HC Deb 10 July 1964 vol 698 cc776-86

Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

11.54 a.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

I was very sorry that I was not able to take part in the debate on Second Reading, because it ended earlier than I had expected and I thus lost that opportunity. During that debate things were said about this Clause with which I would not have been in full agreement.

I should now like to say that I regard the outcome of the negotiations which led to the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 as one which was very happy both for Barotseland and for the new country of Zambia. I do not wish to go back to mention the things said on Second Reading, if only for the reason that I have not given notice to the hon. Members who said them, but it would be most unfortunate if the impression were to go out of the House that what has taken place with regard to Barotseland is in any degree a disappointment and disadvantage to the people of that country.

It was said on Tuesday, for example, that the Litunga of Barotseland had been brought in at ten o'clock at night to sign an agreement by which he lost the control of his country and which, in effect, abolished Barotseland and completely changed the situation of that country. That is very far from being the truth.

I do not want to mix up the two functions in which I am concerned in Barotseland, but the fact is that the negotiations which took place over a period of 11 months, and which finally ended in the Barotseland Agreement, 1964, were negotiations of a particularly happy character in that all those who took part in them had as their final objective the discovery of a method of association which would allow their country and Northern Rhodesia to go forward happily together in harmony, not starting with recrimination, and arriving at an agreement between two Protectorates which would not be an armistice line in a long-drawn struggle, but which would allow them to go forward together as one country making the best use of their resources, human and material.

I would be most unhappy if anything said in the debate on Tuesday, after the success of that long effort, should lead in Northern Rhodesia to doubts and disharmony and to a feeling that the sacrifices made on both sides were not profitably made and would perhaps better not have been made. I am sure that the contrary is true and that when the Litunga of Barotseland signed that Agreement at ten o'clock at night it was merely a formal and ceremonial ending to 11 months of hard and extremely useful negotiations. I find no particular significance in the fact that the Agreement was signed at ten o'clock at night. This Parliament reaches most of its important decisions at that hour.

In case there should be any lingering doubt about that, I should like to say that the Agreement signed at ten o'clock at night: in London, which is the subject of this Clause, was virtually identical in all its terms with that which had been signed in the full light of day and in complete harmony in Lusaka three weeks before. It would be quite untrue to say that by that Agreement Barotseland passes away its rights and will lose its distinctive way of life or cease to exist as a significant part of Zambia. The contrary is true. Anyone who reads the Agreement, which has been published as a Command Paper will see that on the contrary not only the Litunga and his National Council, but also Dr. Kaunda and the Ministers of the Northern Rhodesia Government, were all most anxious that Barotseland should continue to make its distinctive and in some sense separate contribution to the total life of the new country.

Hon. Members will find preserved in that agreement all the traditional rights of the Litunga, all the traditional ways by which the Lozi people have lived their lives so successfully as one of the most significant parts of the territory of Northern Rhodesia. They are all safeguarded in the form of a solemn agreement which was signed by the Litunga, by Dr. Kaunda and the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. At the time Dr. Kaunda gave a solemn promise on behalf of himself and his Government that after independence had come into force, after the passage of this Measure, he, on behalf of his Government, would solemnly and publicly reaffirm as an independent country their adherence to this agreement and their observance of its terms.

When that is the case, when all the traditional life of Barotseland is incorporated in this Agreement, when the whole thing has been done in an atmosphere of complete good will and they all want to go forward together happily, and when, as I say, this is no mere armistice line but a genuine fusion of entities, it seems to me tragic that words should be spoken which might stir up forgotten disagreements in Northern Rhodesia.

12 noon.

That is why I have taken this opportunity today, as one who has had some knowledge of what has happened, to say that this Agreement, and Clause 8 which embodies it, is something of which everybody in Barotseland, from the Litunga to the humblest of his subjects, and everyone in Northern Rhodesia, from the Prime Minister to the members of tribes other than the Lozi, can all be very happy and in which they can rejoice.

I am sure that in passing the Bill with this Clause in it we shall not be doing anything which is in any way derogatory to the undertakings which have been given over half a century to the Litunga of Barotseland on behalf of British Governments, but that, on the contrary, we shall have joined in a wise and fruitful Agreement. I trust that that will be the message which will go out from this House on the deliberations of the Bill, rather than some of the things which were said—I am sure in good faith, but not perhaps in full knowledge of the facts—by some hon. Members in the debate on Tuesday.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

I support the observations of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell). There have been controversies about Barotseland in which probably he and I have taken different points of view. But new agreement has been reached, and I agree that nothing should be said today or on a future occasion which would in any way revive the controversies which have previously taken place about the future of Barotseland.

I know Prime Minister Kaunda very well, and I am sure that he will carry out this Agreement in the letter and in the spirit. I am sure that there will be a similar response on the part of the Paramount Chief of Barotseland, and I hope very much that this Bill will go from this House today with unanimous agreement and that we will put behind us the controversies which may have led to division in the past.

Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)

I should like to re-echo what has been said by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), and I hope that the Minister will be able to adopt a similar course.

We have had this morning the advantage of two speeches which could not have been better informed. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South spoke with personal knowledge of the negotiations extending over many months, and my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough has a knowledge of Africa, and in particular of Zambia, for which I would think we all have the deepest respect and in which we have the fullest confidence.

Both hon. Members have said that they feel that the Agreement which has been entered into reflects the settled will of the three parties to the Agreement. If one examines it, it seems to balance nicely the interests of those concerned on each side. I profoundly hope that the Agreement, which I am sure will be honoured by Dr. Kaunda, will put an end to differences which, unhappily, have arisen in the past over a considerable period of time, and that Barotseland and its inhabitants and the rest of Zambia—for Barotseland is an integral part of Zambia—will live happily together in future and that this Agreement will promote concord over many years.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Tilney)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), to the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) and the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) for what they have said.

The Committee will know that certain agreements were entered into between Her Majesty and the Litunga of Barotseland, which is part of Northern Rhodesia, with respect to the administration of Barotseland. Her Majesty also formally assumed obligations under agreements concluded between the British South Africa Company and the Litunga during the period that the company was responsible for the administration of the Territory. Undertakings and understandings connected with these agreements have also from time to time been entered into.

These agreements, undertakings and understandings did not in all cases clearly distinguish between the rights and obligations of the Crown and the rights and obligations of the Government of Northern Rhodesia in relation to Barotseland. But, following the conference, a new Agreement, to which hon. Members have referred, the Barotseland Agreement, 1964, was entered into between the Government of Northern Rhodesia and the Litunga, which was intended to define the relationship between the parties when Northern Rhodesia becomes independent and to supersede all existing obligations.

The purpose of this Clause is to terminate all existing rights and obligations both of the Crown and of the Government of Northern Rhodesia under the existing agreements, undertakings and understandings, except those arising under this Agreement. Similarly, provision was made in the Uganda Independence Act, 1962, terminating agreements between the Crown and the kingdoms in Uganda. The possibility of giving Barotseland the same sort of status within Zambia as the kingdoms had within Uganda was considered, but the parties to the 1964 Agreement decided otherwise. Under that Agreement, Barotseland, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, is part of the unitary State of Zambia.

I was very pleased to hear what hon. Members have said. I repeat what I said in the Second Reading debate. We have not deprived the Litunga of power. It was a freely-negotiated Agreement. We have honourably discharged our obligations. I have never visited Barotseland—I have only seen it in photographs and on film—but I hope that in the months or years to come I may be able to go there.

I am sure that this Committee will wish to the Lozi people, under the rule of the Litunga, increasing success, prosperity and happiness, and that in the unity of Zambia all will go forward in progress.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 9 to 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules 1 to 3 agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

12.11 p.m.

Mr. Brockway

I am sure that I shall be expressing the views not only of my right hon. and hon. Friends but, on this occasion, of hon. and right hon. Members opposite in welcoming the Bill and wishing the best of all possible futures to Northern Rhodesia. Northern Rhodesia will begin its independence, under its new name of Zambia, with great hopes but also with some dangers.

It has great hopes because, under the very wise leadership of Mr. Kaunda, there is now, to a quite extraordinary degree, co-operation and good will between the African and European races in the Territory, and this extends also to the Asians who are there. It is an act of some generosity—perhaps that is too strong a word—it is certainly an act of great statesmanship that Mr. Kaunda has agreed to the representation of the European race in a special way in the Legislature of Northern Rhodesia.

In this spirit, a spirit which has very happily been expressed also in the neighbouring territory of Kenya, we can say that it is possible to solve the problems of independence of these nations with the co-operation and good will of all races in the territories, and our great desire is that in Zambia this co-operation and good will will grow in the experience of independence.

I have said that there are not only hopes, but there are dangers. There are dangers because of the geographical position of Zambia, one of the three territories emerging separately again after the dissolution and dismemberment of the Federation. Only this week, we have welcomed the independence which has been granted to Malawi and the attendance yesterday of Dr. Hastings Banda at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. Yesterday, at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, a welcome was accorded to the fact that Zambia would be independent and that its Prime Minister would be a partner in future conferences.

But the danger for Zambia obviously lies in its proximity to Southern Rhodesia, which presents such an issue of controversy at this time. I do not wish, on this happy occasion, even to refer to the problems which arise in Southern Rhodesia, but I hope that our Government will, in these difficult circumstances in Zambia, give every possible aid to the stability of the new independence which that country has gained.

I hope that they will give an assurance to its Government that we will seek to aid it in every way we can so that its stability may be assured and it may go forward in independence not only to contribute to the Continent of Africa good will between the different races, but to contribute in its economic advance, the improvement of the standard of life of its people and the progress of its education an example to those countries which have already attained independence and to those which are marching towards that goal.

12.15 p.m.

Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)

We all have our opinions about what has been achieved or has not been achieved during this Parliament, but one fact which will stand out in its history is the number of territories which have achieved self-government during this Parliament. When the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) once said that he did not conceive it his duty to preside at the dissolution of the British Empire, or words to that effect, even he could not have foreseen the rapidity with which self-government has been achieved by so many countries and the old Empire has grown up into the Commonwealth which, we hope, will be a very much greater conception than the old Empire ever was, great as was its history.

As Zambia is, I believe, the last of the territories with which we shall deal in this way during this Parliament, it might be worth while if the Government were to publish a complete list of all the territories which have been given independence during this Parliament, showing to the world thereby the process by which Britain has peacefully made this great transformation. Sometimes we are accused of imperialism by other Governments, and I think that a complete list of the countries which have achieved self-government in complete agreement during this one Parliament would be an object-lesson to the rest of the world.

12.17 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell

I join in what has been said by hon. Members opposite and I extend my good wishes to this new country at its inception.

Many perils face newly independent countries in Africa today, and Northern Rhodesia will have its share of them, but I am fairly optimistic about the way in which they will be handled. One cannot say more than that. It would, in any case, be presumptuous and, perhaps, not altogether appreciated if one sought to offer advice on an occasion like this; it is better to confine oneself to good wishes. I say only that patience and tolerance are two of the hardest qualities for a newly independent country to learn in Africa today, but I am sure that they are the conditions for success.

I feel some confidence for Northern Rhodesia because I think that not only Mr. Kaunda personally, but many of those who surround him, within and without Barotseland, have personal qualities which could give Northern Rhodesia a good chance in the difficulties which lie ahead. I venture to hope that they will not spend too much of their time bothering about being next door to Southern Rhodesia. But I do not want to talk about that subject today. I have views on it which might very well not agree with those of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway). I am sure that it is much better for people to give their best attention to building up their own country when there is so much to be done rather than bothering about what goes on around them.

In my view, there are two kinds of national leader for emerging countries. One is typified by Kemal Ataturk, who raised his country to the position which it is in today by sheer hard work and by pressing the doctrine of sheer hard work and of building it up by self-help and concentrating on the tasks in his own country which lay immediately ahead. There is the opposite kind of national leader, like President Nasser, and, I am sorry to say, a good many others in the world today who rely heavily on the emotional aid of xenophobia to keep control over their country, and do not press constantly the doctrine that greatness, independence and prosperity come by bending over one's last and giving one's best attention to the problems within oneself and one's country.

I hope and believe that Northern Rhodesia will follow the example of Kemal Ataturk rather than that of the nationalist leaders so that it will keep itself out of the dangerous whirlpools of emotion and African nationalist sentiment which are causing so much distress and tribulation of mind in that Continent today. Because I have some confidence that it will have that good sense, I am optimistic about the future of the country which we are inaugurating by the Bill.

12.21 p.m.

Sir F. Soskice

It would be supererogatory on my part to add much, but we have almost come to the end of our consideration of this Measure. It is one of great significance in the changing pattern of Africa.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) said, the movement towards self-government and the growth of the number of independent countries in Africa is one of the great changes in the modern world. The Commonwealth of Nations is, after all, one of the greatest groupings of people for peace throughout the earth—over 700 million people of different races.

We should all welcome the advent of a new country—when I say "a new country" I mean new in independence, but old in history—to take its place with the existing members of the Commonwealth in the great struggle to solve the human problems which face the world. I would simply add my hope for the future prosperity of this new country and my best wishes for its happy development and a peaceful and prosperous future.

I do not think that it would be right for me to add more, but I am sure that in what I say I voice the feelings of the whole House on this most auspicious occasion.

12.22 p.m.

Mr. Tilney

I join the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) in what he has said. I agree that this is an occasion of great significance, and I am glad that the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) urged that a list should be published of what has been achieved in this Parliament.

We can be proud when we look at the picture in, I think, The Times today and see Her Majesty surrounded by the leaders of the Commonwealth countries and when we look, too, at the list not only of the heads of Governments who are attending, but of those whom they have brought with them. We remember, when we were taught history at school, some of the great conferences in Europe in the past, but they pale in significance in the number of people represented compared with the number of people whose leaders are here in London today. I think that it is proud-making for this country that we have been able to become partners in this great Commonwealth experiment.

I agree with the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and with my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) that there are difficulties which Zambia faces, land-locked as she is with her communications going through other lands. I trust that she will be able to overcome these difficulties and that, like their great Zambesi River, the Zambian people will go forward to great prosperity to the benefit not only of themselves, but of mankind elsewhere as well.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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