HC Deb 11 April 1963 vol 675 cc1449-55
1. Mr. Brockway

asked the First Secretary of State what representations he has received from the United Nations or its committee on colonialism regarding the constitution of Southern Rhodesia.

The First Secretary of State (Mr. R. A. Butler)

The hon. Member will be aware of the United Nations General Assembly Resolutions of 28th June, 12th October and 31st October, 1962, on this question. The Secretary General has also drawn attention to the terms of the Resolution of 31st October by correspondence. The Committee of Twenty-four also passed a Resolution on 8th April in which it was inter alia accepted that a sub-committee should come to London on 22nd April to represent the Committee's views to Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Brockway

Whilst not wishing to anticipate the statement which I understand the right hon. Gentleman will be making later in view of this very grave situation in Southern Rhodesia, more grave, probably, than anything which has happened in our sphere in Africa since the war, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would not consider that the good offices of the United Nations might make a contribution to its solution?

Mr. Butler

We do not recognise that the United Nations has powers of intervention in the affairs of Southern Rhodesia. All I can say is that we are meeting the Committee when it comes here.

Mr. Fell

That is what was worrying me. I thought I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that we were to meet the Committee. That is what I just cannot really understand—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member so far has made a statement. This is the time for Questions. Does the hon. Member wish to ask a Question?

Mr. Fell

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I thought a question was implicit in what I was saying.

Mr. H. Wilson

May I ask the First Secretary whether he will make it clear that all facilities will be given by the Government to this Committee when it comes?

Mr. Butler

We met the previous Committee which came over and several of Her Majesty's Ministers put themselves at the disposal of the Committee, and on this occasion we shall meet this Committee and do our best to answer its questions.

Mr. P. Williams

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us suspect that the United Nations have not got a tremendous amount of experience of administration in Africa, and while there is no particular reason why we should not try to open their eyes to the truth, responsibility does rest with the Government and no one else in this matter?

Mr. Butler

The primary responsibility rests with the Government of Southern Rhodesia, because we ourselves have limited powers of intervention under the constitution as it is now.

2. Mr. Wall

asked the First Secretary of State what answer has been given to the request of the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia for independence.

3. Mr. Strachey

asked the First Secretary of State whether he will now give an assurance that independence will not be granted to either Southern or Northern Rhodesia until new and more representative constitutions are in operation in these territories.

Mr. R. A. Butler

As regards Northern Rhodesia, I have nothing to add to what I said on 1st April about my discussions with Elected Ministers on the subject of further constitutional advance. The territory has not yet reached the stage of internal self-government.

As regards Southern Rhodesia, I have now concluded my talks with Mr. Dupont, the Minister of Justice, and I have sent a reply to the letter which Mr. Winston Field sent me making a formal request for independence to be granted to Southern Rhodesia on the first date on which either of the other territories is allowed to secede or obtains its independence. The Government are publishing this correspondence in a White Paper which will be available in the Vote Office at 11 o'clock this morning.

The reply indicates that we accept in principle that all the territories will proceed through the normal processes to independence. It goes on to point out that it would not in any event be possible to make Southern Rhodesia an independent country in the full sense of the word while she remains in the Federation which is not itself independent. Her Majesty's Government emphasise their view that there should be early discussions not only about the broad lines of a future relation. ship between the territories but also the transitional arrangements that will be required. Her Majesty's Government consider that it is only when such discussions have taken place that Southern Rhodesia, having regard to its membership of the Federation, may expect to be in the constitutional position to move to full independence.

Her Majesty's Government would also expect to convene a conference to discuss financial, defence, constitutional and other matters, which always have to be settled before self-governing dependencies are granted independence.

Mr. Wall

May I ask my right hon. Friend to give Mr. Field a clear answer, as he gave to Mr. Kaunda? Is he worried about the coming visit of the United Nations Committee? Is he aware that he will not get the conversations unless he makes up his mind to say either "Yes" or "No" to Mr. Field? When can we expect a positive answer on this vitally important matter?

Mr. Butler

It would be advisable if my hon. Friend would read the letter in toto. It not only sets out the difficulties which I think are legally sound, about the processes prior to the granting of full independence, but also raises with the Government of Southern Rhodesia the question of partial independence within the Federation, which they themselves have raised, and offers to discuss this with the Government of Southern Rhodesia. Therefore, I do not think my hon. Friend need jump to the conclusion that there will not be further discussions between our two Governments on this very intricate matter.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Strachey.

Mr. Strachey rose

Mr. Fell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am somewhat concerned about this. Just now my right hon. Friend said that if an hon. Friend of mine would read the letter he would then be able to form a judgment. But I think we were under the impression that my right hon. Friend was going to make a statement today at the end of Questions. I do not know whether this is still so, but if not, it puts us in an awfully difficult position if he is simply going to say that we should refer to a letter which we have not had a chance of reading.

Mr. Speaker

As far as I can discover, that does not raise any point of order. Mr. Strachey.

Mr. Strachey

Is the First Secretary aware that it is already clear that his statement will satisfy no one on either side of the House, and it certainly does not satisfy us, though for reasons opposite to those of the hon. Member who has just asked a question? Is he aware that in his first paragraph he gives no assurance whatever to Northern Rhodesia that it will proceed towards internal self-government—not independence, which is not proposed as the next step by anyone, but to real internal self-government—and that this is a most unfortunate omission for which we see no justification whatever? Is he further aware—this is the main point—that there is not a word in his statement of assurance that independence will not be granted to Southern Rhodesia until the constitution has been liberalised and until there is a franchise which enables the Africans to take part effectively in the Parliamentary life of that country? Indeed, there is a direct implication in his statement, is there not, that the only thing standing in the way of Southern Rhodesia's complete independence under its present white dictatorship is the temporary winding-up process of the Federation? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the attitude revealed in his statement today will receive the unrelenting opposition of this side of the House?

Mr. Butler

I indicated in my Answer that I had discussed the next stages towards self-government and eventual independence with the elected Ministers of Northern Rhodesia. That remains a matter about which I am in contact with them.

As to the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, my letter indicates that discussions at the independence conference would cover, besides finance and defence, constitutional and other questions, and Her Majesty's Government would feel free to raise any matter which they thought fit.

Sir H. Harrison

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in certain countries where we have granted independence we have seen the outcome of "one party" or "one man" rule? Would he agree with me that what is important in any country is that one can have a change of Government by peaceful means—by the ballot box? That is the situation in Southern Rhodesia. The franchise may not be as wide as some of us want, but at least we have had there a change of Government by peaceful means, and is not this sufficient for the granting of complete independence to Southern Rhodesia?

Mr. Butler

There are differences of opinion about the nature of the franchise. It is clear that if the property qualification is achieved a great deal could be done to liberalise the constitution, even under the present franchise under the present constitution. But these are precisely the sort of matters which may well be raised in further discussions.

Mr. Grimond

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether in the White Paper, which I have not yet been able to read, the allegations of Sir Roy Welensky against Her Majesty's Government are answered?

Secondly, when the right hon. Gentleman says that there will be a move by due process towards independence, is it not true that there is no precedent for giving independence to a territory for which we have been responsible unless there is a broadly-based democratic franchise? Although the right hon. Gentleman says that the franchise is in doubt, there is no doubt that the majority are disfranchised. If he is going to break with this precedent, will he consult the Commonwealth?

Lastly, may I ask whether the common services do not revert to Her Majesty's Government? Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the Government will not make further arrangements for these services until he is assured that a more liberal constitution is being inaugurated for these territories?

Mr. Butler

In answer to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, the White Paper does not refer to Sir Roy Welensky. It deals with the letter of the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia.

With regard to "due processes", I have already said that constitutional and other questions will be on the agenda for discussion at the independence conference.

As regards the common services, I have no further statement to make pending the reply of the Southern Rhodesian Government.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

As I have managed by the skin of my teeth to see the White Paper, I wonder whether I may ask some questions specifically on it. It would appear that there has been an attempt by Mr. Winston Field to tie independence to secession of any one of the territories, which my right hon. Friend declines to accept for reasons given in the White Paper, and which it would take too much time to quote. Also, there would seem to be an attempt to tie it up with the obtaining of independence by other territories. An answer to that point does not seem to be given in the White Paper. Does my right hon. Friend accept the principle that none of these territories should obtain independence one before the other but that there should be a general moving forward?

Mr. Butler

The territories are at very varying stages of advance. Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and South Rhodesia are all quite different. Southern Rhodesia has been virtually a self-governing Colony for forty years, Nyasaland had a self-governing constitution recently, and Northern Rhodesia has still to move into that position. Therefore, I could not guarantee that all the dates will be actually coincidental. I do not think I can say anything further in answer to my hon. Friend.

Mr. H. Wilson

While we all understand the need for the right hon. Gentleman to be equivocal about his intentions because of the conflicting pressures on him from his hon. Friends, some of whom take one view and some take another, will he give the House a clear assurance that there will be no question of granting independence to Southern Rhodesia until the country has a constitution which enables the mass of the people there to govern themselves? Is he aware that there should be no question of granting independence under a constitution where 250,000 people have the right to rule 3 million people?

Mr. Butler

I can make no further statement on that subject today beyond my reference to the fact that we are asking for, and, indeed, insisting upon, an independence conference to take place before the final decision is made—a conference at which Her Majesty's Government are free to raise any matter which they think fit.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have a miniature debate at the beginning of Question Time.