HL Deb 20 March 1924 vol 56 cc973-8

My Lord, I desire, in the absence of the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, to ask the question which ho has placed on the Paper—namely, whether His Majesty's Government can inform the House what are their proposals in regard to the future Government of Northern Rhodesia, and when the new Constitution will come into force?


My Lords, the noble Earl has asked in this Question for information as to the pro- posals of His Majesty's Government in regard to the future Government of Northern Rhodesia. Your Lordships will permit me to remark that it is especially appropriate that this inquiry should have-been placed upon the Paper by a distinguished public servant of the Crown who has been of recent years so closely concerned with the fortunes of Rhodesia. After his term of office in South Africa as High Commissioner, the noble Earl kindly consented to act as Chairman of a Committee appointed by the then Secretary of State for the Colonies to consider certain questions relating to Rhodesia.

The agreement made on September 29 last year between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the British South Africa Company has disposed of the questions at issue between the Crown and the Company. So far as Northern Rhodesia is concerned arrangements have been completed to give effect to the Agreement which provides that from April 1 next—that is April 1, 1924—the administration of the Territory as now-exercised shall be transferred from the Company to the Crown. No change is now being made in the status of the territory. As recently announced in another place by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, it is not proposed, at any rate for the present to annex the Territory, and it will therefore remain a Protectorate.

If the noble Earl who has the Question on the Paper were present, he would recollect that the Committee over which he presided referred to certain suggestions which had been made for the division of Northern Rhodesia. But the Committee did not feel able then to express any opinion on the question. They recorded, however, that they thought that when the time came for a decision the settlers' views should be ascertained. The matter is one of no little importance, and careful local investigation will be necessary before any decision can be reached. It is, therefore, left to the new Government of the Territory, which will, as I have said, come into being on April 1, to examine the question in the light of actual experience, and with reference to all interests affected, and to report fully for the consideration of His Majesty's Government.

With regard to the Company's officials in Northern Rhodesia, it is proposed that they should continue their present duties on the transfer of the administration to the Crown, and, as laid down in the Agreement, they will retain all their present rights. I am glad to say that Mr. Goode, now Acting Administrator, is willing to remain on in the capacity of Chief Secretary to the Government. Mr. Goode has been intimately associated since 1900 with the administration of the Territory. His knowledge and experience will certainly be of the greatest assistance to the new Government.

The Constitution which is set up follows generally existing Colonial and Protectorate models. There will be a Governor and Commander-in-Chief, an Executive Council and a Legislative Council. On the recommendation of the late Secretary of State for the Colonies, His Majesty approved the appointment of Mr. Herbert Stanley, C.M.G., to be the first Governor. Mr. Stanley has served in South Africa since 1910. He was made Imperial Resident Commissioner for Southern and Northern Rhodesia in 1915, and in 1918 he was appointed to his present post of Imperial Secretary in the office of the High Commissioner for South Africa. I understand that the appointment of Mr. Stanley as Governor has given great satisfaction locally, and I am sure it will be agreed that a happier selection could not have been made.

The Executive Council will consist of the Chief Secretary to the Government, the Attorney-General, the Treasurer, the Secretary for Native Affairs and the Principal Medical Officer, who will be styled ex-officio Members. Provision is made to allow of the appointment of other persons holding office in the Public Service who would be styled Official Members, and, if considered desirable, persons not holding office in the Public Service who would be styled Unofficial Members.

The Legislative Council will consist of the Governor as President, five ex-officio Members, Nominated Official Members not exceeding four in number, and five Elected Unofficial Members but until the Unofficial Members have been elected there will be five Nominated Unofficial Members. The ex-officio Members will be the same as the five ex-officio Members of the Executive Council. The Nominated Official Members will be such persons holding office in the Public Service of the Territory as may from time to time be appointed. The Elected Official Members will be such persons as may be elected in accordance with the provisions of any Ordinance which may be enacted in the Territory for this purpose.

I may explain that at present under the régime, of the British South Africa Company there is an elective body known as the European Advisory Council consisting of five members. This was established some five or six years ago. The Council has no Statutory basis, but it was agreed in 1921 that draft Proclamations of the High Commissioner for South Africa affecting Europeans in Northern Rhodesia, other than Proclamations which he considers to be urgent or to involve matters of Imperial policy, should be submitted to the Council. It was recommended by the Committee, to which I have previously referred, that the British South Africa Company should be asked to consider the creation of a Legislative Council for Northern Rhodesia. A Legislative Council was not, however, established, but under the new Constitution, a Legislative Council will be at once created, and the existing Advisory Council will then, of course, disappear.

Your Lordships will have noted that, in the first instance, the unofficial element in the Council will be nominated, not elected. The reason for this is that it was thought desirable that local opinion should be consulted before any decision is taken as to the electoral arrangements for the Territory. No attempt, therefore, has been made to determine yet the franchise, qualifications for membership of the Council, etc., but the Governor will go into these questions, and in due course a Bill will be introduced into the Council to give effect to such proposals as may be approved.

There is one other matter on which I may say a word or two—namely, the question of delimiting native reserves. This was referred to in the Report of the Committee over which the noble Earl presided, and the view then expressed by the Committee was that it might be desirable later on to delimit reserves. Under the Agreement with the British South Africa Company the full and entire con- trol of lands throughout Northern Rhodesia (subject to the retention by the Company of three freehold areas which it holds in North-Eastern Rhodesia under certain certificates of claim) passes to the Crown. As, therefore, the alienation of land will be in the hands of the Government, there is no immediate need to legislate for the assignment of native reserves. But the whole question of the alienation of land to non-natives and the protection of native interests generally in Northern Rhodesia will engage the attention of the Governor, and I need hardly add that your Lordships may rely upon His Majesty's Government to see that the fullest possible consideration is given in this, as indeed in all matters affecting their welfare, to the interests of the native inhabitants of the Territory.

As regards the finances of the Territory, it seems unlikely that local Revenue and Expenditure can be made to balance for some time, but this again will be a matter for the Governor to investigate. For the coming financial year the Estimates as now approved show Revenue amounting to £263,465, and Expenditure amounting to £361,417. His Majesty's Government will provide a loan Grant-in-aid of £38,000, of which £98,000 is to meet the anticipated deficit and £40,000 to provide the necessary working cash balance. It is to be presumed that the Grant-in-aid for 1925–26 will be considerably less than that approved for the coming year.

The last point I will deal with is the question of the administrative deficits incurred by the Company during its administration of the Territory now comprised in Northern Rhodesia. The posi- tion in regard to this matter was set forth in the Agreement between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the British South Africa. Company, presented to Parliament in a White Paper in November last. Broadly speaking, the arrangement is that the British South Africa Company abandons any claim to reimbursement of any part of past administrative deficits. But the Crown, subject to certain deductions, agreed to pay to the Company half of the actual realised administrative deficit for the financial year ending March 31, 1924, subject to a maximum of £50,000. The amount due to be paid under this clause will probably be about £47,000.

I have assumed that it would not be the desire of your Lordships that I should enter into any great detail in giving an outline of the arrangements which have been made for the future government of Northern Rhodesia. The Orders in Council knows as" The Northern Rhodesia Order in Council 1924" and "The Northern Rhodesia (Legislative Council) Order in Council 1924." which provide for the establishment of the new Constitution and generally for the peace, order and good government of the Territory will be published to-morrow in the London Gazette; they will be published on the same date in Northern Rhodesia. In accordance with the usual practice they will appear subsequently in the Statutory Rules and Orders presented to Parliament. They will, thus, be available for reference by any of your Lordships who may wish to examine them.

House adjourned at a quarter before seven o'clock.