lies the real hope of resolving the very great difficulties in Southern Rhodesia. I hope that Her Majesty's 711 Government will use all their influence to ensure that Southern Rhodesia keeps along that path. I hope that they will give us assurances that they will not surrender their rights, but will use all their influence towards being absolutely sure that democratic progress is to take place in Southern Rhodesia.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
In his remarkable speech last night, with which I am sure 99 per cent. of the House agreed, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations expressed his opinion about apartheid and race discrimination. I, for one, was very much moved by the way in which he expressed those sentiments.
However, there was one phrase he used with which I venture to disagree. He said:Everywhere else outside South Africa Governments are trying, more or less successfully, progressively to eliminate racial discrimination between their citizens."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1961; Vol. 637, c. 528.]That cannot be said yet of Southern Rhodesia. The Government of Sir Edgar Whitehead have not yet begun to take really energetic measures to dismantle the structure of race discrimination to which my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) has been referring. We have no assurance yet on the basis of the constitutional proposals which the Commonwealth Relations Secretary has brought back from Salisbury that Sir Edgar Whitehead is trying to change the policies of the ruling United Federal Party in such a way as to ensure that the African people in Southern Rhodesia will be able to exercise their economic and political rights.
It is on this point that the proposals which the Secretary of State has put forward are falling down. They can work only if the Africans have a clear guarantee that the discrimination which is practised against them will be stopped because that discrimination prevents them from taking the economic opportunities of the Europeans and will prevent them from gaining the incomes necessary to rise to become electors on the A roll, which according to the White Paper, will have the major political power in the country. The B roll, which enables people with a lower income to qualify in 712 the constituencies, will be devalued to some extent. Therefore, I submit that we have to look at this not only on the basis of the political aspect of the White Paper but of the economic aspects that lie behind it.
My hon. Friend has referred to the Land Apportionment Act. I should like to look at that a little more closely because it is the essential aspect of this discrimination against the African population in Southern Rhodesia which they most resent. In Southern Rhodesia—I quote now from figures provided in Cmnd. 1149, which was the survey of developments of the Committee of officials reporting to the Monckton Commission—the European area comprises 51,900,000 acres, whereas the total area available for the Africans is only 41,800,000 acres. So the 10 per cent. of the population has over half the available land area, whereas nine-tenths of the population has only about 40 per cent.
This means that the African population, being overcrowded in their own reserves, are not able to get an income from the growing of cash crops in the same way as European farmers can. The Europeans in Southern Rhodesia, who number just over 200,000, have a land area available to them exclusively larger than the area of England and Wales combined.
We have not yet had any clear assurance that this structure, which is quite similar to apartheid in the Union, will be dismantled. It applies not only in country areas, but also in the towns. Anyone who has been to the towns of Salisbury, Bulawayo, Tali, and the other centres in Southern Rhodesia is struck by the fact that the Africans always live on the outside. They are not able to participate in the community life, the social life or the economic life of the towns, because the towns are included in the European designated areas.
If the proposed constitutional advance is to mean anything at all, it must mean that the Africans must be allowed on the basis of equality, without any discrimination on the ground of colour, to have the same land rights as Europeans and the race discrimination aspects of the Land Apportionment Act must be entirely swept away, otherwise Africans are bound to be suspicious of the constitutional proposals.
713 There is another aspect of the economic position of Southern Rhodesia which is often overlooked. The larger part of the national income of the country flows to the European minority or to European-controlled companies. To take 1958 as a sample year, it appears from the Report of the Committee of Officials that £85 million was the total of wages and salaries paid to the European, Asian and coloured population of Southern Rhodesia, which is about 10 per cent. of the population, whereas the African population, representing nine-tenths of the total population, received only £49 million in wages and salaries. The average income for the European and Asian community was £995 per year, whereas the average income for the Africans was only £80 a year. That figure does not include the large number of peasants and people living on the farms who are not included in this figure of the employed population.
The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is aware of the discrimination in regard to land allocation. He has looked at the situation in Southern Rhodesia, and I know where his sympathies lie. There is also discrimination in regard to the allocation of skilled jobs. Many Africans who are receiving low incomes are capable of doing the more skilled jobs. In fact they are doing them now, although they are not described as skilled occupations. They are denied the opportunity of receiving the higher incomes which are almost automatically paid to white men because their skins are white.
This sort of discrimination—discrimination in land allocation and in economic matters—must be done away with if any of these political proposals are to be successful. They are the main reason why the Africans reject the constitutional proposals which the Secretary of State is proposing to us.
Another reason why the Africans reject these proposals is that the Government of Sir Edgar Whitehead have not shown their sincerity in allowing political free-down in the territory. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East indicated, there are still Leaders of the African political party in Southern Rhodesia who are kept in prison without trial. When I was in Salisbury in February, 1959, I met some of these men. I found them to be sincere and dedicated men. If they 714 lived in Dar-es-Salaam they would be referred to by all hon. Members opposite as "moderates" and they would be working with Mr. Julius Nyerere. Because they happen to live in Southern Rhodesia and have had to contend with the monopoly of political power which has hitherto been in the hands of the European minority, because they express an interest in "one man, one vote" and political progress for the African, they are dubbed as extremists, fanatics and all the rest of it.
I have met these men, and talked to them. I know them fairly well, and I respect them. They have a great contribution to make to political development in their own country, but where are they now? Many are still languishing in Mirandellas Prison. And the man with whom the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations has been negotiating in the last few months is the man who put them there—Sir Edgar Whitehead. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to plead with Sir Edgar Whitehead for the release of these men before these proposals can be put into operation.
We ask for only a little. Surely, as a test of the sincerity of the United Federal Party and the Government of Southern Rhodesia, we can ask that the colleagues of Mr. Joshua Nkomo, Mr. Leopold Takawira and other leaders of the National Democratic Party should be released in the same way as Dr. Hastings Banda and Mr. Kenneth Kaunda in Nyasaland or Northern Rhodesia were released. This is a necessary prerequisite for confidence to be established between African and European in Southern Rhodesia.
Another thing that concerns the Africans is that the Government have used the most repressive measures to intimidate the African population. There is the Vagrancy Act, which has been criticised in this House, not only from this side but from the Tory benches. Under the terms of that Act, passed last year:… any person who is unable to show that he is living by honest means and has a settled way of honest livingcan be arrested by a policeman without warrant. Some hundreds of people have been arrested under that Act.
The Vagrancy Act has been condemned by lawyers in Salisbury as well 715 as in this country. It allows tremendous power to the Government of the day, and until such Acts as this are revoked we cannot expect the Africans to have any confidence in the Government of Sir Edgar Whitehead or any faith in the political party he represents. As is well known, men arrested in this way can be sent, after a trial to which the public are not admitted, to mines and to farms where they are cut off from communication with the outside world. It is because so many people have been subject to arbitrary arrest under this Act that the people of Southern Rhodesia are most suspicious about the sincerity of Sir Edgar Whitehead.
Another Act that causes the Africans great concern is the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act. It has been described, not by members of the Labour Party but by lawyers and churchmen in Southern Rhodesia, as an Act similar to the measures adopted in Nazi Germany. Section 44 states:Any person who publishes or reproduces any false statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear, alarm or despondency among the public or to disturb the public peace shall be guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding seven years unless he satisfies the court that because such publication he took reasonable measures to verify the accuracy thereof.It goes on to state:For the purpose of this section 'statement' includes any writing, printing, picture, painting, drawing or other similar representation.That Act, again, gives tremendous power to the Government of the day, and it cannot be expected that the Africans will agree willingly to new Constitutional proposals while that sort of threat hangs over their heads.
I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend said about the protective clauses in the Constitution. I hope that the Secretary of State will tell us tonight that the constitutional proposals will not be put into operation in the form in which they are presented in the White Paper unless he is absolutely satisfied that this is what the Africans really want. I submit that he really did exaggerate the degree of success he had at the constitutional conference. I believe that paragraph 31 of the White Paper in particular is not only factually in- 716 accurate but wholly misleading. It is quite wrong to suggest thatThe conference agreed that the decisions to enshrine a Declaration of Rights in the new Constitution, to establish a Constitutional Council, and to permit appeals … would provide safeguards against discriminatory legislation as fully effective as those at present afforded by the powers reserved to the United Kingdom Government.The Conference did not agree upon that. The National Democratic Party in numerous statements itself and by Mr. Joshua Nkomo has made it clear that that is not its understanding of any agreement which was reached.
In this connection, I shall quote from a letter written by Mr. Nkomo to the Secretary of State on 17th February. He said:Further to my interview with you, I would like to affirm the views of my delegation and those of the National Council of my party who have sent me to put their stand once more to you. My delegation made it perfectly clear that they did not accept the franchise system and representation in the agreement. My party has endorsed this rejection and sees nothing else to support, when the means of effecting their political influence are denied to them through a clever fancy franchise and a white-dominated Parliament.This criticism of Mr. Nkomo applies particularly to the question of the reserved clauses.
What argument has the right hon. Gentleman against the proposal which has already been put to him that there should be a referendum of the African population in Southern Rhodesia to ask them whether or not they agree with the elimination of the reserved clauses? There is to be a referendum of the mainly white electorate to see whether they agree with these constitutional proposals. Surely, these proposals are just as important, if not more important, to the African population. Why should not they be consulted?
Before the Minister says that a referendum would be too complicated or would establish a precedent, I will refer him to paragraph 309 of the Monckton Report which advocated, in the case of proposals for the secession of the territory, the holding of a referendum not merely of the white electorate but of the population as a whole. Consideration of the proposals for secession, it said, might befollowed by a referendum, perhaps requiring a 60 per cent. majority".717 and the responsibility for determining whether consent had been given by the population through such a referendum would rest entirely with Her Majesty's Government.
If this can apply in regard to a proposal for the secession of one of the territories of the Federation, why should not it apply to this most important question of the reserved clauses in the Constitution which 2½ million Africans in Southern Rhodesia regard as their protection against what they think of as white dictatorship in their own country?
I hope that the Minister will not propose that the reserved clauses should be removed before we are absolutely convinced that the Africans want them to be removed. If we remove them hastily in that way, it will so build up tension and animosity between white and black in Southern Rhodesia that no constitutional proposals will be effective and we will have a breakdown in the relationship. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will regard the other proposals in the White Paper merely as a stage in the process towards democratic rule.
We have gone through these stages in Tanganyika. I remember how many hon. Members opposite foretold woe and disaster when limited measures of advance were put into operation in Tanganyika four years ago. I remember how despondent they were about that experiment, how depressed they were when the United Tanganyika Party lost the first election and how they regarded Mr. Nyerere at that time as an extremist. They said the same thing about Kenya in the past. Now they are beginning to realise that it is only on the basis of a genuine participation by the African population in these territories that even the stability of the Europeans can be guaranteed. What has been proved true in Tanganyika has been accepted even by the Conservative Party with acclamation. What has been proved true in Kenya will also certainly prove true in Southern Rhodesia.
Like all my hon. Friends, I am as concerned as much with the fate and future of the European population in Southern Rhodesia as with the future of the African majority. We believe that only through the spreading of democratic opportunity to the Africans as well as to the Europeans can a spirit of friend- 718 ship and good will be built up, a spirit of stability established and the country brought to a stage at which white and black can live in real friendship and understanding and get away from this race discrimination, this tension, this intimidation, which is a necessary part of life in Southern Rhodesia when a small minority tries to dominate the overwhelming majority.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
I shall detain the House only for a minute or two, particularly as I was fortunate enough to catch Mr. Deputy-Speaker's eye in the debate on South Africa last night.
I am provoked into intervening by something which the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) said. He described the detainees at Mirandellas as moderate Africans. I saw those detainees about six weeks ago in company with two of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends, namely, the hon. Members for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) and Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton). I will not commit them on their views of the matter, but I have no hesitation whatever in saying that those detainees were complete and utter fanatics. That is why they are where they are now. To compare them with Mr. Nyerere is like comparing the hon. Member for Wednesbury with his right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand). There is all the difference in the world. Mr. Nyerere is a moderate African, and that is why Tanganyika is a success. To describe those detainees as moderate is absolutely unmitigated nonsense.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Before the hon. Gentleman continues with his rather ridiculous statements, may I tell him that my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) has been good enough to tell me about his conversations with the men detained at Mirandellas? My hon. Friend would wholly disagree with the hon. Member's assessment of their character.
§ Mr. Russell
The hon. Gentleman would be perfectly entitled to disagree. That is why I did not propose to quote his opinion, but merely my own. To compare Mr. Nyerere with those detainees is completely and utterly ridiculous.
719 Secondly, I would put this to the hon. Gentleman. There is all the difference in the world between Southern Rhodesia, which is a State, as the hon. Gentleman admits, of 200,000 Europeans as well as 2½ million Africans, and Tanganyika, which is a completely African State. Mr. Nyerere, in Tanganyika, is working on a partnership basis. One thing he did was to invite Mr. Vaisey, the former European Finance Minister, to join his Government. The detainees in Mirandellas and Mr. Nkomo are out for African domination and no European co-operation at all. That is true of the detainees. They made that completely plain to us when we were there. It is complete nonsense to compare them in any way with Mr. Nyerere. They are two completely different types of people.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
If the National Democratic Party is as racialistic as the hon. Member suggests on the basis of the inaccurate information provided for him in one of the briefs, no doubt, of the organisation which sponsored his visit, will he explain why there are about 100 European members of the National Democratic Party?
§ Mr. Russell
There are a large number of African members of the United Federal Party.
That brings me to the other subject which I want to mention. The hon. Member complained that there was intimidation of Africans by the Southern Rhodesian Government. There is intimidation of moderate Africans by African extremists, perhaps not so much in Southern Rhodesia as in Northern Rhodesia or Nyasaland, but it is there. I should like to know from my right hon. Friend what progress is being made in overcoming that intimidation, which in many ways is much more serious than the intimidation of which the hon. Member complains, which is a different matter altogether. My purpose was to intervene simply for a few minutes to refute the arguments made by the hon. Member about the detainees at Mirandellas. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not in any way press the Government to release them.
§ 10.1 p.m.
§ Mr. H. A. Marquand (Middlesbrough, East)
I shall refer later to what the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) has just said. I do not propose 720 to do so at this moment because, to be brief, I have tried to arrange my remarks in a certain order. What I have to say about the hon. Member's remarks will come more appropriately later.
What was for most of us the beginning of the events which we are now discussing was the announcement in the newspapers on 8th February that, in the words used by The Times, agreement had been reached in Southern Rhodesia. Naturally, on reading an announcement of that kind, we were all delighted and, at the same time, surprised. We had hardly expected that in so brief a time agreement on the many momentous issues could be reached.
When we look at the White Paper, which is one of the most laconic documents of its kind ever to be presented to Parliament after the conclusion of a Constitutional Conference, we find that what is contained in the White Paper was agreed upon, if it was so agreed, within the space of eight days. It was not, perhaps, surprising that after a time, much to our regret, we began to find that our delight was not entirely merited and that our surprise was justified.
What has happened since has shown that the document now under discussion was arrived at after such a short conference and presented so quickly in such a brief document that it has led to a great deal of misunderstanding. I put it no higher than that. I still hope that in the end that misunderstanding will prove not to be outright disagreement, but that there has been misunderstanding as a result of this extremely rapid conference, including a number of people who, although they speak English, cannot always appreciate the nuance of phrases and the exact meaning of legal terms which go into documents like this, that the brevity of the conference has been regrettable and it might have been better, in the long run, had the conference lasted longer and made quite sure that every party to it thoroughly understood what was agreed to.
In the statement to which I have referred, The Times went on to say that Britain was ready to give up powers. The White Paper tells us, in paragraph 32, thatThe Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations accordingly informed the Conference 721 that he would be prepared to recommend the elimination of the powers retained by the United Kingdom GovernmentIt goes on to say the conditions on which the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to recommend the elimination of those powers. If he recommends their elimination, he has to do so to Parliament.
It is at this point that we come in. We have asked the right hon. Gentleman—and we are very grateful to him for coming here tonight—to try to clear up some of the misunderstandings, as there may be, about the exact meaning of various paragraphs in this document. Naturally, Parliament would want to know clearly what it is to do before it agrees to the elimination of any powers. In any case, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not proceed to recommend the elimination of powers unless he was convinced that all concerned fully understood what was happening.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman wants to ensure that the proposals upon the basis of which he may eventually recommend the elimination of powers are thoroughly understood. I hope that he will realise that we have raised this short debate quite sincerely because we want to give him an opportunity to understand some of the misunderstandings in various minds and some of the difficulties that we in the House find in the document itself.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) has already said, we rejoice in paragraph 34 of the White Paper, which records thatThe Southern Rhodesia Government asked that the United Kingdom should initiate legislation to provide that, in future, Parliament at Westminster would not legislate for Southern Rhodesia, except at the request of the Government of Southern Rhodesia, in regard to any matter within the competence of the Legislative Assembly.Yet the paragraph goes on to state thatThe Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations took note of this request without commitment.We are very glad that there is no commitment and that it is clearly recognised in the paragraph without any doubt whatsoever that the United Kingdom Government retain their power to legislate for Southern Rhodesia.
722 I have raised this matter more than once in the House in the last two years when we have debated Southern Rhodesian questions. I have said before that I am convinced that what the then Mr. Lennox-Boyd was able to do for the Bahamas, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations could now do for Southern Rhodesia if he wished. It is clear from this paragraph that Parliament in the United Kingdom still retains these powers and that the Secretary of State has given no commitment whatsoever to give up these powers. We welcome that.
In the existing legislation governing the degree of self-government which Southern Rhodesia has obtained—the letters patent—there is provision for the reservation for Her Majesty's pleasure of discriminatory Bills. All these powers are covered and explained in paragraphs 32 and 33 of the White Paper. Those paragraphs state that it was agreed that some of these powers to disallow discriminatory legislation and to exercise control over matters relating to the Native Department would be necessary only if there were to be in a new Constitution far Southern Rhodesia a Declaration of Rights and a Constitutional Council empowered to watch over the enforcement of that declaration and provisions for appeals to the Privy Council.
I would only ask the right hon. Gentleman one question about this. Is it intended, in drawing up this new Declaration of Rights, which is referred to only very briefly in paragraph 6 under headings, that there shall be entrenched in that declaration the right of habeas corpus? I am sure that all hon. Members would entirely agree that the right of habeas corpus is one of the major foundants of our liberties—the right of a subject if accused of an offence not to be held in prison for any undue time, but to be brought to trial.
I hate the provisions for preventive detention which have got into the constitutions of a good many countries. I hope that we shall have an assurance tonight that it is fully intended by those who have agreed to the White Paper that there shall be in that Declaration of Rights the equivalent of habeas corpus so that preventive detention for long periods of time shall not be allowed in 723 Southern Rhodesia if it attains this new Constitution.
Apart from that, the outline of the Declaration of Rights, not unreasonably. has to be associated with the paragraph defining the powers of the Constitutional Council, because the Constitutional Council is to be the watchdog over the Legislature, and is to examine any new Bill passed by the Legislative Assembly and report to the Assembly whether, in its opinion, the Bill was unfairly discriminatory or otherwise contravened the provisions of the Declaration of Rights.
It is not surprising that Africans, reading about these proposals for a Constitutional Conference, remember the sad experience of the African Affairs Board under the Federal Constitution. They are bound to remember the debates that went on in this House, the assurances that were given that the African Affairs Board would protect them from discriminatory legislation, and that the very first time the Board reported a particular piece of legislation as discriminatory it was over-ruled. They remember this, and they are right to remember it. They would be very foolish indeed if they did not, so it is very important to be sure how this Constitutional Council is to work.
It is stated that in regard to one of the most discriminatory provisions in Southern Rhodesian law—the Land Apportionment Act—it was agreed in principle that the powers of the United Kingdom Government in relation to these matters should be eliminated, provided that full and effective alternative safeguards could be devised.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury has already reminded the House of the provisions of the Native Reserves and Land Apportionment Act in Southern Rhodesia. It is well known that the system of land apportionment is one of the major grievances of Africans in Southern Rhodesia. It is known, as my hon. Friend has reminded us—he gave the figures, and I need not, therefore, repeat them—that the greater part of the land in the country is reserved for use by a small minority of the population. We are told that the Conference was not able to consider this 724 in the time available. This seems to support what I said at the beginning, that the time taken over all these far-reaching conclusions was so short that we wonder whether they were fully understood.
What, then, is in the right hon. Gentleman's mind about the necessary safeguards which would be required in relation to the Land Apportionment Act before the powers of the United Kingdom Government could be abdicated? What canditions must be satisfied before he will recommend that to Parliament? To retain in Southern Rhodesia after the establishment of a new Constitution a system of land apportionment in any way resembling the present system would surely make a declaration of human rights of very little value, for land apportionment as now practised in Southern Rhodesia enshrines the principle of segregation.
It is in Southern Rhodesia—and it is in South Africa—one of the major features of the system of apartheid which the right hon. Gentleman so eloquently decried last night. To segregate people to particular sections of land—to say that white people only can live in this section and black people only in that section—is the very embodiment of the principle of apartheid. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman rejected that principle last night in very strong language with which we entirely agreed and which we were very glad to hear. So what modification of that system does he think will be necessary?
We are told that there is to be legislation shortly in Southern Rhodesia for modifying the system of land apportionment. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is not responsible for it, but he is well informed about these matters, and I wonder whether he can give us any indication of what shape that legislation will take. Before we agreed to the surrender of any powers we in this House should certainly want to be satisfied that there was a drastic modification in the existing system of land apportionment.
This is not the only qualification in relation to the powers of the Constitutional Council. Paragraph 15 definitely limits the powers of the Constitutional Council, because it says that the procedure would not apply to any laws or subsidiary legislation in force before the 725 enaotment of the new Constitution. All the council could do would be to draw the attention of the Legislative Assembly to any such laws which, in the opinion of the council, were inconsistent with the provisions of the Declaration of Rights.
That surely means that if the procedure does not apply to legislation in force before the Constitution is established, it would not apply to the Land Apportionment Act or, as my hon. Friend has said, the Law and Order Maintenance Act and the Vagrancy Act. The Law and Order Maintenance Act was so discriminatory, so reactionary, and moved so far in the direction of the South African system of apartheid, preventive detention and all the rest of it, that the Chief Justice resigned in protest. Are these Acts to remain unchanged because they are already in existence? If so, the proposals for a Declaration of Rights become a mockery, and Africans could not reasonably be expected to agree to them. Much more than an ability on the part of the Constitutional Council to draw attention to these would be required if they can be asked to accept them.
I now turn to the remarks of the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell). Does he agree that the men whom he describes are entitled to the ordinary rules of British justice, whatever he thinks of their politics, however extreme he thinks they are and however unjustified he thinks are some of the things which they said? Surely they are entitled to be tried once they have been put into prison. Surely they are entitled to the elementary rights which we have now enjoyed in this country for 300 years, to be brought before a court accused of an offence and put on public trial. I should like to know whether in future, under the Declaration of Rights in the new Constitution conceived of in this White Paper, Mr. Mawama, for example. could be brought to trial or, if he were not, could appeal to the Privy Council as provided for in the draft outlines of a Declaration of Rights.
The Africans, naturally, draw attention to the fact that the Constitutional Council could, according to paragraph 11 of the White Paper, be over-ruled by the Legislature, despite any protest that it might make, either immediately by a two-thirds majority or, after a delay of 726 six months, by a simple majority. The Africans link this provision of power for the Legislature to over-rule the Constitutional Council, if it sees fit, with the franchise provisions.
The Africans say that these provisions would be all very well if they had a chance of obtaining a sufficient number of seats in the Legislature, but that if the Legislature is to consist, as it might well consist under this Constitution, of 45 Europeans and 15 Africans, then it would be possible—I am not claiming that they say that this is what will happen—for the 45 Europeans to outvote the 15 Africans and impose some sort of discriminatory legislation in favour of whites and against blacks, despite the fact that the Constitutional Council had recommended that that legislation was discriminatory and should not be allowed.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations has, quite fairly, acknowledged that the Africans have not got all they want in the franchise proposals, and he recognises their natural desire and their freedom to campaign for something better. Mr. Nkomo and his colleagues, in negotiating this agreement, have succeeded in getting their foot in the door, and it may well be that after further discussions and assurances, and perhaps after what we hope will be a statement by the right hon. Gentleman tonight, they will be more inclined to accept this agreement as an interim measure, campaigning in the meanwhile for a better franchise. But they do need further enlightenment about the Constitution of the council before they are likely to accept that provision.
It is suggested in the White Paper that the Constitution of the Constitutional Council remains to be worked out. Paragraph 9 says:The Council would comprise about twelve persons, chosen by an Electoral College, in accordance with procedure which has still to be worked out.That is very vague and, once again, suggests perhaps that this Conference was too hasty.
§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
§ Mr. Marquand
Well, perhaps they could have stayed a few days longer to 727 thrash out this important question of how the Council is to be composed.
In the circumstances, it is not surprising that the National Democratic Party has declared certain conditions before it is willing to take part in the referendum. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pay close attention to what my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) said about the character of the referendum, and will give us a better idea than we have now about what sort of referendum it is to be, and what is to be the participation of the Africans in deciding on the very important constitutional proposals which may affect the future of their country for a very long time.
The conditions which they have mentioned are, first, that the Federal Government should desist from interference in the Northern Rhodesian talks. I hope and trust that the recent statements by our own Prime Minister will reassure them on that. The right hon. Gentleman said last night—not for the first time, and he said it categorically—that the Federal Government is not expected to make any constitutional proposals for Northern Rhodesia, but that the United Federal Party within Northern Rhodesia is entitled to do so and can do so, but within the framework of what has already been laid down by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. That is a not unacceptable proposition and one which, if properly explained to the Africans, they might well accept.
Their second condition is a substantial improvement in the apportionment of land. I have already dealt with that. They are right to draw attention to the need for some sort of undertaking about that to be given quickly. Their third condition is concerned with the make-up of the Constitutional Council. I have already said that they are entitled quickly to have better information about how that council is to be chosen. Their last condition is the release of detainees and permission for meetings.
I have already said that I hope that in the new Constitution there will be genuine provision for human rights and for habeas corpus and I hope that, recognising that that is bound to happen and ought to be embodied in any civilised Constitution, the Southern Rhodesian 728 Government will be prepared to make a gesture which will satisfy the African leaders, at any rate for the time being, and induce them to go further with the proposals.
We have a great deal of explanation to give to Africans, if possible in their own languages, so that they can fully understand what it is that they are being asked to agree to and are not asked to buy a pig in a poke.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
I do not think that anybody is being asked to buy a pig in a poke. The arrangements which are set out in the White Paper have been carefully thought out and thoroughly discussed with all concerned. I cannot agree with the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) when he says that the Conference was too hasty, or that the decisions were rushed and that the African representatives could not understand what they were agreeing to because of their imperfect knowledge of English and the implications of the law.
Personally, I have much admired their remarkable mastery of the English language. As for legal implications, one member of the National Democratic Party delegation was Mr. Chitepo, who is an outstanding barrister in Southern Rhodesia. I would be the last to allow anything to go through if I did not think that everybody understood exactly what was being agreed.
I emphasise that the proceedings in this Conference, which ended with the issue of the White Paper, were of the utmost significance for the constitutional history of Southern Rhodesia. For the first time in the history of that Colony members of all races met together to consider the future constitution of their country. It was a quite remarkable event. In a conference of this kind it was naturally not to be expected that everybody, or, for that matter, anybody, would be wholly satisfied. There was, however, a wide area of agreement, far wider than most people thought possible, certainly far wider than I thought possible at the start.
The new Constitution will make some far-reaching changes. Though the Africans may have asked for more, and 729 they certainly did, I think that it must be pointed out that at present Africans have no representation in the Parliament of Southern Rhodesia and most people thought a month or two ago that they had very little prospect of obtaining any. The new Constitution will probably give them straight away nearly one-quarter of the seats in the new legislature. For the first time the Southern Rhodesia Constitution will enshrine a Declaration of Rights and other safeguards to protect liberty and prevent discrimination.
Furthermore, the people of Southern Rhodesia will now be given the power to amend their own Constitution, and I believe that that in itself is quite important. It is far better that a Constitution should be amended, provided there are due safeguards, by the processes of political pressures and the electoral system, than always by reference to an outside body, such as the Parliament here at Westminster.
As I have already explained, nothing we can do, no assurance I can give, not even an Act of Parliament here, can remove the inalienable power of this Parliament to legislate. At the same time, provision is made to ensure that basic safeguards, including, of course, the Declaration of Rights, may not be amended without the separate agreement by referendum of all the main racial communities. So we can be quite sure that no changes will be made in the Constitution which are to the disadvantage of any of the main racial communities. Does the right hon. Gentleman want to interrupt?
§ Mr. Marquand
I was only saying to my right hon. Friend that I hoped that the Secretary of State would put flesh on the bones of the skeleton he has presented.
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not know what skeleton the right hon. Gentleman is referring to.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the Land Apportionment Act. We all agree that that does represent a substantial measure of discrimination, though it does also contain certain safeguards for the Africans in respect of land. All I can say at the moment is that, as I think the right hon. Gentleman knows, a Select Committee of the Southern Rhodesian 730 Legislative Assembly reported a few months ago on this matter. The Committee recommended sweeping changes in the arrangements for land. The Southern Rhodesian Government are, I understand, considering this Report. I think that we all recognise that the problem is a complex one and does not lend itself to an overnight solution. Even though decisions may be taken, it is quite clear that it will take some time to work them out in orderly fashion.
Amendment of the Land Apportionment Act is a matter for the initiative of the Government of Southern Rhodesia, but from the discussions I have had there I have every reason for confidence that they intend to tackle this problem. It is, of course, basic to so many of the other matters which have been discussed in this debate.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the Constitutional Council and criticised the arrangements proposed in the White Paper on the ground that that council can be over-ruled by the Legislature. That is true. The function of the Constitutional Council is to examine legislation and then to report upon it. It is concerned not only with racial discrimination but with all matters contained in the Declaration of Rights. Its job is to look at legislation and to report, if it thinks necessary, to the Legislature that a particular Bill conflicts with the Declaration of Rights and to recommend that the Bill either should not be passed or should be repealed, as the case may be.
It is true that under paragraph 11 of the White Paper the Legislature need not accept the Constitutional Council's recommendation; it is given power, either by a two-thirds majority immediately, or by a simple majority after a period of months, to confirm the Bill and to pass it into law. The reason for that is that we thought—incidentally, the African members of the Conference were very strong on this—that it was not a good thing to set up the Constitutional Council as a rival to the courts.
The real safeguard which we are providing for the observation of human rights is contained not here, but in paragraph 7, which says that any lawpassed after the enactment of the new Constitution, which contravened the provisions of the Declaration of Rights, should be invalid.731 It is the job of the courts to decide whether a law is valid or invalid. The Constitutional Council is there primarily to help the Legislature not to pass laws which will subsequently be declared to be invalid.
However, this provides a very important safeguard. In cases where the Legislature confirms a law which the Constitutional Council has said conflicts with the Declaration of Rights, paragraph 14, provides thatThe Constitutional Council should be entitled to assist in bringing a suitable case before the Courts, for the purpose of testing the validity of any legislation which had been passed or retained notwithstanding the adverse opinion of the Constitutional Council and the Council should be entitled to defray any necessary legal expenses.We have thus made it clear that where the Legislature confirms a law which the Constitutional Council has declared to be contrary to the Declaration of Rights, we do not leave it to chance or to some citizen who perhaps has not the means to bring an effective case before the courts; we empower the Constitutional Council to initiate proceedings, to choose a suitable test case and to bring it before the courts and so test the validity of the law. I think that it will be found to be better to rely on the courts to decide whether something conflicts with the Constitution than to set up a separate body, which would essentially come into conflict with the courts of law. I hope that on further reflection the right hon. Gentleman will agree that perhaps that is the best way to handle a matter of this kind.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) did not agree that the Constitutional Council should be concerned with ensuring only that laws were not unfairly discriminatory. He considered that all laws which were discriminatory ought to be invalid, and asked whether only laws which were flagrantly discriminatory would be barred. Again, I would ask him to think carefully on this matter. We mean what we say—that laws should not be unfairly discriminatory. That does not mean to say that it is not sometimes necessary for laws to be discriminatory. There are a number of discriminatory laws which it is necessary to have on the 732 Statute Book of Southern Rhodesia. So long as the Africans have not got full political rights it is essential that certain things should be safeguarded, such as land rights and native land reserves. They are discriminatory in favour of the Africans. A certain discrimination is unavoidable and necessary. I am sure that if we discussed all these matters with the Africans they would be the first to say that they did not want all these laws which are discriminatory, but not unfairly so, to be swept away. In fact, they have made that clear. The hon. Member will realise what lies behind that phrase.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East, the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) and the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East spoke about the fact that the new Constitution will not make invalid existing laws which are discriminatory or which conflict with the Declaration of Rights. That is a very important point, and I am glad that it has been raised. The Constitutional Council will have the power to draw the attention of the Legislative Assembly to any existing laws—that is to say, laws passed before the new Constitution comes into force—which in the opinion of the Constitutional Council are inconsistent with the provisions of the Declaration of Rights and should be amended.
But the counts will not have the right to declare invalid existing laws which conflict with the Declaration of Rights. That has arisen in this way: the Constitutional Council and the Declaration of Rights are designed to provide safeguards in substitution for the safeguards at present provided by the British Government's reserve powers. Our present reserve powers, apart from our inalienable power of legislation, do not enable the British Government to annul or amend any existing legislation once it has been in force for one year. It will be seen that the new constitutional safeguards are at least equally as effective as, and in my view much more effective than, the obsolescent powers they will replace. Another important point is that the new arrangements are designed to provide protection not only for Africans but for people of all races, and this may be of significance in the future.
733 The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East said that Africans could not be expected to agree to a Declaration of Rights which does not apply retrospectively to existing legislation. All I would say is that that is not the view of prominent Africans who took part in this discussion. I should like to read an extract from a speech made only a few days ago by the Rev. N. Sithole, a leading official of the National Democratic Party, who took a different view. He warmly welcomed the Declaration of Rights. I have here an extract from a report in a Southern Rhodesian newspaper, which says:The Rev. N. Sithole, a leading National Democratic Party official, told an enthusiastic crowd of several hundred Europeans and Africans in Bulawayo yesterday that the doctrine of white supremacy and the colour bar would be swept away when the Colony's constitution entrenched a declaration of rights.He went on to deal precisely with the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman and said that it might not be retrospective to laws already in force, but that the political pressure it would create would help to resolve this. I believe it is not an insignificant power which we give to the Constitutional Council, the power to draw attention to the existing laws which conflict with the Declaration of Rights. We must assume that there will be a general movement of thought in the territory in the direction we want, and that, where laws are unfairly discriminatory, although they have been passed before the new Constitution, public opinion and political pressure will more and more result in their removal or amendment.
The right hon Gentleman asked whether the Declaration of Rights would include the principle of habeas corpus, by which, I assume, he means that there would be no imprisonment except in accordance with due process of law. I can assure him that I do not think that any Declaration of Rights which did not contain that broad principle would be complete and he may be assured that that matter will be dealt with.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
On that very important point, will the right hon. Gentleman look at paragraph (d) in the points on the Declaration of Rights in the White Paper, where it says:While the right of the individual should be protected, the State should nevertheless be 734 enabled to assume and exercise whatever powers may be necessary in peace and war for the purpose of"—among other things, law and order. Unless the Secretary of State is very careful to implement the assurances which he has given to the House, and for which we are grateful, would not that justify the presence of the enactment my hon. Friend though so deplorable?
§ Mr. Sandys
That is a difficulty in any Declaration of Rights. One comes across it everywhere, if the hon. Gentleman looks at any Declaration of Rights, whether of the United Nations or of any of the various countries where there is a new Constitution. In the end, there always has to be some provision giving the State, which has the ultimate responsibility for the safety and well-being of the people, an ultimate power to do what is necessary to discharge its obligations. In this country we have that power. We declare a state of emergency when there is to be a railway strike, or something of that kind. All sorts of emergencies have to be dealt with from time to time and, in those circumstances, the ordinary law does not prevail. I think that it is inevitable. We were aware of this and it was fully discussed at the Conference.
I think that it is inescapable. One must leave something to the pressure of public opinion. But it would be a gross breach of the spirit of the constitution if emergency legislation were allowed to stand as part of the permanent law of the land.
The hon. Member for Wednesbury referred to my speech yesterday and said that I was not correct in claiming that, unlike South Africa, Southern Rhodesia was endeavouring to eliminate discrimination. I do not think that his was an altogether fair statement. He may, of course, criticise the pace of progress, but he cannot really dispute that things are definitely moving in the right direction.
Lord Monckton, in his Report, lists a number of the steps which have been taken to remove discriminatory practices of various kinds. It will be seen that, on pages 75 and 76, the Report sums it up in this way:While these are only beginnings, they do mark a trend which is accelerating and is moving in precisely the opposite direction to the trend of present Government policy in the Union of South Africa.735 I believe that that is correct, and I am sure that the hon. Member would not wish to compare the racial policies in Southern Rhodesia with the racial policies in South Africa. That would be extremely unfair and extremely misleading.
The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East, the hon. Member for Wednesbury and others have referred to the fact that the National Democratic Party, particularly Mr. Nkomo, have made statements to the effect that they did not agree to anything, and that it was quite misleading on my part to suggest that they agreed to the Report of the Conference. That really is not so. I have allowed this to go for a long time, but I must answer that point and dispose of it. These are the points I should like to make in explanation of this situation.
First, let me explain that this Report was very fully discussed. The most important and difficult passages in it, the ones dealing with franchise and representation, were discussed by the Conference as a whole and in groups for a number of days. In fact, I suspended the Conference for about two days in order to have discussions with the various groups. The particular paragraph which gives rise to this difficulty, and which has been particularly repudiated by the National Democratic Party, is paragraph 18, of which these are the operative words:Nevertheless, while maintaining their respective positions, all groups (with the exception of the representatives of the Dominion Party) consider that the scheme outlined below should be introduced.That is the franchise and representation scheme. Since so much has been said, and it has been suggested that I have been guilty of bad faith in this matter, I feel that I am entitled to say quite clearly how this came about and how these words came to be introduced. Those words were words chosen by the representatives of the National Democratic Party themselves. It was they who drafted that particular sentence. I hope that I shall not be guilty of breach of confidence, but when one is accused of bad faith I think that one must tell the whole story. In the draft which they proposed and said they were prepared to agree to, there were not only these 736 words, but a further phrase at the end.
They added the words:and that it"—That is, the scheme—should be given a fair trial.They considered thatthe scheme outlined below should be introduced and that it should be given a fair trial.Those were the words which, several days before the end of the Conference, they said they were prepared to accept. When it came to the end, I said, "I do not want to make it too difficult for you. I know that you are going to have difficulties. I do not think that it is necessary to put those last words in.'and that it should be given a fair trial.'I am quite satisfied if you say that you consider the scheme should be introduced."
That is how it happened. I must complain about the accusations of bad faith and the suggestion that I have cheated them or been too smart by half. That is not so. These difficult and critical passages were the result of prolonged negotiation between the various groups. I had to see them separately and together and to go backwards and forwards. Words were altered and aspects of the franchise proposals were altered to try to suit one side or the other, and eventually we got this solution.
Of course they were not satisfied. The National Democratic Party made it clear from the beginning that it wanted "one man one vote." Nobody has ever questioned that. All it did agree to was that it would be a good thing, not having been able to get what it wanted, for this scheme to be introduced.
Mr. Nkomo, in his speech made almost immediately afterwards, welcomed certain parts, at any rate, of the Report, and claimed that they would be a stepping-stone and a half-way house to the ultimate goal. At the same time, he said things that suggested that he was repudiating the passage on franchise and representation.
I think I can prove effectively that there was agreement. I am not complaining about any change of mind there may have been afterwards. People are entitled to change their minds, especially when pressure is brought to bear on them, as I think there undoubtedly was here, by their followers.
737 When I saw his statement a few days after the Conference, which suggested some doubts as to whether Mr. Nkomo was accepting the Report of the Conference, I asked our British High Commissioner to find out what the position was. He received the following letter from Mr. Silundika, Secretary-General of the National Democratic Party—because I asked them to clarify the position:Dear High Commissioner,In view of the false impression which seems to have been created in the United Kingdom Press by Mr. Nkomo's statement today I should be grateful if you would inform Mr. Duncan Sandys, as Chairman of the Constitutional Conference, that he may issue the attached statement to the Press on behalf of the N.D.P.Yours sincerely,T. G. Silundika.This is the statement:For the avoidance of misunderstanding the National Democratic Party wish to make it clear that the statement that was made by the President, Mr. Nkomo, at his press conference today does not imply any repudiation of the report of the conclusions of the Constitutional Conference. He only wished to correct the impression conveyed in the local press regarding the N.D.P. attitude to the franchise and representation proposals outlined in the report, and to make it clear, as stated in paragraph 18 of the report, that the N.D.P. maintains its position and intends to continue the campaign for its objective of 'one man one vote'.Nobody has ever suggested that the party was not entitled to maintain its position and to campaign for what it has always said it wanted. But the important thing is that this statement makes it quite clear that agreement was reached, whatever may have happened afterwards.
738 What did happen afterwards was made very clear by a speech made by Mr. Nkomo himself. He said:A leader is he who expresses the wishes of his followers …He went on to say:No sane leader can disregard the voice of his people and supporters.And he then went on to explain:I am afraid to say that my followers are … enraged by the thought that the delegation"—that is, the N.D.P. delegation—accepted what is virtually a surrender …That is quite clear.
If any further doubt is still cast upon this, only just the other day Mr. Mawema, founder of the National Democratic Party was reported in this way in a newspaper out there:Mawema said it was not true that Nkomo did not originally accept the constitutional proposals, but Nkomo was now expressing the view of the rank-and-file of the party in 'damning the agreement'.I hope that I have said enough to explain the position. I ask the House to forgive me for explaining it at length, but I thought it right to clear the matter up.
I will not detain the House further. I hope I have dealt with as many points as possible.
I believe that this Constitution, though it does not satisfy everybody, or, for that matter, anybody, completely, does represent a major advance in the direction we all want to follow, and I think that it does credit to the representatives of both races who came together to work it out.