§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I beg to move,That this House, being convinced of the vital importance of the Commonwealth to the world, conscious both of its intangible strength and of the strains that are being imposed upon its unity particularly by events in Central and Southern Africa, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to explore means of improving methods of Commonwealth consultation and co-operation in the political, economic and administrative fields, to study methods of promoting Commonwealth development, trade and aid, and to take action to improve Government machinery so as to ensure the immediate and effective presentation of the British point of view in particular to our partners in the Commonwealth.It is rather trite to say that the Commonwealth is at the crossroads, but I think that the need of the world for the Commonwealth has never been greater, and that the strains on Commonwealth unity have also never been stronger. The value of the Commonwealth is known to all hon. Members. It has been said that each member of the Commonwealth has independence-plus, namely, complete independence in its own right, plus the support of all the members of the partnership.
We must recognise that questions of race and of inequality of wealth are becoming dominant world issues. The Commonwealth provides the only bridge between the races, especially between the white and the coloured races. It also provides one of the bridges between the rich and the poor nations, and between those who adopt a form of Parliamentary democracy and those who practise some form of authoritarian regime.
Some hon. Members may quarrel with my statement that the Commonwealth is the only bridge between races. I am second to none in recognising the magnificent work done by the United Nations, but we must realise that on 574 racial issues it does not pretend to be impartial. Having sat in the Fourth Committee—the Colonial Committee—of the United Nations for three months I can say that on questions of colonialism or emotional issues involving racialism a white nation has no chance of an impartial hearing, or of obtaining justice.
This is only to be expected, because the United Nations itself, in December, 1960, passed a resolution saying that all colonial territories must concede the right of one man, one vote—that is, complete independence—immediately and quite irrespective of the consequences, either political or economic. It is for this reason that an ex-colonial Power or a colonial Power cannot secure a balanced judgment or put forward a balanced argument in the United Nations on these issues.
The United Nations must side with the majority, which consists of 52 representatives of Afro-Asian States plus the Soviet bloc. I believe the United Nations is now tending towards coercion, for example, in its resolutions on South Africa. The Commonwealth works only by persuasion. In the Commonwealth the larger or older members exercise the greater influence, but in the United Nations the smaller nations try to make the running.
The Commonwealth have the advantage of a common background, a common tradition and, in most cases, a common basic language. The partners, it is true, criticise each other, but very rarely do they openly attack one another. The main factor of Commonwealth strength that we all recognise is that countries remain in the Commonwealth because it is to their advantage to do so. May I say a word or two about the intangible strength of the Commonwealth? This is a factor little understood by our American friends, and indeed, by other allies and it is very difficult to define. I will touch on four main factors, tradition, consultation, citizenship and trade with aid.
On tradition, Parliamentary democracy is one of the unifying forces. Some people in this country might find it rather surprising, in view of happening in certain parts of the Commonwealth, to stress parliamentary democracy, but I would remind them of the words of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, when 575 speaking only last month. I quote two paragraphs of what he said:The emergence of many newly independent countries in Asia and Africa and the absence of democratic trappings in the set-up of many of them disturb some of the older members of the United Nations.He also said:It will be a mistake to assume that the political institutions in most of the newly independent countries will be of the same type as those prevailing in the United States or Britain, or that there will necessarily be two main parties competing against each other for the votes of the people. In many newly independent countries it is not unlikely that there will be a two-party system for many years to come.I think that that statement represents the facts. I believe that in due course most of the newer nations, both inside and outside the Commonwealth, will come back to our ideas and adapt some form of our Parliamentary democracy to their own particular requirements.
Then there is the whole great tradition associated with the rule of law, associated with the universities, associated with the military forces and the links and bonds which bind them to the Commonwealth forces and bind them and the Commonwealth together. The second factor is consultation. Of course, the Prime Ministers' conference is the summit and pinnacle of consultation, but Commonwealth Ministers also meet often on a functional basis in various parts of the world. The Under Secretary, when he wound up the previous debate on Commonwealth cooperation, pointed out that 35,000 telegrams from Government to Government passed through the Commonwealth Relations Office every year.
Then there is citizenship, a common citizenship or a special status for Commonwealth citizens, in every member country. It has always been said that the Commonwealth was built on trade. That is true. We have Commonwealth Preference and access to the London money market, Commonwealth funds and technical assistance in all forms. But the real strength of the Commonwealth is to be found in the fact that member countries stay in the Commonwealth because they know that it is to their benefit to do so. To cite one example of relatively small countries, one of which has left the Commonwealth and one has remained in—Burma with a population of about 19 million and Ghana with a population of 576 about 4 million—which of these two countries occupies a main place on the world stage? Ghana draws great strength from being a member of the Commonwealth. while Burma has lost a great deal by leaving our partnership.
What of the future? I believe the Commonwealth, as has been said many times, must, like any living organisation, expand or decay. We must consider how the Commonwealth of the future is likely to fit into the world of the future before we can decide how we can plan ahead. There are, I believe, three possible choices for the Commonwealth. The first is to build the Commonwealth into a world economic and political force. I am sure that we would all like to do this, but is it actually possible? The political difficulties are immense.
For example, there are the difficulties of approach between our Government and the Government of Ceylon or, in the same continent, the Governments of India and Pakistan. Again, in Africa, there are the differences of approach of the Governments of Nigeria and Ghana. From the economic point of view, we know that our economies are no longer complementary in the sense in which they were in previous years. It should be our aim to create a more unified Commonwealth, but we must recognise that it will be very difficult to achieve.
The second choice is to let the Commonwealth run on as it is today, with too little capital to finance development. If this were to happen the old Commonwealth would turn increasingly to the United States of America. I believe that racial issues might well cause the breakup of the new Commonwealth. The ultimate outcome could well be some form of new federation or even union between Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Southern Africa and the United States of America.
The third choice is one favoured by the Government, and which I might describe as the marriage of the Commonwealth to Europe. This would not only generate the required capital to develop the Commonwealth, but would bring closer together Britain and the new Commonwealth, and indeed, the new Commonwealth territories in Africa and Asia and the ex-French, Belgian and 577 Portuguese territories in those continents.
These are the three basic choices which face the Commonwealth within the next five to ten years. I think that we can all agree—whether this is right or wrong or whatever the choice may be—that we all stand to gain, this country and all partners in the Commonwealth stand to gain, by strengthening the existing links which bind us together. I shall now try to consider how this can be done. First and foremost, we must really believe in the Commonwealth and be prepared to work through the Commonwealth whenever this is possible. I believe that the main problems facing us are differing national policies, differing degrees of wealth and what I define as the need of countries for self-respect.
Before considering what should be done and making some suggestions, I should mention what has been done by successive Conservative Governments since 1951. Much has been done to bridge the differences between national policies. Except in 1952 there has been a Commonwealth conference—often a Prime Ministers' conference—every year. Our Prime Minister has visited more Commonwealth countries while in office than any other Prime Minister in history. Another example, which was not taken far enough, was the Monckton Commission, which, for the first time, had two Commonwealth members. I wish that we could develop this theme and bring Commonwealth countries to help us in our remaining colonial problems.
As to differences in wealth, I understand that financial assistance from this country to the under-developed countries in the Commonwealth in 1951 was about £63 million, whereas last year it was £170 million. In addition, there was private investment estimated at nearly £140 million. More is needed, as we all agree, but how is it to be found? This problem was raised by Professor Blackett in 1957. At that time he was making his presidential address to the British Association. He said that Western countries should produce about £1,000 million more to assist the underdeveloped countries of the world. The British contribution should be an additional £150 million.
578 The suggestion was wise in principle, but it was not quite so easy to put into effect in actual practice. It would be best answered by a letter which appeared in the Daily Telegraph, on 7th September, 1957, by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. J. Grimond), the Leader of the Liberal Party. He saidWhen a man of Professor Blackett's eminence talks so airily about providing an extra £150 million a year, it is incumbent on him to say quite specifically where it is to come from … What Professor Blackett is really asking for is higher taxation or forced savings. He ought to tell us which taxes are to be raised, or who is to be forcibly restrained from spending his earnings in the way he wants. The same comment applies, incidentally, to those Socialists who, having been instrumental in destroying the possibility of savings by inflation and nationalisation, now also call for higher investment.The point is made very well by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party. We all want to generate more capital for the under-developed countries, particularly those of the Commonwealth, but it is not quite so easy to see how it is to be done.
There are several other ways of assistance—defence and technical co-operation; the inducement pay concept brought forward some years ago to enable our civil servants to remain on serving in countries after they have become independent; the 60,000 overseas students in this country today, many of them from the Commonwealth; Commonwealth scholarships; and the Colombo Plan, which is a particularly fine example because it includes not only Commonwealth but foreign countries. Since 1951, £266 million has been spent on the Colombo Plan by this country and 4,000 people have been trained and 400 experts and £2 million worth of equipment have been supplied to the Colombo Plan countries.
The final problem I mentioned was that of self-respect. Nine former dependent countries have become fully sovereign independent members of the Commonwealth since 1951, and constitutional progress has been made in every territory from the Bahamas to Kenya.
Those are some solid achievements since the Conservative Government have been in power in this country, but what of the future? The three problems still remain—the problem of differences in 579 national policy, the problem of differences in wealth, and the need, particularly of the smaller countries, to demontrate their self-respect.
Let me take differences in national policy first. This is the most dangerous problem we have to face, particularly when these differences are augmented by racial differences. There is an immense need for toleration, and toleration can be obtained only by understanding and, therefore, by consultation. Yearly Commonwealth conferences have been suggested—they have occurred—attended by Prime Ministers whenever possible. But Prime Ministers are very busy people and cannot always get away. Nevertheless, there should be some form of Commonwealth conference every year. There is a good case for holding these conferences in rotation in each of the main Commonwealth countries. I know that the answer to this suggestion that one often receives is that the wives of Commonwealth Prime Ministers prefer to come to London because of the shops and theatres and other facilities of our great capital city, but the effect of holding conferences in capitals such as Delhi and Lagos would be very good.
I also suggest that the Chief Ministers of States which are still dependent should be called in to attend Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conferences. In some respects, this has happened. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that at the conference last year, prior to the economic decisions on the Common Market, dependent countries were asked to be represented, and I believe that that was a great success.
We could improve consultation and, therefore, understanding and, therefore, toleration by regional Commonwealth conferences on a functional basis which could well in themselves lead to the establishment of a secretariat, perhaps on the basis of the Colombo Plan secretariat. I know that there are the Caribbean Commission and the East African Common Services and other organistaions and that we do not want to formalise the Commonwealth into a rigid framework—if we do that, we risk the danger of destroying what we want to strengthen. On the other hand, we should take the initiative wherever possible to call regional conferences, because the matters discussed at those conferences 580 would mean so much more to the man in t he street than the world-shaking events which are discussed at Prime Ministers' conferences.
Then there is the suggestion put forward in the report of the Young Conservatives which was published in 1960—"A Changing Partnership"—which suggested a Commonwealth Council of Parliamentarians, larger than the existing C.P.A. conference, something on the lines of the Council of Europe. I am not suggesting a Commonwealth Parliament; that idea has been discussed in the past and knocked down by no less a person than the then Leader of the House in the other place, Lord Addison, who, on 7th February, 1948, said:… an organisation of that kind would not be acceptable, and would be stronly resented, in some countries of the Commonwealth …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 17th February, 1948; Vol. 153, c. 1158.]This suggested Council of Parliamentarians would be an advisory as opposed to an executive body.
There have been suggestions for having more Commonwealth representation in the House of Lords and suggestions for a Commonwealth Court of Appeal. I cannot follow up all these suggestions now. I throw them out merely in the hope that some of them will be taken up later in the debate. But we all agree that one of the essential factors which we have to think of in the future is seeing that all members of the Commonwealth, including, if necessary, ourselves, have a greater sense of the obligations rather than the advantages of membership.
I now come to some suggestions on the problems of redressing the disparity between the very rich and the very poor countries of the Commonwealth. First, we need expanding world trade, which could benefit the Commonwealth more than any other group in the world. I make a series of suggestions very briefly, just headlines, suggestions which have been taken from various groups of Conservatives thinking on these problems who have published pamphlets over the years since the last general election.
The first is "Wind of Change," which was published in 1960 and which, among other things, suggested world agreements stabilising the prices of primary products 581 and Commonwealth price stabilising arrangements. It stressed the need for increased investment and called for C.D.C. funds to be opened up to independent as well as dependent countries. I understand that this is now being done. In 1961, in a pamphlet called "Expanding Obligations," there was suggested the development or establishment of a Commonwealth development bank. I know that there are many arguments for and against this proposal, the main argument against it being that it would not generate new capital. But I suggest that the Government look at the success of the Common Market Overseas Development Fund, which is pouring far more capital into ex-French colonial territories than we are managing to inject into our ex-colonial territories.
This pamphlet also suggests a food bank to stockpile surpluses to be released as needed for payment in local counterpart funds against which independent countries would advance credit for the export of capital goods. There are other suggestions for varying degrees of preference: a first degree preference between Commonwealth industrial countries and Commonwealth raw material supplies; a second degree preference, between European industrial countries and Commonwealth raw material suppliers; and the third degree, between Commonwealth industrial countries and the raw material suppliers from Associated States of the Common Market. I do not have time to go into all these suggestions now, hut they should remind my hon. Friend that there have been many sensible suggestions by various groups of Conservatives in the years since the last general election.
I want to mention two more pamphlets. The first is that called "Call to the Commonwealth," produced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) last year. Among other things, they suggested the expansion of the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council to encourage research, co-operation and trade promotion. The Council, they said, should be staffed by Commonwealth officials with offices in every member country of the Commonwealth. Among the other excellent suggestions they made was the creation of Commonwealth 582 facilities for advanced business and management studies.
The other pamphlet, "Towards Victory over Poverty", published by the Conservative Commonwealth Council last year, stressed something which I have not seen stressed before—the importance of a policy of pre-investment prior to any major capital development scheme—and a matter which I know is dear to the heart of my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary—insurance against capital risk.
Finally, we had the brilliant speech in Harrow recently by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), in which he made a suggestion which he repeated in the budget debate. The House will recall that he suggested a Commonwealth Economic Development Council to—examine obstacles to growth of Commonwealth trade, devise ways to improve rate of economic growth within the Commonwealth by increased co-operation and mutual aid.These are part of a very large number of suggestions made in the last three years by people who have studied Commonwealth problems and I hope that the Government are giving very careful consideration to all of them.
I turn now to the heading of "self-respect". That is the need for any country—however big, however small—to wish to run its own affairs in its own way. Excluding territories in East Africa and in Central Africa which are likely to be independent in the very near future, there will still be over 20 small territories in the Commonwealth, many of them islands, from Pitcairn to Mauritius. We must plan their future.
I will give one example of what I believe was bad planning. Last year after he had won the General Election in Malta Dr. Borg Olivier, the Prime Minister, came over here to discuss amendments to the Constitution. He was here, I believe, five weeks. At each meeting he obtained a slight concession towards his point of view. It took him five weeks to obtain the changes in the Constitution which he wanted. He then came back a little later in the year to discuss the economic help that Britain could give Malta. He was here eight weeks. He left, I am sorry to say, with very little financial help assured him.
We must plan ahead for the future of these small territories. They want to run 583 their own show. Many of them want to remain linked with this country. In the case in point, Dr. Borg Olivier won the election on a pro-Commonwealth policy, on keeping Malta in the Commonwealth. The way he was treated when he came over here is not the way to influence people or to make friends. It was, I know, because of certain events, because, for example, my right hon. Friend had to go to Kenya, but with good planning ahead these things should not happen.
I believe that these countries will want to take their part in the formulation of Commonwealth policy and in Commonwealth consultation. I have already suggested that Chief Ministers should be encouraged to attend regional conferences of the Commonwealth. I believe that in the future we may well have to consider the grouping together of a number of the smaller territories in the Commonwealth which may select one of their members in turn to represent them at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference. Many of these small territories do not want to be independent. They want to retain their links with this country. On the other hand, they quite rightly want to run their own internal affairs.
I refer, for example, to the Bahamas, an island with a magnificent war record, an island which earns a very high percentage of dollars. Representatives of the island are coming over next month for a conference here. We wish them well. We hope that they can maintain the closest links between this country and their own. We appreciate that they do not really want independence. They really want a full say in their own internal affairs. I personally hope that they get it.
To conclude this section of my speech, may I remind my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that in 1959 the Conservative Party said this in its General Election manifesto:We shall discuss with our partners in the Commonwealth plans to deal with the status of members too small to be fully self-supporting and self-governing.Have we had those discussions? If so, what progress have we made? The fortress territories are essential to the security of the whole Commonwealth. It is not right that they should be garri- 584 soned by British troops rather than by Commonwealth troops. Should we not get Commonwealth countries to help us to solve colonial problems? I am thinking particularly of British Guiana. There is a racial problem there. Why cannot we invoke the help of Commonwealth countries, such as Trinidad and Jamaica, and get help from some of the countries in Africa and Asia whose own races are represented in British Guiana?
A suggestion has been made for a Commonwealth university, a Commonwealth Council of Education, and for improved facilities for emigration. The Government have made a certain amount of finance available for emigration. It has not been fully used up. This is an appalling state of affairs. Further, there are many private schemes, such as the Fairbridge Society, to encourage the emigration of youth from this country to Australia and Canada. I commend to my hon. Friend's attention a letter that appears in The Times today from the Commonwealth Migration Council. I hope that this matter will be discussed at the coming meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers.
Having made these suggestions for getting over the main problems—political, economic, and constitutional—may I briefly suggest some of the machinery which, I believe, will be needed to tackle these problems in the future? First, planning ahead. I have given some instances when it seems to me we were not planning ahead. Is there a body in the Commonwealth Relations Office which is specifically thinking ahead? I believe that after the war the Foreign Office introduced such a department—a planning ahead department. Is there the right kind of co-operation between the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office in handing over a country on independence to the new office?
Is the C.R.O. thinking of how it can best help these countries to tackle their special problems? Had there been real, careful planning ahead and real thought, some ten years ago, the Sudan and Somalia might well right now be in the Commonwealth. If we had really thought of East African Federation ten or twelve years ago and had produced a regional Constitution such as we now have in Kenya, for perhaps Tanganyika or Uganda, and if it had been accepted, we 585 might then have found 20 or so regions in East Africa which would be a wonderful basis to come together under one federal Government.
It is much more difficult to get federation when there are countries with such widely differing Constitutions as Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda, Zanzibar and the independent Somali Republic. This is water under the bridge, but it emphasises the lines on which I am thinking when I ask for forward planning and, therefore, for better machinery here in Whitehall.
I believe that it is right to amalgamate the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office. It has been indicated that this could be done only when the Colonial Office personnel have been run down—that is, after the independence of the territories in East and Central Africa. A first step has been taken by having one Minister over two Offices. This has not turned out very satisfactorily, because it is physically impossible for one man to run two great offices of State, particularly when they are in different buildings. It means that the queue of Prime Ministers and other Ministers waiting to see the Secretary of State causes the machine to clog up rather than having a unifying effect.
I come now to the question of one overseas Civil Service. I will not spend much time on this. I merely remind the House that there was a very good article on this subject in The Times of 22nd February, 1963. The need for two offices—a Commonwealth Office and the Foreign Office—is, I believe, still strong, but I also believe that we must have one overseas Civil Service, serving Britain in both foreign and Commonwealth countries. I believe that the division is between the members of the overseas Civil Service who serve Britain's interests abroad and members of, shall I call them, a Ministry of Overseas Aid who would normally be technical experts employed on short contracts, who would be British but would be seconded to foreign or Commonwealth countries to serve the Governments of those countries during their period of employment.
I know that the Plowden Committee is considering all these matters and I believe that its Report, when it is published, will be of fundamental importance to the Commonwealth. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to 586 report on the progress of this Committee when he winds up the debate.
I will only say this to my hon. Friend. I hope that he will not take it amiss. The last time we debated Commonwealth co-operation I made many suggestions. I have made many of them again today. If my hon. Friend studies the winding-up speech he then made he will find that he turned them all down, except one—the one in which he takes a special interest, that is, insurance against political risk. I hope that my hon. Friend will be more forward-looking when he speaks today.
I turn to my last subject—the dangers which lie ahead. As I said earlier, I believe that the main dangers which face the Commonwealth are political differences, particularly political differences which in some degree are based on race. I believe that there is a very dangerous tendency for race to become the dominant factor in world politics. That would be a very terrible thing and a great many people, including many hon. Members, have spent their time trying their best to prevent this happening.
We have political and racial problems in Fiji, Malaysia, British Guiana and Mauritius, as well as in East and Central Africa. There differences are not always between black and white. There are also national differences, sometimes based on religious or tribal rivalry. I have already referred to the political differences between India and Pakistan and we hope that they will soon be resolved. There is also the fundamental difference that occurs from time to time between Ghana and Nigeria.
I think that it will be generally accepted that probably the most serious and dangerous problem facing the Commonwealth in the months ahead is that of Central Africa. The Central African Federation, whatever else it did, created a barrier between black and white extremism between black extremists in the North and the white ones in the South. If we are not careful, Zambesi will become the line along which racial differences will become polarised, and that could only inflame racial difficulties which will affect the Commonwealth and even the world.
I believe that it is of paramount importance that at the earliest possible moment a conference should be called to 587 consider the orderly dismemberment of the Federation, to decide on common services, and so on. This, I believe, is an absolute prerequisite for any advance in Central Africa. Mr. Kaunda made a demand upon the British Government and declared that he would not attend such a conference unless the right of secession was given to Northern Rhodesia. It was granted.
Not unnaturally, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia made a similar demand, urging that his country should have the right to independence at the time, when either of the other two territories seceded or became independent. His demand has not yet been granted, nor has a satisfactory answer yet been given and I believe that delay in this matter can only make the position worse and lead to the intervention and stirring up of racial animosities on a wide scale.
This problem is of fundamental importance to the Commonwealth and to Britain, as well as to Central Africa, and I believe that the only possible solution now is a package deal on the basis of independence of all the three territories concerned. I believe that the three Governments would come together at a conference in Central Africa, provided that they were assured that each of those three countries could have independence when they wanted it. The conference could then consider things like common services, the future of civil servants, the Federal debt and many other things. These could all be discussed on the basis of sovereign equality.
I equally believe that at that conference there could be bilateral discussions with each of the countries and we could try to influence them to liberalise their Constitution. We could not obtain this liberalisation by coercion; only by influence. For Southern Rhodesia, we should urge the repeal of the Land Apportionment Act, the introduction of laws against discrimination in public places and possibly consideration of the franchise though already Africans outnumber whites by two to one if they only registered. I believe that the concession of the principle of independence to Southern Rhodesia is an essential prerequisite to any conference of the sort I have described.
I will not labour this point at great 588 length, except to urge the House to examine what could happen. If Her Majesty's Government decide to turn down Southern Rhodesia's demand for independence or, indeed, if the delay continues for much longer, the Government of Southern Rhodesia will no longer co-operate with this country. In that event, it will be extremely difficult, in fact virtually impossible, to dismember the Federation. How, for example, will one be able to apportion the Federal debt, which now stands at £281 million, plus the £57.7 million guaranteed by Britain? We will not be able to wash our hands of this great sum, this is yet another reason why this conference is vital.
If we do not have a conference of this sort the position will deteriorate and Southern Rhodesia might decide to stage a Boston Tea Party. In that case, the United Nations could take no military action, it is already in financial difficulties over the Congo, but would order us to send in our troops to subdue the colonial rebels. Are we really prepared to send our troops to subdue people who contributed no less than 52 per cent. of their white adult manpower to our cause during the Second World War? For these reasons, we should not allow ourselves to get into this sort of position.
If, on the other hand, the British Government say "Yes", I believe that there will be pressure from the United Nations and the new Commonwealth. If this is presented as a package deal we could overcome this pressure. Partition was the answer in India and Ireland and can be the solution in Central Africa; two black Governments to one white Government. If these countries could be given independence on the basis of all or none, all or none could then join the Commonwealth. This is the only way. Further delay could be fatal.
The moral arguments on democracy are not very strong. There is already the non-racial franchise in Southern Rhodesia, more repressive legislation in other parts of the Commonwealth than in South Africa; there is a great call for "one man, one vote", but for many countries in Africa it is one man, one vote, but for one man or one party only. In other words, there is no choice. I believe that there are few really demo- 589 cratic Parliaments on the Westminster pattern in Africa, and that there will be even fewer as the years pass. In twenty years' time, perhaps, they will adopt our system, adapting it to their own requirements, but this, as U Thant said, will take time.
Appeasement today would serve only to destroy the potential wealth of Southern Africa which is essential to bring the whole of the continent forward into the modern world. Our fundamental responsibility is to the masses of the African people, who will only suffer if economic progress is not made along the right lines.
As I said, I believe that a package deal is the only way out. It is the only answer and if we delay much longer a situation will be created which may mean that race will become the dominant factor, not only in Central Africa but throughout the world, and that could destroy the Commonwealth. I hope that this serious situation will be considered by the Prime Minister in the study group which, I understand, he is calling next week-end to discuss the position of this country and the Commonwealth in the world of the 1960s and 1970s, because we will all be affected by what happens in Central Africa during the next four weeks and months.
The Commonwealth has great strength, despite some great strains on its unity. However, let no one doubt that this strength is based on the advantages which each member draws from membership of the Commonwealth. We must increase this strength by foresight, by planning ahead and by a positive policy for both constitutional advance and economic development. Perhaps most important of all, we must make sure that our point of view is understood by our partners in the Commonwealth, even if they do not agree with it.
Conservatives have a great record, but a lot remains to be done by this Government and by the Conservative Government that will succeed it. I understand that the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley) will be the leading spokesman today for the Opposition. His interest in the Commonwealth is well known. He and I have travelled widely in it and I am pleased to be able to tell him that a number of people in the Commonwealth have said recently how glad they are to see him back in 590 the House of Commons and, once again, on the Opposition Front Bench.
§ 11.50 a.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I know that I express the general view of hon. Members when I congratulate the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) on selecting this important topic for debate. I also congratulate him on a remarkably comprehensive speech. He raised a whole range of political problems for which, if I may say so with respect, neither he nor, apparently, anyone else, can find an immediate solution.
I refer, in particular, to the political problems that confront Central Africa. It was entirely a matter for the hon. Gentleman's discretion, but I would have wished that that part of his speech might have been deferred for some other occasion. It seems to me that the political problems that have emerged in the African territories are of less importance and significance from their angle than the economic problems. However, I will deal with that in due course.
I have sought to catch your eye this morning, Mr. Speaker, for two reasons. The first is that yesterday I put to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations a Question on the subject of the proposed Commonwealth Economic Development Council. I regarded his reply as most unsatisfactory, and quite irrelevant to the situation that faces the Commonwealth of nations. My further reason is that there appears to be on the Government benches, and in Tory circles, an impression that we on this side are not interested in Commonwealth co-operation—
§ Mr. Shinwell
Observations to that effect have often been heard in this assembly, and if that impression still remains—
§ Mr. Shinwell
—I want to correct it.
Let me give an example. The right hon. and learned Member for the Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)—who has informed me, as he no doubt has informed other hon. Members, that he cannot be present because of a constituency engagement—the other day proposed to the Government the creation of a Commonwealth Economic Development Council. By some hon. Members that was regarded 591 as an original concept, but it was nothing of the sort. For the purposes of accuracy I delved into my files this morning, and discovered a copy of the Empire Review for March, 1944, in which I found the following:I am attracted to the idea of greater cooperation between the nations of the British Commonwealth, because I think it is an essential step to the preservation of order and to the development of the economics of abundance in the post-war world."—
§ Mr. Shinwell
That might be regarded as a platitudinous utterance, but the writer went on to say:This, I submit, is precisely what we have to do with the several going concerns that make up the British Commonwealth of Nations. Let us check up our colossal assets, many of which are capable of almost unbelievable development. Call it an Audit of Empire, if you like, but get the accountants to work without delay. Let us designate them as the British Commonwealth Research Council. They will tell us of the availability of raw materials, of industrial and manufacturing capacity, of the volume of investment capital, of food production capabilities, of transport facilities, of labour supply and working conditions—in fact, they will furnish all the relevant data upon which a scientific and abundant co-operative economy can be based.The hon. Member for Haltemprice may regard that as familiar language, and no doubt the right hon. and learned Member for the Wirral will also recognise in that language something familiar, and relevant to his proposal of a Commonwealth Economic Development Council. The hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) asked who the author was. That was an article that I wrote for the Empire Review in March, 1944, so we are discussing something that is not original but has been debated for a long period of years.
During the war, we had a very vigorous and constructive debate, in which I took part, on the subject of Commonwealth co-operation—which, by the way, was highly commended by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). It must not, therefore, be assumed that we on this side are uninterested in Commonwealth cooperation. At the same time, the hon. Member for Haltemprice, and other hon. and right hon. Members interested in the subject, must be realistic. It must not 592 be assumed that we can solve any of the problems now confronting us by merely indulging in platitudes.
I take one exception to what the hon. Gentleman said, and that was his reference to the achievements of successive Tory Governments in the sphere of Commonwealth co-operation and development. I do not seek to disparage their achievements, but I must tell them that what good they had achieved was destroyed by their attitude towards entry into the European Economic Community. In that connection I should like to quote a correspondent who wrote to me from Sydney, Australia, and who expressed himself much more vigorously than I can, and, perhaps, much more constructively. He wrote:When, oh when, will stupid Britain wake up? She's chasing this absurd European Common Market chimera which will bring her nought but ruin whilst markets galore are not just missed but thrown away by inept trade and selling and advertising practices. Opportunities, glorious ones, are passed up wholesale.That is my correspondent's interpretation of what I have just said. Considerable harm was done to the Commonwealth concept by our playing around—indeed, fooling around—with this idea of entering the Common Market. I hope that it will not be revived, because it will not do any good to the Commonwealth.
Another factor that inhibits us from developing the Commonwealth countries to the extent envisaged years ago is the change in military organisation. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, no longer depend primarily on Great Britain for military strength.
Leaving that aside—I do not propose to discuss the military aspects at all—there are glorious opportunities, to use the language of my correspondent. for the development of trade. This is the substantial issue that should be debated. Let us take, for example, the emergence of the new Commonwealth countries, with their independence and their peculiar democratic forms of Government. Perhaps I had better not say too much about that, but one can understand this natural ebullience, exuberance and new-found enthusiasm because they have been conceded independence. Naturally, if I may use a colloquial expression, they want to make a song and dance about it. but the fact is that without sound economic 593 foundation their political independence is not worth two pennyworth of gin, and if they were spoken to in such language it would do them a lot of good.
The question is what we are to do to cement Commonwealth relations. One thing which we must understand is what is happening in countries like Canada, Australia and, to some extent, New Zealand. What is happening before our very eyes is American penetration. Let us not disguise the fact because we do not wish to appear hostile to the United States. There is no question of hostility about it, but the fact remains that in a large part of the Australian continent, and certainly in Canada, American economic domination has reared its head. It will he frightfully difficult to prevent the Americans gaining effective economic control.
What are we going to do about it? Even in parts of Western Australia the Americans have bought large tracts of land. We are not sure what they intend to do with it. Anybody who has visited Sydney has seen what the Americans have done by the sale of motor cars and various kinds of equipment, machinery and capital and consumer goods. We must do something about this, but what and how?
Some time ago the Civil Lord of the Admiralty—and this is not a digression, it has a bearing on the subject—informed the House that the Australian Government had purchased three naval vessels from the United States. I asked questions to ascertain the cause of this. Why did not the Australian Government buy British naval vessels? We can produce just as good and as cheap vessels as the United States. The hon. Gentleman's answer was that it was merely a matter of competition. It was nothing of the sort. In his letter from Sydney my correspondent uses strong language, which for various reasons I prefer not to impart to hon. Members this morning, about the ineptitude of British salesmanship. He is right. We fail to advertise enough. Why not boast about our achievements and capabilities? Why leave it to the Americans?
Over and above American salesmanship and advertising technique, I sometimes wonder, and I put it no higher, whether some financial inducement is offered by the Americans which in con- 594 sequence leads to sales far in excess of ours. I merely pose the question. Unless we are prepared to advertise more and to let our friends in the Commonwealth countries understand what we are capable of in terms of trade and commerce and the production of capital and even consumer goods, obviously all the sentiment of Commonwealth relations will disappear in due course. We cannot rely on sentiment alone, although there is a sentimental attachment which naturally we welcome and desire to maintain.
§ Sir C. Osborne
Although I agree that we fall behind in salesmanship, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is not aware that a large section of his party complain bitterly of British industry spending too much on advertising and they want to cut it down?
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Member may be right. Some of my hon. Friends object to excessive advertising. I understand that their objection is to excessive advertising of cigarettes because of the effect of cigarette smoking on the health of our people. I was not aware that they objected to the advertising of capital goods. At any rate, that is not Labour Party policy. The Labour Party naturally wishes to build up and boost our exports. This, after all, is the crux of the problem. All the language and eloquence of the hon. Member for Haltemprice and all his constructive suggestions on economic and political lines will be of no value unless we can get down to brass tacks and decide how we are to improve mutual trade with the Commonwealth.
Obviously the old Commonwealth countries are countries with rising standards of living and increasing demands for consumer goods and, indeed, for capital goods. We must meet that demand, but at the same time we must be prepared to accept goods from those countries. We have to recognise that these are sovereign economic countries and they have to build up their standard of living and have to sell their goods just as we have to sell ours. These are facts which we must face. It is no use running away from them.
In order to do this, we must obviously bring the old Commonwealth countries together and hammer out solutions to these problems. The hon. Member for Haltemprice is right. There 595 must be a plan. It is no use indulging in improvised methods, having an occasional shot-in-the-arm technique and having a conference of Commonwealth Ministers whether in London, Sydney, Fremantle or Toronto. It does not matter in the least where the conference is held. What is important is what we are going to talk about and what we shall plan. Are we going to plan or are we merely to have functions and ceremonials and allow the ladies to indulge in shopping in Bond Street? We must face the unpalatable facts and the most unpalatable of the lot is increased economic penetration by the United States.
I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations will not give the same kind of answer that we had from his right hon. Friend yesterday—that everything is all right in this best of all capitalist worlds. I am not sure that I am paraphrasing him correctly. I hope that we shall not be told, as we were told, that we have been discussing trading arrangements with Commonwealth Ministers and that shortly there will be a meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers. This is no use. What will they talk about?
Will they face the realities of the situation or make up their minds that Commonwealth trade is dwindling, as indeed the protagonists of the Common Market were saying during the Common Market debates? It was said then that the Commonwealth trade did not matter as much as European Community trade. If they talk in that way we must make up our minds that the Commonwealth in due course, after the wave of sentiment has diminished, will disappear. We must prevent that. I am sure that my party wants to prevent it.
As I said when I quoted from the article in the Empire Review, we want to build up prosperity for Commonwealth peoples and help them build up their own standards of life. We believe that these are matters capable of coming to fruition.
I want to refer to the new Commonwealth countries. Some weeks ago we had a debate on the Budget and a little controversy about exports. I am all in favour of exports—but exports to where? I repeat what I said during the Budget 596 debate. We talk about advance factories for the purpose of producing something. For example, in my constituency, if I may mention a parochial matter, I have just heard that the people there are delighted because in our new town we are to have the benefit of a new wallpaper factory which is to employ altogether about 60 men and women. These are the kind of advance factories that we are talking about for the purpose of producing something, and at the end of it, the question arises what are we to do with the goods; where are we going to sell them? At home?
I should be glad, of course, to see the consumer demand raised to such a level that we can buy all that we can produce. But, of course, we cannot get on in that way; anyone with common sense knows it. We have to sell the goods somewhere. Where are we to sell them? I remember that many years ago in a debate in this House the late Philip Snowden, who became Lord Snowden, speaking on a similar subject, mentioned that if every Indian—he used the terms coolie, but I am sure that he meant no disrespect to our friends in India—had his shirt lengthened by one inch we could solve the problems of the Lancashire textile industry.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That was, of course, a little bizarre and extravagant, but it is perfectly true that if we could raise consumption in the new Commonwealth countries or in India or in one of the old Commonwealth countries we would find a market for our goods.
Now I come to how it is to be done. The hon. Member for Haltemprice dealt with the question of credits and finance. Obviously, we cannot do it alone. We make very valuable financial contributions in the way of Commonwealth development. I should like to see the credits increased and more finance provided, but I doubt whether we could do it. We spend money on a variety of other devices and expedients, whether constructive or destructive—I shall not enter into that controversy—but we cannot provide much more in the way of credit. In my view, it can only be done as a result of some consortium of Commonwealth countries. Canada, Australia and New Zealand could help more. At any rate we ought to try. If we require aid for 597 the purpose of providing credit for the new Commonwealth countries to enable them to buy our goods and raise their standard of living, I see no reason why we should not resort to international economic action. That is the sort of thing that the Government ought to be doing.
But the answers that we have from the Front Bench are: "Things are not so bad" or "We are having a meeting next week, or next year. The Commonwealth Prime Ministers will be meeting together and having a talky-talky. We shall then wait for another year to have another chat over the situation." If that is the attitude, then quite frankly I despair of this Commonwealth of Nations. I do not want to be in that situation, so I beg the Under-Secretary of State when he replies to the debate to depart from his brief, if that is possible for an hon. Member on the Front Bench opposite. Some of us do depart from our briefs and that is why we make such shockingly bad speeches.
I should not mind the hon. Gentleman making a shockingly bad speech. I should not mind The Times tomorrow morning, the Telegraph or even the Daily Express or the Daily Mirror saying that the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations made a shockingly bad speech but he did make a constructive suggestion. That would be important. A constructive suggestion would be that the Government have at long last recognised that now, because of the failure of the Common Market policy, they will take the initiative in calling together representatives from the Commonwealth countries, both old and new, for the purpose of creating an economic development council out of which mutual good could be provided for everyone of the countries and the people concerned. I want him to do something like that. If he does not do it we shall have more to say.
I add just this: all the eloquence of the hon. Member and the efforts that he must have made to put into his comprehensive speech all his constructive suggestions, and indeed all the constructive suggestions that we shall hear from the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), from the hon. Member for Louth, the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) and the hon. Member 598 for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers), will be wasted on the desert air unless the Government take action, because the power is vested in the Government and resides in them. Sometimes I think it unfortunate that far too much power resides in the Executive and too little in the legislature. Let the Under-Secretary depart from his brief and be constructive, even if he fails to be eloquent.
§ 12.16 p.m.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
I am grateful for the opportunity of participating in the debate and following the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who has made a characteristically stimulating and vigorous speech. At one stage he said that Conservatives tended to reproach members of his party with lack of interest in Commonwealth affairs. That is as it may be, but certainly no one would ever say that he personally lacks interest in these matters. In the Labour Party—perhaps it is not unique in that—some hon. Members are more interested in the Commonwealth than others, and he is certainly amongst those who are most interested.
I certainly wish to associate myself at once with the congratulations which the right hon. Gentleman so fittingly gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) for his initiative in raising this subject and for the skill and address with which he has done so. My hon. Friend has a deservedly high reputation in this House, not least for his enthusiasm and practical work for Commonwealth affairs; and the speech which he has made today, analytical, constructive and wholly admirable, will certainly tend to raise the already high regard in which he is held.
During the course of his speech, my hon. Friend rightly said that we must believe in the Commonwealth. I speak as one—I think that it is generally known—who believes in the Commonwealth—in its past, its present and its future. I am not one of those who think that the glory has departed, or that the Commonwealth of today is not a fitting successor to the Empire of yesterday. Nor, on the other hand, am I one of those who think that virtue has only entered the Commonwealth over the last few years.
I believe that the world as a whole, and the people primarily concerned in 599 particular, owe a great debt to so-called British colonialism for the contribution that it has made, civilising constitutional and commercial. I believe in the historic mission of the British people to guide the well-being of the dependent territories with whose responsibility they are charged, and conduct them along the great constitutional conveyor belt that leads to independence in the Commonwealth. Against that background, I wish to make, but only briefly, three points, each of them a constructive suggestion and a plea to the Government for specific and timely action.
The first of these is in the context of the G.A.T.T. It is time that the Commonwealth took a close, hard look at the G.A.T.T. and its effect upon Commonwealth Preference. I say that it is time. In my view, of course, it is well overdue. I have been on this theme for some time now, but no one can escape the conclusion that present circumstances make it even more urgent and imperative that this matter be reviewed.
It is vitally important because, although it is true that the Commonwealth is not only, or, perhaps, not primarily, concerned with economic arrangements, it is true, also, that nearly all the formal links of the Commonwealth are necessarily economic and, if those are allowed to weaken, the likely consequence will be a weakening of all the other links as well. So it is of prime importance that we review, and seek to keep strong, the formal economic links of the Commonwealth.
The House will appreciate that the Commonwealth Preference system, based as it is on the Ottawa Agreements of 1932, could not have come into being at all if the G.A.T.T. had then existed. In substance—I do not want to go into detail about what is a tolerably complicated document—the G.A.T.T. forbids new preferences and forbids increases in existing preferences. It is quite easy to see what the effect of those two prohibitions is if they are coincident, as they have been, with a period combining the characteristics of rapid emergence of new processes and products, on the one hand, and a substantial monetary inflation, on the other.
The combined effect, of course, is that, over an ever widening economic area, 600 one has a situation where either there are no preferences at all or where the value of existing preferences in real terms grows steadily less. It is true, therefore, as I said to the House in the first Common Market debate, that time, circumstances and the G.A.T.T. have together eroded the value of our preference system.
So the question arises now: what is to be done if we want to hold the economic links of the Commonwealth together? A condition having been diagnosed, there are, of course, two courses open to the practitioner. On the one hand, he can survey the patient with folded hands and watch him die, with suitable bedside murmurings about the inevitability of death and decay. But the other course is to do something about it, and this is the course which I prefer and which I commend.
Now is the time, and this is why I raise the matter specifically at this time, Next month, there is to be a G.A.T.T. conference, preceded by a meeting of Commonwealth Ministers. Let us put this matter of the possible amendment of the G.A.T.T. with a view to the effective revision of the Ottawa Agreements on the agenda. Let us put it on the agenda not expecting failure, because, if one expects any action one initiates to fail, then it is 99 per cent. certain that it will fail.
It is the business of this country and its statesmen to educate and enthuse, first, Commonwealth opinion and then world opinion in regard to these matters. So let us send to the conference table men of faith and fire who are determined to put forward this case in all its intrinsic merit. Let that be done so that action can be taken before the economic cement of our Commonwealth structure begins to crumble away.
Secondly, there is the necessity to initiate action for the institution of Commonwealth economic and social machinery. On this point, I can be very short because, like the right hon. Member for Easington, I have committed my thoughts to paper. It is true that my pamphlet, "A Call to the Commonwealth", written in collaboration with my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker)—who, unfortunately, has to be in his constituency and, therefore, cannot be here today—was written only in 1962 and is, thus, 601 eighteen years younger than the right hon. Gentleman's article. We must console ourselves by hoping to compensate for a lack of venerability by an added contemporaneity.
These matters are set out in our pamphlet—I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice for his kind references to it—in the concluding recommendations which stress the necessity of making the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Councilan effective body for Commonwealth research co-operation and trade promotion.We recommend that its functions should include market research and a "Buy Commonwealth" sales promotion campaign, these things to be done under the guidance of a Commonwealth Marketing Board which we propose. The other functions, we recommend, should include arrangements for the fostering of new industries and the creation of an Infant Industries Board for that purpose.
We recommend, also, increased research into investment and economic growth, a raw materials survey for the Commonwealth on the lines of the American Paley Report, and certain specific measures on the vitally important question of Commonwealth investment, including an effortto promote a Commonwealth agreement on the treatment of capital, to include a … basis for compensation in the event of nationalisation and provision for arbitration.We recommend the creationof a Commonwealth Capital Guarantee Department to insure the risks of capital investment as the Export Credits Guarantee Department"—with whose work I was so familiar when at the Board of Trade—insures the risks of export.In addition to that, we made a number of other recommendations more on the social and research side, including the creation of a Commonwealth Employment Bureau to correlate supply and demand of skilled labour; the creation of Commonwealth faculties of advanced business and management studies; the creation of a Commonwealth university system; an ambitious Commonwealth technical training programme; and a Commonwealth Population Board to combine the work of the various migration organisations operating now. On a Slightly different line, we urged that per- 602 manent consultative machinery should be established to standardise professional qualifications and codes of practice.
All those are suggestions, now nearly a year old, which we put forward; and I am glad to see that they have received the compliment of a certain amount of reference from time to time, both acknowledged and unacknowledged—though I certainly make no complaint of that because we claim no copyright for these suggestions. We are only anxious that they should be discussed as widely as possible and that practical action should be initiated by the Government in regard to them.
I come now to my third point, the possible establishment of a Commonwealth Court of Appeal. My hon. Friend referred to this in passing, and he spoke of the importance of the rule of law. I share his view as to the vital importance of the rule of law in the world as a whole and the great contribution which, I believe, the Commonwealth can make to maintaining it.
I mention this specifically as an independent point because, although we referred to it in our pamphlet, it was not there elaborated since in the context in which we were writing, namely, the necessity of urgent action as an alternative to the then proposal to join the European Economic Community, it was on the economic measures that we had necessarily and primarily to concentrate. But that does not mean that great importance does not attach to this possibility.
As the House knows, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council continues its beneficent labours, but on a somewhat shrinking scale. Before there were independent nations in the Commonwealth the court for all final appeals from the Colonies was the Privy Council. But when nations attain independence they have the option to continue or contract out; and some continue but only on a limited range of appeals. There is, therefore, a somewhat amorphous situation at present which necessarily does not provide a comprehensive or co-ordinated Commonwealth system of law.
I think that the House should ask itself whether we could not have such a co-ordinated system and whether it 603 would not be of great value both in providing added links for the Commonwealth and in ensuring a more universal acceptance of the rule of law in all its implications. It is, of course, a great and gratifying thing that even now, with the system as it is, in courts within the British Commonwealth in all five Continents, made up of every race and colour of people, judges are sitting and counsel are appearing in the traditional wig and gown of the British Bar, citing British cases and British authority and appealing to British legal principles and having a ready acceptance thereof. That is a great tribute to the contribution made over the generations to the rule of law by the people of this country.
However, there would be greater cohesiveness if there were a Commonwealth Court of Appeal. This, in my view, is given added topicality by the recent unhappy affair of Chief Enahoro. It so happened that that arose in Nigeria, a country which still accepts the jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. But the House can readily see the added complications which would have ensued in that case if it had arisen in a country which no longer recognised that right of appeal. We therefore see an added urgency for seeking some action in promoting a Commonwealth Court of Appeal.
We have an existing nucleus in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, but it would be necessary considerably to expand the membership on a much broader basis from other nations of the Commonwealth and to institute something like a circuit system, because a Commonwealth Court of Appeal could not function acceptably if it sat only in London. It would have to be prepared to sit elsewhere as well. Problems of personnel, mechanics, reconciliation of laws, and so on, would arise, and we should have our own domestic problems in this country as to how it would fit in with the existing jurisdiction of the House of Lords as the final Court of Appeal on questions concerning the municipal law of this country. In all this there is much for lawyers to discuss. But discussion by lawyers is academic unless Ministers and Members of this House affirm that here is a step 604 to be taken which, on the face of it, can be taken with great advantage to the coherence and continuance of the Commonwealth.
Those are the three points that I wished to make. I wanted to be brief to allow other hon. Members an opportunity to make their contributions on this important theme. I therefore conclude by commending to the Government, through my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, the specific proposals which I have made. I ask that they be sympathetically, urgently and constructively considered in the light of the great purposes which they seek to serve.
§ 12.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Much of what I should have liked to say about the importance of consumption in the Commonwealth has been said more eloquently by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). But then my right hon. Friend was Member of Parliament for West Lothian, which I represent, ten years before I was born.
It may be said that the question of cost comes into the proposals put forward by my right hon. Friend; and, although he put it in a somewhat controversial way, I agree, curiously enough, with the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) that it is no use whatsoever talking about aid to the Commonwealth and all sorts of good intentions unless we are absolutely clear about where the money will come from.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington came to address 480 of the electors of West Lothian at a home-coming about two months ago, he put forward this kind of argument and got a mandate from the people who sent me to Parliament to the effect that they were prepared to dig into their pockets and produce a certain amount of money for this sort of scheme.
I thought that it was a little hard of the hon. Member for Haltemprice to pick out Professor Blackett as one of the "abracadabra school"—people full of good intentions—and then not tell us from where the money is to come. I do not remember the correspondence to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but certainly those of us who have had the privilege and education of working with 605 Professor Blackett know that no man is more ruthless in his thinking. Some hon. Members on both sides have been extremely vague about where any help will come from, but Professor Blackett has been as ruthless as ever in explaining, even though some hon. Members on both sides may not like it, where he thinks the necessary funds are to be found.
I wish to concern myself purely with educational co-operation on the assumption that. I will continue to tell the electors who sent me here that, even if it means that taxes will be slightly higher than they would otherwise have been, and even if it means that the electors decide that they want someone else to represent them, I shall press for the implementation of a scheme of the sort which I propose.
The first point that I want to make relates to aid from under-utilised resources to developing countries along the lines that we welcomed in the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think that many of us were happy that the right hon. Gentleman took up suggestions which have been made, many by my hon. Friends, and gave £3½ million additional aid in steel plates to India, £2 million worth of sugar refining machinery from Scotland to Pakistan and £2 million worth of diesel locomotive machinery—which, I gather, is to be made in Darlington which suffers from unemployment problems—to East Africa.
I ask the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to put to his right hon. Friend a case for helping the paper manufacturing areas of the North by the provision of text books, avowed to be short by the second Commonwealth Education Conference in Delhi, to developing countries, remembering that Nelson, of Edinburgh, and various other firms, have been prominent in developing special text books for West Africa, East Africa and the West Indies. Perhaps this is an additional form of £2 million-£3 million which would help the paper makers of the Lothian and at the same time provide an additional source of aid to developing countries.
My next question concerns educational television. The suggestion is that special programmes should be made with British "know-how" but relevant to the needs, particularly in science, of the developing countries. It is not very long ago that examination papers in Ghana 606 depended on the knowledge of the English earth worm, and worms had to be flown out to Ghana so that the pupils could take examinations. Fortunately those days have passed, but nevertheless there is an element of this sort of thing, and the suggestion is that special programmes are made available, such as "Living Things", carried out so successfully in this country in plastics by Professor William Bullough, to help not only rather abstract biological studies but particularly in relation to pest control. At the same time I should make it plain that some programmes which we have seen in this country, such as "Evolution", would equally be useful for education in the developing countries, because evolution from the coelacanth and all that, does not change from one part of the world to another.
Secondly, would it be possible for a number of 17- to 18-year-old pupils to go for nine months from December to October, after they have passed their university entrance or university scholarship examination, to be attached to secondary schools in the Commonwealth? There are two sets of reasons for this. One is the benefit to the developing countries where English may be the only lingua franca and where it is almost certainly the only language learned which lends itself to modern science. It may be said that it would be highly expensive, perhaps having special hostels in India and Pakistan, for British pupils, but, on the other hand, the benefit of the pupils themselves might make it worth while from the point of view of our educational budget. In addition, there would be a certain familiarity with spoken English which is particularly important to those Indians and Pakistanis going to universities who are the first representatives of their families to do so. It is particularly important to the first representatives of their families.
It would also help them afterwards. Far be it from me to argue the case that we should go back to military National Service, but many of us are agreed that those who had been away for 18 months or two years before going on to their higher education were perhaps the better and more mature students for it.
It has often been argued that an exception would have to be made for the 607 pure mathematicians who must pursue their subject and become highly expert very early in life, because after 30 it is difficult to do any original research work in pure mathematics. Last week I went to the Royal College of Science and Technology at Glasgow where I discovered that even the pure mathematicians are convinced that the students who come to them would be better for having had some external experience. Although it would be wrong of me to hide the cost of such a scheme, at least it ought to be considered.
Next, can we give more aid in the form of more university places in this country? I do not wish to take the line that nothing has been done, because a great deal has been done, and we should recognise it. I hope that it is not out of order to mention the name of one man who has done an enormous amount for students, particularly from India and Pakistan. I am referring to Sir Dennis Robertson, Professor in Economics at Cambridge, who unfortunately died earlier this week. When the history of European aid to developing countries is written in the 21st century, some historian may draw attention to his influence through his personal political economic club in Cambridge, which has shaped the thinking of many of those now in important positions in the developing world.
When I was a candidate a year ago, on several platforms I was asked whether I was in favour of a policy of lessening the number of places given to Indians, Pakistanis, Africans and Englishmen at Scottish universities so that every Scot who has a qualification to go to a university is in a position to do so. Obviously I am in favour of no such policy, but nevertheless a feeling is growing in the country that if there are not enough places for English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish pupils, why should they be given to Nigerians and to Indians? It would be a terrible thing if because of our lack of places at our own universities we were unable to fulfil what many of us regard as a sacred obligation to developing countries.
I was very happy to hear Lord James say yesterday, after he had been listening to the education debate, that at the University of York he would not be 608 satisfied unless at least 10 per cent. of the students came from developing countries and that he would like a great many more. I hope that there will be discussions with the University Grants Committee in general and with Lord James, Professor Carter, Dr. Thistlethwaite and other heads of the new universities as to exactly how they feet about undergraduate students from developing countries at our new universities.
The hon. Member far Haltemprice mentioned British Guiana. Many of us have been enthusiastic in putting forward the case for British undergraduates, and particularly technologists, learning Russian. At the same time we ought to be putting forward the case for British undergraduates and technicians learning Spanish. Whereas by 1990 the population of North America will rise from 200 million to 380 million, the population of South America, if the prediction is correct, will rise to 600 million. Undoubtedly trade with South America is one of the mast neglected aspects of trade in this country.
There was controversy between the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington about advertising. One aspect is how ludicrous some of our businessmen still are in sending catalogues to South America written in English and with measurements in feet and inches. The language of the country and metric measurements surely are needed. In order to do this we have to inquire how we are to train many of our young people to have a good working knowledge of Spanish, because there would be hesitance on this side of the House, and I suspect an the other side of the House, too, about sending large numbers of our pupils to Spain. If there is this hesitation, might not a case arise for considering the possibility of setting up same sort of college in the Spanish-speaking area of British Guiana, remembering that this would be a source of income to that country?
Lastly, I make no apology for raising the question of school ships. It would be out of order to discuss the educational aspects of this project, but I think that it is in order to discuss the visit of ships such as the "Devonia" to Bathurst in 609 Gambia, remembering that one call, including organised educational tours on shore and various port charges, might bring in between £10,000 and £15,000. If this were done several times, although it would not be a panacea to provide sterling for the country, it would provide trade, and trade is always much more satisfactory than charity. When I was in Ghana many of the junior Ministers there told me that they were totally against accepting charity. My proposal is a form of trade, which I suggest would be more satisfactory than an outright gift in the form of aid.
It might be asked how this is to be done. I ask the Minister to examine the possibility of having these ships built with shipping company funds, which I have reason to believe several lines would do if they had the guarantee of a charter such as that given by the Ministry of Transport in trooping days. This charter would be given by the Ministry of Education, which would undertake to fill these ships for a given period of time. If this were done it would probably help the shipping firms and would certainly help the shipbuilders of Northern Ireland, the North-East and Scotland. That is as much as can usefully be said today.
§ 12.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
The House will be glad to know that I have not written a pamphlet on this subject and, therefore, shall not give quotations from it. I hope that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) will write a pamphlet, particularly on the educational aspect of this topic, because what he said was of great interest.
I should like to give the House a few thoughts on the subject of responsibility without power, because I am afraid that the United Kingdom is getting into that most undesirable of all political conditions where one is in the dock and in the pillory, but has no power to put matters right. Power without responsibility is a very desirable state of affairs. It is said to be the privilege of the harlot. But responsibility without power is very undesirable and might be described as the curse of the cuckold, and that is what we have in many respects.
When we lost our American colonies over 100 years ago this country was very careful not to extend the bounds of its 610 Empire beyond the places that could be reached by the Royal Navy or the Indian Army which were the two sources of power upon which the second British Empire was created. But towards the end of the nineteenth century, curiously enough chiefly under a series of Liberal statesmen such as Lord Rosebery, in Uganda, and Joe Chamberlain, in the rest of Africa. there was a tendency to forget this limitation and to go into the interior, much to the worry of that great Tory Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, who had a true instinct in these matters and foresaw the dangers of accepting responsibilities, particularly in Northern Nigeria and in Central Africa, which would ultimately be beyond our power to control.
That, I fear, is what has happened. It is quite clear to me that with the intrusion of the United Nations into these areas and with the usurpation which I consider the United Nations in many cases has assumed in inquiring into our responsibilities, particularly in such places as Southern Rhodesia, we are in the position of having the responsibility of having the public obloquy and yet no power to do what we think is right. I hope that in all this talk of Commonwealth machinery and the future of the Commonwealth the means will be found for getting us out of that disagreeable state of affairs.
This must be the first time when men of the Left, if I might use that description, have opposed the grant of self-government to a constituent part of the British Commonwealth which has formally sought self-government and independence. I refer, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), who opened the debate with a brilliant speech, to Southern Rhodesia. The United Nations does not wish this independence to be given because that would put an end to any possibility that it would have of meddling in its affairs, because whereas it has some sort of shadowy case for saying that so long as Southern Rhodesia has some links with this country in the form of a veto by this country it is a dependent territory, once it is independent, the United Nations can no longer examine it.
This is one of the extraordinary features, and, I think, quite unforeseen, by the founders of the United Nations. Whereas some countries which have 611 power without responsibility, such as the Soviet Union, in Eastern Germany, where, with 20 divisions or more, it occupies East Germany, its rule there, for such it is, cannot be questioned, because, in theory, the East German State is independent in spite of the presence of this enormous Russian Army, we, on the other hand, who have no power at all in Southern Rhodesia, but because of tenuous constitutional links that are still preserved, are put in the dock over and over again. This, again, is an illustration of the dangers of the curse of the cuckold.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The hon. and learned Gentleman is getting things mixed up. I was prepared to let pass the idea about what the Left would do in Southern Rhodesia, but the hon. and learned Gentleman went on to complain that the Soviet Union was holding down Eastern Germany with guns. That is our objection. We are not satisfied with the position in Southern Rhodesia. We are not satisfied that if we let her become independent the majority will will prevail. Ours is a democratic objection.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
I follow the hon. Gentleman's point. The Southern Rhodesian Government consist of Southern Rhodesians. They have been there for many generations. They regard themselves not as United Kingdom people, but as Southern Rhodesians, unlike the Russians in Eastern Germany, who are self-confessed foreigners.
I know that the hon. Gentleman will say that not all Southern Rhodesians have a chance of choosing their Government, and that is true, but not all members of the many Commonwealth countries can do that, either. It would be invidious to name them, but many people in independent countries of the Commonwealth do not have a chance of choosing their Government.
Whatever one's feelings may be about Southern Rhodesia—and I share the hon. Gentleman's feelings—if one has not the power to enforce them, if one is simply powerless, but, nevertheless, given the responsibility, then surely one is in a most dangerous state of affairs.
I urge that, not only in Southern Rhodesia, but elsewhere, we divest ourselves, as we surely must, of all sorts of responsibilities where we have not 612 the opportunity or the power in real terms—realistic terms—of enforcing of what we think to be right. The situation in which we may be instructed by the United Nations to take some action in Southern Rhodesia may seem fanciful. It was raised by my hon. Friend. But I do not think that it is necessarily as fanciful as all that. It would be impossible for us to do it. It is clear that no Government in this country of any complexion, no matter who presided over that Government—whether it be the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), who interrupted me, and who has now left the Chamber, or anyone else—will ever send British troops to Rhodesia to fight against the Government of Southern Rhodesia.
I hope, therefore, that when my hon. Friend replies—I know that it does not concern his Department and, therefore, it is difficult for him to say very much about it—will at least agree with me that, particularly with the advent of United Nations—though I believe that the policy and the doctrine was just as strong before that—we should and must get back to the position so wisely, I believe, adopted in the hundred years between the loss of the American colonies and the sudden incursion into the hinterland of Africa, beyond the power of the Royal Navy to control.
I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise the principle which I have put forward and will give me some sort of comfort that for the future that principle will be observed.
§ 1.0 p.m.
§ Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Middlesbrough, East)
I am glad that this opportunity has arisen for a debate on the machinery for Commonwealth consultation, and the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) who introduced it with great skill and knowledge, as we expected him to do, is to be congratulated. I should like to take the opportunity to thank the hon. Gentleman for his personal comments about my reappearance at the Opposition Dispatch Box.
We all share the view that every chance should be taken to make the most of our Commonwealth Association. I think that we can all agree that this is a particularly appropriate time to debate the matter, immediately after the breakdown of the negotiations in 613 Brussels. I was one who did not believe that Britain's entry into the Common Market could seriously have impaired our relations with the Commonwealth, and I should not like to give the impression that, having been rejected by Europe, we are now turning to the Commonwealth to make up for it. We should always be looking for ways to improve relations with the Commonwealth and I am not satisfied that the Government have done this.
We must recognise that the days are over when Britain supplied the manufactured goods and the Colonies supplied the raw materials, and it is hopelessly unrealistic for anyone to argue that Commonwealth countries should support the process by not encouraging their own industrial production. I suspect that hon. Gentlemen opposite regard the Commonwealth as a vehicle to improve our position in the world. It may be that, too. But to me the important thing is that we are an association of equals. That means that any ideas we put up have to be ideas that will be welcomed by every Commonwealth Government and will meet their interests as well as our own.
Within these limitations, set by the conditions in which we live, and which it would be ostrich-like to ignore, what can we do? In the world today we see a general movement towards economic co-operation. The six Common Market countries have a customs union. The E.F.T.A. countries have entered a free trade area. The Latin American countries, too, have some co-operation. There is a common market among the Commonwealth countries in East Africa. In most cases these forms of association are helped along by some central organ or secretariat. The Government are fond of saying that there are already plenty of means by which Commonwealth countries can carry out their co-operation. As we have heard today, they talk about the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council. But what is that? It is no more than a title given in 1958 to meetings of officials and Ministers, which took place before then and which would have taken place anyway, but now they are given this grand title.
I have no objection to the title. But the Government must not pretend that 614 they have added anything to the existing arrangements simply by giving those meetings a new name. We do not want gimmicks, but real, substantive measures to increase mutual understanding among Commonwealth countries and encourage the finding of ways to help each other. I expect that today the Government spokesman will say that there is no general desire for this kind of thing. But have the Government tried? They ought not to sit and wait. The Commonwealth should be showing the way and not following in the wake of others.
When discussing the future of the Commonwealth it is as well to remember that it covers a quarter of the world's land surface and contains a quarter of its population. It has three times the population of Russia; four times the population of the countries of the Common Market and about three times the population of the United States. These people are to be found in every one of the five continents of the world and they represent every colour, race and creed. In their possession is almost every kind of raw material and foodstuff known in the world. They produce more than half the world's supply of jute, tea, platinum, diamonds, asbestos, wool, tin, nickel ore and newsprint, and well over a quarter—in some cases over one-half—of the rubber, rice, bauxite, copper, lead ore, silver ore and zinc ore. They produce abundant supplies of butter, beef, wheat, canned fruit, cheese, maize and many other products.
If the Commonwealth countries co-operated to the full and spoke with one voice, they could be the most powerful unit and influence for good in the world today. The British Empire and Commonwealth did not develop by coherent calculated plans of Government. It was built by individuals, merchant adventurers, traders, manufacturers and missionaries. The Government followed in their train. The peoples of the Colonies, as they were, have always been regarded in theory as equal citizens. A law passed in 1608 which still holds good lays down that all peoples born under the Crown are freeborn denizens.
It has always been the aim of the British Government to protect the culture of people under their care in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere. Nor did they ever 615 lose sight of their ultimate goal of securing self-determination for the territories for which they were responsible. I must admit that they were terribly slow in getting on with the job. The Labour Party has always been anti-Imperialistic and critical of the methods used to build up the Empire. But, nevertheless, Labour Party conferences over the years have expressed the view that the unity of the British Commonwealth of Nations should be preserved with each member being a free and equal partner. The Labour Party desires this because it thinks that it would be a way to lead the world to an international federation in which the strong nations would cease to exploit the weak and each would exert its influence for peace.
The post-war Labour Government, of which I had the privilege to be a member, by transferring power to India and Pakistan, and by their attitude towards the developing countries and the sacrifices which were made to meet war-time liabilities, such as the repayment of sterling debts, did much to create a high moral tone.
I am bound to acknowledge that initially the Conservative Government which succeeded that Labour Government followed very much the same policy, but I must say that the Suez disaster came as a great shock to all the Commonwealth countries. Therefore, it is not surprising that Canada, which seemed ready to give a bold, constructive economic leadership under Mr. Diefenbaker, should resort to protection, or that cultural, financial and commercial links with India should begin to weaken. This was also true of other Commonwealth countries. It will take a long time for the Commonwealth countries to recover from the shattering blow of Suez and it is doubtful whether the damage can ever be undone until those who were responsible are no longer in office.
I think that today the Government are faced with another vital test. Fifty years ago power to govern was transferred to a white minority Government in South Africa. In retrospect, this can be seen as a very unwise act. If, in the light of experience, the Government for the second time in our history transfer power to a white minority Government 616 in Southern Rhodesia this would be a disaster. It would be against the best interests of the white minority, threatening their future, and would involve Britain in a hopeless struggle against majority opinion both in Africa and in the rest of the world. It would weaken the whole Commonwealth and risk the secession of the five African member countries of the Commonwealth.
On the subject of human rights, I wonder whether the Under-Secretary is in a position to say what further thought has been given to a Commonwealth declaration and convention of human rights. Indeed, the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) referred to this but went further, and I do not differ from him. If a Commonwealth court can be established I think it would be eminently desirable. If this kind of development could take place it would become a binding force in the Commonwealth as a whole.
In the past the Crown has been a unifying force in the Commonwealth. Britain was accepted as the centre for guidance, advice and direction. Today this is no longer the case. New generations are experiencing strong nationalistic feelings, and many are Republican in sentiment. We cannot ignore this. We have to take note of it. It is a fact. Yet I would say that more than ever it is important that the Commonwealth should be united and strong. Of course, the nature of the Commonwealth is perplexing to those countries which have a written constitution. It is not a federation. There is no central Executive and neither are the countries bound together by a customs union. They do not form a military alliance. Every member is free and independent, managing its own affairs, and can leave the Commonwealth as and when it chooses.
However, in spite of the growth of nationalism the Commonwealth countries have much which draws them together. After all, we have grown up in a common framework sharing a common heritage of administration and procedures, and today it is more vital than ever before that the Commonwealth countries should hold together and strengthen their mutual ties. If any one country leaves the Commonwealth it is 617 left isolated and alone in the world. I am sure that India appreciates how valuable it is to be associated with other powers with which she has shared common interests for so many decades. This has been brought home to her particularly during the period of tension with the Chinese People's Republican Government.
Canada, too, knows that the pull towards the United States would be much stronger if she were not a member of the Commonwealth. Ghana, with its dreams of a united West Africa, knows that this is more likely to be achieved within the framework of the Commonwealth. This feeling of belonging to a wider community applies equally to all the other Commonwealth countries. Co-operation in the Commonwealth has given every member country a position in the world which it would not have enjoyed on its own merits alone. For example, there is by convention a seat on the United Nations Security Council that is always filled by a member country of the Commonwealth.
One must acknowledge that very valuable work is already done at many levels and in numerous fields. Indeed, the Commonwealth association covers a whole range of human activity—education, scientific research, agriculture, medicine, sport, law, trade, finance and international affairs. There are established such Commonwealth bodies as the scientific offices, the Air Transport Council, the Shipping Committee, the Telecommunications Board, the Association of Universities, and the Commonwealth Economic Committee.
There is, however, a need for greater co-ordination of all these contacts. When I was the Under-Secretary for what was then the Dominions Office—the Commonwealth Relations Office today—we used to hold regular meetings of the High Commissioners, centred in London. I should like to make a suggestion to the Under-Secretary that his right hon. Friend might consider getting High Commissioners together in a kind of permanent council to which these varying committees, to which I have already referred, could submit their reports. I think that would have the advantage of strengthening the policy of consultation and the exchange of information at all these levels.
618 I should certainly like to see regular meetings of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. In this connection it is worth recording that Lord Attlee, when he was Prime Minister, started this regular series of Prime Ministers' meetings. There were very few indeed before the war, although one would have expected that at a time when we were approaching a world catastrophe there would have been frequent meetings of this kind. I should like to see the Commonwealth Prime Ministers coming together not only for the discussion of current political issues but of world affairs in general.
It is important that we should know the views of the Canadians on their neighbours in the United States, the views of the Asian countries on Asiatic problems, of Australia and New Zealand on matters concerning the Pacific, and the opinions of Ghana and Nigeria on Africa affairs, which, I think, would be of great value to all the members of the Commonwealth. It ought not to be impossible to establish a practice whereby the Commonwealth Prime Ministers could meet for high-level talks on a rotation basis in each of the Commonwealth countries. Surely, it should not be difficult to fix two dates in a year when Commonwealth Prime Ministers would know that they were committed to meet each other.
Personal contact between politicians and others in every Commonwealth country is very desirable. Much has already been done, but many more opportunities should be provided for this valuable form of communication between peoples. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, for instance, does an exceedingly useful job. It is worth noting that in 1962 there were over 4,800 visitors who came to the C.P.A. room in the Palace of Westminster. Of that number 450 were Commonwealth Members of Parliament. A day or two ago I met two Members of Parliament from one of the Colonies and they were able to discuss with me in informal circumstances some of their problems. Other Members of Parliament have had similar experiences. This is a practical way of co-operation.
I think, too, that the C.P.A. provides an opportunity for visiting Members of Parliament from this country who go overseas to see what is being done in those countries. It is a wonderful thing, 619 I think, to have a centre for the C.P.A. in this Mother of Parliaments itself. I think, also, that another contact which is very valuable is the exchange of officials from one Parliament to another, This, as I know, is arranged by the Clerk of the House. I should like to see this procedure extended.
Not long ago I was in Pakistan, and Pakistan representatives said to me that they would welcome a visit by someone from this country representing the Clerk of the House for the purpose of consultation. I think that the Clerk of the House should have gone. I took the opportunity of sending him a note about it, but as far as I know he has not yet been. I know that one Clerk has recently been to Bechuanaland, and I have had conveyed to me from another source the fact that the representatives of the Bechuanaland Legislature greatly valued his visit. It appears that the only difficulty is the provision of money. Money it not available for this activity. I think that we should do more to see that when Clerks from our House are invited to visit other legislatures no difficulty is placed in their way.
Another field for collaboration would be the bringing together in conference of Commonwealth Parliamentarians. This view has been expressed by me on many occasions in the past. I put it forward as a personal view, and I believe that it is worth considering. Provision is made for European Parliamentarians and also for N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians to meet. Anything that brings together Members of Parliament from other countries, in order to exchange ideas and to talk about what goes on in their own Parliaments, is a valuable contribution. Why cannot we have regular meetings of Commonwealth Parliamentarians? The C.P.A. provides for this to some extent, but I should like to see something more than that, to match what is done by N.A.T.O. and European Parliamentarians.
Businessmen are fortunate. They have the opportunity of travelling to the Commonwealth in the course of their work. It is equally important that trade unionists should have a chance of meeting their Commonwealth counterparts. The Imperial Relations Trust, of which I am a member, has widened its activities in order to promote such exchanges, but 620 more needs to be done. In spite of the good work done by the Central Office of Information, we still lack a proper Commonwealth information service. The information department of the Commonwealth Relations Office was brought into being by a Labour Government, and does a useful job. But we run these services on the cheap. Today we battle for men's minds, and money spent on information services is better spent than money spent on armaments. It is sad to reflect that since 1951 we have spent over £19,000 million on armaments and are still not winning the battle of ideas. It might have been wiser to put some of this money into the other battle that is going on. Indeed, I think that we sell the Commonwealth with a soft voice. We should not be doing so. The Soviet Union, China and the United States pump out a steady stream of propaganda, twenty-four hours a day. We certainly should do more than we do now.
It is an old maxim that trade follows the flag. Commonwealth trade today, however, is sadly failing to expand. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in a typical and admirable speech on the Commonwealth, suggested ways in which we could increase our trade. That speech is to be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT for 11th February, 1963. I completely subscribe to what my right hon. Friend then said, and to save time I shall not refer to the speech in greater detail.
I suggest that one reason why we are failing to expand our trade is that there is no stability of commodity prices. It is inevitable that this impoverishes millions of Commonwealth citizens, thus depriving them of an opportunity to buy our goods. Consideration ought to be given to returning to the practice of bulk purchase agreements. This would enable primary producers to see ahead and know what the future prices of their commodities would be.
We are certainly still buying too much outside the Commonwealth, to the detriment of Commonwealth producers. Government policy has contributed to this. Today we are buying less wheat from Canada and Australia than we did in 1951. In 1962 we bought nearly 1½ million cwts. less from Australia and over 2 million cwts. less from Canada than in 1961. In the same period we bought nearly 2 million cwts. more 621 from the United States. In 1962 we bought over 7 million cwts. of maize from the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland, and over 83 million cwts. from foreign countries. Not only Australia and Canada but other parts of the Commonwealth can develop and supply our requirements, and more energetic steps should have been taken to ensure this.
If we were able to help the Colonial Territories, together with the Commonwealth countries that have gained their independence since 1957, to build up their income by £5 per head per annum, this would give them an additional £475 million worth of spending power, and would increase their ability to buy manufactured goods from this country. It is, therefore, a two-way traffic, beneficial to this country and to the Commonwealth as a whole.
The Commonwealth as a whole should examine the resources and development potential of the quarter of the globe which it controls. For this purpose, I take the view that a Commonwealth Development Fund is needed, to which all the Commonwealth countries should contribute in proportion to their financial ability. As a result of my past experience in the Board of Trade when the European Payments Union came into being, I think that we should consider a Commonwealth Payments Union to help those countries which have balance of payments difficulties. This would help them to avoid imposing discriminatory restrictions on Commonwealth imports. Also as a result of my past experience in the Board of Trade, I think that a sales marketing organisation should be established to promote a "Buy Commonwealth" campaign.
In an earlier debate I urged the Government to take steps to encourage skilled personnel to work for a period in the under-developed countries. This would require provision to be made for their reabsorption into their careers in this country without loss of promotion or superannuation rights, and without institutional difficulties. For their own servants the Government could make direct provision, and they could consider encouraging local authorities and private firms to follow their example. Recruits could be obtained from a kind of central pool, and different parts of the Common- 622 wealth could pay into a central fund according to their ability. This money would be used to pay employees according to their qualifications, regardless of the territory in which they were operating. This would obviate the present difficulty of the poorer countries paying low rates and tending to get the lowest qualified personnel, although needing the most skilled.
Because this is a private Members' day I have expressed my views on these matters from a personal point of view, and not necessarily from the point of view of my Front Bench. I know that there are difficulties, and that if I were sitting on the Government side I should have to consider those difficulties very seriously. But I say that they are not insurmountable. We should try to overcome them, and I hope that today we shall hear from the Parliamentary Secretary that some of the objectives outlined by the hon. Member for Haltemprice, supported by other hon. Members, will command the highest priority. The Government should have some policy to enable us to plan for the development of the Commonwealth.
Finally, we all accept the Commonwealth as a valuable and proven instrument for international co-operation, and as an agency for economic progress. It blends together different cultures and creeds, and works for the peace and security of the world. The task of the Commonwealth is to strengthen the United Nations and to build a bridge between East and West, thereby winning the confidence of the nations of the world, helping them to understand and have confidence in each other.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
I am always very glad to have the opportunity to follow in debate the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley), because I know that he is quite sincere in all he says. Today I must agree with him that we should like to see more co-operation with the trade unions, as far too often in colonial countries the real meaning and use of the trade union is not known. Anything which the right hon. Member can do to encourage trade unions in those respects will be beneficial.
I also agree with the right hon. Member that the Commonwealth members 623 are equal partners. We have to see that this partnership is further strengthened. I do not see why any territory should not become a republic within the Commonwealth. The difficulty with some countries is that, while they do not want to become a republic, they want to have a Head of State of their own. If they are not a republic and have a Governor General who represents Her Majesty The Queen, he is not on an equal basis with a President when he goes overseas. If we could find a way of overcoming this problem many countries would prefer not to have republican status.
I very much regret that the right hon. Member—having started by paying tribute to individuals, missionaries and merchants, for the formation of the Commonwealth—made somewhat derogatory remarks. I thought it a pity that he felt it necessary to bring in the question of Suez. We have found many things in most other countries in the Commonwealth which we did not like. Take, for instance, the question of India and Goa. We have to realise that every country in the Commonwealth is independent and that some of their actions may not be pleasing to all the other members. We should realise that as one of his first actions Mr. Lester Pearson, the New Prime Minister in Canada, has decided to come here to discuss matters with our Prime Minister, particularly questions of trade.
The right hon. Member chided us for spending so much on armaments, but we should remember that a great deal of that has gone to the Commonwealth. At the moment we are lending £17 million to India, we have spent a tremendous amount on the protection of Malaya and we sent troops at the request of the Government of British Guiana, so it is unfortunate that the right hon. Member should criticise the Government in this manner.
He also mentioned propaganda. Although we know that the Communists spend a great deal on propaganda which they broadcast and send to parts of the Commonwealth, we have to realise that not a single country within the Commonwealth has become Communist. There was the Kerala area in India, the old Cochin—Travancore State which became Communist, but was won back by the Congress Party. We 624 can congratulate ourselves that, despite all the propaganda, no country in the Commonwealth has turned to Communism.
I was interested to hear what was said by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) on the question of economics. He wished to expand trade. I think we should all wish to do that, but we cannot divorce this question from the question of politics. Unless there is a stable government in a country, people are not willing to put their money into it.
The right hon. Member was also anxious that we should spend more money overseas and he rather criticised our advertising efforts. We should all like more to be spent overseas, but we have to remember two things. The first is the very low incomes of so many people in the Commonwealth. Take, for instance, the Seychelles where the annual income per head is only £7 10s., British Guiana where it is £18 and Mauritius where it is £32 per head. Those people cannot afford with their present low standards to buy a great many of the consumer goods which they would like to have.
In addition, many territories, such as Jamaica, Malaya and Nigeria, are now making their own consumer goods. Nigeria has even imported Chinese to show its workers how to make enamelware. The knowledge of this trade will be passed on to the people of Nigeria. We have also to contend with this problem. It is not easy just to send goods overseas and to get the trade which the right hon. Member suggested. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about more qualified people going overseas to help with technical problems. I would remind him that the Voluntary Overseas Service is doing an excellent job in this way. Certain firms—among them Rolls-Royce—have provided a great number of technicians. One should encourage this.
I am very glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) in his place, because I want to offer sincere congratulations to him, not only on introducing this subject, but also on putting his points so well. It is difficult to find any particular item to discuss because he covered them all so adequately. I agree with him about 625 tradition, I do not think he need be too worried about the period before a country achieves Parliamentary democracy after it has become independent. The reason I say that is that it is particularly difficult, when all the political parties in the country have been following a nationalistic line in their efforts to gain independence, to get a democratic system working very swiftly. We must be comforted by the fact that a considerable change has taken place recently in Ghana. I think that country is starting in the right direction. We should congratulate the new Foreign Minister. The appointment is a step in the right direction.
I also agree very much on the question of consultation. I press for far more consultation. I am delighted to see present the Under-Secretary who deals with this subject of the smaller independent territories. The question of citizenship was another point my hon. Friend raised. We are far too slow in granting citizenship of a particular country to an individual. So often they are only British citizens. I have pressed this proposal on more than one occasion, for instance, with regard to North Borneo and Sarawak. There should be citizenship Bills to make them citizens of the country in which they live so that they could feel they belong to a particular country.
One of the ways in which we fail overseas is in trading connections. When people go out to sell commodities such as cars, we are very slow in following up orders, and are slow in providing tools and spare parts. In this respect the Germans, the Dutch and the Japanese are considerably ahead of us and they are seeking our markets. I hope that this will be brought to the notice of the Board of Trade.
Having listened to the debate, I want to assure my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice that I support him in everything he said in regard to Southern Rhodesia. I shall not go into this further except to say that often it is very difficult, not only in Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, but in every country which is changing its constitution and becoming independent, because negotiations drag on for too long. If people knew one way or another what was likely to happen, it would be easier for them. Uncertainty breeds fear, and 626 fear is a most unfortunate thing to have in any country. The Government should make up their mind about any particular country as quickly as possible.
We should not be influenced at all by the thought of what other countries may say. Reference has been made to live other African countries. They have received their independence without any interference from any other country. Negotiations should be entirely between our country and the country concerned with independence, but we should not in any way fear any form of blackmail. We have to make up our minds and stick to the decisions we take. If the consequences are not what we should like them to be, that is unfortunate, but it is our decision. We should not be subject to having to think either about the United Nations and its reactions, or the reactions of any other member of the Commonwealth. Commonwealth consultation might be very helpful in getting the best solution and I agree with the right hon. Member for Easington that we should take the Commonwealth more, into our confidence in some of these problems, but we have the final responsibility.
Both parties since the war have been largely successful in working out the future independence of Commonwealth countries. In a very famous speech, Lord Acton said:Liberty provokes diversity. Diversity preserves liberty,In giving these territories their independence, we have left them their individuality and their diversity and that fact is one of the things which makes the Commonwealth alive today. I believe that it was the Prime Minister of India, Pandit Nehru, who said that the Commonwealth was joined together by an invisible link, but was not the less strong because the link was invisible. It is our business always to remember this invisible link.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice that there is a great deal of diversity of conditions—and poverty—in many Commonwealth countries. This is one of the most difficult problems with which we have to deal. It is often the case that one race manages to get most of the wealth of the country; and that causes divergences within the country. We can all point to different 627 races in different countries which have the majority of the country's wealth in their hands. It is essential to try to see that some equality of opportunity is given within all these territories.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) is not in his place, because I want to make what I think is a valuable quotation from a speech of his in which he said:The central purpose of British colonial policy is simple. It is to guide colonial territories to responsible government within the Commonwealth in conditions that ensure to the people concerned both a fair standard of living and freedom from oppression from any quarter.I do not think that there is a better description.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) mentioned the United States of America. We learned a great lesson from the American Revolution of 1783, because we then realised that eventually all countries would wish to claim independence, and we first appreciated that with Canada.
I should like to consider the progress made by the United Kingdom in meeting its obligations under the United Nations Charter, and I should like to deal with chapters 11 and 12 of the Charter. Since the United Nations was formed, more than 630 million people in the Commonwealth have been given their freedom. Sixteen former British Colonial Territories have become independent and twelve of them have become members of the United Nations since 1945.
I want to consider what are called the non-self-governing territories, those on which we have to submit reports to the United Nations. For most of them the description is incorrect. Many have their own Governments and run their own affairs with only the minimum guidance from this country, and they do it very well. Since 1818 when Lord Hastings was the Governor-General of India and when he made it clear that the then Government's policy was that when a territory was ready to be independent it would be given independence, that has been our policy. As Lord Hastings put it, it has been our greatest wish that this should happen. This progress has continued.
One of the main things which we have considered has been retaining the indi- 628 vidual characteristics and distinctive traditions of the country concerned. Unlike France, we have never tried to make a Colonial Territory an integral part of the home country. We have wished them to be completely independent and we have not tried to bring them under the auspices of the United Kingdom Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell), discussed the future of the small territories in April, 1959, but I regret to say that the position has not been reviewed since. I have taken the opportunity to read the two latest Annual Reports of the Colonial Office and there does not seem to have been a great deal of change. Several Secretaries of States, in 1943, 1948 and 1951, have made statements about these territories. The right hon. Member for Wakefield said:There can be no set timetable for constitutional development".I agree, but we should now be planning for these territories so that they can know something of their future.
We are continually having conferences. We have had a conference about Malta, about Aden and about British Guiana, Swaziland and Zanzibar, and we are to have conferences about the Bahamas, and we have had several about Kenya—and we are very glad that Kenya is now starting on her way to self-government and probably independence. These conferences should first be held in the country of origin. It is extremely difficult for delegates to come here without the advisers they need and to discuss these matters almost in a vacuum, certainly out of their own atmosphere and away from their own population.
It may be necessary and perhaps proper for the final discussions to take place here, but on too many occasions delegates come here only to find that the conference is abortive so that they have to return to their own country and then come here again for another conference. The initial arrangements should be thrashed out in these countries. While it might not be possible for Ministers to attend all the time, we have very good officials who could undertake the preliminary investigations.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Nigel Fisher)
I am myself going to Barbados next month to do pre- 629 cisely what my hon. Friend is suggesting and I am to have a preliminary conference there before the West Indian Ministers come to London to see my right hon. Friend. I hope that this pattern will develop.
§ Miss Vickers
I am all the more grateful that my hon. Friend is here. I am delighted that he has this new office and if we are now starting this practice, I congratulate him on his initiative and hope that he will continue to do this.
There are great problems for at least twenty-nine other territories, and I am not now including those which are to federate, like North Borneo and Sarawak and the Protectorate of Brunei. Apart from those, there are still twenty-nine territories whose many problems urgently need attention.
Population is another consideration which must be borne in mind. One of the things which stops the progress of some countries—in particular British Guiana and British Honduras—is lack of population. British Honduras has 9,000 square miles but only 80,000 people. Malta, on the other hand, is vastly overpopulated and will always be economically poor. Hong Kong has a vast population.
I do not suggest that people from Malta or Hong Kong should go to British Honduras. I suggest that the immigration barriers of some countries that need development should be lowered and that people who could help them to develop should be received. If it had not been for the Chinese in Malaya, Malaya would not have been in the prosperous state she is today. I was going to ask my hon. Friend what progress has been made with the Little Eight. whether it was going to be the Little Eight or the Little Seven, but in view of what he has said perhaps he will reply to this point in the near future.
As to the Gambia, paragraph 49 of Cmnd. 1751 says this:On the 19th April the Governor told the House of Representatives that while the British Government had no wish to sever its historic ties with the Gambia, it would not oppose the gradual development of closer association with Senegal if this were the clearly expressed wish of the Gambia people.I understand that to begin with the two languages are a barrier. The Senegalese—the educated ones, anyhow—speak 630 French, and even the local languages are different. Is this a realistic suggestion? Has action been taken on this project? If not, some action should be taken in regard to the Gambia, which is a very loyal and interesting small territory. I am not altogether happy about the suggestion, unless we can, perhaps by means of a referendum as was done with the Cameroons, ensure that this is the will of the people. Apart from this, I believe that action should be taken on the Gambia in the near future.
I should like further consideration to be given to the Falkland Islands Dependencies. I know that they number only 3,000 people. However, I consider that this area should be looked into, also the Seychelles, and the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, particularly in regard to the means of communication. These territories are extremely isolated and cut off. The Gilbert and Ellice Islands, thirty-seven little coral atolls, have a population of 40,000. Surely in these days they should not be completely cut off from the rest of the world.
Then there are the fortress territories—I will not go into detail, because they have been mentioned already—and places like Tonga. I should like further information about Fiji and what is happening about the 1962 Order in Council which empowered the Governor to make regulations to prepare for elections.
The French invented the word "decolonisation", and this country has been continuing the process. One must realise that many of the problems arise because the territories were man-made and not natural countries. I hope that many races can be brought together by means of education. Thought must also be given to the problem of viability before permanent transfer of power can be made, otherwise very unhappy circumstances arise. I regret that we have seen the ending of two federations which we had hoped would be successful. We must wish the Federation of Malaysia every success for the future because it will be of very great benefit to the people in the territories.
We as a nation have carried out Article 73 of the United Nations Charter very well. The Article says this:Members … who have … responsibilities for the administration of territories 631 … recognise the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the wellbeing of the inhabitants of these territories, and to this end—(a) to ensure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned, their political, economic, social and educational advancement …As one who has to report to the United Nations from time to time, I think that we can say that we have done all in our power to carry out for our territories the ideals laid down in the Charter.
I want to make one plea, in regard to the smaller territories particularly. We have been concentrating on the political side and in the reports I have to give to the United Nations I always have to say whether a country is now able to vote. However, the vote does not give one status in one's own country. A legislative council does not necessarily give a country status in the world. The only thing which will do this is education. Unless political freedom is backed by knowledge, these territories will not be able to progress. Therefore, I make a plea that more of these smaller territories should have better education and communications with the outside world. It is also essential that sufficient people should be trained to man their civil services.
I should like to see a commission or commissions set up to visit all these small independent countries mentioned in the Colonial Office Report, and I should like such a body to think out a long-term policy for their future. Many are able to balance their budgets, but if real progress is to be made more help is needed.
The changing pattern of defence must be considered, particularly in regard to Gibraltar and Malta, because we have used these territories for a great many years for our own special needs. I consider that it is their turn now to receive help.
I was very impressed by the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice about the relationship between the Foreign Office and these territories. We could do very much more by using High Commissioners and Deputy High Commissioners, who are very acceptable to these territories and who 632 would serve as civil servants, perhaps partly under the direction of the Colonial Office and partly under the Foreign Office. I agree with my hon. Friend that they should be in future attached to the Foreign Office.
When my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary answered my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale in April, 1959, he said this about these territories:Some of them are too poor—there can be no economic viability or independence simply at subsistence level—some are still backward, in the sense of not having a sufficient number of educated personnel to administer their Government, or man their law courts; some, again, have not developed constitutions …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th April, 1959; Vol. 603, c. 1358–9.]That is why I make a special plea that these territories should be reviewed. In the same debate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said that he could not say when the next step in constitutional advance for Sierre Leone would take place, yet Sierre Leone is now independent and is a member of the United Nations—less than three years after my hon. Friend made that statement.
British Honduras and the building of its new capital fifty-one miles from Belize and the good race relations in British Guiana should command our attention. It is for this reason that I was particularly pleased to have an opportunity to say something in this debate.
Finally, I suggest that consideration should be given to establishing in some of these countries constitutions similar to that of the Channel Islands.
We have often been proved wrong in not realising how much people like to live in their own area. I am thinking particularly of St. Helena and especially of Tristan da Cunha. On page 50, paragraph 316, of the Report there is a description of the arrival of the Tristan da Cunhans and how they were settling down in this country at Calshot, near Southampton. Despite the civilisation which they found here compared with what existed in their island, their ties with their birthplace were so great that they wished to return. We do not want to see the various peoples of the world living at a standard below that which we would consider necessary in this country.
I should like once again to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for 633 Haltemprice on bringing this important subject to the notice of the House. I hope that the suggestions that have been put forward by all hon. Members may have some real results.
§ 2.0 p.m.
§ Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) back in his place. I hope that he enjoyed his lunch and that some food will be left for me when I have concluded my speech.
I warmly support the Motion, with certain qualifications. The right hon. Member for Easington said, in an important speech, that the fundamental problem was that of economies, proverty and population. His remarks reminded me of some words used by General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, who said, in his early days, that it was no good preaching the blessings of the Kingdom of God to men who had cold feet and empty stomachs. It is equally no good reciting the wonderful privileges men will enjoy in democratic institutions if they are unemployed, hungry, badly housed and ill-fed. For these reasons, I wish to underline some of the remarks of the right hon. Member.
We all agree that the Commonwealth is one of the greatest factors in the world for peace and understanding and that the United Kingdom has a special responsibility to aid, succour and help the newly independent parts of the Commonwealth. The question we must face is how much aid they require and how far Britain is able to provide it. It is unwise for hon. Members of any party to go around preaching all over the Commonwealth and making all sorts of promises which they discover when they return we are unable to fulfil. I wish that they would do their homework before making those sort of promises.
I make this special plea. I may be rather old-fashioned, but I rather like the phrase "British Empire". I do not apologise for the British Empire. I am tired of hearing people running it down. Some people think that it is fashionable to talk as though everything was wrong under the British Empire while everything is good under the Commonwealth. That is nonsense. For 300 years the British Empire did a magnificent job all over the world. We should honour the names of the great empire builders to 634 whom the peoples of the East and Africa owe so much. They stopped civil wars, barbarous practices, built roads, schools and hospitals, checked floods and famines and brought in law, order and justice. This should be remembered.
I am sick and tired of hearing hon. Members—my hon. Friends included—running down the British Empire and suggesting that we never did any good until the arrival of what we call the "new Commonwealth". This is bunkum of the worst order. This brings me to the part of the Motion which states that it is necessary…to study method, of promoting Commonwealth development, trade and aid.…The right hon. Member for Easington said that all our pledges will be so much wasted time unless we can produce the economic aid that will help the poorer countries of the Commonwealth to a better way of life.
I am perhaps old-fashioned in another respect, but I must protest against former Colonies demanding their independence, repudiating the flag and the Crown, declaring themselves republics, insisting on their absolute independence—and then applying for membership of the Commonwealth and demanding limitless aid and economic assistance. They demand all the privileges of the club, but refuse to either respect its rules or pay their annual subscriptions. It is high time that someone said this. There is more mealy-mouthed talk about the new Commonwealth than any other subject we discuss in Parliament.
Let us consider the basic problem to which the right hon. Member for Easington referred. In 1962, this country exported £3,949 million worth of goods and imported £4,491 million worth, giving us a total trade of £8,440 million. Of that, we imported from the Commonwealth £1,558 million worth and exported to it £1,228 million worth, giving a total Commonwealth trade of £2,786 million—about one-third of our total overseas trade.
Do not let us exaggerate the position and get the wrong ideas. Before saying what this country should do, let us consider what other countries do to us. There are certain Commonwealth countries which sell to us far more than they buy from us and which could turn a good deal of their trade from other parts of the world into buying British and, 635 thereby, finding jobs for English and Scottish working men in this country.
I have with me the trade and navigation figures issued for last year. They reveal that India sold £136 million worth of goods to us, but bought only £118 million worth from us. Ceylon sold us £42 million worth, but bought only £25 million worth from us. We are entitled, therefore, to know where the extra money was spent and why it was not spent here. Our goods are as good as anyone else's and our prices are competitive. Patriotism, like charity, should begin at home and this trade should be a two-way traffic.
New Zealand, about which we hear so much and for which there is the deepest feeling in this country—and on behalf of which great pleas were made when we were discussing whether or not to join the Common Market—last year sold £169 million worth of goods to us, but bought only £108 million worth. These facts are not often enough brought out when we are discussing, perhaps in a sentimental way, what is happening in the Commonwealth. Let us consider the facts as they are. Canada is the worst nigger in the woodpile. Last year, Canada sold £349 million worth of goods to us, but bought only £194 million worth.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I understand what the hon. Member is driving at, but he must not exaggerate the position. He should not distort the true trading position, because trade is not always conducted on a bilateral basis. It is conducted on a triangular basis. For example, we have to buy certain commodities from, say, New Zealand, for manufacturing purposes and the same applies to other countries. I do not think that the hon. Member is putting the position in its proper perspective.
§ Sir C. Osborne
I am obliged for that interruption, but I have heard that so often that I am tired of hearing it. I am reciting the official facts. New Zealand and Canada are buying manufactured goods from America that they could well buy from Britain.
§ Mr. Shinwell rose—
§ Mr. Shinwell
Why not? Let us have a little controversy, if necessary. There is plenty of room in the Chamber for it. 636 The hon. Member will recall that when I was venturing a few remarks on this subject earlier I pointed out that one of our difficulties is—and one of our defects happens to be—that we do not advertise widely enough. We do not push our trade and boast sufficiently about our industrial achievements. If we did that in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and in other parts of the world we would be a lot better off.
§ Sir C. Osborne
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for refusing to give way to him before that last intervention. I have had no breakfast or lunch. The right hon. Gentleman has had a jolly good lunch and I am waiting to have mine.
Australia is a honourable exception. Last year, Australia sold to us £185 million worth, but bought from us £231 million worth. This is not a debate into which party politics should be imported—I get tired of party politics—but South Africa last year sold us goods to the value of £103 million, but bought from us goods valued at £148 million. To drive away that trade and then complain of unemployment is either stupidity or humbug.
I want the few hon. Members who are present to realise the size and importance of this problem. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) said that he talked to his people about dipping their fingers into their pockets, because it would cost them something, but if wages in the United Kingdom and India were averaged we in this country would get 30s. a week. That is not dipping one's fingers in one's pocket. It would hurt in a way that no one could imagine. This is the price of international Socialism that hon. Members opposite are not prepared to face.
I want to return to the figures, because we must come back to figures ultimately. How far are we able to help these newly-developing countries—to whom we owe a lot and whom it is our duty to help—and how far are we prepared to do it? What is the background to our possibility of helping? The United Kingdom has a population of 52 million, a density per square mile of 557, and a per capita annual income of £407. Compare that with India's population of 432 million, a density of 352, but with a per capita income of only 637 £25 a year—less than one-sixteenth of our own income per head. If we are to talk about international fair shares we should be prepared to face the terrible price our people would have to pay, and not talk about dipping our fingers a little in our pockets. To dip our fingers in our pockets will not touch the problem, as I shall show.
Ceylon has a population of 10 million, a density per square mile of 391, and an income per head of £43 a year. Pakistan is the worst of the lot; it has a population of 92 million, a density of 254, and an annual per capita income of £19—not just a few hundred of them, but 92 million of them. That per capita income is one-twentieth of ours. We say that we intend to help them, but how far are we prepared to go to their aid? That is what we ought to think about.
It has been said that we should look at the Commonwealth problem as a whole. It is true that, from the point of view of both density of population and wealth, the older Dominions are in a better position to give great help, but we cannot tell them what they should do. Australia has 10 million people, a density of only 3 per square mile, and a per head income of £434 a year. New Zealand has a population of 2 million, with a density of 23 and an annual income of £472 per annum. Canada has a population of 18 million, a density of 5 to the square mile, and the highest per capita income in the Commonwealth, £544—but we cannot tell them that they themselves must go to help others.
We can set an example if we are prepared to do so, but it would mean very savagely cutting our social services, our Welfare State. I ask hon. Members on both sides to be honest with themselves and with the people to whom they make these high promises. Are they prepared to pay the price of their promises? It is when the United Kingdom is faced with these enormous problems that I wonder whether we would not be wiser to talk more cautiously about the Commonwealth, and what we can and will do for it.
Last week, I attended the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Lausanne, where this matter was discussed as part of the world problem—because our relationship with the poorer parts of the Commonwealth is 638 but one sector of the greater problem facing the wealthy Western world and the poorer Eastern and African world. At the end of the conference we said that the only way to increase the standard of living of the underdeveloped peoples is to increase the prices of the raw materials they produce, and then stabilise world prices. We cannot do that ourselves; it will require international action. Next year, the United Nations is to hold an economic conference, and I want our Government to do all they can to support it.
I want to draw the attention of hon. Members to statements contained in three memoranda presented to the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference at Lausanne. The United States' memorandum stated:The average annual per capita gross national product of the less developed countries amounts to only 130 dollars, compared with an average of 1,470 dollars for the developed countries, and with 2,700 dollars for the United States.As the average in the poorer countries is only 130 dollars, there are places with far less than that. The Americans also stated:In the less developed countries the illiteracy rate is 67 per Cent.They added this personal note. President Kennedy said this to his people, and it could well be said to us:If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.It is to our own interests that we should do something for the poorer sections of the Commonwealth, but we should face the price.
The Brazilian delegation's memorandum stated:… the world production of food per inhabitant increased by 13 per cent. since the war. In Africa, however, it declined by 2 per cent., whereas in Latin America it increased only by 2 per cent., in Asia by 12 per cent. and in the developed countries of Europe by 21 per cent.The rich countries are getting richer, and the poorer, by comparison, are getting poorer. That was the message we got.
The Soviet memorandum gave these facts, and I hope that my hon. Friend will look at them later. If I may say so, this is basic to what has been said by the right hon. Member for Easington. The Soviet delegation wrote: 639…. prices of industrial goods … rise year by year.… According to United Nations statistics, during the period 1953–61, the price of primary commodities and foodstuffs exported by the underdeveloped countries fell by between 8 per cent. and 9 per cent., while prices of manufactured goods produced by the industrialised Western countries rose by 10 per cent.We are charging those countries more and more for what they get from us and, by comparison, paying them less and less for what we get from them. The Russians also said:As a consequence of unequal trade, the economically less developed countries lose between 14,000 million dollars and 16,000 million dollars each year.The first thing we ought to do is to stop that imbalance and get the terms of trade right and treat them fairly in trade. They do not want fine speeches from us, telling them what good people they are. They want us to help them to help themselves into a better way of life. Our own Monthly Digest of Statistics shows that the terms of trade of this country since 1954 has fallen from 100 to 84. If we in the United Kingdom were paying for lead, copper, zinc, rubber and oil the same proportion of price today as we paid in 1954 it would mean far more to these countries than the aid which we are giving to them. They want trade, not aid.
In stark reality, I would give a last set of figures to the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) talked about the smaller important parts of the Commonwealth. I want to talk about the big, important parts, the real problem with which she was only playing. In the Indian subcontinent there are 550 million people, or ten times more than there are in this country. If, therefore, we are to raise their standard of living by 1s. per head, other things being equal, we have to sacrifice 10s. per head.
A fortnight ago the Economist published a remarkable article under the heading "Marx Wasn't Hungry", in which it was said that India with only 2 per cent. of the world's land area supports 14 per cent. of the world's population. During the last decade the population of India increased by 77 million—do not let us talk about 80,000 people—and by 1971, the Economist estimates, there will be another 116 million mouths to feed in India. The article adds that, bad as this is, it is nothing compared with 640 what we have to face in future because, thanks to medical science, malaria, which used to take away 1 million people every year in India, has been eliminated. Cholera and smallpox, the two other great killers, have still to be eliminated. When they are, as we as ordinary decent mortals must hope they will be, there will be a fantastic rise in the population of India.
I finish presenting the bill to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary by giving these facts which we must face. In India, there are 9 million unemployed and 18 million chronically under-employed. By 1971, 116 million people will be added to the population. The present standard of living is £25 a year against our average £400 a year. These are the basic problems which we must face, and we shall not face them by giving the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table. We must give by hard sacrifice that will hurt. But whatever we do for them, unless there is some control of world population, East and West, we shall never be able to raise their standard of living.
There will be no solution to the world's frightening population problem until there is a huge drive, persistent and prolonged, to secure birth control both in East and West. I beg of my hon. Friends to press the Government to support the United Nations in family planning research which, extraordinarily enough, is opposed both by Russia and China at present, as well as by other people. Whatever we give these countries, if their populations rise faster than our aid their living standards will be reduced further.
I support the Motion. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice fox raising the subject and I am grateful for having had the opportunity to take part in the debate. I hope that as a country we shall face the problems to which the Motion draws attention.
§ 2.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
My hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) brought his usual practical and realistic approach to this subject. Many of the figures which he presented were impressive. I certainly think that he has earned his breakfast or luncheon, or whatever it is, and I 641 hope that he will not wait to listen to me. I readily understand his need.
I should like to add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) for raising this matter and for his splendidly comprehensive and imaginative speech. I was particularly gratified with what he said about Central Africa and Rhodesia. I have never heard the case presented with greater clarity and realism and I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Government will take note of what my hon. Friend said. A decision is now inescapable, and the terms in which we have to take that decision could not have been put better than they were by my hon. Friend.
I have some sympathy also with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke), in his most thoughtful and important short contribution to the debate. Most of what has been said so far has been in the nature of a eulogy of the Commonwealth, and this, indeed, naturally, for there is much to praise. But there are also things which trouble us about it. I want to ask one or two hard questions in the course of my remarks. I hope that I shall not offend anybody's susceptibilities because this is a subject which, naturally and rightly, raises much sentiment among us all.
We are, generally speaking, a clearheaded race, but I sometimes wonder whether this quality is always in evidence today in our relations with the Commonwealth. Our own particular relations are my theme. Perhaps the somewhat blurred image we tend to make in the world today may be bound up with this. I would, therefore, like to attempt a short analysis of the Commonwealth in these terms, to ask, first, how it came about, what it is, what its effect on us as a nation is today, and what we should do about that in our own interest and in the general interest of the Commonwealth.
First and foremost, it is the aftermath of a mighty Empire, an Empire which is in decline for two reasons, first, because of internal pressures or the lack of conviction in the imperial mission here in this country, and, secondly, because of a change in the balance of power in the world. We have succeeded in translating this decline into the association which we call the Commonwealth. This was an immensely imaginative and a great 642 achievement. Rome lasted for 400 years, but in the end she went down in a welter of blood, and afterwards there was darkness. We managed things better. Nor have we left other conquerors after us. We have left a genuine association, but in doing this, in managing the decline in this way, what was our object? What were we trying to do? What is the purpose of the Commonwealth?
In this country there are a great many different ideas and views about the purpose of the Commonwealth. There are those who hold, and rightly so, and it has been mentioned many times in the debate, that it is there for us to help others, for the strong to help the weak, for the rich to help the poor—but to help them to become what, and to do what? There are those who believe that it is there and was originally conceived in order to safeguard our markets in the world, or to maintain our bargaining power and influence, or to maintain a world-wide defence system; or to spread our culture—but what aspects of it?
I suggest that it is all these things in degree, and that, undoubtedly, for some, it preserves some of the illusions of grandeur that went with Empire. For many people it is different things, but for most of us it represents a cohesive grouping in our minds; indeed, we have heard much of this today. Hon. Members said, "The Commonwealth should do this; the Commonwealth should be that." It is an entity, and we bind this entity together with, in the terms of my hon. Friend's Motion, intangible links. Other expressions of that kind have been used. We become almost mystical about it. But does everybody else, both in the Commonwealth and outside it, remain as mystical as we are? Is this mysticism always an asset, or can it also be an illusion, as dangerous for our friends in the Commonwealth as for ourselves?
What is it really? I described it as an aftermath. I think that, in honesty, this is as good a formula as any other—it is an impressive and a splendid aftermath. But it is not, I think, a cohesive unit in terms of power—and politics is power. It is, in fact, a heterogeneous collection of peoples and territories, many of whom have nothing in common except language and the remains, in varying degree, of a magnificent system of administration.
643 I believe that democracy was largely an afterthought that came later in 'the day. After all, it took us 1,000 years to distil our democracy, and it is only in the last years that we have introduced it to the Commonwealth, not in imperial time. Democracy and empire do not go together. It is only in the last moments that this has appeared.
Our Commonwealth is a complete contrast. It consists, for instance, of a thrusting, growing, Western technological society and it must be admitted that at the other end of the scale it consists of African tyranny, with many of the trappings of the Western way of life at the centre, but with a hinterland of 10,000 years ago, a part of the emerging personality of a new continent.
Is it not extraordinary, even ludicrous, that we should seek to deal with these two phenomena in exactly the same way and by the same standards? We are, I think, in some degree in danger of this in our concept of the Commonwealth. This is one of the effects. What are the others? I said that I would come to the effects as I understand them. They are these. I believe that there is a danger in that in so far as we misconceive the Commonwealth we affect our clarity of purpose in foreign affairs and foreign policy as a whole. This is perhaps, first and foremost, because we are inclined, as I hinted earlier, to confuse this association, which is one of language and a hotch-potch of traditions, with power. People, and politicians, in particular, who are confused about power can be dangerous animals.
Because we are not clear in our minds what the object of the Commonwealth is—and I submit that often we are not because we think that it is a number of things—we are inclined, generally, to adopt what I would describe as a passive attitude—we see ourselves as a sort of mother figure. But the children grow up, as everybody knows, and there is nothing more irritating to children growing up than to be tied by apron-strings and sentiment. There is nothing dynamic about a fussing, lamenting and indecisive mother. I am not suggesting that this is our attitude all the time—of course not—but there is an element of it in our make-up, and it can serve to con- 644 fuse our clarity of thought about what our purpose should be and could be in the world.
We have constructed a vast Department of State—I say this with all respect to my hon. Friend who, I know, will take it in the spirit in which I mean it, which is one solely of inquiry—a Department of State which is not related directly to British foreign policy or to British interests. It is related to the image of the Commonwealth as we conceive it. Above all, the image must not suffer. I will give one example of what I mean. Anyone who goes into these matters deeply knows perfectly well that in Ghana, for instance, the Bureau of African Affairs has at times been, and for all I know is still, a subversive headquarters, and that much of this subversion is directed against British interests. This could happen elsewhere.
The links of the sort of movements to which I allude are very wide in Africa. It seems to me that there is a danger that if we create a Department with this kind of theme—one might almost say at times a myth behind it—we shall tend to disregard these dangers, to sweep them under the carpet, rather than damage the image of the Commonwealth. This I regard as a grave danger.
Now what are the lessons? What should we do, if I am right in what I have said so far or anywhere near it? I think that, first, in the interests of the Commonwealth as much as anyone else, we must divest ourselves of our inhibitions and decide where as a nation we are going in the world. The brave policy for Europe—and here I must say that I disagree wholeheartedly and completely with what the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said earlier; I am sorry to have to say it while lie is out of the Chamber—was imaginative and right, for all the undoubted worries that there were on behalf of the Commonwealth, because it showed for a moment where we could go. It was potentially dynamic. I suggest that when the Commonwealth understands where Britain is going, and what her purpose is, the Commonwealth is strengthened; if the Commonwealth does not know, she is weakened.
There are personalities in the Commonwealth today, and highly placed ones, too, who, I know very well, not only hope 645 but advocate that this country should persevere with a European policy for precisely the reason I have given. We need to be more purposive and more dynamic. If there is one phrase which makes me want to reach for my revolver more than any other, it is that we should not do this or that because "it might upset the Commonwealth". We may get a little temporary popularity in that way, but we shall not receive, or deserve, or retain respect in the long run from the Commonwealth or any other country by adopting that sort of approach.
Secondly, we should gear our administrative machine as best we may to the purpose and object upon which we have decided, not to attitudes and conventions of thought. We should conduct our relations with the Commonwealth as well as with everyone else in accord with this purpose. The sort of thing I suggest would be this. We should have one Minister, and one only, in charge of external affairs as a whole. How otherwise shall we be certain that we move always towards the aim we have set ourselves?
I readily admit that there should be a division in the conduct of our foreign affairs in Whitehall because of the differences of tradition and outlook in the Foreign Office, on the one side, and among those who have had experience, in the Colonial Office and, subsequently, the Commonwealth Relations Office in regard to the ex-territories of the Empire, on the other. But both divisions must be co-ordinated, and very much more closely co-ordinated than in the past, if Whitehall is to produce the sort of appreciation which Ministers need to form their decisions instead of the three or four different appreciations and views, held doubtless with conviction and sincerity, of course, about how any situation should be tackled.
Instead of having the present division of responsibility, we should be better off, I think, if we had beneath the Secretary of State in charge of all external affairs a team of Ministers concerned with their responsibilities divided by regions. For instance, there should be a Minister for African affairs, for the Far East, for America—perhaps, North and South America—for Europe and the Russias. This would include the Commonwealth just the same as foreign territories. Only 646 in this way, I submit, shall we achieve the sort of clarity of purpose and the sort of drive in foreign affairs which we badly need.
I take Central Africa as an example. At the moment, if I understand aright, the Federation, or that area as a whole, is in some way the responsibility of no fewer than four different Departments of State, the Central Africa Office—the Colonial Office, for Northern Rhodesia and Nysaland—the Commonwealth Relations Office, and the Foreign Office, because the foreign policy of the Federation is the concern of the Foreign Office. How can we sort out our affairs in these terms?
I had it in mind to touch for a few moments on the situation in Southern Rhodesia, but, as I said at the beginning, my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice dealt with this so clearly that there is little I can add. I say only this. The dangers and the difficulties in the Commonwealth and what I dare to suggest are, sometimes, the misconceptions which we hold about it and the inhibitions which flow therefrom are typified in the situation which has arisen in Central Africa. The story began with the Monckton Commission, and, since then, the situation has deteriorated or, so to speak, eroded until it has reached the present stalemate. Some of the trouble, though not all, has been due to indecision, and this indecision has been caused by the sort of complex I have tried to describe.
The issue now, as my hon. Friend said, is clearly independence for Southern Rhodesia and nothing else. It will be difficult, of course. Decisions are always difficult. But we must remember two things. Tenuous links with a territory overseas without power to back them up are really meaningless. Secondly—and this has been brought out by two speakers, at least, but I make no apology for repeating it—force is not available to us in these circumstances as a course of action.
Let us face this issue clearly and unequivocally. In a debate on the subject some time ago, the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) castigated the Government and said that they should adopt in Southern Rhodesia the same 647 methods as the President of the United States had used at Little Rock. This is another way of saying that we should use force. I have read hints and implications of the same kind in the weekly Press, also.
Let us put ourselves in the position of the Government on the eve of a decision of that kind. What regiments could we use? Who would they be? Better to discount those who served with Rhodesians in the 8th Army, the L.R.D.G., or the Royal Air Force during the last war. May there not be in our defence forces a number of people who have "illiberal" sympathies with their friends and relations out there as well? Are we to leave it to the Gurkhas? Should we call in the United Nations? Or should we not realise now that it just is "not on"? Once we get that idea clearly out of our system, we are in a position to weigh the decision rather more clearly.
I believe myself that the Africans in the territory will advance more quickly—and this is the general aim of us all, I think—in a Southern Rhodesia which is unfettered and unworried any more by what she believes to be a sort of lingering hostility in this country. I believe that, faced with her own problems, the Government of Southern Rhodesia would make steps forward in that direction which would be far more commensurate with our aims than they are ever likely to do so long as those links remain.
Even for those who feel no loyalty to the people who built the country out there, or who do not accept what I have just said, the logic of the situation must still remain clear. As my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice put it, it boils down to independence for Southern Rhodesia if we wish to be constructive, and the issue must be faced and faced soon.
I hope that I have not trodden on too many susceptibilities. I have not spoken in any spirit of shallow criticism of the Commonwealth, which is an immense and imaginative achievement. But I believe that we are not cut out to play a passive or subjective rôle in the world, and that we are in some danger of doing so, perhaps, because we are not clear about what the Commonwealth is or the way we should go either in it or with it. We are a gifted, tough and imaginative people. We must 648 get rid of illusions; they are not part of our natural make-up at all. If we do, we shall still be able to lead again in the world, and no one will benefit or rejoice more, I believe, than the Commonwealth itself.
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Tilney)
I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) on his Motion, which is, I believe, acceptable to the House, and which has been debated at a much more pleasant time than that of our last debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, which took place, I think, at 6.30 in the morning. Also, it is a very timely debate in the light or darkness, whichever way one looks at it, of our hopes of yestermonth.
The Government believed that our entry into the Common Market would have been a good thing, good for the United Kingdom, which would have become richer and, therefore, able to buy more from overseas and from the Commonwealth, good for Europe, which would have become possibly more liberal and outward-looking, and good for the Commonwealth in the increased demand for its products. In our general increase of riches we should have been able to give the Commonwealth more aid than we can now.
I for one never thought that our entry into the Common Market would be inconsistent with expanding Commonwealth trade. The whole free world could have become richer together to the benefit of all, both rich and poor. If there had been a better alternative, I believe that it would have been adopted many years ago. Had we gone into the Common Market, I believe that some of the problems very wisely mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice would have been solved. However, I think that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) would agree that it would be folly to rush into an alternative without very careful thought less than three months after the door was closed on us.
The great question is: what should we do now? Should we still hope to be an active partner in Western Europe, or should we aim at a larger Atlantic union; or should we accept that the door to a large part of Western Europe was slammed 649 and locked, perhaps permanently, three months ago? If so, what steps should be taken with our friends in the Commonwealth and in E.F.T.A. to improve our joint well-being? It seems to me that these are major questions for all of us.
It is a very odd coincidence that at this very moment—and the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) might note this; it is three months after the final decision on the Common Market—a conference on the future of the Commonwealth is taking place at Ditchley Park under the auspices of the Commonwealth Relations Office. There have been assembled there since last night leaders of industry, of the universities, and of the Civil Service, and representatives of Parliament, the unions and the Press, under the chairmanship of Lord Kilmuir. I only wish that I could be there myself. There is, of course, a planning department in the Commonwealth Relations Office, and we are not waiting for death and decay, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East indicated.
Depending on the long-term goal, it is pertinent to ask what action should be taken by Commonwealth members in the political and economic fields. Many suggestions have been made today, and I hope to answer some of them, but I think that I would bore the House if I tried to answer all of them. I assure all hon. Members that their suggestions will be considered, either at the meetings which will take place in the comparatively near future, or separately. All suggestions will be examined by the Government and I will be replying to each hon. Member about the suggestions which he has made. I do not wish my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice to think that I am adopting a negative attitude, but he will appreciate that it is still early days, in the aftermath of the decision over the Common Market, to say anything definite.
I was much interested in what my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) said about the state of the Commonwealth today. I am not as pessimistic as he is, and I should like to pay my tribute, as my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) did, to people who went out from the ex-British Empire to many countries 650 overseas, and improved the well-being of all colours and races of people in those territories.
What was the British Empire? The Commonwealth in its present form is under twenty years old. In 1945, 500 million out of a little over 600 million people were ruled from Whitehall. In 1963, only 27 million people out of a population of over 700 million are ruled from this country, and the number will diminish. In 1945, only the old white Dominions were self-governing. Now there are 16 Commonwealth independent countries, and only an eighth of the population is white. The Commonwealth consists of single party States, limping democracies, liberal parliamentary regimes, five Republics and an elective monarchy, and all accept Her Majesty as Head of the Commonwealth. Many, as has been rightly said, because of this association, have greater influence than they would have if they were alone. As the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley) said, one of six of the non-permanent seats on the Security Council is, by tradition, always held by a Commonwealth country.
I know that there are those in this House, such my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire, who are a little doubtful about certain of the democratic traditions of some of the members of our Commonwealth; but let us remember how long it took us in this country to achieve full democracy. I well remember reading what the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) said, namely, that he found in Africa that in many of the African languages there is no phrase for "Leader of the Opposition" other than "chief enemy". Of course, in so many of these countries there is a shortage of skilled people, and some of them regard an opposition as a luxury which they cannot afford.
This special position of association in the Commonwealth is recognised in its particular aspect in general external relations—hence the Commonwealth Relations Office and High Commissioners rather than ambassadors—and the unique measure of common understanding derived from shared habits and the stamp of the British pattern of life. Although, personally, I find that some relatives are not always the best ambassadors of good relations, the Com- 651 monwealth is in many ways a bit like a family, and I believe that the vital link is the English tongue. I pay my tribute to the work of the British Council in teaching this and all the teachers of English, whether they be here for overseas students, or among the vast numbers overseas.
I think that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) had almost forgotten some of the volunteers who have gone overseas. When I was in West Africa only a few weeks ago, I was immensely impressed by the work of members of Voluntary Service Overseas and of graduate V.S.Os. I appeal to every local education authority, whether it be controlled by the Conservative, Labour or Liberal Parties, every hospital body, and leaders of industry to let those who are prepared to volunteer for one or, preferably, two years' service overseas to go overseas and to take them back when they return into a position at least as good as and preferably superior to that which they would have achieved if they had not gone.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that in that respect there is considerable scope for those who have only nine months to spare between December and the time when they go up to university in October?
§ Mr. Tilney
Indeed, but in recent weeks, talking to many leaders in different parts of West Africa, I found that they hoped that the period of volunteering would be longer than one year. It was rightly pointed out that it took a month or two to acclimatise and that the last month was taken up in preparation for leaving. There is no doubt that a two-year period is much more valuable than a one-year period.
But this Commonwealth, based on the English tongue, has other mutual benefits. We all know about the regular exchange of information. There are a great number of telegrams which go out and which give some members, including ourselves, extra-diplomatic facilities which would have been impossible if we were not members of the same Commonwealth. There is the practice of the regular meetings which Commonwealth members have. My hon. Friend, with his experience of the United Nations, knows of the fortnightly meeting which is 652 held there among members of the Commonwealth, under a rotating chairmanship; during the past month Trinidad and Tobago was elected by ballot to the chairmanship, this month Uganda has been in the chair, and so it will continue alphabetically.
There is the immense network of official and unofficial Commonwealth organisations. In 1962, there were 14 Commonwealth conferences, varying from education to forestry. Two of these were unofficial, but were lust as important. These were the Commonwealth conference of the Royal Institute of International Affairs and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference, at Lagos. I am glad to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and I are wearing the same tie today. All these meetings help towards a full understanding of each other's policies.
The right hon. Member for Easington and others referred to the necessity to get down to reality. The economics of the Commonwealth have changed since Ottawa. Tariff preferences have diminished and Commonwealth countries have looked elsewhere as world trade has expanded in the years subsequent to the article which the right hon. Gentleman wrote in 1944. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East said, time. G.A.T.T. and circumstances have eroded their value.
But, so far, Britain has ensured that there is no control over capital movements from here into the sterling area, although I agree that there has been no guarantee for private investment like that which is available in the United States, Germany and Japan. I hope, however, to give some figures of the very substantial amount of private investment which is still being made. It is, I believe, of interest that we send out a greater percentage of our gross national product in the form of private investment than does America, Germany or Japan, all of whom have these facilities.
We should also remember that the Commonwealth has provided since Montreal machinery for the increase of Commonwealth trade in the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council. But that Council depends on the views 653 of all its members and not just on the views of the United Kingdom. We have to get our views over to fifteen other countries.
Above all, when we decide what the Commonwealth is, I believe that it is a body which practises particularly good international behaviour which some of the rest of the world might well copy. It is the only major international organisation which really works in bringing people together, rich and poor, brown, white and black, from all corners of the world.
Before we consider the future of the Commonwealth, there are two fundamental questions which should be asked and which I do not propose to answer. First, one often hears people say that the United Kingdom must pay its way and that we are not owed a living by any other country. But how responsible must we be for other people's standards of living? There is another question which has yet to be decided: what sort of life do we want here in the United Kingdom and what should be the balance between our agriculture and our urban community? That is vital to the whole basis of Commonwealth trade.
Before one looks at the future, there are certain Commonwealth factors which have to be remembered. First, on the political side, the Commonwealth is a living organism. One can belong to it, and withdraw from it. It is something more than the badge of a past Imperial relationship, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire. Only Burma has refused to join, and only two have left the organisation.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Gentleman said that he would ask several questions, but he was not prepared to provide the answers. I should have thought that it would be better not to ask the questions if he cannot provide the answers, but, at the same time, I should have thought that the Government had all the answers to the questions. For example, surely the Government have the answer to the correct balance between agriculture and our general economic position? Surely the Government have an answer to the kind of living that we want for the people in the under-developed countries? Surely the Government have some plans in mind? If the Government have not the 654 answers to these questions, if the hon. Gentleman cares to consult me I shall furnish him with them.
§ Mr. Tilney
I wonder whether the Socialist Party would shut down the sugar beet industry of the eastern part of England so as to bring in cheaper sugar from the West Indies and elsewhere?
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Gentleman must not take advantage of us. I admit that we are jejune, but we are not as infantile as all that. We have to strike a proper balance. There are occasions when it is necessary to boost our indigenous industries. There are other occasions when we have to consider world trade.
§ Mr. Tilney
I do not disagree with the right hon. Gentleman, but I am saying that in the aftermath of the Common Market decision which was taken only three months ago it would be folly to make a decision quickly and without proper thought.
If the Commonwealth is to grow in strength—and strength. does not necessarily mean growth—it has to be of positive value to all and, at the same time, must not obstruct the aims of independent members. We have defence agreements with some, but by no means all, members of the Commonwealth, and there are obvious major disagreements in certain areas.
My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) and the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East referred to Southern Rhodesia. I appreciate the sincerity of the views that are held. This is a highly controversial subject. The House is aware of the exchange of letters between my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State and Mr. Winston Field, published as Cmnd. 2000. Mr. Field has recently written again. His latest letter is under consideration, and I therefore think that it would be wrong to add anything to what my right hon. Friend said in reply to Questions yesterday.
I turn now to the economic factors of the Commonwealth. The first point which I think one should bear in mind is the immense variety of Commonwealth trade, and I therefore doubt whether there is any single medicine which would do good overall. The second point we ought 655 to bear in mind is that a gain in trade can be different from an increase in volume. Italian shoes can be imported into this country, but they are not very different in price or quality from the shoes made here, whereas Australian grain, New Zealand meat or butter, and Indian textiles, are all very much cheaper than similar products produced here.
The third point to be remembered, and it was mentioned by a number of hon. Members, relates to bulk purchase. Commodity agreements can be very satisfactory for some. But they can have three effects. They can increase our costs—especially if we make the commodity agreements and our competitors do not—out of proportion to any addition to overall wealth. The second thing is that they can increase balance of payments difficulties, and it is very important to remember the importance of the stability of the £; so many Commonwealth countries keep their reserves in sterling and do the bulk of their trade in sterling. The third point about commodity agreements is that they can cut across normal channels of trade.
§ Sir C. Osborne
Unless terms of trade improve from 80 as against 100 in 1954, which would give the poorer countries of the Commonwealth better prices for what they sell, we shall never be able to rescue them from their poverty. That means sacrifices on the part of our economy. Are we prepared for that?
§ Mr. Tilney
I do not disagree with what my hon. Friend has said. But it is a matter which ought to be tackled by the Western world as a whole and not solely by this country.
There is another factor: that the developing countries want protection for any local industry that saves their import bill. Many of them are keener on this than on mixed farming, which might increase their well-being, but decrease their overall trade. I believe that all would like larger markets here for the goods which they manufacture.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The Minister says that this is a decision which concerns the Western world as a whole. What consultation have we had with the United States in the light of the Clay Committee's Report?
§ Mr. Tilney
No doubt these are matters which will come up during the Kennedy Round. These matters are bound to be discussed in the general context of the hope for increase in world trade.
I should also like to mention the factor of aid, whether by loan or gift—aid which is no longer a barrier to independence, but a vital part of the relations between Governments. My hon. Friend the Member for Louth pointed out that the Commonwealth contains a high percentage of the world's needy and, generally speaking, the United Kingdom is the only major producer of capital which can be lent overseas. All the more reason then not to scoff at the United States. This matter has to be tackled in a way which will bring together all the capital producers of the world. So much requires to be done in so many different countries, especially in the light of Communist expansion from the East.
Many developing countries are near the limit of their debt servicing capacity. I should like to give the House what I consider fairly encouraging figures of investment of private capital. They are bigger than those mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice. Of recent years about £300 million per annum of private investment has gone overseas. Half of that has gone to developing countries. Two-thirds of all overseas investment has gone to the Commonwealth and a large part of it to developing Commonwealth countries. I consider that these figures are very encouraging. But they depend on the climate of investment and also on the fact that taxation for specialists expatriate technicians should be kept reasonably low.
I wish also to mention public aid, now running at about £160 million per annum. This, allied with private investment, is a very good record. With these factors in mind, may I turn to the immediate future. Under the ægis of the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council there will be a meeting here of Commonwealth Ministers of Trade and Commerce next month, previous to the G.A.T.T. meeting. There will also be a number of bilateral talks in the near future between ourselves and other Commonwealth countries. Then, of course, there is the Kennedy Round in which many nations will take part and in which many nations will bargain.
657 If this can achieve a massive reduction in tariff barriers, then the expansion of world trade so vital to the United Kingdom and to so many others may ease some of the difficulties to which reference has been made in the debate today. These meetings are very important indeed. Time is short and we should know what this country would like to see evolved in the future. Hence the value of a debate such as this. Many interesting suggestions have been made. Some of them, no doubt, will find themselves on the agenda of one of the meetings to which I have referred, but I repeat again that all will be considered by Her Majesty's Government.
I should like to refer to the Commonwealth Economic Development Council, which would provide the machinery suggested ay my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East, and by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), in a speech the other day. But, of course, there is the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council already in existence, and the important thing really is to get agreement between the many Governments.
I am wondering whether the analogy which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral made elsewhere to the N.E.D.C. can be taken very far, in that the N.E.D.C. deals with only one country whereas here we have to deal with 16 members of the Commonwealth. However, it will be very carefully looked at.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Before my hon. Friend passes from that, may I say that I was well aware of the existence of the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council, as, I think, both the terms of my speech today and the pamphlet "A Call to the Commonwealth" make clear? What I feel, and what many hon. Members feel, is disappointment at the measure of activity which has so far been produced by the Council. We feel that there is a much greater potential for future activity than has been achieved by the Council up to date. That is really the point that we are on, and that is the matter in which we should like the Government to take the initiative with the other Commonwealth countries.
§ Mr. Tilney
That is understood, but the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council has achieved a certain amount already. Indeed, I was surprised at the amount of money that had already been provided by means of aid under S.C.A.A.P., which deals with the Commonwealth parts of Africa, and which amounts so far, I think, to £40 million, which is a very substantial sum of money. As far as I can remember that is the figure.
I will now turn to one or two suggestions which have been made. One hon. Member referred to a single overseas service. This is being considered in the Plowden Committee and is of fundamental importance. The Plowden Committee is likely to report in a few months' time and, therefore, the whole matter is really still sub judice.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire referred to the need for regionalisation. He thought that it would be very much better if the Commonwealth Relations Office was amalgamated with the Foreign Office.
§ Mr. Hastings
What I said was that I thought that there should be a division between the two, but that they should be grouped regionally under a single Minister, that is to say, the Foreign Office dealing with foreign affairs and the Commonwealth Relations Office, or its successor, dealing with Commonwealth affairs, but that they should be under one Minister.
§ Mr. Tilney
I do not see the benefit of that, because my hon. Friend went on to suggest that there should be further regionalisation in Africa and Asia, on a geographical basis. My right hon. Friend already has a major job to do, in being Secretary of State both for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonial Office, and I would have thought that so long as we have Cabinet Government—which I hope will be for ever—is better for the Cabinet as a whole to be responsible rather than for just one Minister.
Another point referred to was the possibility of a Commonwealth Secretariat. Suggestions about this have been made for the last forty years. It is important to bear in mind that, on the whole, Commonwealth Governments have objected to this idea; they prefer to have meetings of their Ministers with Ministers of other Commonwealth 659 Governments, and not to be run by a secretariat in the manner of the old French Empire. There is a general feeling in the Commonwealth that this would not be a particularly popular move.
§ Mr. Tilney
But there are a number of regional secretaries already working on an ad hoc basis. Everyone would prefer them to continue to be on an ad hoc basis, rather than to formalise them.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the decision taken at the Montreal Conference in 1958. It was then decided that Commonwealth members did not want to expand their arrangements for economic consultation, or to change their economic character. Although things have greatly altered since 1958, and our friends in the Commonwealth have looked at the Common Market and the possible repercussions had we gone into it, my expectation is that they would not be likely to change their views to any great extent in the coming discussions that we are to have.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East put forward the idea of a Commonwealth court of appeal. This has been considered on a number of occasions, but there are many constitutional difficulties, and I very much doubt whether it would be acceptable to all members of the Commonwealth. There might be even one or two difficulties from our own point of view.
A Commonwealth University was also suggested. This would be a matter largely for the universities themselves. But there are already very close links between Commonwealth universities, both as regards exchanges of staff and of students. The Commonwealth Scholarship Plan enables post-graduate and other students from one Commonwealth country to study in other Commonwealth countries. There are also administrative links in the Association of Universities of the British Commonwealth, the Inter-University Council, and, in the field of universities in the dependent territories, the Colonial University Grants Advisory Committee.
660 The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East raised many points. He referred to the effect of Suez upon India. All I can say is that when I was in India a few months ago—we were the first country to come to the aid of India at its time of crisis—I found that the popularity of the British there was immense. One has to look at it in the context of the threat to the whole sub-continent, but in Pakistan and in India I believe that we are very popular.
§ Mr. Bottomley
I agree completely. I believe that our popularity throughout the whole Commonwealth is very high indeed. What I said, however, was that the reputation of this Government was very low.
§ Mr. Tilney
I do not think that the right hon. Member would find that to be so in India.
The right hon. Member also suggested that there should be regular meetings of Prime Ministers and that they should meet in each Commonwealth country, but they are very busy men, and they are in constant touch by telegram and, at times, by telephone. It is easier to have special ad hoc meetings. There have been meetings of Prime Ministers almost every year in recent years. That seems to be easier than having regular meetings at a time when it may be difficult for Prime Ministers to attend and when there may not be all that much to discuss.
The right hon. Member deplored the fact that we consume less Australian and Canadian wheat than we did in the past, but wheat is being sold now to China from both Australia and Canada and meat goes from Australia to the United States of America. It is impossible for this country to take all the extra production of Commonwealth countries. That must be understood.
There are a great many other points, but I shall not weary the House by going into them in detail.
§ Sir C. Osborne
May I ask my hon. Friend two specific questions to which I think I am entitled to have an answer? Will he do something to support the United Nations' demand for a population control? Will he do something about the terms of trade, remembering that last year Commonwealth trade was £3,800 million and that, if the terms of trade last year had been as in 1954. we 661 should have had to pay £540 million extra?
§ Mr. Tilney
Both points have been noted, but it is not easy for the British Government to control the population of the world.
If the Commonwealth is to grow, Commonwealth trade as a whole must grow. It is not good if it increases in one part and decreases in another. We have to be very careful not to goad other countries into retaliation. I agree with the right hon. Member for Easington in what he said about triangular trade and its value, although I hope that good buyers like the United Kingdom will be remembered when exporters to the United Kingdom buy goods which we can export, as was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth.
The Commonwealth is a living, exciting, changing organism which is unique. We can be justly proud of what we have so far clone, but much remains for us to do. By "us", if this great concept is to be achieved, I do not just mean the United Kingdom, but all of us fellow members of the Commonwealth.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House, being convinced of the vital importance of the Commonwealth to the world, conscious both of its intangible strength and of the strains that are being imposed upon its unity particularly by events in Central and Southern Africa, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to explore means of improving methods of Commonwealth consultation and co-operation in the political, economic and administrative fields, to study methods of promoting Commonwealth development, trade and aid, and to take action to improve Government machinery so as to ensure the immediate and effective presentation of the British point of view in particular to our partners in the Commonwealth.