§ Question again proposed, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Wall
I was trying to explain to the House the difficult situation which exists for Central Africa. I added that it was complicated by three external factors, the activities of the Afro-Asian group, the activities of America and of Communism. I was concluding by saying that the irony of the situation is that the American anti-colonial bias and anti-Communist complex are encouraging chaos in Central Africa and that alone will give Communism its chance.
I now come to the final part of my speech and to an attempt to assess the situation in the Federation as it is today. The House knows that the secession of Nyasaland has been agreed, but what the House does not yet know—and I hope my right hon. Friend when he winds up the debate will give us some information about it—is who is to pay the £5 million or £6 million a year which Nyasaland must have to sustain the present level of its economy? Dr. Banda said last week that he wanted to maintain two battalions of the King's Own African Rifles. Who is to pay for that? Who is to pay for the compensation of Federal civil servants who will not be wanted by the Nyasa Government? Nyasaland is not credit-worthy and will therefore need United Kingdom grants. Can my right hon. Friend assess what the burden on the British taxpayer will be as a result of the secession of Nyasaland? These are questions to which I should like to have an answer, as they are of interest to a large number of people, not only in the Rhodesias but also in this country.
Secondly, are the two Rhodesias to be split? When I was in Lusaka I met very few people who believed that they would not be split. They said that the independence of Northern Rhodesia was assured. There are, of course, very strong 1507 pressures on the Northern Rhodesian Government from one side or the other. If the two countries are to be split, who is to say, and what will be the cost to the British taxpayer of maintaining the defence of Central Africa, which surely the House will agree is very important? The troubles in the Congo could easily spread across the frontier. Also what is to happen to existing communications by road, rail and air? Who is to pay up to settle the debts of the Federal Government and the three components of the Federation?
I believe that Southern Rhodesia is one of the countries most loyal to the Crown. I think the average man in Southern Rhodesia would wish to maintain the British presence. I was told only yesterday that this would be impossible for they no longer trust the Government of this country to look after what they feel are their inherited rights. Many people have already said that Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia must be independent and Southern Rhodesia cannot be independent because it has not a democratic Government.
In parenthesis, I ask if anyone can tell us where there is a fully democratic Government of the Westminster style in Africa today? That is not the point, however. If Southern Rhodesia is not given independence it will take it. That fact must colour our discussions about the future of Central Africa. I hope that if the Federation splits, the three territories will be given independence by Her Majesty's Government. I should hate to see this Conservative Government going down to history as one that gave independence to two black-led countries and refused it to one white-led country.
§ Mr. Berkeley
My hon. Friend has said that he would hate to see our Government give independence to two black countries and not to one white country. Does he regard Southern Rhodesia as a white State?
§ Mr. Wall
I hope that this split does not come and that we do not have to 1508 decide on the division between black-led and white-led Africa. If the Federation does disintegrate we must act quickly and maintain common services, a common market and so on, which are essentials for the future of all the people of Central Africa. I want this Government to give Southern Rhodesia independence if it gives independence to the Northern Territories. If not, I say again that Southern Rhodesia is determined to take its independence and there is nothing we can do to prevent it, but I also ask the House to face the consequences of breaking the Federation. It would mean polarising race on either side of the River Zambesi.
I believe the line of the Zambesi would endure for a number of years and would be held by force. But this polarisation would be disastrous to the Commonwealth. It would probably mean the breaking up of the Commonwealth, and it would force both Britain and the United States in the next three or four years to choose whether to trade and work with black-led Africa in the North or white-led Africa in the South. The result of that decision cannot be doubted for a moment because both our economic and strategic interests lie to the South, whatever may be the moral considerations. The break-up of the Federation would lead to appalling consequences for Central Africa, for the Commonwealth and perhaps for the United Nations, because these racial strains once created would continue to develop with disastrous effects to that great world-wide organisation.
Therefore, my final words are these. Cannot we in the House of Commons, seeing the consequences of breaking up the Federation, try to maintain some nonracial organisation in Central Africa, something perhaps in an attenuated form of federation—but for heaven's sake do not let us call it federation—such as in Australia, where the central Government are responsible for defence, foreign affairs and communications and where the territories of North and South Rhodesia are, other than those three factors, fully independent voting that sovereignty lies with the central association which must also be independent. I believe that this is still possible.
I believe that, provided this new association is independent, Southern 1509 Rhodesia will subscribe to it. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that it is extremely difficult to get Northern Rhodesia to do this. The situation in Northern Rhodesia is, however, more complicated than we seem to think. There are great pressures between the two parties in the coalition and the external pressure of Mr. Koniange and his Pafmecsa, who have their eyes on the wealth of the Copperbelt for developing their schemes for Pan-African association.
Then there are the pressures in Barotseland. Is it a fact that there are now pressures being exerted on Barotseland to obtain new elections of the Barotse National Council? Elections took place only last year. Why should they be asked to have another election? Is it because we want to project political parties into Barotseland so that we can make it quite clear that Litunga and the Council no longer speak for Barotseland and are therefore not able to prevent the secession of Barotseland from Northern Rhodesia?
These are questions which people are asking in Barotseland, and questions which should be answered. I think that it would be very difficult indeed to maintain a link between the two Rhodesian, but I believe that the only hope for the future of that part of the world, and, indeed, for the Commonwealth because the alternative will in my view endanger the whole Commonwealth, is to create this new non-racial association. I believe that so far it is the extreme views both of black and white that have been publicised, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will now listen to the moderates of both the races. This, I say again, is the last chance in Africa to obtain a non-racial association.
There is a great need, which has been expressed on both sides of the House, for firm, rapid and positive action. I hope that my right hon. Friend will call the conference to which he referred, that he will call it in April and that it will lead to some form of association such as I have outlined. My right hon. Friend has vast experience and the responsibilities and the future of Central Africa and, indeed, of the Commonwealth is in his hands.
I apologise for speaking at length, but I believe that what I have said is of importance. I hope that the House will 1510 take to mind the dangers that are contingent upon the complete fragmentation of the three countries which we now know as the Central African Federation.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
At times during the speech of the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) I began to wonder what we were debating. I should like to take up some of the points which he made about the United Nations, but I think that I should be straying somewhat from the debate on Central Africa.
May I refer for a moment to the subject of American influence. The hon. Member referred to Nyasaland, and I believe that it provides rather a good answer to the arguments which he was deploying. Consider the situation twelve years ago. There were no people more loyal, more friendly than the Nyasas. They believed that the British Government would protect them, that the British would never let them down and that the protection of the late Queen Victoria really meant something. I remember discussing this with them not long after the Victoria Falls Conference and later when the Central African Federation was proposed. They were bewildered at the suggestion that Federation would be forced through against the wishes of the majority of their people. If their attitude has changed, if there are some who regard the Americans as more concerned about their welfare than the British, then I fear that is very much the fault of the British Government in the last ten years. This is a very unhappy state of affairs, but I do not think that we can altogether blame the Americans for it.
The hon. Member for Haltemprice also referred to the probability of authoritarian rule in some parts of Africa. I have discussed that with Africans in East, West and Central Africa, and recognise that there might well be a lung period of one-party rule in a number of countries. I had hoped that in Central Africa a form of political democracy could have developed more like our own. If we had given greater encouragement to multi-racialism earlier, I believe that that might have been possible, but maybe it is now too late.
Again, I think that we have at least to some extent only ourselves to blame, 1511 and by that I mean the British Government. To be continually saying, "I told you so" is, I know, very exasperating to those who have to hear it, and it is not very constructive. But one cannot discuss a subject such as this without looking back to the past to see what errors have been committed. It is a tragic story. It is a story of Governments refusing to listen to the advice of many people who were deeply concerned with the interests of the Africans in Central Africa.
We have many illustrations of one great principle being flouted, namely, that we could not successfully create a political federation against the wishes of the majority of the people. I believe that there was a failure to recognise that at the time of the Victoria Falls Conference and again at the time of the introduction of Central African Federation in 1953. I took part in most of the debates on the Bill which introduced that Federation. I also went on deputations to the Colonial Office and took part in meetings, and I am quite sure that everything possible was done to make the Government of the day aware of the dangers.
I do not think that it was a fair point that was made by the right hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) that present conditions could not have been foreseen, because there were people in this country, and hon. Members who foresaw what might happen, and unfortunately, what they feared has come to pass. I remember very well the look of annoyance on the face of Lord Boyd, as he now is, at the suggestion that the British Government might be wrong. He could not believe that we who opposed that Bill were right, but I fear that we were right. There is no cause for rejoicing in that. I remember the long debates over the Preamble to the Bill and the importance which could be attached to the Preamble. But all that is now past history and it is clear that the Federation is breaking up.
I do not think that it need necessarily have been failure. If three conditions had been satisfied it might have succeeded. The first is that the majority of the African people had been in favour of it. The second is if full internal self-government had been achieved before the 1512 completion of a political federation. The third is if emphasis had been placed on economic co-operation first, with the political development coming later. If these three conditions had been met, we might have achieved a federation, but of course a very different policy was adopted. Certain protective machinery was set up such as the African Affairs Board, but when that was overthrown—and to all intents and purposes it was overthrown—the last hope had gone.
The question is, what are we to do now? May I quote from page 37 of the Monckton Commission's Report:Time is not on the Federation's side and the majority of us feel that to rely on the process of natural evolution would result in the early dissolution of the Federation.I think that it has been very true in the last few years that time has not been on the side of the Federation.
We have reached the present position in which it is abundantly clear, and the Government now recognise, that Nyasaland is to secede. Inevitably, there is a demand from Northern Rhodesia to do the same, and its seems to me that one cannot approve secession in one case and deny it in the other. That, surely, is a fact which must be faced. If that is So, we are also faced with the end of the Federation, whether we like it or not. That is the situation. It is a sad story. I do not know whether pledges have been broken. I can only read and listen to what is said. Obviously there was some kind of secret understanding, and it appears to me as an onlooker that undertakings were given and have been broken. It has happened and we cannot undo it now.
What is the next step? I think that the most practical step for Nyasaland and Rhodesia is to create some kind of common services organisation. There are practical problems to be solved concerning, for example, the postal services, the telegraph services, airlines and roads. There is also the Health Service, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned in opening the debate. Surely there is much that can be done. I suppose that these are the problems which arc being considered by the working party.
In addition, there is the great question of finance and the Federal commitments.
1513 How much is to fall on the British taxpayer? I think that we should recognise frankly that certain obligations will have to fall on the British taxpayer. This all arose from the original event when these people put themselves under the protection of Queen Victoria. We undertook a financial obligation as well as the obligation of a protecting Power, and today this imposes certain financial obligations on the British taxpayer. I do not see how he can escape from them. I do not think that we can justifiably say that the whole of this burden must be borne by the people of Nyasaland.
How is the working party proceeding? When is it expected to report? When it reports, shall we be told the extent of the financial responsibility which will be borne by the Nyasaland Government and the extent which will be borne by the British people?
The problem of Northern Rhodesia is not so much a financial as a political problem. The question is very simple: are we to recognise that the people of Northern Rhodesia have the same rights as have the people of Nyasaland? I listened very carefully to the right hon. Gentleman opening the debate, and I must say that the answer was not at all clear. I cannot see what is to be gained by not being clear on this issue. Surely one of the lessons which we should have learned from the unfortunate experiences of the last ten years is that it does not pay to be vague and to make statements which have one meaning for one side and another meaning to another side. It is much better to be frank and open, and in view of the experience in Central Africa, surely it would be better to be quite frank and open about Northern Rhodesia.
The same comment could be made about Southern Rhodesia. It is true that it is the Southern Rhodesian Parliament which is concerned with legislation, but we, too, are very much concerned with the type of legislation. We are very concerned about the deportation of Dr. Ranger. We cannot do other than make our protests. But there is the ultimate future to be considered. We cannot evade responsibility for the people of Southern Rhodesia. It may be difficult, but at least let us be frank and make it clear that we cannot stand by and do nothing and say nothing if a minority in Southern Rhodesia act 1514 as if they had it within their power to do whatever they like with the people under their control.
§ Mr. Wade
I remember taking part in the debates when alterations were made, and I must repeat that we cannot stand by and do nothing and say nothing, because it is all bound up with our policy towards Africa, and what we do in Central Africa affects the position throughout the continent. The right hon. Gentleman said that the matter was not before him at the moment, but it is in the thoughts and minds of all of us as a problem which we have to face.
There is, perhaps, a case to be made for trying to resist change, but having recognised the wind of change and having done, as the Prime Minister did, a great deal to advertise it, it is surely folly to resist the consequences, and of all the dangers which beset us, the greatest danger of all is to resist the consequences of the wind of change.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Aidan Crawley (Derbyshire, West)
The hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) spent a large part of his speech reminding us about pledges. I cannot help feeling that he overdid this. Politicians and Governments frequently, and sometimes unwisely, feel impelled to give pledges, and very many politicians and very many Governments have found that changed circumstances force them to break these pledges.
I well remember just such an occasion in the early days of the Labour Government after 1945. I was then one of their supporters. Specific pledges had been given in the Labour Party conference on aspects of social insurance, but when the Government came into power and looked into the matter they found that they could not possibly honour them. Quite rightly, the Government broke them, and although there was a certain amount of recrimination I do not think that anybody who looks back to those days thinks that the Government could have done anything other than they did.
1515 There is a good deal of doubt about what, if any, pledges were given in this case. I am sure that what is much more important than harking back to pledges is to face the facts as they are and to do what is right, whether it means breaking a pledge or not. One of the things which has hampered the solving of the problems of Central Africa has been what my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) called the legalistic attitude of the Opposition. They missed a tremendousopportunity through too narrow and dogmatic an attitude towards the terms of reference when they refused to join the Monckton Commission. Had they joined the Commission, they would have had an opportunity of learning about Central Africa in a detail which has not otherwise been possible and will probably not again be possible. They missed the chance of playing a positive part in trying to frame the future development of these Territories.
I think that their legalistic attitude towards Southern Rhodesia has also had severe and tragic effects. Their insistence upon the purely paper rights of Her Majesty's Government to interfere in the affairs of Southern Rhodesia has had a far greater effect than the reasons given by the hon. Member for Leeds, East in causing Sir Edgar Whitehead to lose the election which he recently lost. By losing it, the Southern Rhodesians have had the clock put back a very long way. Had Sir Edgar Whitehead won that election, in my opinion they would have been within a few years of a reform of their Constitution which would have brought an African majority and enabled Southern Rhodesia much more easily to play its part in the development of Africa and in any association which may be able to be formed. Since Sir Edgar has lost that election, all those things will be much more difficult. It is fatal, because certain paper rights insist, for us to threaten Governments over whom we have no control. It is fatal because it simply causes resentment, and resentment brings the sort of result which we now see.
Nevertheless, I agreed with the hon. Member for Leeds, East about one thing. I had hoped for a little more information from my right hon. Friend the First 1516 Secretary. Of course we all understand his reluctance to say anything which might create difficulties. I am sure that he is hoping that the new personalities which have emerged on the Central African stage will get to know each other and establish some confidence between each other. Like the hon. Member for Leeds, East, I know Mr. Winston Field, and I know that he is a man of very outspoken and perfectly sincere views. I do not agree with very many of them, but he leaves one in no doubt about what he thinks and equally in no doubt that he is a perfectly honourable man. It is quite possible that he will reach a degree of understanding with Dr. Banda and Mr. Kaunda which may produce results.
Nevertheless, I think that there are some things which my right hon. Friend could do which would be helpful. The Federation is drawing to a close. It is tragic, but it is true. It cannot be brought to an end suddenly, because it is a complicated business. Perhaps the most complicated part of winding up an organisation of this kind is its finance. The hon. Member for Leeds, East mentioned the public debt of Southern Rhodesia. The Federation has an even larger public debt. Much of the public debt of the Federation is in the form of foreign loans, not only from this country, but from the United States and other countries. The Federal Government was the entity to whom those loans were made.
It is a matter of great difficulty, if the Federation is to cease to exist, to decide what entity shall take the Federal Government's place. It could be said that the debt should be divided between the three separate territories. If that were to be done, Nyasaland would be ruined before it got on its feet. What I am suggesting is that in any arrangement which is made some part of that debt will have to be guaranteed by Her Majesty's Government. It would be very helpful if, without going into too great detail, an undertaking were given that Her Majesty's Government would at least be prepared to consider guaranteeing a part of the debt if it could not otherwise be allocated.
There is one other and more negative point, a thing which I had hoped my right hon. Friend would say. When the Monckton Commission was in Africa, a plan was put out by the Dominion Party, 1517 which is now in power in Southern Rhodesia, for a Greater Rhodesia. It was a plan which left out Nyasaland and which assumed that Southern and Northern Rhodesia under their present franchises and constitutions might form a single entity. I think that all that has happened since has made this plan totally impracticable. Indeed, I always thought it was. It would be reassuring if my right hon. Friend could tell us that that plan is completely dead or that, if it is not, Her Majesty's Government would not relinquish responsibility for Northern Rhodesia without making certain that no attempt to put it into force would be made.
Lastly, I want to say one thing about Southern Rhodesia. The hon. Member for Leeds, East suggested that Her Majesty's Government should not grant independence to Southern Rhodesia until there was an African majority. I wonder what the hon. Gentleman would do if he were in power and the Southern Rhodesian Government asked for independence. Would he send troops to Southern Rhodesia to take control of the country, or try to? Would he adopt economic sanctions to try to force Southern Rhodesia to remain in the Commonwealth and within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom? Does he really imagine that that would succeed? If economic sanctions were taken against Southern Rhodesia, the country would certainly be ruined and 3½ million Africans would be ruined at the same time. None of the political purposes Which one had in mind would be achieved. The only conceivable result of any such action would be to drive the Southern Rhodesian Government, particularly the present Government there, into some form of much closer association with the Union of South Africa and the whole system of apartheid would be brought much nearer Southern Rhodesian Africans.
I hope that Southern Rhodesia will not yet ask for independence. I hope that it will be possible for Her Majesty's Government to retain a great deal of influence there, but it will not be legalistic influence and it will riot he attained by using a political bludgeon. Nevertheless, the most likely way of helping or of retaining our influence and keeping 1518 Southern Rhodesia out of a closer association with the Union of South Africa is to try to bring the Federation decently but swiftly to a close and to put in its place a new form of association which will link Southern Rhodesia with the countries to the north and keep it in the main stream of African development.
I therefore urge my right hon. Friend to use all the initiative I know that he is using with urgency. I do not believe that this problem will be solved if we go on indefinitely delaying, and delay might again result in deadlock. If there is deadlock again between the three territories of Central Africa, we shall not get any form of new association and Southern Rhodesia almost inevitably will ally itself to the territories to the south. This, in my opinion, would be a great tragedy.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
The hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Crawley) was in his first remarks a little severe on the policies of the party of which he was once a member. I make it clear at the outset that I am not complaining that he has crossed the Floor. I always regarded him as a good old Tory when he was in the Labour Party, and I regarded his return to the benches opposite as a perfectly logical restitution of lost property. Even so, he might have been a little more restrained in the criticisms he made of the Labour Party. He seemed almost to suggest that all the accumulated ills of Central Africa were the responsibility of Her Majesty's Opposition. That is not a very distant deduction from what be was saying.
Above all, to say that the case put over the past ten years by the Opposition was legalistic seems to me the most absurd reversal of the facts. The case of the party on this side of the House when this measure of Central African Federation was being introduced was that it was being done against the consent of the people involved. That was not a legalistic argument, whatever else it was. It was a democratic one, and it had nothing to do with the law. It was concerned with the sentiments, feelings and aspirations of the people of Africa, and I do not think that the hon. Gentleman really scored a great hit in that respect.
1519 I will come later to his references to the pledges given and abandoned, but first of all I must direct a few words to the First Secretary. The right hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on undertaking this heavy task of dealing with the Central African problem. I think that the right hon. Gentleman deserves the congratulations of everyone for the courage he showed in taking on such an apparently hopeless tangle. To be frank, I was surprised when he took it on, for I did not think that he was the man best suited for the task.
The right hon. Gentleman's capabilities are more like the willow than the oak, and I did not think that he was the kind of man who would be best suited for solving what is, I supose, the most painful and difficult problem of all the many painful and difficult problems this Government must solve. However, the right hon. Gentleman took it on, and I thought that I saw in his report to the House the other day and in his speech this afternoon some explanation of why he took it on.
What the First Secretary is really doing is presiding over the consequences of the misdemeanours of his colleagues—and because of his slightly morbid political psychology he derives some satisfaction from the process. At least, he is not as responsible as some of the others and he manages to carry the burden with greater ease.
It has been said that the First Secretary's speech today did not raise the temperature. That was a perfectly true statement. Certainly his scorching, red hot report from Africa the other day did not do so either. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman has been called upon to perform his usual task of making everything appear cool and well under control; that everything can be smoothed over and dealt with in his usual suave and diplomatic manner. Unfortunately, it is not that kind of problem.
Nevertheless, it is to the advantage of the Government that they have the First Secretary to deal with this extremely awkward question of the pledges which were supposedly given. I was shocked by some of the remarks on this subject we have heard, not from the First Secretary 1520 because he treated the question of the pledges as a serious matter. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, West, on the other hand, dismissed the whole matter and said, in effect, "They"—the pledges —"were given and broken. Maybe the Labour Party did something of the sort in 1946 about the friendly societies, although I cannot remember what it was they did." To put that sort of argument on all fours with the pledges allegedly given in secret by the British Government when setting up the new State in Africa seems the height of frivolity.
The right hon. Member for Blackpool, South described the pledges as a purely academic matter, or, if he did not quite do that, he said that the Opposition should regard them as such because the Opposition were not in favour of the pledges being carried out. Surely these pledges, undertakings, understandings or whatever they were serious matter? They have been treated so in another place and it is only right that they should be treated in the same way in this House. There is a direct conflict of testimony about what happened. Some people say that absolute pledges were given. Then the argument is put forward that they cannot be established in juridical terms—but if one leaves out the juridical gloss undertakings were nevertheless given.
The first important point to remember in this connection is that these were not casual undertakings given about side issues of the affair. They were not the sort of undertakings which someone engaged in complicated and difficult negotiations might think were subsidiary matters which had been overlooked. These were undertakings—if not pledges—given on the absolutely primary matter being debated in the House, in the country and throughout Africa at the time. They were pledges which were of the greatest importance.
In a devastating speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) went so far as to say that if the secret undertakings had been made known to the House at the time the House would never have passed the Bill. I think that that somewhat overrates the rebellious nature of hon. Members opposite. I do think that the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) might have rebelled, because 1521 he has an honourable record in this respect, although I would agree that a good many hon. Members opposite would not have rebelled. Although I would not put it as high as did my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East, if those secret undertakings had been revealed—and even if the Bill had been passed—one result would have been that hon. Members would at least have better known what were the intentions and purposes of the Government. They would have had a clearer indication of what the Government were after and, even more important, the people of Africa would have known what was in the mind of the Government.
Thus, if undertakings were given—as they obviously were, for no one has denied that undertakings of a sort were given—there is no reason on earth that I can see why they should not have been revealed to the House and the world. What is utterly dishonourable is that they were not fully and publicly revealed to all concerned at the time. For a Government to put through a major Act of this nature affecting the whole future of Africa and to make undertakings of this seriousness and not to reveal them to the country is a gross offence against the proper conduct of business in this House and against the concept of democracy.
Instead of considering what was done —and this was the view of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West—as being something trivial to be pushed aside, the Government's actions in 1953 were utterly dishonourable. It makes it all the worse when one realises that they bad to break their pledges later. The real dishonour was committed in 1953 when the Government, behind the back of the House of Commons, gave pledges and were not prepared, for one reason or another, to reveal them clearly to the House at that time.
All this has built up great resentment in the minds of some people; and no one can deny that. I am no defender of Sir Roy Welensky, but Sir Roy has his rights, too. He has a right to be treated honourably, and he certainly does not feel that he has been so treated. Whatever hon. Members opposite may argue about the undertakings, there is no doubt that whatever defender of the Government in respect of these pledges there may be— 1522 and I do not think that the hon. Member for Lancaster will defend them; if he did he would be about the first to do so outside the Government Front Bench —the only argument in support of the Government and the only argument we have received from the Government side of the House has been to the effect that pledges do not matter.
I exclude from that remark the First Secretary himself who, with his brilliant sophistries, said that the pledge with which he was dealing was not a pledge. However, whether or not it was an exact pledge in juridical terms, it cannot be denied that large numbers of people in Africa and elsewhere, very eminent and worthy people, believe that the Government have behaved with the utmost dishonour. It is no good any hon. Member opposite contesting the proposition. We have read the debates in another place.
We read the speeches of the Marquess of Salisbury, who at one time used to be regarded as the best defender of the honour of the Tory Party. The First Secretary succeeded the Marquess of Salisbury in his place at the Foreign Office in 1938 when many people thought that the Marquess of Salisbury had resigned on a point of honour partly at the time. Whatever hon. Members may think—and I do not agree with the Marquess of Salisbury's policy—nobody is questioning him as an authority on this question of honour. And what the Marquess of Salisbury says of what the Government have done is that it is the gravest blot on our escutcheon. I can imagine that those are the most damning words in the Marquess's vocabulary. He could not think of anything more devastating than that.
I do not know whether the Government like it, but there is not only the Marquess of Salisbury. We can go through the whole list. The Times on two occasions, as the First Secretary knows full well, has torn to tatters the case put by the Government. It has torn the White Paper into little shreds until there is nothing left. As far as I know, there is not a single newspaper in the country which has dared to say that the Government have behaved honourably about these pledges. Only the First Secretary in the House of Commons has defended the Government's behaviour. If 1523 hon. Members do not think it is a serious matter when the fate of millions of people in Africa is concerned that the word of the British Government should be questioned, they have given a further illustration of their unfitness to deal with such grave matters as this.
It affects the future. The First Secretary said the other day, and I think these were his words or it may be that these were the words of the Marquess of salisbury—I am not sure, I should not like to mix them up—at any rate one of them said that the First Secretary had returned from the trip to Africa with the germs of a constructive idea. They are the most uncontagious germs I ever saw. If there are any constructive ideas they were not revealed to us today.
On the critical issue of Southern Rhodesia which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East said, is the central issue affecting the whole future, what did the First Secretary have to say to us? He said that the question of intervening about the Southern Rhodesian situation was not before him at the moment. If I may be blasphemous and ungrammatical at the same time, who in the name of all the gods are they before? This is the central issue which we are supposed to be debating and, as an hon. Member has already said, this may be the last debate before it is decided what is to be done in Central Africa.
Yet the right hon. Gentleman says that this question is not now before him. This is the question of whether he should take any action to make it clear to the people of Southern Rhodesia, both to the Government and the mass of the people who have to live there, that Britain is not going to resign her last scrap of control over the territory before we have assurances about the future. The right hon. Gentleman says that that is not before him. It is a most ludicrous state of affairs. The right hon. Gentleman has said over many months that he will not take any action to hold up the procedure in Southern Rhodesia. Before the elections he said that he could not take any action, and now he gives not the slightest hint to the House of any action that he will take about Southern Rhodesia. It prompts in one's mind the suspicion that the Government have given further secret undertakings.
1524 In view of our experience over the previous secret undertakings about the whole of the establishment of the Central African Federation, we should like to know whether any secret undertakings have been given to the Government of Southern Rhodesia in the past twelve months or earlier governing the possibility of any further British intervention in the territory. Are there any secret undertakings or not? If there are, do the Government stand by the undertakings or are they going to tear them up like the previous ones? We have every right to be told.
Although the right hon. Gentleman did not even indicate what was to be his policy about Southern Rhodesia, he went on to make some comments about what is happening in the country. What is happening in Southern Rhodesia is a tyranny, in the sense that the mass of the people who live there have no real political rights and in many respects very few other rights. The First Secretary indicated in his speech that in recent months measures have been taken in Southern Rhodesia which deprive the people there even of rights which they had before. Even an hon. Member opposite who talked of a white Southern Rhodesia complained about the meaning of the measures taken in the Southern Rhodesia Parliament, and particularly the recent measures making mandatory the death penalty for certain offences—measures which would never have been regarded as proper in any other civilised state.
The First Secretary, in his references to Southern Rhodesia, although he would not indicate his own policy, went on to say that he and the whole House would wish that nobody would behave in an unconstitutional manner. I hope that people in Southern Rhodesia will behave in a peaceful manner, because if the bloodshed starts nobody will know where it will stop. But it is no use any British Government saying that they hope that people who have no real constitutional rights will always go on behaving in a constitutional manner. The whole of history tells us that if people are denied constitutional rights long enough they will inevitably have recourse to unconstitutional methods. Indeed, all the most honourable people in history have done it, and of course they will do it 1525 in Southern Rhodesia unless they are given their proper constitutional rights.
This is what they are being denied, not merely by the Government of Southern Rhodesia but by the First Secretary and the Government for which he is responsible. There is no doubt about it. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East envisaged the possibility that if no action is taken and the First Secretary continues with this policy of doing nothing, there may come about a state of affairs where we shall have one Government set up, arrogating all power and the last vestiges of control into their own hands in Southern Rhodesia—a white Government—and an African Government set up in some other Commonwealth country. It is quite possible. It nearly happened before, and it could happen in the future.
The business of Government is to try and take action in time to prevent this kind of development which will inevitably lead to bloodshed. If bloodshed comes, the responsibility will be not only on those who are governing in Southern Rhodesia and on those who are driven to unconstitutional action because they have no other method of redress. It will also rest on the right bon. Gentleman. One would think that by this time the Government would have learned something from what has happened in Central Africa. They have not learned anything from the Devlin Report. I advise the right hon. Gentleman to read the Devlin Report again, because it applies to Southern Rhodesia as well as to Nyasaland.
One of the things said in the Devlin Report which has stuck most in my memory was that many people in Africa preferred poverty and freedom to prosperous slavery—a sentiment which has always been regarded as most honourable. This, said the Devlin Report, was the sentiment of the mass of the people in Nyasaland. It was said, of course, at a time when this same Government, of which the right hon. Gentleman was an adornment, were determined not to listen. The Devlin Report told the Government that the people of Nyasaland were determined to govern themselves, but the Government brushed it aside and said that this was all wrong, that there was a murder plot, that other claims were a distraction and did not truly 1526 represent the feelings of the people. But of course, after going out there, the Devlin Commission reported that what has been said from this side of the House year after year was right and that what had been said from the Government side of the House year after year was wrong.
The right hon. Gentleman should read the Devlin Report today and try to apply it to the situation in Southern Rhodesia. He will see that large parts of it do apply. Indeed, they apply all the more because, if people have freedom to govern themselves in Nyasaland and in Northern Rhodesia, the demand will be even more clamant in Southern Rhodesia. This is the problem. What do the Government intend to do about it? The first Secretary says that the problem is not before him at the moment. Of course it is. It is one of the most grievous problems confronting the Government, and they must say what action they intend to take. If they continue to postpone action month after month and year after year, they will pile up a situation in which the explosion at the end will be even worse, and theirs will be the responsibility.
The First Secretary, even though he was not directly responsible for the pledges given in 1953, has been a member of the Government longer than almost any other. He bears a deeper responsibility in these affairs than others. Let him consider this. Should not there be a little humility on the Government side in dealing with this problem? There never was such a story as this story in Central Africa. There never was such a story in which a Government went ahead despite the accumulation of warnings. I cannot recall a case in modern times when a Government said so persistently, in defiance of debates in the House, in defiance of all the statements made by the Opposition and in defiance of all the statements made by leaders of African opinion, that they knew better, that they would go ahead, pushing through their plans, because they were better advised by their people in Africa who told them the truth.
Who has been right? These events happened only ten years ago. The Government cannot possibly claim that their foresight was superior to that of those who contested their views. They may say that they started this great and noble enterprise because they wanted to pull it 1527 through; but they did it in defiance of the wishes of the people expressed as best they could be at the time. That was the main charge made by the Opposition. But the Government went ahead. Their policy has totally collapsed. It took months and years to get it through the House, but it is now totally collapsed.
Everyone, except the First Secretary who will not admit it, knows that the Federation is absolutely dead. In ten years, the Government's whole policy has collapsed. It has left bitter enmities among the white people. It has left grave doubts about the future among the coloured people. It has left a situation in which there are grevious possibilities of bloodshed in the near future. Remembering how the Government have led us to this end, it is right to say that they should have a little humility. They should listen to a few of the other people. If they will not listen to the Opposition here, they should listen a little more to the spokesmen of the African people whose views and claims they denied so shockingly ten years ago.
If the Government will not listen to the Opposition here and will not listen to the leaders of the African people, will they, if they are determined to press ahead in their arrogance again, listen to the United Nations? The first Secretary knows that this country has not one honourable friend in the United Nations on this issue. It is very sad and melancholy for this country, when, in fact, we have a better record than that of any other country in the whole world in carrying through the exquisitely difficult task of abdicating from empire, when we have done it so much better in most parts of the world than any other country, that all this should be thrown away in Southern Rhodesia.
If the Government persist in their policy, this is what they will do. They will align this country with Portugal and South Africa. We shall find ourselves voting with them in the United Nations month after month, in vote after vote, and the more we do the more we shall kill the leadership which this country could exert throughout the world.
The hon. Member for Haltemprice referred to the changes which are taking place in Africa. He gave us a graphic description of the tumultuous scene and 1528 the possibilities there. He dismissed in an extraordinary way the future influence which the United Nations could exert. I think it possible that the United Nations may find itself to be in Africa the institution which we want to see prosper. But this Government will never be able to assist in achieving the purposes of the United Nations in other parts of Africa if they remain determined to thwart its purposes in Southern Rhodesia. Cannot they see it? Cannot they learn?
The hon. Member who said that this may be the last debate which we shall have in the House on this subject may, in one sense, be right. It may be the last debate in which the Government have the chance to rescue us from the pitiful position in which we are placed, the pitiful situation in which this country, which could command great allegiance, support and enthusiastic friends all over Africa, is, under this Government, in danger of throwing all this aside because they will not listen to the ten thousand warnings which they have had.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Humphry Berkeley (Lancaster)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), with whom I often agree, should have chosen to play so obviously party political a game in the references he made at the beginning of his speech to the pledges alleged to have been given in 1953. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) has reiterated the case, with an obvious desire to discredit and damage the Government.
It seems to me that, unless it can be clearly established that pledges of the firmest kind were given, to talk about the Government's dishonour because it happens to be politically convenient to do so is not the most helpful way of saving the situation in Central Africa. All this does, in effect, is to give extra ammunition to Sir Roy Welensky and others of his Ministers who, during the past three or four years, have made every effort to discredit the name of our Government. To a large extent, this has been behind the "Voice and Vision" campaign. It therefore seems to me quite gratuitous to impugn the Government's good faith unless there is very clear and documentary evidence as to the nature of these pledges, and it is hardly helpful to any of us, particularly when the Government 1529 and the Opposition should be trying to get together to see how the future of Central Africa can be developed.
I have read the White Paper on the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in great detail. As my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State said, the verbatim record of the discussion is somewhat colloquial. At times the meaning is somewhat obscure, but I can trace three quite definite statements in it which imply that the British Government made it plain that the United Kingdom Parliament had the power to change the Constitution and that at least one of the principal delegates, Mr. Greenfield, clearly understood the position.
On page 5 of the White Paper there is a statement by Lord Swinton which reads:… it would be possible I suppose for Her Majesty's Government if they could persuade Parliament to do it to pass an Act of Parliament tomorrow morning to take away the whole of responsible government from Southern Rhodesia and the whole of the functions which would be given to the Federation.That was a statement made——
§ Mr. Berkeley
I will read on in a moment.
That was a statement made by Lord Swinton which clearly indicated that in his view the United Kingdom Government had the right to do this. My hon. Friend has asked me to read on. Lord Swinton went on to say:You cannot legislate against the United Kingdom Parliament going off its head.There are two quite separate points here. The first is Lord Swinton's view of the constitutional position, and the second—which I did not read out although I am happy to do so—is merely his political appreciation of what Parliament was likely to do. It merely confuses the issue if one joins them together.
Mr. Greenfield, after a statement by Mr. Lyttelton, said:In this case it is 'the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away'".If the allegations about pledges are based on these two pages of the verbatim record of the discussion and nothing else, in my opinion, having read it carefuly, nothing which could possibly be constituted as a pledge was given in public or private, judging from the evidence which has been 1530 put before us. It seems to me of very great importance that this should be clearly established. If any hon. Member can find anything in the White Paper which amounts to a pledge, I should like to know about it.
I should like to get away from this question of pledges because it seems to me to be a red herring. I am not saying that it would not be an important issue if the Government had made and broken a pledge, but, as I do not believe that a pledge was made, it is I think rather fruitless to spend so much time discussing it.
I should like to look to the future, as was suggested by my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State. There has been a considerable change in the situation since we had our last debate on Central African affairs. Since then we have had new Governments in Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia, and for the first time in the history of the Federation we have three territorial Governments all of Which are in some measure opposed, some of them violently opposed, to the continuance of federation. It must be absolutely clear to all of us that if the three territorial Governments are opposed to the present territorial set-up the sooner the Federation is brought to an end the better. What is now required is early and swift action on the part of our Government to bring this about.
My right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State said that the Government would have been in breach of their obligations to the people of Nyasaland had they not conceded the right of Nyasaland to secede from the Federation. By the same definition, the Government would equally be in breach of their obligations to the people of Northern Rhodesia if their immediate right to secede is not also granted, because, on a very limited franchise, 21,000 people voted for the United Federal Party, the only party in Northern Rhodesia in favour of continuing the Federation, and well oven 80,000 people voted against a continuation of federation, the bulk of them for U.N.I.P.
Therefore, even on this very restricted franchise, only 20 per cont. of the electorate was in favour of a continuation of federation, and only 180 Africans on 1531 the Lower Roll were in favour of this as opposed to about 75,000 on the Lower Roll who were opposed to it. This is a convincing demonstration that federation in Northern Rhodesia is quite as unpopular as it is in Nysaland, and a Government, admittedly a coalition Government, have been returned with precisely the same mandate that Dr. Banda got when he won his election a year ago.
This is why I am anxious that our Government should take an early initiative. I am not terribly worried about the future of Northern Rhodesia. Whether federation breaks up in a few months' time, next year or possibly even the year after, the trend of events is clear beyond doubt. What I want to see is a constructive attempt to rebuild an association between these three territories. Measures have now been put in hand to bring about Nyasaland's withdrawal from the Federation. Unless the position of Northern Rhodesia is immediately recognised, we shall have, as it were, an exit permit for Nyasaland, with all sorts of arrangements being made specially for that territory and then we shall have to deal with the question of Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia at a later date. This uncertainty is bound to be bad for the Rhodesias, but, if Nyasaland is to secede by herself, this is bound to be bad for Nyasaland because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) said, she is at present incapable of keeping herself and she will have to rely on a considerable subsidy from this country or from other sources.
What would be really damaging would be if the process with Nyasaland was completed before the process with Northern Rhodesia started because then it might be too late to bring Nyasaland back into any kind of association which could be formed. I do not believe, therefore, that we have ever had a better opportunity than now to bring about an early and speedy end to the Central African Federation, because, for the first time since matters started going really wrong, there is not a single territorial Government who would, I believe, lift a finger to save the present outfit. This must be the opportunity for the British Government to take an initiative.
1532 I said that I was not terribly worried about Northern Rhodesia. I feel a deep sense of depression about Southern Rhodesia. I was in Salisbury for a few days in the New Year and I had the opportunity, as did the First Secretary of State, of having a lengthy talk with Mr. Winston Field. He is a charming, sensible, realistic and honourable man. In his attitudes towards the Federation and the two northern States, he seems to me to be utterly reasonable. Where his Government seem bound in the long run to flounder, however, is that it is not possible to talk to Africans as equals and colleagues in one territory and to lock them up in one's own territory.
I also, like my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State, heard an account from both Mr. Field and Dr. Banda about their mutual conversation. They got on extremely well. I believe that Mr. Field is on friendly terms with Mr. Kaunda. If, however, he is arresting Nkomo and the Z.A.P.U. leaders and providing them with no constitutional outlet, I do not believe that this sort of co-operation between the three territories can last for long.
I felt a deep gulf between myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice when he spoke. I told my hon. Friend that I should be referring to his speech, but, unfortunately, it was not possible for him to remain. My hon. Friend talked about three categories of African States. I will not bother with the first, the Arab States, but he then talked about the black-led States and about the white-led States. This description of black-led States and white-led States is wholly artificial. The only reason why Southern Rhodesia is a white-led State and may still be a white-led State in five years' time is because it happens to have a constitution and franchise which gives the Europeans, who are less than 10 per cent. of the population, well over two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. It is as simple as that.
If my hon. Friend proposed to develop that theme on a coherent and logical basis, one might equally well point out that a year ago Northern Rhodesia was a white-led State, two years ago Nyasaland and Kenya were white-led States and twenty years ago Africa was a white-led continent. Where is all this getting us? It is a highly arbitrary state of affairs which cannot last with any degree 1533 of permanence anywhere in the continent, except in the Republic of South Africa; and I believe that the end of that story is likely to be even more tragic than the chapter through which we are living.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Crawley) talk about Southern Rhodesia simply declaring itself independent and nobody being able to stop it from doing so, one should remind them that they are the very people who condemn Z.A.P.U. and Nkomo for unconstitutional action at the present time. My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice feels strongly that Z.A.P.U. is behaving unconstitutionally and that unconstitutional action should not be taken, and yet he said publicly to us an hour or so ago that Southern Rhodesia should declare itself independent if we will not grant it independence and that nothing could be done to stop it going so. What greater incitement to unconstitutional action could there be than that?
§ Mr. Crawley
I did not suggest that Southern Rhodesia should declare itself independent. I merely asked what would happen if it asked for it.
§ Mr. Berkeley
My hon. Friend will note that I specifically referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice as saying that Southern Rhodesia should declare itself independent. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West implied that if Southern Rhodesia asked for independence, we could not possibly refuse it because Southern Rhodesia would take it by force. I suspect that this is not the argument which my hon. Friend would apply in the case of Mr. Nkomo. If he were asked whether the principle of one man, one vote, should be applied to Mr. Nkomo, because if it is not he will create violence, I suspect that my hon. Friend would say that if Mr. Nkomo made trouble and acted unconstitutionally, he must be stopped. I say that one should not apply two different standards in one's arguments about these affairs.
My right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State, perhaps understandably, was non-committal about the possibility of Southern Rhodesia being granted independence. He indicated that he would 1534 like to hear the views of hon. Members and he has heard the views of several of us. I should like to make my position clear. I could not possibly vote in favour of a Measure that would give independence to Southern Rhodesia on its present constitution. I would regard this as intolerable and a disastrous policy for us even to attempt.
That constitution is riddled with deficiencies, but there are two of those which would make it quite intolerable as an independence constitution. The first is that it provides for such high qualifications on the Lower Roll that, in effect, not more than 1 per cent. of the African population are eligible to vote.
The second and, perhaps, more serious defect of the constitution is that although it carefully provides that there can be no alteration in the qualifications of people who can vote without a referendum of the races—in other words, Mr. Winston Field's Government cannot take the franchise away from that small select number of Africans at present entitled to enjoy it—there is no such provision for the allocation of Upper-Roll and Lower-Roll seats.
It would be perfectly possible for Mr. Winston Field's Government to increase the number of A-roll seats—European seats—from 50 to 100 or 200 and still keep the number of African seats at 15. He could do this by a simple two-thirds majority, which he has, of Europeans in the present House. One of the defects of the constitution is that the number of Africans was carefully made small enough to provide for a two-thirds European majority in the Parliament. Equally, there is nothing to stop Mr. Field from reducing the number of African seats from 15 to 5 if he can do so through his two-thirds majority in Parliament. The actual number of seats granted to each roll is not one of the matters which are reserved for a referendum of the races.
Therefore, because I have met a number of members of Mr. Field's party and feel great reservations about their ideas of both racial and political progress, I think that it would be inconceivable for us to hand over Southern Rhodesia to independence on a constitution of that character.
Independence is something that we can give. It is a bargaining weapon which 1535 we possess. Since we all know how restricted are the powers that we have in Southern Rhodesia, it is vital that this final weapon should be used constructively in Southern Rhodesia to set it on the road to majority representation and majority rule.
I have a further observation to make about Southern Rhodesia in relation to Mr. Nkomo and the unconstitutional action which he and many of his supporters have taken in the last year or so. My right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State said that he understood that Mr. Field was prepared to let Mr. Nkomo take his part in politics. I wonder what that means. Mr. Nkomo has been the leader of three Nationalist parties, all of which in turn have been banned. He naturally seeks a much wider franchise and the early introduction of African majority rule.
How is he going to advocate this? What steps can he take to bring this about? That is the crucial question. I know that Mr. Nkomo saw the First Secretary of State. I would now like my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General specifically to answer, as a distinguished lawyer, this question: what advice would he give a man who came to him and said, "I want to use constitutional means to improve the position of the Africans. What means are there that I can possibly use?"
The Southern Rhodesian Parliament is dominated by Europeans. There are 15 Lower Roll seats, 14 of them held by Africans who have been returned by only 1,500 voters between them and so represent no one. How can Mr. Nkomo constitutionally agitate to improve this position? I wish that I myself could find the answer, because this is the very question which he put to me when I was in Salisbury and spent about two hours with him in January.
All I could say to Mr. Nkomo was, "I cannot advise you how you can secure African majority rule. The only advice I can give you is to see the First Secretary of State when he is here, because unless people in England are convinced that you have satisfied every conceivable constitutional means of achieving your purposes, you will get no sympathy from them if you resort to unconstitutional measures."
1536 I felt at the time that this was sadly deficient advice, and the fact remains, if we have no control over the franchise, that is for Mr. Field to decide what Mr. Nkomo is permitted to do. I do not call this giving Mr. Nkomo freedom to take part in politics.
That is why it is so important for us to see the granting of independence to Southern Rhodesia as being the only weapon we now have by which we can determine the future of this territory and by which we can see that it does not go the same way as South Africa—as I believe it undoubtedly will unless other measures are taken.
§ Mr. Berkeley
I am glad that my hon. Friend has come back because, as I warned him I would, I referred to him earlier in my speech. I find it very disturbing that someone who is prepared to condemn Z.A.P.U. for unconstitutional activities is prepared to encourage the Southern Rhodesian Government in unconstitutional activities. The granting of independence is a matter for this Parliament and our Government, and it is not for us, and certainly not for our Government, publicly to anticipate their actions in the event of an unconstitutional revolt.
I now want to say something about Nyasaland. I had three or four days there. I am very glad that agreement now seems to have been reached between Dr. Banda and Mr. Blackwood both about the Bill of Rights and also, I believe, about the number of minority seats which will be held by the European community under the independence Constitution. I have one observation to make about this because I think it needs to be said in the light of certain very hostile remarks which have appeared about Dr. Banda in certain newspapers in this country.
There is a certain irony in a man who has recently spent 14 months in gaol without trial being invited to produce, as Prime Minister, a Bill of Rights. I am delighted that Dr. Banda has agreed to do this, but I think that this fact might be remembered by some of the more irresponsible organs of the British Press which are only too 1537 anxious, I believe, to blame and discredit newly emerging African countries.
Finally, I want to refer to Northern Rhodesia. I hope that the First Secretary of State will have another constitutional conference as soon as possible. There is very little to be said in favour of a constitution under which U.N.I.P. gets two-thirds of the votes and one-third of the seats. Indeed, this constitution has done two things. It has produced majority rule and it has brought about—helpfully, I think—a coalition between the two African Nationalist parties. But I do not believe that a constitution which contains such great anomalies as the one to which I have referred can last for very long. Again, I should like to see our Government taking the initiative to try to get a more sensible arrangement in Northern Rhodesia.
I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend that what we must try to devise amid the wreckage of this Federation is something which will last, something which is acceptable. Great skill will be needed. Probably a direct political association is now out of the question. I think that whoever is in power in Salisbury, even if there is a black Parliament, the whole concept of political control from there has become immensely disliked. Even if Mr. Nkomo, Mr. Kaunda and Dr. Banda were the respective Prime Ministers of the three territories, I do not believe that the Nyasas would be prepared to be ruled from Salisbury any more.
I think that future relations must be in terms of an economic association, a common services association or something of that type. It must be something which is obviously and beyond doubt the servant of the three territorial Governments and not the master. If that is done, I believe that we shall be able to create a new association and, with any luck, an association which will flourish.
One of the encouraging aspects of East Africa, despite the present trouble in Kenya, is the way in which the common services organisation there is working and growing. This is something we must try to achieve in Central Africa out of the wreckage which exists after ten years of federation.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Albert Roberts (Normanton)
I intervene in the debate because some of the observations which have been made do not altogether coincide with my own view. I support the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot), but for different reasons. This is a situation which redounds on the Government with a certain amount of dishonour.
I am very pleased to be able to follow the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley), because when we last debated the Federation he was followed by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) and to some extent I support his views. However. I was amazed when the hon. Member said that we must now start to rebuild. Why should we start to rebuild when we have the Federation? It must be remembered that the Labour Party had the patent rights of the Federation in the first instance. The most amazing fact is that of about 20 Labour Members of Parliament who visited the Federation, about 18 returned with the view that a prima facie case had been made out for its continuation. I do not believe in political dishonesty, and it seems to me that the First Secretary is now trying to evolve the theory, "If you cannot convince, confuse."
I am concerned with human beings. Nobody loves people more than I do, black, white or yellow. It is only a few months ago that I was in Angola. I am the only Labour Member of Parliament who has been in the terrorist area of that country. This is not a matter of supporting political views of one kind or another, but we have to remember what happened in Angola and that it was all engineered inside the Congo. I shall not make political speeches to give aid and sustenance to such people, to the people who invaded Angola at 50 places on a 400-mile front. The butchery and slaughter were nauseating and disgusting, and it is time that some of these facts were brought into the light.
I have also been to the Federation. A short time ago, I was in Salisbury, and on one pleasant Sunday afternoon I watched a football match in which both black and white were playing. That was true multi-racialism. What is so paradoxical is that Rhodesian football clubs cannot play in South Africa because of 1539 apartheid and they cannot play in Northern Rhodesia for the same reason if they play against a white team.
On this side of the House we have always advocated multi-racialism, but what my hon. Friends are now trying to bring about is narrow nationalism. We all agree about the importance of the emergence of the Africans, but is not this a question of timing? Votes were given to the women of this country in 1928, but people have to reach maturity first. When we talk about masses of people seeking emancipation, we have to remember some of the primitive tribes inside the Federation and then go to Asia Minor and see the emaciation and poverty there. It is my view that economic freedom is far more important than political freedom, because if there is economic freedom, political freedom will follow.
The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) was in Blantyre when I was there with some of my hon. Friends. We saw direct intimidation by the Malawi Party. We saw houses burning and the tenants of those houses having to seek refuge in the forests, where we found them later in the day. We went to the police in whom I have every confidence because some of them come from my constituency and are honourable men. We were told that the events of that Sunday were easy to understand. The Malawi Party was having a meeting which was sparsely attended, and so it went with loudspeakers to round up the people. Inciting speeches were made and in consequence the black Africans plundered and set fire to houses. It is no use disguising the fact. The hon. Member for Lancaster must realise that a lot of intimidation has taken place in Nyasaland. We have no right to support such action.
§ Mr. Berkeley
I was in Nyasaland shortly after the election had taken place. There have been a great many allegations about intimidation, but I specifically inquired of the Governor and members of his administration who all said that the cases of intimidation which had been reported had been vastly exaggerated and that their influence on the result of the election was also certainly negligible.
§ Mr. Roberts
The great danger in Africa is the fragmentation of the country. It is difficult for the man in the street 1540 to understand why we fight for Katanga to remain in the Congo to make the Congo a viable proposition while at the same time we break up the Federation, especially as Katanga had no connection with the Congo before the Belgians took control. It is things like that which must be recognised.
The Federation is a wonderful concept, and the only reason why it has not worked is that speeches in this Chamber since 1933 have been determined that it should not work. If it had been allowed to continue, I am convinced that Sir Edgar Whitehead meant what he said—and to some extent we have driven him into the political wilderness—when he forecast that the Africans would have control of the Federation within the course of two decades. What is wrong with that? The University in Salisbury is functioning well and it is multi-racial, and there are many other institutions in the Federation which function well and which are also multiracial.
Housing and education inside the Federation have been mentioned but hon. Members should make comparisons with some other parts of Africa and some other parts of the world, particularly the Middle East and the Far East. We have talked about the slums in Salisbury, and I have seen them. I would sooner live in the slums in Salisbury than in the slums of some of our major cities during the arctic weather which we have been experiencing. If more financial aid had been provided to produce employment opportunities as the Africans were educated, we could have overcome our difficulties more easily.
Although it has been said that there is no hope for the Federation, I hope that at least there is a chance that Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia will work out some common policy. It is not a question of mistrust, but of having confidence and political maturity and attempting to conduct affairs properly. In the last eighteen months confidence in the Federation has gone. There has been a cessation of building and the economy has weakened.
It is said that political questions can be solved by giving full control to the black Africans. I am all for that when the time is opportune. It has been said 1541 that we ought not to support Sir Roy Welensky, but I am not against Sir Roy Welensky and I have the courage to say so. I have talked to hundreds of people in the Federation who left this country during the slump and who went there with their families and braved malaria and black-water fever, I know that there are business tycoons in the Federation, but there are also thousands of decent people who want to develop a truly multi-racial society.
I doubt whether my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has ever been in the Federation. He has been to Ghana and when he was once challenged about Ghana he admitted that it was an authoritarian State. I am not one of those who believe in handing over lock, stock and barrel to people who say that once they get power they will not import a Westminster democracy. I realise that they cannot have a complete model of a Westminster democracy and that it has taken us centuries to get where we are. But while I do not say that they should wait for centuries, if there had been more co-operation between the two sides on this issue, the outcome would have been far more favourable than it is.
The point is that we are now telling these people what to go for, and even violence has been mentioned. The hon. Member for Lancaster knows that the black Africans in Southern Rhodesia are very happy indeed. They are at work, and they have provided work for those who have come from Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. The trouble is that these people have been, and are being, deceived. They seem to think that if they get political independence everything will be free and easy. This independence will come, but at the moment we see advertisements in the paper asking for money to feed the hungry. Are we going to allow the economy to disintegrate and then answer appeals for funds to feed the hungry? Are we going to give independence to Nyasaland and then make them dependent on the British taxpayer?
The truth is that to a large extent seeing is believing. If people had more opportunities for going there and seeing what exists, I am sure that they would change their views. If there is to be a breakdown of the Federation it ought to be placed on record that this country 1542 is missing a golden opportunity. We missed a similar opportunity in South Africa in the latter part of the last century, and we are missing it now in this territory, because we are bringing about this fragmentation of Central Africa.
I am pleased to have had this opportunity to express my point of view. I am a Socialist and a trade unionist. I want to see these countries come out on top. There is no doubt that if federation could have continued they would have been a shining example to the world. Instead of that we have intervention—and we have had it for a long time—from the Americans, who seem to think that if someone puts a bottle of Coca-Cola into the hand of an African he becomes civilised.
I went to the Copperbelt and met rational people who were amazed at the amount of subterfuge in which the Americans are engaged. They are financing people who are working underground, and, as the hon. Member for Haltemprice said, as we go out they will move in. There will be no political freedom for thousands of Africans there because it will be the act of some people who consider themselves either the second or third Messiahs. That is the tragedy of the situation. We have had far too many debates on the Federation. Had there been more common sense, we should have found the right answers.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Jenkins (Dulwich)
I, too, am one of those who went to the Federation. I think I went with the first party that was arranged by the Central African Federal Government for Members of this House to see what was going on. I had the opportunity of talking to all kinds of people, black and white, trade unionists, farmers, and men of all descriptions in all parts of the three territories. I came back a firm believer in maintaining the Central African Federation, and I support the desire of the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. A. Roberts) to maintain the Federation. With the exception of the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), every hon. Member who has spoken has said that the Federation is finished and done with. I am not prepared to believe it.
1543 One thing that has astonished me about the debates on Central Africa is that no reference has been made to the magnificent work of those white settlers who left this island and brought order out of chaos throughout the world. In 80 years white settlers have transformed Central Africa from a country composed of barbarians to a reasonably civilised community. I am sure that the House would wish to express its thanks to these British settlers for their magnificent work.
We are in a mess at the moment. There are difficulties ahead of us. To a large extent the Government do not know what they are going to do. They are holding conferences, and they have appointed Commissions, and I should like for a few moments to give the House the history of the last three years since the trouble really started.
As the hon. Member for Normanton said, this idea originated in the mind of that far-sighted Labour statesman the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), It was adopted by Mr. Oliver Lyttelton, as he then was, in 1951 when he became Colonial Secretary, and it was encouraged with vigour by the then Mr. Lennox-Boyd. The Monckton Commission then went out there, and from the moment the Monckton Commission made its Report the grand concept of a multi-racial society in Central Africa began to crumble.
Subsequent to that Report the Minister responsible for the territories in this House began to give way to the Nationalists. Incidentally, the Nationalists were inspired to go ahead by the "wind of change" speech made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but when my right hon. Friend made that speech he never thought that it might result in a hurricane or a tornado going through Africa, which is what has happened.
The Constitution was settled by a conference in 1952. Incidentally, when the Rhodesias came together to discuss this they did not want Nyasaland to be part of the new Central African Federation, but she was wished on them. Appeals were made to the leaders of these two territories to take on Nyasaland as a poor partner whom they could help. Nyasaland was forced on them because it was said it was in the interests of the black population that they should join 1544 the Rhodesias, yet today when the Federation, so it is said, is about to be broken up and Nyasaland is to be allowed to secede, it is said that this is being done for the benefit of the black population.
Notwithstanding what is contained in the White Paper and the arguments which have taken place today and the disputes about whether any pledges were given, and also the discussions about what took place at the original conference and whether those pledges if given were an instrument to get an agreement so that the Clauses which did not include the pledges could be enshrined in the Act, one thing that is certain is that those who were present at the conference, men of distinction like Lord Malvern, Sir Roy Welensky, Lord Boyd, Lord Chandos and Lord Colyton have all said unequivocally that undertakings and pledges were given which were riot enshrined in the Act. Thank goodness that they are alive today to be able to rise in another place and say so. We have no doubt where the truth lies. It is certain that when those undertakings were given, quietly, round the conference table, they had a great effect upon bringing about a settlement of the problems.
I want to refer to the effect which the Monckton Commission has had on the present position. In the Federal Parliament in November, 1960, Sir Roy Welensky said that he would not have agreed to the Monckton Commission had he believed that its terms of reference would include secession. He said:I received explicit assurances to this effect from the British Prime Minister in November, 1959.I submit that the Monckton Commission's recommendations sold the pass for the Central African Federation, since after it came out no African Nationalist would co-operate with the Federal Government, in the belief that all that had to be done was to persuade the United Kingdom Government to break up the Federation.
I could give a number of instances of this, but I do not wish to weary the House, or to prevent other hon. Members from speaking. There is one illustration which will show how bitter some of the white Africans are at the thought that they have been let down by Ministers in this way. I was present at the Rhodesias and Nyasaland Club dinner on 1545 10th July, 1962, when the Chief Secretary said:This is an example of faith in the future of the Federation for which I and Her Majesty's Government stand, and we want you to understand that if you put money into the Federation we shall be behind you.That was less than a year ago. It is therefore reasonable for us to accept that the responsible people in the Federation are losing confidence in the future intentions of Her Majesty's Government.
Looking at the matter in retrospect, it is clear that the Federation has been a great success story, in finance, employment, education, health, the building of hospitals, communications and roads, exports and power—of which the Kariba Dam is an illustration. I have listened to every Central African debate since I became a Member, and I have never heard anyone say that the Federation was incompetent or inefficient. No charge has been made today that the Federation is being broken up because the administration is inefficient and incompetent. Yet the Government and many hon. Members opposite are anxious to dismantle it, although it is a fine conception which could have proved to be an outstanding edifice of civilisation and multi-racial co-operation.
I want to say one more word on the question of Northern Rhodesia and the Federation. If a person is let down by people it is very difficult for him to have confidence in them afterwards, and if he is let down successively over a period of months or years, he turns away from those who have let him down, with distrust and, sometimes, almost hatred. In 1960, the Lennox-Boyd constitution for Northern Rhodesia had been in operation for one year. It was intended to last for ten years. In June, 1960, the Governor of Northern Rhodesia said:In the face of this clear and direct statement of Her Majesty's Government's position on the constitutional future of the Territory I trust that no political leader or leader of any political organisation in Northern Rhodesia will continue to mislead his followers into an expectation that radical changes in our constitution are just round the corner.In February, 1961, the proposals for the constitution were published. In June, 1961, those proposals were amended, in a statement made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. Later, after intimidation and threats by U.N.I.P., further concessions were made. Although 1546 the June, 1961, proposals were considered by everybody in this House and in the Federation as being the basis for the final constitution, continued intimidation caused further concessions to be made which vitally changed the constitution and ensured that an African Nationalist majority would be elected in Northern Rhodesia.
The June proposals made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House had made it possible for Sir Edgar Whitehead to carry the new Southern Rhodesia referendum in July, 1961. In fact, Sir Roy Welensky helped in the canvassing to get that constitution through. One of the principal cases advocated in the election —at meetings and elsewhere—was that the June proposals were the basis for the final constitution for Northern Rhodesia, as announced by the British Government. The argument was, This is reasonable. Therefore, vote for this new constitution in Southern Rhodesia and you can trust the British Government to see you through". The referendum was won by the Federal Party, but when the elections were held subsequently the amended proposals for the Northern Rhodesia constitution had the effect of ensuring that the extreme Right white people won that Southern Rhodesia election. They no longer trusted the word of the British Government in respect of the final constitution of June, 1961, and therefore instead of adopting a moderate attitude at the ballot boxes they went over to the extreme Right.
I have welcomed the opportunity to put these facts on record. It seems to me that the Government are about to let down Sir Roy Welensky's Government, the white settlers, the copper mine workers, the coal miners and the men from Durham, Northumberland, Yorkshire, Newcastle and South Wales who went out to Central Africa in their thousands, and who, incidentally, when the only copper that we could get for our munitions during the war came from the copper mines of Northern Rhodesia, worked twenty hours a day to mine it for us.
The civil servants will also be let down, as they have been let down in most places where changes of this kind have occurred. Industry is beginning to sag. Even worse, if this process of giving the black Africans the right to govern themselves 1547 is allowed to develop too swiftly, and no remedial action is taken within the next two or three years, those responsible black Africans who have trusted us in the past are also going to be let down.
No one in this House seems to have taken the view that there is still a possibility that the Central African Federation will continue. I take that view because I believe in it. I believe the Government are being prepared—no more than that—to hand over the last bulwark of the British way of life to unscrupulous, power-sated black politicians whose rule will destroy the great edifice of civilisation built up during the days of Rhodes and onwards. I say to the Government that to withdraw support from Sir Roy Welensky now, when he is on the threshold of achieving a multiracial society in Central Africa, would be one of the greatest catastrophies in the long and meritorious history of the British Commonwealth and Empire.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
I had not originally intended to take any part in this debate, but I have been tempted and provoked by some of the things said from the benches opposite, especially by the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall).
I was particularly tempted by the speech of the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) because it is not often that an hon. Member on this side of the House gets a chance to rush to the rescue simultaneously of a Conservative Prime Minister, the Leader of the House, the First Secretary and Lord Monckton, a former leading member of a Conservative Cabinet. If one understood the analysis to which we have just listened, the hon. Member for Dulwich was arguing that the Central African Federation had been destroyed by his own Government starting with the Report of the Monckton Commission aided and abetted by the "wind of change" speech of the Prime Minister and by the policies of the present Leader of the House. I am not inclined to take quite such a vindictive view of the policies of the Government.
It does not seem to me that the hon. Member's analysis fits the facts at all. The truth is that during the last ten years we have witnessed in Africa one 1548 of the most tumultuous revolutions which have occurred in the history of mankind. Ten years ago I think there were only three independent indigenous African nations, Egypt, Ethiopia and Liberia. Today there are twenty and there will be several more soon. The only thing which can be said about the Prime Minister's "wind of change"speech is that it was an extremely courageous one in the context in which it was delivered, but it was a rather belated speech. The Prime Minister and the present Leader of the House were recognising the processes of historic change taking place in Africa and trying to adapt the policies of a Conservative Government to them.
I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. A. Roberts) that this is related in practice to the duty of political wisdom to find how historical trends are going and to try to do one's best to help to nuke sure that they take place as peacefully and constructively as possible. We on this side of the House, without in the least under-estimating the tremendous difficulties which the new African nations will face for many years ahead, cannot do anything but instinctively feel on their side because what is taking place in this African revolution is, above all, an assertion of a demand for basic human self-respect. This, I think, lies behind the compulsions which have brought new African nations so quickly to independence.
The hon. Member for Haltemprice said that the Opposition had little right to make a lot of fuss about the alleged pledges the Government of the time gave to the Central African leaders because we did not, of course, believe that those pledges should have been given. This is one of the main charges that we make against that Government.
I think that the first major debates in which I took part in this House were those on the Central African Federation Bill. My recollection of those debates is that, although they were very fiercely contested, they were not contested simply between the Government and the Opposition; there were doubts expressed by hon. Members opposite as well on this side. This was particularly true of Scottish Members. The Church of Scotland, with its historic associations with Nyasaland, had an intimate knowledge of conditions there, 1549 and very strong representations were made to all Scottish Members of Parliament, irrespective of party.
My recollection of those debates is that if Lord Chandos, as he now is, had come before the House and told hon. Members that in fact he had made arrangements in earlier discussions for the Federal Government to have the right of veto over any future demand of secession from Nyasaland, this would have been highly unacceptable to a substantial number of hon. Members, including some of his own hon. Friends. It is a very dishonourable process that we should now discover that these private pledges were given at that time. I am bound to echo the words of the Marquess of Salisbury in another place when the Government disclaimed that they were pledges. It seems that pledges in the present Government's definition are not pledges so long as they are made in secret. It is a matter on which the Opposition are bound to attack the Government at this stage, and we have certainly had no satisfactory defence from anyone in the Government on that point.
The striking thing, looking back over the tragic ten years of Central African Federation—this is the answer to the hon. Member for Dulwich—is the degree to which the criticisms of the original Federation proposal by the Opposition in this House have been proved right. It is extremely difficult over a space of ten years in the world as it is today, moving as quickly as it does, for any politician to look back on his speeches of ten years ago and feel that he showed an accurate foresight, but when we go back to the fight put up in this House by the Opposition on that Bill we find that we have been proved absolutely right in the warnings that we gave then and in the forecasts of what we said would finally have to be conceded by the British Government.
There are one or two other points which I wish to mention. First, I want to take up the views expressed by the hon. Member for Haltempriec—I am sorry he is not in his place at the moment—attacking the American penetration into Central Africa. I think that it would be a very great mistake if that kind of attitude were in any way to be shared by the British Government.
1550 I had some opportunity in Central Africa last summer to see something of the work which the Americans are doing there, and it seemed to me that they were giving help in poor territories in which we need as much help as we can get on an international basis. I am told that Dr. Banda's Government are giving a very warm welcome to volunteers from the American Peace Corps, and I am sure that the First Secretary will give as warm a welcome to that kind of help.
It seems to me that one of the great challenges which faces this country and the United States is to arrive at a means of co-operating constructively together in the work of bringing help to these new African nations. It would be a great pity if Britain, because of her colonial past, felt that the United States were usurping her obligations, just as it would be equally a pity if the United States felt that, because of their dislike of our colonial past, they could not be associated with us in the projects in Africa. It is extremely easy for hon. Members on the Conservative back benches to poke fun at Mr. Mennen Williams, but I suppose that in some ways he is the alter ego of the Marquess of Salisbury. Although the Marquess of Salisbury may put his views with greater sophistication than does Mr. Mennen Williams, I think that if one were to form an estimate of which of the two sets of views had done the greater service for the West in the new nations in Africa, whose loyalty may be very important to us in the years ahead, one would decide that it was the rather militant views of Mr. Mennen Williams rather than the old-fashioned views of the Marquess of Salisbury.
I hope that the British Government will apply themselves to co-operative arrangements with the new Governments in Central Africa. This is particularly important in Nyasaland, which is a desperately poor country. I wish that we had been given some more information from the First Secretary about the kind of help which we propose to give to Nyasaland, in the years which lie immediately ahead, in the development plans which she has been working out with very great care and earnestness. One matter in which there is room for co-operation with the Americans, and also room for friction if we do not make the right sort of arrangements, is the way 1551 in which we share the burden of assisting in development.
I got the impression in Nyasaland, and I have had it in some other parts of the world, that what tends to happen is that we, as the traditional colonial Power, find ourselves giving a grant in budgetary aid which is used to maintain the Administration—which is vital but not visible aid. On the other hand, the Americans, coming in as newcomers, tend to give their aid in more visible forms, more ostentatious forms—perhaps in the form of bright new buildings and institutes on which one can stick a pleasant label saying, "This was given by the United States". It is important that we should try to bring about methods of co-operation so that not only the dramatic and exciting development but also the undramatic although equally vital development shall be generally shared between the two countries.
Finally, I wish to say a brief word about the situation in Southern Rhodesia which is, of course, the most difficult of all the three Territories as the Federation breaks up. I hope that the British Government will do everything they can to influence the present Southern Rhodesian Government towards allowing speedy constitutional advance to prevent the kind of violence which has been feared in a number of speeches made today. One of our charges against the Government's policy over recent years is that they have wantonly given up some of the political instruments of influence which they had—the reserve powers. But what is immensely true in the present situation of Southern Rhodesia is that our powers of economic influence with that country are very great. I think that it was singularly unfortunate that one of the earlier actions of the First Secretary in his present office last summer was to make a substantial financial grant to Southern Rhodesia. However much we sympathise with some of the economic and social problems faced by the African population of Southern Rhodesia, it is important to use this means of influence which we have to persuade the Southern Rhodesians that, even at this late stage, they ought to change their forms of political advance.
The truth is that it is the Southern Rhodesian European minority, perhaps 1552 above all, which faces the most acute difficulty following the break-up of the Federation. It has been an argument by those who still claim to believe that the Federation should be held together that Nyasaland would suffer most from a break-up because Nyasaland is the poorest country. But Nyasaland is a poor, agricultural country and can suffer certain economic setbacks without the people noticing it too badly, while the European minority, on the other hand, has had a luxury and boom economy, and over the last year or two, when it has become increasingly clear that the future of the Federation was in great doubt, that economy has begun to sag very sharply. One has only to look at the present municipal budget in Salisbury, compared with that a year or two ago, to see one barometer of how much the level of economic activity has dropped.
The manufacturing interests in Southern Rhodesia which had such a sharp boom after federation was created have a very considerable motive for wanting reasonable terms of association with Northern Rhodesia, because these new secondary industries have been built up on the basis of having a market protected by a customs barrier with Northern Rhodesia. If they go on with the present political policies and go on refusing to allow Mr. Joshua Nkomo and his colleagues to have adequate constitutional outlets, they will put themselves in a catastrophic economic position. It is sometimes said from the benches opposite that if Her Majesty's Government exercised the kind of economic pressures that I am advocating Southern Rhodesia would simply be driven into the Republic of South Africa. I do not think that this is very likely. I do not think that the Republic of South Africa, for political reasons, would very much welcome the kind of European minority which would be associated with it. On economic grounds the arguments against Southern Rhodesia going in are even stronger, because the infant Southern Rhodesian secondary industries will not be able to compete at all if they find themselves in a common market with the Republic of South Africa.
Therefore, I should have thought that there is a considerable section of the European minority in Southern Rhodesia that is very much open to economic 1553 pressures wielded by this country. This is one, case in which this form of economic sanction, if you like to call it that, is a perfectly proper way for us in this country to try to prevent the kind of disaster that Southern Rhodesia will be heading for, unless its political policies on African advance change.
This debate has been rather poorly attended. It is a sign that most people in the House on both sides now believe that the Federation has come to an end and think that in that sense the issues across the Floor of the House are a little less sharp than they were in the past. If the attendance at this debate were to be taken as a sign of complacency and a feeling that the problems of Central Africa were now gradually being put behind us. it would be unbelievable smugness, because although in my view Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, moving towards self-government and self-determination, have a reasonably sure future now, although they have difficulties, the more I think about the future of Southern Rhodesia as part of the whole Southern tip of Africa the gloomier I become. It is impossible to feel that there is now any peaceful way out of the political impasse which has been created in South Africa. Southern Rhodesia will go the same way as South. Africa unless there is a change in policies there. I believe that there is still time. I believe that the influence of this country and of this Government may be crucial. I pray that it may not be too late.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I trust that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) will excuse me if I do not follow him too closely in his argument. I disagree with the analysis he made towards the end of his speech as to why some benches on both sides of the House are sparsely occupied. Except for two or three of the speeches towards the end of this debate, one might have been excused for thinking that one was attending the funeral service of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Hon. Members on both sides have referred to the impending doom, to the certainty that the Federation will not continue. I do not look at the matter in that light. I think that the Federation without a doubt will change, but I believe that it 1554 is a structure of such value that, although it may be radically changed, there is a possibility, and indeed a probability, of the framework, however much it may be dismantled, being retained to keep together, to the benefit of the three nations concerned, the Federation that we know.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) and the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) castigated the Government because of understandings which had been reached and which, they claimed, had been broken. I wish to inform them that they need not take the word of the Government that no such undertakings which were given have been broken, for they need only study the White Paper published at the beginning of February to get the matter in perspective. The whole thing is clearly stated in that White Paper, which is a verbatim record of the discussions which took place on 19th January, 1953, relating to the review of the Constitution.
I have studied this record as closely, I think, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley), and I would say that it makes it emphatically clear that Her Majesty's Government have not ratted on any undertaking they may or may not have given. In any case, even without the White Paper, how could any Government, of whatever political complexion, be so rash and foolhardy as to give what would virtually amount to a veto to no less than four Governments; saying that the Federation would not be disbanded unless they were all agreed? No Government in this country would do such a thing, and there is no point in anyone saying that this Government would do it.
The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West made another interesting point when he said that he thought that it was the fault of Her Majesty's Government that we had lost the chance of building a multi-racial society in the Rhodesias. I do not believe that it was this Government's fault. I was there in about 1956 and at that time there was an influential body at work, not only in Central Africa but throughout the Kenyan, called the Capricorn Society. Hon. Members may or may not have heard of it. At the time of my visit it was in its heyday, so to speak, and the society was attracting a good deal of favourable support from all 1555 sections of the community, coloured and white, and various Governments associated with the Federation were warmly supporting its efforts. However, it died a natural death and nothing came of the Capricorn Society.
Several hon. Members have spoken in a manner which has made me wonder if they really want to do their best for the people in the Federation, whatever the colour of those people, or whether their chief and prime aim is to ensure that only one section of the population, perhaps only one colour, has its interests looked after. I cannot help taking the view that some hon. Members feel that the wishes of any nation newly emerged—however small its population or backward or ignorant its population—must be respected without any guidance from, for instance, ourselves, when we may have responsibilities towards them, particularly until they achieve independence. I have in mind the nation of Nyasaland with its small population of about 2 million people. They are independent now, but their leaders tell us that it is the wish of the population—and I am sure that this is so in so far as they understand the issues involved—that they should secede immediately or as soon as possible from the Federation.
As I have said, many hon. Members, and certainly quite a number of hon. Members opposite, seem to feel that merely because that wish has been expressed by these people who, however kindly we look at them are very backward, that in itself should be sufficient and their wish should be acted on immediately. I do not agree. I think that we have to do not only what they may or may not want themselves, but what we really think is best for the people of Nyasaland. I would ask those hon. Members to ask themselves whether they think it to the best interest of the people of Nyasaland to make the complete and utter break with the Federation which some hon. Members have implied is impending.
As hon. Members know, Nyasaland is one of the major reservoirs of labour for the rest of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. No fewer than 500,000 out of a population of 2.8 million are nearly always engaged in labour elsewhere in the Federation or in Portuguese 1556 or South African territories. I would counsel hon. Members who feel that the wishes of a newly emergent African State are absolutely sacrosanct, instead of merely repeating the cries of the leaders of these people, to think for a moment whether, particularly in the case of Nyasaland, it is best to have a complete and utter break.
I should like to add my plaudits to the sustained and painstaking efforts of my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State. He has certainly grasped a hot potato in handling these affairs and, as is most becoming, he is handling them very gingerly at the moment, but I feel that this is a problem which given common sense and, above all, given time, will not prove to be insoluble. Moreover, my right hon. Friend struck the right note when he said towards the end of his speech that it is essential to appreciate that the situation in Central Africa is not due to any fault on the part of the Government. Of course it is not. The present precarious position in Central Africa and other parts of Africa is due to the rightful desire of the African people throughout the continent to be more proportionately represented in government. Nevertheless, I shall be sad to see the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland drift apart or break up into ruins as envisaged by some hon. Members.
I do not say that for sentimental reasons, although having spent nearly a couple of years in the Federation I am well aware of all the wonderful work which was done by Cecil Rhodes and of the historical associations which his name brings to memory in connection with the Federation. I say that I would be sorry to see the Federation completely break up for entirely different reasons. It seems to me, having travelled in all parts of the Federation, that the three territories of which it is composed are in a very real sense complementary to one another.
In the North there are the Nyasas who, as I have said, largely provide a reservoir of labour for much of the Federation. Much of the heavy industry in the North of the Federation, in Northern Rhodesia, is dependent on the only source of coal which lies in Southern Rhodesia at Wankie. Economically, of course, Southern Rhodesia depends to a very great extent upon the Copperbelt 1557 in Northern Rhodesia. The three countries are united also in another vast project, the Kariba Dam scheme, which is only just beginning to show the benefits of harnessing the enormous power which lies in the River Zambesi.
My right hon. Friend asked hon. Members on both sides to give him their views about whether a conference should be called in the fairly near future in an effort to thrash out the present difficulties. I join with other hon. Members who have said that such a conference would be very desirable. I feel that the preparatory work for it should begin at once. While there is, as there is now, a certain amount of fluidity in the affairs of the three nations of the Federation, we should try during the conference to crystallise this fluidity into some form of association between the three territories, be it only economic.
I cannot myself foresee an association or federation embodying one responsibility for defence. There is a chance of having a federation embodying one responsibility for foreign affairs: but I think it absolutely essential that we retain the fabric of federation in a really close and harmonious economic association beneficial to all concerned.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
I do not propose to spend very long on one theme of the debate, the theme of Government pledges on this subject. This is not because I think it an unimportant theme—it is very important—but I do not consider that it is quite as important as the actual situation in Central Africa today.
I say only this to the Attorney-General on the subject of the pledges. I hope that neither he nor anyone else will suppose that any hon. Member on this side of the House thinks that the Government had not power to agree to Nyasaland's secession or that they were not right to agree to Nyasaland's secession. We think that the Government were right to do both those things. But the trouble—we are bound to point it out—is that they had promised not to do them. They really had; there is no doubt about it if one reads the documents. Call it a pledge, if one likes. It was certainly not a legally binding pledge; 1558 it could not be. But, so far as Ministers' words mean anything in the documents which have now been published, there can be no doubt that they gave the assurance, promise, pledge, whatever it may be called, that they would not agree to the secession of territories unless all the Governments concerned so agreed.
Since this has been denied by several speakers, I think that I ought to give just two confirmations of it. One is the letter, a public one, after all, to the British Council of Churches, of which, so we are now told by the noble Lord, Lord Swinton was largely the author. It says:.. as the Constitution"—that is, of the Federation—will be based on a scheme which has been agreed between the four Governments concerned and will itself be so agreed it seems to Her Majesty's Government that it would in any foreseeable circumstance be morally and politically indefensible for Parliament to enact amendments which had not been similarly agreed.If that is not an assurance, I do not know what words mean. There was the briefer but, perhaps, even more sweeping assurance of Lord Chandos when he said in the negotiations:Nothing can liquidate the Constitution unless all four "—that is, all four Governments—are agreed on it".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 18th February, 1963; Vol. 246, c. 1160–1.]I am not a supporter of Sir Roy Welensky, but I was in the Federal Parliament in Salisbury when he made his famous tirade against the British Government. When he quoted those words and others, it was very difficult to deny that Sir Roy Welensky had allowed himself to be led up the garden. It was rather naive of him because, apparently, he believed assurances of Ministers on pledges which they were in no position to give since they could not—and here we are on common ground—possibly pledge away the right of this Parliament to decide. But, apparently he did believe all this because, I suppose, he wanted to believe it—he is a very shrewd politician—and that, I suppose, is the only explanation.
This is a profoundly discreditable incident, and the Government, because those pledges or assurances were given, 1559 but which should not have been given—in order to do the right thing in the case of Nyasaland—have had completely to go back on them. That is a sad and discreditable thing which surely we must all deplore.
I turn to the speech of the First Secretary of State and the main subjects of the debate. We would have little to debate if we debated only what the right hon. Gentleman told us. I think that he made only one real announcement, and that was the decision that the negotiations on the secession of Nyasaland, which has been agreed to by the Government, should go on between the Nyasaland Government, and I suppose Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and the Federal Government. I should have thought that it was a most disastrous decision that these negotiations should go on with this moribund Federal Government, not one constituent part of which desires it to continue. It seems to me quite disastrous to give the only people who wish to delay a decision on the winding up of the situation—that is, the Ministers of the Federal Government—endless powers of obstruction. I cannot understand how that decision has been arrived at. I think that it will have the most disastrous reactions in Northern Rhodesia where, surely, exactly the same process must be gone through. As the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) said, surely it is disastrous that this whole process should be gone through again in the case of Northern Rhodesia when the Government, as, of course, they will have to do, come to meet its demand for secession. Surely the conference ought to deal with the two matters together.
For the rest, we must discuss what the First Secretary of State did not say rather than what he did say. The first startling omission from his speech was that he made no acknowledgment of the right of Northern Rhodesia to secede. What is the object of keeping silent on this matter? He knows that he has got to do it. Having granted, properly we think, the right of Nyasaland to secede, how can be possibly deny the same right to Northern Rhodesia? Would it not be a thousand times better to acknowledge that here and now and to put doubt out of the minds of the 1560 Northern Rhodesian African movement? We cannot banish from our minds the suspicion that, merely because he does not want to face the opposition of some of his hon. Friends, he simply omits to make that clear statement. But he has got to make it sooner rather than later, and he will face just as much opposition from behind him when he does make it. Surely, it would be a hundred times better for him to make it tonight. It carries with it the obvious corollary that he admits that the Federation is at an end and must be dismantled by its constituent parts.
My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. A. Roberts) asked why we should dismantle the Federation. I do not think that it is any question of the British or United Kingdom Government dismantling the Federation. It is that all three of the Governments which compose the Federation desire that it should cease to exist. How, therefore, can we keep it in existence when every one of its constituent parts desires to go its own way, not only Governments which are in the hands of Africans but also a Government which is in the hands of Europeans, in Southern Rhodesia? Surely, therefore. the time has come when it would be a thousand times better for the First Secretary and the Government here to say frankly and clearly, in a way that could be understood in Africa, that they recognise the right of Northern Rhodesia to secede and, therefore, the necessity of the winding-up of the Federation.
On all sides, one thing on which everyone is agreed—it is about the one thing in the speech of the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) with which I agreed—is that it is necessary that decisions should be reached quickly on these matters. The main impression from the First Secretary's speech was of extreme dilatoriness, that he was hanging out and hanging up all these decisions as long as he possibly could. Surely, that is a terribly dangerous policy to adopt, whatever we think the decision should be.
Many hon. Members on the Government side, and one of my hon. Friends also, have spoken about federation and emphasised both the great economic benefits which it has had for the territories and the great economic difficulties 1561 in which the constituent parts and Governments might find themselves when the Federation is wound up. There is great force in those arguments, but hon. Members who have used them are utterly beside the point.
Perhaps I may give an analogy. Every one of us could make a case of great force for a federation of the Governments of Central Europe, for example. It has often been done—the Danube Basin Governments, for example. One could easily prove that a federation of, say, Yugoslavia, Austria and Czechoslovakia would have enormous economic benefits for the area. Nobody would propose it, however, for the reason that we know it to be quite impossible. One of the Governments—Austria—is a democracy in the Western sense, one of them is an orthodox Communist Government and one of them is an unorthodox Communist Government. Neither politically nor economically could they conceivably federate.
The difficulties today in Central Africa of federal association and of a political and economic link—above all, a political link—are in some ways even greater. Men can change their political opinions. In theory at least, the Yugoslavs or the Austrians might change their political and economic systems and be able to federate themselves politically and economically. The difference between Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, on the one hand, and Southern Rhodesia, on the other, is greater than that, because men cannot change the colour of their skins.
With clear black majorities from now on in the two Northern Territories, and so long as there is—to put it frankly—white dictatorship rule in the Southern Territory, it is a waste of our breath to talk about any possibility of a political federation between the three territories even if the economic advantages were twice what they are and even if the price which had to be paid for the dissolution of the Federation were far greater even than it is. It just cannot be done.
Everyone on this side of the House, I am sure, is in favour of the best and closest degree of economic co-operation between these Governments which can be obtained. But we feel intensely that any attempt to retain by pressure or suasion, 1562 even by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, to maintain a political link which all these three Governments reject is the high road to preventing there being any possibility of keeping economic co-operation going. This economic co-operation must be voluntary. It must be something upon which all three Governments agree voluntarily. They can only do this when the bond—and all three feel it to be that now—of the Federation is loosened and they can look at the position afresh and come to see how they can trade with each other.
Do not let us exaggerate the difficulties. Sovereign, independent Governments can trade with each other. They can sell electricity to the one, can carry the copper of the other and can send their labour from one territory to another. This is not an impossible thing for sovereign independent Governments to do, still less for Governments which are linked, to some extent, through their connection with this country.
The inevitable dismantling of the Federation which must follow from the fact that none of its constituent parts wishes it to continue in no way precludes sensible trading arrangements between the three territories. But what does make even sensible trading arrangements difficult is the contrast between the way in which the three territories are governed. I must refer again to an incident which was perhaps small in itself but which was of enormous and disastrous significance.
The man who is in effect the Chief Minister of Northern Rhodesia, Mr. Kenneth Kaunda, goes to Salisbury and finds that he is a prohibited immigrant. He is kept and examined for hours at the airport and is not allowed to go into the city. How can a Government whose Chief Minister is treated like that across the border be asked to federate? It is astonishing to us that hon. Members opposite seem to ignore these factors which are the absolute governing and determining factors out there.
I do not wish to indulge entirely in gloom, although I think that this is a gloomy subject today. However, I think there is one brighter aspect of the situation and that is the position in Northern Rhodesia. I think that both in Northern Rhodesia and in Nyasaland there is at any rate hope. I happened to be in Lusaka when the new Government was 1563 formed and I saw the new African Ministers a day or two before they became Ministers and again a day or so afterwards. I speak particularly of their leader, Mr. Kaunda, but also of the others when I say that I found that the most encouraging thing was that they were just the same after they became Ministers as they were before. They did not seem to have their heads turned in the very slightest.
We are very fortunate in having in Mr. Kenneth Kaunda one of the outstanding African leaders of today. There is, I believe, in Northern Rhodesia the possibility of building a multi-racial society. After all, there are not only very important financial interests, in the copper companies, but a considerable number of white inhabitants of Northern Rhodesia, and it may be said that there is a better chance, at any rate, of a harmonious multi-racial society there than anywhere else in Africa.
However, it seems to be subject to two things, to the British Government making up their minds and making up their minds quickly on two things. I have referred already to acknowledging clearly and frankly the right of the Northern Rhodesian Government to secession. The second is acknowledging that sooner rather than later—I will not put it more strongly than that—that there must be a new constitution for Northern Rhodesia. Unless those two things are frankly and freely acknowledged by the Government, there is still a grave danger of the situation in Northern Rhodesia going sour. After all, I do not think that the First Secretary doubts that everyone, all the races, now expects—some look forward to it and some apprehend it, but everyone expects—the development first of internal self-government under a new constitution and ultimately independence in Northern Rhodesia.
Some rather hard words have been said during the debate about great capitalist tycoons—the word used. I am bound to say from such contacts as I had with the great copper companies that they seemed to be by no means the least progressive forces there. They seemed to me to have a very long-sighted view and to be very willing to take part in what must be an experiment, and they consider a hopeful experiment, of working under and working 1564 with an African Government. There have been these favourable and hopeful possibilities in Northern Rhodesia, but they turn a good deal on courageous decisions by Her Majesty's Government, the granting of the right to secession, the acknowledgment of the right to secession. I cannot understand why that has not been done.
I appreciate the argument that the new constitution has only just begun to function and that we ought to leave it for a good period of running in. But let us remember that this constitution has worked unexpectedly well but very much by luck rather than by skill. It is a situation profoundly unsatisfactory to everybody. If we acknowledge the need for a new constitution, that does not mean that the new constitution could or would come into force immediately. A great deal of work would have to be done, a new electoral system would have to be worked out and so on, and it would be many months, if not a year or so, before a new constitution could come into effect, and there would therefore be a period of running in of the semi-African Government of Northern Rhodesia today. All that is immediately needed, therefore, is the acknowledgment that, like the right to secession, there is the right to and the necessity for a new constitution.
I turn with reluctance from Northern Rhodesia to the situation in Southern Rhodesia where, as I think hon. Members on both sides have acknowledged, the prospect is far less hopeful. I do not see how anyone could visit Southern Rhodesia today without feeling the most profound tragedy there, and I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House should address themselves almost exclusively to the question of how that impending tragedy can be averted.
I do not for a moment think that it is a question of bad men or good men in Southern Rhodesia. When I was there this winter I got the impression of men of both sides, and all races, caught in the terrible situation of racial antagonism, and, I fear, race hatred, but worst of all perhaps, a blank incomprehension between the races. If no intervention is made, if nothing is done to alter that situation, how can it do anything but first drift and then drive towards disaster?
I was in Salisbury for the first time just before the election, and I spent my 1565 time studying the election campaign. Whatever one may think of the new Rhodesia Front Government—and it has hopeful features; the character of the Prime Minister has been referred to by my hon. Friend in flattering terms, and I share that view—the election campaign was a terrible thing to see. As the House probably knows, people there considered that by far the most effective piece of propaganda by the Rhodesia Front was a simple poster called the "legs" poster. It showed a picture of the white legs of a white child and the black legs of a black child going into the same school, and under it was some such caption as—Is this what you want to see for your child?with the clear implication that multiracial education, the education of white children in the same school as black children, was something unthinkable, something humiliating, something which the white population must avert at all costs. That was the general tone of the Rhodesia Front election campaign; that it was that spirit which got them their majority.
I do not know whether the pleasant personal character of the Prime Minister, and I dare say some of his colleagues, can alter the spirit of racialism—and one cannot call it anything else—which was evoked by that campaign directly on the white side, but also on the black side. Inevitably, if that sort of propaganda is being carried on by one side it evokes a racialist spirit on the other side. I saw Mr. Field on several occasions. I agree that he is a most agreeable gentleman. He seemed to have a warmly paternal attitude to the African population. But I ask anyone who knows the Rhodesias far better than I do, is it not many years too late for a paternal attitude? Is there any chance of that approach, however sincere, however warmhearted, however excellent his relations with some African leaders, Dr. Banda and the like, in the situation of Southern Rhodesia, having much effect?
This was not the attitude of many members of his Government. I am afraid that I would have to characterise them as determined, able, and ruthless racialists who knew very well what they were at; they ought not to be dismissed as cranks as some people are apt to 1566 dismiss them; I am afraid they are men who are determined that the white hegemony or dictatorship in Southern Rhodesia should be maintained at all costs and for all time.
This was the position at any rate of a substantial faction of the Rhodesia Front Government. It would be quite wrong to say that it is the universal attitude among the European population in Southern Rhodesia. Of course it is not. We know that there are much more liberal elements than that inside the present Government, and certainly outside it. To my mind the fate not only of Southern Rhodesia but very likely of the whole of the southern part of Africa depends on the contest between the types of opinion, of many shades and characters, which exist in Southern Rhodesia today.
There are Southern Rhodesian whites who have earned the love of Africans. Dr. Ranger has been referred to. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said that he was by no means an extremist, and had opinions which would be considered rather conservative in this country. I noticed that the hon. Member for Haltemprice laughed when my hon. Friend said that, but I can confirm exactly what my hon. Friend said. I met Dr. Ranger at a meeting with a good many African nationalists and several white Liberals. Dr. Ranger was already a very famous —indeed, notorious—man in Southern Rhodesia, who was under bitter attack from the Rhodesia Front Government and who had also been under attack from the previous Government of Sir Edgar Whitehead, which had sought to deport him and had made him a restricted person.
In those circumstances I imagined that I should be meeting someone who held views well to the left of my own. Therefore, when I spoke to him and to some of the African leaders who were present, I stressed as strongly as I could the limits to the action which any British Government could take in Southern Rhodesia, in order not to raise false expectations. But I found very ready agreement on the part of Dr. Ranger and, as the conversation went on, I found myself getting at cross purposes with him. It came out in the end that in his general world outlook, in his views on economic and 1567 historical questions—he is a professional historian—were much more in common with the opinions of many hon. Members opposite than with my own.
It is the measure of the situation in Southern Rhodesia that a man, with somewhat conservative views, but who has a feeling for racial equality, earns himself banishment. I find this incident, and the forced resignation of men like Sir Robert Tredgold, together with the developments in the legal situation, all of a most ominous prospect. I must refer again to the measure undertaken by Mr. Winston Field's Government in which the death penalty is to become mandatory for offences against property.
Can anyone in this House defend that? We hold different views on the question of capital punishment. Some of us are against it altogether and others believe in it for the crime of murder. But can anyone in this House really defend capital punishment for crimes against property, in which no harm may be done to anybody? No one need even be injured, but if this law is passed the courts will have a mandate to award capital punishment and nothing else. Remember that this is in a situation in which the vast majority of the population have no opportunity whatever in the making of this law, in the administration of it, in the amendment of it and in which their opportunities for constitutional and democratic opposition to all this are non-existent.
No one, of course, is going to condone or excuse violence on anybody's part, but, equally, we should be blinding ourselves to all historical experience if we supposed that if we cut off all constitutional and democratic outlets for the vast mass of a population, we should not get violence. Look at the history of this country. Before there was a democratic vote, how did the mass of the population make itself felt—so far as it did—in public life? It is called in the history books by means of "riot and rick burning." Of course that was inevitable, but no one, even in this country in the nineteenth century in the worst period, actually extended capital punishment to these offences.
What we must all ask is, what can the United Kingdom Government do in this situation? We can only press with all 1568 our force on Her Majesty's Government that they should use all their remaining powers—by their own folly they are small enough—all their influence and, I do not hesitate to say, all their pressure, to avert a head-on collision which otherwise will inevitably take place in Southern Rhodesia.
I say one thing about the United Nations question. We have got ourselves into the worst conceivable situation there. In the United Nations we say we are entirely responsible for what happens in Southern Rhodesia and that the United Nations has no business at all to interfere in the matter. Then, in this House and elsewhere, we say that as a matter of fact we have no power to alter things in Southern Rhodesia. Is it any wonder that we find our best spokesmen and best officials simply will not carry that message for us at the United Nations? It is impossible to get men like Sir Hugh Foot to take up that position. It is madness, which was expressed by several hon. Members opposite, to try to keep the United Nations out of Southern Rhodesia. Surely we should welcome the United Nations there.
There is nothing Her Majesty's Government need be ashamed of there. It is not being done by Her Majesty's Government. Let the United Nations see as closely as it can what is happening in Southern Rhodesia. It would see, not only the things to which I object and have spoken about, but it would face the realities of the situation, the limits—and, of course, there are narrow limits, to what the United Kingdom Government can do directly. The United Nations would have to face the situation; then perhaps it would stop passing what are at best pious resolutions and help us to avert the terrible disasters which otherwise impend.
So specifically we put it to the Government, let them refuse independence, the last actual powers they have there, to Southern Rhodesia until the country is at any rate well on the way to a genuine democratic Government.
§ Mr. A. Roberts
Would my right hon. Friend say that the United Nations ought to look at the situation in Ethiopia before looking at the situation in Southern Rhodesia?
§ Mr. Strachey
I cannot agree with my hon. Friend. I do not know enough about the situation in Ethiopia to speak about that, but for this country I should very much rather that the priority was in Southern Rhodesia. I should very much rather that the United Nations was forced, by close inspection, to see the real situation in Rhodesia and that we did not attempt, as we often so foolishly do, to keep the United Nations out of Southern Rhodesia and prevent any inquiry or attempt by the United Nations to look at that situation. I repeat that we ask the Government to refuse the last step of independence to Southern Rhodesia until and unless she is really beginning to implement at any rate a democratic and multi-racial society, and, more important, that in the financial settlement—and it will be no easy one—which the end of Federation necessitates our whole attitude—I say this quite frankly—to Southern Rhodesia should be governed by whether or not the Southern Rhodesian Government are moving in the direction that I have indicated.
There must be no more grants or loans on easy terms of £3½ million to a racialist Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "Economic sanctions."] Economic sanctions if you wish to call it that: at any rate, economic pressure, economic persuasion. This is the real way in which the British Government can make their influence felt in Southern Rhodesia. Otherwise, like Pontius Pilate, we must wash our hands of the situation because those are the only powers remaining. We shall be told, of course, that if we do that Southern Rhodesia will at once, unconstitutionally and by force, declare her independence and join up with South Africa. I do not know whether that is so and I do not know how she would be received, but I do know that the British Government cannot possibly allow themselves to be blackmailed by that threat.
We must stand by the multi-racial policies which we have pursued throughout Africa. If the Government give them up in this case, they will ruin the splendid record, which has been referred to before in this debate, of turning the old Empire into a free Commonwealth—a policy which they have inherited from the Labour Government but which to their honour they have pursued ever since.
1570 They will ruin the splendid record of the country, almost at the last moment if they give it to the white supremacy Government of Southern Rhodesia.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir John Hobson)
The debate that we have had today has shown, I think, that hon. Members on both sides of the House are principally interested in the solution of the problems which, in the anxious situation which confronts this country, the Government and the House are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the First Secretary. I am bound to say that the speech of the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) seemed to be more concerned with the things that the Government ought not to do than the things that the Government should do. We have had a great deal of advice of every kind from both sides of the House, and sometimes, rather surprisingly, some of it has appeared to come from quarters that were perhaps a little unexpected.
I would begin what I have to say by dealing with the question of the pledges. It is true to say that they are, of course, past history and to that extent are irrelevant to the problems of tomorrow, but they have been a recurring theme during many of the speeches today. The hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West referred to this matter. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) said that charges of this kind were of a serious nature, and of course they are bound to be. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) that to establish these charges is injurious to the interests and image of this country in Africa and elsewhere, and I therefore feel that it is my duty to spend a little time in considering the matter.
Coming, as I do, to these problems without any preconceived notions and without in any way having been concerned with them, I cannot see how any fair-minded person can extract either from the contemporary records or from the history of the matter that Her Majesty's Government have broken any pledges or abandoned any undertaking as a result of the decision to grant Nyasaland the right of secession from the Federation by an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament. I am grateful for 1571 the support of my hon. Friends the Members for Lancaster and Harborough (Mr. Farr), who have clearly studied the records set out in the White Paper with some care.
We ought to be clear what was exactly the charge made by Sir Roy Welensky on 19th December—a charge which has frequently been repeated since and has been repeated this afternoon. It is an allegation that in 1953 a pledge or an undertaking or a promise was given by Ministers on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that the Federation should be permanent and lasting or at least should be preserved inviolate and unaltered, whatever might be the views of the British Parliament, unless and until at least the Governments of the Federation and of the three territories all agreed otherwise.
I agree that it is not a question whether the law did or did not entitle the Government to act but a question whether a promise or an undertaking was given. It is, of course, true that the Ministers at that time, and Her Majesty's Government at that time, were determined that Federation should continue and succeed and were indeed full of hope and confidence and faith in the great and imaginative experiment which they were initiating. That hopes have turned out to be dupes; that best-laid plans have "gang agley" is a matter for discussion and regret, but it does not imply in any sense that anything dishonourable was done or that there has been the breaking of any pledge or promise.
No doubt Sir Roy Welensky is entitled to feel disappointment and chagrin that the hopes and expectations which he then equally nursed have been disappointed. But neither he nor hon. Members are entitled to make serious charges of breaches of faith unless promises or undertakings were made which have been broken. There is a world of difference between a disappointed hope and a broken promise. The former, of course, I concede; but the latter is, I submit to the House, entirely without foundation.
It is true that in 1952 the Government of Southern Rhodesia wished to preserve for each of the three territories the right to be able to secede unilaterally by any territory, as it were, giving notice. This was not conceded by British Ministers 1572 for obvious reasons. But that cannot have anything to do with the question whether Her Majesty's Government at that time tied the hands of their successors and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom by promising that the Government of each territory and of the Federation should each have a veto in perpetuity, whatever the views of all the other parties might be.
The only occasion upon which any such pledge is alleged to have been given is at the discussion of the conference on 19th January, 1953, the full record of which has been published by the Government as a White Paper. Whatever may be said about the recollection of those who were present at that time when speaking in another place, the truth is that all that was said is recorded in that brief White Paper and can be read and assessed.
But before reading the White Paper it is, I submit, necessary to remember what was the background of these discussions, what was the purpose of the discussions and what was going on in the course of them. The draft Constitution at that stage was in its final stages, and I am informed that the Articles which are now Articles 98 and 99 of the Annex to the Constitution Order in Council which dealt with the amendment and review of the Constitution were then in substantially their final and present form and were the subject of the agenda for discussion on 19th January.
It must therefore have been plain to all persons who attended that meeting on that day, first of all that it was not within the competence of the Federal Legislature, far less within the power of any territory, to provide for the secession of any territory.
Secondly, that subject to this and some other exceptions the Federal Legislature could itself by a two-thirds majority pass any "constitutional Bill" amending any other provision of the Constitution. Thirdly, that the United Kingdom Parliament could make any amendment of the Federal Constitution and, if it wished, grant to any territory the right to secede. Fourthly, that within the first ten years the Federal Legislature could not alter its own Legislative list even by a two-thirds majority without the approval of 1573 the Legislatures of each of the three territories. Finally, that the review conference had no powers itself but that its recommendations only would have to be dealt with either by the United Kingdom Parliament or by the Federal Legislature in accordance with the Federal Constitution.
That was the position on the draft Constitution as it stood, and these were almost the last two Articles in that Constitution that came up for discussion on that day.
It is plain from the verbatim record and from the Minutes that the topic of discussion on 19th January, 1953, was the Review Conference to be held in seven to nine years' time and that the statements of British Ministers were made solely in relation thereto.
It is also notable that both the two Secretaries of State concerned—Lord Swinton and Lord Chandos—have now publicly denied that they ever intended to give any such pledge, promise or undertaking as the Federal Government now claim was made.
It only remains, therefore, to see whether by inadvertence either of them used words which could fairly have been construed as a pledge and which were so taken by the other participants. This is a problem which we can all see by reading the White Paper and the terms.
Mr. Eastwood, as everybody who has read the White Paper will remember, opened the discussion by raising the question whether the review conference might provide an opportunity for secession. Lord Swinton at once pointed out, perfectly correctly, that the results of a review conference could only be put into force by an amendment of the Constitution.
He assumed that they would be passed through the Federal Assembly, because the Constitution provided, subject to the ten year frozen period for the Legislative list, that in most instances that could be done, but he did not at that stage of the discussion mention that such amendments could also be passed by the United Kingdom Parliament.
Lord Chandos then spoke and expressed not an undertaking or a promise or a pledge but an opinion as to what he considered to be the position under the draft Constitution as it then stood—namely, that without the unanimous consent of the four Governments in fact the 1574 Constitution could not be liquidated. He asked in the same breath, and twice asked, for an assurance of the lawyers that this view was correct. That assurance never was given to the Conference by any lawyer who was present. [Laughter.] That certainly is true.
His view was not accepted, whatever he may have had in mind and whether or not he was, as one may suspect, mistakenly bearing in mind the freezing of the Legislative list which required the consent of all four Governments under what is now Article 98. Whatever may have been in his mind and whatever was said, it certainly was not accepted by either Sir Roy Welensky or by Mr. Greenfield, because Sir Roy Welensky immediately afterwards correctly pointed out that it was only the Legislative list which could not be altered without the consent of all four Governments, during the "frozen 10 year period", that other amendments to the Constitution could be made at any time by a two-thirds majority of the Federal Legislature, and that even the Legislative list could be altered after the ten year period without the consent of all four Governments.
Mr. Greenfield went even further and twice made it clear with complete accuracy that, whatever the position was under the draft Constitution, it was possible to upset the Constitution upon the intervention of the United Kingdom Government as the Sovereign power. His quotation from the Burial Service was happy, apt and accurate.
Lord Swinton accepted that quotation immediately as accurate but expressed a strong opinion as to the improbability of the United Kingdom intervening. He went no further and he certainly gave no pledge that it would not do so. No one else questioned or contradicted what Mr. Greenfield had said so accurately as to the power of the United Kingdom to upset the Constitution as it pleased.
Lord Chandos concluded by inverting his question to the lawyers by asking whether major alterations to the Constitution could be made with the agreement of each and all of the Governments concerned; and again got no answer. That question does not seem in any event to have anything to do with a pledge or promise as to the circumstances in which the Constitution would not be altered. He was only asking whether it could be 1575 altered with the consent of all four Governments.
It has been necessary to analyse this discussion and its background in some detail. It certainly seems plain that no one can fairly read into what Lord Swinton or Lord Chandos said any pledge or promise or undertaking which would limit in any way the powers of intervention of the United Kingdom Government and Parliament. Each expressly recognised those powers and, whatever else is doubtful, it is clear that Mr. Greenfield accurately stated and accepted the position that there were no fetters on the United Kingdom.
In any event, the discussion was about the form of an Annex to the proposed Order in Council and no one could have supposed that whatever was put into that Schedule would in any way affect or detract from the legislative powers of the United Kingdom Parliament. That no pledges were given, nor were any understood to have been given, is made even more clear by a consideration of the subsequent history after 19th January, 1953. As has been stated today during the course of the debate, when the Bill and the Order in Council were under discussion it was made perfectly clear that the sovereignty of the United Kingdom Government and Parliament were reserved. Not one word of complaint or protest, publicly or privately was made by anyone who had attended the Conference on behalf either of the Federation or any of the three territories; and if they thought at that time that they had such an undertaking it is inconceivable that they would not then have drawn the attention of Ministers or others, either publicly or privately, to the fact that this was in conflict with what they thought had been agreed. The significant fact is that not a word of complaint was heard from any such quarter.
But it does not stop there, for we have the further position in 1957. There was a joint announcement of the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Federation on 27th April, 1957, to which, significantly, both Sir Roy Welensky and Mr. Greenfield were parties. That Declaration was wholly and absolutely inconsistent with the existence of any such pledges as are now alleged.
1576 By paragraph 7 of the Declaration it was declared that the United Kingdom Government would not initiate legislation dealing with any matter included within the competence of the Federal Legislature except at the request of the Federal Government. That was the only shackle made in the announcement on the powers of the United Kingdom Government to legislate. The subject, or one of the subjects which gave rise to that Declaration, which Sir Roy Welensky himself had drawn to the attention of the United Kingdom Government, was legislation in the United Kingdom for the Federation. The document itself also dealt with the review of the Constitution.
If Sir Roy Welensky at that time believed that he had pledges on these two vital topics, as he now alleges, how could he possibly have agreed or accepted such a limited and truncated announcement as that which was in fact made? The fact is that neither he nor Mr. Greenfield could possibly have accepted that announcement in that form in 1957 had a pledge in fact been made in 1953.
But it does not stop there. Between January, 1953, and December, 1962, not one word is ever heard in public or in private from Sir Roy Welensky or Mr. Greenfield or anybody else about the existence of these pledges, when they are paraded for the first time——
§ Mr. Speaker
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not give way the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) cannot persist.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Gentleman must not persist.
§ Mr. Foot
It is a perfectly natural process for people to ask the Attorney-General to allow himself to be interrupted in this sense, and now the right hon. and learned Gentleman has graciously given way. Is it not clear that the reason why this matter was not raised by Sir Roy Welensky and others in 1954 and 1957, the dates the Attorney-General gave, was that they did not think at that moment that the British Government were going back on their pledges?
§ The Attorney-General
That may be a comment, but it does not stand up at all on what happened in May, 1962, when the previous Lord Chancellor announced in another place that the questions of dissolution and secession were solely within the competence of the United Kingdom, although consultation would take place in the ordinary way before the United Kingdom Government dealt with either of those steps by legislation. But at that stage, even when it had become clear that the United Kingdom were taking the view that they were entitled absolutely to deal with those steps by legislation in this country and were announcing that they would do so, provided only they had consultation and no more, once again not one single word of complaint, protest or suggestion that this was wrong came from the Federation.
§ Mr. Healey
Yes, there were repeated protests. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that this was precisely when the dam broke? It was the statement by the Lord Chancellor just over a year ago that Her Majesty's Government reserved the right to do what they liked on this which led to the first statement in Salisbury about pledges made. The plain fact is that not only did Sir Roy Welensky believe that these pledges had been made but all the Ministers who had made the pledges believed so too.
§ The Attorney-General
With great respect, as far as the United Kingdom Government were concerned, not one word was said to them until December, 1962, just a month or two ago, as a result of what had been said by the Lord Chancellor in March, 1962. I hope therefore that the House will think that what I have said about the discussions in 1953 makes it clear beyond doubt that nothing that was then said can be held to have created an obligation of either a moral or an ethical nature which has shackled or prevented Her Majesty's Government from acting as they have done in the circumstances prevailing today in Central Africa.
While I have spent some time in dealing with past history, a charge of deliberately breaking the pledged word cannot be left unanswered or allowed to go unmet, but I should like in the few minutes left to me to say a few words about the process of adjusting the constitutional position which has arisen as a result of the decision in December over Nyasaland. The House will recall that following the London Conference in November, 1962, a new constitution for Nyasaland was agreed and details were published in Command Paper 1887 The new Constitution confers on Nyasaland the normal pattern of internal self-government, except that there are transitional limitations which take account of the particular circumstances of the territory. These relate especially to the spheres of finance and the public service.
The new Constitution is, for administrative and legislative reasons, being introduced in two stages. The first stage came into effect on 1st February this year and involved the replacement of the Executive Council by a Cabinet presided over by Dr. Banda. Also, at this stage, two of the three official Ministers were withdrawn, a deputy-governer and a director of public prosecutions were appointed and two of the three ex officio Members were withdrawn from the Legislative Council. The Governer's powers for the time being remain unchanged, but the full Constitution will be brought into force later in the spring as soon as the drafting can be completed and at this stage the Governor's powers will be restricted to the reserved subjects which include finance, the public service, public safety and order and the operational control of the police. There 1579 are no present changes in the franchise or in the composition of the elected element of the Legislative Assembly. Such matters are reserved for future consideration.
At the London Conference it was agreed that the new Constitution should contain a Bill of Rights. Such a Bill will be embodied in the second stage of the drafting and will follow, broadly, that in force in Uganda, subject to certain modifications which were agreed by all the parties at the conference.
There is, of course, the difficult problem outstanding of the financial position upon secession. My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) asked me what was the position in this respect. As hon. Members will be aware, the territory already receives from the United Kingdom a sizeable grant-in-aid towards its recurrent Budget. There can be no doubt that, in consequence of secession, Nyasaland's budgetary gap will be substantially increased. However, the precise extent of Nyasaland's increased liabilities will not be known until all the various complex matters, which it is now the task of the Working Party to investigate, have been resolved and their financial implications worked out. As my right hon. Friend has said, Her Majesty's Government will then be ready to consider to what extent, and over what period, the Nyasaland Government may need financial help in the efforts which the territory and its leaders will have to make to bridge the budgetary gap. The House will not expect the Government to go beyond that at this stage, but my right hon. Friend has already said that our approach will be sympathetic.
I am sorry that I have not had sufficient time to deal with others of the points which have been raised in the debate. There is, at least, this to be said of the debate, that there is a pretty well unanimous view that the difficult problems which lie ahead need infinite care, patience and discussion. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) said, we should encourage a spirit of give and take among all those concerned in Central Africa. My right hon. Friend is grateful for the many constructive suggestions which have been made during the debate and will certainly take into 1580 account all that has been said today. He will, I know, be encouraged in the difficult task which lies ahead of him if the House can give him its good wishes for the solution of the problems of Central Africa.
§ Question, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution, put and agreed to.