HL Deb 02 July 1931 vol 81 cc562-4

My Lords, there is one other question that I would put, if I might. I understand the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies has some information to give to your Lordships' House with regard to the position in Rhodesia. I would be glad to ask him if he can do so.


My Lords, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have given careful consideration to the request received from the Government of Southern Rhodesia and from the elected members of the Legislative Council in Northern Rhodesia, that a conference should be held in order to consider the possibility of amalgamating Northern Rhodesia with Southern Rhodesia under a Constitution similar to the present Constitution of Southern Rhodesia. His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are not prepared to agree to the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia, at the present time. They consider that a substantially greater advance should be made in the development of Northern Rhodesia before any final opinion can be formed as to its future. It must be remembered that it is less than eight years since His Majesty s Government assumed direct reponsibility for the administration of Northern Rhodesia. Very considerable progress has been made during these years, but oven greater changes, affecting the whole balance of the various interests in the country, are almost certain to result from the development of the mining industry. At present, the European population is small and scattered over a wide extent of territory, while the problems of native development are in a stage which makes it inevitable that His Majesty's Government should hesitate to let them pass even partially out of their responsibility.

On the other hand, His Majesty's Government, while considering that amalgamation is not practicable now, or in the near future, do not wish to reject the idea of amalgamation in principle should circumstances in their opinion justify it at a later date, and fully realise the prejudicial effect upon progress in both countries if such a rejection were regarded as a permanent bar to their future evolution. Their view is that for some time to come Northern Rhodesia should continue to work out its destiny as a separate entity, observing the closest possible co-ordination with its neighbours, and especially with Southern Rhodesia. His Majesty's Government feel that, in order to prevent misconception, they should state at the outset that the conditions of any scheme of amalgamation, if and when it arises for actual discussion, must make a definite provision for the welfare and development of the native population. Barotseland would necessarily require separate treatment, and arrangements may possibly have to be made in regard to other parts of Northern Rhodesia.

Without going into details of these contingencies, it is sufficient that it should be indicated that the territory to be amalgamated with Southern Rhodesia would not necessarily have boundaries co-terminus with the present boundaries of Northern Rhodesia. It will be remembered that, in order to secure as great a measure of continuity of policy for the future as may be possible, the Secretary of State for the Dominions and I arranged some few weeks ago to confer with members of the two Opposition Parties on this matter. The conclusions which I have announced are, of course, those of His Majesty s Government, but I am happy to think, as the result of the conversations referred to, that they are likely to commend themselves to members on the other side of the House. As this statement is being made in the House of Commons simultaneously, and it is made in order to give the widest possible promulgation both here and in South Africa, I have ventured to inflict this long statement upon your Lordships' House.