§ Again considered in Committee.
§ Mr. Marquand
It would be very unfortunate if so important a Measure as this, which might, for all we know, arouse great interest in many other Commonwealth countries, were taken at so late an hour so that those Commonwealth countries which are greatly interested would have little or no opportunity of knowing what was being said in the Committee about so important a matter.
I rose to move the Motion to give the Government an opportunity of considering whether it really was fair to ask the Committee now to embark upon what must inevitably be a fairly prolonged sitting if we are to do our duty and carefully to consider the Bill with the help of the various Amendments we have put 1042 down. It would be wrong, in our opinion, to embark upon this stage now. That is why we voted just now against the Motion to suspend the Standing Order. If it had been a reasonable thing to embark upon the Bill at this hour we would not have opposed that Motion.
We have given the Government an opportunity to consider whether they can make any accommodation with the Committee on this matter. I trust that the Government will tell us either that they intend to abandon the proceedings altogether, or that they do not intend to keep the Committee very long this night, but will give us an opportunity on some other occasion when we can debate the Bill in reasonable circumstances and when we can have a good attendance of Members, and, as I say, give an opportunity to other members of the Commonwealth to know what we are talking about.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
I think that the Committee will agree that this is an important Bill. The fact is known that on 31st May South Africa becomes a Republic. I think that this Bill is, in principle, desired by both sides of the Committee. It was announced as business for today, without objection being taken, and I would hope that the Committee would agree to see whether we can make reasonable progress tonight and see how we get on.
§ Mr. Marquand
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has said it was announced as business for today without any question being raised at that time, but I and those of us who are more especially interested in this Bill naturally assumed, from the way the announcement was made by the Leader of the House, that the North Atlantic Shipping Bill would not occupy the whole of the day. There was no 1044 suggestion at that time that the Standing Order would be suspended and that we might go on with this Bill late at night.
I trust that I have here the reputation of being a reasonable man. I would be willing to meet the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if we had some idea of what they mean by "reasonable". If, then, we proceed in a reasonable manner upon the first Amendment, and if we have a satisfactory debate, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman then think that we have made reasonable progress?
§ Question put and negatived.1045
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Marquand
I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, to leave out "one year" and to insert "six months".
This Amendment is one of great importance affecting what is in a way the major proposal of the Bill, namely, that there should be a standstill in our relations, particularly in respect of various laws, with South Africa for one year. South Africa is going to leave the Commonwealth without question on 31st May. If we are to follow what is suggested in the Clause we shall continue for a whole 12 months to act as though it had not left the Commonwealth.
When we debated this matter on Second Reading the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations advanced two main reasons for his proposal that the duration of the standstill should be as long as 12 months. The first reason that the right hon. Gentleman advanced was that it would be necessary before introducing the final legislation to review a considerable number of laws which otherwise would cease automatically to have effect on 31st May. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned no fewer than eleven statutes and said that they were only examples, indicating thereby, although he did not tell us what they were, that there were probably many other statutes which would have to be reviewed and on which the Government would have to make up their minds what alterations in the application of those statutes to South Africa they would wish to include in a final Bill.
The second argument that the right hon. Gentleman advanced was that besides looking at individual laws and seeing whether and how they needed modification in the new circumstances of South Africa being no longer a member of the Commonwealth, it was also necessary to review some of the more important aspects of the relationships of this country with the Union of South Africa. These are the general relationships in respect of matters for which no legislation is needed in the new circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned bilateral agreements between us, as, for example, our agreements on trade and defence. Unfortunately, the rules of order considerably curtailed our discussion of these general relations and I suppose that if they curtailed it then they will curtail it 1046 even more severely now. This is one of the reasons why we have not been able to examine the new situation as thoroughly as was necessary.
The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in winding up the debate went through all the major matters of relationships efficiently and courteously. I freely admit that the hon. Gentleman dealt with all the points of any importance raised in the debate. We make no complaint of the way in which he dealt with them, but when the hon. Gentleman finished he still left us unconvinced, despite the skill of his exposition, of the need for a twelve months' duration of this standstill. Even though the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend pointed out more than once that it was the outside limit and that they hoped to complete the process within twelve months, we still felt dissatisfied with the Government's attitude towards this general proposition of a twelve months' standstill.
When the Under-Secretary was explaining why he thought that twelve months were still necessary, he said:…we need time in which to work out the future pattern of our relationships with South Africa, to hold discussions on many complex subjects with the Union Government and to take the necesary legislative or other action.On that general question of relationships, the hon. Gentleman said that we needed time—without specifying why it should take so long to work out the future pattern.
On the question of trade with the Union of South Africa, the hon. Gentleman said:All I am saying is that we have carefully to consider the balance of advantage and disadvantage; we have to consider carefully the position we want in the future.In regard to the Sugar Agreement, he said:We are considering, therefore, what effect the departure from the Commonwealth of South Africa has upon her membership of the Agreement.Regarding the training of South African troops in this country, the hon. Gentleman said:If request for facilities of this kind are received in future from South Africa, they will have to be considered very carefully…On the question of nationality, he said:Clearly, the matter cannot be left there,"—1047 the hon. Gentleman was referring to the existing law—but how we dealt with it obviously requires our most careful thought."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1961; Vol. 638, c.171–8.]So at every important point we were told by the Government, in a courteous speech, that they did not have the faintest idea of what they were doing. I have reached the conclusion that they did not give any thought whatever to this subject.
It grieves hon. Members to feel that there has been on the part of the Government no thought devoted to the consideration of this Measure and that they were taken utterly unawares. Did not the Government remember what happened at the Prime Minister's Conference in May, 1960? It was common knowledge, widely reported in the world's newspapers, that there had been heated discussions about South Africa's racial policies, and that some had taken the view that membership of the Commonwealth was not compatible with those policies.
When the Prime Ministers summed up the conclusion of the 1960 Conference, they deliberately declared that the Commonwealth was a "multi-racial association". That statement was a clear indication that the majority at the Prime Ministers' Conference thought that the nature and character of the Commonwealth was such that it could hardly be acceptable to a Government which took exactly the opposite point of view, and which did not want to create a multi-racial association. They went on to say that, in 1961, if South Africa became a Republic in the meantime, she would have to come back to the Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference and ask for approval.
No one reading that statement of the Conference and having followed the events of the Conference—and the Government had better opportunities for doing that than anyone else—could doubt that South Africa's membership of the Commonwealth would be in question. No one who knew the depth of feeling among African and Asian members of the Commonwealth towards racial segregation, and the practice and doctrine of apartheid, could have doubted that this would be a great issue. No 1048 one could suppose that they would ask South Africa to come back, if she wanted to be in the Commonwealth, without realising that the question of her continued membership would come up. Yet, in all this intervening period of ten or 11 months, judging by what we have been told during the Second Reading, the Government have done no homework on this subject. They have not considered these matters and are not ready to say what they think ought to be done on any one of a series of very important questions. We were left by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations with a laconic speech which lasted only a quarter of an hour and told us scarcely anything. The Joint Under-Secretary was left to wind up the debate in no better position. It could hardly have been otherwise. If the Secretary of State was unwilling or unable to tell what the Government's policies were, the hon. Gentleman could not do so either.
So we say that we have reached a situation in which evidently the Government have procrastinated; but this is no excuse for procrastinating still further. Although the Government would not tell us anything about it, we must all have a pretty shrewd idea what the issues are, and everyone must have formed his own opinion on what ought to be done on each of these items. Surely it cannot be true that the Government have refused to consider these matters at all. Surely they must have a very good idea about what they intend to do. The legal arrangements and the necessary amendments which may need to be made in individual Statutes about nationality and many other issues must surely be comparatively simple because there are many precedents for them, for this is not the first time that a country has left the Commonwealth. These matters cannot really be as difficult as all that.
I cannot believe that Her Majesty's Government really did not consider all these things. If they are going to oppose my Amendment, they must say "No, it is perfectly true; we have given no consideration to these matters. We have no idea at all what ought to be done either about general relationships or about legislation to bring certain Statutes into conformity with the new set of circumstances." The Government have one or other of these alternatives to choose. I cannot believe that they have 1049 paid no attention whatever to the matter. I am sure that a great deal of thought must have been given to it in the intervening months, that work must have been going on inside the Department and that there are men there ready now to say exactly what is necessary about a whole wide range of these things.
Continued procrastination in the interval would be no excuse for further procrastination now, and we see no reason why this matter cannot be dealt with within six months. Indeed, we see good reason why we should not allow the period to be too long—because of the effect upon the outside world. If we take an unnecessarily long time over what, whether hon. Members like it or not, has now got to be done, it will be giving a wrong impression of the new situation. We shall be leading African opinion and, in particular, Asian opinion to believe that we really want no change at all or that there is to be no change. The value of the words of the Secretary of State to the effect that it must not be left to be supposed that to leave the Commonwealth makes no difference, will be washed away if we take 12 months. We hope that the Government will now say that they can do it in less time and so accept the suggestion which I have made.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
I can quite see the point of view of the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand). If one is a Socialist and has been proceeding for a number of years on the supposition that a great country like South Africa ought to be turned out of the Commonwealth in double quick time because of the iniquities of her offences, one makes every preparation in one's mind for the fact that the Government have scheduled out the whole thing and have prepared, Department by Department and sub-department by sub-department, for the inevitable event.
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right, from his point of view, to charge the Government with lack of foresight and lack of preparation, but on this side of the Committee we see the thing differently. It is true that there was a certain amount of row behind the scenes, so we are told, at the 1960 Prime Ministers' Conference, but that row did 1050 not come out very much in the open. Public opinion was not prepared for the calamitous event that was to fall within twelve months. Mr. Menzies was not making the sort of speeches he is now compelled to make through the turgid turn of events. Nor was Mr. Diefenbaker saying the same sort of things as he is now. They were not marching to the promised day when South Africa would leave the Commonwealth. They were hushing up, as fast and as long as they possibly could, all that happened at the 1960 Conference.
It was not very long ago—perhaps only a month or two before the last Conference—that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations was sent round the world on an inquiry. We all understood—and, no doubt, civil servants, public opinion and the newspapers understood—that he was doing his best to pacify some of these censorious Prime Ministers from the black Commonwealth who were supposed to be up in arms about the position of South Africa. The whole British community understood that this was what was happening.
Of course, no preparations were made by the Commonwealth Relations Department to plan for the event of South Africa leaving the Commonwealth. I can well understand the Government saying that they are unprepared and want a year in which to prepare. There is a completely different attitude as between the two sides of the Committee on this subject. I can well understand Members opposite. They are only too delighted about what has happened. I know that the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) is only too delighted to castigate the Government for not having every little detail prepared for the consequential retribution to be applied to South Africa for what she is supposed to have done. So is the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway).
The country at large, however, is not prepared. I hope that the Tory Government and the Tory Party are not prepared. Certainly, Tory opinion in the country is so shocked and horrified at what has happened that it is willing to give the Government not only a year but two years, three years, five years in which to work out the details. We would be 1051 prepared to see no change or action taken which would be inimical to the interests of South Africa, looking forward to that happy day when the British world comes to its senses and when South Africa will have made such changes as will enable us to welcome her back to the Commonwealth with open arms. Let sleeping dogs lie. Do not let us be driven by the ideological designs of Members opposite into a totally false situation.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
I am sorry that the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) made the speech to which we have just listened. It makes it very difficult for some of us to say what we would wish to say. It seems to me that we have to look at this in a commonsense way. Much to the regret of all hon. Members, South Africa has had to leave the Commonwealth because of her attitude to the black populations within her borders. That is a fact which we have to accept. The question arises, what are we to do in these circumstances?
We have had many years of close association with South Africa. There are hundreds of thousands of people of British birth living there who still look to this country as their home. To them it is very sad that all this has happened, and they look forward to South Africa coming back into the Commonwealth. As I indicated during the Second Reading debate, I, for one, do not want to say or to do anything to postpone the day when South Africa changes her present policy and is able to return. We have all sorts of ties with South Africa, through Acts of Parliament and in other directions, which have been built up over the years and now have to be severed or altered, and we have to consider what is the best method to deal with them.
The only question which arises on this Amendment is whether the period put into the Bill by the Government is reasonable. Ought it to be six months or the year which the Government are putting into the Bill, or ought it to be five years, as was said by the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South? On Second Reading the Minister—unfortunately he is unable to be with us tonight—indicated that he thought a year was 1052 reasonable and that if the Government could carry through the negotiations before then the House of Commons could rely on it to do so.
I am willing to accept the word of the right hon. Gentleman, for I know that there are all sorts of complicated matters to be considered and sorted out. If we want to make a gesture to those there who are still with us in spirit and want somehow to stay with us in the Commonwealth, we ought not to hurry too much to clear them out. What was the reason given on Second Reading by my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) and by other hon. Members on this side of the Committee and by one hon. Member opposite for thinking a year too long? It was that world opinion would be outraged if we make the period a year; that, in particular, the African and Asian populations in other parts of Africa would not understand. I think we under-rate their intelligence. The Ghananians, for example, and others will readily understand why a year is reasonable in the circumstances. If they do not understand, it is just too bad. We cannot always run our lives and carry out policies with one eye on the black populations in other parts of Africa.
It seems to me, however, that we underrate their intelligence. They will realise as well as anyone that this kind of thing takes time. They know what our policy is; that we are with them in their hatred of apartheid and this Government and this country will do their best to stand by the rest of Africa against the present policy of the South Africa Government. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friends will not press this Amendment to a Division.
With the long Summer Recess ahead, the distance away of South Africa and the negotiations to be carried through, a year is not too long. We want to make a gesture to our friends in South Africa who are still with us heart and soul and are heart-sick that this has fallen on their country. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will withdraw this Amendment and allow us to get on with the rest of the Bill without further delay.
§ Mr. Humphry Berkeley (Lancaster)
I warmly endorse the plea made to his own Front Bench by the right hon. 1053 Member for the Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall). I did not agree with all the sentiments expressed by my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), but I sense that there is a general feeling on both sides of the Committee that more time should be allowed for the unravelling of the many complications surrounding the departure of a country from the Commonwealth.
I am firmly of the opinion that it would be a great mistake if the prized membership of the Commonwealth could be lightly set aside. I adhere firmly to the principle of a country being either in the Commonwealth or outside it. I do not believe that it would be acceptable to the majority of people in this country that over a sustained period the Republic of South Africa could maintain the same relationship with the United Kingdom as she has done in the past.
I strongly press the spokesman on the Opposition Front Bench to realise that there are those on this side of the Committee who feel as great a sense of re-pugnance at the policy of apartheid as he does. Some of us feel, however, that the attitude of the Opposition, if they press the Amendment, may appear to be undignified and niggling.
I am not ashamed that the Government did not produce a carefully prepared plan to enable the departure of South Africa from the Commonwealth to be smoothly taken through all its stages in a few months. There were excellent reasons why the Government should not do this. The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) referred to the 1960 Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. I ask him to remember that, when the future constitutional relationship of South Africa to the Crown was discussed, it was brought up in a quite different sense from that in which any discussion had been held in the past. When the question of India remaining in the Commonwealth after becoming a republic was discussed, the necessary constitutional formalities had already taken place. The same is true of Pakistan.
When in 1960 the Commonwealth Prime Ministers were asked to approve the admission of Ghana to the Commonwealth 1054 after she became a republic, a plebiscite had taken place and President Nkrumah's candidature had been popularly endorsed. However, when the South African application was first mentioned at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in 1960, the plebiscite had not taken place. Indeed, it was far from certain at that time whether the plebiscite would go with the Government or against them. When the plebiscite eventually took place, a very narrow margin of those who were entitled to vote voted in favour of a republic.
My second point is that, as the question of South Africa's future had not already been settled in advance by the population of South Africa, or by those in South Africa entitled under the Constitution to vote, it was plainly premature for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers to pass judgment on the future constitutional relationship between South Africa and the remainder of the Commonwealth.
Therefore, for the most natural and obvious reasons, which did not apply in the case of India, Pakistan or Ghana, the Commonwealth Prime Ministers decided that the application could be considered only after the necessary constitutional formalities had taken place—that is to say, after the electorate had pronounced by plebiscite.
This being so, the British Government were quite right to take no steps whatever in advance to prejudge the issue and to take no steps whatever to prepare legislation which could be pushed through in a hurry. If it is the issue of apartheid that we are judging tonight, I would say two further things. I do not think any hon. Members has ever expressed in public support for apartheid, and most of us, I think, have expressed the strongest disapproval of it. I would also refer the right hon. Gentleman to the observations which were made at London Airport by President Nkrumah of Ghana on his departure from this country after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference of 1961, when he said in strikingly moderate terms that he very much regretted the fact that South Africa had left the Commonwealth, and he went on to say that if the South African Government had made the smallest gesture—I emphasise those 1055 words—he and his other Commonwealth colleagues, from the coloured Commonwealth primarily, would have been in favour of South Africa remaining inside the Commonwealth.
If one has that sort of moderate expression from a Commonwealth Prime Minister who is generally thought to be somewhat extreme, I think it only right and proper that our own Government should have taken what was in my view quite a constitutionally correct point of view. They should not have prejudged the issue, but when in the end the regrettable but, in my view, inevitable step was taken, that step should have been accepted.
I believe our Government are absolutely correct now in asking for a reasonable period of time, and a year cannot be called excessive in which to sort out these constitutional relationships. Nobody has pretended that things can go on as they were, but I would appeal to the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East to realise that though most of us regard the withdrawal of South Africa as being inevitable, we should try to make it a dignified procedure. Do not let us try at this stage to niggle over six months, nine months or a year. Let us recognise this as being a very serious and regrettable necessity, and try to see that the break, when it does come, is a dignified break, and let us do it in a way which none of us would afterwards regret.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
As I have listened to the speeches tonight my mind has gone back to the statement by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations at the conclusion of the debate when the Union of South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth. The Secretary of State then said that it must be made very clear that there is a distinction between States which are within and those which are outside the Commonwealth. He insisted in that speech that the Union of South Africa, having withdrawn from the Commonwealth, must be treated in a different way and that treaties and agreements between this Government and the Union of South Africa which depended upon her membership of the Commonwealth should cease. The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations made 1056 that quite clear also in the very brief speech with which he moved the Second Reading of this Bill.
I wish to support this Amendment on the ground of the contents of the speech of the Secretary of State when he moved the Second Reading of this Measure. The speech lasted only about a quarter of an hour and, in the course of it, he treated the whole subject as though it was nothing of great importance. He gave the impression that this was a quite incidental measure, dealing only with some small matters. He listed to the House the kind of treaties with the Union of South Africa which we must negotiate before the solution of this problem of our relationship can be settled. Indeed, they were a list of quite insignificant matters; a Merchant Shipping Act, the Colonial Probates Act, a Maintenance Orders Act, the Medical, Dentists, and Solicitors Acts, the Colonial Marriages Act, the Naval Prize (Procedure) Act, and the Evidence by Commission Act.
There were two more to which I shall refer in a moment, but I put it to the Committee tonight that measures of that kind, with a Commonwealth Relations Office and a responsive Government in the Union of South Africa which sought to clear up this situation—this unusual and unsatisfactory situation where the Union, having withdrawn from the Commonwealth and there being treaties between us—could be settled within six months. Any competent Commonwealth Relations Office, with a competent Minister, could settle the small matter of these Acts within the time we specify from our Front Bench tonight.
I should like now to refer to the two other measures of which the Secretary of State made mention in his short speech. The first was the Companies Act, 1948, and the second, in the rather curious phrase of the right hon. Gentleman, "even the Finance Act of last year". I emphasise that phrase, and I want to ask the Under-Secretary—because I want the facts on this matter—whether the Companies Act, 1948. does refer to matters such as trusteeship securities in the Union of South Africa. I particularly want to ask—and if it is possible I should be grateful for an answer immediately, although, of course, I shall understand if that is not possible 1057 —what it is in the Finance Act of last year which makes that Act appropriate and relevant to this Bill now before the House. If the Under-Secretary is able to answer immediately I shall give way now.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Bernard Braine)
I will endeavour to cover that point when I come to address the Committee. It would be preferable if I left individual points of that nature to my speech.
§ Mr. Brockway
Of course, I will accept that, but I think the hon. Gentleman will see why I have drawn attention to the point. In his own speech, when he was answering questions put from this side regarding our links with South Africa by trade—to use his own words—We share preferential advantages.he added,'None of these arrangements are affected by the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. Vol. 639, cols. 174–5, 24th April, 1961.]Imperial Preference is not affected, and I should like to know why the Finance Act of last year is affected by this Bill, and the Finance Act, 1919, which legalised Imperial Preference with South Africa, is unimpaired. If this year's Finance Act is relevant to the Bill, why is the Finance Act, 1919, which introduced Imperial Preferences, not affected by the Bill, and why does the question of Imperial Preference not arise? If Imperial Preference is to continue for one year, the Union of South Africa will for that period possess the advantages of membership of the Commonwealth which the Secretary of State himself has emphasised in two speeches must be ended when the Union moves out of the Commonwealth.
In order to be quite clear on the point, I will read the relevant provisions of the 1919 Finance Act. They are to be found in Section 8:With a view to conferring a preference in the case of Empire products, the duties of customs on the goods specified in the Second Schedule to this Act shall, on and after the dates provided for in that schedule, be charged at the reduced rates (hereinafter referred to as 'preferential rates') shown in the second column of that Schedule, where the goods are shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise to have been consigned from and grown, produced or manufactured in the British Empire.1058 For the purposes of this section—'The British Empire' means any of His Majesty's dominions outside Great Britain and Ireland and any territories under His Majesty's protection, and includes India".The point I make is that, if the Finance Act of this year in provisions referring to South Africa comes under this Bill, similarly the Finance Act, 1919, comes within it. If it does come within the Bill, then the speech of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in moving the Second Reading ought to have been much more comprehensive and adequate in dealing with matters of that kind.
There are other important Measures which, it seems to me, undoubtedly come under the Bill but to which the Secretary of State did not refer in his speech. We have an Amendment down which relates to the two Visiting Forces Acts, so I shall say no more about that now. The next are the Fugitive Offenders Acts, which are of tremendous importance at this time. When he re plies to the debate on whether the interim should be six or twelve months, will the Joint Under-Secretary of State give us a definite assurance about political refugees from the Union of South Africa who go to the Protectorates and other British territories? Will he give us an assurance that no political refugee will be turned back to the Union? Will he assure us that, unless an offence committed in the Union is an offence if committed in a Protectorate or a British territory, a man will not be turned back? Will he assure us that no one who is not guilty of an extraditable offence—
§ Sir Robert Grimston (Westbury)
On a point of order, Mr. Williams. Will my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State be in order in replying to all these questions on the Amendment now before the Committee?
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. W. R. Williams)
I have been listening carefully. I thought that what the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) wanted to find out was whether it was possible for some of these things to be done within a certain period, to enable him, I take it, to decide whether to vote for or against the 1059 Amendment. If that is his purpose, it is in order and the Under-Secretary will be able to reply to the point.
§ Mr. Brockway
Thank you, Mr. Williams. You have gathered the question that I was putting. On this important matter of the Fugitive Offenders Act, which comes under this Measure, I want to ask the Under-Secretary of State whether it might not be preferable, even from the drafting aspect, before the Bill comes into operation to amend the Order in Council which governs this problem and whether, even if the hon. Gentleman gives an undertaking in the House of Commons, there might be a magistrate's decision which is not in accordance with that undertaking.
I acknowledge at once that if all the matters to which I have referred come within the scope of this Measure, one could view with sympathy the Government's demand that they should have twelve months for settlement. Our difficulty is that when the Secretary of State introduced the Bill he made no mention of these larger issues. If the Bill is restricted to the quite minor issues that were mentioned by the Undersecretary, in our view there is no justification for the twelve months' period.
When the Minister said to us at the end of the debate on the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth that we must have a period to settle these matters, we agreed. If, however, he had said that it must be a period of twelve months, I think that all of us on this side, and some hon. Members opposite, would have been surprised and shocked by that length of time.
We have to face the fact that the Union of South Africa has withdrawn from the Commonwealth on an issue of deep principle which is felt acutely by the Asian and African members of the Commonwealth, by Canada and, despite what has been said otherwise, by the majority of people in this country, who view the system of apartheid with horror. We do not want a decision to be reached tonight which would seem to postpone the break beyond a reasonable period. It is for that reason that we have put forward the Amendment for six months.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
For 300 years there has been a bond of emotion, of friendship, of compassion 1060 and of understanding between Europe, on the one side, and European opinion in South Africa, on the other side. As a result of the decision of the South African Government at the recent Prime Ministers' Conference, South Africa is to withdraw from membership of the Commonwealth. This can be nothing but a mammoth tragedy for the Commonwealth, for South Africa and for Britain, too.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) has said, this is a time for taking a dignified stand on these matters. I would wish that Her Majesty's Ministers had behaved in as dignified a way as the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) did a few moments ago, but to have spoken, as some Ministers have done after South Africa's decision to depart from the Commonwealth, in a sneering, out-of-the-corner-of-the-mouth way of criticism after the event, is something which can do nothing but nauseate general public opinion. That Ministers have taken it upon themselves to criticise in a rather holier than thou attitude is something which repels most Conservatives and, I hope, though one cannot tell, the majority of the country.
I agree with my hon. Friend and my noble Friend on this matter, that to talk of a year is perhaps too short a time. When one looks back on the trading communications and defence systems which link this country with South Africa, it can be nothing but a tragedy that these events have taken place, and it makes them no less a tragedy to turn on our past friends, our past allies, our past comrades and criticise them for their internal domestic policies. For that is what we in this Committee and the House have been doing, and our delegates to the United Nations as well. I would have hoped that, at a moment like this, instead of talking of six months or 12 months we would perhaps have been talking of two or three years. To cut these bonds between ourselves and South Africa in all too short a time makes it well nigh impossible for South Africa to return to the Commonwealth at any stage should she ever wish to return, and I would have thought—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. What we are discussing is whether the time should be 12 months or six months, 1061 not more than 12 months. I hope the hon. Member will address himself to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Williams
That is exactly why I referred to the alternatives of six or 12 months, and in passing, as a number of other speakers have done, I also referred to the possibility of a longer period. As it is impossible in my particular case, apparently, to refer to anything longer than 12 months, I shall devote my few remaining remarks to the question of the six or 12 months.
I hope that the Government will take the maximum time, to get away from the sharpnesses and the bitternesses which arose during and out of the Prime Ministers' Conference, in the hope that as a result of allowing temperatures to come down and passions to subside a more balanced view may be taken of South Africa's rôle in the world and her rôle in relation to Britain's defence and our trading interests as well. I hope the Government will not be chivvied off this point, but will stand on the 12 months, so that we may proceed to have a new type of friendship and a new type of alliance and a new type of association with the Union of South Africa.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
I want to be brief, so I shall not spend much time in defending the Government which the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) has been attacking. Their action is preferable to the action which he wants. Nor do I intend to get out of order by referring to a longer period, but I want to know whether it is because the Government want to keep up relations with South Africa as they were before for as long a period as possible, or whether it is due to sheer incompetence, because it must be one or the other. I just do not know which it is.
I have been looking up one or two precedents, as other hon. Members have, and I find that, for instance, the treaty under which Burma left the Commonwealth was signed on 17th October, 1947, and that the Act effecting independence came in January, 1948, not a very long time afterwards. Ireland left on 18th April, 1949; the subsequent Act was in June, 1949. In neither instance was a long interval necessary. I know that that happened under a Labour Government 1062 here, and, naturally, I know the great proficiency of a Labour Government, and I presume that the Conservative Government are not as proficient, but it does seem strange that it should take such a very long time under a Conservative Government for these arrangements to be made.
The only reason I can suggest for it is that the Commonwealth Relations Office has, if I may so put it, been caught with its nether garments down and simply does not know what to do. I believe that that may well be the case. It simply does not understand the position at all. I should have thought that the possibilities of these eventualities occurring might have been foreseen and that preparations might have been made for them, but apparently nothing of the kind was done.
Take, for example, the question of citizenship. What happened in Ireland? So far as I understand it, people domiciled in Eire ceased to be British subjects.
§ Mr. Dugdale
The great majority of them did. The Burmese, too, except those normally resident in British territories, ceased to be British subjects. That decision was made not in a year but in a very short period. I should have thought that similar decisions could have been made this time. Many of the points dealt with by the Secretary of State in his speech were comparatively small and could have been dealt with fairly easily.
Some of the biggest questions are outside the scope of the Bill altogether, as the Secretary of State informed us, including the High Commission Territories and, it might well be, Imperial Preference, too. We have to do a relatively small number of things compared with the number of administrative decisions that are to be made. We want to make it as plain as possible that South Africa has left the Commonwealth and is no longer a member of it.
I said that the terms of the Bill may be due to the sheer incompetence of the Commonwealth Relations Office, but many of us fear that they may be due to a desire on the lines of that of Dr. Verwoerd who said at a dinner on 17th March:For South Africa and the United Kingdom and the other old friends this means new opportunity. They must seek to develop in 1063 other ways, untrammelled by the former problems, great bonds of friendship and cooperation to their mutual advantage. We are already working on these lines. Perhaps it is better this way, since sources of possible clash in most difficult situations fall away. Our trade and bilateral agreements, including the maintenance of the preferential trading arrangements. South Africa's membership of the Sterling area, and the value of our gold production, defence agreements with regard to a common enemy, etc., etc., need undergo no change. They can be re-endorsed in what our experts find to be the correct manner.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I disagree profoundly with the noble Lord, who thought we were wrong on the South African issue, but that it followed naturally from our policy. Having had this break with South Africa on South Africa's own choice on fundamental points, it would be wrong to prolong her remaining in, the Commonwealth for a day more than necessary, and we think that six months are quite long enough. We do not want a nice, coy arrangement which will allow people to forget Sharpeville and Langa and other atrocities in South Africa. We want to recognse that South Africa has left the Commonwealth. We want to make a clean break and to make it in six months.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
The right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) made an interesting comparison between Burma and South Africa and between Eire and South Africa, but I think that it would be possible to distinguish the Acts dealing with those countries and the present Bill. His comparison of Burma with South Africa was cold-blooded. The relationship which we have enjoyed for over 120 years with South Africa is much more involved and complex. Relations of people in this country have settled in South Africa. The majority of people in Burma were Burmese and the break with Burma was absolute and clean-cut. Presumably at the desire of the Burmese, it was to be permanent and there was no question of staying in the Commonwealth.
On the other hand the break with Eire was perhaps a break only in name, because a special relationship was recognised in her case. As the right hon. Gentleman will probably admit, even today citizens of Eire who come to this country are entitled to all the privileges 1064 of British citizenship after a comparatively brief residence. It is therefore possible to distinguish fairly between those Acts and this Bill.
I warmly support the whole tenor of the speech of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall). That is the mood in which we should approach this question without for a moment agreeing or approving of the idea of apartheid, with which we nearly all disagree.
There is a different sort of relationship between Britain and South Africa than between this country and the countries of the "newer" Commonwealth, if I may use that word. There is a kind of blood relationship. Though the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth will and must mean a new sort of relationship with that country, surely we can never feel towards South Africa as we do towards a foreign country. Therefore we need a considerable period in which to work out our difficulties. We need time to ponder on this relationship. After all, we are discussing a country to which many of our people have come and gone for generations past. Let us also remember that, from their point of view, many South Africans look upon London and Britain as their homeland. We cannot consider this matter in a cold-blooded way. To do that would be unworthy on the part of those who call themselves British.
I hope that, although we deeply regret what has happened, and while we in no way condone the causes which have led to this state of affairs, the mood expressed in the admirable speech of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley will prevail on both sides of the Committee.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
I am not so much concerned with the difference between six months and 12 months as I am with the use that is made of this standstill period. That is the important matter. If during this period certain Statutes are considered and some of the complicated legal points are looked into—but otherwise no changes are made—at the end of the standstill period Dr. Verwoerd and his friends will say that leaving the Commonwealth is of no great significance. That is the danger which I foresee.
1065 In the debate on 22nd March, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations used a paragraph in his winding-up speech which has not yet been quoted in our debate tonight, but which, I thought, was of great importance. He said:Yet, while applying for continued membership, the South African Government—and this is something which bit very deep into all other members—still firmly refuses to receive diplomatic representatives from any non-European members of the Commonwealth. This makes a mockery of consultation;…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1961; Vol. 637, c.529.]How can one carry on a Commonwealth under those circumstances?
Another quotation which has been referred to several times is the sentence which points out that we must be careful not to destroy the value of Commonwealth membership by giving to those who are not members all the privileges that are given to those who are. It is during this period of 12 months that we have to work out the true implications of that sentence.
Reference has been made to trade and tariffs. I do not believe that the Commonwealth can be held together by economic ties alone, but as long as Imperial Preference continues those preferences should be for those who are members of the Commonwealth, and I do not see how South Africa can expect to benefit from them.
It would confuse the issue to attempt to make too close comparisons between South Africa and Burma, or South Africa and Eire, without also looking into the economic consequences of leaving the Commonwealth.
I realise that we must consider the question of citizenship and status and, on the subject of political refugees, I was pleased to hear the views of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway). I hope that the Joint Undersecretary will reply to that.
I should like to make a brief comment on the subject of citizenship, which must be decided within the period that we are debating—
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
On a point of order, Mr. Williams. Is it in order to discuss citizenship when we have been told that it is outside the scope of the Bill?
§ The Temporary Chairman
I was just wondering where the hon. Member was getting to. Perhaps I ought to remind the Committee that what we are discussing now are the relative merits of 12 months and six months, and it would be just as well if hon. Members confined themselves to that.
§ Mr. Wade
Thank you, Mr. Williams. I appreciate that. The point that I wish to put to the Committee is that within this period certain very important decisions have to be made, particularly as regards citizenship. I should have thought that most of these decisions could have been made within a period of six months.
I cannot foresee the possibility of any permanent dual citizenship for inhabitants of the Union of South Africa, and I think a decision has to be made on that. Also, I do not think that legally the inhabitants of South-West Africa can be regarded as under British protection, and the only solution for any who leave South- West Africa is to grant something in the nature of a Nansen passport—
§ The Temporary Chairman
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is straying much too far for my liking, and if he cannot come back to the Amendment, I am afraid that he will have to resume his seat.
§ Mr. Wade
I must bring my remarks to a close, Mr. Williams, but I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will make some reference to the High Commission Territories which, obviously, are vitally affected by the departure of South Africa from the Commonwealth.
It is essential that it should be demonstrable to those outside the Commonwealth and to those within it that leaving the Commonwealth is a step of very serious importance and not one of little effect. Also, I hope that the Government will show their determination to protect those whom Britain is still legally empowered to protect, and, in particular, those who for one reason or another, mainly political, leave the Union of South Africa and ask for our protection.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
Once again we have cause to complain of the off-hand way in which the Government are treating the Bill. It is 1067 clear from the debate which has taken place that this is a very important Measure which raises points of substance and arouses deep feelings on both sides of the Committee. It is intolerable that we should have been expected to start the Committee stage of this Measure at such a late hour after an exhaustive debate on another major topic and at a time when the Minister responsible for the Bill is not able to be present and, therefore, is not able to answer the points of substance which we make.
I am very sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) made the speech he did.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. That point has already been resolved. I should like the hon. Lady to come to the Amendment now.
§ Mrs. Castle
I am on the Amendment, Mr. Williams. I was just about to refer to the speech made by my right hon. Friend, which was on the Amendment, who was certainly not called to order by you in the course of his speech.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I was not in the Chair when the right hon. Member for Colne Valley spoke. I am concerned only with whether hon. Members are in order on the Amendment when I am in the Chair.
§ Mrs. Castle
If you will allow me to complete my sentence, Mr. Williams, you will find that I am in order. I was going to say that I was sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley made his speech opposing the Amendment. It is not that I question the right of any right hon. or hon. Member to disagree with his own Front Bench, but I do question the wisdom of any right hon. or hon. Member on this side of the Committee agreeing on any colonial issue with the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), although—
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
If my hon. Friend thinks that I agreed with the noble Lord, she must have been asleep.
§ Mrs. Castle
Once again I have been interrupted before I could finish my 1068 sentence. I was going to say that I know perfectly well that my right hon. Friend does not share the same approach to the problem of South Africa as the noble Lord, but the danger—which is rapidly becoming apparent—of his speech is that it has been called in aid to support quite different purposes from those he had in mind and to lend support to a quite different approach to the question of how we are to deal with South Africa.
It has become quite clear in the course of the debate how wise we on this side of the Committee were to put down this Amendment, because those Members opposite who have opposed it so vigorously have shown that their reasons for doing so is that they object to South Africa's leaving the Commonwealth.
§ Mrs. Castle
I hope that the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) will not interrupt me, because I am just about to make an exception in his case. All Members opposite who have taken part in the debate, with his exception, would have been perfectly happy to see South Africa remain unconditionally within the Commonwealth. They believe that toleration of the apartheid policy of the South African Government is perfectly compatible with the continuation and the future health of the Commonwealth. We on this side violently disagree with that point of view, and that is why we are moving the Amendment.
I except from those remarks the speech made by the hon. Member for Lancaster, who made it clear that his reasons were very different, but I suggest to him that he has totally failed to appreciate a very important fact—that the argument for this Amendment has been made by the Government Front Bench. It was made during the Second Reading debate, in which we had a very remarkable distinction between the speeches of the Secretary of State at the beginning of the debate and the Under-Secretary of State at the end.
The Secretary of State told us of the matters covered by the Bill, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) has pointed out, they made a very unimportant list indeed. They covered such things as the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, the Colonial Probate Act, 1892, maintenance 1069 orders, and the Dentists Act, 1957. Having read out this list, the Secretary of State went on:Some of the issues of policy involved are reasonably straightforward; others are purely legal and should not be too difficult to resolve. But there are yet others which present quite difficult human and political problems which will, I think, require a good deal of careful thought."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1961: Vol. 639. c.103.]In that remark he was not referring to this list at all. I am sure that none of the Measures to which he referred will raise any deep human and political problems. The issues which do raise deep humane and political problems were dealt with by the Joint Under-Secretary of State. His speech was not about what was in the Bill but about what was not covered by the Bill.
If any hon. Member reads carefully the speech of the Joint Under-Secretary, he will be struck by the significant fact that all the issues to which we have referred to tonight are excluded from the scope of this Measure. The Simons-town Agreement of 1955 is not affected by the Bill. The customs agreement between the High Commission Territories and the Union of South Africa is not affected by the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough quoted the Joint Under-Secretary as saying that the preference arrangements are not affected by the Bill. Nor are the citizenship questions. The Joint Under-Secretary went out of his way to explain to me very laboriously, spelling it out in words of one syllable, that the British Nationality Acts of 1948 and 1958 did not make any reference to Dominion status or to Commonwealth relationships and, therefore, did not come within the scope of the Bill.
My answer is, why do we need 12 months to deal with those human and political issues which are not affected by the Bill? In justification for this period of time, the Joint Under-Secretary has argued that we must have 12 months to look at the whole complex pattern of our relations with the people of South Africa before we reach final decisions. We may need time for that, but we do not need a standstill arrangement on legislation as provided for in this Bill. The Bill is totally irrelevant to the complex problems for which the hon. 1070 Gentleman said that we need so much time.
This fact deepens a suspicion which I already held, that this Bill is not legislative important at all but merely psychologically. It is not a request by the Government to give the time that they must have before cataclysmic changes take place in Africa to study citizenship relations, customs relations and all the rest of it. It is a straight political move, an attempt to do what the noble Lady the Member for Dorset, South and other hon. Members opposite have been asking for tonight. It is an attempt to minimise the impact, the psychological and political impact, in South Africa of their severance from the Commonwealth.
We on this side of the Committee will not be a party to any such political move. I am convinced that the Government are attempting—and this Bill is part of the attempt—to produce, not a clean cut between Commonwealth membership and non-Commonwealth membership in the case of South Africa, but are preparing the way for the development of a new kind of special association between South Africa and the Commonwealth which will mitigate the shock to the South African people of the breaking of the Commonwealth tie.
We have already had a number of significant signs of the Government's intentions in this respect in the course of earlier debates. For instance, when the Secretary of State was challenged on the citizenship point by the Opposition Front Bench, he told us that we must not assume that South Africans will become aliens as a result of the breaking of the Commonwealth tie. We were also told that we must not assume that the turning of the High Commissioner into an Ambassador means that he will become responsible to the Foreign Office, as anyone who believed that the Commonwealth tie had been broken would assume.
The Under-Secretary went further. He said in answer to a question that he thought it was natural that the Ambassador should be responsible to the Commonwealth Relations Office. This is a new and very significant constitutional development. In answering questions about whether the Commonwealth preferences were to be continued in South Africa's case, the Under-Secretary 1071 said that in his view we should not lightly cast aside advantages of this kind.
Therefore, on the citizenship question, on the High Commissioner question, and on the Commonwealth Preference question, we have sinister signs that a new type of constitutional relationship is being prepared by the Government. Tonight we are being asked to pass this Clause giving the Government 12 months breathing space, not to deal with the legislative consequences involved in the Bill, but to prepare a new political move. If some such new association were to be evolved, it would clearly require the approval of the other Commonwealth Prime Ministers, who have collectively stated their attitude towards South Africa's membership of the Commonwealth.
Is the purpose of the 12-month period to bring us to the time of another Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference at which the Government will submit an entirely new suggestion in an attempt to salvage some of the wreckage of the last Conference? We on this side fear that the purpose of the Measure is not, as has been assumed by everybody, to give us time to deal with complicated questions, but rather that it is a psychological move designed to send this message to the people of South Africa, "Do not worry. You are not really outside the Commonwealth". That is why we move the Amendment. We on this side believe unalterably that there is no room in the Commonwealth, nor within a special association with the Commonwealth, for any people, whether they be of English blood or not, who condone and tolerate the policies of apartheid. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will stand firm by the Amendment, particularly in view of the attitude of mind revealed by so many hon. Members opposite tonight.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) having spoken as she has, I should like to appeal to the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) to respond to the appeal of his right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), who tonight, as on Second Reading, made a most remarkable and helpful contribution 1072 to our debate, and not to press this Amendment.
The hon. Member for Blackburn said that the Amendment was psychologically important. I agree. This Bill has now been printed for more than a month. It has been read and studied by the Government and people of South Africa, and if this House of Commons is going to alter the standstill period from one year to six months, I suggest that the effect on the South African people and indeed on wider opinion outside will be deplorable and that this House would stand condemned as having committed a vindictive, mean and contemptible act.
I know that a number of hon. Members opposite who specialise in human brotherhood want to pursue their vulgar vendetta against South Africa. We have had also the spectre of Campbell-Bannerman coming down from Huddersfield to attack South Africa, although it is to his party that we largely owe the deplorable state of affairs which we have now reached.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I will not go back to the record of the Liberal Party in relation to South Africa since the beginning of the century, but merely say that there are some hon. Members who have a vendetta against South Africa. I take the other view. I take the view that we need an association and an alliance with South Africa. We can dislike South Africa. We can attack her policy. I myself have criticised the policy of the present South African Government. We can be patronising about South Africans. But the fact is that we British in this dangerous world need a close association with South Africa for trade purposes, for purposes of the sterling area and for defence.
We should betray the interests of our constituents if we were to treat these matters lightly and if we were to do anything in this Committee which would make it more difficult for Her Majesty's Government to make new and satisfactory arrangements with the Union of South Africa which, in my opinion—others may differ from me—should be no less close than those that we have with the Republic of Ireland.
1073 This Amendment would only have the effect of poisoning our relations with the Union of South Africa, and I hope it will not be passed.
§ Mr. Braine
I fully understand the reason why the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) moved this Amendment, and I appreciate, as I think the whole Committee does, the clear and reasoned arguments that he advanced in its support. But, frankly, the speeches of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) and of my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) summed up the whole matter.
The right hon. Gentleman said that we should look at this matter in a common sense way. I agree. In our debate on the Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and I indicated why we thought that it was reasonable that the Bill should provide for a maximum period of 12 months. If we had thought that six months would be adequate, we would not have hesitated to make the necessary provision. The answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) is that there has been, and there will be, no procrastination. We are just as anxious as anybody in the Committee to secure as quickly as possible a reasonable, fair, and just settlement of all the issues involved. Uncertainty about the future profits nobody here or in South Africa.
This matter of timing has been given the most careful thought. While some of the matters we have to deal with are straightforward and not too difficult to resolve, others are technical and complex and, with the best will in the world and all the blandishments of the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, unforeseen difficulties may arise in connection with them.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
Would the Under-Secretary tell us what these complicated measures are?
§ Mr. Braine
I am endeavouring to answer the points which have been already raised by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. If the hon. and learned Member will permit me, I want to answer them as fully as I can. Clearly, 1074 we do not want to find ourselves at the end of a standstill period in a situation where we have to propose a further standstill because we allowed ourselves too little time in the first place. Parliament would not look upon us too kindly if we showed such lack of foresight. We must allow an adequate period, and the Government believes it to be 12 months. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bromwich, in support of an argument that we should rush forward with all speed, quoted to us the precedent of Burma. He said that that had taken nothing like 12 months. With respect, his memory is at fault, since no real parallel exists here. The only questions with Burma were preference and citizenship. My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), in his eloquent speech, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) both pointed out that the whole pattern of our relationship with South Africa is far more complex. So far as the Irish Republic is concerned, I am advised that it took a full year to work out the relationship in detailed discussion with other Commonwealth countries.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough East asked me why we needed so long a period. We should not forget that there are human considerations involved which, in our anxiety to get this matter settled as speedily as possible, the Committee should not overlook. I will tell the Committee what I have in mind. Even within the narrow scope of this Bill, there are statutes which have consequences that are important and personal for individual citizens.
There is, for example, one such provision which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) thought quite insignificant. I refer to the Colonial Probates Act. 1892, which enables the legal representatives of a person dying in South Africa with property in England to register for probate here and to obtain administration of the estate in this country. There is also the Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement) Act, 1920, under which a woman living in this country with a husband in South Africa may obtain here a provisional order for her maintenance which is then sent to South 1075 Africa for confirmation and enforcement. If there were no standstill period, that woman's redress would be lost on 31st May.
§ Mr. Brockway
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that it takes a whole year to negotiate matters like that?
§ Mr. Braine
No. Neither my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State nor I have ever contended that. What we have said is that 12 months represent the maximum period and that in many cases we hope to have these matters resolved before then. I will take the opportunity of saying now what I should have said later. We want the 12 months not merely to review Statutes of that kind, we need the 12 months to review not only these Statutes but the whole scope of our relations, whether or not they are affected by the Bill. We do not want to tackle the Statutes piecemeal without having completed our examination over the whole field. However, I do not want to be driven off my point about matters of personal and human concern because, although it does not seem to have entered the mind of the right hon. Member for West Bromwich, it is very much in the mind of the Government. I am sure that it is also in the minds of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley and the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East, who moved the Amendment.
Going back to the two Statutes I mentioned, the Committee will understand that the processes involved in such cases for individuals and their advisers would normally take some months. Another illustration, which, of course, is likely to affect very many people, is citizenship. We ought to allow, for instance, a South African citizen who wished to consider returning to this country and acquiring citizenship here a reasonable time in which to consider the position and make his arrangements. The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) suggests that these things can be done at a single stroke. But we have here matters which affect family and business relationships, and we must allow reasonable time.
In short, we ask for a year not merely to give elbow room to the two Governments to make their arrangements, but to give an opportunity to any private 1076 persons concerned to make their own arrangements and consider the future.
§ Mrs. Castle
The hon. Gentleman went to a great deal of trouble on Second Reading to tell me that the British Nationality Acts were not affected.
§ Mr. Braine
The hon. Lady chided me on Second Reading, when I wound up, for having referred to many matters which I said were outside the scope of the Bill. The reason should be manifest to her. Most of the points raised in the debate were outside the scope of the Bill, but, although I went very near to transgressing the bounds of order, I should, I think, have been guilty of some discourtesy to the House if I had not attempted to answer them.
§ Mrs. Castle
Will the hon. Gentleman please refer to what he said, as reported in HANSARD, 24th April, 1961, column 178? He made a categorical statement there that the British Nationality Acts of 1948 and 1958 were not covered by or affected by the Bill. Was he right then or not?
§ Mr. Braine
The hon. Lady presses that point and I will answer when I find the reference in HANSARD. Of course, the Bill arises because certain British Statutes would no longer have application after 3lst May, 1961, since South Africa would no longer be in the Commonwealth and they would lapse. The Bill has the effect of giving us a twelve months standstill period in order that we may settle, during that period, the arrangement which will obtain afterwards. The hon. Lady chided me for saying that the Bill did not affect the wider aspects of our relations such as nationality.
§ Mrs. Castle
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way again. Will he refer to what he then said:The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn thought that the Bill itself was concerned with the issue of citizenship and nationality. I must make it absolutely plain that this issue is not affected by the Bill".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1961; Vol. 639, c.178.]
§ Mr. Braine
That is so. The hon. Lady should have read on:All that the Bill does is to preserve the position for twelve months under Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament which make provision in relation to Her Majesty's Dominions, 1077 or describe South Africa by reference to membership of the Commonwealth and which, but for the Bill, would cease to have any application to South Africa after 31st May next.The relevant United Kingdom statutes governing the question of nationality are the British Nationality Acts of 1948 and 1958…. Section 1 (1) of the 1948 Act states that every person who is a citizen of a country named in the following subsection is a British subject. This subsection simply contains a list of the countries in question, including South Africa, without, however, any reference to membership of the Commonwealth. This will remain the position, even though South Africa leaves the Commonwealth on 31st May, unless and until the Nationality Acts are amended."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1961; Vol. 639, c.178–9.]I have said this over and over again. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady was not following me in the first place. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] All I am saying is that this is another reason why we shall need a 12-month period to get this difficult and complex question of nationality and citizenship resolved by May, 1962, by which time the Bill will have ceased to have effect.
The hon. Member for Eton and Slough asked about the position concerning certain other statutes and mentioned the Finance Acts, 1960 and 1919. Both of these come within the scope of the Bill and their provisions would lapse on 31st May but for the Bill. Section 38 of the Finance Act, 1960, provides for relief from Income Tax on retirement pensions paid under the superannuation scheme of a territory within the Commonwealth. It does not refer to the matter that the hon. Gentleman had in mind.
He then quoted from the Finance Act, 1919, on the subject of preference. It was a good point. The present provisions as to Commonwealth Preference, however, are contained in the Import Duties Act, 1958, which refers to Commonwealth countries, including South Africa. This, too, falls within the ambit of the Bill. The important point is that my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretry was talking about the trade agreement during the Second Reading. Although these are the Acts which facilitate our trading arrangements and give the bite to the trade agreement, to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred, that agreement will continue after 31st May and will be the subject of negotiation during the standstill period.
§ Mr. Brockway
I was referring to the hon. Gentleman's own speech. I ask him to look at the foot of column 174 and the top of column 175 for 24th April. He used these words:I should like to turn now to the question of economic links now and in the future. A number of hon. Members referred to this. We are closely linked to South Africa by trade. We share preferential advantages. We are both members of the same currency area. None of these arrangements are affected by the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1961; Vol. 639. c.174–5.]That includes preferential advantages. Now the hon. Gentleman is saying that that does not come within the terms of the Bill.
§ Mr. Braine
No. What I said was that the statutes do have effect and come within the scope of the Bill. But our trading arrangements with South Africa are governed by a bilateral trading agreement. We have to see what form our future trading relations with South Africa are to take. I am not prepared at this moment to say what form they shall take. Obviously, we must consult our own British interests in the matter. I would have thought that it should be our object, as far as possible, to safeguard existing agreements and the trade between countries rather than to diminish it.
I do not subscribe to the view of the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, who implied on Second Reading that she wanted to punish South Africa and that she would not be at all unhappy to see trade between our two countries falling off. I do not think that that is the view of the Committee as a whole or of the country. It is not a view that will commend itself to sensible people anywhere, although I understand why the hon. Lady holds it.
I want to emphasise, therefore, that the two Acts to which the hon. Gentleman referred are the Acts which give bite to the agreements, but it is about the agreement we shall have to negotiate in the next 12 months. He referred also to the Companies Act, 1948. This does not concern trustee securities as he thought. But it provides for United Kingdom companies carrying on business in any of Her Majesty's Dominions who keep a branch register there. We want to continue this for a year, and this Bill does that.
1079 The hon. Gentleman then turned to a far more important matter and one which, I think, must have been in the minds of many hon. Members. He turned to the question of the Fugitive Offenders Act, 1881, and asked about political refugees. This Act would lapse but for this Bill, and obviously before the end of the 12 months some new arrangement will have to be made; but for the moment there is no need for any anxiety on the score mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.
It is a matter for the courts of the High Commission Territories to order or to refuse to order the return of a person who is charged in South Africa with an offence against South African law who has been found in one of the territories and whose return is asked for under the Fugitive Offenders Act by the South African authorities. Let me give some support for what I am saying.
There is on record the case of Mubarak Ali Ahmed heard in 1952 before the then Lord Chief Justice and the present Lord Chief Justice. The court stated that in a proper case a court—for instance, one in the High Commission Territories—would apply the same rules with regard to an application under the Fugitive Offenders Act, as it does under the Extradition Act, 1870, and that if it appeared that the offence charged was in fact a political one, would refuse to return him. Hon. Members may recall a case heard in Basutoland as recently as January of this year, when a magistrate discharged four persons whose return to South Africa had been requested, having taken the view that the offence with which they were charged was of a political character. In any event, an order by a magistrate for the return of a prisoner under the Act is subject to appeal to the higher courts. I am sure the Committee will agree that what has already been ruled on the matter shows quite clearly that the position may be safely left as it is until legislation is passed to replace the present arrangements.
I repeat, therefore, that the Bill does not in itself cover some of the wider aspects of our relations with South Africa. Its only effect is to continue in force—this is the point which the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn does not seem able to grasp—for a fixed and limited period those Statutes of the 1080 United Kingdom and Colonial Territories which otherwise would cease to have effect in relation to South Africa after 31st May. My right hon. Friend gave some examples on Second Reading, and I do not think, apart from those I have already given, I need add any more.
I understood from the right hon. Gentleman that he really was anxious to find out why we needed this period of 12 months instead of a short period such as he has suggested.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
In view of the confusion which exists, will 12 months really be enough?
§ Mr. Braine
My right hon. Friend, when moving the Second Reading, thought that it would be ample and he said—I do not quote his exact words—he would be very surprised if we were not able to conclude matters before then. I hope that relieves the hon. and learned Member's anxiety on that point.
I can give the Committee an assurance that we intend to move in these complex matters as fast as we can. Shortening the statutory period within which we could act would not enable us to move any faster. On the contrary, it might cause the Government, Parliament, and perhaps individual citizens whose interests might be adversely affected, some considerable inconvenience, if, as I say, we ran into unforeseen difficulties which could not be resolved within the shorter period. For these reasons I hope the right hon. Gentleman will feel that he can withdraw his Amendment.
§ Mr. Marquand
I was glad to hear what the Under-Secretary said about the Fugitive Offenders Act, but I should like to have a little time to read it and consider whether more ought to be said about that important subject. I am sure that it will be in order when we reach the Motion, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, to raise the matter again after we have had a little time to study what the hon. Gentleman said.
On the question whether the period of standstill in South Africa's relationship with this country should be six months or 12 months, as I have said and as has been made abundantly clear in the debate, there are two main fields of activity. One is that of negotiation about our general relationship with South 1081 Africa on which we have heard again tonight there is a great deal to be done. The other is the field of study of how to apply to the changed circumstances particular laws the application of which might come to an end in this respect on 31st May.
I have heard nothing from the Undersecretary which makes me feel any more than I felt at the beginning that there is any reason why that second field of inquiry should not have been completed by now. It could have been and should have been completed. There was plenty of time and plenty of warning to get on with it. If that had been done, we should require only a period of negotiation in the other field, and we want negotiation. We can think of all kinds of matters that would need to be raised during that period.
The main issue whether we should have a six months' or a 12 months' period of standstill has evidently turned on the effect that our choice would have on opinion outside. Naturally, I was very interested in and paid close attention to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) said. He speaks with authority and in an attractive and persuasive manner. He asked whether in considering this matter we would not make a gesture to our friends in South Africa by withdrawing the Amendment and accepting a period of 12 months for negotiation. But we have made this gesture to our friends in South Africa many times.
At this late hour I should not like to attempt to traverse all that I said in the debate last April on the general policy of apartheid, when the House passed without a dissentient voice a condemnation of the practices and principles of apartheid. I said then how I knew South Africa, how I knew many people there, how I had visited the country twice and how I had appreciation and understanding of the attitude and feelings of many people there, not only of those of British descent but of many of my friends of Afrikaaner descent. We, of course, understand their difficulties and we recognise that they have a more difficult struggle against apartheid when they are surrounded by the troops of the Nationalist Government than we can have in just making speeches in the House of Commons.
We have made that gesture time and again from our Front Bench and from 1082 the Labour Party by telling our sup porters that we would be against the expulsion of South Africa from the Commonwealth. We said that on the eve of the last Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, because we felt that we did not wish to leave out the 10 million citizens of South Africa who are Africans in the sense that the word is used today or the 500,000 Asians or the 1½ million of mixed descent. We wanted to keep South Africa in the Commonwealth for the good of those people. Our sympathies are with them, and we understand and appreciate the circumstances in which they live—not the people of the white race, but suppressed people of the other races who have committed no crime except to have a different coloured skin from those who dominate their country.
The time has come when the whole situation has radically changed, not by the expulsion of South Africa, but by the withdrawal of that country—
§ The Chairman
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will come to his argument on whether the period should be six months or twelve months.
§ Mr. Marquand
I am relating my argument to what has already been said by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley and other hon. Gentlemen opposite who have implored us tonight to reconsider the effects of a gesture on the people in South Africa. One might have had more sympathy with those appeals to reconsider the need for a gesture, and perhaps to concede some alteration, if we had not heard the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) and the comments of the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams). Those hon. Members gave their case away. They proved that the longer we granted for the necessary negotiations and alterations in the law, the more it would be held to mean approval of the doctrines and principles of apartheid. Those hon. Members even went so far as to say that the period should be longer, and their remarks showed up the deep gulf that exists between us on this matter.
The remarks of those hon. Members attacked the Government's belief that the Commonwealth is strengthened by what has happened. That is the belief, which we share, that, regrettable as 1083 it is in some respects, the withdrawal of South Africa has strengthened the Commonwealth by giving it a new principle and a new standing in the world—a standing for the principle of abandonment of all forms of apartheid and racial discrimination. It is a belief in helping the various races that form the Common wealth to live together; to work for the great ideals of disarmament and world government, and so on. Admiration such as that expressed by the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) for brave men in South Africa—
§ Mr. Marquand
I merely wish to make a rebuttal of the suggestion that withdrawal of this Amendment would be a gesture of encouragement to the people of South Africa. We all want to encourage them and while their Government is making what The Times called a "Gadarine trek", I regard it as a great mistake to withdraw the Amendment. It would sound as if we had been converted by the arguments from the other side, to which apparently I am no longer entitled to refer. It would be gravely misunderstood not
§ only by African opinion, to which the noble Lord referred with some scorn. It would be misunderstood by the very people inside South Africa to whom hon. Gentlemen opposite say they want to appeal.
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ Those people would say that we had given in, that we were complacent, that by accepting the period laid down by the Government in this Measure for the necessary negotiations we were going to recognise the attitude which tries all the time, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) has said, to pretend that no change has taken place, that everything in the garden is lovely and that one day when someone makes a gesture or a speech which does not state the full policy of apartheid in all its horror South Africa will be allowed back into the Commonwealth. We are in favour of South Africa coming back into the Commonwealth when her racial policies had radically changed. Meanwhile, a period of negotiation is certainly necessary, but to prolong that period of negotiation would be to make our position entirely misunderstood, and so we will not withdraw our Amendment.
§ Question put, That "one year" stand part of the Clause:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 155, Noes 61.1085
|Division No. 152.]||AYES||[12.16 a.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Cleaver, Leonard||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)|
|Allason, James||Cooke, Robert||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Cooper, A. E.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Cordle, John||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Balniel, Lord||Corfield, F. V.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hendry, Forbes|
|Barter, John||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hiley, Joseph|
|Batsford, Brian||Curran, Charles||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Currie, G. B. H.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Berkeley, Humphry||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Doughty, Charles||Holland, Philip|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||du Cann, Edward||Hollingworth, John|
|Bishop, F. P.||Eden, John||Hopkins, Alan|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Box, Donald||Emery, Peter||Jackson, John|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Farr, John||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Fell, Anthony||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Braine, Bernard||Finlay, Graeme||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Fisher, Nigel||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Kirk, Peter|
|Bryan, Paul||Gammans, Lady||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Buck, Antony||Gibson-Watt, David||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Bullard, Denys||Goodhart, Philip||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Goodhew, Victor||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Gower, Raymond||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Chataway, Christopher||Green, Alan||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Grimston, Sir Robert||MacArthur, Ian|
|McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Pitt, Miss Edith||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Pott, Percivall||Turner, Colin|
|McMaster, Stanley R.||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Prior, J. M. L.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Maddan, Martin||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Pym, Francis||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Matthews., Gordon (Meriden)||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Mawby, Ray||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Walder, David|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Walker, Peter|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Ridsdale, Julian||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Mills, Stratton||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Watts, James|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Roots, William||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Nabarro, Gerald||Russell, Ronald||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Scott-Hopkins, James||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Seymour, Leslie||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Sharples, Richard||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Shaw, M.||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Partridge, E.||Skeet, T. H. H.||Woollam, John|
|Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Smith, Dudley(Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Peel, John||Smithers, Peter|
|Percival, Ian||Storey, Sir Samuel||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Studholme, Sir Henry||Mr. William Whitelaw and|
|Pilkington, Sir Richard||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)||Mr. Michael Noble.|
|Ainsley, William||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Ross, William|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Blackburn, F.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.)||McInnes, James||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Small, William|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Snow, Julian|
|Cliffe, Michael||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cronin, John||Manuel, A. C.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Delargy, Hugh||Mapp, Charles||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Diamond, John||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Mellish, R. J.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mendelson, J. J.||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Grey, Charles||Millan, Bruce||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Hayman, F. H.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip(Derby, S.)||Whitlock, William|
|Hilton, A. V.||Oram, A. E.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Parker, John||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Pentland, Norman|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Probert, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Mr. Edward Short and|
|Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Redhead, E. C.||Mr. Charles A. Howell.|
|Lawson, George||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
I beg to move,That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.I do not believe it was unreasonable that we should try to make progress with this Bill tonight. It was announced as part of the business for today not only last Thursday but the Thursday before. The Bill is urgent, the 31st May is the operative date for South Africa becoming a republic, and another place must deal with it as well as this Committee. I think hon. Members realise the need for this Bill, but we on the Government side want to make progress with it with good will. I think it is a House of Commons situation and, therefore, I am moving this Motion. The Bill must be put down for tomorrow's business, when we shall see how we get on with it.
§ Mr. Marquand
We recognise that this Bill must be passed; we have done so throughout. Our objection, and the reason why I moved the same Motion 1086 earlier, was because we thought a Measure of high constitutional importance should be taken at a reasonable hour. We have no objection to it being taken tomorrow, but I hope it does not mean that we shall embark on this business at ten o'clock at night.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.